Reading Challenge 2016

There are some books that I don’t really know what to say about. A few sentences are enough, but a whole review? I got nothing. Here are those 6 that fall into this category, and that end my 2016 challenge.

  1. cats-eyeA book by a Canadian author – Margaret Atwood Cat’s Eye – a story of Elaine, a painter, who goes back to her hometown (this hometown happens to be Toronto), for a retrospective of her art. She reminiscences on her high school friendship with three other girls. In one sentence, it’s a really good novel about coming to terms with one’s past, and with our identity. It’s both funny and sad at moments, compassionate and gripping. One thought stroke me most from that book – some version of “Everyone around me my age seems adult, and only I am pretending.” Pretty much sums me up.
  2. dzicy-detektywiA book by a South American author – Roberto Bolaño Los detectivos salvajes – I’d call it a great saga about poetry and poets, and journeys and searching. With many colorful characters. Who reminded me of the beatnik movement, and I may be wrong, but I will remember them as “South American beatniks.”
  3. A book published in 2016 – Emily Bleeker When I’m gone. Somehow, thewhen-i-am-gone word that comes to my mind is “cute.” The story is such: Luke buries his beloved wife after she dies of cancer. Then, he starts receiving letters from her and begins obsessing with finding the answer to the question of who’s delivering them. Reminded me of “PS I love you” (which I didn’t like, by the way). I liked “When I’m gone” a little better.
  4. warsztatA historical fiction book – Eduardo Roca El taller de los libros prohibidos (Workshop of Forbidden Books) – the author’s look on how printing was invented. To be honest, at first I thought this was going to be about some place where all the prohibited books go to. Nope. But the real idea was equally good. A lot of characters, which at first made it a little hard to follow, but they all tie up nicely. And it’s always good to read about how people used to live 500 (or more) years ago.
  5. An erotic book – John Cleland – Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure – a zwierzenia-kurtyzanycontroversial book that used to be prohibited. It caused a scandal back in the day (first published in XVIII century), but nowadays we have 50 Shaded of Grey, so we’re not discouraged, right? Okay, but in all seriousness, I’m not going to compare this to 50 Shades of Grey or any other book. It’s a story about a poor girl, Fanny, who’s used by a rich and manipulative owner of a brothel. When you take away all the vulgarity of that book and the rather simple language, it’s a story as old as the world – about how rich people take advantage of the less fortunate. Also, I am so not a fan of erotic books.
  6. przechwytywanieGrimm’s Fairy Tales – if I need to read fairy tales, what’s better than the ones written by Grimm? Also, I just happen to have that book at home. No idea why. Please don’t judge me. Anyway, the fairy tales by the Grimms brothers were the first I ever read on my own, and they scared me a little. I mean, they teach children that beautiful people are always good, and that stepmothers are always evil. Not to mention parents abandoning children in the woods, mother making her daughter slice her own feet to fit a shoe, and beautiful princes that will always, I mean always come to your rescue and marry you. I mean, if you’re beautiful and joyful, and good and virtuous, that is. But if you’re beautiful, it’s guaranteed you’re also the other three. But in all seriousness, these stories are fun to read when I’m an adult, but if I ever have children (hopefully not), I will not read those to them. Not a chance.

So, there goes my list of books I read this year for the challenge, but I didn’t mention some others, that I read “in the meantime.” In total I read around 40 books in 2016, plus I started some, but gave up after a few chapters. Not a bad year, though worse than 2015. I do however, go rather for quality than quantity – hence the number of abandoned books.

More on the subject to follow.

Do you know who you are? (Reading Challenge 2016 – A book published in Poland)

czy-wiesz-kim-jestesThis year, a friend of mine got me interested into 16 personality types based on Jung and Myers theories. Up until that point I was sort of aware of sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic types, and I knew what introverts and extraverts were about. But that was about it. The 16 personality types theory proved to be so interesting for me that I even bought this book. And this is a big event when I buy a book. For such an avid reader it sounds a little weird, but I’m a fan of libraries and borrowing books. There are 2 reasons for that: 1. I’m always trying to save some money 2. I don’t like to have too many things at my flat.

                But I digress.

                In the early 20th century Carl Gustav Jung coined the theory of Introverts (who take energy from their inner world) and Extraverts (who take their energy from outside world). Besides, he coined some additional concepts – Judging functions (Thinking or Feeling) and Perceiving functions (Sensing or Intuition). Katherine Cook Briggs, a teacher with an interest in psychology, together with her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, developed that theory and coined a way to describe the order of each of Jungian’s preferences. Therefore, we have:

  • Introversion (I) or Extraversion (E)
  • Intuition (N) or Sensing (S)
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

So, this is basically what this book is about. Jarosław Jankowski, the author, is a pedagogue that is popularizing this theory in Poland. In this book he describes it pretty easily, and writes about each of the 16 personality types, maybe without a thorough analyzation of inner processes, but he writes about strengths and weaknesses, as well as the potential for professional careers, how we behave as parents, friends and lovers – according to our personality types, that is. The book contains the test, from which you can easily and quickly learn what type you are.

