Giveaways

Giveaway: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is officially out and about. Have you read it? If so, don’t tell us anything because we are still waiting for our copy to arrive (at least one of us lives in a town with no bookstore so…).

Anyway, to celebrate such a wonderful and special date (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, J.K. ROWLING AND HARRY), we are giving away a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. This isn’t just any copy, though. The edition we are giving away has been bought at Livraria Lello. Why is that relevant, you ask? Because the stunning bookstore residing in the also stunning city of Porto, Portugal, witnessed the birth of Harry Potter and his magical world in the mind of J.K. Rowling herself. If you ever do visit the bookstore, you will notice how it resembles the realm of wizardry. In other words, it screams Hogwarts.

So there’s that. This edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone comes from a place as magical as the one it holds within, and there’s a stamp inside to prove it!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.jpg

Want to take it home together with a bookmark from the stunning Livraria Lello? Just comment below.

Best of luck to you all, fellow book lovers. May the book be sorted into your house!

P.S. You have until the 14th of August to participate.

P.P.S. YES, we are giving away a copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Soon-ish, so stay tuned.

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LGBTQA+ · Reviews

“The Blue Place” by Nicola Griffith

“Wood is an endlessly adaptive material. You can plane, chisel, saw, carve, sand, and bend it, and when the pieces are the shape you want you can use dovetail joints, tenpenny nails, pegs or glue; you can use lamination or inlay or marquetry; and then you can beautify it with French polish or plain linseed oil or subtle stains. And when you go to dinner at a friend’s house, the candlelight will pick out the contours of grain and line, and when you take your seat you will be reminded that what you are sitting on grew from the dirt, stretched towards the sun, weathered rain and wind, and sheltered animals; it was not extruded by faceless machines lined on a cold cement floor and fed from metal vats. Wood reminds us where we come from.”

Like Aud Torvingen herself, Nicola Griffith comes across as having the uttermost respect for the raw material that inspires her work. She seems to deconstruct and reconstruct that raw material with the same carefulness that Aud transforms the wood she works with. Griffith’s descriptions are impressive and meticulous, creating an atmosphere that is beyond intense, beyond palpable. I would compare the experience of reading this book to the one of going into deep hypnosis. Griffith too lulls you into one very specific moment and then leads you through it from there. The pace changes with the emotional charge and you can feel your heart following its rhythm. It’s like you were cut from a static background and are being blended into a moving one as if you belonged there in the first place, perhaps as a watermark. It’s quite an experience.

That said, I think we need to talk about Aud. What a character! She’s the kind of person you would declare as being cold at first sight. Not because she is, but because that’s what she wants you to see. She’s as precise as a machine, she changes masks and skins as effortlessly as the most brilliant actor… There’s a strength to her, a sense of awareness… it’s frightening how real she feels, how much sense her existence makes. Of course one could say that she is a privileged one, having the money, the looks and the connections that she does, but that was where her life took her. If given the opportunity, she might have chosen a different path. Again, it’s quite an experience to travel through such a mind. Such math, such logic…

I would say that this is a book much more about the main character, Aud Torvingen, than about the main event, the crime that occurred. An introduction of some kind. It feels like the beginning of something, the reason behind something else… That’s why I am definitely going to read the second book of the series. I am intrigued by both the storyline and the writing style.

P.S. It’s refreshing to read a story in which the character’s most interesting detail, her uniqueness, is not her sexuality.

Coming Out Soon · Reviews

“The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living” by Louise Miller

I already put on five pounds just from reading this, my first note on The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living reads.

To bake or not to bake, that is the question. Then again, what’s the worst that could happen? Well, you could set the room on fire…

That is how The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller begins. We are introduced to the main character, Olivia Rawlings, mid-catastrophe. Olivia is a well-known baker, a pastry chef extraordinaire, who seems to love, live and breathe her craft – apart from her casual affair with her boss. Her mother left when she was still a child and her father passed away when she was but a teenager. All she seems to have left is her job, her baking, and Hannah, her best friend. It’s to Hannah’s arms she runs when avoiding the ashes of her simmering recent past, and it’s from her leading hand that she finds her future.

