Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Life According to the Books I Read in 2011

Instead of doing a long babbling post on how my year was, I am doing a personal, yet still book-ish, review of the year in the form of this fun meme, hosted by Christine at The happily ever after:

Describe yourself:
Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon 

How do you feel:
Surviving with Wolves by Misha Defonseca

Describe where you currently live:

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Your favourite form of transportation:
Flight of the Falcon  by Susan Geason*

Your best friend is:
The Expected One (Magdalene Line Trilogy #1) by Kathleen McGowan

You and your friends are:
Random Magic by Sasha Soren

What's the weather like:
Lament (Books of Faerie #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

What is life to you:
The Struggle (The Vampire Diaries #2) by L. J. Smith

Favorite time of day:
Nightfall (The Vampire Diaries: The Return #1) by L. J. Smith

Your fear:
Persuasion by Jane Austen

What is the best advice you have to give:
Ransom My Heart by Meg Cabot

Thought for the day:
It Must Be Love by Rachel Gibson

How I would like to die:
The Luxe (Luxe #1) by Anna Godbersen

My soul's present condition:
Ballad (Books of Faerie #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

*I read this book this week, but haven't reviewed it yet, hence no link.

Above all, however, I will remember this year as the year of

- this year I fell in love with the show, the music and the books.

Overall, it has been a great reading year.

That's it for 2011 from me. I hope you have had a great year, reading- and otherwise.  

and I wish you have a

Happy New Year 

in every aspect!

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Challenge(s) Wrap-up

It’s only a day left of this year, so I think it’s safe to wrap-up the reading challenges I set for myself in 2011:

·       3 Jane Austen novels: I read two, but I will keep reading them, because I started to like her writing. ü

·       3 Harry Potter books: failed miserably – read zero. I think I’ll keep those waiting for a while longer, but I might get to them some time. X 

·       50 books: I read 60 books. ü

Total books read: 73

I also read 13 books which I did not count in the 50 books challenge because they were either rereads or not written and/or translated into English.

Rating stats – according to my Goodreads ratings, though I rated several books with half-stars:

Did not rate: 1
* not strange: 0
** a little strange: 3
*** strange enough: 17
**** very strange: 30
***** beyond strange: 9

You can see the list of books I read and their reviews HERE

I must say I feel good about reaching and surpassing (some of) my reading goals this year. It has been a good reading year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dark Needs at Night’s Edge (Immortals After Dark #5) by Kresley Cole

Note: This is a review of an adult book. Please, do not read either the review or the book reviewed unless you are an adult.

Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Immortals After Dark, #5)SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Néomi Laress, a famous ballerina from a past century, became a phantom the night she was murdered. Imbued with otherworldly powers but invisible to the living, she haunts her beloved home, scaring away trespassers -- until she encounters a ruthless immortal even more terrifying than Néomi herself.
To prevent him from harming others, Conrad Wroth's brothers imprison him in an abandoned manor. But there, a female only he can see seems determined to drive him further into madness. The exquisite creature torments him with desire, leaving his body racked with lust and his soul torn as he finds himself coveting her for his own.
Yet even if Conrad can win Néomi, evil still surrounds her. Once he returns to the brutality of his past to protect her, will he succumb to the dark needs seething inside him?
The one thing that bothered me:
Typos. Or are they typos? Could those weird the-first-letter-of-the-word misspellings be intentional? Also, magic/magical is spelled very consistently as magick/magickal.
What I liked:
a)     The Wroth brothers. All four of them appear in this book. Need I say more?
b)     It feels like visiting old friends (and some annoying acquaintances along the way) as many of the characters from the previous books make their appearance, too: from the Valkyries Myst, Kaderin and Nïx, to Mariketa nad Bowen, a couple of familiar demons, and we even catch a glimpse of the infamous Kristoff.
c)     Though he was included at a), he deserves a separate mention as the main protagonist: Conrad Wroth. The warrior who gave himself over to a greater cause turned into a thing he had been sworn to fight. The mad blood-lusting vampire on a vindictive killing spree. Kresley Cole gives an excellent insight in his state of mind before and during the recovery from his madness, and it is impossible not to like him and sympathise with him from the beginning.
d)     Néomi. A kick-ass ghost of a kick-ass woman. She is energetic, persistent and resourceful, and she does not wait around for a man to save her but takes the fate into her own hands.
e)     A slowly-built romance. The chemistry between Conrad and Néomi is causing fireworks all over the place, but they get to know each other well and develop deep feelings for each other before engaging in steamy sex. This is just how I like it – the focus being on the relationship and love, and sex is there as a bonus.
Throw in some typical Valkyrie banter/humour/wrath/etc., intriguing conflicts, and a twisting plot, and you get a thoroughly compelling and entertaining read. The ending is rather turbulent, and I needed some time for it to sink in how perfectly Cole’s solution works out. Actually, I have already reread the last couple of chapters twice, because the book is just so good. Naturally, there is some open space left, but that is to be expected. After all, the series continues. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book.
RECOMMENDATION: If you like adult paranormal romance, this book – or rather, this entire series – is not to be missed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

