July 23, 2014

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Review)

Title: The Eyre Affair
Author: Jasper Fforde
First published: 2001
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I've been eager to read The Eyre Affair for a long time, especially after Riv's recommendations, and I'm glad I finally did! However, the book turned out to be less awesome than I had expected. There may be spoilers ahead, as I wanted to discuss certain things in particular, but I don't think they are dangerous for you, as most plot twists are kinda obvious long before they happen.

The most fascinating thing about The Eyre Affair is the setting: the world is so similar to ours, but not quite. For one thing, literature is super-important! People are not divided into politically left or right, but according to their opinions about Shakespeare's identity. And the fights between the sides are much more heated! Time travel and other incredible things are an every-day matter in this world. And Crimean War has been going on since 1800s. Sounds menacing in the light of the recent events... But I digress. Exploring this world was like visiting Wonderland—you never know what will happen next. But it's also a problem, as I like to know how a fictional world operates. When some difficult situation is resolved with some plot twist you couldn't imagine was possible, well... I call it cheating.

The plot itself was a bit weird, as the main bad guy's motives were hard to grasp, but everything to do with Jane Eyre plot is awesome! The explanation of that strange plot twist fits so well into the story! No “Gothic romance convention” can explain Jane hearing Rochester calling for her quite as well!

I really liked the main character. She's kinda cool, if maybe too militaristic to my taste. Which makes the sugar-sweet ending so much worse. I mean, seriously, they just go and live happily ever after? After all their problems and 10 years apart? I don't believe. I'd also like to have more witty dialogues in the book. You have so many awesome characters—let them speak and amuse the reader! Which brings me to the main reason why I gave the book just three stars in spite of great plot, characters and world-building: the writing. It just didn't grip me. I could put the book down in the middle of some dangerous situation and go make some tea. Although I like tea, it's not a good sign at all.

In my book:
It's a nice summer read, especially if you wish to be able to put the book down and actually enjoy the summer around you.

July 21, 2014

The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov (Review)

Title: The Luzhin Defense
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
First published: 1930
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Rating: ★★★★☆

Nabokov may be one of my favourite authors, although I can't say I've read a lot of his works. But his writing... You fall in love with it immediately. If you've read him, you know what I mean. He's also from the Russian emigrant culture, which he describes to perfection. There's this bitter feeling of having no place to call home, of not belonging anywhere, of being lost and unsure of anything in all his works that I can really relate to. I also admire him because he wrote in two languages - Russian and English, and Lolita he written in both. How cool is that? Anyway, I had high expectations for The Luzhin Defence, and I was well rewarded.

The story revolves around the life of an outstanding chess player, starting with his miserable childhood and building up to a major emotional breakdown. There's nothing more to say about the plot, as it's a very psychological book. The main character is not likable, but the workings of his brain are so unique that it's totally impossible to put the book down. The woman that appears in his life is (to me) an even more interesting character, as her choices explain so much about the nature of a woman's love.

I couldn't help being reminded of Zweig's Chess Story while reading The Luzhin Defence. I know, they deal with slightly different things, but they are both about chess and madness, so I think it's fair to compare them. And my verdict is that in spite of my love to Nabokov, Chess Story was more gripping and intense. Nabokov's character background is more profound, but Zweig's madness description is more engrossing and impressive. But certainly both are awesome books, and I'd recommend both to anybody.

In my book:
Another great Nabokov novel. Highly recommended.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (Mini Reviews)

Title: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Author: Douglas Adams
First published: 1979
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

By now, I've read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy three times, and it still makes me laugh and love it, because it's so awesome! Why? Well, here are some reasons: Marvin, Vogon poetry, a towel, mice, Alpha Centauri regional planning office which we didn't have the responsibility to visit, fjord design and of course 42 and Don't Panic! Seriously, I think it's the most brilliant book ever! Nothing more to add, so let's discuss the second one now.

Title: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Author: Douglas Adams
First published: 1980
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Unfortunately, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe falls short of the awesomeness of the first book. First, there are so many repetitions of the stuff from The Hitchhiker's Guide, that it made me really impatient. Can't Adams think of something new? Well, there are new things in the book, like the restaurant itself, but somehow they are not funny, and most of them are too bitter and even mean. Also, the plot is much more action-packed, and it's a bad thing, as I enjoy the dialogues much more than running. There's also some conspiracy plot which didn't make much sense for me. I'd be happier with their wandering meaninglessly across the galaxy encountering some hilarious things.

Overall, I will not be reading the further books anytime soon in order not to spoil the impression from the first book, which you can bet I'll re-read again, more than once :)


"... here's something to occupy you and keep your mind off things."
"It won't work," droned Marvin, "I have an exceptionally large mind."

It gives me a headache just trying to think down to your level

"we're having a great time. Food, wine, a little personal abuse and the Universe going foom."

