Sunday, June 24, 2012

TSS: Runing all over the place






Hello everybody! This month I had barely posted a couple of times. You would think that someone as compulsively organized as me would have it easy moving, but as it turns out, no. I can't complaint if I'm objective, but off course there are always last minute things that you couldn't foresee, like last week heat wave, I mean, who can actually work with that heat? Well...we did it, we had no choice, but my body is aching all over for the over usage he has been put through. Is worth it though, the official move is almost at the corner, but our (our!) new place is coming together nicely.

Luckily , the weather is nice once again, and during the week we will start bringing boxes and stuff. 

On the reading note, I finally finished The Pillars of the Earth. I really liked it. right now I'm reading The Gospel of Damascus  a book I got through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I wanted to read A World without End, but I have my reading list kinda full for this year, so I will put it in the reading list of 2013.

Also, this week I learned about something amazing. Reading The Book Lady's blog last Monday on how to expand your book horizons, I discovered Paperback to the Future. You HAVE to check it out, is such a wonderful idea!. I'm thinking to give this to myself as Christmas present or B-day present since as I mentioned, I'm not lacking books to read right now, but I really, really loved the whole idea of someone finding that perfect book for you that you didn't know existed!


That's it from now. Hopefully once everything is settled I will be able to post again every Sunday and share some of my "discussion" ideas


Have a wonderful week

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet


Book Summary (from the back of the book [translated by me])

In the England of the XII century, ravaged by war and hunger, people fight each one in their own way, to ensure power, glory, sanctity, love or simply survival. The battles are ferocious, the chances are prodigious and nature is cruel. The frescoes are painted by sword, destinies are carved by axes and cathedrals are built by miracles…and saint tricks.  Hate reigns, but also love, manhandled often, sometimes hurt, but always victor at the end with a God that in true is often inattentive, and let himself be touched by men’s faith.

My Review

How did I go from Kinsella to Follet you asked? Well, simply, I’ll answer. Right before I read Shopaholic, I was finishing 1Q84, and I needed something lighter and fun before getting into something like the Pillars, which I knew was going to have a lot to digest. 

For a couple of years now, I’ve been hearing people praise this book, and I was curious. My aunt (a big influence in me) described the book as “beautiful”, and so I was sold. She is the same one who suggested to me the Earth's Children saga, and I loved those books, so I figure this might be the same. My mother-in-law had it, I borrow it and I was in the XII century England before I could say: Medieval Times.

The story is divided in 6 parts, plus a prologue, and covers 51 years, starting on 1123. King Henry the first is king and he loses his only heir in a shipwreck. Needless to say that this will open the door for a Civil war after, but that’s the back story here. The first 2 parts of the book are grouped under “Ellen”and the 4 others under “Aliena” two main characters of the book, and although this grouping does not imply that the sections will be told under their sole perspective the things happening will touch them both a little bit more. 

The main characters tree is found here, but unlike A Hundred Years of Solitude, you won’t need the tree to follow the story, since there is no a lot of main characters.  The first one to take a main place is Tom the Builder, an honest man, sometimes to naïve, that dreams only with building the most beautiful cathedral possible. He travels with his family, and for a long time luck won’t be to his side. It was hard for me to like him completely, because he is that type of character that is too good for his own good. But don’t worry; you will like him for a lot of things.

We also have Phillip, a monk. Well natured and really devout, he is a neutral character to my eyes. He is not bad, but although he is good under the church premises, he will be often unjust to people who helped him, although he doesn’t see it this way. 

Then we have Aliena, my favourite character. I was so happy to see that Follet gave women such an important role in a book set in a time that women were treated so poorly. Aliena, the daughter of the Earl of Shiring is an intelligent, well educated and beautiful young woman, who at the beginning of the book is engaged to William Hamleigh (ugh, we will talk about him later) but refuses to marry him, for he doesn’t read, knows nothing about culture and well…she is just better off. This decision however, will come to with a big price for the Earl family, as you will see all through the book.

My second favourite character was Ellen. She is an outlaw, that at age 15 lost the love of her life and had a baby (Jack). At the beginning she leaves in the forest, but faith has it that she will meet Tom, fall in love again, and come back to the city. I liked her a lot since she was the one criticizing a lot of the ways that ruled the story, most of them based on the ecclesiastic law.  She will say what she thinks will not fear the consequences. Jack, her son, has this characteristic too, and he will pass through a lot in part because of this, in part because people dislike him for his talents.

Jack is also one of the main characters, the one who will be the most involved with the cathedral at the end of the book. Thanks to him we will leave England, travel to continental Europe and see the construction of the cathedral with different eyes. Never in my life had I thought about the building of this massive constructions, and then in this book: bam! information all over the place.

Then off course, we have the bad guys. I will only talk about the character I disliked the most, but you will find more characters building intrigue. William Hamleigh, a despicable man, he will use and abuse people, take pleasure on the pain and suffering of others, and will feel always like a victim. He will act like a boy in the body of a man, full of caprices and disdain. One of those characters that will say in the middle of the movie: If I can’t have you, no one will…chanchanchaaaaaan

Let’s clarify something: my aunt was wrong. This is not a beautiful book, it’s beautifully written. But oh my you will suffer for the good ones. The way Follet describes the human nature is involving, and you will feel their pain, hate and happiness. But is not pretty. The things that happen to Aliena for example, made me put down the book sometimes and say out loud: “C’mon give the poor woman a break!”. 

I also like, as I mentioned before, the roles given to women all through the book. There’s a particular moment where Aliena is offended about the unfair treatment men give to women, thinking they are incapable of taking care of themselves, and she starts questioning it.  She rises once and again, ever more powerful, succeeding against all odds.

At the end everyone gets what they deserve, good or bad, and that off course made me happy. All through the book I kept wondering if the book was going to finish crudely, which wouldn’t surprise me given all the dark moments in the book. But no, at the end, if not a happy ending there will be a just ending, and I think this was far better. 

Finally my aunt was right in the fact that this book was for me. In all I really enjoyed the book, once again I was afraid to read it in French, but the story is so well told that is easy to follow no matter the language. Granted, there were a couple of words I had to look up, but I was looking for the definition, since only with the translation I still wasn’t sure what they meant. A lot of clerical terminology, I’m afraid.

Should you read this book? I think so; you will love it if like me you like books that take actual facts and intertwine a fictional story with it, is fun seeing old habits or costumes, and see how much somethings have changed, but not the essence of the human being. 


Sunday, June 10, 2012

TSS: Hot, Hot week-end!





Hello everyone!, Well is another gorgeous week-end in the city, full of sun and hot weather. This is good because I really needed some color in these legs of mine ;) and my plants are gratefully turning greener. Not so good because the poor things are in need of lots and lots of water. But is ok, I'm taking good care of them, I promise. On the reading side, however, I haven't been able to advance much. I finished Shopaholic ties the Knot, by Sophie Kinsella, and started The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follet (talk about extremes, ha?), but I'm not reading as fast as I would like to, with all the things in the house and the moving day arriving soon. At least I'm ahead on my reading challenge for this year (5 books ahead! when did THAT happen?), so no worries. I'm thinking next year I will make a bigger challenge, but I haven't decided yet, depends on how it ends this time.

Also, I bought 4 new books (there was a sale ok?, and 3 of them were in my wishlist, and forming my to read in 2013 list, so no judgments:P). Also, in the "reading world" I'm now a librarian at Goodreads :). That's it for today, back to yard work.

Have a great week


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella


Book Summary (from the back of the book)

Life has been good for Becky Bloomwood: She's become the best personal shopper at Barneys, she and her successful entrepreneurial boyfriend, Luke, are living happily in Manhattan's West Village, and her new next-door neighbor is a fashion designer!. But with her best friend, Suze, engaged, how can Becky fail to notice her own ring finger is bare? Not that she's been thinking of marriage (or diamonds) or anything...

The Luke proposes! Bridal registries dance in Becky's head. Problem is, two other people are planning her wedding: Becky's overjoyed mother has been waiting forever to host a backyard wedding, with the bride resplendent in Mum's frilly old gown. While Luke's high-society mother insisting on a glamorous, all-expensed-paid affair at the Plaza. Both weddings for the same day. And Becky can't seem to turn down either one. Can everyone's favorite shopaholic tie the knot before everything unravels?

My Review

Yeah, I read it. I told you I liked to have sherbet books once in a while, and the Shopaholic collection is quite that. You should also know I intend to read Shopaholic and Sister eventually, as well as Shopaholic and Baby; and apparently there’s a new book that just came out. 

Why do I like Becky Bloomwood? She is funny, airheaded sometimes, but funny. And is light to read, I finish the book in 2 days (technically 3, but that’s because I forgot my book at my boyfriend’s car, so doesn’t count). And because, just as Elle Woods (oh, what? You don’t know who that is?...you are a boy right?) at the end she surprises you in a sweet yet smart way.

The book wasn’t predictable, which is sometimes the problem with this type of books. Well, of course you know she will get married, but you don’t know when nor the problems she will encounter. The book doesn’t have a lot of new characters either. Luke is there, working his way to success, a little bit oblivious to the wedding preparations (luckily for Becky) and trying to work on his relationship with his mother (not so luckily for Becky). We have Suze, always trying to help Becky, even though her life is going through mayor change. And Becky’s lovely parents, giving it all for her daughter. I’m telling you, you cannot get a better feel-good book than this type of books…if you are a girl.

One thing that I particularly love of this series is the odd pages showing the letters Becky gets or writes, from banks, credit card companies, etc. They are just hilarious, and give you a bit more of the story. Also, you have tiny side stories, than do not overshadow the main, but some of them will merge to help the conclusion of the story in a soft, not over the top way.

Sometimes you will feel like Becky is selfish…and she is, she is just not consciously selfish. But once it hits her, it hits her hard. At the end, she will not only solve the conundrum of having 2 such opposite weddings, but in the meantime, she will help everyone around her, swiftly and effectively. And what’s more, she will make sure that does who she loves and love her back, will be placed before her, and will get the wedding of their dreams. Everyone will be happy…well almost. 

This book gave me exactly what I needed, a fun, relaxed time, before going to sleep. Funny characters, funny situations, tiny problems that look big in the verge of a wedding, sorry, weddings, and a resolution of all of them, wrapped in a happy occasion that opens the window for another book just like it.


Monday, June 4, 2012

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami


I decided to do this review in 3 parts, considering that whole piece is dived in three books, and each one of them has a lot to be discussed, so please bear with me. This post will be updated as I finish each of the three books, so I’m guessing it will be quite long at the end. I want to say, that this is the first book that I’ve read that takes place in Japan and that is written by a Japanese author, so I was really looking forward to a different view of Japanese culture. If I may, I suggest that when you start your book, you start listening to this (it starts at around 0:20) as is mentioned in the book, and changes the whole environment...well, it did for me.

Book summary, books 1-3 (From Goodreads.com)

The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

My review (Book 1)

The first book introduces us to the main characters Aomame and Tengo, and all through the books, the chapters will be divided by their names, and the chapter will be named after a sentence we will find in the chapter itself.  All of the character, whether main or secondary are slowly introduce to the story, their personal traits being explored little by little making you crave for more in every chapter. 

Aomame, as you know for the description above, is a young woman, a gym instructor with a secret…she is also a killer. She hates men who mistreat women, religious fundamentalists and being constipated. She loves history books (there’s this scene of here in a bar reading a book about trains that I just loved in my head) and mature men, that are starting to lose their hair, type of Sean Connery. 

Tengo, on the other side, is about the same age of Aomame, a math teacher aspiring to be a writer that felt “used” by his father since every Sunday when he was a kid he was forced to go with his dad to collect bills, so people would feel forced to pay with a young kid in front. He explains his love for math and books as a type of evasion of reality.

The story starts with Aomame, in a taxi cab, stuck in traffic. The only way out, since they are in a bridge in the highway is to go down an emergency stair, which is sort of difficult when you are wearing hills and a skirt. When she finally goes down, she realizes that subtle changes are taking place in her world, but nobody else seems to think they are actual changes.  

On the other side of Tokyo we have Tengo, that is being asked to correct (or should I said edit) an aspiring novel the “Air Chrysalis”, written by an intriguing teenager that barely speaks. Even though at first Tengo feels he should not do it, the novel is so inviting and he wishes so to share it with the world that he jumps in and does it.

As secondary characters we have Fukaeri, the teenager writer. As we read more, we learn that something happened to her which could explain her interaction limitations. The Professor, Fukaeri’s tutor in a way; Tamaki, Aomame’s best friend; Komatsu, Tengo’s editor and boss, and the mind behind the editing of Fukaeri’s novel; an old lady who is the “boss” of Aomame who also shares a secret with her, Tamaru, the lady’s employee, and finally Ayumi, Aomame’s newly acquired friend. All of them will help to explore the characteristics of the main characters, as well as to dig deeper in their past.
Aomame’s and Tengo’s story starts intertwining, not explicitly, but as we read we see how their lives are connected. 

We also learn about Sakigake (Vanguardia in Spanish or Vanguard) and Akebono (Amanecer in Spanish or Sunrise). The first one a “pacific” group, formed by Fukaeri’s father, looking to have a new community, based on agriculture and apart from the society. However a more revolutionary faction of the movement (Akebono) eventually splits. Nowadays Akebono doesn’t exists, and Sakigake has degenerated in a cult, or religious movement that seems to have a dark secret that would explain Fukaeri’s “weird”behavior.

During the first book then, we have the introduction of the characters as well as a continuous simile with Orwell’s 1984. If like me, you haven’t read 1984, is a dystopian story, reflecting Stalinism and portraying the “Big Brother” who represents a dictator in this word. In 1Q84, they mention the Little People, but they are not fully explained yet. 

The book has several sentences that marked me (I might make a mistake while translating, so my apologies): 

               “Most of the people don’t know the real value of a novel […] when a book wins a price and everyone is talking about it, they bought it and read it”

               “Reading a book is a discontinuous operation that takes a relatively long period of time”

These two stayed with me, since I felt they were a message from Murakami saying: people are going to talk about my novel, and then more people will buy it and read it without even knowing what I meant. Reading some of the comments and critics by other readers I found that, most them are overwhelm by the length of the book (hence the second sentence that I mentioned) or by it’s crudeness, and were unable to dive deeper in the book. What do I mean by crudeness? Is not the references to women breasts, which a lot of people complained about in the critics, but I just don’t think is that bad, sure, there’s several of them, and some sex scenes, but they are not even close to “romance” novels, if you know what I mean. Is more…the rapes. So far, I haven’t read one rape scene, not even sure if there will be one. But when he puts the subject on the table, it’s so bluntly there, that I had to put my book down for a second and breathe a little before going on. 

               “Perpetrators can rationalize their acts by using any convenient argument and then forget […] but the victims can’t forget”

I can’t give you more context, for I feel I would ruin the book for you, but the thing is there is a fair amount of victims in the book. However, the reason why it marked me is because is so true and yet not that obvious. Is not something that is in our heads that often, how “easy” is to hurt someone, since we can rationalize that we didn’t really hurt them. 

The first book closes with the first physical appearance of the Little People on Aomame’s side and the differences between lunatic and insane, which I’ve never before I gave so much thought. I got to the end of book 1 last night…and I just felt like I had to continue, even though my eyes seemed to differ. Since both sides criss-cross so beautifully, you want to know if they might become one. Is kind off what happens in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where you have 2 very interesting stories going on side by side, but when they become one the momentum just gets bigger if that’s even possible (physics are NOT my forte, sorry).

Anyway, as for today 12th of April, 2012. I’m just beginning book 2. I will keep you posted, but so far I strongly recommend the book.

