The year that changed my reading habits

Delete, delete, delete.  I wipe one unfinished book after another off my Goodreads currently reading list, some of these books were on that list since about 2015 and the number kept growing and growing.

This year’s challenge does not look too promising either. Eleven out of 30 thus far, there are less than two months to go till the end of the year. Most likely, I will not even make it half-way. Two years ago I pledged to read 45 books, the year ended with 52. Only two books on this year’s read list are works of fiction. The change is also striking, but I suppose these changes only reflect the turbulent reality of 2017. 

Fiction used to be a refuge in the darkest of days, but fact is that the imaginary worlds also drew me in because they were a form of escapism. I do credit imaginary worlds of fiction for keeping me sane, for safekeeping a light at the end of the tunnel, but what this year has shown is that I started to live differently. Some days are still dark, some are also full of terror. This year has been one of, no, THE most emotionally charged of my life and it has taught me a great many lessons about my self. I have realized that I have changed, and so have my reading habits. I no longer intend to put frames, I do not intend to erase, rewind and press play. This is a new start on a blank page.

My #HarryPotter20

My, I do feel so old when I think it has been 20 years since I first laid my hands on Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone. The first book, one that I borrowed from a childhood friend has changed the way I see the world, but that’s what J.K.Rowling’s books did for most of the readers.

Those days weren’t the brightest ones I could look back on. Book one was borrowed, books two and three were brought by my parents, who went to Moscow to earn some money. When the Goblet of Fire came out,  I had to sell my copies of the Chamber of Secrets and the Prizoner of Azkaban in order to be able to afford to buy the latest installment.  A penpal sent me her copy of the Order of the Phoenix. Another friend from England sent me the Half-Blood Prince.  The last chapter, the Deathly Hallows, became the one – the first book – that I could truly buy on my own…

One of my closest relative blamed all my faults and mistakes on that book series. I forgot something – Harry Potter was to blame, I never did something – it was all about Harry. The smallest of missteps oftentimes resulted in degrading words about the books that – I’m not afraid to say it – kept me sane and, however irrational it may have seemed at these points, they kept me hopeful. These books have also made me loyal to the ones I have let into my life till the last.

I speak/know/understand 7 languages. Going on 8 right now… When people hear this, they are almost always perplexed. How can this be possible? For those that do not know, I am from Moldova – a country which is not only bilingual, but is a country which brings together languages of two different groups. So, since childhood I have gradually gained understanding of languages of both Slavic and Latin origins. Russian and Romanian were the beginning. Harry Potter and J.K.Rowling taught me English. I have re-read the series in every language that followed. French, Spanish, Czech… Every line, every word in a language that I did not yet quite grasp was familiar and every time, I felt like I was reading the series for the first time. Just a little bit like that.

J.K.Rowling created a home for me, she created my friends, my escape and my consolation, her words stopped me from falling to pieces many, many times, she made me fall in love with English and helped me discover other languages. That is what she did for me and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Review: Thug Notes by Sparky Sweets, PhD

Goodreads Description:

Sparky Sweets, PhD, and Wisecrack proudly present this outrageously funny, ultra-sharp guide to literature based on the hit online series, Thug Notes. Inside, you’ll find hilarious plot breakdowns and masterful analyses of sixteen of literature’s most beloved classics, including: Things Fall ApartTo Kill a MockingbirdHamletThe Catcher in the RyeLord of the FliesPride and Prejudice, and more!

The series Thug Notes has been featured on BET, PBS, and NPR and has been used in hundreds of classrooms around the world. Whether you’re a student, teacher, or straight-up literary gangster like Dr. Sweets, Thug Notes has got you covered. You’ll certainly never look at literature the same way again.

This review has been way too overdue. To sum it up – Sparky Sweets, PhD’s Thug Notes is a book that could have helped me love the classic back in the dark days of high school. Could have – because those days loving the classics was impossible. I have a certain lady to thank that for, a certain Mrs. Vera P. (whose last name rhymes with a nasty word in Russian), who happened to be our lit’ teacher.

Classic literature is timeless, ageless—and it should be classless,” . Vera P. made it elitist, dissecting plots, characters and symbolism to a level of… a confusing and repulsive mess. Literary studies, Vera P. style made classic lit unenjoyable, but simply intolerable. This is how way too many books were lost to me forever.

 Thug Notes is a marvel –  intelligent, fun and sharp, but most importantly, it delivers the message of the books without elevating their analysis to a level of science, and damn, his understanding and knowledge of lit is really deep. Sparky Sweets makes the classics enjoyable again, and while the language and literary analysis would probably make some rigid teachers cringe, Thug Notes one of the greatest books on literature I’ve ever come across.

P.S. Make sure to check out Sparky Sweets, PhD’s YouTube channel, because it’s simply brilliant.

