Monday, June 26, 2017

Harry Potter - 20th Anniversary


Wow, that was loud.

Anyway, today, is a very important day. It's when it all began! Today, we celebrate 20 years of the magic that has fed our souls and hearts for so many years, and will live forever inside us! Today, we remember that day when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was first published, and took the world by storm, changing and shaping lives, and becoming a life jacket that kept thousands of kids afloat in the middle of a difficult childhood, taking them to a place that will never truly abandon them. After all, Hogwarts will always be there for those who remain loyal.

I was going to write a long, wordy post about how wonderful the Harry Potter series is, and the place it has in my life, but then I remembered, I've already done that (check my post titled "A Witch's Life for Me!"), so there's little else I can add, except a few tears of joy and love here and there. But I definitely had to do something for the 20th Anniversary, right? I couldn't just remain silent and say nothing about it. So I decided, at least, to display this amazing new covers of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (the anniversary edition, obviously) for those who haven't seen them yet. And for those who have, look again! Just look! Aren't they beautiful?
I want those so bad! You can pick your own House! I myself am a proud Ravenclaw! And no, I'm not happy that in the movies they replaced the eagle by a raven. I mean, I get that the name spells "raven", but that's no excuse. A raven has another kind of metaphorical meaning that has little to do with the intelligence Ravenclaw prioritize above all other virtues. That's way it is an eagle. But that's just how we Ravenclaws are, we love correcting people, especially their grammar. Some people just hate the dictionary.

ANYWAY, we veered of course a bit... How about you? Which is your House?

Oh, and let me tell you a tiny story. On June 18th, I had a magical experience. For starters, I could spend an entire evening sorrounded by die-hard Potterheads. My people! I went to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Concert, where the Buenos Aires Academic Orchestra played live John Williams' original score, as the movie played in a giant screen. It was fantastic! The place was decorated with Quidditch loops and broomsticks hanging from the ceiling, and at the stage, right above the orchestra, and by the screen's sides, there were banners with the Houses on them! After my experience with Harry Potter during school and all the bullying I had to bear for liking something no one else cared about (it's all in my post), this was just great. People in full costume, or with a Hogwarts scarf, or pointed hats, or wielding wands, or even wearing socks with the Houses' colors, all gasping, and cheering, and yelling, and applauding every time something amazing happened in the movie, or the musicians played some especially meaningful tune (like the harp solo during the trap door scene, or the chess game's part), turned this experience in one of the most magical moments I've ever lived. For a couple of hours, I just let all my worries slip away and watch for the hundredth time a story that fills my soul, and makes me just plainly and purely happy. 

For those who are interested in this concert, there's good news! It's on tour. This time was here, in my city, Buenos Aires, but it is planned to perform in 35 countries around the world, so yours may be next! I couldn't find the entire list of cities it will be in, but I can tell for sure that Spain and Mexico are both in it! And even better news! Next year, we will get another concert, on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets! It will start this year, around October, in Europe, and it will be stopping by Buenos Aires in March 2018. Needless to say, I'll be there.

Thank you so much for being there and read my little post. If you haven't read the Potter series, oh my God, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?? Movies are great, but are not enough, in any possible way. And if you have and you are my kind of crazy, I'll just say Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus. You know what I mean. *wink*

Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for so many years of this moving, healing and overall fantastic story. Magic is within us, and there it will stay, to the very end. Always.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review - The Twilight Saga

Original Titles: Twilight - New Moon - Eclipse - Breaking Dawn
Series: The Twilight Saga 
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Published: 2005 - 2008

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Before starting this, let me tell you that I didn’t read this saga recently. I did back when I was 17, 18 years-old (2009, 2010), but I didn’t write reviews back then. Now, I’m just having a couple of rough days, with a lot to do, bad mood, everything hurting, and overall, I’m one stupid question away from bursting like a bomb. And that means that I have the right to complain about whatever I want. I’ve always intended to take this saga and write my thoughts about it, but as, sadly, I have no praise to dedicate to it, what better way to do it than when I seriously need something to rant about? 

You will probably notice that I’m not the first one to mention certain things about this story, and God knows that I’m not the first one to criticize it, and complain about it. So, if you like the Twilight saga (books and/or movies), please, do not read what follows, because you are not going to be happy about it. Stop right now!

You have been warned.

First of all, I read the first book back when I was in high school, and I had never read something like this before. I had no idea this genre was called Paranormal Romance, and to be honest, the only romances I had ever read back then were the classics by the Brontë sisters and Jane Austen. And I had definitely never read anything about vampires. I only picked it up out of curiosity, because of all the fuss around it. All the girls in my school were in love with it, and I decided to give it a try. I do not recall all the little details in this saga, fortunately, but when I remember the taste it left, it’s not a good one. 

