CLICK HERE FOR FREE BLOGGER TEMPLATES, LINK BUTTONS AND MORE! »

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book review: Specials

This is the third book in the "Uglies" series by Scott Westerfeld.

Synopsis:
  "Special Circumstances":
The words have sent chills down Tally's spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor -- frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally's never been ordinary.
And now she's been turned into one of them: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.
The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.
Still, it's easy to tune that out -- until Tally's offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she's programmed to complete. Either way, Tally's world will never be the same.
Review: This is definitely not my favourite book of the series, but I really enjoyed reading it.
In my opinion, this book mostly focuses on Tally and her struggle to (re)discover herself and to break free from the mental chains that bind her. This book is mostly about the importance of individuality and personal identity, it's about the importance of freedom, it's about making choices and being ready to suffer the consequences of said choices. It's about what it means to be free and what being free can lead to. This is the book that forces you to think about all of those things, that forces you to face important questions, that forces you to understand what lead to the creation of a supposedly utopian society based on an oppressive government.
One of the aspects I particularly like about "Specials" is the whole characterization and growth that Tally experiences as a character. Throughout the series she has gone through so much I think she ended up loosing a bit of herself in the process. I mean, in the end of this book she does overcome her brain lesions, but it comes with a price: a part of herself, a part of her personality. 
I feel that every time Tally undergoes any sort of operation and, inevitably, gets her brain damaged, even though she recovers, she loses, slowly and yet visibly, a bit of who she truly is. In the end, there is barely nothing left of the original Tally, the Tally we knew in "Uglies".
Her basic traits are still there, but she is too damaged, too cold and rational to be the Tally we had once known. She has been far too butchered to remain being that young girl. And yet, I couldn't help but like her even more because of all this. She's different, that's true. But those changes didn't occur out of thin air, you see them happening and you understand why they do happen. You understand why Tally says what she says, and does what she does, and thinks what she thinks. You understand all of that because, even though in the beginning she can't see nor comprehend it herself, we realize that, once more, she has been a victim of the system. She has been transformed, and she is damaged again.
In the beginning, it was quite frustrating to realize what had happened to her while she couldn't see it for herself. But as soon as the pace of the book started to pick-up, this detail only adds to complexity of the plot.
Overall, I think this was a very well written book that managed to wrap-up the series quite beautifully (and even though I do know there's still one more book - which I'm quite excited to read - I see it as more of an add-up that anything else, and since it doesn't exactly follow Tally's story, I think I can say "Specials" wrapped-up hers quite well). It brought tears to my eyes on several occasions and I felt I had my heart on my throat, from the beginning to the end of the book.
I give it 5 out of 5★!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Opinião: Alma Rebelde

Note: Books written by Portuguese authors will be reviewed in Portuguese.


Sinopse:  No calor das febres que incendeiam a Lisboa do século XIX, Joana, uma burguesa jovem e demasiado inteligente para o seu próprio bem, vê o destino traçado num trato comercial entre o pai e o patriarca de uma família nobre e sem meios.

Contrariada, Joana percorre os quilómetros até à nova casa, preparando-se para um futuro de obediências e nenhuma esperança.

Mas Santiago, o noivo, é em tudo diferente do que esperava. Pouco convencional, vivido e, acima de tudo, livre, depressa desarma Joana, com promessas de igualdade, respeito e até amor.
Numa atmosfera de sedução incontida e de aventuras desenham-se os alicerces de um amor imprevisto... Mas será Joana capaz de confiar neste companheiro inesperado e entregar-se à liberdade com que sempre sonhou? Ou esconderá o encanto de Santiago um perigo ainda maior? 


Opinião: Tenho tendência a manter-me afastada de livros de autores nacionais, mas não posso afirmar ter razões cem por cento válidas para o fazer. Muito provavelmente, isto prende-se com o facto do género que eu mais gosto de ler (fantástico) seja muito escassamente povoado por autores portugueses e, dos poucos que já li, a escrita nem sempre me cativou. Portanto, foi só após ter lido várias opiniões relativas a este livro (todas elas muito positivas) que me decidi a comprá-lo e lê-lo. E agradeço a todos os Santos por tê-lo feito.

Com uma escrita pessoal, enternecedora e elegante, onde a língua portuguesa adquire um tom que nos é tão próprio, a autora consegue transportar-nos até uma época marcada pela tradição, pela moral e pela religião. Uma época onde as mulheres não eram nada mais do que meros objetos, moedas de troca em negócios orquestrados pelos homens que dominavam as suas vidas. 


"Alma Rebelde" tem a quantidade certa de elementos históricos para que a ambientação à época seja feita de forma natural, para que a compreensão das dinâmicas e da sociedade seja feita de forma simples e instrutiva e para que o ambiente que rodeia a vida das personagens facilmente nos envolva. Com descrições encantadoras e realistas, as imagens dos locais onde a ação se desenrola vão ganhando vida perante os nossos olhos, até estarmos completamente submersos.

Um dos aspetos que mais me maravilhou neste livro foi a originalidade com que está estruturado:
Por um lado, e sem dúvida alguma liderando toda a narração, temos o olhar de Joana: uma jovem burguesa de espírito tempestuoso e inteligente, mas que vive sob a máscara de obediência, cautela, modéstia e silêncio que todas as meninas de bem se veem forçadas a aprender e a fazer suas desde que nascem.
Joana nunca esperara vir a conhecer no seu casamento (um casamento arranjado pelo seu pai para benefício do seu estatuto social) liberdade, felicidade, ou até mesmo amor. Mas quando encontra pela primeira vez Santiago, o seu noivo, as suas ideias e perspetivas sofrem uma volta de 180º graus.

