zondag 10 augustus 2014

Between The Pages: NSFW

A couple of days ago, I saw a tag-video by ChapterStackss and LukeLaneReads about NSFW-books. Because it seemed a fun idea and I have read some NSFW-stuff in the past - and still got a load of them on my TBR - I went ahead and answered the ten questions myself. If you read ahead, please consider this a warning cause there is some very mature content coming up!

1. What is the LAST book you would want your parents to walk in on you reading?

I'd say this will have to be either a Laurell K. Hamilton book or a Highlander novel by Karen Marie Moning (*). If titles like Narcissus In Chains, Incubus Dreams or Kiss Of The Highlander aren't enough of a reason to not make your parents see you reading those books, the covers seem to match the content quite a bit.

2. It’s storming outside, and you’re home alone for the night. What book would only make matters worse?

A lot has to happen before a book can realy frighten me. As fas as I can remember, there were two books that managed to creep me out while reading in bed on an ordinary night.

The first was Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire by J.K. Rowling. The graveyard-scene at the end really freaked me out when I read it the first time. I was twelve back in the days and Lord Voldemort did scare me a bit.
Another scary read was Mo Hayder's Ritual. It featured a creature from African legends and the atmosphere of the book was so tense every single sound around me made my heartrate go up. I even remember peeking above the book to make sure that the creature wasn't lurking somewhere in the shadows. Thanks Mo, I didn't sleep well that night! 

3. Have you ever read a book simply because of the controversy surrounding it?

I have not, as far as I can remember. But I guess that I will, perhaps, maybe, someday, read Fifty Shades

4. What is the most cringe-inducing romance or sex scene you have ever read?

If you had asked me this question two months earlier, I would have probably mentioned Laurell K. Hamilton. We're not, however, two months earlier, so Tahereh Mafi's Unravel Me (**) gets to get the honors. I'm fine with mature content, but Juliette and Adam and Juliette and Warner made me cringe so much. Every other thoughts when they were together was about Juliette wanting to touch, ravish, lick and kiss every single inch of his body - didn't matter whether is was Adam or Warner. Reading a horny teen's thoughts is just plain awkward. The almost-sex scene at the end of the book was also very cringe-worthy and awkward. 
While Hamilton tends to go over the top at times, I actually prefer her because she doesn't pretend and just goes for it. Not this very weird and awkward horny stuff.

5. What book has made you question the author's sanity?

This has to be Terry Goodkind. I read Wizard's First Rule when I was almost fifteen and that book shocked me. First with the whole BDSM  Mord Sith Denna-stuff. That were some intensely disturbing chapters. Even now, ten years later, I can't fathom how I got through that without mental damage...
Near the end of the book, when Kahlan goes into the Con Dar, she does some things to Denim Nass, which provided some extra scarring on my soul.

These books are not for the kids!

6. Have you ever put down a book and not finished it because the content was too much for you?

No. I've never put a book down for reasons like this. Cause I'm tough and all that.

7. What fictional character do you have the most NSFW thoughts about?

I'm not one to swoon over a fictional character, but after seeing Game of Thrones, I have the odd NSFW thought about Robb Stark.

8. Show us your most NSFW book cover.

No text needed, I presume. Also, I'd like to point out that the Hamilton one is Not Safe For Anywhere But Your Home. I've read this on the train, and the painfully bright pink cover with the nude woman attracts attention and people tend to look weird.

9. Have you ever read something from the erotica/romance genre, and what did you think?

I've yet to read a downright erotica/romance novel. Up till now, the closest I've been to the genre has been paranormal romance. If I'm in the right mood, I kind of like them. They're far from good novels, but they're good entertainment and I can appreciate them for being simply that and not pretending to be otherwise.

10. You stumble across a portkey. What fictional world would you not want to be transported into?

From what I've already read, I'm dreading to be transported to any Stephen King-universe. I think that in every single story of his, I'll be one of the first to go.

(photo credits Geekologie)

(*) Fifty Shades Of Grey is also a perfectly sound answer to this question, but I took it upon myself not to answer every single question with that book.
(**) I will post my review to this and the previous book, Shatter Me, soon-ish.

vrijdag 8 augustus 2014

#FridayReads: August 8th, 2014

FridayReads is a hashtag over on Twitter where people share what they'll be reading over the weekend. I thought it would be nice to bring that hashtag over to my blog, so this way I can share what I'm reading and provide a little more text along with it.

For the past week, I've been steadily making progress in the 8th installment of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. This is one of those Urban Fantasy series that start of quite ok - though not stellar - but get better with every new book in the series. This time round, in Proven Guilty Dresden gets confronted with spiritual beings who pose as serial killers from movies and feed on the fear they induce in people. Needless to say that their victims don't feel all that well after such confrontation. Also, the Faerie make another appearance. That made me totally giddy cause the fourth book, wich centered around the Faerie Courts of Summer and Winter, was amazing and made me fall in love with the Faeries. So I am really glad they pay Dresden another visit. I am about 70% in, so this wil definitely be finished during the weekend and will mark another great entry in what is turning out to be one of the best UF series I've read.

