Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Absolute Sandman vol. 1 - Neil Gaiman

Thanks to my awesome library, I've been able to finally read this first volume of The Absolute Sandman. A comic series that's almost a legend, a cult among those in the know.
I had read some individual issues found on secondhand stalls, and also the beautiful novella The Dream Hunters.
But this is the real deal, where everything begins. And I loved it.
There were three major narrative arches:
- "Preludes and Nocturnes"
- "The Doll's House"
- "Dream Country"
If I had to choose a favourite, it would be "The Doll's House", although I loved every single story in its own right.
It wasn't anything I expected, primarily because it was so eclectic.
Sandman for one, is ever-changing. At the beginning he appears trapped in a human-conjured prison, and it takes him years to free himself. When eventually he manages to break free, he finds that his dreamworld has changed, that Nature has created other Sandmen to fill the gap left, and that he has to fight to regain his absolute power.
It's not what I expected from Dream. In my mind he was somewhat intimidating. Unreadable. Even invincible. He's an Immortal, after all. Lord of the Dreams. While here, at the very beginning, he's weak and powerless. It takes time to track down his tools - the pouch, the helmet, the ruby - and even after he's done, he feels empty, as if after achieving his goals he doesn't have anything left to do.
It wasn't something I had expected, but it was fascinating.

Also, I didn't think it would be a horror comic. I thought it would lean more on the fantasy side. But some stories are definitely scarier and gorier than what I thought they would be. Take "24 hours" for example. Or "Collectors". These stories, and their atmospheres reminded me a lot of an Italian comic series I used to read as a tween/teenager and which is still printed, called Dylan Dog. Dark Horse apparently has published some issues in English. If you can get hold of them, I highly recommend them, by the way.

As I was saying, one of its most striking feature was its diversity. Because if some stories are horror, some others were completely different. "Tales in the Sand" is a version of the myth of Sandman seen through an African perspective. "Men of good fortune" is a story of a man in the 14th century, who doesn't believe in death, and he's granted the gift of immortality, as a sort of game between Dream and Death. Then "A dream of a thousand cats" is a story showing us cats' view of the world, which is not pleasant nor cute.
There was so much into these stories, I find it hard to review it without failing to mention some great things about them. What I can say is that for a week or two, this volume sat by my nightstand, granting me one bedtime story, each night. I figured it was fitting for a comic all about dreams:) And it was a moment I looked forward to.(Although I wouldn't recommend it at night-time to the faint-hearted. It was, after all, a horror comic, at times!)
About the first I wasn't too impressed . The stories made up for it, though.
Then with "The Doll's House" it really takes off. Some stuff was wonderful, especially the visualisation of people's dreams. I loved them.
Also, of course I have to mention all the fantastic extra material which would make any fan drool: the initial original Sandman proposal, the provisional sketches, the characters outline, and then the surprisingly-funny-to-read script for "A midsummer Night's Dream".

It pains me to bring this back to the library, but I have to let other people enjoy it too.
Thankfully, I have volume 2 ready to go:)

other bloggers' reviews:
Stuff as dreams are made on (Preludes and Nocturnes)
Andi of Tripping Towards Lucidity (Preludes and Nocturnes)
Chain Letters (Doll's House)
Dewey (Preludes and Nocturnes)
Debi (Preludes and Nocturnes)

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Monday, 22 June 2009

LGBT Challenge - Once Upon a Time III Challenge wrap up

I had promise to myself not to join anymore challenges, because there is not much point when I don't actually read the books meant for that challenge. Even without lists! But since there's no challenge police, I'll join anyway! I can't resist this one.
It's hosted by Amanda at The Zen Leaf, and it requires the reading of 6 books in 6 months, all LGBT related, starting July 1 and ending December 31.
Incidentally, I'm already reading Baby Be-bob by Francesca Lia Block so the first book is sorted!
What else could I read?
I'm thinking:
Carol by Patricia Highsmith (The first lesbian novel with a happy ending, or so I'm told)
Beebo Brinker by Ann Bannon (lesbian pulp fiction of the 1950's)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (the T is for Transgender, after all)
I'm not myself these days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell (about the life of a drag queen)
My tender matador by Pedro Lemebel (which has been waiting for 3 years now, as it's also about a transgender woman)
Also I should probably try to read Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Wintersone again...