***Update: Book 2, April 16th 2012.***

So, first of all...as with The Girl who liked to play with Fire...do yourselves a favor and get the third book, before getting to the middle of Book 2. I didn't and here I am, waiting for the library to give me the third book and just dying to know what happens next.
Book 2 starts in the middle of the summer, July to be exact. I will try not to give away a lot, but believe me, it will be hard. Anyway, a new character is introduced to us, Ushikawa, a representative of a council that will try to buy Tengo's silence, without success. He is a suspicious, little, ugly man (not my words, mind you). He tells Tengo that he let out something "dangerous" but he wont say what. 

At the same time, we learn that Aomame never left Tengo's mind, and viceversa. This is the moment where I finally understood why the reviews talked about the book as a love story. 



Now, this book is supposed to develop in 3 months, just like the first one, but it passed a lot faster to me. There is a lot more of action, and since I mentioned before, the chapters about Aomame and Tengo are alternating each other, so I was reading as fast as I can to know what happened whit the other. 


We get a detailed look on how Sakigake was formed, and a glimpse on what the Little People really are, how they got here and why was Aomame's world changing, when no one else noticed. At the same time, precious people to Tengo start disappearing, and they are referred as lost.

When book 1 felt to me like a message form Murakami about how a novel should be written and read, this one felt more like an adventure in a more and more twisted yet magical world, with knowledge about knowledge.

"In this world there is territories that we can't or we shouldn't pass"
A warning to Aomame, before she encounters her final mission. And it also becomes a warning to the reader for we learn a lot (a little bit too much sometimes) about Sakigake, it's leader and what happens in the community. Now, (SPOILER ALERT) I know a lot of people complained about the mentions of rapes. I am glad they were not descriptive, because just the situations, the way they are bluntly putted made feel weak. But, I have to tell you, keep reading after that, since an explanation (granted, weird, but less gruesome) forms while you are reading, particularly when Aomame finally gets to read the “Air Chrysalis”. (END OF SPOILER).

As for Tengo, we finally meet his father, and little by little a better picture of his childhood is formed. 
"Knowledge is a valuable social patrimony [...] it should be accumulated and used carefully"
"If you don't understand it without me explaining, you won't even if I do"
Words from the father to Tengo, and once again they become a warning, for Tengo will have to find the answers to all the changes around him, on his own. Fukaeri is more and more mysterious yet more clear, somehow all that she is starts to be explained as Tengo understands what's happening...however (SPOILER ALERT) I really hope there will be an explanation on why the Receiver and the Perceiver can only work after having sex, I'm just saying (END OF SPOILER).

Now, I mentioned before the difference between insane and lunatic, didn't I? Well, I didn't give you the definition, but basically if you are a lunatic, just blame it on the moon. I mention this again because the moon has a tremendous role in this story, or so it seems to me. On book 1, and I'm mentioning this assuming you already read book 1, Aomame notices that there is a second moon in the sky. The funny part is that on Book 2, we learn the significance of this second moon for the Little People and the daughter.
The daugther it seems, is the shadow of a person, a shadow born form the Chrysalis, a shadow that might take the place of the person (the mother) but won't be the person...I'm telling you, it gets complicated, yet your mind will start making connections without you noticing.



I really don't want to give away anything else, so I will stop here.

At the end of this book Aomame will be...well, lost. But Tengo is more determined than ever to find her. There is a lot of loose ends, so I hope I will get to read Book 3 soon. 

***Final Update: Book 3, June 3rd 2012.***

Well, I did it, I finished the whole 3 books. I have something to say: I'm now a Murakami fan. 

This will be the hardest review, since I will have to work extra hard not to give away much of the story. 

First things first, most of the loose ends from book 2 were solved (in my opinion). There is a new main character involved, as in he gets his own chapter, and it pretty much works without knowing it, to intertwine the other 2 stories.

As we go deeper and deeper in this fantastic new alternate world, the feelings already placed will start growing and by the end you will be devouring the book to know if there is a way to "come back" to the real world...well, at least I was.

I know a lot of people complained about the book having too many description, but just as it happens I appreciate author's that take their time to construct the atmosphere for you, so in my case, I do not feel that there were too many descriptions of characters, places or anything.

I'm also aware that for a lot of people certain points of the story were hard to digest, particularly the ones involving sex. And I understand why this was hard for them, but I cannot agree with them as it being too much. I feel that Murakami wrote the sex parts that include Aomame as just a natural need, as a lot of people would have, an urge of intercourse, and that's exactly how she puts it in a couple of paragraphs. As for as the parts that involve Fukaeri and the other dothas, I understand how it can be as completely wrong and hard to picture for a lot of the readers. But I don't think is cruder than the raping scene in The Bluest Eye, and I do not think that Murakami condones it in anyway; is something that happens in his story, that makes part of it. How many stories have we read that were hard to swallow? Books about the holocaust describe what happen, yet do not make it ok, do they? Could've the book been written without those parts? I imagine yes; would've the book been as powerful without them? I guess we can't know it.

At the end of the day and the story, I realized that I was actually reading a love story, a really mixing, crude sometimes love story, splashed with crime, religious dogmas and social changes all over. If it wasn't for the fantasy that grows around Aomame and Tengo, this could be a direct love story, but is exactly the fantasy and mystery building around them that makes this book so interesting.

Is it a book I would recommend to everyone? Possibly not, but is more related to the person than the book. Once again, I know there are some parts that are hard to accept as happening, but the same feeling came to me while reading The Kite Runner and I do not regret reading that book at all, just as I wouldn't regret meeting Murakami through 1Q84.




Sunday, June 3, 2012

TSS: I'm back...kinda


 



Hello everyone, just a quick post today. As I mentioned before, I'm moving soon, and things are a little bit hectic, which is why last week I didn't have a Sunday Salon post. I've manage to keep reading (right before bed, any other spare time is going on renovations), so you can find the reviews for The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison; The Super Spud Trilogy, by Michael Diack and i should be posting the final review for 1Q84 between Monday and Tuesday (hopefully).
So that's it for now, back to packing for me.

Have a great weeek!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Super Spud Trilogy by Michael Diack



Book Summary (From Goodreads.com)


Genetic engineering has accomplished many things, one of which has been to create the Super Spud! The humble potato elevated to new heights, creating the most flavorsome crisps ever known to humankind! But that's not all - A magical transformation occurs to all Super Spud crisps not eaten before their use-by date. They take on a life of their own. And so long as they remain undetected by humans, they enjoy life in their own Super Spud cities, take part in major Super Spud sporting events and even start the odd Super Spud war or two. Join Colin, Cougar, Hannibal Vector, Generals Rock, Jock and Strap and all the others in their rollicking adventures. You'll never look at a packet of crisps in the same way again! Fun, quirky and totally original 

My review

I was really exited to read this book, you see, is the first time the author contacts me to review it. And then, when I read the synopsis, I was even more exited about the book.

This was indeed an original read. The book is full of pop references, to music, to films, to characters everyone loves, recreated with chips.  The book is well written in easy to follow, short stories that introduce you to the different characters. Every different flavor has different personalities, you have the "spinach and steak" flavor, they are strong, determined, and part of the military. They will always be ready to take the bullet...or toothpick. The tuna flavors, very smart; the menthol flavors, with...let's say special personalities.

Either way, the spuds will get into this ridiculously funny adventures, running the Grand Prix, saving Christmas and just making friends. My favorite moment was the war between two cities of spuds. You see, war finishes as soon as they reach a limit of casualties, they play a Michael Jackson song, so everyone knows is over, and then the winner is determined according to medals being given away! The whole image was so funny. If it wasn't because of the number of dead characters, I thing it would make a great kid's book

Things you should know about the Spuds, is that you will never see them, for they will die the minute a human being see them. Is a shame, since the  images of them jumping and running make me smile immediately. 

Oh, and every Super Spud has...wait for it...a evil twin! And they will come for their good twin, when you last expect it.

A couple of things made me not give this book 3 mushrooms instead of 4. There wasn't a main character I could follow, every time I thought this Spud was the main character, he would die. I find it good to have at least a main character that carries you through the story. On the other hand, there is a lot of characters, and at a certain point is hard to remember who is who. 

In all it was an enjoyable book that I would recommend as light reading.