Bookshelf Tour #1 (2018)

Hi everyone! I felt a little bad about skipping out on the Friday Five already, but I felt I don’t read enough YA to give a proper answer to last week’s theme (and this week’s theme: same story). Thankfully, there are also some more ‘neutral’ themes coming up, so I will participate in those. I have nothing against YA, though!

Like I mentioned in my previous entry, I am going to move in the near future — in the beginning of July, to be specific. Because of the fact that my bookshelves will look different once I move, I thought it’d be fun to do a bookshelf tour before I start packing up my book collection.

Also, this doesn’t include all of my books — my manga, comic books, and most of my nonfiction and children’s books are in storage because I don’t have room for them right now. This should be fixed in my new home, however!

Needless to say, this is going to be a bit picture heavy! Read More »

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Friday Five: Five New Books I’m Looking Forward to

It’s been a while! My apologies, but with vacation and life happening, my book blog ended up on the backburner for a bit. When NerdyGeekFanboy announced that he was looking for more people to participate in The Friday Five, I felt this was a good opportunity to breathe some life into this blog again. I have some other plans, such as deciding on a posting schedule.

Basically, this is a weekly item where bloggers post a list of five books each Friday, all with a certain theme. This week’s theme: five books I’m looking forward to.

SpinningSilverNovik
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

I’m a very big fan of Naomi Novik. I loved her Temeraire series and the fairy tale-like Uprooted happened to be an awesome read as well. Novik’s works tend to feature extensive world building and interesting characters — needless to say, Spinning Silver is very high on my wishlist. It seems to be somewhat similar in its fairy tale-like quality as Uprooted, but it’s a completely new story with new characters.

ThornofEmberlainLynch
The Thorn of Emberlain, by Scott Lynch

I love the Gentleman Bastard series, and this will be the fourth installment. The adventures of Locke and Jean have been a joy to read and I honestly can’t wait to accompany these two deceitful con men once more on their extensive schemes. Other than two very lovable main characters and an interesting supporting cast, there is also the extensive world building and the stewing of war and conflict that will turn out to be quite big. Unfortunately, there is no release date for this book yet.

WindsofWinterGRRM
The Winds of Winter, by George R.R. Martin

Everyone and their dog is waiting for this latest installment in A Song of Ice and Fire, it seems. I’m not even sure if there’s a release date, but even if there is; with all the delays I’m not bound to trust it until it has been actually released. A Dance With Dragons ended with quite a few cliffhangers (and no, I’m no longer interested in the tv series), and I would also really like to know how this will end. I’m worried Martin has written himself into a corner, but hopefully we’ll get The Winds of Winter some
day!

EmpireofAshesRyan

The Empire of Ashes, by Anthony Ryan
The third installment in The Draconis Memoria, this book should resolve that pesky cliffhanger The Legion of Flame ended with. Furthermore, I have the feeling that the second book was building up towards the events that will take place in this one, so I’m really looking forward to find out how Ryan will resolve the conflict since this will be the final book in the trilogy. I also just really want to know more about this world, its characters, and the dragons. It would seem I’ll have my answer in July, so I won’t have to wait too long any more!

TheOutsiderKing
The Outsider, by Stephen King
Something that isn’t fantasy? I’m a big fan of Stephen King, so I’m always looking forward to new books of his (even there are plenty of books by King that I haven’t read yet). The synopsis of this book sounds especially interesting about a baseball coach who is falsely blamed for a gruesome murder. It will be released by the end of this month, but as I’m in the middle of a move by then, I probably won’t get this immediately. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to it!
And there you have it: five books I’m very exited about! At least three of these have release dates, and I hope the other two will be published some time in the future. What about you? Are there any books that have yet to be released that you’re looking forward to? Feel free to share them in the comment section!

As I’ll be moving in the near future, I’m planning a bookshelf tour for my next post. I will probably work out a proper posting schedule after I’m finished moving, but until then, you’ll at least have the bookshelf tour and these Friday Five posts to look forward to.

 

Essential Vacation Planning: Which Books to Take Along….

I’m one of those people who nearly always has a book in her bag. I do a lot of my reading on the train, but I also bring a book when I have an appointment with the dentist or the hairdresser.  It goes without saying that I also bring a book whenever I’m going on vacation!

