vrijdag 30 september 2016

Kameron Hurley: Infidel

Hi everyone


                                                *    SPOILERS    *

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one. And I wasn’t blown away with that one either.
Hurley makes her characters suffer just to see them suffer, just because she can. And it doesn’t do anything for me. There’s no point in it either, because by now we all know that anything can be cured. Dismembered limbs, death, anything can be healed, and that makes it a complete farce. Aside from the complete lack of suspense, it also fails at making me care for the characters and making the characters realistic. It feels like Hurley is trying too hard to write a dark and grim book.

The world-building is similar to the first book.
I love the world in general; the faith, the politics, the different regions, the people,…  it’s all very interesting, unique and different. Bugs and insects are used for everything but there’s no explanation of how that’s possible or how the magic works. I think it’s a great idea to have magic and technology based on bugs but I would like to know a bit more about the ‘how’ of it.

The book starts out very slowly until some old friends show up and then the plot speeds forward.
It’s also not as predictable as I thought it would be at the beginning so that’s a plus too. 

I enjoyed the book but I had a hard time getting past Hurley's ‘make-them-suffer-because-I-can philosophy’. 

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 29 september 2016

Margaret Atwood: Stone Matress

Hi again

Stone Matress is a collection of nine short stories written by Margaret Atwood.
I got my copy in Valencia while we were on holiday and it has 311 pages.
You can find all my Margaret Atwood reviews here.

“A collection of highly imaginative short pieces that speak to our times with deadly accuracy.
A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. An elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. A woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire, and a crime committed long ago is revenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite.”

I really enjoyed most of these stories.

Atwood writes very captivating and she uses such rich language; it’s a joy to read. I flew through this book.
The stories are unique, very different, dark and interesting. The writing is sharp, to-the-point and imaginative.
I liked how three of the stories were connected. After the first few stories I had hoped that all of them would be connected but they weren’t. It would have been amazing though.
And I loved Atwood’s characters. They seem so real! They are vividly written, flawed, and I enjoyed them enormously.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 27 september 2016

Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea

Hi everyone

I finally read the Jules Verne’s most famous work; twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.
My copy has 244 pages and a 6-page introduction and I got it at De Slegte.
You can find all my Jules Verne reviews here.

 “An American frigate, tracking down a ship-sinking monster, faces not a living creature but an incredible invention -- a fantastic submarine commanded by the mysterious Captain Nemo. Suddenly a devastating explosion leaves just three survivors who find themselves prisoners in Nemo's death ship on an underwater odyssey around the world, as Captain Nemo -- one of the most horrible villains ever created -- takes his revenge out on society.”

I quite enjoyed this book.

First of all, what I didn’t know before reading the book is that the twenty thousand leagues of the title do not refer to the depth but to the distance traveled.

The story is captivating and thrilling. It’s a true adventure story and I understand why so many boys love these books. Even as an adult woman it’s fun to read.
The characters are great and I liked their interactions though I did get annoyed with Conseil and how he worships his master. Sends shivers down my spine, someone acting like that.
Same goes for the portrayal of some of the natives in the book. Very, very racist.
I liked the plot too. A lot happens and most of it seems unimportant but because the central plot is so simple (Cpt. Nemo versus our three heroes) it makes the story go by really fast. Verne builds up to the final chapters, but all in all, it is a pretty unexciting book. Fun to read, certainly, and a lot of interesting, different things happen, but I was never on the edge of my seat.

Part of that is of course due to Verne’s tendency to go on and on and on about too many details. There’s list after list of fishes, plant life and other utterly boring stuff. It honestly made me yawn from time to time; they are so tedious and boring.

The science in the book is both impressive and hilarious. It’s a great experience reading science fiction that describes something (anything) in a future now past. There are plenty mistakes in the way The Nautilus works and other events but at the same time it’s amazing how detailed and accurate other ‘predictions’ are.

In short, it’s a very enjoyable book if you can see past the tedious lists and the racist characters.

3.5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 26 september 2016

Richard Yates: The Easter Parade

Hi everyone

This is my review for Richard Yates’ The Easter Parade.
My copy has 226 pages and I got it from Book Depository.
You can find all my Richard Yates reviews here.