The very first annoying thing the Twilight saga has, of course, is its protagonist (don’t make me use the word heroine, please), Isabella Swan. She’s a 17 year-old-teen who is sent to live with a father she hates, in the saddest town ever, where it is always raining. I had never read a character like her, and I remember thinking “Am I supposed to like her?”. From page one, I knew she would be as annoying and unbearable as a stomach ache; her attitude, says it all. She doesn’t want to be there, she hates the house, her father, the town, and overall, her own life. Way to go, Bella. I understand that the author tried to make her relatable, to make her “like any other girl”, but ended up failing miserably. What lots and lots of authors do not realize is that it isn’t enough to give your protagonist brown eyes and hair (the most common type) for people to feel identified by the her. Don’t get me wrong, I get that, at 16 and 17, most teenagers have low self-esteem and a negative image of themselves, but Bella is a whole case in herself. She beats her up, telling us how clumsy, mediocre, insignificant and not at all remarkable she is; it is as if she somehow enjoys trampling over herself, and there was a point in which I was thinking, “Ok, you hate yourself, I get it. Next!”. But it isn’t just self-loathing what Bella feels. She hates EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. Her “friends” at school (I don’t think she likes them enough for that), her family… Even her own birthday! I mean, I understand when a person goes for the low-profile type of personality, but there’s a difference between that, and just being a plain idiot. Nothing is good enough for Bella Swan. All the other girls are stupid (and are stupidly portrayed). Literally, the only thing she likes is beyond human, and so amazingly beautiful and perfect, that even matches her expectations. *eye roll*

Which brings me to my second point. The vampires. Particularly Edward Cullen, the male protagonist. Oh, those good old days when vampires hated sunlight, lived in gloomy castles, bit necks, slept in caskets, and you could get rid of them wielding a powerful piece of garlic! But these guys seem like beauty pageant contestants. That’s their only merit, aside from their amount of cash. They are overwhelmingly beautiful, have tons of money, designer clothes, and a bunch of supernatural abilities, like mind-reading, super speed, etc. And believe me, it’s been years, and I still can’t figure out why, in the name of God, Edward fell in love with Bella. You’d think that a 107-year-old guy would have some common sense inside that granite skull of his. But no. Every possible interaction Bella and Edward have in the first book of the saga is filled with poorly written dialogue, and I got bored sick of how Bella described her body’s reaction every time some part of Edward’s touched her. Too many paragraphs describing the electricity that crawled up her arm when it accidentally brushed his, how she forgot how to breath… It gets tiring, and all I could think of was “what a waste of ink and paper.” First of all, girl, breathing is an involuntary body function, you literally don’t have to think for it to work. And second of all, where’s the conflict here, the fight to look forward to? My patience doesn’t last forever, and it wasn’t different back then.

If I was supposed to root for them, it didn’t work. Besides, there’s no fun in reading flawless characters like Edward. It’s not me saying it, and I quote: “He was too perfect, I realized with a piercing stab of despair. There was no way this godlike creature could be meant for me.

After all, it’s not so difficult to love someone who has beauty, color-changing eyes, tons of money, five cars, brains (sort of), and treats you well (sort of, again), and says what he really wants is to drink your sweet, sweet blood. Alright. 

My point is that never, ever, in my entire life, I have witnessed such a flawless guy falling for some little, no-personality, annoying human being. Every girl out there read about Edward swooning, believing that it was possible to find such a man out there, and I was baffled. How could they want someone like him? I mean, besides that sparkling vampire isn’t my type, Edward is a control-freak, he’s is constantly following her, watching what she does, who she sees, and doesn’t trust her. That is not love. That’s being a stalker. The only thing I like about him is that he plays the piano, and I like musicians. That’s all.

Oh, and the whole mind reading power Edward has is supposed to make him special, even among vampires, but it is nothing but creepy, because his curiosity for Bella comes from the fact that he can’t read her mind, that it is impossible for him to decipher her thoughts. So, Edward’s interest starts because he can’t invade her privacy? It isn’t enough for him to sneak into her room as she sleeps and stare, or watch at her from afar every time he has a chance? He has to read her mind too? Not that there’s too much in there to read, of course.

And Bella, honey, stop being so surprised. If you believe yourself to be so clumsy, and ugly, and you get pissed off by literally every person out there, you don’t need a hot, supernatural boyfriend. You need therapy.

I’ll leave tons of things out (like the heroic rescue, and the prom night, ugh), and I’ll jump right into New Moon

Bella still hates her own birthday, and her major concern is that, as Edward is stuck at 17, she will turn 18 and be older than him. This made me want to throw the book at the wall. Bella, he’s already older for no less than a freaking century! If he didn’t grow physically in that time, I really hope he did mentally. Besides, how much do you think your aspect can change in one, single year? But let's not waste time with trifles. The main bad plot in this book is that Edward gets all brooding, and suddenly abandons her “for her safety”, telling her that her life will be as he had never existed. This is where we get to probably the worst possible thing that could ever be written. A burning, painful hole appears in Bella’s chest, and she goes practically comatose. For months. Literally, because there’s a few pages that only have months in them. All those that go by as Bella stares into nothingness, absorbed by her pain.

*Deep breath at the growing rage*

I don’t see any of this as something someone who loves you could do. But besides that, the attitude? Seriously? It isn’t for the sake of comparison, but, if you take a look at other YA heroines, none of them has such behavior, and, that I recall, all of them have a guy they love, but they do not let them take the center of their lives nor they depend on him for it to have meaning. I mean, they love them, yes, but all of them have lives and reasons to fight, aside from being someone’s girlfriend. Look at Hermione Granger, Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior and Annabeth Chase. They have their loves, but they keep fighting to the very end, with everything they have, and do not let the guys take control of their lives or their decisions. They fight their own battles and don’t need anyone to fight for them, unlike Bella, the permanent damsel in distress that needs to be rescued at every turn by a knight in shining armor. They are plenty of better role models for teens than Bella Swan, who lets her life slip into a worthless mush of staring into the distance, unable to react, and putting herself in danger (multiple times) just to hear Edward’s voice, which isn’t even real, but a product of her imagination. Jumping off a cliff? Come on! What kind of example is that? Act stupid and your boyfriend will return? Abandon everything and everyone (that you already said you hated), just because a guy dumped you? You can only be and have a life with a man’s validation, that you are absolutely nothing if he isn’t around? Again, girl, consider therapy. Or get a hobby. Please. If the author was trying to reflect some sort of love with this… No. Just no. 

