Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Hunger Games Trailer RELEASED!

As you may know, I am not the one usually to post news articles on the website. I usually do with book reviews, author interviews, giveaways and the such. This, however, I am too excited about not to share. After being titillated with a very bare-bones teaser for a while now, fans of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (including me - check out my review of the novel here) get to finally see Katniss in action!

This makes me even more excited about the movie. It seems like March cannot come fast enough! Until then, for all of you who have not yet read this exciting novel, Amazon is offering it at a low price of $5.39 for the paperback and $4.69 for the Kindle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

WWW Wednesdays #1

This is my first time participating in the charming WWW Wednesdays meme, hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading! The meme consists of answering three fun questions.

What are you currently reading?

I am in between books at the moment, but am trying out the romance novel Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch by B.J. Daniels. Good news - it is a free ebook, available on Amazon! I am only a couple pages in, but so far so good!

What did you recently finished reading?

I have recently finished (and reviewed!) two very different books. The first one is a novella by JL Merrow novella entitled Muscling Through, a very juicy and heartwarming romance. The other one is one of my favorite reads this year, Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. (click on the titles for my reviews!)

What do you think you'll read next?

In all honesty, I am not entirely sure. My TBR pile is not very big right now, but I might tackle actor Rupert Everett's autobiography entitled Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins. Nothing is set in stone, though!

Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Oh Gregory Maguire, how exhausted you left me after reading your book! Here I am, excited to finally read your ultra-bestselling novel-turned-pop-culture-phenomenon Wicked, and you give me frustration, tiredness and sheer brilliance! Why, oh why do you take yourself so seriously?

Don't get me wrong, fellow book lovers: if you don't know what book to read next, make sure Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is at least one of your options. Come to think of it, go buy it right now and read it already. There is no escaping it. Not only have I for years obsessed over the marvelous soundtrack the Broadway adaptation of this book has spawned (as if it were not enough that Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, two biggest Broadway divas of our time united as Elphaba and Glinda, the incomparable Joel Grey plays the Wizard!), but now that I have read the book, I feel I will never not think about it. It's one of those works of fiction that stay with you, for better or for worse.

Which isn't to say reading it was easy.

For Wicked, Maguire re-imagines the Oz we thought we knew from the original L. Frank Baum novels and, I would argue even more importantly, from the 1939 Judy Garland film of the same name. The book serves both as a prequel and a parallel story of the Wicked Witch of the West, here named Elphaba, and her life up to that legendary moment when she met Dorothy Gale of Kansas.

Ostracized from birth because of the unpleasant color of her skin, it turns out that Elphaba was a quiet and smart girl with a strong sense of morality and social justice, which made her the perfect enemy of the tyrannical Wizard. The book follows her childhood, university years, days of activism in the Emerald City and, finally, her growing into the fearful Wicked Witch. The cast of secondary characters is extensive, but arguably the two most important characters are Glinda, Elphaba's roommate at college and the first person Dorothy meets after her crash landing in Oz, as well as Nessarose, Elphaba's handicapped-yet-popular sister, who will be the first victim of the intruder from Kansas.

Since its publication in 1995, Wicked has been talked about everywhere, and now that I've read it, I testify that indeed, it is a must-read. The immaculately written 400 pages of the political, sexual and personal circumstances of some of the most influential characters of today's popular culture are all present in this modern classic of extraordinary quality. The book is deeply political, as it investigates the notions of patriarchy, dictatorship, gender (in)equality and, most importantly, evil. Maguire obviously loves language, and Wicked is a book that encourages the reader to lose him or herself in the beautiful and harsh narrative about the life of Elphaba.

And what a character she is! To turn one of the 20th century's most feared villains into a protagonist nobody will be able to help cheer for is not a small feat. Elphaba embodies all the pains of being human, and it is the negotiation of her 'wickedness' that is the main focus of the novel. She is a literary character that will soon become legendary.

All this said, Wicked  is often a frustrating book to read. There are simply too many details, plot lines and characters for a casual reader to follow. Chasing the answers may prove to be too exhausting for some readers, as Maguire does not allow the plots to end too neatly. There are many answers that are merely hinted at, while some are open to the interpretation even after the book ends. I was personally delighted by this decision, but am certain many people will resent Maguire for this reason. The book does take itself a little too seriously. I can imagine some people might find it off-putting, but it is a great piece of fiction, nevertheless!

No one mourns the wicked.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review: Muscling Through by JL Merrow

I must admit that I have lately been obsessed with the romance genre, and for more reasons than one. Firstly, I believe it takes a skillful writer to successfully write a satisfying romance, particularly with all the constraints such a formulaic genre imposes. Think about it - with all these rules about what a romance novel is (and make no mistake, the publishers will only publish the stories that meet very strict criteria), how does an author make the story their own? Do you dare attempt making it original?

On a surface level, JL Merrow's novella entitled Muscling Through seems straight out of a romance novel tutorial. The two protagonists are polar opposites; their romance is unconventional; every single external conflict in the story is a result of misunderstandings.

The story is narrated by Al, a rough and somewhat dimwitted ex-boxer, laboring his life away for London tourists. One night, he meets Larry Morton, a university professor, with whom he strikes up an affair. Obviously, the affair turns into eternal love, but not without a complication or two, usually involving their very different backgrounds, communication skills and some painting, of all things.

I am happy to report that Muscling Through may just be the most charming romance I have ever read. Al is such an endearing protagonist - one can't help but root for this big softy of a man. I was not very fond of Larry, however - and I thought that more characterization would have proven beneficial in his case. However, this is a novella - and in the span of about a hundred and fifty pages, a romance afficionado certainly gets plenty of these delicious men.

Muscling Through is, in my opinion, particularly recommendable for first time readers of romance, and especially gay romance. It is short and compact and, despite its minor problems, it contains all the elements that a m/m romance should. There is the wonderful protagonist, an interesting (but realistic!) plot, and the sizzling scenes of intimacy that never feel pornographic. The cast of secondary characters is especially good. This reader was also surprised by the subtle commentaries of the (silent) class system that these characters need to overcome. Muscling Through is definitely a recommended read!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

In My Mailbox/USA Vlog

Dear bloggers, readers and the like,

I am happy to post this vlog (my third vlog ever!) after settling in my new American existence and getting ready to continue working on my book blog - writing about authors, books and other finer things in life.

As I mention in my blog, I got to go to a final sale at a Borders store, which was both sad and exciting (great discounts, y'all!). Also, I have discovered the amazing website called ABEbooks, where one can shop hundreds of used bookstores and get books for ridiculously friendly prices.

Finally, here is some of the stuff I've mentioned.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice

Everyone knows about Anne Rice. Dubbed the "vampire queen", she is the author of so many popular vampire books, including Interview with the Vampire (which, in turn, was made into a splendid film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise). Everybody knows this. What not too many people know is that Anne Rice has a son, Christopher, and that he is also an author, and a fine one at that. I've seen him praised all around the internet and couldn't wait to get my hands on one of his novels for the longest time. Now that I have, I am pleased to report that the results are beyond amazing.

Rice's debut novel, A Density of Souls (one of the most poetic titles I've come across lately), is a competent, mind-blowing novel that makes me want to read his other stuff as soon as possible. The complex, multi-layered story follows four childhood friends/enemies through their adolescence and young adulthood. Stephen is the shy, gay boy, the book's protagonist, whose life is threatened more than once in the book. Brandon is the popular bully, Greg is the enigmatic weak link and Meredith is the auto-destructive, sensitive girl. The story takes the form of a thriller, with a mystery at its center. The mystery is slowly revealed and it masterfully includes all of the book's many characters.

There is a strong sense of community in the book. The lush setting of New Orleans comes to life with some of the best atmosphere I've ever read in a book. Rice grew up there and he borrows from his life throughout the book. The story has a real, grounded feel to it. There are many people who play a role in the book's plot and sometimes it seems overwhelming. The only thing I disliked about A Density of Souls was that it sometimes got too dense. The character of Stephen mother, for example, works completely when it comes to Stephen's story, but Rice doesn't back away from telling her back story as well, which I found a little irrelevant. Luckily, the book is snappish and doesn't dwell on unimportant plot lines too much.

All in all, A Density of Souls is a splendid debut novel, one which truly makes me lust for more. Christopher Rice is definitely an author to look out for!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx is a writer that I've wanted to read for quite some time, especially because of Brokeback Mountain - a movie that I liked very much (honestly, less then some other people I know, who were pretty much obsessed with it). Anybody who's seen the movie knows that it's more about the cinematography, the acting and the fabulous chemistry between the main actors, than it's about the (very basic) story. And it's exactly the same with the literary source as well.

