Divinenanny's 100-ish in 2013

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Divinenanny's 100-ish in 2013

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Editado: Jan 2, 2013, 9:16 am

With my new life (without a 3+ hour commute on the train) my reading has slowed down immensly. I don't think I can make 100 again, but I can try.

Goals for this year are:
- Read from my shelf!!! (When I have cataloged my backlog from 2012 I will put a count up how big Mt. TBR is. I am afraid it is well above 700 books)
- Don't be intimidated by big books (many pages) just because there is no time
- Get lost in a book (series)

To look forward to I have on my shelf:
- The entire Wheel of Time (except the one coming out next week) by Robert Jordan, Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey, The Death House Gates by Weis & Hickman and Known Space by Larry Niven
- More Neal Stephenson, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Ray Bradbury, Greg Bear
- Several Hugo and Nebula winners (and nominees) from writers I have not read before
- Classics and good books from the 1001 list

Jan 2, 2013, 7:41 pm

Sounds like you have a busy year ahead of you!!

Jan 3, 2013, 12:11 am

Some great goals, I'm looking forward to your reads this year!

Jan 3, 2013, 3:33 am

I did a Wheel of Time marathon a few years ago. I need to catch up with the last book though.

Jan 6, 2013, 1:27 pm

Just dropping by to say Hi, I am starting a bit late this year. I like your goals.. I am going to try and read a few biggies this year :)

Jan 18, 2013, 11:42 am

Good luck! Its always interesting seeing what you're reading.

Editado: Fev 28, 2013, 2:51 am

I've found the time to pick up some books again, but haven't found the peace of mind yet for reviews. My finishes so far this year are:
1. Mr. Zombie/Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (****-)
2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (*****) -- Brilliant!!!
3. Het tijdvergeten land/The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs (****-)

But what I really wanted to show you is my new book-wall. Because of the move (and because of my massive book hoarding tendencies), my books have also gotten a new home. 3.4 meters wide, 2.5 meters tall, double stacked (two 15cm shelves) for a little over 40 meters of shelf space. I don't have a count yet of how much is on there, but it is quite a supply :D

Jan 22, 2013, 6:01 pm


Jan 23, 2013, 6:33 am

Beautiful! I have some serious shelf envy now. :)

Jan 23, 2013, 7:50 am

Oh wow coll shelving :)

Jan 23, 2013, 1:48 pm

Woohoo, now THAT is a book wall!

Jan 23, 2013, 2:04 pm

Sometimes when I'm reading a massive book, I'll mark the chapters off with Post-Its, then jot down notes as I'm going along. Not to pass along my strange habits or anything, but that helps me break things down so they're not so intimidating. (Now if only I could compile my notes into coherent reviews!)

The book wall looks sweet!

Fev 16, 2013, 11:06 am


Fev 28, 2013, 2:53 am

Thanks for all the comments. I am determined to get back into reading, fitting it into my new life (new job, determination to go the gym three times a week, still working on the house) and more importantly, getting back into reviewing what I've read.

4. Babel-17 by Samuel Delany ****-
5. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson *****

Fev 28, 2013, 5:34 am

Oh, I've been meaning to read Delany ever since reading Among Others, there was a lot of love for him in the book, and I've never read him.

And I simply MUST get into Steven Erikson again! Such a great series, but the length of the books is daunting me now...

Fev 28, 2013, 6:18 am

I really liked Babel-17, a very good book. And yes, Erikson was daunting, but now that I've finished it (only took me a month.....) I cannot wait to start Deadhouse Gates. What am I getting myself into...

Fev 28, 2013, 6:23 am

You're getting yourself into one of the best fantasy series ever written! I'm stalled after book 4, as that one was such an emotional roller coaster, I haven't quite forgiven the author.

And the serious page count...

Fev 28, 2013, 6:51 am

I've been warned that any other series will pale in comparison. While this one is very good, I am confident I can still enjoy other series :D But I only have parts 1 and 2 of Steven Erikson's works, so I am on the hunt for Memories of Ice (I like to buy my books in real stores and in the right order, because of this I have been hunting for part two of the Dark Tower for ages)...

Mar 1, 2013, 2:03 am

5. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson (27-01-2013 / 26-02-2013)
After posting the pictures of my new bookwall (only fiction on that wall ) one of my followers on twitter recommended I start with Steven Erikson’s series The Malazan Book of the Fallen. I was daunted by the size, especially with my slow, slow reading pace these days, but one of my resolutions was to not skip the big books. So I started reading this work, and I loved it from page one.
The world in the Malazan series is a complex world with many races of which the humans seem to be the most important (in this book). But there is also the Moon’s Spawn (a floating fortress) with the Tiste-Andii, gods and their ascendants, dragons, the immortal T’lan Imass and probably many others. Magic is a real (very real) thing in this world, combined with the gods and their warrens. The book is the story of part of the conquering war of the Malazan Empire led by Empress Laseen against the Seven Free Cities. We follow (mainly) the Bridgeburners and the people surrounding them, on their way to and during the battle for Darujhistan.
I was warned that Erikson expects a lot from his readers. He lets us hit the ground running, and doesn’t bother explaining much about the world we are dropped in. But if you give the story some time it gets clearer (the gods, the warrens, the magic, the war, the peoples), and more importantly, more fun. By the end of the book I couldn’t wait to find out what comes next in this huge complex world. The story is complex and no where near complete when the book finishes, but it is worth it to read it. Five out of five stars, and another series I cannot wait to get in to.

Mar 2, 2013, 11:21 pm

Yay! You're inspiring me to return, I must say. Once I've finished the stack of library books...

The second book is quite a different set of characters, be warned. It's still great, but you won't get back to Whiskey Jack et al for another 1000 pages or so.

Mar 5, 2013, 2:23 am

6. Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A. S. Byatt (26-02-2013 / 28-02-2013)
When I heard about the Canongate Myths series where famous writers (like Margaret Atwood, Philip Pullman and Ali Smith) re-imagine famous myths, I was intrigued. A while back I read Philip Pullman’s The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ and liked it, so when I saw A. S. Byatt’s Ragnarok for sale in the local secondhand-book-shop, I immediately picked it up.
Ragnarok is the story of the Norse gods, interwoven with the story of a little girl from the city living in the English countryside during the war. She is given a book of stories of the Norse mythology, and this work is in part a retelling of those stories, and the story of the little girl relating to those stories.
The work is short, but very good. I liked how it didn’t only tell the stories of the Norse gods, but also of someone trying to make sense of them, someone trying to give them a place in her upturned life. This book is a little gem and highly recommended not only to lovers of mythology, but also to those who love great stories in general. Four out of five stars.

Mar 5, 2013, 2:25 am

>20 wookiebender:
Haha, great! I knew about the different settings/characters in different books, but I have to say that Deadhouse Gates is gripping me as much as Gardens of the Moon did. So much so that I just ordered second hand copies of Memories of Ice and House of Chains. And I already know a second hand shop close by that has more of the series :D

Mar 14, 2013, 8:07 am


7. De poorten van het dodenhuis/Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson (28-02-2013 / 12-03-2013)
After reading Gardens of the Moon I was gripped by the Malazan Book of the Fallen. I couldn't wait to start book two, and when I did, I couldn't put it down. This book continues on from book one, but barely deals with any of the old characters. We get to travel with Kalam and Fiddler, but most other characters are new or had a minor role in the first book.
Most of this book takes place at the Seven Cities, where the apocalypse called the Whirlwind is unchained and all Malazan armies and citizens are attacked by the native tribes of the continent. Part of the book follows the flow of refugees and soldiers to the last remaining Malaz city on the continent, Aran. We also follow Kalam and Fiddler on their journey to lead Sorry/Apsalar back home to her village. And of course, some new characters are introduced as well.
This book was just as gripping and fast paced as the last one. Like before, Erikson hardly explains anything, instead it is expected of you as a reader to figure out what is going on and how the world works on your own. Sometimes this meant that I didn't understand all that was going on, however I caught on a little later in the story. He makes the world he has created in this series even bigger, with more aspects of magic and more history thrown in. I for one can't wait to read more, and I am glad I found a nice second-hand copy of the third book in the series, Memories of Ice so I can keep on reading. Five out of five stars.


8. Bermtoeristen/Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky (13-03-2013 / 14-03-2013)
One of the SF Masterworks (a series of the best SF out there) is Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (or Bermtoeristen by Arkadi and Boris Stroegatski in Dutch). Written in Russia in 1971, it tells the story of the Zone near Harmont. There are in total six of such Zones, results of the Visitation. Aliens have visited our Earth and have left debris in these Zones, leading to all kinds of strange effects.
In this story we follow Redrick "Red" Schuhart, a Stalker. A Stalker is somebody who goes into the Zone to get stuff to sell this on illegally. It is a dangerous occupation because besides the patrols and police, the Zone itself is quite deadline in all kinds of unexpected ways. The book has several chapters, all looking at Red or another character at some point in their lives.
As a reader we are told about life in Harmont, and what is found in the Zone. However, as the people researching or gathering these things don't know what they are and what they are for, neither do we. The same goes for the Visitation itself. Nobody knows who the aliens where, and why they came. Why are the Zones there? This book doesn't offer any answers, instead it deals with the emotions and thoughts of mainly Red the Stalker. A nice, thoughtful and short novel (which of course I would have liked to be longer so it could feature more explanations). Four out of five stars.

Mar 18, 2013, 6:29 am

Love those old fashioned SF covers.

Mar 18, 2013, 7:29 am

oo my boyfriend just got a copy of Roadside picnic as present glad to see it get good reviews. I tried to watched the old black and white film but I lasted only 10 minutes.. slow doesn't really begin to describe it ;)

Abr 10, 2013, 3:39 am

9. Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson (14-03-2013 / 09-04-2013)
I just finished the third installment in Steven Erikson's "Malazan Book of the Fallen" and while I loved it very much and I couldn't put it down, I am finding it pretty hard to write a review that conveys my enthusiasm for this book and this series.The main reason for this is that I want to say that this book is 'more of the same'. And that sounds like it is a bad thing, a boring thing, but for me this couldn't be farther from the truth.

The third book in a series of ten, Memories of Ice takes place right after Gardens of the Moon and during Deadhouse gates. In this book we mainly follow Dujek Onearm's army, who have been exiled from Malazan. They join forces with their former enemies Caladan Brood and Anomander Rake to fight the Pannion Domin. This is a new empire trying to take over everything in sight, let by a Seer, and having a terrible cult-like way of life, which includes cannibalism as a strategy of reward and feeding, and having demon-like undead creatures with swords for hands. Meanwhile, Toc the Younger, the former Claw and Onos T'ooolan the T'lan Imass warrior meet up and meet Lady Envy, a powerful sorceres who has three Segulah warriors as servants. Ganoes Paran finds he has a new role he is reluctant to accept, and we are also introduced to some new characters, new gods, and new legends. In the background The Crippled God is playing a bigger and bigger role.

When writing that short summary (without trying to spoil too much) I realize just how much was in this book. I haven't even named half the character (groups) and the new revelations in this novel. That's why it is easier for me to see these Malazan books as one long story, with each book looking at a different aspect, group of people or location but still fitting in the bigger picture. The world Steven Erikson creates is so complex that I can see links appearing between events happening in this book and the previous one, and I am sure I (with my crappy memory for plot details and characters) am missing a whole lot of the finer points. I am still addicted to these books, and I can't wait to start the next installment. Besides the complexity in legends, gods, magic and back story, I also enjoy something I loved in George R.R. Martin's books, which is that characters can die. Even the heroes, even the ones you love. And they might die, not in a grand way, but in an ugly, stupid and preventable way. That makes the books even better to me, because they feel more honest. I am glad I discovered these books while the first series is finished so I can just read them all back to back. This one also gets five out of five stars. If you liked the first two, you'll like this one.

Abr 10, 2013, 8:30 am

Damnit, I hate it when my favourite characters die. I'm still sulking over one of the deaths in the Malazan series (book 4, I think it was). Harrumph.

Abr 10, 2013, 10:13 am

Oh man, I am hoping to receive 4 this afternoon (just a case of beating the postman to my house) so now I'm going to be on edge to see who dies next. But George R.R. Martin did prepare me for this possibility. Strange, before that I think I read mostly the 'normal' stories where the ending is somewhat happy and the main character lives...

Abr 15, 2013, 7:28 am

10. De Integraalbomen/The Integral Trees by Larry Niven (10-04-2013 / 14-04-2013)
A couple of years ago, at my previous job, I was recommended 'The Integral trees' by Larry Niven. It took me forever to find this book in a shop, but when the huge book sale at work happened before Christmas last year, this was one of the books I picked up. I've read a few books by Niven, but all of them were Ringworld novels. This is a book in a different series (Smoke Ring or The State) and I didn't like it as much as I liked the Ringworld novels.
This is the story of the Quinn tribe, who inhabit an integral tree in the smoke ring around Voy. The smoke ring is a ring of breathable air around Voy where life is possible. Because there is no land, and thus no gravity, everything flies and floats, including the trees. Humans have 'landed' in this area 500 years earlier, and have adapted to life on the trees (by having extra long toes and more length for example). The Quinn tribe lives on a tree in the tuft that is dying. There is a draught, and because of that, there is not enough food. A hunting party is sent out to climb the tree towards the center to find food and water. This is the start of a huge adventure where they not only find and fight food, but also other humans, other trees. Besides that they also discover more about the history of the humans that came so many centuries ago and the technology they had.
I don't exactly know why this book didn't grip me as much as Niven's other books. Partly it is because it was a pretty linear adventure. A group sets out, and discovers all kinds of people and things, and they just keep going. Partly it is also because the involvement of the ship outside the Smoke Ring was so small. I saw later that there is a book before this one if you see it as part of "The State" series, so I will read that one soon to get more of the back story. All in all this was an enjoyable story, but not as good as I had expected, three out of five stars.

Abr 15, 2013, 9:52 am

11. Code of the Krillitanes by Justin Richards (14-04-2013)

In my last order at Amazon.co.uk I included some cheap Doctor Who (2005 reboot) Quick Reads novels. And they are really quick reads, I think it barely took me an hour to finish one of them, Code of Krillitanes by Justin Richards. My review will be equally short.
For those who remember the 'School Reunion' (S02E03) where the Krillitanes used school children to solve the mystery of everything, this book is very familiar. Replace the school with the world, and the mystery of everything with the mystery of ideal Krillitane life, and you have this short adventure.
It is a pretty fun read, but I like the bigger books better, they feel more original and more like a real novel. Three out of five stars.

Maio 15, 2013, 2:50 am

12. House of Chains by Steven Erikson (14-04-2013 - 23-04-2013)
I raced through this fourth installment in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. And like with my previous review, it is pretty straight forward. For those who loved the first three parts of the series, you’ll love this one, and for those who didn’t love those, don’t read this one . For those people who haven’t read the first three, please start at the beginning, this is really one long continuous story, a tale, a history.

I have to say, I love the character of Karsa Orlong, the huge barbarian from the hills. And I loved how some of the old familiar characters came back (I won’t say who because even the names can be spoilers). This book added more to the story, and I love how big everything is getting. Again, there is a lot in this book. A lot of events that happen, a lot of new questions that get added to the story, but also many connections that can now be made between different characters and events. What more can I say. I loved it, I give it five out of five stars, and recommend that anybody who started with this series and loves it, to keep going. So far it is still very, very good!

13. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett (23-04-2013 - 26-04-2013)
A long while ago, I tried Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, picking up the first book I found (Monstrous Regiment) and didn’t like it. But so many people are raving about this series (people who seem to like the same stuff I do) so I needed to give it another shot. I decided to start from the beginning, collecting and reading the books in publication order. I read “The Colour of Magic” last year, and a few weeks ago, I finally found the second book, “The Light Fantastic” second-hand.

In this book we continue travelling with Rincewind, Twoflower, and his Luggage which follows him around. This time around disaster seems to be ready to strike Discworld, and everybody wants Rincewind, or more exactly, the Spell in his head. What follows is a good story with the famous Pratchett humor and a lot of adventure.

I liked the book, because I like Pratchett’s humor. It is pretty dry, and if you don’t like it, forget this book and forget this series. For those who liked the first book, try this second one too. I give it four out of five stars.

14. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (10-05-2013 - 14-05-2013)
I’ve had “The Great Gatsby” on my shelves for a while now, I got it because it is on the “1001 books you must read before you die” list. I hadn’t read it yet, but I had to now (even putting down the book I was reading to read this one quickly). Why? Because Stephen Colbert’s book club has it as its first book. I did not want the book to get spoiled by the show, and I did want to understand the jokes, so I read it.

It is the story of Jay Gatsby, living near New York in the 1920′s. Told by his neighbor Nick, it takes place one summer in which Gatsby’s life takes a dramatic turn, and Nick is sobered up to what life in the 1920′s means for him, and for other people (I’m really trying not to give anything away here).

The book is pretty short, and the story is told pretty quickly. It is a pretty nice story to read, and the descriptions of (wealthy) life in the 1920s are detailed, but for me, this book wasn’t that special. Maybe it is better when compared to other books written in that period, but for me, reading it now, it was just ok. I give it three out of five stars.

