Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year! + Favorite Reads 2010

Update: Maybe you want to check out my complete book's read in 2010 list. I'm pretty proud of myself! I read 113 books.

Hi guys! I was planning to write about my favorite books read this year, but I noticed that I read most of them before starting this blog and I haven't translated my reviews.

So instead of linking a bunch of books to goodreads, maybe you want to go and look at them at my Spanish blog HISTORIAS IMAGINARIAS. I know some of you don't read Spanish, but maybe you can look at the covers. I promise someday, maybe next year, I will translate all of my reviews. ;)

Also, I wanted to wish you a Feliz Año Nuevo! (Happy New Year! in Spanish) Hope you all have a great time :D

"We will open the book. It's pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day."

happy new year 1

Books Read 2010

I'm typing this up a few days early, so perhaps the list won't be complete if I finish a book or two before midnight strikes on December 31st. There are a few books here waiting review, which will appear sometime in 2011 - so don't worry if yours is mentioned here and not yet reviewed! I'll also do my annual End of Year Meme, but not until January. Here's the lot - and I made my annual target of over 100 books! As before, re-reads have an 'x' in front of them.

x1. The Provincial Lady Goes Furhter - E.M. Delafield
2. In the Springtime of the Year - Susan Hill
3. A Game of Hide and Seek - Elizabeth Taylor
4. The Unspoken Truth - Angelica Garnett
5. Nothing is Safe - E.M. Delafield
6. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment - D.E. Stevenson
7. Betwixt and Between - Rosa Maria Bracco
8. In the Garden of the North American Martyrs - Tobias Wolff
9. Nella Last's War - Nella Last
x10. Sisters By A River - Barbara Comyns
11. Immortality - Milan Kundera
12. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
13. White is for Witching - Helen Oyeyemi
14. Staying With Relations - Rose Macaulay
15. The Blue Fox - Sjon
16. Beside the Sea - Veronique Olmi
x17. The Provincial Lady in America - E.M. Delafield
18. David Golder - Irene Nemirovsky
19. Can Any Mother Help Me? - Jenna Bailey (ed.)
20. Miss Mole - E.H. Young
21. Mrs. Dose the Doctor's Wife - Joyce Dennys
x22. The Provincial Lady in Wartime - E.M. Delafield
23. High Wages - Dorothy Whipple
24. The Overdose - Joyce Dennys
25. Mystery Mile - Margery Allingham
26. Travels With My Aunt - Graham Greene
27. Aunt's Aren't Gentlemen - P.G. Wodehouse
x28. Matty and the Dearingroydes - Richmal Crompton
29. The British Character Studied and Revealed - Pont
30. Hector and the Search for Happiness - Francois Lelord
31. Identity - Milan Kundera
32. Boxer, Beetle - Ned Beauman
33. The Haunted Bridge and other stories - Jane Gordon-Cumming
34. The Behaviour of Moths - Poppy Adams
35. The Maintenance of Headway - Magnus Mills
36. A Long Long Way - Sebastian Barry
37. The Girl With Glass Feet - Ali Shaw
38. The Art of Gardening - Mary Robinson
39. Friends Like These - Danny Wallace
40. Brother of the More Famous Jack - Barbara Trapido
41. Secret Lives - E.F. Benson
42. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Edward Albee
x43. Miss Ranskill Comes Home - Barbara Euphan Todd
44. Little Boy Lost - Marghanita Laski
45. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
46. Images in a Mirror - Sigrid Undset
x47. The Dover Road - A.A. Milne
48. The Man Who Planted Trees - Jean Giono, Michael McCurdy
49. The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
50. The Vet's Daughter - Barbara Comyns
51. Stone in a Landslide - Maria Barbal
52. The Green Child - Herbert Read
53. Flower Phantoms - Ronald Fraser
54. A Harp in Lowndes Square - Rachel Ferguson
55. The Sandcastle - Iris Murdoch
56. Being George Devine's Daughter - Harriet Devine
57. Mr. Rosenblum's List - Natasha Solomons
58. More Talk of Jane Austen - Sheila Kaye-Smith, G.B. Stern
59. Too Much Happiness - Alice Munro
60. Two Days in Aragon - Molly Keane
61. The Poetics of Space - Gaston Bachelard
62. The Seraphim Room - Edith Olivier
63. The Murder at the Vicarage - Agatha Christie
64. The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters
65. Wish Her Safe At Home - Stephen Benatar
66. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
67. The Debt to Pleasure - John Lanchester
68. Andrina and other stories - George Mackay Brown
x69. Once A Week - A.A. Milne
70. Let's Kill Uncle - Rohan O'Grady
71. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion - Rosemary Jackson
72. Birds in Tiny Cages - Barbara Comyns
73. The Uncanny House - Mary L. Pendered
74. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
75. The House in the Country - Bernadette Murphy
76. Travelling Light - Tove Jansson
77. The Driver's Seat - Muriel Spark
78. Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman - Friederich Christian Delius
79. The Hours (screenplay) - David Hare
80. The Loved One - Evelyn Waugh
81. A Kid for Two Farthings - Wolf Mankowitz
82. Stevenson Under the Palm Trees - Albert Manguel
83. The Turn of the Screw - Henry James
84. Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones
85. An Unexpected Guest - Bernadette Murphy
x86. Howards End is on the Landing - Susan Hill
87. Magical Realism and the Fantastic - Amaryll Beatrice Chanady
88. Which Way? - Theodora Benson
89. The Uncanny - Nicholas Royle
90. Villette - Charlotte Bronte
91. Stories of the Strange and Sinister - Frank Baker
92. What is Psychoanalysis? - Isador H. Coriat
93. Fantasy and Mimesis - Kathryn Hume
94. The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
95. Remember, Remember - Hazel McHaffie
96. The Fantastic: A Strctural Approach to a Literary Genre - Tveztan Todorov
97. Loitering With Intent - Muriel Spark
98. Make Me an offer - Wolf Mankowitz
99. Strange Glory - L.H. Myers
100. The Slap - Christos Tsiolkas
101. The Fantastic in Literature - Eric Rabkin
102. The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck
103. Joy Street: A Wartime Romance in Letters - Mirren Barford, John Lewes
104. Love on the Supertax - Marghanita Laski
105. Tepper Isn't Going Out - Calvin Trillin
106. Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Girl - Jenny Wren
107. All Quiet on the Orient Express - Magnus Mills
108. Wait For Me! - Deborah Devonshire
109. The Haunted Bookshop -
Christopher Morley
110. Dangerous Ages - Rose Macaulay
x111. The Magician's Nephew - C.S. Lewis
x112. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
x113. The Horse and His Boy - C.S. Lewis
x114. Prince Caspian - C.S. Lewis
115. The Night Watch - Sarah Waters

