Summer break

Summer holidaysSource

I’ve been busy lately and, even though I’m reading a lot, I can’t find time – or inclination, for that matter – to sit down and write reviews, so I think the perfect time for a break has come.

I’ll spend the holidays in my village, in the mountains, but you might also find me at the beach for some days. I have some work and study to do, but there is always time to relax.

My literary plans are focused on chunksters, which are my favorite reads for summer because I read for long hours outside. I also like to take long walks on summer mornings, perfect for listening to audiobooks – it’s time to reread (or re-listen in this case) a couple of sagas!

Hope you have a great summer!

I’ll be back on September 8.

The buttefly and the violin, by Kristy Cambron

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the butterfly and the violin kristy cambron

Had I known this book was labeled as “Christian fiction” I think I wouldn’t have requested it, and it was my entire fault since the synopsis mentions God at least three times, but I didn’t realize until it was too late. At least now I can say that I have tried Christian books, right?

The butterfly and the violin contents two stories in two different times. During the Second World War, in Vienna, Adele Von Bron, a promising violinist, falls in love with a member of the Vienna Philharmonic, for which they both play. Vladimir is a nice man, but Adele’s parents are looking for an upper class husband for their child, and Vladimir doesn’t belong to that specific group. They live their love in secret and not only that, but even though Adele’s father is a Nazi officer, she helps Vladimir to get some Jews out of Vienna… until she is uncovered.

Today, Sera James looks for the original painting of a girl in Auschwitz playing the violin; she has been obsessed with that painting since she first saw it long years ago, and now she discovers that it may belong to a man who has just died, so she decides to go and talk with his heirs. She meets Will Hanover, a handsome man who actually doesn’t have the painting but also has his own reasons to get it, so they investigate together.

Both stories are linked through that painting.

The part set in the past is the one I liked most. Adele is a sensible young girl who just wants to help other people, and her love story with Vladimir is really beautiful. In Auschwitz she is forced to play the violin with other girls while the Nazis bring people to the camp and do their first selection, taking the people who can’t work to the gas chambers; but even in that situation she can consider herself luckier than the other prisoners. The “Christian” issue here is that she plays for God, which I found perfectly natural, taking into account that the poor girl needs to blow her mind somehow in a situation like that.

auschwitz

Sera’s part is like a romance novel, but it wasn’t very good, in my opinion. To summarize, she is devastated because her husband-to-be cancelled their wedding so she hasn’t dated other men for years, but she falls in love with Will Hanover who, by the way, is rich, and she is not sure about opening her heart and all that. He, meanwhile, confesses his deepest secret ever – which might be considered SPOILERS, you are warned – taking the plot to a momentous scene when he puts a bible on Sera’s table and says his dream was to be a minister since he was young, but his family didn’t let him because his fate was to be the head of the family business – business of millions of dollars, I mean, what a terrible fate! – and her heart instantly pounds harder full of love for him, while I was laughing out loud. I’m sorry, but that was too much Christianity for me.

So, did I like the book? Fifty-fifty. I loved Adele’s part, and it talks about a subject I didn’t know anything about: the art created in Auschwitz by the prisoners, which I found fascinating. But the plot set in the present is boring, trying to fit God everywhere, except for the end, when they discover the painting and the story behind it.

rakin3The buttefly and the violin
Kristy Cambron
Published by Thomas Nelson
329 pages.

The postman, by Antonio Skármeta

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the postman antonio skármetaDo you know what happens when you fall in love? It’s simple: you become a poet! :mrgreen: You feel the rhymes running through your veins because love makes you see the beauty everywhere!

The postman is the story of a young boy, Mario, who gets a job as a postman, in charge of taking Pablo Neruda’s mail, so there he goes every day to the poet’s house. At first Neruda doesn’t pay much attention to the boy, but little by little they become friends. When Mario falls in love with Beatriz, the innkeeper’s daughter, he asks Neruda for help because he wants to write the most beautiful poems to Beatriz.

