July 31, 2015

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Title: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Author: Rachel Joyce
Rating: ★★★★☆

When you move to a new city/country/place it’s hard to immediately make it feel like home. I’ve found that books help that a lot. So even though my suitcase space is extremely limited, and I’m staying in Barcelona for just 3 months, I’ve already bought 3 books in a wonderful second-hand bookshop Hibernian, which you should totally check out if you happen to be in Barcelona and are a book freak :) The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is one of the books I immediately decided on buying, because I’ve heard only good things about it. Quite predictably, I was not disappointed.

The plot is reminiscent of that of The Pilgrim’s Progress (which I hated) but is much more secular and “modernized”. Harold Fry is an elderly man who once gets a letter from an old friend with whom he lost connection long ago. The friend writes that she’s in hospice with terminal cancer and sends her goodbyes. Harold, instead of penning a sufficiently compassionate and polite answer, decides to walk all the way from the south to the north of England, believing that while he’s doing this, his friend will live and wait for him. Being alone in the wild makes him re-think a lot of things in his life and he meets a lot of different people on the way and gives an ear to each of them. At home, his wife, shocked by his sudden departure, has her own thinking to do. After all, their family has been through a lot.

Sometimes the tone of the book verges on being too pathetic, but generally it’s casual enough to not irritate. Certain places are very touching, and there’s also a well-done unreliable narrator(s) aspect to the story. I love that! I also tend to enjoy the type of narratives in which protagonist meets all kinds of incidental acquaintances. It always amazes me how interesting people are if you approach them without prejudices and with an open mind.

July 26, 2015

(Already Traditional) Mini-Reviews, Part 2

Looking at these two bunches of mini-reviews, you can probably tell that I have not been much into serious lit this spring and summer :D But come on, sometimes mind-blowing Sci-Fi is just a better choice than those daunting 19-century chunksters :) 

Title: The Name of the Wind 
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I should listen to Riv more. She read it last year and wrote that the book is not as good as Goodreads and other reviews would you believe. It’s not that I don’t trust her opinion (I’m yet to discover a book on which our opinions differ significantly), but I still felt I have to read a book which gets so much hype. And well… I can see why people love it so much, but as for Riv, it also fell flat for me. I loved the magic system and the part at the university, but then the love story began and it was just so adolescent and ridiculous… And don’t even get me started on the pointless 200-page hang out in the forests with the draccus or whatever this thing is called. I also expected the book to have an ENDING, but apparently it cannot be read as a standalone novel. If the author thinks that would make me read the rest of the series… Um, no. Good writing and gripping plotline would do that, not failing to round-up a story even a little bit before the end of the first volume.

Title: The Night Circus 
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Rating: ★★★★☆

This novel should be made into a movie immediately! It screams for big screen special effects. Although the writing does an amazing job creating all this effects in your own head. Very atmospheric! Plotline… well, it exists, but it’s not the main point of the book. I feel that the characters and their relationships could have been written better, but as I’ve said, the book is amazing as it is!

Title: The Passage 
Author: Justin Cronin
Rating: ★★★★☆

The book reminds me a lot of The Girl with all the Gifts, although it should be vice versa, as The Passage was written before The Girl. That makes it two zombie apocalypse books that I’ve read and liked during this year, so I guess never say never? I don’t know what I expected from The Passage, but it was gripping and beautifully written and I spent more than one night not being able to put it down instead of getting some healthy sleep.

Title: L'amour dure trois ans (Love Lasts Three Years) 
Author: Frederic Beigbeder
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I’ve never read the guy before and most probably will never read him again. There is no literary merit in the book, the characters are just papier-mashe masks without any depth and the ideas are questionable in the least. It reads fast and there are some catchy phrases and aphorisms in it, but the novel gives you a feeling it was written to provide facebook status updates to people who like to put quotes there.

Title: The Universe Versus Alex Woods 
Author: Gavin Extence
Rating: ★★★★★

I loved this book!! It’s so poignantly sincere and kind… But not in a way SPECIFICALLY designed to jerk tears out of you. Everything is described very matter-of-factly and that’s why it’s so relatable and realistic. Alex is the best, really. The way he thinks is precious and I guess our world would be a much better place if everybody followed the same logic.

Title: Lexicon 
Author: Max Barry
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I think my biggest problem with this book was that I had unrealistically high expectations. I’ve always been intrigued by NLP techniques and I thought this novel would be about it. Instead, it’s much more fantastic and hard to believe. Also, I did not understand what was happening until I reached the middle of the book. In some cases it can be intriguing, but here it was rather irritating. Also, the ending was just… Meh. I don’t get it, really.

Title: Ancillary Justice
Author: Ann Leckie
Rating: ★★★☆☆

This novel is like a riddle: at first you don’t understand what is happening and get lost in a lot of new words and alien references, but then without any explicit explanation it all kinda starts making sense, and you feel the world taking shape around you, gradually and imperceptibly. It is a beautifully written book, and the idea is awesome, but somehow this time I do not appreciate not understanding what’s happening for such a long time. Have I mentioned my attention span tend to be really short lately? So I don’t have enough patience for this kind of story

So what so do you think about these books? Do you agree or disagree with my opinions? I'd like to hear both :-P

I'm preparing some longer reviews next, as my reading is getting back to normal pretty fast. Stay tuned and have a nice weekend!

July 21, 2015

(Already Traditional) Mini-Reviews, Part 1

As promised, here's the first batch of long-due mini-reviews :)

Title: The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Is it me or has Sir Arthur lost some of his flair for awesomeness after the first three short story collections? I guess he’s not to blame, as *spoiler alert* he honestly tried to kill Sherlock and not write about him anymore, and had only caved to extreme public pressure to resurrect him. Anyway, I don’t even remember any of the stories that stand out in this particular book… And some are repetitive of the ones in the earlier collections. Still, Sherlock is adorable, and anything about him is a great comfort read.

Title: Zoo City
Author: Lauren Beukes
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

This was January choice for Coursera Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Club, and it was the first book we read together that I didn’t like. Maybe Southern African English and excessive use of slang words are to blame, but I never understood what was really happening in the book and WHY it was happening. You see, when you commit a crime there, they give you an animal mascot(?) that you can’t be separated from. “Animalled” people are considered lower class and live in some kind of slums. They are despised and also feared, as animals sometimes give them supernatural powers. Now I could have told you more, but as I’ve said, I’m clueless as to what the plot is and why this imaginary world functions like it does.

Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Rating: ★★★★★ 

Oh, this book! If you think of it, the society structure is rather ridiculous and it’s hard to imagine how people can end up living like this, but the writing is so brilliant that the story totally makes sense and you don’t want to see any plot holes. Not much HAPPENS in the book per se, because things are not supposed to happen to a handmaid, but the descriptions and musings of the protagonist are so engrossing that you literally can’t put the book down. And the ending… Oh, I just love the ending!

Title: Changing Places
Author: David Lodge
Rating: ★★★★★

This is a very funny novel that just GETS academia life! Two professors, one from US and one from UK are on an international exchange program and have to spend half a year in each other’s shoes. Hilarity ensues as they battle cultural differences and discover their new selves. Ah, there’s nothing like a funny book about professors :)

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Rating: ★★★★☆ 

An award winning hit, and yet I don’t wait a couple of years before reading it? Weird! But everybody in my feed was praising this novel, and besides the premise is awesome! There has been an epidemic, and 10 years after it the few people that are left alive are reduced to scavenging, hunting and primitive lifestyle in general. However, for some “survival is insufficient”, so a theater on wheels is travelling across Canada, performing what do you think? Shakespeare! Who apparently never goes out of fashion. The writing is beautiful, magical even, but the plot, although converging satisfactory in the end, is not without lapses. Like what about that menacing and pointless Prophet? I just don’t buy it.

Title: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Rating: ★★★★★

Ah, what a sweet book! Apart from being hilarious, it’s also very optimistic and good-humored. It just makes you feel good, especially if you are partial to weird scientists and happen to know a lot of them, even though such grave cases of social awkwardness are unlikely to exist in real life.

Title: The Lives of Tao
Author: Wesley Chu
Rating: ★★★★☆

This is a very enjoyable and fun read. A tad bit too much pathos in the end to my taste, but the dialogues! They are awesome. Also, I can’t help wishing for an all-knowing and wise alien sitting in my head and pushing me to greatness. Maybe then I’d actually run in the mornings!!

Title: Москва - Петушки (Moscow to the End of the Line)
Author: Venedict Erofeev
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I just wish it was possible to format the part of my brain that remembers this book. It’s really postmodernist and unusual… for the first 5 pages. Then it gets repetitive, boring and straight mad.

So that's it! A really mixed bag of books, some being awesome 5-star ones and some ending up on my hate list... Part 2, covering my reading adventures from the end of April to current time is coming soon :)

July 20, 2015

Hello again :)

Hello dear internet people if you are still here somewhere :) It feels like it’s time to start blogging again and it seems like I might have enough time and energy for it in the coming period of my life. I haven’t been here for half a year and A LOT has happened in this time, most of the changes being very welcome.
  • I’ve finally started renting a room in the city instead of staying in the dorms. So yay washing machine, I hope I’ll never have to wash my clothes with my hands again. My neighbours are kinda crazy, but whatever, there is a park nearby and the city center is close. I’ve also bought a sofa and a table and feel very grown up now!
  • I’ve fallen in love and it felt like getting back to life after a long period of being emotionally impotent. It didn’t work out and there were some bad feelings but I’m grateful anyway. I feel like my palate is cleaned now before the real stuff :)
  • I’ve moved to the sunny Barcelona for a 3-month internship and I love it SO MUCH here!! The sea is a 5 min walk away from my new office, and the people here are so awesome and relaxed! Besides, my Spanish is getting better now that I’m actually using it. There's a pic of the awesome Costa Brava below to give you a glimpse of the awesome area I'm living in now <3
Of course I was reading during this time, but there was so much stuff happening in real life that more often than not I felt like I couldn’t concentrate on the things I read about and ended up not caring about stories which would otherwise have greatly intrigued me. But some great books have come my way since I last had enthusiasm to share my thoughts here, so it would be unfair not to share the experience with you dear readers. That’s why I already have a collections of mini-reviews prepared for posting in the nearest future, and I hope the local second-hand bookstore (Hibernian, if anyone is curious) will provide me with more awesome reading material soon :)

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