Julia

Title: Julia

Author: Peter Straub

Genres: Horror | Mystery | Paranormal

Length: 304 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

When Julia makes a bold decision and moves to a new house, she starts to see a little girl running around, one who looks tremendously like her dead daughter Kate.

Review:

I really wanted to like Julia. However, she must have been the most vapid main character I have ever read about.

Also, no one in this novel seemed to actually work. Almost everyone is rich and has all the time in the world. I simply could not connect to any of the characters in this book, which obviously hindered my enjoyment of the story.

The development of the story wasn’t amazing either. There is an air of mystery but on the other hand not so much, as Julia’s suspicions turn out to be right quite often.

The story did start fairly well, with quite a creepy premise, but the way it was developed was boring and nonsensical. One of the few positives was watching Julia unravel. Other than that, the narrative really was quite tedious, with lines thrown in just for the sake of it, or so it felt like.

The third and last part of the book went by like a weird hallucination and I finished without a sense of closure for the story or the characters.

So I don’t know if it’s just me but Julia seemed quite a bit hyped and was a disappointment for me, especially since I truly enjoyed the author’s other books.

Maybe if I had read it when it was written I would have liked it more, I don’t know. As it is, I truly struggled to finish.

Read from May 14th to May 24th, 2016

GR Review

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The Lobster

The Lobster

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

Review:

Now the fact that you will turn into an animal if you fail to fall in love with someone during your stay here is not something that should upset you or get you down. Just think, as an animal you’ll have a second chance to find a companion. But, even then, you must be careful; you need to choose a companion that is a similar type of animal to you. A wolf and a penguin could never live together, nor could a camel and a hippopotamus. That would be absurd.

The Lobster is unlike any movie I have ever watched. With shocking opening and closing scenes, everything in between is disturbing and thought-provoking. The plot, characters, sound and visual presentations all contribute to present one of the most touching and bizarre movies probably ever made. There is a lot to take in, but it all comes together in a weird harmony.

Large audiences will most likely not take to this movie. It is often slow paced, filled with awkward silences and the authors deliver the lines in an almost robotic manner. That all suits the world being presented here, though. A world where people are reduced in such a manner that they are coupled according to their main characteristics – be it beautiful hair, proneness to nose-bleeding or short-sightedness.

Colin Farrell was superb in this role. As a man who was left by his wife, he often comes across as uncaring and even apathetic and his attempts to find a partner are quite awkward, although that is the norm in the place. Everyone is just so desperate, alienated and reduced to a shell of a person.
David struggles to keep himself and his freedom of choice of a partner or lack thereof, while surviving his oppressive surroundings, and watching him evolve is very moving.

However, don’t think this is a one-man movie. Each character is unique and they all add to the story in one way or the other.
I sort of wished I could have seen the female perspective on the hotel, but it would then be a completely different movie, so that’s fine.

The film is drowsed in noir humour. Because the setting is so bleak, I found it heart breaking, even in the supposedly funny moments. However, it is so rich in so many ways, from the concept to the mixture of cultural references to all the small hints at how our own society and each individual deals with being single. There is either a pressure to be coupled and being recognized as such by society, or a commitment to staying single, and it seems that, as in the movie, a middle term is practically impossible.

This is a film that needs to be appreciated throughout and there is plenty to digest and discuss afterwards.
However, do be prepared to be taken off balance and to cope with the slow pace.

A Shadowed Spirit (Tree and Tower #2)

Title: A Shadowed Spirit (Tree and Tower #2)

Author: Sara C. Snider

Genres: Adventure | Fantay

Length: 250 pages | 3054 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.9/5

 

Premise:

After the first book’s events, Siyan feels torn on whether to pursue her quest to find her people in the forest or know more about the dangerous Magistrates. Once her goal becomes clear, so does the fact that she has a lot to learn. But was she born to learn or to teach?

Review:

A Shadowed Spirit did not disappoint. It enthrals you in same beautiful writing that the first book did. The ability of this author to weave words into breathtaking settings and actions never ceases to amaze me.

