lunes, 30 de septiembre de 2013

Wayward Manor - Neil Gaiman

I'm a great fan of Neil Gaiman. It's not that I've read everything under the sun that he has written - I'm far from that. But there is something special in every book by him that I've read, something that clicked. I've also enjoyed his screenwriter abilities, and his readalouds and talks, and twitter and tumblr. Then how on earth is it possible that I missed he has written a videogame?

This sounds so cool!

viernes, 27 de septiembre de 2013

The Classics Club List

I am joining The Classics Club challenge. You might be wondering what is that. In their own words:

The Classics Club was started on March 7, 2012 by a blogger who wanted to see more people posting about classics literature in the blogosphere. Her goal was to, “unite those of us who like to blog about classic literature, as well as to inspire people to make the classics an integral part of life.”

The goal is to read 50+ classics in 5 years maximum. I didn't want to join until I completed my year of reading Proust, but as it is taking longer than I had anticipated, I just decided to put the remaining In Search of Lost Time books in my Classics Club list. As my list is pretty intensive for my reading habits, I'm setting September 27th, 2018 as my completion date (5 years from now).

I have grouped the classics according to a series of categories:

  1. Domestic Fiction: 18 titles. It includes Persephone books, and books by Nancy Mitford and Virginia Woolf.
  2. Books transferred from A Year of Reading Proust: 5 titles.
  3. Epic: 4 titles. Homer and Joyce.
  4. Classic Genre Fiction: 10 titles. Early sci-fi and detective fiction.
  5. Spanish Classics: 10 titles. It includes books written by Spanish authors that I have been wanting to read for a while. I'm not really sure they have been translated into English, so sorry folks.
  6. Assorted Classics: 5 titles.
Total: 52

jueves, 26 de septiembre de 2013

Swann's Way & Within a Budding Grove - Marcel Proust

In april, I blogged about my intent of reading In Search of Lost Time in 2013. My goal was ambitious, and now I know it was overly so. While it is doable, I have realized I need time to enjoy Proust.

Marcel Proust whiled away the first half of his life as a self-conscious aesthete and social climber. The second half he spent in the creation of the mighty roman-fleuve that is In Search of Lost Time, memorializing his own dandyism and parvenu hijinks even as he revealed their essential hollowness. Proust begins, of course, at the beginning--with the earliest childhood perceptions and sorrows. Then, over several thousand pages, he retraces the course of his own adolescence and adulthood, democratically dividing his experiences among the narrator and a sprawling cast of characters. (Source)

Three quarters of the year have already passed, and I have just finished the first two volumes of ISOLT, Swann's Way and Within a Budding Grove. Now I should write a review-of-sorts, but this novel surpasses my writing skills. I will gush about it instead.

Swann's Way starts with the famous sentence "Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure" (For a long time, I went to bed early) and goes on for pages about the act of going to bed, memories of chilhood bed rituals and that split-second feeling of disorientation one feels when waking up, accentuated by being away from home. Elegantly, Proust has just introduced many of the themes he is going to develop in his larger-than-life novel - memory (involuntary vs. voluntary), habit, sensorial experiencies, pleasure, love and perception of others. 

miércoles, 18 de septiembre de 2013

The Girl who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson

Spanish cover for 
The Girl who Played with Fire

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Expose
Millennium publisher Mikael Blomkvist has made his reputation exposing corrupt establishment figures. So when a young journalist approaches him with an investigation into sex trafficking, Blomkvist cannot resist waging war on the powerful figures who control this lucrative industry.

The Murder
When a young couple are found dead in their Stockholm apartment, it's a straightforward job for Inspector Bublanski and his team. The killer left the weapon at the scene - and the fingerprints on the gun point to only one direction.

Another summer vacation has come and gone with a Millenium book by my side. I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last year for the first time. Somehow, I had avoided spoilers and hadn't got a clue of what was going to happen between the pages. I expected a more-or-less entertaining, more-or-less flawed whodunnit with no heft whatsoever - perfect for a summer read. My surprise was huge when I was presented with a gritty portrait of a country I barely knew, a well-built mystery, fleshed-out characters and the intention of raising awareness of rape culture. I actively disliked the writing, but was sold on the trilogy anyway.

Flash-forward a year and I'm reading the second book, The Girl who Played with Fire. The formula is very similar for both books: journalist Mikael Blomkvist tries to publish an investigation which will shock the country and send very important people to jail when things suddenly complicate beyond measure. However, this time Lisbeth Salander is closely connected to both the investigation and the murder. 

Lisbeth is a Sherlock type of character - asocial and ammoral, very intelligent and emotionally disconnected. She has suffered abuse on many levels and she has decided to fight it back. And she is endearing - in fact, she's one of the two reasons I enjoy this trilogy. In The Girl who Played with Fire we finally get to know more about Lisbeth's backstory - her family, her childhood, her stays at foster homes and her love life. And it's every bit as disturbing as I imagined it to be.

The other reason why I like these books is the denouncement of sexual abuse and the defense of women rights. In this trilogy, we are shown that women are often raped, beaten and harassed around the world, even around the corner. We are also shown that women are exposed to sexism in a less gruesome way, too, when they are considered less important and less worthy than their male counterparts. An example of this is the character Sonja Modig, a police officer who is bullied by her colleagues and whose contributions to the police investigation are hardly ever taken into account. The Girl who Played with Fire is sprinkled with sex trafficking data that I guess is taken out from reality and that made physically sick. I'm just glad the Millenium trilogy reached so many people, because I'm sure not everyone who has read the novels had pondered about these issues. There's also room to show a contrast with healthy emotional and sexual relationships of every kind - a woman with two lovers, a lesbian who likes some BDSM (the real thing - not that abusive nonsense featured in 50 Shades of Grey) or a traditional heterosexual couple - and how prejudice makes society identify nontraditional relationships with immorality and perversion.

Unfortunately, Stieg Larsson didn't really improve his writing skills in this book, so the execution is less than okay. I also think the mystery itself is weaker than the one about the Vanger family and was able to foresee the big twist from early on, and as this is the conductive thread of the story, it undermined my enjoyment of the novel. And I didn't particularly like the cliffhanger ending. I'll still be reading the third book next summer, though.

Here ends part 1 of my summer reads reviews. Summertime brings travel, oodles of reading time and laziness, so I'm now trying to catch-up. Next installment will be either The Hand that First Held Mine or The Map of the Sky.

martes, 17 de septiembre de 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Fall 2013 TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that anyone can answer. All you have to do is link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post and add it to the Linky widget.

Top Ten Books On My Fall 2013 TBR List

lunes, 16 de septiembre de 2013

Romeo and Juliet

Apparently, adaptations of classics are in. What do you think about this new Romeo and Juliet movie?

I like the cast... but that's pretty much it. It's by the creator of Downton Abbey - which should make me confident, except because of the soap-opera-ish turn of the events in season 3. And is that Florence + The Machine on the background?

jueves, 12 de septiembre de 2013

The new Harry Potter spin-off: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Guys, I couldn't be more excited! J.K. Rowling has partnered with Warner Bros. again to make movies based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I bet the title rings a bell even if you're not a potterhead, and that is because it is one of fictional text books used in Hogwarts. It was published as a Harry Potter companion book and got oodles of good reviews by HP fans.

Apparently, the movies are going to be set in New York, some seventy years before the adventures of the wizarding trio, and will follow the life of Fantastic Beasts's author, Newt Scamander. You can read all about it in the official press release.

The fictional text book gets some amount of love in the original Harry Potter series and it is as good a choice as any – at least that is my opinion as an HP fangirl! Are you also happy to see more of the Harry Potter world?

miércoles, 11 de septiembre de 2013

I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

First Edition Cover
The three laws of robotics:

    1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to the ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future - a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete. Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-read robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world.

