dimarts, 31 de desembre de 2013

New Year's Resolutions for 2014


2013 has been a hell of a year. It has had good things, of course, but overall I'm really tired and it has felt veeeery long. I can barely believe that this time last year I was homeless (in Austria, at least), but, looking back, a lot has happened since January 1st 2013. Let's see if I managed my New Year's Resolutions for 2013. Remember:

blue = "99% or 100% accomplished"
green = "well, kind of"
  red = "mission: impossible"
purple = "didn't even try".

1. Take dancing lessons. No idea what kind of dancing, but my body is asking for it like a drug. Although I've stopped going because of other stuff, such as trying to make more money via tutoring high school kids. But I took an intensive Zumba course in July, then enrolled into another Zumba course in Salzburg, and managed to go to 3 classes of standard dances, also in Salzburg.

2. Fisish reading all pending books before buying new ones. I'm considering including this one as my yearly April's fools' joke.

3. Save up money to travel outside of Europe or at least to be more at least a whole week on holiday. Well, I did save up money, but it's still not enough for outside of Europe nor a whole week away... But with that money, we're going to Saarbrücken in February!

4. Learn a new language! I'm taking French again. It's not a new language for me, but it was so rusty that we might as well count it there... The courses for Italian and Swedish were already fully booked when it was my turn to enroll.


Not bad, is it? No red at all, and the "didn't even try" one was an obvious "didn't even try". Here go the ones for 2014:

  1. Go back to the weight I had when I was 18-20.
  2. Finish as many of my uni courses as possible so that I can finish as soon as possible.
  3. Make more money.
  4. ... it's a secret ;)



BON ANY NOU · FELIZ AÑO NUEVO · HAPPY NEW YEAR · BONNE ANNÉE · FROHES NEUES JAHR · с новым годом ·
あけましておめでとう

dilluns, 30 de desembre de 2013

Jesus liebt mich: the book vs. the movie

I have this sort of non-written tradition by which I like to watch certain films during a specific holiday season, for example Love Actually during Christmas time or Life of Brian in Easter. While not strictly Christmas-themed, I'd wanted to watch the movie adaptation of David Safier's book Jesus liebt mich since I found out that it existed because I'd read it and quite enjoyed it, but streaming Geman movies has proven awfully difficult (probably because I wasn't looking in the right places, but still). But I finally found it.
The story is pretty much the same as the book: Marie is a thirty-something disaster of a woman who is about to marry Sven but leaves him at the altar only to, shortly after that, meeting and falling in love with no other than Jesus Christ himself, who is back on Earth because the apocalypse is planned for next Tuesday. 

While the movie is a good comedy, the book had a lot more tiny details that made it better and even funnier. I missed the sub-plot with Marie's sister, whose comic stripes work as sort of conscience for Marie so that she will realize that her problems are easier to solve. I was disappointed to see that they cut the matter-of-factly conversations between God and Satan about the end of the world, although it doesn't really interfere with the development of the romance, but still... At least they kept most of Marie's hilarious inner thoughts through a voice-over and the character of Gabriel, the archangel that became a mortal man out of unrequired love, and added a scene in which he teaches the Bible to a group of primary school kids.

Overall, I'd recommend this movie to people who have read the book, as the adaptation is quite good and has a couple of little details here and there that get a smile on your face (like Jesus clicking a glass full of water and turning it into wine during a family dinner), or even to any of you who are looking for a decent, light-hearted romantic comedy for a couch-and-blanket evening. The only problem is that, so far, I've only been able to find it in German and I'm not sure if it's dubbed.

divendres, 27 de desembre de 2013

[Peripècies austríaques] 16. Per Nadal, com els torrons

Com més gran em faig, menys m'agrada el Nadal. Crec que és un mecanisme d'autodefensa en ser el tercer any que, per a mi, les festes comencen a meitats de novembre. De fet, tècnicament, aquest any podríem dir que la imposició de l'esperit nadalenc ha començat a finals d'octubre, que van començar a aparèixer decoracions a aparadors i carrers com bolets. No ha nevat de la manera espectacular que ho va fer l'any passat per aquestes dates, ha estat un advent força calorós (cal especificar que és una cosa molt relativa, això del fred i de la calor, però vull dir que les temperatures s'han mantingut per sobre zero, en general). 

Consideracions climatològiques a banda, aquest és l'any que crec que menys esperit nadalenc he tingut. He tingut un calendari d'advent i una corona d'advent, però no hem cantat nadales amb la coral (amb els alumnes vaig aconseguir fer-los cantar Santa Nit en castellà) ni tampoc no n'he escoltat a casa, només he anat una vegada al Christkindlmarkt de Salzburg i a dos mercats de Nadal més, no m'he estressat especialment a la recerca i captura de regals, no he posat gens d'atenció al sorteig de la Grossa, no he menjat torró fins el 24 a la nit... 

Tot va tornar a una certa normalitat aquella nit, però: això del torró fa molt de Nadal. Ja ho diu l'anunci, que per aquestes dates tornen els torrons i tornem els que hem marxat. Després d'un plat de sopa de galets de mida considerable, del gall rostit, dels canelons, de les neules i dels torrons, ja em sento més adaptada a l'època. I, és clar, canelons és sinònim de Sant Esteve i, automàticament, del concert de l'Orfeó Català, que aquest any he hagut de veure per la tele perquè les entrades estaves esgotades (increible!).

Des del sofà és molt fàcil criticar i riure's del maquillatge exagerat d'algunes cantaires i anunciar amb sarcasme que les festes no comencen fins que els cors infantils no han cantat Sant Josep fa bugada per enèssim concert de Sant Esteve consecutiu, però hi ha una cosa que, com a emigrant, m'ha tocat la fibra i m'ha fet desitjar, malgrat tot, ser a l'escenari. Un acord, el primer d'El cant de la Senyera: això és tot el que m'ha calgut per posar-me a plorar com una magdalena.

