Friday, May 30, 2014

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry


Take pride on your pain […] you are stronger than those who have none.

Why I read this book


Earlier this month I read The Giver and learned that there is actually a quartet of books and not just the stand alone. Even though I did not love the first book, I did find it quite interesting and wanted to know what would happen with Jonas and Gabe.

What the book is about

The main character, a young girl named Kira is a newly orphan with a particular talent: weaving. On a community that values ability this is the only thing that she has to offer but it is enough for the Council to want to keep her around. However, as she advances in her work and learning she will also discover the darkest part of her community.

First impressions

This book starts on a completely different note than The Giver. While in the first book the community is portrayed as somehow idyllic in this case it feels likes most of the people, except for the Council, are working hard to barely survive. More than education in an academic sense, people go by through trade learning (weaving, butchering, carving) and exchange. The more it differed from the "perfect" community of the giver, the more I wanted to know what made this a companion novel.

Final thoughts

Such different books and yet...they both explore how society might change after a huge calamity; I am still not sure what exactly happened, I am hoping to figure that out soon.

While this installment was a bit easier to swallow (I will not give spoilers, but if you read the first one I am sure you know what I mean) it still had several situations that made me stop reading, take a minute to gather my thoughts and then be able to continue. I believe that one of the reasons this two books have been very different to me in the YA dystopia genre is that the protagonists are so young and FEEL so young. A lot (if not most) of the dystopias I have read involve a teenager as a protagonist and for me this has a big effect in the way I see them confronting the different situations they encounter.

I am intrigued with this quartet; I don't want to call it a series, because I think the books could be read as standalone story, albeit with a somehow inconclusive ending. However I don't see yet clearly how the stories merge, IF they merge. At the end of this book there were a couple of sentences that made me think of the previous one, but it felt a lot like a whisper, a reminder that they are somehow meant to be connected.

Because I am so intrigued I will be reading Messenger for sure. 

It (artist) means, well, someone who is able to make something beautiful

 




Not a match: My true Tales of Online Dating Disasters by Brian Donovan



Why I read this book

Every once in a while, Audible is very generous and gives you free books! Off course, not always you find something that looks interesting, but this time I found this book and decided to give it a try.

What the book is about

For a bit more than 2 hours we learn about Donovan's experiences in dating online mostly through Match.com. The book alternates between chapters about a specific dating experience and chapters with hints or tips for the online dating world.

First impressions

We decided to listen to this book, together with my boyfriend while commuting to work. It felt like a light, fun book to start and end the working day with, and we were not mistaken.

Final thoughts


Was it a fun book? Yes, a couple of times I burst into laughter at the nonsense happening. Was it light? Yes, the book is unpretentious and very relaxed and with a good amount of funny situations. I don't think I would've bought this book on my own I have to say. Ax Norman has a nice rhythm and tone, but it is hard to say anything else about him as a narrator with this particular book. 
 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#YesAllWomen


Today I am going to use this blog to talk, not about books, but about a harder subject to discuss that hits close to home: Violence against women.

It has been 5 days since the Isla Vista horrible shooting and the #YesAllWomen has been trending for a while now. I've been reading the news, refusing to see the videos of this guy just because to listen to him feels to me like I would be empowering him somehow. And I've been reading tweets and articles of women that are being open about situations that most of the time we try to keep in the dark, because they hurt, because we were told to, sometimes directly sometimes it was just something we knew.

So I will share, because this is a cause worth sharing, this is a cause that has to be addressed. Because if I ever have a daughter I want to know that I also spoke up and tried my best to change things, even if just a little. It has taken me a good couple of hours to write this post and to gather the courage to press the button post. I am afraid because, as many people do, I fear the repercussions saying some of this things out loud might have.

Violence doesn't have to be physical. The first memory that I have of being aggressed for being a woman was when my father said to my brothers in a matter-of-fact tone that I did not count as his first born, since I was a girl. Fast forward to the first day I got an allowance. I thought I was getting it since I was the eldest. My brothers got a bit jealous, and then my father clarified that he was giving me money so I wouldn't "give it away" for a piece of food...try to guess what "it" is.

