The Shadow of the Wind

I just finished the most exquisite book, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Have you read it yet? You must! Immediately.

If you love books and reading (which you must because here you are), you are going to love this book. It’s incredible.

OK so there’s this boy, Daniel, and when he’s about 11 his father, a bookseller (naturally) takes him to this secret place in Barcelona that only the very few even know about, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books!

Come ON.

What is this place? It is explained thus:

Every time a book changes hands , every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. […] When a library disappears, a book store closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure it gets here. In this place books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands.

Do you want to run out right now and rescue a book? Yeah, me too.

Anyway, the rule is that the first time one visits The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, one has to choose a book and basically adopt it and ensure that it is well loved once more.

Are you dying?

So Daniel chooses The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax and from page one he’s hooked and when he’s finished he tries hunting down Carax’s other work only to find out that, although Carax wrote other books, they are all gone. Someone has been systematically tracking them down and burning them. His copy is one of the only ones left.

Daniel soon becomes obsessed with finding out why. Why is someone burning the books? What happened to Carax?

His quest takes him all over post-Civil War Barcelona, a grey, awful, kind of scary place where the police are both friend and foe. The story takes us through the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s. It is terrifying and heart stopping and unexpectedly moving. The characters are incredible, especially the hobo that helps Daniel after he gets the crap kicked out of him by a music tutor.

This book made me laugh, gasp, cry and sigh with complete and total satisfaction when I was finished. It made me want to run out to the nearest used book store and save a book from being unloved. At the end of the day, The Shadow of the Wind reminds us that books? Are amazing.

Want to hear the best part? The Shadow of the Wind is part of a series! I’m not even kidding when I say I’m running out right now to pick up The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven (which, serendipitously, was released yesterday). Also? Carlos Ruiz Zafon came up with a list of his favourite books about books which you can find here.


Book Sale

The other day I went to a Library Sale for the first time. This might surprise you considering how open I have been about the fact that I am a book hoarder. The truth is, I have no problem paying full price for a book. Book buying is my vice – I really don’t buy tons of other stuff. I almost never buy new clothes, or shoes or bags. I’m not a foodie or a concert goer. Nail polish and books – those are my weaknesses.

I’m basically a well-read hobo with shiny nails.

But the book sale! I’ve heard about these magical library book sales where the library divests itself of certain pieces of its majestic collection. But I’ve never been able to attend. Now? The one good thing about my new job is that it’s half a block away from the glorious Vancouver Public Library. So when I saw the banners up, declaring that the time had come for its Summer Book Sale, I wrote down the dates and started a countdown.

When the day came I recruited some friends to come along with me, during our lunch. There was a scary moment when, after I had declared my intention to shun the recently arrived sunshine for a book sale at the library, a co-worker told me that in times past there has always been a really long line to get in. I almost gave up, hating lines and not actually having that much time for a lunch break.

But I went. And I waited anxiously for my partners in crime to show and then I dragged them downstairs to the appointed book sale rooms and…waited in line.

But only for about 5 minutes, probably less. I’m a terrible judge of how much time has passed. Finally (I say finally because I was waiting for the book sale for days and days!) we were allowed in to roam free among all of the beautiful books laid out on tables. There were rows and rows of books, books in boxes under the tables, books all over trolleys and, in some cases, all over the floor. Fellow book lovers looking for a good deal were pawing through the books in the boxes on the floor, weaving their way around the kids with their selections who had plopped themselves down in the middle of everything to start reading and in the midst of it all, volunteers or librarians managing to maintain some semblance of calm in all that chaos.

Despite being pressed for time, I worked my way methodically through the room. Twice. I do not mess around in the presence of books. I was really surprised with how up to date and in good shape the books were. I assumed, when the library is selling off books, that they would all be really old and practically falling apart. I mean, some books on offer were going for 75 cents! The most expensive books were only $2.50 but they were lovely and in great shape and I left with 5 of them.

Which was actually a pretty modest haul for me. But I plan on going back for the Fall Sale in October.



Put The World On Pause

I’ve come to the horrifying conclusion that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do the things that I would like to do.

Mainly, read all the books I want to read.

