dinsdag 31 mei 2016

Miles Cameron: The Red Knight

Hi

The Red Knight is the first book of five in the Traitor Son Cycle.
You can find all Miles Cameron reviews here.
My copy has 768 pages and I got it from The Book Depository.


“This is a world dominated by The Wild.
Man lives in pockets of civilisation claimed from The Wild. Within men's walls life is civilised, the peace punctuated by tournaments, politicking, courtly love and canny business. Beyond those walls men are prey - vulnerable to the exceptionally powerful and dangerous creatures which populate the land and even more vulnerable to those creatures schemes.
So when one of those creatures breaks out of The Wild and begins preying on people in their homes, it takes a specialist to hunt it down or drive it out...and even then, it's a long, difficult and extremely dangerous job.
The Black Captain and his men are one such group of specialists. They have no idea what they're about to face...
Forget George and the Dragon. Forget Sir Lancelot and tales of Knightly exploits. This is dirty, bloody work. This is violent, visceral action. This is a mercenary knight as you've never seen one before.”

The book is very overwhelming at first; the story is complicated, it has many layers and long chapters.
That’s why it took me at least 150 pages to really get into it and to have an idea of who’s who and what’s going on. But it is so interesting that I kept reading anyway.

The characters are wonderfully done. They struggle with their own views and thoughts because they aren’t simply good or bad. Not one character was boring and I could understand them all very well.
I liked the multiple POV’s a lot. As the story progresses, we get to know them better and we understand where they’re coming from and why they act the way they do. I like getting to know characters this way; slow and gradual. Almost like real friends because friends generally don’t give you a giant info-dump either.

Cameron has put a lot of work into the details and technicalities to make the story more realistic.
We learn about the world and the monsters as we’re walking through it, almost as if we’re discovering it with the characters. The worldbuilding is simply amazing.
The magic system is very interesting and quite different from other Fantasy I’ve read before.
There are amazing plot twists and revelations, especially near the end.
The writing is straightforward, solid, clear, gritty and brutal at times. I loved his style.

The battlescenes are works of art. I love a writer who is able to make us care for both sides even when it’s obvious who we should be rooting for. The endless battle scenes got to be a bit tiring by the end though. The final chapters are battle after battle and there are only so many ways you can describe a war. The detailed descriptions still made them worth the read.
But the book focuses on the little man as well and I loved that aspect. Seeing how this battle affected others in a good or a bad way. It felt so real reading these POV’s because it suddenly isn’t solely about soldiers and war; there’s more to the story, more to the world.

Great book! I’ll be ordering the second part very soon.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 26 mei 2016

John Wyndham: Chocky

Hi

Chocky is my third John Wyndham. You can find all my JohnWyndham reviews here.
My copy has 153 pages and a 3-page introduction by Brian Aldiss.
I got it from The Book Depository.

“Matthew's parents are worried. At eleven, he's much too old to have an imaginary friend, yet they find him talking to and arguing with a presence that even he admits is not physically there. This presence - Chocky - causes Matthew to ask difficult questions and say startling things: he speaks of complex mathematics and mocks human progress. Then, when Matthew does something incredible, it seems there is more than the imaginary about Chocky. Which is when others become interested and ask questions of their own: who is Chocky? And what could it want with an eleven-year-old boy?”

From the very beginning I expected ‘what’ Chocky exactly is. It might have been different at the time it was written but as a reader in 2016 the mystery wasn’t really a mystery. Actually, I had hoped for a very different, rather more violent ending.
But Chocky is a very interesting character. Her questions as an outsider about our planet and the way we run things had me thinking too.

The plot went nowhere. No suspense or climax. And the exposition dump at the end didn’t work for me either.

The ending of the book took me by surprise because it’s a happy one.
As I said before, this is my third John Wyndham and I didn’t think a happy end was part of his repertoire. It fits the story very well; it just surprised me. It’s a rather optimistic story too.

Matthew really got to me. He is such a sweet tempered, smart boy and I really cared for him.
The father is a complete disaster though. He is a good father for Matthew. Not so for his daughter. And he isn’t a very nice husband either. His views on women are wrong, coldhearted, idiotic and shortsighted. The mother (and all other women in this story) is rather stupid, dull and insipid. Men, according to Wyndham are smart, reasonable and even-tempered. Or so he wants us to believe.
Both father and mother have strange reactions to what happens to their family. Who in their right mind would send their child to school a day after he has been kidnapped for over a week?

Chocky isn’t a bad book. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would because it is rather boring and the characters are a bit flat too.
But it is also short, insightful, optimistic and sweet.

3 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

dinsdag 24 mei 2016

Stephen King: The Long Walk

Hi everyone

The Long Walk is a Stephen King novel written under his pseudonym of Richard Bachman.
My copy has 370 pages and I got it from Bol.
You can find all my Stephen King reviews here.

 “Every year, on the first day of May, one hundred teenage boys meet for an event known throughout the country as "The Long Walk." Among this year's chosen crop is sixteen-year-old Ray Garraty. He knows the rules: that warnings are issued if you fall under speed, stumble, sit down. That after three warnings... you get your ticket. And what happens then serves as a chilling reminder that there can be only one winner in the Walk - the one that survives...”

I kept this book for one of those moments I needed something I knew I would love. There are quite a few of these types of books on my TBR.
After disliking Jonas Jonasson’s The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden I needed that assurance of something good.

The Long Walk is very well written. It is raw, dark, creepy, sometimes thoughtprovoking, disturbing and really bleak. The book is solely about The Walk. There’s no world-building, no background. The Walk is all there is and it is good that way because to them, it’s all there is.
The characters are interesting and very diverse. I could see them all before me. They change during the walk. Some become philosophical or spiritual, others simply go mad. They weren’t likeable but I still cared for some of them. Their intereactions especially were complex and interesting.
From the very beginning you’re pretty sure how it’s going to end and that’s not a bad thing. What got to me was the unexpectedness and the not-knowing of who was next and why.

What disturbs me most is the fact that these boys choose to do this. It’s their own choice even though they know 99 out of 100 boys will die. You can’t blame anyone else for this because they did it to themselves.

I loved the book.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

Lazy Sunday.

zondag 22 mei 2016

DNF - Jonas Jonasson: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

Hi

I could not finish this book.
After 149 pages I just had to give up.

“On June 14, 2007, the king and the prime minister of Sweden went missing from a gala banquet at the royal castle. Later it was said that both had fallen ill, but the truth is different.
The real story starts much earlier, in 1961, with the birth of Nombeko Mayeki in a shack in Soweto. Nombeko was fated to grow up fast and die early in her poverty-stricken township, be it from drugs, alcohol, or just plain despair. But Nombeko takes a different path. She finds work as a housecleaner and eventually makes her way up to the position of chief advisor, at the helm of one of the world's most secret projects. Here is where the tale merges with then diverges from reality. South Africa developed six nuclear missiles in the 1980s, then voluntarily dismantled them in 1994.
This is the story of the seventh missile, the one that was never supposed to have existed. Nombeko Mayeki knows too much about it, and now she's on the run from both the South African justice system and the most terrifying secret service in the world. The fate of the planet now lies in Nombeko's hands. Jonasson introduces us to a cast of eccentrics: a nerve-damaged American Vietnam deserter, twin brothers who are officially only one person, three careless Chinese girls, an angry young woman, a potato-growing baroness, the Swedish king and the prime minister. Quirky and utterly unique, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is a charming and humorous account of one young woman's unlikely adventure.”

Hell, I did not like this book at all.

The book was silly, absurd (not in a fun way) and too far-fetched.
It is outlandish, improbable and, to be honest, just lazy. The writing and the plot are too easy and too convenient. It’s so simple. Anyone can write something like this. Improbable event after improbable event, hoping readers will find it funny and different. It is childish, clumsy, amateurish and really tedious to read.
 There’s so much meandering about side characters we never see again that it really got on my nerves.
And I just did not care for the characters. Not one of them.

Jonasson was trying way too hard to write a humorous, bizarre story and be different from other writers.
He did not succeed.

Did Not Finish – NO STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 19 mei 2016

Neil Gaiman: Trigger Warning

Hi

This review is about Neil Gaiman’s short stories collection Trigger Warning.
I got my copy at the Standaard Boekhandel. It has a 27-page introduction, a 4-page interview with the man himself and 303 pages of short stories.
You can find my other Neil Gaiman reviews here.

“’ We are all wearing masks. That is what makes us interesting. These are stories about those masks, and the people we are underneath them.' Neil Gaiman, writing from a cabin in the dark woods.
Make sure you secure your own mask before reading. Before being transported to worlds filled with witches, watchers and big black bees, with deathless Kin and pirate girls, with things that prowl in the darkness beyond the circle fire, to find the Shadder lurking at your journey's end. But then what happens? There's always something waiting for you. There's always more. Just keep turning the pages.
'We each have our little triggers.'
Literary alchemy from 'a writer of rare perception and endless imagination' (William Gibson), TRIGGER WARNING is a cornucopia of storytelling: horror and ghost stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry. It will open your eyes to the inexhaustible supply of darkness around you, the magic and the monsters, the myths and the miracles, and to finding truths in the most extraordinary of places.”

As you may know by now, I’m not the biggest fan of short stories.
This collection is very interesting.

The themes, the kind of characters and the plotlines of the stories in the collection are all very different.
Gaiman is definitely playing around, experimenting with his writing-ability and trying out what works and what doesn’t. And it works.
The overarching theme of Trigger Warnings is very clearly played out in most stories. These characters are in some way broken. They might have gone through something traumatizing, done something awful or they might just be damaged. I loved that. A central theme makes it a lot easier to enjoy a short stories collection and I liked this theme in particular. Broken people make for lovely stories.

I enjoyed this collection. It’s different and new. It’s also identifiable, funny, sad, dark, full of meaning, diverse and really enjoyable.
But it's not really anything special.

3 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

dinsdag 17 mei 2016

Robert Jordan: A Crown of Swords

Hi

This is the seventh book in The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and it has 759 pages.
It’s my second time reading the book.
You can find all my reviews of the series here.

* SPOILERS *

A Crown of Swords is a good addition to the series but it’s not special in some way so I can’t really add a lot to my previous reviews.

Here are some observations I made about the novel while reading.
I liked the start of the novel with the Battle at Dumais Wells from Sevanna’s point of view. It’s always very interesting to read the same scene from different POV’s. I like that a lot. It gives you so much insight into the characters and into their motivations.
Elaida is completely delusional and I have so much fun reading her point of view.
Loial is amazing; I love him. He’s smart, funny and very loyal and sweet.
The whole plot to have Egwene as a puppet Amyrlin Seat made me laugh so hard. That blew up in their faces. How they can still think she’ll do whatever they want her too goes beyond me. Egwene will be an amazing Amyrlin and I can’t wait for some of the things she will do. I’m especially looking forward to her plot for the Black Ajah.
Siuan is one of my favorites too; especially when together with Gareth Bryne. They will make such an amazing couple. Both grew a lot in this book.
I still hate Faile. She’s jealous, she manipulates Perrin, she changes her mind faster than a clock can tick and she only cares for herself and her own opinion. Why does he even care for her? What does he see in her?
Jordan’s writing is so vivid that while reading from Moghedien’s point of view I almost felt sorry for her.
Rand’s character development is fairly well-done. But I’m fed up with the whole Rand-and-three-girls-thing. And he makes some stupid decisions from time to time like leaving The Aes Sedai to make the treaty with the Sea Folk when everything was going so well.
The Gholam is a really nice addition. They are different enough from the other Shadowspawn creatures to be terrifying in their own way.
The scene where Mat and Brigitte get drunk together is hilarious, especially with Elayne suffering the consequences.
I absolutely love The Kin. The idea of the women who escaped The White Tower and the wilders forming their own organization is pretty smart. I love them. They are different
I hate, hate, hate the recurring theme of man versus women gossip, the constant nagging and bitching, the misunderstandings and the complaining. I’ve had it with the whole thing.
The battle where Rand destroys Shadar Logoth is one of my favorite parts. Jordan’s fight and battle scenes in general are great.
My absolute favorite part is Nynaeve’s and Lan’s reunion. I love that. Nynaeve has to try to keep her tongue after her marriage and listen to Lan and that leads to some very funny situations and conversations.

4 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 16 mei 2016

Bookhaul: Fnac and Standaard Boekhandel

Hi

My husband and I went to Antwerp last Saturday to do some shopping and a lot of walking around.
Obviously, bookshopping is an integral part of a shopping trip.

Here are the books I got:

Happy reading and I’ll see you soon!
Helena


vrijdag 13 mei 2016

Bookhaul

Hi

My parent went on a short trip to Oxford and they brought home two books for me.
I have quite an extensive bookwishlist and they always take it with them when traveling because SFF and older Classics are difficult to find in Belgian shops.

Here are the books I got:


Happy reading.
Helena

woensdag 11 mei 2016

Joseph Conrad: The Secret Agent

Hi everyone

The Secret Agent is my first book by Joseph Conrad.
I got it on holiday in Valencia and my copy has 270 pages and 8 pages author’s note.

“The Secret Agent is Conrad’s dark, and darkly comic story of a band of spies, anarchists, agents-provocateurs plotting and counter-plotting in the back streets of London in the early 20th Century. The novel centers on Verloc, a shop-owner, phony-anarchist and double-agent, who becomes embroiled in an ambitious terrorist plan to bomb the Greenwich Observatory.”

I have mixed feelings.
The first part was rather boring to be honest. But the second part was so sad and touching and I loved that.

Conrad’s writing style is incredibly dense and it’s hard to follow what’s going on, especially in the first part. It took some effort to figure what was happening.
The pacing of the novel confused me and that didn’t help either.
The story is very simple but he makes it way too complicated.

Conrad’s characterization is good though.
I actually liked Mr. Verloc even though it is his fault Stevie is dead. Verloc is a coward and he cares only for himself and his comfort. Why would I care about someone like him? But strangely, I did.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 9 mei 2016

Ann Leckie: Ancillary Mercy

Hi

Ancillary Mercy is the third part in the Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann Leckie.
My copy has 330 pages and I got it at the Standaard Boekhandel.
You can find my other reviews in this series here.
This book is nominated for the Hugo Award 2016 and the Nebula Award 2016.

I had high hopes for this one. Everyone seems to love it even more then the previous two (which I just found ok) so I hoped that this conclusion would make the reading experience worth it.
It wasn’t in my opinion.

The plot is not really exciting or suspenseful nor is it surprising; it’s actually rather boring and not a lot happens.

Seivarden en Ekalu’s fight is entirely understandable, but it doesn’t need so much time in the book. And the moralizing message behind it is has no part in it.
Seivarden has turned into a whiny, pathetic and arogant ass.
Zeiat, the new Presger Translater is weird. Funny in a way, and also strange and bizarre but he/she is only there as comic relief, making the same kind of jokes over and over again. It gets old.

If I’d ever reread these books I’d make a drinking game out of it. Every time ‘tea’ is mentioned; I’d take a shot. But I like this obsession with tea. It’s charming.

The ending leaves everything open. What happens next with The Presger? What about Anaander Mianaai? We don’t know. The novel just ends. I honestly felt cheated.

The first book didn’t blow me away but I thought that was my fault. I was new to SF so it was possible I didn’t understand it all. That’s why I decided to carry on with the series. The reviews I’d read were all so positive, I felt a bit ashamed for not loving it as much as others.
Now however, I don’t care.
If she’d ever write a sequel; I wouldn’t read it.

2 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

Time for a snack!

zaterdag 7 mei 2016

J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Hi everyone

This review is about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; the fourth book in The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling.
The novel won The Hugo Award in 2001.
My gorgeous copy was a gift from my husband and it has 617 pages.


                * SPOILERS *

I really loved this book.

Hermione is amazing. She’s confident, smart and she gets it right every time. She knows she’ll get Rita Skeeter. She is above the teasing and gossiping. She cares for Ron and Harry and she can’t stand them not talking to each-other. She is a great character.

Sirius, Mr. Weasley and Mrs. Weasley really care for Harry and I’m so glad he gets to experience that. Sirius has to leave him at the end and Harry can’t stand it. Molly hugging him. Molly being there as his family. So sweet and so sad at the same time. It almost made me cry.

It’s wonderful how Rowling mentions something at the beginning of the book only to make it an important part of the story later on. And when you reread the books you notice how often she does that. It’s all over the place. Characters, spells and objects, everything becomes important one way or another.

Snape bothered me though. Someone like him simply can’t be a teacher. He bullies Hermione into changing her teeth so he can’t make fun of her? He reads the interview out loud in class so everyone can make fun of Harry and Hermione? It’s too much and I can’t believe it. In reality, someone like him wouldn’t be a teacher and shouldn’t be around children in general.

And the house-elfs? That’s just wrong. They are slaves! How can Hermione be the only one who sees that? The house-elfs being happy slaves doesn’t make it acceptable in any way.

Another thing that aggravated me a lot was how Rowling treated Ron. It’s only normal for him to be jealous of Harry and the attention he gets from everyone. Ron is always the overlooked one. Rowling made him ‘the bad guy’ and I don’t think he deserved it. It hurt.
What hurts even more and what gets worse in the next book is the disbelief Harry is met with by others. They don’t believe him when he says he didn’t put his name in the Goblet of Fire or when he says Voldemort is back. I honestly can’t stand that sort of injustice.

These points made me more aware of some problems in the books I never noticed before. It might be me growing up and noticing them more or thinking about them more instead of accepting these problems like I used to.
I honestly love the series, I really do, but some things are just wrong.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

Life is good.

donderdag 5 mei 2016

Amos Oz: Between Friends

Hi again

This is my short review of a collection of stories by Amos Oz.
My copy has 198 pages and I got it at the Boekenfestijn.

Between Friends is a collection of interrelated short stories.

The novel reads very fast and the stories seem to be simple and boring but they actually aren’t. I loved this collection.

Every story is about someone else, but they are all set at the same place; a kibbutz . This was my first novel set in a place like that and I found it very interesting. It seems a perfect place; everyone working together towards the same goal. But it isn’t. For some, the kibbutz is a prison while to others it’s a road to something else, something bigger.

The sense of loneliness in an environment where everyone is supposed to be friends is wonderfully done. Some of the characters sacrifice so much and it actually hurt to read about them.
Even though each character has only a few pages, it’s amazing how much I felt for all of them.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

woensdag 4 mei 2016

Isaac Asimov: Foundation’s Edge

Hi everyone

I finished the penultimate book in the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov.
This one has 452 pages and I got it from Bol.
Foundation’s Edge won the Hugo Award and the Locus Award and it was nominated for the Nebula Award.

This book was very different from the ones before.
Foundation’s Edge relies more on dialogue, discussions and endless explanations than the other books. There’s still a lot happening and it’s even quite suspenseful at times but the explanations really bored me. It seems like Asimov wanted to clarify everything that has happened since the very first step of humankind up till now. And some of his characters go on and on till you feel your mind wandering off while reading. The technical descriptions in particular were boring.

The plot wasn’t surprising in my opinion but it was good. Having a third group was a bit much though. I liked it in the end, but when I found out I felt a bit annoyed at how easy and predictable it would become.
It’s written so effortlessly and smoothly that it reads as fast as a train.
The world building is better too and the telepathic society and Gaia especially were great.
The characters were much the same; not really fleshed out but enjoyable nonetheless.

Nothing special but quite enjoyable.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zondag 1 mei 2016

Wrap Up: April 2016

Hi everyone

April was great reading-wise.
I’m very happy with the amount of books I managed to read. And I read a few absolutely great books.

I read 4132 pages in April. That’s 138 pages a day or 376 pages per book.

Well, here’s what I read last month with links to the reviews.

Here are the new books I liked best in April.

What did you like best last month? Did you manage to read some things?
Have a great May!

Happy reading.
Helena