Reader’s Dilemma

Miss Larkin’s writing is like a puppy’s first confrontation with a flight of stairs. It’s very awkward, but it’s so cute you have to smile and hope it will succeed. While the puppy eventually masters the stairs, Miss Larkin never fully masters writing. At least not in The Earl’s Dilemma.

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She keeps stumbling over the same words – lack of synonyms in her vocabulary and the lack of thesaurus in her home library become apparent very soon. I could not resist so I counted, cruel courtesy of modern technology. Using the word throat 52 times and the word cheek 92 times would not be a big problem if both words were not used in relation the same character almost invariably. The same goes for frown (101 times).

As much as I tried to like Artemis for subjective reasons, I tried to dislike Earl’s Dilemma for objective reasons. It is badly written. Really. And I loved it. I enjoyed the simple love story, even though it was riddled with detailed descriptions of drapery, upholstery, linen and other types of cloth. I liked the characters, even though they were all frowns, eyebrows, throat and cheek.

I doubt I will ever read another book by Miss Larkin, but I’ll be forever thankful for putting a smile on my face when I desperately needed it.

Have you ever really liked a book that was poorly written? This actually happened to me once before, more than 10 year ago when I read Man on Fire.

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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.

Sunday Shōjo: S.P.Y. (with Pictures)

myanimelist: In search of her mother, Nagi, a girl from a desolate country village, comes to a big city and enters Swimming Suieikyou High School. Shortly after joining the swimming club, Nagi finds out that the pool is actually completely overtaken by boys! But in this never-practicing so-called swimming club Nagi finds something…

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  • You’re looking for a light read that will make you laugh and giggle;
  • You need a quick read with all the shoujo basics: pretty boys, clumsy girl and tokidoki panels;
  • You’re looking for a manga with wet and half-naked guys all over the place.

Read S.P.Y here: mangakakalot.com

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  • You don’t like  manga which wholly ignores its own plot;
  • You don’t like feeling like the manga should have a few more chapters;
  • You want to read something memorable.

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.

Average at Best

I don’t do spoilers.

The Last Jedi suffers from the same disease most “big” movies are afflicted with lately – it takes forever to start and then it just ends. Not with a bang. With a whimper. A sad little whimper.

Rian Johnson was presented with good actors and good characters and he presented them with a script full of easily avoidable holes, unnecessary scenes and poor attempts at depth and meaning.

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Yes, there are good moments in this movie. Some of them are even great. However, put together they make an average movie – at best.

One thing did stand out, though. Kylo and Rey. The chemistry between those two was so intense and palpable that I felt we had no business intruding on them. It made me feel uncomfortable, like a stalker.

Daisy Ridley was good, really really good. I’d go as far as saying that she was glorious. Adam Driver was amazing when the script allowed him to be.

What I resent the most is that The Last Jedi failed to pay decent respect to Luke, Leia and Vader. It made me sad and angry.

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By the way, if you cannot say it in under two hours, you should go back to the drawing board. It’s not like you’re making The Godfather, for Christ’s sake.

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The Art of Welding

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot like a book. Sorry, Andy. I really loved The Martian, as can be seen here, but Artemis is nothing more than a disappointment. I really wanted to like it, not only because it is your second book, but also because it is the first book after a long time my reading mate and I took up together.

Artemis had everything going for it. I liked where the plot was going, I liked the characters (ok, Jazz was obnoxious at times, but not insufferable). Soon, plot, character and relationship development gave way to welding. Real important stuff, this. Yeah. You know you want to read 20 pages about welding. Fun stuff, that.

I’ll steal a bit from the Martian review I wrote in which I stole a bit from WSJ, quoting Mr Weir as saying:  “If you get down into the deep details, the science tells you the story,” he said.”  He spent “three years working out the details”. I’m sure he spent a lot of time researching the Moon and how life on Moon would look like, but he seemed to have forgotten about it due to serious welding obsession (except for Moon’s gravity). YES, I GET IT. IT’S ONE-SIXTH OF EARTH’S GRAVITY.

