Friday, December 30, 2011

End of the Year Wrap-Up 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

In 2011 I read 117 titles. It is 31 titles less than last year. Nevertheless I read the same    50 000 pages as I did last year. I guess my books were fatter in 2011. The most books I read in November (14 titles), the least – in September (4 titles).

I didn’t nearly do as good as I hoped with my reviews – life kept getting in a way. Don’t get me wrong, I do not complain. The life that was getting in the way was a good life. I will exchange an ideal blog with a lot of reviews and discussion posts that is updated every day in a heartbeat for a life like that. And this is what I actually did. Maybe next year I will be able to have a life and at the same time write reviews for almost every book I read – time will show.

According to out of 117 titles I read I gave:
5 stars (It was amazing!) to 15 books;
4 stars (I really liked it!) to 46 books;
3 stars (I liked it) to 44 books;
2 stars (It was ok) to 7 books;
1 star (I didn’t like it) to 5 books.

Out of 117 titles 16 were rereads, including the whole set of Harry Potter and the first book twice (yeah, I know, I have a problem :)

Out of 117 titles:
44 Classics;
15 Young Adult;
17 Children;
14 Fiction;
6 Non-Fiction;
5 Sci-Fi;
4 Mystery;
4 Paranormal;
3 Romance;
2 Horror;
2 Graphic Novels;
1 Fantasy.

Favorite from Classics:
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Most disappointing from Classics:
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Favorite from Young Adult:
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Most disappointing from Young Adult:
Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia

Favorite from Children:
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1) by Philip Pullman (not to mention Harry Potter, but since Harry Potter books were reread, I picked The Golden Compass).
Most disappointing from Children:
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White

Favorite from Fiction:
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Most disappointing from Fiction:
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Favorite from Non-Fiction:
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Most disappointing from Non-Fiction:
Back to the Best Books by Marilyn Green Faulkner

Favorite from Sci-Fi:
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Most disappointing from Sci-Fi:

Favorite from Mystery:
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Most disappointing from Mystery:
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Favorite from Paranormal:
Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse, #9) by Charlaine Harris
Most disappointing from Paranormal:
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The longest book I read this year was Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. It had 1472 pages and it took me 13 days.
Even though The Iliad by Homer is much shorter than Les Misérables, it took me eight month to finish it, so it was a book a read for the longest time this year.

The shortest book (I only call it a book for consistency, even though it is not even a short story) I read was Harry Potter: The Prequel by J.K. Rowling. It had 800 words and it took me 1-2 minutes.

Plans for next year? Nothing specific, just read what I want, as much as I want and post when I want - total freedom and no obligations.

Happy New Year everyone!

Here is the full list of books I read in 2011:

January 2011
1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
2. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
3. Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
4. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
6. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
7. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
8. Neuromancer by William Gibson
9. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
10. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
11. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

February 2011
1. The Graduate by Charles Webb
2. The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade
3. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
5. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
7. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
9. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
10. Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
11. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

March 2011
1. Fantômas by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain
2. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
3. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
5. The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien
6. The Red and the Black by Stendhal
7. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
8. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
9. Angelique: The Marquise of the Angels by Sergeanne Golon
10. Angelique: The Road to Versailles by Sergeanne Golon
11. What Maisie Knew by Henry James
12. Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

April 2011
1. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
2. A Lear of the Steppes by Ivan Turgenev
3. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
4. Theatre by W. Somerset Maugham
5. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
6. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
7. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
8. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
9. The Secret Lives of Men and Women: A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren

May 2011
1. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
2. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
3. Back to the Best Books by Marilyn Green Faulkner
4. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
5. Gone by Lisa McMann
6. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
8. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
10. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
11. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
12. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

June 2011
1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
3. The Trial by Franz Kafka
4. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
5. 1984 by George Orwell
6. Emma by Jane Austen
7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
8. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

July 2011
1. Sutter Island by Dennis Lehane
2. Looking for Alaska by John Green
3. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
5. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
6. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
7. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

August 2011
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré(Illustrator)
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré(Illustrator
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré(Illustrator
4. Harry Potter and the Gob let of Fire (Harry Potter #3) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré(Illustrator)
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré(Illustrator)
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré(Illustrator)
7. Harry Potter and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré(Illustrator)

September 2011
1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
2. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

October 2011
1. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
2. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
3. Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan
4. Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia
5. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
6. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
7. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
8. Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse, #9) by Charlaine Harris
9. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré(Illustrator)
11. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales by Joss Whedon

November 2011
1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
2. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
3. The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge, Justin Taylor
4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie,Ellen Forney(Illustrator)
5. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
6. I am Legend by Richard Matheson
7. Dungeon Master's Guide by Gary Gygax
8. Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
9. One Day by David Nicholls
10. Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
11. 40 Love by Madeleine Wickham
12. The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
13. Harry Potter: The Prequel by J.K. Rowling
14. The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White

December 2011
1. The Golden Compass(His Dark Materials, #1) by Philip Pullman
2. The Wind in the Willows  Kenneth Grahame
3. Trapped by Michael Northrop
4. Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind
5. Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
6. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
7. The Iliad by Homer
8. The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2) by Philip Pullman
9. Matilda by Roald Dahl,Quentin Blake(Illustrator)
10. Watchmen by by Alan Moore,Dave Gibbons (Illustrator),John Higgins (Colorist),Len Wein (Editor)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Ten Childhood Favorites - Top Ten Tuesday #8

Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Childhood Favorites

This turned out the hardest Top Ten Tuesday I’ve done so far, the hardest in terms that I only have to pick ten. First time I set down to think about this list I ended up with twenty five items and I was only picking best from the best. Second time I was able to narrow it down to seventeen by not simply removing book titles from the list, but by removing parts of myself. All the books I clearly remember from my childhood are my favorites. So let’s see if I will be able to stop just at ten… Here we go in no particular order:

The Old Genie Hottabych by Lazar Lagin. This is a Russian book, which was translated to English. The story is set in 1960th Moscow. One day “a schoolboy named Volka Kostylkov, the very same Volka who used to live on Three Ponds Street, you know, the best diver at summer camp last year” finds a very strange looking copper vessel. While trying to clean it, he frees (yes, you guessed it right), a genie that was imprisoned in the bottle for thousands of years. This is a hilarious and amusing story about a character from One Thousand and One Night loose in the middle of contemporarily Moscow (or not as much contemporarily nowadays).  A couple of my favorite moments: First, when a genie and Volka go to the soccer match. While unaware of the soccer rules, a genie conjures a lot of balls, so every player would get a chance to play with its own and doesn’t have to chase the only ball on the field. Second, when Volka is nervous about his geography exam, Hottabych offers his help, by overtaking Volka’s voice and speaking on exam instead of him. The hilarious part is genie’s geography knowledge – the earth is flat and it stands on whales, turtles and elephants.

One Hundred Years Ahead by Kir Bulychev. This is another very popular Russian book. I couldn’t find it in English translation though. The story is set in 1980th Moscow. One day a boy Kolia Gerasimov accidently finds a time machine and goes a hundred years in the future to take a quick pick. He ends up in the middle of galactic conflict when last two space pirates are trying to steal a device called "myelophone", a mind-reader from a girl who works with it - Alisa Seleznyova. To save the device Kolia takes it and runs to hide it in his own time. Pirates who know how Kolia looks, but don’t know anything else about him, follow Kolia.  Alisa who knows the first name and the school where Kolia goes, but doesn’t know how Kolia looks, follow the pirates. The story is full of adventure, mystery and humor.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  I guess everyone know this story and I don’t have to write synopsis for this. I probably reread this book hundred times (not from cover to cover, but only my favorite moments). I had a copy with original illustrations by John Tenniel and I still remember a Cheshire cat’s smile.

Karlson on the Roof Series (including Karlson on the Roof, Karlson Flies Again and The World's Best Karlson) by Astrid Lindgren.Imagine Smidge's delight when, one day, a little man with a propeller on his back appears hovering at the window! It's Karlson and he lives in a house on the roof. Soon Smidge and Karlson are sharing all sorts of adventures, from tackling thieves and playing tricks to looping the loop and running across the rooftops. Fun and chaos burst from these charming, classic stories.” This is one of the most hilarious books that I read as a child.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne. This is another widely known story and also another book that I read dozens of times till wholes in my copy (even though I was very careful), crying every time for poor sad Eeyore.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. As far as I can remember and I can’t be absolutely sure, Peter Pan was the first book I read from beginning till the end by myself (It wasn’t read to by my mother or my other family members). This is the book that sparkled my love for reading. Before that I only had love for stories but not for reading itself.

The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolf Erich Raspe. “Baron Munchausen's astounding feats included riding cannonballs, traveling to the Moon, and pulling himself out of a bog by his own hair.” Even though this story was originally a satirical work with political aims, for me, as a child, it was impossible and funny adventures, which gave a boost to my imagination.

In Search of the Castaways; or the Children of Captain Grant by Jules Verne. “A message in a bottle relays an urgent plea from the long-missing Captain Grant. His ship, the Britannia, has sunk. He is alive but is being held hostage. Captain Grant's children, Mary and Robert, along with their friend and benefactor Lord Glenervan launch a rescue expedition. But where do they begin their search? The original SOS message written in three languages is partially destroyed by sea water. The remaining fragments can be interpreted several ways. Only one clue is certain, Captain Grant is somewhere along the 37th parallel. Racing against time, risking their lives, the brave adventurers are determined to find and save the shipwrecked captain.” The high adventure in sea and on different continents, when I was thirteen, I read it, holding my breath.

Lisa and Lottie by Erich Kästner. The Parent Trap movie is loosely based on this book.“When they meet for the first time at summer camp, two ten-year-old girls discover they are twins and agree to exchange identities in an attempt to reconciliate their divorced parents.” This is a very touching and humorous story at the same time.

Various Fairy Tales by Aleksandr Pushkin, Charles Perrault and The Brothers Grimm.

Here we have a list of ten, but I still cannot finish this post without at least mentioning The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Jungle Book and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende and many more wonderful books that I love since my childhood and will always love and reread.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Book Blogger Holiday Swap Gifts

Friday, December 2, 2011

The package has arrived today from Alyce (At Home with Books). After almost tearing open the package, I found three beautifully wrapped parcels inside. You would have to believe me here, because I didn’t stop tearing at the box, so due to my enormous impatience I have no photographical proof of it. Here are my gifts:

  • Holiday Cookie Cutter and Towel Set – at first, I looked at cookie cutter and didn’t recognize what it was at once, after couple of wild guesses, I read the label and thought: “Hmm, this is going to be interesting.” You see, I don’t bake. No, not on a matter of principal, I just have never tried. After examining a towel closer, I found a very detailed recipe (thank you designers for considering even customers like myself, who had never rolled dough or greased baking sheet). So with this delightful discovery I thought that I might even try making Snowman Sugar Cookies.
  • I guess Alyce somehow knew that I don’t know how to bake. So just in case I won’t master a courage to bake myself, she sent me some Wafers with Chocolate Crème.
  • Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter. This is the second instalment in A Heist Society series. I liked the first book, it somewhat reminded me (not in terms of plot so much, as in overall impression) of How to Steal a Million movie with Audrey Hepburn.
  • Trapped by Michael Northrop. I wanted to read this book since I first heard about it, but somehow never got to getting it. A group of teenagers stuck at school during an awful snowstorm and things just starting to get bad – chilling – a perfect winter read.
  • Alyce also sent me her all time favorite - The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper. I have never hear about this book before, however synopsis sounds very interesting, somewhat reminding me of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I will definitely read it.
  • Last, but not least a very adorable card with Christmas stockings.
Thank you, Alyce, for such wonderful gifts.
Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Blogger Holiday Swap 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011
Come one, Come all!
It's Book Blogger Holiday Swap!

