Thursday, May 31, 2012

Movie Trailer: Great Gatsby

The Hollywood habit turning books into movies shows no sign of stopping. To that already long list, we have a new addition: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This trailer looks so good! I'm really excited for the movie. Might just be better that be book, I dare say...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review| The Glimpse, by Claire Merle

The Glimpse, by Claire Merle, is a dystopian young adult novel in which society is divided and controlled by its government. The method of their subjugation? Mental health as determined by a DNA test. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. And Merle knows that. She has created a post-collapse world where the people are struggling for order, willing to put their trust in anyone with an answer. Que the Pure test. It claims to detect mental illness, and weeding these “defective” people out seems to improve society... at least for a privileged few, the Pure. And so, people buy into the big lie. I found the use of mental illness effective, and not at all offensive. It’s acknowledged pretty early in the novel that the test is a sham, that the ability to test for mental illness in DNA isn’t possible. The segregation of the people, ruling them with fear, is the real reason for the tests.

Ana, the protagonist, has her Pure status revoked when a certain anomaly comes to light. Now her future is in the hands of Jasper. She needs to bind with him or she’ll be cast out among the Crazies. Having been raised in a Pure community, she believes what she has been taught of them: they are violent, aggressive, unpredictable. When Jasper goes missing, Ana is determined to find him, to solve the mystery of his abduction. Out in the real world, far from the safety of her community, Ana learns the truth of the Pures and the Crazies, of the tests and the treatments her government issues. Her world is thoroughly rocked, and she will never be the same. Ana is a strong character. She rises to the challenges thrown at her. She has doubts and fears, but she does her best and uses her head.

At times, though, the highly improbable happens. This is a work of fiction, sure, but suspension of disbelief can only go so far. She played a lawyer and won based only on some reading she did? Really? With just a haircut and a pair of contacts, she went completely unrecognised? Ugh. No. Another problem for me: the instant-love. Ana meets Cole. Sparks fly. They love one another. Forever. Um, bite me. That sounds like a crush, like lust. The word “love” is used, though... am I to believe thats what it is? If that is love, then it is of the shallow variety. That magical Disney love that takes no time at all to manifest itself. It’s a fairy tale wedged into a dystopian novel, and it drags down the quality of the story for me.

Last major bone of contention for me: the glimpse itself. From what I gather of this ill-explained phenomenon, the glimpse is a look into the future that only certain people get. This entire concept seems so completely random to me! Why throw this little paranormal tidbit into the book? Nothing else in this novels world-building hints at anything psychic or supernatural, so why is it included? It seems to me that the only purpose for it is to push Cole and Ana towards one another. An attempt to make that little fairy-tale-love seem more believable, more real. It falls completely flat, though.

Despite these flaws, I’d still say The Glimpse is well written and engaging. Merle is clearly talented. The actual flow of the story was smooth; Ana, well drawn. As a dystopian novel, though, this isn’t one of the strongest I’ve read. If you like YA sci-fi in general, especially those with a strong element of romance, then The Glimpse may be right up your alley.

See this review on: Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari
These are the books I've won that arrived for the week of May 20 - 26.

I've been posting these weekly, but on various days. I'll stick to Sundays for consistency from here on out. Provided that I get books in the week, of course. Though thrift store books may be it's own feature. To be decided.

Anyway, I'm currently reading The Glimpse, by Claire Merle. Review for that to come soon.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review| Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers

Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers, is the story of a young orphan named Laure Beausejour as she is exiled to the new world. I received an advance reader copy through Goodreads’ giveaway.

Taken from her parents as a child, Laure was sent to Paris’ Salpêtrière, where women deemed unfit for society were placed. Laure got a brief glimpse of wealth and family while working as a servant, but when her madame passes, she must go back to the wretched conditions at the hospital. In addition the the plight of rats, the people there are severely underfed. Infants are fed a watery milk concoction and most don’t survive. One young woman, whom Laure initially despised, passes away from scurvy. Laure attempts to get a letter to the king asking for improved conditions, but the hospital’s Superior finds out. A spiteful woman, she sends Laure to Canada, still a wild country, as punishment. Once there, Laure must struggle through loss, marriage, and surviving in this new land.

