Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I Loved But Never Wrote A Review For

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week a theme for a list is suggested. This week is Books You Loved But Never Wrote A Review For (either books you loved and couldn't bring yourself to write a review for or books that you read long before blogging...time to give them a shoutout!)

There are a lot of books that fit this category, so I had a little trouble selecting. Some I chose because they are not very well known and deserve a shout-out.

1 - Earthsea Trilogy Quartet Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favourite authors, and that love started with this series. A Wizard of Earthsea was being advertised as a Harry Potter kind-of-book (despite being much older, and altogether different), and so I dove in into it. And loved it. And then I went for the next book in the series, The Tombs of Atuan, which I loved even more, and then kept reading, and reading, and discovering there were more books and short-stories.

In total there are 6 books, in which the 5th one, Tales from Earthsea, is a collection of short-stories set in the same world (and one of them a bridge between book 4, Tehanu, and book 6, The Other Wind).

Tombs of Atuan (Book 2) and Tales of Earthsea (Book 5) are my favourites, but all of them are marvellous. I love the characters and especially the world building. Bonus points: Dragons!

2 - The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I will probably make a proper review of this one because I plan on re-read it soon.
The Hobbit was not my first Tolkien book, I had just finished The Lord of the Rings, and I NEEDED MORE! MORE! So, I read the Hobbit. The Hobbit was the first book that I read in English (besides picture books), but since this is, in essence, a book for children, it wasn't much of a problem.
Reading The Hobbit after reading The Lord of the Rings (plus all the annexes) means I knew part of what was going to happen, at least relating to the One Ring. But there is so much more to this story than just Gollum and Bilbo. I loved every bit of it!

3 - The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
After being finished with the first books of Earthsea I went to look at everything else that Ursula K. Le Guin wrote, and found out most of it was Science Fiction. The problem was I was under the impression I didn't like Science Fiction (in truth what I don't like is Space Opera, but I only learnt the difference much later). I gave The Left Hand of Darkness a try, it had a cool name.

And I loved it. In a way it was a good book to start, there are just some references to advanced technology and other planets, the plot is all set in Winter (the planet, in constant winter, hence its name), and deals with social and political issues. So, the only thing different from a non-science fiction book was that it was not on Earth, and most of the characters were not human.

The thing that sold this book to me was actually the natives of Winter. They were pretty much like any Earthling, except that they are androgynous and asexual for most of their lives, until they get to the reproductive phase when they can either became male or female. The complexity of relationships and how the entire society was based on different physiological features was the high point of this book.

4 - Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
This started with a band, Gogol Bordello. It's lead singer, Eugene Hutz, plays Alex in the movie based on this book, and some of their songs are on the soundtrack. So I watched the movie, and it's a favourite of mine. So I had to read the book.

If the movie is wacky, the book is wackier, crazier, but also more bittersweet. In the book there are 3 stories: Alex's story, the (dubious) history of Jonathan's ancestors, and Alex's letters to Jonathan, mostly commenting on his own story, but also commenting (and complaining) about Jonathan's version of his family history.

I loved this book. A lot.

5 - Voice of Fire by Alan Moore
Alan Moore is known for his graphic novels, but my first contact with his work was this book. It's a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy, and really surreal and weird. Good weird. It's a collection of short-stories, set in the same point in space (that point being Northampton, England) but spanning 6000 years.

The first story/chapter of this book is something I have to talk about. Set in 4000BC, the narrator/main character has a limited vocabulary and very little grammatical coherence. Meaning that it's a hell to try to understand what is going on at all. It's more like a detective work. But that is part of the fun, trying to figure out what is going on. I also have to applaud the Portuguese translator, because translating gibberish and maintaining its little sense while not losing its gibberish quality is a huge feat.

The rest of the stories are really good, some irreverent, some sad. One of these days I will re-read this book.

6 - The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales by J.R.R Tolkien
...or anything related with the Lord of the Rings.
I love the world building of Middle Earth, and the way that The Silmarillion is a History book for the whole thing.

The story of Lord of the Rings is really gripping, and while reading it I felt immense joy and despair. That is actually one of the reasons I have trouble re-reading it, I can't get through Bilbo's birthday party knowing how much bad it gets towards book 3. But there is really not much need for another Lord of the Rings review, so I'll just say: it's good and I love it.

7 - Books by Juliet Marillier that I haven't reviewed (yet)
I love this author, and I have reviewed some of her books, some because I read them not so long ago, others because I re-read them not so long ago. But there are are still a lot of them that I love and have yet to do so. Namely, The Daughter of the Forest, The Child of the Prophecy, The Heir to Sevenwaters, The Light Islands Saga and the Wildwood books.

