Anne of Avonlea, by L. M. Montgomery

28914652At sixteen, Anne is grown up…almost. Her grey eyes shine like evening stars, but her red hair is still as peppery as her temper. In the years since she arrived at Green Gables as a freckle-faced orphan, she has earned the love of the people of Avonlea and a reputation for getting into scrapes. But when Anne begins her job as the new schoolteacher, the real test of her character begins. Along with teaching the three Rs, she is learning how complicated life can be when she meddles in someone else’s romance, finds two new orphans at Green Gables, and wonders about the strange behaviour of the very handsome Gilbert Blythe. As Anne enters womanhood, her adventures touch the heart and the funny bone (from Goodreads)

With this book I finally filled the holes of Anne’s early years (since I started reading this series, a long time ago, with book #3).

I definitely missed Anne’s bubbly and over-excited childhood character, since now, as a young lady, she’s so much composed… She’s the school teacher after all! (isn’t it weird? Thinking of a sixteen year old girl in charge of a class?) But I think, if I remember right, she explains it saying that, after all, she’s not far different from before, she just keeps all her crazy thoughts and avid imagination to herself. I liked that. I guess that’s what we all do… I love the way the characters grow in these books.

And I really feel sorry for Dora, she’s so overlooked just for being such a well-behaved little girl!

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The scarlet city, by Hella S. Haase

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The novel centers around Giovanni Borgia, a mysterious figure known in history as the infans Romanus, or child of Rome. Although he bears one of the most notorious names in all of Italy, Giovanni doesn’t know his parentage. Is Cesare Borgia his father or his brother? Or is he no relation at all? Is Lucrezia Borgia his mother or his sister — or possibly both? Hella Haasse uses the ferment and intrigue of the Italian Wars — during which French, Swiss, Spanish and German armies surged into Italy — as a backdrop for Giovanni’s agonizing quest for his identity.

Giovanni’s search introduces us to some of the most intriguing people of the times: Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Vittoria Colonna and Lucrezia Borgia. (from Goodreads)

I found this book on my bed one night. My mother saw it on a book flea market and remembered I like the Borgias’ story, so she got it for me. It was a nice surprise!

The reading of this book was a weird experience. First, it was about the Borgias,  yes, but not about the Borgias I was interested in. It is centered, like the goodreads’ synopsis explains, about the infans Romanus, an obscure character that more or less vanished in history. The author collected the few things known about his adult life, took ALL the historic gossip about the family, added some other historical characters in the mix, put some of her own imagination and created a whole thing around it. I feel ambiguous about it. I can’t say I didn’t like it, but I can’t say I did, either. I enjoyed some parts, and I was deeply annoyed by others, so… How would you call that?

Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

28918901As soon as Anne Shirley arrived at the snug, white farmhouse called Green Gables, she knew she wanted to stay forever…but would the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected—a skinny girl with decidedly red hair and a temper to match. If only she could convince them to let her stay, she’d try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes or blurt out the very first thing she had to say. Anne was not like anybody else, everyone at Green Gables agreed; she was special—a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreamed of the day when she could call herself Anne of Green Gables (from Goodreads)

I’ve been reading Anne’s stories for as long as I can remember, although I skipped the first two books (my mother had only #3, and the school library had the next ones, but no notice of #1 and #2). When I heard that Netflix was making a new adaptation on Montgomery’s book, I knew immediately that I had to read Anne #1 once and for all. I’ve been looking for her books for a long time, with little success, so I had to go for an ebook.

Oh, how I loved it! I don’t have Anne’s ability with big words to make the slightest justice of it. I wished I had read this as a kid, but anyway, I’m so glad I read this at all, which gives me an excuse to now keep up with all the other books in the proper order.

It’s such a heartwarming story, and I’m pretty sure that all of us, lovers of books and words, can see ourselves in Anne. I just wish now that I had more vivid memories from me at that age.

I’m just beginning Anne of Avonlea now, and I’m so glad that I still have so much of Anne in my future 🙂

A love episode, by Émile Zola

35225671The main character of this book is Hélène Grandjean (née Mouret). She and her daughter Jeanne are living in the suburbs of Paris, entirely on their own, as Jeanne’s father died soon after their arrival at this place. Her only friends are two brothers, former friends of her husband, who join them for dinner every week, and that’s all. She lives entirely for her daughter, a feeble child, prone to fever and convulsions.

The story begins during one of Jeanne’s episodes, in which Hélène runs to the street in despair, looking for a doctor. Their family doctor wasn’t at home, so she wanders around and knocks at a house, looking for help. This house happened to be one of a doctor, none other that her immediate neighbor, who ends up restoring the child to health. A few days later, Hélène and Jeanne pay a visit to their neighbors, to formally thank Dr. Deberle, and they get acquainted with his wife Juliette, which soon introduces them to her circle of friends, and they all start to spend a lot of time together.

Hélène and Dr. Deberle start to develop strong feelings for each other, but they don’t act on them. Until they do and all that was well isn’t anymore. Especially Jeanne, who suffers from the old “neurosis,” seen in earlier branches of the family (as in her great grandmother, her grandfather, her uncle, her cousin Serge… Remember him from Abbé Mouret?). In her, this neurosis is manifested as the unhealthiest jealousy I have ever read about. But, honestly, considering her heredity in mental health, the poor child didn’t have a chance.

I definitely didn’t know what to expect from this book. Considering its corny title, I thought it could be more on the line of The dream, something more idyllic, but well, I was absolutely wrong. Zola never fails on delivering us tragic fates disguised as something much more light.

And even though I liked it and enjoyed the reading, of all the books in the series that I’ve read, is probably one the less impressive, a minor episode in the main line of events, a place, I think, that shares with The dream (which is, however, one of my favorites). But, even when it looks like a lot less compared to others, it’s a good novel in its own right.

Abbé Mouret’s transgression, by Émile Zola

182734951Serge Mouret is a very young priest working in a very ruinous church in a little village big in religious apathy. However, he’s extremely enthusiast about religion, falling into states of ecstasy that lead him into a feverish paroxysm that forced his uncle, a doctor, to take him off his work and interned him under the cares of Albine, a teenage girl living with her uncle in a nearby abandoned stately home, Le Paradou. From that point on, Serge, completely amnesic, practically has to re-learn how to normally function, with the help of Albine. The two of them live a life of idyllic bliss with many Biblical parallels (Paradou/Paradise, get it???), and over the course of a number of months, they fall deeply in love with one another. At the moment they consummate their relationship, they are discovered by Serge’s despicable and misogynist former monsignor and his memory is instantly returned to him. What comes after this isn’t good for either of them, obviously.

This was a re-reading, which was quite an interesting task. When I first read this book, it felt completely different compared to the others I read by this author before. It happens to be extremely symbolic and lyric, full of sensorial images that submerge one into what it seems to be a fantasy land. I was deeply obsessed with this book  then,  it was such a pleasure to read, such a beauty for the eyes and the imagination!

Those feelings remained in this second reading, but this time, knowing what would happen to the characters, I had a lot of fun noticing foreshadowings throughout all the book. I should reread more often.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

17616491Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack – who has already killed Bod’s family. (from Goodreads)

I “read” this as an audiobook. I started this one last year, but at some point I abandoned it, mostly because the audio chapters were too long and I wasn’t able to pay attention during an entire hour at the time. So I seize the sitting hours doing drawing and editing work for college to re-hear everything and finally finish it, in just a couple of days.

It was ok. The story is told in a series of episodes in Bod’s life, from the night of his family’s murders up to his teenage years. These episodes appear as random adventures, in and out of the graveyard, but they all come together in the last chapters and Bod’s final encounter with the man Jack, when he puts to work all what he learned through the years.

I didn’t like much how things turned in the end: what happened with Scarlett (Bod’s childhood friend), and the entire last chapter, but I can live with that.

Probably, what I liked the most, was listening to Neil Gaiman’s reading. He’s great at it. I want him to read me ALL THE BOOKS.

Edad prohibida, by Torcuato Luca de Tena

10788283English translation: Forbidden age

Published in 1955, this is a coming-of-age story setted in Spain during and after the Civil War. Anastasio’s father was killed during the war, so his mother sent him to live with his aunt and uncle in San Sebastián. There, at the beach, he meets Enrique and his friends. Enrique is everything that Anastasio isn’t: extroverted and overbold, so Anastasio feels lured to him as a moth to the light. He eventually finds his way into the gang and, unexpectedly and unwillingly he turned into Enrique’s rival in the crusade for Celia’s affection.

The book comes and goes from “the past”, these episodes from the adolescent and youth times, to “the present” in which we find Enrique in jail (not a spoiler, here is where the book begins) for reasons unknown to us, and Anastasio taking the direction of this prison. Enrique is reluctant to meet Anastasio again, so, along the book, we learn what happened to them and how they arrived to this present situation.

I loved this book, it’s such a beautiful reading, and a great example of its genre, all these episodes of growing up, and how what we do and the decisions we make in our youth still have reminiscences and consequences in our adult life. I’m not sure if this book was ever translated into other language, but, if not, could be a great excuse to learn Spanish and READ IT.