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Book reviews and blog content by Iben Jakobsen.
I can be contacted at boroughofbooks at gmail dot com

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21/10/2014

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realize her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther's life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiraling into suicidal depression as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women's aspirations seriously.
We follow Esther life from her summer job in New York with Ladies' Day magazine, back through her days at New England's largest school for women, and forward through her attempted suicide, her bad treatment at one asylum and her good treatment at another, to her final re-entry into the world like a used tyre: "patched, retreaded, and approved for the road" ... 
Esther Greenwood's account of her year in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing. The novel is partially based on Plath's own life and has become a modern classic.

The page you see on the picture below is my most favourite book quote ever. Never before have I come across something that so elegantly and so pointedly describes exactly this feeling - a feeling, a thought, a problem I have myself. That blazing insecurity that threatens to take over. The want of everything and the inability to chose just one path. Obviously today we are less restrained, we can have several of the life goals which Plath describes all at once or one after the other, but then again can we really? How do we find the time for it all, the strength?

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig-tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famout poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and off-beat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyonf and above these figs were many many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would chose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

The book follows Esther's life and feelings from her summer job in NY, back to her school days, forward to her attempted suicide and then throughout the various treatments at good and bad asylums. Unsatisfied by the rather open ending I googled the book and the woman behind it and was in for rather a shock. I've never encountered the book during my school years nor her, so I didn't know anything about either and was rather appalled to discover that Plath's crippling depressions drove her to suicide barely a month after the book was published (under the pen name Victoria Lucas). It does make certain parts in the book click though. I'm not sure anyone who hadn't experienced those feelings would be able to write about them like that [note; I've never been suicidal nor properly depressed, just occasionally rather sad]. Esther's feelings and breakdown are so palpable, at times even almost rational; it's all explained so well.

The Bell Jar took my breath away and it's a book that demands to be read and reread and reread again to get it all. I never before encountered a book quite like it, a book that made me pause and actually properly appreciate the writing, the word structure, the deeper meanings behind it all. Plath was an amazing writer, whom driven by her own black thoughts and feelings managed to portray the darker emotions of a young woman despairing. I'm rather sad that this book in Denmark at least seems so relatively unknown. It's dark and it's scary, yes, and obviously not for a younger audience, but it's just so ... important. I think particular in lieu of how more and more people nowadays struggle with depressions and loneliness and so on and so forth - this book has something to tell. It can put some perspective on matters, like, you're not alone. It's okay to be feeling like that. Let someone help you. Don't give up, there are people loving you.

THE BELL JAR
by Sylvia Plath
ISBN13: 9780571081783
234 pages / Published in 1963

Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2014

18/10/2014

Readathon October 2014 MASTER POST - running updates, scroll down for news, will also include usual mini-reviews

9 AM - woke up; slept in to be able to handle all todays taxing reading
9:30-13:00 - showered, cleaned the apartment, did the grocery shopping, cooked lunch: nothing can disturb the force now.

As per usual you can follow my updates here and on my twitter @Gemmanebi, (you might even see a little update or two on my instagram @gemmanebi if I remember to)


13:45 - For any newcomers, I've gone ahead and filled out the Opening Meme for a little info about me:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Middle of Nowhere, Jutland, Denmark.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
The third Supernatural book which I have on my ipad.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
The bottle of coca cola in my fridge. I'm usually not allowed to drink anything but water (I get crazy addicted to the sugar), so this is really a treat!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'm 26, I have a cat called Sofie, I live on my own, I'm a librarian with a Master of Arts (MA) in Information Science and Cultural Communication (5 years at uni).
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
The big difference for me this time is doing a single master post rather than a thousand of small ones. I hope it'll be easier for newcomers especially to get a better idea of what I'm doing.

14:00 // 2 PM - ready -- set -- go!
Iiiiit's READATHON tiiiiime!

15:05
First book have been finished! I've read the comedian Bo Burnham's book Egghead: Or, You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone (an illustrated collection of absurd poetry and writings). Rewatched his show What. yesterday and had his voice in my head as I read. Amazing stuff.

15:52
I've given up reading Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. The Danish translation I have is simply terrible. The language and the wording is all off and it just doesn't feel right. I don't want to ruin a good book with a bad impression, so putting this down and starting on another book.

16:43
Finally found the right book for me :) Unfortunately I'm leaving home in less than an hour's time to go have dinner with a bunch of friends I haven't seen since forever, so will have a fair few hours without any reading at all! (Though I'll be listening to my audiobook whilst driving to and from)

23:10
I'm home again from a very good night in great company. Unfortunately it's also quite drained my batteries and I'm not really feeling up for a whole lot of activity now. Will try and see if I can read a bit before going to sleep.