When I was 15 I cut my hair short, pixie style. I was told that girls are supposed to have long hair.

During high school, taking violin classes, my male teacher correcting my posture he said, approached me from the back and I felt a certain stir pressed against my butt. I mentioned it to the directors of the music school, I was told to really think what I was saying because "he was a married guy with a kid, I wouldn't want to accuse him if it wasn't true right?

During my bachelor's I was touched inappropriately by a teacher. I reported him. I was first asked if I was sure it wasn't an accident. Then I was told we could continue with the procedure, but it would take long time, it was my word against his, and it wouldn't probably do much.

Now I work in a field where the chances of my articles being published would increase if I stop using my name, which is clearly a woman's name, and start using just initials, hence masking my gender. One day I came back from vacation to find the vacuum pumps of the lab with labels naming them after women. In case you don't know this, vacuum pumps are supposed to aspirate liquids...in other words suck them up. Get it? It was, apparently, meant as a joke. While I am happy to say that when mentioned it to my director he immediately addressed the person and it stop, the guy in question talked to me afterwards, told me I was exaggerating and then I overheard him telling his friends that he wouldn't stop doing his jokes, he would just do them when I couldn't hear them.
This is not a comprehensive list of situations I've been put through as a woman or because I am a woman. It's just a post with some of them. This is not a post saying that every single man has treated me badly. They haven't and I have wonderful men in my world, and I am grateful I know them. This is just another woman telling you what has happened to her, because she is a woman.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir



Love of science is universal across all cultures

Why I read this book


This was the May pick for the Sword and Laser and I was very excited to read it since all over the place people have been raving about it.

What the book is about

Mark Watney has a tiny little problem. He is stranded in Mars. A sandstorm made his whole crew leave but he was hit on the head and was sadly left behind. While everyone thought he was dead he has been trying to figure out 2 things: 1) a way to communicate with NASA to let them know he is still alive and relatively well and 2) a way to remain alive and relatively well. With limited resources, including oxygen and food, how will he manage?

First impressions

The first impressions I got were actually not mine but my boyfriend’s. You see, he started reading it before me so he would burst laughing every once in a while, and say, oh you have to read this. As for me, from the beginning I liked the main character; he is sarcastic, smart, funny and bitter…a perfect scientist if I may say so myself.

Final thoughts

Wow, just wow. This was an amazing book. Since Ancillary Justice I didn’t loved a book from the book club. I liked some, but loved? Nope. To quote a blogger whom I really liked it rang all of my bells.

First of all, the fact that it was well researched and mostly scientifically accurate. Sure it had some flaws here and there, but as a novel it had very good basis and good follow up to science related situations. Second of all, the characters, not only Mark but I liked all of the characters, even the ones I wanted to slap once in a while (if you read the book, you probably know who I am talking about).

While this book has been endlessly compared to Castaway in Mars I would like to point out that, unlike the movie, this is meant to be a comical thing and, at least for me, it didn’t feel like it was dragging forever (sorry, I just didn’t like that movie) and what’s more, by the time I got to the end of the book I felt I could have read more before it ended.

BTW, the end? I was flipping pages like there was no tomorrow. That’s how much I NEEDED to know what was going to happen next. It got to a point that I did not move in hours, only I didn’t know it was hours. By the time I lifted my head up from the book it was way past my bed time and my boyfriend was waiting expectantly so we could finally discuss it without fear of him spoiling I for me.

So yeah, for someone that usually leans more towards the Sword side of this Book Club I’ve felt head over heels for two Laser marvellous novels, both of them extremely different and entertaining in their own way.

You haven’t read it yet? Please do so we can discuss it in a lengthy way!

There is probably symbolism there. Phobos is the god of fear, and I'm letting it be my guide. Not a good sign. 


Monday, May 26, 2014

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor


The mind is a palace with room for many guests

Why I read this book

It's been a while since I liked a series this much, including the companion novella. While I was a bit sad to finish the trilogy I was also very eager to know what was going to happened with everyone.