The holiday season is upon us and Book Blogger Holiday Swap is here. You can read about it and join the fun at the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap. Hurry up, the sign up ends on Midnight, Friday November 11, 2011.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan _ Book Review #136

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
A Visit from the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive.Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

A Visit from the Goon Squad was lying on my desk for a very long time, waiting to be read. I can’t intelligibly tell you why it took me so long to pick it up. I guess I was afraid that it wouldn’t be a book for me. I could’ve being afraid to read it during a wrong mood to spoil my impression. I might’ve being afraid it would be too sad. All of the above, none of the above? I really don’t have an answer. However, I do know that I’m glad I finally read it, this would be a tragedy to miss out on such a phenomenal book.

If I would be asked to summarize the book, I would use the quote directly from it:

They resumed walking. Alex felt an ache in his eyes and throat. "I don't know what happened to me," he said, shaking his head. "I honestly don't."
Bennie glanced at him, a middle-aged man with chaotic silver hair and thoughtful eyes. "You grew up, Alex," he said, "just like the rest of us.” 

This quote really nicely summed up a book for me – it is about growing up, not growing up from child to teenager, but growing up from a teenager into a middle-aged adult. I cannot fully judge (I didn’t yet reach my middle age, though I’m not a teenager anymore either), but somehow A Visit from the Goon Squad rang very true and honest, sometimes scary, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, hopeful and optimistic.

A Visit from the Goon Squad has a nonlinear narrative. If I would be asked before I read this book what I think about books with nonlinear plots, I would’ve answered that I generally don’t like them, that I mostly confused and feel a need to reread a book again now knowing what the author is talking about in each section. Now, after I read A Visit from the Goon Squad, my answer is I never before this book read any GOOD books with nonlinear plots. Jennifer Egan even went further, she also switching points of view during narration. And if it isn’t enough yet, this book is following at least dozen characters. Despite that, I wasn’t confused for a single line. I always knew what time we are in and whose point of view used here. Jennifer Egan is a genius. I’m very grateful to her for showing me how such a complicatedly constructed book can be written so masterfully that it reads so easily.

This book is mostly famous, besides its winning Pulitzer, for having an entire chapter created in Power Point. I wasn’t too impressed with this idea before started reading the chapter. I never really worked with Power Point myself, however any serious meeting in my company usually includes a Power Point presentation. I never was really impressed with Power Point presentations, because they never really aid me to understand the topic of the meeting, they were usually distracting me – I was reading boxes and arrows in wrong sequence then I had to stop and try to figure out what the right sequence is – like solving a puzzle, while missing what the presenter was saying. I’m working for a very big company, so even though I do not know people who are usually creating these Power Point presentations for meetings, I would guess that they should be pro in doing it. Jennifer Egan in A Visit from the Goon Squad, showed me that Power Point presentations can be created without becoming a puzzle, they can even tell, doing it very clearly, a story. She showed me that a good Power Point presentation doesn’t require an aid of speaker – it can be read by itself.

I’ll probably never stop praising this book, if I won’t stop myself deliberately. A Visit from the Goon Squad is a most definitely the greatest book I read this year so far that was published in last 5 years. I would still have to see what the rest of the year will bring, but A Visit from the Goon Squad could easily become my favorite book of 2011. If you still didn’t read it, go get it right now and start reading – satisfaction guaranteed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top Ten Books I Had VERY Strong Emotions About - Top Ten Tuesday #7

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books I Had VERY Strong Emotions About (cry, laugh, hurl across the room, etc.)

I like books that generate strong emotions in me. I even like these books that I want to burn. (Don’t get me wrong I’m utterly against destroying or banning books. It is just sometimes I hate a book that much that I want to burn or drown my own copy. Fortunately or unfortunately I’ve never done it.) In my opinion there is nothing worse than a book that makes you *shrug* and forget about it in next five minutes. Unfortunately, most of the books written are in the shrug category, at least for me. So I have a respect for authors and books that made me feel something more, even if the feeling is negative. Here is Top Five Books that Made Me Laugh, Top Five Books that Made Me Cry and Top Five Books that Made Me Want to Start a Bonfire.
Top Five Books that Made Me Laugh:
  1. Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov. I was reading this book as an assignment in 10th grade. My mother was running into my room multiple times to check that I wasn’t choking, because I laughed so hard. This book isn’t a comedy. It is a satire on Russian Revolution.
  2. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. First I saw the play, when I was in middle school, then I saw the movie and only after that I read the play. And every time I laughed out loud and I still think that this is probably one of the funniest things that I’ve ever read.
  3. The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. While I was reading this book, my husband was running into the room where I was reading to check on me, same as my mother did, when I was reading Heart of a Dog. I’m either sounding really scary when I laugh like that or I have a very caring family.
  4. Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella. I was waking up my husband with uncontrollable giggles, while reading first book in bed. I couldn’t shut up about this book afterwards, so in the morning I was retelling the funniest moments to my husband and either I was very convincing or Sophie Kinsella is so funny, but at the end my husband decided to read it too.
  5. Moscow to the End of the Line (aka Moscow-Petushki) by Venedikt Erofeev. This is another satire, this time on the USSR life during 1960th. I guess it is really depends on your point of view is this book going to read hysterically hilarious or depressively sad. It was both for me, maybe a bit more funny than tragic.
Top Five Books that Made Me Cry:
  1. What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson. This is a book about afterlife and about power of love. These two are very cheesy themes, however Richard Matheson managed to tell this story in a very touching manner, avoiding clichés and not ignoring a very solid research base.
  2. Poetry by Sergei Yesenin. I loved Yesenin very much. I’ve reread my copy of his poetry collection so many times that it started to fall apart. His farewell poem makes me cry every time (I don’t really like this translation, but this is the only one I was able to find):
  3. “Goodbye, my friend, goodbye
    My love, you are in my heart.
    It was preordained we should part
    And be reunited by and by.
    Goodbye: no handshake to endure.
    Let's have no sadness — furrowed brow.
    There's nothing new in dying now
    Though living is no newer. “

