Eric, by Terry Pratchett

64262Eric is the Discworld’s only demonology hacker. The trouble is, he’s not very good at it. All he wants is the usual three wishes: to be immortal, rule the world and have the most beautiful woman fall madly in love with him. The usual stuff.

But what he gets is Rincewind, the Disc’s most incompetent wizard, and Rincewind’s Luggage (the world’s most dangerous travel accessory) into the bargain. The outcome is an outrageous adventure that will leave Eric wishing once more – this time, quite fervently – that he’d never been born. (from Goodreads)

One of the great things about Pratchett’s books are all the “real life” allusions inserted in this fantastic universe he created. In this occasion you’ll find Faust, Aztec’s society and mythology, the war of Troy, the Odyssey, the hell, according to Dante and some other sources, the creation of the universe, and probably a lot of other things that I’m forgetting. We meet again with Rincewind and the Luggage, and we have a glimpse of Death, of course. The book is filled with Prachett’s trademark humour and storytelling, BUT…

Of all of Discworld’s books I’ve read, this was my least favorite. Despite all of the good things that one can expect and the Pratchett gladly serves, this book felt like it could be so. much. more.

It’s not a bad book, it just feels a bit loose. Probably not the best for a beginner in the saga, mostly because it lacks of all the muchness of, at least, the previous books (I didn’t advance much in the saga to have an idea of how the later books are).

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La Divina Comedia, by Dante Alighieri

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English title: The Divine Comedy

A landmark of world literature, The Divine Comedy tells of the poet Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in search of salvation. Before he is redeemed by his love for the heavenly Beatrice, he learns the meaning of evil, sin, damnation, and forgiveness through a series of unforgettable experiences and encounters. (from Goodreads)

I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time, and since I got Eric (see below) for Christmas, and knowing it made references to this book, I borrow a copy and started reading right away.

Lucky enough the version I read was adapted into prose, because if it was heavy like that, I can’t even think how much hard it would have been reading it in verse -_-

I was prevented beforehand by the friend who lent it to me that the best part was the Inferno (so now I understand why it’s so often published separately), but it has its highlights throughout the rest of the book. It’s just that there were too many times when my eyes passed through words but couldn’t retain a single phrase, so I had to re-read again and again and again. Paradise was just too annoying and all I could say to myself was “don’t give up now, you’re so close to the end!”

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (trilogy), by Ransom Riggs

  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.
A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. (from Goodreads)

  • Hollow City

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises. (from Goodreads)

  • Library of Souls

Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.
They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. (from Goodreads)

I read these three books one after the other. Each one of them begins exactly where the other finished, so it was like reading just one large book (the perks of reading a trilogy long after the rest of the world: I didn’t have to wait for a new book to be published)
It took me some time to get hooked on the story. I actually started with the first book last year, with the intention of reading it before the movie premiered. The first part before the manifestation and acknowledgment of peculiardom became super long and kinda boring, but after Jacob’s crossing through Miss Peregrine’s loop things turned a lot more interesting, so the next two books were read in a very short time.
It’s a nice adventure story; it often falls in some predictable and frequent tropes, but it’s ok. I think there is an excess of peculiar characters that are left underdeveloped through the rest of the trilogy, too much to handle, and barely count for anything in the end (or mysteriously vanished), like they were forced to the story just to show the weird picture they represent.

The movie works awful as an adaptation of the books, because just took some premises from the first and then did a whole WTF.
What’s up with Tim Burton and his terrible book adaptations, lately?

 

The Ladies Paradise, by Émile Zola

26782749The Ladies Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) recounts the rise of the modern department store in late nineteenth-century Paris. The store is a symbol of capitalism, of the modern city, and of the bourgeois family: it is emblematic of changes in consumer culture and the changes in sexual attitudes and class relations taking place at the end of the century.
Octave Mouret, the store’s owner-manager, masterfully exploits the desires of his female customers. In his private life as much as in business he is the great seducer. But when he falls in love with the innocent Denise Baudu, he discovers she is the only one of the salesgirls who refuses to be commodified. (from Goodreads)

Ohhh this book… I couldn’t possibly find a physical copy of it in Buenos Aires, at least in Spanish. I ended up downloading it as epub, to read on my computer, which barely happened and put a hold in my reading of the Rougon-Macquart. At the end, I finished the reading from my phone (which at first was totally “ugh”, but then was like “this isn’t so bad”).
A couple of years ago, I was just beginning to read some of Zola’s works, without any judgement (I wasn’t even aware that they were a series), and I came around The Paradise, a BBC series allegedly based in one of Zola’s novels. I looked for it tirelessly without any result, like I just said. But, in the meantime, I kept reading the others and watching this tv show, which I enjoyed very much, at least the first season. It seemed a little too “happy” to be some of his works, but “well”, I thought, “there might be an exception”.
Some time later I began to read Pot-bouille, and started to recognize John Moray in Octave Mouret. “This might be it!”, I thought, but no, of course it wasn’t, as I realized later this was a prequel of that story. I also noted that Octave didn’t seem to be a lot like Mouray, or at least how I remembered him to be. However, I let it pass…
After reading this book I can now finally say “yeah, that tv thing was waaaay too sugar-coated”. It’s ok in its own, but as an adaptation works really bad. Or maybe I’m wrong for thinking it was supposed to be a word by word adaptation, like they sometimes do for Austen’s works… This definitely wasn’t.
Leaving all that behind, this book is fantastic. Like I think I already said before, what I love about Zola is the real research work behind his writing, and how his novels can perfectly work (in my opinion) as any other history or sociology book explaining the Second Empire. Each book tackles a different subject, and this one in particular shows us the socio-economic revolution that meant the creation of this mega-super-stores. The work conditions, the dreadful consequences for the historical artisanal and specialized stores, and the beginning of the crazy consumerism we have today.
As always, there’s a great myriad of characters to love, hate or feel sorry for (so much of the latter, actually, those poor little store owners, heartbreaking).
As usual, this was that kind of novel that I never wanted it to end. However, now that I finished it, it means that I can move forward with this project.

