Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell

28356582Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything. (from Goodreads)

I’m not sure I could pinpoint  what I enjoyed from it. It took me a bit to get into it, reading it in little pieces, through a couple of weeks, but after the first quarter of the book I seriously commit to it and finished it in a couple of days. I guess I just needed to let myself immerse in it.

Considering I was constantly comparing it with the Harry Potter series and all the fanfiction I’ve been reading within that world, I guess one of the things that I liked the most was that the narrator changed from chapter to chapter, so even though Simon is obviously the main character, all the other relevant ones get a say in this and that was quite refreshing. I mean, there are many of us HP fans who love the series but consider that Harry gets a bit annoying, and how much more interesting it would be if we’d got some chapters written from the point of view of any other? The chosen ones can be a bit insufferable.

I also liked the way things turned out in the end. I could predict some of the things that were happening, but I didn’t expect at all how it would end for Simon. I wouldn’t said I’m versed in this genre, but for my little experience, the ending sort of broke the mold.

Even though Carry on stands alone and doesn’t require having read Fangirl in advance(*), I did reread it so I’d refresh my memories of Simon and friends, because when I first read the book I honestly didn’t pay much attention to those parts, as I was more interested in Cat’s storyline. This second time, I read Fangirl with a completely different “agenda”, sort to speak, due to my recent interest in fanfiction and my intention to get into Carry On.

I think I’ll most likely keep reading the series. The second book is expeted to be released later this year. 

 

(*) I think, in fact, reading Fangirl in advance was detrimental for me. Some of the problems I had at the beginning of the book were because I was trying to read it as if it actually were Cat’s work of fanfiction. So when Simon, more or less, explains to the reader things that happened in his previous years of school, I couldn’t help but thinking “Wouldn’t Simon Snow’s readers already know all of this? Why would a fanfic author repeat and remind the readers all these things they already know?”. Then I thought maybe this wasn’t Cat’s fanfic, maybe this was Gemma Leslie’s work. That wouldn’t explain either why the original author would remind constantly all these episodes that occurred in previous books. In the end, I decided to stop questioning every flashback and about that time was when I began to enjoy the book xD

Fortunately, the answers were awaiting me in the Author’s Note at the end of the book 🙂

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The Sky is Falling, by Sidney Sheldon

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Washington TV anchorwoman Dana Evans suspects the accidents befalling the rich Winthrop family, killing all five members, were murders. Like Chicken Little and the sky falling, she chases clues across the world to unravel an international conspiracy. The inheritance goes to charity, so money is not the motive.

Her Sarajevo ward Kemal gets expelled, a prosthetic arm, then often naps afternoons under care of kindly new housekeeper. Unseen agents follow her, bug hotel rooms, while an evil mastermind voice overhears taped conversations and supervises regular secret auctions, inviting armed wealthy customers. Witnesses and informants die before, and after meetings. Friends become foes, nobody can be trusted. (from Goodreads)

The only thing enjoyed of this book was finishing it, and taking it out of my to-read pile.

I found it completely uninspired, with null literary value. I didn’t care about the story and couldn’t care any less for any of the characters as they didn’t come out not even remotely as real people, I felt they had unidimensional, completely flat personalities. It reminded me of those bad action movies that air here on Saturday afternoons on tv.

I personally wouldn’t say that I “hated” it, but I didn’t like it at all. I was always prejudiced against this author, for whatever reason, so I never felt enthralled to read his works. The one thing this book accomplished was to confirm my prejudice. Maybe he has better works, but I honestly don’t care to find out. 

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

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Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.

Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives. (from Goodreads)

I knew beforehand that I’d like the book, because I liked the series. It was very pleasant to see that it was very well adapted! Although, after all this time (I’ve haven’t watched the first season since it aired) I might have forgotten all the minutiae of the adaptation, I could remember very well a lot of scenes as I revived them through the book. The downside of this is that there were no surprises at all, since I already knew every single plotwist and revelation.

I really liked the book, and I totally recommend it. Although I think I enjoyed the series more (probably just because it was my first approach to the story. I’m sure that Sam Heughan has nothing to do with it)

(LIES!)

No one writes to the Colonel, by Gabriel García Márquez

41059627 Set in the decaying Colombian town of Macondo, the Colonel is scraping together the money for food and medicine. It is the Colonel’s rooster that gives him hope for a better future as it has become a symbol of defiance in the face of despair.

Don’t know what happened last week -college, more likely- but I completely forgot to publish here. Well, it’s not like someone is reading…

Anyway…

The Colonel is waiting for a letter. He’s been waiting for this letter for years, and will probably wait for many more… Or maybe not, it could arrive any day, now.

This letter, if arrived, would mean they’d asigned him, finally, a pension for his services in the army. This letter would mean that he could, finally, have a more dignified life, a less desperate economic situation for his ill wife and himself. For now, all he has is his endless patience, and a rooster. This rooster belonged to his deceased son, and it’s promised to make him, and many other people, a fortune in the cockfighting ring, in some months from now. So he waits, just a few more weeks and all his problem will be solved…

This short novel reminded me a lot of the movie Zama (adapted from the homonym novel by Antonio Di Benedetto*), not because of the plot, but because it depicts the sloth slow  movement of bureaucracy. Slow to the point of hopelessness. And for being such a short novel, it really gave me a lot to despair.