My favourite books I read in 2011 in random order (linked to my reviews with summaries):

1.     Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

2.     Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

3.     Fatherland by Robert Harris:

4.     Fallen by Lauren Kate

5.     The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

6.     The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

7.     The Vampire Lestat  by Anne Rice

8.     Shadow Souls by L. J. Smith

9.     Random Magic by Sasha Soren

10.  Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma  

I cannot possibly stop at ten. I feel the following books would cry if I deny my love for them, so the list of my favourite books I read this year continues with:


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I wish everybody a Merry Christmas, filled with peace and love!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sire (The Vampires of St. Troy #1) by Thomas Galvin

Sire (Volume 1)SUMMARY (from Goodreads): It’s Caitlin’s first night in St. Troy. Her first night at college. Her first night away from home. There are two great girls in her suite, and two cute guys across the hall. And two vampires fighting over her. Now she’s all alone, locked up in an empty room in a monster’s mansion. And there are screams coming from outside the door ... Sire is the first book in the new Vampires of St. Troy series, which blends horror, action and romance into a bloody tale that will have you turning pages until the sun comes up.


Sire is pretty much everything I look for in paranormal genre. I loved its action-packed plot, fantastic characters, and just enough romance to make a girl swoon.

Despite a few unobtrusive typos, the writing is more than solid. The language is modern and edgy, spiced up with sarcasm, cynicism, distinctive humour, and some killer punch lines.

Thomas Galvin wittily combines elements from all over the paranormal genre. It seems to me he takes the things closest to him from here and there, which also happen to be the things I like best, so I am completely partial when I say I love this kind of a mixture. Additionally, Sire includes references to numerous literary and television phenomena, which can be appealing to present-day readers if they are able to take a joke against something they like. The way all of the above is put together makes this book a fresh and compelling read.

The plot is fast-paced and the readers never know what to expect. The characters in Sire are in their college years. This timeframe gives more freedom and credibility to their actions in contrast to the much overused high-school setting.

The main human protagonist, Caitlin, is smart, strong, and reasonable. Naturally, she is also romantic, and she falls helplessly in love, but she does not let her feelings blind her or prevent her from trying to do the right / smart thing.

The main supernatural protagonist, Michael, is a decisive personage who sets his priorities and fights for them. And he makes a girl’s heart melt.

I think the reaction of Catlin and her friends regarding their discovery of the supernatural world is very realistic – it actually shows how paranormal literature has affected our perception of the supernatural. Many people, including myself, would probably react the same way – I would be scared, but also intrigued.

Speaking of scared, there is a lot to be scared of in Sire. The evil characters are really evil and some not-entirely-evil characters do bad things nonetheless. Fortunately, the ruthlessness is contrasted by goodness and compassion, and the battle between the two sides is what makes you keep reading to the last page. 

RECOMMENDATION: Sire is an amazing collage of a little bit of everything paranormal. It is a real page-turner and a must-read for the fans of the genre. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cat Diary (14): A Cat Heaven & Happy Holidays!

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

As the year is coming to an end, I thought I would share something funny to get your holiday spirit up. 

A Cat Heaven

One day a cat dies of natural causes and goes to Heaven. There he meets the Lord himself. The Lord says to the cat, "You lived a good life and if there is any way I can make your stay in Heaven more comfortable, please let Me know."

The cat thinks for a moment and says, "Lord, all my life I have lived with a poor family and had to sleep on a hard wooden floor." The Lord stops the cat and says, "Say no more," and a wonderful fluffy pillow appears.

A few days later six mice are killed in a tragic farming accident and go to Heaven. Again the Lord is there to greet them with the same offer. The mice answer, "All of our lives we have been chased. We have had to run from cats, dogs, and even women with brooms. Running, running, running; we're tired of running. Do you think we could have roller skates so we don't have to run anymore?" The Lord says, "Say no more," and fits each mouse with beautiful new roller skates.

