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review 2018-09-19 12:26
A magical visit to Barcelona and to the world of books and stories. Unmissable!
The Labyrinth of the Spirits - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Thanks to NetGalley and to Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Orion Publishing Group) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I enthusiastically and freely chose to review.

I read the first two novels of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books series years back, in Spanish. I have recommended The Shadow of the Wind to anybody who would bother to listen to me (probably multiple times, sorry) and was enthralled by the complex tale of creation and mental unravelling span by The Angel’s Game. In the maelstrom of the last few years, somehow I lost track of the series and missed the publication of The Prisoner of Heaven (although I have been trying to locate a copy since I started reading this volume), but when I saw the last novel in the series was being published in English and offered on NetGalley, I knew it was my chance to catch up. As I also do translations and had read two of the novels in their original Spanish version, I had the added interest of scrutinising what the translation into English would look like. Well, I must say I thought it was superb, in case I forget to mention it later. Lucia Graves manages to capture the style of the author, the complexity and beauty of his language, and translates the local peculiarities of the dialogue, helping readers feel the joy and the intoxicating and magical experience of reading the original. Hats off!

If you’ve read up to this point, you’ll likely have guessed that I loved this novel. To get it out of the way, I’ll clarify that I think it can be read by itself, or as a starting point to a reader’s visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and although perhaps somebody who starts by reading this book will feel s/he knows already the whole story, I suspect they’ll feel curious and intrigued and will want to learn the full details of the stories that come to fruition here (this is my case as well). Here, the author of the story inside the book, Julián, (yes, the story is full of books and writers) explains how the series works better than I can:

The way I dreamed of it, the narrative would be divided into four interconnected volumes that would work like entrance doors into a labyrinth of stories. As the reader advanced into its pages, he would feel that the story was piecing itself together like a game of Russian dolls in which each plot and each character led to the next, and that, in turn, to yet another, and so on and so forth. The saga would contain villains and heroes, and a thousand tunnels through which the reader would be able to explore a kaleidoscopic plot resembling that mirage of perspectives I’d discovered with my father in the heart of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books.

This is a long novel, and a complex one, although not one difficult to read or follow (I don’t think). As the quoted paragraph says, there are many stories here, and many memorable characters, some dead, some alive, and some… (among them, Alicia Gris, femme-fatale, spy, little girl, seductress, avenging angel, long-suffering survivor of a terrible war; Daniel Sampere, bookshop owner extraordinaire searching for answers; Fermín Romero de Torres, whimsical, fun, full of life and common-sense, witty, heroic, down-to-earth;  Julián Sempere, the stand-in for the author and heir to a long tradition; Isabella, a mysterious figure much of the action revolves around; authors David Martín, Julian Carax, Víctor Mataix; the fabulous Vargas, a hard-working an old-fashioned honest policeman with some secrets of his own; the complex Leandro; the horrifying Hendaya; the intriguing Rovira…). The story moves back and forth in time, from the time of the Civil War in Spain (1938) to its aftermath during the Franco regime, and into 1992. We visit Madrid, Paris —however briefly— although the main setting, and the main character, is Barcelona, in all its glory and horror.

In the darkest corner of her heart, Barcelona, mother of labyrinths, holds of mesh of narrow streets knotted together to form a reef of present and future ruins.

I kept thinking what genre one would fit this book into. Amazon has it listed in the categories of literary fiction, historical fiction, and mysteries. All true, I guess. There are secrets, mysteries, action, revenge, intrigues, crimes, murders, torture… The novel reminds me, in some ways, of the big adventures and narratives of old, novels by Victor Hugo (whose pen, possibly?, makes an appearance in the novel), Jules Verne, the Dumas (father and son), with its sprawling narrative, its wondrous descriptions of people and events, its historical background (the Spanish Civil War and the postwar years, accurately reflected through a fantasy lens), and even its gothic setting (we have mysterious mansions, dungeons, cells, castles, underground passages, true labyrinths…). This book bears homage to literature, to books, to authors, to the power of imagination, and to the magic of reading.

