Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Nook #15



Book Nooks
*Every weekend*
Founder: Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
Hosting through April 2012: The True Book Addict (@truebookaddict)
Show us something pretty!



Commentary: A perfect place for reading in summer. The patio is protected from the sun, but still in fresh air. I like the countryside atmosphere created by the brick wall and wooden floor. You can pick your seat of choice, and there is a small table for your books and a glass of juice.

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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Five for Five: Listening (in Six Words)


This is what I listen to:

The news, the radio, the television,

Phone ringing, people on the street,

Sparrows chattering in hedges at dawn.

Her Majesty meows, I pet her.

The wind blows through tree tops.

Quiet melancholic songs help tears run,

Driving passes fast along a song,

Anger burns out if I play

A piece of music really loud,

And the nights I cannot sleep

Songs count minutes instead of me.

But when there is nothing else,

Silence speaks all words to hear. 

*****

Five for Five is a community event for bloggers hosted by Jen and Sarah at Momalom from April 23–27. As this is primarily a book blog, I will include bookish themes is some of my Five for Five posts this week. So, if you are my regular reader, please do not get scared away, I am not turning this blog upside down. And if you are new to Beyond Strange New Words, take a look around and feel welcome to visit again if you like what you see.

Learn more about Five for Five HERE and visit other participants’ posts HERE

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Five for Five: Age (in Quotes)


I seem to have misplaced my inspiration somewhere, so I did what I usually do on such an occasion – looked for it in books. 


In no particular order, here are some of my favourite quotes about age:


“I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.”
– Virginia Woolf

“There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.”
– Milan Kundera

“Age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel.”
– Gabriel García Márquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
– Mark Twain

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”
– Henry David Thoreau

I agree with these. You? 

*****

Five for Five is a community event for bloggers hosted by Jen and Sarah at Momalom from April 23–27. As this is primarily a book blog, I will include bookish themes is some of my Five for Five posts this week. So, if you are my regular reader, please do not get scared away, I am not turning this blog upside down. And if you are new to Beyond Strange New Words, take a look around and feel welcome to visit again if you like what you see.

Learn more about Five for Five HERE and visit other participants’ posts HERE

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Five for Five: Pictures


They are in the dresser, the second drawer from the bottom. I remember them occasionally while being in the midst of doing something and I say to myself I will take a look at them later when I have time, and then I forget.

I keep them stacked in albums, memories from the past.

Some contain photos from my ‘photographer’ phase. These I have taken myself – photos of flowers, baby hedgehogs and deer, and rainbows over my birth house.

Others were gathered by my family, pictures of people who had died before I was born. There are also photos of passed away distant uncles and aunts, of my cousins when they were little, photos of people I still meet more or less often, and of those whom I grew apart from.

Then there are yet other photos. Those images are printed on my heart, memory of them bringing tears into my eyes even as I am writing this.

My father. My grandmother.

It is because of them that the drawer remains closed. 

*****

Five for Five is a community event for bloggers hosted by Jen and Sarah at Momalom from April 23–27. As this is primarily a book blog, I will include bookish themes is some of my Five for Five posts this week. So, if you are my regular reader, please do not get scared away, I am not turning this blog upside down. And if you are new to Beyond Strange New Words, take a look around and feel welcome to visit again if you like what you see.

Learn more about Five for Five HERE and visit other participants’ posts HERE

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Five for Five: Words


Let me start with Natahaniel Hawthorne’s quote from my header:

“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”

Words are important.

Yes, those words in intricately composed novels, beautifully juxtaposed verses, eloquently written speeches. But not only those.

Every single word is important.

A simple hello you say (and whether you say it at all) to a stranger in the street.

A word can make someone’s day. A word can built and it can destroy.

A word can mean the difference between life and death.

Words matter.

Words in our hands matter.

I am trying to remember the quote above not just when I am writing a blog post or my WIP but even more so in everyday situations. Because who knows what kind of good and evil might I do with them? 

