Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Postcrossing & Postcards

It's been a long time since I last posted an update on the postcards I received and sent via Postcrossing. I haven't been very active over the last six months (or year?), but a few weeks ago I remembered my 101 in 1001 project. Of all the goals I have come up with for that project, reading is the only one that I have been serious about. Besides reading, I think sending mail is my favourite, so one of the goals I set was to send 100 postcards. I am short of three postcards, and I'll be able to cross another goal off the list. 

Here are the last five postcards I received and I have a photo of. I've decided to take a photo of every postcard I send and received in order to upload it on the site from now on. Makes me feel more organised and serious about the whole affair.
 I love this postcard!

 And here are some I sent:

In May I spent  two days in Cluj-Napoca and I stayed overnight at a cousin and her husband's home. She is an avid postcrosser. She was kind to give me a lot, and I mean a.lot.! of postcards. This may have contributed to rekindling my love for sending postcards. 

A few weeks back, I got a surprise email. Of course, initially I thought it was spam because I am calm and never jump to conclusions. (that is sarcasm, btw, if you didn't catch it). The sender, Ana, the community manager at Postcrossing, congratulated me for winning third place on the latest giveaway. That means ten free postcards from Natuurlijkefoto. I get excited for everything free, but to have won a giveaway made me even more excited. Today I got the postcards in the mail. It came as a lovely surprise because I completely forgot about it. It's been a full and stressful month this July, and it's not even over yet. But, the postcards: 

 This is the "extra" postcard letting me know I won. Isn't it pretty that little birdie whose species I don't know?


And that's my update on Postcrossing. I think I should pick a postcard and send it on its way, and have the last three postcards traveling together towards the fulfillment of my goal.
Aww, doesn't that sound poetic and cheesy? 

PS. Excuse the lack of quality these pictures of postcards have. Winning a Pulitzer for photography is not a goal of mine.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

If the Creek Don't Rise - by Leah Weiss: Book Review

Author: Leah Weiss
No. Pages: 320
Publishing Date: 8.08.2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Format: Kindle

I liked this book. I 5 stars liked this book. However, it left me with the feeling that there was missing something. It starts with Sadie Blue, it ends with Sadie Blue, but between the first and the last page there is a host of other characters I was curious about. The writing is good, the information given about each character makes you interested in them, it makes you want to know more about them - but you don't. That's what left me with the feeling of something missing - what happens to the rest of the characters?

The language, more specifically the characters' dialect, gave a special flavor to the characters and the story. There were many things I didn't know about Appalachia of the 1970s that I discovered while reading. It did read in some parts like a "lesson" for the reader, but it's something I can overlook. 

What made me furrow my brow was the way the speech seemed to transform towards the second part. The novel is told from different points of view, which I always like because it gives different perspectives on the same events. Most characters speaking are poor and uneducated, and you're made to believe, that they will speak like such people. And so is the language at first. In the second part, though, the speech becomes a bit more polished. I know it sounds as if poor and uneducated people can't be coherent and eloquent, and that's not my intention. However, while reading I sensed a gradual progress from simplistic language to well articulated thoughts. 

As I said, I enjoyed this novel very much. It made me curious for more novels set in the South, be them classics or contemporary novels. I was impressed that this was the author's debut novel, and even more impressed that she was brave to go after her dream a bit later in life. I will read more from this author, and I hope there is a sequel to this novel. I do want to know more about the other characters!

GoodReads Blurb 
In a North Carolina mountain town filled with moonshine and rotten husbands, Sadie Blue is only the latest girl to face a dead-end future at the mercy of a dangerous drunk. She’s been married to Roy Tupkin for fifteen days, and she knows now that she should have listened to the folks who said he was trouble. But when a stranger sweeps in and knocks the world off-kilter for everyone in town, Sadie begins to think there might be more to life than being Roy’s wife.

As stark and magnificent as Appalachia itself, If the Creek Don’t Rise is a bold and beautifully layered debut about a dusty, desperate town finding the inner strength it needs to outrun its demons. The folks of Baines Creek will take you deep into the mountains with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Impossible Views of the World - by Lucy Ives: Book Review

Author: Lucy Ives
No. Pages: 304
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publishing Date: 1.08.2017
Format: Kindle
This novel sure is witty, but it didn't feel like a neurotic humor, nor did I find it dazzling, and I certainly did not find Paul's secret "unbearable".

I did like the lost-at-thirty-years-old thing Stella had going on there. Made her more humane, and that was necessary because all her pretentious words made her seem all put together and snob-ish in the beginning. She reveals more about her life and you get to know her better. I still have a curiosity and this thought popped into my head a few times while reading - what exactly was her job at the museum? And speaking of those bombastic words, there were a lot. Sure, I read to learn new words, but it's too much when on the same page there is at least one word that I have to look up. Maybe it's just because English is my second language, but this sure was an impediment. However, the witty part about this novel was this exact speech - she is funny, sometimes deep, you chuckle at some parts, and that works in her favor.

The plot, minimal as it was, is centered around a museum, and that immediately creates the perfect background for mystery and secrets. I had a hard time keeping up with all the bits of information she came upon. I think this is because the novel was in the first person narrative, and every time she figured something out she expected us to have an aa-haaa! moment as well. Well, explain it to us, mere mortals with no PhD in art history. I still have this feeling that I missed something and now it's (obviously) too late to understand it all. And as I mentioned, I didn't find any secret as unbearable and shocking. I've read worse. Or better, depending how you look at it.

I liked the way she over-analyzed everything, I had no problem having patience for that. However, I didn't have any patience for her love life drama, but it was good that she had two major things going on in her life during the week the novel takes place in. A mother with whom she has a not loved based relationship; an emotionally distant father, but still present and helpful; two men she loves or not; a man who's dead and into whose life she decides to look into and then take it upon herself to discover his hidden things and side job; and a fourth man who thank goodness doesn't become her lover in the course of that week - yeah, it was a packed-full week; only in novels.

Surely this novel would appeal more to art lovers, to those with a knack for modern mysteries, and novels set in museums. I wish I liked this novel more, but I knew it wasn't something I enjoyed reading when I chose to watch TV instead, and I hardly every do that.

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

List of Characters:
Stella Krakus
Paul Coral - museum curator, gone missing, dead
Mary Carol Lynch - Stella's mother
Fredrick Lu - museum curator, Stella's ex-lover, colleague
Bonnie Mangold - museum employee, Stella's boss
Marco - museum employee
Whitaker Ghiscolmb - Stella's ex-husband
Nicola di Carboncino - museum director

Monday, June 19, 2017

Anything Is Possible - by Elizabeth Strout: Book Review

No. Pages: 272
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 25.04.2017
Format: Kindle

What I didn't like:
Every.single.character. was downright sad or pity-worthy. Even the characters who posed as happy or content were, actually, ridden by a deep issue. Not to mention, everybody in this novel has a mommy, daddy or sexual-nature issue. And it's just sad that all the poor people seem to have these problems. It felt a bit judgmental, but who am I to judge? Makes one have a lousy opinion about the human race. Just pick another human issue, goodness!
It left me with a bitter taste and in a funk, not in the mood to enjoy life, if that makes sense.
Clearly, I am not the target audience for this book. Also, I think it would have been better if this was written/ published before "My Name Is Lucy Barton".
What I liked: I wouldn't consider this a novel, but more like a short story collection, with one common thread: Lucy Barton. I've always liked books that are constructed that way.
I also thought that the book was written in a natural way, that is as if the author was telling the story of what happened. It also had a stream-of-consciousness feel about it, which was nice to see.
However, these are not things that redeemed this book.

It was not my cup of tea, thankyouverymuch. Maybe I would have appreciated it more were I in my middle-age stage of life?

