The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015

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I've decided to join The Eclectic Reader Challenge hosted by Book'd Out. I've already put together a list of books I want to read in every category of this challenge but I'm not sure if I'm gonna follow it to the dot (because I rarely do that...). So here it is:

1) Retellings (of fairytale, legends or myth): John Steinbeck - "East of Eden" (According to the synopsis at the back of my copy, the destinies of families in this book "re-enact" the story of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, so technically it is a retelling of the Bible. If someone isn't satisfied, I have some other books I might read as well. But I really wanted to fit this book somewhere in this challenge and my other choice was to cheat on No 2, because it's set in Salinas Valley...)
2) A book set in a country starting with the letter S (eg. Sweden, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Slovakia): Doris Lessing – „The Grass is Singing“
3) PI Crime (fiction featuring a private investigator): Robert Galbraith – „Cockoo’s Calling“
4) A novel published before you were born: Donna Tartt - "The Secret History"
5) Contemporary romance: Lauren Weisberger - "Chasing Harry Winston"
6) Fiction for foodies (fiction featuring food/food related business): Lawrence Norfolk - "John Saturnall's Feast"
7) Microhistory (Non Fiction): Adrian Johns - "Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates"
8) Science Fiction set in space: Andy Weir - "The Martian"
9) Sports (Fiction or Non fiction): John King - "Skinheads"
10) Featuring diversity: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - "Half of the Yellow Sun"
11) Epistolary Fiction (fiction written in the format of letters/emails/diary entries): Mary Shelley – „Frankenstein“
12) Middle Grade/YA Adventure: Garth Nix - "Lirael"

This year should be fun, reading-wise especially, so... I'll see you in 2015 ;)

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14 of 2014

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I've decided to put together a list of my favourite book that I read this year. I've read more books (and graphic novels) than any other year ever so picking only 14 was almost impossible. But I did try!

Books are not in any particular order, I can't really figure out in what order I should arrange them.

1. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
It took me forever to finish this book but turned out to be one of the best I've ever read. My imagination might have been a bit biased because I've seen the amazing Kubrick's film first but, you know, it's always a good thing to have a film just as good as a book.

2. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
There isn't many books that leave me speechless. This one did. Jhumpa Lahiri is a master in portrayal of characters. And the stories she tells are outstanding yet very real. I don't think I could put out in words how much I loved this book.

3. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
This was the year of reading female memoirs/essay collections and Gay's Bad Feminist was on the top of everything I read. From my perspective of privilege - white middle class university student, I felt the need to have my "idea of feminism" challenged by someone else's perspective. And that's exactly what I got. Gay discusses variety of topics, some of them I race and gender, and it gave me some inside point of view and change my thoughts about the topic a little.

4. The Lonely Londoners by Samuel Selvon
One of the last books I've read this year and I have to say is one the very best. Selvon uses a unique voice to tell the story of Moses and other immigrants from West Indies in the fifties. It was very thought provoking specially with the latest killings of men of colour all over the United States. I'm also going to try read the sequel next year because I can't get enough!

5. Vita Brevis: A Letter to St. Augustine by Jostein Gaarder
Vita Brevis is a precious little fictional letter to Aurel by his former lover. It is also a very smart reflection on his Confessions from a point of view of a woman that once new him. I think this is the book that started my crying party this year.

6. Any Human Heart by William Boyd
I fell in love with William Boyd. The way he crafts a fictional diary of a person from young age to death is incredible. The way he makes fanfiction into serious literary fiction is a miracle. But that's a discussion for another time.

7. Maus by Art Spiegelman
Maus is a graphic memoir in which Art Spiegelman tells a story of his father, survivor of Holocaust. And if I should pick one story that I'm gonna come back to it's this one

8. Summer Crossing by Truman Capote
A short novel that made me think over my love for Breakfast at Tiffany's. I never thought I wanted to know what it's like to be young and rich and bored but this little gem gave me everything on a silver plate and I loved it.

9. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
It's one of those book lots of people are talking about and I've never read. Truth to be told one of the main reasons I wanted to read it was Rowell's Fangirl. And it was definitely worth it.

10. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is a genious, there is no doubt about that. And this re-telling and mash-up of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty is amazing. With a plot twist I had not seen coming. Also the illustrations by Chris Riddell are fantastic.

11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I love me some epistolary novels and this one was a great surprise. I've had the book at home for some time but only after someone mentioned it in my reading group I started reading it. The story of Nazi-occupied Guernsey was better than I expected and like any story of WWII it made me cry several times.

12. Robert des noms propres by Amélie Nothomb
Amélie Nothomb is one of my favourite authors of all time and I've read every book of hers that has been translated to Czech, my mother tongue. This one I've read in English and it was a fantastic and somewhat tragic story of a ballerina. A fictionalize biography you could say. And also very short. Short books that are on point like this are the best.

13. Memoria de Mis Putas Tristes by Gabriel García Márquez
I've tried to read Márquez ounce before and failed miserably. Hundred Years of Solitude is long and dense and you need to have specific mindset to get through. This book however is short and fast paced and so much more interesting to me. And I loved it.

14. Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaniel West
There was something disturbing about this little book but I can't figure out what it was. It left me with an uneasy feeling but that's about all I can remember. I suppose I have to re-read this one.

And it wouldn't be me if I wouldn't pick a honourable mention:
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
I have learnt that the best self-help books are the ones written about someone else. Memoirs just like this one have great power of helping you sort your own life, pick up the pieces, turn it around and, most importantly, not to be afraid to dream bigger. I can't say it makes everything perfect. But it's a start. And that was Amanda's book this year. A kick in a right direction. I might be heading somewhere...

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Strong Female Protagonist (Mulligan/Ostertag)

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Written by: Brennan Lee Mulligan
Illustrated by: Molly Ostertag

*** Received from NetGalley in exchange for honest review. ***

Strong Female Protagonist is a tie-in of webcomics about Alison Green, a retired super-heroine. With other teenage superheroes, she used to fight crime with her superstrength, but eventually she decided to lead a normal life and go to college.

To be honest, it's been a month since I read the first sixty pages and besides some accidents with her superstrength I can't recall what was going on. It happens to me only rarely that I don't finish something. I usually make myself to do it, it might take a month or a year but I usually do it eventually. But with this one, I just couldn't. I'm about 60 pages in and I lost any interest I could have had to read this comic book. And that was a month ago so I don't think there's any chance I will finish this.

I wanted to say some good things about this comic book but I don't think I actually liked anything about it. Starting with the art, it wasn't appealing at all to me. It's black and white and bit shaky. And I realize the ebook version is not a great quality but in this case it was just plain annoying. What I thought from the beginning and I know for sure is that a colour makes it better - apparently the new parts of the webcomic are in colour and it makes it so much better!

What I found most annoying were the bottom explanation lines that are not in the original webcomic but were for some reason added here. I don't know if they're supposed to be funny or helpful but for me they were very distracting. (And I tried skipping them but it's always weird when there's always one more like to read on the page and you just skip it.)

As for the main character, Alison, there just wasn't anything I could relate to and she just wasn't interesting at all. She was incredibly whiny, which is probably the main reason I didn't care at all about her history nor her future. She is super strong but she doesn't seem to control her power very much which seems to be a reason of her insecurities. I think the insecurity was supposed to make her more human but it just make me dislike her more.

The only reason Alison is called strong female protagonist is because she's physically strong. And maybe I'm just too dismissive with her but to me she's just... not anyone I want to read about.

I think it might be better to actually follow the comic series on the website because I can't stand this for longer time periods... I wanted to like it but it just didn't happen.

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C.O.W.L. Vol.1, Principles of Power (Higgins/Siegal/Reis)

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Written by: Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegal
Illustrated by: Rod Reis

** Received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. **

"Welcome to the 'Chicago Organized Workers League' - the world's first Super-Hero Labor Union!

While C.O.W.L. once stood as a beacon of hope against an epidemic organized crime and an unbeatable 'brotherhood' of Super-Villains, the union now faces its fiercest foe yet - a disillusioned public.

In targeting the last of the great villains, C.O.W.L. attempts to prove its value to the world and the each other, while staving off villainy from both outside and inside its offices."