Maio 18, 2013, 11:38 pm

I had to study The Great Gatsby back in High School. Half of me would like to re-read it with the film adaptation coming up (as an Australian citizen, it is a requirement to see any Baz Luhrmann movie, it seems) and the other half of me wants to run for the hills, screaming.

Must get back to Malazan. Where to find more reading time?? Is sleep really necessary???

Jun 4, 2013, 2:44 am

Sleep is never necessary, especially not when reading Malazan!

I was sick(ly) for a little while, so spent a lot of time in bed feeling sorry for myself, with a book.

15. Necronomicon by H. P. Lovecraft (26-04-2013 - 25-05-2013)
You really can’t read (about) horror or even science fiction without being aware of H.P. Lovecraft, especially the Cthulhu mythos he created and many writers elaborated on. So, when I saw this gorgeous hardback bound edition of his best weird tales, I was glad to find it on sale. This collection has many famous stories, including some in the Cthulhu Mythos (The Call of Cthulhu but also The Haunter of the Dark), the one novel in the 1001 list (At the Mountains of Madness) and the story written for/by Harry Houdini (Under the Pyramids).

I read the collection (nearly) back to back, including an additional three stories from some other bundles I had lying around that had much overlap with this edition. I do think that back to back is not the best way to read Lovecraft. When you read so many of these stories it becomes very obvious that the same structure is used over and over in a majority of them. We read the story of or about one man who had stumbled upon an ancient (horrible) mystery. He can’t help himself and goes to investigate, not believing the many warnings of the local people. He gets drawn in, uncovering something huge. When it is too late the full story reveals itself in full horror and all the main character can do is write it down before the end comes to warn others to stay away. However, the horror is almost never described in full detail, almost always we get glimpses because whatever it is, it is too horrible to describe. Most stories are related to the Cthulhu Mythos of Elder Gods and the Old Ones. Reading all these stories does give a good idea of this Mythos, as it is never revealed fully, but just through the discoveries of these unfortunate characters.

All in all I think this is a pretty good collection, with a biography of Lovecraft as a last chapter and some lovely illustrations. The stories were pretty good, knowing they are written pre-1937, but I can see how later fiction has grown from this to become better. I give this collection four out of five stars.

16. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (25-05-2013 - 26-05-2013)
When I bought my big book haul at the end of last year, one of the series I got some parts of was the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. I am not quite sure what the Dutch publisher has done, but the first part I got in Dutch is actually the fifth part released. So, I started looking for the true first part (chronologically by release date) and found it a little while later.

Imagine a different planet. Colonized by humans from Earth with advanced technology, then abandoned. The world has ‘relapsed’ into a feudal medieval society. And there are dragons, bred to counter the threat of ‘threads’ of spores descending from a passing planet. These dragons are paired with a human with mental power and have a mental connection with them. In the novel it is four hundred turns (years) since the last passing of the planet, and the number of dragons has declined because not many people believe the threat is real. The story follows the recruiting of a new rider for a to-be-born Queen dragon, who is needed so that there can be more dragons.

The novel is pretty short, I think that if it were published today (it is from 1968) more parts would be combined into one novel. I liked the story, but it felt like an introduction to the series, because a lot of time was spent introducing the world, the history and the characters. This was still pretty good, but I am glad that I have part two (Dragonquest) already so I can move on to the next one quickly. I give this book four out of five stars.

17. De Wespenfabriek/The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (26-05-2013)
Iain Banks, or actually Iain M. Banks is one of my all time favorite writers. I am addicted to his Culture series and try to save his books, so I don’t read them all at once. And now that I am running out of his science fiction works, I am turning to his ‘regular’ fiction works.

The Wasp Factory/De Wespenfabriek is the story of Frank, a boy of 16 living in a big house on an island with his father. He doesn’t seem to be all there, spending his time with rituals of totem poles and animal torture. He doesn’t have much contact with other people, because his father never registered him (so he never went to school and doesn’t officially live there) and because he is pretty awkward around others, especially girls. This is because of an accident that happened to Frank in his younger years that at first we know nothing about. Slowly Frank tells us everything while the story leads to the climax of his escaped (from the insane asylum) brother coming home.

The story is gruesome, not only because of what Frank does to the animals and people around him, but also because of the detached non-emotional way he describes these actions. Then again, because everything is told from Frank’s perspective, you kind of understand why he does these things. The climax was unexpected (for me), although you know that the secret at the heart of the story is pretty awful. Impressive book, four out of five stars.

18. Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson (27-05-2013 - 29-05-2013)
This is part five in Steven Erikson’s epic ‘The Malazan Book of the Fallen’ series. A series that has to be read completely and in order, because each book is a continuation of sorts of the last. Of sorts, because this book focuses on an area and characters we haven’t met before, but who have or will have a connection to the bigger story soon enough.

In this book we mostly meet Letherii (human people) and Tiste Edur from the land of Lether. The Tiste Edur are united for the first time under a Warlock King who has a new kind of power. He sends the four Sengar brothers to find a sword that has been given to him and can be found in the ice of the north. When one of the brothers touches the sword with his skin, something forbidden by the King, the world of the Tiste Edur changes. Meanwhile in Letheras (the capital of the Letherii empire), a city in an empire built on greed, we follow Tehol and his servant Bugg, two of the funniest characters in the series, who plot to bring down this economy of greed. When the Letherii plan to overtake the Tiste Edur and make them submit like many people before them, everything comes to a most awful head.

I loved the earlier parts of this series, and I loved this one even more. I think because the story was relatively simple (Tiste Edur on the one side, Letherii on the other) while still relating to the greater mythology of the series. Anyway, I couldn’t put this book down and finished it in just three days, and I moved straight on to the next one. Five out of five stars.

Jun 4, 2013, 4:33 am

Wasp Factory carries a bit of punch doesn't it? I think its his most forceful book still. It maybe time for a reread

Jun 4, 2013, 9:18 pm

Wasp Factory is a book I will remember for a long time.

The Dragonriders of Pern series of books is one I read many years ago. I loved it then and I'm sure I would still love it now. I have kept all the books. I would like to reread them one day..

Jun 5, 2013, 3:57 am

Yeah, Wasp Factory sure is memorable. Makes me love Iain Banks even more, which makes me sad :( Luckily there is much of his work that I haven't read yet.

Dragonriders was a quick, fun read, I will be reading more of this series for sure!

Jun 5, 2013, 7:36 am

Oh, I adored the Pern novels when I was a teenager, glad you liked it too! I must dust off my copy of The Wasp Factory, obviously.

Haven't had much sleep lately, so I'm enjoying short silly books. That's my excuse for postponing Malazan again, and I'm sticking to it. :)

Jun 5, 2013, 7:56 am

Oh yeah, it is quite a commitment to get back into it, because you know that's all it's going to be for a while.
I read some other books (one large and many small) between 4 and 5 on purpose. But after Midnight Tides I just had to continue on. I am aware that I have to be nice to my husband, as I keep saying we need to go to bed early so I can read, read and read some more (otherwise he is watching TV and I can't dive into my book like I want to).

Jun 5, 2013, 7:58 am

Lol, I'm also a fan of early nights to get extra reading in. :)

Jun 6, 2013, 4:09 am

Early nights and late mornings! YAY!!

Editado: Jun 6, 2013, 4:53 am

Yeah, too bad that for 5 days of the week my "early" nights are followed by early mornings...

Jul 16, 2013, 3:06 am

It is time for a serious update :D... Here it comes!!!!

Jul 16, 2013, 3:08 am

19. The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson (29-05-2013 / 06-06-2013)
After reading Midnight Tides I immediately picked up the next book in The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. This book returns to the more usual characters and story style. We pick up right after the ‘battle’ between the army of the Whirlwind and that of Malazan led by Adjunct Tavore and for the most part follow the journey of her army through hell and back. We still see some of the earlier characters (Yay, Karsa Orlong!) but they have moved a bit more to the background here. Like previous books, this is truly a part of a larger series, a work that cannot be read on its own. It didn’t grip me as much as the others did (certainly not as much as Midnight Tides did) but it was still Erikson, and still very good. Five out of five stars, and on to the next part!

Jul 16, 2013, 3:09 am

20. In de macht van morgen/The Big Time by Fritz Leiber (06-06-2013 / 09-06-2013)

I am collecting and reading all Hugo winners (best novel), and this book, in English ‘The Big Time’ is one of those. It tells the story of a time travel war, where soldiers are conscripted from all time periods, and fight in all time periods to change history. To cool down there are places outside of the time stream, like bars, with entertainers to take their minds of the war. The book is set in one of those places, and during a time of crisis in which they need to figure out who to trust and what is really going on with the war, we learn about the world Fritz Leiber has created for this book.
The setting is pretty claustrophobic, with all characters being in what seems one room and with no way out. Paranoia grows, and while much is told about the reality of the world they live in, it never becomes entirely clear to us, the readers, or them, the characters, what is going on and why. The story is pretty short, more of a novella these days that a novel. I find that this bothers me more and more about older novels, because I think that were this book written today, a modern-day writer would have expanded the story with more back story. It is still entertaining to read, but not as much of a classic as other old Hugo-award-winners. Three out of five stars.

Jul 16, 2013, 3:10 am

21. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter (09-06-2013 / 11-06-2013)

Terry Pratchett, who is of course famous for his long running Discworld series, has now written something a bit more science fiction, together with Stephen Baxter. I like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and when I came across this book I could not resist getting it.
A new invention, a stepper, leads to the discovery that there are many (infinite?) parallel worlds. Using the device, you can ‘step’ one world east or west, and end up on the same location but in a world slightly different. What there worlds have in common is that humans are missing, although other creatures do exist in these worlds, albeit with slight variations, that grow the further you get from our Earth. Then there are natural steppers, people who find out that they don’t need the stepper to move between Earths. One of these natural steppers, Joshua Valienté is contacted by Lobsang, a Tibetan who has reincarnated in a computer. Together they travel the Long Earth, and discover more about it, including other humanoids living in it.
I loved this book and could not put it down. It deal mostly with exploration and discovery of the new Earths, but also with the social and political consequences of the discovery. For example, what about territory (and taxes and land ownership) in a parallel Earth? And what about the few people who cannot step? For me, the book has enough new concepts and thoughts about those concepts to be entertaining. The ending felt weird to me, and not a real ending. There is a part two, so maybe the link between those two books is pretty tight. It is a highly enjoyable story, with lovely new ‘aliens’ without ever leaving earth, and so many new possibilities stemming from this one possibility, stepping into a world a little to the left of us. The fact that this book is written by two writers isn’t really noticeable, although it doesn’t have the Pratchett humor I know from Discworld. Not that I missed it, the book is pretty great on its own. Four out of five stars.

Jul 16, 2013, 3:11 am

22. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (11-06-2013 / 14-06-2013)

Gone Girl is a book I noticed being talked about more and more on Librarything, and creeping op on the lists of most wishlisted and most currently reading. While thrillers are not usually my genre, I felt intrigued and when I saw this book for sale (quite cheaply, yay England!) I could not resist.
This story is pretty twisted. Amy Dunne, happily (?) married to Nick, disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary. Pretty soon everyone suspects Nick, and to tell the truth, the evidence is pretty damning. But the story is told so that one chapter is told from Nick’s point of view, where he seems innocent and have an excuse for everything, and the other is told from Amy’s diary entries, where we see that he seems very different. Slowly the story develops and it turns out that these two deserve each other.
Even though a thriller (mystery, crime story) is not something I usually pick up, I enjoyed this book very much. I could not put it down, because I had to know how the two story-lines would match up in the end and why they were so different. The solution is far-fetched, but felt really well done. Four out of five stars.

Jul 16, 2013, 3:18 am

23. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (14-06-2013 / 16-06-2013)

I saw this book in the shops, and just by the title alone I was intrigued. It is by a Swedish writer, Jonas Jonasson, about Allan Karlsson, a centenarian who escapes from the home he lives in on the day he turns 100 years old. Half of the book tell of his adventures during the escape. He steals a suitcase and turns up on a wanted list and makes many new friends. The other half is about his life, which reminded me of Forest Gump. Allan has met many US presidents, influenced the Manhattan project, traveled through China, Korea, Russia, Iran and many other countries (while meeting many presidents) and yet stays himself, simple and not wanting much.
This is a simple, enjoyable book. Truly a fun read, and there is nothing more to say about it. The writing is good, the characters are fun, the story is fun. Four out of five stars.

Jul 16, 2013, 3:19 am

24. The Clockwise Man by Justin Richards (16-06-2013)

I’m a pretty big Doctor Who fan, although only of the 2005 reboot (I was too young for the original series and have no idea how to get into that one). Next to the series on the BBC and a lot of other merchandise, there is also a series of (children’s) books. For me, these books are episodes on its own. They are pretty quick reads, but as much fun as the show (with the same Doctor and companions) and great to read when waiting between episodes or seasons.
In this book the Doctor (9th) and Rose travel to London in 1924 to see the British Empire Exhibition but instead stumble upon a strange plot of attempted murder, displaced royals from unknown countries, a woman who never shows her face and weird cats. It reads like a true Doctor Who adventure, including references to the TV show, and is a lot of fun. Four out of five stars.

Jul 16, 2013, 3:20 am

25. Redshirts by John Scalzi (16-06-2013 / 18-06-2013)

Ever since this book came out, everybody I know online with even a bit of the same book-taste as me has raved about how much fun it is. So, when I finally found it in a shop (I really dislike buying books online), I couldn’t wait to start reading it.
The book is based on the premise that redshirts, who are security officers and engineers on a starship, die more often than other staff, especially when on a mission with the main staff, like the captain. The redshirts on one ship have caught on to this and try to force the new crew on the ship to go on these mission. A few of this new crew figure it out, and try to find out why redshirts die so easily, in such a movie like way, and why the main crew doesn’t seem too bothered by this.
The book is divided into two or three parts. There is the main story, where they figure out what is going on, and try to fix it. And then there is a (long) epilogue of other viewpoint of the story. I have to say, I enjoyed the first part, the figuring out what was going on the most. But as soon as the ‘truth’ was out, the rest wasn’t as necessary to me, especially the epilogue. But the idea in this book is so original (to me), and so much fun, to me it is still a five-star book.

Jul 16, 2013, 3:21 am

26. Inferno by Dan Brown (18-06-2013 / 19-06-2013)

Of course I knew about the new Dan Brown coming out, but since I wasn’t impressed by the last one, I only wanted to pick this up if I could find it cheap. Ah well, DH wanted to read it, so we got it, and when he did, I couldn’t be far behind. This book hasn’t changed my opinion about Dan Brown. I can see why it is enjoyable, but when you have read more and better books, you can see where he fails. His books read like movie scripts, and this one is no different. Entertaining, but no more than that. Three out of five stars, because for once he is not (really) going after a huge secret organisation.

Jul 16, 2013, 3:22 am

27. The Feast of the Drowned by Stephen Cole (19-06-2013 / 20-06-2013)

More Doctor Who, with the Tenth Doctor and Rose. Another book that really reads like an episode and gives some nice back story on Mickey and Rose’s Mom and the time she was away. It takes place in London of our time, and involves a ship that sunk and sailors that drowned. However, these sailors are appearing to their families and pleading to save them from the Feast of the Drowned. Time for the Doctor and Rose to investigate and save Rose’s family and friends. Some nice monsters and heroics from Rose and the Doctor. A lot of fun, four out of five stars.

Jul 16, 2013, 3:25 am

I still have about 10 reviews to write, but I'll try to do better. It takes some catching up with all my holiday reading and buying :D

Jul 16, 2013, 6:01 am

Nice to see you again! Glad you liked Redshirts too!

Jul 16, 2013, 11:51 am

28. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (20-06-2013 / 21-06-2013)

I don't even know where and when I learned about this book, but something about it drew me to it. I am glad to say I wasn't disappointed by this lovely story.
Harold Fry is a pensioner who has a pretty boring life and a pretty overbearing wife. One day he gets a letter from an old colleague who is in a hospice, dying from cancer. He writes her a note back, but when he goes out to post it, he decides to keep on walking. All the way across the country (England) to the hospice itself, hoping to inspire his old colleague to just hang on in there. Along the way he is an inspiration to others, learns a lot about himself and his relationships, and comes to terms with what happened in his (and his wife's life).
It is a beautiful story, made more so because Harold seems such a normal old man when he starts out. He has worked the same job all his life, has a wife and a son. But the story (behind the curtains of their lovely home) is a lot more complex and heartbreaking than you could ever expect. A great and indeed lovely read, four out of five stars.

Jul 17, 2013, 3:20 pm

29. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (22-06-2013 / 23-06-2013)

This is the third book in the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’ series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which takes place in Barcelona during the Franco years. This is a sequel to ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ taking place a year later, where we find out more about Daniel Sempere’s friend Fermin Romero de Torres and the relationships between these people and the history they share.
While the book is in the same style (and universe) as the previous two, it still didn’t grab me and enchant me like the others. The story was good, and gives more background into especially Fermin, but it wasn’t as magical. Three out of five stars, and it leaves me wondering if this is it for this series.

Jul 18, 2013, 8:08 am

Glad you liked Redshirts, the main story finishing so soon was a shock but I glad he didn't drag it out.

