Monday, 23 April 2012

Erin Morgenstern - The Night Circus

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Pub. year: 2011
Pages: 400
Editor: Doubleday

Summary: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. The fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hangs in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

I think so many people have talked about this book already that I won't be able to tell you anything new. If you were expecting some controversial review about how bad this book is, you can leave now, because the hype is totally justified. I didn't even expect anything from it, I know everyone said it was good, but then that wouldn't be a first for me not to like something everyone else's does. Plus, I've never been to a circus in my life, and never really expressed any interest for it, so a circus romance...

How wrong I was. This is definitely a little masterpiece, in more ways than I could explain. First, you see those chapters, one addressed to the reader, one following a character in a timeline, then another in the past or the future, knowing fully that all will collide someday. The style is marvelous, very light and deep at the same time, full of poetry, and I really couldn't tear my eyes off it.

But not only that, this beautiful writing has a wonderful story behind it, very imaginative, full of surprises, of intricates mysteries and soft charming romance mixed with cruelty and deception. The Circus itself is a pure wonder, and the characters living it (or buzzing around it) are so moving and real that it's almost painful to see them hurt. I don't know what to say to express it properly, but this book really takes you into another universe, grips you and doesn't let you go until you release this last, sad breath, knowing the Circus has to go without you now.

The book is totally going on my "to read again and again" shelf!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Jonathan Safran Foer - Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Title: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Pub. year: 2005
Pages: 326
Editor: Penguin Books

Summary: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies.
When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he disovers in his father's closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.

I've heard about this author and this book for years, but never had the opportunity to read it. When I heard a movie was being filmed, I thought that I should buy the book quickly before the cover changed, and that I wanted to read it first, so I did.

The book is pretty cool, with pictures and a few colored pages to illustrate what Oskar is talking about, and some other special stuff (I don't want to say too much) that gives a lot of fun to the reading. But let's talk about the story, now...

So, we have Oskar, this young boy who's pretty smart and curious about everything. But smart or not, when someone we love dies, we all feel the same kind of feelings, even if we don't react equally. Oskar finds his way to deal with his father death by busying himself with the investigation about the key he found.

Sure, when you read the summary, you can have the impression that it's going to be a really sad book about a kid who lost his father, but this isn't really what is going on here. We don't really focus on how hard and sad he feels. I mean, you know he is, there's clues about it everywhere, but we are focused on Oskar search, so it isn't that bad (obviously, they did add some tear jerker moments in the movie).

I really enjoyed the way he thinks, the questions he asks, the terms he uses... You can feel he is smart but lost, and that leads you to think about stuff you wouldn't have thought about. I like that in a book. I also learned a few stuff I didn't know about the world, which was pretty cool.

But if Oskar is the main character of this story, he isn't the only one. I really liked the parts with his grandparents, it brings a whole new side to the story. I was a bit desappointed not to see that on the screen but it would have been too long to show everything. They both are really endearing people, with their wounds and their flaws, their kindness and their sadness.

So... As you can see, this book quickly joined my favorites and I heartily recommend it!

Quotes :
'It was so dark that it was even hard to hear.'

'Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living.'

'Why didn't I learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret was how much I believed in the future.'

'I hope that one day you will have the experience of doing something you do not understand for someone you love.'

Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Lies of Locke Lamora read along
[last part]

Dear fellow readers! This week is the last week (bouhouhou) of the Lies of Locke Lamora read along hosted by the Little Red Reviewer and her comrades, and it's the first time I am joining one! Every week we've read around 120-140 pages of the book and every Saturday, each participant replied to a bunch of secret questions and discuss around it.
Like the book? Good!
Want to have fun? Same here!
Groupie of Scott Lynch but afraid to tell? It's ok, we won't say anything...
Join the read along or come check the discussion every week!

Gosh, it's over already! I can't believe I've been so wrapped up in this, you should have seen me this morning, disheveled and still in my pajamas, not wanting to put the book down for one second. I could almost say the book was too short if it wasn't that huge already. Boy, am I glad there's going to be (many) more of these!! Last chance for checking up last week's post (aka The Big Drama), and let's move on to the last and best part of the adventure!

Hey remember the crack up around "Nice bird, arsehole"?
'I cut off his fingers to get him to talk, and when he'd confessed everything I wanted to hear, I had his fucking tongue cut out, and the stump cauterised.'
Everyone in the room stared at him.
'I called him an arsehole, too,' said Locke. 'He didn't like that.'
I'm still laughing over that one!!

1. The Thorn of Camorr is renowned - he can beat anyone in a fight and he steals from the rich to give to the poor. Except of course that clearly most of the myths surrounding him are based on fantasy and not fact. Now that the book is finished how do you feel the man himself compares to his legend. Did you feel that he changed as the story progressed and, if so, how did this make you feel about him by the time the conclusion was reached?
I still have trouble to think of Locke as the Thorn of Camorr, it's hard to say why but I think it's linked to the fact that Locke himself is so real and so human that it's harder to care about the symbol. If you take Batman for example, Bruce Wayne is a boring dude but Batman is a hero. Here, Locke is already a hero, so the Thorn of Camorr can hardly beat that. That answers the "how does the man compares to his legend" > he's obviously much better.
Since we haven't seen much of the initial Thorn of Camorr, the one who had fun getting forty thousand crowns in his vault, but we spent so much time with the one getting in a hell lot of trouble, I don't know how to compare them. The Thorn got a good lesson, at least... but he still enjoyed his "power" until the very end ("They're full of shit." "I'm afraid so." :D ).

