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.

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Review: Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel

War’s mess and muddle, the brutality and the inanity of fighting few have better captured this than Isaac Babel, who was a journalist with the Soviet First Cavalry Army. His unflinching portrayal of the murderous havoc of battle is offset by an unexpected and wry humour: having seen the fighting up close, Babel is able to find the funny side of war while depicting its bloody side in all its mesmerising and casual violence. The lyricism and bitterness that characterise the thirty-five short stories of Red Cavalry are stunningly reproduced in this new translation by the award-winning Boris Dralyuk.

Written in the 1920s, and based on his personal diaries and experiences during the Polish-Soviet war, Red Cavalry almost cost Isaac Babel his life. This is one of the most important things the reader should learn about the Red Cavalry.In Soviet Russia, literature could, in fact, kill… Isaac Babel’s short stories painted a great war far different from the propaganda reels of the Soviet regime and this made Red Cavalry undesirable. Legendary Soviet marshall Budyonny, under whom Babel served during the war and whose army was described on the pages of Red Cavalry, demanded the author’s execution.

Good deeds are done by good men. The revolution is the good deed of good men. But good men do not kill. So the revolution is the work of bad men. But the Poles, too, are bad men. So who will tell Gedali where’s the revolution and where’s the counter revolution?

Brutal cossacks, desecrated churches, Polish peasants hiding their horses in the forests, impoverished jews, acts of cowardice and senseless atrocities… Red Cavalry is a haunting account of a conflict that is oftentimes overlooked and largely unknown to those living beyond Eastern Europe. Babel’s majestic prose paints the wartime violence with a truly poetic beauty.

Red Cavalry was graciously provided by Steerforth Press through NetGalley. 

Overall rating : 4*

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*

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?

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Review: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Guernsey. A tiny British tax-haven, just off the coast of France. The only territory of the crown that was ever occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War… Unfortunately, this happened to be almost everything I knew about Guernsey. That is until I got my hands on Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

In sickness and in health, in peril and in joy… For many of us books are always there, some books are a home, if you like. A safe harbor to come back to, when life gets dark. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a story about the joys of reading and the ways the books helped Guernsey residents make it through the German occupation that lasted almost as long as the Second World War itself.

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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.

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