maandag 31 oktober 2016

Jim Butcher: White Night

Hi everyone

This is my review for White Night, the 9th book in The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
I got my copy from Bol and it has 416 pages.
You can find all my Dresden Files reviews here. 

                                                *    SPOILERS    *

Keeping up with the plot was (up till now) never a problem, but White Night is definitely more complicated plot-wise then the previous books. Old characters reappear and older plotlines play a part. Add to that a bigger cast of characters and a broader, richer world-building and you really have to try and keep up with what’s going on.
I love Mousse more each time and Elaine is pretty awesome. Dresden is Dresden, an incredibly heroic, chauvinistic, funny, smart, wiseass.

I like how we get to know the characters a bit more in every book. They all grow a lot in every book. We get to see Harry outside of his normal Chicago-home and it explains some of the changes we’ve noticed in him.

The book is filled to the brim with action with the occasional joke to let us take a breather.
And the ending is so great! Unexpected and funny.
I can’t wait to find out where this is going and what will happen next.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zondag 30 oktober 2016

John Steinbeck: Cannery Row

Hi again

This is my review for John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.
I got my copy from Book Depository and it has 148 pages plus a 17-page Introduction.
You can find all my John Steinbeck reviews here.

“In the din and stink that is Cannery Row a colourful bend of misfits - gamblers, whores, drunks, bums, and artists - survive side by side in a jumble of adventure and mischief. Lee Chong, the astute owner of the fantastically well-stocked grocery store, is also the proprietor of the Palace Flophouse that Mack and his troupe of good-natured 'boys' call home. Dora, of the flaming orange hair and taste for Nile green dresses, runs the brothel with clockwork efficiency. Doc, who owns the laboratory, is the fount of all generosity and wisdom. Everybody wants to do something nice for Doc: the trouble is, he always ends up paying.”

Cannery Row surprised me.
The book is lighthearted and funny most of the time, something I didn’t expect after reading The Grapes of Wrath. This one had me chuckling and smiling along the way.

Steinbeck is a wonderful writer, his descriptions are beautiful, the language is elegant and he manages a great balance in tone; lively moments make the deep and thoughtful parts hit even harder.

I really enjoyed this book.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 29 oktober 2016

Terry Pratchett: The Shepherd's Crown

Hi everyone

With great sadness and hesitation I finally read Terry Pratchett’s 41st and last Discworld novel.
My copy has 332 pages and I got it in Amsterdam.
The Shepherd’s Crown was left unfinished and still needed revising and editing but it was published nonetheless and I am very happy with it.
The book received the 2016 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book.
You can find all my Discworld novels here and my Terry Prachtett reviews here.


It took me some time to write this.

                                                *    SPOILERS    *

I loved it.
The last book of Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite writers (if not THE favorite writer) and it made me so sad realizing that this is it. Never again will I read a Discworld book for the first time. Breaks my heart.
I started reading the Discworld novels as a teenager, and before that, my dad read them to my brother and I because we loved being read to but we were tired of children’s books.

The first third of the book is devastating.
I cried within a few pages and I just couldn’t stop. It’s obvious Terry Pratchett knew this would be his last book and he wanted to make it an important and memorable one.

The book is written very well and Pratchett manages a great balance in emotions.
It doesn’t feel finished because it isn’t. 
The pacing isn’t right, some of the subplots felt underdeveloped, some conversations felt off or unreal, the finale is a bit rushed.

The Shepherd's Crown isn’t as refined or polished as we’re used to but I’m happy it’s here nonetheless. It’s the perfect ending to the Discworld series. It’s full of acceptance, death, life, growth, love, magic, friendship, empathy, change and perseverance. It is thought-provoking and very moving.
Tiffany has grown into her own and she is ready to be Tiffany Aching, a true witch in her own way.


5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

woensdag 26 oktober 2016

Jeff VanderMeer: Annihilation

Hi everyone

Annihilation is the first book in the Southern Reach series by Jeff VanderMeer.
My copy has 195 pages and I got it at the Standaard Boekhandel.
The book won the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award.

“Welcome to Area X. An Edenic wilderness, an environmental disaster zone, a mystery for thirty years.
For thirty years, Area X, monitored by the secret agency known as the Southern Reach, has remained mysterious and remote behind its intangible border– an environmental disaster zone, though to all appearances an abundant wilderness. Eleven expeditions have been sent in to investigate; even for those that have made it out alive, there have been terrible consequences.
‘Annihilation’ is the story of the twelfth expedition and is told by its nameless biologist. Introverted but highly intelligent, the biologist brings her own secrets with her. She is accompanied by a psychologist, an anthropologist and a surveyor, their stated mission: to chart the land, take samples and expand the Southern Reach’s understanding of Area X.
But they soon find out that they are being manipulated by forces both strange and all too familiar. An unmapped tunnel is not as it first appears. An inexplicable moaning calls in the distance at dusk. And while each member of the expedition has surrendered to the authority of the Southern Reach, the power of Area X is far more difficult to resist.”

Annihilation is enjoyable and entertaining but I didn’t love it.

The writing is great; it flows nicely, it’s elegant and imaginative. The plot is slow but interesting and the premise is absolutely fascinating.
The characters seriously lack development though. VanderMeer made the book into a sort of depersonalized, distant recounting of this expedition, told from the point-of-view of our main-character. As the story progresses we understand how unreliable she is and it raises more and more questions about the characters and Area X. I felt too disconnected to care about any part of it though.

It’s a strange, dark, unsettling, atmospheric, mysterious and surreal book and it is expertly done. I felt uncomfortable reading it. I can appreciate how good it is but I didn’t really like it. It didn’t grip me and I didn’t feel compelled to finish the book.

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll read the second and third part in the Southern Reach series because I’m not curious to find out more about Area X. I read it, finished it and I stopped caring or thinking about the book to be honest.

3.5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 25 oktober 2016

Ira Levin: Sliver

Hi

This is my review for Sliver by Ira Levin.
My copy has 198 pages of story and 3 pages Introduction and I got it at the Boekenfestijn.
Sliver isn’t my first Ira Levin so you can find all my Levin reviews here.

 “Kay Norris, a successful single woman of thirty-nine, moves into the posh Carnegie Hill district of Manhattan's Upper East Side, into an apartment in a slender high rise, a "sliver" building. A man watches her. He watches her unpack, watches her make her bed. He owns the building; a shocking secret is concealed within its brick and concrete."

I enjoyed the book. It’s easy to read, straight-forward, intriguing, suspenseful and funny.
The tension builds gradually and shines through every part of the book.

But it is Pulp. So don’t go in expecting decent world-building and character development.
The characters remain very flat throughout the book.
The cat saves the day. A cat. Yeah, that was a disappointment. The ending felt too rushed in general.

It reads fast and it’s entertaining but Sliver isn’t much more than that.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 24 oktober 2016

Bookhaul: Gifts and De Slegte

Hi everyone

My dad and I were talking books (as usual) last Saturday and I happened to mention that I really wanted to read Dan Simmon’s Hyperion Cantos. Turns out my dad owns the whole series and because he didn’t love them, he gave the books to me! Lucky me. :-)
The last book was a happy find at a second-hand bookshop called De Slegte.

Here are the books I got. 

  • Dan Simmons: Hyperion
  • Dan Simmons: The Fall of Hyperion
  • Dan Simmons: Endymion
  • Dan Simmons: The Rise of Endymion
  • Arthur C. Clarke: The Fountains of Paradise

I’ll see you tomorrow with a review.

Happy reading!
Helena


zondag 23 oktober 2016

Justin Cronin: The Passage

Hi everyone

The Passage is the first book in a series called ‘The Passage’ by Justin Cronin.
I read my dad’s copy and it has 994 pages.
You can read all my Justin Cronin reviews here.

 “An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.”