Bones festes.

dijous, 28 de novembre de 2013

En ocasiones veo series (I)

¡Ah, llevaba años esperando el momento adecuado para utilizar esta célebre cita cinematográfica! Con esto estreno sección, en la que os pegaré rollos sobre las series que sigo actualmente. (Aunque no actualice el blog muy a menudo, hago cosas con mi vida, que conste).


How I Met Your Mother - Temporada 9, capítulos 1 a 11

Por fin llegamos a la última temporada de la sit-com Como conocí a vuestra madre. La llevo más o menos al día y, la verdad, me parece muy irregular: algunos capítulos tienen la frescura de las primeras temporadas, otros se pasan de sentimentales (aunque peores eran los de la octava temporada) y, en general, da la sensación de que la trama avanza muy lentamente. A ver cómo sigue pero lo cierto es que la miro más porque es la última temporada que porque realmente valga la pena. De momento, los capítulos que más me han gustado han sido el séptimo (No Questions Asked) y el onceavo (Bedtime Stories).




The Big Bang Theory - Temporada 7, capítulos 1 a 9


Esta la empecé a ver un poco de rebote: vi las dos primeras temporadas de golpe hace un par de años, luego hice un parón, he visto capítulos sueltos en la tele y la retomé más o menos regularmente al final de la quinta. Lo bueno de esta serie es que es tan episódica que es muy fácil seguir el hilo argumental, así que saltarme dos temporadas no fue ninguna tragedia. Esta séptima temporada me está gustando en el sentido de que todos los capítulos hasta ahora han conseguido arrancarme más de una carcajada, que es la idea de la serie. 


Pretty Little Liars - Temporada 4, capítulos 1 a 13


La verdad es que la empecé hace tiempo y, aunque los libros me gustaron, la serie me está cansando mucho y la miro sólo porque quiero saber quién coj***s es A. Pero en serio, qué forma de dar vueltas a las cosas y de marear al espectador con pistas falsas, con personajes que aparecen y desaparecen para volver a aparecer mil años más tarde y obligarte a buscar en la Wikipedia o en blogs de series quién es toda esta gente. Aunque ya hayan revelado a dos personas que son/han sido A, sigo pensando que no es quien dicen que es en esta temporada. Y la que os está mareando ahora soy yo con esta sintaxis tan poco coherente.


Masters of Sex - Temporada 1, capítulos 1 a 3

A principios de temporada, en varios blogs sobre series hablaban de Masters of Sex como una propuesta que no se debería pasar por alto, así que la he empezado esta semana. Trata de un prestigioso ginecólogo, William Masters, que quiere hacer un estudio serio sobre el comportamiento del cerebro durante las relaciones sexuales. Pero intentar algo así a finales de los años cincuenta era prácticamente un suicidio social y académico, así que cuando la universidad deja de financiarlo, se lleva el estudio a un prostíbulo. Para ello contará con la ayuda de su secretaria, Virginia Johnson, y de la carismática prostituta Betty.

Masters of Sex se basa en la historia real de Masters y Johnson, cuyos estudios en la década de los sesenta se han convertido en textos de referencia en el campo de la psicología y de la sexología (según he leído en la Wikipedia). La serie, a parte de las dificultades para arrancar el proyecto de una forma seria y con finanzación de la universidad, trata sobre todo de las relaciones entre las personas implicadas: la tensión sexual no resuelta entre Masters y Johnson, los intentos de Masters y su mujer de tener un hijo a pesar de un problema de infertilidad, la incapacidad del joven doctor Ethan Haas de entender que Virginia no quiera establecer una relación de pareja con él a pesar de haber tenido sexo (qué tío más hostiable, en serio), los problemas de Betty y las otras prostitutas... 

Aunque de momento me ha picado la curiosidad, a pesar de que en los primeros segundos ya te dicen que van a tener éxito (y la realidad, también). Igual es, precisamente, la parte más centrada en las emociones de los protagonistas, la que me mantiene enganchada a la pantalla. O quizá sea el hecho de que se habla de sexo desde un punto de vista muy femenino (algunos hombres harían bien en tomar apuntes de lo que dicen las señoritas de esta serie y todos seríamos mucho más felices si folláramos más y jodiéramos menos). 

Sin embargo, hay algo que no me acaba de convencer del todo. Puede que me equivoque, pero da la sensación de que la historia real no da tanto de sí como para hacer una temporada entera. Ya veremos como evoluciona, pero espero que no empiecen a meter drama de relleno, como si fuera un shojo cualquiera, sólo para poder estirar el chicle.


¿Miráis alguna de estas series? ¿Qué os parecen? Acepto recomendaciones.

dimarts, 26 de novembre de 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - #7 Books I can't believe I've never read

http://brokeandbookish.blogspot.co.at/p/top-ten-tuesday-other-features.html

There are a series of movies that one is supposed to have seen at some point in one's life, and the same with books. Here is my "unforgivable" list of books I can't believe I haven't read yet.  

#1 The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R.Tolkien. I have it and I tried reading it but I've never been able to go further than page 120. Shame on me, I know.

#2 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll. And the funny thing is I haven't even seen the Disney film, so I can't even use that as an excuse.

#3 Diary of a young girl - Anne Frank. Seriously, it's a high-school classic but I don't really feel interested in reading it.

#4 The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka. Again, it's usually in every list of "books you should read at least once in your life" but it kind of intimidates me.

#5 The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov. It's been lying on my shelves for a whole year since I watched a dramatic adaptation of it, but I still haven't started it.

#6 Illiad - Homer. I've read the Aeneid and the Odyssey and that's the one that I've never read. Although it looks like the least interesting of the three - at least, I'm not that interested in the Trojan War.

#7 The Wizard of Oz - Frank L. Baum. Another one that's been on my shelves forever and that I particularly wanted to read after watching the 1939 movie with Judy Garland because I have the feeling the movie stays too much in the superficial level of the "fairytale".

