Dec 24, 2011

A Small Death in Lisbon, finished?

So I have finished the book earlier than our schedule. I know some of you already have as well because I have seen you these days and you have confessed. I know as well that many of you are reading, but don't write anything in the blog, I hope in 2012 you will become more social with the rest of us and write some of your comments... don't be shy, you're English is just fine, we won't be looking for your mistakes, but for your opinions!
Now after my introductory paragraph, and hoping that I have not lost your attention yet, I get to my comments of the book. First of all, SPOILER ALERT!!!! (that is, if you haven't finished the book yet, don't continue reading).
I know the book is a page turner, but, there has to be more than that in a book. Mistery? Yes, I love mistery! Patricia Highsmith's "The Talented Mr.Ripley" is a great mistery and a great novel as well. What I'm missing in our dear "Small Death in Lisbon" is the part of great novel. When you have a mistery, and you add the components: police, sex, nazis, politics, drugs, exotic country, prostitutes and revenge; you get to something like this novel. But from my point of view, it has the same value as a CSI chapter, once you've seen 2 or 3, it's always the same, entertaining but the same. And at the beginning I was really expecting something more, it had a good setting, but from my point of view, there were too many forced connections like the Zé's tie is the same that the tie one of the bad guys is wearing because it's her daughter Olivia the one that creates them and she is the best friend of... the superbad guy is the guy that owns the bar that Zé loves to go to get his coffee just close to his apartment, the girlfriend has the means to publish the story, ain't that a little too much? For me it is.
And from the writing style, I have to say that although I enjoyed very much in the Oscar Wao novel the use of dominican expressions mixed the English because it felt very natural, in this novel, the use of some portuguese expressions felt "inserted" and you could clearly tell at times that the author was not portuguese when he was writing in first person as if he were Zé. And I remember another clear example, when he was describing Susana Lopes when she meets with Felsen, he says something like "she had what an american would have described as class", who cares about what an american had to do with describing her at that moment?
Conclusion, I have read it, it's entertaining, but there are many greater books to fill my time. I know it's not easy to write a novel, etc, etc... but it's not a book that I will recommend to my friends.

Dec 3, 2011

A Small Death in Lisbon: From Chapter XI to Chapter XXII

We are almost in the middle of the book, and so far no evident clue of the relationship of both stories, Felsen's and Ze's. However, there are some hints, a building in Lisbon that appears in the 1940s and in the contemporary investigation, the fact that the killed girl had blue eyes, but none of the parents did (if they are her parents at all!!!), and what else? what do you think points to the connection?

Nov 14, 2011

A Small Death in Lisbon - Chapters I to X

The first 10 chapters of this great thriller introduce us to the main characters of the two narratives the novel interchanges: Inspector Zé Coelho and Klaus Fensen. Though we know their stories will eventually be connected, there is no hint of that connection so far... Or is it? 
What do you think about these two characters? What about the Portugal depicted in the stories? How do you like having a first person narrator in one of the narratives and an omnipresent narrator in the other? Do you like one of the stories better than the other?

Looking forward to reading your comments!

Nov 11, 2011

Sweet Smiles

Let me jump in between books! Let me suggest a good story here.

One of my best friends works in this charity. They work with kids with intellectual disability and they are carrying out this wonderful campaign (unfortunately, it is only in Spanish).

Tag yourselves in their web and they will receive 5 cents for every person tagged. If you have a few minutes, have a look at the video. It´s really cute and it is worth finding out about these kids everyday life and feelings.

Thank you!

Oct 23, 2011

The Turn of the Screw - Final discussion

Halloween only a few days away, it's the perfect moment to discuss a ghosts story like Henry James'. Have you seen any ghosts lately? So what is your final impression? Fun enough? To difficult to read? Maybe too creepy for you? So treat or trick? No cookies for you if you don't tell us your thoughts!!! hahaha... (read as malignant laughter). 

Oct 14, 2011

The Turn of the Screw, part I

Henry James presents us a very short story, but however very intriguing from the very beginning. I have to say that even though the language might be a little outdated, it feels that this could be a current ghost story, as the classic elements are there, fear and isolation.
What do you think is going on with the governess? Could she be overloaded with stress and responsibility for the children? Is there something really dark in this story that shocks you? Can you sleep well after reading it or do you see some ghosts as well?

Sep 28, 2011

The new ultimate technology: BOOK

Hey all,

I thought the No Cookies people would enjoy this :)

have a great day!

Sep 19, 2011

Coming Next...

The Turn of The Screw, by Henry James & A Small Death in Lisbon, by Robert C. Wilson

The poll closed with a tie, and since one of the finalist is the short novella - veteran and very much longed by Jorge - “The Turn of the Screw”, let's make an exception and have both finalists become winners.

Suggested reading schedules coming  soon. We can advance you that the plan is to read the The Turn of The Screw first and give it a couple of weeks. Then, will go to A Small Death in Lisbon.

So, whether you want to join us in both readings or just one of them, time to get the book/s!!

Sep 12, 2011

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Final Discussion

The brief (wondrous?) life of Oscar Wao gets to its end, and with it, we get to the end of the book. How did you like it? 

How did you feel about the Dominican Republic presented in the book? Were you familiar with it? Does reading historical fiction make you want learn more on the subject, or at least entice you to look up what's fact and what's fiction?

What are your thoughts on the narrator? Why do you think Diaz waited to reveal Yunior? Did you like Yunior as a person? Did you like his voice?

What is, or what does represent, the mongoose with golden eyes? The man without a face? 

Is there hope at the end of the story?

Looking forward to reading about the variety of feelings and emotions that the last pages of the book for sure arose in you.

Sep 8, 2011

About The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao & the next book suggestions

I have almost finished the book and I am liking it: the story, the style, the point of view... I will keep my comments for an end-of-the-book post but, considering that the suggestions' period for our next reading is opened, I would like to share that I really feel like reading a more amiable book... I would even say a funny book.
Any candidates on your to-read list?

Aug 26, 2011

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Chapters 3, 4 & 5

To say the truth, I have just finished to book. It didn't feel right just to put it down, because lots of things were happening, so I didn't. However, this post will be no spoiler, so you can read it and relax, I won't be telling the secrets.
Talking characters, I believe that all the characters make sense. I do like La Inca as many of you, but maybe my favorite is Lola, for her strength and consistency, as well as Yunior, for his sincere way of talking.
Many of you have said that you don't like the long footnotes, but I believe they are essential to the story, it's a practical way to incorporate the history with the very personal touch of Mr.Diaz or Yunior, who is the leading character, the one that tells the story. I have learnt a lot of things about the Dominican Republic that I had never even thought about, because, yeah, apart from the fact that Trujillo was one of the tiranos of the XXth century, not much else was in my personal wikipedia.
And I did enjoy also the spanglish, even though at times, not being dominican, I didn't know the exact meaning of certain words, but you get it from the context.
The nerdy stuff, well, I didn't get all the references, but it's fun and coherent with the character.
I think the book is really fresh, direct, originally written, hard to put down and at the same time, you get to learn things. No easy task. Bien hecho Sr.Díaz!!!

Aug 24, 2011

The Help, already in theaters!

Are you the kind that likes to see the movie after reading the book?
For your information:

Aug 6, 2011

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Chapters 1 & 2

So here we go with the first impressions!
I'm surprised! That's the first thing that comes to my mind. I like the book so far (I'm in the middle of chapter 3), it intertwines recent history (yes, I had heard about Trujillo, but didn't know the details) with a very contemporanean story, inmigration. I enjoy a lot the language Mr.Diaz is using, combining very informal expressions, English and Dominican Spanish, but I guess maybe for the non Spanish speakers is not so much fun, because in the Kindle version at least, there is no foot notes explaining. And I like the characters, from La Inca to Oscar, I think that very quickly you get the feeling of what they are going through. And Oscar, even though he is totally nerdy, I have the feeling that he's going to turn into some kind of hero, what do you think? And what about the bad luck thing? He says something like "every caribbean family believes it is haunted", can that really influence the fate of a country? As we all think we are haunted, why should we try doing something better? Something bad will come for sure!!! It's a hard idea if it's really on everybody's psyche. So what are your thoughts so far?

Jul 17, 2011

Junot Díaz & The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

As I said in the suggestions email, since I am spending a couple of months woking in Dominican Republic, I thought reading a Dominican author would be a great way to learn more about the country and share a bit of these months with my No Cookies fellows :-)

Following Rocio's suggestion, I am adding here some info about the author of our next reading together. I always like learning something about the authors of the books we read, so I hope you do too:

Junot Díaz was born in 1968 in a neighborhood in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He was the third child in a family of five. Throughout most of his early childhood, he lived with his mother and grandparents while his father worked in the United States. In 1974, Díaz was re-united with his father in New Jersey. There he lived less than a mile from what he has described as "one of the largest landfills in New Jersey".

He was a voracious reader during his elementary years, often walking four miles in order to borrow books from his public library. At this time, Díaz became fascinated with apocalyptic films and books. He graduated in 1992, majoring in English. In college he was involved in Demarest Hall, a creative-writing, living-learning, residence hall, and in various student organizations. He was exposed to the authors who would motivate him to become a writer: Toni Morrison and Sandra Cisneros. He worked his way through college by delivering pool tables, washing dishes, pumping gas, and working at Raritan River Steel. Reflecting on his experience growing up in America and working his way through college in 2010, Diaz said: "I can safely say I've seen the US from the bottom up… I may be a success story as an individual. But if you adjust the knob and just take it back one setting to the family unit, I would say my family tells a much more complicated story. It tells the story of two kids in prison. It tells the story of enormous poverty, of tremendous difficulty."

On 2010, it was announced that Diaz had been selected to sit on the 20-member Pulitzer Prize board of jurors. Diaz described his appointment, and the fact that he is the first Latino to be appointed to the panel, as an "extraordinary honor".

Currently, Díaz teaches creative writing at MIT and is also the fiction editor for the Boston Review. He is active in the Dominican American community and is a founding member of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Writing Workshop, which focuses on writers of color.

In addition to the Pulitzer in 2008, The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao has been awarded many prizes and distinctions. "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao... the saga of an immigrant family, but that wouldn't really be fair. It's an immigrant-family saga for people who don't read immigrant-family sagas." (Time)

Jul 16, 2011

Next reading

So the winner is "The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao" by author Junot Diaz. The reading schedule will be coming soon!!

Jul 9, 2011

Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman - Final

So, we have finished the book, come on, don't tell me you didn't finish it! It was barely a two-hour read... So do you have any final comments? Feel free to keep posting about them, even though we open a new session. And, hey, don't forget to take part in the poll!

Jul 6, 2011

Thank you!

First of all, I would like to wish everyone a happy summer! Whether you will be working, like me :-( or on vacation, have a great one!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Macarena and Rocio for their great job keeping up this blog! It is my first experience both in a book club and in a ciber community and I am having a great time!
I have read a lot since I was young, but never really discussed books with other people, since most of my friends and colleagues read little or nothing. I think it is fantastic to share thoughts and impressions with others!
I have to say that before joining this club, for some reason, I was lazy or bored to read in English, not sure why. This has changed and I really enjoy reading in English now and realize this is a great habit.
Also, I love discovering books that otherwise I might have not picked. I am always looking forward to the next one.
What else can one ask for?
Thank you everybody!!

Jun 28, 2011

Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman - First part

A short little book, compelling and fast moving, it starts with the narrator introducing us to the one event that shakes the peaceful conversations of a small group of people staying at a hotel on the Rivera.
Just in a few pages, plenty of feelings, characters, situations and values are presented for reflection. 

How did you first feel about the narrator? What would you answer to Mrs C's question considering what it implies about prejudice, acceptance and respect? If you were married, would you introduce such a woman to your wife as if nothing had happened?
Do you think times have changed with regard to the perception, consideration and value given to virtue, love and passions?
What about the gentleman of Mrs C' story? What are your thoughts and feelings about this character? 
At one point, Mrs C expresses that she would find it difficult to give a clear name to the feeling that drew her so compulsively after the unfortunate man. Could you give a name to that feeling?

As always, looking forward to reading your long, short, deep, or first-impression thoughts on the book.

Jun 16, 2011

And the winner is ...

… Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman, by Stefan Zweig

Thanks everybody for your participation in the poll.

Although this is a short book, we are going to take it easy this time - so members can recover for the previous long books! Find the suggested reading pace for sharing at the "Book Discussion Schedule" page.

Jun 14, 2011

Freedom - Final Discussion

Some questions to follow the interesting discussion already started with Jorge's post and the comments from Kristen and Rocio - and even Nayra's! if we want to extract conclusions from her statement...

Did you got annoyed by the book or did you enjoy it? 
Did you feel the characters were not interesting, boring, not redeeming, or did you like them?  Even if you did not like them, did any of them arose any feelings in you that make it attractive to keep reading?
What about the end? Do you think it is a happy end or a tragic end?
If Walter had written a memoir, what might he have said about his victories and his suffering?
What character do you think is the least free? And the most free?
How is Lalitha different from the other characters? How does her motivation for working with the Cerulean Mountain Trust compare to Walter's? 

Too many questions! and still, there is much more we want to hear from you.
THE last one: As Rocio said, do you think you will read another Franzen?

May 25, 2011

Freedom. Final discussion, by Jorge

I have to say that I voted for this book, the description provided and the commercial success seemed to me that I could be an interesting book to read. I was mistaken.

Continuing with the masterpiece debate I like in every book, I think Freedom is not a masterpiece at all. The one who wrote “a masterpiece of American fiction… Like all great novels, FREEDOM does not just tell an engrossing story. It illuminates, through the steady radiance of its author’s profound moral intelligence, the world we thought we knew” was either drunk or was earning a lot of money just telling that (maybe both). I find this book a very good one for Oprah’s followers: middle class bored people with marital problems that only want to project their lives into others’ problems. I don’t see neither a deep description of today’s American society nor an intense, well written story. Some of the characters are really unnecessary and overall I find this book an accumulation of disgraces, without sense, only chronological in Patty’s life.

Patty is annoying, Walter boring, Katz funny but all are a stereotype. If I have to choose a character I’d rather choose the cerulean warbler: is the best character, is the only one that is really suffering on the main characters’ decisions and the only one that does not have the freedom to decide its own fate.

The book is increasingly tragic (sometimes too tragic, why has Lalitha died? Was it necessary?) but the end of it is really disappointing: it is a happy ending, in which the couple reconciles and everything is allright again (come on! What was the writer thinking about?? I think only commercial success). I think this is the kind of ending that mass, main street, readers want, but betrays the way the book is written, the dramatic evolution of facts that builds the story line of the book.

I have found this book long, boring, "too many pages" as some of you said for Vargas Llosa’s. It tries to be a complex description of a couple difficult life in current society, but in my opinion only gets that done in part, it ends being an addition of characters, clichés and stereotypes that could be summarized in half of the pages (and could be done with a more profound description of the couple and less waffle around it). I think that this book is good for soap opera (culebron) followers, not for anyone with a little bit of interest in literature.

That said I would like to ask for a shorter book next time; good or bad, shorter will be better for all!

Lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno. :)

May 22, 2011

Freedom, part three

We are getting to the end of the book (at least some of us! ;-) and each page turned seems to bring more unhappiness, more conflict. No character is good or bad, but they all bring their problems with them, their fears, their frustrations, and that is something I really like about the book: characters, though extreme, feel so human.
But however, I want to bring the discussion to the politicals that the narration tells us. What do you think of the way the Cerulean Wabbler Park assures its existance? Does the end, keeping nature only for nature, justify the means (the implications with the mean corporations)?
And second, what do you think of the phrase "Kenny Bartles was clearly one of those daredevil clowns, a bush-league sociopath who would end up in jail or in Congress soon enough"? Isn't it just too real?

May 1, 2011

Freedom, second part.

So we get to know the characters better, Katz with his anti pop culture, Walter within two worlds, Patty married with one but in love with another, Joey and his independence and Connie the dependent. What do you think? Is any of them free?
From my point of view none of them are, and that takes me to the thought that probably, nobody is, there are always circumstances, family, money, careers... so why challenge with the title "Freedom"? What do you think the author is trying to say with it?
What do you think of what is happening in the book? Do you like it? Do you find it realistic? Because I think that Franzen ultimately wants to be realistic, but to me, maybe they are all too extreme and together tied by a fine rope, it just sounds like too much at times.

Apr 4, 2011

Freedom - First part

I am a little in advance this time, and I've got the permission to start with the discussion. Here some questions as appetizer:

What do you think about the beginning of "Good neighbors" up to the autobiography (not included)? Does it fit with the rest of the chapter? Not too much for me. The start is like a bad chapter of desperate housewives: a little too much of gossiping-nothing to do-ladies which really does not encourage to keep on reading. A bit of stereotype male thinking of a woman... Luckily the books turns out to be different from the autobiography onwards. Good shift? Definitively.

What about the freedom? How does affect to the book structure? to the characters?
It seems to give this strange section arrangements with an autobiography cut and placed in different parts. The concept is given the main position already in the title and its developed through the evolution of the characters. Do you think characters are really free to chose their ways? This "freedom" seems to make them quite miserable.

Mar 15, 2011

And the Winner is...

Freedom! by Jonathan Franzen 

Where are you gonna get this one? Wherever, time to go for it!

Suggested reading schedule, coming up soon.

Mar 13, 2011

Although it's a dense, long book, I am enjoying it a lot (I haven't finished it yet, I must say :) I think that, this one, can be cnsidered as a masterpiece.
I think that the complexity of the book and the big amount of different characters are a good 'picture' of Brazil's society in a moment of time, and many things/situations are descriptive of other societies (mainly from South America, but not only) as well. The author has been very brave and ambitious writing this novel and I think that he has succeeded with it (so far, I hope the end will not disappoint me :)
Some people have said that this book could be better with two hundred pages less; so far I don't agree, I am enjoying it as it is.
Looking forward for your comments!

The War of the End of the World - Final Thoughts

Who feels like opening the discussion?
From what we have commented on previous posts (and from some emails that have been exchanged), we can extract that there are a lot of mixed feelings about the story, the characters, and about the book itself.

Feb 22, 2011

The War of the End of the World - Part Three: Real Revolutions?

So how are you doing so far? We are a little behind schedule, but that won't stop us! We wanted to highlight the parallelism of the (fiction) revolution in Canudos and the real ones starting in the Middle East, what do you think? Are idealists like Galileo Gall appearing in Egypt? Morocco? Libya? Are the causes the same, hunger, poverty, inequality? What's the role of religion? In both our book and our newspapers we are seeing the armies against the people, does the book make you more interested in these developments? Or do you think they don't have common elements? Please, let us know your views!!

Feb 7, 2011

The War of the End of the World - Part Two

The second part of the book is a short one, and quite hilarious. It seems to be an answer (or a reinforcement) to Arantxa’s comment about manipulation of the media: “The corruption of politicians and power seems to be the same one a century after the war of the end of the world”.
What about the type of journalism? How much does the article look like nowadays journalism? And the journalist himself?

Jan 17, 2011

The War of the End of the World - Part One

In the first part of the book we get to know the story -- or at least part of it -- of some of the main characters; including a few local politicians, The Counselor’s followers, and Galileo Gall. However, after reading one fourth of the book, we really know nothing about The Counselor. What is his personal story? His background? His purpose?

In the two moments the book changes from having an omnipresent narrator to have Galileo Gall as the personal narrator, his thoughts bring up interesting points. Who are The Counselor’s followers? Are they part of a strategy of The Counselor to rebel against the pillars of a classist society? Is religion the only force able to strike a group of people for centuries yield to the oppression of a tyrannical church and abusive government?