Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year


Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

Castle in the Air
Castle in the Air is a sequel to companion to book set in the same world as book written by Diana Wynne Jones where Howl also appears. I loved Howl's Moving Castle, so I really was expecting more of the same in this book. And I really shouldn't have because this book is not about Howl, and he is not even important to the story.

This book is about Abdullah, a carpet merchant on the distant land of Zanzib. A disappointment to his father, and with a prophecy made at his birth that he knows nothing about, Abdullah is quite happy living in his booth at the edge of the Bazaar and spending his days daydreaming (and occasionally selling carpets). Everything is fine until a merchant sells him a magic carpet. Soon all his daydreams start to come true.

While reading this book, I spent most of the time trying to figure out how it related to Howl's Moving Castle. Every new character that appeared had me thinking “Is this Howl in disguise?”, “Where's Sophie?” and so on. Which, as expected, takes some of the fun out of reading.

Castle in the Air is quite a good story, and stands very well in its own. Yes, Howl and Co. do appear (eventually), but this book is about Abdullah. He is quite a wonderful character, that I can't help but relate to (it must be all those daydreams). And all the other characters that appear throughout the novel are so funny, each very different (and that means something when there about 30 princesses in there).

If I started this book with expectations of a story with the characters from the first book, by the time one of them finally appeared I only wanted to know about these new amazing characters.

Like its predecessor, this book has its fill of funny (and silly) moments, without ever sacrificing the story to humour. But, unlike Howl's Moving Castle, the inspiration for Castle in the Air comes from Arabian folklore and myths, giving it a Arabian Nights (or Aladdin) feel to it.

This is a good book, one that I feel that everyone should read – young and adult readers alike.


(4/5)

Other Reviews: Libri Touches

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Reading Challenge - 61 to 65

61 - The City & The City by China Miéville
The City & The City is the big winner this year, taking all the awards (not all, but the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo, the Locus and the Arthur C. Clarke, among others). And even if I didn’t find it mindblowing, I have to agree that all of these are well deserved.

I enjoyed reading The City & The City, and if another book is written in this universe, I'll definitely read it.

(4/5)


[Full Review]

62 - Shades of Green by Rhonda Parrish
Shades of Green is a small book, that promised to be quick – and since it was won through Goodreads I wasn't exactly sure of what to expect.

I liked this story, it was quick and to the point, and didn't really need to be any longer. And it was nice to be surprised by the ending.

(3.5/5)


[Full Review]

63 - A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
This is a science fiction children's book, winner the Newbery Medal in 1963. It is also one of the most challenged books. There are plenty of reviews singing its praises. With all this in mind I was really expecting to like it. But it didn't fulfil those expectations. In this case I know exactly why that happened: I read it too late.

(3.5/5)


[Full Review]

64 - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (what a big name!) is indeed a curious book. Told from the point of view of a teenager with Asperger's Syndrome, Christopher, it is extremely different from all the books I've read.

The book is quite is easy to read. The language is simple and to the point, and you want to read just one more chapter every chapter. When I reached the point where the book lost its charm, it was still easy to finish it – I just stopped loving it.

(3.5/5)


[Full Review]


65 - Tithe by Holly Black
There are a lot of books that stay on my wishlist for ages, and once I get them, they are the next book to read for an equal long time – to the point that I no longer remember what was it that made me want to read it so much. Tithe was on of those (although it didn't spend that much on my TBR list).

What I knew about it was that it was a dark fairytale. But it had a pretty cover, and was Young Adult so it thought it would be okay, and quite quick to read. And it was. And quite nice as well.

Tithe is a nice story, easy to read and like. There are two more books on the series that I want to check out – as well as other books by Holly Black.

(4/5)


[Full Review]

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Tithe by Holly Black

Tithe
There are a lot of books that stay on my wishlist for ages, and once I get them, they are the next book to read for an equal long time – to the point that I no longer remember what was it that made me want to read it so much. Tithe was on of those (although it didn't spend that much on my TBR list).

What I knew about it was that it was a dark fairytale – and after my encounter with Black Sun Rising I was a bit afraid. But it had a pretty cover, and was Young Adult so it thought it would be okay, and quite quick to read. And it was. And quite nice as well.

Tithe is the story of Kaye, a sixteen-year old whose life has never been normal. As a child she could see and talk to faeries (even if everyone else though it was her imaginary friends). As a teenager she followed her mother in the rockstar lifestyle, spending most of her time in bars or helping her mother sober up, and very little in school.

It all changes when she returns to her childhood house, to live with her grandmother. She tries to reconnect with her faery friends, only to discover much has changed. Of course she will then enter a world of peril and treason, and learn things about herself that she could never have imagined.

The first aspect that I'll like to point out about Tithe is that it is Urban Fantasy. Which I normally don't like. Going from “our” world into a new, fantastical (and where physics don't usually apply) world doesn't convince me much. But here it didn't bother me much. The faery world was not a easier world where everyone was super powerful and throwing giant balls of fire around. It was pretty much a different country with different rules and weirder habitants. The transition between New Jersey and the Otherworld was very well done.

But what I really liked about Tithe were all the myths (mostly Celtic) that were woven in the story. That piece of familiar plot was very nice, even if it took dark twists. These twists give some sobriety to the story – it is not all easy, and bad things happen. That is always good in a story, and is great for character development (or, like Calvin's father would say, it builds character).

The story is pretty much focused on Kaye, and I liked her as character. She fitted well in the world of faeries, and was really weird in her own world. Yet she was able to make friends on both places, without changing who she was (well, kind of, but saying why would be spoiler-ish). And the other characters are also quite good – especially Roiben, the romantic partner and not-quite-hero. Also, I had a feeling throughout the book that I didn't know for sure who was friend and who was foe, and I quite enjoyed that.

Tithe is a nice story, easy to read and like. There are two more books on the series that I want to check out – as well as other books by Holly Black.

(4/5)

Other Reviews: Fyrefly’s Book Blog | Libri Touches | Red House Books

Saturday, 18 December 2010

An update on Life, the Universe and Everything





Hello all! After a 4 days stay in the south, with no computer and limited internet access, I'm back to blogging.

And I finally know where I'll be in the next 6 to 9 months. Well, kind of. So far I know the country and the company.

