Long time no see

Well, hello! That was long.

The thing is, the circumstances made me get away from a lot of things in my life, including this blog. But like my old friend Winifred Sanderson would say -or sing in this case-: “Now the witch is back! And there is hell to pay”*. Hell, in this case, is a lot of personal articles where I give my opinion about anything that I consider is worth my time and reviews, loads of reviews, but you get the point.

But what did actually happen for me to disappear? Well, I wasn’t happy with my life, so I decided to quit my job in London and I came back to the beach and the easy living. My mental health really does appreciate the move, and I have learnt that if you are not happy with your life you should change it, and at least I am trying.

I basically came to terms with the fact that this is my mid-20’s crisis and this is my way of dealing with it. Yes, you guessed it right: avoiding thinking about my future and spending my money on things I should not be spending my money on.

But hey, I still spend money on books, so it is not all bad.

Glad to be back, hope you readers are not all gone for good.

–> Currently (re)reading: “Pride and Prejudice”, by Jane Austen. I have a feeling that my first opinion on it was not fair so I’m giving it another chance.

*For those of you who did not grow up in the 90’s, I am making reference to “Hocus Pocus” and the version of “I Put A Spell On You” by Bette Midler

 

Advertisements

Book Review: Desert City Diva, by Corey Lynn Fayman

Desert_City_Diva_-_Cover_t240I have a “funny” relationship with mystery novels, and I tend to stay away from them as I normally end up disappointed by the result, or bored, or both, and so I was a little bit sceptical when I received a copy of Desert City Diva, but this turned out to be kind of sceptical-proof.

Rolly Waters is a guitar player that also works as a private investigator. He then meets Macy Starr, a client, who contacts him regarding a pretty weird guitar thingy with only one string. This Macy girl is very pretty and a little bit crazy, and so you expect what is to come: strange encounters with weird people and alien stuff involved. Well, maybe it is not what you would expect, but the characters are pretty much perfect for the mystery that is to come.

The story is very entertaining, and the way it is written is fair to the events, as it feels fast paced and the characters act according to expected, although, it may feel like they act too expectedly sometimes. I sort of knew what the result was going to be when I was midway, and I felt like Rolly was a little behind his times for being a private investigator. He is in his forties but this should not forgive him for not having a computer and not even trying to Google whatever information he receives throughout the investigation (which would have saved a lot of trouble and time).

“Rolly considered all the things he didn’t know in the world. There were a lot of them.”

Although I understand completely, this gives the author an excuse to make characters disappear throughout the story, making the book a trap for eager readers. I also believe that the book would still be good regardless the result of the story, because the characters are enjoyable by themselves, really full of life, and fairly funny.

“Things would get complicated with Macy now, accounting his hours, parsing them into the personal and the professional. Last night they’d had sex in the Tioga. The spider bite was a message. The message said he was an idiot.”

This is made literally for anyone, any age, regardless what you are into. It was fun, and entertaining, and different, so it is worth giving it a go. And trust me, it will force you to keep on reading, beginning to end.

Book Review: Post Office, by Charles Bukowski

postofficecoverI find it easier for me to write a review on a book I dislike because the wrong comes easily to point out, but a review is way harder to complete when you find the book to be a really good one, and you have to pick and choose what is more important than the rest. I will try my best here, but I have feelings for this boozy bastard, so if I do not achieve what I intend to say, just know that I deeply like Bukowski.

“It began as a mistake.”

This is how we are introduced by our narrator, Henry Chinaski, who appears in this novel for the first time (basically because this is Bukowski’s first work), and who represents his creator himself and his experiences working in the Post Office (hence the name). This novel is completely autobiographical, almost, may I say, too autobiographical. It is basically every-day life made novel, as the character parades from work to home and then back to work, which may sound as the most boring thing taking into account that this is what almost all of us do in a daily basis. However, I believe here is where the greatness of this novel resides, because no one had ever thought that normal life could be so entertaining.

This entertainment has a lot to do with the way our narrator copes with life: alcohol and women, both in abundance. Now combine the rudeness of his character with an amazing literary style. No literary plethora, no academic words, no pretty writing, just pure words straight from a drunk genie.

“Was I some kind of idiot, actually? Did I make things happen to myself? It was possible. It was possible that I was subnormal, that I was lucky just to be alive.”

Bukowski received a lot of critic because of the same reason I find him so great. He was too real, and some do not get to read in between the lines. By writing this book he was criticizing the people around him, his job, the United States of America, and himself, all of this at the same time. Because he is not trying to be a figure to follow at all, he is only showing his vision of life, how one can still be happy with the small things in life. What if the guy is always drunk and has a serious weakness for women? He is just trying to survive the best way he can.

