Japanese ASMR: Garden & Onsen

I feel like sharing today some of my favourite Japanese ASMR videos. I am sure at least one of them I first saw on Content Catnip, an amazing website dedicated to quirky, curious aspects related to all things travel, history, music, art, spirituality, natural world and much more.

I love the sound of gentle rain, and this view to a Japanese garden is very cosy. Traditional Japanese stone lanterns, a Buddha statue and cutlery for brewing ocha are a magical combination (creator Cosmic Resort).

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Six Degrees of Separation – from Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness to Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly book meme first created by Annabel Smith & Emma Chapman, and now continued by Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest. The aim is create a chain of six books stemming from one designated book. That designated book is announced monthly, and the books can be linked in various ways.

This month’s chain starts with Ruth Ozeki’s most recent book The Book of Form and Emptiness, which I have not yet read, but the synopsis tells me that this is a book that features “a large public library” at some point, and this brings me to Edith Wharton’s classic novella Summer. This book is about Charity Royall, a seventeen-year old girl who was once adopted by a prominent lawyer in a small town of North Dormer. She lands a coveted role of a librarian at her local library and there meets a promising architect and potential suitor Lucius Harney. Edith Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921, becoming the first woman to do so, and 100 years on, Louise Erdrich also did so for her novel The Night Watchman, which won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize. This rather personal-to-the-author novel is set in the 1950s and follows the lives of North Dakota’s Native American population – the Chippewa tribe. The story focuses on a US Senator’s attempt to undo the protection enjoyed by the native tribe through the so-called Termination Bill.

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Italian Children’s Literature

This week (on 1 June) is the International Children’s Day (also the Children’s Week in some countries) and I am dedicating this post to the Italian children’s literature.

🤥 The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le avventure di Pinocchio) [1883] by Carlo Collodi

Pinocchio, a wooden boy who wants to be a real boy, has endeared himself into millions of people’s hearts. Collodi’s famous tale follows the adventure of a marionette who finds out early in his life that the world is not always just and that oppression exists alongside goodness and benevolence. Like Lewis Carroll’s original story of Alice in Wonderland [1865], some aspects of the original story of Pinocchio is quite disturbing and violent, but, then, what mid-nineteenth century fairy-tale has aged well? The Adventures of Pinocchio is the third most translated book in the world (after the Bible and The Little Prince) and no wonder – its messages of rising above oppression, trying to do one’s best despite adversary, bad influence and even one’s own trouble-making nature, and becoming the best person one could be, are truly universal. I do not have much hope for the following adaptations of the story, but it is still interesting to note that not just one, but two Pinocchio adaptations are coming out in 2022: Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animation Pinocchio and Robert Zemeckis’s live-action film Pinocchio.

Pinocchio near the entrance to a souvenir shop, Florence, Italy © Thoughts on Papyrus

🤥 Carlo Collodi (1826 – 1890) was born Carlo Lorenzini in Florence, Tuscany, later changing his name to Collodi to honour his mother’s birthplace. That was not the only instance of name-changing in his career as The Adventures of Pinocchio was first published as a series under the title Storia di un burattino (Adventures of a Marionette), and in fact, I have always known the story under this same title – The Adventures of Burattino (Russian: Приключе́ния Бурати́но). There are now some interesting Pinocchio attractions to explore in Tuscany, such as the Casa di Collodi in Florence and the Pinocchio Park in Collodi, and, of course, the Tuscany region is full of shops selling various Pinocchio souvenirs.

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Italian Literature Recommendations for Each Zodiac Sign

As many of you know, this year I am hosting the Italia Reading Challenge and got inspired to do the following list by my previous edition of it titled Japanese Literature Recommendations for Each Zodiac Sign.

ARIES (March 21 – April 19) – Corto Maltese [1967 – 2019] by Hugo Pratt

Aries is full of energy and does not mind a healthy amount of danger in his or her life. The enigmatic, contradictory hero of Hugo Pratt’s famous series may appeal to these people who love adventure. Feeling strange that you have been assigned a comic? No, it is just the opposite – this graphic novel is one deep material. Umberto Eco (Foucault’s Pendulum) famously said: “When I want to relax, I read an essay by Engels. When I want to read something serious, I read Corto Maltese.” 

TAURUS (April 20 – May 20) – The Betrothed [1827] by Alessandro Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni’s classic novel, Italy’s “national institution”, is a tale of two lovers, Renzo and Lucia, who are trying to overcome oppression, jealousy and injustice on their path to happiness. Loyal and dependable Taurus will appreciate the values, romance and a sense of adventure this beautiful novel offers.

GEMINI (May 21 – June 20) – The Tartar Steppe [1940] by Dino Buzzati

Geminis are clever and curious and this is the novel that only looks like a simply story, but requires quite an analysis. This claustrophobic novel’s theme of loneliness, allegedly Gemini’s biggest fear, can strike home for this Zodiac sign. The Tartar Steppe and Gemini may be the case of the attraction of the opposites. Changeable Gemini, who likes variety in life, may find the story’s Kafkaesque theme of being stuck in a fortress in the middle of nowhere a frighteningly intriguing reading proposition.

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The Disappointments Book Tag (Re-Worked)

I think we all try not to spread negativity on our blogs, but a negative review is at times just irresistible. I am now recovering from a rather bad reading spell, having read a number of disappointing books recently, and have decided on this tag to both vent my feelings and maybe ward off others. This is a re-worked by me tag which I first spotted at The Bookish Mutant and the original creator is The Reader’s Game. If you decide to do this tag as well, I would love to read your answers.

A Disappointing Debut

The Moviegoer [1961] by Walker Percy. I know how popular and admired this book is, but I only found it exasperating and disappointing. I love films, books with existential themes and New Orleans-set novels, so I assumed this would be a perfect book for me. I was wrong, and I still do not understand how this book could have won the National Book Award in 1962 over such books as Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, Heller’s Catch-22 and Yates’s Revolutionary Road (one of my favourite books). Having said all that, I do have Percy’s Lancelot [1977] on my TBR and it looks like I may like it more.

An Author with a Novel You Love, and a Novel You Dislike

Kazuo Ishiguro. I love his book The Remains of the Day [1989] and dislike his most recent sci-fi novel Klara and the Sun [2021]. In fact, since I read the book my dislike for it only deepened. The film rights for this book have already been acquired, and for those who cannot wait that long, there is another similar film to check out – Kogonada’s After Yang [2021], a tale about one family’s coping strategies after their artificial intelligence “helper” has broken down. Amazingly, as I write this, I am also becoming aware that Kogonada was actually influenced to make this film by one of the quotes from Percy’s The Moviegoer! (talking about coincidences).

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Around the World in 50 Books

I have finally completed my challenge of reading 50 books set in different parts of the world! I began this challenge almost with the start of my blog in 2018 and my last review of Maryse Condé’s book marked the end of this exciting challenge. Below are my book results categorised in the following sections: Europe, The Middle East, Africa, Asia, North America, The Caribbean, South America and Oceania. Please note that the books below correspond to plot locations and not to the authors’ countries of origin.