I have a pretty substantial list of Books I Want To Read going. I like to think that I’m pretty selective and thoughtful when I add books to this list because I do want to actually try and read all the books on the list. Eventually. But recently I’ve started feeling overwhelmed by The List.

There are so many great (I assume) books on the list and great books (again, working on the assumption that they are great) keep being released and I just don’t have time to read them all! And how is that fair?

There are those titles on my list that have been there for ages. Things like Catch-22, Secret Daughter, Atonement, State of Wonder and The Night Circus. Then there are those that are sitting on my shelf waiting for me to choose them, titles like The Shadow of the Wind, Nicholas and Alexandra, and Lone Wolf. That’s before we even get to how War and Peace sits abandoned while I wait for a replacement copy to make its way to me!

Can we just agree to put the world on pause for a little while? Just for a few days to allow us all to catch up on some of the reading we want to do? That would really help me out. It would allow me to get on board with some of the great books I keep hearing about.

I’ve been seeing great reviews of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn all over the place. With my current crime fiction obsession, the psychological thriller about a wife who goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary seems like a really great fit for me right now. Chris Cleave, brilliant author of Little Bee and my favourite, Incendiary, has come out with his new book just in time for the London Olympics. Gold is the story of 2 competing Olympic cyclists who are also best friends, who ultimately have to decide what is more important: their friendship or the gold medal? With Olympic fever gearing up, it just seems like the right time to read this!

I’m already months behind with reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I bought it for a friend as a gift (I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a moment where I thought I could keep this and buy her a shirt) and I’m told it is hysterical (as if it could be anything else with Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess behind it) but I don’t think that makes me feel any less behind on this one. When I get to borrow it (soon I’m told) I am going to read the shit out of it.

Since I’ve finished with the Fifty Shades trilogy, I’ve been feeling kind of hard up (ha) in the erotic literature department, so it was basically a godsend when I heard about Bared To You. This novel by Sylvia Day is supposed to be the answer to my Fifty Shades withdrawal. There’s a character called Eva in it for god’s sake (I choose to read her name as pronounced Ava, the Euro Way a la me). I am definitely supposed to read this.

So we’re agreed then? We’re pausing the world for a bit?

Good talk.



Nothing Wrong With A Little Chick Lit

The other day I came across this article that sounded like it was about Sophie Kinsella and how chick lit is awesome, but really it wasn’t. It was more about questioning if chick lit doesn’t do more harm than good.

For some reason, the idea of chick lit is deeply abhorrent to a lot of people. Something about it dumbing women down, making women seem ditzy and scatterbrained, and reinforcing the notion of women as the weaker sex? Something. I don’t know. I personally have never understood the uproar.

I am a self confessed, unabashed lover (and promoter) of chick lit.

In my personal opinion, Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes are the complete and total Queens of the genre, dominating my own bookshelves for years now. But there is room for the likes of the equally impressive Emily Giffin, Jane Green and Cecelia Ahern (whose work *confession* I have not read as yet only because I’m terrified of crying (see: sobbing) like a baby, having seenP.S. I Love You completely against my will).

I think the argument against chick lit has a lot to do with the perceived materialism exhibited by the female characters in these books and maybe these days, with a pinch of hindsight, that makes folks uncomfortable. But just like I continue to buy Vogue magazine, chock full of all the beautiful things that I will never be able to have, I love to jump into the Shopaholic books and read about all the beautiful things that Becky Bloomwood finds. If I can’t have them, someone should be able to! Even if that someone is a fictional (albeit it fabulous) character.

I like to think of myself as a smart woman. I’m fairly well read. I know stuff. So what’s the problem with reading chick lit? It’s fun, often extremely poignant and there is always something to be gleaned from them about the human condition. And isn’t an emotional education just as important as a formal one?

By attempting to diminish the work of these brilliant women, the people that have an issue with the chick lit genre are belittling their merit and insulting those of us that love their work. When I finish Catherine the Great, I would love nothing more than to have something chick lit-ish waiting for me next. And I see nothing wrong with that.

Bottom line here: I’m going to read what makes me happy, so if you know what’s good for you, you will stop harping on about all this chick lit stuff and let me read it in peace!

Sophie Kinsella’s new one (I’ve Got Your Number) was released this week. I’ve visited copies of it a few times now. Haven’t taken the plunge. Soon my pretty!