It is a curious fact, and one to which no one knows quite how much importance to attach, that something like 85% of all known worlds in the Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called jynnan tonnyx, or gee-N'N-T'N-ix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand or more variations on the same phonetic theme. The drinks themselves are not the same, and vary between the Sivolvian 'chinanto/mnigs' which is ordinary water served at slightly above room temperature, and the Gagrakackan 'tzjin-anthony-ks' which kill cows at a hundred paces; and in fact the one common factor between all of them, beyond the fact that the names sound the same, is that they were all invented and named before the worlds concerned made contact with any other worlds.
What can be made of this fact? It exists in total isolation. As far as any theory of structural linguistics is concerned it is right off the graph, and yet it persists. Old structural linguists get very angry when young structural linguists go on about it. Young structural linguists get deeply excited about it and stay up late at night convinced that they are very close to something of profound importance, and end up becoming old structural linguists before their time, getting very angry with the young ones. Structural linguistics is a bitterly divided and unhappy discipline, and a large number of its practitioners spend too many nights drowning their problems in Ouisghian Zodahs.

July 14, 2014

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Review)

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
First published: 2008
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★☆

It was time for me to check what all this hype was about, so I finally coped with my suspiciousness towards the books labeled "YA" and did it! And I was pleasantly surprised, as I actually really liked this book!

First, let me say that the whole concept of the show is amazing. Modern show-business techniques are hyperbolized by being applied to a totally monstrous show concept, and the result is that this monstrosity looks totally plausible. The rest of the world-building had some problems (Specialized districts? Seriously? I'd like to see your logistics.), but the show backstage and organisation is just awesome. The only problem is that because of the first person narrative and the existence of two more books in the series reader knows who'll win. There is some twist in the end, but I could see through it. It didn't bother me much though. The writing is so dynamic, that the narrative never gets boring.

Surprisingly enough, the "teenage feeeeelingz" aspect was also not dull. Pretend love for show? Much more interesting than a normal love triangle. I'm only slightly frightened that there will be more of this triangle in the further books, so I'm hesitant to start them. Apart from that, the relationships on the arena were all quite plausible. Katnniss's trail of thought was interesting to follow as she tried to survive and do the right thing.

In my book:
A fast, entertaining and not stupid book to bury yourself in for a couple of evenings.

July 8, 2014

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - A Rant

Note: I know many people totally love this book, so if you think me ranting about it would spoil your day, don't read the review :) That's precisely why I've put "A Rant" subtitle to the post header.

Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
First published: 1991
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

With an impressive 4.13 rating on Goodreads and so many recommendations, I expected this book to become my new favourite. There's time travel, Scotland, a strong female character, hot scots... I like all these things, but somehow them being put together by Gabaldon resulted in total crap. Well, maybe not TOTAL, but we'll get to it. Let's begin with the bad stuff, OK?

First, the book is sooo long! Generally, I love long books, but there'd better be something actually happening on all those pages. OK, there are a lot of adventures, battles and other things, all right, but they are all so monotonous! By the middle of the book I had an urge to yawn every time Jaime was hurt or Claire was abused. Again. Besides, this brings me to the next point: the abundance of unsettling and disgusting descriptions. I do realize that the time was not pretty, but some scenes in the prison and afterwards were totally unnecessary. Not that I cared by that time. In the second half of the book there were several action sequences in which I had no idea what was happening... And I didn't want to re-read to make sense of them. It's still a mystery to me how the prison escape was managed and how getting high on opium and fighting cured blood poisoning in the end.

My next problem with the book was sex scenes. I like me some good steamy sex in a book, and I do admit that some of them actually WERE good, but not for 200 pages non-stop! I'm not kidding, there's a part in the book in which they hardly do anything else. Again, I got bored. Besides, some stuff really disturbed me. Remember the scene when they have sex near the body of a soldier killed by Claire just before? Or that sex after a month on the verge of death. Seriously???

Even with all the aforementioned problems the book would be OK if I liked the characters. But Jaime is just some sickly-sweet ideal of a man, who everybody older than 12 years old should understand doesn't exist, and Claire... I didn't really care for her. I can't figure out why, but probably because her reactions to things happening around her are so unbelievable that I can't think of her as a real person.

Now to the positive moments, as promised :) The book is obviously well-researched and gives a nice overview of life in Scotland at that time. Although I'm not a specialist and I may be wrong here. Also, the dialogues are usually good and witty, and some even made me smile. Hmm.. That's probably all. Not much :)

In my book:
If you are not into hard-core "women's fiction", skip it! Spend some time NOT wanting to punch the characters in the face instead :)

July 7, 2014

Language Freak June Update

Hi everybody! How are you doing? Sorry about being so late with this update, I've had my mom visiting me, so I was never at home, always sightseeing! :) My leg muscles are so sore! Nevertheless, I've read half of my first Czech book! It's sooo boyish... I'm already tired of fights.

Our participants have been doing great this month! Let's see what we have accomplished!

First, let us welcome our new participant, alwaysopinionatedgirl who'll be reading in French!

And now reviews by language! Note that June reviews have been marked by NEW!

Frog is Sad by Max Velthuijs (Carola @ brilliant years)

Nuits de Juin by Victor Hugo (Cleo @ Classical Carousel) - NEW!!!

Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai by Heinrich Heine (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)
Krabat, by Otfried Preußler (Carola @ brilliant years) - NEW!!!
Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) by The Brothers Grimm (Cleo @ Classical Carousel) - NEW!!!

Magpie Beloboka (Anja Kasap @ Reading 2011 (and Beyond))

Corre, Perro, Corre - P.D. Eastman (Cleo @ Classical Carousel)

Please, let me know if I've forgotten anything. June has been hectic and sometimes I had to skim through my RSS feed, although I did try to stop by and comment :)

Seems like we are making a nice progress altogether! Good luck next month to everybody!

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