Friday, 6 March 2015

My Reading Challenge Update

Procrastinating ol' me, I should really update more frequently!
Here's an update to the Reading Challenge I started in January.
My first intention was to type a book review for each book I read for this challenge.
Maybe I'll stick to doing that for every REALLY GOOD book I read, and group the rest together.
For now, I've got little choice but to group these books I've read so far.
Not because some of them weren't good, but because I'm lazy. :)

Unlike every other resolution, this is one I've managed to keep quite on track with -
I'm actually bordering on obsessed, going at this in a very competitive pace.

So here goes (Warning: Long post ahead)

I think I've now reached the point where it's starting to get difficult to actually tick off three boxes. 
Which is good. 
Can't wait to fill this thing up. 
Maybe I can start over. 

I already mentioned Dreams of Joy by Lisa See in the last post, so I'll continue from book 2:

The Old Man and The Sea, by Ernest Hemingway.

I had to read this book and base an entire city tour on this, back in 2012, for my study trip in Cuba. Havana was Hemingway's "real" home, unlike the States, where he was born and raised.
I must say, I enjoyed reading the book a lot more the second time around. The descriptions, specifically that of "la mar", the sea, are hauntingly beautiful. The style of writing is peculiar, Hemingway is one of the few people that give me a sense or idea of how the author himself used to talk: very few periods, or breaths of air, and a lot of rambling enthusiastic descriptions without pause.
I actually managed to finish it in a day (one of the boxes to tick off). 

The story is simple: A Cuban boy, an apprentice fisherboy, is trying to learn from an Old Man. However, this old Cuban, Santiago, is in an unlucky fase, and hasn't caught any fish in a while, and the boy isn't allowed to join him anymore. 
The old man has faith and hope, and rows his boat deeper into sea than ever before. He hooks on a Marlin, and that's when the fight begins. A fight of desperation, of confidence, of exhaustion, of holding on and not giving up. 

Looking For Group, by Ryan Sohmer and Lar Desouza.

This is quite a different genre: (web) comics are a not so frequent type I read. I seem stuck with a few of my favourites, however, and LFG is one of them. Richard makes for comic relief, and the story is a schizophrenic mix of action and informative backstory, World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings, plus a little bit of their own creativity.   

The first time around, I'd only read the first 150 pages, more or less. 
This time, re-reading, (it's a sequential comic, you'll need to start from the Beginning) I got to page 855 (the end as it stands now), so that'd be the first 7-8 volumes. 

A Tale of Two Sisters (Dutch: Zus Enzo), by Anna Maxted

I read this one in Dutch, partly because that was one of the boxes to be ticked off (originally written in a different language), partly because I don't read enough Dutch books ( I prefer to read in the original language the book is written, given I can understand the language -- and somehow, I'm usually more drawn to English books.) I've never read anything of Maxted's before, but seeing as she was one of the few authors with my official initials, it had to be her. 

Let's start this by saying: For a chick-lit, this one is quite good. 
It's about two sisters (Hah, who would have guessed), who are so different from one another they might as well have been opposites (familiar with that personally - so it  spoke to me). The familiar unreasonable waves of anger when someone you love says something you don't want to hear, Lizbet, a scatterbrain, living-in-the-moment kind of girl, who has a life where everything always goes wrong, but a boyfriend who adores her, finds out she is pregnant, whilst both of them never wanted a child. Cassie, her 'perfect' sister, has it all: the perfect body, the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect life, and a husband. If you read that carefully, you'll find I omitted 'perfect' before husband, for Cassie's only wish is a baby, and she is starting to hate her arrogant and EQ-dead husband. 

Apparently, I chose well. Most of Maxted's books are about young girls, exploring life, but this one's central characters are in their mid-thirties, already in a relationship, and basically sheds some light on what happens after "they lived happily ever after. The end." Because mostly this isn't all too happy an ending at all. Nor is there an ending at all in sight. 

Grenzeloos, by Kim Moelands

Another new genre on the list: auto-biography. Grenzeloos literally means limitless, or borderless. 
This story is very personal, for me, seeing as some of my favourite people (and cousins) in my world have the same chronic disease the author is suffering from: Cystic Fibrosis. 
After having read her first autobiographical novel, Ademloos (meaning Breathless), it took me quite some time to pick this one up. Ademloos is about how Kim loses her boyfriend, Ron, a co-CFer, to the horrible disease, after the waiting to get new lungs, the horrors of hospitalland, the trouble her inlaws gave her during and after his suffering, the mental and physical pain they both go through, the sadness of being left alone. Though beautifully written, it's depressing. Once Ron dies, Kim doesn't really care about living so much anymore herself, and seems quite willing to join him in as soon as her own body gives up. 

Then, she meets Jan, the man that makes her rethink this hope she gave up. That is the  start of  Grenzeloos. She loves anew, though she never thought that was a possibility, and realises that it doesn't betray Ron's memory either, for both loves she holds fit her big heart, and she doesn't compare, she loves both of them in their own way. 
Suddenly, she's not so keen anymore on giving up, yet her body has different ideas of that notion. She hadn't thought she would have wanted to go through a lung transplantation, but now that she has new reason to stay alive, the alarming rate her lung function drops forces her to be put on the national (and later international) transplantation waiting list. Her (social) world becomes smaller by the day, at some point restricted to her 3x2m hospital room.. Until that one releasing bit of news: There are 'new' lungs for her. 

Her optimism, specific sense of humor,  and everlasting hope make this book a real treasure to read. It's confronting, honest and funny, dragging you from one emotion into the next, your own personal emotional rollercoaster.  Her desire to live, her appreciation to still be alive, is motivating. 

 A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge.

Woah, new-genre-alert! A Hugo-award-winning science fiction novel, which I rarely read, has been a gift of a dear friend, a long time ago (2009 ish). It took me this long to start it (yay, thankyouchallenge), and I'm glad I finally did.

A Fire Upon the Deep is a "Space Opera" ( a sub genre of science fiction that emphasizes - romantic/melodramatic- adventure in outer space) with aliens, superhuman intelligence, space battles, love, betrayal, genocide in several places in the Milky Way. Vinge divides the book into four zones, regions where different physical constraints allow very different technological and mental possibilities. There's the Unthinking Depth (Innermost core, minimal forms of intelligence), the Slow Zone ( Old Earth is there, where humanity originated),  the Beyond  (artificial intelligence, faster-than-light travel and communication), and the Transcend (where incomprehensible superintelligent beings live). 

I can't even begin to describe what happens, for the book is well over 600 pages long, and matches G.R.R. Martin for information, though it introduces us to a whole lot less characters. It takes some time to get into it, and you'll need to not put it aside for weeks so that you forget what it's about.. Other than that, it proved quite an interesting read.

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.

I took myself by surprise by actually reading this one, knowing what it it about.
I took myself even more by surprise when I finished it in about four days.

No. I did not like it.
But no, it's not for the obvious reason.

What annoyed me most was the lack of good writing.
If I were to ommit the times he used his "long, elegant and skillful fingers" to do this or that, the use of 'shades' ( his being "fifty shades of fucked up", the "seven shades of or her "chewing /biting on her lip" or her thinking " Holy cow/crap/fuck", we'd be down by 50 pages.

What annoyed me was that this is a copy/paste Twilight, adding some hardcore porn.

So, he's not a sparkly vampire, but a kinky sadist sex god. He's still perfect in every Goddamn way (He is gorgeous. He is good in bed. Scratch that, he is a God in bed. He is a semi-professional pianist, can pilot helicopters and gliders, is CEO of his own company and on top of that, he uses his money to FEED the starving population of the world....) just like Edward. Also, his stalker tendencies make Mr. Christian Grey whisper more or less the same to Ana Steel as Edward does to Bella, with "You should stay clear of me", following up with an "I can't seem to stay away from you". D'errr....
And then there's the whole brooding "my soul is damaged" theme going on, masked by a "look at me, I'm perfect and get what I want" attitude...
Oh, and Christian, vampire or not, wants to actually BITE Anna.

Then there's her. Her name is Anastasia (Ana, as she prefers), not Isabella (who prefers Bella) - She is mousey, average, insignificant, a klutz, prone to accidents, insecure, who doesn't understand what men see in her, though there are flocks of men (and boys)  who are apparently interested, with a barely functioning car... Oh, and she loves reading classics. So OF COURSE her story is a parallel to an actually good classic, ruined by the lack of literary skill and awful content.
She also seems to be safe from Christian "reading her (mind)". Hah.

Then there's the "ethnic" best friend who is in love with the girl. José, in Fifty Shades, Jacob in Twilight. And the heroine's father is socially awkward, left by the promiscious mother. The mother is horrible at relationships, but happy with Groom number X, living far away in some warm and sunny State.

Think I'm done massacring this book.
Though it ends unsatisfyingly, I really have to have NOTHING else to do, do I want to attempt reading books 2 and 3...
----- * ------* ------

That's 7 books so far (or 6 and a comic) -- Not bad for the first two months of the year, I'd say :D


The Gypsy