Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

24866319Under the streets of London there’s a world most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, and pale girls in black velvet. Richard Mayhew is a young businessman who is about to find out more than he bargained for about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his safe and predictable life and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and yet utterly bizarre. There’s a girl named Door, an Angel called Islington, an Earl who holds Court on the carriage of a Tube train, a Beast in a labyrinth, and dangers and delights beyond imagining … And Richard, who only wants to go home, is to find a strange destiny waiting for him below the streets of his native city. (from Goodreads)

A while ago I was part of a reading challenge in which we had to read someone else’s favorite book, from a given list. I chose this book because I’ve wanted to read something from Gaiman for awhile, so this was a great excuse for a start. It was also my first time “reading” an audio book, because I couldn’t fetch a physical copy and I didn’t have time to read it from my computer. It took me some time to get used to this format, but by the end I was enjoying it as much as traditional reading. Besides, it was read by Gaiman himself, so what could be better than that? He gave a different voice to each character and it was practically unnecessary to hear the narrator saying who was talking.

I really liked the story. I imagine that, if I were more familiar with the city of London, the place wouldn’t be the same after reading this book. There are so many landmarks named that really made the story feel more real. The plot reminded me a little of Alice in Wonderland, a little of the Wizard of Oz (and they’re plenty of references to those stories, and probably to a lot of other books) and the style, the characters, the places, and the sense of humour reminded me of Terry Pratchett (well, they wrote a book together after all, right?).
I knew I was going to like it, and it didn’t disappoint.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander

2490849A copy of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them resides in almost every wizarding household in the country. Now Muggles too have the chance to discover where the Quintaped lives, what the Puffskein eats and why it is best not to leave milk out for a Knarl. (from Goodreads)

It was a long time since I last read this, but my perception of it didn’t change much after this last re-reading, probably because it’s pretty straightforward (I mean, what enlightening difference could I note in an encyclopedia-like book?) and because I read this book like a gazillion times before. There was even a time when I tried to draw these beasts, following the descriptions given. Anyway…
I mostly wanted to re-read it before watching the movie, not because I wanted to refresh the story (there’s no story: like I said, it’s a textbook), but because I wanted to refresh the descriptions of theses beasts and spotted them before someone in the movie had to explain it to me (or to a clueless character). It worked, kind of… Those things in the movie were a lot more shinier and flamboyant that I could ever imagine, but ok…

Of all the satellite books written about the wizarding world, this has always been my favorite, mostly because all those little handwritten notes in the margins (after all, this book is a copy of the original own by Harry Potter himself) and because it allows to imagine all these fantastic creatures and gives us the hope that dodos aren’t actually extinct, which is such a relief.

Hamlet / Macbeth, by William Shakespeare

hamlet-macbeth-william-shakespeare-clarin-d_nq_np_22164-mla20225340886_012015-fConfronted with evidence that his uncle murdered his father, and with his mother’s infidelity, Hamlet must find a means of reconciling his longing for oblivion with his duty as avenger. (from Goodreads)

Promised a golden future as ruler of Scotland by three sinister witches, Macbeth murders the king to ensure his ambitions come true. But he soon learns the meaning of terror – killing once, he must kill again and again, and the dead return to haunt him. (from Goodreads)

Ahh, there’s nothing like a classic shakespearean tragedy for a good dose of revenge and bloodshed.
I had to read Hamlet for a costume project for college, and well, Macbeth came along in the same book.
I’m not a fan of reading plays, but I didn’t dread doing it this time, mostly because I have read it before a long long time ago, so I wanted to set my memory right, since all I could remember was The Simpsons’ adaptation of it.

Persuasion, by Jane Austen

30653460Written at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Persuasion is a tale of love, heartache and the determination of one woman as she strives to reignite a lost love. Anne Elliot is persuaded by her friends and family to reject a marriage proposal from Captain Wentworth because he lacks in fortune and rank. More than seven years later, when he returns home from the Navy, Anne realises she still has strong feelings for him, but Wentworth only appears to have eyes for a friend of Anne’s. Moving, tender, but intrinsically ‘Austen’ in style, with its satirical portrayal of the vanity of society in eighteenth-century England, Persuasion celebrates enduring love and hope. (from Goodreads)

This was my second reading of this novel, first time in English. It was awhile since I last read it, and my memories of it were built mostly from glimpses of the different movies and tv adaptations. It was also my first time ever reading Austen in her own words and not mediated by a translator, so it actually felt almost like reading it for the first time ever.
I must admit that I always neglected Anne Elliot as a very secondary character in the myriad of Austen’s heroines, and oh how I regret this. I think, as it happens to me often, that sometimes I read books when it’s not the right time for me, so then they leave an odd impression in my memory. Knowing this about myself, I try to re-read them later, and it usually works great for the book. Apparently this time I was fully ready to love and understand Anne. Well, we are now the same age! So I guess that explains it all.

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen

6374276Beautiful, flirtatious, and recently widowed, Lady Susan Vernon seeks an advantageous second marriage for herself, while attempting to push her daughter into a dismal match (from Goodreads)

In my opinion, this is the funniest book by Austen, ever. That should be enough to go run, find a copy and read ASAP.
It’s a short epistolary novel (and you know how much I love this things). The exchange of letters is delightful to read, as one can see the two faced personality of Susan, so sweet and caring towards those she wants to impress, and completely cynical and scheming in her private correspondence with her best friend.
It was adapted to a movie very recently, for the first time, with the title Love & friendship (which is, BTW, another epistolary novel by Austen, but that has nothing to do with this story). I highly recommend reading the book first, which will make everything so much enjoyable because so many of the dialogues were copied word by word from the letters (ahh, so satisfying!). In any case, it’s a great movie in its own.

The Perfume of the Lady in Black, by Gastón Leroux

32423378In The Perfume of the Lady in Black, Joseph Rouletabille, the young journalist turned detective, is once more pitted against his arch-enemy Frédéric Larsan. The mysterious crime committed in the Square Tower challenges even Rouletabille’s powers of logic and deduction. But this is also a novel which – through its implicit accommodation of recent developments in the new science of psychoanalysis, particularly Freud’s notion of the Oedipus complex – was even further ahead of its time than The Mystery of the Yellow Room (from Goodreads)

Second book about Rouletabille’s adventures. The charactars are pretty much the same that in the previous book (with few newcomers) but everyone is in an altered state of nervousness and panic. The evil they thought they’ve left behind, is back, and more terrifying than ever.

Something that I didn’t mention in the previous post is that, at the end of The yellow room, there was a HUGE spoiler about Rouletabille’s past, written ON A FOOT NOTE that it even said “as it’s reveald in The perfume…“. WHAT?!?! I was INFURIATED. I remember that I was just leaving a train (commuting, my favorite time to read) while I was a reading it and I gasped quite loudly in indignation. Up to this day I don’t know if it was an editor or translator’s note or it was meant to be there by the author. But I assure you, there was nothing on that book that could make me foresee that piece of information that, luckily, is given quite early in this second book.

Let’s get back on track.

That particular discovery we make about Rouletabille’s past life is the root of his strangeness throughout the entire book. He’s not the same and it shows. I must say, I missed the old Rouletabille, but, luckily for us and the rest of the characters, he gets his mind to work correctly and solves the mistery.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the previous one. Instead of having a crime and find our way to the criminal, in this novel we have the criminal but there’s no crime yet, so everyone is working towards preventing it. That’s not so fun. Like I said, all the characters are pretty nervous and they got on my nerves as well. Is a constant state of unstediness.

After all this DRAMA, I can’t help but wonder what could happen to Rouletabille in his next adventure?

The mystery of the Yellow Room, by Gastón Leroux

13064611The young lady had just retired to her room when sounds of a struggle ensue, and cries of “Murder!” and revolver shots ring out. When her locked door is finally broken down by her father and a servant, they find the woman on the floor, badly hurt and bleeding. No one else is in the room. There is no other exit except through a barred window. How did the attacker escape?  (from Goodreads)

When I bought this book I thought it would be more dark and gritty, but it wasn’t like that at all, it was pretty entertaining and quite funny at times, despite the tragic events that the characters were living.

The main characters are:

  • Joseph Rouletabille – the young journalist and amateur detective, protagonist

  • Jean Sainclair – Rouletabille’s friend and lawyer, the narrator

  • Frédéric Larsan – the police detective

  • Professor Stangerson – a scientist, owner of “Chateau du Glandier”

  • Mlle. Mathilde Stangerson – his daughter, the victim

  • Robert Darzac – Mathilde’s fiancé

Robert Darzac ends up being the main suspect, according to Larsan’s reasonings, but Rouletabille is not convinced and believes in his innocence. He follows a logic that escapes completely our understanding and it’s not until the very end when the name of the attacker is revealed, and it’s totally unexpected!

This book is the first in a series, and I have already read the second! Rouletabille is not like any other detective I’ve read before, and it’s a nice change.

Another nice thing about my edition is that it has images, and I love when that happens!