Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Clive Barker - Abarat

Title: Abarat (Abarat, books 1 & 2)
Author: Clive Barker
Pub. year: 2002
Pages: 388
Editor: HarperCollins

Summary: Abarat: an archipelago of amazement and wonder. A land made up of twenty-five islands, each one representing one hour of the day, each one a unique place of adventure and danger (and one mysterious place out of time), all ruled over by the evil Christopher Carrion, Lord of Midnight, and his monstrous grandmother, Mater Motley. Candy Quackenbush, a 16-year old from Chickentown, Minnesota, crosses by accident from our world into Abarat, and discovers she has been there many, many times before. She has friends there and she has enemies. As Candy makes her journey between all the islands of the archipelago, she will discover a plot by Christopher Carrion to block out the Sun, Moon and stars to achieve a condition of Permanent Midnight. In order to prevent this disaster, Candy must find the courage to confront the Lord of Midnight; and in doing so come to know who she really is: a revelation which will transform her own understanding of her place in the epic events.

I already presented many of my favorite books to you, and I don't think this would feel right if I don't add Abarat to the list. I discovered this book by chance at the bookstore—the cover was beautiful, I knew the author from The Thief of Always (excellent book by the way) and the story seemed intriguing enough for me to go home with the first two books. Probably one of my best compulsive bought of the latest years.

The story works around some classical fantasy elements—a young and courageous girl with a greater destiny, magical creatures, an epic quest to save the world—but beyond all that there is something really fascinating about this story. I don't know if it is because the illustrations (by the author himself) are dazzling, or because the creatures living in the Abarat are so weird that you can't even begin to imagine where they come from, but it seems impossible to remain untouched by these books. Candy is the typical hero that you look upon to, flawed but oh so human, and all the people she meets on her journey are so surprising, terrific and terrible that it's impossible to forget them.

With the third book going out this month, the Abarat quartet will surely be one of the must have for a very long time, fit as well for children as for adults. Original, full of magic, mysteries, epic adventures and emotion, it has everything to seduce the reader, including delightful paintings (don't get the massmarket paperback or you will miss them!) and complex characters. Well, is there anything that could be missing? Oh yes, humour—forget it, it's also funny. If you a have some hours to spare, you definitely should spend them in the Abarat. The islands frozen in time are waiting for you!

Scarebaby, scarebaby,
Where do you run?
Out in the graveyard,
To have some fun?
Dancing with skeletons
Up from the ground?
Doing a jig
On the burial mound?

Scarebaby, scarebaby,
Horrid you are!
With the wings of a bat,
And a face with a scar,
The fangs of a vampire,
The tail of a snake;
You open your mouth
And the noise that you make
Is a song that the Devil sings,
Bitter and loud.
Tell me, my baby,
Was your mother proud?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games

Title: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, book 1)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Pub. year: 2008
Pages: 374
Editor: Scholastic
Summary: "Once I'm on my feet, I realize escape might not be so simple. Panic begins to set in. I can't stay here. Flight is essentiel. But I can't let my fear show."
Winning means fame and fortune.
Losing means certain death.
The Hunger Games have begun...

I've heard of this book a long time before I finally agreed to read it. It reminded me of the movie "Battle Royale" which I didn't like, and it was too praised—something that often repels me too much to try it. Luckily, one of my friends didn't really leave me any choice and decided that I should read it: she lent it to me and wouldn't take no for an answer.

Knowing that we usually have the same taste, I was almost certain that despite the fact I wasn't willing to read it, I'd probably love that book. And indeed I enjoyed it very much! I read it pretty quickly... actually, I was so into it that from the moment the characters entered the arena, I read it in one go overnight.

The idea of a game where the principle is to kill or die kind of made me worry about the story, but it's so well written with not that much details that it quickly became an unputdownable book. The strategies, the relationships between the characters (not always the obvious ones) and the laws imposed in this world by the Capitol are, IMO, a good part of the reason why this book is so well received. Obviously, there's an heavy atmosphere and everything is far from being perfect, but as in 1984 by Orwell, you want to see what happens to the main characters (and you hope really hard that nothing like that will happen in real life)

So, since I really appreciated this story, I'm glad I read it! As you can see, sometimes it doesn't hurt to look beyond one's prejudices.

I've started the second book a few days ago, and I really liked it too ! I don't know if I'll come back with the other two, cause I don't like to spoil. But may the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Diana Wynne Jones - Howl's Moving Castle

Title: Howl's Moving Castle (Castle series, book 1)
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Pub. year: 2009
Pages: 304
Editor: HarperCollins Children's Books

Summary: In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter. After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.
The Hatter sisters--Sophie, Lettie, and Martha--and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.
In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl's castle?

After telling you about all those authors I love, I couldn't miss on the great Diana Wynne Jones, the one who—though I didn't know it at the time—wrote the book that inspired Hayao Miyazaki's eponym movie, one of my ever favorites. I am not going to tell you about this movie, but really, you should see it. Best animation movie ever—or close to be. So back to business: Diana Wynne Jones. Not only the lady was an amazing story teller, she had a way with words that makes them almost as magic as her stories. With a little down-to-earth and lots of demon/magic formulas/potions/sorcerers/moving castle, she brews this kind of story that makes you open your eyes wide and find again in yourself this little excitement that you had when you were a kid, and that some of us still have. Or is it because some of us are still kids?

This "Castle series" is composed of three books. In the first one, we follow the strong willed Sophie, changed into an old lady by the Witch of the Waste, who gets on board of Howl's moving castle. Howl is reputed to be a terrible magician eating ladies' hearts, but in fact he's just a gigolo, slightly lazy and stubborn, who made a pact with a fire demon—the delightfully funny Calcifer, in charge of moving the Castle. Sophie will try to break the promise binding them together while visiting the country and trying herself at magic, of course! In the second book, meet Abdullah, who by an extraordinary set of events finds himself a magic carpet, and meets a princess to save from the claws of an evil being. In this Arabian Nights atmosphere, we follow him and his annoying bottle genius to the rescue of not one, but a whole bunch of princesses... including Sophie, of course! In the third book, a young lady called Charmain is called to tend the house of a sick magician. The house has many tricks in its pocket for her, and while she tries to be a good helper at the royal castle's library, she will have to solve a mystery with the great Howl himself...

If Howl and Sophie are the constant characters of the series, you won't see them that often. What you will see is loads of original characters, magic everywhere, great adventures, mysteries and suspense... well, everything that makes a perfect fantasy book. Kids or not kids, who could deny the talent of the wonderful Diana Wynne Jones?

Monday, 8 August 2011

We want you to read French authors!

As French girls, we wanted to do a little something to promote French litterature to English speaking people. Then came the idea of this challenge. The goal is for you to read as many French books (in English, but if you want to try reading in French, be our guest) as you want.

I've made a non exhaustive list of French books that I know have been translated in English, feel free to choose other books too if you find some. I'll add them on the list.

This list will be on the challenge page so that you can access it easily without searching (you'll find the page at the top of the blog, just above the articles).

From the 1st of September, you'll be able to enter links pointing to your reviews of French books read for the challenge in the Mr Linky box right here. Once a month, I'll check them and will make a clear list of what each of you have read so far.

You'll have 1 year to read as many books as you chose to. Here are the different levels you can try to reach:

Antoine de St Exupéry level (1 book)
Alexandre Dumas level (3 books)
Albert Camus level (5 books)
Jules Verne level (10 books)
Victor Hugo level (More than 20 books)

To answer some of your questions:

* You can only read novels (let's say more than 80 pages at least) and plays.
* You can choose ebooks, paper or audio books.
* Only books read between September 1st and August 31st of this year count (but if you want to reread a book you've read before this challenge, you can).
* You can join and change your level of participation at any time, and you don't have to list in advance the book(s) you'll read.
* Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
* You can register starting today, just leave a comment on this post to let us know you're in.

Voilà! See you on September the 1st!

Monday, 1 August 2011

John Green - Paper Towns

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Pub. year: 2008
Pages: 305
Editor: Speak
Summary: Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life--dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge--he follows. After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues--and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew.

I discovered this author through is vlog (=video blog) on youtube and when I heard he was a writer, I was curious to read one of his books. I liked the cover of Paper Towns I saw, so I bought it and read it a few weeks later.

I'm pleased by the ability of John Green to write a story about teenagers without falling into clichés. Each character is credible, neither too popular nor too much of a loser, as we often see it in this kind of story (and being French, I never experienced the gap between cheerleaders/footballers and isolated people, in my High School it was all about being with your group of friends). Quentin is a normal teenager who shows us the complexity fragility of relationship at his age. The writing is clever and funny, and the author as a keen sense of teenage reactions.
Plus, there's a lot of references in it, especially to Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, which adds moments of reflexion about who is the other in front of us, about leaving, and so on. A lot of ideas that may change the way you might see things.

I like how John Green finds a way to teach all sorts of stuff while is telling you his story. I really enjoyed all the plot around "paper towns", for example. I didn't know what it was before this book and I appreciated to learn that kind of not really useful but still fun facts.

I believe this is the kind of book that can invite people to read more, because it's really easy to read, and because of it's sensibility.

Quotes :

What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.

I'm not saying that everything is survivable. Just that everything except the last thing is.

If you don't imagine, nothing ever happens at all.

That's always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like picking your breakfeast cereals based on color instead of taste.