Monday, October 31, 2011

Bout of Books 2.0 Wrap-up



The second Bout of Books readathon, hosted by Amanda of On a Book Bender wrap-up:

Facts:
My minimum goal was to read 500 pages during the readathon. 
Achievement: 368 pages or 74%
Books read: The Pillars of Society by Henrik Ibsen (my review)
                   2/3 of The Queen of the Damned (The Vampire Chronicles #3) by Anne Rice

Overall impressions:
Although I didn't read as much as I had planned, I had a great time. I basically focused on reading as much as I could while doing all the other things I had to do, so I participated only in one challenge (Book Spine Poetry Challenge), but it was fun. The whole experience was great - as always it's great to be a part of something that big and knowing other people doing this, too. So, thanks to Amanda for hosting!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cat Diary (12): Halloween Costume

This is an occasional Sunday feature where my cat, pardon, Her Majesty the Cat, offers her more or less gracious insight into our lives.

  
Halloween is almost here, and though we don’t have a tradition of celebrating it around here, I was thinking about what I would be for Halloween. And I came up with this costume:

 
Ta-da!

I’ve been inspired by Stelmaria, Lord Asriel’s beautiful, strong, loyal, and in every way kick-ass snow leopard daemon from His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.

Grand, isn't it?

Get yourself a fancy costume and/or some candies and have lots of Halloween fun, 


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bout of Books Day 3 Challenge: Books Spine Poetry



It's Day 3 of Bout of Books readathon and Actin' Up with Books hosts Book Spine Poetry Challenge and Giveaway.

It's such a cool challenge, I had to join in. Here is my book spine poem. I added a few words and wrote everything  out under the picture. The second book from the bottom is Valley of Silence by Nora Roberts. It has a silver reflecting print and it is visible very poorly. The words that occur on spines are in italics and those few I added are in normal font.


Forbidden
Ballad
for The Queen of the Damned, 
Dead as a Doornail:

Shadow Souls
Wake Unto Me
in The Lowlands of Heaven,

How Huge 
is the Night 
in the Valley of Silence
where I Love You to Death.


I had so much fun doing this! It is a great way to end the day. What do you think of it?

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Pillars of Society by Henrik Ibsen


Pillars of SocietySUMMARY: A small coastal town in Norway. A respectable family hiding scandals. Long lost relatives who come from America disturb the peace of “decent” people. Progress is threatening to shatter the secluded society.

MY OPINION:

This is a play about double morality of the people who are supposed to be an example for everybody else because they are the “the pillars of society.”

What I liked: Ibsen’s course of events flows very naturally, and the characters are transparently and multi-dimensionally outlined. The ending is surprising and cathartic for the characters as well as for the reader, and it made me smile contentedly.

What I disliked: The false glorification of some people who are thought to be better than other people and the whole double-standard rules limiting an individual’s happiness. Also, I was bothered by people who thought they knew what was best for other people.

Generally, this is a great illustration about a hypocritical society, the people who appear to be something they are not, and the people who want to dictate other people’s lives. The play clearly expresses Ibsen’s criticism of such society, and presents his opinion on how things should be, especially with the ending.

RECOMMENDATION: This is a short, but compelling read about society’s double standards. I think everyone who wants to read a socially critical book with a cathartic ending would like The Pillars of Society

Bout of Books Readathon 2.0 Starting Line & Updates



Amanda of On a Book Bender hosts the second Bout of Books readathon from October 24 to October 30.

My Goals:

I will try to do my average amount of reading and read at least an a hour day or 50-100 pages a day. Although, I hope I'll manage to read more than that. Nevertheless, 500 pages is my minimum goal for the week.

I have a pile of books ready at hand, so I have plenty of choice for different moods, but I am mainly planning to finish Forbidden, which I started yesterday and read 30 pages, read The Pillars of Society, which is really short, and read around 100 pages of The Silmarillion. But basically it all depends on how I feel and how much time I have to read.

