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adrIntheSky

The Good Times Are Killing Me

I'm a nerdy girl with too much time on her hands, and too many books on her to-read pile.

Currently reading

Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm
Wilhelm Grimm, Jacob Grimm, Lucy Crane, Walter Crane
2666
Natasha Wimmer, Roberto Bolaño

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood If I could give this book 6 stars, I would. I'll post a review later this week.

Apocalypse

Apocalypse - Camille Flammarion I'm beginning to look on the bright side of unemployment. For starters, I get to go to the library whenever I want and spend lots of time looking at books with pretty pictures. I also get to review those books, even when the pictures inside turn out to be disturbing interpretations of the apocalypse, the deluge, or simply creepy stuff with demons and skeletons in the corners. (I love you Dali, but your stuff gives me the chills)So yeah, this is a book about the apocalypse. There’s some interesting stuff inside about eclipses, comets, diseases and famine, but honestly, I spent most of the time fascinated and horrified by the art work. Good thing I don’t believe in hell, otherwise I would live paralyzed with fear of spending the rest of eternity being cooked and eaten by two-headed demons.

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution - Richard Dawkins There are times when I think of the process of reading as a way to find happiness by leaving the nuisances of my own life and getting lost into someone else’s problems and reflections. In this scenario books are like spaceships that allow me to fly far away from my own planet, with the advantage of delivering me safe in my bedroom at any time. At other times though, reading turns my spaceship into a microscope through which I gain greater insight into all the different things that make my life the way it is. When this happens, I come out from the experience with a new sense of wonder and respect for things I previously didn’t really care for that much. In the case of “The Greatest Show on Earth”, the aspect of reality I now find completely fascinating is evolution, and while I don’t claim (I don’t think I ever could) to understand everything there is to know about it, I’m now way more interested in the process than I was before finishing this book. What I like the most of TGSOE is how it breaks down the science and the very, very complicated biology processes in ways that allow those of us with a scientific background that pretty much stopped in high school to understand them, without going to the other side and sounding condescending. (Unless you’re a proponent for young earth creationism or intelligent design, in which case prepare to be challenged on very chapter) I especially liked the section devoted to embryology and the explanation about the tree of life, along with the introductory chapters where Dawkins explains the relevance of theories, and their meaning in a scientific context. There’s also a lot to be said in favor of a book that doesn’t pretend to completely satisfy your curiosity on a given subject, but instead tries to leave you with more questions and a newfound respect for all the people that have dedicated their lives to answer them. A lot of people might find Dawkins’ intolerant stance on creationism and intelligent design off-putting, (especially those who feel that religious beliefs are above criticism) but I found it amusing, informative, and justified. The fact that in some countries as much as 42% of the population believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted (and I’m not talking about birds) paints a worrying picture of our current state of affairs in terms of basic scientific knowledge, and gives merit to the idea that we as a society are not doing right by kids when it comes to education. I’m not going to use this space to talk about my opinion of religion in relation to science and evolution, because in my very personal opinion the idea that religion has to do with everything and needs to be involved in every discussion is part of the reason why things are the way they are today (that is, fucked up), so I’m going to end this review on a positive note: Nature is terrifying, sadistic, and even outright mean when it wants to be, but most of the time it’s simply awesome.