I will most certainly re-read those in the near future, so I might review them then. Suffice to say, I love them all.

8 - American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Fantasy with mythology, and very dark, this one was right up my alley. It has some interludes, or short stories inside the main story, that were weird and disturbing, but my overall opinion of this book is WOW. There is a grittiness to it that I particularly liked.

The main character, Shadow, took some time to get to know and like, but there is an assortment of secondary characters that are simply amazing.

9 - A Segunda Manhã do Mundo by Manuel de Pedrolo [not available in English, original in Catalan: Mecanoscrit del segon origen]
This was another book I picked up based on the title alone. The second morning of the world, as translated in the Portuguese version. And it's a name that summarizes well this short book. It's a post apocalyptic story, about two kids that survived the apocalypse, and how they manage to survive (and repopulate the world).

I loved post apocalyptic stories, and this one was really good. It portrayed very well the hardships of two teenagers suddenly all alone in the world, and what had to be done in other to survive.

10 - Terra Prometida by José Manuel Fajardo [not available in English, original in Spanish: El Converso]
This one is Historical Fiction, set in 17th century and is the story of two man who keep re-encountering each other in different times, in different places in the world, and in different situations (not always the best), and manage to help each other out each time (while keeping score). But most of all is a story about freedom, something both men seek, although for different reasons.

I loved the writing in this one, and the different cultures portrayed: Caribbean, Arabic and European. The way the stories of the two men connected was marvellous, even if at times it was a surprise they did connect at all.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Fire Study
When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire,
people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before....

Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

*Warning: Spoilers. And Rant.*

I was going to start by saying this book was a disappointment, but that is not quite right. I started reading this with (very) low expectations, after being more than warned that it was bad. But it was worse than I thought.

This book starts badly. The first half of it is filled with recaps from the previous two books in the form of infodump (and even though I didn't remember that much I only needed a little prodding to get my memory), inane and pointless chitchat between minor characters and a plot that is told more in a fashion of a book plan than of an actual book. I mean, it seemed to be the early stages, with plot holes appearing to be badly covered on the next paragraph. This all meant that I regarded the first 150 pages or so as a complete waste of paper and ink.

But eventually it got better. Or I got used to it. I'll choose to believe it got somewhat better. There was more action, and a more logical flow of events. Characters from the previous books appeared and for a short while it seemed it was shaping up to be alike the previous adventures. It was just a short while, and it was then that I realized what the problem was. Yelena. It wasn't only that the main character simply didn't captivate me anymore, but she bore little resemblance to her previous incarnations, and worse of all, had become a Mary Sue.

So, no longer liking the main character, I focused on the story, because there was some mystery regarding the Magic of the Ixia/Sitia world and some hints about Valek. My mind was going around and around trying to solve these problems. I shouldn't have done that.

Regarding the Magic, about where it all came from and its nature, when it was explained, I got this nagging feeling: “Where have I seen this before?” And then it hit me. Final Fantasy VII. And done so much better. Only then there were some things that didn't quite add up, namely the fate of the big bad guys. Although I could have misread the entire thing based on wishful thinking that it would be as awesome as FFVII.

As to Valek, there were so many little hints and comments, that I conjured a big mystery about his immunity to Magic, something that happened in his past. The inane chitchat of completely unimportant stuff should have warned me that the little hints would mean nothing. The real reason was nowhere near where my mind went, and in my opinion, pretty lame. But then again, it was dealt with in a couple of dialogue lines, and that was it. So at least there was no waste of paper there.

In the end, I was just happy I was done with this book. I should have heeded my friend's warnings that it would be bad. This is a book that could have been half its size without losing anything, that could have had a little more thought put into it, and where the best character is a horse, only this time it is because the others were really bad.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Other Reviews: Cuidado com o Dálmata

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My Reviews of: Poison Study | Magic Study

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. 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.

Palimpsest is a very weird book. I knew that before I started, and that was probably the reason I didn't pick it up sooner. It is a good kind of weird, but I definitely needed to be in the right state of mind to read it.

It's not only weird, but complex. There are many stories interwoven in Palimpsest, far more than the back cover promises. At first I was utterly lost. Lost about what was happening in the story, where it all was supposed to go, or even if it was supposed to go anywhere.

But this is the kind of book that you discover slowly. Slowly you unravel the story of each character, just as you slowly discover the city of Palimpsest and the book becomes more clearer. And this is the kind of book that needs attention while being read, every detail is important. I admit that at first I was not as attentive as I should, and I missed some things. But as I became more and more engrossed in the story, I started to see the connections and details.

