December 25, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir (Review)

Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
First published: 2012
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

I read The Martian in two days, finishing at 5a.m. This fact alone illustrates how great the book is, considering how I love to sleep :) The next day I enthusiastically recommended it to one of my colleagues, and the next morning he was spotted drinking too much coffee and blaming me for disturbing his sleep. Since then the news about the book spread around our office like fire, and I get emails from grateful colleagues all the time, telling me how they appreciate my recommendation. Well, we are a research lab and a bunch of geeks, so what do you want :D The book was meant to be read by the likes of us!

The Martian is about Mark Watney, an astronaut left on Mars after the evacuation of the whole expedition. Now his only chance is to survive for 4 years until the next expedition. Meanwhile, he deals with the lack of food, technical emergencies and loneliness, all with the help of his innate resourcefulness and great sense of humor.

What I loved most about this novel is the technical details Mark goes into while planning his escape and solving his everyday problems. You ever wonder how to make water from burning fuel in pure oxygen and not get exploded? Or how to measure the size of the hurricane and where it goes? Or how to fix the rover's receiver? It's all explained! Another thing is the writing. It's awesome and funny and keeps you turning pages through the wee hours of the morning. The novel makes you feel good and fills you with optimism and faith in mankind. This is a bit bombastic but it's true.

In my book:
This is the ultimate geeky book! But it's not only for the geeks, I can't imagine anybody who would not enjoy it. Read it! :)

December 17, 2014

My Autumn of Silent Escapist Reading

Hi everybody! :) As you've probably noticed, I haven't been in the mood to post for the whole autumn. I've also sucked at commenting and participating in events, and I'm truly sorry for this. I'm not sure what's happening to my reading habits, but my attention span is still very short, and now I shun from classics and big books and often pick books on a whim. I don't like it, as I usually enjoy being organized (and it's a pity I'm not finishing any of my challenges, the year has started so well!), but I can't do anything about it. Also, I'm reading much less now and am much more likely to play a game or watch a movie/series instead. Well, I hope it's just a short period...

Nevertheless, I HAVE been reading and I have missed blogging in the short moments of activeness. So it feels good to finally write a post :)

For starters, I've decided to make a small recap of what I read this autumn in the format of mini-reviews. These are really good books, and most of them are, I guess, unknown to many readers, so let me tell you more about them! :)

Title: Y: The Last Man
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
First published: 2003-2008
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

This 10-volume comics was October's book of choice for Coursera Fantasy and Sci Fi book club, and I loved it so much! It tells about a sudden epidemic of unknown origin which results in wiping out all the male population on Earth. All except Yorick and his monkey Ampersand. See? How can one NOT love a story with a plot like this? :) Add some great humor, kick-ass characters, amazing plot, beautiful pictures and an oh-so-great finale - and you get Y: The Last Man.

In my book: An awesome, awesome story. Read it.



Title: Spectrum
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
First published: 2002
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: ★★★★★

This is my favorite Lukyanenko book, and I've read them all! :) It is also a standalone novel rather than a part of the series, which I also appreciate. Unfortunately, it is not translated into English yet, although it is very popular in some European countries. US publishers are just soooo bad at seeing further than the ends of their noses. As nearly every Lukyanenko book, Spectrum features a very likable hero stumble over some mystery of the universe and forced to make difficult decisions. The book is very clever and philosophical and yet packed with action and suspense and great world-building. I'm very glad I've re-read it!

In my book: This novel is like an old friend which, when you meet after a long time apart, never fails to keep you up all night while discussing philosophical problems and drinking wine :)


Title: Hard to Be a God
Author: Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
First published: 1964
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

Another great Russian Sci-Fi novel, Hard to Be a God is also an old favourite. It tells about a historian from Earth doing research on a "medieval" planet. He poses as a noble and has to observe and cautiously encourage progress without getting too involved and unnaturally changing the course of history. But pretending to be someone else for so long is not easy, and with obtaining more relations it's hard to stay impassive during a shocking twist in the planet's historical course. Re-reading the novel as an adult dimmed my initial impression of it a bit, as the moral became much more obvious. But it's a great book nevertheless!

In my book: Still very relevant and makes you think a lot. And the main character is great.


Title: Night Watch
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
First published: 1998
Add it: GoodreadsBook Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

As I've already mentioned, Lukyanenko is great, and luckily this book is translated into English, so it is an introduction to his writing for many readers. Which is a pity, because in my opinion it is not his best book, and the continuation of the series gets worse. I've read three out of (already) six books and don't intend to continue. The first one is still good though, if only a bit simplistic. The idea is that there are magicians between us, and they have two guilds: the Light and the Dark (I know, so obvious!) and they have some kind of a pact which ensures that they don't destroy each other. So it's "battles for souls" mixed with political plots to get round the pact.

In my book: Rather fun if you don't get sick of this whole Light/Dark opposition stuff.


Title: The Last Wish
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
First published: 1992
Add it: GoodreadsBook Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

You can already tell this autumn was full of Eastern European fantasy/sci-fi, right? :D Well, here's a super-popular polish fantasy saga, which inspired a computer game, dozens of spin-offs, fanfics, etc. I even have two friends who participated in role-playing games based on The Witcher world. The book is a collection of short stories telling about separate adventures of a Witcher - a guy specifically trained to kill different evil supernatural beings. I loved how Sapkowski took different Slavic fairy tale tropes and turned them into an entertaining and sometimes funny heroic saga.

In my book: An iconic novel, Slavic fantasy at its best. Recommended!


Title: The Master and Margarita
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
First published: 1967
Add it: GoodreadsBook Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

This is a classic of Russian lit, which is unlike any other book. For most of high school students in Russia this is the only book they like from the school program, even though I bet none of them understand much of it. To tell you the truth I can't say I understood everything even after this re-reading, and I hope I can say that I'm now a more experienced reader then I was in the 11th grade :) Anyway, the novel is a satire about early Soviet era, and is set in Moscow in the 1930s. But it also has a plot line which tells about Pontius Pilate and the two intertwine through Master - a writer with a difficult fate, who wrote a story about ancient Jerusalem. The architecture of the novel, the beautiful language, the characters, the scaring hilarity of the dialogues, the macabre mood of it all - Bulgakov IS the real Master, and I can't possibly over-recommend this book :)

In my book: Just read it, OK? Nothing more that I can say :)

That's it! I have a couple of stand-alone reviews coming (hopefully soon) and I'm thinking about doing some year overview. We'll see if I have time and enthusiasm for that :)

November 13, 2014

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (Review)

Title: A Farewell to Arms
Author: Ernest Hemingway
First published: 1929
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This was a Classics Club Spin title, and I should have read it by October 6. I did, but I didn't manage to review it in time. Well, better late then never, right? :) 

Before A Farewell to Arms I had only read Hemingway once and didn't like it. But I told myself that that was so because I was little and not that into fishing :) So I've decided to give him another try. I wish I haven't. 

