Thursday, June 30, 2011

The War Begins

This is my June follow-up post for LOTR Read-Along hosted by Lorren at The Story Girl. It includes SPOILERS.

 Henneth Annûn

The War of the Ring begins in the West. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli help the Rohirrim in the Battle at Helm’s Deep, and Merry and Pippin make friends with the Ents. Together they remove the threat of Saruman.

Tolkien’s depiction of the battle is epic and detailed, and the readers feel as if they were watching it from close by. There are some great symbolic events, let me just point out the cleansing of Isengard by water of the river Isen. The purifying power of water is another Christian trait Tolkien uses in his work.

Meanwhile, the real Quest continues in the East. Frodo and Sam journey to Mordor. And since they would not get far on that part of the journey without Gollum, I, insolent as I am (*she winks*), think it best to let Gollum describe the journey by himself. I think it would sound somewhat like this:

¨We’ve caught up with them, my Precious, yess, we did. Those nassty thieves, thieves, they stole it, from us. We wants it back, we does, it’s ours, ours, my Precious. Cruel hobbits, they jumps on us like cats on poor mices, they hurt us, my Precious. We are so alone, and hungry, and they ties us, we knows they are cruel, they visit Elves, fierce Elves with bright eyes.

“Masster, kind Masster takes mercy on us. Nice hobbits, they don’t hurt us. We promise, we swear, we swear on the Precious. We swear to do what he wants, never to let Him have it.

“Sméagol helps, I take nice hobbits safely through the marshes, through nice thick mists. Sméagol is starving. He can’t eat hobbit food, dust and ashes, Elves made it, he can’t eat that.

“Then Wraiths came, Wraiths on wings, White Face shows us to them. Wraiths see us, they tell him everything. He sees, He knows. We are afraid. Must take the Precious. But we promised, we promised not to let him have it. If he gets the Precious, he will eat us all, gollum, gollum. Must take it. But not for Him. It’s ours, ours.

“The Black gate is closed, but we knows other, more secret way to Mordor. We come to nice land, we catch us nice food. The nassty, suspicious hobbit wants us to catch some food. We brings them rabbits, juicy young rabbits. Stupid fat hobbit cooks the rabbits, spoils nice meet.

“Tricksy hobbits, they find new friends, they leave us and go with their new friends. False Masster betrays us, gollum. We want some fish, only some fish for poor, hungry Sméagol, and they say death. Cruel Man asks questions we don’t want to answer.

“Nassty Men let us go. Nice Masster goes with us. We found it, we knows it, the path across the mountains. She is there, always hungry, she helps us. Gollum brings nice meat. When she throws away clothes and bones, perhaps we finds it, the Precious, gollum.

“They have lights, terrible lights. Curse them, gollum. The nasty suspicious hobbit fight us, jumps us with the sword, yes, my Precious. We run my Precious, but we will come back. We will find the Precious. It’s ours, ours, gollum.”

Have I overdone it?

Personally, I believe Gollum is one of the most fascinating characters Tolkien created. He is overcome with evil, but deep down inside him, there is still some good which resurfaces if given a chance. Gollum hates the Enemy and is afraid of him, therefore he would do anything to stop the Enemy from getting the Ring. Yet, the Ring’s command over him is so strong he cannot resist it. All he wants is to get back his Precious and this is what eventually leads his actions.

In the last part of The Two Towers, Tolkien introduces Faramir, one of my favourite characters in the book. Faramir is a friend to Frodo, found where the least expected. He is honourable, just, wise, and stronger in heart than his brother. He helps Frodo as much as he can.

Also, Tolkien puts another one of his beautiful settings in Ithilien. Hennenth Annȗn, a sanctuary of people of Gondor is a cave behind a waterfall, called Window of the Sunset. Through it one can see sparkling setting of the Sun and the Moon. This image is one of the last beautiful visions of the West before the War unleashes from the East.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Fury (The Vampire Diaries #3) by L. J. Smith

The Fury and Dark Reunion (The Vampire Diaries, #3-4)SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Faced with an ancient evil, Stefan and Damon must stop their feuding and join forces with Elena to confront it. But in so doing, they are unwittingly sealing her fate...

MY OPINION:

Now, this is it. The third book in The Vampire Diaries series finally reaches up to my expectations.

