August 26, 2014

The Midwich Cuckoos - John Wyndham

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Title: The Midwich Cuckoos
Author: John Wyndham
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release date: 1960
Pages: 220


* From ten-seventeen that night, information about Midwich becomes episodic. Its telephones remained dead. The bus that should have passed failed to reach Stouch, and a truck that went to look for the bus did not return. A notification from the R.A.F. was received in Trayne of some unidentified flying object, not, repeat npt, a service machine, detected by radar in the Midwich area, possibly making a forced landing.*

The clutch that was fathered on the quiet little villafe of Midwich, one night in September, proved to possess a monstrous will of its own. It promised to make the human race look as dated as the dinosaur.

 * Who are these children? There's something about the way they ook at one with those curious eyes They are - strangers, you know.*

In the small countryside village of Midwich nothing unusual ever happens… until the Dayout. It looked like a normal day, but suddenly everything stopped: no animal or human being inside Midwich could move; no animal or human being outside Midwich could enter the village. It was then assumed that everything simply went back to normal, but it soon turned out that it was not the case.
In the first part of the book John Wyndham describes Midwich, a small English village in the 1950s. He introduces the most important characters, namely Richard Gayford, the narrator, Bernard Westcott, one of his friends and member of the military and Gordon Zellaby, an old academic from the village. It is interesting to notice that the protagonists represent different levels of involvement in the Midwich affair: Gordon Zellaby is part of the village and therefore involved from the very beginning until the very end; Richard Gayford lives in Midwich, but was in London when the Dayout occurred and so there is some distance between him and the events taking place; finally, Bernard Westcott is not linked to Midwich in any way, but becomes interested in the matter after the Dayout. By following them in their task to solve the problems caused by the Dayout, the readers are given the opportunity to compare them, which makes it even more interesting.
The first part shows how normal Midwich is and offers a great contrast with the second part, in which the strangeness of the affair becomes clear. Although everything seems to have come back to normal after the Dayout, the villagers soon notice that all the women are pregnant and that the babies they give birth too are not like other human children at all. As time goes by, the powers of the Children become more and more disturbing, threatening the quietness of the village… and maybe even that of humanity.
In order to fully enjoy this book, one must keep in mind that it was written in 1957, that is before alien invasions became so popular in science-fiction books. There are no fight between aliens and humans, we do not even see much of them –apart from the Children, of course– but we feel their presence all the time and that is one of the strengths of the book. The mystery of the Dayout creates an atmosphere of expectation and suspense, which is confirmed with each small episode in relation to the Children.
Later on in the book, when there is no doubt that the Children are not human beings, the author raises fundamental questions about humanity and survival. John Wyndham also goes into philosophical thoughts about civilisation and the creation of the world, mixing biological theories and fiction.
Although I enjoyed the book, I have one criticism regarding the characters. I found that they were not developed enough and most importantly, that the women had no part in the story –when they should, in my opinion, given that they are the one who gave birth to the Children. Varying the point of view would have added to the depth of the plot, but I suppose it would have been unusual at the time of publishing. It is nevertheless a good book, which I recommend to anybody interests in fine science-fiction and dystopia.


* In short * 
A threat to humanity?

Between science-fiction and dystopia, the Midwich Cuckoos is a thrilling book about alien invasion which shows how mystery can enter the daily life of a normal village and change it forever. John Wyndham uses suspense and mystery to raise fundamental questions about human life and survival which will give you food for thought!

March 07, 2014

In My Mailbox *5*

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In My Mailbox was invented by  The Story Siren.


As I have been quite busy (as usual) with work and university recently, I have not posted my IMM for February, although I received (and bought) several books. So here are all my new books for the last month! As you will see, mostly in French.


[I now have 325 books in my bookshelf. To see which ones, click here!]

