Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May Mid-month Wrap-up

I have no idea how, but it's the middle of May. So far May has been a pretty good reading month as I've already finished 6 books, so I thought I would wrap them up now. Not sure if the second half of the month will be as good because I started working more now and I don't have as much time to read as I did in March and April. Anyway, here are the books! 

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

Here is the dazzling saga of two women, the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery uncontainable Lila. In this book, both are adults; life’s great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women’s friendship, examined in its every detail over the course of four books, remains the gravitational center of their lives. Both women once fought to escape the neighborhood in which they grew up—a prison of conformity, violence, and inviolable taboos. Elena married, moved to Florence, started a family, and published several well-received books. But now, she has returned to Naples to be with the man she has always loved. Lila, on the other hand, never succeeded in freeing herself from Naples. She has become a successful entrepreneur, but her success draws her into closer proximity with the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect her neighborhood. Yet somehow this proximity to a world she has always rejected only brings her role as unacknowledged leader of that world into relief. For Lila is unstoppable, unmanageable, unforgettable!*

I postponed this for a few months but I finally had to finish the quadrilogy of My brilliant friend. This is the fourth and final one of the Neapolitan Novels, the one where Elena and Lila are adults, the one that offers closure to the whole story. As with the other novels, but even more so with this one, there are a lot of events happening, yet the focus isn't mainly on the events but on the reflections of the characters and on the effects of these events on them. I enjoyed this book a little less than the previous ones but I still loved it. The way Ferrante brings you close to her characters is so unique, you feel like you know their deepest feelings but at the same time you feel like parts of them remain completely hidden to you (like with Lila's character). Ferrante has also used some of the story in The Lost Daughter, her earlier novella that I read back in March, adding so much more to it. I was quite happy with how this quadrilogy ended, yet I can't help but feel sad because I will miss these characters. I will definitely revisit these books over the years and am very happy to have them in my collection. Like with the previous ones, I gave this book 5 shiny stars!

Fairia – o lume îndepărtată by Radu Pavel Gheo

My first Romanian book of the year! Unfortunately, this wasn't translated in English but the title pretty much translates to "Fairia-a far away world". This book was so unlike anything I ever read. It's a mix of science fiction, fantasy and fairy tales written in a postmodern style. It follows an expedition that lands on a foreign planet and the land is full of fantastic elements, so it definitely feels more like fantasy than sci-fi after the first few pages. It is a short book, so there isn't a lot of world building but I still enjoyed this quirky little book. Plus Radu Pavel Gheo is one of my favorite writers and I was happy to read something so different from what he usually writes. I gave this 4 stars.   

Războiul solomonarilor by Moni Stănilă

Not only was this Romanian book not translated in English, but it's a really fresh release, so fresh that it doesn't have any ratings on Goodreads yet. I decided not to rate this on there yet because my rating would have been the only one and I didn't want this to start with a 3 star rating, which is what I would give it. I was really excited about this book, so excited that I went to the bookstore to buy it as soon as it came out and started reading it immediately. It's a Romanian folklore inspired fantasy, something we don't have much of. The title translates to "The war of the Solomonars", a type of wizards that you can read more about here. Now, the premise of the book is great. It's a YA novel, aimed at readers aged 12 or older, the main character is 17 years old, so I don't understand why this book had to be so short (250 pages). The author wanted to do so much in this book, with such a complex world. The world building part is great, but there isn't much space for the actual war from the title. The war and the resolution of the war take place in the last 50 pages of the book, the rest of it being the description of the world and the story leading to the main story. There are many characters and many types of supernatural beings in the book that I would have loved to know more about. I really enjoyed this book and would have wanted so much more from it. The writing is beautiful and I really want to support Romanian authors, so I feel sorry that I didn't love this. Hope we get other stories set in this world! 

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor's Tale and Maus II - the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler's Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival - and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.*

I'm probably the last one on the planet to read this, but in my defense I only became interested in graphic novels a couple of months ago. This one needs no introduction because everyone has heard of it, it's on all the "best graphic novels" lists and it had also won a Pulitzer prize. Of course that all that is very well deserved. This was such a heartbreaking story, but the way it was delivered is absolutely brilliant. The author chose animals to portray his characters so they would feel a bit more distant and make the story more bearable, but for me it had the opposite effect. Plus the fact that the story is told in first person really draws you in. I couldn't put this down and read it in a day, so of course I had to give it 5 stars.

Not in the picture:

Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold's attackers make them their next target.*

One of the publishers in my country has a pretty great middle grade/YA series and this book is one of the newer ones they published. This seemed perfect for me because it's a "book about books". Even though I don't read much middle grade, there was something that drew me into this book and I'm happy to report that it didn't disappoint. It was such a cute middle grade with puzzles and books! I really enjoyed it. The only thing I didn't like was the fact that it was written in third person. It would have been more enjoyable had it been written in first person, but that's just my personal opinion. I also loved the fact that it's set in San Francisco, which is a city I haven't read much about. This is the first book in a series and the second and third books are out and have great reviews, so I will definitely continue reading. I read this as an ebook and gave it 4 stars. 

Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: neverwhere.*

What a delightful book! I was in the mood for fantasy this month and I think this book is what inspired it. It was also my first Neil Gaiman book and I was surprised by the beautiful writing. I hear that not all his books are written in the same way though, so I will have to discover his other books and see if I like him. The whimsical element is strong in this one, which makes it very unique in my opinion. There are tons of epic fantasy novels out there but I haven't found anything like this. Since it's set in London, it made me think of A darker shade of magic, a novel I read in March and didn't like as much as this one. Neil Gaiman has announced a sequel to Neverwhere and I just can't wait for it to come out! This was an audiobook and I gave it 5 well deserved stars.

That's it for now. Hope May will continue on this good reading streak!

*Source: Goodreads

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