Thursday, July 31, 2014

On the News this week...

This might become a weekly installment about book related news, let's see how it goes

I have been living in Montreal for almost 5 years now and I really like this city. Regardless of the fact that winter settles here for almost 6 months every year thank you very much, it is an amazing city, full of restaurants, museums, site seeing and good bookstores, both indie and chains.

This week, I learned that one of the biggest stores of Chapters (think Barnes and Noble, or Waterstones but in Canada) located in downtown Montreal is closing...and it will be replaced by a Victoria's Secret. This is bothering and it has nothing to do with VS. Granted I do not like VS; I feel inadequate with my body after five minutes of watching their famous Angel fashion show; I could not find anything that felt comfortable at their store; I do not like the fact that they have an underwear line for girls that looks sometimes lie lingerie for girls. But this is a general feeling I get often with some lingerie companies. This is not however what upsets me about them replacing Chapters.

What bothers me is that is not a bookstore replaced by an art gallery, or a small museum, or even a new restaurant. Now there will be a retail lingerie front of ANOTHER lingerie store (in this case La Senza) that is a few steps from ANOTHER lingerie store (La Vie en Rose), sure there is still La Maison de la Presse International, but its dedicated as the name shows, to press. To quote my boyfriend, is not like a form of culture is being replaced by another one bras all over the place.

It is true that a couple of steps nearby of the Chapters in question you find Odyssey, a nice place for buying and selling books; if I remember correctly is only Anglophone literature so there is a bit less offer than what you could find on Chapters. But again, my point is not that we are losing a place where to buy books, there are tons of places here, and that is the nature of the replacement that makes me sad.

What do you think of this type of situation? I would love to see your comments

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

What greater gift could you offer your children than an inherent ability to earn a living just by being themselves?
First impression

In case that you haven't read the synopsis of this book and like me, you approached it thinking that the geek part was referring to the "intellectual" geek, let me tell you now. It is not. Geek love is a wonderful book, full of weirdness and sadness and family amongst other stuff, but the geeks in here are what would also be considered as freaks, circus freaks to be exact. The story, told by Olympia Binewski, jumps from past to present, from her own thought to interviewer's notes to show us how she came to be who she is at present and how she was pushed to do whatever she did and will do for love.

Final thoughts

Siamese twins, a hunchback albino dwarf, a boy with no limbs and another boy with an extraordinary mind. Those are the Binewski siblings. For them, being geeks is what makes them unique and none of them would ever want to be a "norm". Some of them love each other but they all love at least one of the others and it is through this love that the story gains its force.

One think that was interesting for me, was that I was reading this book at the same time that I was reading Dawn, by Octavia E. Butler. So during the day I would listen to Dawn and question what makes us human, and then at night I would come to read Geek Love and question what makes us normal and what is so great about it. While maybe not in such extreme as the Binewski family, maybe we shouldn't all want to just be "normal"; having something making us special should always be considered an asset and not a defect.

This book was unexpected in so many ways .Not only I was not expecting this type of geeks; I was not expecting such an intricate relationships or origins for the characters. There was not a single twist that I found predictable and I was actually taken by surprise with a lot of the events, more and more as I advanced in the book.

I wish I would've read something else by the author so I could know if this type of grotesque or extravagant characters is something she uses a lot, or were they just for this book. Because the thing is while you could just concentrate in the physical part of the characters is this as a package for the deep complexity portrayed in their psyche that is so enticing in this book. Most of the characters in this book, even the "norms" are so heavily constructed that even the ones that only appear for a couple of pages remain in my brain even now that I have finished the book.

I can only recommend this book for people who enjoy complex out of the box characters and stories.
[...] because a true freak cannot be made. A true freak must be born.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) by Octavia E. Buttler

Intelligence does aloud you to ignore the fact you dislike

First impression

When this was selected for the Sword and Laser I learned that my library only had the second book in the series. The premise seemed so unique and I really wanted to read a book by Octavia E. Buttler so I decided to get myself a copy through Audible. Now I am very happy I did since I want to be able to give it to people to listen too; I will be getting the rest of the trilogy too.

