Wednesday, 11 May 2016

May 2016 | Life update

Hi guys! I can't believe it's been months since I've last updated my blog. I don't want to make excuses, I'm just back.

I have this problem when I try to juggle too many things all at once. I want to write a book, draw illustrations, make video lessons and manage a zombie themed website. One day I'm learning Japanese and Italian, the next I'm trying to teach myself programming. I even have two blogs and just can't decide if it's more important for me to write in my own language or in English. And I want to blog about books, cooking, art and give life changing advices all at the same time. I can't focus. I scatter my attention too much.

But the last year has been different. I've strained myself to the point of breaking and had to suddenly take it slow. I had to pick myself up from pieces.

For a while I was not able to do anything but function. I didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to think about anything. Is this what depression is like? I'm not sure. When I feel worse, I'm almost certain. But then it gets a little better, and I somehow feel ashamed for thinking that I might be depressed. Why is it that I'm always having such a hard time admitting that I have problems? And that those problems are valid?

Right now I feel like I'm gradually starting to get back to normal. I still need time to heal, but at least it's not as bad as it was last year or even two months ago.

It's been a few months since I've said goodbye to my last student. It didn't end on good terms. I was too delusional about this student, and I feel really sorry that she didn't care to make an effort and accept all the knowledge I was willing to give her. For a while it made me feel like a bad teacher, but now I've come to terms with the fact that in my country money and slyness is valued more than good brains and diligence.

Since then I've chosen a new route for myself, or should I say picked up an old one. But I won't tell about it just yet. I'll just say that it's more of my thing than teaching.

And how are you guys doing?

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Book Review | If Death Ever Slept. Rex Stout

If Death Ever Slept by Rex Stout
(on Goodreads)
My rating ★★★★☆

If Death Ever Slept is a classic detective novel I've read for the Back to the Classics reading challenge. It's one of many books in the Nero Wolfe series. Nero Wolfe is a brilliant detective, who prefers to solve the mysteries from his home, while his assistant Archie Goodwin does all the investigations and reports to him. Nero Wolfe is very moody and has his own little habits and rules, which he doesn't like to be broken. And he has a greenhouse where he grows all sorts of beautiful orchids.

In this novel the great detective has to work for a millionaire Otis Jarrell, who wants him to find enough proof to discredit his daughter-in-law so that his son would eventually divorce her. Otis hates his daughter-in-law and calls her a snake. He is sure that because of her one of his friends snatched a deal right from under his nose earning a lot of money.

Nero doesn't want to get into marital issues, but he still wants the money Otis is offering him, so he makes it Archie's responsibility to look into the case. Archie goes into the Jarrell household pretending to be Otis's new secretary and starts looking around. And then, when you least expect it, someone gets murdered.

Archie and Nero are two very likable characters. They joke around and argue all the time, but still get the work done brilliantly. It was funny to see Nero Wolfe trying to get rid of the case all throughout the book, but still solving the mystery in the end. Their interaction with the cops was also fun to read.

Till the end of the book I wasn't able to identify the murderer, so the ending was a bit of a surprise.

All in all I liked the novel with it's moderate pace and clever jokes. I'm looking forward to picking up some other stories about Nero Wolfe.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Book Review | Gone with the Wind. Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
(on Goodreads)
My rating ★★★★★

The novel is set in the American South and portrays the life of Scarlett O'Hara, a daughter of a wealthy landowner, as her world falls apart in the events of the Civil war.

Scarlett is very young and naive, when we first meet her. She is desperately in love with Ashley Wilkes, and marrying him is all she can think of. She won't give up on him even when he marries someone else, and clings to her childish feelings for the better part of the story.

But as time passes Scarlett has to learn how to adapt in the new reality of the war. She makes a lot of hasty decisions and barely regrets them, chasing away all the bad thoughts. She's afraid that she might break under the pressure, so she's always telling herself to think of her troubles and worry tomorrow. But never today, today she is not strong enough. This personal philosophy is what helps Scarlett stand firm on her feet, even though the world around her is crumbling to pieces.

Of course Scarlett had her moments of weakness, but she was always able to stand up again and do what she had to do. All her troubles and a lack of guidance made her somewhat cold and calculating. At the same time there were many moments when you could see that she is still a child, a spoilt little girl that wants everything to be her way.

I think it won't count as a spoiler if I say that Scarlett's true love is supposed to be Rhett Butler. The book doesn't really say that, but it is suggested. The reader is anticipating this relationship to sprout. At times I was confused, because I knew that Rhett is supposed to love Scarlett, but it didn't seem like it at all. And then there was Scarlett, who could only think about Ashley. And even though closer to the end of the story I could tell that Scarlett's feelings for Ashley were now different, I still couldn't understand how and when would she realise this herself. All in all this book is full of very complicated character relationships. Scarlett's friendships are just as confusing as her love interests.

Gone with the Wind is not your usual love story. It's more like a story of a strong woman, who competes with men and the whole world, trying to overcome the hardships that came with the war and later after the war ended. It's the story of her never ending battle with her greatest fear of hunger and poverty. She just doesn't have time for love.

This book is also interesting in the way it portrays the Civil war from the viewpoint of the southerners. It made me rethink everything that I thought I knew about the American history. I should probably read a few historical books, maybe even non-fiction, to get a better picture of this time period. But what I liked about this novel is that it reminded me that there are always two sides to every story.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Classics Club

The Classics Club is a blog which encourages people to read and blog about classics. I've decided to join in the fun since I already read and love classical literature.

My goal will be to read a total of 150 classical books in 5 years (by Jan. 2021).

  1. Achebe, Chinua: Things Fall Apart
  2. Angelou, Maya: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  3. Austen, Jane: Complete Juvenilia
  4. Austen, Jane: Mansfield Park
  5. Austen, Jane: Northanger Abbey
  6. Austen, Jane: Sanditon
  7. Austen, Jane: Selected Letters
  8. Austen, Jane: Sense and Sensibility
  9. Austen, Jane: The Watsons
  10. Bronte, Anne: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
  11. Bronte, Charlotte: Villette
  12. Bronte, Emily: Wuthering Heights
  13. Buchan, John: The Thirty-Nine Steps
  14. Bulgakov, Mikhail: The White Guard
  15. Bulgakov, Mikhail: Diaboliad
  16. Bulgakov, Mikhail: Life of Mr. de Molière
  17. Burney, Frances: Evelina
  18. Cather, Willa: My Antonia
  19. Collins, Wilkie: The Woman in White
  20. Cooper, James Fenimore: The Last of the Mohicans
  21. Crane, Stephen: Red Badge of Courage
  22. Danielwski, Mark Z.: House of Leaves
  23. de Cervantes, Miguel: Don Quixote
  24. Defoe, Daniel: Moll Flanders
  25. Dickens, Charles: David Copperfield
  26. Dickens, Charles: Tale of Two Cities
  27. Dickens, Charles: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club
  28. Dostoevesky, Fyodor: The Brothers Karamazov
  29. Dostoevesky, Fyodor: The Idiot
  30. Dostoevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment
  31. Dreiser, Theodore: American Tragedy
  32. Dreiser, Theodore: Sister Carrie
  33. Dreiser, Theodore: The Financier
  34. Dreiser, Theodore: The Titan
  35. Dreiser, Theodore: The Stoic
  36. Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca
  37. Dumas, Alexandre: The Count of Monte Cristo
  38. Eco, Umberto: The Name of the Rose
  39. Edgeworth, Maria: Castle Rackrent
  40. Eliot, George: Middlemarch
  41. Faulkner, William: As I Lay Dying
  42. Faulks, Sebastian: Birdsong
  43. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Tender is the Night
  44. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: This Side of Paradise
  45. Foer, Jonathan Safran: Everything is Illuminated
  46. Ford, Ford Madox: The Good Soldier
  47. Forster, E.M.: Passage to India
  48. Gaskell, Elizabeth: North and South
  49. Goethe, Johann: Faust
  50. Gogol, Nikolay: Dead Souls
  51. Gogol, Nikolay: The Inspector General
  52. Haggard, Henry Rider: King Solomon’s Mines
  53. Hansberry, Lorraine: A Raisin in the Sun
  54. Hardy, Thomas: Far From the Madding Crowd
  55. Hardy, Thomas: Jude the Obscure 
  56. Hardy, Thomas: The Mayor of Casterbridge 
  57. Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The Scarlet Letter (review)
  58. Heller, Joseph: Catch-22
  59. Hemingway, Ernest: For Whom the Bell Tolls
  60. Hemingway, Ernest: The Garden of Eden
  61. Hemingway, Ernest: A Moveable Feast 
  62. Hemingway, Ernest: To Have and Have Not 
  63. Hemingway, Ernest: Across the River and into the Trees 
  64. Hugo, Victor: Les Miserables
  65. Hugo, Victor: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  66. Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God
  67. Irving, John: A Prayer for Owen Meany
  68. Irving, John The World According to Garp
  69. Ishiguro, Kazuo: Remains of the Day
  70. James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady
  71. Joyce, James: Ulysses
  72. Joyce, James: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 
  73. Joyce, James: Finnegans Wake 
  74. Kafka, Franz: The Castle
  75. Kafka, Franz: The Trial
  76. Kawabata, Yasunari: Thousand Cranes
  77. Kerouac, Jack: On the Road (review)
  78. Kingsolver, Barbara: The Poisonwood Bible
  79. Knowles, John: A Separate Peace
  80. Lawrence, D.H.: Lady Chatterley’s Lover
  81. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia: Love in the Time of Cholera
  82. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia: Memories of My Melancholy Whores
  83. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia: The General in His Labyrinth
  84. Maupassant, Guy de: Bel-Ami
  85. McCullers, Carson: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  86. Melville, Herman: Moby Dick
  87. Miller, Arthur: Death of a Salesman
  88. Milton, John: Paradise Lost
  89. Morrison, Toni: Song of Solomon
  90. Morrison, Toni: The Bluest Eye
  91. Nesbit, E: The Enchanted Castle
  92. O, Brien: Tim: The Things They Carried
  93. Pamuk, Orhan: My Name is Red
  94. Pasternak, Boris: Doctor Zhivago
  95. Pepys, Samuel: Diary of Samuel Pepys
  96. Plath, Sylvia: Ariel
  97. Plath, Sylvia: The Bell Jar
  98. Rand, Ayn: Atlas Shrugged
  99. Rand, Ayn: The Fountainhead
  100. Rhys, Jean: Wide Sargasso Sea
  101. Richardson, Samuel: Clarissa
  102. Rushdie, Salman: Midnight’s Children
  103. Rushdie, Salman: The Satanic Verses
  104. Salinger, J.D.: Nine Stories
  105. Salinger, J.D: Franny and Zooey
  106. Sand, George: Consuelo
  107. Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein
  108. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  109. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander: The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
  110. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander: Cancer Ward
  111. Steinbeck, John: America and Americans
  112. Steinbeck, John: Cannery Row
  113. Steinbeck, John: East of Eden
  114. Steinbeck, John: Sweet Thursday
  115. Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath
  116. Steinbeck, John: The Pastures of Heaven
  117. Steinbeck, John: The Pearl
  118. Steinbeck, John: The Red Pony
  119. Steinbeck, John: The Winter of Our Discontent
  120. Steinbeck, John: Tortilla Flat
  121. Steinbeck, John: Travels with Charley in Search of America
  122. Stendhal: The Red and the Black
  123. Stendhal: The Charterhouse of Parma
  124. Stendhal: Armance
  125. Sterne, Laurence: Tristam Shandy
  126. Stoker, Bram: Dracula
  127. Tan, Amy: The Joy Luck Club
  128. Thackeray, William Makepeace: Vanity Fair
  129. Tolstoy, Leo: Anna Karenina
  130. Tolstoy, Leo: The Death of Ivan Ilyich
  131. Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace
  132. Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  133. Verne, Jules: Around the World in Eighty Days
  134. Verne, Jules: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
  135. Verne, Jules: Journey to the Center of the Earth
  136. Verne, Jules: From the Earth to the Moon
  137. Verne, Jules: Five Weeks in a Balloon
  138. Walker, Alice: The Color Purple
  139. Watson, Winifred: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
  140. Waugh, Evelyn: Brideshead Revisited
  141. Wells, H.G.: The War of the Worlds
  142. Wells, H.G.: The Invisible Man
  143. Wells, H.G.: The Island of Dr. Moreau
  144. Wells, H.G.: The Food of the Gods 
  145. Wharton, Edith: Ethan Frome
  146. Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray
  147. Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway
  148. Wright, Richard: Native Son
  149. Zamyatin, Yevgeny: We
  150. Zola, Emile: Germinal
That's quite a list there! I'm already looking forward to reading and reviewing these books.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Book Review | Flowers for Algernon. Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
(on Goodreads)
My rating ★★★★☆

Flowers for Algernon is a novel about a mentally disabled young man Charlie who desperately wants to be smart. He undergoes a risky surgery and becomes a genius.

