December 28, 2013

2013 Challenges Wrap-Up

2013 will soon come to an end, and it's time to wrap-up all the challenges I have participated in this year. It was my first full year of blogging, so I had no idea what would work for me. Thus so many challenges I failed in. So here they go in no particular order:

2013 TBR Pile Challenge

It seems challenges in which I have to stick to the list don't work well for me... So this one is rather a failure... But I've still read 5 books, and it's a win anyway! :)

My list:
  1. Kerouac, Jack: On the Road
  2. Kundera, Milan: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  3. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia: One Hundred Years of Solitude
  4. Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales
  5. Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the D'Urbervilles
  6. Eco, Umberto: The Name of the Rose
  7. Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca
  8. Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The Lost World
  9. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
  10. Alcott, Louisa May: Little Women
  11. Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations
  12. Hugo, Victor: Les Miserables

  1. Maugham, W. Somerset: Of Human Bondage
  2. Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway

What's in a Name Challenge 2013

This year I've discovered I don't like choosing books according to their titles... So all the challenges that require something in the title were failures too... But I was really productive in terms of emotional titles :)

  1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title: Deep down True, The Girl Below, The Diva Digs up the Dirt
  2. A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title: Loose Lips Sink Ships, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Breadcrumbs
  3. A book with a party or celebration in the title: A Feast for Crows, A Wedding in Haiti, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness
  4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title: Burning for Revenge, Fireworks over Toccoa, Catching Fire
  5. A book with an emotion in the title: Baltimore Blues, Say You're Sorry, Dreams of Joy
  6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title: The Book of Lost Fragrances, The World We Found, A Discovery of Witches

Books read:

  1. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

  2. The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

The Colorful Reading Challenge 2013

Faaaail, 5 instead of 8 books read...

Books read:
  1. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  3. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  4. The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius
  5. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Narrative Poem Reading Challenge 2013

Here I'm really ashamed: I was so excited with narrative poems, and wanted to read all of them, but this mood has disappeared and never came again for the whole year... I hope I'll read them sometime, though!

Books I plan to read:
  1. Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales
  2. Ovid: Metamorphoses
  3. Milton, John: Paradise Lost
  4. Scott, Sir Walter: The Lady of the Lake
  5. Virgil: Aeneid
  6. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  7. Turold: The Song of Roland
  8. Re-read some Scandinavian mythology or Tolkien (?)

Around the World in 12 Books Challenge

I really liked it in the beginning, but then some difficult countries came, and I couldn't find anything inspirational set in them, so I dropped it in summer. I'm going to join 2014 challenge though, which has easier rules.

List of countries: 
JANUARY = France: The Story of My Misfortunes by Peter Abelard
FEBRUARY = Sudan: My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
MARCH = Wales: Mabinogion
APRIL = South Pacific Islands: Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Bernard Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
MAY = Belgium: The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
JUNE = South Korea
JULY = Israel
AUGUST = Palestine
DECEMBER = Argentina

Books On France 2013 Reading Challenge

One book short of my level! Well, I've done well anyway! :)

Books read:
  1. The Story of My Misfortunes by Peter Abelard 
  2. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
  3. Germinal by Émile Zola
  4. Manon Lescaut by Antoine François Prévost
  5. Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire

TEA & BOOKS Reading Challenge

This challenge was one of my most favourite ones! I love big books, and monthly check-ins were encouraging. I hope I'll finish one more book for the challenge in the next two days, but I've completed it long ago anyway!

Books read:
  1. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (774 pages)
  2. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos (653 pages)
  3. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (720 pages)
  4. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (1074 pages)
  5. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (851 pages)
  6. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (713 pages)
  7. The Thousand and One Nights (3624 pages, around 1500 of them read this year)
  8. Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman (704 pages)

2013 Genre Variety Reading Challenge

I completed this challenge long ago, but I didn't enjoy it. Genres are fuzzy, and if you want, you can fit anything anywhere. 

