donderdag 31 juli 2014

George R. R. Martin: A Game of Thrones

Hi

Well, I finally gave in to peer pressure; I read A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.
My fiancé owns the whole A Song of Ice and Fire series and he’s a big fan.
The book won the Locus Award and it was nominated for the World Fantasy Award.
This copy has 780 pages.

“Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men. All will play the Game of Thrones.
Summers span decades.Winter can last a lifetime.And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.It will stretch from the south where heat breeds plot,lusts and intrigues to the vast frozen north,where a 700-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. The Game of Thrones. You win,or you die.”

Well, I can’t say I loved it.
It’s not bad, but I think a reader who’s not used to reading fantasy will love it more than someone who is.

First and foremost, I have a problem with Martin’s characters. They are underdeveloped, they only have about three emotions or character traits (they do differ in every character luckily) and most of them are one-dimensional, only focusing on one thing at the time (eg. Catelyn goes from staying with Bran day and night for days to abandoning him to go to Ned and then she doesn’t go back to her youngest children).
Every character reads the same; Bran sounds the same as Ned, John, Catelyn or Tyrion, they don’t sound their age and they certainly don’t act their age. That’s especially a problem in the minor characters like Tommen and Old Nan who don’t have a defining trait. The mayor characters are mostly distinguishable by their clichéd, simplistic and forced traits and characteristics. The characters are extremely black-and-white: tomboy Arya, stupid but beautiful Sansa, honorable but stupid Ned, the drunkard and whoring king, the loving but unforgiving and hard Catelyn, the blonde and cunning adulteress Cersei, the stupid, handsome and strong Jaime. I really didn’t care for them and if I don’t care for a character, I certainly don’t care for the novel. I can love unlikable characters but I have to care for them to be able to enjoy a story.

The story is great though. Told from multiple points of view, and a focus on politics and the dynamics in the kingdom, it certainly is entertaining. It’s not new and unique, it has been done before, but it is very good. The plot arcs change and evolve and the characters need to adapt to them and that could be interesting as it creates tension.

It’s just not well executed. It feels as though Martin has no passion for language, for imagery or for the art of writing a good book. I could find no joy in the reading itself because there’s no passion and love for language or fiction in it.The writing is flat and bland.
The multiple points of view are a good idea, but again, not well executed. The time leaps are too big. We go from Ned in his cell, to Arya viewing his execution, from Daenerys hating Khal Drogo to her being deliriously in love with him.
I would have liked to read more about the world itself. I mean, it’s such an amazing world and it has so much potential. But there’s virtually no world-building here. You read about seasons lasting for years but you never get explained how that can be. We know nothing about life outside the castles (what about the lower classes?), about the different cultures in the different parts of the kingdom (there’s seven of them, they can’t all be the same) or about what’s beyond The Wall (anything would have been nice, but I would like to know more than; “it’s there for a reason”). I think it’s too shallow. Martin doesn’t even try to create this world.

It’s a good story, made rather plain and dull by a writer who cannot captivate depth and emotion. I’ll probably try the next one in the series, but it won’t be anytime soon.

How did you like this novel?

Happy reading.
Helena


Relaxing after my fabulous bachelorette party!

dinsdag 29 juli 2014

Bookhaul: Book Depository

Hi

My new order from The Book Depository came in!
I'm so happy and I'm looking forward to reading them.

Here are the books I got.

•    Neil Gaiman: American Gods
•    Neil Gaiman: Smoke and Mirrors
•    Mitch Albom: The Five People You Meet in Heaven
•    Alan Bennett: Smut Two Unseemly Stories
•    Hugh Howey: Shift
•    Hugh Howey: Dust

As you can see, I only ordered books by writers I’ve tried and liked before.

Anything you would like me to read first?

Happy reading.
Helena


donderdag 24 juli 2014

Terry Pratchett: Thief of Time

Hi again

Thief of Time is Terry Pratchett’s 26th Discworld novel.
This is, sadly, the last novel with a cover by Josh Kirby.
My copy has 430 pages.

“Time is a resource.
Everyone knows it has to be managed.
And on Discworld that is the job of the Monks of History, who store it and pump it from the places where it's wasted (like underwater -- how much time does a codfish need?) to places like cities, where there's never enough time.
But the construction of the world's first truly accurate clock starts a race against, well, time, for Lu Tze and his apprentice Lobsang Ludd. Because it will stop time. And that will only be the start of everyone's problems.
Thief of Time comes complete with a full supporting cast of heroes and villains, yetis, martial artists and Ronnie, the fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse (who left before they became famous).”

I don’t need to know more than this about a novel because it seems hilarious.
You really have to go into every Discworld novel not knowing more than the Blurb.
Sam Vimes, Susan Sto Helit and Death are three of my favorite characters in the Discworld (the witches Granny and Nanny are my absolute favorites) which means that every novel with them is a good one in my opinion.

The Death of Rats is in there. Need I say more? I don’t think so. My lips curl up every time TP writes about him, I can’t help it.
One of the (many, many) things I like about the Discworld stories is that every character is important, everyone has a role to play in this novel or even in future novels.
It’s to the point, not a lot happens that isn’t essential to the story. TP doesn’t waste words on unimportant events.
I did however feel like I had to accept a lot in this novel in order to be able to move on. The whole flux of time and thus the problem in this novel is rather hard to grasp.

Though Thief of Time isn’t one of the best in the Discworld series, it is an enjoyable novel. It's hilarious at moments and thought provoking at others.

I hope you’ll try Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels soon.

Happy reading!
Helena

Tea and TP after my first day at work!

woensdag 23 juli 2014

Bookhaul: Bol

Hi again

I finished college!
These past few months have been so busy I rarely got time to buy or order books.
To celebrate I ordered quite a few from Bol. :)

Here’s the list of the novels I bought through bol.com:

•    Alice Hoffman: The Museum of Extraordinary Things
•    Michael Cunningham: The Snow Queen
•    Patrick Rothfuss: The Wise Man’s Fear
•    Christopher Priest: The Islanders
•    Jo Walton: Among Others
•    Nathan Filer: The Shock of the Fall
•    Chris Beckett: Dark Eden
•    Margaret Atwood: Lady Oracle
•    Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire
•    David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas

Is there anything you can recommend? Or a novel you really enjoyed?
Let me know what you think.
I hope you’re as excited as I am about these new books!

Happy reading.
Helena




maandag 21 juli 2014

Jeffrey Eugenides: The Marriage Plot

Hi

The Marriage Plots is Jeffrey Eugenides’ third novel and the second one I read (I read The Virgin Suicides about a year ago).
I ordered my copy from The Book Depository. It has 406 pages.

“Brown University, 1982. Madeline Hanna, dutiful English student and incurable romantic is writing her thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot - authors of the great marriage plots. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different men, intervenes.
Leonard Bankhead, brilliant scientist and charismatic loner, attracts Madeleine with an intensity that she seems powerless to resist. Meanwhile, her old friend Mitchell Grammaticus, a theology student searching for some kind of truth in life, is certain of at least one thing - that he and Madeleine are destined to be together.
But as all three leave college, they will have to figure out how they want their own marriage plot to end.”

This was a very hard review to write. As I’m not a language student, a writer or professional reviewer it’s difficult to write a review about a novel you’re supposed to love, but find out you don’t love as much as you’d like. Jeffrey Eugenides is one of those writers you have to read and subsequently love. But I can’t say I loved it. I did enjoy it because of the writing and the prose… the prose is just magnificent! It’s rich and still readable, beautiful, glorious and elegant.

Eugenides is able to make me understand characters I really dislike. The characters have merits but they also have their flaws and the writer isn’t shy in exposing those. Madeline is just flat and bland and I hated her at moments. But as the novel progresses, you realize that Eugenides did this to help us remember that we all are flawed.
It’s ironic that Madeline is studying and writing about The Marriage Plots but she doesn’t see what’s happening around her, she doesn’t understand her own life, her relationships and her choices, she doesn’t understand herself.

This novel teaches us that even though we think we know everything there is to know about someone, the other person will always remain a mystery.
But it is a very slow novel.

Happy reading.
Helena

Lazy Sunday afternoon

donderdag 17 juli 2014

Hugh Howey: Wool

Hi

Wool is the first novel in a trilogy by Hugh Howey. Actually, Wool consists of five parts in a series of nine called Silo.
I bought my book in the Fnac it has 540 pages.

“In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo.
Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations.
But some people choose not to conform.
These are the people who dare to hope and dream.
These are the dangerous ones.
Jules is one of these people.
She may well be the last.”

I flew through this novel, I loved it that much.

Wool tells the story of some of these dangerous ones and their questions and search for answers about their world.
To tell you more would be to give you spoilers. I don’t want you to know more then this when you start this novel because it’s amazing and you will be surprised. Even the small things; details about their daily life should be discovered while reading.

Howey did a phenomenal job building the world in the series. He gave a lot of thought to details and to the world all-round. I could feel myself in there and I love it when a writer does that. Because of his eye for detail the world feels real.
The silo is massive but at some points I felt claustrophobic, I could feel the closeness, the heaviness and the oppression.
Amazingly descriptive prose, fast and unexpected plot developments, a thoroughly built (disturbing) world, a compelling story and deep concepts, everything I want in a Dystopian novel.
As a reader I was surprised and intrigued by some of the twists. Occasionally, we get some information about the silo and the world outside, but we discover everything together with the characters.
The characters are very realistic. They have flaws and that makes them closer to us, the readers. Howey put a lot of thought into them, they don’t blend together, and every character had his/her own unique voice. the writer isn’t shy; he easily kills some of the characters and he puts them through horrendous events.
There were moments where I didn’t feel emotionally invested but that’s because of the technical stuff. When I just accepted whatever they were doing it was fine.
And NO melodrama whatsoever. I love him.
One question though. Why is there no elevator? 150 stories and no elevator? WHY? The 50 year-old mayor has to descend and climb 150 stories to go and find Juliette. That’s not realistic even if it is to save on energy.

I’m really looking forward to the second part. It’s supposed to be a prequel and it should explain why this all came to be.

Happy reading!
Helena

Afternoon snack.:)

maandag 14 juli 2014

Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus

Hi

Due to a rainy Saturday and Sunday, I was able to finish this novel in no time even though it has 496 pages. I ordered my copy from bol.com. The Night Circus is Morgenstern’s debut novel.
Do I even have to mention the cover art? It is so GORGEOUS!

“The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it.
It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”
Le Cirque des Rêves is only open at night. Celia and Marco, two young magicians, have been trained since childhood to compete against each other by creating the best, most wonderful, imaginative and amazing attractions in the circus. But only one of them will survive this contest.

First of all, Celia and Marco fall in love. No surprise there. Luckily, Morgenstern doesn’t give us an overdose of this love because if there is one thing I hate in novels and movies, it’s melodrama.
The story has flaws, it’s not perfect but I was enchanted by it and here’s why.
It has beautiful prose, an elegant story, making it a truly compelling, mysterious and wondrous novel, vividly, dreamlike and imaginative. Truly beautiful and amazing use of words.
But the characters lack depth. The third-person narrative prevents the reader from identifying with the characters. We don’t get to know the characters, their thoughts and feelings are hidden from us most of the time.
The story is told from multiple POV’s and is confusing because of that.

I felt like I was watching an amazingly magical movie, but I wasn’t taking part in it. And I like to be part of the story, to feel like I’m really there.
In some places the story drags and I felt the plot lacking. But the circus, magic and love make this a truly enjoyable and enchanting read.If you care about the prose and not only about action, then I really recommend this novel.

Happy reading!
Helena

Tea, homemade pie and a book. Life can be good.

vrijdag 11 juli 2014

John Irving: Setting Free the Bears

Hi

This is John Irving’s first novel and it was published in 1968. Because I own The World According to Garp in Dutch (and I want them all the same) I bought this one in Dutch too from bol.com and it has 438 pages.

Graff, an Austrian college student, and Siggy, a motorcycle mechanic and enthusiast, become friends and decide to embark on a motorcycle tour of Austria. While traveling they meet Gallen with whom they both have a very bizarre relationship. In the second part of the book we learn more about Siggy’s philosophical part, his ideas and about his family’s history pre-WWII to the 1960’s. When Siggy is killed in an accident, Graff decides to continue their initial plan to free the animals of the Vienna Zoo.

I loved the second part of the novel. The family history is fascinating because it is unconventional and marked by the world and the time they live in. Through the notebook we get to know Siggy. We learn why he is obsessed with the Vienna Zoo and why is the slightly crazy person he is today. 
However, I really didn’t like Gaff. There is no depth to him and I didn’t understand his whole relationship with Gallen, why he does the things he does and says the things he says.
As a post-WWII generation book, I enjoyed it. Siggy and Graff are defined by nothing, unlike their parents who were defined by the war. All that matters is how their families were impacted by the war. They try to figure out more about what happened to the people during the war but most of their questions are left unanswered.

The first part I hated, I had to struggle to get to the second part. As a rule I read 100 pages and if I don’t like a novel by then I put it aside. I was ready to put it down but for my uncle who loves Irving. And I’m glad I did finish it because I loved the second part. The third part was disturbing and even creepy at times perhaps partly because I felt no connection to Graff and Gallen whatsoever.
Well I must say I have mixed feelings about this novel.
Did you like it?

Happy reading.
Helena

Time for a break!

woensdag 9 juli 2014

Mitch Albom: The Time Keeper

Hi again

A quick review about a The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom.
My copy has 238 pages.
In order to really appreciate the book, you have to keep in mind that it’s marked as Inspirational Fiction. This means that the story is of lesser importance than the message inside it.
I got my copy from bol.com.

“Banished for centuries, as punishment for trying to measure time, the inventor of the world's first clock is finally granted his freedom, along with a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two people the true meaning of time. He returns to our world and embarks on a journey with two unlikely partners: a teenage girl who is about to give up on life and a wealthy, ageing businessman who wants to live for ever. To save himself, he must save them both. Gripping, and filled with deep human truth, this unforgettable story will inspire readers everywhere to reconsider their own notions of time and just how precious it truly is.”

The story is very straightforward and easy, but it is not only about the story.
I didn’t feel attached to the characters because I didn’t get to know them very well. But I can’t say I found that a problem because it’s not necessary to the message in the story.

It’s a thought provoking novel, Albom made me think about the way I experience the time I’m given and how much I live by it. The novel inspired me to think less about time and ‘loosing time’ by having to clean, shop for groceries etc. and experience my free time more fully.

If you like inspirational books definitely pick this one up!

Happy reading.
Helena

dinsdag 8 juli 2014

Bookhaul: Boekenfestijn

Hi

My fiancé and I went to the Boekenfestijn in Ghent this weekend. As usual I started with around 15 books in my cart, thinking it a bit too much I was able to ‘narrow it down’ to 8.

Here are the books I bought this time.

-    C. J. Sansom: Dark Fire
-    C. J. Sansom: Sovereign
-    Amos Oz: Between Friends
-    Alice Munro: Lying Under the Apple Tree
-    F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
-    Yoko Ogawa: The Diving Pool
-    Stan Nicholls: Bad Blood: Weapons of Magical Destruction
-    Stan Nicholls: Bad Blood: Army of Shadows

Seen anything you can recommend me to read first?

Happy reading!
Helena



maandag 7 juli 2014

Robin Hobb: Forest Mage

Hi

Forest Mage is the second book in The Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb. I got my copy in the Fnac in Ghent. It’s 818 pages and I didn’t enjoy most of them. I started this novel mid-June and I had to push myself to finish it. A better title would be ‘Diary of a fat, depressed man’.

I can’t say a lot about the story because this is the second book in the series and I don’t want to spoil anything.
Nevare has survived The Speck Plague but is sent away from the Military Academy for being too fat. His body absorbs magic, thus making him gain weight. His relations at home worsen and after a new wave of The Plague he has to leave home. He travels to the frontier, hoping to find a unit that will take him on.

I enjoyed Hobb's writing style. The characters are well thought out; they seem very real and have great depth and feeling. The world Hobb created is imaginative and magnificent. The cultures of the different peoples are rich and different. Hobb has an eye for detail and realism.

However, the entire novel is a compilation of insults and violence Nevare has to suffer due to his weight gain. If I’d want to read about suffering and violence, I’d read a biography or the papers. I want to enjoy my time reading a novel because reading relaxes me, but this novel did just the opposite. Hobb just kept on piling insults, disasters and accidents on top of everything else that’s happening to Nevare. The novel left me feeling sad and frustrated every time I read a part.
In the first part of the trilogy Nevare was strong, had opinions, had confidence and bravado. Not anymore, he is passive and weak in this part and I didn’t like this side of him.
If you want action (battles, monsters or magical fights) this isn’t for you either. Nothing really happens and it’s a very slow and boring read. Nevare’s battle with the Speck magic inside him and all around him becomes overly repetitive and rather boring. She could have cut 300 pages easily.

I loved The Farseer Trilogy, which is why I wanted to read a second series by Robin Hobb. But this series just didn’t reach the standard she set for herself. Since it’s already on my shelf, I will read the third part in the trilogy, but it won’t be anytime soon.

Happy reading.
Helena

vrijdag 4 juli 2014

Kazuo Ishiguro: When We Were Orphans

Hi

When We Were Orphans is the second book by Kazuo Ishiguro I’ve read. I waited and waited until I found another book by Ishiguro with the same cover-art. I finally found this one in De Slegte, a second-hand bookshop, it has 334 pages. When We Were Orphans was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in the year 2000.

As a child, Christopher Banks used to live in Shanghai, China in the early 1900s. His father, an opium businessman, and mother disappear and he is left an orphan. He travels to Britain to live with his rich aunt. As a child Christopher vows to become a detective and solve the mystery of his parents’ disappearance. After becoming a famous detective he travels to Shanghai to try to solve the case.

As the novel progresses, Christopher seems more and more detached from reality. His childhood, the disappearance of his parents and the investigation become muddled and it is unclear whether everything that is happening is real or not. Christopher is convinced his parents are alive (after about 10 years) and are held somewhere in Shanghai. He seems to think that finding his parents and resolving the case will lead to a resolution of the Sino-Japanese conflict.
He’s clearly delusional.

The characters feel underdeveloped to me and I didn’t really connect with them (which is probably the reason why I didn’t love the novel). To me, it felt more like I was along for the ride, like I was watching everything happening without completely understanding the characters. There’s a lack of feeling, of emotion in Christopher. The characterization is very poor, I didn’t understand his whole romance with Sarah, why he adopted Jennifer or why he became so frantic in the police station.

Can’t say I loved it. Ishiguro writes very beautifully, elegant and rich, making this novel worth the read. But the lack of emotions and feeling made me feel detached from the story.

How did you like it? Did I miss something here? Ishiguro is a world-class writer and I didn’t love this novel. I feel like there must be something wrong with me.

Happy reading.
Helena

woensdag 2 juli 2014

Patrick Rothfuss: The Name of the Wind

Hi Again

The Name of the Wind is the first novel by Patrick Rothfuss and the first in The Kingkiller Chronicle. I ordered my copy from bol.com some time ago and I’ve been itching to read this but I wanted to wait until I had a few days off. This copy has 662 pages.

“Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet's hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.”

I loved this book, I really did. The world is very thoroughly built, all possible questions are answered. It all seems possible, the way their magic works is logical and that makes the novel very believable en realistic.
The characters are really well thought out, they are all unique; they don’t blend together when you’re reading. The characters make faults and have flaws but they also have merits and good intentions and that makes it such a good book. Kvothe can be very arrogant as he knows he’s intelligent but I feel like the author meant him to be like that. He’s selfish, impulsive and rash but I still like him. He’s not the personification of everything Good in that world; he’s not a real Hero.

Rothfuss' writing is vivid, smooth and compelling with delightful descriptions and evocative language; it all makes for a wonderful, intriguing novel.
Reading about a hero telling his own story is something very different and it works great.

The story sucked me right in. It took me some time to really understand what was going on but I kept going because it is just so well written. It’s a real page-turner and I found myself wanting to read the whole night through.

But it is a very slow story. Not a lot happens in this rather big book. He could have cut 200 pages easily and it would have kept the story going. Reading about his money problems or his problems with Denna yet again couldn’t interest me at all. Rothfuss definitely likes to meander.
Secondly, even though this is definitely the story of how a boy becomes a legend; it’s all a bit too incidental for my tastes.
Still loved it though.

Happy reading.
Helena

Writing a review about this absolutely great fantasy novel.

dinsdag 1 juli 2014

Wrap Up: June 2014

Hi again

I read quite a lot last month, 9 books and totaling 2953 pages which does surprise me because I was very stressed this last month of my life as a student.
It’s the first time I stack them all together and it is a rather high pile. I feel proud seeing that; something only a reader will understand I guess. Or I’m crazy, that’s likely too.

The first four books aren’t reviewed on this blog because I only started it mid June. If you want me to, I could write a review on them.

-    Eduardo Mendoza: The City of Marvels
-    Sándor Márai: The Rebels
-    Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray
-    Julian Barnes: Levels of Life
-    Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere
-    Terry Pratchett: The Truth
-    Alan Bennett: The Uncommon Reader
-    Sarah Waters: The Little Stranger
-    Andrew Miller: Pure

Have you read any of these? If so, how did you like them?

Happy reading.
Helena