These past 4 days were a mix of fun and stress. The Course in International Practises that I was forced to attend was tiring, starting at 8:30 am and only finishing at 6:30 or 7:00 pm. With little time for lunch and coffee breaks. And we had homework on the first day that kept us all awake till 2:30 am.

But I've met a lot of new people, from different places of the country, which was fun. I also re-encountered some people that I hadn't seen in years!

Some of the talks were really good - mostly the ones dealing with adapting to different countries and people telling their stories - others were completely dull and mind-numbing - the ones dealing with management of international corporation and globalization and imports and exports and *snore*.... But all the talks were just keeping us all (us 563 interns that didn't know where we would go) in a severe state of anxiety. Some talks made us want to go to that country (China! USA! Japan!), others made us dread it (China, Angola.). And the time for the big reveal seemed to never come.

But when it did come, we where all on our toes, keeping silent and praying, wishing for some places and dreading others. And they revealed the destinations alphabetically. By the name of the country.

So we started with Germany (Alemanha in Portuguese), Angola, Austria, Brazil... and my name never appeared. Each new country that showed on screen made me instantly think whether I would like to go there or not.

My destination was a country that I was both wishing and dreading. On one hand it was close to home, I could come here any time I wanted to, and I knew what it would be like. On the other hand it was close to home and I knew what it would be like, so no surprise there. As you might have guessed, the destination is Spain.


I don't know yet where in Spain I'll be, but it all points to Madrid. I'll need to train my Spanish, because right now I can understand it most of the times, but I am crap at speaking - I foresee that I'll be reading a lot of Spanish books, in Spanish.

The company is Sierra, which is part of a big Portuguese group. It is responsible for shopping centres, so I'm a bit of a loss on what I'll be doing.

I'll try to keep on posting book reviews (and maybe some recipes) in the next year.

And this is also a good time to wish everyone:

Happy Holidays!



Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (what a big name!) is indeed a curious book. Told from the point of view of a teenager with Asperger's Syndrome, Christopher, it is extremely different from all the books I've read.

It starts with Christopher discovering his neighbour's dog dead in the middle of night. And because Christopher likes detective novels, especially Sherlock Holmes, he will investigate this case to find who is the culprit.

This book was fun at first, full of quirks and things that made you think. It was amazing to see the world in such a different way, where what you say is what you mean, with no metaphors. Christopher is a wonderful character that I couldn't help to like, and with his love for science and maths, I even learnt some new things! His interactions with other people, especially strangers, were really fun to read. However I had some trouble seeing him as fifteen, I kept imagining him a bit younger.

I loved the detective part of the book, finding out all the clues to discover who killed Wellington, the dog. There were other mysteries attached to that one that we couldn't help but notice (and solve, even if Christopher couldn't). But again, there is a downside to this as well, as the the discovery of the dog killer is disappointing, because is not a result of Christopher powers of deduction, but exasperation of the guilty one that finally confesses.

And this brings me to the second part of the plot: Family Drama. After finding out who killed Wellington, Christopher's world is throw off balance, and he flees home. He will continue to investigate things, solving his own mysteries. This part was nice at start but it started to get to much drama for my tastes, especially when compared with the beginning of the book. Also, the quirks that I enjoyed at first became repetitive and lost their charm.

The book is quite is easy to read. The language is simple and to the point, and you want to read just one more chapter every chapter. When I reached the point where the book lost its charm, it was still easy to finish it – I just stopped loving it.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a nice book, that I'm glad I've read.

(3.5/5)

Other reviews: Page Turners | Reading with Tequilla

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Spoilers Blogoversary Giveaway: We have winners!

Good News Everyone!
(yes, I've been watching Futurama)

It appears we have some winners. I used random.org to draw the names, and the lucky one are:



...drumroll please...




Ana Nunes who recommended Robin Mckinley's Sunshine

Stella (Ex Libris) who recommended Master of None by Sonya Bateman and Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

Mika who recommended If I Stay by Gayle Forman


Congratulations to the three of them!

I've sent emails to confirm their choices, but if for some reason you don't receive it, contact me at quiguiigmail.com

I received a lot of good suggestions with this giveaway, so I'm sure I won't be lacking any reading material for the next year. Thanks to all who have participated.

Here is the list of all the recommendations:

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Awakened by Miss Ednah Walters
Beautiful Creatures
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
FEED by Mira Grant
Going Too Far - Jennifer Echols
Gulliver's Travels
Heist Society - Ally Carter
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Julio Cortazar's "Rayuela"
Master of None by Sonya Bateman
Matched by Ally Condie
Memoirs of a Geisha!
Mind Games by Carolyn Crane
Never let me go
Nina Wilde/Edie Chase 1: The Hunt For Atlantis
Rites of Spring, by Diana Peterfreund
Roman blood by Steven Saylor
Rot and Ruin by Maberry
Sunshine - Robin McKinley
Suzanne's diary for Nicholas
The Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neil
The Cirque De Freak series
The Distant Hours-Kate Morton
The Hollow by Jessica Verday
The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
The Riddle-Master's Game trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip
Where Rainbows End (by Cecelia Ahern)
Wintergirls (or Speak, or Twisted) by Laurie Halse Anderson

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Daughter of the Blood - Anne Bishop
(I've read these last two, but I really liked them. Very good recs.)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Spoilers Blogoversary: A year in Reviews

One year of Spoilers

So, one year ago I started posting reviews here at Spoilers and Nuts - with the review of one of my favourite book of all times: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I've read and re-read this book countless times, and simply love it. That makes today the 1 year Spoilers Blogoversary.

...well, kind of. It is the blogoversary, but that review was written on October 2009 and posted on LibraryThing. It took me about one month and a half to remember I had a blog that was supposed to be updating.

And that's the kind of blogger I am. I am usually a shy person (except on some weird days that I'm able strike interesting conversations with random strangers and generally make my options known to everyone), and internet-wise, I'm a lurker. I rarely comment (sorry folks) unless I feel like what I have to say is really important. And when I receive a comment I get all giddy because someone took the time to read what I wrote AND to comment on it. So:

Thank you all! For reading and commenting! You're the best!

It's nice to feel that someone reads what you write.


This year I challenged myself to read 75 books. So far I've read 68, which a pretty good, even if it seems I might not make it to the 75 mark. Never mind that, what is important is that I've read a lot good books (and some not so good), and I had a lot of fun doing so. Also, one of the reasons I set this challenge was so that I could ermmm... force myself to write reviews. Because I'm extremely lazy when it comes to writing, even thought I love to do it. And I've been a bit lazy lately, I have 4 books yet to review! But all in all, I consider that part of challenge completed!


And, what about next year? I'm not making any plans yet for next year because it's all a big question mark to me. I'll explain.

I've been accepted into an international internship programme that is going to start on the 15th. And that's about all I know about it. They have asked me to be available from the 15th onward, and to go to Lisbon on that day for a 3 day course. I've yet to know what I'll be doing and where in the world I'm going to be next year, and that includes knowing if I'll have time to read (gasp!!) or if I'll have internet so that I can update Spoilers and Nuts.

I'll probably know more on the 17th. Until then, I have my fingers crossed for a place where I can get a lot of books :D


And this is the majority of my books :)
Finally, the Blogoversary giveaway ends today. You have until midnight (GMT) today to enter. That means about 7 hours.

I have been reading the recommendations the participants have made, and I'm liking them. Very good recommendations in there.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Minority Report by Philip K. Dick

Minority Report
This is actually a short story, although I have it as a book. A very small book, that can be read in a flash. But that doesn't mean it's light or simple.

As a disclaimer I should point out that I haven't seen the movie that is based on this story, even if my edition has Tom Cruise staring at me on the cover. I had no idea what it was about, and I had the book on my shelf because it was an offer on a book fair.

Despite all the books I've read of the genre, I still have this silly notion that I don't like Science Fiction. I always approach such a book with care and precaution. It is silly, really, because I like Science Fiction. And this book is exactly why I like it – it is well written with a good plot that makes you think. Even if it is just a short story. (Also it is a dystopia – shall I repeat once again that I love those?)

Minority Report is set in our world, in a distant future where there are space colonies. But that's just the backdrop. The most important feature of this world is that crime doesn't exist, because criminals are punished before committing the act, therefore never committing it.

Our main character, John Anderton, is the head of the institution responsible for discovering the crimes and punishing the criminals, Precrime. This is done through three mutants known as “precogs”, that can “see” the future, each one issuing a report with the prediction.

When Anderton receives a final report stating that he is going to murder someone he suspects that someone is setting him up, and will try to clear his name even if it means fleeing justice.

There is much going on on this book. Not only it deals with paradoxes and alternate futures, there is also ethics and philosophy woven in it. The end is not surprising, but the build up to it is great, so much that there is no desire to put the book down.

I really wished that this story was written as a novel, not a short story, because what I got was a taste of something good, and I'd love to read more on this.

(4/5)

Monday, 6 December 2010

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time
This is a science fiction children's book, winner the Newbery Medal in 1963. It is also one of the most challenged books. There are plenty of reviews singing its praises. With all this in mind I was really expecting to like it. But it didn't fulfil those expectations. In this case I know exactly why that happened: I read it too late.

A Wrinkle in Time is the story of Charles Wallace, his sister Meg and his friend Calvin. They are trying to save Charles and Meg's father, a scientist that has been missing for quite a while. They have the help of three curious ladies: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Who. These will take them out of Earth to Camazotz where the evil IT has made Charles and Meg's father his prisoner.


I really didn't like the trio in adventure. Well, none of the trios. Because if there is something that is repeated here is the number 3. But back to the characters. Of the three kids that go to save Charles' father, the only one I cared a bit about was Calvin. Maybe because he appeared later on the book, or he wasn't really on the Murry family (or maybe because he was a red-head, probably that). Charles Wallace (and who calls that to a child – and I mean every time they talk to him – what a mouthful!) was just plain creepy. As child wonder, he talks very much like an adult, (actually, better than a lot of adults I know), and he is quite intelligent and perceptive of other people's emotions. And while I like smart kids, Charles had no child-like behaviour that to me he was just a very arrogant adult in a child's body. So yes, Charles was creepy. Meg, the heroine, never really managed to captivate me. She seemed to complain all the time, but do the things all the same. She probably had some depth there that was lost on me.

I'm quite sure that the characters' flaws would pass unnoticed had I read A Wrinkle in Time fifteen or ten years ago. But comparing to what I read nowadays, I couldn't fail to notice and cringe at them. And that brings to another thing that bothered me in this book. The fact that our adventurers were children (this accepting that Charles Wallace is indeed four).

Now, I have no problem with reading about kids having adventures, even if they turn out to be quite dangerous. However, I do have a problem with adults sending children on those adventures, knowing that it is dangerous, and when they could have solved the problem themselves. Although it is explained later on the book why Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which couldn't go to Camazotz, it always felt that they were cowering behind 3 small children. The reason they gave even sounded more like excuse.

The first part of the book didn't impress me. It was setting the scene and introducing the cast of characters – well, its was really getting to know their flaws. It is unremarkable, and just a way to get to the part where the action begins. The positive part is that it can be read quickly.

When the cast finally reaches Camazotz the book picks up. The Science Fiction appears, with its dystopia and mind controlling evil overlord. That I liked, it is exactly my sort of thing. And while the rest of the book is just mediocre, the Camazotz part is pretty good. If I had read this as a child I would be seriously frightened by that place. Even now, it causes some discomfort. Still, despite being a good dystopia, it was all very rushed and didn't make much sense.

I will not be continuing this series. The first book was enough for me, as I didn't really care for the characters, and there were few things about the plot that I liked.

(3,5/5)

Other Reviews:
Everything To Do With Books | Libri Touches | Page Turners




Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Spoilers Blogoversary and the end of the year coming - Time for a Book Giveaway

Like the post title says, Spoilers and Nuts' Spoilers blogoversary is approaching. And there is also the end of the year and all the festivities associated with it, so there is yet more reasons to celebrate. And, although I'm still not sure I'll meet the 75 books mark I proposed myself to reach, I'll get very close to that.

If only I could find a way to celebrate it all together..... Oh wait, I can! Let's host a giveaway!

So here are the rules for the first giveaway I ever hosted. Mmmm, let's call it Spoilers and Nuts giveaway, and make things really complicated for people to enter.

