Thursday, December 31, 2015

Yearly Overview and Happy New Year 2016!

Since it's only a few hours until New Year here, it is time to do a little recap of 2015.

I haven't been around much this year and certainly not as much as I'd like, mostly due to RL trials and troubles, but let's not dwell on that as we are about to turn a new leaf and start a new, hopefully better year.

I have read only five new-to-me books and reread two, but if I counted all thousands upon thousands of words of fanfiction I've also read (on daily basis), that number would be at least about 20 decent-sized novels.

Including this post, I have made 20 posts on this blog. However, over on my tumblr, I have written many many more posts discussing TV shows (as I've said before, I watch a lot of those) and related things.

I have also written quite a lot this year, even if only fanfiction, and I am very proud of that.

Her Majesty the Cat has continued to make my days better, ruling the household as well as ever, making me laugh (and sometimes get mad :P) and taking care I kept being busy and got enough exercise. ;)

Her she is, sleeping peacefully on my chair just this afternoon:

Her Majesty the Cat

And with that, this post comes to its end. All that is left is for me to wish you a happy new year.

May you be happy, healthy, full of joy, and blessed with good luck, good people around you, good books, and all other good things you enjoy!

Happy New Year 2016

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Or happy holidays! And if you don't celebrate anything, have a great time just the same! :)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Top Ten TV Shows of 2015

It’s that time of year we are making all kinds of yearly overviews.

However, I can hardly make a top ten books post with my barely existing reading (ahem!) and blogging this year. All right, if I counted fanfiction, I actually read quite a lot: I think it would sum up to about 20 – 30 full-length novels at least.

But, never mind, in the spirit of the season and in hopes for a more prolific blogging in 2016, and since this blog is not dedicated only to book-ish fictional worlds but also to those brought to life by visual media, I decided to share the top ten TV shows that conquered my heart in 2015.  

  1. The Originals
    To be honest, this dysfunctional family of original vampires and their friends, enemies, and frenemies has conquered my heart long ago, back in TVD days, but with the lack of other good shows and so many cancellations, it has now firmly solidified as my #1 show.

  2. Agent Carter
    A show with a female lead who is more than your typical badass strong female character™. Peggy Carter remains feminine and vulnerable, while also kicking ass, of course. And, it’s Peggy Carter!

  3. Killjoys
    Stunning cinematography and incredible world-building with well-developed characters. And it is set in space! What is there not to love?

  4. Sense 8
    Another sci-fi show, with heart-wrenching characters’ stories that doesn’t shy away from the difficult real-life issues. I could just hug this show. And each and every one of the sensates.

  5. The Last Ship
    This is actually what I’d call a ‘light’ summer show. The US-centric patriotism, among other things, is sometimes over the top to the point of being ridiculous. But, with a show that is supposed to be a summer entertainment, I can overlook its shortcomings, especially since it’s suspenseful enough to keep me interested, and the main characters totally grew on me.

  6. Downton Abbey
    Another long-time favourite was a bit more low-key in its final season, but still, I loved following the conclusion to the stories of so many beloved characters of this period drama. Can’t wait for the Christmas special grand finale!

  7. Constantine
    Snarky and sassy, exorcist and master of the dark arts, John Constantine is more of an anti-hero than a hero. I’m not a comic-reader, but I loved this gritty, intriguing show, and therefore, it had to be cancelled.

  8. The Messengers
    Seven angels of the apocalypse working together and prevent the four horsemen of the apocalypse to end the world. I loved the well-balanced focus on each of the main characters and the relationships between them and I was absolutely intrigued by the show’s concept. Sadly, it was cancelled short after the beginning, but at least they aired the entire season despite that fact.

  9. Dominion
    Do you see the pattern with the shows I watch here? I didn’t care much for the first season up to the finale, but the second season was a whole other and much better show, as it delved deeper into biblical mythology, spending less time on human politics, thus promising an even better third season. Alas, it was, guess what, cancelled. Yep.

