Showing posts from 2014

Snapshots - #37: It, Breathe, Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House

It (2017), (♦♦♦♦): Four inseparable friends in middle school bond with other three newcomers. They all have in common that they are bullied by the same people. Over the course of one summer they'll fend off bullies and face a centuries-old demon in the form of a clown, named Pennywise, whom has been disappearing kids and terrorizing the town of Derry, Maine, every twenty-seven years since the town was founded.
Based on Stephen King's novel of the same title, It is a movie with a smart script and a sympathetic ensemble of nerds that deliver light humor, and deep thrills. It doesn't hurt that each and every character has his or her own arc, thus one gets to know their motivations and fears before Pennywise enters head on into the picture.
In a nod to 1980s movie classics such as The Goonies, and the Brat Pack ensemble, the newest adaptation of It takes place at the end of that decade, when it seems, at least from the Hollywood perspective, that every kid harbored a genius insi…

Happy New Year 2015

Happy 2015 to casual visitors of my site and those assiduous visitors along the year. Your support has made me appreciate writing for you all the more.
Thanks from the bottom of my heart and please keep on visiting. Hopefully there will be plenty of more things to say in the years to come.
May 2015 be a healthy, joyous, and prosperous year for you all!

Best Books I Read in 2014

The following is a compilation of the books I read and liked best in 2014.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (♦♦♦♦):  is a splendid example of a gothic novel; the sense of doom, of supernatural forces governing events permeates this timeless classic.
The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland (♦♦♦♦): the title couldn’t have been different; it pays homage not to a life but to the journey of a woman of modest beginnings who became extraordinary during the times and through suffering she endured…Since the book more or less started with a prophecy I was desperate to see it play out, so much so that when the book became serious […] I felt tempted to leave it aside. It was a history lesson let me tell you, and not the pretty kind. It was ugly and messy and plain terrifying.
Hannah’s Dream by Diane Hammond (♦♦♦♦½): is a book about an elephant and its relationship with its zoo keeper, but it’s also a story about love, loyalty, loss, growing old and infirm, being at odds with…

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley (♦♦♦♦½)

Nicola Marter works at an art gallery in London that caters to Russian clients. A woman named Margaret visits the gallery to appraise a wooden bird that has been passed down in her family for three centuries. Margaret says that "The Firebird", as the artwork is known, was given to her ancestor by Empress Catherine the First, of Russia, but without any authentication document there's no way to be sure. When Nicola holds the bird in her hand, she gets a glimpse of the past and knows that the story is true, but how to prove it?
In the company of Rob McMorran, a gifted psychic and former flame, Nicola traces the steps that Anna (Jamieson) Moray, Margaret's ancestor, took from her childhood as a neighbor of Slains castle in Scotland, to her late teens as a member of a prominent family in St. Petersburg, and her occasional acquaintance with the Czarina.
The Firebird chronicles the life of Anna Mary, daughter of Sophia Paterson and John Moray whom we got to know in The Winter…

The Martian by Andy Weir (♦♦♦♦½)

Mark Watney is a botanist, mechanical engineer, and above all else an astronaut, who gets stranded on Mars, given for dead, when the crew of the Ares 3 is forced to evacuate the planet on Day 6 of the mission due to sustained gale force winds during a sand storm. Henceforth, Mark’s survival skills will be tested to the outmost.
I have been through different phases as a reader. In my teenage years I read science- fiction, among other genres. I outgrew my sci-fi years mostly due to lack of enough material to read in that genre, but I've broken the spell with The Martian by Andy Weir, thanks in part to Sarah @ Sarah's Book Shelves, who lured me to it based on her intriguing review. The Martian has been, by the way, named one the best books of 2014... And I bought a Kindle copy for a steal, so I had no excuse.
The Martian is hysterical, and addictive. It's so much nerdy fun that it should be a sin. The humor is reminiscent of Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstor…

Stay With Me by Alison Gaylin (♦♦♦♦)