What the book is about


This is a review for the third and last book in the series, so there might be some spoilers from the previous books. The book walks through the arrival of Jael to Earth portraying himself as a saviour angel. Meanwhile on Eretz the Chimera army is learning to work with the "misbegotten". Akiva and Karou are putting their own wishes on hold to save both worlds, but it would seem that there is an even bigger threat than Jael's expedition.

First impressions

The book opens with new and intriguing characters that made me want to read (listen) faster. Taylor's writing is, as always, involving and fast paced and Khristine Hvam is an amazing narrator giving everyone a voice perfectly toned for the story.

Final thoughts


Oh my, oh my, this was a hard read (chapter 29 was particularly hard to go through, you will see). So many things happening at the same time, which is normal during a war, and so I kept finding moments to sneak in a couple of minutes more of listening.

I've already said how much I liked the world building Taylor presented in this series; in this particular installment the mythology that brings all worlds together, including the Far Isles is beautiful and terrible at the same time. Terrible in a scary way I would like to clarify. Beautiful because the whole tissue weaved out of this mythology brings every character into a whole different perspective and left me wanting more at the end.

This is not a love series; sure there is love and the relationship between Zuz and Mik is just adorable, but the main thing carrying the story is the confrontation between Seraphs and Chimera. In this one, Taylor also adds the effect of human beliefs and fears to the "supernatural" and unknown.

The only problem I had with this book is that I wanted more of this story to read. I am very satisfied with how most of the stories were rounded up, but the thing is dearest reader, that there were A LOT of doors opened in this one.

I would recommend this series all over town!

Life is only a thread tethering soul to body 




Friday, May 23, 2014

When numbers shouldn't matter...but they do



I'm a competitive person. Didn't I mention that before? Well I am. I am also the worst loser you can imagine...well, maybe not the worst, but I am very bad. However this post will be focused on me being competitive against...myself.

Here is the thing, I am doing great on my reading challenge this year (I am very modest as you can see) but I am not satisfied. As I write this I have read 31 books already this year, and that's awesome, right? Is already more books I read in 2010 (20) and I will probably managed to read more than I read in 2011 (37) by June, so in half the time. Even better, I have already LOVED more books this year than I did in the aforementioned years. Does this make me happy? Off course it does. Is it bitter sweet? Yes and the only reason is this "you have to do better" voice in my head that is concentrated on one itsy bitsy factor: pages.

PAGES! Number of pages people! Is it ridiculous? Maybe. I am perfectly conscious that it shouldn't be about quantity but quality? Sure. Am I a person that is a bit over attached to quantifying? You bet your dollar I am. Is not entirely my fault, ok? I am after all in research; numbers have A LOT of weight in my daily life. You can tell me (I can tell myself) that is not the grade that actually shows what I learnt...but I need that grade.

And how come I've read more books, yet fewer pages? Ha! Easy: Audible. Yeap there you have it, fairly enough audio books do not add to your page count, which makes sense, because they do not have pages, right? I did my homework people (I told you, I had a problem) and give or take a bit, since I cannot know if I would've read the book in paperback, hardcover or e-book...I could've had more than 4500 pages extra.

So here I am. Instead of being happy and excited about how well my reading life is going this year, I am sulking about the fact that I haven't read enough pages. Buhu. I am a bit ashamed to actually write all of this actually. But they say that the first thing you have to do when you have a problem is admitting you have one. And this is my admitting post. I will work on ignoring that voice that is concentrated in pages and just be happy and grateful for my reading life. If you guys have any suggestions (help groups, mantras, you know) to deal with this please let me know. If you don't but you have a similar problem, let me now too! Maybe we can start a group or something ;)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente




Someone has to tell you it's impossible or the Quest can't go on.

Why I read this book

I read The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making last year and absolutely loved Valente's style and her characters. I got the print version of the book, because is so beautifully illustrated.

