jueves, 31 de octubre de 2013

Head Games (Locke and Key #2) - Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

Summary from Goodreads:

Following a shocking death that dredges up memories of their father's murder, Kinsey and Tyler Locke are thrown into choppy emotional waters, and turn to their new friend, Zack Wells, for support, little suspecting Zack's dark secret. Meanwhile, six-year-old Bode Locke tries to puzzle out the secret of the head key, and Uncle Duncan is jarred into the past by a disturbingly familiar face. Open your mind - the head games are just getting started.

Head Games continues the story of the Locke family from Welcome to Lovecraft. So don't go on reading if you haven't read that one just yet!

Now that Sam's threat has passed, the Locke family is starting to feel safe again. So much, that Duncan is going to be away for a while, and the children are in charge of Nina. Unfortunately, Nina is still reeling from Rendell's death and the recent events at Lovecraft, so the kids get plenty of time on their own. This leads to the discovery of another magic key: the Head Key. 

The Head Key is a highly intelligent concept, besides being important for the plot. It opens heads, literally. Creepy, but cool. This key represents self-exploration, the knowing of one's weaknesses and strengths. Who wouldn't want to get ride of their fear in some situations? Or to be able to know just about everything ever written? Just cram the book inside your head, literally! I get the excitement of the Locke kids.

However, the Lockes are unaware of the new threat, far more dangerous than Sam ever was: Dodge, who is now very close to them under the identity of new student Zack Wells. He has gotten his way into the family, being a friend and listening to both Tyler and Kinsey, something they aren't used to, given their status as victims. With Kinsey's fear out of the way, the danger is looming as Dodge gets rid of everyone that could have identified him.

Unlike the characters, we know who the evil guy is. For a while, the novel turned into a slasher, and nothing more. However, Joe Hill had an ace up his sleeve. The final twist about Rufus blew my mind, and I loved the backstory even more. Although the pace of Head Games is slower than that of Welcome to Lovecraft, and there isn't that atmosphere of dread and terror, I still want to know more. This series is addictive!  

miércoles, 30 de octubre de 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

Summary from Goodreads

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond this world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

This is a very special book for me. The first time I read a book written by Neil Gaiman was a long time ago (Anansi Boys, in case you're wondering). And I was hooked. I had been waiting to get my hands on The Ocean at the End of the Lane since I heard of it earlier this year. It was a lot of expectation. And once again, Gaiman simply did it. It went directly to my favorites shelf.

I have been avoiding writing this "review" because I've loved it so much that I feel unable to be coherent about it. I am tempted to just leave it like that. I loved it, that's it. I know I will come back to it many, many times in my future reading life. I can't think of higher praise for a book than it eliciting this raw need for revisiting the world and the characters it contains. I also know I'll want to see what I thought the first time I read it, so here I am.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane threw me down memory lane and made me feel I was seven. Neil Gaiman has definitely never forgotten what is like to be a kid and has captured it in his new novel for adults. This strikes me as curious, since his novels for younger readers always make me remember how responsible and logical little kids can be - how adult they can be. But I guess that is only fair, since:
"Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world."
When their lodger commits suicide at the end of the lane, a monster gets free and starts to wreak havoc on the lives of the inhabitants of this place in Sussex. But the real terror starts even before that, when the young boy has to stop having his own room (and I was stupidly starting to have an odd nostalgia for the little yellow sink just his size). It's terrifying to think of how helpless we were against the illogical adult world, when everyone made every decision for us, but nobody truly asked what we liked or thought was best. We were, in a way, trapped. The monster, a monster empowered by the greedy hearts of the adults, only makes matter worse intensifying that helplessness. Eliminating every little bit of credibility a seven-year-old boy can have. Some times, during the afternoon I spent reading this, I burrowed further inside my blanket-fort to face the scary bits - they made me tense and worried and I forgot I was only reading a novel. And, at the same time, I loved obliterating myself so much that I could be as frighted as the young boy.

The mythology of this book is very similar to that of the traditional fairy tales. And that is one of my favorite aspects of every Neil Gaiman novel ever, the fairy tale-ish world he creates. It's not only a monster that stands for vanity, greed and lust, or the ultimate evil which is void and nothingness, it's also the plucky hero and the three women who hold the threads of fate, the Hempstock women. And the Hempstock farm, with an ever-bright, ever-full moon, extensive land where cats can be harvested and a pond that is possibly also an ocean. It's the perfect blend of straightforward fantasy, quirkiness and (what I've come to identify as) British humor. It's also Neil Gaiman's trademark. And I'll be delighted to revisit this world again.

martes, 29 de octubre de 2013

Teaser Tuesdays - Halloween Edition

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Rules here.