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

Title: The Gift
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Release Date: November 3rd, 2009
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 320
New York Times bestselling author Cecelia Ahern spins a witty, warm, and wise modern-day fable of love, regret, hope, and second chances.
Extremely successful executive, Lou Suffern is always overstretched, immune to the holiday spirit that delights everyone around him. The classic workaholic who never has a moment to spare, he is always multitasking while shortchanging his devoted wife and their adorable children. And ever since he started competing for a big promotion, he has barely seen his family at all.
One frigid morning in an uncharacteristic burst of generosity, he buys a cup of coffee for Gabe, a homeless man huddled outside his office building. Inspired by his own unexpected act of kindness, Lou decides to prolong his charitable streak and contrives to get Gabe a job in his company's mailroom. But when Gabe begins to meddle in Lou's life, the helping hand appears to be a serious mistake. Gabe seems to know more about Lou than Lou does about himself, and, perhaps more disturbingly, Gabe always seems to be in two places at once.
With Lou's personal and professional fates at important crossroads and Christmas looming, Gabe resorts to some unorthodox methods to show his stubborn patron what truly matters and how precious the gift of time is. But can he help him fix what's broken before it's too late?
This is the second of Cecelia Ahern's books I've read, and again she has impressed me, making me feel tons of different feelings while reading her book.

The Gift is a Christmas story with the intention of making us think about life. It all began with a police officer telling us a weird story...

Lou is a business man, always busy. Anything bothers him, specially if it isn't about work. But when he met Gabe, and started to listen to every one of his comments about his decisions, he began to feel, for the first time in years, guilty.

At first, I didn't like Lou at all (but I guess that's the idea). He doesn't want to be with his family. The less time he spend with them, the better. When they call, it's the secretary who talks to them. He even stays at work until late to not find his family awake. And he has even cheated his wife several times without feeling guilty.

But very slowly, things start to change. He always wanted to be the best, always forward, excellent at work...but his personal life is suffering because of that. Not only him, but everyone around him.

Gabe is a homeless man, that seems to do everything perfect (and to have a supernatural power). He can be at two places at the same time, and when the time comes, he can help Lou to do the same, with the condition that his family is first. With a little bit of magic, every one of Lou's problems (specially with his family) are going to resolve.

It's a story where Lou (and maybe yourself) is going to discover himself, realizing many mistakes that will disappoint you but make the story more real. It's not one of those story where everything is easy, but it gives you hope. For every problem there is a always a solution.

It seems impossible to think that you could forget what is really important in life, but it's actually very easy to confuse yourself. Life is never easy, but you have to enjoy every day you have. After all, you never know when it's going to be your time.

The ending was very unexpected, and believe me, you will cry. The message goes directly to your heart.

Overall, a beautiful Christmas story written to make you reconsider your decisions about life.

More about this book at www.ceceliaahern.ieGoodreads, Amazon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday # 31 - The Big Crunch

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick:

Summary from Goodreads
A funny, clear-eyed view of the realities of teenage love from National Book Award winner Pete Hautman.
Jen and Wes do not "meet cute." They do not fall in love at first sight. They do not swoon with scorching desire. They do not believe that they are instant soul mates destined to be together forever.
This is not that kind of love story.
Instead, they just hang around in each other's orbits...until eventually they collide. And even after that happens, they're still not sure where it will go. Especially when Jen starts to pity-date one of Wes's friends, and Wes makes some choices that he immediately regrets.
From National Book Award winner Pete Hautman, this is a love story for people not particularly biased toward romance. But it is romantic, in the same way that truth can be romantic and uncertainty can be the biggest certainty of all.
Pete Hautman
January 1st 2011 by Scholastic Press
Hardcover, 288 pages

I like how it sounds, like real relationships instead of those 'love at first sight' couples we are used to read at YA. And it's going to be release in just a couple of days!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Ten of 2010

I've been enjoying the top ten (or however many) lists which have been popping up all over the blogosphere recently. Making my own is always a highlight of the last days of December - scouring back through the wonderful reads I've been treated to throughout the year.
As usual, far more than ten were worthy of being heralded, but I have whittled it down to just ten. And, yes, it is in order. The order is subjective, in terms of my appreciation, rather than objective quality - and would doubtless change if I made this list again next week, but I do love a list. Click on each title to take you to my review of them. Here it is, in reverse order:

10.) The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck
The first of two book group reads which made my list, this tale of a Chinese farmer and his family is told simply but so well.

9.) Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
And this is the second. Having tried and failed to read this back in 2004, was pleased to try again - and was swept away.

8.) Being George Devine's Daughter - Harriet Devine
A wonderful gift from a fellow blogger, and a captivating tale of childhood among theatre's greats.

7.) The Man Who Planted Trees - Jean Giono
Enchantingly simple. Giono's name is in the list, but it is Michael McCurdy's warm, striking woodcuts which make this book special.

6.) The Loved One - Evelyn Waugh
I'm glad I persevered with Waugh, as this short, hilarious look at the American funeral industry is an absolute joy.

5.) The Vet's Daughter - Barbara Comyns
Comyn's surreal but poignant style never lets you down, and this spectacular novel is no exception.

4.) Wait For Me! - Deborah Devonshire

Mitford mania continues apace here at Stuck-in-a-Book, as you'll have seen in my recent review. Don't forget to enter the draw for a copy.

3.) Travelling Light - Tove Jansson
The only book to appear on both this list and Project 24, Tove Jansson's gentle touch and incredible insight into human nature is nigh-on flawless. More translations, please.

2.) Loitering With Intent - Muriel Spark
My favourite novel read this year, told so cleverly and with inimitable talent.

1.) Nella Last's War - Nella Last
An early read in 2010, but my lasting favourite - a very talented writer who, but for Mass Observation, would never have had courage to put pen to paper. I'm looking forward to reading her later diaries in 2011.

Out with a Bang Read-A-Thon!

Hello! Yep, another read-a-thon. This time is hosted by Book-Savvy and The Bookish Type.

2010 is almost ending, and probably some of you have several books in yours 2010 to be read piles (specially Debut Author Challenge books). So the Book Savvy and The Bookish Type created this read-a-thon, than will run from December 29 - 31 and that way all the participants could read as many books as they can during that time. You don't have to focus only on debuts book if you have other books that you would like to read.

They will be giving away tons of swag and books and some of the participants would be hosting mini-challenges:

December 29: Pure Imagination, Kat Duncan, The Nerd's Wife
December 30: The Book Worms, Loud Words and Sounds, A Writer's Review
December 31: Books, Sweets and Other Treats, The Novel Affair, Reading Teen

What do you think? Would you like to JOIN? I wasn't participating at the Debut Author Challenge this year, but I would still like to read some books before 2010 ends :D

MY GOAL: (updated)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wait For Me!

I have been reading Wait For Me! by Deborah Devonshire for (approximately) forever. I started it the day it arrived, back in September, but a combination of it being too heavy for my bag, and not being able to cope with the idea of finishing it - not to mention that somewhere towards the middle of each month I realise that I've not read the books for either of my book groups, and have six days to do so - mean I only turned the last page earlier this month.

For those of you who won't get to the end of this post - and it will involve whatever the written equivalent of squawking is - I shall mention now that I have a copy to give away. Tell me your favourite autobiography, in the comments, for a chance of winning. This is open worldwide, so pop your name in. For many reasons to do so, dear reader, read on...

The Mitfords have been of great interest to many from their childhood onwards. They skirted around the outside of my consciousness, with Nancy taking occasional leaps forward, until I read the collection of their letters, expertly edited by Charlotte Mosley. Now - and I suspect most of you know this - I am rather besotted by some of the sisters. Unity and Jessica remain outside my affection, but I rather love the rest, and am devoted to Debo. So much so, that I am going to be hugely unprofessional and refer to her as 'Debo' throughout this review.

So, of course, I was delighted when she published her autobiography. Earlier works include collections of articles and musings (Counting My Chickens and Home to Roost) as well as lots of books about her home, Chatsworth, which I haven't read. Those collections I have read, whilst entertaining and joyous, did little to suggest that Debo would be able to sustain a full-length autobiography. How wrong I was to worry.

Perhaps there isn't much that will surprise in Wait For Me! Anybody who has read about the sisters before will find they know many of the anecdotes and stories already. What this book brings to the table is Debo's perspective, and her wonderfully calm way with words. I hadn't noted down any quotations to share, but having just flicked the book open at random, I came across a paragraph beginning thus:
Unity was always the odd one out. She arrived in this world in August 1914 to the sound of troops marching to war and departed it thirty-four years later in tragic circumstances. Larger than life in every way, she could have been model for a ship's figurehead or Boadicea, with her huge navy-blue eyes, perfectly straight nose and fair hair worn in two long plaits. Perhaps because of her teenage diet of mashed potatoes, her teeth were her only bad feature.
Debo hasn't allowed familial closeness to cloud her judgement or provoke over-sentimentality; yet, who but a sister would choose those images and those details? Unity, who later befriended Hitler, and tried to kill herself on the outbreak of WW2, comes alive with these much more prosaic details. It is Debo's complete unflappability which charms me through the account. Nowhere - except, of course, the title - would Debo dream of using an exclamation mark. It would be poor manners to get over-excited about something.

I was worried that Wait For Me! would pall once Debo had left home, and once the sisters were no longer centre stage - but I was wrong. Some of the most moving pages come when Debo describes her husband's alcoholism, or their miscarriages and stillborn children. This isn't done remotely gratuitously, or like those ghastly misery memoirs, but truthfully and unsensationally. And it is evident that Debo is far more interested in the businesslike running of Chatsworth than she in the doings of her sisters in their youths - her enthusiasm is contagious.

Don't worry for my sanity. I am under no delusion that Debo and I could really be friends. My vegetarianism might put paid to that, for a start, let alone our fairly divergent views on hunting. Debo is occasionally unconsciously hilarious - like when, after a chapter devoted to the joys of hunting parties, she writes that 'a fox came in daylight and murdered [chickens] for fun, as these serial destroyers do.' Takes a beetle to know a beetle, Debo, m'dear.

But none of this really seems to matter, and it certainly doesn't stop me adoring Debo and loving her book. Along with the spectacular collection of letters edited by Charlotte Mosley, Wait For Me! is a unique piece of social history, as well as an honest and entertaining personal memoir. The Mitfords are not everyone's cup of tea (my own dear brother has a violent prejudice against them, based not on their Fascism or Communism, but rather Nancy's refusal to use air-mail and their nicknaming of the Queen Mother as 'Cake') - but Debo's book confirms that they are very definitely mine. In a china cup and saucer, naturally, with ginger cake on the side.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Project 24: The Books

My New Blogging Resolution certainly won't happen before the New Year, as we're off out of internet connection for the next few days. I'm setting up posts to appear over the next few days, but I won't be able to respond to comments just yet.

Well, I shan't be doing a Project 25 - Project 24 has been fun, and very challenging, but I'm going to be back to splurging in the New Year. I'm not sure how many more of my own books I've read because of this exercise, but I do know it's more than the number I've bought for myself, for the first time in at least ten years.

It doesn't feel quite concluded until I've given you a final run-down of the 24 books which found their way into my home this year. Being honest, a fair few came from publishers or as gifts, especially on my birthday, but they weren't under the Project 24 banner. As Rachel mentioned the other day, perhaps they are a little eccentric. They're certainly not 24 of the latest books to hit bookshops. In fact, only four of them were new (rather than secondhand) and none of those were originally published this year.

I've grouped them vaguely according to the reason I got them - here's what I got:

The Ones I Already Owned

I didn't think I'd be buying duplicates in Project 24, but I was wrong - I couldn't resist these beautiful, unusual or old editions of much-loved books.

The Love Child - Edith Olivier
The Provincial Lady Goes Further - E.M. Delafield
As It Was - Helen Thomas
World Without End - Helen Thomas

The Ones Too Good To Leave

These were either so rare, unusually cheap, or special that I couldn't ignore them, once I'd stumbled across them - either in real life or through abebooks alerts.

Roofs Off! - Richmal Crompton
No One Now Will Know - E.M. Delafield
Susan and Joanna - Elizabeth Cambridge
Mrs. Christopher - Elizabeth Myers
Letters vol. I and II - Katherine Mansfield

The Ones I've Wanted For Ages

These are books I've had my eye on for years, but could never justify the expense. With my limited buying, suddenly they became affordable.

The Heirs of Jane Austen - Rachel Mathers
Miss Elizabeth Bennet - A.A. Milne

The Souvenir

I couldn't go to Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop in Paris and not come back with a good book in my hand, now, could I?

Summer Will Show - Sylvia Townsend Warner

The One I Accidentally Damaged

After I borrowed and accidentally tore a book borrowed from a fool, I bought a replacement - and kept the damaged one myself. Luckily it's a novel I (mostly) loved and wanted to keep.

The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

The One I'd Been Waiting to be Published

Only one Project 24 book was published this year, and that was actually a translation of an earlier story collection.

Travelling Light - Tove Jansson

The Ones For My Studies

Although these are all quite fun reads, they did come into Project 24 because of their potential usefulness for my DPhil.

A Brief Experiment With Time - J.W. Dunne
Strange Glory - L.H. Myers
The Music at Long Verney - Sylvia Townsend Warner

The Ones About Authors

I didn't expect this, but it seems that when the buying is restricted, my eyes wander to the non-fiction shelves. I bought quite a few books about authors. None of them are literary biography, but rather literary non-fiction of the reader's-companion variety.

More Talk of Jane Austen - Sheila Kaye-Smith and G.B. Stern
Are They The Same At Home? - Beverley Nichols
Jane Austen - Sylvia Townsend Warner
Personal Pleasures - Rose Macaulay
A Compton-Burnett Compendium - Violet Powell
I. Compton-Burnett - Pamela Hansford Johnson

Review: Guardians of Eternity series by Alexandra Ivy

Guardians of Eternity is one of my favorite paranormal romance series. It combines action, alpha males, hot  and sweet romance, and every kind mythical creature!

Alexandra Ivy's writing is excellent. Fast paced, with enough details and a funny undertone that you can miss. When I begin to read one of her books, I can't stop. The plot is very interesting, and every book add something else to a plot that has been growing up. The characters are original and realistic, strong but not invincible, and I end loving each one of them.

This is one of the series that every new book is better than the last one. When I started reading it I liked it, but now I can't get enough of it.

Overall, I love it and I recommend it, specially if you're a fan of series as Lords of the Underworld.

  • When Darkness Comes (Book 1)
  • Embrace The Darkness (Book 2)
  • Darkness Everlasting (Book 3)

  • Darkness Revealed (Book 4)
  • Darkness Unleashed (Book 5)
  • Beyond the Darkness (Book 6)

  • Devoured by Darkness (Book 7)

  • My favorite: Beyond the Darkness #6 (werewolf!)....and maybe Devoured by Darkness #7 too.

    The next book is called Bound by Darkness and still doesn't have a release date D:

    More information about this series at www.alexandraivy.comGoodreads.