  10. Quantico
    A crime/action drama about the lives of new FBI recruits. This fledgling new show has hooked me right at the beginning. With only half a season behind us, I love it: the characters, the relationships, the suspense and mystery, all of it. I hope the second part of the season will be just as good and will get us another season.
What about your favourite TV shows?

Perhaps we have some in common. Or, you know, I’m always on the look-out for new goodies to watch, so please, feel free to comment away. 

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Virtual Advent Tour 2015: St. Nicholas

Once again I am participating in Virtual Advent Tour, this year organised by Sprite at Sprite Writes.

Today is the 6th of December, one of very special December days, because it is the name day of Saint Nicholas, the good man who brings presents for the good (kids) and hazel rods and coals for the naughty. ;)

St. Nicholas was a bishop in Myra in the 3rd/4th century. As per one of the legends, there lived a poor man who couldn’t afford a dowry for his three daughters, so the bishop secretly brought three purses of gold coins, one for each daughter, and threw them into the house through an open window at night, so they could get married.

That and numerous other good deeds of generosity earned him the reputation of a gift-giver, so his name day became the day when ‘St. Nicholas’ brings gifts to children (well, nowadays, adults may get a little something as well) in Central and Western Europe.

Saint Nicholas (source)
Nowadays, with consumerism and all, in some families gifts can be quite fancy, and St. Nicholas is no longer the only gift-giver, since most people adopted the tradition of Santa Claus (and Grandpa Frost) as well.

However, most people where I live still consider St. Nicholas the main gift-bringer of the season and they mostly keep up the tradition of modest gifts, usually things a child needs.

Traditional St. Nicholas gifts are fruit, either fresh (oranges and mandarins) or dried (plums, pears, and apples, or figs), and nuts (most often walnuts, hazelnuts, or peanuts), clothes (such as new underwear and socks or winter-wear like gloves and hats or even a new pair of shoes/boots or a new piece of clothing to wear for the Midnight Mass.) Books, colouring books, or notebooks and writing/colouring utensils are also traditional gifts.

Of course, the most important part of celebrating St. Nicholas is the anticipation, trying to be as good as one can, or at least a little bit better than before, and writing letters to St. Nicholas.

If one was really, really naughty, St. Nick might give them over to devils, or so the adults would scare the kids. In the weeks before the holiday, the adults or older children from the neighbourhood would go around other houses where younger children lived in the evening and rattle with chains or knock on windows, pretending to be devils waiting to ‘get’ the ‘naughty’ child, but the scare usually only adds to the thrill.

On the evening before the holiday, the kitchen table would have to be made extra tidy and a large bowl would be placed on it, which would be full of presents in the morning.

In Catholic families, St. Nicholas would bring some presents at home, but he would also bring some at a church event, so the children can ‘meet’ him, and usually there would be also a short play with St. Nicholas, angels, and devils (who would in the end go hide behind the altar and lay in wait should St. Nick deem any kid naughty enough to give him or her over to them – which never happens, of course. ;))

It would all be very exciting, albeit a little scary, but the scare is part of the excitement, as I’ve said.

St. Nicholas's procession in Ljubljana (source)
Now I’ve relived some of my favourite childhood memories and I am grinning from ear to ear. And why, yes, I still get excited about St. Nicholas like a five-year-old, not as much for potential gifts, but for the spirit of the holiday.

What about you? Have you heard of St. Nicholas bringing gifts on the 6th of December? Is it him or someone else bringing presents where you live?

I’d love to hear some of your memories and gift-giving traditions, so feel free to share them in the comments. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Which Level of Hell Are You Going to?

I came across this Dante's Inferno Test, and since it is books-related, I decided to share it for your amusement. Well, I find it amusing, at least.

Here's what I got:

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!


You have escaped damnation and made it to Purgatory, a place where the dew of repentance washes off the stain of sin and girds the spirit with humility. Through contrition, confession, and satisfaction by works of righteousness, you must make your way up the mountain. As the sins are cleansed from your soul, you will be illuminated by the Sun of Divine Grace, and you will join other souls, smiling and happy, upon the summit of this mountain. Before long you will know the joys of Paradise as you ascend to the ethereal realm of Heaven.

Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repending Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8 - The Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Apparently I'm not as big a sinner as I thought I was. But then, I am trying not to be, so... ;)

What about you? If you want to find out, take the Dante Inferno Hell Test.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis


The Complete Chronicles of Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia) - C.S. Lewis, Pauline BaynesYay! I've finished the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia!

Actually, I own all the books in this giant beautifully illustrated volume, but since getting through all of it will take time, I decided to post my opinion after each book.

I have been planning to read The Chronicles of Narnia ever since the first film came out and I came across this volume for a ridiculously low price on Amazon at the same time, but I've been postponing reading it for the sheer weight and thickness of it being quite daunting.

Also, the only way to read it is for it to lie on a desk or a bed and I like to walk around the apartment while reading, stretching my legs during breaks between working on computer. Hence, I have started reading it a few times before but never got more than a few pages in. But now I have conquered it and read at least one book!

Anyway, to the book. The Magician's Nephew is a compelling introduction to The Chronicles of Narnia, giving the reader the insight into how travelling between worlds was discovered and the foundation of Narnia.

As a Tolkien buff, knowing of the close friendship between Lewis and Tolkien, I was on a special lookout for the similarities that I know there exist between their works. And, look, Narnia was created by Aslan's song, just like Ea was created by the song of the Ainur.

The characters of Polly and Diggory grew on me instantly, and I loved finding out the origin of the wardrobe and the reason for Narnia's affinity for being ruled by sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

I loved the story-telling feel of the book with the narrator talking to the reader, which is pleasant both for the intended young audience as well as for an adult reader.

Overall, the first book of The Chronicles makes for a great start, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of them.

Originally posted on my Booklikes blog.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles #1) by Kresley Cole


Poison Princess - Kresley Cole
When Evie's visions of the apocalypse become true, she has to team up with the resident 'bad' boy to find the way across the continent to her grandmother, who may or may not be alive, in order to learn the truth about herself.

However, it is the journey itself that helps Evie discover her strengths and weaknesses, while struggling not just with the new reality of the world in which the voices in her head are all too real, but also her conflicting feelings for Jackson.

Poison Princess was my second birthday gift from my friend who shares my love for Kresley Cole's IAD series and knew I wanted to try this one as well.

I read the first half of the book in one sitting, but then life got messy and I only managed to squeeze a chapter in now and then, so I am not entirely clear about how I feel about Poison Princess. I think I will reread it at some point, if for nothing else to get a better grasp on the newly introduced mythology, and my thoughts may change on a reread, but for now I can say I really liked it.

Due to fractured reading, I can't really write an in-depth review, but I would like to point out a few things I loved that stayed with me:
  • A fantastic mythology that Cole is a master of,
  • Evie struggling with her powers and the world of magic and supernatural she has discovered: in most YA books the protagonist accepts the new reality with ease, finding little difficulty in embracing their abilities and manipulating them, which I find ridiculous. I love that Kresley Cole made Evie struggle with it all, both emotionally and physically.
  • And, related to the previous point, I loved that Evie does overcome her doubts and insecurities and embraces her new self in a new world and that she, ultimately, does it on her own.
  • All too many YA books have the classic 'boy helps the girl make it though', but in Poison Princess, while Jackson does help Evie with some things, she is a hero for herself and she doesn't need him to 'save' her after all. 
Of course, there is a necessary love-triangle (or at least hints of it), typical of YA literature, which is perhaps the only down-side of the book, if I can even call it a down-side, since I went in knowing about it and I also think Cole handles it very well.

Although I was sometimes annoyed with Evie's romantic struggles, I found them only as annoying as they are supposed to be, since this is a teenager discovering romance and love for the first (or the second time), and, hence, it wasn't really a bother for me.

All in all, Poison Princess is one of the better YA novels I read, and so far I am highly intrigued by the premise of this new series and am planning to continue reading it (unless I change my mind after rereading Poison Princess.)

