How did I do on my 2021 (really small) TBR? | IcthusBookCorner

Hello fellow humans!

So, in case you didn’t know, in February 2021, I published a post telling you all about the 8 books I really wanted to read that year: 8 Books I Plan on Reading in 2021. I’m here to let you know that I didn’t complete the said TBR list. 

I did, however, read 5 of those books. I reckon that in this case, 62.5% is not that bad. Here is how I rated them all…

  1. Unholy Ghosts by Richard Zimler: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
  2. The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorky: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 (This was just the perfect read for me.)
  3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
  4. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
  5. Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Overall, that is 4 four star ratings and 1 five star ratings.

I obviously read more than 4 books this year, many of which have an available review on my blog. Therefore, I will be posting a *2021 in Books* type of post later this week.

Did you read any of these books? What did you think about them? Are you planning on reading any of these books in the future?

Bye!


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As You Like It by William Shakespeare – Book Review|IcthusBookCorner

“All the world’s a stage”, said Jaques.

This was the first Shakespeare play I read in English, I had only read “Hamlet” in Portuguese before. I honestly enjoyed it a lot, even though I had some difficulties getting into Shakespeare’s language and writing style at first. At the moment, having read “Much Ado About Nothing“, I feel like I’m much more comfortable with his writing. 

“As You Like It”, a five-act comedy by William Shakespeare, was written and performed around 1599 and first published in the First Folio of 1623.

This play has two main locations: the court that Frederick has taken over from his brother (the rightful Duke), and the Forest of Arden (where the Duke and his followers live in exile).

The central theme of “As You Like It” is love, much like other comedies by Shakespeare. It’s a light-hearted and amusing read where there is disguise, family feud and romance. However, while reading it, I kept thinking about how it might also be about the fluidity of gender, how it could be interpreted as an analysis of queer identity both of gender and sexuality. It is light, has loveable characters, happy messages and not to mention amazing quotes! 

Rosalind was my favourite character in this play. She represents an excellent and ahead of its time female character, whom I enjoyed reading as she experimented with her recently discovered liberties as Ganymede. This is, Rosalind disguises herself as a young man (Ganymede), for the majority of the play, to pursue the man she loves and advise him on how to be a better, conscientious companion and lover. 

In contrast to Jaques, who refuses to have an all-in approach to life and always has something to say about the stupidity of those around him, Rosalind gives herself fully to every moment of her existence.

That is pretty much it, I have nothing else to say about this play. Let me know if you have read this before or watched any of the film adaptations.

Bye, keep on reading.


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Mr Palomar by Italo Calvino – Book Review|IcthusBookCorner

Mr Palomar is a 1983 novel by the Italian writer Italo Calvino. Its original Italian title is Palomar.

It is a work of fiction but reads more like a philosophical understanding of the world we live in. There is no plot but rather an organized account of varied observations made by the main character, whose name is Mr Palomar.

In a series of tweety-seven stories or analyses, he takes his everyday experience from the world as a series of problems in looking and interpreting the nature of reality itself. These episodes or essays sometimes have an aura of magic, spiritual introspection, or philosophical experiences.

The author’s words are beautiful and candid, or at least the translation (William Weaver) is. Calvino chooses his words so carefully and wisely that not one sentence seems expendable. This book is nothing like anything I’ve read before.

Mr Palomar views each object of his attention in length, as a whole, in its details and even possible variations. I reckon everyone at some level can relate to him quite a bit, at least everyone whose mind wanders off or who sets themselves to mull over the puzzles of life. My favourite chapter was titled “The Universe Looks at Itself”, I found the way in which the protagonist beholds the universe to be breathtaking and, I believe I feel like that because it’s pretty similar to the way I do it.

I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys flowery prose and likes to contemplate the human experience. Please, let me know what to think about this book.
Bye, keep on reading.


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My Thoughts on “Much Ado About Nothing” (play and film)

I watched and read Much Ado About Nothing, and here is what I think.

First, let’s talk about the 1993 film. It is wonderfully acted, let me tell you. With the magnificent ensemble of Keneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington and Kate Beckinsale, who could expect anything less?

I have to give all due respect to the cinematographer (Roger Lanser) for using the landscape available so beautifully. Not to mention, the soundtrack (Patrick Doyle) goes amazingly well if the overall absurdist feeling of the film. Overall, the directing style (Kenneth Branagh) was suitable for the story being told.

Just like the original play, this film manages to maintain its fun, lively and light feeling, while somehow adding to the play’s Pythonesque tone.

Listening to Emma Thompson reciting Shakespeare is an entire experience in and of itself, which I didn’t know I needed. What’s more, I believe I feel a bit in love with Denzel Washington, but that is neither here nor there.

Now, allow me to explain the plot. Claudio catches a glimpse of Hero and is immediately in love, and by her expression, she lets us know she reciprocates. While this is happening, Benedick and Beatrice are becoming aware they too are attracted to each other. However, unlike the other pair, their passion is expressed through quarrels and insults.

Since this is, what I would call, a Shakespearean romantic comedy, there is quite a bit of mockery, farce, zingers, and there is melodrama beyond contempt, but it all is right in the end.

The original play is known as one of Shakespeare comedies, and it was written around 1598. But let me tell you, it was only one step from falling into tragedy.

The play’s action is remarkably gamelike. There are dances, eavesdropping, disguises and misunderstandings, which gives us a lighthearted and upbeat pattern.

Something I realized after watching the film was that the play was very much dominated by two side characters. I found myself overlooking the main couple and rooting for Beatrice and Benedick. I reckon this is the result of their intellect and strength when compared to that of other characters in the story. However, I also believe they are afraid of rejection and of being the object of ridicule, so they choose to pretend they hate each other’s guts, for that reason too.

Beatrice is, without a doubt, my favourite of all Shakespeare’s characters. She is both sharp and fierce. Beatrice invented feminism, and we are just living but her rules.

I truly enjoyed this play, mainly because it overflows with wit and has a beautifully engaging set of characters. Furthermore, I applaud the play’s exploration of relevant themes such as betrayal, hypocrisy, and gender roles. (I can’t believe Shakespeare really brought light to the problem with gender roles.)

Please, let me know what to think about this film and play if you have watched or read it. And your experience with Shakespeare overall.
Bye, keep on reading.


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My Thoughts on Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – Book Review|IcthusBookCorner

TW: Death, Depression, Sexual harassment, Rape, Suicide

The synopsis of this book goes something like this:
“Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.”

I’m not quite sure what I think about this book. Let me explain!

I’ve read Murakami before… I read Kafka on the Shore back in January 2020, and it is still one of my favourite books of all time. I’m genuinely in love with Murakami’s writing style, with his eloquence, his world-building, how when he describes food you can actually taste it, and when he describes a place you feel like you are actually there. He has obviously mastered his language, and the translator of his work is a genius.

One of the other reasons, I think, Norwegian Wood strikes a chord with readers is for its themes of mental illness and suicide. Mental health is not the most discussed topic, least of all in the 80s when this book was first published.

There are, however, a lot of problems in his books. I probably didn’t notice these in Kafka on the Shore because of its lack of relevant female characters.

All the female characters in this novel feel cartoonish, one-dimensional and are emotionally dependent on men. Most male characters are self-centred, and our male narrator spends most of his time objectifying the women around him. Not to mention that, for some inexplicable reason, every woman in this book wants to have sex with the main character. This is particularly baffling because the main character has nothing, NOTHING going for him.

Moreover, there is an entire rape scene described in detail in chapter 6, which is not only extremely disturbing but completely irrelevant to the plot.

All in all, I’m unable to rate this book. The immorality present in this story is not something I can compare to Lolita, for example, where it is very much intended given the overall purpose of that specific narrative. I feel like the misogyny present in Norwegian Wood is very likely to be a subproduct of Murakami’s mindset. If that is the case, I need to contemplate how that changes how I approach his writhing.

Please, let me know what to think about this book.
Bye, keep on reading.


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My Thoughts on Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov |IcthusBookCorner (my biggest review yet)

Hey everyone! Today I want to talk about a book that did nothing but worsen my mental state, Lolita by Nabokov.

I’ve talked about this book on my bookstagram (follow me there if you want to follow my readings more closely), and I had a lot of feeling while reading it. This book was published back in 1955, and it is now considered a classic by a lot of people. You probably know it is a book about and from the perspective of a paedophile, Humbert Humbert. It follows him during his middle age as he finds himself obsessed with the nymphet Delores Hayes.

I had been hearing about this book my whole life and knew people either loved it or hated it, so I decided to put it off for a while in fear. Once I finally decided to read it, I went into it with no preconceived judgements so it wouldn’t ruin the experience.

The first thing I need to say about this book is that I loved the writing style, really really loved it. Can we talk about the fact that Nabokov isn’t an English native speaker? I applaud Nabokov’s mastery of the English language. He uses English better than most writers whose first language is English. He is daring with his words; he is pure genius. It is the type of writing I love, you know? It’s poetic, and it’s not sparse, and he uses flowery language.