The basic premise isn’t original or new, but it is executed really well and it is different enough to make it interesting. The story itself is pretty epic.
The world-building is really on-point and very strong and the book is well-written and reads easily.
I wouldn’t call this book ‘horror’ though. There’s too much filler and the overall atmosphere is one of tension but not of fear. I would have liked it darker, more ominous. Don’t get me wrong, the book is good; just not excellent.

The characterization is great for most characters but some of the minor ones felt very cartoonlike or wooden. The main-characters were amazing though; they had a decent background, a distinct voice, they were believable and realistic and acted like real people. I really liked the characterization.

But there’s so much drama! I hated the dreams and the drama that went with them. I could have done without the mysticism as well.
And lastly, the pacing is off. Some parts (the flashbacks and military reports for example) really sucked the momentum out of the story.

The story is easily compared to The Stand by Stephen King but I liked the later better.
I did enjoy The Passage a lot though, the first part especially. 
Definitely recommended!

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 20 oktober 2016

Andy Riley: D.I.Y. Dentistry and Other Alarming Inventions

Hi everyone

I reread Andy Riley's D.I.Y. Dentistry and Other Alarming Inventions and not for the first time too.
It was a birthday gift from a friend a few years ago.
My copy has 96 pages.

This little book of cartoons made me laugh a lot.
Some inventions would be great in real life. Others not so much.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 18 oktober 2016

Ken Liu: The Clockwork Soldier

Hi everyone

This review is for Ken Liu’s short story ‘The Clockwork Soldier’.
It has 22 pages and you can read it for free, or listen to it on the website of Clarkesworld Magazine.

 “Go,” Alex said. “If you remember to keep a low profile, neither your father nor his enemies will ever find you here.”

I really liked this story.
It’s beautiful and wonderful, I loved the characters and the ending was unexpected.
I would love a bigger story in this world, maybe even with the same characters.

It left me wondering, guessing. I enjoyed it.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 17 oktober 2016

Bookhaul: Gifts from friends

Hi everyone

My husband and I had quite a few friends over last Saturday and they gave us some wonderful gifts.
We got a lot of beer and wine, a bag of tea, a sweet little tea infuser, delicious high-quality candy, a beautiful new mug and 10 books. Ten! They went to the local Kringloopwinkel, a very cheap second-hand shop and picked up 10 random books for me. They wrapped them all individually so I had a lot of fun opening them. Most of them aren’t the sort of books I normally read but there are two I’m very happy with, three I’m looking forward to, three I will give a go and two I will be passing on. Not bad eh?

Here are the books I got in the order previously mentioned:


Happy reading!
Helena





zaterdag 15 oktober 2016

George Eliot: The Lifted Veil

Hi everyone

This review is about my Little Black Classics book called The Lifted Veil. It contains ‘The Lifted Veil’ (a novella) and ‘Silly Novels by Lady Novelists’ (a small essay) both by George Eliot.
My copy has 110 pages and I got it from Bol.

“Latimer, a sensitive and intellectual man, finds he has clairvoyant powers: he has a vision of a woman, "pale, fatal-eyed", who he later meets: she is Bertha Grant, his brother's fiancee. Entranced and bewildered, Latimer is unwilling to take heed of the warning visions which beset him.”

I wasn’t blown away by the story but I did enjoy reading it.
The writingstyle is elegant and easy to read.
I liked the supernatural elements and the gothic feeling throughout the novel and the buildup to the finale is great and it did surprise me.

But I would have preferred to read more about the relationship with Bertha instead of his schooldays.
And the narrator tends to complain a lot; something I don’t enjoy reading about.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

vrijdag 14 oktober 2016

Thank you for 30.000 views!






Kameron Hurley: Rapture

Hi

Rapture is the third and last book in the Bel Dame Apocrypha by Kameron Hurley.
I got my copy from Bol and it has 468 pages.
You can find all my Kameron Hurley reviews here.

                                                *    SPOILERS    *

I enjoyed this book a lot.

Like I wrote in my previous reviews, I don’t care for any of the characters. They can survive anything so why would I? If there are no consequences, there’s no suspense. But then, when a character does die it’s very sudden and unexpected. Again without build-up or suspense to the actual death.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like them, because I do like the characters. It would have been so easy to get the old gang together again, but Hurley wrote about both new and older characters in this book and I liked that. The characters changed and evolved and some went on to do other things while others couldn’t leave that life behind.

The story is better too. It’s straightforward, there’s a lot happening, but it didn’t feel all over the place like the plot of the second book. It was so much more interesting an engrossing to read.

The book is very dark, brutal and bleak. The overall atmosphere is oppressive and there’s a sense of danger throughout.

It’s not perfect, but I enjoyed it a lot.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

woensdag 12 oktober 2016

Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead

Hi again

This is my review for The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
My copy has 670 pages and I got it from my grandfather who was getting rid of it.

 “Architect Howard Roark is as unyielding as the granite he blasts to build with. Defying the conventions of the worlds around him, he embraces a battle over two decades against a double-dealing crew of rivals who will stop at nothing to bring him down. Among them, perhaps the most troublesome of all is the ambitious Dominique Francon, who may just prove to be Roark's equal. This epic story of money, power and a man's struggle to succeed on his own terms is a paean to individualism and humanity's creative potential.”

Bear in mind; I read and reviewed this for the story and not for the philosophy. Because I didn’t love the story I find it very hard to talk about the message Rand wants to convey. And that’s why I won’t do that.

This book was incredibly boring and I did not enjoy reading it.
The writing is dry and pedantic. The characters are very unlikable, one-dimensional and really unrelatable and even though that’s not bad in itself; the story doesn’t make up for those negative points. 

I just couldn’t get into it and I definitely didn’t understand the characters and their motives.
If you want to make a point, write a paper and not a 700-page book.

Sorry.

1 STAR

Happy reading.
Helena

dinsdag 11 oktober 2016

Bookhaul: Bol

Hi everyone

I ordered three new books from Bol.
Well, I say books, but two of them are Penguin’s Little Black Classics so those are really short ones.

Here are the books I got.

Have you read any of these? How did you like them?

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 10 oktober 2016

Karen Miller: Empress

Hi everyone

Empress is the first book in the Godspeaker Trilogy by Karen Miller.
My copy has 717 pages and an 8-page interview with the author.
I got my copy from Book Depository.
You can find all my Karen Miller reviews here.

“Her name is Hekat.
And she will be slave to no man.
In a family torn apart by poverty and violence, Hekat is no more than an unwanted mouth to feed, worth only a few coins from a passing slave trader.
But Hekat was not born to be a slave. For her, a different path has been chosen. It is a path that will take her from stinking back alleys to the house of her god, from blood-drenched battlefields to the glittering palaces of Mijak.
This is the story of Hekat, slave to no man.”

Miller’s world building is amazing. I loved how immersive and detailed it was, I enjoyed learning about the people and their customs, I liked the religious system; I liked how it oppressed the people and how they had no free choice whatsoever. I loved it!
The writing and the world differs depending on the character ‘speaking’ and I liked that too. The writing style towards the end for example, when we follow Dmitrak and Zandakar is completely different from Hekat’s ‘voice’.

And I absolutely HATED Hekat. You can’t have such a long book about such a dislikable character. I know we’re supposed to dislike her and that Hekat is a balance for Vortka, Zandakar and Raklion who are all really nice and genuine characters.
It was too much, I had to take a breather from this book every so often because I just couldn’t stand her and that’s a sure sign it’s not enjoyable. Not every main character should be nice, but the book overall should be enjoyable, and there were moments I had to force myself to read on.
She's just too much. Too evil, too much of a cliché and so, so unrealistic.

Aside from that, the story is very predictable (everything I predicted came to pass) and I really disliked the constant repeating of ‘I am Hekat, I am ….’
Another thing I didn’t like was Miller’s easy way out of naming everything god-something. That’s just lazy writing and unimaginative.

To end on a positive note; I loved the fighting and the war-scenes! Those were awesome. It’s not blood and gore to make a statement; it’s there to further the story.

The second book follows a different character so I will definitely read that one too. I’m so tired of Hekat, but because she’s my main complaint I’m sure the second book in the series will be better.  

2 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 8 oktober 2016

Andy Riley: Great Lies to Tell Small Kids

Hi everyone

I reread Great Lies to Tell Small Kids by Andy Riley for the sixth (or so) time.
It was a birthday gift from a friend a few years ago.
My copy has 99 pages.

I love this little book. 

Its hilarious cartoons make me laugh so much. Some of them are very recognizable, some seem doable and some are on my list to try out if and when I have kids.

Not as good as Riley's The Bunny Suicides, but definitely worth your time.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

woensdag 5 oktober 2016

DNF - David Gemmell: Bloodstone

Hi again

Bloodstone is the third and last book in the Jon Shannow series by David Gemmell.
As you know by now, I got the series as a gift from Brecht.
I did not finish the book; I only managed to read 76 pages of the 322 before I had to throw in the towel.
You can find all my David Gemmell reviews here.

                                                *    SPOILERS    *

I’m so done with the series.

There’s no character growth, no depth, the plot is all over the place and it’s just more of the same as the previous books. Shannow is ever the hero, survives anything and has a tender side he hides. Very cliché and a very predictable plot.

The world-building could be really interesting, especially with this Western feel but it didn’t capture my attention enough, we don’t get as much details as I would have liked and it’s not that interesting or engrossing to be honest.

My main problem though is how much I didn’t care for any of the characters. I wasn’t looking forward to reading the book and I honestly couldn’t care less for the characters or the plot.
I didn’t enjoy my time spent reading this and that’s the most important thing when reading any Fiction novel.

Did Not Finish

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 4 oktober 2016

David Gemmell: The Last Guardian

Hi everyone

The Last Guardian is the second book in the Jon Shannow series by David Gemmell.
My copy has 296 pages and I got it as a gift from my husband.
You can find all my David Gemmell reviews here.

                                                *    SPOILERS    *

The book reads very fast. A lot happens and it’s truly action-packed.
There is no character development, the story is all over the place and I can’t understand people’s motives.
Again, there’s only one ‘good’ woman, and again she’s Shannow’s love-interest. At least this one has some fight in her but she’s still an unimportant part of the book.

In short, not my cup of tea.  I just didn't care for any of it; world nor characters.

2 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 3 oktober 2016

My 2016 Reading Goals – Second Update

Hi everyone

It’s been nine months since I set myself four Reading Goals for 2016 and I wanted to update you on how I’m doing with them.
In short; I’m on track with all four goals.

Reread the Harry Potter series

I finished my reread of the Harry Potter series and I enjoyed it immensely.

Read a Wheel of Time novel every other month

Never missed a beat with this goal; I finished five books in The Wheel of Time series. One more to go this year.

Read a Dresden Files novel and a Discworld novel every month in between

I’m going to read the last ever Discworld novel this month. It makes me very, very sad to know that reading The Sheperd’s Crown will be my last time experiencing a Discworld novel for the first time. *sigh*
The Dresden Files is a great series and I’m enjoying the books a lot.

Read at least 75 books in 2016

So far, I have read 85 books and I decided to up my goal to 100 books.
Last year, I read 124 books and I might be able to read as much this time but we'll see.
I read a few very big books (Vanity Fair, The Wheel of Time, David Copperfield, The Stand …), my husband and I are spending a lot of time working in and around our own house and as of last week, I started working out again (twice a week!).
But we only watch television about once a week and I make an effort to read at least half an hour every day even when I'm very busy.

Life is good.

Happy reading!
Helena


zaterdag 1 oktober 2016

Wrap Up: September 2016

Hi

I had a brilliant reading month and I can’t believe I read so much.
We’ve been having good weather in Belgium and it was so nice to sit outside with a book and enjoy the last few days of sunshine and warm weather.

I read 5187 pages in September, that’s 173 pages per day and 346 pages per book.

Here are the books I read with links to their reviews.

How was your month? Did you enjoy the books you read?

Happy reading!
Helena