Inferno

Inferno - Dan Brown I want to start this review by saying that, unlike what seems to be the general consent in the educated world, I don’t hate Dan Brown’s books. On the contrary, I find him to be the perfect complement to a lazy sunny afternoon, especially now that we have a hammock on the terrace and everybody else seems to be too busy to take full advantage of it. The fact that once again Brown decides to play it safe in terms of plot, pacing and character development just adds to the enjoyment I felt while reading “Inferno”: There was nothing new to encounter and therefore, I could simply watch the words fly by while trying not to fall asleep and fall from the hammock. (It’s happened more than once, I’m a messy hammock sleeper)Here’s the rundown of every Langdon book I’ve read:1. Evil genius concocts a convoluted plan to “improve” the world and leaves a trace of clues based on symbols, historic figures, works of art, and monuments. 2. Robert Langdon is summoned to decipher the riddle, and ends up in a race against the clock alongside a sidekick, (which is usually a smart and pretty woman with a hidden relationship to the central, evil plot) 3. Langdon finds out that nothing is what it seemed to be at first, solves the mystery, and encounters a twist ending. 4. There’s a reflection about the villain’s noble intentions, and the way his plans had changed the world.5. The end.“Inferno” follows this structure to the letter. The place of the historical figure is occupied by Dante Alighieri, whose Divine Comedy has inspired the evil guy to look for a definitive solution to what sees as the ultimate threat of the human race: overpopulation. With the aid of a corporation called The Consortium he hides in Florence for a year (I think, could have been longer) and, by the time he is discovered, has put in motion a chain of events that would ultimately lead to reducing the human population of earth to what the villain thinks of as “manageable” levels. The leading ladies in “Inferno” are Sienna Brooks, a former childhood prodigy with lots of untreated traumas and whose outstanding IQ doesn’t prevent her from being lectured by Langdon on pretty much everything, and Elizabeth Sinskey, head of the World Health Organization and arch nemesis of our beloved villain. Both women are beautiful, smart, accomplished, and crippled by traumatic experiences that came across as cheap and clumsy attempts to give them some depth. Where does it say that, in order to give a woman dimension as a character, she needs to have suffered some kind of sexual assault? Sienna’s problems were justified enough without that stupid rape scene, but apparently there was no other way to portray her vulnerability. Bullshit. In the case of Elizabeth, I can sort of understand the link between her sterility problems and the ultimate twist of the story, but it wasn’t executed properly. The woman pines against her lost chance at motherhood as if she had lost the one thing that defined her as a woman, and against which not even her incredible professional accomplishments could measure up. While reading her story all I could think of was “If she has such a strong desire to be a mother, why couldn’t she have adopted a freaking kid????” What does that say for all of us with no desire to be parents? Are we wired wrong? Are we less women for that? The whole thing pissed me off, and it could’ve been handled better. Ultimately, they both play the part represented by every other woman paired with Langdon in each of his adventures, and achieve the same amount of success. Having said all this, I also found some redeeming qualities in “Inferno” that connvinced me to give it three stars. For starters, it’s better than the incoherent mess called “The Lost Symbol”, whose stupidity moved me to tears. The use of Dante Alighieri as the pivotal figure of the story was effective, and the pace was fast enough to keep me guessing and turning the page, which is exactly what I look for in a Langdon book. And even though his “LOOK AT ME, I’M SMAAAAAART” attitude rubs me the wrong way sometimes, I do like Robert Langdon as a character. He’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but gets the job done (and by “job” I mean, he doesn’t fuck up in ways that make me want to kill him). All in all, an average book, with some interesting questions about the future of the human race and enough elements to distract you during an otherwise lazy evening, assuming you try to look past grammatical errors and the style of writing that makes Dan Brown infamous among certain circles.

Looking for Alaska Review

Looking for Alaska - John Green

So lately I’ve been filling word documents and old notebooks with lists. Ideas for mixtapes (from happy and sad to the soundtrack for a zombie apocalypse, songs for fictional characters, and drinking playlists), ideas for stories, cool pancake recipes, interesting quotes, lyrics, pet names, places to visit when I win the lottery… you name it. Being true to my latest obsession, I now present you with a list of reasons why I loved “Looking for Alaska”:

 

-          As Pudge, I’m also on the threshold of beginning my own journey in the hopes of finding a Great Perhaps away from home, friends, country and culture. There are days when I wake up scared to death about the prospect of moving so far away from everything I know, and books like this one keep reminding me that the journey is worth the risks.

 

-          I also read “The General in his Labyrinth” at Alaska’s age and felt haunted by it, although for different reasons. Simon Bolivar freed my country from Spain’s oppression only to die here, alone and friendless, and swallowed by a labyrinth of his own making. The book and the discussions it inspires in “Looking for Alaska” were a nice reminder of my teenage days, building my own library and hoping that I could find answers to everything inside books.