Final thoughts

The book works with the premise that human race has been almost annihilated from Earth, due to war. A few survivors have been "rescued" by an extraterrestrial species, called Oankali, who are described as being covered by tiny tentacles (I imagined their skin like an inside out version of the small intestine, but that's just me) with slight human appearance when approaching Lilith, the main character, at first. Lilith is a black woman who has been awaken several times before (she ignores how many) and she has been selected as the person who will train a new group of humans to be taken back to Earth.

This book was absolutely amazing. I was afraid I was going to have a problem with the voice given to the Oankali since a lot of people were wondering about this on the Internet, but Aldrich Barrett made a great job, at least for me. Independent of the format that you are reading this book will touch a very big question: What exactly makes us human? Is it our bodies? Is it our culture? Can one be separated of the other?

Such a unique book. It has a great main character, that not only questions her own humanity but puts into discussion how human relationships are built and their outcomes. The way she is treated by this alien race and then the way the other humans treated her for me was a questioning of the society we've grown accustomed to. It was interesting to see secondary characters that represented greed or fear to an extreme point and how this type of behaviours affected the construction of a whole new dynamic between individuals.

I liked that, for a sci-fi, it wasn't "plagued" with terminology. Sure, we have the names of the different Oankali, but doors aren't call intramural passages for example, or worst, made up words without context. All is being explained to Lilith and through her to ours and yet it all feels so alien.

Someone said that for him this book was racist and homophobic, which I feel obliged to counter here. Yes there are comments against Lilith being the leader, as she is a woman, but this comment came from another human and from my point of view, this was pout there precisely to point out how society still reacts like that with a woman on a position of power. The fact that the book has a sexist or an homophobic character, does not make the book sexist nor homophobic. The book deals with several "hard" subjects, such as race, sexism, rape just to name a few. But I think the author's intention was to start a discussion about them, show how this can appear and the consequences. I believe this book pushes a lot of buttons, but in a very good way. I have already recommended the book all over the place and can't wait to continue with the story, learn more about the Oankali and Lilith's outcome.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

First impressions

When I first started this series I fell in love with the retelling of Cinderella, and every single new installment of the series has been full of beautiful usage of a known story but making it completely new. This was not an exception.

Final thoughts

At the end of Scarlet we were introduced very briefly to a new character, Cress a lunar who contacted Cinder in order to help her save Kai. She is also the best option Cinder, Scarlet Wolf and Captain Thorne have to stop Queen Levana from marrying Kai and taking over the Commonwealth.

But off course is not that easy, they will have to try and rescue her from the satellite while trying to not get caught by both Earthen and Lunar authorities. The rescue will not end up well and the group will be split in different directions while showing us what is happening in several places on Earth and on the Lunar court.

As the HP series, these books are getting bigger and luckily just as HP is not just empty extra content. I love the story in itself and all the girls, while remaining reminiscent of their inspiration original characters (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel) are not just ladies in distress waiting for prince charming to come. Sure, this point is arguable in Cress's case, but you have to consider that she has been clustered for ages and even though she might be bit awe stricken she fends pretty well for someone with no prior experience on Earth. I also like Iko, she is a bubble gum type android, but she is adorable and I think she doesn't get enough credit for how awesome she is.

There were a bit of twists, nothing that had me saying oh wow, but at the same time, they didn't felt boringly predictable either. The hints to the upcoming book left me really wanting to continue reading but I will have to wait for 2015. This is the problem when reading a series that is not completely finished!

As always Marissa Meyer's rhythm takes you into the story smoothly so you don't realize you've spent hours curled in your papasan until someone asks you if you are not hungry (yes, I was) or tired (nope, not really). In the mean time I will read Glitches, the prequel Novella.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book notes

I have mentioned before that I do not write on my books, I do not underline or highlight them. It is just not for me. But then this makes it a problem for me when I want to retain a particular sentence for a review or a weird moment that I would like to share with someone afterwards. I take a lot of books out from the library, so off course it is not an option to write on them!