The premise of C.O.W.L. looked really good to me when I first picked it up. Set in the sixties, superheroes being on a payroll just like any other hard working citizen should be, the apparent tension between the head of the League and the City Council. Add a supervillain into the mix and it could be great, prefect even.

The story however didn't meet my expectation. The team wasn't what I expected, actually it was really boring. We don't get enough back stories to really sympathize with anyone. What was biggest problem for me was that there not only was only one female character in the team (and I can excuse that given the time period it's set in) but she doesn't really stand for herself. That is not until she gets a kick the "right" way from her team mate. Until then she just let herself to be treated like a dumb bimbo that has to have a man (boyfriend) to speak for her. She doesn't really put up a fight in that aspect.

Over all the story was quite ordinary detective story with some super heroes added. Not really much to go by.

What I found really disturbing was the art. While it wasn't exactly bad and I really enjoyed the issue covers (each issue was oriented on different team member) it was really difficult to read the story. It took me a while to figure out what it was and then I found out there was no lines around the bubbles. It was ok with the white ones but within the first couple of pages there are also bubbles in very pale colours and I could barely make out what was written there.

I can't say I didn't like it at all but I don't think I'll be reading the continuation of this story, it just failed to pull me in.

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VOX (De Longis)

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Illustrations: Meteo De Longis

** Received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. **
Reviewing this concept art book isn't as easy as I thought it would be. I did really like the art. I love music and the art really complements it, the way I see it.

However, about halfway through it I've had enough. Not because the art would become less interesting or boring but because there's a great deal of female nudity and I wasn't comfortable with it this time around. Or I would be if it was just couple cases but it feels like every other pages pictures a girl with her panties on show. And while I understand the appeal of such images, in larger number it felt really disturbing and I didn't really enjoy rest of the pictures that much.

That said, I loved the colour schemes and if anyone is a fan of half naked (hentai styled) girls, go for it.

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2015 Reading Challenge

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So I've been procrastinating like crazy and preparing for 2015 reading-wise rather than doing stuff for school and I've came across this reading challenge. And since I want to really come prepared, I've already picked books I'm going to read for this. And we'll see how it'll go.

Here's my list, I'll try to not change it too much:
1) A book with more than 500 pages: "The Final Empire" by Brandon Sanderson
2) A classic romance: "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë
3) A book that became a movie: "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffeneger
4) A book published this year (2015): "A Darker Shade of Magic" by V.E. Schwab
5) A book with a number in the title: "Nineteen Twenty-One" by Adam Thorpe
6) A book written y someone under 30: "The Luminaries" by Eleanor Catton
7) A book with nonhuman characters: "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman
8) A funny book: "YES Please!" by Amy Poehler
9) A book by a female author: "The Age of Innocence" by Edith Wharton
10) A mystery/thriller: "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski
11) A book with one-word title: "Thinks..." by David Lodge
12) A book of short stories: "Complete Short Stories Volume One 1944-1953" by Roald Dahl
13) A book set in a different country: "Snow" by Orphan Pamuk
14) A nonfiction book: "Just Kids" by Patti Smith
15) A popular author's first book: "The Mysteries of Pittsburg" by Michael Chabon
16) A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet: "Restless" by William Boyd
17) A book a friend recommended: "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
18) A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole
19) A book based on a true story: "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote
20) A book at the bottom of your to-read-list: "The DaVinci Code" by Dan Brown
21) A book your mom loves: "Vyhnání Gerty Schnirch" by Kateřina Tučková
22) A book that scares you: "The Shinning" by Stephen King
23) A book more than 100 years old: "The Turn of the Shrew" by Henry James
24) A book base entirely on its cover: "Brightonrock" by Graham Green
25) A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't: "On the Road" by Jack Keruac
26) A memoir: "Morrissey" by Morrissey
27) A book you can finish in a day: "Call for the Dead" by John le Carré
28) A book with antonym in the tile: "Life and Death are Wearing Me Out" by Mo Yan
29) A book set somewhere you always wanted to visit: "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon
30) A book that came out the year you were born (1993): "The Giver" by Lois Lowry
31) A book with bad reviews: "Axolotl Roadkill" by Helene Hegemann
32) A trilogy: "Chaos Walking" by Patrick Ness
33) A book from your childhood: "The Bad Beginning" by Lemony Snicket
34) A book with a love triangle: "The Iron King" by Julie Kagawa
35) A book set in the future: "The Queen of Tearling" by Erika Johansen
36) A book set in high school: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1"
37) A book with a color in the title: "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker
38) A book that made you cry: "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
39) A book with magic: "Moon Over Soho" by Ben Aaronovitch
40) A graphic novel: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
41) A book by an author you've never read before: "The Dark Room" by Rachel Seiffert
42) A book you own but have never read: "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh
43) A book that takes place n your hometown: "Daughter of Smoke and Bones" by Laini Taylor
44) A book that was originally written in a different language: "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque
45) A book set during Christmas: "The Bridget Jones' Diary" by Helen Fielding
46) A book written by an author with your same initials (ES): "The Southern Woman" by Elizabeth Spencer
47) A play: "The Tempest" by Willaim Shakespeare
48) A banned book: "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
49) A book based on or turned into a TV show: "Supernatral: Bone Key"
50) A book you started but never finished: "Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold

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December TBR (or Killing my "currently-reading" GR list)

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I rarely do what my "To Do" lists say so I can't promise I'll actually stick with my TBR... But I'm trying to actually finish some of the books I've started this year, so this list will mostly consist of book I'm currently reading. I'm trying to get through all of the books I started reading so I could start anew come New Year but I myself don't exactly believe I'be 100% successful.

"Night Film" by Marisha Pessl
I've heard people talk about this book on BookTube for a while and I was convinced it's just another Young Adult book. I couldn't be more wrong. It's a detective story slash mystery and I love it. I'm exactly in the half of it and I'm planing on finishing it right after I finish this one assignment for school.

"The Art of Asking" by Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer is well known music personage so I don't think I need to introduce her. The title of her book sounds a lot like a self help book, but it isn't. Or maybe it is but the best self help books are teaching you through someone else's story. So far The Art of Asking is a lot about what Amanda went through on her way to the place in life she's now. And I really like the way she writes about it.

"Orlando" by Virginia Woolf
Anything by Virginia Woolf is no doubt considered a classic. Orlando might not be Mrs. Dalloway but it's got a great value on its own. It tells a story of a man born into Golden Age England living longer than he should changing gender when at will. It's beautifully written and I totally should have finished it sooner.

"Under the Skin" by Michael Faber
My first book of Fabers and I was unreasonably excited to read it. And it's good. Very mysterious science fiction about a woman named Isserley who lives and drives on the roads of Scotland picking male hitchhikers on her way. It would be a lie to say I'm not intrigued to find out what's going to happen next.

"How to Build the Girl" by Caitlin Moran
Caitlin Moran's fiction debut (only not so much a debut) tells a story of Joanna of Wolverhampton as she finds a way to support herself and her family. As she finds out, she has to kill old Joanna first, and then build a completely new person. Person she wants to be. And it's in her case Dolly Wilde - a music journalist and Lady Sex Adventurer. I've heard million times it's YA book but I don't think it is. It reads more like a literary fiction than like a YA and it certainly misses a whole lot of tropes usually find in YA books. It might be a coming of age story (gosh, I hate that term) but not all of these stories should be considered YA. You don't but a book into a certain category just because the age of a man protagonist fits there!

"Dangerous Liaisons" by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Yet another classic. I'm reading this for school and I'm enjoying it so far. And since I've seen a theatre adaptation of it, Laclos's characters have voices of my favourite Czech theatre actors in my head. And it's so good!

"Empower: Fight like a Girl", a short story collection
Collection of stories by famous (and not-so-famous) female TV writers . I've read only a handful of these so far (and I'm surprisingly reading them in order - since I have an ebook copy of it) but I'm loving them.  And it does have stories by THE Jane Espenson and Amy Berg, so, yeah...

There's a chance I'll try to finish some other books as well, we'll see how it'll go for me this month.

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