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Sense and Sensibility (Oxford World's Classics) - Claire Lamont, James Kinsley, Margaret Anne Doody, Jane Austen Part of a complete works edition.
The Name of the Wind  - Patrick Rothfuss My experience with fantasy novels limits itself to the Harry Potter books, the first half of Game of Thrones, the His Dark Materials series and the Chronicles of Narnia. I’m relatively familiar with the tropes, though. I know this book probably features 2000 of them, but it’s done well. It’s actually done very well.

An inkeeper who needs three days to tell his story, Kvothe is a man who is rumoured to have done many things, and to be many others. He tells his story to a man called Chronicler, starting from his childhood all through his journey to the University and how he fares there. There are mishaps and adventures and girls and then bits of magic which aren’t really magic.

One of the things that usually annoys me in fantasy books is the way the author always holds your hand and explains everything to you very neatly: there’s a nice little tablet explaining how much the coins are worth, there’s a nice teacher that teaches you all about magic and you just sit back and don’t wonder. In the Name of the Wind, nothing really gets explained. At least I didn’t feel like it. The currency just kind of shows up. The history of the country or land or kingdom or whatever this is just sort of drops in conversation and you kind of have to pick pieces here and there and glue everything together. I thought it was a very intelligent piece of work.

Kvothe is actually not completely wholesome and benevolent and a great person. He has his dark moments, moments where he’s an ass, or completely oblivious. He also matures, but also forgets, and is all-around human, even though he’s very special and talented. The setting is the usual, this medievalesque country with agrarian societies, little towns with inns and taverns. There’s lots of wine, sausages and warm bread, lutes and all those things. And I was fine with that, I knew what I was getting myself into.

My biggest, and besides some typos, only problem with this are the female characters. First off, they’re very little. There are about 3 or 4 major ones, and they’re still not very major. It’s mostly a male-dominated environment. Okay, I’m willing to accept that mostly men get to attend the University, but no other women are ever described. Not queens, not servants, not anything. It strikes me as very strange. Enter the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who makes our protagonist go cray-cray for her, even though she’s as dull as a brick. We are told they talk for hours, but we never get to hear these conversations. All men fall for her mostly because of her looks, and not much else. She is completely one-dimensional, and like all other female characters, ends up becoming slightly imbecile as she befriends the protagonist. I found myself bored during the sections she was in, which was saddening, because she had potential in her to become so much more than a sad excuse for a plotline.

This was still very, very fun. I was completely engrossed in it, and was surprised to find that a lute-playing competition was more riveting I ever imagined it could be. Kvothe wasn’t what I like to call a Harry. He actually got things done by himself, tried very hard and occasionally made mistakes. Truly an epic, and has set some very good stones for the following two books in the trilogy.

Read from February 13th to February 19th, 2012.
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë This is not a love story. I repeat, this is not a love story.

Heathcliff is not an anti-hero, he is a villain.

Catherine Earnshaw is not a fair maiden, she is a spoiled brat.

I’m not making my usual attempt at summarising this book since I feel it’s so popular, everyone knows what it’s about. Not a love story, though, and I cannot for the life of me understand how it is so heralded as such. I suppose I could say I sort of enjoyed this, but the first half of it was dull and uninteresting. It picked up the pace later towards the end due to the much more interesting main characters that took the spotlight. I can’t go in very deep with spoilers, so I’ll just say that while Heathcliff was present, all I wanted to do was fling my copy of this book against the wall. Am I missing something? I feel I do not get the appeal of this book at all. I was expecting dark moors and mist and foggy mornings and all I got was a bit of a cloudy sky. The fact that I found none of the characters remotely interesting might have contributed to my distaste for this novel as well.

I am not very good at classics because I tend to compare everything to Jane Austen and everything just ends up falling short of her work.

Read from November 22nd, 2011 to February 14th, 2012.

Atlas das Nuvens

Atlas das Nuvens - David Mitchell, Artur Ramos, Helena Ramos Mitchell has described his novels as “Lego-novels”, each chapter or sentence fitting into the others to make a greater structure. Cloud Atlas is the perfect example of a giant Lego ship made up from Lego blocks from different sets and collections.

Each chapter has different characters in different time periods: an American in the Pacific Islands in the 19th century; a young composer in Belgium in the 1930s writing letters to his lover; a female reporter investigating a scandal in Buenas Yerbas in the 70s; an editor running from mobsters in present day; a korean service robot/girl in a close future; a boy in a primeval wasteland, set in the distant future. Like nesting dolls, all these have certain interlocking elements, the littlest things that when you realize their existence make you feel very proud of yourself.