00:44
It's late and I'm all caught up in a good book. I'm just over halfway through Still Alice by Lisa Genova and really enjoying it, though it's also very scary. The book is about a woman who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers and how her reality is slipping between her fingers as her brain cells deteriorates and her memory fades and gets muddled.
Have been sitting on my couch so far, will now retreat to the bedroom for some final pages before sleep overpowers me as it has someone else :)

02:26
I couldn't stop reading. I've just finished my second book of the readathon and it was a fantastic 5 star book. I'm a big fan of realistic novels like this one that accurately portrays different sides of life and possible leaves you wiser on a subject. Before this I've loved books like The Rosie Project, The Bell Jar and The unfortunate incident of the dog in the night-time.
Now, it's time to sleep!

09:42
Good morning every body!
 I'm back awake after some 6 hours sleep and have gone straight to the couch in my pyjamas and cuddled up with a blanket and pillows I've started reading All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque; so far, it's very engaging :) How's everybody's night been? Any body manage to read with no stop?

11:44
Though it's a bit heavy to read and very gory, I'm really enjoying All quiet on the Western front, a  halfway through it now, if I keep the pace I should be able to finish it just before the end of the readathon in 2 hours time.

13:51
With just 10 minutes to go of the 24 hours I finished my 3rd book. I really enjoyed All quiet on the Western front, despite it's age (86 years old, published in 1928!) it's as accurate and on point as it ever was. It depicts the horrors of modern warfare in the war they thought would end all wars (sadly, it didn't - it just ended lives). It'll definitely be a book I recommend others to read. Although it's a novel and not a straight documentation, it's a lesson in history and a lesson in human nature.


14:11 - End of Event Meme:
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
I think around hours 20 and 21 were the toughest for me. That was at 9-10 AM and shortly after I'd woken up after just 6 hours of sleep and I was just getting to comfy on the couch :)
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
It's hard to say what works for different people, but I think rereading a previous favourite like harry potter books or reading something by an author you know you like, is a good safe bet.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Not really. I'm never very engaged in the process after the first few hours. Right when it starts I scramble to read some and then stress over not being social and stress even more trying to follow a hundred different people's progress and after a while my brain just blocks it all out and I get selfish and just read on my own. I do occasionally pop in to see what others are doing, but I'm no good at juggling it all. I was a bit let down by the mini-challenges this time around though, not many of them were of any interest to me at all (and the one that looked really good I wasn't home to do ofc :/ )
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
Again, seeing as I'm a bit out of the loop I can't really say, but it seems like everybody had their cheer on and were in high spirits throughout.
5. How many books did you read?
I finished 3 and read 40 pages of a 4th (and heard an hours worth of 5th)
6. What were the names of the books you read?
I finished Egghead: or, You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone by Bo Burnham, Still Alice by Lisa Genova and All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.
7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Still Alice blew me away, but AQotWF was very good too.
8. Which did you enjoy least?
I gave up on Catcher in the Rye, hoping it's just the Danish translation that's poor.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I'm definitely joining in again, no doubt about it. I'll probably just be a reader again. I always toy with the thought of being a cheerleader, but can never commit.

All in all I read 741 pages (+40 from the unfinished book) and I read from 2 PM till 5 PM, 11 PM to 2:30 AM and 9:30 AM till 2 PM; so that's roughly 11 hours [71 pages an hour].
I hadn't expected to read half as much as the last few times I've participated seeing as I usually read the most in the early evening and this time around I wasn't at home for that having been invited to dinner with friends. I've pleased with the end result and very happy with the books I read, which were very good.

16/10/2014

Readathon Ready

I am yet again participating in the semi-annual Readathon, this will be my 5th time.

[ You can read all my previous posts about the events here and you can find the wrap-up posts for the previous 4 readathons here: 13-14/10 201227-28/04 201312-13/10 2013 and 26-27/04 2014 ]

24 hour readathon

For those unaware, the 24 Hour Readathon is an amazingly social event where people from all over the world - more than 800 last time - come together and read. We sit on our own yet keep connected through various online social sites. I mainly stick to twitter and my blog throughout the event and I usually have such a good time; reading, chatting with others and cheering on their progress.

If you want to spend your weekend reading but also being social then join up here! (Note that there are 2 sign ups - 1 for you in general and 1 for where you want the cheerleaders to aim their cheers). It's never to late to join, there are no rules as to how much you should read, what you should read (anything goes!) or for how long you should be reading. The whole point is just having a good time.

I've been invited over to a friend's house for a big meetup of friends I haven't seen in months on end, so there will be quite a few hours between 5 PM and midnight probably where I won't be reading, so I'll have to cram in as many pages as possible beforehand and afterwards. I usually try and keep my schedule clear, but some things just overrule others.