But she gets the consolation prize, befriending Jacob Black, who has nothing else but chiseled abs, and a zinger or two here and there. Oh, and he’s a werewolf. Seems like stupid girls are a magnet for supernatural beings. And don’t make me start on those posh Vulturi vampires, although they are the closest thing to a real vampire (in a manner of speaking – at least, they drink human blood). Let’s move on to Eclipse

If I thought the story couldn’t be worse, this book just did it. Now, you may be thinking, why did she kept reading if she hated the story? To be honest, backstories were the most interesting part for me. The Cullens, before turning into sparkly, living granite statues, had lives, and that was the most interesting point to me, like Rosalie’s story, or Jasper’s. But if you are a reader, you will understand that sagas are sagas, and if you get to the third book, you already are far too deep down the rabbit hole. You need closure. 

But let’s get to it, shall we? After the “hinting” (yes, that was sarcasm) of the love triangle in the previous book, she saved her boyfriend in Italy, everyone came home and lived happily ev… Wait. No. Not like that. There’s still a bunch of supernatural creatures trying to kill Bella, and other two trying to win her over. This is where I get confused, and I’m gonna quote the authoress Jenna Moreci on this one: “love triangles are the dumbest thing in the history of dumb things.” Not only that, but it is also so poorly written, that it gets supremely annoying! I understood the metaphor of fire and ice, how Jacob and Edward are so different, but still… It’s Bella Swan. Still the same weak, hateable girl who despises everything asides her sparkling boyfriend and his special family. And it’s not enough that she has one guy in love with her, that she gets two who want to fight for her? How can anyone be like she is, and still be loved by two men? And they are both immortal! Who, please, someone answer me, in their sanity, could decide or want to spend no less than eternity with a girl like her? 

Through some sort of epiphany, Bella discovers that she’s in love with both of them. *Eye roll so big that I may go blind*. But even so, she and Edward get engaged to be married, diamond ring and everything! Come on! I still don’t see any love in this, because I haven’t seen the blood, sweat and tears! Especially the blood! They are vampires, for God’s sake! They take this big step, and still, there’s no character development, whatsoever. Unless you want to call that to Bella getting horny over Edward and trying to sleep with him as the last thing she wants to experience as a human before being turned into a vampire. Edward tries to bring her to her senses, basically stopping her hands when she tries to get him out of his clothes, and proposing. He’s still the abusive, control-freak, father-like boyfriend, watching her every move, telling that she can’t protect herself, not letting her see Jacob, who, by the way, kisses her against her will. But still, her dependence of men gets to a whole new level in this book. I recall only one mention of Bella mildly saying that she wants to study, and go to college. But then again, only one. There’s not another hinting of her desire to forge her own future, in addition of being with Edward, ever again. She has no passion for any topic, and wants nothing but her toxic relationship, because it “makes her whole”. In this aspect, Leah Clearwater, even being a secondary character (and not very well written, that is), is a lot better than her, given that she’s a werewolf too, but instead, she does want to make her life count, go to college, study, and overall, have a future, in despite of her immortality.

Oh, and the imprimation thing! Don’t even get me started. That could have been romantic, but, for me, only went down as dumb. And it gets so much worse in the next book! 

In Breaking Dawn, the damsel in distress, still in love with the werewolf, finally walks down the aisle to meet her knight, in a fancy dress and a luxurious wedding she doesn’t like in the first place (shocking! - just add it to the list), and then, they go to their honeymoon to their own private island. Because everyone has a private island, and can buy expensive cars to give to their girlfriends, it is so relatable! The sparkling vampire can’t expose himself to the sun, he tried to die doing that very thing, but takes his wife to the sunniest place on Earth… Right. Ok. Moving on. So, she loves him so badly, that lets him leave her all beaten up and bruised after their nights together, and if the relationship wasn’t abusive enough, they seem to like this moments of “love”. 

Now, when she gets pregnant, comes the only silver lining of the entire series. I’m not saying that I liked the fact that a man who is practically… I’d say “dead”, but wouldn’t be right; but then again, he’s isn’t alive in the first place, isn’t he? Anyway, when Bella realizes she’s going to have a baby, Edward’s immediate reaction is to take her to get rid of the child. Your child, Edward! You are the father! I can’t believe I have to say this, but he was the first one ready to make Bella abort the baby, and for once, Bella does something right. She refers to her baby as a necessity, and refuses to get rid of it, because they are both responsible for it. But that’s where it ends. After it, it gets genuinely disgusting. The baby starts sucking the life out of her, and the only way for them to save her is to make her drink blood, because the baby is half a vampire. So, the girl who used to faint in Biology class at the sight of a little blood, now is willing to drink tons and tons of blood, and she likes it! Come on! Is that supposed to be character development? But it only gets worse. Bella goes to labor, and everything not only gets more disgusting, but terribly disturbing. Her spine and other bones loudly break into pieces, she throws up tons of blood, screaming… There’s a reason why I remember that scene better than the rest of the book, and not because I want to. Ugh.