These are already at home...don't let me start with whatever I could get in the library because it's a road full of perils, we all know it ends in me wanting to read too many books as humanly possible.

ps: Here we say LGBT instead of GLBT. I'm used to it, and also I like it more ;)

Now for the Once upon a time

...I probably was in the mood for more realistic fiction than usual lately, because I managed to read 2 books only, out of the original 4:
-The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan (fantasy)
-The Absolute Sandman vol 1. by Neil Gaiman (I decided to consider it mythology although it could fit in basically all four genres. But I thought The Sandman is a mythological figure, and these comics are a reinterpretation. Also there are many other mythical references in it).
I read some Charles de Lint stories for the Short Stories Weekend, but I reviewed only one, from Tapping the Dream Tree. Still have one to go, to finish the collection.

Speaking of Challenges, I think this year is the last for me. I know I haven't joined too many, but they're a lot for me and I feel constricted. Next time round I will stick to a VERY limited selection of these torture devises. I think they are fun only when they are the exception to my reading routine, not the norm.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Wandering through the library shelves...

...I didn't take anything out because I coulnd't, but I found some pretty interesting looking books, and not just because of their cover!
I wonder if anybody has read any of these or anything by these authors:

An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Benders.

An Invisible Sign of My Own tells the story of Mona Gray, a math wiz and a high school track star, whose ordinary childhood comes to pieces when her father is stricken with a mysterious illness.

You can't see it from the picture but the copy the library has is an old hardback, battered, with yellowed pages and worn edges. I loved the feeling of it, it looked like a proper library book.
I thought it was a little-known, forgotten and forlorn book, but it turns out it's being made into a movie starring Jessica Alba! A real holy shit! moment.

The Visitor by Maeve Brennan

Recently found in a university archive, The Visitor was written in the mid 1940s but was never published. This miraculous literary discovery deepens the ouevre of Maeve Brennan and confirms her status as one of the best Irish writers of stories since Joyce.

I never read anything by this author, but it looks like I might have missed out on something huge!

The Man with the Dancing Eyes by Sophie Dahl and Anne Morris

I don't know what it is about but an illustrated story for adults will always catch my eye. This looks like a poetic fairytale. Also it's by Roald Dahl's grand-daughter. Something might have rubbed in through the generations?

My Side of the Story by Will Davis

'A coming-of-age tale that combines the coolness of Queer as Folk with the tenderness of Adrian Mole' Elle

This is the second time this book catches my eyes in the library. I'm sure I'll end up reading it soon.

The Kingdom Beyond the Waves by Stephen Hunt

...a hugely engaging, Victorian-style adventure, filled with perilous quests, dastardly deeds and deadly intrigue - perfect for all fans of Philip Pullman and Susanna Clarke .
Professor Amelia Harsh is obsessed with finding the lost civilisation of Camlantis, a legendary city from pre-history that is said to have conquered hunger, war and disease -- tempering the race of man's baser instincts by the creation of the perfect pacifist society.

Why haven't I heard about this book more? It just looks and sounds like it's the epitome of awesomeness!

Just like Tomorrow by Faiza Guene

"a fizzing first-person account of a black teenager's life on a Parisian sink estate" The Glasgow Herald

I think the back says it's the Bridget Jones of the Paris Banlieues. Sold!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz

Oscar Wao is not your average Dominican kid. First of all he's fat. He can't get a girl no matter how hard he tries. He reads a lot, especially fantasy, sci-fi and comics. He uses erudite words when he speaks, such as I'm embarking on a new cycle of my life. We writes. He plays at dungeon and dragons. There's only one word for him. Nerd.
The book, though, it's not just about his life. It's about his parents and grandparents, who lived their lives in a country ruled by the super dictator Trujillo, and who suffered what some people call fukù, a curse. Once you get the fukù, there's no coming back, your life is doomed. So you pretty much know from the start that this is not going to be a happy story.

What I didn't know is that there was so little about Oscar. Or at least not enough. I enjoyed the harsh, colloquial style, I didn't mind the footnotes, because being footnotes they can be ignored when necessary, the Spanish wasn't too hard to guess and for the rest there's the internet, and the fantasy/sci-fi references were ice-cream for the eyes. I flew through the first part thinking this was the best book ever. THEN, it skipped few years and went to talk about his mother, and then his grand-parents, and then his aunt. Only then it goes back to talk about Oscar. There's also a brief chapter told through Oscar's big sister Lola, which I also enjoyed. But I was eager to get to know Oscar more, to be with him a bit more, and there wasn't much time. You know, his life is brief.
So, this is not to say I was bored reading about his family. I 'd actually love to re-read it knowing that the story is a much broader one, but on the first round I was too impatient to get back to the Oscar bits to fully enjoy the rest of the characters stories.