Each chapter is, deep down, a piece of genre fiction. From historical fiction to dystopian, Mitchell covers it all. It’s remarkable how he does it as if it were a completely different author. All throughout the book small, intricate details are featured, and the novel quickly achieves epic scope. It’s so good, I can’t even begin to do it justice.

As is bound to happen with these sort of books, there are always sections I enjoy more than others. For me, the middle section was very difficult to get through. It’s written in that weird accent that reminded me of southern-american speakers, and I always have a problem with reading accents in books.

The last couple of pages are amazing and beautiful, and this being my second Mitchell novel, I can safely say he has become one of my favourite authors.

Read from January 20th to February 9th, 2012.
Howards End - E.M. Forster Howards End by E.M. Forster is a novel of ideas. It entertains the notion that there might be a connection between social classes and that all of them might be able to live together, even if not equally. It shows us the relationship between three different families in turn-of-the-century London: the Schlegels, who represent the bourgeoisie and intellectual elite; the Wilcoxes, the typical patriarchal family, extremely aristocratic and non-plussed by more earthly questions; and the Basts, a couple who are split between a passion for knowledge and rising up in life and simply being with the one they love.
For a novel that centers mostly around concepts and theories, the way Forster managed to weave all these concepts with a plot is masterful, and none of the sides ever gets sacrificed in spite of the other. The writing is exceptional and the way England is described is so beautiful that I forgot I've never been to the English countryside. Many of the criticism I've read online is that it's hard to relate to this book because it is so English and not universal enough. Maybe that is what appeals to me in it, but I don't think that its Britishness is a bad thing. And what is more universal than the struggle between wealth and poverty, power and uselessness?
My favourite characters were Margaret, whom I related a great deal to, and I had a special fondness for Leonard Bast, with his dreams and silent wishes of grandeur; of course, Howards End, which is a character all of its own. I saw a great deal of Byatt's The Children's Book in this, and now realize it was the other way around. The house is not merely the stage, but the actions and people all at once, much like Byatt's novel.
A terrific book, laced with precious snippets of phrases and words that made me smile in appreciation and also made me wonder about how status and intelligence was and is now perceived. Besides from being an amazingly written book with an interesting storyline, it was written before the great wars, showcasing the tensions between the English and the German, with precise little jabs I enjoyed very much. My first Forster, and certainly won't be my last.

Read from December 31st, 2011 to January 19th, 2012.
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green Hazel is a 16-year-old girl with Stage IV thyroid cancer, who thanks to a new, experimental drug, has been able to get her tumors reduced to a manageable size. She doesn’t go to school and her best friend is her mom. Cue Augustus Waters, a gorgeous boy in remission that Hazel meets at a cancer support group. Unexpectedly, they both make each other see everything in very different lights.

As everyone knows, I love John Green’s books. John (I feel I can call him John instead of Green, or Mr. Green. We’re buds.) posts weekly videos on Youtube with his brother Hank, and they’re awesome. They talk science, politics, giraffe sex, literature, history, and all those things that come with being a person. When I read a book, the author is a sort of vague, mysterious and elusive superior entity I have no acquaintance with. I usually don’t even know what they look like, and don’t really want to. John is a bit different. Since I see him talking to me on my computer, I feel like I know him, and his writing just feels a tad more personal.

For a few months now, John has slowly been sharing the progress of writing and publishing (and signing) his new book. This was the first release of one of his books I have actually followed from beginning to end, so I feel like this is every bit mine as it is his. I loved reading it and going all “I remember when he referenced this in a video!” and “I’m so glad I read The Great Gatsby before reading this!” and even “Ooooh, so that’s where the Magritte comes in.”

But this isn’t a review of John or even Nerdfighteria, it’s a review of The Fault in Our Stars. It’s hilarious and sad and very, very good. This is also the first book I’ve finished in 2012, and I’m just going to go ahead and not read anything else, because everything will pale in comparison.

Apart from the brilliant writing, which we all know will be quoted for all eternity on Tumblr, there is sort of this underlying idea that has been gnawing at my brain for a while now: How do you make yourself remembered? This is a question that I feel John has tried to answer in his previous book An Abundance of Katherines and, to a certain extent, in all of his books. This makes me feel a bit better, because it’s nice knowing a responsible adult who seemingly has things figured out, doesn’t really have them completely figured out. His books came to me in the most perfect time possible. I’d left the awkward teenage phase, and was starting to enter the “I’m going to college next year, better get my act together and start thinking critically” phase.