Of course, I’m not going on vacation just to read. Whenever I visit a place, I want to see and do a lot of things. Still, there are the inevitable ‘dead’ moments, such as in the evenings on your hotel room or while waiting for your plane on the airport. It’s nice to have something to read with you, even if it’s just to pass the time, especially if you’re travelling alone. Thus far, my trips were usually short — a few days, at most. I’d make a conscious decision to bring one (and only one) book; a fairly thick mass market paperback to save space/weight, but wouldn’t finish too quickly.

Next month, though, I’ll be taking my very first long trip — to Japan, in case you’re curious. A long trip, in the sense of both flight time (11 hours), and my actual stay (2 weeks). Obviously, I’m quite excited and I’ve already made the majority of my intended preparations. However, being the geek that I am, I already find myself attempting to decide on which book(s) I’ll be taking with me.

This is actually kind of interesting for me, since a vacation is usually the only time where I decide which book to read prior to actually reading them. I’m very much a mood reader, after all.

Of course, the easy solution is to buy an e-reader so I can bring multiple books without having to worry about space or weight constraints (especially on the way back, because I’m pretty much certain that I’ll buy stuff in Japan). I’m reluctant to buy a device I won’t use much (I’m not even sure if I’d even use it again in the future), however, so I’ve decided to stick to physical books anyway.

Still, there are some obvious constraints. To save space/weight, I’d want to bring as few books as possible, and they’ll have to be small and relatively light. However, I don’t want to bring something I’d finish too quickly, so nothing too thin, easy, and/or sporting large font. I don’t expect to be able to buy something I can read in Japan, after all. The genre of the book(s) won’t matter much.

I just pulled some mass market paperbacks from my shelves to see if they were a viable option to bring with me. I’ve selected them based on their size, page number, and font size. I won’t be taking all of them; they’re just up for consideration.

The Stand (Stephen King)
My copy has 1436 pages, so it’s a brick. It’s also the heaviest out of the bunch, but on the other hand: I’m pretty sure I’d only need to bring one other book with me since the font is really small, there’s very few empty spacing and Stephen King isn’t necessarily quick reading with all the building up he does. Then again, this one might be a bit of a pain to drag along my Shinkansen rides. On the other hand, maybe I could just read this one during my flight/in the evenings, and use the other one as my ‘take along’ book?

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, volume I (Dianne Wynne Jones)
With 593 pages, this one is pretty decent size. It’s a brick, but not as much of a brick as The Stand. It’s not heavy, either, and I’ve had it lying around on my shelf for ages. A nice fantasy might be just the thing to take on vacation! It’s also the lightest on the list in terms of weight, I think.

Watership Down (Richard Adams)
Yeah, it’s  a classic. Never read it before, though, and it’s been on my TBR for a while so it might be a good opportunity to read this one. My copy is nearly 500 pages with tiny font and it’s not heavy. I’m roughly familiar with the synopsis though, so I’m not sure if this is suitable for vacation.

NOS4R2 (Joe Hill)
Another one that’s been on my TBR for ages (looks like that’s a theme). One might question the decision to take a horror novel with me on a vacation alone, but with nearly 700 pages it’s also a brick. It’s not as heavy as The Stand, though, so it’s easier to carry.

Assassin’s Apprentice (Robin Hobb)
With 480 pages, this one is the thinnest option, but it’s still not exactly something I’d expect to finish in an hour or two. Pretty much the same reason as The Chronicles of Chrestomanci; a nice fantasy might be just the thing!

I’ll probably end up bringing 2 to 3 of these books with me at most — one in my hand luggage, the remaining one(s) in my suitcase. I think that should carry me over for two weeks! I don’t expect to finish reading 2-3 books while in Japan since I have plenty of stuff planned, but I’d rather not get bored on my flight back.

Thankfully, I still have some time left to decide which books to take with me!

How do you decide which books to bring with you on vacation? Do you bring any? Do you decide beforehand, or do you pull something random off your shelf five minutes before leaving? How many books do you usually take with you on vacation? Or do you own an e-reader? What do you think of my options? Let me know in a comment!

Review: Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

dogsofwar_tchaikovskyDogs of War
Adrian Tchaikovsky

Publisher: Head of Zeus Ltd.
Publishing year: 2017
Pages: 346
ISBN: 9781786693891
Language: English
Genre: Science fiction
Rating: 5/5

Rex wants to be a Good Dog. He’s a genetically engineered dog-like creature called a Bioform. He’s obedient, loyal to a fault, and more than capable to follow orders and fight in a war. And that’s what Rex does: follow his Master’s orders and kill enemies. His feedback chip tells him he’s a Good Dog for doing just that. However, Rex discovers that life is not so black and white, and that being a Good Dog is far more complicated.

Initially, Dogs of War starts out with Rex and his pack of other Bioforms just following orders during a war in Campeche, Mexico. Rex’s squadmates are all interesting in their own right. There is Dragon, a genetically engineered lizard who is used against special targets, but is a bit on the lazy side. There’s Honey, a genetically engineered bear who sports a giant cannon and is also very clever. Finally, there is Bees, a hive-mind of bees, which is a fascinating concept of itself. Life is initially simple for Rex; he follows orders, and commands his squad to fulfill those orders to the best of their ability. Then the plot kicks in and Rex finds himself having to make decisions on his own. But how do you decide what’s the best course of action? How can you be a Good Dog when no one tells you what to do? Can you be a Good Dog when your Master is bad?

Rex is a very endearing main character. Despite the fact that he’s deadly and that he has killed a lot of people, there is a certain innocence in his world view. When he slips his Master’s control, you see him not only agonize over what he should do and how to decide on whether someone is an enemy or not, but you can also understand his yearning for the clear-cut purpose he had when still on a leash. He becomes increasingly conflicted between his loyalty and doing the Right Thing, whatever that might be. Rex’s conflict is given weight because he’s so endearing, which allows this novel to pack quite the emotional punch.

As rewarding as Rex’s growth is, Dogs of War offers much more than that. Where it could have ended after the initial situation in Campeche was resolved, it doesn’t. The novel deals with the rights of non-humans and their place in the world, their rights to ‘live’ as sentient beings even if they aren’t human. There is also the issue of artificial intelligence and the manifacture of it. The novel also deals with ethics and morality; of bearing the responsibility for your decisions or hiding behind justification and conditioning. Tchaikovsky also manages to provide some interesting social commentary about public opinion and warfare. He not only does this through Rex’s POV, but also by including the POV of several other characters. Some people might not find the human POV’s  interesting, but I felt it contributed to the world building and the gravity of the issues that were tackled.

The prose itself was also very well written. Most characters had very distinctive voices; especially in the cases of Rex – whose canine qualities really shine through in the used language, which makes him even more endearing – and Bees, whose hive mind was incredibly interesting to read. The only downside? I felt that the character of Asanto and her purpose in the story felt a little forced, even though the concept she represents is interesting. This is only a minor issue, however.

If you’re looking for a well-written science fiction with an endearing protagonist that deals with some complex issues, you should give Dogs of War a try, especially if you like animals and/or good action sequences. I’m definitely interested in reading more of Tchaikosky’s work.

Reading goals for 2018

Happy New Year! It’s January: time for new year’s resolutions and goals. My reading goal on GoodReads has been set (to a reasonable number for me, as always), but that’s definitely not my only goal of the year!

Goal #1: Reducing my physical TBR
Last year, I had made plans to reduce my TBR by buying fewer books and reading the ones I actually have on my shelves. Back then, I was at 107 unread physical books. Currently, I’m at 90 (including one comic). Though I did make a few purchases outside of the ‘next book in a series’-category, I also began reading comics and got a bunch of free books from work which didn’t really help! Hashtag first world problems? Despite the fact that the amount of books on my TBR hasn’t lowered as much as I had liked, I did limit my purchases. That’s a good thing!

Anyway, I mean to continue my plans of reducing my physical TBR pile by buying fewer books. This also fits with my non-bookish goals of the year, as I’m saving up for a trip to Japan and getting my own place. Of course, the exception of last year remains: the next book in a series can be bought once I have (nearly) finished a given installment. I do try to switch between stand alones and series, though. It doesn’t mean that I won’t be buying books outside of my exception at all, but it’s good to minimize my purchases.

Goal #2: Blog more
My posts have been a bit sporadic the past few months, but I mean to change this. I have a list of books I’d like to review on here and there are some topics I have in mind to post about. I just need to sit down and actually do it! I don’t use a steady posting schedule, but that’s no excuse to post once in a blue moon.

Goal #3: Don’t waste time on books I don’t like
I’ve been doing this already, but considering I’ve struggled through some books that were pretty terrible last year anyway, it needs to be said. I used to be pretty adamant about finishing books, but life is too short to read books I don’t like. It’s fine to DNF a book. Maybe I should write a post about that some time.

