vrijdag 31 juli 2015

Richard Yates: Cold Spring Harbor

Hi

This is my second novel by Richard Yates. 
You can find all my Yates’ reviews here.
Cold Spring Harbor has only 178 pages.

“When the Shepards' car breaks down in pre-War New York City, a chain of events is set in motion that will transform the lives of the beautiful but stupid Evan Shepard, his doomed lover Rachel, and both their families. Fated to play out the mistakes of their parents, Evan and Rachel quickly discover the betrayal behind the dream, and desperately try every avenue of escape, only to find that all paths lead back to the small Long Island coastal town of Cold Spring Harbor, and to each other. But if there is no better chronicler than Yates of the quiet tragedy of thwarted suburban lives, Cold Spring Harbor is a testament to the absolute necessity of dreaming; for Yates's protagonists, hope may be all there is.”

Cold Spring Harbor is a brutally honest tale of a group of people all connected in a way, but still so very alone. And that loneliness seeps through every word Yates wrote. It’s heartbreaking at times but it is frustrating too.
Cold and disturbed relationships, self-centered, delusional people, there’s not a real likeable character in the whole novel. But the writing evokes empathy for those lost men and women. They all seem to be so human, so normal.

The novel flows effortlessly and I finished it in well under three hours.

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 30 juli 2015

M. R. Carey: The Girl with all the Gifts

Hi

The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey was on my radar for a long time before I finally got it at Waterstones.
It has 460 pages and an interview of 9 pages.

“Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.”

                                *   SPOILERS   *

Doesn’t this sound amazing and enormously intriguing?
It did to me at least.

But I’m afraid it doesn’t really deliver. 
I had hoped for a grand, unique, totally unexpected story and though I did enjoy this immensely, it isn’t new or different enough to be all that.

The Girl with all the Gifts starts as a gripping, enticing, page-turner and I could not put it down. 
But once you realize what's happening and finding out why Melanie is where she is, it gets predictable. It’s not unique in any way. A group of mismatched people, trying to stay together in a doomed world, trying to survive.
Don't get me wrong, it is nice to read and I enjoyed it, it's just not entirely new.
Until you get to the final chapters where we get quite a shocking conclusion. Or so it was to me.

The characters are clearly worked out with their own, defined personality. They started out as somewhat of a cliché but got more and more depth as the story progresses. I actually ended up loving Sgt. Parks for example.
The inner struggle of Melanie because of her love and her fear is depicted wonderfully. Parental love (or something alike), even in such extreme situations is always hearth rendering.
The novel is well-paced, the prose is nicely readable but not childish, and it is a thrilling story.
And the ending really got to me. I’m still thinking about it.

The Girl with all the Gifts seems to be a typical YA Zombie novel; which it is until you reach the final chapters. Very entertaining, different enough from every other zombie novel and a lovely read but don’t get your hopes too high.

Happy reading!
Helena

Happy reading equals a happy Sunday.

woensdag 29 juli 2015

Ann Leckie: Ancillary Justice

Hi

This review is about Ancillary Justice; Ann Leckie’s debut novel and the first novel in the Imperial Radch Trilogy. It won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, BSFA Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award and Locus Award.
The novel has 384 pages and an interview of 8 pages. I ordered it from The Book Depository.

“The Radch are conquerors to be feared - resist and they'll turn you into a 'corpse soldier' - one of an army of dead prisoners animated by a warship's AI mind. Whole planets are conquered by their own people.
The colossal warship called The Justice of Toren has been destroyed - but one ship-possessed soldier has escaped the devastation. Used to controlling thousands of hands, thousands of mouths, The Justice now has only two hands, and one mouth with which to tell her tale.
But one fragile, human body might just be enough to take revenge against those who destroyed her.”

It might be because I’m completely new to Space Opera, but it took me a long time to fully understand what was going on. There are ships with artificial intelligence and ancillaries with multiple bodies all over space who all share one mind but (as we find out) not totally the same mind.
I’m not used to these kinds of elements or topics in a novel. This is probably why this was such a mixed read for me.