While my huge stack of library books had diminished to almost nothing, there were still some lying around, so I decided to pick up World War Z by Max Brooks. I've only read the first chapter or so, so I'm in no position really to say anything of substance about it. What I can say, however, is that the writing style is interesting to say the least. The book's subtitle is 'An oral history of the zombie war' and that is a title that's really fitting. This book is like a compilation of conversations/interviews with different survivors of said zombie war. Not that easy to read since the narrative isn't really flowing, but it's far from boring either. Curious to see where this is all going.

So, what are you reading? Feel free to share your books down below in the comments.

Review: Veronica Roth, Divergent (Divergent, #1) + Movie

I said it before and I'll say it again, it's a miracle if I read a book close to its release, especially if it's a new series. One such miracle was Divergent by Veronica Roth. Not long after the paperback release, I bought my copy of this supposedly fenomenal new YA dystopian novel and it only took another month or three for me to get around to reading it. I was on a roll back then! With the movie release, I revisited my thoughts on the book and sat myself down for the movie.

In the field of YA, the main players have become the dystopian novels (*). One of those is Divergent by Veronica Roth. This book has gained a massive following and has got almost nothing but glorious reviews, some even saying that it is better than The Hunger Games. Since I absolutely loved this series - The Hunger Games, that is - I decided to pick up Divergent to see if it is really that good. Comparing books to The Hunger Games, however, is a tricky business, cause the expectations are really high and this makes that disappointment is never really far away. I will, however, try to keep Katniss at bay and not compare all too much.

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. 

For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. 
But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . 
or it might destroy her.

As with every dystopian novel, the world as we know it is no more. In this case, today’s Chicago is destroyed and instead the city is divided into five Factions, each concentrating on a specific personality trait. The story revolves around Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior and when she takes her test, the results are inconclusive. She is Divergent. She is dangerous. What follows is a whole book filled with training montages, since every initiate into a new faction has to be trained in order to become a member. Tris chooses Dauntless, the brave, as her new faction and thus is her training really exciting. She learns to fight, shoot and overcome her fears. But there are things going on in the city. Things that will strike close to home for Tris.
I really liked what happed in this book, plot wise. The book starts off with the aptitude tests and I was immediately engrossed in the story. It is never boring and things are happening so fast that you just want to keep on reading. I had a hard time putting the book down and as I result, I breezed through it in no time. The world Roth has created is very fascinating and makes you want to read on in order to learn something new again and again (**). I liked how the Factions were based on personality and how people were actually conditioned to act and think in a certain way. The underlying message, being that we can’t rely on one single trait, was not really being shoved down the reader’s throat, but it would have been quite the task to actually miss the point Roth was trying to make (***)

I did have some issues with the plot, however, which refrained me from giving it the highest score possible. First of all there is the worldbuilding. Like I said, this world – or dystopian society – is really fascinating and very imaginative, but it is never really explained. How did this society come to be? How does it work? There is some information on it, sure, but I felt it was not enough. I guess we will learn more about it in the books to come, but I would have liked a little history on this. Is only Chicago like this? Etc. Also, the factions rely heavily on their members, still, it’s almost easier to become factionless than become a member (****). That struck me as a bit odd as well. However, whilst I did wonder about these things while reading, it’s not a major issue, just a random thought, if you will. Something that did bug me a bit about the plot, was the ending. I though the actual war and fighting was all handled in such a way that things were a bit too convenient, with her mother popping up at the right time and stuff like that. Veronica Roth is still a young writer and this is her very first novel, so I won’t hold it against her, but I thought it a bit of a shame that she isn’t that good at concealing secrets or twists. There are two big twists here, one concerning a character and one about the plot, but both were heavily hinted at and while I couldn’t guess the exact nature of the latter twist, the overall idea was pretty clear to me way before Tris figured it all out. There were just - too? - many hints along the way and they were pretty obvious. But like I said, even though that could have been handled different, I won’t hold it against her.

Next to a fascinating plot, there are a lot of characters here and these were handled fairly well. It’s not easy to have a bunch of characters and give them each their own voice, but Roth managed to do this. The guys were a bit of an all-one-and-the-same and who-are-you-again? bunch, but the ones that mattered managed to stand out. I also liked the mixed bag of characters you’re getting here. Some are really relatable, where others are just despicable in every single way. A big pro here is how the characters aren’t all that black and white, but rather a muddled shade of grey. As a main character, Tris is likeable in the same way Katniss was. Both are very strong young women who aren’t all that likeable at the beginning but you grow to like them over time. Tris does a better job at making you like her than Katniss does, however. She’s a bit less hard-edged. Her love-interest, Four, is a very nice character as well and I like how their relationship grows and isn’t the main focus of the book. It’s also nice to see that Veronica Roth isn’t afraid to kill her characters.
A small issue here as well, though. This book wasn’t very surprising in terms of characters. When Tris meets Eric and the woman from Erudite, she mentions how she dislikes them and doesn’t trust them. These two turn out to be the main instigators of the war, so yes, no big surprises there. It’s not that I really minded that, but a little twist to who the villains were would have been nice. Where the characters weren't goodie two shoes nor absolutely evil, even in their greyness you could easily tell which one belonged to which side.
As for the writing style, it is excellent. It’s quite a big book, nearing 500 pages, but the pages turn like there’s no tomorrow. It helps that the font size is quite big, but still the writing is really fluent and gripping in the right places.
People like to compare things and when talking about a specific niche like YA dystopian novels, comparisons rear their head pretty quickly. I even did it by comparing Tris to Katniss, just to make a point, but other than that I try to abstain from comparing books that are unrelated. Instead, it try to enjoy what I read for what it is and judge it on its own merits and not on those of another book. Still, when you hear comparisons stating that Divergent is better than The Hunger Games, you can’t really help but secretly making one for yourself. I did, and I liked The Hunger Games better. So there you have it. I do believe that this comparison is completely useless, though, cause both aren’t really that comparable, I think. What I do know is that Divergent is an enjoyable read. I did have some issues with it, but that didn’t detract from the fact that I liked reading this and seeing that this is Roth’s debut and how it turned out, I am willing to give her a lot of credit, cause she did a very good job.


Discover which Faction you belong to. Or are you Divergent as well?

(*) More recently, YA contemporary is becoming the thing to read - much thanks to The Fault In Our Stars, I presume - and the odd Fantasy tries to wriggle its way into the spotlight, but another literary tsunami as we have seen with the dystopian wave hasn't occured to my knowing.  
(**) That being said, I would NOT want to live in this world, though. The amount of times they use needles and inject different kinds of serums into their bodies is just insane. Hopefully they have some very effective cure for HEP/HIV...
(***) But then again, Subtlety isn't one of the five Factions, so clearly all is forgiven!
(****) Some ideas for recruiting posters: "We want you! ... After which we'll do our utmost best to not want you at all!" or "Please feel welcome and make yourself at home... while you still can!"

Upon the release of Divergent in the movie theaters, I had already read the complete trilogy and with it lost quite a lot of my interest in it (*). I did, however, watch the movie when I had the chance, cause I really liked the book and I was hoping for an exciting movie such as The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Alas, I ended up feeling quite disappointed.

I found the movie to be a good portrayel of the book as a whole, but I found the overal ambience of the novel, however, to be missing. There was something exciting about the book, about the training and how Tris was doing in Dauntless. For me, the movie lacked that feeling of excitement and times, it was just plain boring. The climax also didn't cut it for me, to be honest. A good example of how the overall ambience of the movie was less than the book, is the ferris wheel. I thought this was a very powerful scene in the book and here, it was just some climbing. The zipline-scene, however, was as great as I imagined it to be.
As for the ending, I'm not sure what to think of it. I mean, why go through all that trouble to inject Jeanine with the mind-control serum just to order her to shut the system down. Couldn't they just have ordered the Dauntless to stop attacking? I don't know, but that struck me as a bit odd. Another odd thing, was the focus they put on the 'Faction before blood' thing and saying goodbye to your family. However, the different Factions are shown working together... It's difficult to rhyme those two.
As for the characters, I found the portrayel of Tris and Four to be good. Perhaps Tris was not exactly as I had imagined, but I was certainly not disappointed by Shailene Woodley's performance. Their relationship was a bit cheesy, with lots of moments for the audience to drool over Four, but overall I enjoyed them.
The other characters, however, felt a bit like cardboard to me. There just wasn't enough time to get to know the other characters, which diminished the impact of what happened to Al and Will a lot. Also, the motivations behind Eric and Peter's actions were not clear and they came across as douchebags. As for the latter, his personality was toned down a whole lot. By deleting a certain scene with a knife, he's just a bully instead of the Peter we know from the book.

The scenery was quite close to perfection. I can't clearly remember how I envisioned this Chicago, but I was very much in awe of the Chicago we saw in the movie. The music was great as well - I mean, how can Ellie Goulding be anything but great? - but I did find it to be distracting at times. The songs were great, but it might have been better to use an instrumental score instead of the lyrical. But this is just a minor issue.

All in all, while the movie had its great moments, I just wasn't all that impressed with it and the book certainly is way better. I'm not sure about the movie adaptations of the next two books, since I found Divergent to be the best book in the trilogy, but I guess I'll see them anyway.

(*) Thank you for that, Insurgent and Allegiant.

woensdag 6 augustus 2014

Review: Daniel Abraham, The King's Blood (The Dagger And The Coin, #2)

The first book in a big series is always tricky business. You have to balance a whole lot of worldbuilding with setting up the plot and introducing characters, but at the same time, you have to make sure that your book is exciting enough to draw readers in and that it can, more or less, stand on its own. The Dragon's Path, the first book in Daniel Abraham's The Dagger And The Coin series didn't completely succeed in that feat. The second book, however, made good on the promise that The Dragon's Path implied.

After having read the first book in The Dagger And The Coin series by Daniel Abraham, I was left with mixed feelings. My expectations were far higher than the book could live up to, since every other review I read made a favourable comparison to George R.R. Martin. It was, however, no Song Of Ice And Fire, and thus it took me a little while to pick up the second book in the series. When I did come to it, the book proved why this series got so much critical acclaim to start with. The Dagger And The Coin might not be as ambitious as A Song Of Ice And Fire, but it can definitely hold its own against those big epic series and The King's Blood does everything to prove that.

War casts its shadow over the lands that the dragons once ruled. Only the courage of a young woman with the mind of a gambler and loyalty to no one stands between hope and universal darkness.

The high and powerful will fall, the despised and broken shall rise up, and everything will be remade. And quietly, almost beneath the notice of anyone, an old, broken-hearted warrior and an apostate priest will begin a terrible journey with an impossible goal: destroy a Goddess before she eats the world.

