Happy Friday!

Dear readers, I set myself the personal challenge of blogging every day this month… but the problem with such challenges is sometimes you don’t have anything to say or just don’t feel like blogging! And therefore you have to put up a somewhat pointless post. This is such a post.

I know I had all day to write something, but there was a crisis and then I had to make dinner and clean and vacuum, though I never did get around to vacuuming, and suddenly I realized it was past ten and I hadn’t blogged.

So, I am going to do a little fiction editing and then go read. I’m reading Ahsoka right now and it is so good. Seriously, if you’re a Star Wars fan and you haven’t read it, it’s definitely worth a read.

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Books, Books, And More Books

I went to the library today to check out a couple of books.

Four Timothy Zahn books at once. That’s how big of a fan I am.

Instead, I walked out with five science fiction books, four of them by Timothy Zahn. I also have a couple of ebooks checked out (we have Overdrive at our library system).

Obviously, you can never have too many books, but now that I look at that stack, I wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, considering I’m editing a manuscript and have knitting projects I want to work on as well! 😉

‘Thrawn: Alliances’ Excerpt is Posted Online!

So, if you’ve been reading my blog regularly or following me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m really, really, really excited about the impending release for a certain science fiction book that’s coming out this July called Thrawn: Alliances. It’s the sequel to Thrawn, which came out in April of 2017. Thrawn is an excellent book—if you like science fiction and haven’t read it, you definitely should read it.

I’m pretty sure that Thrawn: Alliances will be just as awesome. I’m not crazy about the title, but that certainly isn’t going to stop me from reading the book and enjoying it. And how am I so certain I’ll like it? Simple. On March 23, StarWars.com posted an excerpt from the novel and it is going to be amazing. I can’t wait!

If you’re as excited about the book as I am and haven’t read the excerpt, go read it! I don’t really think there are any big spoilers in it, assuming you know the basic premise of the book.

Now if only a publicist at Del Rey would see this post and decide to send me an advance copy… hint hint. 🙂

Admitting Defeat

There are no defeats—only temporary obstacles.
–Admiral Alexander Kolchak

Almost a year ago now (I’m embarrassed to even type that), I started reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The White Guard in Russian. As I write this right now, I still haven’t finished The White Guard. I haven’t even made it halfway. In fact, I’ve decided to give up on it for now.

I feel bad giving up on it because I like Bulgakov. His magnum opus, The Master and Margarita, is amazing. We read that during second semester of my advanced Russian class. It’s fabulous and fantastic and I can’t say enough in praise of it.

I did not feel this way about The White Guard. I found most of the story plodding and the characters tiresome. I may have been able to power through that, though, if I had a better Russian vocabulary. I felt like I was looking up every other word. Bulgakov writes a lot of complicated sentences, too, so once I’d looked up all the words I didn’t know, I’d have to figure out the sentence structure. By the time I figured out the sentence structure, I would have forgotten some of the words already. Imagine this repeating with every page I read. It was enough to drive one mad!

So that is why I must bid до свидания (goodbye) to this book. I’m not saying I’ll never give it another try. After all, my lack of Russian vocabulary is just a temporary obstacle, right? For now, I’m going to read something else. What that something else is, I don’t know. Suggestions are welcome in the comments—either contemporary literature, nonfiction, or the classics. I’m open to suggestions.

Ivan Bunin

While reading the weekly roundup of Imperial Russia-related news over at Royal Russia News this weekend, I found this great quote about Russian author Ivan Bunin, a White émigré, fervent anti-Bolshevik—and the first Russian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

[Cursed Days] is regarded as one of the very few anti-Bolshevik diaries to be preserved from the time of the Russian Revolution and civil war.

His scathing account of his last days in Russia recreates events with graphic and gripping intimacy. His criticism of Bolshevik leaders is unparalleled, referring to them as “pitiful, dull, mangy-looking creatures”.

On hearing of the death of the Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin, in January 1924, Bunin gave an emotional speech in Paris, in which he dubbed Lenin a degenerate by birth, who committed the monstrous crime of crashing the world’s most powerful nation and killing several million people

[…]

Bunin was the first Russian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1933). He was revered among White emigres for his anti-Bolshevik views, and regarded him as a true heir to the tradition of realism in Russian literature established by Tolstoy and Chekhov.

Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin died in Paris on 8 November 1953.

I’ve wanted to read Cursed Days for years, but still haven’t got around to it. However, that little excerpt I quoted above makes me want to read it even more. I have so many Russian books on my to-read list, it’s ridiculous. And I take forever to read in Russian, so I often avoid doing it. Meanwhile, the list grows and grows and grows… That’s just the Russian to-read list, by the way. I have a to-read list of English books, too.

