Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cat Diary Special Edition: 2013 Recap and Happy Holidays

Christmas HMtC

Since you haven’t heard from me in more than a year, and Jo, or Pepca, or whatever she likes to call herself these days –

you know, she does the same to me; she calls me Mitzi instead of Pumpkin or gives me lovely nicknames such as ‘little thing’ or ‘naughty’. *hisses*. Anyway, I digress, I beg your pardon –

well, since my mistress/servant girl is busy with holiday preparations and other things, I thought I could give you this year’s highlights.

I can say I have been very happy with this year as it has been sufficiently lazy and peaceful for me, and I have accomplished some things which make me proud:

  • after years of persistent and courageous fighting for it, I have secured my right to sleep on the living room couch. Ha!
  • I exercised my right to freedom and treated myself to a nice half-day excursion in the neighbourhood on a sunny autumn day, just to show Jo I am an independent and confident cat. Of course I came back, I’m not so stupid as to abandon the safety and luxury of my palace, duh.
  • I have started inspecting Jo’s bookshelves on regular basis, making sure they are dusted and the books are properly categorised.

Now, let me tell you about what Jo has accomplished in 2013:

  • loads of volunteering and tutoring and copy-editing a lot (which made me whiny because she wasn’t that much at home and I was lonely. But she has made up by it by cuddling and letting me do what I rightfully can, see above.)
  • reading a total of 6 books, two of which were rereads; *tut-tuts*
  • also reading a lot, and I mean A LOT, of fan-fiction, at twice as much as ‘original’ books;
  • learning a ton about photo- and video-editing;
  • writing a lot of fan-fiction (comparable to a length of a novel, now you see where her blogging and reading time has gone);
  • and she has survived all the financial and health problems and other turbulences of life. And that’s a real accomplishment.

How have you been this year? Well, we hope.

What else is left to say at the end?

Nothing much, except that both

Cat signature      
 
&     Jo


wish you a

Merry Christmas

and Happy Holidays!

And if you don’t celebrate anything, just have a great week!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bout-of-Books 9.0 Coming Soon

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 6th and runs through Sunday, January 12th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 9.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Of course, I’m joining, why do you ask? What better way to start a new (reading) year than with Bout-of-Books is there? And if I did all the previous ones (more or less successfully), it really wouldn’t do to miss it, would it?

Besides, I need it to kick off my reading in 2014 well so it might go better than it has gone in 2013 (which really shouldn’t be that hard to top, lol.)

Need a boost for your reading and have fun while at it, meeting lovely people and finding great blogs? Join in! You can sign-up here.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

NOTE: This post contains SPOILERS if you haven’t seen the movie and/or read the book.

the hobit 2SUMMARY (from IMDB): The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.

MY OPINION:

I have mixed feelings about the adaptations of Tolkien’s work. On one hand, the Tolkien nerd in me is irritated by the things they unnecessarily alter or add in the films. On the other hand, the films themselves are state-of-the-art, both visually and storytelling-wise, and if they bring Tolkien’s work closer to new readers, so much the better.

If I do some nit-picking, I can easily find things that annoyed me:

  • the mix-up with Bold and Azog which has already appeared in The Unexpected Journey is what bothered me the most as there was absolutely no need for it;
  • the Dwarves actually running from Beorn was a redundant addition, there only for the sake of drama, I guess;
  • Bilbo getting caught by a spider was done for the same reason, I think; and
  • the same goes for the Orcs following the Dwarves through Mirkwood to the Elf-realm and Esgaroth and keeping on attaching them;
  • Why on Earth did they think adding a weird love triangle between Tauriel, Legolas and Kili was a good idea?
  • Naming one of the guards in the Elf-realm Elros – I’m pretty sure there would be no two Elroses in Tolkien’s universe (Tolkien of course doesn’t say that explicitly, but as Elros, brother of Elrond, is a character of extreme importance, I don’t think there would be another one, unless the wood Elves named someone after him to honour his memory. See, I said I was nit-picking.)
  • Oh, and I hated Kili getting wounded and Fili and Bofur staying with him in Esgaroth, it was completely out of place, but they needed it to showcase more of Tauriel’s fighting skills and her healing skills, oh and because of the love triangle which angered me to no extent.
  • Gandalf going to check the Witch-Kings tomb didn’t make sense since the Wraith-king was supposed to have vanished from the North, not die, anyway, but they already made a mess of that plot element in the first film with the Witch-King’s blade.

However, if I look at the film adaptations as some sort of fan-fiction, then all the above things aren’t that terrible; they are just a twist to the story, an alternate universe of the canon, if you want.

Furthermore, there are other alterations and additions which I actually liked, even if they don’t originate in The Hobbit itself, but were incorporated from other Tolkien’s work, such as:

  • Gandalf meeting Thorin in Bree and
  • Gandalf searching Dol Guldur to reveal Sauron’s true identity are both mentioned in the LOTR and I liked that they included those events here.
  • Tauriel – I loved her, though she’s not in Tolkien’s works, and his Elf-women are more stay-at-home types (except Luthien and Galadriel, of course, or maybe we just think that. Tolkien does not say they were forbidden to fight or anything, he just doesn’t mention them, maybe it’s just our in-built patriarchal reasoning we base our assumptions on.) Anyway, Tauriel is super kickass, self-reliant and compassionate, and with a moral integrity of her own, and all of it makes a great character. If only they left the love triangle out of it.
  • I liked how they portrayed Thranduil, very in-character both as far as Thranduil himself is concerned and as Elf-lords in general: somewhat greedy and arrogant, but also dignified and essentially good (though we haven’t seen that yet).
  • Thorin actually telling Bilbo to steal the Arkenstone and Smaug figuring it out and telling Bilbo he would maybe let him take it, even if only to see Thorin destroyed by it, and later Bilbo figuring out how the greed for it is already destroying Thorin was inconsistent with the book, but it achieved the same effect as is done in the book by other means, so I’m fine with it. (And I bet we’ll get a flashback to Bilbo actually taking the Arkenstone in The Battle of Five Armies, or he will steal it later, at least he should, if they are sticking to the book as they should.)
  • The Dwarves fighting Smaug is not in the book, either, but it looked great.
  • Smaug. CGI well done. That’s all I’m saying.

Despite the length, two and a half hours went by fast. Though, I was bored a bit during the action sequences. Am I the only person who gets bored by action? All that fighting and improbable saves and moves and jumps and falls the heroes get unscathed out don’t work for me – or maybe the fact that too much happens too fast overwhelms my brain and I just zone out for a while.

All in all, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was a great film and I enjoyed it.

4,5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If you enjoy fantasy and adventure, you will like this film. As for Tolkien fans, if you can give the film a bit of a leeway with the adaptations made, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is well-worth seeing. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Virtual Advent Tour 2013: Christmas Cards

Virtual Advent #2 In the spirit of the season, I am participating in 2013 Virtual Advent Tour, hosted by Kailana from The Written World and Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. Head over to Advent Blog Tour to see the schedule and visit other participants’ posts.