The books to choose from:

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
The Pillars of Society by Henrik Ibsen (my review)
The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
Dark Need's at Night's Edge (IAD #5) by Kresley Cole
How Huge the Night by Heather and Lydia Munn
The Queen of the Damned (The Vampire Chronicles #3) by Anne Rice
Surviving with Wolves by Misha Defonseca
The Expected One (The Magdalene Line #1) by Katheleen McGowan


Updates: 
(I’ll also update on twitter @StrangeNewWords, and you can find me on Goodreads):
The format is adapted from Amanda's. 

October 24:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): The Pillars of Society (108)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 108
Total number of pages I’ve read: 108
Today #insixwords: A most enjoyable two-hour waiting/reading.

October 25:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): The Queen of the Damned (66)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 66
Total number of pages I’ve read: 174
Today #insixwords: Reading so fabulous I forgot to update. 

October 26:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): The Queen of the Damned (13)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 13
Total number of pages I’ve read: 187
Today #insixwords: Thirteen (pages) is my favourite number:) 

October 27:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): The Queen of the Damned (45)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 45
Total number of pages I’ve read: 232
Today #insixwords: This book is getting seriously gripping. 

October 28:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): The Queen of the Damned (116)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 116
Total number of pages I’ve read: 348
Today #insixwords: Got a lot of reading done. 

October 29:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): The Queen of the Damned (20)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 20
Total number of pages I’ve read: 368
Today #insixwords: Only one, yet gripping, chapter read. 

October 30:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): --
Number of pages I’ve read today:  0
Total number of pages I’ve read: 368
Today #insixwords: Great social life but no reading.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bookie Brunch Trick or Treat Blog Hop: Ghost Books



Welcome to Bookie Brunch: Trick or Treat 

Bookie Brunch is a weekly book chat for book lovers. A new Bookie Brunch posts every Sunday, and you're welcome to join any ongoing discussion whenever you like.

In the meantime, let's have some treats for Halloween. Just click on the badges at the end of the post, for a new treat!

Here's a treat from me at Beyond Strange New Words:

Want to be scared? Meet a ghost or two in:

My Top Five Ghost Books
(in random order, click the images to view summaries and/or my reviews)

Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison: Slavery and a baby ghost haunting the mother – true horror.

The Castle of Otranto

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole: A castle haunted by a giant knight ghost-in-armour…uh-oh!

Blue Dahlia (In The Garden trilogy #1)     Black Rose (In the Garden trilogy, #2)    Red Lily (In the Garden trilogy #3)

In the Garden (Blue Dalia, Black Rose, Red Lily) trilogy by Nora Roberts: Nothing compares to a wrath of a ghost of an ill-treated mistress who can possess people at will.

The Winter Ghosts

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse: The Pyrenean Mountains, the spirits of the wronged people seeking a way to reveal their tragedy – a sad and beautiful story.

Wake Unto Me

Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach: A ghost who isn’t a ghost and not-a-ghost who might be a ghost, and then there is a real ghost. Confusing? Go read the book, it all makes sense.

Actually, go read all these books. They are amazing. What about you? Do you have a favourite ghost book? Feel free to let me know about it in the comments.



Bookie Brunch
*Every Sunday* Founder: Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
 See all discussions HERE.

My favorite Halloween candy/or treat is
?
because we don't have a tradition of celebrating Halloween where I live, but I imagine these would taste yummy:

  
  

What's yours? Tell us!

 Feel free to leave a comment if you like, to share your fave Halloween treat or some other cool link for Halloween. Thanks for dropping by, and...

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles #2) by Anne Rice


The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles,  #2)SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Once an aristocrat in the heady days of pre-revolutionary France, now Lestat is a rock star in the demonic, shimmering 1980s. He rushes through the centuries in search of others like him, seeking answers to the mystery of his terrifying existence. His story, the second volume in Anne Rice's best-selling Vampire Chronicles, is mesmerizing, passionate, and thrilling.

