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Finally got my hands on Lumberjanes because I’m nothing if not a slave to your recommendations.

I get the love: the art is fresh, the girl-power theme is amazing, it’s laugh-out-loud funny at times. It’s all that so it deserved a bit more… depth. It felt really short mostly because its 24 pages are action-oriented and don’t leave much room for character development or exploration of their world.

In stories about a group of people I immediately find a favorite. In Lumberjanes I had some difficulty making that call – there’s just not much that distinguishes them (apart from Ripley being The Crazy One). In the end I went with Jo because she had books and pictures of stars and planets in her bunk:

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To be fair, it’s only the first in the series and there’s a hint of background stories to come, like Molly’s fear of her family being informed about their adventures. But I can’t help but compare it to another very short, very popular, first-in-the-series, action-packed, kick-ass girl gang comic that takes the time to tells us (and make us care) about individual characters: Rat Queens.

The world-building in Lumberjanes also left me a bit confused: Magic? Fairy tales? Greek mythology? All? Two weeks after reading it I’m left with a vague sense of The Goonies meets Chamber of Secrets with a bit of Percy Jackson.

All this to say that I really had fun and will definitely pick up the next one in the series. I just wish it went a bit deeper with the story and its people, even if it’s “just” a first volume.

I’m ready for the rotten tomatoes to fly now… *ducks*

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There’s not much I can say about this book that hasn’t been said 1.000 times before, so just some quick thoughts for posterity:

I went into One Hundred Years of Solitude with some fear, because it has happened that my re-reads turn teen favorites into just-oks. This one however, was still as amazing, as captivating and as fierce as I remembered. It’s that type of book that’s experimental and “intellectual” and yet emotionally engaging. Like a Michelin-star meal that really make you feel full.

The plot is simply summed up as the story of a family in a remote village in an unnamed South American country, but then each character is a world in itself, and the language… oh the language!

Márquez’s style is very much in the oral tradition, as if he just captured what he’d heard from someone old, wise and incredibly funny. That’s why the magic realism feels so real, why every relationship and emotion are described with such power and why the way he moves from one character to the other flows so well. The book may have the most depressing title ever and it does deal a lot with loneliness, but in fact it’s a really bright, energetic, colorful story, that feels always in motion. Hard to explain, you have to read it!

One of the biggest complains I’ve read about One Hundred Years is that the characters’ names are all the same (e.g. father José Arcadio Buendía, son Aureliano, grandson José Arcadio) and it confuses everything. Well, that might be true (as of the 4th generation I had to draw a family tree), but for me it’s a demonstration of Márquez sense of humor.

Also, surely Úrsula Buendía should belong to all the lists of “Best heroines of all time”.

I’ve read it in Portuguese but I’m aiming to pick up the original next time. I wonder how it reads in English and can see how part of the language’s richness is lost. I was debating with myself whether the “solitude” in the English title shouldn’t be “loneliness” instead. “Solitude” is almost a voluntary isolation, and the Spanish “soledad” doesn’t read like that.

Have you read this one? Any thoughts?

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Other thoughts: A Striped Armchair, Jules’ Book Review, Confessions of a Bibliophile, Man of La Book, Other Sashas, of blog, Shelf Love, Fifty Book Project, The Labyrinth Library, Avid Readers’ Musings, bookhimdanno, Passion for the Page, My Library in the Making, Rivers I have Known, Old English Rose Reads, The Reading Life (thoughts?)

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image (2)Read for the A More Diverse Universe Challenge

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.Re-Read Challenge.. and the Re-Read Challenge

21853633The most amazing thing about SAA is she has a formula, but I cannot get enough of it. What dark magic is this?! They’re the closer thing I have to a guilty reading pleasure.

First Frost is a return to the Waverly family we first meet in Allen’s most popular book, Garden Spells. All the women in the family have a gift and their house and garden literally have a life of their own. This subtle use of magical realism is a trade mark of Allen’s wonderful books, as well as an irresistible Southern charm.

First Frost starts about 10 years after Garden Spells and we find Claire has put aside her catering business and is now a full-time producer of hard-candy. Sydney’s magical hair salon is thriving, and Evanelle is still giving people just what they’ll eventually need. The main character thought, is Sydney’s daughter Bay, who has the gift of knowing where things belong (which we learn can also be a curse!). There’s also a side-story about a stranger that walks into town without the best of intentions.