Now, usually I post several blog posts throughout the readathon. I spam twitter with hourly/minutely details on how it's going, but post a post here every time I've finished a book, alongside with a mini-review of the book. I'm considering this time around to just do one master-post that'll be updated as I go along, but am unsure as there are pro and cons to both ways. On one hand it'll be far easier for others to keep track of my progress (I guess?), but on the other I'm worried people will either not realize when it's updated and won't scroll down and see the news or it might drown in the sea of other posts (I usually have more than 8 posts pr readathon!)


I would usually show you a big pile of books right about now; the pile of potential reads, but thanks to being so busy at work and unpacking the hundreds of boxes (or so it feels) in my apartment, I simply haven't gotten around to that as of yet. I have a mental list of possible books, and quite a few lined up on my ipad, so I'm certain I won't go lacking.

[lies, after writing this post but before posting it I showed off my pile on instagram]

But enough chatter, I look forward to seeing you all (hopefully) on Saturday at 14:00 / 2 PM Danish time!

14/10/2014

Bibliotekarens Virkelige Eventyr by Lynn Austin

Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But the happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real one. To top it off, Alice loses her beloved library job because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression.
Longing to run from small-town gossip, Alice flees to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the tiny coal-mining town of Acorn, a place with no running water, no electricity, and where the librarians ride horses up steep mountain passes to deliver books. When Alice is forced to stay in Acorn far longer than she planned, she discovers that real-life adventure, mystery--and especially romance--may be far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.

Jeg bliver ved med at blande Bibliotekarens Virkelige Eventyr sammen med Læserne i Broken Wheel anbefaler af Katarina Bivald. Begge handler om en bogfikseret ung kvinde, der drager ud i verden (I'm going on an adventure!) og tvinges ud i nogen omstændigheder, der "danner" hende, åbner hendes øjne både for liv og kærlighed og gør hende stærkere.

Bogen her er sød og ikke helt så naiv som Læserne [...], men så absolut heller ikke voldsomt realistisk - ikke efter mine standarder in any case.

Bibliotekarens Virkelige Eventyr by Lynn Austin//Iben Jakobsen

Hovedpersonen Alice irriterede mig i begyndelsen; jeg dur bare ikke til at læse om håbløse personligheder, og den mangler de fine boganbefalinger som tit holdt mig kørende i Læserne [...], men efter en lidt træg start var den lige pludselig ret så god og engagerende. Jeg syntes den skøjter lidt let hen over tidens gang, men det var alligevel hyggeligt at følge hende i det daglige hårde arbejde; lidt Lille hus på prærien-agtigt.

Persongalleriet ud over Alice er lidt spraglet. Der er Lillie og Mack, som hun kommer til at bo hos, de andre bogudbringere og så naturligvis de mennesker som Alice møder på sin rute. Nogle får man en god baggrundshistorie om, der også viser sig relevant i Alice's historie, men andre virker totalt ligegyldige - som for eksempel samtlige medlemmer af Alice's familie og (lille) vennekreds. Når man tænker på hvor centrale Lillie og Mack egentlig er for historien, syntes jeg man får alt for lidt kendskab til dem. Men samtidigt har jeg lært nok til at være meget imod Lillie. Jeg følte, at man konstant fik hendes tro presset ned i halsen (der var mange MANGE gentagelser), og damen gjorde utallige gange nogle ting, der bare ikke er okay. Luskede ting, jeg ikke kunne se det sjove i. Alice var alt for hurtig til at tilgive det, hun blev udsat for, havde det været mig i hendes situation, havde Lille helt ærligt fået et slag eller to (på en hidsig dag).

Man får tit at vide at Alice har fået et nært forhold til den ene eller den anden, men på grund af springene i tid, oplever man som læser aldrig den udvikling. Det ene øjeblik er det ikke så godt, og i det næste passer det modsatte tilsyneladende forfatteren bedre, og så er der lige en linje om, at hun er kommet til at holde af personen med tiden, og bum så er det sådan. Lidt for nemt. Den uvilkårlige kærlighedshistorie er meget forudsigelig, men det gør egentlig ikke så meget, for trods mine småbrokkerier så lykkedes det Austin ganske godt at få historiens mange tråde bundet sammen til en halvfin sløjfe, der alligevel gør, at man sidder ganske tilfreds tilbage, når bogen er slut.

Det er ikke en bog jeg vil genlæse, men har man lyst til noget nemt og ganske rart, så er det udmærket læsning.

----
Wondering why I wrote this review in Danish? Me too. I usually just review Danish books in Danish, but this one slipped. Oh well. If you're curious, I can briefly summarize, that it's a decent book. I wasn't too fond of all the characters, but overall the story held water and was worth reading.

Bibliotekarens Virkelige Eventyr by Lynn Austin//Iben Jakobsen
BIBLIOTEKARENS VIRKELIGE EVENTYR
(Wonderland Creek)
by Lynn Austin
ISBN13: 9788771325287
463 pages / Published in 2011

Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2014
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