January 31, 2014

Vintage Sci-Fi Month and Sci-Fi Experience Wrap-Up

Those two events go hand-in hand, but as Vintage Sci-Fi Month concentrates on a narrower slice of sci-fi, namely books published before 1979, let's start the wrap-up with it!

For such a wonderful event one month is not nearly enough! With all the holidays and exams I've managed to read only two vintage sci-fi books:

The Sci-Fi Experience has a wider scope, as it allows any kind of sci-fi media from any time period. So besides the two already mentioned novels, I read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and watched quite a lot of Star Trek stuff, of which I speak HERE.

Overall, I think those two events went well for me, although I wish I read much more! But I blame my always busy winter schedule :)

January 29, 2014

Star Trek: TOS Feature Films

Warning: nerd alert! You may not want to read further of you are normal :)

Since last year I have been discovering Star Trek. I had resisted it for a surprisingly long time, but if you have any idea of how I hate to hear something being referenced and not being able to get it, you know that I had zero chances to not watch it, because references to it are EVERYWHERE! So I decided to start, and to start at the beginning. I was at first scared of the amount of stuff being shot within the franchise, but I've decided that I can just go chronologically and then stop when I'm not enjoying it anymore. Well, needless to say, I haven't stopped yet :)

In December I finished TOS, watched TAS and the six films that feature the original cast. I'm already in the second season of TNG, but I've decided to go back to the films and review them for The 2014 Sci-Fi Experience.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

The only thing I can say about this film is that you should totally skip it if you can! While some nasty formless thing approaches Earth and threatens its existence, the old crew of Enterprise makes concentrated and tragical faces while watching the abundant display of then-cool special effects. Meanwhile, everybody have some weird psychological conflicts, and Spock is straight crazy. Everything is VERY SLOW, the plot is absent, and the ending is of the WTF kind.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Now this is a very different story! I love Khan's story from the original series, and having him in play again is a great idea! Khan is a genetically engineered tyrant, whom Kirk has left on a lifeless planet with his accomplices, and now HE IS NOT HAPPY with Kirk and the whole situation and wants revenge!! There is also the Genesis project capsule which can create new life while killing the old one, mind control eels that enter people's heads through ears, the famous three-dimensional space thinking and what not. Also, the end... You need to watch it to know what I'm talking about.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

The Search for Spock takes off immediately after the events of the previous film, and it's difficult to describe the plot without spoilers. So I'll just say that it's very funny at times, and at times sad, and totally gripping at all times! I watched it immediately after The Wrath of Khan, because the suspense was too much for me :) Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. Films II, III and IV form a trilogy, and should be watched as as such.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

After the events of The Search for Spock, the crew is left with a ramshackle Klingon ship and a prospective trial after coming back to Earth. However, Earth has other problems than to judge our insubordinate friends. An unknown and hostile object is approaching, which wants to contact whales who by the way have been extinct for many years. So apparently the only possible solution is... you knew it! to go to the past and bring some whales! I really loved all the scenes in the past, they are very funny! The crew looks really awkward in "our time" and produces a lot of unbelievable UFO stories. Also, whales! I love whales! I think I liked this film even more than The Wrath of Khan.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

After the awesomeness of the previous three films this one fell flat for me. The crew is sent to stifle a rebellion on some far-away planet and instead gets captured by non other than Spock's bad-reputed brother who needs a ship to find some divine planet where supposedly God resides. I'm not a fan of all the religious themes in Star Trek, and this plot left me indifferent.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

This film is my coeval! Apart from that and maybe also Spock playing Sherlock Holmes, the film is short of being amazing, but it's still much better than the fifth one. The plot revolves around a prospective peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, which somebody tries to jeopardize by killing the ambassador. Naturally, Kirk is accused and now has to prove his innocence while surviving on a prison camp planet. I liked how the film is finished with all the crew retiring and musing about the next generations coming after them. And TNG really is coming :)
Overall, I would put them in the following order according to their awesomeness (from the best to the worst):
  1. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  3. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
  4. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  5. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  6. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Have you watched them? What do you think? :)

January 27, 2014

A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon: Starting Line

To read the rules and sign up, please go HERE.