Now, having said that...I was happy to learn more about the Dominican history. I'm one of those who never even heard of Trujillo, nor of the Haitians persecutions. It wasn't easy to read about all the violence, but at least it was realistic and informative.
What I was more uncomfortable with was the role of women in the stories. Not the violence against them, but the way they reacted to it. I get it that that's the way it was back then, and it is still, in some ways. But I would have wished that, at least, some of them would react against it.
Lola's character is a good one, strong-minded and ass-kicking. But she also is guilty of some acts I couldn't defend. So there was definitely a lack of really good female characters.
Still, I finished the book thinking it was awesome, despite of its flaws.
Oscar is the ultimate anti-hero, and is utterly charming. I loved the way he talked, how he put all his energies and passion in everything he did. I wish I could read his books. I can't believe none of the women that crossed his roads managed to see that. Well, except one, maybe.

I could have read about him for ever. . I'm sure we would have been friends:)

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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Pretty Covers

a.k.a. The Books I want to Read Because of How They Look Like.

Some people think it's shallow to choose the books by their covers. Some others, like me, think it's fun, and it leads to some wonderful discoveries, even new favourite writers, if you're lucky. Of course it can bring to huge disappointments, but at least you're left with a pretty book...right?
So here I'd like to share with you the books that are on my wishlist mainly for their attractive exteriors. There's LOTS! Sometimes it can be just a pretty design. Sometimes the title, or the quirky feel. I can't get enough of collecting list of books based on their appearance. And frankly, I think that's what they are supposed to do. Attract you. Otherwise they will all be just plain covers with the name and the author written on them. True, it's not fair for those unfortunate books stuck with horrendous covers that might be awesome, too. But for those I have the internet to rely on, we have recommendations, reviews, word-of-mouth...
That comes after. Also, I believe in the publishers. They know our tastes, what we are attracted to. An ugly cover for me can be an irresistible cover for someone else. An interesting cover for me, can repel some others. I'm not saying it's a rule we should stick to. I'm only saying it's fun! And rewarding some times. So here we go. Let's call this my introduction to the "Cover Attraction" feature hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page every Wednesday.

The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw.
You can't see it but the pages are lined with silver. Oh so pretty.

From Amazon: A mysterious and frightening alchemical metamorphosis has befallen Ida Maclaird - she is slowly turning into glass, from the feet up. She returns to St Hauda's Land, where she believes the glass first took hold, in search of a cure. Midas Crook is a young loner, who has lived on the islands his entire life. When he meets Ida, something about her sad, defiant spirit pierces his emotional defenses. As Midas helps Ida come to terms with her affliction, she gradually unpicks the knots of his heart, and they begin to fall in love...

Falling by Sharon Dogar.
It's also endorsed by Philip Pullman so...

From Amazon:Neesha is haunted by violent visions of the past; of another Southeast Asian girl, far away and forever ago. Just when the echoes in her head threaten to overwhelm her, to rob her of her fragile sanity, rescue comes in the form of Sam--a white boy she's known since childhood.

Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson.

From Amazon: It's 1814 and Hannah Cheshire leads a privileged life in London, with fine clothes, servants and a handsome tutor. Then one day her father disappears and she is left to fend for herself. Not equipped for the real world she ends up penniless, and sentenced to transportation to the colonies for a crime she didn't commit...

Ghosts and Lightning by Trevor Byrne.
Also, It's Irish and it's recommended by Roddy Doyle.

From Amazon: Happy or unhappy, all families are a mystery. None more than the Cullens. Having escaped their clutches and moved across the water, Denny is just beginning to make a life for himself when a call from his sister brings him back to Dublin, city of his birth. Back to square one. As if squabbling siblings and unhelpful childhood friends weren't trouble enough, a ghost starts making appearances in the family home and Denny's life starts to get a lot more complicated.