As Elena’s life utterly changes, she becomes a much more multi-dimensional character than before. She is less self-absorbed, more compassionate, and she starts cherishing her friends. She gives helping other people priority, while she is still adapting to new circumstances in her life.

Smith portrays the reaction of Elena’s friends to her new situation well. Their response is very natural, and in the end Elena finds out who her true friends are. We learn more details about certain people and some are rather surprising.

Stefan and Damon show some new layers of their personalities, though diametrically opposite, too. While the readers get to know the caring and sensitive side of Damon, Stefan’s dark and resentful side reveals itself. 

The Fury is a thoroughly suspenseful book and the readers are left guessing about the new big bad evil power almost to the last page. There is plenty of excitement, and several twists ensure continuous entertainment.

RECOMMENDATION: Even if you, like me, did not like the first two books in the series so much, sticking to reading the series totally pays off with The Fury.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (June 28, 2011)


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: 

I have just started this and after a few pages in I think this will be an enjoyable read. 
Hera are the two opening sentences: 

The Lowlands of Heaven
"Laurel, young yet ancient, lost Kate on a golden summer afternoon near the beginning of the 20th century. Had a midday outing begun a second earlier or a moment later, their story might have been entirely different."

The Lowlands of Heaven by F. J. Dagg, p. 1




Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cat Diary (6): Visitors and a Dragonfly

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


Last Sunday I couldn't write because we had visitors. Consequently, I was hiding under the bed…


…and behind the couch (sorry, no picture). But it wasn’t so bad. They didn’t make too much noise. So, I might, MIGHT, start tolerating those particular visitors.

Pepca insisted that I include this:


Isn’t that a pretty dragonfly? Apparently Pepca saw it when we were outside earlier. Weird. I didn’t notice it at all. It’s usually the other way around – I see all sorts of things which Pepca doesn’t. Well, in this case, good for her, because otherwise she certainly wouldn’t have been able to take the picture.

Hope you see lots of pretty things next week,


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ransom My Heart by Meg Cabot

Ransom My HeartSUMMARY (by the publisher): He's a tall, handsome knight with a secret. She’s an adventurous beauty with more than a few secrets of her own. Finnula needs money for her sister’s dowry, and fast. Hugo Fitzstephen, returning home to England from the Crusades with saddlebags of jewels, has money, and lots of it. What could be simpler than to kidnap him and hold him for ransom?

Well, for starters, Finnula could make the terrible mistake of falling in love with her hostage.

MY OPINION:

Ransom My Heart is a fast-paced romance with a few steamy scenes, a predictable plot and an amazing heroine.

The heroine, Finnula, is the best part of this not-outstanding book. She is a female version of Robin Hood. She is a poacher providing food for starving subjects. She is an eccentric girl who rides the countryside dressed as a man and shoots better than any man. She is strong, independent, and, naturally, an exquisite, but modest, beauty.

The romance itself is just as it should be in such a book: quick and passionate. I liked, however, that Hugh, differently from many male protagonists in similar books, does not doubt Finnula even once. Cabot makes the chemistry between Hugh and Finnula work great, and there are some funny dialogues. However, Cabot uses some too modern language expressions which disturb the otherwise well-created thirteenth century atmosphere.

I found the ending too rushed and weak, I missed some more action in the end. Also, the fact that the villains were very transparent and known early in the book cut the suspense short considerably.

RECOMMENDATION: This light romance with a strong historical note is a perfect read for a leisurely spent afternoon or two. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Blogger Hop, June 24 – 27, 2011

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books. It is a great way of discovering new blogs and meeting fellow book bloggers, talking about books and authors, and sharing our love for literature.

 Book Blogger Hop

This week’s question is: When did you realize reading was your passion and a truly important part of your life?

MY ANSWER:

I can’t really answer that, because I just didn’t realise that at any particular time. Reading has been an important part of my life as long as I can remember.

None of my family members are avid readers, but I have always been encouraged to read. My maternal grandmother taught me to read before I went to pre-school and I have been reading ever since.

I have a minor heart condition, so I wasn’t able to spend as much time running around as other kids, and we had no TV when I was a child (thanks God for that), so reading was my salvation from boredom, and it has been my passion ever since.

I used to read more up until the end of high school than I do now, and I almost quit during my university years (I don’t count required reading and studying as actual reading), but I picked it up after I finished university.