Sigh. So many books, so little time.

A Year of Nonfiction?

Last year, I read almost exclusively fiction. Now, I haven’t actually gone back and calculated, but it feels like I read a higher percentage of fiction last year than in prior years. I did read some nonfiction, but those books were few and far between.

Ever since the start of 2018, I’ve had an insatiable appetite for nonfiction. Now, I have read some fiction—by my count, three out of the ten books I’ve completed so far have been novels—but by and large, nonfiction has been holding my interest. Two of the books I’m currently working on are nonfiction, as are most on my to-read list.

I’m not saying I’ll never read fiction again. I’m looking forward to a certain novel’s release later this year (Thrawn: Alliances), so much so that I’m actually counting down the days. But I do wonder what a year of (mostly) nonfiction would be like. Maybe I’d be all nonfiction-ed out by December—though I certainly would have learned a lot, that’s for sure.

2017: My Year In Books

I meant to write this post ages ago, like at the end of December so it could be scheduled and published towards the beginning of January, but that didn’t happen. Still, it’s better late than never, so I figured I’d write about my favorite (and least favorite) reads of 2017.

First off, I read a fair amount of books in 2017. 105, to be exact. That is fewer than the 2016 number of 126, thank goodness. Reading-wise, 2016 felt very stuffed to me. I didn’t like feeling stuffed. Books are good, but reading to the exclusion of other fun things, like knitting, is not good. If you’re interested, I wrote a post about my 2016 reads last year.

But back to 2017. Goodreads has a nice little summary of everything I read that you can access here. (Note: if you’re a Goodreads user and you want to share your own summary, you have to use the share links at the top right. Don’t just copy the URL because that URL doesn’t have your unique user ID and therefore people will not be able to see your unique summary!)

If the books I read in 2017 had a theme, I’d have to say it was very much a science fiction and fantasy theme. I haven’t actually gone back and counted, but I feel like I read a ton of fiction in general, especially science fiction and fantasy. I don’t think I read much nonfiction at all. In fact, I think I’ve read more nonfiction so far this month than I did all of 2017. I’m not sure why that happened—I didn’t deliberately plan that!

Anyway, to get into the details: out of everything I read, here’s what stood out, both good and bad.

Best general fiction

I think this one has to go to Sarah Shoemaker’s Mr. Rochester. I rarely buy brand-new books, but I snapped this one up as soon as I saw it in the book store because I am a Jane Eyre enthusiast. It did not disappoint. I think you have to read Jane Eyre first to fully appreciate it… but if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, what are you waiting for?!

Best science fiction

If you don’t know my answer to this, you probably haven’t been reading this blog for very long! 🙂 Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn was by far the best science fiction of the year. It’s one of my favorite books, period. And there is a sequel coming out that I’ve posted about (and have a countdown for on this blog—only four more months to go!), so go read this book if you haven’t already.

Best historical fiction

This book, Mary Doria Russell’s Doc, was a surprise hit for me. I thought it was just going to be okay. It was fantastic. It focuses on one year in Doc Holliday’s life (though it mentions a lot of other parts of his life as background) and the quality of the writing is fantastic. I finished it months ago and sometimes I still think about it. To me, that’s the mark of a good book. I’d never heard of the author before I picked it up, but I will have to read more of her work.

Most disappointing

Thus far, I’ve talked about books I like. Now I’m going to be a little less positive. One book I was really looking forward to reading was Sean Danker’s Admiral. The title is awesome, the cover is awesome, and the summary sounded awesome. Unfortunately, the book itself is not awesome. It starts off decently enough, but then devolves into an uninspired tale of first contact. The book is a first in a series and I don’t think I’ll be reading the other two books (I think it’s a trilogy but I’m not sure) because of my disappointment with this one. If you haven’t read it—well, let me just say there are better works of science fiction out there.

Best nonfiction

I don’t want to end this post on a negative note, so the last book I’ll spotlight is best nonfiction. As I said, I didn’t read much nonfiction in 2017, so this book didn’t have much competition… but even in a year where I read solely nonfiction, I think this one would come out on top. I’m talking about John Laughland’s Travesty: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice. You know when you read a book and sometimes you have to go back and read things because they’re so amazing? And you learn so much from even just one sentence? And then as you read the book, you realize that the author is basically a genius and no matter what you do, you’ll never be able to come up with all the original thoughts and connections he (or she) has? That’s what happened to me when I read this book. Laughland is brilliant, there’s no question about that. I’ve been following Balkan history and politics for about ten years now and I have a very contrarian view. Laughland does as well, and his book makes you think.

So, that’s my year in books! What books did you like (or dislike) in 2017? What books are you looking forward to in 2018?

