Caraval

Author: Stephanie GarberCaraval_final cover (1).jpg

Pages: 407

Genre: Fantasy, magic, YA, romance

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27883214-caraval


Thoughts:

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Valuable advice to not just the characters. The story of Caraval sweeps you up quickly, and doesn’t let go easily. While I enjoyed reading it, it wasn’t until after I’d finished, that I started to see all the faults. The intense plot distracts you from the rest of the book, it seems.

So. I’m not exactly sure what to think of this book. I like it, but then I go through it again in my head, and it’s back in a negative light. But, I definitely enjoyed it while I was reading it. It was a very fun experience. I want to make that clear. (Also, look how pretty the cover is??! That was what piqued my interest in the first place)

“Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find yourself magic in this world.”
― Stephanie GarberCaraval

When I look back on it, and go through plot, characters, setting, it all seems to go pear-shaped. Firstly, plot… (Let’s get the negative bit over with) It seemed like a good idea at the beginning. It sounded very promising, up until the crazy twists and turn. By the end of the book, I actually didn’t know what was going on. Details kept being changed, and more things added in, until the villain was no longer the villain at all. It was a bit hard to keep up with. After I’d finished, I did manage to sort out what was happening, but was still left wanting more. Luckily, there is a second book! Even after this little complaint, I still want the next one. Surely that must mean something.

“No one is truly honest,” Nigel answered. “Even if we don’t lie to others, we often lie to ourselves. And the word good means different things to different people.”
― Stephanie GarberCaraval

Ok next: characters. The facts; interesting on the outside, very little development (except for one). Again, it’s like a thin layer of good book on the outside, but when go deeper, you discover it’s actually not that good of a quality book. The main character, Scarlett, started out as likeable, if a bit on the cautious side, but that’s not a bad thing. (I can be pretty cautious sometimes too) But once the male character was introduced, the interesting, well-told story-line, kept getting interrupted by the old fairy-tale belief that she needs to be saved by him.

Blah, blah, blah.

Come on Scarlett, you can do better than this!! (I don’t know if you can tell, but I really enjoy books with strong female leads…) By the end, once everything was twisted around, she started to become a little better, but her sister, on the other hand, was interesting all the way through. Tella had her own beliefs and plans, and didn’t wait for permission to implement them. While this became annoying in some ways, we do need some complications other than the climax. So characters were a mixture of interesting, well-thought-out, confusing, and annoying. There’s just so much happening in this book!

It’s almost as if Garber has tried a little too hard, and added in too many aspects, and that makes the writing messy. For example, it was a confusing concept to begin with, and then magic is involved, and then double-sided characters, and then on top of that, Scarlett has this random ability to sense feelings in colours. It’s so random. This little talent is not introduced, or explained at all, it’s just there, and pops up in random points in the story. I found that a little strange.

“Shades of the rich ruby love she’d felt during the game mixed with hues of deep-indigo hurt, turning everything just a little bit violet.”
― Stephanie GarberCaraval

All, in all, I’d say it’s the perfect young adult book, designed to keep people reading. A great setting, what started out as great characters, and an enjoyable read, until you start filing through it in your head. I think, by my rating policy, I’m going to give it 4 stars. The writing structure could definitely have been better, but I would certainly still recommend to people. If you have read it, what are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them all below in the comments. 🙂

Rating: star_rating_4_of_5

The Da Vinci Code

Author: Dan Brown DaVinciCode

Pages: 481

Genre: fiction, mystery, thriller, historical

An ingenious code hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. A desperate race through the cathedrals and castles of Europe. An astonishing truth concealed for centuries . . . unveiled at last.

While in Paris, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is awakened by a phone call in the dead of the night. The elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum, his body covered in baffling symbols. As Langdon and gifted French cryptologist Sophie Neveu sort through the bizarre riddles, they are stunned to discover a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci—clues visible for all to see and yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.


Thoughts: Finally read another of the Robert Langdon series, which I’ve been meaning to for a while now. I enjoy these books, contrary to a lot of other beliefs, mostly because of the frequent references to symbols and mythology. (Surprise, surprise) I definitely wouldn’t say they were my favourite, (although Da Vinci Code was better than Inferno, in my opinion), but they’re good enough for a quick weekend, or holiday read.