 

-          Ever since watching “vlogbrothers” on youtube (nerdfighters!!!!) I’ve developed a little crush on John Green (How could I not? The guy’s adorable!!) and I was a little worried that his books would destroy that admiration. I mean, what if he ended up being another Picoult? Or a Nicholas Sparks for teens? Lucky for me, John Green is as cool on paper as he is on the screen and I’m now able to say that my crush remains unscathed.   

 

-          It allowed me to get over the assumption that YA literature was below me. (don't blame me, I've seen so many incredible stupid and condescending stuff marketed for young adults that at one point I thought that was the heart of the entire label)

 

-          When my mom asked me the other day what this book was about. I ended up answering along the lines of “well, you see, it’s the story about a teenager’s experience at a boarding school, but not really. I mean, deep inside the book talks about loss and first encounters, taking risks, finding family away from home, and discovering wonderful people through books that talk about them. It’s about meeting friends, knowing all along that some of them will disappear from your life one way or another, and loving them anyway.” How could I not love something like this??????

 

-          It’s refreshing to read a book that doesn’t exploit my feelings for the sake of sales. If there’s one thing I hate about books like “The Lovely Bones” or “My sister’s keeper”, is the nagging suspicion that their authors consciously employ scenes of abuse and death in order to force emotions, like pretty much any Mexican, Venezuelan and Colombian soap opera in existence. The feelings in “Looking for Alaska” are there, don’t get me wrong, but they are incorporated for a reason, an important one, and are also given an appropriate amount of depth and respect. So ten points for that.

 

There are more reasons, but they are way too personal and incoherent to post so I’ll leave it at that. “Looking for Alaska” is a great book, both in terms of my growing love for John Green as an author and young adult books which, as I said before, can apparently be inspiring and moving even for someone who reached puberty more than a decade ago.  Even better, I’m now in the process of becoming the cool cousin that recommends awesome books to her younger family members!!

 

If you have read good YA books (I’m not a huge fan of paranormal romance, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice if it’s a really good book) please let me know. I’m starting a special section on my TBR pile dedicated to these books and I don’t really know where to begin. 

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska - So lately I’ve been filling word documents and old notebooks with lists. Ideas for mixtapes (from happy and sad to the soundtrack for a zombie apocalypse, songs for fictional characters, and drinking playlists), ideas for stories, cool pancake recipes, interesting quotes, lyrics, pet names, places to visit when I win the lottery… you name it. Being true to my latest obsession, I now present you with a list of reasons why I loved “Looking for Alaska”: - As Miles, I’m also on the threshold of beginning my own journey in the hopes of finding a Great Perhaps away from home, friends, country and culture. There are days when I wake up scared to death about the prospect of moving so far away from everything I know, and books like this one keep reminding me that the journey is worth the risks. - I also read “The General in his Labyrinth” at Alaska’s age and felt haunted by it, although for different reasons. Simon Bolivar freed my country from Spain’s oppression only to die here, alone and friendless, and swallowed by a labyrinth of his own making. The book and the discussions it inspires in “Looking for Alaska” were a nice reminder of my teenage days, building my own library and hoping that I could find answers to everything inside books. - Ever since watching “vlogbrothers” on youtube (nerdfighters!!!!) I’ve developed a little crush on John Green (How could I not? The guy’s adorable!!) and I was a little worried that his books would destroy that admiration. I mean, what if he ended up being another Picoult? Or a Nicholas Sparks for teens? Lucky for me, John Green is as cool on paper as he is on the screen and I’m now able to say that my crush remains unscathed. - It allowed me to get over the assumption that YA literature was below me. (don't blame me, I've seen so many incredible stupid and condescending stuff marketed for young adults that at one point I thought that was the heart of the entire label)- When my mom asked me the other day what this book was about. I ended up answering along the lines of “well, you see, it’s the story about a teenager’s experience at a boarding school, but not really. I mean, deep inside the book talks about loss and first encounters, taking risks, finding family away from home, and discovering wonderful people through books that talk about them. It’s about meeting friends, knowing all along that some of them will disappear from your life one way or another, and loving them anyway.” How could I not love something like this?????? - It’s refreshing to read a book that doesn’t exploit my feelings for the sake of sales. If there’s one thing I hate about books like “The Lovely Bones” or “My sister’s keeper”, is the nagging suspicion that their authors consciously employ scenes of abuse and death in order to force emotions, like pretty much any Mexican, Venezuelan and Colombian soap opera in existence. The feelings in “Looking for Alaska” are there, don’t get me wrong, but they are incorporated for a reason, an important one, and are also given an appropriate amount of depth and respect. So ten points for that.There are more reasons, but they are way too personal and incoherent to post so I’ll leave it at that. “Looking for Alaska” is a great book, both in terms of my growing love for John Green as an author and a blogger (I'm telling you, go watch him on he vlogbrothers channel, he's awesome), and of young adult books which, as I said before, can apparently be inspiring and moving even for someone who reached puberty more than a decade ago. Even better, I’m now in the process of becoming the cool cousin that recommends awesome books to her younger family members!! If you have read good YA books (I’m not a huge fan of paranormal romance, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice if it’s a really good book) please let me know. I’m starting a special section on my TBR pile dedicated to these books and I don’t really know where to begin. :)

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

“It was a pleasure to burn”.

What would you do if reading and keeping books were suddenly considered terrible crimes? Would you use what little time you had left before they were destroyed to memorizing your favorite lines? Would you hide them? Would you surrender willingly, and turn to the next form of entertainment without remorse? 

A while ago I had the opportunity to think about these questions while trying to save what I could of my grandfather’s library. He was a great man, fond of reading, and during his life he had managed to build a collection of books that went from Buddhism to the holocaust, with comics and all sorts of genres in between. After his death my grandmother decided to turn to Christianity for answers, and was convinced that books that didn’t explicitly worshiped god were tools of the devil and needed to be destroyed. So one day, with the help of a couple of relatives, she lit a bonfire and threw away most of what my grandfather treasured and loved, along with everything in her house that was considered “evil”. That included my uncle’s collection of Harry Potter books, works of fiction that my mother was saving for me to read one day, and even novels of Gabriel García Márquez, once admired and now detested for his profanity. 

I felt comforted when I came home and saw my own little library, each book a pleasant memory, and thanked the heavens for the fact that my grandma’s fire could never reach them. But what if it could? That’s what scares me about “Fahrenheit 451”: The notion that the objects I love the most in the entire world could suddenly disappear because others don’t like them. Because they could make me unhappy, and nobody wants to feel sad, right? It’s so much easier to sit in front of a screen that tells you what to think, how to feel, what to do and buy… 

That being said, I don’t entirely agree with the notion that all television is inherently bad. Most of it? Sure, especially when shows like “Jersey Shore” are at the top of the charts, right along with a deliberate attempt to misinform the public and manipulate news. But there is also good stuff, and an attempt to spread knowledge even for those who can’t read. I’ve seen documentaries that have expanded my views on a variety of subjects, from Alzheimer’s to euthanasia, and plenty enjoyable shows that heavily critic our society and our paradigms. I would hate to see them disappear, just as much as I hated to see the empty spaces in a once full library shelf. 

That’s why I believe that “Fahrenheit 451” is important: You can agree or disagree, but it still makes you think, and that’s the best kind of book to keep around. It also helped to see characters I could relate to and that I found interesting (like Clarisse and Faber). Beatty was terrifying, more so because he used quotes from books to promote the destruction of any worthy piece of written word, and Montag was a fantastic protagonist. This is a great book, and it should be read by everyone. 

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(Oh! I also strongly disagree with comics being considered "safe": “Maus”, for example, is one of the most powerful books I’ve read about the holocaust, along with other graphic novels that address topics in a way that most books would fail to do. So if you're going to destroy anything that promotes individual thought, comics should definitely go too.)

