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Lakis Fourouklas (Thailand)

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Lucia's Eyes and Other Stories (Prose (Guernica))
Lucia's Eyes and Other Stories (Prose (Guernica))
by Marina Sonkina
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beauty of Sadness, 4 July 2012
There are six short stories in this collection and they are all well worth reading.

The Eyes of Santa Lucia tells us the story of Anton, a boy who grows up somewhere in Russia with his dear father, before the latter is declared an enemy of the state and arrested. Anton is in love with his Spanish neighbor Lucia, a beautiful and mysterious girl, who just by being there brightens up his days.

In the story titled The Runic Alphabet we watch a man as he goes through a long stretch of grief over the death of his beloved Ariadna.

Tractorina's Travels, that follows, is also a sad story. Tractorina, the main protagonist, will fall victim of a fraud, orchestrated by her late husband's son, which will leave her alone and penniless a long way from home. Somehow, though, she's not surprised since as the author puts it: "With Perestroika people have lost their moral compass."

In Carmelita we meet a man who's spent most of his life being invisible, but that only until he inherited a lot of money, which at last made him visible. Being rich he decides to travel to Mexico, where he will meet a woman who was everything that he never had, but which he was destined to lose sooner or later.

The events of Christmas Tango take place in Montreal, Canada. This is the story of a shy young man, who -at long last- in his thirties he discovers his biggest passion in life, which is nothing else but tango. Little by little he'll learn the dance and not before too long he will excel in it. Thus he'll start dancing time and again with women of all ages that in his eyes looked like "chimeras, just like life is."

Angels Ascending, Angels Descending is yet another sad story. The story of a sixty-two year old woman that suffers from heart problems and who in order to live has to go under surgery. As she's left alone in a bed she has all the time in the world to reminiscence about her life, about her youth; a youth which she feels that she wasted searching in vain for her one true love, the perfect being who was never meant to be with her.

Though sad most of the times, these stories are not only well-written, but mostly they are stories with a heart. They speak in a direct way about the people, with their hopes and dreams, their sufferings and disappointments. Happy endings don't often occur in life, the author seems to say. And I couldn't agree more.

Me, You
Me, You
by Erri De Luca
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Summer and Love and Beautiful Yesterdays, 3 July 2012
This review is from: Me, You (Paperback)
Me, You is one of those beautifully written and tender books that talk about the past; a past during which everything seemed to be much simpler than today and where people were more friendly and open-hearted, and the summers smelt of play and love.

It is during a summer that a city boy arrives at an island, where all of a sudden he feels a sense of joy and unlimited freedom overwhelming his youthful being. He was, as he puts it, a city kid, but during the summer he used to be transformed into a savage.

However that's not exactly true; he did not transform into someone else when he was there, he just became his real self; a self that enjoyed going fishing with his uncle and mysterious Nicola, who fought during WWII in Sarajevo, and who taught him the ways of the sea without ever telling me what to do, and who also told him that from the sea you get what it gives and not what you want. He also liked wandering around the island and meeting people, following his cousin Daniel to the beach and participating in his parties and, every now and then, being naughty.

The summers always made him feel rich, but this one was bound to prove his best ever, since during it he would meet a girl, a bit older than him, that would fill his heart with joy and make him feel for the first time how it is for someone to be in love: "Within Caia was a revelation that could be reached by love".

Caia was not an ordinary young woman. Most of the time she looked deeply lost in thought, every now and then she seemed to bathe in melancholy, but she always had an aura of wisdom surrounding her being. It was as if life has taken everything away from her and gave her in exchange an almost unnatural, for her age, maturity. Her eyes looked dark, kind of haunted, as if they've seen everything there was to see. And most probably it was that darkness in her gaze that he found her most attractive, almost mesmerizing feature. "In her presence my breathing was even; away from her it was agitated."

What was the best thing that happened during their time together? Sitting one night at an open air cinema, watching For Whom the Bell Tolls, and him, hugging her from behind and smelling her hair.

Well, she couldn't stay there forever and neither could he. She left first and that broke his heart, even though another girl, of his own age this time, materialized almost out of thin air to claim a piece of what was left inside of him: "She was inviting me to an age that have disappeared from my body and mind," he says, and he surely couldn't go back there. Not yet, anyway.

