The year has ended…

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I spent the whole (or at least the most part) of 2015 trying to complete this Reading Challenge. I even made a checklist to encourage myself!

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And as I’m sure you have also noticed, I did not succeed.

But I’m not that heartbroken about it. My main goal was to make a dent on my huge (and always growing) to-be-read list of books and I did read more books that I was hoping to… Even some that had been waiting for some time to be picked up.

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Of course, the list continues to grow and I’m already looking forward to a new year of reading.

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Death’s handmaiden 

Remember that taste for darkness I’ve talked about? The one that never really takes me where I think it ought to…

It’s happened again with Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. I don’t even remember when and where I came across this book. It  has been sitting on my shelf for a while now.

I only remember reading the small summary and being completely intrigued by the idea of a convent that serves the God of Death. Who wouldn’t be, right?

Honestly, I was not disappointed. While the story wasn’t what I was expecting, the convent in itself was pretty cool, even when we don’t really get to know as much about it as I would have wanted. A house full of the daughters of Death. I wish we could have gotten more of an inside as what was that like, but I understand that is not really a part of the story.

Death, love and courtly intrigue aside, I think this story is about finding your own way through things. Or maybe that is what I can relate the most to.

Among all the plots and mysteries to unravel, Isame struggles to reconcile what she feels in her heart and what her convent tells her is the truth.

Being one that understand the great effort and constant battle that means believing in something that doesn’t aligned with what you have been taught all your life, I can really relate to her struggle.

She finally realizes that being faithful and loyal to her God and to her convent may as well be two different things. I felt that was evidence of her maturing though the whole “save-the-duchess-from-all-her-enemies” deal.

True, there is not much complication to the supposed machinations that surround the Duchness. I don’t know if it was my absolute mistrust of all male figures after that beginning, or if it was really that obvious… But there was no mystery to the traitors for me.

I saw a lot of bad reviews for this book online, and it is true that it might never be considered a work of art, but it was a good read. People like me that read just for the enjoyment of reading, then it is a good book. I might even go for the next two books of the series.

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Dictatorship: how to

I don’t usually encounter books divided by parts within the same book. Usually when stories are divided in parts, they come in different book. That’s the idea behind the “Book Series” after all, isn’t it?

Well… I can tell you that the different parts of 1984 by George Orwell DO evoke different feelings. They are about different things, even when they follow the same storyline.

The first part is all about trying to escape the monotony. The main character, Winston, is trapped within an oppressive social structure and finds himself scared of his own actions. He feels compelled to go against all the things he knows are required of him with little acts of rebellion that he must hide carefully.

Part two is all about the rebellious actions getting bigger, more willing and more significative. Now the story moves to Winston himself, his feelings and his lady love, Julia, who uses promiscuity as a form of fighting The Party.

I think that was my favorite part of the whole book. When we get to understand the hows and whys of this system within which our characters lives.

There’s this really mind boggling part with the reading of a book within your reading of this book. The Book, as they call it, describes the structure and purposes of this strange government.

I studied politics like one of my major subjects in college, and I kept wondering all along the reading of The Book… Why didn’t I study this at school?! It would’ve made the structures of totalitarian governments more fun to study.

I mean, it is MINDBLOWING!

True, it woke up my academic interest, but more than that! It made me think about the control of the media over the masses.

Doublethink.

It was somewhat scary, in a real life sense.

Part three of this story is all about….

SPOILER ALERT 

…the defeat and surrender of our character, and the success of Big Brother.

Yes. The bad guys win at the end. And no, it doesn’t take away a from the book, but it does give a special kind of vibe to the whole thing.

It is a dark story, that only gets darker and darker as you move forward.

I DO see what makes this book a must-read. It SHOULD be on everyone’s reading list.

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Childhood friends

The truth is that I don’t really remember reading being a big part of my childhood. I don’t think my parents were the kind that sat every night and read me a bedtime story. The imagine that mostly comes to me when I try to remember my childhood in relation to books is that of having to climb onto furniture to be able to reach the so-out-of-reach only-bookshelf on my house.

My parents used to have this old blue encyclopedia. And one of the many tomes contain several short stories.

Every now and then, I would rescue the correct tome out of the shelf and take it to my room. Of course, my mom would find it and return it to its correct place, but it would just find its way back to my bed (because even then, it was my favorite place to read).