Reasons why it’s a solid 4-star: Bay is great. She’s a misfit, but a confident one, proud of her heritage. I also really liked the theme of “what makes a family” that pops up at different moments (Sydney and Violet’s baby, Evanelle and Fred, the Waverleys and their husbands, the question of wether you’re a true Waverley if you’re not gifted).

Reasons why it’s not a 5-star: I could have done with more Bay and less mysterious stranger and the book should be longer!

Comment about a spoiler [so far the Waverley had relatively domestic gifts. But now Claire’s daughter can see and communicate with dead people? That feels a bit beyond the cozy feeling of Allen’s stories.]

Are you a fan of Saran Addison Allen? What’s your favorite? I’m split between Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen.

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Other thoughts: Lessa’s Book Critiques, The Bluestocking Society, Annette’s Book Spot, Stacy’s Books, Capricious Reader, Booke’d Out, Workaday Reads, The Eclectic Reader, Always With a Book, Ex Libris (yours?)

BRRead for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge:
A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure.

Atticus force

Read for nomadreader’s Read-along. Didn’t do much “along”, but at least managed the reading part!

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird almost 10 years ago, on pre-blogging times. I remember turning to my then boyfriend and say “This is a perfect book.” I was completely awed by it.

I know there’s not a lot I can say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before, so just some quick thoughts for posterity:

This time around it didn’t feel as flawless, but I found new depths. It especially struck me how the idea of empathy (or perhaps of empathy as a way to critical thinking?) is so omnipresent.

The book starts with Atticus telling Scout “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view (…) until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” and ends with Scout really internalizing this idea, as she looks out on Maycomb from Boo Radley’s house:

“Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.”

And in between those two moments hard lessons need to be learned (so hard that many adults in Scout’s life never get there) and beliefs challenged. Atticus demands this empathy from his kids and Lee demands it from us for every single character, from Dill and his mysterious life in Mobile to Mayella’s pretty flowers, from Dolphus Raymond’s Coca-Cola to Maycomb in general, that apparently throws Atticus under the bus. It’s brilliant how we’re brought along Scout’s journey and at the same time are challenged ourselves. For instance, I was ready to completely dislike Miss Caroline and nasty Mrs. Dubose, no clemency.

Growing up is hard, and race and class are some of the hardest things to deal with. I continue to be awed by the way Lee shows us Scout’s mind opening up and struggle against both the status quo and any challenges to it. Reminds me of the time when I began to travel and read more widely and started questioning the glorious Portuguese history I’d learned since early childhood.

Favorite characters the first time around: Atticus and Calpurnia. Favorite characters now: Calpurnia and Miss Maudie. Miss Maudie is amazing and I hope to see a lot more of her on the upcoming Go Set a Watchman.

It was a hit & miss month:

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Preacher, Volume 1: Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon

Still not exactly sure how I feel about Preacher. I’ve the notion it’s very clever and deep, but ended up feeling I didn’t quite get it. Maybe because I’m not religious and the point is to ruffle believers’ feathers? Maybe because, in a story so full of layers and questions about Good and Evil, the villains are 100% bad, no grey areas?

Glad I’ve read it, but will file it under “Good, but not for me”.

Ms. Marvel, #1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona 

Hurrah for books that live up to the hype! Both the story and art felt so refreshing, and unlike Preacher, it was written just for me. Most reviews focus on the fact that Kamala is the first Muslim super hero, but for me the innovation is that’s not the most important thing. Ms. Marvel is still a classic story of a superhero’s origins, where the superhero just happens to be a girl, and a person of colour and a Muslim. Like Peter Parker before her, Kamala also struggles with her costume and the “with great power…” thing, she’s still trying to figure out who she is. The book is good because it has characters that are genuinely interesting, writing that’s full of smart humor, a gripping plot gripping and attractive artwork.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier by Alan Moore

Oh Alan Moore, you’re losing me. With every new League book I’m trying to regain the magic of the first two, without success. Were they also this trippy, full of naked women for no apparent reason, and I just didn’t notice?!

Saga Vol. 2 and Vol.3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

The series just keeps getting better and better. I’m loving every new character, from Gwendolyn to Upsher and Doff, as well as all the backstories (Alana’s love for that book!). I could have done without the implausible black-whole baby in Vol. 2, the “He’s the man I love!” line in Vol. 3, and still not convinced about the opposite of war thing, but hey, who’s counting?

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longbourn-cover-1Longbourn is a behind-the-scenes look at Pride and Prejudice. As Baker explains, “when a meal is served in P&P, it has been prepared in Longbourn.

I’ve read a lot of Austen spins-offs and vowed never again many times, but I’m glad I kept at it, because this was probably the most rewarding of them, with maybe the exception of Bridget Jones.

Who knew that after all the hidden diaries, explicit retellings, male points of view and modern adaptations, it would be the story of Longbourn’s servants that would push all the right buttons?

Several readers compared it to Downton Abbey and Upstairs/Downstairs, but I don’t think they compare in realism. In Longbourn, it’s almost as if Baker was responding to all those criticisms about how Austen is only concern with the superficial and the lighthearted, what Charlotte Brontë described as “a commonplace face; a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flower”. No poverty, no war, no messiness.

Austen avoided the less than pleasant side of day-to-day life? Baker gives us a hyper-realistic description of what the weekly washing day would look like for Longbourn’s maids. The cold sores, menstrual napkins and sweat stains. There’s also childbirth, dirty diapers and a Mrs Bennet just a little too dependent on laudanum.

Baker also imagines Bingley’s fortune comes from the sugar trade and there are vivid descriptions of the slavery and human traffic associated with it.

Austen never tackles the darker side of war? Baker follows the Bennett’s footman through the Napoleonic War in Portugal and Spain. There’s starvation, mutilation, lashings and desertion.

We even get a glimpse at Elizabeth’s life at Pemberley after her happy-ending, where she’s “being what she was required to be.”

Described like this it sounds like it’s a dark and heavy book, but it really isn’t. It’s definitely a candid look at life in the Regency Era, but it’s also a love story and about female friendship, dreams, ambitions and making your own way.

Highly recommended to all Austen fans.

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Other thoughts: Eve’s Alexandria, That’s What She Reads, bookshelves of doom, Vulpes Libris, a book a week, Literate Housewife, Leeswammes’s Blog, Beth Fish Reads, Quirky Bookworm, an adventure in reading, Book Girl of Mur-y-Castle, RA for All, Lizzy’s Literary Life, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Dear Author (yours?)

The_Martian_2014This is one of the most uplifting books I’ve ever read, the perfect antidote to last week’s events. Who knew that a book about an astronaut left for dead by his crew on Mars could be this fun?

It’s basically an ode to human intelligence and ingenuity, to the power of science, courage and team work. After Charlie Hebdo, this book left me thinking “we’ll be ok” and for that I’ll be forever grateful to Weir.

I just wish my knowledge of chemistry and physics would do it more justice. Although the science parts were well explained and concise, I’m sure I’d have been even more impressed if I knew more about space exploration.

Don’t have much more to say about it, really. It deserved to show up in so many bloggers’ best-of-2014 lists. And a big thank you to who recommended the audiobook version.

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Other thoughts: Dribble of Ink, The Guilded Earlobe, The Speculative Spaceman, That’s What She Read, Stainless Steel Droppings, Speculative Book Review, The Book Cove, Cheap Thrills, the Little Red Reviewer, Love, Laughter and a touch of Insanity, Rinn Reads, Book Chatter, Collateral Bloggage, Don’t be afraid of the Dork, Jenn’s Bookshelves (yours?)

BRRead for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge:
A sci-fi novel

7126I’ve given it a solid 4 stars, right there between the 5-star adventure fun and the 3-star characterization (especially female) and depth.

So on the plus side we have the Count, the perfect embodiment of the avenging angel with unlimited resources. We also have the plot, that messy, over-the-top fest, masterfully convoluted and deliciously dramatic. It’s full of clichés but I was enthralled for most of the book, especially during the jail scenes.

Despite its length the story flew, except for the bandit and shepherdess chapters, which I skipped after reading the summary on Wikipedia. Mostly, I just sat back and enjoyed every mad idea that popped into Dumas’ head come to life: buried newborns are saved! Beautiful Greek Princesses become a slave! A murderess aristocrat! A paraplegic grandfather saves the day using his eyes! The least romantic proposal in literary history!

On the more meh side, character development was sacrificed in making sure the twisty plot came together, and Dumas broke no ground in the way he portrayed his women. They were flat-out flat. The only one that stood out was Eugénie, who wasn’t given enough page time to become someone real. Lovely Haydée was nerve grating. Beautiful Haydée of the “transparent hands” and the Stockholm Syndrome. Did I mentioned she was beautiful? And a Princess? I’m not surprised most adaptations don’t include her…

il_570xN.191707470Wants it!

In general the characters’ emotions and actions existed for dramatic effect and to support the over-the-top plot. This created a distance between me and them, which was only slightly broken by Abbé Faria, Eugénie and Mr. Nortier.

Almost at the end of the long book the Count starts to realize that his obsession with revenge went too far. Instead of exploring these feelings, Dumas quickly exonerates the Count through religion and leaves the reader (at least this one) hanging there waiting for a little more development on a topic that’s central to a 1000+ page novel. Maybe Dumas wanted to do it, but hey, writing about morals and ethics is less fun. It had been a long book, maybe Dumas just wanted to get it over with.

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Other thoughts: Becky’s Book Reviews, Shelf Love, The Englishist, Wuthering Expectations, Fleur in her World, In Spring it is the dawn, Avid Reader’s MusingsCapricious Reader, Reading Thru The Night, Tif Talks Books (yours?)

(Fear not, spoilers are duly marked, although this post is mostly for people who’ve read the book)

93575Oh book – How did I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Gaudy Night is a mystery novel that’s unapologetically intellectual and I love it when authors let their more brainy side show. It can be read in different ways, but I think it’s mostly about the struggle between the heart and mind, about academia vs the ‘real world’, the risks of being an intelligent woman, about mistakes, growth, self-knowledge and love. It’s that rarest of books that makes you think hard and yet still feel light.

It may sound like the story is all about these Important Topics (which it may be), but they definitely fit naturally within the overall mystery. Also, there’s a good dose of smart humor, dynamic writing and it all goes nicely with the Oxford background.

It was especially interesting to see the characters’ different positions on the central topic of women balancing their personal and professional/intellectual lives. Sayers doesn’t pretend that all women are in favour of equal rights, haughty ice-queens, or repressed virgin spinsters. She gives us a great (and refreshing) variety of female characters don’t come out as caricatures: the single middle-aged don fully committed to her career, the working mom who loves her career and is trying to balance it all, the working mom that thinks it shouldn’t be a woman’s role to provide for her family, the student whose biggest ambition is a happy marriage.

(Women getting stuck between professional achievement and relationships: 80 years after Gaudy Night is written, it still resonates… sigh)

On another note, don’t think me sadistic, but it was a pleasure to see Harriet struggling with her past and her growing affection for Peter Wimsey. I mean, it’s always a pleasure to see a well written character arc, but this one goes to my top list. Because of the events in Strong Poison, Harriet feels she tried to live following her heart and lost part of her identity (and almost her life) because of it. Five years later, she’s learning to trust her emotions again, but in a way that does not completely eclipses her rational and analytic mind.

Just a small note on Peter: in Gaudy Night he’s particularly flawless – but in a way I find impossible to fault! I’m convinced Sayers ruined Mary Sues for me because I’ll never be able to turn my nose up at them again.

Two final comments – SPOILERS AHEAD!

I wish it was Harriet who identified the criminal. That being said I don’t think that the way the solution came about is either demeaning to Harriet or out of character for either her or Peter.

I also wish the criminal had been one of the dons. The occasional classism (or intellectual snobbery?) made me a bit uncomfortable. And I’m still horrified that they locked the “scouts” at night, I don’t care how much it’s for their own safety!

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Other thoughts: things mean a lot, Vulpes Libris, Notes from the North, The Indextrious ReaderStella MatutinaSteph & Tony Investigate!Jenny’s Books (yours?)

adventwithalcott

On Twitter: 

It’s that time of the year again: after the great fun of Advent with Austen and Advent with Atwood, we* were lucky enough to find another author with a name starting with A that we all wanted to read!

If you want to join us, just pick up anything by or about Luisa May Alcott you’ve been saving for a cold day (books, movies, TV series and documentaries), and post about it during Advent (30 Nov – 24 Dec). If there’s interest, we might even organize a Twitter watch-long of the 1994 Little Women.

Hope you can join us!

This one just arrived in the post – great timing 🙂

Advent with Alcott

* I’m once again co-hosting “Advent with” with AnaIris and Yvann.

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