“Everyone loves a conspiracy.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown’s books are known for their ability to hook readers in, and both books of his that I’ve read, definitely lived up to that. In Inferno, it felt a bit forced, while Da Vinci Code seemed more natural in its cliff-hangers which is good. It wasn’t as if each chapter ended in the middle of a sentence, but like it was actually as perplexing as he made it seem. Sure, it made me want to keep reading, but the complications and cliffhangers were a lot more reasonable and believable. (most of the time)

“Telling someone about what a symbol means is like telling someone how music should make them feel.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

So this book is mostly set in Paris, with a little in England, and Landon rushes around to a lot of the museums and statues. Having been to Paris and England myself, and loved all of the artworks displayed in the Louvre, I really enjoyed all the references. I’m sure a few of you know I’m a bit of a mythology and history fanatic (My name’s Isis, the blog’s name is Book Goddess), and it was good to be able to know what all the characters were talking about. I even deciphered one of the codes before Langdon did!!!

“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

Again, as I’ve said before, Dan Brown’s writing style isn’t the greatest. I found this book was pretty good with its language uses, (better than Inferno, once again), it wasn’t too painful for most of the book. At times, it had some pretty complex descriptions of things. But, at other times, it did sound downright average. (e.g. quote below) Again, it’s not like it was impossible to read, and it doesn’t impact my view of the book very much, but the writing could be improved greatly. I will also say that the ending seemed a little weak for me. It was great most of the time, with multiple twists and turns, but then after the climax, it had a really boring finish.

“Her eyes were olive green―incisive and clear.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

This review’s pretty short compared to most of my others. I guess there isn’t much to say about it really. I’d say it would be a good read for most people, because it moves quickly and almost includes the reader on the adventure. Because it explains so many of the ideas and theories, you feel like you’re on the run with the characters, figuring out codes and following clues along the way. A good book for when you’re on a plane actually. It didn’t leave a large impact on me, like other literary masterpieces do, but it was fun while I was reading it. If I had the book open, it was fine, and I was hooked most of the time, so it was hard to put it down. And then when I did manage to put it down, I didn’t really feel the urge to pick it back up, just because it didn’t seem that important.

Rating: star_rating_3_of_5

The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Pages: 369The_Martian_2014

Genre: Sci-fi, fiction, comedy

I’m stranded on Mars.

I have no way to communicate with Earth. If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Habitat breaches, I’ll just kind of explode.

If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

I’m screwed.

Thoughts: This review’s been a little time in the coming, but it’s finally here. I saw The Martian as a movie first, and really enjoyed it. I then learned there was a book, and needed to read it. And, I think the movie did a very good job of portraying the characters, and the storyline. Basically, for anyone who hasn’t read or seen it, the Ares 3 crew landed on Mars, but had to abort their mission early, due to an unexpected storm. On their way over to the MAV (their ride home), Mark Watney is hit by flying debris and whisked away by the wind. The rest of the crew, thinking him dead, and under strict orders to leave, have no choice but to leave him there. But Mark did not die, and is now stranded on Mars. It was a really fun read, that made me laugh out loud many, many times, while also conveying enough worry for me to be on the edge of my seat.

“Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be “in command” if I were the only remaining person.”
What do you know? I’m in command”
― Andy WeirThe Martian

From the opening line, I got Mark Watney’s character down pat. He has a very recognisable way of speaking… Like this! All the time!! With heaps of funny lines that will definitely be quoted! And he narrates most of the book. It does sound like it would get a bit tiresome after a while, but not for me. I really enjoyed reading it. The other parts of the book were either around NASA (on Earth), or the rest of the Ares 3 crew, (who are still on their way back to Earth). I really liked their parts, because all the characters were so developed, and had certain ways of acting. They seemed like real people, who I really would’ve liked to meet. There was just something satisfying about their conversations and the way they interacted with another, made smooth through Weir’s way with words. These chunks of the book broke up Watney’s, which is possibly why I didn’t get too tired of it. The only thing that could’ve made it better, is more of these parts, because I really, really enjoyed them.

“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”

LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”
― Andy WeirThe Martian

An aspect of The Martian that really amazes me, is the amount of research that went into it. There are crazy amounts of maths formulas involved, as Watney’s trying to figure out how to survive. On top of that, just general NASA knowledge, and terminology, like the Hab, the MAV, and EVA, and as well as that, the solutions to his major issues, for example growing food, repairing the oxygenator, or communicating with Earth. So yes, there was a lot of research that went into the book, so it would seem more realistic and plausible. And apparently, most of what he wrote was largely correct. (Not that I went through and checked everything. That would have taken forever) Which leads me to my next point: There was a lot of it. A lot of rambling on about ‘how this would mean that this thing has to be changed, which would affect that, and that cannot be changed, so scrap that idea, and form a new one.’ It’s written as if an astronaut had written it, which is essentially what it was meant to be, but I’m not going to lie. After the first few chapters, once it got to these parts, I would just skim over it, and then start reading properly when it finished. It wasn’t like it was badly written, it would just jumble everything up, and I couldn’t keep up. I appreciate the sheer amount of research that went into it, and feel like it wouldn’t have been the same book without all the realistic factors, but it just got a bit too much.