About a week later the Lord stops by to see the cat and finds him in a deep sleep on the pillow. The Lord gently wakes the cat and asks him, "How are things since you arrived?"

The cat stretches and yawns and replies, "It is wonderful here. Better than I could have ever expected. And those Meals on Wheels you've been sending by are theeeeeeee best!!!"

Pepca found this and more fun things about cats HERE.

In other news, nothing of much interest happened in the last few weeks. I have a feeling, though, that the upcoming holidays will rock. I hope you enjoy your holidays and you will hear about mine in January.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Pepca, too! :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book Nook #5

Book Nooks
*Every weekend*
Show us something pretty!


Commentary: This is a perfect spot for a cold day. It's warm, there are plenty comfortable-looking cushions, the colours are pleasant and inviting, and there is enough light for reading. 

Details: Location and artist unknown, not given in the original post. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Little Things

In the spirit of the season, I am having another Christmas post, today as a part of 2011 Advent Tour. This is my first time participating in Virtual Advent Tour, hosted by Kailana from The Written World and Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. Head over to Advent Blog Tour to see the schedule and visit other participants’ posts.

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”  Calvin Coolidge 

I was brought up in the spirit of the statement above. I was taught that the important things are family and friends, health, and peace in our hearts. The little things and traditions are what makes up the festive atmosphere. Here are my favourite things about advent and Christmas: 

Christmas Wheat: Where I live we have a custom, originating in the countryside, to sow wheat seeds into a pot one to two week before Christmas. The wheat sprouts before Christmas Eve and it is left to grow until Twelfth Night. It is supposed to bring a rich harvest the following year.

Christmas Tree: Most of the decorations have been in the family for as long as I can remember. My grandmother passed to me a tradition I have not yet noticed anywhere else – putting a little red devil decoration on the Christmas tree – she claimed it was because the devil is everywhere, so he cannot be left out on Christmas – but the decoration should be put somewhere in the back or on the side of the tree, usually peeking naughtily towards the Nativity scene.

This fake tree is also almost as old as I am. The little devil is on the left side. 
This was from the last year and has been taken in a hurry, hence a rather low quality.
It looked better with lights on.

A Nativity Scene: It is the core reminder of what Christmas is about. Traditionally it is set up no sooner than on Christmas Eve, but I usually start a day earlier. Nativity figurines have also been an old family hand-down.

Snow: Nothing anyone can do about whether we have snow or not, but white Christmas is on everybody’s wish list, as long as it does not snow right on Christmas Eve and hinders people (read: me) from going to Church. And it is completely free.


These small things help me remember how it was to be a child, carefree and happy. For some time each year, there is something magical in the air which makes all the worries less important and reminds me of everything that makes me happy.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Legend of Sigurd & GudrúnSUMMARY (from Goodreads): Many years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien composed his own version of the great legend of Northern antiquity, recounted here in The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.

In the Lay of the Völsungs is told the ancestry of the great hero Sigurd, the slayer of Fáfnir, most celebrated of dragons; of his awakening of the Valkyrie Brynhild, who slept surrounded by a wall of fire, and of their betrothal; and of his coming to the court of the great princes who were named the Niflungs (or Nibelungs), with whom he entered into blood-brotherhood.

In scenes of dramatic intensity, of confusion of identity, thwarted passion, jealousy, and bitter strife, the tragedy of Sigurd and Brynhild, of Gunnar the Niflung and Gudrún his sister, mounts to its end in the murder of Sigurd, the suicide of Brynhild, and the despair of Gudrún.

The Lay of Gudrún recounts her fate after the death of Sigurd, her marriage against her will to the mighty Atli, ruler of the Huns (the Attila of history), his murder of her brothers, and her hideous revenge.


The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún was a demanding but rewarding read for me. Tolkien’s poetic retelling of Norse stories is beautiful and the accompanying texts provide plenty of interesting information.

Tolkien’s poems are written in alliterative half verse in 8-line stanzas. Resembling the form of Eddaic poetry, they also capture its spirit. The emphasis is on seizing individual moments, with only a very general feel of the story in the background.

Therefore, the additional texts, especially the introduction, are helpful for the understanding of Tolkien’s poems. Tolkien’s son Christopher provides an extensive commentary and analysis of both poems, using his father’s notes for his lectures on Norse literature.

The supplementary texts sound somewhat dry and require a lot of focus. There is a lot of information and hypothesising on linguistics, etymology, history and mythology – from Norse and Germanic to Old English, drawing parallels between various texts. Some references to possible origins of Tolkien’s ideas for The Lord of the Rings and his other works are also included.

