Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day. ”

Just as I was thinking to myself how implausibly good it feels not having DNF’ed a book in a long while, The Shadow of the Wind comes into my life.

I went into this pretty open-minded expecting a book about loving books and reading, instead I receive a pretentious piece of confusing fiction, trying to appear smarter than it really is. Plus, having it use one of my most hated writing techniques of telling with little to no showing. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough we then have the dialogue whose sole job in this book is to convey information. There’s not even one point where the author tried to humanize the characters by making them appear more complex and dynamic, as one would expect. Or achieving that feeling of creating “characters who seemed as real to me as my surroundings.” Instead both the dialogue and the action grew extremely stilted the more I read on.

Take for example this next passage that had me saying enough is enough:

“Bea, wait.”
I cursed myself and ran after her. I stopped her halfway down the corridor, grabbing her by the arm. She threw me a burning look.
“I’m sorry. But you’re wrong: it’s not your fault, it’s mine. I’m the one who isn’t as good as your brother. And if I’ve insulted you, it’s because I’m jealous of that idiot boyfriend of yours and because I’m angry to think that someone like you would follow him to El Ferrol. It might as well be the Congo.”
“Daniel . . .”
“You’re wrong about me, because we can be friends if you let me try, now that you know how worthless I am. And you’re wrong about Barcelona, too, because you may think you’ve seen everything, but I can guarantee that’s not true. If you’ll allow me, I can prove it to you.”
I saw a smile light up and a slow, silent tear fall down her cheek.
“You’d better be right,” she said. “Because if you’re not, I’ll tell my brother, and he’ll pull your head off like a stopper.”

No one talks like that in real life… Also, this passage shows just how utterly lazy the author is with his writing by making two characters that were supposed enemies (literally) one page ago “bond” by appearing in the same location. It’s pretty obvious that instead of creating a new multifaceted character, Zafón opted to reuse a character we already know, who has a boyfriend, mind you, and have the main character be suddenly infatuated…

Also, this next passage illustrates my point perfectly of the dialogue being between detective and suspect.

“Are you a collector?”
“Something like that.”
“Do you have other books by Carax?”
“I’ve had them at some point. Julián Carax is my specialty, Daniel. I travel the world in search of his books.”
“And what do you do with them if you don’t read them?”
The stranger made a stifled, desperate sound. It took me a while to realize that he was laughing.
“The only thing that should be done with them, Daniel,” he answered.
He pulled a box of matches out of his pocket. He took one and struck it. The flame showed his face for the first time. My blood froze. He had no nose, lips, or eyelids. His face was nothing but a mask of black scarred skin, consumed by fire. It was the same dead skin that Clara had touched.
“Burn them,” he whispered, his voice and his eyes poisoned by hate.”

Please, don’t write dialogue just to convey information to the reader. I want to read and feel emotions from the characters, not like I’m reading a transcript from a court case.

It’s been too long since I’ve last been this heated over my lack of interest with a book. And I least of all expected it to be The Shadow of the Wind, which has such beautiful quotes here on Goodreads.

“As I walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, I could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. I couldn’t help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot.”

And that’s exactly what rendered me the most dissatisfied. The fact that most of the well-known quotes are taken from the first 100 pages of the book left me feeling exasperated, so much so that I couldn’t come up with one reason to continue reading. I didn’t care at all for the cardboard characters with zero storyline, so I had to put The Shadow of the Wind down after just 115 pages. And frankly, I have no regrets.

I will say, though, that this book had magnificent moments at the start when I put in the effort to listen to instrumental music (like this playlist). It heightens the reading experience by a landslide. The book goes from an effort to read to feeling like you’re watching a movie, which is why I was eager to look into whether this had any adaptions in the works… But unfortunately the author “will not sell the rights to any studio” because “he says that the story was written in order to be a book and we don’t want to lose the magic in a movie.” Figures…

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Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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This review contains *spoilers* for the first half of this book.

Heartless is an epic retelling of Alice in Wonderland, with the focus being on The Queen of Hearts.

All Catherine wants is to be declared the office tart baker of the kingdom. She and her best friend, Mary Ann, dream of launching their very own bakery. Even their friendship hit it off upon discovering one another’s mutual love for food:

“One wouldn’t know it to look at Mary Ann, but she had an appetite to rival Cath’s own. They’d bonded over their love of food years ago, not long after Mary Ann had been hired on as a household maid.”

Their solidarity kind of reminded me of the one Anna Bates and Mary Crawley (from Downton Abbey) had in the later seasons—aka my favorite one on the show.tumblr_inline_nwtq1d7gph1rpwofs_500But according to her mother, the Marchioness, going into the men’s world of business is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen, especially with a humble servant – Mary Ann – as her partner.

“But she and Mary Ann had been dreaming of it for so long, she sometimes forgot that it wasn’t yet reality.”

Meanwhile, at the royal ball His Congenial Kingness has chosen a bride, and Cath is thrown for the loop. The King of Hearts was about to propose to her in front of the whole crowd, but the idea of marrying him seemed preposterous to her.

“She would be queen, and queens . . . queens did not open bakeries with their best friends. Queens did not gossip with half-invisible cats. Queens did not have dreams of yellow-eyed boys and wake up with lemon trees over their beds.”

Thankfully, before he could finish his proposal, Cheshire steals the show at Catherine’s request, so that she can vanish unnoticed through the rose gardens. On her way out, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker with a rhyming Raven.
And Jest also turns out to be the boy from her dreams… literally.

Cath had met a hazy, beautiful boy in her dream with eyes “bright like lemons ready to fall from a tree.” And so she informs this stranger that she’d had a dream about them, which the courage to tell a handsome someone you had a dream about them… can’t relate.

“‘So?’ he prodded.
She blinked. ‘So what?’
‘Was it a good dream?’
‘Oh.’ Her lips puckered in thought, but then she realized he was teasing her. She scowled. ‘To be frank, I found it rather dull.’
‘Ah, but you can’t be Frank. You’ve already told me that your name is Catherine.’
‘I’ve changed it.’”

A man after my heart. His humor was right up my alley.
Also, Jest giving her a piece of chocolate made my heart warm—“I was saving this for later, and so I must have been saving it for you.”
Marissa Meyer sure knows how to make me fall quickly for someone.tumblr_offv1brbpw1sxiyrco2_r1_500It’s truly been awhile since I’ve welcomed a book-romance with open arms. And I’m glad Jest, with his quick smiles and witty remarks, was the one I was waiting for.

Plus, when Jest stole her away for a midnight rendezvous – aka a tea party with the Mad Hatter – happiness coursed to the ends of my limbs. In that shared single night, one fun night, she finds out that:

  • He was from Chess.
  • He was on a mission that could end a war.
  • He was the protector of a queen.
  • Impossible is his speciality.

I was anticipating every little encounter they had.

But then…
I don’t know what happened, but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I gradually started losing intrest in the characters and their arcs. I think I just need to take a break from fantasy for awhile and then eventually come back so I don’t feel like I’m forcing myself to read my most anticipated read of the year.

Marissa Meyer is one of the most talented writers, and I’m really hoping that when I pick this book up again, I’ll enjoy it more than I can now.

DNF @ p.232 (My heart is breaking just by writing this.)tumblr_o45pu517um1u8n0xao1_540tumblr_o45pu517um1u8n0xao2_540ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

no rating for now.

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Review: The Distance To Home by Jenn Bishop

Last summer, 11-year-old Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They’re headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.

This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling.

What I liked:

• Quinnen’s alternating points of view between this summer and last summer.

• Book clubs: I had a nice little walk down memory lane when they featured Are You There  God? It’s Me, Margaret— particularly when I realized that I read it around Quinnen’s age.

• Deals with grief in an accessible way that is both honest and gentle.

• This book made me think about my own life situations.

What I didn’t like:

• The characters felt really flat and two dimensional— most of them had no depth or personality. There was also the lack of character development.

• The writing wasn’t holding my attention.

• Not a lot went on during this storyline— Quinnen went to baseball games, ate dinner with her family and complained about Brandon Williams. But other than that nothing happened that kept me flipping page after page.

• Quinnen and her sister, Hayley, were close last summer— until we get introduced to Zack (aka Hayley’s emo boyfriend).
It’s at this point Hayley goes completely out of character and starts acting, to quote Quinnen, like one of the mean girls on an MTV show.

And it’s also at this point that I gave up.

I was really hoping to like it (mainly because of the cover), but I was let down.

ARC kindly provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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