maandag 29 februari 2016

Seth Dickinson: The Traitor Baru Cormorant

Hi everyone

I read The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson as part of a buddyread with a few people from Booktube; Michael, Kaitlin, James, Chelsea and PT. You can find their channels by clicking on their names.
My beautiful copy has 399 pages and I got it from Book Depository.

“The Traitor Baru Cormorant is an epic geopolitical fantasy about one woman's mission to tear down an empire by learning how to rule it.
Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon.
The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They'll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She'll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she'll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.
In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery - and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.
But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.”

                *  SPOILERS  *

I loved the start of the novel. Baru’s homeland and its culture are very interesting. Same-sex marriage is allowed and having more than two parents is considered normal.
But her homeland was never a really important part of the story so you should just forget about it.
Revenge for her homeland is supposed to be Baru’s motivation but it’s not. It’s barely mentioned once she goes on her mission and she seldom thinks about it.
It was saddening but also amazing to read how The Masquerade takes over her country; not through warfare but first by trade, economic policy and finance, then by schooling and lawmaking. I thought that genius.  They made things better too by providing schooling, laws and medical care so you can’t just blame them for everything. That was a very interesting element in the book.
I enjoyed Baru’s struggle with her sexuality and her race. It was quite fascinating at times and I never felt like it was too prominently featured in the story. It’s a very important part of her and the story.
The way The Masquerade is governed by a lobotomized ruler is great too.
And I loved the premise where Baru wants to take down the Empire from the inside out.

It went down after Baru was sent on her first assignment though.
I thought the story rather predictable. The writing was readable but slow and the plot very boring.
I felt detached from the characters throughout the whole novel. And I certainly didn’t care for any of them. The story never really grabbed me, it was too drawn out and slow.
Baru made me really mad when she went into that funk. She’s a pathetic drunk and she doesn’t even care herself. And she lost so much time by not caring, feeling sorry for herself and being drunk.
The way the rebellion was written made it even more slow and boring. It’s longwinded and overcomplicated without much action. I never felt engrossed in the novel. I never really felt anything while reading the book.
It was hard to keep up with all the characters too. There are so many of them and I find the characterization really lacking. Most of them did not stand out to me; they all felt the same.

The ending is overhyped in my opinion. It did redeem the slow 200 pages in between the amazing beginning and ending a bit but not nearly enough to say that I loved the novel. It didn’t really surprise or shock me. I had a few options in my head about the plot and it was one of these different ways the book went.
It’s not really dark or bleak but it’s anything but a happy ending.

All in all, I enjoyed reading the book because it is so different but it a struggle to get through it.

4 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

Chocolate milk and a new book. Bliss.

zaterdag 27 februari 2016

Evelyn Waugh: Decline and Fall

Hi

Decline and Fall is my third novel by Evelyn Waugh and it was his first published work. It has 199 pages and an introduction of 24 pages. I got it from Book Depository.

“Expelled from Oxford for indecent behaviour, Paul Pennyfeather is oddly unsurprised to find himself qualifying for the position of schoolmaster at Llanabba Castle. His colleagues are an assortment of misfits, including Prendy (plagued by doubts) and captain Grimes, who is always in the soup (or just plain drunk). Then Sports Day arrives, and with it the delectable Margot Beste-Chetwynde, floating on a scented breeze. As the farce unfolds and the young run riot, no one is safe, least of all Paul. Taking its title from Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Evelyn Waugh's first, funniest novel immediately caught the ear of the public with his account of an ingénu abroad in the decadent confusion of 1920s high society.”

I absolutely loved the characters in the book. Waugh’s characters are vivid, on the verge of a mental collapse, funny, completely deranged (some of them at least) and eccentric. They wish they could be true English gentlemen but they fail time and time again.

The novel is definitely a satire and it’s darker than I expected. It’s a clever book, it’s philosophical, quite shocking at times, absurd and it has a ludicrous plot.

