Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Gender Game by Bella Forrest

Book Title: The Gender Game
Author: Bella Forrest
Genres: Romance
My Rating: ♥ ♥
Goodreads, Amazon UK, Cinematic Book Trailer

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What did I think?

I must admit I requested it because I thought the premise sounded interesting.

A toxic river splits the genders. On one side we have the country of Matrus and on the other side the country of Patrus. In Patrus women have no rights and basically belong to their husbands, however in Matrus women are the ruling class. They loathe violence and aim to be peaceful, but then they go as far as testing young boys for traits such as aggression and send them off to work in mines as slaves? Very peaceful and advanced? I have a lot of questions and not many are answered in this book. How did this split between genders happen? Do these women really think keeping boys as slaves makes them better than the men on the other side of the river who own their women? Are any of these people okay? Where do trans people stand?

Back to the premise. Relations between the two societies aren't all that great. Violet, the protagonist, gets herself into trouble... I'm not sure how one person manages to kill two people by perforating their throats purely by accident? These sorts of accidents never happen to me (thankfully). Violet is offered a pardon from her crimes on the condition that she serves as an undercover agent to retrieve something Patrus has stolen from Matrus.

And Violet has no choice if she ever wants to see her brother again...

The title has clearly been chosen to remind readers of other books, because so far I haven't really seen a 'game'.

Sadly, the plot is thin. The ending is rushed. There are a lot of loose ends and no real resolution to any of the questions the reader and Violet have. There's not enough romance to consider it a romance and not enough dystopia to consider it dystopian either. A love triangle is set up, sort of (why must there always be a triangle?) and overall it feels much more like the first part of a book than the first book in a trilogy (why must there always be a trilogy?)

But there was also a lot I liked. Violet is an interesting character who can kick ass. Her love interest is thoughtful, attractive and well written. I picked this up because I thought it would be a short and entertaining read, which it was. I was looking for suspense and action, which I got. And I must say I couldn't put it down and just had to find out how it ends.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Book Title: Midnight's Children
Author: Salman Rushdie
Genres: 1001 Books, Literary Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Goodreads, Amazon UK
Goodreads Summary: Born at the stroke of midnight, at the precise moment of India's independence, Saleem Sinai is destined from birth to be special. For he is one of 1,001 children born in the midnight hour, children who all have special gifts, children with whom Saleem is telepathically linked. But there has been a terrible mix up at birth, and Saleem’s life takes some unexpected twists and turns. As he grows up amidst a whirlwind of triumphs and disasters, Saleem must learn the ominous consequences of his gift, for the course of his life is inseparably linked to that of his motherland, and his every act is mirrored and magnified in the events that shape the newborn nation of India. It is a great gift, and a terrible burden.
What did I think?  I'm sorry, okay? I'm terribly sorry. I know this book won the Booker prize, and is essentially considered to be the best of all Booker prize winners, but I just couldn't grow to like it. The narration style is too tedious, and too dense for me to wade through, especially as a non native speaker.

Maybe things would be different if I'd pick this up in German, but then it wouldn't be Rushdie, would it?

The story is very interesting and the prose is beautiful, so it's definitely not the book but me. I tried really hard as well. It took me hours to finish, I even gave up at one point and put it back onto my shelf, but a group-read kept me going and here I am, apologizing. Who knows, maybe in 10 years...

Monday, 22 August 2016

Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven

Book Title: Lucifer's Hammer
Author: Larry Niven
Genres: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Goodreads, Amazon UK
Goodreads Summary: The gigantic comet had slammed into Earth, forging earthquakes a thousand times too powerful to measure on the Richter scale, tidal waves thousands of feet high. Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization. But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was also the dawn of a new struggle for survival--a struggle more dangerous and challenging than any they had ever known.
What did I think? I loved it. But! Lucifer's Hammer is a reluctant four stars, so don't run out and buy the book just based on that rating. It's without any doubt a very engaging read and once things get going I thought it was a captivating, dark, gritty and realistic read.