This read-a-thon comes at a perfect time for me! I've just finished my exams, and there is still some time until the beginning of the next semester. A perfect time to get some reading done! Although I have a lot of work to do and will also be organizing a party to celebrate my birthday tomorrow, it's still OK, as it's a non-pressure read-a-thon, and my main goal is to spend less time in the Internet and read instead :) Moreover, here are some things I also want to accomplish:
  1. Read two chapters from Harry Potter y el Prisionero de Azkaban in Spanish to catch up with Hillary
  2. Catch up with Paradise Lost Readalong, which basically means to read three more parts. It's sooo difficult, but I really want to finish it, and if I fall back at the readalong, it'll never happen
  3. Finish The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth
  4. Read some more from A Feast for Crows as a reward for doing everything mentioned above :) 

I will do some kind of wrap-up post at the end of the event, and we'll see how well I'll do :) Wish me good luck!

January 24, 2014

Foundation by Isaac Asimov (Review)

Title: Foundation
Author: Isaac Asimov
First published: 1951
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I was expecting so much from this book after the greatness of I, Robot, but, sadly, it fell flat for me. I mean, OK, it's a space saga with politics, wars, progress, etc, and it sounds rather impressive, but if you look to the core of it it's as if the author has just read about the fall of the Roman Empire and was impressed. He does have a good grasp of European history, but what about inventing something new instead of just interpreting historical tendencies on a cosmic scale?

The book consists of 5 short stories first published separately. Each of them covers an important turn in the history of Foundation - an emerging force in the Galaxy which was once one strong, centralized and technological Empire. This Empire has fallen, as had been predicted, its periphery has become separate kingdoms, and space has become a field for numerous conflicts. There is a prophesy, though, that if a certain course of action is pursued, a new Empire will emerge in 1000 years, and chaos will end; and it's up to Foundation to see to it. 

Although I enjoyed some of the dialogues, which were rather clever, the rest was not very gripping. The book is all about ideas, not adventure or even characters, and the ideas, as I've mentioned, are not new. Interdicts, economic blockades, political maneuvering - all this is rather predictable for anybody who is at least a bit acquainted with the history of the world.

In my book:
It's definitely not the best of Asimov, and I'm surprised it won Hugo. Although if you really love history, this may be your thing.

January 20, 2014

Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (Review)

Title: Roadside Picnic
Author: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
First published: 1972
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

To say that this book is a Sci-Fi classic is to say exactly nothing. Everything Strugatsky brothers wrote has become a classic, but among all their books this is the cult one. Not only has it inspired the famous computer game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and formed a separate stalker sub-genre of Sci-Fi literature, it has also marked the beginning of the popularity of a new hobby - urban exploration or urban tourism. I've known some guys who define themselves as stalkers - they break into old destroyed plants' territories, explore manifolds with underground rivers... It's dangerous and illegal, and it has been very, very popular in Russia since the 80th when a lot of objects from the Soviet times were abandoned and deteriorating. I guess there are not many books that have had such an impact on popular culture.

Such an influential novel simply has to be awesome, and this one totally is. The world has survived an invasion. It has come and gone, leaving after itself several Zones. They may look normal from afar, but abnormal, inexplicable things happen there and all kinds of curious objects can be found there. While scientists are trying to make sense of it, some people are ready to pay money for the stuff from there, and special people - stalkers - steal to the Zone at night to get these objects for sale, risking their life and health every time they do it. There are legends connected with the Zone, one of them telling about a golden sphere that can give you whatever you ask for, if only you are good enough to get to it...