I, Robot was first published in 1950, and it shows. These stories were written during the Atomic Age, when the atomic bomb and nuclear power plants were all the rage. The eventual shortage of energy sources wasn't even a problem, but nuclear power would be the solution. In fact, it would be the solution to every problem. We only needed more time, more knowledge about the atom. We are talking about a time when the URSS was a reality, and a scary one for us, capitalist countries. The stories, then, are a bit dated. Asimov is said to have mixed science fact and science fiction - but older science facts are more similar to fiction nowadays. The language is also a potential barrier to the modern reader. It isn't hard or difficult as the language usually employed in classics is perceived to be, but the slang is so retro it induces a sort of disrespect for the story. However, if you can read past these obstacles, the content of the stories is really good. 

martes, 10 de septiembre de 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Screen

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that anyone can answer. All you have to do is link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post and add it to the Linky widget.

Top Ten Books I Would Love To See As A Movie/TV Show

lunes, 9 de septiembre de 2013

Dewey's Read-a-Thon

You know what's coming. It's that time of the year again. It's Dewey's 24-hour Read-a-Thon! Mark your calendars for October 12th!

The reader and cheerleader sign-ups are open. Get ready to read - the Read-a-Thon is almost here!


Just a quick announcement

miércoles, 4 de septiembre de 2013

Zone One - Colson Whitehead

Summary (from Goodreads):
A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuilding civilisation under orders from the provisional government based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street - aka 'Zone One' - eliminating the most dangerous plague victims, but pockets of uninfected squatters remain. Teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out the 'malfunctioning' stragglers who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives, but who are lethal when roused. 

Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams working in lower Manhattan. The novel alternates between flashbacks of Spitz's desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, unfolding over three surreal days as he undertakes the mundane mission of straggler removal, suffers the rigours of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and attempts to come to terms with a fallen world. And then things start to go wrong.

When Zone One came out, there was a lot of hype about it. It was touted as the first literary zombie novel. I don't usually read zombie fiction, but I have watched my share of zombie films and series, and I love literary fiction. I thought it would be a really cool book. And it was, but at the same time, it wasn't.

Colson Whitehead can write. His sentences made my head spin. They are beautiful. Reading this novel was a pleasure, style-wise. And, for a zombie novel, it had lots of humour:
"New York City in death was very much like New York City in life. It was still hard to get a cab, for example."
"The Statue of Liberty scrolled before you in their stillness. Give me your poor, your hungry, your suppurating masses yearning to eat."
As a literary novel, Whitehead wouldn't leave it as an entertaining read, and felt compelled to neatly tuck a message for the reader to take away with him when the fun ends. However, zombies have been explored to exhaustion by every possible medium, and I couldn't find anything new between these pages. After all, Zone One is another thinly-veiled metaphor for our big-city alienation, for globalization. Ironically, it is also an ode to the citiest of cities - New York.

The expected zombie-novel elements were present: there was thrill, there were adventures and grim stories of survival. There were moments when I was tense and glued to the pages. On the other hand, the ending was lackluster. I understand it was really intelligent. I understand where Whitehead is coming from and what he tried to do. He made the reader feel the alienation and nihilism of a zombie. It's the ultimate zombie novel, because it turns the reader into a zombie. However, it didn't do it for me. The odd pacing and the unrelatable, flat characters, both necessary to achieve this zombification goal, could have as well been clumsiness or carelessness, and bored me to tears. It really prevented me from engaging with the story.

In short, while I appreciate Zone One from an intelectual point of view, I wouldn't recommend this novel.

martes, 3 de septiembre de 2013

Teaser Tuesdays - The Hand that First Held Mine

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Rules here.
My teaser:
© John Deakin
She has been overcome by a desire to look at the baby. She needs to do this, she's noticed, at regular intervals. To check he's there, to check she hasn't dreamt it all, to check he's still breathing, to check he's quite as beautiful as she remembered him to be, quite as astonishingly perfect.
~p.43, The Hand that First Held Mine, by Maggie O'Farrell

Okay, 3 sentences, because 2 didn't quite capture the book. This novel is packed with quotes and experiences of new motherhood, that I know to be true because of my recently acquired status of aunt to a lovely baby. On top of that, there's art, mistery and memory in this intriguing read.

lunes, 2 de septiembre de 2013

The Book Thief

Apparently, there's an upcoming movie based on The Book Thief and the first official trailer just came out:

I think it looks a bit cheesy... Let's hope the movie lives up to the book.


I just came back from my vacation. I've had plenty of time to read, so expect some reviews :)