I feel like I have been offered not a slice, but a universe-sized version of my all-time favorite cake. This book is comfort, is acceptance. It is not the kind of novel you simply love, it’s the kind of novel that returns the favor, loves you back.

The writing, oh the writing… it’s delicious. You can smell whatever is being confectioned; you can taste its flavor and feel its rich textures. These moments seem to be highlighted by Louise Miller’s clever change in pace. When Olivia is baking, no matter how complicated and/or chaotic the recipe is, everything seems to slow down as flour becomes snow. There’s palpable peace as Olivia walks into her private little world, her safe haven. You can feel her love, her passion, her dedication… just like when you watch Martin playing the fiddle through Olivia’s eyes, how you hear him through her very skin.

This novel is so sweet, so deliciously tender. It’s like a whisper, It’s going to be okay, love. Here, have a seat and a slice. Take a load off, a deep breath. You can do this.

Imagine you have inherited the recipe of your favorite pie. You find yourself alone, craving the comfort you have known it to always deliver. You have never tried baking it yourself, you never had to. You feel the need to have it, though, and there is no one to ask to do it for you – and so you try. You bring the ingredients to the counter and you start mixing them together, following the recipe and the familiar voice that murmurs the instructions through it. You seem to have created a little storm around you, but for a moment you don’t care. It’s ready to go in the oven. Doubt starts to creep in as you put it in. You let it eat at you for a moment before deciding on dealing with the before annoying mess that has now become a welcoming distraction. Your heart skips a beat at the sound of the timer. You watch it carefully as it cools off, thinking of everything and nothing. Then you take the first bite. You close your eyes and you can’t help but smile. It’s like coming back home.

That is how I would describe reading this book: trying to bring a recipe to life while dealing with the grief of having lost its original maker, the fear of disappointment and then… at last, hope, fulfillment, happiness.

You can tell that Louise Miller loves what she does. Not only is it evident in Olivia, it becomes obvious as it embodies the array of other characters – Margaret, Henry and Dotty being my favorite ones – that end up converting into family. I couldn’t be more grateful that Louise Miller decided to share this story – a well-deserved blue ribbon for you!

Do I feel stuffed? To be honest, I could have another slice. And another. And perhaps just one more for the way back to reality.

ARC provided by Pamela Dorman Books via NetGalley.

Coming out on August the 9th.

Books We Should Be Talking About · Pulitzer Prize Winners · Reviews

“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury glowed quietly on my bedside table for about a year before I opened it for the first time. I recall fragments of the thought behind the decision of reaching out for it the moment I did, but I am afraid the mending pieces were instantly consumed by the spectacular wording of the novel.

“He stepped into the bedroom and fired twice and the twin beds went up in a great simmering whisper, with more heat and passion and light than he would have supposed them to contain.”

Before I dive right into the storyline, I must mention the writing because it’s absolutely extraordinary. Please don’t ask me to explain why, it merely is. There’s nothing particularly intricate about it. To be honest, I found the language to be rather simple, but the way it was used… Sigh. The repetitions, the texture of the chosen words, the descriptions… I can still hear the deafening bickering of Mildred’s family and friends, I can feel Montag’s anger boiling, his blood rushing through his veins as he stands on the edge, on the verge of exploding… and then silence. What a fascinating experience.

“If there was no solution, well then now there was no problem, either.”

I must say that I found the scenario to be exceptionally frightening. For a moment I felt the bitter taste of hopelessness on my tongue – it’s an incredibly poisonous one, if not truly lethal. With everything that has been happening around the world lately, this is the sort of book that asks to be read, perhaps even out loud, for everyone in proximity to hear. If we all took a glimpse of this future, a future where memories are a target being obliterated by the ones proudly wearing vests of victimhood, a future where memories are remembered by outcasts instead of created by the uniqueness of every soul… perhaps then we would choose not to go down this road, a road battered by the insane amount of times we already went through it, spilling blood all over and then attempting to wash it away with tears…

“And when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, We’re remembering.”

There is as much heartbreak as there is hope in this book. There are no perfect beings here, just choices – and we all have one.

“That’s the good part of dying; when you’ve got nothing to lose, you run any risk you want.”

Giveaways

The Hat Has Spoken

We would like to thank Laura, Nebia92, Mindy, Ayustika, Bruno and Elaine for participating in our giveaway. While we only have one new copy of 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, we might come across a second-hand edition while rummaging bookshops in London next weekend. We will keep you posted!

Congratulations, Ayustika! The hat has spoken and you are the lucky winner of our ‘I will kiss it for you’ giveaway. Please email us over at infusoesparaaalma@gmail.com to arrange the safe delivery of your newest treasure.

New month, new giveaway.

August is almost here. Magic is coming! And yes, we are talking Harry Potter-style.

Stay tuned.

Reviews

“The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman” by Denis Thériault

I read too much into things.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way I can start this review by saying that the circumstances that brought us together were quite… different. You see, I had just sent in yet another draft of my thesis to my advisors the night before and I felt the need to buy myself a book to celebrate. Sadly, the mall closest to my place doesn’t really have a bookshop, but there is indeed a store that sells books, amongst other things. I was there for hours. I am not even kidding. I went through all the Portuguese shelves, the English ones, I even found myself at the French ones (that would have been extremely interesting). I couldn’t find anything. I was starting to feel slightly distressed when I noticed that I needed to tie my shoelaces or else I would end up lying on the floor. That was when I saw it. A tiny book in the middle of bible-sized twins. What made me reach for it was the title, “The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman”.

I reached for it, I read the back cover and then, as I looked through its pages, I somehow found myself reading an interview with the author where he was compared to Haruki Murakami and Julian Barnes. Sold!

Yes, peculiar is ironically the word I believe best describes this book. I guess that’s where the connection to Murakami comes from, as their writing style is not, in my humble opinion, at all similar. The atmosphere? Perhaps so. Still, Denis Thériault is Denis Thériault and Haruki Murakami is Haruki Murakami – of that there is no doubt!

A lonely postman living vicariously through other people’s correspondence. The probability of this happening would sound much scarier had we not started exchanging more emails than actual letters. It all sounds a bit surrealistic, but then again, how could it not? It’s populated by haiku, by tanka… all the culture references that surround the topic help create quite an atmosphere that seems to ascend into higher and deeper meanings.

I found the writing style to be rather enchanting. I think I have the author and the wonderful translator (according to the author she is indeed brilliant) to blame for the fact that I was too busy savoring the way the story was being told to actually contemplate judging Bilodo. Perhaps that was the point? He too got somehow lost in the middle of all those letters, all those words written in what was for him, at first, an extremely peculiar way.

At the end there was the interview in which the author also mentioned a sequel of sorts. I must go look into it. I confess I am rather curious. It did kill the cat, Bilodo…

Poetry · Reviews

“House of Light” by Mary Oliver

House of Light. I find the title to be beyond appropriate for this particular collection of poems. This book does house light, and it slips through the cracks that make it a home, hand in hand with hope.

“I want to believe that imperfections are nothing –
that the light is everything – that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.”

Mary Oliver reminds us that pain is not the only thing to cause dents in the sculpture our soul habits. Love, as well as joy, opens wounds; wonder leaves scars behind. Are these faults, though? Are these flaws? It depends on how you choose to look at them.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

I adore how her poetry seems to refuse to move on, how it seems not to even accept it as a possibility. Instead, it introduces the idea of carrying on.

This collection of poetry thrives on what we would perhaps call the ingenuity of some of the creatures we share this world with. Mary Oliver paints them, reveals them to us, as an example to perhaps follow.

“they beat their muscular wings,
they dream of flying
for another million years

over the water,
over the ferns,over the world’s roughage
as it bleeds and deepens.”

They go on, even though they know not what to expect. Whatever happens, happens. They deal with it as it comes, one step at a time. They don’t dwell on what ifs. They embrace what they are, who they are, and that’s exactly whom they embody, no fear of repercussions.

“Have you ever found something beautiful and maybe just in time?”

It’s such a stunning and tender way of looking at the world.

Reviews

“Franny & Zooey” by J.D. Salinger

I have been sitting here for quite some time now, trying to find a way around the maze of thoughts this book has created in my mind. I feel like I have removed every single one of my books from their current assigned place, put them all on the floor, as if mixing ingredients together, and read my way into finding a connection between them, the recipe. It’s not something physical, the connection, I mean, it’s not a thing, or a word, that you can point at and say, Look! There it is. That’s it. Instead, it’s a feeling that I find gathered in the very last line of Franny and Zooey,

“For some minutes, before she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, she just lay quiet, smiling at the ceiling.”

I honestly don’t know what else to say about it. I would perhaps call it a revolution, but that doesn’t seem to be the point, at all. Instead, I think I will go with calling it an experience, for it certainly was one. The construction and deconstruction of everything and nothing… it was absolutely marvelous. It somehow reminded me of Voltaire’s Candid − must have been the discussion of wisdom, knowledge and intellectuality.

I think this is one of those that will require at least a second visit. Don’t mind if I do.

Books About Books · Reviews

“A Library of Lemons” by Jo Cotterill

This book was a gift from a friend who knows just how much I adore books… and lemons.

I had just finished Edith’s Diary by Patricia Highsmith when my eyes landed on the recently arrived copy of A Library of Lemons. Its bright cover seemed to whisper promises of a lightness that I most certainly craved after having read the haunting Highsmith. Little did I know…

I would say that A Library of Lemons is a considerately written novel about the importance of people – when I say people I don’t simply mean the ones that surround us, the others, but also ourselves, our own existence.

“People need people. You can’t just keep yourself apart all the time so that you don’t get hurt. All that means is you get hurt anyway and you’re alone.”

I believe Jo Cotterill more than succeeds at conveying the message that we need each other. We may not always know how to reach out, we may not always recognize when someone else is trying to reach out, but closing our eyes altogether will certainly not help. We may feel as if we are protecting our loved ones, but they know, they know something is going on, they just don’t know how to ask – or perhaps they are afraid.

I think this is one important book, particularly for young readers. The language is more than suitable for youngsters and the storyline creates a safe haven that I believe is vital to the process of learning how to open up. In a world that seems far too quick to judge, and way too slow when it comes to forgiving, A Library of Lemons is like a friendly hand leading us toward a middle ground that seems utopic to many, but that exists.

A novel about grief, yes. A Library of Lemons is the light at the end of a tunnel that might at first feel endlessly long. A Library of Lemons is a reminder that no matter how long, a tunnel will always be a tunnel and that means it will always have a way out.

Baby steps.

One. And another. And another…

“‘So… how can two opposite things both be normal?’

Mae bites her lip thoughtfully. ‘It sort of makes you wonder how anyone works out what normal is.’

‘And if no one is really sure…’ I say. ‘If people are just making up their own idea of normal, then…’

‘Then anything is normal. And everything,’ concludes Mae.”

 

Reviews

“Edith’s Diary” by Patricia Highsmith

I must start by saying that reading Patricia Highsmith is always an experience. She seems to thrive on testing the limits, on taking that one wobbly step over the line long ago burnt in the sand by the rules, the norms.

Even though holding such high expectations, she still managed to surprise me by being more… concealed than usual. There’s nothing straightforward – or perhaps there is nothing but straightforwardness and we are simply not taught to recognize it as such – about Highsmith’s novels, and yet there’s something even more particular about Edith’s Diary.

Imagine you are at someone else’s place. You have been told to wait for your hosts on their immense library on the second floor. It’s an old Victorian house and the steps creak as you climb your way up. You find the room without much trouble and your eyes travel the universe of displayed spines in wonder. You presume the old floorboards will inform you of their impending appearance when the time comes. However, their steps are light and you only realize they have arrived when you turn to find them already staring at you in the face, no warning whatsoever. You almost jump out of your skin, covering the embarrassment with an apologetic smile. You can’t help but wonder though, how did that happen? That is how I would describe reading Edith’s Diary, but it somehow feels as if you are both the one left waiting and the approaching hosts.

If I had to choose one single word to describe this novel I would go with restless. I wouldn’t recommend reading this one before bed. I became rather agitated as I both waited and found my way up the stairs. It was truly one of those experiences that I will not soon forget.

I would say that Edith is, first and foremost, grieving. Not just the physical death of her loved ones, but also the death of her marriage and of her many daydreamed could have beens. I find it incredible how Highsmith seems to make the reader blend with Edith. Is she becoming insane? Are we becoming insane? I believe Highsmith would reply with a rather smug, aren’t we all?