Review: Death of a Prima Donna by Brina Svit

death of a prima donna

The next stop on my Global Reading challenge was Slovenia.  I had some trouble finding an author whose work had been translated into English, but eventually discovered Brina Svit, a a journalist, screenwriter and film director who has written three novels.  Death of a Prima Donna is her second novel to be translated into English, the first being Con Brio.

Now, I confess to having some prejudice against this book before I even began.  The title just kind of makes me shiver and roll my eyes – I have no desire to read about prima donnas in the colloquial sense of the word.  But it turns out that the prima donna in this book is actually a famous (fictional) opera singer, so I guess she is a prima donna in the true sense of the word.  Anyway, whatever.

I really don’t like giving bad reviews but there’s no point in being dishonest.  Unfortunately, I thought this book was pretty awful.  The characters were extremely unlikable and, more importantly, very irritating – a neurotic, crazy, beautiful superstar, a crazy stalker superfan … ugh.  I had no sympathy for any of them and couldn’t have cared less what happened to them.  The timeline is confusing, with annoying allusions to things the reader will learn later (pet hate alert), it is quite repetitive and to be honest, I couldn’t tell you now what the mystery of the prima donna’s death was, or even how she died!

Not all books will appeal to everyone, and this one is just not my cup of tea.  It is definitely someone’s cup of tea, as this has quite good ratings on Goodreads, and Brina Svit is clearly an accomplished and well thought of author, so what do I know?!  Just not for me I’m afraid.  2 stars.

If you have any recommendations for Slovenian authors whose works have been translated into English, or any other translated works for that matter, please let me know in the comments!



Review: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

signs preceding

Translated by Lisa Dillman

I have to admit, booktube made me buy this one.  A couple of months ago, just about every booktuber I follow (a blog post about which will be coming soon …) had read this book, and the vast majority of them were raving about it.  And second confession … I adore this cover.  So with those two things combined, I had no hope of resisting buying this book.

Maybe I’m just not clever enough, because unfortunately I just didn’t get it.  I mean, it’s an engaging story, and the writing/translating is interesting. The main character has some struggles to overcome (I guess that’s putting it mildly!) and I did feel for her.  Herrera creates a vivid picture of the grim life of Mexican immigrants crossing the border into the USA, and he sure knows how to write a beautiful sentence.  But the whole way through this (very short!) book, I felt like I was missing something … it was almost there but I just couldn’t grab it, and this saddens me because I think I have missed something great.  Perhaps this is one for the ‘re-read’ shelf as I think I would get a lot more out of it on a second read.

All this is not to say I hated the book – I didn’t.  I enjoyed the story, the characters were well drawn and the writing almost poetic.  The translator’s note at the end of the book was very interesting and insightful, and it is clear that Lisa Dillman was diligent in her translation, and did a wonderful job.  An author to watch, I think.  3 stars.




Review: Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov

book review: gamily by chintz aitmatov

I came across this book while researching for my global reading challenge.  Chingiz Aitmatov was born in 1928 in Kyrgyzstan and his literary works have been translated into more than 100 languages.  He died in 2008.

Jamilia is a very short book at less than 100 pages, and I really don’t want to give anything of the plot away, so this will be a succinct review!  This book is a masterfully written but simple love story.  The atmosphere evoked within these few pages is stunningly vibrant and the characters are warmly and beautifully crafted.  Thoroughly engrossing, if you can get your hands on a copy of this, DO IT! And also … cover love! 4 stars.


The Month that Was: September

We’re fully into Autumn round these parts now.  It is chilly, nights are drawing in and Christmas things are beginning to appear in the shops already (grrr).  I read 5 books and watched 3 movies (one of those at the actual cinema!) … kind of  a slowish month, but certainly not my worst!

The books

september books


My book of the month (and possibly my lifetime!) was Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.  Oh my goodness.  I cannot describe how much I loved this book, and how much of a surprise it was to me.  I mean, it’s a western in which a ramshackle bunch of cowboys drive a herd of cattle from the bottom of the USA to the top, and it’s a doozy at nearly 1000 pages.  But seriously, this book now has a very firm spot on my favourites shelf.  Loved it.  (Review coming soon!)