So, this ends my review. It was interesting and informative, though when I was reading it from the beginning to the end I started confusing types I read about. But it’s the book I like to have around, cause I’m sure I’ll be coming back to it on many occasions.

I took a test to check my personality 4 times so far, and the first time I got INTJ; the other three times I got INFJ. To make it simpler I decided to be an INFJ. Also, I think it suits me. I hope it’s not just my willingness to believe it, cause I like the concept!

One way or another, one positive thing about my interest towards 16 personality types is that I finally started coming to terms with my own introversion. We have more to be proud of that I used to give us credit for.

More on the subject will follow.

 

Happy New Year :)

I’ve never liked New Year’s resolutions. Probably because New Year’s Eve is sort of like any other night for me, and you can have resolutions at any time of the year. And basically, do people actually keep them?

So, instead of resolutions I have a wish for myself. I wish I could write reviews as soon as I finish reading a book. Cause I did finish my challenge this year, just didn’t get to writing reviews of all the books. Well, anyway, a new “sort of challenge” is coming up soon, but first I have to wrap up 2016.

Enough of that. For New Year I wihs you health, luck and may all your dreams come true.

And lots of good book, of course, as always.

And for me? Same thing!

Tomorrow, When War Began – John Marsden (Reading challenge 2016 – A book published in Australia)

tomorrowThis one had potential. Lots of potential. Somewhere, somehow, though, something went wrong.

                And I can’t even say what!

                Anyway, I could describe the plot with one or two sentences. A group of teenagers go on camping for a few days. When they come back, they discover their town has been invaded by some strange country, so they decide to fight back on their own.

                Oh, I know where it went wrong. The teenagers, unarmed, not trained in combat by any means, successfully not only hid (which I might believe), but also fight back, and manage to win (in some cases).

                Sigh.

                On another note, I didn’t particularly like the characters. I mean, they were all nice and all, but somehow I had problems identifying them. Whenever one of them spoke, I was like “Hey, and who are you?” But maybe that’s me. I must be me, cause I read on the Internet that this is a bestseller.

                I’m not criticizing that book entirely, though. If I had a teenage child, I’d be happy if they read it. It speaks about important things in life, like friendship, courage, trust, the importance of not giving up. It’s a nice coming-of-age story, on the whole. I guess it’s not for me. There must be a reason for it being geared at young adults. I know, I know, my love for Young Adult books seemed never-ending.

                Somehow, I feel the end is coming, and it’s coming soon.

                Regardless, it’s not a bad book, not a good one either. I’d say its forgettable, but if I were younger I might have actually loved it.

                By the way, there are 7 of them in total – about the war itself – and 3 of “Ellie Chronicles” (Ellie is the protagonist and narrator of the books). I think I’m going to skip them, tough.

The End of Eternity – Isaac Asimov (Reading Challenge – A science-fiction novel)

               the-ed Have you ever wanted to turn back time? To change something you did in the past, and do it all over again? Have you ever wondered what it might feel like to go back to middle-ages? Or to years before Christ? Or maybe you’d like to go forward, into the future, to see what will happen to humans, and life on Earth?

                Meet the Enteranals. They are travelers through time, they go back and forth to change certain events, to prevent catastrophes. Their aim is to make life better, for humanity, in every age. Andrew is a Technician in this world, which means he does the actual changes, while others observe or calculate what a particular change would mean for the rest of the world, and for how many years this would have effect.  Andrew is very smart, and is great at what he does, moreover, he’s convinced that what they do is right. Then there comes a woman, and Andrew finds himself not only breaking the rules just to stay with her, but also doubting the sole existence of Eternity, and its almost unlimited power to change things and people.

                I don’t usually read science fiction novels, not fantasy novels, not really. Therefore, I won’t be able to compare this one to any other of the kind. I am, however, in love with anti-utopia sort of stories, and I think this is one of them. The purpose of Eternity is to make it better for humanity as general, to make things better for as many people as possible. At the cost of changed pasts, or destroying beautiful art, or even making one person an invalid. The Eternals decided humans are not capable to deal with the consequences of their own actions, and they need help with doing what’s right. It’s basically telling that one person and his/her action doesn’t matter, that we’re not irreplaceable, and only the majority matters, not an individual.