Even though this book is confusing at first, and it takes some time to start to understand it, it is a pleasure to read because the writing is excellent. Poetic and vivid, I could see the pictures it painted in my mind very clear; beautiful, terrifying and surreal. It was the writing that made me read on, until I started to have characters I loved, characters I liked, and characters I disliked, until the mystery city of Palimpsest was not confusing but intriguing.

I enjoyed this book a lot, although I kept waiting for the ending to blow me away, it never really did. I will be re-reading it some time in the future, to pay attention to the details I missed, to the ones that only make sense once you know the ending... But that's a plan for later. For now, I can say it is a good book.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Reviews: starmetal oak book blog

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My Soundtrack for this book: Godspeed You! Black Emperor - F♯ A♯ ∞ (mostly East Hastings and Providence)

Friday, 5 August 2011

July Ins and Outs

It's summer time, which means holidays, which means more reading time (and less online time). So here are the Ins and Outs of July!


John dies at the end by David Wong
Revelation by Carol Berg
Looking for Jake and other stories by China Miéville
The bloody chamber: and other stories by Angela Carter


The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
Artemis Fowl : the opal deception by Eoin Colfer

A game of thrones by George R. R. Martin   [Review]

Rating: 5 out 5

So long, and thanks for all the fish by Douglas Adams   [Review]

Rating: 4 out 5

Buffalo gals and other animal presences by Ursula K. Le Guin
A collection of short stories and poems, featuring animals and plants. Some are Fantasy, some are Science Fiction, some just regular fiction (and some just plain weird). The stories I liked, the poems not so much.

Rating: 4 out 5

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner   [Review]

Rating: 5 out 5

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente    Review to come
This is a very strange book, and I am sure it will benefit from a second read. That said, I enjoyed it, especially the writing.

Rating: 4 out 5

A verdadeira invasão dos marcianos by João Barreiros
This is actually two related stories, showing the two different points of view on the same theme. It's Science Fiction, with a dash of Historical Fiction. The presence of H.G. Wells, and even some quirks of language reminded me of The Map of Time. This is not as good as that book, but it's also quite a different kind of book. Still enjoyable.

Rating: 4 out 5

Assassin's apprentice by Robin Hobb    Review to come
A classic of fantasy, with its share of intrigue and mystery. It's a good introduction to a series, and there are enough loose threads to make me want to read the next one.

Rating: 4 out 5

TBR Variation: -2 (From 205 to 203)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

The Queen of Attolia
When Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, stole Hamiathes's Gift, the Queen of Attolia lost more than a mythical relic. She lost face. Everyone knew that Eugenides had outwitted and escaped her. To restore her reputation and reassert her power, the Queen of Attolia will go to any length and accept any help that is offered...she will risk her country to execute the perfect revenge.

Eugenides can steal anything. And he taunts the Queen of Attolia, moving through her strongholds seemingly at will. So Attolia waits, secure in the knowledge that the Thief will slip, that he will haunt her palace one too many times.

When Eugenides finds his small mountain country at war with Attolia, he must steal a man, he must steal a queen, he must steal peace. But his greatest triumph, and his greatest loss, comes in capturing something that the Queen of Attolia thought she had sacrificed long ago...

After loving The Thief so much, its sequel wasn't going stay long on both the wishlist and the TBR pile. I was expecting more adventures with Gen, more of his awesomeness, more of the mythos of Eddis, Attolia and Sounis, and, going by the name of this book, a lot more about the queen of Attolia.

What I was not expecting, though, was to like this one even more than the first.

The Thief was amazing, introducing Gen and his quirks and cunning and cleverness. But it was focused mostly on Gen. I am not complaining, but the rest of the characters of this series are quite good as well. In this book, the queens of Eddis and Attolia get more air-time, and they are quite different from Gen. They are complex and, being queens, there is a lot about them that has to do with how they rule. (Oh, and they rule!)

And if, to those two queens, we add one king, one pesky foreign ambassador and a whole bunch of disloyal barons and ministers, we get a lot of political intrigue. And I really like that. The expression that comes to mind about this book is "political machinations".

And to do yet another comparison with The Thief, in the first there was a lot of cunning on Gen's part, a lot of twists, and a lot of surprises. So this time around, I was on the lookout for those, having learnt to expect the less sensible course of action from Gen. But that doesn't mean that it didn't surprise me here and there (it did, and especially at the beginning that I was afraid of the direction the story was going), but there was nothing really major as on the first book. But I did spend a lot of the time trying to figure out how exactly Gen would get out of his troubles.

So, to summarize, I loved this book and will keep on reading (the next book is on its way!).

Rating: 5 out of 5

Other Reviews: Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing | Emily and Her Little Pink Notes | Fyrefly’s Book Blog

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