Friday, 24 June 2011

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief
Gen, a thief that likes to brag about being able to steal everything, is stuck in prison, and it isn't a pleasant experience. But his luck changes when the king's magus comes to him with a task that will make all his troubles go away. The ultimate theft, the hardest of all, one that no one has been able to do. So of course Gen accepts the challenge.

This book incited some curiosity from me a long time ago. It was fantasy and with a thief, it seemed nice. But it wasn't until a friend pointed me to literary showdown of characters that I wanted to really read this one. Because, you see, Gen was the winner, and the final battle was against Howl! Who was this Gen that could be more awesome than Howl? So I set out to read this book to find out.

And I have to agree with all the voters. Gen is more awesome than Howl.

But let's get back to the book. It is fantasy, but there is a Greek influence, which was really nice. There are no clear references, but something about the plethora of gods and their stories, of mountains and hot weather, of old stones and temples, and the sheer amount of olive trees just screamed Greece to me.

The story kept me on my toes, reading page after page, chuckling a lot, and always wanting to know what would happen next. And I say chuckling because this book is also extremely funny. Gen is an amazing character, as I said before. Just because he was getting a ticket to walk out of jail, he didn't make the life of his rescuers/jailers any easier. He was obnoxious and impertinent and insufferable and an wise ass all the time. But it was an act, with him always thinking what else he could do to further annoy his companions.

His voice throughout the book (he tells the story) is amazing, and gives little away of what will happen next, or what the conclusion of the story will be. And concerning that, although the ending did not exactly surprising me, I didn't see it coming either. It made so much sense that it happened like that, that the only surprise was that I didn't notice it or figured it was going that way.

This is the beginning of a series, one that I'll keep on reading, for sure, but is a book of his own as well, not just an introduction. It ends with hints for the next book, but the thief's story is (more or less) finished (at least this first adventure is, I hope there are a lot more).

It's safe to say that I loved it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Other Reviews: Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing | Fyrefly's Book Blog

Book recs for this book: Graceling, Poison Study, Crown Duel, Howl's Moving Castle

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

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

La hormiga que quiso ser astronauta by Félix J. Palma

La hormiga que quiso ser astronauta [The ant that wanted to be astronaut]
(Only available in Spanish)

The countdown begins. Put aside for a moment the heavy burden of that attachment to the reality that has been so hard to reach and remember when your first love was a siren, your best friend a Jedi Knight and it was snowing in Seville in the summer. When concerns were removed by chemistry-modified eels, and your lovers included a painter who was, literally, your soul mate, and an angel (well, a seraph) exiled from Heaven. When the pizza delivery boy conspired to write your unauthorized biography, and an old rigged recorder could be used to retrieve and make sense of the words spoken during a split. When Death walked the city with a list of victims that, if you were fast enough, you could alter. When ants aspired to reach the stars. Remember? Yes? Now, wake up!

La Hormiga que quiso ser Astronauta was Felix J. Palma's first novel (although not his first book), and I couldn't help but compare it to The Map of Time, which I loved. In a way, much of the things I loved on that book can be found on this one, even if in an earlier version. There is good writing, and twists and turns to the plot. Which means this will be an hard review to write without giving it all away.

And since it is not easy let's start with the basics: I liked this book. Did I love it? I'm still not sure.

What the synopsis promises, the book delivers. Yes, it is as surreal as it seems, to tell the truth, it is waaay more surreal than that at times. There are sirens and Jedi Knights, soul mates and angels (well, a seraph, to be exact). Death walks the streets and even rides the bus.

At first, this book didn't surprise me, and that is to say, it didn't overwhelm me like I was expecting. The writing was good, but I knew that it could be better (I should have reminded myself that this book was written 15 years ago, and that is enough time for an author to perfect the art). I was lost on what was happening, on the episodic fashion of this story. Because, more than a love story, this is a series of love stories.

But I got invested on the main character, on the things that happened to him, on his conquests and lovers. And I started to care about what was happening. Which brings me to the ending. Well, a bit before the ending.

This was the part that I least liked about this book, and the one that I'll probably remember the most. This is when I was almost screaming at the pages, saying "No, no, no, no, please don't go that way, please don't do that.", and this words weren't aimed at the character but at the author. This happened because what I wanted, what I expected to happen, was not what is right, what should happen. And what the author chose was the right thing and that broke my heart.

And that's when the ending came. It's not perfect, it was not what I wanted, but thinking about it, I wouldn't have it any other way. It fits the story just fine, with enough hope and possibilities for the reader to think that everything will be all right, not in the happily-ever-after way, but in the real life all-right-with-its-ups-and-downs way.

And to end this review, I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes of this book, that is the best way to define it (without spoilers):

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

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The All Mighty Pile - Book Fair Ins and Outs

This is a special edition of The Ins and Outs. These are the books I bought on Porto's Book Fair. Meet the pile:


But lets start by the beginning. Being away from home means being away from the events happening at home. Which means there was not much chance of me going to this year's book fair in my city. That is, unless I could find a good reason to go home.