As I wanted to have a little Halloween blogging celebration this week, I decided to make a Teaser Tuesdays: Halloween Edition!

Copyright missing! Did you carve this amazing pumpkin?

My teasers:
“Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren't.”
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Finally, the review will go up tomorrow. And this time, for real.

"I found a secrit door and when you go thru you turn into a gowst. It's fun to bee a ded persin."
Welcome to Lovecraft, by Joe Hill
I reviewed this scary graphic novel with demons living in wells and little kids turning into ghosts yesterday.

"One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture - a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees - very gradually - I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever."
The Tell-Tale Heart (Complete Tales & Poems), by Edgar Allan Poe
And a wonderful classic to end this Halloween Multi-Teaser Tuesday. Nobody wrote bone-chilling stories as well as Poe.

lunes, 28 de octubre de 2013

Welcome to Lovecraft (Locke and Key #1) - Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

Summary from Goodreads:

Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them, and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all.

Welcome to Lovecraft opens with the murder of Rendell Locke, father to three children: Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode. This murder is perpetrated by Sam Lesser, a troubled young man treated by Mr. Locke. After this event, the three kids, along with their mother, who survived the attack, relocate from San Francisco to Lovecrat, Massachussetts. Until then, the story is full of tension and blood and violence, but fully grounded on reality. 

This changes when they move into Keyhouse with their uncle Duncan Locke. The youngest of the three Locke kids, Bode, sets to explore the manor on his own. The distinction between reality and fantasy starts to blur when Bode discovers the Ghost Key, that allows the user to transform into a ghost when they cross the door it opens. As it happens, the house is more than just a house, and there seems to be a special connection with the Locke family. Bode also discovers the Lady in the Well, an evil being who claims to be no more than his echo. As the story furthers, we learn that this being is behind the murder of Rendell Locke and is helping Sam escape from the correctional facility where he had been locked after the murder. We know the Lady in the Well, or Dodge, is after something the Lockes have. But what exactly or why is it that he wants?

During the whole Welcome to Lovecraft, Joe Hill builds up tension and terror. I wanted to know more and I also wanted to stop reading. The plot is enough to make you scared and curious. It's really addictive. Nevertheless, I like that this graphic novel goes deeper than the supernatural element and the gore. The murder allows Joe Hill to explore how the survivors cope with guilt and the horrible memories of the event. Kinsey wants to disappear, to go unnoticed, which is reflected on her complete make-over. Their mother, Nina, has started drinking. Tyler is guilt-ridden, to the point of feeling directly responsible of the murder. It shows how skilled Hill is when it comes to character development, and these relatable quiet moments are what make Welcome to Lovecraft a masterpiece, since they balance the violence and terror so well.

The artwork, by Gabriel Rodríguez, is equally stunning. It has a cinematic feeling, with planes of great scope that then zoom in to a focal point, or a superposition of a certain character in different scenarios to show different layers of meaning for the same line of text. The characters are drawn in a deceptively simple style that allows for great complexity and detail. The drawings have as much personality as the characters themselves. He also makes a great use of perspective, far greater than I've ever seen in a graphic novel - it really enhances the different plot points. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez are definitely a match made in heaven.

miércoles, 23 de octubre de 2013

Neil Gaiman's Reading Agency Lecture 2013: In Defense of Libraries

There's no review today - sorry! A case of eating too much candy popcorn kept me away from the keyboard. If everything goes well - that is, if I avoid candy and focus on fruit -, my review of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane will go up tomorrow.

In the meantime, I leave you with Neil Gaiman's Reading Agency Lecture, which made me feel better and put into words everything I've always thought about fiction, reading and libraries. It is, without doubt, one of the best talks I've ever had the pleasure of listening.

martes, 22 de octubre de 2013

Teaser Tuesdays - The Forgotten Garden

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Rules here.

