2016 Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge

I participated in this challenge in 2015 when I caught word of it and it helped me tremendously in getting through my ever-growing Netgalley list.

This year, I managed to tackle 52 books from Netgalley, an average of one per week! Might not seem like much but there were times when I would just look and nothing seemed to strike my fancy or I would just request or even *gasp* buy a new book even though my physical and e-shelves were bursting.

I went through some pretty terrible books… But I kept digging and ended up finding some gems as well.

So I cannot recommend this challenge enough, it was well worth it.
It can be quite motivational, if you don’t let it overwhelm you and read only Netgalley titles.

So if you want to sign up for the 2016 challenge click the image:

 

Did you participate in 2015? How many books did you read?

Let me know if you will be participating in 2016!

The Gift

The Gift

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.

Review:

I have been craving for a psychological thriller with a great plot and a few good scares.
The Gift delivers on all accounts.

I am still baffled at how Joel Edgerton wrote, directed and played such a major role in the movie.
And, boy, was he great. I could tell something was off with that character but not quite what or exactly how dangerous he was.

But the masterpiece is watching the characters unravel, the masks coming out. When the secret that has been buried for so long is finally discovered, the characters’ true colours also show and that is when the brilliance of the performances is revealed in full blast.

One thing I didn’t get was, if Gordon was such a deadbeat with such a lame job, then how could he afford all the gifts? I wish that had been further explored and I wanted to know more of that character overall but I truly enjoyed myself.

In a nutshell, there’s this creepy guy coming around the house the couple just moved into and one of the main characters, who is home alone while the other is working, doesn’t do what I have come to expect of crappy movies of the sort, keeping to herself or other characters who are obvious to us that cannot be trusted. No, she goes to her neighbours, she comments the situation with other people, there are witnesses to what is happening. I thought that, amongst other details, was very smart.

The pace of the movie was very well-balanced. There was plenty of tension and it kept me guessing what came next and how everything was going to pan out and what exactly happened in this or that situation. And just when I thought I had it figured out, I was presented with a plethora of twists and turns that I never saw coming.
Even though I am usually not a fan of unfinished business, in this case the ending totally made sense and I felt I got full closure despite that minor detail.

I highly recommend The Gift and truly hope it would be more advertised at least in my country.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Neat feature, huh?
I was especially surprised to know that people from 69 countries visited my blog. Wow!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single person who has stopped by my blog. Special thanks go to those who not only viewed my posts but did it actively and commented on them.

WordPress picked a Top 5 but there were several more who supported Ana’s Lair since its creation in February 19th so thank you so much to all of you!

My top 5:

1. Josie the Bookworm
2. High Tea Dreams
3. Rust and Stardust
4. Come Hither Books
5. Myths of the Mirror

Much love to you lot and all who still visit Ana’s Lair, despite my decrease in activity.

I hope you had a wonderful 2015 and that 2016 will be even better!

10 Impressive Book-Themed Cakes

I stumbled upon this article from The Reading Room and boy, there are some very tallented people out there. What detail!

Check out these beautifully designed cakes, all of them book inspired:

Click the picture!

Would you be able to eat any of these?

The Realms of the Dead: Crossfades and Bleedovers

Title: The Realms of the Dead: Crossfades and Bleedovers

Author: William Todd Rose

Genres: Dystopia | Fantasy | Horror | Paranormal

Length: 265 pages | 3617 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.75/5

Premise:

Two horror stories about life after death and one fellow whose mission is to help innocent souls across… Until everything goes horribly wrong.

Review:

The first story The Crossfades was not only horrifying but the concepts were very intriguing. We are all familiar with the notion of making sure spirits get to safety, or to the light, or whatever you want to call it, but it is done in a completely different way here. The concept of Sleepers, for instance, was new and very creepy if you ask me, as I could never be 100% sure what they felt.

The way the world works is fed bit by bit as we go through a day in Chuck’s life. At times he would convey the information by mentioning ‘The Handbook’ and that was when I would know what exactly was going on and how it was supposed to work.
Well, almost exactly. Little Chuck was way over his head with this one.

The story was bone chilling, suspenseful and turned intensely macabre at times, which I actually enjoyed, because that’s good horror in my book.
I found the main character very relatable, as well as the second most important one, and that made me enjoy the tale even more because they were just so normal but their circumstances sure weren’t.

