maandag 31 augustus 2015

Michael Cunningham: The Snow Queen

Hi

The Snow Queen is my last novel of the month. It has 256 pages and I got it from Bol.
Tomorrow I start work again!

This last review of the month will be short so I can still include it in this month’s Wrap Up.

 “Michael Cunningham’s luminous novel begins with a vision. It’s November 2004. Barrett Meeks, having lost love yet again, is walking through Central Park when he is inspired to look up at the sky; there he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn’t believe in visions—or in God—but he can’t deny what he’s seen.
At the same time, in the not-quite-gentrified Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tyler, Barrett’s older brother, a struggling musician, is trying—and failing—to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a song that will not be merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love.
Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion. Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. Beth tries to face mortality with as much courage as she can summon.”

I loved this novel.

The prose is beautiful, subtle and sentimental but certainly not dramatic. It’s full of empathy for every character in the novel. His descriptions are very vivid and they make everything seem interesting.

The story moves ever forward and there are times you almost need a breather and you want to stop and think about what you’ve just read.

The characters are amazing and come to life while reading. Cunningham gives us lots of details about their lives, their situations and their surroundings in general.

These characters are never judged for their ideas, their wrongdoings or their actions. I could understand why they do what they do or say what they do.

The novel is about so little and yet it holds so much.
Truly and most definitely recommended.

Happy reading.
Helena

zondag 30 augustus 2015

Karen Maitland: Company of Liars

Hi

Company of Liars has been on my shelf for a very long time. Not because it doesn’t sound interesting. That’s seldom the problem isn’t it? There are always too many other books to read.
The book has 553 pages of story, a 7-page interview with Karen Maitland and a glossary.
The cover is really beautiful.

“The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them.
Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group's leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all--propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.”

                * SPOILERS! *

I didn’t think this novel anything special. It’s enjoyable but it’s not like I couldn’t put it down.
I really wanted to love it because I enjoy Historical Fiction and it has been a long time since I read something in the genre. But I just didn’t like it all that much.
The prose is very easy to read, the story is rather slow and too long; Maitland could have written the novel with at least 100 pages less. The story progresses very slow and the plot should have been tighter to be engrossing.

It does have a lot of details about daily life, superstition and the treatment of Jew, crippled people or people who were different in a way from everyone else. I liked that very much.

I hate it when the main characters goes on and on about how we will find out that he made the wrong choice or how he took the wrong road or how we will find out that it was all just the start of everything else that goes wrong. Luckily that only happens in the first few chapters.

Narigorm and Zophiel are strange, unrealistic characters. The others have more depth (although not all of them); the main character Camelot is especially well thought out. I enjoyed how every character had a story behind them that shaped who they are and how everyone is lying about it.

Their views on homosexuality and some other stuff are way too modern for those times.

I certainly felt I got a sense of how the Black Death rampaged in England and how people reacted to it. People turned to religion or superstition but mostly a combination of both. But I felt too disconnected to feel anything by the death of the characters. And that’s not good for a novel about this topic; I believe you’re supposed to feel sad instead of disconnected.

The ending for Camelot was just overly dramatic and ‘sweet’ and too much a happy ending after such a grim and dark novel. But then there’s the scary, horror-like ending too and that’s just too Fantasy-like to be believable in Historical Fiction. To rely solely upon supernatural elements was a huge disappointment.

One thing is clear; I’m conflicted about the novel and I don’t think I’d read another novel by Maitland.

Happy reading!
Helena

Bookhaul: A Gift from my husband!

Hi

My husband and I have been married for 1 year today.

To celebrate we exchanged gifts and we’re going out to dinner tonight.
Naturally one of those gifts had to be a book.
So here it is: Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman.

Thank you Brecht.

I love you and I always will.
Helena

zaterdag 29 augustus 2015

Julian Barnes: Flaubert’s Parrot

Hi

I got this one from a friend (yes you Emma :) ) who was getting rid of a few books.
It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1984.
This is my third Julian Barnes novel and it has 190 pages.

“Which of two stuffed parrots was the inspiration for one of Flaubert's greatest stories? Why did the master keep changing the colour of Emma Bovary's eyes? And why should it matter so much to Geoffrey Braithwaite, a retired doctor haunted by a private secret? In "Flaubert's Parrot", Julian Barnes spins out a multiple mystery of obsession and betrayal (both scholarly and romantic) and creates an exuberant enquiry into the ways in which art mirrors life and then turns around to shape it.”

