woensdag 31 augustus 2016

Becky Chambers: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Hi everyone

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is Becky Chambers’ debut novel.
My copy has 404 pages and I got it from Book Depository.

“Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.
But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.
Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.”

I loved this book so much.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is stunning, brilliant. It’s touching, interesting, funny, it has a lot of depth, it has meaning and it’s different from anything else I’ve read so far.

The characters are great; they’re complex, well-developped, completely unique and they feel true. The book is very character-driven. There are some truly unique and very diverse species (in all aspects) and I loved the way they interacted. Most of them try their hardest, but it’s clear it’s not easy to live with or to communicate with someone from a different species. I loved these parts; their doubts and uncertainties, the thoughts about their own and others’ behaviour and the way each of these species communicate. They feel real and they act with real emotions. I felt so connected to them!
There’s so much love in this book and it warmed my heart to read it. Very touching.

The setting is absolutely fascinating. Chambers’ worldbuilding is amazing and I love the universe she created. We get some history about this universe as we travel through it but it never feels like an info-dump. It feels bigger than the book and I mean that in the best way possible.There’s an untold history here that’s only hinted at. Same goes for the other worlds. There’s so much more I want in this universe.
There’s not much to the plot because it’s mostly about the crew’s daily life but I found it to be incredibly entertaining.

The writing is very elegant.
There are lots of details about the food, scents, clothing and many other things.

Chambers can be a bit preachy though. The moral messages she wants to put forward are rather blatant and obvious. It doesn’t make it any less enjoyable but it is something to keep in mind.
What did annoy me was how the book was split into different parts; one for every character. It felt like she just went over her list of characters, giving them all some time to shine.

This book is not for you if you want lots of action, if you’re not interested in the emotions or the small problems of the characters because this book is definitely character- and worldfocused.

It has been compared to Firefly a lot and it’s true. I’m sure that if you love Firefly, you’ll adore this.
The book made me smile and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy reading it.

I absolutely loved this. 

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 30 augustus 2016

Bookhaul: A Gift

Hi everyone

My husband and I celebrate our second wedding anniversary today and exchanging gifts is a part of that.
Here’s the book I got:


Thank you Brecht you are the best husband!
I now have the whole series in these gorgeous covers on my shelves.

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 29 augustus 2016

Joseph Conrad: Lord Jim

Hi everyone

This is my review for Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad.
I got my copy at the Fnac and it has 363 pages of story and 4 pages about the book by Harold Bloom.
You can find all my Joseph Conrad reviews here.

“Jim, first mate on board the Patna, is a simple and sensitive young man who dreams of becoming a hero. But when the Patna threatens to sink, Jim takes the cowardly way out and jumps clear. His unbearable guilt and shame at having violated the unwritten moral code of the sea lead him to become an exile in a remote Malay state. There he fashions a new identity for himself as the benevolent ruler of an exotic land - until his idyll is interrupted. Rich, moving and delicately crafted, Lord Jim is a compelling meditation on identity, guilt and lost honor.”

It honestly felt like work to get through this one. It took me such a long time and a lot of concentration to keep up with it.

The story is told from multiple POV’s (which is something I like), but it’s done in a way that confused me a lot. It’s not always clear what’s happening when exactly or who’s telling a story in which someone else is talking. There’s an astounding amount of quotation marks in this book. Captain Marlow hops from one point in time to another, forgetting things he should explain and thus explaining them much later in the novel and all the while rambling on. I didn’t feel the urgency of the situation or even care for the characters and what’s happening around them because it was so confusing. I just didn’t care about the story or the characters.

I could not get involved in the story, there was no plot to speak off and I didn’t particularly feel for the characters. It’s very repetitive, slow and boring. Jim’s inner struggle does not require so many pages.

We are supposed to feel sorry for Jim and then applaud and congratulate him for how much he’s changed. I can’t. I just can’t. The choice was simple and nothing can redeem him.
Worst of all, the story is incredibly racist. Absolutely cringe-worthy racist.

The writing-style is beautiful though. Conrad’s choice of words is amazing.

2 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

vrijdag 26 augustus 2016

Stephen King: The Stand

Hi everyone

Stephen King’s The Stand. I finally found the courage to start reading this one. And I couldn’t put it down.
My copy is the complete and uncut edition, counting a whopping 1439 pages plus 14 pages preface and opening. It actually hurt my wrists and fingers to read it.
I got my copy from Bol.
You can find all my Stephen King reviews here.

“When a man escapes from a biological testing facility, he sets in motion a deadly domino effect, spreading a mutated strain of the flu that will wipe out 99 percent of humanity within a few weeks. The survivors who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge--Mother Abigail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious "Dark Man," who delights in chaos and violence.”

                                *   SPOILERS   *

The Stand is a huge book. Probably the biggest I’ve read to date. But it is worth it. I’m so glad I read the uncut edition because I can’t imagine leaving something out. It’s a real page-turner, it did drag in some places, but never so much as to make me want to put it down. I enjoyed every chapter.
The writing is astounding, the sheer scope of the novel is impressive and the plot is truly epic.

I loved the time we spent on the early days of the virus; the start of the outbreak, the panic, the military actions to stop people from knowing what’s going on and then ultimately, the death of most people. It’s nerve-wracking to read about people you care for and then loose most of them.
Stephen King killed of so many of the characters we got to know in those days, I wondered who would be left to actually star in the rest of the book. But I loved this part of it.

The characterization is amazing. Everyone is so different and yet they all grow so much. You’d expect a few fully fleshed out characters, but everyone who’s a tiny bit important has a decent background and well-rounded characteristics.
I loved the characters, even the ones I hated, because I loved them for the role they played in the novel. There wasn’t one character I felt didn’t belong or didn’t sound right. You feel so much for them, even the ‘evil’ ones grow on you.

The world-building was flawless. I could see every scene right in front of me, as if I was watching a movie. The thought that has gone into this book is astounding. The finer details and the imagery; I loved it.

I’m not religious and I try to avoid books with religious undertones, but King did a great job on making this is a God vs the devil or a good vs evil book without it becoming patronizing.
At first I was really hesitant about the supernatural element. I wanted it to remain a realistic book because I love those kind of apocalyptic books set in a world that could be true. And this one turned out to be not so realistic. It was a bit of a disappointment when I figured that out, but the story quickly captured my interest again. And this supernatural element does set the book apart from others in the genre. Because The Stand isn’t anything new. King pushes a few elements around to make it different and interesting, but the essence of the story has been told before.

The story itself is truly epic. The whole range of human emotions and reactions have a place in here. It’s frightening, captivating and I loved it.

The end is perfect. The nagging doubt about the baby and the survival of the human race. Perfect! I’m still wondering how Boulder will work out now it’s armed and ready to take on everything thrown at them. I can see it all starting over again in so many years. We humans can’t seem to help it. And at the same time, this is the ultimate book about redemption and the faith in humanity.

I kept thinking about this one in the car, in the shower, while cooking,… I couldn’t get it out of my head.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 20 augustus 2016

Joe Haldeman: The Forever War

Hi everyone

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman was first published in 1974. It won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award and the Locus Award.
My copy has 238 pages and 7 pages introduction etc.
I got my copy in Amsterdam.

 “Private William Mandella is a reluctant hero in an interstellar war against an unknowable and unconquerable alien enemy, but his greatest test will come when he returns home. Relativity means that for every few months' tour of duty centuries have passed on earth, isolating the combatants ever more from the world for whose future they are fighting.”

                                *   SPOILERS   *

The Forever War is an autobiographical retelling of Haldeman's own experiences in Vietnam during the war, but it’s set in space.

William Mandella is an amazing character. He is complex, utterly human and fully fleshed-out. All characters are truly human; not purely good or evil, everyone makes mistakes and they all think only of themselves when push comes to shove.

Haldeman’s writing is clear and concise. There’s no fluff whatsoever but the book still reads nice and easy. And it’s unexpectedly emotional. The loss of friends and family not only because they are so far away but also because they’ll be dead by the time the (surviving) soldiers come back is felt throughout the novel. It’s not dramatic but the sense of loss and loneliness, of detachment is an important part of the story.
The time dilation aspect is brilliant and I loved it.

The worldbuilding is limited (it’s a small book after all) but it got me thinking about our Earth and the future we’re likely to have. The way to go about sexuality and reproduction by starting with loose sexual relationships, then normalizing gay relationships, later on straight people are publically shamed, then a homogenous people is engineered until they simply clone humans in the end. Absolutely genius. And very thought provoking.

Most of the science went way over my head but because those info-dumps were short they didn’t bother me. It is something you should know though if that’s something you don’t like in SF.

I really, really liked this novel.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 18 augustus 2016

Bookhaul: Bol

Hi

I got new books from Bol.com. 

Very excited to read the first two. The Jim Butcher books are part of The Dresden Files series I’m reading every other month.

Here they are:

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 16 augustus 2016

Jim Butcher: Proven Guilty

Hi

Proven Guilty is the 8th Dresden Files novel and it’s written by Jim Butcher.
I got my copy from Bol and it has 470 pages.
You can find all my Dresden Files reviews here.

                                *   SPOILERS   *

I really, really enjoyed this one.

Proven Guilty is much darker than the previous books in the series.
It has more depth, Harry seems more mature and the other characters are much more rounded too.
The themes are not as black-or-white as they used to be, it’s not as easy to pick a side now.
The plot is definitely much more complex; it has several threads at the same time, some from previous books that are still a part of Harry’s life now (and will be for some time to come I expect) and it isn’t as thin as it used to be. I can actually see him fail one of these jobs. With disastrous consequences obviously.
The White Council Traitor is an awesome addition and I’m really curious to find out who it is.
Charity seems like a real person this time whereas she used to be very one-dimensional. Their utter faith still tends to aggravate me because it’s so cartoonish. Molly needs a bit more work, but I actually like her too so I can’t wait to see the things she’ll do. I don’t expect her to be a purely ‘good’ wizard though. I think she’ll be a problem.
The fight scenes were great and I loved the movie references in this book.

Proven Guilty is definitely a setup for the following books in the series. Molly and The Black Council are introduced and I think there were some smaller things mentioned that will become important later on.
On a side note, I love Thomas and I hope we’ll learn more about the things he’s up to.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 13 augustus 2016

J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Hi

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.
This is obviously a reread and it must be my sixth (or seventh?) time reading this book.
My gorgeous copy has 542 pages and I got it as a gift from my husband.
You can find every Harry Potter review here.

                                *   SPOILERS   *

I absolutely LOVE, love, love this book. As said in my previous reviews, Rowling is a magnificent writer.

We get more information on Voldemort and I could almost understand why he became a sociopath. Though it doesn’t redeem him in any way, it only means I could see where he comes from. I really loved those parts.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a much darker novel. It’s still witty and there are quite a few laugh-out-loud scenes but it’s definitely more grownup than the previous ones. It’s not as action-packed either. The story is quieter and it’s only in the last few chapters where we get an amazing and chilling climax, but the threatening, ominous feeling is there throughout the book. Loved it.

Dumbledore is not telling Harry a thing (as usual) and I got really angry at him for that. He decides Harry is big enough go find a horcrux but not big enough to get in on all the secrets? I don’t get it.
His death crushed me though. Every time. It’s so hard to read those last few chapters because I feel so sorry for those left behind. And Fawkes’ reaction is amazing.

I honestly felt sorry for Draco. He had no choice but to do what Voldemort wanted him to. He wouldn’t have killed Dumbledore, we know because he lowered his wand. I’m sure he wouldn’t. I don’t like him but no-one deserves to be in his place. As a teenager I loved to hate him, but now I just find it very sad. What choice did he ever have with parents like his?

I loved the parallels Rowling draws between our political situation and the situation The Ministry of magic finds themselves in. Their policies and actions are clearly ineffective and superfluous but they want to keep up a façade. Thought-provoking.

One thing that has bothered me in every book though is the magical folks’ inability to understand muggles and act like them. How can they not know where to wear a bathing suit? They have to go to the same stores as muggles for some things? Those parts really make me cringe they’re so ridiculous. And refilling a drink? How is that even possible? Why are people going hungry if this is an option?

I wish Harry had noticed Ginny in the previous book too instead of Cho. It would make their romance much more convincing. Plus I never liked the Cho-storyline.

I loved it. Loved it. Now I have to badger my husband into giving me the last one for our wedding anniversary this month.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 9 augustus 2016

Terry Pratchett: Mrs. Bradshaw’s Handbook

Hi

Mrs. Bradshaw’s Handbook is a companion novel to the Discworld series (specifically Raising Steam) by Terry Pratchett. It’s the so-called 40.5th Discworld novel.
My copy has 141 pages and I got it as a gift from my parents.

“Authorised by Mr Lipwig of the Ankh-Morpork and Sto Plains Hygienic Railway himself, Mrs Georgina Bradshaw’s invaluable guide to the destinations and diversions of the railway deserves a place in the luggage of any traveller, or indeed armchair traveller, upon the Disc.
*From the twine walk of Great Slack to the souks of Zemphis: edifying sights along the route
*Ticketing, nostrums and transporting your swamp dragon: essential hints on the practicalities of travel
* Elegant resorts and quaint inns: respectable and sanitary lodgings for all species and heights.
* From worm-herding to Fustic Cake: diverting trivia on the crafts, foods and brassica traditions of the many industrious people for whom the railway is now a vital link to the Century of the Anchovy
Fully illustrated and replete with useful titbits, Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook offers a view of the Sto Plains like no other.”

This is a book for the readers who truly love Discworld.
Why?
Because there’s not much to it. It’s not really written by Terry Pratchett, it’s not that funny or witty, there’s a lot of useless information and it’s honestly quite boring.

But the illustrations are great, there are funny tidbits throughout the book and it’s always nice to know a bit more about Discworld.

So, read this if you love Raising Steam, love Discworld in general or if you just want to read everything Discworld-related. It’s one of those books you read only once (maybe twice) and it’s good and you’re happy you’ve read it, but it’s just not that special.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 8 augustus 2016

Terry Pratchett: Raising Steam

Hi everyone

Raising Steam is the 40th Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett.
My copy has 475 pages and I got it at the Fnac.

“To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork - a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it's soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.
Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work - as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital . . . but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don't always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse . . .
Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi' t'flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he's going to stop it all going off the rails . . .”

At the time Pratchett wrote this, he was a dying man and it shows in this book. The story is about change, improvement, hope, progress, never giving up and believing in the future. It’s more out there too. His messages aren’t as veiled as they used to be. Not that I mind, it’s just a change I’ve been noticing in the last couple of books. It’s as if he wants to make sure we understand what he’s trying to say because he knows he won’t be able to do it much longer.

There were a few things I didn’t really like.
The story was too long and rather boring to be honest. It’s not as funny and witty as his previous books, it’s not as clearly worked out too because there are much more descriptive parts and meandering instead of characterbuilding or plot.
I felt like I was sitting on the outside and the book was narrated to me, not like I was part of it. It didn’t suck me in.
Vetinary felt off too. He wasn’t his usual self.

But I did enjoy it even though it took more effort then usual to read the book.
Pratchett's criticism and social commentary in this novel is wonderful and made me think about a lot of things in our world.
I loved it that so many of his most wonderful characters made an appearance in this book though some much loved characters (Captain Carrot) were strangely absent.
It was so much fun to read how so many people on Discworld got sold on the trains and how fascinated they became by them. This made me smile a lot.
I loved the goblins and how they really have their own place in society now. It’s heartwarming.
I liked the revelations the Lower King of the Dwarfs did at the end. Very nice touch.


Raising Steam is great, just not as great as his previous works.

Because it’s Discworld, I can’t give it less then
4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 4 augustus 2016

Ben Aaronovitch: Moon over Soho

Hi

Moon over Soho is the second book in the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch.
I borrowed this book from my father and it has 373 pages.
You can find all my Peter Grant reviews here.

This was a really enjoyable, entertaining book. I had a lot of fun reading it.

The book left of right after the first one and I liked that a lot. I didn’t feel like I missed anything that happened to Peter in between two books.
Moon over Soho is very funny but it’s also darker than the previous one.
I love Peter’s approach to magic. He actually conducts scientific experiments to try and understand how magic works. Love that.

The plot itself was predictable though. I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers but it sure wasn’t a surprise twist in the end. And it’s too obviously a setup for the next book.
The two cases were interesting and different enough to make the book fun to read and it had me thinking along how they will be connected (because these things always are).
I like that there’s a true villain but he is too comic-booklike.

I enjoyed it and I’ll definitely read the third book but it didn’t blow me away.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 1 augustus 2016

Wrap Up: July 2016

Hi everyone

July was a rather slow reading month.
I had the last two weeks off but my husband and I spent it (aside from 4 days in Amsterdam with the whole family) working in and around the house.
My reading was slower too because I didn’t feel so well and when I’m blue, reading is one of the things that suffers, especially when I’m reading big, slow classics. My choices for July weren’t smart I’m afraid.
I have planned quite a few fun books for August so I hope I’ll read more this month.

In July, I read 2385 pages in 4 books, that’s 596 pages per book and 76 pages every day.

Here are the books I read in July with a link to the review.

How was your month? What did (or didn’t) you enjoy?

Happy reading!
Helena