When it comes to eBooks or audio books, I have it solved. My Kobo allows me to highlight or put notes on most of my files (not on PDF sadly) and both Audible and Overdrive have a bookmark option. But when I am reading paper print...that's when I have a problem or used to. 

Here you can see my new allies, tiny Post-its! My favorite, although I haven't used them yet, are the ones with the little cats. It was a gift from my boyfriend, and they are adorable. This has solved the problem partially, as long as it is with my own books. But what about the library books? I used the same post-its but I cannot leave them there. So I've started using OneNote for this cases. You see, I don't always carry my phone and not always have access to my computer when I am reading. This is partially on purpose to get my reading time without distractions. But at the end of the day I will transfer the selected passages or notes to a file on OneNote and so they became available for me whenever I write the review!.

What about you? I know a lot of you used book journals, I tried that but I kept forgetting to bring it with me. What works for you? I can't wait to see your comments.

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2) by Rick Riordan

First impressions

I feel conflicted about continuing this series. As I mentioned on my review for the Lighting Thief, I liekd all the mythology references but I am not crazy about Percy. I think in part is due to the voice given to him in the audio, he sounds way to cocky for a 13 year old. But once again this book has very good usage of Greek mythological creatures and I am liking Annabeth more and more.

Final thoughts

So far this series has been way too predictable.  I could overlook, it is not the first book I read that has this issue, and I can still enjoy it, but I think because of all the raving reviews I was expecting too much from it. I think, if I continue the series I will just lower my expectations.

In this sequel Percy goes back to camp Half-Blood after a gruesome attack by monsters on his last day of school. He then learns that monsters attacks have been on the rise and that Thalia's tree is sick. In order to save it someone will have to try and recover the Golden Fleece. Except that this time the quest has been awarded to Clarisse. But you know Percy will be joining somehow or another, don't you?

I liked the addition of Tyson, he is sweet and it was nice to see his interaction with Percy. I found the whole CC spa very funny too.

It's an entertaining series, if not a great one so far. I keep thinking that I should give it a try on paper and not on audio. We will see, maybe the cocky teenager voice will bother me less when he actually becomes a teenager.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mini Bloggiesta To Do!

Well, this will be my first time participating in the mini Bloggiesta. I was thinking that I need to do some work on my blog and I think this is the perfect opportunity to join!

So here is my (tiny) To-Do List, not a lot, because I already have some painting to do at home and a house warming party to attend, mind you, but I think I shall be able to do this

  • Update my reviewed archive as well as my challenge related tabs
  • I am only a bit behind on reviews, so let's make it at least one review to post over the week-end
  • It has been a while since I do a non-review post so I shall do one too.
  • Participate in the Twitter party, now that I have a Twitter account 
  • Change my banner to the summer one!

So that's it. It looks doable, don't you think? If you are interested in joining Go HERE to read all about it and sign yourself up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

I asked and received this book through NetGalley for free. This review is not sponsored nor influenced in anyway.

Sometimes friendship appears from nowhere, like an exotic flower that seeds unexpectedly
First impressions

I've read a lot about the Tudors, and so this was an opportunity to learn about other relevant families from that time. I've only had a very broad image of Jane Grey, and while this book did not give me more information about her, the story about her sisters after her death was very compelling.

Final thoughts

But what it is, is less important that what it seems, my lady
I enjoyed the book in general. I didn't know anything about the Grey sisters, to be honest I never thought much about them even when they were very briefly mentioned in The Life of Elizabeth I, or at least the Grey family was mentioned.

My favourite character was by far Mary. I can only imagine how hard is to give a voice to this type of characters and the voice given to her was powerful. Katherine on the other side, got on my nerves often with her childish, love is all you need attitude oblivious of her own family sometimes. But at the same time, I think it was something that was probably typical on a time where the best you could hope was to "marry well". The adding of Levina Teerling added a new type of perspective on the story and was largely appreciated.

One thing that bothered me was when the Spanish representatives spoke Spanish badly. It made me wonder if some of the French sentences also had such blatant mistakes, and just the fact that I am not as fluent in French as I am in Spanish didn't allowed me to see it. This is problematic to me because, even though is a novelization of real events, this type of details shouldn't be neglected at least on my own opinion. It is true that I had access to an ARC and so it might be that these things were corrected in the final print of the book, but I cannot know for now.

This is the second book of Fremantle, and I would recommend for people like me who enjoy this English Period. Her other book Queen's Gambit seems like the type of book I would highly enjoy too.

One thing I have to mention about the file itself is that it was not responsive to changes in format, size of font or even weight of font. Once again this might be related to the fact that it was an ARC, but it made reading at night on my Kobo difficult since the original font was very light and at times small, particularly when quoting from letters.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

First impressions

I remember hearing about this book through BookRiot, thinking, well it sounds like a fun concept. It remind me a bit of X-men sure, but I was still willing to give it a try. I was not disappointed.

Final thoughts

The premise of the book is that ever since the 80’s there has been more and more kids born called brilliants since they show particular heightened skills, in mathematics, pattern recognition and others. They are at first considered gifted, but as so happens often when something threatens a status quo, soon society starts fearing them and when a bloody attack by one of the brilliants activist, the fears seems to be well founded. Academies meant to educate brilliant kids only pop up all over and intend to form this kids to be “well behaved citizens” that will use their “gift” for their government…but they will be taken away from their families in the process, lose their original identities and learn to distrust other brilliants…all to protect our society as it is. The main character, Nick Cooper is a gifted agent, working for the government, trying to stop the bad guys. Until a particularly aggressive attack makes him go undercover to try to catch the most dangerous man alive.

This was a very good thriller. Yes it took me almost a month to listen to it, but mostly because other books came up that I had to finish first (don’t they always?). Anyway, first of all, kudos to Luke Daniels, I believe he has an amazing voice for this type of books. Great voicing of very different characters.

Now, the book itself was very entertaining. At first I was afraid that is was going to be a bit too much like X-Men and I think it is inevitable to have the stories compared if you are familiar with one another. However, Brilliance’s characters are mostly people who are good at reading a certain set of patterns that is already there. The way it was described made me think of people with Asperger Syndrome minus the social interaction difficulties (this mostly present with non-brilliants and due to rejection) or the nonverbal communication.

The book touches, unsurprisingly, political behaviours towards minorities as well as taking some big twists to show that no one is who you might be led to believe they are. My favorite character was Shannon, she was such a bad-ass, sassy, sarcastic…a very memorable and enjoyable character.

The pacing was fantastic, again, don’t be fooled by the fact that it took me so long to finish it; I don’t normally listen to audiobooks once I am at home with Alex, but the truth is that I just couldn’t not finish the book once it got to the last third, and so I spend hours on our bed, not talking to anyone, looking at the ceiling saying: oh wow, did not see that coming, ouch,…anyway. You get my point. I can’t wait to read the sequel. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Something wicked this way comes by Ray Bradbury

That’s friendship, each playing the potter to see what shapes we can make of the other
First impressions

This is the first book from Ray Bradbury. I have to thank the Estella’s Project for finally pushing me to start with him. The book turned out to be part of a series of sorts, all 4 books taking place in Green Town, but I didn’t know this when I first started reading the book. Luckily it feels like they are more of companion novels, so I was able to enjoy this one without reading the other one.

Final thoughts

This book tells a story of friendship, between two boys entering their teenage years James Nightshade and William Halloway, borne only minutes apart from each other, and best friends since forever. This autumn a carnival comes into town, and it comes with fear and evil doing but only the boys are aware of it at first. They see the real power of the carnival, and while it might be able to award the deepest desires of everyone in town, this comes with a price, as it always does in magic.

How convenient that I read Doll Bones about the same time, since they both send me back to the time when I was 12/13 years old. Both a bit creepy and both showing beautiful friendships.