Beatriz’s mother doesn’t want to know anything about Mario courting her daughter, but the girl is absolutely in love with him. “What in the name of God does he tell you, Beatriz?” her mother asks, and the girl replies, “Metaphors!” :D

The story is set in Chile at the beginning of the 1970s, when Salvador Allende became president of the republic; a time I don’t know much about, I confess. This political background is important to the story because Neruda is sent abroad as an ambassador, but his friends in Chile are always in touch with him. After all, they are together thanks to Neruda’s poetry.

This is a short story with a little bit of every emotion: the reader finds love between Mario and Beatriz, humor when Beatriz’s mother gets to know Mario’s intention of marrying her daughter; friendship when Neruda finally agrees to help Mario, and sadness due to the political events explained in the book.

I think this is the first book I have read in which a real author – Pablo Neruda – is one of the main characters in the story, and I liked how at first he was distant and serious but then he makes friends with our illiterate characters of the village.

Even though I enjoyed the book, there were also some parts I really didn’t connect with, and that’s a common feeling I have with some Latin American authors because when they talk about love, I find that the language and the scenes between the characters are too excessive for my taste, but it is a personal opinion.

Do you read poetry? Does it talk to your heart?

rakin3The postman
Antonio Skármeta
W. W. Norton & Company, 2008
112 pages

Apocalypse next Tuesday, by David Safier

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apocalypse next tuesday david safierI suppose you have some knowledge of the Scripture, regarding the part in which it is said that there will be an End when every one of us will have to prove our faith in the Final Judgment and so on. Well guys, now you must know that this insignificant part of the Bible is scheduled for next Tuesday! :D

Apocalypse next Tuesday intruduces us to Jesus Christ, who has come back to Earth again. As you should already know, there will be a Final Battle between good and evil (Jesus is obviously on the good side) in Jerusalem at the end of times, and the Messiah is currently in Germany trying to get to know the people of our time better, to check their faith and see if we keep the Ten Commandments, as God requires. Summarizing, the typical things Jesus would do.

Satan is also on Earth – under George Clooney’s appearance – in order to recruit his four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and began the battle. Even Archangel Gabriel is here, but the problem is that he is in depth study of the mysteries of tantric sex and it is not much interested in going back to Heaven right now.

Our main character in the book is Marie, a woman in her thirties who has just broken up with her boyfriend (he doesn’t find her weight appropriate) only to go back to live in her father’s house and feel sorry for herself. She meets Jesus (Joshua in his original name) when he is required as a carpenter to fix the roof in Marie’s bedroom, and well, let’s say her first impression is that he has a good ass. He is also very gentle and polite, of course; don’t you think she is that superficial!

Marie gets a date with the Son of God and, when she finally finds out who he really is, she tries desperately to make him see that people nowadays are nice, since the perspective of watching her nearest and dearest burning forever in Hell is not appealing, don’t you think?

This is the second book I read from this German author, David Safier, and I absolutely recommend it to you if you want to read something funny. I found myself laughing out loud at every page of his books because all the characters’ adventures are hilarious. Safier’s kind of humor is perfect to cheer people up; it’s fresh and amusing, and I promise his books will make you live longer since laughing increases your lifespan, or so it is said.

Do you need more reasons to read this author?

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Apocalypse next Tuesday
David Safier
Published by Hesperus
269 pages

The quick, by Lauren Owen

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the quick lauren owen

This is the book everybody is talking about lately for two reasons: it is a new release, published last week, and it has a twist, which is shocking and the reason why a lot of people didn’t like it.

At the beginning, we meet a pair of siblings, James and Charlotte, when they are little. Their father dies young and the children now have to live with a relative, but they won’t stay long together because James is sent to a boarding school, so little by little they lose the special relationship they had. When James finishes school, he decides to go to London and try to become a writer, which was his only dream; he is helped by his soon-to-be best friend, Christopher Paige, and just before the two boys are going on vacation, they disappear.

Charlotte, utterly worried about James, who doesn’t respond to her telegrams, decides to go to London – she has never travelled away from the village she lives in York – and try to find out what has happened to James. The atmosphere of Victorian London and the danger Charlotte is about to face will give you the chills.

The quick is difficult to review without giving away THE TWIST, which happens at the beginning. There are a couple of clues about it before it finally comes, but seriously, if you aren’t expecting it, you don’t notice anything. The problem here is that the story changes completely its genre: the plot is going around James’ romantic relationship and you aren’t ready for what comes next. I had my OMG moment, mixed with Oh no! Not this, please, and then I just kept on reading and I enjoyed the rest of the story as well.