Jul 18, 2013, 10:12 pm

You have been reading some great books. Enjoying your reviews.

Editado: Jul 23, 2013, 1:22 pm

30. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (23-06-2013 / 25-06-2013)

My father introduced me to 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', one of the books he loved. I think it was the first time I read a truly funny, laugh out loud book. I never knew that books, written text, could be so funny. It has always remained one of my favorite books, with just my kind of humor. And even though I knew that Douglas Adams has written more books, it wasn't up until now that I actually read one of them, 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency'.
Usually I put a short summary of the book, without spoilers, in the second paragraph of my review. But how do you summarise a Douglas Adams book? It's a collection of weird happenings and characters that all come together in the end, with a lot of absurd humor and mind bending actions. This book is no different.
It is different however from the 2012 BBC series, which is based on this book and its sequel. This surprised me (positively) a lot, and made the book even more fun to read. It is another true Adams classic, one that makes me sad (again) that there won't be any new work from him. Five out of five stars, and a worthy entry on the "1001 books you must read before you die"-list.

Jul 23, 2013, 1:23 pm

31. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman (25-06-2013)

Ever since I heard there would be a new Neil Gaiman book, it was pretty high on my wish list. I love his stories, which read as modern fairy tales and take you away to his world. I couldn't contain myself when I got the new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and immediately started reading it.
The protagonist returns to a neighbors farm after a family funeral, and while there remembers some pretty extraordinary and sometimes scary and heartbreaking events that happened when he was seven years old. They have to do with the three women in the farm (grandmother, mother and daughter) and the boundary between our world and a world of magic and other beings. The story deals with growing up, sacrifice, and grounding yourself in a moment of trouble.
Like previous Neil Gaiman works I read, this one did not disappoint. I was swept up in the magic of the world Gaiman created. For any fan of magic, fairy tales and Gaiman, this is a must-read. Five out of five stars.

Jul 23, 2013, 1:24 pm

32. The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner (25-06-2013 / 26-06-2013)

A good Doctor Who (new series) novel, with the Tenth Doctor and Rose (and a guest spot by the wonderful Mickey). Mickey has discovered a Roman statue in the British Museum that looks exactly like Rose, down to her earrings. He shows this statue to Rose and the Doctor, who travel to Rome in Roman times (because they must, so the statue can exist). They get tangled up in the disappearance of the son of a villa owner, who just at that moment is ready to reveal the statue made of that son by an up and coming sculptor. Rose and the Doctor figure out pretty soon that something is up (these statues are created in less than a day, carved from marble) and the true culprit really surprises them.
This is a fun quick read, with the same atmosphere as a TV episode of the series. Nothing too complicated (these books are for children) but entertaining nonetheless. Four out of five stars.

Jul 23, 2013, 1:25 pm

33. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (27-06-2013 / 30-06-2013)

Deathless has been on my wish list for a long while, and I can't even remember where I learned about this book. It took me a long while to find in a bookshop, but I finally did, and after reading it, I'm glad.
This is a story that is hard to describe. It takes place in Russia, at the beginning of the second world war, and balances on the edge between folklore and harsh reality. The main character, Marya Morevna, is a girl in St. Petersburg/Leningrad, who sees (and is not surprised by it) young birds falling out of the tree in front of her house, changing into handsome men and marrying her sisters. Despite the realities and truth of communism, she believes in magic. However, for her there seems to be no bird, and life gets tougher and tougher. Until one day, when she is not paying attention (so she doesn't know the type of bird that fell from the tree) her future husband announces himself. He is Koschei the Deathless, one of the magic characters in Russian folklore, who is known to marry human girls. Marya goes with him and tries to defy the legend and change Koschei, but it is hard, both in the magical world and the real world.
On the one hand, I found it hard to get into this story. It reads like a fairy tale, and while the style is lovely, it seemed to expect some knowledge of the reader of Russian folklore. Not that you can't understand the book without this knowledge, just be aware that it doesn't explain everything from the start. The story itself sort of flows, and has different stages. I needed to be in the right mindset for it, but once I was there, it was very enjoyable. Four out of four stars.

Jul 23, 2013, 1:27 pm

34. NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (30-06-2013 / 03-07-2013)

Note: I received a free copy of this book through Team Gollancz Geeks.

In the past few months I have read a lot about Joe Hill's new novel, NOS4R2 (or NOS4A2, the original title). Even though I like novels with a supernatural element, and horror stories, I shy away from psychological horror. Books have given me nightmares, and that goes a bit too far for me. So when most reviews said that NOS4R2 gets in your head, is truly scary, causes nightmares even, I decided that this book was probably a bit too much for me. But then I was offered the opportunity to review NOS4R2 for Team Gollancz Geeks and I couldn't resist. I am glad to say that I have no regrets.
Vic McQueen is a girl whose parents are fighting about a lost bracelet. To get away from the fight she gets on her bike and rides away, thinking about the missing bracelet. She finds herself at the creepy old covered bridge nearby, a bridge she is not allowed on because it is ready to collapse. She goes on it anyway, and on the other end finds... the restaurant they were at earlier that day? When she goes inside, the man behind the counter assumes she is there to retrieve the missing bracelet, and this is how Vic learns that she can use the bridge, the Shorter Way, to find things. However, each journey costs her, something she finds out pretty soon.
When she is seventeen she finds the bridge again after a fight with her mother. She goes looking for trouble, and finds it in the person of Charles Manx, a man with a similar power. However, he uses his to 'save' children from a horrible future, by using his car to take them away to Christmasland. NOS4R2 is the license plate of the thirties Rolls Royce Phantom or Wraith, owned by Charles Manx.
Even though Vic escapes, she is forever changed and haunted by what she has experiences. When she later has a son and Manx returns, it takes everything she has and knows to fight him to get her son back and to try to destroy Manx forever.
Like I said before, this is not my usual genre, and I was afraid to even read this book. But I was so wrong. Hill draws you into the story so well. Even though the scenes were sometimes pretty gruesome, as were the images he presents (oh those children), I couldn't put the book down because I needed to know the answer to the mystery, and the outcome of this battle. I really liked how real his characters seemed, with flaws and all. This is no 'magic makes life wonderful' book, no, magic has a real and terrible price. But love and a feeling of right and wrong is strong. Never did the book feel too long, it was just right to build up the character of Vic and lead to the final battle. I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and will certainly read more by Joe Hill in the future. I give it four out of five stars.

Jul 23, 2013, 1:28 pm

35. Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson (04-07-2013 / 14-07-2013)

This is part seven of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, and a direct continuation of the earlier books (so pretty much unreadable without reading the earlier six books). In this book we get to spend time with both the Bonehunters and the Letherii/Tiste Edur empire, while also catching up with other characters like Quick Ben, Tool and Toc.
I really enjoy how the storylines from previous books are starting to come together, and how every little piece of the puzzle influences another piece somewhere else. This also changed my outlook on the bigger story arc of the Crippled God, and I can't wait to see where all this is going. Four out of five stars.

Jul 23, 2013, 1:29 pm

36. Professor Munakata's British Museum Adventure by Yukinobu Hoshino (14-07-2013)

When we were in the British Museum a couple of weeks ago my DH found this manga from Japan (translated) about an adventure in the British Museum. How could we resist?
Professor Munakata is a Japanese professor who has travelled to the British Museum to give a lecture about Japanese culture. While he is there, Stonehenge is stolen. He figures out the clues that are given and helps apprehend the culprits, all while being in London, learning about some of the objects in and history of the British Museum.
The book is a really fun read, made more so by the extra content (an interview with the author and a piece about how the book came to be). The translation is done really well, with only the text being translated. A list in the back helps with the Japanese sounds and the book is read from back to front, right to left. This took a bit of getting used to, but was no problem at all. A really fun mix (for me) of Japanese style and culture and our beloved British Museum and England. Four out of five stars.

Jul 23, 2013, 1:29 pm

37. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (14-07-2013 / 15-07-2013)

In my quest to collect and read all the Discworld novels it was 'Equal Rites' turn to be read next. A book that is not about Rincewind (I believe he might be alluded to once, but that is it), but about Granny the Witch and Eskarina Smith the Wizard. And about the fact that Eskarina can't be a Wizard, because she is a girl, and Wizarding is for men (Witching for women). But she has been given her staff when she was born as the eighth child (after seven sons) of an eight son, and has a natural talent for wizarding. With (or despite) the help of Granny the Witch she travels to Ankh-Morpork and helps to save everyone in the end.
Another fun and humorous read from Pratchett. I just love his humor and his allusions to our world. A truly fun, no thinking necessary, get your mind away from it all read. Four out of five stars.

Jul 23, 2013, 1:30 pm

38. Autumn by David Moody (15-07-2013 / 17-07-2013)

Zombies are one group of supernatural/unnatural beings I love to read about, next to (terrifying) vampires and werewolves. I had read online that Autumn is a very good zombie series, it just took me a while to find it in store (I detest ordering online).
One day, in England (but probably everywhere in the world), people get sick and die within minutes. The disease spreads extremely quickly. We read about this, viewed through the eyes of a few survivors who seem to be immune. Their horror starts with just about everybody around them dropping dead (in the streets, behind the wheel of a moving car) and resources failing (power outage, no running water). But then, after a few days, things get a lot worse.
I really liked that the people in the book are as clueless about what is happening as we are. They find out and react at the same moment as we, the readers, do. They have to deal with their emotions and try to survive the best they can. The zombies in this book aren’t completely similar to the archetype zombie, but because the story doesn’t really end with a solution and only about a week or two have passed, who knows where this series is going. A very good, intense zombie book, four out of five stars.

Jul 24, 2013, 6:11 am

Blimey lots to catch on here!

I like Deathless quite a bit.. (just trying to review it now). Its got crazy pacing and structure though & I think I am going to have reread to really see if it works.

NOS4R2: I am going to read next month and I can't wait so skipping you review, glad you liked it though!

And you can't beat some Douglas Adams, I reread that series last year and it still hugely funny.

Jul 24, 2013, 6:42 am

Yeah, Deathless is... different to what I am used to. While reading it I wasn't sure if I liked it, but somewhere along the way it clicked. It reminded me of Neil Gaiman, the mood he creates in his novels. Like a fairy tale :D

I was scared of NOS4R2 (reviews said it gave the reader's nightmares, and I am sensitive to that) but it was good!

I am savouring Douglas Adams and am slowly reading them, because I don't want to run out...

Ago 1, 2013, 10:30 pm

I just got it (NOS4R2)! Clever.

I've read two of Joe Hill's books. Liked the first one, thought the second one not quite so good. But I'll be looking out for this new one.

I'm glad that you enjoyed Autumn and hope you will continue with the rest of the series. I thought they were a really interesting take on the zombie situation. And I agree wholeheartedly with your comments on Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. I recently read it as well and thoroughly enjoyed its silliness!

Ago 2, 2013, 6:18 am

@68 I do still have Mostly Harmless to read.. not sure I want to!

@69 I think its NOS4A2 in the USA, accent differences and all that :) I like Hills comics, I wasn'ta huge fan of Heart Shaped Box but then I am picky about horror. Thought he was worth retrying though!

Ago 6, 2013, 8:29 am

I'm hitting the library this weekend, I hope NOS4A2 is still on the shelves when I get there! Some great reading going on here.

Editado: Ago 13, 2013, 6:59 am

39. The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke (17-07-2013 / 19-07-2013)

I don’t know it is a new thing or not, but these last few years there have been several books with settings that would place the book in the science fiction genre, but are so focused on another element of the story (love, grief) that I wouldn’t classify them as pure science fiction. And that is a good thing, because it makes science fiction so much more accessible to a broader crowd of people. ‘The Mad Scientist’s Daughter’ is one of those novels, focusing on love and life in a fast changing, near future, earth much different from ours.
Like I said, it is the (near-)future, and a great (natural) disaster has happened a few decades ago. However, mankind is not set back that much with regards to technical advances, and so robots/androids/automatons are becoming more and more normal. In the house of Cat, there lives a very special robot, called Finn, that is more like a human than any robot ever made. Her father brought him home when she was five, and since then he has been her tutor and friend. The book follows Cat in her life, from a little girl of five to a grown woman, and her feelings for Finn. These are influenced by the feelings of the public of ever more advanced robots in daily life, accumulating in the granting of basic rights to these robots.
I loved this book. I loved the characters, mainly Cat and Finn, and I loved reading about the struggles Cat is going through, because they felt very real. I can see someone reacting that way to the changing world around her, and I could even get into Finn’s character. Yes, this is a book about robots and a future earth, but to me it was very mild science fiction. These elements were in the background of the story, the main part is the changes and feelings our main characters are going through. A great read and I wish I knew of more books like this one. Five out of five stars.

Editado: Ago 13, 2013, 6:59 am

40. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn (21-07-2013 / 24-07-2013)

I am a sucker for lists, and use them to find out about interesting books I might like. A website I use often is ‘Worlds Without End’ which enables me to track my collection and see award or best of lists, all in the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror. That’s how I found about Eifelheim by Michael Flynn, which was a Hugo nominee in 2007. The description of first contact in medieval Germany sounded like this was the perfect book for me.
The book has two story-lines, one ‘today’ where two scientists, cliometric historian Tom and theoretical physicist Sharon, figure out what happened to the abandoned and never resettled village of Eifelheim, and the other in the fourteenth century, in Eifelheim itself. In the fourteenth century, the story follows Dietrich, the well-educated village priest who serves as a human ambassador to aliens who have crashed in the forest nearby. Slowly they make contact and rely on each other for help and survival.
Sounds pretty good, and it was, sort of. But the story was too long, with the writer being too eager to display whatever he learned about the fourteenth century in Europe (I’m sure Dietrich met or knew of every famous person that walked the earth back then). The language used in the book, both in the modern parts as well as in the fourteenth century made me think the writer was German and so was the translator (and editor), but I am surprised that he is an American. Why then use the description ‘mouse the Net’ to describe browsing the Internet. And the coincidental knowledge and acceptance of Dietrich was beyond annoying. “Oh, you have information that travels across a wire in small packets? I’ll call those “bits”. And if something goes wrong in the system it is like an annoying bug? I’ll call that a “bug”". Yeah, sure. Like other reviewers I kept waiting for a reveal, for more information about these aliens or the area of Eifelheim, but nope. The book gets 3 and a half stars out of five, but only because I like the originality of aliens in the past and I’d never read a book like that. But I sure wish the writing was a lot better and more enjoyable.

Editado: Ago 13, 2013, 6:59 am

41. The Liar by Stephen Fry (25-07-2013 / 26-07-2013)

Stephen Fry is one of my favorite writers/actors/presenters/people. There isn’t much he’s done professionally that I don’t enjoy, and with regards to his books, I’m saving them so I can read a new one now and then. So, with my new resolve to read more books from my shelf (and stop buying so many new ones), it was time to read ‘The Liar’.
The Liar is and follows Adrian, from his days in a public boarding school to his days at Cambridge and after. He has always seen himself as very different from everyone else, and while he portrays himself to others as being very confident and independent, inside he is extremely insecure and alone. He gets caught up in an espionage plot by his professor at Cambridge which leads to an exciting time during the summer holidays in Europe.
The story is told in chronological disorder, with chapters bouncing from Adrian’s time at Cambridge back to public school and vice versa. The book is of course filled with Stephen Fry’s wonderful language, and I can hear him reading it to me. He makes me love the English language. Like another reviewer, I can see the similarities between his biography ‘Moab is my Washpot’ and this story, which makes me wonder if this story is his wishful thinking about his own life’s history. It made the book a bit less enjoyable to me, because that was always nagging me. The espionage part of the story didn’t do much for me. All in all, it was nice to read something by Fry, but it wasn’t as brilliant as I had hoped, so I give it three out of five stars.

Editado: Ago 13, 2013, 7:00 am

42. Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson (27-07-2013 / 09-08-2013)

Time for part eight in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson, which is still brilliant, still epic, and still over a thousand pages on average per book. This is definitely not a stand-alone book (unless you enjoy missing 7000 pages of back story). In this book we are in two places most of the time, in alternating chapters. On the one hand we are in Black Coral, where Anomander Rake and his Tiste Edur have settled after the loss of Moon’s Spawn and where the Redeemer’s religion is gaining ground. On the other hand we spend a lot of time in Darujhistan with the group of Bridgeburners that live there, the old Darujhistan crowd and the ship on which Barathol, Chaur, Scillara, Cutter and Envy traveled. Of course in the end all story lines come together in a truly devastating way.
I enjoyed this book about as much as all the others, it had humor, love, loss, and all emotions in between. The only thing that just annoyed me was so much Kruppe. He narrated the chapters in Darujhistan, and pretty soon I was dreading them. Good thing the story itself was so good. Four out of five stars.

Editado: Ago 13, 2013, 7:04 am

43. Mort by Terry Pratchett (09-08-2013 / 12-08-2013)

Another book in the Discworld series, the fourth (by order of release). This time focusing on a few new characters (although Rincewind makes an appearance), mainly Death and Mort, his apprentice. Death is like you’d imagine him, skeletal in a black robe with a scythe. He picks up Mort at a job fair where he is left as the last one without an apprenticeship. Death starts training him, and while Mort falls in love with somebody who is supposed to die, Death tries out human living.
The book is filled with Pratchett humor, the absurd logic and references to our world. I really like his style, and this book delivered. A great and fun little read, four out of four stars.

