Bookworm’s paradise

I found out about NetGalley exactly a year ago.
Before then all the books that I read came from my own personal collection, or a vast, vast library that I was working at. Let’s just say, I never ran out of books to read, but rather my book piles kept growing and growing. Yet I always wanted more.
It’s in my nature. Maybe it’s the post-Soviet upbringing, where I hardly had anything, books included, and it was never enough. In fact, I could never get enough books. In those dark days of no Internet, cable or even DVDs, books were all I had.
I am a genetic bookworm – both my parents were huge book nerds. But while my mother mostly borrowed books, as she had no place to store them, my father filled his whole apartment with books to the point where he had to, literally, sleep on top of piles of books. Needless to say, with that pedigree I learned how to read at age 3 and was always ravenous for books.
I will not ramble on about this now, it’s a story for another post – or seven. Now is the moment to praise NetGalley.
So it was January 2017 and I was lamenting the fact that I barely got any new books during the holidays and I, like, ran out of reading material. Which is so not true, but you can never tell a bookworm that. I was browsing through Goodreads, looking at my friends’ reviews and getting more and more agitated because I kept running into the same disclaimer – I got a free copy of this book through NetGalley.
What was this NetGalley, I wondered, and how can I get some free books from it? God knows I’ve earned the right to get free books over a lifetime of obsessive devotion to literature! A quick Google search revealed that NetGalley was a treasure trove of brand new and upcoming releases that could be yours free of charge, if only you’d be so kind as to leave a review on your Goodreads, blog and other social media platforms (also don’t forget Amazon).
Oh em gee, thought I! All these free books in exchange for something that I already do – writing reviews?! Sign me up and give me all the books, please and thank you! It turned out that NetGalley and all the publishers were incredibly generous and really enthusiastic about literature, to the point where most of the books that I requested I would receive. I never even hoped for that much! Pretty soon my Kindle was bursting from countless electronic pages, and my mind was bursting from all the stories that I could help share with the world.
And then my mother got really sick and all my reading and especially reviewing whittled down to nothing…
2018 was officially the worst year of my life. The most challenging, devastating year. One where everything about me was put to the test, including my natural-born love of literature. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t lose myself in a book. Partly because I couldn’t sit still for longer than five minutes at a time, so consumed was I by taking care of my mother and trying to hold on to a job. And partly because reading requires more work than watching movies or shows, especially when you want to write a good review when you’re finished.
Long story short, I closed out the year of devastation and despair without my mother, and with a gaping hole where my heart used to be. And now, at the start of 2019, I realize that I need to fill that hole with something. Could it be my old soulmate Literature? After all, we’ve had some amazing times together over the years. Literature was my constant companion, even when all else failed me. Hopefully it will pull me out of this deep, dark hole now, since nothing and no one else can.
And the reason why I started and concluded this post with praise for NetGalley is that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to get my reading and reviewing back on track. I feel terrible about getting those wonderful free books and then letting publishers down by not reviewing them on time.
Well, if any publishers or NetGalley team is reading this, please know – I will get better, I will keep reading, I will improve my reading and reviewing habits, and I will make you proud! Okay, that last one was kind of cheesy, but when it comes to books I am a cheesy, over-the-top, unapologetic book lover and I will prove that with my actions in 2019!
And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to my Kindle – stories await!

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A muser and a rambler

I am a reader, a writer and a movie/show watcher. In no way am I a critic. I’m not even sure one can call oneself a critic, and yet so many do. Call yourself a reviewer, if you like, because reviewing is what you do. Meanwhile, I shall call myself a muser and a rambler, since that is what I do – I muse and I ramble.
I love those words! I muse when I’m calm and simply wish to ponder what I’ve learned. My favorite part of the definition of “to muse” is that it’s done to oneself – you muse to yourself. In my case, I muse to myself cause there’s no one else to muse to. Now that I’ve lost my mother, who was the only person capable of listening to my musings and ramblings, I have no one else to share my thoughts with. So I shall muse, and sometimes I shall ramble – which is a more irritated variation of musing – on the pages of this blog. Hopefully, there will be other, virtual people interested in what I have to say.
Still, reviewing is what we are expected to do, at least on the sites like NetGalley, Amazon and Goodreads, so that’s what I’ll also try to do. One of the reasons why I decided to launch an actual blog was to keep my reviews in the same place, or rather to provide the master version of those mini-reviews. Cause as I see it, people don’t need particularly lengthy reviews on those sites. They’re choosing, sometimes in a hurry, whether or not they would like to read a particular book or watch a movie or show. They don’t want to read my ramblings on said shows and books, but they’d probably be interested in some key things to expect and some pros and cons of each item. And that’s what I’ll continue to provide on those platforms.
Meanwhile, the blog will be dedicated to the master versions of those various reviews. In fact, as I’ve already mentioned, there won’t be any reviews here – just musings and ramblings. And yes, there is a difference, which I will try and establish. Or perhaps I’ll come to find out that there isn’t a difference and that would be fine too.
There’s only one way to find out – start writing!

