Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Language Freak Summer Challenge - My Sign-Up


Hi, Hi! I'm still alive, yes :) I suck at blogging lately, but getting ozone in your spine is no easy work, I tell you! Moreover, I wanted to make pictures of the books I want to read, and with my ancient phone that's a challenge in itself!

So obviously, I'm signing up for the highest level of my own challenge! And that is an advanced level, which means I pledge to read at least 3 books in foreign languages this summer. Easy-peasy! I also want to read a book in each language I know to complete the crazy linguist level, but we'll see how it'll go.

Let's go language by language now! For my history with this languages, you are welcome to read my last year's sign-up post, nothing has changed since then! And here I'll only list the books I'm going to read.

Czech


First, I have a book for boys about adventures in a summer camp (the left one) which I took from my friend last summer and haven't read yet. Shame on me! And second, my Czech teacher has lent me Hrabal's I Served the English King, which comes highly recommended not only by her and is supposed to be very funny!

Spanish


Here are the three books I have been trying to read for a couple of years now! Quiroga's even have a bookmark in it! They are all very thin, but have such a large vocabulary that reading them is anything but easy. But this year I want to finish at least one! Platero Y Yo, probably. It's about a donkey, what can be difficult? We'll see. And I'd like to continue my reading of Harry Potter series in Spanish and read The Goblet of Fire. I'm a bit afraid, as the fourth book is much more grown-up and log than the previous three, but I bet it'll still be easier than any of the three you see above :)

German

Nothing planned! I don't have any books in German left, and I'm open to suggestions! Do you know something easy and entertaining for an intermediate learner that hates complicated sentences? Please, recommend me something!

That's it for me! I hope I'll manage it by the end of summer! :)


Monday, April 14, 2014

Language Freak Summer Challenge (Second Edition): Announcement and Sign-ups!


You were waiting for it, right? Well, I hope so! :) I know I was! Summer is already in the air here, so I thought it was time to announce the second Language Freak Summer Challenge! Yay! While another people will relax and read some brain-softening holiday books, we will brush up our language skills, increase our market value, have some fun and become proud of ourselves! Last year the challenge went really well, and I got some positive feedback, so I've decided to leave the rules as they are. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I'm going to!

What is it all about?

In short, I challenge you to read books in foreign languages this summer! Now let's expand on it:

1) What is a foreign language? It's any language that is not your first one! However, let's not count languages that you know really well, shall we? For example, English is not my mother tongue, but about 80% of the books I read, I read in English. So I will not count it. Otherwise, any language you want to improve is allowed!

2) What is a book? Anything! An adapted or a translated edition, a children's book, comics, a short story, an audio book - all are welcome! It depends only on your level and on the amount of free time you have!

3) What is summer? The challenge runs for four months: from May 1st to August 31st. I hope this will give you enough time to reach your goals!

How do I participate?

There are levels! Choose just how much you want to challenge yourself to read, and don't forget to mention it in your sign-up post!

Beginner: read 1 book in any foreign language
Intermediate: read 2 books in any foreign language
Advanced: read 3+ books in any foreign language

The books can be in one or in several different foreign languages. You choose what you want to practice! But for really crazy linguists I have a special offer, which is called accordingly:

Crazy Linguist: read at least 1 book in EACH foreign language you know. Of course, this one is additional to the above listed three levels!

Bonus level is for films:

Subs Fan: watch any number of films in a foreign language (Why is it called so? Because subs are allowed, of course!)

After you read your book (or watch a movie), you are encouraged to post about your experience! It can be a review, or a reflection, or a rant, whatever! If the book's language affected your experience, write about it! Is it easy or difficult? Does it have crazy grammar or so many rare words that you couldn't put down your dictionary? Share!

For the hardcore language freaks I have another optional task! Try to write about the book in the language you read it in! Just a few phrases, to practice your writing! Last year native speakers were known to friendly explain the mistakes in the reviews, so don't be afraid to make them! It's all for your benefit, you know. :)

How do I sign up?