Laure is neither very likeable nor relatable. She initially seems bitter and jealous. Mireille, another girl at the Salpêtrière, evokes her envy. When Mireille dies, she seems to change a bit, but is still very selfish. She encourages her best friend, Madeline, to accompany her to the new world knowing fully well how dangerous this might be. Once in Canada, she endangers Madeline once more, all so she won't have to be alone. To her credit, Laure seems a bit more headstrong than other women sent to Canada. Perhaps she has even grown by the end of the book.

This novel is written in the third-person–present-tense, and I don’t think it really works. It felt a bit impersonal and alienating. At times, it seemed more like a clinical look than an intimate portrait. This story relies so much on a central character that this non-connection leaves the novel feeling flat and lacking in emotion.

Still, this was certainly an interesting look at how the poor of Old France were treated. How the women exiled to the New France had to make do with what they had and simply try to survive. Those interested in this time in history, as well as women's struggles, may find this book enjoyable. It is certainly very illuminating, I just wish it felt more personal.

See this review on: Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review| The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos

The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos, is the story of a family living through the Greek military junta of 1967-1974. While most of the country sleeps, Greece suddenly changes. A group of colonels stage a coup d’etat and seize control of government. Eleni and Mihalis, Anna and Sophie, now live in a very different world.

At the start of this novel, it seems to me that Mihalis, a poet and past revolutionary, struggles with how to react. A part of him wants to act out against the dictators, while the rest of him is tired and justs want to reconcile with his wife. He recognizes the need for action, but feels he has done his part in the past. His niece, Sophie, is radical and ready. She believes in the cause but wants dearly to impress her uncle and boyfriend. The resistance seems to be a stage for her, and a movement only second. Sophie’s sister Anna is a shy, withdrawn, and sullen child. As a third child, she feels herself lacking in identity and importance. Eleni, Sophie and Anna’s mother, has a family and despite her past with politics, must put them first. Widowed, she has lost control of her children and has to reconcile what they want with what she expects.

This is very much a character driven novel. There is a semblance of a plot, sure, but it’s certainly not the feature. The political turmoil is a mostly a backdrop in the family drama, only occasionally propelling them forward. Each person's mindset and emotions are explored. Their past, their fears, their desires. We learn so much about these four main characters that is impossible to not relate to them, to not identify with them in some way. They want what we all want: to be rid of oppression, to love freely, to be happy. We all want to leave behind the best world possible for future generations.

Each character also experiences tremendous growth. The dormant are pulled into action, the overzealous lulled into more subdued protest. Mihalis and Eleni move from what they seem to have accepted to what they know is right. Sophie grows from her days as a kid playing at politics. Anna is, perhaps, the most transformed. She sheds her childish cloak of insecurities and becomes an empowered young woman.

Greece, as a backdrop, is wonderfully described. From Athens, to the islands; the shared home in Halandri, to the secret places the characters keep to themselves. The reader can feel like they are moving alongside each character. We are lounging with Mihalis in Kifissia, traveling with Anna to Hydra. And, as we escape with Sophie, Paris springs to life.

Don’t go into this novel expecting a fast paced, action packed plot. This isn’t that kind of book. It is for those seeking a story to connect with, something to contemplate. It is beautifully written, riddled with standout passages. I’d quote from it, but I have an advance reader copy won through Goodreads.

See (and like) this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Monday, May 21, 2012

New Arrivals

These came in the week of May 14-20. Already finished The Language of Flowers and wrote something resembling a review on Goodreads. Not sure if I'll post it on here, though. I finished The Night Circus as well. Better than expected.

I'm currently reading The Green Shore, by Natalie Bakopoulos, an arrival from last week.

So, this happened...

I posted about this on my Tumblr, but forgot to post about it here!

In one of the stores I went to on Saturday, a man started telling me that people shouldn’t read all books. The reason? Some have demons, devils. The author has already lost to the enemy, Satan, for trying to sell these book to the people. The mind is like a computer that gets corrupted and the antivirus is the bible, he said.

I tried to tell him that I didn’t believe that sort of thing, but did he listen? Of course not. People like that would rather talk than listen, and that’s exactly what he did. Kept talking about antivirus and demons as though I didn’t say a thing.

