Monday, 21 November 2011

Finding Fiona by Emily Ann Ward

Finding Fiona
I received this book in ebook format from the Author, through LibraryThing Member Giveaway

The victim of a brutal attack, Fiona could remember little about her life until she meets someone who claims to be from her past. He tells her that her parents were killed for a human replication machine. He's shocked to discover she's still alive since her body was found in the wreckage of the fire. 

She soon travels to her old home in New York to figure out what happened to her and her family. She needs to find out who she is, but more importantly, confront the men who killed her parents.

The synopsis explains what goes on the book rather well. There is Fiona who suffers from amnesia, and is in search of who she is. There is a bit of science-y things that have to do with human replication (not to confuse with cloning, very different things). And there is crime and mystery as well.

It sounded promising, but this book just didn't work out for me. Not the writing, that seemed too fast and too dry, not the characters, with whom I couldn't connect with, and especially not the science. Because in science fiction, I have to believe the science works, no matter how strange it seems. In this case it just made my eyebrow go up while I questioned: “Seriously?”.

And as for the mystery, I didn't expect much surprises and on that account, I was not disappointed. It had a nice twist in the ending, that I have to admit didn't cross my mind, but apart from that it all fitted the characters' suspicions.

And speaking of characters, and since I said they didn't work out for me, let me elaborate. Fiona, the main character, was probably the one I had most trouble with. She was confusing, but not in the way of “I don't know who I am”, more like she couldn't make up her mind about things. I also found her lacking some depth, and I would have liked to have the amnesia part more explored, the sense of not knowing who she was. Apart from her relationship with Hannah, the woman who helps her when she is found after her attack, the interactions with the other characters felt a bit flat. And that includes her past boyfriend.

This is a rather short book, and maybe it's meant to be taken more lightly than I have. But for that I would have expected a lighter theme, or some humour in it, or maybe some actual romance. As it is, this book remains just an unsatisfying execution to a good idea.

Rating: 2 out of 5

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | Amazon UK (Kindle)| Amazon US (Kindle)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books That Have Been On My Shelf For The Longest But I've Never Read

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 Top Ten Books That Have Been On My Shelf For The Longest But I've Never Read (shame on me). Although these not be the ones that have been the longest on my shelf (only recently did I start tracking when I got those). And I tried to not include gifts, because it's more likely that those don't fit my tastes, so I do tend to leave them to collect those.

  • Orsinian Tales by Ursula K. Le Guin
    This one has been staring at me for so long. Really, really long, and even though I sometimes pick it up intending to read it next, I never do.

  • The Compass Rose by Ursula K. Le Guin
    Another one by Ursula K. Le Guin, but this one, I actually gave it a try but abandoned it about 3 pages into it. To read later, I said. That was probably in 2005.

  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
    Another one that I started and then stopped, saving it for later (probably around 2000 or 2001). I think the problem was at that time, I didn't give up on books. I saved them for later. 

  • The Children of Húrin by J. R. R. Tolkien
    This book came out in 2007, and I had to have it. So I bought it almost straight away. It's still collecting dust on the shelf.

  • The Successor by Ismail Kadare
    Another that I bought sometime in 2007, intending to read as soon as I got it. Yep, also collecting dust.

  • Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
    Ahh, Moby Dick. I do intend to read this one. It's one of those books that I intend to read some time during my life. And as such I bought a copy of it about 7 or 8 years ago. Some time during my live I will read it.

  • The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
    Maybe not that long in the shelves (I'll say about 3 years), but considering the amount of books that have come and been read since this one, it's a shame it's still there. Because I do intend to read it. Sometime.

  • The Language of Stones by Robert Carter
    This one was a gift, but it sounds like something I might like - celtic historical fiction. Well, Arthurian, I later discovered during a first aborted try at this book. One day I'll pick it up again and see what was it that made me stop reading 6 or 7 years ago.

  • Lizard Tails by Juan Marsé
    Another gift, this one when I was at the hospital in 2002. I liked the title and the cover, but for some reason, never actually read it.

  • The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2006 by Brian Greene
    And the last in the list, because this one it's easy to know how long it has been on the shelf. Another gift, but since it's non-fiction, it might be a while before I actually pick it up.

