Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of the Year Wrap-up 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010
2010 is almost over, so I decided to take this opportunity to post a mere statistics on what happened to me on a reading front during this year. In total, I read 148 books in 2010, about 50000 pages (sounds insane, isn’t it?). I never before scrupulously tracked all the books that I read for the whole year, but I believe that I usually read around 100 books a year, so it seems like I did great in 2010. My least read in month (if calculating number of titles), turned out to be January 2010 - I only read three books. The reason, as I see it, was houseguests that we had during January and the enormousness of Under the Dome by Stephen King. The most read in months turned out to be June and August, both tight at 16 titles. Out of the 148 books read there were eight rereads, all other I read for the first time, or at least I believe so (I'm not a big fan to reread books, as you can see).

Some books I read in 2010 made a huge impression on me and they would stay with me for the rest of my life; others were terrible beyond any reason. However, in general, I’m very satisfied with 2010 readings.

I didn’t write reviews on all the books that I read I 2010, even though it was my desire. I hope to do better next year, but can’t promise anything …

I didn’t join any challenges in 2010 and I’m not planning to do so in 2011. For me to join any challenge is to make plans; and to make plans is to restrict yourself. I’m not a big plan maker, I’m a person of mood. Because of this I could not make any prediction on 2011, I could not even be sure that this blog will still exists by the end of 2011. To my astonishing surprise it survived almost a year. This might be a good sign or not... Who knows?

Happy New Year everyone! I wish you a year of pleasant, but completely unexpected surprises. I certainly hope that my 2011 will be like that.

January 2010

1. Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
2. My life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
3. Under the Dome by Stephen King

February 2010

1. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
2. Blue is for Nightmares by Laurie Faria Stolarz
3. White is for Magic by Laurie Faria Stolarz
4. Silver is for Secrets by Laurie Faria Stolarz
5. Red is for Remembrance by Laurie Faria Stolarz
6. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
7. Cracked up to be by Courtney Summers
8. Fallen by Lauren Kate
9. Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
10. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
11. Heist Society by Ally Carter
12. Wake by Lisa McMann
13. Fade by Lisa McMann

March 2010

1. The Only Wiccan Spell Book You’ll Ever Need by Marian Singer
2. Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
3. The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
4. Book of Shadows (Sweep 1) by Cate Tiernan
5. The Coven (Sweep 2) by Cate Tiernan
6. Blood Witch (Sweep 3) by Cate Tiernan
7. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
8. Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
9. Incarceron (Incarceron, #1)by Catherine Fisher
10. Dark Magick (Sweep 4) by Cate Tiernan
11. Numbers by Rachel Ward
12. Awakening (Sweep 5) by Cate Tiernan
13. Envy (Luxe Series #3) by Anna Godbersen
14. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
15. Spellbound (Sweep 6) by Cate Tiernan

April 2010

1. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
2. My Soul to Lose (Soul Screamers, #0) by Rachel Vincent
3. My Soul to Take (Soul Screamers, #1) by Rachel Vincent
4. Sapphique (Incarceron, #2)by Catherine Fisher
5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
6. Splendor (Luxe Series #4) by Anna Godbersen
7. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
8. Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt
9. Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott
10. A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker
11. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
12. Geek High (Geek High, #1) by Piper Banks
13. All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab

May 2010

1. Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover (Gallagher Girls, #3) by Ally Carter
2. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
3. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
5. The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison
6. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
7. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
8. Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
10. Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey
11. Inkheart (Inkheart, #1) by Cornelia Funke
12. King Solomon's Mines by Henry Rider Haggard
13. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
14. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

June 2010

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
3. The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy
4. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
5. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter by Yasunari Kawabata
6. Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald
7. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
8. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
9. The Karma Club by Jessica Brody
10. By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
11. Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos
12. Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) by Suzanne Collins
13. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
14. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
15. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
16. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

July 2010

1. Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
2. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
5. Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice
6. Geek Abroad by Piper Banks
7. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
8. The Island of Dr Moreau by H. G. Wells
9. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
10. White Cat by Holly Black
11. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

August 2010

1. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
2. Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
3. The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells
4. Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz
5. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
6. The Gardener by S. A. Bodeen
7. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
8. The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson
9. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
10. Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
11. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
12. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
13. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
14. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
15. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
16. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

September 2010

1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
3. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
5. The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)by Kody Keplinger
6. Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
7. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
8. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
9. The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe
10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
11. The Candidates (Delcroix Academy)by Inara Scott
12. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

October 2010

1. Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
2. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
3. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
4. The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
5. The Shining by Stephen King
6. Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel
7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
9. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
10. Mini Shopaholic (Shopaholic #6) by Sophie Kinsella
11. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
12. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
13. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
14. All Together Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #7) by Charlaine Harris

November 2010

1. Moscow to the End of the Line by Venedikt Erofeev
2. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
3. The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez
4. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
5. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
6. Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
7. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
8. From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8) by Charlaine Harris
9. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium #3) by Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland
10. Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales
11. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
12. Crescendo (Hush, Hush #2) by Becca Fitzpatrick
13. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
14. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator)
15. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator)

December 2010

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #3) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator)
3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5) J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator)
4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator)
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator)
6. Animal Farm by George Orwell

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Blogger Holiday Swap - Gifts

Friday, December 17, 2010
Today is a good day and I’ll tell you why. I received my first Christmas gift of the year. This was not just a gift, but the gift from Book Blogger Holiday Swap Secret Santa. I barely could contain myself not to tear the box. I couldn’t lose even a second to look for my box knife or take off my jacket and shoes, so I opened the box within an instance, using a kitchen knife. Immediately my house was full of Christmas aroma - ginger and apples; and I could swear that this fragrance made me hear Christmas bells and snow falling outside my window (even though it is 76 degrees outside).