The whole problem is the writing. It just doesn't work for me. It is somewhat abrupt and gloomy and doesn't hold my attention. Also, you can always feel that something horrible is going to happen and it's too much of a pressure for 300-something pages. I freely admit it may be completely my fault I didn't like the book. I'm very easily bored by books lately, but still, considering the gripping events happening in there, it's too dull. 

Another major problem was the protagonist's relationship with the nurse. I think it was sick, the way she diminished herself and told that she didn't matter and all she wanted was his convenience. The guy knocked her up, come on! She has some rights. Overall, a depressive book without likable characters... I'm not sure I'll ever pick Hemingway up again.

In my book:
Don't know what people find in it.

The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov (Review)

Title: The Gift
Author: Vladimir Nabokov 
First published: 1938
Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

I picked this novel on a whim while I was at home for holidays. It was just looking at me from the shelf, and I am a fan of Nabokov, you know :) However, this is not a Nabokov I would recommend. 

It's beautifully written, and some of the quotes I loved so much that I re-read them several times, but the plot is very difficult to follow, because frankly speaking there's no plot to talk about. Although we should not forget that Nabokov hated searching for connections between art and real life and explaining books through the writers' experience, the novel seems to be autobiographical. It revolves around one of the thousands Russian emigrants living in Berlin after the revolution. He's a writer, and the story switches between describing his life and his works. The border between the two is very vague. You read about how the protagonist walks in the street and the next thing you realize you are in the middle of his novel. It's embarrassing and complicated, even for those who (like me) enjoy unusual writing. 

Moreover, somewhere in the middle of the novel the main hero decides to write a book about Chernyshevsky, and that is where Nabokov kicks over the traces. The rest of the book is a dive into Chernyshevsky's life and one big attempt to prove that he was a worthless writer. It was interesting up to some point, but it was just too much. The ending is beautiful in its uncertainty and symbolism, but somewhat crumpled because it comes after so much Chernyshevsky.

In my book:
Not recommended, unless you are really into this whole Nabokov vs. Chernyshevsky thing

October 18, 2014

Readathon Updates

17.43, Prague time zone

It's the fourth hour of the readathon, and I slept two hours out of these four. Well, it's Saturday, so I'm not even ashamed that much :) I've just finished Spectrum by Sergei Lukyanenko, and it totally blew my mind! I've forgotten how awesome it is, so yay for re-reading! Now I'm gonna finish off the comic books and then concentrate on Malory. That's if nobody calls me for drinks in the city :)

Hope everybody is enjoying it as much as I am!

21.34

It's Saturday evening, and I come to the office in hope of finding someone who can make me coffee there (I'm still scared of our coffee machine) and indeed meet my supervisor there (in case you are wondering, yes, it's completely normal to find people there at odd times, as our research group is awesome!) The coffee machine is broken, but we start discussing what papers we've read and some workshop plans, and then I leave after 2 hours with a couple of new papers to read... So much for reading non-stop today :) On the bright side, I've finished the 8th collection of Y: The Last Man comics, and it's so exciting! I hope to finish it in a couple of hours. See you then!

00.58

Just finished reading Y: The Last Man... The end is so sad and yet it's so cool... I'm really glad I was introduced to this comics!

Now on to some serious reading! Time to finally pick up the Malory chunkster! No more excuses!

11.55

Hi everybody! Guess what? I fell asleep after just like 10 pages of Le Morte D'Arthur, and didn't even set an alarm clock... :( Malory is just sooo sleepy! Okay, I have 2 more hours, and I'm determined to dedicate them to this chunkster!

Readathon Plans


In a couple of hours starts Dewey's readathon and I thought I would post my reading plans for the day (and night). And then we'll see if it goes according to these plans :)

1) Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory - I'm shamefully behind on this one, and I really don't want to lose it with the readalong. Because I'll never read it on my own.

2) Finish Y: The Last Man comics - only 2.5 collections left, and I can't wait to know how it'll end!

3) Spectrum by Sergei Lukyanenko - I started to re-read it while I was searching for a next month's book for my Sci-Fi book club. It's not translated into English, so it's obviously not the choice, but I couldn't resist diving into it again!

4) Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning by Christopher Bishop - I need this for my work, and it's very, very difficult. But if I hit some effective brain work time, I'll struggle through a section or two.

OK, here it is! Now I'm going to have breakfast with a friend and then I'll go straight to reading! Wish me luck!

October 9, 2014

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (Review)

Title: The Girl with All the Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
First published: 2014
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

The only important thing you should know about The Girl with All the Gifts is that you must read it. Really, you will not be disappointed! The problem is, I don't want to tell you anything about the plot to convince you, so you'll just have to believe me :) You see, knowing anything about what's happening will spoil your experience of the first couple of chapters, in which it is masterfully and gradually revealed. So don't read the blurbs either!

But I'll say that the book surprised me greatly, in a good way. The ideas, the ending, the characters - all awesome! The POV is constantly changing, and this makes for a very dynamic writing. The Girl with All the Gifts makes you question some of basic human assumptions, and the finale will blow out your mind.

One of the inevitable drawbacks is that the book is very graphic, and sometimes it's just too much. Maybe it's my active imagination, but a couple of scenes were so disgusting I wanted to puke. But in this case it's a necessary evil, resulting from the matter of substance.

In my book:
Oh so good! Read it!

P.S. I am very pleased with the new course Coursera Fantasy and Sci Fi book club has taken (where everybody interested is welcome, BTW!). Before, we voted for the book to read each month, and it resulted in good, but somewhat predictable choices. We read books everybody had heard about, and there was no discovery of new titles. Now, however, a member is appointed (with his consent, of course :) ) each month to choose a book and lead a discussion. The Girl with All the Gifts was the first book chosen this way, and I'm so glad I was encouraged to read it! This month we are reading a wonderful comic book, and next month I'm leading the discussion, and I also plan something great which I hope everybody'll like :)

September 29, 2014

Seduction by M.J. Rose (A Rant)

Title: Seduction
Author: M.J. Rose
First published: 2013
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I haven't participated in Plagues, Witches and War Historical Fiction Book Club for quite some time now, and this was definitely NOT the book to encourage my further participation. It's so full of bullshit from the beginning! There are Celts, spiritualism, reincarnation, Jungian therapy, suicides, Satan with his deals, myths, personality disorders, drugs and what not. It's as if the author tried to just put everything she knew in the book, and it's even not much, at least concerning myths. The worst thing however is that the author is SERIOUS about all this stuff. I like a bit of mysticism, but I like it to be more subtle. There should be some reasonable explanation for everything happening, even if the atmosphere suggests that there's not. But the book demands the reader to actually believe in reincarnation. Seriously?