Por outro lado, temos o olhar de Santiago: sedutor, carismático, inteligente, de opiniões intensas e modos e emoções igualmente intensos, Santiago deixou-me rendida logo desde o primeiro encontro.
No entanto, Joana estranha-o. Estranho os seus modos, estranhas as suas emoções, estranha a sua frontalidade e honestidade.
Joana estranha-o, enquanto que eu me sinto ser arrebatada sem ter dado consentimento, e Santiago sente-se ser arrebatado por Joana logo desde o primeiro olhar.

Para além destas duas diferentes visões sobre os acontecimentos, temos ainda passagens do diário de Joana, bem como uma série de cartas trocadas entre esta e a sua melhor amiga, Ester (e, ocasionalmente, uma troca de correspondência entre Santiago e o rei D. Pedro, seu melhor amigo, assim como cartas de D. Ana - mãe de Santiago - para a sua filha Constança, que fugira para o Brasil). A intensidade das emoções resplandece das páginas, e muitas vezes senti o meu coração bater em sintonia com o das personagens, afundar-se ao sabor das suas desgraças, elevar-se com as suas alegrias.

Santiago é o homem por quem nos apaixonamos rapidamente, Ester a mais leal e verdadeira das amigas, D. Ana a mais doce das senhoras, D. Miguel (pai de Santiago) a pessoa com quem sei que nunca conseguiria lidar e Joana a rapariga com quem me consigo identificar, cujo pessimismo, ironia e tendência para exagerar me são tão familiares que não consegui evitar o sorriso com que acompanhava as suas muitas deambulações mentais e emocionais.

Uma história envolvente, tocante e que me fez ler sem conseguir, nem querer, parar. Assim sendo, os meus sinceros parabéns a Carla M. Soares, que me cativou com a mestria da sua escrita.
Dou-lhe 5 de 5★!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

(End of) August Book Haul

"Para Cime e Não Para Norte" by Patrícia Portela

"Love Among the Haystacks and other stories" by D. H. Lawrence

"Madam Crowl's Ghost and Other Tales of Mystery" by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

"Daughter of the Blood" by Anne Bishop

"War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy

"The Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley

"Alma Rebelde" by Carla M. Soares
Super excited to start reading some of these soon! (: 
Maria x

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book review: Daughter of the Blood

Synopsis: Seven hundred years ago, a Black Widow witch saw an ancient prophecy come to life in her web of dreams and visions. Now the Dark Realm readies itself for the arrival of its Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But she is still young, still open to influence - and corruption.
Whoever controls the Queen controls the darkness. Three men—sworn enemies—know this. And they know the power that hides behind the blue eyes of an innocent young girl. And so begins a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, where the weapons are hate and love—and the prize could be terrible beyond imagining...
Jaenelle, is destined to rule the Blood, if she can reach adulthood. Saetan, High Lord of Hell and most powerful of the Blood males, becomes Jaenelle's surrogate father and teacher. He cannot protect her outside Hell, where he rules. She refuses to leave Terreille, risking herself to protect or heal other victims of violence. Can Daemon, Saetan's estranged son, keep her safe from the machinations of the evil High Priestess?

Review: This is most certainly not a book for the faint of heart.
I would classify it as a dark (and let's really put some emphasis on the "dark", please) somewhat-feminist fantasy novel.
The society which is presented to us is one where women rule and men are mere subjects, more likely to take on roles and serve in ways that are usually thought of as typically female. The Blood are the ruling class, as they are people who are gifted with magic. Most of the Blood receive their jewels upon completing certain rituals as children, which will determine how strong their power is according to the colour of the jewel they receive. The Blood are supposed to be the keepers of balance in the world, but as the centuries pass their society and leaders grow corrupted and the true implications of what means being of the Blood are now disfigured and erased of the meaning they once held.
That is why, when seven hundred years ago, the prophecy of the arrival of the Queen is seen, groups of the Blood who were still trying to maintain themselves away of the growing power and corruption spreading under the orders of the Priestess Dorothea, hold their breath.
And, when all hope seems to be lost, the Queen appears. But she is still a little girl and, in order to grow to become the Queen the Blood need, she must survive until adulthood.

This book, as it follows the stories of Saetan, Lucivar, Daemon and, later on, Surreal and how they come to find this little girl and be a part of her life, tackles several disturbing and uncomfortable topics. Nevertheless, the author never mentions them just for the sake of shocking the reader. No. She mentions them because they are essential for the understanding of how things work in this world, of how these characters came to be what they are and of how Jaenelle (the little girl, the Queen) is going to have to walk a very hard, torturous, disturbing path, that will leave permanent scars, in order to become what she's destined to be.

There are several moments that are narrated in a rather explicit way, most of them being about horrific and down-right disturbing practices. If you can't take reading a full scene where a castration of a man is being described, then this is most likely not the book for you. It certainly left me wondering if I really wanted to go on, but the amazing plot and characters definitely convinced me to keep on reading.

The book can also feel incredibly confusing at the beginning. There are jewels ranks, male and female titles that are different from each other but that, sometimes, are equivalents, realms, races, creatures, dominance and submission aspects that you need to understand, terms that have entirely different meanings in this world and the rules of their society and hierarchy. It might seem overwhelming, and it might feel like that at the start, but even if you don't understand a certain aspect, just keep on reading because every single detail will be slowly explained as the story evolves.
Don't be put off by the confusion you are bound to experience at the beginning.

This book is definitely worth going through all the confusion and the oh-my-god-i-can't-believe-that-just-happened-let-me-just-close-my-eyes-and-pretend-i-didn't-read-that moments.
Overall, I give it 4 out of 5★! And I can't wait to start reading the second novel in this series.