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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

           

If reading ‘A Clash of Kings’ was a wade through mud (a waist-deep one in addition), ‘A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow’ is  where I got out of this muddy lake and found a clean water reservoir in which I could refresh myself.

‘A Clash of Kings’ seemed a bit like a prologue to the occurrences in ‘A Storm of Swords’; it was long, boring, spiked with even more boring descriptions… nothing fancy. It was a build-up, I know, and somehow it made me appreciate ‘A Storm of Swords’ even more. Because reading the latter is like flying.

In ACoK I grew to despise Theon with all my heart. I really did put a lot of hatred into my thoughts while reading his chapters. This projection did come with a reward in the end.

Davos’ chapters were extremely boring, I couldn’t stand them to the point of flipping through his POV’s pages. With the airing of the first episode of the second season I came to realise that I might experience a reversal of a sort, since something similar had happened to me already (namely: my TV!Jon and TV!Sansa hatred vs book!Jon and book!Sansa love). As in: really appreciate Davos in the TV series. Guess what? I love him to death.

However, ACoK did have its good points. Renly Baratheon, for instance. Who doesn’t love Renly? The snarky, Robert-like comments, his unyielding faith that he can actually do everything. Cat vs Jaime. Cersei. Sansa, my poor Sansa. Tyrion exuding epicness left and right. Too bad Tyrion has resorted to thinking with his penis at such a terrifying frequency, though. It also had Jaquen H’Ghar. The guy has instantly become one of my favourites. I do hope Arya gets to meet him soon.

ACoK was not at all that bad. It just didn’t quite do it for me.

‘A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow’, on the other hand, earned its epicness points for feeding me with Jaime’s chapter straightaway. And I must admit, the guy’s amazing.  I’m really looking forward to his chapters every time I grab the book. The insight into his relationship with Cersei (which, with the passing of time, I found less and less incestuous – I just no longer see them as brother and sister, since the idea behind this is just too powerful – but that’s just me), how he treats other people, especially Brienne. How genuine he is, how he doesn’t even try to hide anything. His head is a wonderful place, really.

I’m only halfway through the book, so I can’t really write a proper review. I will, though, as soon as I’m finished. My expectations for ASoS were pretty high, and so far it hasn’t disappointed me.

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 Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gwendolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack’s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack’s country home on the same weekend—the “rivals” to fight for Ernest’s undivided attention and the “Ernests” to claim their beloveds—pandemonium breaks loose. 

Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day! [snagged from Goodreads]

Let me tell you one thing: this is the most delightful and hilarious play I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

It is a humour-packed mockery of the best kind, the one that attacks the tenets imposed on the Victorian Society, the ever-present matchmaking process , the snobbery and, of course, hypocrisy of the Victorian people.  Last year, when I was writing my Master’s thesis I stumbled upon this particular book in a bookstore. I instantly latched onto it, read the synopsis and knew all at once my dissertation would greatly profit from it. I had no idea I would profit as well. Prior to reading it I spent my days immersed in books on Victorian Society, the societal analyses, books on females in Victorian fiction, the Victorian history, books by Thackeray, Dickens, Disraeli… The Importance of Being Earnest was a breath of fresh air: not only did it serve as a relaxation factor, it also made me fall head over heels with Wilde’s writing.

This play’s an insightful fast-paced read, Algernon is – to my mind – one of the most adorable and lovable protagonists ever, the girls are fantastic and Aunt Augusta is a perfect example of the Victorian snobbishness. Not only that – the book  almost in its entirety is deliciously quotable. It also lacks the seriousness that represents the majority of Victorian works. Which alone makes for a very entertaining adventure.

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Stephen King, to my mind, has mastered the skill of storytelling. Even though some of his books and short story compilations I regard as ‘meh’, there are a couple of his works I consider masterpieces… Masterpieces, even. Throughout my life I have read 31 books by this wonderful, ingenious man, and I cannot express enough gratitude for having been able to do that. If anything, he has taught me to be brave in my writing. He does not shy away from depicting the worst things and people, the goriest occurrences, the darkest demons that dwell within his characters’ heads. He conceives a multitude of subplots that are eventually combined into one epic plot, and he does it well. What strikes me as one of the most fascinating things a writer could do is intertwining the worlds about which he’s writing. A female character from Desperation can be found in Rose Madder, for instance. A symbol of the turtle emerges in several works of his. Everything is interconnected.