Ago 13, 2013, 12:24 pm

@74 I have yet to read a Stephen Fry book (apart from his shortened biography turned into an app which was ok but too much of just snippets). I really need to change that!

76 I love Mort (and of course Death). Pratchett is a great comfort read nowadays. Goodness knows how many times I have reread them.

Ago 14, 2013, 9:50 am

44. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

I can always count on my LibraryThing friends to make great recommendations based on what they know I like. That's how 'Rivers of London' was recommended to me, and because I trust them so much, I immediately bought the first three parts in the series (on sale). Luckily for me (and my wallet) they sure weren't wrong, I loved this first book in the series so much that I skipped the books I had lined up to read next to immediately dive into part two.
Imagine a world where there is magic, there are ghosts, and spirits, and vampires. But people don't know this, and go about there lives like everything is alright, even though this other world can be dangerous to them. You know, like Harry Potter. But this book is in no way like Harry Potter, except in its addictiveness.
The main character is Peter Grant, a police officer in London. At the end of his two years probation he is working at the site of a grisly beheading. When his friend and fellow officer Lesley steps away for coffee, Peter meets a ghost. He isn't as surprised or scared as I would be, and that, combined with the fact that he can see the ghost, prompts Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale to recruit him into his special branch of the Met that deals with other worldly threats to the Queen's peace. Quickly Peter must learn about magic, spirits, vestigia and the past. This helps him in his race against the clock to solve the case, save London, save Lesley, and help to reestablish the peace in the rivers of London.
Like I said earlier, I loved this book very much. Peter is a character that is smart, wants to solve the case, and trying his best to accept all he is learning about as normal. But sometimes it get's to be too much, and that is also good, because who wouldn't be overwhelmed. He is a hero I like, one that is easily distracted but at the same time focussed on his goal of saving the good guys and catching the bad ones. Ben Aaronovitch, the author, has created a great version of the world and of London (a world on its own), one that makes me love London even more. Five out of five stars, and straight on to Moon over Soho for me.

Ago 14, 2013, 9:52 am

77 Both his books and his biographies (I read them as books) are well worth it. I think I was disappointed with The Liar also because my expectations of Fry's work are so high.

That is exactly what Pratchett is for me too, a comfort read. Something that makes you laugh, you don't have to think too much or work to read a book. Great stuff and I am glad I have a lot more what that came from (I am collecting Discworld, still need a few but have about 25 on mount TBR).

Ago 14, 2013, 12:50 pm

Mort was my first of Pratchett's books, and still one of my favourites. You know you're going to be entertained and there will be silliness, but actually very little really bad ever happens. Every few years I read them in sequence, it's been a while...

Ago 16, 2013, 7:24 am

45. Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch (13-08-2013 / 15-08-2013)

After reading 'Rivers of London' I immediately dove into the sequel, 'Moon over Soho'. We are back with Peter Grant and DCI Nightingale and a case where something is quite off. And this time it hits a bit closer to home for Peter, as it is about jazz musicians in Soho, of which his father is one.
It starts when a jazz musician dies of a seemingly natural cause. However, Peter picks up a vestigium of a specific version of 'Body and Soul' and with help from his father's extensive jazz collection, he starts investigating. On the other hand there is the ongoing issue of the penis-eating-lady (and not with her mouth...). In all the investigations Grant and Nightingale (who is still on stick leave because of his bullet wound from the last book) hit upon some practitioners of magic that Nightingale didn't know existed, and who are into some seriously weird, dark and criminal stuff.
The book has the same feeling of fun, crime and magic as the first one. It took me a while to get into it because of the reminders in the start of the book (Grant has his stuff in the coach house because, the Folly is, magic is, I did this to Covent Garden and the Opera House). Because I had just read the earlier book this was annoying to me. If however there had been more time between books this would have been perfect, so I don't fault Ben Aaronovitch for this at all. I was glad that Lesley was back in this book after the horrible events that happened to her in the last book, and it was fun that Peter figured more about magic and that he learns to use it in his own ways. We also find out a lot more about the world of magic (like the school Nightingale went to and the terrible events of the second World War). A great sequel to 'Rivers of London', five out of five stars.

Out 13, 2013, 7:19 am

I love the Ben Aaronovitch series, glad you are too!!

Nov 8, 2013, 6:48 am

Oh, I am all caught up here! I recommend mini-reviews this year, we all seem to be far too busy. (Stupid real life, getting in the way of LT!)

Nov 8, 2013, 6:52 am

Haha, good to know, I can now start posting my backlog ;)

I know, it's too bad we have to work to be able to afford the books to read and the house to keep them in...

Nov 8, 2013, 7:25 am

Yeah, I keep on reminding the kids when they whinge about me working all the time that I'm paying for their Lego (and my books).

Nov 8, 2013, 7:57 am

Ok, time for catch-up. I actually finished book 77 last night. I am still behind with reviewing, but I am even more behind with posting review here. So, here they come. (Are you ready wookiebender?)

Nov 8, 2013, 7:59 am

46. Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch (15-08-2013 / 20-08-2013)

I'm addicted to this series about Peter Grant, who works for the London Metropolitan Police to investigate anything that 'reeks' of magic. It is kind of like a grown up world of Harry Potter, where magic exists in our world, and crimes happen where magic is involved. This book is about some mysteries underground, including a murder of an American (the son of a senator, which means the FBI sends their own agents to keep an eye on things), weird ceramic objects and a whole group of new and old magic characters and locations.
Peter Grant is more used to his role as magic PC, which is good because that means he can help Lesley get to grips with everything. This is another great part of the series, and just as much fun as the other two. I can't wait to read part 4, what a great series. I give this book, like the other two, five out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:00 am

47. De Torenflat/High-Rise by J. G. Ballard (22-08-2013 / 24-08-2013)

I collect science fiction books, older and newer ones, and for that reason have a few books by J. G. Ballard, even though I had never read one before this one. This one is also on the "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" list so to kill two birds with one stone I picked this book by Ballard as my first one to read.
It is the story of a high-rise in London, a huge building with hundreds of apartments, and things like a school, supermarket, hairdresser, swimming pools and a play ground for the resident. It is obvious that the higher up you get, the higher up in class you go, with the richest people (including the architect of the building) living high up, and the lower class living on the bottom floors. The mood the in building changes over a few months, first subtly, but later quite drastically. A war is starting to get to the top, with the bottom floors aiming for the top and the top ones coming together to keep them out. Pretty soon no one is leaving the building anymore or cares anything about the outside, the world in the high-rise is all that matters.
Even though the things that happened in this book aren't nice by any means, I couldn't stop reading because of some morbid fascination I had with the story. I just had to know how bad it could get, and how the main character ends up eating a dog on his balcony (the first line in the book). The story was pretty fascinating, but because this was a bit too unreal (no police or family ever investigates? no body has any qualms about fighting, starving, stealing or killing?), I couldn't really connect. Three out of five stars, but I'll be sure to read more by J. G. Ballard in the future.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:01 am

48. Kinderen van God/Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (24-08-2013 / 28-08-2013)

After reading "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell a few years ago I knew I needed to have and read the sequel, "Children of God". The Sparrow tells the story of a scientific/Jesuit mission to the first inhabited alien planet we've found, and the horrific ending due to serious misunderstanding and underestimating the alien culture. After finally finding "Children of God", and reading it, I wasn't disappointed, and I dare to say that this book even enhanced the first one.
Emilio Sandoz, the only survivor of the mission on the planet Rakhat is recovering on earth. Slowly he is healing, both physically and mentally. But Rakhat is still attractive to visit, so a second Jesuit mission is prepared. Sandoz trains the members in the languages and culture, and is forced to join them on the mission. Back on Rakhat he finds that their earlier mission has started a revolution, and that Rakhat is forever changed.
Like I said earlier, I feel this book enhances the first book. It tries to explain what happened, and we learn more about the Jana'ata and the Runa to show that the lines of good and evil are not as clear-cut as they seemed before. Sandoz again gets a bad deal in this book, but in the end, the closure he gets and things he learns seem good. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed "The Sparrow" but felt bad for Sandoz. I really liked it, and give it four out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:02 am

49. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (28-08-2013 / 01-09-2013)

Because I am generally a science fiction reader, with some excursions to fantasy and horror, I rely on lists and the LibraryThing boards for recommendations in general fiction. After several friends on the LT boards recommended "The Orphan Master's Son", I picked it up, and I am glad I did.
This is a story told in two parts. In part one, we read about the life of Jun Do, an orphan in North Korea. He leads a varied life, as part of a delegation the US, as a kidnapper of Japanese citizens (in Japan), as a radioman on board a fishing boat. It ends with him being captured and sent to a prison mine. In the second part we follow Commander Ga, who is 'replaced' by Jun Do. Jun Do takes over his life, including his house, his wife, his kids and his job. Because of the warped state of affairs in North Korea, everyone accepts this (more or less). When an American delegation travels to North Korea Commander Ga/Jun Do is asked by Kim Jung Il to prepare for their visit. He tries to use this visit to execute a desperate plan for him and his family, and for all of North Korea.
I find it hard to review this book, because in part, the strength of this book relies on how much of this could be true. The descriptions of North Korea, such as of the blind, elderly parents of the interrogator who can't even express their true feeling to each other in private, are gripping and surreal. Is this how it really is in North Korea, or is this our Western, partly biased, view? I'm not saying that I think everything is good and nice in North Korea, I'm just saying that we are so 'against' North Korea and we see so little of what is really going on, I don't know if this is really how the normal people in North Korea live. If I accept that all that is described in the book could really happen or has happened to North Koreans, it is such a sad and tragic story. It is very powerful, and I think it helps to bring home the daily, small and big, horrors under the regime in North Korea. Four out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:03 am

50. Interzone: 2047/Queen of Angels by Greg Bear (02-09-2013 / 06-09-2013)

Greg Bear is one of my favorite writers and while I have a few of his works, I try just to read them now and then so I know I will always have a few new ones waiting for me. This time I picked up "Queen of Angels".
It is 2047 and the world is basically separated into therapied and untherapied. The therapied people get the better jobs, the untherapied people seem to be freer in their thinking. A third class of people is the high naturals, those of such mental make up that they don't need therapy. In this society where almost everyone is therapied, the crime that writer Emmanuel Goldsmith commits of premeditated murder is a huge shock. We follow this crime in three ways. One is through the eyes of Richard Fettle, another poet and a friend of Goldsmith. Another is through Mary Choy, a police officer on the case who is desperate to find Goldsmith. Lastly we Martin Burke, a disgraced psychotherapist who has discovered a way to enter a persons "Country of the Mind". In between we also learn about a space probe with an AI on board who is slowly growing towards a discovery and self-awareness.
There is a lot going on in this book. Not only in the many story lines, but also with bigger ideas about crime, therapy, self-awareness. Because of this I had difficulty getting into the book. I felt I never really understood just what exactly was going on, or what the meaning was of what I was reading. But still, I wouldn't say the book was bad. The ideas and the future Bear pictures for us are very interesting and I am curious how this version of the future is developed or used in the other books in the series. I give it three out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:04 am

51. Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson (07-09-2013 / 27-09-2013)

Book nine, and the second-to-last book in the humongous (in page count and story lines) series by Steven Erikson, The Malazan Book of the Fallen. The book is most definitely part of the series, not stand alone. It is also a two-parter with the last book of the series, "The Crippled God".
We're mainly on the continent where Lether is. Adjunct Tavore is taking her Bonehunters to Kolanse to... to fight a war, but with whom? Slowly everything is coming together, and with a huge cliff hanger, we are ready for the last installment.
Like with the other books, if you liked them, you'll probably like this one. It has gods, scheming, war, other creatures, and many story lines. I liked it, and can't wait to start part 10, the grand finale. Four out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:05 am

52. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (27-09-2013 / 29-09-2013)

When I had just met my now husband, we saw one of his favorite movies together, one I had never heard of. It was High Fidelty, with John Cusack and Jack Black. When I saw the book by Nick Hornby, I couldn't help but pick it up, partly because I have enjoyed a Nick Hornby work ("A Long Way Down") before, and partly because I am still convinced that 'the book is better than the movie'.
It is written from the point of view of Rob, a thirty-something owner of a failing record store in London. He tells us about his life after his last breakup. He is obsessed with music, collections and lists. He isn't that likeable, a bit of a loser, and still you keep reading what will happen next because somehow it is also recognizable.
From what I remember from the movie, the movie and book are pretty similar, and it is hard to say which one is better. I'd still choose the book, but I'm not a movie person and I like how the book can give me more insight into Rob's mind. A highly enjoyable book, with lots of lists thrown in. Four out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:06 am

53. Zenuwmagiër/Neuromancer by William Gibson

'Neuromancer' by William Gibson is such a classic of science fiction and of cyberpunk, winner of three major awards (Hugo, Nebula and PKD) and nominated for two more (BSFA and Campbell), and on many best-of-lists, that I couldn't not read this book. It is responsible for making terms like 'cyberspace' popular. When you reading it you have to remember that when the book was published (in 1984) the Internet as we know it did not yet exist. 'Neuromancer' was so far ahead of the situation at the day, that there is even a discussion if the Internet as we know it is based on the book or if the book foresaw what was already happening.
I found the story itself confusing. As a reader you are dropped into this future world where people can be jacked into cyberspace. The main character, Case, was a talented computer hacker, until he was caught stealing and the part of his central nervous system that enables him to get access to cyberspace was destroyed by a mycotoxin. He gets recruited/kidnapped/saved from his life in the underworld of Chiba City in Japan by Molly, who works for Armitage. Armitage pays to cure Case on the condition he completes a mission for him. While on the mission Molly and Case also look into Armitage's background, and slowly they get drawn into a strange conspiracy of sorts, with huge companies, important families and advanced AI's.
I feel that while reviewing this book, on the one hand I have to look at it in the time it came out, and how new and creative it was back then. On the other hand, I am reading it now. I often felt confused by the story, it felt like Gibson did not explain enough of the back-story of the world this novel is set in. The ideas are good (although overly familiar to a reader of this time) and I can see they were original. But the story itself was just too confusing at times, leading me to still give it three out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:07 am

54. The Double by José Saramago

Ever since reading Haruki Murakami's 'The Wind-up-Bird Chronicle' I've discovered a love for magical realism as a genre. Books that take place in our world, where small things are just a bit off. Not enough to call it straight up fantasy, but not normal either... Because of this another writer that was recommended to me was José Saramago, a Portuguese writer, probably best known for his novel Blindness.
In this book the main character is Tertuliano, a divorced high school history teacher who is a bit of a loner. One day he gets a tip from a fellow teacher to watch a certain movie. He is shocked when he sees that one of the extras looks almost exactly like him. When he looks up a photo of how he looked when the movie was shot, he finds out that they are identical, down to their facial hair. He gets obsessed with this double, and starts a mission to find out who he is. Eventually he discovers his double, the actor.
It took some getting used to the writing style in this book (It is my first by Saramago, so I have no idea if this is a typical example) but I loved it. The narrator is as much part of the magic of this book as Tertuliano and his double. I love how the narrator keeps commenting both on what is happening in the story and his (the narrator's) telling of it. The story itself is pretty simple, but the writing style and exploration of the theme of having an exact double make it very good. Four out of five stars, and a good recommendation for someone who loves Murakami.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:09 am

55. Among Others by Jo Walton

This book has two special stories. One is about a world of magic, with good and evil magic, where one girl, Mori, loses her twin sisters and flees her mother by going to a boarding school, thereby moving from magical Wales to a lot less magical England. Another is about that same girl trying to get through her teens, surviving partly because of her love of science fiction novels. As this is set in the seventies, we are talking about some major writers here, like Roger Zelazny (the Amber series is just coming out) and Ursula Le Guin.
The book was nominated for and has won many awards (it won the Nebula, Hugo, BFS and was nominated for the Locus, Mythopoeic and WFA). And I can see why. Both elements of the story drew me in and kept me reading. In one way, I recognized myself in Mori, with her love of books and science fiction. I have a fondness for the works of that period, and I am slowly discovering them, picking them up second-hand in thrift shops or from old collectors. I savor them, knowing I have some master pieces on my shelves waiting to be read. I looked up the list of works mentioned in this novel, and while I won't go for completion in reading and collecting them (those novels are not necessarily the best or even good, just around in that period), it is lovely inspiration. The magical elements were a nice mix between classical 'facts' (the existence of fairies') and originality. All in all just a very good, strong book. Five out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:10 am

56. The Fishing Widow by Amy K. Marshall

Note: I received a copy of this book through the Early Reviewer program of LibraryThing.

Fishermen tell tall tales. Native legends sound like tall tales. But what if neither were untrue?