So, there has been no big revelation about reading being my passion for me, it has just always been something I have enjoyed.  

Flowerpot

On Monday she got an old flowerpot out of the basement, filled it with soil, put some seeds in and spread yet a thin layer of soil on top. She watered it a little and set the flowerpot on the windowsill.

Every evening before she went to bed she checked the flowerpot on the ledge, probing the soil with the tip of her index finger, and watered it if it seemed too dry.

Then work piled up and she kept coming home later and later. She barely had the time to do the housework before she collapsed onto her bed and fell asleep exhausted. She forgot to check on the flowerpot. Even as she pulled the curtains apart in the mornings and back in the evening, she did it automatically, without taking a glance down at the patiently waiting flowerpot.

She started feeling like a robot, doing meaningless work, mechanically coming and going, washing, dressing, cooking cleaning, going to bed, getting up, and everything all over again.

Only the next Friday, while she was washing the dishes, the sound of running water stirred a memory in her numbness. She put the dish she had been holding into the sink and hurried to the window.

There in the dried, cracked soil was a small green offshoot. She leaned closer to see it better and her eyes moistened. Amidst the emptiness of her apartment, there was a small sign of life.


I wrote this post for Red Writing Hood, a weekly writing meme hosted at The Red Dress Club. It has been a long time since I participated, so I am very happy to have made it today. This week's prompt from Carrie of Views fom Nature asked us to write flash fiction  300 words maximum – inspired by the word "Life."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Booking Through Thursday – Soundtrack

 btt button

What, if any, kind of music do you listen to when you’re reading? (Given a choice, of course!)

Usually, I don't listen to music while I'm reading. I sometimes have the radio or the TV on, but it doesn't matter, because I don't register it anyway. When I read, the rest of the world just disappears. So, mostly I prefer peace and quiet while reading.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fatherland by Robert Harris

Fatherland SUMMARY (from Goodreads): In this painstakingly detailed and chillingly plausible parallel world, Hitler still lives, the U.S. seeks detente with the Third Reich, an important Nazi official is murdered, and a German investigator and a pretty American journalist set out to unravel a conspiracy.

MY OPINION:

I was unable to put this book down, literally. I finished it in one day, reading far into the night. It overwhelmed me. It gave me a nightmare. It made me feel sick. But that is fine. It would be something terribly wrong with me as a human being if I had not reacted that way.

I was firstly attracted to start reading Fatherland by its science fiction premise of Germany winning WW II. Harris outlines a frighteningly believable version of what the world would be like had the history tuned out differently.

Harris depicts many historical personages in Fatherland, and though he changes their endings, those are highly probable. His fictional characters are just as life-like as the actual people he writes about.

Xavier March is an SS detective. He is a pedantic workaholic who is dissatisfied with the perfectly ordained life and uses every loophole in the system to feel at least a little bit free. He gets a divorce, he refuses to join the Nazi party, and he does not attend rallies if not obligated. He finds the only satisfaction in his work, trying to uncover the truth behind the crimes. This is the reason why he does not just walk away from the case as ordered but decides to follow suspicious evidence, not knowing he stumbled upon something that can get him killed.

Charlotte (Charlie) is a young American newspaper correspondent in Berlin, who gets involved in the case because of old family friendships. She represents a different, fresh view on the world. She is brave, observant, cynical, and eager to unmask the Third Reich regime. She is distrustful of Germans, but when she finds March is actually after the truth, she helps him. As they work together unravelling more and more secrets, gaining enemies at fast pace, they find themselves bound by much more than the fact that they can only trust each other.

Though Fatherland is a fictional book, everything it includes, from the international relations and political map of Europe to the details of everyday life, is what would truly have been possible. Not only that. Fatherland is a shocking reminder that the Nazi vision it depicts was not just possible but was in the major part of Europe for some time a reality.

The most horrifying part of Fatherland is the one about the Holocaust. Harris incorporates authentic historical documents, along with the events which we know for a fact took place but were undocumented. Besides that, Harris’ presentation of the Nazis’ mentality, their hatred and their attitude towards whom they deemed to be inferior nations is shockingly genuine.

Fatherland is a fictional book, but most of its elements are not, and the book successfully reminds the readers of that. After almost seventy years, when only few people who experienced the era personally still live, we need such books to make us remember, because remembering is the only thing that can prevent the history from repeating itself. Serving as a reminder of the horrors that did happen, and which people tend to forget, is the real value of this book.

