Tag Archives: Leo Tolstoy

Books in February ’14

This month’s reading consisted pretty much entirely of required reading. Not that I did not enjoy myself; as you will see I’m rather enthusiastic about a couple of the books!

 

Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca

‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…’

Ancient, beautiful Manderley, between the rose garden and the sea, is the county’s showpiece. Rebecca made it so – even a year after her death, Rebecca’s influence still rules there. How can Mxim de Winter’s shy new bride ever fill her place or escape her vital shadow?

A shadow that grows longer and darker as the brief summer fades, until, in a moment of climactic revelations, it threatens to eclipse Manderley and its inhabitants completely…

Daphne du Maurier’s masterpiece weaves a special magic that no-one who reads it will ever forget.

(Back cover of Arrow 1992 paperback)

Oh wow. I really enjoyed this book. What amazes me most is how consistently I liked it all the way through, despite the annoyance and frustration the main character stirred in me. And there was even a plot twist I didn’t see coming! I highly recommend this; it’s gothic suspense with a dash of romance if you feel inclined to see it – and I hasten to add that I didn’t really much see it – and very engaging after the couple first chapters. I thought it was going to be a chore to read, as this was assigned reading for the romance novel exam I’m taking in a few days, but I ended up devouring it.

Published: 1938

Pages: 397

 

Helen Fielding: The Bridget Jones Omnibus – The Singleton Years

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Bridget Jones’ Diary is the devastatingly self-aware, laugh-out-loud daily chronicle of Bridget’s permanent, doomed quest for self-improvement — a year in which she resolves to: reduce the circumference of each thigh by 1.5 inches, visit the gym three times a week not just to buy a sandwich, form a functional relationship with a responsible adult, and learn to program the VCR.

Over the course of the year, Bridget loses a total of 72 pounds but gains a total of 74. She remains, however, optimistic. Through it all, Bridget will have you helpless with laughter, and — like millions of readers the world round — you’ll find yourself shouting, “Bridget Jones is me!”

The Edge of Reason

The Wilderness Years are over! But not for long. At the end of Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget hiccuped off into the sunset with man-of-her-dreams Mark Darcy. Now, in The Edge of Reason, she discovers what it is like when you have the man of your dreams actually in your flat and he hasn’t done the washing-up, not just the whole of this week, but ever.

Lurching through a morass of self-help-book theories and mad advice from Jude and Shazzer, struggling with a boyfriend-stealing ex-friend with thighs like a baby giraffe, an 8ft hole in the living-room wall, a mother obsessed with boiled-egg peelers, and a builder obsessed with large reservoir fish, Bridget embarks on a spiritual epiphany, which takes her from the cappuccino queues of Notting Hill to the palm- and magic-mushroom-kissed shores of …

Bridget is back. V.g.

(Goodreads)

Yet more reading for the romance exam! This omnibus, as may probably be inferred, contains the two first Bridget Jones novel, Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Edge of Reason – as many may know, a third one came out last fall.

I’ve seen the movies countless times and really enjoy them, and so when I finally had a no-options excuse to read the books, I jumped at it. It has been truly enjoyable: I find Bridget easy to relate to (as who hasn’t been on a diet, or worried about relationships, or made resolutions that go forgotten the next day?) and felt Fielding catches very well the essence of what it is like to be a woman. I also find Bridget less silly and ignorant than she is portrayed in the films; she may not know geography or politics, but she references culture aptly and easily, which appealed to me very much.

A fun thing is also that Bridget’s way of writing her diary is very catchy, and I found myself imitating her style unconsciously for about a week after I’d finished reading.

These books are absolutely good fun, so if you’re in need of something light and easy to read yet relatable, it’s a good option. And I don’t mean just relatable to women, despite what I said of thinking it a very good insight into a woman’s world; my father, the creature who thinks anything I enjoy is, by default, silly and useless, enjoyed this book. He recommended it to me when I once mentioned I might like to read it. So it’s not just women who get it.

Published: 1996/1999

Pages: 310/422

 

Pamela Regis: A Natural History of the Romance Novel

The romance novel has the strange distinction of being the most popular but least respected of literary genres. While it remains consistently dominant in bookstores and on best-seller lists, it is also widely dismissed by the critical community. Scholars have alleged that romance novels help create subservient readers, who are largely women, by confining heroines to stories that ignore issues other than love and marriage.