Whereas the plot in the first book was all over the place and didn’t seem to have any real direction (*), The King’s Blood did have a good sense of direction and purpose. Everything that went down in The Dragon’s Path is coming round with repercussions attached. His surprising save of the young monarch has put Geder in the position of Regent, albeit with the use of some magics. Another one who finds herself in a position she didn’t bargain for is Cithrin, in charge of her own branch of the Medean Bank but under severe supervision. All the while, Dawson and Clara try to survive in a politically precarious environment. In the end, they’ll be faced with the decision of staying true to the throne or to themselves and it’s a choice that might cost them dearly.
Upon finishing The Dragon’s Path, I felt like I read a very long and elaborate prologue and this feeling got reaffirmed with The King’s Blood. Whereas the first book has put the pieces in place, the game of chess has now officially begun. Most of the characters have gotten engaging plotlines with lots of intrigue and deception – I’m especially looking at Cithrin here, the intrigue and plotting is really becoming a second nature for her. While I liked most of the plotlines, I wasn’t that convinced by Marcus’s. It’s not that it was lacklustre, but I definitely missed something there to make me fully connect to his story. In this bunch of five POV’s he falls right in the middle and gets lost there. His story is nor really intriguing nor is his character development taking a turn for the better nor despicable, which makes him the grey mouse in a bunch of brightly coloured personas. Talking about characters that go down the wrong path, Geder is the prime example here. Whereas he garnered some sympathy previously, he’s becoming more and more off-putting as the series – and this book – goes along. This is certainly not a bad thing in terms of my interest for his storyline and the novel in general, on the contrary. The thing that makes his story engaging and off-putting at the same time, is that you witness his progression from hero to tyrant with decisions that fall ever so lightly on the wrong side of the moral spectrum. In this, he is strongly aided by the Priests of the Spider Goddess. With them, magic in slowly creeping in the story and it’s making it even more engaging. This proves once again that you don't need balls of fire weezing around or other mindblowing magical pyrotechniques to write a great Fantasy series. Just some subtle magical aid is all one needs.
While the different storylines are all of a nature that they keep you reading, I do miss the grander scale of some other big Fantasy series. Every character has his or her own little – or not so little – struggles, but it’s hard to find some overarching plot. The bigger picture, if you will, is missing. With three more books to go, I have no doubt that events will come together and tie everything up in one big epic knot.
The character development is pretty much on par with the respective storylines. It’s the ones I’ve mentioned before that truly come to their own in this book, wile Marcus is left standing on the side line. Perhaps it’s because characters like Cithrin, Clara and Geder are so engrossing, that a more even tempered character like Marcus does not stand out as much (**). Dawson portrays some of the same symptoms, but because of his political involvement, his storyline prevents him from befalling the same fate as Marcus. Master Kit, at last, has been a side character for long, but now he’s coming more and more to the front stage and he proves to be an intriguing character. I’m curious to see where the story takes him.
This has all come to be thanks to the solid writing from Daniel Abraham. While it is true that The King’s Blood, as was the case in The Dragon’s Path, starts off really slow, I can’t really critique Abraham’s writing. It’s all just very solid, with enough worldbuilding and exposition to set the stage and a change in pacing to get you hooked for the showdown.

The King’s Blood shows that, while you may not judge a book by its cover, you also can’t judge a series by its first book. The Dagger and The Coin series received lots of praise when the first book was just released and was compared to George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire series. After The Dragon’s Path, however, this comparison felt like a marketing stunt to me, cause everybody was loving Game of Thrones at the time. The King’s Blood proved me wrong in proving the critiques wrong, cause by now I can see where people might get the comparison from. While I do miss the grand scale and some major epicness, The Dagger and The Coin is building up to become another great series that can hold its own in a landscape where Martin and the likes are busy conquering seven kingdoms and more.

Don't miss out on a great series and get your copy of this book right now!

(*) Despite the book being titled The Dragon's Path.
(**) He reminds me a bit of Eddard Stark, in that respect. While a great character, both don't really have that little extra to compete with more colourful characters, at least to me. That being said, you can't rely on the bold and beautiful all the time, so a Marcus is needed to even out the book.

dinsdag 5 augustus 2014

Review: Jennifer McMahon, Don't Breathe A Word

When browsing your local bookstore, GoodReads or whatever means you use to find a new book to read, some books are sure to pop up everywhere. It's very much possible to pave the street with Hunger Games lookalikes, and I lost count of how many times I came across a reference to The Fault In Our Stars this week. While I'm not trying to discourage anyone from reading those books - cause god knows I enjoy them very much myself - there are other books out there as well, and with a sole focus on what's hip and cool right now it's easy to miss out on the rest. A while back I came across a book that I had never heard of before, but one look at it made me want to read it.
I like pretty and/or fascinating covers, but I don’t let them cloud my judgement of the book. That is, I don’t judge a book solely by its cover. I’ve seen lots of books with very pretty or interesting covers, but when I dig a little deeper, the book turns out to be one of those I wouldn’t like in a million years, so no, I don’t buy based on face value alone. When I saw this book on my boyfriend’s shelves, however, I was immediately drawn to it. Those eyes, that creepy child, it just captivated me. Seeing as it was about Fairies and stuff, I decided to give it a try cause I needed to know exactly what that cover was hiding within those pages.