One of the things I used to always look forward to as a child was getting Christmas Cards. When I was little, my family didn’t have a phone and there was no internet yet, so visiting people in person or writing were the only way of communication, and we only wrote when it was something urgent.

Christmas time was that one time of the year when we heard from distant relatives and friends, a sign that we were all still alive and thinking of each other, even if the distance, work, money issues or illness prevented us from visiting each other.

A week or two before Christmas we would sent out our Christmas cards and at the same time started anticipating the arrival of Christmas cards others had sent to us. It was really exciting, especially for me as a child – it was as much about greetings as about pretty images – and all the way till my late teens. Each card was carefully read and we proudly displayed them all on the cutlery drawer for a few weeks.

Things have changed since then, and staying in touch with people is easy with mobile phones and via the Internet, but sending and receiving Christmas cards remains a tradition close to my heart, even though I have abandoned it for the past few years due to financial problems (postage is more expensive then calling a person or sending an e-card), but I hope to resurrect the tradition some day (that is, if other people don’t abandon it entirely.)

Until then, I will keep up the tradition of sending holiday greetings via other means of communication and from time to time I will perhaps look through the old Christmas cards I have saved, with the picturesque winter- and holiday-themed imagery, much similar to the few examples below.
What about you? Is sending/getting Christmas cards one of your holiday traditions? Or have you switched to the electronic means of sending out holiday greetings?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

MY OPINION:

I read The Book Thief soon after when it was first published, but I decided to reread it this year as there is a movie coming out in spring. As all my reading recently, it went slowly, but I thoroughly enjoyed rereading this jewel among WW II stories.

What makes The Book Thief stand out from other books in the genre is its greatest strength – or vice, depends on whom you ask – that is, its narrator and writing style. The Book Thief is narrated by Death, which results in a unique writing style with little lists, narrator’s notes and digressions from the main story. Whereas I can easily understand this can make it hard for some people to get into the story, I loved this style in this particular book.

The language is beautiful, and there are so many truths said about history, life and human race in general, put in such an elaborate manner that it is hard to pick just a few favourite quotes from it.

Zusak captured Death in a way that I believe could fit her perfectly. Yes, I wrote her, because in Slovene tradition Death is a female, an old lady with a scythe, and Death’s personality as depicted in the book fits my preconception of Death as such so well that I subconsciously went along with it, despite being aware of Death being a man in Germanic culture, and I was from time to time surprised by the reminders that Death is actually supposed to be male.

As for the main protagonist, Liesel, her story is full of tragedy, but also hope, happiness, and, of course, mischief. It is a story of growing up in a difficult era, and is as such both beautiful and sad, suspenseful and funny. I could say a lot about how it touched me and which parts I especially enjoyed or found important, but I don’t wont to spoil the book for you, so I won’t.

Other characters are portrayed just as vividly and diversely as Liesel, which adds to the richness of The Book Thief's world. There are numerous characters worthy of mention, from Rudy to various townspeople, though the ones that had the most impact one her life were her foster parents, who, with their opposing personalities, provided Liesel with exactly what she needed and gave her a family. Rosa, with her yelling and raw exterior and a heart of gold inside reminded me very much of my grandmother, which always makes me like a character.

Even though The Book Thief is by some standards a YA book, I would be cautious when categorising it as such due to its themes and the way they are conveyed, for Zusak doesn’t spare the reader with both physical and emotional suffering and the allusions, sometimes quite direct, even graphic, to the atrocities of the era and the mechanics of the war itself.

All in all, however, The Book Thief, is an exceptional novel, which could be enjoyed by people of different ages (perhaps, apart from young teens), depending on the individual, naturally.

5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If you like historical fiction, especially WW II novels, and you are open to a somewhat unusual approach, The Book Thief might be a great book for you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I’ve Joined BookLikes – Announcement & a Short Review

Actually I did that already in August, but I needed some time to make it look presentable.

I imported my books from Goodreads, but it made a bit of a mess, so I had to edit the shelves and then edit all the reviews manually. And since I’m an idiot, I synchronised it with Goodreads before making the changes, so it messed my Goodreads in turn, but now I have finally tamed everything into some semblance of order.

I am not planning to leave Goodreads (for now), but BookLikes caught my eye with its tumblr-like platform, so I guess it will serve as an alternative/back up.

Just what I needed, you’ll say, another thing to distract me from blogging, but at least it is a book-ish thing and maybe its less formal feel will help me get my blogging & reading mojo back.

Things I like about BookLikes:

  • A tumblr-like platform with an integrated blog and various kinds of posts you can make.
  • There is a public view – what other people see and a ‘dashboard’ view' – which enables you all the editing etc, and brings the feed from people you follow. And I like that you can customise what is displayed in the public view.
  • A lot of options how to shelve your books.
  • A great review-writing interface, you can easily add tags, decide if a post is a review or not, hide spoilers, oh and you can connect each post with up to 10 books, which is perfect for all sorts of Top Ten lists.
  • Fast implementing of new useful features.

Things I miss in BookLikes:

  • The ability to edit a post from the public view.
  • The option to switch between book editions like on Goodreads: You can do that when importing, from the imports page, but not from later on from your shelves, so if you want to change edition you have to delete the existing one or else you have duplicates. .
  • Duplicates finding tool would have been great as well.
  • On the whole, the book base is not as good as on Goodreads, but they are working on it, so it’s getting better, I think.
  • Oh, and I’d love if they enabled removing multiple books from the so-called thematic shelves, but not from your library altogether. (For example, I decided to split my borrowed shelf into books borrowed from friends and those I borrowed from the library. It’s easy to select multiple books and add them to a new shelf, but you can’t bulk-remove them from the ‘old’ shelf because that removes them from your library completely, so I had to manually un-tick the borrowed-from-the-library shelf for each of the books I moved to borrowed-from-friends shelf.)
  • Maybe more easy-to customise theme options. For now there are only thee themes which you can customise, and I did try something, but I don’t have enough coding etc. knowledge for anything fancy.

I have probably forgotten other things, both those I like and those I miss, but BookLikes is still growing and developing, so I’m sure it can only get better. I guess I’ll see. Also, I’m still getting the hang of it, which is why it may still look a bit dishevelled. Plus I need to really start and explore it and follow people, etc.

Anyway, if you are on BookLikes, give me a shout, so I can follow you and make my experience better.

Feel free to follow my BookLikes profile, if you’d like.
(I also made a nice new social button for it to fit with all the others in the sidebar.)

And if you are on BookLikes, what do you think about it? Do you have any tips for me?

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Eighty Days Yellow (Eighty Days #1) by Vina Jackson

NOTE: This is a review of an adult erotica book, neither the review or the book are intended to be read by those under the age of majority.

SUMMARY (from Goodreads):  Caught in a frustrating relationship with a man who can't accept her for who she is, passionate, flame-haired violinist Summer finds release in her music. She spends her afternoons busking on the underground, lost in the works of Vivaldi or Mendelssohn. When her violin is damaged beyond repair, Summer receives a surprising proposition from Dominik, a university professor with powerful desires, who has been captivated by Summer ever since he heard her perform. Dominik will replace her priceless violin, but only if she agrees to play for him in a private concert.

Unable to deny the chemistry between them, Dominik and Summer embark on an intense affair full of daring twists and turns, as unpredictable as it is thrilling. For Summer it is a chance to finally embrace her long-denied dark side, but she'll soon learn that where there's pleasure must come pain. And can a relationship born of such all-consuming passion, ever really survive?

MY OPINION:

This books was actually a  birthday gift from a well-meaning friend, who got persuaded by a salesperson in a book store to pick this book over another one from the same genre.

Now, I do like a good erotica occasionally, as you may have noticed from this blog, but this book was a complete disappointment. I scarcely ever give one-star ratings, but for this one I feel like even one star is one too many.

The beginning is actually intriguing with Summer’s love for music and her total losing herself in music while playing her violin. But that’s about it, from then on, it goes just downwards. We hardly learn anything about Summer, her background, why she feels compelled to explore her sexuality in the ways she does, which are mostly self-destructive.

I realize this is erotica, but that to me does not mean it should be entirely empty of any meaning whatsoever in any form of relationships between people, not only lovers, but also between friends or family members. Everything in this book is just bland.

As for the sex and BDSM, it hasn’t done anything for me but left me disgusted. I had read much, much better porn and BDSM in fanfiction.

In addition, Summer as a person is obnoxious and so are her friends and Dominik. Summer, for example, judges people by the food they like or dislike, which is so ridiculously prejudicial that I couldn’t even believe it. When she loses her job, she simply waves it off. Her friends are not really her friends, again, they are just as prejudicial as she is. Instead of being there for her and supporting her as she displays obvious signs of (identity) crisis, they judge and abandon her. And Dominik has absolutely no appeal to me, though I guess a male protagonist in an erotica novel should have at least some.

All in all, the characterization in general is awfully superficial. Again, it is erotica, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have well-written characters, at least the main characters. However, even that little what we learn about Summer is contradictory; for example, in the beginning, Summer’s mother is supposed to be absent - I was under the impression she is dead, whereas later Summer suddenly talks about her parents in plural.

To top it all, Eighty Days Yellow is poorly written with quite a limited vocabulary and confusing narration. The POV alternates from the first person POV for Summer and third person limited POV for Dominik, but then somewhere in the middle of the book we also get third person POV for Summer and it’s all a big mess.

Finally, I have only finished this book because it was a gift and I felt badly about not finishing it, but I’m definitely not reading the rest of the trilogy.

1 star

RECOMMENDATION: If you are tempted to read this book, don’t. The summary/blurb is highly misleading and I believe there is plenty of better BDSM erotica to be found. This is, of course, as always only my personal opinion. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

LOTR Reread Highlights: The Return of the King

Note: SPOILERS ahead for those who haven't read the book and/or seen the movie.

I finished rereading LOTR quite a while ago, but I’m only getting to post the things which stood out to me on this reread of The Return of the King only now due to having hard time keeping up with blogging.

The Return of the King is perhaps my favourite volume of LOTR, due to its grand scope and diversity, so without further ado, a few things I’d like to highlight.

As much as Tolkien is criticised for the lack of women in his work(s), LOTR presents some of the strongest female characters, though few in number. Of these, Éowyn stands out the most.

I especially like these Éowyn’s words to Aragorn:

“All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.”

And, in response to what she fears:

“A cage, […] To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

These two quotes and the rest of Tolkien’s portrayal of Éowyn convey that Tolkien understood the plight of being a woman, condescended by men solely for her gender, and more: that he opposed the misogynist notions of what women could and should do and set a great (female) role models in his female protagonists, especially in the character of Éowyn.

Of course, LOTR is full of examples worth following. Another such instance is Aragorn's conduct after the Battle of Pelennor fields, as he refuses to claim his rightful title of the King of Gondor for the time being, for fear of causing a split among the allies who should not be divided in the time of crisis when they should join all their forces to defeat Sauron.

At the current point in time, I can’t help but think this example would be a great advice to the politicians running my country (or any country, actually) who are struggling for power, for ‘who is right’, instead of pulling their forces together to work for the benefit of the people who elected them and find a way out of recession (at this point we are in a terrible position, and I’ve been unemployed for quite a while and nothing is getting better, so I can’t help myself but draw parallels.)

The world would be a much better place if those in power looked more after the benefit of those who they were entrusted to rule over than after their own interests, like Aragorn. Of course, you would say, that is a terribly idealistic view. Yes, it is. However, I believe that the lack of striving after ideals is what this time and age lack in order to make the world a better place.

The world would also be much kinder if more people lived by the following words, which are also very close to my heart:

“It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.”

I think the truthfulness of this sentence requires no explanation.

Thus, LOTR always reminds me of the morals I aspire to live by while it overwhelms me with the beauty of its language and the greatness of its tale with the complexity of the world Tolkien built and the mass of compelling characters he brought to life.

At last, I have to mention the Appendices, at least Appendix A, which is almost a novel on its own, recounting the annals of the Middle-Earth and wrapping up the story of what happened to the beloved characters after the end of the War for the Ring.

To conclude, I am glad I decided to reread LOTR this generally poor reading year for me. It has, as always inspired me not only to continue reading, no matter how little or how slowly, but also reminded me of some important life lessons.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Book Thief Read-Along Wrap-Up



Or, better said: failure report.

Well, not a complete failure, but I can’t really call this a wrap-up post. Still, I thought, since the Read-Along is ending today, that I should post some sort of an update.

As mentioned before [link to previous post], this is a reread for me.

So far, I have (re)read 212 pages, so I have still more than a half way to go, but at least I’ve been reading.
Due to my slow reading and computer problems I didn’t join in the discussion post and I only caught a bit of the first twitter chat.

Setting aside my lack of involvement in the Read-Along social activities, I really am enjoying rereading The Book Thief, though. I forgot how good it is, and I love the unusual style.

I am definitely going to finish it, probably in a few weeks, and then post some sort of a review/discussion post (and maybe borrow some of the questions from the Read-Along discussions.

Anyway, even though I’ve read less than half the book so far and have barely participated in other aspects of this Read-Along, I’m grateful to Suey, Kami and Kathy for hosting it, because it prompted me to reread the book, which I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Another One of Those Posts...


... you know, in which I make excuses for disappearing from blogging. Again.

This time it was because my laptop had stopped working properly - it didn't crash, but it became so slow it was basically useless, so I had to had it repaired, which took a while. I had a spare, older, laptop to work on, but that one isn't too resilient to a lot of use, so I only used it for work and "urgent" (read: checking tumblr) things.

I was mad that I missed out on Bloggiesta. I had a list of things I wanted to do and it would be more fun doing them during Bloggiesta. Oh well.

In other news:

I'm still in what's now a semi-permanent reading slump, I guess.

Apparently the best I can do in reading is rereads. Hence, I finished rereading LOTR, and I'll post the last highlights update soon. I really want to go reread Silmarillion now, but I have to refrain from that at least until I finish rereading The Book Thief.

While I'm at that, I'm horribly failing at The Book Thief Read Along. But I will reread it, just not by the end of September. Obviously. But I'm loving the book, I forgot how beautiful and unique it is and I'm enjoying it, just slowly.

