Thursday, 26 July 2012

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier




Title: Shadowfell

Author: Juliet Marillier

Date Read: 20.July.2012

On TBR for: 1 day

Format: paperback

Source: Won on a giveaway (Raiding Bookshelves)

Challenges: 2012 Outdo Yourself





Shadowfell is the new series by Juliet Marillier and I was so lucky to win a copy in the Raiding Bookshelves giveaway, and not wait till September to read it, and have the gorgeous Australian version of the book. I take this moment to thank both Alex and Juliet for this book. And now, on to the review.

Shadowfell takes place in Alban (read Scotland, oh Beloved Scotland), and the main character Neryn is on the run, soon to be very alone in a country ruled by a tyrant, and where people who have uncanny powers are either executed or made to work for the king against their will. The odds are not very good for Neryn, even worse because she also has an uncanny power herself, one that allows her to see and talk with all sorts of Good Folk. She is in search of a place called Shadowfell, a name that is only whispered and is the synonym to the fight against king Keldec, but that to her it's a place where she can be safe.

And then there is Flint, a stranger who won her in a wager, saved her from the king's Enforcers, and said that all he wanted was to give Neryn a choice. But in these dark times of Alban, trust is a foreign concept, and Neryn would much rather make her way on her own than be with this mysterious man.

The journey to Shadowfell is fraught with dangers and perils and misfortunes, but also with unlikely friends. It's a journey of growth, self-discovery and some healing.

So, did I like it? Yes, of course I did. I didn't fall in love with it from the start, but once I closed that last page, I wished to still be in Alban with Neryn and Co., to not have to wait for book 2 to be written/published. I came to love the characters, main and secondary. Actually, one of strengths of this book is the richness of the supporting characters. I absolutely adored the ensemble of Good Folk characters.

Yet, this book feels like it is just the first leg in a very long journey. I am not sure if I should consider this a good thing or bad thing. I think it ties with the fact that it is written for young adults, and for a Juliet Mariller book, it felt shorter than it should have been. Maybe it was just me wishing it had been longer, because as a reader, I always want more.

And for all the downsides of books targeted to young adults, this one is all that such a book should be. In some ways, I would have loved to have this book as my first contact with fantasy (and Juliet Marillier for that matter). There is magic, but also the price of it, the consequences of actions, and how everything will help you grow. In fact, I think Neryn's growth throughout the book is one of the things that makes you like it so much (besides the Good Folk. And Flint.).

And so, after all this, how much did I like this book? A lot, though it was a gradual love, but like I said before, once I was done with it, I wished I was still there. I will anxiously wait for Raven Flight, hoping there will be more of Flint, of tyrant Keldec, of Good Folk, of Regan and his warriors and, of course, of Neryn.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Other Reviews: Raiding Bookshelves | The Silence in the Library 

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK| Amazon US

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano


Title: The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Author: Paolo Giordano

Date Read: 11.July.2012

On TBR for: 397 days (or 1 year, 1 month and 1 day. Also 397 is prime)

Format: Mass trade paperback

Source: Bought at a bookfair: Feira do livro do Porto 2011

Challenges: 2012 Outdo Yourself, Off the Shelf 2012





Before beginning the review proper, I'll just leave this gif here because it's relevant:



The Solitude of Prime Numbers tells us the stories of Alice and Mattia, from when they were young and something tragic happened to each of them, to how they grew, met, and went their own ways. They are pretty lonesome people, they have their own quirks and weirdness about them, which means that this is not a happy sort of book.

Yet it is a good book. Maybe it's the way these stories, or episodes of two lives, are told which makes it quite easy to turn each page, wanting to know more. Maybe it's the fact that some part of me can't help but relate with the solitude of these two characters. The writing is both beautiful and simple (I would say beautifully simple), but manages to convey how different, and sometimes how desperate both Alice and Mattia are. And since we follow them since early childhood into adulthood, we see how they change, how they grow (or do not grow), and how some choices can have repercussions for the rest of a life.