“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”
― Andy WeirThe Martian

It is not the amazingly-written book I’ve read, but the genre and style of story it is didn’t need it to be. It’s meant to be a collection on Watney’s thoughts as he logs his survival on Mars. This means it isn’t perfect English, there are jokes everywhere, he makes up names for people and things (kilowatt-hour per sol later becomes known as a ‘pirate-ninja’), and there are lots of short and jumbled sentences. It helps if you read it as if he was actually speaking it, which much easier if you’ve seen the movie.

“If ruining the only religious icon I have leaves me vulnerable to Martian vampires, I’ll have to risk it.”
― Andy WeirThe Martian

Sorry if all these quotes are annoying, I really love them all!! I had to narrow it down just for the review. Essentially, the best part was the continuous humour. Slightly unrealistic at times, but still, enough things went wrong that it still seemed plausible. It was a good, fun, easy read that I think everyone would enjoy. (although: language warning) To sum up, there were developed characters, who were all fun to read about, a thrilling story that had lots of ups and downs, it was very well researched, and the writing was light and easy. Also, did I mention, hilarious!!

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally hum
an that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”
― Andy WeirThe Martian

Rating: star_rating_4_of_5

The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkinsthe-girl-on-the-train

Pages: 325

Genre: Thriller, contemporary, mystery, crime, fiction

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22557272-the-girl-on-the-train


So, I did intend to write this review a while ago, but time has really gotten away from me. Drowning in study and assignments at the moment, and writing this now, I’m sort of procrastinating. But anyway, I’ve got quite a few thoughts on The Girl on the Train. Let’s see, where to start…

I thought this sounded like an interesting idea when I got the gist of the storyline, and if were done well, I think it would have been really cool. But the writing was just really boring and clumsy that it took away from the story. It started off a little depressing and slow, and by the time the ‘exciting’ bit had begun, I was already turned away.

“I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.”
― Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train

One thing I absolutely hated was the characters. There was literally nothing to like about them. Three women narrate this story, Rachel, Anna, and Megan, and it starts off with Rachel. Let’s just say she’s a very bad alcoholic. In some parts, I got the feeling that I might be able to feel sorry for her, as she did seem to have pretty rotten luck, but she was also the weakest person in the entire world at some points as well. It got very tiresome very quickly, when she just went back to drinking every time a problem arose. If she’d just stayed sober, maybe she would have figured it out a lot quicker… Just a slight feeling I’m getting….

Then there is Anna, who is just mean and generally un-likeable throughout the entire story. Not much else that is interesting about her. And then Megan. I thought she was okay at the start of the book, and she seemed like the only likeable character, but then as the book progressed, more things were brought up about her past, and what she did, and she ended up being just as bad as the other two. So, all the women are pretty lousy in my perspective, and I’m not sure the author wanted it this way or not. Maybe she planned for them all to be weak and unpleasant, but I would have appreciated it if there was at least one strong female.

“When did you become so weak?” I don’t know. I don’t know where that strength went, I don’t remember losing it. I think that over time it got chipped away, bit by bit, by life, by the living of it.”
― Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train

Despite all this ranting, I still think the storyline had a good idea and theme to it, and I wanted to know how it was going to end. Being a murder mystery, there are heaps of people saying they figured it out in the first 3 chapters and all that, but I’m actually terrible at that sort of thing. So, I can’t really say it was predictable. But, it wasn’t as much of a shock as I thought it might be, which led to it being quite weak in my opinion. And then everything after that was also a bit short and lacking as well. I feel like it needed more, because the answer was just revealed, and then it basically finished. No resolutions were made. The characters were all still boring. There was just no real development over the entire book. The characters were just going round and round in circles for most of it.