I had a mixed reading experience before. And this one doesn’t help me make up my mind about a writer as widely acknowledged as Barnes is.

This is definitely one of those novels I would only read once.

It is a very comprehensive, but dry, overview of Gustave Flaubert.
But that’s (in my opinion) all there is too it. The story surrounding it is just a means to an end. As if he didn’t want to write a real biography and tried to find a way around that. So we get an old man who wants to write a biography but who is too overwhelmed by all the material. I liked the old man; he’s a dreamer and very smart.
And I’m really not interested in the whereabouts of the parrot. Or whatever the hell he could stand for. I mean, you can give meaning to anything.

But it’s also about the act of writing itself, about writing a biography, about reviewing and critics and I did find that interesting. He does contradict himself here but I guess that’s the whole point. You could give meaning to everything and anything but does that mean you have to or that the writer meant you to do that?

Interesting, but it felt more like work to finish this one.

Happy reading.
Helena

Bookhaul: A gift from friends!

Hi

We had friends over last night and they got me a Get-Well-Book!
William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. I’ve never read that one and man that is one colossal novel. But I am excited to read it because the blurb sounds amazing and I actually, surprisingly, don’t know what it’s about.

Turns out there’s at least two avid readers of Embracing My Books out there. They know I love these Penguin English Classics (the shiny, soft ones not those new editions) and they have a very good picture of my taste in books.

Marina and I talked and talked about books and it was wonderful.
She’s one of the prime examples why I write in English because she’s from Estonia.

Brecht (my husband) and I had an amazing night. Thank you so much Marina and Andries!

Helena

vrijdag 28 augustus 2015

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter: The Long Mars

Hi

This review is about the third novel in The Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.
The novel has 437 pages and I got it from The Book Depository.

                * NO SPOILERS (sweetie) *

I loved this part in the series so much more than the second book!

First of all; what a beautiful cover. That’s not the most important part, I know, but still.

There are only three major plotlines and that is a huge improvement. I still would have liked more details because a lot of days on their respective journeys are skipped, but hey, that’s a ‘complaint’ you’ll hear a lot from me.

This one was really amazing. The discoveries, the new species they meet, Mars and its stepworlds, fascinating ideas about evolution, captivating journeys and very interesting new people (I liked that a lot).

And even though I don’t particularly like Sally and her father, I did enjoy their storyline. Unlikable but realistic people make great stories.

This novel has more suspense and action than the ones before too.
And it has a purpose; it’s not aimless like the second part in the series.

The writing style is the same, still as engaging as the ones before but less philosophical because Lobsang is less important in this story.

I loved it. I just loved it so much. I couldn't put it down. It’s obvious because I can’t think of anything else to say about it.

Happy reading!
Helena


donderdag 27 augustus 2015

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter: The Long War

Hi again

Here with my review of the second part in The Long Earth series.
This novel has 501 pages.
I knew several people didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first and second parts and that’s why I decided I would read part two and three back to back. So you can expect my review of the third part tomorrow.

“A generation after the events of The Long Earth, mankind has spread across the new worlds opened up by Stepping. Where Joshua and Lobsang once pioneered, now fleets of airships link the stepwise Americas with trade and culture. Mankind is shaping the Long Earth - but in turn the Long Earth is shaping mankind... A new 'America', called Valhalla, is emerging more than a million steps from Datum Earth, with core American values restated in the plentiful environment of the Long Earth - and Valhalla is growing restless under the control of the Datum government...
Meanwhile the Long Earth is suffused by the song of the trolls, graceful hive-mind humanoids. But the trolls are beginning to react to humanity's thoughtless exploitation... Joshua, now a married man, is summoned by Lobsang to deal with a gathering multiple crisis that threatens to plunge the Long Earth into a war unlike any mankind has waged before.”

This novel lacked direction because several plotlines aren’t really going anywhere. And that’s very sad because this is such an interesting setup.
What happens after this huge discovery in the previous novel?

I loved the exploration of the different worlds and the discoveries and I would have loved to read more about life in these settlements or life on board a twain.
But there are too many plotlines and too many characters so the characterization isn’t great. Or this novel is too short to give us the depth it really needs to pull this off. I want it all but just more thorough. I want a bigger novel with all the plotlines and characters.
For example; the trek of the Chinese doesn’t do much for the novel. Be done with it, or work it out in more detail because it is an interesting point of view.

In one way there’s too much going on because of all the characters and plotlines. On the other hand there’s almost no action and I don’t care about that but some of you will. It’s hard to explain but there is a difference between action and ‘stuff happening’.

So don’t get your hopes up too high because of the title. Once you understand what this ‘war’ is about you’ll be disappointed. Not about the story, but they should have chosen a different title that doesn’t suggest something like, you know, a war.

I am curious to find out what this Black Corporation is all about. There’s clearly more going on there.

See you tomorrow!
Helena

On to the next part in the series!

woensdag 26 augustus 2015

Richard Matheson: I Am Legend

Hi

I got this little beauty at the Boekenfestijn. It has 3 pages introduction by Richard Morgan, 160 pages of story and 2 pages afterword by Stephen King.

“Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth... but he is not alone. Every other man, woman and child on the planet has become a vampire, and they are hungry for Neville's blood.
By day he is the hunter, stalking the undead through the ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn.
How long can one man survive like this?”

My word I loved this. 
And considering the time this was written (1954) this must have been one hell of a change.

It’s like reading the diary of the last man on earth. The loneliness and isolation seep through the whole novel. The way he lives and fills his days are utterly brilliant and sad.
But most of all, this is one amazing novel, absolutely haunting and terrifying. I could hear them, see them and I could smell the garlic.

The prose just does the job; it’s nothing fancy or elegant but straight to-the-point.
The setting and characterization of Robert are terrific though.

And so much better than the movie!

There are some minor points however. The science behind it isn’t completely sound living/dead vampires, they can’t abide the sun but even in darkness they are dead to the world. But hey, I won’t complain; it’s a short novel and it’s SFF so I don’t expect to understand everything behind it. I don’t need to either.

Highly, highly recommended.
Helena

dinsdag 25 augustus 2015

Stephen King: Full Dark, No Stars

Hi

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of five novellas by Stephen King: 1922, Big Driver, Fair Extension, A Good Marriage and Under the Weather.
The book has a total of 453 pages and I got it at the Boekenfestijn.
You can find all my Stephen King reviews here.

I definitely need to get more Stephen King novels. And that’s why I ordered three more from Bol. I’m expecting them very soon.

This collection is mixed in terms of quality. I loved 1922, Big Driver and A Good Marriage. Those were definitely my favorite novels. They stayed with me the longest and those were the stories I kept thinking about at night. Those were the ones that lingered in my mind, just like Stephen King wants according to his afterword.
Fair Extension was a miss in my opinion.
Under the Weather was just too short, it ended too soon because I would have loved to find out what happened after the conclusion.

On the whole, this is a very enjoyable collection. Satisfying, thrilling, bleak, mesmerizing, disturbing, fascinating, nasty, powerful and depressing.

The stories that aren’t that good don’t matter because there is enough of King’s work to go around.

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 24 augustus 2015

Ira Levin: The Stepford Wives

Hi

You can find all my Ira Levin reviews here.
The Stepford Wives has 139 pages and an introduction by Chuck Palahniuk of 5 pages.

“For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town's idyllic facade lies a terrible secret -- a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.”

The Stepford Wives is my third Ira Levin novel. And I enjoyed all of them though they were all very different. The Boys from Brazil is still my favorite but I enjoyed this one very much.

This novel is a genuine page turner. It’s too much so in my opinion. It goes so fast the novel doesn’t come to its full potential; it’s not as creepy and full of foreshadowing as it could be because it’s too short and too fast.
But it’s very suspenseful, engrossing and
The writing is pretty straightforward, short, clear and to the point but not very elegant. Levin’s writing is always like that I suppose.

The story on its own is very good but Levin didn’t think further than the story. What will these men do when their own daughters grow up?

                * SPOILERS *

It’s scary how these husbands didn’t decide to build a robot to do all their household chores. No, they killed their wives and replaced them with robots. Those wives were perfectly good women with their own careers, talents and hobbies. But they weren’t good enough and they wanted to be free, liberated. So they had to change.
The one person who should love you the way you are ultimately doesn’t. Their husbands lie to their faces, saying they are perfect the way they are. Now that is very frightening.
Even Bonnie’s son likes her more as this robot.
Turns out, everyone likes a woman best when she’s the perfect housewife.

Food for thought!

Happy reading.
Helena

zondag 23 augustus 2015

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Hi

This one has been on my shelf for about 2 years so it’s time to read it. Especially as it’s only 146 pages and it has a 12-page afterword by Joyce Carol Oates.

“Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.”

I enjoyed this novel a lot. Like, a lot, a lot.
It’s weird and strange, but so, so good. Completely different from anything I’ve read before.
Great setting, amazing prose, very interesting characters who are very well painted.

The novel is very atmospheric. From the very start the tone is set. Once you’re in the novel there’s this chilling, ominous feeling creeping up throughout the novel. It’s engrossing, absorbing.
Especially once that hateful bastard Charles arrives. Man, how I hate him.
And still, you never know where the story is going. The ‘big mystery’ is rather easy to figure out, but the course of the story stays unclear for a long time. We know so little.

Their lives are going nowhere but they are happy the way they live. Incredible.

It’s almost a fairytale. Not with the happy end and the witch or evil stepmother etcetera, but the way the novel feels like it’s like reading a fairytale. Time stood still and it does again at the end.

Happy reading.
Helena

zaterdag 22 augustus 2015

DNF - Maggie O’ Farrell: Instructions for a Heatwave

Hi

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’ Farrell.
When I reached page 171, I had had enough of it.

“The stunning new novel from Costa Award winning novelist Maggie O'Farrell: a portrait of an Irish family in crisis in the legendary heatwave of 1976. It's July 1976. In London, it hasn't rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he's going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn't come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta's children — two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce — back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share. Maggie O'Farrell's sixth book is the work of an outstanding novelist at the height of her powers.”

I could not finish it.

After page 171 I had enough of the nagging, the whining, the pushing and pulling, the blaming, the ignoring and the boring parts in between.
I couldn't care less about these characters.

Now I’m going to read something else.

See you later!
Helena

vrijdag 21 augustus 2015

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations

Hi

Great Expectations is (I believe) my father’s favorite novel by Charles Dickens.
The novel has 554 pages and 17 pages on Dickens by George Bernard Shaw at the end.
I am collecting these novels in the beautiful Penguin Classics Editions and this is certainly one of my favorite covers.
You can find all my Charles Dickens reviews here.

“In what may be Dickens's best novel, humble, orphaned Pip is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman — and one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of "great expectations." In this gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, the compelling characters include Magwitch, the fearful and fearsome convict; Estella, whose beauty is excelled only by her haughtiness; and the embittered Miss Havisham, an eccentric jilted bride.”

The first 180 pages were very boring in my opinion.
After that it really picks up and it’s much easier to read. The story gets really gripping, especially towards the end.
The story is full of beautiful, beautiful prose, rich details and vibrant descriptions.
I loved John Wemmick and Miss Skiffins but I could get so angry at Pip for being so haughty and thankless! And Joe for being such a pushover.

Thanks to the essay by George Bernard Shaw I’m not ‘mad’ anymore about the stupid, perfect ending because it was meant to be differently. “It is too serious a book to be a trivially happy one. Its beginning is unhappy; its middle is unhappy; and the conventional happy ending is an outrage on it.”
I just wish Dickens had written it differently. 

The novel clearly reminds us that expectations of the future and the reality can be very different and you should manage your expectations. When a promise or expectation is not fulfilled life gets very disappointing.

Happy reading.
Helena

donderdag 20 augustus 2015

Evelyn Waugh: The Loved One

Hi again

The Loved One is a wonderful short satirical novel by Evelyn Waugh.
It only counts 127 pages. The edition I read is owned by my dad and it’s from 1961. Amazing huh! I mean, Waugh was still alive back then! My dad must have gotten it somewhere second-hand.
And the coverart is amazing too; it’s by Quentin Blake. The Man who designed for Roald Dahl! It keeps getting better and better.

“Following the death of a friend, British poet and pets' mortician Dennis Barlow finds himself entering the artificial Hollywood paradise of the Whispering Glades Memorial Park. Within its golden gates, death, American-style, is wrapped up and sold like a package holiday. There, Dennis enters the fragile and bizarre world of Aimée, the naïve Californian corpse beautician, and Mr Joyboy, the master of the embalmer's art...
A dark and savage satire on the Anglo-American cultural divide, The Loved One depicts a world where love, reputation and death cost a very great deal.”

To be brief; I loved it.
There, it’s as simple as that.

The pure scope of it is amazing. Upper English class, Hollywood, American workmen, a wannabe poet; Waugh does it all admirably. War, marriage, work, feminism, religion; it’s all in there.
This was such a funny and clever novel!
Waugh’s portrayal of this society is dead on and you can’t help laughing about it.
In my opinion this novel is a sort of condemnation of modern society where everything and everyone has to be the same but the best at it the same time. Everyone is replaceable and no-one is really unique. The novel is one big parody of this life.
The prose is really engrossing and very, very good.
And the subject itself is so different from everything else out there!

I loved it.

On to the next one.
Helena

woensdag 19 augustus 2015

Ernest Hemingway: Winner Take Nothing

Hi again

Winner Take Nothing is a collection of short stories by Ernest Hemingway. It has only 167 pages so it’s a tiny book.
You can find all my reviews on Hemingway’s work here.

“Ernest Hemingway's first new book of fiction since the publication of "A Farewell to Arms" in 1929 contains fourteen stories of varying length. Some of them have appeared in magazines but the majority have not been published before. The characters and backgrounds are widely varied. "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is about an old Spanish Beggar. "Homage to Switzerland" concerns various conversations at a Swiss railway-station restaurant. "The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio" is laid in the accident ward of a hospital in Western United States, and so on. Ernest Hemingway made his literary start as a short-story writer. He has always excelled in that medium, and this volume reveals him at his best.”

I must confess I’m not big on short stories. If I read them it’s mostly because I like the author’s other works. 

Time and time again I have the same problem. I like the story itself (most of the time) but it’s either spanning a too short time span. Or I can’t connect to the characters because of their limited lines and development.

Winner Take Nothing suffers from the first ailment. Which is the good one because that means I like (and even love) the stories. They’re just too short.

Hemingway is a genius and it definitely shows in his short stories too; but I think you need to read some of his full novels first to understand his setting and his characters. He has a very particular writing style, time- and place setting you need to get to know first.

See you tomorrow!
Helena

dinsdag 18 augustus 2015

M.L. Stedman: The Light between Oceans

Hi

The Light between Oceans has been on my TBR for a very, very long time. It couldn’t stay there; so sad and unread, so I had to pick it up.
This novel has 360 pages.

“After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.”

I loved the first half of the novel, just couldn’t put it away.
The novel is very easy to read; simple prose and choice of words make it a fast read.
A fast read, but a slow story. Not that I cared because the pacing was perfect the way it was; especially in the first half. The second half could be a bit faster because it became a bit repetitive. But it’s not really a plot-driven story so the pacing doesn’t matter anyway.
After the turning point in the second half (no, I won’t spoil it), I fell more and more out of love with it. It wasn’t so engrossing anymore, I felt less and less involved.
What I can promise you is that you will feel conflicted about the choices Isabel and Tom made. It will play over and over in my mind for the following days. What would I have done?

It’s interesting to read a novel set in Australia. Being from Belgium myself, it’s strange to read about a warm Christmas and a cold August.

Easy read, difficult topic and something that stays with you even though it lacks towards the end. A recommended novel!
Happy reading.

Helena

BooksandFruit O'Clock!

maandag 17 augustus 2015

Jim Butcher: Storm Front

Hi

Storm Front is the first novel in The Dresden Files; a series by Jim Butcher.
I read the second one a couple of months ago because I found it rather cheap. I knew my father likes the series, it is a very popular Urban Fantasy series and I wanted to find out for myself.
I did like Fool Moon.
So I decided to collect the series too.
Storm Front has 307 pages with a 7-page interview and I got it from Bol.

“Harry Dresden -- Wizard Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment. Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting. Magic. It can get a guy killed.”

This was a very, very enjoyable read. It’s not Literature with capital ‘L’ but it is pure entertainment.

Butcher created a wonderful world that’s just different in some ways with vampires, werewolves, a council of Wizards and faeries. It’s our world but with a few extras and still very believable.
The magic is very realistic too. Harry has studied, but still, you can’t know everything so he needs Bob the Skull to help him with potions.
And Toot-toot! I loved him too. And Mister, the cat.
Harry is witty, sarcastic, chaotic and so clumsy at times!

The villain is very over-the-top and cheesy but that’s ok because it’s the only ‘cheese’ in the novel.

And I know, as a woman, I should be affronted by Dresden’s opinions and views on women. But I’m not. It’s so over-the-top that it’s clearly humorously meant.

Storm Front is filled to the brim with action, humor, chaos, magic and darkness.
It’s fast-paced and almost impossible to put down.

Highly recommended!

Happy reading to you too.
Helena

Friday Night!

zaterdag 15 augustus 2015

Bookhaul: Book Depository

Hi

I got a 10% discount from The Book Depository and I wanted a few books you can’t find so easily here including 2 SFF classics. And I want every novel Richard Yates ever wrote.

Here are the ones I got:

I’m sure I’ll enjoy them!
Helena


vrijdag 14 augustus 2015

Fiona McIntosh: King’s Wrath

Hi

This review is about the third and final part in the Valisar Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh.
The novel has 448 long pages.

* SPOILERS! *

The trilogy contains a lot of violence. Though I wouldn’t say it’s just violence for its own sake, it does serve a purpose in the story. And I certainly don’t mind a good fight (but the cannibalism in the previous novel was a bit too much).

Everything gets turned upside down and not always in a good way.
I can believe Leo’s change; his hatred has been feeding on him for years and years and there’s no place left for any other feeling but hatred and desire for the crown.
But Piven! Piven is a wholly different person. He was a moron, became a genius with magic and ended up back a moron. That’s pretty unbelievable in my book. And a bit of an unethical decision to have this little idiot becoming a ‘normal’ person because I wish it were that easy in this world.
Now Loethar, him I liked a lot. A very sudden change but definitely not unexpected.

McIntosh is not afraid to hurt or kill characters. Even those we like or even love.

I greatly disliked the whole love/relationship stuff between EVERYONE. Everyone falls in love, falls out of love, falls in love with someone else in an instant or has always been in love with someone who doesn’t return these feelings.

The ending was too easy, too predictable and rushed to be satisfying.

All in all I had a mixed reading experience. I loved the world-building, the magic, the characterization  and her writing. But I disliked the romantic stuff, Piven’s change and the very easy ending.

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 11 augustus 2015

P. G. Wodehouse: Jeeves in the Offing

Hi

Jeeves in the Offing is my second P. G. Wodehouse novel and obviously my second Jeeves and Wooster novel too.
It has exactly 200 pages and I got it from bol.com.

 “A Bertie and Jeeves classic, featuring a cow-creamer, the redheaded Miss Wickham, and the formidable schoolmaster Aubrey Upjohn. Jeeves is infallible. Jeeves is indispensable. Unfortunately, in How Right You Are, Jeeves, he is also in absentia. In this wonderful slice of Woosterian mayhem, Bertie has sent that prince among gentlemen's gentlemen off on his annual vacation. Soon, drowning dachshunds, broken engagements, and inextricable complications lead to the only possible conclusion: "We must put our trust in a higher power. Go and fetch Jeeves!" ”

Very enjoyable and pure, relaxing fun to read.Light-hearted, fast and charming. Funny, stupid situations, hilarious nicknames, butchered French, a complete idiot Wooster and Murphy’s law.

But I missed Jeeves and because of that I liked this novel less then Stiff Upper Lip.

Still, an enjoyable read.

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 10 augustus 2015

Andy Weir: The Martian

Hi

I couldn’t wait any longer to read The Martian.
The novel has 369 pages and I got it from The Book Depository.
I am sad I don’t own the beautiful American cover but it was a lot more money.

“Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”

I loved it. I just loved it.

The Martian is in essence a very heavy survival story in the most desperate situation imaginable.
So this could be a novel full of sadness, hopelessness, existential questions and anger. Which it is not. It’s quite the opposite actually.
Mark Watney is a very intelligent, wise-cracking, witty, sarcastic ‘dude’ with a snarky attitude. In short; he’s hilarious. This is one of the novels strongest features but at the same time I would have loved to see him (mentally and physically) suffer more to make it a bit more believable.

The research Andy Weir must have done for this novel is enormous. Watney describes every chemical and mathematical calculation, every bit he has to destroy and use in a different way. Perfect for SFgeeks but it could be boring for other readers. I liked it even though I’m sure I didn’t understand half of it.

The Martian is a brilliant novel. It is fast-paced, very real and very, very suspenseful. We’re never completely sure he’s going to survive, there’s always something that can go wrong. There’s always that little voice saying it won’t work and he’ll just die. It is very well written, there’s never a dull moment (even when there’s a rather uneventful journey), and Weir (or rather, Watney) uses hilariously colorful language.
To enjoy the book you have to like Mark, otherwise you just won’t like it.

One fault that irked me sometimes is the lack of development of the other characters.

All in all that is a minor fault and it didn’t keep me from loving this novel.
Definitely recommended!

Happy reading!
Helena

zondag 9 augustus 2015

Terry Pratchett: Going Postal

Hi

Time for the 33rd Discworld novel. This one has 474 pages and it’s my second time reading it.
You can find my other reviews of Terry Pratchett’s novels here.

“Moist von Lipwig is a con artist...
... and a fraud and a man faced with a life choice: be hanged, or put Ankh-Morpork's ailing postal service back on its feet.
It's a tough decision.
But he's got to see that the mail gets through, come rain, hail, sleet, dogs, the Post Office Workers' Friendly and Benevolent Society, the evil chairman of the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company, and a midnight killer.
Getting a date with Adora Bell Dearheart would be nice, too...”

This is a really BRILLIANT book. I loved it.

Our hero is a con artist but he’s also a good guy.
I love these kinds of characters; they still see themselves as bad guys when they are actually changing into the role they are given (in this case, the Postmaster General) and become a good person.
The novel is fast, very original, full of sharp, strong dialogues, with brilliant humor and truly fantastic characters.
It is simply amazing how Pratchett is able to recreate a real institution or company on Discworld and make it a Discworld institution. I love that. He has done that before and it’s so interesting, so fitting in the story and so enticing. It is marvelous!
Pratchett is either a genius (which I’m sure he is) or he spends half the time researching every little detail to make such brilliant satires. Or both. Could be both.

As in so many other novels; Going Postal has an underlying message. Again, the issue of racism is brought forward. Secondly, it makes us think about the evolution of technology and the way business is done. About monopolies, big business, small businesses, working men and Right and Wrong.

This is a perfect novel to start with and I loved it. It was the second time I read it and I thought it even better then the first time.


"A man is not dead while his name is still spoken." GNU Terry Pratchett.

I hope you liked this review!
Helena

donderdag 6 augustus 2015

Robin Hobb: Renegade’s Magic

Hi

This is my review of Renegade’s Magic, the third and final part in The Soldier Son Trilogy.
The novel has 760 pages.
It took me over a year to start the final book because I disliked the second part so much.  You can find all my Robin Hobb reviews and reviews on The Soldier Son Trilogy here.

As you may know when you’re following my blog; I hated Forest Mage which is the second novel in this series.

Again, her writing style is great. I have absolutely no complaints there. It’s elegant, readable and full of details.
Her world-building is amazing, the characters (most of them cfr. later) are very thoroughly worked out, she includes lots of details and wonderful descriptions. I love that.
The narrative-within-a-narrative works very well. I was confused at the beginning, but once I got used to it, it’s very clear who’s talking.

The series is very unique and quite unlike anything I’ve read before. Which is good in this case.

Because this was so, so boring! The whole trilogy solely deals with Nevare (the most passive character ever) and not a lot really happens, the pace is slow as a snail and the story is so very depressing.
Most of the Speck-characters and both Nevare and Soldier’s Boy are very unlikeable. I don’t mind unlikable characters, but there was nothing redeemable about them. And I need something to be interested in an unlikable character.
The Specks are really one-dimensional, which is surprising for Hobb. I missed Spink and Epiny and the other characters that seem real and alive.
Nevare owes a death or a life to Orandula for saving a bird and this god wants a person instead? Completely ridiculous.
There’s no suspense before or after the battle. Like I said; BORING novel.

The ending was very predictable because of the hints and realizations we got long before the end. It’s too perfect after such a bleak novel. I really didn’t like the way everything ended so good and fairytale like. There are 2000 depressing pages full of bullying, complaining, hurt, insults and every other bad thing that can happen and in the end, everything is well. That just doesn’t work for me.

This was definitely a case of style over substance. Sadly, the length made it unredeemable even with her extraordinary writing ability.

I loved The Farseer Trilogy which I read before starting this blog. So now I’m torn. I’ve read a ton of good things about Hobb’s The Liveship Traders series so I can’t decide whether to try them or not.

See you later!
Helena

dinsdag 4 augustus 2015

Bookhaul: Bol

Hi

My order from bol.com got through. Which means new books! Or what did you expect?

Here are the ones I got:

I really can’t wait to read the first novel in the Dresden Files!

Happy reading.
Helena



zondag 2 augustus 2015

Wrap Up: July 2015

Hi

Since it is now the second day of August it’s time for my July Wrap Up.
I read a lot in July; 8 books finished and 1 book not finished for a total of 3691 pages.

That's 461 pages per book.

Here are the books I read:
Have an amazing August!
Helena