EUROPE:   vector map europe

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Victor Hugo

Today marks 220 years since the birth of French writer Victor Hugo on 26 February 1802. Hugo is best known for his great classic novels Les Misérables [1862] and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame [1831], and was also a passionate social and political activist who famously supported the abolition of the death penalty, the view that was taken in his short novel The Last Day of a Condemned Man [1829].

Our mind is enriched by what we receive, our heart – by what we give.”

The future has several names. For the weak it is impossible; for the fainthearted, it is unknown; but for the valiant, it is ideal” (Victor Hugo).

Italia Reading Challenge 2022

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Italy is such a historically and culturally rich country and there are/were so many great Italian authors – Alighieri Dante, Giovanni Boccaccio, Niccolo Machiavelli, Alessandro Manzoni (The Betrothed), Cesare Pavese, Umberto Eco (Foucault’s Pendulum), Italo Calvino (The Baron in the Trees), to name just a few. Taking this into account and since I loved some Italian books I’ve read recently I’ve decided to make 2022 my year exploring Italian literature and set up the Italia (Italy) Reading Challenge (to run between January and December 2022). To make this challenge more manageable for myself, I have decided to limit my reading goal to just 10 books written by Italian authors. If we consider that these books all come from just one country, I don’t think it’s a bad start at all, and here is my selection for this year:

  • Alberto Moravia – Contempt/Boredom/The Time of Indifference
  • Antonio Tabucchi Pereira Maintains
  • Primo Levi If This is a Man/If Not Now, When?
  • Elena Ferrante The Days of Abandonment
  • Leonardo Sciascia To Each His Own
  • Giorgio Bassani The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
  • Italo Svevo Zeno’s Conscience
  • Dacia MarainiThe Silent Duchess
  • Elsa MoranteArturo’s Island
  • Luigi Pirandello The Late Mattia Pascal

Finally, if you want to join me on this journey this year (reading any number of books), you can grab the banner and leave links to your reviews throughout the year in the comments section on this permanent page – Italia Reading Challenge 2022 or below and I will add them to the general list, as well as do a summary post in December 2022 – #ReadItaliaChallenge.

My Life in Books: 2021

I recall I had so much fun participating in the meme My Life in Books in 2019 (see my post here) that I decided to have a go at it this year, too. The original creator of this meme is probably The Roof Beam Reader and the rule is that you must complete the sentences below using only the titles of the books you read in 2021. This year, I was largely inspired to participate by onemore.org (There’s Always Room For One More) and her post My Life in Books: 2021 Edition. I am not tagging specific bloggers and it is not too late to participate for everyone. So, here are my answers (obviously, not meant to be taken seriously):

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Charles Dickens’s “Dombey and Son” through 12 Astrological Signs

The earth was made for Dombey and Son to trade in, and the sun and the moon were made to give them light. Rivers and seas were formed to float their ships…stars and planets circled in their orbits, to preserve inviolate a system of which they were the centre” [Dickens, 1848/2002: 12, Penguin Classics]. Dombey and Son is one of Dickens’s greatest novels and I think its main characters illustrate well the twelve star signs of the zodiac and thus the story can be told through the workings of the heavenly belt. Below is my interpretation and one caveat is possible spoilers and another is that there are obviously many more characters in the story and not just those presented below.

Leo star sign

Mr. Paul Dombey Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Mr. Paul Dombey is the main character. He is a cold and calculating businessman who longs to have an heir to his business and when Master Paul Dombey is born, his father has very high expectations regarding his son. Mr. Dombey is undoubtedly a Leo, proud of himself and his family (or at least proud of himself, his business and his son). Leos are the Kings of the Zodiac and Mr. Dombey likes being the centre of attention, commanding effortlessly everyone in his sight. He also likes the idea of others being dependant on him and he dislikes criticism.

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Six Degrees of Separation – from A Christmas Carol to Twelfth Night

It has been a long time since I posted a Six Degrees of Separation meme, so I am posting this Christmas edition which starts with Charles Dickens’s famous novella A Christmas Carol [1843] and finishes with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night [1623]; see also my two other posts in this series: Six Degrees of Separation – From Pride & Prejudice to The Name of the Rose, and Six Degrees of Separation – From News of the World to The Woman in the Window.

A Christmas Carol is a Christmas fable about one rich miser who learns his lesson through a series of encounters with ghosts. Another famous tale about one rich miser is Honoré de Balzac’s novel Eugenie Grandet [1833] where a pretty daughter of one rich wine merchant is forced to experience the full consequence of her father’s lust for gold.

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Recommendations to Boost the Halloween Spirit!

Following from my previous post of top ten disturbing books for this Halloween season, here is my post of some recommendations to soak up and enjoy that spooky atmosphere surrounding Halloween, my favourite time in the whole year. I am presenting four sections (short stories, films, music and ambience videos) that include four recommendations each:

  • SHORT STORIES: (i) Don’t Look Now and Other Stories [1971] by Daphne du Maurier In this collection, Don’t Look Now is a particularly eerie story about a couple John and Laura on their trip to Venice. In my review, I said that du Maurier makes “Venice claustrophobic, day-to-day reality – enigmatic, the mind – paranoiac, and ordinary people – full of threatening agendas“; (ii) Murder in the Age of Enlightenment (and other Stories) [1918] by Ryunosuke Akutagawa This collection of short stories by Japanese author Akutagawa includes his unforgettable horror story Hell Screen; (iii) The Signal-Man [1866] by Charles Dickens is an incredible, frightening ghost story which has its own unique atmosphere (see also the short film adaptation (1976) of the story here); and (iv) Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery [1948] (my review).
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The Poetry of Thomas Hardy

I have been a huge admirer of Thomas Hardy and his books for a long time (my favourite books are Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Woodlanders, Far from the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge, and in that order), but I never previously had a chance to read his poetry and finally bought a collection of his Wessex Poems. Some find Hardy’s poems in this collection too grim, but I think they are simply hauntingly beautiful. Below I share my brief review, as well as two poems from the collection.

Wessex Poems and Other Verses [1898/2017] by Thomas Hardy★★★★1/2

I thought this was a wonderful collection of Thomas Hardy’s poems, touching on such themes as country life and romance, human character, doomed love, relative fleetness of youth and beauty, death and attempts to reconcile the depth of love with the passing of a loved one. There were a number of “supernatural” and “otherworldly” poems in this collection too, which makes it a perfect reading for a cosy autumn evening in or near Halloween. Melancholic, full of longing and simply beautiful, some of my favourites included Unknowing, the She, to Him series of poems and Her Immortality. Others are narratively interesting too, for example, The Dance at the Phoenix is about a woman of sixty who is swept by her memories when she hears the King’s-Own Cavalry is in town and goes dancing to unpredictable or maybe and sadly, predictable results, and in The Two Men, Hardy shows how two men are bound to meet the same destiny having the same schooling and similar inner beliefs.