Not really, but I do ask for some things.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Shades of Green by Rhonda Parrish

Shades of Green
Note: I received this book through Goodreads First Reads Programme

Synopsis: Z’thandra, the last swamp elf in Aphanasia, lives with the Reptar, a fierce race of lizard-people, most of whom resent her presence and want her gone from their village. When she discovers a human in the swamp and falls in love with him she must face the most difficult decision of her life. Will she pursue a life of happiness with the man she loves and in doing so condemn the Reptar to extinction, or will she chose to sacrifice her future to offer them hope? In the end the choice she makes will affect the Reptar for generations.

Opinion: Shades of Green is a small book, that promised to be quick – and since it was won through Goodreads I wasn't exactly sure of what to expect.

The story is simple, in the way that follows only one character, but there still a fair amount of background history to keep me interested. However, I wished there was a bit more on the book about History of the Curse, there is something good there that could have be expanded.

The races that are presented are all humanoids, but all different in culture and looks. The ones we get to know a lot about are the Reptar, and I have to admit Reptelian humanoids are not my kind of thing (well, animal-based humanoids are not my kind of thing – always found it a bit silly), but they grew on me as I was learning more about them.

The main character, however, is a swamp elf, the last of her kind, and we learn about the resentment the Reptar in her village towards her, and how she learns to endure it. She is faced with some tough choices and it was nice to see how she came to terms with her decisions.

As I was closing in on the end, I was predicting the regular ending of this kind of stories. How wrong I was. The ending was unexpected, different, and yet suitable to the story. Things might have happen a tad too fast for my liking but it was a good ending.

One thing I have to point out is that the book could have benefited from better editing. There weren't any major flaws in it, but I did find some errors.

I liked this story, it was quick and to the point, and didn't really need to be any longer. And it was nice to be surprised by the ending.

(3.5/5)

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The City & The City by China Miéville

The City & The City by China Miéville
The City & The City is the big winner this year, taking all the awards (not all, but the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo, the Locus and the Arthur C. Clarke, among others). And even if I didn’t find it mindblowing, I have to agree that all of these are well deserved.

But although these awards scream Fantasy and Science Fiction, in its essence The City & The City is detective fiction, a murder mystery with some stokes of dystopia. The main character, Tyador Borlú, a detective in the Besź police, is faced with the murder of a young woman, who no one knows the name, no one knows who she is, and who no one is missing. The investigation of this murder will reveal that there is more than it seems, will upset rebel and political groups, and will take Borlú across the most peculiar of borders.

The City & The City was a different book, one that I liked immensely. More than the characters and the story, I liked the cities, the wordbuilding, that was complex and believable, without losing its magic. It was a place I wish I could visit, especially because there is a complexity in geography that, were it to exist, would be amazing to experience.

I did like the story, and had trouble putting the book down. There was much that was about the crime itself, but there was also space for explaining the culture of the cities, and their common history (even if I wished there was a bit more about the Precursor Era). But I must confess there was some predictability on the plot. By the middle of the book I already knew which was going to be Borlú's fate, even if I didn't have a clue about who was the murderer.

Another thing that I liked about The City & The City was the dystopia side of it, a dystopia that is not that much political, but more cultural, made of bogeymen and fear.

But there were things that I didn't like about this book. One of them was the writing style. I'm not sure why, I had no problem in Perdido Street Station, but here I kept finding it hard to follow. The other thing isn't so much a dislike, but something that dampened my enjoyment of the book, and it was the fact that I felt distant from the characters. They were good characters, but the story was something that was happening far away from me, I wasn't there with them.

I enjoyed reading The City & The City, and if another book is written in this universe, I'll definitely read it.

(4/5)

Other Reviews: Dreams and Speculation | Stuff

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Vouchers, Reviewing and Writing

Vouchers
Bookdepository is giving away -10% vouchers that we can share with friends, so if you want one, just fill in the form below - I'll send you one.





Reviewing
A few days ago The Undercover Book Lover (Not Really) posted about an article about the top 20 most annoying book reviewer cliches and how to use them all in one meaningless review. It's a very interesting article, and some of those clichés do make me think of reviews right away. I'm even guilty of some of them.

Here is the list:

1. Gripping

2. Poignant: if anything at all sad happens in the book, it will be described as poignant

3. Compelling

4. Nuanced: in reviewerspeak, this means, "The writing in the book is really great. I just can't come up with the specific words to explain why."

5. Lyrical: see definition of nuanced, above.

6. Tour de force

7. Readable

8. Haunting

9. Deceptively simple: as in, "deceptively simple prose"

10. Rollicking: a favorite for reviewers when writing about comedy/adventure books

11. Fully realized

12. At once: as in, "Michael Connelly's The Brass Verdict is at once a compelling mystery and a gripping thriller." See, I just used three of the most annoying clichés without any visible effort. Piece of cake.

13. Timely

14. " X meets X meets X": as in, "Stephen King meets Charles Dickens meets Agatha Christie in this haunting yet rollicking mystery."

15. Page-turner

16. Sweeping: almost exclusively reserved for books with more than 300 pages

17. That said: as in, "Stephenie Meyer couldn't identify quality writing with a compass and a trained guide; that said, Twilight is a harmless read."

18. Riveting

19. Unflinching: used to describe books that have any number of unpleasant occurences -- rape, war, infidelity, death of a child, etc.

20. Powerful


The prize of the competition
Writing
The final item of this post is about writing, my own writing. Juliet Marillier Café and Mundo Mariller, together with the author Juliet Marillier held a creative writing competition to win a copy of her new book, Seer of Sevenwaters (that I'm anxiously waiting for).

I participated on JM Café, with a prose text. Unfortunately I didn't win. If you are curious about my piece, you can read it here.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Reading Challenge - 56 to 60

56 - The Restaurant at the end of the Universe by Douglas Adams
The Restaurant at the end of the Universe is the second book on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, and it is much like the first one. It is a lot of fun, very silly, and very good.

[Full Review]

(4/5)





57 - Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
I really liked Poison Study and, even if the plot was predictable at times, the characters made the book a page turner. I'll keep on reading the rest of the series because I really want to know more about these characters and this world, especially about Commander and Ixia.

