Mar 18, 2011

Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Title: The Shadow of the Wind (La Sombra del Viento)
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Translated by Lucia Graves)
Publication Year: 2001 (Translated in 2004)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Links: Goodreads | Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)

Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son, Daniel, one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book and from the dusty shelves pulls The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. But as Daniel grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind.

My two cents: Greatly amazing! I don't really have any words to describe how I feel about this book but those two words seem inadequate. It is just simply outstanding and beautiful. Once in a while, you come across a book that leaves you speechless and wanting more. This book does just that to me.

It opens in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, where young Daniel woke up one dawn screaming as he couldn't remember his mother's face. In his effort to soothe Daniel, his father took him to 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' where he picked up The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. Enthralled by the beauty of the book, Daniel started looking for other books by Julian Carax. Soon, he found himself entangled in a web of mystery, affecting himself and those he knew and those he would know.

I have to admit, though I've heard good reviews and my friend said it's really good, I was a bit skeptical as I would be picking up a translated copy (my friend read it in its original language). I've read enough of works in my own language which had been translated into English and the end results are mostly disappointing. The beauty of the language and its expression is often lost somewhere in the translation. Somehow, as soon as I started reading, I knew I would not put this down until I finished it. The translation is beautiful. I guess I would never know whether it has done justice to the original text. But it's really good and it didn't really feel like I was reading a translated work.

The characters are complex. Daniel is likable. But the one character that really stole my heart is Fermin Romero de Torres. He's funny, witty, full of expression and dramatic. I just gotta love the guy. At some points, I questioned the introduction of the characters into the story. One such character is Clara Barcelo. At the introduction, I was deceived into thinking she played a key role in the story. But, as the story progressed, it's clear the purpose of her character is to warn the readers of the danger of unrequited puppy love. The lives of the characters are intertwined with each other in such a beautiful and twisted way I could never guess what was going to happen next. People from both past and present are related in ways so complex making the story more interesting.

Now, I've never been to Barcelona, the main setting of this book. It was quite difficult getting into the story at first since the names of the streets are all alien to me. But, the vivid description of the city and its streets helped. As the story progressed and I get more familiar with the names of places and streets, I can slowly picture the beauty of the city and the rich heritage it embraces. At the end of the book, I fall in love with the city and it is my hope to one day set foot in Barcelona. I can certainly feel the author's fondness towards the city.

My review could never do justice to this book. I'd say it certainly fits for bibliophiles. It's a book about books. And the twists are unpredictable. Just when you think the story is going in one direction, it changes its course. There's mystery, horror, romance and humour, all in one book. All in all, it is really a must read. The book stayed with me long after I finished reading it. I couldn't help thinking about the characters and the lives they led. Never before a book touches me the way this book does.

Some memorable quotes:

"Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens."

"Wars have no memory, and nobody has the courage to understand them until there no voices left to tell what really happened, until the moment comes when we no longer recognize them and they return, with another face and another name, to devour everything they left behind."

"There are worse prisons than words."

My verdict: 5/5

Mar 17, 2011

Review: Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

Title: Someone Like You
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publication Year: 1998
Genre: Teen Chick Lit

Halley and Scarlett have been best friends ever since they met. Halley has always been the quiet one, Scarlett braver and more outgoing. Halley has always turned to Scarlett when things get rough, and Scarlett has always known just what to do. It's the perfect setup. But everything changes at the beginning of their junior year, Scarlett's boyfriend is killed in a motorcycle accident; then Scarlett finds out that she is carrying his baby. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Now Halley has to learn how to be strong for Scarlett. It won't be easy, but Halley knows that she can't let Scarlett down. Because a true friend is a promise you keep forever.

My two cents: Okay, I'm back to reviewing books and I must apologize for the lack of updates in the past two weeks. Life happens and things get hectic. I bought this after I went to my first interview for pupilage position and I was hoping to finish it by the weekend of the same week. But I ended up taking more than 1 week.

The reasons? Well, for one...I got so busy with Civil Advocacy and assignments I barely had time to read anything that's not related to them. And second of all, I have to admit that I struggled a bit through the book. The blurb sounds like something I would have liked but it really wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting the book to be entirely about the two best friends. But, it was also about Halley's high school crush (Macon) and how she rebelled against her mum and everyone around her (Scarlett included) to be with him. I guess it's just a phase every teenager goes through and there would come a time when it would just pass, but at some points, Halley managed to annoy me so much. But just like every story with a happy ending, our girl gained her senses back before it was too late. All's well that ends well.

It is also a story about self-discovery, those moments when you discover yourself bit by bit and be surprised by it. Halley is no different. One mistake by Scarlett changed their lives forever and I have to say, the way Halley handled the changes is not at all times with maturity. With Halley, I can totally see that everyone has to make their own mistakes before they can learn from it. Scarlett is likable but I feel like the readers could do with more background story concerning her. Macon is weird, to say the least. I was hoping that the reason behind his rebellious nature would be explained by the end of the book but there really was no explanation offered. He seems to be a rebel without cause.

To say I didn't enjoy it at all would be wrong as I did enjoy the book for most part of it. It's just that my reading got interrupted so many times by things I commit my life to. I guess, I can't really complain. There are a few quotes from the book that I really liked but my favourite has to be the one on its back cover, "Life is an ugly, awful place not to have a best friend". It is true in every sense because at the end of the day, no matter what happened, Halley and Scarlett will always have each other and they will stand for each other through thick and thin and I believe, that is the message the book is trying to convey.

I don't really like the way it ended. It feels incomplete and so many questions are left unanswered. I honestly don't know how I really feel about this book. Maybe I read it at a wrong time. Perhaps one day I'll pick it up again and my opinion will change.

A few of my favourite quotes:

"There are some things in this world you rely on, like a sure bet. And when they let you down, shifting from where you've carefully placed them, it shakes your faith, right where you stand."

"...I wondered again why the right thing always seemed to be met with so much resistance, when you'd think it would be the easier path. You had to fight to be virtuous, or so I was noticing."

"Life is an ugly, awful place not to have a best friend."

My verdict: 3/5

Mar 11, 2011

Follow Friday (March 11)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View.

This week's feature: Ashley of Bookaholic Does Blogging

This week's question: Just like Ashley said "Ashley the girl..." who are You the Boy/Girl, instead of You the Blogger?

As far as Nadea the girl, I'm a final year law student at a local university, the University of Malaya. After 5 years in law (including my A-Level), I still have no idea why I'm doing law or where I'm heading. My life is pretty much uninteresting. I don't do a lot of stuff and of the things I do, they are nothing exciting. I spend a lot of my time reading, watching movies and hanging out with my friends. I love anything fruit-related...especially cakes and perfumes. And I tend to abandon lots of things whenever I get caught up in it work-related or just for pleasure.

My life in law school consists of attending events, including public lectures and annual dinners, cheering for my batch futsal team and endless workloads. Here's a sneak peek of what it looks like:

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