Why two stars still? Well, the writing is good. I think the author has made a descent attempt to mimic Hugo's writing, or at least 19th century writing. So when the heroine was not in a fit or in the middle of a discussion or action that didn't make any sense, I could even enjoy the flow of words.

In my book:
Bullshit, full stop.

September 23, 2014

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Review)

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
First published: 2007
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

This short novel tells a story of a boy growing up on a cemetery after the murder of his parents. He is brought up by ghosts and has adopted some of their ways, but he still craves for a company of the living kids. However, it is not safe for him to leave the cemetery, as the murderer is still out there.

Gaiman's supernatural stuff is still not my cup of tea. Although the ghosts were cute and Silas mysterious and impressive, the Jacks were weird and vague. I also didn't dig ghouls and the gate and everything inside. But Gaiman CAN write kids, there's no doubt of that. Bod's thoughts and feelings are so real! This feeling of not being told anything, however capable of understanding you think yourself... It's familiar to everybody who remembers being a kid, I guess. Learning responsibility is also a major aspect of Bod's growing up, which is indeed very important.

Plot-wise the book seems to be for children, but there are certain graphic scenes of bloodshed that hint that the target audience is grown-ups. It's a bit confusing, but not new for me, as it's the same with Stardust.

In my book:
More suitable for kids which are not afraid of a bit of killing :)



September 15, 2014

The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov (Review)

Title: The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories
Author: Isaac Asimov
First published: 1976
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

Asimov is really popular for his robot stories, and this book consists of them. These stories are ones I haven't read before, so I was intrigued. But what I didn't expect and didn't expect to enjoy was the way the stories are connected. Between them are author's interludes telling how and why each story was written, and these interludes are witty and clever and very enjoyable. They allow the reader to have a look at how this whole writing business works, and I find it fascinating.

The title story is the longest and one of the most impressive ones, but it's not that the collection has one main idea or is in any way organized so as to comprise one coherent narrative. It just contains stories written during two years, and this is the only reason they are put together. Reading The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories made me want to re-read I, Robot, which I don't remember well, and which contains the first of Asimov's robot stories.

In my book:
Not a starter Asimov book, but definitely recommended if you are already into his robotics.

September 4, 2014

Lectures on Russian Literature by Vladimir Nabokov (Review)

Title: Lectures on Russian Literature
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
First published: 1981
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

The great Russian-American writer lectured on Western and Russian literature at Cornell University in the middle of the 20th century. His lectures were unlike any other professor's lectures, as he was fond of reading big chunks aloud, paying a lot of attention to minor details instead of "big ideas". For him structural beauty was very important, and his analyses are really outstanding. His lectures were published later and in spite of some discontinuity arising from the format in which they were initially presented, they are very enjoyable to read.

What I liked most about the book is that Nabokov is very irreverent towards "the great luminaries of literature". He is not in awe of them in the least and he has every right not to be. If he thinks that an author has a structural problem somewhere in a story or that an author has left some loose ends, he says it! On the subject of authors he doesn't like he can sometimes be a little too rough, but as I've said, he has every right to it, so it doesn't irritate me as a reader. Anyway, this is a welcome change from the ecstatic literature teachers at school.

I was very pleased that on some matters Nabokov and I totally agree. For example that Dostoyevsky is too obsessed with mental disorders, and unnecessary so! Nabokov even counts the diagnoses through all Dostoyevsky's books. Yes, he's not of a good opinion of him. Another victim of Nabokov's merciless wit is Gorky, and again I completely agree! Gogol, Chekhov and Tolstoy, on the other hand, get a lot of love. I'd recommend Nabokov's commentary to Anna Karenina to everybody reading the book, as he makes it very easy to imagine how things happened. He goes into everything from Oblonsky's timetable to how the sitting in the trains was organized at the time. Nabokov's take on Gogol is also very fresh and interesting.

It's not necessary to read ALL of the mentioned works to enjoy this book, only the main ones which get the most attention. It can be a good idea to have these lectures on your shelf and read a corresponding lecture after finishing the book it is about.

In my book: 
A great read for everybody interested in Russian literature

September 3, 2014

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX

Art used for banners is the property of Abigail Larson
It's this gloomy and depressing time of the year again (although in my part of the world the weather has already been autumnal for the whole August), and Carl is hosting his annual event for reading all things scary, including mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, Gothic, horror and supernatural genres. If you are interested, HERE is a sign-up post.

I'm in a bi-i-i-ig reading slump right now, so I'll aim low and take up only Peril the Second level, which involves reading only two books. And here's what I'll (hopefully) read for the challenge:


I bought them half a year ago at a used books sale and it's high time to finally read them! I think I'll start with Gaiman, 'cause it's thinner and because I've recently regained my faith in him after several issues of Sandman.


August 31, 2014

Language Freak Summer Challenge: Finish Line!


Hi, sweeties! Summer is over (can you believe it??) and it means it's time to wrap up this year's Language Freak Summer Challenge!

We did it! We've read quite some books in many (9!) different languages, and hopefully have brushed up our language skills and got more motivation to study! I truly admire your effort and thank you for your participation! I'd be happy to have you all as participants next summer!

As a host, I want to apologize for not being active enough myself, but this summer was not the best time in my life, so I slacked a lot. I'm so grateful for the enthusiasm of other participants, which kept the challenge rolling and helped me find motivation!

As usual, I'm giving you a grace period until Sept. 7. to finish your reviews. I'll add them to this review list at the end of next week. So if you've read something and haven't had time to write about it, use the time :)

Below, as usual, are all our reviews sorted by language. Note that August reviews have been marked by NEW!!! Please check that all your reviews are there and I haven't forgotten to include something!

Chinese
Frog is Sad by Max Velthuijs (Carola @ brilliant years)

Czech
Hoši od Bobří řeky (Boys from Beaver River) by Jaroslav Foglar (me) - NEW!!!

Dutch
The Solitude of Prime Numbers - Paolo Giordano (English) (Dutch) (Anja Kasap @ Reading 2011 (and Beyond))  - NEW!!!

French
Nuits de Juin by Victor Hugo (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)
Délicieusement Cru par Judita Wignall (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)
La Parure (The Necklace) par Guy de Maupassant (Cleo @ Classical Carousel) - NEW!!!
La Canne de Jonc - Alfred de Vigny (Anja Kasap @ Reading 2011 (and Beyond)) - NEW!!!
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (alwaysopinionatedgirl) - NEW!!!

