Books

Random moments of the past few days

I love my phone! It allows me to take snaps of little things that make my days (and life in general) much better. So, in no particular order:

My current read: Maigret by Georges Simenon:

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Our pet turtle who doesn’t get that much attention (not like Marlanu’ anyway):

Pet Turtle

The whoopie pie maker that I received from work for Customer Service Week:

Gift from work

And a sunset at work, plus my first tilt shift photo done on Instagram:

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I might not live a life full of adventures like in movies, but its not bad for a normal person.

1984 – George Orwell

I recently finished reading “1984” by George Orwell. This is one of those books that sticks to you for a while.

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I’m usually a cheery person. There are always things that make my day. But this book just took all my energy away. I didn’t want to speak with anyone, I didn’t feel like going to work or even get out of the house.

I don’t always read books that affect me so much, but when I do they are usually books with a happy ending. This book wasn’t even sad, it was depressing.

So, I actually looked up “life changing books”, yes, 1984 is a life changing book. And this is what I found:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Help by Kathryn McCarthy
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Animal Farm by George Orwell
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Yup, more books! I almost finished my 50 books challenge for 2013, so I am thinking I should switch from easy books to something more stimulating. Meaning, I was thinking of taking a break from detective books and read something else.

But I think I will go with Eat, Pray and Love of The Help at the moment since I really need a boost of happy energy.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

Everyone who saw me read this book asked me what came over me? I mean, how could I read a book about tractors?

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Well, I would lie if I would say this book has nothing to do with tractors. It does in a very strange way. You see, the character that begins all the madness is an engineer, an 80 years old engineer. His name is Nikolai. He’s old, half bonkers and bent on rescuing poor Valentina and her genius son from the hard life they live in Ukraine.

And so begins his old age adventure. You see, Valentina is anything but a nice lady, she is bent on doing anything to stay in UK and provide her son a good life, after all he is a genius. So, after much deliberation she marries Nikolai and moves in his house. But Nikolai’s two daughters are not so sure about this reunion. They come in the rescue of their father who is too blinded by Valentina’s big boobs love.

In between chapters we learn a little bit about the history of the Ukrainian tractors and of the black periods in the history of Ukraine itself.

You can’t actually hate any of the characters in the book but nor can you love them. They are all humans, with flaws and good parts as well. The best part of this book is that everything ends well for everybody. The two sisters make amends, Nikolai ends up in an elderly home (but where he can keep his independence and practice yoga butt naked), Valentina, her not so genius son and her baby daughter (not Nikolai’s daughter) go back to Ukraine to her former husband.

It took me around two days to read this book. It was refreshing from my British novels. And, true to one of my resolutions I started reading the books I have in my own bookcase. This way, I won’t hear anyone blame me for hoarding books but not reading them.

Books and tulips

Did I ever mention that I managed to make some good friends at work?

If not, well I did. I actually found nice people, and not only that but I can actually call them friends.

*Happy dance*

And when my birthday came, I actually got a nice surprise.

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It was nicely wrapped and heavy and I didn’t want to open it. You see, I don’t usually get presents (besides the ones from Johnny, who’s nice like that). So, I really felt like a small kid for Christmas. I really like surprises, especially nice ones.

After a few moments I decided to open it and voila: Edgar Allan Poe stories (English version).

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Life is really nice at the moment, no matter how broke I am.

Speaking of being broke, I still managed to buy a book. I know I’m an idiot, but it was there, starring me in the face. I know that I cannot afford to buy the Harry Potter books, because 1) they are expensive, 2) they take up lots of space and 3) I already have/read the audio books. But I bought it, I bought a J.K. Rowling book.

Yup I bought “The Casual Vacancy” (Romanian version).

J.K Rowling

I am very happy with my two new books. But, I don’t want to start them right now. I’m waiting for that special moment and to finish the books that I am currently reading (about 5 of them).

Besides the two new books, I also managed to take a few more photo’s with my new camera. I’m starting to get used to it, even if not all the pictures turn out decent.

But, tulips are always a nice photography subject.

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Especially for close ups (macro photography).

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Hopefully, this year it will be a good year regarding my photography.

A Walk to Remember

After reading so many books with Hercule Poirot my brain demanded a change. It requested something completely different, meaning anything but a detective book.

So, after much deliberation I picked “A Walk to Remember” by Nicholas Sparks.

A Walk To Remember

I knew I was picking a romance but I was hoping that it will be a romance with an uplifting ending that would cheer me up and make my day.

Boy, was I wrong!

This book was anything but cheerful. It was slow paced, nostalgic (for the good ol’ days of childhood), captivating and heartbreaking.

The funny part is that when I was reading this book I was actually thinking of those summer days of my childhood when I was always out with my best friends, doing stupid things.

It might seem weird, but those were probably the only times that I actually believed in true love. Maybe I believed in it because when I was young, we didn’t had that idea of self worth, we didn’t care much of how we looked and how people saw us. So, daydreaming about prince charming didn’t seem that far fetched, even to a tomboy like myself.

Fast forward to high school and the bubble burst. See, real life is a bitch, especially for awkward teenagers.

In “A Walk to Remember“, Jamie (the female protagonist) is shown as a plain girl, that always brings her Bible with her and only thinks about how she can help others. She is shown as someone with a beautiful heart and mind, but with a plain exterior. She is seen as a weird girl by her peers and only the adults actually appreciate her and her hard work.

By the second half of the book she goes from the plain religious girl to the beautiful misunderstood girl who is hit by a horrible fate, she has leukemia and she will die by the end of her senior year.

Landon Carter (the male protagonist) is the cool, rich kid that hangs around all the cool crowds. He goes from disliking being in Jamie’s presence to being infatuated by her, by her beauty. He notices her when her breasts start growing, he is relieved when Jamie starts wearing her hair down rather than in an uptight bun.

This was something that annoyed me. Couldn’t Landon just love the plain Jamie? Why did she have to transform from the ugly duckling to the beautiful swan? I’m not saying that Landon is a bad guy, he actually did a lot of good things to help Jamie, even before she told him about her condition. But still, why? Can’t ugly ducklings have their true love?

The way I see things in life is that people don’t actually grow out of their skin, nor do they transform over night (even with plastic surgery). Usually ugly ducklings stay as ugly ducklings.

If someone likes/loves you, they don’t see you differently. They don’t see you as the most beautiful, fairest of them all. No. They see you as you are, with defects and all, but they like/love/care for that person that you are, ugly duckling or not. And that’s why I think real life beats fiction.

I liked the book, I did. It was beautiful! But it didn’t fit with my idea of a good love story.

Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot Books (Part I)

I believe this year will be Hercule Poirot year, in terms of books. I’ve been reading  Agatha Christie’s books like there’s no tomorrow.

I must admit that stitching and audio books go hand in hand with me. I cannot stay still and listen to a story without doing something with my hands.

And yet, I am afraid that very soon I’ll finish all the Hercule Poirot books and I will have to satisfy myself with Miss Marple stories (which aren’t as addictive as the ones with the little Belgian detective).

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Books are really addictive, detective books I mean. But not all of them, I tried to see if other detectives will have the same charisma as Hercule Poirot but I was disappointed.

For example, I read “The two cases of Danwel Strong” by Juan Angel Cardi and I barely made it to the end. It took me a month or so to finish a book that, in normal conditions, would’ve taken me a day or two.

Then, there were the Maigret books which are a step or two above normal detective books. But even the Maigret books don’t come close to Agatha’s Christie little Belgian.

In no particular order:

The Mystery of the Blue Train

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This book was first published in 1928; that’s 85 years ago. The story resolves around the death of Ruth Kettering, an American heiress that gets murdered on the Blue Train (Le Train Bleu).

After the murder, it is also discovered that the famous “Heart of Fire” diamond also is missing from the possession of the late Mrs. Kettering.

On the same train there are Mrs. Katherine Grey (a 30 year of companion that comes in a large sum of money and decides to visit the French Riviera), Derek Kettering (which is following his wife, trying to reconcile with her and save the marriage for financial reasons more than for the sake of love), the dancer Mirelle (Derek ex-lover, who is after the Heart of Fire diamond rather than Derek), Ruth Kettering maid, Ada,  and of course Hercule Poirot.

Rufus Van Aldin, Ruth Kettering father, employs Hercule Poirot to solve the mystery of his daughter’s death. At first, all the suspicions are directed towards  The Comte of Roche and Derek Kettering. The Comte of Roche is well known for approaching married women’s and making their precious diamonds disappear and Derek Kettering is known for having financial difficulties.

After many twists and turn and a little help from Mrs. Katherine Grey, Hercule Poirot resolves the case and the famous Marquis (a famous burglar) and his accomplice is found guilty for the murder of Mrs. Ruth Kettering. As for the Heart of Fire diamond, well it is believed lost … but there is a certain dancer that is very proud in her new necklace.

Time of reading: 1 day. Stitching while reading interesting books is bad for one’s  needlework.I believe I made some mistakes since I was wrapped up in the story so much, but it was worth it nonetheless.

Dumb Witness

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This was a very well played plot by Agatha Christie. Basically you go through all the characters and believe at some point or another that they must be the murderer.

And in the end, the murder is the the last person you would think of. I won’t give any details of this book, because its more fun this way than having an idea of what you are getting yourself in.

This is a classic when it comes to detective books. Well played Christie, well played.

Time of reading: around 2 days. I have to take breaks from time to time and works comes into as well.

Appointment with Death

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I’ve noticed in most of Agatha Christie’s books that there are some characters that just deserve to slapped silly. And in this book there is one character that is so annoying that you are just happy to see her die.

The action takes place abroad, Hercule Poirot tries to take a vacation from death, but death just has a different agenda.

Mrs. Boynton is the annoying character that I was speaking about, the step mother of a large family who just enjoys keeping her children in line and basically bullies them into submission. And this “lovely” lady finds a tragic end on what should’ve been a “vacation” with her family.

All of her children are suspected of murder, and the question is: did they all act together or was just one of them that decided that enough is enough?

Well, it was fun to read and the ending was very satisfying.

Georges Simenon – Maigret collection

I believe I mentioned before that I borrow/buy books and just forget about them. Well, this year I decided to read as many books as I can from my bookcase. What I would do with them after I finish reading them, well I haven’t decided yet.

I don’t remember reading so many books in such a short period of time, not even in school.

But then again, I didn’t read huge novels that never end (The Fellowship of the Ring doesn’t count), I actually read detective books.

Nope, no Agatha Christie books this time, but Georges Simenon books.

The Maigret Novels

 I still had 3 more books from the Jules Maigret series that I haven’t read and I was actually missing the French detective. The thing that I like most about Georges Simenon detective is that he isn’t a snob like you see in most detective books. So, in no particular order here are the three novels by Georges Simenon:

~~~Maigret Loses His Temper~~~

The plot: a nightclub owner is murdered and the police doesn’t have any suspects in the case. The owner of the nightclub is an Italian with a respectable family and who doesn’t have any enemies.

Basically, the owner vanishes one might and his family reports him as missing. Two days later his body is found in a cemetery. Maigret tries to find out if anyone from the other nightclubs might’ve had quarrels with him, but none hated him enough to kill him.

In the end I realized why the book was named “Maigret Loses His Temper“. The killer is actually the least expected person: the lawyer of the nightclub owner. The reason is actually simple: the lawyer used to pick his cases depending on the type of crime people committed. Then he used to ask “protection” money promising that the criminals wouldn’t be prosecuted and the police won’t be bothering them. But the money was never shared with the police. In reality, he was smart enough to know that the people won’t be indicted and would’ve gotten away even if they didn’t pay up. The nightclub owner was getting suspicious of the lawyer and his methods and that’s why he was killed.

In the end, the lawyer commits suicide in his cell being to afraid to face the harsh reality.

  • Rating: 2 stars out of 5.
  • Reason: it was interesting but not captivating enough.

~~~Maigret on the Riviera or Liberty Bar~~~

Plot: A murder takes place on the Riviera. Maigret is called in to investigate because the person murdered was actually a spy and the authorities want the case to be solved as soon as possible and without any complications.

The main suspects are the dead man’s lover and her mother who are caught in the act of fleeing the house their shared together.

The entire atmosphere of the book is that of a lazy vacation. Maigret cannot concentrate on the case, but in the end he finds the guilty person and guess what he lets that person go.

Basically his resolve of the case is that a stranger is guilty. Easy fix and with no complications. I won’t actually spoil this book because I really found it fascinating.

  • Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
  • Reason: it was interesting, made me yearn for the summer days at the sea side and for good food.

~~~ The Friend of Madame Maigret~~~

Plot: Inspector Maigret attempts to prove that a murder has actually been committed without a corpse anywhere to be found. As the investigation becomes increasingly complex, seemingly unconnected characters are drawn into the case, and Maigret begins to wonder if his wife’s earlier strange encounter with a woman and her baby may be the missing link.

This is the first book where Maigret wife is actually shown as being more than a housewife. She actually helps Maigret with his investigation and puts him on the right track.

It’s actually funny when a taxi driver questioned by Maigret says he saw a fat lady looking after a small child, the “fat lady” in question being Maigret wife. Again, I shall not spoil the ending. It was funny, interesting and it showed that even without an body you can still prove that a murder was committed.

  • Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
  • Reason: again it made me hungry, it was captivating, the Maigret family unites in solving a case.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Today I finished “The Fellowship of the Ring“, the first book of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

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I’m actually happy that I finished this book because it has been on my reading list for a long time. The truth is that even till this date I have not seen “The Lord of the Rings’ movies because I wanted to read the books first.

I was really inspired to read “The Hobbit” before starting reading “The Lord of the Rings”. “The Hobbit” shows how the hobbit (Bilbo Baggins to be more precise) ends up with the ring, “the ring to rule them all“. The first book of “The Lord of the Rings” starts in the Shire (the land of the hobbits), 50 years later after Bilbo Baggins gets the ring from Gollum and leaves it as a heirloom to his nephew Frodo Baggins.

And in come Gandalf and the hobbits are off on an adventure of a lifetime.

What is really nice about “The Fellowship of the Ring” is how much the beginning of the book resembles “The Hobbit”. When Frodo & co where leaving from the Shire I was remembering about Bilbo first time out of the Shire along the dwarfs. In a weird way you get a nostalgic feeling and its hard not to compare Frodo with Bilbo.Then again, Bilbo was hired as a master thief, not knowing the perils that he might encounter (OK, he knew about the dragon), whereas Frodo is more or less aware of the power of the Ring and he knows he is in danger.

The only thing that I didn’t like about the book was the lack of dwarfs. Really now, one dwarf is not enough for an adventure.

What I would like to say from the start is that Tolkien is really awesome. And, I actually found one of the most awesome tributes made for him on Tumblr:

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Basically, what J.R.R. Tolkien did was to create a new world and he didn’t create the world for others, he created the world for himself. Because of this, his creation is truly wonderful.

Tolkien describes everything to the smallest detail and its really hard not to let your imagination run wild. I actually lost track of time a couple of times reading “The Fellowship of the Ring” and twice I almost forgot to get ready for work. Good thing I’m by nature a lazy nature and getting ready to go to work takes 10 minutes.

I actually cannot imagine how many hours this man spent writing these books. What most intrigued me the most is the songs. Almost every chapter has a song or two, and some of them are in elvish.

I’m thinking of taking a small break before starting the second book. It took me a month a few weeks to finish one book and I would like to give my imagination some time to rest. That I don’t want to finish the series too soon. I just want to enjoy them as much as I can.

~~~ Source of pictures: 1, 2, ~~~

Bibliophile 2013

Bibliophile – n. lover of books; one who loves to read, admire and collect book

I present you my 2013 reading list, in no particular order:

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey
Maigret Loses His Temper by Georges Simenon
Maigret on the Riviera by Georges Simenon
The Friend of Madame Maigret by Georges Simenon
The Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie
Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie
Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
Evil Unde The Sun by Agatha Christie
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie
Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
Mrs. McGinty’s Dead by Agatha Christie
After The Funeral by Agatha Christie
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Third Girl by Agatha Christie
Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie
Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie
The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie
The Moving Finger by Agath Christie
The under dog and other stories by Agatha Christie
The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie
The Hollow by Agatha Christie
The Two Cases of Danwell Strong
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
A walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
A bend in the road by Nicholas Sparks
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
Cocosatul by Paul Feval
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

That’s a very long name even for my taste, but that’s the name of the book that I recently finished.

First lesson of the year: Don’t pick a book by its cover. It might be pretty, the “resume” might sound interesting but the content might be rubbish.

“The White Woman on the Green Bicycle” by Monique Roffey

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Johnny bought this book for me at the end of 2012. You could say it was a Christmas gift, but I know he was being nice and just spoiled me with a new addition to my ever growing book collection.

Actually I wanted a new book but I really didn’t know what I wanted. The books that were on display at that time weren’t that great. Seriously, I thought people got over the Twilight saga but I guess I’m wrong. Almost 80% of the shelves were with vampires, werewolves, supernatural and other things related.

It was the picture on the book that draw me. It was so different from all the others. I also read the back of the book and said why not.

Well, it was a nice reading but just about it. The book has two parts.

The first part presents the lives of Sabine and George, an old British couple in Trinidad trying to live their remaining days in “peace and harmony“, if not in love. But their past, their ego, the fact that they are white, the current social situation in Trinidad, almost everything keeps them from being happy. So, George tries one more thing to prove his love for Sabine but ends up dying in their pool.

This triggers Sabine to do something very stupid (for a 75 year old woman) and then the story goes back to the period when Sabine and George barely moved to Trinidad.

And the second part starts, with a young Sabine and George just moving to Trinidad. They are very much in love and plan on only staying 3 years in Trinidad and after that to move back to U.K.

But George falls in love with the island and basically refuses to see anything wrong with the social situation in Trinidad (black people being denied the same rights as whites, increasing tensions on the island, the black power increasing and so on), while Sabine sees all of the above (and even more) and starts fearing for their lives.

Basically its a story on how one person (Sabine) gives up everything for another (George), in the process becomes a very bitter (old) person. I don’t know how accurate is the information about the political situation of that time, but its a weird story. Both characters are exaggerated: George is completely selfish and everything that doesn’t fit in his scheme isn’t important therefor not real and Sabine is basically an idiot, a whining idiot.

And this was supposed to be a love story. I really can digest that. First book of the year was a minor let down.