Saturday, November 30, 2013

C_Club #12: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone read-a-long has ended and this time I actually managed to stay in schedule and finish the book! Hoorays all around.
Here is my half-way-there, a bit spoilerish post. In the second half of the book the narrators were no longer as eccentric as Gabriel Betteredge (with his self-help book Robinson Crusoe) and Drusilla Clack ("Satan under the tea table!"), so naturally the first half of the book was a lot funnier and also a lot more quotable than the second half. Let me demonstrate through a visual:
First half of the book in the bottom, second half in the top.
It takes quite some time until the disappearance of the diamond actually comes to the focus, but in the end it does, and just as many have said, the ending of the book is quite satisfactory. I think those who expect pure mystery out of The Moonstone might be a bit disappointed because it almost feels like solving the riddle is second rate, after all the drama and schenanigans; also, I usually cannot guess a culprit when I read and I even try avoid doing it because I want to be surprised, but in The Moonstone, it was kind of obvious who went after the stone. To me, anyway. So, it wasn't very surprising in the end, but it sure was satisfying.
Ezra Jennings was probably the most interesting narrator in the second half of the book, I took him as a different kind of martyr than Ms Clack - he did trigger a lot of sympathy with the situation that he was in and that led to the actions that he took. From others' reviews and remarks I've concluded that Rachel Verinder is not a very popular girl and even though I can understand the negative emotions she brings out, I think she is a good character who doesn't allow people use her as a carpet, so to say. I symphatised with her, being so young, in such a mess, with no proper guidance. From what I remember, being 17-18 years old, I wasn't exactly a pillar of morality and mature decisions myself, is what I guess I'm trying to say here.
Having read The Woman in White earlier this year, I can't help but compare the two books, and I have to say I liked The Woman in White better. One of the reasons is that with The Woman in White, I had yet no idea of the awesomeness of Wilkie's (I think we have all adopted the first name relationship with him) writing, so the delight was genuine; in case of The Moonstone, I had way high expectations. Secondly, I think there was more solid bunch of hilarious/kickass characters in The Woman in White (Frederik "Don't Bully Me!" Fairlie, Count Fosco - the kind you love and hate at the same time, of course Marian "Petticoats for Life!" Halcombe, Professor Pesca, Fosco's wife... looks like you could list all the characters here).
But overall, I was highly entertained by the Moonstone and gave it good 4 out of 5 stars.
Thank you Ellie for organising, I really loved the event!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The 2014 TBR Pile Challenge

Adam from Roof Beam Reader is hosting The 2014 TBR Pile Challenge. For the fifth year! Congratulations on the anniversary! Click on the link to head over to the main post of the challenge, to learn about the rules and prizes.
I don't know any bookworm who didn't constantly complain over the size of their TBR pile, so this will be one of my chosen challenges for next year.

I've added the first publication dates.

1. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco (1980) (CC) - 4/5
2. Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel (2009)
3. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides (2002) (CC) - 5/5 - impressions
4. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens (1837) (CC)
5. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003) - 2/5 - review
6. Tender Is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1933) (CC)
7. Honour, Elif Shafak (2011) - review - 4/5
8. The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett (1989)
9. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss (2007) - 3/5 -  review
10. Why Be Happy If You Could Be Normal, Jeanette Winterson (2011) - 4/5 -  review
11. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell (2010) - 5/5 -  review
12. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier (1938) (CC) - 5/5
The alternatives are both non-fiction books from my TBR list because among other things, I want to put more focus on non-fiction in 2014:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Snippets #13