There are so many fascinating ideas in the book, that I will not even try to talk about them - you simply have to read the novel by yourself. What I will talk about here is writing - I have forgotten how well the Strugatsky brothers can show the way a person is thinking. The main character talks and thinks differently when he's 23 and when he's 31, but it's obviously the same very well recognizable man.

In my book:
It's simply a masterpiece and must be read.

January 19, 2014

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (Review)

Title: Caleb's Crossing
Author: Brooks, Geraldine
First published: 2011
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

One astonishing fact inspired this book: in 1665 one Caleb became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. 1665! Amazing, right? How did it happen? Well, apparently, back then when religiousness was really crazy, natives were encouraged and bullied to become Christians. To that end, a sponsorship was organised to pay and provide for those Indians who wanted to get education in hope of their help in advancing religion further. They were to have a profound brainwashing in college and then to go preach to their fellow countrymen. Of course, it was very difficult for them, because apart from mastering English, they had to excel in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, they had to endure not only the hardships of living in a poor-provided establishment which was Harvard, but also the contempt of the Englishmen and distrust and sometimes hate of the fellow natives. But some of them willingly pursued this course in hopes of obtaining means to protect their people from the advancing "civilization".

It's an amazingly interesting topic, but not much is known about it, unfortunately. That's why, I reckon, although the novel does tell Caleb's story, it's not in the focus of the narrative. Instead, everything the reader sees is from the point of view of Bethia, a daughter of a missioner, who meets Caleb when they are both children and introduces him to her world. She is the center of the novel, and she is a great character! She is quicker and cleverer than her brother and is eager to learn, but, being a woman, is not allowed to do so. Her father tells her: "I would do you no favor if I were to send you to your husband with a mind honed to find fault in his every argument or to better his in every particular." So she resorts to eavesdropping on her brother's lessons and then agrees to go into service in a prep school just to continue overhearing stuff. Apart from her eagerness to learn, she is also interested in the Indian culture. Instead of shunning from their religion and beliefs as from the "work of Devil", she tries to understand it, and that's why her friendship with Caleb is possible.

Caleb's Crossing is very well researched, and it was very interesting to read about the early settlements, communication with the natives and the towns and universities of that time. The ugliness of the treatment of women and the Indians (and especially Indian women) is not smoothed, and the state of the medicine is really horrifying. Science also leaves much to be desired, as it was very mixed with and dependent on religion, and pretty useless for the most part.

As for the style of the novel, it is written in a form of Bethia's diaries, and I enjoyed the flow of her writing, which draws one into the story and doesn't let go.

In my book:
A very decent historical fiction book, with amazing characters and a captivating story.

The book is the first choice for Plagues Witches and War: The World of Historical Fiction Book Club, and I'm really happy I've joined it!

January 18, 2014

Russian War Literature

After informing you about Russian Children's literature and Russian Sci-Fi, I'm now going to make a list of Russian war literature. Judging by what I see people read about World War II around blogosphere it's as if Russia was not taking part in it, or Russia don't have writers, or people just don't know about all the wonderful books on the topic! Being a clever girl, I ruled out the first two possibilities and was left with a sad fact that readers are not acquainted with Russian war literature enough. (UPD: while searching for translations I realized that it's actually the publishers that are not acquainted with it enough. If you happen to know a publisher, please do everybody a favour and show him this list!)

So I've decided to list all the awesome books that tell first hand about the terrible period of WWII in Russia. But I needed some help myself remembering everything, so I asked my mom during my Christmas trip home, and being a seasoned bookworm, bookhoarder and an expert in Soviet literature, she was eager to help. Then I consulted my very well-read BF, who also added a couple of books. So here is the result of our combined efforts. I've sorted it according to the authors' last names and provided the most common translations of the titles.