It’s both amazing and awful to realize there is more to the world than just your navel, and terrifying to feel you’re just another high school student stuck in the same place. We all struggle with this notion, in some way or another, and it’s nice reading The Fault in our Stars and knowing that it is fine if you die without having conquered the modern equivalent of the Roman empire.

Amsterdam! Oh, the Amsterdam section! I love Amsterdam. I’ve only been there once, for 3 days, just like Hazel and Augustus, and it’s magical. I felt insanely nostalgic whenever I watched John’s videos in Amsterdam, because it’s one of my favourite cities in the world and I think John captured it really well. It just has this sort of magic that cannot be explained merely through words. I think it’s all the water. (John, I love all the water references, it reminded of Gatsby and Howards End, well done.).

Hazel, our protagonist, is a girl. None of John’s previous books had a female leading character. I think John got it perfectly. Sometimes, there are all these Important Things going all around you, and you just care about the fact a boy touched your face. Sometimes you get really self-conscious about your clothes even though it almost never matters. I get you, Hazel, I get you.

There’s also the cancer thing going through this book. I’ve seen terminally ill, and I was half-expecting this book to be all “heroic cancer victims fought bravely” and “loving family supported them to the end”. I'm glad I didn't. People turn into assholes sometimes, because people are people and they are not their metastasized cancer. There is a latent feeling of death throughout this book, and frankly, it’s a bit heartbreaking. I don’t think I’ve cried this hard reading a book since I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In 2007. I’ve read a great deal of books in the meantime, some of them quite exceptional. But yes, I cried, and I cried for Hazel and Augustus but also for Esther and for people I’d known but who are gone and for whom I’d never cried, for people I don’t know, for people I will know, and I guess I cried a bit for myself, not because I’m sick, but because I’m dying and also because it’s alright not to change the world.

So, yes.

Thanks, John.

Read from January 16th to January 17th, 2011.
Wilt: - Tom Sharpe Henry Wilt is a lecturer at a Tech in the south of England, who frequently fantasizes about murdering his wife while taking the dog for a walk. Eva Wilt is a neat freak and hasn’t been touched by her husband in what seems like years. When the fashionable Pringsheims arrive at their neighborhood, they lives take an exciting turn - for the worse.

The backcover promised me “the funniest detective story in years”, and other twists on the word “hilarious”, but while this was amusing, I didn’t laugh out loud a single time. The tone of this book hops around a bit, at first being serious and very straight-faced and impossibly British and then it sort of sags down towards the middle. It becomes very crude, unbearably sexist and at times, very rude.

It was still very entertaining, though, and compelling enough to make me want to keep reading it. I just think that this might not be my sort of humour at all, as I’m not a big fan of slapstick comedy.

Read from December 26th to December 29th, 2011.
A Novel Bookstore - Laurence Cosse A book about books, extremely geeky. If you’re not an avid reader, you probably won’t enjoy this, as the mystery aspect of it takes a backseat. My favourite bit was all the parts about the building of the bookstore and all the books that could be found there. They added a great deal to my wishlist, which was awesome.

While this book is fun, it’s scattered, and the whole thing with the pseudo-mystery could have easily been dropped as it wouldn’t be missed. It still provided for some fun afternoons, though.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams part of an omnibus.

O Tigre Branco

O Tigre Branco - Aravind Adiga,  Alice Rocha A story of a true Indian entrepeneur, told in a series of letters to the Prime Minister of China upon his visit to India. Balram Halwai tells the story of how he managed to escape the Darkness (from the villages near the Ganges) and rise up in life. From the first page, he admits he is a murderer, unrepentant and amoral. And yet, he’s extremely endearing.

This is, I think, the first book by and Indian author I’ve read. I loved it! I was completely transported to India, which is a completely foreign place to me. I enjoyed how gritty and real it all felt. The author made no excuses, and didn’t romanticize anything. It was a very compelling read, and it stuck with me for a very long time.
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd - Holly Black, Cecil Castellucci, Barry Lyga, Tracy Lynn Geektastic is a series of short stories by several YA authors about geekdom. There’s Star Trek, Star Wars, LARPing, Astronomy and so on, so forth.
I’m a geek. I kind of squealed and smiled and saw myself on many of the pages. On others, not so much. Like with all short stories collection, there are pieces which are AMAZING and ones that are utter crap (Barry Lyga, I’m looking at you). In general, this anthology appealed to the geek in me.
What I did love about the anthology as a whole was that it defined geek the same way I do: someone who is really enthusiastic about something, and isn’t afraid to show it. For example, there’s a story about a pretty, popular girl, who happens to love baton twirling. Between each story there’s a geeky comic, either by Hope Larson or by Brian Lee O’Malley, which of course means I’ll be picking up Scott Pilgrim.
This has an oddly specific audience. So if you think you’re a geek, you’ll probably enjoy it, even if you aren’t into some of the fandoms written about. I know I’m not.
Read from April 8th to April 9th, 2011.
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova For a mammoth-sized book such as this I expected a lot more resolution and a nice, well-spaced ending. Why do endings always feel so rushed to me? To be honest, I read this quite a long time ago (like 3 weeks, but still), so my original anger and ‘DO NOT LIKE’ have faded away, but I was mad at the ending for a while.
The whole thing, as opposed to a very thrilling chase of vampires and secret societies, is all about bibliophilia. And libraries. And History. Those things appeal to me on a very high level, and the story is actually quite engaging and fun. Overall, predictive, but fun nonetheless.
The characters did feel a bit flat to me, but again, this is a story about books, so it’s almost acceptable that the characters are more like vessels than anything else.
Read from March 20th to March 29th, 2011.
Paper Towns - John Green A warning: this will be a biased review.
I love John Green as a person. He and his brother, Hank, have a youtube channel where they are awesome on a regular basis. John always appealed to me because he’s a History nerd and he’s all literary and thinks teenagers are also awesome and are worth listening to (which we are!). So, it’s kind of easy to love him as and author.
I’ve been looking for his books for a while, and I finally got my hands on Paper Towns.
“Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificent, adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she opens his bedroom window late one night and summons him to join ger in an ingenious campaign of revenge, he follows.
After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to find that Margo has not. Always an enigma, she now becomes a mystery and Q soon learns that there are clues to be followed in his search for Margo.” - from the back cover.
I’m the same age as Quentin. I’ll graduate later in May. We have the same general feelings. John Green nailed all of them in this novel.
Everything was profoundly real, even with the crazy antics and adventures and escapades. I’ve never been to Orlando, and it was like I’ve lived there all my life. I loved everyone, I loved how parents were portrayed as normal people who care about their kids and also have their weird quirks and do deserve actual lines!
It’s so good, it’s really so good. I sped through it in one day, and everything is underlined and dog-eared and circled, and I laughed so hard at some bits that were just so natural that they could’ve happened with me. Everything resonated with me, and there were Nerdfighteria inside jokes spread out everywhere.
It was such a fun adventure, and John Green was just marvellous capturing a teenager’s voice (They swear! They’re rude! They make stupid sex jokes! I do those things too!), and look, I’m gushing. I loved it, maybe because I’m the target demographic, maybe because it’s enthralling and fun. Just read it.
PS: Regarding leaving high school - “This was the first time in my life that so many things would never happen again.”
Read from March 18th to March 19th, 2011.

After Dark: Os Passageiros da Noite

After Dark: Os Passageiros da Noite - Haruki Murakami, Maria João Lourenço I did not like this. There must be something wrong with me because everyone and their sister loves Murakami. I did not.
Firstly, his voice annoys me to no end. I cannot explain why, but it’s just not natural, it sounds forced. Then, this is set in Japan but there are references to the West every two seconds, be it music, movies, baseball teams, etc, etc. I know this happens everywhere (us, Portuguese, also obsess over the USA) but it wasn’t done in the way that it seems plausible. It’s as if the author is going all ‘oh, I’m so hip, I know about American things!’. Yeah, no.
Then, I hated the characters. Hated, hated, hated. Mari is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl with no appeal or quirk whatsoever. She is flat and I’ve seen her about 2835893253 times before. I didn’t care about any of the characters. I wasn’t invested in them. They were so flat.
The businessman plot was forgotten, and it was the most interesting thing going on, and that made me mad. The whole magical realism thing confused me. I could see the little plot holes expanding everywhere.
This is a shame, because I was looking forward to finally reading some Murakami. Was this a wrong book to introduce me to his writing? I feel like I should give him another chance, but I won’t.
Read from March 15th to 18th, 2011.
EDIT: After being informed by a reader that Murakami himself was surrounded by American culture and whatnot for the better part of his life, I now understand that it was a bit unfair of me to judge his writing on those grounds. All other opinions on the novel still remain valid.
Selected Tales - Beatrix Potter bought for me by my mom in London, 2008
reread on march 13th 2011

Walden ou a Vida Nos Bosques

Walden ou a Vida Nos Bosques - Henry David Thoreau, Astrid Cabral Being read for an online readalong, so it might take a while.