February wrap up

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100 days of solitude by Daphne Kapsali
rating3
I bought this book on a whime, back in December, because it was on sale (I think it’s still is in the Amazon’s monthly deals section or somewhere). It was 0.99€ and…it sounded intriguing. It’s a collection of essays, wrote during the 100 days the author spent on a Greek island, writing. She wanted to be a writer and never did anything to achieve the goal, and then left her life to see if she could make it. I must say that like every story that aims at being motivational, is interesting: will she make it? What will she learn along the way? I find the writing style breezy and it’s an entertaining book…up to a point. Around half of it, the topics were more or less the same and it got a bit slow.
It was an enjoyable reading, though, and it’s definitely a good one if you like memoirs.

Se una Notte d’Inverno un Viaggiatore (If on a Winter Night a Traveler)
by Italo Calvino
rating5
Italo Calvino is one of the few Italian authors I’m interested in. This book was a compulsory reading for one of my uni courses and I must say I enjoyed it a lot. It’s a book that celebrates book, literature and the joy of reading (and of being a reader). It has a very peculiar way of telling the story, a story that unfolds rather unexpectadly. You could say it’s a bit experimental (although not the modernist kind of experimental novel). Although the story in itself is extraordinary and the storytelling clever, I must say that it wasn’t the story in itself that I liked. It was everything else.

The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life by Micheal Puett & Christine Gross-Loh
rating4
I’ve recently started to be interested into Daosim and subsequently Chinese philosophy, so I looked for a quick and easy introduction on the subject. This book is very short and shouldn’t be taken as more than it is: a brief, concise – although wonderful – introduction to the idea of the major chinese philosphers (Confucius, Lao Tsu, Zuangzhi, Mencius, etc.). It is so short I finished it in 24 hours, but despite the size I believe it’s a useful read, as it points out the core ideas of each philosophers in a clear and understandable way. It gives a very basic, very general knowledge that won’t change your life, but it is surely a good starting point. I found considerable food for thoughts into these pages and a very good bibliography to continue my researches.

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January wrap-up

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Adulthood is a myth by Sarah Andersen
rating5
Sarah Scribbles is a famous web comic series, written by Sarah Andersen, of which this volume is a selection.
It’s all about becoming adults, and sometimes not being really good at it. It’s about the anxiety you sometimes feel, hidden truths about life and the idea that we’re all on the same boat here.

Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand
rating5
Poorly Drawn Lines is my favourite web comic ever. It surpassed also Cyanide & Happiness. A lot. It’s about non-sensical humor, space bears, mice with knives attacking boys with big ears and bad puns.
If you’ve never looked at them, please give them a try. Maybe it’s not your kind humor, but the author is so creative! I enjoy them so much! (and it’s the perfect volume for bibliomancy, I swear).

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
rating5
This book is probably one of the best introductions on the subject and not only because it’s written by one of the doctors who theoriesed the existence of an EQ. It provides basic knowledge on how the brain and emotions developed, explaining how the brain physically works its way around emotions. It gives data on researches and studies, as well as drawing from the experience of the author himself. It defines emotions very clearly, giving also a variety suggestions on how to handle them, and last but not least it’s also very detailed on how important it is to give our children emotional support and educate their emotions along with their logic.
I loved it. It took me a month to be read and I still go back to it when I need to understand something better. The language is simple enough for non-experts in the field and the writing is linear and clear. I strongly recommend this one to everyone, but if you’re interested in understanding how the brain works it’s a must read.

The Fox by D.H. Lawrence
rating3
I like foxes, which is why I picked up this book while in the library. It’s the first work of Lawrence that I read (although Lady Chatterley waits for me) and I wasn’t impressed that much.
I liked the idea of a manly female protagonist (for the age, must’ve been quite crazy!) but these modernist depictions of love I really don’t like, and the male protagonist was an contradiction of himself.
It surely started like an uncanny and pleasant read, but when I reached half of it I was already a bit deluded. I gained interest toward the end again, I must say. 

Dionea e altre Storie Fantastiche bye Vernon Lee
rating2
A collection of fantastical stories by Vernon Lee, but there is no correspondant edition in English so I’m going to assume this was a mash-up made by the Italian publisher.
I haven’t enjoyed them much: it’s too much…ninetienth century flavoured both in writing and in the depiction of history and mythology.I know how much the victorians were fascinated by such subjects, but it’s an obsolete way to look at it.  Plus, I haven’t found really anything particularly outstanding in the stories, which is a shame because I really wanted to enjoy them.

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copy @unsplash.com

[…]There are no such things as wrong places. There are only things and places in endless combinations, people and things in places you wouldn’t expect, and a shift of context to allow for their presence there. And that is exciting because it means everything is always where it should be, and that things could turn up, somewhere else,  when you’ve given up hope. And that you can put yourself anywhere, at any place at all, and that’s exactly the place where you’ll belong.

~ Daphne Kapsali, 100 Days of Solitude 

Read Better, Not More – 2017 bookish resolutions

Challenge yourself to read more, this year!

Goodreads users know that a new year means a new reading challenge. New books, new goals: everyone of us wants to accomplish something more than we did in the past year and our TBRs usually are so big that reading faster is the only possible way to get through it all.

Reading challenge, but everytime you add a book to your TBR pile it gets faster

(if you don’t get the ref, you live outside meme culture and you should remedy that)

But it’s a new year and this means I want to do something different. In 2017 my personal reading challenge will be focused on reading better.

I’ve read faster for three years now. I did my first challenge in 2014 and since then my reading rate has grown of twenty books a year. T W E N T Y. That’s insane.
My pledge for 2016 was to read 60 books (I did the math and thought that five books a month were something I could manage) and although I ended up reading 54 I think it’s a win because it’s 14 books more than 2015. Those are ridiculous number, y’all.
I proved that I can read a lot. I proved I can read faster. There’s no point in doing this again: I can’t grow that rate any longer and I don’t wish to.

When I read my point is not “finish the book”, it’s “read the book”. Possibly, “savour the book” and “understand what you’re reading” – something I can’t do with the ghost of Goodreads asking how faster I am doing it.
Yeah, it’s all my personal problem here, but this idea of doing everything faster and faster is sickening at some point. Furthermore, there are several non-fiction books I really want to read this year and if one can eat up a story in a couple of days, long essays have to be chewed and digested slowly. And talking about non-fiction, I really need to start write down notes when I read. I tell myself that I’m going to remember every idea that comes up into my kind, but it’s a lie. We all know I won’t.

Last, but not least, I want to explore some genres I never read before (like horror or mystery, I already downloaded a collection of H. P. Lovecraft) and I want to read more poetry. As a student of literature I read what I must for my courses, but there are modern authors I discovered that I appreciate as well as some classic authors that caught my attention. 

Now, I’ll (slowly) grab my book and start reading. Slowly. 

September wrap-up

It’s not late for a September wrap up, is it?

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The Arctic Incident, Artemis Fowl #2 by Eoin Colfer
rating4
I’m trying to keep up with this series I didn’t have the luck to stumble upon when I was a kid. I’m enjoying it like I’m 8 years old nonetheless. I honestly found this specific part of the story not that interesting, but Colfer’s writing is so good I could read the decline and fall of the Roman empire if he wrote that.

All The Birds in The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
rating5

I’m so glad I bought and read this book. Both magic and science are part of this near-future world, incarnated by the two protagonists: a young witch who can talk to animals and a young scientist who found the blueprints for the two-secs time machine.
The story follows the friendship they form in school and later, their lives as adults in a world that is going to be destroyed by pollution and humanity’s exploitation.
The story does get a bit slow in the second half of the book, but I particularly love the writing style. This book has a lot of it.

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
rating3
I’ve seen this around for a while, and then bought a copy of the Italian edition at a library sale. I enjoyed the story, with its eerie atmosphere, and the characters – they’re not that rounded, but the focus is on the narration and the magical happenings, so it isn’t in any way an impediment. Pleasant writing, as well, although I found it a bit flat at times.