Casa de las bellas durmientes, la

La casa de las bellas durmientes - Yasunari Kawabata One of the best things about my friends from work is that most of them aren’t allergic to the written word (I adore my best friends, but getting them to read something other than “Twilight” or “Why Men Love Bitches” is futile). I’m not the kind of person that ask people about their reading choices if they haven’t started the conversation themselves for fear of coming across as some sort of arrogant book nerd, but at work two things did start this line of conversation: The first was charging my kindle on my office’s computer, and the second was my “so it goes” forearm tattoo. These two little things have marked the beginning of many book talks around my office, and are the origin of plenty of interesting recommendations. Kawabata’s novella is one of the books I’ve discovered in this fashion, and it proves that at least there’s one girl at work whose opinion on literature I can fully trust.The story is simple enough: An old man learns of the existence of a house where men beyond a certain age get to sleep with narcotized young women, and when I say sleep, I mean it: It’s forbidden to have sex with any of them. The book takes us through each one of Eguchi’s (our protagonist) visits to this “house of sleeping beauties”, and shares with us the memories he evokes while exploring his companion’s bodies and minds. The memories presented say a lot about Eguchi’s life, as much for what they represent as for the things they don’t mention, and paint sad portrait of what it means to age, including the desperate search of beauty even when one can no longer extract physical pleasure from it. When my friend gave me this book, she told me that its true achievement was to make attractive the ugliness of our inner nature, to write beautifully about violence, and to be erotic without being explicit. I fully agree with that opinion, and would like to add that here Kawabata confronts us with our own fears and desires. We’re sleeping with these women too, and seeing in them what our particular experiences and expectations dictate. We’re all Eguchi, and the sleeping beauties, and the woman on the other side of the door profiting from the exchange. We’re all inhuman, and ugly, and cry for a good night’s sleep next to someone unwilling or unable to judge us. There’s a lot more I could say about this book, but the novel is too short and I don’t want to spoil it for anybody. So find it, read it, and join our growing Kawabata fan club. :)

Starblood

Starblood - Carmilla Voiez,  Richard Findlay Before starting this review I must admit that I’m not the target audience for these types of stories. Paranormal romance is not my field of expertise or interest, and the Goth scene has never captured my attention. So please bear that in mind while reading the rest of this review.“Starblood” begins strong. Satori is a Goth/Magician obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, and determined to win her back using every available tool. When we first meet him he’s in the middle of a complicated spell that, if successful, will summon a demon with the power of making Star love him again. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when the spell summons Lilith instead, the Biblical demon expelled from Paradise. As you probably could have guessed, Lilith is not thrilled at the idea of serving a mortal, and after dismissing him completely she goes out into the world to do her own thing. Satori embarks upon a quest whose purpose is to take Lilith back to her own dimension, while unintentionally changing his ex-girlfriend’s life forever. Without giving too much away, that’s the central plot of “Starblood”. It wasn’t a bad read by any means, but it kept reminding me of Chekhov’s adage: “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." Several things are mentioned in the story like Star’s supposedly dark past and untapped power that lead you to think they’ll be important later on, only to be dropped without further mention. Characters with only the most tangential connection with the main story have entire chapters dedicated to them (I’m looking at you Freya!!!!!), and there’s no mention of a sequel, so I don’t know if those sections are an example of a writer’s inability to “murder your darlings” of a prologue to future books. Oh, and I also read most of a chapter before realizing it was a flashback, which then forced me to reread the whole thing again. As for the characters, well, there’s not much I can say without spoilers. I didn’t care all that much for Satori, since most of the time his scope of interests seemed limited to an obsession with an unattainable woman and personal appearance (do Goths really spend all that time deciding what to wear and what kind of makeup to put on?), but by the end of the book I realized that he wasn’t really all that bad. There’s growth in his character, especially when he starts to come to terms with the way his actions have damaged those around him. As for Star, I kept expecting her to live to her potential as a character, only to see her fall short time and time again. Apparently there’s a whole, dark story behind her motivations and her fear to get involved with Satori, but for some reason this is never fully addressed in the book beyond hinting that she’s an especial snowflake because her childhood was really, really bad. And Lilith. Oh, Lilith. Is it wrong of me to like her? The woman is strong, takes no crap from anyone, and follows her own agenda, determined to make a place for herself after the disappointing events with Adam in God’s Paradise. I knew she was supposed to be the bad guy here, but in comparison with Satori’s whining personality she came across as the only character interesting enough to root for. I was all “Team Lilith” in the first part of the book, until she started doing stuff like killing a girl for no reason that made absolutely no sense given what I knew about her. It’s like the author forgot at first that she was supposed to be the antagonistic force behind Satori’s predicament, and after remembering it just seemed easier to turn her into a murderous bitch in the middle of the plot than to revise the character from the beginning. Those were the problems. The good bits, the ones that earn “Starblood” three stars instead of two, involve engaging erotic scenes, hot enough that I felt weird reading them in my way to work, next to at least a hundred people (and what’s erotic fiction good for besides making you feel uncomfortable in public places?), interesting discussions about the consequences of daring to be different in a society where a piercing or a tattoo will still get you more than one disapproving glance on the bus (and in the case of some of the characters, even worse reactions), and a story that included a diversity of sexual orientations lacking in today’s mainstream romance books. I can’t assure you that I will be reading more of Carmilla’s work since her interests are way different from mine (I learned in South Park everything I know about Goths, and paranormal romance is not my thing), but I do recommend her in case these things do capture your imagination, and you’re willing to give a self-published author an opportunity.

Sharp Objects: A Novel

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn As much as I loved reading this book, after I finished it I just had to spend the next couple of hours watching Discovery Kids. It left me feeling both dirty and refreshed, (which is something no book had ever done) and for that I dearly thank the author. It’s nice to know there are women out there writing good thrillers that explore the many ways women hurt themselves and each other, without making anybody cry (although I kind of wanted to, just because some of the things that are discussed here felt a little bit too real) or giving us a pretty little ending with a silver bow on top. If you want a quick read that will make you want to spend the next afternoon in a bathtub scrubbing yourself until your skin is red and raw, then this is the book for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something sweet and uplifting, please pick up something else. And if you’re in that mental place where hurting yourself is starting to sound like a good idea, or if you’re already doing so but want to stop, then definitely stay the hell away from “Sharp Objects” (both the book and the real thing), and join me watching “Dora the Explorer” or whatever it is little kids are watching these days.

American Gods

American Gods - Neil Gaiman I want to write a review that does justice to this AMAZING book, but I can't. It has too much goodness in it, too many memorable lines, interesting characters and important things to say about the human condition, so I’m going to give it a rest, read it again in a couple of months (where I’m not recuperating from any stupid surgery or illness) and try again. Hopefully I’ll manage to come up with something half decent by then.

Batman: The Long Halloween

Batman: The Long Halloween - Gregory Wright, Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, Richard Starkings Amazing story. And the graphics... I wanted to tear the comic apart and put the pages on my wall. This is by far the best batman comic I've come across.

The Raie'Chaelia

The Raie'Chaelia - Melissa Douthit I usually don't care much about an author's behavior, but this author's complete disregard of common sense made me join the "authors behaving badly" shelf. There is no excuse for complaining about cyber bullying and then posting personal information of someone whose reviews you don't like. None. http://melissadouthit.com/2012/05/29/drama-surrounding-the-selection/#comment-891I now know why self-publishing has such a bad reputation.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Series #1)