On a soft summer night in Vermont, twelve-year-old Lisa went into the woods behind her house and never came out again. Before she disappeared, she told her little brother, Sam, about a door that led to a magical place where she would meet the King of the Fairies and become his queen.

Fifteen years later, Phoebe is in love with Sam, a practical, sensible man who doesn't fear the dark and doesn't have bad dreams—who, in fact, helps Phoebe ignore her own. But suddenly the couple is faced with a series of eerie, unexplained occurrences that challenge Sam's hardheaded, realistic view of the world. As they question their reality, a terrible promise Sam made years ago is revealed—a promise that could destroy them all.
Let’s elaborate on the Fairy stuff. Fifteen years prior to the story, twelve-year-old Lisa went missing, kidnapped by the Fairy King to be his queen. Her brother Sam is left and turns his back to everything supernatural. When, in the present, he and his girlfriend Phoebe witness strange things, it seems Lisa is coming back and Sam’s beliefs are to be tested.
Seeing as I can summarise it in about three lines, the idea is pretty simple. The execution, however, is complicated and very well done. For those who can guess how this is all going to turn out, you should become a detective or something like that (*), cause whilst on the surface very simple, what lies underneath is everything but a simple plotline. There never was a point in the story where I felt like I knew what was going on. I always had some ideas, sure, but I never had the feeling like I knew it for sure this time around. The solution to the whole disappearance was quite shocking, I think, and the actual ending was just plain weird. In hindsight, I think it should have ended with the solving of the mystery and leave the epilogue for what it was. The whole book is very well constructed as a creepy, eerie, suspenseful mystery with a supernatural flavour to it. The solution to the mystery, how disturbing it may be, does fit and just adds to the atmosphere of it all. The ending – as in the epilogue – gave me just a big "what the hell????" feeling. Perhaps it’s because it comes so unexpected (**), but to me it felt a bit forced in order to provide some sort of solid reasoning behind everyone’s actions. Perhaps some readers might have appreciated it, but for me an explanation along the lines of ‘they’re all a bunch of loons’ would have been sufficient.
I thought the writing style was very fitting for this kind of story. The pacing was good and McMahon really know how to evoke a certain atmosphere. Especially the scenes who took place in the woods were written in a chilling fashion and gave me a claustrophobic feeling, even though it was out in the open. Another plus was how this book was constructed, with chapters alternating between Phoebe’s POV today, and twelve-years-old Lisa’s. Additionaly, I thought the illustrations and general lay-out of the book fitted the story very well and made the reading experience just a little nicer.
My only real complaint lies with the characters. What I love about reading, is how I get to know the characters and start to care for them. Here, however, that didn’t happen. I don’t feel like I truly know who Sam, Phoebe and Lisa are, and I sure don’t care about them. It’s not that they are not interesting, cause they are, as are the other characters in this book, but they didn’t engage me enough. For the most part of the book, they felt kind of one-dimensional. At times, they sort of seemed like cardboard figures who were making their way through the setting, instead of fleshed out characters interacting with what happened around them. They do have their own distinctive voices and you can tell them apart, but with so much happening in this book, they change very little and at times, they can’t get their emotions to come across towards the reader, I think. For me, that made the difference between liking and really liking this book.

After having read Don’t Breathe A Word, I can conclude that this book does give you what the cover evokes. It is a captivating, strange and by times disturbing story with a great opening line (***). Even though the characters aren’t what I would want them to be, I still enjoyed this book and if I should come across another of Jennifer McMahon’s books, I’ll sure be tempted to read it.

Fancy a walk through the woods yourself? Meet the fairies here!

(*) Or perhaps I just should not become a detective. My trackrecord for figuring out the plot is depressingly low.
(**) At least to me, but we've already covered that subject. 
(***) "Hotter than hot, no air-conditioning,, sweat pouring down in rivers, the Magic Fingers motel bed vibrating beneath her, Mr. Ice Cream doing his thing above." I don't know about you, but I'm immediately like 'Hello?!'. This first line is in no way representative of the rest of the rest of the book, but it's a nice way to draw your readers in.

maandag 4 augustus 2014

Between The Pages: On hibernating ...

While most animals hibernate in Winter, I seem to have fallen asleep in Spring. I have not, however, fallen asleep. Life was just happening and as such, I was too preoccupied with all things non-bookrelated. As a result of that, this blog went on a little Spring-hibernation right up till now.

It was never my intention to take some months off from blogging, hence why I'm not calling it a hiatus. I had every intention of blogging - heck, I even had a post in the makings somewhere in March (*) - but I never made sufficient time for it. As such, time went by and by and by. While this blog might not have been one of the most active out there - putting it midly, shall we? - I have not stopped reading in the meantime. On the contrary, I have devoured a good many books, seen some movie-adaptations and written some reviews on them. In the coming weeks, I'll share my thoughts with you one a lot of those books, but also some related movies and/or TV-shows and some other - hopefully - fun posts.
Stay tuned!

