Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Bookish Birthday: Books of hauls past and present

Last Sunday (22 Feb) was my birthday and as expected, there was as much books as there was cake, that is, a lot! I thought I would write a post for you guys, to share with you the highlights of my bookish birthday. 

So I have this little tradition whereby each year I treat myself to two book hauls. Why only two? Because books are expensive and students like myself are eternally empty-pocketed individuals. Still, there's only that much time a book lover can spend before buying new books, which is why I have my two annual book hauls. For me, that's an opportunity to catch up on series that I'm following, or just to grab some new releases that have been trending in the book-sphere during the year. I do these hauls traditionally for my birthday and for Christmas, which are as good times as any to spend money without guilty feelings. 

In fact, these are the books I got during my last Christmas haul, starting from the first book at the top of the stack:

1. Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami

2. Norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami

3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

4. The wind-up bird chronicle by Haruki Murakami 

5. The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

6. All the lights we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

7. The miniaturist by Jessie Burton

8. Prince Lestat by Anne Rice

Some I've read and the rest I plan to get to during the year. I've read three of those books, two out of which I've also done reviews for. You can read them on Goodreads by clicking on the following links:

As you can see above, one of the books I got was Prince Lestat, the newest addition to the Vampire Chronicles series, by Anne Rice. I've been dying to read it since I bought it, I mean, this book is gorgeous! But first, I plan to marathon the first 10 books in the series. Yep, I have to read 10 books before I can get to this beauty. Now, I was missing three books in the series, which I had borrowed from my public library years ago, the first time I read them. So for the sake of my upcoming marathon, I thought I would just buy them, which brings us to my birthday haul. 

So for my birthday, these are the books I got, again starting from the one on top:

1. The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

2. Merrick by Anne Rice

3. Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice

4. Winter of the World by Ken Follett

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The first three books are respectively books 2, 7 and 9 in the Vampire Chronicles series. I'll probably do a series review of it later when I complete re-reading the whole thing. 

I also plan on reading The Book Thief during the year. Many of you are probably already familiar with this book, or at least with its movie adaptation. As for Winter of the World, I do not plan to read it any time soon. That one's a chunk and also happens to be the 2nd book in a trilogy. I might get the rest of the series in a future book haul and marathon the whole thing then.

So apart from books, there was also cake for my birthday (well, duh!). The chocolate kind, no less! It was a book shaped cake (see left) with a printed fan art of Alice and the Mad Hatter, from Alice in Wonderland (picture on right), on the 'cover'. Okay, so with a little bit of imagination, you can see that the cake was supposed to look like a book. It's just a matter of squinting from the right angle, really. But the fan art is still gorgeous though. 


So that's it for my bookish birthday highlights guys. If you've read or plan to read any of the books I mentioned above, let me know in the comments below!  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Series review: The Cemetery of Forgotten Books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Originally written in Spanish, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books is a historical fiction series set in Barcelona in mid 20th century. With strange books, secret libraries, mysterious individuals who may or may not be real, lovable characters and a beautifully sinister atmosphere, this series is a must read for all book lovers. If you're already familiar with this series, who can jump directly to my review, lower on this page. If you want to know more about the series though, here's an overview of each book:

Book 1: The Shadow of the Wind

At the beginning of the book, Daniel, our main character, is mourning the loss of his mother. To help him in his grief, his father, an antiquarian book dealer, takes him to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a secret haven for books whose location Daniel is sworn never to reveal. He is allowed to take one book, though and that's how he stumbles across a mysterious book called The Shadow of the Wind, by fictitious writer Julián Carax. As Daniel develops an interest in both the book and its equally mysterious author, he discoverers that someone has been destroying every copy of every book written by Carax. Intrigued, Daniel embarks somewhat accidentally in a decades old mystery centered about the mysterious Julian Carax.