Originally posted on Bookslikes.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Queen from Provence (Plantagenet Saga, #6) by Jean Plaidy


The Queen from Provence  - Jean PlaidyThe Queen from Provence deals with the reign of Henry III of England. Henry III, crowned as just a child, has a difficult task placed upon him: to overcome the heritage of his father, the hated King John, and reinstate the rule of law and order in England.

Having good advisors, he is initially successful and, therefore, loved. However, as he grows up, his longing to be seen as his own man and not a mere puppet under the influence of his advisors combined with insecurity drive him to commit more and more mistakes in ruling his country.

His marriage to a wilful and spoilt Eleanor of Provence only worsens the matters, for out of love for her and the desire to indulge her every wish to make her happy, the injustice and ill-thought of actions escalate to the point where he is almost just as hated as his predecessor, and the country rises against him, the unrest culminating in the formation of England's first true Parliament, unlike any others.

In the book itself, Plaidy mentions the saying that a good man is not also a good king. Henry III was, mostly, a good man: a devoted, faithful husband, a loving father, and a religious man. But his love for his family was his undoing, for the care for their well-being and wealth blinded him to the greater good of his people, which he should have given more thought to.

I can't help myself to draw a parallel between Henry III, and even more so Queen Eleanor, and many of contemporary wealthy people with their attitude that they have some god-given right to their wealth and social status and that that right makes them indifferent to other people's lesser fortune. They may, subjectively, be 'good' people, but their 'goodness' does not reflect in their treatment of those less fortunate.

As such, historical fiction serves as a great, but tragic warning; for it seems that throughout the centuries, little has changed for ordinary people, while the rich and the well-connected have always gotten their way.

That makes me quite pessimistic. Yet, on the other hand, perhaps the more people look at the past and see its injustices reflected in the present, the greater chance there is that we might someday change the pattern at last.

In that aspect, The Queen from Provence is a great read, not only for its amazing insight into history, but also for what it can teach us - humanity as a whole - not to do in the future. 

Originally posted on Booklikes.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Shadow's Claim (The Dacians #1, IAD #13) by Kresley Cole


Shadow's Claim  - Kresley ColeNote: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those over the age of 18.

So, this book was one of the two I got for my birthday, and, darn, this was a great birthday present. Even if it took me 2 months to get to it.

All the things I loved about it:
  • the main paring, of course, and the fact that for a change, they didn't get to the sex part until late into the story
  • many of the side characters; the phantom/sylph is one of my new favourites, together with Morgana, the Queen of the Sorceri (and I really wouldn't mind if Cole decides to dedicate any or both of these their own book(s))
  • appearances of some already familiar characters, including Lothaire, who isn't as mad as he appears to be, right ;)
  • learning more about the Dacians and the Sorceri, as well as getting to know a new setting in IAD universe, Abbadon
  • yet again, the way the story was connected to the past instalments and the allusions and set-up for the future ones
  • and lastly, the manner Bettina's anxiety was presented, which I could relate to very much, and I loved that Kresley incorporated such an everyday human thing many people have to live with into the story.

There was hardly anything I didn't like. I only took away half a star for slightly exaggerated sex parts, although this goes with the genre, and classic miscommunication issues causing relationship troubles, which is also typical of the genre. But since neither of those affected my overall enjoyment of the book, I can easily let them pass.

All in all, Shadow's Claim is yet another fantastic story of Cole's and I can never recommend it and the entire IAD series enough to those of you who happen to like paranormal romance.

Originally posted on Booklikes.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult


The Tenth Circle - Jodi Picoult
In The Tenth Circle, Jodi Picoult deals with another universally topical issue - rape, focusing the story around 14-year-old Trixie Stone, whom her ex-boyfriend rapes at a party, and the Stones' struggle with the aftermath of it.

Now, the book starts a little on the slow side, which prompted me to do what I do very rarely: I skipped a few chapters and read a little ahead, and what I read made me so angry I almost didn't finish the book.

SPOILER ahead. At some point it seems as if Trixie lied about being raped and it made me furious that Picoult would perpetuate such an awful stereotype: that women lie about it out of spite or vengeance of shame of whatever, because this is the very thing why rape survivors are afraid of coming forward and reporting it and why, even when they do, so few rapist are actually convicted and/or spend time in jail. END of SPOILER.

However, I refused to believe Picoult would go for such a low move, so I went back and read the whole thing and I am glad I did, for The Tenth Circle offers a great insight into working of rape culture we live with, where rape survivors' every word and action get questioned while the perpetrators are protected by the innocent-until-proved-guilty principle.

In Trixie's case, the matter of consent is especially glaring, since she was raped while intoxicated and drugged, and it speaks volumes about male entitlement that her rapist and the majority of people who witnessed her behaviour prior to rape, never realise that impaired judgement means inability to give consent. Disgustingly, they argue just the opposite: that due to her impaired judgement she was unable to refuse consent. And that sort of attitude is very much prevalent in the world, which is truly horrifying.

Along Trixie's struggle with what happened, we also follow her father, a comic book artist, who is making every effort to help and protect her, while plagued by the memories of his origins, both beautifully interwoven with the making of his newest project, and her mother, a university professor, facing the repercussions of her infidelity and revealing the caused that led to it, mixed with her reflections upon Dante's Inferno.

Thus, The Tenth Circle tells a compelling and emotional story that gives the reader plenty of food for thought.

Cross-posted from BookLikes.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Battle of the Queens (Plantagenet Saga, #5) by Jean Plaidy


The Battle of the Queens (Plantagenet Saga, #5)In The Battle of the Queens Plaidy offers yet another great insight into the turning of the wheels of that era, the eternal struggle between England and France, with the Church as an ever-present puppet master.

The two protagonists in the title, whom the book centres on, are Isabella, mother of Henry III of England, and Blanche, mother of Luis IX of France. The two women who despised each other, couldn't be more different: Isabella hot-tempered, promiscuous, self-centred and Blanche pious, level-headed, thoughtful of others.

Alongside the lives of the great historical personages, Plaidy includes those of seemingly lesser importance, who had nonetheless a great impact on history, or even those who had none, but give her story colour and beat, from the siblings of Henry III to nursemaids. And at that she doesn't forget Eleanor of Aquitaine in the last years of her life, who remained a powerful historical player till her very end. 
Thus, the one thing that always frustrates me in historical fiction, women being looked upon as nothing more than political bargaining chips, is upturned on its head in Plaidy's books. For, despite being reduced to objects for political games of men, women were most often the ones who actively decided the fate of nations and affected the world history at large.

Isabella and Blanche were definitely one of those proverbial women behind successful men, the women who made their names, or – in Isabella's case – sometimes ruined them.

Cross-posted from BookLikes.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Getting to Know You: Favourite Animals and TV Shows

gettingtoknowyou pepca

Getting to Know You is a feature, started by Jenni Elyse who wants to get to know fellow bloggers.

Last week’s topic of Getting to Know You was Favourite Animals, but I was too sick to sit in front of computer to share my favourite animals with you, so I decided to combine the two posts.

collage animals

  • cats (naturally)
  • rabbits (we used to have them when I was little)
  • horses
  • budgies (I used to have one when I was little, too)
  • pheasants (there used to be a lot of pheasants where I lived before)
  • deer (same about deer, they used to come right to the house)

Now, to this week’s topic, which is Favourite TV Shows. And you all know how much I love watching TV beside reading. So here they are:

collage shows

The currently on air or just finished:

  • Agents of Shield
  • Agent Carter (which I really hope they decide to make another season, or more, of)
  • Downton Abbey
  • The Originals
  • Supernatural
  • Saving Hope

Then there are also:

  • Constantine (which I don’t know whether it was/will be renewed)
  • Game of Thrones (season 5 starting soon)
  • White Collar (season 6 and the final one wrapped up in December)
  • Revolution (cancelled after season 2)
  • TVD (still going on but I stopped watching, the first 3 seasons definitely count as one of my favourite shows, though)
  • The Returned (US, just started) and the French original it’s based on, Les Revenants
  • The Last Ship (a summer show, will have season 2 this summer)

And I could go on, but I had better stop, because you got the idea. I watch a lot of TV shows, the above mentioned are just some of my favourite ones.

What are your favourite animals and, to stay on track, TV shows?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Getting to Know You: Favourite Games

gettingtoknowyou pepca

Getting to Know You is a feature, started by Jenni Elyse who wants to get to know fellow bloggers. This week’s topic of Getting to Know You is Favourite Games.

Games Collage

I don’t much play games lately, except when I get together with my cousins, but I do love them. Here are 5 of my all-time favourites and that recent silly obsession called 2048.

I used to play a lot of the others with my cousins and grandma when I was little, and sometimes I played them by myself – since I was an only child. :)

From top to bottom, left to right, in no particular order:

  • Ludo
  • Four in a Row
  • Mikado
  • Uno
  • 2048
  • Monopoly

What are your favourite games? Hop on to Jenni’s blog and share them with everyone if you want.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Eternally Dark by John Amory, Jenna Jones, TA Moore, BA Tortuga

NOTE: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those above the age of majority.

Image296_fmtSUMMARY (by the publisher): What might make a vampire vulnerable enough to take a human lover? What if they were blind, and needed what a human could give them, not just blood, but sight?

In ‘Blind Eye of the Sun’, TA Moore gives us a dystopian, ruined pleasure planet where humans and vamps fight for resources. Jenna Jones pens ‘Aubade’, where a young slam poet finds both fear and excitement in the arms of a vampire. In John Amory’s ‘Spearmint Warning’, a vampire teaches a hot barista all about mint leaves and tea. Finally, in ‘Those Who Cannot See’, BA Tortuga gives us a historical cowboy who’s nearly been hanged and the vampire who saved him.


Blind Eye of the Sun’ by TA Moore  

With well-built and intriguing characters, ‘Blind Eye of The Sun’ was my favourite of the four short stories in the anthology.

In few words, TA Moore manages to build a rich, albeit gritty world, depicting technological and medical advancements as well as setbacks, such as artificially grown food, and many more interesting details.

The characters, even minor ones, are fleshed out with unique traits and hints of backstories. I loved the protagonists – Shea, a hardened soldier, a resourceful, smart man, with an ability to bring people together, and Anatoly, the blind vampire, a noble monster with a code of honour – and the way they function together.

The semi-open ending fits the overall feel of the story and brings some sort of a closure while leaving the future unknown, but with a hopeful undertone.

Finally, the only shortcoming – which isn’t a shortcoming at all – I found was that I could read a lot more of this story, its world, and characters.

5 stars

‘Aubade’ by Jenna Jones and ‘Spearmint Warning’ by John Amory 

Since the two short stories are pretty similar, I decided to combine the reviews into one.

Firstly, both so-called relationships are rushed (so-called because what they are really just hook-ups, although the authors call it ‘love’).

And secondly, the human characters are somewhat bland, since we don’t learn much about them. In addition, despite being given the vampires’ backstories, those are pretty much clich├ęd (for one thing, both vampires have possessive jealous makers) and didn’t make me invested in the characters, either.

All in all, ‘Aubade’ and ‘Spearmint Warning’ are readable stories to pass the time, but nothing more.3 stars

‘Those Who Cannot See’ by BA Tortuga

The last short story of the four is perhaps the most sensual one. A telepathic connection between the main protagonists makes the sensuality and the strong emotional bond that forms between them rather quickly actually plausible.

I liked the well-established western setting. The plot is well-rounded and the characters outlined well enough to provoke a reaction, whether positive or negative. Thus, the main protagonists, Edmund and Blaze are quite likeable, as well as two minor characters: Running Water, a Native American tracker, and Lwazi, Edmund’s African American butler.

Overall, ‘Those Who Cannot See’ makes up a good short story.

4 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Whereas the last three short stories are good enough, Eternally Dark anthology is worth picking up for ‘Blind Eye of the Sun’ alone as it is an exceptionally well-written and fascinating short story.