MY OPINION:

I read Interview With the Vampire ages ago. I liked it. I still remember the basic plot. But I do not remember it being as good as The Vampire Lestat. This book is SO good. I love it. Really. LOVE it. 

Anne Rice knows the history very well. She combines it with several mythologies, which she adapts to her purpose without mangling them, only adding them an exquisite new layer.

Rice is an exceptional presenter. Places, characters and events become alive through her writing. More than that – reading this book takes the reader as close to the actual experience as it gets. The reader sees, hears, and especially feels everything Lestat does. Everything from horror and sadness to beauty and joy is all but tangible.

Lestat, the character introduced in Interview With the Vampire as the bad guy, became a character I cared about already in the first pages of the book. Rice shapes Lestat in full spectrum of emotions and enables the reader to feel each of them with Lestat, from fear, hatred, and despair to courage, joy and love.

The language in The Vampire Lestat is beautiful, fitting the places, characters, and times it represents. Additionally, Rice raises numerous philosophical issues, constantly provoking the reader to think about them. Her writing inspires a re-examination of someone’s beliefs; yet, it does so without imposing any answers.

There is much more about this book, I could go on and on. There are several intriguing subplots perfectly incorporated into the whole. There are exceptional minor – if they can be called minor – characters, both heroes and villains, which are intriguing to read about; I particularly liked Gabrielle and Marius. There is so much of everything from history and art to mythology and religion that I cannot possibly tackle it all in this already long review. You better just go and read the book.

Overall, this traditional take on vampires was to me a refreshing return back to basics in the midst of the newly-invented vampire craze. This book is a well-written, challenging and entirely absorbing page-turner I could not put down.

RECOMMENDATION: The Vampire Lestat is a book for everyone who likes an interesting plot, compelling characters and beautiful writing, especially if you are a fan of the genre. Naturally, it does not go without a warning about violent scenes and horror. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Teaser Tuesday #10



Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
MY TEASERS: 

The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles,  #2)


"'It's not so,' I said. 'And how long do you think it will sustain you, feeling and seeing and touching and tasting, if there is no love? No one with you?'"


The Vampire Lestat 
by Anne Rice, p. 157

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Inspector General by Nikolai Gogol


The Inspector GeneralSUMMARY (from Goodreads): The corrupt officials of a small town in Tsarist Russia mistake a penniless clerk from Moscow for a government agent in Gogol’s satire on the grotesque side of human nature. A play described by Vladimir Nabokov as the greatest ever written in the Russian language.

MY OPINION:

The play jumps right in the middle of the action and moves at a fast pace.

What I liked: Gogol’s satire is hilarious and compelling, making the reader laugh out loud and read the play through in one sitting. The language is beautiful and coveys the sarcasm and hidden meanings perfectly.

What I disliked: As it is usual with plays, I needed a couple of pages to remember who each of the characters is and flip back to the character list a few times.

This book is a timeless piece, as it explores the corruption of politicians and officials.

RECOMMENDATION: I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something entertaining which at the same time makes you think

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Great Place for a Seizure by Terry Tracy


A Great Place for a SeizureSUMMARY (from Goodreads): Mischa Dunn's family flees Chile in the wake of the 1973 coup d’état that installs a military dictatorship. She settles comfortably in her newly adopted country, the United States, until one day, an unexplained seizure in a library signals the beginning of her life with epilepsy. With an engaging balance of humor, insight, and sensitivity Mischa draws the reader into a vivid tale that travels across three continents over thirty years.

MY OPINION:

A Great Place for a Seizure tells us a fictional life-story of an epileptic. However, this book is much more than just that, as it introduces the reader to places, people and cultures halfway across the globe, from Chile to the States, Guatemala, and United Kingdom.

Though numerous topics are interesting, the transitions between them are sometimes jumpy and therefore confusing. Tracy’s writing is in some places matter-of-factly, and medical explanations are tedious, although educational, on some spots. There are some grammatical mistakes; however, they do not interfere with reading. The strongest point of Tracy’s writing is her exploration of emotions and mentality of the main protagonist.