First of all, I have received three books in February. Some of you may have seen on the French part of the blog that I am a judge for the Prix des Lecteurs 2014 orginsed by Le livre de Poche. So I receive 2 to 3 crime books each month until August and I have to vote for the ones I liked most. This month, I received one from Lisa Gardner and one from Sandrine Collette, which I read and reviewed already.
As I absolutely loved Michel Bussi's Un avion sans elle, I had to buy another book from him... 
The last one on the picture is one I received from Babelio. The review will be published soon ! 

Alexander Maksik ❖ La mesure de la dérive
Lisa Gardner ❖ >> Derniers adieux <<
Michel Bussi Nymphéas noirs
Sandrine Collette >> Des noeuds d'acier <<

My friend Patty from Aux 1001 histoires and I finally managed to find a day to go shopping together... And so we ended up in la Fnac, but I was very good and only bought one book (Patty was actually worse than me this time ;))

Peter May Entry Island

In March, I received 2 more books from Le Livre de Poche. I have not had time to start reading them yet, but I am quite excited! 

By the way, I have created a special category for my posts on the Prix des lecteurs, if you want to see the selection of books in 2014.

John Brandon ❖ Citrus County
Malcolm Mackay ❖ Il faut tuer Lewis Winter

And last but not least, another book received from Babelio for the masse critiques. After I read the first of Sandrine Collette's novel, I wanted to discover her new release... And I have not been disappointed so far. I have not yet finished it, but it will be soon...

Sandrine Collette ❖ Un vent de cendres

January 26, 2014

European Reading Challenge 2014

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European Reading Challenge 2014
Hosted by: Rose City Reader
From January 1st 2014 to January 31st 2015


This year I decided to take part in this challenge again, as I really enjoyed it and still have many books set in European countries on my TBR shelf. 

The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it's supposed to be a tour. 

There are five different levels: I chose the five-star one (Deluxe Entourage) again - Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.


1) France : Le mystère du Pont Gustave-Flaubert, de Pierre Thiry
2) United Kingdom :
   2.1) England : The Cuckoo's calling, by Robert Galbraith
3) Denmark : Miséricorde, de Jussi Adler-Olsen

In My Mailbox *4*

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In My Mailbox was invented by  The Story Siren.


After more than three months without any update of my bookshelf, here is a new In My Mailbox... and quite a big one, as it was my birthday and Christmas... 


[I now have 325 books in my bookshelf. To see which ones, click here!]

First of all, I have received three books in French from partners... One because I was selected for Jeudis critiques, one because I was selected for Babelio's masse critique and one because I saw a post of author Pierre Thiry who was looking for bloggers to review his book.

For the Advent period, Patty, my friend who own Aux 1001 histoires, prepared a lovely Advent calendar for me. I received a nice present every day, including two bookmarks that she cross-stiched herself and a book. Thanks Patty ;)

Sheila O'Flanagan Stand by me

At the beginning of December, I received several books for my birthday as well as the Clave Spanish dictionary I had wanted for so long (thanks mum) : my friend Cloé bought me Le combat d'hiver, my friend Patty (yes, she is amazing) the first book of the Tintenwelt series (in German) and my aunt gave me an amazing old book, La Case de l'Oncle Tom.

Harriet Beecher-Stowe ❖ La case de l'Oncle Tom
Cornelia Funke ❖ Tintenherz (Tintenwelt-Trilogie #1)
Jean-Claude Mourlevat Le combat d'hiver

For Christmas, I received two more books : Gleis 4 (in German) from my grandfather and Les Revenants (in French) from my father... Both are crime books!

Franz Hohler ❖ Gleis 4
Laura Kasischke ❖ Les revenants

Another wonderful book I was supposed to receive for Christmas (but it arrived late) is Peter May's Hebrides, which contains photos and comments about the places where his Lewis Trilogy takes place.

Peter May ❖Hebrides

Although that was already quite a lot (especially given how full my TBR shelf is), I bought two more books... A crime book which I have wanted for a very long time and another funny one about French and English language and expressions.

Michel Bussi ❖ >> Un avion sans elle <<
Jean-Loup Chiflet ❖ Sky my husband - ciel mon mari

I also received a book in English for a partnership. This time, it is a children's book.