“I want to drag knives over my skin, just to feel something other than shame, but I’m not even brave enough for that”
― Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train

Alright, I’m done. I guess you got the picture that I didn’t really like this book. The only reason it would be OK is because the ending kept me guessing, although in the end, it wasn’t that much of a shock anyway. It’s sort of like the cheap reality TV shows, that have bad acting and the storyline is so boring because nothing ever happens. Yeah, I’m going to liken it to that. It’s watchable, but after a while, it does get tiresome.

Rating: star_rating_2_of_5

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

Author: Leigh Bardugo crooked-kingdom

Pages: 536

Genre: young adult, adventure, fantasy

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.


Thoughts:  Well, well, where to start? Again, another masterpiece from Leigh Bardugo, with a little bit of everything I love, all in one book. I don’t know if it’s better than Six of Crows. I can’t decide. Pretty sure that I liked the story behind the first book better than this one, as Crooked Kingdom was a little more focussed on the characters. But then I absolutely loved reading about the characters, so really can’t make up my mind on that one.

Okay, so as I mentioned before, Crooked Kingdom is a bit more about the characters than the first book. Each chapter is from a different character’s perspective again, and I really love seeing the story from different views. And then this caused me to fall in love with them all over again. I have no idea how people who read Six of Crows before this one came out coped, because I was just about ready to burst, and I only waited a day. It’s just one of those novels where you love everyone, and can’t wait to read more about them.

“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”
― Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom

This book seriously kept me on the edge of my seat the entire way through. I don’t think there is actually a dull moment during this entire series, which is just wonderful. Action scenes, planning scenes (which could be just as exciting as the action scenes, somehow), revenge being taken, character development, and then the twists and turns as well. The plot just seemed to build up as the book went further along. Six of Crows ends on a sort of cliff-hanger, and then, I thought Crooked Kingdom was just fixing this complication. But no. This particular problem was resolved in just about the first quarter of the book, leaving the rest for some more amazing writing.

“Has anyone noticed this whole city is looking for us, mad at us, or wants to kill us?”
“So?” said Kaz.
“Well, usually it’s just half the city.”
― Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom

Of course, it’s again full of the hilarious banter between everyone, and so much sarcasm!! I loved every minute of it. It’s just so fun and you really feel like you’re in the book with everyone. When this happens, I say it’s a good book, because the author has obviously created a world that fits so well into my head that I can sort of live in it myself. One point to also touch on, is character development. For people who have read the book, you’ll know what I mean when I say it happened for Kaz and Inej, and Matthias as well. Even Wylan has progressed, and it’s nice to see so much of it happening in just the two books. For people who haven’t read it, these are the lovely people you will meet on your Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom adventure. I’d be looking forward to it if I were you.

“Where do you think the money went?” he repeated.
“Guns?” asked Jesper.
“Ships?” queried Inej.
“Bombs?” suggested Wylan.
“Political bribes?” offered Nina. They all looked at Matthias. “This is where you tell us how awful we are,” she whispered.
He shrugged. “They all seem like practical choices.”
― Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom

I know it does seem like this review was basically me rambling on about how good this book was, but I don’t think I can pick out anything bad about it. It’s not a deep book with lots of talk of ethics and morals, or an emotional contemporary novel, but it’s not meant to be. While both of those styles could be considered a better quality of book, I’m not going to judge a young adult fantasy, series on those criteria. So, I’m pretty sure this series was basically perfect, and it is most definitely one of my favourites. I just wish there was another book (or ten) so I can hear from the characters again, see what they’re doing, how they’re feeling. Obviously, I have become slightly obsessed. Time to distract myself with another book…

Rating: 5-start

Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugosix-of-crows

Pages: 465

Genre: young adult, adventure, fantasy,

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.


Thoughts: I’ve wanted to read this book for so long, but when I finally got around to opening it to the first page, I did get a little afraid. There are so many good reviews and recommendations around this duology that I started to get swept up in its awesomeness before I’d even read it. And when I did start reading it, I finally started to wonder if it was that great… But I needn’t have worried!! It was amazing! I loved every second of it.

“Jesper knocking his head against the hull and cast his eyes heavenward. “Fine. But if Pekka Rollins kills us all, I’m going to get Wylan’s ghost to teach my ghost how to play the flute just so that I can annoy the hell out of your ghost.”

Brekker’s lips quirked. “I’ll just hire Matthias’ ghost to kick your ghost’s ass.”

“My ghost won’t associate with your ghost,” Matthias said primly, and then wondered if the sea air was rotting his brain.”
― Leigh BardugoSix of Crows

So, I haven’t read a young adult fantasy series in a while, at least not an amazing one. I’ve been trying to read different types of genres, and have read a few contemporary types recently. But this duology has hooked me right back in again. As I said before – so good, and so addictive!!! I think I’d forgotten how well a story can hook me in, and force me to read it every second of every day, which is basically what I did. Forget about study and exams –pffft, let’s figure out how Kaz Brekker pulled off his impossible heist.

From just about the first page, I was in love with the characters, and this was one of the few books where I didn’t mind the multiple points of view. I found every single character was exciting and interesting, and couldn’t wait for the next chapter of theirs once it was over. Leigh Bardugo described each of them so well, and gave them each a little unique metaphorical trait, and so she could introduce them without even having to say their name. The world she created was just so real that I almost felt as if I went on the adventure with them. And it’s been a while since that’s happened to me, so I’m more than a little obsessed right now.

“Always hit where the mark isn’t looking”

“Who’s Mark?” asked Wylan.”
― Leigh BardugoSix of Crows

Then there’s the humour – buckets of it streaming from the pages. While most of the book had quite a scary, serious outlook (remember they are planning and initiating an impossible heist), the easy-going banter and chat from each of the characters was hilarious. I laughed and snorted at the ridiculous, or sarcastic jokes they made about each other, and with each other. Even now, scenes are replaying in my head, and I can remember most of what all of them say. It’s definitely as if I travelled with them, because it’s like I know them all personally.

“No Mourners.
No Funerals.”
― Leigh BardugoSix of Crows

One thing I did note while reading was how the author backfilled in for the characters when we weren’t expecting it, and transitioned between the now and the past so smoothly that a lot of the time it wasn’t until I was right in the middle that I noticed. We are left quite in the dark at the beginning of the book, and it’s written so we can understand what’s happening, but are still curious why certain things are happening. For example, the group’s leader, Kaz Brekker, always wears gloves, and never takes them off until he is alone. This was one of the many mysteries that were revealed as the book went on, in the backfilling. Leigh Bardugo has found parts in her story, and matched up parallels of a point in that character’s past, and then has made the connection there, meaning it flows smoothly. And after a while, I began to realise she did this almost every chapter. And by the end of the book, we knew a whole lot more about each of the crew, sometimes without even remembering that we’d learnt it.

To finish, I’m just going to say that if you want to find yourself a good, fast-paced read, then this is most definitely the series for you. I feel sorry for the people who read Six of Crows before Crooked Kingdom was released, because I needed that next book when I finished. After finishing Crooked Kingdom as well now, while it resolved and everything, I find myself wishing for another one, just so I can hear from the characters again. *Sigh* Oh well, I’ll just have to find another book. Shouldn’t be too hard…

Rating: star_rating_4-5_of_5

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet #1)

Author: Madeleine L’EngleA Wrinkle in Time

Pages: 211

Genre: fiction, sci-fi, children, classic, fantasy, young adult

It was a dark and stormy night;

Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. 

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?


Thoughts: Ever since I read this book years and years ago, I remembered it as one of my favourites, until the other day, when I realised that I couldn’t actually remember why I loved it. I’d forgotten everything about it, except that I had enjoyed reading it. So, after I finished my last book, I straight away picked this one up, and finished it overnight. And, it is just as good as I remember. The strange storyline, and the peculiar, though lovable characters soon all came back to me, and I can still say that A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favourite classic books.

“It was a dark and stormy night.”
― Madeleine L’EngleA Wrinkle in Time

I actually love the fact that the first line is the often mocked, “It was a dark and stormy night” phrase. This was not the first novel to use the line, that award goes to Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 book, Paul Clifford. But, it does not diminish the quality of book at all. In any case, I’d say it enhances it, because as you read that first line, and then the first page, and amazing writing really hits you with impact. The first paragraph features such wonderful descriptions, that I had to read it out loud a couple of times, to myself and members of my family. It’s just amazing.  And then the story starts.

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. – Mrs. Whatsit”
― Madeleine L’EngleA Wrinkle in Time

The plot is a very well thought out plot, and you would have to really know what you’re talking about to be able to write it. It’s not a usual fantasy novel, that if you’re creative enough, you can write; it involves quite a bit of science, and of course travelling in time (that is what creates a sci-fi novel), and it’s all mixed together marvellously to create an interesting plot. You would have no idea how it would resolve after reading the first half of the story. It keeps you hidden in the dark all the way through, until the end, which I think is a part of being a well-written novel. If it’s too predictable, then what’s the point in reading it?

