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life_happensWhat can I say? I thought I had everything planned and figured out (over a year ago!). And surprise, surprise, life threw me a curve ball and kept me so busy that I only just about had time to get on with it and read some books (now and again). I just didn’t have the time and the energy to sit down and write. And after a while you start thinking that maybe you have nothing new to say to the world and that everything was reviewed million times over and there is no fresh angle to look at things. And life goes on, keeps you busy, then the thought about your blog is pushed in the back of your head and only occasionally a guilty thought crosses your mind that you really, I mean REALLY, should update your blog. I don’t know how many of you have been in these shoes before, but let me assure you, the longer you leave it, the harder it gets to jump back on the truck!

I am not one for making New Year’s resolutions. And clearly, as I have nothing better to do at 3.30am (apart from going to work tomorrow, erm, today), I thought I would check my blog. One thing lead to another and from checking the blog, I went to delete all the spam and to actually write a new post ;)

So, this year, I am not promising anything, but I am hoping to make more contributions to the blog, to read more books (Kindle, and my bank account!, knows that I went crazy to buy loads of them during the Amazon big discounts) and hopefully some of you will come along and say hi.

And so I wish Happy New Year to everyone! May it be a very happy and successful one, with plenty of love and friends and memorable heart warming moments.

Happy reading everyone!

Renny xxx

2014-happy-new-year

Finally…

I know, it has been a while! My plan was to make few posts over the summer but Olympics kind of took over my life and spun it out of control. Once those and Paralympics finished, my job got really busy and now I am trying to find a more fulfilling job and new place where to live. So the only thing I managed to do is to keep on reading, although not as much as I wanted, but better something than nothing, hey? Now I will try to put everything back on track, starting with this blog ;)

At the moment I can only promise one post per week as I am still searching for a nice place I can call home. And the new job search? Well, that is kind of ongoing project…

Anyways, I will be back soon with some updates and reviews.

Happy reading!

Renny xxx

I think it is all nice and dandy to explore and read new books, to map the uncharted territories of books soon to be published, but ultimately there comes a time when you want to submerge yourself into a trusted classic that many generations read before you.

So I started to search and kind of evaluate the ‘best novels lists’ and as you can imagine, there is plenty of them out there.  The one limitation I found in most of them was that the books were very Anglo-American centered. Where are all those great Russian, French or Spanish novels? What about South America or Asia? I just wanted more wide-spread choices and so I kept searching.

In the end I realized that no matter what I do, one list isn’t going to get the job done. And I ended up with accumulation of top five ones :D as I feel that each of them brings something different to the table.

Now that I shortlisted my lists, I ended up with a burning question – How do I tackle this? The obvious two solutions have both advantages and serious limitations.

1) I merge them in one list – on the plus side, this removes any duplicates; on the minus side, it kind of destroys the soul of the lists and turns them into one slightly big pot full of books without any taste or texture.

2) I leave the lists as they are – on the plus side, I can pick any list, scroll through it and pick what I fancy; on the minus side – I will need to tick off all the duplicates on the rest of the lists once the book is finished.

I have thought about this for past few weeks and was trying to figure out what to do and decided for the second option. I still don’t think I found the right solution but this is as neat solution as it gets.

So here are my top five:

  1. The Top 100 Books of All Time (Guardian)
  2. 100 Best Novels – The Board’s List (Modern Library)
  3. 100 Best Novels – The Reader’s List (Modern Library)
  4. Raddcliffe’s Rival 100 Best Novels List (Modern Library)
  5. 110 Best Books: The Perfect Library (Telegraph)

Now, there is no time limit to this, it is just something to dip into when I feel like it.

Do you follow a list? And if so, which one and why?

