zaterdag 31 oktober 2015

Ann Leckie: Ancillary Sword


Ancillary Sword is Ann Leckie’s second book in the Imperial Radch Trilogy. It won the Locus Award and the BSFA Award.
The book has 354 pages and I got it from Bol.
I read the first novel, Ancillary Justice, a few months ago.

 “The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go -- to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn's sister works in Horticulture.
Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized -- or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears. Old divisions are still troublesome, Athoek Station's AI is unhappy with the situation, and it looks like the alien Presger might have taken an interest in what's going on. With no guarantees that interest is benevolent.”

I found this one really difficult to get through.
It’s rather boring actually. It’s not bad, just boring and I was never really stimulated to get on with reading it.

The story is very simple (again), not really exciting and so, so slow. There’s an overly simple plot but it’s not considered that important and the narrative thread is weak too.
Ancillary Sword has even less action then Justice. It’s more focused on its morality and message then on something (anything) happening.
The world building made this a better novel though. There are lots of details and history and I like that in SFF. But it’s never really descriptive, just here and there a bit and I want more.

Breq is an admirable character. She does what she believes is right, without regard for propriety or status.
Her ability to read even the tiniest flicker of emotion on someone’s face is a bit over-reaching in my opinion. She’s not human and she can’t see every tiny glance. But she apparently knows everything that goes on in a human’s mind.
You do feel how lonely she is throughout the novel.
But she is too perfect to make me really care for her. She always knows exactly what to do, she’s so moral and just, she never falters or makes mistakes. It aggravated me to be honest.

I liked knowing more about the annexation and the troubles it brings for the different peoples and societies as Breq experiences it. Politics and the inner workings of a society always interest me in SFF. But the scope here is so small. Breq talks and talks about the whole Empire, but all we see is this tiny, unimportant station. Problems in the Empire are mentioned throughout the novel, but it’s always in passing.
I missed Seivarden in this novel. I liked the interaction between Breq and Seivarden in the previous novel. 

Sword is different and not bad but not as special as many seem to think. Or that’s my opinion at least.

Happy reading.

vrijdag 23 oktober 2015

Terry Pratchett: Wintersmith

Hi everyone

I read the third Tiffany Aching novel in The Discworld series by the late Sir Terry Pratchett.
It has 375 pages and it won the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book in 2007.

“Tiffany Aching is a trainee witch — now working for the seriously scary Miss Treason. But when Tiffany witnesses the Dark Dance — the crossover from summer to winter — she does what no one has ever done before and leaps into the dance. Into the oldest story there ever is. And draws the attention of the Wintersmith himself.
As Tiffany-shaped snowflakes hammer down on the land, can Tiffany deal with the consequences of her actions? Even with the help of Granny Weatherwax and the Nac Mac Feegle — the fightin’, thievin’ pictsies who are prepared to lay down their lives for their big wee hag.”

I loved this book so much.

Wintersmith pokes fun at some of the classic tropes in Fantasy like the god falling in love with an earthly woman.
Miss Treason is another perfect example. I loved her even though she ‘scared’ me at first. But she’s so lovable (as most Discworld witches are), weird and a strong female character in general. She knows that you cannot be a witch if others don’t see you as one. So she decided a very long time ago to just play along.
If there is one thing we can never blame Pratchett for it’s a lack of strong female characters.
Tiffany is a brilliant character. She’s smart, willful, she knows what she wants, and she’s brave, confident, competent and brassy.
The ‘love story’ of Tiffany and Roland made me smile in its innocence and their denial of it.
Roland is clumsy, smart, sweet and funny. He’s an excellent match for Tiffany and a great character even without her. And Pratchett still shows her as a 13-year old girl. He made me care so much for her.
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax (I want to be her when I grow old) make this novel an absolutely amazing read. They are both spot on. They are ruthless as always, a charming couple of witches, memorable, headstrong, smart and just generally, truly incredible.
And how could I not mention the Nac Mac Feegle? They made me laugh so hard my husband had to laugh about me laughing about the book.
Lastly, there’s Horace. You’ll have to see for yourselves what he/that’s about.