[Full Review]

(4/5)


58 - Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
This is a good sequel to Poison Study, the story continues where it was left off on the first book, with Yelena going to Sitia, ready to start to learn about magic. Of course, with Yelena being Yelena trouble does not take long to appear. This means that there is a plot full of action, danger, and Yelena doing what she does best – saving the day!

I liked Magic Study as much as I did Poison Study, it was a good follow up book, where I got to know more about the those two lands, and was presented with more great characters.

[Full Review]

(4/5)

59 - Black Sun Rising by C. S. Friedman
I had a lot of expectations for this book. It seemed like a good fantasy book, long and dark. But I just couldn't finish it. And that is a rare thing for me.

I made it to page 335 out of 589 – in the middle of an earthquake, where the characters have two options and both mean death, and close to the Castle of the Evil Guy – but I really have no desire to keep reading or find out what happens next.

[Full Review]

(1/5)


60 - Mordred's curse by Ian McDowell
Mordred's Curse starts with what I felt was like a slap in the face. It took me by surprise, both due to the language and the intensity of it.

After the initial surprise was gone, the book proved to be both enjoyable and memorable.

[Full Review]

(4.5/5)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Mordred's curse by Ian McDowell

Mordred's Curse
Mordred's Curse starts with what I felt was like a slap in the face. It took me by surprise, both due to the language and the intensity of it. It goes like this:

“I don't care what Guinevere and Gawain say; this won't be Mordred's Life of Arthur, but Mordred's Life of Mordred. Fuck them; they can chronicle my sanctimonious progenitor's exploits if they've got the stomach for it.”

These first sentences are a great synopsis of the book, much better than the one found on the back cover. After the initial surprise was gone, the book proved to be both enjoyable and memorable.

First, I have to say I'm not a fan of the Arthurian Legend – I mean, I like it well enough, but I don't go out of my way to get books on the subject (in short, meh...). This happens mostly because I don't really care for Arthur. Or Guinevere. And even Merlin doesn't interest me that much. The one character I do like, mostly because of his complexity in terms of relationships (and also because no-one likes him), is Mordred. So this book was like an early Christmas: a book about Mordred, told by Mordred, just like his autobiography.

But despite this, I was actually amazed by how much I enjoyed this book.

Like I said before, Mordred's Curse tells the story of Mordred, even though this is not complete, and about his relationship with the other characters. Truth be told, most of the appeal of the book was how Mordred related to others (and others to him), and not so much about his deeds and adventures (although those are good too).

Most of these relationships are with members of his family: with Lot, his “father”, where there is no love, and much hate; with Morgawse, his mother, that is heavily influenced by her relationship with Arthur; with Gawain, the older brother; with Guinevere, in a role usually given to Lancelot (who is absent in this tale).

And of course with Arthur. This played a very important role in the story, and I really loved to see all the variations and shifts. A lot of Mordred's actions are a result of Arthur's attitude towards him – first as his uncle, then as his father.

But, concerning character development, it seems that Arthur and Merlin (who makes only a brief appearance) seem to have drawn the shortest straw. Their characterisation didn't convince me as much as the others characters did.

Going back to the language, Mordred's Curse is full of cursing (pun intended). As well as the swear words, there are a lot of innovative ways to insult someone. Add the fact that the descriptions are quite vivid, and Mordred does describe some gory and gross things, this book may not be everyone.

I really liked it, though, and will try to find a copy of the second book – Merlin's gift.

(4.5/5)

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Black Sun Rising by C. S. Friedman

Black Sun Rising
I had a lot of expectations for this book. It seemed like a good fantasy book, long and dark. But I just couldn't finish it. And that is a rare thing for me.

Black Sun Rising is a mixture of Science Fiction and Fantasy. It is set in the Planet Erna, that has been colonised by the human race. Yet this planet is very different from Earth, where there are fae currents going around that can be Worked like magic. This can be done consciously or not, and the latter can be quite dangerous as it makes nightmares and other terrible things come true.

The plot was slow moving, and at points I felt that it completely stopped. There were paragraphs that said nothing of consequence, and others where a small sentence would have sufficed. The story is also full of twists that, maybe because of the pacing, never really astonished me or made me care.

Yep, just like this.
What I also didn't care about were the characters – I couldn't really connect with them. The only one that I sort of liked was Gerald Tarrant, but that wasn't so much because of any qualities he had, but because I kept imagining him as David Bowie. His character was somewhat less one-dimensional than the others, but still there isn't that much to him – and the big twist concerning him was quite obvious since the beginning.

The world building was actually pretty good, and I'm still left wondering a bit about it. Yet not enough that justifies the torment of continuing to read the book.

About half-way through this it was getting harder and harder to stay interested on the story. I went to look for reviews to find out if it got better or not (some say yes, some say it gets even worse towards the end). Yet I couldn't read much more – I simply stopped caring about the entire thing and went to Wikipedia to read the plot summary and call it quits.

So, I made it to page 335 out of 589 – in the middle of an earthquake, where the characters have two options and both mean death, and close to the Castle of the Evil Guy – but I really have no desire to keep reading or find out what happens next.

(1/5)




Your ad here.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Magic Study
This is a good sequel to Poison Study, the story continues where it was left off on the first book, with Yelena going to Sitia, ready to start to learn about magic. Of course, with Yelena being Yelena trouble does not take long to appear. This means that there is a plot full of action, danger, and Yelena doing what she does best – saving the day!

This book reminded me somewhat of the English tests I used to take, where I was asked to compare and contrast two photos. Here I have two countries to do just that, each with its problems and differences. The southern country of Sitia is nothing like Ixia – it is a much warmer country, where there are no military districts (actually there seems to be very little military) but clans, ruled by a council, and where magicians are treasured and educated instead of hunted down and killed.

Like in Poison Study, I liked that the author showed that no place is perfect, that people in power have different motivations, and, above all, that nothing is as simple as black and white.

And just like the previous book, this one also features very good characters, that you wish you could spend more time with. This is true for both new and old characters, even if the latter (with the exception of Yelena and Irys) take some time to appear. While I was engrossed with learning about Sitia, having a lot of fun with my new charcters, in the back of my mind I was always wondering what was happening in Ixia, and how my favourite characters were faring. And yet, to me, the best character on this book was a horse. This shows how good Maria V. Snyder is at creating great characters!

