Top 5 Books Of 2017

Well, hello!

Yes, I know, long time no see. I will not give excuses this time though. I have been working and I got into Cinema school and I am (sort of) becoming a writer, so let’s say I have been busy -although not really…but I am super excited!

It’s the end of January 2018 now and I thought I would give you my best reads of the year. However, I have not read that much in 2017, and that is why reading at least 50 books is on my New Year’s resolutions, so hopefully I will not abandon this blog entirely and give you some more reviews this year.

Also, I thought I would talk about movies, lifestyle… and all sort of things here in the future, so hopefully you will like that as well!

Let’s begin, shall we?

  1. ‘Dept. Of Speculation’, by Jenny Offill: Hopefully my dearest friend Viviana will write a review of this book to post here, because I am sure her words will express WAY BETTER what this book represents. It is beautiful. Just read it. (A review on this book is coming any time soon so forgive me for not giving any further details).
  2. ‘Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever?’, by Dave Eggers: I actually read this in 2016 but it never got the attention it deserved so please excuse me for including it here. It is probably not the best book this fella has written, although it is (so far) the only one I have read from this author, and I will definitely read some more of his work because DAMN THIS IS GOOD. I love political satires and that is basically what this is, although entirely in the form of dialogue, so not boring and not long at all. Go read it, now.
  3. ‘Freedom’, by Jonathan Franzen: I FINALLY got to read this. I know, I’m late on the game, but what can I say? I was a little bit reticent about this one for some reason, and after reading it I understood I left it for too long. Very deep, very sentimental, the sort of book that gives you a change of heart. I believe it is a must; actually, read whatever Franzen has written, he never disappoints.
  4. ‘Pond’, by Claire-Louise Bennett:  I could not have a top 5 without a compilation of short stories. I believe this is the book which has got me into reading more female authors, which is weird because I have always loved female literature, although for some patriarchal reason it was always men on my shelf. What captivated me about this one is the realness that there is to it. Nothing crazy about it, it is just refreshing to read something genuinely pure for once.
  5. ‘Marina’, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: Finally but not least, a Spanish one. This made me cry the way ‘A Catcher In The Rye’ made me cry, and that was weird. It is more of a juvenile reading, but really good and touching regardless. If you know a bit of Spanish, please read it in its original language.

I hope this list gave you some new reads for the coming year, or at least I hope it gave you a better idea of that is to come in my reading list this 2018.

If you have any recommendations, please send them through!

♥ Currently reading (and raving about it): ‘The Power’, by Naomi Alderman ♥

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I was going to post a review, but I thought that would be a bit hypocritical, since I have not worked AT ALL on this blog as I said I would.

So let’s talk about life, and proyects, and how to avoid them, because that is pretty much all I’ve been doing.

I’ve had several chances in my life that could have changed my life forever. I made decisions about love, ideals, work. And here I am. What have I become in life so far? An administrative. Period.

This has not happened because I did not have enough and posible future-changers coming my way, this has happened because I chose not to take those chances. I chose to be a coward and stay in my not so great safe space, because it was safe, it is safe.

But I have learnt that safe does not mean good. You only live once (really), and while you are here you should at least try and create someting. And I don’t mean do something great, do something that will change the world -to be honest that is pretty hard to do. I am just saying create, work hard on something you like just for the sake of it because at the end your time in this planet will be just as short.

Also, apply this basis to everything in your life. Be passionate; love like crazy; if you can’t quit that job you hate, try and improve your time there; be kind.

Take chances.

You can’t know what life brings you if you are not willing to take some risks.

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

 

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).

Pretender Readers

I am struggling a bit lately and I am unable to write a good review, so here is another opinion post, because I though I was in a bad mood but it has been a few months now so I guess this is who I am now, a hater with a blog.

There is something that has been catching my attention lately, and it is this particular type of people that do not read but pretend they do and go on about it. They love feeling like they know everything about something without having the slightly idea on the subject in question. They will tell you how they loved this book they read years ago, how they tried and make everyone they knew read it afterwards. They will tell you about this other book they did not read but searched reviews on and got their own conclusions on, how amazing it is, how touching, how interesting.

I find this really funny because more and more people read less and less nowadays, and so this works with and for all them. These pretenders are used to find non-readers, and so their strategy gets better, but what is interesting and equally entertaining is how they do not know how to react with a deep reader.

If you are a reader you will understand how you cannot be tricked anymore. You know your readings, you know your books, and what you do not know about you want to know, you want to read everything about anything and get your collection bigger and bigger. Now, when you happen to find one of these, let’s so call them, pretender readers, you get that grin on your face while they speak. You know what they are trying, and it does not work with you. They will talk about easy readings, books that have spread among the masses for the past few months, novels that lack of any depth, novels that you know everything about now and that are not interesting enough.

I have mastered a skill now, I have my tricks, and this is to follow them into their conversation. Be a bit like them, pretend you are interested, ask questions, get to know them. Once you know where they come from, start talking about real books, name Salinger and Bukowski and Franzen, find their weakness, and so show them how wrong they happen to be.

As I am writing this I am feeling like a “mean girl”, but to me this is something that we have to fight and eradicate. We have to teach people how to be real. Me myself, I do not really know what I am talking about most of the time, but I will be honest about it, I will not pretend I am an expert on a subject, I will try and learn more about something and share only what I do know for sure. We should get away from the “I am cool because I am a reader” that we sadly see more often on social media now. Since when did we start pretending to be readers to impress others?

My reading list is still growing and is very long, but I do not pretend I have read books I haven’t even heard of; instead, I find new books and get the time to read them, and then grow my own opinions on them. The world is already too unreal for us to praise this falsehood.

Review on reviews

Reviewing a book is easy. You open the book, you read the book, you finish the book and then you write your opinion on it. Your review may be on the book as a whole, on the story itself, the way it is written, or even in the cover only. At the end it does not matter, a review is an opinion and this opinion is personal and untransferable.

Now, there is people writing these reviews and these reviews exist because there is people reading them. People want to know what a book is about before reading it, they want to know if it will be worth the time, if they will get something out of it at the end. They are looking for something a preview will never provide as a preview will give you a glimpse of what is to come, but it will never tell you about how the book is written, or if the settings are credible, or if you will relate to the characters in any way.

Reviews provide a wider vision of what is inside a book and the tricky thing is that it comes straight from the reader’s point of view, subjectivity at its fullest you may say. But then, if this is the case, you may wonder: are reviews trustworthy?

Well, they are and they are not. They will never be objective of course, but they will give you a better and more reliable idea on the book in question, and just like with movies, if the amount of bad reviews is greater than the good ones, then why even bother. But of course, and being fairly honest, if you want to know if you would like a book, you should just go an read it yourself, because at the end of the day your opinion is the only one that will matter.

As I see it, reviews are tools for readers, and they should only be seen as such. Once you start doing some research and building a little community, you start to know who to trust and who shares your same –or similar- vision, and that is when you start to choose whether to read or not to read a book based on a review, and not before.

However, you should never judge a book by its cover (although marketing has improved a lot in the past five years), and you should never base your thoughts on other people’s views. Just go read, read a lot, and build your own bedrock, as your own opinion is the most reliable one.

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.

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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.