Complétement cramé! – Gilles Legardinier (19/32 Reading Challenge 2017)

Let me just explain one thing – I don’t speak French. I don’t even like this language. But, this is a novel by a French author, and it has been translated into Polish, but – to the best of my knowledge – not to English. So I read it in Polish of course. And now, with no further due, my review.

Meet Andrew Blake, a rather rich businessman, a widow, Englishman, and a man tired of his life. So, he decides to leave his company at the hands of a trusted secretary, and go to France, his late wife’s homeland, to be a butler. Nobody knows his true identity at his new workplace, and that’s exactly what he was looking for. He arrives at the French mansion, belonging to widow Nathalie, to find things not exactly as he had expected. The cook, Odile, is openly hostile and has a short temper, the maid, Manon, seems deeply unhappy, and the administrator, who lives in a little house in the park, keeps his distance. Then, there’s a cat, who’s not so easy at liking strange people. Or generally people.

                This book is widely described as “optimistic, full of life, a praise of living.” And I guess these are the only positive things I can say about it. Except for – it takes place in a mansion. I mean, a big, old mansion is a source of secrets on its own, right? Not here, but I’ll let it slip. Cause it’s still a mansion. Also, there’s a cat. How can I turn down a book where a cat plays an important role? I guess I can’t.

                That, however, would be all the good things I can say about this book. And as much as I like cats and mansions, and as much I appreciate optimistic books, it’s not enough to make me like this novel. There are three major reasons. First one is the protagonist, Andrew Blake. He seems so unreal, and such a “wise-man” that I could either laugh out loud – because, seriously, nobody talks like that – or roll my eyes.

                The second reason is the complete improbability of it all. So sweet that it hurts. I mean, it seems all in the house is falling apart, and people are generally unhappy. But then one man comes, and fixes it all mostly by his “oh-so-wise” words. And he always seems to know just exactly what to say to everybody, and it miraculously works. Even though, mind you, they didn’t even know the guy a few weeks before.

                Third reason is the predictability. There was absolutely nothing that surprised me in this book. Not a single thing. I particularly didn’t like the ending, so sentimental, so unreal. Everything was just… perfect, everybody was happy, everybody found love, and they lived happily ever after. Like in a fairy tale. Or some stories I used to write when I was a teenager.

                There’s one other tiny reason – I didn’t like the style at all. I’m not sure, though, if that was the author or the translator’s fault. One way or another, it seemed unemotional for me, as if I was reading somebody’s thesis. It was correct, but that’s all you can say about it. Not unique, not “the author’s style,” nothing.

                Basically, I don’t recommend. Unless you don’t mind sappy endings, predictable prose and “Paolo-Coelho-like” protagonists. Then, by all means, that one is for you.


My Rating: 3/10


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (18/32 Reading Challenge 2017)

1After a tragedy strikes the family of 16-year-old Jacob, with his father they embark on a journey to an island off the coast of Wales. There Jacob discovers the mysterious abandoned orphanage. Slowly he learns not only about his grandfather’s past, but also the history of children who once lived there, and finally – he learns the truth about himself.

I’m not exactly sure where to start, so I’ll start with the photos. The whole novel is written around them – old, creepy photographs showing children in eerie poses/situations; photos that can easily give the creeps by themselves. And they are the best part of the book. 3I loved the idea at the beginning – you know, when you look at the photograph and make up your own story of what may or may not have happened to the people in it to make them end up like this – or, better yet, what happened after the photo was taken. I for one loved that sort of imaging when I was a kid. Therefore, the premise was great and had LOTS of potential. Here’s why it’s disappointing.

First of all, the characters. I didn’t particularly like Jacob, or rather didn’t care about him. Maybe because he is trying to get fired from his job in the most obnoxious way, which makes him seem like a rich jerk. Despite his faults, though, it’s not like I hated him – more like I had no connection to him whatsoever, which made the novel a little harder to read. The other characters? The grandfather seems very interesting – knowing so much about fighting, about survival, having been in the Second World War, and telling all these fascinating stories about peculiar children and about monsters who are chasing after them. But he’s not in the story that much. Instead we have parents that are rather invisible – the only thing I remember about the dad was that he wanted to write a book about birds, but never really got around to finishing one. And about the mom? Nothing. Then, there are the children. Unfortunately, the only interesting things about them are their abilities – introduced in a rather sloppy way. I had troubles with distinguishing them from one another, they all seemed flat and basically the same. 2Miss Peregrine’s was a little better, but still annoyed me. I mean, she wasn’t especially open or honest with Jacob, and kept him unnecessarily in the dark about many things. I guess that was supposed to add to the mystery; instead just annoyed me.