Pamela Regis argues that such critical studies fail to take into consideration the personal choice of readers, offer any definition of the romance novel, or discuss the nature and scope of the genre. Presenting the counterclaim that the romance novel does not enslave women but, on the contrary, is about celebrating freedom and joy, Regis offers a definition that provides critics with an expanded vocabulary for discussing a genre that is both classic and contemporary, sexy and entertaining.

Pamela Regis is Professor of English at McDaniel College and the author of Describing Early America: Bartram, Jefferson, Crévecoeur, and the Influence of Natural History, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

(Back cover of the University of Pennsylvania Press paperback 2007)

There is no contest: Regis’s book is without a doubt the most quoted study on romance novels, certainly since its first appearance in 2003. I have probably mentioned the book before, as I think highly of it and find that it contains interesting and important information about the romance genre. If you are interested in the subject, this book is an absolute must-read. It is well written, clear, and explores the genre at length, although towards the end (and the year of its publishing) the analysis becomes slightly more difficult to find in the description and discussion of the newer novels.

I adore it, and have just recently acquired my own copy – I got sick of getting it from the library as I often feel the need to quote it in one conversation or another.

Published: 2003

Pages: 207

 

Margaret Atwood: Lady Oracle

Joan Foster is a secret writer of Gothic romances. When her outrageously feminist book, Lady Oracle, becomes a bestseller, everything in her life changes.

To escape her deteriorating marriage, her affair with an artist, and the criminal urges of a fan, Joan embarks on an act that is at once her most daring and creative: she fakes her own death and begins a new life.

With a much-needed respite from her life, Joan Foster begins to examine it – in this compelling, ironic, and touching novel by Margaret Atwood, one of today’s most acclaimed authors.

(Back cover of Fawcett Books 1990 paperback)

And another exam book. I must say I find the back cover description slightly misleading – the book starts much less dramatically. This, like Rebecca, I started to buy into very early on, and could relate to the main character Joan even more than I did to Bridget Jones; Bridget resonates on a more general level, Joan on a personal one. This is also the first book by Atwood I have read, and I really liked it. She is clearly very in control of her craft, as the bits of Joan’s Gothic romances seem to me perfectly genre-appropriate, yet her general style is nowhere close to that style of writing. There is a faint element of the occult, which I did not care for, although I’m certain if I think about it more I’ll see a clearer connection between the Gothics Joan writes and the novel itself.

Published: 1976

Pages: 380

 

Nora Roberts: Sea Swept

After years of fast living and reckless excitement, Cameron Quinn is called home to help care for his adopted brother Seth, a troubled young boy not unlike Cameron once was. Dark, brooding and fiercely independent, Cameron finds his life changes overnight as he has to learn to live with his brothers again.

Old rivalries and new resentments flare between the passionate Quinn boys as they try to set aside their differences. But when Seth’s fate falls into the hands of Anna, a tough but beautiful social worker, the tide starts to turn. She alone has the power to bring the Quinns together – or tear them apart…

(Back cover of Piatkus 2010 paperback)

This novel is the first one in the Chesapeake Bay Quartet, and is the first contemporary American romance novel I remember ever reading. Regis discussed the whole series in A Natural History of the Romance Novel, and I got intrigued.

Again, the back cover leads you slightly astray. It seems to imply a relationship drama involving Anna and all the three grown-up Quinn brothers, something that does not happen; from the start, this is clearly the story of the courtship of Anna and Cameron.

Anyway. It took some getting used to the idea of a contemporary setting after all the Regencies I’ve read, but not as much as he cultural difference between the UK and the US. The language tripped me up and made me pause from time to time, although naturally less and less the more I read. The romance itself is nice, and the mix of family relationships and business with the romance worked very well. Roberts is clearly a good writer, and the prose flows effortlessly. My only qualm is the fact that, as a part of a series, even though the courtship plot is completed, there are so many loose ends left hanging that it annoys me. I may read the second part in the series, but we will see. In any case, it has been a good exercise in broadening my reading habits a tiny bit and getting out of my absolute comfort zone (i.e. Regency) when it comes to romance novels.

