Thursday, May 30, 2013

C_Club #7 - "Something Wicked This Way Comes" by Ray Bradbury

This is a story about two boys, a creepy carnival, wicked characters and power of good, all set in spooky October. Welcome to the wonderfully horrible world of Ray Bradbury.
This novel is somewhat difficult for me to write about. It is quite different from other two Bradbury books I have read, one of the best classic dystopias "Fahrenheit 451" and short story collection "The Martian Chronicles". "Something Wicked..." is a lot faster, has a lot more energy and colours; it is an excellent example of a skillful author using "show, not tell" technique.
For such a short story, it has very wide cast of most extraordinary characters. Aside from Will and Jim, the two 13-year olds living in their quiet town, Will's father and their schoolteacher there are the members of the carnival - the Illustrated Man G. M. Dark (Bradbury has another short story collection also called "The Illustrated Man"), the Dust Witch, a lightning rod salesman that turns into a dwarf, a Skeleton, etc.
Picture from here.
For the tents were lemon like the sun, brass like wheat fields a few weeks ago. Flags and banners bright as blue-birds snapped above lion-colored canvas. From booths painted cotton-candy colors, fine Saturday smells of bacon and eggs, hot dogs and pancakes swam the wind. /p. 61/
It makes me wanna go there and have a carousel ride, but then again, it would not be such a good idea, because from the very beginning you realise that there is something really fishy about this particular carnival.
I really liked the language, although since things were not "painted red on the wood", as we say in Estonian for something that is overly simplified, at times it was a bit difficult to keep up with all the flow and craziness. But such fun.
The closest I would get to describe my reading experience would be an explosion of some colourful jelly-gummy-candies in my head. Or Skittles. I love Skittles. Or maybe liquorice, since it is, after all, a very spooky book.
This book also reminded me that I still have Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus" somewhere on the shelves, and that I should really read it. Should be somewhat of a similar setting.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.
Barbara Kingsolver is one of those authors who I really want to like. I haven't read anything else by her, but "Poisonwood Bible" is on my Classics Club list, so I'll get to that sooner or later.
Even though I didn't go all fangirl-squeee over "Flight Behavior", I liked several things about this novel, even after having read some rather lukewarm opinions and a few people not even finishing the book.
Monarch butterflies. From
Basically, this is a warning book. The climate change is destroying the earth, whether we are willing to admit it or not. Migration of Monarch butterflies has been disturbed and the whole species is in danger of becoming extinct. In the middle of this setting is life of Dellarobia Turnbow and her simple family and their simple town. A lot of focus is put on Dellarobia's marriage and why it is (or is not) working.
Kingsolver has degrees in biology and her background as a working scientist shows. But not in a negative way. I think one of the absolute strengths of "Flight Behavior" is the bits that have to do with nature and environment; the descriptive parts are very vivid and I found the whole surroundings super easy to imagine in my head. Characters are alright, I loved Dellarobia's feet-on-the-ground attitude - even though she has not had the easiest life, she is far from naive and has healthy, semi-sarcastic attitude towards her children (which I prefer over the gushing "Children are blossoms of our life!" kind of attitude). In fact, Dellarobia's views on parenthood are far from idyllic:
Whose idea was it to keep kids home from school a full week and more after Christmas? Preston was having a rocket-science day, using toys as projectiles and sofa cushions as the landing pad. Cordelia did something she called "farmer" with the Cheerios, planting the entire box like seeds in the living room carpet while Dellarobia was in the bathroom less than five minutes. She could see her future in that carpet, the endless vacuuming, the grit on the soles of everyone's feet. Like a beach vacation minus the beach, and the vacation. /p. 200/
The whole text is decorated with modest humour bordering on self-irony. I especially enjoyed the bits that showed conflict between the science and the media, and how media wants everything to be dolled up and cater to the pleasure of the viewers, while there might be nothing beautiful about the situation at hand. (Ovid Byron is the scientist that has come to examine the problem with Monarch butterflies and Tina Ultner is the TV-host that thinks the migrational problems of the butterflies have created a "beautiful scene"):
"What scientists disagree on now, Tina, is how to express our shock. The glaciers that keep Asia's watersheds in business are going right away. Maybe one of your interns could Google that for you. The Arctic is genuinely collapsing. Scientists used to call these things the canary in the mine. What they say now is, The canary is dead. We are at the top of Niagara Falls, Tina, in a canoe. There is an image for your viewers. We got here by drifting, but we cannot turn around for a lazy paddle back when you finally stop pissing around. We have arrived at the point of an audible roar. Does it strike you as a good time to debate the existence of falls?" /p. 367/
It's patronising and harsh but also hilarious because she totally deserved this.
When I finished "Flight Behavior", I was a bit disappointed that I did not form the kind of emotional attachment to it that I had wished for. However, it is one of those books I have started appreciating more after the days pass. It was good to read about a big and important topic - in that sense, it was also an educational novel. Kingsolver is definitely a skilled author, although I can't compare with her previous works. I am hoping that this is not her best book and that I can get even deeper into her text through "Poisonwood Bible" in future.
Picture from here.

