READING UPDATE: RESOLUTION, THE TRAVELER'S GIFT AND A MAN WHO KNEW EVERYTHING

How are you doing? How was your weekend?  I have spent all of my weekend working on a new painting. I started it about a week ago, but this weekend I really put it the hours. Yesterday, I worked on it from 9 am to am and today I worked on from 9 am to 9 pm (with a lunch break).  I didn't go anywhere this weekend or did anything else. Who needs a life when you have art?  Well, sometimes I do something else than make art, for example read books. It's been a while since my last reading update (almost a full month) so today I'll do three book reviews in one post. All of these authors were completely new to me. I haven't read any of them before. When you take on a new author, it can be a bit of a gamble. Most of the time I have great luck with picking books, but this time my visit to the library was a miss. Two of these books were rather disappointing. However, the one that I actually purchased (as opposed to borrowed from library) was wonderful. Scroll down to read my reviews. 


RESOLUTION,  A NOVEL  BY ROBERT B. PARKER 1.4/5
I felt bad for giving one star rating to this novel on goodreads, so I added a few points for my blog. However, I still can't round it up to two, I just can't. I don't enjoy giving one star reviews, but I can't honestly say that I liked or enjoyed Resolution by Robert B. Parker. It just isn't my kind of book. It's not terrible and I can imagine there are people who might enjoy it, but for me it did nothing. I might try some other book by this author, I won't cross him off completely. 

I was not aware that Resolution is a sequel (the second book in Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch series) when I started reading it (or while I was reading), but now that I think of, a number of past events was implied in this book so I should have guessed it. The book features two friends as protagonists: Cole and Hitch. Virgil Cole doesn't appear right away in this one, but he steps on the scene soon enough.

Western genre doesn't particularly appeal to me, but that's not the main issue I had with this book. My main issue is the predictable, slow, uninteresting, and cliched plot. Moreover, the characters aren't well developed and the writing leaves much to be desired. I didn't mind the clipped macho dialogue as such but these dialogues take too much space. The first few dialogues I read were alright, I could imagine the dramatic silences and start to visualize the characters. However, after page and page of the same clipped dialogue sentences, it gets incredibly repetitive not to mention it doesn't add any information. 

One cannot seriously base one's entire novel on such dialogues and expect it to be anything but boring and cliche, especially when the prose isn't descriptive either. It could work for a short story, even for a few chapter not for the entire novel. The best way I can describe the prose in this novel is non-descriptive and repetitive. Repetition would make for a better title then Resolution. This isn't a terrible novel but it isn't a good either.

I wouldn't particularly mind there aren't any memorable female characters in this novel if there were ANY developed characters. I'm not an angry feminist who only reads books with female characters. I've read a lot of books without any notable female characters and liked them (for example works of Joseph Conrad, R.A. Heinlein and so on) well enough. As long as there is still something in it for me, it's fine but I didn't find anything for me in this novel, so the fact that there were no strong female characters is just another minus. 

The only female characters in this novel are prostitutes and a lady who is hopelessly in love with an abusing husband and sorry for the spoiler but she doesn't really fall out of love with him. There is also some mention of Virgil Cole's old love interest Allie but she doesn't actually manifest herself in this novel. Maybe Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch were better developed in the first book in the series, but in this one they weren't that well develop and seeing they are protagonists, that was one of the things that ruined the book for me. The only insight we get to them is through their talk of duty and honour but it was always the same old talk and repetition ruined it. When the same dialogue gets repeated over and over again, it stops making sense.

I'm neither a politically correct reader nor one particularly sensitive to foul language. I don't think we should censor books heavily because that ruins the point of literature.  However, the foul language bothered me here because  the swear words didn't really add anything to this novel and they sounded like empty macho talk. I dislike when writers use foul language without a reason. There were some other things that bugged me, for example the way Indians were described. That phrase about herding Indians into reservation made me a little sick in my stomach. The Indians were only mentioned briefly, but it was unpleasant to read. I know such were the views of that time, but as a writer you can add some perspective. I didn't feel like this writer cared to elaborate or add some cultural context. He could have at least put a footnote or something.  

ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT (I reveal much of the plot in the next paragraph): 
The plot is pretty basic and if it wasn't painfully slow, it wouldn't be so bad. From the start it is obvious that Everett Hitch is a typical macho western protagonist. This 'gun for hire' character settles in a new town where he shows a soft side to him by saving prostitutes from being raped and not killing people unless he is paid to (or if he wants to save the prostitutes from being raped). Nothing much happens until his buddy Virgil Cole arrives and then nothing much happens (except some building tension and saving the above mentioned abused woman) until the final confrontation that is about half a page long (plus a few pages of build up to it). The end. 

THE TRAVELER'S GIFT: SEVEN DECISIONS THAT DETERMINE PERSONAL SUCCESS, A  BOOK BY ANDY ANDREWS 1/5

One of the worst books I have read in my life and that is saying something because I do read a lot. First of all, I would like to say that I think it's alright for people to like this book. I don't think that there is anything wrong with people who like this book and I can see how it can be appealing to someone. Most people who read self-books are looking for help, inspiration or/and motivation. Certainly, these are not bad things to look for. However, I fear that often self-books and the self-help industry in general are more interested in making profit than in actually helping people. How many self-help books are written by health-professionals (psychologists or psychoanalysts)  with years of clinical practice and how many are written by motivational speakers? How much motivational speaks do really know about what is like for most people?  Who makes them qualified to tell people how they should life their life? So, you see, I have certain doubts about the usefulness of self-help books- not that I advise against them. We are all different, some might find these kind of books useful. Let me stress again that my negative opinions about this book are not in any way reserved for the readers of this book but for the book itself. 

 What kind of book is this? Well, it is a mixture of a novel and a self-help book. Personally, I would describe it (and perhaps this is the best way to describe it) as extremely cringey. The plot of the novel is simple enough perhaps because the story is only there to reinforce the author's seven principles for success- and make you feel like you're learning something extraordinary. The book aims to make you believe that the protagonist (that sounds a lot like the author) is nothing short from messiah chosen by God to deliver a bulletproof  path to success to mankind. The part of this book that could be described as a 'novel' is even worse then the philosophical (the seven principles for success) part and that is saying something.

The novel opens up with a guy David who has lost his job and is now mad at the world. The protagonist at one point screams at his wife for telling him their daughter needs surgery. I found it really hard to sympathize with David as he seems to be a horrible and abusive human being. Alright, maybe his actions weren't consistently abusive but there was a sneak peak at some problematic behaviour. 

Soon into the book, David decides to kills himself but predictably ends up only injuring himself seriously and experiencing 'visions', that he will (in his infinite wisdom) share with us. That's the start of his path- the visions. David strokes his ego by visiting and talking to a great variety of historical and religious figures including two American presidents, king Solomon, Columbus, archangel Gabriel and Anne Frank. In all of his visions, all historical figures love him and stroke his ego and you get to have your ego stroked too because the author will sell you all these self-help mantra about being special that you can repeat to yourself. Don't forget to smile while you do it. Don't forget to repeat to yourself that happiness is a choice either. Not that it will help you, but it will create an illusion of helping you- and that is what sells books.

Don't get me wrong. I understand why some people trust in these kind of books. Self-help books make people feel in control, they sell them an illusion that happiness and success is something easily achievable. I'm not excluding the possibility that self-books can help some people. I'm just saying that I believe there is a self-help industry whose purpose is (if not solely than mainly) to manipulate people into buying more similarly useless books.

Isn't it ironic that despite all these miraculous self-help book out there, the number of depressed people constantly increases? It is my opinion that most self-help books create a feeling of learning without teaching everything. Sometimes I feel like the whole self-help industry prays on the emotionally unbalanced, depressed, naive and/or young individuals. Under the disguise of helping, they manipulate person's emotions so that the person 'feels' he or she is on the right path and buys more books. In other words, self-help books teach nothing but they charge the full price. I honestly think you're better off investing your money into learning a new skills, for example sewing. If you pay for a sewing course or buy a book that will teach you tailoring, then you've at learned something. When you read self-books, you get to feel better while you read them, but that feeling doesn't last forever (and makes people keep on buying self-help books and courses). 