Misha is an admirable character for her clear-headed personality and strength. She insists upon not letting her medical condition dictate the way she lives or hinder what she can accomplish. I can relate to Misha in regard to her experience with doctors. I have a great respect for many good, caring and devoted doctors. Yet, I am also familiar with doctors who treat patients as machines in need of repair, writing prescription and recommending surgeries without giving the patient a say, such doctors as Misha encounters many times.

I did not care much for Hector, Misha’s husband, at first, mainly because he and his relationship with Misha are underrepresented initially – their meeting and forming a life together is simply stated as a series of facts, which results in the lack of emotional involvement on the part of the reader. However, that changes when the author shows Hector standing up for Misha towards the end of the book and finally lets the reader into his mind. I liked that Hector very much and I just wish he had been better portrayed from the beginning.

On the whole, A Great Place for a Seizure is a good testimony of how a person should not be discouraged by a medical condition and should aspire to live a full life.

RECOMMENDATION: Despite a few of my complaints, I think this is a book everyone could benefit from, as the reader may learn something about the people living, not only with epilepsy, but with any kind of medical condition.


Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Cat Diary (11): The Hunter

This is an occasional Sunday feature where my cat, pardon, Her Majesty the Cat, offers her more or less gracious insight into our lives.

  
I’m not sure if I mentioned I’m quite a hard-working and all-purpose useful kind of cat. One of my favourite pastimes/jobs is hunting.

I’m very, very good at catching things such as spiders, moths, flies, mosquitoes, and various creepy-crawlies that find their way into the flat from the patio as we live on the ground floor. Pepca often only notices these things once she spots me playing with them. Being gentle-hearted as she is, she usually grabs the nearest piece of paper and finishes off my toy, while muttering about it being disgusting (and trembling a little, too), but she just can’t let me “torture” living creatures.

However, she awards me for each of my hunting achievements with stroking and gushing about how good a cat I am, how grateful she is to me for catching those nasty things, and she generally overwhelms me with praise.

That’s a cat way of joining business and pleasure – I do something useful and have fun at the same time.

Hope you have fun with your work and hobbies until next time,


Friday, October 07, 2011

Follow Friday #4


Personal updates:

I've been so busy lately that I haven't participated in Friday memes for a while. But this question seems fun, so I decided to join the fun at the last moment. Also, as with other posts, it may take a while for me to visit/comment back, but I will definitely do that.

***

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.


 

Today’s question is: If you could pick one character in a book, movie or television show to swap places with, who would it be?

MY ANSWER:

I answered a similar question in a book-related questionnaire not so long ago, and I am sticking to the same answer, although there are a lot of wonderful characters to swap places with. However, I'd most like to be Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings, because she is wise, gentle, just, and she resists evil even though she has been through a lot. And she used to/returns to live in the Uttermost West. 

Thor (2011)

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh; CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): The warrior Thor (Hemsworth) is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard by his father Odin (Hopkins) for his arrogance and sent to Earth to live among humans. Falling in love with scientist Jane Foster (Portman) teaches Thor much-needed lessons, and his new-found strength comes into play as a villain from his homeland sends dark forces toward Earth.

MY OPINION:

This film is a sci-fi approach to Nordic mythology. The plot goes as usually: a conceited hero is brought down-to-earth (literally) to earn his position through protecting the innocent and fighting the evil.

The solutions to the problems which occur in the film are easy and predictable. The government officials are clueless and gladly give up their stand as the situation gets dangerous. Despite the fact that fleeing from otherworldly evil is smart, I would expect them to be more persistent.

I think the romance element is redundant. Surely, a female scientist falls for a Nordic god at first sight, who wouldn't? This idea may have seemed to the film-makers like a nice addition, but although it is cute, it is also a little silly. 

The acting is solid. The special effects are good, but nothing new. On the whole, the film is enjoyable. I think, there is a sequel on the horizon, which I would not mind at all.

