[List] Books read in 2012

2012 is coming to an end and I am quite proud (yes, I don’t keep my expectations too high) at the amount of books I read this year! My college being at strike helped, of course, but I still had to study a lot even when I had no classes, which means a good part of the 29 books I managed to read is still on me, I guess.

Here is the list, with a rating on the side of each title:

  1. Nas Profundezas  (The 39 Clues, Book 6), Jude Watson – 5/5
  2. The Tennis Party, Sophie Kinsella – 3/5
  3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson – 5/5
  4. Watchmen, Alan Moore – 5/5
  5. Matched, Ally Condie – 4/5
  6. Do Contrato Social (The Social Contract), Jean-Jacques Rousseau – 5/5
  7. O Manifesto do Partido Comunista (The Communist Manifesto), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – 4/5
  8. The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan – 3/5
  9. I’ve Got Your Number, Sophie Kinsella – 5/5
  10. Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer – 4/5
  11. O Ninho de Cobras, Peter Lerangis (The 39 Clues, Book 7) – 4/5
  12. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins – 5/5
  13. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins – 5/5
  14. One Day, David Nicholls – 5/5
  15. Mr. Maybe, Jane Green – 1/5
  16. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger – 5/5
  17. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald – 5/5 (Can I give it a 100000/5?)
  18. The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien – 5/5
  19. Runaway, Meg Cabot – 4/5
  20. A Dança do Universo, Marcelo Gleiser – 5/5
  21. More Baths, Less Talking, Nick Hornby – 5/5
  22. O Código do Imperador, Gordon Corman (The 39 Clues, Book 8) – 4/5
  23. An Abundance of Katherines, John Green – 5/5 (Review here)
  24. Ein Kater schwarz wie die Nacht, Henning Mankell – 3/5 (Review here)
  25. A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – 5/5 (Review here)
  26. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde – 5/5 (Review here)
  27. Jinx, Meg Cabot – 5/5 (Review here)
  28. Hush, Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick – 4/5 (Reread, review in 2013)
  29. Crescendo, Becca Fitzpatrick – 3/5 (Review in 2013)

Any thoughts? How many books have you guys read in 2012?

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[Extra! Extra!] Christmas presents

As pointed on The Rules, I can only obtain new books in very specific occasions, one of those being as presents. It is perfectly acceptable, then, that I take this magical, snow-falling-somewhere-other-than-Brazil-where-it’s-currently-unbearably-hot season, and make the most of it by transforming every single gift I can into books. And my friends and family, knowing me, are always sweet enough to help!

Here are the books I have been given this Christmas:

books 11. Alice im Wunderland, Lewis Carroll (given by Priscilla, who I met in Germany)

2. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens (given by an aunt, with my sister’s help)

3. Pelos Olhos de Maisie (What Maisie Knew), Henry James (also given by my aunt)

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4. Theodore Boone: the abduction, John Grisham (given by my sister, Victória)

5. Looking for AlaskaJohn Green (sort of given by my dad, since he gave me the money)

6. Paper Towns, John Green (also sort of given by my dad)

Here are the books I have given as presents to other people:

books 3

1. 30 Minutos e Pronto (30-Minute Meals), Jamie Oliver (given to my mom, who loves cooking books, but hates spending too much time on the kitchen)

2. Quem Poderia Ser a uma Hora Dessas? (Who Could That Be At This Hour?), Lemony Snicket (given to my sister)

3. Jogos Vorazes (The Hunger Games), Suzanne Collins (given to Priscilla)

And, as a bonus, I got one of my favorite Christmas presents ever from Rebecca: a poster with a marvelous quote by nerd-fighter and awesome-writer John Green about us, nerds:

nerdsblack-lowres

That’s, in my opinion, the best way to close 2012 and give 2013 a big welcome: by being enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.

A late Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone!

[Book Review] Jinx

jinx

I love chick-lit. I really do. Some people think that the fact that a book does not involve complex psychological evaluations, a political context or profound metaphors makes it bad; some would say that the writing itself has to be intricate and beautiful if a book is to be taken seriously.

I must, however, disagree. I have always considered the hatred on everything that seems to be successful (Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey and even poor Mr. Justin Bieber) a bit… if I’m being honest, lame. When it comes to arts, I believe a piece of work can, indeed, be judged good or bad, but that judgement needs to take place considering the goals of the artist. I don’t think a living soul would say that Mozart or Chopin weren’t any good because they didn’t have the lyrical complexity of, say, Pink Floyd: they didn’t want to write lyrics in the first place. So if someone dislikes the idea of reading about teens falling in love with vampires or girls having boy issues, simply read something else. If you like a genre and think a piece of work failed to achieve its goal – a catchy chorus, a sweet romance, a supernatural suspense -, call it bad. But let the ones who like these genres consume them in peace.

Having said that, I can now easily explain why I thought Jinx (written by Meg Cabot, published by Harper Teen, 262 pages) was such a nice book: it reaches its goals. The story follows Jean, nickname Jinx, as she moves to New York in an attempt to escape something (yes, a mysterious something) she left at her hometown in Iowa. Jean has the worst luck even seen: from the moment she was born, everything seems to go wrong when she’s around, which, of course, means that sweet neighbor Zach, his dark hair and green eyes, would never be interested in her. The plot’s conflict is mainly centered, however, on her relationship with Tory, her cousin, who seems to be getting a little too fond of the use of not-so-white magic.

Yes, magic. Meg Cabot is such a talented chick-lit author that she can pull anything off, from girls finding out that they are princesses to witchcraft, in short, concise, fast-paced books. Jinx is no exception: it has exactly the right amounts of mystery, romance and humor to keep the reader sat down from the first page until the last. All characters are very well developed and credible, from Jean herself to German au pair Petra and, of course, Zach – the worst sin a chick-lit author could commit would be creating a “prince” that has no personality or that sounds like any other boy from any other novel. Meg, being the experienced story-teller she is, is able to create one of a kind boys in absolutely every book she writes.

Is it profound and introspective? No. Was it written in Shakespeare’s or Scott Fitzgerald’s style? No. But it was never meant to! Sometimes all we want is to read is a simple boy-meets-girl story and Meg Cabot delivers it as brilliantly as very few authors manage to do. Any chick-lit fan would most likely enjoy this fun, sweet book, which is at the same time interesting and well-written, fast and thorough. If I were to rate it, I would give it a 5/5 faster than you can say ‘jinx’!

[Book Review] The Picture Of Dorian Gray

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“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the word take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.”

So says Lord Henry Wotton to a pure, innocent, marvelously beautiful Dorian Gray on the second chapter of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (my copy being a Barnes & Noble edition, 214 pages). The book, released in 1890, tells the story of a young man whose incredible beauty serves as inspiration for a painter, Basil Hallward, to create his masterpiece: a portrait of his male muse which, as the artist says, was done with such feeling that it contains a part of himself. Dorian, who resembles a blank sheet of paper – untainted and inexperienced to the point of naïvity – at chapter one, is introduced by Lord Henry to the seed of all that comes for the rest of the book: vanity.

Lord Henry likes to make statements: statements about arts, statements about life,  about love, beauty, religion or whichever topic comes into discussion. The reader learns that from the very start, being introduced to this character through long, continuous speeches that seem to accept no other opinion but the one he proffers. It is exactly this, his certainty at affirming, his summarizing of everything that is complex in a few sentences, that makes him so tempting and fatal to vulnerable Dorian, who, having been convinced that beauty and hedonism are all there truly is, cries, as he sees his portrait finished: “If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that – for that – I would give everything!”. And so happens the premise most of us were already acquainted with: the picture does grow old and Dorian’s sins do not taint his perfect face.

I found the book absolutely incredible. The duality of Dorian’s life is portrayed with elegance, which reminded me of The Great Gatsby, one of my favorite books. Wilde writes so exquisitely that the story mimics Dorian’s being, with a perfect, fashionable façade  and, at the same time, a sinful, cruel, egoistic content. The book, which was so criticized when published, does actually the opposite of what it was said to do: instead of praising hedonism with no boundaries, it shows exactly how despicable one becomes by ignoring the feelings of others and the consequences of one’s actions. The book is short, but its story is so beautifully put that I ended up feeling that much more had happened in it than in most 700 pages long epic novels.

Though Wilde has altered part of the book to calm down the critics, this remains a strong piece of criticism of society as of today. It reminded me of Panic! At The Disco’s song Build God, Then We’ll Talk and its exposure of conducts that would fit perfectly on Dorian’s story – I can’t reveal enough to spoil it, but everything that happens shows us how, as Dorian himself notices at one point, the wicked aren’t punished and the good aren’t rewarded. True punishment to those in society’s favor seems to come only from the inside, from conscience itself, whether this revelation is presented by simple guilt or by one’s reflection on a portrait. The ending – shocking, tragic, perfect – is the best way to summarize the book’s essence.

If you haven’t read this yet, trust me, it deserves all the credit it is given. The preface itself is so superb it brought tears to my eyes; Oscar Wilde’s defense of his book right at its beginning is so perfect it should be taught at every school and every Literature class. As it says, “Diversity of opinion about a work shows that the work is new, complex, and vital”. I truly believe that this book, in all its complexity, deserves every word of praise it has ever received.

[Meme] Skoob: My virtual bookshelf

pink books

I was tagged by the sweet, sweet Amanda Arruda on a meme post about our virtual bookshelves on Skoob (about which I have already written here).  Her original post was in Portuguese, but considering the fact that this whole blog is written in English, I’ ve decided to adapt the entry so it both fits in and can be used by more people. Also keep in mind that this can be adapted to any virtual bookshelf, so please share what your answers would be!

Here are mine:

1. How many books do you have on you “already read” folder on Skoob?

221 precious little things!