On the whole, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is far from being an epic narrative similar to The Lord of the Rings. However, the two poems once again reveal Tolkien’s masterly skill of handling words and are a delightful read. The additional texts are slow and somewhat tedious, but as a linguist I appreciate the data they provide.

RECOMMENDATION: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is not a leisurely read. If you expect an absorbing epic narrative such as The Lord of the Rings you will be disappointed. Otherwise, it is a great book for those who are interested in Nordic and Germanic tradition and literature.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Nooks #4

Book Nooks
*Every weekend*
Show us something pretty!


Commentary: I love the homey feeling of this room. The armchairs and the bay window seat look comfortable and inviting. Also, the colours fit this time of year very well.

Details: Location and artist unknown, not given in the original post. 
Source: I found it on Pinterest

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Songs of the Season

Songs of the Season
Event production by Random Magic Tour
Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
December 10 – 25, 2011

Welcome to the Songs of the Season music hop! You're invited to join
us every day from December 10 – 25, to enjoy a virtual round of carolling.
You can visit another blog each day to find another wonderful music
selection, handpicked by a great host. See event schedule here.

Here's my selection for your enjoyment!

Title: All I Want for Christmas Is You
Artist: Glee Cast
Available at: Amazon | iTunes

Commentary: All I want for Christmas is one of my favourite seasonal songs because it reminds us that what matters most is family and friends. I love the Glee Cast version because it is so lively and joyful and coveys a truly festive spirit. 

You might also like:
December 1 – 24: bloggers sharing anything and everything to do with Advent and Christmas. My stop is on December 16. 


Through Dec. 31, 2011: Win a pretty box of stationery, featuring
quotes by writer Charlotte Brontë and her sisters, who were also novelists. Browse details.

Through Dec. 31, 2011: Win a book-and-DVD set of a romantic drama set
in New York during the Gilded Age. Browse details.

Available starting Dec. 25, 2011: Win a book-and-DVD set of great classic film, Little Women.
A chance to win this delightful gift will be available at the Dec. 25
session of Bookie Brunch, hosted at Jennie's Corner (Host: @JoanieFontana)


Event production by Random Magic Tour
Find Random Magic: Print | Kindle
Explore Random Magic: YouTubeTumblr | Twitter

What is/are your favourite song(s) of the season? Please, feel free to share in the comments!

Friday, December 09, 2011

X Men: First Class (2011)

DIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughn; CAST: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-MEN.


I liked X-Men (2000) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), so it was interesting to me to see how it all started. It was amazing to see the shaping of the familiar characters and some new ones who rounded up the whole story.

The WW II background setting added to the fascinating atmosphere of the film. The philosophical stand behind the film concerning the consequences of vengefulness is very close to my own belief about the matter, so I enjoyed this aspect of the film.

Overall, X Men : First Class is a suspenseful prequel to other X-Men films with great actors doing a good job in presenting the characters they play. The film is also visually attractive, the special effects are done well, but without unnecessary exaggeration.

RECOMMENDATION: A must-see for those who liked the previous X-Men films.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Expected One (Magdalene Line Trilogy #1) by Kathleen McGowan

The Expected One (Magdalene Line Trilogy, #1)SUMMARY (from Goodreads): When journalist Maureen Paschal begins the research for a new book, she has no idea that she is stepping into an ancient mystery so secret, so revolutionary, that thousands of people have killed and died for it.

Two thousand years ago, Mary Magdalene hid a set of scrolls in the French Pyrenees: the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, her version of the life of Jesus and the events of the New Testament. Protected by supernatural forces, these sacred scrolls could be uncovered only by a special seeker, one who fulfils the ancient prophecy of L'Attendu – the Expected One.

As Maureen becomes immersed in the mystical lore of L'Attendu, the eerie prophecy of the Expected One casts a shadow over her life and work, and a long-buried family secret comes to light. Maureen’s extraordinary journey takes her from the dusty streets of Jerusalem to the cathedrals of Paris to the rocky foothills of southwest France. To search for the scrolls, she must unravel clues that link history’s great artistic masters, dynasties, and scientific minds. Ultimately, she comes face-to-face with Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, and a love triangle that changed the course of history in a deeply moving and powerful new gospel... the greatest story never told.


This book deals with a very sensitive religious topic. It takes us halfway across the globe, from L.A. to Jerusalem and France, from two thousand years ago to modern time. Uncovering long lost secrets, Maureen finds herself in constant danger, not knowing who to trust, but finding friends in unlikely people.

