The studio lot looks like 'thirty acres of fairyland' the night that a mysterious woman stands and smiles at Monroe Stahr, the last of the great Hollywood princes. Enchanted by one another, they begin a passionate but hopeless love affair, starting with a fast-moving seduction as slick as a scene from one of Stahr's pictures. The romance unfolds, frame by frame, watched by Cecilia, a thoroughly modern girl who has taken her lessons in sentiment and cynicism from all the movies she has seen. Her buoyant humour and satirical eye perfectly complement Fitzgerald's panorama of Hollywood at its most lavish and bewitching.*
F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my absolute favorite writers and this was the only one of his novels that I hadn't read. I picked it up in June but wasn't in the right mindset for it, so I put it on pause and then picked it up again after the BookTubeAThon and finished it in a couple of days. Although this is an unfinished book, I loved it a lot and couldn't put it down. Fitzgerald's writing is just magical and I can't help but be in awe of every sentence. My edition of this book also contains his notes about the book, including plans for changes and the ending that he never got to write. It was so interesting to get into his writing process, something we never get to see from an author. Now I can finally watch the TV adaptation of this book. I gave it 5 stars and will surely reread it in the future.
The Shape of the Ruins is a masterly story of conspiracy, political obsession, and literary investigation. When a man is arrested at a museum for attempting to steal the bullet-ridden suit of a murdered Colombian politician, few notice. But soon this thwarted theft takes on greater meaning as it becomes a thread in a widening web of popular fixations with conspiracy theories, assassinations, and historical secrets; and it haunts those who feel that only they know the real truth behind these killings.
This novel explores the darkest moments of a country's past and brings to life the ways in which past violence shapes our present lives. A compulsive read, beautiful and profound, eerily relevant to our times and deeply personal, The Shape of the Ruins is a tour-de-force story by a master at uncovering the incisive wounds of our memories.*
Now let's talk about my favorite book of the month and one of the best that I read this year. I don't remember how I found out about this author, but I knew that I wanted to read this book even before the Romanian translation came out this year. I didn't know a lot about the plot and still I felt I had to read this book. It took me another few months from the moment I got it until I felt in the right mood for it but here we are. This book takes historical fiction to a whole new level. First, it's beautifully written, then there's mystery and suspense, but also so much soul. This book made me quit the other books I was reading and devote my time to it entirely. I'm not even that interested in Colombian history, but this book made me care so much. The Romanian translation by Marin Mălaicu‑Hondrari was also brilliant. This was a 5 star read for me and I will recommend this book to many people in the future.
In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above.
Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.*
As soon as I finished The Shape of the Ruins, I had to get into this one. This was actually on my "to read" list for a longer while, but since it was published a few years ago, I had to order it online. I loved this, although it wasn't as good as The Shape of the Ruins, just because it felt unfinished. It has the same great writing (with the same amazing translator), strong historical setting and good story, but it felt like it should have been longer. Most of the novel felt like and introduction to something and I would have loved for the story to unfold further. That being said, I still gave this book 4 stars and now have a new favorite author to add to the list. I'm really excited to see what he comes up whit next.
After her mother dies in childbirth, Aurora del Valle is raised by her imposing grandmother, but despite growing up in a rich and privileged environment, Aurora is unhappy. Haunted by terrible nightmares and the inexplicable abscence of many of her childhood memories, and finding herself alone at the end of a love affair, she decides to travel to Chile to discover what it was, exactly, all those years ago, that had such a devastating effect on her young life.*
Next, I decided to continue my historical fiction binge with another South American writer. This novel is the second in the saga of the Del Valle family, the first book being Daughter of Fortune, which I read last year, and the third book being the famous The House of the Spirits, which I read many years ago and plan to reread soon. What I don't understand about the first two books is why Allende made them just historical fiction. The third book, that she actually wrote first (in 1982) was also magical realism and was so much better. Out of the three in the series, Portrait in Sepia was my least favorite, although I still enjoyed it a lot. Allende's writing is always gorgeous and her characters are so full of magic, that she creates an atmosphere that is so typical to her novels. I really love how immersed I feel every time I read on of her novels. I gave this particular one 4 stars.
Paris, 1490. A shrewd French nobleman commissions six lavish tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. He hires the charismatic, arrogant, sublimely talented Nicolas des Innocents to design them. Nicolas creates havoc among the women in the house—mother and daughter, servant, and lady-in-waiting—before taking his designs north to the Brussels workshop where the tapestries are to be woven. There, master weaver Georges de la Chapelle risks everything he has to finish the tapestries—his finest, most intricate work—on time for his exacting French client. The results change all their lives—lives that have been captured in the tapestries, for those who know where to look.*
Tracy Chevalier is my go to author for quick historical fiction reads. I read most of her novels, but there are still a couple I had left, this particular one being one of them. I like her novels because she takes inspiration from historical elements and then speculates on the story behind the known facts. The writing is light and enjoyable, plus they are written in first person, usually from multiple perspectives, which I love. I love the medieval setting in this one and the artsy theme. This was a quick read and I gave it 4 stars.
Here are the audiobooks I listened to this month:
Here are the audiobooks I listened to this month:
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.
She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.*
One of the most hyped YA releases of the year, this is the sequel or rather the companion novel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which I listened to and quite enjoyed back in April. I picked this up as an audiobook as well, and I wasn't a big fan of the narration but listening to it helped me get over the boring parts. Many people loved this book but there are many that also gave it 2 and 3 stars, meaning that they thought it was just okay. Unfortunately, it was a 3 star read for me too. That doesn't mean it was bad or I didn't enjoy it, but compared to the first book it was just an average YA contemporary. I wasn't a fan of the character of Leah, for most of the book she was just complaining and hurting other people, especially her mother. The romance in the book didn't feel real to me, I just didn't care, which is so different from the feelings Simon's story gave me. This was quick listen and I enjoyed myself, so all in all I'm not sorry I read it.
Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.*
I discovered Neil Gaiman's books, but specifically his self-narrated audiobooks, this spring. While I did watch the American Gods TV show without reading the book, I knew nothing about Norse mythology, so I thought this would be a fun read. Of course I listened to the audiobook, since Gaiman's voice is so soothing and his narrations are beautiful. These stories were so much fun! There were a few in there that weren't that interesting, but most of them were great and I enjoyed myself a lot. Not much to say other than that because I don't want to give any spoilers, but I ended up giving the book 4 stars and I'm excited to read more from this author.
Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.*
Ok, so I caved and read, or rather listened to, this very popular book. First off, I must say that I was tricked into reading a chick lit romance book by thinking it was historical fiction. Yes, the setting is historical, but there's very little emphasis on the historical setting and very much on the plot and characters, while the writing is pretty bad. I'm sure that this character was good looking, but I don't need to hear about her breasts every 2 minutes. I was also confused by the narration of the audiobook because the voice of Evelyn telling her life story and the one talking to Monique were narrated by two different people. I get the point of multiple narrators for different characters but not this. Of course the strongest point of this book is the plot that keeps you entertained and interested through 400 pages of bad writing and cringy phrases. I know that many people cried at the end of the book but I didn't feel that sad, probably because I didn't empathize with any of the characters, especially Evelyn. I ended up giving it 3 stars, because I enjoyed myself while listening to it, but I still don't get why this book is so highly rated on Goodreads.
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it -- from garden seeds to Scripture -- is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.*
The last book I finished this month is another historical fiction. I listened to this big novel as an audiobook and I have mixed feelings about it. This is one of those books that people either love or hate (lots of 1 star and 5 star reviews on Goodreads), but for me it was somewhere in between. I feel like many of the arguments people have against this book come from identifying the characters' ideas as the author's opinions. Yes, the characters often sound preachy and it's annoying sometimes because the book is so long, but that makes them sound real in the end. The story dragged though sometimes, and the book probably could have been shorter. I would have probably struggled with it if I had read it as a physical book. For that I only gave it 3.5 stars, yet I can't help but admire this author's hard work because this is a solid piece of historical fiction.
That is it for August. Hope September will be just as good, if not better!