Oh dear, I haven't made a single Sunday post in November. On the other hand, I've been posting quite frequently, compared to most other months, so I'm happy that the blogging mojo is back!
The weather here in Helsinki is still autumny - no sight of snow yet. Let's keep it like that until at least December. It looks like people are slowly starting to prepare for Christmas and although I am very down-to-earth when it comes to any kind of holiday, I know this year will be the kind in which I embrace the whole holiday feeling. Last year the whole holidays went just past me - we didn't even bring the tree because it seemed completely pointless. It changes from year to year. Today I got some candles and a glittery red flower pot for my biggest cactus, which looks really festive. I've also gotten a few gifts for Jan.
I've spent a fair amount of time getting to know the Kindle that I got for birthday and I must say I am very happy with it. It doesn't replace physical books, but I can now be a bit more selective in which books I decide to buy to occupy the shelves. I also intend to read first books in any series on Kindle to see if I want to continue with the series, and then if I like the first book, I will consider buying physical copies.
Kindle definitely has its perks when it comes to reading in kitchen.
I've also been reading a lot - we are in the middle of The Moonstone readalong still (I think I have a few pages until the end), I read two non-fiction books on e-reader (about the first Moon landing by humans, and about the only man who has managed to escape North-Korean concentration camp), now I'm reading Parasite by Mira Grant on Kindle (half way through - it's a bit of a disturbing read), I also bought several virtual books that I want to read like now - The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (waves to Sarah and Ekaterina). And there's all the science fiction that I want to read lately - Carl's Sci-Fi Experience reading event is coming up next month so come sign up if you feel like it. I haven't made a list for the event yet, but there will be some awesome books featured.
I'm looking forward to next week, there will be a long-waited-for concert taking place on Tuesday evening and we will be seeing Blue Jasmine in the movie theater on Thursday.
Overall, I am very happy with where I am with reading and blogging at the moment (review posts - not so much, but I'll try to make a few next week), and may that continue.
Happy end of November, everyone!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My TOP10 Sci-Fi Movies

I was inspired (again!) by Rinn over at Rinn Reads - here is her post.
Today we are talking about our favourite Sci-Fi movies of all time. Mine are in alphabetical order, because although I love lists, it's hard for me to choose which is best, and which is a bit less good. It was difficult to choose only 10, but I just kept removing the films one by one, and these are the ones I was left with:

With Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor.
In the future society, humans have created realistic robots (called mechas) to serve them. But can mechas really have feelings and what happens when they are no longer wanted?
Why favourite: the topic of artificial intelligence is ever interesting - even if we program robots to "feel", are those then true feelings?

With Sigourney Weaver.
Spaceship Nostromo is surprised by an unwanted extraterrestrial visitor.
Why favourite: mad scientist doctor following orders of a mega corporation is willing to jeopardise the whole mankind in the name of science. Hilarity and horror ensue; time to place your bets - will the mad scientist be the first to die? Also, Ellen Ripley is a kick ass character.
Sequels: Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), Alien: Resurrection (1997).

With Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
A teenager is sent 30 years into the past in a time-travel car constructed by his buddy mad Doctor Emmett Brown; he must bring together his high-school age parents to save his own future existence.
Why favourite: Who can say no to time travel, hilarious characters and awesome 80ties-90ties clothing style? Also, it's one of those rare cases where sequels are excellent too.


With Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon.
How do the actions of individual lives impact each other in the past, present and future?
Why favourite: I am not even going to pretend I am not biased here - this book is so good that it probably contributed a few points towards the movie making it to TOP 10. This is a very complex, layered story that takes place in the past, present and future. This kind of heavyweight of Hollywood stars would usually shy me away from the movie, but in Cloud Atlas they earn their money - literally, since everyone plays several different characters.

With Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett, Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Waybe Robson.
Seven people who do not know each other wake up in a giant cube, filled with thousands of different rooms. They start figuring out why they are there while trying to find the way out of cube, each room is full of unknown traps.
Why favourite: Look at that concept! (Though sequels are of questionable value, I would not recommend.) The cost of this film must have been super low because everything takes place in rooms that look pretty much the same... except you can die in hundreds of different ways. Also, Cube proves that mathematics can be really scary.
Sequels: Cube 2: Hypercube (2002), Cube Zero (2004).

With Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, Sean Bean, Emily Watson.
In a Fascist future where all forms of feeling are illegal, a man in charge of enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system.
Why favourite: For me personally, this takes the cake as the most underrated movie ever. If you like books 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, chances are good you will like this movie. Also, how awesome is this cast.


With Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine.
What if someone steals your thoughts and secrets while you are sleeping? Can you get lost in a dream never to return? Will you even want to?
Why favourite: Based on all these questions - another fascinating concept (or more like a proper mindf**k that requires several viewings). Also, Christopher Nolan and the cadre of people assembled for this film are impressive.

With Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving.
In future, hackers are capable of hacking into human mind. The battle between reality and artificial reality.
Why favourite? This film was launched at the time when computer geekness was spreading its wings, and I was already on board. I was also attracted to the cool black leather coats and shades. The slo-mo fight scenes were a very new thing back then! (What happened to the sequels, though? From bad to worse.)
Sequels: The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Matrix Revolutions (2003).
With Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey.
Future mankind has discovered how to solve the Earth's energy problems with the help of the Moon and astronaut Sam Bell is to spend three years on the Moon, only companion his computer GERTY.
Why favourite: it is kind of a minimalist setting - lunar station, a bit of the Moon's surface, one man and one computer. Lots can happen when a man has to spend such a long alone in the space...

With Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt.
The year is 2074 and people who have become trouble are sent 30 years back in time to get executed. What if one day you are facing yourself on the execution scene?
Why favourite? I can't resist a time conundrum. Nothing more enjoyable than spending the rest of your evening (or few days, or weeks) trying to figure out the time paradox (if you go back in time and kill yourself, how can you be there to go back in time in the first place?)
Bonus entry:

With George Clooney, Sandra Bullock.
A medical engineer and an astronaut are the sole survivors of an accident that destroys their space station, but oxygen is running low, so what next?
Why favourite: It is a tragic, beautiful survival story. The space is beautiful, especially if you view it through 3D glasses safely in the movie theater! The details that are put into this movie are astonishing and although there are a few scenes that make you think "IS THIS REALLY POSSIBLE?" (and if you are like me, make you manically google at home afterwards :p), it does not take away from the fact that this movie is brilliant.

"They put a man on the moon, man on the moon"

