Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (Review)

Title: A Farewell to Arms
Author: Ernest Hemingway
First published: 1929
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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!

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!

Thursday, 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 :)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Seduction by M.J. Rose (A Rant)

Title: Seduction
Author: M.J. Rose
First published: 2013
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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.

Tuesday, 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 :)



Monday, 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
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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.

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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.


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