Then, there is the story. It’s actually not that bad in itself, but there are two things I have to mention. First, the story doesn’t always corresponds well with the photos. Or rather – you need to stretch a lot, to make them fit. The other thing is, although this had a great start, and sounded like a super fascinating, though not great novel, slowed down the pace remarkably soon after the beginning, and couldn’t regain the first “bang” that I felt upon reading the start.

That being said, I’m not saying it’s a completely bad book. It certainly has a good premise, and some interesting concepts. The photographs themselves – despite not being entirely fitting into the story – are a great treat. The story may seem a little childish, but if you don’t mind, you’ll enjoy it. Overall, in my opinion, it would just need a little more editing, a little more of fully-fetched characters and maybe add some depth into the story? It could definitely lead to something much better than what we have. And what we have is a little messy, sometimes boring, but generally nice little story, for times when you’re bored and don’t want to be bothered with more serious literature.

Will not read the continuation, though.


My Rating: 5/10

Shatter me series (#1 Shatter Me) – Tehereh Mafi) (15-17/32 Reading Challenge 2017)

                Another Young Adult dystopia, so obviously it was on my list.

          Another one like that and I might actually start avoiding dystopian books altogether!

            Let’s get to the point. It’s not a dystopia. It’s a romance with a dystopian background. That is all I had to say, thanks for reading!

            15Okay, so we have Juliette, whose touch is lethal. Whenever she touches someone, they hurt, if the touch lasts too long, they die. That one time when a kid died because of her touch, it was an accident, but they still put her away, leaving the parents relived they finally got rid of the monster, that could not possibly be their daughter. Meanwhile, the world is falling apart, food is hard to get, and birds don’t fly anymore. The Reestablishment promised to fix things, but all they did was to gain full control of the world. When we meet Juliette for the first time, she has been locked up by Reestablishment for 264 days, which she had spent in complete solitude, not having spoken a word to another human being.

            Let me take a little different approach in reviewing this one.

  1. Oh, the style of this book! This is my most complaint here. It’s all written as Juliette’s journal, so it’s the first-person narration, which I usually love. Give it Present Tense and I become skeptical. Give it purple prose and I begin to roll my eyes. And we have all of these here. I mean, okay I’m pretty tolerant to be honest with flowery writing. Take White Oleander for example, I was absolutely in love and astonished someone could write that beautifully and at the same time make a comprehensive story. But here. No. I mean, just NO. It was full of metaphors and long descriptions, that for me just didn’t make any sense. And oh my God, the repetitions! I guess that was supposed to show how deep and sensitive and smart Juliette was, but to me it just showed she was exalted and didn’t know what she was talking about.

Note on style – the book is filled with crossed-out sentences, which bother the hell out of some people, and are totally brilliant in others’ opinions. I guess I’m the only one who doesn’t give a damn.

  1. Characters – well, yes. There’s Juliette, who’s our little model and a poet rolled into one. She is just soooo good. She’s beautiful, of course, but not vain, God forbid. She can’t stand looking in the mirror. Then, she’s altruistic. I mean, she’s the most altruistic person there is, according to Adam, her love interest no 1. And she’s powerful, of course. And sensitive. And smart. And fair. And generally an ideal.

Then, there’s Adam. Adam is nice, and good, and kind, and sensitive and understanding, and generally so forgettable, I have nothing else to add. And he loves our Juliette unconditionally, of course.

Then there’s Warner, the only interesting character in the first part. He’s the sadistic monster of the story with a glint of humanity left in him, so that’s one of the very few interesting things in the book – is he good or bad, or fighting with his darker nature? I would personally prefer the fighting, but I’m guessing he’s just another one of the good guys.

And there’s Kenji, a comic relief, and as such, he’s okay. Nothing more to add. There are some other people, of course, but they are so unimportant I forgot all about them already.

  1. I guess there is some story in there. But sometimes it was hard to find it wrapped into all the long descriptions and feelings of falling in love, and thinking about how terrible a monster Juliette must be, and all that stuff. It was a relief whenever something was starting happening, but it always ended too quickly and we were back to kissing.
  2. Potential for further parts.