In Alaska we find Colin and Ethan, who work on the fishing boat owned by Colin in the Sitka Sac Roe Herring Fishery. It becomes clear early on that they are followed by some weird occurrences and sightings, starting with the disappearance of an entire crew of a fellow fishing boat. It seems they (Colin and Ethan) in particular are targeted by whatever is happening.
We are soon taken back in time, to a whaler that is sailing in the same waters. The whaler pulls up a strange creature in its nets, and instead of heeding the advice of the native boy aboard, the captain shoots it and dooms the ship and its crew. They are cursed, the captain and his wife, and will be a scourge to the area for the rest of time.
When Ethan finds items previously owned by the captain's wife, the curse becomes Ethan's problem. And if they can't stop it, it will take their whole crew with them.

If what I described above sounds confusing, that's because that's how I felt reading it. I never really got what the curse was (something to do with a deal between the demon and someone about hearts of hearts) and what the 'solution' was. The ending was really chaotic, and I have no idea what happened or why. I feel this has to do partly with the enthusiasm of the writer. She seems to want to tell everything about the Sitka Sac Roe Herring Fishery, about the boats they use, about native legends, about whaling in earlier times, about Spanish missions. While doing that she hops from character to character so quick (sometimes in one paragraph), and while using different names (in one paragraph she refers to Captain, Hartt and Priam, who are all the same guy) that I just lost track. And because of this, in the end, it didn't really matter to me anymore. I feel this book could really do with a good editor, because I can see that the basic story could be pretty good, if it was trimmed, had better descriptions and clearer writing. It was enjoyable, but not really more than that. I give this book two out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:10 am

57. The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

After reading "The Long Earth" earlier this year I couldn't help myself and picked up its sequel immediately. And it was nearly as much fun as the first book.
It's some years after the events in "The Long Earth", with Joshua Valenté married with children living in a settlement in one of the parallel worlds. But on Datum Earth, there is still a government trying to govern over their territories, trying to extract taxes from the settlers there to keep Datum Earth, with all the people who are unable to step themselves, going. Needless to say there is friction between Datum Earth government and the settlers on the step worlds. Add to that that the trolls are disappearing, probably because of the abuse they suffer from humans, who treat them as little more than animals. Joshua can't help himself when is asked by Sally to help in finding out the true cause (and destination) of the Troll exodus.
Like the first one I really enjoyed this book. I love the world Pratchett and Baxter build of stepwise Earths, each a little different from the one before. I really liked the short mention of the problem us Dutch people have on stepwise earths, because we have won our country from the water, and all our stepwise land is... under water. I loved that there was no all out (physical) war. I was under the impression that there would be only two "Long Earth" books, and was confused by the many set ups for new story lines by the writers. Luckily for me, there will be more "Long Earth" books, and I'll be sure to pick up "The Long Childhood" in 2014. I give this book four out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:11 am

58. The Airs of Earth by Brian W. Aldiss

A very nice short story collection by one of the greats of science fiction, Brian W. Aldiss. The story that grabbed me the most was about a visit of a group of scientists to a remote planet where one other human has exiled himself and is treated as a god by the locals. The scientists however go through more trouble to discover the truth behind the pygmies and their pets, who look like small dogs and small bears.
The stories in this book are pretty good and very entertaining, but not much more than that. Three out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 8:12 am

59. Op dit uur van de nacht en andere verhalen by E. T. A. Hoffmann

E. T. A. Hoffmann is a German writer from the end of the eighteenth, start of the nineteenth century. His writings contained elements of the supernatural and he is seen as one of the first fantasy writers. He was popular in the nineteenth century, one of his best known works is the story for the Nutcracker (which the ballet is based on). This collection has three of his stories.
Like with all older works, you have to keep in mind the period that they were written in. The style of writing and the world described are those of the early nineteenth century. The horrors experienced here are not (always) horrors that we would find as terrible as the characters (and readers) in that period. In reading it, it reminded me a bit of the works of H. P. Lovecraft (which I read earlier this year, so admittedly they are fresh in my mind). One character is driven slowly mad by the things he is experiencing. The stories were enjoyable, and I always find it nice to read older works that clearly have been an inspiration to many great writers who come after. Three out of five stars.

Editado: Nov 8, 2013, 8:46 am

60. De beste SF van het jaar by Terry Carr (15-10-2013)

This collection from the early eighties has the work of some great writers, like Roger Zelazny, Gene Wolfe and Kim Stanley Robinson. It's a very nice collection of short science fiction stories. I especially liked 'Venice Drowned' by Kim Stanley Robinson, about Venice some years in the future, now truly sunk beneath the laguna, being plundered by tourists from America and Japan. Another good one was 'The Saturn Game' by Poul Anderson (winner of the Hugo and Nebula for best novella), where the crew of a mission to one of Saturn's moon plays an imaginary game to offer some relief during the journey, but in the end it gets them into trouble when they start confusing the real (dangerous) world with their game. A strong collection of very good stories. Four out of four stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 9:24 am

61. Nat Stro by Richard Matheson

A nice short story collection by the great Richard Matheson (famous for I am Legend). This collection has several of his horror stories, which are all creepy in their own way. Like the story about the staged funeral for a supernatural being who is immortal, or the story about the rape of a girl in university. Or the dreams that turn more real every night for one poor(?) man. A very strong collection with good stories, four out of four stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 9:30 am

62. Heeft iemand hier nog iets aan toe te voegen?/Does anyone else have something further to add? by R. A. Lafferty

This short story collection by R. A. Lafferty has stories about secret places and mean men. It's an enjoyable collection, with the story that I remember best being 'About a Secret Crocodile' in which our world is ruled and influenced by many secret groups, who find out they are being (unwittingly) undermined by several ordinary people. A nice collection, not strictly science fiction (which was the genre I had placed it under) but not quite normal either. Three out of five stars.

Nov 8, 2013, 10:58 am

So much to comment on :)

High Rise has one of the best 1st lines, I read it purely because of that!

The Orphan Masters Son The author came over to read and do a Q&A on his book. He was fascinating and passionate about the state of North Korea. He discussed quite openly the problem of writing about a closed country, about the only accounts are from people who have escaped. I got sense he had did a lot of research and he did visit but was obviously guarded. He mentioned that he couldnt put half of what he has learnt because you wouldn't believe or it would be too horrid, I tend to believe him. Then again he said some of it was obviously his imagination :)

Making a note of The Double, looks great!

Nov 8, 2013, 12:28 pm

Ohh, The Double is so, so, so good. Glad you liked it too!

Nov 9, 2013, 1:31 am

Okay, I've only tried one Saramago (Blindness) and didn't get far. Maybe I should try again with The Double?

And I haven't had much luck with J.G. Ballard either! High Rise at least sounds better than Crash. :)

Glad you liked The Orphan Masters Son, I thought it was great. And Whispers Underground! And Among Others! Some excellent reading happening here.

Nov 11, 2013, 9:41 am

Thanks wookiebender and jfetting!

I don't have Blindness so I can't compare, but I sure liked The Double.
I have a lot of Ballard on the shelf, so I do hope some of his other work appeals more to me.

Oh yeah, I'm having a very good reading year!

Nov 11, 2013, 9:42 am

63. Een nieuwe dageraad en andere verhalen by Arthur C. Clarke (16-10-2013 / 17-10-2013)

This is a very strong short story collection by Arthur C. Clarke with a mix of stories taken from various English-language collections. After reading a few short story collections with stories by other writers, it is surprising just how good Clarke's writing is (although, he is one of the Big Three of science fiction writing for a reason). I can't put my finger on the reason, but his stories are just stronger than those I read just before. Stories that stuck by me from this collection were about a race with space ships with solar sails, the rescue mission of aliens who want to rescue us from the sun, and one where utopia turns out to be the dreaming of pleasant dreams. A very good collection, five out of five stars.

Nov 11, 2013, 9:45 am

64. De sterrenheilige en andere verhalen/The Star-saint by A. E. Van Vogt (17-10-2013)

A. E. Van Vogt is one of the famous writers from the Golden Age of science fiction (1950s). This collection has some fine fiction, some based in space or other planets, some dealing with a terrifying future on earth. What I liked about these stories is that they mostly deal with the human spirit, with human emotions like pride, and the lust for power, and the fight for survival. Most stories hinge on the actions of one single character, a character whose actions determine the fate of the world. I really liked these stories, four out of five stars.

Nov 11, 2013, 3:11 pm

Wow, what a lot of good reading you've been doing! Much of it I read back in the day when it was fresh, so my memory of it is pretty dim now, though.

Nov 11, 2013, 7:25 pm

I would say that Blindness is one of my least favorite Saramago books, and I've read a few. I loved The Double and I love The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis and The History of the Siege of Lisbon. They all have the same sort of off-ness (does that make sense? Not an actual fantasy novel, not magical, just a little - different. Off. Not exactly like our world).

Nov 12, 2013, 3:07 am

#ronincats: I always feel I have to catch up. Being born in in 1983, I missed much of the golden age of sci fi, so I try to mix my reading between old classics (or even not so classics, but they are the foundations of modern day sci fi/fantasy nonetheless) and new material.

#jfetting: Good to know, because I haven't found (I buy nearly all my books in thriftshops) Blindness yet. I call these novels magical realism, because they give me the same feeling as paintings in that school do. (And Wikipedia confirms that José Saramago and Haruki Murakami are both magical realism writers) (Below a painting by Carel Willink, a Dutch magic realism painter I really like)

Nov 12, 2013, 7:32 am

Oh, I haven't heard of "magical realism" as a term in painting, just literature! Will try some other Saramago, I already know I love Murakami.

Nov 12, 2013, 9:51 am

Oh yeah, I read that Dali was also a part of that, but he is just a bit too much off for me (I like his art a lot, just would not classify it as magical realism)

Nov 12, 2013, 9:52 am

65. Zombie/The New Dead by Christopher Golden (ed.) (18-10-2013 /19-10-2013)

In the big three of popular supernatural creatures at the moment, of vampires, werewolves and zombies, zombies are the weirdest. Just what is so fascinating about the walking (and rotting) dead coming to eat the brains of us living humans? For me it is mostly the apocalyptic world they cause for the living humans, and my curiosity about how humans will survive.
In this collection many writers give their take on a zombie tale, and there are some pretty strong ones. There is a story by John Connolly about Lazarus, resurrected by Jesus, but now in a living-dead state that isn't that happy. There is a story (by Tim Lebbon) about the last three survivors in a quarantined city. In 'Life Sentence' by Kelley Armstrong a rich guy is trying to create a zombie virus so he can live forever. And the best story was by Joe Hill, which was nothing more than the twitter-feed of a girl on a boring road-trip, with a stopover that the world should know about.
All in all a pretty decent zombie collection (although not all tales contain zombies). Four out of five stars.

Editado: Nov 12, 2013, 9:58 am

66. Prinsen van Amber/Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny (19-10-2013 / 20-10-2013)

In 'Among Others' by Jo Walton, Mori, the main character, is pretty excited about the Amber chronicles by Roger Zelazny. Because I already had the first chronicles on my To Be Read pile (mountain), I figured I'd better read them.
Carl Corey wakes up in a medical clinic (in the US, present day) and while he has lost his memory, he figures out he shouldn't be there and escapes. He soon arrives at his sister's house, and while hiding his amnesia, finds out he is a member of a family of not-humans who can travel to another world called Amber. In fact, Amber is the original world, and he and his family can travel to Shadow's, worlds all just a bit different from Amber. Our Earth is such a world. He also discovers card, like tarot cards, of the members of his family. Those cards enable him to contact them, and to travel to them through the cards. In this book Corey, who is actually Corwin, gets his memory back, and starts fighting his brother Eric for the throne of Amber. Along the way he discovers just what has happened while he was away, who is allied with whom, and what he is fighting for.
I liked the story, but even though the parts were all released separately, I am sure they are better in one volume. The idea of Amber and Shadow worlds is a very good one, and I like the rest of the world mechanics that Zelazny created. On the other hand, the story somehow felt rushed, like he wanted to use all elements in a story, but only had about 190 pages to do it. Not brilliant but entertaining, three out of five stars.

Editado: Nov 12, 2013, 9:58 am

67. De weg naar Amber/The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny (20-10-2013)

This is the second book in the Amber chronicles, with Corwin's continuing fight against Eric and the siblings that stand with him. Two main subjects in this book are Corwin's quest to get firearms to Amber (regular Earth firearms don't work in Amber, but he's found a substance that does fire in one of the Shadows) and the discovery of a great black road that runs through Amber and the Shadows that seems to enable evil creatures to enter the land, and that can capture 'normal' humans. He also meets a companion, Ganelon who accompanies him on his journeys.
This book is a nice continuation of the first book, and it really reads like it. It continues on right after the earlier book, feeling more like part two in one big book than a separate story on its own. Three out of five stars.

Editado: Nov 12, 2013, 10:01 am

68. Het ware Amber/Sign of the Unicorn by Roger Zelazny (20-10-2013 /21-10-2013)

Part three in the Amber Chronicles. Corwin is regent of Amber, but is being framed for a murder. Meanwhile he is still trying to figure out what those creatures were that followed Random to Flora's house back in book one. Corwin finds out more and more about the true nature of Amber, and about what his siblings have been up to ever since he disappeared so many years ago. The Black Road is still a growing threat to Amber, and slowly Corwin learns more about that too.
Another continuation that reads more like part 3 in a large book. Three out of five stars.

Nov 12, 2013, 10:05 am

69. De hand van Oberon/The Hand of Oberon by Roger Zelazny (21-10-2013 / 22-10-2013)

Part four in the Amber Chronicles, and the part I loved best. Corwin figures out more of what is going on and the history of Amber and his family, and some story lines come together. The story continues on, and I liked this one best because it seemed to offer some answers to questions that had been asked in earlier books. I especially liked (and only expected a little) the ending. Four out of five stars.

Nov 12, 2013, 10:08 am

70. De hoven van Chaos/The Courts of Chaos by Roger Zelazny (22-10-2013 / 23-10-2013)

The last book in the first Amber Chronicles, which mostly has the battle between Amber (good) and Chaos (evil). Corwin tries his best to save Amber as it is and fight back both the Courts of Chaos and his siblings who want other things (trying not to spoil the story here...). It is a fight that he seems certain to lose. It is a pretty chaotic conclusion to the first chronicles (Zelazny later wrote more Amber works) that seems to end with most story lines concluded. All in all I enjoyed the Chronicles of Amber, but they aren't my favorite fantasy. I enjoyed the world that Zelazny built, both the idea of Amber and its Shadows, and the Pattern and the power it holds. In the end it felt to me like Zelazny tried to put a long list of things in the story, making it packed with fast paced action where I would have liked him to spend some time on things. Maybe I am spoiled/ruined by series that run 10 books and 15.000 pages (I am looking at you, Steven Erikson!). Mainly because the world-building fascinated me so much I wished Zelazny had spent more time (with me) in these books. Three out of five stars for this last book and the series.

Editado: Nov 12, 2013, 10:32 am

71. The Crippled God by Steven Erikson (23-10-2013 / 27-10-2013)

The Malazan Book of the Fallen is an epic series, both in page count and in story line. I guesstimate it's about 15.000 pages in my paperback editions, with many story lines, a lot of land covered, many characters, many gods, many people, and in the end it mostly comes down to one war, one battle, one goal. That's what Steven Erikson and we, his readers, have been working towards. And while I am sure he knew what he was doing when he wrote this book, I am not sure that I know how to write a review for part 10 of this epic series, and for this series as a whole.
In this book most of it all comes together. Adjunct Tavore and her Bonehunters, the K'Chain Che'Malle, the Imass, the Forkrul Assail, the Tiste races, the Eleint. Of course the major focus of just about everybody is The Crippled God. The question is, for both the reader and some of the characters, is he evil and should be destroyed, or good and should be rescued. With Erikson you never know.
There is no way I can make a summary of this book. It would turn out to be a "and then that happened, and then that happened" type story, because just so much happened. I could not put this book down, which for me meant that is was a fitting conclusion to a series I just loved. I can't say I am quite sure what happened in the end (but luckily reading online about the book shows that many people are left with the same questions as me). But these are good questions. They aren't open-ended story lines, instead they show that with the world Erikson creates, as within our own world, nothing, no people, no person, no god, is ever truly good or evil. I am so glad this series was recommended to me, and I am glad this was my 'project' series for this year (I tried to commit to reading one part every month). Epic, fantastic, just great. Five out of five stars.

Nov 12, 2013, 10:34 am

72. Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan (28-10-2013 / 29-10-2013)

After reading and enjoying 'The Last Werewolf' last year, I couldn't help myself when I saw its sequel 'Talulla Rising' for sale. In this book the story is continued, this time focusing on Talulla, who is left by herself and pregnant after Jake's death. She tries to survive with the help of her human companion, but she is soon found by the vampires and WOCOP. This is the start of an adventure to both figure out what is going on with WOCOP and the vampires, and to get her baby back.
The book continues on the world build in 'The Last Werewolf'. From what I remember from that book, the world pictured here has a lot more groups that have big plans than the last one. It kind of reads like Glen Duncan, the author, is really starting a series, because he sure has enough starting points for more story lines. The story is pretty entertaining, but nothing too deep. Three out of five stars.

