Wednesday, August 31, 2011

About Inspiration after a Battle Won but the War not yet

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


I read to the end of Book Five. This is the part when events slowly start to resolve, the truth about many things comes out, and the characters prove their strength. Though this part is quite dark, Tolkien is a master of juxtaposing the horror and suffering side by side with nobility, gracefulness and beauty. He transfers the reader into the midst of the Battle of the Pelennor fields just as easily as enabling the reader listening to a small talk of an elderly woman in the Houses of Healing.

There is a lot of inspiration for leading a good, moral, brave life in the LOTR, and these six chapters are no exception. In Denethor Tolkien portrays a politician whose main goal is to keep his position of authority at all costs. I can see many of today’s politicians in him – just struggling for power and not doing the job entrusted to them, which would be taking care of what is good for the people.

Aragorn, on the other hand, presents the very opposite. He is primarily concerned about stopping Sauron and saving the people from suffering. He puts the benefit of others before his own. Thus, he does not want to start strife over the rule of Gondor while they still have to fight Sauron. He postpones claiming his rights until after the war if it ends favourably, in order to bring his allies together and try to ensure a better future for the people of the Middle Earth.

Besides Aragorn, another character worth looking up to is Eówyn. As a woman in a patriarchal society, Eówyn is pushed into the background. She is supposed to sit at home, take care of the household, and wait for the men to return. But she has “a spirit and courage at least the match” of men, so she goes out there and does great deeds. She does not let herself be told what she can or cannot do. She shows it is worth fighting for what you believe you can do and that we should not let other people discourage us from doing what we feel we are able to do.

There could be a lot more said about these final chapters of book five, but I think the above are the most important things. I said it many times, also in previous posts, what an inspiration the LOTR is for me. What about you? What in the LOTR inspires you in your life? Or, if not the LOTR, is there any other book that inspires you living as best as you can and achieving what you want?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bout of Books Read-a-thon Wrap-up

  designed by Tara @ 25 Hour Books


Amanda at On a Book Bender hosted the Bout-of-Books read-a-thon from August 22 to August 28. You can see my starting post, goal, and daily updates here.

Stats:

Books read: 2
Pages read: 650

Goals achievement: approximately 80%

Midnight (The Vampire Diaries: The Return #3) by L. J. Smith ü–  my review is here 

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger ü– my review is here

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien  x – I  had planned to read some 150 – 200 pages of The LOTR: The Return of the King, but I did not manage to get to it.

My thoughts:

Although I did not read as much as I had hoped, I would have read even less last week if I had not been participating in this read-a-thon. I probably would still not made it through The Cather in the Rye, but setting to read it as a goal and knowing other people know it and are trying to reach their goals (and some really doing huge amounts of reading) was the very encouragement I needed.

I was even ahead of my schedule on Wednesday, and I expected to perhaps read even more than I had planned, since I usually read the most in the second half of the week. However, last week was an exception. I had a lot of errands, so I read very little on Thursday.

However, I really enjoyed reading Midnight and I am satisfied with my read-a-thon reading overall. It was a good experience. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Midnight (The Vampire Diaries: The Return #3) by L. J. Smith

Midnight (The Vampire Diaries: The Return, #3)SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Elena returns from the Dark Dimension, having freed her vampire boyfriend Stefan Salvatore from imprisonment... but not without consequence. His salvation will demand a high price. Whilst still reeling from this latest shock, they are forced to confront the demons that have taken over Fell's Church.

MY OPINION:

The rule for this series is: expect the unexpected, and Midnight does not fail this rule. Its dynamic plot pulls the reader into a whirlpool of astonishing worlds and both horrific and wonderful experiences.

The characters reveal yet new sides while maintaining their core features. The relationship between them tangle some more, untangle, and then tangle again.

The clash between good and evil is epic and complicated. As it is common in the series there is always a bigger villain from the one you think. Shinichi has some big surprises up his sleeve, and I felt a little sorry even for him in the end. The good guys have secrets of their own, and some of those are not pleasant at all. This complexity of characters is what makes this series ever fresh and compelling.

My main complaint about this book is again the writing, which I would like a little less rushed. Some transitions could also be done somewhat more coherently to clear some confusing spots. The writing is basically the only thing that takes that half a star away.  

The plot unravels spectacularly, and the ending is as enticing as ever, providing a lot of potential for the continuation of the series. Although I think Alloy's firing L. J. Smith was unfair to her, I will continue reading the series, which will be taken forward by a ghost-writer. I hope the ghost-writer keeps the good things that L. J. Smith established – a gripping, unpredictable plot and fabulous characters, and improves the shortcomings – mainly too jumpy writing. 