I'm a bit of a space geek. After seeing the movie Gravity a few days back, I had a serious movie hangover and I was just craving for some "space stuff" so I bought the book "Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story" on my Kindle and inhaled it last night.
(And also, if you have even the slightest interest in "the space stuff", or can just appreciate a very beautiful movie, please go see Gravity in 3D. I am willing to go as far as to say it is, over a long time, the first decent thing come out of Hollywood, and also, I finally realised the meaning and purpose of 3D - I am not the biggest fan of multi-dimensional movie experience, but this film you just don't want to see in any other way.)
But let's talk about the book instead. Author Michael Collins was one of the three astronauts that performed the first successful lunar landing by humans, back in July 1969. The crew consisted of him, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Collins was the only one of the three who didn't actually step on the Moon, his task was to remain in the command module on Moon's orbit and pick up the lunar module again after Armstrong and Aldrin had planted the US flag onto the surface of the Moon. It is natural that we mainly talk about Neil Armstrong as "the first man on the Moon", but if you read this book, you realise that without Collins, neither of the other two would have made it back home at all.  
Heart muscles and circadian rhythms were interesting things to know about, but they were not the most important things, as far as we astronauts were concerned. We were most concerned about understanding the spacecraft, which was a very complicated bundle of machinery – any part of which could break.
Collins starts this book from "the beginning" - how he became an astronaut and how astronauts were trained for NASA space exploration programmes (did you know that astronauts have to go through the jungle and desert training, in case they land their spacecraft in the middle of Sahara and need to survive until the rescue team arrives, or that they had to study geology to know which rocks to bring back from the Moon? fascinating!); he introduces his 13 companions from NASA Group 3, formed in 1963, and explains how each astronaut had a different task and things to learn when it came to knowing the spacecrafts they were to fly (for example, Collins himself was responsible for the development of space suits - it is proper science and like he said himself, it takes a scientist and a designer to put together an efficient, well-functioning space suit). He takes reader through his two space flights, first on the two-man spacecraft Gemini 10 and the second on Apollo 11, which made the successful Moon landing. He also talks about the catastrophic takeoff of Apollo 1, which was supposed to be the first manned spacecraft performing the lunar landing and which caught fire while still on the Earth, killing all three astronauts inside.
Apollo 11 crew - Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin.
Back in 1969, the technology was not nearly on the level that it is now, so naturally, flying to the Moon was in a way, much more an achievement than it would be now. Long story short, Armstrong and Aldrin were to land on the Moon, plant the flag, collect some Moon surface and then return to the Moon orbit in their lunar module Eagle, where they would be picked up by Collins in the spacecraft. Sounds simple, but Collins had a whole pile of scenarios for "what could go wrong" cases. Luckily nothing went wrong and all three arrived safely to the Earth.
In earth orbit, it takes ninety minutes to go around once. During this hour and a half, the astronaut will see one sunrise, one noontime, one sunset, and one midnight.
Buzz Aldrin poses with the US flag.
In total, feet of 12 men have touched the surface of the Moon. All 12 have been Americans and have flown Apollo spacecrafts. The last Moon landing took place in 1972, which might seem like an odd thing considering the development of technology and science, but not really that strange when we think about why the Moon exploration began in the first place - it was a space race between the Soviet Union and the USA, and when Soviets were the first to send a man to space (Yuri Gagarin was the first man in outer space, April 1961), Americans were determined to be the first ones to land men on the Moon. After six successful landings between 1969 and 1972, the subsidies to NASA space programme were cut drastically. Americans had made their point to the Soviets, and also, there was not that much to explore anymore at that stage, so later planned flights did not justify their cost.
Apollo 11 before the launch, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
This link has a multitude of awesome photos regarding the whole Apollo 11 programme.
Okay, I've been rambling over the geeky stuff for a long while now (for which I apologise - I realise not everyone finds space as fascinating!); I'll end with a few comments about the text itself. Michael Collins is of course no writer (he has other talents!), but he does write in a gripping way and almost makes you feel like you are in the spacecraft with him and his co-pilots (by the way, they never say "space capsule" - capsule is something you swallow, apparently :)). His style is very down to earth and matter of fact, but there are a few places where he tries to be funny (sometimes he succeeds, but in chapter 4 not really), or where he is more poetic, describing the total silence, quietness and loneliness of the space. (Space blues gets me every time.) The end bit was especially funny as he speculated over the possibility of human life in space, on Moon and even on Mars. He figured it would be possible to build a human town or settlement in the space and create a mini society, only we would have the problem of floating cows, due to weightlessness. This end part was a bit funny and a bit naive, but also made me go aww, considering it was written fair time back (1976, revised 1994) - it is nice to have dreams.
In conclusion, I recommend this book to any space geek - it's highly fascinating and gripping, and point of view of the first man who flew to the Moon, but didn't actually step on its surface.
An image of the Earth rise, shot by Apollo 11 crew.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Science Fiction: I love you

When I saw Rinn's Science Fiction challenge list, I did something I had been thinking of for some time - my own list. Majority of it is based on Rinn's list (big thanks for that!), but I did make some changes, which are marked in green colour. Since I'm not a particular YA reader, I removed a bunch of books from there from my own list, and added a few to classic sci-fi and newer sci-fi lists, plus I added two books overall so that I had nice round number 60 in the list. I kept five YA choices based on popularity and what I think could be interesting so that I would roughly know what is going on in that sub-genre.
I've always loved sci-fi, but unfortunately lately have been steering very much away from it because I read too very many different genres. Back at home at my parents we had quite a selection of Russian (and other) sci-fi books (translated into Estonian), which I remember reading during hot summers. One of the first sci-fi books I ever read was Andromeda: A Space-Age Tale by Russian author Ivan Yefremov. Wikipedia describes this book as "a classic communist utopia set in a distant future"; now, I remember near nothing about the communist part but I remember it was an awesome book.
In that sense I've always been more of a sci-fi girl than fantasy girl. Fantasy came into my life a lot later. 
I discovered that the Classics Club list is working super well for me, in the way that I pick books out of it quite regularly, so I decided to make similar reading lists for myself for science fiction and fantasy as well.
Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting another two-month reading event (last one being RIP VIII) called The 2014 Sci-Fi Experience, this time it's for sci-fi and it lasts from December 1st to January 31st. I decided to take part because RIP VIII was great success (two-month events are good!) and that goes nicely with my brand new sci-fi list as well.

Classic sci-fi

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams - own the book
2. I, Robot, Isaac Asimov
3. Foundation, Isaac Asimov - re-read
4. The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard
5. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury - read more than once, favourite
6. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury - read, liked
7. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke
8. The Lost World, Arthur Conan Doyle - own on Kindle, free download
9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
10. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
11. Dune, Frank Herbert
12. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
13. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley - read
14. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes - read more than once, favourite
15. Solaris, Stanislaw Lem - read
16. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
17. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller Jr.
18. Ringworld, Larry Niven
19. The Mote in God's Eye, Larry Niven
20. 1984, George Orwell - read; review
21. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
22. A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs
23. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley - own on Kindle, free download
24. Star Maker, Olaf Stapledon
25. Roadside Picnic, Arkady & Boris Strugatsky - re-read, review
26. Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne
27. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne - own the book
28. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut - own the book
29. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells - own on Kindle
30. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
31. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham - read
32. The Midwich Cuckoos, John Wyndham
33. We, Yevgeni Zamyatin 


Newer sci-fi

34. Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood - read
35. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood - read
36. The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
37. Consider Phlebas, Iain M. Banks
38. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
39. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card - read; review
40. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline - review
41. Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton
42. Neuromancer, William Gibson
43. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
44. The Road, Cormac McCarthy - own on Kindle
45. Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan
46. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
47. The Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi; mini-review
48. House of Suns, Alastair Reynolds
49. Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds
50. Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
51. The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
52. Old Man's War, John Scalzi; mini-review 
53. Hyperion, Dan Simmons
54. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
55. Mockingbird, Walter Tevis


Young adult sci-fi

56. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
57. The Maze Runner, James Dashner - own on Kindle
58. Cinder, Marissa Meyer - own on Kindle
59. The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
60. All Our Yesterdays, Kristin Terrill


Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Moonstone readalong: half way there

Let me begin by telling you how difficult it was to stop reading this book once I was half way through. But no doubt, you know it for yourself, if you have read, or are reading, The Moonstone.
Wilkie at work - maybe he is working
on The Moonstone?
It is time for the half-monthly recap of our readalong. If you haven't read this book, and intend to (and really, there is no reason you shouldn't want because it is nothing short of fantastic), then beware of some possible spoilers in this post.
Let us just take a moment to admire this wide range of extraordinary characters that Wilkie brings us in this book: Gabriel Betteredge, Drusilla Clack, Detective Cuff (loved his heated arguments with the gardener over growing of the roses), the whole Ablewhites' bunch, Rachel Verinder, Rosanna Spearman... Blake and Bruff are a bit lifeless compared to this other lot and benefit a lot from the narrator's generousity. Betteredge humorously describes Blake as a man with several different personalities because he has spent time abroad, in different countries - sometimes the German punctuality overtakes him, other times more Italian traits -

He had his French side, and his German side, and his Italian side - the original English foundation showing through, every now and then, [...]

What do you say, when our county member, growing hot, at cheese and salad time, about the spread of democracy in England, burst out as follows: "If we once lose our ancient safeguards, Mr. Blake, I beg to ask you, what have we got left?" - what do you say to Mr. Franklin answering, from the Italian point of view: "We have got three things left, sir - Love, Music, and Salad?"
All's well as long as you have Love, Music and Salad left, I think (also, there's another idea for a cool Wilkie T-shirt).
The Moonstone starts with the narrative of Gabriel Betteredge, who I think we all agree is a cuddle-worthy hilarious sexist old man (he really doesn't like women all that much, does he, except for Verinders - the paragraphs in the beginning where he describes his wife always being "on his way", like on the stairs - he wanted to go up, she wanted to go down; when she wanted to go down, he wanted to go up), and honestly, you really don't want his narrative to end, only until you get to the next part, the superstar of this book so far, for me - Drusilla Clack.

Betteredge, Cuff and gardener
discussing the fine art of growing
Now here's a character that would make you pull out your hair if she happened to appear in the same room with you in "the real life", but let's admit, as a book character, she is fantastic. No one really likes her and you can easily see why; at the same time one kind of wants to sympathise with her because she seems to think she is doing The Right Thing. Of course, the whole affair ends in hilarious martyrdom from Clack's side. And she knows it - after eavesdropping on conversation that is not meant for her ears -
To show myself, after what I had heard, was impossible. To retreat - except into the fireplace - was equally out of the question. A martyrdom was before me.

Drusilla seems to think of herself as some kind of a deeply pious superhero - basically she has a religious remedy to solve any problem -
A mental problem was involved here. I am deeply interested in mental problems - and I am not, it is thought, without some skill in solving them.
Drusilla's solution to mankind's problems (which includes littering other people's homes with lots of pamphlets with certain contents) does not meet warm welcome from... well, almost anyone. For example, Mr. Ablewhite:
His wife was the next person whom he addressed. "Who... who... who," he said, stammering with rage, "who asked this impudent fanatic into the house? Did you?"
The last of the narratives I read was this of Mr. Bruff, the attorney; it was a lot more matter-of-fact, and basically just a big info-dump, but I needed to catch my breath anyway after that bumpy ride with Drusilla.
Next narrator is Franklin Blake and I really don't have highest hopes for him - after all, what can you possibly come up with after Betteredge and Clack? - but I want to see where the story goes and what happened to the big-ass diamond, and also what happens to Rachel Verinder, who is an interesting character but who I would not want to be my BFF.
I'll finish this ramble off with a few covers I found - apparently there is a comic book based on the story, how wonderful is that? But yeah, those covers just look amusing in any case.


Friday, November 15, 2013

C_Club #11: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

I read this book in May. May! That's eons ago! So granted, I don't remember details in the most vivid manner anymore, but I will ramble about my experience with this book in general.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is definitely one of those books that divides people. There are those who offer praise - the text! brilliantly written! the ideas! magical realism!; and then there are those, who don't quite share the enthusiasm - what was that? there is no plot! I didn't understand a thing! magical realism!
In fact, this book even managed to divide me. 16-year old me belonged to the second group, more mature me to the first.
Why did I even read this book at such age? I don't recall it being something for school; however, my Estonian and literature teacher (who was basically my rock star) raved about this (she was/is a very expressive/emotional lady and leaned strongly towards books outside the box of realism, as I recall) and I just had to read it. Here is small selection of thoughts and emotions I had when I closed the book afterwards:
* What was that?
* Where is the plot?
* Why do all characters have the same name? (Does author think he is being funny or?)
* Why was this one lady eating soil?
* One cannot really levitate, right?
* Butterflies???
* I didn't understand a thing! Am I too stupid for this book?
The diversity of names in One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Image from here.
One Hundred Years of Solitute taught me a few things:

1. The books that made you go WTF in (high)school are worth a re-read later in life.
2. The plot (or the lack of it) has no significance if the book is written very beautifully and there is a general message behind the seemingly incoherent rambling.
You guys, after the re-read, I knew exactly what this book was about (for me, anyway), and that Marquez wasn't trying to trick the readers (thehe). I understood that many characters shared the same name because that is how life is - in the larger scale, we are all the same, little containers of breath on this planet where everything goes in cycles, in spiral. Things that have already happened - small things that are at the same time very big things, like birth and death, happen again and again. It's a cycle and so is this book - it's a celebration and condemnation of human life, with all its perfections and flaws.
I'm with ya there, Fry.
I have seen people commenting that one of the things putting them off is part of the narrative that they consider pedophiliac - one of the Aurelianos falls in love with girl Remedios - and I don't get it. It's like not reading Lolita because of the theme it covers, and missing out on some wonderful writing. I wouldn't even call Aureliano's love that inappropriate because despite of confessing his feelings, he never tries anything, he states from the beginning that he will wait until Remedios is adult. Pedophilia is disgusting and awful, but just because this book touches this topic (very subtly and shortly, I must add - I do hope no-one gets discouraged by me bringing it up) does not mean that the author, through story, approves such behaviour.
There is also another aspect regarding this book, which was so awesome, but I can't even begin hinting what it is or in relation to what, because that would be kind of spoiling; however, I think those who have read it can probably guess what I mean.
I read this book in Estonian, just because I had a copy on my shelf, and here's something you can't say very often - the translation was superb. Absolutely enjoyable. I have no idea how this book would be in English, for example, but I am kind of happy I got to read this wonderful version in my own mother tongue.