Women's Prize 2013 shortlist.
433 pages

Spinning Into Summer with number 6: Classics Club Spin

The number for this round of the Classics Club Spin was 6. That means a book from the "Gimme Gimme!" group for me and it is Villette by Charlotte Brontë. I am waiting for great things from this one. I also noticed that at least two other clubbers got the same book, so wohoo! 


Monday, May 20, 2013

It's over - Bout of Books 7.0 Wrap-up

Never would have thought I would enjoy a reading event as much as I enjoyed Bout of Books 7.0 readathon.
So to wrap it up, what happened during this week:
Total books read: 3
Total pages read: 949 (oww... so close!)
The books I finished: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (Women'z Prize shortlist), Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (my Classics Club list), The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (simply an awesome book).
Number of challenges I participated: 3
How did I do regarding to the goals I set myself before the readathon?
Let's see...
1. Finish at least two books - check!
2. Read at least two hours a day - I am not even sure why I set this goal as it is basically impossible for me to keep track on reading time. But I'm positive that at least half the days I did read around two hours.
3. Visit at least 5 Bout of Books blogs a day - check. I visited, I commented.
4. Regular daily updates - CHECK. This is what I am really proud of, as doing something regularly can be very challenging for me. However, during the readathon I posted every single morning. (That is almost achievement enough to buy a book as a reward...)
It was nice to read the blogs of other participants and see how everyone was doing. It was nice to find comments in my own blog - thank you, people!
The next Bout of Books readathon will take place in August and I very much would want to get involved again.
As for now, let the normal reading, reviewing and posting schedule to commence - I miss my routine :D

Bout of Books: Sunday

Wheeee! The last day of readathon is done (it's almost midnight here [even though I'll likely draft this post and publish on Monday morning] so I am officially calling it quits). Not that I am happy about it ending, but, well, I am a bit, because as awesome as it was, I feel drained and the thought of focusing on other things too, now (like going to the movies! and being more social outside the Internetz) feels nice.
So, the last day was very successful for me, as I basically just read the whole day. Quite deliberately, as I was determined to finish off The Eyre Affair along with the readathon.

The books I read on Sunday: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.
Total pages read: 249 (! wow).
Total books finished: 3 (!!!)
What do my cats think: So my other cat, Mammu, made an appearance and snuggled down with The Eyre Affair today (or maybe she was just snuggling down with me, because I happened to be reading on the carpet on the floor...). Also Robert decided that my copy was not that clean anymore and tried to wash the cover (the way cats wash things and themselves - was funny :p).
Flavour of the day: Banana-blueberry-honey-yoghurt-milk smoothie.
I said she's smart :))
Book makes a good pillow for an intelligent cat.
I'm ready to wrap things in a wrap-up post tomorrow. It has been such fun!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bout of Books: Saturday

NOT the best day. We went to see the hockey match, from where I left some time half way when I started falling asleep on my feet. I was generally feeling meeeeeeeeh about everything and didn't read as much as I would have liked.

The books I read on Saturday: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.
Total pages read: 94 (only).
Total books finished: 2
What do my cats think: Again, nothing. Robert sniffed The Eyre Affair for a moment and turned away. It seems that he has no attraction whatsoever to this one.
Flavour of the day: Hmmmmm... The very strong flavour of spring outside, probably.

