Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Wrapping up November

November has been a somewhat busy month but also somewhat of a failure for me. I wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo and write something longer but ended up writing 5 short stories, and also didn't hit the word count. But hey... I've been writing, so that's good.

We are facing some job troubles at the moment, so I'm on edge. I don't like uncertainty, it makes me anxious and I am a worrier and tend to over think things. Never good. Never results in me being productive. Hopefully December will be better.

I've been starting to set up my list of books I want to read for 2017. Some group challenges on Goodreads are hard to resist. You can find me on Goodreads here.

I've been participating in a daily photo challenge on Litsy (if you don't know Litsy, this is my post about this new social media network for books, basically Instagram meets Goodreads.) this month and I enjoyed it a lot. Only missed two days, I think. You can find me there @Vinjii

I have 15 books left to read in December, which is approximately 3 books a week, I hopefully should manage. However I did choose Sanderson's The Way of Kings as one of the books, so maybe that wasn't smart.

I've read 7 books in November.

Dune was my favourite. And the reviews for Emperor of Thorns, Kafka on the Shore and Hyperion will be coming soon.

 I'm still in love with this cover. It's just really beautiful, despite me at first thinking it's the weird opening of a cave. Thankfully some comments said they saw the same. So, I don't have to feel too embarrassed for not having seen the worm immediately.

The reviews to Paper Towns, A Darker Shade of Magic, and Seveneves can be found by clicking onto the title.

Hope everyone had a good November and I wish everyone a good start to December.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Paper Towns by John Green

Book Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library
Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary:
Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew...
What did I think? Whilst I'm not the biggest John Green fan, I do think his novels are good at conveying the emotions and turmoils we all face (or faced once upon a time) as teenagers. However, he often follows a basic formula and his characters are similar across all of his books. Basically it boils down to: if you like John Green, you will enjoy Paper Towns, but if you don't, don't bother with this one either, it is just more of the same.

While reading some of his other books I often had the impression the message and theme Green is trying to convey leads to characters that are entirely too clever and too deep to feel real. Not so in Paper Towns. These teenagers feel like they're living real lives and their dialogue flows nicely. Add to that good pacing and tight prose and you get a very enjoyable and light read.

I really liked reading about Quentin. I wasn't a fan of Margo Roth Spielgelman. I've known people like her and I'd rather not have them in my life. However, her character is very believable and I loved how Quentin tries his best to find her.

If you're looking for a fun YA read with authentic characters definitely give this one a try.

Monday, 21 November 2016

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Book Title: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library
Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 
Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now. 
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason.
What did I think? Just how amazing does the premise sound, right? When I first saw the plot summary for this book, I was immediately intrigued and I must say A Darker Shade of Magic delivered... somewhat.

It took me a while to get into the book. In fact I started it a few weeks ago and the book just didn't keep my interest. I forced myself to continue. One chapter at a time. About a third in, I thought, great premise, but I'm not sure I like the execution.

Then, finally, the tone changed, the plot advanced, and everything started to come together. I was excited. In fact I read the second half of the novel in one sitting. Sadly, towards the end, I felt a bit disappointed again. The resolution was too easy. Too neat.

V. E. Schwab is an excellent writer. I highly enjoy her prose. Her world-building is intricate, meticulous and clever. The premise is original and unlike anything I've read in the last few years. I just wish we could have seen more of the world.

In the end it was all a bit superficial, with great potential. I'm excited for the sequels, but for now... it didn't quite grab me the way I was hoping it would.

Nonetheless I recommend it highly, because Kell and Lila are great characters and the world Schwab created deserves every reader it can get. I'd like more books like this, please.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Dune by Frank Herbert

Book Title: Dune (Dune #1)
Author: Frank Herbert
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: My own copy
Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Goodreads Summary: Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the 'spice' melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis.
What did I think? I seem to be keen to read science fiction lately. Dune is a classic and cornerstone of that genre, and I'd never read it before. Obviously I had to change that and this weekend I finally did.

It took me a while to get into the book. I'd tried a few times before, in fact the book has been on my shelf for well over a year now. I always failed. Page 2 is filled with a bunch of unknown names, places and other things that can't be pronounced, and I remember thinking, uh-hoh, this is too confusing. This time I decided to stick with it no matter what.

For anyone like me who is struggling with the beginning: it gets easier.

In fact, I fell in love with this universe. There are however a few bad things. This book is dated. It's over 50 years old and you can tell. The dialogue is painful in places. Herbert loves to have characters think the obvious, marked with italics, to make sure the reader doesn't miss anything important. That results in a lot of 'telling' and I have the impression 'showing' wasn't Herbert's strength.

But apart from that? Amazing world-building. The planet, the dunes, the sand, the worms... those worms. (Fun fact: the first time I looked at the cover - which is the edition I own - I thought we were looking at the desert from inside a cave which just happens to have an interesting opening. I didn't see the worm.) Paul's journey. His mother's journey. The mythology. The book is filled with politics and intrigues. A wonderful world and I'm actually excited to read the sequels (at least the ones written by Frank Herbert himself.)

Friday, 11 November 2016

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Book Title: Seveneves
Author: Neal Stephenson
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library
Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: What would happen if the world were ending? A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.
But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .
Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.
What did I think? I really like the premise of this book. I mean the moon blows up pretty much in the first sentence and now humanity has to find shelter in space, using the ISS as a starting point. Sounds amazing, right? I was especially excited to read more about the apocalypse and also to find out what happens once the descendants of the survivors come back to Earth.

This is my first Neal Stephenson, and I've picked this one because I really like the possibilities within this premise.

The first third of the book is amazing. Clever characters, an apocalypse, people working together trying to avoid said apocalypse from wiping out humanity. Then Stephenson kind of trails off and in the end he presents a vision of the future that I find entirely too unbelievable for a science fiction book.

Apart from that I was really struggling with the execution. It's basically science porn. The world-building is fantastic. The science is well researched. And detailed. And fills page upon page. Mostly they're info-dumps and if I was a die-hard astronomy fan I possibly would have loved it. Stephenson describes in detail every technological difficulty humanity will face. I feel like I barely got to know the characters because he describes the ISS in such detail that there are no words left to add depth to the main characters.

If you're into space, astronomy, the ISS and want to know as much as possible about them, while at the same time reading about the end of humanity as we know it, then this is definitely the book for you.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Book Title: Guards! Guards! (Discworld #8)
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library
Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Goodreads Summary: Here there be dragons . . . and the denizens of Ankh-Morpork wish one huge firebreather would return from whence it came. Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis ("noble dragon" for those who don't understand italics) has appeared in Discworld's greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all.)
Meanwhile, back at Unseen University, an ancient and long-forgotten volume--The Summoning of Dragons--is missing from the Library's shelves. To the rescue come Captain Vimes, Constable Carrot, and the rest of the Night Watch who, along with other brave citizens, risk everything, including a good roasting, to dethrone the flying monarch and restore order to Ankh-Morpork (before it's burned to a crisp).
What did I think? When Terry Pratchett died last year, I was, just like the rest of Britain, very sad. Because he's a legend and because Neil Gaiman loved him and I love Neil Gaiman. But at the back of my mind I knew, I'm not a Discworld fan. I enjoyed 'The Colour of Magic' but I didn't love it. Many people told me to start with 'Equal Rites' or maybe 'Mort'. Or 'Guards! Guards!' You'll love that one, they said.

I tried 'Good Omens' last year, the book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, thinking that should work for me, but it didn't either. I just didn't find it funny. Is something wrong with me?

This year I promised myself to read 'Mort', 'Equal Rites' and 'Guards! Guards!' before I make up my mind on whether or not to dive further into the Discworld novels. 

I'm sorry to say I didn't like 'Guards! Guards!'. Don't get me wrong. I can appreciate what Pratchett did here, which is why I'm giving it three stars. But it did not make me chuckle once, it did not entice me and I'm not interested in discovering more about the City Watch or Discworld.

I enjoyed the parodies of fantasy tropes, but at the same time I thought they were over the top. I didn't dislike the characters but I wasn't invested in them and to be honest the story more or less bored me. At least it was a quick and easy read.

I feel like I'm committing a crime... maybe this is the moment to admit, I don't like Monty Python either? I'll be over there in that corner. Sorry.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Two Books for November (and NaNoWriMo)

I've just borrowed two new books from the library, one in e-book form. (Sadly our library doesn't have a big selection when it comes to e-books and I rarely find what I'm looking for.) And one physical book, because despite all the love I have for e-readers, I still love a physical book.

First of all I'm looking forward to reading A Darker Shade of Magic. I absolutely love the concept: Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now. How cool does that sound? It almost makes me jealous that I've not come up with this concept. I think there's just so much you can do with this setting and I'm curious to see what V. E. Schwab has done with it.

Besides reading November is always a bit hectic for me because I love to participate in NaNoWriMo and this month I've decided to tackle two projects. A few short stories. 10-20 in total. And on top of that a novella, which I hope will be between 40-50K words once I'm done. My Goodreads challenge is telling me I need to read 24 books until the end of the year and I'm starting to feel the pressure.

This is the other book I picked up from the library. Science Fiction. I'm not usually a fan of space. I can't bring myself to care when I read about species A having a war with species B, fighting on planet Z that is covered in ice. I like my science fiction to be near future and based on technology. More Black Mirror (how good is the new season?) and less Star Trek. However I thought this summary sounds pretty cool: On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

I made a list of 24 books I plan to read in the coming 8 weeks and I hope I can stick to it. Basically a bit more than 3 books a week. That's doable, right? Then why did I decide to put books onto that list that are a 1'000 pages long? Why couldn't I just choose 24 novellas?

Have you all finished the GR challenge? Successfully? Or are at least on your way?