Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Hunger Games Trailer RELEASED!

As you may know, I am not the one usually to post news articles on the website. I usually do with book reviews, author interviews, giveaways and the such. This, however, I am too excited about not to share. After being titillated with a very bare-bones teaser for a while now, fans of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (including me - check out my review of the novel here) get to finally see Katniss in action!

This makes me even more excited about the movie. It seems like March cannot come fast enough! Until then, for all of you who have not yet read this exciting novel, Amazon is offering it at a low price of $5.39 for the paperback and $4.69 for the Kindle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

WWW Wednesdays #1

This is my first time participating in the charming WWW Wednesdays meme, hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading! The meme consists of answering three fun questions.

What are you currently reading?

I am in between books at the moment, but am trying out the romance novel Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch by B.J. Daniels. Good news - it is a free ebook, available on Amazon! I am only a couple pages in, but so far so good!

What did you recently finished reading?

I have recently finished (and reviewed!) two very different books. The first one is a novella by JL Merrow novella entitled Muscling Through, a very juicy and heartwarming romance. The other one is one of my favorite reads this year, Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. (click on the titles for my reviews!)

What do you think you'll read next?

In all honesty, I am not entirely sure. My TBR pile is not very big right now, but I might tackle actor Rupert Everett's autobiography entitled Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins. Nothing is set in stone, though!

Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Oh Gregory Maguire, how exhausted you left me after reading your book! Here I am, excited to finally read your ultra-bestselling novel-turned-pop-culture-phenomenon Wicked, and you give me frustration, tiredness and sheer brilliance! Why, oh why do you take yourself so seriously?

Don't get me wrong, fellow book lovers: if you don't know what book to read next, make sure Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is at least one of your options. Come to think of it, go buy it right now and read it already. There is no escaping it. Not only have I for years obsessed over the marvelous soundtrack the Broadway adaptation of this book has spawned (as if it were not enough that Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, two biggest Broadway divas of our time united as Elphaba and Glinda, the incomparable Joel Grey plays the Wizard!), but now that I have read the book, I feel I will never not think about it. It's one of those works of fiction that stay with you, for better or for worse.

Which isn't to say reading it was easy.

For Wicked, Maguire re-imagines the Oz we thought we knew from the original L. Frank Baum novels and, I would argue even more importantly, from the 1939 Judy Garland film of the same name. The book serves both as a prequel and a parallel story of the Wicked Witch of the West, here named Elphaba, and her life up to that legendary moment when she met Dorothy Gale of Kansas.

Ostracized from birth because of the unpleasant color of her skin, it turns out that Elphaba was a quiet and smart girl with a strong sense of morality and social justice, which made her the perfect enemy of the tyrannical Wizard. The book follows her childhood, university years, days of activism in the Emerald City and, finally, her growing into the fearful Wicked Witch. The cast of secondary characters is extensive, but arguably the two most important characters are Glinda, Elphaba's roommate at college and the first person Dorothy meets after her crash landing in Oz, as well as Nessarose, Elphaba's handicapped-yet-popular sister, who will be the first victim of the intruder from Kansas.

Since its publication in 1995, Wicked has been talked about everywhere, and now that I've read it, I testify that indeed, it is a must-read. The immaculately written 400 pages of the political, sexual and personal circumstances of some of the most influential characters of today's popular culture are all present in this modern classic of extraordinary quality. The book is deeply political, as it investigates the notions of patriarchy, dictatorship, gender (in)equality and, most importantly, evil. Maguire obviously loves language, and Wicked is a book that encourages the reader to lose him or herself in the beautiful and harsh narrative about the life of Elphaba.

And what a character she is! To turn one of the 20th century's most feared villains into a protagonist nobody will be able to help cheer for is not a small feat. Elphaba embodies all the pains of being human, and it is the negotiation of her 'wickedness' that is the main focus of the novel. She is a literary character that will soon become legendary.

All this said, Wicked  is often a frustrating book to read. There are simply too many details, plot lines and characters for a casual reader to follow. Chasing the answers may prove to be too exhausting for some readers, as Maguire does not allow the plots to end too neatly. There are many answers that are merely hinted at, while some are open to the interpretation even after the book ends. I was personally delighted by this decision, but am certain many people will resent Maguire for this reason. The book does take itself a little too seriously. I can imagine some people might find it off-putting, but it is a great piece of fiction, nevertheless!

No one mourns the wicked.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review: Muscling Through by JL Merrow

I must admit that I have lately been obsessed with the romance genre, and for more reasons than one. Firstly, I believe it takes a skillful writer to successfully write a satisfying romance, particularly with all the constraints such a formulaic genre imposes. Think about it - with all these rules about what a romance novel is (and make no mistake, the publishers will only publish the stories that meet very strict criteria), how does an author make the story their own? Do you dare attempt making it original?

On a surface level, JL Merrow's novella entitled Muscling Through seems straight out of a romance novel tutorial. The two protagonists are polar opposites; their romance is unconventional; every single external conflict in the story is a result of misunderstandings.

The story is narrated by Al, a rough and somewhat dimwitted ex-boxer, laboring his life away for London tourists. One night, he meets Larry Morton, a university professor, with whom he strikes up an affair. Obviously, the affair turns into eternal love, but not without a complication or two, usually involving their very different backgrounds, communication skills and some painting, of all things.

I am happy to report that Muscling Through may just be the most charming romance I have ever read. Al is such an endearing protagonist - one can't help but root for this big softy of a man. I was not very fond of Larry, however - and I thought that more characterization would have proven beneficial in his case. However, this is a novella - and in the span of about a hundred and fifty pages, a romance afficionado certainly gets plenty of these delicious men.

Muscling Through is, in my opinion, particularly recommendable for first time readers of romance, and especially gay romance. It is short and compact and, despite its minor problems, it contains all the elements that a m/m romance should. There is the wonderful protagonist, an interesting (but realistic!) plot, and the sizzling scenes of intimacy that never feel pornographic. The cast of secondary characters is especially good. This reader was also surprised by the subtle commentaries of the (silent) class system that these characters need to overcome. Muscling Through is definitely a recommended read!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

In My Mailbox/USA Vlog

Dear bloggers, readers and the like,

I am happy to post this vlog (my third vlog ever!) after settling in my new American existence and getting ready to continue working on my book blog - writing about authors, books and other finer things in life.

As I mention in my blog, I got to go to a final sale at a Borders store, which was both sad and exciting (great discounts, y'all!). Also, I have discovered the amazing website called ABEbooks, where one can shop hundreds of used bookstores and get books for ridiculously friendly prices.

Finally, here is some of the stuff I've mentioned.