German
Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai by Heinrich Heine (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)
Krabat, by Otfried Preußler (Carola @ brilliant years)

Japanese
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (Carola @ brilliant years)  - NEW!!!

Latin
Ferdinandus Taurus - Munro Leaf (Cleo @ Classical Carousel) - NEW!!!

Russian
Magpie Beloboka (Anja Kasap @ Reading 2011 (and Beyond))

Spanish
Corre, Perro, Corre - P.D. Eastman (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)

Thank you for your participation and see you next summer!




Hoši od Bobří řeky by Jaroslav Foglar (Review)

Title: Hoši od Bobří řeky (Boys from Beaver River)
Author: Jaroslav Foglar
First published: 1958
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

It's a shame, really, but I've finished only one book for my own Language Freak challenge, and I had been planning on finishing at least four! Well, life happens. This only book is in Czech, and it was far from enjoyable. I finished it only because I had borrowed it from a friend (more than a year ago!) who told me it was his favourite book when he was a boy. I can't see how this book can be somebody's favourite, but at least now I can give it back with clean conscience.

The book is essentially a propaganda of the "soviet pioneer" ideals. For those of you not familiar with the movement, they are somewhat like scouts. So there is this young man who apparently has no job and nothing else to do except to entertain and brainwash boys. He takes them on a short trip to the forest and tells them some weird story about a frontier guy who was very sporty and cool, lived in a forest, was friendly with Indians and then died. And the guys become eager to be more like him, to which end they spend all summer camping in the nature trying to pass this man's tests of their strength, knowledge, good behaviour, courage, etc. The book even has specifications for these tests in the end of each chapter, so that the reader can do them himself.

Brainwashing is very strong in this book, and you know I can't stand it. So I was eye-rolling most of the time. I can't see why the author couldn't be more subtle with introducing his agenda. Moreover, I may be too spoiled by the modern world, but this leader of the group is a weirdo. Why is he doing all this? Who pays him? Where does he get money? How come he settles up a sect, and none of the parents are worried? How can they let their children go off for the whole summer to live with this man? I would soooo not trust him with my child!! Another problem of the book is an utter absence of girls. They are not mentioned ONCE! Not in school, not in the streets, the boys don't even think of them. It's as if no girls exist at all. First, is it even possible or healthy? Second, why can't girls also participate in all the "adventures" and try to become sportier, cleverer, etc.? Discrimination!

In my book:
I know I picked it up only to practice my Czech, but I'd prefer it to me more literature than propaganda.

P.S. I'll probably add a review in Czech here some time soon, but I'll need to first check it with my Czech teacher :)


August 29, 2014

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Review)

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
First published: 2011
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

As an avowed geek, I couldn't just go past this book, but I was not sure if I'd like it. You see, what often happens when I read about technology is that I see how implausible it is, and it spoils everything for me. The drawbacks of being a programmer. So I'm always hesitant to pick up books set in a virtual reality or having a lot of computer stuff in them. But I've decided that millions of geeks can't be wrong, and took the risk :) Needless to say, I never once regretted it!

As you have probably heard, the plot revolves around the death of the creator of OASIS - a huge immersive MMORPG which has become the only solace of the humankind after some massive ecological disasters. In his will he tells that his fortune is to be passed to whoever finds the Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in OASIS. Given that the guy is a sociopath with a fixation on the 80th, the egg hunters have to study his areas of interest (which is everything from vintage text games to movies to music) for clues.

The author is clearly an expert on the retro stuff he mentions. I can't claim to know much about the 80th, because I'm too young for that, so I probably didn't catch half of the references while reading, but Cline's descriptions of the old pop culture phenomena are really accurate. I don't doubt he has played all the mentioned games himself. The structure and the rules of OASIS are also very believable, and I couldn't find any major flaws that would make me moan "come on, nobody would program THIS!"

The main character is of course a socially weird teenager whose interests and friends are all online. Of course, he finds the first clue and of course there is a girl. Well, at least her avatar is female. And of course there are bad guys with a lot of resources who are also immensely stupid. This probably gives you a good picture of the plot and anybody can figure out how the book ends :) But don't be too rush to judge! There are some unexpected plot twists, and it's gripping and believable, and it's still a pleasure to see that gun hanging on the wall firing exactly when you expect it to.

I would have gladly given it 5 stars if not for some minor plot inconsistencies that my obsessive nature just couldn't ignore.

*SPOILER ALERT. CONTINUE READING ONLY IF YOU'VE READ THE BOOK!*

Stuff which I had problems with:
1) Nobody could find the first clue for 5 years, and their only problem was that they couldn't figure out where to start searching. And the answer is so obvious it was the only thing I guessed on my own before the "big revelation" was made. Seriously? How is it even statistically possible that several million people haven't guessed something I figured out in 2 mins without any previous knowledge?? Could it be something really difficult instead?
2) Wade is a user. OK, he may be good at fixing hardware he finds in trash. But he's NOT a programmer. It's never mentioned that he is. HOW COME he became a brilliant hacker overnight just to break into a very well protected corporate network?? It's NOT possible!!! You can play games online really well, but that doesn't make you a network security expert
3) After their failure to get info out of Wade, why did they not threaten other scoreboard leaders? They knew where they lived, right? Instead they went to Japan and messed with the guy who was on the fourth position and was not a threat. It would be much easier to track Art3mis. Only the author had to keep the main hero's crash safe...
If you have some explanation for this, please share! :)

*END OF SPOILER ALERT*


In my book:
A great book to make your geeky second (or first) nature happy! Recommended to anyone who has played a computer game at least once in his/her life :)

August 28, 2014

Le Morte D'Arthur Readalong!


Today I want to draw your attention to a wonderful readalong hosted by Jean at Howling Frog Books this late autumn! Le Morte D'Arthur is a classic, and a very thick one, so it's a great idea to have company to read it. If you are interested, please head to the INTRODUCTION POST to learn more about the book and join the fun!

I can't wait to start! :)



The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (Review)

Title: The Prince
Author: Niccolò Machiavelli
First published: 1532
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I don't know why I picked The Prince in the first place: I'm not a fan of political writing or non-fiction, but the mood stroke me and I downloaded it. The book is very short and, although it was written in the 16th century, very accessible. It's essentially a self-help for rulers, stating what are the best ways to gain and retain power, how to approach different problems and to manage different social strata of the kingdom.

Machiavelli is unscrupulous and ruthless, but his methods seem to be really effective. Anyway, what do a hundred dozen dead people mean if it leads to a greater prosperity of the kingdom? :) It is difficult to support his views from the modern point of view, but it's very interesting to explore his reasoning anyway.