But if there’s anything worse than the whole unhealthy, vampire pregnancy plot, is the whole part of the book narrated by Jacob. I’m not delving into that. There’s no way you can make me. He’s not smart, he doesn’t have any plan for his life instead of complaining about his little pack drama, and moping over the fact that Bella would be safer with him, and all the “what could have happened” sort of thing, if Bella had chosen the hairy one instead of the sparkling one. And of course, the imprinting thing! I already said it was dumb, but it gets almost-pedophile, because Jacob imprints on Bella and Edward’s child! This is the author’s way to explain it all. Why the love triangle, and why Jacob’s obsession: because he was destined to imprint Bella’s daughter. And that’s supposed to be… what? Romantic? Ugh. Nop. No. Just no. 

When Bella gets turned into a vampire, only then she feels she can shine, and count, and be someone. And it really bothered me. So, if you are human, you have zero value? You need to be beyond human to be worthy of something? She’s as insufferable as a vampire as she is as human. Her maternal feelings are the only redeemable thing that can be read around those pages in which she goes from sick and broken pregnant teen to strikingly beautiful, blood-sucker vampire. And not even the transformation brings some development. *if I keep rolling my eyes it may get permanent*

I’m all for happy endings, but I don’t think that was the way to do it. Then, there’s the final showdown (sarcasm, again). The Vulturi are ready to come and kill Reneesme –and everyone in their way–, if not because she was a vampire child, because of that stupid name, though they may very well kill Bella for choosing it, and they would have my support. They come, all tall, hooded and scary, after the Cullens got an entire army of vampires and werewolves on their side, and here is where I get a few points to discuss. First, the good vampires. All of them hinted an interesting story, like the ones from Ireland and Egypt –like Benjamin and his elemental powers–, but there was no delving into their stories, and, as I said before, I like backstories. But no, there were only a few moments of them helping Bella to train her newfound power (shield! *gasp*), and little more. We get all those training scenes, expecting an epic fight, and at the end, the Vulturi practically turn back with a flourishing of their cloaks, and go back to Italy, just like that, because there’s no fight! NO-FREAKING-FIGHT. Alice comes back from South America with a young, half vampire, half human guy, who tells his story and just says how old he was when he stopped aging, and that’s it! Literally, NOTHING happens. And you can’t just build all that anticipation, bringing all those characters, and then play your readers like that! You just don't do that. No. It was boring, and disappointing. It was the only thing that could have, at least, given some bonus points to the story.

Oh, and Meyer, quick advice. You said that the half vampire guy was descendant of the mapuches. I am from Argentina, the exact country where the mapuches lived, and you could have said so without just mentioning South America. Don’t take this the wrong way, but Americans have absolutely no idea where my country is, I’ve had to explain it hundreds of times, maps included, and I’ve even been told that, when I mentioned it, they immediately opened a new tab just to google it. I’m not saying that this happens all the time, but nine times out of ten? Yes. The mapuches where the natives of the land in the Southern areas of the country, more specifically, the Patagonia, a land of forests, mountains, lakes and snow. Being Argentinian, I get offended when authors and filmmakers dismiss just us as South America, because stereotypes are preferred over an actual research. But, after all, in Breaking Dawn, there’s no deepening on anything, so why would it be in such a “trifle” thing?

Oh, this feels much better. Ranting is fun! In short, I just want to add that this saga sucks in so many levels, it is impossible to cover them all. I really hate to say bad things about books, but when they practically ask for it, giving me the green light to unleash my fury, how can I resist? I’m sorry that some people out there have this idea of romance. Bella and Edward do fall in love, I still don’t get why, but you’d think that love would change them, making them better, getting the best of them to the surface, and making them fight for their love. I may never have been in love, but I know one thing: this isn’t the way it is. Love is patient, and creates beauty. It makes you stay by your love’s side when they need you the most, you support them in their interests, projects and passions, and it isn’t a guarantee that you will have a perfect life, but at least, you will be willing to spend it with someone who truly cares for you and accepts you just the way you are, flaws and virtues. You grow. You get better. You FIGHT for your love. But, sadly, in Bella and Edward’s case, one of them is all perfection and the other, all flaws; there’s no balance, no reason to root for them, and no explanation for the fact that a completely flawed person gets the love of two people who vie over her. At the end, Bella gets the perfect life: her husband, her child, her family, but no personal development whatsoever. She never had any plans besides that, and that’s not the role model any girl should have. After all, you may not get the perfect guy (because no one is perfect, and much less, that perfect), but that’s not a reason to stop! You have your heart, your head, your passion and your fire to set you forward, towards any goal you have in mind. You can be anything you want, and I firmly believe that impossible is a word for those who have no passion or are too comfortable whining and feeling sorry for themselves. After all, I’ve seen skateboarders with no legs, deaf ballerinas and musicians, painters with no hands or feet, and hundreds of other people ready to make their lives count with no need to go comatose, and their problems were a lot bigger than just being dumped by a boyfriend/girlfriend!

What I get from all this is “don’t be a Bella Swan.” Have a life, forge your future, fuel your fire, pursue your passions, fight for your beliefs! And with this, I’m not telling you “don’t get a boyfriend, don’t get married”, because everyone has a different opinion on those topics. I’m not opening that can of worms. Just, don’t do either of those things the Bella way. She’s pathetic. You aren’t. And if you are looking for a lot better YA female leads that know how to punch back, fight like hell and prove their worth all on their own –no sick love triangles needed–, there’s tons of books and sagas out there for you: try Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Divergent, and Percy Jackson. Those are the ones I’ve read and know, at least. And I’ve been told that the Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Clare, is good too, but I can’t tell for sure because I haven’t read it. 