Parc del Laberint d'Horta, Barcelona
I'm reading The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton. She's had a book out this year, The Secret Keeper, but I've only read her first, The House at Riverton. I loved it. If you enjoy family secrets and/or Downton Abbey, make yourself a favor and go read The House at Riverton. I don't know why I've waited so long to read a book with such an interesting summary:

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra's life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

My teaser:
What I'm about to tell you is our family's big secret. Every family's got one, you can be sure of that. Some are just bigger than others.
~p.23, The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton

lunes, 21 de octubre de 2013


I've known about the remake of Carrie for a long time. I rather like Chloë Grace Moretz as an actress, and tend to follow her projects. I simply wasn't interested in this particular one. I've never read the novel by Stephen King, but I thought the 1976 movie was enough.

That is, until I read a NYT interview with director Kimberley Peirce. I knew nothing about her before reading that interview, and that is maybe because she has only two films out. But both deal with thorny issues that I'm particularly interested in, violence and gender. Apparently, she is going to deal with the iconic story in the same way:
I deal with misfits, with what power does to people, with humiliation and anger and violence. Like Brandon, Carrie has gone through life getting beaten up by everyone. She’s got no safe place. And then she finds telekinesis — her talent, her skill — and it becomes her refuge. And I thought, Wow, this is an opportunity to make a superhero-origin story. With her period comes the power. With adolescence comes sexuality, and with sexuality comes power.
Now I'm sold, and really want to go see the new Carrie.

jueves, 17 de octubre de 2013

The Liebster Award

Hey guys, I've been nominated for the Liebster Award by Jennifer Windram! You might be wondering what exactly the Liebster Award is. As I understand it, it's a way to bring attention to new and interesting blogs. It is a really cool initiative, what with so many blogs and so little time. 
Thank you, Jennifer, for thinking of All the Pretty Books!

This award has a few rules:
  1. Each nominee must link back to the person who nominated them.
  2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
  3. Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers.
  4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.
If you are like me and think that grumpy cat and you are soulmates, it's easy to simply skip this. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment, but this answering questions and things just isn't my thing. I didn't intend to answer it until I realized that I had a severe shortage of cool, new book blogs to follow. So please, please, if you are nominated, at least make a list of 10 bloggers who don't have as many followers as you think they should. Skip the questions if you want, but don't skip the bloggers!

As per the rules, now I must answer some questions...

miércoles, 16 de octubre de 2013

Ever After - Graham Swift

Summary from Goodreads:

An academic sits alone in his college room thinking about the people he has lost. Powerful memories crowd in on him - childhood days in Paris; his exuberant, glamorous mother; his mysterious father; and the brash young American who becomes his step-father. Mingled with this emerges a tender portrait of his relationship with his actress wife. Ever After is a poignant elegy to lost faith and lost hope. It is also a powerful affirmation of love.

This is my first Graham Swift novel. I knew nothing about the author until I was forced recommended to read this novel, even though he is a Booker Prize recipient, and I have to say that I'm glad I came across Ever After. This slim novel is an exploration of families, identity, faith, happiness and purpose. I am wowed by Swift's writing skills. His prose is delightful and made for reveling in it. Let me show you:
We walk, skirting carpets of greensward, by the willow-hung, punt-cluttered river. The scene is a vernal idyll. This is the time of year when academic cussedness dictates that the youth of the university should shut itself away to swot for exams, just when its young blood should be pulsing to the joys of spring; and when the youth of the university naturally defies the injunction. There is a general sprawling on grass; couples fondling; flimsy attire; river-borne frivolity.
Swift definitely looks at common objects and events with different eyes. Or rather, the main character, professor Bill Unwin does. This man, who is past his prime, has secluded himself from the world in an unnamed college (I think Cambridge), after losing his parents and his wife, the famous actress Ruth Unwin. After a suicide attempt, he now recollects the time spent with his father, his mother, his step-father and his wife, and tries to find his own identity in a world where nobody is connected to him.

Bill Unwin is not a likeable character for the whole first half of the book. He is wry, cynical and boastful - perfectly characterized as a professor, in fact. He even sounds artificial. His recollections of the past are always presented through the lens of idealized childhood, for all the 'woe is me' he feels entitled to. I mean, the man constantly compares himself to Hamlet. I really loved the references, but it is over the top. When his story unravels, he lets us see his grief, raw and implacable, to the point of leading him to suicide. He is but another sad, lonely man, who puts on an aloof mask to endure life. Ayone who has lost someone will recognize that feeling, and will want to tell Bill that it gets better, that the grief will always be there but that you eventually learn to corral it.