I am certainly looking forward Phantom, the promising title of which is already making me speculate about its content. I hope it will be as surprising and familiar at the same time as the series so far.  

RECOMMENDATION: Midnight is an exciting ending of The Vampire Diaries: The Return trilogy, and the fans of the series will surely do not want to miss it. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Blogger Hop #26, Follow Friday #1

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: “Non-book-related this week!! Do you have pets?

MY ANSWER:

I have a cat. Her name would be translated as Pumpkin. She prefers to go by Her Majesty the Cat. She occasionally contributes to this blog in Cat Diary. If you want to know more about her, click here.




***

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

 

Today’s question is: “In some books like the Sookie Stackhouse series the paranormal creature in question ‘comes out of the closet’ and makes itself known to the world. Which mythical creature do you wish this would happen with in real life?”

MY ANSWER:

Considering I love vampire fiction my choice would have to be – wait – on second thought no. If vampires turned out to be real I’d run and hide or, more probably, become a meal.

And as I‘m not keen on that idea (all right, unless it’s the only thing that would keep Damon undead – never mind, I strayed a little) Where was I?

Oh, the mythical creature I wish would “come out of the closet” would be – wait – but of course – the ELVES! Duh. That would be so cool. And next, the hobbits. 



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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Soldier of Rome: The Legionary by James Mace

Soldier of Rome: The Legionary: A novel of the Twentieth Legion during the campaigns of Germanicus CaesarSUMMARY (from Goodreads): Soldier of Rome: The Legionary is an historical novel that follows the Roman wars in Germania in A.D. 15, and one Legionary's quest for revenge.

In the year A.D. 9, three Roman Legions under Quintilius Varus were betrayed by the Germanic war chief, Arminius, and then destroyed in the forest known as Teutoburger Wald. Six years later, Rome is finally ready to unleash Her vengeance on the barbarians. The Emperor Tiberius has sent Germanicus Caesar, his adopted son, into Germania with an army of 40,000 legionaries. They come not on a mission of conquest, but one of annihilation. With them is a young Legionary named Artorius. For him, the war is a personal vendetta - a chance to avenge his brother, who was killed in Teutoburger Wald.

In Germania, Arminius knows the Romans are coming. He realizes that the only way to fight the Romans is through deceit, cunning, and plenty of well-placed brute force. In truth, he is leery of Germanicus, knowing that he was trained to be a master of war by the Emperor himself.

The entire Roman Empire held its breath as Germanicus and Arminius faced each other in what would become the most brutal and savage campaign the world had seen in a generation; a campaign that could only end in a holocaust of fire and blood.

MY OPINION:

The main quality of this book is in its historical accuracy fictionalised into a well-told story. James Mace combines his military expertise with historical facts to present an evidently thoroughly researched subject in an appealing way.

Soldier of Rome: The Legionary is a book about Roman defeat and retaliation in Teutoburger forest, but most of all it is a presentation of what the author calls the Roman war machine – a Roman legion as a whole and a legionary as an individual – the key element for the supremacy of the ancient Rome in the then known world.

The life of the legionaries, from training to everyday life during peace, war, and festivities is presented in details, as we follow the story of Artorius from his boyhood to becoming an accomplished member of a legion.

I have mixed feelings about Artorius as a character. He is a complex character in the true sense of the word, making the reader hate him, love him, admire him, despise him, and sympathise with him. The loss of his older brother in Teutoburger Wald and consequential death of their mother when he was a young boy affects Artorius with grave sadness which develops into a burning vindictiveness. He grows up with one goal only – to join the legion and avenge his brother.

However, his growing-up starts anew when he begins the training of a legionary. Soon he learns that any accomplishment depends not only on his abilities but primarily on working together with his colleagues. I see a Roman legion, as presented in this book, as a perfect example of a society bringing together the importance of an individual and of a community. Great accomplishments and progress of the civilization are possible only when people can thrive as individuals while they contribute their effort to the joint goals of the community.

Artorius soon learns to put the common goals first in order to achieve his own goal. His blind vindictiveness is contrasted by a necessity to follow orders and by empathy for the innocent people. A conflict between ethics and executing orders is raised in this book, too, but as in life it has no conclusive solution. Nevertheless, James Mace puts it very well: “The army is only as noble and honourable as the men who serve in it.”

Another great discrepancy in this book is between the attitude of the legionaries towards their wives, mothers, and daughters and the women of their enemies, and prostitutes. I find Artorius’s behaviour towards his ex-lover Camilla, although she is not a likable character, especially disturbing and intolerable.

James Mace does not spare the reader with violence and atrocities of warfare. The cruelties from both sides are equally represented, as well as the viewpoints upon the same things from the Romans and the Germanic tribes, the common soldiers and their leaders.