And he is funny, really funny.

“Look, let’s give it up. Let’s just lay around and make love and take walks and talk a little. Let’s go to the zoo. Let’s look at the animals. Let’s drive down and look at the ocean. It’s only 45 minutes. Let’s play games in the arcades. Let’s go to the races, the Art Museum, the boxing matches. Let’s have friends. Let’s laugh. This kind of life is like everybody else’s kind of life: it’s killing us.”

 “I was being raped by a high yellow enchantress! For a moment, it excited me. Then I told her. “Shit. Get down, baby. It’s been a long hard day. There will be a better time.” She climbed off. The thing went down like an express elevator.”

It was hard to choose quotes, I would put the whole book down here if I could. I can’t do that (copyright and stuff), so you may have to read it yourselves and decide whether you love it or you hate it. One or the other, this book is worth reading nevertheless.

Currently: trying to finish “How to be both” by Ali Smith before I start reading “High Rise” by J. G. Ballard (I have to read it before I watch Tom Hiddleston going crazy on screen).

Short Story Review: The Story of Lucius Cane, by Vanya Ferreira

51MXFYPCahL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_Lucius Cane is a Vampire. Jack the Hound is a half lycanthrope. They are both in London, 1794, and they both happen to have an encounter that does not end up very well.

There is not much more to say about The Story of Lucius Cane (it is 20 pages long), but it happened to be quite entertaining. It kind of took me back in time to my younger days as it reminded me of the type of fantasy novels I used to read back then. The way it is written matches the story and the characters fairly, and so do the descriptions of the events. These descriptions may seem grotesque at some points but the fights, though very realistic and specific, did not really shock me, they just seemed right for the story.

It is a short story that I assume was excerpted from book one, which is still to come, or at least that is what I hope, as the author career is definitely promising and I would not mind reading the whole story.

Vanya Ferreira was born in South Africa and currently resides in Serbia. He has been reading since he can remember and has a passion for writing; he simply finds the syntactical nature of language to be a beautiful and mesmerizing creature. Apart from his short story collection, Vanya is also currently working on a full length psychological crime thriller that should be released before the end of the year.

If you are not a youngster anymore but you used to love vampire stories back at the time, then you should entertain yourself with this story, it is good.

INFO: I have stopped accepting books for review. You can get more information on my Review Policy page.

Currently

I know, it has been a while, but I have my reasons. February has been a busy month so far, and there were some events in London that I just could not miss, so here is a summary of what’s been going on.

I spent A Night Of Amy in The Roof Gardens in Kensington, and it was just lovely. I tend to stay away from these types of fancy venues, but this was a good reason to get out of my comfort zone. The gardens are amazing, the nostalgia was latent in the place, and the overly priced beer tasted better with the music. If you get a chance to go to one of these events please do, you will not be disappointed.

I was also waiting for months for Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats to finally visit the city, and so did the rest of 2000 people that manage to fit in the O2 Forum in Kentish Town. That was literally one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. The voice is unbelievable, the band put together sounds amazing, and we were first row like proper groupies, so I could not ask for more.

Also, my sister visited London for the first time, and we decided to record her trip and do a little compilation. It was fun. It was also stressful and cold, but fun nonetheless. Here is the video in case you want to see how my face looks like and how weird things can get in London.

I will get back to my long reading list now. Please be patient if you have submitted your book for review, I have a full time job I have to go to and it is not that easy for me to read 10 books a month now.

P.S.: If you don’t know who Nathaniel Rateliff is, go check them out, now.

FullSizeRender.jpg

 

Book Review: What She Knew, by Nadine Galinsky Feldman

Liz Nabor, a woman in her 40s living in Manhattan as a money manager, with a perfect boyfriend and a perfect apartment and basically a perfect life, but everything is so perfect that it made me dislike the story from the beginning, because it simply feels fake and distant.

I think this was the biggest issue I had whilst reading What She Knew, because I could not relate to the character in any way and I ended up almost hating her. This did not only have to do with the character’s lifestyle, but with the character itself. She is in her mid-forties although she acts like she is in her mid-twenties, and when the trouble starts to come she proceeds the most un-professional way possible: avoiding the problem thinking it may solve itself.

The problem in this case is a lot of drama that does not get solved. Someone very important gets involved in a corruption scandal and so Liz’s firm freaks out because this person in question may be involved with one of Liz’s clients. Then Liz’s aunt is dying and, even though apparently they have not spoken for years, she leaves the city to spend her last days with her, avoiding her job, her clients and her boss. And do not expect the author to explain where the problem comes from between her and her auntie, because all you have instead is a vague explanation that does not feel enough for someone to just stop their relationship like that.

Now combine all this with a poor editorial work. You will find too many explanations that do not add anything of importance to the story and just make it boring and repetitive. These explanations slow down the story when what the story needs is to go way faster, because if a character’s life is disbanding, you cannot have this character just thinking about her problems over and over again and not doing anything about it, as she simply turns off her phone and goes running. I could not stop thinking how she got so far with that approach to life, honestly.

“All this happens while the West Coast is greeting the day. Liz, innocent of  what’s to come, lounges on the sofa, sore from the day’s work bending, stooping, and sorting. She grabs one of  her aunt’s journals and leafs through it.”

Of course she falls in love whilst being away with a handsome and loving man, and when she comes back to Manhattan there you have it, all the problems solved, magical happy ending.

I appreciate the hard work and I know how difficult it is for an author to self-publish a book, but I believe that if this book had had a second editor behind it, it would have been different and, well, better.

If you are a money manager with a perfect life, go read it. It is a simple story, with simple writing and basic characters, and I am afraid that I have to be honest and say that it is definitely not for me.

On Online Publishing

Getting a book published nowadays is undeniably easy, as you can just go online and create your own editorial and edit and upload your own book yourself. In the US only there are in between 600.000 and 1.000.000 books published every year, and going up. You can imagine the global figures.

This is fascinating, as this means that there are millions of people writing books every day. These books are being made accessible for everyone to read online and the possibilities are endless. This gives the author total autonomy on their book, from beginning to end. And this may sound idyllic, but, with all honesty, this is making more damage than good to the publishing industry.

I don’t think it is necessary for me to relate here how the book industry sales are actually declining, how hard it is for an author to have their book on an actual bookshelf on an actual store, and let’s not talk about having a best seller.

My thoughts on massive publishing and why it is not a recognized market has nothing to do with statistics. The problem comes with non-controlled releases and how this affects the quality of what is being published, because literally anyone can publish a book online right now.  Most of these online publications have been rejected by proper editorials, and, being harshly honest, there are books out there that simply should not exist.

And now you will say: “But there is a lot of good authors that are not being recognized and this gives them an opportunity to stand out by themselves without having to wait for a miracle”. Yes, indeed. But this also gives really amateurish authors the freedom to publish books poorly edited, making it even harder for brilliant authors to stand out in between the mess.

What I intend to say is that I have always thought that the editing of a book is almost as important as the story itself. If you write a book and you do not have a good editor behind it, that book will never be a master piece, as authors tend to be sentimentally attached to their job and stubborn when it comes to changes, meaning they will leave their book as they feel looks right to them, but not to the expected public.

I am not saying that this market should disappear, or that these new authors should stop writing books. I want to encourage authors to keep on writing, to keep on publishing, as the freedom of speech is one of the most sacred rights we have nowadays, something that has been really hard to achieve and which is still being watched closely by overly-offended people. So keep on creating, but learn from your mistakes, do not rush into publishing your work, do not take bitter reviews personally, and appreciate quality over quantity, as this is what will give you recognition at the end.

Book Review: Five Thousand, Three Hundred Miles, by Cecily Knobler

28425192I am not really into romantic novels as most of the times I have tried and get into one, and I either don’t feel related to the characters or I don’t like the story, and so I end up leaving it midway. However, I was gladly surprised when all the contrary happened whilst reading Five Thousand, Three Hundred Miles.

To put you into situation: Beth, the main character, receives a three days trip to London from her sister for her birthday, and, as expected, she falls in love during her trip. Almost half of the story is set in London, and the main character is a simple American girl to whom everyone can feel related to quite easily (because of the setting and the character itself, I am obviously not American). The first Irish man she meets in the story is the perfect representation of one of plenty you could easily find here any evening out (sadly), and the second and charming man, Jack, is the proper stereotypical image of the English gentleman, who is a bit less easy to relate to (they are endangered species), but who is obviously the one Beth falls for, giving the story that “Hollywood rom-com” atmosphere, which will make any young girl fall for this book.

What also surprised me is that, even though the way it is written is nothing too exceptional, the author achieves to be pretty funny and close to the reader, which matches the story and the characters involved in it pretty well.

“I wanted to ask him everything about his life just because he had an English accent. The same went for the cabbie, the gentleman in customs and the lady who took my train ticket. I wanted to Facebook friend request every single person I came across, but I decided to tone down the Yankee in me, if only for a moment.”

The story is written in first person narrator, but it switches from Beth to Jack, the charming English man, from chapter to chapter, which makes the whole thing a bit more interesting having these two points of view. Why so? Because *spoiler alert* their ways are separated before they can swap details, due to an unfortunate situation right before Beth is leaving to the airport, and so they cannot find each other once she returns to America. This gives the author a great opportunity to explore both characters months after this happened, as the author does not stay in a simple love story, but narrates more realistic situations in their now separated lives, like the fears of being with someone unsure if they are the right ones, the uncertainty of love and the fear for the unknown future. Yet, the part I liked the most was the one set in London, but mainly because here is where the change happens, and where the story gains its intensity.

“His eyes, now looking as green as Hyde Park, lingered on me for a moment. They then expressed a sentiment that read: “Please forgive me, but I can no longer not kiss you”. If only there were just one word for that. I’ll bet the French have it. But English speakers don’t, so thankfully we can read eyes.”

It was a lovely reading. It was also refreshing to read a new author for once, not knowing what to expect. Recommended for any hinting people out there who is avoiding romance; you may fall for this one.

Book Review: The Vegetarian, by Han Kang

5fa98b3d-55de-498e-bc0c-4d568001aeb4_editedI have always believed that for a story to be good it has to have an interesting plot and it also has to be well written, and I try to found my inclinations on this. Therefore, and based on this, I will dare to say that I have not disliked a book this much since Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (oh yes, I did hate that one indeed).

I understand if some of you disagree. This book has great reviews, and it promised a lot at the beginning, and I chose it myself mostly because of the way it was written -or, at least, promised to be written:

“However, if there wasn’t any special attraction, nor did any particular drawbacks present themselves, and theferore there was no reason for the two of us not to get married.”

But before you even finish the first part, this greatness-to-be fades away and the book is just a quarter of what it could have been. It tries to tell the story about how a woman decides to stop eating meat and then everyone around her starts going nuts.The book is divided in three different parts, each part narrated by a different character, and all these narrators seem to be equaly unpersonal and noncredible, and as flat as the rest of the characters in the story.

For me, the reason why it does not make justice to its promise is mainly because there is too much going on and the author did not really solve the problem, and cahotically and barely put the story together, leaving the reader with that feeling of apathy towards the characters.

I hope you do not get me wrong, the “main” character Yeong-hye- “main”, as she does not really have a voice of herself in the story- is intense and surrealistic, and I do get why the book has got so much attetion, as it presents something new, but this character, a character one should be able to feel at least empathy for, simply feels emtpy and unreal. There are inclusions of dreams throughout the book, which aim to give the readers clues of what is on her mind, but to me they just seemed randomly placed and non-related, and, again, they did not comply their finality.

“Sleeping in five-minutes snatches. Slipping out of fuzzy conciousness, it’s back – the dream. Can’t even call it that now. Animal eyes gleaming wild, presence of blood, unearthed skull, again those eyes.”

The worst thing that can happen to you when reading a book is that the book conveys you nothing, and that is what happened to me with The Vegetarian. Easy and quick to read, not a pleasure.

New Purchases

DSC00976_edited.jpg

How many times have you heard “New Year, New Me” so far this new 2016? To me it is more like “New Year, New Reads”, and I am already planning what my reading list is going to include this year (open for sugestions as always).

So here are my picks of the month again, which are basically auto-christmas presents as I like to call them:

The Bachelors, by Muriel Spark

Interesting plot, intriguing idea, and good reviews all over the place, I will be very disappointed if I do not like this one. Set in London, it presents “The Bachelors” as its characters, and the torments these will too suffer, which means drastic changes and excentric situations, or at least that what I expect.

– Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, by Dave Eggers

I mean, who is not attracted by that title? I am sure the “weird title” and the bright cover are a very well done marketing strategy, but I am certainly sold. Thomas and Kev, abductor and abducted respectivelly, find themselves in an abandoned military base, a perfect place for them to have “a conversation”, so high expectations for this one.

– How To Be Both, by Ali Smith

Not sure if I have the “camera” version or the “eyes” version of this book, but either way I am expecting something interesting and moving. It involves art and changes of time, mirrowing two different eras with different characters. Thanks to my friend Vivi for letting me borrow this one,  I have a feeling I am going to like it coming from her.

And I may be repeating the repeated now, but Happy New Year everyone, hope you have a good start and a better ending to this 2016, and please, read a lot.