Sunday, February 8, 2015

One Day by David Nicholls

Title: One Day
Author: David Nicholls
First published: 2009
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

I don't usually read romance novels, and I was a bit sceptical about this one, especially as I knew how it all will end from the movie (which is great, BTW). But surprisingly enough I really enjoyed the novel. And even cried a bit, because I tend to get all tearful in all the intended places... I'm very easy to manipulate that way. Maybe that's why I don't read romance often. Anyways...

The plot spans nearly twenty years of the very complicated will-they-won't-they relationship of a "librarian type" girl and a "golden boy". Somehow they can't let go of each other while building their so very different lives separately and with all the wrong people.

The characters are a bit cliche, but their dialogues are great and funny. You can feel how well they work together and you just want to punch them in the face and tell them to stop being stupid and be together already. They are cute, really, although irritating too. That's why they feel so real. It is also palpable how they grow up through the novel, from irresponsible 20-years-olds to 40-something with the household problems and children.

In my book:
Want romance? Here's the quintessential romantic book, and a pretty good one at that.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Precioussss...

Hi sweeties! It has just arrived, and I want to share with you the best birthday present ever! I bought it myself, because if you don't treat yourself to awesome things, who would? :)

This is the 60th anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings in hardcover with illustrations by Alan Lee!! It weighs 2.5 kilos and is breathtakingly beautiful!

And here's how happy I am about it!

Happy birthday to me from me, hehe :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Never Let Anyone Recommend You A Book...

...even if you like the person very much. I've always followed the rule, and recently I've been reminded, WHY exactly. The guy that recommended me Wizard's First Rule is smart and funny and educated and generally great and I have zero idea how is he able to read and re-read (for sanity's sake!) this series and find it interesting and elaborate and philosophical. Should I be worried? :D

Title: Wizard's First Rule
Author: Terry Goodkind
First published: 1994
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Let's go through why it was bed with the help of bullets, OK?

  • It's long. Soooo long. When I saw that the book is over 800 pages, I braced myself. I reasoned that I've raced through much bigger books in several days, and this one is fantasy so it should be fine. It was not fine. It was slow from the beginning. What made things worse, I could see through everything which was going to happen, so there was no reason for me to be anxious about reading further. 
  • Usually I'm OK with some cliches. The (ignorant but very smart and super-tough and good-looking) chosen one - fine. A weird wizard - fine. A girl with a secret with which the main hero falls in love but can never be together because of reasons - fine. Nothing is new under the sun anyway. But OMG, can there be at least SOMETHING original? The bad guys were so cartoon it was impossible to take them seriously. And of course they can't delegate tasks and need to kill everybody themselves. While riding a dragon. And with no reason whatsoever. 
  • There's so much unnecessary sickening detail! I'm OK with it if it's really necessary. I read and enjoy Martin, after all. But I saw no reason for introducing anybody like Mord-Sith to the story for example. Especially because what follows is 50 pages of torture description. It's as if the author enjoys it and wants to shock public, is all. No benefit for the plot...
  • And here we come to the plot. It's a mess. There is magic in the book, and it works interestingly. It is all explained and you expect that you know the rules. But then you suddenly discover that everybody can be saved by something that JUST HAVEN'T BEEN MENTIONED BEFORE and it changes everything. It doesn't happen once, it happens always. It's cheating and it's not fair. I will not even mention the good timing of everybody, who appear exactly in the right moment to save somebody in grave need
  • It's repetitive. The dialogues are good and funny and clever, but every dialogue eventually comes to discussing the Machiavellian notion of the end justifying the means and reminding everybody around that they can't hesitate to kill, even the closest friends, if they may pose a danger to their objective of killing the Bad Guy. Seriously, I can get how tragic it is just from a couple of repetitions.

As I've mentioned, I liked the dialogues, and political games were very believable, but this was not enough to redeem the time I spent facepalming the plot and the characters.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 End of Year Book Survey

I've been pondering which format I want to adopt for my review of 2014 reading, and found this wonderful survey HERE. I thought it's a great idea to participate, even though I may skip some questions :)

Number Of Books You Read:

81. Not too shabby, but there were quite a few comics, so it's not as much as it seems. But considering all the stuff that happened this year, I'm still proud of myself! :)

Number of Re-Reads:

6. That's actually a lot for me, as I don't re-read often. But sometimes you just need some comfort reads!

Genre You Read The Most From:

Oh, that's difficult! I don't keep track of genres, but I think Sci-Fi and Fantasy are leading :)

Best Book You Read In 2014?