2. Which book are you currently reading?

I am reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, and loving every line of it.

3. How many books do you have on your “will read” folder on Skoob?

45, even though I haven’t bought many of them, while others have actually been bought, only not included on the list.

4. Are you rereading any books? Which ones?

I have too many books unread, so I don’t have much time to spend rereading anything (considering I’m someone who sticks to her rules, as I promise I have been doing) . I do intend to reread Hush, Hush, though, because I don’t remember nearly half of what I’m supposed to if I want to read its sequel, Crescendo.

5. How many books have you ever abandoned? Which ones?

I’m proud to say that only one, Rei Artur (Arthur The King, in the original version in English), by Allan Massie. I had barely made it through the first 100 pages when I decided that, well, you shouldn’t read something you didn’t like at all if you weren’t obliged to do it.

6. How many reviews have you written on Skoob?

Four: one for Peter and the Starcatchers, another for The Undomestic Goddess, a pretty harsh, but well deserved one for Mr. Maybe and what was basically just a comment to Juliet, Naked.

7. How many books have you rated?

220 – eternally trying to figure out which one of the books I marked as read is still unrated.

8. How many books have you tagged as favorite? Name one.

32, among whom are The Great Gatsby, Pippi Longstocking and Eragon.

9. How many books do you have marked as “owned”?

207, though there are still some to be added.

10. How many books do you have as “wanted”?

29 and counting!

11. How many of your books are currently borrowed? Which ones?

5: Twenties Girl, by Sophie Kinsella; Sandman, volume 1, by Neil Gaiman; I’ve Got Your Number, by Sophie Kinsella; Being Nikki, by Meg Cabot; Coraline, by Neil Gaiman.

12. Do you want to exchange any books? Which ones?

No, I want to stick to all of them, even the ones I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.

13. How many books do you have on your “reading goal” folder? Have you reached your goal?

I didn’t even try to fill that in, because my schedule is too unpredictable to even try and set a goal. I’m just reading them as I go.

14. What is the number on your pages counter? (Note: this is a feature on Skoob that adds up the number of pages of all books you mark as read)

68,161 pages.

15. What is the link to your Skoob?

http://www.skoob.com.br/estante/livros/todos/89942/page:1

What do you think? I’d love to see you give it a try, even if with different virtual bookshelves!

(For starters, I tag Carol Patrício, from Desopilar.com)

[Book Review] A Study in Scarlet

complete

“There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colorless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it”.

Those are the words uttered by Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most famous literary detective, while explaining his duties as an investigator to his loyal companion, Watson, fetching both the doctor’s and the readers’ full attention in the process. The famous inhabitant of Baker Street, 221B, has gained recognition not only because of his brilliancy in solving crimes, but also for the elegance and charm manner in which he does it.

The first book featuring Holmes, A Study in Scarlet (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, read on Complete Sherlock Holmes, Penguin, the first book counting 86 pages), is the short, concise, yet eloquent tale of a curious murder: a man, Enoch Drebber, is found dead inside an apartment, a ring dropped by his side, no signs of struggle, the German word Rache printed in blood on a wall. Scotland Yard is at loss and must, as much as it wishes it didn’t have to, recur to the private detective’s talent. Saying anything else would spoil the case, for Mr. Holmes’s genius also resides on discovering what is and what isn’t important for solving the crime. I may say in advance, though, that he does not disappoint: it is incredibly enjoyable to follow his tracks, to be surprised by his amazement at what seems to us trivial at first, to be shocked at the explanations on how each deduction took place. The reader is tempted to also deduct and conclude, because the story is told in such a pace that one finds oneself running along Watson to keep track of Holmes’s steps – and, let’s face it, to solve the crime just as fast as he does.

The story is divided in three parts, the first and the third ones being told by Watson and the second one consisting on a tale that explains the reasons behind the murder, the why to the who and how discovered by Holmes. Perhaps is that the reason why, at least to me, the second part of the book seemed slower, nearly boring, when compared to the others; Holmes is such a fascinating character that anything that comes between two of his appearances will seem a bit colorless, a little damp. The book is so short, though, that the second section does not in any way diminish its value.

I dare say this is the best book of the crime genre I have ever read – only, of course, I haven’t read the rest of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories yet. This is, however, a brilliant tale in every aspect: well written, well organized, giving the reader every piece of evidence Holmes has and not holding information back (which is something that particularly annoyed me when I read Agatha Christie). By allowing Watson to tell Holmes’s story, the author came up with the best trick he could ever use, making it possible to both explain the deductions in a way that us, mere mortals, may understand (since Watson also needs the explanations) and yet keeping the detective’s brilliancy protected. The concision is also enviable and shows how much of Holmes was in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s blood; the ability to tell a story with just enough words to make it both understandable and fast-paced is a treasure only possessed by few.

If you are looking for a good mystery tale and haven’t read this yet, hurry up! Holmes is already half-way through solving the crime and I give you my word: it is worth keeping up with him.