“A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.”
― Madeleine L’EngleA Wrinkle in Time: With Related Readings

I also absolutely adore the characters in A Wrinkle in Time. First off, it features a female lead, which I always enjoy. And it’s not as though Meg (the lead) didn’t have faults; she had quite a few, but there was soooooo much development for her, and this strengthens her even more. I also loved Charles Wallace, Meg’s younger brother, and the voice and input he gave the story. And then who couldn’t love the three Mrs W’s. Mrs Whatsit, the loveable and kind, brings these values to the book. Mrs Who, who was a little stranger, I also liked. She speaks mainly in quotes, which I grew to like from her, and then there was the even stranger Mrs Which. She is the more philosophical guardian of Meg and her brother. I feel like all the characters involved all had a purpose in the book. They weren’t just for show, or were meaningless. They were all there for a reason, so there was no rambling on about things we didn’t need to know. This also means that I loved all of them, because there isn’t too many of them.

“Have you ever tried to get to your feet with a sprained dignity?”
― Madeleine L’EngleA Wrinkle in Time

In general, I think everyone should have the chance to read A Wrinkle in Time. It’s written well, it has amazing descriptions, is fast-paced if you don’t like slow books, and it has a lovely feel to it. It is written so children can read it, so older people could find it a little young, or not for them, but I loved it. It’s also only the first book in the Time Quintet, which I did not realise until about three days ago, so I must get around to reading the other four. I don’t think you need to though, as it does finish alright. There is a bit of a cliff-hanger, but I think the complication of this book is resolved nicely.

Rating: 5-start

The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden

Author: Jonas Jonassonthe-girl-who-saved-the-king-of-sweded

Pages: 419

Genre: fiction, humour, comedy, contemporary

Just because the world ignores you doesn’t mean you can’t save it.

Nombeko Mayeki is on the run from the world’s most ruthless secret service – with three Chinese sisters, twins who are officially one person, and an elderly potato farmer. Oh, and the fate of the King of Sweden – and the world – rests on her shoulders.

Born in a Soweto shack in 1961, Nombeko was destined for a short, hard life. When she was run over by a drunken engineer her luck changed. Alive, but blamed for the accident, she is sent to work for the driver – the brandy-soaked head of a project vital to South Africa’s security. Nombeko may be good at cleaning, but she’s amazing with numbers. The drunken engineer isn’t – and has made a big mistake. And only Nombeko knows about it…

http://www.harpercollins.com.au/9780007557882/#sm.0009iwzhk17asdgsu9110f8ys9fap


Thoughts: I finally finished it, after about 2 weeks on the one book, which is pretty terrible for me. So here we are, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

“Life, here I come!’ he said. And was immediately and fatally run over by a bus.”
― Jonas JonassonThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

I found this book hilariously funny, and would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a laugh. Right from the get-go I loved the main character – who later becomes the girl who saves the King of Sweden. But you have to read the whole book to find out how she gets into that situation. Throughout the entire thing, tension built up, as disaster after disaster happened.

“If you don’t think you have enough problems, you should acquire a mammal in Sweden just hours before you’re about to fly home to the other side of the world, and then insist that the animal must come along in your luggage.”
― Jonas JonassonThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

I’m likening the sort of story to a Douglas Adams book, because of each of the weird and strange coincidences that seemed to keep happening. I actually couldn’t finish The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, because it was just too confusing and I didn’t get it, so this one wasn’t to as much of an extent. But still, there were more than a few moments when it seemed nothing else could go wrong, and then another character they met 100 pages before, suddenly pops up and tries to take control. It was like, “Ohhhhhh, I forgot about you…”

The novel itself was written well, if a little confusing in parts. The one piece of advice is to take note of character’s names, and where they feature in the story, because sometimes you won’t understand the jokes made later in the book. I absolutely loved the humour of it all, which is probably why I loved it so much.

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. – An unknown thinker ” ― Jonas JonassonThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

It was a little slow to begin with, to a minor extent, but it very quickly warmed up. But then, by the second half, I did find that it was starting to drag on a bit. There were things happening every chapter, but I couldn’t read more than 3 at a time, because nothing big happened, no cliff-hanger, that made me want to read on. What also added to this was that there was no climax. Yes, there was a point in the story that was more important than the rest of it, but the tension just didn’t get any higher than the rest of the book. It was like as if the author tried to cram too many different parts into the book, and tried to connect characters in some way, too many times, that when the big ending came, it actually wasn’t a big ending.

