Things that made me happy this week #6

A little bit late with this but oh well! One of these days I will actually write this post on a Sunday.

1) Having my husband at home on both Saturday and Sunday!

Yes, recently he has been working at the weekend so much that this is actually a cause for celebration. We celebrated by staying in and doing nothing. Huzzah! (We both actually had to spend quite a bit of time working on Sunday, but we got to eat lunch and stuff together, yay!)

2) Establishing a proper skincare routine

Seriously my skin is so nice at the moment. If I could just stop picking at anything that looks like it might turn into a spot it would be even better! I spent years just using really cheap face washes/moisturisers etc., figuring that as long as my skin wasn't rejecting them outright it was fine, but having actually taken some time to research what would work well for my skin and actually spending a little bit of money my skin feels better now than it has in years! YAY. I have also been remembering to actually wash my face properly when I wake up, rather than forgetting and doing it around midday, haha.
If anybody is interested I might do a different post about what my routine actually is, I am always really nosy about other people's routines for this kind of thing, hehe.

3) Travel plans

I'm going to Australia next month for a friend's wedding, and I AM SO EXCITED! I sorted out my visa and stuff at the weekend (I can get a free one, but my husband has to pay for his. Mwah ha ha ha! Yay for being from Europe!) so it really feels like we're going now. Whoop whoop!

4) Actually cooking

Okay, so I do actually eat most of my meals at home, and there is SOME cooking involved in this, but normally I am only cooking for myself so I really don't try very hard or make proper food. But at the weekend my husband and I cooked lots of nice things and it was lovely. Yay! I just need to find the motivation to do this during the week too...

5) My shiny new camera

I FINALLY got a proper camera (as in, not a point and shoot one, and not my phone!) after wanting one for the last 10 years. Yayyyyyy! So I have been taking pictures of EVERYTHING, and realising how boring my house is. (I have actually had this for a few weeks, but I hadn't written about it on here and it's still making me happy, so whatever!)
I'm also really grateful to my dad and brother-in-law (who has a side business doing wedding photography) for giving me lots of pointers while I was in England and borrowing my dad's old DSLR. In fact, I am just about to go for a walk to my local park to see if there is anything worth taking pictures of there (and because my lungs finally feel up to walking!!! YAY!)


Things that made me happy this week #5

First things that made me happy post for a while! Yay!

1) Netflix coming to Japan

Japan really doesn't have that many (or any, really) cheap options for watching stuff legally, so I'm really excited that we have netflix now! I'm looking forward to watching lots of things, yay!

2) My chest starting to get back to normal

Since my last week in England I have had this pretty awful cough and a lot of chest issues... I'm still not quite right, but I am definitely improving! This is definitely a cause for celebration.

3) Going on a day trip with my husband

At the weekend my husband and I went up to Ibaraki prefecture (about 2 hours away from where we live by train) and it was nice to spend a day with him! Alas we weren't going to do fun things, but I love train journeys and we ate some nice food so yay!

4) Finally mastering my husband's potato salad recipe

I have tried many times over the years to imitate my husband's potato salad, as it is the nicest that I have ever had, but I have always failed to get it right. But I think I've finally done it! It only took me about 6 years of watching him make it, haha.

5) Planning a new blog

Because let's face it, I am a terrible book blogger. I barely update, and even when I write reviews they tend to sit in my drafts folder forever. I also never have anything particularly interesting to say (I'm not compliment seeking, haha). So I'm planning a new blog that will be more general and so will hopefully be updated a lot more (but of course I will still talk about what I've been reading!)

....Can you tell by this list that I have barely been leaving my house recently? Stupid cough! Also stupid horrendous weather! I am going to be less of a hermit this week though.


Good news everybody!

I'm back!

That was a slightly longer break than I intended to have, but never mind!

My carpal tunnel is a million times better than it was before. In fact, I haven't really had any associated pain or tingliness for quite a while. I went to the UK for a month and a half and really didn't use the computer much during that time, apart from to do work (yes I worked while I was back, so I didn't really have a random 6 week holiday. That would be nice though!), and I think that helped. I also changed my whole work configuration in Japan so I now have a nice ergonomic keyboard and mouse pad and am generally being much more conscious of how I sit and what my arms are doing while I work. So hopefully this will prevent it from coming back or getting worse!

If anyone reading this ever gets carpal tunnel or something similar, I really recommend acupuncture. I went before I went back to England and that made me go from pretty much constant pain and tingling to pretty much no pain and tingling, which lasted for a couple of weeks, so I would definitely recommend trying it! I was pretty sceptical before I went but it really worked!

I've been back in Japan for a week now, and I have to say that I really missed Japan while I was in England! I've never really felt that as strongly before, so maybe that's a sign that I've made much more of a life for myself here than I had before. Big changes are afoot in the next couple of months though so that may change. Oooh, mysterious!

One thing that I did not do while I was back in England was read a lot. I think I finished two books, for the whole 6 weeks that I was back. I was having a reading slump, I think. It happens! I did spend a lot of time with family and friends and that is probably better than shutting myself off with a book. It's a pity though because my parents have loaaaads of books so it would have been a good opportunity to raid their bookshelves. Oh well!

Anyway. I'm back, yayyy! I will try to be a good blogger and actually update fairly regularly.


This is just to say...

I may not blog properly for a while. Not that I'm that great at doing it anyway, but I have been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel syndrome this week. If you don't know, that's a thing where one of the nerves that runs through your hands becomes compressed in the carpal tunnel (at the base of your palm), and it makes some of your fingers (thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger) become numb/tingly/painful, and that part of your hand and wrist too. It can get really really bad, and quite a lot of people end up having surgery for it. Luckily I only have it very mildly at the moment.

BUT I think probably one of the contributing factors to me getting it is using the computer as much as I do (it's the only thing I can really think of), so I want to cut down and rest my hands as much as possible. My job, which is pretty much 100% computer based, really has to take priority, so I'm probably only going to be posting here on days where I have little to no work. (If that, because let's face it, I'm hardly a prolific blogger in the first place!)

Hopefully once I've figured out how to manage my symptoms and have made my computer setup a bit more wrist friendly I will stop having issues when typing. In the meantime though I'm still going to be reading other blogs.

Now I need to find hobbies that don't involve me using my hands!


Things that made me happy this week #4

Ellie is off jetting around Europe this week so I doubt that she will be posting, but I thought I would write a happy things list this week anyway. I am finding this really helpful in making me appreciate the good, even when everything seems pretty dark and gloomy (like it did last week).


1) Beautiful sunsets

jimjamjenikoさん(@jimjamjeniko)が投稿した写真 -

I don't know what it was about last week but for whatever reason, on clear days the sunsets have been pretty spectacular. Plus, I have been able to see Mt. Fuji way more often than I normally can this time of year, which always makes me happy.

2) Walks in the park

Okay, I say walks, I've only really been on one.. but whatever. About 3 minutes away from where I live there is a pretty massive park which I went for walks in all of the time over the winter, but have avoided since it got hot out. But I decided that I was going to go for a walk after lunch today, sweat be damned! And I am glad that I did because it was BEAUTIFUL. There were loads of flowers out (mainly hydrangeas), and while I was walking I could hear Japanese bush warblers (鶯 (uguisu) in Japanese) chirping away (click here for a video of one. Awww), and honestly it was lovely. Even though I had chosen a slightly silly sock/shoe combination that led to getting pretty painful rubs on my ankles. It was TOTALLY WORTH IT!

3) Being in a feast month

Nothing to do with eating, but more to do with the amount of work I have to do! I had heard before quitting my old job that freelancing was a bit of a feast or famine kind of situation, and that is definitely true. I have actually been doing way better than I predicted I would, but there's still a little knot of worry in my stomach at the beginning of every month that I won't get enough work coming in (the nature of the kind of translation I do means that larger projects are few and far between, and most things come in suddenly)... but this month I definitely have enough already, with more work on the horizon. Huzzah!

4) Spending quality time with my husband

I think I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but my husband is working insane hours recently, and has also been going in at the weekends. This means though that I appreciate the time that I do get to spend with him SO much more, which is definitely a good thing! Hopefully this will only carry on until the end of July though...

I am super busy this week but hopefully it'll be a good one!


Things that made me happy this week #3

Another week, another list of happy things! As always, you can find the things that have made Ellie over at Lit Nerd happy this week and see links to other people's lists here.

1. Chihayafuru 

I think this is from the anime rather than the manga, but whatever!
I haven't read any manga that I have become addicted to for a while, so it was a pleasant surprise to find Chihayafuru! I have read 14 or so volumes in the past week (in Japanese - that is an astoundingly fast pace for me) and I am actually having to stop myself from reading it all of the time so I can get other things done. Alas, I don't think there is an official English version. If nothing else, I think it would be really difficult to translate as it is based around competitve karuta, a card game that uses waka (a traditional type of Japanese poetry)... It is giving me a new appreciation for classical Japanese though (whereas up until now I have just thought I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE SAYING!!! even though I did a module on it at university, hehe).

2. Book shopping

Despite having a book based blog I don't actually go book shopping that much, weirdly! If I am in the area of one of the big bookshops with a decent English section in Tokyo I will always go and have a look, but because I am trying to read in Japanese all this month I have been going to bookshops and picking up things that look interesting to try to keep my motivation up. I forgot how much I love book shopping! I forgot how much my wallet doesn't love book shopping! Hehe.

3. Barley tea

Now that it is warmish in Japan (although having said that, it's really not very warm today), I feel like I can start enjoying all of my usual food and drink that gets me through Japanese summers, starting with barley tea. It's super easy to make, you just throw a teabag into a jug of water, put it in the fridge and wait for a few hours, but there is nothing quite so refreshing as a glass of barley tea when you've been walking around in the sun all day. Yum!

4. Realising that I can change things that are making me unhappy

So I didn't have the best week last week (in spite of all the books!), but after thinking about everything that has been bothering me, I have realised that although I can't control some of the things that are making me unhappy, I can accept things and try to make the most of them, or think of ways to stop them from getting me down. I can also take a step back and realise that although things aren't too great at the moment, overall I am pretty lucky!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some Japanese reading to do.


May reading round-up

I am actually posting this only 4 days into June! I AM SO PROUD OF MYSELF!

The books that I read in May:

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I saw the film a few years ago and enjoyed it, and I have liked everything else by Gaiman I have read so I was pretty sure I would like the book. It turned out that I had forgotten almost everything about the film so I can't really compare the two, but I really liked it! I was under the impression though that it was aimed at children (not entirely sure why), but one of the characters gets it on in a field towards the beginning so... I guess not! Anyway, Neil Gaiman is quickly turning into one of my favourite reliably good authors! Any advice on which book I should read next?

Under the Skin by Michel Faber

The book is about a woman who drives around picking up hitchhikers in Scotland, for what are initially mysterious reasons. Some of them she drugs and takes away with her, and some of them she actually takes wherever it is that they were heading. She starts off as a complete mystery, although actually I knew some major spoilers before reading the book (thanks to reviews of the film that came out a while ago), but the book made me want to find out what I knew again, if that makes any sense! It was well done, is basically what I'm trying to say. If you are interested in reading it I suggest maybe not finding out too much about it beforehand.
I thought it was a really interesting book. It kept on surprising me, and I pretty much couldn't put it down while I was reading it.

Seconds by Brian Lee O' Malley

I have not read Scott Pilgrim, although I did see and really like the film, so this is my first graphic novel of his. Katie, the main character, discovers that she can travel back in time to undo past mistakes, and then takes that idea to extremes. I really liked her as a character, and even though there are a lot of takes on this kind of idea, I thought it was done really well and am looking forward to reading it again at some point! I am also definitely going to get to Scott Pilgrim one day as well now (although I believe the general consensus is that this is better?)

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

The hosts of the Bookrageous podcast talk about how much they love A. S. King's YA fiction a lot, and I've always meant to try it at some point. Then they had her as a guest on a recent (might not be so recent, I tend to store up lots of podcasts and binge on them) podcast, and a lot of what she was saying struck a chord with me so I immediately decided to buy one of her books. I'm glad I did, because I really liked it! This is definitely more of an issue based YA book, where the main character is struggling with how the other people in her life will deal with her sexuality. The book also contains a slightly fantastical element, as the main character, Astrid, sends up love, questions and thoughts to the passengers on planes that fly overhead, and then we see how this affects the passengers. Sometimes I thought this fantastic part didn't quite work as well as it could have, but for the most part I loved it! I already have another A.S. King book lined up to read, and I am looking forward to getting to it!

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

This is the second discworld book, and it also follows the adventures of Rincewind and Twoflower immediately following the events of the last book, and with an impending apocalypse hanging over them. This is definitely much more of an actual novel than The Colour of Magic which is more like a series of set pieces put together, and I think it is the better for it. I still think that the Rincewind books are a bit weaker than some of the others in general, but overall it was very enjoyable!

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

Oh I do not know what to say about this one. On the one hand, the book is written so it is kind of like a stream of consciousness, which I found immensely irritating and pretentious at first. But once I got into the flow of it I started to get into the story more, although to be honest the story was pretty bleak and nasty, so.... hmm. Overall I think I did like it, but this is definitely not an easy read, and I found myself getting really annoyed at the main character and some of the decisions that she was making, while also sort of understanding why she was doing it at the same time. To be honest, my reaction to the main character's behaviour made me question quite a few of my in-built prejudices, which I think is always a good thing! I think it will stick with me for quite a long time, although I'm not sure how widely I would recommend it. If you are not afraid of a slightly more challenging book that requires quite a bit of concentration to read, then why not!

The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman

Loved it. Proper review (mainly of the whole Magicians series rather than this one) coming shortly!

Attack on Titan volumes 6 and 7 by Hajime Isayama (read in Japanese)

So I picked this back up again after my husband pointed out that I was rubbish at finishing things that I start and used this manga as an example, and I did actually enjoy these volumes. I have already picked up the next few volumes for the Tadoku thing I'm doing now, yay. My one major nitpick with the books is that quite a few of the characters look pretty similar and I have problems telling them apart. This may be because I actually am pretty bad at reading manga though, especially manga with lots of action like this one.

Saga volume 4 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Excellent. If you haven't started reading Saga yet, what are you doing?! This and Ms. Marvel are seriously making me consider starting to read individual comic issues.


Things that made me happy this week #2

1) My friend visiting from Korea

My friend Dave (that is, unsurprisingly, not his Korean name) came over to Japan to see the Kendo world championship and stayed a night at my house, and then I was able to spend the next day with him and it was really nice to catch up! He was like an older brother to me in my makeshift year abroad studying in Japan family.

From the left: Taka (my husband!), Saroda (another member of my year
abroad family) and Dave, taken when we visited Korea in 2011. I would
have put up a picture from this time but I didn't take any because I suck

2) Cleaning all the things!

So I wasn't super happy about this before I did it, but in preparation for Dave coming I cleaned my flat much more thoroughly than I normally would, and now I get to enjoy the fact that all of the places that I always mean to clean but somehow never get round to are actually clean! If only things didn't naturally get dirty again over time.

3) Realising that I might actually be developing a healthy body image

This is heading into super shallow country, but, as most girls do, I had serious problems with self-image for years, but I realised a few days ago that I just really don't care about it in the way that I used to. So although I know I'm not as healthy as I could be and still have some issues with food (I'm working on it), I don't get down about how look at all any more. I'm not sure whether I would have naturally got to this place by now anyway, or whether a large part of it is to do with living in Japan where I look completely different to the majority of people around me (I do not in any way have the same body type as a lot of girls here do, and I think that stops me from comparing myself so much! I also get lots of positive comments about how I look (but I have also been told that I look really like Nicole Kidman (I do not) so I tend to take these with a grain of salt)) This is definitely a good thing though! Yay!

4) Studying and spending free time productively

So the MOOC thing I talked about last week is going well so far, and I am actually finding it nice to have productive to do when I'm not working. I have also decided to make more of an effort to do things in Japanese, and I have signed up for a Tadoku contest. Tadoku is basically the idea of learning a language through reading a LOT - it is made up of Kanji which mean "many" and "read", which makes sense, right? The contest is basically who can read the most in a foreign language over a month in this case, although there's a massive range of learners doing it, so I think most people find someone who is around the same level as them and compete with them, rather than aiming for first place (I could probably aim for first place, but we'll see how it goes!) I am actually still in 13th place in the overall rankings for the contest, even though I haven't actually taken part in one since 2011 (I think???) - goes to show how much free time I had that year I think, hehe.

Anyway, I already finished my first book (it was only a tiny one) and I remembered that I actually really enjoy reading in Japanese. Not sure how I forgot that...

See Ellie's list and things that have made other people happy here!


Things that made me happy this week #1

Ellie at Lit Nerd has been doing a thing for a while called "Things that made me happy this week", and I thought I would join in. Yay!

1. Actually spending time with my husband
My husband has been working like CRAZY recently, including going into work in the mornings, and as he goes to work so early and gets back so late I end up not having much time to see him during the day... but that just makes the time that I can spend with him over the weekend feel more special! So I am very happy that I got to spend most of Saturday and Sunday with him <3

Ebizou Ichikawa, one of the Kabuki actors we went to see!
2. Going to see Kabuki
Kabuki, if you don't know, is a traditional style of Japanese play that involves singing, dancing, and elaborate acrobatic fight scenes. It was on my list of things to do in Japan at some point, and I finally got round to actually going on Saturday! Yay! The performance that we went to was about 4 hours long (although that includes some little breaks as they change scenery and one 30 minute break where we ate tea and another 10 or 15 minute break later), and I thought that I might get bored half way through but it was pretty entertaining!

If any of you ever come to Japan and are interested in that kind of thing I recommend it! Tickets for good seats are pretty expensive (we got them through my husband's company and they were very heavily discounted - we paid quite a bit less than half price), but if you ever come to Japan it might be worth going to! You can apparently go on the day and get tickets for just one act, which would maybe be about an hour and is much cheaper, although the seats aren't as good (and half of them are standing). They have English audio guides and a new subtitle thing that you can rent that explain what is going on. I actually used the subtitle thing myself as the Japanese used in the plays is pretty old and I wasn't sure whether I would understand it. My husband got an audio guide in Japanese and said that it was really helpful for him too!

3. Signing up for some MOOCs 
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), if you don't know, are courses that you can do online for free. There's a massive amount of variation in them,  but a lot of them are basically the equivalent of doing a university module. It's been a while since I was in education, but I have recently realised that although I don't mind most of the translation work I do, the translation that I actually enjoy the most is to do with health and medicine, so I have decided to take a few MOOCs to boost my credentials and knowledge so I can hopefully break into the medical translation industry (at the moment whenever I'm doing something related to medicine I just bombard my mum (who recently retired but was a doctor) with questions). Yay! You can pay for certificates to prove that you have passed the course, which I wouldn't do if I was just doing it for fun, but I definitely will if I'm doing it for professional reasons. Plus, tax write-off, yayyy!!!

If you haven't investigated them before and the idea sounds interesting, I think the three biggest sites are Coursera, EdX and Udacity, and there are all kinds of courses on there from highly respected universities, so even if you're just doing it for fun, I'm sure you could find something interesting! I kind of wish that the Japanese equivalent was more developed (there are some courses in Japanese, but although some of them sound interesting to do for fun, it would be nice to have some that would help me in a professional capacity).

YAY FOR LEARNING! I'm excited to get started, although first I'm doing a course that is supposed to help you learn techniques to learn more efficiently in the hopes that it will help me actually retain most of what I learn, hehe.

If anybody is interested in this I might do a post about it once I've either finished or am part way through some of the courses that I am going to do.

4. Lovely weather
Japan is on the verge of passing over into too hot for comfort territory, but at the moment it is pretty nice! It's sunny almost every day and not too hot, and it's nice to not have to wrap myself in millions of layers every day to stay warm. I love Japan, but houses here really really really need better insulation. Or insulation at all. And central heating! And to look nicer! Hehe. Hopefully there'll be at least a couple more weeks of this before we hit the rainy season (although I don't mind the rainy season either because I have cute wellies. Cute things make everything better!)


February, March and April reading round-up

Well my plan to do a monthly post about what I have read hasn't really worked, has it?! Oh well...

Luckily (???), a lot of my reading time in February to April was taken up with War and Peace, so I don't have too many books to talk about!

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Go back on the blog for my posts on War and Peace (which are full of spoilers, by the way. So maybe don't do that!). There are a lot of them! The readalong ended a while ago now, and I kind of miss it, while also being happy that I have my reading freedom back. One thing that I realised is that at the moment I really don't want to be reading more than one fiction book at a time, so I ended up giving up on trying to read other things for the most part, which wasn't great. Oh well!

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I enjoyed reading this, and it has made me want to read more Capote. I knew though that although this is non-fiction that there have been parts of it that have been proven not to be true, so I had that thought in the back of my mind the whole time I was reading it which was slightly annoying.

The Martian by Andy Weir

I really liked it. I would recommend it if sciencey stuff doesn't put you off! I really don't have anything else to say about it that hasn't already been said by pretty much everyone I have heard talking about the book.

Attack on Titan volumes 3, 4 and 5 by Hajime Isayama

I started reading this at the end of last year because I realised I was consuming absolutely nothing in Japanese at all, and I like it so far, although it is a bit gruesome. I'm not absolutely enamoured with it though, which is why I haven't got further than volume 5, in spite of having the next few volumes of manga just sitting over there *points* waiting to be read.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

This was pretty gripping, and I liked the fact that the whole apocalypse part of the story didn't play out at all like I thought it would. For a book that is about the world being attacked by giant insects, there is (if you haven't heard anything about the book before) a surprising amount of focus placed on the main character and his extremely complicated relationships with his best friend who is in love with the main character, and his girlfriend. I'm not sure I've read anything else that has portrayed teenager's relationships in quite the same way, and I thought that aspect of it was really interesting.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

I meant to do a separate post about Pratchett but I was finding it difficult to write so I ended up abandoning it. Sorry! I read this as part of Terry Pratchett Reading Week over on Bex's blog, and I am really happy that I did. I don't think that it is the strongest discworld book, but it is imbued with Pratchett's sense of humour and it kept on making me chuckle. I am planning on getting through all of the discworld books either again or for the first time, and I'm going to try and read at least 1 or 2 every couple of months. I am looking forward to getting to the Death books, as they were my favourites when I read Discworld as a teenager.

Saints by Gene Luen Yang

I read Boxers last year (I don't think I wrote about it on here), and really loved it so I was really excited to finally get a chance to read Saints. I think overall I prefer Boxers, but I do like both of them, and I definitely want to re-read them together at some point, in which case I will try to remember to do a post here covering them properly. I really really enjoyed them.

Ms Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why written by G. Willow Wilson, Illustrated by Jacob Wyatt and Adrian Alphona

I am really really enjoying Ms. Marvel so far and it's making me actually want to read individual issues rather than the collected volumes... but I probably won't (don't have a tablet to read the digital version on and I think my phone would be too small, and I have no idea where I would even be able to get my hands on the actual comics in Japan). Still, I recommend this to everyone! YAY Ms. Marvel!!