Nov 12, 2013, 10:36 am

73. Embassytown by China Miéville (29-10-2013 / 31-10-2013)

China Miéville is one of those writers whose books I save up, because I know I'm just going to love them, and I want to always have a few left to read. Even though I love his works, it has been two years since I last read one of his works, so it was time to pick up another one.
Embassytown is a town on a distant planet where humans live side by side the original inhabitants of the planet, the Hosts. Even though we can understand and speak their language, they can only understand us if that language is spoken by two ambassadors who are extremely in tune to one another. These ambassadors are taught in Embassytown, which is a colony of the Bremen empire. When a new kind of ambassador arrives from Bremen, everything changes in Embassytown, and Avice is caught in the middle of it.
This novel, while clearly science fiction because of the aliens, other planets, space travel and its setting in the future, is about more than that. It's also about politics, mainly those of colonialism (Bergen/Embassytown, but also Embassytown/the Hosts). And about communication, and what language is, and can be. That language can be so much more than just words, and that the way language works in a group of beings can influence their very core being. The novel is something special, something I could not put down. It takes a bit of effort to get into it, because Avice is the narrator so some of the language she uses and the settings the story takes place in are unfamiliar. But not so much so that the story is hard to follow. It is another Miéville classic, and a worthy winner of the Locus (and nominee of the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and Kitschies awards). Five out of five stars.

Nov 12, 2013, 10:37 am

74. Red Moon by Benjamin Percy (01-11-2013 / 03-11-2013)

I was drawn to 'Red Moon' because it fits in the current tradition of dystopian novels about supernatural beings (vampires/zombies/werewolves) and I can't remember really reading a dystopian one about werewolves before.
This is a world (our world) where lycanism is a known and much occurring infection in humans. It's been around since the early middle ages, and so people know no better than that there humans and lycans. The lycans are just like us, except when the full moon rises, they turn into something wolf like with super strength and a craving for human flesh. In this world humans and lycans live side-by-side, but as we (the readers) soon see, lycans are second-rate humans at best. They are obligated to take medication to keep their condition under control, and have their own country between Finland and Russia.
The novel starts with an attack by a lycan on an airplane, where all passengers except one boy are killed. The US government hits back hard against the lycans, arresting many of them that same night. One girl gets away while she sees her parents being targeted. This is the story of both, and of the future of both humans and lycans.
On the one hand, this novel has a nice back-story about the werewolves, where they come from and how they live. The author tries to remove the supernatural, magical element from them and give a nice medical explanation. On the other hand, this novel isn't really about the werewolves at all. It is about one group of humans against the other. About terrorism, discrimination and living together. About a boy from one group and a girl from the other, and their sometimes intersecting lives. There is hardly any need for the werewolves at all. It's an entertaining novel, but in all types (dystopian, werewolves, boy/girl from different worlds) I've read better. Three out of five stars.

Nov 12, 2013, 10:38 am

75. Chocky by John Wyndham (03-11-2013)

I was talking with a colleague about really good old science-fiction, and a book I always mention as having impressed me is 'The Day of the Triffids' by John Wyndham. When I read that, I started collecting more of his work, and I enjoyed several more of his novels. But it has been a long while since I read anything by him, so, it was time for 'Chocky'.
Chocky is the imaginary friend of a boy in his early teens, named Matthew. His father is worried, because isn't Matthew a bit old for an imaginary friend? And why is Matthew having such emotional discussions with his friend? Chocky also makes Matthew ask questions that he couldn't really have thought of by himself. Slowly the mystery of just who, or what, Chocky is unraveled, and Matthew's father tries everything to save the life of his son.
I love how in a few pages, these old science fiction stories manage to tell a whole tale. That's an art in and of itself. Together with the father, who wants nothing but the best for his son, we figure out what is going on, and just how good or bad this is for Matthew. The story has aged pretty well, mainly because technology isn't a part of this story. A very well-aged science fiction story, four and five stars.

Nov 12, 2013, 10:39 am

76. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (04-11-2013 / 05-11-2013)

With all the science fiction, fantasy and horror I've read, it was time for something a bit more normal. So, my friends at LibraryThing and my Excel of book lists and awards recommended 'The Garden of Evening Mists' to me. I was drawn to it partly because of the Japanese gardening in it.
The story is told by Yun Ling Teoh, a judge in Malaysia who is retiring and writing down her life story. We see three periods in her life, in World War II when she, together with her sister is captured and held in a Japanese internment camp, after the war as an apprentice to former gardener of the Japanese Emperor Nakamuro Aritomo to build her sister the Japanese garden she always wanted, and now, when as an old woman she has returned to the garden after many years.
Despite the terrible things that happened to Yun Ling Teoh and Malaysia during and after the war, the story in the book is wonderful. About how she learned to deal with her anger and loss, about the survival during hard times by her, her South African tea-plantation owning friend and Aritomo, a Japanese man living in Malaysia. It takes her all her life to make sense of it, but the beautiful thing is, she does in the end. It just is a lovely book to read, beautifully written and with gorgeous descriptions of both the garden and Malaysia. Five out of five stars.

Nov 12, 2013, 10:40 am

77. The First Collected Tales of Bauchain and Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson (06-11-2013 / 07-11-2013)

After finishing The Malazan Book of the Fallen I had one Steven Erikson book left in the series, 'The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach'. Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are the two necromancers, accompanied by their manservant Emancipor Reece, who we first met in 'Memories of Ice'. Because their arrival always coincides with the nightly disappearance of people in the town, they are forced to travel from town to town, from land to land. In this collection there are three novellas ('Blood Follows', 'The Healthy Dead' and 'The Lees of Laughter's End') that tell the story of how Emancipor Reece came to work for them, their journey over the seas and how they saved a country from a good king.
The stories are nowhere near as dark and serious as those in the main series by Erikson. They are filled with murder, demons, gods, magic, strange creatures and more. And they have a lot more humor. They are a great addition to the series, and for me were four out of five stars.

Nov 12, 2013, 10:42 am

78. The Twelve by Justin Cronin (07-11-2013 / 10-11-2013)

'The Twelve' is the second part in the trilogy started by Justin Cronin in 'The Passage' about an apocalyptic future with a vampiric virus, used by the US Army to breed super soldiers. Of course this has gone horribly wrong, which leaves the few surviving humans of that catastrophe in a world with immortal virals out for their blood, led by The Twelve, infected death-row inmates who control their own pods. Those Twelve are let by Zero, the first person to be infected and the source (eventually) of the virus in all infected humans.
In 'The Twelve' we get part of the back story, the outbreak of the Twelve and the disaster they unleashed upon the American continent. We are also in a period just after the time in 'The Passage', where we continue to follow characters like Peter, Sara, Alicia and of course Amy. In 'The Passage' they discovered that destroying one of the Twelve destroys their pod, so they now know what to do. But doing it isn't that easy. We discover new horrible colonies of humans and we learn more about Kerrville and their way of life.
This book was a good solid middle in the trilogy. It gave us an update on the characters of the first part, has a really good story on its own, and leaves me anxiously waiting for part 3 ('The City of Mirrors'), which will come out in 2014. I love the reason for the infection in this trilogy. Not the reason itself, but just the fact that Cronin has developed a good solid explanation for the infection, The Twelve and how to fight them. And I love how the infection itself is no clear-cut thing. Amy, Alicia, Carter, Wolfgast, all are examples of how not every viral is just a viral. What can I say, if you liked/loved 'The Passage', continue the reading journey in 'The Twelve'. Four out of five stars.

Nov 12, 2013, 12:03 pm

I absolutely loved The Garden of the Evening Mists too. And I'm also really looking forward to The City of Mirrors.

Nov 13, 2013, 7:59 am

Me too, I can't wait for The City of Mirrors. And The Garden of Evening Mists was so special, a book I couldn't put down but yet did not want to end.

Nov 13, 2013, 8:00 am

79. Aan het prikken van mijn duimen/Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (10-11-2013 / 11-11-2013)

Ever since reading 'Fahrenheit 451' I was convinced that I liked Ray Bradbury's writing, and I am glad to say that 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' has only strengthened that opinion.
A carnival comes to the town where Will and Jim, best friends, live. The carnival arrives in the middle of the night, and something is not quite right about it. The boys soon find this out when they see a carousel that goes backwards and help reverse the aging of the person riding it. There is also a strange balloon, a mirror-maze that seriously freaks people out, and the scary proprietors, Mr. Dark and Mr. Cooger.
But despite the scary things chasing Will and Jim, this is as much a novel about growing up. And about love. And about what it means to be a good father and a good son. And about what you want in life, really want. The language Bradbury uses is sometimes almost mythical, reminding me of Neil Gaiman's writing in a way. Because in this book it is almost as much about the actions Bradbury describes as about the mood that is created by his writing. A magical, wonderful, scary book, which gets four out of five stars from me.

Nov 13, 2013, 8:04 am

80. De tranen van de politieman/Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick (11-11-2013 / 12-11-2013)

'Flow my tears, the policeman said' is only the third Philip K. Dick novel I've read, and I picked this one to read next because of the many award nominations (Nebula, Hugo, Locus), wins (Campbell) and mentions on best of lists.
There are two story lines in this novel. The main one is about Jason Taverner, a famous TV host and singer, a six (genetically engineered human) who one day (after an attack and a hospital stay) wakes up in a cheap hotel without any ID. In the dystopian future (1988, but the novel is from 1974) this is as good as a death sentence. He goes out to try to get himself some fake ID and figure out what is going on. Soon he finds out that not only is his ID missing, he isn't present in any databank, and no one of his old friends and colleagues seem to even know about him. This causes him to eventually run into Police General Felix Buckman, main character in the second storyline about him, his life, his sister and how he does his best to survive in the police state that is the US after the Second Civil War.
I really liked this novel. I really was curious about what the solution to Jason's predicament was, especially when he found out more and more weird things going on. And I loved the philosophical discussions about love and grief. The only thing that let me down was the quick ending. After a long, slow build up, where Dick takes the time for Felix and Jason to meet people and discus life and what is going on, the story is quickly wrapped up in the last thirty or so pages, with a solution that is hardly explained or investigated. The epilogue, which is basically a summary of what happened to the characters after the story, felt unnecessary too. It reminded me of the epilogue you sometimes get in movies (in text, detailing the rest of the lives of the characters). Maybe this was something that was done more often back in the seventies, but I felt the novel did not need it. Still, this is a very good science fiction novel, four out of five stars.

Nov 13, 2013, 8:04 am

Phew.... all caught up with reviewing! Now let's see if I can keep it that way, or if I will slack off again!

Nov 13, 2013, 2:00 pm

Again, WOW! What a lot of reading!

One of the disadvantages of having read classic sf back in the 60s and 70s when it was published is that I've forgotten so much of it. I picked up the hardback collection in 2 volumes of the Amber series for free a couple of years ago, intending to reread it sometime as I've forgotten it pretty completely. And I'm delighted you love Bradbury--I hope the translator does a good job with his lyrical, flowing language, as that is, as you say, as important to the books as the story line.

Nov 13, 2013, 4:43 pm

I'm lucky in that I uhm.... also have epubs of much of my books. And those are mostly in English. Dutch translations (especially of that era) can be cringeworthy... I read that one half/half and the translation was actually pretty good.

Nov 14, 2013, 10:35 am

81. Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont (13-11-2013 / 14-11-2013)

You know the feeling that after a book ends, you feel sad, because you don't want to leave the characters and the world yet? I had that after finishing 'The Crippled God', the last part in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. I had three novella's about Bauchelain and Korbal Broach to entertain me a bit longer, but now I have no Steven Erikson works left on my shelves to read. Enter Ian C. Esslemont, Steven Erikson's friend, who, together with him, designed the world of these books. And he has written books too, taking place in that same world. So, I didn't hesitate and picked up the first one of his 'Novels of the Malazan Empire'.
According to LibraryThing this novel takes place chronologically before everything in the Malazan Book of the Fallen (including the Bauchelain novellas). It is one night in Malaz, the city that gave the empire its name. It is the night of a Shadow Moon, when the line between warren and real world is very thin. It is the night of a fight for the throne, but between whom and for what throne? Some known characters are in this novel, such as Kellanved, Dancer and Surly, and some new ones, like Kiska, a young thief who'd do anything to get out of Malaz and Temper, an old soldier who is just trying to keep his head down as guard of the Hold.
Esslemont is no Erikson. Not in plot nor in writing style. But if you keep that in mind, this is a pretty enjoyable Malaz novel, that takes you back to the world of warrens, Jaghut, magic, gods, House's etc. The fact that this is the story of one night is pretty interesting, and keeps the book short (a measly 298 pages in my mass market paperback edition). I was actually craving more, more about the warrens, more about the factions fighting in this one night. However, it was still good to be back in Malaz, and I am glad that more is still being written by both Esslemont and Erikson in this world. Four out of five stars.

Nov 18, 2013, 6:24 am

82. De verre aarde/Songs of a Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke (14-11-2013 / 16-11-2013)

Arthur C. Clarke is both famous for his science fiction writing (he is considered one of the Big Three of the Golden Age of SF-writing) and his scientific knowledge. That means that his science fiction novels have the potential to be a lot closer to what is actually scientifically possible than most novels. In this book he tells us in his introduction that 'inspired' by series like Star Trek and movies like Star Wars (this book is from 1986) he set out to write a 'humanity in the stars' novel that is a bit more realistic (than a warp drive for example).
In the 3800s mankind has colonized, or tried to colonize several planets far from our solar system. Back in the late 1900s, mankind discovered the Sun would be going supernova around 3500, so from that point on all energy was put into developing technologies to make the escape of mankind from earth possible. On the planet Thalassa, which is mostly oceanic with three islands of land, one such colonizing ship landed successfully. This ship did not carry any humans because of the length of the journey, but humans were 'grown' from DNA information stored on the ship. The planet has lost touch with Earth 400 years earlier after the local volcano destroyed their transmitting equipment. The society on Thalassa is very laid back, with a stable culture devoid of politics or religion.
One day a ship appears, Magellan, a ship from Earth, with the last million humans to have left Earth before its destruction. Just before the end humanity has developed a quantum drive making manned interstellar space travel a possibility. The crew of the Magellan is awakened near Thalassa while the other humans aboard are kept cryogenically frozen. They are on their way to Sagan 2, a planet even further from earth where they will terraform a habitable planet for themselves. They stop on Thalassa to repair their ice shield, forcing them to stay on Thalassa and mingle with the people there for at least a year.
The book deals with the consequences of the visit of the last humans to a colony of humans who never even saw Earth except in a recording. Their cultures are very different (the colonists of Thalassa received a censored version of the history and culture of Earth).
The story of the Thalassa people and the last people from Earth is very interesting. There is a clash of cultures, a sense of loss for those from Earth, a debate about the mission of Magellan. In between are many sections that go deeper into the reason for what is or has happened, for example explaining the discovery of the Sun going supernova or of the quantum drive. This is where Clarke gets more scientific than science fiction. It is very interesting to read this (although I have no idea how correct it still is, being published 27 years ago), but it slowed the story down for me. Other than that the story was very interesting, especially reading about how humanity works with the limits physics has given us. Four out of five stars.

Nov 18, 2013, 6:32 am

83. Het gruwelkabinet by Ivo de Wijs (17-11-2013)

'Het Gruwelkabinet' is a collection of Dutch nineteenth century horror/scary stories edited by Ivo de Wijs. It is said that there is no Dutch literature from the Romantic period, but this collection and others before it aim to show that that is not true. The stories in this collection all have familiar themes for those who've read early nineteenth century 'scary' stories. I say 'scary' because for a modern-day reader they are not that scary. They mostly deal with evil in human nature, such as murder, infidelity and lying. There are some supernatural elements in some stories (a gypsy curse for example), but for the most part the stories are pretty tame. It is a nice collection to also get to know some Dutch works from that period and because of the work by De Wijs, it is very readable in modern Dutch. Four out of five stars.

Nov 18, 2013, 7:20 am

84. De god in de machine/The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer (17-11-2013 / 18-11-2013)

In the near future Peter Hobson is a scientist in Toronto who has invented a super EEG that can determine the exact moment there is absolutely no electrical activity going on in the brain anymore and a person is truly dead. However, while testing his device he discovers something he calls the soulwave, a bit of energy nothing like normal brain activity that leaves the body at the exact time of death. Separately, another business has developed a method for immortality using nanobots. So now there is a possibility of life after death because we do have something like a soul, or immortality.
Together with his friend Sarkar, who has a company in AI, Peter starts an experiment to discover what immortality or life after death mean for a human. They make a three digital copies of Peter, one without a reference to a body (life after death), one without fear of death (immortality) and a control copy who is like Peter in every way. They are run on a mainframe at Sarkar's company, but soon feel trapped and escape to the Net. And then people in Peter's surroundings begin to die. People Peter wasn't that fond of...
I raced through this book, I could not put it down. I was both fascinated by the discovery and implications of that discovery of the soulwave, as I was by the experiment with the three not so artificial intelligences running loose in the net. I liked how there is a science fiction storyline in the soulwave and AI's, and a human one, with Peter and Cathy's relationship. I thought the conclusion was really good too, even the epilogue, although it was unnecessary. Five out of five stars.