I confess that the reason I was drawn to this book was its title. It's nerdy and quirky, quite up my alley. And I am glad I did end up reading it. Maybe not the most cheerful of reads, but it's a good and enjoyable one.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Reviews: The Unread Reader 

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK| Amazon US| Wook | Wook

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Ins and Outs: April, May and June

I started writing this post thinking it would be about only April and May, but time just vanished and June was suddenly over! :O As it can be seen, blogging hasn't been my top priority, and I don't expect that to change any time soon. I hope there will still be reviews (once in a while), but I will not try to review every single book I've read (not that there have been many of those lately either). The Ins and Outs will continue, though (well, I'll try).

And so, here's for April and , May and June:

INS

April

Bookmooch:

Son of Avonar by Carol Berg

Gifts:

My Bday was on April, so I got some books!
The last unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (Thanks Anita!)
Night Over Water by Ken Follett
Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein
The Kingdom of Gods by N. K. Jemisin (Thanks Carlita and Sofi)


 


May

Bought:

The Map of the Sky by Félix J. Palma
Breath and bone by Carol Berg
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore


Bought at a Bookfair

(Feira do Livro de Lisboa)
Marvel 1602 Vol. 2 by Neil Gaiman

 

Bookmooch:

Royal assassin by Robin Hobb
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

Winking Books:

Black Cat. Volume 1, The man called Black Cat by Kentaro Yabuki

June

Bought at a Bookfair

(Feira do Livro do Porto)
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (Marvellous pocket edition!)
A luz do oriente by Jesús Sánchez Adalid [The light of the Orient]





OUTS

April

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Read along with Jen7waters of Cuidado com o Dálmata

I enjoyed Leviathan, although I didn't fall in love with it. I guess Scott Westerfeld's writing is to blame because, while he can tell a pretty awesome story, he just tells the story, he doesn't try to tell it beautifully or with any quirks in the language. But I liked to to read a book set in WWI, even if it's an alternate universe with lovecraftian beasts at the service of men. The two kids in story, Aleksandar and Deryn are really sweet, both with something to prove, and they both manage to get on their own feet and do what they like.

Rating: 4 out of 5


Dune by Frank Herbert

Not a new universe for me, but the first time I actually read the book. However, found it a bit disappointing, especially in terms of characters. The political machinations and survival parts of the story were good, but I just couldn't stand Paul and all the messianic tone of his story. So, I'm glad I finally read it, but I will not read anything else about the Dune universe.

Rating:
3.5 out of 5



Fables. Vol. 2 : animal farm by Bill Willingham

This was better than the first one: the story was more gripping and it didn't feel so much of an introduction, even if there were some new settings and characters. Will keep reading.

Rating: 4 out of 5





John dies at the end by David Wong

I was actually surprised to like this book. It's not that I don't like this type of surreality (although I tend to go for less gore), but usually books like this (and I admit my knowledge about books like this is limited) tend to bore me after a while. I mean, there is only so much surreality and weirdness that you can throw at me without it crossing the line of too much and therefore becoming just plain stupid. Or the author starting repeating himself. Or there stopping being a point to the story. Not with John dies at the end; it kept being interesting throughout its 400+ pages.

Rating: 4 out of 5


Flesh and spirit by Carol Berg


REVIEW

Rating: 4.5 out of 5






I am Mordred : a tale from Camelot by Nancy Springer

A retelling of Arthurian legend from the point of view of Mordred, in a try to humanized him. Doesn't bring much new to the story, and the good thing about taking so long in reviewing books now is that I can comment on how memorable the book is: this one, not much.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5




May

Magic bites by Ilona Andrews

Read this one after Jen7waters raved about the series, but it didn't work out for me. It never left the pages for me, and I never connected with any of the characters. So... Not for me.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5