What the book is about

September saved Fairyland once but had to go back to Omaha, where she found herself having a hard time readjusting to her life without her friends and without magic. She is now almost a teen and all she wants is to go back to her beloved Fairyland. When her greatest wish is finally granted she realizes that Fairyland is in big trouble and that this time, she might be the one to blame. She will set up on a full quest to bring back the world that she so dearly loves. 

First impressions
Some things are for hiding and for keeping

This book is beautiful, just beautiful to look at, not only its cover, but the illustrations for every chapter by Ana Juan. That aside, the history is absolutely endearing. From the first chapters I remembered how much I loved September as a character and how I was also missing going back to Fairyland. 

Final thoughts

You need your dark side, because without it, you are half gone. Cats, on the other hand, have a more sensible set up. 

It was interesting to see September at this stage in which she is no longer a little kid, while not being an adult either. I love the idea of her "growing a heart" and how this affects the way she encounters and confronts situations. It was nice to see her taking responsibility and not hiding from it. 

The whole concepts of the shadows and how they would behave in comparison to their "originals" was nicely executed. It remind me a bit of the way the people from the Kahani are depicted in Haroun and the Sea of Stories (light vs dark) but a big difference is that EACH person has it counterpart in Valente's books. 

The new characters were quite nice too. I loved Avogadra and her library, and the poor scared dodo Aubergine where certainly my favorites. Valente has a gift to take mundane things and infuses them with magic to create whimsical characters, case in point the Vicereine of Coffee ant the Duke of Teatime.

Above all I think what I like about this series is that so far it has something for every age, so I can share it with anyone.  It goes to my pile to be shared in the future with a little one, but I will recommend it to anyone who wants to indulge the kid that still leaves inside of all of us. 


Teenage hearts are raw and new, fast and fierce and they do not know their own strength. 

 



Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bout of Books: Sunday Update

Bout of Books

Hello, Hello

Today, was amazing! I went to the special screening of The Last Unicorn AND Peter S. Beagle was there. I got him to sign my copy of the book. I tried to talk to him, but I was absolutely a mess, I got super emotional and started crying. It was nice because he actually stood up to hug me and calm me down. 

It was a good first Bout of Books too; I manage to finish the 2 books I listed and I accomplished all of my goals. I met some wonderful blogs and had a lot of fun. I will definitely be here next time.

Books started
  • The Martian 

Books finished:
  • Sapphire Blue
  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Reviews posted:


Blogs visited today: New blogs today! 

Challenges: No challenges for me today :).

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bout of Books: Saturday Update

Bout of Books

Hello, Hello

Another day has gone by and here is my update. I am posting earlier than the other days today. I am happy because I managed to finish my 2 Bout of Books reads. I just have to do my visits/comments tomorrow and I will have achieved all of my goals ^-^. I also discovered that Ruby Red has a movie (a German adaptation of the book) and I will be watching that later this evening. 

Tomorrow is the screening of The Last Unicorn and I will meet the author of the book! I am so exited for it.

Books started
  • The Martian 

Books finished:
  • Sapphire Blue
  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Reviews posted:


Blogs visited today: New blogs today!


Challenges: No challenges for me today :).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bout of Books: Friday Update

Bout of Books

Hello, Hello

Another day has gone by and here is my update. Busy day at the lab today

Books started: Nothing new since yesterday, I did continue listening to Dreams of Gods & Monsters, I would like to finish it soon, it is so good!

  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There:You guys, I really tried to finish it today, but my eyes are fighting me while writing this post. I think all the sleep I missed this week is coming to get me :(. I should be able to finish it tomorrow...I think
Books finished:
  • Sapphire Blue

Reviews posted:


Blogs visited today: New blogs today!


Challenges: Today I am participating on the "Cover Scavenger Hunt" challenge hosted at The Book Monsters. I am a bit bummed because I realize half way through the challenge that I forgot to put the author of the book in my entries and I cannot correct that, but oh well, it was a lot of fun



See you guys tomorrow. 

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier



Time ain’t nothing, but time. It’s a verse with no rhyme, And it all come down to you

Why I read this book

During an Audible sale I acquired the firt book in this series, Ruby Red. I was pleasantly surprised with the story and hence I decided to continue with the trilogy.