    Monday, 14 November 2011

    My Name is Mina by David Almond

    My Name is Mina
    "My name is Mina and I love the night. Anything seems possible at night when the rest of the world has gone to sleep. It’s dark and silent in the house, but if I listen close, I hear the beat beat beat of my heart. I hear the creak and crack of the house. I hear my mum breathing gently in her sleep in the room next door."

    So starts this book. I vaguely remembered Mina from Skellig – she was this strange girl who quoted William Blake and was home schooled. The basic reason to getting this book was because it was pretty. Yeah, it's a kind of prequel to Skellig. But it's so pretty!

    My version
    And once I got it I realized it wasn't just the cover. My Name is Mina is something of a diary book, not the regular Dear Diary type, but one where Mina rambles about stuff she likes, and writes her bizarre thoughts. In her words, a diary of exciting things, and exciting things of course cannot be written in boring typeface – so the book is pretty cool inside too.

    There is not really a plot as such, it's just Mina telling about herself, how she hated school and how she loves her tree and her cat and making up words. But Mina is lovely and I had great fun reading more about her and getting to know her. She is a strange kid, and I couldn't help but relate to her. She had weird ideas and thoughts, and she was usually up to no good (especially when she was in school – think Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes). There were parts for laughs and smiles, and parts for really laughing at loud.

    Yet another pretty cover
    But underneath it all, we still had a little girl still trying to come to terms with the death of her father. There were parts that really warmed my heart, some that really made me wish for something good to happen to her, something exciting and magical (well, I guess it did, in Skellig).

    I really enjoyed this book, a mixture of fun and aww moments. It's for younger audiences, but I think anyone can love it. I sure did. (Plus, pretty cover!)

    Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

    Saturday, 12 November 2011

    The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

    The Hobbit
    It's been more than 10 years since I first read The Hobbit. I was young, amazed from just finishing The Lord of the Rings, and quite inexperienced when it came to reading in English. But read I did, because I needed more (MORE!!!!). And now, with the movie being shot somewhere in New Zealand (2012 why don't you come?), I decided it was time for a re-read.

    So, there I was, back again in the hole where a hobbit lived, Mr. Bilbo Baggins. It was easy to immerse myself in the world of Middle Earth, my image of them now very much influenced by The Lord of the Rings movies.

    But back to the story. Mr. Bilbo Baggins, a decent sort of hobbit, much fond of good food, and blowing smoke rings on his pipe, and not at all prone to adventure, finds himself in just that: an adventure. To blame is Gandalf, who brought to his step 13 dwarves: Thorin, Balin, Kili and Fili, Dori, Nori and Ori, Oin and Gloin, Dwalin, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur (yes, I had to look them up, I could only remember 11). The dwarves are in need of a burglar for their expedition, and Gandalf thinks Bilbo is just the man for the job (although he has never done any burglary before). The Dwarves are going to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim their rightful treasure from Smaug, the dragon (and get rid of him, but it's mostly the treasure part). And Bilbo finds himself agreeing to this. And off they go to have adventures, with trolls and elves and goblins and wargs and all kinds of magical creatures (and all the while Bilbo wishes he had never left his cosy hobbit hole).

    The Hobbit is great fun – there is a tone to the entire things that just makes you smile and chuckle. Also, there is something in the writing that just makes you leave the pages and go to Middle Earth. I knew I loved this book, I had the first time, and I was sure I would love it now as well.

    There were, of course some differences, I found it easier to read now, and was a bit shocked at the amount of death in the book – a book I regard as young adult and/or children's literature. But I think I ended up loving it more (I wasn't sure it was possible). I think I was reminded that I not only loved the story, but also the way it was told, its puns and twists of language, the songs (The songs! The part that I least liked in Lord of the Rings but that I loved in The Hobbit!), and the complaining and bickering of dwarves and hobbit.

    The parts that I recalled with fondness were still there, and I found myself loving them more still. The riddles in the dark, the entrance of Beorn's House, the escape from the Elf King... I looked forward to those scenes and they didn't disappoint.

    I can't wait to see the adaptation in the big screen, The Hobbit is a favourite of mine. Worth reading, even if the world of Lord of the Rings seems too daunting. And totally worth re-reading it!

    Rating: 5 out of 5

    Other Reviews: Libri Touches

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

    Thursday, 10 November 2011

    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

    North and South
    When her father leaves the Church, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the North of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. In "North and South", Gaskell skillfully fused individual feeling with social concern and in Margaret Hale created one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

    After having watched and re-watched (and re-watched and re-watched and...) the BBC adaptation of North and South, it was only right that I should read the novel. Mind you, it was something I meant to do since the first time I saw it, oh so many years ago. And after a North and South marathon with a friend (until the wee hours of the morning), the book reading was my next step.

    So, it was with a solid knowledge of the story and clear favourites among the characters (Oh, Mr. Thornton...) that I started. One of the things that I first noticed was the language and the portrayal of Margaret, the main character of this book. I quite liked Margaret in the series, but on my first acquaintance with her in book form I found her a bit petty and snobbish. I knew she would change, but it did shock me. But petty and snobbish as she was, and much due to the amazing writing of Elizabeth Gaskell, I didn't see her as a thing of the past, she was not simply a character of a book, and outdated at that. In a few pages Margaret was a real person, and wouldn't be at all out of place in our days. And the same could be said about the writing. Not old fashioned at all, and together with the characterization of Margaret, I could forget this was set in the 19th century.

    Enter Mr. Thornton, who in the series is beautifully portrayed by Richard Armitage and I thought couldn't get any better. Well, I was wrong. For, something that is less common in the books that are written nowadays, in North and South we can see both actions and feelings (and thoughts) of all the characters, not just the central one. John Thornton, who to Margaret is a stiff, unfeeling master of the North (and in trade *shock, gasp*), when shown to us in the company of his family and friends proves to be an intelligent, honest and fair man, even if he is set in his ways. Really, the man has his faults, like everyone else, but all in all, he a fine man.

    Amidst the struggle of a factoring town, of poor conditions to workers, whom Margaret befriends and helps, and the heavy hand (and sometimes sneaky) of the masters, of talks of strikes and a lot of death (seriously, Mrs. Gaskell, was there need for so many?) there is a love story between these two. Not without its bumps (it couldn't be that simple, now, could it?), but it was fun to follow it, even if at times it broke my heart (poor, poor, Mr. Thornton).

    But back to the struggles of the poor. Even if in the case of the Higgins, Margaret's working friends, I prefer their TV counterparts (especially Bessie, who isn't so fervours in her religion on screen), I liked that part of the story. It was a look into the past, of the hardships of those who had to work in conditions that would undoubtedly kill them, and how the priorities of life were different from those of Margaret, for instance.

    There are, of course, a couple things on this book that I wish that would be different. First, towards the end, when Margaret leaves Milton, much of what happens there stops being told, and I kept wishing to know how those left behind fared. And second, the ending. Oh, it is a very good ending, that made me laugh. But could I please have another chapter? Just a tiny little one? Please? Because I want more!

    Summarizing (or not really): a very good book, a classic no doubt. I loved the writing (so much that I could only follow this book with another one of Mrs. Gaskell), and the story. Read this book, and watch the series. Both totally worth it.

    Rating: 5 out of 5

    Other Reviews: A Few More Pages | Cuidado com o Dálmata | Estante de Livros |

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

    The Series on: Amazon UK| Amazon US|

    Tuesday, 1 November 2011

    October Ins and Outs

    For once, the ins and outs post is not late. Lots of reading this month, but not that much change on the size of the pile of books that I have yet to read.

    Few books bought (and none from bookmooch), but November will probably bring a lot more (Bookdepository, what is taking so long?).

    The Red Dog by Louis de Bernières
    Bought this one on a book fair in a shopping centre, I had seen a review of it on Floresta de Livros, and it was already under consideration.

    House of many ways by Diana Wynne Jones
    The final on the Howl's series. Probably one of my next reads.

    Magic steps by Tamora Pierce
    I have been meaning to read Tamora Pierce for ages. I have Alanna requested on bookmooch, but this one was at a good price so here it is.