The author brings up a lot of remarkable secondary characters who help Charlotte. For example, there is a girl whose fiancé also disappears and she finally falls in love with his father, who was also trying to come over the grief after losing his son. Or the scientist who is doing a remarkable job, but the people he is working to don’t appreciate it and laugh at him because he is not like them. And, what about a book shop that comes to you when they think the time is right, instead of you ordering the books you want? All those characters have their own background and I liked to know about them.

Regarding Charlotte, she becomes the main character in the last part of the book and I was glad to know she still was the strong and resolute girl I knew when she was a child.

There are also different narrative structures in the book: we have the story narrated from several characters’ points of view, and there are also excerpts from diaries which help you to understand what’s going on.

I didn’t like a couple of things about the development of certain parts of the story, but on the whole, I think it is a good read. The twist is so unpredictable and surprising that, even though you might think it is not your cup of tea, it makes the rest of the story more appealing, if only to know how all that will end up.

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I received this copy from Netgalley

Book on Goodreads

The quick
Lauren Owen
544 pages
Random House

The fault in our stars, by John Green

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the fault in our starsI received this book thanks to the Spanish publishing house without requesting it, so it was a nice surprise, but I wasn’t really looking forward to reading it. Then I saw the news about the film everywhere and I got more interested – I read it in two days!

The fault in our stars talks about a girl who meets a boy… but there is a problem – she is ill with cancer. Her name is Hazel and, for the moment, she is responding well to a new treatment and she has to take an oxygen tank everywhere with her because she needs it constantly. Despite these issues, her life is more or less normal, only that when you have cancer your life is not “normal”.

She meets Augustus, a boy who had cancer but now he seems to be healthy again, and they began a peculiar relationship since both now how fragile life is. Hazel tells him about her favourite book and its startling end, and how she has written to the author requesting further information about the characters, which he has never replied, so Hazel and Augustus plan to travel to Amsterdam, where the author lives, in order to ask him directly. Will two teenagers cross the ocean to make Hazel’s dream come true?

This is a beautiful story, which has its twits and its hard moments. The couple are uncommon because they are both aware of Hazel’s limitations – she is still ill although the cancer is not spreading with that treatment. They are plausible characters, I think, with their teenage eccentricities, but not daring to dream too high, just in case they don’t have the chance. I missed more interaction with other people of their age, especially in Hazel’s case, since she goes to college but the book only mentions an old friend from school who she goes shopping from time to time with, and I wondered; doesn’t she have any other friend? Is an illness a barrier for her or for the other people to make friends? That was a little sad.

On the other hand, I couldn’t stop thinking that this is more or less like any other young adult story, just with the particularity that the characters have cancer. I mean, the story is tender, the narrative style is direct and fast, it has surprises… but in the end it is similar to other YA novels if you think about it, and I was left with the feeling that The fault in our stars is far from being the “book of the year”, which was what I was told.

 rakin4The fault in our stars
John Green
Dutton Books, 2012
313 pages

May in books, a monthly overview

May in booksHere you can see, once again, the books I finished last month.

I should have posted here all the text books about Law I have studied this month (Roman law, constitutional law, civil law, etc.), but somehow I thought you wouldn’t be that interested in these ones ;)

Audiobooks in English:

  • The now habit (Neil Fiore): I started listening to audiobooks about habits and organization, and now I can’t stop.
  • Making it all work (David Allen): a kind of second part of Getting things done that is not worth your time.

Books in English:

  • Dancing backward in Paradise (Vera Jane Cook).
  • The princess bride (William Goldman): a re-read I thoroughly enjoyed again. It’s my favourie book.

Books in Spanish:

  • The fault in our stars (John Green): a good young adult novel.
  • Intemperie (Jesús Carrasco): this time I add this book, which is not available in English for the moment, because I know it is being translated into several languages, so I suppose that sooner or later it will be in English too. A great story, but leaves you quite depressed.

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And that’s all.

They are a lot if we consider that all those books I mentioned above about law have been also deeply read this month. I’m finishing the exams at university this week, so I think that in a few days I will be reviewing as always here on the blog.

Meanwhile, enjoy your reads!

The returned, by Jason Mott

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The returned by jason mottPeople who died time ago begin to come back from wherever they had been and appear all over the world. The main character, Jacob, is a child who drawned in a river at the age of eight, and he is taken from China to Arcadia, his hometown, to reunite with his parents, a couple who is now in their eighties, while Jacob is still eight. Would you feel fear for this happening or would you take it as a bless?

With such a imaginative plot and these transcendental questions it brings up, Jason Mott has created a story that, to me, was slow and quite boring, and whose development can be also found in Blindness, the novel by Saramago; but better written and more engaging in the case of the Portuguese Nobel Prize.

Mott doesn’t explain why the returned are here with us; he just tell us how he thinks humans would act in case this extraordinary event happens – by locking them together, separated from the normal people, and by creating groups of haters of the returned, just because they are not like us (this also reminded me to Sookie Stackhouse series, in which the “True living people” hate the vampires and other creatures, which is exactly what happens in The returned).

Regarding the purely narrative aspect, I think that the most interesting characters lack depth, and the pace of the story is irregular – slow most of the time, and quite rush at the end.

My copy of the book. Thanks, Allison!

My copy of the book. Thanks, Allison!

I really wanted to like this book; I was looking forward to reading it since I read the first reviews about it on my favourite blogs, but I suppose that all those expectations I had, mixed with the similarities to Saramago’s story, made me feel that I haven’t read that great book it should have been.

Summarizing, it has a great premise but a very poor development, but I want to take this opportunity to recommend Blindness to all of you who wanted more from The returned: you will find a powerful story about people who suddenly are different from the others and how fear, hope and brutality make humans be humans.

rakin2Other reviews of this book (far more positive than mine):

The Returned
Jason Mott
Harlequin MIRA
338 pages

Review and giveaway: Dancing Backward in Paradise, by Vera Jane Cook

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dancing backward in paradise

Once again I’m reviewing a novel by this author thanks to Virtual Author Book Tours, just because I like Vera Jane’s stories very much.

Dancing Backward in Paradise is set in a place called Paradise, in Tennessee in the sixties, and our main character, Grace Place, is about to achieve her mother’s dream: go to New York and be an actress. Grace has just finished the high school and it’s looking for a job in order to save some money for the trip to New York; she is not quite sure about it, but she wants to make her momma happy, so she does what she is told. By the time she gets a job cleaning the house of a very odd young woman whose husband is dying of cancer, she also begins dating Lenny Bean, a handsome boy who unfortunately has dark intentions. Grace manages to make that trip to New York, but she eventually will have to come back to Paradise and face all that she left behind.

In the first half of the book we know this southern place and their inhabitants. Grace’s family live in a trailer, and people in Paradise are hard workers but they have very little culture. We have to take into account that we are in the sixties in a little village, so everybody is aware of others’ affairs and things like homosexuality are not well considered – Grace has a friend who is a lesbian and is always in trouble. The atmosphere of that place is really well described through the characters of the book; only Grace is more or less normal, but we have that bastard of Lenny Bean; Grace’s employer, who can’t be crazier; or Grace’s grandfather, a religious man who spends the days prayin with one hand on the bible and the other on his private parts.

In the second part, in New York, the change – compared to Paradise – shocks the reader as well as Grace. She lives in an apartment instead of in a trailer for a start; there are black people who are not servants of white people and who Grace is warned not to call Negros to, and nobody wants to know about your business. There we get to know other characters that strengthen the idea of her being in an absolutely different place; really comfortable one.

The plot, as always in Vera’s novels, is really gripping, but this time I would like the main character to be less naïve: Grace can’t see the things that are before her eyes; things that everybody else knows and tries to tell her about, but she doesn’t pay attention to. She becomes more perspicacious later on, but in the first part of the book she got me on my nerves several times. Apart from it, I enjoyed the story, and I keep this author as a reference for southern novels.

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Giveaway

You can win an ebook (pdf, mobi or epub) of Dancing Backward in Paradise just by saying in the comments you want to enter the giveaway.

The giveaway is open internationally and finishes on May 15.

Good luck!

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