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My Piano Progress

My previous post was about classical piano music, and I thought I would do a post sharing my thoughts on learning piano from scratch at the age of thirty one without any previous knowledge of music. I first started learning the instrument around January 2020, but I am sad to report that since that time I have practised the piano on and off and even spent whole months without practising (up to four consecutive months without playing once), so my progress has been very slow and protracted. Nevertheless, I did make small progress, finished a couple of beginner books and enjoyed my journey. So, my notes below apply to *absolute adult beginners* and I hope the post will be interesting/useful at least to some of you who are considering picking up this instrument in future.

I. 3 things I wish I knew at the start of my piano-learning journey:

(i) It is important to learn to appreciate simple piano pieces and not try to produce Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata or some complicated piece by Chopin in the first year. Just because a piece of music sounds simple, it does not mean it cannot be beautiful and some Grade 1/2 pieces are just lovely (check out these – Krieger’s Minuet in A Minor, Purcell’s Air in D Minor or Beethoven’s Sonatina in G Major (my personal favourite)). Learning simple songs not only helps to lay down important technique foundation for more complex pieces to come in future, but also boosts confidence. I think no musical piece should be seen as too insignificant or “childish” to play and learning to appreciate the sound of every note/key pressed will go a long way; (ii) linked to the first, is the advice to avoid learning pieces that are way beyond one’s musical level. It is great to challenge oneself once in a while, but most of the time learning a musical piece way beyond one’s ability will be a difficult and disheartening task. Patience is key, and what may take you three months to learn now may be accomplished in three weeks a year or two from now; (iii) learning scales and arpeggios early will be beneficial, not only for exercising hands, but also for recognising and learning key signatures.

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Translated Literature Recommendations

I got inspired to write this post by Feminist Texican Reads. Translated literature remains somewhat under-read and under-appreciated so I have decided to highlight some of my favourite translated-from-a-foreign-language books. I am presenting five categories of five recommendations each and limiting my descriptions to three lines maximum.

Books about:

I. ...touching romance

The Phantom of the Opera [1910] by Gaston Leroux

In 1880s Paris, the Opera House is haunted by the Phantom of the Opera who then seems to form an unlikely friendship with an aspiring lead singer. The 1986 musical is based on this book, and Gaston Leroux is also famous for writing an “impossible crime” story The Mystery of the Yellow Room [1907].

The Maias [1888] by Eça de Queirós

This classic novel from Portugal is a tale about the power of love and friendship focusing on my well-to-do family The Maia. Eça de Queirós (The Crime of Father Amaro [1875]) was the early master of subverting expectations.

The Betrothed [1827/1972] by Alessandro Manzoni

This multi-themed Italian classic tells of a pair of lovers separated by unforeseen circumstances and fighting to preserve their love and faith in the face of oppression, betrayal and despair; see my review here.

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The “Six in Six” Challenge

The Six in Six meme or, as I call it, challenge, was first proposed and designed by The Book Jotter and now is in its tenth year. This is a challenge to list six bookish categories (the range of categories on offer is immense and can be found here), and, within each, to list six books that answer the question. The idea is that the books selected should reflect the blogger’s reading material of the past six months. As you can see below in my answers, I do not read many new releases and have included non-fiction books alongside fiction. The books listed are in no particular order and, apart from the “movie” categories below, were read by me in the past six months.

I. Six books I have read but not reviewed:

On Parole (1988) by Akira Yoshimura – Though not as good as the author’s Shipwrecks (1982), On Parole is still a thought-provoking book and a penetrating look at one man recently released from prison and trying to adjust to a society he longer recognises. The book was also loosely adapted into a film of 1997 (The Eel), which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The House on Mango Street (1984) by Sandra Cisneros – This tale is from a little girl, Esperanza, originally from Latin America, who feels uncomfortable living where she does, in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood of Chicago. The merit of the book is the true voice of a child trying to make sense of the world around her.

Butcher’s Crossing (1960) by John Williams – John Williams may be known for his novel Stoner (1965), but he also has other good books beside it. Butcher’s Crossing follows one inexperienced young man circa the 1870s who leaves his comfortable surroundings and education to travel to one forgotten spot on earth – Butcher’s Crossing, Kansas. He soon befriends a local buffalo hunter and walks out to seek adventure in the open, but will he find what he is looking for? This novel has beautiful descriptions of nature and reminded me of Mayne Reid books featuring buffalos which I used to read as a child, but it is also said to be influenced by the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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The Philosopher Book Tag

I spotted this interesting book tag at Anne with A Book (original creator – Betweenlinesandlife) and decided to post my answers to it, too. I am not tagging anyone specifically, and everyone is free to participate! Philosophy is such a rich and diverse field of study – everyone’s answers will be different (and interesting)!

1. Thales is considered the first known philosopher. Which text introduced you to philosophy or which text would you like to read to get you into philosophy?

I cannot remember my first philosophy book or author, but in high school I read both Immanuel Kant‘s theory of ethics and deontology, and Jeremy Bentham‘s work on utilitarianism, as well as books by Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil [1886] and Thus Spoke Zarathustra [1883]). The Myth of Sisyphus [1942] by Albert Camus started my passion for the philosophy of existentialism.

2. Karl Marx is a political philosopher, turning the world upside down with the Communist Manifesto. Which political event or event in history would you like to read more about in fiction?

I would like to read more about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and have already put on my TBR list Paul Ham’s book Hiroshima Nagasaki [2011]. I also want to read more about the fall of Nazi Berlin and the siege of Leningrad in 1944.

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Victory Day: 9th May

Today (9th May) is Victory Day in my native Russia and, as is now “customary” on my blog, I am highlighting notable people and their distinguished actions during the World War II. I would like to to talk about Lyubov Shevtsova and Ulyana Gromova, who were both Soviet partisans and members of Krasnodon’s undercover anti-Nazi organisation The Young Guard. They both received the titles of the Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously. The young (nearly all of them younger than eighteen) members of this organisation became known for their actions that displayed unimaginable bravery, unbelievable stoicism and selfless hard-work fighting Fascism and defending their motherland. This year I would also like to pay tribute to my grandfather, Gennadiy Kovalskiy, by talking about his experience being a paratrooper (military parachutist) during the war.