  1. Children's fantasy: The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame
  2. Autobiography: The Story of My Misfortunes by Peter Abelard
  3. Coming of age: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  4. Southern gothic: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
  5. Sea story: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  6. Detective: A Study in Scarlet & The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. Science fiction: Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
  8. Epistolary: Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
  9. Social criticism: The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
  10. Speculative fiction: My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
  11. ...

7 Continents, 7 Billion People, 7 Books - Reading Challenge 2013

This was fun in the beginning, but then all the participants and the host him/herself disappeared... It's not fun when there is no crowd, right?)

Books read:
  1. From the 7 countries with the most population: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (USA)
  2. From the 7 highest countries in the world: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson (Pakistan)
  3. From the 7 oldest countries of the world: Aesop's Fables by Aesop (Greece)
  4. From one of the 7 megacities of the world (Tokyo, Guangzhou, Jakarta, Seoul, Shanghai, Mexico City, Delhi)
  5. From the 7 countries with the most immigrants (USA, Russia, Germany, Ukraine, France, Saudi Arabia, Canada)
  6. From the 7 richest (or poorest) countries (Richest: Luxembourg, Qatar, Macau, Norway, Singapore, Brunei, Hong Kong; Poorest: Congo, Liberia, Eritrea, Burundi, Niger, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone)
  7. From the 7 most rainy (or dry) countries (Rainy: Guinea, Solomon Islands, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Burma, Malaysia, Guyana; Dry: Peru, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Erimates, Kuwait, Syria, Djibouti)

The European Reading Challenge

This one I liked a lot, but I can't say it made me choose books I wouldn't normally choose. I was just lucky my reading fit so well :)

Books read:
  1. The Story of My Misfortunes by Peter Abelard - France
  2. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens - United Kingdom
  3. My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl - Spain (Well, actually it happens ALL AROUND Europe, but I had to choose one, so I chose the place of their first business success)
  4. Oedipus the King by Sophocles - Greece
  5. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco - Italy
  6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Germany
  7. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier - Belgium
  8. The Seagull by Anton Chekhov - Russia
  9. The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas - Norway
  10. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson - Sweden
  11. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle - Switzerland (Okay, only one of the stories is set in Switzerland, but it's one of the most important and the most well-known ones, and the scenery plays an important role in it, so I think it counts :))
  12. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig - Austria
P.S. I've changed my UK book, because I've just noticed the books must be by different authors. Anyway, I've read gazillion of books set in UK :)

2013 Books in Translation Reading Challenge

This is not even a challenge for me, as I read in translation A LOT... Some of the translations here may seem crazy, but there are a lot of them :)

Books read:
  1. The Story of My Misfortunes by Peter Abelard (French -> Russian)
  2. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Japanese -> Russian)
  3. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos (French -> Russian)
  4. Oedipus the King by Sophocles (Classical Greek -> Russian)
  5. Germinal by Émile Zola (French -> Russian)
  6. The Mabinogion by Anonymous (Medieval Welsh -> Russian) 
  7. Harry Potter y la cámara secreta by J. K. Rowling (English -> Spanish)
  8. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (Italian -> Russian)
  9. Manon Lescaut by Antoine François Prévost (French -> Russian)
  10. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier (English -> Russian)
  11. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson (English -> Russian)
  12. Radost pro duši by Margaret Silf (English -> Czech)
  13. Aesop's Fables by Aesop (Classical Greek -> Russian) 
  14. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (Spanish -> Russian)
  15. The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas (Norwegian -> Russian)
  16. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Swedish -> Russian)
  17. Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire (French -> Russian)
  18. The Thousand and One Nights (Arabic -> Russian)
  19. The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius (Latin -> Russian)
  20. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino (Italian -> Russian)
  21. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (German -> Russian)
  22. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (German -> Russian)

2013 Mystery/Crime Reading Challenge

I can't say I'm a fan of detective stories, so I probably shouldn't have signed up for anything with this topic

Books read:
  1. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. Murder in Two Flats by Roy Vickers
  5. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  6. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

  Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2013

The same... Although the categories were fun!