Machiavelli was writing The Prince at the time when Italy didn't have a common ruler, and powerful families, the Pope and foreign kings all competed for influence in different regions. Along with the classical examples taken from Roman history Machivelli also uses contemporary situation to explain his views, which makes the book a great source of historical information. Luckily, I was a bit acquainted with Italian politics of the time (thanks to The Borgias! -_-), so it was much easier for me to make sense of what was being referred to. But no previous knowledge is necessary to be able to enjoy the book. (Although if you go and binge-watch The Borgias, you will not regret it!)

In my book:
An essential classic, especially if you are interested in history, philosophy and politics.

August 27, 2014

August 14, 2014

Perceval by Chrétien de Troyes (Review)

Title: Perceval, the Story of the Grail
Author: Chrétien de Troyes
First published Written: 1181
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

There, I've finished all of Chrétien de Troyes! *celebrates* Although I must confess I abandoned Perceval in the middle of the book, that doesn't alter the previous statement :) Let me explain. Chrétien was not very good at wrapping up his writing and actually finishing books. So out of his five surviving works he has finished only three. Lancelot was taken up by some unknown writer, and he did a fairly good job of preserving Chrétien's style and bringing the story to a glorious end. Perceval was not so lucky. Or you can say it WAS luckier, four times more so, as it got 4(!) continuations by different authors. I dropped it in the middle of the second continuation, and I think it was a reasonable and time-saving thing to do. You see, in the middle of Chrétien's own writing, he just drops Perceval and switches to Gawain, who is great of course, but has near to no relation to the title story. The first continuation doesn't return to Gawain, but wraps up Gawain's adventures and switches to yet another knight nobody has ever heard of. All this in 9500 lines! My patience was already quite drained when I finished this continuation. Second continuation was better as it switches back to Perceval, but instead of wrapping up the story, it starts several new adventures, which I was too lazy to keep track of. So without seeing any sign of the Grail on the horizon, I've decided to abandon the book.

All this said, I think the beginning of the story is really great. It's as if Chrétien planned the beginning well and even maybe edited it (one may hope), but then just continued to write what came to his head without any structure in mind. Perceval's story begins in his teens, when he learns about knighthood (some comical moments here) and leaves his home for Arthur's court (now this is really heartbreaking. Poor mom!). He's totally uneducated and brutal, and offenses everybody as he proceeds with his adventures. He learns fast though, and is soon well acquainted with the ways of knights. But he still has to seek spiritual education to be worthy of the Grail. And that's what we don't see, as Gawain takes the stage for what seems like forever -_-

The symbolism in the story is very strong, and it's maybe the only Chrétien's romance which feels like literature, not just a retelling of a series of adventures, as it has some ideas and purpose. The notion of the Grail is still quite rudimentary. In the story the Grail is just a big plate for serving at meals, and the bleeding lance is the key artifact. It's interesting that to get information about the lance and the Grail all you need to do is just ask about them when you see them. But somehow most knights are hesitant to do so, maybe not to sound dumb or impolite. I think it's great that Chrétien underlined the importance of being inquisitive in order to succeed in one's education and personal growth.

Gosh, I'm so glad I've finished Chrétien de Troyes! It was really interesting to see the sources of some of the most famous Arthurian stories, but I'm longing for something easier to read now :)

In my book:
Too long and unstructured to be good, except for the beginning.


My Classics Spin Title...


...is A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway! I'm not sure how I feel about this choice, as I've read The Old Man and the Sea and didn't like it... But I was little then, so who knows, maybe I'll enjoy Hemingway this time! Well, at least the novel is not as long as some other entries on my list :D

What do you think about my spin book?

August 10, 2014

Lancelot by Chrétien de Troyes (Review)

Title: Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Author: Chrétien de Troyes
First published written: 1170
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I was more excited about reading Lancelot than about any other of Chrétien's romances. I mean, Lancelot's story is so popular and here it appears for the first time, at least according to Wikipedia. But unfortunately the romance was not very exciting. Well, there is love between Lancelot and the queen, all right, and some horrifying details about their night together, like Lancelot bleeding all the time because he's lost his finger while trying to get to the queen's rooms... Imagine that. But overall it's just another story about some guy painfully trying to prove to everyone around that he's the best by challenging everybody else he sees without much consideration. This whole cart business was also not very clear from the text, and I was wondering why he needed taking it except for symbolic reasons.

There are some things I liked though. One is the depiction of father/son relationships. There are two such pairs in the story, and a son is usually a hothead, while his dad tries to stop him, reason with him and protect him. Needless to say, this makes the son ashamed of his parent, although in the end the dad is always right. This is so true to life I had to smile :)

Another scene I liked is when a lady offers Lancelot lounging in exchange for spending a night with her. Smart move, right? And it is so funnily described how very unpleasant it was to Lancelot and how he suffered from it, but he was still going to do this out of honour because he gave his word. I laughed out loud at this! :)

In my book:
Yet another typical Chrétien romance... I'm getting a bit tired of them.

August 8, 2014

The Classics Spin #7

I haven't done a spin for quite some time now, and it's a shame, because I've been really bad at making progress with my list this year. So I hope this will make me finally pick up something I've been putting off!

I don't have a lot of books left on the list, and most of those left I'm hesitant to start, either because they are long or complicated or because I've tried to read them before, unsuccessfully. So I've just picked the first 20! Wish me luck!

  1. Ovid: Metamorphoses 
  2. Turold: The Song of Roland 
  3. Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales
  4. Malory, Thomas: Le Morte d'Arthur
  5. Swift, Jonathon: Gulliver’s Travels
  6. Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations
  7. Eliot, George: Middlemarch 
  8. Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the D'Urbervilles
  9. Hugo, Victor: Les Miserables
  10. Scott, Sir Walter: The Lady of the Lake
  11. Scott, Sir Walter: The Bride of Lammermoor
  12. Twain, Mark: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court 
  13. Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The Lost World
  14. Dreiser, Theodore: American Tragedy
  15. Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca
  16. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Beautiful and Damned
  17. Hemingway, Ernest: A Farewell to Arms
  18. Hemingway, Ernest: For Whom the Bell Tolls 
  19. Joyce James: Ulysses
  20. Kundera, Milan: The Unbearable Lightness of Being

August 4, 2014

Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Mini-reviews)

This review is of books 2 and 3 in the series, so there are spoilers! If you haven't read the first book, go to my review of it or read the book itself and come back to discuss :)

I didn't expect to like The Hunger Games, but I totally did. I wasn't very eager to continue with the series though, as I expected more teenage love and revolution. So instead I watched the movie Catching Fire, and I liked how the plot turned so much that I started to read the rest of the series immediately after the final titles. It's been a long time since I did this kind of fangirling! So what got me hooked?

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
First published: 2009
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

The second book deals with the aftermaths of the decisions made in the first book. It's about responsibilities and how hard it is to understand what's right and most of all about post-traumatic syndrome. Katniss has to cope with what she's seen and done and to protect her family meanwhile. And then she has to go to Hunger Games again! Psychologically it's all very well described. The whole conspiracy plot is also awesome, as reader is given some clues as to what's happening, but he's in the dark most of the time, same as Katniss. The information dump in the end was not very subtle, I'd prefer it all revealed somehow differently, but whatever. Besides, there are some great new characters introduced, which I totally loved. I liked it that the stakes are much higher in this new installment of the games and that there are hard decisions to be made.

What I have a problem with is why these games were introduced in the first place. The Capitol seems to be really good with propaganda and censoring, and these should be enough to keep districts in order without the threat of taking their children from them. Slumberous and passive people are so much easier to rule.

Also, I kinda love Peeta in this book, hehe! And Haymitch, obvsly :)

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
First published: 2010
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

Mockingjay is the darkest book of all. I was so depressed to learn that the rebels are no better than the Capitol and are also all about putting up a good show. But that's why I like Collins - she doesn't make things black or white. Plot-wise the book is a bit messy, as the motifs of some characters, especially Katniss, are hard to understand. For example, why on Earth did she go on that suicidal mission to kill Snow? She didn't arrive much earlier than the main forces anyway and got some of my favourite characters killed. But all the Games survivors are so wretched that no one can expect good decisions from them. On the other hand, although the thing they did to Peeta and the curing process were not very believable, I think it was a good plot twist. And it was certainly beneficial for him to get some rest from his unhealthy obsession with Katniss. He finally understands that she was not behaving very well towards him. It's a pity he needs the venom treatment for it.

The finale was quite satisfactory. That's exactly how I imagined the book to finish, and it felt right. Although the third book is probably my least favourite because of some plot problems, I've got so invested in the characters that I couldn't put the book down anyway.

In my book:
Read the series! It is an entertaining read with some good character study and interesting ideas.

August 3, 2014

Language Freak July Update - Holiday Edition


Hellooo sweeties! That's me greeting you from northern Italy, where I was on vacation last week! I hope your summer is being wonderful too!

How are you all doing with the challenge? I'm still plodding through that Czech book which is supposed to encourage boys to do all these boyscout/pioneer activities... They have game descriptions and tasks in the end of each chapter now! Not exciting. At this pace and with an exam to prepare for, it will be a miracle if I finish it by the end of the challenge. I'll do my best though! :)

July was a down time review-wise, but we still have 2 new reviews! Below, as usual, are all our reviews by language. Note that July reviews have been marked by NEW!!!

Chinese
Frog is Sad by Max Velthuijs (Carola @ brilliant years)

French
Nuits de Juin by Victor Hugo (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (Cleo @ Classical Carousel) - NEW!!!
Délicieusement Cru par Judita Wignall (Cleo @ Classical Carousel) - NEW!!!

German
Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai by Heinrich Heine (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)
Krabat, by Otfried Preußler (Carola @ brilliant years)
Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) by The Brothers Grimm (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)

Russian
Magpie Beloboka (Anja Kasap @ Reading 2011 (and Beyond))

Spanish
Corre, Perro, Corre - P.D. Eastman (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)

Don't forget that August is the last month of the challenge! So it's high time to reach your goals! :) I'll post a final recap of the challenge in the beginning of September, so don't forget to write about your reading experience!

July 23, 2014

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Review)

Title: The Eyre Affair
Author: Jasper Fforde
First published: 2001
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I've been eager to read The Eyre Affair for a long time, especially after Riv's recommendations, and I'm glad I finally did! However, the book turned out to be less awesome than I had expected. There may be spoilers ahead, as I wanted to discuss certain things in particular, but I don't think they are dangerous for you, as most plot twists are kinda obvious long before they happen.

The most fascinating thing about The Eyre Affair is the setting: the world is so similar to ours, but not quite. For one thing, literature is super-important! People are not divided into politically left or right, but according to their opinions about Shakespeare's identity. And the fights between the sides are much more heated! Time travel and other incredible things are an every-day matter in this world. And Crimean War has been going on since 1800s. Sounds menacing in the light of the recent events... But I digress. Exploring this world was like visiting Wonderland—you never know what will happen next. But it's also a problem, as I like to know how a fictional world operates. When some difficult situation is resolved with some plot twist you couldn't imagine was possible, well... I call it cheating.

The plot itself was a bit weird, as the main bad guy's motives were hard to grasp, but everything to do with Jane Eyre plot is awesome! The explanation of that strange plot twist fits so well into the story! No “Gothic romance convention” can explain Jane hearing Rochester calling for her quite as well!

I really liked the main character. She's kinda cool, if maybe too militaristic to my taste. Which makes the sugar-sweet ending so much worse. I mean, seriously, they just go and live happily ever after? After all their problems and 10 years apart? I don't believe. I'd also like to have more witty dialogues in the book. You have so many awesome characters—let them speak and amuse the reader! Which brings me to the main reason why I gave the book just three stars in spite of great plot, characters and world-building: the writing. It just didn't grip me. I could put the book down in the middle of some dangerous situation and go make some tea. Although I like tea, it's not a good sign at all.

In my book:
It's a nice summer read, especially if you wish to be able to put the book down and actually enjoy the summer around you.

July 21, 2014

The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov (Review)

Title: The Luzhin Defense
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
First published: 1930
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

Nabokov may be one of my favourite authors, although I can't say I've read a lot of his works. But his writing... You fall in love with it immediately. If you've read him, you know what I mean. He's also from the Russian emigrant culture, which he describes to perfection. There's this bitter feeling of having no place to call home, of not belonging anywhere, of being lost and unsure of anything in all his works that I can really relate to. I also admire him because he wrote in two languages - Russian and English, and Lolita he written in both. How cool is that? Anyway, I had high expectations for The Luzhin Defence, and I was well rewarded.

The story revolves around the life of an outstanding chess player, starting with his miserable childhood and building up to a major emotional breakdown. There's nothing more to say about the plot, as it's a very psychological book. The main character is not likable, but the workings of his brain are so unique that it's totally impossible to put the book down. The woman that appears in his life is (to me) an even more interesting character, as her choices explain so much about the nature of a woman's love.

I couldn't help being reminded of Zweig's Chess Story while reading The Luzhin Defence. I know, they deal with slightly different things, but they are both about chess and madness, so I think it's fair to compare them. And my verdict is that in spite of my love to Nabokov, Chess Story was more gripping and intense. Nabokov's character background is more profound, but Zweig's madness description is more engrossing and impressive. But certainly both are awesome books, and I'd recommend both to anybody.