Just Patty, by Jean Webster

33299440Just Patty is the prequel to When Patty Went to College, which was Webster’s first novel. We see the same lovable prankster at school, causing just as much havoc as ever and delighting her fellow students with her scornful disregard for rules and etiquette (from Goodreads)

There’s no storyline, it’s more like a recollection of episodes from Patty’s last year of school. She attended to a boarding school for girls, because of course.
This book began as a huge disappointment. I had high expectations of it, because Daddy-long-legs and Dear Enemy, her most known works, are books that I have read unnumbered times and I cherish them with all my heart.
But the first chapters were dreadful. I understand that this book was written before WW1 and that everything was different and blah, but I couldn’t read it without my 21st century mind, and fear what could a young person today could learn from it (I kept thinking about my 13 years old cousin)
During the first chapter we learn that Patty is, basically, a bully. She and her friends begin to torment their classmates in the aim of “improve them”. Studying too much, being too religious, being a butch, those where the kind of sins they wanted to erase from the other girls… Fat shaming? SURE! Were they punished for their behaviour? Of course not, Patty and her friends are intelligent, vivacious, joyful, resourceful, a role model for everyone! Ugh…
I kept reading hoping it would get better eventually… Luckily, the extreme cringe-worthy events occur in that first chapter. The rest of the book is… ok. Patty is annoying throughout the entire book, and there were always little bits here and there that kept reminding me of how far we have come in terms of human decency, feminism and general common sense in the last century, despite everything.
I couldn’t stop thinking, though, that if I’d read this book when I was 12, I’d probably enjoyed it. That’s a little disheartening.
I’m wondering now whether I would read the other book about Patty or not.

Momo, by Michael Ende

2799598At the edge of the city, in the ruins of an old amphitheatre, there lives a little homeless girl called Momo. Momo has a special talent which she uses to help all her friends who come to visit her. Then one day the sinister men in grey arrive and silently take over the city. Only Momo has the power to resist them, and with the help of Professor Hora and his strange tortoise, Cassiopeia, she travels beyond the boundaries of time to uncover their dark secrets. (from Goodreads)

I first read this book when I was a kid, and took it from my school’s library. Back then I used to ”eat“ books one after the other, without any judgement. I can’t name any of the books I read and have very vague memories of some of them. This was the case with Momo, which I remembered it’s title, but I couldn’t say a word about it.
Last year I found it in a second-hand bookstore because even if I couldn’t remember exactly what was it about, I knew it was important and that I should have it. Mostly because the cover was so pretty [it wasn’t until I started reading it -I always start reading the “credits page”, with the edition year (1978, hence that cool typography), editor, translator, etc.- that I realize that the cover and all illustrations in the book were made by the author himself! I love when that happens (especially if the illustrations are as good as the story)].
Even though I felt like it was a book strictly written for children as its target public, I feel it needs to be read by some many adults…

Flush, by Virginia Woolf

33009322First published in 1933, Flush is the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel. Although Flush has adventures of his own, he is also the means of providing us with glimpses into the life of his owner and her days at Wimpole Street as an invalid, her courtship by Robert Browning, their elopement and life together in Italy. (from Goodreads)

I bought this book blindly. I’ve been reading now and then some works from Woolf through the last couple of years so when this one crossed my path I didn’t think twice. There was nothing in the title that gave me a hint of its content, and there was no synopsis or abstract of any kind in the back cover. I opened the book just enough to see it seemed to be some kind of novel and that was that. As soon as I started reading it and realized it was about a dog I thought “Ughh, I hope he has a good life and doesn’t die horribly”. Spoiler alert: he has and he doesn’t.
I’m not used to read novels written from the point of view of real animals (not anthropomorphized versions), and when I do I tend to constantly think “Do my pets feel or felt like this?”. I look at my dog, she’s a senior now, and spends most of her time just laying here and there, trying to keep herself cool or warm through the seasons. How was the domestication process for her? How do pets learn and understand us? When did my cat stopped being a fuzzy vindictive little demon and became a furry napping ball that learned to ask me to pick her up? Or did she taught me? Why my other cat doesn’t like me? Why does she likes my brother more? What does she sees in me?
Did Virginia Woolf understand dogs in a way that I don’t? She wrote this to be so believable. Or is it that she just put into words what we all want to believe about dogs’ thinking process?
This book was so lovely to read. Sure, Flush goes through some tough moments, but no more than any other main character in any novel.