There is a lot of specific terminology, which makes the book somewhat slow to read. The glossary the author includes at the beginning of the book is very helpful to clear some confusion while reading. Apart from this and a very few grammatical errors and typos, Soldier of Rome: The Legionary is a good book with quite a straightforward, but capturing plotline. 

RECOMMENDATION: This book provides one of the best presentations of Roman military I have ever read. I recommend it to anyone interested in history of ancient Rome, especially in the structure and functioning of its legions, if you can bear graphic descriptions of violence.


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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the RyeSUMMARY: A seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield tells a story about what he did during a few days a year ago when he was expelled from school. Instead of going home, he aimlessly wanders the streets of New York, making observations about everything and everyone and behaving stupidly.

MY OPINION:

I first read this book when I was around 18. Rereading it now, it was quite a different experience, because my English is now much better than then and because now I can see it from a teacher’s perspective.

Nevertheless, I could not find many things to enjoy in this book. The plot itself was disappointing. I kept waiting for something big to happen, but there is no such event, just a teenager rambling about.

Holden is a spoiled rich boy, who is constantly complaining about everyone being phony. He is intelligent but lazy which is why he fails most of his classes and gets kicked out of school. He behaves foolishly and spends his money carelessly. The only sympathetic characteristic I could find about him was his affection for his dead brother. Otherwise, he is just an annoying teenager, alienated from his parents, though they seem quite ordinary parents for their class and time, at least Holden does not provide any solid example of them not being nice to him.

What I like in The Cather in the Rye is how Salinger captures teenage slang in such a timeless manner that can be related to teenagers in the present. Also, the following of Holden’s statements made me laugh (it was sarcastic bitter-sweet teacher's laughter): “You can’t stop a teacher when they want to do something. They just do it.” and “You don’t have to think too hard when you talk to a teacher.”

There are a few such sarcasm-provoking sentences scattered across the book, which livens it up a little. I found the parts where Holden expresses his opinion on a few books and films interesting, too, since I obviously like talking about these topics.

RECOMMENDATION: Need a substitute for an afternoon nap? Read this, it is very calming and relaxing, nothing too exciting; that is if you do not get unnerved by teenage rambling. 
  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Top Ten Books I Loved but Never Reviewed

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


This is my first time participating in Top Ten Tuesday. I usually either remember too late and do not have time to do the post, or I cannot compile a long enough list.

However, I cannot resist today’s topic. I am even going to cheat and include trilogies/series. I did not review most of the books I mention because I read them before I started blogging. I am planning on rereading some of these books and review them, as they are among my favourite books.

  1. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien: Everybody who reads my blog knows how much I LOVE the LOTR. I write some reflections on it every month as I‘m participating in the LOTR Read-Along, but I have never written an actual review. I simply can’t. There is too much too say and I love this book so much I just cannot put my feelings about it into words. Especially not in short. 
  1. The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien: I read it a couple of times. The complexity of the history and the world Tolkien created is overwhelming. I just cannot get around reviewing it. 
  1. Eucalyptus by Murray Bail: Australia. Lots of eucalyptus trees. A love story. The first time I read it the ending virtually swept me off my feet, and then I turned it around and started reading it again immediately. 
  1. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel: The first book in Earth Children series is amazing, I could in a way identify with Ayla, the main character, being the odd person among “her” people, and I really admired her ability to cope and survive. 
  1. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philipp Pullman: It is a fascinating world and it made me think about many religious issues. Brilliant. 
  1. The Blue Bicycle by Regine Deforges: This was introduced to me by a friend of mine when I was around fifteen. It is not an age I would personally recommend this book to be read at, but I was always reading ahead of what was supposed to be appropriate for my age. I am glad I first read this book when I did (I have reread it since and the sequels), though it contains violence and sex, I was mature enough to handle it, though. It was the first WW II novel I read and it opened to me a whole new perspective on the WW II issues. I still think it, together with other books in Blue Bicycle series, is one of the best WW II novels ever written. 
  1. The Devil on Horseback by Victoria Holt: This combination of romance and the French Revolution is my favourite of Victoria Holt’s novels, and I read a lot of them.  
  1. Circle trilogy (Morrigan’s Cross, Dance of the Gods, Valley of Silence) by Nora Roberts: My favourite of Nora Robert’s trilogies so far. Vampires (with one exception) are the bad guys (no, really?). There is an epic battle between humans and vampires, plus you have gods, witches, dragons, magic, a fantasy world, time-travel, and love. Must read if you like fantasy genre. 
  1. The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss: A historical romance taking place in the eleventh century England. Again, I cannot put the feelings into words – the plot and the characters are fabulous.  
  1. The Book of Love (Magdalene Line Trilogy #2) by Kathleen McGowan: I grabbed it accidentally, having no idea it is a part of a trilogy until I was about 30 pages in, but it can be read as a stand-alone. I love it for Matilda of Tuscany, one of the main protagonists, who is an extraordinary female character. I actually wrote a review and lost it due to my computer crashing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bout of Books Read-a-thon


I need a little encouragement to do some more reading, so I signed up for the Bout of Books read-a-thon hosted by Amanda at On a Book Bender. The read-a-thon will be going on from August 22 to August 28 (see the schedule HERE).

My goals for the read-a-thon are pretty modest, since I have to keep up with my job-searching, writing and the usual house work. However, I will be a little optimistic and give myself a bit of challenge.

The books I want to read/finish during the read-a-thon:  

Midnight (The Vampire Diaries: The Return #3) by L. J. Smith – This won’t be a problem, I might even start before Monday, since I can’t wait to read it, I’m a little obsessed with this series lately.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger – I’m rereading this one, because I almost completely forgot all about it (I last read it in high school), I read the first chapter yesterday, but will continue on Monday.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – I’m reading this as a part of all-year-long LOTR Read-Along (hosted by Lorren at The Story Girl) and I haven’t read it anything of it yet this month, so I hope to go through some chapters of The Return of the King. Oh, and this is probably my 8th reread (I lost count ages ago).

That is it. I’m keeping it real. I might even not manage all of it. But maybe I will.

Updates (I’ll also try to update on twitter @StrangeNewWords):
The format is adapted from Amanda's. 

August 22:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): The Catcher in the Rye (46 pages)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 46
Total number of pages I’ve read: 46
Today #insixwords: Too many other things to do.

August 23:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): The Catcher in the Rye (110 pages)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 110
Total number of pages I’ve read: 156
Today #insixwords: Neglected blogging in favour of reading.

August 24:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): The Catcher in the Rye (36 pages), Midnight (107 pages)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 143
Total number of pages I’ve read: 299
Today #insixwords: enjoying the ride on Midnight roller-coaster

August 25:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): Midnight (30 pages)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 30
Total number of pages I’ve read: 329
Today #insixwords: Too hot, too busy, little reading.

August 26:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): Midnight (89 pages)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 89
Total number of pages I’ve read: 418
Today #insixwords: Good stuff comes in small amounts. 

August 27:
The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): Midnight (189 pages)
Number of pages I’ve read today: 189
Total number of pages I’ve read: 607
Today #insixwords: Could not stop reading. Heart-wrenching events. 

August 28:

The books I’ve read today (and the number of pages): Midnight (43 pages)
Number of pages I’ve read today:  43
Total number of pages I’ve read: 650
Today #insixwords: Mulling over Midnight. Been left speechless.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Blogger Hop, August 19 – 22, 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: What’s the LONGEST book you’ve ever read?”
(Note: I’m putting one caveat on this question. You aren’t allowed to say the Bible, Torah, Qur’an, or other religious/spiritual text.)

MY ANSWER:

It depends on the definition. I’m sure the longest book published in a single volume I read would be Outlander by Diana Gabaldon with over 800 pages (although, I read it in translation broken into two volumes with over 900 pages). However, most people agree The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien is one book even though it was originally and most often published in three volumes, so this would be the longest book I have ever read – my edition has 1496 pages without the index. 




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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Booking Through Thursday – Fluff



 btt button


You’ve just had a long, hard, exhausting day, and all you want to do is curl up with something light, fun, easy, fluffy, distracting, and entertaining.

What book do you pick up?

If I enjoy the book I am reading at the time, I pick up that one. If not, then I go for a reread of one of my favourite books, or just favourite parts of those, which are The Lord of the Rings and The Twilight Saga. It always makes me feel better and relax when I read something familiar, it is so comforting to read about the things I already know and enjoy. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shadow Souls (The Vampire Diaries: The Return #2) by L. J. Smith

Shadow Souls (The Vampire Diaries: The Return, #2)SUMMARY (by the publisher): Elena must come to terms with her altered physical state. Even she can barely comprehend what she is now capable of.

Finding herself forced to travel to the Dark Dimension with Damon, Elena is secretly terrified of letting her long-disguised feelings for Damon run wild. For if Damon does lure her into becoming his dark princess, her new power might not be used for good.

MY OPINION:

It is amazing how L. J Smith manages to unravel the plotline in this series in the way that surprises the reader again and again. Even though I thought I knew what to expect from this book, it proved to be a thoroughly unforeseeable and thrilling read.

The writing is much improved in comparison to Nightfall, although there is still some room for further improvement. However, the writing is solid and takes the reader unobtrusively on a journey through an amazing story.

Smith is a master of settings. The Dark Dimension is depicted with such skill and in so much detail as to pull the reader easily into it. It is a world of terrible beauty: sinister and gruesome, yet full of its own kind of grace and splendour. The magical and paranormal happenings are astonishing, but believably incorporated into the plot.

It is hard to say anything more specific about the plot and the characters without giving away spoilers. Therefore, I will just say that the story is what the reader familiar with the series would expect, that is: unpredictable. The characters evolve partially in an anticipated manner, however, they make a lot of discoveries about themselves as well as about each other.

There are some things I would like to say that may be potential SPOILERS, so if you do not mind spoilers  and want to read it anyway, highlight the text.

First of all, Stefan, despite being passive because of his captivity, is the driving force behind everybody’s actions, including, although a little surprisingly so, Damon’s. However, I am not completely convinced about the strength of the relationship between Stefan and Elena, mainly because it seems all too perfect, too easy. I think the problem is that throughout the series the development of their relationship is not very well founded – it just simply is. I have the same feeling about Stefan as a character, he is simply too good, too perfect – he shows some nuances, but there is still a feeling of something missing which makes Stefan a bit of a flat character.

On the other hand, Shadow Souls really concentrates on researching Damon’s character. Of all the new things revealed about him, what is most touching to me is his deep hidden wish to redeem himself. The way he finally does that is very emotional, and I was completely overwhelmed by it.

The same goes for Elena. Her personality is well explored, and she has to learn a lot, not only about her new supernatural side, but also about her human side. She, along with the reader, discovers a whole different Elena, while still retaining her familiar side. The extent of her willing to sacrifice herself for the well-being of others is admirable and adds the final touch to the series.

Shinichi is still messing with Fell’s Church and with Damon’s memory, which teaches a lesson as old as the world – the bad guy always lies. Throughout the book I kept wishing someone to finally kick his sorry behind. But that is more or less left for Midnight.

Another lesson worth remembering is: curiosity killed the cat. Though it does not kill Damon, he certainly wishes he would control his inquisitiveness better. I had known about this development before reading the book, however, it still surprised me, and I cannot wait to see how Damon is dealing with the consequences in the following book.

END OF SPOILERS

The ending is brilliant – logical and incredible at the same time, and it makes me want to go straight for the next book to see how it all continues. As usually, it is a balanced combination of closing one door and cracking open another to make the reader want more than just a peek.

RECOMMENDATION: Apart for a few writing mishaps, Shadow Souls is an amazing book. I think it to be the best of the series so far, and it is a must-read for the fans of the series.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Lowlands of Heaven by F. J. Dagg

The Lowlands of HeavenSUMMARY (from Goodreads): An angel’s unfinished mission on Earth, a young woman’s yearning to be complete, the evil will of an emissary of darkness – these threads weave together where two worlds intersect in a magical tale of love and hope, resolve and commitment. The Lowlands of Heaven is a classic tale of Good vs. Evil, a glimpse into a world “halfway to Heaven,” and a Christmas story. Haunting and lyrical, mystical and romantic, this masterwork of high fantasy will linger with readers long after they have read the final chapter.

MY OPINION:

Laurel is an ancient angel looking as a twelve-year-old girl who is supposed to deliver a very special gift to Kate upon her birth. Kate and Laurel are sympathetic characters I was rooting for throughout the book. However, on a perfect summer afternoon in Illinois in the early twentieth century, a terrible accident separates Laurel and Kate and hinders Laurel’s mission.

Battered in the accident and suffering from amnesia, Laurel comes to the lowlands of heaven. The lowlands of heaven are a place where angels who have not yet ascended to a higher level do a variety of jobs to help people on Earth. Laurel is taken in with Branch 92, which processes all indirect communication to God.

The book is initially somewhat confusing for two reasons. Firstly, the author presents a lot of characters and concepts like pieces of a puzzle. Secondly, the author tries to present Laurel’s own confusion and is very successful in putting the reader in her shoes.

Nevertheless, as the book moves on, the reader gradually becomes familiar with many details of the lowlands of heaven, individual angels, and their jobs. The concepts of this strange world, its rules, and inhabitants are complex, but well developed and explained. Though strange and unique, the lowlands of heaven are in many ways similar to Earth.

During her recovery from her injuries and earthsickness, Laurel is trying to regain her memories and find Kate to complete her mission. Laurel is entirely dedicated to her quest even for the price of her own life, for she knows that on her success stand lives of many people.

Meanwhile Kate has grown up and works as a nurse in San Diego on the verge of World War Two. Kate is a compassionate woman, devoted to her patients, especially children. She is always trying to find something more to help other people. Kate has a lot in common with Laurel such as love for music and flying. Yet, Kate feels incomplete, because something is missing in her life. Kate's struggle to find that missing piece and Laurel's to deliver it is what makes the book full of suspense mingled with sadness and sympathy for both characters. 

The Lowlands of Heaven is an exciting book which takes you from familiar to strange places and back and introduces intriguing characters. The setting, the characters, and the concepts are well described, and the reader can get a good feel of everything.

RECOMMENDATION: This is a book for everyone who enjoys a mixture of reality and fantasy with an intriguing plotline. 


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

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Blogger Hop, August 12 – 15, 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: Let’s talk crazy book titles! Highlight one or two (or as many as you like!) titles in your personal collection that have the most interesting titles! If you can’t find any, feel free to find one on the internet!

MY ANSWER:

I guess I have zero sense for crazy book titles. Zero, which is how much crazy book titles I can find among my books, both the books I own and those on my Goodreads shelves (not that I have not read my fair share of crazy books, just without the crazy-content matching titles).

However, this book has been on my radar for a while, although I have not read it yet. The title does sound crazy and the reviews are good too, so I hope I will get to it eventually: How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain.

How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (August 9, 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: 

Soldier of Rome: The Legionary: A novel of the Twentieth Legion during the campaigns of Germanicus Caesar
"He had heard stories, terrible stories, stories that could not possibly be true. Every time someone mentioned the Rhine, the Legions, or Metellus, Artorius was quickly ushered away, never privy to such conversations, yet he knew."

Soldier of Rome: The Legionary by James Mace  p. 27

Monday, August 08, 2011

Nightfall (The Vampire Diaries: The Return #1) by L. J. Smith

Nightfall (The Vampire Diaries: The Return, #1) SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Elena Gilbert is alive - again. When Elena sacrificed herself to save the two vampire brothers who love her she was consigned to a fate beyond death. Until a powerful supernatural force pulled her back. Now Elena is not just human. She has powers. What's more, her blood pulses with a unique force that makes her irresistible to any vampire. Both brothers still want Elena to be theirs, but something bigger and more powerful than all of them may want her more.

MY OPINION:

Let me first get over with the one thing that is not so good in Nightfall – the writing. It is not that bad, I especially like some genuinely funny parts in this book, but it could certainly use another round of editing. What bothered me the most was that the transitions between the scenes are too jumpy on several spots, and there are also a few inconsistencies. However, none of these present any major impediment for enjoying all that is good in Nightfall, and there is plenty of that, I must say.

The plot is action-packed, suspenseful, and full of twists and turns. Elena’s return and the consequent changes of her character are well-done. She has to learn anew a lot of things, including how to use her powers. Soon she realises that with her altered state, she has acquired new responsibility for her actions. Therefore, she is trying to figure out herself and help others at the same time.

Other characters retain their familiarity while benefiting of additional bits and pieces here and there. Bonnie is struggling to learn how to be brave, Matt finds himself in a whole lot of trouble, Meredith is still the one who keeps everybody together, and Caroline is as nasty as ever, cleaning up her own mess at everybody else’s cost.

For the most part of the book absent Stefan is still Stefan, while Damon takes the reins in his hands. Smith throws in some new information about the brothers’ past, slowly rounding up the reasons for what they are like. Damon’s being possessed by a greater evil is carried out so well that even the reader who knows about the possession might forget about it. However, if one pays attention, there are clues which clearly show whether the real Damon or his possessor is in control. The clash between Damon’s true self, his possessed side, and his possessor is extremely intense and enthralling to witness.

The evil side is spearheaded by the evil twins Shinichi and his sister Misao, with whom Smith introduces a whole new spectre of the paranormal. The effects of their mischief are gory, and Smith fully confronts the reader with both physical and emotional pain they cause in Fell’s Church. Shinichi and Misao are the kind of villains one loves to hate, and I believe the series definitely has not seen the last of them with the end of Nightfall.

The ending reveals that everything comes with a price, and no good deed goes unpunished. However, I liked that in Damon’s case, because he pays that price by his own choice, and it leaves open a way for him to work for his redemption, which I am curious about among other things. The ending of the book is a perfect mixture of a closure and open issues. Whereas it ties all the important loose ends, it still leaves enough space for the reader to want more.

RECOMMENDATION: If you can get past the writing issues, this is a compelling read especially for the fans of the series and the author. For my part, it was totally worth to suffer some writing confusion to read this otherwise fantastic story.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Cat Diary (8): Wisdom

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


All right, I know this says to be a Sunday feature. Note to all: it doesn’t say it is every Sunday feature, does it? Anyhow, I don’t seem to have enough important things to talk about every Sunday. You know what they say: if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, better keep quiet.

Besides, it’s the summer hiatus. Yes, for cats, too. Okay, especially for cats. Nothing much is happening. I eat. I sleep. I take strolls in summer breeze. I pry on people from the window (by the way – there are some road works in progress, all very interesting until those machines start making noise). I try catching flies for amusement, though I haven’t got much success yet, darn are those things fast!

I also ponder a lot, and since I’m not on the shy side of boasting with my species wisdom, here are some very flattering things people have said about us cats:

"In the beginning, God created man, but seeing him so feeble, He gave him the cat." - Warren Eckstein

"Dogs come when they're called. Cats take a message and get back to you." - Mary Bly

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow."
- Jeff Valdez

"The smallest feline is a masterpiece." - Leonardo da Vinci

"People who hate cats, will come back as mice in their next life." - Faith Resnick

Hehe, hehe…still laughing at the last one. And that da Vinci guy, such a charming gentleman. Purr.

Oh, and everybody who reads this: thumbs paws up!

Have fun until you hear from me next,


Saturday, August 06, 2011

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen



SUMMARY
(by the publisher): Catherine Morland, an unremarkable tomboy as a child, is thrown amongst all the ‘difficulties and dangers’ of Bath at the ripe age of seventeen. Armed with an unworldly charm and a vivid imagination, she must overcome the caprices of elegant society, encountering along the way such characters as the vacuous Mrs Allen, coquettish Isabella and the brash bully john Thorpe. Catherine’s invitation to Northanger Abbey, in her eyes a haven of coffins, skeletons and other Gothic devices, does lead to an adventure, though one she didn’t expect, and her misjudgement of the ambitious, somewhat villainous General Tilney is not  wholly unjustified. However, with the aid of the ‘unromantic’ hero Henry Tilney, Catherine gradually progresses towards maturity and self-knowledge.

MY OPINION:

Northanger Abbey is a wonderfully crafted story about a young girl’s path to maturity. The writing is beautiful with exquisitely formed sentences clearly conveying their meaning. The dialogues, as well as the descriptions of people and places, transfer the reader with ease to the nineteenth century England.

The main character, Catherine Morland, starts off as an innocent, naïve, unlearned girl. As a daughter of a country vicar with numerous siblings, she does not know about the perils awaiting her in the elegant society of Bath and its conventions. Growing up in close connection to nature and absorbed in gothic novels, she is a person capable of wild imagination, but unfortunately a poor judge of people and their manners. In the world when few things are spoken directly, she is at loss to read people’s true feelings and intentions.

Having experienced a few unpleasant events as a victim of her innocence, Catherine gradually learns a few things about the world. With the help of her innate sense of what is right and wrong, she grows and becomes a person able to stand up for herself and her beliefs. Forced to be on her own, she starts using her brain and proves to be a smart and resourceful woman.

The final touch to Northanger Abbey is Austen’s skilful incorporation of criticism towards several social characteristics of the time. Thus, she wittily portrays everyone’s preoccupation with wealth and social status. In a humours way, she presents the general opinion of the time about literature, the worshiping of poetry and the dismissive attitude towards the novel.

Through her exceptional ability as a writer, Austen disproves the chauvinistic and condescending male view upon women and their capacity of writing. Northanger Abbey, with its story, characters and wording, is Austen’s best answer to her contemporaries and their doubts in women’s writing.

RECOMMENDATION: Northanger Abbey is a masterpiece for its writing, plot and characters. It is a must-read for everyone who wants to enjoy a good story, beautiful language, and a balanced view upon the English society of the 18th century.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Booking Through Thursday – Anticipation


 btt button

What’s the last book you were really EXCITED to read?
And, were you excited about it in advance? Or did the excitement bloom while you were reading it?
Are there any books you’re excited about right NOW?

There are a lot of books mentioned below, if you want to find out more about them, click on the picture to find the Goodreads description.

So, here is my answer. I am excited almost about every book I read. Why read it if you are not excited about it? But if we take the counting-the-days to reading it or unable-to-resist definition of excitement, the last book I was excited to read was (you can see my review here):

Dead as a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse, #5)

I just could not let it standing on the shelf, although I was reading another book at that time, but I put that one aside and read Dead as a Doornail. I was looking forward to it since I had read the previous book in the series, so I had to read it as soon as I got it.

I have also been excided in advance about the book I am currently reading:

Nightfall (The Vampire Diaries: The Return, #1)

It is such an exciting read.

There are several books I am excited to read in the future. I cannot wait to read the next instalments of my currently favourite series (yes, I am all about vampires these days, cannot help myself - it will perhaps pass some day):

Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Immortals After Dark, #5)    Shadow Souls (The Vampire Diaries: The Return, #2)   Definitely Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, #6)

Then there are also other genres:

Ballad   Wake Unto Me   Forbidden

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2)    The Land of Painted Caves (Earth's Children, #6)

I am waiting for the Slovene translation of the last two.

And at last, I am so looking forward to Stephanie Meyer’s sequel to The Host (I hope she writes it soon) and the last book in Kate Mosse’s Languedoc Trilogy, Citadel, although these two will require some patience (but I believe it will be well worth of waiting). 

That is a long enough list, yet still incomplete. You get the idea. Now, I am going to read other BTT posts to find some more books to add to my never-ending excited-to-read list.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Lessons, Visuals, and Quotes – The Return of the King (Chapters 1 – 4)

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


I (re)read the first four chapters of The Return of the King. I am not in a good mood for elaborated writing today, so let me do this a little differently (don’t I do it differently every month?).

Without delay, here are some things we can learn from these four chapters (take them as seriously as you think fit):

a)     Call for help before you need it. The beacons of Gondor are lit early because it is no use calling for help when you are already besieged.

b)     Do not tell a ruler about the person who might replace him. Gandalf warns Pippin not to mention Aragorn to Denethor.

c)     Do not be selfish, and do not think only about here and now. Gandalf reproaches Denethor for only thinking about Gondor and the present. 

d)     Do not believe strangers and do not take people at face value. Pippin instructs Bergil not to judge people by their look or by what they say.

e)     Be kind to the little people. Even if they seem insignificant they may save the day. Théoden treats Merry with respect and kindness, which, as is seen later on, is well repaid.

f)      If you know someone needs help, you better help them yourself. Aragorn cannot send any help to Gondor, therefore, he must go there himself.

g)     “Do not spoil wonder with haste.” Take your time for the beautiful things in life – Legolas refuses to visit Aglarond in a hurry.

h)     Do not let a pretty lady deter you from your path. Ask Aragorn. A heartless man. No tears can move him.

i)      Do not make promises you do not intent to keep – they will hold you beyond death. The Sleepless Dead know. Imagine waiting an age to be able to rest in peace.

j)      Sleep it over. Hard decisions or anything that might trouble you. “In the morning counsels are best, and night changes many thoughts,” says Théoden.

k)     Do not complain about being hungry – your host might be offended. Denethor is not pleased with Pippin’s appetite.

l)      Do not undermine evil - it creeps unnoticed where you least expect it. See Denethor’s demise – he thinks he is smart, watching the Enemy’s moves, whereas the Enemy poisons his mind. 

m)   Do not do the dirty work by yourself – rather use the minions. That is the rulers’ philosophy – at least Sauron’s and Denethor’s.

n)     Animals know better. A cock crows in Minas Tirith, sensing dawn before the people, not giving a hoot about the Lord of the Nazgȗl. 

Additionally, I want to share top five most striking images from these chapters:

  1. Tower of Echtelion – “glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, tall and fair and shapely” 
  1. The Throne of the Kings of Men – “upon a dais of many steps was set a high throne under a canopy of marble shaped like a crowned helm; behind it was carved upon the wall and set with gems an image of a tree in flower” 
  1. The Pelennor fields – “dotted into the distance with farmsteads and little walls, barns and byres […], many roads and tracks crossed the green fields” and “away down in the valley bottom, five leagues or so […] the Great River […] grey and glittering” 
  1. The Púkel-men – “stones that had been carved in the likeness of men, huge and clumsy-limbed, squatting cross-legged with their stumpy arms folded on fat bellies” 
  1. Grond – “a huge ram, great as a forest tree a hundred feet in length, swinging on mighty chains […,] its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay”
 And finally, a few memorable quotes:

v    “The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?” – Gandalf revealing a little bit about himself.

v    “Denethor sat in a grey gloom, like an old patient spider, Pippin thought,” - what a comparison!

v    “Here was one of high nobility […] one of the Kings of Men born into a later time but touched with wisdom and sadness of the Elder Race […,] a captain that men would follow” – Pippin about Faramir.

v    “Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.” – Gandalf on Gollum.

v    “King of Angmar long ago, Sorcerer, Ringwraith, Lord of the Nazgȗl, a spear of terror in the hand of Sauron, shadow of despair.” – Gandalf’s scary description of the chief Nazgȗl.

The listings are random and not at all complete, feel free to add anything you would like. 
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