There were a couple of things I didn’t get like , if the connection was one way, how did Chuck managed to tell Control to get him out of there that first time when he was reluctant to do so because it would go on record, or if time passed so much faster on The Divide than back on Earth then how could Control monitor is real life progress and tell when he should be calmed down or even pulled back, giving him direct instructions.
Others I just found too convenient, like Control being Lydia’s sister and the ending itself. The way Chuck was brought back was not convincing, nor what actually happened to Lydia, nor how they first connected like that in the first place.
In the end I was left with a lot of questions but overall it was a great ride. Thought provoking even, if you really stop to think about evil, for instance.
I found the story flawed in several ways but it was so entertaining.

Bleedovers is the sequel to Crossfades, so it gets repetitive at some points. As the previous story, it is bloated with suspenseful and macabre descriptions. The prose is truly amazing at times.

However, I did not enjoy it quite as much as the previous one.
First of all, Chuck gets promoted without any mention of it, just that he is now a level I Whisk. In the previous story he told us how he could not go to a job he no longer had, so I assumed he had been fired when in fact he had been suspended for not following things by the book. I am pretty sure nothing he did was by the book and since the ending seemed to happen out of sheer luck I was just so surprised about his promotion.
Secondly, there are simply too many ominous remarks of the kind that Chuck just knew for certain he was about to die. It happened in the previous story but for some reason, to me, in this one it was just overwhelming.
Thirdly, I hate going through a story where every character seems to support themselves on a premise I just know in my bones is wrong. It was always Albert Lewis this, Albert Lewis that… Eurgh. And last but not least I was just not a fan of how the story panned out. I cannot contemplate a child building up that much anger let alone power, especially if Bleedovers are supposed to be that rare. I would have much rather preferred that Nodens was the villain and that the Sleeper notion had been further elaborated. Ok, now we know they dreamed but what exactly was it like? What did they feel? For that matter, where did their soul go?

All in all I had a lot of fun reading these stories. I think Mr Rose has a wonderful prose that carries you away, he can weave horror tales beautifully and I would read more from him any time.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Dec 08 to Dec 15, 2015
GR Review

The Humans

Title: The Humans

Author: Matt Haig

Genres: Contemporary | Fantasy | Humour | Science Fiction

Length: 294 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3.75/5

Premise:

An alien is sent to visit our planet under a human disguise to accomplish a very important mission.
As the narrative develops, we find out not only about its purpose and objectives but also the significance of being human.

Review:

The Humans struck me as an essay on what it means to be human disguised as science fiction.

Some if not most of the fiction bit was pleasant but there were always little things itching at the back of my head like how is this alien writing a book for his original species if there is not a chance they will read it.

Also, his species is described as being far more advanced than we could ever conceive and yet it took him ages to realize the reason people reacted the way they did when he first arrived. I mean, everyone but him was wearing clothes. So while it was interesting and even funny to see our species from a different perspective, the fact that it did not always add up hindered my enjoyment.

I got a bit tired of the mathematics and physics but I understood the importance of it. And you know what? Even with all its flaws The Humans was a beautiful book. It was a heart-warming book. It’s one of those novels you just need to stop to truly appreciate. It’s a story that may very well stay with you for a long time.

So even if I believe some things could have been better and, having just finished reading it, the feeling which overwhelms me is one of nostalgia, it is a truly wonderful book and I do recommend it.

Read from Dec 04 to Dec 08, 2015

GR Review

True Calling

Title: True Calling

Author: Siobhan Davis

Genres: Dystopia | Fantasy | Romance | Science Fiction

Format: Mobi

Length: 400 pages

Source: Author/Promotion

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

Ariana and her family have moved to Novo. Technology is high and she does not think much of it until an event named The Calling comes to be. Her dreams about someone she doesn’t remember only make her struggle more. Can Ariana find the truth? And will she be able to deal with it?

Review:

I have to admit I was pretty confused in the beginning and, quite frankly, often times throughout True Calling. I never really felt captivated by the story, always kept wondering why over and over at whatever was thrown at me, never being able to take it at face value because it just didn’t feel like I was being given proper explanation.

First of all, I felt there wasn’t much of world development. It was never clear what exactly was happening on Novo and on Earth. I mean, it’s a dystopia, the government’s big bad plans need to be well covered up for the story to work, but it needs to make some sort of sense, right?

These people on Novo were subjected to invasive procedures without even thinking twice. Like having selective memories deleted (supposedly so people from Novo would not miss the ones left behind – what????), which I simply cannot fathom how it could possibly be done regardless of how much technology has evolved; having an item implanted at the top of their spinal cord which tracks them everywhere they go and transmits all sorts of information and who else knows what; they go through a battery of scans at an insane frequency and if they get are deemed sick well then God knows what might happen. They get shot with stuff, often by robot medics, and never seem to wonder what’s going in their bodies. They simply embrace everything because, well, new planet and all.

The planet itself didn’t make sense to me at all. This Novo is described as having been ‘chosen’ to house the best human beings because it was so similar to Earth (quite near to it too, like 12k miles I think I read). However, its natural features were transformed by humans to the point of mimicking certain specific locations, all from USA, even though whatever bad things happened happened to Earth as a planet.
I just cannot contemplate how it is possible to change the surface of a planet and to be frank, to this point I am not even entirely sure whether the entire planet was fabricated or not.

We meet Ariana, our main character, who is a cadet at some academy. However, we don’t really know what her days are like, what exactly she does there, only that she is subject to a battery of scans and tests.
I found it so hard to relate to her, because one minute she says she never got used to this and that and the next she totally is. One minute she is rebellious and the next complying. And she of course has a perfect bff who is the pentacle of positivity so naturally diminishes herself in front of Eve because she is just so negative compared to her.
On the other hand, she says stuff like she is so very adept at kissing and whatnot, since she had no recollection of ever doing it before…

Queue love interest which starts with hate/loathing feelings and that’s it, it only goes downhill for me. If you have been following my blog for a while you will know I am not a fan of romance. I can tolerate it if it is part of something bigger, but in this case it just became annoying following Ariana around with her fluttering heart and tingling body sensations.

At some point it all became a bit reminiscent of Hunger Games (Effie immediately sprung to mind), as well asother books of the genre which I never bothered to read for these same reasons, I am sure. The dressing up of the couples and everything being televised is an example – but overall I did find the concept somewhat interesting as dystopian. I just could not stand how it was handled by the main character.

Oh and she is a self-proclaimed prude. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against that, I even praise it and wish I would see it more but the way she speaks about herself is so diminishing while at the same time holding everyone in such high regard that I just could not grow to like her. At first, at least.
Just an example: She says stuff like He’s so freaking hot I still can’t believe I managed to hook him..

One thing that really annoyed me was when the moment finally comes to try and figure out what the heck is going on, what does she do? Prude Ariana jumps on Cal and loses her virginity just like that. Hurry, hurry, the lights and cameras will be back on soon *sigh*

At some point I stopped trying to make sense of what was going on, particularly when they seemed to talk openly about all forbidden subjects even though they knew they were being fully monitored. I know Agent Dale planted a device that put surveillance on a loop but I always thought that was temporary – I mean, they couldn’t fool them with that forever, right? Also, the scenarios changed, they weren’t always at Ariana’s place.

The fact of the matter is I wanted to know more about this dystopian world, not how insecure Ariana is about boys and whatever else. Even as she grew as a character, I simply had no respect for her because she was just an annoying teenager to me.

Don’t get me wrong, the writing is quite good and why I give the book 2 stars instead of 1. The narrative flows well and I am sure that fans of teenage lovestruck heroines who have to struggle with love triangles and family issues will enjoy this very much.
I however had to make an effort to stick with the book while it was all about Ariana and Cal mostly because of all the gushing, and trying to discern whether it was safe for them to be saying certain stuff at certain places, it was just exhausting.

When The Calling began, I felt trapped between Ariana gushing at how all her new clothes hugged her curves perfectly (even though her entire casual wardrobe consisted of pants and she said she never wore them back on Earth, as she preferred skirts and shorts but could not get them on Novo) and gawking at how hot Cal was and how she longed for his touch.

Although things got a bit more interesting towards the end I just could not enjoy the book or the characters. I am partly curious to know what comes next, especially if the romance is toned down, but not enough to spend money. Character and world building and development are far too important for me.

Read this if you are looking for a teen romance sprinkled with a bit of dystopian sci-fi.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

This book is also available for free at Amazon – click here and if you get to read it please let me know what you thought, I would love to share notes on any book I have read.

Read from Nov 25 to Dec 03, 2015
GR Review