Lyubov Shevtsova [8 September 1924 – 9 February 1943]

After the start of the war in 1941, Lyubov Shevtsova attended briefly nursing courses and wanted to become a nurse for the Red Army, but was rejected because she was too young. Before the war, she also wanted to be a theatre actress, and even applied to the Rostov university, but the war intervened. So, in 1942, at the age 18, Shevtsova received a qualification of radio-operator (signaller) at the Voroshilovgrad school for the preparation of partisans and undercover agents. She started working undercover for the Young Guard of Voroshilovgrad (Luhansk) and her job involved passing to the Red Army Intelligence Centre the information gathered by the partisans. As a member of The Young Guard, Shevtsova was also conducting spy-work on the enemy, helped Soviet prisoners-of-war to hide from the Nazis, distributed anti-Nazi flyers and sourced medication. She was also involved in the arson of the German Labour Exchange in Krasnodon on 6 December 1942. During this event, a list of about 2000 Krasnodon citizens who were intended for the deportation into Germany was burnt, meaning these people were saved. In 1943, Shevtsova was arrested by the Krasnodon police. The Fascists were actively seeking Shevtsova in particular because she was a Soviet radio-operator and they wanted to know all the transmission codes. Therefore, Shevtsova was subjected to an even longer and more savage than usual torture by the Nazis (source). However, after a month of torture, her interrogators realised that they were wasting their time with Shevtskova because she never said a word. Shevtsova was eventually executed in a forest on 9 February 1943. She met death with dignity and those were allegedly her last words: “…Soviet youth will still see many beautiful springs and gold-leafed autumns. There are peaceful, clear blue skies ahead, as well as lovely full moon nights; there will be good times in our beloved and dear motherland”.

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Detective Fiction Day

Today, 20th April, is the unofficial Detective Fiction Day since on this day in 1841 Edgar Allan Poe’s story The Murders in the Rue Morgue was published by a magazine and many cite it as the world’s first detective story. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, even wrote: “Each [of Poe’s detective stories] is a root from which a whole literature has developed… Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?” So, to celebrate this occasion, I am presenting 15 books (in no particular order) which I reviewed on this blog and which all focus on solving of some murders.

Bird in a Cage (Dard)       The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau (Burnet)

The Axeman’s Jazz (Celestin)       Faceless Killers (Mankell)

The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Turton)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (Tocarczuk)      The Name of the Rose (Eco) 

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The Book Character Types Tag

There are many character types in fiction and I have decided to create this tag to showcase some of them, taking inspiration from this website on writing. The first five character types presented below simply reflect the characters’ roles in a story (there are seven such roles overall), while the last five are typical archetypes (there are twelve overall, as categorised by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, among others).

I. Protagonist: “The main character of the story is the protagonist” – Klara from Kazuo Ishiguro’s sci-fi novel Klara and the Sun [2021]

Klara is a very curious choice for a protagonist and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book before with such an unusual narrator. Klara and her vision of the world are presented convincingly and the readers are constantly wondering how much of a “human” Klara really is or is becoming. It is precisely when we follow Klara’s “mental-processes” that Ishiguro’s new novel really “shines”, which also means the beginning is one of this novel’s strengths.

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The New Year Book Tag

I spotted this book tag at Anniek’s Library and thought it would be fun to do. The original creator is the YouTube Channel Bookables.

I. How many books are you planning to read this year?

I never set myself goals to read a specific number of books (if anything, I need to set myself goals to read less, because my free time is all about reading, as opposed to doing other beneficial activities!). I think I read around 80 books last year, so I think I may do about the same this year.

II. Name five books you didn’t get to read in 2020, but want to make a priority in 2021?

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12 Favourite Books From My Childhood

I saw this meme at Golden Books Girl and the original author is The Broke and and the Bookish. It challenges one to name 10 favourite books from one’s childhood (I listed 12 because why not). Although my childhood was spent in Russia, I read a lot of books from foreign-language authors (translated to Russian, of course). I did not read Harry Potter as a child since when I finally got my hands on a translated-to-Russian edition of the first book (probably in the very early 2000s) I was already in the “middle adolescence” age group. My childhood and YA books were generally fairy-tales and adapted-to-a-young-reader stories of Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist), Jack London (The Sea-Wolf), Robert Louis Stevenson (The Black Arrow), Jules Verne (Journey to the Centre of the Earth) and Mayne Reid (Osceola the Seminole). I also read a lot of Agatha Christie when I was in middle school. So, in no particular order:

I. The Wind in the Willows [1908] by Kenneth Graham

I had a very colourfully-illustrated version of this book, and though I don’t remember much of the plot now, I do recall its vivid characters: Mole, Rat, Mr. Toad & Mr. Badger, as well as a sense of adventure. The book has some moral messages (such as on the importance of friendship), and fosters a sense of wonder at nature (the setting is a riverbank).

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Science Fiction Day

Today (2 January) is the National Science Fiction Day (US), which also corresponds to the birthday of famous sci-fi author Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992). This is a day to celebrate all things sci-fi, from films and books to art and shows. Therefore, I have taken this opportunity to highlight below 10 sci-fi books (in no particular order) that I reviewed over the course of a last couple of years (these also include “dystopia”). Also, see my list of favourite sci-fi books.

Solaris (Stanislaw Lem)       The Memory Police (Yoko Ogawa)

A Scanner Darkly (Philip. K. Dick)       A Maze of Death (Philip. K. Dick)

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Philip. K. Dick)        Dr Bloodmoney (Philip. K. Dick)

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Recommendations to Boost the Christmas Spirit!

I haven’t done a post of this nature before, but this year I have been very much in the mood for Christmas-related things, activities, videos and posts (especially given how stressful this year has been given the still-ongoing global…health situation). In this post, I would like to suggest a number of (i) books, (ii) films, (iii) animations, (iv) music and (v) ambience videos to boost everyone’s Christmas spirit and hopefully make the holidays even cosier/happier! I am limiting myself to three recommendations for each of the categories.

  • Books: (i) Hercule Poirot’s Christmas [1938] by Agatha Christie – I love reading mysteries come Christmas time because of the atmosphere of cosiness. This book by the Queen of Crime is a wonderful one to get anyone into the festive spirit since the events in the book take place over a Christmas Eve; (ii) A Surprise for Christmas: And Other Seasonal Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics) [2020] – I have not read this one yet, but am planning to do so very soon and have heard very good things about it. The book contains stories by Julian Symons, G. K. Chesterton, Carter Dickson, Martin Edwards and others, and they all revolve around Christmas time: “A Postman murdered while delivering cards on Christmas morning“, “A Christmas pine growing over a forgotten homicide”, etc.; (iii) The Night Before Christmas [1831] by Nikolai Gogol. This classic tale is about the adventures of Vakula, the blacksmith, as he battles the devil. The devil stole the moon above the village of Dikanka, and the blacksmith and the devil compete for the heart of the same beautiful young girl.
Continue reading “Recommendations to Boost the Christmas Spirit!”

Thoughts on Non-Fiction

Since November is designated for the Non-Fiction Reading Challenge, I thought I would talk about my favourite non-fiction genres and my experience of reading non-fiction books. The only non-fiction genre which I love but will not cover below is medicine/cognitive science. It will be the topic of my next post and I also previously covered it in this list here.