Brenna Spector discovers only too late that her teen daughter Maya has been keeping secrets from her. Apparently she has found a community of friends online and has gotten dangerously close to one, making all sorts of personal confessions.
When Maya is humiliated at a sleepover and runs away in tears, her new-found friend is more than ready to rescue her. But who is this woman and what is she hiding? With the clock ticking, Brenna will get to the truth of her daughter’s disappearance, but… will it be too late?
I realized not so long ago, that I’m into three series so far: the Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva, the Sharpe & Donovan series by Carla Neggers, and the Brenna Spector series by Alison Gaylin. I also read the first installment in the trilogy of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland, with the other two installments yet to follow, and I have a few other trilogies I want to get into.
Back to topic, Stay With Me is the third installment in the Brenna Spector series by Alison Gaylin,…

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett (♦♦♦)

A Novel of Obsession

Peter Byerly lost his wife Amanda to cancer nine months ago. Reeling with grief, he decided to escape North Carolina and move to a cottage in the English countryside with the prospect of restarting his career as an antiquarian bookseller.
On one of his book hunting expeditions, Peter finds a portrait by an unknown Victorian painter with the image of Amanda. Obsessed, Peter starts tracking down the elusive painter, which leads him to a manuscript that might revolutionize the literary world if it is real, for it reveals the true identity of Shakespeare.
Running against the clock, Peter finds himself in the midst of a family feud going back for at least two centuries, and he may very well lose his own life for a killer is intent on keeping a secret from being revealed.
I bought The Bookman’s Tale because it promised a story resembling The Shadow of the Wind and Mr.Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, both of which I loved. While The Shadow of the Wind was about a book within a …

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (♦♦♦♦♦)

It’s 1926…
Tom and Isabel Sherbourne are a married young couple living on Janus Island, the farthest lighthouse post in the Commonwealth of Australia, surrounded by two oceans. Life on Janus is hard and primal. They only get home leave after three years of service. Isabel has suffered three miscarriages along the years, but a mysterious boat, carrying a dead man and a baby girl, arrives on the shore bringing with it the possibility of realizing their dreams of parenthood.
You have no idea how many books from my TBR list I've started to read then put aside for whatever reason; The Light Between Oceans is no exception, but when I kept reading this time around and itbecame so hard to put down, that's when I regretted not having read it sooner.
When I read The Red Tent, I had the opportunity of thinking more deeply about something I've thought for several years; I know it might sound pretentious, even grandiose, but when God gave women the power of conception, I believe that was …

Poesía Completa, Jorge Luis Borges- parte 4 (♦♦♦♦♦)

Para las Seis Cuerdas (1965)
En la colección Para las Seis Cuerdas, Borges dedica milongas (poemas rimados que se hacen acompañar por los rasguidos de una guitarra) a forajidos que se hicieron famosos allá por 1890. En estas milongas los temas recurrentes son las peleas a cuchillos y la muerte.
Entre éstos mi favorito es Milonga de Manuel Flores.
Manuel Flores va a morir,
eso es moneda corriente;
morir es una costumbre
que sabe tener la gente.

Y sin embargo me duele
decirle adiós a la vida,
esa cosa tan de siempre,
tan dulce y tan conocida.

Miro en el alba mis manos,
miro en las manos las venas;
con estrañeza las miro
como si fueran ajenas.

Vendrán los cuatro balazos
y con los cuatro el olvido;
lo dijo el sabio Merlín:
morir es haber nacido.

¡Cuánto cosa en su camino
estos ojos habrán visto!
Quién sabe lo que verán
después que me juzgue Cristo.