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Series #1) - I have a confession to make. I know it’s frowned upon and used as a derogatory expression for mediocre literature, but… well… here it goes: I read fanfiction. Specifically, I read Sailor Moon fanfiction. It’s been my guilty pleasure since I was 14 and, while I admit that perhaps 80% is trash the rest has been worth the trouble. Yes, they are writing about characters that don’t belong to them and yes, most stories do sound like 12 year-old masturbatory fantasies and are completely pointless, but what can I say? The few good ones I’ve found have made me addicted, and you know what?: So what does my shameful confession has to do with “Cinder”? Well, you see, I learned of the existence of Marissa Meyer through her Sailor Moon stories. And when I heard that she had landed an agent and was going to get her first original book published I also knew that it was going to be my first YA book in a while, after giving up on the genre because of my less-than-stellar reaction to “Twilight”. Lucky for me, “Cinder” has nothing in common with that sparkly vampire disaster, and everything with the style of writing that made me admire Marissa for years. In case you didn’t know this is a loose retelling of Cinderella. Our protagonist, Cinder, is a cyborg living in New Beijing with a stepmother that sees her as a disgrace. Cyborgs are thought of as second-class citizens and are often looked down on by the rest of the population, which makes Cinder ashamed of her robotic parts. Unlike her fairy tale ancestor, however, Cinder is also a great mechanic, and spends her days working and making plans for a better future. This is one heroine that doesn’t waste breath waiting for someone else to rescue for her misery, but instead is determined to work for the things she wants. Cinder’s life changes in ways she can’t possibly imagine when Prince Kai, heir to the throne to Commonwealth, comes to help looking for help repairing a broken android, while one of her stepsisters and her only human friends suddenly contracts a disease that threatens to decimate Earth’s population in a very short time.As I said before, Cinder is not the type of heroine that prejudice has led me to expect from YA books. She makes her own decisions, and although there is a romantic interest it doesn’t turn her into a blabbering idiot incapable of thinking on her own. Regarding Prince Kai, I thought he was a kind kid, stuck in a situation he can’t escape from and forced to grow up at giant steps in order to protect his people. It was easy to care for Cinder and Kai, and that level of empathy turned the book into something I just couldn’t put down. I agree with other reviews that point out the predictability of some plot twists, not surprising I we remember this is after all a Cinderella retelling, but I also felt that the important parts, the ones that will make the sequel worth waiting for, were all original. Having established my complete satisfaction with this book, I now need to mention something that bothered me a little bit: The whole cyborg theme was in my opinion touched only on the surface. How much of what Cinder thinks and feels is product of her robotic wiring, and how much comes from her human nature? Why are people with synthetic prosthesis deemed dirty and incapable of taking care of themselves? The book wants us to think of the dying Emperor as a just and brave ruler, but if he is indeed such a great monarch, why would he allow the indiscriminate killing of cyborgs in the name of science, and why do they have to endure such an unfair treatment? I really hope the sequel deals in depth with this, since it’s a big part of what makes Cinder who she is. Another thing that I didn’t understand is this: at first the book says that Princess Selene died in the fire when she was 3, but Cinder got her cyborg makeover when she was eleven. Shouldn’t she have needed surgery much earlier? Am I missing something here? Spoilers and objections aside, this was a book that kept me hooked and interested to the end and I really recommended it to those of you that are into YA stories and don’t mind waiting almost a year for part 2.

Slaughterhouse-Five; or, The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death