  4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I knew the story before I read it. Who doesn’t at least vaguely familiar with it? I wasn’t expecting much from the book when I finally decided to read it. However, the end hit me pretty good and yes, I actually cried, cried not as much for Frankenstein’s monster, but more for unjustness and unfairness of life.
  5. Looking for Alaska by John Green. This book didn’t really make me cry, I just had a terrible lump in my throat almost the whole time I was reading it.
  6. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Tears after finishing this book weren’t tears of sadness; they were tears of anger, tears of fury. Spoilers! I couldn’t believe that this book came to a such a corner where the only way of resolution was for a strong willing to live girl to sacrifice her life for a weak girl who didn’t value her life at all and was about to commit suicide. End of Spoilers!
Top Five Books that Made Me Want to Start a Bonfire:
  1. Fallen by Lauren Kate. I don’t even want to comment on this one, because I already wrote a review (the only thing that changed since my review – I understood that I cannot read either second or thirds book in this series). 
  2. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I also wrote almost all I thought about this book in my review – a book with self-centered, chauvinistic pigs for characters. 
  3. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Another required reading for school – 11th grade. Believe me, I understand the tragedy described in the book, but I just simply couldn’t read this boring repetitions. Maybe I was too young for this, maybe I would view it different now or in 10 years, who knows? 
  4. Germinal by Émile Zola. And one more required reading for school – 9th grade. Mines, cold, diseases, hunger and rapes – mine 9th grade’s psyche wasn’t able to sustain it. 
  5.  By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters. Oh, the eternal whining of spineless character!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson - Book Review #135

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Before I Go to Sleep
by S.J. Watson

'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...' Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.From

This book created a major hype over the summer. It was on almost all must read lists. There weren’t a day passing without someone mentioning it. Before I Go to Sleep was promoted as fast, nail-biting, edge-of-the-chair-sitting thriller that you won’t be able to put down.  On top of everything its main subject was amnesia – one of my favorite subjects. So naturally, I couldn’t walk pass this book – I had to read it. Alas, it didn’t live up either to my expectations, nor to its promotion for me.

First of all I want to get out on the open that Before I Go to Sleep wasn’t a bad book. It had an incredibly good pace, almost too good to be true. The story was always moving forward, no slacking or backtracking. Not the story, but its pace was precisely what made it a fast read and what was preventing me to put it down. The story is a whole different…hmmm…conversation.

First aspect that I didn’t like about this book was that the story was simply way too predictable to me, so unfortunately I cannot join the club of people screaming: “OMG I totally like didn’t like see it coming!!1!” It didn’t even take me first fifty pages to be certain on how it is going to end, down to almost every detail.  Second, Before I Go to Sleep was one of these books that had facts and events conveniently falling into place at precisely correct moment, our main character didn’t even have to do anything, everything was there for her when she needed it to move the story forward. From previous statement, here is a third aspect that I didn’t like – a very weak incapable character. I understand that Christine's situation is beyond being simply bad, however for me it is more reasons to act, to try changing something, to be at least a bit more aggressive in finding out at least something, to demand proof of everything from everyone and cross check these facts. Unfortunately, the only thing Christine does is sits and writes in her journal. Though I have to admit that her tactic to sit on the bank of a river and wait seems to work out well for her. After all, her enemy's corpse did float by.

The bottom line is if S.J. Watson will write something else, I will check it out, because he seems to be a talented writer, he just needs to work a little bit harder on his story. I would recommend this book for these who wants a fast read and will not scrutinize events in the book, but will just follow the author’s lead without any questions asked. If you are in the mood of something like that - Before I Go to Sleep will be perfect for you; if not, read something else.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top Ten Books Whose Titles or Covers Made Me Buy It - Top Ten Tuesday #6

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

I judge books by their cover or title all the time. I know that it is childish and silly. I know that I’ve been wrong too many times, but I still cannot help it – I do that. I guess it is understandable. If you didn’t come to a bookstore for the specific book, you have too many options and if you don’t know anything about books on a shelf, the only way you can narrow your options down is by cover and title, unless you are very persistent and will go through each and every book, reading synopsis. So I can safely assume that at least half of the books that I own, I picked up because of their cover or title. It doesn’t mean that I buy or read every book with the cover I liked, it only means that I will pick an unknown to me book up with appealing to me cover or title from a bookstore’s shelf to examine it and make further decision if I want to read it. Here are top five books I picked up because of tier cover and top five that I picked up because of their title.

Top Five Books Whose Covers Made Me Buy It.

1. Fallen by Lauren Kate. One of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen, hiding one of the most awful books I’ve ever read. The main thing that I love about this cover is color scheme - all shades of blue. I also loved the dead forest on the background with tangled branches and crows.  I like the pose of the model, that she is shown in the profile and we don’t see her face. I do not like faces on covers.

2. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. I’m a very big fan of black and white photos and if they have a touch of read, it is becoming something that really mesmerizes me. This is precisely the reason why I picked up this book and why I liked Sin City (the movie). 

3. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. I loved the foggy background and Victorian looking perambulator standing under the tree on the carpet of dead leaves. And certainly the center of attention is a knife, scissors and other utterly inappropriate tools hanged above perambulator as if it was a baby mobile.

4. Outlander (20th anniversary edition) by Diana Gabaldon. I missed outlander when it was first published – I was too young and no one in my family read it, none of them ever were into romances. One day I was browsing B&N site and saw this gorgeous deep red and gold cover. It was simplistic from the first sight; however it had beautiful ornaments on the background.

5. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I love books. I love old books with yellow pages and moldy covers. I love books on my books’ covers. ‘Nough said.