And that's about it.

Hopefully, I'll be able to pick up this blogging thing a bit now.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

LOTR Reread Highlights: The Two Towers


Note:
SPOILERS ahead for those who haven't read the book and/or seen the movie.

Without further ado, what stood out for me on this reread:

  • In The Two Towers the members of the fellowship, especially Merry and Pippin first come in close encounter with the Orcs. No matter how ugly, disgusting and horrible the Orcs as depicted by Tolkien are, there is one thing that makes them even more horrendous in the movies: their voices. I couldn't help but remember them as I was reading The Two Towers. If you need a reminder of how they sound, see this post I wrote a while back.
  • Théoden's words to Saruman:

"Even if your war on me was just – as it was not, for were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me and mine for your own profit as you desired…"

          It is an important thing to keep in mind, especially nowadays when the survival of the fittest seems once more again the principle that rules the world and the strong and powerful dismiss the poor and the weak. These words are a reminder that as human beings those who are wiser, stronger and richer than others do not have the right to trod upon the less fortunate but should show consideration and solidarity.

  • I love Treebeard's idea of names growing over time, being the stories about people's and things' existence.
  • And as always, Gollum provided some food for thought. For example, the moment when Gollum watches sleeping Frodo under Cirith Ungol and he looks like "an old weary hobbit […], an old starved pitiable thing" and then Sam catches him at it and accuses him of sneaking, and Gollum, offended, pushes away the last bit of goodness left in him. It makes me wonder about how thin a line between someone staying good or turning evil is and how little is necessary for one to cross it. Setting aside the fact that Gollum actually did plan to betray them and that his betrayal was crucial for the final (good) outcome, it makes me question whether he would have done the same if Sam had not sort of pushed him over that last, however low, limit. More importantly, it makes me think of how much one might contribute with the smallest word or action to someone else's choice between good and evil (or anything, really). We can argue that everyone is ultimately responsible for their own choices and actions, but as we are all responsible for our own doings, we are also responsible for how what we do might influence other people and their deeds.

And with that I should end my philosophising.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of what I've said? Do you have any favourite parts of The Two Towers that you would like to share?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Book Thief Read-Along

BookTheifReadAlong2

I decided to jump on the wagon in the last minute, as usually. Actually, I wasn't sure if I could get the book, but a friend kindly lent it to me, so here I am.

I read The Book Thief around three years ago, before I started book blogging, and I loved it. I think now, with the film coming out, it's a good time to reread it, and all the better when reading along with other people.

If you haven't read it, but want to do that before seeing the film or if you've read it and just want to refresh your memory, now is the time to do that, so hop on to Suey's blog and join in.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.

For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria.

Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.

MY OPINION:

As much as Angelology deals with an intriguing topic and I liked some of its elements, it also has some shortcomings that seriously bothered me.

Firstly, what I liked:

  • The premise itself and the way Trussoni turns the myth of Orpheus.
  • Beautiful writing – sometimes (see below).
  • Evangeline – mostly the fact that she stays true to herself – I'm glad Trussoni didn't go with the trend of turning a character's personality completely around.
  • I find the idea of music being able to change molecular structure and thus damage/destroy or repair/heal things and people compelling.
  • The ending – how things play out especially in relation to Evangeline.

Secondly, what I found interesting, but not to my tastes:

  • The Europocentric origin of the Nephilim seems so clichéd to me, although I can see Trussoni's logic behind it.
  • Also, and I know it's a religion- and Bible-based, the punishment for the disobedient angel's transgression seems much too harsh for me.

And lastly, there were a lot of things I didn't like and annoyed me to no small extent:

  • A huge plot hole (slightly SPOILERY): the supposed radioactivity of (fallen) angels: if they are so radioactive that only a short exposure to their proximity is lethal for humans, how did they mate with human women without the women dying during the act, and even more, how were they able to bear them children? Unless angels are able to control the level of radioactivity they emit?
  • A stupid amount of foreshadowing: it made everything so predictable and I knew what was supposed to be the big surprise three quarters of the book ahead. I think that part of the plot should have just been dealt with early in the book instead of being hinted at time and again until I just wished the reveal was finally done.
  • Related to that: portraying Verlaine and Evangeline as basically ignorant and foolish, although they are supposed to be educated and intelligent people and yet they are completely oblivious to all the clues and hints.
  • And yet, once things get seriously dangerous and strange, they just take it in stride, without any sign of shock or fear or at least wonder. That is so absurd and unrealistic.
  • And while I'm at danger: everyone has an awful lot of time to talk things out and observe in the midst of being in a hurry and followed/threatened/attacked…
  • Details. Too many details of every little thing – the paper, the loops of letters, the pattern on the carpet… 
  • Digressions: no, I'm not interested in the furniture in the room while the main character is about to find out a piece of crucial information. Basically the dialogue and action are constantly broken by unimportant digressions and details.
  • And, why on earth did Trussoni have to stick insta-love in all this? What makes it even worse is Verlaine's reaction in the end, instantly forgetting this 'love'.
  • Repetition: of the facts, descriptions of the surroundings, etc., for example, Trussoni keeps giving lengthy descriptions of how cold it is – I know it's winter, no need to remind me over and over again. Once or twice it is beautiful, but then it gets irksome.
  • Also, I think the book could benefit from another round of editing: there are a lot of errors(what the heck is 'the creature comfort'?) and confusing scenes (a person who has just stood up and walked to the door magically jumps from the seat again.

Generally, I think Trussoni put in a lot of effort to make her style elegant and sophisticated but failed at the basics a bit too often. I could go on, but it's probably best to stop and not get into too much details and spoilers.

All in all, Angelology is an interesting book, but it has too many weaknesses for me to thoroughly enjoy it, although I'm a huge fan of mythology and supernatural. I was slightly appeased by the ending, however, I don't think I will read the following books in the trilogy. I am curious about how Evangeline's life goes on, but I am not up to more of the same style, at least not at present. Perhaps I am just too demanding and critical right now, as my reading is still in a rut.

3 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If you are a mythology enthusiast and a traditional Bible-based view on angels intrigues you, Angelology might be a good read for you, despite its shortcomings.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bout of Books 8.0 Wrap Up


Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 8.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I decided to sign-up almost at the last minute. I've participated in all Bout of Books so far, although the last two have been a (not)reading disaster for me, as has been my reading this year in general. Therefore, I set my self pretty low GOALS:
 
Considering my reading this year is crappy, reading every day will suffice as a goal.

Books to read/finish:

  • Angelology by Danielle Trussoni (finished)
  • Eighty Days Yellow by Vina Jackson
  • Love and Intrigue by Friedrich von Schiller

Other goals (aka trying not to be a hermit and to reconnect with blogging community):

  • participate in at least one challenge (participated in 4)
  • participate in one twitter chat (participated in 2, on Monday and Saturday)
  • visit at least one 'new' blog each day and comment
  • and visit at least two 'old' blogs each day and comment

WRAP UP:

Books I've finished: 1 (Angelology)
Total number of pages I've read: 241
The number of challenges I took part in: 4
The number of Twitter chats I participated in: 2
Blogs visited: at least three per day

Overall, Bout of Books 8.0 has been a huge success for me on most levels.