This new book on my TBR list traces the history of human movement on water

Some of my favourite non-fiction books fall into the categories of history and travel (culture exploration). Be it dinosaurs (The Rise & Fall of the Dinosaurs), the Middle Ages (A Distant Mirror) or stories of survival in hostile terrains (Miracle in the Andes), I find all these topics completely fascinating. My previous favourite reads also included books on Mexico, New Orleans, New York and Rome. Though some I enjoyed more than others (for example, I did not get along with Peter Mayne’s Marrakesh book nor with Kurlansky’s Havana), I am always keeping my eyes open for interesting books in these categories. Thus, I am currently looking forward to reading A History of the Bible by John Barton, The Ghost: A Cultural History by Susan Owens, The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia, and Medieval Civilisation 400-1500 by Jacques Le Goff, an author that was recommended to me by Ola G.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Non-Fiction”

Japanese Literature Recommendations for Each Zodiac Sign

I got my idea for this post from youtuber A Little Bit of Monika who made a post recommending different Studio Ghibli films to her followers based on their zodiac (star) signs. Given the twelve star signs that exist (and their characteristics), I will also try to recommend 12 Japanese fiction books to each of the twelve star signs.

ARIES (March 21 – April 19)

Aries will always be up for an adventure and an exciting action. Therefore, Eiji Yoshikawa’s Musashi [1939] may be a perfect read for them because the book is all about an adventure revolving around an unlikely warrior Musashi. Being confident, courageous, energetic, as well as a natural leader, Aries could identify with the book and its characters.

TAURUS (April 20 – May 20)

Taurus is stable, reliable and devoted. They can be very family-oriented, as well as appreciative of beauty and tradition. Therefore, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s The Makioka Sisters [1936] could be a good read for them since they will enjoy all the practical, day-to-day intricacies and familial values/duties than the book tries to present. The Makioka Sisters takes place in Japan from the years 1936 to 1941 and focuses on one’s family’s attempts to marry off Yukiko, already a thirty year old woman who remains woefully unmarried. Given Taurus’s patience and determination, I trust them to finish the 576-page book, finding it significant.

Continue reading “Japanese Literature Recommendations for Each Zodiac Sign”

Imagining Menus from Books

I have been thinking (again) about the place of food in books recently, and I thought it would be fun to make a post where I would try to imagine and devise culinary menus from books, and also come up with objects and particular atmosphere based on a number of books that I’ve read, trying to evoke the particular aesthetics of the books chosen. My selected books are Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries and Yasunari Kawabata’s The Old Capital.

I. The Black Book [1990/2005] by Orhan Pamuk

Atmosphere:

Snow-covered Istanbul of the 1990s and 1960s: lonely streets and cold apartments.

What to bring:

Childhood memories, unresolved issues, newspaper clippings, old photographs, a mirror & green boll-point pen.

MENU

Drink: Turkish coffee or cold ayran (a yogurt drink mixed with salt);

Starter: Tomato soup (domates çorbası) or a plate of grilled meatballs (koftas);

Main: Lamb with basmati rice flavoured with cinnamon, mint and apricot, and a carrot salad;

Dessert: Quince dessert (ayva tatlısı).

Continue reading “Imagining Menus from Books”

The 15th Readers Imbibing Peril Reading Challenge

My favourite time of the year has started, and this year I have decided to start the Readers Imbibing Peril Reading Challenge earlier than usual. This is because, firstly, yes, I am impatient to delve into all those exciting scary books, and, secondly, I want to have plenty of time to decide what I want read for this challenge, and then read and review those books. This year I spotted this challenge at Robin’s A Fondness for Reading (it was first started by Carl V), and the goal is to read a certain number of books associated with the Halloween season. This year I am planning to read at least four books in one or more of the following categories: horror, thriller, mystery, dark fantasy and the supernatural. I have not yet decided on specific books, but I will definitely be reading something from both Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson. Are you participating in this challenge this year? What authors or books are you planning to read?

The Folklore Book Tag

I spotted this tag on Clemi’s Bookish World, and though I am not a Taylor Swift fan (or maybe I am and just don’t know it yet), I decided to post the tag because the questions are interesting. My answers somehow ended up to be more French than intended, and I omitted the category: “Peace: A book character you’d die for because you love them so much” because I could not decide on just one. I am tagging everyone who is interested in doing this fun tag.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-tenant.jpg

The Tenant (Le Locataire chimérique) by Roland Topor – After finishing this psychological, existential book, I really did not know what to make of the ending – but it is definitely thought-provoking. The book astutely explores alienation and the search for identity in a big city as the main character begins to realise that his neighbours may have nefarious designs upon him. The film of 1976 is equally good.

Continue reading “The Folklore Book Tag”

The Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag

I haven’t previously posted this tag, and I thought it would be fun – I have seen it on both the Literary Elephant and There’s Something About KM blogs. I have also skipped the questions on “best sequel” and “newest fiction crush” because, so far this year, I haven’t read a good sequel nor had a fiction crush.

Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2020

That’s a tough question – it will probably be Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red – I enjoyed the murder mystery there, the intellectual and historic atmosphere, and the ending. The Silent Cry by Kenzaburo Oe was my other memorable read.

New Release You Haven’t Read But Really Want To

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh (the author of Eileen [2015] and My Year of Rest and Relaxation [2018]).

The synopsis to Death in Her Hands reads that this is a novel “of haunting metaphysical suspense about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds a cryptic note on a walk in the woods that ultimately makes her question everything about her new home” (Goodreads). I also need to pick up The Truants by Kate Weinberg.

Continue reading “The Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag”

Victory Day: 9th May

It is Victory Day in Russia (my homeland), and I thought I would post a tribute especially since today marks 75 years since the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of the World War II in Europe. My grandparents lived through the WWII (for example, my grandfather on my mother’s side was a paratrooper (a military parachutist) and was involved in many WWII operations and my grandmother on my mother’s side worked in trenches). Some heroic actions are less evident than others and some heroes remain either unknown or forgotten. I have always found it touching when children or young teenagers distinguished themselves as heroes of war. Although there were many such examples, below, I would like to briefly talk about Zinaida Portnova. 

Zinaida Portnova [20 February 1926 – 15 January 1944] Zinaida Portnova

Zinaida was an active member of the anti-fascist youth organisation of Obol, a town now in Belarus. From 1942 (at the age of fifteen), she was a Committee member of the Obol undercover organisation “Young Avengers”. When she worked in one Nazi canteen, she poisoned soup meant for Nazi Officers which led to the deaths of many Nazis (over one hundred), and to prove that she did not, she ate the soup herself and miraculously survived. She then worked on many undercover operations that involved the undercover bombing of Nazi vehicles and distinguished herself in many other ways. When she was captured and interrogated by the Gestapo, the source says she snatched a pistol from the interrogation table and then killed three Nazi interrogators who meant to torture her for information. She escaped that room, but was then recaptured, tortured and shot (source I and source II). For her courage and heroism in fighting the fascists, she was posthumously awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

I am concluding this post with this arrangement by Patrik Pietschmann of the Schindler’s List (1993) soundtrack composed by John Williams.