I spent a good deal of time thinking about it, and couldn’t really remember any particular story that I could relate to that old book and be sure that was the first place I read it in. So I started to think of other stories that sounded familiar from when I was a child.

One of them was The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.image

I remember this story used to come in the official government-supplied basic education books, along with another one about a donkey. So, I thought I would give it a go.

I cannot say that it brought back memories, but it DID feel like going back to a place that was vaguely familiar. Almost the same feeling I would get as a child when we visited my grandmother. She used to live very far away, so every time everything felt slightly familiar but unfamiliar at the same time.

It was a quick read, and I did enjoy it. It felt like a surreal dream that you get to participate on. The kind where you can’t shake the feeling of lost once you wake up.

I DO wonder what was the objective of having us read such a story so young. And why didn’t they took it out of the public school books?

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What would our great grandparents think?

I keep asking myself what would get a book banned. And after reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, I still have no idea.

On account of the title, I expected all kind of sordid and scandalous details on Lady Chatterley‘s sex life. And after all those penis and secret places, I have to ask…

If this could be considered sexually scandalous, what would our great grandparents think of modern erotica books?! All BDSM and stuff?!

I can’t even imagine.

Is some sexual reference all it took to ban a book? I would think old morality would have found other things some objectionable, like its ideas on the development of the industry or about intimacy vs sexuality. I don’t know.

About the book itself, I have to say that I liked the beginning the best. All the talk about Connie and her sister’s youth. The way she talks about the burden of sex in a relationship.
There are very few points, if any, in which I can agree with her… But I enjoyed getting to know her. After that, I started to feel as depressed as she did with her life, and even the affair that seems to bring her out of it was not enough for me. And to top it all, the ending felt a bit anticlimactic.

Even so, it all felt quite natural… Real. This felt like a true person with a real life.

After reading several YA fiction books, this one also felt more grown up. Several feelings and lines of thinking that are not completely foreign to me. A dysfunctional marriage, the concerns of social pressure and even the heavy decision of whether to bring children to a world that has disappointed you… All things that weight on modern women still (or at least, they should), seem to also be things that have weighted women for centuries.

Who would’ve thought?

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Aren’t we all damaged?

… In one way or another.

While I was feeling very disappointed with myself about my issues with the not-so-adorable Madam Bovary, I decided to go back to one of my favorite authors and be comforted by a story I was familiar with.
So, I found myself reading Book Two and Three of the Caged Series.

The first one, Caged: Takedown Teague, was half funny and half slightly romantic… Even with the awkwardness, the truckload of mental and emotional issues both main characters have and the greatly disturbing details there at the end.

Book Two, Caged: Trapped, was all about Liam and his issues. I mean, this is a Savage book and you expect him to be quite dysfunctional, but THIS guy takes the prize.
If any of Shay’s characters has been psychiatric-institution-worthy is definitely Liam Teague. He is in need of some serious help. And if is until he meets Dr. Baynor that he starts to confront the idea that something may be actually wrong with him in the head.

And of course, everything starts to go downhill from there. One second it seems they have finally found stable ground and the next everything crumbles down and their relationship is over and Liam is back on drugs.
And when you think it just can’t get worst, we find our broken main character jobless, homeless and penniless.

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But that’s really what took me over to the third and last book of the series without pausing. Caged: Released, is all about Liam’s struggle to get up and out from rock bottom… And it IS a struggle.
He isn’t magically cured from one moment to the next of ALL his issues, it takes lots of therapy and even medication… And that makes it feel like a journey you take with him.

I did feel the end of Tria’s pregnancy a bit rushed, but I imagine that watching them fight and battle his demons on every page would have been depressing.

One thing, though… What the hell was up with the trainer!? That one left me completely confused and feeling like I missed something.

Have you read the Caged series? Any guesses!?

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Not a cat person

The place I work at has a small book-exchange library where everyone can take a book as long as you leave one in its place. Unfortunately, the books always seem to end up on a big pile over a couple of tables at the center of the room.

IMG_2380-0It is on this ever growing pile of books that never seems to find their way back onto the shelf nor follow their appropriate alphabetical order, where I first glimpsed Every Cat’s Survival Guide to Living with a Neurotic Owner.

