carlos ruiz zafón

Chunkster Challenge 2011 – Completion

I usually read quite a few books that would easily fit in to the category of ‘chunkster’. But each year I shrink from taking up the ‘Chunkster Challenge’. What if I can’t finish it? But I took the leap this year. My new job became  a serious  impediment to my finishing this challenge. Anyhow, at long last managed to finish it.

I participated under the “The Chubby Chunkster” participation level of the 2011 Chunkster Challenge, the challenge was to read four books of adult literature (fiction or nonfiction) of 450 pages or more between February 1, 2011 and January 31, 2012.

Thanks to Wendy of Caribousmom for hosting this challenge. I enjoyed participating in it.

Completed Books: 1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Haruki Murakami.

2. Barchester Towers. Anthony Trollope.

3. The Shadow of the Wind. Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

4. A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill Bryson.

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R. I. P. VI Challenge – Completion

Ever since I was a child I have been reading books from the supernatural, crime and mystery genres. TV shows featuring similar themes have also been a favourite of mine. So, when I found out that Carl V is hosting the R. I. P. (R. eaders I. mbibing P. eril VI) Challenge at Stainless Steel Droppings, I just had to participate.

The R.I.P. Challenge has taken place every year from September 1st through October 31st for the last 5 years.

There are several challenge levels at which participants can join in. I had chosen,

Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit the very broad definitions of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming or Edgar Allan Poe…or anyone in between.

I have taken my time with this challenge, savouring the two mysteries and two horror genre books that I had chosen. Reading (and in the last book’s case, re-reading) for this challenge was a great pleasure.

I have received some very nice feedbacks from fellow challenge participants for my reviews.  Thank you guys!

Overall, I have enjoyed The R.I.P. Challenge very much. So, thanks to Carl V for the challenge and here’s to hoping that I’ll be seeing you again next year.

Books Completed:

1. By The Pricking of My Thumbs. Agatha Christie.

2. Clouds of Witness. Dorothy L. Sayers.

3. The Shadow of the Wind. Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

4. Dracula. Bram Stoker.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Shadow of the Wind (La sombra del viento in Spanish) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón was originally published in 2001. The 2004 translation by Lucia Graves catapulted the book to worldwide fame.

The story is very dark in tone. This is a true example of Gothic literature. People who are dead, who are forgotten, people who are as good as dead or are better off dead, occupy most of the story. When I was reading the book, I felt like I was viewing the past through a dark glass. The past always seemed like a late afternoon with dark clouds gliding across the sky.

The landscape of the city matches the mood of the story. A dark, dreary Barcelona is presented, a far cry from my sunny idea of Spain. You can actually feel the chill to your bones at certain times especially when the narrative moves around the mysterious Aldaya mansion.

I really enjoyed the touch of supernatural to the story. The history of the Aldaya mansion and Jacinta’s mysterious premonitions gave me quite the thrill.

I liked Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s writing. He knows how to control the pace of the story. He does enough to keep the reader’s attention focused on the central mystery of Julián Carax.

The true connection between Julián Carax and the Aldaya’s didn’t really surprise me. Having read enough Gothic literature, especially the short story The Dead Smile by F. Marion Crawford, I had a vague idea that something like this may be the reason behind Penelope’s disappearance. Only The Dead Smile was even more grotesque.

Julián Carax comes across as a self-centred man. He is always thinking about himself, what he wants and what he didn’t get. What about all the other people in his life? They sacrificed so much and suffered terribly for him but he seemed rather oblivious to all that.

The characters from the past are so strong that the characters from the present time pale in comparison. Daniel Sempere and his lover Beatriz ‘Bea’ Aguilar are examples of this. I found their love story to be bland and kind of awkward. I didn’t care much about their fate. The only character from the present that I found in interesting was the funny yet strangely tragic character of Fermín. I liked the motherly figures of Jacinta and Bernarda.

I felt really bad for Miquel Moliner. He sacrificed so much for the sake of his friendship and his love but got very little in return. I especially disliked the part where Nuria Monfort decides to forget all about him (though later she shows a glimmer of guilt) just after that terrible scene at the café. Later on he is rarely mentioned.

Fumero’s story was interesting. His abusive childhood, his twisted nature, his adult life and his single minded obsession with Carax, made him one of the more intriguing characters of the book. He makes quite a formidable villain.

I didn’t understand the motivation behind the actions of Officer Palacios. I thought there must be an explanation of Palacios’s actions near the end of the story but that was not the case.

The reason Laín Coubert hates Julián Carax’s works so much and intends to burn them all seems a little thin. Sure, I understand terrible mental anguish and larger than life ideas of romance but the revelation of his identity and motive still didn’t match the intensity of the story in general.

I am not generally a fan of romance. And here the idea that you can be sure about who you want to spend the rest of your life with when you are only 17-19 years old, is something that I don’t agree with. The intoxication of first love can be very exciting. You may think that it’s going to last forever, you may go against everyone’s wish, and you may cry and be very bitter about being disappointed but in eight times out of ten this is just infatuation. Most people grow out of this kind of ‘teen passions’.

The story by the end had begun to bore me a little. Once the truth behind Laín Coubert and the disappearance of Penelope has been revealed, the story kind of peters out. Once again, I realized I didn’t care much for Daniel and Bea’s fate.

Overall, I liked The Shadow of the Wind. It’s a very engrossing read. Any fan of Gothic literature would definitely enjoy reading this modern addition to a centuries old genre.

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Teaser Tuesdays (Oct.12)

Teaser Tuesdays asks us to:

Grab our current read

Open to a random page

Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like our teaser!

 My Teaser:

“The flame showed his face for the first time. My blood froze.”

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.