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.