Reading: I finished a book. That's an achievement, since I seem to be in a constant reading rut this year. Also, I read every day.

I found out that a little pressure, namely people seeing my progress, makes me more likely to read at least a few pages a day. So, I decided to use that to further motivate myself by putting a sticky in my sidebar where I can write in the number of pages I read each day and in a week. Maybe this will help me be a more constant reader and finally overcome this ridiculous slump.

I also read over 100K of fanfiction during the BoB week. Oh, of course, I don't have a reading slump when it comes to fanfiction. (I can't help myself, okay, I only discovered fanfiction a year or so ago – I had known about it before, but I had never ventured into reading it, and I guess your are never too old for such things. Besides, some fanfiction works are better – even much, much better – than original published works.)

Socializing: I participated in 4 challenges and had a lot of fun doing that. Some other challenges I didn't take part in seemed cool, too, but I just didn't have the time to do everything, but that's fine.

Both Twitter chats I joined – on Monday and Saturday – were great. I was in a seriously bad mood on Saturday, one of those when I feel completely unaccomplished and incompetent, so I joined the chat a little later, and I'm so glad I did that instead of wallowing in self-pity, it was a major boost for my good mood.

I hopped around other participants' blogs every day, but I didn't comment a lot. While at that, I realized why I often find it difficult to comment and I', planning to write a discussion post about that, soon-ish.

Miscellaneous: I found out about BookLikes thorugh BoB. Where was this thing when I started book blogging? I know, I know, it was only set up last year, but it's so cool. I really like how it makes book blogging look so easy: a blog and goodreads in one on a tumblr-like platform. I'm seriously tempted to join, although I really don't need another social thing online to maintain. But it probably wouldn't take a lot of my time and effort, perhaps I'd just cross-post my reviews there. I'll give myself some time to decide and let you know.

I'm so happy I joined this Bout of Books, I got a lot from it. And if I think I would almost decide to sit it out. I'm glad I didn't.

How about you? Anything interesting you've discovered or learned through BoB? Have you achieved your goals? Did you have fun?
I hope you did, because that's the most important.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bout of Books 8.0 Updates


Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 8.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

UPDATES

I’ll also update on Twitter as @StrangeNewWords and on Goodreads. See my goals here.

Monday, August 19:
Books I've been reading today: Angelology
Number of pages I've read today: 24
Total number of pages I've read: 24
Today in six words: I started this week very well.

Challenge: Bookish Bucket List @ Sarah Says Read: I want to visit southern France & the Pyrenees, the setting of Kate Mosse's Languedoc trilogy. I want to see al the historical places she mentions and the landscape she describes so beautifully (Okay, I've seen some of it on TV, but I'd love to visit it in person). And 101 other things. But this one seems actually doable some day.

I also participated in Twitter chat. It was exhausting and I just spaced out a few times, but it was awesome chatting to nice people (and watching nice people chatting among themselves, hehe.)

Tuesday, August 20:
Books I've been reading today: /
Number of pages I've read today: 0
Total number of pages I've read: 24
Today in six words: I read. Fanfiction. Does that count?

Tuesday was the busiest day of this week for me (hopefully). I'm volunteering at my parish on Tuesdays, and after that I had a doctor appointment, so I was away from home most of the day and not able to read in between. I took Angelology with me to the doctor's, but I only had to wait two minutes, so I didn't have a chance to read then, either. Anyway, when I got home I was so tired I just posted a quick update for Monday and hopped to three or four blogs and I didn't feel like focusing on any of my books to-read, so I read fanfiction. So if that counts, I read about 15K of that yesterday. Ahem.

Wednesday, August 21:
Books I've been reading today: Angelology
Number of pages I've read today: 3
Total number of pages I've read: 27
Today in six words: Meds made me sleepy and unproductive.

Challenge: TBR List Challenge @ Musings of a Bookship Girl:

1.  Which 5 books are at the top of your TBR pile at this moment? (I'm interpreting this as which books I most want to read, even though I still have to borrow/buy them or read other books in series first.)
1. Citadel (Languedoc Trilogy #3) by Kate Mosse (have to get from the library)
2. Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon (have to get from the library)
3. Lothaire (IAD #12) by Kresley Cole (have to read 9, 10,11 first)
4. The Fall of Arthur by J. R. R: Tolkien (counting on a friend to lend it to me)
5. The Poet Prince (Magdalene Trilogy #3) by Kathleen McGowan (have to get from the library)

2.  If I gave you a wad of cash and sent you into a bookshop right now, which 5 books would you buy to add to the stack?
1. Destiny Rising (The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters #3) by L.J.Smith
2. Bilbo's Last Song by J.R. R. Tolkien
3. Flaming Dove by Daniel Arenson
4. Sins of the Angels by Linda Poitevin
5. Incredible Dreams by Sandra Edwards

I was still tired from Tuesday, and the meds the doctor gave me on Tuesday make me sleepy as a side effect, so it was a slow day with everything. I really liked Elllie's challenge I took part in. Although, I went looking at my wishlists and to-read list, which made me drool over all the books I want to read (that is, once I get my reading mojo back).

Thursday, August 22:
Books I've been reading today: Eighty Days Yellow
Number of pages I've read today: 42
Total number of pages I've read: 69
Today in six words: Where did all the time go?

Well, I did a lot more reading than usually lately. But Eighty Days Yellow is a fast read, although the more I read it the less I like it, but I can't not finish it because a) I can't not finish a book and b) it was a birthday gift from a friend who I'm sure had the best intentions.

In other news: I really liked both challenges: I Spy… and Book Road Trip, but I haven't done any of them because I was too lazy to move my books around for I Spy… or to type the answer to the second one, so I did that today, just for fun (I'm still too lazy to move my books around for the first one, though, lol. And I don't have time.)

Anyway, here we go, off the top of my head.

Challenge: Book Road Trip @ In Wonderland
FRANCE: The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
SCOTLAND: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
IRELAND: Circle trilogy by Nora Roberts
AUSTRALIA: Eucalyptus by Bill Murray
ITALY: Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes

Friday, August 23:
Books I've been reading today: Angelology
Number of pages I've read today: 25
Total number of pages I've read: 99
Today in six words: I socialised all over the place.

Challenge: Bookish Mad Libs @ The Space Between

A. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
B. GollumThe Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
C. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
D. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
E. Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold
F. WinnieRandom Magic by Sasha Soren
G. The Empress of Ice Cream by Anthony Capella

Help! I'm being held captive in the GARDEN, by GOLLUM!
It is very FORBIDDEN here!
Gollum is demanding TWENTY THOUSAND DRESSES to set me free!
I have just discovered that WINNIE was captured too!
On second thought, please send ICE CREAM, and don't worry if you don't hear from us for a while!

Much Love,
Jo

This was Bout-of-Books-wise quite a productive day: I read, visited several lovely blogs, commented, chatted on Twitter, added three books to my ever-growing to-read list, and came across some interesting and helpful blogging- and books-related things online. And I loved Bookish Mad Libs Challenge.