Review: Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

With the right words you can build a world and make yourself king of it. […] After all, words are what remain when all the deeds have been done. Words can shatter faith; start a war; change the course of history. A story can make your heart beat faster; topple walls; scale mountains – hey, a story can even raise the dead. All that’s why the King of Stories ended up being King of the gods; because writing history and making history are only the breadth of a page apart.

 Meet the most unreliable narrator ever, Loki, known as Wildfire, also known as the God of Mischief. Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris is a deliciously sarcastic retelling of Norse mythology, signed by Yours Trully, the trickster-in-chief. Loki recounts the days leading to Rangarok, the End of Days, which some of you have heard will be featured in one of the upcoming Marvel films. Spoiler, in the original myths everyone dies. How did the end came about? According to Loki, the transition from dog to god is only a revolution away, and fact is, the gods of Asgard are not exactly as noble and nice as history painted them to be.

Well, that’s history for you, folks. Unfair, untrue and for the most part written by folk who weren’t even there.

 Gospel of Loki explores the short-lived nature of trust, loyalties and friendship in Asgard. The lovechild of thunder, creature of Chaos, Loki is a mischievous liar, oftentimes trying to mess things up for his fellow Asgardians just for the fun of it.Odin tricks Loki out of chaos and brings him into the world of gods and men, he has no way back, and the All-Father knows that all too well.  Even when he’s being good, he is being blamed for everything odd that happens on Asgard. Acceptance and loyalty is fleeting in the realm of the Gods.

There are, always, two sides to every story. Witty, sarcastic and wickedly intelligent bad boy of Asgard tells the story of the land of men, gods and strange creatures through a series of adventures. He is undoubtedly somewhat wicked, a liar, adulterer and yet, Loki is not the sole maker of Asgard’s downfall. Odin, Frigga, Thor, Siff… every single one of them is no less to blame.

Friendship is overrated. Who needs friends when you can have the certitudes of hostility? You know where you stand with an enemy. You know he won’t betray you. It’s the ones who claim to be your friends that you need to beware of.

Overall note: 3,5*

Review: On beauty in exile

512MBXF8KRL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Masterfully researched and beautifully illustrated, Beauty in Exile by Alexandre Vassiliev is no ordinary book. It is a true testament to the spirt of thousands and thousands of Russian emigres that, having fled the horrors of Revolution and Civil War in their homeland, managed to reinvent their lives and conquer the world of art and fashion.


First read of the year: the Golden Son

Thrilling. Gripping. Jaw-droppingly good. Pierce Brown’s Golden Son is a deliciously wild ride.


In the second installment of Red Rising trilogy, Darrow is drawn further and further into the lies and cruelty that rules the solar system. He is destined to break the chains and free the reds, his kin toiling in the mines of Mars. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, hell-bent on revenge for the death of his wife and the torment of his family. The wolf that makes a mistake, leaving to his downfall in the eyes of the society and an army of Bellona vultures waiting to devour him whole. The Sons of Ares, the secretive organization working to bring the society down are in complete disarray, their leader sends Darrow on a suicide mission on Luna. Instead, Darrow ignites a civil war.


My true love gave to me: the holiday anthology

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins.

You would fall in love, or not. The trouble with anthologies, that there is always a risk that you will find only a few small gems amongst hours of wasted time, which, unfortunately was exactly the case with “My true love gave to me”.


Something digital this way come: on joys and perils of reading

Something digital this way comes.

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It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged, that book stores are some of the most calming of places. Okay, okay, maybe I am one of the selected adepts of book therapy, yet the whole debate that digital libraries will soon take over leaves me and many bookworms quite plainly irritated.

Books smell of adventures, and memories, and the passing of time, people that you used to know and ways you used to be, and every day, they say, real books – and their understanding – are menaced by the advent of digital publishing. Kindles and Kobos top the Christmas wish lists, books are downloaded and self-published online by the millions, while the screens give modern children an addiction, which most bookworms would call positively frightening. So where will we, humble compulsive readers stand in the next few years? And are things really all that simple?


Orphan train by C. Baker Kline

Orphan train book cover

 Parental love, loss, helplessness and broken childhoods… The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline follows the story of Molly, a troubled teenager of American Indian descent, who, by the age of 17 has lived in a string of foster homes. One day, after Molly gets caught stealing Jane Eyre from the local library, her paths cross with Vivian,  a 90-year-old wealthy widow, who (unknowingly) allows Molly to serve her community service punishment by helping her go through an attic-full of mementos stored in her house.



Adaptations of the fall

Literary adaptations. When it comes to films, most literature aficionados end up asking questions, many questions on whether the films would actually live up to the wonderful works that leave many of us with a book hangover. With September just around the corner, it’s time to have a look what fall movie releases have in store.