A Rainy Weekend

It’s been a dreadfully rainy weekend here u Natashi (at Natasha’s), which means outside activity (i.e. walking) has been impossible. Therefore, I’ve mainly been inside reading, writing, and making macaroni and cheese.

The reading material has consisted mainly of nonfiction. In fact, I’ve read nonfiction almost exclusively this year thus far, but more on that in a later post. The most recent book I finished was Albert Speer’s Spandau: The Secret Diaries.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read that book. I think I read it a few in high school, but it’s been over ten years since I read it. I think I remembered the book as better than it actually is. Don’t be me wrong, it’s fascinating as a historical document, but I’d forgotten how miserable and depressed Speer was at times, which makes those sections difficult to read.

As for writing, I didn’t write at all yesterday, but I’ve done 2,000 words so far today. My book is rapidly approaching the end, so things are getting very exciting and dramatic. I love writing epic confrontation scenes between characters and my poor protagonist is about to have the biggest confrontation of her life. (Granted, she’s only seventeen, so she hasn’t exactly had that many confrontations before, but there are some nasty surprises awaiting her.)

I have to work tomorrow, but I wish I had another day off to write fiction and write more blog entries… and to spend some time walking since I couldn’t go on a walk this weekend. Too bad I couldn’t have worked today during all the rain so that I could have tomorrow, which is supposed to be nice and sunny, off!

‘Thrawn: Alliances” Has An Official Cover

As I mentioned in this post, I read some Star Wars books earlier this year. I specifically mentioned Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, but I actually got started with Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn, which came out earlier this year. I picked it up on a whim and ended up loving it. The quality of the writing is better than the aforementioned Thrawn Trilogy. The trilogy came out in the early 1990s, so I think Zahn improved as a writer in the intervening twenty-something years. Seriously, Thrawn is fantastic. I liked it so much I read it twice in a couple of months, which is something I rarely do. (I do reread, but usually not in such a short period of time.)

That’s why I was thrilled—I was literally jumping up and down—when I found out there’s going to be a sequel to Thrawn. At first it was just the unnamed sequel, then I found out it had a name: Thrawn: Alliances. Then, in late November, the cover art was officially revealed.

I missed the official reveal back in November. It was right before Thanksgiving, when my mom came to visit me. (I think the official reveal may have been on the actual day she arrived. I didn’t go online much that day or for days afterward.) Anyway, I saw the official cover this past weekend and it is amazing. I just had to share it with all of you. If you’ve seen it already, you can marvel at it again. And if you haven’t seen it, get excited because it’s really, really good.

Ready for the awesomeness? Here it is.

I found it on Star Wars Wiki here.

I love it. I think the cover artist did a really fantastic job. And I am really, really, really looking forward to reading it. If the first book is any indication, it’s going to be amazing. Unfortunately, we have to wait until June 2018 to read it. It comes out on June 26, 2018. (Can you tell I’m counting down the days?!) If only I could get my hands on an ARC… if the publicist for it is reading this post, please send me an ARC so I can read it as soon as possible!

What news books are you excited about next year?

Why I Canceled My Free Hulu Trial

The last time my mom visited me, I signed up for a free trial with Hulu. I wanted to watch the BBC adaptation of War and Peace, which came out in early 2016 when I was at the tail end of the job search that brought me to my current job. Needless to say, I was a bit preoccupied back then, so I missed all the news of this adaptation. I created an account on Hulu, provided my credit card, and had a free month to watch whatever I wanted—with no commercials.

Two weeks into my free trial, I canceled it.

Russians? I think not!

Why did I cancel it, you ask? First off all, I didn’t like the War and Peace adaptation. Before I started watching it, I never considered that I wouldn’t like it—it’s a costume drama based on great Russian literature, so what could I not like?!—but I didn’t. My mom watched it with me and when we finished the first episode, we both agreed that it just wasn’t that good. We couldn’t picture the actors actually being these Russian characters. The acting, at least to me, seemed very flat.

Since we were so unmoved by War and Peace, we tried 12 Monkeys, which, as you may have guessed, left us equally unmoved. We watched the recent Star Trek movie (Star Trek Beyond) and enjoyed it, but that was the only movie we found that we wanted to watch. There were some other decent movies on Hulu, but I’d seen them all already. The remaining movies were just plain bad.

So there you have it. There was no point to keeping my Hulu trial—I didn’t want to forget to cancel and then owe $11.99 for something I didn’t like anyway. I’m still baffled at how many people watch TV. I know a lot of people with Hulu and I thought I was missing something, but apparently not. For now, I’ll stick to my Russian news clips and shows—and books when I don’t feel like watching something because in general, reading beats watching TV any time.