The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

I had such high hopes for this one. It's Guy Gavriel Kay, and one of the Fantasy's classics. Well, I didn't like it.
But let me start by talking about the cover, because I love that illustration. I see it, and I imagine an entire story just by looking at it! A guy, tied to a tree, all naked! Why is he there? Is it punishment? Is he a good guy? Does he deserve it? Does he feel like he deserves it? I can see someone broken, and who has abandoned himself to despair. Someone with a hint of darkness inside.
I wasn't far from the truth, but the execution left so much to be desired. The concept was not one that I like: regular, "our world" kids, get transported to a magic world of elves (*by any other name*) where there are prophecies, and wars, and epic battles with gods and other magical beings. And-They-Don't-Even-Bat-An-Eyelash-At-It. Really, after a brief "I don't believe in magic." they all go so jolly into a freaking vortex of magic to go help this random dude (and accompanying dwarf) set up a celebration to his king. So, no, I couldn't suspend my disbelief, and the hopping POVs where too bloody distracting.

Rating: 2 out of 5



Breath and bone by Carol Berg

The continuation of Flesh and Spirit doesn't disappoint. Valen is about the best character ever! And he changes so much since the beginning of Book 1 till the end of Book 2, and it's such a treat to get to read about all that development, how he grows, and learns who he is, and what he is, and goes from not caring about anything but his own neck to becoming a hero. Just go read this series. Now.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


June

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Ah, Bitterblue, one of my most awaited books of 2012. And I finally read it! Opinion? Not as good as Graceling and Fire, but it does bring closure to the story. I liked how it still deals with Leck and all he had done, and how Bitterblue is trying to find herself as a woman and as a queen.
I can't quite put my finger on why it wasn't as good as the other books, but I just didn't have the same grasping eagerness to get to the end as with the other two (or go back to the beginning once it was done).


Rating: 4 out of 5



I Am the Messenger by Markus ZusakI am the messenger by Markus Zusak

Jen's fault again, but since it is Markus Zusak, I was bound to read it anyway. It is such a sweet book. Yet, quite like The Book Thief, quite prone to break your heart only to mend it again.
If you, like me, are likely to tear up at the first moment of sweetness or at a tragedy, please be warned that you'll be crying your heart out with this book. It is weird, and although you know what's going on, you are never sure why is it going on, and so you read, and are amazed by it, and read some more, and fall in love with it.
However, it is not quite to the level of The Book Thief (in my opinion), the short, fragmented sentences feel a bit forced here. But everything else is simply amazing.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5



The Map of the Sky by Félix J. Palma

Not as good as the first one, somewhat overly long with too much philosophical questions in between. The story is good though, and I especially loved that the little "mistakes" and incongruities that I came across while reading the book were explained at the end of the book, as intended discrepancies. It reads more like a horror story than the previous one (well, 3 horror stories), to the point that you are actually frightened and spooked out. Yet, where H.G. Wells is involved, I was never really able to suspend my disbelief. Maybe it was the fact that I know this author is always up to something, but it just didn't ring plausible, even within the context of this universe.
Oh, and I really liked to see old characters appear, and see how they had changed, and get to know a bit more of them.

Rating: 4 out of 5



TBR Change: +1 (From 225 to 226)



Other Stuff

I was kindly given this stamp by p7 of Bookeater/Booklover:


Thank you so much!

1º - Escolher três blogues para passar...
Como eu estou muito atrasada nestas coisas, parece-me que todos os blogs que sigo já receberam este selinho. E bem merecido!
2º - Fazer a ligação de quem te ofereceu:
Mais uma vez, obrigada Bookeater/Booklover.
3º - Escolher 5 factos aleatórios sobre ti:
1. 90% das vezes que como gelado, este é de limão. O resto das vezes o mais provável é não haver gelado de limão.
2. Se saio de casa sem um livro sinto-me despida. Às vezes levo um livro comigo sabendo que não vou ter nenhuma oportunidade de o ler.
 
3. A forma que mais gosto de conhecer sítios novos é meter os pés ao caminho e andar sem destino pelas ruas de uma cidade nova.
 
4. Agora que comecei a trabalhar a sério, descobri que não consigo ler tanto como quando era estudante, mesmo em tempo de exames. Conselho para a malta jovem: Leiam, Leiam, Leiam!
 