Published: 1998

Pages: 359

 

Leo Tolstoy: What Is Art?

Read for an exam in Comparative Literature: we got to choose a classic of literary criticism, and I went with Tolstoy for two reasons. One, because I like his writing. Two, because I knew this one includes a rant about how horrible and not artistic Wagner’s operas are. No one resents like Tolstoy!

I recommend this one, if only for the amusement factor. The first third is a bit of slow going as he goes through pretty much every book and essay written on the subject of aesthetics, but once his gets going with his own thoughts and examples it gets interesting. Note also that the first appendix is titled, ‘More bad poetry’. I dare you not to be fond or at least amused by this grumpy Russian.

Published: 1898 (original title Tshto takoje iskusstvo)

Translation: Mitä on taide? By Martti Anhava 2000

Pages: 277

 

Currently reading:

Emma by Jane Austen
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

I meant to be finished with Emma by today, but after reading compulsively all month I’ve found it hard to concentrate in the last couple of days. I’m starting to pick up pace again, however, and hope to be done with both Currently Readings by the end of next week. You know, just in time for Text Analysis II, which includes reading a novel a week and writing essays of them…

Anyway. Onwards to March! I’ve got an essay to co-write, two exams to take, and lecture journals to write!

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Movie Review: Anna Karenina

Image

So I finally saw this movie. I’ve been waiting for it. I like novel adaptations, but I also like to read them before seeing them, which is why I didn’t see the latest Wuthering Heights. With this, I went to the trouble of the book – rather excellent, by the way – and so went to see the film right when it came out.

The word that kept repeating itself in my head throughout the movie was, “Ridiculous.”

Joe Wright is a decent director, I suppose, but I would keep him away from the great classics of literature, particularly if he insists casting Keira Knightley. Atonement was a good film, I even liked it better than the book and Knightley was good, but nope, she’s just not what a period drama needs. Someone will accuse me of being shallow now, but Knightley is hardly what an ideal woman in the 19th century looked like. And those mid-1800s dresses do require breasts to look their best. I’m sorry if I sound harsh, I don’t like to be, but that really bothers me.

But back to the film itself. It’s in the line of recent movies that lack deep feeling: the new Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and The Duchess (for the most part but not as bad as the other two) are brought to mind. Maybe it’s the filmmakers themselves to prefer it, or maybe it’s what they expect the audience to enjoy, I don’t know. Personally, I would like to see more soul-wrenching emotion. (You know the 2006 mini series of Jane Eyre? Watch Ruth Wilson deliver Jane’s response to the proposal. I’m always impressed by it.) A story like Anna Karenina gives the actors the chance to portray intense emotion, and I didn’t see it here.

The movie is much dominated – more heavily at the beginning – by a theatre motif. Things happen as if in a stage set, which took me by surprise and, quite frankly, almost put me off the whole film. I’ve tried to piece together a reason for this strong motif, but as of yet have very little that would be backed up by textual evidence. Another recurring thing was the moving train and its wheels, which keeps appearing from time to time, as if it were chasing Anna. The ball scene would also be an interesting one to analyze, although I was much distracted by the weird waltz that was the first trigger for “ridiculous”.  I will probably end up buying the DVD and watching the movie again, just to be able to analyze it and rid myself of this annoying feeling of not understanding the theatre motif. If someone has seen the film and has thoughts, please share! I’m open to theories!

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complete disaster. The theatre business is rather pleasant particularly at the beginning, where the tone is still light and airy. There are great roles played: I don’t usually care much for Matthew Mcfadyen, but his Stiva was excellent. Ruth Wilson, Michelle Dockery, and Shirley Henderson were charming in their own parts and I took great delight in seeing them. I must also applaud Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander for their roles as Levin and Kitty, because they actually had me in tears. This leaves me, more or less, with the leading males, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnsson, who both did sound work. Jude Law’s Karenin was the only character I would have liked to show a little less emotion, though.

Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson as Kitty and Levin – my favourite couple!

The film also gets points for including two scenes I particularly enjoyed in the book: Levin making hay with the peasants (much less impressive in the film but included nonetheless), the horse race (obscurely situated in a theatre, perhaps because Anna’s behaviour there is under inquisitive eyes – I really must look into this thing), and Levin seeing Kitty again after a long separation (again, much better in the book but very beautiful in the film).

The ladies are judging you!

Although I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I would have liked to, this was an interesting cinema experience. If you’re going to go see it, don’t expect your usual period costume drama. It’s simply not constructed that way. Try to enjoy the strangeness of it – but I do recommend the book much more than I’d recommend the film.

Anna Karenina (2012)

Diretor: Joe Wright

Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnsson, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Kelly Macdonald

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Books in December ’12

Hello everyone! ‘Tis time for the last monthly post of 2012. Christmas break ensured I managed to read a little more, which I thoroughly enjoyed, although I didn’t repeat last years all-night reading sessions. It makes me wonder whether I’m slowly starting to get old, but I keep telling myself it’s because I have to keep some sort of respectable sleep cycle going on, since I start research for my candidate’s essay pretty much as soon as the year turns. You’ll be hearing more about that later.

There is one thing I’ve neglected to do. Felix nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blog Award at the beginning of the month, and I even wrote the post, but never got around to finishing it, let alone publishing it. I will try my best to get it done during January! Thank you, Felix! ❤

And so on to business!

Sgt Dan Mills: Sniper One

Iraq, 2004. Sgt. Dan Mills and the rest of the 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, were supposed to be winning hearts and minds. They were soon fighting for their lives…

Within hours of the battalion’s arrival in Iraq, a grenade bounced off one of their Land Rovers, rolled underneath, and detonated. The ambush marked the beginning of a full-scale firefight during which Mills killed a man with a round that removed his assailant’s head.

The mission had already gone from bad to worse. Throat-burning winds, blast bombs, and militias armed with AKs, RPGs, and a limitless supply of mortar rounds were the icing on the cake for Mills and his men. For the next six months–isolated, besieged, and under constant fire–their battalion refused to give an inch. This is the “breathtaking true chronicle of their endurance, camaraderie, dark humor, and courage in the face of relentless, lethal assault.”

(Goodreads)

Holy cow.

I’m more or less ignorant of what happened or is happening in Iraq, mostly because I don’t do politics, religion or war too well. This book explained some things, and I now feel like I have an inkling. Well, at least of what went on in Al Amarah.

What I most loved about this book is the great ratio of explaining and action. It’s perfectly suited for those of us who know next to nothing about modern warfare. Mills explains clearly what snipers do, what acronyms and codes mean, how things work when you’re posted out. The initial reason I picked this book up was for research on snipers, and boy, did I learn a boatload of important things! And it was engaging, too! Learning history is easier when it’s well written and feels like a story. Trust me, you’ll find affection for all the guys introduced. (Except maybe Gilly.)

My warmest recommendations. So engaging, so interesting, so well written for a description of war. I see I need to get more into this genre. And I’m definitely get my own copy of this.

I just wish Mills had written more books.

Published: 2007 Michael Joseph

Pages: 350 (Penguin 2008)

P.L. Travers: Mary Poppins

From the moment Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane, everyday life at the Banks house is forever changed. This classic series tells the story of the world’s most beloved nanny, who brings enchantment and excitement with her everywhere she goes. Featuring the charming original cover art by Mary Shepard, these new editions are sure to delight readers of all ages.

It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house. She becomes a most unusual nanny to Jane, Michael, and the twins. Who else but Mary Poppins can slide up banisters, pull an entire armchair out of an empty carpetbag, and make a dose of medicine taste like delicious lime-juice cordial? A day with Mary Poppins is a day of magic and make-believe come to life!

(Goodreads)

I’ve listened to the Mary Poppins books on tape when I was little, and remember enjoying them very much. I suppose I did so now too – but not as much as I’d expected. I do enjoy Mary’s character: she’s so very stuffy and full of herself, and yet she has a softer side, which is seen most clearly during her Day Out with Bert.

Published: 1934

Pages: 173 (Harper Collins 2008)

Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol

One of the best-loved and most quoted stories of “the man who invented Christmas”—English writer Charles Dickens—A Christmas Carol debuted in 1843 and has touched millions of hearts since.

Cruel miser Ebeneezer Scrooge has never met a shilling he doesn’t like…and hardly a man he does. And he hates Christmas most of all. When Scrooge is visited by his old partner, Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, he learns eternal lessons of charity, kindness, and goodwill. Experience a true Victorian Christmas!

(Goodreads)

To my utter surprise, I liked this one very much. The story is so familiar from all kinds of animated versions that I find the readability remarkable. True to Dickens’s style it gets a little rambly and there were indeed bits that did not feel relevant at all – but that’s 19th century literature for you, and there’s no way around it. The book is divided into clear sections and it’s an easy read for an evening. It’s at times even creepy! If you’re bored on Christmas eve and this one happens to decorate your shelves, it’s a good one to pick up for an evening’s entertainment.

First published: 1843

Pages: 90 (Purnell Books 1980 edition)

Diana Wynne Jones: Howl’s Moving Castle

Read for the monthly favourite post, which you can read here.

Published: 1986 Methuen Children’s Books Ltd

Pages: 302 (Harper Collins 2005 edition)

 

Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina

Acclaimed by many as the world’s greatest novel, Anna Karenina provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. In it Tolstoy uses his intense imaginative insight to create some of the most memorable characters in literature. Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of Karenin and turns to Count Vronsky to fulfill her passionate nature – with tragic consequences. Levin is a reflection of Tolstoy himself, often expressing the author’s own views and convictions.

Throughout, Tolstoy points no moral, merely inviting us not to judge but to watch. As Rosemary Edmonds comments, ‘He leaves the shifting patterns of the kaleidoscope to bring home the meaning of the brooding words following the title, ‘Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.

(Goodreads)

Yet another Russian classic. The motivation behind reading this one is of course the movie, which will (finally) come to Finland in January. I’m now very excited to see it, despite it being a British instead of a Russian production. I think you can expect a review!

The book is longish, but not a hard one to handle, so don’t be intimidated by the length. There are two main storylines that we follow: the story of the eponymous Anna Karenina (please note that if the names look funny it may be because I use the Finnish spellings) and Count Vronski, and that of Konstantin Levin and Kitty Štšerbatskaja. The comparisons between these couples build the moral of the story, and I did get a feeling that Anna Karenina is very much about what a good marriage should be like and how such a thing can be achieved.  Between dramatic scenes there is some social and religious commentary, mostly on Levin’s side, and it can get tedious, but I advise to brave it.

The characters, as in War and Peace, are well rounded and relatable. Mostly I did not like Anna, particularly towards the end, but she has her good sides just like everyone else. The dysfunctions in her relationship with Vronski are wonderfully depicted, and it is made perfectly clear in what ways they misunderstand and misread each other.

Some wonderful scenes include a horse race and Levin’s day out working in the field with the non-landed people. I feel certain that these, my favourite moments, are excluded from the movie since they do little for the plot, but I have my fingers crossed for a little bit of dangerous horse racing.

First published: 1877

Translation: Eino Kalima 1975

Pages: 493+428

Cassandra Clare: City of Bones

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing — not even a smear of blood — to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

(Goodreads)

There are two reasons why I picked this book up. The first is that I felt I should see what a fellow Potter fanficcer has been up to. The second, the film adaptation that is coming out soon-ish.

I can only say it was all right. It was easy to read, although at times I lost interest and had to fight to finish a scene. The story felt fractured and all the world building messy, and the relationship drama – of which, I’m sure you know, I am very fond – did little to impress me. The only character to catch my interest was Luke, friend of Clary’s mother, and he is present for less than half of the book. There were also some elements that are clearly paralleled with Harry Potter, like Hodge and his raven, but I would not say the book is a thinly disguised fanfic like Fifty Shades of Grey, although the style was very much that of a fairly new fanficcer, which took my by surprise seeing as Clare has experience of writing.

All in all, it is a tolerable book but I can’t say whether I’ll read the sequels or not. Maybe, if I happen upon them and feel like YA. I’m going to go see the movie, however, despite how crappy the trailer looks. Watching it, I wasn’t sure it was a movie about the book I was reading…

Published: Walker Books Ltd 2007

Pages: 442

Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere

Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: neverwhere.

(back cover of Headline Review 2005 edition)

I really enjoyed this book. It was for some reason much easier to approach than American Gods, and I felt it was cleaner in outline. The characters were charming, and I grew particularly fond of Marquis de Carabas and, surprisingly, the main character Richard. There were some bits that were also used in Good Omens, but it was actually very nice, since it gave me a better idea of which parts of GO were written by Gaiman. Among other things, the assassins Mr Vandemar and Mr Croup initially reminded me a lot of the demons Hastur and Ligur, although I later also came to think of Mr Venable and Goyo in Sharp Teeth.

That is beside the point, however. What made this book particularly appealing to me is, without a doubt, London. The history of it and the places – I kept a map with both streets and tube stations at hand while reading – made the book so very delightful. I’m inspired now to read something on the history of London!

The reason I picked this book up now is that BBC’s Radio 4 is doing a recording of the book, and the cast is amazing: James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Sir Anthony Head, Benedict Cumberbatch… I believe it should be airing early 2013 and it’ll be available internationally on BBC iPlayer. I’m very much looking forward to it!

Published: 1996 BBC Books

Pages: 372 (plus introduction, different prologue, interview, reading group discussion questions) (Headline Review 2005, author’s preferred text edition)

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new–something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–” Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream. …

(Goodreads)

Once again, a book read in anticipation of the movie adaptation. This was a hard one to get into. It might be my lack of understanding of 1920’s America and its society, but it was only around halfway through that I started understanding what the significance of events was, and if the book had been longer I may have abandoned it. When the plot picks up it really picks up though, and finally we got to the kind of drama I understand – mistresses, somewhat creepy and obsessed love, death.

It remains a mystery to me as to why Gatsby is considered such a great work of American literature, but for each their own. I personally preferred Fitzgerald’s short story “Babylon Revisited” (read for class).

Published: 1925

Pages: 163 (Wordsworth Classics 1993)

There be the books read in December.

Books bought (also last month’s):

 

Beyond Heaving Bosoms I got for the candidate’s essay. It’s probably not a proper source, but it’s a lot of fun so I don’t mind owning it. I decided quite soon after reading Sniper One that I needed my own copy, and Moriarty Papers was a must-have.

Currently reading:

Moriarty by John Gardener

That’s all from me! I hope you guys have a fun time celebrating the new year! I’ll see you tomorrow with a collective post and the WOW of the year 2012!

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Summer Reading: Conclusion

Okay, so classes start today and summer reading time is over! Didn’t do too well… But you’ll see that from the list:

SUMMER READING LIST 2012

Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace

China Miéville: The City and the City

Brandon Sanderson: Alloy of Law + The Way of Kings

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations

Graham Greene: Brighton Rock

Lev Grossman: The Magicians

Brent Weeks: The Night Angel Trilogy (Way of Shadows/Shadow’s Edge/Beyond the Shadows)

Frank Abagnale: Catch Me If You Can

Robin McKinley: Sunshine

 

So, uh… yeah. I’m pretty happy with this though.

But now it’s autumn and time for new books and new adventures!

I’m off to class now. Giddy!

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Books in July ’12

Well, there goes the idea of separating romance from other books. It’ll be back, don’t worry, but this month’s post is embarrassingly short as it is and doesn’t need to be chopped up. And when I say embarrassing… In a way that’s not true, but you’ll see why. On with the show!

Brent Weeks: The Way of Shadows

I’ve been giving Weeks’s Night Angel Trilogy for years, and finally made the decision to tackle it. And I liked the first book. It was good.

However, it didn’t blow my mind. The beginning was my favourite part: we witness Azoth’s first meeting with the “wetboy” (an assassin but better, and with Talent) Durzo Blint, just before we’re familiarized with Azoth’s life as a street rat in the bad side of town. And it’s very enjoyable. We then follow along as Azoth grows up, and the main plot point reveals itself as we go on. The prose is easy to read and the chapters are short, so this is not a long read despite the amount of pages. The characters are interesting, although I had a hard time trying to remember who is who and why exactly are they important, which means I didn’t get as invested in the story as I would have liked to. Another turn-off would be the classic Chosen One business, which has never sat well with me.

I’m afraid this series will suffer the same fate as Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy did with me: I’ve read the first one and kind of liked it, but haven’t gotten around to continuing the series. It’s a pity, but not everything can please. Give it a shot! I’m pretty sure a year ago I would have loved this, and maybe I will continue next year and wonder why I didn’t get the brilliance at once. Timing is all.

Published: 2008 Orbit

Pages: 645

Georgette Heyer: The Nonesuch

Now this is a prime example of a book where absolutely nothing happens but it still keeps you reading. Brilliant. I’ve probably said it before, but let me say it again – Heyer is as close to Austen as you can get without actually reading Austen. In this book, it took some time and effort to tell apart the characters – there’s a myriad of them, and then you have to remember first names and surnames and titles – and the ending came so suddenly I was a little baffled, but other than that, a very enjoyable read. The language is just wonderful, and there were a lot of Regency insults! (My particular favourite is ‘vulgar mushroom’.)

First published: 1962 Heinemann

Pages: 297 (Arrow Books 200 edition)

Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace

You won’t believe how I proud I am of myself for having read this. Seriously. War and Peace is one of those books I’ve always thought I’ll read when I’m old and smart – and I promise you, I consider myself neither.

The most interesting thing about this book is the fact that it’s not hard. Not even remotely. It’s just long, and among the interesting stuff there are boring bits, no matter what kind of stuff you like. I was interested in the main characters and what happens in their lives, and so I found all the philosophy of history and war tedious, but you might find it the other way around. Anyway, if you want to get a nice picture of what went on in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, this is a good book to read. Tolstoy kept repeating names of people and places, so you’ll remember people like Kutuzov, Caulaincourt and Barclay de Tolly, and places like Borodino and Bagration. There are dates and very detailed descriptions of what went on, and a whole lot of Napoleon!

As I think most of my readers are fantasy oriented, there’s something I really want to raise up about this book. It’s a lot like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Seriously. Short chapters, usually following a character. Cliffhangers. You can’ be sure who dies, so beware of becoming attached. Much less scheming and virtually no incest, though, unless you count cousin/cousin. The characters are very well rounded, so you’ll end up hating the ones you initially liked and vice versa. A couple of characters mysteriously disappeared, not to be heard of again.

On Goodreads, I gave this book three stars. It’s a very nice book, and I recommend it. Not the most mind-blowing thing I’ve ever read, but decent. (And the translation I read was excellent.) The edition I had was very approachable, too – four 400-500-page volumes in total.

If you’re for some reason interested in what went on in my head during this monster of a read, you can take a look at my reading diary.

First published: 1869 (original title Война и миръ – Voyna i mir)

Translator: Esa Adrian 1975

Pages: 432+495+492+446=1865

So that’s all I managed this month. In a way it seems pathetic, since it’s only three books (actually four, but as the fourth is part of an omnibus I’m not counting it here), but on the other hand, one of them was almost 2000 pages long. I think that evens things out nicely.

Bought this month:

I may have gone a little crazy. Most of these books were really cheap, though. The Lives of English Rakes was so so so cheap I just had to get it! The one to the right of it is Master and Margarita, by the way – I’m not sure I like the translation, because it’s not the same one my brother has, but we’ll see when I get to it… sometime next year maybe. Redshirts I actually bought in June, but it didn’t arrive until July.

Currently (re)reading:

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (<3)

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Operation Classic: War and Peace – the Diary

Contains SPOILERS, some of them major, so beware!

(Well, not that major, but with this book little surprises help you along.)

July 15th 2012

Day one of diary, day five of reading. Only yesterday did I think of writing about this experience.

I’m reading a translated version (hence I write names as they are written in Finnish). It’s been split into four volumes, each 400-500 pages long, and I’m about a 100 pages into the second volume. So far it’s going nice, although the heavy battle descriptions can get tiring – my capacity can’t take all the detailed info of the location of French, Russian and Austrian troops. Seriously. And the guys on the front aren’t being very smart. Nikolai Rostov is annoying me horribly. I do, however, like Andrei Bolkonski and Boris. The women somewhat annoy me, although Anna Mihailovna is not as bad as the rest. And I resent the notion that it would seem characters named Vera tend to be somewhat prudish and mean.

One of my favourite things so far is the character Dolohov, because it’s fun to try and see how much of this character Rowling used in the Death Eater Dolohov. As there is so little known of the Potter Dolohov, I’m tempted to think of him as very similar to Tolstoy’s Dolohov.

I’m also very disappointed that Natasha didn’t accept Denisov’s proposal. I like Denisov. He’s a nice man, though admittedly a little old for Natasha.

 

July 16th 2012

I spoiled myself. I needed to check on some character names and family connections, and Wikipedia provided a list – but it was way too detailed. So now I know some upcoming pairings and reading about the characters isn’t all objective anymore. Sad face.

A thing I realised this morning while I read a couple of chapters before going to work – I like this book, damn it. Quite unexpected. These bigger classics seem to do this with me. The Finnish ones are even more unexpected than the other ones. I loved Väinö Linna’s The Unknown Soldier, and now I’m pretty certain that when I eventually get to Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian I’m going to love it.

 

July 17th 2012

Yesterday, I was talking to Kay about the book. I told her about the tragedy that is Prince Andrei’s life, and when I mentioned his wife died right after the birth of their child, she immediately asked, “Was it at least a boy?”

That hadn’t even occurred to me, although of course it should have. In historical fiction, and in factual history of course, begetting a male heir is vital. However, Tolstoy doesn’t really put any emphasis on that. None whatsoever. The only inheritance discussion is about Count Bezuhov, who has no legitimate children, only bastards. I’m not familiar with the Russian laws on this, and apparently I should do some research. Interesting issue. Thanks for pointing it out to me, Kay!

 

July 18th 2012

Just started the third volume. The second one was awesome, particularly towards the end, when the relationships started to get really tangled – and now I’m excited to see if anything more happens between Andrei and Natasha! Maria’s situation is interesting, too, and I keep hoping the French doctor whose name I can’t for the life of me remember would propose to her. Very little has been said about the doc, but I have a feeling he and Maria would suit each other. What I don’t want her to do is to leave her family and become a religious hermit or whatever they should be called.

I also made an observation while finishing the volume. The characters are just marvellous. I notice I had an opinion on everyone at the beginning, and now I think of them completely differently. Andrei annoyed the hell out of me – now I kinda like him. Natasha seemed like a vivacious, fun girl – now she bugs me SO much. (She’s seventeen at the moment, so yeah, I understand what goes on in her head and why she does the things she does, but understanding doesn’t mean liking!) What I think this shows is great crafting by Tolstoy. It’s not often that the characters really change and you sometimes love them and sometimes hate them. Beautifully done, sir!

Anatol is a sleaze. Just so you know. Ugh. I like Dolohov better. Not that he’s a good guy either.

 

July 19th 2012

Today I’ve gotten very little read though – I’m getting ready to leave for Finncon tomorrow and there’s been stuff that has needed to be done.

But that’s not relevant right now. What is relevant is that the beginning of this third volume is boring me. It’s year 1812, and Napoleon is declaring war on Russia. It’s been mostly upset royalty and officers and names and none of the actual main characters, except for Boris, and him very briefly. It’s hard to be interested, but it’ll get better again. Hopefully. I’m a little disappointed now, because the end of the second volume was so awesome. (Natasha and Andrei! What’s going to happen? Kick out the Frenchies so we can get back to them!)

 

July 24th 2012

Oh what a bit it was today! So much excitement! Anatol, Andrei, and the talk about Nikolas and Maria… Oh my. So awesome. It was a slow day at work, so I read about a hundred pages, barely containing my squees and trying not to grin like an idiot at customers. Awesome drama. Absolutely bloody marvellous.

 

July 25th 2012

Busy day at work. Hmph. Managed a couple of dozen pages, though. Finished volume three and moved on to volume four – didn’t finish the first mark on that one though. Way too tired. Ippolit made an appearance, though! I thought Tolstoy had abandoned him for good!

 

July 30th 2012

Finished! Gods, I can’t believe it! The end was so BORING! The epilogue was 150 pages, and in two parts. The first part was fun, the second one not so much – it was just Tolstoy pondering on how history should be interpreted and what can we really know and free will and leaders and power. So absolutely yawn-inducing. I’m sort of upset that we never saw Boris or Dolohov again, and that Ippolit wasn’t really there at all. But you can’t have everything, I suppose. I would have wanted Dolohov though. And Denisov and Sonja would have made a nice couple!

So there they all are. I am now glad to get back to books in English. This has been such a long stint of reading in Finnish that it almost frightens me.

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