The focus of the story is the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. For me as a Christian, this part was a very emotional read. Naturally, I took this thought-provoking material with a grain of salt. However, as I see it, no matter how controversial this work seems to be, it conveys universal guidelines for everyone: forgiveness, solidarity, and love. The author asks a good question: would this version of Jesus’ life make him any less divine? Everyone can answer that only for themselves. 

The author deals with many historical events, personages, and pieces of art. Even though her take sometimes differs from the commonly accepted  viewpoint, I think it is valuable for catching people’s interest and perhaps making the reader study, research, and think about the issues she addresses. 

RECOMMENDATION: This book might not be for someone who is easily offended by controversial religious views. Nevertheless, The Expected One is a delightful read despite of or exactly because of being a challenging book.    

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Coming Soon! Songs of the Season Music Hop

Songs of the Season
Event production by
Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
December 10 – 25, 2011

You’re invited to join us for songs of the season, a fun music hop from December 10 - 25. I’m going to be hosting on December 10, so feel free to drop by to see which song I picked to share with you. There are lots of great bloggers on the music hop, and so there’ll be some new and wonderful music picks for you every day. Feel free to drop by and share some of your own favourites, if you like. 

Here's the schedule, if you'd like to check it out: 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Book Nook #3

Book Nooks
*Every weekend*
Show us something pretty!


Commentary: This looks like a cozy, peaceful place to read. The view is gorgeous and calming, and I love the brightness. Also, those bookshelves are right at hand, just inviting you to pick something from them. 

Details: Location and artist unknown, not given in the original post. 
Source: I found it in an article on Trendir, credit given to Safdie Rabines Architects.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)

Note: This review contains SPOILERS for those who have not read The Twilight Saga.

DIRECTOR: Bill Condon; CAST: Robert Pattison, Kristen Stewart…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): The Quileute’s close in on expecting parents Edward and Bella, whose unborn child poses a threat to the Wolf Pack and the town’s people of Forks.


Breaking Dawn is my favourite book of The Twilight Saga. I was skeptic of the film, though, because the previous films based on the series had disappointed me in some ways (you can read about it here and here). However, Breaking Dawn Part 1 turned out much better then I had expected. It follows the book quite closely, with only a few additions, and it includes all the key moments from the book.

The initial twenty minutes or so are pretty mediocre. I had to put some effort in to look past the original casting issues and bad hairdos and make-up. In the scene with Edward and Bella the night before the wedding Pattison looks down right ugly. Fortunately, the make-up artists did much better job later in the film.

Some scenes are on my opinion redundant, such as Edward’s confession about his rebellious days – I think this should be done much earlier in the films or not at all – and Bella’s reaction to it is too superficial. Otherwise, the few additional scenes work out well in the film as a whole.

Putting the aforementioned issues aside, this is an enjoyable film. The settings are beautiful, especially the wedding scenery and Isle Esme. The acting is quite good, and the dialogues are alternatively funny, thoughtful, and grave in all the right places.

The love scenes, Bella’s pregnancy, and child-birth are dealt with delicately, they are realistic enough, but not exaggerated. The emotions are well-conveyed, both script-wise and acting-wise. I love the way Jacob’s reasoning is presented, in particularly in the scene when he thinks Bella has died. Among others, that one and the imprinting scene are perfect. Bella’s transformation is equally well illustrated.

Overall, Breaking Dawn Part 1 is well-worth seeing. Dividing Breaking Dawn in two films was a good idea, as it enabled the film-makers to include all the important things without rushing. Even so, I still want more: more of Emmet’s jokes, more of Jacob and Rosalie scowling at each other, more of everything. I hope we get that in Breaking Dawn Part 2 which I am already looking forward to.

RECOMMENDATION: Twilight fans will enjoy this film. PG-13 rating is appropriate, so I do not think parents should drag their 10-year-olds to the screening. 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Advent Tour and Winter Look

December is here! This is my favourite time of year. I love winter and Christmas atmosphere. As we haven't got a snowflake here, I decided there should be some snow at least on my blog. Hence, it got a brand new winter-appropriate look today.

Today is also the first day of 2011 Advent Tour. It is my first time participating, my stop is on December 16. See Virtual Advent Tour to visit other participant's posts.

In other news, I have seen a lot of films recently, so you can expect film reviews on Fridays, I'm pretty much covered till the end of the year.

I hope you enjoy your December!