The June Round Up

I so wanted to post this post at the beginning of the month but things got slightly out of hand, so here we go…

After the May fiasco, I can proudly present you the list of the books I read in June. I know that the aim was to finish the books I already started reading in previous months, but I also had other commitments so I split it half and half. :)

The List:

  1. The Slap: A Novel by Christos Tsiolkas
  2. Westsiders by Tom Finn
  3. The Spider King’s Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo
  4. Before I go to Sleep by J S Watson

The first two books are the ‘finish-ups’, Onuzo’s book was for fun and Watson’s book was for my book club. I also started my reading for the Coursera course that is starting later this month so I shall write update about this one as well so watch this space. :D

Also in terms of my 2012 challenge – I am ten books behind! But fear not, I still have plenty of holiday ahead so I shall aim to play catch-up. ;) How was your reading month?

Happy reading everyone!

Renny

When my friend read this book last year she was literally glued to it. I don’t know how about you, but for me, this is the best recommendation for a book, especially when you know that you two have very similar taste in books. So as you can imagine, I was very keen to put this book on my  (ever-expanding) ‘to be read’ pile.  I read one or two of Grisham’s books years ago and I was really glad that this one appeared on my book club list. Well, truth to be told, I helped it to appear… Yep, killing two birds with one stone ;)

So what do I think about the book? Apart from few minor criticisms, I thought that the book was very good, thrilling, fast paced and gripping. I don’t know whether Grisham’s seasoned readers would agree with me as I am not in a position to judge whether this book is better/average/below average than his other books. But as I said before, I don’t read Grisham that often and maybe that is why I totally enjoyed the book.

Without giving you any spoilers here, I would like to say, that all parts of the book have their merits and I didn’t expect to invest as many emotions into reading the book as I did (and I was ready to invest quite a few :)). I think it is fair to say that the book will leave you with more questions than it gives answers and leaves you thinking about the story long after you finish the book. For me, the description of the Texan death penalty system and it’s ins and outs was eye-opening. I know that the book is fiction, but I can easily see how something similar can happen in real life.

Little snippet from the book:

“… but as he watched the preliminaries unfold, he was struck by the coldness, the ruthless efficiency, the sanitized neatness of it.  It was similar to killing an old dog, a lame horse, or a laboratory rat. Who, exactly, gives us the right to kill? If killing is wrong, then why are we allowed to kill? As X* stared at Y*, he knew the image would never go away. And he knew that he would never be the same.”

(* I deliberately left out the names as not to give you any spoilers.)

Now the criticisms. Well, for once, I just thought that all the characters were too neatly cut – good guys on one side, bad guys on the other. Everything seemed black and white (literally) not only in the characteristics of the people involved in the story, but also the society was clearly divided by colour. I think that this also had impact on the fact that for me the characters felt bit two-dimensional. We are given a bit of background information about some of the characters, but we could have been given a little bit more. That still didn’t stop me to ponder what would I do and how would I feel if I was in the shoes of each of the mums, the priest and the defence lawyer.

So, if you fancy a decent read that would challenge your perceptions and opinions then go ahead, you will enjoy this one!

I have been excited about the Hackney Weekend ever since my friends and I managed to get tickets for the Saturday entry, but the day before the D-day I was literally bouncing off the walls! So Saturday came and it was agreed that I meet my friend at Homerton station and we will just walk to the Hackney Marshes where the festival was held. You know how it is with the best laid plans? Yes, they never work the way they are supposed to.

So, after the public transport threw few sticks underneath my feet (no Overground trains in my part of London), I ended up at Stratford station. I knew that there were free shuttle busses supposed to run from Stratford, so I decided to go and check it out. And although I didn’t know from which stand the free busses went, it was very easy to spot the right queue – yes, it was the one with the biggest collection of wellies :D

Anyways, it was time to jump on the running part of the Overground and get myself to Homerton. By the look of the train, I wasn’t the only one who had this idea as the train was full of bright tops, hot pants and (yes you are guessing right) wellies :) By the looks of it, London was expecting sunny and hot weather.

Throughout the whole day I was impressed with how the event was organised and the attention to detail which started right when we stepped off the train. I don’t know how about you but I usually have only one question on my mind and one dread when on my way to a festival. The question is – how do I get there asap? and the dread – portable toilets. I have nothing against them, but with 50 000 people attending the festival on each day, you can only imagine that by the end of the day, they can get bit unpleasant. Well fear not, the toilets were kept clean throughout the day with plenty of toilet paper. Impressive, huh? And there were plenty of stewards to show you the way to and from the event as well as very efficiently managing the queue, that was actually moving forward in a good pace so we reached the first checks before we knew it. After that, just a ticket check and we were in!

Six stages and plenty of great music and us trying to make the plan of the day so we see everyone who we wanted to see. Yeah baby, the party was on!!!  Here is few pictures to map our journey through the day ;)

Leona Lewis kicking off the show on the Main Stage.

Leona released balloons with small pink hearts inside them. Shame it was so windy that they just passed the crowds and off they went over the fence to explore the Hackney…

Dance Arena with Annie Mac playing in the background.

Full BBC Radio 1Xtra Stage during great DJ Fresh performance.

Back at the Main Stage with Rizzle Kicks in full swing.

And the crowd is having great time!

Eric Prydz keeping the Dance Arena on its toes.

D’Banj next at 1Xtra Stage. This was my discovery of the day! My friend said that she must see him, so we went. Apparently D’Banj is massively popular in Africa and I could see that he has a massive follow-up here as well. The tent was packed and everybody was dancing and having a great time! What a vibe! Check out his new single – Oliver Twist – on YouTube, really catchy!

D’Banj in action.

Calvin Harris sweeping the Dance Arena off their feet.

Calvin Harris

Our next stop was Kasabian, which I was looking forward to see, but I was slightly disappointed with the performance. They just couldn’t get the crowd going for almost the full first half of their performance. I think they slightly underestimated the crowd and decided to play their new songs, which only the first ten or so rows of fans in the front knew and the rest of the people didn’t react at all. But the mood changed once they started playing their well known hits and everyone got energised again.

Kasabian

We also saw Example on Main Stage and Sean Paul on 1Xtra Stage, but way too busy dancing and enjoying myself to remember to take pictures :D

And the wait is over! Jay Z is on stage…

With Rihanna!

And after Jay Z’s second guest – M.I.A. – we got our final treat – Kanye West!!! What a treat and great finish of an amazing day!!!

Sorry guys that the last picture is bit blurry, but this is as much as I could do between jumping and screaming and the rain didn’t help either but who cared!

Well done Radio 1 and Hackney, you did yourselves proud!

Next stop: Coca-Cola Torch Relay Concert in Birmingham :)

Westsiders by Tom Finn

I must admit, I am not a massive fan of short stories. Why? Purely because they are short. With short stories, it feels almost like you start somewhere in the middle and before you realise the story is over. Imagine yourself really wanting to go swimming, you get ready, the excitement builds up and as soon as you are at the pool you jump in only to realise that the water is way too cold and you just shoot out of there never to return. That’s how short stories feel to me, never getting the full satisfaction the same way I get from other books.

Said that, now and again I feel like I need to read something else, something different, something unexpected and it is in these times that I reach for short stories. So when I got the chance to read the Westsiders, I thought, why not. And I wasn’t disappointed. This collection of short stories is like a deluxe package of spa treatment for your soul. You find yourself slowly strolling through 1940′s/50′s Corner Brook in Newfoundland listening to the stories of some of its residents. The book is full of more or less loveable characters and you only get a sneak peek into a brief moments in their lives. And that’s when you realise that generations upon generations have dealt with the same problems as people are dealing with now. The only difference is that now we have more options how to deal with the situations such as unwanted pregnancy or secret relationship and running away with a boss.

As you can imagine, Corner Brook in the middle of last century must have been place small enough for everyone to know everyone and ultimately a place where everyone was involved in everyone’s business. So there is no surprise that the underlying theme for the stories is an escape from Corner Brook. It seems that there are truly just two options – either to escape or stay and be the major topic of the town’s latest gossip.

Overall, I had nice time with this book  and my only hope is that when the time comes and I pick another book of short stories, I will be as lucky as with this ones.

(review copy)

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