The best part: his daughter wants to read Fifty Shades of Gray, but he has to see what it’s about before he gets it for her. That poor girl. I bet she’ll have to pray extra hard for letting that book title slip to daddy.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Book People Unite

I adore this!

Thrift Store Scores

Just bought all of these this morning, second hand.

So, yea..I might have problem...

or maybe not. All of these come up to a mere $8!

Two of them (The God of Small Things, and The Lightning Thief) are beautiful, like-new hardcovers. Most of the paperbacks are like-new or lightly worn. A few have damage, but still a pretty good deal, I think.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review| Only with the Heart: A Novel by Sherri Szeman

Only with the Heart is the story of a family being torn apart by Alzheimer’s disease. Claudia, who grew up a foster child, has finally found a family amongst that of her husband Sam. His mother, Eleanor, becomes her own mother, and everyone in the family loves and accepts her. After Sam and Claudia's marriage, however, things head downhill. Eleanor is falling deeper and deeper into her illness, and when her own husband dies, she goes to live with her son and daughter-in-law. Eleanor’s mind, and the quality of life of those who care for her, only degrades until she finally passes away. Claudia is accused of murder, and it seems that this family will never be allowed to rest, to heal.

The story is in three parts: The first is Claudia's perspective. Immediately, you notice the writing style is not at all conventional. Parts of it are a conversation between herself and her therapist. The rest is her relating her experiences. She shifts suddenly between stories, and from one point in time to the next. There is no smooth transition, it just happens.This works for the character, though. This style choice seems to give the impression that Claudia’s thoughts are fractured and jumbled, that she herself is still trying to sort it all out.

Next is Eleanor. The writing style reflects her mental state very well. She, too, shift from one point in time to another very abruptly. She is in the throes of her Alzheimer's, and then, at stark contrast, a her old self again. She, with a stunted vocabulary and a poor understanding of what is happening around her, puts us right in the head of an Alzheimer's sufferer. It’s quite incredible to see Alzheimer's depicted this way. It make Eleanors illness feel very real to the reader.

Last is Sam. He covers the trial, events Claudia spoke of, and his own thoughts. He jumps between stories as well, but it seems pointless for him, like theres no reason for it. That aside, his part really threw me for a loop. He makes you realize that just like in real life, there are three sides to every story, and only one is the truth. There is no omniscient narrator, however, and we must sort it out for ourselves. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of an unreliable narrator prior to him going over his own version of events. These conflicting stories strike me as more true to life, as everyone remembers the past differently. The novel is staggeringly real in this way.

This book is beautifully written and very touching. It depicts the harsh reality of Alzheimer’s, as well as the darker side of human nature. There is loss and tragedy, but at the end of it, hope. It’s an unconventional read to be sure, but I recommend to anyone looking for something more out of the ordinary in a book.

See this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Review| Sight, by Sol Smith

Sight, by Sol Smith, is billed as the story of a psychic struggling with her future. The psychic in question is Tydomin White, who has the rare gift of both seeing the future and feeling the past. Things go ary, however, when she decides to see if she can go against her visions.

The story is told in a non-linear fashion and in various character perspectives. I’ve not nothing against a non-linear narration but with this perspective-shifting, I never feel very close to any character. I never care about them. They’re just never there long enough for anything more than impressions: Tydomin lacking in personality, Derek the puppy, Martin a self righteous prick, Abigail the forgettable. Red, I feel, had the most promise. I wish more time was spent on him and his dealings and less on that Brian mess. (Really, what is that even included for? Abigail and Brain could have been cut out of the story entirely or, at the very least, had less limelight. The book would have been better for it.) Vic’s post-death input was interesting, though perhaps didn’t leave enough to reader interpretation as he spelled so much out for us.

So far it sounds like I’m being harsh, I know, but there are some aspects I liked. The whole concept of cause and effect explored in this book is quite interesting. Do the psychics do things because they really want to, or because they saw themselves doing it? Can they stop an accident, or will their intervention mean they never saw an accident in the first place? What then? Visions within visions within visions and telepaths rummaging through the mind. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Really, that’s who I’d recommend this book for: those interested in stories about psychics. If that’s your cup of tea, then Sight will be a good addition to your shelf. There are typos present, but not very many. The writing overall is solid, it’s just the story that didn’t do much for me.