#8 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen. I'm a girl, I took a subject on general English literature, I'm going to have a couple more subjects on British literature, I keep making references to Mr. Darcy, and I've never read Jane Austen? No, I had enough with Wuthering Heights! Although I've watched the film adaptation with Keira Knightley and I've been tempted to watch the TV-movie with Colin Firth.

#9 Arabian Nights. It's another very intimidating book and I want the Catalan translation by Dolors Cinca, which is only published in three very heavy and quite expensive hard-cover volumes.

#10 A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess. After watching the movie in a bus during a school trip, I honestly felt in no way inclined to read it. But then we translated a bit of the first chapter at university my curiosity grew. I still haven't read it yet, though.


divendres, 22 de novembre de 2013

IMH #3

It's been a while since I did one of these. Actually, since 2011. I've bought quite a few books and I even won a contest and the prize was... 50 books! I got an e-book as a Christmas present and I stopped buying so many material books (as in the traditional definition of book), but I downloaded a couple of books, some of which I already reviewed. So, because I kind of lost track of every single book I bought, I'll do what I can but I'll mainly stick to my most recent purchases and only fiction. 

E-books

  • 1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
  • Awoken - Serra Elinsen
  • Cinder - Marissa Meyer
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
  • Days of Blood and Starlight - Laini Taylor
  • Eighty Days Trilogy - Vina Jackson
  • Goddess of the Sea - P.C. Cast
  • Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
  • Lola and the Boy Next Door -  Stephanie Perkins
  • Naked - Raine Miller
  • Obsidian, Onyx, and Opal from the Lux Saga - Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • Edelstein Trilogie - Kerstin Gier
  • The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Duff - Kody Keplinger
  • Decameron - Boccaccio
  • Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri

Paper books

  • Percy Jackson series - Rick Riordan
  • The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
  • Notre-Dame de Paris - Victor Hugo
  • A Streetcar Named Desire - Tennessee Williams
  • Il servitore di due Padroni - Carlo Goldoni
  • American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis
  • The Color Purple - Alice Walker
  • La vieja sirena - José Luis Sampedro
  • Die dunkle Seite der Liebe - Rafik Schami
  • Pandora im Kongo - Albert Sánchez Piñol
  • Gefährliche Liebe - Haruki Murakami

Manga
  • Magic Knight Rayearth (German edition, 1 volume containing the whole series)
  • Sailor V (German edition, 2 volumes)

 Yeah, I need to stop...

dimarts, 12 de novembre de 2013

Trip down memory lane

Dear twenty year-old me,

you're about to begin a period of your life during which you're going to do plenty of stupid things and make decisions that you'll have mixed feelings about when you are 25. Your life will change, yes, a lot. Within the next five years you're going to evolve at levels that right now you can't even imagine. You'll realize that all you dreamed of is possible although the way here will be rough. 

You will fall and you will get hurt, and you will do both quite a lot, but you will always stand up again and keep walking forward. Some days you will feel like giving up, some days certain wounds will itch more than they should - and you must learn not to scratch them. I know it's easier said than done and at 25 you'll still struggle with letting certain things -and people- go.

Dear twenty year-old me, be braver than I was at your age. Don't be afraid of change because in change is your future. Don't regret decisions that now sound stupid or selfish. Live, love, enjoy. What you're looking for will come.

Yours,

Present-day me

dissabte, 2 de novembre de 2013

Express reviews (4)

Here are some express pending reviews of the last books I've read.

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

I'm not posting a synopsis of this one because it would be a huge spoiler. The last part of The Hunger Games's trilogy is a very intense book, politically speaking, although the first part might feel boring because it lacks a lot of action. The ending is perfect, in my opinion: it couldn't have ended otherwise. I'm not quite pleased with the resolution of the love triangle but it is logical within the universe, so I won't complain about that. Oh, and I cried. A lot. Especially during the third act.


David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

 

Probably one of the world's most famous orphans along with Oliver Twist, David Copperfield discovers that life isn't a path of roses when his mother marries a not-so-nice man and he is sent to a boarding school. He manages to grow up and stay a nice person and, along the way, he meets a series of pintoresque people, both good and bad.

Reading David Copperfield somehow felt like watching one of those soap operas they air on Catalan TV (TV3) after lunch time, showing us the lives of several people and their everyday problems. The translation that came for free with my e-book was not especially good but it's an enjoyable book, although at times I wished for the plot to move forward a little bit faster. But well, that's the pace that 19th century novels had.


Goddess of the Sea - P.C. Cast


Christine, or CC, as she prefers to be called, is in the air force in spite of her fear of flying. At midnight on her birthday she wishes for a change in her life through a pagan ritual that she read about in a book. On a flight across Europe towards a base she has been transfered to, her plane crashes on the sea. When CC is about to die, a sea creature offers to exchange their souls, so CC finds herself inside the body of Undine, a mermaid daughter of the goddess of the earth and the god of the sea (just go with it). In order to be able to recover her earthly life, she is sent to a British island in the 11th century and she finds herself trying to pass off as an amnesiac princess in a monastery full of mysoginistic men while trying to discover what real love is. And things get complicated when she falls in love with merman Dylan.

Uh... Where to begin... First of all, the title is misleading: CC does not become the goddess of the sea, and Gaea, her "mentor", is actually the goddess of the Earth. The whole story with CC passing off as Undine in the monastery feels kind of forced, like the author had three ideas for three different novels and mashed them up in one. The love triangles in this book are weird and I don't understand why our protagonist takes so long to realize who she really loves if she spends the whole second act and a huge part of the third one with him and she is  disgusted by virtually all other men in the novel. It's not a bad story but I was expecting something different.


Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters - Rick Riordan


Percy Jackson has to go back to Camp Half-blood after a group of cyclopes cause a fire in his school and he is blamed for it. But something is wrong there, someone has poisoned Thalia's tree and the magical borders of the camp are weakening. To make things worse, Percy keeps having dreams about Grover being trapped with a cyclope and Poseidon surprises Percy by showing him that he has a half-brother. The only solution to save the camp is to get the Golden Fleece but in order to do so, Percy will have to journey into the Sea of Monsters.

I didn't quite enjoy this novel as much as the first one, The Lightning Thief, but the author manages one more time to adapt Greek mythology into our modern times and it's always a pleasure to revisit some of your favorite characters and events from Greek mythology in such a novel (this time it's basically the Odyssey). I think the Percy Jackson series are a great way to introduce younger audiences to the ancient myths. I'm looking forward to reading the next three novels.


Eighty Days Blue - Vina Jackson


Summer and Dominik are now a more or less stable couple but they are not sure if it can work in the distance, so Dominik moves to New York and they move in together. But can they actually be a regular couple, especially with Summer's upcoming solo tour?

I know I said I didn't want to read the second part to Eighty Days Yellow because I thought it worked well enough as an individual novel. And I partly wish I hadn't read it because now, after the cliffhanger that we got as an ending and knowing that neither of our protagonists are pleased with their love lives, I need to know what is going to happen to them. The sexual content of this book was milder that in the first one, in my opinion. And you'd be surprised how much I can relate to Summer in this novel, which is something I didn't quite expect.

dimarts, 8 d’octubre de 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - #6 Characters (and Literary Figures) That I'd Name My Children After


I don't expect to bring ten children to the world, but I do like to speculate about potential names I'd give my hypothetical children. If I had to choose them from books and/or literary figures, and not care about what the father has to say on this topic, these would be my choices. To make it fair, numbers 1 to 5 are girls' names and numbers 6 to 10, boys' names. I tried to keep it in alphabetical order.

GIRLS

#1 Aria (from Pretty Little Liars) or the variation Arya (from A Song of Ice and Fire). Aria means air in Italian and it's also reminiscent of arias in operas. I'm all for names that have a meaning. The variation Arya has a nice ring to it, I like the use of y instead of i. It has a more artistic flavour altogether.

#2 Eva (either from Eva Luna or from the Bible). This name means "life". Call me sentimental, but that's enough of a reason for me. 

#3 Hanna (either from Der Vorleser, or from Anna, Hanna och Johanna, or from Pretty Little Liars -take your pick-). Although the Hanna from Bernhard Schlink's The Reader (Der Vorleser in the original German version) and the Hanna from Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars have kind of horrible personalities and care way too much about what other people will think about them and because of that make poor decisions (especially the Hanna from The Reader), and that the Hanna from Marianne Fredriksson's Hanna's Daughters (Anna, Hanna och Johanna in the Swedish original) has a very difficult life, this variation of the typical and overused Anna is nice and closer to the Hebrew name (now that I mention it, I should also quote the Bible as one of the books where this name appears). I still like Anna, though. It's a tie, I guess?


#4 Lara (from Doctor Zhivago). No particular reason there. I like the name, it's short and international enough, and I don't know many of them so I guess it's not an overused name. Also, she has a very memorable theme song.

#5 Marina (either from State of Wonder or from Marina). It would be a sort of statement, like saying "this is obviously my daughter", my name being Mar and "marina" meaning "related to the sea". It would also be a bit confusing and unoriginal, but I like the name anyway.


BOYS

#6 Gale (from The Hunger Games). I'm starting to see a pattern with names that have windy/air themes. A gale is a very strong kind of wind. Also, I really liked the character of Gale in The Hunger Games


#7 Jordi, like Jordi Sierra i Fabra or Saint George, on whose festivity International Book Day is celebrated (Jordi being the Catalan form of the name). The only problem is that my brother has strictly forbidden me to call any son of mine after him.

#8 Marcel (from Les veus del Pamano). I like names that start by "mar", in general (nothing to do that my name also starts with that syllable). Although that's not really what it means, in Catalan Marcel sounds like the combination of the words "mar" (sea) and "cel" (sky).
 
#9 Mark (from Bridget Jones's Diary or like author Mark Twain or any of the thousands of Marks out there, real or literary), or the variation Marc. However, similarly to Marina, it's a name I like but wouldn't really make the list of potential names because it sounds too similar to my own name. That's why we discarded it for my brother. It's a very mainstream name, though, and that takes points off.


#10 Ragnar (from Anna, Hanna och Johanna). Ragnar's was Hanna's illegitimate son in this novel, and it has a certain Norse mythology flavour.


divendres, 4 d’octubre de 2013

Awoken

Before we begin, I knew of the initial idea behind this book and watched the videos about the creative process. If I hadn't known, I would have put it down before page 100 thinking that it was just another bad PNR novel trying to jump into the bandwagon of Twilight and such. Because that is what it looks like to the unaware reader.


The story is about Andromeda Slate, shortened to Andi because she agrees with me on the fact that her parents were cruel enough to call her that. She is a sixteen year-old who experiences the typical first world problems of every self-centered teenage girl with self-steem issues, and the author brings the parody of the trope to a point that it becomes ridiculous. The most recent tragedy in her life includes having had to move to Portsmouth, Rhode Island, because her parents got a better job there, so she's stuck in a new school with Bree, a girl who is seen eating in every single scene where she appears (I kid you not) and her obviously friendzoned, childhood friend Vik, who also happens to be the ethnic representation of the novel (he's of Indian ascent).

But Andi's life makes a 180º turn when the undescribably beautiful but mysterious Riley Bay appears in her life. She doesn't instantly fall in love with him but she obsesses over him because she dreamed about him. And, yes, you guessed it, Riley is not quite human. And now it's Andi's mission to avoid  the destruction of the world.

I was excited about this book. I looked forward to read this and my expectations where very, very high. I really wanted to like this book. I hoped for an Airplane! kind of thing, but it turned out to be what I kind of had expected Twilight to be when I read the back cover of Meyer's bestseller, minus annoying female protagonist. Which, in a way, is positive, I guess, but still I wanted more obvious references, even more exagerated tropes.

Speaking of, we need to talk about Andi. Self-centered, emo-ish girl? Check. Bad relationship with her parents because they forced her to move to the most boring place on Earth? Check. Describes herself as socially awkward? Check. Falls blindly in love at first sight with a stalker and is willing to give up her life for him, even if he's obviously no good for her? Bitch, please. Loves to read a piece of classic literature with star-crossed lovers as protagonists? Why, Phantom of the Opera, of course! With these ingredients, she becomes the perfect YA novel female lead, and the author manages to exagerate it so much that the author sees not only a rip-off of Bella Swan and co., but also a parody of these tropes. So positive points on that side.

Same goes for Riley. Thank Chtulhu that he doesn't sparkle and that his monstruosity is real and not an insult to all mythological creatures out there (here's looking at you, sparkling vampires). I enjoyed the character of Riley so much, especially because he won't stop speaking in perfect old English. Although Andromeda describes him as the most perfect man ever, it couldn't be more evident that he's the type of guy you don't want to have as a boyfriend if he had a sign with neon lights and the warning "DANGER!". He doesn't even try to hide it, as he spends most of his dialogue calling Andi all synonyms of "little" in the theesaurus. Well played, author.

But the real jewels of this book are the secondary characters: Bree, Uncle Neil, and Miss Epistola. Bree works most of the times as the channel for the audience's reactions, especially where it concerns getting romantically involved with Riley. Uncle Neil is a character that needs more screen time (chapter time?) or a book about only him and his adventures. I'd love to drop by his store and buy that diary of an orphan. Miss Epistola was a really interesting villain. It's a shame that neither she nor Uncle Neil get more character devolpment because we have to cut to Andi and Riley's romance.

The first part of the novel is a bit too slow for my taste, although at least the characters and their motivations (or lack thereof, in Andi's case) are introduced, and so is the "conflict". The second act is where the romance develops and where I almost gave up the book because I couldn't care less about New York City sightseeing and cultists. Finally, the third act was pretty action-packed and I thought that the whole scene at the theater was quite good. Actually, if this hadn't been initially a parody, it could have been recycled for a real novel.

Still, I don't feel completely satisfied with this. Part of it might have to do with the whole drama, which I will not address here (but feel free to leave a comment or send me a private message) but that left a bad taste in my mouth even before I had the book in my hands, and part of it is because of the high hopes I had before reading. While the idea is good and the author knows the frequently (ab)used tropes of YA/PNR literature and applies them perfectly, she fails to create a story original enough on its own and that feels like a parody even to those who are not aware of this intention.

dimarts, 1 d’octubre de 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - #5 Books I Read That Were Outside Of My Comfort Zone



Honestly, this was a difficult entry. I'm always for getting to know more books and I've seldom been afraid of trying new things (literature-wise, of course). Most of the books that appear in this TTT entry share the fact that it was my first time reading a specific genre which I'm not used to reading, but it's not necessarily the main topic of the book that made me get out of my comfort zone, which is kind of wide, as of now. As usual, the books appear in no particular order.



#1 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley. It was my first novel with a dystopian future and I didn't quite understand it at the time (basically because it was a compulsory reading for school so I kind of read over it without paying a lot of attention). I wasn't used to reading such novels.

#2 Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson. Apparently, this is a YA classic but I chose it from the bookshop out of  pure curiosity when I was twelve, without any sort of recommendation. I honestly wasn't prepared for what I found inside its pages because the books I had read until that moment were a bit more happy-ending-oriented.

#3 Els altres catalans - Francesc Candel. I'm not used to reading essay books, I've always prefered fiction.

#4 De oratore - Cicero. Another book we had to read at school, this one for Latin class. Although Virgil's Aeneid is from the same historical period (more or less), at least it's more "fictional". De oratore was really hard to read because of the way it is written and, again, I'm more used to reading fictional books and this is a veeeeery long essay on speaking in public.

#5 Ab urbe condita (History of Rome) - Titus Liv. And yet another book for Latin class. I had never read historical chronicles before.

#6 Eighty Days Yellow - Vina Jackson. I keep mentioning this book in every TTT entry xD. I had never read erotic novels with BDSM elements before.

#7 The A Song of Ice and Fire series - George R.R. Martin. I had failed to go further than page 120 of The Fellowship of the Ring, so when I got Game of Thrones, the first book in the series, I was really intimidated by it. I actually almost gave it up arond page 120 as well, lost in a sea of main houses and sworn houses, but I was reading in a train and I had nothing else to read. I'm glad I continued.

#8 Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card. This is kind of cheating because I already have read and enjoyed dystopian-future YA novels, and I'm not yet done reading this book. But this might my first time with actual science-fiction.

#9 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov. I'd never imagined a story about a pedophile could be written so beautifully to the point that you sometimes forget Humbert, aged 50, is talking about a 12 zear-old girl. I felt dirty liking his character and feeling kind of sorry for him after I finished the book.

#10 Anything by Haruki Murakami. Although I generally like his books, they don't always follow the scheme of introduction-development-conclusion in a "Western" sense or logic, so what I expect from the story always catches me off-guard.

diumenge, 29 de setembre de 2013

[Peripècies austríaques] 15. Aniversari i eleccions

Ja fa dos anys que sóc a Salzburg. Què ràpid que passa el temps i quantes peripècies austríaques que he viscut durant aquest temps (encara que no ho hagi publicat al blog)!

Avui també he afegit "anar a votar" a la llista de coses austríaques que ja he fet. Alerta, que anar a votar no és una cosa exclusivament austríaca ni tampoc no vull dir que la meva veu democràtica s'hagi manifestat per fi al país alpí (més que res perquè no tinc dret a participar activament de les eleccions austríaques com a estrangera, és clar, i sóc d'aquella mena de persones que encara creu que votar canviarà alguna cosa). 

A les darreres eleccions generals espanyoles i autonòmiques catalanes hi vaig votar per correu. És un procés digne d'un thriller hitchcockià, els tràmits burrocràtics semblen ideats pel mateix Haneke, la ineficiència de la diplomàcia espanyola a l'estranger perfectament podrien haver estat manllevats d'un quadre de Dalí. No, no exagero. Ja vau veure en una entrada anterior on cau el consolat honorari espanyol de Salzburg, ja us en podeu fer una idea. En tots dos casos, després de plorar molt a la gentussa de l'ambaixada de Viena i de patir molt perquè, casualitats de la vida, les paperetes no arribaven mai (de fet, per les generals em van arribar el dia que s'acabava el termini... quines coses), vaig pagar religiosament els 3,55€ que costa enviar una carta certificada. Uns diners, per cert, que se suposa que et tornen i que encara espero, tot i que no tan glamourosament com la Sara Montiel (i els meu sistema immunològic se n'alegra, les coses com són).

També he viscut dues eleccions austríaques: les "autonòmiques" salzburgueses i les "generals" al parlament austríac. A veure si tenia raó en Clow Reed quan deia que la casualitat no existeix. Les "autonòmiques" (que, sincerament, no vaig seguir gaire perquè va coincidir amb el final de curs de l'escola i jo estava per altres coses), van ser molt semblants a l'hòstia que es va fotre el PSC a les autonòmiques catalanes del 2010 i els va prendre el relleu CiU. A Salzburg, els socialistes (SPÖ) van perdre una part important dels vots a causa d'un cas de corrupció molt bèstia en què van desaparèixer 340 milions d'euros de diners públics i, per això, els salzburguesos van votar els negres (ÖVP). Res, calderilla. Riu-te'n tu del Millet i del Bárcenas... 

Avui s'han celebrat les "generals" i també s'ha donat un cas similar: els socialistes i els negres han perdut una part significativa de l'electorat, que s'ha decantat pels blaus, el FPÖ, que ve a ser una cosa així com el PP combinat amb Plataforma per Catalunya (hi ha qui els titlla directament de nazis, i que ho digui un poble que vigila molt amb l'ús indiscriminat d'aquesta paraula és, si més no, significatiu).

Així i tot, sembla que SPÖ i ÖVP repetiran la coalició amb la qual han governat durant aquests darrers cinc anys, la qual cosa aparentment no té gaire contents els austríacs i hi ha por que la manca de canvi generarà protestes i un vot de càstig a les properes "generals", que es transformaria en un ascens del FPÖ, de la mateixa manera que han adquirit bastanta força partits de tendències neoliberals que prometen la creació de llocs de treball i la industrialització d'Àustria (pel poc que he entès a través dels diaris). És que no han après res del sud d'Europa?

Per Facebook veig joves (ex-alumnes meus de Hallein, bàsicament) que proclamen la necessitat de fotre el camp. No sé cap a on, però en l'auge del FPÖ hi veuen un futur més aviat negre. Està clar que the grass is always greener on the other side, perquè, personalment, em sembla que, com a mínim, aquí la política es té per una cosa seriosa, no com a casa nostra. I, parlant de gespa, em temo que també he de discrepar: segur que és més verda a Àustria que a Espanya. Si més no, els verds austríacs també han aconseguit un parell d'escons més.


dijous, 19 de setembre de 2013

Express reviews (3)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Benjamin Button is born with a rare condition: he ages in reverse, so he is born as an old man and will die as a little baby. This is the story of his life and his love for Daisy.

This was one of those thousands of pendant films on my list and I got the DVD as a Christmas present last year but I didn't watch it until this summer. I liked it but it was sooo long! Half an hour less of footage would have worked just as well. Brad Pitt looks a bit creepy as the older Benjamin, but the story was likable. I'd like to read the short story written by Fitzgerald that the movie took inspiration from.


Crazy, Stupid Love


Cal and Emily Weaver are going to get a divorce because she cheated on him with a work collegue. Knowing that he has hit the bottom, he tries to get dates with other women and for such purpose he gets the help of Jacob, a professional womanizer. 

Will you look at that, a romantic comedy that is both romantic and a comedy! Despite the Holywood happy ending with morality on the side, I enjoyed this and I didn't feel that my intelligence was being insulted. It's not the best movie ever, but it's worth a watch if you're looking for a rom-com that even your boyfriend will watch. Oh, and Ryan Gosling is topless in it, too *wink-wink*.


Despicable me 2

 
Bottom... haha, hoho!

After adopting Margo, Edith, and Agnes, Gru is officialy retired from the villain business, but he gets a job offer from the AVL (Anti Villain League) to help them catch a really powerful bad guy. 

They say second parts are always worse than the original, although I don't think this applies to this film, except maybe if you think there are too many slapstick scenes with the minions, and that the whole love story is a bit forced. Other than that, both children and adults will enjoy this movie.


The Notebook
 


In the summer of 1940, Allie and Noah fell in love, but she was a lady and he was just a poor boy. Still, and in spite of all the obstacles that overcame, that didn't stop them from loving each other for the rest of their lives.

No. Just no. This is not the most romantic film ever. This is a trainwreck of a romance. I don't like how Noah forces himself into Allie's life, I didn't like Allie's personality, I didn't buy the Romeo and Juliet relationship nor Allie's mother's reactions, I felt sorry for James Marsden's character. And I especially dislike how this is sold to viewers as the most romantic thing ever. It is still a better love story than Twilight, sure, but not much better. 

I did like one thing, though, and I though that was the only kind of romantic part in the whole movie: the older couple and how the husband never loses faith that his wife will remember who he is. But this first encounter with him is enough Nicholas Sparks for me for the rest of my life. Not even watching this when I was on a very bad period saves this thing (I have a sneaking suspicion that watching such movies under such conditions only make me more skeptical).

dimarts, 17 de setembre de 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - #4 Favorite Covers


This might be one of the most difficult TTT entries ever because there are so many beautiful covers out there... Please note that the fact that I like the cover does not automatically mean that I like(d) the book.


#1 The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

I love covers that use black and another main color for contrast (which makes me a very easy prey for the editorial market). If this cover doesn't make you want to buy and devour this book, probably nothing else will. And believe me, this is one of those cases when you can judge a book by its cover.





 

 #2 The Hunger Games trilogy - Suzanne Collins


More specifically, I like the second edition. The black background with a detail in one main color. These covers and the movie trailer for the first movie were the reasons that I decided to buy the books in the end, although a friend of mine had recommended them a couple of times before. If you made me pick only one cover, I'd go with Mockingjay.



#3 The Inspector Mascarell series - Jordi Sierra i Fabra


I like covers that use old pictures in black-and-white or sepia if they are tastefully used. Although they have little relation to the actual plot of the novels, I think they are nice. My favorite is the one for Cinc dies d'octubre (the third book), although the one for Dos dies de maig feels more appropriate for a detective novel.


#4 Matched - Ally Condie


This is a similar case to the The Hunger Games, only that in this case the background is white. The little green ball with the girl inside in the circle and the texture of the cover were the main reason why I bought the book. It catches your eye and I like the fact that's it's minimalistic and still attractive.







#5 Atonement - Ian McEwan

I'm kind of cheating here (as usual) because this is part of a collection that Vintage Books edited on their 21st anniversary. I'm putting Atonement in the list because it's the one I have, but actually it's the whole collection that I like (special mention to Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle). The picture is not especially good, but I like the monochromatic scheme of the covers.





 #6 Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman - Haruki Murakami

I have the Catalan version, but I prefer the English one by Vintage Books because it's minimalistic and it has a clear Oriental design that I find appropriate to the book.










#7  Die Frau des Zeitreisenden - Audrey Niffenegger

This time, the German edition by Fischer Taschenbücher. It is a pocket edition that actually fits in your pocket and has a very thin paper, so it's perfect to carry around. If you don't like it, you can rip off the round red sticker with the title and name of the author so that the cover looks more like a personal diary. The pattern reminds me slightly of kimono fabric.






#8 Run - Ann Patchett

There is another edition of this book with another cover. I think the one that I have is the British one, which is the one that I'm posting here, although I'm not quite sure. I prefer this one because it looks calmer and bares more relation to the plot than the other one.







#9 Eighty Days Yellow - Vina Jackson

I know, I know, I said that I wasn't a big fan of this novel nor this genre (although I honestly thought it would be worse). While the cover goes along the lines of every other cover of every other recent erotic novel, at least this one is done tastefully (in my opinion, of course) and kind of says without words what you will find inside.







#10 A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

If you haven't noticed the pattern by now, I like minimalist covers with a main dominant color. The cover is only one of the many things that I liked about this book. If you still haven't, go read it now.










Honorable Mentions
Here is a selection of covers that I thought of and almost made it into the list for many different reasons, although you can see the pattern (minimalistic covers, one dominant color) still kind of applies. The are many more covers that I'm sure I didn't think of. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments section!







diumenge, 15 de setembre de 2013

Express reviews (2)

More movies! This time, it's films I watched either on DVD or on TV.

The Lovely Bones
 

Susie Salmon is murdered by her neighbour. He hides her body, so it is unclear whether she ran away from home or something worse happened to her. Her soul stays in a sort of onirical limbo because her family, especially her father, have not accepted the fact that she could be dead, and from there she narrates how their lives have changed after her disappearance.

Although Peter Jackson's rendering of limbo is very colorful and magical and contrasts with a real world that looks a bit more gray, if you're not paying attention to the details or you don't know what the story is about beforehand, the whole show-don't-tell can be a bit confusing. Actually, I have the feeling that the whole limbo part is explained better in the book this movie is based on (I guess I'll have to read it if I want to compare). However, the movie works as a dramatic thriller.


The Dictator

 
General Aladeen, dictator of Wadiya, travels to New York to speak in the UN headquarters as his country's development of nuclear weapons would eventually lead to war. He gets kidnapped and is forced to live as a regular citizen while trying to avoid that his brother takes control over his country and allowing democracy.

As insulting as this movie is to all sorts of communities all over the world, at least all the people that act in the film are actors and no-one is actually trolled like in Sacha Baron Cohen's previous mockumentaries (and it's very obvious this time that everything is scripted). It could have been a lot worse.


Did you hear about the Morgans?


Meryl and Paul Morgan are about to get a divorce when they witness a murder and they are put in the witness protection program, which sends them from New York to a small town in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming. 

I knew this movie was going to be bad when I saw the trailer in the theater back in 2009 (I mean, look at the cast and look at that poster), but they aired it on TV this past summer and I had nothing better to do than torture myself with this thing. How did this get green-lighted? Who thought the script was funny? Whatever did Brits do to the writers to have Hugh Grant speak such bad puns and hitlines? Can Sarah Jessica Parker stop being Carrie Bradshaw in post-Sex and the City movies? There you have it, a waste of two hours of my life.


Ted


Ted is a teddy bear that comes to life when John, his owner, makes a wish that they will be friends forever. Ted and John grow up together, the teddy bear becoming a sort of celebrity on his own, and he becomes unable to accept that John might want to add his fiancee to the equation, which means that Ted needs to learn to live appart from John.

I watched this film with Andi and we expected something funny, along the lines of a longer episode of Family Guy or something like that. We couldn't finish it because less than an hour into the movie we were bored and disappointed. I guess that says it all.

dimarts, 10 de setembre de 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - #3 Most Intimidating Books

Here is my third entry of the Top Ten Tuesday. Last week I was unable to upload it because of work. As usual, the books appear in no particular order.


