Monday, 3 December 2012

Stacking the Shelves (2): FIL Edition


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Canadian blogger Tynga at Tynga’s Reviews where we share any new books or goodies we bought, received, borrowed, etc. during the week.

Last week was FIL 2012, or Guadalajara International Book Fair, and I attended. I bought a grand total of three books. I also borrowed a couple other books.

Purchased

The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott
Sinbad the Sailor, by anonymous (not my copy’s actual cover)
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

Borrowed

Tolkien’s Ring, by David Day
I Kill, by Giorgio Faletti

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Book Review: Paper Towns, by John Green

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: YA mystery
Published: 16 October 2008
Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues - and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.
Paper Towns is brilliant, funny, thought-provoking and made of awesome.

The story follows Quentin “Q” Jacobsen. He has been in love with his childhood friend Margo Roth Spiegelman for his entire life. By the time they’re in high school, they have grown apart. One night, Margo shows up outside Q's window and takes him to help her on a vendetta. The day after that, Margo stops attending school. Quentin starts to find clues that are clearly for him and begins to try and follow the trail.

As I continue to read John Green’s work, I continue to love him more and more. Paper Towns is thus far my favourite John Green novel. The plot and the writing were just fantastic. The writing is just so John Green-y. When I read it, I didn’t hear my usual inner reading voice, I heard John Green’s voice telling me the story.

As far as characters go, I think they were all pretty relateable. I loved Q. He was smart, witty, caring. I really connected with him. I know what it’s like to be that obsessed with someone. I think I am in love with Margo as much as Q was is. She was just amazing and awesome. Her dialogue was some of the best dialogue in the whole book.

I’m particularly fond of Ben. He was so funny. I almost literally cracked up every single time he spoke. The romance elements of the story, which pertain mostly to Ben and Lacey, were merged perfectly with the mystery elements. It never became too cheesy or romance-y.

The whole book is a metaphor that has gotten really attached to me: we never see people as people. Everyone sees Margo as the adventurous and unpredictable Margo Roth Spiegelman. The Margo Roth Spiegelman who sneaked into a band’s concert by saying she was the bassist’s girlfriend and then rejecting him when he wanted to hook up. They never see her as a person. A person that may or may not like music a lot. A person that may or may not like writing. This applies to me big time. I never see the girls I like as people. I see them as those perfectly majestic beings to whom I am attracted, instead of seeing them as people with their own individual lives and feelings and obsessions and interests.



Monday, 22 October 2012

Stacking the Shelves (1): Borrowed Book Edition


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Canadian blogger Tynga at Tynga's Reviews where we share any new books or goodies we bought, received, borrowed, etc. during the week.

This week I borrowed a few books, and bought none.


-Paper Towns, by John Green.
-Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick.
-Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Book Review: Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini

This review contains spoilers of the end of Brisingr. Read at your own risk.

Title: Inheritance
Author: Christopher Paolini
Series: Inheritance Cycle, #4
Genre: YA high fantasy
Published: 08 November 2011
Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilisation rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaësia? And if so, at what cost?
The Inheritance Cycle comes to an end in this fourth book. Not as good a book as Brisingr, but definitely a great end to the series.

The story starts a few days after the end of Brisingr. The Varden have ended the siege on Feinster and are now preparing to take on Belatona. They are closer and closer by the minute to Urû’baen, where Eragon and Saphira will have to battle Galbatorix and Shruikan. They still don’t feel ready to defeat the evil King. They aren’t powerful enough to topple the overpowered Galbatorix and they cannot count on Oromis to help anymore since he is dead. The future still looks grim for the Rider and his dragon.

The whole book is chock-full of battle scenes. I loved that. There’s also lots and lots of magic duels. We finally see the Empire’s spellcasters and the Elven wizards use magic full-on in a duel. Eragon participates in magic duels too, though to a lesser extent. He becomes more powerful than ever, both physically and mentally.

Eragon grows a lot psychologically. He gets to know himself profoundly. By the end of the book, he is the most powerful being in Alagaësia and a very wise man. I do not think that some of his decisions were quite right at the very end. No spoilers, all I’ll say is that he could have instead cleansed Vroengard like he did Urû’baen at the end, rather than what he opted to do. His relationship with Arya improves a lot.