Originally, I was supposed to compile a list of my favourite novels, never narrowing them down to one author. However, later on, it dawned on me that I should do this instead. My favourite novels by Stephen King, that is.

1. The Dark Tower saga:

       

This particular saga has changed my life. The first book is, honestly, one of the worst books I have ever stumbled across. Nevertheless, if one wants to delve into the series, one has to give it a try, no matter how tedious the task may be, no matter how muddy the water you’re wading through. It’s not good. In actuality, it may be considered one of his ‘fail’ works, although some claim otherwise.

The rest of the saga is absolutely PERFECT, so no fear, young padawans, if your desire to join me in my fangirling and utter bliss ignites, recall my words: it gets SO MUCH better.

2. The Tommyknockers:

This one I had to approach twice. Initially, I decided – after being about 20 pages into the story – that I wouldn’t poke it with a 50-mile stick. My godfather insisted I keep on reading, and I’m immensely glad I listened to him. If you’re looking for a fantastically developed story with rising suspense that will forever keep you at the edge of your seat, this one’s for you. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

3. Lisey’s Story:

Lisey’s Story may, as a matter of fact, be one of the most beautiful, unadulterated love stories ever written. Tragic to boot, with vivid imagery, the world of Boo’ya Moon and the things two people in love shared together. Coupled with the elements of horror it is a feast for both an eye and the soul.

4. Rose Madder:

An amazing female lead who decides to take life into her own hands after she’s had enough of her husband’s abuse – she runs away from home. We accompany her through all the changes she undergoes, we keep cheering her on, we want her to be the happiest woman alive because she deserves it. And the husband comes after her. So we, the readers, want him to suffer the cruelest of deaths and Rose to punish him for everything he’s ever dared do to her.

5. Under the Dome:

Just for the record, indecisiveness is my middle name. I had a hard time choosing the fifth book because of From a Buick 8. It’s equally brilliant, and has an ending I fully enjoyed. However, Under the Dome is the winner, even though the ending is not exactly the most riveting thing on Earth.

It is the sort of a book that will force you to read it, no matter how exhausted you are. It is the sort of a book that will make you squirm, cry, will make you prone to bouts of outrage every now and then.

And keep you entertained till the very last page.

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I hereby vow not to buy anymore books until I have read every single one out of these two stacks:

Now, this task is bound to prove difficult, as I am on a constant bookhunt. I must stay strong, for the greater good.

At the moment, I am making my way through A Clash of Kings. Deeming the first installment inThe Song of Ice and Fire series a masterpiece I quite possibly set the bar way too high. This one’s pretty good, however not as gripping as A Game of Thrones. I do hope it gets better further on. I will also make an attempt at writing a review for this one. Much fangirling over Jon will undoubtedly ensue; same goes to Sansa. These two hold a special place in my heart.

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The Hunger Games – review

Title: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)

Author: Suzanne Collins

Genre: YA, dystopia, sci-fi

Number of pages: 374

Rating: 4.5 stars

A short synopsis for those who have yet to read the book or are debating doing so, while thinking it’s too hyped to be good:

Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District 12 in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem ruled by the overbearing, unfair and cruel Capitol lives her not-so-merry life trying to make ends meet, feed her family and earn some money via hunting. She is a survivor and will do everything to protect her younger sister.

One day the tributes for the annual Hunger Games are about to be chosen – one boy and one girl from each district – in order to battle with each other to death in the Games. The Capitol clearly thrives on the entertainment the Hunger Games provide, and the fact that they’re exerting punishment on the districts makes them feel even more powerful. The Games are shown throughout the entire country, everyone watches children aged 12-18 slaughter each other, cheering on their favourites. Only one person can win.

When Primrose Everdeen, Katniss’ little sister, is chosen as a tribute, the latter rushes to volunteer. She is to be thrown into the merciless world with equally merciless opponents, and struggle hard to keep herself alive… and not lose herself or her sanity. And this is how the nightmare begins.

***

My initial reaction would be best described as ‘No way, it’s narrated in the 1st person, I won’t be able to get through this.’

Truth be told, I have a love-hate relationship with 1st person POVs, since – to my mind – it is quite easy to destroy a well-moulded character by giving them the power of narration. Thus, loads of Mary Sues and Gary Stus commence springing up, little wretched blossoms. At first I thought I would not be able to stomach Katniss.

As the story progressed the author managed to prove me wrong.

I actually took a liking to Katniss. She’s strong, loyal, uses her brain and is everything Bella Swan could never be. Most importantly: she’s independent. Other characters I thought I might not be able to like either, but eventually I began caring for them in a way I had never thought I would. Haymitch has a depth to himself and is actually very likable, Peeta is a wonderful human being, Rue is a person everyone will get attached to… Gale, on the other hand, strikes me as a Cancer so I’m not really fond of him, forgive me 😉 Everyone seems quite genuine.

It is a well-crafted story, full to the brim of twists and turns, characters with personalities and fast-paced action which makes for a quick and enjoyable read. Moreover, even the romantic sub-plot did not succeed in putting me off. The plot itself holds a strong semblance to Battle Royale so any fan of the latter will find something for themselves in The Hunger Games.

Suzanne Collins does not seem to dwell on useless descriptions too often, and for this I am thankful. She’s to-the-point and willing to share even the most gruesome details with her readers; she’s not at all afraid to put the gory and uncomfortable moments into the plot. Her writing feels real. It’s made me cry like a baby, and that’s one of the reasons I’m highly recommending it.

My answer to the ‘Is this book any good?’ question would be ‘Hell yes. Why are you even asking? Go grab it, NOW.’

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2011 reads

Here’s the more-or-less complete list of the books/stories I’ve managed to read in 2011, coupled with re-reads and manga volumes. Bolded are the ones that stirred me in a way only books can stir a person. Basically, the bolded titles belong to my ‘ultimate favourites’ section over at Goodreads (or are about to belong there, since I haven’t fiddled with my shelves for ages).

Novels/short stories:

1. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

2. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

3. Under the Dome by Stephen King

4. Romans Wszechczasów by Joanna Chmielewska

5. English Social History by G.M. Trevelyan

6. Studnie Przodków by Joanna Chmielewska

7. Veronica Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

8. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

9. Women and Marriage in Victorian Fiction by Jenni Calder

10. The History of Pendennis by William Makepeace Thackeray

11. Sybil or The Two Nations by Benjamin Disraeli

12. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

13. The Newcomes by William Makepeace Thackeray

14. Insomnia by Stephen King

15. Towards Zero by Agatha Christie

16. Peril at End House by Agatha Christie

17. The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan (don’t read it; under any circumstances, don’t; it’ll make you cringe because it’s so badly written)

18. Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie

19. Entropic Quest by Tom Lichtenberg

20. Sexy Teenage Vampires by Tom Lichtenberg

21. Bookstore Lore by Tom Lichtenberg

22. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

23.  Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra

24. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

25. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

26. Ironside by Holly Black

27. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (re-read)

28. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (re-read)

29. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy

30. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

31. Circus by Alistair McLean (as much as I love this author, the book was a major letdown)

32. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (I certainly did not expect loving this book so much)

The manga:

33. Monster by Naoki Urasawa (everything about this manga series screams utter perfection) – 18 volumes

34. Ao no Exorcist by Kazue Kato – 1 volume

35. Dogs: Bullets & Carnage by Shirow Miwa – 1 volume

Not much, considering.

The rest are the books I did not finish reading. There’ll be time for them in 2012. If there’s not, I’ll make more time for reading.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Title: Mythago Wood (Mythago Wood #1)

Author: Robert Holdstock

Genre: fantasy

Number of pages: 336

Rating: 1.5 stars

‘Mythago Wood’ tells the story of one Steven Huxley who, upon his arrival at the Huxley homestead from the post-WWI stay in France, notices that his brother has changed for the worse. Christian’s features are gaunt and he doesn’t take proper care of himself, having wholly devoted himself to work. That is: their late father’s work. Said father used to be utterly obsessed with the neighbouring forest of the primeval kind – the Ryhope Wood– and Christian has grown obsessed with it as well. George Huxley’s journal and the haunting childhood memories are both at fault. It was the same obsession that served as a factor which ruined the Huxley family and led to the Huxley parental units’ deaths.

The forest, as Steven gradually discovers – prompted by his brother’s nagging, peculiar behaviour and rather longish trips into the Ryhope Wood – cannot be put on par with forests known to humankind. This one proves nigh inaccessible for mere mortals and houses the creations of people’s minds. Legendary forms, heroes and villains, Celtic tribes of the ancient times that were once imaginary have taken shape and form there. They’ve become real. Robin Hood roaming the Ryhope Wood is no uncommon sight in there. Not at all.

These are the mythagos. The reason for George and Christian’s obsession. The subject of their extended forays into the unwelcoming forest grounds. Steve, during Chris’ rather longish absence, either goes out of his mind or reads their father’s journal, and is drawn into the madness as well, step by step. He even explores the border of the Ryhope Wood and eventually camps there, in hopes of finding answers to all his queries.

In comes Guiwenneth, the main source of one-track mindedness of both George and Chris, their true love. Mentioned in the journal, she captures Steve’s attention. The mythago that screams perfection. She’s a Celtic warrior with flaming red hair, a captivating gaze; a woman whose bravery surpasses all. Steven meets this particular mythago and falls for her almost instantly. She is now his mythago, his lovely warrior girl. She no longer belongs to either his father, nor his brother (who’s still nowhere to be found). The next thing he knows is him being thrown into the whirlwind of drama and obsession, vowing to find his brother and keep Guiwenneth always at his side.

****

I admit, here I went for the ‘looks’. The cover of this novel is absolutely beautiful in my opinion. Has this air of mystery and creepiness about it, and it bears lovely colours as well. Alas, along with the title, it was the thing that misled me.

Reading this book was such a chore. It had quite a promising beginning, though – all the interaction between the two brothers, Steven’s anxiety and longing for normality, for something he’s familiar with… and then, the unfamiliar commencing to rule out what he was used to.

Plus, the mythagos. The forms of the ancients/legends formed inside our heads. I loved the idea, it held so much potential, for it was indeed something I love to see in books: that it is all in our heads, and all of a sudden this ‘all’ becomes reality and we’re trapped. But Guiwenneth was too much for me to bear. For one, she was a Mary Sue. How else would you name a red-headed, young and beautiful lady with able body; a courageous, outstanding warrior – it just stinks. Steven’s love for her limited him to great extent, as he could not see what was going on around him, anything that was not Guin simply did not matter. Not even the man who aided him in everything, including breaking past the wood’s seemingly unbreakable walls – Harry Keeton. There were hints of friendly bonding, all deemed by me as ‘lost potential’. Harry was, indeed, a great character, even though I did not fully comprehend his role in this and his eventual departure has left more questions than answers.

Guin arrived and destroyed, the discord appeared between the two brothers because of a woman (a perfect woman, no less!). Who, despite everything, was the image they created in their own heads. Alongside Guin’s infuriating Mary-Sueish traits were Steven’s constant weeping and bouts of depression. I reckon these were the sole reasons for my initial dislike of the protagonist. All the time I was thinking to myself ‘Steve, get a grip on yourself and be a man, be the protagonist who sets examples instead of resorting to being a whimp in love!’

All in all, I deem this book rather different from other novels of the fantasy genre. It’s dreamy. It’s strange. It’s peculiar, and it could have been a real feat, if not for the abundance of romance and this huge ‘TRUE LOVE’ slogan flashing at the reader on almost every page. The main character – not likeable. His love interest: a Mary Sue. Quite a lot of things need serious clearing up, however, I have not been convinced to pick up the second novel from the Mythago Wood series. Cannot give it more than 1.5 stars, though, which is a pity.

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