Monday, 22 January 2018

"Throne of Glass" #1 by Sarah J. Mass

Title: Throne of Glass (#1)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy
Overall: 7/10



Synopsis:
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. He offers her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her ... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead, quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Jo's review:
I'm on some kind of marathon of Sarah J. Maas' books. I love her language, writing style and imagination. Although it's filled with action, mystery, likable characters and fun dialogue, it also has a few tacky and boring bits: love triangle and predictable plot twists. Because of that, I couldn't really get into this story but still - it's a really good fantasy book. I like Celaena for her wit, strength and never-ending love for books and sweets. It was a bit bothering that she was supposed to be 'world's greatest assassin' and yet her portrayal was more focused on how pretty she was. I'm definitely going to reach for the rest of the books in the series as the plot in "Throne of Glass" in quite undeveloped and I'm curious to see what happens next (and I'm hoping to see less love triangle drama). 

Favourite quotes (I can relate to all of them, honestly):
“Libraries were full of ideas—perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons.” 

“I can survive well enough on my own— if given the proper reading material.” 

 He picked up the brown bag of candy on the table. "What's your . . ." He trailed off as he weighed the bag in his hands. "Didn't I give you three pounds of candy?"
She smiled impishly.
"You ate half the bag!"
"Was I supposed to save it?"
"I would have liked some!"
"You never told me that."
"Because I didn't expect you to consume all of it before breakfast!"
She snatched the bag from him and put it on the table. "Well, that just shows poor judgment on your part, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

"A Court of Mist and Fury" by Sarah J. Mass

Title: A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)
Author: Sarah J. Mass
Genre: Fantasy
Overall: 11/10



Synopsis:
Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people. Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.


Jo's review:
Okay. Okay. Okay. This was the last book I've read in 2017 and my favourite one of that year. And it was so much better than the first part of the series. Great writing, great aesthetics, great character portrayal. It shows how a toxic relationship slowly tears a person apart. How too many emotions can make someone emotionless. How blood is not always thicker than water. What I love the most is the fact that this story wasn't romanticized in a trivial way. Rhys and Feyre were equals in all aspects, she had just as much darkness as he had light. Perfect balance. Perfect equality. I'm faithful to the interpretation of Hades&Persephone myth claiming that she knew what she was doing, eating that pomegranate. She knew what she was doing when she became the Queen Of It All. She wasn't kidnapped by the lord of darkness, she was saved by him from the golden cage of the world of spring. That's exactly what happens in the myth and in this story. She fell in love with the prince of darkness which was a salvation from her own demons. How perfectly paradoxical. Oh, how perfectly perfect was this book.


Favourite quotes:

“There are different kinds of darkness. There is the darkness that frightens, the darkness that soothes, the darkness that is restful. There is the darkness of lovers, and the darkness of assassins. It becomes what the bearer wishes it to be, needs it to be. It is not wholly bad or good.” 

"The issue isn’t whether he loved you, it’s how much. Too much. Love can be a poison."




Saturday, 13 January 2018

"Cruel Beauty" by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: Fantasy
Overall: 7/10


Synopsis:
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people. But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her. As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Jo's review:
I flew through this book, started in the morning and finished in the evening. The first half was really mysterious and intriguing, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough because of the promising plot. But here comes the disappointed. It turned out to be a swoony romance which is not exactly my kind of thing. The moments of revelations were weird and unexpected. But I did love the characters though. They were extremely flawed, not heroines with hearts of gold but true people who get selfish and who have moments of weakness. Nyx is strong but also a bit dark and vicious, she hurts people she loves and makes mistake after mistake. There are many elements of fairy tales and Greek mythology which I enjoyed. The book is very well-written as well. My main complaints are that it got overwhelmingly romantic a time and the ending was terrible. 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

"The Great Gatsby" by F.Scott Fitzgerald

Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: Francis Scott Fitzgerald
Genre: Fiction
Overall: 5/10



Synopsis:
Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach. Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing, and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby---young, handsome, and fabulously rich---always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel

Jo's review:
If I hadn't watched the movie, If I hadn't already known how this story ends - I'd enjoy this book so much more. But unfortunately, because of the above - it was dragging for me. It's a fairly quick read but I couldn't finish it. Besides, I couldn't stop picturing Gatsby as Leonardo Dicaprio in my head. Fitzgerald's style of writing is delightful, full of metaphors, aesthetically pleasing comparisons and other linguistic ornaments. The portrayal of the main characters was equally amazing. Gatsby's complex and blind pursuit of love, of a dream, of a woman. And Daisy, extremely enigmatic and equally disappointing with her cynicism and shallowness. But I've made one discovery while reading this book, something that I couldn't quite understand in the movie. Why is Gatsby so great? Or why is he called great? The answer is very simple: the narrative. This story is told from the perspective of one man who admired Gatsby, his optimism, all his grand achievements, and perseverance. It's not only a story of an unfinished love but also a story of joys and pleasures associated with the 'American dream'.  Oh, I so wish I had read the book before I saw the movie.

Favourite quotes:
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

“Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For awhile these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing.”

“In his blue gardens, men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” 

And so, I have read 1/12 books of the Back to The Classics Challenge!



Saturday, 6 January 2018

"A Court of Thorns and Roses" by Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses (#1 bok of the series)
Author: Sarah J. Mass
Genre: Fantasy
Overall: 9/10




Synopsis: 
Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price. Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Jo's review:

Okay. Wow. I have spent an entire Boxing Day reading this book cozied up next to the Christmas Tree. I love how fast paced the storyline is, every chapter is exciting and thrilling. It's also a love story, that's true, but of a different kind. It feels right and at the same time - very disturbing. Like there's something wrong with this love but you're not exactly sure what. The main character is a girl who fell in love with a prince and lifted his curse- only to reveal his true nature. I especially adore the magical world that this book creates. There are seven courts that rule the land of Prythian.There are Seasonal Courts: Spring Court, Summer Court, Autumn Court, Winter Court and Solar Courts: Dawn Court, Day Court, Night Court. Each of the courts has very unique aesthetics that create the most amazing landscapes in your imagination. There are so many people saying that this is the retelling of Beauty and the Beast - and I disagree. Except for the fact she's captured, there are no other similarities or at least I don't see them. It's difficult for me to find a fantasy book that is not pathetic or cliché but this one is definitely very unique. I cannot wait to read the rest of the series!







I'm also super excited about the Back to The Classics Challenge hosted by Books and Chocolate!
Here's my list:

1.  A 19th century classic - 'The Black Tulip" by Alexander Dumas

2.  A 20th century classic - "The Great Gatsby" by F.Scott Fitzgerald

3.  A classic by a woman author - "Emma" by Jane Austen 

4.  A classic in translation - "Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert


5. A children's classic - "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction - "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Arthur Conan Doyle


7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction - "Murder on The Orient Express" by Agatha Christie

8. A classic with a single-word title - "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley


9. A classic with a color in the title - "The Picture of Dorian Grey" by Oscar Wilde


10. A classic by an author that's new to you - "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" by Beatrix Potter


11. A classic that scares you - "Anna Karenina" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky


12. Re-read a favorite classic - "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen


Thursday, 21 December 2017

"Love & Treasure" by Ayelet Waldman

Title: Love and Treasure
Author: Ayelet Waldman
Genre: Historical fiction
Overall: 6/10


Synopsis:
In 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack Wiseman, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the lieutenant charged with guarding this treasure—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie Stein, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—a woman whose portrait and fate come to haunt Natalie, a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand the guilt her grandfather will take to his grave and to find a way out of the mess she has made of her own life

