The Sunshine Blogger Award #2

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The lovely Lana @lifeinwordsandlyrics nominated me for the Sunshune Blogger Award. Thank you so, so much! ❤ You can see Lana’s post HERE. Now, let’s start!

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

How Does It Work:

  • Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog
  • Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or on your blog

My Answers to Lana’s Questions:

1. Is there something you can tell readers about yourself and your blog?

Well, my name is Irena and I’m a tea-drinking, almond-eating bookworm and the mother of chinchillas. (Two chinchilla girls, Seffi and Kira.) And my blog is mostly about books. I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing here, but I like to talk about books so I do that. XD

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Seffi and Kira ❤

2. What satisfaction do you get from blogging?

As I said, I like to talk about books. It’ really fun for me to write the posts for the blog. It’s also great when I get some book recommendations from other bloggers.

3. How do you bring traffic to your blog?

I don’t. XD I really don’t try to bring traffic at all. I just write my posts and hope people will read them.

4. What’s something that you’d like to improve on this year?

I would probably like to write more regularly and have some kind of a schedule…

5. How do you get motivated to blog?

I am usually motivated, the only problem is to find time for writing posts. My motivation is usually low when I’m very busy. I write less often then, but still manage to keep up.

6. Do you have any favorite books this year?

Yes! Bright Air Black by David Vann, and Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, which I finished a few days ago, are amazing books! I also finished Marie Brennan’s series Memoirs of Lady Trent which I really liked.

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7. Are there any songs you’re into right now, or music artists?

Well, of course, though I rarely listen to new music. My tastes haven’t changed in years. XD I like Korn’s new single Black is the Soul and another song they haven’t released a video for The Hating. These songs also made me want to listen to some of their older songs as well.

8. What do you like to do with your spare time?

I read (well, who would’ve guessed that XD), watch my chinchillas eat (it’s so cute!), and since it’s summer I like to go swimming in the sea (I hate crowded beaches, though, so I just stay in the sea for as long as I can, and then go home XD). I also like to make almond butter, and eat it afterwards, of course. And I like to spend time with those few people I love. 🙂

9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Oh, no, don’t ask me that! I have some idea, but who knows.

10. If you could choose ONLY 5 subjects to read on other blogs, what would they be? (Books, music, film, health, etc.)

Books, mythology, healthy food and recipes, film, and history. I just recently spent the entire afternoon reading about medieval fashin on the internet. XD

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Examples of medieval clothing. Source.

11. Do you make money from your blog? If not, do you have plans to try in the future?

I wish! XD But no, mine is just a small blog.

My Questions:

1. What is your favourite period in history (the one you find most interesting)?
2. If you could be a fictional character for a day, who would you be and why?
3. What is your favourite TV show at the moment?
4. What is the best book you’ve read so far in 2017? (Or at least one of the best, I know it can be hard to choose.)
5. Do you have a favourite toy, from childhood or now? (Yes, I still buy toys for myself.)
6. Who are some of your favourite villains?
7. What is the favourite place you’ve visited?
8. What is your favourite snack?
9. If you had to choose, would you rather become a vampire or a werewolf?
10. Pirates or ninjas? 😛
11. Share a quote you really like!

My Nominees:

Rachel @paceamorelibri

Ann @annreadsthem

Beatriz @booksnreviewsohmy

Misty @mistysbookspace

Luna @bookishluna

Breeny @breenysbooks

(That isn’t 11 but I hope it’s fine…)


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Top 5 Wednesday: Book Covers I’d Live In

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Top 5 Wednesday is hosted by Samatha at Thoughts on Tomes. The guidelines and topics can be found on the Goodreads group.


This is a great topic! I’ll just start showing some lovely covers, straight away! 🙂

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone illustrated by M. Kay

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Well, we’ll just get this out of the way because, of course, I need to have a Hogwarts related book cover on this list. Everyone wants to live there. I (still) don’t own any of these editions, but I think they’re gorgeous! This is the entire illustration. Just look at this!

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2. The Wordsworth Classics Edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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It just looks so peaceful. And such a gorgeous view! Also, I really wish I could paint, but I’m very bad at it. Maybe I could learn?

3. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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How pretty is this, ha? Barcelona, here I come!

4. These editions of the first two Vampire Chronicles books

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This is how I would live if I ever became a vampire. (There’s still time, I might.) I mean, what’s the point of being a vampire if you don’t live in a big creepy house, right?

5. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

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So, I get a gorgeous mansion with this one? Ok, I’m gone, bye!


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Currently Reading: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

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I’m really happy with my book choices lately. Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest is amazing so far, and I believe it will be amazing ’till the very end.

This novel is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Seven Swans”, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a story about six brothers and a sister, Sorcha, who will in the end have to save all of them. I believe this sentence from the Goodreads description portrays it perfectly:

Daughter of the Forest takes the reader to an Ireland on the edge where history and fairy tale meet.

The book has fantastical elements, but the magic feels so realistic that you almost don’t percieve it as something foreign or made up. It is also deeply rooted in Celtic folklore, and it speaks about the history of Ireland and Britain, where different nations lived, fought, and coexisted. At times it felt like reading historical fiction.

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One thing I’ve noticed, which may not be that important to everyone, but is very important to me, is the way this book deals with animals and nature. Respect which the characters show towards nature is very true to Celtic beliefs (I’m not an expert on this, but I’ve read about it quite a lot). It is stressed many time just how important nature is, and I think this is something we should hear more often. The villain of the story shows her true nature by doing bad things not only to people, but also to the plants. Animals are treated with respect. One of the brothers saves a dog, loyal Linn who appears all the time in the book (at least for now). Another brother saves a wounded owl, and cries as he lets her fly free. Sorcha doesn’t even eat animals, and I was so happy to read that, since it is not that common to have vegetarian characters.

I had not eaten flesh or fish since I was a small child, for I had always felt a closeness with other creatures that made my senses revolt at the very idea.

Then, there’s also her reason for not wearing shoes:

“I need no shoes, Father,” I said, hardly thinking. “My feet are tough, look,” and I raised one narrow, grubby foot to show him. “No need for some creature to die so I can be shod.”

I was so excited to read this, as I, too, don’t wear leather at all. And then, this book is also against war, and it makes it clear that people shouldn’t be judged by their nationality. So many good messages! This is what one of the brothers, Finbar, says to Sorcha:

“But there are two sides to every fight. It starts from something small, a chance remark, a gesture made lightly. It grows from there. Both sides can be unjust. Both can be cruel.”

Sorcha is kind and loving, but she’s also smart and she always speaks her mind. She knows how to make potions and is a very good healer. It is clear that she is proud of who she is, and that she doesn’t want to change for anyone.

“Why should I be polished and improved like goods for sale? I might not even want to marry! And besides, I have many skills, I can read and write and play the flute and harp. Why should I change to please some man? If he doesn’t like me the way I am, then he can get some other girl for his wife.”

Of course, good messeages don’t necessarily make a good book, but this book IS good. It is interesting, thought not too fast-paced. It gives you time to get to know the characters, without being too descriptive or slow. I really hope it’ll stay this good until it’s finished.

Have you read Daughter of the Forest? Do you want to? Feel free to let me know. 🙂


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Let’s Talk About Steampunk!

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Source: Pixabay.com

I’m currently reading Soulless by Gail Carriger. It’s a fun, witty, fluffy read, and, apparently, it’s steampunk. So, instead of doing a Currently Reading post, I decided to talk about steampunk and what the word actually means.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines steampunk as:

science fiction dealing with 19th-century societies dominated by historical or imagined steam-powered technology

This is the most general definition, and the one that is often used to describe steampunk. However, this genre is much more than that, and it is much more difficult to describe. For example, the top definition from Urban Dictionary says:

Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan “What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.” It includes fiction with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes.

The author of the definition goes on to explain certain sub-genres of Steampunk: medieval steampunk, Victorian steampunk, western steampunk etc. For example, the film Wild Wild West is generally labeled as steampunk, but it is set in the Wild West, which makes it western steampunk. (I actually can’t think of a medieval steampunk example, so I’d apprecite suggestions.) This definiton is actually in opposition to the common perception that steampunk is a sub-genre of neo-Victorianism – apparenty it doesn’t have to take place in a world inspired by Victorian England.

This leads to another definition – steampunk is a blend of science fiction and fantasy. It can be set in any historical period, but it has to involve some kind of “old” technology in a new, interesting way. (Use of non-existent science and technology is why Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case od Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also considered steampunk by some.)

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Steampunk often features dirigibles and zeppelins, and some other long-forgotten inventions. Steampunk did, however, get its name after the steam power, so steam-powered engines and machinery should be unvolved. Steampunk also shows a lot of love to cogs and clockwork.

Now, on to the books I’ve read that are labeled as steampunk. First of them is the aforementioned Soulless. Soulless is set in Victorian England, with the addition of vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. It also features dirigibles, and a lot of talk about the natural science of supernatural creatures. The approach to science is very Victorian, so I think this book represents steampunk quite well.

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Tales of The Ketty Jay series is also labeled as Steampunk, and it definitely falls into that category. This series is all about airships. The world can be seen as Victorian, but it is not a literal representation. It certainly does feel like it’s happening in the past, but it also might not be. The airships do use steam power, but they seem more advanced than digiribles, which is also very characteristic of steampunk. Science in this book is closely related to so-called daemonism, which is an interesting concept since science was often demonised in the past. This is definitely a series I would recommend, because it’s fun, and the characters are amazing.

There are also some classics that fall into the steampunk category, though they were written before the term was even invented. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne features Nautilus, a submarine that is very advanced for its time. However, in Jules Verne’s time, this book would probably be considered SF, since to its first readers it wasn’t a book set in the past. Another steampunk classic is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

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Of course, steampunk doesn’t exist only in literature. It is a subulture – it exists in fashion and is also a music genre. When it comes to fashion, steampunks are often described as “goths who discovered brown.” You probably all know how this fashion looks like, so I’ll move on to music. Steampunk music is something had to define. Generally, it should be music that uses only old instruments (no electronics) and it can be closely related to dark cabaret. Therefore bands such as Rasputina, and even The Dresden Dolls are often labeled as stempunk.  Aurelio Voltaire and Emilie Autumn are also artists who are sometimes labeled steampunk, though their artistic expression is far more diverse that that. (Emilie Autumn is my favourite! Had to say it. XD) However, some bands go further than that – they are dressed in Steampunk fashion and their lyrics are like from a steampunk novel.

One of those bands is Abney Park. They started as a goth-industrial band, but they are now steampunk to the core. The band even created a fictional backstory: the band’s plane collided with a time-travelling dirigible called the Ophelia in a great storm. The band commandeered the vessel, deciding to become airship pirates. This backstory is used for many of their lyrics.

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Source: Wikipedia

Other similar bands are The Cog is Dead, Ghostfire, Vernian Process, Steam Powered Giraffe, Unextraordinary Gentleman and many others. Ghostfire has a particularly interesting description on Last.fm:

The music of Ghostfire resonates to the debauched decadence and absinthe-fuelled anarchy of life in the eighties…

The 1880’s.

Stalking the cobbled streets; lurking in the shadows of the darkest alleyways… Dare you glance beyond the safety of the guttering gaslights, to where the gin-soaked doxy plies her trade, the dipper watches his mark and the drunken sailor staggers blindly?

It’s this shadowy world of villains, rogues and rascals that Ghostfire calls home.
In the darkest corners of the flash taverns, we raise glasses with vagabonds, footpads, pirates and thieves, all seeking sanctuary in the anonymity only notorious London Town can afford…

Now, I’m definitely not an expert on steampunk, so there’s still a lot for me to learn. I’d definitely like to hear from you. How do you define steampunk? Do you have any book recommendations? If you do, please share! 🙂


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Top 5 Wednesday: Books That Aren’t Set In/Inspired By The Western World

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Top 5 Wednesday is hosted by Samatha at Thoughts on Tomes. The guidelines and topics can be found on the Goodreads group.


* Talk about books that are set outside of the Western World (so outside of North America and Western Europe) or if they are SFF, books that aren’t inspired by those places (so no medieval setting fantasy!) *

Sadly, I’ll have to cheat a little bit in this one… And I say sadly because it’s quite embarrasing that I’ve read so little books that are not set in the Western World. This has to change! So, since some of these books are not entirely set outside of the Western World, I decided to make a list of more than five books. Actually, I made a list of five and then an additional list of three fantasy books or books with fantastical elements that aren’t set in our world, but are inspired by a non-Western country. Here are my picks:

 

Books set in the real world

1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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This is quite a cheat since most of the book is set in the US, but part of it is also set in Nigeria. It also speaks about race and being a black woman in the Western World, so I think it is an important read.

2. Honour by Elif Shafak

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Another book that doesn’t quite fit the theme, but parts of this book are set in rural Turkey. It also speaks about immigration and being treated as “The Other”, but it also speaks about the problems people face in rural Turkey, about religious fanaticism and how easily it can be spread. It’s a powerful, painful read with no idolisation. And Shafak’s writing style is beautiful. I can’t wait to read another book by her.

3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

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This graphic novel is not entirely set in Iran, because it too deals with immigration. I learned a lot from it, and I highy recommend it to everyone.

4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

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This book is absolutely wonderful! And so sad. It deals of two Afghan women whose lifes get intertwined. As Hosseini himself said, it’s a tribute to all the Afghan women who suffered so much. Just go and read it!

5. The Vegetarian by Han Kang

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This book is so different and mystical that it almost feels like it sould belong to the fantasy category. It’s an interesting portrayal of South Korean society, and a story of a woman’s desire to find herself despite the said society and it’s norms.

Books set in a fantasy world or with fantastical elements

1. Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

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Pyramids is a stand alone novel within Terry Pretchett’s Discworld series, and it is mostlx set in Ankh-Morpork, a land which is inspired by Ancient Egypt. Terry Pratchett’s books are fun and clever, and this one is no exception.

2. Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

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This book is set in the real Ancient Egypt, with the addition of some supernatural elements. Queen of Kings is a bit strange, but I liked it, though to be honest I’ve read it a long time ago so who knows what I would think of it now. XD In the book, Cleopatra doesn’t kill herself but instead makes a deal with goddess Sekhmet who then possesses her body. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but interesting.

3. Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

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While the main character on these fantasy novels is from a country based on Victorian England, in each book she travels to a different part of the world. For example, in the Tropic of Serpents she travels to places based on African countries, later on she travels to places based on The Middle East etc. The books also touch upon the subject of colonisation, which is something I was very happy to find in books about dragons.

What are some of your favourite books that are not set in the Western World? I’d really appreciate your recommendations! 🙂

Currently Reading: Bright Air Black by Davin Vann

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Recently, I talked about Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, the retelling of The Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective. The book I’m currently reading is also a retelling of a Greek myth, and this time it is the myth of the Argonauts, Jason and Medea. Mostly about Medea, though, since it focuses on her point of view.

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Medea is without words, without thought. She has unstrung the world, pulled some vital thread and unraveled all. Nothing to do now but hold her breath and find out whether a new world re-forms.

Bright Air Black by David Vann is bloody and brutal, as mythology often is. Medea is a sorceress, and this book shows her in all her power and ruthlessness.

She would rather be this. She would bring all together, in balance and quiet. Rule without sound, without rough movement. All held and cought and perfect. But she knows she is meant to destroy, and she knows that she is not done.

Medea is also in search of herself and her place in the world, and she is scared of failure. Despite the horrible things she does, it’s impossible not to sympathise with her, especially when some things she says sound very true.

Kings always blind. Her father not considering his daughters, believing a threat only in a son. Daughters to him no more than a tool to bind other peoples through marriage. Unwilling emissaries, their will never considered. (…) Outcast. This is what she had chosen, and it would have been chosen for her anyway. Her father an enemy later if not now, marriage not powerful enough to prevent war.

There are similarities between Bright Air Black and The Penelopiad, but so far I like this book better. I just love how Medea’s desire to rule, and be powerful and independent is weaved through every paragraph. The writing style is wonderful and poetic. It really made me want to freshen up my knowledge of Greek myths and tales, so besides Bright Air Black I’m also reading Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. Bright Air Black even inspired me to write some short stories (the one I posted recently is one of them), and I don’t think there’s a better recommendation for a book than that. So, I leave you with another quote and I hope this post will make you want to read the book.

 Why the constant desire to kill and dominate? Even in herself, relentless, a need to conquer. She would make all cower on the ground before her, every man in every land.

Top 5 Wednesday: Children’s Books

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Top 5 Wednesday is hosted by Samatha at Thoughts on Tomes. The guidelines and topics can be found on the Goodreads group.


“This can include Middle Grade (but try to recommend more than just Harry Potter and Percy Jackson!) Feel free to talk about your childhood faves or more recent reads.”

This is such a nice topic! I tried to remember the books I liked in primary school, and I came up with this list. (There are some great books by Croatian authors that loved as a child, but they haven’t been translated to English so I’ll leave them out of the list.)

1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

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This is the first book I remember falling in love with. I loved all the characters, and it made me believe my stuffed animals are alive, too. XD I have two Eeyore toys, he’s my absolute favourite (and you can see one of them in the photo.)

2. The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen

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Image courtesy: Pixabay.com

When I was a child, I hated unhappy endings, but Hans Christin Andersen intrigued me for some reason. When I heard that the Disney version of The Little Mermaid is based on a story by Andersen,  and that it was actually a sad story, I was a bit disappointed, but also interested to know the original story. When my mother told me that The Little Match Girl was one of the saddest stories she’s ever read, and that she still couldn’t get over it, I had to know what the story was about. Anyway, among the many tragic stories that I (strangely) grew fond of, The Ugly Duckling actually had a happy ending, but it made me cry the most. I’ve always had a soft spot for animals. This story stayed with me ever since I first read it. What The Little Match Girl was for my mother, The Ugly Duckling was for me. (P.S. He’s not ugly, he’s ADORABLE, what’s wrong with you?)

3. Fear Street series by R.L. Stine

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Anything by R.L. Stine, really. I was a horror-loving child who was scared of everything. I’m not joking, I couldn’t sleep with my lights off for a very long time, but I was always attracted to horror. Crazy, I know. I would go to the library and borrow anything with R.L. Stine’s name on it, and my library had more Fear Street than Goosebumps books, so I decided to put Fear Street on this list.

4. The Paul Street Boys by Ferenc Molnár

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Paul Street Boys statue in Budapest. Photo from Wikipedia.

This is a book by a Hungarian author which was required reading for us in primary school. I read it again last year because I was working in a school and my students were supposed to read it, and I think it’s a very powerful, though quite sad book. Most of my students liked it, too.

5. W.I.T.C.H.

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I loved W.I.T.C.H. comics so much I tried drawing my own version of it. And I’m not good at drawing. XD This comic is so magical, and all the girls have their own unique personalities. They had amazing powers, and they fought agains evil, but they also had problems in their personal lives. I hated the animated series, though, because they changed the story and I couldn’t accept that. XD I’d really like to know if any of you have read this? Who was your favourite? Mine was Cornelia.

Honourable mention: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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I put this book as an honourable mention because I didn’t actually read it as a child, I’ve read it a few years ago, but I really loved it! And I think I would’ve loved it as a child, too. It’s just the right combination of creepy and cute. 🙂

Aaaand that’s it. So, what were your favourite childhood reads?


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