Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spooky success - RIP VIII has ended

Our two spooky reads' months have ended - hooray! RIP VIII was such a fantastic event, right?
For me personally, I think this was the most successful reading event during the  wholeblogging time. In the end of August I decided to tackle the following pieces of literature:

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes from The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Shadow Over Innsmouth from Great Tales of Horror by H.P. Lovecraft
And here's what happened:
1. It sucks but I didn't get into The Turn of the Screw, my mind kept wandering off and after about half, I just put it aside, though it's more likely it will be one of those very rare cases that I will not finish a book/novella.
2. I finished The Night Circus and reviewed it here.
3. I finished Gardens of the Moon and reviewed it here.
4. I finished Dracula and have not reviewed it yet, but let me tell ya, it was a good piece of vampire story. That's how a vampire should be - none of that sparkling-under-the-sun crap.
5. I didn't read Sherlock Holmes because I think my short story quota is full for a while, what with Bradbury stories and Lovecraft story/novella.
6. I finished The Shadow Over Innsmouth and haven't reviewed it yet, but it was definitely the highlight among all the RIP reads - you guys, it was SO GOOD. I finished it yesterday, so just in time, and I'm so happy I decided to read it. So creepy, disturbing, with a twist that followed good pacing throughout - I'm a big fan. That's how a horror story should be written.
In addition, I accidentally read a few more books that would definitely count as RIP reads:
* The Illustrated Man - it's Ray Bradbury, and it's good, just as I would expect from him. Review here.
* Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn and I will not be besties; I didn't get this book, good thing it was a short one. Review Rant here.
So, I read 4 novels, 1 collection of short stories, and 1 novella. 2 of them count towards the Classics Club goal.
I will definitely take part again next year!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sent to investigate the disappearance of two little girls Camille finds herself reluctantly installed in the family mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and a precocious thirteen-year-old half-sister she barely knows. Haunted by a family tragedy, troubled by the disquieting grip her younger sister has on the town, Camille struggles with a familiar need to be accepted.

But as clues turn into dead ends Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims and realises: she will have to unravel the puzzle of her own past if she's to survive this homecoming.

(From the back of the book.)

Not long after I boasted how awesome I have lately been at picking only good books to read, Shatter Me and Sharp Objects happened. That'll teach me!
The reason I picked up this book was to give Gillian Flynn another chance because I felt it extremely difficult to rate her overhyped Gone Girl and I really didn't want to be unfair. I wasn't a fan of Gone Girl but compared to Sharp Objects, it was better.
For me, Sharp Objects was a mess. I was really surprised because I probably gravitate towards books with darker themes and tones more than an average Joe (American Psycho is one of my favourites), but maaan. This book was just... The characters were... The plot... Gah! I didn't like it.
So Camille is the kind of young (around 30 - yes peoples that is young!) lady who has been into cutting herself for a long time and starts her days with a vodka shot from bottle she keeps under her pillow. Like... I really really tried to imagine that and I got sick (the vodka shot part). Like, I got nausea. Of course she generally drinks a lot, there is some drug doing around (with minors), casual sex, the whole thing along those lines.
Now I am not the one to judge. I get it that the main character developed into that person because of childhood traumas and things (yes her mum is a proper nutcase and stepdad made me shudder more than once - really creepy peeps), and I really don't judge because obviously I haven't been in such shoes, but really, it's also kind of hard to symphatise because in the end these were Camille's choices. Some of the self-destructive behaviour also didn't make any sense whatsoever (in which world and under which conditions is it ever a good idea to get high with your teen sister? I just don't get it).
I also found it problematic to take this book as a murder mystery trying-to-solve-it and I really didn't even care who was the culprit because honest, that town was full of nutcases and almost any one of the characters could have committed the crimes and I couldn't care less. One of the few redeeming parts of the book was the detective who was the main man on the case, of course he and Camille have a little thing going there, but I was happy how it played out in the end; I can't get more into detail as this is already bordering the spoiler territory but let's just say it was kind of a realistic outcome to the situation.
So yes, I think that was the last Flynn book for me, objectively I can see how certain type of people may enjoy her books but it just ain't my jam. I actually think that for me, her stories would probably play out better on the big screen - which means if it's true that a few of her books are in the making process to the movies, I might go and check them out.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Snippets #12

