At the water’s edge, by Sara Gruen

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At the water's edge Sara GruenHow disappointing this book was!

The beginning sounded promising – a young American couple and a friend of them travelling together to Scotland in order to prove the very existence of the Loch Ness monster during World War II. These young wealthy people find themselves in the middle of a war that seems very real now that they have crossed the ocean, but their unsympathetic nature prevent them from understanding the whole picture about the situation the people of the village is living, except for our heroine, Maddie.

Maddie, who has always taken part in the fun with her husband and their friend, is now left behind in the hostel and there she would get to know the struggles of the war for the people from a social status different than hers. In addition, she will find out that she doesn’t really know her husband and his true intentions towards her and, of course, she is also to fall in love with someone else.

Alright, there are several themes in the book, all of which fit very well in a historical fiction novel, but somehow the author doesn’t manage to combine in a smooth fashion. I found it repetitive – they are in the inn having trouble with the staff, then the boys left for and expedition in the lake and Maddie learns about the people who surround her; the boys return and have trouble with the staff, then they left and Maddie learns more about the staff and her husband, and so on. There are also some, let’s say, supernatural scenes that have nothing to do with the rest of the story and lead to an ending too easy to my liking.

So I would say I liked the main character and her transformation from being a snob to actually care about the others, but the story as a whole seemed pointless and confusing because the reader doesn’t really know what the author wanted to tell.

I think fans of Water for elephants will be disappointed as well…

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At the water’s edge
Sarah Gruen
Published by Spiegel & Grau
348 pages

Bookish challenges for 2016

Oh dear, I didn’t get any of my challenges in 2015 and I thougt it would be better if I don’t participate in these bookish events, but then I took a look at twitter, I visited some blogs here and there… And I can’t help myself!

Read my own damn books

ReadMyOwnDamnBooksbutton

With such a title, Andi has made us take charge once and for all of our to-be-read piles of books!

In my case, I plucked up courage and I typed a list (using my Underwood!) with almost all the books I have in my shelves to read. They were 205 books.

I also typed a page with the ebooks I need to read as well (mainly because I purchased them time ago or because I got them for review). A total of 222 books, guys – this is going to be hard.

A list lover? Me? No idea what you're talking about!

A list lover? Me? No idea what you’re talking about!

Since this is a “choose your own adventure” challenge, my rules are these:

  • The goal is to read 20-30 books from the list.
  • I can only buy/request/borrow from the library once I’ve read 5 books from the list. Then I’ll read another 5 and so on.
  • The rule above doesn’t count for book-club books :P (you know, because I have to read them for the book club!).
  • I’ll chose the books either by asking my boyfriend to pick a number from 1 to 222 or by using random.org.
  • I’ll keep track of my progress on twitter using the hashtag #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks.

Wish me luck, my friends; I’ll need it!

Travel the World in books

Travel-the-World-in-Books-Reading-ChallengeThis challenge is organized by Tanya, and I love it because there are joint readings, readathons, twitter chats, and many activities thanks to which I’ve met a lot of blogger friends.

This year I want to be part of the fun again :D

My goal is to read and review two books set in every one of these “continents”: Africa, North and South America, Asia, Australia, Antarctica and Europe (but not in Spain).

A total of 14 books. Preferably from the list of the challenge above ;)

Keep calm and read in English

Reto-in-English-2016

This is the challenge I used to organize in my Spanish blog but, due to my current situation, I don’t have the time to do it again, so a blogger friend took charge of the challenge – I’m so happy it will continue one more year!

Of course, I’m participating: I want to read and review 20 books in English.

The money-box challenge

This challenge began as a meme on facebook, and some bloggers started to do it: you have to put one coin in a jar (is piggy bank really the word for this? I translated it on google!) for every book you read during the year and, at the end of the year, you use that money to buy more books.

Isn’t that an awesome idea???

So I’m participating this year, with my own rules:

  • € 1 for every book, in general.
  • € 2 for books in Spanish with more than 800 pages.
  • € 2 for books in English with more than 500 pages. You know, BECAUSE.

I already have my first Euro in the piggy thing (well, it’s a box in my case), so this is starting very well :mrgreen:

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I’m ready to read them all!!

#ReadersWorkouts: summary of 2015 and goals for the new year

I follow this section on Joy’s blog even though I don’t write a weekly post about exercising, but I feel like it now that the new year has just started.

2015

In 2015 I’ve been using my Polar watch (Polar V800), and I’m in love with it. It has everything I need (GPS, water resistant, etc.) and much more. I wear it 24/7 because it even tells me the quality of my sleep, but what motivates me more is seeing on the web the monthly agenda and statistics.

The last month on the web that Polar provides has been like this:

Polar Flow Isi

I’ve been exercising 4-5 days per week, mainly swimming and running, but I also do some strength and walking sessions from time to time.

The blue lines with the percentage are the “daily activity”: the watch knows when you are standing, walking or sitting and everything counts for the activity at the end of the day, not just the workouts. I’m tutoring a girl whose house is 4 kilometers far away from mine, and the days I haven’t exercised or I’ve made a low activity, I leave the car at home and go to her house by walking.

I’m also very happy because running has finally become a routine, and two months ago I even ran my first 10K race :)

The hardest thing when running has been the timetable: I like to exercise in the morning, but in winter it’s very dark outside until 8.15 am – at that hour it’s too late for me to go for a run and get to the office on time, and before that hour I can’t go to the park because it’s dark and I’m scared to be alone. So I began running through the city instead of in the park, and it turned out to be a great idea: I see the path, I’m not scared to death because there are always people in the street, and I can go as early as I want. So I’ll be a city runner until summer comes again!

2016

This year I want to continue exercising 5 times per week, at least for the first three months of the year. Then, I want to increase the amount, either more minutes when running, or more workouts; we’ll see.

I also want to achieve the 100% of the daily activity daily – It’s hard on weekends because I sometimes don’t leave home, but I have to try. It’s for my own good!

I have other two 10K races in mind this year, one in Spring and the other in Autumn and, in general, I want to keep on feeling healthy, active and full of energy.

Let’s go!

Sneakers Isi

Anyone out there with exercising goals for 2016?

2015: A year in books

What a pleasure, to look back at everything you have read during the last year! Here is my summary, regarding literature, of this year.

Numbers:

In 2015 I have read a total of 65 books. Alright, I’m reading the 65th right now, but I’m confident I’ll finish it by Thursday.

I read 16 books in English and 33 in Spanish.

29 books were written by women and 36 by men.

I read 24 non-fiction books.

I read 11 ebooks on my kindle.

I listened to 16 audiobooks, all of them in English.

 

Best books of the year:

It’s easy to know them if you read my blog, because I don’t review all the books I read; only the ones I like the most. So, in no particular order, the best are:

◊ As you wish, by Cary Elwes: well, this one is in order :mrgreen:

◊ The unicorn road, by Martin Davies.

September, by Rosamunde Pilcher.

A short history of nearly everything, by Bill Bryson.

◊ Sparrow: the story of a songbird, by Giovanni Verga.

The martian, by Andy Weir.

The bookseller, by Cynthia Swanson.

Worst books of the year:

Fortunately for you, most of them are only in Spanish, but there were a couple of them in English you should know about:

With every letter, by Sarah Sundin: I didn’t even review it here. The characters were dull and they were praying almost all of the time, so this was not my book.

Go set a watchman, by Harper Lee: yes, I do think To kill a mockingbird and Go set a watchman can’t coexist. They are two different stories with the same characters, and that’s why it was not published in the 60s: because it’s not a second part.

Challenges:

Oh my! This is embarrassing, but I didn’t finished any challenge. Only the Non-fiction reading challenge can be considered accomplished, but I didn’t review ten books, so I can’t say I did it.

I didn’t even finished my own challenge about reading 20 books in English, you know :'(

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Well, it’s not that bad for this busy girl.

I don’t think I can read a larger amount of books in 2016, but I hope every one of them deserves to be reviewed, because that would mean I had a good time reading them.

May your reads for this new year be enjoyable!

The unicorn road, by Martin Davies

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One day, when I was studying English and beginning to read my first “real” books (meaning not those short ones for students that are in fact summaries of other novels), the book fair for second hand books arrived in town, and there was a stand with a tiny line of English books which made my day… until I took a closer look at them – the majority of the books were crime novels (not my genre), the rest were the Sookie Stackhouse series (I had already read them in Spanish), and then, I found this one. I was not sure if this was a fantasy book or what, but it was in ENGLISH, and I was there to purchase, people! No eventuality could have got me out of my way!

The unicorn road Martin Davies

So I travelled back to the 13th century and I started this journey with a party of men who are asked by the king Manfred of Sicily to find a legendary beast. Antioch, an old scholar with a bestiary as a guide, has to travel to the Far East and bring back an animal marvelous enough to please the Pope. The scholar is not alone, though, since he will be protected by a small army whose leader, count Decious, was one of the greatest soldiers of that time. A little boy, apprentice of the scholar, travels with them, and in Asia they would also require the skill of a man called Venn, a translator who has learned all the languages of every spot in this vast and wild world. Years later, the boy’s father travels through Europe in order to find what happened to his son – the posse never came back and no one seems to know their fate.

In addition to this story, there is also a young woman who traveled to the Emperor’s court in order to marry a soldier she met in her little village, with whom she fell in love. And the path she walked would be the same as the party’s, both looking for different outcomes.

The unicorn road by Martin Davies

I have to words to explain how much I enjoyed this novel. There are several characters and every one of them has their importance within the whole story, but perhaps in the end the reader becomes really fond of Venn, the translator, and Ming Yueh, this poor girl who voluntarily travels away from her people in order to pursue a better future for herself, which turned out different from her expectations.

The narration is lovely too; the descriptions of the scenery, the great city and the harbors, and also the different points of view of every character; the way the different groups of men see each other makes you become part of the story. There is also a special issue I particularly loved: Ming Yueh and the other women of the East know a secret language with which she leaves messages to people along her way, and it’s this language what will bring Venn to her. Isn’t it beautiful, the power of words linking people?

And finally I liked the structure of the novel, addressing the desperate search of the boy’s father in every other chapter and, next, the actual events of the men who went to find a unicorn.

The unicorn road will break your heart, but it’s worth it.

rakin5The Unicorn road
Martin Davies
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
330 pages
Book on Goodreads

PS: I want to thank Joy for the helping me with the review.

#BookTrailAdvent: The tenderness of wolves, by Stef Penney

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This year I’m participating in the event “Book Trail Advent“, in which book bloggers and authors recommend books set in Christmas or in a cold, snowy place; perfect reads for the days ahead!

Go and take a look at our map and the wonderful recommendations we are getting:

Book Trail Advent 2015

(I would need a couple of Christmas holidays, one after the other, to read every book I have put my eyes on!).

Here we go!

The tenderness of wolves, by Stef Penney

The tenderness of the wolves Stef PenneyTo be honest, I read The tenderness of wolves some years ago, but it has remained in my mind as a really good book inexplicably unknown by many readers, so I set a goal to myself: to put this book on your list.

We’ll travel back to a Canadian winter in the 1860s to know Mrs. Ross, a woman whose son has run away, as many times before, after the umpteenth argument with his father. Looking for the boy to make him come back home, she discovers that a man has been brutally killed. Some men from the township come to this colonist settlement in order to solve the crime, but being her son the prime suspect, Mrs. Ross needs to find him and prove he’s innocent. She will travel through the tundra accompanied by Parker, a Native American who earns a living as a trapper, but also a man who knows how to follow tracks in the snow; he has his own reasons for discovering who the murderer is.

My copy of the book

My copy of the book

So I hope you are ready for a tough journey through a settlement where outsiders are not welcome. Even Mrs. Ross, the spitting image of determination, will have a hard time travelling through this white landscape in search of her son. But there are other secrets buried deep down in the frozen land, and Parker and she are going to uncover them.

This is one of those books in which the setting makes the part of another character, and it’s hard to believe the author had never travelled to Canada before writing and publishing this novel! Penney nails not only the atmosphere, but also the characters – tightlipped men and women who must have been made of steel to survive in those adverse conditions, willing to start their new livings secluded in such an inhospitable landscape.

I would recommend you to prepare a blanket and, why not, a hot chocolate to fight the freeze that will enfold you while reading The tenderness of wolves. For me, it’s time to re-read.

rakin4The tenderness of wolves
Stef Penney
Published by Simon & Schuster
371 pages

The thread that binds, by Alice Hayes

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I received this book thanks to iRead Book Tours.

The thread that binds Alice HayesThis is a contemporary story about five women who are complete strangers to each other, but they somehow get close. The main character is Sherice, an obstetrician who, through her work, gets to know the other women: Sylvie, a French young woman who can’t afford prenatal medical care; Joanne, a single woman who wants to be a mother without looking for Mr. Right; Payton, a sixteen-year-old who got pregnant by “accident” thanks to a non-so-serious relationship; and finally Gloria, a woman trapped in an unhappy life with a husband she doesn’t love.

To be totally honest, at the beginning of the book I just thought that there were too many pregnant women to my liking. Talking about pregnancies, prenatal care and babies is more or less like talking about truck engines to me: unappealing and uninteresting. However, the characters took me over in the first half of the book and, before I knew it, I was fond of all of them. Besides, the structure of the book, with short chapters from every character’s point of view, makes you read “one more chapter” again and again.

The story addresses a number of everyday issues people cope with, apart from pregnancy of course, like financial problems, or the unbearable pain a daughter feels watching her mother decaying with Alzheimer’s disease, for example. Most of the characters are very lonely, rejected by their families, but the book is about the power of friendship which, thanks to Sherice, is where all these women will find the strength to fight for their own happiness.

We didn’t have a good start, the book and I, but in the end these characters became friends and I really enjoyed the book.

rakin4The thread that binds
Alice Hayes
357 pages

The thread that binds on Goodreads
The thread that binds on Amazon
Alice Hayes’ web
Alice Hayes on Twitter

A short history of nearly everything, by Bill Bryson

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I have little to say about this book, except for leave whatever you are doing and read it. Now.

A short story of nearly everything Bill Bryson

If you want to know a little bit more, let’s say this is a book about every branch of science, which explains what we know, how we got to know it, and what is still ahead of our actual knowledge, including brief biographies of great scientific men and women who studied issues and made discoveries we now take for granted. And all that is told in a humorous and concise manner, which not only does it make you get involved in all the mysteries of our world, but also be willing to learn more.

Because we all have studied books about the distance between the Earth and the Sun, or the age of the Universe, etc. and, nevertheless, we don’t know how they actually measure it! Those processes that leaded the way to the facts that we now find in textbooks involved incredible adventures and epic disagreements among scientists, and knowing about it makes science far more interesting.

Believe me: this is a book to read and re-read. To learn about men and women who tried to find answers. To think about everything that is awaiting for us to discover.

rakin5

A short history of nearly everything
Bill Bryson
Published by Broadway, 560 pages
Non-fiction November
Non-fiction reading challenge: 10/10

#TTWIBRAT: Finish line

ttwib

I’ve spent a fabulous fortnight together with some blogger friends reading and talking about books set all over the world. Unfortunately, this last week I’ve been so busy, so I mostly participated in the first week, but it was great anyway. Here is what I have done:

Instagram photo challenge:

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed all the books that I’ve been photographing for the challenge. It was really fun – one day I even had to go to the library in order to get the books I wanted!

My first book map!

Thanks to Guiltless reader‘s mini-challenge, which included an easy tutorial, I have created my first book map in order to keep track with all the countries I’m visiting through my reads! Here you go:

You see I’ve driven crazy with the icons, haha:

  • Book: story set there
  • Person: author was born there
  • Flower-power: author+story

Twitter chat:

Tanya scheduled a twitter chat the first week taking into account my time zone, so I am really grateful because this was my first twitter chat and I had a great time writing down titles and talking to the other participants :)

Favourite characters:

Another mini-challenge thanks to Lucy! I participated in the last minute because of my busy week, as I told before, but I did it! This was my proposed cover, with a teddy bear for a character :D

Books!

Yes, I also read a little, you know ;) I finished Persepolis, and I started The unicorn road. I’m still reading the latter, and loving it so far, so I think that the readathon went well for me, since I’m a very slow reader.

Thanks, Tanya, for all the fun!

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