I’ll try to explain why.

Several things I liked and even loved about the novel.
Leckie uses different story threads and each one enhances our understanding of the situation and the characters themselves. It’s always clear where we are and with who. The story progresses slower (which I don’t mind) but our understanding of it deepens. And lastly, it enhances the characterization.
I liked the objective, almost detached voice of Breq. Though some might find this a sore point because it doesn’t make for a very engaging novel.
For Breq, who is from the Radch Empire, everything and everyone is female so she doesn’t use male pronouns in her language because they do not distinguish by gender. I did not find this confusing and it was a very different element in the novel. But it was a bit gimmicky and not that special. 

Leckie’s character development is great though. Breq especially undergoes tremendous changes. And the world building is great too!

There are however a few things I didn’t like about it too.
As I said before, I had a hard time getting into the novel because I couldn’t get my head around it. It’s easier (in my mind) to accept magic and dragons then AI spaceships with multiple bodies.
Seivarden doesn’t play a role that’s even important to the central plot. I liked him a lot, but he serves no real purpose. It feels as if Leckie only put him there to give us at least one sideline to the plot because it would be too straightforward otherwise.
I was rather disappointed by the simplicity of the plot. I could even say I was pretty bored through most of the novel.


I want to see how it all works out so I think I’ll read the next part in the Trilogy.

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 21 juli 2015

Fiona McIntosh: A Tyrant's Blood

Hi

This review is about the second novel in the Valisar Trilogy.
It has 425 pages and I read it in Dutch.
You can find all my Fiona McIntosh reviews here.

I still can’t make up my mind whether I like this series or not.

* MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD! *

It takes some time to get into the novel. The first chapter is very strange and I thought they printed the wrong text for the cover. Secondly, 10 years passed since the first novel and that is not clearly stated at the beginning.

A Tyrant’s Blood is not a boring book; far from it I must say. It is a constant succession of action, flight and interrogation. Not a dull moment to be found in this book.

But a lot changes from the first novel, and in my opinion it’s all a bit too much. Good characters turn out to be bad; a moronic child becomes a smart 15-year old boy, some people turn out to be gifted etc. I think there is too much going on in such a small book.
She should have made the series bigger or the plot less complicated.

There are characters I loved one chapter, I hated the next and I forgave the one after that. I had mixed emotions throughout the entire novel! If that was what she aimed to write, she clearly succeeded!

The last 50 or so pages jump around a lot. About every other page is told from the perspective of another person. It can be confusing.

A very engrossing series, nicely written and so very captivating though a bit unbelievable.

Happy reading.
Helena

zondag 19 juli 2015

Jane Austen: Mansfield Park

Hi

This is my review of my second time reading Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.
The novel is 469 pages long and has a 34-page note at the end.

“Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny's uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry's attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary's dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords' influence and finds herself more isolated than ever.”

Mansfield Park is my least favorite Jane Austen novel but it is still a good novel and this for several reasons.
It is very different from her other novels and you really have to keep that in mind while reading.

I disliked Fanny a lot. She is a weakling, insipid, boring, passive, too virtuous, too perfect, dull and moralizing. Basically, she’s Mansfield Park’s doormat.
She’s painted as a perfect model who’s a much better person than everyone else.
But I do feel for her. The way she’s treated, especially by her Aunt Norris is hurtful and she is always treated as less and made to feel that way.

Moreover, Edmund, the novel’s hero only realizes he loves Fanny as a sort of last resort, which he admits in his proposal. Furthermore, he is blind to Fanny’s needs and ignores her very often. He is the one who has ‘shaped’ her into someone just like him. What kind of love is that?

I do think this must have been a very daring novel back when it was written. Henry Crawford is a bit of a sadist, the way he plays with women. And adultery must have been a topic not often talked or written about back then.

And I believe Austen must have been writing about her fear of the changes her society was going through. The simple, traditional country life as it had been was changing into something different and I think she wrote about this fear here.

I also believe the novel handles about what would later be called ‘Nature Versus Nurture’. Is a person’s character innate or (partly) formed by his/hers environment? Fanny is a perfect character in a not so perfect environment. That same environment gave way to Maria who is clearly not perfect. The same can be said for the three sisters; Fanny’s mother, Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris who all grew up in the same house but turned out very different.

This novel is more about the pursuit of wealth and status as opposed to love. It is not called Fanny. It is called Mansfield Park. It’s about relations at the time; what was thought proper behavior and what could be expected. It’s about the changes the whole society was going through; about the differences between classes.

Read it with this (or someone else’s opinion) in mind and enjoy it. Read it and think only of the characters and I’m afraid you won’t enjoy it as much.

Happy reading!
Helena

Perfect evening with my husband.

dinsdag 14 juli 2015

Robert Jordan: The Eye of the World

Hi

I am rereading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Because it’s a reread I started with The Prologue which you shouldn’t do if it is your first time reading the series.
So here’s my review of the 756 page first novel in The Wheel of Time.

“Life in Emond's Field has been pretty boring for Rand Al'Thor and his friends until a strange young woman arrives in their village. Moraine is an Aes Sedai, a magician with the ability to wield the One Power, and she brings warnings of a terrible evil awakening in the world. That very night, the village is attacked by bloodthirsty Trollocs - a fearsome tribe of beast-men thought to be no more than myth. As Emond's Field burns, Moraine and her warrior-guardian help Rand and his companions to escape. But it is only the beginning of their troubles.”

                * SPOILERS!*

World building and characterization is an ongoing process in this and every following novel. I like it that way. It’s boring to read 50 or so pages only about the world. I want to discover it with the characters. And Jordan writes it that way.

Tam not dying was a lovely and unexpected touch. I love Tam and it would have been easier for Jordan to let him die. That way, Rand could go away without any real trouble because there would be nothing to keep him home.
Matt is the one character I don’t feel a connection with. There are darkfriends I like better. He’s stupid, a complete idiot and rather detached from reality or maybe just not interested.
I like Moiraine, Lan, Tam and Egwene a lot.

There are some highly emotional parts in here as well. Rhand dragging his father to supposed safety, Lioal singing or Nynaeve and Lan. Those are very beautiful moments without being dramatic or overly emotional.

The ending didn’t deliver though. It’s a mash-up of several good ideas stuffed into a few short chapters. As if he had way too many ideas on how to finish this novel and he ended up using all of them. And what’s up with the rope coming out of Aginor? Weird!
Where does this even come from? The Eye of the World is not mentioned before the very end. It’s a very weak ending.
And I still don’t get it, even after this reread.

It is a bit too long and even boring at times. Luckily that doesn’t happen often and those moments are always between exciting parts. All in all, it is a quick and exciting read.

Reading this the second time around I am less surprised by events or people. But still; I forgot a lot.
And it’s amazing to read about concepts for later novels that are mentioned in this novel. Jordan must have spent an enormous amount of time thinking about the series before actually writing it because the foreshadowing is amazing.

Happy reading!
Helena

Being lazy.

woensdag 8 juli 2015

Bookhaul: Book Depository

Hi

I got new books from The Book Depository! And I’m so excited and happy with them.
All three have been on my wishlist for a very, very long time.

I can’t wait to read them! It’s going to be great.

Happy reading.
Helena


dinsdag 7 juli 2015

Brent Weeks: Beyond the Shadows

Hi

Beyond the Shadows is the third novel in The Night Angel Trilogy.
Another very generic cover hides a novel of 689 pages.
You can find all my Brent Weeks reviews here.

* NO SPOILERS AHEAD *

I will only write about the things that differ in my opinion or in the book itself from the first and the second novel.

This final novel is even more action-packed than its predecessors. Action is basically all there is to it.
The story is fraught with problems. It’s hard to know where we are and what the characters are at because everything is about fighting and it all leads up to this great battle in the end.
So I’m still confused about the story. It feels too fast, very rushed and way too epic. He tried to write an epic conclusion but he failed miserably in my opinion.
It’s not credible anymore. There is so much going on at the end I had trouble keeping up. Everyone just needs to get to the final battle in time and everyone needs to win. That’s it. The motives behind the war are rather weak for some people.
The changing viewpoints helped a lot, but I still had a hard time figuring out why some things happened the way they did or why some decisions were made. The changing viewpoints are unfocused at times, but it does make the story move forward. And we miss a lot too. A character is suddenly in another country for example. Something is recovered and we have no idea how this character managed to do that because it was deemed impossible. Elene turns up out of the blue towards the end and we don’t know why. I mean, that’s just a cheap, lazy trick to play on us Weeks. If you want this to happen, figure out how this character should do it.

* SPOILERS AHEAD *

The real price of Kylar’s immortality is not that surprising, but still very, very sad. This was a very good element in the novel.

But I am so over Elene! She’s such a dollike, perfect and self-righteous, Virgin Mary type of girl. She is a very unbelievable character.
Besides, the Vi/Elene/Kylar relation is ridiculous. They both love him (and I truly can’t see why) but Vi is selfless (all of a sudden) enough to give Elene and Kylar their chance together. And as in any teenage novel (which this actually isn’t) they finally have sex. Enough with this obsession now Weeks!
I also find it very hard to believe there really was no way to break the bond between the wedding rings right until the very end. How convenient.
 And what happens to Uly? She’s mentioned a few times in passing, but that’s it.
But the ending! Oh my word. Love saves everything. Love. F*cking love. As if this is a chick lit or a teenage novel. So lame and cheesy.

Happy reading.
Helena

Lazy weekend.

vrijdag 3 juli 2015

Aldous Huxley: Brave New World

Hi

This is my fourth time reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The first time I must have been around 14.
It has 50 pages of introduction and foreword and 229 pages novel.

The question I still ask myself, even after reading it so many times is this; is Brave New World a utopian novel or a dystopian novel?

Everything is set around pleasure and consumerism. This society is stable and successful and its inhabitants have lots of free time they can fill with a score of hobbies and their multitude of friends. Everyone is satisfied.
This sounds great.
Until you get a better look at the way it works.

There is sexual freedom but an obligation to have promiscuous sex; people have lots of friends but die alone in the end and there’s no motherhood but a medical substitute for women who feel down.
And that’s not the most mind-boggling difference. The lower castes are stupid on purpose. That terrifies me. Changing the genes to get a ‘perfect’ society is an utterly horrifying and chilling. The conditioning gets to me every time.

The central idea is how far science can go without being immoral. But it’s about much more than that. To me, that’s not the most important message.

By shaping and creating a world without real danger, without hunger or boredom and with instant gratification; they created a world without love, passion, anticipation and pride at one’s work. They created humans less than human.

The first half of the novel remains the best in my opinion. Discovering this world was jaw-dropping the first time. And it is still chilling even after four times.
But I feel too much for/like Bernard to really appreciate the parts about him becoming popular and going back to the old Bernard again.
It is such a fast read. Not a boring moment in this too short novel.

We have ‘the right to be unhappy’. Something few people understand, even today, in our world.

Happy reading!
Helena

One of my favorite fruits and one of my favorite books!

woensdag 1 juli 2015

Wrap Up: June 2015

Hi

Another new month means another Wrap Up!

I had a very busy month. Every Saturday AND Sunday but one were filled with visits and other engagements and I had less time to read as a result.
I still managed to read quite a bit, but I had to push myself to do so. Once I was reading I was enjoying it very much, but when I’m tired it’s hard for me to start reading instead of just watching a movie.

I Did Not Finish (DNF) one book this month. But that’s ok, it doesn't happen very often and I did not pay full price.

I read a total of 3138 pages.

Here’s what I read.

And here’s what I did not finish.

What did you read this month?
Helena