I am enjoying The Eyre Affair, and taking my time with it, enjoying the cleverness and the book-nerdness. Today is the last day of readathon, and even though it has been a-we-some, I feel like I don't mind it ending and knowing I can resume to normal reading/posting schedule :)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bout of Books Challenge #3: Genre Book Spine Poetry

Another spine poetry challenge! This one's hosted by Smash Attack Reads and is slightly different in the sense that all the books you pick have to come from the same genre. Otherwise the rules are the same as during Spine Poem Challenge: you can add the same amount of words that equals the number of books you picked.
So basically my bookshelves have three kinds of books - fantasy books, classic books and books in Estonian. The latter is eliminated for obvious reasons and since every other of my fantasy books come swith words "magic", "sword" or "dragon" in title, I decided to go with the classics. (And it wasn't easy, but who can refuse a Spine Poem challenge? Certainly not me!)

In Nineteen Eighty-Four
Oliver Twist, Hamlet and Jane Eyre,
Martin Eden and Lady Chatterley's Lover
were swimming
Twenty Thousand Leagues
Under the Seas;
For Whom the Bell Tolls?
asked Count

9 books used, 7 words added.

Bout of Books: Friday

Friday was an a-okey day, except for this totally random and accidental nap me and the boyfriend took in the eveningish and which lasted for two hours, and during which I had this awesome dream with Ray Bradbury, who was such a nice guy to talk to (and I am sure he was that nice or even nicer of a person in life). Compared to my regular semi-nightmarish dreams (side effect of quitting a certain medicine, as I learned) this was like a breath of fresh air. And maaaan, bookish dreams! Yes. Also I had very nice chat with Ellie in Twitter in the evening, which totally deserves a mention of its own.

The books I read on Friday: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.
Total pages read: 127, which is fewer than on Thursday, but matters not, because...
Total books finished: 2 (!!)
What do my cats think: Robert agreed to pose with my Shiny New Book Pile the Ultimate Temptress:

Hard to tell by his impression, but I'd say he is intrigued (as am I!). Or maybe he's thinking "oh, woman, when does this week end already so I don't have to do this anymore..."

Flavour of the day: Lots of makis from the best sushi place in Helsinki.

So I did dig into The Eyre Affair and it seems like exactly the kind of light-ish, entertaining read that I expected. Also I love the design of this series (first emotion when I was about to take the book out of the parcel - why the hell did they send me a used copy :D) and I would very much like to see all the Thursday Next books gracing my bookshelves!

So, Saturday - today I will try to get some reading outside done, if the thunderstorm doesn't kick in. Later there is a Very Important Ice Hockey Match between Finland and Sweden (like the arch rivalry or something), and the boyfriend wants to go out to see it. We shall see what happens. I doubt I will be able to read in a pub full of yelling and cursing Finns.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bout of Books: Thursday

Thursday was bit of an odd, I was feeling a bit out-of-everything and had headache and so I did read, but not as much as I could have. However, I am positive I will finish off "Something Wicked..." today, which means I can dig into the Shiny New Book Pile today or tomorrow, if I like! (Sorry Robin Hobb... but Bradbury kinda counts as fantastic, too.)

The books I read on Thursday: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.
Total pages read: 143
Total books finished: still the 1
What do my cats think: No cat update since they both lacked any connection with any books yesterday.
Flavour of the day: Ice Cold Beer.

I also got distracted by the Internetz and participated another challenge, as well as started the Spine Speak. So, in total I made a whopping three posts in my blog in one day, which hasn't happened ever before? probably. I kind of miss writing reviews and filling the blog with some more content, so in that sense I am waiting for the next week.

Happy reading day to all the readathon-ers! It's Friday!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Spine Speak #1: April Showers Bring May Flowers

Guys, spine poems are awesome. Seriously. Even more awesome is to stand in front of all those books on your shelves/in library/in bookshop and try putting one (or more) together. Especially, when there is a given theme.
Kimberly over at Bookmark to Blog is hosting a once-a-month event called Spine Speak. There are themes! Other participants! Prizes! Oh, joy. You can check out more detailed information from Bookmark to Blog, but basically, us lovely bloggers need to put together a spine poem consisting of at least five titles and matching the monthly theme.
This month's theme - April Showers Bring May Flowers. I struggled, because most of the titles on my bookshelf are dark/odd/in Estonian. But here is the poem I came up with, which I think represents at least a bit those springy moods and awakening of the earth. It is possible I completely missed the mark, but at least I had fun!
The Pillars of the Earth -
Tree and Leaf, the Given Day, a Lullaby.
Never Let Me Go
as we Dance Dance Dance
to the Gardens of the Moon.
Books that I used:
J.R.R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf
Dennis Lehane, The Given Day
Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance
Steven Erikson, Gardens of the Moon

Bout of Books Challenge #2: Acrostic Poem

Melissa over at Harley Bear Book Blog is hosting the Bout of Books challenge: Acrostic Poem Challenge.

