Archive for August, 2014

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe

What a title! The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Idea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas certainly is a mouthful. But it wasn’t the crazy title that prompted me to pick it up and have a peek in the bookstore. It was the sticker that said “signed by author”. I am a sucker for signed books, and this one is signed like no other I’ve ever seen. The inscription takes up the entire page. Of course I had to buy it! The Fakir, Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod, steps into a taxi at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and announces he wants to be driven to… Ikea. Not quite your usual destination for anyone arriving after a long flight from India. And so the story begins. Having duped his friends and followers into flying him 4,000 miles, and with just a counterfeit 100 euro (which he printed on one side only), he intends to buy a bed of nails – yes! – apparently Ikea sells them. It’s called a Hertsyorbak (sound it out – it’s typical Ikea) but things go terribly wrong and he sets off on an unintended journey of many miles that ends up shaking the core of his soul. This is a terribly funny, quirky little book that was a complete delight to read. It’s has a depth to it (it’s a fable of sorts) that makes you stop a minute and think “this guy is a fantastic writer”. And I bet Ikea couldn’t be happier to be associated with this book. It was a number one best seller in France and is being published in 36 countries (just like Billy bookcases – it’s everywhere!). If you want something completely different – this is the book! It’s OMG funny!

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Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth is Missing is my #1 recommendation for the summer!  It is the brilliantly written first novel from young writer Emma Healey. It’s shockingly sad, a bit frightening (is dementia in the cards for you?!) yet at the same time a hilariously funny book. Maud is an aging grandmother who is suffering from dementia. Her mind isn’t what it used to be. She walks around with her pockets stuffed with little reminders of where she’s going or what she’s doing… just in case she forgets. Slowly her day to day life becomes increasingly more difficult, not only for her but also her daughter Helen. Maud is sure her close friend Elizabeth is missing. She’s not at home where she should be, so obviously she’s gone missing. But no one believes her because she gets everything in a muddle, and confuses her facts (Has she already has toast today or should she go make herself yet another piece?… Why is the staircase on the opposite side it usually is?) She goes to Elizabeth’s son, even the police, but no one believes her – because she’s a dotty old lady with dementia. She even puts an “advert” in the local paper. (This will make you laugh so hard your sides will hurt – guaranteed!) Things eventually get worse when Maud starts mixing up the present with the past when her sister Sukey disappeared without a trace shortly after WWII. It’s only a great writer who can convey the muddle in Maud’s mind so convincingly, and Healey does is magnificantly. This is a brilliantly written book. I read somewhere that it all stemmed from a paper submitted to a writing class where her teachers were astute enough to realize that they had someone special in their midst. And that someone special has turned that paper into a very special book. You MUST read this! *****

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The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Jamie Ford’s first book The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a real little gem. At only 290 pages, it is the perfect size for a quick read or a weekend away. In the 1940s in Seattle, Washington, Henry Lee, a Chinese American, forms a bond of friendship that later turns into love with Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American. Old world grievances and hatred between the Chinese and Japanese prevent Henry’s parents from accepting this relationship. This book really is bitter sweet. The underlying animosity and hatred of all things and everyone Japanses is prevalent throughout the entire book. It shows how far these feelings went, and how much the entire Japanses community suffered. On the other side of the coin it shows how friendships and love find a way to bridge this terrible divide regardless of old grievances. Keiko and her family, like all Japanese families in Seattle, were eventually evacuated and sent to interment camps. 40 years later, Henry is walking by the old Panama Hotel which for years has been boarded up and neglected. Now being restored to it’s former glory, the new owner discovers  the belongings of those Japanese families that had to flee the city stored in the basement, and Henry immediately decides to search for a long lost object that meant so much to both him and Keiko. Along the way he relives the journey he took, the sacrifices he made, and the love he had for his family, his country and especially Keiko. I call this a sleeper hit. It’s a New York Times bestseller, and a Washington State Book Award Finalist, yet I bet most readers porobably never hear about it. I loved it!

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