Decline and Fall made me think and it made me laugh.
It’s not just a funny and thought provoking satire. It’s about British Society at that time and how difficult it was to get further in life because people were meant to stay in their own social class. But it also shows us how empty life can be, even for those in the higher classes. Waugh is a true social critic and a master of satire.
Very enjoyable book. I did not love it though; it's a bit dated and rather boring in places.
The Loved One is still my favorite of his works.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

I had a late night snack while reading this book.

woensdag 24 februari 2016

J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Hi everyone

This would be my fifteenth(-ish) time reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
I got the first three books in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling as birthday gifts from my husband and I absolutely adore this beautiful edition.
This copy has 360 pages.

                * SPOILERS *

Harry’s heroic deeds in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone have made no change in his circumstances at home. The novel starts with harry completely alone, sad and surrounded by people who nearly hate him. It’s a heartbreaking start.

I absolutely love the moment Harry sees The Burrow for the first time. He adores it because it is truly a home filled with love, while Ron is a bit ashamed by how small and messy it is.
Even though our three protagonists come from very different backgrounds, they all have their own problems; Harry is an orphan, hated by his remaining family, Hermione is an only child from well-to-do parents and Ron feels inferior to his brothers and he’s the son of parents who only just get by. They can share those problems with the other two without feeling mocked by them for their unimportant feelings. That’s real friendship. And I love how it makes the novel into something deeper and more thoughtful then other children’s books.

The characters develop realistically, friendships grow and we get to know a few new characters. Rowling’s characterization in general is amazing.
Gilderoy Lockhart is a stupid, crazy narcissist and he is hilarious. Everyone else’s reactions to him are especially funny. Unfortunately he is too stereotypical to be truly loved by me.

I do not think this book predictable like some other reviewers seem to think. As a grownup I would have seen the plot twist coming (or so I like to think because I cannot be sure) but I remember that as a child I was very surprised by the developments at the end.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a hilarious book, it’s suspenseful, magical, thrilling, funny, unique and a parody on celebrities. It is also much darker then the first book.

There’s a lot of foreshadowing in this novel. A few things are introduced in this novel that will become important plot elements in future books. It’s subtle, but on rereading the books they are definitely there. I always love that in books.
Like Terry Pratchett, Rowling ‘hides’ moral messages in her novels. The unimportance of race and heritage in this case.

I positively love this series.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 22 februari 2016

Emma Donoghue: Room

Hi everyone

This is a review for Emma Donoghue’s novel Room. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2010.
I got my copy second hand and it has 401 pages.

 “It's Jack's birthday and he's excited about turning five. Jack lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures 11 feet by 11 feet. He loves watching TV but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real. Until the day Ma admits that there's a world outside.”
I loved this book.

                     *  SPOILERS  *

This is such an emotional book. It took my breath away at times, it almost left me speechless, it made me tear up and it’s sweet, innocent, harsh and funny all at the same time.
There’s not much of a story; in fact, it could be summed up in a few sentences but it’s still a compelling read and I didn’t want to put it down.

Jack is so innocent. His world is tiny but it’s all he knows and Donoghue makes this feel real. He doesn’t know anything else but what they own in their Room.
Even after the escape he is still this innocent child but on a completely different planet. The questions he asks, the things he sees, how he interprets things, they are all a five-year-olds.
I do feel like this POV was inconsistent at times. Some moments he felt like an incredibly intelligent boy that has had home-schooling from a very early age but right after that he mispronounces or even makes up words. This did get on my nerves at times.

The other thing that bothered me was how the escape was written. It felt too rushed. And I know, it’s from the point of view of a child and he’s afraid but still, the escape and the planning of the escape felt too hurried.

Aside from the inconsistencies in Jack’s POV, I felt that this was a very realistic book. Ma has struggled to escape but her priority now is to protect jack and she would do anything for him. She hates Nick with a passion, but to shift his attention from Jack to her she ‘suggests’ having sex. Jack is her life and she would do anything for him.
It’s very understandable that after the escape Ma en Jack need different things. She is glad to be out of Room but Jack wants to go back because it’s the only thing he knows and he feels safe there. She wants to get out of there because it’s where her abductor kept her and abused her. Ma needs to experience life all over again while Jack needs safety and boundaries.
I thought this was wonderfully done and very realistic.  

All in all, I really enjoyed it; even though that’s a weird thing to say about a book handling abduction and rape (among other things).

