Sunday, 26 February 2017

Sunday Post (8) - Still Sick

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.

If you participate, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog.

This week is all in the title of this post. I've been battling a cough that makes my chest muscles hurt (but it's not actually a chest cough, it is just a really annoying normal cough) and I've been battling fever and exhaustion every day.
I managed to keep up with writing my thousand words a day and I even managed to keep my movement streak going, though my 20 minute jogs were pitiful!
On my blog this week: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, a Pulitzer Price winning novel that sadly underwhelmed me. And a Top Ten Tuesday with five novels I loved more and five novels I loved less than I thought I would.

In my kitchen this week: I tried my hand at Bibimbap, a Korean dish where you fry leftover rice and top it with vegetables and beef and an egg. Basically an easy and tasty way to get rid of food that is about to go off. I also made a stew with mushrooms, carrots and potatoes.

I wanted to go to the cinema. Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures are waiting for me. But sadly I don't think people will appreciate my coughing throughout the performance.

I was in a bit of a reading slump but I managed to finish Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and hope to review it next week on this blog.

I hope everyone is having a great week!

Friday, 24 February 2017

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Book Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Genre: Literary, Contemporary, Pulitzer Price
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library 
Goodreads, Amazon UK
Goodreads Summary: Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love - and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

What did I think? The Goldfinch starts with a bang. Literally. Theo Decker gets thrown out of his ordinary life with what in other stories would be the climax. It's an exciting first chapter. Lots of action... and then it just sort of dies down and transforms into a stream of consciousness that sort of limps along. Sadly the limping lasts for several hundred pages and nothing much happens to Theo in these pages.

The prose, however, is gorgeous and the characters are memorable. I can definitely see why so many love this book and why it has won the Pulitzer Price. Donna Tartt really has a way with words.

Which means, I'm mostly conflicted about this book. Parts of it I loved and during other parts I just wanted to bring it back to the library and be done with it. If only an editor would have cut all the repetitive detail in the middle?

The novel picks up the pace in the last few chapters but not enough for me to be satisfied with the ending.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

TTT (8) - Books I Loved More/Less Than I Thought I Would

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Follow the link to know more about the meme and join up! 
This week's topic is Top Ten Books I Loved More/Less Than I Thought I Would. Their post this week can be found here. There will be a Top Ten Tuesday hiatus until March 7th afterwards. You'll find the reasons on their blog.
I've been considering just putting together a list of books that disappointed me, because I've found one thing now that I'm in my 30's: books and films rarely blow my mind anymore. I think after you've reached a certain age, you have seen most plot twists and most scenarios played out in all different ways. Every time you see something for the first time, you're impressed, especially if executed well... and then after a while, all you think is: been here, read this before. But every now and then a book still manages to leave me with a hangover.

Books I liked Less Than I Thought I Would

  
 
  • I feel like I'm probably not fair towards Sarah J. Maas book series. The books are definitely good. And technically, I'm not really the audience anymore. However, I do enjoy some YA a lot, so let me try book 4.
  • The Book Thief is one of those that everyone seems to love, except for me. I just really didn't like the narrator. He's what ruined the story for me. I don't want to spoil here, but for some reason that narrator and me did not get along.
  • Ender's Game. Ender is the best. Even at the age of 6 he can do it all. Flawless main characters bother me a lot. Nonetheless this is a sci-fi classic.
  • The Handmaid's Tale is another classic. Written in 1985 it shows the terrible future that awaits us women if suddenly our rights get taken away. I thought the world and concept was really interesting but I was bored by Atwood's book. Sorry.
  • Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children is on the edge of being YA. I thought it was probably more directed towards the younger segment of that age bracket. The photos were a cool idea, but the story was boring.

Books I liked More Than I Thought I would

  
 
  • Flowers for Algernon is a sci-fi classic from the 60's about a young man who has an IQ of 68 and desperately wants to fit in. He participates in an experiment to increase his IQ and... well, saying more would give the story away. Visceral. A short read and one that punched me in the  gut.
  • A Gentleman in Moscow. It's getting pushed in all shop window's in London and I love to see that. It's such a wonderful, heartfelt tale. It gave me happy feelings.
  • Red Rising. Wow, these books have made me yell at various things in my house like a pillow and a radiator.
  • The Raven Boys. I expected just another YA adventure but it's mostly a series about friendship and it's lovely.
  • The Promise of the Child. Complicated and dense but worthwhile because the world building is spectacular. It's thousands of years into the future and humanity has evolved into different species that are now spread across the galaxy.
I hope everyone is having an excellent week. I'm still mostly coughing. Stupid cold.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Sunday Post (7) - Why am I sick?

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. 
The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.  
If you participate, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog. 
My body betrayed me this week and, after almost three years without being sick, except for the occasional sniffle, I ended up in bed, feeling sorry for myself with a fever and a throat so sore I must have accidentally swallowed a swarm of bees. Of course, it started on Friday so my weekend got ruined, but oh well.. 
We went to an event at the Southbank Centre in London this week. Neil Gaiman was reading from his new book Norse Mythology. Then he talked about his upcoming shows and books. He's currently writing the sequel to Neverwhere and he's working on a TV adaption of Good Omens with the BBC and Amazon. A film based on one of his short stories is due to come out this summer with Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning.

On Thursday I met Tom Toner at a signing at Forbidden Planet in London. If you like complicated world building and complex sci-fi with a bit of fantasy, take a look at his books. The Promise of the Child (you can read my review here) and The Weight of the World. It's not for everyone because it's definitely complex, but the world building is amazing.

On my blog this week: 
  • Heir of Fire - Sarah J. Maas. Sadly I was disappointed. Read my review here. I'll stick with the series, I want to know where it goes.
  • Open by Andre Agassi. Interesting biography if you want to know more about a tennis star who hates tennis. Review here.
  • Top Ten Couples I Adore. A Top Ten Tuesday post.
Nothing much has happened in my kitchen, nor have I been to the cinema. I hope everyone is having a great week!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Book Title: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #3)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy, YA
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library
Goodreads, Amazon UK  
Here's my review for the first book.  
This review will have no spoilers for the first book in the series. So, I'm pasting the Goodreads Summary for the first book.  
Goodreads Summary: In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?
What did I think? I really liked the first book. It had a simple plot and the characters were lacking real depth, but it was fast paced and entertaining.

The second and third one, however, I didn't dislike, but I was somewhat disappointed. Just like the second one, Heir of Fire takes a long time to really get going. The first half is incredibly slow, almost dull, and I really didn't enjoy the chapters about the witches. I mean, they sort of came out of nowhere? And so far they haven't really added anything to the plot? Then another guy gets added to the love triangle. It's now a quadrangle. Sigh.

Let's talk about the good things: Celaena's character development is phenomenal. She is stronger and more determined but also stubborn and somewhat snarky. Dorian gets some incredible development as well and even an opportunity to stand up to his father. The world becomes more complex and more depth. In fact I think the world building is amazing in this series.

The good things are the reason why I will pick up the fourth book. Especially the world building. However if I still think it's slow, I might just stop there. For now, I'll keep going.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Open by Andre Agassi

Book Title: Open
Author: Andre Agassi
Genre: Non Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library
Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Goodreads Summary: Agassi’s incredibly rigorous training begins when he is just a child. By the age of thirteen, he is banished to a Florida tennis camp that feels like a prison camp. Lonely, scared, a ninth-grade dropout, he rebels in ways that will soon make him a 1980s icon. He dyes his hair, pierces his ears, dresses like a punk rocker. By the time he turns pro at sixteen, his new look promises to change tennis forever, as does his lightning-fast return. And yet, despite his raw talent, he struggles early on. We feel his confusion as he loses to the world’s best, his greater confusion as he starts to win. After stumbling in three Grand Slam finals, Agassi shocks the world, and himself, by capturing the 1992 Wimbledon. Overnight he becomes a fan favorite and a media target.
What did I think? I don't read a lot of non fiction to begin with. I read this for a bookclub and would have never picked it up otherwise.

I'm not interested in biographies at least not usually. I'm not interested in men's tennis, though I did follow women's tennis for a brief period during the times of Martina Hingis.

I must also add that I personally do not like Agassi as a person, which is probably a horrible thing to say about someone you only know from a book. I just don't think we would get along...

However, the book is a great portrayal of a very interesting life. It depicts the struggles of a young man who grew up having to play tennis even though he doesn't actually like to play tennis. He's lost, looking for meaning in life and spends a great deal of his time trying to find out what he really wants and where he belongs in this world.

If you're interested in tennis or in Agassi himself or if you think you can empathise with a young man who isn't sure what to do with his life and where he belongs in this world and along the way battles crippling self doubt, then pick this one up. If not, move along, nothing to see here.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Top Ten Tuesday (7) - Couples I Adore

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Follow the link to know more about the meme and join up! 
This week's topic is a Romance Freebie. Their lives are busy and this week they're not putting up a post of their own. 
I mean it's Valentine's Day so romance makes sense, even though I must admit, we're not really doing Valentine's Day in this household. In fact we're considering just ordering a 2 for Tuesday pizza!
I decided to go back to my late teen years and early 20's where shipping was a thing, and OTPs made me squeal. I mean, I still ship, but I no longer squeal as much and I'm probably less enthusiastic these days when it comes to couples than I used to be.
I will present both book couples and TV couples, because both mattered a lot throughout the years.

Top Ten Couples I Ship (or used to) 

Television
  1. Does anyone remember Alias? And if yes, does anyone remember loving Irina Derevko as much as me? Not only that I was such a big fan of her and Jack Bristow, I think I wrote a ton of unnecessary fanfiction.
  2. How about CC and Niles in The Nanny? They and
  3. Xena and Gabrielle were probably what introduced the word shipping to me.
  4. Another couple I was quite passionate about was Kerry Weaver and Kim Legaspi on ER. They were one of the first lesbian couples that broke my heart. (Later came Erica Hahn and Callie Torres on Grey's Anatomy.)
  5. Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation. Probably the most perfect couple that ever coupled.
  6. Dana Scully and Fox Mulder on The X-Files. I'm showing my age with this, aren't I?
  7. Tony and Michelle on 24. I remember a certain episode breaking my heart into a million pieces.
  8. Battlestar Galactica had Adama and Roslin. I was head over heels in love with that relationship. With the entire show actually, but those two...
  9. Lost had Juliet and Sawyer.
  10. And last but not least Friends had Rachel and Ross. DID SHE GET OFF THE PLANE?!
Books
  1. Claire and Jamie in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.
  2. Pride and Prejudice has Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.
  3. I guess Harry Potter had Snape and Lily. Though to be fair, this was less of a ship and more a recipe for total heartbreak.
  4. Jane and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre.
  5. Natasha Rostov and Andrei Bolkonsky in War and Peace.
Hm, turns out I tend to be more passionate about TV couples than book couples. Though, I have to admit, I could add almost every Jane Austen couple. And when I was a teenager I loved Wuthering Heights but today, I'm not so sure that couple belongs on any romance lists.

I hope everyone had a good start to the week. Let me know about your posts and I'll drop by!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sunday Post (6) Grey, Cold, Rain

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.  
If you participate, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog.

It's depressing, that's what it is. The weather. It's grey, cold and there's endless rain. It doesn't help that we have a leak in our conservatory. It's not the biggest problem because it's technically an outside area, where the washing machine lives along with the bikes and the lawn mower, but it's water and it's inside and I don't like it because water always brings the dreaded black mould. Hopefully it'll be fixed soon.
It was my girlfriend's birthday this week and we went to the science museum to look at the Tim Peake's Soyuz capsule. Which according to her was used to travel to and from the ISS. No clue why anyone would cram themselves into such a tiny space only to get shot into actual space where it's dark and scary.

We also had a mini spa day. Possibly the three most uncomfortable hours I've spent in 2017 so far (I think I'd prefer the Soyuz capsule). I'm always too hot, always sweating, and I find it uncomfortable and do not appreciate being placed into a sauna.

On my blog this week: A review of Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. And a Top Ten Tuesday post talking about the characters I wish we'd seen more of in books.

In my kitchen this week: A roast chicken stuffed with lemon, sage and garlic. A marble cake, which sadly turned out a bit dry. A hot dish with chicken legs placed in a honey, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice marinade into which I chopped chillies. And a stew with parmesan dumplings. Trust me, if you like dumplings, add some parmesan into the flour, it's gorgeous.

Cinema: Hacksaw Ridge. A bit too much violence for my taste, but if you like your war movie to look authentic and realistic, that's the one.

Books: I've finished Andre Agassi's Open and hope to review it next week. Almost done with Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. Still got The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt going and am trying to finish Lolita this weekend.

I wish everyone a great next week. Do your best.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Book Title: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy, YA
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library
Goodreads, Amazon UK 

Here's my review for the first book
This review will have no spoilers for the first book in the series. So, I'm pasting the Goodreads Summary for the first book. 
Goodreads Summary: In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?
What did I think?

I'm sorry. I was disappointed. I'm not giving up on the series, in fact I am currently reading the next book, but I was disappointed.

I thought the first 200 pages were very slow. Yes, the last chapter is amazing. Towards the end the pace really picked up and the plot got tight and interesting and that last page, wow. But, it's hard not to be disappointed when the first 200 pages are that slow.

It wasn't all disappointment. I really enjoyed finding out more about the world Sarah J. Maas is building. The writing is vivid and descriptive. The romance is great and happily moving away from the love triangle (why always the love triangle, why?) and the character of Celaena is developed well and turns into someone really interesting. She's less about clothes, make-up and appearance and turns into a more believable, flawed character. She finally gets to explore what it means to be an assassin. I hope we get more of that in the third book.

