Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky

Paperback Edition

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pub. Date: July 2008
ISBN-13: 9780307388001
Pages: 160
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: After years of traveling around the world, Silvio returned to the French countryside to take care of his family's farm. As an old man, Silvio lived alone and unmarried. A scandal involving love affairs suddenly erupted, and Silvio was reminded of the pain and the love he lost years ago when he was young...when he had fire in his blood.
Review: Fire in the Blood was written in 1942, but it was never finished by Nemirovsky who was captured by the Nazis in that same year.
I read Suite Francaise awhile back, and since I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to read more of Nemirovsky's works. (My review of Suite Francaise is here if you are interested).
I'm not going to talk too much about the plot since I might reveal some spoilers. (The story is not even 200 pages!) What I will talk about is how lovely Nemirovsky writes. Her description of the French countryside is beautiful. She also has a way of painting Silvio that perhaps the reader might emphathize , not symphatize like the characters in the book do.
The plot may be predictable, but there's a small twist in the end that I just didn't expect. I would certainly would have loved to find out what kind of closure Silvio would have had with his past. Perhaps out of respect for the late Nemirovsky and her family, no one decided to finish the manuscript, but this is just my speculation. On the other hand, I think it's kind of fun for the readers to give their own interpretation of the ending.
Recommendation: I think Nemirovsky fans might enjoy this book. If you're looking for a quick read with a simple plot, this is a good choice, but just be aware that the ending is abrupt.

Hardcover Edition

Friday, September 18, 2009

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pub. Date: March 2006
ISBN-13: 9781400078776
Pages: 304
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: Kathy, Ruth and Tommy grew up in a boarding school called Hailsham in England. As an adult, Kathy became a carer and both Ruth and Tommy re-entered her life. Kathy remembers the bond they have shared and their life in Hailsham where they had been regarded as "special" by their guardians and teachers. This is a moving and unforgettble book about friendship, love, and betrayal.

Review: This was the first book I ever read by Mr. Ishiguro, and I loved it! Immediately, when I picked it up at the bookstore, I just had a good feeling about it. Based on the book blurb, I also knew that there was a little bit of a love story and a love triangle. I later discovered that I was right, but the love story here wasn't overbearing so I wasn't disappointed.

So what's this really all about? And what the heck is Hailsham anyway? Why are Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth "special?" Well, Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth are human clones. In Hailsham, they and other children clones are raised like "normal" children so that they can become organ donors. But not all of them become donors. Kathy (the narrator), for instance, becomes a carer - someone who takes care of the donors.

Actually, it isn't surprising for Kathy to become a carer. Even as children, Kathy has that type of personality where she takes care of everyone. It becomes a disadvantage though since she seems to forget her needs over everyone else's, even when it comes to her love for Tommy. I do like Kathy, but at the same time, she irritates me because she lets Ruth take advantage of her. Ruth is suppose to be Kathy's best friend, but because of her selfishness and insecurity, she does things to ruin their friendship and even Kathy's friendship with Tommy.

What else did I like about this book? Well, the writing, of course. I think Mr. Ishiguro is just wonderful. I have a favorite scene where Kathy and Tommy were in Norfolk, and Tommy bought this old tape that Kathy had lost when they were in Hailsham. The scene just touched me. There was also a line that Tommy said to Kathy. It's a little sad but here it is:

"I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the river moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold on to each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end, it's just too much. The current's too strong. They've got to let go, drift apart."

It was just beautiful. Sad, but beautiful.

Even though the ending left me disappointed, I gave this book my highest rating. I suppose it's the issue about cloning that made me wonder if it was right to give the clones hope to have a normal human life when their sole purpose was to become organ donors. It really made me think about what our society could be capable of. I guess that's why this book will stay with me.

