Read the World: Eastern Europe

‘Eastern Europe’ is pretty hard to concretely define, but I did find a list of ten countries on Wikipedia, and I decided to roll with that. We’re talking about a culturally rich part of the world, that includes countries like Russia, Ukraine and Romania. Without further ado, let’s get into the books I’ve read that are set in Eastern Europe!

Once & Then

Once &Then by Morris Gleitzman Set in Poland during World War Two, this is a handy compilation of the first two books in the ‘Once’ series. The stories are told from the perspective of a young boy, and they are heartbreaking. While they can’t tell us much about modern-day Poland, they do deal with a really important part of the country’s history.

First Love

First Love by Ivan Turgenev This is a little novella set in Russia, first published in the 1800’s. I love being able to read about other countries through the words of native writers, and this book is fantastic! It’s quick and emotional, and it offers a little insight to the complex world of social propriety at the time.

Zoli

Zoli by Colum McCann Zoli is set in Slovakia, and follows the life of a female gypsy who turns her hand to poetry. It’s a really sad book, but definitely worth a read. Again, this one deals with some more modern history, and the way different people treated the Romany people. It’s a group of people that I don’t think are too well represented in literature, and it was great to learn more about that culture.

Everything is IlluminatedEverything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer This little book is probably the most obscure on the list, but it’s also the only one set in a modern time. This story follows a Jewish American’s journey through Ukraine, looking for his ancestors. The book skips between time periods and methods of story-telling, and it is a really touching and interesting novel. Watch the film too, though, because I like that better.

The only other novel I’ve read set in this area is Dracula (Romania), but it didn’t feel right putting that in! What books set in Eastern Europe can you recommend? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

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Month in Books: June 2014

The wrap-up for June is here!

The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells – 3 stars This is definitely my preferred Wells book! It was an interesting premise: you guessed it – there’s a man…who’s invisible.

Zoli – Colum McCann – 4 stars This novel is about the gypsy people in Slovakia, and the struggles and discrimination they’ve faced from about World War 2 onwards. Follow poet Zoli as she is not only targeted by the world but her own people.

The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde – 5 stars This is my favourite play! Funny and cute and almost Shakespearean in its gleeful confusion. It’s short too, so definitely worth getting your hands on a copy.

Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding – 4 stars I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It’s told in a diary form (surprise!), but it feels very genuine and works as well as – if not better than – any other story I’ve read in this form. Also, it’s funny.

The Monstrumologist – Rick Yancey – 4 stars This YA historical horror was great! Rick Yancey also wrote the infamous’The Fifth Wave’, but I really think this one is better. The protagonist is an orphaned boy who is an apprentice for the renowned monster hunter.

Journey to the River Sea – Eva Ibbotson – 5 stars I’m sure I’ve already talked about this little gem on this blog, but here it is again! Orphaned English school-girl is sent off to the Amazon and unwittingly embarks on a fairy-tale-like adventure.

The Raven – Edgar Allan Poe “Quoth the Raven, nevermore.” Yeah, that one.

Delirium – Lauren Oliver – 5 stars I reviewed this here! At the moment, this is my favourite YA Dystopian. In a world where love is curable, our main characters have to decide what they stand for.

Everything Is Illuminated – Jonathan Safran Foer – 4 stars A Jew visits Ukraine to try and find out more about his ancestry. This is such a creative book, told in letters, lists and prose. It’s funny and heart-breaking, and really quite an excellent book.

Crossed – Ally Condie – 3 stars The second book in Ally Condie’s YA trilogy ‘Matched’, follow our characters as they…walk across some rocks. Suffice to say that it’s not my favourite of the series, but you do get to know some great characters, and we learn about the Dystopian society in which they live.

Trash – Andy Mulligan – 4 stars Set in an unnamed Asian country (the Philippines), this story is about three young friends who survive by selling what they can find in the rubbish heaps. One day, they come across more than they bargained for…I don’t know how to summarise this. It’s great though, so you should try it.

And that’s June! We’re up to date!

As always, let me know which of these books have tempted you, or which you’ve read before. I’m open to recommendations, too!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

My Top 5 Favourite Book to Movie Adaptations

A lot of film adaptations of books can be acutely disappointing (don’t even talk to me about Eragon), but it’s summer, so I wanted to take a more positive approach. Here are my top five favourite movies based on books:

  1. Everything is Illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer) This movie had to make the top of my list because – strangely – I preferred the film to the book. I think it was a story better told with music and colours and actors than in the words of Foer. Don’t get me wrong: he’s a great writer, but I felt like the story needed more.
  2. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (J R R Tolkein) I haven’t met many book lovers who didn’t also have a deep respect for these movies. Of course they aren’t flawless, but I’d say the fact that they are made by and for LoTR enthusiasts make them special.
  3. The Help (Kathryn Stockett) I love this film (and book) so much. I loved the acting choices in spite of minor aesthetic inaccuracies, and the sensitive balance of humour and heart-break is beyond perfection.
  4. The Prince Of Egypt (story of Moses – the Bible) I wasn’t sure if I could count this as a ‘book-to-film adaptation’, which explains the reason for such a fantastic film being so low on this list. The mind-shatteringly awesome grandeur of the animation, story-telling and scripting brings the ancient story to life (and that’s without mentioning the beautiful Hans Zimmer/Stephen Schwarz soundtrack)
  5. Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins) I think most of us can agree that this film surpassed ‘The Hunger Games’ by far – a really satisfying adaptation that was faithful to – and yet not limited by – the book.

What are your favourite book/movie adaptations?

If you’ve seen any of the films mentioned, let me know what you thought of them!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Everything is Illuminated (in quotes)

I read ‘Everything is Illuminated’ by Jonathan Safran Foer! I had such high expectations for this book after loving the movie adaptation (starring Elijah Wood, and featuring some fantastic music by Paul Cantelon). While it didn’t quite live up to what I’d hoped it would be, it was a good book packed with some really beautiful/interesting/profound quotes. I chose a few of my favourites to share today (that’s not to say I necessarily agree with all of them; I like that they make you think). Enjoy!

  • “The only thing worse than being sad is for others to know you are sad.” (p47)
  • “Humourous is the only truthful way to tell a sad story.” (p53)
  • “Love me, because love doesn’t exist, and I’ve tried everything that does.” (p82)
  • “This is love, isn’t it? When you notice someone’s absence and hate that absence more than anything? More, even, than you love his presence?” (p121)
  • “They had never known the deepest intimacy, that closeness attainable only with distance.” (p134)
  • “This […] would remind her of […] the hole she was learning is not the exception in life, but the rule. The hole is no void; the void exists around it.” (p139)
  • “The more you love someone, the harder it is to tell them.” (p234)
  • “Every love is carved from loss […] but we learn to live in that love.” (p266)
  • “The beginning of the world often comes.” (p267)

If you’ve read this, I’d love to know what you thought. How did you think it compared to the movie? Have I missed any of your favourite quotes?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani