Sailor Moon #7, by Naoko Takeuchi


Old friends and new enemies lurk in the mysteries surrounding Mugen Academy. The Death Busters crave the Hoste, the human energies, of Sailor Moon and her friends–and they’ll prey on the girls’ dreams and weaknesses to get it! Furthermore, prophetic dreams hint of “talismans” that could awaken a “Deity of Destruction.” Could these things be connected to the guardians’ power? And are the Sailor Senshi capable of murdering the innocent to save the entire world? (from Goodreads)

Since the previous volume, I got into unfamiliar land. As further I go into the manga, the less I remember from the anime, probably because I rewatched the first couple of seasons several times, and I watched the later ones just once. However, from the little I remember, there are several differences to what actually is going on on the manga. So everything is like  completely new to me, and that is super entertaining!


The beast within, by Émile Zola

36551997 Roubaud is consumed by a jealous rage when he discovers a sordid secret about his young wife’s past. The only way he can rest is by forcing her to help him murder the man involved, but there is a witness – Jacques Lantier, a fellow railway employee. Jacques, meanwhile, must contend with his own terrible impulses, for every time he sees a woman he feels the overwhelming desire to kill. In the company of Roubaud’s wife, Severine, he finds peace briefly, yet his feelings for her soon bring disastrous consequences. (from Goodreads)

For each book in this series, Zola picked one or two main subjects, which he studied thoroughly, and presented them to us in an impeccable way. In this work, the leading theme is murder and violence, and as secondary (yet omnipresent) topic was the railway system.

What I found interesting about the first part of the book was that it practically became a regular murder mystery book, except that, for once, we already knew the murderer. Zola amuses himself making a fool of the detective, who has a very high opinion of himself and believes to be such a great thing, but has not a clue of what was going on, while higher ranks were already pulling the strings behind him to arrange the case in a way that wouldn’t damage the political power.

Being murder the main subject, Zola gave us not one, but several killings in this book, all for different motives and different MOs, exploring what makes a person to make such decision, how do the murderers live with the consequences of their act and why do they manage (or not) to get away with it.

Fun fact (?): I read mostly while commuting, so a large portion of this book was read on trains. One afternoon, coming back home, I was reading a part where a train collided against an obstacle, with very tragic consequences. While waiting for my train to leave the station, I overhear the engine driver talking to a woman… “I won’t do a thing today, I have a trainee”.

It was probably the most terrifying ride I had… for 5 minutes or so. The trainee did a good job, but still, I had such an adrenaline rush!

Fun fact 2: I think this is the oldest I own. It doesn’t have a date of print, but after some research I did online it made me think it was published during the 1900s or 1910s, and it was probably printed in a linotype machine. I believe it originally had a paperback, as a tiny piece of its original cover remains, but it was rebound into a hardcover.

The Masterpiece, by Émile Zola


The Masterpiece is the tragic story of Claude Lantier, an ambitious and talented young artist who has come from the provinces to conquer Paris but is conquered instead by the flaws of his own genius. (from Goodreads)

Zola’s works could (and probably should) be read as a great historical document to better know and understand the lives of French people during the 1850s-1870s. He thoroughly researched those subjects he wasn’t familiar with, which gave a very veridical feeling to the stories he told.

In this case, I doubt he did any research at all. He lived the things he wrote, he was a first-hand witness. This story is believed to be a highly fictionalized account of Zola’s friendship with the painter Paul Cezanne (*). In this book, he represented what was the art world like at the time of the uprising of the impressionists, seen from their point of view. Even when the events are fictionalized, it’s very easy to pinpoint real-life references. The first of Claude’s paintings introduced to us is a clear reference to Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe. His later obsession with the Île de la Cité reminded me of Monet’s painting and repainting of the Rouen Cathedral. And I’m pretty sure that each and every one of the bohemian characters could be easily recognized by Zola’s contemporary readers. He even portrayed himself in the character of Sandoz, Lantier’s best friend. Through Sandoz, Zola gives way to all of his ideas about writing, which makes of this book not only a depiction of the Impressionism movement, the bohemian life and the struggles of artistic creation,  but also a manifest of his life work and the Naturalism movement.

For me, as an art student who really enjoyed art history classes and readings, this book was… I don’t think I have words to describe it. I had read about the impressionists until exhaustion, but I think they never felt real, or alive, to me until this very moment. It also gave me a better view of what the Salons were like, what the merchants were like, and other things that usually were left behind in my classes. While reading it, it was like history was developing in front of my eyes.