His story is interwoven with that of Matthew Pearce, a 19th century man who had a crisis of faith due to finding an ichthyosaur and reading On the Origin of Species. As a man who grew up believing the Bible word for word, the concept of evolution shatters his worldview. His crisis of faith forces him to abandon his family, since he had been married to the daughter of a Rector. Thus, he represents another kind of loss, enabling Swift to explore a different kind of grief and loneliness. And it has the added layer of being a tale within a tale, since it is the fictionalized version of Matthew's life as told by Bill, based on Matthew's Notebooks, which have always been in Bill's family. Some of the entries are included, further complicating the non-linear narrative.

All in all, I liked Ever After, but I didn't love it. It is powerful and intelligent, but I was left with a sense of disconnect. It is maybe due to the ending, which lacks in hope, or to the broaching of so many topics, or to the (I want to think purposefully) artificiality of the voice. I'll definitely read more by Swift, but I suspect that, although it is good, Ever After is not his best.

martes, 15 de octubre de 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I was "Forced" to Read

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 Was "Forced" To Read

domingo, 13 de octubre de 2013

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Hour 24

I couldn't read for the last two hours, but it has been great! I'm sad it ended so soon.

Copyright missing! Did you create this gif?

Final Questionnaire

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Hours 12-13. I had to reread paragraphs because I couldn't focus. My eyes were so strained! I just had to go to sleep.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Graphic novels! There are many choices, one for every reader. They are usually easier to read, they have compelling stories mainly made of dialogue and you can finish one or more during the read-a-thon without investing much time.
Examples of graphic novels I've read and enjoyed: Locke and Key, The Sandman, Maus, Sin City, V for Vendetta.
But really, the world of comics is a vast one. There is even a graphic novel version of In Search of Lost Time, Proust's epically long novel!

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nope, I don't. The read-a-thon is amazing as it is.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

Mini-challenges were really good this year, in content and organization.

5. How many books did you read?

I finished 3 and am halfway through a fourth. I've read 656 pages!

6. What were the names of the books you read?

I finished:
Locke and Key #1: Welcome to Lovecraft, by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez
Locke and Key #2: Head Games, by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
And I started The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie (the first Poirot mystery).

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is great, well-written and fast-paced. It's a children novel hidden inside an adult novel.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
I can't say, I really liked everything I read. I followed the advice from veteran read-a-thoners for choosing read-a-thon books and it worked wonders!

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I wasn't, but I am seriously considering cheering next year. Any advice will be welcome!

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

If life doesn't get in the way, 100% likely. I really love the experience and the feeling of being part of the bookish community. And it has given me more time to read and finally kicked me out of my reading slump.

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Hour 21

I'm back! I'm reading The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie. I don't think I'll have much time to update or read, since some relatives are coming in a while. To those of you who are still reading, way to go!

It has been fun! And productive - I've read 613 pages total!

sábado, 12 de octubre de 2013

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Hour 12

I have been reading for 12 hours! Okay, I've made some breaks, but I hadn't been reading for such a long stretch of time in a while and it feels good.

Mid-Event Survey

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?
I was doing well until I finished a book a moment ago. Now I'm feeling very tired - it's 1 am in Spain! My eyes are starting to be strained by now.

2) What have you finished reading?
I'm actually amazed at what I've read! I'm a slow reader, so don't judge: Locke and Key #1 and #2 and The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

3) What is your favorite read so far?
I've loved the three of them, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane now holds an special place in my heart. Neil Gaiman at his bestest.

4) What about your favorite snacks?
Haven't got to them yet. But the food has been delicious so far.

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!
Gah, I'm the worst! I've been reading so much that I really haven't been reading blogs. But I've found two: Katrina's Reads and The Towering Pile.

Last time I went to bed for a while some time after the halfway point and came back some hours before the end. It is highly possible that I do the same this time, so don't expect updates in some hours. Keep on reading!

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Hour 11

Eaten: a lollipop and dinner (veggie burgers)
Reading: just finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is amazing and I have a bit of book hangover, so I don't know what I'll be reading next.
Pages read: 248. Total: 576.
Challenges completed: Book Trailer.

My all-time favorite trailer is quite old. It was made for The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton. I haven't read this book yet, but I have it on my tbr list. I hope you like the trailer as much as I do. And if you've never read anything by Kate Morton, give it a try. Her stories are really engrossing.

I'll be back for the halfway update!

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Hour 6

Snack: herbal tea. Hydration is important!
Reading: just finished Locke and Key #2: Head Games. Now I want the third one, but I haven't bought it yet. I will probably continue with The Ocean at the End of the Lane for a while.
Pages read: 160. Total: 328.

I've read all the graphic novels I had in the stack, so my page count won't go as fast. I will be doing a little break, too. 

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Hour 4

Eaten: lunch (macaroni) and salted roasted chickpeas.
Reading: just finished Locke and Key #1: Welcome to Lovecraft. Let me tell you something, Joe Hill has a wicked imagination. It has been a perfect Halloween read. And starting #2, Head Games.
Pages read: 168. Yay!
Challenges I've completed: Book Tunes and A Puzzling Mini-Challenge

One book finished! It's great to have graphic novels on the read-a-thon stack - it boosts confidence and stats.

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Hour 1

The read-a-thon madness has begun! If you don't know what I'm talking about, read this and go here

Introductory Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Spain! That means it's 2 pm here, about lunch time.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

The Ocean at the End of the Lane. So much, that I've already started it! Anyway, I have lots of books ready to be read.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Churros and hot cocoa! That will be tomorrow morning, I think around hour 19.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I've started grad school and am not sure whether to rejoice or ugly cry. I'm not reading as much as I'd like. Boo.

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?

I did participate and it was a wonderful experience. Time to confess: my commitment this year isn't complete. Unfortunately, I won't be reading for 24 hours, but I'll do my best. Also, I have more YA and "easy reads" in my stack, so that I can complete some books during the read-a-thon.

viernes, 11 de octubre de 2013

Another Book Haul: The Library Version

I've come back from the library with quite a loot, that along with my new books and my impossibly huge to-be-read list, should help me stay focused during the read-a-thon. Also, I just remembered I have people over on Saturday, so I'll do my best but (obviously) I won't be reading during the 24 hours. 

Without further ado, the library stack!

Frog says Hi!

1. Isaac Asimov - Robot Dreams
    Robot Dreams collects 21 of Isaac Asimov's short stories spanning the body of his fiction from the 1940s to the 1980s - exploring not only the future of technology, but the future of humanity's maturity and growth.
    I really liked I, Robot, so I've decided to continue reading Asimov's Robot and Foundation series. And it even counts for my Classics Club challenge!

2. Agatha Christie - The Mysterious Affair at Styles
    The famous case that launched the career of Hercule Poirot. When a wealthy heiress is murdered, Poirot steps out of retirement to find the killer. As the master detective makes his way through the list of suspects, he finds the solution in an elaborately planned scheme almost impossible to believe.
    I've never ever read anything written by Agatha Christie. I know, I know. I'm willing to fix it.

3. Katherine Paterson - Bridge to Terabithia
    Who doesn't know this children classic? Well, me, that's who. This book didn't find me when I was a kid, but better late than never.

4. Ransom Riggs - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
    A horrific family tragedy sends sixteen-year-old Jacob to a remote island off Wales, to the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, where he finds unusual old photographs. The children, one his grandfather, were more than peculiar, perhaps dangerous, quarantined for good reason - and maybe still alive.
    The title intrigued me, then I heard about the photographs and the weird air and put it on my wishlist. Now I'm a little wary because it isn't really popular among my GR friends, or the GR community at large.

Now that the Nobel Prize has been awarded, I'm regretting not having taken home something by Alice Munro. Too Much Happiness sounds right up my alley. Next time. By the way, if you are willing to read something by the recent Nobel laureate, you might want to start here.

jueves, 10 de octubre de 2013

The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells

Summary from Goodreads:
Cover by Luis Prado for Recovering the Classics

The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common near London. At first, naive locals approach the cylinder armed just with a white flag - only to be quickly killed by an all-destroying heat-ray as terrifying tentacled invaders emerge. Soon the whole of human civilization is under threat, as powerful Martians build gigantic killing machines, destroy all in their path with black gas and burning rays, and feast on the warm blood of trapped, still-living human prey. The forces of the Earth, however, may prove harder to beat than they at first appear. The first modern tale of alien invasion, The War of the Worlds remains one of the most influential of all science-fiction works.

I once read The Time Machine and thought it was a boring parable. I actually found the film way more interesting. Accordingly, I dismissed H.G. Wells as one of those authors whose novels haven't aged well. Fast forward to last year, when one of my required readings was a novel by (you guessed it) H.G. Wells. In this case, The Island of Dr. Moreau. And I was utterly surprised at the relevant questions that novel posed to modern readers (you can read my review here). It fortuitously coincided with my reading of The Map of Time, in which Wells is a central character, which reinforced my curiosity about Wells. I actually reviewed that novel earlier at All the Pretty Books.

