Friday, July 7, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 5: Why I Love Reading, in One Sentence


Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @


For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.


This Week's Question

In one sentence, describe your
passion for reading.

(Submitted  by Billy @ 



My Answer

In times fondly remembered, in the long afternoons of an idyllic childhood, I first beheld The Book, that beautiful, spellbinding creation of the human mind and spirit that has been bringing me endless hours of delight ever since, and thereby giving meaning to my otherwise humdrum existence, which, I must confess, I have been forced to dwell in because of the necessity of MAKING A LIVING; wherefore, with the greatest interest and single-minded focus, I have long endeavored to consume as many of these wonderful things called "books" as humanly possible, since, after all, I cannot consider myself as properly living unless I am consuming, and being consumed by, a great book, which of course, will not only NOT fail to entertain me, but also bring me hours of diving into other realities that I wish were my own, so, if not for this wonderfully fascinating, exhilarating, relaxing, and intellectually stimulating activity, I would definitely not consider myself to be alive at all, and this, naturally, would not please me one iota, because living life to the fullest, for us bookworms, is simply to engage our minds, hearts, bodies, and souls in the utter perusal and immersion in a book that will not only give us glimpses of other worlds, but also provide us with that joie de vivre that makes life worthwhile for a genuine bookworm, of which, I might add, I fervently consider myself to be one, inasmuch as it is undoubtedly true that books and I have had a long, fruitful relationship together for many years, and we are not currently contemplating, nor will we ever contemplate, separation or divorce, inasmuch as we all love each other madly, gloriously, and intensely, in one great burst of joyous dancing and intense, bibliophilic ecstasy.

I rest my case. : )
  
 
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Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 4: A Book that Changed My Life


Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @


For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.


This Week's Question

Name a book that changed your life.

(Submitted  by Kristin @ 







My Answer

There are many books I have read and loved throughout the years, but I can't really say that any of them have actually changed my life. They have, however, exerted an influence on me in certain ways. 

The very first book that comes to mind is one I read around the age of 9. I read it in Spanish, which was my first language as a child. It was a book of fantasy tales, whose author was the 19th-century German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. The book's title, in Spanish, was (and is, because I still have this book) Cuentos Fantásticos (Fantastic Tales). 

For some reason, the name of the author on the book's cover is "F. Hoffmann". This is incorrect, as the author's name is indeed E.T.A. Hoffmann. I noticed this a few years ago, when I went looking for a newer copy, in English. Why this happened, I really have no idea. As far as I know, this book has been long out of print. A copy of it, if I were able to track it down today, would probably be very rare and very expensive.

This much-loved book (it's barely held together) made the trip with me and my family to the U.S. from Cuba, where I had received it as a present from my parents. Obviously, I love it not only for some of the stories inside, but also for sentimental reasons.

Although I was already familiar with several fairy tales, such as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Little Red Riding Hood", "Cinderella", and the like, Hoffmann's collection of stories struck me as very different. Even as a child, I could sense that there was something deeper about them. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what that might have been. This "something deeper" simultaneously eluded and disturbed me. These stories fascinated me more than the fairy tales I had already read, precisely because of this "something deeper". 

I have not read this book since that first time, and would definitely like to do so again. I could re-read this copy, my childhood treasure, if very carefully. I would also like to read these stories in English. Actually, I did buy a collection of Hoffmann's best tales from Amazon -- in English -- a few years ago, but alas, I have never read it. I would have to buy another one now, though, as I believe this copy is in storage.

My beloved childhood copy was published in 1958, by Editorial Bruguera (Bruguera Publishers) a Spanish publishing company based in Barcelona, Spain. The founder's name was  Juan Bruguera Teixidó. According to Wikipedia, the company "...was devoted mainly to the production of popular literature and comics. It was created in 1910 as El Gato Negro (The Black Cat)...." The name was changed in 1940. It was eventually succeeded by Bruguera Mexicana S.A., which currently publishes and edits books.

The book I own is part of a collection for children, which I find highly ironic, as Hoffmann's stories are definitely not the type of thing most children would or should read.They are really more appropriate for adults, with the exception of "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King", which is the basis for Tchaikovsky's ballet, "The Nutcracker". I LOVED this story as a child! It was definitely more along the lines of the typical fairy tales I was already familiar with, although, it, too, had some deeper themes running through it. 



The book has very detailed illustrations, 
like the ones shown here, 
every two pages. According to
the book's cover, there are 250 of them.


One very unusual story in the book, titled "El Caballero Gluck" ("The Gentleman Mr. Gluck", I guess would be the correct translation; I need to find out if this is in fact correct), is about a man who meets a very mysterious stranger in a Berlin park. The two strike up a friendship, based on their mutual love of music. This mysterious stranger later turns out to be the composer Gluck himself.

Another story, a rather haunting one, is titled, in Spanish, "El Consejero Krespel" ("Councillor Krespel"). It's about a man whose daughter, named Antonieta, has a lovely operatic voice. However, she has a very serious illness which threatens to kill her if she sings. Her father thus created a violin that, when played, sounds just like his daughter singing. So the young woman asks her father to play it whenever she wants to "sing". Hoffmann himself appears in this story, as Antonieta's suitor. But her father forbids the relationship because Hoffmann encourages Antonieta to sing for him, as well as pursue a career as an opera singer. This story obviously has a symbolic meaning. The ending is a tragic one. 

There are other fascinating, haunting stories in this book, such as the one about a man who went to Florence, Italy, on business, and lost his reflection in the mirror. Another man had lost his shadow. Later on, the two become friends, so the man without a reflection in the mirror provides a shadow for the man with no shadow, while that man provides a reflection for the man who lacks one. It was implied in this story that the man who had lost his reflection had done something bad, for which he was being punished with this strange curse.

The stories in this book have a rather surreal tone to them. The reading of this book, which, as I have stated above, disturbed me to an extent, also influenced my later love of fantasy, and the unusual. Now I realize that there was an undercurrent of horror to some of these stories, if in a subtle way. Some of them also have a dreamlike quality, and blur fantasy with reality.

This book shaped my lifelong love of fantasy to such an extent, that, to this day, although I do read contemporary fiction from time to time, it's the fantastical that I naturally gravitate towards. Furthermore, I am totally unable to read several realistic fiction books in a row. I always need to get "my fantasy fix"! Lol. At the time, I even wanted to believe, and DID believe, that these stories were true.

Through this book, I was also introduced -- although of course I was unaware of it then -- to the literary aspects of the 19th-century Romantic movement, of which Hoffmann was a part.

This love of the fantastic and unusual has also influenced my taste in book covers. I will always prefer those with fantasy themes. 

Summing up, this book actually laid the groundwork for my later reading tastes and habits. It didn't change my life in the sense that it didn't cause me to make drastic changes in my life. (Heck, I was only 9 years old. There wasn't much I could do about my life at the time, except escape into books! Lol.)

Reading these stories also laid the groundwork for my later love of SF. (I first encountered this genre around the age of 12.) Again, anything related to fantasy (and some elements of SF can be labeled as fantasy) was sure to get my attention!

Now what I need to do is not only to re-read this book in Spanish, but to get another copy of the English version, too. I think it would be fun to compare the two versions. That's how MUCH I love this book, in spite of its disturbing aspects!

 
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What are your thoughts on
this topic?
Please leave a comment!
If you're participating in this meme,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!! 








Saturday, April 29, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 3: Books I Have Re-read


Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @


For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.


This Week's Question

How many books have you re-read? If you have re-read books, please tell us the book titles and why you re-read them.

(Submitted  by Elizabeth  @ 



My Answer

There are several books I have re-read throughout the years. Although subsequent readings cannot compare with that first reading, I have still enjoyed each book -- or not -- just as much the second time around.