Jo's review:
Three stories taking place at three different times and having three factors in common - the shadow of war, independent women, and a peacock necklace. I was drawn to this book because I find the legend of Nazi gold train very intriguing and curious. It also embraces the topic of women's suffrage, Holocaust, and fate of Hungarian Jews. The first story took place in Salzburg in 1946, it was extremely slow and boringly detailed, characters with very plain personalities. The second story got a little bit more captivating, a mystery of the missing painting and two people of today's world falling in love after very unsuccessful past romantic experiences. And then there was the third, my favourite.  Thanks to this story I am glad I reached for this book. A young girl at the beginning of last century who wants to become a doctor but struggles with her parents' pressure to get married. There's also the matter of friendship that turns into affection and the matter of women's liberation. It's a unique story of the Holocaust, for sure. What I didn't like the most was the style of writing, the language at times was dull to the point where my thoughts started drifting away. 

Favourite quotes:
"When I saw that concentration camp I felt like apologizing to my dog for being a member of a human race."

"I found and still do find myself furious at the squandering of her gifts, not only for her sake, but for the myriad patients she will never cure, the discoveries she will never make, the lives she will never save. How many people will die, have died, because of the wasted talents of intelligent and gifted women, forced into domestic drudgery, corseted by paternal demands, strangled by denial of opportunity? Too many to count. Too many to contemplate. Too many."

"To be female is no picnic."

Saturday, 16 December 2017

"How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are" by A. Berest, A. Diwan, C. de Maigret and S. Mas.

Title: How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits.
Authors: Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, Sophie Mas.
Genre: Nonfiction
Overall: 10/10



Synopsis:
From four stunning and accomplished French women--at last--a fresh and spirited take on what it really means to be a Parisienne: how they dress, entertain, have fun and attempt to behave themselves. In short, frisky sections, these Parisian women give you their very original views on style, beauty, culture, attitude, and men. The authors--Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas--unmarried but attached, with children--have been friends for years. Talented bohemian iconoclasts with careers in the worlds of music, film, fashion and publishing, they are untypically frank and outspoken as they debunk the myths about what it means to be a French woman today. Letting you in on their secrets and flaws, they also make fun of their complicated, often contradictory feelings and behavior. They admit to being snobs, a bit self-centered, unpredictable but not unreliable. Bossy and opinionated, they are also tender and romantic.

Jo's review:
Definitely not what I expected, thank goodness. I thought it would be a zany and peculiar set of anectodes full of indulgent gaiety. But instead, I got a book that behind a colourful curtain of sarcasm and self-distance provides a guide on how to be Parisienne. Walking the streets of Paris it is extremely easy to determine which women are actually Parisian. They are charming, sassy, smart. They are impossible to miss. The guide is divided into chapters such as Get the Basics, Own Your Bad Habits, Cultivate Your Allure, Dare to Love, and Parisian Tips. It doesn't have any formal structure or story, it's more like a series of snippets of advice on lifestyle, beauty, love and an attitude to the world and to yourself. It's been written by four Parisian women who (with loads of distance, irony and an ability to laugh at themselves) take a look a the Parisienne manner of living.  I absolutely loved this book. I really enjoyed the humor, I laughed a lot while reading it, especially the times when I recognized myself in some of the pages. It's a good self-check when you start analyzing the way you carry yourself in the world. It's a one afternoon read filled with sarcasm, aesthetics, and tips on French Joie De Vivre

Favourite bits:
“She doesn't have a ring on each finger or a big diamond on each ring. She doesn't wear a gold watch that costs as much as a fancy car. In fact, she doesn't own a fancy car. She doesn't carry an enormous designer bag. But she might have a newspaper under her arm. She might mention Sartre or Foucault in a conversation. It's her personality that sparkles and nothing else: the signs of intellectual wealth.”

"Always look as if you're gazing at the sunset. Even during rush hour on the metro. even when picking up frozen pizza from the supermarket."

"Take the time to talk to the elderly lady next door, to read a book, to walk to work instead of riding the subway when it’s a beautiful day. Take the time to escape for a weekend with friends. Take the time to listen and to get to know yourself. Take the time to change, to grow, to rest. Take the time to say yes, take the time to say no. Take the time to be quiet. Take the time to look after your body, to eat well. Take the time to ask yourself who you are and what you want. Take the time to take time because nobody else will do it for you. 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Christmas Book Bloggers Tag

Trish from @Between My Lines has created a magnificent, Christmasy tag for all her fellow bookworms! Ans so, obviously, I also had to take part. You can join the bookish fun here!

What's your favourite Christmas scene in a book?
It has to be Hogsmeade during December festivities in the "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban". The third book is my favourite one and the idea of Christmasy Hogsmeade is the coziest thing ever. 

"Hogsmeade looked like a Christmas card; the little thatched cottages and shops were all covered in a layer of crisp snow; there were holly wreaths on the doors and strings of enchanted candles hanging in the trees."




Do you have any Christmas book traditions?
Every year, when December rolls around, I reach for my beloved festive story which is "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. I have a soft spot for timeless classics and when the story is all about Christmas...what can I say,  I'm just in love with the idea behind this book.

Do you prefer to get presents of book vouchers or books?
Vouchers, definitely. Unless it's a person who really knows my taste in literature (and I don't think there's a person on this planet who actually does), I really would prefer to stock my bookshelves on my own. Oh, and unless it's any of the Penguin Clothbound Classics. I know you don't judge a book by its cover, but come on, these editions are just beautiful.















Do you give books as presents?

Books are great gifts as long as you know that the person will really enjoy it. Last May in Paris I got a book of Baudelaire's poetry for my friend's birthday but that was only because I knew he loved his poems.

What bookish item is on your Christmas list?
How about Belle's library from 'The Beauty and the Beast"? And I mean, like, the whole room, please? Because of this story, ever since childhood my expectation of a gift from your boyfriend is really high. Who cares about flowers or chocolate when Belle has been gifted with a bloody library. Very unlikely to happen but a girl can dream, I guess.




What 3 books would you love Santa to have in his sack for you?





Fake Christmas Tree or Real Christmas Tree?
Real all the way!  That's a must for the main living room, I love the scent of spruce. But I don't mind having smaller fake trees around the house.

What's your favourite thing about Christmas?
The atmosphere. The jolliness, the fact that it's about giving to others, going home for Christmas, spending time with family and long-unseen friends, Christmas baking, Christmas shopping, Christmas music - it all adds up to the most wonderful time of the year!

What Christmas book would you recommend?



Previously mentioned "A Christmas Carol". Couldn't praise it enough. It's a magical and touching read and I talk more about it here.











What dish on your Christmas menu are you most looking forward to?
Poppy seed cake with delicacies (which for some reason only tastes so good during Christmas) and my mom's creamy mushroom soup!

When do you open your Christmas presents?
Although I live in the UK, I spend Christmas back home in Poland where the most important day is actually Christmas Eve! So we open presents just after the festive supper in the evening.

What's your favourite Christmas song?
This cover is simpy perfect.



Are you dreaming of a White Christmas?
Every year! 


Monday, 11 December 2017

"Seven days in the art world" by Sarah Thornton

Title: Seven days in the art world
Author: Sarah Thornton
Genre: Art
Overall: 8/10



Synopsis:
The art market has been booming. Museum attendance is surging. More people than ever call themselves artists. Contemporary art has become a mass entertainment, a luxury good, a job description, and, for some, a kind of alternative religion.  In a series of beautifully paced narratives, Sarah Thornton investigates the drama of a Christie's auction, the workings in Takashi Murakami's studios, the elite at the Basel Art Fair, the eccentricities of Artforum magazine, the competition behind an important art prize, life in a notorious art-school seminar, and the wonderland of the Venice Biennale. She reveals the new dynamics of creativity, taste, status, money, and the search for meaning in life. A judicious and juicy account of the institutions that have the power to shape art history, based on hundreds of interviews with high-profile players, Thornton's entertaining ethnography will change the way you look at contemporary culture.

Jo's review:
I know many people despise the idea of writing things down in a book but in this case, I just had to use the last page to write down all the page numbers that I'd want to use in the future as a reference. (With a pencil, in my defense). I love reading about the world of art even if it's contemporary. This book is an ethnography, both investigation, and observation, a series of conversations, an insight into seven different places where art is blooming. An auction, a seminar, an art fair, a magazine, a studio, an art competition and a Biennale. All of these places show the distinction and marvellousness of the art world. It focuses mostly on the buyers and the economic side but it still shows the world of absolutely unique people who are usually the crème de la crème of society with quirky but extremely fascinating worldviews. Not the easiest read but it's a great description of a contemporary art scene.

Favourite parts:
"Creative is definitely a dirty word. It's almost as embarrassing as 'beautiful' or 'sublime' or 'masterpiece'. For these students 'creativity' was a lovey-dovey cliche used by people who are not professionally involved with art. It was an essentialist notion related to that false hero called a genius."

"I was so sick of reading Hemingwayesque novels full of muscular lyricism. Contemporary art seemed to be taking more interesting risks than contemporary fiction."

"I was taught that one of the defining premises of modern art was its antagonism to mass culture."

"If the art world shared a principle, it would probably be that nothing is more important than the art itself."

Friday, 1 December 2017

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Genre: Fairy tale
Overall: 10/10




Synopsis:
Ebenezer Scrooge is an old man, who is well-known for his miserly ways.On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by a series of ghosts, starting with his old business partner, Jacob Marley. The three spirits which follow, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come, show Scrooge how his mean behaviour has affected those around him. At the end of the story, he is relieved to discover that there is still time for him to change and we see him transformed into a generous and kind-hearted human being.


Jo's review:
“Bah," said Scrooge, "Humbug.” This is my favourite Christmas read. Or I should probably say -  my favourite Christmas story in general. I love every movie adaptation of Dickens' work almost as much as the book herself. This is a story of the only person in the 19th century London who is not affected by Christmas cheer. Scrooge is cold, bitter and cruel. As the action develops we can see how he completely changes his values. How he grows his moral backbone, figuratively speaking. One of the best things about "A Christmas Carol" is the fact that it's extremely universal. The message is still as relevant as it was in the Victorian era. The only thing that matters it what we give to others, how we live with them, how we treat them, what kind of people we are. It's strange how many wise thoughts can be contained in such a short novel. It's a beautiful and touching read - perfect for December.


Favourite quotes:
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” 

“No space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused”

Friday, 24 November 2017

"Looking for Alaska" by John Green

Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Genre: Young adult literature/Philosophical literature
Overall: 10/10




Synopsis:
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After. Nothing is ever the same.
 


Jo's review:
I keep coming back to this book. I was obsessed with it when I was 16.  This story is about growing up, maturing, friendship, first love, first painful experiences of life. Shy boy falls in love with a girl who's a walking mystery. I  remember aspiring to be like Alaska. Smart, clever, funny. I loved books just as much she did. Alaska's Life's Library partially inspired Jo's Library. In this book, John Green underlines the timeless value of the events and draws attention to important issues such as lack of acceptance, exclusion, pain after the loss of a loved one. He doesn't color reality and calls things by name, so when reading it, you can not feel a bucket of cold water poured on your head. I admit that this story is emotionally shattering, even now when I'm no longer a teenager. John Green doesn't write trivial novels and this one is certainly an opposite of triviality.

Favourite quotes:
“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.” 

“When I look at my room, I see a girl who loves books.”

“I may die young, but at least I'll die smart.”

“What is an "instant" death anyway? How long is an instant? Is it one second? Ten? The pain of those seconds must have been awful as her heart burst and her lungs collapsed and there was no air and no blood to her brain and only raw panic. What the hell is instant? Nothing is instant. Instant rice takes five minutes, instant pudding an hour. I doubt that an instant of blinding pain feels particularly instantaneous.” 



Monday, 20 November 2017

"The Street of Crocodiles" by Bruno Schulz

Title: "The Cinamon Shops" - originally, "The Street of Crocodiles" - translated.
Author: Bruno Schulz
Genre: Poetic/philosophical literature
Overall: 6/10



Synopsis:
In The Cinnamon Shops, Bruno Schulz describes in fantastical, mythologized terms the cloth merchant's shop where he grew up and the bizarre antics of his father, such as turning the attic into an aviary and expounding strange theories on mannequins. Two sides of the Galician town of Drohobycz are seen: the old town full of ancient mystery is contrasted with newer districts that have sprung up in response to oil mining in the area. The Street of Crocodiles is a street of memories and dreams where recollections of Bruno Schulz's uncommon boyhood and of the eerie side of his merchant family's life are evoked in a startling blend of the real and the fantastic. Most memorable - and most chilling - is the portrait of the author's father, a maddened shopkeeper who imports rare birds' eggs to hatch in his attic.

Jo's review:
An ambivalent approach is needed when you're reading this book. There are moments when characters' naive and comically erotic behaviours make you laugh and feel indulgent and then shortly after that, there are sharp metaphors that force you to think about the meaning of existence. This book is a poetic journey into the depths of the imagination, to the places where the real becomes unreal, where ugliness becomes beauty, where consciousness becomes dreams. And vice versa. To be honest, it's a difficult and demanding read. That's usually how it is with philosophy. To me, the most captivating thing about this story is Schulz's language style. Luminous writing, words used as ornaments, beautiful metaphors, descriptions that make you see all the colours and scents.

Favourite quotes:
"What swift and fantastic flights cutting the air into packs of magic cards, sprinkling thick flakes of azure, of peacock and parrot green, of metallic sparkle, drawing lines and flourishes in the air, displaying coloured fans which remained suspended, long after flight, in the shimmering atmosphere."

“Reality is as thin as paper, and betrays with all its cracks its imitative character.”

“On Saturday afternoons I used to go for a walk with my mother. From the dusk of the hallway, we stepped at once into the brightness of the day. The passerby, bathed in melting gold, had their eyes half-closed against the glare, as if they were drenched with honey, upper lips were drawn back, exposing the teeth. Everyone in this golden day wore that grimace of heat–as if the sun had forced his worshippers to wear identical masks of gold. "

“On that night the sky laid bare its internal construction in many sections which, like quasi-anatomical exhibits, showed the spirals and whorls of light, the pale-green solids of darkness, the plasma of space, the tissue of dreams.” 


Friday, 17 November 2017

"The Plague" by Albert Camus

Title: The Plague
Author: Albert Camus
Genre: Philosophical literature
Overall: 10/10



Synopsis:
A gripping tale of human unrelieved horror, of survival and resilience, and of the ways in which humankind confronts death, The Plague is at once a masterfully crafted novel, eloquently understated and epic in scope, and a parable of ageless moral resonance, profoundly relevant to our times. In Oran, a coastal town in North Africa, the plague begins as a series of portents, unheeded by the people. It gradually becomes an omnipresent reality, obliterating all traces of the past and driving its victims to almost unearthly extremes of suffering, madness, and compassion. 

Jo's review:
This story is as in-depth as Mariana Trench. Parabolic literature requires intellect, empiricism, philosophy. Albert Camus defined the term plague with several meanings. Fatal disease. War. Hidden evil in humankind. But most of all, it's a story that shows different behaviors in the face of danger. There are the cowards, the heroes, the ones who fight, the ones who pray for survival, the ones who try to escape, and finally those who, by accepting the inevitable death, want to make the most of the last moments of life. This novel proves that people can never truly tell how they would react in tragic situations. And it's not only a story of a contagious disease, it's a story of contaminated minds that accept a state in which nothing is dependent on them. It was the first "serious literature" read I have ever done. I was barely 14 when I first read it and ever since that time I've been referring to this novel as a basis for philosophical essays. Mon Dieu. This is a piece of a true literary artistry.

Favourite quotes:
“There are more things to admire in men than to despise.” 

"The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance."

“But memory is less disposed to compromise.”