3 Aspects of Japanese Culture and Tradition

Since I am currently learning Japanese, as well as participating in the Japanese Literature Challenge, I thought I would talk more about Japan, and its culture and tradition. Below, I will briefly and very generally highlight 3 aspects of the traditional culture of Japan which I find fascinating.

kitsune statuteI. Inari Shrines

Inari is a deity (a Shinto God) associated with foxes, rice, prosperity and household-wellbeing. There are many Inari shrines in Japan (close to 3000!) since this deity is much respected in the country (rice, as well as its protection, is very important). The origin of this worshipping goes back to ancient times, and both Shinto and Buddhist traditions have this deity in their ranks. Inari’s messenger and guardian is a fox or kitsune (a fox in Japanese) – probably because foxes were traditionally seen as rodent-eating creatures who help to preserve rice. Thus, often, you can find small kitsune statues near the shrines, under which one can leave their offering to the spirit in the form of cooked rice soaked in rice liquor (inari-zushi). No statue of kitsune resembles any other, and there is a great variety of them. It is said that Inari shrines even have symbolic holes somewhere so that spirit foxes may have an ease of access to the shrine. There is also a special festival called Motomiya-sai (“Main Shrine Festival”) held during the summer at Fushimi Inari-taisha or the head shrine of Inari in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto to celebrate this kami (or a spirit in Japanese).  Continue reading “3 Aspects of Japanese Culture and Tradition”

The Wanderlust Book Tag

I have not posted a book tag this year, so I thought I would participate in one. The Wanderlust Book Tag was created by Alexandra from Reading by Starlight, and everyone is free to participate. 

still life louise pennyI. Secrets and lies: a book set in a sleepy small town 

Still Life by Louise Penny is a detective story and a debut set in a small town called Three Pines in Canada. Another detective thriller-debut which is set in sleepy small town is The Dry by Jane Harper. That one is set in a small fictional town called Kiewarra, Australia. 

Shipwrecks Book CoverII. Salt and sand: a book with a beach-side community

Jaws [1974] by Peter Benchley is a book that popped into my head first, but I think I will settle for a coastal community in Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura. This is a story about a poor fishing village in Japan that desperately wants and tries to attract shipwrecks to its coast so that villagers can survive.  Continue reading “The Wanderlust Book Tag”

500 Followers Reached + Thank you! + Latin Quotes on Friendship & Reading

followed-blog-500-2xWordPress informed me that I reached 500 followers on my blog, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my followers and readers for following me, and reading and commenting on my posts! I am also pleased that people are “liking” my travel, art and general culture posts, and not only my book-related content. To “celebrate” this milestone, I am sharing a couple of quotes by Seneca, who was a Roman Stoic philosopher, on friendship and reading. 

Lectio certa prodest, varia delectat” –  “A limited list of reading benefits; a varied assortment serves only for delight/pleasure” or “Desultory reading is delightful, but to be beneficial, our reading must be carefully directed.” (It is quality rather than quantity in our reading that matters).

Non refert quam multos sed quam bonos libros habeas ac legas” – “It matters not how many, but how good books you have, and that you read them“.

Cum his versare, qui te meliorem facturi sunt” – “Spend time with people who will make you a better person”. Lucius Annaeus Seneca

My Life in Books: 2019

I saw this bookish meme on Laura, Rachel & Callum’s blogs and have decided to post my answers to it, too (the creator of this tag is Roof Beam Reader). The rule is that you must use only books you have read this year to answer the questions below without repeating any of the book titles. It looks like my version of this tag came off much darker than I initially intended it to be (so my answers contain dark humour). As usual, I am not tagging anyone, and anyone is free to participate. 

In high school I was Quantum Enigma (Bruce Rosenblum & Fred Kuttner)

People might be surprised by The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt (Toby Wilkinson)

I will never be The Architect’s Apprentice (Elif Shafak)

My fantasy job is The Editor (Steven Rowley) – not really, but it fits! Continue reading “My Life in Books: 2019”

The Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Completed!

year of the asian reading challenge

I am happy to inform my followers that I have completed my Year of the Asian Reading Challenge for 2019. My initial, very modest, goal was to read 12 books by Asian authors in 2019, and I managed to read 15 (coupled with time pressure and my other reading challenges). I know that there is still one month left before this challenge officially expires, but since I do not plan on reading Asian authors in December, I thought I would make an official concluding announcement. My mascot for this challenge was an Indian cobra (corresponding to the level of between 11 and 20 books), and, in 2019, I read authors from the following six countries: South Korea, Pakistan, Japan, China, India and Afghanistan. The books that impressed be the most during this challenge came from the Japanese writers Kobo Abe (The Woman in the Dunes/The Face of Another), Durian Sukegawa (Sweet Bean Paste), Akira Yoshimura (Shipwrecks) and Yoko Ogawa (The Memory Police), as well as from the Chinese-born author Eileen Chang (Half a Lifelong Romance). Below are all the books with the corresponding links to reviews.  Continue reading “The Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Completed!”

José Saramago (16 November 1922 – 18 June 2010)

Jose Saramago PictureSome of my favourite and most beloved people were born in November (my twin brother too!), as well as a parade of my favourite authors: Albert Camus (7th), Kazuo Ishiguro (8th), Margaret Mitchell (8th), Kurt Vonnegut (11th), Robert Louis Stevenson (13th), Vera Caspary (13th), Arundhati Roy (24th), etc. Jose Saramago, a Portuguese author and a Nobel Prize winner, is known for his through-provoking fiction stories that often ask philosophical questions and detail interesting psychological situations. My favourite books of his are The Cave [2000], The Double [2002], Blindness [1995] and Death with Interruptions [2005], which I all recommend.

“Some people spend their entire lives reading but never get beyond reading the words on the page, they don’t understand that the words are merely stepping stones placed across a fast-flowing river, and the reason they’re there is so that we can reach the farther shore, it’s the other side that matters.”

“Words that come from the heart are never spoken, they get caught in the throat and can only be read in one’s eyes” (José Saramago).

The End of the Year Book Tag

I spotted this tag first on youtube since I follow one book reviewer there – Eric, and decided to post my answers to this tag, too. The creator of this tag is Ariel Bessett, and I have also seen this tag at Whimsy Pages (Alex’s blog) and at The Book Prescription. I am not tagging anyone for this tag, and everyone is welcome to participate. 

The Maias Book CoverI. Is there a book that you started that you still need to finish by the end of the year?

The Maias (Os Maias) [1888] by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz. After I enjoyed The Crime of Father Amaro, I thought I would read another book by this author – Os Maias, a realist family saga, which was also recommended to me by Susana at A Bag Full of Stories. I am still to finish this Portuguese classic even though I started it about three weeks ago, but I do have an excuse – it is 715 pages long! I am enjoying it so far and I think it will be a five-star read for me. 

The Essex Serpent Book CoverII. Do you have an autumnal book to transition to the end of the year?

