Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Snippets #11

Hellooo lovely people of the Internetz. I am here to talk about the week that has passed (almost, anyway). The weather has really caught up and it's proper cold and crispy now - I've worn mittens, yes I have.
It has been a nice and peaceful week, the usuals (work, Finnish class) plus getting outside quite a bit. I think the main focus this week was on food. I had been falling off my Paleo-train for a while now and became really frustrated not eating properly anymore, not to mention feeling constantly fatigued and out of energy because I had turned back to fast and crappy carbs (which, for me personally, just don't work). Sooo I decided to grab the reins and get back proper on the Paleo-train and that I have done, and maaan, the difference it makes what you put in your mouth! So much energy.
I made a really nice recipe discovery as well, I had been looking for a really good cauliflower soup recipe and tried some, but hadn't really felt that neither of recipes I tried would make it to my "to make at least once a month" list, until I tried this recipe - Paleo cauliflower soup with crispy bacon. I love Irena's site in general and have tried quite a few of her recipes. But this soup. Just so good. There's something about soups in autumn time and I could eat them like every other evening, probably.
I've read a lot of books this month in general (it must be my highest quantity month yet), but I don't want to start counting until the monthly recap. Last weekend I finished "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera, which was re-read and is now strongly competing against Atkinson's "Life After Life" in the category of "The Best Book of the Year So Far", after which I picked up "Ship of Magic" by Robin Hobb, and since it is a HUGE book (900 pages), I've only made it to half so far. That plus the fact that I've been a bit out of concentration to read in general this week. But it's so good! I would recommend Robin Hobb to anyone who maybe haven't read that much fantasy but wants to try, her books are so immersive, have simple enough language and number of main-ish characters usually does not form a small army (like it often happens with high fantasy).
Haven't watched much anything, except we did watch the first Harry Potter movie last weekend. Surprise surprise, the boyfriend is really enjoying the books :)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Moonstone Readalong in November

Ellie is organising a Wilkie Collins readalong - we will be reading The Moonstone in November. Who doesn't love Wilkie! I read The Woman in White earlier this year and was thoroughly impressed/entertained (click here to read my gushing review).

Here's Ellie's post containing all kinds of information and tidbits you need to know about the event. 'Cos seriously, what can be better than reading Wilkie Collins in November? Only if you can read with other like-minded enthusiasts and rave over the novel while reading, I'd say :)

Twitter hashtag is #readWilkie

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top Ten Books I Want to Read This Autumn

So my participation in Top Ten Tuesday is very random, depending on the appeal of the topic, and this time the topic is pretty appealing (mainly because I love autumn and I love lists), so I decided to do it. The meme is hosted by folks at The Broke and the Bookish, go check 'em out for more information.
It was easy to make this list because I am kind of hoping to get a lot of reading done this autumn, and I am already on a good path thanks to RIP VIII event. There is also the 24-hour readathon coming in October, so the reading scene looks pretty shiny indeed.
All the books are from my already existing shelves, 'cos that's how I roll (I really like to prioritise the books I already own, which is why I also find these lists and events very helpful).
1. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James -  short, spooky and classic.
2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera - I failed to re-read this during the reading slump I had in summer, and actually this is autumn book instead anyway.
3. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - I mentally added this to RIP VIII list because it's appropriate and there's a readalong coming in October, and also it's a small book.
4. Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb - I actually read a bit of this one recently at the point when I was between the books, and it was really good! Ships that are alive? Crazy. But potentially awesome.
5. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde - I loooove Fforde's Thursday Next books and after having seen a few good things about this book, I just decided to check it out. Curious to see how Fforde writes other things!
6. Dracula by Bram Stoker - it's going to be the Halloween read.
7. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (currently reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) - so yes, this is bad, but I have never read those books. I just finished the first one last night. When I saw the news of the 15th anniversary edition covers in spring, I decided to get the series in autumn because I really love these covers. So I now own the first three books and will get the rest as well.
8. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - just because I want to read it.
9. NW by Zadie Smith - I still have a few Women's Prize books on my shelf, and I want to get done with the shortlist by the end of this year. (Shortlist minus Hilary Mantel's book that is since I just couldn't get into Wolf Hall, at all...)
10. Bullerby lapsed (Barnen i Bullerbyn, The Children of Noisy Village) by Astrid Lindgren - this is the star book of my childhood, probably. Well I had piles of favourites, but the very favourite must come from among Lindgren books, and it's probably this one. And I want to read it again (I think the number of my re-reads of this book must be over 30 by now).
Let's break it down:
* 5 Classics Club books
* 3 RIP VIII books
* 3 fantasy books (yay!)
* 1 Women's Prize book
* 1 children's book

