Friday, November 18, 2011

Wish me Dead by Helen Grant

The first book I read by Helen Grant was The Vanishing of Katharina Linden and I loved it. I was so glad I did, because I'd never heard of it before buying it. I only got it because it was featured at my local bookstore as Helen Grant is a local author. Since I live in Belgium and don't read in French or Flemish, I was pretty excited about the whole local author thing. 

Now, having read Wish Me Dead, I can safely put Helen Grant on my favorite authors list. The combination of young adult lit, mystery, creepiness and folklore is right up my alley. And the Bad M√ľnstereifel setting is wonderful.

Wish Me Dead is the story of Steffi and her friends, who come across a local myth about a witch and decide to see if there is any truth in it. Strange things start happening and people start dying - is it possible that just wishing something to happen is making it come true?

Chilling and entertaining, a great read. If you haven't discovered this author yet, you're missing out!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

This is a very difficult one to review, because it is very definitely quality reading, but it took me about six months to finish and although I enjoyed it at times, I can't say that I enjoyed it ALL the time.

It's because of Alex that I read The Game of Kings in the first place. It's one of her favorites (see her fabulous lists here and here to see why and to discover other great books) and she wanted me to read it as part of our challenge for 2011 - we recommended five books to each other, ones that we loved and wanted the other person to get to experience as well.

Alex did warn me that perhaps this was not the time to start reading a book like The Game of Kings. I have a very busy life and don't get much sleep because of baby S. She said that it wasn't a book that you could read a page of here and there. But that's really the only kind of reading I get to do and I was curious so I tried it.

The Game of Kings is part one of the Lymond Chronicles. It takes place in 1547 Scotland, a country plagued by English invasion but still free. The story is about Lymond himself - his relationship with his brother, his women, how he deals with the accusation of treason. It is a complex tale and I admit that I regularly got lost among the characters - I used the Kindle of feature of being able to search for a character  by name to see where they appeared before.

But in the end, despite getting lost in the characters, the plot lines and the language as well, since Dorothy Dunnett includes bits in Latin, in Spanish, in French, despite all this, I must say I liked it.

I liked Lymond's passion and his honor. I liked the historical setting and what I learned about Scottish-English-French relations of the 16 century. I thought I would give up on this story, but I found myself coming back to it over and over, wanting more.

I do want to read the next book of Lymond's adventures, but I'm not sure I have the courage to read it right away. But I feel like if I don't read it then I'll be missing out on something, so, yes, I want to know what happens to Lymond in France, while he's in the court of Henri II.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This is the story of a year in the life of Charlie, high school freshman. Charlie is shy, observant, intelligent, sensitive and genuinely nice, if naive. He believes the best of other people. He is befriended by two seniors, Samantha and Patrick, and with them starts participating in high school life, parties and such.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has loads of fantastic reviews and I've been wanting to read it for years. Luckily, I was only ever so slightly disappointed. I loved the beautiful writing and how it brought the relationships to life. I loved how the relationships developed. I loved how Charlie was slowly brought out of his shell and how he joined the real world, made friends, had experiences. He lived through some painful moments, but also through ones of awesome happiness. I especially liked his feeling of being infinite - I still remember that feeling from when I was younger, when I thought anything was possible and that the world was mine. 'Infinite' is exactly the right word for it and the fact that the author got this right is amazing in itself.

I said I was ever so slightly disappointed because there was one thing that bothered me and I wanted this book to be perfect for me. In the high school world I know, Samantha and Patrick (and their friends) would never have been nice to someone like Charlie. So their friendship seemed forced to me, I didn't quite believe it, I kept expecting them to turn around and do something nasty. This probably has to do with me being jaded rather than the book itself, but that's what I was thinking while I was reading it.

I just looked on Amazon to see Chbosky's other books but there aren't any - can that be right?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I am very sad to say that A Discovery of Witches is going on my did-no-finish list for this year. I so so so wanted to love this book, in fact I never really considered that I wouldn't love it. The vampires, the demons, the witches, the academic setting, everything screamed 'this book is for you!'. But alas.

I'm a big fan of strong female characters, both in books and on TV. Think Buffy, Veronica Mars, Frankie Landau-Banks, Rory Gilmore, Anne Shirley. Women who know what they want and who will go after it no matter what. I am not a fan of Bella-like characters who lose all sense of self because of a gorgeous guy. Unfortunately, it turned out that Diana Bishop, the main character in A Discovery of Witches, is a Bella-type character. She starts out strong and purpose-full, she's writing a thesis, she has research to do, she moves to Oxford and leaves what's left of her family behind. She knows what she's doing and doesn't let anything in Oxford distract her from her purpose, her research. Until she meets vampire Matthew Clairmont and all of it goes out the window.

Diana had devoted her entire adult life to making sure that the magic that runs in her family doesn't influence her life at all. She didn't want to have anything to do with anything supernatural -  yet once she met Matthew, she seemed to forget all this and didn't see anything strange about being friends - and maybe more - with a vampire. I hated that. I can't decide whether this behaviour was more annoying and disturbing in Bella because she's a teen and is a role model for real teenage or girls, or whether it's worse in Diana because she's in her thirties and really should know better by now.

And did I mention that Diana didn't think about Matthew being a vampire at all? Like, at all? She'd have dinner with him, serve him loads of raw meat and then wonder (yes, out loud) what she herself would taste like. And although Matthew got angry and told her never to tempt him, I didn't see any fear at all from her side. No beating herself up for being so stupid, nothing. Like a woman who starts dating someone violent and believes that this time it's different and he would never do anything like that to her. Now there's a great female character to read about.

The Diana character wasn't the only thing that bugged me though. The story didn't really unfold as it should have. All of a sudden all these demons started appearing everywhere and then nothing really happened forever, except for Diana and Matthew going to yoga a few times. Honestly, the endless trips to the library with no action became tiresome and boring.

I was still reading at this point and I wanted to continue and find that it all gets better. But when I got to the part where we got some information about Matthew's past and the vampires were all calling each other Father and Son, I couldn't stomach any more. I don't think you can use those words, insinuate such close bonds, without providing a hell of a back story. A vamp siring another vamp didn't automatically mean closest family, an I'd-do-anything-for-you kind of relationship, at least not to me.

So, the book goes on my DNF list. I know a lot of you really liked it, so I geuss it's one of those books, you either love it or hate it.