Proulx's Brokeback Mountain is a novella. A short story, even. The story of two lonesome cowboys whose awkward love affair on the titular mountain leads them to question their very fiber is about 50 pages long. Packed in these 50 pages is more character development than I've seen in some 400-hundred page novels. The story is driven by these vibrant characters, particularly Ennis del Mar, the more "butch" of the two (played in the film by the incomparable Heath Ledger). He is the perfect embodiment of an all-male American testosterone no-nonsense kind of person, his main conflict within the book's realm being the feelings he is forced to juggle.

In all honesty, I enjoyed the movie more. I felt as if the themes and the symbols the book only hints at did not have the space to breathe and develop - mainly the titular mountain, the symbol of Renaissance-like lack of society pastoral environment, which is in sharp contrast with the "town" and all that comes with it. And although I would always choose the movie before reading Brokeback Mountain again, this is a masterfully written novella that should speak to a large readership.


The movie version of Brokeback Mountain on DVD is on sale at Amazon.com, a fantastic bargain for this modern classic. Get it there!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: Raziel by Kristina Douglas

Vampires are all the rage, obviously, and lately angels have also been the talk of the book-lovin' people everywhere. Kristina Douglas (which is, in fact, a pen-name for the bestselling author Anne Stuart) has decided to mix it all up and thus, we have Raziel, the first installment in the Fallen series. Be very excited about this.

Allie is a spunky New Yorker who soon after the first couple of pages finds herself hit by a bus, and well, dead. In charge of her journey from the world of the living to that of the dead is the hunky fallen angel, Raziel. For him, this is a routine task. However, something goes terribly wrong and not only is Allie denied her rest, she gets involved in a terrifying plot of heavenly proportions.

First of all, Raziel is an incredibly fun book to read. This was something that I really did not expect, as both the cover and the first couple of pages seemed really pretentious. However, Allie is possibly my favorite type of heroine: witty, sarcastic and just enough of a spaz to be considered totally lovable. In fact, her narration often reminded me of that of Queen Betsy, the protagonist of MaryJanice Davidson's Undead and Unwed, which was a very fun read as well.

Allie's narration makes up only half of the book, however, as Raziel gets to weigh in from his point of view. Now, this was just amazing. Too often the author gets too caught up in only the protagonist, which then leads to all the other characters becoming two-dimensional. The titular character is just as great and well fleshed-out as Allie. Narration was generally the best part of the novel (although I could have done without certain chapters dedicated to the POV of more minor characters), and the banter between Allie and Raziel often made me giggle.

As for the story itself, I really loved the skillful mix of romance and action. In fact, Douglas' universe is way more complex and intriguing than I expected it to be, and there are some great twists in the plot. That being said, the main plot twist did not really work with me, as it relied on solely withholding information from the reader - the hints were few and far in between, and the final denoument generally felt a bit anti-climactic.

I cannot really take off too many points for this, since this is mainly a romance novel. And the romance in it is really something - instead of coming from cliches or convoluted situations, the author really exploited the characters' traits and their story really felt genuine and, ultimately, satisfying. It should be noted that there is quite a number of steamy scenes in the book, but they are all executed uniformly well and are basically the stuff that (certain) dreams are made of.

To anyone who likes romance and/or paranormal - get your hands all over Raziel. There is quite a lot to satisfy both types of fans. I especially liked the various pop references - Allie's narration allows shout outs to everything from Buffy to Shakespeare. This is truly a satisfying, sexy summer read.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Giveaway Winner: Ex-Girlfriends United

With a little help from RANDOM.org (seriously, a life-saver for book bloggers everywhere), I now give you the winner of Matt Dunn's Ex-Girlfriends United, courtesy of Sourcebooks!

Drum roll, please... Here's what RANDOM.org had to say about this.

Congratulations, Sarah! I will email you right now and as soon as I have your postal address, I will forward it to Sourcebooks. Enjoy the book!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review: Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo

A book that never really grabs you by the throat, but definitely leaves scratch marks after you're done reading it. A book that never really feels like a wonderful, interesting read, but nevertheless, you feel like you're gaining so much for simply reading it. A book that to some people felt like 9/11 premonition. Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis.

The story is easy. Set in one day, it follows a rogue capitalist, Eric Packer, on an Odyssey around New York City. He spends most of the book in his limousine, which serves as his office, his medical examination room and his house. He meets a variety of characters, including his associates, his doctor, his wife and his lover, none of which are very interesting. He witnesses a protest. He contemplates about linguistics, literature and the modern world. And then the ending happens.

