Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Ten Books I Really Want to Read This Winter

What is this madness? The third day and the third post? I didn't plan to make a post today (I've been working on my post on 2015 TBR Challenge instead), but seeing today's topic on my blog feed I simply couldn't resist.
So here are the ten books I really want to read this winter (winter = December - March). Hopefully I can cross these all out by the beginning of March.
Edit: after I typed the list, I discovered it's pretty... gloomy? Horror, post-apocalyptic, poor starving orphans and creepy non-fiction. It was not deliberate, but I don't really mind. #holidayspirit, eh ;)

1. Endymion, Dan Simmons (science fiction) - follow up to Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion. Will be reading this one in December, I'm beyond excited.
2. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel (science fiction -> dystopia/post apocalyptic) - this one seems to be everywhere right now, and since my reading is very much not about current trends, I decided to pick a few just to catch up with all the fuss.
3. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens (classics) - Dickens feels somehow winter-appropriate. This is one of the last books I have left to complete my 2014 TBR challenge, so I better get it done.
4. Among Others, Jo Walton (fantasy) - a Hugo and Nebula winning novel, I've heard it described as something "different" - well, why not. Colour me intrigued.
5. The Road, Cormac McCarthy (science fiction -> dystopia/post apocalyptic) - The Road has been on my to- read list for a while. I haven't read any other McCarthy, though I own a nice copy of All the Pretty Horses.
6. Bird Box, Josh Malerman (horror) - also this year's release. I don't really know anything about it except for the fact that it's supposed to give you the creeps.
7. The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood (speculative fiction) - it is about time. I read Oryx and Crake years ago, and have the both sequels on my shelf, so I really don't know why I haven't already read them. Also, it's been a while since my last Atwood, I think I'm having withdrawal.
8. We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo (fiction) - one of the Man Booker Prize nominees this year. I am always willing to give Man Booker books a go.
9. The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson (non-fiction -> true crime) - I went over my non-fiction collection and this one jumped out as a potentially good winter read. It was either this or Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking - although who says I cannot read them both.
10. The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls (non-fiction -> memoir) - I think this will be a tough read.
If you have read any of those or are planning to, feel free to leave your thoughts :)
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Monday, November 24, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - 24.11.2014

I decided to start doing Monday reading posts, in which I'll show my current reads and add occasional chit-chat on topics that my current reads trigger. (Did I tell you I tend to ramble? I tend to ramble. I'm a ramblerer.)

Nothing to Envy, Barbara Demick (2009) - this seems to be one of the better written non-fiction pieces on North Korea. I'm on page 74 and totally sucked in. Demick is a journalist who describes lives of regular North Korean people who later escaped the country. Through that she also introduces the highlights of the history of North Korea.
Deadhouse Gates, Steven Erikson (2000) - this is the second book in The Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I was craving for a big fat fantasy book for colder evenings and decided to continue with these. I actually started The Way of Kings as well, but it's on hold right now. Sadly it seems that Sanderson is not an author for me. His books seem to be too calculated, and lacking something specific that I personally look for in fantasy, the writing feels too clinical. I don't know how to explain it. For example, I don't think Robin Hobb's books are the pinnacle of fantasy lit, but they contain heaps of that Special Something that works well for me. Hell, even though I didn't like Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, his writing does more for me than Sanderson's, there is a lot of life and spark in his characters. I gave The Final Empire four stars right after reading, but I will lower it to three because it hasn't really stuck with me, and I don't feel the urge to pick up the sequel. Ok, rant over. Here's to hoping I won't become an outcast in book blogging world now :)

The Cider House Rules, John Irving (1985) - talking of adjusting ratings, I think I will have to pump my rating to A Prayer for Owen Meany from four to five - this book has definitely stuck with me. This being my second Irving novel, I found that his writing is very unique and recognisable, there is a lot of quirk and whimsy added to the story, and he makes excellent, detailed character studies.
Kindred, Octavia E. Butler (1979) - I am not sure what I expected this book to be - or if I expected anything at all - but it's definitely something else, and kind of a rough read. Rough in its story, not readability. I'm almost done, so hopefully will finish this one very soon.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Journey, check out the blog to see other fantastic Monday reads.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chronicling: What I Read from August to November

Here's something I haven't done before, and will hopefully never do again: I've read so many books from August to November, and not written about them, that for the sake of chronicling while not letting this post go mile long, I am simply going to list them month by month and add a rating (and maybe a few words for some).
I've been thinking about the blogging and where I want to go with it lately (looks like I am not the only one, I've seen others reorganising their mental fields before the end of the year as well), and I'm planning to get back into writing more actively as of the new year. I think I'll do some changes as to what I write about, and how, and for how much, so that the book blogging experience was more customized for my personal taste.
But let's get on with this post. I was in a major slump for the end of summer-beginning of autumn, after which I got into a MAJOR reading spree (that should explain 28 completed books in October - and by completed I mean I finished off everything that I had ever started before and books that had been next to my bed for months; in the end I felt extremely liberated).

August 2014:

1. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison - 4/5
2. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie - 3/5
3. A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki - 5/5
     - so so good. Pick it up if you crave for some violence-zen combo in your life.
4. 172 Hours on the Moon, Johan Harstad - 3/5
     - a bit of a missed opportunity there. Or maybe I'm just not the target group...

September 2014:

1. Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie (for RIP) - 4/5
2. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell - 5/5
     - do I even need to comment? I'm soon done with everything Mitchell has written, and then what? *dreads the day*
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling - 4/5
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling - 4/5

October 2014:

1. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, Chris Hadfield - 5/5
   - I think this book can have two possible outcomes, depending on a person: you either 1) feel like the worst, most depressed under-achiever in the world or 2) inspired to the moon and back and ready to take on the whole earth.
2. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester - 2.5/5
3. Andeka kingsepa surm, Vaclav Erben - 1/5
4. State of Wonder, Ann Patchett - 4/5
5. Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home, Laura & Lisa Ling - 3.5/5
   - one of my favourite non-fiction topics; I felt the content was good, but it was so obvious the book was written by journalists, and often I felt like things could have been edited out for the sake of smoother narrative flow.
6. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami - 3/5
   - I think this was disappointment mainly because I have read so much Murakami in my life. He tends to write about the same people all over, and it can get a bit too much.
7. The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie R. King (for RIP) - 4/5

8. Asylum, Madeleine Roux (for RIP) - 2/5
9. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier (for RIP) - 5/5
   - a bit of a soap opera, granted, but so well done I could not stop until it was over. Very atmospheric read.
10. Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen (for RIP) - 4/5
11. Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling, Michael Boccacino (for RIP) - 2/5
12. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells - 4/5
13. The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton - 4/5
     - not sure I'd recommend this book to anyone, but it was certainly and interesting and mind-provoking read. If you like(d) Deadwood, you might connect well with the setting in The Luminaries.
14. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz - 4/5

15. The Shining, Stephen King (for RIP) - 4/5
     - the hedge animals!
16. The Distant Hours, Kate Morton (for RIP) - 3/5
17. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami - 4/5
18. The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield (for RIP) - 2/5
     - I feel like I should get into defence mode, this book is well loved. I didn't connect to the prose at.all. Just wasn't my thing. Mainly I waited for it to be over.
19. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain - 4/5
20. NOS4A2, Joe Hill (for RIP) - 4/5
21. Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan (for RIP) - 3/5

22. The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own, Nina Garcia - n/a
23. Roosi nimi (The Name of the Rose), Umberto Eco (for RIP) - 4/5
24. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley (3.5/5)
25. Dreamcatcher, Stephen King (for RIP) - 3/5
26. Nana, Émile Zola - 4/5
27. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie - 5/5
     - the book that won all possible SF awards, as well as my heart.
28. Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy - 5/5
     - the world is a bleak place and human efforts go unrewarded; shallowness and deception will reign. Recommended to all the cynics and those who wish sunshine and happiness in the end of their e-mails.

So I read 12 books for RIP IX - not too bad at all, considering my initial aim was to complete two. :)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Best of the Best of Book Titles

I'm not a massive cover whore, but I can be a bit of a title whore. The titles I tend to gravitate towards are usually on the longer side, there is something playful or poetic about them. I've had thoughts about such post for some time, so in order to bring myself from the blogging slump, here it is.
These titles are only out of the books I've read and completed - looking at this mixture, there are a few favourites, a few "very good" books and some "OK/meh" ones. An awful book can of course have a very awesome title, but this usually does not happen for me. I will add my own ratings after each title just so that everyone can see what I mean.
10. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz (4/5) - there is something tragic about "brief" and "wondrous" being used in the same sentence. Having read the book last month, the title feels even more poignant. I loved this title before reading the book, and kept loving it afterwards.
9. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (3/5) - this one falls to the "less is more" category. This is the title that always makes me smile inside. It contains all the hope in the world.
8. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell (5/5) - I love autumn(s). I love the name, and the character, of Jacob de Zoet. I love David Mitchell. Lots of love all around!
7. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez (4/5) - I read this book in Estonian, but the title is better in English. I think it suits the novel so well, what with its huge extent of time combined with the abstract notion of solitude. If you have read the book you know how mind-fuckish it is most of the time :)
6. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson (3/5) - indeed?
5. The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt (4/5) - this title I didn't really get until I read the book. It's a very playful one, again, all the inner smiling in the world. Excellent match with the contents of the book.
4. In Watermelon Sugar, Richard Brautigan (2/5) - can you feel the sticky sweetness? CAN YOU?? SWEET OVERDOSE. Not recommended for children (and speaking of that, this one definitely requires a re-read).
3. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway (4/5) - I wasn't sure about Hem until I read this book. He's a poet in a very minimalist way. Very nice title, and one of my all time favourite quotes also comes from this book.
2. Smilla's Sense of Snow, Peter Høeg (5/5) - can we all take a moment and appreciate all the alliteration in this title. It's a book by Danish author, and I haven't seen people talking about it at all, which is a bit sad. Snow, Greenland, and general feeling of kaamos (= the polar night; period of darkness north of the Arctic Circle when the sun does not rise over the horizon - Wikipedia) that we Nordic folk have to deal with the most of the year.
1. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera (5/5) - one of my favourite books ever with the best title in the world. The unbearable lightness of being is a state of mind, and I know what it feels like, very intimately.
If you also have strong feelings towards certain book titles, feel free to write/talk about them, I'm VERY curious! Are there other booktitle-weirdos out there?