The giving tree

givingtreeAn apple tree and a child play together every day. While the child grows things start to change. He starts being concerned with other issues, leaving the playing behind.  The apple tree , however, never stops loving him. So every time the growing man appears, the apple tree makes a sacrifice for his happiness, whether it is her leaves, her branches, or her heart.

A highly controversial children book, it has been a subject of both criticism and praise ever since its first publication in 1964. The Giving Tree teaches the act of selfless love and complete devotion, yet it seems just a tiny bit difficult for a child to grasp. The story seems to not be exactly for children, yet a little bit too simplified for adults. The concept of never being satisfied and materialism are points too hard for a child to understand.  The_Giving_Tree

Whatever the criticism concerning the book, it is worth a try for your child as well as yourself. It is a small, melancholic but beautiful story that is certainly worth giving devoting a little time on.

Seraphina

Seraphina_book_cover_(US_addition)“We are all monsters and bastards, and we are all beautiful”

Welcome to  the kingdom of Goredd, where after many years of war against the dragons, humanity has decides to live with them after the signing of a peace treaty. After the King is found murdered under suspicious conditions, Seraphina, a sixteen year old court musician, gets involuntarily involved and tries to solve the mystery along with Prince Lucian.

A complicated world unravels before the readers’ eyes; Goredd is a Kingdom of wonders, a Victorian-type parallel universe, where music is wondrous, people are suspicious, and dragons, who can take human form, are extremely intelligent but lack any emotion. Complicated politics, lack of tolerance, hatred, but in the same time light, intelligence, understanding, and eventually love, are all aspects you will meet in Hartman’s novel.

However, the most important issue addressed is the aspect of being different in a society with zero tolerance regarding uniqueness. There is a clear picture of what people, today, in our universe (not only Seraphina’s) go through when they are even a tiny bit different from everybody else. Hiding your unique abilities, your strange thoughts, your different character, being scared, and eventually embracing yourself and becoming strong is the best lesson you could ever get from a book. And it so happens that it is a lesson Seraphina will offer you!

Some quotes to get you through bad days

Everybody has bad days. When mine approach, a book is always a friend that helps. Another way to see things in a lighter shade, is your favourite authors’ sayings. So here are some of mine, hope they help on “rainy” days.

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“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
― Bernard M. Baruch

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
― William W. Purkey

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“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost

 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
― Oscar Wilde

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.”
― André Gide, Autumn Leaves

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride_and_prejudice_and_zombiesWould you like to read the classics but need a bit of encouragement? Do you feel you would get bored? And, mostly, do you like Zombieeeees???

Pride and Prejudice is one of the most popular, and to the majority of readers one of the best  classics. Elizabeth Bennet, one of the five daughters of the Bennet family, finds herself interested in (and at the same time utterly despising) a handsome, smart upper class man named Mr. Darcy. Between them will stand a multitude of people and problems, but most importantly, their own pride and prejudice.

But now is the time for an alteration. The same novel, more action! Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  leaves the same basic line, but 19th century England is now full of zombies! The five Bennet  girls, including Elizabeth, are well trained warriors against the plague that has infested the country. A lot of fighting scenes included, the story looses nothing of its beauty, but gains some extra interesting points.

Should you read it? If you like zombie stories, definitely. If you like fantasy novels and parody novels, likewise. Please take this novel as lightly as it was written, though. It was not written as to offend the fanatics of Pride and Prejudice, nor to mock the great novel. It is just another way of looking at the plot, in an alternate, zombie-infested universe. Enjoy!

6 Horror stories for Halloween eve

Halloween is just around the corner! Although it is not a part of Greece’s tradition, more and more people celebrate it. Some organize costume parties, some go to bars or clubs with spooky decorations,  some watch horror films, and then there are the bibliophiles. W hat better time is there for a good scary-to-death book or just short horror stories? So here are some of my favourites that you might also enjoy.

The Black Cat, Edgar Allan Poe

A personal favourite, Poe is known for his atmospheric and terrifying horror stories, most of them being fairly short. One of his best stories, according to the majority of Poe readers, is The Black Cat. A couple very fond of pets adopts a black cat, Pluto. Soon after, the husband starts being very suspicious of the cat, believing it pushes him towards being violent…to the point of murder.