The book talks about books and writing and contains plenty of advice on writing, some of it contradictory, and there are many different types of writers contained in its pages. It is metafictional at its best, and I was not surprised when I read that the author also composes music. There are variations on a theme in evidence (stories are told and retold: sometimes different versions, sometimes from different perspectives, and in different formats). There is plenty of showing, there is telling from direct witnesses, or third-hand, there are documents that bring us missing pieces from the pens of those who are no longer able to tell their own stories, and everybody gets a chance to tell his or her own story, be it in the first person or the third, be it directly or through a narrator. The author has explained that he writes his novels in a similar way to how movies are conceived and designed, and that is evident when one reads the story, as it is impossible not to visualise it. Carlos Ruíz Zafón professes his admiration for Orson Welles and that comes across loud and clear in this book. But, however much he loves movies, he believes books can conjure up worlds that no filmmaker would be able to bring to life, and that is his stated reason for not selling the rights for the film adaptation of the series. Part of me would like to watch it, but I am convinced I’d be disappointed, so incredible is the world the author has built.

I have mentioned the style of writing when I talked about the translation and I have shared some quotes. I kept highlighting and highlighting text while I was reading it and I found it very difficult to select some to share, but I hope the few fragments I have included will pique your curiosity and make you check a sample if you are not sure if you would like it (you would!). One of the tips on writing contained in the book highlights the importance of the way the story is written, above and beyond the plot, but in this case, the two mix perfectly.

I have mentioned some of the themes, the historical background, and the mystery elements included in the story, with some gore and violent scenes, but there are plenty of magical, lighter, and funny moments as well, and I wanted to share a couple of sentences from Isabella’s notebook that I particularly enjoyed, to illustrate the sense of humour (sometimes a bit dark) also present:

We were three sisters, but my father used to say he had two daughters and one mule.

I didn’t like playing with the other girls: my specialty was decapitating dolls with a catapult.

I’m not sure what else I can tell you to try and convince you to read this book. I am from Barcelona and love the city, even if some of the places mentioned in the novel no longer exist (or not in their original form). You could use the book as a guide for a visit (and I know there were tours visiting some of the streets and settings of The Shadow of the Wind), or you could lose yourself in the labyrinth of your imagination. You could imagine the movie, cast the characters, or put yourself in their place (I’d happily be Alicia Gris, pain and all). If you need to live some adventures and take a break from your life, go on, enter the labyrinth and visit the cemetery of the forgotten books. You might never want to find the way out. I am rearing for another visit soon.

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review 2018-09-12 16:35
BLOG TOUR REVIEW and GIVEAWAY: 'What The Woods Keep' by Katya De Becerra
What the Woods Keep - Katya de Becerra

 

 

I can't express how excited I am to be on this blog tour....

Many months ago I contacted Katya about her book, because I was drawn to the synopsis; here I am with it being a week away from it being on the shelves, and I get to review it for her (finally)!

 

This kicks off a thrilling season of books, I'm so excited. This one is perfect for all of you who love this witchy, cool season, when the leaves are falling and we are picking out our Halloween outfits.

 

**Thank you SO much to the amazing Cherry Karl (Karlita) of Tale Out Loud for having me on this one, and hosting this tour for Katya; I wouldn't have missed this one for the world. I wouldn't have allowed it!

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, KATYA

 

 

 

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology.

'What the Woods Keep' is her first novel.

 

Contact Katya:  WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterInstagram, & Facebook

 

 

 ABOUT THE BOOK

 

PUBLISHER: Imprint/Macmillan

GENRE: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy

RELEASE DATE: September 18th, 2018

 

SYNOPSIS:

'What the Woods Keep' is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.


On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home―on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible―something that threatens reality itself.

 

Add it to GOODREADS!

 

REVIEW:

Now that you have read the synopsis, which really doesn’t come close to explaining how thrilling and complex this book is, let me get into the deep, dark woods of Promise, Colorado. Don’t enter without being prepared to read something that will test your belief in the supernatural, at the same time as serve up facts about physics and give you a story steeped in myth and old blood rites.


This book feels like it blurs the lines between science-fiction, fantasy, and mystery, targeting a young adult audience, but it’s a highly intelligent read (it comes from a real smart cookie of an author, so that doesn’t surprise me).

 

‘What The Woods Keep’ centers around an eighteen-year old girl called Hayden, who is suffering an identity crisis, as she inherits the Manor she grew up in, and trying to come to terms with her mother’s disappearance so many years ago and the dark secrets behind it. She struggles with how she sees her father’s work and his hair-brained theories that have got him ostracized from the scientific community, and also with what she knows about her mother’s contradictory beliefs of mythology, the rituals she seemed to practice in the woods, and her own frightening dreams.