In saying that, I loved the variety of different characters that existed in the story. There’s a South African woman, two Swedish twins, three Chinese sisters, two Israeli agents, then the president of China, and of course, the King of Sweden. I enjoyed all the crazy coincidences that continued throughout the entire story, and how unpredictable they were.

“Books simply had something sympathetic, their mere existence was pleasing.” ― Jonas JonassonThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

Now, I know that I’ve said that it’s slow, and seems to drag on, but I still liked it. I would recommend it to people, not for an easy read, but for a funny, humorous one. If you’ve had enough of the tear-jerkers… And I say not an easy read, because you do have to concentrate on it, as it all gets very confusing near the end if you don’t remember some of the characters. Just a tip…

Rating: star_rating_4_of_5

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

elegance of a hedgehog.jpgAuthor: Muriel Barbery (Translated into English by Alison Anderson)

Pages: 325

Genre: Realism, fiction, contemporary, french

We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building’s tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.

Then there’s Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.

Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma’s trust and to see through Renée’s timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2967752-the-elegance-of-the-hedgehog


Thoughts: I’m pretty sure that was one of the only blurbs that almost exactly describes this book as it is. And I’m just going to start by saying, if you are put off by it, and think that it sounds a little too philosophical to your liking, then you are correct. It is very wordy, and complex, but that’s sort of why I liked it.

First off we are introduced to Renée Michel, who turns out to be lovely, if a bit on the shy side, 54 year old concierge. She is more than she seems, and is very good at hiding all her emotions behind the stereotypical, old, concierge mask that she’s had years of mastering.

“Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty.”
― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

Our other main character is Paloma Josse, a 12-year old, super-intelligent girl, who hides her intelligence to fit in. She lives on the 5th floor of the apartment Renée is the concierge of, and thinks the rest of her family are snobs. Paloma, on her thirteenth birthday, unless she can find something worth living for, beyond the “vacuousness of bourgeois existence” is going to set fire to the apartment, and in the process, commit suicide.

“We think we can make honey without sharing in the fate of bees, but we are in truth nothing but poor bees, destined to accomplish our task and then die.”
― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

Now, it sounds a bit morbid, but right from the start, you get the typical French novel feel, with all of its little quirky aspects. The version I read was translated into English, from French, so there were a couple of things that seemed a little confusing, as you get when reading translated copies. But the language used in almost every sentence, was amazing. It reminded me of the way Markus Zusak writes, in both The Book Thief, and The Messenger, almost like every sentence has a double meaning. Literally every sentence seemed like it had taken a week to be crafted into a beautiful quote, and while this did get a bit tiring after a while, it absolutely matched the feel of the rest of the story.

Just as teardrops, when they are large and round and compassionate, can leave a long strand washed clean of discord, the summer rain as it washes away the motionless dust can bring to a person’s soul something like endless breathing.”
― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

My favourite part of the book is when the third main character is introduced, which isn’t until about a third of the way through. Up until then, it was actually a bit hard to read the book in large chunks because nothing was really happening. We were gaining insights into the background of Renée and Paloma, and it wasn’t too exciting. The arrival of Kakuro Ozu really set the motion going. Ozu is a wealthy Japanese businessman, who moves into 7 Rue de Grenelle, the apartment both Paloma and Renée live in. He is the only person to connect with Paloma, and see through Renée’s clever mask, and in this way brings all three characters together.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog also discusses some really major themes and messages. For starters there’s the philosophy mentioned pretty regularly, and then all the other cultural aspects that both Renée and Paloma share an interest in. The author, Muriel Barbery, crafted and added these characters because they like, enjoy and represent the things that she liked and enjoyed. She expressed herself in this book, through her characters. The novel also mentions and involves social class, especially between the rich families that live in the apartment, and the not-so privileged concierge, Madame Michel (Renée). This also appears again regarding Manuela, who is a Portuguese cleaner. She is also Renée’s only real friend for a lot of the book.

“Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside she is covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary–and terrible elegant. ”
― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

So, as you can see, even if it isn’t the typical intro-climax-resolution style book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog still incorporates important issues and themes which I think is what makes the story special. It could be about a normal French concierge, and how her life revolves around all the rich families who live above her in the apartment, but there’s nothing special about that. Nothing that makes me want to read it.

I’m not going to comment on the ending, only going to warn you that it is a sad book, but at the same time beautiful (isn’t it always the way?). The addition of Ozu makes everything better in the story, and makes it more enjoyable to read. I think, because of the language used, it feels like a very powerful book, right up until the last page.