These are only the latest I've fallen for. The following have been on my list for a while now, but they still look awesome:

aaaand I think that's all, for now!
And what about you? What kind of book covers do you feel attracted to? And do you feel ashamed for choosing them because of that?
As I said, I don't. I've discovered Daniel Pennac, one of my first favourite authors, thanks to one of his covers. Then there's Jenny Valentine, Meg Rosoff, Diane Setterfield...
The disappointments that first come on to my mind are fewer. The History of Tractors in Ukrainian was alright, but not brilliant. The White Tiger was also alright, but not my favourite. I'm still happy I read them, otherwise I'd be still here dying to open the pages of those faboulous cover!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Nerds Heart YA - First Round: My Most Excellent Year VS The Opposite of Invisible

Welcome to the first round of the Nerds Heart YA Book Tournament!
Here I'm going to review, analyze and discuss two YA books:

  • My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
  • The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher

I'll start with My Most Excellent Year as I read it first.
The Summary:
This is the story of three kids: TC Keller, Augie Hwong and Alejandra Perez. When they're assigned to write about their most excellent year, they all agreed it was ninth grade. That was the year TC fell head over heels for Alè. The year Augie slowly realised he was also falling in love, but with a boy. The year Alé moved to a public school for the first time in her life and felt terrified. The year she decided to detest TC wholeheartedly.
Their story is told in alternating perspectives, mainly through diary's entries directed toward their chosen confidants. For TC it's his mother, for Augie is the Diva of the Week, and for Alé is Jacqueline Kennedy. But the book is also filled with instant messaging, e-mails and letters written to each other, or even by their parents and friends.
So what is it about really? A lot of things. Love, first of all. Family, in the broadest sense. Friendship, the kind that last forever. Baseball, especially the Red Sox. Musicals and divas thanks to Augie. Politics thanks to Alé. And Magic, in the form of a little deaf kid who believes in Mary Poppins, and who nobody dares to convince otherwise.

What I liked: The characterisation, first of all, was top class. TC, Augie, Alè, but also Hucky the deaf kid, were all unforgettable. I love the concept of extended family that TC and Augie establish with each other. They both decided when they were 8 that they were brothers, and that was it. Slowly the parents realised it was a serious matter and they just accepted it. So now Augie's parents are Mom and Dad, while TC's father is Pop, for both of them!
The writing was great, too. I giggled all my way through the end.
The romance, oh the romance...Of course I'm talking about Augie and Angie. Maybe I don't read much YA gay romance between boys, but I thought this was the sweetest, most romantic, most adorable, most everything boy-on-boy literary love. The way their family and friends reacted was even cooler. They knew all along Augie was gay and they were wondering how long it would take him to figure it out.
I probably felt closer to him than to any of the other characters because he's so into divas and musical. At his age, I was too. Maybe not that obsessively, but close enough. I used to write my diary to Audrey Hepburn, you know...
But I really did love all the others too. Alé is the main female character and she kicks ass. At first she probably sounds too stuck up and posh, but she redeems herself. She's smart, feminist and stubborn, so you have to love her. TC is just too irresistible. His relationship with the little kid, Hucky, is what won me over indefinitely. He would literally go to the moon and back, just to make Hucky happy. He tries harder than anyone else, and in the end, it pays off.
Finally, I thought the format worked really well. The letters, e-mails and texts made the story sparkle. It wasn't confusing or irritating at all. It actually made the book flow easily and it made me feel even closer to the characters.
It was a positive, happy, funny, romantic, original book that I'd love to reread one day.

What I didn't like:
Very little. I'm not the hugest baseball fun, so most of the references were lost on me. I have to thank all the baseball movies I watched when I was little, because I wasn't completely lost. If I managed to survive it, I think anybody can.
It was also very American. But it's not a flaw, it's just that I am not.
It was a happy book, mainly, but you could say that the way homosexuality was handled in High School was a bit too accepting, to be completely true. I wish it was that easy. Not that I didn't like it, I was delighted. Hopefully, the kids who will read it will take notice and take it as an example.
Last minor thingy: the writing style was amazingly good, but it was a bit too homogeneous. There wasn't much difference in how the kids talked and their parents. I liked it, but again, not too realistic.

Now for The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher.