[Full disclosure: I won this book from Goodreads’ First Reads.]

See this review on: Goodreads | Shelfari

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I know I shouldn't check books out of the library when I already have so much on my plate, but I just couldn't stop myself!

So much love for John Green these days. He rekindled my interest YA. As for The Night Circus, I've just heard so much about it, I figure I might as well give a shot and decide for myself whether it's any good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review| Japanese Art in Detail, by John Reeve

Japanese Art in Detail, by John Reeve, is a small but beautiful collection of Japanese artwork spanning the centuries. It covers everything from woodblock prints to ceramics, sculpture to theatrical Nō masks.

It starts with the question “There are many books on Japanese art, so why another one?” and goes on to explain that this book is an introduction of sorts, and no prior knowledge of Japanese art is necessary. I agree wholeheartedly with this answer. Anyone going in without previously studying Japanese art will have no trouble understanding and appreciating it. The book is divided into themes and in the beginning of each, we are given an explanation of the theme and how it relates to Japanese art. The reader is then given brief histories and descriptions all throughout the book. These passages, though short, are very informative and help in the comprehension of the work being shown.

As for the actual art...the selection is wonderful! The book is in full color and the images are very sharp and lively. The title of the book is very apt—the level of detail shown is just astounding. We get to see each work both in its entirety and as a close-up of a section. These close-ups truly add to the appreciation of each piece, as we can see the amount of work and expertise that went into it.

This book is great for anyone interested in Japanese art and culture, or just art in general. The collection is beautiful, informative, and covers a wide range of themes and periods. I definitely recommend it!

See this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari
My giveaway wins that arrived the week of May 7 - 12. Among them are ARC's and some self-published books. I know this stack makes it look like I win a ton, but I swear I don't. It's pure coincidence that they all came in the same week. Some of these wins are older then others.

Anyway, I've written reviews for two of them already: The Uninvited Guests and One Hundred Leaves. I'm currently working my way through the rest, and I hope to have most of them reviewed soon.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review| One Hundred Leaves: A new annotated translation of the Hyakunin Isshu

I won this book through Goodreads and I must say I quite enjoy it.

Blue Flute’s One Hundred Leaves starts with a brief introduction to Japanese poetry and explains how this volume came to be. This introduction, though sparse, is informative and prepares you to better understand Japanese poetry. Next come the actual poems. Each one is presented first in English, then we get the Japanese Kanji and a transliteration. It is interesting to see where the poems came from and I find the characters beautiful as well. Lastly, there are literary notes that help with the interpretation of the poem. These literary notes come in very handy. They provide better understanding of the circumstances surrounding the poem really help in appreciating them.

Each poem has an accompanying piece of artwork that depicts its theme. They are wonderfully matched, some combinations seeming as though one was made for the other. Unfortunately, the artwork is also where we hit the first real drawback: the art is not named, the artist is not mentioned. The book is not in color, and I would like to look up full color versions. That’s made very hard, though, when I don’t have a name to search with. The fact that the book is in black and white in the first place is unfortunate, but I knew that it would be and I can forgive that.

As for the actual poetry, I can flip to any page and find an interesting poem. Some I contemplate more than others. There are those that I like instantly, and those that take a bit longer to appeal to me. Others never really leave much of an impression. There’s bound to be something for everyone though. Recommended for anyone interested in Japanese culture and fans of poetry in general.

See this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review| The Uninvited Guests: A Novel by Sadie Jones

I wanted to read The Uninvited Guests from the moment I heard about the book. Imagine my joy, then, when I won an advance reader copy on Goodreads!

Sadie Jones’ The Uninvited Guests introduces us to the eccentric, dysfunctional Torrington-Swift family. There is the self-centered Charlotte Torrington-Swift, her doting second husband Edward Swift, and the three children of her previous marriage: Clovis, Emerald, and Imogen (aka Smudge). They live at Stern, a stately manor in the English countryside, but financial issues could mean them losing it. Edward is off to secure funds to save the home while those left behind celebrate Emeralds twentieth birthday. Then, disaster. A train accident sends some restless uninvited guests their way, including one Charles Traversham-Beechers. He claims to know of Charlotte's past, and he may just be wicked enough to reveal it.

