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1984

So, I recently finished “1984”, by George Orwell.  It went right on my “favs” shelf and I would glue it there if I wasn’t against book abuse. I didn’t know much about the plot, I just knew that both my parents have read it, that it ‘s a classic and that it’s considered one of the most prophetic books ever written. So, I knew I had to read it. I mean, every book that manages to remain a top book among bookworms (and not just them) for almost 60 years is worth giving a try, right? Let me say something from the start though. If you don’t have the slightest interest in politics, history and society evolution, this is not the book for you. But for that matter, if that’s the case, I think you will find Orwell boring altogether.

The book was written in 1948 and describes the life of a London citizen in 1984, when the political and social rules have changed radically. It’s very important to keep in mind that, at the time written, the book talked about a world that would exist 36 years ahead. I ‘ve read reviews of people who described the book as stupid and inaccurate because the year 1984 was not as described in the book. I’m amazed that those people even finished the book, but I’ll let it pass, even if I can hear Mr. Orwell crying from his grave.

OK, back to the book. The world described in the book is the world we live in. It’s just divided in three great nations, the superstates: Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia, which are in constant war with each other. London is a city of Oceania. There lives his average, ordinary life, Winston Smith. Describing his everyday life, Orwell paints a picture of a society were people are brainwashed 24/7, controlled by the “Big Brother” through their telescreens and the Thought Police. Where information and history are constantly being changed by the Party, so as to keep control of the people. Where everyone eats the same food, wears the same clothes, drinks gin on a daily basis and has a certain amount of chocolate, as recommended b the Party. Where kids tell on their parents and are proud to be members of the Thought Police.

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!And then, there is a light of hope, when Winston starts thinking that maybe there is another way of living. A way where you can love and have dreams and fears and hopes. And he finds a haven and a companion in this realization. And he can actually feel the change, he can actually feel the happiness building inside of him. And the reader thinks that maybe there will always be someone trying to fight the evil in the world, there will always be hope and there will always be a change for the best. But Orwell has predicted that too. And no. Just when you think that maybe there’s a hopeful ending, with an entire secret organization trying to defeat Big Brother, Orwell reveals that it’s all just a lie. It’s not possible to destroy Big Brother and there never was hope. It was all part of the plan to “reset” Winston. And with Winston’s hope, dies yours too. SOILER ENDS HERE

 What really struck me was that I recognized many situations as (very) advanced variations of situations nowadays. Reading the book, one can almost see the path we are walking on leads somewhere near the world described by Orwell. Controlled press and media (“…and then, the chosen lie would pas into the permanent records and become truth”), manipulation of the masses, bringing the common mind in a stagnant state, more interested in football and lottery than political changes, hunger,  diseases, wars (“Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling, filled up the horizon…”). It struck me from the first pages, so much that I stopped reading it for a few months. It’s not a light read and someone has to be in the mood for reading it. It’s not a beach book, it’s not a lift-me-up book, it’s not a “let-me forget-about-reality” book. It’s a book that will torment you for days and months. It’s a book that will make you question the way the world works. It’s a book that will make you wonder if your opinion is really yours. If you get it, it gets you. Enjoy!

Some other quotes I noted:

“They could be made to accept the most fragrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding, they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.”

“In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.”

“There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”

“Sanity is not statistical.”

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Review: “Hook”, by Nicolas Tsamis

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“Hook” by Nicolas Tsamis

 

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One day, I found an inbox from the author of this book, asking me if I wanted to read it and leave an honest review. Of course, I said yes, because the only thing better than a book is a free book!
I was given the choice of having it sent to me either in English or in Greek. I speak Greek, Italian and English, so if a book is originally written in one of those, I prefer reading it in its original language. So I chose greek (it may seem irrelevant, but I’ll get to that later on).

The plot
“Shortly before he dies, an elderly enlightened Teacher in India finds a way to leave his body and remain suspended in a dimension somewhere between life and death. Only Rahul, his loyal student, knows about the Teacher’s plans, as the dying man gives him instructions for the future before leaving his body.
Meanwhile, Konstantinos, a successful 35-year-old bachelor and owner of a software company, finds himself in the middle of the Teacher’s grand plan without realizing it. His life is radically changed, along with that of the woman he loves and everyone else around them, as they all become involved in something so huge, it could positively alter the course of humanity.”

(taken by the book’s GoodReads page.)

What do I think?
It’s been a while since a book had me this confused on whether to like it or not. In the end, I like it, but there are some points that had quite a negative effect on what I thought of it. Don’t be alarmed of how much longer the “didn’t like it” part is, the scale is in favor of the book!
Why I liked it
The way it was written kept me interested. Every chapter was from a different character’s point of view, so I didn’t get the chance to get annoyed and leave it for later. The plot unravels in a reasonable pace, not too quickly, not too slow. It’s easy to keep up and it kept me wondering of what will happen.
The idea of the book was really interesting. It was really close to my ideals. Planet Earth is being mistreated and the human race is so corrupted that it worsens the situation day by day. So, I loved the idea of some people trying to save it, never being blinded by greed and selfishness.
Why I didn’t like it
Being half greek and raised in Greece, there were a few things that seemed unnatural to me. First of all, something that I’ve noticed in many modern greek authors; the dialogues, at least between the greeks of the story, were not quite natural. They didn’t seem “everyday talk” to me. It’s clear that the author tried to make them sound natural, but he didn’t succeed in that. He used expressions and words that are nice on paper, but you rarely hear on everyday life, by everyday people.
Which brings us to the next point: everyday people. Greece is a country strongly attached to its religion, which is the Eastern Orthodox Christianity. It may be influenced by other cultures and open to the idea that there people believe in other religions too, but family and school teach a kid to believe in God. I don’t, by the way, I’m not trying to convert anyone here. It’s just the reason it was hard for me to believe that some characters in the book were so easily convinced by a talking parrot and end up having spiritual sessions with a Buddhist monk. I was convinced by Mirna and maybe Nikos, but it was very hard for me to picture a young head of a rising software company, his partner, a husband and father of two, and his secretary, a beautiful tennis instructor in her late 20s, none of whom had a previous contact with that kind of religion and spirituality, being so open about such a situation.
I also didn’t care much about the chapters that didn’t refer to any character, but seemed like bits taken from a modern encyclopedia, with the only purpose of informing the reader about key subjects of the book. I don’t have an alternative in mind, but they left me neutral. I liked the information and the chapters were not boring to read, but they didn’t “click” with the rest of the book in my mind.
And, finally, I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t reach a climax. There was anticipation for something big, that didn’t happen. I guess maybe that was the point, since there’s already a second book. It was a bit “lukewarm”, like we say in Greece!
And one last, tiny detail. As a huge horse lover, in the only page in the book that horses are mentioned, I was bothered by a small detail that shows that the writer didn’t make much effort to research some simple things.