  1. Colorful Crime: a book with a color or reference to color in the title
  2. Murder by the Numbers: a book with a number, quantity in the title
  3. Amateur Night: a book with a "detective" who is not a P.I.; Police Officer; Official Investigator (Nurse Keate, Father Brown, Miss Marple, etc.)
  4. Leave It to the Professionals: a book featuring cops, private eyes, secret service, professional spies, etc.
  5. Jolly Old England: one mystery set in Britain
  6. Yankee Doodle Dandy: one mystery set in the United States
  7. World Traveler: one mystery set in any country except the US or Britain
  8. Dangerous Beasts: a book with an animal in the title (The Case of the Grinning Gorilla; The Canary Murder Case; etc.)
  9. A Calendar of Crime: a mystery with a date/holiday/year/month/etc. in the title (Hercule Poirot's Christmas, Holiday Homicide, etc.)
  10. Wicked Women: a book with a woman in the title--either by name (Mrs. McGinty's Dead) or by reference (The Case of the Vagabound Virgin)
  11. Malicious Men: a book with a man in the title--either by name (Maigret & the Yellow Dog) or by reference (The Case of the Haunted Husband)
  12. Murderous Methods: a book with a means of death in the title (The Noose, 5 Bullets, Deadly Nightshade, etc).
  13. Staging the Crime: a mystery set in the entertainment world (the theater, musical event, a pageant, Hollywood, featuring a magician, etc)
  14. Scene of the Crime: a book with the location of the crime in the title (The Body in the Library, Murder at the Vicarage, etc.)
  15. Cops & Robbers: a book that features a theft rather than murder
  16. Locked Rooms: a locked-room mystery
  17. Country House Criminals: a standard (or not-so-standard) Golden Age country house murder
  18. Murder on the High Seas: a mystery involving water
  19. Planes, Trains & Automobiles: a mystery that involves a mode of transportation in a vital way--explicitly in the title (Murder on the Orient Express) or by implication (Death in the Air; Death Under Sail) or perhaps the victim was shoved under a bus....
  20. Murder Is Academic: a mystery involving a scholar, teacher, librarian, etc. OR set at a school, university, library, etc.
  21. Things That Go Bump in the Night: a mystery with something spooky, creepy, gothic in the title (The Skeleton in the Clock, Haunted Lady, The Bat, etc.)
  22. Repeat Offenders: a mystery featuring your favorite series detective or by your favorite author (the books/authors you'd read over and over again) OR reread an old favorite
  23. The Butler Did It...Or Not: a mystery where the butler is the victim, the sleuth....(gasp) the criminal....or is just downright memorable for whatever reason.
  24. A Mystery By Any Other Name: any book that has been published under more than one title (Murder Is Easy--aka Easy to Kill [Christie];Fog of Doubt--aka London Particular [Christianna Brand], etc.)
  25. Dynamic Duos: a mystery featuring a detective team--Holmes & Watson, Pam & Jerry North, Wolfe & Goodwin, or....a little-known team that you introduce to us.
  26. Size Matters: a book with a size or measurement in the title (Death Has a Small Voice, The Big Four, The Weight of the Evidence, etc.)
  27. Psychic Phenomena: a mystery featuring a seance, medium, hypnotism, or other psychic or "supernatural" characters/events
  28. Book to Movie: one vintage mystery that has appeared on screen (feature film or TV movie).
  29. The Old Bailey: a courtroom drama mystery (Perry Mason, anyone?Witness for the Prosecution...etc.) 
  30. Get Out of Jail Free: This is a freebie category. One per customer. You tell me what special category the book fits ("It's got an awesome cover!"..."First book I grabbed off my shelf") and it counts. Only thing I won't take is "It's a Vintage Mystery!"--that's a given. :-)

Books read:
  1. Colorful Crime: A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. Murder by the Numbers: The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. Repeat Offenders: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. Scene of the Crime: Murder in Two Flats by Roy Vickers
  5. Dynamic Duos: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Game of Thrones Reading Challenge 2013

OMG, I don't even know why I signed up for this challenge, as I wasn't going to read more than one anyway!