Top Five Books Whose Titles Made Me Buy It.
  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Before I knew anything about Gabriel García Márquez, I heard this title. I think it was in some movie or TV series, I don’t really remember now. I think I was around eight or nine years old. But I remembered the title, somehow it sounded magical and poetical. Now that I know and love Gabriel García Márquez and his works, almost every title of his books sounds like that to me. Listen to this, read it out loud: Love in the Time of Cholera, The General in His Labyrinth, The Autumn of the Patriarch, etc.
  2. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. I read it only once in Russian translation. In Russian, the title was a bit different – Singers in a Blackthorn – a literal translation of Russian title in English. For me, to sing, means you are happy and to sing in the middle of a bush full of thorns (bad surroundings or unpleasant circumstances), means that even in something completely devastating there is always a light, there is always a hope and so is happiness. For me this title was very metaphorical.
  3. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin. I was always interested in amnesia and in the process how humans collect and store their memories.
  4. The Devil Wear Prada by Lauren Weisberger. I really liked the mix of paranormal with the name of fashion designer in this title. Even though the book turned out to be something utterly different from what I expected from the title, I liked it. I watched the movie later and even though I love Meryl Streep, I didn’t like the movie as much.
  5. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I liked this title because it invoked something primitive, something primeval in me (bones), mixing it up with something civilized, something refined (city).
While I was thinking about today’s topic, I came across some books which titles repelled me from buying/reading these books, either ever, means I still didn’t read them; or for quite a while, means I needed a lot of convincing to pick a book up. And even though I know that I probably got titles of half of these titles, if not all, wrong, they still repel me. So as a bonus, here are these books:
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I never liked stories about animals. When I was in the elementary school, we were made to read a lot of stories about animals, and not the ones in which animals are humanized, but the naturalistic ones. They were boring and tedious for me. Water for Elephants title made me think that this book is going to be not only about animals, but about care for animals, as in bringing water to elephants. I wasn’t too far off in my assumptions.
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I do not like self-help books and by its title this is what I thought this book is going to be. I do not like when one person is teaching me how to live my life. I do not like when any religion is imposed on me (the pray part indicated that to me). I have enough of religious solicitors coming to my house, offering to save my soul, so I don’t need that in books as well.
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This title made me think about looking for help, asking for help, which essentially means being helpless, not providing help, for some reason. I do not like reading about helpless characters, about passive characters. I want to see characters who make the difference, who fights for their happiness, even if they are losing at the end.
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This title made me think that the book is going to be focused on a passive wife, a wife that sits and wait for her husband to come home, waits for her husband to notice her, waits for her husband to start her life. I do not like when women portrayed  like this in fiction, even though I know that there are plenty of women like this in the real life, I just don’t like reading about these women.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green. I already wrote about this book last week: “I was thinking that Alaska in the title was referring to the state Alaska (silly me). So when I was thinking “Looking for Alaska (the state)”, I was imagining something of Jack London’s style and I really never liked it. ”
Do titles or covers make a big influence on your decision to read/buy a book?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - Book Review #134

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now... 

I read a fair share of dystopian novels in my time. Some of them were better, others were worse, but none of them ever looked at least remotely real to me. Yes, I could see where authors were coming from – what flaw in our society they choose to explore, but I could never really believe that it might go that far, it might become so grotesque. The Handmaid's Tale was different.

Not only the world created in The Handmaid's Tale was believable, it is very realistic. Maybe the US have a way to go to reach The Handmaid's Tale reality, but other countries not only almost there, but have been there for decades and centuries. Women’s roles are very limited and assigned. They are not allowed to work, have property or money.  They are denied education and not allowed to read. Sounds familiar, isn’t it? (I don’t want to point fingers at anyone here, just stating facts as I know or see them.)

"There is more than one kind of freedom...Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it." 

The only unrealistic part of The Handmaid's Tale for me was how fast new reality took over. I guess the problem might be in the narrator Offred. She is passive, she only tries to get by without fighting and she is broken. However, she can clearly remember how it was before. This is very hard to understand, for me personally.  On the other hand, I can see how Offred is a perfect narrator for this story. She is not your regular dystopian rebellion; she is just another human being with human longing for simple happiness, not a battle.

“I want to be held and told my name. I want to be valued, in ways that I am not; I want to be more than valuable. I repeat my former name; remind myself of what I once could do, how others saw me.” 

For me personally the most terrifying thing was always a silence. It also goes the other way – when I’m truly scared, I don’t scream or cry – I’m going completely silent. The Handmaid's Tale made me feel this terrifying silence of the world down to my spine.  Even stores’ signs are silent – they only have pictures no words. In most of the dystopian books main character at one point or another running into the issue who he/she can confide to, but in The Handmaid's Tale this desperation, inability to trust, to talk to anyone is shown the best.

“All you have to do, I tell myself, is keep your mouth shut and look stupid. It shouldn't be that hard.” 

The Handmaid's Tale might be a difficult book to read for some. The narrative is switching from past to present without much of notification. The ending is ambiguous, which might be viewed by some as unsatisfying. The Handmaid's Tale is also considered by few as an offensive book to women. For me it was perfect: the switches in the narrative came smoothly and were at the right places of the story; the ending was opened for hope. As for it’s been offensive, I would agree with that, however I don’t think that this book should be viewed in this light. I think it should be viewed as a warning, same as all dystopian books meant to be. I think it should be read by all women and most of men.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again For the First Time - Top Ten Tuesday #5

Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again For the First Time

A couple of weeks ago the topic of Top Ten Tuesday was Top Ten Books I Want To Reread. That topic and today’s one might only sounds the same, but for me actually mean two very different things. Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time not necessary mean that I will ever reread these books. I might've even tried rereading them at some point, got disappointed and never finished rereading. Books I Want to Reread, for me, means that I want to reread these books, even though I know I would not feel the same, have the same impression as I did when I was reading them for the first time. So without any further ado, I’m presenting Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time, in no particular order. 