2. Scott Lynch certainly likes to give his leading ladies some entertaining and strong roles to play. We have the Berangia sisters – and I definitely wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of them or their blades plus Dona Vorchenza who is the Spider and played a very cool character – even play acting to catch the Thorn. How did you feel about the treatment the sisters and Dona received at the hands of Jean and Locke – were you surprised, did it seem out of character at all or justified?
I'm always a bit annoyed at the tendency to use the old "I don't hit girl", as if being a girl always implied something weak. I am very glad that the female characters of the book are strong (they were and they still will be), and not cliché at all, having a real temper and strength an all that. And I'm glad Jean violently kicked the Berangias' asses, because they deserved it, and I wouldn't have expected anything else from dear Jean.
The punch in the face of Doña Vorchenza make me crack up, it was such an obvious and not conventional option... Locke is always full of resources, and that's good. But I am glad they both behaved smartly in the end, the charming old lady didn't deserve anything worse.

3. Towards the end we saw a little more of the magic and the history of the Bondsmagi. The magic, particularly with the use of true names, reminds me a little of old fashioned witchcraft or even voodoo. But, more than that I was fascinated after reading the interlude headed ‘The Throne in Ashes’ about the Elderglass and the Elders and why their structures were able to survive even against the full might of the Bondsmagi – do you have any theories about this do you think it’s based on one of our ancient civilisations or maybe similar to a myth??
I'm quite bad with theories, I never really try to guess and when I do, I'm usually wrong and it disappoints me. However, I'm very curious about the Elderglass and sincerely hope we'll know more about it in future books - I think there was a very old and powerful civilization that was destroyed by something (civil war? sickness? overuse of magic?) and they left behind some traces, like the powers the Bondsmagi have. Nasty stuff, those, it totally reminds me of Voodoo too. I wish we could seal all Karthain in Elderglass and be done with it!

4. We have previously discussed Scott Lynch’s use of description and whether it’s too much or just spot on. Having got into the last quarter of the book where the level of tension was seriously cranked up – did you still find, the breaks for interludes and the descriptions useful or, under the circumstances did it feel more like a distraction?
Ah, I cannot say, I was so wrapped up in the story, literally devouring pages, that I didn't notice anything really boring. There was no serious interruption of action like before, nor useless anecdotes about god knows what, so I guess it was good. I think it's very important to be careful with the last ~150 pages of a book, it doesn't matter if the beginning was too slow or some characters too shallow - if the end rocks, the last impression is awesome, and that's what matters. And if that end didn't rock, well, I don't know what's good enough for you!
Plus, I love the last interlude - here's a lovely quote while we're here:
'some day, you're going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee.'
If that's not poetry, what is?

5. Now that the book has finished how did you feel about the conclusion and the eventual reveal about the Grey King and more to the point the motivations he declared for such revenge – does it seem credible, were you expecting much worse or something completely different altogether?
The first revelation - that the Grey King was the Berangias' brother seeking revenge - was quite disappointing, but now with all the details around it it's a bit better. He lost his family and he wanted revenge, just like Locke did, so it's hard to blame him for that. His only problem was his lack of morals, and his total absolute craziness. The guy is a nut case! I wasn't expecting anything better or worse, he wasn't right in the head, and Locke fixed him (oh yeah), so all is (not so) well. If he had been someone else, it wouldn't have changed things much in my opinion.

6. Were you surprised that Locke, being given two possible choices (one of which could possibly mean he would miss his chance for revenge on the Grey King) chose to go back to the Tower – especially given that (1) he would have difficulty in getting into the building (2) he would have difficulty in convincing them about the situation and (3) he would have difficulty in remaining free afterwards? Did anyone else nearly pee their pants when Locke and the rest were carrying the sculptures up to the roof garden?
Absolutely not surprised. Locke is a good guy and he couldn't choose revenge on one man over saving hundreds of people. The only thing that annoyed me slightly was that the only way he managed to save them was to beg, and it doesn't really suit him. I am glad he resorted to it though, because he did managed to save everyone, but what I'm most proud of is that he still managed to sneak up some lies, and to convince them to plow into shit (ha!) and to sink the death-offering for his brothers. That was GRAND.
I didn't pee in my pants during the sculpture removal, thanks for asking. I was pretty stressed out and nothing could have made me drop the book, but I knew they would succeed.
And that's beside the point but I loved that scene where Locke sobbed and pleaded for Jean to leave him after defeating the Grey King, and how Jean got mad and carried him (and rolled him like a sausage in oil cloth later on on the boat). Locke was just so sweet and desperate and my little heart was beating wildly for him.
Gosh, I really am a fangirl now...

7. Finally, the other question I would chuck in here is that, following the end of the book I was intrigued to check out some of the reviews of LOLL and noticed that the negative reviews mentioned the use of profanity. How did you feel about this – was it excessive? Just enough? Not enough?
I fucking love the profanity! Those bloody prudes can go to hell and leave us all the fun and the swearing!!

8. Okay one further, and probably most important but very quick question – having finished, will you pick up the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies?
I already did! *giggles* I will read it again with you I think, it was so lovely. Plus, there are kittens. Who can say no to Locke AND kittens?!

Check out other discussions on the Little Red Reviewer blog (link coming soon), and let's have a break next week to let all those emotions calm down before starting the next awesome adventure of the Gentlemen Bastards!