Book Club Issues

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Book club dynamics can be challenging.  Agreeing on reading a book when people’s tastes vary is sometimes difficult. This is the reason some book clubs group up and read trough certain genres. I am very lucky with my RL book club since we all take turns in presenting a book and leading the discussion. I actually enjoy the variety of books I would never pick up on my own.
Being in a book club has it’s perks and downsides. Having a great discussion on a book you read and hearing other people point out things you missed out or haven’t even thought to think on makes book clubs great. It teaches you about values in differences of opinion and makes people more emphatic – even when they have to agree to disagree. Some books will make people either love or hate them and the best ones often do. Taking into consideration view of someone else who read the same book as you did but managed to understand it in a completely different way is a great way of learning about differences between people as humanities most valuable resource.
The downsides in my particular case are a few. I am not talking about tastes in books but about something a bit more real for my group. These involve language barriers, unavailable copies and brick like editions with vast number of pages.

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We tend to rely on our local library for the books and sometimes there aren’t enough books for us all. Even in a group of ten people the minimum amount of available books should be at least five. That is not always the case. Some books are in short supply to be available for the whole group in a one month time.

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There are some really great books I would like to read with book club buddies but since we are in a small language group, books that are not translated to our native language simply don’t fit to our needs. These make me sad the most. In some cases there used to be a translation but the editions are old and hard to come by.

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Last group of books that can be problematic for a book club discussion are those that have higher than average number of pages. For a normal adult person with a job and family it can be difficult to find the time to read a 500+ pages book in time for the discussion. Sometimes books like that have to be agreed upon several months in advance.

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What are your book club issues?
How do you cope with language barriers and unavailable books?

Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

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It has been a while since something got my attention in a way only a good story can. I have stumbled on this South Korean masterpiece by accident. This new South Korean historical drama has me riveted to the screen and I’m plotting to get my friends on board of my fangirling band wagon.

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The name of this TV series is Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. It is based on the Chinese book  Bu Bu Jing Xin by Tong Hua. This is just the latest adaptation and there were others before it. This TV series started only recently at the end of August 2016. There will be just over twenty episodes and I just can’t wait for the next one to come out! They come out twice a week – Monday and Tuesday on SBS.

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The story revolves around a woman in her twenties who gets transported to Goryeo Kingdom around the year 900. She ends up in a body of a sixteen year old lady connected to the royal family. Drama and intrigue of the court run wild on screen and as the main character slowly tries to adapt to the timeline the viewers are tantalized by historical and cultural details of the setting.

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The historical details are quite intriguing and the production value is awe inspiring. The costumes and historical details alone made me want to learn more about the real history of South Korea and neighbouring countries.

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The tone of the series is at times light and humorous and at other times it has a great emotional impact. Screen writers have done a good job of balancing between the hostile and uncompromising conditions of the historical times and fantastical and lighter motives with some endearing back up characters.

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In the center of it all is a complex web of character relations and a one love triangle between the main character and two of the royal princes. It is at a same time a historical fairytale and twist of court intrigues with no compassion for the pawns.

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I’m currently looking out for the books as well. This got me back into mode Romance of the Three Kingdoms phase I had about a decade ago. Hopefully there will be some English translated edition avaliable soon!

bu_bu_jing_xinI even got my eyes set on the wonderful Taiwanese edition of Bu Bu Jing Xin by Tong Hua in three volumes.

Reading in progress – September 2016

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I suppose it has been a long time since I was in the middle of reading this many books. Not since last year had I more than 5 books in reading at the moment situation. I’m back at choosing my reading according to my mood. Here are the many books I’m in the middle of reading this September!

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27 out of 323 pages

Storm’s Heart (Elder Races book #2)

by Thea Harrison

Something about this book just doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve said it all before in last months RIP (reading in progress) post. Some progress since then but just barely.

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88 out of 386 pages

Sense and Sensibility

by Jane Austen

Originally this was my RL book club assignment for September. I still haven’t finished it even though we already had the discussion. I have trouble with motivating myself to continue since I already know what is going to happen from the discussion we had…

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6 out of 11 stories

The Bane Chronicles

by Cassandra Clare

I’ve been reading a story from this collection each night. I love the main character and he was my favorite from Mortal Instruments book series. These little snippets reveal just enough to make me interested in some other works by the same author.

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?? out of 464 pages

Angel: The End

by Bill Willingham et al

I’ve started reading this compilation this August for Read Comics in Public Day ( happens every year 28th of August). It has been on my TBR for a long while. I bought it few years back. The pages are not numbered so I’m not exactly sure what page I’m on…

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9 out of 293 pages

Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira

by Jose Saramago

Another RL book club assignment for September due later this month. I barely started it to get a feel to the book and hope that I will finish it in time to have enough time to watch the movie based on the book too.

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With all this I have a few bits I read on my Kindle in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Also I will probably take on Foundation by Isaac Asimov by the end of the month since I have RL book club discussion on it first week of October.

Wish me luck!

The Annotated Hobbit Or There and Back Again – Book Review

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Finished reading:

The Annotated Hobbit Or There and Back Again

by J.R.R. Tolkien

★★★★

Expectation

I picked this book up as a part of a reading challenge – I still have to read Lord of the rings trilogy (only the first book is mandatory). Since my reading appetites are great and my general reading lately has been somewhat scarce, I was inspired to make my start with Hobbit. To make matters more difficult ( this is where my truly masochistic nature rears its ugly head) I went and got on board of the annotated version. I tried reading Hobbit once when I was nine but something about it just put me off. Maybe it was a really old copy from the library with no illustrations or something about the writing style but the book just did not sit with me and I returned it after skimming trough first few pages. This time nothing could stop me to read it trough.

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Summary

Before I can even start on the book summary I have to explain the difference of this version from the normal editions of Hobbit. So basically, The Annotated Hobbit is richly composed book filled with many interesting details on various editions of Hobbit through the years. It contains the whole and same text as normal editions of Hobbit with a whole lot of extra footnotes, illustrations and information. From the first edition published in 1937. there were many subtle differences concerning linguistic phrasing, not just in different translated editions but in various english versions as well.

As a whole this edition has twice as much pages as the normal version of Hobbit. I rather enjoyed the first parts of the book that were about the author, his life and how the whole fantastic legacy came to be. I must add that this is my first book by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

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What delighted me the most trough the book were various illustrations from different translations and editions. It was great to read about authors reactions to some of them too. More than once I marveled at the artistic differences and representations of illustrations in different translated editions and trough the ages. I think it is amazing that Tolkien made his own illustrations for the book. It was curious to think that some of his illustrations were cut and augmented to accommodate printing techniques of the time. More than once I had to stop and think about move versions of his works and wonder what would Tolkien think about them. Would he approve of Martin Freeman as Bilbo? Would he be amazed at the CGI and special effects that were put to work to make his story come to life? Would he find himself humbled by the expensive franchise and lengths Peter Jackson went to make the movies spectacular and wonder to behold?

All these and many more questions came to mind especially since he regarded his writing as more of a hobby than a true calling.

the-hobbit-first-edition-dust-jacket-book-coverOriginal dust jacket from the first edition illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien

As you can see there are many things that make this book special. This story is a work of an Oxford professor who wanted to make a great story for his children. I kinda imagined him as a passionate professor and scholar.

As much I was interested in all the fascinating information from notes and footnotes, after a while I got tired with some of them.There were lots of really interesting data to learn but keeping track of linguistic changes trough the different editions was sometimes tiresome. Any hardcore fan would have jumped for joy, English mayor or any professional linguist would have loved it. Sadly I am none of these things.

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At some point the many notes and explanations pulled my attention from the story and I got lost and couldn’t really get into it at times. The constant flipping of the pages back and forth – I even had to use two bookmarks for keeping track, has made my concentration slip and the whole reading process lass enjoyable than it would normally would have been. The reason this review keeps getting back to notes and extras is probably because there were so many of them. There were many theories and mentions of authors scholar work as an inspiration for certain scenes and parts of the book, sometimes the whole original songs were involved. I guess this is what happens when a book offers a fantastic imagined world, new races and cultural riches, fantastical beasts and heroic deeds.

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Story is mostly known to many, if not from the book then surely from the movies. Movies are kinda fluffed up for today’s audiences. I like knowing where Gandalf went after he left Bilbo with dwarves – otherwise I would probably rant about his role. And the romance between a dwarf and an imagined elf were not part of the book but it made the movies a bit more dramatic. Reading this book inspired me to marathon binge watching the whole series and I kinda have trouble not mixing the two mediums and two versions of the same story.

Conclusion

I do not recommend this version for somebody’s first reading of Hobbit. The sheer number of footnotes and explanations might make the reading experience and story long and redundant. For a hardcore fan it is probably a must read at some point in their lives. As a part of a general knowledge it is always good to learn from the source – in this case the original book. Future readers must keep in mind that this is a book written for children in the first half of twentieth century. The timing when it was published is right at the start of WW2 and accordingly the book is filled with positive influence and hope.

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Monthly reading review – August 2016

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Monthly reading review -August 2016

This August I have read:

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield ★★★★

Sudden Backtrack (The Hollows #13.1) by Kim Harrison ★★★★★

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley ★★★

Prince of Wolves (The Grey Wolves, #1) by Quinn Loftis ★★

The Annotated Hobbit Or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien ★★★★

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1. How many books you’ve read last month? Are you happy with the amount you read?

This August I’ve read five books. My slow reading trend continues but it is improvement from July nevertheless.

2. What was the best of all the books you’ve read in June? Any scenes or characters that made a lasting impression?

Sudden Backtrack was a short novella from the Hollows series. It was short and it delighted me. I loved it! All and Newt were incredible and it gave me a new perspective on their dynamic.

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3. Were there any not so good books for you last month? What made it hard or not enjoyable to read?

Prince of Wolves was a kindle freebie I got years (!) ago. I finally decided to read it this summer. What made it bad for me was some editing errors. I could not get into this YA urban fantasy no matter how I tried. More explanation will be provided in a review soon.

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4. How did the books you were reading last month fit in your reading plans if you had any?

Only one book was recent edition to my reading list. I managed to read some books that have been on my TBR for a long time and that makes me happy. RL book club reading was nice for a change – I’ve already moved to my September assignment Sense and Sensibility.

5. Any updates on the series you are reading or are you starting any new series?

I gave one new series a go and it did not work out. I’m expecting to finish up The Hollows series by the end of the year with all the extra novellas and short stories I can get my hands on. Also after I’ve finished Hobbit I can finally start Lord of the Rings series!

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6. Would you like to recommend any books or authors you’ve been reading this last month?

This year I’ve been tacking some classics and I’m enjoying reading different books. I would not make them out to be the favorite or the best books I’ve read but would recommend reading them anyway! Frankenstein and Hobbit are part of urban culture and it is good to read the original books that fascinated many revivals, movies, plays and new versions. 

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Final thoughts on August reading:

I realized that every month there are quite a bit of books I’ve read and haven’t managed to find the time to write a review on. Even these last few months when the number of books I get to read is not so great I still write reviews for less than half of them. So far I had reservations for writing reviews after the months is over.

But lately I’ve looked back on some of them and realized I have some things I want to say and share my opinion on concerning the books I’ve read and haven’t written a review on. So maybe I’ll try working harder at finding the time and not wait to the end of the month to finish three books at once.

Anyway, Ill be posting some reviews on books read in the previous months soon.

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Frankenstein – Book Review

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Finished reading:

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus

by Mary Shelley

★★

Expectation

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while. When I saw that one of the groups in my RL book club picked it out for August reading I gladly jumped at the opportunity to finally take it on. I was hyped and excited. I even managed to watch a BBC four documentary series The Secret Life of Books that had a whole episode on Mary Shelley and the making of Frankenstein. In retrospective had I thought even a little about authors husband – which I did an essay on in college! – and the company she kept, the time period and many other things that make total sense after I’ve read the book I would have been better prepared. I got distracted by many movie adaptations and urban culture references on Frankenstein and his monster. I expected a cool and ghoulish story from the start of the nineteenth century.  Because of this I feel the need to elaborate more on the experience of reading this book. I usually avoid giving out any spoilers and just present a general feel to the book and how I liked reading it. In this case I have to make an exception and let it all out.

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Summary

What most of the movie adaptations omit to mention is the great influence of  romanticism and second generation of romantic poets that include Mary Shelley’s husband Pierce B. Shelley and Lord Byron on the making of Frankenstein.  Main character Victor Frankenstein possess the same pathos like Werther in the epistolary work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. They were written just a few decades apart and The Sorrows of Young Werther is actually mentioned in Frankenstein.

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Frankenstein in itself is written from the perspective of three different narrators. First being Richard Walton, second Victor Frankenstein and third Frankenstein’s Creature.

From all of these only Creature’s story felt real and honest to me. First two narrators annoyed me and put me to sleep. I felt much agitation by the character of Victor Frankenstein. I prefer the nutty and passionate (and yes! creepy) versions of Victor Frankenstein. This spineless and naive man child upsets me. It infuriated me to read about his total disregard for some things and melancholy fretting for other.

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By the time the discussion on the book was scheduled I was not done with reading the book. I was about 70% done on my Kindle edition. The book kept putting me to sleep or I would get angry by how depressing characters were.

“There is love in me the likes of which you’ve never seen. There is rage in me the likes of which should never escape. If I am not satisfied in the one, I will indulge the other.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

I was so emotionally invested while reading this book that the mere process of reading; which usually has a calming effect on me; proved to be exhausting and painful. I hated the general treatment of those less fortunate in the books. Those not born into wealthy families, all those that were not pretty enough and were not afforded an education. Parts of the book that speak about that are horror for me.

It did not escape my notice that the only part of the book I enjoyed was narrated by the Creature.

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Conclusion

There are many things now I would have liked to discuss more about and I’m sorry for not reading the book in time for our RL book club meeting. Others mostly liked the book and at times I felt like sticking out like a sore thumb for not liking it. I’ve made many notes and highlights in my copy while reading. Again I’m not regretting that I’ve read the book but it has left me tired.

Reading in progress – August 2016

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After MIA July in August I’m slowly getting back on track. I’m in the middle of reading of four different books!

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16 out of 323 pages

Storm’s Heart (Elder Races book #2)

by Thea Harrison

This on is a carry on from June. I liked the first book of the series and jumped onto the second right away. I have trouble getting into the story. I’m not against tiny female protagonists but have to work at getting to understand their perspective since for most story heroines I’m a giant – I’m 6 ft tall. (180 cm) With books where main female character is admired by her short height as a something to strive at I get put off and need a really good story to pull me in. Still waiting for it to happen with this book…

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189 out of 416 pages

The Annotated Hobbit: The Hobbit, Or, There and Back Again

by J.R.R. Tolkien, Douglas A. Anderson

I wanted to get back at tackling the BF challenge. The book from the challenge is actually Fellowship of the Ring but I went a little overboard this year with repeated watching of Hobbit and LOTR movies and decided to start with Hobbit. I might have overdone it a bit with the Annotated version and the footnotes are starting to be less wow and more tiresome. I will definitely be doing a review soon and let off some steam on all the issues I have with this book…

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5 out of 273 pages

Frankenstein

by Mary Shelley

This is one of two books I’m reading for my RL book club in August. I’ve barely started the book but I’ve already watched a BBC Secret life of Books documentary on how it came to be. Promo for the video is HERE. I guess I’m getting into research mode for our group discussion.

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10 out of 230 pages

Prince of Wolves (The Grey Wolves #1)

by Quinn Loftis

I was going trough my Kindle library one night and stumbled on this free ebook. I forgot I had it and I’ve seen some nice reviews on it. I started reading it a bit and decided to give it a go this August. It has been a while since I’ve read a good Kindle freebie. So far is very much YA material.

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I’ve just realized that all the books I’m reading now are fantastical in theme. Coincidence?

I don’t think so! I’ve been exhausted by everyday stuff and little books out of this world are just what I wanted lately.