The Summary:
Alice is a teenager girl, who feels like she is nobody at school. She's not in the popular crowd, and not even in the weird/outcast one. She's just a normal girl. But instead of keeping a journal, she talks to her poster, Le Visage de la Paix by Picasso. She tells her poster that she would like a normal date for the upcoming Halloween dance. She would like someone to hold hands with, kiss, dance, like everyone else.
But she feels too invisible to attract the attention of the boy she really would like to date: Simon.
Her best friend Jewel is the closest person she has. They talk about everything, but she knows she can't tell him about her crush. Because Simon is a football player, he's with the popular crowd, and Jewel despises them.
You know the saying "beware of what you wish for..."? That would apply to Alice exactly. Simon, the boy of her dreams, starts showing her he's interested in knowing her more. And at the same time Jewel starts acting weird around her, hugging her and looking at her differently. Suddenly she is not that invisible anymore, but is this was she really wanted?
This delicately told story, is not just about finding love. It's about understanding where we fit in, what we can do in life. About the satisfying and liberating act of creativity. It's also about the fine line between friendship and something else. And about the meaningless labels that people are given and that never truly describe what the person is really like.

What I liked: The realistic dialogues and situations. They were sometimes awkward and monosyllabic, but real. I liked the role of art, the way Alice finds a piece of world where to express herself, and just be her. The sense of calm and of dreaminess that sometimes the writing evoked.

What I didn't like: The premises and the development of the story. They were real, they belong to the teenage world and I appreciate that. But it didn't give me anything new. I wasn't amazed by it, I'm afraid. The writing was quiet, maybe too much. I wasn't drawn to the story that much, and although it was quite a slim book, it took me few days to finish it.
It just wasn't the style I was in the mood for.

How the two compared to each other: I was hoping for a very touch decision to make, but unfortunately it didn't happen. My Most Excellent Year was full of wonderful characters, a story that grabbed me and swept me off my feet. It was extremely funny and original. Heartwarming and magical. The Opposite of Invisible was sort of underwhelming compared to it. Very quiet, calm like the dove girl poster. Sort of low-key. It didn't have the "wow factor" like Kluger's novel. Maybe it's not fair to compare a first novel with the one of an experience writer. But that's how things were, so I'm declaring, officially...My Most Excellent Year as the winner of this round.
If you're curious and interested about the book you should totally have a look at its website. It's really really cool and it has lots of extracts from the book, so you can judge yourself.
It's called The Augie Hwong's Homepage.
And you should visit Liz Gallagher's page too. There's some pictures of the places mentioned in the book, which is set in Seattle. It definitely helped to visualize the story, so recommended!

This was great fun, I can't wait to read all the other judges' decisions!

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Habemus Winners!

I have the winners of my little contest! I had a pretty hard time picking the first place. There were some really good recommendations there, thank you guys! Now I want to read all of the books mentioned. But I said I was going to pick just one and so a ruthless decision had to be made:

I choose Pam, who recommended Life of Pi. This book has been sitting on Mt tbr for way too long now and she really refreshed in me the enthusiasm that made me buy it.
Thank you again to all the others who took the time to look at my list and urge me to read their favourites. I will, I promise.

Now for the other two. I put all the names in the web hat (which is obviously) and look at what happened:

There were 12 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

  1. thebestvillain
  2. Nymeth
  3. etirv
  4. throuthehaze
  5. marie
  6. amanda
  7. silverhartgirl
  8. lindsey
  9. lexie
  10. dag88888
  11. mj
  12. deedles
Congratulations to Pam, thebestvillain and Nymeth! You all can choose a book and e-mail me. If you really want one from the list I posted...great! If you want more options I'll e-mail you some more:)

Friday, 12 June 2009

Laika - Nick Abadzis

Laika tells a story that I would have normally tried to stay away from. I have a soft heart and a tendency to be easily reduced to tears by the smallest tragedy, let alone unjustified cruelty toward helpless animals. But I have to thank Nymeth once again, for sending it to me, because it was a wonderful read. Of course I cried, and of course it's incredibly sad, but at the end I wanted to hug the book, as if to hug little Krudyavka, another name for Laika, and all the people who loved her and cared for her. And this, I think, is a sign of a book worth reading.

I assume most of you would be familiar with Laika's story, as it's one that tends to stick into people's mind and heart.
In 1957, when the USA and the USSR where competing against each other to show the world who was the most powerful and efficient, a soviet dog was chosen to be the first living creature to be sent into space. The dog died shortly after the launch due to a malfunction in the thermal control system.
This graphic novel blends facts and fiction to tell her story, from her troubled puppyhood to her stray life, till the time when she was brought to the Institute for Aviation and Space Medicine, where she started her training along with a group of other stray dogs.

I appreciated this book on different levels. Although I knew about Laika, I didn't know that much. I wasn't aware of the fact that her death wasn't just an accident. That whatever happened, Laika was destined to die all along. I didn't know about the training, which sounded more like torture. And more importantly, I didn't know that the building of the Sputnik 2 was a rush job, just to exploit the momentum created by the success of Sputnik 1. Which means that probably, if the team had had more time, they could have built a better spacecraft able to keep the dog safe and bring her home. But what is the life of a little dog worth, when there's the image of a nation at stake? Obviously not much.

Possibly the thing I liked most about the book was the way it showed Laika, or Kudryavka, before her recruitment as a space dog. This is the made up part, which could have happened, or could have not, and it's essential in getting the reader to care for the puppy, to see what she has been through even before becoming a national hero. It also explains why she was the chosen one. Her need to be accepted and loved, after being rejected too many times. It's heart-wrenching, I know, but so are all the best stories.

I also liked that the scientists weren't all depicted as just mindless technicians doing what they're told. Some of them have doubts, and a conscience. Especially Yelena, the assistant to the dogs training. She establishes a special relationship with Laika, and in the end, is the one who's hit the most by the outcome.

One last observation must go to the art, as this is a comic book. At first glance I wouldn't have thought it to be great. Abadzis doesn't have the smoothest lines or style,but the story works really well together with the pictures. Laika is especially charming, and some of the panels are truly touching.
I'm really happy I read it.

other views:
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Biblio File
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Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Poison Throne - Celine Kiernan

Set in a fantastical medieval Europe, The Poison Throne tells the story of Wynter, a 15-year-old qualified apprentice who, at the beginning of the book, has just returned with her sick father, the Lord Protector Lorcan, to the court of King Jonathon, after years spent in the Northlands training. She remembers the court as a joyful place, where she grew up playing with the king's two sons, Alberon and Razi,whom she considers her brothers. But now everything has changed. The once civilised, illuminated realm is oppressed by the King's brutal inquisition. Cats, once revered and cared for, are being persecuted, accused of spreading malicious rumors throughout the court and no one speaks to them anymore. Ghosts have been declared officially non-existing.
And gibbets have been reintroduced.
The happy times Wynter hoped to come back to have been replaced by fear and conspiracies, suspicions and tortures. But why? What has led king Jonathon to change his ways so dramatically?
Wynter is desperate to find answers. Especially because the lives of her beloved brothers might be in danger. Alberon, the legitimate son, is missing, while Razi, the bastard son, is being forced to take his place as the heir to the throne.

This story is not your usual fantasy adventure for teenagers. And maybe that's why it took me a little longer to get into it. It's a story about intrigue at court, yes, but at its core it's a story about relationships, about the strong bond that can exist between friends, family or lovers. It's real, and it's intense, but in a world ruled by protocol and politics, personal affections can become obstacles, or even powerful tools, depending who is using them.
In this first chapter of the Moorhawke trilogy, nothing is revealed easily. The reality of what is happening is uncovered little by little, and it gets increasingly engrossing by the page.

At first I wasn't particularly drawn to the main character, Wynter. I didn't like how she judged Razi's friend Christopher, so quickly and superficially, as soon as she met him. But as the story unravels, and we get to know her more, she gains more credit for being a strong, confident young woman, who's mature for her age, skilled in the art of etiquette and court's discipline, and filled with deep love for her father and her friends.
Christopher is another very interesting character, whom I'd love to read more about. He has a mysterious past, which we can only guess is not the happiest, and is incredibly loyal to his friend Razi.
There's not much more I can say about the characters and the story without ruining it. But I can talk about the writing, which was rich, elegant and detailed, despite the use of some strong language and some mild swearing. It was very honest and physical too, creating some very intimate moments, which I didn't expect. It was also visually violent, sometimes, so beware younger readers.
As I said, it was the first chapter of a trilogy, so there is no real conclusions. It has only started.
Which is why I'm so thrilled to have the ARC of the second chapter, The Crowded Shadows already in my possession!
I'm looking forward to seeing what is expecting our heroes, as the scene moves from the claustrophobic walls of the castle to the dangers of the outside world. Exciting!

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Saturday, 6 June 2009

2 years of blogging! and traditional giveaway!

And another year has gone by!
To be honest, I didn't feel like blogging at all today. It's been such a gloomy and rainy day. I've been shuffling around the house unable to do anything else apart from being miserable about the weather. Also, I tried to draw a pretty picture to represent my second blogiversary, but it was rubbish. I spent at least 3 hours trying to make it better with photoshop, but I forgot I can't use photoshop to save my life, so I ended up being extremely frustrated . My second, much less ambitious attempt will have to do. But enough with the moping, I should be celebrating here.
Whoohoo! 2 years of blogging!! Awesome!! I can't believe I'm almost a veteran.
Now, I DO want to keep the tradition alive by giving away books, BUT, since I'm much poorer (financially) than last year, I can't, unfortunately, offer to buy books as a prize.
I still want to give away something, so this year it's gotta be proofs! Yes, those I have aplenty:)
There's something for every taste: YA, chick lit, thriller, name it.
If necessary I will e-mail the full list to the winners. Which are going to be 3. Like last year. I like traditions. You can start choosing from this list:

Chains by Laurie H. Anderson (YA historical)
The Bohemian girl by Kenneth Cameron (thriller/mystery)
The Information Officer by Mark Mills (thriller/mystery)
Broken Glass by Sally Grindley (kids/YA)
Inside the whale by Jennie Rooney (General Fiction)
Winter song by Jean-Claude Mourlevat (YA adventure)
Waterslain Angels by
Kevin Crossley-Holland (YA thriller)
How Kirsty Jenkins stole the elephant by Elen Caldecott (kids)
Blue Flame by K.M. Grant (YA fantasy)
The Twin by
Gerbrand Bakker and David Colmer (General Fiction)
The Mother's Tale by Camilla Noli (General Fiction)
The Household Guide to Dying by
Debra Adelaide (General Fiction)
Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks (YA)
Shire Hell by Rachel Johnson (General Fiction)
Counting the Stars by Helen Dunmore (historical fiction)
Tethered by Amy McKinnon (crime/mystery)
All we ever wanted was everything by Janelle Brown (General Fiction)
Real World by Natsuo Kirino (general fiction...crime?)
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by
Tanya Lee Stone (YA chick lit)
The Undrowned Child by
Michelle Lovric (YA fantasy)
Beautiful Dead by Eden Maguire (YA zombies)
Sunbathing Naked and other miracles cures by
Guy Kennaway (Memoir)
The book of Fires by
Jane Borodale (Historical Fiction)
The Madonna of the Almonds by
Marina Fiorato (Historical Fiction)
The Lady in the Tower by Marie-Louise Jensen (YA historical)
The War of the Witches by (YA fantasy)
The Gypsy Crown by
Kate Forsyth (kids - historical)
The Atlas of Impossible Longing by
Anuradha Roy (historical Indian fiction)
Carved in Bone by
Jefferson Bass (crime/thriller)

So, what you gotta do to win one of these alluring ARCs?
You need to look at another list of books! Mine:)
To be specific, you need to browse the TBR Mountain and tell me which books I should totally move to my nightstand. You can choose a max of 3, a min of 1. And you should REALLY make me want to read it. Like, really. Some of them have been there for years, so it would take a big push to convince me they are the business. OK, I bought them/took them home at some point. But you know the attraction of new shinier books all too well! Instead of typing here the whole bleedin' list, I'll give you the link to my tbr tag on library thing which is --->here<---.(ETA: Sorry, I put the wrong link, I hope it works now!)
Oh and please avoid to praise:
- Firmin
- Middlesex
- The elegance of the hedgehog
- The time traveler's wife
- The Hunger Games
- The Goose Girl
- Neverwhere
- What I saw and how I lied
- Tapping the Dream Tree
- Shadow of the Wind

Because they're already in the priority queue.
Ah! You thought this was gonna be easy :P
To make things more interesting, I'll give away three books: First prize to the person who will write the most irresistible praise for the book chosen. Second and third will be drawn randomly.
Also if you help spread the word about the giveaway, I'll throw in your name twice.
Deadline: Next Saturday, June 13th
Ah, yes, the competition is open worldwide.