In Altre Parole (In Other Words) by Jhumpa Lahiri
rating3
I initially intended to read both the Italian and English version of this book (for pretentious scholarly purposes, ok?), but decided to stick only with the former. The author recounts her experience with Italian, a language she fell in love with, but that she struggles to learn. It is her battle against a language she longs for, but it is also a reflection on language and on what it can mean to us.

REVIEW: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

October is the month of spoopy things and I couldn’t help but add at least one spoopy book to my reading list for this month.
Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark by Alvin Schwartz is a collection of horror stories for younger readers, but it will make adults shiver as well. It’s a super short book and I found it entertaining and yes, a bit creepy.

Ghosts, monsters and strange creatures are hidden in this book ready to scare the readers who will venture through its pages. I found the stories rather creative and, although I’m not a reader of the genres, I don’t think they play too much on horror tropes even though you can definitely see them here and there (i.e. the girl’s ghost who seeks revenge for her death). The narration is quite simple and direct, but still hooks you up. Suffice to say I found myself staying up to read until 1am, so I would describe it as “rather addicting”. And yes, I was reading the book in the dark (well, with a little light to see obviously!). There are also some “stage directions” telling you when to stop or when to scream if you’re reading the book out loud, maybe to your children or your friends. It’s a detail that makes this book a nice guest at a Halloween party or a sleepover.

illustration by Stephen Gammel

The illustrations by Stephen Gammel are a great addition to the mix and 80% of what drawn me to this book in the first place. They are beautifully grotesque and scary enough, especially for a children’s book. Nothing too horrible, however, just the right mix to make your blood chill in your veins. I actually got scared when flipping the page during the story of the already mentioned ghost girl, when the illustration unexpectedly popped up!

Pleasantly scary, it is the perfect book to get into that Halloween mood!

REVIEW: Dreamwalker by James Oswald

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this cover is beautiful, look at that design!

Erroll and Benfro are two young boys, living wiith their mothers. They don’t live far from each other and both are curious, talented and have a knack for getting themselves into trouble. But they are very different: Erroll is a human and he wants to become a fighting priest. Benfro is a dragon, the last male dragon to be born in Gwlad. And dragons are watched with suspect from humans, who used to kill them in the name of their God. Both of them are going to face the world outside their quite villages, a world full of enemies and magic.

I enjoyed the concept of this world a lot. If I’m not mistaken, it draws quite heavily from Welsh folklore and culture, of which the names are just the most visible feature. The lessons of magic presented are not much far from what I read in more than one (pagan) book myself, and that was particularly appealing and satisfying. However, I feel like the world building could’ve been done in a much more concise way. It seemed to me that many things were mentioned, but few where explained in depth. Despite it all, there are no elements missing that affect the understanding of the story, so I will call my personal taste on this one.

What really put me off and gave me a hard time going through a third of the book is the fact that the story is very slow. When you start reading it’s not a problem, as you still have to enter the world completely and there is more than one aspect of life in this fantastical world that requires an explanation: the society, the magic, the political situation and the political schemes, the religion. Progressing through the reading, however, it really slows down the reading process and the story seems to be prolonged endlessly without really nothing happening. I also found the change between story lines (that of Erroll and that of Benfro) to be too abrupt sometimes, as the scene is cut and there is a switch back and forth between the two stories.

I don’t believe the storytelling is bad, however, and I must say that I enjoyed it despite its flaws. What I think is that maybe this book serves more as a prologue to give the backstory of the two main characters in the series, instead of being the beginning of the story as one usually understands it. I’m probably going to pick up the next book – as soon as I can put my hands on it – and I’m curious to see where the story goes. Most of all I want to witness the encounter between Benfro and Erroll and the merging of the two main narrative paths of the first book.

A special mention goes to the beautiful cover of this book, which is carton-like, has a beautiful design and it’s also sparkly. One shouldn’t judge a book from its cover, but in this case it is a real work of art!

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