None. Okay, I am slightly intrigued to find out Warren’s true intentions, and a little intrigued about how the war with Reestablishment might develop, but it’s hard to say if I can endure this style for two more books. Time will tell. I’ll try. Wish me luck!


EDIT – I read the rest of the series, but it took me a lot of good will and patience. Nothing more to add, actually, except for the fact that Julliette really got on my nerves!


My Rating 4/10

Five random things about USA

So, it took me a while, but I arrived in the USA on the green card – and here are some of my first impressions after these two weeks.

Disclaimer – I am in Boston and the around of Boston, so these are true for this area. Also, these are things that are true for me – my experiences, feelings, observations. It may be completely different for you – I’m NOT basing this on any statistics. Also, I make comparisons to Poland – obviously – but I am NOT stating one way or another is better or worse. Just my observations.

  1. America runs on Dunkin

Ever heard this advert? Sure you have. Ever seen a Dunkin café? Also a certainty, if you’ve been to USA. I never paid attention to this during my previous trips to USA, but suddenly I’m seeing Dunkin Donuts everywhere. It feels like I go a few miles, and there’s another one. I might be inclined to believe there are more Dunkin Donuts than Subways. McDonald’s and Starbucks are the same, but I always saw that. The Dunkin Donuts places are the ones that got my attention now.

  1. Americans can take a compliment

Most of the times a Polish person hears a compliment, he or she will add something to make is smaller. Like – I’d tell a Polish girl I like her dress/skirt/whatever, she would say “oh, that old thing, I’ve had it for ages” or “oh, I just found it in my closet, I forgot I had it.” Not in America. They would just  say “Thank you!” in a very enthusiastic voice and sometimes they may add: “It’s so nice of you.” But I’ve never heard them diminish themselves.

  1. They talk about Trump.

When I was here in 2010, throughout the whole year I had only 2 semi-conversations about politics, and both of them were provoked by me. I was just curious on where the person I was talking to stood – left or right/Democrats or Republicans. They just answered the question, and that was it. But now during the two weeks I’ve been involved more or less actively in 5 conversations about Trump. You may think whatever you like about him, but he IS for sure evoking a lot of emotions in people.

And mind you, this is coming from someone who really avoids talking about politics in any country – despite my occasional curiosity over the “Democrat or Republican standing.”

  1. We have prettier metros

Seriously, Polish metro stations are really better-looking. This may actually be an observation about Boston, but from what I remember every station in USA I’ve been to was practically the same – not too pretty, and not entirely clean. I know, I know, Poland has only 2 metro lines, both of them in Warsaw. So maybe that’s why the metro stations are nicer there!

One more thing – the metro in Boston is well-explained and clear, no issues with that!

  1. You need to wait a long time for the white light on pedestrian crossing.

First thing about that – in Poland we have the green light for pedestrian crossing, while in USA it’s white. That said, is it me, or do I have to wait for-like-EVER for the lights to change? Not that anyone except for me actually worries about that – they just cross the streets whenever there is no car coming, regardless of the lights. I’m still too shy/afraid to do this, but maybe with time I’ll join them! Because, as I said, I really have to wait, and wait and wait, for the white light.

So, these are all for now. I still have not decided if I’m going to stay here, or run back home! But, I hope to write more about this country before I depart.

Lisa Gardner – Hide, The Neighbor, Live to Tell (12-14/32 2017 Reading Challenge)

            I’m so glad I can do a review about three amazing books about which I have mostly good words to say!

The first book of Lisa Gardner I read was „Catch Me.” When I started I had no idea it was a part of a series. I had no idea “Det. D.D. Warren series” exists in the first place. But I liked Lisa’s books enough to randomly look for her other books. And so I encountered the three: The Neighbor, Live to Tell, and Hide – read in this order. They are all parts of Det. D. D. Warren series, which goes like this:

  1. Alone
  2. Hide
  3. The Neighbor
  4. Live to Tell
  5. Love you More
  6. The 7th Month (Novella)
  7. Catch Me
  8. Fear Nothing
  9. 3 Truths and a Lie
  10. Find Her

Now I really wish I had done this “the right way” and started from “Alone!” Anyhow, I’m hooked to these series and I’m sure I’ll read them all quite soon.


What ties these three books – except for being parts of D.D. Warren series – is the way of writing. There are chapters written in first-person-narrative from a point of view of a particular’s book protagonist, and then there are chapters written in third-part-narration about the investigation of a crime, written mostly from D.D. Warren’s perspective – but not only. I love and admire narrations from multiple points of view, so there’s a big plus for Lisa at the beginning. The parts narrated in first-person narration are great for creating outstanding psychological portrait. After all, there’s a good reason Lisa Gardner is the author or “psychological thrillers.” This must be my favorite kind of books, really. Or one of the very few favorites. And when they’re done correctly – as it’s done here – it’s a book-lovers’ dream come true.

There is, however, one setback. I would say that Hide, Live to Tell and Catch Me, are pretty similar as far as the main characters are concerned: they all had tragic childhood (some trauma, or simply running away from danger), and they all have issues with attachment, and moving on in their adult lives. They live lonely lives, almost separate themselves from others. Somehow, that is the protagonist that I almost always enjoy reading about, so I can forgive this similarity.

There is a good reason why I’m doing these three in one review. Not only because they are parts of a series. Mostly because I can say the same thing about all of them: the action has great pace, the story keeps you guessing, the characters are believable, complex, and well-presented; and the ending is surprising. All that a good thriller should have.

            neihbourA young, beautiful wife and mother, Sandra Jones, disappears one night. The only possible witness is a 4-year-old Clarissa. Sandra’s husband, Jason, instead of getting into despair and trying to do everything to help the police, does … everything contrary. Detective D.D. Warren suspects him from the beginning, but then there is the neighbor, the registered sex offender. As the story unravels, we learn that there is much more under the image of a “great marriage,” and we learn the secrets of all characters involved. And we still keep guessing – what happened to Sandra?

live to tellThere was a brutal crime in a working-class part of Boston – four members of a family were murdered, the father in intense therapy. Elsewhere, a nurse Danielle Burton is living a quiet life, not fully having recovered from the tragedy in which her own family had died. The investigation od D.D Warren is going throw her life into chaos, again. Then, there is Victoria, and her sick son; Victoria has sacrificed her life to him. How are those three connected? And who is responsible for the murder of that family?

hideAnnabelle has spent her whole life on the run, though she never got to know why. Now her parents are both dead, and she lives in Boston, where bodies from little girls murdered many years ago, have just been discovered. Could this old crime have anything to do with the reasons for Annabelle’s family to always have been in hiding?

            There are some books that are read for pleasure of reading – books that you taste like good wine. Sip slowly, to enjoy every moment, every words. There are also books that you devour, because you just want to know the truth and know if your guesses are correct. The Neighbor, Hide and Live to Tell are of the second kind. Real page-turners – truly hard to put down. And it did its work greatly in my case – kept me guessing till almost the end.


My Rating: 8/10 – for all of them.

Chelsea Haywood – 90-Day Geisha: My Time as a Tokyo Hostess (11/32 2017 Reading Challenge)

               Let’s clear one thing first. My feelings towards Japan are rather neutral; I’m not a fan, but I don’t have anything against. Just uninterested in most aspects of this country, I guess. Probably, if I was rich and had a lot of time, I’d like to travel there (not to Tokyo, though), to see “how the other half lives,” but it’s not in my top-20 countries to visit.

               If I had money and time, though, I’d like to visit every country there is. But I digress.

               The institution of Geisha has caught my interest, though, regardless of my feelings for (or lack thereof) Japan. I read one book about Geishas, a long time ago, but I remembered from it that to become a geisha, a girl needs to study hard from a very young age, and it takes years to be a fully-trained, professional Geisha. So how come the author became a Geisha just for 90 days?

               The answer is simple – she didn’t. She just had a 90-days visa and worked as a hostess in Tokyo, in bars for rich, over-worked businessmen, that prefer going to a bar and talking to stranger, than to go home to their wives. Guess that’s part of a culture. Not a part I particularly like, but still a part.

               So let me explain really quickly a difference. A Geisha is a Japanese woman with years of education in arts of floral arrangement, calligraphy, dance, singing, playing an instrument, and so on. They are entertainers, conversationalists, and they mingle/serve at the upper-class society. Geisha from what I read these few years back, reminds me of “a tea ceremony,” where they are serving tea (if I remember correctly).

               A hostess in a Japanese hostess bar, is a Western woman, usually with a sort of Barbie figure, who work in bars and cater to man’s every whip; a hostess laughs at the men’s jokes and listen to their bragging, lights their cigarettes and sings karaoke with them, if asked. She sometimes plays silly games with them, that don’t resemble any sense of culture and art a real Geisha is all about.

              geisha So, once I got this out of my system, let me summarize this book in one sentence. A model, Chelsea Haywood, decides to go to Japan to work as a hostess, only to write her memoirs later in form of a book. End of story. Because, basically, there’s no story. Every guy she meets seems the same to me. Everything she does with them seems the same. And after the beginning, it starts to seem more and more like all she’s doing it complaining. About the men she meets, about other hostesses, about how tired she is, how expensive Tokyo is, and about how unhappy she feels. Unfortunately, it’s all written in a very bad style of a 13-year-old. You might forgive it to a teenager, but not to a published author that’s supposed to be making a real-life documentary.

               I wish Chelsea would have been more diverse in her description of characters. Instead, she makes it seem like all men in Japan frequenting these bars are perverts. And I simply will not believe that. I may be stunned at the sole idea of a man who pays hundreds of dollars just to enjoy a simple, easy-going conversation with a Western girl, or for a creation of fantasy that she offers, but it’s their custom. It’s part of their tradition, and if you’re going to a foreign country to describe a part of tradition, you should be as neutral and fair as can be. Not only whining.

               Generally, this book is as reliable as its title. It’s not about Geisha, and it’s not worth reading. I heard there’s a better book about hostess industry out there (Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess by Lea Jacobson), and I am sure I’ll read it someday. I hope it won’t be such a disappointment as this one was.

My Rating: 2/10

The Time Travel Gene Trilogy – Kerstin Gier (8, 9&10/32 2017 Reading Challenge)

PrzechwytywanieTime Travel Gene Trilogy goes by three names; the other two being: The Precious Stone Trilogy, and The Ruby Red Trilogy. It consists of three books – Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green – somehow, though, I can’t look at them as separate books. For me it’s like one story, and I am seriously unable to distinguish between the three. I’m not sure whether it’s because I read them – or rather swallowed them – throughout a fairly short time (around 3 days), or because they really are not that much different.

saphire blue.PNGTake The Hunger Games, though, for example. I read them through a very similar period of time – around 3 days – and it also felt like one sitting, but I was able to, from the beginning, distinguish between the three. With The Precious Stone Trilogy, though, every following book felt like the next chapter, really.

                Never mind that.

                Meet Gwyneth and Charlotte, her cousin, who is supposed to have a time travel gene, which forces her to travel in time. She’s been trained her whole life to be able to find herself in all circumstances. Somehow, though, somebody made a mistake and it’s Gwen who’s cursed – or gifted – with this gene. She’s totally unprepared, and just a “normal teenager.” By normal, I’m afraid, we have a rather silly teenager here. Yes, it’s Charlotte that has been prepared her whole life to fit into different eras – from riding horses to playing the piano. Gwen doesn’t know any of this. She also doesn’t seem to know basic history, or culture, or anything about arts, or any foreign language. She doesn’t know anything except for modern movies, especially romantic comedies. She’s also not able to remember one Latin sentence that’s an important password. She herself once says “I need a new brain.”

                Yet, she manages to make Gideon, beautiful and perfect, though albeit dull, to fall in love with her. And she manages to stop one greedy man from becoming immortal, and ultimately save the world. I guess this should make me a little angry, or just tired, or frustrated, or I’m not sure, just roll my eyes and stop reading. Cause, the idea that you can ignore what your teachers are saying to you, and just be rude and sarcastic, while at the same time pretty and kind of helpless, is what’s enough to be the crucial part in Big-Story-Involving-Saving-the-World, should make me angry. But it doesn’t.emerald green.PNG

                I guess it’s because I never took that series seriously. I treated it as a form of entertainment. A little silly, quite illogical, but entertaining as fuck. I mean, I am a sucker for time travel. If time travel existed, I’d have a big problem of where to go – future, past? If past, would that be before Christ? The XII century, the middle-ages? Since it’s impossible, at least I can read about how others see it. Be it a little silly, and mostly focused on clothes and parties – I’ll take that. And the idea of a heroine that has no idea what’s she’s doing – I’m sorry, but makes me laugh. Or at least smile/relax. Not to mention her friend, gargoyle. The funniest thing in the series.

                So, basically, the things I liked: the action, the humor, the characters, despite them being unrealistic (I mean, take Charlotte, it’s as if she’s not even human, just “evil” with no other characteristic, but being perfect at whatever she does; and Gideon, also perfect, and besides that, just … there). What I didn’t like: the characters (look above), the cheesy romance. I guess I might say these books were a guilty pleasure. Something I should dislike, but enjoyed reading nonetheless.