*****

Five for Five is a community event for bloggers hosted by Jen and Sarah at Momalom from April 23–27. As this is primarily a book blog, I will include bookish themes is some of my Five for Five posts this week. So, if you are my regular reader, please do not get scared away, I am not turning this blog upside down. And if you are new to Beyond Strange New Words, take a look around and feel welcome to visit again if you like what you see.

Learn more about Five for Five HERE and visit other participants’ posts HERE

Monday, April 23, 2012

Five for Five: Change


Change is good. Change brings progress. I know that. But –

I do not like change. Many people I know do not either.

Change means the unknown. If I do not know something, I have no control over it. Not knowing, not being in control signals vulnerability. Change means a risk of getting hurt. Nobody wants to get hurt. The possibly of it happening scares us. So, we fear changes.

Change does not have to be big to be scary. Just think about it. It can be something small, such as reading a book outside your comfort zone.

I read a wide variety of genres, but there are a few I prefer to the rest. Reading within my comfort zone is reassuring because I know what to expect and how to feel about it. Reading a new genre means I have to open my mind to accepting new concepts, readjusting my opinion, exploring my emotions, and testing my beliefs. All of it belongs to the area of the unknown. Hence, I need to be at my best to try reading outside my preferred genres.

Naturally, we can not and should not avoid all changes. We have to face some changes and let them make us better. The same goes for reading. Therefore, I pick up a new kind of read from time to time and let it teach me, change me, and improve me.

How about you? Would you agree that the fear of being hurt is the reason why people reject change? Are you afraid of change or do you welcome it as a chance of improvement? As for the reading part: do you find it hard to try reading outside your comfort zone? Does it matter how you feel when deciding to try something new or not?

Please, feel free to sound off your thoughts in the comments.

*****

Five for Five is a community event for bloggers hosted by Jen and Sarah at Momalom from April 23–27. As this is primarily a book blog, I will include bookish themes is some of my Five for Five posts this week. So, if you are my regular reader, please do not get scared away by the change (pun intended), I am not turning this blog upside down. And if you are new to Beyond Strange New Words, take a look around and feel welcome to visit again if you like what you see.

Learn more about Five for Five HERE and visit other participants’ posts HERE

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cat Diary (18): An Alarm Clock


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


I might have mentioned I help Pepca wake up in the morning before. Here is how it goes:

---------- 

The Alarm Clock goes off.

Pepca: *makes indistinct noise* *stops the alarm clock*

Me: *meows gently*, which means: “Good morning, sleepyhead! Did you sleep well?”

Pepca: *stays still*

Me: *meows a little louder*, meaning: “Hey, good morning! Did you have a pleasant night? Good! Get up, sunshine!

Pepca: *mumbles something like: “Just a few more minutes, I’m soooo sleepy.”*

Me: *persists* Meow! Meow! Meow! (read: Come on, get up, it’s a nice day, get up, feed me, get to work!)

Pepca: *grumbles* “Shut up, stupid cat. I want to nap just a bit longer.”

Me: *makes a few quiet, sad meows and one loud, insulted-like sounding MEOW* *sulks*

Pepca: *feels guilty* *hopes I'd give up* 

Me: *waits a few moments* *gathers strength* MEOW! MEOOOOW! MEOW, MEOW! MEOOOW! (read: “GET UP, GET UP, GET UP, YOU LAZY! I’M HUUUUNGRY! GEEEET UP!)

Pepca: All right, all right, I'm coming, just a minute!” *appears from her bedroom
  
Me: *smiles inwardly* *thinks: “Mission accomplished!”*

---------- 

May all your mornings be bright and cheerful!

Till next time,


Friday, April 20, 2012

Bout of Books 4.0 Coming Soon!



Information (copied from Bout of Books):

·        Bout of Books is a week long read-a-thon, run from 12:01am on Monday, May 14th through 11:59 pm Sunday, May 21st in whatever time zone you are in.
·        Bout of Books is low pressure, meaning participants are only asked to push themselves to read more than they normally would during any given week. There is no competition between readers.
·        How much time a reader wants, and can commit, to read, tweet, or network with fellow bloggers is left to individual preference. All challenges and giveaways are optional.
·        Networking with fellow bloggers is actively encouraged, though never required. Co-hosts are there to facilitate blog hopping and interaction between participants.
·        Use Twitter to post updates throughout the read-a-thon. Everyone will be tweeting with the #boutofbooks hashtag.