Books read:
  1. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

2013 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

2013 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge hosted by The Book Vixen

I read 92!! I outdid myself by much more than I dared expect! I'm awesome.

Number of books read in 2012: 61
Number of books I plan to read in 2013: 70

New Authors Challenge 2013

I stopped counting at some point, because I read new authors all the time anyway :)

Books read:
  1. The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame 
  2. The Story of My Misfortunes by Peter Abelard 
  3. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami 
  4. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
  5. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  6. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
  7. My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
  8. Wool and Proper Gauge by Hugh Howey
  9. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  10. Oedipus the King by Sophocles
  11. Germinal by Émile Zola
  12. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  13. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  14. Murder in Two Flats by Roy Vickers
  15. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  16. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  17. Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Bernard Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
  18. Manon Lescaut by Antoine François Prévost
  19. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
  20. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
  21. Radost pro duši by Margaret Silf
  22. Aesop's Fables by Aesop
  23. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  24. Light in August by William Faulkner
  25. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
  26. The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
  27. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  28. ...

    2013 Ebook Challenge

    Here I also stopped counting, as I read everything on my ereader. I'm just not rich enough to buy real paper books :)

    Books read:
    1. The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame 
    2. The Story of My Misfortunes by Peter Abelard 
    3. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami 
    4. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams 
    5. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville 
    6. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick 
    7. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
    8. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
    9. My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
    10. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
    11. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
    12. Wool and Proper Gauge by Hugh Howey
    13. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
    14. Oedipus the King by Sophocles

    OK, that's all! I wrote a separate wrap-up post for Back to the Classics challenge in August, so I'm done with all of them :) I have not been very clever with signing up this year, and I hope I'll be more successful in 2014!

    Happy New Year and some nice challenges to everyone!!

    December 17, 2013

    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Review)

    Title: Little Women; Or, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy
    Author: Louisa May Alcott
    First published: 1868
    Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
    Rating: ★★★★★

    Thanks to my helpful friends, who advised me against Middlemarch and Ulysses this December, I ended up reading the sweetest book ever! Well, maybe it was too sweet at times, but I loved it anyway! I've found a gorgeous Gutenberg edition with a lot of beautiful pencil illustrations, which added to the cuteness. All in all, I had a very good time with this novel, and I'll probably re-read it sometime, as it's a perfect comfort read.

    As the subtitle hints, the story revolves around four girls, who are very different in their characters and aspirations, in a difficult period of their lives - growing from girls into women. As Alcott made me care for them (well, most of them), I want in this review to discuss them one by one, and there will be tons of spoilers ahead!

    I'm starting with my favourite character in the book. What, I hear you exclaim, not Jo?? No, not Jo. Jo is awesome, of course, but Amy is the one whom I really admire. She starts as a spoiled little girl and ends up a graceful lady with a house, enough money and a wonderful husband as a bonus - everything she wished for so hard. She hasn't become a painter, but when she realized she is no genius, she handled it beautifully and applied her artistic taste to things she WAS a genius at: her looks. I really admire her resourcefulness, optimism and patience: she never has all the beautiful things she wants, but she knows how to look best in what she has and does not despair. She has "the general air, the style, the self-possession, the - the - illusion", as Laurie says. Besides, she also has a very nice character, and her understanding of what it means to be a lady goes far beyond good looks. All in all, she has developed greatly as a character, and she was always interesting to read about. I think her match with Laurie is totally suitable, as  "she winds one round her finger as softly and prettily as a skein of silk, and makes you feel as if she was doing you a favor all the while", and Laurie IS the one who needs it.

    Jo was my favourite through most of the book, but the ending was really disappointing. She had guts to really become something in the world, even the 19th century world. And I think she really had talent, unlike other sisters, who were just good at something. But she didn't pursue her writing career, even when she discovered she can write something serious. I know, staying an old maid seems rather horrible, but her match looks desperate. OK, the professor is good and... em.. unusual, but he is much older and is more of a father than lover to her. OK, I confess I'm just not a fan of such characters, but I was pitying her, because it seems that with her character she has a certain passion in her, which is quite wasted on an older man. It's strange everybody thought that a Laurie kind of husband wouldn't suit her. I think that relationships founded on scorn and joking can be even more rewarding than the ones based on holding hands and blushing. And yes, I do speak from experience :)

    She was a pretty nothing from the beginning: some vanity, some good intentions... that's all. Her husband is an even bigger nothing and their match was ridiculous: she just was... eh, persuaded, although I don't believe she really loved him. But surprisingly enough, some good plot development came from this match of two nothings: I really enjoyed her struggles as a beginner housewife and mother. I know how difficult it is to manage a home by yourself and how much patience is needed to make it a happy place to be together with another person. Her difficulties after childbirth were also very moving, and I was happy for her when she learned how to be a good mother and housewife. She couldn't be anything else anyway.

    Well, I didn't care for Beth at all, because she was so dull. But her death got me really angry. Now, pardon me if I hurt somebody's religious feelings, but I think her religiousness killed her! Well, fastened this process anyway. She is so meek, she "tries to be willing" to die, and OF COURSE she dies after this. If you try not to wish to live, how is your body to fight the illness? I think it would be better if she thought there was no afterlife or whatever. This may have given her some will to live. As nothing is said about her illness and a doctor never visits her to diagnose it, it seems as though she somehow just secretly decided to die and did. However little I cared for her, this waste makes me ANGRY!

    Speaking about the book in general, of course it's outdated and preachy! I was expecting nothing less. But if you try to close your eyes on everything religious and too-good-not-to-cause-nausea, you can see a very engaging life story, with all the feelings and great characters. I stayed up until 4am two nights in a row because I couldn't put it down, and it's the end of the semester! :) I think it put me in a New Year mood more effectively that all the Christmas markets around, although I dig European Christmas markets!

    In my book:
    It's a must read and a certain classic. Suitable for all ages :)

    December 16, 2013

    Back to the Classics Challenge 2014

    It's here, yay! I was afraid that nobody will take it over from Sarah, but brave Karen has decided to host it! I'm so glad, as it's one of my favourite challenges EVAR :) This year, classics chould be published before 1964. Aaaand here are the categories:

    Optional Categories:
    • An American Classic: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
    • A Classic Mystery, Suspense or Thriller 
    • A Historical Fiction Classic: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
    • A Classic That's Been Adapted Into a Movie or TV SeriesThe Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
    • Extra Fun Category: Write a Review of the Movie or TV Series adapted from Optional Category #4. This can be any adaptation -- does not have to be adapted before 1964. For example, if you chosePride and Prejudice, you could review any adaptation -- 1940, 1980, 1995, 2005, etc. However, this must be a separate blog posting -- no fair just mentioning it in the book review!
    Aren't they the best? Of course I'll do all of them, including the optional ones! And I'll link my reviews here.

    December 14, 2013

    Wicked by Gregory Maguire (Review)

    Title: Wicked
    Author: Gregory Maguire
    First published: 1995
    Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
    Rating: ★★☆☆☆

    I tried Grammarly's plagiarism detector free of charge because they are giving me a 10$ Amazon gift card, and if I'm to lose my Amazon virginity, I'd rather not pay for it :)

    The full title actually sounds like Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, but it would be more honest to rename it like this: Wicked: Violence, Sex, Racism, Terrorism, Dirty Politics, Disfigurement, Murder and Religious Confrontation in Times of the Wicked Witch of the West! I have probably even forgotten something, but you get the idea.

    I was a bit shocked in the beginning of the book because the country described in it is nothing like the magic and wonderful Oz from the original books. In time, though, I started to enjoy the complex world Maguire created, his character studies and wonderful inventions. The University part was great, because there is student life, first love, forging friendships and idealism of youth. However, then things got complicated, and Maguire started losing me. I stopped understanding the motivations of the characters and was in a more or less confused state all the time. Then it dragged, and then came mysticism, and then I was wishing the book to end soon.

    It's a very interesting thought that everything must have been a bit different than the perceptions of a little girl from Kansas, and I wish the book stayed what it can so well be - a speculation. Instead, it became philosophical, moralistic and complicated. In the end, nothing was really explained, and I was left with a lot of "WTF" questions. I know there are sequels, but I don't think it's fair to the reader to leave everything unclear until he reads more. At least I am not going to read more because I suspect more tricks like this :) I am also not a fan of his writing as it's rather abrupt and obscure.

    All this said, I rather liked the characters in the book. They felt real, and were so much more than the labels they wore. The Wicked Witches were actually aiming for good causes, and the Good Witch is quite a shallow and trifling rich girl. Another thing I enjoyed was the politics. The Wizard is such a regular usurper and tyrant, and he knows how to maintain his power. Animal rights question plays a very important role in the life of the country, and it resonates with some of the most painful recent moments in our own history.

    In my book:
    Not really my kind of thing, although quite engaging and thought-provoking in the beginning.

    December 10, 2013

    Russian Literature 2014

    Are you already tired of reading only sign-up posts here? Well, I'm sorry, but I can't do anything with it, as wonderful challenges keep coming my way! :) Russian Literature Challenge is hosted by o on her new blog Behold the stars, and there are levels for everybody from a complete novice to an expert in Russian Lit! I'm a seasoned Russian Lit reader, as I went to school in Russia, and unlike many of my schoolmates I actually read all the required stuff. But of course, though extensive, the course didn't cover everything, and I feel I should go back to some of the works that were overlooked. Being well acquainted with the topic, it would be a shame to sign up for less than Level Four, so I pledge to read at least 12 Russian classics next year.

    I'm also planning to participate with making lists (you like lists, right? :)). This year I've done a list of Classic Russian Children's Literature and added quite a few of classic Russian Sci-Fi books to my Sci-Fi challenge list. In January, I'm going to write a list of Russian war literature, and I hope you'll like it! :) Stay tuned!

    Books read:
    1. The Shore by Yuri Bondarev 
    2. Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
    3. The Train (Sputniki) by Vera Panova
    4. The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov
    5. Lectures on Russian Literature by Vladimir Nabokov
    6. The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov
    7. Hard to Be a God by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
    8. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

    2014 Chunkster Challenge

    I was very disappointed that until this year ebooks were not allowed for Chunkster Challenge, and so I couldn't participate. But for 2014 the rules are changed, and I gladly join and challenge myself to read 20 books with 450+ pages in them next year! This seems totally doable, as this year I've read approximately 19 (I'm not sure editions I have on Goodreads have the same number of pages as the editions I read). 

    I looove big books, and 450 pages is not even scary ;) But wish me good luck anyway! :)

    Books read:
    1. The Shore by Yuri Bondarev (482 pages)
    2. The History of the Kings of Britain and Life of Merlin by Geoffrey of Monmouth (943 pages)
    3. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin (786 pages)
    4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (486 pages)
    5. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (650 pages)
    6. A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger (496 pages)
    7. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (1097 pages)
    8. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (551 pages)
    9. Watership Down by Richard Adams (478 pages)
    10. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (754 pages)
    11. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (784 pages)
    12. Spectrum by Sergei Lukyanenko (490 pages)

    December 6, 2013

    Everything España Reading Challenge 2014

    The moment I saw Everything España: a 2014 Reading Challenge hosted by, I knew I wanted to join! And I need it badly too, as I have 3 books in Spanish waiting to be read for YEARS, and I feel so ashamed about it... They are not even mine, my Spanish teacher lent them to me expecting me to swallow them as fast as usual, but I moved to Czech Republic, started learning Czech and totally forgot to read and return them. I know it's bad, but she has my Lord of the Rings as a hostage, so we are even :)  Moreover, there are those big names of Spanish literature looming forever on my TBR list, which I want to finally get to!