The plot is good, solid, fast and unpredictable. Well, it’s Pratchett so you know it’s going to be ok, but you so wonder sometimes. It’s full of action from start to finish, it just doesn’t stop.

And there’s a bit of wisdom for the reader as well. There always is ‘stealth philosophy’ and it’s never boring, meandering, blaming or harsh. He teaches us about superstition, death, blame, responsibility, duty and the consequences of our actions.

It’s engaging, the prose is easy, rich, without fluff and bright. The characters are real, fully realized with merits and flaws, they grow, they are complex and they are all my friends.
And it is filled to the brim with Pratchett’s typical sense of humor. 
I loved it. I absolutely adored this book.

Happy reading.

donderdag 22 oktober 2015

Shirley Jackson: Hangsaman


Hangsaman is my second Shirley Jackson novel (I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle a few months ago).
It has 218 pages and a 5-page Foreword by Francine Prose.
I got it from The Book Depository.

“Seventeen-year-old Natalie Waite longs to escape home for college. Her father is a domineering and egotistical writer who keeps a tight rein on Natalie and her long-suffering mother. When Natalie finally does get away, however, college life doesn’t bring the happiness she expected. Little by little, Natalie is no longer certain of anything—even where reality ends and her dark imaginings begin. Chilling and suspenseful, Hangsaman is loosely based on the real-life disappearance of a Bennington College sophomore in 1946.”

I enjoyed this novel enormously.
It’s very different and unique. The prose is absolutely beautiful, elegant and it makes for a truly believable story. The atmosphere created is dark, claustrophobic and haunting but not throughout.

The story is about the aftermath of trauma; what can happen after someone or something changed you and your life. What happened is never explicitly stated nor dwelt upon but it influences every sentence after.
It’s also about finding your place in the world, your part in it and figuring out who you are.

Hangsaman is definitely recommended!

Happy reading.

vrijdag 16 oktober 2015

Stefan Brijs: The Angel Maker


This is my review of my third time reading The Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs.
I obviously read it in Dutch because Stefan Brijs is a Belgian writer but I do know this novel has been translated into English.
My copy has 429 pages and is actually my mother’s copy. 

Last year I went to a lecture Stefan Brijs was giving in my hometown. I own De Engelenmaker and Post voor mevrouw Bromley so I decided to bring them with me to get them autographed. One for me and one for my mother whose books we forgot to bring with us. So I gave her my signed copy of De Engelenmaker, I got her copy instead and I now own a signed copy of Post voor mevrouw Bromley.
“The village of Wolfheim is a quiet little place until the geneticist Dr. Victor Hoppe returns after an absence of nearly twenty years. The doctor brings with him his infant children-three identical boys all sharing a disturbing disfigurement. He keeps them hidden away until Charlotte, the woman who is hired to care for them, begins to suspect that the triplets-and the good doctor- aren't quite what they seem. As the villagers become increasingly suspicious, the story of Dr. Hoppe's past begins to unfold, and the shocking secrets that he has been keeping are revealed. A chilling story that explores the ethical limits of science and religion, The Angel Maker is a haunting tale in the tradition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. Brought to life by internationally bestselling author Stefan Brijs, this eerie tale promises to get under readers' skin.”

I enjoyed it a lot. Not as much as the first or the second time though.
My guess is that the gossip and the weak-minded people are hitting too close to home this time around.
The story is set in a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone else. That makes for a lot of talking, spying and gossiping. And it feels stifling. You get so caught up in it you can feel yourself growing as stupid and foolish as them. 

Hoppe is amazingly characterized. His determination is admirable. And what he has to go through is tragic and you can totally understand how he came to be the way he is without approving his deeds.

The storytelling is very sharp, intelligent and to the point.
Brijs shows us how superstition, science and personal experience can all be a part of one and the same person and how this can still make sense inside this person’s head. Because it still does for Hoppe. And it’s amazing to watch his reasoning and his thoughts.

The Angel Maker is well worth the read. The story is enormously engrossing; it just sucks you up and doesn’t let you go until you have to go to sleep or until you’ve finished the whole thing.