And that's it! I use the word "enjoy" too much, don't I? (Not that I actually think anybody will read all of this, so maybe it's okay!)

Also I am posting this at 3 in the morning (ish) because I can't sleep, so I expect it might be a bit mistake-ridden. Apologies!

I really need to do these at the end of each month, I will definitely do on for May!!!


Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

I sort of forgot that I was going to post about this separately, and now it has been a little bit too long since I initially read it to write anything coherent about it (and as I have said before, I don't really take notes), but I do think that it deserves more than what I wrote in my January round up, so... here goes!

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept "separate but equal."

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Although it has been a while since I read this, I still have very strong memories of the contents of the book, even if it isn't enough to talk about it in detail. The main impact that this book had on me was through its portrayal of how difficult it was for the black students in the book including Sarah to integrate into this all-white school. One of the earliest scenes in the book is of the students going to school for the first time, and just seeing the abuse that they put up with for it made me feel so sad. And disgusted. It was one of those things where I know the history (although not in a great amount of detail - I am British, after all) but I had never really imagined what it would actually be like to experience it. This is one of my favourite things about books, because I think you can learn about the history all you want, but you'll never get close to how you feel when reading a book that actually puts you in the shoes of the protagonists.

(This isn't really related to this book, but I had a similar experience going to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum recently. I know quite a lot about the history to do with it, have heard personal accounts as my husband's grandma was actually a victim of the bombing (although luckily she escaped with superficial wounds and no other side-effects that we know of) and have actually been to the museum before and could remember how it made me felt, but actually going through the exhibits and seeing pictures of some of the victims after the attacks and seeing objects that were left behind really brought home to me how horrific it was. If you are ever in Hiroshima you should definitely go, but be prepared to feel very very very very very sad.)

I also think the book does a good job of exploring Linda's point of view. She could easily just become the object of hate in a book like this, but I completely understood why she thought the way that she did (while completely disagreeing with her thoughts!), and I think she definitely has the biggest journey in the book and it is fascinating to see how Sarah influences her thinking about pretty much everything she thought was set in stone.

Sarah and Linda's feelings towards each other are a big part of this book, and thinking about it, although I have read plenty of books with male characters questioning their sexuality, this may be one of the first with female characters doing it (which shocked me quite a bit when I realised!). So that was interesting for me (and is also making me think that I really need to read more LGBTQ fiction), and I think that it was done pretty well. One of the things that can annoy me about historical fiction is where female characters act the same way that modern women, who are lucky enough to be able to take for granted a lot of the freedoms that women didn't have in the past, would in the same situation. And thankfully this wasn't an issue here, the whole book seemed to me to be a realistic portrayal of how that situation actually would have played out at the time.

The book was very easy to read although the subject matter was difficult at times, and if you are even slightly interested in the premise I wholeheartedly recommend it!


War & Peace - The wrap-up post

This is going up a bit late because... it is. Sorry!!

I am going to talk a bit about the epilogues at the end of the post in case anybody who hasn't read the book wants to read my overall thoughts.

But before I start answering the survey, I just want to say a huge thank you to Hanna for hosting the whole thing and providing excellent prompts, and to Charlotte for providing equally excellent prompts in the weeks that Hanna was unable to. And I think that all of us who participated deserve a pat on the back for making it to the end. YAY US!

And although this readalong was a bit painful at times (more on this below!), I am also so up for doing another one!! I just need a few months to enjoy reading at my own pace first, hehe.

1. Was War & Peace what you expected or did it surprise you?

I expected a really long book that had bits about war and bits about peace in it, so I guess it was! What I wasn't expecting though was how gossipy it would be, and I also wasn't expecting to kind of hate most of the characters, hehe.

2. What was your favourite part?

Oh, I don't know! I liked any of the parts that were sort of gossipy and full of scandal, they were definitely the most fun to read.

3. Least favourite part?

The epilogues. I didn't think it could get more boring than the hunting trip, but I was wrong!!

4. Have you learned anything from War & Peace? Either Russian history, or in a more abstract, how-to-read-big-books way?

I have learnt that the Russian aristocracy all spoke French most of the time. Also I feel like I have learnt a bit about how wars were fought at that time and about Russian history (the only bit of Russian history that I knew beforehand is all to do with the revolution and then the history up to now, so pretty much everything in the book was new to me!)

I learnt that reading big books is much more fun when you're doing it with a group of other people rather than going it alone! I really wish I had read infinite jest with a group now.

5. Be honest, how close did you come to giving up?

I think the closest I came was the week where I ended up really behind, but I was never THAT close. I idly toyed with the idea of giving up, but I think I would have been really annoyed at myself if I had. But if I had been reading it by myself, I think I probably would have given up the first time it went into a war section.

...Actually having written about the epilogues below, I have to say I came pretty close to giving up during the epilogues. But I would have kicked myself for that afterwards, so I'm glad I didn't. I do wish that I had gone with my other idea to just completely skim read most of it though, haha.

6. How did it feel when you FINALLY finished?

Like I had just wasted too much time reading the epilogues. Urgh. But I was also very happy that I was able to read something else, and I am impressed that I actually finished it! I'm allowed to be impressed with myself, right??

7. What's the first book you're going to pick up without Tolstoy-induced guilt?

The first thing I read after finishing was Ms. Marvel volume 2 (it was excellent!), and I am currently reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman, which I should really have finished by now, but I am not getting much reading done at the moment. I am enjoying it though!

8. Would you recommend this book to a friend? Would you reread it? 

Ooh that's tricky. If I had a friend who was considering reading it, then I think I would point out that it was actually way easier to read than I thought it would be and much more fun in parts, but that there were whole sections when I was shouting SHUT UP ALREADY TOLSTOY! in my head... so I'm not sure that would really be a recommendation. I think if someone I knew was already interested in reading it, I wouldn't try to put them off, but I don't think that I would particularly encourage them. And no. I would not reread it. Unless I ended up with wayyyy too much free time on my hands and no money to buy new books (libraries are not so much of an option for me).

But having said that, I did enjoy it way more than I thought I would, and I am really glad that I've read it!

And now, epilogue based talk. There will be spoilers from this point on, beware spoilerphobes!

The epilogues.... did anybody enjoy them? I really wish that they hadn't existed, because although they wrapped up the question of what was going to happen to Marya and Nikolai, and Pierre and Natasha, they didn't really clear anything else up or have any other purpose. They made me dislike Nikolai EVEN MORE, and honestly after I found out that both couples ended up together, I didn't care about anything else. And then the second half where he was just going ON AND ON AND ON AND ON AND ON about how all historians are crap or... whatever it was he was talking about, I actually found myself going "OH MY GOD SHUT UP!!!" at the book a few times.

After having read the whole book, I have to say that I am very glad that people have sort of worked out what makes a story successful now, and that most modern authors know how to tell stories without including massive irrelevant bits in them. Let's face it, if this was a  manuscript that was submitted today, huge chunks would have been cut out of it, because there was so much stuff that just did not need to be there. Maybe people now do have shorter attention spans, but honestly I just found myself going "SERIOUSLY? You are still talking about this?!?!" quite a few times while reading.

So yes, in conclusion: Tolstoy needed an editor (or a better editor if he did actually have one!)


*Happy dance*


War and Peace - Week 11

Wow, we got to the end of the actual book!!! *Is ignoring the fact that there's still 100 pages of epilogues*

Seeing as it wasn't in the questions... The prediction I made about one of the Rostovs dying was right!!!! I WIN!!! (I rarely predict things accurately so I'm happy about it, even though I feel like I probably shouldn't be celebrating Petya's death. After all, he wasn't one of the characters that I particularly disliked, although I feel like his enthusiasm for war was probably not too advisable). I found it weird that there was no mention of him for ages and then he showed up and was the centre of the narrative for a few chapters and then just died. But, that seems to be how this book goes!

1) Do you think the book ended in a funny place or did it seem like a logical place for the story to end?

I think actually I would be okay with it ending without any epilogues or anything, because I think there was enough to go on to guess what would happen afterwards. In other ways though, the novel kind of jumps around in time a bit anyway and glosses over important things that happened, so I'm interested in seeing what makes the epilogues different from the main text. If anything.

2) How do you see the characters five years on from now? Will everybody get a happy ever after? 

I... am no good at doing 5 years in the future things, so I'm just going to skip to the next part of the question! Hmm, it seems that Natasha and Pierre will (if getting married is a happy ending - I'm not entirely sure that any marriage with Natasha in is going to end happily, but in the book the definition of a happy marriage seems to be being able to put up with each other and not being openly mean about or to the other person, so they might manage that?

I'm trying to think who else apart from Pierre I actually care about... It seems like Marya and elder Rostov boy will end up being married, which I think would be good and a happy ending for Marya if Rostov stops being an idiot and grows up!

I'm worried about Sonya, but maybe she'll meet someone else or you know.. do something fulfilling with her life! That would be good.

I don't care about anybody else. Hehe.

3) Do you think Tolstoy is a biased narrator? If so, in what way?

Yes. Although I think he is trying to be as fair as he can about the war stuff, he is still obviously supporting the Russian side. I think he does a fairly okay job with not making all Russians out to be heroes or particularly nice people though, all in all. It's the kind of bias that is understandable, and I do like that he does make an effort to see things from the other side some of the time.

4) Are you still enjoying this book or are you honestly just waiting for the damn thing to stop talking?

Hmm, this is sort of difficult to answer. I'm not enjoying it like I enjoy my favourite books, but reading it has been really interesting and I do want to know how everything turns out. I'm not sick of it yet, but I am looking forward to it being over! Hehe. I honestly am very glad that I decided to join in with the readalong, there have been several points along the way when I've considered quitting (including before I started, and any time there were lots of war based chapters) but I am really glad that I stuck with it!

I think it has actually taken me quite a while to get into the rhythm of the book, and I am now finding that the war bits don't bother me so much because I know what to expect.... I think I would actually enjoy the book much more if I re-read it, but the chances of that happening are very very low. If nothing else, now that this week's reading has pretty much confirmed that Tolstoy is a massive misogynist (I was giving him the benefit of the doubt before, but that whole bit about intelligent women made me angry), I think I would be much more annoyed by the sexism if I re-read it.

Only the epilogues to go now! Woohoo!!! I am really looking forward to reading other things. So much so that I'm going to try to get through the epilogues today, yayy!!


Tampa by Alissa Nutting

First a warning: I will be talking about the ending of this book in the review, but at the end behind a clear spoiler marking, so spoilers should be easy to avoid if you are spoilerphobic like I am. Also I realise that I am posting this stupidly late, but... yeah. I am not a good blogger!

Onto the book!

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She is attractive. She drives a red Corvette. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed and devoted to her. But Celeste has a secret. She has a singular sexual obsession - fourteen-year-old boys. It is a craving she pursues with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought.
Within weeks of her first term at a new school, Celeste has lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web - car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack's house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming encounters in Celeste's empty classroom between periods. It is bliss.
Celeste must constantly confront the forces threatening their affair - the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack's father's own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind. But the insatiable Celeste is remorseless. She deceives everyone, is close to no one and cares little for anything but her pleasure.

I am definitely drawn to books that are labelled as controversial, so I knew that I would read this at some point. I found it fairly repulsive, which, to be honest, was quite reassuring! I haven't read Lolita, or The End of Alice, or anything else which has a paedophile as the main character, and after this I'm not sure if I want to (although I have heard good things about both of those books so I might at some point, who can say?).

I think that the whole subject of female paedophiles is something that maybe isn't talked about very often. In pop culture, men are quite often portrayed as being slaves to their sex drives and unable to control themselves (which is obviously a load of rubbish and very problematic for everyone!) so it was fascinating seeing a woman who was characterized like this. Because Celeste, the main character, is under no illusions that she is in love with her victims, she just feels like she needs them and has a right to use them to fulfil her sexual desires. I felt no sympathy for her at all during the novel, and I think that this sort of lets the novel down a little bit. It would have been much more complex and interesting if she had been sympathetic in some way, if there was any attempt made to sort of humanize her, instead of portraying her as a psychopathic monster from the start.

I did enjoy it though, as far as you can enjoy a book like this. The plot moved pretty quickly, and there was a part of me that was waiting to see what insane thing she would do next. I think in the end the book went too far for me, and I would have preferred it to stay more... realistic? Is that the right word? But if the idea of reading about a paedophile doesn't make you run away screaming, and if you are not bothered by pretty explicit (although not erotic in any way, thank goodness) language and descriptions, then I think it might be worth reading.

Not an extraordinary book, but an interesting one.

And now, I want to talk about the end of the book so... spoilers ahead! Be warned!

So, I think that one of the things that is actually good about this novel is the way that it ends. Not actually in that I enjoyed the ending, because to be honest it is disturbing and not at all cathartic. I have read some things which said that this was stupid because she deserved to be locked up, which of course she did, but I think that this is a more realistic depiction of what could potentially happen in the real world. There's an idea that her victims were lucky because she's so attractive, and that being seduced by a hot teacher is a fantasy for a lot of teenage boys. She basically manages to worm her way out of going to prison by being too beautiful to go there (sorry, what?! Apparently this is actually a real defence that was used!) and then is free to carry on being super creepy.

Although I think that a better book could be written dealing with these issues, I do think that Tampa says a lot about how women are depicted and how men are depicted, and it made me think about how much society would benefit if men weren't supposed to be hyper-masculine and have an uncontrollable sex drive, and if women's attractiveness didn't alter how society treats them so much.


War and Peace - Week 10

Well.. this week's reading wasn't particularly exciting, was it?! I am hoping for better things next week. I actually finished it on Wednesday and Thursday, and can't REALLY remember much of what happened in it, so this bodes well for the blog post doesn't it! Hehe.

I actually cannot believe that we have been doing this for 10 weeks. I don't think I have ever been reading the same book for so long, I am itching to go and read something else (I didn't have enough time last week to fit something else in and finish it, and I have realised that I don't like having two novels on the go at once and am really not in a non-fiction/short story place right now, so for this week I have prepared a small stack of comics to read, yay! I do really want to read another novel though, hehe).

1)  The only bit of this week's war-themed escapades that I really took in was a small section where it got interesting and the Russians started getting ready to attack the French but then got confused because they couldn't find somebody or other so they did it the next day and botched it again because they went crazy and just started trying to beat on some French people.  Does anybody feel as though they're learning?

I feel like I am learning a bit about what happened, but I also feel like although Tolstoy seems to be doing a good job of being fair to both sides, I can't quite trust his version of events. I have definitely learnt way more about the war than I knew before (which was basically that the French weren't prepared for a Russian winter), but I had no idea that they had occupied Moscow! I do not know much history at all, hehe. I would like to know more about European history but first I feel like I should learn a bit about the history of Japan seeing as I live here and everything! All I know really is a little bit about the Meiji restoration and then what has happened since - anything before then I'm a bit clueless about.

2)  Clearly Tolstoy's not a Napoleon fan - as far as Tolstoy's concerned, he's lucky at best. Thoughts?

Hmm, I got the impression that he thought that Napoleon was capable (especially earlier in the book), but that he was human and had maybe overestimated his talents. From pop culture in general I always got the impression of Napoleon being a complete arse, but this book has actually made me wonder if that is the case, hehe. I should really go and read up about Napoleon in general, but I'll be honest and say that it is very unlikely that I will.

3)  According to Shmoop, Pierre's only been in prison for four weeks.  And in four weeks he's decided to completely re-write his personality while shedding some pounds.  I've been surprised by how well Tolstoy has portrayed the French's treatment of their prisoners.  Maybe he's not so biased after all? [I realise that's not technically a question but I'm late so we're going with it]

Aww, poor Pierre! As I said up there *points* I actually feel like Tolstoy is pretty fair to both sides - he doesn't really imply that the Russians are completely amazing, and he doesn't really portray the French as evil or anything. I think that he is probably treating both sides as fairly as he could given that he himself is Russian and therefore obviously a bit biased. It seems to me that this whole era is pretty interesting, as most of the aristocracy speak to each other in French, and France seems to have been held in quite high regard before the war, so it seems like everyone is kind of treating the other side as humans, rather than just seeing them as the enemy. Does that make sense?

4)  This might be a ridiculous question given that some of you may not be flying by the seat of your pants and only just staying caught up (like nobody around here, obviously) but is anybody else worried that the final two books are going to be all about Napoleon trudging back across Russia and that we're only going to get back to the characters we actually care about in retrospect when we hit the Epilogues?!

I wasn't worried before, but I am now!!! Thinking about it, it is completely possible. I guess that we will just have to wait and see what this week's reading brings. I have sort of learnt not to expect major events to be properly covered, as Tolstoy seems to gloss over lots of things that I would have expected a book of this length to take time over, and then concentrate intensely on things that aren't at all important (like that stupid hunting trip!). So I don't really have that high expectations for the end of the novel - not that I am not enjoying the book in general! I am really glad that I joined this readalong, because I don't think I would have got through this in a million years if it was just me!

I think actually that if the final two books are just about the war and then everything to do with the characters that I mostly dislike is in the epilogues, I will actually be able to get through the epilogues, whereas if everyone's story is wrapped up in the last two books and the epilogues are about the war, I might struggle a lot! We'll see, I guess.


War and Peace - Week 9


I accidentally fell behind with War and Peace BUT I managed to catch up and am only sort of late this week. Huzzah! I actually quite enjoyed reading a lot of it in one chunk as I did over the past week and a half, and although I am also looking forward to finishing it, I think I'll be a bit sad when it's over!

1)  With the multiple deaths, this week started to feel a little more like Tolstoy was starting to wrap up some of his characters' stories. How do you feel about the way Helene's death was dealt with compared to Andrew's?

Helene's death was so... glossed over. I feel like the only characters who actually get decent deaths in this book are men, which is annoying but oh well. It came out of nowhere for me, and I think she may have just died to make it easier for Pierre to go off and marry someone else.

2)  I certainly wouldn't go so far as to call myself a Pierre fan but his experiences as a prisoner were quite moving. How do you think Pierre is going to fare as we approach the end of the novel?

I actually think I like Pierre the most out of everyone in the novel. He does completely unnecessary things (like going off to war and just riding around seeing what was going on and getting in everyone's way... why?!), but in general I find his bumbling around quite endearing! I really hope he is heading towards a happy ending, even if that means marrying Natasha (which at this point is sort of inevitable, no? All the obstacles have disappeared!) who I am not a huge fan of, but if it makes Pierre happy I don't mind.

3)  Now the competition's opened back up, who are you backing for Nicholas Rostov's future wife, rich heiress Mary or devoted Sonya?

I dislike Rostov so don't think he really deserves either of them! However, it does seem like unless Sonya suddenly stumbles into a fortune he is going to end up with Marya, and that would make her happy it seems. I feel sorry for Sonya but at least she does have the Rostovs in general, whereas Marya has pretty much nobody at this point. Much as I dislike Nicholas I think he would actually treat Marya nicely, which is much better than if she had ended up with that annoying idiot (whose name I am blanking on, you know who I mean!!)

4)   The Rostovs have always been my favourite family in War and Peace and seeing them from Mary's perspective was a little bit sad.  How is everyone feeling about how things are going for them?

I feel bad for them. They do seem to always want to try and do the right thing and other people just take advantage of them. I feel like they might be happier in general to just give up a lot of their money and be a poor but happy family! I think that it will work out for them in the end though, hopefully! Although I still think that one of the Rostov boys might die. Have we actually heard anything about Petyr (is that his name??? Argh! I am not doing well today) since he joined the army?

Not much longer to go now!!! I am going to do my best to not fall behind again.


War and Peace - Week 6

I know everybody else seems to have got to the halfway point last week, but in my copy we passed it this week. Huzzah! I keep on saying this, but I honestly didn't think I would make it this far. This week's chapters were hardly inspiring though. Hmm. This probably wasn't helped by the fact that I've had a really bad cold since last Tuesday which has made my thinking a little bit foggy, so I'm actually kind of struggling to recall what happened in the book clearly, even though I finished the reading on Saturday. Oh well..

1) Honestly, by this point in the book (55% or so), do you think War & Peace could have been shorter or did it need to be this long?

It definitely could have been shorter. There are parts that I don't think anybody could really complain about being cut, like the boring hunting bit from a couple of weeks ago. I guess though with it being this length it does have something for everyone? Like the first chapter this week about why wars happen would be interesting if you liked philosophy, and the war bits in general would be interesting if you are interested in military tactics or how wars were fought then (this is the most interesting bit about the war parts for me - the way that people fought seems to be really radically different than how wars seem to work now. I am sure there are people who care more about the war stuff who hate when the novel goes into gossip/scandal mode, although those are my favourite bits!

2) Do you feel there's been another change in tone? Why do you think Tolstoy keeps doing this? Do you like it?  

Hmm I'm not sure I'd say it's a change in tone, in that the book is kind of a bit all over the place tonally anyway. It's definitely different from last week, but we have had these kinds of chapters before. I know it took a lonnnng time to write the book, so I wonder if the shifts in tone throughout the book reflect the time in life that he wrote certain parts? Maybe! I like it when it shifts to a tone that I enjoy, haha.

3) Natasha. AAAAAAAAAND GO.  

Natasha didn't really annoy me this week. Of all of the posts for last week that I saw, I seemed to be the least annoyed with her anyway, so I found her quite tolerable this week. And she apparently gave her family joy by being ill and giving them all something to do?? I think maybe everybody who is supposed to be good in this novel just has a massive martyr complex, it's weird. Anyway, she wasn't too bad although she obviously is still being quite selfish, but I think maybe she's taking the time to reflect on her actions and hopefully she'll end up being a better person?

4) Pierre has convinced himself (via numerology, obviously) that Napoleon is the Antichrist from The Book of Revelation. Is this in character for Pierre? How do you think he'll act on this?

Oh Pierre. He's so... gullible. And weird. I don't know. I think it is in character, as he did hear about the freemasons and immediately jumped on board with that, so yeah. I think he must just be really bored, so he just grabs onto whatever crazy thing floats his way. I don't know if he'll do anything about this! I bet it was just Tolstoy finding some book which mentions that at some point and going "YES! The novel definitely isn't long enough yet, now I have another weird tangent to go off on for no reason! Huzzah!". I did enjoy the way that Pierre played around with his name to get it to fit the pattern, and then was very pleased when it did even though what he did didn't actually make any sense. Oh Pierre.


Is anybody else thinking that now there are going to be two Rostovs off fighting, one of them is definitely either going to be horrifically injured, or die at some point soon? I have a theory about what is going to happen, so I am interested to see if I'm right. (I would write it here, but I hate spoilers myself, and I have read fan theories before that have actually turned out to be correct and I've ended up feeling disappointed. Mind you, I am REALLY BAD at predicting what is going to happen, even when it is apparently really really obvious to everyone else, so I'm probably wrong anyway!)


War and Peace - Week 5

Another week, even fewer characters that I don't actively dislike. Haha. I managed to finish my reading on time this week, yayy! 

1) Could the disastrous meeting between Marya and Natasha have gone any other way? Who was to blame?

I don't think so. They were both being a bit stupid about it in the first place (if I recall correctly - I think my brain was so overtaken by the Natasha/Anatole drama that happens later that I have forgotten the details!), so I think they share the blame. I would say that Natasha is more to blame for it, but can you imagine how awkward it would be meeting the family of your significant other without said significant other not actually being there!? So much as I grew to dislike Natasha this week, I don't think it's entirely her fault.

2) Everyone seems to be secretly considering Marya for marriage at the moment. Do you think it will ever happen for her? Was Boris right to pick Julie?

I hope not, because marriage doesn't seem to be a particularly great thing in this book! Seeing as she is one of the characters who I actually don't dislike, I want her to get away from her family and.. I don't know, do some charity work or something because she would be good at that. And I think she would be much happier than she is at the moment. Poor Marya! Although she could do with learning to actually stick up for herself and that she doesn't just have to accept what is going on around her.

Boris and Julie? I don't really care. Maybe Julie will be more likely to actually stand up for herself, which is good? I do feel though in some ways that the message of this book is that marriage sucks, so I find it hard to support anything to do with marriage!!

3) There's too much drama with Natasha for me to formulate an all-encompassing question, so... I don't know. Discuss.

Oh Natasha. The Rostovs are slowly slipping down my tolerability scale (seriously, I really don't like anyone in this novel at all. I don't mind not having any likeable characters, but given how many characters there are I was expecting to like at least a couple of them!). They all seem so completely naive and clueless as to what is going on around them, and don't seem to be able to grasp the idea that people might not necessarily be what they seem on the surface. I would like to give Natasha the benefit of the doubt and say that she probably didn't really mean to hurt people in the way that she did or act so horribly, but she seems completely incapable of thinking through anything that she does or considering the consequences of any of her actions.

I am not really the biggest Andrei fan (or a fan at all), but seeing as he does seem to be making an effort to be a better person, I do feel bad for him. I think though that Anatole deserves his fair share of the blame for what happened here, obviously, but Natasha could have just not gone OOH PRETTY and run after him the way that she did. If you're mooning over someone for months and going on about how in love you are with them, you don't then run off with the next handsome person who pays you a bit of attention!

Urgh. I don't know. On the one hand I do feel a bit sorry for her as her only purpose in life seems to be to get married, which must be pretty depressing. I sort of don't blame her for wanting a little bit of excitement in her life? Still though...

4) Lots of characters are being fairly dickish this week. Who wins the prize for the person you'd most like to slap?  

At the moment I just feel very grateful that I don't live in the same kind of world or society that is portrayed in the book! So I'm not really that angry with any of the characters, just grateful its not me. If I have to choose though, I think I'll go for Anatole, as he seems to just go through life lying to everyone so he can have affairs with as many women as possible, and thinking that being charming can get him out of anything. I mean, obviously it can because it seems to be working for him, but he is a completely despicable human being. If the women who are going into it knew what kind of man he was then I wouldn't have a problem with it, but he obviously manipulates people into doing what he wants like he did with Natasha (she is obviously not entirely blameless, but I do feel she is more the victim here of both Anatole and her own stupidity). I am so glad that I don't know anybody like that!

There was soooo much drama this week, which is good as I think I like this book best when it is drama filled! Fingers crossed for another drama filled week!!


War and Peace - Week 4

Yayyy week 4! And we're almost halfway through the book!!!

I had (another) bad week this week - I started reading the chapters on Sunday!!! I really could have done what I did last week and read the chapters early in the week too, but I was putting off doing my taxes, so also put off all of the other things that I wanted to do and instead spent hours on my phone doing nothing. Does anybody else do that? It's so stupid, if I'm not going to do stuff I'm supposed to be doing, I may as well do stuff that I want to do, rather than mindlessly play stupid games.

Then when I did start reading, the first two chapters were all about Prince Andrei who I still dislike so I was put off slightly by that, but once I actually got into this week's reading properly I zoomed through it. Who knew that this would be a book where catching up wouldn't actually be a painful process? Yay War and Peace!

Anyway, on with this week's questions! Thank you as always to Hanna for being lovely and giving us all set things to talk about each week!

1) Do you feel that the tone of the novel changed this week?

Yes, a little... for one thing, there was almost no focus at all on the war aspect, it just seemed to mostly be about the mundane details of everyday life. Nothing that much really happened this week, which was a bit of a change from the whirlwind that was week 3!

2) Do you think that the story is uniquely Russian, or could it have been set somewhere else?

I feel like I don't have enough knowledge about either Russia or anywhere else at this period of time to be able to answer this! I do end up feeling quite a big culture gap sometimes when reading as I find it difficult to see how conversations work sometimes (as in, somebody will ask a question and then somebody else will reply with something that doesn't seem to make sense to me - is this a Russian thing, is it just the translation I'm reading, or is it just me being thick?)

But if a completely uninformed answer is okay, I feel like for the most part the peace parts could have easily been set in any European country with an aristocracy at the time and not really change THAT much, but seeing as half of the story is about war, I guess that part would be really different if it wasn't about Russia.

3) How about Andrey and Natasha's nupitals? Will they ever get married and do you think it will work out?

Although I still dislike Andrei, I did end up warming to him slightly this week if only because of his new association with the Rostovs and Natasha, who I think I might like, although I don't really understand her behaviour a lot of the time. So I do kind of hope that it works out, and that they actually have a happy marriage and change each other for the better! But I have to say that I found myself, as I do with all classics that I read, annoyed by the fact that the feelings of lust that they were both clearly having were talked about as being love. I really think that true love is something that takes time to develop, and sure, you can be infatuated by somebody when you first meet them, but until you actually know them properly I'm not sure that you can love love somebody. (On a personal, slightly soppy note, I say this as someone who actually experienced "Love at first sight" as described by most literature with my husband, but although I sort of knew somewhere that he might be "the one" (and I'm not sure that I believe that there is one person for everyone) when we first met, I would still say that it took a good while before I knew that he was the one for me for sure.)

Anyway, I do hope that it works out. It would be nice to see a healthy relationship in this book!! I think the signs are good so far as nobody really seems to have manipulated them into this.

4) Could Rostov have done more to help out his parents with their financial situation?

Yes. He annoys me a LOT. His mother begs him to come home and help sort stuff out and dig them out of the mess that he helped create (although it seems like his dad is just kind of useless with money anyway, so Rostov being an idiot has just made what would have already been bad slightly worse), and then when he comes home he's like, oh actually sorting stuff out is too hard, I'm going to go hunting all of the time and arse around instead.

I am not impressed. Although I'm not really impressed with his parents either, be more sensible with money you fools!!! (I am a weirdo who actually enjoys saving money, and is sensible to the point of being very boring about spending it, so it pains me to see people still making silly decisions about money when they're in financial difficulty. I end up having to remind myself that I am lucky that managing my money sensibly comes naturally to me, and that for some people it is as difficult as it is for me to stop myself from stuffing my face with chocolate a few times a week.)

I am glad though that he decided not to marry for money, although I do get that this would probably have helped his family a lot. But I hope that somebody in his family gets their act together and actually does something about their money situation, even if that is just changing their family's lifestyle so they're living within their means. I guess at least it seems like they are helping out a lot of other people with their stupid money decisions, even if they're not helping themselves.

5) How do you feel about the lengthy hunting descriptions? Did you read the whole thing?

Boring. I read it, but in a way where I was just sort of seeing the words but my mind was somewhere else. This happens sometimes anyway, but normally when it does and I realise I go back and re-read what I have missed, but I didn't bother this time. I still don't really know what happened in those chapters, but oh well!

Overall, I am still enjoying the book and finding it pretty easy to read, but I do feel like this week's chapters weren't the most interesting, especially the last part. Although all of the talk of instruments that I had never heard of led me to listen to some Russian folk music which wasn't at all what I imagined Russian folk music would be like, so that was interesting! I hope that the next section has less lengthy descriptions of hunting and more plot development!

On a side note, I got annoyed at how patronising the men were being about Natasha's horse riding ability (I'm sure they thought they were being complimentary, but shhh, silly men). Did they realise that she was managing to ride as well as they were and doing it all side-saddle, which seems to me the most illogical way to ride a horse ever?! BE MORE IMPRESSED! I never really got why it was women who ended up riding horses this way, as surely it would make more sense for men who have very sensitive parts between their legs. Women's sensitive parts are at least hidden away and protected somewhat! I also never really understood why trousers were seen as a men's thing, when they make SO MUCH MORE SENSE for women.

Ahem, anyway... I am going to start reading the next bit today, so hopefully I will end up finishing on time!!! I do seem to have a fallen into a pattern of being behind every other week, it's irritating me!!!


War and Peace - Week 3

Wow, the chapters for week three were pretty exciting! So much happened! I have said this in various comments, but I raced through the reading and finished it all on Wednesday. Of course, this means that unlike last time when I had literally just finished reading before I started writing the post, I have had more time to get mixed up about who did what, but never mind!

I was planning on writing a longer post tomorrow for week three's reading, but I don't think I will have enough time to unfortunately. Maybe I should just face facts and realise that I will never be able to write a decent length post about it? Oh well!

1) Are you managing to keep all the characters straight in your head?

All of the important ones, yes, I think. I didn't have any moment this week where I realised halfway through that the character they were talking about was completely different to the one that I thought they were talking about. Phew!

2) Have your tactics that we discussed in Week One changed since beginning this book?

This week's chapters were so enjoyable that I didn't need to make much of an effort to read them, but I have actually decided to focus on trying to get all of my war and peace reading done early in the week so I can definitely finish on time, and so I can squeeze another book in towards the end of the week if I want to! It worked amazingly well last week, so I am going to try and do it again this week. Although this week I also have sorting out a new passport and taxes to contend with, so we may have a repeat of week 2. Hmm.

3) Aww, poor Pierre. Do we feel sorry for him or is it his own fault for marrying for lust?

I sort of feel sorry for him, but on the other hand he does just seem to be a complete idiot. I really hope that by the end of the book he will have a good friend (not Andrei!) who will point out when people are taking advantage of him or tricking him in some way.

4) Do you think Dolokhov will get his comeuppance - not only for sleeping with Helene, but for basically bankrupting Rostov?

Yes. I hope so, anyway! Although I find it hard to feel sorry for Rostov, because he, like Pierre, just seems to be a bit stupid. Although he is supposed to be pretty young so I guess he can be forgiven for carrying on even though it was more his family that he was getting into trouble, rather than himself. Silly Rostov.

5) Who knew the FREEMASONS were part of War & Peace!? How do you feel about this?

I had no idea! I don't know! I wonder how it is going to end up, because at first I thought they were going to take advantage of Pierre and somehow trick him out of all of his money, but so far that doesn't seem to be the case, and they do actually seem to be changing Pierre for the better, maybe. I'm not sure.

6) Do you think Tolstoy dislikes women as much as he seems to, or is it a form of satire?

Again, no idea! Hehe. I expect though that the attitudes shown in the book are more general attitudes that were prevalent at the time more than anything else, and that if it is a satire then he probably deserves a gold star for being light years ahead of most other men at the time! I think I might have to wait until the end of the book to comment properly on this one.

Other random notes:

Early on in the reading I was feeling a little bit sorry for Andrei, but then he was going on about the difference between the aristocracy and the people who work for them and I wanted to reach into the book and punch him, so BOO ANDREI! Stupid Andrei.


War and Peace - Week 2

I fell behind a little with this week's reading. Not in any way because I wasn't enjoying the book, I am definitely enjoying it. I just didn't feel like reading that much. Does anybody else have weeks like that? Normally I just end up not reading for a couple of weeks when I feel like that, but this readalong made me pick up the book again over the weekend, and I am glad that I did! Thank you readalong!

I think I said I was going to do better at writing a proper post this week, but I'm not. Haha. I SERIOUSLY need to start taking notes.

So, answers to the prompts kindly provided by Hanna!

Note - I actually ended up reading about half of this week's section (thank you insomnia!), but I have answered the questions based on the week 2 reading, rather than what I know now!

1) Do you feel that the tone of the novel has changed this week? Has that affected your enjoyment?

Yes! This week saw a lot of war related action, which I thought might be bad news for me. One of the issues that I have with books sometimes is that I find it hard to picture big action scenes, and can easily get disoriented and confused. But I didn't really have any issues here, although I will admit to not really paying that much attention to some parts.

I did find it weird to be reading something that, whilst showing the horrible side of war, also had the characters excited to be fighting. Most of the things that I've read or seen up to now (not much to be honest) have focused on how horrible and miserable war is, so it was slightly jarring to have some of the characters be so happy about the whole thing. A sign of the times that it was written in? Or is it just that I haven't exposed myself to enough things about war?

2) Do you feel comfortable telling other people that you're reading War & Peace?  

Yes. Although, I don't tell people unless I either know that they are similarly bookish or they ask me. I have only had positive responses so far, and a few people have told me that I'm brave (I say a few, I think that apart from the people in this readalong, only 4 or 5 people know, hehe). I think the danger here is people thinking that you're pretentious for reading it, but I'm not sure anybody could accuse me of reading pretentiously, given that I'll read pretty much anything as long as someone I trust has told me it's good!

3) How do you feel about Helene and Pierre's marriage? Happily ever after or mildly doomed?

Doomed. Completely doomed. Poor Pierre is a bit of a dimwit really, isn't he? He needs a good friend who will point out that people are only being nice to him because he's rich.

4) Should Marya have married Anatole or should she have stayed at home with her Father?

Neither. Marrying Anatole would obviously have ended in heartbreak for her, and staying at home with her dad who apparently cares about her but has no idea of how to show that in a sane way means she's just consigning herself to a sad life. She is the one character that I would really like to bring to life and bring to the modern world, to show her that she does have other options!

5) Andrei has featured in a lot of the war-related chapters so far. Do you think he'll ever make it to military greatness?

I thought as I was reading the chapters that that seemed to be where it was heading, but with him contemplating what is really important in life at the end of this week's reading I'm hoping that he will realise that he should maybe pay a little bit more attention to his poor wife!

I have to say that as I was reading the chapters, initially I was annoyed at all the focus on Andrei, but I think that maybe overall he is not as big of an idiot as I thought he was after last week. This may be purely because he hasn't really interacted with any women for a while. We'll see!

Other random observations:

I am looking forward to Rostov realising that he is actually in love with the emperor (or Tsar or whatever) and them running off together. I think the things that Rostov thinks about the emperor are the most passionate that any of the characters have been so far in the novel, even for the people who they supposedly love. Poor Sonya.

That bit with the ice was pretty horrific. I'm actually pretty scared of falling through ice, so it might have affected me more than the average person, but... urgh.

I really haven't read or seen that much based on any wars earlier than the first world war, so reading the battle scenes has been pretty interesting for me. It seems so weird that the characters could actually speak to the enemy before the battle (like Dolokhov and those French guys).

I think there were fewer characters to worry about this time, but I definitely feel like I'm getting a firmer grip on who everyone is. I think this is partly thanks to the Schmoop chapter summaries I've been reading (I find that I sometimes need a summary to make sure that I've actually got the main points, especially during the war parts as I do have a tendency to get slightly lost sometimes). On the other hand, there are only a few characters whose names I could also say if asked to, although I recognise their names on the page. It's like learning a language - the amount that you can actually verbalise is always less than the amount that you can understand!

That's it for this week!
As I said above I am already halfway through the next block of reading, and it's pretty eventful so far, so I am actually really looking forward to getting back to it. I honestly never imagined that I would enjoy the book this much, I'm so glad! <3

I think this means that I definitely need to buy a paper copy to have on my shelves after this finishes.