It's easy! Just write an introduction post and link it to the linky below! To help you write it, I've prepared some questions! You may answer them, or write anything else - your choice! The minimum info that I need about you is the languages in which you are going to read and the level you choose. But the more you tell us, the more fun it is! So, the questions:
  • What languages do you know? Note: even if you are a beginner, it totally counts! And don't forget to mention what your mother-tongue is!
  • What is your history with these languages?
  • Do you use them or are you out of practice?
  • Have you read some books in these languages? Did you like it?
  • What are your plans for the challenge?
  • For veteran participants: have you read and/or reviewed some books in foreign languages since the last challenge? Boast about it and link the reviews!

How does it work?

When you sign up, I add you to my RSS feed. Since then, whenever you mention in your post that the review is for the challenge, I note it and put it into each month's recap post. This recap post will list all the participants' reviews since the beginning of the challenge sorted by language. I hope it will be fun for you to see what other participants are reading in the same language you are! I also introduce new participants in these posts. The post will go live in the end of each month, so don't forget to stop by and check it out! Or follow me not to miss it :)

Take out your dictionaries and get ready to have fun! :)

And here's the linky for sign-up posts:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (Review)

Title: A Dance with Dragons
Author: George R.R. Martin
First published: 2011
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

This book was an experience, and it left me wondering how I'm supposed to survive until the next one - so many cliffhangers! Am I normal that my favourite volumes in the series are the ones where things get REALLY bad for someone? Not that it doesn't happen in every book, but to a different extent, lol :) Although I had so many diverse feeling on finishing the tome (and it IS a tome, believe me! I soooo appreciate my thin and light e-reader when I read books like that :)) and though I enjoyed it immensely, I now find it difficult to say something coherent. Commenting on the plot is useless without recapping all the prehistory, and there's a lot to recap! So I've decided to go with short reactions on each story line, and if you've read the book you'll hopefully understand what I'm talking about. And if you haven't, you really should!

Jon
He's doing the right thing, I think. He may be changing the whole world structure there. Such a pity this doesn't make him any more popular, and well... he should have seen it coming...

Tyrion
I'm not impressed with him in this volume so much... He feels out of character a bit... Or maybe I was thinking wrongly about him, I don't know. But things like those that he's done do change people, don't they?

Davos
Never liked this guy. But now he might finally be up to something interesting... I wonder WHERE exactly he was sent...

Daenerys
Unlike Jon, she seems to be doing everything wrong. But I'm not sure there is really a right course of actions in her situation, and who am I to judge, anyway? It makes me sad to think about what has become with her relationships with her dragons, but I guess they couldn't stay cute forever. Her chapters made me sad all the time, because I didn't see the way out. But apparently, she has found one! I'm excited to know what'll happen next.

Bran
Weird, as usual. I don't see where his plot line is going and never have seen. I don't think that what he is pursuing is a good thing, even if you are a cripple with no family. I'd choose begging in the streets to THIS anytime.

Arya
Also getting weird. I don't like her training at all, and I'm not a bit worried about her. Although she might think that's what she wants, I am pretty sure it will not make her happy. She doesn't seem to have any other options, though :(

Asha
I really like her, and I think she is one of the few characters who really can lead people and she would be a great Iron Queen. Well, I guess I'm wishing for too much. I'm really wondering what has happened to all of them at the crofters' village... Nothing good, I guess.

Quentyn
I actually quite liked him. He is a good boy who tries to do everything right, but he's not a bit naive, and we all know how it ends in this world. I really enjoy his father's conspiracies. He might be another guy with brains, and maybe the only one left since what's happened to Tywin.

Theon
Oh, horrible, horrible chapters! They gave me quite a few nightmares. However, I love how psychologically deep they are. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to you in this world, that's no news....

Barristan
He reminds me of Davos a lot. Now they even share an office! Well, not really, but you know what I mean :) But somehow his chapters are not dull because of all the thing happening in Meereen. I have a problem with all the courtiers there, by the way, I never know what side are they at, and they all have queer names.

Victarion
Some religious stuff happening here... I'm not a fan of religion at all, and as in real world, religiousness in these books irritate me a lot! But that's what I like so much about the series - everything is so real! Victarion will not end well though, you don't need to look in the flames to see it.

Cersei
I'm not a fan of her, I think she is really a bitch. But what's happening to her is too much. I bet she's not subdued though! We'll see...

Jaime
Hot much happening here either, but I guess he's in a lot of trouble, considering WHO he left with and how the previous book ended.

Areo
He is not much of a character for me yet, just a pair of eyes at Doran's court. But YAY Sand sisters in action!!! They are awesome!!

Melisandre
I was so excited to see her in the POV list, but she is not so exciting as she seems from the outside. Well, that the essence of her cult - to seem cool! Although the Red God seems to be the only one working out of all the gods of the world, which kinda sets him apart. He and Melisardre are up to a serious test though!

Griff
Oh, this new story line is so exciting! The appearance of young Griff seems like cheating, but it adds one more party to the Game, and it's awesome! The greyscale scares the bejeezus out of me... You neeed a proper cure, you damn fool! To the fuck with your image!

In my book:
A very gripping continuation of the series which makes me want Martin to write faster. Much faster.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Liebster Award! (Complete With Some True Facts About the Real Me)


Andrea at Tasseled Book Blog nominated me for this award more than a week ago, and although you can imagine how flattered I was, I've had zero time to participate until today... I hope the award doesn't have an expiration date :)


The Rules:
  1. Thank the blogger that nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Display the award somewhere on your blog.
  3. List 11 facts about yourself.
  4. Answer 11 questions chosen by the blogger who nominated you.
  5. Come up with 11 new questions to ask your nominees.
  6. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you think deserve the award and who have less than 1,000 followers. (You many nominate blogs that have already received the award, but you cannot renominate the blog that nominated you.)
  7. Go to their blog and inform them that they’ve been nominated.


11 Facts About Me:

I don't usually share something about my real life here, I don't even have an about page... So I'll start with a photo of me as an introduction. Hi! Let's have a drink together and I'll tell you something about me :)
  1. I'm in the last year of Master studies in informational technology. And most of the time I have no idea why I learn the stuff I learn...
  2. That's because I have a bachelor in applied linguistics. I got there from physical-mathematical school. And there from an English school. I love switching from the humanities to the technics! It's dull to study the same stuff all the time, isn't it? :)
  3. I'm from Russia, from St. Petersburg, but now I live in Czech Republic and love it here!
  4. I work on automatic speech recognition, but what I like most about it is flying to conferences for free. OK, and telling people I'm a scientist is cool too.
  5. Another cool thing is that I'm a natural blonde and people totally DON'T expect me to be a scientist. I hope I make them feel ashamed for their stereotypes :)
  6. I love travelling. I've been all around Europe and I dream to explore the Americas now :)
  7. I love languages too. I speak Russian, English, Czech, Spanish and German, although I'm forgetting the last two because of the lack of practice. I'd love to learn something eastern sometime, but right now Czech is taking all my time.
  8. I sailed a replica of a rigged 18 century frigate when at school. We went around the Baltic, and it was one of the most awesome things that has ever happened to me. Here's a proofpic:
    Whenever my ass was not up on the yard working with sails, I was reading. A bookworm detected!
  9. And now some bookish confessions, as this is a bookish blog :) I've read The Lord of the Rings about 17 times, half of them in English. I've also read all the other Tolkien books and I was studying Quenya for a while. It was not enough to talk in it, but enough to translate. *standing up* Hi, my name is Kate and I have a problem here...
  10. I actually remember the first time I read something. I had a pack or A4 lists with xerocopies of some "learn to read" book, beginning with the separate letters and ending with a HUGE story occupying a whole page! And I remember this story! It was about a fox. I felt very proud when I finished it. My mom gave me some other children's book then and said that she's so happy she doesn't need to bother with entertaining me now :) That was a joke of course, nobody has ever spent so much time with a child as my mom did :) But it's true that from that time all I needed to keep me occupied was a book.
  11. I also remember how my dad brought me a Harry Potter book. Usually my mom bought me books or I was taking them from the library, but my dad told me that all his colleagues at work said that their children were crazy about it, so he got me one too. I wasn't impressed, because the cover seemed stupid, but it was the beginning of a long-lasting love! It's possible I've read the Prisoner of Azkaban even more times than I did The Lord of the Rings, but I'm not sure.