Of all the characters, the most likeable may be Emerald, the capable yet resigned-to-her-fate birthday girl, followed closely by her odd and neglected sister Smudge. Clovis is quite the snob, and Charlotte an absent and vain mother. We also meet the Swift-Torrington housekeepers Myrtle and Florence, and the guests invited to Emeralds soiree: John Buchanan, Ernest and Patience Sutton, and, of course, Charles Traversham-Beechers. They range from the bland to the vicious, though some change their tune by the books end.

The story itself is very entertaining and well written. Told in third-persons, the narration is funny, witty, and just a bit quirky. I found myself laughing on quite a few occassions. Many that books that claim to be humorous satire rarely hit their mark for me, but this book had its true laugh-out-loud moments. Though a satire, a comedy of manners, the bigger message of the novel is not lost. We see the worst brought out in these society folk, both in how they treat each other and how they treat those they believe are beneath them. But we also see them grow and learn. Some, as I’ve mentioned, mature greatly through the novel and are changed for the better by the experience.

This book is clever, funny, and thoroughly entertaining. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys satirical novels, and anyone who wants a good look at human nature at its best and worst. Or just anyone looking for a wildly adventurous and truly bizarre tale.

See this review on: Amazon | Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Review| Strindberg's Star: A Novel by Jan Wallentin

[I linked to this review previously, but I've decided to just post the whole thing here. Full disclosure: I won this book on Goodreads' First Reads.]

Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin features two mythical objects and tells of the lengths a secret society will go to in order to seize ownership of them.

Amateur diver Erik Hall finds one of the artifacts in a abandoned mine shaft. Lost for a century, the ankh has resurfaced and immediately draws the attention of the shady organization that has been looking for it. Erik quickly falls victim to those who seek the ankh. Thrown into the mix is Don Titelman, an unlikely hero who spends most of his days in a drug-induced haze. Together with his would-be lawyer, he flees Sweden to get to the bottom of the mystery of these objects that now plague him.

The novel moves between characters quite a bit. In part one, we visit Erik, Don, an intern, a photographer, and a few others. It is all written well enough for the reader to be able to hold them separately and not get confused, though. This character shuffling tones down a bit in parts two and three and the novel is the better for it. Don is perhaps the most well drawn character. His confusion and curiosity come through nicely. Everyone else seems to play a bit part, even Eva. She features in a greater part of the story, and yet it’s hard to feel very close to her.

This book also incorporates a lot of historical events into the story, showing the muddled past through a focused lense. It adds a new layer of meaning to the atrocities of the past, from the trenches of World War One to the concentration camps of World War Two. The novel is very well researched. All the events mesh seamlessly and real as the actual events.

Overall, this book was quite a ride. Well paced, it grabbed my interest from the start and held on. Much like Don, I needed to see the mystery through to the end. And the end of this novel is indeed very satisfying.

See this review on: Goodreads | Librarything | Shelfari

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cell-phone quality photo, I know, but I just wanted to give you (hypothetical readers) an idea of what happens when I step into a thrift store with a wall of books. And used book stores. And random stores with books stacked out front.

All of the books in this picture are from one trip to one store...

I love buying books second-hand. It's much cheaper, and you never know what gems you'll find!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I've won a few books from Goodreads. These three are the ones that have arrived so far. I've finished two of them: Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin, and I Am Bill Gates Dog by Jeffrey Zygmont. I'm now currently reading the third, House of Exile: The Lives and Times of Heinrich Mann and Nelly Kroeger-Mann by Evelyn Juers.

My review for Stringberg's Star can be found here. The review of I Am Bill Gates' Dog can be found here.

Side note: I'd like to get more critical in my reviews in the future. Reading over these, they're a bit too general for my liking.


Hello. My name is Ixachel. Welcome to my blog.

Fun fact: I have no idea what I'm doing.

I am an avid reader, and I hope to post reviews on this blog. As an art & advertising design major, I'd like to post things relating to those fields as well. I'm just not sure where this blog is going yet.

Time will tell.