Diary of a wimpy kid: the meltdown, by Jeff Kinney

Somehow Wimpy Kid became one of my favorite characters, and certainly a constant in my reading life. Every year I wait for the beginning of November to get my hands on the new volume of Greg Heffley’s misfortunes. And I’m not the only one. My library used to purchase up to 10 copies of each Wimpy Kid book, none of which would come back to the shelves for another six months or so. Every kid, and their mother, had to read Wimpy Kid. At this point, there is no need to prove the merits of this series. You either love it, or you don’t know about it. Still, since I’ve come up with this new reviewing template, I will follow it for a more coherent review.
WRITING STYLE: Wimpy Kid books are consistently well written and illustrated. Greg Heffley has his own established voice and it never seizes to amuse and entertain. The illustrations are simple, but detailed and have an endearing quality. I love the ratio of illustrations to text, making it a kind of wordier graphic novel.
NARRATION: “Meltdown” takes us through a climate-changing winter. January is blessed (or cursed) with sunshine and warmth, which makes Greg very nervous that the ice caps will melt and the frozen dinosaurs and other creatures will be free to roam the Earth. Once the weather gets properly cold, we get more of how and where Greg lives. I am terrible at remembering books, but I feel like this is the first time we’ve had such an in-depth glance at Greg’s neighborhood. Other stories were set mostly at school, or on a road trip or vacation. “Meltdown” does a great job of inviting us into the world of Greg Heffley, exploring his life on the Upper Surrey Street, which is complicated by the existence of the Lower Surrey Street. There is a feudal war going on between those who live on the Upper and Lower streets, and that’s a fun war to witness. Especially when the novel culminates in an epic Snowball Fight with various fractions, alliances and snow forts. The author mostly keeps track of everything that’s going on, but I sometimes found it hard to follow the action.
SETTING: As I’ve already mentioned, “Meltdown” gives us a whole new setting, or rather expands on the previously introduced setting, of Greg’s neighborhood. The illustrations are very helpful in establishing all the locations, houses and the people who live there. I would love to see more stories taking place in this setting.
CHARACTERS: We get introduced to a whole bunch of new characters – the various occupants of the Upper and Lower Surrey Street. Some were mere faces in the overall picture, while others played a substantial role in the Epic Snow Battle. My favorite new character was the guy who opened his own snowball store – you go, small business owner! I also enjoyed the role of the parents in this novel – nonchalant bystanders who don’t get the whole Upper/Lower Street Feud and who low-key don’t care that their kids spend days and sometimes nights outside in the freezing cold. A nice break from the overbearing parents that I so often encounter.
PERSONAL LIKES: EVERYTHING! Alright, almost everything. This is one of my favorite series of all time, and this is one of the best books in it, so I will be flailing over it, if you don’t mind. I just loved the world building! The previous book felt like such a letdown, with that silly vacation that they took. And this one brought it back home, literally. Now I feel like I know Greg so much better, know exactly where he lives and what goes on in his neighborhood. It’s really exciting for me. I especially loved the part where he would sneak into his grandma’s house to get warm and watch TV – that is such a Greg thing to do.
PERSONAL COMPLAINTS: My own concern was the school bus situation. We don’t have school buses here in Moscow, so I only know the situation from American movies, shows and books. And I always thought that the bus would either take you straight to your house, or at least close to your house. But Greg has to walk all the way to school if his parents can’t take him – that is messed up! Although, later in the story I learned that the bus actually could take Greg closer to his house. He either wouldn’t take it, cause he’d be late for it, or something else happened – I wasn’t exactly clear. But this is such a minor thing, and maybe it’s even explained, but I was dealing with indigestion while reading this book, so I may have blanked on some details.
IN CONCLUSION: This is one of the best books in the series of Wimpy Kid! The series had been kind of a letdown for the past several years – I didn’t really like the previous one, I don’t even remember reading the one before that… But “Meltdown” brings the series back to its glory days! I loved exploring more of Greg’s world – heck, I didn’t even know there was more world to explore! I hope that Jeff Kinney keeps this up for the next installments, which better be in the works. I can’t imagine my Novembers without the new Wimpy Kid.
YOU MIGHT LIKE IT IF: you’re in the mood for a quick, fun, illustrated read; you like your middle-grade characters wimpy, but snarky; you are not ashamed of loving a series for middle schoolers.
SUPER-OBJECTIVE CRITIC-LEVEL RATING: Five Wimpy Stars! Keep up the good work, Jeff Kinney!