Nov 25, 2013, 8:16 am

85. Splinter/The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (18-11-2013 / 23-11-2013)

After talking about (science fiction) books with a colleague, we discovered that we both really like Larry Niven's work. I have a lot of his books on my shelves, but had only really read the Ringworld series and 'The Integral Trees'. My colleague recommended 'The Mote in God's Eye' ('Splinter' in Dutch), a Hugo and Nebula nominee from 1974, as one of my next reads.
This is a first contact book taking place in the far future when mankind has conquered the stars (using an Alderson drive, that can jump between Alderson points, sort of like wormholes). A ship has flown from the star Mote, known as The Mote in God's Eye, using a sun-sail. Upon arrival the alien pilot is dead, but human interest is piqued and an expedition of a fully equipped Navy ship and a Navy ship with civilian researchers (but under Navy command) is dispatched to make first contact. Most of the book is spent trying to figure out if the Moties, the aliens, are good or bad for humanity, and what the Empire's policy with regards to them should be.
I wanted to like this book, it has the potential for something I would like. We have an interstellar human empire, first contact with intelligent aliens, a mystery about what their motive is, and a lot of discovering going on. But the book just dragged on. The characters weren't that well-developed (the handsome aristocratic captain, the Scottish (New Scottish technician), the (New) Russian tsar/admiral. Their behavior seemed unreal (the trader who gets taken along on the expedition (why?) wants trade no matter what, until one little set back and all of a sudden he is the most vocal opponent?). And the Moties were much too human. The book dragged on, and I think this is the first time I think that a book should be a lot (a lot!) shorter. This hasn't turned me away from Larry Niven as a writer, but it certainly wasn't as good as the Ringworld series. Three out of five stars.

Nov 25, 2013, 9:14 am

86. Ring by Koji Suzuki (23-11-2013 / 24-11-2013)

I love stories, especially science fiction, fantasy and horror, but I don't really care for movies. They are almost never as good as the book, and I'm always easily distracted when watching movies (or TV). So, I actually pick up books when I've heard the movie is pretty good. The same happened here. I actually have the DVD of the Japanese movie of Ring, but never watched it. I couldn't wait to read the book though, because I've heard many times that Koji Suzuki is a good writer, because I like Japanese novels (or at least, the ones I've read), and who can resist a nice supernatural horror tale?
Four teenager die unexpectedly, all at the same time. Reporter Kazuyuki Asakawa figures this out, and is intrigued. He starts investigating how this could have happened, expecting something like a virus that has infected all four of them. He finds out they spent a night together in a cabin in a resort, and when he spends the night in the same cabin, he finds a message from one of the teenagers not to watch a certain tape. Of course Asakawa does anyway, and that starts the supernatural race to figure out what the tape is about and how it could have caused four young healthy people to die.
This book was very good. The story (I read an English translation) is translated well, but keeps its Japanese style (in the way people act around each other, and descriptions of landscapes and houses). It made me feel like not only was I watching a story unfold, it happened in a different culture. I don't think this book would work as well in a different setting, because of the way people accept supernatural events. It is a very good horror story, one that doesn't have a nice ending with closure. I hope to come across other parts in the series in the future. Four out of five stars.

Nov 25, 2013, 9:32 am

87. Bint by F. Bordewijk (24-11-2013)

I have a confession to make. Back in high school, I did love reading (I have always loved reading). But like any other teenager, I hated being told what to do. Or what to read. So when I had to read a whole list of books for my Dutch class, I think I read maybe half of them, if that. I bluffed my way through my oral exam about literature, and that was that. A couple of years back I realized that I might not like other to tell me what a classic work of literature is, but if a book is considered a classic by many people over a long period, it could actually mean that the book was pretty good. I only ever tested this out with English literature though, and kind of kept skipping Dutch books (I still read mainly English because I like British and American writers better). I did start collecting Dutch classics like 'Max Havelaar', 'Camera Obscura' and 'De donkere kamer van Damocles', but I still never read them. After discovering a whole pile of my husbands Dutch books from high school (from his mandatory reading for Dutch), I figured, maybe I need to start doing my homework and read that list of Dutch classics.
So, 'Bint' is the first book I started. A short work (76 pages in my version) from the thirties by F. Bordewijk about school principal Mr. Bint who has decided to bring back discipline to the school. He has made himself unpopular in the town by doing so, and there won't be any new students. There is only year 4 and 5 kids left (juniors and seniors in high school). The story is told through the eyes of Van Bree, a temporary teacher in Dutch, replacing one that has been chased away by class 4D. 4D is Bint's special class, a collection of unruly kids who need the discipline he offers and follow his short and concise orders no matter what. The book describes the one year Van Bree teaches 4D and three other year 4 classes (the flowers, the browns and the greys, he calls them, 4D is the hell).
The language used in the book takes some getting used to. It is almost as if descriptions are only half written down, a lot more is implied than said. Of course there is a lot more going on than just the main story, why else would it be selected for Dutch class? It is a dystopia about discipline and mindlessly following orders, written around the time of the rise of fascism (1934). It is also about the leaders dispatching orders, and their strength. And it's about resisting discipline (and the futility of resistance, because the goal is unclear, the leaders of the resistance disappear and life goes on like before). At least, that is what I made of it, and I have no Dutch teacher to correct or grade my work ;) (I think, who knows who will comment). I enjoyed the book, and give it four out of five stars.

Nov 27, 2013, 7:14 am

88. De aanslag by Harry Mulisch (24-11-2013)

When I was going through my husbands books he once bought for Dutch class in high school, all considered must-read Dutch 'classics' (some are too new I think to be considered classics) I noticed that a lot deal with World War II, either during or the aftermath. I never really enjoyed books about war, because the horrors hit pretty close to home. My grandparents lived through this, for them this wasn't fiction, it was cold, hard, reality. However, the reason these books are considered classics, and are nearly mandatory reading for all high school students in The Netherlands is because they help us understand what war was like for average people. And that the war wasn't over on May 5th 1945 for most of them. Now my opinion is that it's good to learn about that period in history, to understand more about our country, and our family too.
'De aanslag' by Harry Mulisch is one of those books. Anton Steenwijk lives with his parents and brother on the outskirts of Haarlem. One night in January 1945 they are playing a board-game in the kitchen, cold and hungry but together. They hear shots outside and see a body, that of Fake Ploeg, a policeman and NSB member. And then they see their neighbors moving the body from in front of their house, to in front of the Steenwijk's house. Anton's brother Peter goes outside to move the body away from their house, but then the Germans arrive. Peter flees. Anton and his parents are forced outside. His parents are taken away and their house is torched and burns to the ground. Anton is taken to the police-station and ends up at his aunt and uncle's house in Amsterdam.
The rest of the book tells the story of how Anton deals with this event in the rest of his life. In several episodes he meets people who all were connected to the attack, such as the son of Fake Ploeg, one of the resistance fighters involved in the assassination and the neighbors. Because of these encounters he slowly comes to terms with his own feelings, and the feeling of those around him. For example, it takes him a while to realize that his daughter, born after the war, really has a different way of looking at that time than he does.
I really enjoyed this book, for as far as you can enjoy a book about such a horrible and tragic event, based on reality. The book helps the reader empathize with those who survived the war, and to realize that every choice made has consequences for others. When I started I could not put it down, and read the book in one sitting. Five out of five stars.

Nov 27, 2013, 9:40 am

89. The Explorer by James Smythe (25-11-2013)

I get most of my books recommendations from blogs, the LibraryThing (forums) or award/best-of lists. For some books that are just (going to be) released you kind of take a chance if a book will be good. I found 'The Explorer' through one of the blogs I read, and purely based on the enthusiastic post and the description of the story on the back of the book, I fell for it. And I am so glad I did.
Journalist Cormac Easton is selected to join a manned space flight into deep space. The mission is basically to see how far they can go and then come back. Cormac's job is to document the journey for Earth, to make space exploration popular (and thus receive funding). They leave Earth and immediately members of the mission start dying, but mission control orders them to continue. Pretty soon (and I mean soon, after not even one-third of the book) Cormac is left on his own to face his inevitable death.
But then the book gets really interesting, in a way I can't really put in my summary without spoiling everything I loved about this book. I was curious what James Smythe, the author, was doing by killing everyone off in such a rapid pace, but in the end, it was just brilliant. Cormac is as confused as I was, and this makes it even better, because like us, he knows the 'rules' of science fiction. A simply brilliant book with a great twist, a must SF-read. Five out of five stars.

Nov 27, 2013, 9:55 am

90. The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year by Sue Townsend (25-11-2013 / 27-11-2013)

Sometimes you just want a light-hearted read. A beach novel, if I'd ever take a sunny holiday or go to the beach. 'The Woman Who Went To Bed For a Year' by Sue Townsend is such a novel, and does exactly what it says on the tin.
Eva is a fifty-year-old housewife who takes care of everything for her husband Brian (astronomer) and her twins Brian junior and Brianne (autistic and brilliant). When the twins leave home to go to university in Leeds, she decides enough is enough, and goes to bed. And doesn't come out again for a year. No more breakfast or dinner, no more cleaning, no more laundry. No more entertaining, no more doing everything Brian wants her to. She gets a support network around her of her mother, her mother-in-law and her man-with-a-van Alexander. Brian is mostly annoyed by Eva and the damage she is doing to his life. Not that he needs any help with that, because as it turns out he's been promising his other woman Titiana for eight years to leave Eva. Eva meanwhile stays in bed, hopes people feed her and tries to figure out what she wants in life, because something needs to change.
The book reminded me a lot of 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' by Rachel Joyce. Like Eva, Harold decided to give up his daily life, but he started walking. Like Eva, Harold amassed a following that saw in him a holy man but he found them mostly annoying or a hassle. Eva just wants a moment to sort things out, but it gets harder and harder, until she has alienated everyone around her, while she needs help the most. We also follow Brian and the twins, and their new 'friend' Poppy.
It is a nice quick read, nothing too deep, about someone who just wants to be appreciated and not needed so much. It doesn't make too much sense, and leaves some open ends, but for a light-hearted read, it is pretty fun. Three out of five stars.

Dez 3, 2013, 8:27 am

91. 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights by Ryu Mitsuse (27-11-2013 / 28-11-2013)

Haikasoru is an American imprint dedicated to bringing Japanese science fiction to the English-reading world. My science fiction reading is usually very US/UK centric, with some Dutch works thrown in if I can find them. Sometimes you get Polish or Russian works, and because their world-view is different, so is their science fiction. So when I learned about Haikasoru, I looked through their catalog and found some interesting books, of which "10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights" by Ryu Mitsuse was one. This book, published in Japan in the late 1960s and a major bestseller over there, is an interesting view on aliens on Earth.
The book starts at the beginning of Earth, with the creation of our planet by the laws of physics. Life appears (much later), and we follow the thoughts of one sentient creature. Then we get a chapter about the philosopher Plato who is looking for Atlantis. We also see Siddharta on his way to enlightenment and Jesus just before his conviction up to and including his death on the cross. But this book is science fiction for sure, because now that we have these main characters, we find out just what has been going on on Earth, and what these old beliefs and religions have to do with it.
The style of this book is very different from other science fiction books I've read. I always think that it is because the writer is Japanese, and Japanese storytelling (to me) seems slower. They take time to set a mood, so you are not only following the actions of the characters, but you also get into a certain state of mind. This book is similar in that way. The action is in the final part of the book, the first half takes its time to set up the story. That made the book great, because the story itself is confusing at times, and now, a week after reading it, I'm not quite sure I could tell you exactly what happened. But that wasn't important, I loved the book, and give it five out of five stars.

Dez 3, 2013, 8:28 am

92. Solaris by Stanislaw Lem (29-11-2013 / 30-11-2013)

Solaris is a science fiction book that is also pretty philosophical, about the problems of communication between mankind and an alien that is so different from us, that it took us a while to see it as sentient at all.
Dr. Kris Kelvin arrives from Earth on the research station on Solaris, the first inhabited planet ever discovered. Solaris is a planet with two suns, and the orbit of the planet is influenced by the huge ocean that covers the entire planet. The ocean, which is nothing like our oceans, turns out to be alive and in a way sentient. This has led to an obsession with Contact for most scientists studying Solaris. When Kelvin arrives the Ocean has made an advancement that can be seen as contact, and this makes Kelvin analyse what contact is, what they are and if mankind is ready for contact.
Besides the actions of the characters and the ocean the novel contains many long pieces about scientific history (the study of Solaris and the evolution of ideas about the planet and its ocean) and philosophy (who are we to contact an alien species?). Because of those pieces I found the novel hard to get into. I just couldn't care that much about all the theories about Solaris, the scientific history or the description of the ocean itself. The ideas were interesting, but just didn't grab me. Three out of five stars.

Dez 3, 2013, 9:44 am

93. The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells (30-11-2013 / 02-12-2013)

The trouble with reading famous classic works like 'The Invisible Man' by H. G. Wells is that the story itself is used so many times in movies, TV shows and other books, that the book itself can't really surprise you. We already know what Dracula is, or Frankenstein's Monster, something that an original reader in that era might not know. With regards to 'The Invisible Man', the title is very obvious, and I have seen the movie 'Hollow Man'. Because of that movie I never really read the book (I didn't like the movie). I should have known better.
One cold day a stranger, all wrapped up in clothes and bandages arrives at the Inn in Iping, an English village in Sussex. He is very rude but pays on time, and locks himself in the parlour where he performs experiments. However, stranger and stranger things start happening, including a break-in. The man gets more and more frustrated and reveals his invisibility. Undressed and invisible, he flees the village with the (forced) help of a tramp, leaving chaos behind him. He moves to Port Burdock where he is betrayed by the tramp and runs into an old acquaintance, Dr. Kemp. There he reveals himself to be Griffin, an albino student of physics. He details his discovery of invisibility to Dr. Kemp and implores him to help him. However, Dr. Kemp doesn't feel comfortable with all the casual violence and criminality displayed by Griffin, and tries to trap him. Griffin gets away, and swears revenge on humanity, starting with Dr. Kemp.
There's just something about nineteenth century books I love. The descriptions, the proper way of acting of the British upper class, the views of the villagers, everything is great in this book. Like most old books, I felt this one was too short (although the nineteenth century has produced some major doorstoppers too of course). I wanted to read more about Griffin, and about the consequences of his discovery. Now he is portrayed as this very angry guy with very little morals, where I think he could be more. Four out of five stars.

Dez 13, 2013, 10:00 am

94. The Shining by Stephen King (02-12-2013 / 05-12-2013)

While I am no fan of horror movies (I hardly watch any movies actually) I like horror books. I admit, most books that I've read that fall under the 'horror' genre are about zombies, vampires, werewolves and other monsters. I was pretty apprehensive to read NOS4R2 by Joe Hill because people said it was pretty scary, but I really enjoyed that read. Because of that positive experience, and because of its many accolades and awards, I picked up The Shining by Stephen King. I've never seen the movie (all I know are some famous quotes and shots). All I knew was that it was about a caretaker (who is actually a writer) and his wife and son living in an otherwise empty hotel in the mountains during winter and that the caretaker ends up attacking his wife and son.
Jack is a fired teacher (because of a violent episode between him and a student) and recovering alcoholic. When his old drinking buddy arranges a job for him as caretaker during the winter of the Overlook hotel, he has no choice but to take it. Together with his wife Wendy and son 5-year-old son Danny he moves into the hotel. His son is special, in that he has an invisible friend Tony that can show him things (the future, or lost items). The hotel itself has a colourful past, with a mysterious owner and several murders and suicides. During the tour of the hotel Danny meets Mr. Hallorann, who calls Danny's abilities 'having the shine', saying he has a lighter form himself. He is worried for the family and especially Danny, and tells Danny he can always use the shine to call for help if he needs it. And no matter how hard Danny tries to make the best of it, he and his mom need help soon enough.
This isn't the first scary book I've read that gave me the creeps. The aforementioned NOS4R2 stayed in my head, and Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman gave me nightmares. But this was the first book that I just could not keep reading because it creeped me out that much. I felt I had to read it with my hands over my eyes, like watching a scary movie. The best thing about it was that it wasn't any real traditional monsters that made it that scary, but the events slowly happening to mainly Jack and also Danny. I knew something bad, really bad, was going to happen (also from the little I knew from the movie) and I didn't want to read it while wanting to read about it. This is the first book I can remember having that effect on me. Truly creepy! Four out of five stars.

Dez 18, 2013, 9:35 am

95. Sourcery by Terry Pratchett (05-12-2013 / 07-12-2013)

Sometimes you just need a read that is dependably funny. For me that is any Discworld book by Terry Pratchett. I'm reading (and collecting) them in publication order, and this time it was #5, Sourcery. It is the third Rincewind novel.
That Discworld has wizards is well-known. They have their own university, and are pretty harmless for the most part. They don't bother the people of Ankh-Morpok, and the people ignore them. But the eighth son of the eighth son is a wizard. And his eighth son, Coin, something unheard of in the celibate (for exactly this reason) world of wizard, is a sorcerer, a source of magic power himself. Influenced by his father he is slowly taking over Discworld, and the only one who can (but doesn't particularly want to) save the world is Rincewind, accompanied by the Luggage.
I found the Pratchett/Discworld humor that I expected, with funny references to our world and way of doing things. The absurdity of the story was exactly what I needed. A nice 'just-as-expected' Discworld novel, four out of five stars.