Every time I think of autumn or winter, I think of some nice crime mystery to read. I think it is so nice to read something like that in a warm home when there is snow or rain falling outside. I will be reading some detective stories by Andrea Camilleri (The Shape of Water and The Snack Thief will probably be my next reads). I also want to re-read The Essex Serpent [2016], which I enjoyed very much when I first read it. Given its slightly gothic, dark atmosphere and setting, it will also be the perfect autumnal transition.  Continue reading “The End of the Year Book Tag”

Robert Louis Stevenson (13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894)

dl-portrait-npg-robert-louis-stevenson Today marks 169 years since the birth of Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scottish author behind such books as Treasure Island [1883], Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide [1886], Kidnapped [1886] and The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses [1888]. I started reading his books at a very early age and continue to admire Stevenson’s power of imagination and a sense of wonder in his books and short stories. He has also been admired by many famous writers, including Henry James, Ernest Hemingway and Vladimir Nabokov, who included Stevenson’s tale Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide in his famous Lectures on Literature. 

To become what we are capable of becoming is the only end in life” 

Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant” (Robert Louis Stevenson).

The Non-Fiction Book Tag

I read a lot of non-fiction books (see also my list of 10 Fascinating Non-Fiction Books), so I decided to create this tag to draw attention to some fascinating books in the non-fiction genre. As usual, I do not tag specific bloggers and, if you read non-fiction, feel free to participate.

QuietI.  What non-fiction book would you recommend to everyone? 

Quiet [2012] by Susan Cain; introverts will feel at home with this book – more so than with any other book out there. This book is about introversion and how introverts can make a real impact in this world, especially if others differentiate them from shy people and let introverts flourish and achieve things in an environment that suits them best. Modern society is so preoccupied with “fast-business”, “first impressions” and with “immediate, loud success” that there is often no place for the quietness of thought, and deep analysis and insight that come from prolonged thinking and solitude. Our modern, commercialised society also does not seem to concern itself that much with honesty or loyalty (something that can only be seen through long-term relationships – a forte of introverts), but is all about expert communication skills, fast advertising and the “right” kind of external presentation (a forte of extroverts). Susan Cain makes it clear that, unlike in the West, Asian countries regard silence as a sign of deep intelligence, while talking is a sign of that in the West, and makes examples of introverted people who revolutionised the world or became leaders. The thesis of Susan Cain is that introverts have much to offer, including in the positions of leadership, if only others can shed stigma concerning “quiet” people and realise that they too can make an invaluable societal contribution.  Continue reading “The Non-Fiction Book Tag”

The Pumpkin Spice Latte Book Tag

I spotted this tag on Katie Jane Gallagher and Strangely Pop Cultured, and decided to try it because I just could not resist doing an autumn-themed book tag.

Osceola the Seminole Book CoverI. Pumpkin Spice Latte: A Book That Everyone Criticises But Is Actually Delicious:

Osceola, the Seminole by Mayne Reid.

This is a book that some say is only “for children” and “cannot be compared to the works of Jack London or Robert Louis Stevenson”. Well, I have another opinion. This book is THE book of my childhood, alongside other books by Mayne Reid, such as The Quadroon [1856] and The Scalp Hunters [1851]. Osceola, the Seminole has a great sense of adventure and induces warm feelings of friendship and romance. If you liked Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf [1903], then you should also check out The Boy Tar [1859] by Mayne Reid.  Continue reading “The Pumpkin Spice Latte Book Tag”

The 14th Readers Imbibing Peril Reading Challenge

rip14 imageIt is not long now until that spooky period of the year begins when we have to be careful if we do not want to become victims of witches, goblins and vampires. Halloween has always been my favourite festivity, maybe because I was born near this period and have always been fascinated by mysteries and the unknown. Thus, this year I have decided to participate in The Fourteenth Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) Reading Challenge hosted by Andi, and this challenge is all about reading books of mystery, horror, dark fantasy, or the supernatural. There are numerous levels of participation, such as Peril on the Screen and Peril of the Short Story, and I am going for Peril The First which means my goal is to read four books of any length in the broad horror genre in the month of October 2019. I do not have a preliminary list of books, but I do have a goal to cover the works of Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allan Poe. Does this challenge sound interesting to you? Would you like to participate?

The Astrology Book Tag

I saw this tag on Kristin Kraves Books (the original creator is Peace, Love, Veggies), and decided to give it a go because astrology is a fascinating esoteric study area (I am a Scorpio, btw). Each of the twelve zodiac signs has its own core personality description, and the headings below roughly reflect these descriptions. For example, the Libra sign is associated with balance in life, and, therefore, below is a request to name a book that is neither good nor bad (an equilibrium between good and bad is reached), and the sign of Leo is associated with power, pride and bravery, and, thus, there is a request below to name courageous characters in a book. As usual, I am not tagging anyone in particular, and everyone is welcome to participate. 

Como Agua Para Chocolate Book CoverI. ARIES – Name a book you’ve read that was full of fire, desire, and passion aries

Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) by Laura Esquivel 

When I think about boundless passion in books, this book by Mexican author Laura Esquivel just pops into my head instantly. Pedro and Tita’s forbidden love in this story is electrifying, and this story is about cooking and delicious food, too (Mexican recipes are included).  Continue reading “The Astrology Book Tag”

The Translated Literature Tag

I decided to create this tag because I read a lot of books translated from a foreign language, and sometimes I read books in Spanish and Russian. In my blog, I often try to bring attention to books translated from another language and there are many gems to discover in this category. I am not tagging anyone and everyone is free to participate. 

Silence Book CoverI. A translated novel you would recommend to everyone:

Silence by Shūsaku Endō (translated from the Japanese)  Flag: Japan on Google Android 9.0

It is easy to choose some Russian classic here, but I thought I would bring attention to this novel by Shūsaku Endō. This 1966 historical fiction novel tells of a Jesuit missionary sent to Japan in the 17th century at the time when Christians were persecuted. This powerful novel explores many themes, including the strength and limits of faith and belief, betrayal, and religion vs. particular culture and history. There is also a movie of the same name directed by Martin Scorsese, who is probably the world’s biggest fan of this book Continue reading “The Translated Literature Tag”

The Book Blogger Confessions Tag

I saw this tag at The Orangutan Librarian and decided to post my answers to it too. I will probably end up being hated for some of my opinions below 🙂 but a confession is a confession. 

Celestial Bodies Book CoverI. Which book, most recently, did you not finish?  

