March 29, 2013

Wool and Proper Gauge by Hugh Howey

Wool on The Book 
Wool was selected as a January read for Coursera Fantasy and Sci Fi book club. I am terribly late for it, I know, but I try my best if not to keep up then at least to read everything they read. Written in 2011, Wool is a very modern Sci-Fi, and this is fairly new to me. I usually read classics of the genre, to be on the safe side. So I'm glad I was introduced to something newer! Now, to the books themselves.

Wool (Wool, #1) 
This one is simply great! It is just a short story really, but it makes a good introduction to the world and the people of the series. The setting is post-apocalyptic Earth, with people living in underground silos, as the atmosphere of the Earth is poisonous. The only connection to the surface they have is the cameras outside that project the landscape to big screens. And these cameras need cleaning. Whoever says he wants to go out is allowed to do so and asked to clean the cameras. And they go out and clean them and die outside when the air in their environmental suits is spent. And everybody sees their rotting remains outside, but still there are people who want to go out. Why? Because rumors are the screens are fake and there is still life outside.

I read it in one go and was so impressed I couldn't sleep afterwards. The ending is very unsettling, but it makes the point. I would say it's a very classical Sci-Fi short story, that's exactly what you expect from the genre, and it's really good. What I was wondering after finishing this book is why write 7 more....

Proper Gauge (Wool, #2)
But in spite of the first book being a well-formed separate piece of writing, it was made a series. And in the second book the main characters and the manner of writing change completely. I admit I felt frustrated and disappointed, and that's the reason it took me so long to read the ~50 pages that constitute the book. Apart from being a mere descriptive tour of the world (as it seemed in the beginning) it is also a bit too stretched. I have even decided not to read further, but everything that happened in the last 10% of the book have changed my mind. So now I'll probably try one more and see how it goes. An unexpected plot turn is good, but the remaining part of the book should have something in it too. So we'll see :)

March 25, 2013

March 2013 Bloggiesta Sign-Up and Updates

This is a sticky post. Please scroll down for newer content!

Bloggiesta is here again, and now I'm going to officially participate! Why? Because I'm very lazy, and this is additional motivation to do something nice with my blog :) I'll post my updates here through the weekend not to clutter my blog with posts.

So my goals for this Bloggiesta are:

  1. DONE! Post at least 2 reviews - I had to write the one about The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes two weeks ago, but I was too involved in reading A Storm of Swords instead. Now both are reviewed!
  2. (Maybe) write the "About" page or create an index? Not sure if I really want it yet, but everybody seem to have these :)
  3. DONE! Think of a shorter name for my blog? This long one is very inconvenient... - How do you like my new title and title image? =) I like them a lot!
  4. DONE! Google Reader Replacement Options Mini-Challenge - I've completely transfered to Feedly Plus, and I really enjoy it so far. I had some problems with Chrome extension, but they are solved now after I deinstalled Feedly and left only Feedly Plus. Moral: don't install them together!
  5. DONE! Becoming a Book Depository Affiliate Mini-Challenge - I'm waiting for their confirmation now!
  6. Through a Visitor’s Eye Mini-Challenge
  7. (Maybe) Getting to Know You Mini-Challenge
  8. (Maybe) Reviewing in Many Places Mini-Challenge
  9. DONE! Create a Google+ page for my blog - now you can follow me HERE!
  10. DONE! Create a separate Twitter account for the blog - now I know where to write about all the bloggish stuff, and where - everything else. See my blog's twitter address below and feel free to follow!

I have Twitter now, so you can follow me at @InMyBookBlog through this event!

March 24, 2013

Once Upon a Time VII Master Post

Once Upon a Time challenge at Stainless Steel Droppings suits my spring yearning for escapism very well! So here I am, putting aside all the classics I can't focus on now, and indulging in fantasy, Sci-Fi, and whatever takes me far from our world :)

The challenge runs from March 21st through June 21st and has several levels of participation. I'm up to...

which means reading at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or a combination from the four genres.

I will use this post as a master post for the challenge and keep a list of all the books read for the challenge.

Books read:
  1. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (fantasy)
  2. Oedipus the King by Sophocles (mythology)
  3. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (fantasy)
  4. Mabinogion (folklore, mythology)
  5. Stardust by Neil Gaiman (fairy tale, fantasy)
  6. Harry Potter y la cámara secreta by J. K. Rowling (fantasy)
  7. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (fantasy)
  8. A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare (fairy tale)

March 23, 2013

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

A Storm of Swords 
on The Book Depository
I finished it yesterday, but I'm still there, and in my mind I just can't put it aside. I was rather disappointed with the second book and even thought that only the first book was worth something in the series, as happens so often. But I still decided to read the third book before the beginning of season 3 of "Game of Thrones" and it was totally worth it!

The book tells about the events after Blackwater battle, which had a great impact on the conflict of five kings. We still have all the POVs we are used to in the book (except for Theon, but who cares?), and two new - Jaime and Sam tell their own stories now. The country is still divided between different alliances, while winter is coming, and with it comes the evil from the north.

There's no way to talk about the book without spoilers, so here goes...

There are some very emotionally tough scenes in the book, and after the Red Wedding I even had to put the book down and have some wine and a good sleep. Don't get me wrong: it is a good thing that GRRM kills or maims main characters, it does make his books more real. Sometimes far too real. Of course, it is a better decision than to make everybody invulnerable, but god how I hate it! After three books and 2 seasons all of them are very real to me, and when they die or something bad happens, I just can't imagine how things can go on after it. But they do, and the story continues, we just see it with different eyes. And that's what I love about the books. I'm not sure if this whole love-hate paragraph makes sense, but that's how I feel :)

Now to the characters:

I found his story rather dull in the first two books. It was all dreaming and nothing new. In this book though he has some adventures and explores the nature of his gift more. That's interesting how everything is beginning for him after his "death", isn't it? I also like his Reed companions a lot, especially Meera. And it's really great how Bran helped Jon in wolf's skin.

I still don't connect with her (and never will have this chance anymore) and usually find her bit of story rather irritating. She seems to make a lot of wrong decisions, and all of them for the safety of her family. Somehow, though, it all leads to the complete destruction of her family instead, and she seems a bit insane, if truth be told. Some kind of hen-mother for everybody, and everybody find her difficult to talk to.
Robb too is bad at making decisions, as somehow he managed to lose half of his supporters and his head too just because of marrying the wrong girl.
Don't get me wrong, I still mourn their death, but this is mostly their own fault, right?

She is just gorgeous in this book! Her story was my favourite in the first book, then I got very disappointed with her meekness in the second book, but now she is a real queen! There is so much power in her, and also justness and kindness, that I'd vote for her on the Iron Throne. It's a pity Jorah had to leave, I kind of hoped for further tension between them, but if he really sent messages to Varys from Quarth, then it's only fair. Anyway, she has Barristan now, and he is great! I hope they'll be a good team.

Jon's story has become my favourite in this book. He was also dull before, whining about his bastardy, but in this book he has a LOT of real emotional trouble. He falls in love, chooses sides, plans battles, understands what he wants and finally becomes Lord Commander! I just love him. And I shed a tear for Ygritte, too, although I still can't understand how Jon was able to have ALL KINDS of sex with her is she never washes. Loathsome.

Tyrion is my favourite too, but that's not new. It's a pity he experiences so much trouble and hatred in this book. I especially pitied him when Sansa didn't want to even talk to him and when Shae betrayed him. He is a very kind little man, but he has to be cruel and make revenge. Sad

Arya goes to Braavos!! FINALLY! And with Needle! Her most important adventure, as Bran's, also starts after her official death. It's a pity she leaves her wolf behind, though, she might use such a friend. I'm a bit worried about her, though, as she is becoming really fierce and cruel. It has helped her, but it is destroying her too. She needs some break in a safe place, and I hope magic words "Valar Morgulis" will bring her to one.

