norwegianwood: Polaroid (Stock-Polaroid)

Author: Scott Westerfield
Read on: 2208/09
Rating: ★★★★★

My thoughts: Uglies is such a clever book that it has already made its way into the list of my favourite reads. It's about a future version of our world where, to avoid diversity, at 16 you have an operation and from an "ugly" you are turned into a "pretty", which means that you would look perfect, just like everybody else. I wasn't sure I would have liked this book, as the plot didn't say much more than this, but I found it so clever in the way it develops, and so incredibly well written. The style is simple but effective, and it grips you from the start to the end. I often find that so many books have a slow beginning and then get better and better, but Uglies was interesting and captivating from the start. It's a different read, instructive, that makes you think and that entertains you all at the same time. It's so hard to find a book which is based on a completely original idea, and Scott Westerfield managed to write one.
norwegianwood: Polaroid (Stock-Polaroid)

City of Bones
Author: Cassandra Clare
Read on: 19/08/09
Rating: ★★★★★

My thoughts: I loved this book because I found it very unique in its genre. I love how the author makes up this incredible world in a city like New York, which could seem anything but magical or supernatural. But all her fantastic places are concealed right at the heart of the city, giving this book the perfect atmosphere. Also, you can just tell that there was so much thought in the development of all the character, as the story develops and unfolds slowly but with such a precision of details and wonderful descriptions that it really does end up in completely unexpected twists. I can't wait to read the next volume of the series!
norwegianwood: (Japan-SakuraCat)

War Horse
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Read on: 30/07/09
Rating: ★★★★★

My thoughts: This book was incredibly moving and absolutely unique in his genre. It's the first book I've read that is seen from the point of view of a horse, and it's completely believable and 'realistic' even if it's obviously an impossible situation, as a horse can't write or speak. I loved the relationships that so many different people have with this animal, how they feel the need to talk to him and to protect him, and how in the end they are all very similar to each other (it's set in the time of war) even if they have to fight each other. It makes you think of the reasons behind the start of a war, of the different attitudes to it as seen from the point of view of someone who is powerful but also has been dragged into the situation unwillingly. It's a story of friendship, trust, love, search. It's extremely moving and the characters seem to take life in front of us. The ending is just brilliant, as the only two really good characters of the books, who are also enemies, are somehow unconventionally joined together by a common point, and admit their weaknesses by showing their real nature to each other. It's absolutely perfect and the writing is simple but extremely honest and powerful.

Quotes: "He talked to himself because he felt that he was the only one who understood himself or would ever listen to what he was saying".

"You see, my friend, I want my Emilie to live on in people;s hearts. I shall die soon, in a few years, no more; and then no one will remember my Emilie as she was. I have no other family left alive to remember her. She will be just a name on a gravestone that no one will read. I want you to tell your friends at home about my Emilie. Otherwise it will be as if she has never even lived".
norwegianwood: Girl by the window (Default)

The Time Traveler's Wife
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Read on: 16/07/09
Rating: ★★★★★

My thoughts: I have read so many reviews about this book that I just had to read it! At first I was very confused by the plot, as it keeps shifting back and forth in time and characters have different ages from chapter to chapter, with no specific order apparently at the start. After a while I started to get into the story, and I actually liked it! I wouldn't say it's my favourite book ever, but the idea behind it is very original, and the concept of shifting from time to time is fascinating. I like her approach to time traveling as well, which is very original, and I love that Henry often goes back to see himself as a child, and can't control where and when he will go. The ending is very sad, but also very important for his relationship with his daughter. It's hard to read a book which is completely original, and this one surprised me. It's wonderful that she had such a big success with her first attempt at writing, which makes me like it even more and wait for the film :)

Quotes: "I have a sudden glimpse of all the Christmases of my life lined up one after another, waitin to be gotten through, and despair floods me." (...) "But then I feel guilty for wanting to avoid the sadness; dead people need us to remember them, even if it eats us, even if all we can do is say I'm Sorry until it is as meaningless as air."

norwegianwood: (Stock-GirlButterfly)

The Angel's Game
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Year: 2008 (UK 2009)
Read on: 06/07/09
Rating: ★★★★★

My thoughts: I have been waiting to read this book for a long time. I loved the Shadow of the Wind so much and I knew that this was set in the same sort of place, so when I went to Spain last summer and I saw it in Spanish I couldn't help myself and I bought it. Then I realized that it's not the Spanish that I knew, but it's the Barcelona dialect, which was impossible for me to read. So I sold that version and I had to wait till last month when it was finally released in English. I have to say that the book matched all my expectations, and went beyond that. Ruiz Zafon is a person I admire and respect immensely for the way he manages to write such interesting, dark, complicated stories that evolve around the most unusual 'heroes' and manage to evoke a wide variety of feelings and reactions, but also include ideas of the author, such as issues of identity, life and death, writing to leave something of yourself, the consequences of specific choices, desperation, expectations... And this book is, in a way, all about those 'great expectations' that the protagonist always remembers. It's funny, witty, dark, terrifying, intriguing and moving. Ruiz Zafon doesn't give us a happy and predictable story. He gives us characters that could be real people, that we can imagine and that we get attached to. He gives us a story that slowly develops and draws the reader into it. He gives us a series of wonderful quotes on life, purpose and the meaning of things, and some extremely moving moments whose images are so vivid in our eyes. He has this way of giving life to every single character that he creates, and providing them with history, purpose and reasons behind their actions, making us really care for every single one of them. It's a story about the supernatural in everyday lives and the consequences that a single gesture can have on a person and everyone around them. It's about good and evil, and it's a battle against the unknown and a history that seems to belong to the past. And of course, it's about Barcelona.

