Life as Fiction

I’ve always had immense respect for writers who were capable of putting themselves on paper.  A bit of disdain (and jealousy) always went with that, because you cannot bare yourself without baring others. But then again, most writers have to be selfish, self-righteous pricks to a certain degree, don’t they?

Beyond Fiction

I have read two such books recently, Crazy for Vincent by Herve Guibert and Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi. These books defy fiction and still you cannot read them as anything but. Pieces of people’s lives disguised as fiction strike me as something beyond fiction. How much of it is real? Is the fragmented, disconnected style a by-product of trying to hide as much as you reveal, or is it a conscious choice to enhance the realism of depicting human emotional life?

How much of it is a result of compulsion, and how much a choice of the author? Can we talk about plot, characterisation or structure? Can we rate a person’s life just because they decided to put it in a book?

250 Pages – a Million Questions

The two books total at a bit over 250 pages, yet they have left me with so many questions – about life and nature of literature, its purpose and function – both personal and civilizational. Is literature meant to entertain or educate? Even if an author decides on the purpose, is it even important – being so dependent on what the reader is bringing into the process?

Different or Not

Different yet eerily similar (and familiar!), both Crazy for Vincent and Intimacy show that most of us (if not all) are broken, in disrepairsearching for meaning, love or something like it.

The paper is not covered with ink it’s covered in scars – especially in Crazy for Vincent. Guibert is more self-aware. Unlike Kureishi, he is not self-aggrandizing (even when he’s trying to be contrite).  Guibert does not try to justify himself or his story, while I felt Kureishi had the need to prove that he is a “good man” by the same bourgeoisie standards he’s failing/refusing to meet.

The fact that I could see a reflection of myself in these stories complicates things further. More questions arise, because they have managed to elevate a deeply personal experience to a more universal level (at least in my case). We’re talking about male authors. One of them is obsessed with his young gay lover (simplification!), the other is trying to rationalize his decision to leave his wife and two sons. Not very relatable in my case, yet the emotional level, the raw material  is malleable.

Ethics of Fiction

I’ve read a review of Intimacy on Goodreads which made me pause and which is closely related to my intro. Does a writer have an obligation to protect those he includes (exploits) in the service of his writing? Should Kureishi have masked the autobiographical elements of Intimacy to protect his family and friends? All valid questions, but I consider them unimportant, because even if Kureishi “tweaked” his life in order to be nice (?), a book like this would have brought about the same questions as the “untweaked” version.

I believe that if you choose to be a (certain type of) writer and you actually succeed in becoming one, you have to be prepared to be judged and called “unethical” or “selfish and self-righteous “.


What would Wilde say?

I think genre is pure discrimination. Young Adult is the worst among them. Young people don’t want to read books for children (assuming they want to read at all). Old people cannot bother with a story about a teenager – they’ve got older fish to fry.

A good book is a good book.

I think the same thing applies to genre and to people who don’t like to read. It doesn’t mean you don’t like it – it means you just haven’t found a book that suits you. I disliked fantasy until I’ve read Earthsea, and it’s not like you can say you love cyberpunk just because you liked Neuromancer.

We use labels to navigate through the labyrinth of life, but often these labels stop us from taking a turn which could bring us joy and maybe even discovery.

Wrinkles, Grimaces and Books

The kind of book I’m looking for is the One that’ll cause an involuntary upward movement of the corners of my mouth. The One that will force me to hold back a full-blown grin – mid-conversation, during a meeting or on some form of public transport. This book freezes my face in a grimace that makes me look deeply unsatisfied, maybe even a little constipated.

When I grow old(er) I hope the deepest and most visible lines on my face will be the ones which have already broken the skin just above the corner of my mouth.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Annual reviews are not among my favourite things. I’ve done two of them so far (work-related) and frankly, I’ve had enough. However, reviewing a year in terms of books and my activity in the blogosphere (poor as it was) in the end proved to be relaxing and not taxing.

I have, once again, failed to meet my reading challenge (24/31). Still, I am quite pleased with the two per month average and the catching up I’ve managed to do in November and December.

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How did you fare?

There have been ups and downs last year, not only in terms of personal and professional life, but also in terms of books. I was sorely disappointed by Andy Weir’s Artemis, however The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz proved to be the biggest disappointment of 2017. It so happens when you expect a lot, and get only a smidgen (again, true in personal and professional life as well).

Pleasant surprise of 2017 (alongside Logan in the movie department, Hajime no Ippo and Haikyuu in the anime department) was certainly Mary Balogh’s A Summer to Remember.

I wrote about the Cheap Thrill of 2017 extensively, however, if you care to know more of the Guilty Pleasure of 2017, you’ll have to wait for me to complete the Captive Prince Trilogy. Hint – the first two instalments feel like reading an anime (might sound silly, but it’s true).

Note: I have updated the “About (Hello There!)” section to include better explanation of the main categories (Cheap Thrills, Guilty Pleasures & Personal Edification):

In 2018 I will once again try to read 31 books. I will also endeavor to be more attentive to the digital sanctuary that is my blog. I’ll do my best to include entries in each of the categories that have developed during the years, which will make me focus more on my interests and things that make me go *grin* in the night.

May 2018 bring you many Cheap Thrills. Indulge in Guilty Pleasures as much as you can, and don’t forget that there is Personal Edification in everything, if you approach it with a critical mind.

Thank you for stopping by and reading.


One swallow does not make a summer…

…and one amazing book does not make a writer amazing. Ok, it does, but it doesn’t make all his books amazing.

Benjamin Alire Saenz: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

ILML has lovable characters and their relationships are as flawed and lovely as they are. Everything is a combination of perfect imperfections, which I really enjoyed. Up to the point where I started struggling against it and then finally rejected it completely.

The Narrator

Salvador is the narrator of the book which deals with people, family, friendship and pain which invariably comes when you love. Like any other teenager (and a lot of adults) he’s having a hard time dealing with the changes which are out of his control. I liked Sally at the beginning when he still had a semblance of a person. As the book progresses the reality of him seeps away and he becomes nothing more than a narrator of a poorly constructed story.

The Writing

The flow of words is not effortless – quite the contrary. It seems forced and artificial. In a story which deals with everyday things, the artifice ruins everything. In ILML you can tell in advance when the author is preparing to give you a deep thought or a beautiful sentence. And there are beautiful sentences and quotes worth jotting down.

The Story

The story is what I minded the most. I know a lot of people have to deal with a lot of shit in their lives, but I think it really was not necessary to wreak havoc on every single character in this book. This only added to the feeling that everything was less than honest, because some of these tragic events seemed uncalled for which was most evident in a flippant way they were treated.

The End

The worst thing is definitely the ending. All the pain, loss and confusion are neatly resolved in the final chapter which is a lecture written by a 17-year-old Salvador Silva. Lazy.

 No bueno.


Damaged Women & Tattooed Men

This is a post about Brown Family, a “contemporary erotic romance series set in Seattle” written by Lauren Dane. For more details which do not include my opinion visit or

I’ve read the first instalment of the Brown Family series years ago and I remember I enjoyed it, so when I felt the need to dip my brain into the Cheap Thrill pool, I thought of Lauren Dane.

Coming Undone (Brown Family 2) is nothing to write home about [but here I am, writing a post about it], but it’s a good enough way of spending an evening after a hard day at work. It’s a simple story about a young widow with a daughter who moves to a new city in search of a new life and gets down and dirty with a guy who doesn’t do relationships but does tattoos, family and friends. The widow has a dark past, because someone has to be damaged, I guess. I liked Brody and the [pause to look up name of main character] Elise because they both were almost lifelike.

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There’s a lot of sex in the book which kind of got old real fast. Frankly, even when I pick up a “contemporary erotic romance” I can do without 15 sex scenes, 20 pages per scene. But then again, it is an erotic romance, and I had the same beef with Laid Bare (Brown Family 1) so I really shouldn’t bitch about having to skip some pages.


After Coming Undone, I’d logged onto Goodreads to see what’s next and imagine my surprise when I realize the two protagonists of Inside Out (Brown Family 3) are one Andrew Copeland [say what?] and Ella Tipton [maiden name Brown?]. I gave it a whirl but gave up because I couldn’t find the chemistry between the non-Brown characters and I couldn’t bring myself to care about Ella, her freckles, her boobs and her funny voice.

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Logging onto Goodreads, again, I discover a totally crazy summary for Never Enough (Brown Family 4) which made me gag.

Gillian Forrester spent her life running…until Miles came along. The moment she held her older sister’s unwanted newborn, Gillian stopped running and began building a life for her adopted son. Now, thirteen years later, Gillian’s sister reveals the father’s identity on her deathbed – a revelation that shakes Gillian to her core. Adrian Brown is the epitome of the successful rock star. It takes a lot to shock him – but the bombshell that he has a thirteen-year-old son rocks his world [PUUUUUUUN! Because he’s a ROCK star!]. And Adrian is even more surprised when the buttoned-up elegant woman who’s raising him ignites his erotic and romantic attention – and engages his heart.


So that was a no. But I am an adamant creature, stubborn some would say, so I’ve decided to try and to read another Brown Family (and Friends) book – Drawn Together (Brown Family 5) which was doomed from the very start. I mean the main character is Raven who shows up in all the previous books as a crass, impolite woman whose juvenile actions are interpreted with words such as “honest” and “direct”.

So, another DNF.

I don’t understand what’s with Lauren Dane and wounded women and women in peril? Maybe the Brown Family series is the Wounded Female series? Maybe there’s more variation in her other series…Let’s check on Goodreads:

Giving Chase (Chase Brothers #1): …Despite Maggie’s happiness and growing love with Kyle, a dark shadow threatens everything-she’s got a stalker and he’s not happy at all. In the end, Maggie will need her wits, strength and the love of her man to get her out alive.

I think I’m done with Lauren Dane for now. However, aside from Coming Undone, she also gave me an excuse to put a Tom Hardy picture on my blog which is always a plus. So, thanks Lauren.



The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

Maddie is a popular, cheerleading, quarterback-dating girl with a dark secret. She likes comics, a lot. She hides her true, comic-loving self in fear of losing her popularity which she cultivated over the years. However, she is forced to slowly show her true face and accept who she really is with the help of the boy she’d been secretly pining after for years. Book includes comic book talk, LARPing, a guy called Logan and words such as adorkable.

I cannot seem to get a break. This time break was not given by The Summer I Became a Nerd. I was not expecting to be amazed at the magnificence of its literary merit, but I was expecting….  What in the world was I expecting when I picked this one up?

The Summer I Became a Nerd is something of a book, although not really. It’s more like a rough draft that could have been a book, a fun book at that. There’s just so much missing from it. I feel overwhelmed just thinking about making a list.

So I won’t.

The one important thing this book lacks is soul. Fact is, even the crappiest of books can have a soul. The Summer I Became a Nerd has these words, and stuff happens. Some stuff is cute, some mildly entertaining.

But in the end, it’s just meh. Read it. Don’t read it. In the end it’s really all the same.

Featured Image by


A Case of Literary ADHD

Rose Christo’s Gives Light Review

I’ve been itching for something light to read, so when I realised I’d bought a book titled “Gives Light” it seemed a no-brainer. I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I had bought it,  which I absolutely loved because I had no idea what to expect.

In the beginning, the book was capable of smoothing out the wrinkles of a shitty day.

Halfway through, it became apparent that I will not enjoy the book. Rose seemed to have had a bunch of various ideas which are perfectly OK, but she really should not have put them all in one book. It’s just too much, and the book ends up being about nothing and everything and about no one and everybody. It’s all over the place and no character is given proper attention due to this literary ADHD.

I will list all the things that were not given proper attention in Gives Light. And no, I do not care that it is the first book of a series because a series is a series, and a book is a whole in its own right.

  1. Skylar St. Clair is a mute teenager who got his throat slashed by a man who had killed his mother
  2. His father has disappeared without a word and Skylar is put in a custody of his paternal grandmother who lives on the Nettlebush Reserve
  3. Skylar’s mother was murdered on the Nettlebush Reserve by a member of the tribal council
  4. He was in fact a serial killer who had murdered several women
  5. The son of the murderer, Rafael Gives Light, lives on the reservation
  6. Native American customs and history are interspersed throughout the book
  7. For the first time Skylar becomes a true member of a community and makes friends
  8. Skylar’s new friend Annie has to take care of her two siblings because her mother is in the Army and her father is useless (it is mentioned somewhere that he had a stroke)
  9. Rafael Gives Light becomes one of his best friends
  10. Skylar’s father turns out to be a criminal who brings illegal immigrants into the country
  11. FBI and social services regularly visit the reserve and threaten the fragile stability of Skylar’s new life
  12. Skylar slowly falls in love with Rafael and Rafael returns his feelings
  13. Skylar is briefly conflicted about his feelings for Rafael – briefly because there’s so much shit going on in the book he has no time to deal with it for a longer period of time.

Imagine all this (and more – I avoided spoilers) crammed onto 285 pages, and do not forget to include descriptions, internal monologue and musings of a teenage boy who uses words such as “vociferous“.

Let’s go general and explore topics.

  1. Dealing with severe loss and monumental change
  2. Facing painful past experiences and achieving personal growth through adversity
  3. The treatment of Native Americans in modern society
  4. The importance of preserving the culturally and spiritually rich Native American customs and way of life
  5. Dealing with the fact that you are different and learning that “normalcy” is a matter of perspective/upbringing
  6. Treatment of crime and punishment in different cultures

I’m sure I could come up with more but I think this is enough to illustrate my point.

It’s a shame, really, because the book is well written. If the first list was cut down and one or two of the topics given proper prominence, I believe it would have been a really good book and I would have probably been half way through the second part of the series.


I Cannot Bitch

Expect the unexpected is not exactly what comes to mind when you’re looking for a frivolous summer read. It most certainly is not something you expect to be applicable to a book titled Lord of Scoundrels with such a cover (urgh).


And yet… Mind. Blown. My mind is also blown by the fact that my mind was blown. So, Mind Blown Squared.


Lord of Scoundrels (praise the Lord, it’s not Lord of Rakes!) is 171 pages long (short?) and on each page shit happened which I did not see coming. I’ve never read a romance which felt like a thriller – the suspense was killing me because I just could not foresee how things would unfold.

I’m still shocked by this book. It’s fun, intelligent and witty, well-written with awesome protagonists who just go around doing stuff protagonists in a book of this sort are not supposed to do.


I have nothing to bitch about. I cannot bitch about Jessica Trent’s ineptness. I cannot bitch about idiotic and unnecessary sex scenes. I can hardly bitch about long-winded descriptions of characters’ appearance and/or attire. I cannot bitch about dimwitted dialogue nor rudimentary language skills. I could try to bitch about the presence of an actual plot, but in truth the only thing I can bitch about it the fact there is nothing to bitch about.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go and find out if this book is an aberration of cosmic proportions or something Loretta Chase does as a matter of course.




Carry On, nothing to see here

Rainbow Rowell – Carry On (2016)

You can tell Rainbow adores Simon, Baz, Penelope, Agatha… she truly loves them all. Makes you love them. The kink is, she doesn’t really love the plot. Rainbow just wanted to have some reason to put her beloved characters together, and she was forced to come up with a plot.

The plot is introduced somewhere mid-book. Occasionally she completely forgets the plot-thingy, goes on a binge with character development, subtle comments about life and reality, with her subtle style which has underlying respect for readers’ capability to get a hint.

Oh. SHIT. She forgot the plot.

And then the plot comes back again, and it is supposed to explode. It is supposed to go overboard and overwhelm. But it doesn’t. It somehow flickers pathetically, and you can feel that Rainbow just couldn’t let it die, so she poked it every now and then with a stick.

Maybe the biggest fault of Carry On is the fact that it’s supposed to be fantasy. There be dragons, but dragons don’t make a fantasy book. They make a book with dragons in it. Not many authors are capable of migrating through genres seamlessly, and a fanfiction-ish, fantasy-ish book doesn’t really seem to be Rainbow’s cup of tea (yet?). I respect her for doing it, but for me this is what she does best (excuse my being a bit self-referential):

Well, Rainbow Rowell summarily executes willing suspension of disbelief by making you the protagonist of her books. She makes you feel like a hero, makes your life seem worthy of a book of its own. Because, most of us can find some portion of our lives, as small as it may be, that a little imagination and some wordplay can make into a good, maybe even a great book. And that’s what Rainbow tells you, what she reminds you of – your life is interesting, you have great friends, there is excitement behind that very corner, you just need to see it.