Overall, I liked the book. If someone asked me if they should read it, I would say yes. It’s something different, especially for a Greek author. But after the reviews I read, I expected something more, something more intense than what I read. But I think I’ll read the second book as well at some point.

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Apple cake

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(ok, this is not an apple cake, but I didn’t take any pictures, so I took this one from the original recipe, which actually is with oranges instead of apples.)

So, this is the cake I made yesterday for my dad, since I’m on a diet, AGAIN! But of course I tasted it and it’s delicious! At this point, I have to say that I found this recipe here, and the original one is with oranges instead of apples. But I only had apples, so I adjusted it. Ok, here comes my first recipe post!

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Baking time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

250 gr. of sugar

250gr. of melted butter

4 eggs

250 gr. of flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 medium apples

  • peel the apples and pass them through the grater. Put them in the pan with half the butter and half the sugar. Stir until the sugar has melted and the apples are soft.
  • In a bowl, mix the eggs and sugar untill they’re slightly creamy. Stir in with a wooden spoon the rest of the butter, the flour, the baking powder and the apples (save them for last).
  • Butter and flour a rectangular baking pan, pour in it the batter and put in the oven (preheated at 170 C) for an hour. Don’t open the oven earlier because the cake will “sit” and won’t come out fluffy inside.

You can frost it with confectioners sugar. I thought about frosting it with melted white chocolate and put it in the fridge. I’m trying it next time, cause dad ate it all!

 

 

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My A-Z book challenge

This used to be a different challenge. But I’m starting it again, because I delayed it too much and didn’t even stick to the rules! So here it is, my new A-Z challenge! I have to read one book for every letter of the alphabet. Because this is a challenge,  I CANNOT read a letter I already read.

Start date: 1-Jan-2013

End date: I will try and finish it in 7 months. So, 31-Jul-2013

A)
B)
C) A Clash of Kings (A song of Ice and Fire, Book #2), by George R. R. Martin (read from 11-Dec-12 to 20-Mar-13)
D)
E)
F) Future, Imperfect: Six Dystopian Short Stories, by Ruth Nestvold (finished 6-Mar-13)
G)
H) Hook, by Nicolas Tsamis (read from 5-Feb-13 to 10-Feb-13) my review
I)
J)
K)
L) The lover’s dictionary, by David Levithan (read on 3-Feb-13)
M)
N) Nineteen Eighty Four (1984), by George Orwell (read from November-12 to 22-Feb-13) my review
O)
P)
Q)
R)
S) Steel and Snow (Part 1 of Storm of Swords, Book #3 of “A Song of Ice and Fire”), by George R.R. Martin (read from 20-Mar-13)
T)
U)
V)
W)
X)
Y)
Z)

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To her.

I was walking down the street, running from one thing to another when, somehow her overpowring memory came to me, taking my breath away… I remembered the way she smiled and laughed when I surprised her, coming back from college a day or two early… And i kept smiling for the rest of my day.
This is for her, the sweetest and kindest person I ever met. My grandmother. Miss you, yiayià!

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Ελαιώνας Ιππαρχικού – Hipparchicus olive grove

(note: this was suposed to be published 2 months ago)

Yesterday we finished planted our own olive trees. A very tiring but satisfyong weekend!

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Valdottavo, Part I

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You know those places where middle aged, recently divorced women go to rediscover life in romantic comedies, in Tuscany or south France, those little villages where everyone seems to know everyone and they welcome the new visitor with open arms, those places where they have the doors unlocked and anyone can go in or out as they please, those places that the cosmopolitan woman finds no one outside after 9pm and hates it, untill she falls in love with the mayor or something? Everyone I know thinks “yeah, like this place exists for real!”. Well, this is it. I was born in one of those places and I was lucky enough to spend most of my childhood summers here. i was blessed by my parents’ love for each other to have two homes in two different countries. I can’t say one is my first home and the other is my second. Both are parts of me and both have helped me grow up and both have given me amazing memories and wonderfull people.
Somewhere between the hills and mountains of Tuscany, in the province of Lucca, you can find this tiny village where life is different. Everyone does know everyone, everyone does leave their doors unlocked and everyone does welcome strangers with a smile.
My grandfather used to have the town’s pharmacy, just under their house. He was called by everyone “il farmacista”, “the pharmacist”. He died almost five years ago and it’s been more than ten years that he gave up the pharmacy to a new pharmacist. Yet, on my way to the cemetery today, after having some small talk with Jessica, a little girl of 5, her grandmother told me “you’re the pharmacist’s grandaughter, aren’t you?”. I said “yes” and left with a smile and warmth in my heart. Yes, I’m home…

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