#AvengersReadathon19

READ THE WORLD – Guatemala: Trout, Belly Up by Rodrigo Fuentes

Translated by Ellen Jones

Six interconnected short stories that provide glimpses into the life of Don Henrik, a good man who is constantly struck by misfortune as he confronts the harsh realities of farming life.

The majority of the short stories are told in the first person and you are given very few clues to figure out who this character is and what their connection to the other stories and characters are. Characters, or at least their names, pop up in multiple stories and the stories aren’t exactly in linear order. They jump around in Don Henrik’s life. Sometimes he is the focus of the story while other times he’s only mentioned or appears for one page and that’s it.

There are no speech marks used throughout the stories and this took a little time to get used to. There’s often large paragraphs where someone talks multiple times, as they are moving or taking a swig of beer, so I needed to pay attention so I could follow what was speech and what was action.

The stories paint a lovely picture of the Guatemalan countryside, with the fields, forests and rocky outcrops, but it never glosses over the difficulties of rural life. There’s the problems with crops failing to grow, water not flowing where it should but then there’s also the threat of violence from merciless entrepreneurs and hitmen, who will do anything to get what they perceive is owed to them.

At 97 pages, Trout, Belly Up is a short story collection that I read in one sitting. I think it works better that way as you see how each story or snapshot is a part of someone’s life and how the characters relate to one another. I believe this is the first short story collection I’ve read where the stories are interconnected and I liked that form of short stories more. Even though the stories are between 10 – 30 pages long each, because they’re connected, they paint a richer picture of the setting and the characters you follow.

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READ THE WORLD – Spain: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Pulp fiction writer David Martín is holed up in an abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, desperately writing story after story while becoming increasingly frustrate and disillusioned. When he is approached by a mysterious publisher, Andreas Corelli, makes him an enticing offer David leaps at the chance. But as he begins to research and write this novel, and after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, David realises there’s a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home, and maybe his publisher might be hiding secrets of his own.

The Angel’s Game is set in the same universe as The Shadow of the Wind, but I don’t think it matters if you haven’t read that book or if you haven’t read it for a while. I read and reviewed The Shadow of the Wind four years ago so naturally I can’t really remember much about the book, but the only connections I noticed was the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the dilapidated tower home the main character in this novel came to live in. (After writing this review I googled the series and realised that The Angel’s Game is in fact a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind though apparently each book in the series is supposed to be able to stand on its own from the others, so it really doesn’t matter what order you read them in.)

Set in the 1920s and early 1930s, The Angel’s Game really makes use of both the time period and the city its set in to add to the mystery and eeriness of the story. Not being able to get hold of a character, or instances of mistaken identity are rife, and both increase the tension at key moments. The city of Barcelona truly becomes a character in its own right in The Angel’s Game. The narrow alleyways, abandoned houses, tiny shops and the often-bleak weather, makes the city a wonderful setting for a gripping mystery. The descriptions of the city are vivid making the few times characters venture elsewhere, even more stark and different to what we already know.

David is an interesting man. He’s often unlikable as he pushes away those who care about him when he’s obsessed with writing and is unsure how to love or be loved in return. He’s always had affection for the daughter of a friend’s driver, Cristina, but circumstance and society keeps them a part. His reluctant friendship with Isabella, an inspiring writer who is many years younger than him is surprisingly sweet and while their relationship isn’t without its troubles and miscommunications, their honesty with one another is truly needed by both of them.

The mystery of the tower house, its previous owner and what happened to them kicks in about the third of the way through the book. Andreas Corelli seems to be connected to it all though it takes a long time for David to figure things out. David becomes obsessive, both about his writing and the secrets his home holds, looking for reasons behind the deaths and strangeness that appears to be following him. The Angel’s Game is told in the first person from David’s point of view, meaning that as the story progresses and things get weirder, you begin to doubt what you’ve been told so far as David’s grip on reality seems to slip.

I shan’t say I picked up all the threads of the mystery before they were explained to me, nor that I totally understood the ending, but that didn’t make me like this story any less. The Angel’s Game was a very readable book and the whole gothic take on Barcelona fully pulled me into the story. Would it have been nice if the story wasn’t quite so convoluted and weird? Yes, but it’s still a book that I ended up enjoying more than I remembered enjoying its predecessor. 4/5.

Avengers Readathon 2019 TBR

Even though I’m already in the middle of the OWLs Magical Readathon (you can check up on my progress on Twitter) I happened to spot on Twitter last night another readathon that was very much my brand. The Perks of Being Noura is hosting an Avengers themed readathon from 14 April to 14 May. Needless to say, as soon as I saw the hashtag I knew I had to take part.

For the Avengers Readathon you can choose up to two profiles. There are 18 different SHIELD profiles, each designed after a different Avengers character, and they each have between three and nine assignments/challenges that you fit each book to. There’s more information on the readathon, including a google doc with all the different characters and their prompts, here.

Choosing a character was the hard part for me. Should I choose my favourite character, or should I be more pragmatic about it and choose a character that had fewer prompts, or where there’s a character profile that I could definitely complete? There is the option to skip no more than two of the assignments from a chosen profile, so there is some wiggle room if needed. Also, it’s totally fine to cross over your Avengers Readathon TBR with any other readathon TBRs you might currently be participating in at the same time – so in my case that’d be the OWLs.

After looking through my TBR and all the prompts (I had a colour coded spreadsheet and everything) I figured out the character profile I would focus on and that’s Ant-Man! Ant-Man had three assignments and then you had to pick one assignment from any other character profile.

Ant-Man’s Suit: Book with red on the cover
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This is a very red cover and it’s one on my OWLs TBR and one I will definitely be reading this month as I need that OWL for my chosen career path.

Ant-thony: A book with 100 pages or less
Trout, Belly Up by Rodrigo Fuentes, translated by Ellen Jones
This is the one book I have that’s under 100 pages! It’s a collection of interconnected short stories that comes in at 97 pages.

Ant-Man & the Wasp: Book with multiple points of view or buddy read a book
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
This book is from three characters points of view. It is a contemporary story where three girls plan to get revenge on the boys who have hurt them.

From Loki’s profile – God of Mischief: Retelling
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright
Another one from my OWLs and as this has been at the top of my TBR since the start of this year, including it on this readathon’s TBR as well means I’ll definitely be reading it.

Now if I manage to read all of them (which I should as two of them are for the OWLs readathon anyway), the second character I’ve chosen is Hawkeye aka my ultimate fave. Hawkeye has just three assignments on his profile.

Hawkeye: Heists and Espionage
Hawkeye: Avenging Archer by Jim McCann, David López, Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia and Paco Diaz
This graphic novel is a collection of four different story arc, and they feature super spy Mockingbird so that totally counts for espionage.

Ronin: Debut book
Viper by Bex Hogan
I got this in a subscription box very recently and I’d like to read it sooner rather than later so this works out perfectly.

Master Marksman: Book with an archer protagonist
West Coast Avengers Vol. 1: Best Coast by Kelly Thompson, Stefano Caselli and Tríona Farrell
Another one that’s also on my OWLs TBR and as it features both Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, I’ve got two archer protagonists.

I better get reading! I’ll probably start a Twitter thread to track my progress and like everyone else I’ll be using the #AvengersReadathon19 on Twitter and anywhere else. Are you taking part in the Avengers Readathon? I’m glad I heard about it when I did because it starts today! I’m currently reading a book for my OWLs that’s not mentioned here, but I think my next read will be The Angel’s Game – two birds, one stone and all that!