If you consider yourself an artist, this is the book for you. If you’re interested in art history, and/or are fond of the Impressionism movement, this is the book for you. If you are a writer, this is the book for you. If you’re none of the above, I still recommend this work, because I think it is very good.

(*) “The story was perhaps too personal for Cezanne, whose correspondence with Zola ended immediately after the novel’s publication”. When I knew about this, it made me sad. I believe Cezanne was such a sensitive person, which is a trait that, I think, comes with great blessings, but also can bring huge sorrows.

L’Assomoir , by Émile Zola

36290072L’Assommoir (1877) is the story of a woman’s struggle for happiness in working-class Paris. At the center of the story stands Gervaise, who starts her own laundry and for a time makes a success of it. But her husband soon squanders her earnings in the Assommoir, a local drinking spot, and gradually the pair sink into poverty and squalor. (from Goodreads)

Compared to the last book read in this series (The joy of living), this was such a pleasure to read. The translator made such a nice and tidy work, with lots of footnotes and all that academic crap that I just LOVE. Absolutely nothing is left behind and that was such a relief, considering that probably this was one of the most (if not THE most) “outrageous” and “depraved” books Zola wrote.

This book messed a little with my mental timeline in the beginning, because a character we met in The belly of Paris, Claude Lantier, Lise’s nephew, a young painter, is revealed here as Gervaise’s son, less than 10 years of age.  This happened because I’m following Zola’s recommended reading order, instead of reading by the chronological order of publication or the chronological timeline within the series. Zola’s order takes one branch of the family tree at a time, from beginning to end. Gervaise’s branch is preceded by Lise’s, her older sister, which finished in The joy of living, with Pauline’s story (Lise’s daughter). What a tangled mess!

Back to Claude Lantier, his presence here is little more than a mention because, luckily for him, he’s taken back to Plassans, where an old man is going to pay for his artistic education. More of Claude will be seen in the next episode, The masterpiece, his very own book.

Anyway, I should say something about this book. Just like it happened to me with The conquest of Plassans, this book was also hard to read, as one witnesses the downfall of people that began with such high hopes and morals. The same words came to mind: devastating and frustrating.

Gervaise arrived to Paris with his partner (not husband) Auguste Lantier and their two children*,  in the search of fortune. Barely surviving, their money soon fades away, mostly because of Lantier’s dissolute way of life. He leaves Gervaise, and that ends up being the best thing that could happen to them: Gervaise gets on her feet and works hard to maintain her children, marries her neighbor Coupeau, has a daughter, Anna (Nana), and is able to realise her dream and raise enough money to open her own laundry. From this point on, everything goes down. Coupeau, who was an honest, abstemious and hardworking man, suffers a terrible work injury and  takes first to idleness, then to gluttony and eventually to drink, turning into a wife-beating alcoholic. Eventually, Gervaise follows the same path. As if this wasn’t enough, Lantier comes back, befriends Coupeau and installs himself in their home. In this chaotic household, Nana grows until she’s old enough to get a job, and eventually runs away and becomes a prostitute (we’ll see more of her in Nana).

How do you think this tale ends?

Spoiler alert: BADLY.

I need to find more uplifting readings xD

*Fun fact (?): to the original two sons of Gervaise and Lantier, Claude and Etienne, a third one is added, Jacques, and has his own storyline in The beast within.

The Golem Cypher: T.R.I.X., by B. V. Bayly

35179435Once one of the best assassins in the galaxy, Cadell is now the hunted.

The Ascendency, the ruling galactic empire and Cadell’s ex-employer, has stripped him of everything and placed a significant bounty on his head. Forced to live with the shadows of his past, Cadell hides on the backwater planets of the outer rim. Away from anyone who would recognize him.

When his old friend and mentor, Salis, dangles a job in front of him that will get him an Ascendency pardon and let him clear his name, Cadell is ready to take it on. Armed with his constant companion, a strange alien symbiote named T.R.I.X. and his skills as an assassin, Cadell sets off to complete the strange job. How hard could it be?

But before long a crude Bounty Hunter, named Jacko, is on his trail with a squad of elite Ascendency soldiers at his command. Dead or alive, they will stop at nothing to find Cadell. His situation worsens as he narrowly escapes capture and arrives at his destination only to find every Bounty Hunter in the galaxy converging on the same planet. Despite the odds stacked against him, Cadell fortifies his resolve and unleashes T.R.I.X. to deal with anyone standing between him and completing the job.

As he gets closer to regaining his freedom, friends and enemies become blurred, and the noose around his neck tightens. (from Goodreads)

(isn’t this synopsis a bit too long?)

I heard of this book being free for a short time on Amazon, so I took a chance with it since I’m not familiar with science fiction and I’ve been wanting to give it a try for a while.

It was ok, I’m not crazy about it, it took me some time to get hooked on it, but eventually I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

I really liked the idea that humans colonized other planets, and that after years of living in different circumstances, there were plenty of human mutations, adaptations to these new environments. That was an interesting concept. It really left me wanting to know more about the Ascendancy (how it works, how it was formed) and why Jacko was so eager to revenge on Cadell. Revenge of what? What happened? I don’t know, maybe it was explained and I wasn’t paying attention.

By the way it ended I assume there will be a sequel.

At this point, the reviews are almost catching up with my readings, so I’ll post more sporadically, beginning with updates once a week and then… we’ll see.

Happy New Year!

Cats are weird and more observations, by Jeffrey Brown

13606670Following the success of Cat Getting Out of a Bag, this all-new collection of color and black-and-white comic strips loosely follows the adventures of a pair of cats as they explore the world around them, indoors and out. Adventures include taking a nap, licking a shoe, attacking dust particles, hiding in cabinets, pouncing on fallen leaves, confronting the vacuum cleaner, patrolling the yard, and purring up a storm all adorably rendered in Brown’s immediate and irresistible style. (from Goodreads)

This was a birthday present from my brother.

I wasn’t familiar with this author’s work and I really loved it! The stories are in the line of Simon’s cat or Cat vs Human, about what it’s every day life like with one ore more cats. Basically, everything a cat lover would adore!

The joy of living, by Émile Zola

36181812Other english titles: The Joy of Life; The Zest of Life

Pauline Quenu, the daughter of shopkeepers in the Parisian business district Les Halles (see The Fat and the Thin, aka The Belly of Paris), is taken in by relatives on the coast of Normandy following the death of her parents. There, Pauline – kind and open-minded – is confronted with a gout-plagued host, his avaricious wife, and their lazy son, a morbid hypochondriac, whom she is expected to marry. While the family takes advantage of Pauline, using up the inheritance her parents left to her, Pauline is gradually transformed into a dejected and resigned young woman. Death and accident soon hang over the small house on the Norman coast… (from Goodreads)

The book was ok, but I’m going to rant a little about something that completely altered my reading experience.

I was happily reading this book when I found a footnote on page 31 (I will probable never forget the number of this page). The note, from the translator, said something like this: “We alert the reader that here and in other parts of the book we deleted details and entire paragraphs that are not related to the main action and are disgusting. These too naturalistic descriptions in which the author delights himself add nothing to the work and are what the French critics have called, properly, ‘ordures’”. WHAT. THE. HECK (the highlights are mine)

The footnote came after Pauline got her first period, an absolutely disgusting affaire, apparently.

The edition I read was from 1958, so you might think “well, that explains it”, but the book was first published in 1883, so what’s your excuse, Mr. Translator and Mr. Editor??? Ok, alright. Zola’s books were quite scandalous at his time, I know. But I still got completely outraged and I was unable to keep on reading that day. Oh, BUT, take a look at the cover, right? Ironically, it’s illustrated with a barely dressed pin-up style lady, which is of course completely unrelated to the story. Unless… Her character was deleted of the book, for being so disgusting.

I started looking for other editions to read instead, an impossible find, apparently, from my corner of the world. I looked for ebooks, and the only ones I could find were from an English translation that was, also, censored.

So yes, I ended up finishing my edition with resignation. Did I feel a difference? Well… I felt like there were little descriptions and too many dialogues, which could be explained by the lack of paragraphs that “didn’t add to the main action”.

But I can’t help but wonder… Would I had notice anything if they decided not to add that footnote? Should I be thankful that at least they let me know what they did?

Anyway, I‘m still mad.

About the story itself… I felt sorry for Pauline, ending up with such a ungrateful family, but keeping up her spirits no matter what (she reminded me a bit of Fanny Price). And Lazare? No long after I finished the book this article came out and I felt it described him perfectly.