Manuel Flores va a morir,
eso es moneda corriente:
morir es una costumbre
que sabe tener la gente.
Elogio de la Sombra (1969)
Borges expresa en el …

La Casa de los Espíritus (House of Spirits) by Isabel Allende (♦♦♦♦♦)

Three generations of the family Trueba-Del Valle converge in this sweeping saga spanning most of the twentieth century in Chile. Esteban, the stubborn patriarch, and his granddaughter Alba, tell the unfolding story of the family amidst convulse political changes sweeping their country and the world.
In Eva Luna, I felt that the story was forced and uneven, though it was compelling and funny at times. I liked City of the Beasts more than I did Eva Luna. The description of the expedition by boat through the Amazon jungle was atmospheric, simply transporting. However, in House of the Spirits, Allende achieved something quite remarkable and unique: it is effortless storytelling--not deprived of literary recourses but a fascinating story nonetheless--in which time isn't needed to orient the reader because the plot unfolds of its own accord; the result is a modern classic of Latin American literature.
House of Spirits is an enthralling narrative in which oracles and the paranormal coexist…

La Casa de los Espíritus por Isabel Allende (♦♦♦♦♦)

Tres generaciones de la familia Trueba-Del Valle convergen en esta saga que abarca la mayoría del siglo XX en Chile. Esteban, el patriarca de la familia, y Alba, su nieta, cuentan la historia de la familia entre los convulsos cambios políticos que arrasan al país y al mundo.
En Eva Luna, yo sentí que la historia estaba forzada, aún cuando fue absorbente y simpática en ocasiones. Me gustó La Ciudad de las Bestias más que Eva Luna. La descripción de la expedición en bote a través de la selva Amazónica fue atmosférica y evocadora. Sin embargo, en La Casa de los Espíritus, Allende logró algo mágico y único: es una novela fluída, cuya escritura aparenta ser fácil, no privada sin embargo de recursos literarios, sino una historia fascinante en la cual el tiempo no es necesario para orientar al lector puesto que la historia se desenvuelve a su propio ritmo; el resultado es un clásico moderno de la literatura latinoamericana.
La Casa de los Espíritus es una narrativa hechizante en la cual coexis…

Poesía Completa, Jorge Luis Borges- parte 3 (♦♦♦♦♦)

El Otro, El Mismo (1964)
Esta compilación de poemas, que abarca tres décadas, es erudita por naturaleza. En ésta, Borges le rinde culto a novelistas como Cervantes (Un Soldado de Urbina), al filósofo y prosista barroco Baltasar Gracián (en un poema homónimo), y a poetas del calibre de John Milton (Una rosa y Milton), Homero (El otro), Dante, Whitman (Camden, 1892), Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe y Rafael Cansinos-Asséns (en poemas homónimos). Además Borges rinde homenaje a poetas menores que no trascendieron su tiempo (A un poeta menor de la antología; Un poeta del siglo XIII; A un poeta menor de 1899).
También Borges rinde tributo a héroes (Poema Conjetural; Un soldado de Lee (1862)), de su extirpe (Junín; Página para recordar al coronel Suárez, vencedor en Junín), y de gestas, como Ulises (Odisea, Libro Vigésimo Tercero) y Beowulf (Fragmento), y a los sajones cuyas espadas forjaron a Inglaterra (Un sajón (449 A.D.)).
No sólo de héroes literarios o de gestas escribe Borges en El Otro, El Mism…

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (♦♦♦♦)

Jenna Metcalfe is a teenager who has been raised by her grandmother due the disappearance of her mother after an accident involving an elephant in the New England Elephant Sanctuary, which Jenna’s parents owned, and where they worked and lived. To find Alice, her mother, Jenna contacts a psychic with questionable skills, and the former detective, now turned P.I., who investigated the accident in the sanctuary the night it happened.
Elephant research on grief, marital problems, and mental illness are some of the ingredients of this unusual story.
What I like about Jodi Picoult is her ability to write about ethical dilemmas and make the reader question his or her assumptions. Her stories and characters are seldom black and white, but rather an uncomfortable shade of gray. Picoult also doesn't take sides, she doesn't pepper one character with more or less negative traits than another; they are always nuanced, multidimensional.
In Lone Wolf, the only other novel by Jodi Picoult that …