5 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

zaterdag 20 februari 2016

Bookhaul: Bol

Hi everyone

Immediately after finishing God’s War I went online to Bol.com to order the second and third part in the series.
They arrived two days ago but I didn’t have time to post a haul then.

So here they are.

I really want to finish this series this year so I’ll get to them pretty soon.

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 16 februari 2016

Allie Brosh: Hyperbole and a Half

Hi

I gave this book to my husband shortly after it came out and he enjoyed it very much.
He told me that the book deals with depression in a very relatable way and I’m interested in anything spreading awareness, having suffered from depression myself.
The book has 369 pages.

“This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative--like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it--but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:
Pictures
Words
Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*
*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!”

I enjoyed this enormously. It is not laugh-out-loud funny but it’s very entertaining and it did make me giggle a lot.
The pictures are (while very crude and primitive) amazingly expressive and they capture the story perfectly.
The whole book is honest, witty, charming and very funny.

But the story of her depression is something quite different. It’s honest too, and even funny in a melancholic way but it is also relatable, understandable and just the plain truth about suffering from this disease. I recognized myself in her story and I think a lot of people will. I hope that whoever reads this, gains a better understanding of depression.

4 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 15 februari 2016

Kameron Hurley: God’s War

Hi everyone

I read God’s War as a buddyread with Michael from Bitten by a Radioactive Book. Michael is a German Booktuber and we became friends through Youtube. When he asked me whether I’d be interested in doing a buddyread, I immediately said ‘yes’.
My copy of God’s War has 396 pages and I got it from Book Depository.
This is the first book in the Bel Dame Apocrypha by Kameron Hurley.


 “Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...
On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on...
There's not a chance in hell of ending it.
Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war--but at what price?
The world is about to find out.”


                *  SPOILERS  *

In this debut novel Hurley creates a unique, complex, weird, original, strange, challenging and disturbing world and it’s unlike anything I’ve read before.
The cities house mostly women because men are off fighting the war. That doesn’t make these women weak, quite to the contrary, they are badass and strong. Thank you Hurley for creating this!
Thank you for creating a world with people of color and with a religion grounded in Muslim ideology rather than Christian.
Hurley writes about all these themes, raising questions while doing so but it’s not judgmental, sentimental or emotional. It’s challenging and it makes us think.

There are so many possibilities with this world; the interesting cultures, the different species, the amazing technology, the strange magic and even a few aliens.
But Hurley doesn’t explore it all. I would have loved a more thorough world building, more explanations about the workings of these technologies and insight into the magic system. But it’s not there. She sets it all up to make something absolutely brilliant and then she seems to lack the interest or motivation to make it really work.
It’s nice and intriguing when there’s mystery left to the world, but I’m left with a lot of questions and that frustrates me and leaves me a bit dissatisfied with the novel as a whole.


The writing is very graphic and the book contains some rather horrific and literally skin-crawling scenes. I loved that.

The characters are diverse and unique. Nyx especially is wonderfully done and she has so much depth even though she seems nothing more than a badass fighter on the surface.
All of these characters are flawed, they can be cowards or just dumb and stupid.
I loved the almost complete lack of romance. There was some tension and it was wonderfully done, but there was no real romance.

The first part (before she goes to prison) is confusing, almost boring and I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t like the timejump either. In my opinion, Hurley should have started the novel after Nyx’s time in prison so she could properly introduce the characters and the story. But no, after those almost prologue-like first pages we jump right into the action without any explanations or time to get to know the world and the characters. I felt lost and it took me a while to get into it. Once I stopped questioning everything and just accepted things for what they were and once Nyx was out of prison, the enjoyment of a good book started.

Also, enough with the bugs already! They are used for everything; medicine, fuel, torture, espionage…
How is that even possible? It’s like Hurley thought of something new and exciting and she just couldn’t stop herself putting them to use everywhere and for everything.
But, even though I'm terrified of spiders, I absolutely loved the idea of using bugs as a cornerstone of society.