So this year I had planned on reading the sequel of The Map of Time, which is based on The War of the Worlds. And I thought I better read it first. And this is even better than the other two Wells' novels I've read! It is entertaining, "fast-paced" and poses relevant questions, as any good sci-fi should. It simply hasn't aged. 

What I like best about Wells' novels are the different layers of meaning you can find in them. But I won't comment on the parallelism with British colonialism nor will go into the actual meaning of the different characters because there are already many reviews covering that aspect.

The impact of the Martian invasion on the British population is realistically portrayed. Unlike modern films where the whole world population unites against a common enemy and there are heroes aplenty, there's panic, cruelty and disorganization, people going mad, people with good intentions and little stamina or courage to make them come true and people who take advantage of the situation and of everyone else. I believed wholeheartedly the transition from a quiet Sunday (Saturday?) morning reading the paper to apocalyptic life with no measure of time or civilization.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of Martian physiology and botany, and the ending, even if I'm starting to suspect that Wells had a little fixation on The Origin of Species. I now find it hard to believe that life, and particularly that of a species so similar to us, could have evolved without a prokaryotic stage. But OK, no bacteria in Mars. I can live with that speculation for this story because it was well rendered and nobody knew much about cell evolution when this was written.

So now I'm on a quest to read more H.G. Wells! Any recommendations?

miércoles, 9 de octubre de 2013

A Book Haul

First of all, sorry for my absence - an awful storm, a mild sore throat and a wonderful trip all got in the way of my blogging schedule. But I come back with renewed energies and a book haul!

From top to bottom:
1. Instructions for a Heatwave - Maggie O'Farrell
2. Kraken - China Miéville
4. Grimm Tales for Young and Old - Philip Pullman
5. A Dance with Dragons - George R.R. Martin
6. Locke and Key #1 (Welcome to Lovecraft) - Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez
7. Locke and Key #2 (Headgames) - Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

Quite a fantasy fall ahead!

miércoles, 2 de octubre de 2013

The Hand that First Held Mine - Maggie O'Farrell

Summary (from the back cover):

Lexie Sinclair is waiting for her life to begin. When Innes Kent turns up on her doorstep, she realises she can wait no longer, and leaves for London. There, at the heart of the 1950s Soho art scene, Lexie carves out a new life for herself, with Innes by her side.

In the present day, Elina and Ted are reeling from the birth of their first child. As Elina, a painter, struggles with the demands of motherhood, Ted is disturbed by memories of his own childhood that don't tally with his parents' version of events.

As Ted searches for answers, so an extraordinary portrait of two women is revealed: separated by fifty years, Lexie and Elina are connected in ways that neither of them could ever have expected.

In typical Maggie O'Farrell fashion, this novel deals with two storylines: that of Lexie Sinclair in 1950s London and that of Ted and Elina in modern day London. Both stories are like superimposed images that converge near the ending for a big reveal. When I read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox earlier this year, I only had a vague idea of what was coming. This time, however, I was fully aware of the connection between Elina and Lexie from early on, and that didn't made the novel less interesting or less tense. I was glued to the pages from the start - I wanted to go on reading, while at the same time I wanted to stop to spare the characters.

martes, 1 de octubre de 2013

Teaser Tuesdays - Ever After

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Rules here.

My teaser:
Before they are sixty, they are emulating one of the many varieties [of professor]: the crusty and cantankerous; the bald and bumbling; the silver-haired exquisite; the bespectacled and tousled distrait; the freewheeling eccentric; the wide-eyed, latter-day infant, helpless in all mundane matters but possessed of a profound understanding of Sanskrit. By seventy or eighty - and there is no reason, given the pampering they get, why they shouldn't go out for decades - they are convinced they have reached their true flowering and that, whatever their status in their particular fields (though eminence may be assumed), they are, in themselves, rare birds, exceptional cases, worthy of living enshrinement.
~p.1, Ever After, by Graham Swift

Whew! Those are two long sentences! An academic, after recovering from a suicide attempt, sits alone in his college room thinking about the people he has lost. The wry and critical voice is compelling, but I can't say much about the story itself just yet, since I've barely started.