What the book is about

After we left Gwen and Gideon in the last book learning to deal with each other and, in her case, learning about time travelling and its perils, Sapphire Blue opens with a bit more information about Paul and Lucy. While trying to learn more about the cronograph, learn the steps for dancing the minuet and trying to figure Guideon out, Gwen will find herself in the middle of an intrigue that has taken centuries to fully develop. What is it exactly that the Count of Saint Germain did and wants to do with the closing of the circle?

First impressions

While the prologue was quite a surprise, the first chapters of the book were a bit predictable. I enjoyed the adding of Xemerus, the ghost gargoyle, he was a funny and endearing character. As the book advanced however, I started having tiny surprises, actions and actors I did not expect to be put in place and so once again in the series it started slow to pick up by the end.

Final thoughts


This is by no means the best YA series I had ever read, but it is pretty good nonetheless. First we have the fact that it works with time travelling without recurring to forced science (sometimes admitting that you don't know how something works is way better than inventing some ludicrous theory). Second, while there is the token YA relationship it hasn't been (so far) pressed into the "triangle". This second book in the trilogy had a bit more of pop culture references, that sometimes felt a bit forced; however I will say that it was nice that the Gwen didn't t only like songs from High School Musical, but could sing Memories from Cats.

The more I advance in the trilogy the more intrigued I am by the count itself. There is something very dark in all this, and I would really like to know what it is. Another thing that gives extra point is the fashion description, particularly Gwen's dresses.

There are things that annoyed me, particularly the fact that the whole "relationship" between Gwen and Gideon develops in less than a week. Sure, they are spending a lot of time together and sure, they are 16/19 but still. I am not very fond of the way Charlotte treats him, or the way she behaves in general, but I can really blame her seeing the way her mother acts.

While the end tries to finish in a cliff-hanger, is a very subtitle one, at least it was for me. I do want to know how it all develops and finalizes but I didn't get this urgent feeling to go and the Emerald Green immediately.

Marissa Calin continues to do a good job as a narrator.


Ex hoc momento pendet aeternites. (Eternity hangs from this moment) 


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie



The real world was full of magic, so magical worlds could easily be real

Why I read this book

One of the biggest heartbreaks I’ve ever had, book wise, was when I had to leave behind my copy of this book, years ago. It was even worst, because although I loved the story, I read it when I was very young and I couldn’t for the life of me remember the exact name of the book, so it took me more than 15 years to finally find it again.  So actually, this was a re-read. It took me, once again, back into my child years. 

What the book is about

Haroun is a young boy whose father tells the most amazing stories (known as the Shah of Blah). On a very dreadful day, Haroun’s mother leaves and her departure brings the end of the stories. Haroun will discover Kahani, the second moon, house of the Sea of Stories and the source of his father’s best tales.

First impressions

Re reading this book I noticed a lot of clever play on words that I didn’t notice as a child since some of them are based on French or even some in English, that back then I didn’t understand. However the feeling of wonder and amazing use of fantasy and myth items made my tear up more than once.

Final thoughts
It is very hard for me to read comments from the people who didn’t like this books, since it has such an emotional charge for me. However, as always, I know that is not necessarily for everyone. 

The book is mainly directed to a younger public, but I honestly believe that it can be enjoyed at any age. As Momo does, one of the books that I love the most, this book presents the “problem” of letting go of our childhood stories, of totaling becoming an adult by letting go wonderment.

I will admit that I haven’t read anything else by Rushdie, so I have no ground to compare this to his previous work. However, I can tell you that the construction of the world found in Kahani is beautiful. My favorite character is by far Blabbermouth and the rebellious personality that goes with her. 

It is not a fast paced book and although it has a bit of adventure it is not the main component. The main component, for me at least, is the power that you can get from stories. From the army being called a library, to the Sea itself, mixing and giving us every single tale that made us dream awake .A good story can make any situation better :)
 
One minute you’ve got a lucky star watching over you and the next instant it’s done a bunk