11 Questions from Andrea:
  1. What is your ultimate comfort read? What is the book/genre that you automatically turn to when lacking something new to read? The answer would be fantasy! What can be more comforting than escaping to another world? Also, see my confessions about HP and LotR above :)
  2. Do you have a bookish pet peeve that drives you absolutely nuts? People reading books just to fill their social networks with "thoughtful" quotes. Awww, it drives me mad. Even worse if they haven't read the book at all though.
  3. If you could meet one living author right this moment, who would it be? What would be the first thing you say to them? G.R.R. Martin. What would I tell him? "Write faster!!!". Duh.
  4. Do seasons affect your reading choices? Do you tend to read more at certain times of the year? Being a student, I read much more during summer, as I don't have classes. Also, I never pick something sad when it's cold outside. I don't want to make it worse!
  5. What is your number one reading goal this year? Read as much Arthurian books as I can.
  6. If I asked you to recommend a book to a total non-reader in hopes of changing their blasphemous ways, what would it be? Why? It doesn't work like this, I'm afraid. I have a friend who is not reading at all, and I keep recommending him awesome books, but he never actually tries them... Because "where could he find time for it"? Indeed....
  7. Where do you like to get majority of your books and why? Internet. Some ebooks (mostly classics) are for free, others are usually cheap. I'm also frequenting a book fare here, because I just have to own some paper books to feel comfortable in my room! 
  8. Have you ever borrowed a book and never gave it back? Well... yes, I'm guilty. But it was mutual :) At school, we used to swap books a lot, and I have no idea how many of my books ended up in my friends' flats and how many books I've acquired :) But it was an awesome time :)
  9. Turn to you bookshelf, look at second shelf, reach out to book number five. What is it? If you have no bookshelves where you are, what is the first book your eyes stop on? I'm a poor student living in the dorms, I have only a small pile of books on the corner of my table... I guess Wolf Hall stands out, because it has a bright white cover.
  10. What was the last book you read last year? Do you plan any special conclusions to December, or leave it all to fate? Interesting question. I don't plan much for December at all, as it is the time I visit my parents and also all the New Year preparation madness... The last book I finished last year was Little Women, and it was a great timing!
  11. If you could instantly know one language to read untranslated books, which one would you pick? Latin!


Come up with 11 new questions to ask your nominees

Em... My creativity was all used up yesterday on finishing my paper for the conference. So answer Andrea's questions, OK? I think they are pretty awesome :))


Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you think deserve the award

I read a lot of blogs (and very much suck at commenting on all of them, which doesn't mean I don't appreciate them!), but here I'll highlight blogs that are:
  1. Focused on books
  2. Review the type of books I'm interested in
  3. Stand out in one way or another
If I haven't included you here, it's not because you are not awesome, it's just we probably read a bit different stuff, and not everything you review makes me want to read it too NOW! No offence, OK? :) Also, if you have already participated in the award, just ignore it :) Or not! I'll still highlight you!
  1. Riv @ Bookish Realm
  2. Jean @ Howling Frog Books
  3. Emily @ Classics and Beyond
  4. ebookclassics @ Honey, I'm Reading! - I'm highlighting her new non-classic blog, because you should already know her classics one!
  5. Juliana @ Cedar Station
  6. Fanda @ Fanda Classiclit
  7. Ruth @ A Great Book Study
  8. Melissa @ Avid Reader's Musings
  9. o @ Behold the Stars
  10. cleopatra @ Classical Carousel
  11. Fariba @ Exploring Classics
I got to 11 without even reaching the middle of my feed list... So many great blogs out there! Go check them out!


March Madness Final Post!


March madness is over! Can you believe it?? It flew by so fast! It was a busy month but overall I'm quite satisfied with my progress. I did not always read what I had planned to, but I did read a lot :) So let's have a last look at my reading lists, shall we?

1) To finish list: zero progress since the first week of March... Paradise Lost just doesn't go together with a busy schedule. Maybe I'll finish it in summer...


2) Read-a-long list: I've started The Warden, but it's not exciting at all and I am in no place to keep concentrated on it now. It's the best at helping me go to sleep though, so it has its uses too.


3) Fantasy and HF list: I'm halfway through A Dance with Dragons and maaaan is it great!


4) Arthurian list: two books is not too shabby, right? I also bought a nice used copy of Le Morte d'Arthur, so I hope I'll start it soon!


5) Unexpected reads list: because life is dull without impulse reads!


So it is 10 books finished in total, which is great! I really enjoyed the event, and I certainly hope it becomes a yearly tradition (hint!). Thank you, Cedar Station, for hosting this! It was a great month!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Four Mini Reviews

As you have probably noticed I have close to zero time lately. I still manage to read, but posting and sleeping are not so lucky :) So I've decided to do as everybody seem do in such case: write mini-reviews! They are small books anyway :)

Title: Harry Potter y el Prisionero de Azkaban
Author: J.K. Rowling
First published: 1999
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

Yes, this one was in Spanish! We read it together with Hillary from ahorseandacarrot and it was fun! Books in foreign languages are perfect for read-a-longs. Without being accountable I just kept putting it off to read something more relaxing, but with our read-a-long I swished through it in less than two months at a pace of one chapter in three days. Wonderful! I'm a bit afraid to tackle the fourth book yet though. It's bigger and more "adult" and the chapters are longer... Well, maybe in summer, when I have more time :) Also, I'll announce the second Language Freak Summer Challenge next month, so I hope it'll give me a push :)

Title: The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
Author: Neil Gaiman
First published: 1988
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

It was the first comic book I've ever read! Can you believe it? After the disappointment of Gaiman's American Gods and because of my inner snobbishness (comic books? They are for children!) I wasn't expecting much of it, but guess what? It was amazing! Dark and creepy sometimes, but totally amazing! I loved the art and how the story is told in short snippets, and how the parts of the puzzle fit together as you read and you get to know more about the awesome, awesome, awesome Morpheus. I love Morpheus. That's all there is to know about my feelings towards Sandman :)

Title: Yvain, or The Knight With the Lion
Author: Chrétien de Troyes
First published: 1176
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Unlike Erec and Enide and Cligès, I didn't enjoy Yvain at all, and so I don't have much to say about it. The plot devices never looked so artificial in Chrétien's works as here (pour water on stone to summon a horrible knight? Really?) and the main character never was such an asshole. Yvain leaves the love of his life a couple of days after the marriage and promises to come in a year... and OF COURSE he just forgets about it at all and therefore has to go seek some adventures instead of asking for forgiveness... I will not even go into his treatment of the lion. The lion is the only decent character in the story, really.


Title: The Train (orig. Sputniki)
Author: Vera Panova
First published: 1946
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: ★★★★★

My mom has recommended me this classical Russian war novel, and as usual, her recommendation was brilliant! This short book tells a story of a hospital train during the horrible years of WWII, from its first bombing until the last war spring. Very different people work on this train - doctors, nurses, war officers, engineers... Each one has his/her own story, his/her own dreams and fears, but they all must live together and work endless shifts to make the passage of the patients from the front to the hospitals more comfortable. There's everything in this book: tragedy, loss, love, friendship, true selflessness and cunning self-advancement... Because people are different, and war makes these differences even more obvious.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger (Review)

Title: A Burnable Book
Author: Bruce Holsinger
First published: 2014
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

In the times of Richard II and Chaucer strange rumors and verses start to spread through London. The verses predict the death of Richard II with frightening exactness and the rumor is they come from a book of ancient prophesies... The book travels from lords to bawds, leaving corpses on its way. Meanwhile, the fateful St. Dunstan's day mentioned in the prophesy approaches...

There is everything in this book that you can wish for in a historical fiction novel: a lot of details of everyday life, an old map of London (I love maps!), intrigue, mystery, danger and the love of books. It not only has quite a few remarkable female characters, is has a transgender character! I was... well, confused with Eleanor/Edgar at first, but then I realized that he/she works well in the plot: he/she decides in which situations it's more efficient to dress as a man and when - as a woman, and therefore is able to transgress certain limitations of gender.

Sometimes it was a bit difficult to keep straight all the characters at court, but by the end of the book everything fell into place. Some of the characters' motivations were left unclear to me, but overall the intrigue was well rounded. Although bawds have a lot of action in the book, there is nothing very coarse in the descriptions and the language, which I really appreciated (OK, I guess I'm mentioning it just because I'm reading another Martin right now, lol!). Overall, if I wasn't sure Holsinger is a man, I'd say the book is written by a woman. Rarely do men have so many distinct and interesting female characters in their books. Bravo!

In my book:
A very entertaining and well-researched historical mystery. Perfect relaxing read!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Once Upon a Time VIII Sign-Up


Once Upon a Time VIII is here! And look at the gorgeous painting! Isn't it awesome? The choice of the buttons is another reason why I love-love-love Carl's events! As if there were not enough reasons to love them without this one, heh :)

This year I'm joining for...


which means I'm going to read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories: fantasy, folklore, fairy tales or mythology. And as I'm getting addicted to the picture lists, here's some books I plan to choose from! The upper row is fantasy, and the lower is Arthurian books.


I'll track my progress here, and we'll see how many I'll actually read :) And HERE is the link to all my posts for the event.

This spring is the spring of writing my thesis, passing the last exams (hopefully!), preparing for the conferences and undergoing some unpleasant medical treatment... So some fantasy is what I'll need in the evenings after all this unless I'm completely devastated :) Perfect timing!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Candide by Voltaire (Review)

Title: Candide
Author: Voltaire
First published: 1759
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I intended to read Candide together with this read-a-long, but instead I finished it the same evening I started it. I know I didn't understand as much of it as I would have if I had read is slowly, but I knew I didn't want to spend the whole month with this book.

As you probably already know, Candide is a satire of the philosophy of optimism, that is, the belief that everything is for the best, and this world is the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire drags his characters through A LOT of horrible life situations to prove otherwise, all this in a very hyperbolic manner.

I have nothing against satire, and I like it when it's well-done, but here it is probably over-done. The things happening to Candide and his co-sufferers are brutal, horrifying and disgusting, and only some of them are funny. Also, a lot of satire is really hard to understand because it's the product of its time. For example, different religious orders and movements are obviously being mocked, but I have no idea what for... But the bits which are funny saved this book a bit for me. I liked the Eldorado part, and I quite enjoyed the character of Martin, who is wonderfully cynical. 

In my book:
The main appeal of this novel is that it's really short. If you are able to see some other appeal as well - well, you are probably very high-brow and really into French Enlightenment... I'm not and that's why I didn't really enjoy Candide.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March Madness Check-in (Week 2)


Whoops, the second week of the read-a-thon flew by, and the second check-in is happening HERE. I can't say this week was as productive reading-wise as the previous one, but I'm still making some progress! So let's look at the lists!

1) The to-finish list. Absolutely no progress here... I wasn't equal to reading Milton this week, is all. It was tiresome enough without him :)


2) The read-a-long list. Candide was so short it took me one evening to read. The read-a-long is one month long, so I was supposed to leave something for the next weeks, but ooops...


3) Fun books list. Wolf Hall finished! Nothing else..


4) No progress on the Arthurian list so far... I hope to read Yvain next week though.


5) This is a not-planned list :) Because I suck at sticking to lists :) And there is a read-a-long for Sandman. A Burnable Book is also fun and entertaining. I'm nearly half way through it.


Well, not so much reading done, and I don't hope for an improvement, as the next week is the last one before the conference deadline... But we'll see :)



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