Well, I don't like her. I can find explanations for everything she does, but I can't really understand her. I just hope she is learning something. Although she might have started doing it earlier.

Davos is a bit pathetic after his "resurrection", and I never liked either him with his fingers, or Stannis. Now that they are in the North, we will see more of them, and that's just not good. Although they did help with the wildlings, they have their own reasons and plans, and this will inevitably affect the Night's Watch

Jaime is a new POV, but I immediately liked him. Although the part with his hand was quite nauseating,  I really enjoyed his relationship with Brienne. They irritate each other, they despise each other, but at the same time they respect each other and help each other. I'm not sure if this can be called friendship, but it's good to both. Jaime's relationship with Cersei continues to surprise me. Not because it's perverse, but because I don't understand what it is. Jaime seems to really love her, but she doesn't. Maybe she really just wants to be him, to have the strength men have and women don't. Or maybe it's some kind of bond even she does not understand. Maybe we'll know more from the next book.

Sam plays a big role in this book, both behind the wall and on it, and he finally finds some courage. Not all of it, of course :) but still. He even gains some respect, which is good, because he is kind and rather clever, and as I've said, this world needs some brain.


That's a hell of a post, very long and incoherent, but it's a strong book, worth all the time spent with it (and it's a lot, as it has 1000+ pages :)) Now I'm looking forward to the series!

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Can be found here

"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" is the first collection of short stories about the famous detective. And I think that after 2 novellas Conan Doyle finally found his style in mystery. The stories are not so complicated as his novellas, but they concentrate solely on the cases, without more than necessary background. I've read all of them sometime before, but not as a collection, and I didn't remember them well. So, just random thoughts about every story:

A Scandal in Bohemia
Why is everybody saying she was Holmes's love? That's not true at all! Their feelings are much deeper: she beat him in his own trade. That's why he asked for her photo and always remembered her - he actually tried to remember that there are people cleverer than him. Easy to forget in his situation, I believe =) I also think that this is a nod to Poe's "The Purloined Letter". Kudos for following the tradition!

The Red-headed League 
One of my favourite short stories ever! The situation looks so absurd in the beginning, yet as the plot unfolds, everything makes perfect sense. I guess this is what can be said about all S.H. stories, but this one is especially good!

A Case of Identity
Well, this one is strange and a bit creepy. And the aggrieved woman is so stupid. I mean, come on, if you meet a guy who wears beard, sunglasses, speaks in a whisper and avoids meeting your dad and decide to marry him, don't be surprised if he suddenly disappears before wedding!

The Boscombe Valley Mystery 
I like this one mainly because the justice triumphs! And it has some wild Australian pioneer history behind too!

The Five Orange Pips
Well, this one is scary and America is again portrayed as a crazy and dangerous place full of perversity. Seriously, first Mormons, now Ku Klux Klan... Sir Conan Doyle didn't have a very good opinion about America, did he?

The Man with the Twisted Lip
The story is not very believable here. Nor from technical, nor from economical point of view. And it has a lot of opium in it. Probably the weakest story in the collection.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle 
This is a proper Christmas story, with a goose and a happy ending. If they were to make series, this story collection being one season, this episode would have a perfect timing too - in the middle of the book, right in time for Christmas! :)

The Adventure of the Speckled Band 
This story I remember very well, as I was very afraid of it when a child! I had bad dreams after reading it, was afraid to sleep near the wall, and when I watched an adaptation, I called my mom to hold my hand through the most horrible part. Now I'm more nostalgic than scared, but the story is still brilliant!

The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb 
OK, this one probably shares the place of the weakest story in the collection. The plot is just not very believable, and attempts to intentionally scare the reader toying with his hidden claustrophobia is foul play.

The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor 
Another marriage story and again America with its peculiarities. Although "rich bride migration" from America was a fact, and it is well-used here in the story.

The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
As in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery", here an unfairly accused young man is cleared of all charges. And the moral is that not everyone who looks guilty is guilty. I really like this kind of stories!

The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
Again, this kind of stories just don't happen in real life, and believability is important for me. But the beginning of the case, before all the crazy events unfold, is rather good.

So I am slowly reading through "The Complete Sherlock Holmes" when I'm in a mood. And I try not to hurry, as everything has its end, and I enjoy Sherlock Holmes stories so much that I want to prolong the pleasure of reading them! Next: "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" - another short story collection, which I'm really looking forward to!

Have you read some of these stories? What was your impression?

March 4, 2013

My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl

I picked this book or Around the World in 12 Books Challenge. I was looking for some books set in Sudan, which was February's country, and it was the only one that interested me, as all the others were about war and refugees, and it's definitely not what you need in the gloomy month of February. I've never read anything by Roald Dahl before, but I've heard about him a lot, so I was quite excited. In the end, it turned out that Sudan figured on no more than ten pages in the whole book, but I enjoyed it nevertheless, and that's what counts anyway =)

For anyone who is familiar with Roald Dahl's children's books, this one would be a surprise, as it a very adult one. Seriously, don't pick it up if you can't stand any sex scenes, as this is the core of the book. But somehow it's not all that horrible, because the novel is really funny, and there is nothing TOO repulsive there.

The main character is a very businesslike young gentleman, who made his first fortune on selling wondrous sex-pills made from the essence of some rare Sudanese bugs. Then he starts an even more complicated scheme of collecting and preserving the sperm of all the famous people of his time to sell it later to the extravagant ladies who want to have a child with some good genetics. Very novel schemes for the beginning of the 20th century, I must say!

Oswald and his assistant, a young lady who lures the famous people into having sex with her to collect their material, travel all around Europe and meet a lot of famous people of the time, including kings, painters, musicians, writers, etc. Some of them are described mockingly, some with all due respect, but it's really funny to read about all of them.

I really enjoyed the book, as it is refreshingly light and amusing, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who is not easily abused by sex scenes. And for those who is already a Dahl's fan, this book will help to see him from a completely different point of view!

March 1, 2013

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

I've finished it! Whoaaa... I started it in December, then got busy and really irritated with the main characters and put it away. Only Fanda's Celebrating Dickens event prompted me to finish it. And I'm nearly in time with it. Anyway, it's not my fault February is so short =)

Now for the book... It's no good to speak bad of Dickens, but I will. Just a tiny bit of critic will not offend him, I hope. So... dear Dickens, Nell just pisses me off, and her grandfather adds to the experience. She is so nauseatingly angelic and perfect, so meek and dull, so bad in making right decisions, that I wanted to close the book every time the narration turned to her and her grandfather. As for him, gambling and stealing is not pardonable, and even though reader is supposed to believe he is only doing it out of his great love for Nell, he is just a selfish, addicted and mad old man. All the parts with these two were specifically designed to make readers shed a tear, and I hate tearfulness just for the sake of it. So I wasn't touched with their deaths at all, because they were dead to me from the beginning. And enough of them.

Who I really cared for was Kit! That's my boy! He is also good and kind, but he is REAL. He's active and caring and honest, and I really like the way he supports his family. He has gained everybody's respect, and it is no surprise his friends do everything to get him out of trouble. I couldn't put the book down during his process, because I was so nervous how it'd end!

The plot is somehow confusing for me, as I didn't understand all the motivations of the characters. Is Quilp just stupid to search for a beggar, thinking he has some hidden treasure? Oh, no, he just wants to make fun of poor Dick Swiveller, marrying him to the supposedly rich Nell, and he hasn't ever seen Dick before... Seriously, the main bad guy in the book has to plot something cleverer to be convincing. But anyway, he is drown in the end, so justice triumphs.

What I really enjoyed without any "but"s in this book is the descriptions of the cities and the secondary characters Nell and her grandfather meet on their way. I think that the title really means not the shop itself, but that the book is a collection of curiosities of human nature itself. And as this, it is a certain classic!

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