Ever since his introduction in Eldest, King Orrin of Surda has been one of my least favourite characters of all time and in Inheritance he becomes more annoying than ever. He is just so full of himself. He thinks that he should rule all of Alagaësia simply because he helped the Varden a little. The whole time I was hoping that Galbatorix himself would leave his castle in Urû’baen and kill him.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Book Review: Brisingr, by Christopher Paolini

This review contains spoilers of the end of Eldest. Read at your own risk.

Title: Brisingr
Author: Christopher Paolini
Series: Inheritance Cycle, #3
Genre: YA high fantasy
Published: 20 September 2008
Following the colossal battle against the Empire’s warriors on the Burning Plains, Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have narrowly escaped with their lives. Still there is more at hand for the Rider and his dragon, as Eragon finds himself bound by a tangle of promises he may not be able to keep.

First is Eragon’s oath to his cousin Roran: to help rescue Roran’s beloved, Katrina, from King Galbatorix’s clutches. But Eragon owes his loyalty to others, too. The Varden are in desperate need of his talents and strength—as are the elves and dwarves. When unrest claims the rebels and danger strikes from every corner, Eragon must make choices— choices that take him across the Empire and beyond, choices that may lead to unimagined sacrifice.

Eragon is the greatest hope to rid the land of tyranny. Can this once-simple farm boy unite the rebel forces and defeat the king?
Eragon was a really good book, but Eldest left a lot to be desired. Brisingr is a lot better than both the first books.

The story starts around three days after the end of Eldest. Murtagh and Thorn defeated Eragon and Saphira and took from them the sword Zar’roc. It’s been revealed that Murtagh and Eragon are brothers, the children of Morzan. Eragon promises Roran that he will help him rescue Katrina from the Ra’zac, who have imprisoned her in Helgrind. That’s where Brisingr starts, with Roran and Eragon in Helgrind.

Eragon and Saphira travel a lot in this book. They do travel together sometimes, such as when they went to Ellesméra, but the also spend a good deal of time away from each other, e.g., when Eragon had to go to Tronjheim. Eragon focused on Eragon and Saphira getting used to what they were now, a Rider and his Dragon. In Eldest, they had to learn to be act as a whole, as a unified entity. In Brisingr, they had to learn to work separately, since they cannot always fight together.

The story had lots of action and battle scenes, since the war/rebellion against Galbatorix has properly begun and the people from Carvahall have joined the Varden. Both Roran Stronghammer and Eragon Shadeslayer shine in their respective battle scenes.

Several characters who I really like are introduced in this book. We meet Blödhgarm, one of the elf wizards sent by Islanzadí to protect Eragon. I liked the concept of elves changing their appearance to their individual perception of beauty. We also get to know Nar Garzhvog, leader of the kull who joined the Varden. When he and Eragon travel to the Beor Mountains, he tells us lots of stuff about the culture of the Urgals.

To Brisingr also return a few characters that were not quite present at the end of Eldest. I am glad that we got to see more of Orik, Oromis and Glaedr.

Something I just don’t like about the whole tetralogy is that the climax happens way too close to the end of the book. For example, in Brisingr, the climactic scene(s) happens in the last fifty-or-so pages. That is not right for a 700-ish-page book.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: YA realistic romance
Published: 10 January 2012
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

The following image summarises my thoughts about this book perfectly:


Seriously, though. This book makes you feel emotions you didn’t even know you could feel. Basically, Hazel Grace Lancaster is a 16-year-old girl with Stage IV thyroid cancer. I googled it, and it pretty much has a 50/50 chance of killing you. So, Hazel goes to a Support Group, after a medical miracle that allowed her to survive, where she meets Augustus Waters, to whom she becomes attracted. The book is about what happens after they meet.

I loved this book. It is way out of my comfort zone and yet I loved it. It is the first John Green book I read and now I’m craving more. I really liked the story. It was sad and happy at the same time. It had its fair share of humour, sass and sarcasm, as well as deep philosophy. It made me suffer and, to be honest, I cried. Not in the wailing, uncontrollably sobbing sense of the word, but more like a light shedding of tears. That was just me, though. Apparently, most people cry like crazy.

This book hit me hard because I know what it’s like to know a person with cancer. Earlier this year, a friend of mine had leukaemia, but fortunately they were able to control it and get rid of it.

I loved both Hazel and Augustus. Hazel was such an interesting character. She was probably more intelligent than your average 16-year-old, but she also had evident flaws. She is caring, which is the main reason she does not want to pursue a relationship with Augustus at first. She sees herself as a “grenade,” because of what could happen to the people around her after her death.

Augustus was this out-going 17-year-old guy, former basketball player and an amputee. He had osteosarcoma, due to which he had his leg cut off. He shows from day 1 that he likes Hazel, but she doesn’t want to hurt him. He is such a caring guy, both to Isaac, his best friend, and to Hazel.

The climax was unexpected. Completely. Seriously, I did not think that would happen, ever. It does end abruptly, and apparently John Green refuses to tell anyone what happens after the ending (*cough* van Houten *cough*). I have a love/hate feeling toward that. On one side, I don’t want to know what happened and I think that’s the beauty of it all. But on the other side, I really want to know what happened to Hazel.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

On My Wishlist (1)

On My Wishlist hosted by Workaday Reads

On My Wishlist is a weekly meme hosted by Workaday Reads, where bloggers showcase books from their (probably) extensive wishlists.

Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde.
Part social satire, part romance, part revolutionary thriller, Shades of Grey tells of a battle against overwhelming odds. In a society where the ability to see the higher end of the color spectrum denotes a better social standing, Eddie Russet belongs to the low-level House of Red and can see his own color—but no other. The sky, the grass, and everything in between are all just shades of grey, and must be colorized by artificial means.

Eddie’s world wasn’t always like this. There’s evidence of a never-discussed disaster and now, many years later, technology is poor, news sporadic, the notion of change abhorrent, and nighttime is terrifying: no one can see in the dark. Everyone abides by a bizarre regime of rules and regulations, a system of merits and demerits, where punishment can result in permanent expulsion.
Nothing like a good ol’ dystopia, right? I really like dystopias, and I just love this one’s premise. I love the concept of colour perception determining your social status.

Book Review: The Sword of Bedwyr, by RA Salvatore

Title: The Sword of Bedwyr
Author: RA Salvatore
Series: The Crimson Shadow, #1
Genre: Adult high fantasy
Published: 1994
For 20 years Eriador has suffered under the evil power of the Wizard King Greensparrow. Luthien Bedwyr is too young and privileged to truly understand the situation—until the night a close friend is murdered by the king’s thugs. In anger, Luthien flees home, teaming up with Oliver deBurrows and the wizard Brind’Amour in a rebellion against the overlords.
This series didn’t start terribly great, I hope the other two books improve upon this one.

The Sword of Bedwyr tells the story of Luthien Bedwyr, son of the eorl of Bedwydrin, in the land of Eriador. When a friend of his is killed right in front of him, Luthien swears to avenge him and leaves Bedwydrin. Shortly after starting his journey, he meets the halfling Oliver deBurrows, who joins Bedwyr in his travelling.

This book’s story was good, but it was a tiny bit too slow for my taste. The first half of the book didn’t keep me very interested, actually, but I kept reading just because. The story became interesting only after they met the wizard Brind’Amour, which is right around the middle of the book.

The characters were okay. Luthien was a bit 2-dimensional. There wasn’t barely any depth to his character. He wanted vengeance, but that was it. Oliver, how can I start to describe him? I’ll start by saying that I hate him. He was so annoying during the whole freaking book!

I liked the ending. It sets up quite nicely for the sequel, titled Luthien’s Gamble. Summarising, The Sword of Bedwyr is a slow, good-but-not-great high fantasy novel with a 2-dimensional protagonist and an annoying deuteragonist. Wow, said like that, it sounds like a really awful book.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Book Review: Eldest, by Christopher Paolini

Title: Eldest
Author: Christopher Paolini
Series: Inheritance Cycle, #2
Genre: YA high fantasy
Published: 01 January 2005
Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have just saved the rebel state from destruction by the mighty forces of King Galbatorix, cruel ruler of the Empire. Now Eragon must travel to Ellesméra, land of the elves, for further training in magic and swordsmanship, the vital skills of the Dragon Rider.

It is the journey of a lifetime, filled with awe-inspiring new places and people, each day a fresh adventure. But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and Eragon isn’t sure whom he can trust. Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle back home in Carvahall - one that puts Eragon in even graver danger. Will the king’s dark hand strangle all resistance? Eragon may not escape with even his life.
The least good book in the Inheritance Cycle, Eldest just doesn’t live up to Eragon.

Eldest starts right where Eragon ended. The Battle Under Farthen Dûr just ended, the Shade Durza has been killed by Eragon, who is now called Eragon Shadeslayer. Eragon must now go to Ellesméra, deep in the forest of Du Weldenvarden, to finish his training as Rider with the Mourning Sage. Eragon, Arya and Orik leave Farthen Dûr to go to the elven city without Murtagh, who disappeared shortly after the battle. Meanwhile, the Ra’zac appear in Carvahall seeking Roran.

Most of the plot focuses on Eragon’s training in Ellesméra, so, even though it is considerably longer than the first book, it contains much less action and battle scenes. Actually, most battle scenes focus on Roran, rather than on Eragon. The perspective of the story changes from Eragon to Roran back to Eragon constantly throughout the book, and it does get pretty tedious after a while.

There is quite the character development in Eldest. Eragon, for instance, goes from a rookie, barely trained Rider to a fully fledged Rider who respects life more than anything. He learns to read and write, he becomes versed in the Ancient Language. He becomes both knowledgeable and wise, thanks to the aforementioned Mourning Sage.

Roran, on the other hand, becomes a warrior who battles only when needed. He does not seek out battles. He actually despises battles, but knows that they are necessary. It could be said that he respects life even more than Eragon does.

The climax and ending were okay. They were unexpected, but I think they were too unexpected. There was no build-up to them whatsoever. They were just there. They could have used some seasoning, a bit of foreshadowing, maybe a tiny pinch of salt.


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Book Review: Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Title: Eragon
Author: Christopher Paolini
Series: Inheritance Cycle, #1
Genre: YA high fantasy
Published: 26 August 2003
When young Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his adopted family meat for the Winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of inescapable destiny, magical forces, and powerful people. With only an ancient sword and the instruction of an old, mysterious, hermit storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a Emperor whose evil and power knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands...
I was a bit hesitant to start reading Eragon. I had seen the film six years before and I thought it was terrible, and, unfortunately, I have the awful habit of pre-judging books when watching the film previously.

The story goes as follows. Eragon is a 15-year-old farmboy who lives in Carvahall. While hunting in the Spine, a mountain range on the western coast of Alagaësia that no one dared approach, a mysterious sapphire-blue-coloured gem appears in a flash. Eragon hopes to be able to sell it, but a few days later, the gem shatters and a baby dragon comes out of it. He and Carvahall’s storyteller, Brom, set out in a journey hoping to find the Varden, a resistance group that fights against the tyranny of Galbatorix. The story is very good, but I think the ending happened far too late in the story and the pace in it became too fast.

This novel caught me like few others have done. It is a fairly light read, thought it is considerably long. The narration is pretty good and it is quite interesting to know what Alagaësia looks like, since Paolini gives pretty detailed descriptions of it. Most characters and places’ names are good, though there were some that sounded a bit badly, e.g., Galbatorix. There were also some names that I deemed unpronounceable, like the Dwarven king’s name: Hrothgar.

There is good character development throughout the book. Eragon starts out as a humble farmer who only ever wants to feed his family properly. By the end of the book, he has changed a whole lot. By then, he wants to become a fully fledged Dragon Rider to kick Galbatorix out of the throne and ensure his family’s safety forever.

Brom is really moody at times and gets angry really easily, but as his relationship with Eragon progresses, he becomes more and more a father to him.

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