Friday, February 24, 2012

On my love of books

I love books, I’ve always have. My mom taught me how to read when I was barely 4, and by 5 I could read on my own an entire book. I love owning books, new books, old books, nothing beats the smell of those books. The sound when you first break the back of your paperback, the extra weight in your bag because you have a hardcover in it and you just can’t leave it at home. I love how sometimes I walk in front of a bookstore and I have to retrace my steps because this tiny book is “looking” at me and I just have to have it. 

I come from a family of readers; we try not to buy the same books, so we can pass them around, kind of a family book club. I love the library we have back home, full of books, all well read. When my mom died books were my refuge, I stopped playing during school break and I would just sit under the sun to read everything that fell into my hands.  And I haven’t been able to stop since. Every birthday and Christmas, at least one book will make it to my list, regardless of the fact that I was under 10 years old. And when I started earning my own money, I started getting books whenever I could. 

I had my first book heartbreak when I was 17 and left my parents home. I had to leave so many books behind because they weren’t really mine, and let’s just say that the relation with my father wouldn’t have allowed me to take them with me. And then I moved with my aunt, and started getting books again, her library (the one I was making reference to above, that’s the one I miss) was perfect, from the roof to the floor, next to a window so you can take your book and read until the sun goes down.
Then the second heartbreak came in…I move to a new country to continue my graduate studies, and once again I had to part with my books, except that this time, they were really mine, I just didn’t have the space to bring them all with me. So I did what I thought it was best, I gave them away to other fellow readers, where I knew they will be appreciated. Once installed I needed 2 things to make the place a home: my stereo to cover the silence around me and a library that I could start filling up. By now, I have 2 libraries in my living room, partially filled with my books and my roommates. Best deal ever, the sale the public library had: all books were 1 dollar!!!!. I bought so many, I had to drag my bag on the floor. I keep adding books to my To Read list, and I keep wanting a wall to wall library…

Books take you whenever, wherever in a blink of an eye. Books can move me to tears or make me laugh until my tummy aches. Books have always kept me company, Books are always ready for you, and you will not have to catch up with the next show if tonight you didn’t manage to read. A book can be read by thousands of people and yet deliver a different story to each one of them, since the images created by every individual are unique albeit inspired by the same words. Books…books are always home to me.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Help, by Katrhyn Stockett

Whenever I can, I try to read the books that inspired a movie before watching the movie, but sometimes either I learn too late that there was a book, or even worst, I have no access to the book. Anyway, this was one of those moments were I got the book as a present, and hence I refused to watch the movie before reading the whole book. So this weekend I cocooned myself in a comfy chair and read, read, read. I have to say I fell in love with every character, flawed as they were. I enjoyed the fact that none of the characters, either principal or “background” were portrayed as perfect. They are real people with ups and downs. I loved/hated Hilly. I adored the way Celia is portrayed, all sweet, full of energy and just wanting to fit in, becoming a white paria without understanding why, assuming is her fault not the others. Now, the subject of racism is something that touches me deeply, being a minority ever since I left my country. In this book, you have black women in Mississippi, and their lives as…ugh, I hate the word…domestics. One person, Miss Skeeter, in her quest to be a serious writer, decides to write their stories, what is like to be them. At first this starts as a selfish thing, but as the stories go deeper and deeper, so does the relationship between the 2 sides. In theory you have 3 main characters, Skeeter, a recent college graduate, and 2 maids, Aibileen and Minny, that could not be more different the one from the other but are there for each other all the time. Now, this is not a white on black abuse, this is a men on women, boss on employee, friend on friend abuse. Even though the story is consider as fiction, some real events, such as Martin Luther King’s walk, and John F Kennedy death, but this is only used to set a more realistic view of the moment in time that this is happening. I like the writing very much, is flowing, with enough description of the environment for you to settle in the picture without the characters being lost in it. I particularly enjoyed the moment where all three women achieve freedom, one way or the other. Las night I watch the movie, and I guess it was a good adaptation. The casting, in my opinion is quite good, and I understand that some of the side stories had to be cut, but I’m always sad when the points of the book that touched me the most got lost in the movie. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Knife of Truth, Road to Megara, by Cynthia Willerth

I got this book in the Early Reviewers program of, and here is my review. 
First of all, I have to tell you something I only realized when I got the book…this is the second novel of the author, as in, the continuation of the history. Problem is I did not read the first one. Still, I read the comments and synopsis of the first book ( and I thought, well it seems interesting, a “medieval” setting, inspired by LOTR…it may have potential. 
I still think the potential is there, is just that it was not exploited. The dialogs are not engaging, and seem to be really random. During the first chapters, there is way to many characters to keep up. Sometimes I’ve complained about “saga” books going back to past events too much, but in this book, there were not mentioned, so you would’ve to just finished reading the first book, to fully remember what is what. 
Something that bothered me too was the fact that there seems to be no spell check or grammar check or even “complete sentence” check. I would find sentences as: “What are they going with me”, “Oh, you’ve though a lot”…I think this last one was supposed to be through a lot, but this should not happen in a final version of a book. A typo, maybe, but when you find them splashing all over the place, it looks as if they took the manuscript and send it to the printer.
Finally, the way how the author writes the thoughts of the characters…I know that in real life, most of the things that happen inside our heads are not necessarily fluidly connected, but to read what seems like a telegram of the character leaves such an empty space for me, that I would have to jump this passages.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

So I mentioned that I had to fight against myself not to fall asleep and finish Catching Fire. I was a good girl and waited for the next day to start Mockingjay, but these 2 days I’ve been reading it in every single opportunity I get, which is not that wise, because I almost missed my stop in the bus, metro, and I almost pass by my house without entering…not so good during winter. 

Anyway, if you are reading this, I sincerely hope you finished Catching Fire, because I cannot talk about the 3rd book without giving some information out. District 12 is long gone, attacked and destroyed by the Capitol; Katniss and Finnick are with the rebels; while Peeta and Johanna were caught by the Capitol…and the rebels are rising. 

District 13 was not erased from the Earth, turns out it has been there all along, underground, preparing for the takeover. This is where Katniss now lives, trying to figure out whether she wants to be the image of the rebellion or she has no option at all. Is the actions of the Capitol itself that finally triggers in her the desire, albeit selfish, to make active part of this uprising (and then I have the Muse song in my head…you should definitely listen to them if you haven’t but that’s a different topic). Anyway, different situations will force Katniss to accept her role as the Mockinjay. Guided by her thirst of revenge she will try to guide the forces to take the Capitol, to give their spirits all the support and all the strength she has, even if that means walking around the clock with a camera crew on her back. 
I enjoyed this book a lot, in fact it was the one I finished the fastest form the saga. There will be moments I regretted reading the book in the metro, because I people look at you weird when you inexplicably laugh or cry, but it was worth it. I did not see the end coming; there was a lot of pain involved when finishing the book, physical when I felt Katniss wounds as my own, but also in my heart when some of the characters that grew inside of me, are forever lost. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I had a big presentation yesterday’s morning , which being the ├╝berly obsessive person that I am gave me a lovely week-end full of not sleeping nights and rides in the bus with a bunch of articles under my arm. So off course, once the presentation was done (it went well, I think) what did I do? I went home and took a nice well deserved nap, right? WRONG! I went home and took my Hunger Games: Catching Fire book, and told myself that I was going to read just for a little while and then go to bed…3 hours later, I was almost done with the book, and battling against my closing eyelids to finish it…which I did. 

The book starts with Katniss and Peeta living now in the Victor Village and getting ready for the Victor tour. This is routine. However, getting a visit from President Snow is not. When he basically tells Katniss to put down the fire that her apparent act of rebellion started, she realizes the extents to what she did in the Arena. She tries; she really tries to please the President, but is out of her hands to do it. People want freedom, and her little show gave them the impulse they needed.
Off course, being a 17 year old girl who has been in charge of her family for as long as she can remember, she is afraid that this, something she did not planed at all will affect her family, Peeta or Gale. On top of it all, this is the 75th year of the Hunger games, hence the Quarter Quell, and so a special surprise is in store…this year, the tributes will be chosen between the prior victors…a.k.a, Katniss is back in the arena. 
I will not give away more details about what happens in there only that this time she is trying fiercely to save Peeta and has to make alliances whether she likes it or not. One more thing, you might want to get the third book at hand, because, just as what happens with the Millennium trilogy second book, you will need to know what happens next.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Every year, each district from Panem has to give 2 tributes to the Capitol. The tributes are one girl and one boy, between the ages of 12 and 18 that will compete in the Hunger Games. 24 kids will enter the Arena…and then fight for their lives, since the victory is determined by who remains alive. This year, Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old girl from district 12 has volunteered in order to save her younger sister live, as a tribute, and along with Peeta, her male counterpart is sent to the Capitol for the games. The Capitol is a little bit like Rome in the old days, and the games…well, they are like the gladiators arena. I really liked this book, read it like there was not tomorrow (nothing new about me there, ha?) the way Collins presents her characters makes you feel you really knew them. Katniss is a hard to love, hard not to heroine, and life has made her tougher than she looks. The description of the environment, the arena and the games itself was really involving, and I shivered every time I knew she was about to attack, my muscles tensed, and even though never in my life have I tried the bow and arrow, by the end of this book,  I had the vivid feeling of reaching to my back for a new arrow.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel

Finally I got my hands on the 5th book of this saga. I loved the book, if you have it do not feel intimidated by its size. Just as Harry Potter the books grew bigger and bigger, but so does the story. 

We join Ayla and Jondalar at the end of their journey, the finally arrive to the Zelandonii territory and Ayla is carrying Jondalar’s baby.  I will mention before the only thing I did not like, but that is not the authors fault. You see this book came 12 years after the fourth, so Auel spent a lot of time reminding the readers about characters or events that happened in the past, which I am sure is going to happen again in the 6th book (already have it by my side, I am so eager to read it!!), but since I read them one after the other, I found this a little bit annoying. Again, not her fault, for the people who grew up with the series I am sure was more than appreciated. 

Now the things I loved. One thing I applaud from the author is her dedication, her actual going and visiting the areas where her characters live, to get to talk with paleontologists, to verify the plausibility of the things she describes.  I also like the way she presents racism in the book, between the Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnons. The social dynamics she describes are so vivid, that even though in my head people are leaving in caves all the feelings, the deceptions, the social preasure, all of that falls in my heart. A new character that I want to see how it evolves (no pun intended) in the next book was Brukevar, a really conflicted person with much to learn from himself. One of those that deep down hates everyone because at the end the hates himself.  I wished the story of Jolaya and Echozar would’ve been more developed, but I’m crossing my fingers that they will be back for the 6th book. 

I liked the fact that in this book Jolandar is not the raving jealousy machine that he was on The Mammoth Hunters, and I liked the way Ayla embraces a new identity without forgetting her own. Being a foreign where I live I kind of understand the happiness she feels when she gets to be part of both worlds without losing her past and what makes her so special.  I will be honest with you, I am not in love with the name she chooses for the baby, but oh well. 

From Adam to Noah by Leonard Timmons

I received this book from the Member’s Giveaway program at LibraryThing. I am afraid I did not enjoy the book as I expected. From the description of it, I thought it would be interesting to see what Timmons found. However, starting from chapter 2, the author lost me. It seems to me that he had a theory and then he accommodated the facts to support it. I am not a Bible word-by-word follower, so this has nothing to do with the message the Bible is supposed to have. The thing is, I am a scientist as well, and the way Timmons presented his book was, for me and a couple of my friends to whom I read excerpts from the book, a mix between A Beautiful Mind and The number 23. I think the fact that the author went through writing his hypothesis and his defense, is really admirable, but  I am afraid he fails to explain it properly, and it ends up coming as he wants the numbers to fall into cases he already draw. 

The fact that he uses sentences as “this proves” or “this confirms” was a bit delicate for me, since all the reasoning s he makes goes round and round about his own point, but that does not mean anything proves anything. It would be as if I say that me taking a hot shower proves that water is supposed to be warm all the time. It simply doesn’t. Also, the fact that he kept mentioning the significance of the 365 number, since is the number of days in a year…that might be true, but the Gregorian Calendar, the one with 365 days in it wasn’t established until the late 1500’s, whereas by then there was already plenty copies of the ancient testament, with records of parts of the Bible on year 70 or 80 A. C. 
Something I enjoy in non-fictional books is how authors tell you facts, while carrying a story. This is the example of A.J. Jacobs or Richard Dawkins, both extremely different styles, yet really compelling. They take you through a story. With Timmons I’m afraid I felt I was on a round point, circling his already established idea.