If you're unsure whether or not to pick this series up, definitely do. I think this will develop into something great, even though I am not the biggest fan yet. The potential is enormous.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Top Ten Tuesday (6) - Books That Need More/Less Of...

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Follow the link to know more about the meme and join up! 
This week's topic: Books that I wish had more or less of... You can find their post here.
I'm going to go with characters. Books I love which needed more or less of a certain character.

I mean most books have that one character I start to really like and then halfway through the book they die, or disappear or aren't important anymore and it's often the most interesting character.

  1. Let's start with Harry Potter. Harry Potter needed more Luna Lovegood. Definitely.
  2. Outlander needs more Lord John Grey. But then Diana Gabaldon gave him his own series, so I guess she agrees with me.
  3. The Raven Boys needed more of Noah. He was such a great character and sadly he didn't matter so much towards the end.
  4. The Hunger Games needed more of Prim. She was sort of a plot device even though there was so much growth there and hence a lot of potential.
  5. Game of Thrones needs more of Cersei. She's fascinating. 
There's of course a lot of books that could do with less of certain characters, but often they're the main one and so I can't really complain. How much better would Twilight be without Bella?

I hope everyone is having a great week :)

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sunday Post (5) - I need to blog harder!

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here
If you participate, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog. 
This has been a bad week for blogging, I think. And reading. I have not finished a single book this week. I seem to start a million different books and not finish them. I think I have about 8 now on my currently reading shelf. I'm sure the week where I finish them all will look amazing in my stats, but for the moment I'm wondering, what is going on?!  
 Do you ever do that? Hop from book to book and starting new ones, simply because they're shiny and you've been meaning to read them for a long time and suddenly you just really want to even though there's 3 other books you're currently reading?

I've discussed all the books I'm reading in a post about my February TBR pile. And I've, of course, participate in the Top Ten Tuesday meme: this week's topic was graphic novels.

I've almost had a panic attack yesterday while running. For the first time this year, I felt really good about it. My muscles weren't hurting, I felt like I could run forever. I was pushing myself not too hard, in fact I was feeling good. Then I glanced at my watch and saw my heart rate was approaching 180. It rarely does that. I immediately worried that I pushed myself too hard and started to slow. The heart rate went up to 184. Now, for some weird reason, I started to panic. I stopped running, why is it going up? 187. Uh-hoh. I stopped walking, stood still and took a deep breath. 191. WHY DOES IT CONTINUE GOING UP? My girlfriend just looked at me and said, it'll continue to go up if you continue panicking. I removed the heart rate strap and walked home and drank a glass of water. Still wondering what that was about?

Didn't do anything exciting on the kitchen front. I made a weird fajita soup. Which means I've browned chicken with onions and pepper, added fajita spices and broth, then kidney beans and rice and let it simmer for a bit.

I've been writing like crazy. Hopefully next week I'll manage to finish a few books and not start any new ones.

I hope everyone is having a great week! 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

February TBR

My library text me today and suddenly they had all the books I wanted to read at once. For some I've been waiting for quite a while, so February is shaping up to be a busy month. Sadly their ebook selection is not very extensive and consists of mostly crime and romance novels. But, I ran there and back with a small backpack and got a workout in!
It's getting warmer again, though I feel like that might be just temporary. 
I plan on finishing the first draft of the psychological thriller that I'm currently writing. It's going well. I'm also planning to send out a few short stories this month. Keep your fingers crossed. 
It's my partner's birthday next week, so we are planning a spa day and a day out at the science museum in London. Maybe some sushi for dinner? Not sure yet. 
Also haven't bought any gifts yet, must rectify that like yesterday. She's hard to buy for though. She likes science fiction, is a big fan of The Expanse, The Hunger Games, Red Rising but doesn't enjoy fantasy. Thoughts?
My books for February:
  • Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (They're already reserved by another library member, so I have to prioritise those two.)
  • Open by Andre Agassi (I'm reading that one with a bookclub, so again, I have to prioritise it.)
  • The Fifth Season and The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin (Trying to read more diverse authors and books, so those books are part of that.)
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (I've started that in January, so better finish it!)
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (Again, started in January, better finish it!)
  • Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson (Re-reading it in German to get the most out of this fantasy world, so far it's amazing.)
  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer (Over a thousand pages of non fiction, I'm pretty sure this one will drag into March if not April. Oh and I've got Hamilton waiting for me! Ha!)
  • I'm hoping I'll get to Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys and Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows.
What's on your tbr list for February? Hoping everyone is having an excellent winter!