10 Jul 2009

Monthly Reading: May + June '09

Oh my, late!!! By the time I was ready to start putting together the Monthly Reading summary for May... it was mid-June! ouch! I guess that Oceanic Blog-A-Thon kept me busier than I realised... Anyhow, since I'd only read two short books (one of which I've already forgotten, must remember to do this like the movies, write part of the post every time I finish a book), I figured I might as well wait and combine the two months, and here we are! Again late thanks to all the other stuff that's been keeping me busy! ;o)

Ojos Azules - by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. I don't know if those of you across the pond have read anything by this Spanish author, I think he's one of our better know modern authors, does a lot of historical fiction (one of my favourite genres). Among others he wrote El Maestro de Esgrima (The Fencing Master), La Tabla de Flandes (The Flanders Panel) y El Club Dumas (The Club Dumas, also a Polanski movie - The Ninth Gate with Johnny Depp anyone? the book is so much better, tells a much fuller tale... they're almost not the same story) a while back (all excellent!), and for the past several years he's been working on a series about a fictional soldier from the end of Spain's "Edad de Oro" Capitán Alatriste (the first four books were compiled in the movie Alatriste starring Viggo Mortensen) which I pounce on as soon as there's a new one out.
In between volumes in that series he writes other tales, this one is a short story about the night of June 30th 1520 known in Spanish an Mexican history as "la noche triste" ("the sad night"), the last night of the Spanish conquistadors led by Hernán Cortés as they try to gather their plunder and flee in the rain escaping Tenochtitlan (Aztec Mexico City) while the Aztec priests and soldiers try and take their revenge. It's a very vivid tale from the point of view of one soldier (first person narrative). The descriptions are so real and rich you can feel the rain, the fear, the bloodlust, the mud, the weight of the sacs of gold... you feel like you were there.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. I read Obama's fist novel (Dreams from my Father) last Fall before the elections. I was curious about this man who appeared to have come so far in so little time and who had very vocal supporters all talking about how hearing this man speak changed their lives. Couldn't hear him speak (in person) but you can tell a lot about a person from what he writes... and I figured the first book might give me some honest insight and not be too political seeing as how he'd written it right out of Harvard Law... I thought it was a wonderful story, very open and true. So a while back I decided to go for vol2 The Audacity Of Hope, full well realising it was bound to be more political seeing as how it was written during his first two years in the Senate. And yes, it definitely has a political bias, and I'd say one chapter did read a lot like a political manifesto, but on a whole it's still a good yarn! Very insightful into American politics, into the state of the Nation, the meaning of the constitution... and eerily prophetic! There are certain passages (wish I had marked them!) when he talks about if certain urgent changes aren't made we'll be heading down a slippery slope to a serious economic crisis... and guess where we are now?! So I'd highly recommend this one (albeit less than his first novel), and just remind readers to keep an open mind and remember this is one view point from one side of the political spectrum... which I just happen to mostly agree with! :o)

Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels (basis for HBO series True Blood):
Living Dead in Dallas - Club Dead - Dead to the World - Dead as a Doornail - Definitely Dead - All Together Dead

Ok, so I know when I read the first one Dead Until Dark back in March I wasn't too enthusiastic about it and figured I'd only read the rest if possible for "free" i.e. via a library or a loan or something. Well I wasn't counting on my going out and buying the lot for someone else! :p Turns out my sister's a big True Blood fan and really wanted to dig into the books so I said I'd give them to her as a birthday present (anything to encourage her reading!). Unfortunately for some reason they're not available in the UK at the moment (prepping a new edition with icky covers -imo- for tie-in to the TV series) so I couldn't get them for her off Amazon, but since I knew the Fnac here carried a reasonably priced box set... I told her I'd get them and she could pick them up when she came home for Hogueras.
Of course, this tantalising box of books was just sitting there on the shelf staring at me day after day after day... so what else was I to do but read the lot of them?! ;o)
I still think they're rather simple (for once the TV series seems to tell a more well-rounded tale thanks to all the supporting characters) and a bit too vulgar for my tastes, but at least one thing I complained about ("flat" characters) changed as the books advance through the story (characters are definitely fleshed out and the new ones introduced are usually pretty interesting). The first person narrative and fast paced stories do make them entertaining, easy to get into and quick to read. I got a good laugh at the idea that the vampires have divided the US -the first country (if we forget ancient Greece) to become a Republic- into several Kingdoms with Monarchies! The Queen of Louisiana? The King of Texas? Fun! The one disconnect I really had was trying to keep up with Sookie's relationships! Seems to be a different one each book (after the 3rd) but when you add up the time (the books usually take place over a short time frame), not much has passed between each! It's odd these frequently changing affections... Also has me wondering how they'll address that in the TV series as it's pretty much centred on Sookie and Bill's relationship, oops! ;o) Also related to the series, I see where they got some of those extra characters that help flesh things out on TV (for example Tara), they pretty much all appear later on in the books! So makes me wonder if Marianne is the M.....d ;o) Am also looking forward to meeting more were-people and other "supes" on the show, I hope they don't leave them out! But from what I've seen in the beginning of the 2nd season they're already starting to diverge from the books more and more (the dead body found in Andy Bellefleur's car wasn't the same in book and show), we'll see how much season 2 resembles Living Dead in Dallas. Anyhow, to sum it up the books are a lot of "light" fun reading, good for a summer session by the pool or at the beach.


  1. I'm so glad to see you've read both Obama books, I wish everyone would. I admired Obama from seeing him on Oprah several times before he became a candidate for our president. I really wanted him to run, but didn't think he would until 2012. When he made the announcement I immediately signed up as a volunteer.

    The first time I saw him speak here in Florida, I didn't think to take my book and he signed all those that were brought that day. When I saw him the second time he had already won the primary and the crowds were too large. But I did get to shake his hand that day and took lots of pics. When I came home that night and turned on World News, there he was walking out and right above him was my head. I paused the television and took a pic of the screen…terrible quality, but I kept it anyway. lol, I love my prez.

  2. That must have been an amazing experience!

    And yeah I really enjoyed those books! The first much more than the second since I'm a sucker for well written human stories (and his is so very real and yet not, if you get my drift), whereas I'm a bit wary of the political side of things and the second book does sound a bit more like it was written by a politician with an agenda... (even if I agree with most of said agenda)

  3. Yes, there was definitely an agenda in the second book, but you have to remember he was a relatively unknown new senator from Illinois and it enable those who read it to see just where he was coming from. Reading it is what made me believe in him enough to jump on the bandwagon and campaign for him for two years. The last time I put that much heart into a campaign was when Bobby Kennedy was running. I am always active during any election process, but this one actually took over my life (well, practically). We did manage to turn Florida blue though, so it was worth the effort.

  4. Anything that turned Florida blue was most definitely worth the effort!

    I got interested in the electoral process and registered to vote after the 2000 fiasco there... and we (the whole family) registered to vote in Florida (we could have given as a State any of our previous addresses, so Md, Tx or Mn but chose Fl)


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