To those interested in plot lines, fascinating characters and emotional roller-coasters that many novels offer, stay away from Cosmopolis. It lacks a natural plot, the characters are even less than archetypes and the whole experience is decidedly frigid. On the other hand, if musings about the nature of space and time are your thing, if you think you'd enjoy a clever rant on the philosophy of capitalism disguised within capitalism itself, then by all means get this book.

I certainly appreciated the many things Cosmopolis had to offer. The nature of language that DeLillo talks about, for example, rang completely true for me. Why use the word 'skyscraper', he muses, if the very notion of a skyscraper is that of another time. The word should retire, just as taller buildings have made skyscrapers obsolete. It's similar with society, he implies. A simple ride to the barbershop, something that seems so obviously quaint in the universe of Cosmopolis, must end tragically, as it is definitely a thing of the past. The vision of the world in Cosmopolis is far from peachy.

I could never honestly recommend this book to anyone, but I do recommend you try and read it for what it's worth. And if you like it, if you see yourself responding to the massive ideas that DeLillo throws your way, Cosmopolis is a great place to start exploring such concepts as hyper reality, chaos theory, creation of space, rogue capitalism, etc.

Plus, there is a Robert Pattinson movie adaptation in the works.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Teaser Tuesday #8

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by MizB at ShouldBeReading.

Here are her instructions:
Grab your current read, turn it to a random page and share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Make sure that what you share does not give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others! Share the title and the author too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like the teaser.

I'm reading another romance novel, and the one I've been wanting to read for quite some time. So far, I really like it. The book in question is Raziel, book one of Kristina Douglas' The Fallen series. I'm sure you've at least seen the yummy cover! Anyway, here's a little sample of the relationship between the macho alpha male and the spunky heroine:
Asshole. He knew I didn't have much to fight back with. Little did he know that I'd always been wickedly inventive. Maybe that was why I'd been sent to hell. Hands sliding down my body, beautiful hands, his mouth following, on my breast, sucking...

"Stop it!" he said with complete horror, pushing away from me as if burned by the sultry image in my brain.

I smiled sweetly.  "I've got a hell of an imagination, Raziel," I sadid, calling him by name for the first time. "Stay out of my head or prepare to be thoroughly embarassed."

Review coming soon!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Help needed!

Dear fellow bloggers, book lovers and readers, I have a big favor to ask from you. I don't know whether you have ever heard of Empire Magazine, but it is the biggest movie magazine in the world (at least to my knowledge); the Vogue of movies. The latest copy, as some of you may know, includes the exclusive, collectors edition, Harry Potter: The Perfect Farewell supplement.

It is a 36-page mini magazine, as far as I can tell, and being a HP fan this huge, I would just love to have it. You can check it out here and see the prices here (it's 5£ in the UK with free shipping). Problem? Here in Serbia, I could only find it for 15 pounds, and that is way beyond what I can afford. So, here's the deal. Would it be possible for anyone who can get it cheaply (those from the UK particularly) to buy if for me and then send it my way? Here are some books that I would be willing to offer in return for the magazine.

Margo Lanagan - Black Juice (paperback, definitely shows wear): Lanagan's 10 fantasy short stories are set in cultures both familiar and unknown and are peopled with empathetic characters who battle nature, individuals, and events. The stories begin slowly, but Lanagan gradually draws readers into each brief, fresh reality. It would work especially well in a classroom setting, as it is full of teachable moments.

Beth Fantaskey - Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (hardcover, like new): Jessica Packwood is a normal teen attending Woodrow Wilson High School. Her mathematical nature has even given her a slightly geeky reputation, which is about to change with the arrival of Lucius Vladescu, who seems to be stalking her. She tells her mother about him and learns that she is really a Romanian vampire princess who has been betrothed to Lucius at birth. 

Geoffrey Chaucer - Canterbury Tales (paperback, good condition): The Modern English version of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is a reader-friendli(er) edition of a beloved classic. On a spring day in April--sometime in the waning years of the 14th century--29 travelers set out for Canterbury on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas Beckett. Travel is arduous and to maintain their spirits, this band of pilgrims entertains each other with a series of tall tales that span the spectrum of literary genres.

Freya North - Pillow Talk (paperback, good condition):  What keeps you up all night? They were high-school sweethearts who hadn't seen each other for seventeen years. And suddenly they're in front of each other - in a tiny sweet shop in the middle of nowhere. These days, Petra works in London as a jeweller while Arlo has left his rock-and-roll lifestyle for the wilds of North Yorkshire. Out of the blue, their paths have just crossed. But what are the skeletons in Arlo's closet, and just what causes Petra to sleepwalk? 

Thank you so much for reading through this and considering my offer. I think it's pretty cool if you'd like to read one of these books. We could either go through book mooch, or like this. If somebody is willing to buy and send me the magazine, but is not interested in either of these books, I would probably be open to sending you a book of your choice from the BookDepository (around £5) - then you'd get a new book! Anything goes.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Interview + Giveaway: Matt Dunn

Today we have a special treat on the blog. Matt Dunn, a British novelist living in Malaga, Spain (lucky!) has stopped by for an interview and a giveaway. His novel Ex-Girlfriends United, the premise of which includes a website with reviews about people which people can check before they go on the date with them, has just been released in the US by Sourcebooks!

Welcome to Nikola’s Book Blog! We are so happy to have you here.

Thank you for having me!

You write fiction that has, if I may say so, traditionally been reserved for women, if you don’t count certain bestselling authors like Nick Hornby, Dan Begley or Tony Parsons. Have you felt any anxiety of authorship? Do you think men and women write differently?

I don't feel any anxiety, perhaps because I don't feel I'm writing for any particular gender, and while I'm aware that more women than men read my books, I actually enjoy the fact that I'm 'different'. I've been told that one of the reasons women like my books is because I give the inside track on what men really think about life, love, and relationships - if that's my 'USP', then I'm happy to oblige. 

As to whether men or women write differently, I think they often write about different things, mainly because they're often interested in different things, but good writing is good writing whatever sex the author is.

Your novel Ex-Girlfriends United is coming out in the US this month. You must be pretty excited, even though you’ve already had the book come out in the UK like three years ago?

I'm very excited. The prequel, The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook, came out in the US last year and got a good reception, so I'm interested to see how this one does.

The premise of Ex-Girlfriends United doesn’t seem very far-fetched. Were you inspired by any websites that really exist? Do you think this instant-getting-to-know-someone is typical of relationships nowadays?

No – I wasn't aware of anything like SlateYourDate, although it's a mystery to me why a website where people can rate their exes doesn't exist yet. Surely it'd be an ideal add-on to some of the bigger dating websites – it'd save people a lot of time and effort! And yes, internet dating in particular has meant that people know an awful lot about each other before they've even met – assuming what's written on their profile is true – meaning the early fun part of relationships, the 'getting-to-know-you' bit, is accelerated, and in some cases bypassed. It adds an interesting dynamic, but I think it also makes people feel relationships are a lot more disposable. Which isn't a good development.

Do you read chick or lad lit yourself? Do you have any favorite or inspirational authors?

Nick Hornby's High Fidelity was the book that made me want to write in the first place, John O'Farrell's The Best A Man Can Get was the book that almost made me want to stop, it was so funny. In terms of chick lit, Sophie Kinsella is hilarious (and was kind enough to give me a quote for the cover of Ex-Girlfriends United) , but I read a variety of authors– most recently, I've enjoyed David Nicholls' One Day. David Mitchell is possibly my favourite writer – Cloud Atlas is the most amazing novel I've ever read. I also love Haruki Murakami, Jay McInerney, Iain Banks, Douglas Coupland... Too many to mention, really. I've just read my first Jonathan Tropper – How To Talk To A Widower – which was excellent, so I'm looking forward to reading more of his work. 

You write on your website that From Here to Paternity may become a movie! How do you feel about this? 

I'd love it if it happens – but I know a lot of authors, and while many of them have had their books optioned, only one  - Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic - has actually made it to the big screen, so I'm not holding my breath. Of all my books, I'd love  The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook to be made into a movie – not only because I've already written two sequels – but because I'd love to see Ed and Dan brought to life. So if any producers are reading this, feel free to get in touch.

Thanks for stopping by the blog! And a big thank you to Beth from Sourcebooks who graciously offered one copy of Ex-Girlfriends United to one lucky reader!

Here are the rules of the giveaway:
To enter, simply leave a comment below and make sure you include your email address! The giveaway ends on June 25th. You can win extra entries by doing the following:

+2 follow my blog
+2 tweet about the contest (leave a link)
+2 link to the contest anywhere else (leave link(s))
+4 visit Matt's website and come back with the title of the book of his you'd most like to read and why!

The giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Here comes a long-overdue review of a book I absolutely LOVED. Yup, it's the book-blogging favorite, the soon-to-be-motion-picture-blockbuster, Hunger Games!

Seriously, have you read this book? After I got burned a couple of times with certain YA books that everybody seemed to love (Eclipse? Hush, Hush?), I was just not that sure about Hunger Games. The unusual cover certainly drew me in, as it seemed to promise an actual plot, and I caved in and read it.

In like one day.

Here's the layout, although I'm pretty sure you already know what this book is all about. The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, lives in a dystopian country of Panem, in it's poorest area, called simply District 12. Soon, she is selected to participate in Hunger Games - a gladiator-style combat between children, where there can be only one winner, seeing as they fight each other to death. Each district sends two contestants - a girl and a boy - and Katniss' companion/enemy is the sometimes-adorable, sometimes-despicable character of Peeta. There is also the character of Gale, Katniss' best friend and possible love interest.

Okay, so before we continue, go and buy the book. Seriously. Okay, all done? Let's continue with the review.

I was shocked and amazed by the level of trust and respect author Suzanne Collins seems to have for her young readers. Not since J. K. Rowling have I seen a young adult book so frank when it came to not only violence, but poverty, oppression, politics, and any other uncomfortable topic. This book will not play it safe or sugarcoat, and I believe this is highly commendable. And just so you know, the book packs a powerful punch - it is emotional, scary, exciting and often very violent. On the other hand, its aim is never to simply shock and, given its unorthodox topic, it is never exploitative.

The character of Katniss is a make-it-or-break-it kind of character, since the book relies mostly on her. I am happy to say she is one of the most impressively written characters I've ever read in YA. Other characters are equally good, if somewhat marginalized, and I particularly enjoyed the character of Peeta and his arch. The novel ends in a cliffhanger of sorts, so I am very excited to read the sequel sometime soon and see where these characters are going.

I hear they are making a movie based on the first book in the series, and obviously I am interested in seeing it, if only to see if they have done the book justice. The book itself closely resembles a novel entitled Battle Royale by the Japanese author Koushun Takami (never read it), as well as its movie adaptation (never seen it, though there is a trailer on YouTube - beware, it's not for the faint of heart).

All in all, I could not recommend Hunger Games more. It's an honest, smart and intriguing start of what is surely a fantastic series and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books, starting with the sequel, Catching Fire.



This review was entered in the "Book Review Wednesday Party" Competition

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sex and the YA

As you may know if you've read my #amazonfail post, I get very, very angry if someone tries to censor books in any way, which for me includes saying that if someone is to read something (say, Harry Potter), then one is of a lesser moral standard (say, demonic) than the one who doesn't read the damn thing. If that makes any sense.

So, naturally, I was kinda pissed off when I read the blog post by this fabulous up-and-coming author, 'Quinn'. Quinn is the second-place winner of a competition for unpublished authors, and the prize is a professional critique on his first 10 pages. How cool is that!?

Unfortunately, he has gotten a lot of harsh comments from people in the comment section under the post that announced these winners, because, well, his novel starts with a sex scene. And there's talk about a right breast being seen and the sudden tightness of the boy's jeans in the crotch area. You know, an erection. Apparently, the people who commented would never give this sort of YA books to their teenagers to read, which I guess is okay, since different parents parent differently (though I can bet my own right man-breast that your teenagers have gone further than simply feeling the tightness in their pants from time to time, but whatever).

The problem here is that they feel like they have the right to comment under the post announcing Quinn's victory (and there was a judge, I mean, he didn't just get it randomly) to give their two cents about why they think he shouldn't have got it. I mean, who cares about your f-ing standards!? How dare you assume that your standards and no-one else's should be the norm?

Head over to the post I'm talking about and read the winning paragraph (which I think is sexy, non-exploitative, non-pornographic, as well as wonderfully written), as well as the comments. And obviously, let me know what you think - am I overreacting? What do you expect to read in your YA books? Should there be a standard? Did you blush when Edward and Bella, you know, did it?

Finally, congratulations to Quinn and don't let these people rain on your parade!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Definitely not a pleasure read by any means, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is nonetheless one of those books that will always stay important and valuable, even though the readers' reactions and perceptions of it may change.

In a nutshell: Douglass was a 19th-century African American slave who not only managed to escape the brutalization he endured under several masters (sometimes described rather graphically, as they should be), but also learned how to read and write, ultimately writing three (!) autobiographies and becoming a prominent member of the abolitionist movement.

There are a number of great literary elements in the Narrative that are worth discussing, but let's get one thing out of the way here - this is first and foremost a valuable historical artifact, one of the very few 19th-century first-hand slave stories in existence (I believe there were around seven written, though I may be wrong, but it is an incredibly small number compared to at least 60 million slaves who lost their lives at the time). As such, it does not go particularly well with 21-century literary mindset - it is too linear, way too descriptive and although a lot happens in a relatively short book, it never feels particularly exciting or page-turning. Don't let this distract you.

For it packs an incredibly strong punch, not just with the story itself (which should definitely be enough). It is not a black-and-white account by any means, as it manages to criticize certain attitudes of enslaved Negroes as well as show that slavery was not easy even for some white people to comprehend. It shows Douglass's journey from slavery to freedom as his acquisition of masculinity, as this is something that he never was allowed to have (although in this respect, I feel that Harriet Jacobs' narrative is far superior). His description of slavery transcends time and manages to speak for all the oppressed, even today, and it really makes the reader think about such issues as violence, disrespect, humanity and, of course, love.

Make sure you pick this up, especially if you've never read a slave narrative before. These narratives may be outdated and too simplistic for our perceptions of literature, but there is no reading, say, Alice Walker or Toni Morrison without them!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Amazing News - Cunninghamfan Coming to America!

As you may have noticed, my blog has been on another hiatus lately... However, for the first time ever, the reason for this hiatus is not something bad - illness or death in family, as it was earlier on.

I have been super busy studying and dealing with the paperwork because I won a scholarship for one school year in America! That's right, I will be studying at Humbold State University, California, for a year - starting this August.

I am super excited to do this, not only because of the obvious reason, but also getting a chance to maybe even attend an amazing book signing or two,  or meet some of you. So any of you guys in California somewhere? I am pretty sure I will go to San Francisco, Sacramento and LA during my stay, so if there is someone to show me around town or maybe point me in a direction of a book shop, I would be  most grateful! Let me know!

I am now getting down to business writing reviews I haven't yet written, wrapping up the ancient giveaways I still haven't wrapped up, and all in all, getting this blog into order.

What have you been up to?

Monday, February 21, 2011

'I Am Number Four' Book + Movie Combo!

I was thrilled to be asked to spread the word about the FABULOUS deal on Bookperk.com that concerns the long-awaited release of the I Am Number Four movie. The Pittacus Lore novel has amazed readers everywhere and now you can get the movie tie-in edition in hardcover (featuring Alex Pettyfer on the cover, the hunk de jour who seems to be everywhere nowadays) for $17.99 and get a free movie ticket with it (for any movie!), only on Bookperk! It's not a competition - everyone gets the ticket. Bear in mind that the offer expires on the 18th, so you have about a week left to kill two birds with one stone. Click here to read more.

And obviously, come back and let me know if the movie is worth seeing. I'd greatly appreciate it!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Interview + Giveaway: Tom Dolby

Today, we welcome author Tom Dolby to Nikola's Book Blog! Tom's YA novel The Trust has just recently been published and it is the second in his very successful and popular Secret Society series. This is why I am so excited that Tom is here today to answer some questions and, wait for it, do a giveaway for a SIGNED copy of The Trust! Welcome, Tom!

First of all, congratulations on The Trust being published last week! There must be much excitement in your camp!

Thanks! I'm excited to continue the Secret Society journey for my characters. I'm very fond of Nick, Phoebe, Lauren, Patch and Thad.

Why should people go and buy the Secret Society books right now?

Secret Society is the type of book that I like to curl up with on a snowy winter day - and now that its followup, The Trust, is out, the story has completed its arc. The Trust picks up right where Secret Society left off, so there's no more waiting around to see how those cliffhangers will turn out.

Your earlier novels, The Trouble Boy and Sixth Form, both have gay protagonists and could be dubbed coming-of-age novels. Do you think YA fiction is a good field for writing gay fiction?

I love good adult fiction with gay characters. I haven't written many fiction with gay main character that is "YA" per se, but The Trouble Boy and Sixth Form do have a lot of teenage fans, as they are about teenagers and twentysomethings. I think the teenage years are ripe for exploration, and doing it through young adult fiction is a great way to speak to young people while they are going through these formative years.

Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, an anthology of essays including your own, has just been adapted for the small screen. Would you like to see your Secret Society novels adapted for the screen as well?

Of course! It was thrilling to see Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys become a reality show on the Sundance Channel! Like any author, I would love to see my novels as films!

What is the biggest challenge you face as an author? Also, what's next for Tom Dolby?

I am working on a screenplay now, as well as starting work on a new novel. I think my biggest challenge is simply balancing work with new fatherhood (my husband and I had twin girls several months ago) - it's very rewarding as well as often exhausting!

Congratulations on your new family member as well, Tom!

Tom is offering one SIGNED hardcover copy (how cool is that?!) to one lucky winner. The contest is open to US (48 states) and Canada only! Contest ends February 22nd! To enter, leave a comment with a way to contact you in the comments. The winner will be randomly selected.

BONUS ENTRIES (not mandatory):
+2 for following my blog
+2 for tweeting about the contest (leave the link!)
+2 for linking to the contest somewhere
+4 for blogging about the contest
+4 for visiting Tom's website and coming back with a title you'd read other than the Secret Society books and the reason why!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book to Movie Review: Never Let Me Go

One of my favorite 2010 reads was Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go (click here for the review). It is a strange, wonderful story of a world which does not care for its inhabitants and how the power or love and friendship may or may not win in the end.

The movie adaptation of the novel stars three of the most perspective young actors - Carey Mulligan (Oscar-nominated for An Education), Keira Knightley (Oscar-nominated for Pride & Prejudice) and Andrew Garfield. They play Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, respectively. The three have grown up in a boarding school named Hailsham and, having recently graduated, are thrown in the outside world to fend for themselves. I do not want to give too much away - but Hailsham, as well as the world in the story, may not be at all as it seems and once the three reach this conclusion, they only have each other for support.

Much of my excitement prior to seeing this movie was the cast - namely, Keira Knightley. One of my favorite actresses, she is given the most colorful role in the movie. A part of a love triangle, she embodies the conflicting feelings of competitiveness and vulnerability perfectly, and particularly shines in a scene where she is finally confronted with the reality of her situation. Mulligan and Garfield are just as competent and have remarkable chemistry, which helps the movie immensely. Throw in competent direction and beautiful cinematography and you cannot go wrong with this one.

It is difficult to write about Never Let Me Go without giving anything away. Yet, I cannot recommend this movie enough. My DVD copy will surely be played a great number of times as this wonderful, warm story is slowly becoming one of my all-time favorites. Ishiguro should be really proud.


BEWARE: The trailer contains spoilers!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Review: A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes

Have you ever read Julian Barnes? One of the greatest living postmodernist authors, he is one of those writers who are able to turn serious matter into hilariously witty - yet real - stories. And check out the title of this one: A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters. First, a history, because there are official, textbook histories, but then again, there are the private, subjective, personal histories. In 10 1/2 chapters (the half-chapter is a short essay) are Julian Barnes' view of history. Here, it is not the people who shape history - it shapes people. At least according to Julian Barnes.

The book is hard to define. It could just be a novel - after all, there are overarching themes, symbols, story lines and leitmotifs. On the other hand, each chapter could be read exclusively. Not only that, but each chapter is written with a different narrator and in a different style. The first one, for example, takes place on Noah's Arc and is related from a mystery animal (I won't give it away). This animal stays as a leitmotif throughout the book, but is never the narrator again. In fact, the abundance of voices, narrators and styles in the book shape and populate Barnes' history. There is not one voice, but many.

Not all of them worked for me, naturally. While I enjoyed reading about the Noah's Arc (The Stowaway), a brave and possibly delusional woman (dystopian The Survivor), a tourist ship hijacked by terrorists (The Visitors), the role of art in forming history (The Shipwreck) and the plights of a religious zealot going on a ridiculous pilgrimage (The Mountain), I've also found certain parts dull and uninteresting. And that's okay - just like any other history, there are periods and events that spark your interest more than others. Not liking certain chapters is not enough for me to knock off any points from this book. After all, it is not hard to admire Barnes' mastery.

This is literary fiction that is bursting at the seams with imagery, symbols and fabulous thoughts. However, it is also easy and fun to read, as well as highly entertaining and witty. Go read this book ASAP. Otherwise, you're really missing out.