RECOMMENDATION: This is an attention-keeping book from the first to the last page. Despite being about alternate history, it offers a great insight into the actual history. I recommend this book to everyone, but especially to people who like reading historical fiction, especially WW II books, and books about alternate history. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (June 21, 2011)


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 Fury and Dark Reunion (The Vampire Diaries, #3-4)

"The hysteria it would cause, the questions, the fear and hatred once the questions were answered. Something that ran deeper than compassion or sympathy or the need  to help wrenched her back, flattening her against the wall."

The Fury (The Vampire Diaries #3) by L. J. Smith, p. 50




The Luxe (Luxe, #1)
"Hurrying down the isle was Diana Holland, the dearly departed's little sister, with a few shining curls coming loose from under her hat and her cheeks pink from exertion. Only Elizabeth, if indeed she could look down from heaven, would have known what to make of the smile disappearing from Diana's face as she took a seat in the first pew."

The Luxe (Luxe #1) by Anna Godbersen, p. 8




Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Struggle (The Vampire Diaries #2) by L. J. Smith

SUMMARY (from the publisher): Elena is torn between her boyfriend, Stefan, and his brother, Damon. But these brothers hide dark secrets and a tragic past that threatens them all. Damon wants to lead Elena astray – and he'd rather kill Stefan than let him possess her...

MY OPINION:

Firstly, I need to say I watched the TV show before starting reading the books. I totally loved it. So, the books are a little disappointing to me. Perhaps, it would be different if I had read the books first.

There is one major problem I have with this series so far: I miss some more depth. Smith is trying to develop the story and the characters, but it all remains more or less on the surface.

In The Struggle, Elena’s character grows a little. If the fact that she has to deal with being no longer a worshipped high school queen counts as growing. There are hints on her deeper personality, but Smith remains at that – hints. It is intriguing, however, witnessing Elena coping with her problems and the supernatural world she is drawn into.

The Salvatore brothers continue their feud, and again, the reader is mostly left to guess about their relationship, the reasons for their feud, their past, and their personalities. The same happens with Elena being torn between the brothers. The question how she feels about either of them and why are largely unanswered. Not that Smith does not tackle these issues; she does, but only superficially. I would like a deeper look. Perhaps she could use a little more meaningful dialogues for that purpose instead of mostly small talk and teenage bickering.

I think the reason for all these shortcomings is too much rushing. Smith often setts a scene or starts a confrontation between the characters, but then, just at it starts leading to some deeper discovery, it ends abruptly and moves on to the next action.

Nevertheless, there are some strong points which make The Struggle worth reading. The plot is interesting, with unexpected events and  new information on vampires. There are some witty and funny parts. The reader also gets to know minor characters better. The book reads smoothly and Smith’s writing is good, especially scenery descriptions. 

Generally, The Struggle is a book with a compelling plot. Therefore, despite all my complaints, I enjoyed reading this book, and will continue reading the series to see what happens next.  

RECOMMENDATION: If you want to read an interesting story, this might be a good book to spend a few hours with. Just expect there will still be some blanks to fill in after you finish it, or hopefully, the blanks will be filled in by the following books in the series. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Awakening (The Vampire Diaries #1) by L. J. Smith


SUMMARY (from the publisher): Elena Gilbert is used to getting what she wants and she wants mysterious new boy, Stefan. But Stefan is hiding a deadly secret – a secret that will change Elena’s life for ever…

MY OPINION:

The Awakening has a compelling topic, but unfortunately does not fully develop its potential.

To start with, it took me almost half of the book to really get into it. I only kept reading because I knew it had to get better at one point. And it did. But not for long.

The first thing that bothered me was the small town high school atmosphere with a group of spoiled teenagers and their petite ambitions and feuds. Elena’s character in particular did not seem very likeable. My first impression of her was that of a lofty, over confident, and shallow high school queen, preoccupied with her porcelain Barbie doll beauty. She considers boys adorable, but expendable, puppies she tosses aside as she gets tired of them.

In time, Smith lets the reader see deeper into Elena, revealing her complexity: how she hurts from missing her parents, longs to find her place in the world, and searches for true love. Stefan Salvatore is the first boy who makes her nervous and the only one who dares to ignore her. Therefore, her pride offended, she pledges to conquer him if it kills her.

As Elena’s character develops and the reader starts learning more about Stefan, the book becomes a captivating read. However, it also rushes forward much too quickly. Instead of delving into characters’ growth and exploring their history and relationships, the events just go by in fast-forward mode. Thus, both Elena’s dealing with Stefan’s true nature and the history of the Salvatore brothers lack somewhat more detailed treatment which would make the story richer and the characters easier to understand.

Overall, in spite of these shortcomings, The Awakening is an entertaining start of the series, promising perhaps a better continuation of the story in the following books.

RECOMMENDATION: If you want a relaxing, easy read with a little mystery, and you are not too demanding, this is a good book to spend a lazy afternoon with. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (June 14, 2011)


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: 




"Automatically, she boosted with her feet and felt herself scrambling on to the shingled roof. Trying to calm her ragged breath, she looked over gratefully to see who her rescuer was – and froze."

The Struggle (The Vampire Diaries #2) by L. J. Smith, p. 320

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cat Diary (5)

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 skipped a week again, didn’t I? Well, last week was uneventful and lazy. The summer is slowly coming in, though with storms, so I just relaxed a bit and had plenty of well-deserved rest.

This week hasn’t been so relaxing, however. I somehow got fleas. Grrrr! Hate fleas. Those nasty parasites! Pepca takes care of giving me anti-fleas drops regularly, but it still happens once or twice a year. So, she had to give me a bath.

I felt just like this poor fellow (my sympathies, buddy):

funny pictures - I mean...really!
 Pepca found this over at Yvonne from Socrates’ Book Review Blog who found the picture here.

Okay, being more of a mild behaviour, I probably didn’t have that killer look. I did meow a lot, of course. Imagine yourself getting soaked through five layers of winter clothing, than shampooed, and rubbed, and then soaked again. That is how a cat feels when having a bath!

I think I should get a special prize for the best cat behaviour when bathing, because I did not scratch Pepca even once.

And a special cat Oscar for patience goes to:


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Breaking Dawn Part 1 Trailer (And Some Overdue Thoughts on The Saga)

I saw Breaking Dawn Part 1 trailer a few days ago and I don’t know whether I should look forward to the film or be afraid of what will come out of it. I have reread the saga recently in the expectation of the film, regaining my vision of things and I am afraid the film will disappoint me.


Breaking Dawn is my favourite book of The Twilight Saga. I love how it all comes together in the end. However, I did not like the films very much. Twilight was okay, but every following film seemed worse, mostly because of bad acting. All right, and the casting fiasco right at the beginning.

I know I read somewhere when it all started that Pattison was chosen because of the chemistry with Stewart, but it does not really show in the films. I can stomach Bella, but they could choose a much better Edward (I hope no one is offended, I do think Pattison has a good potential as an actor as can be seen in, for example, Remember Me (2010)). As far as the casting is concerned I pretty much agree with Gina at Fantasy Casting, you can read her opinion about the matter HERE.

Now, back to the Edward issue. I admit, as far as The Twilight Saga films are concerned, Pattison has three strong points which I like to call: bad Edward, mad Edward, and sad Edward. The later tops it all, I don’t think anyone could make that embittered suffering expression the way he does it. I think he can really make use of it in Breaking Dawn.

The trailer does not reveal much, so I will just have to wait and see the film. I will definitely go and see it, out of curiosity. But, I am keeping my expectations moderate. 

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Booking Through Thursday – Own or Borrow?


 btt button

All things being equal (money, space, etc), would you rather own copies of the books you read? Or borrow them?


Considering all the things are not equal, I borrow most of the books I read. I buy only the books I really love and the books which I know I will keep rereading. Sometimes, it happens that I first read a borrowed book and then I love it so much that I go and buy it.

However, if money and space were not the issue, I would be buying much more books I do now. I enjoy to be surrounded by the books I love.

It is quite a coincidence, this week's question comes right as I am on the lookout for some additional bookshelves (which would suffice for next few years, I think).

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander (Outlander, #1)SUMMARY (from Goodreads): The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon – when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach – an "outlander" – in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life...and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

MY OPINION:

I cannot believe it took publishers in Slovenia twenty years from its first release to discover Outlander. However, better late than never, as this is one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read. The translator could do better rendering the Scottish accent, but overall the translation is good and reads as smoothly as I imagine the original writing does.

It took me about a hundred pages to really get into the book, but once I did, I could hardly stop reading for the remaining eight hundred pages or so. Despite being an enormously thick book, Outlander is a fast read.

Gabaldon’s setting is amazing, her descriptions take the reader right to Scotland and its stunning nature, castles and villages. Her writing is noticeably well-researched from historical data, weapons and fighting techniques to medicine, clothing and culture. A little bit of magic just adds to the atmosphere of the eighteen century she so vividly recreates.

The characters in Outlander, not only the main protagonists, but also minor characters, are well-developed and multidimensional, which enriches the book further. Claire is an exceptionally strong female character. She appears a little dry in the beginning, because she is an analytical, rational person due to her being a nurse. This very attribute makes her not only able to survive, but also thrive a little, in such a harsh world she is thrown in. Only a person who has experienced the horror of World War Two is able to cope with the harshness of the world two centuries earlier and adopt to the position of women at the time. Her medical and historical knowledge helps her, too, naturally.

However, Claire is also a compassionate and romantic person. She is a free spirit and she enjoys her adventure. Claire is the kind of person who wants to make the best of her situation while waiting for the opportunity to get out of whichever predicament she finds herself in. Claire is also a very loyal person. She is always trying to do what she is supposed to do. Her persistence to find her way back to her husband seems a little strange since their relationship did not seem to work well, because they did not have a lot in common and Frank seemed somewhat inconsiderate towards Claire and her feelings. Claire’s sense of loyalty is admirable and it takes a lot for her to change her feelings.

Frank being a scholarly and quite dull personage, Jamie is the very opposite of him. Jamie is a fierce warrior who would do anything to protect the people he loves. He has a strong sense of honour and always keeps his word. He is an open-minded person, which is an absolute necessity for his relationship with Claire. Speaking of it, I liked it that their relationship was a slowly growing and well founded one. Claire and Jamie are a great couple and their love is based on mutual understanding, trust and many things they have in common. 

The chief villain in the book, Jonathan Randall, is one of the most terrifying villains ever. Sauron, take a bow. It is a big difference between a sinister mythological force and a tangible evil of a human being. Randall is a cruel, sadistic man, bent on ruining Jamie and there are no limits to his pursuing of his goal. However, Gabaldon makes Randall a complex personality, giving his psychopathic behaviour a background and reasons, so I could not help myself feeling sorry for him for a moment or two. 

Gabaldon’s approach to love scenes is very subtle, which is nice for a change, but she does not spare the reader with violence. Her descriptions of violence and subsequent injuries are graphic, forcing the reader to face the horror and the characters’ feelings. 

There is no pretence about historical reality in Outlander. Gabaldon presents human nature authentically. Alongside reading, one realises that human nature has not changed over the centuries. The world may have changed its appearance, but the essence remains the same.

RECOMMENDATION: Outlander is definitely not a book for everyone. However, for the people who enjoy a mix of history and love together with a pinch of magic and can stomach violent scenes, this book is a must-read. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Random Magic Tour: Pirates! Little Pirate Prize Winner



The winner of Pirateology: Guidebook and Model Set is Kiwi Ivashkov. Congratulations! 
Sasha Soren will send you the prize.


P.S. Sorry for late announcement. Yesterday just rushed past me.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Stranger by Albert Camus

The StrangerSUMMARY: After his mother’s funeral, Meursault, a young French-Algerian starts a relationship with a former office clerk and gets involved with a local pimp’s business which results in him committing a murder. The trial evolves around trivial events instead of focusing on the crime.

MY OPINION:

The Stranger was a part of my high school compulsory reading requirements. I read it then, found it dull, did not understand it and, consequently, hated it. Rereading it now, with some more perspective to life, I can finally see its value.

This book is about being different. Mersault is the stranger, because he is a stranger among the people around him. His life is aimless, so he becomes apathetic, not feeling anything, although he is good at observing other people’s feelings. He recognises when people feel happy, sad or angry, but he cannot feel anything but indifference to everything, despite being aware what he should feel according to propriety.