So, is anyone going to participate? I know I am. I can’t wait! You can learn more about it and sign up HERE.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Menaechmi; Or, the Twin-Brothers by Plautus


SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Considered to be Plautus’s greatest play, Menaechmi; Or, The Twin-Brothers is the story of two twin brothers, Menaechmus and Sosicles, who are separated at age seven when their father takes Menaechmus on a business trip. This classic play, which provided the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, draws heavily on the theme of mistaken identity.

MY OPINION:

This classic comedy is a quick read, but it is not much fun. I liked it all right, and I smiled a few times, but it did not make me laugh out loud.

The situations caused by mistaken identity are pretty amusing for their part. Unfortunately, my focus was diverted elsewhere from the comic elements by the topics of adultery and exploiting relationships between people. I cannot find people cheating and/or making advantage of other people funny, so that ruined some of the comedy for me.

I think I would have had more fun had I seen Menaechmi in a theatre. After all, being preformed is the point of plays, isn’t it?

RECOMMENDATION: Menaechmi is a classical comedy. As such it offers some thought-provoking topics concerning people’s behaviour alongside the central theme of mistaken identities.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Kindred Hearts by Rowan Speedwell


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.

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Charming rascal Tristan Northwood seems to have it all: an ancient name, a noble inheritance, a lovely wife, and a son he adores. Women love him, men admire him, and it seems there is nothing he can’t do, whether it’s seducing a society wife or winning a carriage race. Little does Society suspect that the name means nothing to him, the fortune is in his father’s controlling hands, and he has no interest in his wife except a very distant friendship. Society bores him, and he takes dares because he only feels alive when he’s dancing on the edge... until his wife’s brother comes home from the wars.

Decorated war hero Major Charles Mountjoy jerks Tris out of his despair by inspiring feelings of passion Tris had never suspected himself capable of. Almost as terrifying as those feelings for Charles are the signs Charles might return his affection – or, even worse, that Charles sees the man Tristan has been trying so valiantly to hide from the world.

MY OPINION:

This is actually the first historical gay romance I have read. It has been on my radar since I saw it mentioned by Nimue at Endlessly Bookish, and after reading it I can say I am glad it caught my eye.

Although Kindred Hearts is generally well-written, I can see some possibility for improvement. Transitions between the scenes are sometimes rough, and, combined with the telling mode, they detach the reader from the story. Also, there is some repetition, which could be avoided or handled more subtly.

Speedwell uses quite modern language when dealing with philosophical and psychoanalytical views and theories, which sounds a little off. Even though it is likely that the 19th century people would draw the medical and psychological conclusions Speedwell’s characters do, the modern wording makes it seem rather implausible.

Character-wise Kindred Hearts is an amazing, heart-felt book. Initially, the characters seem rather shallow, Tristan in particularly, but after a few pages they capture the reader's attention completely.

I felt so much sympathy for Tristan. His mother dying when he was a little boy, his father does not know how to deal with him, so he takes to controlling every aspect of his life to make the best of it. The effect is quite the opposite. Tristan becomes a man with a very low self-esteem, always thinking the worst of himself, believing his father hates him, and deeming himself unworthy of anyone’s love. Thinking of himself as a failure and a disappointment to his father, he turns into a reluctant rebel. Yet, love is what he longs for, and he, to his bitter disappointment, does not find it in an arranged marriage to Charlotte.

I disliked Charlotte at the beginning. She is a cold, dispassionate person, who cannot and will not give Tristan the love he craves. However, she is in her own way a kind and pleasant woman, and turns out to be the second best thing that happens to Tristan. She is a rational thinker and a good judge of character, and she does her best to be a good friend to Tristan. She turns out to be a supportive person, one Tristan can count on, and for this I loved her in the end.