And I just ignored it, really. After all, I’m not a cat person.Every Cat's Survival Guide by Beth Adelman

And it is not as if I have anything against cats. Not at all. I actually like them. It is just that mine has always been a dog household. No real reason to it, it is just the way it has been for as long I can remember.

The second time I came across this book was while I was boringly waiting for my next appointment with nothing to entertain me at all, and I simply grabbed it and look a quick look at he introduction.
It was so funny, I just took it home with me.

This is a self-help book for cats, to help them understand their people and how better to understand them and train them to do their bidding. Of course, I cannot relate to the idiosyncrasies of having a cat, but I kept thinking about my dog and how well HE has trained me over the years to always know what he wants. That just made it funnier.

As all the self-help books I’ve come by, thou, it tends to be a bit repetitive… But I guess that

Cats must always be dignified

DOES sound like something cats would repeat a lot, even when talking among each other.

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One hundred and four days to go

Ok, I’m starting to feel the preassure.

Over two thirds of the year has gone by, and I’m barely over one third of the way to the finish line. But, it does not matter, I will keep on reading ’til the last minute.

Goodness, that sounded dramatic! Hehe. I doesn’t matter to me if the challenge goes unfinished, but I have found it to be the best encouragement to really get on with my reading and stop letting the nuisances of life and my lousy kill on time management keep me from my favorite thing in the world.

So, I say…

to the reading cave!!

… I mean, pillow.

To check out all the books read so far, check out my book-cover mosaic.

Find and not look, look and not find.

When I decided to start with this challenge, I made a rough booklist to cover all the checks I needed. But, how did I pick them, you ask? With the help Goodreads and all the already-made booklist there. Of course, the list has changed and grown as I go through it.

So, yes… at some point I searched for “books with love triangles”, and then checked it against all the books on my shelf (the wood one, or the digital one) already waiting to be read… and that’s how I came up with Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

And after complaining so much and sso often about all those love triangles that seem pointless and unnecessary all over the place, I had some trouble seeing why wold this particular book made that list.  It took some thinking and reviewing but I think I see it, and I’m sure it will become more obvious and heart-breaking as the story goes on for the rest of the books (if the movies are anything to go by).

I sppose that after the overly sexual three-way romance on Witches of East End, and slightly annoyingly dramatic one on Shatter Me, this one felt almost accidental. I did feel somwhat real and appropriately juvenile, thou… No so much as something she does, or bad judgment on her part, but allowing things to be left unsaid and refusing to think about the consequences of her actions.

imageBut then again, how can anything possibly matter when you are being thrown into a battle field to die publicly for people’s entertainment?

Of course, I’ll have to read the other two. I would like to say that it will be done before the lst movie comes out, but I don’t think it can be done if I want to stop deviating of my goal.

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The ultimate bookworm

I remember back when Mara Wilson was on everyone of my TV favorites…

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… and Matilda has always been one of my all time favorite characters. I wanted to be just like her, and not because she has telekinetic abilities, but because she read so many books.

This is the true reason why I’ve had Matilda (by Roald Dhal) on my list, waiting to be read, for such a long time.

And it turned out to only take a day! And a working day at that.

Now, I’m just annoyed at myself that I hadn’t read it before now. But I guess that’s the whole point of me giving this challenge-thing a go: to push myself.

IMG_0874Another thing I loved about this book, that happens to also be true for the only other book by Dhal I’ve read, is that I absolutely ADORED the illustrations.IMG_0873

They are just so completely adorable.
The ending DOES feel a bit rushed and silly, in its lacking of details, but it is after all a book meant for children, and they are never really bothered by silly things as details and unlawful abandonment of minors.

IMG_0872I will definitely push my nephews (the only children I have access to) to read this one… Even if I have to place it everywhere until they are sick of my insisting, because I think it gives a message that is vitally important:

Reading makes your life better.

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Classically challenged

I have never been one to delve into what people call “the classics”. And it mostly has been because the subjects of those books not usually appeal to me… So, it was with curiosity and somewhat excitement that I started with Madam Bovary.

… It is not working out as planned.

I’m not saying that I will not finish it. I WILL. I refuse to be defeated by a book. I am saying, thou, that it will take me a long time. Chapter by chapter, makes it slow going.

I’m not sure if it is just the language or the overly done descriptions, but I’m finding it had to go one chapter (two at most) without going cross-eye and feeling sleep win out.

This had never happen to me before.

I am all about finding the coziest position in my bed to read, until exhaustion gets the better of me, or I manage to convince myself that sleeping is in my best interest. But this book is simply pulling my lids down relentlessly.

I don’t want to think that it would be the same for all classics, but this being my first experience with one, I’m feeling sadly disappointed. With myself and with the book. I might need some reassurance and encouragement.

Witches and gods.

I feel a tad conflicted when it comes to Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz.

On the one hand, I LOVE witches. Magic wands made of dragon bone, flying brooms, spells and potions… Even dancing toy soldiers.

Magic = I’m a fan.

On the other hand, I felt that there was too much going on. There were three witches with very different lives and very different problems. Then there was a vampire, and family issues, and then there was a council that we never really got to know much about and the lot of references to the Salem witch trials that only got a very short explanation late in the book.

I don’t know. Of course there was the love affair, and I’m sure you know how I feel about setting the really good guy against the naughty one. But of course, it turns out that the good was bad and the other way around… So that was that.
And then there was the woman who lost her husband, only to get him and and loose him again on a more horrible way. And the girl that got abused a beaten to death and only got a few lines to explain what happened to her… Like an afterthought.
I really don’t know how I feel about this book.
And don’t get me started about the mythological references. My mythology isn’t that good, even when I DID watch Thor. Half the time I had no idea what they were talking about,

Bottom line… It was good, but I wouldn’t keep it around to read again and again like most of my magic and witches books.

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I remember a while back hearing about this TV show and watching some episodes, it never really  grabbed my attention. There were a couple of interesting things but not enough. I DO remember that there were four witches and not just three and the affair thing was way messier. But I guess that’s what always happens when books are molested my TV producers.

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“The better to eat you with, my dear”

imageOf course I was already hooked, from having read Cinder, but I really enjoyed Scarlet. More action and mystery that the previous one, what with the grandmother being missing and the strange soldiers just seeming to be there and being left wondering why hasn’t anyone seen them flying around when everyone is suppose to be looking for them… But there are also more answers.
Getting to know what actually happen to Cinder to make her as she is now felt important to me, and Wolf’s presence and his allegiance to her also seemed monumental somehow.image
Of course, I wouldn’t have said no to some more of Kai, but I guess watching him doubt and feel for the cyborg that was his friend was just right. He never backs down from his role and duties, and that in my book makes hI’m awesome.
At the end of my book came an excerpt of Cress and it totally grabbed me (that’s the one that follows in the series), but I took a look at my year countdown and I will never manage this challenge if I continue to deviate and follow all the series that I come across. Specially when the multiple-book series seems to be all the rage lately.
Where are the awesome stories that can be contained in just one book lately?
So, I’ll try and stick to my reading list and once the challenge is done (yes! I still refuse to believe I can’t do it!), then I will be absolutely coming back and finishing the series. I imagine by then even the fourth book, Winter, will be ready and I won’t even have to pause before getting to the ending.

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Old & New

Of course I only started reading Cinder (by Marissa Meyer) because I heard it was a re-telling of the classic Cinderella story, and eventhou the movies that have flooded the teather lately haven’t interested me at all… curiosity won.

And I’m glad it did. I was great!

Of course, I might be bias. After all, I’m a terrible fan of sci-fy and all this quirky references to classic stories kind of mellow me by reminding me of my childhood… all that might be true, but i still loved it.

The play on the lost shoe was one of my favorites. Lost shoe, lost foot. No difference, right?

imageAll these old thing, mixed with all these new things.

And cruel stepmother with two daghters that are alwas treated to better things relying on the hard-work of an orphan. Old.

A cyborg that seems to be immune to a world-wide plague, with brain interface and ID chips and med-androids. New.

Another of my favorite things is that this Emperor is more commited to the well-being of his people than to what he might or moght not feel for the girl and that makes him  great man in my book.

When everything is said and done… Cinder has only herself to get out of the mess she’s in. As it should be.

Soon, the whole world would be searching for her -Linh Cinder.

A deformed cyborg with a missing foot.

A Lunar with a stolen identity.

A mechanich with no one to run to, nowhere to go.

But they would be looking for a ghost.

Now I’m onto the next one… Scarlet. Very likely I’ll end up reading even the tiny stories that divulge the most mundane secrets of these characters, and every little thing to do with the Lunar Chronicles (as this series is called) Honestly.

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