Society finds his behaviour morally unacceptable. Therefore, when he is tried for murder, he is really tried for his demeanour and for his lack of emotions. Meursault is not a likeable character, but he can be given credit for his integrity. Perhaps it is not something he can control, but he sticks to who he is. He knows what he is supposed to do, how he could help his case, but he refuses to employ false pretence to save himself.

Meursault’s strangeness seems absurd, and so does his clinging to his strangeness. However, what is the most absurd is that in a way people are all strangers to other people, and yet they are ready to judge each other for it. I think this is the true focus of The Stranger.

RECOMMENDATION: The Stranger is a book for everyone who wants to read something which makes one think about human emotions, morality, and being different. 

Friday, June 03, 2011

Book Blogger Hop, June 3 – 6, 2011

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books. It is a great way of discovering new blogs and meeting fellow book bloggers, talking about books and authors, and sharing our love for literature.

 Book Blogger Hop

This week’s question is: “Share your favorite post from the last month and tell us why it’s close to your heart!”

MY ANSWER:

My favourite post from last month was Songs from the Sea feature I did for Random Magic Tour: Pirates! I learned a lot about sea shanties while doing the research and had so much fun listening through all the many songs. I was also so happy that my readers found it fun and interesting. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Ready for the First Battle

This is my May follow-up post for LOTR Read-Along hosted by Lorren at The Story Girl. It includes SPOILERS.

IMG_5961 (demuxxx) Tags: newzealand lotr plains rohan pelennor pelanor

Well, there we are, crisscrossing Rohan, getting ready to take down Saruman. Just a little short ride to Helm’s Deep, where we encamp, then let them come and get us, if they can. After all, Helm’s Deep has never been conquered when defended by Men. Ha!

All, right, now seriously. I haven’t read as much of the Two Towers as I had hoped to (but I have read whole lot of other things, of course). I have come through Chapter Six of Book Three and the Rohirrim host is riding to Helm’s Deep to meet the armies of Isengard.

Last month, Lorren suggested a few interesting discussion points considering Gandalf and his rebirth, the Ents, and the Rohirrim and their culture. I decided to make a few comments on each of those points in this post.

Gandalf is widely recognised among Tolkien researchers as one of Christ-like figures in The LOTR (others being Frodo and Aragorn). As Christ, Gandalf dies and resurrects. The Gandalf before death is more human-like and weaker than the one after. He is sent back for a short while with new powers to help the peoples standing against Sauron.

Gandalf, formerly the Grey – that is the average, indefinable figure – is now the White, a clearly defined opponent to the Black. As Christ, Gandalf has to endure his own Calvary in order to later reveal his power. Gandalf is not recognised by his companions when they meet again in Fangorn, which is similar to Christ not being recognised by his disciples on the way to Emmaus. These parallels have probably come very naturally to Tolkien, since he was a devout Catholic indeed.

Tolkien was much disillusioned by the Industrial Revolution and its effects on nature as well as on people. He gave nature its own voice through the Ents. Ents are giant tree-shepherds who walk and talk. They represent a sheer force of nature. Nature is impartial, it does not take sides in wars or favour nations, and it can be benevolent and cruel to everyone alike. Therefore, Treebeard is on nobody’s side, because nobody is on his side. Yet, nature can be destructive to those who do not respect it, as it can be seen in the fall of Isengard.

The first people who find themselves at war in The LOTR are the Rohirrim, the people living on the wide plains of Rohan and at the foot of the White Mountains. They are horse-masters, they love their horses as much as their families. Rohirrim are great warriors, “proud and wilful, but they are true-hearted, generous in thought and deed; bold but not cruel, wise but unlearned, writing no books but singing many songs.” They are friends of the people of Gondor. “They do not lie, and therefore they are not easily deceived.” Though simple on the outside, the Rohirrim have rich tradition both spiritually and materially (the king’s hall is thatched with gold).

I think I have read somewhere that Tolkien shaped the Rohirrim after the traits of Germanic and partly perhaps Slavic tribal tradition. This is reflected in Germanic sounding names, such as Herugrim and Mundburg, whereas Meduseld sounds Slavic. Living in a Slavic country with a strong Germanic tradition, I feel quite close to the Rohirrim and their life.

Overall, Rohirrim are an interesting people, so are the Ents, and I really enjoy reading about them, as I discover something new each time. But this is generally the case with The LOTR. No matter how many times you read it, you can still discover something new to think about.
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