(*) That post will never see the light of day. Seeing as it was, back then, an already late recap of the reading year 2014 and resolutions for 2014, I thought it wise to just press delete. I mean, it's August now, even I don't want to talk anymore about stuff that is so 2013.

zaterdag 8 maart 2014

Review: Daniel Abraham, The Dragon's Path (The Dagger And The Coin, #1)

As I have mentioned in last week's #FridayReads-post, and plainly visible on my GoodReads page, I am currently reading The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham. Since I'll be finishing it one of these days and will review it, I thought it useful to post my review on the first book in the series here, so to get a complete set of reviews in the end. This particular review is some two years old, I guess.

Expectation is a peculiar thing. Whenever I start a new book, I have some expectations of it, according to the specific (sub)genre, the author, reviews etc. The trick, however, is to not let your expectations get to high because it can ruin a book. I’ve mentioned in a previous review that starting with nigh to none expectations can make you really enjoy a book. The opposite, on the other hand, is also true. When you expect more than the book is able to deliver, it turns out a little disappointing. That is exactly my experience with The Dragon’s Path. I wanted it to be as amazing as your average George R.R. Martin, but it couldn’t quite deliver.

All paths lead to war...

Marcus' hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody's death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps.
Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation's wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but the strategies of trade will not defend her from swords.
Geder, sole scion of a noble house, has more interest in philosophy than in swordplay. A poor excuse for a soldier, he is a pawn in these games. No one can predict what he will become.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. A spat between the Free Cities and the Severed Throne is spiraling out of control. A new player rises from the depths of history, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon's Path-the path to war.

The fact that it wasn’t able to be another Martinish book (*), wasn’t the only problem I had with this book, however. As for the plot, I still can’t really tell what the book is about. I don’t mind not knowing where a book is going, as long as it is going somewhere and here, I didn’t feel like it was really going somewhere.
The book starts off really well though. The prologue is really interesting and sparked my attention. The character who was introduced there, however, doesn’t return until the epilogue, as well as reference to the fascinating trick he pulled in the first couple of pages. Granted, he does make an appearance, but it’s not until the second half of the book that you really know who he is and the cool spidery thing he did isn’t mentioned once (**). I can’t help but feel a bit cheated because of that. I was really looking forward to that particular character and his weirdness but I just never got it. What we do get, is four story arcs who are represented by four different POV’s. At first, I was really interested in them all, but after some chapters, it all slowed down to a terrible pace and I became frustrated. Frustrated because what I was reading wasn’t as interesting as the prologue and frustrated because it was all so slo-o-o-ow. The things that did happen throughout the book weren’t really interesting and it wasn’t until the end that the pace started to pick up and things became slightly more interesting. It would have been better, for me, if these events were placed within a wider frame. The main part of this book consists of worldbuilding, but even though there is a huge amount of it, it doesn’t suffice to give me a proper understanding of what’s at stake. Why should I care who wins and who’s on the Severed Throne? I didn’t know and still don’t. Because of that, I felt disconnected from what’s going on. While things got more interesting towards the end, I have to say though that the way towards the conclusion felt a bit too easy for me. I like the concept and find it intriguing, but it wasn’t that well put too use. I felt like I missed some suspense and excitement simply because of this.
Luckily, the characters were very good. We get introduced to four very different characters, all with their own little storyline and there are some connections between them. Out of the four, I found Dawson’s the least interesting and by times tedious to get through. His was all about the intrigue at the court and whilst that an sich is really fascinating to read about, his vision on it wasn’t. It would have been way more interesting if Clara, his wife, was POV instead of Dawson himself. Clara is seemingly superficial, but she is cunning and shrewd. It isn’t until she becomes point of view towards the end, that I got interested in what’s going on there. Geder is a bit of a mixed bag for me. At the start, he is another Samwell Tarly. Because of the whole underdogvibe he’s got going on, I kind of liked him. However, a good part in the book, he made some decisions that made me dislike him, a lot. He might have had a big ass, but now he’s become one. That’s not to say his story gets uninteresting, cause it really doesn’t and I’m looking forward to see what future books hold in store for him. Cithrin and Marcus were by far the most interesting. I really liked their individual as well as their mutual story and the connection between them and those around. I liked the evolution of Cithrin from an insecure girl to a cunning – not in the way it is used in the book, mind – woman. Along with them, the addition of the group of actors was lovely. They really provided some comic relief, albeit in a more subtle way, that was really necessary for the novel.
As far as the writing style is concerned, I don’t have anything to complain about. Really strong writing, able to engage and make you care. It’s not too elaborate nor difficult, so that was all good.

Because of those things concerning the plot that irked me, I feel like I’ve read a really long introduction to what seems like a really interesting series. I felt like this book was really promising, but couldn’t quite deliver. It did build up to something, though I don’t know to what and I guess that’s something that will be addressed in the second book. I was already convinced, but the epilogue made me really want to read the sequel. What I won’t do, however, is set the bar too high, cause I don’t want to end up liking the book less than I would want to, as was the case here.

Fancy walking the Dragon's Path yourself? Walk the walk here!
(*) The Martin-quotes on the cover also didn't really help to contain expectations... 
(**) I'll forever remember the day I put spiders and cool in one and the same sentence without the use of a verb of destruction. A day like that hasn't occured ever since.

donderdag 6 maart 2014

Between The Pages: It's Madness

It's that time of the year again. March. The month where books grab each other's spine, rip out their pages, kick, grunt, tear, cry, snivel... All to get on top. All the be the one. This year's March Madness Champion.