#1 Don Quijote de la Mancha - Miguel de Cervantes. I had to read this for school, I read some pages, and I gave up. Still, I think it's one of those books you have to read at least once in your life. And it's not like I can blame it on the number of pages.

#2 The Decameron - Bocaccio. Another big literature classic that is giving me suggestive looks right now from the shelves, but that I'm a bit afraid of diving into.

#3 Inferno - Dante. Again, one of those books you have to read and that is referenced again and again, but is quite intimidating.

#4 One Thousand and One Nights. I actually started to read this a loooong time ago but never got to the end. I especifically lust for the 3-volume Catalan translation by Dolors Cinca.

#5 Anna Karenina - Lev Tolstoi. Do you notice the pattern already? Only because I really, really wanted to read the book before seeing the movie, I managed to get through the more than 800 pages that take us to Russia in a time when things were different.

#6 The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follet. Everybody talked about this book during my last year at high school and because of that I automatically decided I didn't want to read it because best-seller normally equals overrated (which is the case with this book) and I didn't want to be disappointed (which I could say I was). Then I got it as a present, my dad read the 1000+ pages-long novel in a couple of days (a literal couple of days) so it kind of made me want to see if it was really worth the hype.

#7 Eighty Days Yellow - Vina Jackson. Now, intimidating might not be the right word there, but you should understand it as my fear of disappointment. This is what happened with this book: I was afraid that I was downloading the bazillionth, badly-written rip-off of Fifty Shades of Grey (not that FSOG is the perfect candidate for a Literature Nobel Prize, mind you). And I was positively surprised.

#8 Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami. Your first time with Murakami is a very special thing, because it's a kind of literature that Western readers might not be used to. At least, I wasn't. I went for the "easy" choice but I did during the whole Murakami craze. Fear of disappointment strikes back. I'm sure there's a cure for that.

#9 Notre Dame de Paris - Victor Hugo. This one only intimidates me because, out of pure greed, I bought the French pocket edition for 4,60€ (when are Spanish publishers going to learn?). I've read Victor Hugo before, but not in the original version, and my French is very rusty. But 4,60€ for such a thick book was an offer I couldn't resist.

#10 The Godfather - Mario Puzzo. Speaking of offers that I can't refuse, here is one book that I was not so keen on reading because of its movie adaptation. This is one of those very rare cases in which the movie is as good as the book.

divendres, 6 de setembre de 2013

I went to the movies (Express reviews)

As usual, going to the movies requires not only free time, but also money. Therefore, I don't go to the cinema as often as I'd like to, especially because I don't want to be disappointed by the films and regret having paid so much money. Anyway, this is what I've seen so far:


The Hobbit. An Unexpected Journey


Bilbo Baggings goes on a journey with thirteen dwarves and Gandalf himself to help them recover their rightful kingdom from a dragon. During this journey, he will also become the owner of the one ring to rule them all, unaware of what he holds in his hands.

This was the first movie I saw in the theater this year. I must say that I have not read the book (basically because I was scared of Tolkien's writing because of the whole LOTR trilogy), so I have no idea if dividing the book into three parts was that necessary (everybody that I asked said it wasn't) or if it's a good adaptation (apparently, they added up film time with other aspects of Tolkien's books and "mythology"). Be as it may, I liked the movie, both visually and on the narrative level, although I think it's 30 minutes too long.


No


Chile, 1988. A plebiscite is going to take place in order for Chileans to decide if they want Pinochet to stay in power (the "yes" option) or if they want democracy instead (the "no" option). The political parties for "no" hire a publicity team, lead by René Saavedra, in order to reach as most people as possible and convince them to vote for "no".

Normally, if I'm going to watch movies based on historical facts, I need to do some more research before, so that I can actually enjoy the movie. However, in this occasion I did the research afterwards because I felt the need to learn more and do some compare-and-contrasting with what actually happened, although it was pretty well explained in the film and it introduced me to a part of recent history that I wasn't that familiar with. No was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Oscars and I can see why. It's the kind of movie that I would show in an advanced Spanish class focused on culture and politics.


Monsters University


Before working at Monsters Inc., Mike and Sully went to university. They weren't even friends, but chance brought them together and taught them that they needed to learn about teamwork.

It's not that I didn't like Monsters Inc. when it first came out, but it didn't leave much of an impression. So, by comparison, I liked the prequel better in spite of the message it's trying to get across. Then again, this is a movie for kids, so it's a good lesson for them to learn. Also, the side characters were funny. You'll have fun watching it, especially if you are going/have been to university.


The Great Gatsby (2013)


Nick Carraway tells us about his friendship with Jay Gatsby, a bootlegger who made a fortune during Prohibition Era to impress the love of his life, Daisy.

I considered giving this one a full review because it's so wrong in many ways but still enjoyable. Similarly to Moulin Rouge, by the same director, the visuals are great, but it feels as though you had stepped into a 2 hour-long music video. I'm fine with the fact that they're dancing to Jay-Z's hip-hop instead of jazz from the 1920's, although I would have prefered the latter. Most of the actors were fine in their roles, except Tobey Maguire: I didn't buy his rendition of Nick Carraway. I left the cinema with mixed feelings: while I liked the movie in the visual department, narration-wise I thought it was poor and could have been handled otherwise.


Now You See Me 


Four magicians are summoned by a the secret society The Eye. One year later, they have become great stars and in one of their shows, they robb a bank live as part of a trick. An FBI investigation begins as the money actually disappered and, although the magicians somehow give the money to the audience instead of keeping it to themselves, they intend on doing two more acts.   

Give me more bluckbusters like this one, please! Although you know how things are going to turn out for them since minute 1, I have to admit that I was surprised because I kept expeting for one specific twist to happen and the actual twist caught me off guard (I must say, mine was a lot more original). Visually, it's very astonishing, but it has several plotholes that kept nagging at the back of my head for a couple of days after seeing the movie. If you watch it, leave expectations at home.


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