SalemslothardcoverSalem’s Lot, Stephen King

Coming from a master of horror books, Salem’s Lot was one of King’s first novels. Ben Mears  returns to Jerusalem’s Lot (or ‘Salem’s Lot) in Maine, where he had lived from nine through thirteen, only to discover that the residents are starting to change and then disappear… If you are a fan of supernatural literature, this gem is a must!

Uncle-MontagueUncle Montague’s Tales of Terror, Chris Priestley

Uncle Montague always has the best stories to tell, and every one of them is as spooky as can be. But are they just stories? Or is his nephew about to find more on his latest visit? A collection of beautiful short stories that will get you in Halloween mood!

 

And then there were none, Agatha Christie

Looking for something a bit less spooky? If you want something classic and mysterious, yet nothing of the supernatural sort, go for a good mystery. And who was ever better at mystery novels than Agatha Christie? Ten people are invited on the Indian Island for a weekend, and there they start being murdered, one by one. Are you going to figure out the murderer before the end of the story?

Dracula, Bram Stoker

Ok, the title is self explanatory. Who hasn’t heard of Stoker’s novel, which was one of the first depictions of vampires in literature? Although Coppola’s movie was quite an accurate depiction of the story, nothing can beat the original. Reading this classic is highly suggested. You’ll come to love it, trust me.

coraline_graphic_novelCoraline, Neil Gaiman

A lot of you must have seen the movie, but again, read the book, pretty please! It is such a wonderful story, and it is definitely not just for children. Coraline Jones moves to an old house along with her parents. Being an energetic little girl, she soon finds a key that opens a strange little door hidden behind furniture in the living room, which leads to … her Other Mother! At first looking amazing, her Other Mother and Father will soon start to seem strange and threatening, and she will have to find a way back home quickly.

edx.org as a means to enhancing your reading experience!

edx-logo-headerEver wanted to “dig deeper” into a piece of literature you really liked? Whether a classic or a modern novel, sometimes a books touch as so much that we want to learn more about it and just reading it once isn’t enough. That’s what book clubs are for, right? But nowadays there are more ways to do that.

One that I have found beautiful, clever and extremely helpful is the platforms for learning, such as Coursera or Edx. For those not  familiar with them, they are designed in such a way that the user can, for free, learn a series of subjects via videos and online reading material. The subjects are designed and run by universities around the world.

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Some of the courses available

I jumped at the chance to learn what I can from one of those courses. It is on the edx platform, in collaboration with Berkley University. The book discussed is A study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the first story of Sherlock Holmes. I have just finished week one, and it is quite good. It looks a lot like a virtual book club, where you are given a reading plan ( for example two chapters per week) and then discuss the chapters on the platform’s forums. There are glossaries to help you study deeper into the book, information about the author and their era, the historical and political  situation of the time,  and some quizzes at the end of the week so that you can see if you have grasped the essence of the story so far.

Overall, I would say it is a good experience. You exchange a lot of ideas, which is quite pleasant. The information you gather about the author and the era are also very interesting. It doesn’t require a lot of your time, just a couple of hours per week, so that is a pro. If you are interested in learning more, edx provides courses for a variety of books. Go ahead and take a look, you might find something really interesting.

The watchmaker of Filigree street

{AC3657CB-4C16-4B7D-BE06-C1FF6560D7FC}Img400London, 1884. Thaniel Steepleton comes home from work to find someone has broken into his flat and left an elaborate, expensive clock for him. Six months later, when the clock saves his life from a bomb explosion, Thaniel will try to find the watchmaker and get some answers. In the same time, Grace Carrow , a theoretical physicist, is struggling to become a respected scientist in a time when women were supposed to be strictly wives and child bearers, while her mother is desperately trying to get her married. When Thaniel and Grace meet the watchmaker, mysterious things start to happen.

This is a very good mystery, full of plot twists that will leave you gasping. Admittingly, you will have to give the book some time. Personally, I found the first twenty pages or so a bit boring, but after that the story became much better, and very interesting. The character of Mr. Mori, the watchmaker, is so elaborate and mysterious, that will have you binge reading in no time.

There is more to it than the actual plot, however. I loved the fact that the author handled serious issues in the book  in a way that it blends in completely. For example, it depicts aspects of racism (in this story it is English against Japanese), women in science and voting rights, and marriage as an obligation versus marriage for love. It is sweet, without being corny.

All in all, considering that it is the author’s first novel, The watchmaker of Filigree street is quite an achievement.  If you are into fantasy books, this is one worthy of your time, especially if Victorian era is a personally favourite of yours.