“Even as little girls, Sarah and Emily are very different from each other. Emily looks up to her wiser and more stable older sister and is jealous of her relationship with their absent father, and later her seemingly golden marriage. The path she chooses for herself is less safe and conventional and her love affairs never really satisfy her. Although the bond between them endures, gradually the distance between the two women grows, until a tragic event throws their relationship into focus one last time.”

I loved this book.
It’s very depressing but it’s so, so beautiful.

Although the book is rather short, it never felt rushed. The story spans a couple of decades and a lot happens in that time but I still felt like I truly understood what Emily was going through.
Emily and Sarah are fascinating, especially in their differences. Both reacted in a totally opposite way to their childhood and the divorce of their parents. I found both characters to be very relatable, human and realistic and though they are flawed and unlikable, I really felt for them.

Yates knows how to write about utterly miserable characters and he does it remarkably well. The book is never sentimental or dramatic; it’s a fascinating view into a time and society that’s not so very different from our own and our way of thinking about women.
The writing is absolute perfection and I couldn’t put the book down.
The loneliness, the hopelessness and sorrow make this book heart wrenching. Both Sarah and Emily are so incredibly lost and alone.

The ending is absolutely perfect. I couldn’t imagine it any other way and it’s so in line with all the characters.

But I really didn’t like sexscenes we got, and especially not how graphic they were. It felt like someone else was writing those. It’s important that we experience Emily’s search for someone to spend her life with and how it goes wrong every time, but the way they were written didn’t fit into the style of the novel.

4.5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 24 september 2016

David Gemmell: Wolf in Shadow

Hi

Wolf in Shadow is the first book in the Jon Shannow series by David Gemmell.
The series was a gift from my husband and this book has 326 pages.

“Jon Shannow, The Jerusalem Man, lived in a world that had toppled on its axis. Civilization had been replaced by ruthlessness and savagery. Relentless in his quest for peace, Shannow followed a path that led only to bloodshed and sorrow.
Abaddon, the Lord of the Pit, sought to plunge mankind into a new Satanic era. His Hellborn army spewed forth from the Plague Lands with an unholy force stemming from human sacrifice. For it was the blood of innocents that fueled the corrupted Sipstrassi Stones of Power--the source of Abaddon's might.
But the Hellborn made a fatal mistake--they took the woman who had stolen Shannow's heart. He would move Heaven and Earth to save her or he would die trying.”

                                                *    SPOILERS    *

I didn’t love this book as much as I had hoped to.

First of all, the whole book felt very rushed.
The characterization and worldbuilding isn’t as in-depth as I would have liked and that makes it hard to get into the story or care for the characters. The book just couldn’t captivate me.
What worldbuilding we do get, I loved. The book is set years and years from today and it was absolutely great to see the things that are left to them from our world. Not only weapons but certain words and places are recognizable. The world is fascinating.

Some things were a bit too convenient. A few characters can appear anywhere they like and I just don’t like that. With abilities like that, it’s very hard to create tension or suspense and to have us wonder what will happen next.

The Titanic. Why? Gemmell completely lost me there.

And there’s not one strong female character. Shannow’s love-interest is the only female character in the whole book. She has three men over the course of the book and she’s only there to serve the plot; to get kidnapped for a specific reason. That’s all there is to her and I find that very sad and honestly, it makes me mad.

The book reads very fast and there’s a lot happening.
I liked the mix of Western, Fantasy and Post-Apocalyptic elements in the book.
But the book was too much focused on religion to be interesting and not make me roll my eyes most of the time.

2 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

woensdag 21 september 2016

Bookhaul: Book Depository

Hi everyone

I got new books!
Very happy with the ones I got. Most of them are very popular so I’m curious to see how I’ll like them.

Here they are:

I'm not too happy with the choice of bookmarks I got this time though. I love their bookmarks because they are the perfect size but the last few times I got all the same ones.

Happy reading!
Helena






zondag 18 september 2016

Emily St. John Mandel: Station Eleven

Hi again

This is my review for Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015.
I got my copy from Book Depository and it has 333 pages.

“An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.”

Mandel’s writing is great, it’s straightforward, it flows nicely and it’s easy to read.
There are some thought provoking moments and themes throughout the novel but I didn’t care for the religious aspects. They became tiresome very fast.

The idea of following a traveling theater company in a post-apocalyptic world is fantastic but aside from that, the story is pretty generic. The whole story would have been pretty much the same had it been a group of people just traveling around instead of performing Shakespeare.

The novel is constructed very well. It alternates between different time periods and different people to fully reflect the devastating effect of the Georgia Flu. I liked reading about the world before, during and after the outbreak to experience how it all changed; it gave a much more rounded view. It also makes it more personal and up-close to follow someone and watch them die.
Mandel wrote some pretty interesting characters and the story is very character driven but there are too many characters with barely any background. I didn’t care for most of them.

The book reads well and I liked it but it is a pretty typical and forgettable post-apocalyptic story.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 17 september 2016

Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon

Hi everyone

This is my review for Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.
My copy has 217 pages and I got it from Book Depository.

“Charlie Gordon, IQ 68, is a floor sweeper, and the gentle butt of everyone's jokes, until an experiment in the enhancement of human intelligence turns him into a genius. But then Algernon, the mouse whose triumphal experimental transformation preceded his, fades and dies, and Charlie has to face the possibility that his salvation was only temporary.”

I loved this book so much.

The language was hard to stomach sometimes because it is so dated. The words used and the attitudes expressed towards people with disabilities make this book into a very confrontational read. But this thought-provoking element is good too. It makes you think about your own views and the destructive attitudes you might have. 
I did not like the focus on the sexual growth Charlie goes through; it’s too much and it doesn’t really further the story after one or two scenes about the topic.

Aside from that, the story is incredibly sad, heartbreaking and touching.
I loved how it was told from Charlie’s POV so we go through everything with him while he changes.
We share his insights and we can (after the experiment) see and understand how others treat him because of his disability. Those parts really got to me. As did his loneliness. No matter how smart he got, he was lonely; others didn’t understand him and vice versa. And emotionally, he was still a child; his emotional progression was much slower than his intellectual growth. This whole process is depicted beautifully.
It’s very well-written and easy to get through. But don’t let that fool you; it will stay with you, as I’m sure it will stay with me for a very long time.
The ending is absolutely heart-breaking.

Highly recommended.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

Beautiful Covers #1


vrijdag 16 september 2016

H. G. Wells: The Sea Raiders

Hi

I finished The Sea Raiders by H. G. Wells.
My copy has 59 pages and I got it at Waterstones.
The book includes ‘The Sea Raiders’, ‘The Magic Shop’, and ‘The Land Ironclads’.
You can find all my H. G. Wells reviews here.

All three short stories felt very much like The War of theWorlds in style and exposition. Very objective and stick-to-the-facts, the characters are almost detached from the current events. But it is very well-written and easy to read.
It’s an entertaining collection and all three stories are very different in subject.
The first story; the title story was my favorite.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

Jane Austen: Lady Susan

Hi again

Lady Susan was written by Jane Austen long before her other novels.
My copy has 119 pages and I got it at Waterstones.
You can find all my Jane Austen reviews here.

Lady Susan is an amazing character and I loved despising her. I couldn’t help rooting for everyone else and hoping they’d see through her schemes.
Really enjoyable book and very different from Austen’s other works; it’s much darker.
The characters are absolutely brilliant and I couldn’t wait to find out how it would end for all of them.
Austen’s writing is very absorbing and easy to read.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 15 september 2016

Frank Herbert: Dune

Hi everyone

Dune is the first book in the Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert.
My copy has 585 pages and I got it from Bol.
The book won both the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award.

 “Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad'Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family - and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream.”

This book had been on my TBR for at least three years. The only reason I hadn’t started this sooner was fear. Fear of not loving it as much as everyone else.
After hearing, yet again, from a friend how he couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it, I thought it time to pick it up.

I really, really enjoyed this book.

Honestly, the writing isn’t all that beautiful, but it is very, very captivating.
Dune is a fascinating, intriguing read and it’s wonderfully crafted. It truly is a grand, epic story and it deserves its status as a Classic.
It is difficult to get into it at first. The first few chapters lack explanations of any kind so you just have to ‘go with it’ and trust the writer to explain what needs explaining as the novel progresses.

The themes are amazingly worked out. You get a bit slapped around the head with ‘The Chosen One’ trope because it’s so very obvious but it didn’t really bother me. There’s an abundance of social commentary; the need for natural resources versus money-making resources the most notable and urgent one. It’s very thought-provoking.

The characterization is magnificent. Every character is unique, has its own distinct voice and motivations and everyone is therefore interesting. I thought every character to be perfect.
The worldbuilding is astonishing and truly imaginative. We learn so much about this world and the way of living. Herbert hints at an immense history and a huge amount of other worlds and people throughout this galaxy without giving us giant infodumps. Absolutely fascinating.
But there’s not much to the plot so that was a bit of a letdown.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 13 september 2016

J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Hi everyone

This is my review for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling. It’s the seventh book in the Harry Potter series and this is obviously not my first time reading the series (more like fifth or sixth time).
My copy has 620 pages and I got it as a gift from my husband, who caved under pressure after I badgered him for a month.
You can find my Harry Potter reviews here.

                                *   SPOILERS   *

This book is perfection.
It was with a sigh of sadness that I finished the book.

Rowling manages to tie all threads together into one magnificent, wonderfully coherent story. Every question is answered, every character is fully worked out and we can truly understand their motivations.

The pacing is a bit off from time to time. The beginning especially is slow and it takes some time to get the action going.

The book is full of sadness but it’s also full of hope. It’s an uplifting, moving and very emotional journey. There were so many teary-eyed moments spread throughout the book.

I love it so much. Can’t even express how much and why. It’s everything. Harry Potter is everything for me.  

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 10 september 2016

Rachel Joyce: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

Hi again

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce is a companion novel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (which I loved).
You  can find all my Rachel Joyce reviewshere.
My copy has 381 pages and I got it from Bol.

 “When Queenie Hennessy discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, and all she has to do is wait, she is shocked. Her note had explained she was dying. How can she wait?
A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; only this time she must tell Harold everything. In confessing to secrets she has hidden for twenty years, she will find atonement for the past. As the volunteer points out, ‘Even though you’ve done your travelling, you’re starting a new journey too.’
Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was the beginning.”

This was a particularly moving book. 

Harold Fry stole my heart, but so did Queenie Hennessy. I was hesitant to read the book, that’s why it took me such a long time to get to it but it’s absolutely beautiful.
Joyce’s writing is great, really elegant and very absorbing, she has an eye for detail and she still manages to keep the tone light, humorous and easy to digest despite the harsh reality of the book. It raises some serious life issues but it never gets dramatic or weepy. It’s emotional and very tragic, but in a nice, beautiful way. It’s definitely thought-provoking.
It’s touching, moving and so much more than a story about illness, regret, loss and death.
It made me cry and it made me smile, and sometimes both at the same time.
I loved it a lot.

As an added bonus we got gorgeous illustrations on some of the pages.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 8 september 2016

Robert Jordan: Winter’s Heart

Hi

This is the ninth book in The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
My copy has 633 pages and I got it quite a few years ago, can’t remember where.
You can find all Wheel of Time reviews here.

* SPOILERS! *

Here are a few things I noticed while reading the book.

I am so, so tired of Perrin moping around and moaning about Faile’s capture. I’ve really had it with the whole thing. And I know it’s not going to be solved anytime soon because I hated this whole storyline when I read it the first time. He’s so pathetic! Every time there’s a chapter about them I dread reading it and I have to struggle through to get to something good again. There’s virtually nothing good about those chapters.

Like, Perrin and Faile; Elayne is getting nowhere too. She’s not as boring, she’s just too dumb to live. She, a queen? She’s a stupid, spoilt, little girl.

Aside from those chapters, this book really picks up the pace. We can finally see some things happening and people getting where they should be instead of being underway for books on end. The Last battle is definitely coming closer and the urge, the desperate need for more time shows through in every storyline.

I absolutely loved the last chapter. Using Shadar Logoth was a very smart move. The battle in general is amazing. There are so many points of view, I felt like I was watching a movie instead of reading a book. Loved it.

It would have been very easy to make Mat into a character who gets out of everything by sheer dumb luck. But he’s not. He’s cunning, smart and witty and I liked that. He gets frustrated for good reasons.

I love the Forsaken and I really enjoy reading from their POV. They are all very different and it’s great to get to know them better. I want more of this.

Rand is becoming an absolutely great leader. He schemes and plans though his ideas are but slowly revealed to us. It’s easy to forget how young all of them are and how much they had to go through to be where they at this point. Especially Rand.

There’s a lot of world-building in this book. We learn more about the Seanchan and the Windfinders, we meet many characters (again) and we see a new city.

I enjoyed the book and I’m glad the series is picking up again.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 5 september 2016

Mark Lawrence: Prince of Thorns

Hi everyone

This is my review for Prince of Thorns, Mark Lawrence’s first book in The Broken Empire series.
I got my copy from Book Depository and it has 319 pages.

 “Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother's tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that's true enough, but there's something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse.
From being a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg has the ability to master the living and the dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.”

                                                *    SPOILERS    *

I had a very mixed reading experience.

The story is very fast-paced and there’s a lot of action and fighting, which are things I like in Fantasy. The writing-style itself is easy to read and it flows nicely.
I liked the crossover and the links with our world, for example Socrates and Shakespeare are mentioned, but I’m not sure how far this crossover goes, or how it works (is this world ours in the future or a different one with similar elements?). It feels like those elements are ‘something extra to make it interesting’, a little gimmick. Lawrence should have included more details about this world or he should have gotten rid of these parts all together.

Jorg is supposed to be a cruel sociopath but he came across as a little spoiled brat.
He will gladly sacrifice others for his own means and kill innocents, but it never rings true. It reads as someone playing a role (really badly).
Most characters are really one-dimensional. 

Problem is; I just wasn’t interested. I didn’t care about any of the characters, the good ones nor the bad ones. None of them made any sort of lasting impression.
The book is supposed to be incredibly brutal and while it is grim, dark and violent, it is no more so than some other books I’ve read. There’s not much to the plot too. Not a lot happens and it’s pretty predictable.
It just felt a bit generic to be honest. It’s not that special or different as I had hoped.

Not my kind of Fantasy. I just didn't care for any of it. Not the world and certainly not the characters. 

2 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 3 september 2016

Ben Aaronovitch: Whispers Under Ground

Hi everyone

Whispers Under Ground is the third book in the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch.
I read my dad’s copy and it has 418 pages.
You can find all my reviews of the books in the series here.

                                *   SPOILERS   *

Aaronovitch’s writing flows nicely, is easy to read and very atmospheric. I like the many pop-culture references; they made the book very realistic, almost as if Peter is a friend with similar tastes in movies and books.

Lesley’s back! And I am very happy with that. She’s smart, witty and so very funny.
The romantic tension between Lesley and Peter is much lighter than before and I’m glad about that too; I like their relationship the way it is.
Peter is a very relatable character. He’s a wise-ass but he’s also scarred when he should be, he does some stupid things and he’s quick on the uptake. I like him a lot. And I love it that he’s mixed race. The stories about his family make me laugh so hard but while raising awareness. There’s a gay officer, a PC wearing a hijab, … Love that.
The new characters are great and I hope they’ll be back in the next books.

There’s not as much magic involved in the plot this time. I missed the magic lessons and Peter analyzing everything magical; those were some of my favorite scenes in the other books. But the lessons are going very slow now, and it feels as if he’s barely making progress.
The book is not as much focused on the magic as on the investigation. The actual police investigation is quite boring.
I loved the setting, the London Tube is fascinating but that’s about it for history and sightseeing in this story. We still get some info about London, but not as much as before.

There’s a lot going on so the chapters’ organization by the days of the week helped to keep up with everything. The book is really fast-paced and action-packed. And it’s so funny!
The Peter Grant series is by far not as dark as The Dresden Files, but is has its grim moments too.

I hope Aaronovitch will work with a publisher to make his own tour guide of London. That would be great.

So far, I like the big story-arc but our Faceless Man is a bit cartoonlike. I’m excited to see where this will go.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena