Monday, 27 February 2012

Susan Beth Pfeffer - Life As We Knew It

Title: Life As We Knew It (The Last Survivors, book 1)
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Pub. year: 2006
Pages: 337
Editor: Graphia
Summary: Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all--hope--in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

As Muffin says, I don't do 'it's-the-end-of-the-world' stories. But I have this friend with whom I exchange books in a way that the other has no choice but to read what the first put in her hands. So, yeah, she lent me this one and I had to read it. And as it turns out, I'm kinda glad she did.

This book is kind of an Anne Frank's diary. In a 'lol-it-didn't-really-happen' way, here. Anne Frank had WW2, Miranda has 'the Moon is getting closer and the everything is messed up'. She writes about her day-to-day life and what is happening to her. We are following the catastrophe as it happens in her life, and their consequences on it.

What was incredible is that during the whole reading process, I was like 'Oh my gosh, do I have enough cans? I should probably buy some other blankets! I miss chocolate.' and then 'Oh wait...'. When my curtains were closed, I was wondering if there really were a blizzard outside. So yeah.. I really felt like I was living the climate changes and its consequences.

It's a quite realistic book about a possible end of the world. I mean, I don't know if scientifically it's plausible, but it could be. What's interesting is how people react when this happens. And there was this bizarre effect that made me care more about new changes in climate than about people dying in the story. I don't know how to explain that... maybe the way the author wrote about it was more nerve-racking.

Anyway, I was quite absorbed in the story 'til the end, and really enjoyed it. So if you're into apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic stuff—even if you're not, I'm the living proof of it—give it a go!


'I never really thought about how when I look at the moon it's the same moon as Shakespeare and Marie Antoinette and George Washington and Cleopatra looked at.'

'It wouldn't be New Year's without a resolution. I've resolved to take a moment every day for the rest of my life to appreciate what I have.'

'I have no privacy. But I feel so alone.'

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ransom Riggs - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Pub. year: 2011
Pages: 352
Editor: Quirk Books

Summary: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.
A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Rumors, rumors... one said that Tim Burton was thinking of making a movie out of this book, and that was enough to make me want to read it. Another said that it was awesome, and it was enough to get me started... what a surprise I had! Not only was this book very far from what I expected, it was probably even better, and I would never have guessed that a bunch of old black and white pictures would make such a tremendous effect on me, nor that it would make this book so exceptionnal I had to tell you about it.

Maybe it isn't something special (to be honest that's my first time so I wouldn't know if that is common or not), but using real vintage pictures to build a story (and leave them inside, of course) is such a wonderful idea that I regret not having it myself in the first place. And the pictures are just the icing on the cake : Jacob story, albeit quite long and slow at the beginning (I personnally enjoyed this slow enfolding of the mystery but I know that some would find it a bit too much), is a wonderful mix between adventure, horror and mystery, with undead kids, superpowers, invisible villains and a dark gloomy village on a dark gloomy island where it all happens.

I have never been very fond of horror novels because firstly, I'm a coward (let's face it), and secondly because characters are usually quite shallow there, I can never really relate to them. Here it's not the case, fortunately—maybe because it's also a children book and it makes it a bit more magical than usual. Anyway, I am very glad I found the time to read it, and I would be very glad if you find it too, because this author deserves the fame he's getting, and he deserves even more to make him write the second book as fast as he can. We're waiting impatiently!

Love old houses? Yeah, I know, awesome, right?

Monday, 13 February 2012

Muriel Barbery - The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Title: The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Original title: L'Élégance du hérisson
Author: Muriel Barbery
Pub. year: 2006
Pages: 336
Editor: Europa
Summary: Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and the good. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but totally uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society's expectations of what a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Renee: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renee lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever.

When I started this book, I'd heard a lot about it, but I didn't know what it was about. I was curious, not knowing if I were to like it.

Truth is, I liked it a lot, but... I disliked part of it too. It was a weird feeling because I liked the plot, the characters, and some references, but I was bored with some reflections all the same. So, I ended up skipping the ones that didn't quite appeal me. I guess it depends on what you're interested in. It's not the kind of book you want to read after a rough day.

Otherwise, it's a really nice book, well written, and characters are endearing, even though I don't always share their views. I especially enjoyed the story from the moment Mr Ozu enters it. I also thought that the end was really really well chosen. Even if I quite expected it, I wasn't sure and it still moved me.
And Paloma... oh, Paloma... this smart young girl who is so delusional about life. I think she was the one who fascinated me the most. I mean, I know it's mostly about Renée, but it's easy for her to criticise and stay hidden behind her door, her head in her books (even though she gets better) but she doesn't follow through on what she thinks. Yeah, I know, it's the whole point of her career choice. But Paloma has this little something that caught my eyes. I was moved by the way she sees people, how she perceives life, by her careless parents, ...

Anyhow, I closed the book with a lump in my throat (yeah Muffin, that one's definitely for you :P), glad I read it, even if I didn't enjoy all of it. I left the book with a rather good opinion of it, so.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Lauren Beukes - Zoo City

Title: Zoo City
Author: Lauren Beukes
Pub. year: 2011
Pages: 384
Editor: Angry Robot
Summary: Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons.
Being hired by reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the festering slum where the criminal underclass and their animal companions live in the shadow of hell’s undertow.
Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the maw of a city twisted by crime and magic, where she’ll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives – including her own.

First time I travel that south with a book, and I must say I am happily surprised by the pleasure I had to make that trip. Zoo City is a future decrepit neighborhood of Johannesburg, where the criminals live with their animals. Zinzi is one of them: with Sloth on her back and the power to find lost things, she tries her best to get out of this mess she got herself into. But it's not by mixing with the wrong crowd that it's gonna happen...

This book is pretty difficult to talk about—on the one hand it's great and surprising, and on the other hand it's so complex and rich that I wouldn't know where to start without spoiling you. Maybe it's just a newbie feeling, but that's the first time I see a South-African story getting that much visibility (which it totally deserves) and I'm wondering, why is it so that we always read American/English stories (and well, French, because you know, French girl and all that) while there sure are wonders to discover elsewhere?

I fell totally in love with the atmosphere of the story, somewhat dark and corrupted but at the time pretty pleasant, especially when Zinzi goes exploring around the odd neighborhoods. The characters all have strong personalities, even the bad guys which still intrigue me (I wish there was more to know about them). And as if the story was not extraordinary enough, the SF side coming up with the animals, the abilities and the Undertow make it downright fascinating.

I wish I could tell you more but I think you should discover it by yourself; enjoy the fresh and exotic style of Lauren Beukes (be prepared for some African slang!) and the captivating adventure of Zinzi December and Sloth!