Wednesday, 26 December 2007

A Gathering Light - Jennifer Donnelly

(British title for "A Northern Light")

This one must be one the most gripping book I’ve read this year. If you’re looking for something extremely hard to put down at night (or on the bus/train/at work/while cooking…) read this. I’m not sure what made it so interesting, because when I talk about it at customers in the shop they never seem impressed. In fairness it didn’t appeal to me either at first (before I started reading it), but it is a Carnegie Medal winner and I knew it had to be good. Its charm relies on the simple, or better, the old fashion style of the narration. It doesn’t try to allure you with skilful or fancy techniques, but the story and the characters are interesting enough to get you hooked in few pages. That, and the fact that it deals with a smart and determined girl’s passion for books, reading and writing. During the sexist and conservative America of the 1900’s. I believe this could have been enough to make me love it. But the book had much more to offer.

Set at the beginning of the 21st century in North America, it’s told by the 16 year old protagonist Matt, on two time levels: the present - July, 1906 - when Matt is working at a hotel, at the time of Grace Brown’s death, who drowned mysteriously in the nearby Big Moose Lake. And the very recent past, when Matt is living in a farm with her father and her sisters, while trying to find a way to escape her life and become a writer in the Big City. Therefore, the true story of Grace Brown’s murder is intertwined with Matt’s fictional one in an unlikely but completely absorbing way. On one hand we get to know Matt closely, and we learn to love her. An aspiring writer, with lots of talent, but no support from her family, who need her more in the farm than in school. We get to live in a farm and understand how hard it was to make a living out of it, while trying to feed the children, keep the house clean and your father happy, without a mother to take care of it all. We meet the minor characters who are almost as interesting as Matt’s herself, especially her teacher, who is so important for her self-esteem and for feeding her dreams of freedom and independency.
At the same time we get to know another girl, Grace Brown, through the letters that she gave Matt before dying, and we slowly begin to understand the chilling truth that lies behind her death. Although I didn’t know anything about the case of Grace Brown before reading the book, I knew it was about a murder. But finding out why and how she was killed is not the key point. While reading her letters, Matt establishes a connection with the girl, she suffers for her, hopes for her, feels pity for her. Until she realises something very important that helps to change her life completely.
Like many young adult novels, this one is about finding out one’s real self and realising one’s dreams. But its deep yet simple story is so enthralling, it makes it unique. A book to treasure, and to recommend to anyone, always.
Once again, with the “Something about me Challenge”, I found a beautiful book that will remain a favourite for many years. Thanks to Diane for choosing it, great choice!

other blog reviews:
Megan at Leafing through life
A Hoyden's Look at Literature
Book Muncher

Friday, 7 December 2007

I got my present!

...last night! That was just the best way to end a great day. I was off so it was already a good day. But also:
- I had a most-needed haircut.
- I bought myself a pair of 70's style FUN-TA-STIC rollerskates, yellow and blue that I can't wait to try on a sunny day (when??)
- I went to see "The Golden Compass". Did I like it? Yes and No. I felt it was a bit rushed, but some parts well really well done, so I need to watch it again. I liked the deamons, Nicole, Lyra, and Iorek. But some of the characters weren't fully developed. I'm not sure it will be a big hit, but I hope so, cause I want to see the other two!!

and then I came home and found a parcel for me! It was a great surprise, because it came very early and I wasn't waiting for it.
My Secret Santa was.....Ana/Nymeth! And she got me the perfect present: a copy of "I was a Rat!" by Philip Pullman. Also included was a lovely card, a minty candy stick and a chocolate Santa (which didn't last long I must say:P).
Again I need to say how happy I am to be part of this, it's such a great idea.
And thanks to Ana for organising it. I feel very lucky to have had her as my Secret Santa. Unfortunately I can't show you any pictures due to the lack of digital cameras...
I've sent my present to my "santee" today. I know it's very late, but I hope it will arrive safely and not too late anyway.
Happy Christmas to everyone, I'm so in the mood this year!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The Advent Calendar Blog Tour : the toys, the movies, the memories...

Welcome to the Advent Blog Tour 2007 day 4!

Ok,today is revival day. Since Christmas is all about children and childhood I'd like to focus on that, namely *my* childhood and christmas memories. Having divorced parents since the age of 5 has meant for me spending Christmas day in various places. In my father's house, my mum's, my uncles, my grandparents... So I don't really have a tradition that has been going on for years. It has always been different.
But something was always there:
1) the toys!
Man,I loved toys, and since some of them are now kind of forgotten I'd like to pay a tribute to some of my favourites, the wonderful toys of the 80's!
Rainbow Brite

I don't remember getting her for Christmas, but since I got one once and lost it straight away, it has always been very coveted ever since.


She was He-Man's cousin, or something. I was so happy when I got her castle for Christmas, she was very cool.


I'm a girl so unfortunately I never got these for Christmas,but luckily I had cousins and half-brothers who were happy to let me play with theirs! Sometimes boys toys were much much better...


You could never have enough legos...

This list could go on and on. But if you click here you'll find tons and tons of 80's toys to freshen up your memory. I'm afraid I'm gonna spend hours looking at all of them now..

The second main features of Christmas were...
3)The movies!