Celestial Bodies by Jokha al-Harthi (translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth). This is the recent winner of the International Booker Prize and, naturally, I wanted to read it as soon as possible. It is a tale of three sisters and their relationships in Oman. It is told through various characters’ perspectives, not only of the sisters’ but also of their children and husbands, apparently. I read first twenty or so pages, and though I liked the beginning, reading about the perspective of Mayya, one of the sisters, when other characters started telling about themselves, my attention veered off and I did not finish the book. I promised to myself to come back to this novel to finish it. The book has all the qualities of an important novel and I especially love that it is set in Oman, portraying a different culture. Continue reading “The Book Blogger Confessions Tag”

The Totally Should’ve Book Tag

I saw this book tag at Nut Free Nerd and decided to have a go at it (I changed slightly the original tag). I am not nominating specific people for this tag and anyone who wishes to participate is free to do so.

jonathan strange & mr norrell book coverI. Totally should’ve gotten a sequel

This is easy – Susanna Clarke’s amazing fantasy book Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell should get a sequel. There are still some questions that remain about the story and the story finished in such a way as to hint that there may be a continuation. 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets CoverII. Totally should’ve had a spin-off series

The Harry Potter book series. Ok, I know what everybody is thinking, but, please, hear me out. We had Harry’s story in seven books; we had additional books published by Rowling on quidditch and fantastic beasts; and we had screenplays that showed the magical world of America in the eighteenth century. But, I think it would be a great idea to have a spin-off series where we can see the magical world in a historical context. Hogwarts was founded in 990 A.D., and it will be interesting to see students studying at some historical point in time, such as maybe in the middle ages and to see how fashion changed and what spells were in fashion – to see the magical world as a historical fiction with new characters. Perhaps, references can be made to magical schools in Latin America or Africa, etc. The great thing about this is that the Harry Potter events would not be muddled with or changed since the action in any spin-off can take place centuries before Harry Potter.  Continue reading “The Totally Should’ve Book Tag”

The Literary Adaptation Book Tag

Since my two recent book reviews were of books that resulted in major films – Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and The Night of the Hunter – I have decided to have a go at this book tag about literary adaptations, slightly changing the original book tag seen at Milibroteca (a Spanish language book blog).

The English Patient Film PosterI. What is your favourite literary adaptation? 

Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient [1996] adapted from the novel of the same name [1992] by Michael Ondaatje.

The English Patient is far from being the most faithful adaptation, but Minghella (The Talented Mr Ripley [1999]) conveyed the spirit and atmosphere of the novel perfectly, and the film boasts great performances from Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas and Juliette Binoche. The score by Gabriel Yared (Betty Blue [1986]) is one of the most beautiful ever produced, too.

Virgin Suicides Film PosterII. What do you consider to be the best book-to-film adaptation?

Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides [1999] adapted from the novel of the same name [1993] by Jeffrey Eugenides. 

In my opinion, some of the best ever literary adaptations include Gone with the Wind [1939], Rosemary’s Baby [1968] and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [2001], but there is still something very special about Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, so I choose that film. It is a beautiful, haunting adaptation which remains largely faithful to the source material. Coppola did an amazing job conveying the suburban claustrophobia and hidden despair and tension of the girls. Continue reading “The Literary Adaptation Book Tag”

The Mardi Gras Book Tag

Mardi GrasI noticed this tag yesterday at Madame Writer, and decided to give it a go because Mardi Gras is a fascinating tradition and New Orleans, the place where it is famously celebrated, is a special place, indeed. The original tag can be found at RandomlyBookishGina. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is another name for celebratory Carnival events, when people can enjoy themselves by eating and drinking as much as they want before the Lent season begins. It is celebrated around the world in Roman Catholic countries as a Carnival, and, apart from a big celebration in New Orleans, US, there are also big events taking place in Venice, Italy and in Brazil.

The Secret History Book CoverI. Designated Driver: What re-read book is reliable to get you out of a reading slump? 

I do not really have “reading slumps”, but I can re-read Donna Tartt’s The Secret History [1992] to remind myself why I love “contemporary” books. This is a book that ticks all the boxes for me: intriguing character studies, a slow slide into the macabre, and beautiful language, among many other things. I highly recommend it.  Continue reading “The Mardi Gras Book Tag”

Six Degrees of Separation – from Pride & Prejudice to The Name of the Rose

It is time for another Six Degrees of Separation post, which I first saw on Books are My Favourite and Best. I propose that there are six links connecting the above books, follow me:

Pride & Prejudice is my favourite novel by Jane Austen, but did you know that it was originally titled First Impressions? Another classic book which changed its title before publication is The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald seriously considered naming his book Trimalchio in West Egg, among other titles.  Continue reading “Six Degrees of Separation – from Pride & Prejudice to The Name of the Rose”

The Year of the Asian Reading Challenge 2019

This week I heard about The Year of the Asian Reading Challenge (YARC) 2019, organised by the amazing bloggers from Shut Up, Shealea, The Quiet Pond, Sprinkles of Dreams, & Vicky Who Reads, and cannot help but join the celebration of Asian authors. The challenge is to read as many books as possible written by Asian authors, and this is a great challenge because there are tons of books by Asian writers, which are just amazing and deserve more recognition. 

cobraFor this challenge I am going for a very modest goal of reading 12 books by Asian authors by the end of the year, and will be updating my progress on this page. This is because I am already participating in my other personal reading challenge on travel, and have too many to-be-read books that have been on my shelf for far too long. As I am going for 12 books, my “mascot” for this challenge is an Indian cobra, representing a challenge to read between 11 and 20 books. I strongly urge everyone else to join this challenge, because there will be monthly prompts, link-ups, as well as interesting discussions and exciting giveways. 

Six Degrees of Separation – from News of the World to The Woman in the Window

I saw this meme on the Books are My Favourite and Best blog, and decided to give it a go. The idea is that books are linked to one another in some way and there are “six degrees” to their separation. This is taken from the idea by Frigyes Karinthy that everyone is separated from everyone else in this world by six links. Since my previous book review was for News of the World, I am deciding to start there. 

Paulette Jiles’s News of the World is an understated adventure story of quiet power and beauty, involving the relationship between two people, and that brings to my mind the novel by Jack London – The Sea Wolf. I read this classic book translated to Russian when I was very young, but what I remember distinctly is the unparalleled sense of sea adventure. In this story, one young man is rescued by another ship captained by Wolf Larsen, a ruthless man, and our main character is forced to play by Captain’s rules if he wants to survive.  Continue reading “Six Degrees of Separation – from News of the World to The Woman in the Window”

The Greek Mythology Book Tag

Flip That Page has created the Greek Mythology Book Tag, and since this is a popular type of posts on wordpress.com, I also thought I would give it a go. I also slightly re-worked the original tag framework. 

  • Zeus (Jupiter): God of the Sky and Thunder / King of the Gods

The Revolutionary Road PosterFavourite book: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates 

Richard Yates has created a fascinating, heart-breaking account of one couple – the Wheelers who simply want “to live” by deciding to go Paris and settle there permanently, breaking from the culture of conformity that pervaded the 1950s US. This marvellous novel is beautiful, a bit traumatic, but always moving. 

  • Poseidon (Neptune): God of the Seas and Earthquakes

The Remains of the Day Book CoverBook that drowned you in feels: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 

There is something emotional, evanescent and indeterminate about Kazuo Ishiguro novels, but The Remains of the Day has got to be one of his most moving novels. While reading this novel, one cannot but feel about the whole situation of opportunities lost and never recovered, and think deeply about the nature of duty, responsibilities and how the tiniest and most mundane details/attention can sometimes mean the world to some people, and everything should be seen in its context.  Continue reading “The Greek Mythology Book Tag”