  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Even though this book is known to almost everyone in US it was very hard to find in Russia some years ago. It was first published in Russia in 1960 in a national literary magazine. I’m not sure if it was ever published in a book form in Russia until recently, however it was impossible for me to find Russian translation ten years ago. I went high and low, searching for Russian translation – no libraries had it, none of my relatives had it, no friends of my relatives, not friends of friends of my relatives, not even neighbors of friends of friends of my relatives. Finally, my, at that time boyfriend, now husband, was able to find a Russian translation for me – a pirate document in the internet. That was my first experience with The Catcher in the Rye and even though the quality of the document left much to be desired (translation itself was good, thanks god), I read it in one sitting and loved it enormously.  A few years ago, I found and bought the first US edition. I reread it and even though I still love The Catcher in the Rye, the experience was very different from the first one. 
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Another book that widely popular in US and for some reason is known to a few in Russia. I first heard about this book when I already was in US and I read it for only one reason – everyone here seems to know this book and I had no idea what they were talking about. After I finished it, I remember that I was unable to read anything else for a month, nothing seems to be good enough, and everything else seems pale and boring. 
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I read it only once when I was fifteen or sixteen, but I still remember what an impression this book made. Only Nabokov could have written such a beautiful book on such ugly and controversial theme. 
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. This book made me “Whoa!” (an exclamation of surprise) not once. Now I know the plot, so sadly I wouldn’t go “Whoa!” even once. I wish I could read this book again for the first time. 
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. This one has one of the best twists in the entire book history, in my opinion.  
  • The Eight by Katherine Neville. I heard about this book for the first time just about the time when the second book The Fire was about to be published – twenty years after The Eight was first published. I was walking around my favorite bookstore and noticed it. I was a bit hesitant to read it for the first time (book is twenty years old and I never heard about it – it must be not very good, was my thoughts). However, after starting to read synopsis: “A dabbler in mathematics and chess, Catherine Velis…” I knew that I’m going to like this book. My love to mathematics is only a bit lower then my love to books, so it is pretty high and even though I myself never played chess seriously, I was always fascinated by people who does. With this book, it is not as much as I want to read it again for the first time, I want to discover it for the first time, discover something so unexpectedly that I would love so dearly. 
  • Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. Should I even bother to say something about it? 
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green. I’ve been hearing and seeing the title of this book for years, until only this year when I finally read it. I didn’t know anything about this book with an exception of its title and an army of fans who was considering this book one of the best ever. I’ll tell you the truth, the title was the thing that was stopping me from reading this book for years. I was thinking that Alaska in the title was referring to the state Alaska (silly me). So when I was thinking “Looking for Alaska (the state)”, I was imagining something of Jack London’s style and I really never liked it. So it only took me about four-five years to overcome my prejudice and read what now became one of my favorite books. 
  • Some Girl Are by Courtney Summers. I discovered Courtney Summers almost two years ago and immediately fall in love with her first book Cracked Up to Be. Some Girl Are made my favorites list. Her books are the most brutal, honest and nail-biting out of all YA I’ve ever read. 
  • Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer. Yes, I loved Twilight Series (second and third book the most) first time I read it, with exception of fourth book – it made me sick. It is only later, when I tried to reread this series all the flaws started to stare at me from the pages. It happened before the whole internet joined into Hate Twilight frenzy. This is precisely why I want to reread it for the first time again – I don’t want to see these flaws. I want to swallow it whole again without actually tasting it and be left with pleasant, however vague, aftertaste. I want to read it without analyzing, scrutinizing or thinking.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Book Review #133

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
 Tender Is the Night
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s,Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick's harrowing demise.

Scott Fitzgerald began writing Tender Is the Night in 1925 – the time of roaring 20th, Scott Fitzgerald’s time. It was finished and first published in 1934 – the time of Great Depression, John Steinbeck’s time. So I guess it is somewhat natural that the book met a lot of negative reviews, most based on: “We have nothing to eat here, we are dying from hunger and you are writing about rich bored people, who are shopping, laying on the beach and going to parties on the French Riviera, while still desperately unhappy.” And I guess we all can see the critics’ point of view, however, I cannot deny seeing Fitzgerald characters’ as well.

From the first sight, it is hard to like Tender Is the Night’s characters – they are rich, they have no high purpose in life, they are wasting their time and complain a lot. On the other hand, if we stop judging them (from our purposeful, no time wasting and every second dedicated to help others less fortunate then ourselves point of view) and really try to put ourselves in their shoes, we will realize that we are really not that different from these characters: we are too trying to make right choices and we are too living with burden of consequences from wrong ones. We are, same as Tender Is the Night’s characters, very rarely looking at our lives from the perspective of how much more fortunate we are comparing to other people. We all are too busy with our own pain to notice someone else’s. Then why would we blame Dick, Nicole or Rosemary to be an unworthy characters, to be unlikable? They are very realistic and drawn with brutal honesty.

For me, the major role in understanding and sympathizing with these characters played Scott Fitzgerald writing style. If Tender Is the Night wouldn’t be in Fitzgerald’s prose, it would be just a whiny story about some rich brats. These characters broke my heart. They are so desperately unhappy, trying to understand why. How could we not be compassionate to them? I just couldn’t dismiss the book on the grounds of it being about shallow, rich people with dumb problems. I had to take these characters into my heart; I had to try stopping my tears from falling on the book’s pages for their shattered lives.