The box contained three beautiful books:

In addition, there were a bar of handmade spicy apple and peaches soap and a box of Snappy Ginger and Herb Tea.

Thank you Secret Santa for all your beautiful gifts and Happy Holidays to you too.

I also would like to express my gratitude to the Book Blogger Holiday Swap's hosts - great job guys and Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Quote of the Day

Friday, December 10, 2010
Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.

Jessamyn West

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quote of the Day

Thursday, December 9, 2010
Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.

Arnold Lobel

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - Book Review #122

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle

Everyone in town thinks Meg is volatile and dull-witted and that her younger brother Charles Wallace is dumb. People are also saying that their father has run off and left their brilliant scientist mother. Spurred on by these rumors, Meg and Charles Wallace, along with their new friend Calvin, embark on a perilous quest through space to find their father. In doing so they must travel behind the shadow of an evil power that is darkening the cosmos, one planet at a time.

As I mentioned not once in my reviews, I didn’t grow up in the USA. So not once I came across books that are widely popular in the USA, but completely unknown to me. It is either these books were never translated to Russian for some reasons, or if they were, they weren’t very popular in Russia because of cultural or some other aspects. A Wrinkle in Time is one of these books that I never heard of when I was in Russia and I kept hearing pretty much from everyone in the USA. So I just had to check it out what all these people are talking about. I just had to read the book that considered by many as their most favorite childhood story. I just had to read the book that got so many praises and awards; and even though it was published some forty years ago, it is still being read and loved by every next generation as much as by previous one.

My brief research showed that A Wrinkle in Time was never translated in Russian, at least not until quite recently. After reading this book, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t too surprised. It seemed to me that Madeleine L'Engle was a Christian writer. Of course, I’m only judging by one book and it might not be a case for her other novels. However, A Wrinkle in Time most definitely was written from a Christian point of view with a lot of references to “God”. That fact alone would have banned this book from USSR instantaneously. On top of it, A Wrinkle in Time was written during the Cold War times and as far as I know, books that were written at that time and especially by American writers weren’t even considered to be translated in Russian.

A Wrinkle in Time is a children’s book, so for adults that never read it before it probably will seem as sweet, cute and silly. I always believed that for a person to truly love a children’s book, it needs to be read first in the childhood. Otherwise, a person can learn to appreciate a children’s book, consider it to be a great book, but never truly love it.

Either it is for that reason, or maybe because of the cultural differences (Christian theme annoyed me quite a bit), but I can’t say that I love this book or that I will ever want to reread it on my own account. However, it doesn’t mean that I think it was a bad book. It is indeed a very good book for seven-twelve years old children. Madeleine L'Engle doesn’t talk down to the reader, like a lot of children’s books writers do. It is a compelling story that includes some interesting scientific theories, which explained quite well; fascinating adventures; thrilling danger; a fight against evil forces and it has very good meanings underneath it all – love, friendship and family. Even though these meanings are presented under Christian sauce, it doesn’t make these meanings less valuable or less universal. Plus Madeleine L'Engle doesn’t shove it into a reader’s throat, she doesn’t lecture a reader on this either, however it is still there and visible.

I would recommend this book for every child of age group seven to twelve and I would also recommend to every parent to advise this book to their children. I’m sure that in A Wrinkle in Time children will find a friend for life.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick - Book Review #121

Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Crescendo (Hush, Hush #2)
by Becca Fitzpatrick

Nora Grey's life is still far from perfect. Surviving an attempt on her life wasn’t pleasant, but at least she got a guardian angel out of it. But Patch has been acting anything but angelic lately. He’s more elusive than ever and, even worse, he’s started spending time with Nora’s arch-enemy, Marcie Millar.

Nora would have hardly noticed Scott Parnell, an old family friend who’s moved back to town, if Patch hadn’t been acting so distant. Even with Scott’s totally infuriating attitude Nora finds herself drawn to him – despite her lingering feeling that he’s hiding something.

Haunted by images of her murdered father, and questioning whether her Nephilim bloodlines has anything to do with his death, Nora puts herself increasingly dangerous situations as she searches for answers. But some things are better left buried, because the truth could destroy everything – and everyone – she trusts.

I read Hush, Hush – the first installment of Hush, Hush series about a year ago, when it was released. By the time I opened Crescendo – the second novel in the Hush, Hush series, I couldn’t remember anything about Hush, Hush except that I read it in one sitting, it was about fallen angels and I seemed to enjoy it. The fact that I didn’t remember any of the plot from the first book, made the beginning of the second novel sort of confusing for me. So I put away Crescendo and read prologue and the last chapter of Hush, Hush, which gave me at least the vague idea of the plot. And I set off reading Crescendo, thinking that details will come to me.

Either I significantly grew up in this year since I read Hush, Hush, or I just blocked out all details of the first book, because it wasn’t good and in a while assumed that I liked it, or maybe the second book – Crescendo was just… hmm… not as good as the first book. I’m really not sure what is the reason and, to be honest after Crescendo, I don’t really want to reread Hush, Hush to be able to form my opinion based on the facts and not on the vague ideas, but Crescendo read like a very bad fanfiction.

Nora – the main character – was completely unstable, to put it mildly. Her actions and reactions were so bizarre that I couldn’t even blame it on her being a teenager. The only base I could came up with for her behavior was that she is probably very disturbed at least. The scene when Nora and her friend Vee park the car in the tow away zone and later found their car with a stopper on the wheel, what did Nora decide to do? She decided to steal her ex-boyfriend’s car, parked nearby, because she didn’t want to talk to him, asking for a ride, she didn’t want to walk home, and she didn’t have anyone else to call to pick her up. So certainly the car stealing is the only reasonable way to go in this situation (this is sarcasm, for these that aren’t sure).

Crescendo was a string of idiotic decisions and absurd reactions. The whole mystery of the book was built on unreasonable lack of communication: Nora didn’t want to ask Patch anything, because… well because if she would, there wouldn’t be a story; and Patch didn’t tell anything tot Nora, because… well, for the same reason. And in my opinion, plots that are based on things like that are so weak, they don’t even deserve to be called plots at all.

It’s been almost two weeks since I read Crescendo and already details start to fade from my memory. I guess my brain just not capable of holding on to such nonsensical events. Well, at least in case of this book, unlike Hush, Hush, I would have a recording of my opinion on it in the form of this blog post, so I later on I won’t be able to delude myself that I actually liked the book.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut - Book Review #120

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Cat's Cradle
by Kurt Vonnegut

Cat's Cradle, one of Vonnegut's most entertaining novels, is filled with scientists and G-men and even ordinary folks caught up in the game. These assorted characters chase each other around in search of the world's most important and dangerous substance, a new form of ice that freezes at room temperature. At one time, this novel could probably be found on the bookshelf of every college kid in America; it's still a fabulous read and a great place to start if you're young enough to have missed the first Vonnegut craze.

I’m definitely too young to be able to catch the first Vonnegut craze. Plus I didn’t grow up in the USA. So I have never read any Kurt Vonnegut’s books before. I heard a lot about him. We even had him in the Foreign Literature class, however I was fifteen and too busy with my social life to pay any attention to Vonnegut or his books. So here I’m, after reading him for the first time. And what did I think?

There are two major themes in Cat's Cradle, in my opinion: first, science and its great inventions in the hands of irresponsible idiots; and second, religion as panacea. In Vonnegut’s version the end of the world will not come because of the madman, pressing big red button. No, the end of the world will happen because of the careless people (in this case, children of one of the great scientists, who invented an atomic bomb) who came across the substance – Ice-nine – that they should never be allowed within a mile and in the pursuit of their own happiness they distribute the substance across the world. Angela gives it away to the American government in exchange of handsome husband. Newt gives it to the USSR for a fling with Russian ballet dancer. And Franklin gives it to "Papa" Monzano, a dictator of the small island country, for an exchange for position of Major General. So now the deadly dangerous substance is in the hands of two "Super power" countries and one madman.

Another theme is a religion – Bokononism. Vonnegut created one of the best, one of the most thought -through fictional religion that I have ever come through in the books. This is a religion that based on lies, create lies and not afraid to admit it. Bokononism presented in Cat's Cradle as panacea, as something that makes the life worthwhile, as lies that gives purpose of life.

In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in his cosmic loneliness.
And God said, "Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done." And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat, looked around, and spoke. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely.
"Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.
"Certainly," said man.
"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God.
And He went away.

Cat's Cradle was written in 1963 – in the middle of the Cold War and just after the Caribbean Crisis (The Cuban Missile Crisis). The thought about the end of the world was very hot at that moment. It is still relevant in our time. However as far as I understand, people are no longer as scared shitless as they used to be of the “end of the world” idea. Maybe, in our days, we don’t need black humor and satire to talk about the end of the world, but I’m sure that in 1963 this was only possible way to discuss it without putting people into deep depression for the rest of their lives.

While reading Cat's Cradle, I could definitely see Vonnegut’s genius and satire that I heard so much about. And I could definitely appreciate what themes he is bringing up and how he does it. Unfortunately, Cat's Cradle didn’t touch me deeply, so I would either fall utterly in love with it or hate it mercifully. Maybe the problem is that I’m not from the Cold War generation. Maybe I’m stone-hearted and thick-skinned. Or maybe I just don’t care much about the whole world. Despite that, I’m still glad I read Cat's Cradle and I will be surely reading more of Kurt Vonnegut, if not for love or hate than for educational purposes.