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.


War and Peace - Week 1

So, we have reached the end of the first week of reading War and Peace. And I have to say, I am actually enjoying it! I finished the week's reading on Tuesday or Wednesday, and I am actually looking forward to going back to it! Yay! Unfortunately I don't have much time to write a post, so I'm just going to answer the questions kindly provided by Hanna, who is also the lovely host of this readalong. Huzzah!

1) What pre-existing ideas did you have about War & Peace?

That it is LONG. I also thought that a lot of it was based in the country and was mainly about normal everyday people, not the aristocracy. I'm not sure why I thought that though. I don't think I ever really imagined that I would read it, so I never spent much time thinking about it, haha.

2) On that note, is it as bad as you'd expected? :P

Well, I didn't really expect it to be bad! It is as long as I expected, but it is also quite easy to read and interesting. I'm really enjoying it so far!

3) What strategies are you employing?

I'm reading it on my kindle, because I had the whole holding a massive book experience when I was reading Infinite Jest, and it's not something I'm that excited to repeat! So far I have just been reading it when I feel like it, and that really worked for the first week, so I'm just going to carry on doing that!

4) How are you getting along with your translation?

Okay. I am reading the Pevear and Volokhnosky translation, and it doesn't seem to be problematic at all. Apparently it is actually fairly representative of the actual style that Tolstoy wrote in, rather than being changed a lot to read nicely in English, which in theory I approve of, but it's leaving me wondering whether I would prefer a translation where more focus is put on the readability of the English. I think if I enjoy the book enough that I want to re-read it at some point, I might try a different translation to see what the difference is.

The only thing that has really annoyed me so far about the translation is the French bits. I am not annoyed by the French remaining in the text at all (because YAY LANGUAGES!) but the translations (which are in foot notes) only have the translation of the French in. So if you have a character who is speaking a mixture of French and Russian, you have to look back to the original speech and put in the Russian. I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem really with a paper copy, but on the kindle it's irritating (if nothing else, the footnotes box thing covers up the text that the footnote is for quite often!), so I wish that they had left the Russian (translated into English of course, hehe) in there in italics or something. That is literally my only complaint though, and the amount of French seems to be decreasing as I get further into the book so it's only a minor one!

Also, I saw some talk of this on twitter, but if there are two princesses talking, it would help if their actual names were used rather than just princess!! Hehe.

5) Most and least favourite characters?

Just like in real life, it takes me a while to get to know characters well enough to say that I actually like them, so I don't really have any favourite characters yet. I dislike Prince Andrei because he is being a complete arse towards his poor wife, and what's his face and what's her name who were trying to make it so that Pierre wouldn't get his inheritance are quite nasty too! As you can see, I already have a very firm grip on all the character's names.

6) How do you feel about the way women are treated in the book?

Not particularly happy, but I think that it is a product of the time it was written in so I'm trying not to let it get to me! The things that I have read about the book have told me that Pierre is supposed to be the character who sort of represents Tolstoy in the book, and he hasn't been particularly awful to women so far, so I'm choosing to think that Tolstoy was just depicting general social attitudes at the time, rather than agreeing with what his characters are saying.

Alas, that is all that I have time for! As I said, I am really looking forward to getting back into it, so hopefully that is a sign that this will be an enjoyable few months!


January reading round-up and ramblings

I reviewed no books at all in January! Go me! I did read 8 books though, so yay for January!

I don't have that much to say about most of the books though, so mini reviews it is! Although at some point I will be writing a review of Tampa, so you can look forward (?) to that.

Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies by Hadley Freeman

Hadley Freeman writes for the Guardian, and I have been reading occasionally reading her columns for years. I especially enjoy Ask Hadley, which is supposedly a fashion advice column, but is in general quite amusing. My dad likes it, and I don't think he cares at all about fashion, so it's entertaining even if you don't care about the subject. I am sort of weirdly interested in fashion. You would not know this to see how I dress. Haha.

Anyway, I picked up this guide to being a woman (it's basically a collection of little essays about feminism and.. other stuff) because I know I like the way she writes, and it was fine. Nothing particularly mind blowing though. There were some amusing bits, but maybe not as many as I would have liked. If you know you like her, you'll probably enjoy it. Otherwise, I'm not sure I would recommend it necessarily, but you should definitely Ask Hadley a go!

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

The story takes place in a world where there is some kind of creature that makes people go mad and kill themselves and maybe other people when they see it. This means that everyone blindfolds themselves when they go outside to avoid glimpsing it. The book has two different strands, one set in the present day where the main character, Malorie, has two very small children to protect, and has worked up the courage after years of not seeing anyone else to leave her house and try to reach a safe haven that she heard about. The other strand is about the events that led her to this situation, from when strange things started happening up to the present day. I found the book hard to put down while I was reading it, and raced through it. From what I had heard about it though I was expecting it to be terrifying, but I wasn't really scared at any point. This is probably a good thing, because me being scared by things = not sleeping well for a month or so. It was extremely creepy though.

In spite of the lack of scares, I did enjoy it! I'm not sure it'll make my list of best books for this year, but I don't really have anything negative to say about it. If the concept sounds interesting to you then I think it'll be an enjoyable read.

The Cuckoo's Calling by "Robert Galbraith"

Mystery/crime novels are not really my favourite genre, but I had to read this because J K Rowling! As always, I loved the characters, and I think the book had some interesting things to say about fame and its consequences. I am definitely going to be reading the next one (and any others that are released) at some point. Yay! I still don't really get the whole Robert Galbraith thing though. I understand why she started using a pseudonym, and I understand why she would carry on using it, but I don't understand why she is still half pretending that he is a completely different person! Maybe she just enjoys it?

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Okay I tried writing a mini review for this one but it got too long so I'm going to expand it into a proper post. Next!

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

It was Mary Roach. As always, she is very entertaining, and not at all afraid to jump in to whatever she's writing about. If you have read and enjoyed other books by her, or want to read some non-fiction about sex and the science behind it, then I think you'll probably enjoy it.

My favourite Mary Roach is still Stiff though. I think maybe part of me is still too British to enjoy this one as much as I could have, if that makes sense.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

I feel like I should have read this years ago. I read a LOT of discworld books when I was in my teens, and I have recently tried and liked Neil Gaiman, so I was pretty sure that I would like this, and I was right! I'm sure anybody who is interested in either of them knows what the book is about by now (and has probably read it already), but if you don't... go read a synopsis somewhere, because I can't think of a good way to summarise it.

If you like Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman and haven't read this then you really should. It was very entertaining, silly and made me want to read more Neil Gaiman and go back and revisit all of the discworld books.

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

I am writing a separate post about this. Overall, I liked it (not sure liked is the right word), but also ewww.

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1) by Rick Riordan

I have been meaning to try the Percy Jackson books for a while (because sometimes you just want something quick, easy, entertaining, and sort of childish and innocent at the same time - or is that just me?), and I quite enjoyed the first one. I definitely needed to read something that was very light after reading Tampa, and it worked really well. It was a bit predictable, and there were some things that didn't make THAT much sense in it, but all in all it was good. I got a set with all of the books in, so I am probably going to read them when I need a break from War and Peace!


Bye January! I mostly enjoyed you, although I could have done with having a few more work-free days (it's been almost a month now since I actually had a day when I didn't do any work at all. I'm REALLY HOPING that I'll be able to get enough done this week to take this weekend off. I know that some people work that much anyway, but I am definitely someone who needs to have regular time off otherwise I start to lose all motivation and go a bit crazy).

I think that the next few months will be revolving around War and Peace, which I am quite excited about as I am really enjoying it so far! Yay!


War and Peace Read-along: Here we go!

For the next three months I am going to be reading War and Peace. I'm not entirely sure what I'm getting myself in for, but hopefully it'll all be okay.

I have never read any of the Russian classics before (or anything that was originally written in Russian, I don't think - I did at one point know how to say "I like little pies" in Russian, so there's that), and I don't think I've read anything in translation for ages, so it should be interesting!

I am a bit of a language geek (it comes with the being a translator territory I think!) so I am actually looking forward to seeing the differences in translation between the different editions that everyone is reading. It also means that rather than seeing the French in the first few chapters and going NOOOO, I was more like, ooooh I'm going to try to figure out what it means! I have heard there might be some German later, which I might actually be able to understand some of without looking at the footnotes. And if there is any Japanese in it (I seriously doubt it, but on the off-chance) then I'll be happy! Although actually thinking about it, any Japanese from that time period would actually be quite different from modern Japanese so I might just end up feeling sad at my inability to understand. Anyway, I'm pretty sure there isn't any Japanese, so I will stop rambling now!

The length of the book is obviously somewhat intimidating, but I have read A Suitable Boy and Infinite Jest, so I'm confident that the length shouldn't be an obstacle as long as I don't hate the book.

I already read a few chapters yesterday, and I am not only NOT hopelessly lost, but I am also actually enjoying it, which is a good sign! I also enjoyed the first few chapters of the Pickwick Papers though, so feel free to take my endorsement of the beginning with a pinch of salt. Looking back though, I can see how my experience with the Pickwick Papers turned from enjoyment to rage, and I can't really see the seeds of that here, so I'm being cautiously optimistic.

If you are not already involved in the read-along and you're interested in joining in, you can see the schedule and follow a link to the sign-up page here.