Dez 18, 2013, 2:28 pm

96. The Accidental by Ali Smith (08-12-2013 / 11-12-2013)

I think I bought this book because it was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2005, and read it because it is also listed in the 1001 books list. I thought it was time for some 'regular', 1001 list worthy, fiction after all that horror, fantasy and science fiction of the last few weeks.
This is the story of a family (mother, step-father, son and daughter) on an extended vacation in a house in a village. Each chapter follows one person in the family. The added character is Amber, a girl no one of them knows, but inserts herself into their vacation and into their family. Only when they get home they truly realize what she's done for/to/with them.
The structure of the book, with each chapter told by a different family member with a distinct voice is interesting. It's just that I couldn't really care much about the characters and what Amber was doing there. The book seemed to drag on despite just being 306 pages long. The ending was interesting, but still, the book gets only three out of five stars from me.

Dez 18, 2013, 2:54 pm

97. Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks (09-12-2013 / 14-12-2013)

Ever since the sad news of Iain (M.) Banks' recent death I've collected his non-sf works and pacing my reading of his works, because when I've read them all, there will never be anymore. The last one of the SF books that I have (I still need 'The Hydrogen Sonata'), that I hadn't read is the non-Culture novel 'Against a Dark Background'.
Sharrow is nobility, and used to be the leader of an artifact recovery team. Now the hunt for her, by the religious Huhsz, is officially and legally opened. They believe that the fact that she is alive, or the loss of the last Lazy Gun are all that is standing between them and the apotheosis of their faith. She gathers her old team together and tries to spend the year of the hunt recovering the last Lazy Gun to save her life.
This was a 'traditional' Iain M. Banks book, despite not taking place in the Culture universe. You get the many story lines all coming together in one big ending that gives meaning to all that happened. It has very fast paced action, a treasure hunt (with clues hidden away) and a lot of family drama. A very nice M. Banks read, four out of five stars.

Dez 19, 2013, 10:35 pm

Phew, caught up! Sorry you didn't love the Amber series as much as I did, but I did read them back in the 1980s, so was less fussy then and they're now a special part of my reading life. They are flawed, especially in the lack of female roles. The sequels addressed that better, but weren't as much fun for some reason (that I can't remember, since I read those back in the 1990s and haven't re-read).

I've lost my copy of Tallulah Rising. *major sulk* because I hadn't read it yet, and I splurged on an expensive copy when it first came out! Wah!

Will keep my eye open for The Explorer.

Dez 22, 2013, 10:54 am

I think that is exactly it. I'm comparing it to my reading of the last few years, and if you compare Amber to Malazan (even subconsciously), Amber is going to pale...

I got Talulla Rising for £ 0,49 ;)

Dez 22, 2013, 10:55 am

98. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami (14-12-2013 / 16-12-2013)

I've talked about my love for (translated) Japanese writers before. That they have their own style, that their stories seem to take more time to evoke a mood and give you a certain feeling while reading it. My first and favorite Japanese writer is Haruki Murakami, with his weird stories that fall in the genre of magical realism. "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" is a short story collection by Murakami. In his introduction Murakami tells us that he either writes novels, or short stories. He won't write on a novel while working on short stories, and vice versa.
This collection has several stories that have the magic that Murakami is known for. Things that are just slightly off, a form of magic in the world that everyone accepts as part of daily life. Some stories are just episodes in a life, dealing with things like coincidence. Some stories seemed familiar, as if I had read them before, or as if they were later explored more deeply in one of his novels.
The collection is very charming, exactly like you would expect from Murakami. No grand action sequences, but magic in small things. Four out of five stars.

Editado: Dez 22, 2013, 3:52 pm

99. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (16-12-2013 / 18-12-2013)

The cover and title of Lauren Beukes "The Shining Girls" reminded both of "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn (young female writer, book about murder) and "NOS4R2" by Joe Hill (murderer travels through time to kill his victims). When I found the book cheaply I could not resist.
In Chicago during the Great Depression, drifter Harper Curtis, fleeing Hooverville after a fight, finds a strange house. In the hallway is a dead man, presumably the owner of the house. Soon Harper figures out how to influence on to which day and year the front door of the house opens. And he discovers the bedroom, filled with trophies. The house influences him, and he soon figures out how to find the 'shining' girls, girls with a potential for life, and kill them. Only, one of those girls isn't quite so dead when he is done. And Kirby Mazrachi, that girl, won't rest until she finds her killer and stops him.
The killer in this book, Harper, is truly a nasty piece of work, and Beukes describes his kills in more and more detail, with the added 'bonus' of the attack described from Kirby's point of view. The time travel gets more and more complicated (time lines running into each other). The ending is on the one hand an explanation of what is going on and how the house works, and on the other hand it explains nothing. Suffice it to say, it is a book I kept thinking about and could not put down. Four out of five stars.

Editado: Dez 22, 2013, 3:49 pm

100. The Rook by Daniel O'Malley (19-12-2013 / 22-12-2013)

"The Rook" is one of those books that I would never have known about without my friends at LibraryThing. It was first published in early 2012, but I've only heard about it a couple of months ago.
The Rook is Myfanwy Thomas, a member of the Court of the organization the Chequy. The Chequy is a secret government organization that deals with anything weird (vampires, manifestations, people with strange powers). In fact, Myfanwy has a power herself, as do all other members of the Court. But, Myfanwy has a problem. She has woken up without a memory, and only knows she 'is' Myfanwy because of the letters the Myfanwy with memories wrote in preparation. Not only must she know decide if she is going to live as Myfanwy, she will then also have to figure out who ordered her memory wiped.
The book reminded me a lot of Ben Aaronovitch' series Rivers of London. Both deal with a world (London and the United Kingdom) where magic and magical beings are real, and have a setting of law enforcement. However, in Aaronovitch' world a lot more people know about how the world really works. In O'Malley's world, the events seem to be happening on a bigger scale (the entire country needs to be protected). Because Myfanwy has lost her memory and has her previous self's letters explaining what is going on, we (the readers) also learn bit by bit how the Chequy works and what it deals with. I loved the world and mythology O'Malley has created in this novel, mixing magical beings, politics and war. I really hope that there will be a sequel/series, because I feel I've just met Myfanwy and we are leaving her just when it truly gets interesting. Four out of five stars.

N. B. This was my 100th book of 2013, I met my reading goal of the year :-)

Dez 22, 2013, 4:03 pm

Well done on achieving your goal.

Dez 27, 2013, 6:20 am

Congratulations on reaching 100! And with one of my favourite reads, too. :)

Dez 29, 2013, 2:14 pm

Thanks Helenliz and wookiebender! Wookie, I think it was your recommendation that made me get it :D

Dez 29, 2013, 2:16 pm

101. S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst (22-12-2013 / 23-12-2013)

I know I have a problem. I buy books. A lot of books. More books than I can read in the next ten years. So, I try not to buy my books new and/or full price, because why couldn't I wait a year or two for a certain book? Yeah. Until I saw S. by Doug Dorst and J. J. Abrams. A gorgeous hardcover book in a slip-cover. Made to look a library book. With 'handwritten' notes and postcards loose in the book. With handwritten notes in the margins. I mean, look at it!

So yeah, I had to get this book as soon as possible, new and hardcover. And I saved it for the Christmas holidays, so I could take my time and enjoy it (or finish it in two days, whatever).

This book is three stories in one. We have "Ship of Theseus", the book that is the start of it all. It is written by V. M. Straka, a writer that is a great unknown (nobody knows who he is and what the book means). And Eric and Jennifer, grad student and college senior, who try to figure out the mysteries together, writing in the margin of the book and leaving stuff (like postcards and written-on-napkins) in the book for each other.
"Ship of Theseus" is about S. a man without a memory of who he is, who gets kidnapped and taken on to a strange ship, where the sailors have their mouths sewn shut. He sees the S. sign everywhere, taking his 'name' from it. He is trying to figure out the mystery of his identity and do whatever is apparently expected of him. Slowly Jenn and Eric realize all the clues in the book about Straka's real identity, and those of his friends. But this is something scholars have worked on for a long time, so they are bound to step on some toes.

I really tried to savor this book, reading it slowly. But the stories were so gripping I could not put the book down. It takes some getting used to reading it, with the story of S., the margin notes (different colors for different periods of writing) and the extras. Luckily I found some tips online. I read a chapter of S.'s story, and then Jenn's and Eric's notes (blue/black). After I finished the book, I went back and read the orange/green notes throughout the book. Then the purple/red notes, and finally the black/black notes. I read the extras when they were referred to in the notes. That way I still read some notes out of order, but not so much that the story was not understandable. All three stories were great to read. I think this is the first time I ever understood a story like "Ship of Theseus", Jenn and Eric analyzed it like I never can. The whole book was great stuff, and I recommend it to everyone. Five out of five stars.

Dez 30, 2013, 10:56 pm

Oh, I got that book too! Saving it for some quieter time (hah), so skipping reading your review in case of spoilers. Happy to see that lovely 5 stars at the end, though. Isn't it just a scrumptious edition? Never seen anything half so beautiful.

Dez 31, 2013, 10:49 am

102. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag by Robert A. Heinlein (23-12-2013)

In an 'in-between' read I picked up "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" by Robert A. Heinlein, a short novel about a man with memory loss (something that has come up in my reading a lot lately).
Jonathan Hoag is a man who goes to work everyday. Pretty normal. However, he doesn't know where he works or what he does. He does find something weird and disgusting under his fingernail, and when he asks a doctor to check it, the doctor gets angry at him and throws him out. To find out what it is that he does (and is apparently so disgustingly strange), he hires Ted and Cynthia Randall, private detectives, to shadow him. Together they figure out the strange story of the creation of the world...
The book itself is pretty short, and still manages to present a pretty far out creation story. Because of the shortness of the book a lot of big ideas get presented in a short time. Like most short, older books (my version is from 1969, original from 1959), I wished it was longer. Still, it is pretty original and a fun read, three out of five stars.

Dez 31, 2013, 11:11 am

103. The Future is Japanese by Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington (25-12-2013 / 27-12-2013)

My favorite reading during vacation time has been collections of short stories (of course mostly science fiction). For my last birthday I got 'The Future is Japanese', a collection of science fiction stories involving Japan. The book is published by Haikasoru, an imprint dedicated to bringing (translated) Japanese science fiction, fantasy and horror to English-speaking/reading readers.
The collection contained stories by Japanese authors or about Japan (or Japanese people). Like the story about a ship carrying the last thousand or so survivors from a destroyed earth, including one Japanese man, the last person from Japan. Or the story about teenagers fighting something out in certain zones in great big mechs. And the great story "The Indifference Engine" about a solution to clan violence in Africa that isn't as perfect as it seems from the outside.
The collection is great, having a great mix between Japanese writers and Western writers. The difference between them is obvious, but the book never makes me wish it was all Japanese (and in that more philosophical) or all Western (and in that with more action). What I dislike most about short stories is them being just an episode in a longer story. Most of these are complete as a story and are great to read. Four out of five stars.

Dez 31, 2013, 11:28 am

104. Still Life by A. S. Byatt (28-12-2013 / 31-12-2013)

Ever since reading 'The Children's Book' by A. S. Byatt I've loved her writing. A month or so go I found one of hers in a thrift shop, and I could not wait to read it.
'Still Life' is part of the story of Frederica Potter (the second book of four). It describes a couple of years in the life of Frederica, Stephanie and Marcus, siblings in the fifties in England. Stephanie is married to Daniel, and expecting her first child. Frederica is starting her university years in Cambridge after six months in France as an au pair. Marcus is troubled, and for now, living with Stephanie and Daniel because he can't stand living at home anymore.
The book just meanders on, describing what happens (in beautiful language, like expected from Byatt) without really a main purpose to the story. In between the lives of the Potters and those around them we also get Vincent van Gogh and his struggles in life, as well as those of other artists, living (and part of the story) or dead. It is hard for me to say what I think about the story. I loved the language, the flow, the descriptions and the philosophy. I have no idea what the purpose was, but that doesn't bother me as much as I would have thought. It was just a lovely glimpse into the lives of many people in England, in the fifties, in all stages of life. Four out of five stars.

Dez 31, 2013, 12:17 pm

I need that Abrams book too now. I love that sort of thing. And it looks so pretty!

Jan 1, 2014, 8:46 am

Yeah, that is one book you NEED :D

Jan 1, 2014, 8:46 am

2013 recap:

I'm a nerd, and I love reading, so of course I have a nice spreadsheet with graphs about my reading behavior of the last few years. So, let's see how 2013 went, also in comparison to earlier years (I have data since 2008).

This year was off to a slow reading start (moving house does that to you). Because I have no train-commute anymore, I have a lot less time to read. It used to be that I read less during time off, but now it is the exact opposite. We had a vacation in June and one in October, and I got a lot of reading done then. And after October I was so motivated I kept the reading up... Let's see if I can keep this up the coming year.

Most books I read were pretty good, even the three stars books were ok. I've gotten over my fear of abandoning books, but I didn't need to do that this year. My one two star read was an Early Reviewers book from LibraryThing (I got the book for free in exchange for a review). I wouldn't have finished the book if I didn't receive it through the program.

Compared to other years I read a lot more in my last months of reading (mainly October and November). That kind of surprised me, I never had less free time to read, and yet I read more. Sure, some books were pretty thin (less than 200 pages), but still.

With regards to the total amount of books read this year, 104, I was over my goal of 100. I didn't think I'd make it, but the last few months were good. Last year I didn't make it because of all the changes going on (getting married (and on a honeymoon), new job, new house...). 2011 was the last year that I still commuted the entire year by train.

This graph shows the end of the month totals of reading over the last few years. My reading this year was much like that of 2009, until the spurt in October, where I managed to catch up to 2009 (I was lagging behind a bit) and took over 2012.

With regards to total number of pages read last year I read even less than 2009 (even if the total was higher). Last year was pretty good with nearly 40.000 pages. I am going to try to make it to 40.000 pages this year.

With regards to language, 102 books were in English or English translated into Dutch, 2 were Dutch (and originally in Dutch). All books were fiction. One book was a graphic novel.

Well, that was my reading in 2013, let's see what I can do this year!

Jan 1, 2014, 8:47 am

The end of the year is the time for best-of-2013 lists, and here's one of mine! The five books I liked most of all my reading in 2013 are:

The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
I'm cheating here, by counting all ten books of the series as one book (hey, it's called Malazan BOOK of the Fallen). I had planned on reading this series for a while (picked up Gardens of the Moon, part one, back in 2011) but a nudge by a colleague finally got me to start. And I could not put it down. I had to buy all ten parts just to be able to enjoy more of this fantasy story that goes so much further than I've ever read before. We have a strange land, different people and creatures, magic and gods. But we also have history, and a really well worked out back story. And morally ambiguous characters. My colleague warned me that after Steven Erikson's Malazan books nothing would ever come close, and with regards to fantasy writing he might be right.

Dirk Gently's Hollistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
I've read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when I was young, and have reread it several times since then. But yet I never picked up Douglas Adams' other series, Dirk Gently. I corrected that wrong this year and I'm glad I did. Douglas Adams humor and a strange view on how the world works, Dirk Gently has it all. I've seen the BBC series a long while ago, and it may be my bad memory of the series, but I enjoyed the book so much more.

The Explorer by James Smythe
I read about The Explorer by James Smythe on one of the SF-blogs I frequent, and just from their description I knew I had to have it. I got it as a gift for my birthday, and by then I wasn't even sure why I chose it. I had seen no reviews, and it hadn't won any awards (yet), why did I think this was a great book? I have no idea why I thought it, but it sure is! Take a journalist accompanying a space mission who loses his travel companions one by one, until he is the last one there. And that's just the first third of the book. The rest was simply brilliant, I could not stop reading.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A new Neil Gaiman, need I say more?
In case I do, it has that fairy-tale feel that I just love about his books (think Stardust) and a world where magic is normal.

S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
S. is a book you have to see, touch and feel to enjoy. Imagine an old library book (Ship of Theseus by V. M. Straka) in which two university students write back and forth in the margins, analyzing the book and figuring out who V. M. Straka was. They also collect small pieces of Straka (letters, telegrams) and their own (postcards, napkins) memorabilia in the book. Together it makes for an interesting read (you read the Ship of Theseus, and the margin notes which have been written over several periods, indicated by the color pen used) and a great if not confusing story. I'd love to reread it in a year or so, when I am sure there will be many analyses posted online. A great experience, not just a great story!

Jan 1, 2014, 7:11 pm

Oh, I love your end of year stats! I'm planning on doing some, not nearly as detailed as yours. Maybe in 2014 I'll keep better stats throughout the year.... Hm, I feel a mini-resolution coming on.

Jan 2, 2014, 11:24 pm

Happy New Year! Great round-up! I love the Malazan Books though I still need to finish the series! Something to aim for in 2014 perhaps?

Jan 3, 2014, 5:45 am

I was thinking of also finishing the Malazan books this year, I stalled at book 4.