There were a few things here and there that made the book not perfect for me.
Romance – My pet peeve. Even though the author tried to convey a sense of mystic connection between the two beings, I still felt they were strangers and their closeness came too quickly.
A couple of characters disappeared too suddenly from the story.
I felt some parts dragged on a wee bit during the inner monologues/questions and there was some repetitiveness to it from paragraph to paragraph or chapter to chapter. Also, the phrase ‘it was all X could do to…’ felt like a crutch, it was particularly repetitive.
Oh, and I missed Cobber. Her humour brought a dimension to the story that I truly craved. I suppose there was no place for her though, considering the novel’s tone.

A Shadowed Spirit is a much darker book than its predecessor, in my opinion. There is much doubt around Siyan – about herself, who she is, what her people area. When she first seeks some answers, I have to admit I was surprised and confused at the development of that part. I did not understand why Emora would drive her away like that and much less why Enon rambled about her being selfish when she clearly did not want that mission.
However, it is also a more intimate story.

The way the narrative develops allows for Siyan to come across her answers in a wondrous, magical manner. However, a very dark one as well. At one point I felt that the characters, particularly Siyan, constantly dreading and even seeking some sort of self-destruction to achieve peace or their means was a bit overbearing.

In the end, some of story’s scenes will stick in my mind for their beauty, strength, purity and/or uniqueness. The fact is the book completely grabbed my attention, I read it any chance I got, and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

I recommend that you read this book after the first one, The Thirteenth Tower.
Keep an eye on Sara Snider, she is a very tallented fantasy writer.

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

Read from May 11th to May 13th, 2016
GR Review

Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction

Title: Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction

Author: Multiple authors

Genres: Science Fiction | Short Stories | Speculative Fiction

Length: 400 pages | 5704 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 2.75/5

Premise:

A hard sci-fi short story anthology.

Review:

This collection started off really well. The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever was a touching story about a single father who is an astrophysicist. It had a near perfect balance for me of a good sci-fi plot and characters.
4 stars

The second story was heavier on the sci-fi and all about the plot. A Slow Unfurling of Truth takes place in a time where people can switch bodies, using them up in the process. I felt the world setting required something lengthier than a short story could provide, and I was never really enthralled by it, often times lost. The ending left me lacking as well.
1.5 stars

Sadly, I could not appreciate Thunderwell at all. When I first started reading it, it sure sounded a lot like the book The Martian, by Weir. A bunch of astronauts on their way to Mars, supplies being sent ahead, etc. When I found out what the plot was headed all my interest when out the window. Seriously, a nuclear powered slingshot? Or cannonball as the author put it. That premise is just so silly that I could not take the story seriously no matter how accurate the science was. The writing was unappealing and even irking as well, particularly the fact that the author kept saying the two main characters showed no emotion, over and over again. So yeah, probably my least favourite one of the bunch.
1 star

The Circle might have been interesting had I any appreciation for math or computing. I don’t. None whatsoever. But I can appreciate the effort. However, even though the story takes place in China, it didn’t have a Chinese feel at all…
1.5 stars

I don’t know the first thing about baseball but Old Timer’s Game was fun because it is one of my favourite kind of stories – the ones that really have you convinced something like that could happen.
4 stars

Snows of Yesteryears is a story about climate change and greed. There was also an air of mystery around the two main characters that I appreciated. It was ok, not going to stay in my mind for long.
2.25 stars

Skin Deep had a very interesting premise. The idea of getting automatically regulating medicine being tattooed into you is quite mind-blowing. Imagine having a certain allergy that, when coming in contact with you, your body would trigger the adequate response to it. When it all goes according to plan, that is.
I am not sure why that did not seem to be any heterosexual relationships in this world, but the development of the story was gripping and the twist at the end topped it off well enough.
3.75 stars

Lady with Fox‘s writing was awkward. Something about the phrasing and punctuation, I don’t know. It lost me all the talk about k-fibers and whatnot.
The basic premise in this world is that people are able to konn-ect while dreaming, leading to a very interesting experience, so they say. There was a hint of mystery throughout the story that I appreciated but I missed too much to be able to enjoy it and after so much build up I have to admit I was disappointed.
Insect gastronomy was interesting, though.
1.5 stars

Habilis was a story almost entirely composed of dialogue which varied between two timeframes. I suppose it was meant to give the story some dynamics but since during both times I kept reading about the same two characters carrying out pretty much the same actions I was constantly confused.
1 star