A list of things that make this a reluctant four stars:
- Written in 1977, there's racial stereotypes and gender stereotypes that might rub some people the wrong way.
- The first half of the book is exposition and we meet an endless cast of characters and maybe it wasn't necessary to include that many people?
- The portrayal of career driven women, hahaha, okay, 1977, fair enough, but still.
- The portrayal of black people, again uhm, okay 1977, then again, come on.
- The portrayal of Russians, okay, this one is fully allowed, the Cold War was still going in 1977.
- The comet doesn't actually collide with our planet until far far far into the book.

- Humanity goes and becomes nothing but cow-dung once the comet hits. We're talking low. Murder is just the beginning. I don't want to spoil just how low it all goes, but I thought it was interesting. I watch the news these days and look at the current refugee crisis and you know what? I fully believe humanity would sink this low if society fell apart and we neither had food, electricity nor anything else you need to survive an apocalypse.

I thoroughly enjoyed just how far Niven took it and maybe there's too many stereotypes and maybe he's too much of a white male in the way he approached this book, but that didn't stop me from reading this in almost one sitting.

If you like exposition and a big cast of characters and a lot of buildup and would like to read about a comet hitting our planet? This one is for you.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Social Media: Litsy

I discovered Litsy today and I would love if you'd follow me @Vinjii

I love social media applications. The idea of sharing and talking to people with the same interests as you has always been fascinating to me.

Litsy offers great book discussions. There's a bunch of really cool people who have a lot to say on there.

It's only on iOS for the moment but they're working on an Android app and are currently beta testing it.
The community consists of readers, authors and other people who love books and who create short posts with pictures, blurbs and quotes about the books they're reading (or want to read.)

It's a social media app, so of course you have a profile and can follow other people. Each update made is tied to a specific book. You can also search for a book and read what others have said about it so far. Of course it's also possible to add books to a to-read list or rate them. I love the concept and hope a lot of you will join.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Book Title: Life as We Knew It
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Genres: Science Fiction (YA)
My Rating:
Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: I guess I always felt even if the world came to an end, McDonald’s still would be open. High school sophomore Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, like "one marble hits another." The result is catastrophic. How can her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis are wiping out the coasts, earthquakes are rocking the continents, and volcanic ash is blocking out the sun? As August turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.Told in a year’s worth of journal entries, this heart-pounding story chronicles Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

What did I think?

I finally signed up to the local library and found out that Overdrive doesn't work with Kindle in the UK. Now, I'm sad. But I have the iPhone 6s Plus, so my screen is just big enough to accommodate book pages. Unfortunately their eBook selection isn't that big. While browsing through the catalog, I stumbled over this book by chance and it sounded interesting. I love dystopias, I love the apocalypse and the idea of the moon causing havoc on earth was an interesting one.

Life as We Knew it only gets a single, lonely star though. Maybe a second one because it is an easy read and sort of entertaining. It's told in the first person from the POV of a teenage girl.

What's wrong with it, you ask? The plot... the science?! Come on. Some research, a teeny tiny bit of research at the very least? Open up Wikipedia at least once? Maybe google moon phases?

The book starts with all astronomers being super psyched about this asteroid hitting our moon. Not one thought it might go wrong. Of course not, because they know science and they're aware our moon can't be knocked out of its orbit by a small rock. Only it is...

Then a bunch of stuff happens. Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes and suddenly the flu. It's like the author was wondering what else could go possibly go wrong on earth? I know: MALARIA.

Uhm, what?

Of course it didn't help that the sixteen year old teenager named Miranda... I wanted to strangle her. I mean, maybe that's how teenagers are, fair enough, but my reaction to her basically told me if I'm ever found in such a situation with a teenager, I would possibly want the end to come much faster just so I can get away from said teenager.

This book is definitely better off in the hands of a younger YA audience.

Monday, 15 August 2016

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

Book Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Author: Becky Chambers
Genres: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Goodreads, Amazon UK
Goodreads Summary: 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.
What did I think? We weren't off to a good start, this book and I. About halfway through I wasn't convinced. I thought it was a bit long, didn't really understand where the author was going with it and almost put it to the side.

The last 200 hundred pages are heart-warming, tense and brilliant though and I closed the book feeling happy. Obviously I wouldn't recommend a book just because of the last 200 pages, but looking back at the rest of the book, I think I was going in with the wrong expectations. I was expecting more action, and the wrong expectations sometimes lead to disappointment.

This isn't about action. This is life. This is the story of a ship and its crew. This is about their lives, and about all these interesting alien species they meet, who each have their own extensive cultures and history. This is the story of several characters that live together and form a family. They are a unique and interesting bunch and their purpose isn't to save the galaxy, instead it's building tunnels. This is a story that explores sexuality, gender, cultural differences, race and politics and it's beautiful.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Book Title: In Cold Blood
Author: Truman Capote
Genres: True Crime
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.
As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.
What did I think? Mostly: HOLY COW. Also: I feel sick.

I did not know this was true crime when I started to read this book. I didn't read the blurb properly. I knew Truman Capote, but this is the first time I read one of his books. At one point in the middle of the story, I browsed through Goodreads to see what others thought of this book and I realised it's based on real events. (Never heard of the Clutter family before.) And it's not just based on real events, this book is one of the very first true crime novels ever written.

Capote describes the events leading up to and following the murder of the Clutter family in Kansas in a chilling and detailed way. It's a gripping read with wonderful prose. Capote's writing is sharp, on point and captivating. The killers are described in such great detail that by the end of the book you think you know them, and you feel disgusted by them, but you also feel sympathy for them. Or at least I did and I think that was the main reason I liked In Cold Blood so much.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Book Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy (YA)
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Goodreads, Amazon UK
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? Sarah J. Maas has been on my radar for a while now, but I don't like having to wait for too long for the next book in a series, so I stayed away. Especially A Court of Thorns and Roses sounds amazing. Kind of silly really, because I tend to start a whole bunch of series at the same time anyway instead of sticking with the ones I started. I compulsively jump onto new books; I can't help it.

I've noticed that the last Throne of Glass book will be out soon-ish, so I thought it's time to dive in. To sum it up: boy, was this great!

I have some beef with it, of course. LOVE TRIANGLE. Why must thou follow me into every YA book? I can't stand love triangles, but at least this one is done reasonably well and I would actually be happy if the protagonist ended up with either of them.

The other thing? Uhm, if Celaena would spend less time obsessing about clothes, looks, reputation and whether or not the prince finds her hot, I might actually believe she's a deadly assassin? And the very best? Because so far, I'm not convinced.

Aside from these points I loved it. Throne of Glass has everything: fantasy (whilst it's technically high fantasy, it's definitely not for die-hard fantasy fans, because it's much more YA than fantasy), mystery, magic, humor and banter. I'm hoping the world will get fleshed out a bit more in the next few books. It's an intriguing set-up thus far but definitely needs more substance.

But, please, please, don't sell it as ASOIAF for women? This has nowhere near the complexity of Martin's world, at least not yet. And us women can take ASOIAF without needing a protagonist that obsesses over clothes.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Book Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genres: Urban Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Goodreads, Amazon UK
Goodreads Summary: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her. His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.
What did I think? I recently found out my beef with some of the sci-fi and fantasy that is floating out there. I have a hard time caring for made up worlds and made up races. Apparently I'm in the minority because a lot of people seem to be able to feel for species that do not exist and mourn worlds we'll never see.

This is why I prefer urban fantasy. YA however can be very hit or miss, especially lately. That's one of the main reasons I haven't picked up the Raven Boys before. What a mistake. The book surprised me right from the very first page. I fell in love with every single character. They are all thoroughly developed and layered with a lot of depth and the author doesn't neglect the supporting characters. On the contrary, they are all memorable.

Gansey is driven, brilliant and on a quest. He's gentle and sometimes aloof, but you can tell he's meticulous and means well. Then there's Adam, a lovable character who is painted as hard working and intelligent. His overall sweetness and his integrity made me think of a puppy. Noah is always a bit in the background but we learn so much about him and he's such an important part of the group. And finally there's Ronan. Still a mystery, hurt, angry and full of regret. I'm hoping we'll find out more about him. Blue is a great protagonist, a strong female character, surrounded by a rather crazy but delightful family.

The writing is gorgeous and fits the mood of the book. The narrative is surprisingly complex for a YA book and the tale is intriguing. Reading this book was like hanging out with old friends and I'm really glad I picked it up and I can't wait to read the rest. Thankfully it's all published and I don't have to wait.