Glad I didn't have to pay for this book since I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Goodbye, Vitamin - by Rachel Khong: Book Review

Author: Rachel Khong
No. Pages: 208
Release Date: 11.07.2017
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Format: Kindle
It starts with a light tone. It's written in a diary form, peppered with letter-entries from her Alzheimer ridden father's diary from when she was growing up. As it usually happens with epistolary novels, the entries get longer and reveal more and more. 

It's a natural progression, without any focus on deep feelings characters dwell on. What I found especially refreshing was that Ruth, the main character, did not take herself too seriously. The characters had their particularities, and this made them human and endearing.

Despite the initial light tone, there was the expected melancholy that was later seem in the notes Ruth made. She writes about the random and about the serious, about the quirky and about the deep things. The roles eventually reverse; she starts writing her father the things he did that day, just how he used to when she was little. The transition is bitter-sweet.

The novel is funny and insightful, with some moments that are so real they could only happen in real life. It's a novel of discovery and of letting go.

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Lockdown - by Laurie R. King: Book Review

No. Pages: 336
Release Date: 13.06.2017
Format: Kindle

The novel is told from the point of view of different characters. They all have something they'd rather not tell about, and it makes you wonder who will be the one whose past mistakes brings the doom over Guadalupe Middle School. The novel kept me interested until the very last page. I was surprised to see that the author chose a rather sensitive subject to tackle, but it was well approached.

The shifting perspective from one character to another added to the dramatic effect and it showed the gaps in understanding between people. Their background story was something that added an extra flavor to the novel. It was nice to have the bird's eye view and see how prompted each character's actions.

One shortcoming of this novel was the list of characters. At first it was difficult to keep track of all the characters, and I sometimes confused them, especially the boys. However, because their perspective was presented more often I got them all figured out and it was no longer a problem. Another thing worth mentioning is that although the book blurb describes it as a day of confrontation and shocking turn of events, this takes up a smaller part than I was expecting. Only towards the last 15% percent of the book does the event occur. Up to that point, it is a gradual increase in tension. Yes, it is done well, but just a heads up that this is not the thing that covers a large section of the novel.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the author had a grasp on teenagers' reactions. How they reacted and spoke read as something a teenager would. The connections between characters, and their maturity despite their age (the oldest was in 8th grade, the youngest in 6th grade) made it feel like the novel was about some high-schoolers.

All in all, though, this is probably one of the most original mystery and suspense novels I've read, mainly because of its topic. I enjoyed reading it very much.

I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own. 


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Little French Bistro - by Nina George: Book Review

Author: Nina George
No. Pages: 336
Format: mobi - Kindle
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Release Date: 13.06.2017

It's a poetic and funny novel, it reminds a little bit of Brit-Marie from the novel Brit-Marie was here. As most novels whose setting is the beach during the summer, it created a cozy feeling, with quirky characters whom you cannot help but endear. It's the kind of novel that presents the good characters clearly, making sure you see their goodness, and the bad characters truly bad, making sure you don't miss their nastiness. It presented love as the only important force in the universe, and you couldn't help but cheer for them. However, I do not remember the names and particularities of every characters, only the most important ones. At some point they seemed alike, and I'm referring to the women. Not a deal breaker, though. 

At some point there were some eyebrow-raising details, but because the story and the main character, Marianne, were presented so smoothly and as if everything happened naturally I let them pass. The novel starts in a somewhat gloomy way, but it doesn't stay that way for long. Some lines the characters have made me straight-up laugh, and I don't often laugh at a book. It's just that it took me by surprise, and it was a nice surprise.

I read Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop about two years ago. I enjoyed that novel, but The Little French Bistro I liked more. Maybe it's the setting and the summer vibes and the perfect timing when I read the novel - whatever it was, it was a perfect read at the right moment.

If you want to read a novel set in France, a novel that sends summer vibes with a touch of melancholy and even sadness, but with a good ending, pick up this novel. It is a novel with an eventually daring character and a perfectly dreamy setting.

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.