RECOMMENDATION: When you are not in the mood for either comedy or drama, or thriller, this light action movie with elements of all three could be the right thing to watch.


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Alarming History of European Royalty by Karl Shaw

Royal Babylon: Alarming History of European RoyaltySUMMARY (from Goodreads): An uproarious, eye-opening history of Europe's notorious royal houses that leaves no throne unturned and will make you glad you live in a democracy.

Do you want to know which queen has the unique distinction of being the only known royal kleptomaniac? Or which empress kept her dirty underwear under lock and key? Or which czar, upon discovering his wife's infidelity, had her lover decapitated and the head, pickled in a jar, placed at her bedside?

The Alarming History of European Royalty is history, but not as they teach it in school, and it underlines in side-splitting fashion Queen Victoria's famous warning that it is unwise to look too deeply into the royal houses of Europe.

MY OPINION:

The Alarming History of European Royalty deals with its subject in a sensationalistic manner. It mainly focuses on history of mental illnesses and sexual exploits of European royals, scandalising their behaviour.

The book is written in a tabloid-like style, which I disliked. Not only it focuses on bad things, it is at times also disrespectful, for example, when making fun of King George VI and his stammering problems.

Moreover, there are many inconsistencies or confusing information in the book, showing the lack of research behind them. The factual errors, such as stating the years of birth and death incorrectly, are also disturbing. One of such errors that strikes out is the one saying that Prince Albert died three years before he was born. These kinds of things are not just ridiculous but also unprofessional. The book obviously lacks some editing and revision. I must stress I read the book in translation, therefore some errors might have occurred during the translation process, but I find it hard to ascribe the majority of mishaps to the translator.

However, all the shortcomings put aside, I still could not put the book down, mainly because the information on all the connections between European royal families is intriguing.

Finally, The Alarming History of European Royalty provides some interesting data, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. The truth, I believe is always somewhere between scandalizing and sanctifying people.

RECOMMENDATION: This book is not to be taken as a serious read about history – if you want that, pick up a different book. But if you want to learn about all the true (or perhaps not so true) scandals of European courts and are willing to give some slack to the writing and inaccuracy, The Alarming History of European Royalty might be an interesting read. 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach


Wake Unto MeSUMMARY (from Goodreads): A haunted castle, a handsome young man dead for four hundred years, one heck of a scary portrait of a witch, and a treasure hunt – not to mention a princess for a roommate! – all await 15 year old American girl Caitlyn Monahan when she earns a scholarship to a French boarding school.

There are secrets behind the stone walls of Chateau de la Fortune, buried for centuries along with the mystery of who killed Raphael, the charming ghost who visits Caitlyn at night. But as Caitlyn unearths the history of the castle, nothing scares her as badly as the secret she learns about herself, and the reason she was chosen to come to the Fortune School.

And nothing breaks her heart as badly as falling in love with a dead guy.

MY OPINION:

The books you love the most are also the most difficult to review. I am a little at loss about how to review this book since I love it so much that I cannot find the right words if I want to avoid spoilers.

Wake Unto Me is more plot than character driven. Therefore, the strength of the characters is revealed only in the end when the full spectrum of their personalities can be seen. When all their flaws and strong points are revealed, one sees all the quality of the characters and falls in love with them.

The plot seemed a little slow at first. Caitlyn sounded somewhat naïve and I was impatient with her way of reasoning. But then, there is a twist at around two thirds of the book, and the story starts unravelling in a whole new direction. And then there is another twist. Things that seem bothersome suddenly start making sense, and in the end everything falls into place perfectly. 

I tremendously enjoyed this book not only for its plot and characters, but also for Cach's beautiful and at the same time easy-to-read language. What is more, Wake Unto Me made me think about several concepts and real-life issues.

Wake Unto Me is an amazing YA love story, combining the past and the present; mystery, thrill, and adventure; reality and supernatural.

RECOMMENDATION: This is a heart-warming must-read for its lovable main characters, compelling  plot, and good writing. 

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