Hayden’s friendship with her roommate Del, who she brings back to Promise with her, who seems to be her diametric opposite, and a grounding force in her life, is a constant source of support, and a voice of reason (I’ve always wished for someone like that); I thought their interactions were some of the most lovely things about book. Exploring relationships is key to this novel: the two friends, the loss of a mother, how a father impacts his daughter, reuniting with old friends, and navigating it all while developing a relationship with the inner self and growing up.

 

One of the key elements to the woods and town of Promise giving you nothing but the chills, is the way in which Katya is able to paint such a dark and vivid picture of the inhabitants. I don’t like making comparisons to other books (so I won’t) but since I’m a ‘Twin Peaks’ fan, I’ll go there; I definitely got that sort of vibe when I read this, and I’ll tell you that was my favorite show of the 90’s. The individual characters of Abigail Reaser, Hayden’s childhood friend Shannon, (now all grown-up), the bizarre Elspeth, even Hayden’s psychiatrist…they all are so original and/or fabulously strange. There is also so much atmosphere swirling around the small town, the weather being so stormy, the ravens flying near Hayden, the close by woods, you can feel it all when you’re reading the book; knowing that the girls are out there in that big house alone, it’s all what will make you stay reading with the lights on. The dark and stormy tone of the book, the loneliness of the house in the woods, and the creepy characters particularly make this the perfect autumnal read.

 

The story beneath the surface of the novel, of the ‘Nibelungs’, is fascinating and mysterious, and having it run concurrently in the same book with a basecamp where blood samples are being collected, mean (Norse) mythology and science-fiction are melded together. Katya’s background in anthropology, Egyptology, and with her traveling around the world, give the pages its personality, and I love how she used everything from her love of movies and books (references to Stephen King and David Cronenburg), to her sense of displacement as an expat (I understand this!) to influence her work. And the beginnings of each chapter are so brilliant, that you may want to have a notebook for all the useful facts**and pieces of knowledge that are shared.

This is seriously one of the most unique, intelligent, and mystical novels I’ve ever read. The twists and turns continue right up until the very end and the pages will take you to strange depths that are unexpected and exciting. And the further you delve into the woods, the more likely it is you will be pulled in to Miss Katya’s ‘Promise’; it’s quite the adventure, with an ending that will leave you hoping there’s another book coming.

 

 **Facts and topics included: laws of thermodynamics, sleepwalking, Norse gods. If anything, you will be a smarter person for having read this book!

 

GET THE BOOK! PRE-ORDER LINKS

- Order on Amazon 

- Buy from B&N.com (Barnes & Noble) 

- Order at Book Depository

- Get at Books-A-Million 

- Order from Indiebound 

 

 

AND FINALLY....THE GIVEAWAY!

 

There are 2 COPIES of WHAT THE WOODS KEEP up for grabs, and all you need to do is ENTER *HERE* ~ GOOD LUCK!!

 

 

 You can follow the whole blog tour and all my blog buddies by following this *LINK*

 

 

As always, HAPPY READING!!

~ Katherine

x

 

PS. Katya, it was definitely to my liking. 

 

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/29748448-what-the-woods-keep?ac=1&from_search=true
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review 2018-09-08 22:15
Matilda
Matilda - Roald Dahl,Quentin Blake

Matilda is such a bright little girl. She started reading very difficult books at a very young age. Her family does not seem to care about how smart she is, but Matilda stands her ground. When Matilda goes to school she is faced with the mean Ms. Trunchbull and in that moment she finds out she has unique powers which she uses to not only fight back, but to play pranks on people! This is an amazing story and is one of my all time favorites. 

Students can come up with their own power and act it out in front of the class, write about it, or draw a picture about it. They can also get into groups and analyze characters from the book. 

Lexile: 840L

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review 2018-09-07 17:00
‘Enchantée’ will sweep you off your feet and take you back to 18th-century Paris; this historical fantasy is rich with magic, romance, and even some actual events
Enchantée - Gita Trelease

*Warning: words en Francais may appear sporadically.