Being set in Sitia, where magic is not outlawed and is actually a predominant part of its culture, meant that I got to learn more about the magic in the series, the hows and whys. Unfortunately I wasn't entirely convinced about it, it seemed to me a bit vague, and unformed. Also, for something that is seemingly random, that you either have it or not, a lot of the characters appeared to be lucky on that aspect (although the fact that most part of the book is set on a magic school contributes to this), and it did irk me a bit that all of them were such powerful magicians.

I liked Magic Study as much as I did Poison Study, it was a good follow up book, where I got to know more about the those two lands, and was presented with more great characters.

(4/5)

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study
The back cover says:

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered a reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace, and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust, and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and she develops magical powers she can't control. Her life’s at stake again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear!

Poison Study was fun to read, with a lot of action from beginning to end. The plot was interesting, even if at times entirely predictable. Even so, knowing how it was going to play out didn't take the joy out of reading, and the few times it did manage to surprise me were good ones.

The greatest thing about Poison Study were the characters. It wasn't so much about the story but how the characters related to each other and what made them tick. I especially liked Yelena, the main character, and Valek (of course), but the others were close behind in likeability.

The worldbuilding in this book is also very good, even if simple. We have two countries: Ixia, where the action takes place; and Sitia, a country that is seen as a haven for those who want to flee Ixia. Ixia is under a military dictatorship, but what is great in Poison Study, is that the inclusion of a “bad” type of government is not a green card to assume everyone in power is bad. Sure they have their flaws, and lack of freedom is something I never like, but as I got to know the Commander (the one who rules Ixia) I realized he wasn't going to be portrayed as evil and manipulative. I should have been expecting it, with a main character that is an assassin and spy, but I was impressed with the shades of grey of most characters, which is a thing that I always love.

I really liked Poison Study and, even if the plot was predictable at times, the characters made the book a page turner. I'll keep on reading the rest of the series because I really want to know more about these characters and this world, especially about Commander and Ixia.

(4/5)


Other Reviews: 25 Hour Books | Bookworming in the 21st Century | Cuidado com o Dálmata | Queen of Happy Endings | What book is that?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The restaurant at the end of the Universe by Douglas Adams

The restaurant at the end of the Universe
Come along on a zany journey to the low-rent neighbourhood of the Cosmos with earthling Arthur Dent, sexy space cadet Trillian, that imperturbable alien Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed ex-head Honcho of All Creation.

The Restaurant at the end of the Universe is the second book on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, and it is much like the first one. It is a lot of fun, very silly, and very good.

There is more plot to this book, and I loved that. In The Restaurant at the end of the Universe Zaphod Beeblebrox is looking for the man who actually rules the Universe, something the old-himself told him to do before locking part of his brain away. In short, Zaphod is looking for the man who rules the Universe but he doesn't know why.

So through hops in space and time, where Zaphod leads, Ford and Trillian follow without contributing much to the story, Arthur continues his search for a decent cup of tea, and Marvin is simply depressed the entire time, these travellers will visit the most iconic places in the Universe, such as the Restaurant that gives name to the book, a concert by the band Disaster Area, the headquarters of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Total Perspective Vortex, and Earth.

However, this book was not as great as the first one. There a sense of unoriginality to it, that became quite blatant when the jokes started to repeat themselves. They were still good, but they were almost word for word the ones on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Nevertheless I enjoyed this book. There were some great parts, not only the jokes but some that just made me go awww, and gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Favourite quote:
"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."

(4/5)

Monday, 18 October 2010

Reading Challenge - 50 to 55

One of the goals I had with this challenge was met: I managed to write proper reviews, instead of small ones, for the entire Challenge post! Hurray for me!


50 - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games is a dystopian young adult novel, and, even if I'm slowly moving away from young adult literature, I love dystopias.

I know I will read the next two in the series, even if I'm expecting to be somewhat disappointed (from what I could gather from skimming the reviews for Mockingjay). With a more definite ending, The Hunger Games could easily be a standalone book – an a very good one at that.

(4/5)

[Full Review]



51 - The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma
I was expecting great things out of The Map of Time, after reading my friend's review of it. What I was not expecting was that it would be so good and marvellous – a strong candidate to The Best Book I Read This Year.

(5/5)

[Full Review]




52 - Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I'm of two minds concerning Catching Fire. On one hand, it felt like a disappointment, on the other it pressed all the right buttons to keep me reading until the wee hours of the morning.

(3.5/5)

[Full Review]



53 - Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay is the last book on the Hunger Games series, a series which, in my opinion, had its peak on the first book.

Mockingjay was entertaining at first, but lost all of its appeal midway when the angst became too much – to the point that I lost all interest in it.

(2.5/5)

[Full Review]



54 - Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Graceling is a very good fantasy book, that seemed almost impossible to put down. And that smile that I had when I was reading stayed on my face long after I finished the last page. Truth be told, it comes back every time I think about this book. A fun read, and most importantly a great read.

(4.5/5)

[Full Review]


55 - Fire by Kristin Cashore
Fire is the companion book of Graceling, a sort of prequel set in the same universe, but not on the same lands, with different characters and different elements. In short, if it weren't for one character in common and some references to the Graceling world, it could have been a totally different book.

I liked this book, but kept comparing it to Graceling, which is not really fair. The book stands well on its own, it is very enjoyable, with a good plot, good characters and good worldbuilding.

(4/5)

[Full Review]

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire
Fire is the companion book of Graceling, a sort of prequel set in the same universe, but not on the same lands, with different characters and different elements. In short, if it weren't for one character in common and some references to the Graceling world, it could have been a totally different book.

This book takes place on the other side of the mountains, where there are no Gracelings, but that doesn't mean there aren't special powers. What exists in The Dells are special people and animals, which draw the normal ones to them, and have powers of their own. These are called monsters, and Fire, the protagonist of the book, is one of them. But, even if the name suggests something hideous, Fire can only be described as a great beauty, which mesmerises most men, to the point marriages proposals (among other things) are commonplace for her.

The story starts with an archer that mistakenly shoots Fire, but before he can say who he is and who he is working for he is killed. Fire will try to discover who was this archer, getting tangled up in political matters. However, as a monster, people don't trust her, and she has decide if helping her King is worth both the distrust of everyone and the fact that they are using her for her monster-qualities.

