Friday, 14 August 2009

Catching Up Part I

I think it's time I face my fears and start blogging again!:P
I have stayed away, kinda overwhelmed by the amount of reviews I have to write. So what I'm gonna do is skip the detailed ramblings and cut to the essential. I want to say something about everything I read lately, but it's gonna be short! Hopefully.
During holidays I was on fire! I read non-stop, it was brilliant.
But before getting to the holiday read I have to catch up on some even older reads:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
It was good, but not great. Didn't like the writing much, maybe it has to do with the Italian translation. It felt a bit redundant, melodramatic, and old fashion. I liked the story, just not the way it was told. Also the fact the twists were told instead of shown took away from the wow factor. I foresaw one of the main ones, it wasn't too hard. It was entertaining, though, and I get why many people loved it. The premises were good, the pages were easy to turn. It just probably didn't feel very close to the narrator. It also rambled about secondary plots that weren't useful for the main one and were a bit confusing. There was definitely a lack of good female characters, which is usually a big factor for me for liking or not liking a book.
For the good bits: Fermin. I loved him! I liked the ending. I liked how the two lives of Daniel and Julian paralleled. I liked the role of books. And the faith of Hugo's pen...
But, what's with the angels? So many of them. Obviously he likes angels very much.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was a pleasant, amusing mix of domestic storytelling and philosophy. I'm not a big fan of philosophy, but I am of good writing.
I loved Renee, the concierge of an exclusive Paris apartment building and Palome, the 12 year-old girl who lives in it. They were very similar as they both hid from the world, pretending to be someone they're not. They're both exceptional in their own way.
The essence of the book could be about the importance of little things, of the little miracles, the "small always in the never". Like the blossom that falls off its plant; the feeling of the rain on your shoulders; the music that stops everything in a bubble of eternity.
Some of the philosophical stuff was useless talk to me (is a table really a table or the idea of a table?). It bored the hell of out me, but if you don't linger too much on those parts, it's definitely worth a read.

Missing Angel Juan by Francesca Lia Block.
My honeymoon with FLB's writing is still on. More of Witch Baby, all by herself in the huge New York. Who could ask for more? Still magical, still ethereal, still urban fairytale. I want to write like her!

Tapping the Dream Tree by Charles de Lint.
I finished it!!! Wow!
I shouldn't even be talking about it cause I've raved enough about it, but the thing is that the last story was actually a short novel and it was BRILLIANT!
It's called Seven Wild Sisters and if you can find it anywhere on its own BUY IT! Here's the cover for it.
Reading it put a happy feeling in me. It really made me feel good about being alive and being able to read stories like this one. It wasn't extraordinary. It was simple, in a comforting way. Like eating fresh bread with butter and honey, or any of your favourite food, on a summer day, lying on the grass. There are fairies, there is danger too. But you know there will be a happy ending.
So so so recommended.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
OK, how do I do this? It's Neil Gaiman, so it's hard, but I have to be honest. I didn't fall in love with this one. I enjoyed the characters (Door!). I loved the idea, the humour, the wild imagination. But I didn't connect with the story that much. I was a bit like Richard, never knowing what the hell was going on and why people were doing what they were doing. It all came together in the end, and I wish there were more books set in London Below, but for the most part I was like "so...why are they doing this now?" It's still Neil Gaiman so it was pretty good, just not super good.

And that's the end of my efforts to catch up! More to come, soon (maybe).


Nymeth said...

I borrowed my mother's copy of The Shadow of the Wind recently, and after reading just the first page I was very disappointed with the writing - especially because I'd heard so much about how good it was. Like you, I found it overdone and redundant, and I started wondering if maybe the Portuguese translator had messed up badly, and whether I should read an English translation instead.

So what I did was use Amazon's "look inside" feature to compare the original Spanish, the English, and my mother's Portuguese copy. The Portuguese translation follows the original VERY closely - probably too closely, which leads to some odd constructions. While the English translation does a GREAT job of tightening the writing and removing redundancies. Half a paragraph was omitted at one point, for example, and good riddance to it because it was completely unnecessary. So yeah, I guess the Enflish translator did what a good editor should have done and greatly improved it :P

I'm saying this because I saw on librarything that you read the Italian translation - maybe, because it's a Latinate language too, the translation also remains too close to the original? Which in this case really is a shame :P

I have the complete Wetzie Bat books waiting to be read in September. I'm so looking forward to them :D And sorry you didn't like Neverwhere too much!

valentina said...

I too read a paragraph in English and found it better than the Italian translation. That would explain why is so big in English speaking countries. But it was also a number one bestseller in Italy, my parents loved it, and didn't think there was nothing wrong with it. So maybe I've become too accustomed to the English language.
It's probably a romance languague problem, but it only proves that the original is bad too:P

I hope you like the Weeztie Bat books!!

Nymeth said...

You know, I often worry about that. Getting too used to English, I mean. English novels seem to use language more sparingly (though there are exceptions, of course), while romance languages tend to be more wordy. It's not a bad thing necessarily, and I don't want to get so unused to it that I begin to find it strange. So yeah, I need to read more novels in Portuguese :P This book was a big hit too, so I assume most people didn't mind the writing.

Amanda said...

So - wait - what language did you read that first book in? I'm reading through the back and forth comments and can't tell if you read it in Italian or English or maybe something else entirely and I'm just missing.

I really want to read the hedgehog book.

valentina said...

Nymeth, I do read in Italian every now and then, and usually find it pleasant. But it was probably the spanish that was overdone in the first place and the translator sticked with it.

Amanda, I read it in Italian (I just edited the post cause it wasn't clear, sorry!)
yes, you should read the hedgehog book! you know there's a movie coming out?

Amanda said...

Ah, that makes more sense now. :)

Melody said...

I love your mini reviews! ;)
You've me intrigued with that Charles de Lint's book so I'll make sure to look out for it!

Trish said...

I'm glad you and Nymeth had your translation conversation because I just recieved this one as a gift and I've been looking forward to it. I was a little disheartened when I saw that you felt the writing wasn't very good, but I have hope. It makes you wonder where all the good editors are--I've read a few books lately where I felt the writer has so much potential but could have used a better editor. Too bad.

mariel said...

The Shadow of the Wind is on my list to read this year, and I'm intrigued about the writing now since I will be reading an English translation!

I confess to not having finished Neverwhere. It is the only Gaiman novel that I really did not enjoy, and I still have not tried starting the novel again. I found the story confusing, random and a litle pointless in places, I just couldnt bring myself to care about any of the characters!

Carl V. said...

I'm planning on reading Shadow of the Wind for the R.I.P. challenge this year...of course planning doesn't always lead to reality, but hopefully. I've heard many good things and now am intrigued by it.

I must confess that Neverwhere is still my favorite Neil Gaiman novel. I absolutely love the stories, love the characters, everything about it. While I think American Gods and The Graveyard Book are more technically advanced in his writing ability, I still have such a fondness for this novel and it is a frequent reread. The wonderful things about books though is that what one person is passionate about, someone else can just hate and its all good. Makes for a world with varying and fun tastes.

Kelly said...

Don't apologize for mini-reviews...I love them! Easier to write for you, easier for me to read more of. :)

I've only read Weetzie Bat, but I really need to read more by Lia Block...

Memory said...

I felt the same way about THE SHADOW OF THE WIND. I liked it well enough, but it just didn't wow me as it did everyone else. I did love Fermin, though. I think Zafon's supporting characters are his true strength as a writer.

And horray for Francesca Lia Block love! I've read most of her stuff at least twice. I love her to bits.