Other books read this month (reviews coming eventually)

  • After Me Comes The Flood by Sarah Perry – this one started off good, was really intriguing, but then it just fizzled into boringness.  2 stars.
  • The Chimes by Anna Smaill – ugh.  I posted a review of this here.  2 stars.
  • Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – a gorgeous book!  4 stars.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir – another surprise for me.  I absolutely loved this and gave it 5 stars.
  • As far as my reading stats and challenges are concerned, this was not such a great month!  Anna Smaill is from New Zeland, so that’s one more country ticked off my global reading challenge.  And Larry McMurtry won the Pulitzer for Lonesome Dove, so that’s my prize winner for the month.  But that’s it.  I aim to do better next month!

The Movies

september films

Dave and I are a bit late to the party on the Bourne series.  With a new film coming out soon we decided it was high time we watched these, so we made a start this month …

  • The Bourne Identity – this was good.  A little confusing.  But I like Matt Damon.  Dave gave this 7.5/10, and I gave it 6/10. It dipped in the middle.
  • The Bourne Supremacy – Not quite as good as the first one.  I’m still a bit confused.  5/10 from each of us.

Then we decided to treat ourselves and actually leave the house to go see a movie!

  • Legend – I was really not expecting to like this film very much.  I’m not keen on violence for the sake of violence, and all I knew about the Krays was that they were violent gangsters.  But this film went a bit further into the people and I ended up really enjoying it.  How much of that was down to Tom Hardy’s superb portrayal of the twins, I’m not sure.  He was excellent.  We both gave this 7.5/10.

And Elsewhere

  • Dave finished a 42 mile bike ride and it feels like we will never hear the end of it!
  • New schools and school years were started.
  • Strictly season began!  I love Strictly Come Dancing so much!  Early favourites are Peter Andre, Jay McGuinness (don’t judge me people!) and Anita Rani.
  • My thoughts are turning to reading aims for next year – I always get this way in Autumn!  I have a few ideas ticking over in my brain; more to come!


Review: Out by Natsuo Kirino

Book Review: Out by Natsuo Kirino

I haven’t come across a great many crime novels written by Japanese women, so I was intrigued by this book.  Having said that, I bought this book in Borders, Oxford Street which closed down years ago, so it’s been sitting on my shelf, unread and gathering dust, for quite some time.

Out is a grim, gritty and grimy look at life in urban Japan.  It follows a small group of women who work the gruelling night shift in a bento factory.  They manage to get themselves into a bit of a pickle, shall we say.  The characters fall into a dirty world with no thought to the consequences of their actions, no questions and no qualms.  Just one simple idea – “what’s in it for me?”.  I think this book is a great example of a ‘horrible character/good plot’ story (as opposed to the ‘horrible character/horrible plot’ that is Gone Girl).  The characters are selfish, desperate human beings who engender no sympathy from the reader, but the complicated and intricate plot keeps you reading.  You need to know what happens to these despicable characters.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It didn’t quite grip me in the way I hoped it would, and one scene sticks in my mind for being so jarring and out of kilter with the rest of the writing – one scene that we see from two different perspectives; the only scene in the book that we see in this way.  It just didn’t sit right with me.  But it was interesting to read about the underbelly of Tokyo, where things are not so peaceful, tranquil and calm.  A good read, but nothing to blow your mind.  3 stars.


Review: The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng


I read this book as part of my global reading challenge.  Tan Twan Eng is a Malaysian author who writes in English.  The Garden of Evening Mists was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012.

Set mainly on a tea estate in the Malaysian jungle but told through flashbacks and memories, this book is very atmospheric and beautifully descriptive.  Tan Twan Eng’s writing is wonderfully evocative and lyrical – in stark contrast to some of the subject matters covered.  I became totally immersed in this world through his writing which conjured up beautiful pictures of a place I have never visited and knew little about.  Here’s one of my favourite passages:

Memory is like patches of sunlight in an overcast valley, shifting with the movement of the clouds.  Now and then the light will fall on a particular point in time, illuminating it for a moment before the wind seals up the gap, and the world is in shadow again.

There are many contrasting themes within the pages of this book – love, hate and forgiving, beauty and horror, war and peace, memory and forgetting.  I learnt about a period of history I knew little of and about which I am now keen to know more.

If you like slow burning stories (although actually these are generally not my favourite!) set in different cultures, and studies of memory, I think you would enjoy this book.  It is not a fast paced thrill read.  The story reveals itself slowly and quite gently; it feels quite meditative in fact.  4 stars