It's one of those books that I could read so many times, because it really speaks to me. In a way, I am almost jealous of the author because I wish I had written something like that. In another, I'm completely blown away by its atmosphere and by the perfect ending, which puts together real people and just the right amount of magic.
norwegianwood: (Disney-Enchanted)

Title: Män som hatar kvinnor
English Title: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Author: Stieg Larsson
Year: 2005 (UK 2008)
Read on: 10/07/09
Rating: ★★★★★

My thoughts: I have to say, it took me a while to get into this book at first. It's a really long book and the author tends to provide the reader with a lot of details, some of which are not that important. Also, i'm not sure the Italian translation of this book really does it justice, as the narration seems a bit 'forced' at bits. But there is two things that made me really love this book: the characters and the brave choice of themes. Characters are unique, especially Lisbeth. I love the way the author doesn't give us her thoughts or details about who she is and what her history is until much later, when we already know most of the other characters. She is fascinating and very powerful, and her descriptions are intriguing, make us want to find out more about her an what she had to fight against. Mikael is also a very strong character, and the fact that we know from the start that he has been wrongly accused and condemned of a crime make us instantly like him. From the start of the novel, I couldn't wait for the two of them to meet. Also, I love that he is presented as someone who is able to make a decision and stick to it, no matter what. These are the two protagonists, but I found extremely important and interesting for the development of the plot a series of other people, starting from Erika and her weird relationship with Mikael, and then of course Henrik Vagner and his whole family and even DIrch Frode and Armanskji, who are not mentioned very often but are still very significant.
As for the themes, I love the idea of finding out the past/history of one family, and the confusion and revelations that are generated by this search. In this book, the Vagner family is turned inside out and a series of characters make strong appearences and lead to more revelations. It's a mystery novel but also one about identity and the reasons that move people to act in certain ways, the way they are connected to each other. The original title suggests that the book is about 'Men who hate women', and some passages are disturbing and revolting, as Larsson doesn't try to make them easier to read, but they are necessary. I think his choice of theme is very brave, especially coming from a man, who put himself in the position of women.
norwegianwood: (Japan-Geisha)
First of all, I have to point out that one of the stories in this book, Haruki Murakami's Birthday Girl, is available for download! I have uploaded it here, and I really hope you give it a try, because it's quite short so a very quick read, but it's really worth it! And now, on to the review!

Title: Birthday Stories
Author: Haruki Murakami
Year: 2002
Read on: 28/05/09
Rating: ★★★★☆

My thoughts: I've never really liked books that are collections of short stories, but this one will have to be the exception. As a start, it was great to have Murakami's introduction to every story, because it's not pretentious at all but it sort of gives a tone to the book and an idea on how to interpret each story, what to expect from it, and what is so special about it :) I have to say, I love the idea of having a collection of Birthday stories, because it's such a delicate subject. Everyone remembers most importan birhdays we've had, but still we all regard them in a different way. In general, we can end up not wanting to do anything, or organizing something big and then ended up being deluded because it didn't go as well as we thought, or having certain expectations in general. So this collection touches themes like expectations, dreams, future, past, and in general, ageing and getting old. I loved most stories, but my favourites will have to be these:

The Birthday Present by Andrea Lee: I don't know if I loved it so much because it was set in Italy and the author herself is so interesting, but I just loved the idea of it. It's apparently a very simple story, but it has so many layers and really manages to describe the author's way of seeing relationships. The very idea of the subject is amazing!

The Moor by Russell Banks: The perfect start to this collection. This story really moved me, and i will remember it for a long time :) The style is once again very simple and it represents everything I love about unexpected encounters :) Very good story!

The Birthday Cake by Daniel Lyons: This story is very short but has a great twist in the end! It's a great choice!

The Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami: Of course, my absolute favourite of the collection! I love the way he doesn't explain what the girl's wish was in the end and it starts from such an uneventful Birthday to end up being very different :) The ending is just brilliant, and it is a mixture of everyday routine and supernatural/magical events, all in only 10 pages. I love this man!
norwegianwood: Girl by the window (Default)
Thanks to [personal profile] finkpishnets , I now have a Dreamwidth account! For now, I still don't know how to make it work and am still a little confused on the way these layouts work (if anyone has any tips on finding some good ones somewhere, please do share!), but I just wanted to post the first entry!

I'm still not sure what I will use this for, but I've decided to call it Norwegian Wood like the title of the last book I've read, by one of my recent obsessions, Haruki Murakami. In general, I'd like to write less about my real life and more about inspirations in here, so I think I will start with some quotes from this book, as it gave the title to this Dreamwidth :) In general, I'd like to fill this DW with reviews, photography, quotes and such :)

So here we go with my favourite bits of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood:

"Of course life frightens me sometimes. I don't happen to take that as the premise for everything else though. I'm going to give it hundred percent and go as far as I can. I'll take what I want and leave what I don't want. That's how I intend to live my life, and it things go bad, I'll stop and reconsider at that point. If you think about it, an unfair society is a society that makes it possible for you to exploit your abilities to the limit."

"Letters are just pieces of paper. ... Burn them, and what stays in your heart will stay, keep them, and what vanishes will vanish."

"If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking."

“Without warning, she asked me, ‘Hey, Watanabe, can you explain the difference between the English subjunctive present and the subjunctive past?’
‘I think I can,’ I said.
‘Let me ask you, then, what purpose does stuff like that serve in daily life?’
‘None at all,’ I said. ‘It may not serve any concrete purpose, but it does give you some kind of training to help you grasp things in general more systematically.’
Midori took a moment to give that some serious thought. ‘You’re amazing,’ she said. ‘That never occurred to me before. I always thought of things like the subjunctive case and differential calculus and chemical symbols as totally useless. A pain in the neck. So I’ve always ignored them. Now I have to wonder if my whole life has been a mistake’”