Remember back in elementary school when you would write your name vertically down the page then next to each letter you'd write an adjective describing yourself that starts with that letter?  Well that's the idea for today except with...wait for it...books!  
Hop over to Melissa's blog for an example and more information on the challenge (and giveaway!)
I wanted to pick a book with relatively short title and also something fairly popular so people would know what the book is about. (Thinking about writing acrostic poem for a book like Jeanette Winterson's "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?" seemed like maybe not the best idea :p)

Gripping tale
Nick and Amy Dunne
Engrossing to the bone

Repulsive as whole
Look at them fall

Bout of Books: Wednesday

The third day of readathon was very successful for me - I actually finished a book! Yes, I am done with Barbara Kingsolver (now that may sound a bit wrong, but I don't mean it in any bad way :) ). There are many, many thoughts I have about Flight Behavior, but no idea when I get to write about it, since I have pretty much cancelled all reviews during this week in favour of reading. Anyway, even though this wasn't a life-changing experience for me, this is not the last meeting between me and that particular author, that is for sure.
I am also extremely proud of staying away from "the new shiny book pile" and continuing with my initial readathon books - small step for mankind it may be, but for someone with considerable self-disciplining issues, that is a gigantic leap.

The books I read on Wednesday: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.
Total pages read: 138 (getting better daily, it seems!)
Total books finished: 1 (!!!!!) (yes, it deserves to be in red and bold)
What do my cats think about the books at hand: Robert finally warmed up to Kingsolver and just after I finished it and put it down next to me on bed, he graced Flight Behavior with his presence and took a nap on it, or well, half the upper body on it. However, Robert was very excited about the Bradbury book, and approved it wholeheartedly:
"I like this book!" I agree with you, little buddy.

Flavour of the day: It was the flavour of the first day reading outside with my boyfriend today, definitely.

I do expect my page count to skyrocket, as Something Wicked This Way Comes is a pocket-size book with big font (gotta love those :p). I also made a deal with myself that if I manage to finish this one also before the weekend, I am allowed to take a sneak peek in The Eyre Affair (positive motivating yay!).

Happy reading day to all the readathon-ers!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bout of Books: Tuesday

Second day survived - woohoo. It was a decent day, although I was being tired and a bit moody and whatnot. Staying away from Twitter definitely increased my page count!

The books I read on Monday: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver; The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Total pages read today: 102 (whee, progress!)
Total books finished: 0
What do my cats think about the books at hand: Robert warmed up to "Flight Behavior" a bit in the end of the day, insisting to purr on my lap while I was reading. He seemed to think the book makes a sufficient kind of "rubbing-against" material, but that I should definitely finish it already and get to some hardcovers.
Flavour of the day: again my boyfriend stayed in the kitchen in the evening and made drool-worthy wraps with mozzarella, rucola and parma ham... Nom.

Robert seems a bit unsure what to think of this one... (To an extent I agree with him)
Okay, it's definitely time to finish at least one book and since I have less than 100 pages of Kingsolver left, I am determined to finish it today. After that it's going to take a lot of self-discipline to steer away from The Eyre Affair and move on with my initial TBR pile. Happy reading day to everyone!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spinning Into Summer - the Classics Spin #2

Folks running The Classics Club thought it's a good idea to take out the top-hat again - and I wholeheartedly agree! Check more information on the Spin event from the web site.
During the last spin, I got to read "Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis, which was a decent enough book tackling some really interesting moral dilemmas, which pretty much fit also into the nowadays' world.
This time I decided to add a random to the random - and I picked my 20 books with the help of I then took the same categories I used last time to divide the books around. I added one book myself - "Moll Flanders" by Daniel Defoe, as there is 18th century literature event coming up in June.
Category 1: "Gimme Gimme Gimme!"
1. E. M. Forster "Howard's End"
2. Emilé Zola "Nana"
3. Michael Cunningham "The Hours" ( chose that one even twice so I think it's only fair if it gets chosen :p)
4. Thomas Hardy "Jude the Obscure"
5. Arthur Conan Doyle - something from the Complete Sherlock collection (either a novella or a set of stories), since I refuse to read the whole Complete book at once.
6. Charlotte Brontë “Villette”
7. Daphne du Maurier "Rebecca"
Category 2: "Nooo! Have mercy!"
8. Charles Dickens "Bleak House"
9. Herman Melville "Moby Dick"
10. Ayn Rand "Atlas Shrugged"
11. Marcel Proust "Swann's Way"
12. Günter Grass "The Tin Drum"

Category 3: "Mh?"
13. Elizabeth Gaskell "The Life of Charlotte Brontë"
14. Ralph Ellison "Invisible Man"
15. Jerome K. Jerome "Three Men in a Boat"
16. John Irving "The World According to Garp"
17. Daniel Defoe "Moll Flanders"
Category 4: "Been there, done that..."
18. Toni Morrisson "Beloved"
19. Patrick Süskind "The Perfume"
20. Mark Twain "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" was really generous, picking proportionally the most books for "Gimme!" category (although "No Mercy!" could have maybe used fewer - those five books spook me out merely by looking at their titles). If anyone has encouraging words about books 8. - 12., I'd be very grateful to read them :)

And now to wait for the top-hat results :)

Bout of Books: Monday

The first day of Bout of Books readathon was a great success, even though I did not finish anything - but I enjoyed it greatly - checking out how others are doing, participating in the Spine Poetry challenge, chatting on Twitter.
The books I read on Monday: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Total pages read today: 96
Total books finished: 0
What do my cats think about the books at hand: Nothing. It is a softcover with a VERY soft cover, which makes it a bad "rub-my-face-against-while-looking-stupid" book.
Flavour of the day: absolutely delicious dinner made by my lovely (and understanding, thehe) boyfriend.
In other news, I received a pack of books - the Lonely Planet Prague travel guide (yess! - not sure it would count as a reading material, though...), The Eyre Affair, City of Dark Magic and Outlander. And I want to read them all. right. now. I am soooo doomed...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bout of Books Challenge #1: Spine Poetry

Cait over at Escape Through the Pages is hosting the Bout of Books challenge: Spine Poem Challenge.

Here are the rules (and check out the site for more information, participation conditions, prizes, etc):

It’s easy – using books you have on hand, line up their spines to create a poem out of the titles. There is no theme and no set number of books to use, just do what pops into your head. You CAN use extra words outside of the books titles, BUT, you can only use as many extra words as you have books.
Let me tell you, it definitlely ain't as easy as it looks like! I picked six books, so I was allowed to add six words to the book titles.
So here are my books and here is my first ever attempt on spine poetry:
The Woman in White
"Tender is the Night,
Life After Life;
Are we just
The Dust in Sunlight?
The Well-Educated Mind?
Burning at
451⁰ Fahrenheit?
(The last book is in Estonian and thus the title fits better into my poem than the English version; I am not sure if I am cheating here or not, but there were no language restrictions included so I am going with this one right now :) )
That was fun!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bout of Books goals (and general ramblings)

So when I was picking the books for Bout of Books today (and in my mind earlier this week), I faced this problem again - I don't really have any slim books... Most of the books I own are either classics or fantasy/sci-fi, and they do tend to come in rather voluminous sizes. Even my Women's Prize selections are all around 450 pages! *grumble* And here I was, thinking, for the reading event as such I'd try to pick slimmer volumes.
But anyway, one has to do with what one has at hand, and I've put together *drum roll* the Bookpile for the Readathon. It's not my goal to read all those books, but rather it's the books to choose from, and even if I feel reading/starting a different book every day, it's perfectly fine! (No pressure.)

* Ray Bradbury "Something Wicked This Way Comes" - is from my Classics Club list and one of the shorter books I could find from my shelves.
* Robin Hobb "Ship of Magic" - I came to realisation that if I visited for my blog for the first time right now, there would be no way of saying I actually love fantasy literature... And I miss reading it. So I am not hoping to finish this one (unless it is highly addictive), but at least to make a good start into it.
* Gabriel García Márquez "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (in Estonian - obviously) - I just tossed it in for a good measure to basically be reminded of those Classics Club books I should read more of, plus since I was kind of disappointed with the latest Murakami, I am craving for some magical realism. (It's a re-read.)
* Arthur Conan Doyle "The Hound of the Baskervilles" - this actually counts as a slim volume, since I am not reading the Complete Sherlock Holmes at once, and have been quite up to date with my Baskervilles-readalong so far. I think I will finish it off during the next week.
* Barbara Kingsolver "Flight Behavior" - I started this one yesterday, after yet another failed attempt to get into "A Tale of Two Cities" (I think I'll give up on this one for now and try it again later - I really want to enjoy it and not just force myself to plow through for the sake of it...). I am beginning to see a pattern here - all the slumps can be remedied by Women's Prize books... Not sure I like that trend that much to be honest, but whatever keeps me reading (as long as it's not Dan Brown or 50 Shades :) *)
So this is 3 classics, one fantasy and one Women's Prize book, which seems about the kind of balance that I was looking for. (For now, let's not try to think of the books I ordered that will arrive some time in the beginning of the next week...)
Other goals for the readathon (slightly modified from this post):
Finish at least two books - with the selection of the books I have, and if I count "The Hound of the Baskervilles" as a separate book, this is perfectly doable. I expect to also finish Bradbury and Kingsolver.
* Read at least two hours a day - like, one hour before bed, and then throughout the day. I have things coming up like seeing a friend, my weekly Finnish class, THE JOB, but if I manage to be dedicated, I predict to get a lot of reading done.
* Visit at least five blogs of the other participants a day - and by that I mean not the blogs of the girls I visit regularly anyway (like Sam, Ellie and Sarah), but new ones. Bookmark those that I would like to examine more thoroughly after the readathon.
* Regular daily updates - boring tidbits like page count, how many books read, did my cats like the books I am currently reading (they measure the likeness by the cover - is it good to rub against or not :p), etc. + an occasional tweet or two (@Rivorniel).
Less than a day left now!

* Edit: Just to put it out there - I have no other problems with Dan Brown and E.L. James other than they are just not for me. I read mainly for the pleasure of the beauty of the word, and in that department I find them both lacking, for my taste. (I always thought Dan Brown would probably make a lot better movie industry person than an author :) )  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

C_Club #6 - "Germinal" by Emilé Zola

I read "Germinal" what now feels like eons ago (in April). And it is probably the most difficult book to write down thoughts about since I started blogging in the beginning of this year.
When I think about "Germinal", I get this huge back-flow of emotions and feels that I went through while reading. Yet, those few times I have attempted to write about it, it's like having a blogger's block (there is such a thing, right?). So I began wondering if it is one of the books I find difficult to talk about because there was too much in it. And if I am afraid that talking about it and transforming the thoughts into words is going to somehow diminish the impact.
Generally, I am inclined towards depressive and difficult, and this book is The One. It's The Book, if you are searching for all the pains and sufferings and misery that human beings can be tossed into and have to struggle through.
The mining industry has always generated a lot of spook in me. Earth is our home, but it can also be treacherous for those who challenge it. Somehow, the thought of sending people down to hundreds and hundres of metres, into the belly of the earth, feels so unnatural. One wrong move, and one can end life there. In this book, mines are characters - in Zola's world, they are breathing and they are alive.
More miners arrived, fresh groups of stonemen, and one by one they were swallowed up by the pit. It was the three o'clock shift, another meal for the mine, as the teams went down to take over the concessions that the hewers had been working on, at the far end of the tunnels. The mine never slept; night and day these human insects burrowed into the rock, 600 metres below the beetfields. /p. 65/
Illustration from here.
More than once Zola portrays mines as creatures with huge bellies who "swallow" the miners. It is spooky. Although most of the activities take place up on the solid ground, there are a few occasions where reader is taken down, to go into the mine with characters, to take a peek at their cruel labour, just as the reader is taken down with the miners who get trapped below. There is nowhere else to look - and even if I wanted, I could not; Zola is just so convincing.
I don't want to write about narrative; I feel that in books like that, it is secondary. I feel like the narrative (and I'm not saying it's not good!) is there to serve another purpose, a greater one - to show corners and nooks deep inside people, to show how animals inside us come out when certain circumstances are triggered. The characters are put into the positions where they do not have many choices, or they have choice between the bad and the worse. And that is how Zola strips the human nature - from all the clothes, bells and whistles, to the naked, puny things that we are - some with good heart, some with bad heart, but everyone with the same instincts - to prevail, to survive, to reproduce. They survive the hunger and the cold, and they bring countless amount of new souls to this hunger and cold, all for what?
"The worst of it, I think, is when you realize that nothing can change... When you're young you think that you're going to be happy later on, there are things you look forward to; and then you keep finding you're as hard up as ever, you stay bogged down in poverty... I don't blame anyone for it, but there are times when I feel sick at the injustice of it all." /p. 166/
Photo from here.
And even though at time there seems to be no obvious ending for this viscious circle (all the households simply wait for children to get old enough to go to the pits so that they can help out with money...), Zola ends the novel in a more hopeful note - the hope that there will be better days.
I think it is such books that we all need to read, from time to time, to look back at our #FirstWorldProblems, and to get better perspective on ... life in general. (My #FirstWorldProblem at hand - there seems to be no decent cover image for the copy of the novel I read in the webbed world. It seemed tragic for a moment, but then I thought about the Maheudes and ... yeah, seriously. Get a grip, girl.)
 I want more Zola in my life.
524 pages
I read this novel during the Zoladdiction month organised by o and Fanda. Thank you so much for organising this event, girls!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review: "The Innocents" by Francesca Segal

"The Innocents" is the 5th novel that I have read from this year's Women's Prize longlist.
At first, me and "The Innocents" got along quite well. I expected it to be a lighter kind of read and the dilemma that the main character was faced with ("... and must make a choice that will break either one heart, or many.") I was highly curious about.
The setting is Jewish community in modern-day London, which I was not familiar with and thus, it was interesting to learn about. I can't say I personally would be happy living in the community that is so conservative, where traditions and appearances play such a big role, but as someone in the novel said, for Jews having something this constant and unchanging is a big thing due to their history.
Adam, the central character, who was preparing to marry Rachel, loooong-time girlfriend and sweetheart (and neither of them having much other experience in relationships except each other) seemed to battle these conventions of the community. The need to do everything just as it has always been done, and the constant "but what will the neigbours think". At first it was refreshing to see how Adam felt, and I could relate easily because I am myself very much the kind of person who tries not to care overly of what others think and basically use own brain when making decisions instead of doing something just "because it's always been like that/done that way".
Adam gets pushed to these thoughts by the black sheep of the family, Rachel's cousin Ellie, who is at the same time the centre of gossip and the pity in the community. Ellie works as a model and has an "embarrassing incident" from the past, related to an appearance in an adult performance/film (or something similar). I liked Ellie a lot in the first half of the book, she was like an alien in this family. Especially I liked it how she was being pitied and people assumed she wants to "make up" for her past mishaps, and she said, why should she feel bad for something that she doesn't regret doing, and why feel bad for what you are. I thought, "Go Ellie!" and "That's my girl!" and "You show them prudes!".
Unfortunately, about half way through the book, something happened and I became restless, I kept making this move with my nose that I do when I'm not particularly happy with something and felt more and more "meh" as the story progressed. Firstly, in the second half of the book Ellie became like some kind of a background decoration. She wasn't given much to say anymore, she just was. Also, in those rare occasions when she did get to speak, I found myself rolling eyes at her. Like, when she was talking about how she reads everything (!) by Dickens and Tolstoy while sitting in the chair waiting for her make-up to get done, I got a bit rolley-eyed and said "Really, Ellie, really?" as I was feeling that this was going a bit over the top in attempts of making her The Awesome Heroine.
The culmination that the story had been building up towards finally took place somewhere in the final quarter of the book and by that time I didn't really care anymore. It was too late and even worse, what it led to made me (literally) scratch my head and ask "What the *beep* was this now?" Because the ending was just ... odd. Either that or I completely missed something. But it didn't make me happy, and it didn't make me angry either, and indifference is definitely worse than no emotions. I  only felt bad because I thought I had completely missed what the author was trying to say.
Also, Rachel - not cool. How I didn't like her. She was the kind of character I would not want to be friends with, and therefore it was, of course, so much easier to be attracted to Ellie. Just the shame that character of Ellie fell flat, for me, in the end. She had so much potential.
My next Women's Prize picks will be "Flight Behavior" by Kingsolver, "NW" by Zadie Smith and "Honour" by Shafak. And I still have "Alif the Unseen" to review (which I loved soooo much.)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bout of Books 7.0 [readathon]

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
So, I decided to join Bout of Books week-long readathon. Exciting! 
* I would like to finish at least two books. Two in a week is not too much, is it? (Maybe even three??? One can dream...)
* I am not going to be reading exclusively, but I would like to cram in a few more hours every day, at least. Like, read during brekkie and lunch, and so on.
* I'd like to see how other participants are doing, what they are reading, how they are reading, et cetera. Comment a blog or too, or if there are (mini) challenges, to take part.
Yay! *happy dance*