I'm talking about the films on tv, not at the cinema. Those films that are always on every year, and that we all look forward to watch even if we know them by heart!
I've come up with my lists of favourites:

The Neverending Story

Probably my favourite kids film ever, I watch it every year around Christmas and still gives me the shivers. Now I have the dvd, but as a child, I was always hoping to find it on tv.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory

Obviously I'm choosing the 1971's version, because that's what I used to watch,but also because I think it's way better!

Mary Poppins

Christmas holidays wouldn't be complete without my favourite nanny on tv.

This also could go on forever, but I'd like to mention some more that give me an instant Christmasy feeling:
The Wizard of Oz (wonderful Judy Garland)
The Sword in the Stone (it's always on on Christmas Eve or day, dunno why, but I love it)
Willow (80's fantasy, not very famous, but still christmasy for me)
E.T. (the cutest alien!!!!)
Herbie (and all the rest of the Disney family movies, cheesy but unmissable)
The sound of music (of course!)
Who framed Roger Rabbit (it's linked to Christmas to me because when it came out in the cinema I was on Christmas holiday but I couldn't go to see it cause I was really sick. My cousins brought me sweets after they went to see it, to compensate)
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (such a classic).

I'll leave you with my favourite Christmas memory. I must had been 7 or 8. I was playing with Fragolino and Fragolina (Mr and Mrs Strawberry: I couldn't find them in the list,I'm pretty sure it wasn't Strawberry Shortcake. They were tiny, and had a strawberry as a hat, and a strawberry van) in my granny's house in Sicily. Now, my granny was really religious and she would always set up a nativity near the Christmas tree. She had this tiny figures who represented the Holy Mary, and The Baby Jeesus, the Magi etc... Only the Baby Jesus was horrible looking. Really. He had a serious angry face which I didn't like at all! So I thought of replacing the baby Jesus with my Fragolino,who was much cuter:) I didn't think anybody would mind...but my granny went wild!!! As soon as she saw it she screamed at me "what have you done? What's this? where did you put the baby jesus? heresy!".
I was mortified, but my dad only laughed and thought I had a great idea :D

Now, keep opening this little windows of memory by visiting each day of the Advent Blog Tour!:
5 December - Melissa (Book Nut)
6 December - Laura (Musings)
7 December - Wendy (Caribousmom)
8 December - Nymeth (Things Mean A Lot)
9 December - Raidergirl (an adventure in reading), Chris (Stuff as dreams are made on)
10 December - Dewey (The Hidden Side of a Leaf)
11 December -Suey (It's All About Books)
12 December - Chris (Book-a-rama)
13 December - Jill (The Well-Read Child)
14 December - Robin (A Fondness for Reading)
15 December - Alyssa (By The Book)
16 December - Rachel (A Fair substitute for heaven)
17 December - Literary Feline (Musings of a Bookish Kitty)
18 December - Dev (Good Reads)
19 December - Callista S.M.S. (Book Reviews)
20 December - Tiny Little Librarian (Tiny Little Librarian)
21 December - Carla (Carla Nayland Historical Fiction)
22 December - Carolyn Jean (The Trillionth Page)
23 December - Booklogged (A Reader's Journal)
24 December - Kailana (The Written World) / Carl V. (Stainless Steel Droppings)

Sunday, 2 December 2007

The Golden Compass controversy

Read this article!

It hasn't been released yet, but "The Golden Compass" and its author Philip Pullman have already been accused of atheistic propaganda, vicious hidden messages aimed at children before Christmas,of secretly campaigning to overthrow the power of the Christian Church...
I knew this was going to happen. It's a big American production and you can't do or say anything against the Church there without being eaten alive (metaphorically of course), especially if children are involved. But when I read this article I HAD to say something in my own little blog. BECAUSE THIS PEOPLE HAVEN'T EVEN READ THE BOOKS! It makes me so angry that they can stir such a commotion, promote a a boycott, tell so so many people not to judge with their own minds, when they don't even know what they're talking about. This subject really touches me, because since I read it, His Dark Materials trilogy became one of my absolutely favourites. So I know that (and don't read on if you don't want to spoil the plot...) it's untrue what they say about God being killed by a child. In The Amber Spyglass God is dying because of his own frailty. the children don't have anything to do with it. They notice an old man on a litter passing by and they even feel pity for him but they can't do anything. They have their own mission to accomplish.

There is a message in the book,of course there is. And it's a message of love, and tolerance, and friendship. For century the Church, in all its forms, have been the denial of all this. I'm speaking about the Church with a capital C, which involves power and repression. If the books are anti-religious is because religion is always been accompanied by this. But it's in no way immoral, or even anti-spiritual. Think about what Dust is: a self-aware flow of energy that keeps the universe together and speaks to us of only we know how to listen. I love this idea, it's always been my idea of how the universe works, with or without a God, and Pullman managed to use it so beautifully in the best form: storytelling.
Unfortunately, in our world, people don't want to be challenged. Who has power wants to hold on to that power. But it's sad that they feel that they can be threatened by a film, or a book.

I hope the Golden Compass will be a success despite of or thanks to all this (and I'm REALLY looking forward to its release this week!!!).
But it is disappointing that in order to reach Hollywood books still have to go through this kind of censoring sieve.