Book 2: The Angel's Game

Set years before the first book, this is more a companion novel than an actual prequel. David Martin, an aspiring writer, receives a mysterious letter from a French editor, telling him to produce a specific piece of writing in exchange of which he will get literary stardom. David accepts, a little surprised, only to find himself at the heart of a strange pact that soon begins to take a nightmarish spin. As David's work progresses, his world begins to unravel and soon, he comes to question his very reality. 

Book 3: The Prisoner of Heaven

This book is a direct sequel to book one and has for main character Fermin Romero de Torres, a man Daniel befriended in The Shadow of the Wind. Years have passed and Daniel is now an adult with his own family. After a stranger leaves a mysterious note for Fermin at the Sempere and Son bookshop, an intrigued and worried Daniel confronts Fermin who then tells him the story of his years as a prisoner in Montjuic Castle.

My Review
I gave the first two books 5 stars each on Goodreads. The Shadow of the Wind is a book with well-developed, sympathetic characters and a well-plotted story line. The beautiful prose in this book and the highly descriptive language will bring the Barcelona of old to life in this incredible page-turner. The mystery is also well rounded and executed masterfully. With a rather satisfying conclusion, this book could be read as a standalone, although I highly recommend you read the next book.

The Angel's Game is definitely a much darker book, with a more sinister atmosphere than in the first book. This is one of those books where you don't want to know too much before you read them. The intrigue is this book is very well done and while David is a less innocent and sympathetic character than Daniel, you will want to stick with him till the very last page. Without spoiling too much, as David begins to work on his commissioned piece of writing, he begins to see strange things happening around him. After a while, both David and the reader begin to doubt what's real and what's not and it's only in the final pages that some answers will be finally revealed. As for book one, the prose is gorgeous and the descriptions effectively makes Zafon's vision of 20th century Barcelona come to life. 

After the first two powerful and gorgeous installments of this series, book three unfortunately comes as somewhat a disappointment. I gave The Prisoner of Heaven 3 stars on Goodreads. Fermin is still an enjoyable character but the plot in this book is weaker and the story feels a bit rushed. The language loses some of its poetic flow in favor of a shorter, less descriptive narrative which may leave some readers rather unsatisfied. While the story is not bad, it does feel like it could have been part of a larger novel. Instead, this drastically shorter installment reads almost as a novella. The ending, too, is rather frustrating as this book ends with a cliffhanger that may or may not be resolved soon. Indeed, there is no indication as to whether this book will get a sequel, and if so, when it will be released. If you've read and loved the first two books though, I would advise you to try reading this one as well. If not for the story, then at least for Fermin, who does shine through as a great main character. 

Did you enjoy this review? Leave a comment down below to share your thoughts! 


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book stacks and tea cups... Welcome to my blog!

Book stacks and tea cups... Need I say more? When you look at it, it doesn't really take much to please a reader. Grab a good book, make yourself a steaming cup of tea and get cozy in your favorite reading nook and you're all set for your own, personal DIY exotic getaway.
I intend this blog to be your online book nook for all book-related stuff. Need new book recommendations? Want to read the review of a particular book or series? Or maybe you just want to read some book articles? Of Stacks and Cups has you covered and promises even more awesome content such as daily word definitions, weekly book quotes, shoutouts and even movie recommendations based on the books you've loved and read. In short, lots of awesome content is soon coming along your way, so just stay tuned for that! You might as well follow me by mail to be notified whenever new content is up and ready on the blog. I'll be posting new content every week, so be sure to drop by from time to time :)
Of Stacks and Cups is only now taking its first steps in the book blogging community but as one of my upcoming weekly posts, I intend to have a 'Book Blogger/YouTuber Shoutout'. In these posts I'll be highlighting a particular book blogger or YouTuber, as a way of promoting and supporting the book community, and also to introduce readers to all these awesome people who are creating great content everyday. So if you are a book blogger or YouTuber and wish to feature on my blog in the coming weeks, do let me know by mail.
So that's it for now guys. If you like my blog, don't forget to follow me by mail. You can also find me on Goodreads at: 
Until next time,