    In October I read some NetGalley titles, and also tried the Kindle app for Android and Chrome (Chromium on Linux, that's the one I use).

    Physical books
    A clash of kings by George R.R. Martin


    Rating: 4 out of 5

    The body finder by Kimberly Derting


    Rating: 4 out of 5

    Red Dog by Louis de Bernières
    This is a rather light book (and really short one) about the Red Dog, a Australian Kelpie that belong to no-one and everyone, and travelled through Australia in search of excitement (and yes, based on a real dog, that did all that). It was fun reading, with some sad moments, and very episodic, so that if you are chuckling one chapter, you might be crying the next, only to return to laughing again in the following one.

    Rating: 4 out of 5

    Kushiel's avatar by Jacqueline Carey
    This one was so looooooooong and boooooooring. I made it to the end, through some stubbornness on my part, and a small desire to see this part of the story come to an end. My biggest problem with Jacqueline Carey is the writing, and that was true for all the three books on this series, but on the first two books the plot was enticing. On this one, not so much.
    It took 350 pages to get to a mildly exciting part - I thought about giving up a lot of time in those pages, but Imriel had not yet appeared, and since there are three books with him as hero after this one, I supposed he would be a compelling character. He is quite a good character, but not enough for me to keep on the series.
    But my biggest problem with this one was the main character Phedre: 10 years have passed since the book 2 and in those year the character stayed the same. Exactly the same. And if there are some behaviours I might believe in a 18 year old girl, in a 28 year old it makes me raise my eyebrow and say "Seriously? Can't you control yourself a little better?".
    So, this was not a book for me (except the 150 or so pages [out of 750] that were actually rather nice).

    Rating: 2 out of 5

    Contos Carnívoros by Bernard Quiriny [Carnivore Tales]
    A collection of short-stories bordering the surreal and magic realism. It reminded me too much of Jorge Luís Borges, in style and plot, yet it never got quite to its level. It was more disappointing than good, although it was not that bad. It just wasn't Borges in quality if it was in everything else.

    Rating: 3.5 out of 5

    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell     *Review to come*
    A story that I already knew very well (thanks BBC and their amazing adaptation), and that I loved. And the novel did not disappoint. There are points where series deviated from the book, but it was never in a very significant way, and I could not tell which version does it best. But, most of all, I loved Gaskell's writing. Even if the characters showed in part the time that they lived in, the writing never seemed old fashioned to me.
    And well, it suffices to say I loved it.

    Rating: 5 out of 5

    Orcs: Forged for War by Stan Nicholls and Joe Flood


    Rating: 2.5 out of 5

    Sketch Monsters - Book 1 by Joshua Williamson and Vincente Navarrete


    Rating: 3.5 out of 5

    Nursery Rhyme Comics edited by Leonard Marcus
    This was quite a nice collection on Nursery Rhymes, done in a different way. Some I loved, some I liked. I do have one complaint, and it's not about the contents. The quality of the copy NetGalley provided was horrible. Please do make sure the comics can actually be read.

    Rating: 4 out of 5

    Magic for beginners by Kelly Link
    Couldn't finish this one. Maybe I was not in the right state of mind for something this weird, but I believe I will never be. Besides weird and disturbing the stories felt also very pointless. So, after skipping the ending of a couple of stories I decided to skip the book altogether.

    Rating: 1 out of 5 (Did not finish)

    *Kindle Store*
    The moorland cottage by Elizabeth Gaskell
    After reading North and South I was in the mood of something equally good. I tried Magic for Begginers and that didn't work out, and had an aborted attempt at Looking for Jake (also rather weird, I saved it for later). So I guessed I should stick with Gaskell and choose this novella.
    It is a rather nice one, not as good as North and South. It features a positively horrid little boy (who grows up to be a positively horrid young man), and his sister that is such an angel. There is a lot to be said in parenting in this story.
    Also, I have the feeling I have read this (or seen this) before. I can't find anywhere that there has been an adaptation, but I am certainly this story is not new to me.

    Rating: 4 out of 5

    TBR Variation: -3 (From 197 to 194) Yay!