The story is heartwrenching and emotional. One of the main problems throughout the book is that having a high IQ is not enough to make you a functional part of the society. Being emotionally mature is also extremely important for the person to be happy and know one’s own place in the world.

Smarter Charlie finds it harder to be friends with people. They don’t like him that way. Some if not all of them are even scared of the genius. People who knew him before the surgery now view Charlie as a threat. They feel inferior to him and are afraid that he might reveal their own flaws, break their mighty exteriors and make them seem worthless.

This part of the story I found surprisingly relatable, because I also thought that smart Charlie was not a likable character. I didn’t like the parts where he’s at the highest level of his capability, as opposed to his growth at the beginning of the story and the inevitable decline in the end. Maybe that's because perfect stories and perfect people are not really that interesting. Flaws are what makes us like the character and feel for him. They make the story and his struggles seem relatable.

I liked how the novel was written in the form of journal entries. You can really follow the changes in Charlie’s intellectual abilities and even mindset. This made me think of the novel Push by Sapphire, which is realistic fiction but also shows the progress of the main character through his writing. I’ve read Flowers for Algernon in Russian, compared it to the Ukrainian translation, and I’m now curious to re-read it in English. I think these types of books are especially interesting for non-English speakers or those who study linguistics. 

One more thing I liked was the relationship between Charlie and Algernon, the laboratory mouse who had the same surgery. It was heartwarming to see him relating to the little creature so much.

There were some parts of the book that I didn’t like, but they didn’t have that much of an influence on my opinion of the book.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Back to the Classics Challenge 2016

Since I already read a lot of classic literature I've decided to join the Back to the Classics 2016 Challenge hosted by Books and Chocolate. I've tried to decide on some of the books I'm going to read this year for the challenge just to know if I'll have something for each category. I might change some of the titles as I read though.
  1. A 19th Century Classic. Villette by Charlotte Bronte
  2. A 20th Century Classic. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
  3. A classic by a woman author. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  4. A classic in translation. The Castle by Franz Kafka.
  5. A classic by a non-white author. Botchan by Natsume Soseki or Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata
  6. An adventure classic - can be fiction or non-fiction. Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain or The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy
  7. A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
  8. A classic detective novel. I've got tons of Rex Stout and Georges Simenon books laying around the house so I'll choose one of those.
  9. A classic which includes the name of a place in the title. Castle Rackrent Maria Edgeworth or The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy.
  10. A classic which has been banned or censored. I'll have to look up the reasons why the book was banned first, but here are some titles from the banned books lists: East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence.
  11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college). The Red and the Black by Stendhal or The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.
  12. A volume of classic short stories. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger.
So here's my list of books for the challenge! I'm already excited to dive into some of these!

Do you know any good classics that fit into the categories? And are you participating in any reading challenges this year? Tell me in the comments! =)

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Happy New Year 2016!

Happy New Year! I've read somewhere that only eight percent of people accomplish their New Year's resolutions, so I've decided not to take any risks, go with the flow and see what the year 2016 brings me.

But I do promise myself to take better care of my health.

I also want to learn how to be mindful.

I want to understand my emotions better.

And that's where books and writing will help me.

My reading and writing has been rather sporadic for the last few years. I either rush to read more than I can handle or barely read anything for months. Sometimes I'll post twice a week. And then I'm not updating my blog for a month. The same goes for my journal. I either write every day or abandon it for weeks.

I know that the reason for this is that I currently lack certainty in my life. I don't have a steady job. I don't have anyone but my family to support me emotionally. I'm not saying that my family is not good enough, it's just not enough. And my anxiety has been really bad for the last few months, and recovery takes time.

But I'm pretty hopeful about the future. I've made my share of mistakes in the past, but all that's happened was an experience.

I was thinking about a motto for the new year 2016, and the first thing that popped up in my head was 'Don't force it'. But then I thought that it sounded a bit aggressive and came up with a better phrase.

Take your time.

What are your New Year's resolutions or phrase for the year 2016? Tell me in the comments!