Anabelle Valenzuela Alarcon ❖ >> The day an angel ran into my room <<

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

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Title: The Cuckoo's Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Publisher: Sphere
Release date: 2013
Pages: 449


* Strike remembered the television pictures: the black body bag in a stretcher, flickering in a storm of camera flashes as it was loaded into an ambulance, the photographers clustering around as it started to move, holding up their cameras to the dark windows, white lights bouncing off the black glass. He knew more about the death of Lula Landry than he had ever meant or wanted to know; the same would be true of virtually any sentient being in Britain. Bonbarded with the story, you grew interested against your will, and before you knew it, you were so well informed, wo opinionated about the facts of the case, you would have been unfit to sit on a jury.*

When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case.
Strike is a war veteran - wounded both physically and psychologically - and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model's complex world, the darker things get and the closer he gets to terrible danger. 
 * How easy it was to capitalise on a person's own bent for self-destruction; how simple to nudge them into non-being, then to stand back and shrug and agree that it had been the inevitable result of a chaotic, catastrophic life.*

I must admit that my reasons for reading The Cuckoo’s Calling were perhaps not the best ones. I bought it when I learnt that Robert Galbraith was actually the pseudonym used by J.K. Rowling for her first crime book. As a fan of Harry Potter, I had to read it! It was not a spontaneous buy as usual, but I liked the cover picture of the book and its colours straightaway.
Having finished reading it, I wonder if it is a book I would have bought if I had just come across it at the bookshop. It probably is, not only because of the cover, but because it looked like a thrilling story in the first place… and it was indeed.
Famous model Lula Landry is found dead after she fell off her balcony on a snowy night. Given the girl’s difficult past and troubled present, the police assume that it is suicide, but her brother is not convinced. He asks private detective Cormoran Strike to look into the case, which is much more complex than it first appears to be. With the help of Robin, his temporary secretary, Cormoran investigates and starts to wonder whether Lula’s brother is actually right and the police made an enormous mistake when they decided it was suicide.
From the first pages, we are thrown into the typical atmosphere of London. Lula Landry being a successful and famous model, most of the characters related to the investigation come from upper-class society… a rather strange world where money and appearance are everything. The description seems extremely real –although I have not been able to see for myself– and is perfect for the plot. Many people have got secrets they do not want to see revealed. How do we know if the characters are sincere or if they act in their own interest?
We then also get to know a range of characters who come from a much lower rank in society. Lula was rich, but she had not always been. She knew fashion designers, models and other celebrities, but also poorer people and homeless. From Mayfair to the Eastern parts of the city, we discover the different social groups which are a feature of the population in London. By the writing style, we feel how the atmosphere changes, depending on where Cormoran is and who he is interacting with.
The protagonists are precisely described, with many details, and I quickly grew attached to Cormoran and Robin, while I immediately hated some other characters. The investigation is the main focus, but we also catch a glimpse of the characters’ personal life –which is sometimes rather complicated. This makes them more human and the story becomes even more realistic.
The mystery is thrilling, extremely well written and the atmosphere of the whole book perfectly fits the development of the plot. There are moving moments, but also times of fear and doubt; in perfect balance, the tension and the suspense build up until the breaking point, allowing the reader to make his or her own assumptions. Many of the characters are suspect, but what did actually happen in Mayfair the night Lula died?
The Cuckoo's Calling is the proof that J.K. Rowling’s success is not only due to her name. This thrilling mystery will keep every reader captivated until the very end… and surprise many by its resolution. An amazing read which I recommend to all: fans of J.K. Rowling, lovers of crime fiction and those who appreciate well-written and perfectly constructed stories.