Thanks for stopping by and read! I know I haven’t been very active since my last post. I’ve been very sick, and overwhelmed by exams and assignments, with little time to read. But you’ll get a new review soon enough! Feel free to comment, I want to know you, guys, my dear followers, and all those ghost readers that I know, are out there. I promise my next posts won’t be like this one, at least the book is so bad that practically begs me to do it. 

‘till next time!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review - The Viscount's Proposal

Original Title: The Viscount's Proposal
Series: The Regency Spies of London, #2
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Published: February 7th, 2017

Publisher: Waterfall Press


This is my third book by Melanie Dickerson, and though I’m willing to give her one more chance, reading Felicity’s story in the next installment of The Regency Spies of London, I think I won’t read anymore by this author. Perhaps it is me, but in two of the three books I read by her, the story was completely predictable (this one included), and although I’ve seen glowing, five star reviews, I can’t give it more than three. Let me explain myself.

In this book, we get to know more about Leorah Langdon, Nicholas’s sister from the first book. I was really eager to read more about her, as I loved her in A Spy’s Devotion, and I had great expectations on her love story, given that the man who would fall in love with her would have to be utterly special, as she wouldn’t accept any less than true passion, after witnessing her parents’ loveless marriage. She’s a strong-willed, spirited young woman. She knows when a rule is worth following, and when it is completely ridiculous or rooted in convention, and she enjoys being unconventional, which is a very modern-day way of thinking, considered out of place in a society like the Regency England one. On the other hand, we have our hero, Edward, lord Withingall, who is exactly the opposite of Leorah. He strictly follows conventions and obeys every rule, reads books about morals, and doesn’t allow himself to do anything that can distract him from his political dignity and career. He speaks his mind, and lives to overcome the scandal that has surrounded his family since his father was killed in a duel with his lover’s husband. He has the talent and the potential to become Prime Minister and doesn’t want anything to distract him from his goal. 

Their story is briefly insinuated in the previous book, when Leorah tells Julia some story to distract her about a man whose hat got ruined when she was riding in Hyde Park and didn’t see him coming; he called her “a reckless hoyden” then, and in this book, we get to know that man was actually Lord Withingall. Right from the start, their encounters are somewhat shocking for him, as she isn’t like any other girl he has ever met, always hearing her saying things that could be considered inappropriate, like calling him a pirate, or an undertaker, for always dressing in black clothes from head to toe, but that’s before they get both involved in the carriage accident in which both are discovered in a compromising position, and hence, gossip and scandal follows. 

There was a point in which I asked, “are they going to explain this any more times?”. I lost track of how many times the carriage accident was explained, over and over again, both by Leorah and Lord Witinghall. I understand that, to avoid a scandal, they kept clinging to their version of what happened, but I think that, after explaining it once, a simple sentence could sum up all the other hundred times they described it, like saying “so Leorah explained to him what had actually happened”, or something of the sort. But instead, we have to read, over and over again, how Leorah broke her wrist when her horse threw her from the saddle and Lord Withingall just happened to be passing by, how the carriage got overturned, how Pugh, the coachman, was killed, how Edward got his leg broken… And there’s a point in which enough is enough. The only moment I justify yet another explanation, because it is actually funny, is when Leorah uses it to provoke Miss Norbury, the woman Edward plans on marrying, because that’s how she is, she enjoys provoking people when they are so stuck to convention and rules, and seeing their reactions. But again, it is like the author tries to convince us, readers, that nothing actually happened in the accident, when in fact, we were there the whole time, and know exactly how things were.

Later on, Lord Withingall discovers that the accident was actually no accident. His carriage was sabotaged as an attempt to kill him. But again, the whole plot around it was absolutely predictable! There was no surprise, whatsoever. The culprits are exactly the suspected ones, and although I was expecting (I don’t know why) some sort of plot twist by the end to prove all of us wrong, there was no such a thing. Perhaps Pinegar’s motive was a surprise, but that it was him, the entire time? No. Villains do not hold any surprise on their identities, you know who they are, and although there is some sort of try into adding a little more suspense, it didn’t work. So, my question is, why trying to create intrigue, if the identities of the villains are revealed from the very first moment? Although they are not said right away, come one, people! It can be seen coming from miles away.

And please, although Rachel Becker wouldn’t say, it was more than obvious than her lover and father of her child was Felton Pinegar! If it would have been Hastings, that would have been a worthwhile plot twist, but no. Again, the author went down the obvious, predictable path.

Oh, and although the series is named The Regency Spies of London, this book has no spying at all, only politics. And there’s also some useless characters that come to the stage, but do absolutely nothing for the story, like Elizabeth Mayson, Felicity’s younger sister, and Miss Agnes Appleby, their aunt. They play no role in the story, they just come into some random scenes, but they don’t add anything new the plot (not in this book, at least, perhaps in the next one they will).

But leaving that aside, let’s go to the part I actually liked very much. Leorah and Edward’s love story is really beautiful, and I loved every minute of it. They are complete opposites, and what enchants Edward about Leorah is that she never feels intimidated by him, and every phrase that could scare away any other woman, for her is a motive of laughter. He sees that she wants her life to mean something, and wants to be loved and wanted utterly for herself. She won’t follow convention just because she has to, and she proved it when she refused his offer of marriage, out of duty. I loved her attitude:

I will not be frightened into making such an important decision simply because idle people have nothing better to do than gossip.” 

It is her unconventionality what makes Edward fall for her utterly and completely. She is unique in a world in which women are only allowed a number of things to do with their lives, being the most important one catching a wealthy husband, and behaving properly, being accomplished in only a few, useless things. But Leorah wants to make her life count, and she doesn’t fear spinsterhood. It’s love or nothing for her, and that’s why I like her. She’s bold and outspoken, and she defies lord Witinghall with her attitude. She’s everything he wouldn’t want in a wife, but discovers she’s worthy of being loved. 

Although short, I loved their brief visit to his castle, and how it was a metaphor of her:

And you don’t think I should change it—flatten those hills over there and make a formal garden?
Oh no. Certainly not. To change the natural landscape would be to take away the wild beauty of the place. Plant a few flowers if you like, but it would be a sin to change the wildness or the freedom of it.

Leorah is beautiful because she’s not formal, and her freedom and wildness are what there’s to love about her. Edward looks at her the entire time as they speak in the castle’s roof, knowing, once more, that he’s lost to her. She took him out of his strict world of rules and stern morals to give him a taste of freedom, and he learned to be a little more like her. His love changed him, and I like when that happens. Otherwise, it is pointless, or it isn’t love.

Their romance has a lot of Jane Austen on it, I recognized lots of things from her books. I never doubted if they would end up together, and there’s some things that bothered me, like his relationship with Miss Norbury. Clearly, he called on her to tell her that he wouldn’t be proposing, after all, but we don’t know for sure. And even by the end of the book, Leorah refused to believe Edward was in love with her, and kept telling to herself why she should care about him, because she actually didn’t… And it kept me rolling my eyes. It gets tiring, and, in my opinion, if there’s something a book shouldn’t be, is repetitive. 

So, in short, I liked this book, but not as much as I was hoping for, and although I will read the next book on the series, just to complete it, I don’t think I’ll read Melanie Dickerson again. If with more than one book, an author proves her stories predictable and somewhat repetitive, then it’s not for me. This one isn’t bad, but it could’ve been better.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review - The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter

Original Title: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter
Series: -
Author: David Colbert
Published: 2001

Publisher: Ediciones B (Spanish edition)

I read this book when I was a kid, if I remember correctly, I would be around 12 years old. Back then everything that had Harry Potter related to it was a must read (and it still does, but that's another day's tale). And although this book wasn't authorized by J. K. Rowling, it contains an amazing, impeccable research. It covers from The Sorcerer's Stone to The Goblet of Fire, as it was written when those four were the only published books yet. I learned a lot of mythology and literature, from all over the world. But as someone who read Harry Potter as a child, it killed the magic a bit... It is like when the magician reveals his tricks. But still, very good. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Review - The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Original Title: The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Series: Hogwarts Library
Author: Joan K. Rowling
Published: 2007

Publisher: Salamandra (Spanish edition)

J. K. Rowling wrote this, what is not to like about it? She proves, once more, what a genius and great writer she is, letting us be a part of this amazing Wizarding World, taking us not only to know the classic fairytales that are usually told to kids, but also meet Albus Dumbledore again, and read his personal notes on some of the tales, always funny and with his own personal style. Of course, do not forget, that we are able to read them because of Hermione Granger’s translation of the runes in which the original versions of the tales were written. And there’s also little mentions, here and there, of characters from the original saga, like Lucius Malfoy (and apparently, their hate and contempt towards muggle-borns can be tracked back for generations, to a man named Brutus Malfoy, who had no qualms about speaking his mind, honoring his name and his future descendants with his cruelty and terrible ideas about what, in his opinions, muggles deserved).

The book includes just five, short stories, and one of the best parts is that they do not feature mild, foolish heroines who wait to be rescued, nor all-powerful heroes in shining armors, but true, deep considerations and metaphors of human nature, which reminds me a quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:

We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.” (Sirius Black)

Stories like The Wizard and the Hopping Pot and The Warlock's Hairy Heart are those in which that can be seen very clearly, just like in The Tale of the Three Brothers, probably the most famous of Beedle’s tales, thanks to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The stories have those simple, even funny titles, but do not let them fool you. All them go deeper than they suggest, and the whole book, including Dumbledore’s notes, are full of Rowling’s clever, unique phrases she normally uses to tease us, and makes us laugh out loud, like with Beatrix Bloxam’s sweetened versions of the stories, I cracked up, and couldn’t stop! Rowling is a master for that kind of things! She has a subtle way to write humor as no author I’ve ever read, and I love her for that (and for many other things too).

Here, once again, our most beloved Joan does what she does best, and opens the door to this secret world to let us be a part of it in one of its most classic, everyday aspects, as it is bedtime stories. She’s my overall favorite author, and what her stories did in my life is not something I can easily explain. She’s a must-read. I don’t care how old you are, you MUST read J. K. Rowling’s work, or you will miss one of the best, most complex, magical, and wonderful worlds that were ever created!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Witch's Life for Me!

Before starting this, I should warn you, this may contain spoilers from the whole Harry Potter saga, as it is my general appreciation of it. If I go book by book, I'll probably end up sinking in my own tears of love, joy, and all the emotions the meaning of this story brings up in me.

I don’t know how to start this. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks, and my only answer is “just do it”, so I didn’t give it too much thought. You’re about to find lots and lots of feelings in this post. I’m writing this in the middle of a class in which I’m sitting, completely clueless, by the window, as it rains and my mind just slips away to this other, magical world, and how badly I want to be there instead of here. Just like in my entire elementary school, high school, and college. While the professor rattles on and on about something I’m not really listening, my mind wanders far, far away from here, in an amazing world where there’s dragons, wands, magic, and a boy who lived.

I couldn’t have a blog about books, and not have a space in it for the story that has shaped me, that has been with me since… well, forever. I can’t precise how old I was when I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, because Harry has always been with me. He has been my constant companion for more years than I can properly count, and that is why, I realized, I’m never going to be able to write reviews on the Harry Potter saga. Literally, never. There’s not enough words in this world to help me to express the thousand times I’ve read each book, the tears (of joy and pain) I shed with every page, and how their true magic filled my life when I most needed it (and still does).

My copies in Spanish of the first three books, read a few too many times
The reason I haven’t been sharing new reviews with you is, simply, because I’ve spent the last few weeks lost in the Wizarding World, re reading, once again, the seven books about Harry Potter’s amazing life. They are more than just stories. They are the perfect example of how, when you read, the power of what’s written goes in both directions. Every time I open one of these incredible adventures, there I am, at twelve, thirteen, fourteen years-old… Going with Harry, Ron and Hermione through the halls of Hogwarts, playing Quidditch for the House Cup, laughing with them as they make up predictions for Professor Trelawney’s class, brewing potions in the dungeons, having dinner in the Great Hall, hanging out in the Gryffindor common room –although I’m a Ravenclaw–… I can’t count the endless times I imagined myself with the Sorting Hat on my head, or trying wands at Ollivander’s…

You need to know, I was a very lonely child at the time I first met Harry. At school, I didn’t have many friends, I was laughed at, and bullied every day, and that left some scars that even today haven’t completely faded. I hated going to school, but I knew, in my heart, something that was always my silver lining. Harry Potter was home, on my shelf, waiting for me, to take me to his magical world. A world where he was also bullied, lonely (last picked in gym class? Yes, Harry, me too, my entire life), and with no hope of having real friends. I feel I must mention that I used to attend a Christian school, and saying Harry’s name in there wasn’t exactly easy. Many will understand this, as the books were said to be holders of dark magic, and were condemned in many places, so, I couldn’t share Harry in school, as everyone seemed to believe it was the same as summoning the devil. Which means that I was even lonelier, unable to share what I loved so much and made me so happy. Luckily my parents saw the difference, and I could have a truly magical childhood.

I swear I’m trying, but I just can’t do justice to how much the Wizarding World means to me, and what a big part of my life it is. I can’t number the times we discussed the story over dinner, how many conversations kept me and my siblings up late, laughing at Fred and George’s pranks (giving Ron an Acid Pop? Fireworks all over Hogwarts? Just priceless), analyzing Vold… sorry, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s motivations, coming up with theories about what could happen next… Even now, late night conversations about this story still happen, bringing up, for example, how much I see myself in Hermione’s quick answers in class and love for books; how sad I felt when Cedric died so unfairly, when he never hurt anyone; of how much I wanted to visit the Hufflepuff common room (the only one we never saw); how much I hated Cho Chang, but loved her Patronus… And of course, something I never thought I could feel, but I did: 

Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.

Thinking over and over again, I realized of my deep hate for villains like Bellatrix Lestrange and Dolores Umbridge. But, even before knowing Dumbledore’s words, I’ve already felt this. Tom Riddle, even being the darkest mastermind and head villain of this story, NEVER inspired in me anything but sadness and compassion. He never cared about love, and thought power could fill him, gaining, instead, a terrible fear for the unknown. He’s an utterly brilliant character, for the simple fact (and many others, too), that he was scary, powerful, and put an entire world to their knees, but even so, I pitied him. How could I possibly feel that with such a character? It is indisputably the creation of a genius. 

Damn, I told myself there would be no tears, and here they are, streaming down my cheeks… I have a million stories that were born from reading Harry Potter. They are as infinite as if, looking at the sky, you’d try to count the stars. I could talk about so many moments! The Quidditch matches, the Yule ball, the visits to Hagrid’s hut… And the characters! There’s some things I don’t think I’ll ever get over or forgive. Like the deaths in Deathly Hallows, that they ripped my heart out. Or Severus Snape, who, through his story, taught me that heartbreak can make you even stronger. My heart is full of feelings that will never abandon me. Ever. 

Books four, five, six and seven. You can see how years have passed, as the last ones are not so torn apart by the many times they were read.
Whoever says “it is just a story” it is a giant liar. If it was just a story, I wouldn’t have lived what I lived (because that’s what it is: a world that is alive), I wouldn’t have felt each loss as if it was mine, like I was the one losing a friend instead of them, feeling the hole in my chest, and the tears welling up my eyes. I feel this story was written to fall into my hands, it was a world I needed to find. I think that one of the best parts in this experience was to be allowed to enter a world inserted in ours, but ruled by secrecy, not open for everyone; that wonderful feeling of knowing something not everyone knows, being a part of the secret, and knowing that perhaps I could handle myself better there than here. 

And the movies…! I will never forget the excitement and pure happiness of the first one, and I still get goosebumps with that mysterious, music-box like melody that vibrates in my life like the sound of a gong, overwhelming in its pure simplicity, and the promise of a secret, wonderful magic.

J. K. Rowling, wherever you are, I have no idea if you will ever read this, but if you ever do, know that you are my hero, and my inspiration. You must have heard this hundreds of times, but you have touched and shaped SO MANY lives, and I’m proud to be able to count myself among the first generation of readers of your world-changing story. You, not only with Harry, Ron and Hermione, but also with your strength, tenacity and perseverance when you were at your worst, are an inspiration to all of us, who feel like giving up more times that we can count. You and your story reminds us, over and over again, why keeping fighting to the very end is worthy. You made me believe in magic, and taught me how love is the most powerful magic in any world. You gave me hope when I most needed it, and when I felt lonelier than ever, you opened the doors of Hogwarts to take me to an experience that will forever live in my heart. You made me a writer. I decided that’s what I wanted to be because of you, and no story I’ve ever read (and I read many) is like yours. Harry has a place in my life, and heart, that nothing will ever take away.

Even when I think about what to write next, in this, my most important post, all I can think of saying is thank you. Thank you to the boy with the round glasses, for all those wonderful, magical moments, for making me laugh, and for teaching me to be strong, get up, shake the dust, and keep fighting. For making me nostalgic for a place I’ve never really been to, but still feels like home. Thank you, Harry, and J. K. Rowling, for all those years in which you waited for a lonely, bullied little girl, in this far corner of the world, that got home with tears in her cheeks after another horrible day at school, and let her disappear in the pages of a world where no one could follow her, and that she came to understand as a privilege, and made her smile at her worst. 

I wish I could read Harry Potter for the first time again. After all, he was my first fictional crush. But it is wonderful to see how, even years later, the magic hasn’t faded, and never will. I feel it every time I open one of my worn-out copies of the seven books, and I love that feeling that comes when I smile and think “this isn’t the last time I’ll read it.”. The truth is that this long, wordy post isn’t enough, because Harry Potter means more than I can properly express. I tried to get close to that meaning, and even after all this, I feel I left lots of things out. 

Years may pass, and I will still be reading, and crying, and laughing, with every page of this story. I will be forever grateful, and proud to call myself a Potterhead. And if in the future someone asks “After all this time?”, my answer will be the one word in which J. K. Rowling summed up the greatest courage, and the most powerful love:

“Yes. Always.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Review - Agnes Grey

Original Title: Agnes Grey
Series: -
Author: Anne Brontë
Published: 1847

Publisher: Alba editorial (Spanish edition)

I read this one back in 2014, and I've decided to share the review I wrote back then. 

Agnes Grey has, no doubt, Anne Brontë's mark, in the feminist tone, defending women, that she uses from start to finish. The heroine, Agnes, is the daughter of a humble family, she doesn't know many luxuries, and in the time of need, she insists on making her own living, working as a governess, in a time in which a working woman was synonymous with poverty.

I must say that the best character was Agnes' mother; she seemed a lot stronger than her husband, and ahead of her time, especially when she suggests that her daughters don't need to get married to be happy. She's a determined, willful woman, something she transmits it to both Agnes and Mary, and she follows her heart. There were two moments I particularly liked about her: one, when her husband worries about money and wonders what will happen with his wife and daughters when he passes away, and she tells her that how can he think that, if the pain of losing him would be bigger than any material deprivings. And the other, that she's not worried about ending up in misery, because as long as she has two hands and her own will, she would use them to earn her living, the same as her daughters. That is the thinking of a woman ahead of her time, don't you think?

As for Agnes, well... she's very mature for her age, humble, hard-working, and willful. But I feel she lacked depth as a character. She's always in the victim part. It is true that the governess in a big household was, most of the times, treated as a servant, and she couldn't rebel or protest if she wanted to keep her position; that nor the Bloomfields or the Murrays were delicate with her (especially the Bloomfields, I myself don't know what would I have done with such terrible kids), but Agnes rarely has faults. She doesn't seem to make mistakes. She suffers, but she bears it because she knows her salary will help her family, and altogether, the character has a lot of Puritanism in it. And, as I said before, that seems to be a trademark in the Brontës' work; both Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Anne's Helen Graham have that feature of women who suffer in silence, with no one there to care for them, but when they do something to change their stars, there the rest of the world realizes how important they were and that they shouldn't have been ignored.

The love story was... how can I say it? Nice, but not completely satisfying. I like Edward Weston's Christian attitude, that she sees surprised, and likes it; although she falls in love with him, she keeps it to herself, and in despite that the Murray sisters mock her and laugh about it, nothing he says or does makes Agnes think he returns her feelings. Which leads me again to my previous point, with Agnes always in the victim part. However, she knows Edward well, and when Rosalie Murray, who knows herself beautiful and believes herself to be irresistible, says she wants to make Edward fall in love with her and then break his heart, to tick every single man on the county out of her list, Agnes is not afraid. She knows a man like him is too smart and superior as to feel atraction towards a shallow fool as Rosalie. But even so... It didn't convince me. To love each other as they did, Agnes and Edward's relationship lacked passion, plain and simple. All of the sudden he appears at the school and asks her to marry him, without further ado, no tears, no kiss... I'm not saying the book is bad because of that. I know that giving us such a scene is not its point. I just mention it because I would have like it if there was some more feelings developed in that scene. After all, you are talking about two people who love each other deeply, and I, as a reader, have to believe it, right?

Oh, and Rosalie Murray is a whole case on herself, a lesson for life and marriage. She got married without any love for her fiance, on a whim, wanting only to be mistress of Ashby Park, and it had consequences. She paid the price of her frivolity, her flirting and her immaturity. She didn't even bear the sight of the man she would spend the rest of her life with, and I was surprised and angry when she said she had a daughter, and the good thing was that she didn't had to take care of her, because she had servants to do it for her. How can anyone live like that?

In short, it is a good book, a classic that deserves a reading, although, from Anne Brontë's work, I liked The Tenant a Wildfell Hall a lot more. Do not deprive yourself of reading it, especially if you like classics; the Brontë sisters wrote all of their books of great quality, and this one is not the exception.