*which I haven’t read, but I hope I will.

Anne of the Island, by L. M. Montgomery

40946102New adventures lie ahead as Anne Shirley packs her bags, waves good-bye to childhood, and heads for Redmond College. With her old friend Prissy Grant waiting in the bustling city of Kingsport and her frivolous new friend Philippa Gordon at her side, Anne tucks her memories of rural Avonlea away and discovers life on her own terms, filled with surprises . . . including a marriage proposal from the worst fellow imaginable, the sale of her very first story, and a tragedy that teaches her a painful lesson. But tears turn to laughter when Anne and her friends move into an old cottage and an ornery black cat steals her heart. Little does Anne know that handsome Gilbert Blythe wants to win her heart, too. Suddenly Anne must decide whether she’s ready for love. (from Goodreads)

I don’t think this synopsis left much out, so I guess I don’t have much to say?

After watching Anne with an E’s second season, I was left -again- with so much eagerness of Anne that I resumed my reading of the series.

For many many years, this was the only book I had access to. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first read it, but I guess not older than 12, probably younger. And I read it over and over again, because I had such a girl-crush on Anne! She seemed to me soooo cool! She had red hair, which was something I longed for so much when I was a kid, AND she was going to college! On her own! And was living with her friends! And three cats! Literally, the girl had everything I ever wanted (and kind of, sort of, may be, I still want).

This book was, I believe, the first glimpse I had of what college life could be like, and I couldn’t wait to be of age! Little did I know how different college life would be for me xD

It’s been AGES since the last time I read it, so it was quite a peculiar experience. On one hand, there were parts I had, more or less, printed by fire on my mind. I knew that this, this and this happened. On the other hand, there were so many things I didn’t remember AT ALL, but, while reading, I immediately knew that it was a path that I had walked many times before.

For all of these reasons, this is, and probably forever will be, my favorite book in the series.  

Duo, by Colette

duo-colette-d_nq_np_371125-mla25373309685_022017-fA wedded couple recently arrived to what I understand to be some sort of country house, in Southern France. When everything that seemed to be worrisome were some works of house maintenance and some business affairs, give a quick turn when the husband found out his wife was unfaithful to him with one of his business associates. From that point on, predictably, things will never be back to what they once were.

The husband, deeply hurt and disappointed, shuts himself down, struggling with the news and trying to be in control of his actions, doubting if he wants to really know what actually happened or not. The wife, plotting and measuring every step, wondering how much she must or mustn’t say to avoid making things even worse, and trying to make peace for the remaining days ahead of them in their vacation. The stormy weather doesn’t help at all, as it confined them inside the house, with little to do.

Oppressive and mind wearying, the situation is unbearable for both of them.

Another short novel by Colette, but I didn’t enjoy this one as much, probably because the subject had little to be joyful about.

Marianela, by Benito Pérez Galdós

40192889Marianela, orphaned at a young age, grew up receiving nothing but disdain from everyone. Of feeble constitution, she wasn’t fit to do any kind of mining work, the village’s primary activity, so she was regarded as little else than useless. She survived out of neglectfully provided charity, which never include any sort of education, so she grew up to be a very ignorant child, alien to any kind of scientific knowledge, building up her very particular superstitions from her own experiences of the world around her. A couple of years prior to the beginning of the story she became the companion of a blind young man, which became the only source of joy and feeling of usefulness in her life.

This young man, Pablo, is the only son and heir of a prominent man in the community. Despite his blindness, he was educated by his father, and even though part of the full comprehension of some part of the world is impeded by his condition, his high intellect overcomes his lack of sight.  One of his father’s acquaintances has a brother who happens to be a very prominent eye doctor, and there seems to be some hope that Pablo’s blindness could be fixed.

Pablo has Marianela in a very high regard. Knowing that he might be cured, he even hopes he could ask her in marriage, despite any social difference that there could be. His heart belongs only to her dear Nela, and nothing anyone said could make him  think that Marianela isn’t the most beautiful creature in the world. This breaks the girl’s heart, because the only thing she’s heard her entire life were comments on her ugliness and uselessness. She knows “for a fact” that none of the things that he believes, are real, and that once he’d gain his sight, she’ll have nothing to live for, because she’ll be, this time for certain, a useless creature.  

This book is, I believe, a classic in Spanish literature. I remember the first time I read it, I did  because it was on our high school reading list. And so it was on my mum’s, on her time. The fact that many of the available editions come with preliminary studies an/or activities, prove this point.

Through this edition’s preliminary study I learned that this novel is considered among the realist/naturalist tradition, something I never realized before, as I never considered this novel in context. However, it has a lot more moral content and less natural feeling that their French counterparts, at least the ones I’ve read (see here, here, here and here)

I was happy to re-read it again, as my first time coincided with my last. I do wonder, though,  why would they give this kind of tragic stories for kids in their early teens. I definitely didn’t appreciate its content back then.