Friday, June 29, 2012

Follow Friday

Q: Birthday Wishes — Blow out the candles and imagine what character could pop out of your cake…who is it and what book are they from??

Hmm. I'd like Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky to pop out to say hi. I'd love to have a chat with him, he definitely seems like a fantastic person with whom to just sit and have a long, deep conversation. Although he might be a little dark and depressing for a birthday celebration. Well, maybe I could lighten him up with an especially large piece of cake.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Barcelona, 1945. Just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother’s face. To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, 'The Shadow of the Wind', by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn’t find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.

After reading many wonderful reviews, I decided to make time to read this book. It has every element I enjoy, a Gothic atmosphere, mystery, a bit or romance (though, thankfully, not overpowering) and books.

I love stories with other stories intertwined around it, and this book has more than its share. There are layers upon layers of plotlines throughout these pages, making for a deep and fast-paced reading. The whole mood is fabulous. We really feel as if we’re there, following Daniel as he tries to find out who Julian Carax is. It was hard to put the book down for this same reason, because we were so enmeshed ourselves in the many stories, that it was hard to find our way out.

Although Daniel is the protagonist, Julian is the one who really commands the reader’s attention, drawing us into his mysterious and harsh life. Fermin, Daniel’s friend, also demands attention, stealing most of the scenes he’s in. I do wish, however, that we’d learned a bit more about him, since he is left kind of a shadowy character himself, with a past that’s not really made clear.

The writing is beautiful, no question about it, but there were a few word choices that I found repeated over and over which got to be, well, repetitive. That aside, this is a wonderful book, one I easily recommend to everyone.

Booking Through Thursday

Who taught you to read?

My mom. She always read to me and my sister at bedtime, instilling a love for books and stories from really early on. She was the one who helped me sound out the words. I actually used the picture book she used as a kid to learn to read. Kind of great that we both used the same book..

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Masquerade by Rivka Spicer

Oceana is a hard-working, straight down the line indexer with an attitude.

Tristan is the millennia old executioner for the vampire council.

They meet when Tristan seeks her help on a case and she is unwillingly drawn into his twisted and violent world where nothing is as it seems on the surface. As she discovers through Tristan who and what she is, Oceana's life changes irrevocably and the only choice she believes she has left is whether or not to give her love to this charming, perplexing and dangerous man, but even that is twisted around her by the masquerade that is life amongst vampires...

It’s hard nowadays to read a vampire story that doesn’t sound like every other one out there on the market. This one, however, had a nice air of originality that made it a fun read.

What I liked the most was the heroine. Oceana has spunk. Her attitude makes her a strong character to follow and it becomes easy to keep turning the pages to see what else her life will throw at her. Tristan, the male protagonist, is great. He provides a nice foil for Oceana.

The story takes a bit to get going, but once it does, the pacing is handled well. There are very few moments when the plot line slows down, and the writer successfully avoids info-dumps which can get frustrating for the reader. I expected lots of overwhelming romantic scenes, but the book had a good balance to it, so that these scenes never got out of control or became repetitive. It was actually a rather tame book, for dealing with vampires.

Although you might be tempted to pass this one by because of the whole vampire story-line, there’s so much more in this book. I do recommend it and will look for future books by the author.

WWW Wednesday

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently, I'm reading The Shadow of the Wind by

I just finished Soulbound by Heather Brewer. You can see my review here.

Next, I'll probably read The Tapestry of Spirit by

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From Angst: Origins of Anxiety and Depression by Jeffrey P. Kahn

"The commonplace anxiety and depressive disorders are very commonplace indeed. They are mostly chronic, and they affect at least 20% of the United States at any one time."

pg. 1 (ARC)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Musing Mondays

This week’s musing asks… Do you set goals for yourself, while reading? For example, “I want to get this book finished this weekend“, or “I will read __ pages today“, etc. Why, or why not?

Not really. Once in a while, if I have to finish a book by a particular date, I'll set myself a goal for each day so that I can finish it faster, but usually, I just read as much as I like. I find that if I force myself to read a certain amount, it gets fustrating.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Indian Maidens Bust Loose by Vidya Samson

Nisha Desai is a young Indian woman who pines for romance in a country where love is in the same class as malaria, and where mates are selected using a calculator. Normally deluged with ghastly suitors of her father's choosing, she suddenly finds herself on the short list for a bride-seeing tour by a rich and handsome nephew of a neighbor. This is the stuff of which dreams are made.
A nightmare materializes when a very un-Indian ruffian moves in next door, complete with beard and obnoxious Harley motorcycle. He might play the bad boy in one of Nisha's beloved romance novels, but in real life, he terrifies her. So she tries to ignore the thundering engine of the bike while anxiously awaiting the arrival of Prince Charming--or at least, Prince Rich.
But arriving first are a long-lost black-sheep American aunt and her trouble-magnet teenage daughters. The aunt proves to be a New Age space case, while the cousins’ appetite for disasters threatens to level the city of Ahmedabad. In short order, the demented cousins instigate an elopement, a public protest, and a riot that gets Nisha thrown in jail. Nisha’s family comes to the conclusion that while East and West may meet, sometimes they shouldn't. The guests are seen as an invading force, equipped with weapons of mass corruption. While Nisha wonders how she can hide her now corroded reputation from the dream suitor's family, insanity marches on. Nisha's father adopts a pet cow and convinces half the city it's the reincarnation of a Hindu deity.
The two families are finally united in a common goal: to bilk thousands. The result is Madison Avenue's idea of a religious experience, which is not a controllable situation.
Indian Maidens Bust Loose is a hilarious romantic comedy set in the land of cows, curry, and the Kama Sutra.

What really captivated me throughout this novel was its spirit. There is such a uniqueness to the writing that it makes it a delight to read. Apart from being laugh-out-loud funny, there are many sweet moments that take this story into deeper literary territory.

The gist of the novel is deceptively simple: two sisters looking to become independent, their own people, despite their father’s strong opposition. Hilarity ensues as the sisters attempt to evade their father’s marriage plans for them.

Something that I notice and for which I applaud the author is that, despite the pitting of one culture (Indian) and another (Western), both sides are written convincingly and with heart. Neither of them are made fun of, which sometimes can happen in these kinds of stories. While there is lots of comedy, it’s all in good fun and not to belittle anyone.

The characters are nicely done, each playing against the other so that we get a good balance of personalities. They are all amusing to read about and I didn’t really find myself disliking any of them, not even the controlling father. 

I would recommend this for anyone who’s looking for a light, quick read that will make you laugh but which still has enough heart to make it memorable.

Follow Friday

Q: If you could “unread” a book, which one would it be? Is it because you want to start over and experience it again for the first time? Or because it was THAT bad?

Definitely After Obsession by Carrie Jones. This was probably the worst book I've read, ever. Not only was it horribly written, but the plot made no sense. If you're interested in reading my review, it's here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Booking Through Thursday

Do you have a favorite quote from a book?

Oh, I have so many, but I'll control myself and give you a couple.

From Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood

"Her glass wings are gone."

And from Alias Grace, also by Margaret Atwood

"Gone mad is what they say, and sometimes Run mad, as if mad is a different direction, like west; as if mad is a different house you could step into, or a separate country entirely. But when you go mad you don't go any other place, you stay where you are. And somebody else comes in.”

Aren't they just incredible?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Soulbound by Heather Brewer

What's worse than being blackmailed to attend a hidden school where you're treated like a second-class citizen? How about nearly getting eaten by a monster when you arrive? Or learning that your soulmate was killed in a centuries-old secret war? And then there's the evil king who's determined to rule the world unless you can stop him... Meet Kaya, a young woman with the power to heal and the determination to fight. But struggle as she will, she remains tied to three very different men: a hero who has forsaken glory, a tyrannical ruler who wants to use Kaya, and a warrior who's stolen her heart. Kaya learns the hard way that some ties can't be broken...and blood is the strongest bond of all.

A captivating new young adult series, this first chapter in Kaya’s life will keep every lover of this genre happy.

The storyline is fun, fast-paced, with a healthy dose of humor, romance and action. Once you start reading it’s hard to put the book down, especially by the time you hit the third or fourth chapter. Although not entirely unpredictable, the story is amusing enough to keep all of us interested.

Since this seems to be a much more plot driven book than anything else, the characters do suffer a bit. Although the author made efforts with thm, they aren’t unique enough to make too much of a splash. One thing I do have to say for the protagonist, Kaya really has a mind of her own. She has spunk and guts and she is thankfully not one of those weak female characters we are so used to seeing in young adult novels. All the other characters are amusing but not as fully realized as Kaya. I had hoped to see a bit more of Maddox throughout the story, but she didn’t appear half as much as I’d have liked to get a good sense of who she was.

This is one I really do recommend. I will definitely buy the next book in the series.

WWW Wednesday

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently, I'm reading Souldbound by Heather Brewer

And Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz

I just finished reading Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster. You can see my review here.
Next, I'll probably read Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster

When Grace’s husband, Adam, inherits an isolated North Yorkshire cottage, they leave the bustle of London behind to try a new life. A week later, Adam vanishes without a trace, leaving their baby daughter, Millie, in her stroller on the doorstep. The following year, Grace returns to the tiny village on the untamed heath. Everyone—the police, her parents, even her best friend and younger sister—is convinced that Adam left her. But Grace, unable to let go of her memories of their love and life together, cannot accept this explanation. She is desperate for answers, but the slumbering, deeply superstitious hamlet is unwilling to give up its secrets. As Grace hunts through forgotten corners of the cottage searching for clues, and digs deeper into the lives of the locals, strange dreams begin to haunt her. Are the villagers hiding something, or is she becoming increasingly paranoid? Only as snowfall threatens to cut her and Millie off from the rest of the world does Grace make a terrible discovery. She has been looking in the wrong place for answers all along, and she and her daughter will be in terrible danger if she cannot get them away in time.

There were nice moments of suspense in this book, but overall, it didn’t live up to the potential the storyline really had.

The book has an almost gothic feel to it with a good build up of atmosphere. The creepiness in the small town and the people living in it really establish a good momentum that is, unfortunately, not taken advantage of in the main plot line.

The main character, Grace, is a woman whose husband disappeared one day after heading out for a walk with their daughter. So we expect Grace to be distraught and a bit paranoid, but she is not nearly as traumatized as we’d imagine. I would have like to have read a bit more about Adam, since he is hardly described or filled out for us. It would have made everything much more suspenseful if we’d had flashbacks or something to show a bit more about him.

  But really, the biggest problem is that it wasn’t a very original twist at the end. I won’t reveal it, but the reader can see it coming about half way through the book. That’s the most disappointing thing, especially when the author did such a nice job of setting a particular mood for us.

  If you like mysteries, this one is probably not for you because you’ve most likely read very similar stories.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From Math City by Ahmad Amani

"The sun brightened beautifully. The Lying Line got up and went to Math City (which was a book) and walked the streets (which were the pages), the city that had many sources of multiplication, division and numbers, where earned a lot of money, but it did not have any importance to the world’s people, except for money."
pg. 8

Monday, June 18, 2012

Puppet Parade by Zeinab Alayan

The life of a puppet master is never ordinary. Oliver Deere knew this when he ran away from home to take up the trade of puppetry, but he had no idea just how much his life would change.
After his puppets come to life and flee town, Oliver meets up with a masked girl who hides a mysterious past. As they travel together in search for Oliver's lost puppets, they find that the line between puppet and master is becoming much less clear - and much more deadly. When Oliver and his companion enter the strange world of The Parade, they begin to realise that their journey will lead them to discover the truth behind a dangerous villain's path, and in the end, discover more about each other.

This was a fun and different story. There is a great sense of mood throughout the whole thing that really catches the reader’ attention, giving the novel a kind of flavor that makes it great to read. There’s a gothic darkness that I really enjoyed. Now, having said that, I did find some of the descriptions too long. They sometimes disrupted and slowed down the plot when it needed to stay crisp and fast-paced, maintaining some of the mood but not overwhelming us with details.

The characters are really varied and fun. The puppet creator and the girl who joins up with him make for great foils of each other, while the puppets are as creepy as you’d expect but also much more interesting than I would have imagined. There are many other characters which fill in the rest of the novel, each one with his or her own peculiarity, making for a great cast.

I was quite impressed with the novel’s conclusion, as all the loose ends were addressed in a careful manner. So, all in all, I do recommend this book for those of you who love a bit of gothic-ness and strangeness in your stories


Musing Mondays

This week’s musing…
Do you think the book cover is “dead”? Do you care whether the “covers” on digital books exist or not?

No, I don't think the book cover is dead. The cover is such a crucial part of the book, even if it is a digital copy. That is one of the things that bothers me the most about ebooks, that we really don't get the sense of the book as a whole, just one page at a time, as if we were reading an article. It's frustratin