 

This book is…enchanting. I didn’t have it on my radar until quite simply everyone seemed to be asking about this novel about two sisters living in Paris during the French Revolution, one with the gift of magic, and with the desperate need to get themselves out of the dire situation they are in. They are poor, with Camille using her magie to turn pieces of metal they find in the dirt into coins, while Sophie is ailing, weak with a terrible cough. Their brother Alain is a drunkard and cruel, deeply in debt from his gambling, and the sisters just dream of finding a home away from their brother, Sophie perhaps marrying into aristocracy and money, while Camille has dreams of owning a print shop like her deceased father once did.

 

I’m not usually swept up into a book such as this, one that is a spell-binding combination of magic, romance, historical fiction, and fantasy, but although it’s a long book (some parts seemed overly long, and I felt like the whole thing could have been quite a bit shorter), I was entranced by the characters, as well as the setting.

 

Author Gita Trelease has painted a vivid portrait of Paris in the 18th century in ‘Enchantée’, when the contrast between the rich and the poor was stark, and Marie Antoinette was taking court. Readers will be pleased to know that they will served up ‘beacoup de’ servings of what it was like to live as a French aristocrat at that time, as Camille takes on a new persona, as the Baroness de la Fontaine, when she uses her ‘magie glamoire’ to gain entry to Versailles to play and turn cards. While there she rubs elbows with the rich she would otherwise detest, but ends up making friends as she makes enough money to change things for herself and Sophie. She internally struggles with her use of magie and the differences between the rich and the poor at that time, even though she is using it to change her fortune.

 

There’s a ‘rags-to-riches’/Cinderella tale here, a face-off between the handsome suitors (the handsome, devilish rogue, Seguin, and the more reserved but romantic ingenue, Lazare). The book provides a wonderful look at the culture of the time (I absolutely loved all the research obviously done regarding the use of hot-air balloons; that was probably my favorite part), as well as our protagonist wrestling with so many ideals and virtues. This gives a fantastic deeper edge to the book, and gives a real nod to climate preceding the Revolution. The poverty that was experienced by the ‘poor’ thanks to the disparity created by taxes and wheat prices, is fervently clear throughout, and it’s the thing that drives Camille all the way through her saga at Versailles, and pushes her use her magie. But the question is always, is it worth it? And does this make her just like the aristo? I think the answers are a bit murky at the end, despite the ‘happy ending’.

 

I would very much imagine that many of those who have fallen particularly for the setting of belle Paris, have not had the privilege, like myself, of visiting France, and may not even speak much French; the book is addled with short French phrases, for which, Trelease has put a glossary in the back of the book. It may remove a little enjoyment to keep looking things up, if you don’t know the meaning of those words, but my guess is you have rudimentary French knowledge to have interest in the book in the first place. I appreciate the explanation of all the historical facts and figures as they appear in the book, as they are fascinating.

 

The pace of the book picks up rapidly at about half way through the book, which I felt could have been a lot plus rapide; I feel as though a historical fiction/romance is a bit extravagant at close to 500 pages. If you’re looking for a book with lots of action and adventure, this one isn’t it, and thanks to the coy teasing nature of the romantic flirting, even that isn’t super juicy and doesn’t take up a wild amount of those pages. But of the ones that it does, they’re not overdone or too sickly sweet.

 

‘Enchantée’ is a fabulous romantic story set in Revolutionary France and I’d say ‘vas-y’ (that means go for it), if you’re enamored by historical romance at all. This has a sumptuous setting, unique voice, and made a change in all the YA I’d read lately.


By the way, Paris remains one of my most favorite cities today; take a plane and read ‘Enchantée on the way (sorry that you have to wait until February for it, malheureusement)!

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/36613718-enchant-e
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review 2018-08-27 18:00
BLOG TOUR REVIEW and GIVEAWAY: 'A Room Away From The Wolves' by Nova Ren Suma
A Room Away From The Wolves - Nova Ren Suma

 

It may not have been wolves that compelled me to get on this blog tour, but after a book-blogger friend raved about the book, and another said they’d buy anything that Nova Ren Suma writes, I definitely wanted to read ‘A Room Away From The Wolves’. I won’t lie - that beautiful skyline on the cover was a big draw too. When I read that this book is a story about a young girl who runs away from her home because she just can’t take the abuse there anymore, and it turns out to be a novel that is ghostly, as well as layered with human connections, it called to me. 

So dig into my breakdown of this beautiful book and be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom for a chance to win a copy! 

 

*Thanks again to The Fantastic Flying Book Club again for having me on the tour! 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, NOVA REN SUMA

 

Nova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novels THE WALLS AROUND US as well as the YA novels IMAGINARY GIRLS and 17 & GONE, which were both named 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound by YALSA. Her middle-grade novel, DANI NOIR, was reissued for a YA audience under the title FADE OUT.

She has a BA in writing & photography from Antioch College and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has been awarded fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Millay Colony, and an NEA fellowship for a residency at the Hambidge Center.

She worked for years behind the scenes in publishing, at places such as HarperCollins, Penguin, Marvel Comics, and RAW Books, and now she teaches writing workshops. She is from various small towns across the Hudson Valley and lives and writes in New York City.

 

Find Nova online at novaren.com and on her blog distraction99.com.

 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

'A Room Away From the Wolves' by Nova Ren Suma

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Mystery

 

SYNOPSIS:

Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—

a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.

Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets.

There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave...

 

MY REVIEW!

This wonderful story has one step inside reality, and the other is deep inside somewhere quite otherworldly, which is also somewhere that Nova Ren Suma’s writing sits. Her writing is what gives this simple tale of a young girl ‘Bina’, who runs away from home to a boarding house in New York City, so much character, originality, and mystery.

Bina and her mother fled their home once before, last time to escape her cruel father. They never made it beyond the home Bina has to share now with a stepfather and two stepsisters that eventually has become a new hell she’s decided she must escape on her own. Bruised inside and out, she feels betrayed and let down by her mom, and sees no other way.


Eight years after her and mother once ran from her father, she heads for Catherine House, the place she heard so many stories about from her mom, and asks for the very room that she stayed in.
From the moment Bina arrives in Greenwich Village, something is strange, and somehow connected to the opal ring her mother gave her, and to the original owner of the house, Catherine herself.


I don’t want to go into too much explanation of the story because there would be too much given away. I’ll lead this by saying that if you like your stories served up on a platter, without beautiful prose laden with wonderful imagery, this may not be the book for you. Suma writes with so much mesmerizing imagery wrapped in every sentence, that you’ll miss half of the tale she’s written for you if you don’t dig a little deeper.


This is a modern ghost story as well as a heart-breaking tale about the connection between mother and daughter, and how families make mistakes and let each other down. This part of the book is the guts of why Bina ends up Catherine House, and made me long for my own mom who is thousands of miles away.


Bina feels betrayed by her mom and looks to her mother’s past for answers, but there’s so much that’s tragic about this; reading the book it felt like Bina carries such a weight for a young girl, but doesn’t truly complain. It’s especially tragic because her father has already let her down, and she’s now being bullied by her stepsisters.


The other characters in the novel bring out all sorts of thoughts and memories for her: Monet is the girl in the room below, and is a fascinating character and one who Bina is drawn to, without explanation. She makes Bina question everything and gives her clues as to what is really happening.


There are twists and portals and thrills in this novel that make it a page-turner, and it’s as beautiful as it is heart-wrenching. There’s some spookiness that might make you feel like you’re not alone when you’re reading this (maybe you’re not).

 

*Bonus points: cats involved!

*Trigger warning: suicidal ideation

 

 

 

WIN THE BOOK!

You have a chance to win a copy of the book by entering a GIVEAWAY! You just have to click RIGHT HERE TO ENTER! Good luck!

 

Prize: 1 copy of A ROOM AWAY FROM THE WOLVES by Nova Ren Suma

  • US Only

  • Starts: 8/20

    Ends: 9/5

 

And finally here are the links to BUY THE BOOK:

Buy on Amazon

Order from Barnes & Noble

Order from Book Depository

Buy from Kobo

Buy from Indiebound

Get it on iBooks

 

And to follow along with the rest of the blog tour, here is the BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE!

 

Thank you for checking out everything that there is to know about this beautiful book! It’s out so soon now, so make sure it’s on your TBR, and get it ordered. It’s unlike anything else you’ll read any time soon.

Happy reading, friends!

~ K

 

PS. To easily start following my blog, just click on the BLOGLOVIN’ (assuming you have that!) to the left...

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/18046369-a-room-away-from-the-wolves?ac=1&from_search=true
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