Goal #4: Read books I’m looking forward to!
Okay, this is just an excuse to mention some books I’m looking forward to in this format. I don’t want to make a whole separate list of anticipated reads like I did last year. Though I did read the majority of them, I don’t like to pressure myself to read certain books. At the same time, I do want to mention some I’m definitely excited about!

I’m currently reading The Dark Tower series by Stephen King and I’ve finished the third book, The Waste Lands. I hope to continue reading this series, starting with Wizard and Glass. I would also like to continue The Witcher series, since I also haven’t finished reading that one yet. Another, a light novel by by Yukito Ayatsuji is also quite high on my list, as well as Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.

I also plan to read Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. She’s one of my favourite authors as I loved Uprooted and the Temeraire series, and will be released in July. This is definitely one of those books I’ll get this year despite not being a part of a series.

But yes, we’ll see if I actually get around to reading these? As for other books, I’ll just pull them off my shelf if I feel like reading them. I’m very much a mood reader, after all!

What about you? Any reading goals for 2018? Particular books you’re looking forward to? Feel free to share your goals or anticipated reads in the comments!

Favourite Reads of 2017!

I hope everyone has had a nice Christmas! I’ve been a bit scarce the this month due to the busy holiday season, but we’re nearing the end of the year already! This is usually the time for reflection, and though 2017 has been a mixed bag with ups and downs, the second half was pretty busy (hence, the fewer posts). Thankfully, I did get a lot of reading done this year. I’ve read 52 books so far, excluding a bunch of manga and Western comics. I don’t think I’ll finish more books this year (other than maybe the fourth volume of Fables), so I’m going to go ahead and post a list of my favourite reads of the year!

To be fair, this list was a little difficult to put together. I’ve read a lot; stuff that I liked and even <i>really</i> liked, but for one reason or another, they are just barely short of becoming a favourite read of the year. I’ve also read some books that I found ‘okay’ or even outright horrible, but I’m not going to be talking about that. Either way, I’ve managed to put together a list of books that really resonated with me and kept getting excited about even after I had finished them.

This list excludes books I’ve reread. Also: the ones I’ve listed are in no particular order and they are not necessarily released this year. I don’t think any have been released this year, actually.

 

thewakingfirefinalThe Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria #1)
Anthony Ryan
Genre: fantasy

Yeah. If you’ve read my review earlier this year, this shouldn’t be a surprise. There are dragons in this book. There’s no point in repeating my own review, but in short: this book has a very intriguing setting with interesting characters who offer different perspectives on what’s going on. Moreover, the mystery of what exactly is going on makes this book a real page turner. Did I mention it has dragons? I loved its sequel, Legion of Flame, as well, but The Waking Fire was a little better and it’s definitely one of my favourite discoveries of 2017.

 

alittlelife_hanyayanagihara

A Little Life
Hanya Yanigahra
Genre: contemporary fiction

Where do I start? A Little Life follows four friends throughout their lives in New York City after graduating from college until they hit their middle ages-ish. The friendship between these four men changes over the years by success and addiction. The friendship, and the novel, heavily center on Jude, a broken man who deals with the physical and mental trauma of his abusive childhood. It’s not a very happy novel, as you might have gathered, but it’s beautifully written and I really felt for the characters (especially Jude). I keep meaning to review it but I haven’t yet been able to convince myself that I’d do it any justice.

 

Monstress_LiuTakedaMonstress (Volume #1: Awakening)
Marjorie Liu (story) & Sana Takeda (art)
Genre: comic, fantasy

I bought this comic for the stunning artwork and the story immediately pulled me in. It’s about a one-armed girl dealing with demonic possession and the mystery of what exactly her own mother has put her through, and various creatures and factions hunting her for the demon she harbours. All the while, she tries to maintain control over herself. The art is stunning and really shines with the amazing world building this comic has. It has a bit of a steampunkish fantasy setting. The main character, Maika, is a well-written character, and the supporting cast plays off her nicely. Monstress also deals with very mature themes such as prejudice, racism, slavery, and war trauma.

 

The Treesthetrees_alishaw
Ali Shaw
Genre: magical realism

Like I said in my review, I was impressed by the way the characters — and especially the main character, Adrian — were depicted in this apocalyptic novel. What I liked even more was its premise and the eerie yet fairytale-like quality of the woods. Though I would have liked it if Shaw did more with the mysterious Whisperers and the eerie atmosphere, which prevented me from giving The Trees a rating of five stars, this was a very intriguing novel that definitely stood out among all the other things I’ve read. So yes, it deserves a mention on this list.

 

 

fables_billwillinghamFables (Deluxe Edition, Volume #1)
Bill Willingham (story), Lan Medina (art), Mark Buckingham (art), et al.
Genre: comic, fantasy

Another comic, but I couldn’t not mention Fables. I got interested after playing the video game The Wolf Among Us by Telltale because of the premise and its characters. It’s about fairytale characters who are banished from their homelands and now live in modern Manhattan. It’s a bit gritty, but an interesting take on famous characters — my favourite being Bigby Wolf, a.k.a. The Big Bad Wolf who is the community’s sheriff. This edition contains ‘Legends in Exile’, a whodunnit with Bigby as the lead, and ‘Animal Farm’, which deals with a revolution brewing on the farm housing the nonhuman exiles, as well as Snow White’s relationship with her sister.

 

There we have it, my favourite reads of 2017! The list is a little shorter than last year, actually, even though I’ve read more books. There are a few honourable mentions (It by Stephen King, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman) that I really liked as well, but I had one or more reasons to decide against actually listing them here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! What are your favourite reads this year?

Review: The Trees by Ali Shaw

Life was pretty busy, so apologies for the radio silence. I bring you a new review to make up for it.

thetrees_alishaw

The Trees
Ali Shaw

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publishing year:
 2016
Pages: 487
ISBN: 9781408862308
Language: English
Genre: Magical realism, apocalyptic
Rating: 4/5

One downside of working in a bookshop is that cover buys are likely to happen, especially if you’re unpacking or shelving books. This was most certainly the case for The Trees. A face of a fox made of leaves certainly caught my eye. This, along with the blurb on the back, made me purchase it by the end of my shift.

The Trees takes place in England for the most part, where trees suddenly spout from the ground, destroying houses, streets, and human lives in the process. The people who didn’t get skewered on tree branches are faced with the instant collapse of society and have to survive in an unfamiliar world. Protagonist Adrien Thomas is one of the survivors, and he is quite overwhelmed by the sudden change. Luckily, he meets nature-loving Hannah and her son Seb. Together, they set out to find Adrian’s wife, who was in Ireland for work at the time. The forest seems to go on forever, though, and they not only have to face the cruelty of nature, but also their own demons.

To be fair, Adrian is not a protagonist I’d normally like. He is passive, prone to self-pity and tends to give up easily. He is well aware of his faults, which is an unending source of self-loathing for him. When the trees first arrive, he clings to the idea that help will arrive and would be content to wait it out in his comfortable armchair. He meets Hannah and Seb by chance, and it’s fear that eventually propels him to join them. Still, Adrian managed to be a sympathetic character that I was rooting for, which paid off in his character development. Though he doesn’t become some assertive, ambitious leader (that would have been weird), he does grow as a person and ends up doing things by the end of the novel that he wouldn’t have done at the beginning.

Hannah and Seb also grow throughout the book. Though Hannah is initially thrilled with the coming of the trees, she is eventually faced with how cruel nature can be which forces her to come to terms with her views on nature. Seb initially starts out as a somewhat sullen teenager who is robbed of a life that was primarily defined by technology, but he really comes into his own. Eventually, the trio also meet the Japanese schoolgirl Hiroko, who had been on a school trip at the time of the trees arriving and has some formidable survival skills. Finally, there is the fox kit Yasuo, who is adorable. The Trees also introduces some antagonists, but they all have a human quality to them.

Speaking of qualities, the endless forest is not simply a collection of trees providing a stage for the cruelty of nature. There is a certain mystical aspect to the forest as well. It tends to change paths or direct the people wandering among the trees. It has hallucinatory qualities that are never quite fully explained, allowing the woods to remain mysterious and sometimes even eerie. The woods also cause the Kirin appear, who act like some sort of guide, and the whisplike Whisperers, whose purpose remains unknown for a large part of the novel. Even though The Trees is mostly apocalyptic with significant character building, the woods and the new creatures give it also a fairytale-like quality, albeit a very dark one. Nature is not only cruel, but also beautiful, and the two go hand in hand.

This brings me to the one negative point. Though the purpose of the Whisperers is revealed, and their presence looms over the narrative and the characters (or, more signficantly, Adrien), I feel a bit more could have been done with them or the mysterious eeriness of the woods. Regardless, The Trees is a character-driven novel with a lot of atmosphere and some beautiful and heartwarming scenes. It’s not as creepy or action-driven as most apocalyptic fiction, but if you don’t mind this is definitely worth a shot.