The bookseller, by Cynthia Swanson

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Receiving this book has been a great event for me since it is the first time I request a copy in paper from a publishing house, and also because I turned out to love the story Cynthia Swanson has created.

the booksellerWe are in Denver in the 1960s and Kitty, the protagonist and narrator, runs a bookshop with her best friend, Frieda. They are in their thirties and neither of them has got married, which is quite unusual in that time, but they are happy they have a business they love and enjoy their freedom. On the other hand, things are not going well for the bookshop because other areas of the town, far from where the shop is located, are becoming more popular and the number of customers in the bookshop is dropping drastically.

At night, however, all these problems seem to evaporate when Kitty comes home and falls asleep: she has vivid dreams in which she is still herself but with a completely different life. In these dreams she has a loving husband, a couple of sweet little children and a beautiful house; it’s just the opposite as the life she has now, but all of it is so wonderful.

I was hooked on the book from the first page. Kitty’s dreams become more complex as days pass by, and we will see that not everything is perfect in that life she has in her head. Most of the people who are important in her life now are not with her in the dream, and she will have to struggle with problems that overwhelm her. In the end, neither of her two worlds is perfect and she will have to make the best of what she has to be happy.

Does your mind also create wonderlands for you to escape from reality?

rakin5The bookseller
Cynthia Swanson
Published by Haper Collins
352 pages

My copy of the book:

The bookseller Cynthia SwansonOther reviews of The bookseller:

 

New books – March 2015

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Time to show you my new babies! :D

imm1The bookseller, by Cynthia Swanson: this is my current read, and I’m absoultely hooked.

As you wish, by Cary Elwes: I needed this book so badly that I purchased it in a local bookshop. I did it on Christmas, and they finally received in mid-February.

ebooks

At the water’s edge, by Sara Gruen: I got this one from Netgalley – I’m looking forward to reading more by the author after Water for elephants.

Getting the picture, by Sarah Salway: the publishers sent me an email a couple of weeks ago, and I saw this book talking about letters and family secrets, so I couldn’t resist – this is my cup of tea when it comes to novels!

Pleasant day, by Vera Jane Cook: I have read several novels by this author and I loved them, so when I saw this one was on tour, I applied!

What are you hungry for? by Deepak Chopra: I’m reading it at the moment and I love the author’s approach about food and how we eat.

The willpower instinct, by Kelly McGonigal

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I have been reading a lot about willpower and how it works lately, and I found myself very astonished because I thought that it was something easier to control if you have… well, if you have enough willpower to control it ;)

the willpower instinct by kelly mcgonigalI loved the approach of this book – it has been written by a psychologist after teaching a workshop about willpower, and she decided to address this subject in the way she teaches her students: she explains one fact about willpower, bringing up scientific experiments and data, transferring them to “normal” life, and proposing some willpower exercises to test it by your own during the week. So at the end of a chapter, you are supposed to do it for a few days, and then read the next chapter. I decided to listen to the whole audiobook once, and then I started again, doing some of the exercises proposed.

I have learned a lot thanks to the audiobook. For example, I had read over a million times that meditating improves your willpower, but I think this is the first book that actually explains that that by meditating you are exercising your prefrontal cortex (the region of the brain where the willpower is “generated”), bringing more blood to that area and making it bigger. These are the kinds of things I love to learn.

By the way, I have tried meditation and I find it extremely difficult – focusing on one single thing only for five minutes. I have no idea if it is working for me (these last weeks have been specially productive but I don’t know if this is caused by other things that affect me at this moment), but what I can say is that I have vivid dreams every single night now that I do it. Isn’t it weird?

Back to the book, most of the exercises proposed are based on being aware of what you feel at every moment when it comes to your willpower threat; others try to make the challenge manageable by using some tricks when the threat comes, like thinking first about your long-term goal, because your brain doesn’t refuse easily to the first thing it comes to mind – reaching your ideal weight vs. eating those cookies right now.

There are also lots of facts that we all have experienced and see them as positive, but they aren’t! For example, the author talks about those moments when you are really down and you resolve to change and make things better, imagining yourself doing it and finally getting your big goals… This happens to be only a survival mechanism your brain uses when you need to feel better, but it doesn’t mean you are finally changing. So bad for this blogger, who daydreams all day about how things should be, but I actually do nothing about it.

Well, I could talk about this book forever, so the only thing I can do now is tell you to read it if you feel interested in the subject. You won’t get disappointed.

rakin5

The willpower instinct
Kelly McGonigal
Avery (Penguin Random House)
275 pages

Non-fiction reading challenge: 3/10

The wolf, by Joseph Smith

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The exams took place two weeks ago and I’m still trying to get back to normal. When I finally put on a pair of jeans and left my pajamas and text books at home to go to work, I noticed the world hadn’t stopped and waited for me; far from that!

However, and despite all the laws and codes I have been hanging out with for the last month, I also found time to read a little, and some of the books I’ve read have turned out to be some of my “future” favourites of the year, even though they are not new publications (we are talking about Rosamunde Pilcher or To kill a mockinbird, for example). I’ll try to review briefly some of them these days.

the wolf joseph smithThis book is actually a novella because it is quite short, but it stands out for its originality – the narrator is a wolf, and he places the reader in a cold winter, in the middle of a forest, with not so many chances to fill up your belly.

This wolf interacts with other animals in the forest – a prospective prey, another carnivorous competitor – and the way they communicate is beautifully explained in the book: the animals look one another in the eye, and they share their thoughts, the life they have been living before the encounter, and their will to survive. That said, a strong prey could tell the wolf without a word that she is not to surrender easily, and the wolf might answer showing her all the preys he has killed before and how hungry he is now. And the chase begins.

Remember: we are deep in the forest, and there happy endings don’t always take place.

rakin4The wolf
Joseph Smith
160 pages
UK: Jonathan Cape (Random House Mondadori)

My copy of the book (in Spanish). I love the illustration of this cover

My copy of the book (in Spanish). I love the illustration of this cover

Perdita, by Hilary Scharper

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This is the story of a woman who claims to be 134 years old.

Perdita hilary scharperGarth is interviewing people for his Longevity Project, when he comes across Marged, an old woman who is supposed to be very old but has no way to prove it except for some diaries she says she wrote when she was young. She tells Garth that the reason she has lived that long is Perdita, but who is Perdita?

Through the journals we get to know Marged when she was eighteen, in the late 1890s. She lived with her parents and other relatives in Georgian Bay, Canada, being her father and uncle the light keepers. The place was isolated during the winter, but when the spring came, lots of people from the cities spent several months in the Bay; there was George Stewart, a young painter that would become famous later for his paintings of the Bay, or doctor McTavish, a man whose secret love was ornithology and worked together with Marged in order to write a book about the birds of the Bay. The place is beautifully described throughout the entries of the journals and the reader can certainly feel Marged’s connection to the place where she lived.

Later, she moved to the city with her mother, who suffered from a stroke and the doctors thought she might benefit from a treatment in a specific clinic, and Marged begins to spend some time with her mother’s physician, Andrew Reid, until she has to make a decision which would change the rest of her life.

Georgian bay canadaSource

There are some things I like of the book and many others that didn’t work out that well. For a start, the pace of the book is irregular: nothing happens most of the time in the diaries, and sometimes the book has such amount of entries that when I got back to Garth’s part of the story, I didn’t even remember the names of the characters. There are also some parts that are not well developed and it seems that we never know what’s going on, for example, Marged’s relatives want her death but we have no idea why, and there is a dark character who almost rape Marged when she was young, but we don’t have any further news from him later on. And finally Perdita, the person who should have had a main role in the story, only appears at the end in a hurriedly fashion which made me wonder if that was just all.

Back into the positive of the book, I think that the diaries have been a great way to know the lives of Marged and her family in the astonishing scenery which is Georgian Bay, with all the difficulties that living in a place like this carried at that time, but surrounded by such beauty. I also liked the characters, especially doctor McTavish, who seemed to be a very kind man, and the explanation for Perdita, which includes a lost Greek legend (though it is explained very fast and at the very end).

For these reasons I’m not sure about whether to recommend this novel or not.

rakin3I received this book from Netgalley.

Perdita
Hilary Scharper
Sourcebooks
ISBN-13: 9781492602446
448 pages

Keep calm and read in English: 1/20
Travel the world in books: 1/12 (Canada)
COYER challenge: 1st book

 

Literary challenges for 2015

One more year, I love to participate in bookish challenges hosted by fellow bloggers. I’m kind of addicted to reading challenges, and the truth is that I don’t get most of them, but I enjoy trying ;)

Wish me luck!

Travel the world in books reading challenge

Travel-the-World-in-Books-Reading-ChallengeSign up here

I participated in a event of this challenge last year, and I promised Tanya I would participate this year in the challenge itself.

My goal is to read two books set in each of the following continents: Europe (in other countries but Spain, of course), Asia, Oceania, Africa, North and South America.

I’ll keep track of my books around the world in this document.

Diversity on the Shelf Reading Challenge

diversity on the shelfSign up here

This is the first time I participate in this challenge, and I really wanted to because I noticed I always read books written by white people. I don’t do it on purpose, but it’s a fact, and I would like to change that.

I’m in for the Second shelf level, which means that I’ll read 7-12 books for the challenge. I’ll keep track of my progress in this document.

Clean out your E-reader (COYER) challenge

coyerSign up here

I didn’t know a challenge like this existed, and I really need it. You have to read the ebooks you have got for review, which in my case they are a lot. I see the host blogs also organize several activities, so I hope to participate in some of them :)

I’ll keep track of the books read for this challenge in this document.

Historical fiction reading challenge

2015 HF Reading Challenge

Sign up here

Another challenge that I love, because I have so many historical fiction books on my shelves, waiting for me. The problem is that some of them are chunksters, so I always pick up another book. Hope this changes this year ;)

I’ll go for the Renaissance Reader level, which means that I have to read 10 books.

I’ll link them in this document.

To be read pile 2015

2015tbrbutton

Sign up here

Every year I join this challenge and I fail, because you know how difficult it is to pick up the books you are planning to read insead of any book else… What can I do!

So I’ll try again this year, of course. At this point, this is like a personal challenge to me ;)

You can see my list here. I have listed the books in their English editions, but I have some of them in Spanish.

  1. Before I go to sleep, by S.J. Watson
  2. The picture book, by Jo Baker
  3. Black hills, by Nora Roberts
  4. The unicorn road, by Martin Davies
  5. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
  6. The twelve, by Justin Cronin
  7. My dear I wanted to tell you, by Louisa Young
  8. The winter of the world, by Ken Follett
  9. The Bronze horseman, by Paullina Simons
  10. Brooklyn follies, by Paul Auster
  11. The distant hours, by Kate Morton
  12. September, by Rosamunde Pilcher

Alternates:

  1. Inés y la alegría, by Almudena Grandes
  2. El bolígrafo de gel verde, by Eloy Moreno

Non-fiction reading challenge

Nonfiction 2015

Sign up here

Last year I listened to a ton of non-fiction audiobooks, and I loved it, so I’m planning to do exactly the same this year and, in order to motivate, I decided to join this challenge as well :)

I’ll go for the Explorer level (6-10 books) and I’ll link my non-fiction reviews in this document.

Readers’ workouts – The race at the end of the year

Readers' workouts Joy

I want to share some thoughts about my workouts, thanks to Joy’s section, now that the year is coming to an end, because it has been a remarkable year for me regarding exercise.

I started to run in February. This sounds unbelievable, but I have worked for 9 years in a gym, teaching 15 hours per week of high impact activities, and I wasn’t able to run for more than 5 minutes. When I left the job I thought about running from time to time, but seeing that I ran for less than 10 and I had to go home because I couldn’t do more was very discouraging, and I never tried it seriously.

However, this year it was different. I really wanted to do it, no matter how down I feel at the beginning, so I followed a plan for beginners whose goal was to run for 40 minutes in 10 weeks. I did it at my own pace, so I repeated some of the workouts or I went some sessions back if I felt it was too hard to go for the next step, and I finally run 40 minutes for the first time in July.

I had a race in mind: it’s called here San Silvestre and takes place at the end of the year. In Spain every town organizes this race and it’s very amusing because some of the runners go in disguises and they had a lot of fun – I wanted to be part of it!

So this weekend I attended to my very first San Silvestre. I went with my boyfriend and a friend of his (the kind of guys who don’t need to train, they just go to a race and are able to run whatever the distance – I’m so jealous!) and we had a great time. There were runners disguised in nativity scences, Santas, even bananas! And two crazy men ran in their underwear, being the temperature 2ºC (I think that’s 35ºF). We ran 7K through the center of my hometown passing by most of the monuments, and there were people throughout the circuit cheering the runners. I ran faster than I normally do (which is slowly nevertheless) and I began feeling exhausted at the middle of the race, but somehow I managed to cross the finish line without stopping even once – I’m very proud of myself!

Here you can take a look at what I did.

San Silvestre

My goal for 2015 is keep on exercising. Seeing you improve every day is really satisfying, and even though I’ll never win a race, I think this is about feeling good about yourself, which is exactly my case :D

Hope you have a very Happy New Year!

Happy Christmas

I’m not writing much lately – my studies don’t let me – but I really wanted to pass by and wish you a Happy Christmas, if you are reading this.

Take care and enjoy the most special holidays of the year.

Happy Christmas snow love

I shall be near to you, by Erin Lindsay McCabe

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I shall be near to you erin lindsay mccabeThis is the story about a young woman who decided to follow her bridegroom to the American Civil War disguised as a man.

Rosetta marries her childhood best friend, Jeremiah, but just after the wedding, the boy enlists in the army with other men in the village to fight against the rebels. Rosetta has grown up in a farm and she is not ready for all the housework and needlework her new family want her to do; besides, she just want to be with Jeremiah, so she leaves without telling anybody (what would they thought of her, dressed as a man and her hair cut!).

Rosetta becomes Private Ross Stone. Life with the soldiers isn’t easy, especially when you have to hide your gender among all those people, but it’s rewarding for Rossetta because she is with his husband and the friends she had since she was little. However, things will change dramatically when they actually go where the fight is taking place.

First of all, I loved the book. It’s a different story not only focused on battles or historical facts, but on the feelings of a woman among real danger, and how she tries to protect herself as well as her husband (the same does he, of course). In the army, Rosetta realizes that many of those men will never come back to their homes; she helps with nursing in a military hospital and witnesses all the horror they are about to face too, and she eventually gets to know that the men opposite her in the battlefield are as young, innocent and deserving of dying as she is.

The "real" Rosetta

The “real” Rosetta

Rosetta changes in the army, among all the different men she meets there, and also women who are always nursing the wounded, witnessing another part of the same terrible war. The author describes how the war was through the eyes of a sensitive and reflexive character who has become wiser throughout the days she spends fighting at her husband’s side. At the same time, you can’t say the book is sided with one of the parties involved; Rosetta just happens to be where her husband is, not for any reason but love.

However, there is a little detail I didn’t like about the novel: it is narrated by Rosetta using the present tense, which always sounds strange to me (more in Spanish, but now also in English) and, since Rosetta is a farmer with no higher education, the narration is conducted by short sentences, simple facts – especially at the beginning – and some grammatical mistakes I suppose were normal among people like her (he don’t matter or I don’t know nothing were ones I noticed). I think this makes the story more plausible, but it’s too much for my taste; I would rather read that language in the dialogues, but not throughout the entire book.

Anyway, this is a book I enjoyed very much. The story has an unforgettable main character and a great ending.

rakin4

I received this book from Netgalley.

I shall be near to you
Erin Lindsay McCabe
Crown Publishing
336 pages

Crazy is normal, by Lloyd Lofthouse

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This is a memoir of a secondary school English teacher about one of his school years, two decades ago. I’m reviewing it for Virtual Authors Book Tour.

Crazy is normal Lloyd LofthouseI studied a Masters in Education to be a secondary school Science teacher but I have never had the chance to work (well, I’m tutoring a girl at the moment, but it’s hardly the same), so I enjoy reading anything about teaching, including some of the FB posts some of my friends write about their good and bad days at their schools! That’s why I said yes to this book.

Crazy is normal is a detailed journal of an academic course, week by week. Lloyd Lofthouse taught English and Journalism and was known for being one of the tough teachers. He worked in a public school and in this book he explains what he did in every class, the assignments the students had to do, the books they were supposed to read in class, the daily work of the school newspaper at Journalism classes, the way he evaluated the students’ work and the problems he had with certain students on a regular basis.

That is exactly the pro and the con of this book: it tells you EVERYTHING regarding school, and it becomes monotonous when he was to remind the rules to the students almost every day; frustrating when he has to send the same students out of the class for bad behavior and doesn’t get anything by phoning their parents, and also exhausting when he arrives at home after more than 10 hours of work only to correct and mark assignments until bedtime. So it’s absolutely different from other memoirs you can read because I think it hasn’t been written to entertain the reader (in fact, I can say most will find it boring), but this routine is the hard truth for a number of teachers day after day, isn’t it? That’s why I liked it. I think Crazy is normal can help me to face the class and the job if the time comes.

I couldn’t help but compare every detail throughout the book to the Spanish education system, or at least to the part that I know. I wasn’t surprised that most of the issues teachers must face remain constant everywhere: bureaucrats who have never been in a classroom are the people who tell you how to do your job, or those parents who are utterly worried about their children’s self steem and ask you to give them better grades instead of making sure the kids work harder the next time.

Nevertheless, I have found interesting differences between the educational system in America and Spain. First thing that caught my attention was that in Lofthouse’s school the teacher is assigned one classroom and the students change rooms in every period, which is absolutely fantastic because, as a teacher, you can have your class distributed as you want with all the tools you might need at hand, instead of running from one classroom to another taking with you your laptop, briefcase, etc. like Spanish teachers do. They also have “after school detentions”, which, in my opinion, would solve most of the teaching problems, but actually doesn’t work as well as I expected.

The book addresses other interesting issues, some of which shocked me, like almost everything related to Journalism classes – the responsibility students have for all the paper process and how they solve all the incidentals by their own. Or the teacher feeling attracted to a brilliant student, which leads to an embarrasing situation (only for him, though) when they are alone in the classroom he solves in a forthright way. There is also the girl who is transferred to another group because she is being bullied for being the only white in the class, or the shootings happening in the neighbourhood where the school is located.

As you can see, I could be talking about this book forever because I have found it fascinating. I have learned a lot and I have borrowed several ideas from Mr. Lofthouse’s classes which can’t be learned at university. However, this is not a book for everybody: you have to be truly interested in the matter because he only talks about teaching and, therefore, the lack of information about the author’s personal life might bore the reader to death.

Finally, I would like to tell you that I happened to watch the film Precious, which I think matches perfectly well with this book, and it also gives you hope, perhaps not in the system, but in teachers and students.

rakin4Crazy is normal
Lloyd Lofthouse
Publisher: Three Clover Press (June 14, 2014)
ISBN: 978-0986032851
386 Pages
 

Crazy is normal has won an honorable mention at the ‘Southern California Book Festival.

The book will be on sale for $0,99 until November 15 on Amazon.

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