There is a polemic going on, from the time Tender Is the Night was first published, between critics on which Scott Fitzgerald’s book is superior - The Great Gatsby or Tender Is the Night. I can’t say which camp I belong to. I had a big space in my heart for The Great Gatsby and now Tender Is the Night has joined it. (Should I make it even more clear how much I loved it?)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Top Ten Book Endings That Left Me with My Mouth Hanging Open - Top Ten Tuesday #4

Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Book Endings That Left Me with My Mouth Hanging Open

The Broke and Bookish comments on today’s topic: “because of the cliffhanger or because it the ending was MINDBLOWING, etc.” I choose to mention only books with mind blowing endings and not to talk about cliffhanger endings for number of reasons. First of all, I’m sick and tired of series (each and every book nowadays is a part of some series and a number attached to it – 2, 6, 50, 1000 – yeah sometimes it feels that some series consists of thousand installments). Second of all, most of contemporary series’ writes are completely misunderstanding the definition of cliffhanger. To end an installment on a cliffhanger doesn’t mean to end it in the middle without any closure whatsoever, to end it as if you were writing and then got tired or got enough words and decided to stop. It also doesn’t mean that this current installment shouldn’t have a climax and should end just before one, in this case the book is not complete, and you just have first so many chapters. To end an installment on a cliffhanger means to end it in suspense. It still means that a book should have the beginning, the middle and the end, only in case of a cliffhanger, the end shouldn’t only wrap up the story, but also reveal something new, something suspenseful. But enough about this, let’s talk about ending that blew my mind away.

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. The whole book was mind-blowing for me. However the ending made me shiver, not because of a fear, but because of the excitement. The circle is now complete – this is the only thing I will say about this ending, to do not spoil the book for these that haven’t read it yet, but planning to do so.
  2. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This story has one of the most forceful endings. You didn’t see that coming, however it all makes sense and because of that you want to live in the different, better world where such things would not only be senseless, but would also be impossible.
  3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. I watched the movie before I read the book, completely unintentionally; I didn’t know what I was doing. The movie’s ending blew me away and I couldn’t believe that this is the end. I didn’t want to believe that this is the end, even though it made sense.  It turned out that the movie is closely based on the book, so the end was the same. And even though I already knew how it will end, it still left me speechless, because in case of the book it was final, it was set in stone, it was how Ken Kesey wrote it and no space for interpretations or assumptions was available.
  4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – one of the most controversial and powerful endings that I’ve ever come across off.
  5. Atonement by Ian McEwan. As most of the readers, I swallowed the bait Ian McEwan so masterfully planted and didn’t see that coming at all.
  6. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. The power of this ending lies for me in the Edith Wharton’s flawless writing style. There were no surprises, only pure beauty of words.
  7. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Only after completing this list I realized that I have two books by John Steinbeck here. However I couldn’t remove either of them. This guy definitely knew how to end his stories.
  8. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. The story is pretty much the same as with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I kept thinking that maybe I misunderstood something in the movie, however book proved that it is exactly as I saw and understood in the movie. I guess I’m just too big of a sucker for happy endings.
  9. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin. The story begins same as for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Shutter Island. I watched the movie first. However, in this case I didn’t start reading the book to confirm or rather to disprove my apprehensions. I started to read The Stepford Wives, because the end in the movie didn’t make much sense to me. The book’s mind-blowing ending lay in complete opposition of the movie’s and instantaneously made sense.
  10. Almost any book by Agatha Christie. Agatha Christie is one of very few authors whose mysteries I could never guess correctly. I can have multiple guesses on who did what to whom; however these guesses are usually wrong. I read almost every book Agatha Christie ever written, because she always surprises me and nothing ever is as it seems in her stories.

So which book endings blew you away and why?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Book Review #132

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.

With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Experimental fiction is what The Book Thief is called by many reviewers. Experimental fiction, which deliberately seeks to break established writing conventions, is not for everyone. Experimental fiction writers more interested in reinventing writing craft than in being understood. However, some of these literally experiments later on becoming established writing conventions for specific genre or style and some gets forgotten as an unsuccessful attempt. This is not for me to decide to which category The Book Thief will belong, this is time’s business. I can only share my opinion and hope to be either prophetic or afraid to be called improvident.

I read my fair share of experimental fiction. My reactions are always unpredictable: I might love the book from the first sentence and be surprised that it considered an experimental fiction, because it reads so natural to me; I might hate the book from its very beginning till its end, without even a vague clue why “that” was published and how anyone can call “it” a book; I might also start reading a book with a neutral attitude and by the end the book, the story might grow on me and I would call it an ok book. The Book Thief fell into the third category for me. Yes, I finished it and even did it without any disgust. However the only feeling left afterwards was * shrug *.


I am a soulless, heartless bitch that didn’t care about poor orphan girl’s story set during holocaust in Nazi Germany.

End of Disclaimer
and continuation of rant (what? You expected an actual book review?).

I guess the reason why I didn’t care about the story or cry, as many people claim to do after finishing The Book Thief, is my quite wide knowledge of the WWII events and stories –real people’s stories read from multiple non-fiction books, the story of my great-grandmother who lived through the war and real stories of veterans who went through this war. And the stories of these people were so much more horrifying, the situations of these people were so much more desperate than Liesel Meminger.

I wish I could at least say that Markus Zusak picked an original narrator for the story – Death, but I can’t, because Terry Pratchett (and he is not the only one, I just cannot remember anyone else at the moment) did this a decade earlier. I wish that I could call the voice of the narrator an original, but I can’t, because it reeked of cynicism and humanity, which a cliché portrait of Death in literature, movies and TV. I wish I could find some originality in the theme – the girl is saved from mortal danger by the words and books; and irony – the girl was put into this mortal danger because of the words and books, but I can’t once again, because this theme is as old as written word and probably even older.

I’m scrutinizing this book, because of countless rewards it got and because of innumerable fans that read and reread and cry over this book, so naturally my expectations were very high. I’m not trying to piss off this army of fans by saying that their beloved book was only ok to me and not very original, it just didn’t live up to my expectations. So the bottom line is – nothing to see, moving alone…

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top Ten Books I Want To Reread - Top Ten Tuesday #3

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books I Want To Reread.