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Snippets #10

Ugh, what a week. Long story short - I read a lot, Finnish classes started again, we took a hike to wonderfully beautiful forest and I got engaged.
The Finnish classes are three hours on Monday evenings. The level of this particular course might be a bit too high, but hey, better too high than too low. I took classes last year and really need to start pushing myself more.
I finished two more books this week, Gardens of the Moon and The Universe Versus Alex Woods. Wonderful reads! I have the feeling that I've been picking really good reads lately. This means I've already finished five books this month, which is a HUGE PILE considering my average is six books a month.
Yesterday we went to a nature park near Helsinki (20 minutes by train, 25 by bus, 2 km on foot), it's got different length hiking tracks - we took the 4 km one. But it's not like walking on flat asphalt, it's full of tree roots and rocks and hills, so it took us quite a while to cover the distance. But it was so pretty there and the smell of autumn and and...! I'll add some photos.
Also, the boyfriend gave me a very pretty ring and now we are engaged. It was a very sweet moment and took place in a very pretty place.
So that's it for this week, I hope my reading kick continues for the week to come. I'm saving the majority of RIP books for October, so for now I'm just taking quite randomly books from my shelf.
Have a nice week, everyone!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Bled dry by interminable warfare, fighting and bloody confrontations with Lord Anomander Rake, the Malazan empire simmers with discontent. Its legions yearn for some respite.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners, and Tattersail, surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the dead. But Empress Laseen's gaze has fallen upon Darujhistan. For this ancient citadel, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, still holds out against her.
However, the empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand...
(From the back of the book.)
This is a book that has been idling on my bookshelf for years. I tried reading it about four times before this time, and I just didn't get into it. The best I did was the last attempt, when I made it near some 400 pages, and then stopped (the book is about 700 pages). Who attempts a book for four times and still doesn't give up? Me, apparently. Thing is, I knew I would like this book, if I only ever found a way to finish it. Timing is so important, and now I felt that the time had come.
Gardens of the Moon is high fantasy. It includes characters with supernatural powers (sorcerers, mages, healers, seers) but also some ancient and fantastical creatures. Given the multitude of different creatures included, you get the idea that the world in which these books (10 books in the series) are set in is huge.
The book starts with the bang, and Erikson never gets into excessive "I'll explain some things now" sessions. In fact, the reader is pretty much left on his own, oftentimes scratching head while trying to figure out all the motives and connections between the characters and events that take place.
It is dark and gritty (hence I chose to read it for RIP VIII), but not expressed in that kind of graphic manner as, for example, George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire world. The darkness and the grittiness is more subtle in this book and you rather feel it than see it in front of your eyes. Heads do get chopped off and souls get taken, bellies do get stabbed.
Due to the myriad of characters included, there are no few central characters that are everywhere and all the time, but regardless of that, the character developments are nicely done. There were a few that were very intriguing and definitely hiding a lot more than seen in the first glance.
The Free City of Darujhistan, where a ot of the events of the first book take place.
Picture from here.

Even though I immensely enjoyed Gardens of the Moon, it is not the kind of book I would recommend light handedly. It is definitely not a book for someone taking the first steps in the world of high fantasy - George R. R. Martin and Robin Hobb, to name a few examples, would be better, more accessible choices. If reader has background in role-playing games, it makes entering the Erikson's world a lot easier. In fact, the whole idea of the Malazan book series was born from a role-playing game. I have been a gamer for a long time (yes, nerd alert :p) and I could definitely recognise the game-ish elements in this book. Also, if you think that there are waayyy too many characters in A Song of Ice and Fire series, this might not prove to be a good book choice for you. 
But people who want to challenge themselves and find it rewarding to make effort for a book, this might be a suitable story to attempt.
Erikson says in the preface:
These are not lazy books. You can't float through, you just can't.
He also says that readers will either hate or love his books and I think I can agree. I'll try a few more books from this series and then decide which camp I belong to.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus suffered from a weird reverse-hype syndrome for me. That goes something like this:
1. Oo, I have just registered that this book is out with awesome premise and magic and stuff; I want to read it.
2. Wait a minute, this book of magic and stuff is getting awful lot of hype, so it possibly can't be very good.
You'd think you'd come to conclusion that if many people really like a book, it must be good, right? Or at least that's what the logic says; past experiences have, of course, shown that hyped books are pretty much two-edged blades.
Anyway, I must confess, the amount of hype is what made me postpone The Night Circus for about 9 months, since I actually had the book on my shelf since the beginning of the year. So I was glad when RIP VIII came along and I had excuse to finally tackle Erin Morgenstern's debut novel.
I'm not going to add a synopsis because it's known and easily accessible. Let's just say there is a magical circus that appears and disappears however and whenever it pleases, and there are lots of mysteries surrounding it and people involved.
My biggest problem with this book was definitely the characters. They just felt a bit shallow. I felt I wanted to know more about them. The two main characters, Celia and Marco, were the blandest ones for me. They seemed to be used just like tools in actions, and I didn't buy the romance at all. Some of the side characters were a lot more interesting and intriguing (Isobel, the twins).
At times I even felt like the circus itself was the main character of this book, and everyone around it just props - in a way, that approach works for the benefit of the book.
That being said, I did give The Night Circus a rather generous rating because it did what I expected it to do, and namely transfer me to a different world. Morgenstern's strengths lie in descriptions and atmosphere creation, and these were truly wonderfully done. When the book moved from dialogue to the streets or into the circus, I was gulping it down. The language is so simple and so accessible, but at the same time so magical.
I think it is a good attempt for a debut novel and I'll be curious to see what Morgenstern decides to write next.
What other people thought of The Night Circus:
Book review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern by Melissa at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Picture from here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Snippets #9

Okay, this time's Sunday Snippets will be mega short because 1) nothing remarkable happened for the whole week (I was kinda sick-ish) and 2) I am SO HOOKED to the book I am reading right now that I just want to, you know, read.
However, it's worth noting that this being only 8th date of the month, I have already managed to finish off three books - The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern), The Well of Lost Plots (Jasper Fforde) and Villette (Charlotte Brontë). Villette is one of those books I had started in June and then stopped reading, so I'm slowly starting to sort these out too. I've also read more than 1/3 of the Sherlock Holmes stories I planned for the RIP event and am about 3/4 through Gardens of the Moon, which is ironic and when I write about this book, it will feature a funny story, and some things to learn from (let's just say this is about 5th time I attempt to start this book - last time I made it to 300-ish pages). Anyway, right now I'm hooked, and it's going mighty fast for a 700-page brick (that being said, the series has like 10 books and the next one is about a 1000 pages so fun times ahead).
In other news, Mammu the cat is feeling a lot better (she still gets medicine three times a day) and my Finnish classes start again as of tomorrow.
Buut now I really need to get back to my book. Have a nice week, everyone!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mini-reviews #2

Basically my whole summer has been a big blogging slump (in addition to reading slump that I suffered from in the beginning of the summer), so to start from kind of a clean sheet in the beginning of autumn, I'm going to simply mark down all the books I read in summer but did not write about (except for Classics Club ones, since I want to talk about them longer).
Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde - there is nothing I did not love about this book, except that I only managed to find a copy with this horrible cover. Covers by Hodder are wonderful and I managed to find four other books out of the first five with these covers (although I had to order them from different sources), but not the second one. Bummer. It's always going to stare at me from the bookshelf yelling "I'M THIS DIFFERENT COVER AND IT'S EVEN MORE ANNOYING 'COS I'M AWESOME AND YOU KNOW THAT".
Anyway, the wonderfully literary-witty-hilarious adventurers of Thursday Next continue in this sequel, which I maybe liked even a tiny bit more than book number one.
5/5 on Goodreads.
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin - a well-crafted and -flowing book on a sensitive subject of intersex people. Multiple POVs were well done, characters were able to draw my sympathy, there was no sugar-coating and many events happening in the book felt very life-like, instead of fairytale-ish.
Despite its very accessible writing, the book has potential to make you ponder over all kinds of deep and existentialist matters, such as staying true to yourself (trust me, in the light of the subject discussed in the book, it doesn't come off as cheesy as it may sound).
4/5 on Goodreads.
May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes - how can I even begin to think anything remotely objective about this book, having read it after it became announced as winner of this year's Women's Prize? It was a very different book and it made me curious about the author's other works (apparently she has quite a lot of published texts out!) This was not your smoothly following narrative, no; this book was dry, and snarky, and sarcastic; it dared to make fun of its own heros and the world in general. I can't remember a single descriptive scene from May We Be Forgiven! And that is exactly what I appreciated about this book. Although it did not sway my (undying?) love for Life After Life, I gave May We Be Forgiven a solid
4/5 on Goodreads.
You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld - I won this book full of intelligently funny comic strips from a giveaway, which was perfect since I had almost bought it myself once, earlier. (So I was going to buy it if I didn't win it.) If you haven't visited Tom Gauld's Tumblr page, do your literary slash geeky self a favour and do it - although I did not get all the jokes (which unfortunately lowered my rating because even though it may be my own lacking level of intelligence that stops me from getting references, I think a good comic should attempt to apply very wide audiences), this book and Tom Gauld's works are hilarious. (Oh and did I mention literary? And nerdy? Yes.) And the drawing style is just adorable. 
I hope I'm not violating copyright, but here's a strip from Gauld's site that I linked above, the one that inspired the title of the book, and is poignant, and so hilarious:
4/5 on Goodreads.

Matk naeratuse eest by Adam Bahdaj, Agu Sihvka annab aru by Jaan Rannap and Roostevaba mõõk by Eno Raud - the middle-garde reads that my young self enjoyed (all are re-reads, obviously; some even multiple re-reads). First two books are outright funny - these guys know how to write hilarious characters. The third one is more of adventurery type, focusing on comeraderie and moral values. How can you even begin to give rating to the books that shaped part or your childhood? (And so many books did that for me, and I am willing to give 5/5 to them all, without a blink of an eye.)
5/5, 5/5 and 4/5, respectively.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Closing the lid of August

From last autumn.
It's AUTUMN! I am beyond pleased, because as for many, autumn is my absolute favourite season. Summer is actually my least favourite season, so I am double pleased that it is over.
How did it go on reading front? I was mega relaxed in my reading, even though I had (and still have for one more day) three weeks off from work. I used to think of myself as a fairly fast reader, but I'm thinking I might have to adjust that mindset - it took me 8 days to get through A Prayer for Owen Meany, and it's not like it's a bad book or anything! Maybe I'm just a slower kind of reader, afterall.
Let's get down to numbers. The books I read in August:
* J. Fforde "Lost In a Good Book"
* J. Austen "Mansfield Park" - Classics Club; Austen in August

* A. Bahdaj "Matk naeratuse eest" ("Podróz za jeden uśmiech")
* J. Rannap "Agu Sihvka annab aru"
* E. Raud "Roostevaba mõõk"
* J. Irving "A Prayer for Owen Meany"
399+439+214+106+159+637= 1943
Page count ain't actually too shabby, I used to be around 2000 pages a month in the beginning of the year, so I think I'm getting the mojo back.
The three books in funny languages (Polish, Estonian, Estonian) are children's books (actually I think they are more like middle grade) and I brought them to Finland from my childhood home. They have been ridiculously comforting comfort reads this month. I'll do mini reviews on the books I've read in summer (except for Mansfield Park) next week.
From last autumn.
So we had Austen in August event, which was successful for me since I only set one goal (read Mansfield Park) and I managed to meet it.
September and October will be ridiculously exciting because of RIP VIII reading event. I already started The Night Circus, mostly because I finished A Prayer for Owen Meany on 30th and I knew I wasn't going to finish another book in 1.5 days, so I figured I'll just start with the RIP stack. And, I did have a lot of reservations about this book, but has it managed to grab my attention! I bought it back in January and am glad I finally got the proper push to read it. So far, RIP has started very successfully for me. Next up, I think, will be at least a few Sherlock Holmes stories, and then I'll probably move on to Henry James.