Let me check: Easter? Too late. Birthday? Too Late. Off days from work? Yeah, right (actually I managed to get some of those. On Easter and my birthday). Fall of the national government and elections? Oh yeah!

So, I went home last weekend to vote. I could have done it by post, but now I had an excuse to be home and use that time to go to the book fair. I had less than 1 day and a half to do all I wanted to do.

Saturday afternoon and night were devoted to the Book Fair, to buy books and look at books and buy some more books. Also, be with friends and meet fellow bloggers. But, mostly buy books. Because, you see, I had only one day. I had to make all my purchases on one day (not really, I have a friend on duty that goes check the books on discount and buys me stuff I want). And so I did a lot of book buying.

Here is the all mighty list of books:
  1. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
    The review by Ana@Floresta de Livros made me want to read this one.
  2. Escritos dos Ancestrais by Rodrigo McSilva
  3. Minotauro: A Batalha do Labirinto by Gabriel García de Oro
  4. Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott
    I have the second on the series, and I'm not reading it until I read the first. But I didn't have the first. Now I do.
  5. Temeraire by Naomi Novik
  6. Bibbi Bokkens Magic Library by Jostein Gaarder
    I used to read a lot of books by Jostein Gaarder and then stopped altogether. This is a children's book.
  7. Brasyl by Ian McDonald
    This is what you get when you don't read the synopsis properly. The name in Portuguese is Brasil. It says it's science fiction. I took the giant leap of believing it was related to the movie Brazil. It's not.
  8. The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay
  9. A verdadeira invasão dos marcianos by João Barreiros
    Another result of a review by Ana@Floresta de Livros
  10. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
  11. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
  12. The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
  13. Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson
  14. Os Ossos do Arco-Íris by David Soares
  15. O Décimo Terceiro Poder by Madalena Santos
    This is a different kind of rec by Ana. I needed a 4th book for the promotion of buy 3 and take 4. I didn't know which book to choose, so she gave me this one.
  16. The Black Tattoo by Sam Enthoven
    Jen@Cuidado com o Dalmata saw this one, and since there was a tattoed man on the cover she showed it to me. I decided to take the book, even though it talk about martial arts. For some reason it gave me a The Crow vibe.
  17. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein
Yep, 17 books. And number 17 is divided in 2 volumes (2 very small volumes). So, 18 books. 18 books I had to carry around, and drag home. My hands are still a bit sore. And my hands hurt. And my TBR list has gone over the 200 mark. Should the Zombie Apocalypse come, I can always get myself and my books into a bunker and I have reading material for the following 2 or 3 years.

Monday, 6 June 2011

May Ins And Outs


Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences by Ursula K. Le Guin
I really like Ursula K. Le Guin's books, and didn't have this one. Now I do :D

Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
This one I'm not sure how it came to be on my bookmooch wishlist, but it became available so I snagged it.

Contos Carnívoros by Bernard Quiriny [Carnivore Short Stories]
I found this one on a bookstore. I picked it up because of its title and the pretty cover. It promised surreal short stories, so I had to have it

The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna
While looking for books for SantaThing on Librarything last Christmas, I came across this one. It is supposed to be the most famous Finnish book, and quite good so I'll give it a try.

La hormiga que quiso ser astronauta by Felix J. Palma
By now I am a fan of Felix J. Palma, so I'm buying anything of his I can get my hands on.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
I've meaning to read this one for ages (ever since I saw the mini-series). Now I have no excuse

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
I saw the book trailer for this one aeons ago. It has been on my wishlist ever since, and now I finally bought it

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
Good reviews, pretty cover, cool sounding name, a lot of nominations to all kinds of awards. I had to have this one (and I still don't know what it's about.)

For Review
El derecho ambiental como instrumento de gestión del riesgo tecnológico by Paula Cerski Lavratti

Won this one in Librarything EarlyReviewers program. Something that interests me, but it's a technical book.

El menor espectáculo del mundo by Félix J. Palma
This a collection of short stories, a bit like snapshots into everyday life, where the surreal, strange and fantastical seems to enter. A lot of the stories deal with problems of marriage, of disgruntled couples, and betrayals. Most are about problems of the heart, whether in married couples or not. A few give an outlook into the life of elders, and their solitude.

[Full Review]

Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
This is the third on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. I loved the first one and liked the second, but this was just kind of meh...

It's still funny, but it's just more of the same. Also there was a lot of cricket-related stuff that I'm sure went over my head. So, meh...

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

This one was an insistence from a friend. I'm glad that I paid some heed to my friend's constant nagging, because it was an excellent book.

[Full Review]

TBR Variation: +6 (From 185 to 191)