Not counting re-reads and sequels, here's the leader board:

Goldman, William: The Princess Bride

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Here are the two biggest disappointments of this year:

Gaiman, Neil: American Gods

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014?

I think it was The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. Because I don't usually read "zombie" books, but this one was amazing!

I've also discovered two great comics: Sandman and Y: The Last Man. I loved both and now I don't look down to comics any more!

Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

Easy! The Martian by Andy Weir! Two of my colleagues have already read and loved it and several more are still reading! :) It spreads like plague!

Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?

I've read the first of Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive series, The Way of Kings, and I'm hooked up enough to continue reading!

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

The most beautiful was the cover to The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch:

Most beautifully written book read in 2014?

The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov and Amsterdam by Ian McEvan. They are not called classics for nothing!

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins! I guess the hype frightened me...

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

The longest is, of course, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, and the shortest is Historia Brittonum by Nennius

Book That Shocked You The Most

I read books 4 and 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire this year, so guess who shocked me most ;) 'cause he always does.

Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Locke and Jean in The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch!! They are SO AWESOME.

Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Definitely The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson! I have no idea how can one imagine a world like this

Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Again, The Martian by Andy Weir! The guy is awesome!

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan. Ah, the ending!

Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

I can't decide between Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Seduction by M.J. Rose. Both incredibly stupid!

So here's how my 2014 looked like reading-wise :) I'm grateful for all the good discoveries of the year and all the time I spent engrossed in a great story. Hope 2015 will be even better! :)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Catching Up On 2014 Reviews

Hi everybody and congratulations on the New Year! :) I hope your holiday season was as fun as mine and you had a good rest and quality family time!

Today I've come back from my trip to Sofia to see a very good friend and fellow fantasy geek. It was awesome! We cooked, made cocktails, discussed everything in the world and binge-watched the director's cut of LOTR. What can be better? :)

Yes, there's Balrog on the screen :)

Now I finally have some time to wrap up year 2014, and I'll start with mini-reviews of the rest of the books I managed to read in the end of the year. Then I'll probably try to catch up on over-500 posts in my RSS feed... Oh well, maybe not :)

Title: Amsterdam
Author: Ian McEwan
First published: 1998
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

I started to read Amsterdam on my way to Amsterdam, but didn't finish it until a week after the trip. And it's OK, because it's not about the city at all :) I have always been curious about Ian McEwan, and I can say I've enjoyed his writing a lot. He is a great psychologist, and his descriptions of thoughts and feelings of the two main characters felt so real it was hard to believe it's only fiction. But as if to mock a reader who by this point already trusts McEwan as a great expert in human nature, there is such an unbelievable twist in the end of the novel that it left me embarrassed.  

In my book:
Great writing and character study.

Title: The Way of Kings
Author: Brandon Sanderson
First published: 2010
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

For the first 100-200 pages of this huge novel, which is part of even huger series, I had no idea what was happening and wanted to stop reading. I survived, though, and it appeared it was worth the time and struggle, as by the end of the book I was quite unable to put it down. The greatest thing about the book is the world-building. There's a totally different biology, physics and social structure, and it's all very fitting and works well together... but not before you really get into it. And this doesn't happen very soon. Strictly speaking, it wouldn't hurt if the book was shorter, but as I've said, in the end I came to appreciate it anyway :)

In my book:
Worth the time, but make sure you have a lot of it at hand before starting this mammoth :))

Title: High Fidelity
Author: Nick Hornby
First published: 1995
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

The intro, where the main character recaps his past heartbreaks is awesome! I've even read it twice. Then, however, some music records nerdiness starts (as the narrator is a fan and owns a record shop), which I can't appreciate due to my utter lack of knowledge or interest on the subject. Overall, the writing is great, and at times the novel is very funny, but when you think of it, the main character is really very sad and unlikable, and the ending is kinda... meh.

In my book:
Fun and entertaining, but makes you think nevertheless. Just skip the music parts :)

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Author: Alan Bradley
First published: 2009
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I think I might have loved this book if I read it at the age of 12 or so (I loved children's detective novels!), but for a grown-up there's not enough of mystery or character depth or humor. It's a sweet little novel, and the main heroine is pretty bad-ass, but it's not very gripping overall.

In my book:
Pick up for a total brain relax or as a present to your kid.

Thursday, 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! :)

Wednesday, 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 :)

Thursday, 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

Saturday, 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!


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!


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!


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!
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