In the beginning, it was quite tolerable, but as it went on became progressively more upsetting. The first person narration was making me feel sick. Sometimes it physically hurt me to read this book, like someone was squeezing my heart. Never in my life had I read a book that made me this uncomfortable. I’m just glad I’m someone who can enjoy a book and dislike the main characters, otherwise I’m pretty sure this book would have killed me.
Because it’s first-person narration, we are inside Humbert’s head, and the problem is that this person’s head is a terrible place. We have to be beholders of grooming, gaslighting and abuse. Humbert has no redeeming quality, which is both terrible for the reader but the only correct choice. Nabokov created a character that no one could pity because he (Humber) is just a horrifying human being. However, the author was still able to create a multi-dimensional character, and that is not usual and something I appreciate. There is a lot of depth, there is a lot to dig into, I love it.

This book was notably hard to read, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop. One reason for this was, like I said, the writing. Even so, there was something else, something that made me want to know what was going to happen next, something that got me hooked.

The book is divided into two parts. The first one is before the abuse, and it follows Humbert from his pre-adolescent self to when he gets to be a disgusting human to Lolita. The second part accompanies him from the moment the first part left off to when the book is supposedly being written. The first half of the book was much easier to read than the second, most likely because there is a smaller amount of sexual assault.

The only negative aspect of this book, for me, is the last two chapters. The book could have an amazing ending, but, for some ulterior motive, Nabokov decided to go with underwhelming.

To end this, I feel the need to say a few things. First of all, I don’t believe this book romanticizes or glorifies paedophilia. From what I read from the author, and what I gathered from reading Lolita itself, I believe Nabokov wanted to create a reality which the average person wouldn’t have access to. He wrote one of the most brutal accounts of abuse there is. I think this is an important piece of literature, if not one of the best.

Finally, I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it to everyone who can get into a story without liking the main character and to whom abuse is not a severe trigger.

Bye, keep on reading.

February Wrap Up | IcthusBookCorner

I’ve had two whole months of reading time this year, and I cannot believe how much I’ve actually read in February. It’s been a great reading month with loads of books that I loved. I want to talk about the last seven books I read with all of you!

WHAT I READ

This February, I read seven books, and I know it might not be a lot for some, but for me it sure is. I’m so happy to see that I can read more than five books in one month! If I’m being honest, what helped was me not doing the work I had to do for my thesis…But we are not going to talk about that! Reading this much made me think of how much I actually love books and reading.

When it comes to statistics, I read 1 325 pages, which is way more than what I read in January. I read three books by Russian authors, two non-fiction books, one play, one poetry collection, one fantasy and four classics. I am surprised to see that I still read mostly classics and that all the books were written before 1950. No surprise, I read mostly physical books (6) and only one ebook, one of the physical books I borrowed from my local library. I gave five stars rating to four books, four stars rating to one book and three stars rating to one book, leaving one of the books I read with no rating. This month I read no ARCs because I wanted to focus on books I have wanted to read for a long time.

Overall, it was a great month, and I discovered amazing titles. However, I could read other things, for example, I have been in the mood for sci-fi and some historical fiction (so I need to pick those up).

TITLES/BOOKS

  1. The Lower Depths, by Maxim Gorky – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (review coming soon)
  2. Notes from Underground, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (review coming soon)
  3. Three Guineas, by Virginia Woolf – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (review here)
  5. The Magic Shop, by H.G. Wells – ⭐⭐⭐
  6. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, by Judith Butler – no rating 
  7. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (review coming soon)

I haven’t done one of these posts in such a long while I don’t even know how to finish it. 🤦

So, I have a few questions for you! How was your reading month in February? What was your best read? What are you currently reading? What books are you excited for this coming month? Let me know in the comments!

All I can say now is: Bye, keep on reading.


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Fascism and Democracy by George Orwell – Book Review | IcthusBookCorner

Hello hello, everyone! Today, I will be talking about Fascism and Democracy by George Orwell. If you know me personally, have been around my social media lately or have followed my blog for a while, you know I am a massive Orwell fan.

Fascism and Democracy is a collection made of five essays Orwell wrote during World War Two. The titles are Fascism and Democracy, Literature and Totalitarianism, Freedom of the Park, Review of “The Invasion From Mars” and Visions of a Totalitarian Future. In this small book, Orwell talks about the principles of democracy and the possibility of future reform. The author also tries to understand the future of literature and free speech overall during violent times when fascism is imminent. 

Orwell offered a compelling portrayal of a nation and world where norms and ideals could no longer be taken for granted due to the oppressive political powers. The essays also serve as reminders of the fragility of freedom. I loved them all equally, but there was this part in the first one, if I remember correctly, where Orwell lays out the common arguments given by fascists, refuting them all in simple terms afterwards.