So, here is what I think. Even for a self-help book, this book is pretty terrible. I don't particularly care for the historical inaccuracies in this book that some reviewers pointed out, because there are far more worrying things in it, from monetizing on Anne Frank's memory to implying that the dropping of the nuclear bomb on Japan was a moral thing to do. I don't know about you but I don't think killing innocent Asian children and women  by dropping a nuclear bomb on them was the right thing to do. Generally speaking, I would say that this book is everything I don't want a book to be. I will definitely never read this author again.


A MAN WHO KNEW EVERYTHING, A NOVEL BY IGOR SAKHNOVSKY 4/5 

The Man Who Knew Everything is an interesting and dynamic contemporary novel, perhaps best described as a mixture of different genres. In this novel, you’ll find elements of fiction mixed with existential questions, all packaged in a spy thriller with plenty of dark and ironic humor. I wouldn’t say this is a spy novel or a thriller as such. Indeed at times it seems like a parody of a spy novel. The novel is quite self-ironic. It's hard for me to actually say what kind of book it is, but that's exactly what I like about it, its strangeness and originality. This is the first time I read this contemporary Russian author and I must say- I was impressed. 

I have originally written this book review in Croatian because I read this in a Croatian translation. I'm not sure is the novel translated in English, but there is a film version you can watch. I haven't watch the film myself, but reading the reviews it seems a faithful adaptation of the book. However,  I wonder if the any film could truly capture the dark humour of this book. Anyhow, I will translate a part of my original book review for the novel and if you want to read it all, you can use the translator for a full translation (I will leave the full book review bellow). I actually bought this book and I'm glad I did. I don’t buy books often because I have a lot of them, but I couldn’t resist  buying this one. My Russian language skills are not enviable,  so when I saw the Croatian edition of this contemporary writer that I had not read before, I immediately put it in the basket. I will certainly pass this novel on to someone, and I will look for other books by this author. If you don’t mind a bit of black humor and a mix of genres, I think you’ll enjoy reading because the novel itself is quite captivating and easy to read.

FULL REVIEW IN CROATIAN BELLOW: ČOVJEK KOJI JE ZNAO SVE 4/5

Čovjek koji je sve znao (Человек который знал все) je zanimljivi i dinamični suvremeni roman, možda najbolje opisan kao mješavina raznih žanrova. U ovom romanu pronaći ćete elemente fantastike pomiješane s egzistencijalnim pitanjima, a sve to upakirano u špijunski triler s dosta mračnog i ironičnog humora. Ne bi rekla da je ovo špijunski roman ili thriler kao takav. Doista na trenutke se čini kao parodija špijunskog romana. Roman je poprilično samoironičan. Teško mi je zapravo reći o kakvoj se knjizi radi, ali upravo mi se se to kod nje sviđa, ta njena neobičnost i originalnost.

Ne kupujem često knjige jer ih imam puno, ali ovoj nisam mogla odoljeti. Ruski suvremeni jezik mi nije na zavidnoj razini pa kad sam vidjela izdanje na hrvatskom ovog suvremenog pisca kojeg nisam prije čitala odmah sam ga ubacila u košaricu. Drago mi je što sam kupila ovaj roman Igora Sakgnovskoga i sigurno ću ga nekome proslijediti, a potražiti ću i druge knjige ovog autora. Ako vam ne smeta malo crnog humora i mješavina žanrova, mislim da ćete uživati u čitanju jer je sam roman veoma čitljiv.

Jedina zamjerka mi je što mi je roman možda nedovoljno ambiciozan, ali opet i to se može gledati kao prednost jer se upravo zato tako lako čita. Imam osjećaj da je mogao biti i bolji da je duži, ali opet možda mu upravo kratkoća i kaotičnost mješavine raznih elemenata daje draž. Rekla mi je pisac odlično uhvatio depresivnu atmosferu devedesetih i ulaska u novo stoljeće, gdje su svi emocionalno i duhovno izgubljeni nakon raspada sovjetskog saveza i pokušaja da se uskoči u kapitalizam. Neki dijelovi ovog romana tako su poprilično mračni. Ovaj roman doista postavlja zanimljiva pitanja, ali se ne trudi previše ponuditi konkretne odgovore ili pretjerano razraditi likove. Samo su dva bitnija ženska lika, oba u odnosu s protagonistom i oba dosta pasivna i pomalo tragična kao i on sam, žrtve okolnosti u kojima su se našle. Svi likovi u ovom romanu su upečatljivi i pamtljivi ali oni sporedni nisu previše razrađeni i zapravo prevladava pogled dva lika, onaj neovisnog promatrača, prijatelja Aleksandra i naravno onaj samog protagonista. Iako Aleksandar ne priča sam svoju priču, događaje doživljavamo kroz njegov vid i pogled. Sam roman dosta je prožet intertekstualnošću, te uključuje razne dokumente koji svjedoče vjerodostojnost, a istodobno je i ironiziraju na način tipičan za postmodernističko štivo.

