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 “.


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.


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.

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.


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:


“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.


“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.


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.


Raw Liver & Melted Vanilla Ice Cream

The decision to delve once again into the American Gods was only a matter of proper incentive. The premiere of the TV show seemed like a good one, and, boy, were my reading buddy and me right about rereading this one.

I’m not sure who’d read American Gods in 2013, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. I have been taken aback by every major turn of events. The review itself is, however, in line with what I feel about the book, although I think it was too vague, so let’s list the three things I loved the most about American Gods.

1. Coercive Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of disbelief and the type of willing suspension the author requests from me is the most important part of the book. It’s the deal breaker. Halfway through American Gods, I’ve realised that, for me, Gaiman’s quality as a writer comes firstly from the fact that I haven’t even realised that I was suspending disbelief. You simply have no choice in the matter. It comes as easy as breathing and it’s not willing – it’s compulsory. I think this is achieved by presenting the impossible as mundane, and mundane as extraordinary; snow is something to write home about – talking to your dead spouse is an afterthought.

2. Intelligent Design

Nothing in this book is accidental. Every adjective and every metaphor is carefully placed. It’s all so deliberate; far from being effortlessly beautiful. Even though I’m a big fan of effortless beauty, it is impossible not to appreciate the way Gaiman structured and planned everything to make you believe.

3. Raw Liver and Melted Vanilla Ice Cream

When Neil puts in an effort to put that beauty onto the page, he does so magnificently. The thing I really liked is the way he treats the colours. I might forget some of the characters (I already did),  but I will not forget Mr Wednesday’s suit which was the colour of melted vanilla ice cream, nor will I forget the room which has walls the colour of raw liver. I’ll take the colours with me.

“He perceived the pain in colours: the red of a neon bar-sign, the green of a traffic light on a wet night, the blue of an empty video screen.”

Five to Four

However, there is something of a downside to rereading. First time around, I gave American Gods a five. This time around – it’s a four. The ending was anticlimactic this time and the Laura-Shadow relationship was not something I felt was as game-changing as it was meant to be. I needed a bit more convincing.

P.S. Still haven’t delved into the TV show. But I love the idea of Ian McShane as Wednesday. But then again, I love the idea of Ian McShane as pretty much anyone anywhere.


You Perv, You!

“You are a sexual deviant. A pervert, through and through. Now, now, don’t get so defensive. Allow me to explain.”

Jesse Bering: Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

What is Jesse Bering’s Perv about?

To put it plainly, the Perv explores the normalcy of what we perceive as abnormal in sexual behaviour and/or desires and it takes abnormal from the equation.

One of the best covers ever shows even more plainly what the book is about. Imagine yourself reading this book on a bus and you’ll get what it’s all about.


Why I liked the Perv?

Bering uses documented paraphilias (a whole bunch of them) to illustrate the impossible malleability of human sexuality. He cites numerous studies, and describes practices of curing paraphilias and homosexuality throughout history. He does this in a way that made me completely numb to the word “normal” – the word I have learnt to detest because it is usually coupled with unspoken bias.

I’ve always felt that, as long as no one is harmed physically or psychologically, the “anything goes” principle should be applied. My belief, I have to admit, was tested throughout the book, but I concluded my reading experience with: I do not have to be able to internalize it to accept it.

The scientific reconstruction (or deconstruction?) of what we perceive as “natural” and “normal” is what made me fall in love with sociology; the impassionate approach to things people feel strongly about but fail to explore with a cool head. Perv might seem light on occassion, but the cool is always there.

Why I did not like Perv enough to give it five stars?

It’s easy to read (and like) a book which pretty much tells you you’re right. Despite those parts which tested my open-mindedness, reading this book felt like a friendly pat on the back. “You’re so evolved in your thinking! So cool! Here, have this study which proves you’re right.” This, of course, has nothing to do with the quality of the book itself, but I feel it dulled my ability to be objective and it put the book at 4.5 stars.


While I honestly enjoyed Bering’s witticisms and puns and I found it very pleasing to laugh hysterically at his sarcastic commentary, at times I found it to be a bit too much – bordering on judgemental. Here comes the illogical part of my four-star review. Part two. I love a bit of nonPC humour. I do. But I could not stop myself from thinking about an imaginary person; let’s call him John Smith.

John decided to pick up the Perv. John is ok with gay people. I mean, he’s still struggling to abandon the “let them do what they want behind a closed door” maxim. But he’s trying because his best friend in the world turned out to be – gay. I do not see John making it through the first chapter of the book.

Yes, this book has been written for a specific target audience. The cover and the title make it blatantly obvious and the way in which it is written only serves to confirm it. And yes, there are probably books out there intended for the audience to which our John gravitates to. But hey, it’s my review. And even though I play pretend to being objective, I perceive the term much in the same way I perceive normalcy. So there.

P.S. Let’s not forget the possibility (or rather probability) that I’m underestimating John and overestimating the delicacy of his sensibilities. Perv might have given me a pat on the back, but I can’t pretend that I hold no bias.


Lock, Key – no smoking barrels

I find myself lost for nice words (jaded?). I mean, I really enjoyed Lock and Key, and here I am struggling to write down the reasons I liked it, with a prepared list of things that were poorly executed in the book.

The positive aspects, which made me read the book in three days and have a hissy fit for having forgotten my Kindle at work one day, are just too damn ethereal. It’s not about the characters. It’s not about the plot. It’s about that general feeling that seems to encompass you when you’re reading a worthy book. It infuses every minute of your day and makes it different.

Lock and Key made my days somehow softer. It made me calmer and more serene. The story goes pretty much as Goodreads says it goes. It’s not very original nor is it exactly ground-breaking in character development. It even has one of my least favourite things – first-person narrator. But it worked for me, even though throughout the whole book I was painfully aware of all the things that could have been done better.

What sealed the deal at four stars is a quote which made me realize I need to stop bitching and feeling sorry for myself.

Needing was so easy: it came naturally, like breathing. Being needed by someone else, though, that was the hard part.

Yeah, I knoooow. It’s lame, second-grade stuff, but sometimes you need someone to remind you of that lame second-grade stuff you forget along the line. They don’t stop being true, we just dismiss them, thinking we’ve outgrown them.

I’m pleased that my new vague blog category has not been a complete failure, because this books fall easily into the Maximum Coze category. I guess it wasn’t a fluke after all.


A Feeling to Remember

Have you ever sat by the river, watching the endless flow of placid water, listening to the rustle of leaves on the summer breeze? Have you ever sat in silence feeling the warmth of sun rays filtered through the branches on your face? Have you ever closed your eyes to better hear that moment of serenity? If you have, than you have an idea of what it felt like to read A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh.

I did not fall in love with Kit, the male protagonist, nor did I wonder what it would be like to experience the things Lauren has experienced. I did not feel compelled to rush through the pages, inadvertently skipping whole sentences to see what happens next. I was not frustrated by the “unnecessary” events and descriptions which did not deal with the two protagonists.

I did not grin excitedly.  I smiled contentedly.

Normally, only the books that fall into the Personal Edification category can arouse anything similar. The fact that I enjoyed a book intended for the Guilty Pleasure section this much is surprising. Novel. Strangely exciting.

There is nothing guilty about the pleasure I’ve had reading it. A Summer to Remember is a beautiful, unassuming book. I absolutely loved it and have enjoyed the writing style, the dialogue and the many characters it manages to portray wonderfully. I respect the way it reflects the period (Regency) in which it takes place in every aspect – even when norms and propriety are toyed with.

It’s not really easy to write about this book, but where words fail, I’m sure that the fourth panel of the little comic below will best explain what reading A Summer to Remember felt like. I do wonder whether the new category “maximum coze” will have additional entries.



The First Cheap Thrill of 2017

During my seven-day tryst with flu, I have come to recognize there are some, albeit few, benefits to being unable to exercise any type of exertion. Putting aside that you might have to do some actual work while burning up at mild 38.5 degrees Celsius, you don’t (really) need your mental faculties to be at their peak to engage in these benefits.

  1. You can read silly books to your heart’s desire
  2. You needn’t explain to anyone why the fuck you are watching Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Jane Eyre AGAIN.

Flu is what brings about the first  Cheap Thrill of 2017 to my blog.

I’ve stumbled upon Storm and Silence on Goodreads (trending in some context) so I’ve decided to take it up when shit got too real.

Key words: 19th century, London, feminist, suffragette, tall, dark, curt, brooding, gender bender, guns, fights, France, balls (the kind you need a gown for), commerce…


Storm and Silence (read here) suffers from a serious case of ADHD. Its story lines disappear and reappear indiscriminately, with no sense of proportion and position in the grand scheme of things. For example there’s a story line about Ella (sister) and her love problems which took up so much of Thiers attention (for some unfathomable reason).

Boring. Uninteresting. Superfluous. Boooooooring. Skip-skip-skip. Don’t care.

After putting the reader through superfluous torture with Ella, Thier decides he no longer has any interest in it and ends the blasted thing in just a couple of pages. Could’ve done that sooner. Like before introducing Ella as a character.

There is more than one thing that warns against reading Storm and Silence such as:

  1. The main character Lilly, whose point of view we follow, balances on the edge of lunacy for the best part of the book.
  2. It takes I would say about two thirds of the book to actually get an inkling that  Rikkard (blah name) Ambrose (that’s the tall, brooding dude) is supposed to be an actual human being
  3. The end of the book is stupid, ridiculous and impromptu as the conclusion of the Ella-storyline.


It’s kind of a cute book, with all its quirks and general “is-this-really-a-book” feel. I liked it. It was fun. Even when it was irritating the shit out of me I still had a grin on my face. Despite all of the above, Lilly grew on me and I ended up really liking Ambrose even though it took forever for him to take shape. Yes. It is possible it was the flu doing the liking.


I have also red In the Eye of the Storm (read here). Unlike Storm and Silence, the no. 2 actually gives of a unified feeling and can be mistaken for a book. In the Eye of the Storm can face many historical romances and not blink. While Storm and Silence dabbles with adventure, In the Eye of the Storm brings it on and takes it seriously. The major fault which both instalments share is the extent to which you have to suspend your disbelief in order to digest some of the things that happen.


We who are in the business of Cheap Thrills and Guilty Pleasures suspend our disbelief like you wouldn’t believe. So, I intend to read the third book here and I fully expect to be entertained.