Charles is everything you could want in a loved one. He is a strong character, smart, and loyal. He is a confident man, at ease with his identity. As his sister, he is good at reading people. He helps Tristan see his potential and encourages him to find something he is good at. With Charles beside him, Tristan finally discovers a way to a live a fulfilling and happy life.

I loved Speedwell’s approach to character development and the analysis of human behaviour. She coveys the feelings and thoughts in a clear, tangible manner, and makes several memorable punch lines along the way. Although some twists and turns seem a little farfetched, Speedwell craftily makes the outcomes seem probable.

Finally, Kindred Hearts is set at the time of the Napoleonic wars. It both authentically represents the historic era, its events, and characters. Overall, it is an enjoyable and absorbing read.

RECOMMENDATION: Kindred Hearts is a lovely, heartfelt historical romance. It reads smoothly and keeps the reader’s attention throughout the story. However, it may not appeal to some readers due to sexually explicit content.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Book Nook #14



Book Nooks
*Every weekend*
Founder: Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
Hosting through April 2012: The True Book Addict (@truebookaddict)
Show us something pretty!


Commentary: Very minimalist. I love the colors, blue has a calming and relaxing effect, and the pillows make the chair comfortable. The thick rug would make sure your feet do not get cold. There is enough natural light, and the lamp will provide lighting at night. 

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

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dream House (2011)


DIRECTOR: Jim Sheridan; CAST: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): Some say that all houses have memories. For one man, his home is the place he would kill to forget. A family unknowingly moves into a home where several grisly murders were committed...only to find themselves the killer's next target. Successful publisher Will Atenton (Craig) quit a job in New York City to relocate his wife, Libby (Weisz), and two girls to a quaint New England town. But as they settle into their new life, they discover their perfect home was the murder scene of a mother and her children. And the entire city believes it was at the hands of the husband who survived. When Will investigates the tragedy, his only lead comes from Ann Paterson (Watts), a neighbour who was close to the family that died. As Will and Ann piece together the disturbing puzzle, they discover that the story of the last man to leave Will's dream house will be just as horrifying to the one who came next.

MY OPINION:

I am not a big fan of thrillers, but I loved Dream House. It kept me on pins and needles for the whole hour and a half. It gave me a few good scares, and it had one major, shocking turn, besides some minor ones.

I cannot actually say much about why I loved it because I do not want to give anything away. Not knowing what to expect contributes crucially to the enjoyment of this film, so I do not want to spoil that for you.

The acting is, naturally, brilliant. I am a little bit (all right, a lot) partial when it comes to Daniel Craig, but he really does a fantastic job in this film. Again, I will not say anything more about his character as to avoid spoilers. The rest of the cast is also great.

The one thing I wish was done differently is the ending which is rather rushed. Therefore, it leaves a bit foggy impression, despite basically answering all the questions. I think a few more details would make a better conclusion.  

All in all, Dream House is a captivating mix of drama, mystery, and thriller, well-worth your time.

RECOMMENDATION: If you feel like watching a thriller, watch Dream House


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Evermore (The Immortals #1) by Alyson Noël


SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever can see auras, hear people’s thoughts, and know a person’s life story by touch. Going out of her way to shield herself from human contact to suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school – but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste...

Ever sees Damen and feels an instant recognition. He is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy, and he holds many secrets. Damen is able to make things appear and disappear, he always seems to know what she’s thinking – and he’s the only one who can silence the noise and the random energy in her head.  She doesn’t know who he really is – or what he is. Damen equal parts light and darkness, and he belongs to an enchanted new world where no one ever dies.

MY OPINION:

Evermore has a good premise, but it does not develop it to its full potential. 

There are a number of things that bother me:
  • Names: Ever (really, Ever?), Damen (no, it is not similar to Damon at all, nope), Drina (a little research shows it has nothing to do with Italian poverina, instead it is a version of Adriana, and Drina is also a river in Bosnia).
  • Just like his name, Damen’s Latin appearance, behaviour, and wearing black do not ring a bell for any other character. Or do they? Oh, wait. The author may want Damen to resemble Damon but is light-years away from him.
  • Ever taking forever to figure out Damen is not mortal and to reveal why she feels responsible for her family’s accident. (This is not a spoiler, it is pretty much clear both from the blurb and from the first page onwards).
  • Teenage boyfriend drama. No explanation needed here.

I think this book would be so much better if it was not YA, if Ever’s character was older, perhaps in her twenties, if she was someone who could think more clearly and reflect on the important issues the book opens but does not fully develop, the most important being mythology.

Evermore is a fast read. The ending is conclusive, so the book can be read as a stand-alone. I do not think I will continue reading this series since I am not invested enough in the characters to really want to know what happens to them. Although, I might pick up another book in the series when I just want to read something fast and light.

RECOMMENDATION: This is an undemanding YA read with quite a few shortcomings, perhaps best read when you want to kill some time and give your brain a vacation.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Book Nook #13



Book Nooks
*Every weekend*
Founder: Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
Hosting through April 2012: The True Book Addict (@truebookaddict)
Show us something pretty!



Commentary: This looks very spring-like. It's bright and airy, perfect for warm days. The swinging chair gives the place a joyful feel, and there is a handy table to put down your books and have some refreshments ready. 

Details: Location and artist unknown, not given in the original post. 
Source: Desire to Inspire

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #2) by Maggie Stiefvater


SUMMARY (from Goodreads): In Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past...and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabel, who already lost her brother to the wolves...and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

MY OPINION:

Linger is a fitting title for this book. It starts on a hopeful note for the main protagonists, but they soon come across new problems and questions that need to be answered, making their future once more uncertain. Sam, Grace, Cole, and Isabel have to find out not only what they want to do but what they have to do, and they can rely only on each other. The four characters narrate the story in strategically well-placed turns, each of them having a distinctive voice.

Sam and Cole are at first presented as each other’s opposites. Sam only wants to live a normal life, meanwhile Cole is longing for an escape from his life. As they both discover the other one’s motives, they also find out their own future.

Isabel’s character is developed a bit quickly, making her shifting to the good side rather abrupt. In Linger, she becomes the unlikely voice of reason and helps others deal with their problems. Therefore, she grew on me, and I would like to get to know her better.

Grace faces a very personal crisis, which I did not quite see coming. Her dealing with it, from shock through denial to acceptance, is truly well presented, both on physical and psychological level.

I did not think I could dislike Grace’s parents more than I already had in Shiver, but I could. Grace’s parents are actually a cliché type of parents which appears a lot in YA. They let Grace to take care of herself as an adult, which she does, and then they suddenly start treating her as a child, neither of which is good for Grace.

Overall, Linger felt somewhat rushed. I would like to get a deeper knowledge of some of the characters, especially Cole and Isabel. However, I enjoyed the plot and the final twist left me wanting to read Forever right away.

RECOMMENDATION: Linger raises the stakes in the lives of The Wolves of Mercy Falls to the next level from Shiver. It is a suspenseful and delightful YA read.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Bloggiesta Wrap-Up



My first Bloggiesta is behind me and I had a great time participating.

I managed to:

- write a review
- create a page for Reviews by Rating
- add genre tags to my reviews and tidy the rest of the labels
- update Cat Diary posts with the new image and introduction
- visit some blogs and meet some amazing bloggers
- slightly rearrange my sidebar gadgets

I haven’t got around cross-posting (and linking) my reviews to Goodreads, but I will be doing that in the next days (or probably weeks). I might also do some of the things I learned through mini-challenges.

I would have also liked to comment and connect with other bloggers more than I did. I wish I had more time for that. I need to improve my socializing.

The best new thing I learned about is Window Live Writer (thanks to Jacinda’s mini-challenge). It seems a great tool for easier and faster blogging. Unfortunately, my laptop is on its last legs, so I am avoiding any new program downloads, but I am definitely going to try WLW when I get a new one.

Overall, I had a great time! I did a lot of things and got some ideas what I still want to do in the future.

Thanks to Suey for hosting!