Since there are quite a few books I've re-read, I will just highlight a few. 




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2888213-the-twilight-saga



The first books that come to mind are those of The Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer. As regular readers of my YA blog A Night's Dream of Books,  know, I LOVE this series!! I've re-read all four novels three times each, and the first novel four times -- one of them in Spanish, since I'm fluent in that language. 

I love the characters of these novels, especially Edward Cullen and Bella Swan! Although some people might dislike the books because they think the romance between Edward, a vampire, and Bella, a human, is just too 'weird' and 'out there', let me assure those of you who have not read these books that they're beautiful, romantic, and full of teen angst and great paranormal action! But there's more to them than this. They also have themes of loyalty, courage, and the determination to live a life of non-violence.



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6712426-wuthering-heights

 
Another book I've re-read (twice, unbelievably enough) is Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. In my last Book Blogger Hop post, I expressed just how much I detest this novel, so I won't repeat myself here. Reading -- as well as re-reading it -- was not a pleasant experience by any means.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/161106.Jane_Eyre


What a contrast is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte!! This novel is my all-time favorite classic!! I've read it twice, as well, and gained some new insights the second time, too. I have admired Jane for many years, and only wish I could be half the person she is. Her strong determination to live her life on her own terms, according to her inner moral compass, and not the dictates of the society of her time, is truly an example. Furthermore, her romantic relationship with Edward Rochester is tumultuous and passionate, which makes for great drama!






I've also re-read Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. The first time I read it, I was a high school student, and found it just as boring as I found Jane Eyre exciting. Of course, these two writers -- Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen -- had very different personalities. I much prefer Bronte's novel because she created dynamic, passionate characters, as well as very dramatic scenarios. Austen's novel, in contrast, was of a more subtle type. This author was concerned with satirizing the accepted conventions of the society of her time, and in a slyly humorous way. There was no "sturm und drang" in this novel.  

During my second reading, I was better able to appreciate Austen's sly humor, as well as her astute characterizations. However, I will always prefer Jane Eyre!




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16635.Magister_Ludi?ac=1&from_search=true


Another book I've read twice is Magister Ludi, by Hermann Hesse. This novel is also known by the title The Glass Bead Game. What's fascinating about it is the intellectual nature of this fictitious game, although Hesse never does elaborate on just how it's played. Equally fascinating is Hesse's creation of an intellectual province, known as "Castalia". I would love to be able to live in such a province!

This is not a dramatic novel at all, and the action moves quite slowly. I liked it, though, because the main character, Joseph Knecht, goes through a very compelling series of changes, all of an intellectual as well as emotional nature, throughout the novel. At the end, he has become transformed into a person who is able to appreciate both the intellectual life, and the life of the senses. This was one of Hesse's major themes, too.

I think I'd like to go back for a third reading of this novel! I'm sure there are many more things about it that I will be able to appreciate.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12873.Rebecca


Another novel I've read twice is Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. I was enjoying it the second time just as much as the first, until I found out what had really happened with one of the main characters. I don't know why, but I had not remembered this detail from my first reading, years ago. Instead, I had remembered what happened in the movie version. Interestingly, it seems that my mind had surreptitiously substituted the events of the movie version, precisely because the way the plot developed in the novel had disgusted me. The whole thing involved a murder, and how this murder was covered up. In the movie version, there was no murder.

This curious incident has made me realize just how complex the workings of the mind are. Our memories are not always reliable in recording exactly what took place in our past. We remember some things as we wish they had taken place, and not as they really did. Hmmmm.....

So these are some of the books I've re-read. There are several more, but, in the interests of not making this post overly long, I will stop here. Lol.

I'm very interested to know what books other hop participants have re-read, and why!

 
       
What are your thoughts on
this topic?
Please leave a comment!
If you're participating in this meme,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!! 








Monday, February 27, 2017

The Cozy Book Corner No. 12: Dystopian Fiction and Its Current Relevance, Part I



Welcome to my Monday 
bookish feature!

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18079524-it-can-t-happen-here



The disastrous, pernicious effects of the 2016 election results are being felt by everyone in this country, although some refuse to acknowledge them as being, in fact, just that: pernicious. 

Donald J. Trump, who so obviously and thoroughly used to enjoy telling his reality show participants, "You're fired!" (yes, the glee was evident on his face) is now the president of this great country. From "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice" to the White House....how insane is that?! However, Trump has always shown his true colors. He's a classic narcissist who loves power and control. Now, unfortunately, he has it. Totally. I say "totally" because it's very evident that few in the GOP are opposing him. Perhaps, and hopefully, that situation will soon change, especially if solid proof emerges of Trump's ties with Putin. 

Unbelievably, this country is now being led by a man who has a personality disorder, a man who tolerates no opposition, a man who attacks the media simply because they are reporting the truth about his own "fake news", his own "alternative facts".

I am totally amazed that these things are happening in these United States of America. 

In the wake of the sweeping chaos created by "The Trump Tsunami", I've discovered that the popularity of dystopian novels such as Brave New World and 1984 has soared. Indeed, this has been pointed out in several articles on the Web, such as the one by Madeline Raynor at EW, published on January 31, 2017. In this article, titled "Classic dystopian novels' popularity surges in Trump's America", Raynor names the novels that are selling out on Amazon, as a result of the madness we're seeing coming from the White House.

The Number One spot is held by George Orwell's 1984. While this novel is a satirical look at socialist, and not fascist, totalitarianism, the main theme is that "Big Brother is watching you", and thus, one cannot express one's views freely. This is a salient feature of all dictatorships, be they of the Left or the Right. Views opposing those of the reigning regime are stifled, silenced. 

We have certainly seen the stifling of opposition by the Trump administration, and very recently, too. Respected journalistic entities such as CNN and "The New York Times" were recently banned by Trump sycophant Sean Spicer from an informal White House briefing, known as a "gaggle". Trump considers CNN and "The New York Times", as well as other so-called "liberal" (translation: objective) news media, to be purveyors of "fake news", for the simple reason that they criticize his policies. In his paranoid egotism however, he perceives them as merely being personally  "antagonistic" toward him. Conservative news media were, however, invited to attend the briefing, precisely because they support his policies, whether or not they are unfair and cruel. This points to a stifling of opposing views, and an endorsement of those views that line up with the Trump administration's take on reality. 

The second book mentioned in the Raynor article is It Can't Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis, which I have just purchased from Amazon. The Goodreads synopsis reads, in part, as follows: "A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler’s aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press. Called “a message to thinking Americans” by the Springfield Republican when it was published in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here is a shockingly prescient novel that remains as fresh and contemporary as today’s news."

From the quote above, it seems chillingly evident that Lewis actually wrote a prophetic novel, as his main character bears a frightening, and very close resemblance, to Donald Trump. Indeed, one reviewer on Goodreads, Michael Finocchiaro, pointed out, in his review of Lewis's novel, that " all the bookshops there had Roth's The Plot Against America and It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis." (He's referring to bookstores in London.) You can check out his entire review in the link below.

What strikes me the most about the Goodreads synopsis is this part of the quote: "....with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press." This sounds too similar to Trump's agenda for comfort. While Trump has not concentrated his so-called "reforms" on sex, the other parts of this quote do indeed sound eerily like some of his campaign promises. He, too, wants to get rid of "welfare cheats", as well as "crime" (in the person of illegal immigrants), and "a liberal press." Bingo! Lewis must have had a crystal ball hidden somewhere in his closet.

Here's another incredibly prescient, highly relevant quote, this one directly from Lewis's novel: "I know the Press only too well. Almost all editors hide away in spider-dens, men without thought of Family or Public Interest or the humble delights of jaunts out-of-doors, plotting how they can put over their lies, and advance their own positions and fill their greedy pocketbooks by calumniating Statesmen who have given their all for the common good and who are vulnerable because they stand out in the fierce Light that beats around the Throne. Zero Hour, Berzelius Windrip.”

I got chills up my spine as I read this. It sounds remarkably like Trump's attacks on the American press. The tone of paranoia and even contempt is very much the same. This is truly amazing, as this novel was first published in 1935. Yet, here we are, in 2017, seeing it become a reality!

In third place on Raynor's list is Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. First published in 1932, this novel envisions a world in which there are no nations, but a World State in which everyone is "happy", due to the use of drugs, brainwashing, and genetic engineering. The year in which the events in the novel take place is 2540 AD. I don't think, however, that such a dire situation would actually become a reality in this country, at least, with Trump at the helm. He's just too much of a nationalist for this scenario to actually become real. Future presidents, though, could bring us closer to this horrible future. But at present, perhaps this book doesn't represent much of a prophetic warning to Americans.

In fourth place in Raynor's article is The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Ashwood. In this novel, which I have been wanting to read for some time now, there's a totalitarian state that actually assigns certain fertile women -- known as "handmaids" to certain men, for the express purpose of having children with them, as fertility rates are very low in this future society.

Although the above scenario sounds like a nightmare, as sex is totally divorced from love and family, and engaged in only as "a duty to humanity", I really don't see this as ever happening in this country, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter. First of all, something would have to cause fertility rates to fall. Then, the whole structure of our society would have to be drastically modified in order to force fertile women to have sex with men they neither love nor wish to commit to. What kind of something could have such an effect on world fertility rates? Besides, we Americans have always been averse to theocracies such as the one depicted in this novel. Surely our constitution would ensure that this type of government never took hold here. Right? Right? On the other hand, I don't know.... The Alt-Right now seems to have come into its own, alarmingly enough. And Christian Fundamentalism is unfortunately pretty much aligned with the extreme right-wing values of this group, as well as those of the Tea Party. So one does have to wonder.....

Of the four novels mentioned above, I think the one that most closely predicts, and mirrors, our present situation is It Can't Happen Here. In light of current events, this title is also most ironic, because, sadly, it IS happening here. Raynor even references a Salon article by Malcolm Harris, published on September 29, 2015, and titled, "It really can happen here: The novel that foreshadowed Trump's authoritarian appeal". There's a very telling quote from this article in Raynor's own. In it, Harris states: “With his careful mix of plainspoken honesty and reactionary delusion, Trump is following an old rhetorical playbook, one defined and employed successfully in the 1936 presidential campaign of Senator Berzelius ‘Buzz’ Windrip.” Indeed!

There's another dystopian novel I'd like to point out, although perhaps it doesn't completely mimic what's currently going on in the chaotic tangle that is the Trump White House. It's Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. In this incredibly powerful novel, which I've read and reviewed (I have not read the ones mentioned above), books are completely forbidden, in the interests of keeping the masses happy and numbed to anything that would create dissension. There are firemen in the book, but their task, instead of saving lives, is that of rooting out hidden book collections, for the purpose of burning them.

Given Trump's penchant for attacking those who disagree with him, who knows but that this might actually happen in the not-so-distant future, except not quite in the way envisioned by Bradbury. In fact, this unbalanced man might go as far as to seize total control of the Internet, as well as of all publications, whether magazines, newspapers, printed books, and ebooks. It sounds like a totally nightmarish scenario, but we thought someone like Trump would only remain a fictional character in a novel written back in the 1930s by one Sinclair Lewis.....

As this is a topic of high current relevance, I will have to continue exploring it in a subsequent post next week. I hope to bring up more dystopian novels that contain totalitarian elements, and thus, are currently MUST READS.


Online Links






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