Saturday, August 24:
Books I've been reading today: Angelology
Number of pages I've read today: 28
Total number of pages I've read: 127
Today in six words: Bad mood. Don't have six words.

I wasn't feeling well (again!), not so much physically as I was in a bad mood, but I did read and I visited a few blogs. , too, although I hadn't planned to, I participated in the twitter chat, mostly because I was no good at anything else, but it lifted my spirits, so that was great.

Sunday, August 25:
Books I've been reading today: Angelology
Number of pages I've read today: 114
Total number of pages I've read: 241
Today in six words: I was reading out of stubbornness.

I have finished Angelology! Can you believe it? And 114 pages in one day is probably my record for this year. I'm so proud of myself. However, truth be told, I kept reading because it is raining on and off and I am home instead of going out. And the book got so annoying I just wanted to be done with it. I've already written my review and I will post it on Wednesday.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bout of Books 8.0 Sign-up and Goals


Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 8.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I decided to sign-up almost at the last minute. I've participated in all Bout of Books so far, although the last two have been a (not)reading disaster for me, as has been my reading this year in general. But there is always a chance of improvement and 8 is one of my favourite numbers, so why not give it a try?
 
Here are MY GOALS:

Considering my reading this year is crappy, reading every day will suffice as a goal.

Books to read/finish:

  • Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
  • Eighty Days Yellow by Vina Jackson
  • Love and Intrigue by Friedrich von Schiller

Other goals (aka trying not to be a hermit and to reconnect with blogging community):

  • participate in at least one challenge
  • participate in one twitter chat
  • visit at least one 'new' blog each day and comment
  • and visit at least two 'old' blogs each day and comment

Of course, I might have a bad week, as is the norm lately, and fail miserably, but maybe not.

What are your goals?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Come and See My New Blog Design

It took me quite a while, but I did it – a whole new image. I still use blogger template, of course, but I changed my layout to one sidebar a while ago and cleaned away various gadgets.

And now I finally managed to make a new header and a matching button, twitter header and Google+ header.

Yay, I have a header that doesn't mess with my love for changing backgrounds.

Yes, I've given in to Google's monopolising pressure and upgraded to Google+. I guess it will have its advantages.

A quick guide to my rearranged sidebar: At the top you'll first find a search box and a little bit about me.

Next, there are subscription/follow options, I recommend e-mail or rss (feedburner) subscription, but you can also add me to feedly, follow on twitter, goodreads, google+. If you're curious about my TV/film and other obsessions, feel free to check out my tumblr and if you need to contact me, you're welcome to do so via email.

Next, you'll see my current reads and my goodreads challenge progress (which is terrible this year), followed by blog archive.

Feel free to grab my button or check out my labels

At the bottom, you can find our old friend GFC device, which (I think) will sooner or later become history with Google pushing Google+, that's why I moved it down (and the numbers were counter productive on me). I think I'll eventually remove it completely.

And that's it.

What do you think of my new design?

Does the header appropriately express the 'Beyond Strange New Words' idea - all kinds or worlds flying from books?

Oh, and one other change: I implemented AddThis sharing buttons for easier sharing.

Now that I have a brand new look and everything, I only need to get back into reading and posting more regularly. Maybe these changes will be an incentive for me in that aspect as well.

ETA:

So, five minutes after I posted this I decided I am still not happy with it. I went back to tweaking and two hours later I have what you're seeing right now.

And now I'm happy.

Whoa. *wipes sweat of her forehead*.

Tell me what you think?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

LOTR Reread Highlights: The Fellowship of the Ring

Note: SPOILERS ahead for those who haven't read the book and/or seen the movie.

Apparently I CAN read a 500+ pages book in under two weeks time. It just has to be the right book, I suppose. Well, I can't miss with LOTR, and despite the fact that I've reread it for I-don'-know-which time, it kept me motivated to keep reading, which has been hard for me this year. So, yay for that.

A few things I take away from this reread:

  • Recalling back some of my original vision of the characters, especially Frodo. I last reread LOTR two years ago, but I've watched the movies a few times since, and the film presentation basically took over my own.
  • Remembering that Frodo wasn't in fact chased to the Buckleberry Ferry by the Nazgûl. That was a stupid film thing.
  • Also, in the books Boromir doesn't make his stupid plea to Aragorn to give the company time to grieve right on the doorstep of Moria. Everyone in the book knows they have to get out of there ASAP, in spite of grieving.

Oh, look, this post has turned into the-book-is-better-than-the-movies rant.

But then, I think I've said it before, I love the movies, they are generally very well-made, considering the extent of Tolkien's world, but I have geeky problems with details.

Anyway, I enjoyed rereading The Fellowship of the Ring again, for the story and the characters, remembering the little details I'd forgotten, and of course beautiful language. I read it in Slovene translation this time and in LOTR's case, it is a great translation, save some typos.

So, I can't wait to move on to The Two Towers. I'll post a similar recap/reaction post after I'm done with that.

And yay, I'm reading again, and not so slow, and enjoying it!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Changing My Profile Name


It's a huge step, I know. But I've been thinking about it for a long, long time, and I finally decided to go through with it.

Why am I'm doing this?

When I ventured into blogging, I didn't give it much thought because I just wanted to try it out. I chose Pepca as it is my nickname, an old-fashioned version of my name, and I started a blog in my mother tongue, so I wanted something familiar without using my real name. I later carried that profile over to book blogging in English.

However, I soon became aware that might not have been the best decision.

I do not want to use my real name, for two reasons: a) it's a mouthful for non-native-speakers of Slavic languages, and b) I come from a small country where everyone knows everyone and I'd rather keep some things private from certain people. (And yes, I know if one makes some effort anything can be found online anyway, but at least I'm trying to make it less easy).

However, Pepca is a tricky name, as well, as far as pronunciation is concerned and probably also its meaning.

Next, I'm lately trying to consolidate my online presence, using as few different profile names as I can.

My main goal behind changing my blogger and related profile names (Twitter, Goodreads) to something closer to my real name is to appear more serious and professional, while English-friendly.

I've given it a lot of thought and made plenty of research on should-I and how-to, wavered whether to do it or not, weighed pros and cons of such a big step and I've finally come to a decision to go with it.

I think now is a good time for it, too, as my blog is basically hibernating, I think, hopeful those who are still sticking with despite my lack of posting me won't run away. And I am going to do some other minor things, such as update pages and clean up the sidebar a little. So that when I get back into reading and posting more frequently, I can have everything neat and ready the way I want and I'll be able to focus on the content.

Now, the not-so-big reveal (but still, drumroll, please):

as my name is a Slovene version of Josephine, I'll be, from now on,

Jo K.

I know it's a very common name, but this is good as it gives me privacy, and it fulfils my aim at simplicity.

I'll be doing the changes over the next few days.

So, you see, I made quite a mess back when I started engaging in blogging and being active online elsewhere. If any future bloggers/online participants in anything are reading this, take my advice: think well before you create any profiles, etc, google your ideas, check their availability everywhere you think you might use them. It's nothing new, but I could have used such an advice at my blogging start.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What I've Been up to

Hi, everyone!

I think it's time to let you know I'm still alive and apologize for my lack of posting.

My non-blogging is closely related to my non-reading. Yes, I STILL seem to be in a reading rut. I think this is my longest reading rut since uni (I only read required material for about two years then).

I AM reading, though, just very slowly. And it's not that I don't enjoy reading, I just enjoy it very slowly and in small amounts. So I have nothing to review.

However, I started rereading LOTR last weekend and it's actually going well, so maybe that will help me pull out of this ridiculous reading slump.

Nevertheless, while not being able to read, I had time for other things:

  • I've been self-teaching myself a lot about making/editing graphics (I'm far from an expert still, of course, but seriously dabbling into it made me appreciate graphic designers much more than I used to – I used to think it's easy for them as they have the right software etc., but now I see how much hard work and time it takes. So hats off to them/you if any of you is reading this).
  • I've been reading more about writing to expand my skills there. (I don't count this as 'the reading', as it's mostly online articles.)
  • I've been writing a little, trying to get myself into writing very day (I have to work on that still) because practice makes perfect. Right?
  • I've been doing some freelance copy-editing, although I'm still looking for a full-time job.

I've also been thinking about some changes to my blog – but more about it in a few days, hopefully.

I've been lately checking my favourite blogs and easing myself back into book blogging sphere because I miss it and I hope to gradually get back. (But life has been messing with me for quite some time, so I can't really say when and to what extent that will happen).

Anyway, I just wanted to give some sign of life and thank you for still bearing with me.

Oh, and Her Majesty the Cat is as majestic as ever, ruling the household to her satisfaction, and is right now overseeing my typing from the windowsill.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bout of Books 7.0 – Goals & Updates

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

MY GOALS

Considering my reading this year is crappy, reading every day will suffice as a goal.

What I 'll be reading: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni. One book will be more than enough. I started it a week or so ago and only managed to read on chapter. It was/is interesting and I want to read it but I just somehow can't manage to work the reading into my schedule (my reading this year is completely off, but BoB is usually a good motivation). I'm more than optimistic if I say I hope I might get halfway through it this week.

UPDATES

I’ll also update on Twitter @StrangeNewWords, and you can find me on Goodreads.

Monday, May 13:
Number of pages I've read today: 20
Total number of pages I've read: 20

Tuesday, May 14:
Number of pages I've read today: 19
Total number of pages I've read: 39

Wednesday, May 15:
Number of pages I've read today: 31
Total number of pages I've read: 70

Thursday, May 16:
Number of pages I've read today: 6
Total number of pages I've read: 76

Friday, May 17:
Number of pages I've read today: 0
Total number of pages I've read: 76

Saturday, May 18:
Number of pages I've read today: 0
Total number of pages I've read: 76

Sunday, May 19:
Number of pages I've read today: 0
Total number of pages I've read: 76

WRAP UP:

Total number of pages I've read: 76

I think I reached a new low as far as my Bout of Books are concerned. It was going well until Wednesday, but then things just piled up and I found myself falling in bed each evening without having read anything.

Well, at least I read something in the first half of the week – probably more than I would have without Bout of Books, so that's something. And it got me really interested in the book, so here's to hoping I manage to read more of it this week.

How did your Bout of Books go?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Safe Haven (2013)


Safe HavenDIRECTOR: Lasse Hallström; CAST: Julianne Hough, David Lyons, Josh Dushamel…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.

MY OPINION:

I picked up Safe Haven a few years ago and although I had liked a few of Nicholas Sparks’ books, for example, Message in a Bottle, The Notebook, The Rescue, I couldn’t get past the first twenty pages or so of Safe Haven. I haven’t picked up a Sparks’ book since. Therefore, I wasn’t particularly interested in the film based on it. Basically, the only reason I watched Safe Haven was David Lyons.

My biggest problem with Safe Haven was that it didn’t make me invested into the main protagonists’ storyline. There are films (and books) when starting in medias res works great. Safe Haven is not one of them. Katie’s backstory is only shown in vague few seconds-long flashbacks and we learn what actually happened only about three quarters into the film, which made me feel disconnected from Katie. I just couldn’t care about her or root for her. For all we can glimpse in the flashbacks – some struggling and her scared face and bloody hands, she could have just as well been a murderess (albeit accidental) and/or a cheater. I think if the film started with showing her being abused, I would immediately sympathise with her and be more interested in her story.

Next, Katie’s romance with Alex follows the same path. We are not shown how they fall in love – there’s some misunderstanding, some flirting, and suddenly they sleep together, and only later – again three quarters in the film – Alex learns about Katie’s past and in the end they suddenly love each other.

Alex’s backstory would be interesting had it been presented less superficially. However, we are more or less only told rather than shown that he is struggling with the loss of his wife (I mean, he doesn’t hesitate at making his moves on Katie, so…). The same goes for how his kids deal with it. I think the whole matter was best portrayed by Alex’s little son. That says it all.

As I have said, the reason I even watched Safe Haven was David Lyons, who plays Katie’s abusive alcoholic husband. I am seriously partial to David Lyons, but still, his character is in my opinion the best developed and portrayed in the film. I know we are supposed to hate him, but I couldn’t quite.

Yes, mentally and physically abusing one’s spouse is a horrible thing and ‘but he/she loved her/him’ is never an acceptable excuse. However, I couldn’t but feel for Kevin, because he did love her and he was torn between knowing what he was doing was horrible and being sorry about it and on the other hand being unable to stop doing that. So, I couldn’t just simply hate him but I was wondering what has gone wrong. Kevin’s abuse and alcoholism were obviously old problems and it made me question what caused them and if anyone tried to do something about it and help him or not and if not, why? Did Katie try to talk to him and maybe get them into therapy, before things escalated? What about his job? Maybe something (or just regular stress) work-related triggered his alcoholism and abusiveness? How come his superiors didn’t notice anything earlier and made him get some counselling? You see what I’m getting at? Kevin is such a complex villain and so well-presented by David Lyons I can’t just simply hate him. If they meant me to do that, they should have opened the film with him cold-heartedly abusing Katie. I think that would have made an entirely different movie.

Another thing that bothered me in Safe Haven was the inclusion of ‘mystery’. Yes, in quotation marks. I started being suspicious about it after Katie’s dream and I wasn’t surprised at the revelation. What bothered me was how this topic was just put there as something on the side, because I usually like those kind of mysteries when they are properly dealt with. Thus, it just seemed like a cheap trick (and perhaps copying, I’m not sure which book was written first, Safe Haven or P.S. I Love You, but the latter was what this whole matter immediately reminded me of, except that it was far from being anywhere near to being as good).

Overall, I think Safe Haven’s main issue is trying to deal with too many topics, and while domestic abuse, loss of a spouse and a parent and dealing with it and letting a new person into one’s life, and afterlife are intriguing topics more than worth delving into, Safe Haven just  brushes past them and thus trivializes them.

Some films and books can make dealing with numerous themes work out great. Safe Haven is not one of those. A part of the problem is that Hallström (and Sparks) seemed unable to decide between making this a drama or a romance, and so they made a tasteless mix of both. Instead of exploring the themes and making the viewers think about them, Safe Haven makes the viewers do all the work and speculate about practically everything.  

 RECOMMENDATION: I can’t really recommend Safe Haven. Unless you are just looking for something to kill time with or for certain actor/actress. The main romance just didn’t interest me. I would have stopped watching after the first fifteen or twenty minutes if it wasn’t for David Lyons.

 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Wood Angel by Erin Bow


SUMMARY
(from Goodreads): Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square. A mysterious fog ruins crops and spreads hunger and sickness. The townspeople blame Kate.

The stranger Linay will exchange her shadow for escape and her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can’t live shadowless forever — and that Linay’s anger and grief (like the bereaved author) can "level a city".

MY OPINION:

What I liked:

  • Kate. She is a wonderful character. Definitely flawed, and with heaps of misfortune, but she is persistent to survive, to learn to better herself and her life. I loved her passion for carving, which is not a simple occupation for her, but a vocation, a gift she uses to serve and help other people.
  • The way magic is explained and treated: a mix of traditional and unique concepts, especially the notion of magic being an exchange of gifts.
  • The way the rusalka legend is presented.
  • Taggle. I don't know how to describe him without spoiling anything. He is one of the best cats I have ever read about. Fierce, clever, loyal little thing. I loved him.

What I didn't like:

  • Stereotypical portrayal (especially of the Roma people) in spots.
  • Indecisiveness whether to make it a YA or adult (meaning as for older readers) novel:
    Let me explain. The main character is a 14-year-old girl and on the first impression this quite a short novel tells a story of adventure, magic and fantasy, but on the other hand the novel deals with topics that may be too mature for many a young adult, such as cruelty and neglect to both animals and people/children; poverty; discrimination against women, the poor, and the Roma people; witch-hunting; and moral aspects of using (black) magic. At times Bow uses some clichés in regard to these topics, although I generally liked the way they were dealt with.

Wood Angel managed to keep my attention and I read it quite fast, considering my recent reading manner, so this is a big compliment to the book. It made me frown and laugh a few times, and cry in the end, all of which is also a compliment. Generally, I enjoyed Wood Angel. It is a dark story, but a suspenseful and intriguing one..

RECOMMENDATION: I would recommend Wood Angel to mature teens and older due to the topics it deals with. If you like a darker fantasy and adventure, I think you might enjoy Wood Angel.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Teaser Tuesday (22): Wood Angel


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:


"She gave Kate's arm a quick squeeze, and the blue scarf that hid the spell-braids a significant glance. But then two little boys herding geese started to jeer the Roamers and toss rocks at the horses, and in the hubbub the two girls got pulled apart.."

Wood Angel by Erin Bow, p. 92

 

I just finished this one and I liked it. I'll post my review tomorrow.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bout of Books 7.0 – Sign-up Post

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

MY GOALS:

What goals? Reading every day. That will suffice, considering I'm still recovering from the huge reading slump I had in the beginning of the year. However, Bout of Books is always a great motivation for me, so we'll see. Not to mention that it's fun.

Join me! The more the merrier, they say. You can sign-up here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)


The_Hobbit_An_Unexpected_Journey_poster_Hobbits_749x1109DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson; CAST: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

SUMMARY (from IMDB): A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on a "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.

MY OPINION:

I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the first weekend it was out back in December. I even put down notes for a review, but I have never got around to actually write it until now.

Do I need to say I loved this film? It's Jackson's Tolkien adaptation, of course I did. Before seeing it, I had been sceptical about the length, but nearly three hours passed in no time.

The two most powerful elements of the film are spectacular scenery and magical music. The film is visually stunning and the music really is music to the ears.

Jackson surely knows how to bring places and the characters on the screen. Naturally, not everything can ever be depicted as imagined when reading the book, but Jackson's variety come very close to what I can accept. (I do have some issues, but I will get to them a little later).

I love the way Jackson connects The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with other Tolkien's works –  The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

Thus, I liked Jackson's Radagast, of whom Tolkien doesn't say much beside where he lives and that he is good with animals. With his funny antics he reminded me of a character from Slovene children's stories, for which I liked him all the more.

I loved the subtle hints of Sméagol behind Gollum and Saruman's turning evil is peeking from under the facade. Goblins and trolls are gross, much more than I imagine when reading it – that's why I prefer books to movies: while reading I can reduce imagining the disgusting parts to the necessary minimum but while watching films all I can do is look away, hopefully in time.  

Now, although The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is overall and amazing film, my inner Tolkien nerd can't do without some complaints. This is where this review gets SPOILER-y for those who haven't read the book (and seen the film).

First of all, the action scenes were in some spots seriously exaggerated. I understand the film makers wanted to make it more breath-taking, but there is no way anyone could survive those kind of falls, much less stay completely unharmed. But that is a minor thing and it does not as much bother me as it is ridiculous.

While Richard Armitage did a great job as Thorin, he is too young for Thorin. Conversely, Balin is too old. Again, I understand the wish to make Thorin more appealing for the viewers as well as more active than in the book. Also, Thorin's refusal to go to Rivendell is not in the book, but it works well in lieu of the history of disputes between the dwarves and the elves.

I am mostly understanding why changes have to be made when adopting a book to film. Yet, there is at least one unnecessary change in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: that is changing the roles of Azog and Bolg. I really don't see the point of it, to me the goblins hatred of dwarves, especially Thorin and his companions, has much more sense the way Tolkien wrote it, with Azog being killed by Dain in the Battle of Azanulbizar and Bolg being son of Azog.

Next, I was confused by the presumed Morgul blade which Radagast comes across in Dol Guldur – this was not in the book, and I think this wasn't a well-premeditated addition to the film. For, if the blade that Radagast gives Gandalf and Gandalf brings to the White Council is the sword of the King of Angmar aka Lord of the Nazgûl aka the Wraith-King, how does the Wraith-King get it back to stab Frodo with it? I think a weapon like that would be a unique thing in Tolkien's world, so that was a goof on the screen-writer's part.

The thing that bothered me the most was diminishing the role of Gandalf. In LOTR, Gandalf knows Sauron tortured Thrain in his dungeons in Dol Guldur and also took his Dwarf Ring. Tolkien explicitly states Gandalf found Thrain there when Thrain didn't remember anything, not even his own name, but he remembered to give Gandalf the map to the secret door and the key for him to pass to his son (from which Gandalf deduced who Thrain was and kept the map and the key safe until he met Thorin and gave them to him). So, making Gandalf unaware of the danger of Dol Guldur and Sauron's return makes Gandalf's character less wise and powerful than in Tolkien's books.

However, I liked some changes which work well, such as Gandalf sending for the eagles and the Orcs and Wargs arriving at the glade together instead of separately.

On the whole, despite my quibbles, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an amazing film adaptation, captivating to the last minute. I had been wondering how they were going to make three films out of such a short book, but seeing the film, I believe it is going to work out well.

RECOMMENDATION: As a Tolkien fan, I was sceptic about the film, but after seeing it, I definitely recommend it, not only to those who read Tolkien's works (if you didn't, what are you waiting for?) but to everyone who likes fantasy and adventure.

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