Book Review: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

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“Two eyes were fixed on Margarita’s face. The right one with a golden spark at its bottom, drilling anyone to the bottom of his soul, and the left one empty and black, like the narrow eye of a needle, like the entrance to the bottomless well of all darkness and shadow.”

The Master and Margarita tells the tale of the devil, Woland, as he comes to Moscow with his cohorts and wreaks havoc. It’s told in the style of a fairytale with a lot of dark humor and political satire. There are three stories that intertwine, one is the literary uppercrust of Moscow that Woland & co. take particular pleasure in tormenting, the second is the tale of Pontius Pilate set in the time of Christ, and the third is the story of the Master and Margarita. This book, simply put, is the most brilliant thing I’ve read all year. Bulgakov makes a mockery of the literary society that suppresses truth in favor of conforming to the Stalin government, his portrayal of Moscow society is over the top but the exaggeration not only adds to the humor, but is actually quite revealing and thought provoking.

I read the Peavar/Volkhonsky translation and while I thoroughly enjoyed it (and I love this gorgeous cover), the edition I have unfortunately doesn’t have any notes or an introduction. I would have liked reading some context to the political times Bulgakov wrote in before diving into the novel. It turns out that the manuscript of The Master and Margarita was heavily revised by Bulgakov but he was unable to revise the second part before he died. I think this is a book that I could re-read over and over again. I want to read it again relatively soon but I’d like to give the famous Burgin/O’Connor translation a try. The Peavar/Volkhonsky translation, while grammatically and technically accurate, is reportedly not as lyrical and poetic as the text could be. I definitely felt that in my reading.

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Harry Xmas To You

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It was in March 2001 that I discovered and read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time. From that moment on Harry Potter would become a big part of my life over the next decade. I immersed myself in the books, I fangirled and criticized the movies, I read fanfiction online and admired fan artwork, I bought posters and various memorabilia. On my bed right now is a Prisoner of Azkaban pillow with the faces of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson that I bought when the movie came out. Starting from the fifth book, I pre-ordered each new release months in advance and rushed to the bookstore to pick it up on the day of release. I attended a big release party for Deathly Hallows. I cried all through the two Deathly Hallows movies. Even though time and distance has brought me into new fandoms over the years and I haven’t read the books in a long time, Harry Potter still holds a big, unshakeable piece of my heart.

When I discovered #HarryXmasToYou hashtag on Instagram I was thrilled to have a reason to delve back into the series from the very beginning. I recruited two of my high school best friends, who I went through the biggest phases of my obsession with, to join me and they enthusiastically agreed. This December, 13 years after reading the books for the first time, I am so glad to finally be back at Hogwarts. I’m going to be reading all 7 books and then I’ll marathon the 8 movies. I’m currently on Chamber of Secrets and I’ll be making a post about each post as I go along. Harry Xmas To You!

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Three: An Anthology of Flash Nonfiction

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It’s been more than a month since my last update. I know, bad blogger! But I plan to catch up with lots of posts soon. I have quite a large backlog of book reviews now. But in the meantime, here’s something exciting that happened recently. I was published in an anthology! It’s called Three and it’s a collection of flash nonfiction. Inside you’ll find three paragraph short stories, haikus, and collections of three black and white photographs that tell a story.

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We had a book launch for it where the contributors gathered with their friends and family. I feel really honored to be a part of this. And it’s my first published work so it’s really exciting. Three can be purchased on Amazon in physical book form or ebook.

More posts to come soon!

Book Review: The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

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“I created various personalities within myself. I create them constantly. Every dream, as soon as it is dreamed, is immediately embodied by another person who dreams it instead of me.

In order to create, I destroyed myself; I have externalized so much of my inner life that even inside I now exist only externally. I am the living stage across which various actors pass acting out different plays.”

In The Book of Disquiet Fernando Pessoa writes as Bernardo Soares, one of his many heteronyms. Bernardo Soares expresses his thoughts on life, love, art, insomnia…It reads like a journal or a long essay but Soares’ thoughts are incredible and piercing.

I really enjoyed reading this but it was also difficult. There are things that Soares writes I feel like could have come out of my own head, especially his thoughts on solitude and loneliness. Reading his words made me feel like I was understood in a way that I’ve been searching for my whole life. It’s amazing that someone who was born nearly a hundred years before me could feel the way that I feel and had thoughts so similar to mine. But that’s the beauty and power of literature, it transcends distance and time to connect people. Through all of the advances in society and technology, humanity is still essentially the same. Of course, I don’t agree with everything that Soares thinks and writes. There are some things that I just flat out disagree with but having a differing viewpoint rounds out my understanding of Soares. Just like with my friends. I can be friends with people who don’t have the same taste in literature as me, or differing political viewpoints, or different religious viewpoints…I connect with Soares on some things and I don’t on others, it makes his thoughts even more interesting to read.

You know the ‘if you could invite anyone to dinner, even dead people, who would you invite’ question? I would love to have Fernando Pessoa at my dinner table. He has such a fascinating and a truly brilliant mind. I’ve bought a book of his poetry and I can’t wait to read it.

Book Review: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

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“I have invented the thing we are traveling in, which I call Professor Steg’s Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier.”

“I call it a balloon,” I said.

“Professor Steg’s Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier is the original name,” he said.

This is an illustrated book for children and a really funny and wacky at that. I love how Neil completely turns around the ‘kid-goes-on-an-adventure-and-adults-don’t-believe-him’ trope and has the Dad be the one with the crazy adventure story that his skeptical kids don’t believe. It’s great and it shows that imagination doesn’t die in youth.

It’s a fun to read story and something hilarious to read to your kids, if you have any, or to younger siblings. Or, in my case, just to myself. Neil Gaiman’s wit and imagination can never be denied.

October To Kill a Mockingbird Re-Reading Project

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I’m horribly behind on making this post, we’re already more than halfway through October. But I do still plan to read this. The hitch is that I can’t find my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and I’ve looked everywhere for it! I don’t know how books can just disappear from my shelves but it always happens somehow.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books ever and it’s really important to me. I wrote about it here. So I’m really happy to be reading it again after a really really long time. I think the last time I read it I was in high school. Since I’m so behind on posts and on my reading, I’m only going to make one analysis post instead of the two that I did for The Great Gatsby. Join me in reading an analyzing To Kill a Mockingbird if you’d like.

Book Review: Lullabies by Lang Leav

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Lullabies is Lang Leav’s second collection of poetry. The first is called Love & Misadventure, which I discovered a few months ago and immediately fell in love with. I became an instant fan of Lang Leav and when I found out Lullabies was coming out I didn’t hesitate to preorder it.

Lang Leav is one of those writers who have a gift for knowing my soul. She writes of love and heartbreak in a way that expresses exactly what I feel and think about it. Especially when I’ve experienced it so recently. Lullabies is a thicker volume than Love & Misadventure, packed with more poems, to my delight. There’s a disclaimer in the beginning that the poems can be read in any order but there is a story if you read it from beginning to end. I read it from beginning to end, of course, because that’s my way. I do appreciate the flow of the poems when read this way but I feel like Love & Misadventure was a little more cohesive in the way it presented each section of poems. That said, when I look at each individual poem I feel like Lang Leav really outdid herself. There’s not really much I can say, the poems speak for themselves so I’ll just post a few of my favorites.

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If you’ve ever been in love and brokenhearted, I can guarantee you’ll be able to relate to these poems. Lang Leav truly has a way with words, she speaks straight from the heart and her words continually pierce mine as I read these poems.