Aleksandar je zanimljiv izbor za protagonista. Pomalo izgubljeni ruski intelektualac koji ne može sklopiti kraj sa krajem, on je prava suprotnost tipičnog muškog junaka koji uzima stvar u svoje ruke. Aleksandar je poprilično pasivan iako ne bez osjećaja ili inteligencije, dapače. Aleksandar i njegova ljubav tako životare, a svi pokušaju da malo popravi njihov život propadaju, ne uspjeva pronaći dodatan posao i izvor prihoda. Aleksandra ostavlja ljubav njegova života nakon što joj se počinje udvarati situirani muškarac, a on ništa ne čini da to spriječi te se naposljetku nakon neuspjeha u traženju posla od kojeg se može preživjeti odlučuje ubiti strujom. Kao što opis na ovoj stranici kaže, to se ne događa, naprotiv kad se Aleksandar uhvati za struju, on ne biva ubijen- nego postaje drugačiji. Tu započinje fantastični dio ove priče, koji možda namjerno ne počinje tako dramatično. Aleksandar Bezukladnikov uviđa da je stekao nadnaravnu sposobnost: može postaviti sebi bilo koje pitanje i pronaći u sebi odgovor, može vidjeti sve što se ikada dogodilo, što se događa ili što će se tek dogoditi. Pisac je odlično uklopio ovaj fantastični element u priču te postupci samog Aleksandra itekako imaju smisla s obzirom na njegov karakter.

Kako Aleksandar dobiva ovu natprirodnu sposobnost, tako vidimo da ona nije tako jednostavna ulaznica za moć kao što se čovjeku na prvi pogled može činiti. Pisac ovdje uvodi cijeli niz mračnih likova podzemlja i vlasti koji žele Aleksandru zavrnuti glavom a njemu to sve nije tako lako izbjeći kao što se čini. Istina, on može pronaći odgovor na bilo koje pitanje, ali pitanja treba znati i postaviti i ne može se stalno istodobno gledati prošlost, budućnost i sadašnjost. Aleksandar stoga pokušava preživjeti i zapravo mu nije puno lakše nego na početku romana. Naposljetku, Aleksandar i nije pretjerano gladan moći kao takve, više ga brine što ga je žena ostavila i što je ne može vratiti ako ima detaljan uvid u njen i sve druge živote. Nakon nekog vremena, počinje i špijunski dio romana jer kako Aleksandrova moć izlazi na vidjelo tako ga počnu proganjati i svjetske slike. Slijedi više dramatičnih i ne posve predvidljivih obrata, a knjiga pri kraju postaje sve više samoironičnom. Kraj mi je bio zanimljiv, iako osobno mislim da bi priča mogla biti i povezanija da se pisac osvrnuo na neke likove koji su jednostavno nestali iz priče (npr. Aleksandrova žena). No, možda je takav kraj i jedni koji ima smisla u svijetu u kojem je teško pronaći smisao.



Have you been reading anything interesting? As always, thank you for reading and stopping by. 

Comments

  1. Me gusto tu retrato con el cabello azul. Como a ti no me gustan los libros de auto ayuda . El otro libro que tampoco te gusto no creo que lo lea. Pero como me gusta el humor negro le echare un vistazo al ultimo libro. Te una buena semana

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  2. Such a beautiful pictures and thanks for sharing your reading updates, sounds interesting:)

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  3. Who need a life when you have art? My friend Liz was saying exactly the same yesterday, she's exhibiting in Cornwall and closer to home next month and every waking hour is being spent painting and she loves it as much as you clearly do! xxx

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    1. Liz is very talented. I love when you share her art on your blog.

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  4. Great post dear!Photos are amazing ! 