  1. Abramov, Fyodor Aleksandrovich: Brothers and Sisters (1958) WWII from the point of view of a small village that needs not only to take care of its own needs, but also provide for the war in the absence of all its men.
  2. Bondarev, Yuri Vasilyevich: The Battalions Request Fire (1957), The Hot Snow (1969), The Shore (1975) The last one is a bit philosophical and very heartbreaking. The other two are extremely famous and tell about some of the hottest WWII battles in Russia.
  3. Chukovsky, Nicolay Korneevich: Baltic Skies (1955) The story of the pilots defending Leningrad during its siege.
  4. Fadeyev, Alexander Alexandrovich: The Young Guard (1945) An account of the actions of a youth partisan organization. Idealized, of course, but really engaging.
  5. German, Yuri Pavlovich: The Cause You Serve, My Dear Man, I'm Responsible For All (1958-1965) Although only the second book is about war, it’s a trilogy, so you’d better start from the beginning. It’s about a doctor who worked in the East before war and then became a war surgeon.
  6. Granin, Daniil Alexandrovich: A Book of the Blockade (1979) A chronicle based on interviews, diaries and personal memoirs of those who survived the siege of Leningrad during 1941-44. It’s very difficult to read because of all the horrors of the time, and I confess I’ve read only parts of it. But I promise I’ll do better, because it’s essential. My Lieutenant (2011) is one of his later works, and I haven’t read it yet, but my mom says it’s good. Basically, grab any book by him if you see it, he’s great.
  7. Grossman, Vasily Semyonovich: Life and Fate (1959) An epic novel focusing on the battle of Stalingrad
  8. Ilyina, Elena: The Fourth Height (1945) It’s my favourite childhood book which I have re-read several times. It’s a biography of a war hero Gulya Koroleva from her childhood to her heroic death in a battle.
  9. Kataev, Valentin Petrovich: Son of the Regiment (1945) About a boy adopted by a regiment. I have wonderful childhood memories of it!
  10. Kaverin, Veniamin Alexandrovich: The Two Captains (1944) An awesome novel about polar exploration, love and treason, which ends in the period of WWII.
  11. Kurochkin, Viktor Aleksandrovich: At War as at War (1970) How a young war academy graduate gains appreciation from his older and more experienced subordinates and becomes a real commander.
  12. Matveev, German Ivanovich: Tarantul trilogy (1945-1957) It’s about boys against saboteurs in a sieged Leningrad! Suspense, adventure, mystery, danger! 
  13. Medvedev, Dmitry Nikolaevich: It Happened Near Rovno (1948) A story about a special troop of scouts and saboteurs working in the rear of German army.
  14. Nekrasov, Viktor Platonovich: Front-line Stalingrad (In the trenches of Stalingrad) (1946) A first-hand account of one of the most bloody battles of the war - the battle of Stalingrad
  15. Panova, Vera Fyodorovna: The Train (1946) About a medical train and its nurses.
  16. Pikul, Valentin Savvich: The Requiem for Convoy PQ-17 (1970), Boys with bows (1974) The first is a “documental tragedy” of one of the Arctic convoys, destroyed by German submarines and aviation. The second is autobiographical and tells about a sea cadet’s school.
  17. Polevoi, Boris Nikolaevich: Story of a Real Man (1947) The book is about a pilot who started flying again after the amputation of two legs. Mostly about strong character, and very impressive!
  18. Semyonov, Yulian Semyonovich: Seventeen Moments of Spring (1969) and all the rest of The “Isaev – Stierlitz” Series. Spy fiction, guys! And watch the mini-series of the same name, it’s awesome.
  19. Sholokhov, Mikhail Aleksandrovich: They Fought for Their Country (1969) A novel about the first, the hardest and the bitterest period of war – the period of retreat. Sholokhov won a Nobel prize for literature, so don’t miss on him!
  20. Simonov, Konstantin Mikhailovich: The Living and the Dead (1959) Simonov was a war journalist, so not only has he been everywhere and seen everything, he also really can write.
  21. Tvardovsky, Aleksandr Trifonovich: A Book About a Soldier (Vasili Tyorkin) (1942-45) A humorous and optimistic poem about an ordinary soldier, resourceful and plain, going resiliently through the everyday hardships of the war. A streak of comedy in all the tragedy!
  22. Vasilyev, Boris Lvovich: The Dawns Here Are Quiet (1972), Not on the Active List (1974), Tomorrow There Came War (1984) or really anything you can find by him. He’s awesome. I was crying like mad while reading The Dawns Here Are Quiet.