    So I'm signing up for Spain Is My Home level, which means I'll try to read at least 10 Spanish books next year!

    Here is where I'll log my progress and add relevant reviews.

    Books read:
    1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

    December 5, 2013

    Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (Review)

    Title: Red Seas Under Red Skies
    Author: Scott Lynch
    First published: 2007
    Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
    Rating: ★★★★★

    "Locke Lamora stood on the pier in Tal Verrar with the hot wind of a burning ship at his back and the cold bite of a loaded crossbow's bolt at his neck."
    How can you not love a book which starts like this??? It's like the most awesome starting line I've encountered lately, as it gets you right into the mood! From the first line you see there will be ships (and quite some of them burning!), grave danger and our beloved Lamora in the middle of all this. If you have no idea who the hell he is, note that this is the second book in the series, so you should better read my review of the first book, or better still grab the books themselves :)

    After a narrow escape from Camorr, Locke and Jean have established themselves in Tal Verrar, also a state-city, but with a different character. Of course, there is a huge heist underway, in the biggest and the most prestigious gambling club of the city. But as you may guess they are not able to pull it through smoothly, as greater forces are about to interfere. Remember the wizard they mutilated in the first book? Well, his colleagues are not leaving him unrequited. Besides, the archon, a military leader of the city, has his own needs, which he is very good at making other's needs too. Caught in the middle of political affairs of the city, Gentlemen Bastards need to go to sea and mingle with pirates, struggling for their lives and trying to win in a losing game.

    Unlike the first book, I wasn't caught up immediately. The first 150 or so pages were a bit too descriptive and "preparatory" for my taste, which may be my own fault, because it's the end of the semester, and it's difficult for me to get involved in something else. But then they went to sea, and I was again in a wonderful state of not being able to put the novel down! The seafaring setting won me over completely, because I love sails, ships, pirates, ship life, all the sea terms, etc. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I learned it all in the times I was sailing myself on a replica of an 18-century ship? A lot of things were very recognizable and dear to me :) Look at this quote, for example:
    "My head is full of little ships, all going round and round gleefully making up new names for the things on their decks!"
    - everybody who had to learn sea vocabulary at some point in their lives know the feeling! :) Lynch even added some cute sailing traditions, which, unlike our Earth ones, require a woman on board for good luck! Besides, they are really good officers and some of them are also awesome gals! Yes, as you can guess, there's a whole set of new characters in the book, and they are really cool! :)

    Although I enjoyed the book greatly, I do have some minor complaints about the plot, which was not as smooth as the first book's. For example, I totally saw some plot twists coming! That clearly was not the author's intention... And I still don't understand one thing: how had they thoughtfully got one guy's seal in advance, if they supposedly had an idea about how to use it only much later?? Or have I missed something? Oh, well, it's useless to complain anyway. I guess it's a bane of any series - no sequel can be as good as the first book. Although if the first book is THAT awesome, the sequels are still pretty great :)

    On the bright side, there's some moving character growth in the book, which is to be expected after some of the hardships Locke and Jean have been through. And there was a place where I really cried. Embarrassingly, my mom called me at exactly that moment, and the look of my face frightened her a bit before I explained that I'm OK, it's just a book :)

    In my book:
    If you've read the first book, you probably already know you need to read all the sequels too :) And if you haven't - it's time to start, dudes! :)

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