Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Bluest Eye (a.k.a: L’Oeil le plus bleu) by Toni Morrison

Book Summary (from Goodreads.com)

The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison's first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author's girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedlove's garden do not bloom, Pecola's life does change--in painful, devastating ways.

With it's vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child's yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment, The Bluest Eye remains one of Toni Morrison's most powerful, unforgettable novels--and a significant work of American fiction.

My Review

This is the first novel I’ve ever read from Toni Morrison. I decided to start form the beginning of her work, as recommended by The Book Lady. I have to say, I loved the book, but it was a hard one. Not because it was in French, the language is not complicated and the story is so beautifully written, that even translated you are transported and you read and read.

The story takes place in 1941; about 20 years before the March on Washington African-Americans were emancipated, but oppression is still there (did it ever leave?). On the other hand, the country is trying to recover from the Great Depression, and the poor are even poorer. A poor neighbourhood, full of worker families is the environment for the whole story’s development.  Claudia and Frieda MacTeer, too young sisters start the telling of the story, as witnesses of events. Pecola, another girl from a broken home, comes to stay with them, while her family recovers from a burning home...incidentally it started burning because her father set it on fire. 

Pecola, as a lot of young girls, doesn’t feel happy with her looks. Add to that the effect that all the “pretty” standards are white, blond girls. See, this was the first time I had to put the book down, fighting tears of rage, remembering how this hasn’t changed much. How the standard of beauty that a lot of girls grow with is just hurtful for them. I remembered my little cousin (by then 4 years old) feeling ugly because her hair was not blond and straight...she has the most beautiful black hair, slightly wavy and green eyes...but no, that’s not how Cinderella looks like is it? Anyway, moving on, this just one of the hard topics in the book, how a tiny girl, reaching puberty is so discontent with her looks, because she is convinced NOBODY will ever love her unless she has blue eyes.

Little by little, we get to know the story behind her drunken father Cholly, why is he in the position he is. Now, this will make you understand his behaviour, but in no way condone it. A child from problematic childhood grows into a man full of grudges, and unfortunately, he takes it on others instead of trying to give a better childhood to his own kids.

Mrs Breedlove (Pauline), Pecola’s mother had a nice childhood, up to a certain point. She fell in love with Cholly and then...well, thing went downhill, and she has been building up bitterness, that again falls over her kids and her household.

Around this family, there’s a gossipy community that will talk about the problems, but sadly won’t help to solve them. Prostitutes with a heart of gold, a con-artist with a conscience, a girl with slightly paler skin that is looked up as “better” than the others because of her looks; all of them secondary characters that little by little takes us to the resolution of the story.

What do I think about the book? It was amazing, you feel every single bit of pain, physical or emotional, and you want to cry quietly for half of the characters. Is NOT a feel good book, but is a powerful one. The way the environment is constructed, as I mentioned, transports you to every house in the community, you feel the scents, the sun or the cold of winter. You want to take Pecola in your arms and tell her that she is a beautiful human being, that nothing happening around her is her fault. You want to slap her fathers and make them snap out of their pain constructed reality.

The book touches different hard subjects. The concept of beauty is just one of them. Morality, injustice all of them aggravated by latent racism and a family that is just not there for a little girl. Because of this, it is not a book to take with you to sleep, trust me; you will feel sometimes so disgusted at situations or at the fact that some of those situations are still common nowadays that you will need time to cool off.  Personally I needed a couple of days to be able to write this, without giving much away, particularly in the parts that made me utterly emotional. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

TSS: Not a lot to say

Well, another week went by and I barely manage to put another discussion up.

Is just that this week had been full of non-bookish situations, and hence I didn't have enough time to read. I did finish "The Bluest Eye" by Tony Morrison, but that was yesterday before we went to the opera, so I haven't been able to put down the review. I loved the book, but it was a hard, full of emotions one, and so I want to take my time before writing my review. As I mentioned, I'm reading 2 more books, so I guess that doesn't help either to me advancing faster, but no regrets, the 2 other books are good ones and very different.
Other than that we've been having great weather... which means yard work, I think the final product will be good, but I'm so thankful this is a long week-end, otherwise I would be dead at work. Also packing...I'm at box #3 of only books and I haven't reached half of it, for the looks of it! Anyway, I hope everybody has a nice week :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reading Overload

So…I’m reading 3 books at the same time. Never, ever in my life have I tried this. I’m usually an “on-book-gal” and proud of it. Already with the amount of articles that I have to read for work, is hard for me to follow everything that’s happening in several articles at a time, imagine with books. But then, a lot happened. 

I don’t have an order for the books that I want to read during this year, so I decided to go for “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison after I finished “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith. 2 reasons lead me to that decision: First of all, The Book Lady starting the Tony Morrison day and second the fact that I recently joined the Read the Nobels blog. So I thought, why not? However, one of TBL advices when reading Tony Morrison is to NOT read it before going to sleep. Now, she looooooves Tony Morrison, and I have never read a book from her, so I decided to follow her advice. Problem is, I cannot go to bead without reading. I just can’t! 

Someone came to my rescue without knowing it, since I got a copy of “The Super Spud Trilogy” by Michael Diack, which became my bedtime book. So far so good, 2 books, I can do this right?. 

And then…and then I got a call from my local library. They got the last part of “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami waiting for me. Well, not really, they got an edition of the book that has the 3 books, whereas I finished an edition that only has the first 2. What to do? I couldn’t let that book go, because who knows how long would it take for it to come back to me and I really, really want to know what happens at the end (Murakami does that to you, apparently). At the same time, I couldn’t leave the Trilogy behind, someone is waiting for a review, and I’m enjoying the Spuds…and I can’t leave The Bluest Eye behind because…well, I’m really liking the story, hard as it is. 

So here I am…reading 3 books at a time, trying at the same time to start packing and no to cut completely my social life…while off course keeping ahead at work…ha…Hopefully I won’t get lost in between so many different stories!.
So what about you? What’s your record for books read at the same time? How do you manage to keep the stories straight?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

TSS: Exiting week!

Hello everybody!. This was indeed an exciting week, at least book wise. Let's start from the beginning.

I manage to write a new discussion that I hope you enjoy. Then for the first time since I started (granted is less than a year, but you know) an author contacted me to ask a review! I'm reading "The Super Spud Trilogy" by Michael Diack, and so far I can tell you guys is really funny. At the same time I started this book, I decided to start reading "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison. Now, I'm following Rebecca Joines Schinsky's Survival Guide to Toni Morrison, and hence I'm not reading it at night, which is why I'm reading 2 books at the same time. Anyway, I also finished "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" by Seth Grahame-Smith. It was ok. And then I got an e-mail from The Book Girl telling me I won a book!. On top of that I just got a call from my local library saying that I finally got the 3rd book of 1Q84, so I will finally be able to finish that review! 

That's all book wise. Life wise...well, we are going to Vermont tomorrow, just for the day, and I'm moving in together with my boyfriend, so you can imagine I'm a bit exited about that :).

Have a wonderful week everybody!

Abraham Linconln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Book Summary (from Goodreads.com)

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call "Milk Sickness."

"My baby boy..." she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, "henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose..." Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

My Review

So...yeah, I read it.  As I mentioned on The Help review, I try to read the books before watching the movie, and I know I will go and see this one with my boyfriend. And he read the book and liked it, so I said why not.

The story is presented in three acts: The Boy, parts of Lincoln as a boy, and teenager, the struggle of this family, and off course, first encounters with vampires; The Vampire Hunter, Lincolns as an adult, changing jobs, falling in love, being heart broken...and trying to kill every vampire in America; and President, the road to the White house, Civil War, detractors and off course assassination.

Did I enjoy the book? Yes, is an easy read, and the parts that are non-fiction are (apparently, I checked some of the facts, not everything) well researched. I even stumble upon this blog with a nice entry of fact versus fiction in the book. 

Another thing that I liked is the way the author intertwined the vampire side of the story with the facts. When you are reading the “excerpts” of Lincoln’s journal, sometimes he will be talking about daily life, the love of his life, his kids...and then just like changing to talk about the weather, you see a sentence talking about vampires. 

I found it interesting how the author manage to present the Civil War as not just the Southern States against the Union, but actually parties of vampires taking sides, promoting or blocking abolition. Also the way he manages to explain the deaths of several of the characters by “vampire poisoning” instead of typhoid fever or tuberculosis, which are off course the real reasons. 

I also liked the type of vampires of this book; they are not all the same, even though they all feed the same. They are not all pretty boys, they are not all zombie liked. They are, as one of the characters puts it: like another species, closer to human, and hence should not be judge all equally (I paraphrased here, I didn’t mark my page, and I don’t feel like looking for the exact quote.
However, it was not a book that made me urge to read it. Even though the flow of the book is good and the story is well told, there is no WOW factor or moment that forces you to keep reading through the night. 

I realized that this is not the first book of the author, but I don’t feel like giving Pride, Prejudice and Zombies a try (none of the 2 versions, since apparently, 1 wasn’t enough). I think this new “genre” is just not for me. I mean, I cannot see the allure in a book called Jane Slayer (Jane Eerie)
So, that’s it for this book, not great but not awful, and entertaining read in all.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Places to read

These past 2 weeks have been quite challenging at work…basically, because they are challenging my patience. I went into science knowing that not every day I would be getting results, lately it seems like I hit a closed alley in my project. Anyway, I was in a revealing room, and I had 3 minutes to wait before actually revealing and what did I do? I took my book with me. There I was reading in the room, air filled with fixer smell and a tiny machine doing noises in the back. And a thought came to mind: Is this the weirdest place I’ve found myself reading? I’m not sure!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been an adept reader. So much that I annoyed one of my cousins, and one day she put me inside of a closet to stop me from reading (she was 10 and I was 8, so it was just a kids thing, don’t worry). It didn’t work…when she came to see me 10 minutes after, I stayed in the closet, but I was reading through the crack of the door. I remember her face almost saying, I give up. 

You see, I just can’t help it. I need to read, I’ve read under the covers, in the bathroom, in the tub, walking to the bus stop (looking up at every coma, you know safety first), in the bus (any moving vehicle really, since I do not drive them). I remember once, I was probably 14 or so, and I was reading Alexandros…while in history class. Let’s just say that the teacher didn’t appreciate that one much. I’ve read in a restaurant, either if I’m alone or while waiting for someone, not while eating (that would be rude). At parties (I’m not that social, I will admit), while waiting for my gym class to start, while in the station bike at the gym, at the line…anyway

I realize a lot of those places are not “weird” places to be reading (at least I don’t think so), but it makes me wonder if I’m the only one with this urge to be reading.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

TSS: Finally Spring is Here

Finally, finally is here! Sprig, with double digit temperatures and fresh air and warm sun without melting snow. I really needed better weather, I had a really heavy and frustrating week at the lab, but the week end arrived and I manage to unwind...even tough I was at the lab Saturday. No comments. Besides the lab this was a very good week for books, my books that is. I posted 2 reviews! That's my personal record. I finished Behind the Dream and Sun Storm, both really good books. I hope you read the reviews. Also, as I mentioned in this week "discussion" I went to the annual sale of my city's library and got some books (I behaved, you will see) and to make things even better, today I went to the bookstore and found 2 books on sale: A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations (both in one book) and Wither. Off course, this makes it even harder to choose the books to finish this year's challenge, but hey, you cannot have too many books...or shoes ;).

To celebrate the arrival of spring, my boyfriend and I did something we love...reading at the park!!! The sky was perfectly blue, not a cloud in the sky.  We couldn't stay longer because the wind was getting a little chilly, but hopefully we will be able to do this every week-end now.

Have a great week

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sun Storm (a.k.a Aurora Boreal) by Åsa Larsson

Book Summary (from Goodreads.com)

On the floor of a church in northern Sweden, the body of a man lies mutilated and defiled–and in the night sky, the aurora borealis dances as the snow begins to fall....So begins Åsa Larsson’s spellbinding thriller, winner of Sweden’s Best First Crime Novel Award and an international literary sensation.

Rebecka Martinsson is heading home to Kiruna, the town she’d left in disgrace years before. A Stockholm attorney, Rebecka has a good reason to return: her friend Sanna, whose brother has been horrifically murdered in the revivalist church his charisma helped create. Beautiful and fragile, Sanna needs someone like Rebecka to remove the shadow of guilt that is engulfing her, to forestall an ambitious prosecutor and a dogged policewoman. But to help her friend, and to find the real killer of a man she once adored and is now not sure she ever knew, Rebecka must relive the darkness she left behind in Kiruna, delve into a sordid conspiracy of deceit, and confront a killer whose motives are dark, wrenching, and impossible to guess....
My Review

First the obvious “discovery”...I like noir novels. I had my suspicions when I read...not, devoured the Millennium trilogy, and then with The Hypnotist I was pretty much certain. Which is why I bought The Ice Princess and when my aunt gave me Sun Storm I was more than willing to give it a try.  I guess we can also conclude that I like Nordic Noir Novels (N3). Anyway, back to the book.

The story takes place in Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden, with a lovely average daily temperature of -1.7oC in the year! (I promise I will try not to complain in winter from now on). Rebecka Martinsson, the main character, used to live there, moved to Uppsala to study (sounds familiar? A lot of the plot in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo takes place there) and now is working in Stockholm.  Then one February day she gets a call from an old friend, Sanna Strandgård, sister of Sweden known preacher Viktor Strandgård, who just have been murdered and Sanna is the main suspect. She is the one who found the body and having a history of apparent “psychological problems” (the book never specifies what exactly is it) becomes the perfect suspect.

The investigation falls into the hands of Sven-Erik Ståinacke an investigator that for the moment is taking the place of Anna-Maria Mella, who is pregnant at the moment. However, conscious of the great talent of Anna-Maria Sven-Erik asks for her help during the investigation. Also from the side of the police, we have the prosecutor, Carl von Post, someone who has been waiting for a stellar case to get out of Kiruna. And this is just it, because Viktor is not only famous, but his murder was beyond gruesome. I will spare you the details, but let’s just say there was a lot of blood.

The story develops in less than one week, with Rebecka trying to find out who really murder Viktor with the Northern lights above her head (hence thename of the book). From time to time, there is time jumps to the past, and we understand why she left Kiruna in the first place (oh c’mon, you knew it wasn’t JUST to study).  As she digs deeper in the causes of Viktor death, she also discovers secrets behind the congregation, secrets that will make her confront part of her past and the people who pushed her away.  The climax of the book, when you will not be able to put the book down arrives past the 2/3 of the book, but until then you will be having glimpses of what’s behind this tight community.

Was it a good book? I think so, it wasn’t extraordinary, but I’m not sure if part of the magic was lost in translation. The version of the book that I had was translated to Spanish from Spain and a lot to times I was caught thinking of better words to describe what they just said. Not that I’m fluent in Swedish (at least not yet, I aim to be, but that’s another story) but sometimes this translators go too much into the literal translation. 

Also, the resolution of the story left me wanting more. I wished the author would’ve given a bit more of time to explain certain characters and the reasons behind their acts. I know that there is more books of this series, so I’m guessing this stories will be developed in the other books, but still, I felt the climax burned to fast, leaving a lot of untied knots. But at the same time that’s the reason why I would like to read The Blood Spirit now, also because I’ve heard a lot of praise for this author. 

Book Sales, Fairs...Fun events (for me :))

Today is not so much about a discussion, but more about sharing. 

As I mentioned in my last Sunday Salon post, the annual book sale at my city’s library started last week. I couldn’t make it on the first day, so on Sunday itself I was there one hour before they opened the doors…and there was already a line!. I told my boyfriend to make sure I would only spend 10 dollars (1 book = 1 dollar), because I didn’t want to go crazy buying every book. So I packed a bag for the books and kept thinking I was exaggerating in the amount of books I thought I would be buying, that’s until we arrived. Every single person in the line had not one, but several bags, ready to be filled with books. There were even a couple of them with grocery carts (not the ones in the supermarket, the ones you use to bring stuff back home). After that I felt like 10 books were ok. 

Last year, along with my best friend we got 17 books, between the 2 of us, but that was with any system whatsoever, just browsing and taking.

This year, besides the rule of not spending more than $10, I also wanted to get at least 2 Nobel laureates books, since I recently join Read the Nobels. This, as it turns out was harder than I thought, because even though the volunteers did their best to keep the piles of books organized, they were only separated by fiction or non-fiction and by language. 

I did manage to get my hands on Love, Again, by Doris Lessing, and The Bluest Eye (in French) by Tony Morrison. In total here is what I got for me, 9 books in total. 

Yeah, I also got Shopaholic ties the knot by Sophie Kinsella. Fiine, is not a Nobel, but I read the other 2 of the series and I wanted to finish it, and I told you guys I like to have sherbet books once in a while. I’m really happy about the books I got, particularly Her fearful symmetry, by
Audrey Niffenegger. I haven’t read The time traveler’s wife, but this book was also in my wish list and I found it without looking for it. 

I also got 2 more books (they are not for me, so technically I respected my budget), one for my best friend and one for my boyfriend, guess who got what. 

Being there I remembered fondly the International Book Fair back in my country that, coincidently, happened almost at the same time that the book sale. Oh how I loved to go there! spend the whole day, looking for new books, and going home with a little treasure in my hands. That’s the exact feeling I’ve got the 2 times I’ve been to the sale. They are not necessarily new books, but they are new for me, and I just love that. To give books a new home!. The only “problem” I have now, is that my To read in 2012 list was more or less full for the 40 books of my challenge, so now comes the hard part: Decide which ones I will actually read!. I know…life is hard.

So what about you? Do you go to this type of events often? Do you go with a tiny chariot?