You guys, I have been really, really tired these past weeks. Exhausted. An empty lemon. Mammu the cat had a quite sudden surgery about 10 days back and although the surgery itself went well, there were slight complications afterwards.
Right after the surgery.
We have been treating her ear since August (I kid you not - several AB rounds, medicine in the ear morning and evening, it's been draining for her and for us). So apparently the problems with the ear issued from some kind of tumour, which was best be taken out. The surgery went well, but afterwards Mammu developed inflammation inside the ear and she didn't eat properly or show any kind of interest towards life in general. Basically, she was just blobbing under the bed. It is awful to see your otherwise lively pet in such a vegetable state. We had to take her to the vet some days after the surgery because she ate only from my hand and was already starting to dehydrate. Oh, and apparently she also had high fever. And she didn't want to use litter box. MUCH problems! 
After the vet visit, not much changed, and I was sad Mammu didn't want to eat (food is the biggest joy in her life, otherwise). So after a few more days of feeding her from the hand in every four hours or so, we went back to the vet and picked up a kind of an appetite stimulant, a little (albeit quite expensive) pill.
After the surgery, quite depressed.
Guys, this was like a miracle medication. Less than an hour after I gave her 1/4 of the pill, she came yelling for food and has been back to her normal appetite and behaviour since. She is also on new AB round now because of the inflammation and the fever, but man, am I glad to see my cat alive.
All the problems were also deepened by the fact that Mammu got depression from the Elizabethan Collar (or the bonnet, as I named it). She is by nature a cat with super high anxiety level (long history, I got her 9 years ago from a shelter and she was mentally very damaged, took me a few good years to teach her to even feel comfortable around people), so when you put something around her neck it's like "ZOMG MONSTER TRYING TO KILL PANIIIIC! RUUUN!" *bumps against things* --> fear level increases --> dead circle of panic.
Feeling slightly better, playing cat house with Robert.
Luckily, she didn't show any interest towards her wound and stiches, so for the past four or so days I've let her be without the collar when someone is at home. Even at night, because I figured the depression is worse than that quite low risk of something happening to the wound.
So this weekend I have been sleeping like 10 hours a night and am starting to feel like a human again.
In more bookish news, I decided to rearrange my bookshelves, quite impromptu, yesterday. I actually managed to create some space, dividing books in a different manner. There is one reason I don't like rearranging my shelves and it's the fact that I have quite many books in Estonian, and since I don't want to mix languages, I can't really create any system based on genre or alphabet. So I just have Estonian shelves, and then all the rest in English.
Now I did make a separate TBR shelf (or 1.5 shelves to be precise) out of the books I own and haven't read yet, and that might have been a mistake because while they were all scattered throughout different shelves, I didn't really realise that I have so many of them.
The bottom shelf is all the books I haven't read. It's a lot, and it's not all.. Upper shelf is the fantasy shelf and I have kindly crossed out the books I have read, so that still leaves quite some to read from there as well.
Left is my most immediate TBR (the autumn one) and then there is bunch of classics and others on the right...
I also made a "shelf of shame", basically the books I haven't been much impressed with and would happily give away, either to a used bookshop or through blog or however.
And I have done some reading and finished some books, the last one was Dracula (lovely story!) and before that Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn), which I didn't like at all (review to come but let's just say that it was even worse than Gone Girl for me personally). Now I am reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (these books are ridiculously captivating...).
Sorry for the longest post ever, but I've skipped Sunday Snippets for weeks now and there was a lot to talk about.
Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, October 25, 2013

C_Club #10: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Short story is definitely not my preferred format when reading, except when it comes to Ray Bradbury. The Martian Chronicles is one of my all-time favourite books, ever, and I was happy to discover that The Illustrated Man gives out some very similar vibes.
I didn't even know I was going to read this book this month until I discovered it for a ridiculous price from a bookshop, brought home, figured "I'll take a little peek" ... and then it was over. Only then did I realise that it is a good RIP VIII read and also, what do you say, I had even added it to my Classics Club list and completely forgotten. So that's pretty much a double or triple win.
The whole concept of this story book is quite spooky - the stories are tattooed on the illustrated man's skin and they come to life at night. They are all considerably short, which makes it a good book to read before bed (no need to wait for those endless new chapter pages).
Let me just say that I love how Ray Bradbury writes. In addition to such beautiful and at the same time simple prose (at least in this book - it is different when you read Something Wicked This Way Comes), he has such sympathetic attitude towards his characters. I have often imagined him as this gentle father figure, for whom characters are like children - yes, they can be loud, throw tantrums and spill the food, but they are still to be loved and understood.
Other than that, I appreciate the kind of subtle fantastic setting. It can oftentimes be just one detail, only one thing that is a bit different than your and my real life, but it has such impact (for example, many of the stories take place on a different planet - usually Mars but in this book also Venus; in one of the stories there is a house that is "alive"; a little bit of time travel). Whatever the setting or time, the stories tackle deeply humane and moral issues and relationships between people, from racism to bullying to parenthood.
My favourite stories:
* The Veld (house that is alive);
* The Long Rain (set on Venus; *very* psychologically disturbing);
* Usher II (giving E.A. Poe some love - intelligent piece of fantasy-horror);
* The Last Night of the World (very short - "What would you do if you knew that this was the last night of the world?" - how wonderful is that opening sentence?);  
* The Fox and the Forest (time travel story of people who escape to the past);
 - I could actually go on and on, most stories I liked very much.
I don't usually like to recommend stuff to read, but in this case I am making an exception, because Bradbury's works are so accessible and yet intriguing, flirting with the philosophical side of life while being everything but boring and dull - yes, I would recommend his stories and novels wholeheartedly.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

This is the continuation of my journey of trying out an odd, not overly hyped young adult book in the hopes of finding a book I kind of like; so far I've tried The 5th Wave and Beautiful Creatures, both of which fell into the "meh" category. I am not sure if Golden Boy classifies as young adult; it's definitely not your typical example and was a well-written book. But I'm not sure and I didn't find an answer from the Internets.

Shatter Me is one of the two books I've given 1 star rating this year (Beautiful Creatures being the other one). The reason I picked up this one for an attempted read was because I read that the writing was a bit different and "something special" and since one of my main complaints of the YA books I've read is usually overly simplistic prose, I figured that maybe I could at least enjoy Shatter Me for its text, if nothing else.
I was wrong. There is such thing as "worse than simple and boring-ish writing" and that is overdone, trying-too-hard, using-weird-techniques-just-for-the-sake-of-it writing. I would be willing to give Mafi props for trying to use different things and styles in the book, but it was just SO ANNOYING. Let's see if I can make a mini-review that would reflect how I felt about this book in the same vein that it was written...
The main character of this book, Juliette, overly
emotional girl with no knowledge how stunning and sexy she is because she hasn't  seen herself she hasn't looked into a mirror for exactly 3 years 2 days 16 hours 300 seconds.
She likes a boy so much her jaw drops every time she sees him and all those breaths she didn't even know she was holding.
The world building was lacking in this dystopian piece for my taste, at least, and the idea that we get revealed towards the end is something that has already been done once
fourty two times before.
I wasn't impressed I didn't like it at all.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Readathon: The End

Which hour was most daunting for you? That was definitely around 12th and 13th hour, when I arrived home 3 am-ish local time and not in the most soberest condition. However, I was very determined to read at least one chapter from Sharp Objects before passing out completely, which I did manage.
Smoothie speaks the truth. Or at least that's how I felt this morning.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? The only inconvenience I saw was the differences between time zones, but I think those cannot be helped. At least I got to start 3 pm and not 1 am, like some people :)
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I think organisational side of the event was exceptional, I got answers to all my questions from the web site. Twitter is of course ridiculously useful and entertaining helper when it comes to such things :)
How many books did you read? I read from two books, but finished none.
What were the names of the books you read? I read Shades of Grey (Jasper Fforde) and Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn).
Which book did you enjoy most? As I suspected, Shades of Grey is maybe a bit heavy on detail for a spike readathon, so I think in that sense I enjoyed Sharp Objects more; however, in normal circumstances and without pressure the roles would be reversed.
The book house I hastily built this morning for Ellie's
Book Jenga mini challenge. The Lord of the Rings is
foundation of everything, apparently.
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I do want to participate again as a reader and I sure hope next time will be more convenient for me time wise. This weekend I had maybe 6 hours to read because I was engaged with other things (it's most annoying how life gets in the way of our reading!).
Tl;dr - the readathon was awesome, organisers are superhumans, my modest page count was the fault of life. Better luck next time.

Readathon: Update

I have just woken up after arriving home 3 am or so last night. Now it's 10.19 am and so far my reading score is only 20smt pages of Shades of Grey and a chapter from Sharp Objects. But, there is 4+ hours of readathon left and I intend to spend those hours reading and checking out how other people are doing.
So, I better get a coffee (or 2, or 3 :p), try to ignore the throbbing head and get to it!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

24-hour Readathon: Starting Post

Reading 24 hours in a row with no stop sounds insane, and it probably is, and even if I wanted to, I can't attempt it today because life gets in the way, but I try my best to read as much as possible from 3 pm today 'til 3 pm tomorrow.
As usual there are some questions for the participants, so that we can get to know each other better and socialise and all that jazz. Here goes:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I am reading from Helsinki, Finland, Europe.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Seriously, I don't have clear preference... Maybe Harry Potter, because I'm sure it'll be a fairly quick read? I'd also really like to finish Shades of Grey (about 1/3 through), but it's the kind of book that requires a lot of attention to catch all the awesome details so I don't know. I'm sure all these lovely books have their benefits.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Oh dear, I haven't really given thought to snacking at all. I'm not a big snacker in general, but maybe I'll seek for something for tomorrow morning/lunchtime, because snacks kinda go in spirit with the readathon, as I have understood.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! *fiddles with fingers* I'm a bookworm and a nerd in general, I have unexplainable obsession to wombats and alpacas. Me and my fiancĂ© have two cats, who are the coolest little buggers in the world. I work in translating/media. My favourite authors are Ray Bradbury, Haruki Murakami, Robin Hobb, Jasper Fforde.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? It's my first readathon and I am looking forward to general reading craziness that's gonna take over Twitter and book blogging world. Oh and also I am looking forward to reading some awesome books.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Closing the lid of September

September, what a glorious month you were.
I finished 8 books. And, the number would have been higher if I hadn't decided to pick up the 900-page brick in the last week (which I also have finished by now).
* The Night Circus by E. Morgenstern (RIP VIII)
* Villette by C. Bronte (Classics Club)
* The Well of Lost Plots by J. Fforde
* Gardens of the Moon by S. Erikson
* The Universe Versus Alex Woods by G. Extence
* Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
* Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
* The Unbearable Lightness of Being by M. Kundera (Classics Club)
That's 3483 pages. Three books were 500+ pages.
Since I rated all of those books with 4/5 or 5/5, with the exception of the first Harry Potter (which got 3/5), it got me thinking if I am the kind of reader that is just very generous or if I am just awesome at picking books to read. I kinda lean towards the latter, at least for this month, because there really aren't many random books among those. Okay, classics can be hit and miss - but The Unbearable Lightness of Being was a re-read, so I knew I like it, and Villette I was fairly certain I will like. I love Thursday Next books and Harry Potters are simply very well written. Alex Woods got a lot of praise from bloggers I trust, so I was fairly confident about that as well.
Also, right now I am reading The Turn of the Screw (for RIP VIII) and I am not really feeling it (about half way through), so possibly there will be a story rated 2 or so...