The Play’s the Thing is a really short one but to the point, about artificial intelligence and greed. It was quite enjoyable, although the AI sounded off to me, and the ending definitely surprised me.
3 stars

Every Hill Ends With Sky was another of those just ok stories. It also narrates two different times and I had no clue how one world led to the other, so I felt like the story did not have much development at all. The ending was too bleak to be hopeful.
1.5 stars

She Just Looks That Way was more up my alley because it was a character-driven story. Although it was all a tad bizarre – both the crazy woman and the crazy willingness to risk blindness in order to get over her – and sappy, I was moved by the morale of the story.
3.25 stars

SIREN of Titan was an excellent approach on sentient machines. I thoroughly enjoyed the duality of how SIREN was perceived and how she actually felt. The ending was very touching. This was a near perfect short story.
4.75 stars

The Yoke of Inauspicious Stars was disappointing. What could have been a pretty cool sci-fi story was smothered by a Romeo and Juliet bad adaptation, where every now and then poetic lines would enter the narrative in a rather awkward manner. I wish certain aspects of that world would have been further developed, particularly the link between the technicians and the miners – I never understood why or how it worked like that, so intensely.
2 stars

Ambiguous Nature was ok. Mankind’s search for intelligent life and prime numbers being proof of such is not new. There was an interesting twist to it and the addition of a child character made things interesting as it usually does, but overall not a memorable story.
2.5 stars

The Mandelbrot Bet was quite surprising. I am not sure if it was exactly believable – the communication part at least – and the ending was quite bleak but I especially loved the dialogues, the intonation of the entire conversations; it was a very engaging, personal dynamic that softened all the hard theory.
3.75 stars

Recollection was so sad and so real. In a world where Alzheimer’s can be cured but the past’s memories cannot be restored, a man and his family struggle to deal with this new situation. The tension is palpable and you feel for everyone in the story.
4.5 stars

So, the final verdict. This anthology started out really well for me and there were some true gems in there, as well as an abundance of food for thought. However, during most of the rest of the tales I felt a bit lost due to it being really hard sci-fi and/or the writing style in some of them being truly off putting.
I do believe there is something for everyone’s taste here, as it addresses a very wide range of the sci-fi scope.
In the end, I believe fans of hard sci-fi will enjoy this a lot more than I did. I however need more than interesting science to grab my interest. Unfortunately, too much of this anthology felt like info dump and not nearly enough engaging story weaving for my personal taste.

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 May 3rd to May 10th, 2016
GR Review

The Help

The Help

Rating: 5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

Review:

I am not sure I have ever given maximum rating to any movie in the past. I honestly cannot think of a single bad thing about this film. I had heard a lot of good things about it but I never expected to be blown away like this. I put off watching it because it is so long and I thought the story might be too heavy for me to handle but boy could I not be more wrong on both accounts.

What an incredibly moving and real story. It is a tale of injustice, suffering, humiliation and plenty of heartbreak but also of bravery, hope and redemption, balanced with just the right type and amount of humour. Every single character was spot on but the main two ‘help’ were simply superb. The narrative development was just perfect and I would never say the movie was as long as it actually is. I was taken along for the ride and enjoyed every single minute of it.

I cannot recommend this movie enough. I guarantee it will take you through the most intense and varied range of emotions and maybe even inspire you to do something great, or at the very least look at things in your life under an entirely different light.

Please. Just watch it.

Fahrenheit 451

Title: Fahrenheit 451

Author: Ray Bradbury

Genres: Dystopia | Speculative Fiction

Length: 159 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

Premise:

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books. He is told that’s what firemen always did, starting with Benjamin Franklin.
Due to a number of events, Montag starts to get an itch, particularly after an odd girl asks him whether he is happy. Is he? He has everything he needs. He has constant entertainment. Yet, is he happy? Why are things the way they are? Can they change? Montag will find these answers throughout this short novel.

Review:

Well, let me just start by saying that this book is a classic for good reason. I had never read Ray Bradbury before and I have to admit I was amazed at what he created here – in so few pages!!

The evolution of the main character was tremendous. Even if the prose lost me at times because it became almost too poetic or even rambling, it was right for the character and sometimes so fast it was dizzying.
The characters were completely believable, if you stop to think about what they were submitted to, and so absolutely terrifying.
The setting is also well developed, how the world could get to that state.

But I wanted more, to be frank, as some things were just too simplistic or glossed over.
There were a few things here and there I was not comfortable with, like Guy leaving with all the books spread out – how could he not think his wife could have totally reported him, someone he came to realize was a stranger – or her friends could have come in time to see it – or his outburst towards said wife’s friends. I get that he was angry but he of all people should know how dangerous such an attitude could be. Also, when he escapes, isn’t he wearing his Fireman uniform? Doesn’t that make him an open target? Why isn’t that mentioned?.
The prose in the last 10 or 20 pages lost me quite often as well, the monologues were simply too long and I felt much of the same could be said with few words. It felt that, at that point, a lot of it was unnecessary and anti-climatic. The lack of women was also daunting, even if considering the time the book was written.

So for me the strength of the book is clearly in the beginning, particularly the interaction between Montag and Clarisse and his subsequent awakening to the world around him. The development of what he does with the knowledge he gained didn’t please me so much but it is an excellent book, one that will make you do some soul-searching and consider all sorts of things, and therefore I recommend it.

Read from April 29th to May 1st, 2016

GR Review

April 2016 Wrap-Up

April opened with a bang for me!

On the first couple of days, not only did I read what has easily become one of my favourite books of all time – so much so I immediately ordered the sequel and pre-ordered the third book -, but I also got invited to edit a book for payment for the very first time (that’s right, not just a beta read but an actual payed edit, ahh!!). Even though I could not possibly do it, I was so flattered.

I was sick for close to the entire month, so there were plenty of sleepless nights bringing me much missed reading time, and most of it was very enjoyable.
I managed to watch several movies as well, which was nice.

Now I just want my health back!


Summary:

Total Books Read:6

Longest Read: Fellside (486 pages)

Shortest Read: A Monster Calls (240 pages)

Book of the Month: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1)

Favourite Covers:

Challenges Progress:

GoodReads: 19/50
2016 Netgalley & Edelweiss: 13/?


April Books:

 

The first book I read, or rather devoured, was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Book 1), by Ransom Riggs.
It is exactly what I have been searching for in a book. Intriguing characters and an amazing plot line that mixes fantasy with horror, my favourite genres, peppered with loads of suspense and paranormal mystery. I highly recommend it.

I rated it 4.95/5 stars.

 

 

I did not have such luck with my second read of the month, The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1) by Aliette de Bodard.

I have read my share of bleak post-apocalyptic literature but the ones I enjoyed quite a lot were supported by well developed characters, interesting storyline and unexpected plot twists. Sadly, this book only left a confused, bitter taste in my mouth.

I rated it 2.25/5 stars.

 

 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness was my first read by this author.

I was amazed at the writing and the story and I believe everyone should read this book at least once in their lifetime.

I rated it 4.5/5 stars.

 
 
 

I then read a book I had been wanting to dive into since I first saw the cover and description, The Ice Twins, by S.K. Tremayne.
The novel was refreshing and unexpected in many ways, and an interesting psychological thriller, but as in my opinion it did not completely deliver, so I could not rate it higher.
The writing was engaging, if chunky at bits, as was the mystery, but I felt I did not get proper closure.

I rated it 3.5/5.

 

 

Fellside by M.R. Carey was a book I had wanted to get my hands on since I heard about it because I loved the author’s previous novel.

However, this did not even come close to what I felt reading The Girl with All the Gifts. It was a prison drama with a bit of paranormal mystery that just did not grab my attention. The writing was very good – as expected – and so was most of the character development, but the theme and how the story was developed did not grip me.

I rated it 3.5/5 stars.

 

 

The last book of the month was Apathetic Flesh, by Darren O. Godfrey.

It is a horror short-story anthology by an author with whom I had never come across before and even though it did not give me any nightmares, several stories gave me the creeps in different sorts of ways and I am sure a couple will stay with me. Highly recommended to horror short story fans – sadly not the case, but I can appreciate the worth.

I rated it 3.75/5.

 


Where I got the books:

Book Depository:

  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Book 1)
  • A Monster Calls

Netgalley:

  • The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1)
  • The Ice Twins
  • Fellside
  • Apathetic Flesh

 

Movie Reviews:

 

Other Posts in April:

 


How was April for you?
Do you have a Wrap-up post? Please link it below!