I’m very rarely rereading books because of multiple reasons: first, I just simply do not have enough time to read all the books I want to read, not to mention to reread these that I already read; second, I have too good of a memory and it is usually boring for me to reread entire book, because I remember it down to each insignificant detail; and third, if and when I’m rereading a book that I really loved from the first time, I almost never have the same range of emotions that I had on my first read. Nevertheless, I still have a desire to reread some books. Here are ten of them in no particular order that have been on my mind lately.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I have read it only once and loved it dearly. However, I read it before I knew English good enough to attempt reading it in its original language, so I always wanted to reread it in English (I have a thing to read books, watch movies, etc without translation if possible). And as of late, I just simply wanted to reread it because it has been almost ten years since I read it first.
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This is one of my favorite books that I read in High School and I never reread it, because of the reasons I stated above. I have been thinking about it a lot in a pasted two-three months, maybe it is time to rerad it?
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s only and at the same time already been a year, since I first read it. I didn’t seem to stop thinking about it. I’m not sure if I’m yet ready to read the whole book, but I would love to go through some moments that I especially liked.
  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. I read it when I was fourteen at summer camp. One girl brought this book with her, but wasn’t reading it. I never heard about this book before. However when I finished the only book that I brought (my mother couldn't believe that I will be spending time reading in the summer camp), I borrowed it from the girl, started reading and couldn’t stop until I finished. I returned the book to the girl, left camp and never saw neither girl, nor The Thorn Birds. I should get myself my own copy and reread it one day.
  • Angelique Series by Sergeanne Golon. I stopped reading romances when I was about fourteen. Somehow I outgrew and got bored with them. Once in a while I’m getting an urge to read a romance, but now I don’t know any authors. I don’t know who is bad and who is incredible. And I simply cannot pick anything, because everything sounds the same to me (no offence to romance readers). However for the cases when I need to read a romance, I have Angelique Series that I have been rereading since I was eleven. I never read further than seventh book (there is thirteen books in the series). In my opinion, the quality is seriously decreasing after sixth book.
  • Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella. Sophie Kinsella is one of only two known to me authors (the second one is Oscar Wilde) that make me laugh until my stomach hurts. I’m thinking about rereading Shopaholic Series when I need a dose of silliness in my life.
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. This is one of my all time favorite books. I reread it countless times when I was a child, but I didn’t reread it once in past ten years. I need to revisit the Wonderland.
  • The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein. This is my favorite Heinlein’s book and one of my favorite sci-fi books. It contains all things that I enjoy: love, betrayal, time travel, happy ending and the most adorable fictional cat.
  • Stainless Steel Rat Series, Deathworld Trilogy and pretty much anything by Harry Harrison. I love Harry Harrison and haven’t been reading any of his books for a long time.
  • Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind. It is written at the level of your regular six-grader – terrible. Nonetheless, I like the story and recently I’ve wanted to read some epic fantasy.
Drawing the line, it looks like I’m tired of classics and literally fiction and I need some genre fiction on my reading list.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Great books that just isn’t all that great

Monday, August 15, 2011
Great books that just aren't all that great

Over at Slate, deputy books editor Juliet Lapidos is asking writers, books critics and editors to tell her their least favorite books from the great, canonical books. I found it quite interesting read and it made me think how probably we all, same as Juliet Lapidos with Thomas Hardy novels, sometimes find ourselves lost and frustrated after reading or attempting to read one of the universally acknowledged great novels.

For me one of such books is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. After finishing the book, I read countless critical essays, reviews and analysis and I still feel that either I’m missing something or this novel just wasn’t all that great. While reading Wuthering Heights, I really wished that its characters would be real, so I would be able personally physically hurt all of them.

For instance, my grandfather, almost the whole his life was trying to love Leo Tolstoy’s books. Sometime, when he was around sixty, he was attempting to reread War and Peace again to finally get a grip of its greatness. Instead, he ended up shutting up the book with laud bang and pronouncing that he always thought that Tolstoy’s works were dull and he will never loved it. Mind, my grandfather was a compulsive reader, not just your casual, five books a year, case. And even though I disagree with him about Tolstoy in particular (I happen to be one of these people who find his works truly great), I completely understand him, how sometimes, even if you will spend half of your life trying, you just cannot love or at least acknowledge the greatness of one of the canonical books.

On the other hand, I always believed, same as Elif Batuman (one of the writes that is answering Juliet Lapidos question in the article) that the right book has to reach you at the right time. My mother, as it seems was always obsessed with this idea, handing out books to me with a phrase: “You will enjoy this book, considering your current age and state of mind.” And I must say that she posses a particular talent in this area, because almost all books she gave me became my favorites. Unfortunately, we don’t always have such a great advisers who know us and literature good enough to make a right suggestion. We grow up and starting to choose books ourselves. Some turning out to be a great misses, sometimes so great, it leaves a scar that might not heal until the rest of our lives.

Some books are imposed on us, imposed at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons. I’m talking about required reading in school. I have a number of books that were forced upon me at school that I still hate with all my might. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a good example. It was a required reading when I was in 10th grade. I was barely able to finish it, sick and tired of whiney Raskolnikov. After that experience, not only I loathed Crime and Punishment, I hated Dostoyevsky, even though I haven’t read any other his works. It took me sometime and only this year I found enough bravery in myself to try something else by Dostoyevsky. To my greatest astonishment I loved Idiot and Notes from Underground. However, I still feel not ready to give Crime and Punishment another try, so it still stays on my list of the great books that just isn’t that great.

Also, we have to keep in mind that we are all different. We have different interests, different life experience, we come from different cultural, social, financial and educational backgrounds, so it is a silly idea that every so-called great book should speak to every individual that reads it. We have our preferences in stories, writing styles and characters. For instance, Edgar Allen Poe’s writing is superb, in my opinion; however, his stories never really made much sense to me (The Fall of the House of Usher – honestly, why didn’t he let his beloved sister out the moment he realized that she was buried alive). Sometimes I might like the story (The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne), but not able to stand the writing style (how she talks to her daughter, frankly, I don’t think that anyone, in any century ever talked to children in such a pompous, overly dramatic, histrionic manner). Sometimes it is very hard for a reader to overcome prejudice and get out of the comfort zone, but it doesn’t mean that we should never try.

So, what is your list of great books that just aren't all that great?