The novel is fast paced and I didn’t want to put it down (unfortunately, life gets in the way of doing just that). It’s suspenseful, unpredictable (mostly), very intriguing and full of twists.
The ending especially was interesting.
The reappearance of Jacks was unexpected and it brought the whole novel to a proper ending.
It’s not quite a setup for the next two novels in the series because it’s a closed ending and the story can go a few ways but I do hope the old gang gets together again.
And it’s in no way a happy ending for anyone.

I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it a lot so I ordered the second and third installment a few hours after finishing this book. It’s very interesting but it left me unsatisfied.
Hopefully, we’ll get (a) better world building, (b) the old team back together and (c) more hints about the possibility of Nyx having children.


4 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena


Leftover homemade carrot cake while starting a new book.

zondag 14 februari 2016

Jim Butcher: Death Masks

Hi

Death Masks is the fifth novel in The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
My copy has 413 pages and I got it from Bol.

                                *   SPOILERS   *

This is my favorite novel in The Dresden Files so far.

The premise is absolutely stupid and ridiculous, but somehow, Butcher makes it work.
The book is very fast paced and filled to the brim with action; there’s not a breather in the whole novel. It’s suspenseful from start to finish and a lot happens.

I like how every new novel is grounded into the events of previous novels; events from other stories continue interfering with events in this novel, making every new novel that much more exciting because on top of all those previous interfering events there’s always something new, some new catastrophe or threat. This book has so many more layers then the first one and I expect the series will go on this way.

Butcher’s characterization is amazing. Every character feels very real and they grow so much throughout the series. His villains are especially well done in this book.
And I love Shiro and and Sanya. Sanya especially is my favorite.
Susan is back and she has grown into quite a badass character with more depth, coming from being merely a romantic interest for Harry.
Harry himself is better fleshed out too. For the first time he gets really fed up with events, he is tired, vulnerable, he can’t take it anymore and he is hurting mind and body. The scene with the baseball bat was very understandable and so satisfying.

Butcher made some very clever new additions too. The Archive and The Denarians are great, interesting, different and very unique characters. He also offers new rules to make it all work in a believable framework.

Death Masks is a rather dark novel but Harry Dresden is the same witty wizard he always was and that makes the novel not altogether dark and bleak. I loved the duck for example. Laughed so much with that.

Very enjoyable novel, best one yet.

4 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

woensdag 10 februari 2016

Bookhaul: My 27th Birthday

Hi everyone

I’m 27 now.
My birthday was actually the 24th of January but I we got my family over on Sunday for my birthday so I wanted to wait until after that to post a haul just in case I got some bookish stuff.
And I did!

I got two gift cards, money, three very cute bookmarks shaped as leaves, an Adipose and Cyberman Funko Pop and quite a few books.
My husband got me those absolutely gorgeous Harry Potter books and he promised me he’ll give all of them this year so I can read them all in those new editions. I love them. They are just so beautiful! He also got me those adorable Funko Pops and a few other things.

Here are the books I got:

Thank you everyone (and my husband especially) for all the gifts. I’m very happy with everything I got. And even though I was ill on my birthday and sleeping a lot, I had a lot of fun celebrating a week later.

Happy reading.
Helena







zondag 7 februari 2016

John Wyndham: The Chrysalids

Hi everyone

This review is about the second John Wyndham book I read. The Day of the Triffids was one of my favorite books last month so I wanted to read this one shortly after.
I got my beautiful copy from Book Depository and it has 7 pages introduction by M. John Harrison and 187 pages story.

“David Strorm's father doesn't approve of Angus Morton's unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realize that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands...”

I enjoyed this book very much.
The characters are vividly written, there is a sense of danger throughout the novel and the world building is subtle but thorough. It’s very readable and short but it’s still deeply moving and thoughtful.

The setting and the concept were very intriguing. I could actually see the community of Waknuk as a real place and I could understand the people’s fear for mutations and the reasons for their way of life.
I loved finding out about Zealand because I always like to know what happened to the rest of the world in these kinds of novels. Most of the time the world outside the specific country or city the book is set in, is ignored.

Even though the message the book puts out is quite moral it is also philosophical and it’s never lecturing, dramatic, sentimental or judging. That’s why some people might not even see it. Or see something else than I did.
I liked how David’s father is too much of a religious fundamentalist even for his neighbors. The scene with David’s aunt will stay with me for a long time.

                *  SPOILERS  *

However, I did feel like there was too much foreshadowing. Most chapters ended talking about how it would all change for the worse and I never like that.
Worst of all though was the ending. The Zealanders kill the Waknuk search team and the people from The Fringe just because they could and because they’re different. The Zealanders think they are better than them so they don’t matter and can be killed. They actually react exactly like the Waknuk people to others who differ from them by killing them and thinking ‘it’s us or them’. Those people were no threat to the Zealanders because they live too far and because they’re not as technologically advanced. 

This ending is completely at odds with Wyndham’s message for tolerance and empathy throughout the book. In the end, our main characters go from one community to another with exactly the same kind of thinking but now they are the ones belonging to the approved group.
And the explanation for this massacre offered by the Zealand woman is futile, ridiculous and clumsy.

4 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

Kraken Rum while enjoying this one.

vrijdag 5 februari 2016

Terry Pratchett: Unseen Academicals

Hi everyone

Unseen Academicals is Terry Pratchett’s 37th Discworld novel.
My copy has 540 pages and the cover is amazing and hilarious.

“Football has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork. And now the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match, without using magic, so they're in the mood for trying everything else.
The prospect of the Big Match draws in a street urchin with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can, a maker of jolly good pies, a dim but beautiful young woman, who might just turn out to be the greatest fashion model there has ever been, and the mysterious Mr Nutt (and no one knows anything much about Mr Nutt, not even Mr Nutt, which worries him, too). As the match approaches, four lives are entangled and changed for ever.
Because the thing about football - the important thing about football - is that it is not just about football.
Here we go! Here we go! Here we go!”

I enjoyed this novel a lot but not as much as a lot of Pratchett’s other works.

I liked how we got one story from multiple points of view; the Patrician, the Academicals and the men on the street. The same story is told from those who make the changes and those who are subjected to them.
We get to know the Patrician in a new way and I loved that because he is a truly amazing character.
Mr Hix is one of my favorite characters in this novel. Nutt is absolutely adorable and definitely my favorite (as is the librarian) and I loved Trev and Glenda. But those two feel like I’ve met them before on Discworld. They don’t feel unique or new and it’s not only these characters. The Last few novels all had the same format where something from our world is introduced into theirs (Moist von Lipwig’s novels especially) and expanded upon.
It’s rather disappointing because it felt formulaic and too familiar.
Naurally, after 36 books it’s hard to make every book completely new and different and some events and characters will always remind us of others, but it was too much ‘same old, same old’ in this book.
But aside from that, the novel is really funny, pretty absurd, satirical, full of allusions, optimistic and heartwarming.

And even though I have no interest in Football whatsoever (I honestly couldn’t care less about it), I felt like cheering during the match at the end; it was written so well, it was thrilling and it felt so real.

Unseen Academicals is about acceptance, race, prejudice and stereotypes. And Romeo & Juliet. Although you might find this farfetched, I also think it’s about how we might lose the contributions and unique talents of people because of our prejudice and the way we perceive others.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

Dessert!

donderdag 4 februari 2016

A Comic

Hi

I saw this comic today and I just had to share it with you.
It is amazingly accurate and so very funny.
It was done by Sarah's Scribbles and you can find her here on Facebook.


Happy reading!
Helena

woensdag 3 februari 2016

Bookhaul: Fnac and Standaard Boekhandel

Hi

Saturday I took my gift cards out for a spin and came home with a few new books.
I’m so happy with them!

Here’s what I got.

Anything you’ve read? What would you like me to read first?

Happy reading!
Helena



maandag 1 februari 2016

Wrap Up: January 2016

Hi everyone

January was a great reading month. I got through quite a few books and not all bad ones too.

Unfortunately I did choose my first book of 2016 rather unwisely and I will pick a reread from now on for my first book of the year.

I read seven books for a total of 4134 pages. That's 590 pages per book and 133 pages per day.

Without further ado, here are the books I read last month with links to their reviews.

I made a great start on my 2016 Reading Goals by reading the first Harry Potter and a Wheel of Time novel.

Here are my favorite books of January.

Have a great reading month!
Helena