I hope this list will encourage you to pick some of the books that are not only great sources for learning about the Russian take on WWII, but are also literary and psychological masterpieces.

P.S. Special kudos for those who know what ribbon is used as a bookmark in the picture :) For those who have no idea, here's the link.

Historia Brittonum by Nennius (Review)

Title: Historia Brittonum
Author: Nennius
First published Written: 833
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Nennius's opus, thought rather short, is epic. He documents the history of Britain from Adam (every decent history should start there, right?) until 9th century. He traces the lineages of the peoples of Europe, talks about migrations and conquests... well, collects everything known to him, I guess :) But his focus is on Britain, first on its conquest by the Romans, and then on the Saxon invasion.

It was very interesting to read about numerous Roman undertakings in Britain and remember the facts I heard at British history lessons in the university. Then I was reminded of the fact that the Britons actually invited Saxons to live on their shores as a buffer from invasions. Who knew they would get OUT OF CONTROL? :) King Vortigern who invited them is an awesome character: he's portrayed as a coward, a tyrant and the one who would sleep with his own daughter and give the resulting (grand)son away. After becoming a hated figure for allowing Saxons take over he seeks refuge in Wales. Nice guy, eh?

As was usual at that time, Historia Brittonum contains not only more or less dependable facts, but also legends and rumors. Some of them are Christian, as for example the miracle of St. Germanus, and some of them are inherited from Welch mythology, as the story of Arthur's boar hunting with his legendary dog. The chronicle ends with the descriptions of the curiosities found in Britain beginning with hot springs in Bath and ending with flying stones.

Historia Brittonum is largely regarded as the first written source to document the life of king Arthur. However, he takes very little place in it, as he is only mentioned as a guy who battled Saxons twelve times. Not that is was something unusual at that time, but he was surprisingly successful in all of them. That's basically all that we get to know about him from this chronicle. He doesn't even fit in the story very well, because for every other known ruler Nennius gives his lineage from a god, or a Roman emperor, or some such famous character, and Arthur gets no such background.

In my book:
A nice example of an early history, although not very informative. Reads more or less as a legend collection, with the addition of some long tiring lineages.

January 15, 2014

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (Review)

Title: The Princess Bride
Author: William Goldman
First published: 1973
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

Another choice for Coursera Fantasy and Sci Fi book club has quite unexpectedly become a huge success with me. It's rather surprising, because really, if you read the premise it sounds like a typical Disney story. Don't let it mislead you! Even though “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.” are all present, as promised, it's also very, very funny.

The book is subtitled as "S. Morgenstern's classic tale of true love and high adventure. The "good parts" version abridged  by William Goldman", and it starts with an introduction in which the fictionalized Goldman explains how he came to love this book and why it needs abridging. The problem with the "original Morgenstern" is that he was writing a satire, and some satirical parts are better left out if the reader is not particularly interested in Florinese history and politics. So Goldman is doing what his father was doing when he read his son from the book - skipping the boring stuff. He actually substitutes it with his own commentary, justifying his omissions and commenting on their content. Sometimes the commentary also tells the reader about Goldman's experience when he was first read the book by his father. So, this way, with the additional awesomeness of Morgenstern's and Goldman's commentary, the story is told.

And the story itself is rather potent: not only does it have all the elements of a great narrative (fencing and true love, dudes!), it is also very ironic, with some twists of the plot rather unthinkable and some purely ridiculous. Yet, all of them pertaining to the style.

With all this complexity, the story holds together surprisingly well and is read in one breath. It took me only two nights, and that with all the impending exams. That says something about it!

In my book:
A great story: engaging, humorous, comforting. An unusual format adds to the appeal and doesn't distract :)

January 12, 2014

2014 TBR Pile Challenge

I was pondering if I want to join Adam's TBR challenge this year, because I failed miserably in it last year. You see, I'm really bad at planning ahead, so sticking to the list was really difficult. However, I guess I made it so difficult myself, as I chose some really daunting books. This year, I'm listing only the books from my TBR I'm really looking ahead. I hope that will help!

Books to read:
  1. Historia Brittonum by Nennius
  2. Historia regum Britanniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth 
  3. Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (what? I'm really looking forward to these three!)
  4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (this one is supposed to be amazing and I'm surprised I'm putting if off)
  5. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  6. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (I own these two in print, and they are calling to me from the shelf)
  7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (there are movies that I want to see!)
  8. Paradise Lost by John Milton (I started it yesterday, and I need some extra motivation)
  9. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (no reason whatsoever, only let's throw more Spanish guys here, maybe?)
  10. Platero y yo by Juan Ramón Jiménez (this I have in Spanish, and in Spanish I must read it)
  11. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  12. Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky (I have these two on my reader already, so why not?)
  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  2. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

January 10, 2014

The Shore by Yuri Bondarev (Review)

Title: The Shore
Author: Yuri Bondarev
First published: 1975
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

When my mom and I were preparing a list of Russian war books (see how I'm building up your suspense, although only half of the list is translated yet? :)), I put off some I wanted to read, and began with this one, as I've never read anything by Bondarev before. He was very young when he went to war, and thus has had a lot of prolific writing years after it. This is not the most famous of his books, but it's certainly quite unique, as it is set long after the war.

Two writers, Nikitin and Samsonov, are invited to Germany in 1971 to give a talk about Nikitin's famous books. They were both in the war, and now they observe with interest how Germany has evolved since its defeat. Some of the things they see are just curious, come seem revolting for them. They meet a few representatives of the intelligentsia, and all goes well, until one of the receiving women tells Nikitin she is the girl he had an affair with for a couple of days in the end of the war, in a small town near Berlin, where their artillery battalion was quartered. Nikitin starts to remember those days, when years of hardships were nearly all behind, the victory was close, the spring was in full swing, and he was in love with a German girl, although this was, of course, severely punished if discovered. Now, 26 years later, they are both changed and have a lot behind them, but this feeling still lingers somewhere deep inside them, now bitter and sorrowful.

The book seems to be about love, but it's not. It's about the permanent changes war makes in individuals and nations, how decades after it's finished it's still the main factor in the lives of those who have survived it. It's a very sad book, which leaves a lot to think about, and it's also very psychologically precise: you will not find one-dimensional characters here. There is not a lot of descriptions of military operations in this book, so if you don't particularly enjoy them, it's a plus.

In my book:
A difficult book, with a lot of essence in it, but still gripping and beautifully written.

January 9, 2014

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (Review)

Title: The Mysteries of Udolpho
Author: Ann Radcliffe
First published: 1794
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

20 pages into this book I already regretted putting it on my Classics Club list. OK, it's an iconic Gothic novel, which has inspired a lot of followers since it was written, but it's very, very tiresome to read. Seriously, I was wondering how come Catherine Morland found it so exciting and how could Henry Tilney have read it in three days? It took me three months, on and off.

Let's be a little more organised than usual today and make a bullet list of things that I didn't particularly enjoy in the novel.

  • The first problem of the book is, of course, the abundance of cumbersome poetry. The reader is lucky if there are only epigraphs from Milton or Shakespeare, as they are quite bearable, but sometimes it's real crap, which I can't even make sense of. Moreover, some of the heroes write "their own" poetry from time to time, which is even more horrible. Sorry, Mrs. Radcliffe, you are no Shakespeare.
  • Second thing that bothered me was the descriptions of nature. They are everywhere and occupy nearly one third of the book, or so it seems. Imagine a heroine being led through the dark forest by a couple of ruffians at night and then just stopping to admire the stars. Yep, that's what happens here.
  • It's slow! It's so slow that the castle of Udolpho is first mentioned only on page 188 out of 650. Argh!
  • All the FEELINGS! The main heroine is particularly sensitive and is always fainting, blushing, crying, trying to find words, shocked, etc. I know, I know those were the times when it was considered desirable, but really?
  • All the characters are either unreasonably evil or are saints. The only well-developed character in the book is Annette, Emily's maid, who is generally good, but talkative, shallow and superstitious. Her voice is the only one that is different from others.

Maybe for its time it was a super exciting novel, and there are some twists of the plot that liven it up a bit, but for a modern reader, even the one familiar with some old classics, it's a bit too much

In my book:
The only reason to read it is to get acquainted with the source of the genre. If you are not famous for your patience, skip it!

2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Historical Fiction is a genre I've always wanted to read more of. I have Wolf Hall lying on my desk for months, and this year I will also be joining some discussions at Plagues, Witches and War Historical Fiction Book Group. So this challenge is perfect for me! The full rules can be found here.

I'm joining for Renaissance Reader level, which means I aim for 10 HF books in 2014.

Books read:
  1. Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
  2. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
  3. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  4. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  5. A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger
  6. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  8. Seduction by M.J. Rose

Pre-Printing Press Challenge 2013-2014

The idea of this wonderful challenge is to read books that came out before 1440, when the printing press was invented. The full rules can be found here. As for me, I'm aiming to read 10 books that count, which is totally doable, I think!

Books read:

  1. Historia Brittonum attributed to Nennius (833)
  2. The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth (1136)
  3. Life of Merlin by Geoffrey of Monmouth (1150)
  4. Erec and Enide by Chrétien de Troyes (1170)
  5. Cligès by Chrétien de Troyes (1176)
  6. Yvain, the Knight of the Lion by Chrétien de Troyes (1170)
  7. Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart by Chrétien de Troyes (1170)
  8. Perceval, the Story of the Grail by Chrétien de Troyes (1190)

Around the World in 12 Books Challenge 2014

Last year I really enjoyed Giraffe Days' Around the World challenge in 2013, but it was quite... challenging, and I wasn't able to keep up. So I was very happy when Shannon announced that the rules would be more relaxed in 2014. So gladly I join for Casual Tourist level, which means I'll read 6 books set in different areas this year. I've chosen mine as following:
  1. North America: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
  2. South America: Dead Man's Tale by Joanna Chmielewska
  3. Africa: 
  4. Asia: 
  5. Europe: The Shore by Yuri Bondarev
  6. Australia, Oceania and Antarctica: At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
Here I'll link the books I read for the categories, and I hope this year I'll cover all of them! :)

January 8, 2014

The First Post of the New Year

Hi everybody!

Congratulations on all the past holidays! I haven't been around much since December 20th, as I went home for Christmas holidays, so I had too much real life to spend time online. Then my BF and I did a bit of travelling together, and yesterday I came back to my dull student life full of exams and deadlines :) Which means I'll probably not be very active in January too, but at least I'll catch up on all your posts. There are 300 unread items in my RSS! That's a lot of work!

Soon I'll post some more sign-ups that I haven't had time to do before and then I'll get back to normal reviewing routine. Also, my mom, my BF and I have prepared a list of must-read Russian war books for you, so I only need to find English translations to present it. I hope you are excited :)

Meanwhile, I have finished The Mysteries of Udolpho, which was not very rewarding, and now I'm reading The Shore by Bondarev, which is quite good. The reviews will be up soon!

And here, the cute one is serving as an apology for my long absence:

Have a nice day!

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