OWLs Magical Readathon

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.

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READ THE WORLD – Jamaica: Augustown by Kei Miller

11 April 1982 in Augustown, Jamaica. Ma Taffy may be blind, but she sees everything. So, when her great-nephew Kaia comes home from school in tears, what she senses sends a deep fear running through her. While they wait for his mama to come home from work, Ma Taffy recalls the story of the flying preacherman and a great thing that did not happen.

Augustown is a story within a story. There’s what’s happening in the present with Ma Taffy and Kaia, her story of the flying preacherman, and an almost omnipresent narrator that’s looking down on the events that are unfolding and can see the past and future. There are also other characters who live in Augstown that come in and out of the story at different times, and it’s as the story progresses that you can see all these connections between them.

Augustown is a story all about the divide in Jamaican society and how people may try and fail to bridge that divide and perhaps better themselves. There’s rich vs poor, white vs black, Babylon vs Rasta. All these differences and divisions come to a head when Kaia comes home crying after his teacher cuts off his dreadlocks. It’s a shocking thing for the young boy and the community as a whole, and soon the people start to get involved.

The writing style is almost poetic at times as it paints a vivid picture of life in Jamaica in the twentieth century. The stark differences between what the poor Augstown looks like and the rich areas of Jamaica that are in the hills and look down upon Augustown look like are clear. Also, the attitudes between the people who live in the two different areas is realised through the few times when people from each of these worlds interact. There’s talk of code-switching, how someone changes their dialect or use of slang depending on who they’re talking to, and of what opportunities are available to different people.

Augustown is a quick read with engaging themes but unfortunately while I did feel sympathy towards many of the characters, I was never fully drawn into their story. How Augustown shows the divisions of class in Jamaica is eye-opening and it shows how one person’s actions can have ramifications they couldn’t have expected.

O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon 2019

The O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon is the invention of Gi at Book Roast on YouTube. It’s a challenge I heard about last year, but I wasn’t aware of it in time to take part – this year I’m more prepared! The challenge is based on the Hogwarts examinations in the Harry Potter series but you neither have had to have read the Harry Potter books or be a Harry Potter fan to take part.

The basic premise is that each Hogwarts subject has its own prompt, you read a book that fits that prompt and then you’ve achieved an O.W.L. in that subject. This readathon lasts the entirety of April so it gives you plenty of time to try and cram in as many O.W.L.’s as possible. For more information on the readathon see Gi’s announcement video. It’s clear she puts in a lot of work into this challenge, she makes study guides and a career guide that has information on lots of magical careers and the subjects you need to study in order to be able to progress in that career.

The career I’ve chosen is Ministry Worker with the idea that I’d specialise to be able to join the Department of International Magical Cooperation after taking my N.E.W.T.’s in August. That means I’ll need O.W.L.’s in Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, History of Magic, Potions, Transfiguration and Muggle Studies – meaning my aim is to read six books for this challenge.

I’ve had a look at my bookshelves and theoretically I would be able to get 11 out of 12 O.W.L.’s based on the books on my TBR. Below are the books I plan to read to get my O.W.L.’s for my Ministry Worker job, but also the books for the other O.W.L.’s in case I do better than expected and can fit in a couple more books during the month.

Ancient Runes – Retelling
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
As the title suggests it’s a Frankenstein retelling. This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for ages so even though it doesn’t fit with my chosen career path, if I finish the O.W.L.’s/books I have to read, this will be my priority.

Arithmancy – Work written by more than one author
Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam edited by Linh Dinh
A collection of short stories from Vietnamese writers.

Astronomy – “Star” in the title
This is the one subject I don’t have a book that would fit so any careers that needed an Astronomy O.W.L. was automatically ignored.

Care of Magical Creatures – Land animal on the cover
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Technically I think this could also work for retelling (though you’re not allowed to use the same book for multiple prompts) as it’s inspired by the Evil Queen in Snow White I think? It’s a book I got from a subscription box a while ago and I’m pretty sure it’s the only book I’ve got with an animal on the cover.

Charms – Age-line: read an adult work
Augustown by Kei Miller
I actually tend to read mostly adult books so the way I chose this book was to find one of the shorter adult books I have – at just over 200 pages, Augustown was the winner.

Defence Against the Dark Arts – Reducto: title starts with a “R”
The Red Beach Hut by Lynn Michell
This is the only book I’ve got that has a title that begins with the letter R. I was pleased I found a book as Defence Against the Dark Arts is a subject needed for many career paths.

Divination – Set in the future
Old Man Hawkeye Vol. 1: An Eye for an Eye by Ethan Sacks, Marco Checchetto and Andres Mossa
Comics are totally allowed for this readathon which is great. I recently bought a bunch of Hawkeye-related comics and this one is set in an apocalyptic future where nearly all of the superheroes are dead.

Herbology – Plant on the cover
West Coast Avengers Vol. 1: Best Coast by Kelly Thompson, Stefano Caselli and Tríona Farrell
Another one from my Hawkey-binge-buy as he’s a part of this team. It has some palm trees on the front which totally counts as a plant.

History of Magic – Published at least 10 years ago
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
It’s a classic so it’s definitely over 10 years old. Plus it’s pretty short which is always helpful for a readathon.

Muggle studies – Contemporary
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
I received this in a subscription box a while back and know nothing about it except it’s the shortest contemporary book I have on my TBR. I read We Were Liars years ago and sped through it so hopefully the same thing will happen with this book.

Potions – Next ingredient: sequel
Old Man Hawkeye Vol. 2: The Whole World Blind by Ethan Sacks, Marco Checchetto, Francesco Mobili and Ibraim Roberson
I don’t actually have many sequels (because I’m terrible at reading series) so my recent comic book purchases have definitely come in handy here.

Transfiguration – Sprayed edges or red cover
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This is the longest book on this TBR but it’s one of the only books I have that has a red cover. There’s rumours that the Tome Topple Readathon will happen in April so as The Angel’s Game is over 500 pages, that’ll hopefully give me an extra push to read it.

So, this is my TBR for the O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon and pretty much my TBR for the whole month of April. Are you taking part in the readathon and if you are which O.W.L.’s are you focusing on? In August there’s the N.E.W.T.’s readathon which you use to build on what you achieve in this readathon, so I hope I manage to read all the books I need to be able to apply for a job at the Ministry of Magic.