This is a beautiful story about summer, love and an age of innocence, for the magical moments of life which become scarcer as time goes by, for times long gone but never forgotten; a bittersweet novella that somehow manages, in a very direct way, to transmit its deeply humane messages to the reader.

Gone Girl
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Crime Novel of the Year, 22 Jun 2012
This review is from: Gone Girl (Hardcover)
This is the best crime novel I have read this year.

I haven't read any of the author's previous novels, but I do remember reading great reviews about them here and there and that they were commercially successful. So when I was given the chance to read Gone Girl, I simply took it. And as you can guess from the first line in this article I really loved it.

This is the story of Nick and Amy, and what a story it is. Nick has spent most of his adult life in New York working as a journalist. He used to write about the movies and TV and review books, and live a somewhat worry-free life. And then he met Amy, a woman who at first sight took his breath away and made him believe that she were the one he always dreamed of meeting. Thus he fell in love with her and she fell in love with him, and then they got married, wishing to live together their happily ever after. However their everyday lives were constantly under the heavy shadows created by Amy's parents, the ones that gave her life and robbed it of her.

How did they do that? Well, they were both writers, a writing team actually, and together they created a series of books with the adventures of the Amazing Amy. The Amy of the books though was someone who the real life one could never be. And the Amy of the books became kind of a weight on her young shoulders and a curse for her life, since she made her a target: beloved by fans, haunted and hunted by stalkers.

Before she met Nick she felt completely alone, having him by her side she became the cool girl that she always wanted to be. Nick has set her free, however, her happiness wasn't meant to last forever.

First came the economic crisis, which led her parents to bankruptcy. Then came Nick's letting go from his job and finally came the move from New York to a little town in North Carthage, where Nick was born.

So, all of a sudden, her happy life became unhappy and her successful marriage a prospective failure. Joy and laughter were replaced by tension and anger. They hit rock bottom.

Amy though desperately wanted things to be the way they used to be, and she started working in order to stir their relationship towards that direction. However, just before her efforts started bearing fruit, she all of a sudden vanished from the face of the earth. Where did she go? Was she abducted or did she simply run away? Could she be dead? If yes, who was it that killed her? As usual the husband is considered the prime suspect. Nick keeps protesting his innocence, but his behavior is considered curious if not suspicious by everyone who meets him, as well as from the general public.

Who is Nick? And who was Amy? These are the big questions here. Is Nick as careless and detached as he seems? Was Amy as bright and innocent as she looked?

The author gives us a chance to take a good look into the private, but mostly separate lives, of her heroes, through diary entries, thoughts and discussions. Nick and Amy, they both say their own version of the story, and they both hide more than what they say.

The more one reads the bigger the mystery becomes and the twists and turns come in waves. Nothing is what it seems and all the clues lead some of the main characters from one dead end to the next.

The final solution is just as surprising as the facts that precede it, but what one mostly enjoys by reading this book is its built-up, the whole construction of a world that's in many ways amazing, just as much as Amy.

Deadlocked: A True Blood Novel (Sookie Stackhouse 12)
Deadlocked: A True Blood Novel (Sookie Stackhouse 12)
by Charlaine Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detective Sookie, 13 Jun 2012
The truth is that I wasn't planning on reading this book. And it's also true that I didn't really expect to like it. But I did. And I did.

This is the 12th volume featuring the now famous Sookie Stackhouse and her band of merry or not so merry creatures. Sookie is one of those heroines for whom the reader, whether he likes it or not, just has to feel some kind of sympathy or even empathy; if not for anything else for all the bad things that happen to her and for her struggles to offer a better life to the ones she holds dear.

What happens in this book? Well, it all begins when Felipe de Castro, the vampire king of Louisiana, decides to pay a visit to Eric Northman. Eric is, to put it in a Games of Thrones terminology, the hand of the king in the Bon Temps region, and he's suspected of foul play. The two men don't really like each other, but when it comes to official affairs they do follow protocol: first they party and then they get down to business.

Things though don't go as planned, as the cops show up and break the party. They've received an anonymous call that there was the dead body of a young woman in the yard and that just proved to be the truth. The main suspect for the crime is none other than Eric who's fed on the woman a few minutes earlier.

Now Sookie, who is Eric's lover, has to work with Bill, her ex-lover and sheriff of Area Five, to prove that he is innocent. But that will not be such an easy thing to do, since the word trouble is almost synonymous with Sookie. Thus, at the same time she has to investigate a murder, solve the differences between some of her close relatives who happen to be fairies, take care of her friend Tara who's pregnant and also try and protect her good friend Sam from his psycho girlfriend Jannalyn.

Murder, mayhem, betrayal, chaos; these words just mean business as usual in Sookie's world and despite all the unpleasant surprises she tries hard to make things work just the right way. But will she make it?

I have to say that this novel is much better than the one that preceded it, which for some reason made me think that maybe it was just about time for this heroine to retire. The author by giving the book at hand a light touch of normal world mystery, which reminded this reader of a police procedural, has managed to breathe new life into the series. Some fans though may consider it as a departure from or a betrayal of the well-established universe they have come to know and love.

Price: 1.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling read, 13 Jun 2012
This review is from: Snatched (Kindle Edition)
For quite some time now I refused to award a book a five star review because simply almost none of the new novels I've read this year so far deserved it. Well, my attitude changed when I was fortunate enough to get hold of this novella.

Snatched seems to be just one of those special books where not a single word is out of place. And it's so beautifully written that it takes the reader's breath away. No I'm not talking about top shelf literary fiction here but for an absolutely thrilling read, with a great plot, well-crafted characters and quite a few surprises in the mix.

The main protagonist is special agent Will Trent, who's been assigned the duty to monitor the men's toilets in Atlanta Airport, as a form of punishment for not having had a haircut. He's been on the job for two weeks now and found it a complete bore. Something however is about to change.

What? Well, by a curious turn of events he'll find himself from one moment to the next in the epicenter of a kidnapping case. He'll overhear an exchange between a man and a six or seven year old girl and his instinct will raise the alarm. So, he'll approach them to take a look, and while his suspicions will be aroused even more, he'll do nothing to stand in their way, because apart from a gut feeling he has nothing else to show.

The events that will follow though will prove his instinct right, but they will also place him in an awkward position, since he didn't act on it, and as a result the said little girl went missing. And that despite the fact that the airport exits were sealed immediately and all the flights out were cancelled.

Now, all he can do is co-operate with his partner Faith Mitchell, his boss Amanda Wagner, who placed him in that position, and dozens of other cops from different states, in order to find out what the final destination of the abducted girl was and discover who's really responsible for the crime. His feelings of guilt will cloud his judgment, but they will not stop him from working hard and fast to save the day.

This is an action-packed story that will surely offer moments of pure reading pleasure to every crime fiction fan.

The Thief
The Thief

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of an unhappy man, 28 Mar 2012
This review is from: The Thief (Kindle Edition)
As the title suggests in this book we have the story of a thief; but not a thief like everybody else, but one with a conscience.
The action begins straight away as we watch our protagonist and narrator pick the wallet from the pocket of a rich man at the train station, while his next victim, a not so rich man riding the train is soon to follow. When it comes to pick-pocketing he's a master, however lately things don't seem to go as smoothly as they used to go. He keeps following his mentor's rules, stealing only cash and returning the wallets along with the credit cards to the rightful owners by mail, but somehow he now feels different, kind of unfulfilled, and he becomes really absent-minded. He also starts having short black-outs, during which he steals wallets without even realizing it, and he feels more sad by the day. It's as if there's a void inside of him that keeps growing and expanding, along with his loneliness: "I had built a wall around me and lived by sneaking into the gaps in the darkness of life," he says.
Well, that wall now seems to be coming tumbling down. But maybe he's not to blame for what is happening, but just life and its harsh realities. His fall from grace starts when Ishikawa, his mentor, asks for his help for a job unlike any other they've ever been involved with: an armed robbery. They do manage to have the job done, but from that point on there seems to be no way for them to return to their previews lives, since their employer for that particular job was a ruthless and fearless mob boss who was not willing to let them go; at least not alive. The protagonist who now has to cope with this new reality, whether he likes it or not starts to contemplate his life and his choices, and where the latter now lead him. As a pick-pocket he's great, but apart from that what else does he have or has he done in his life worth mentioning? Apparently nothing, or maybe just something, or somebody; somebody from the past, Saeko, a woman he used to love. However, the past is the past, now he needs to find something or someone to help him hold on to today. What, or who, could that be?
As it turns out he'll meet his new project in the faces of an unconventional team of thieves, a mother and her very young son. He'll spot the two of them as they'll be trying to steal some things from a supermarket and he'll save them from certain catastrophe; the amateurs. From that day onwards he'll feel like his life has finally found its purpose, or rather he'll rediscover his will to live. In the face of the young kid he's certain that he met a younger version of his own self and he's determined to help him create a better future for himself. And even though, at the kid's insistence he'll teach him some of his tricks, at the same time he'll try to save him from his miserable life. By saving the kid he saves himself, and by opposing and coming into conflict with his disgrace of a mother, in the end he becomes the person that he's actually always been; a good man.
This is a well-written novella, which even though it seems to belong under the crime fiction label, reads more like a psychological drama than a thriller.

The Colorado Kid
The Colorado Kid
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 25.00

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mystery, folklore and unanswered questions, 1 Mar 2012
This review is from: The Colorado Kid (Hardcover)
To be honest this book I've read mostly out of curiosity, since one my favorite TV series, Haven, is based on it. The thing is though that after reading the book I've come to realize that its connection to the series is so light that if I didn't already know it existed, I'd be really surprised if I ever found out about it. What the creators of the series did was take one of the many mysterious cases mentioned in the novel and built on it, while bringing at the same time to the forefront some of the secondary characters.
But, let's take things from the beginning. In 1980 a young couple discovers on the shores of an island in Maine, the corpse of a man, to whom the authorities bestow the nickname The Colorado Kid. No one seems to know who he is and how he ended up there, while at first even his death is a mystery of sorts.
We learn about the story of the Kid, as well as about some other strange occurrences and phenomena that have taken place in the region, through the collaborative narration of the two elderly journalists, who run the local newspaper. Their audience is a young and beautiful intern, who thinks that she has a lot to learn from the two men. The question is though, can she believe them? Well, that's not so easy to do since what they tell her, doesn't really make any sense. According to them, strange things have always been happening around there, which over the years claimed an important role in the local folklore: once a group of people fell victims to mass poisoning from drinking tea, an adventure from which only two of them survived, with one of them showing no symptoms whatsoever; at some other time an utterly deserted ship washed to shore and as the locals have it, it was some ghosts that led it there; and after that, the really unexpected happened, an Unidentified Flying Object was spotted by many people in the sky over the town.
Stephenie, the young woman, listens attentively to the two men, she absorbs their stories and tries to discover all by herself and within her own soul, the answers to the mysteries that her mentors talk about. The two of them seem not only to want to test her analytical capabilities, but also to challenge her logical mind, and thus open her eyes to the realities that she could never up to that moment believe to exist.
While reading this book the reader gets the feeling that somehow, somewhere there's a rational explanation for everything that's happening, but the mystery keeps challenging his senses and the myth keeps his attention alive and alert. Some of the answers will come to light by the end, some won't. But, one way or another, what matters most is the story, and this is a good one. The author is not interested in playing the fear card, he just wants to tell a story and that he does splendidly.
If any of you have watched the series I'm sure that by reading this book you'll only recognize but a few points of reference: the two journalists, the landscape, the female version of the Colorado Kid and maybe one or two of the stories. However, I'd like to congratulate the people behind it for managing to create a whole world, with a pantheon of great characters and plots full of mystery, taking their inspiration from a short novel like this. They really did a great job.

Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery
Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery
by Kwei J. Quartey
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The voice of the children that bleed, 1 Mar 2012
This is one of those novels that are not so easy to read. Not because of the writing, which is excellent, but because of the subject matter, which is as bleak as it can get.
If I could use just one word to describe this book I would say that it's a document; the document of a harsh and heart-breaking reality in a brutal place.
The main protagonist in this story is Inspector Darko Dawson, who works for the police force of Ghana's capital city, Accra. Darko is one of those rare or rather unconventional creatures that really care about what goes on around them, and who sees the world as it truly is and not as he wished it to be. And this world is cruel. Accra may be a big cosmopolitan city, but behind its sometimes bright picture lies a somewhat grim reality. And it's exactly this reality that keeps him constantly on the move, which makes him walk time and again around the dangerous alleys and the most frightening neighborhoods of the city, trying to offer help and protection to the people who need it.
Of course it's not that easy to work under circumstances like these: of utter poverty, where contagious illnesses are all too common and where prostitution is for many people a way of life; the only means they have to survive.
Darko is especially fond of the children of the street, kids with no hope and no future, and kids who are really trying to get themselves out of the gutter and live to see a better day. So when one of those kids is found dead outside a slum, killed in a brutal way, he's more determined than ever to find out who the killer is.
His investigations will lead him again and again from one dead end to the next, but during this arduous journey into the dark heart of the city, he'll come to discover a lot of its heinous secrets; secrets that will trouble his soul for a long time to come. Accra, his city, seems to be nothing more than a desperate place, inhabited by desperate people. And it's also a place where the men who have the means always get their way. During his search for the truth he will meet with young prostitutes and gang members, with pimps and black marketeers, and he will come in contact with a few philanthropists, who seem to hide too much evil and spite behind their bright smiles. Wherever the road leads him though, whatever he sees and finds out, he'll never stop looking for the truth. The children of the street are his children and he'll do anything to save them or at the very least protect them from the evil that lurks out there.
A great novel about a country, or even a continent, that's trying hard to resist the ill fortunes of the modern times, but which also, more than anything else, is in deep pain, always suffering from one hardship or another.

The Unit
The Unit
by Ninni Holmqvist
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.05

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As dark as they come, 29 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Unit (Paperback)
The Unit by the Swedish author Ninni Holmqvist is a dystopian novel that describes a world born, one would dare say, out of a Kafkaesque nightmare.
The principal protagonist in this story is Dorrit Weger, a fifty year old woman that obviously has nothing more to offer to society, since she produces nothing, and thus she's admitted into a unit, where she's to donate her genetic material before she, less than more peacefully, passes away. The unit is housed in a huge luxurious building that looks like a microcosm that only exists in the eyes of the people who work, live and die there.
Dorrit has no idea how much time she's left to live, since all the inhabitants are at the end of the day nothing more than human guinea pigs. The administrators of the unit, in exchange for all the luxuries that they provide to their subjects, use them for many, different, and more or less scary experiments. Thus one man can find himself all of a sudden been exposed to chemotherapy, another one can become at any given moment an organ donor, while some poor soul, though completely healthy could end up dead, so that the doctors can prove a point or put a theory to practice.
The world that Dorrit sees when she arrives there looks colorful and bright, she feels like she's living in a tropical island in the middle of winter. Time though, as one after the other her friends will start dying, will turn this paradise into a living hell, and then she'll be left with no other option but to escape,
Everyone is dispensable; this seems to be the mantra of the people running the unit, and she's determined to prove them wrong. But will she make it?
This is a novel that touches a lot of the sensitive issues of our times and of the ones to come. Maybe this world is nothing but a prelude of tomorrow's bleak certainties, the author seems to suggest, and I'm not going to disagree with her. There's darkness all around us already. Who's to say that there isn't more to come?
If you like Kafka's work you'll surely love this book.

Train, The (Neversink Library)
Train, The (Neversink Library)
by Georges Simenon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.08

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey into the landscapes of war and love, 29 Feb 2012
Georges Simenon became famous for his crime novels, in which one of the most celebrated detectives of all times, Inspector Maigret was called upon to solve various mysteries time and again. The Train though is not a crime novel, but a kind of a love story that takes place during the Second World War.
The protagonist Marcel Fe'ron lives with his family in a small provincial town when the invasion by the German Army begins, so with the war at their doorstep they, like it or not, have to flee to safety. Thus they board a train full of refugees that will hopefully bring them to the south of France.
The family though is separated from the very beginning and his wife and kids end up in one carriage and him in another. They meet every now and then, but as the time goes by, that doesn't happen too often anymore. And at some point they lose each other altogether.
Marcel will continue his south bound journey, during which he will come to meet a beautiful and mysterious woman, all dressed in black, that goes by the name of Anna, and with whom he'll begin a somewhat odd love affair, while his family is probably at some faraway place. Anna, who as the author points out, didn't need words and did not like them, obviously has a lot of secrets, which she's not willing to share, while he, on his part, is not that interested to find out. Besides he thinks that their meeting is nothing more than a secret rendezvous with fate.
As they say though, all good things come to an end, and so will their relationship. Their roads will drift apart and he'll go back to the place where he came from; feeling nor sad nor defeated, but glorious and happy, since he's been able to live a big adventure and come out of it unscathed and, in a way, a better man. As for her, she'll follow her own destiny; she'll walk in beauty and in danger.
This is a lovely book, with beautiful prose and a masterful analysis of the soul, which offers the reader a brief but fruitful journey into the landscapes of war and love.

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