I remember being flabbergasted the first time I read it and I found out what it was all about. Obviously, I’m well beyond that now but it still is pretty awesome, horrific, baffling and utterly amazing.

Happy reading!

Delightful hours.

maandag 12 oktober 2015

Yevgeny Zamyatin: We


This review is about We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.
My copy has 203 pages story, 6 pages Introduction and 2 pages Translator’s Note.

“In the One State of the great Benefactor, there are no individuals, only numbers. Life is an ongoing process of mathematical precision, a perfectly balanced equation. Primitive passions and instincts have been subdued. Even nature has been defeated, banished behind the Green Wall. But one frontier remains: outer space. Now, with the creation of the spaceship Integral, that frontier -- and whatever alien species are to be found there -- will be subjugated to the beneficent yoke of reason.
One number, D-503, chief architect of the Integral, decides to record his thoughts in the final days before the launch for the benefit of less advanced societies. But a chance meeting with the beautiful I-330 results in an unexpected discovery that threatens everything D-503 believes about himself and the One State. The discovery -- or rediscovery -- of inner space...and that disease the ancients called the soul.”

We was written in 1921 and it was a major influence on the two most well known dystopian novels ever; 1984 and Brave New World
Because I love both I felt like I needed to read this one too.

The novel is a written record by our protagonist, D-503 (or D) like a diary with scattered thoughts, disjointed sentences and random entries.
These entries feel very cold and detached and I didn’t really care about any of the characters or the unfolding events.
I suppose that’s exactly what Zamyatin wanted us to feel like because it works great for the story and the characters aren’t meant to be likeable.
The novel is slow going at first and hard to understand but if you keep going it gets interesting.

Our protagonist, D, fully believes in the One State, he’s not the one with doubts as in so many other novels. No, he is happy with his life and he actually, truly believes in the system. He thinks like an indoctrinated mathematician. And he keeps thinking like that throughout the novel. D is not the quintessential rebel. I found this to be a very interesting and unusual point of view.

The ending was most definitely an inspiration for George Orwell.

Freedom allows chaos and chaos is not a part of true happiness. Imagination and improvisation are freedom and thus they are chaos.
One State is a completely machinelike, controlled society with no room for individuality or any form of freedom. The glass houses are an example of this theory.
In this One State there are only designations and numbers. This is a simple way to dehumanize every person in this state. Can you imagine your life that way?
Theoretical happiness and complete health have made way for freedom.

Highly recommended if you have an interest or a passion for Classics or Dystopian Fiction.

Happy reading!


zondag 11 oktober 2015

Agatha Christie: Five Little Pigs


Five Little Pigs is another novel by Agatha Christie in her Hercule Poirot-series.
The book has 336 pages and I got it second-hand in Brighton.
You can find all my Agatha Christie reviews here.

“Beautiful Caroline Crale was convicted of poisoning her husband, but just like the nursery rhyme, there were five other “little pigs” who could have done it: Philip Blake (the stockbroker), who went to market; Meredith Blake (the amateur herbalist), who stayed at home; Elsa Greer (the three-time divorcée), who had her roast beef; Cecilia Williams (the devoted governess), who had none; and Angela Warren (the disfigured sister), who cried all the way home.
Sixteen years later, Caroline’s daughter is determined to prove her mother’s innocence, and Poirot just can’t get that nursery rhyme out of his mind.”

It’s rather difficult to write reviews about a series where all the books are more or less the same.
There’s always a murder. Poirot talks with the suspects at least two times. After that he reveals to them when they are gathered together who murdered the deceased.
That’s the basic outline of every Christie novel.

Every novel is well-written, easy to read and funny at times. Sometimes I know who did it before Poirot reveals it but even if I can’t always figure out how he or she did it. So it is always pleasant and amusing to read these novels.
This one isn’t any different.

I liked it and I enjoyed it. For once I knew who did it, but not how.
It’s pure entertainment.

Happy reading!

donderdag 8 oktober 2015

Robin Hobb & Megan Lindholm: The Inheritance


The Inheritance is the first short stories collection by Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm. Both are pseudonyms used by Margaret Lindholm. She sees these two pseudonyms as very different authors with a very distinct and not interchangeable writing style. Combining their stories into one collection made me see these differences quite clearly even though I’ve never read anything by Megan Lindholm.
I got this book at the Boekenfestijn and it has exactly 400 pages.

“The Inheritance & Other Stories is a marvelous new collection of short fiction from New York Times bestselling master storyteller Robin Hobb—including tales written under the pseudonym Megan Lindholm, by which the acclaimed fantasist first began her illustrious writing career. Included in this essential volume are Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated short masterworks, as well as brand new tales and the never before published in the U.S. title story—a unique compendium of wonders displaying the breathtaking skill, imagination, and remarkably varied styles of both alter egos.”

This collection includes the following stories:
as Megan Lindholm: A Touch of Lavender, Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man, Cut, The Fifth Squashed Cat, Strays, Finis and Drum machine
as Robin Hobb: Homecoming, The Inheritance and Cat's meat

Lindholm’s stories were a bit too short for me. I enjoyed them so much I wanted more of them and I wanted them to slow down a bit because they were so fast paced and sometimes shallow. These stories were more SF or urban in a recent setting. Hobb’s stories were fantastical as are her novels and they were slower too, which I liked.

I really liked this extremely descriptive collection. It’s very different from other collections and Lindholm’s stories especially were unique in their setting. The stories are very empowering, sad, moving and oddly triumphant. 

I enjoyed it but the stories are too predictable and shallow to really love them.

Happy reading.

maandag 5 oktober 2015

P. G. Wodehouse: Much Obliged, Jeeves


Much Obliged, Jeeves is another novel in the Jeeves and Wooster series by P. G. Wodehouse.
The books are all tiny and this one is no exception counting only 203 pages.

“While staying with his Aunt Dahlia to help out in the election at Market Snodsbury, Bertie Wooster comes up against the familiar horrors of Florence Craye, his former fiancee, and Roderick Spode, head of the Black Shorts, in a plot tangle from which, as usual, only the ingenuity of Jeeves can save him.”

I can just see these scenes right before my eyes and hear the voices in my head. Wodehouse has a very descriptive style.
The plot is a bit dull and weak but it’s also funny, full of coincidences and happy accidents.
Bertie is as sweet and funny as ever while stumbling through it all.
Jeeves is witty as usual.
And he has a first name! Breath people, don’t forget to breath.

I liked it; this is perfect, easy to read entertainment.

Happy reading!

zondag 4 oktober 2015

Jim Butcher: Grave Peril


Grave Peril is the third book in The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
I got it from Bol and it has 359 pages.

                                *   SPOILERS   *

This third novel is quite different from the ones before. There are more characters, more action and it’s all a lot faster.
This is also the most complicated plot yet. It’s not as straight-forward as the other ones and it has multiple interesting sidelines converging towards the end of the novel.

The story is fast, action-packed and it doesn’t slow down. Towards the end when you start counting the pages left and there aren’t a lot left you really start wondering how the heck Butcher is going to fix it all.
I liked the story a lot.

The whole setup feels very real. Butcher writes vividly and with a minimal of over-the-top magic and the likes. Everything is grounded; every action, every conversation and every creature/person has a reason for being in the novel. It’s great world building throughout. It still feels as modern day Chicago, but just a ‘bit’ different.

The characters are all very well characterized. We even get to know the new ones pretty thoroughly.
I must say I have a mixed relationship with Michael. He’s so much a godlover that it’s funny, but he too righteous to stay funny. I’d had it with him after a while and I was glad he wasn’t part of the whole novel so he could stay in my affections.
Susan is a walking cliché.
But so is Harry in a way and I don’t mind him or I wouldn’t keep reading the series.
All in all, I like these characters and I can see this series going pretty much anywhere.

I hate Dresden’s views on women though. On the one hand he practically drools every time he sees a woman and he can’t help himself thinking about her ass, her breasts or her legs. And on the other hand he thinks every woman, no matter how bad or vicious she is, is a damsel in distress. I hate it when writers do that. I would much rather see Dresden killing a woman vampire then have him thinking that he shouldn’t because she’s a woman.

I enjoyed this very much.

Happy reading!

donderdag 1 oktober 2015