For the seventh year in a row, HarperCollins Canada is hosting the March Madness, a competition in which 64 books battle it out in four divisions, in the hopes of becoming this year's victor and to forever claim a spot on the Shelf of Fame.
Every week, the books are paired two by two and the one who ends on top at the end of the week - through public voting, once every hour - moves on to the next round. How fun is that?! If you're Canadian, things get even more fun, cause you can win the whole bookish lot.

Since we at The Paper Dragon and Inklingstime are Belgian - although, once every year, we are Pretend-Canadian for one whole month - we're not playing for the big prize. For us, it's pure fun! Drawing our own charts and betting on our favourites, trying to outscore one another (*) and just rooting for some of our darling books. March Madness, an apt name I think.

The whole lot of 64 books is up for view - and vote! - via the link to the March Madness. But let me just share a few of the books I'll be rooting for this year.

Division Middle Earth
The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, while a Fantasy classic, not my favourite book. Still, I'm voting for it since I have some good memories of this as a whole and, besides the fact that it's not The Most Brilliant Book In The Entire History Of Manking And Beyond, it's still good!
Garth Stein's The Art Of Racing In The Rain is one of the few books that made me cry. A frequent competitor in the Madness, so it's time for Enzo to go all the way and race to the championship!
Room by Emma Donoghue was a very moving read. Disturbing, gripping and leaves a lasting impression.

Division Wildwood
Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is a book I have not read, yet, but solely based on the other offerings from Mr. Gaiman, this is bound to be absolutely terrific and thus a big competitor.

Division Narnia
The Golem And The Jinni by Helene Wecker is another book that's still resting on my TBR, but just like gravity, everytime I come near it, it pulls me closer. Will be a soon-TBR, I think.

While there are other books - whom I've actually read and enjoyed - that look like they will be fierce competitors and go far, these five should try to go all the way. In which case there will be a Division Finale between LotR and Racing in the Rain (I hope!), where I hope the latter takes Division Victory and move on to the semi's.
Other big contenders are, in my opinion, Divergent (Veronica Roth), Blood Gospel (James Rollins), NOS4A2 (Joe Hill), Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel), The Book of Negroes (Lawrence Hill), Shatter Me (Tahereh Mafi) and Beautiful Ruins (Jess Walters).

Are you playing along? Who are you rooting for?

(*) Why yes, we even made up our own scoring system, with points awarded for a correct bet, bonus points for favourites who are going through, ...

dinsdag 4 maart 2014

Review: Marie Lu, Legend (Legend, #1)

The vast amount of dystopian fiction that has been produced in recent years is almost unbelievable. Not all that glimmers is gold though, and while a lot of these books sound really exciting, few are really worth the time, I think. Which means that I’m picky when it comes to buying these books cause I’m not an unconditional fan of the genre (*). I do like to stroll the shelves in the library and pick them up for a read. Just for – free – fun (**). Thus so it happened that I stumbled upon Legend and it got me intrigued, cause I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book upon its release some years past (***). It’s about time to see what the fuss is all about.

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. 
Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. 
But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

As is the case with most dystopian novels, the plot is actually nice, although not terribly original nor exciting. The idea behind the military society and the plague-subplot makes for a good read. The worldbuilding, however, isn’t what it should be. There is constant mention of the Republic and the Colonies, but it’s never explained who is who and why. It’s not that I want to know it all right away, but some initial worldbuilding to place the events in a bigger picture would have been nice. Now, it’s just confusing bordering on messy and it's hard rooting - or even trying to sympathise or even understanding - for someone's cause if you do not know the basics of it all.
The basic premise of Legend brings us two main mysteries. First and foremost, the search for Metias’s – June’s brother – killer, and second, the truth about the plague. Sadly enough, both mysteries are solvable halfway through the book, which leaves you with two protagonists stumbling about trying to figure out what you know all along. The hints that are being dropped are so big, it’s a real effort from their side not to have seen them. The way June uncovers the truth was a bit weird and I don't know how I feel about that, though (****). The conclusion as well, was fairly predictable, but nonetheless, it was enjoyable to read. Also, while the solution is at hand and the characters have a certain amount of understanding, nothing really got solved and they just made a bigger mess of things.
Talking about messmakers, Legend is told through the perspectives of June as well as Day, and their POV’s alternate chapters. Every chapter mentions which POV you are reading from, which is a good thing seeing as there is almost no difference between June’s voice and Day’s. If it weren’t for the chapter titles, you’d have a hard time figuring out who was POV. June as well as Day are prodigies, and while there is nothing wrong with that, you’ll have to give them an edge to make your characters interesting. Unfortunately, June nor Day holds that edge and they come across as flat and utterly unbelievable. Sure, June might be a prodigy, but she’s only fifteen and being so high up the ranking just doesn’t match with the way society is structured. In the midst of all the military control and trying to contain everyone and everything – and going to horrible lengths in order to achieve it – they hand a lot of responsibility to a girl of only fifteen? Beats me. Day’s bag of tricks comes across as unbelievable as well. Climbing up the walls of buildings – with a butchered knee – in mere seconds? Sure he’s not Clark Kent or Spiderman? Another thing that struck me as bordering on the unbelievable was the romance. On a scale ranging from insta-love to a beautifully developing relationship, this one fell on the wrong side. Luckily, the romance really took the backseat here.
Despite my annoyance with the characters and the predictability of the plot, this books wasn’t all bad, mind you. In fact, I quite enjoyed reading it. It’s fast paced and exciting, and Marie Lu’s writing style is simple and clean, which keeps you reading. There is also a nice balance between exposition and the more action-packed scenes and the exposition was limited so the story never dragged on and on.

Legend has gotten some hype a while back - and now still, with the release of the final book - and while I’m not convinced that the hype was totally justified, I had quite a good time reading this book. While it is predictable and the characters don’t interest all that much, the stuff that was going on was enough to keep me reading. If I stumble across the sequels in the library, I’ll pick them up, cause I do want to know what happens next. If you want a light read between some big tomes and you've enjoyed The Hunger Games, you can’t go wrong with Legend.
All taken into account, I'd give Legend 2.5 flames, but since I don't do halfsies, I'll round it up to three. There you go!

All you Legendary people can buy your own copy, right here and support us while you're at it.

(*) And I also don't fancy having a whole shelf full of Hunger Games knock-off's.
(**) The motivation behind me reading books that aren't particularly good is still a mystery to me. They are enjoyable, I'll give them that, but isn't enjoyable AND good a better way of wasting my time?
(***) Which says absolutely nothing. I only wish half these books were half as good as The Hunger Games...
(****) Also, kudos to her for having such good eyes, cause you need an excellent pair for discovering grease on the handle of a knife - which has also blood on it, which makes it supertricky and not something for kids below 15 - on a photo you've just declared blurry and all but good for the case, and linking that same grease to a person who happened to have a smear on his body. On a military basis with lots of weapons and other machinery, no one but that person is so clumsy with the grease. Who needs Sherlock?

zaterdag 1 maart 2014

#FridayReads: Februari 28th, 2014

FridayReads is a hashtag over on Twitter where people share what they'll be reading over the weekend. I thought it would be nice to bring that hashtag over to my blog, so this way I can share what I'm reading and provide a little more text along with it.

And so Februari has come to a close, and along with it, the two books I've been reading for the last couple of days which I've mentioned in the previous #FridayReads. This brings us to today, the first of March and new, fresh books to start.

First and foremost, I've made a start in Marie Lu's Legend, first in the Legend trilogy and part of my library raid. When I chose this book last night from my library pile, it wasn't a very deliberate choice, it just looked like it would be a fast and fun read. This morning, however, the new challenge was announced by the mods of my reading club and in March, we have to read fourteen books which are part of a trilogy. Hello, Legend!
Now Legend. I've come to page 80 or so, and I was definitely right about the fast part. The fun, however, not so much, at least, not right away. It's all very confusing, at the moment, for the worldbuilding is sparse to none, so events are happening and I'm failing to grasp the importance of it or the context in which they take place. This book - and trilogy as a whole - has received quite some hype and praise, so I'm looking forward to discovering the rest of the story and delving into this post-apocalyptic world.

I don't expect to spend a lot of time reading Legend, so I've already picked the next book, which I'll start later tonight.Way back when, I made a post about fun ways to decide which book you'll be reading next and my 'fun way' is by means of a book jar - or rather book mug. Between the series I'm finishing, I pick a stray book from my mug, and last October, The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham was the lucky one. 'Lucky' isn't really and apt description, since I'm reading this book four to five months after being declared lucky, so there you go... 
The King's Blood is the second in a series of five (I think?) and while the first book - The Dragon's Path - wasn't my favourite, I'm curious to see where this story goes, cause in the end, there was a very intriguing story being told by a handful of interesting characters. Some weeks ago, the third book arrived, so I'll be reading that one pretty soon as well.

What will you be reading the next few days?

zaterdag 22 februari 2014

#FridayReads: February 21st, 2014

It's been a while, hasn't it? My previous post was put up in September, a long four to five months ago... In the meanwhile, I've made attempts at writing someting, but never really sat down to do it properly. It really shouldn't, but essentially, life got in the way of blogging and reading as much as I wanted to. However, here I am again, ready to tell you what I am and have been reading.

FridayReads is a hashtag over on Twitter where people share what they'll be reading over the weekend. I thought it would be nice to bring that hashtag over to my blog, so this way I can share what I'm reading and provide a little more text along with it.

Last night, I finished Fever by Lauren DeStefano, the second book in The Chemical Garden Trilogy. This trilogy was one of the many riding the dystopian wave after the success of The Hunger Games and in the aftermath of said Hunger Games, I read the first Chemical Garden, Wither. Wither wasn't my cup of tea, but upon browsing the shelves in my local library last week, I saw Fever and decided to give it a go. In the end, it was pretty much the same as Wither, albeit even less exciting than the first one. I'll try to gather my thoughts and collect them in a decent review one of these days - I hope.

Fever wasn't the only book I've been reading last week. Alongside it, I read - and am still reading - Dragonseed, the third and final book in The Dragon Age trilogy. I read the first book, Bitterwood way back when in 2012, but the second - Dragonforge - and third one, I read almost back to back. This trilogy focuses on a world where dragons rule over humans and these three books are basically about the human population's struggle to get on top. If you like dragons and don't mind crazy shenanigans happening between the covers of your book, I'd really recommend this.

This wraps up what I'll be reading this weekend. What are you reading? Anything good? Tell me!