5. Adoro a ideia de me apaixonar por um livro, por uma frase, por uma personagem, e fazer isso todas as vezes que tenho um livro novo.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week a theme for a list is suggested. This week is a Top Ten Tuesday Rewind, and I get to choose to do one of the past topics. I chose Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time. A lot of these books will be ones that I love, because there is a very special joy in falling in love with a book for the first time, of being amazed by it, and of being pleasantly surprised.



1. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Juliet Marillier is a regular on these lists. It is known that I love her books. But I wish I could go back to that first book I ever read of her, to the feelings and thoughts it provoked, to the magic of something new and good that has been so very hard to find since. And this holds true with the rest of the series and her books.






2. Howl's Moving Castle by Diane Wynne Jones
I would love to read this book again for the first time, but more than that, I would love to read it before watching the Anime, and then compare my views of Howl and Sophie and Calcifer, to those of Miyazaki.






3. Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
I wish I could read this series again, but for the first time, now that I'm older. But at the same time, it's hard to relinquish having read it so young, as these books made me grow up to who I am today.






4. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Almost the same as the Earthsea Cycle, I am torn between wanting to read for the first time now that I am older or cherish the fact that it was so important to my growth and that of my literary tastes. But I would definitely love to plunge into that amazing world for the first time, again.






5. Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente
I read Palimpsest in a strange time of my life, when I could not give it the attention it deserved. I wish I could go back and read it for the first time, but with attention, really soaking in all its imagery and strangeness, basking in its writing, and maybe come to actually love this book.






6. Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Plain Kate is like Daughter of the Forest, as I would love to be overwhelmed by it and the emotions it provokes for the first time again. It would leave me raw again, and broken hearted, but it would be worth it.






7. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
With the Harry Potter series I am not sure if I wanted to read it for the first time now that I am older, but I wish I could have read the books in a shorter period of time. I'll explain: I started with Harry Potter when I was 13, and it was good, because Harry was 11 and it was still close to my age. But when the final book came, I was 21 and Harry was still 16, going 17. It no longer ran parallel with my own growing up, and I had left him being some time before. So, I wish I could now read it for the first time, but being 13 again (or 11 for that matter), so I could grow up with him.






8. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
I never had the heart to re-read this book, in part because I am afraid not to like it as much, and in part because there are key moments in the story that I already know, and so my perspective will change. But if I read it for the first time...






9. The Voice of Fire by Alan Moore
This is a strange book, and I have been promising a re-read for sometime now, but what I really would love was to read it again for the first time, with the eyes and mind of someone older.






10.Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Sunshine is, like most books on this list, a case of wanting to be plunged into a magical and awesome world for the first time, of having amazing adventures for the first time, and of meeting characters that will stay with me for a long time for the first time. Nothing really beats that feeling, right?







Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Quotes From Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week a theme for a list is suggested. This week's theme is Top Ten Favorite Quotes From Books. This is rather easy because GoodReads has such a cool quote function, that all I had to do was go there and choose ten :D That being said, with some authors it was hard to pick just the one quote, or not to quote an entire book.




Markus Zusak on The Book Thief

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality, but what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.

None of those things, however, came out of my mouth.

All I was able to do was turn to Leisel Meminger and tell her the only truth I truly know. I said it to the book thief and I say it now to you.

I am haunted by humans.”


Elizabeth Gaskell on North and South

“I wish I could tell you how lonely I am. How cold and harsh it is here. Everywhere there is conflict and unkindness. I think God has forsaken this place. I believe I have seen hell and it's white, it's snow-white.”


Félix J. Palma on La hormiga que quiso ser astronauta

"And the thing is that there are women and women and men and men, and it is not enough to just shuffle them and pick one card from each deck and believe that the result is a couple."


J.K. Rowling on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”


Catherynne M. Valente on Palimpsest

“She did not want to read this book from start to finish, or rather, she thought perhaps it did not want her to. Instead she practised the art of bibliomancy, trusting the book to show her what it wanted her to know.”


J.R.R. Tolkien on The Fellowship of the Ring

“What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!"
"Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.”


Douglas Adams on The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

“It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.”


Jorge Luis Borges on Fictions

“That history should have imitated history was already sufficiently marvellous; that history should imitate literature is inconceivable... ”


Neil Gaiman on Anansi Boys

“Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.”


George R. R. Martin on A Game of Thrones

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”






Saturday, 5 May 2012

Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg





Title: Flesh and Spirit

Author: Carol Berg

Date Read: 27.April.2012

On TBR for: 172 days

Format: Paperback

Source: Bought

Challenges: 2012 Outdo Yourself, Off the Shelf 2012




If I had any doubts that Carol Berg can write superb characters (see Rai-Kirah series), Flesh and Spirit completely erased those. In Flesh and Spirit, the main character Valen seems to be made of actual flesh and spirit (and breath and bone, following the name of book 2), and has become one of my favourite characters.

He is a pureblood, which would mean privilege and magic, but a recoudeur, which is the worse offence possible for a pureblood. A recoudeur is pureblood who does not answer to family and the Registry, and runs away and does as he pleases. Only they are hunted down ferociously, so a recoudeur isn't free for very long.

Not Valen, of course. He managed to stay away from the Registry's clutches for 10 years. He managed to do this by taking all sort of jobs, nothing being too lowly to him, by fighting wars and running away when luck turned sour. It is after such an event that we start the story of Flesh and Spirit. Valen and his “friend” have ditched the soldier life to ransack some villages. But Valen managed to get himself shot by an arrow, and his partner in crime is far more greedy than friendly, and as such robs him blind, except for a book that he thinks it's worthless, and leaves him near death to plea for help and sanctuary in a nearby monastery.

And so Valen cries and crawls in search of help, and help does come. Valen gets his wounds treated, a warm and soft bed, and food (glorious food!). Never being one to waste a good bed and meal, he pretends to be more sore than he actually is while he is healing, so that he may never lose the food and the comfort. When he can longer pretend, he decides to take vows and join the brotherhood.

His book, which was far from worthless as he well knew it, is also becoming very famous in the monastery. It is such a rarity, a real Cartamandua book! Cartamandua is a pureblood family whose magic bent is finding ways and making maps. Such a book is infused with magic, that can help anyone find any place, even if they are not on this world. So, basically, priceless.

Valen has no problem with the brothers reading and admiring his book, but he really doesn't want anything to do with it. Valen doesn't like books much, to him the best use they could ever have is as bricks to make walls. He has no use for them, as he can't read. And this isn't because he doesn't know how, but because letters unfocus when he looks at them, making it impossible for him to even learn how to read. But he really hates that Cartamandua book (even if he finds irony in the way it keeps coming back to him), because it reminds him of his family, his abused childhood, and the magic he never cared to learn.

In his time in the monastery Valen manages to get himself thrown in conspiracies of the line of succession and the war that rages throughout Navronne, and of the end of days. All the while, he tries to keep his ancestry unknown and well hidden, has a nasty addiction that is also a cure that must also be secret, and tries to also hide the fact that he can't read. So, not an easy life after all.

But Valen is happy at Gillarine Abbey.

Happiness doesn't last long. All the conspiracies and the war come to bite him in the ass, and he sees all his freedom taken away from him, falling as low as he could ever be.

I really, really liked this book! At first I was a bit lost with the all the names and the geography and the kings. I kind of wished there was a glossary that I could check. But after the first chapters were done, the ones with the infodump about the world, I was just so hooked.

Like I said at the start, Valen is an amazing character, that feels very real. I really liked the way he changes throughout the book, and how no matter how low he got he was never broken. There is a strength to him that was really inspiring.

There is a lot that happens in this book, and from the cliffhanger at the end, much that will happen in the second one, and it seems that more great characters are coming. I'm just waiting for the book to arrive so that I can read it!


Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Other Reviews: Bookworm Blues | Cherry Mischievous | Fantasy Cafe

Some great articles by Carol Berg: About writing differences @Bookworm Blues | About creating characters @Fantasy Cafe

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK| Amazon US