The five essays never felt like historical texts but felt deeply modern in their concerns, due to all the things mentioned. If there is a quote I can use to sum up this book it is: “The feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world, this prospect frightens me much more than bombs.”

I feel like this the perfect companion for anyone reading 1984. It helps you understand the author’s political stance, giving almost zero opportunity for misunderstandings regarding his fictional work.

This book was part of the bibliography I used to write my post on George Orwell and “Orwellian” as a Concept. Check it out if it interests you or if you want to know more about the author.

I recommend this small book to anyone looking to learn more about politics, especially about the importance of democracy and how fragile freedom and democracy are. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Bye, keep on reading. 



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Books that Made Me Cry | IcthusBookCorner

Hello hello, people of the internet. As you can probably tell from the title, today I’m going to talk about books that made me cry. Overall, I’m not someone who usually cries with books. For a book or film to make me cry, I have to really believe in the characters or be emotionally attached to them, which is something that does not happen often. I’m not easy to impress, what can I say?


So, I only have two books and two honourable mentions (for book with which I on the verge of crying). I know it’s not much, but you know it’s what we have got to work with.

Let’s start with the ugly cry:

First, we have My Sweet Orange Tree by José Mauro de Vasconcelos. This book is about Zezé, a five-year-old who lives in Rio de Janeiro, in a forgotten slump in great poverty. I’m pretty sure this is a Brazilian classic, and if it isn’t, it should be. There is a lot to say about this book, and I should probably reread it someday. It’s a sad book due to what it is about, but there are some happy moments, and the Orange Tree is a whole character (obviously). Just read it, please, so I don’t have to be sad alone. (Keep in mind, I read My Sweet Orange Tree when I was around 10 or 11, so it might not be that aggressively sad for an adult mind. Who knows?)

The second book is Guardian of the Dawn by Richard Zimler. The main purpose of Guardian of the Dawn is to bring light to the terror brought by the Portuguese Inquisition to Goa. It follows Tiago Zarco, his sister Sofia, his father and their housemaid Nupi, as they live in Goa during the end of the 16th century. The book is heartbreaking, not only that but a very much real one given the historical context.

Now, the honourable mentions (two Russian classics, who’s shocked?): 

Let’s start with Mother by Maxim Gorky. This book has a lot of meaning to me, not only because of the story but also history and family history. My copy of this book is probably one of the most valuable things I have and I can’t believe I almost lost it trying to send it home from Barcelona. If you want to read about the non-story part, I wrote about it in my review, which is here. The book itself is about the radicalization of an uneducated woman and mother as she witnesses her son taking part in the revolution. The message behind this book is just so powerful and relevant. I highly recommend it to everyone who cares about revolutions or politics.

The last book I’m mentioning today is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Honestly, I don’t know what to say except that if someone hadn’t spoiled the end for me I would have cried my eyes out. We get invested in all the characters, there’s this tragic atmosphere, and then the end hits you like a slap on the face. WHY? WHY? Tolstoy was like: “I’m a literary genius so let me just play with their feeling for a while.”

Well, I hope you found this entertaining. It was interesting for me to look back at these books and try remembering what about them made me cry or sob. What books have made you cry? Please let me know because, as you can see, I need recommendations.
Bye, keep on reading.


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Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke – Book Review | IcthusBookCorner

Hello hello, everyone! The book I’m reviewing today is Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. This book is a collection of ten letters written by the Austrian poet Rilke to the young Franz Kappus while he was an officer cadet in Wiener Neustadt.

I first time I ever heard of Rilke was while watching one of * e m m i e *’s older videos. The way she talked about his work reminded me a bit of how I speak about Saramago’s books, so I knew I had to give it a try. Before reading this book, I had the chance of reviewing an arc for the English translation of his Poems to Night, but I knew Letters to a Young Poet would be an entirely different experience.

This book is both exceptional and profound, even somewhat philosophical when pointing out how life can influence our art. It’s easy for the readers to put themselves in Kappus’ shoes and read Rilke’s bits of advice as if they were for them. 

It’s also quite interesting to get to know the author’s considerations on love, disease and solitude and how he believed all three of these were of extreme importance for the human experience and therefore for the art we create. Rilke does this with humility and solidarity rather than putting himself in a somewhat superior position, which brings out sheer intimacy in his words. 

All I can put into words about this letter collection is that Rilke’s writing is graceful and fascinating, making us feel like he’s speaking directly to us. I evidently gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Bye, keep on reading. 


Link to the book: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Letters-to-a-Young-Poet-by-Rainer-Maria-Rilke-Charlie-Louth-translator/9780241252055