                If you look at it from that point of view, the book is terrifying. Almost unlimited power to change the world. Makes me wonder, what would I do with it? Surprisingly, this was not a prevailing thought while reading this book. The prevailing thought was a question really, a question of “What will happen next?” The novel is a great page-turner, with a lot of unexpected twists, making you want to know more and keep on reading till the last page. For me it was like reading a great thriller, not a science fiction novel, or an anti-utopia one. And even the not-so-well developed characters didn’t – rather surprisingly – bother me at all. The characters didn’t have much depth, but they were still rather likeable and their motives understood, so that was good enough. I didn’t read this one for characters. Mostly for action.

                Generally, I’d recommend it. It’s a well-told story, with a  lot of suspense, and without unnecessary descriptions or fillers. Great entertainment.

F. Scott Fitzgerald – Short Stories (Reading Challenge 2016 – A book considered a classic)

               2ie A few years back, when I was still a student of American literature, I had these teachers that would make me think F.S. Fitzgerald was this great, great author. But as it turned out, not only them! He’s considered a great author, a legend even, by a lot other literary experts. So many and so much that it made me think I’m a little stupid.

                Because here’s a thing. I don’t like the guy. (I mean, his writing. I know practically nothing about him as a person). I tried reading The Great Gatsby – since, you know, it’s a Legendary Book – but I couldn’t. Just couldn’t. Bored me to death. And I seriously disliked that Daisy-girl (though I liked her name).

                This year I gave F.S. Fitzgerald another chance and read his collection of short stories. Okay, I liked them a little better than The Great Gatsby, but where the legend, I ask myself? Seriously, where?

                So, anyway, the stories are as follows (in the order as they appeared in the version I read):

  1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  2. O Russet Witch
  3. Hot and Cold Blood
  4. The Four Fists
  5. The Camel’s Back
  6. The Offshore Pirate
  7. Gretchen’s Forty Winks
  8. The Lees of Happiness

 

                The cover promises me stories about yearning for success, getting old and getting one’s hopes destroyed, and bitterness of failure. Sure, we get that, but sort of as an after-thought. To be honest these stories for me were just sort of cute, harmless little tales. Not very memorable.

                Also, the question that I pondered most when reading those (except for “Where exactly is this guy’s phenomenon?), was “Is F. S. Fitzgerald even able to create a female character I might actually like?” Because most of them annoyed the heck out of me. Especially the one in The Offshore Pirate. I try to avoid speaking to girls like that, and reading about them is not really easier.

                One more thing before I wrap it up. I watched the movie about Benjamin Button. There was a time it seemed like everyone watched it. It was a few years ago, so I’m not sure exactly. But it did seem like the story and the movie seemed like two almost different tales.

                Yeah, well, I don’t care enough to check it.

                Let’s wrap up now. I’m not sure why this came out so… bitter? Bad? Maybe because I’ve been sort of frustrated with “everyone” telling me F. S. Fitzgerald was such an extraordinary writer. Or maybe because I’m frustrated with myself for either not understanding it (still, “after all these years”), or for trying to adopt somebody else’s opinion.

                Regardless, to be honest I think these stories are quite interesting. They were fun to read, most of the time, and it didn’t feel like a chore (which sometimes happen). I mean, after all, I managed to finish them.

                However, I’d say this much – they were meaningless enough for me to once and for all come to terms with this sad fact that I will probably never appreciate F. S. Fitzgerald.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams – Stephen King (Reading challenge 2016 – A collection of short stories)

1I still have a problem with short stories. I mean, you know, you start to like the characters, get involved into the story, and then it ends too quickly. But sometimes, I can enjoy and appreciate this form of writing, if it’s done well. Stephen King proved to be a master of short stories. I would even say, he’s better at writing them than at writing novels. I usually had a problem with his novels – they were too long and too detailed. I know, I know, details are important and generally cool, but too much focus on them makes it boring and makes me, sometimes, lose patience.

                But that’s just me.

                Anyway, for the stories included here. Of course, some of them were better, some of them were sort of forgettable, but generally I’d say it’s a well-balance collection, and most of the stories included were entertaining, thrilling and even compelling. They’re about guilt and morality, and of afterlife, and regrets. Creepy and real. On the whole, one of the better books I read this year.

                First let me write titles of my favorite ones:

The Dune

Bad Little Kid

A Death

Morality

Under the Weather

Obits

And some of the ones I enjoyed less:

The Bone Church

Blockade Billy

                I can say I enjoyed the rest pretty much, but just a little less than the first 6.

Afterlife

Ur

Herman Wouk Is Still Alive

Mister Yummy

Tommy

The Little Green God of Agony

That Bus Is Another World

Drunken Fireworks

Summer Thunder

Mile 81

Premium Harmony

Batman and Robin Have an Altercation