I believe I shouldn't have read this book right after Graceling, it suffered from comparison. Because while I liked this one, it didn't make me squee like a schoolgirl the way Graceling did. But I really should try to make a review that the doesn't focus on the differences between the first and second book (and will undoubtedly fail).

Fire is interesting, with a political plot as well as some romance. It was easy to go to this new world, even with what I knew from the first one. I kept turning page after page, not noticing the end was coming, and that the hours were passing.

I really have to show my admiration for the author, because it is not easy to come up with a world where there are fuchsia raptors, and not making it sound like a bad trip on acid. Fuchsia and lime animals didn't make me stare at the pages in disbelief, it added more magic to a place that I kept seeing in dull greys and browns.

If in Graceling one of the themes was Kings, in Fire we have Fathers, and I enjoyed slowly learning about Fire's father, even if there was not much surprise to its ending. It served to show how Fire grew, and the reason to a lot of the discrimination and hate she was constantly facing.

I liked this book, but kept comparing it to Graceling, which is not really fair. The book stands well on its own, it is very enjoyable, with a good plot, good characters and good worldbuilding.

(4/5)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling
In the land of the Seven Kingdoms there are people born with special abilities, and the way to tell them apart is by their eyes – one of each colour. They are called Gracelings, and their power is their Grace. Katsa is a Graceling, and her Grace is killing, which is exploited by her cousin, the King – Katsa is his assassin and thug, doing his dirty work intimidating, maiming and killing whoever opposes him.

But Katsa keeps her mind, and has started to do some work on her own, trying to put right the wrongs done by all the Kings of the Seven Kingdoms. And when the Lienid King's father is kidnapped, she has to investigate.

This kidnapping is the connecting thread in the story, present from beginning to end, and although more quests and subplots are added to it, it does not deviate from wanting to know who kidnapped Grampa. That was one of the main things I loved about Graceling, the fact that by the end of the book I could still see the connection to the beginning of the story.

One thing that I can say about this book is that it was so much fun to read. I had a smile plastered on my face the entire time (which meant people looking at me oddly on the train), and there were a lot of parts where I was chuckling and snickering.

The story was very captivating, even if not exactly surprising. It reads well as a standalone (although there is prequel published and a sequel announced), the story has a beginning and an end. And regarding the ending, I confess to be dreading it when I was coming close to the last pages. There were merely 50 pages ahead of me and most of the plot was yet unresolved, and with no prospects of being resolved soon. But I needn't fear – when the end came about it was perfect and fulfilling.

I loved the characters one this book (so much that it saddens me that Fire is a prequel and not a sequel). It was easy to love all the good characters, and fear the evil ones. And even if the ending was fulfilling to the point that I consider the story finished, I still want more, more adventures with those characters, more time exploring that world, because I absolutely loved it.

Graceling is a very good fantasy book, that seemed almost impossible to put down. And that smile that I had when I was reading stayed on my face long after I finished the last page. Truth be told, it comes back every time I think about this book. A fun read, and most importantly a great read.

(4.5/5)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This review contains spoilers for the entire Hunger Games series. Proceed with care. There are also some comments about the series at the end.

Mockingjay
Mockingjay is the last book on the Hunger Games series, a series which, in my opinion, had its peak on the first book.

After being rescued by the rebels from District 13, Katniss becomes a vital part of their plan to overthrow the government from the Capitol. They believe she can rally all the districts to a common cause. But for that to happen she has to become the symbol of defiance, the Mockingjay.

However, the bad news are that the rebels weren't able to rescue everyone, and President Snow has Peeta as a prisoner, and isn't below playing dirty to get what he wants.

Mockingjay is clearly inferior to The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. There is the bonus of the greater development of the back story (and I believe there is no reason, or excuse, to do that only on the last book of the series), but even that left more questions unanswered.

The story was captivating enough at first, especially because I was learning so much about District 13 and their militaristic society. However the drama and angst started to pile up so much that I eventually got so fed up with it that I just wanted it to be over.

There was some development on the characters as well, which I liked even if the direction it took was not to my liking. Katniss lost most of her self-assuredness, becoming a depressed, lost and even weak girl. In fact, she became the opposite of what she was in the beginning of the series. This sense of loss had its impact on the storytelling because, as it is told from her point of view in the 1st person, her confusion was my confusion, and there where times I truly felt like screaming at her to wake up and start doing something.

Although there was a clear evolution to the characters, I'm not sure the same can be said about the society of Panem. One phrase that came to my mind at the beginning of the book and stuck was “Out of the frying pan and into the fire”, which I believe describes what happened. I'm not sure the general population got a better deal out of this revolution and, unfortunately, by the end of the book I'm still left wondering.

One of my fears after reading Catching Fire was that I wasn't going to have a fulfilling ending, and I'm afraid I was right about that. But by the point it came about it didn't bother me so much as I thought it would – I was quite bored already with the story and didn't care whichever way it ended, only that it did.

Mockingjay was entertaining at first, but lost all of its appeal midway when the angst became too much – to the point that I lost all interest in it.

(2.5/5)



I do, however, have some comments to make on the entire series, and some questions left unanswered.

First, I must say I felt that this series suffered from being targeted to young adults. Young Adult Literature can be great, there are a lot of examples of that, but there are also a lot of examples where it seems that something is missing, some depth, and this holds true for the Hunger Games. I cared about the world, the politics, the society. What I did not care about was long descriptions of dresses, spa treatments, waxing of legs and constant angst about which boy to pick.

Another thing that irked me a bit was the use of first person, present tense. First person narrative is not easy, it limits what can be said about other characters, and usually makes it impossible to know what is happening outside the scope of “our” character. Present tense, although it allows for the reader to identify with the character more easily, can be awkward, especially when trying to convey the passage of time. And it was on this point that I didn't like its use on the series. Every time there was a break in the story time, be it days or just a couple of hours, I had to get my bearings and realise that it was not a continuation of the previous action.

My biggest question, and I have to admit it only started to really nag me on the third book, is: What about the rest of World? What happened to them? On the first book it is mentioned that Panem is in US. With that in mind, I had the picture of the United States – with the districts somewhere in there. But when on the beginning of Mockingjay the story of District 13 is being told, and there is the part when it says that they had no help because no other district would help it, the question about the rest of the world becomes quite blatant. Couldn't they have gone to Canada for help? I'm not talking about crossing an ocean, or half the world, just the non-existent border.

On Catching Fire, when they are inserting Katniss' tracker I realised I didn't think much about her first tracker. They must have taken it out, otherwise they wouldn't need to get her a new one. And it must be removed, it doesn't disappear, otherwise Johanna wouldn't have to dig through Katniss' arm to get it out.
But if I was a government keen on spying and controlling the population, and since the Victors of the Hunger Games are the heroes of their district (and a bit a sign of defiance – they played by Capitol's rules and survived), I would want to keep a tracker on them, know exactly where they are, and if they were meeting other Victors.

Also on Catching Fire, at the beginning, President Snow make it quite certain that he knew Gale wasn't just a cousin, he even said he knew about the kiss. He was also in a bit of trouble with the other districts thinking of Katniss as a sign of rebellion – their icon of rebellion, actually. Wouldn't it make much more sense to try to undermine Katniss' popularity, make her dislikeable (which is not that hard, especially since Peeta was the only reason for her likeability), by showing how she was lying to Peeta, “going behind his back” with another boy? She would become evil to the eyes of most viewers, lose her power, and her fame as a girl-in-love. She wouldn't be a suitable Mockingjay, if most of the people didn't like her.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

This review contains spoilers, both to The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

Catching Fire
I'm of two minds concerning Catching Fire. On one hand, it felt like a disappointment, on the other it pressed all the right buttons to keep me reading until the wee hours of the morning.

Catching Fire continues where The Hunger Games left off, with Katniss and Peeta preparing for the Victory Tour, where they will visit all the other districts and the Capitol. But if facing the families of the Tributes that died on the Games wasn't bad enough, President Snow himself has showed Katniss that he wasn't happy with the stunt she pulled off during the Games, ensuring that she and Peeta could both win. This move, which was an act of survival, was seen in the districts as an act of rebellion, and with Katniss as poster girl for their movement. Snow issues her an ultimatum: either she convinces everyone that she is no rebel, and calms down the districts, or district 12 and all her friends will suffer.

I had a lot of hopes on this book. I hoped to learn more about Panem, the Capitol and the Districts, a bit more of its history, and how the Games affected each district. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of that. The Victory Tour, that could have given so much insight into the other districts, was gone in a flash. Only one incident is described fully to show the effect Katniss has, all the others are merely mentioned. Yet there was some much time devoted to Katniss' dresses and body hair.

Once it's clear that the rebellion is not calming down, the book picks up a bit. And the response from the Capitol is unexpected. However, I felt cheated because I would be thrown in what was basically the premise of the first book – the Games. Even if I knew the games would be the redeeming feature of the book, I would have preferred a more original plot. But I guess you don't change a winning team, so the author kept with what made the first book enjoyable.

And believe me, when the Games start the book get really good, there is a lot of character development, both the major one and their new “friends”, and the Games themselves are different, because there are different motivations behind it.

Another thing that got on my nerves (and I mean, really got on my nerves) was the ending. I know the series was already planned out, with the 3 books, so it's normal to have cliffhangers between them. But the ending of Catching Fire doesn't even deserve that classification – to me it shows that the author cannot come to a conclusion of the story, even if it is going to continue, and this (together with some reviews) makes me dread the end of Mockingjay, the last one on the series.

But, like I said in the beginning, this book kept me awake until very early in the morning, reading just one more chapter until I got to the end. Even if most my expectations were not met, and there were things that I didn't enjoy.

(3.5/5)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma

The Map of Time is available in Spanish (El Mapa del Tiempo) and Portuguese (O Mapa do Tempo). It will be released in English on June, 9th 2011.


I was expecting great things out of The Map of Time, after reading my friend's review of it. What I was not expecting was that it would be so good and marvellous – a strong candidate to The Best Book I Read This Year.

The Map of Time defies classification, it embodies Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Steampunk, Mystery, Romance, Metafiction and even Biography, all of this articulated seamlessly into one book.

The setting is Victorian London, where Murray Time Travel Company offers the chance to travel to the year 2000, and see the the final confrontation between humans and automatons.

There are three main characters, as there are three stories: Andrew Harrington, who has been half-living since Jack, the Ripper murdered the love of his life, the Whitechappel prostitute Mary Kelly, and is quite ready to end that; Miss Claire Haggerty, who feels that she was born on the wrong time period, quite certain that she will never be happy; and finally H. G. Wells. The writer of The Time Machine, which is also an important book within the story, as it motivates innumerable characters to try Time Travel.

I absolutely loved this book – the plot, the characters, the writing, but most of all, the narrator. Although he was not one of the characters, he was the connection between the reader and the London in the book. His tone was quirky, and the entire book felt like a story that was being told to me, and only me. Much like an aside during a theatrical play.

It's hard to talk about the plot of this book, without giving to much away, and believe me, you wouldn't want spoilers on this one. It's full of twists and turns, so much that you end up with a general feeling of suspicion towards the author at the beginning of each part. But by the end, you'll still be in love with the story.

I can say only good things about The Map of Time, a great book, indeed.

(5/5)




Your ad here.

Monday, 4 October 2010

What should I read next? (3)

I am starting the final book of The Hunger Games, and as always when I finish a series, I'm a at a loss of what should I read next.

The options this time are:

Black Sun Rising by C. S. Friedman
The Coldfire trilogy tells a story of discovery and battle against evil on a planet where a force of nature exists that is capable of reshaping the world in response to psychic stimulus. This terrifying force, much like magic, has the power to prey upon the human mind, drawing forth a person's worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life. This is the story of two men: one, a warrior priest ready to sacrifice anything and everything for the cause of humanity's progress; the other, a sorcerer who has survived for countless centuries by a total submission to evil. They are absolute enemies who must unite to conquer an evil greater than anything their world has ever known.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight--she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po's friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace--or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente
Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse - a voyage permitted only to those who've always believed there's another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night.
To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They've each lost something important - a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life - and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Choose: A quick death...or a slow poison...About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace - and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust - and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonising death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
On the treacherous streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. Within this elite, dangerous world, Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless--until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye.