Wrap-up: February 2018

This months has been legendary for me because I managed to read 10 books. Usually I read about 5 or 6, maybe 7. I’m really proud of myself, I have to say. I didn’t plan on reading this much but then some of my classes got cancelled and some of the books I’ve read are relatively short, which resulted in me finishing 10 novels. Congratz!

Now let’s look at the books I read this month. Here is the list:

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Greatest Cases of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
  • Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
  • Messenger by Lois Lowry
  • Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Besides reading a lot, I actually read a lot of great books this month. Uprooted was absolutely amazing, the story still plays itself in my mind even though I read it at the start of the month. Sometimes I go to my bookshelves and pick it up and just stare at it for a few minutes (does this make me strange? probably yes).

The biggest disappointment of the month was Secrets of a Charmed Life. The book promised a lot but while the second part of the book was really interesting, the first part dragged on. Kate Morton has set such a high standard for me regarding historical fiction that I just can’t stand other authors who write in a similar way because they just don’t deliver the same quality writing as she does. This was the second book of Susan Meissner’s I’ve read and I am fairly certain it’s also the last.

Because I had exams this month I decided to cheer myself up and I listened to the audio version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which is narrated by Stephen Fry. His voice was so hilarious I literally laughed out loud whenever Dobby appeared because his voice was the same as the one in the films. But although I liked Stephen Fry, audio books just aren’t my thing. I prefer to read myself ( and to myself).

Last week I binge read the first three books in the Giver series and they were AMAZING. Since they were also quite short (200 pages each) I managed to read them in three days. I finally understand why people keep complimenting the series, it truly is a modern classis. I also started reading the last book but found it too intense and so I had to stop for a while.

Instead I picked up Without Merit by Colleen Hoover and I’m really liking it! I still have about a hundred pages to go but I know I’ll finish the book tonight. The story is way more interesting than in Slammed and I love all the characters, they are so unique and funny. Moby is adorable and Sagan, agh, Sagan is a dream.

Norse Mythology was also totally amazing but since I reviewed it, I won’t talk about it here. Neil Gaiman is brilliant and always will be.

What’s left to mention? Power of Three was pretty good but it didn’t blow me away. I still prefer Fire and Hemlock and Howl’s Moving Castle. But even though the book wasn’t great, the story still impressed me a lot. Sherlock Holmes was, well, Sherlock Holmes. It’s so surprising to see how his character shows itself through the writing. He’s probably one of the best characters ever written.

So there you go, these are all the books I read this month. I think I deserve a small award for managing to read this much.

(opening book depository in a new tab)

 

 

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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Introducing an instant classic—master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

Gaiman is one of the most talented writers I’ve ever read. His characters are vibrant, complex, often funny and filled with secret passions that drive them. The stories in his books are magical not just because they talk about fantasy but also because he breathes magic into them. His writing style is rich and beautiful and he never disappoints.

Norse Mythology is Gaiman’s retelling of the old myths and it is absolutely superb. The characters in old myths are often flat but his are lively and funny and human. They are flawed like we are and they are driven by their ambitions and secret desires. Thor is portrayed as a powerful but somewhat simple minded god whereas Loki is beautiful and cunning.

It’s hard to pick a favourite story but I’d probably go with the one where Thor dresses up like a woman – that was hilarious! And the one where Loki transform himsef into a mare and then he ends up with a foal and no one is to talk about it. I laughed so hard at that part. But I really enjoyed all of the stories and I loved how they were connected.

As always, Gaiman’s writing is what makes this book a true jem. His writing style is so illustrative and rich and simply put beautiful. He takes certain pieces of a story or in this case a myth and then he makes them his own. And I really liked the fact that in the introduction he said that this is his version of the norse gods meaning you can picture them the way you want to, there isn’t just one way of seeing them.

If you are a Gaiman fan, you’ll love this book. If you’re a mythology freak, you’ll love this book. And even if you’re not all the above still give this book a try. It’s insanely hilarious and you can easily read it in one sitting.

Must buy books

I’m finally done with my exams! Hooray! My last exam was on Thursday and it was the most difficult one of this semester. Hopefully I’ll pass and won’t have to take it again in June. Fingers crossed. Classes start on Monday so I only have this weekend to catch up on some reading. Last week I started listening to the audio version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which is narrated by Stephen Fry and it’s hilarious! He literally sounds like Dobby and Hagrid and it’s almost like I’m watching a movie but not quite. I absolutely love it.

Since the exam period is over I decided to treat myself and so I bought two books: The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell who is my favourite booktuber and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Although Instagram is my main platform where I spend most of my time, I got really involved in the booktube community and I keep scrolling down playlists and watching videos. Yes, that’s how I survived this past month. It’s fun to discover new authors but there is also a trick to it.

By watching all these videos about book hauls and wrap-ups and recommendations my TBR list on Goodreads started to grow fast and I suddenly felt bad for not constantly buying books. I literally spent hours browsing on Book Depository looking up prices and deciding which books I’ll order next. This sudden urge to buy more books was obviously rooted in my sudden obsession with the booktube community. The same thing happened with Instagram weeks before: by looking at other people’s profiles and their vast book collections, I’d grown impatient and envious and a voice in my head started telling me: YOU MUST BUY NEW BOOKS.

Now I have around 15 books on my physical TBR pile which are patiently awaiting for me to pick them up plus a couple more on my kindle so the chances of running out of reading material are basically non-existant. Yet I was consumed with this desire, no, NEED to buy more books. I can draw parallels to consumerism and the way most women buy clothes and shoes, but the point is, this is all artificial. By looking at what other people have I immediately started feeling bad for not having as much as they do. It’s all ridiculous, really.

Yes, I do love buying more books but at the same time I get really nervous if I have too many books on my physical TBR pile. So naturally what I should do is first read those books and then buy new ones. That would be the logical thing to do. Still, I was lured into thinking I needed more books and what is even worse is the fact that I felt ashamed for not buying as much of them as others do. Welcome to the land of consumerism and artificially created needs.

From now on I’ll try to be more rational about my purchases and while watching a video on booktube I’ll remind myself that I don’t have to buy books in order to qualify as a booklover. I’ll continue to add new purchases to my book shelves, one book at a time. Slowly but steadily I’ll build my library and even if I only have like a thousand or so books in it (which still sounds pretty impressive to me!) I’ll be happy with it. It doesn’t matter how many books you own as long as you are in love with every single one of them.

I like best to have one book in my hand, and a stack of others on the floor beside me, so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours.

Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker

Books I need to read in 2018

Morning! Since I have too much time on my hands due to procratinating (I’m avoiding papers and reports) I decided it was time to browse through my book collection in order to see which books have been gathering dust for way too long. And then I had a brilliant idea of challenging myself to read at least some of them because if I don’t they’ll remain on my shelves for years and I still won’t get around to reading them. I managed to cut down the list to a few that have been on my TBR pile the longest and then I added one or two books which are just really good/got a lot of positive reviews/just seem fun. So these are the books I have (it would be awful nice of me) to read this year:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
  • Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • literally anything from Susanna Kearsley
  • Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling by Philip Pullman

The Book Thief was one of the first books I added to my TBR pile on Goodreads and last year I even bought a copy of it at the local second-hand bookstore so I really have no excuse to put it off. I’ve heard such good things about it and I also want to see the film adaptation. The main reason why I haven’t read it yet is because I know this will be one of THOSE books that will make me cry. I just have a terrible hunch that it’ll ruin me.

Chaos Walking has also been on my TBR pile for ever and people have been recommending it to me for years. I also happen to own the books, the first one was even signed by the author. But since it’s a trilogy I’m afraid of the emotional attachments that go with it. This isn’t the first Patrick Ness I’ve come across, I already read More Than This which I absolutely adored and read in one sitting. I also liked The Crane Wife but not as much as More Than This. And A Monster Calls was great as well though I think I would’ve liked it better have I read it at a younger age.

As you can tell from my about section I love Scotland and everything connected to it so it comes as no surpise that I am a huge Outlander fan. Jamie and Claire represent my ideal relationship just because they are so in love with each other but at the same time they are both separate individuals. They are both such wondeful and complex characters (yes, I do have a huge crush on Jamie). The end of the second book broke my heart, the last hundred pages were so intense I was afraid to go to the toilet because I didn’t want to put it down! Voyager was sort of a disappointment just because they leave Scotland and travel to Jamaica but I’m hoping in Drums of Autumn they return to my beloved Scotland and stay there (for good).

Neil Gaiman is one of my ultimate favourite fantasy writers and I’ve slowly been reading all of his work. Norse Mythology is his latest book and I’m actually planning on buying it soon (I’m also slowly collecting his books). The first Gaiman book I read was The Graveyard Book and I instantly fell in love with his writing and story building. Since then I’ve read most of his books except The Sandman which I started but didn’t really like. His short stories are AMAZING though, I still think about Feminine Endings (I was afraid to fall asleep after reading it).

Six of Crows is on this list mainly because of the hype surrounding it. And unlike some other books that are talked about I think this one might actually be pretty good. It’s fantasy which is my favourite genre to read and a reliable source (read: my sister’s friend who also raved about Patrick Ness and loved The Raven Cycle) told me it was amazing so I decided to read the Grisha trilogy and this duology. Hopefully these books will be my favourite reads of 2018. No pressure, right?

Susanna Kearsley writes about Scotland and her books involve magic, history, interesting characters and unexpected plot twists. And they are all set in Scotland. That’s pretty much the main reason why she’s on this list. Why, I’m really not hard to please, am I? But seriously I also love her plot twists and story ideas, I’m just afraid I won’t like her writing style because that is really important to me and even if the story is good, I can’t stand bad writing styles (by bad I mean too straightforward, obvious, journalistic sort of writing).

And the last book I want (need) to read is a non-fiction, a collection of essays from Philip Pullman called Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling. Since I’m also a writer (or want to be) I love reading about my favourite authors and how they write, why they write, it just sheds some light on them and I tend to find myself in such texts. For example I loved reading Diana Wynne Jones’ Reflections and Virginia Woolf’s Room of One’s Own so I think I’ll enjoy reading these essays.

If I actually do manage to read all these books this year I will be super proud of myself. Realistically speaking however, I only expect half of them will actually end up in my hands. But hey, you gotta set high goals or else you achieve nothing.

 

I do believe something magical can happen when you read a good book.

J. K. Rowling

The magic that is Diana Wynne Jones

Rezultat iskanja slik za diana wynne jones

Three years ago my best friend decided it was time to surprise me with a book called Howl’s Moving Castle. As a huge Miyazaki fan I loved his film – no, not loved, I adored Howl and Calcifer and Sophie and wished with all my heart that I could live in their world and be a sorceress as well. The film was (obviously) based on a novel but I never gave it much thought, not until I received an actual copy of it for my birthday. I still thank my best friend for buying me that book every once in a while.

I was so nervous when I started reading the book because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it since the film was so good. I was wrong. I ADORED the novel. It was quite different than the film but in a good way. It seemed to me as though Miyazaki and Jones took the core story of the novel but then made it their own. Howl was a superb main character, Sophie became my role model and Calcifer, well, I sort of wished he was my fire demon.

I then read the other two books in the series though the first one remains my favourite. Each novel had a list of all the author’s books written in them and I was shocked to see how many there were! I was puzzled by the fact that this clearly talented writer wasn’t mentioned more often. Where was she all my life? Even today not many people know about Diana Wynne Jones and I’m really frustrated about it because she is a genius when it comes to fantasy writing. An actual genius.

Her Crestomanci series is hilarious and filled with unexpected plot twists. The worlds she creates are entwined with magic in a way that makes you long for them. I almost cried because I wasn’t a part of them. Jones has a way with words that is unlike any other writer I’ve come across. Neil Gaiman speaks highly of her and he also started reading her books when he was a teenager. Her books are mainly written for children but they’re not childish at all. In fact they are rather complex and the language itself is far from being simple and straight-forward.

I just spend an hour browsing through the books I haven’t yet read to see which I’ll buy first. The old covers aren’t as ornate while the newest editions are beautiful but since we do tend to judge a book by its cover I keep wondering whether this is one of the reasons her books aren’t so widely known. But I think the biggest reason is that her writing isn’t mainstream and it’s mostly intented for children and I can’t think of many adults who would willingly admit they enjoy reading children’s literature. Well I do and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

There is a point to my post and I think you might have a clue as to what it is already. I’m not trying to sell you anthing, not at all, though I would be so happy if you could take the time to read one of her books (I suggest Howl’s Moving Castle because it’s a good way to be introduced to DWJ’s worlds). What I won’t to point out is the fact that a lot of good authors who write quality literature are hovering somewhere in the background while the popular writers steal all the show. I’m not saying that all popular novelists are bad, but just because a book is a bestseller that doesn’t mean it’s actually any good.

I am quite sad to find so little written on Diana Wynne Jones and I’ll definitely write reviews of her books because they are my favourite and they do deserve to get in the spotlight. Fire and Hemlock for example is my favourite book of the year and I might even like it better than Howl! Anyhow I’ll stop praising miss Jones now but if you are a fan of fantasy literature please give her books a try. I promise you will not be disappointed.

In case I haven’t been persuasive enough and my word doesn’t mean that much, here is a wonderful post about DWJ that Neil Gaiman wrote after the author passed away. It’s beautifully written but then again everything Neil Gaiman writes is beautiful.

Even if only one person decides to read DWJ novel after reading this post, I would count that as a success (in case you do read it please message me afterwards, I’d love to hear you thoughts on the book!). To great authors who seemingly create magic out of thin air: thank you.