Recommendation: Yes, I definitely recommend it to everyone. It was an eye-opener for me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Classic Monstrous Tales

Ever since I finished The Classics Challenge, I've fallen into the classics phase. Lately, I found myself wandering to the classics aisle or section whenever I'm at the bookstore. With Halloween coming up, I thought it might be best to re-read and review Dracula by Bram Stoker. That changed, however, when I went to Hastings. Much to my delight, I recently discovered that Signet Classics decided to publish three classic horror stories of Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into one compilation with an introduction by Stephen King. All it cost me was a measely $7.95.
This altered my plans a little bit. I decided to read all three books and review them in October for Halloween. I get to satisfy my classics cravings and look forward to read these scary tales. Perfect!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pub. Date: June 2009
ISBN-13: 9780385528702
Pages: 531
Rating: No rating

Summary: The Angel's Game is set during the early 1900's to 1930 in Barcelona, Spain. It is the story of David Martin, a famous writer who spins crime novels under a pseudonym while living in a mansion with a mysterious history. He later meets Andreas Corelli, a wealthy publisher from Paris, who offers him 100, 000 francs if David will write a book that will change peoples' minds and hearts. David takes the offer but later realizes he is getting more than he bargained for. What's even more intriguing is the former owner of the house, the late Diego Marlasca - a writer just like David. Diego's death also involves Andreas Corelli, and it seems that David's life mirrors Diego's. Will David be able to escape the clutches of Andreas or will he suffer the same fate as Diego?
Thoughts: I wanted to like this book. I tried to like it, but I eventually quit reading at page 300. I almost didn't review this because I didn't think it was fair to rate a book that I didn't finish. In the end, I decided to post my thoughts.
Let me talk about the good points of this book first. The blurb was catchy, and I was drawn to the story because it was about a struggling writer who wanted to be published. I thought: That's cool. I know what that's like because I'm going through the same challenges myself. Another reason why the story appealed to me was because The Angel's Game was also about books. A book about books. How neat, right?
There were three parts in this novel. I didn't have any problems going through the first part of the book. I was able to relate to David who loved books. David was abused as a child and sought refuge in books. As an adolescent, he started to work as a runner for a newspaper company and had a friend in Pedro Vidal who's a writer. Vidal became his mentor and soon David started writing stories for the paper.
The second part of the book started out well. However, it was losing its firepower towards the middle. I struggled to finish part two, and finally I just gave up. Don't get me wrong. The author's brillant. Zafon wrote beautifully about Barcelona. It almost felt like I was there. The writing was dark, but I didn't mind that at all. The description and how the author wrote in David's voice were all wonderful.
What failed to keep my attention was that I lost interest in the characters. I got to a point where I just didn't care about David's findings about Diego. I didn't care who exactly Andreas Corelli was. I especially didn't care if Cristina Sangier (David's first and only love) went crazy because she didn't love her husband Pedro Vidal. In fact, I detested Cristina because I saw her as an opportunist.
If you have read any of my reviews, I love to talk about the characters and how they're the driving force of the story. The plot in The Angel's Game was great but the characters just failed to bring the story around. This might just be a personal thing though since some might care about the plot only. I'm the type of reader who wants to symphatize with the characters and be able to connect with them.
Zafon authored The Shadow of the Wind, and from what I learned, it had very favorable reviews. I just might read it one day and hope that it's a better book.
Other thoughts I'd like to share: Usually I post my recommendations after a review, but I'm not going to do that. I don't think I'm in the position to tell people not to read this book because they might enjoy it. People have their personal preferences when it comes to books, and so do I.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Reading Collection Gets a Facelift

Fall has always been my favorite season of the year. In honor of this special time, I have decided to update the background. Thanks to The Cutest Blog on The Block, I have managed to do this. Although I have tried to choose a background that was close to my previous one, I have ended up changing the color of the fonts as well.

Maybe it's me or I'm just used to the old one, but I'm not sure I'll stick to this one. I get bored easily so only time will tell if I will find another fall theme background.

Let's Show Some Love

Jules from Jules' Book Reviews gave me the Who :Heart's:You, Baby! Award. Basically, the rules of this award is to pass it on to fellow bloggers who awarded you in the past. So here they are:

1. Suzanne of Chick With Books
2. Yvette of True Crime Books
3. Shellie of Layers of Thought

Edit: I forgot to also add:

4. Book Dragon from A Dragon's Lair. For some reason, I thought I received only three awards. Anyway, I'm sorry, Book Dragon.