January 21, 2014

The day an angel ran into my room - Annabelle Valenzuela-Alarcon

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Title: The day an angel ran into my room
Author: Annabelle Valenzuela-Alarcon
Illustrator: Sarah Latham
Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co.
Release date: 2012
Pages: 53


* Even though you might think that you are a tiny dot in a huge big universe, yet there is only one of you in the entire world. So each one of you makes a big difference *

Alessandra is a typical six-year-old, who one day meets an angel in her bedroom! Through this encounter, the little girl discovers her own power and magical inner world. This is the story of The Day an Angel Ran into My Room.
At bedtime, Alessandra asks her mother if she can stay up for "only five more minutes." Then she gets an unlikely visitor: her guardian angel, Angelisse. The angel looks very much like a child herself, making it very easy for Alessandra to relate to her.
The angel explains to the little girl how important every person is in the universe, how every action causes a reaction, the importance of visualization, and many other magical things. The story teaches kids that they are never alone, since their guardian angels are always looking out after them, and that children have the power to change their world through their thoughts and actions.
First-time author Anabelle Valenzuela grew up all over the world, including Europe, the United States and her native Honduras. For the past 18 years, she has lived in Miami with her family. She has worked in the communications field for the last 20 years. She was inspired to write this book by her kids.
Sarah Latham lives in North Wales, UK, and has followed her passion to create images that captivate a younger audience. Her illustrations are global.


* One of the most important secrets is that what you think about grows and grows until you see it. So it's important to think only GOOD things. * 

The day an angel ran into my room was presented as a children’s version of Rhonda Byrne’s book The secret and it is, in my opinion, a rather good description. Annabelle Valenzuela-Alarcon tells the story of six-year-old Alessandra, who meets an angel in her bedroom. In just five minutes, she learns several secrets and important lessons about life.
Written in a simple way, the book will teach children how to believe in their own power and to understand how each action has a reaction. The angel does not look like an adult, which probably makes it easier for children to feel close to her; using the words children can use and understand, the angel explains the importance of each individual in the universe, how each and every one of us can be a teacher, how important it is to visualize good things in order to be happy… and above all, that nobody is ever alone, because guardian angels are always around.
The colours and illustrations perfectly match the tone and the content of the book and give a feeling of quietness and security. Everything is soft, from the pastel tones to the faces of the characters. The balance in the pictures is perfect: enough details, but not too many, in order not to distract the children from the text. The sentences are also rather short and the text split on about fifty pages, which will help keep the children’s attention.
The day an angel ran into my room is a lovely book which will please children, especially as bedtime story. Although it will probably touch girls in the first place –because of the colours and drawing style, but also because most of the characters and the main protagonist are feminine– it will no doubt be enjoyed by any child between four and eight years old.
I would like to thank the author, Annabelle Valenzuela-Alarcon, for providing me with a copy of her book in exchange of my review and I apologize for the delay in publishing it.

Partnership with author Annabelle Valenzuela-Alarcon
Organised by Bostick Communication

January 05, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

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Hello everybody!

To start with, I wish you all a merry belated Christmas and a happy New Year. May all your dreams and wishes come true in 2014!

As you may have noticed, I have not posted on my blog for ages. I have been extremely busy with university and work and I haven’t had time to read a lot (except for preparing my exams). But I haven’t forgotten you and in the next few weeks (after my exams), I will publish the posts I haven’t prepared so far. Here is a quick overview of what I plan to do.

*2013 Challenges Summary* 
*In My Mailbox – what I received for my birthday and Christmas* 
*2014 Challenges* 
* Review: The day an angel ran into my room* (EN) 
*Review: T-Bone the flying horse* (EN) 
*Review: The Cuckoo’s calling* (EN) 
* Review: Femmes obscures* (FR) 
* Review: Derrière les grilles du Luxembourg* (FR) 
* Review: Le mystère du Pont Gustave Flaubert* (FR) 
* Review: La mémoire des murs* (FR) 
* Review: Le livre des esprits* (FR) 

In 2014, I will try and update my blog more often than before, although I do not read as much as before. I am still motivated by challenges and comparing my opinion with other readers, but I am much slower. I used to read on my way to university every day, but at the moment I often work early hours shift and as I have to drive, I cannot read on public transport anymore.

However, your comments and requests are still welcome and I will do my best to honour them.

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