Something wicked carries its name appropriately; reading the descriptions of both the carnival and the characters living in the carnival send chills down my spine, and I was reading this in my patio in the middle of summer, so believe me, this was compelling writing. Considering this books was first published in 1962, it is remarkable how the characters don’t feel dated, not in the way they talk, nor in the situations presented.

The tone, the rhythm and the construction of characters makes for a very fluid read, and so I finished the book in one single day. I did not want to put down the book, and only the fact that I fell asleep made me stop. I would recommend this book to everyone if I could.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Doll Bones by Holly Black

 I asked and received this book through NetGalley for free. This review is not sponsored nor influenced in anyway.

First impressions

I've only read the Curse Worker's trilogy by Holly Black, but since I really loved those I thought to myself that I would like anything she writes. When I saw a copy of Doll Bones at Net Galley I figured it would be a nice chance to test my theory.

Final thoughts
This book was so cute and a bit scary at the same time. The type of book I would've loved to read when I was a kid. It was nominated for a Young Adult prize, but to me it felt more like Middle School oriented. Maybe since the characters are around 12 years old.

It is a nice story of friendship, between 2 girls, Poppy and Alice, and a boy, Zach. They rely on their imagination to build the most wonderful scenarios. However, Zach's father is not thrilled about him playing after school with "dolls" and spending so much time with girls (insert grumbling sound here) so he decides to take initiative...oh parents parenting. I will not give much away just in case you might consider this as spoilers, but Zach s pretty much forced to stop playing.

However as this happens, Poppy, the one with the biggest imagination of the trio comes to them with The Queen, a china doll that her mother has and that for "ages" has been the ruler of the kingdoms that they built their stories in. The Queen, she says, actually holds the spirit of a murdered girl, and she won't let her rest until they take the doll to be buried in her home town.

I think I am out of the age that would be actually scared by the book, but it doesn't stop me from appreciating the beautiful writing, the gorgeous illustrations by Eliza Wheeler (I am pretty sure they have to be even more awesome in paper, they looked so pretty in my Kobo) and the sweet angst the kids have all passing from kids to teenagers and being afraid to lose what they had in the past. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

El ruido de las cosas al caer (The sound of things falling) by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Adulthood brings with it the pernicious illusion of control, perhaps even depends on it.
First impressions

I've been trying to read all of the Alfaguara winners, just as a personal project. I wanted to read this one in particular, since it is a Colombian author. However I was afraid it was another book that is appraised just because it talks openly about drug lords an drug issues in Colombia, but I was wrong/

Final thoughts

People from Bogota had grown accustomed to it [violence]
While the book takes places during a very hard time, late 90s when drug -cartel related-violence was on a peak the story told is not only about it. It is actually the story of people that end up touched by these situations almost as collateral damage. The main character, Antonio, takes us in a journey, his at first and his friend's Ricardo's later.

From the beginning I felt engaged by the voice of Antonio and how he saw his (my) city. While at the time the story is taking place, I was only 9/10 years old, I do remember the fear that was almost palpable in the air. I've heard those conversations between my relatives: where were you when this bomb exploded? What were you doing when X was killed? I am grateful I cannot add many anecdotes to these conversations, but I know it was a very sad reality to live through. However, what made this story different is that after being attacked, Antonio gets intrigued by the story behind Ricardo, by his humanity and not by his crimes only.

(...) Maybe because present doesn't really exist; everything is a memory, this sentence that I just wrote is already a memory, is a memory this word that you, reader, just read.
The descriptions of the city, of the tiny towns, of travelling through our roads, all hit the memories I have as a child. The ways the city and life were seen by Elaine Fritts reminded me of the conversations I had with my now fiancé about my country and how different the same situation would look to each of us.
In Colombia people always managed to be unpredictable
I quite enjoyed the writing and the pacing the author has. I don't know if this is particular to this book, since I haven't read anything else by him, but the tone and rhythm both carry the story nicely.