Slaughterhouse-Five; or, The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death - “Slaughterhouse-5” came to my attention a while ago after reading an article about a Missouri school board that banned the book for his profanity (apparently “it would make a sailor blush”), and for practically everything else. Coming from a family where the notion of banning books is as foreign as the currency and political history of tralfamadorians (except from my grandma, but that’s another story entirely), the rash accusations made against this story awoke my interest in it. Would it be more demeaning towards humanity as a whole than Jersey Shore? Be more violent than a Tarantino movie? Would I find in its pages a recipe for homemade bombs, or (don’t raise your eyebrows, that was actually the underlying message of a popular TV show I know) would it teach girls that the easiest way to escape poverty is to get a boob job and become mistress to the local drug lord?Of course not.Instead, I found “Slaughterhouse-5” to be a brilliant and moving account of how war messes you up, sprinkled with dark humor and aliens. It was also a condemnation of the decisions that lead to massacres like the Dresden bombing, but also a justification of war on the basis that, sometimes, it is necessary to prevent a bigger evil. Here’s the plot: Through disorganized vignettes we come to meet Bill Pilgrim, World War II veteran, who believes he’s unstuck in time and is forced to go back and forth through it reliving the most important moments of his life. In case you’re wondering, one of those moments deals with the complete obliteration of Dresden at the hands of allied forces, and another describes his kidnapping by a tralfamadorian spaceship, which then made him live in a zoo with a young movie star. Unlike the Missouri School Board, I happen to think that “Slaughterhouse-5” has some valuable lessons in it that made it worthy of a place in a library shelf. For starters, it reminds the reader of how there are no winners in war. You’re either in the losing side, watching everything you know and love disappear from the face of the earth because a man you’ve never seen decided that bombing your city and killing you would be the perfect move to force an enemy to surrender, or you can be on the side that wins, condemned to spend the rest of your life reliving a tragedy and questioning the point of your own existence. Either way you’re fucked, and if you don’t believe me ask some of the thousands of war veterans all over the world that have suffered from Post-traumatic stress disorder as a direct consequence of their involvement in a conflict. The reader might also remember that there’s hope in any situation, if you’re brave or crazy enough to look for it. Bill Pilgrim finds comfort in the idea that time is not linear, and that gives his life a purpose it lacked before. As someone who is still battling with the desperation that inevitably comes with the certainty that there is nothing out there, and no real reason to go on, I could sympathize with Pilgrim (although the origin of out despair is completely different) and in that sense, I was touched by the message of hope that in my view is the ultimate message of “Slaughterhouse-5”. If we want to keep our sanity in this day and age we better remember the good times and live for them, or risk losing our sanity. And now I have something new to talk to my therapist about!

Last Days

Last Days - Brian Evenson, Peter Straub Brian Evenson is an evil man. “Las Days” is the first book I’ve read that makes me feel dirty for liking it (and not *sexy* dirty, but like I had eaten something from the trash), and yet I can’t help but feel that this is a remarkable piece of fiction. I hate you Mr. Evenson. Where were you when I had to explain to my mother what this book was about without making her think about all the things she had done wrong regarding my moral education? And how could you blame her? I mean, really, how sick do you have to be to enjoy a story as twisted and disturbing as the one narrated in “Last Days? And how do you tell a loved one that your current source of entertainment involves a smart mockery of religious hierarchy that makes you want to read it and bleach your brain at the same time? That was a distinct feeling I got while reading “Last Days”: a growing sense of disgust mixed with the knowledge that I couldn’t stop reading, not even if I wanted to. In case you’re still curious, the book begins with the ineffective attempts of a private detective to survive a case of severe depression, generated by a rather unfortunate confrontation with a “gentlemen with the cleaver” that led to the chopping of his right hand. In the middle of this personal crisis he’s approached by two… hum… “Peculiar” men, who seem to believe that the detective’s misfortune makes him uniquely qualified to take care of a mystery their brotherhood is facing. The personal characteristics of these two individuals, added to the nature of the group they belong to and the hesitation of our protagonist to get involved with them, make for a very compelling read that also presents a strong comment on the evils that religious fundamentalism can unleash on the world. A part of me wants to talk long and deep about the many, many factors that made “Last Days” so disturbing for me, but I don’t want to rob anyone of the chance of discovering them for themselves. There is a lot to feel uncomfortable about in this novel (I’ll never think about the idea of a strip-tease in the same way again) and I think that it has a lot to do with our sense of self-preservation, and our refusal to even consider other lifestyles that would willingly harm it. What made it all worse for me, however, was realizing that groups such as the ones depicted here could actually exist; there are already so many people willing to take their faith to new and crazy heights by means of interpreting religious texts in rigorous ways that, well, the possibility of a real “brotherhood of mutilation” doesn’t require such a stretch of imagination, and that's a pretty scary thought.In conclusion, I don’t regret reading “Last Days” at all, even if now I’m forced to wash down the unpleasant images it left on my mind with tons of fluffy romances and happy endings. Brain Evenson has won a fan and I plan to read more of his books in the future, with a good dose of pretty unicorns and kitties on the side.