In my book:
Another great Nabokov novel. Highly recommended.


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (Mini Reviews)

Title: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Author: Douglas Adams
First published: 1979
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

By now, I've read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy three times, and it still makes me laugh and love it, because it's so awesome! Why? Well, here are some reasons: Marvin, Vogon poetry, a towel, mice, Alpha Centauri regional planning office which we didn't have the responsibility to visit, fjord design and of course 42 and Don't Panic! Seriously, I think it's the most brilliant book ever! Nothing more to add, so let's discuss the second one now.

Title: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Author: Douglas Adams
First published: 1980
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Unfortunately, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe falls short of the awesomeness of the first book. First, there are so many repetitions of the stuff from The Hitchhiker's Guide, that it made me really impatient. Can't Adams think of something new? Well, there are new things in the book, like the restaurant itself, but somehow they are not funny, and most of them are too bitter and even mean. Also, the plot is much more action-packed, and it's a bad thing, as I enjoy the dialogues much more than running. There's also some conspiracy plot which didn't make much sense for me. I'd be happier with their wandering meaninglessly across the galaxy encountering some hilarious things.

Overall, I will not be reading the further books anytime soon in order not to spoil the impression from the first book, which you can bet I'll re-read again, more than once :)

Quotes:

"... here's something to occupy you and keep your mind off things."
"It won't work," droned Marvin, "I have an exceptionally large mind."

It gives me a headache just trying to think down to your level

"we're having a great time. Food, wine, a little personal abuse and the Universe going foom."

It is a curious fact, and one to which no one knows quite how much importance to attach, that something like 85% of all known worlds in the Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called jynnan tonnyx, or gee-N'N-T'N-ix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand or more variations on the same phonetic theme. The drinks themselves are not the same, and vary between the Sivolvian 'chinanto/mnigs' which is ordinary water served at slightly above room temperature, and the Gagrakackan 'tzjin-anthony-ks' which kill cows at a hundred paces; and in fact the one common factor between all of them, beyond the fact that the names sound the same, is that they were all invented and named before the worlds concerned made contact with any other worlds.
What can be made of this fact? It exists in total isolation. As far as any theory of structural linguistics is concerned it is right off the graph, and yet it persists. Old structural linguists get very angry when young structural linguists go on about it. Young structural linguists get deeply excited about it and stay up late at night convinced that they are very close to something of profound importance, and end up becoming old structural linguists before their time, getting very angry with the young ones. Structural linguistics is a bitterly divided and unhappy discipline, and a large number of its practitioners spend too many nights drowning their problems in Ouisghian Zodahs.

July 14, 2014

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Review)

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
First published: 2008
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

It was time for me to check what all this hype was about, so I finally coped with my suspiciousness towards the books labeled "YA" and did it! And I was pleasantly surprised, as I actually really liked this book!

First, let me say that the whole concept of the show is amazing. Modern show-business techniques are hyperbolized by being applied to a totally monstrous show concept, and the result is that this monstrosity looks totally plausible. The rest of the world-building had some problems (Specialized districts? Seriously? I'd like to see your logistics.), but the show backstage and organisation is just awesome. The only problem is that because of the first person narrative and the existence of two more books in the series reader knows who'll win. There is some twist in the end, but I could see through it. It didn't bother me much though. The writing is so dynamic, that the narrative never gets boring.

Surprisingly enough, the "teenage feeeeelingz" aspect was also not dull. Pretend love for show? Much more interesting than a normal love triangle. I'm only slightly frightened that there will be more of this triangle in the further books, so I'm hesitant to start them. Apart from that, the relationships on the arena were all quite plausible. Katnniss's trail of thought was interesting to follow as she tried to survive and do the right thing.

In my book:
A fast, entertaining and not stupid book to bury yourself in for a couple of evenings.


July 8, 2014

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - A Rant

Note: I know many people totally love this book, so if you think me ranting about it would spoil your day, don't read the review :) That's precisely why I've put "A Rant" subtitle to the post header.

Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
First published: 1991
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

With an impressive 4.13 rating on Goodreads and so many recommendations, I expected this book to become my new favourite. There's time travel, Scotland, a strong female character, hot scots... I like all these things, but somehow them being put together by Gabaldon resulted in total crap. Well, maybe not TOTAL, but we'll get to it. Let's begin with the bad stuff, OK?

First, the book is sooo long! Generally, I love long books, but there'd better be something actually happening on all those pages. OK, there are a lot of adventures, battles and other things, all right, but they are all so monotonous! By the middle of the book I had an urge to yawn every time Jaime was hurt or Claire was abused. Again. Besides, this brings me to the next point: the abundance of unsettling and disgusting descriptions. I do realize that the time was not pretty, but some scenes in the prison and afterwards were totally unnecessary. Not that I cared by that time. In the second half of the book there were several action sequences in which I had no idea what was happening... And I didn't want to re-read to make sense of them. It's still a mystery to me how the prison escape was managed and how getting high on opium and fighting cured blood poisoning in the end.

My next problem with the book was sex scenes. I like me some good steamy sex in a book, and I do admit that some of them actually WERE good, but not for 200 pages non-stop! I'm not kidding, there's a part in the book in which they hardly do anything else. Again, I got bored. Besides, some stuff really disturbed me. Remember the scene when they have sex near the body of a soldier killed by Claire just before? Or that sex after a month on the verge of death. Seriously???

Even with all the aforementioned problems the book would be OK if I liked the characters. But Jaime is just some sickly-sweet ideal of a man, who everybody older than 12 years old should understand doesn't exist, and Claire... I didn't really care for her. I can't figure out why, but probably because her reactions to things happening around her are so unbelievable that I can't think of her as a real person.

Now to the positive moments, as promised :) The book is obviously well-researched and gives a nice overview of life in Scotland at that time. Although I'm not a specialist and I may be wrong here. Also, the dialogues are usually good and witty, and some even made me smile. Hmm.. That's probably all. Not much :)

In my book:
If you are not into hard-core "women's fiction", skip it! Spend some time NOT wanting to punch the characters in the face instead :)

July 7, 2014

Language Freak June Update


Hi everybody! How are you doing? Sorry about being so late with this update, I've had my mom visiting me, so I was never at home, always sightseeing! :) My leg muscles are so sore! Nevertheless, I've read half of my first Czech book! It's sooo boyish... I'm already tired of fights.

Our participants have been doing great this month! Let's see what we have accomplished!

First, let us welcome our new participant, alwaysopinionatedgirl who'll be reading in French!

And now reviews by language! Note that June reviews have been marked by NEW!

Chinese
Frog is Sad by Max Velthuijs (Carola @ brilliant years)

French
Nuits de Juin by Victor Hugo (Cleo @ Classical Carousel) - NEW!!!

German
Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai by Heinrich Heine (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)
Krabat, by Otfried Preußler (Carola @ brilliant years) - NEW!!!
Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) by The Brothers Grimm (Cleo @ Classical Carousel) - NEW!!!

Russian
Magpie Beloboka (Anja Kasap @ Reading 2011 (and Beyond))

Spanish
Corre, Perro, Corre - P.D. Eastman (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)

Please, let me know if I've forgotten anything. June has been hectic and sometimes I had to skim through my RSS feed, although I did try to stop by and comment :)

Seems like we are making a nice progress altogether! Good luck next month to everybody!


June 22, 2014

Long-(over)due Mini-reviews

Title: Watership Down
Author: Richard Adams
First published: 1972
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I've heard so many great things about this book, that I was more than a bit disappointed with it. It just didn't grip me. Adams can write adventure all right, but I didn't get why it had to be rabbits? They behave exactly like people anyway, so what's the point? For me it didn't work, as I couldn't care much for just a pack of rabbits, however well-elaborated their characters might be. I know, I'm a monster :) But I've hated tear-inducing books about "poor animals" since my childhood :) The rabbit language was also not very well-developed or necessary. What I did like was the rabbit mythology. The parts when they tell stories were my favorite!

The biggest problem of the book is the lack of any female characters. The whole plot is about "getting some does", but even when they appear, they don't play any role at all and are very passive. OK, OK, maybe it's supposed to be so with the rabbits, but they behave like humans, so it still irritates me. Also, all the philosophy is just... meh!

In my book: Maybe more suitable for children than adults. Or for much less cynical than me adult animal lovers :)


Title: The Warden
Author: Anthony Trollope
First published: 1855
Add it: GoodreadsThe Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I read it for Chronicles of Barsetshire Readalong, and it was due in March, but I couldn't finish it until May, although it's a fairly thin book. What can I say? It was just so dull! I didn't care a twopence about moral dilemmas of a countryside priest and all the ecclesiastical politics around it. Trollope is really witty in some small scenes, for example his commentary on family life made me giggle a couple of times, but the plot is just so long-drawn and anti-climactic, that most of the time I used the book to fall asleep fast.

In my book: A classic soporific.


Title: The Republic of Thieves
Author: Scott Lynch
First published: 2013
Add it: GoodreadsThe Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

I picked this book out of despair - no story could hold my attention this horrible May, and I thought if this one couldn't, I was doomed. Well, Lynch haven't disappointed me: I was involved in the book, as much as it was possible at the time. However, I do think it had some problems. First, both plots (there's a flashback, as usual) are far from being original. Election and theater, really? They DO work, because both are amazing sources of plot devices, but I kinda thought Lynch was above it... Also, I didn't get the whole thing about the bondsmagi, including the last cataclysm and Locke's "secret". WTF????

I was most excited to finally see Sabetha, but I was a bit disappointed here too. No, she IS every inch as cool as I've imagined her, but her and Locke's relationship is so fucked up it becomes tiresome. Also, I'm glad there are always enough of great female characters in the series, but her "female in a male world" problems are a bit exaggerated here, I think.

In my book: Still great, but a bit less amazing and a bit darker than the previous books.

June 21, 2014

Wazzup?

Hi everybody! It's I! Do you still remember me? :) A short update, mostly not about books. I know, I know, this blog is supposed to be about books, but lately books haven't been happening in my life as regularly as shit :)

1) I've just defended my thesis. It was good! Also, half an hour later, I failed the state exam. It was so bad, I can't even! I got the worst possible question. Apart from being ashamed as hell (my boss was in the committee), I'll have to do it all again in August. I realize that it's not the end of the world, but the perfectionist in me is crying and cursing. What's worse is that my mom is coming for graduation, and there will be no graduation for me. What a shame!

2) I've just got back from a great vacation at home! All my dear friends, small touristic trips, parties... Wonderful, just wonderful! I needed it! No surprise that I was not so well prepared for the state exam... One place we've visited was a marble quarry where they dug stuff to build all the pretty buildings in St.Petersburg. It's very beautiful!



3) I've got an invitation to a Cambridge research group for a couple of months. If they solve the visa problem somehow (and it's not that trivial with my nationality!) and if I finally pass this bloody exam, I'll go there. Maybe it's a sign that life is slowly becoming slightly better? :)

4) I haven't been reading a lot this month, if only you don't count lecture notes :) I'm nearly done with Outlander, and oh my god is it trashy! If I ever finish it, the review will probably be a huge rant, so get ready! I have no idea what to read next, maybe I'll pick up the Hitchhiker's Guide books - the "Don't panic" message would be really appreciated right now :) Or I might finally pick up a book in Czech!


June 1, 2014

Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese (Review)

Title: Starship Grifters
Author: Robert Kroese
First published: 2014
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

I have been given this book for review by Lori, and I must say she's great at choosing appropriate reviewers :) I really enjoyed Starship Grifters!

Usually I would complain that the book lacks depth. You know, The Hitchhiker's Guide, which it is compared to, is about "life, universe and everything"; Starship Grifters is not. It's just some funny adventures of some crazy characters in a totally unbelievable universe. But just because of this it's just a perfect book to read when you are in the end of the semester writing your diploma, your long-term relationship is fucked-up and you undergo an unpleasant and expensive medical treatment. There was literally nothing that could make me laugh or even engage me enough to care, but this book could!

The first amazing thing about the book is that the story is being told by a robot! A nearly-intelligent robot that shuts off every time there is a danger of generating an original thought. How awesome is that? I can also tell that the author apparently knows something about artificial intelligence, as the technical descriptions were very accurate. It pleases a scientist inside me :)

The second amazing thing is all the craziness of what's happening in the book. There's no telling what'll happen next, but you'll surely be surprised. There are some funny and sarcastic commentaries on certain easily recognizable real-life characters and situations, but the book is still far from being satirical. The dialogues are funny and made me giggle a couple of times, and the final plot twist is really good.

I had some problem with the main character, though. Rex is very, very crazy, and although sometimes it's great, sometimes he becomes insufferable. I think that was the point, but somehow he is still the most unbelievable character in the book for me. However, his martini "thing" was classy! And his character made me sympathize with his robot even more :)

In my book: Starship Grifters is a farce, full of cliches and unbelievable stuff. But it's very funny and just great for raising your spirits, even at times when you are totally unable to concentrate on everything.

P.S. Look at the cover! It looks like a battered copy of a classic sci-fi paperback! I love that!


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