vrijdag 29 augustus 2014

Veronica Roth: Divergent

Hi

This review is about Divergent, the first novel in the Divergent-trilogy. I ordered my copy from bol.com a very long time ago and it has 487 very easy to read pages.

“In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.”

The story is very easy to read, fast-paced, compelling at moments and I had a good time reading it.
The concept of the different factions is unique and something I’ve never read before. This is why I bought the novel in the first place; I was fascinated by this idea.

Even though it is an enjoyable novel, not a lot happens until we’re at least two-thirds in. It’s not like it’s boring or anything like that, but you really could sum it up in a paragraph.
And then suddenly Tris and Four know something is about to happen, it happens and they try to prevent it. That’s it. It’s over too soon.
I wish we knew more about this world. What happened? Why did it become this way? Why the factions? There was virtually no world-building. I suppose those questions will be answered in the second and third book but I need something in this one to want to read the next one. Some writers (yes I am talking about you, George R. R. Martin) seem to think that they don’t have to do any world-building in the first novel if they have more novels to follow in which they can do that.
I can’t understand how a city can exist when everyone only has one quality. How can a city be governed when every member sees every issue one-sided? And how can a whole future American society be ruled by a representation of only 15% of its people?  It is unrealistic and I understand it is fiction, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept everything.
Secondly, how can a person even survive with only one personality-trait? Dauntless value friendship too. And they put the group before themselves too. Self-actualization is definitely out of the question in this world.
The characters are rather shallow and underdeveloped, they’re not as interesting as they could have been.
Tris is very self-centered. Her friends are trying to protect her from the bullies, and others are trying to keep her divergence a secret while she just runs off to the brother for example.
Tris finds true love a bit too easy. I’m not saying she should hook up with every guy she sees but he’s the first guy she meets and she’s almost immediately attracted to him. And Four is a hot, older guy who is attracted to a younger, 12-year-old looking child. He has a tragic past and because of that he is very closed-off from everyone else but he still has hope and a true unique gentleness in him. It’s way too romantic and unrealistic.
Tris and others get over tragic events like loss way to soon. In a very short time, Al is forgotten, she doesn’t suffer from PTSD because of the attempted murder and The Great Twist at the end doesn’t seem to affect her at all.
Some other things raise questions too. How can Tris end so high in the rankings when she was so low at first? How can a twenty-year-old (Eric) become a leader? Imagine that in our world! Why couldn’t the Dauntless use one of the many abandoned buildings?

The novel is enjoyable but I certainly didn’t love it. I found too much fault in it to really love it as much as I did The Hunger Games. It didn’t grip me, I was entertained and I definitely did enjoy reading it. But it wasn’t compelling or fascinating. This novel had a lot of potential, but it couldn’t live up to it.

Happy reading.
Helena

zaterdag 23 augustus 2014

Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games Trilogy

Hi

The three Hunger Games novels have been on my shelf for quite some time. I just never came round to reading them.
Because I got them second (or third) hand they may have a cover you don’t recognize.
Together they make up a story of 1157 pages.

My fiancé and I are getting married next Saturday so I didn’t have a lot of free time to read this week. And that is why I needed to read something light and easy. Plus, a friend of mine told me she really enjoyed them and that made me curious.
These are YA (young adult) novels and I’m around ten years too old to read these kinds of novels, but what can I say? I love dystopian novels. And YA is highly enjoyable.

“The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.
When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.”

I really liked this trilogy.
The world-building is almost fantastic. Almost realistic enough to feel like it could happen in the future.
I hate it when the sequels spend too much time relating whatever happened in the previous books and Collins doesn’t make that mistake. She just gets on with the story and I appreciate that very much.
The suspense-drop between Catching Fire and Mockingjay was very prominent. It didn’t bother me all that much because Collins spends some time world-building and character-building which are necessary to the story.
Katniss is a complex girl and not a one-dimensional heroine. She has her good and bad sides, her doubts and traits.
I’m glad this novel doesn’t end with a happy ending. Katniss and Peetal still feel the effect the Games and the war had on them, even ten years later. Their relationship changed, as did the world around them. The war isn’t forgotten like it never happened and all is well again.

I am left with a lot of questions though. Collins didn’t resolve every plotline in these novels and I find that a problem, especially if you’re writing a series because you have the time and the space to do so. To me, it seemed like she just wanted to end the series and she didn’t put as much thought into the third book as in the first and second novels. I wish we knew how their world changed after the rebellion. Collins is only focusing on Katniss in the end, and I would like to know about the world itself. Though Katniss is a well-defined character, every other character isn’t. Most of them are just plain flat.
Another thing that really bothered me was the over-used love triangle. I just hated Gale. He’s unlikeable and hard as a rock. In my opinion, he should be in the novel, but as a friend, not a love-interest. This triangle doesn’t add anything to the story.

Collins is a good writer in my opinion. She has an easy-going style, she doesn’t overuse adjectives and descriptive language, she writes fluent and she can keep the reader captivated. I wanted to keep on reading partly because of the wonderful story and partly because of her writing.
It’s engaging, gripping, addicting even, fast, suspenseful and highly, highly enjoyable.
I definitely recommend this, if you can put aside the unanswered questions you might have.

Happy reading.
Helena

zaterdag 16 augustus 2014

Terry Pratchett: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

Hi

It is time for another TP review!
The Amazing Maurice is actually a children’s book. But as an adult, I enjoyed it very much because of the layers of the story and the humor.
It is also a perfect standalone novel. It has 278 pages and is very easy to read.
You can find my other reviews of Terry Pratchett’s novels here.

“It’s not a game anymore …
Every town on Discworld knows the stories about rats and pipers, and Maurice - a streetwise tomcat - leads a band of educated ratty friends (and a stupid kid) on a nice little earner. Piper plus rats equals lots and lots of money.
Until they run across someone playing a different tune.
Now he and his rats must learn a new concept: evil … “
Maurice is the cat behind the group of speaking rats and a stupid little boy.  They stage a plague in towns along the way in order to get their accomplice, Keith, paid good money to play the pipes and usher them away.
Something has got to go wrong, right?

This story is a new spin on the classic story of The Pied Piper. It’s not the first time TP writes his version of an old tale, he did this in Wyrd Sisters and Lords and Ladies for example. If you read the original story, you notice how well his story is fabricated around the original. How he makes it into a Discworld story that’s entirely new and original.
As most Discworld novels, The Amazing Maurice tackles major moral questions. And this time it’s the rats who question Life, the Universe and Everything. TP is always able to make us think about these big themes without losing pace, fun and action in his novels.
It’s a wonderful, cheeky novel, very entertaining, funny and a light and easy read.
The evolution of the rats parallels that of the humans and once you realize this, it’s even more interesting.
The names of the rats are hilarious and I won’t even name one for you. Just read the novel, be surprised and laugh. A lot. I’m serious.
BUT even though this is a really funny (one of his most hilarious) novel, it is a haunting novel. Spider, the evil rat-king in this novel is truly frightening. He is pure evil and you can feel it in every word about him.

Happy reading.
Helena

dinsdag 12 augustus 2014

Paul Hoffman: The Left Hand of God

Hi again

This review is about The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman. It’s the first book in a trilogy by the same name. I got this book in the Waterstones in Glasgow.
I started reading this about a month ago but I only got about 250 pages through. So I decided to give it another chance and I freed Sunday evening to finish the novel of
In the meantime, even though I didn’t really enjoy those first pages, I did buy the second one in a charity shop for just 75p. I hope the writing will get better in the second book because the idea for this series is really good.

“His name is Cale.
They told him he could destroy the world.
Maybe he will.
The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a place where children endure brutal cruelty and violence in the name of the One True Faith. Lost in the Sanctuary's huge maze of corridors is a boy. He is strange witty and charming, and violent. But when he opens the wrong door at the wrong time he witnesses an act so horrible he must flee, or die.”

The story is told from multiple points of view and I like that in novels. Especially in Fantasy it makes you understand the whole world better. Not here.
It seems like Hoffman put no thought at all in the world itself, politics, history etc. He wanted to tell a story and he did. But in Fantasy, I expect a thorough built world because it makes the story so much more believable. I didn’t get that in this novel.
This is marked as Fantasy or Dark Fantasy but I got the feeling I was reading a love story for at least half the book. Now I don’t mind a good love story but I couldn’t really fit it in this story. Cale being a ruthless killing machine without any experience in love, women, positive emotions or anything positive in life for that matter, I found it hard to believe he could fall in love that fast and so passionately. Arbell is one of the most beautiful women alive, she is respected and admired and though she hates Cale on sight, she falls in love with him eventually. Their relationship seems based on pity and good looks, not on an emotional connection or trust.
Cale is a real hero, saving the princess, making important decisions, being on the frontline of all the action and having the knowledge to fight the battles. He is a runaway, an orphan; he’s not even a Matterazzi, so why do the Matterazzi believe him? Why do they trust him, his opinion, his knowledge and what he’s capable of? I mean, WHY? But they do, or at least most of them do. It’s not realistic and it bothered me beyond extent.
Other characters like Kleist, Vague Henri and Riba are underdeveloped and almost forgotten for entire chapters. They really give meaning to the word supporting characters.

It’s a shame because I really like the central idea in this novel.

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 11 augustus 2014

Rachel Joyce: Perfect

Hi

Perfect is Rachel Joyce’s second novel and it has 445 pages. I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry so I bought Perfect the moment it came out.

“In 1972, two seconds were added to time. It was in order to balance clock time with the movement of the earth. Byron Hemming knew this because James Lowe had told him and James was the cleverest boy at school. But how could time change? The steady movement of hands around a clock was as certain as their golden futures.
Then Byron's mother, late for the school run, makes a devastating mistake. Byron's perfect world is shattered. Were those two extra seconds to blame? Can what follows ever be set right?”

This certainly was a very charming novel but I didn’t love it as much as Harold Fry.
Joyce waves some very interesting topics into this novel; social class, mental illness, the search for perfection, having and losing control, the failure of parents and children alike, responsibility and prejudice.

The tenseness created by Byron’s father is palpable in every word about his youth. His presence is felt in everything that happens in the household. Not only his control and cruelty have a huge influence on the family, his insecurities have consequences too.

When Jim meets Eileen, you can almost feel the changes she makes in his life, his mental illness and how their relationship grows. Those were very beautiful parts in the novel.
Jim’s story is the most affecting. His loneliness and emotional problems are heard in every sentence.
But beneath this tender and sad novel there’s always a hint of something good, of hope.

Joyce has a simple and silent humor that is still present in the novel for example in the parts about Jim’s workplace. This makes the novel easier to digest and easier to get through it.
She writes beautifully, it's easy to read and with elegant prose, she understands her characters and has eye for detail. Joyce has given us a very beautiful novel. A very sad and painful novel, but still a very beautiful novel. This sadness however, makes it hard to absolutely love this novel.
It’s tragic at moments and that’s the reason why it took me so long to read this novel. You really have to have the right mindset to read it.
Rachel Joyce builds the tension very subtle, every word or gesture builds to the dramatic ending.
One negative thing comes to mind though. I feel like Joyce tried a bit too hard. She should have simplified the part about Byron, there’s too much going on in my opinion.

Perfect is a very lovely novel and is suited for everyone who likes to read about ‘real’ people and how they deal with the events in their life.

Happy reading!
Helena

What to do on a rainy Sunday?

zondag 10 augustus 2014

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express

Hi

My mother owns every novel by Agatha Christie and that’s why I started reading them when I was young. When I saw four of Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels in a second-hand shop in Brighton I had to get them. Remembering how much I had enjoyed them, I wanted to read some of her work again.
Murder on the Orient Express has 347 pages.

“The famous Orient Express, thundering along on its three-day journey across Europe, came to a sudden stop in the night. Snowdrifts blocked the line at a desolate spot somewhere in the Balkans. Everything was deathly quiet. "Decidedly I suffer from the nerves," murmured Hercule Poirot, and fell asleep again. He awoke to find himself very much wanted. For in the night murder had been committed. Mr. Ratchett, an American millionaire, was found lying dead in his berth – stabbed. The untrodden snow around the train proved that the murderer was still on board. Poirot investigates. He lies back and thinks – with his little grey cells...”
The murdered man turns out to be the kidnapper and murderer of the child Daisy Armstrong, thereby killing her mother and father in their grief. As you might guess, a lot of people still bear grudges against him.

Christie follows a very simple format. In the first part of the novel, the victim gets murdered. The second part follows everyone on the train while they give their first interview to Poirot. In the third part Poirot gets more answers and he gives us and everyone involved in the mystery the solution.
It really is amazing how she can write a mystery that seems insoluble and is still able to give us a convincing and believable solution. And this solution will definitely surprise you.
It’s impossible to compare Christie to other writers. Her novels are unique and surprising but still fictional and entertaining.

This novel is exactly what you can expect from Christie, it is fast and easy, it has funny, exaggerated characters and an almost insoluble murder. I always enjoy an Agatha Christie novel.

Happy reading.
Helena


The first day at work after a short holiday is always the hardest. Luckily I have a cure; tea and a book!

vrijdag 8 augustus 2014

H. G. Wells: The Island of Doctor Moreau

Hi again

H. G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau is the second novel I finished while on holiday. I have to admit it is a really short one (only 143 pages), but I just loved it.

After being the sole survivor of a shipwreck, Edward Prendick gets rescued by a passing boat. In this boat sits Montgomery who travels to the island of doctor Moreau to take the wild animals on the boat to him. Prendick  finds out that Moreau uses these animals to vivisect and experiment on them. These animal-people live on the island and are bound to very strict rules to overcome their return to their original bestial natures. We’re only waiting for a rebellion.

This is a very haunting, spooky and gross novel. Even though it’s so small, Wells is able to create a dark atmosphere on a tiny island in just a few pages. From the very beginning I dreaded and I loved finding out more about this Doctor Moreau and his creations and every time we do find out more we realize the scope of the experiments and the gravity of the situation Edward finds himself in. It really is a disturbing novel, vividly and engagingly written, lots of details about the animals, very accessible and fluidly written.
By using the nephew’s letters to introduce the novel, the novel gets an air of authenticity, making it appear less like something made up. It really sets the feel of the novel.
The ending was really well thought-out. Prendick is trying to come to terms with the horror he’s survived but he has trouble distinguishing the human and the animal in people.
The themes are still relevant today; animal experimentation, genetics, eugenics, moral responsibility and cruelty.

I would have loved it even more if Wells would’ve added more pages.
I can honestly say I recommend this novel to anyone who likes to read something more than a contemporary novel.

Happy reading.
Helena

donderdag 7 augustus 2014

Bookhaul: Waterstones and W H Smith

Hi again

This is the second part of my Brighton-bookhaul, the new books.

The only books I paid full price are the two Penguin Classics. They’re only six pounds and they are gorgeous.
I’m really excited to read these, they all sound so amazing.

So, here are the new books I bought in Brighton.


Happy reading.
Helena



woensdag 6 augustus 2014

Bookhaul: Charity Shops and Second-Hand Stores

Hi

My fiancé and I went on holiday in Brighton for a few days. I have to admit I went a bit crazy in the charity shops. If a book is 75p or a pound (maybe two pounds or only 50p), how can you resist it?
Needless to say, I can’t.

So, here are the books I bought second- hand or a-lot-hand in Brighton.


Seventeen books. I know, it’s a lot. But I don’t really care because they were all really cheap and most of them have been on my wish list for a very long time.

Seen anything you can recommend me to read first?

Happy reading.
Helena







dinsdag 5 augustus 2014

Erika Mailman: The Witch’s Trinity

Hi

The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman is the first novel I read on my holiday in Brighton. I got my copy at the Boekenfestijn more than a year ago (My TBR pile is HUGE). This novel has 310 pages.

“Germany, 1507. In a time when famine is rife and panic spreading, people resort to desperate measures in order to survive.
When a visiting friar suggests that witchcraft is to blame for their failing crops, Irmeltrud sees an opportunity to get rid of her burdensome mother-in-law, Güde. Frustrated with having to feed the old woman who brings nothing to the table, she is quick to point the dreaded finger of suspicion, Güde has three days to clear her name, or be led to the stake …”
This says it all really.

I love Mailman for writing about an old woman who’s accused of witchcraft. Most other novels are about younger women, though this is, historically speaking, incorrect as most accused women were older and lonely. By choosing to do so, Mailman made this story much closer to reality.
Mailman is able to show us how gossip and hatred can have very grave consequences, especially in small communities where people depend on each other. We see how a simple rumor or grievance can escalate and destroy the whole community.
The descriptions of the famine are haunting; I could almost feel the hunger in my stomach. The writer paints us dark and hard pictures. It’s intense and gripping
I liked it that we were able to really understand Güde. She was a well rounded character, she had her flaws but also her merits.
Though I did miss being able to understand the antagonists a bit more. They were just bad people and except for Irmeltrud we didn’t’ really understand their motives or how it’s possible that it all spread like a wildfire. We all know a story like this could have been true and that made me want to understand the whole situation.
Güde doesn’t know whether all that’s happening is part of her ailing mind and age or whether it’s really happening and she really is a witch, voluntarily or not. And this bothered me at times. I could do without those dreams or hallucinations, it slowed the story down.

Happy reading.
Helena

vrijdag 1 augustus 2014

Wrap Up: July 2014

Hi again

I surprised myself by reading a lot this month. Though I am pretty sure I won’t be able to keep it up because I started work and that leaves me less time to read off course.
After I finished my master’s thesis, I got into a bit of a reading frenzy. I started reading a lot, but not finishing the novels. At one point I was reading 6 novels and I couldn’t choose which one to finish first.

Here are the books I read in July, totaling 5142 pages.

-    Patrick Rothfuss: The Name of The Wind
-    Kazuo Ishiguro: When We Were Orphans
-    Robin Hobb: Forest Mage
-    Mitch Albom: The Time Keeper
-    John Irving: Setting Free the Bears
-    Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus
-    Hugh Howey: Wool
-    Jeffrey Eugenides: The Marriage Plot
-    Terry Pratchett: Thief of Time
-    George R. R. Martin: A Game of Thrones

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

Happy reading!
Helena