Sunday, June 30, 2013

life update

Reading in the park (the book is Dark Places).

It's been a little quiet around here lately, but I think I have a worthy excuse this time. For the past month, my life has been a whirlwind. Not only have I moved across the state (back to my college town), but I'm now living with my wonderful boyfriend, starting to feel more like a true adult, and (most importantly) working my first full-time job. I don't want to go into too many details, but I will say that my new job title includes the word writer (a fact that makes me very, very happy). It's been an amazing, stressful, exciting transition that unfortunately leaves me much less time for reading, writing, and blogging. However, I'm trying to catch up on my reading (I'm 2 books behind on my yearly goal according to Goodreads) and I really want to get back into blogging.

My boyfriend (he's reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).

That's all for now. Just wanted to give a quick update. :-)

And while I'm here, I have to ask:

What are you reading? What have been your favorite summer reads so far? I just finished Dark Places, which I loved (review coming soon!), and started Swamplandia! this morning. Despite its mixed reviews, I'm hopeful!

Sunset from the balcony of my new apartment.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

the angel's game

Prequel to the wonderful Shadow of the Wind, The Angel's Game is another dark, literary mystery set in Barcelona. The story revolves around David Martin, a young man with a troubled upbringing who dreams of being a writer. With a lot of help from his friend/protector Pedro Vidal, he rises up in the newspaper world and then signs a contract with a publishing company. A true lover of the written word, David becomes consumed with his work. He is obviously a great writer, but his contract forces him to write a certain type of novel and he isn't given any time to relax. He's also in love with Vidal's chauffer's daughter, Christina, though she rebuffs all his advances. David is overworked and unhappy. Then, he is offered a large sum of money to write a book for an enigmatic French publisher, Andreas Corelli. But of course the agreement isn't quite what it seems . . .

Although this is technically a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, it's really just a story involving some of the same characters. You don't need to read this to read Shadow of the Wind or vice-versa. 

I really love Carlos Ruiz Zafón's writing style, largely because his joy for the craft shows through. He writes in an old-fashioned, Gothic, dramatic sort of style. Very cinematic, really, with lots of descriptions and overly elaborate settings. The dialogue can be overly quippy and clever, and sometimes characters talk aloud to themselves for dramatic effect. Usually these things would bother me, but I enjoyed it because Zafon clearly loves it and has a lot of fun with it. And it works very well with the plot, which is full of mystery. You never quite know what's going on behind the scenes, though you know that something's not right with Corelli and his deal. 

I was really enjoying it up until the end. After waiting so long for a clear explanation of the mysteries, I never got an answer. I've been reading some of the discussion questions and answers (at the bottom of the book's Goodreads page) and I think I have some sort of idea of what happened now, but many elements of the plot still perplex me. Because of this, I only gave the book 3 stars. I enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind much more than this. However, I am really excited to read the next book in the trio, The Prisoner of Heaven.

TITLE: The Angel's Game
AUTHOR: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
DATE FINISHED: 22 June 2013
VERDICT: 3/5 stars. Intriguing but left me baffled.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

case histories

Investigator Jackson Brodie has been hired to look into three separate cases:

#1- In 1970, a very young girl, Olivia Land, disappears in the middle of the night. 

#2- In 1979, a single father's beloved daughter Laura is stabbed at her new job by a man in a yellow sweater.

#3- In 1997, an overwhelmed young mother reaches her breaking point, with nightmarish results.

My expectations were high for this and while I did still enjoy Atkinson's writing (and look forward to reading more), the plot really lost me. We start with those three case histories, which are very intriguing and mysterious. I was immediately excited to get lost in the cases (and couldn't help but think of Gillian Flynn, whose books I've been reading and loving lately). But then Atkinson started to lose me. We spend a lot of time in the minutia of everyday life, following Jackson's troubles with his ex-wife and daughter, Olivia's sister and her unhappiness, a puzzling woman named Caroline who lives in the country, and others. We don't really get a chance to delve into the mysteries. Very few details come to light, making it impossible for readers to solve the cases by picking up clues. And after (mostly) just following the various characters and their struggles, the book ends by going back to the case histories and explaining what happened. While I was really relieved that we did get to hear those nitty gritty details at some point (I hate when mystery stories are left unsolved!), there wasn't a sufficient build-up to the big reveal.

TITLE: Case Histories

AUTHOR: Kate Atkinson
PUBLICATION DATE: 17 October 2005
DATE FINISHED: 1 June 2013
VERDICT: 3/5 stars. Just disappointing. But since I'm still excited to read more of Atkinson (and am kind of considering reading Jackson Brodie #2- One Good Turn), it wasn't a complete botch.
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