Posted in Readathon

Dewey’s Readathon

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Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? – Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina 
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? – The Last Man by Mary Shelley
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? – As usual, I forgot to properly prepare for the readathon, but I’m sure I’ll find some snacks in the house.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! – Hi, my name is Tanja, I’m 26, I’ve been a book blogger for about 5 years, but I’ve recently changed my blog name. 
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? – I’ll try to sleep less and read more. I’m also gonna check for Skam updates during every reading break 🙂

Finished reading:

  • Forever – Judy Blume
  • The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away – Cory Doctorow
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry

 

Closing Meme
1. Which hour was most daunting for you? – Most of them, I had a reader’s block in the middle of the readathon.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year? – The Giver by Lois Lowry
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? – Quite a few posts on the website were late this year, I know there were tehnical difficulties, so it would be great if that was fixed.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? – The focus on charity is really cool. 
5. How many books did you read? – 3
6. What were the names of the books you read? – They’re listed above.
7. Which book did you enjoy most? – The Giver, it’s incredible.
8. Which did you enjoy least? – Forever by Judy Blume
9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? – I’ll definitely participate as a reader, hopefully I’ll read more than this time. 

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Posted in Book slices

Book slices: Oliver Twist, The Beginning

18254.jpg Title: Oliver Twist

Author: Charles Dickens

After escaping from the dark and dismal workhouse where he was born, Oliver finds himself on the mean streets of Victorian-era London and is unwittingly recruited into a scabrous gang of scheming urchins. In this band of petty thieves Oliver encounters the extraordinary and vibrant characters who have captured readers’ imaginations for more than 150 years: the loathsome Fagin, the beautiful and tragic Nancy, the crafty Artful Dodger, and perhaps one of the greatest villains of all time—the terrifying Bill Sikes.

The slice: the first chapter


Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.

Words cannot describe how much I love this sentence. It’s one of my favorite first lines ever and it pulled me in immediately the first time I read it. I’m actually not a big fan of Oliver Twist (it’s a good book but it’s not one of my favorites), but the first chapter is one of the best openings that I’ve ever read.

And imagine how boring it could have been, if Dickens gave us the information that he declares as unimportant in the first line. If I knew the name of the city and the date on which Oliver was born, I wouldn’t have been so into the book from the start, but he says it doesn’t matter and oh, why say ‘a child was born’, when you can say ‘item of mortality’, and suddenly I’m all in.

The first chapter of Oliver Twist is called Treats of the place where Oliver Twist was born and of the circumstances attending his birth and I absolutely love the long and descriptive names of chapters that Dickens uses. I’m always happier when a book has actual names for chapters instead of just numbers – it’s more fun and if I’m looking for a specific part of the book, it’s much easier this way.

The fact is, that there was considerable difficulty in inducing Oliver to take upon himself the office of respiration,—a troublesome practice, but one which custom has rendered necessary to our easy existence; and for some time he lay gasping on a little flock mattress, rather unequally poised between this world and the next: the balance being decidedly in favour of the latter.

If there are two ways to write something, Dickens will pick the longer one. So many writers could not get away with this – I have wondered quite a few times why some author choose to go on and on instead of getting to the point. In this book, I love it.

What an excellent example of the power of dress, young Oliver Twist was! Wrapped in the blanket which had hitherto formed his only covering, he might have been the child of a nobleman or a beggar; it would have been hard for the haughtiest stranger to have assigned him his proper station in society. But now that he was enveloped in the old calico robes which had grown yellow in the same service, he was badged and ticketed, and fell into his place at once—a parish child—the orphan of a workhouse—the humble, half-starved drudge—to be cuffed and buffeted through the world—despised by all, and pitied by none.

Dickens is full of criticism for society and its treatment of poor people and especially poor children. The first chapter describes Oliver being born, his mother dying immediately after, and the two people who happen to be around, the nurse and the surgeon, obviously don’t have much interest in his well-being. Everything points to Oliver having a horrible future.

The story of Oliver Twist’s birth is not funny, but I can’t read it without a grin on my face. It’s been years since I’ve read the whole book, but I’ve read the beginning so many times 🙂

Posted in Poetry

Poetry Post: Aftermath by Siegfried Sassoon

Have you forgotten yet?…
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same–and War’s a bloody game…
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz–
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench–
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads–those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

I just finished reading a book called After the War Is Over by Jennifer Robson, that I didn’t enjoy very much, but it’s not all bad because it introduced me to this poem.

I’m in a war literature phase right now. I’m reading Generation Kill at the moment, and I just picked up Mila 18 from the library, and there are some Band of Brothers books I’ve been meaning to read for a while. The thing is, sometimes when I read a war book or watch a war movie, I get so into it that in a way I start to romanticize it, even though I know that’s not right. This poem reminds me exactly why it’s not right.

Posted in Monthly Wrap-Up

Monthly Wrap-Up Post: March 2017

The books I read:

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The plan was to review more books but I ended up only writing reviews for the books I got from publishers. All the books I read this month were pretty good, except for Stardust that was very disappointing. The movie was definitely better and I’m not even a big fan of that movie.

After reading The Thorn Birds, I tried to watch the show, but only got through one and a half episodes… it’s really not very interesting.

But I finally watched The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – I heard it’s really bad, but I actually kinda liked it. It’s not the best movie ever, but it has some good moments.

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Posted in Comic Books, Reviews

Review: Manga Classics: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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Title: Manga Classics: Sense and Sensibility

Authors: Stacy King, Po Tse, Jane Austen

Genre: Comic Books

When Elinor Dashwood’s father dies, her family’s finances are crippled. After the Dashwoods move to a cottage in Devonshire, Elinor’s sister Marianne is torn between the handsome John Willoughby and the older Colonel Brandon. Meanwhile, Elinor’s romantic hopes with Edward Ferrars are hindered due to his prior engagement. Both Elinor and Marianne strive for love while the circumstances in their lives constantly change.
Manga Classics brings new life to Jane Austen’s very first novel. Sense and Sensibility is a classic tale about love, romance and heartbreak in this brilliant manga adaption.

Rating: 3/5

I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This was a good enough adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, but I felt it was too sentimental, in a way that I don’t remember the original work was. But I read it years ago, so my memory might not be the most accurate.

Like with other manga adaptations, it takes some time to get used to everyone looking younger than they are supposed to be. When I think of Colonel Brandon, I see Alan Rickman because that’s the first adaptation of Sense and Sensibility that I’ve watched, but the character drawn in this manga is much younger and much more conventionally good looking. I thought the art for female characters was much better than for male characters.

I always found Marianne’s story more interesting than Elinor’s and it was like that in this manga too. Sorry, Elinor, but you’re too sensibile to be a lot of fun next to Marianne and her Willoughby drama.

Reading all those adaptations of Austen’s works makes me want to reread all of Austen’s actual works. But if I read this manga without knowing the original story, I doubt it would have made me interested in Austen.

Posted in Reviews

Review: Rocket Man: Elon Musk In His Own Words by Jessica Easto

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Title: Rocket Man: Elon Musk In His Own Words

Editor: Jessica Easto

Genre: Non-fiction

Elon Musk, the South African–born entrepreneur who made his first fortune with Internet companies such as PayPal, has risen to global prominence as the visionary CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, two companies with self-proclaimed missions to improve life as we know it and better secure the future of humanity.
For the first time, the most insightful, thought-provoking, and revealing quotes from this entrepreneurial engineer have been compiled into a single book. Rocket Man: Elon Musk In His Own Words is a comprehensive guide to the inner workings of the man dubbed “the real Tony Stark.” Hundreds of his best quotes, comprising thoughts on business, clean energy, innovation, engineering, technology, space, electric vehicles, entrepreneurship, life lessons, and more, provide an intimate and direct look into Silicon Valley’s most ambitious industrialist.
Even with no prior experience in the complex, ultra-high-barrier-of-entry automotive and space industries, Musk has excelled. Tesla, the first successful American car startup in more than 90 years, received more than 325,000 reservations for its economical Model 3 in a single week—advancing the company’s cause to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transport” via affordable, reliable electric vehicles. SpaceX, the first private company to launch, orbit, and recover a rocket and dock at the International Space Station, has drastically reduced the cost of launching and manufacturing reusable spacecraft, which the company sees as the first step toward its “ultimate goal” of making life multiplanetary. In the words of Richard Branson, “Whatever skeptics have said can’t be done, Elon has gone out and made real.”
How could a young man who at one time seemed like “just” another Internet entrepreneur have gone on to build two highly disruptive companies and innovate technologies related to everything from electric batteries to rocket manufacturing? There’s no better way to learn than through his own words.
This book curates Musk quotes from interviews, public appearances, online postings, company blogs, press releases, and more. What emerges is a ‘word portrait’ of the man whose companies’ swift rise to the top will undoubtedly keep their status-quo competitors scrambling to keep up.

Rating: 4/5

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.

It taught me that the tough thing is figuring out what questions to ask, but that once you do that, the rest is really easy. I came to the conclusion that we should aspire to increase the scope and scale of human consciousness in order to better understand what questions to ask. Really, the only thing that makes sense is to strive for greater collective enlightenment.

I’m a big fan of Elon Musk, so naturally I want to read whatever I can find about him. After reading two biographies, I came across this book – a collection of Elon Musk’s best quotes. The quotes are compiled from his interviews, speeches and even his twitter. I think the book is too short: Elon Musk has said many more things that I think deserve to be in this collection. I also have a complaint about the table of contents: it’s way too long and detailed (every quote in the book is listed in it, which is really unnecessary).

When people ask me why I started a rocket company, I say, “I was trying to learn how to turn a large fortune into a small one.”

This book includes quotes about his companies, especially Tesla and SpaceX, but also about learning, business, engineering, technology, his childhood etc. Most quotes are serious, but there are some lighthearted and fun ones. I love the things he said about learning (now if only I would apply his wisdom to my life :))

One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree—make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e., the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.

The book also includes a list of milestones in his life. Fans of Elon Musk should check this book out. It would be great if there was a new, updated edition every few years… how else are we going to keep up with everything he says? 😀

I just want to emphasize that sometimes—in fact, most of the time—I get way too much credit or attention for what I do. I’m just the visible element. But the reason those companies are successful is because we have extremely talented people at all levels that are making it happen.

 

Posted in Reviews

Review: Little Kids and Their Big Dogs by Andy Seliverstoff

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Title: Little Kids and Their Big Dogs

Author: Andy Seliverstoff

Genre: Photography

From hugely popular photographer Andy Seliverstoff of St. Petersburg, Russia, comes this utterly charming collection of just what the titles says — little kids and the big dogs they love.
Through the prism of Seliverstoff’s magic lens, impossibly big dogs (Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Leonbergers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, to name a few) and some rare ones (like Komondorok and Bracchi Italiani) telegraph the special relationships they have with the children in their lives.
“In the end, I hope the photos convey this important message: Love for dogs and children makes people kinder,” Seliverstoff says.

Rating: 5/5

I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for a review.

I can’t rate this book anything less than 5 stars because it’s such a happy book 🙂

Like the title says, it’s a book full of photos of little children and their dogs. There are also very short stories about the kids and their relationship with the dogs. The photos are beautiful, the dogs are very fluffy and the connection between kids and dogs is obvious.

I went ‘awww’ on every single photo, and I think the version that I got isn’t even complete, so there are even more pictures in the finished version. If you want something happy and cute in your life, you should check out this book. Or get a dog 🙂

Posted in Monthly Wrap-Up

Monthly Wrap-Up Post: February 2017

I read 8 books this month but I only wrote two blog posts. I have lots of ideas for blog posts but I can’t make myself actually write them. Maybe next month will be better.

The books I read in February are:

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The best ones are The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Circle and Elon Musk’s biography.

The Circle is going to be a movie, with Emma Watson and John Boyega:

Can’t wait!

Currently reading:

  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – I watched the show when I was a kid but don’t remember much of it
  • Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness – I saw the movie The Aviator recently and I wanted to find out more about Howard Hughes. The book is interesting but I’m reading it slowly.
  • Little Kids and Their Big Dogs – photography book. I got this on Netgalley, it’s a really quick read, obviously, but it’s really cute

I went on a Netgalley binge yesterday and requested a lot of books. Hopefuly  won’t get approved for more than I can handle.

Last month I finally gave in and watched Skam. It’s been everywhere online in the last few months so I had to see what the fuss was about. The show is really good and now I just wanna know who the fourth season will be about. I know a lot of people are rooting for Even, but I would prefer it if the show had a female main character again, cause I love the friendship between the girls in the first two seasons.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

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Title: The Circle

Author: Dave Eggers

Genre: Science-Fiction

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Rating: 4/5

I’ve read quite a few books that start with a character getting a new job, an amazing job, that turns out to be different from what they expected, so I thought this book will be a high tech version of that story. I was wrong- this book is basically a manual on how to create a high-tech dystopian world.

The biggest weakness in the book is the main character, Mae. She’s an incredibly pliable character; things happen to her and she accepts them. It was very frustrating to read about – she was doing things that didn’t make any sense to me and she seems to have lost her personality sometime during the story. This is one of those books that I would love to read from the perspective of a different character: Annie, Mercer or Ty would be my favorites.

The Circle is a fictional company that may or may not be inspired by some real company – plenty of them would love to have the power that The Circle has. The idea of sharing and oversharing your life with strangers on the internet is definitely inspired by real life. I’m pretty much always in favor of technology, but it’s obvious that some people take it way too far.

Up until the last few pages I was sure I knew how it was going to end… I was so wrong. This book could be improved a lot, but it was enjoyable enough and different enough that it makes me want to read other Dave Eggers’ books.

 

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Engineer: Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars by Erik Nordeus

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Title: The Engineer: Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars

Author: Erik Nordeus

Genre: Biography

This is a book about the beginning of a journey. Elon Musk is the main person in the journey through a roller-coaster life. His journey includes everything from Winston Churchill’s adventures in British colonies to demolished sports cars. From failed marriages to German scientists escaping from the Red Army. From the oil industry to the Burning Man festival.

Elon has been described as the Steve Jobs of heavy industry, as a modern version of the scientist Nikola Tesla, and as the Henry Ford of rockets. There’s a high probability that the British Secret Intelligence Service has a file on him. As the files of other James Bond villains, it describes secret rocket launches in the Pacific Ocean. But Elon doesn’t own a white cat – he’s more of a dog person. Maybe the most comparable persons are the great explorers who voyaged across the globe. They had an entrepreneurial spirit, were a little crazy, tried what no one else had tried, and thought what no one else had thought.

Rating: 4/5

Last year I read Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future and became a huge fan of Elon Musk. So when I found out another biography of him exists, of course I had to read it.

The most important difference between the two biographies is that Elon Musk had no involvement at all in this one. The author has used over 450 sources to write this book, but when you’re writing a book about a living person, your best possible source is that person. This book is self-published, which is sometimes quite obvious because of grammatical errors and awkward sentences. Regardless of the faults, I still really enjoyed reading it.

Elon Musk is a fascinating person. He went from having nothing to being a billionaire and he achieved that with companies that not many people expected to succeed. It would be difficult to write a book about him that’s not interesting to read. This book describes his life up to year 2012 (it would be great if there were yearly updates, but oh well) and there are three very handy timelines at the end, one for Elon’s life, one for Tesla Motors and one for SpaceX. Most of the book is focused on his companies, but there are also chapters about his early life and, later on, his personal life.

Most of the information was already familiar to me, but there were some anecdotes and details I didn’t know before. For an unofficial biography, this is a really good book.