“For the first time in my life I understood the meaning of the word ‘never’. And it’s really awful. You say the word a hundred times a day but you don’t really know what you’re saying until you’re faced with a real ‘never again’.”
― Muriel BarberyThe Elegance of the Hedgehog

Why you should read it: Because it is a fantastically well written story, that features great themes. If you like literature, philosophy, or anything French, then I reckon you’ll like this book. I think it fits perfectly into the same category of the movie Amelié for whoever has seen that.

Rating: star_rating_4-5_of_5

Fool’s Assassin

Author: Robin Hobb fools assassin.jpg

Pages: 688

Genre: Epic fantasy, fiction, magic, adventure

Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife Molly these many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service to the crown.

But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic, and assassin. A man who has risked much for his king and lost more…

Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives to seek out Fitz, but mysteriously disappears, leaving nothing but a blood-trail. What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger?

Suddenly Fitz’s violent old life erupts into the peace of his new world, and nothing and no one is safe.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19288321-fool-s-assassin


Thoughts: I’ve had this book waiting on my shelf for ages now, and finally decided to try it this week. Having not read any Robin Hobb before, (I probably should have, seeing as this is like the 4th series in the collection, but did I know that when I started? Nope) Anyway, it was a vast world that had been created, and I really look forward to reading more in the series, and the rest of the Realms of the Elderings.

“That, I think, is the shock of any relationship ending. It is realizing that what is still an ongoing relationship to someone is, for the other person, something finished and done with.”
― Robin HobbFool’s Assassin

When I began, I will admit, it was difficult to really get into the story. I think maybe it would have made more sense if I had read the books before it, but to me, it was just a jumble of names, and their relationships with other names. Especially the prologue. I was so confused as to what was going on, but, having read other giant fantasy series before, like Lord of the Rings and Eragon, I knew this was a sign of an intricate world that I would get to know. And get to know it, I did. After the first few chapters, I was getting really into it, and found it hard to put down.

“I will always take your part, Bee. Right or wrong. That is why you must always take care to be right, lest you make your father a fool.”
― Robin HobbFool’s Assassin

I did find that I was sort of just reading, and absorbing the words, and nothing was actually happening, but weirdly, I still felt compelled to read it. Really, most of Fool’s Assassin is just a recount of Fitz, Molly, and their household’s life. And with any other book, wouldn’t this be really boring? I don’t know whether their lives were just exciting, or it was a clever way of slowly building tension, up until about the last 3 chapters. And then everything happens. I found myself hunched over trying to read faster than I actually could, cramming the last pages in as I found out what happens finally. And then it finished. Aaaand I don’t have the next book!! Note to self: Do not start an exciting series, when you only have the one book. Not a good idea. Until I get the next one, I’ll just have to distract myself with some others.

“Time is an unkind teacher, delivering lessons that we learn far too late for them to be useful. Years after I could have benefited from them, the insights come to me.”
― Robin HobbFool’s Assassin

But, as I was saying, it is not a usual story structure, I can’t actually pick the part where the tension starts, and then where the climax is, or whether it really ends at all. It’s sort of all one big complication.

“You’ll do well, if you don’t mire in self-pity. Self-pity only gets you more of the same. Don’t waste time on it.”
― Robin HobbFool’s Assassin

Before I give too much away now, let’s talk about something else. The language used was really clever, for example when Fitz talks about his ‘cub’. Before this book begins, Fitz is part of an inseparable group of friends, one of them being his Wolf, Nighteyes. Nighteyes is long dead in this book, but his spirit still comes through in Fitz when someone needs protecting, and his mannerisms become more wolf-ish. I really enjoyed this aspect.

I didn’t particularly like how many times he stuffs up, and had a few face-palm moments on Fitz’s behalf. After the first couple, I got the sense that in some parts of his life (sorry if I’m being a little vague, I’m trying not to spoil it) Fitz was uncomfortable, and of course makes a few mistakes. And then he keeps doing it, and it seemed to take up a large portion of the story, and got a bit repetitive.

For now, I just need the next book so I can find out what happens. Beware, cliffhanger ending!!

Why you should read it: Because it’s the start of what I think is going to be an epic fantasy series, and is also written well, so you can enjoy it. It’s not as slow moving as Lord of the Rings, and also more relatable characters.

Rating: star_rating_4-5_of_5