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  5. It's a shame you didn't like any of the books from the library but it's good you were able to give them a go and read them for free! None of these sound like my kind of thing, but I have been trying some new books at the library and I'm excited to read them! I read one I was sure I was going to like and it was SO BAD. I kept reading hoping it would get better but it really didn't, I was just frustrated at the end of it. No idea why it was a best seller. Luckily I liked the next book I read much better! :)

    Hope that you had a good weekend. It's been a nice relaxing long weekend for us :)

    Away From The Blue

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  6. Everything is so pretty, I want to read Resolution ❤

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  7. Such a beautiful pictures! And of course I love your paintings!
    Have a lovely week!

    www.luciagallegoblog.com

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  8. I'm always amazed by your energy, which seems to be boundless. On top of the time you devote to your amazing artwork, and the number of books you read, you still find the time to blog about these and other subjects too! I'd be utterly exhausted!
    Anyway, thank you for sharing your reviews of these books. The Man Who Knew Everything sounds like an intriguing read. I'm hearing you on Resolution, as Western genre isn't my cup of tea either. But if there's one type of books that I absolutely abhor, it's self-help ones of any kind. Even the thought of them makes me cringe! I'm absolutely amazed that you even finished it. Hope your week went off to a good start, Ivana xxx

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  9. I enjoyed your negative reviews, ha ha, Ivana! I don't have an issue with westerns, but I do find too much (or too little) dialogue problematic, and I really do not like it when the characters have no development. I'm a feminist, but I don't mind books that don't have a ton of female characters, but is it too much to ask they actually get some agency instead of being foils for the men? I read a similar self-help book as it was a Book Club pick, and I LOATHED it.

    The Man Who Knew Everything sounds really good. I like genre-defying books!

    I just finished reading "Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick" by David Wong, a sequel to "Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits" - it was fun, but was missing that character development too. Right now I'm reading "Promise at Dawn", and autobiography by Romaine Gary from 1961, and it's wonderful. His writing is funny and clever and he tells a good story. I would recommend it, and I'm going to look for novels by him.

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  10. I would be drained to be that busy with such a project, but I know it's rewarding. The older I get I tend to like many of the books I read less and less. I wasn't fond of the dialogue in Mexican Gothic and it gave me a few nightmares too. Anxious People just made me anxious for it to be over. Great to see the signs of springs. I am sure May will be delightful. Thanks for your reviews.

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  11. Really lovely portait and very interesting romance, I am considering giving it a chance since I see you are an avid reader of good books.

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  12. Oh WOW that is a long time to spend painting I am impressed! I spend a lot of time working on my photography and video editing so I get it. You know I don't read much fiction I find so much of it predictable. I like to read books based on history or biographies. Right now I am reading two books one about the Romanovs and one about the life of a psychic, very different lol!

    Allie of
    www.allienyc.com

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  13. I don't think you should feel bad for not enjoying a book. Usually I stop reading if a book is not to my liking and this is the only reasons I rarely give less than 2.5-3 stars.
    Hopefully the next ones you are going to read are going to be better. xx

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  14. Hello Ivana, I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

    I also spent some time creating but not from 9 to 9... I am impressed! But I totally get your point, creative work takes time and sometimes I feel that Instagram makes us believe that we have to create quickyl, in fact there are a lot of things involved in the process.

    Thanks for all these recommendations! First time I am hearing about them. By the way I am amazed by all the diversity of books you always share, maybe you can create a post with your tips to read more books in the future :) Right now I am reading Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie and a Catalan novel going in three different seasons. But taking this into account as usual.

    About your dissapointing reading I usually stop if I don't like them. Back in the day I used to finish every book I start, but then I came to the conclusion that life is to short and that there are many great books around there haha

    Pablo
    Hey Fungi

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  15. Hello dear,
    I am slowly back to "normal " after very intensive time at work.
    I see you showed us three totally different books - sorry to hear that the second one was one of the worst books that you have ever read. In my opinion the last one sounds really good- If I will be have a chance I am going to read them .

    Take care
    Karo

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  16. How cool and inspiring that you spent all day on your painting- now that's what I call following your creativity!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

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All your comments mean a lot to me, even the criticism. Naravno da mi puno znači što ste uzeli vrijeme da nešto napišete, pa makar to bila i kritika. Per me le vostre parole sono sempre preziose anche quando si tratta di critiche.

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