There are around 30 mentions of moon’s gravity in Artemis:

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“It’s only one-sixth Earth’s Gravity.”
“…remember the gravity here.” (like you’ll let me forget).
“Gravity”, I said. “Sex is totally different in one-sixth G.”
“Sure, they have six times the gravity to deal with.”

The word “weld” is used 62 times.

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“When you’re in a vacuum, getting rid of heat is a problem. There’s no air to carry it away.”
“When you weld aluminium, you need to flood it with a nonreactive gas to keep the surface from oxidizing. On Earth they use argon because it’s massively abundant. But we don’t have noble gases on the moon, so we have to ship them in from Earth.”
“The city requires all sorts of extra inspections if you weld to the inner hull.”
“Flint and steel won’t work in a vacuum.”
“A welding flame is just acetylene and oxygen on fire.”

For more on welding, read Artemis. If you need more on lunar gravity, you should find a hobby.

For me, the science worked in The Martian was because it was fun and relatable, it was useful for the story (which was rather simple – no cartels there). We cared about Mark and his survival, and science was keeping him alive. Science made The Martian feel more real, or at least more possible. What the fuck is the purpose of all the welding in Artemis? Why would an average reader want to know so much about welding?  

As I was nearing the end of Artemis, I became painfully aware of it having certain characteristics of a “first book in a series”. Primarily, because there were a lot of cool characters (pretty much everyone except for Jazz) who were neglected and could have contributed to the story – immensely. Shockingly, while reading Mr Weir’s Interview I found out that he wants to write a series of books about Artemis, one of which would include Rudy, the most underused and the coolest character in Artemis.

Stop writing installments. Start writing books.

For an actual review of the book (spoilers included) click here: Lacus Oblivionis.

Debasement of Language (and Thought)

There are two terms which have been omnipresent (ok, present) in the Croatian public sphere (used by politicians, activists and then by the media and the people) which have been concocted, I think, to serve interests of certain groups. I will not go into the merits of those interests, and I will not state these terms (which I have used more often than I care to admit).

I’m going to, however, put them into the B vocabulary of Newspeak which “consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them.”

This abuse of language and of the fact that people tend to take words as something that is given upsets me. I see these terms slowly worming their way into our everyday communication and it fucking scares me. Because fighting language is much more difficult then fighting people and because I don’t like comparing anything in my reality to 1984.

Orwell might have been writing about Newspeak, but it was just a way of saying that language can be manipulated“not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees (of Ingsoc), but to make all other modes of thought impossible.”

The vague meaning (?) of these terms puts them into the B vocabulary because “some of the B words had highly subtilized meanings, barely intelligible to anyone who has not mastered the language as a whole” and let us just remember that “the special function of certain Newspeak words was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them.

I’ll keep on quoting Orwell, this time his essay Politics and the English Language, because we take on these new words and terms with “the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes”.

To conclude, “to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration”and the scariest thing is that this “reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favourable to political conformity”.

“This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetises a portion of one’s brain.”

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Everything at the same time 2

Stranger Things 2 made me realise I have never-ever before had the same opinion about two seasons of a same TV show. That’s all I have to write about Season 2, aside from what I wrote about Stranger Things more than a year ago.

How to watch Ragnarok without watching it

I wish I could write a post about how Ragnarok is a really great movie. I cannot. Because it is not. It is fun(ny), at times too funny. Misplaced humour all over the place. I’d have probably enjoyed the movie more if Kenneth hadn’t made the first movie and if Thor was treated as a comic relief character throughout the franchise(s).

Now, I could go on about how I had fun watching the movie (I did). I could even go into a discussion about who’s hotter: Loki, Thor of Heimdall. I could also elaborate on my opinion that the only person who came to the set to act (not to have fun) was Cate Blanchett. But I don’t have to because I just did. See what I did there?

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Instead of elaborating, I’ll give you a piece of advice. Look at the gifs below for two hours and ten minutes while listening to soundtrack of Stranger Things and it will be equivalent to the experience of watching Ragnarok, minus the cringing due to misplaced humour.

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And if you’re considering seeing the movie due to certain carnal inclinations see the gifs below.

 

There.