Stolen: a review

People who follow me on twitter, might know I have a slight reader-crush on Chris Ward (proof). I’m slowly reading through his bibliography (and he writes a lot!), and sometimes get e-ARC’s because I am on his mailinglist. This was also the case for Stolen, for which I am truly grateful, because this was a highly entertaining and suspenseful read.

This book is being put in the genre of “romantic suspense”. I hate romance books. I really enjoyed this one however, so even if you have the same averse feeling towards romance books, you might want to give this one a chance. What it lacks that many romance books do have, is the love-triangle. Yes, there are of course problems that the two people in this book have to overcome, but they are human problems that make sense to them as a person and their situation, not “romantic problems just to get a plot going”. The plot of Stolen is driven by the search into Chiaki’s (one of the main characters) past, and not by the two lovebirds getting together (although that is the catalyst for why the search is being undertaken). It has a bit of the “true love on first sight”-trope going on, but since those emotions are actually questioned by the characters, I can forgive them this.

But to give away all of the plot would give too many spoilers, so I’ll mention the other things I loved. As the above tweet tells you, I loved the characters: can I be their friend? They are full people. They have good and bad traits, they have a past and a future. You feel for them, right from the beginning. The book takes places in Japan, and Ben (the other main character) is from the UK. I have an ungoing fascination for Japan (I am learning Japanese, again, as I have tried on and off for the past 10 years, but I am finally getting somewhere :D), so the casual immersion into Japanese culture was something I really enjoyed. And it had the outsiders view from Ben, which is very relatable to mine, since I live in Europe. It’s a page-turner. There are no real lulls in this book, which keeps you reading and reading. I think it’s more luck than anything else that I did not miss any public transport stops while reading ;)

This post first appeared on ReadingTheThing.

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#boutofbooks 17: summary of summaries!

So I participated boutofbooks 17, and it felt like a really productive one. I did not participate in the twitterchats *sad trombone* and did not do any challenges, because that did just not fot my (BUSY!) week.

My totals (since I love numbers!)
I listened to 105 minutes of audiobook, read 966 pages, finished 5 books and started 5 books (but one was almost done when starting this week, and one I started and did not finish yet).

This readathon kickstarted my reading again. I am a lean mean reading machine, peeps! Beware or I’ll hit you with hardbacks and punch you with pages!

(Can you tell I had a busy day at work and need ro release some stress xD)

For your calenders: next BoutOfBooks will be the first week of 2017!

Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

I had heard about THE CIRCLE. I mean, I work in IT, I know people who read books, and some of those people tend to go for the bestseller-kind-of-book, and this book got a lot of traction. So I knew it was about privacy and something google-like, and that people found the ideas scary and fascinating. Then my book club proposed us reading it, and I fully supported this idea. We tend to read non-fiction, so doing fiction is a nice change of pace for a change, and it’s a topic I have opinions on, so all seemed swell.

And oh boy, did I have Opinions! (And those Opinions will contain spoilers, so don’t read on if you mind those).  For me it was a quick and fast-paced read, some fastfood inbetween more nourishing reading. I ended up being so annoyed that I had to tweet about it (sorry tweeps!).

I really disliked the main character however, but how she was as a person and how she must have been “set up” by Eggers. I suppose he wanted a protagonist through which he could explain all of the Circle, the fictional google-esk company that gives the book it’s title and is overtaking the whole internet with the unification of all it’s services from facebook to banking to collecting all of the data. However, that did create a protagonist who is so much like a blank slate, that she has no personality of her own. She seems constantly only being imprinted by the people – men – she meets (even her body is described by how it got more attractive to men when she gained some curves after puberty; male gaze much?).

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She completely internalizes the philosophy of the Circle, becomes a spokesperson because she starts to wear a webcam-camera 24/7 (well… except bathroom visits and sleeping).The people that disagree with this, with her being so-called Transparent and the Circle’s way in general, are being portrayed as ungrateful and horrible. Mostly so her ex-boyfriend Mercer; he is being called fat and ugly multiple times throughout the book. Because being fat is the worst thing a person can be of course.

There is also casual poly-shaming. There is a comparison of people who rule companies that go for less privacy to nazi’s. And yes, of course those are just the opinions of the characters in the book, and fictional characters can say what they want, but it makes the whole book unlikable for me, since it’s seems unnecesary. If you think companies that want global surveillance for everyone are horrible, than say they are horrible. If you need an example of news that might come out that would horrify people, than don’t take the situation that one’s parents probably have or had open relationship; there is much more horrible stuff out there that does not involve people who all gave consent (yeah, I know it’s just a starter for reveiling something *really* bad, but an open relationship being portrayed as something you should be shamed for, rubs me the wrong way).

In our real, actual world we have Google and Facebook. They know much about everyone, and we often don’t know or don’t want to know how much and how they got this knowledge.Everyone is different with how the care about this. Some people (try) not to use these sites and all the (virtual) products they own. Some embrace part. Some use all and share “everything”. Not to mention that even though the internet is widespread, it is not accesible to everyone (and there is censure going on, in China, Turkey, other countries). The fact this book made all the people in the world seem as it was one homogonous group, was too farfetched for me. It also made it very western-centric, which isn’t a problem it itself, but then please don’t make it sound like it’s the whole world you’re influencing.

The book also seemed to have the underlying idea that always being connected to others over the internet, makes people needy and sensitive to possible social rejection. Again there is a generalization that this’ll work for all people, while it is way more diverse. This seems much more a personality and anxiety thing than a general rule. People are different in how much they want to give up in privacy for products. Although I must admit that general awareness of sharing things online, and how it can backfire, should get better (she said, while writing a blogpost for all the world to see).

 

Posthumanism in future Manchester

2015 in Manchester is not a place and time you want to be, if you read Matt Hill’s book GRAFT. The story about Sol and Y is sometimes hard to get into, and sometimes really accesible. Although that might also be a personal thing, which depended on my own state of mind; I read the book in a few readings, and wasn’t always the most awake. Which might have lead to me DREAMING about someone with three arms! But I digress.

What I liked, but what others might not enjoy as much, is that many things stay vague. How has the world collapsed into something post-apocalyptic in just 10 years? How does the changing of humans into something else work? Where do they come from? How is the rest of the UK faring? The rest of Europe? The world? I enjoy the slowly finding out what there is to find out, and still having questions at the end, because that is how life works; you don’t get anything in a clearcut package.

I loved how the story was structured. How you got to read about Sol and his work in one chapter, and seem to be in a completely different world in the next, following Y after she wakes up and has no memory of what has come before. Different characters are introduced, and their tales connect. That does work well, except in one case. On the whole, I feel like the role Mel plays seems a bit too fabricated, like she was added on later because some of her functions were needed. However, I did like her as a character/person and would like to know more about her. The same goes for many characters in the book: The Irish, Roy, the Reverend, The Manor Lord.

This book only scratches the surface of this possible future. Will there be more? I’d like it if there was.

Graft by Matt Hill will be published on the 2nd of February by Angry Robot Books.

The awesomeness of Sense8

V. and I finished the first season of Sense8 this weekend (and only when googling for the releasedate of the second season, did I read that title is a play on the word “sensate”…sometimes, my brain, sometimes…). We both absolutely loved it. There are 12 episodes, of 50 minutes each, which is about my ideal length for series/episodes. Long enough to have an in-dept story, not too long to make it too drawn out and slow.

Amazing characters (Capheus is my favourite, although I have a soft spot for Nomi and her girlfriend), being diverse both in gender, orientation, race, without those things being the focus of “their” story-line. They seem to use actors that are from the region they live in in the series (almost surely for the non-main characters at least), and the transwoman is played by a transwoman, which I think is awesome (and needed).

But the story has to be good too, to make a series memorable, and this one has it. The slow “show, don’t tell” explanation of how their mental connection works. The concept of that connection, how they learn to use this power, and how useful they make it, yum! The philosophical turn it takes sometimes, when it is about choices in life, about family, duty, honor, doing the right thing. The story-arcs for every single character are well thought out (although, looking at it from a distance, might be slightly cliché) and the overall arc builds up slowly but surely, without losing track of the “smaller” arcs.

10/10 would re-watch.

(yeah, this is technically not reading the thing, but watching the thing. Altough I did read the subtitles, so it totally counts as reading, puh!)

((And I did not find an actual release-date for season 2. There are mentions of march 2016, but also that it has been pushed back to 2017! I do hope that is not the case though…))

The Brontë Plot: a review

Wednesday was book day.

First sentence in The brontë plot.

 

I fell in love with this book: THE BRONTE PLOT by Katherine Reay. I craved something comfortable, something happy, and contemporary. Usually I read fantasy/horror/sf between non-fiction or more demanding reads, but I needed something different. This book has all the references to the great British women in writing: Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Beatrix Potter, all wrapped in a story that could be called coming-of-age.

Lucy, the protagonist, works in an antique and design shop, for a lovely boss, who trusts and mentors her. She takes especially good care of the books, since those are her first love. Then she meets a man and for a moment I was afraid this would turn into a sappy romance story, which is something I am somewhat allergic to, but luckily it didn’t. You hear about Lucy’s father, who was a conman, and disappeared when she was 7, but still sends her a  book every year. I won’t tell you how, but Lucy goes to the UK on an eventful trip, and learns about herself  and the readers gets pulled into London and the English countryside.

As coincidence wills it, I watched Miss Potter while Lucy was just mentioning Bowness-On-Windermere (where they have a Beatrix Potter museum and everything!), which gave me more texture to the book (and probably vice versa too). I think I’ll persuade my partner (who watched the movie as well, me at my home, he at his, while we communicated over text messages) to go on a visit in that area next spring or summer…

This book is perfect for any lover of Victorian literature, books about books, decorating (so much great detail and colour in this book), and strong women. And who doesn’t love at least one of those things?

 

 

 

 

Flexing my brain with THE FLUX [review]

Just so you know, that is the risk you run when you read THE FLUX by Ferrett Steinmetz. This book will be published October 6th of this year (only a month and a day away, guys!) by Angry Robot Books. This is the second book in the ‘Mancer series; the first book, FLEX, I reviewed as well.

This is how Goodreads summarizes it:

Love something enough, and your obsession will punch holes through the laws of physics. That devotion creates unique magics: videogamemancers. Origamimancers. Culinomancers.

But when ‘mancers battle, cities tremble…

ALIYAH TSABO-DAWSON: The world’s most dangerous eight-year-old girl. Burned by a terrorist’s magic, gifted strange powers beyond measure. She’s furious that she has to hide her abilities from her friends, her teachers, even her mother – and her temper tantrums can kill.

PAUL TSABO: Bureaucromancer. Magical drug-dealer. Desperate father. He’s gone toe-to-toe with the government’s conscription squads of brain-burned Unimancers, and he’ll lie to anyone to keep Aliyah out of their hands – whether Aliyah likes it or not.

THE KING OF NEW YORK: The mysterious power player hell-bent on capturing the two of them. A man packing a private army of illegal ‘mancers.

Paul’s family is the key to keep the King’s crumbling empire afloat. But offering them paradise is the catalyst that inflames Aliyah’s deadly rebellious streak…

I’ll try to give my opnion relatively spoiler free, but the fact it’s the second in a series, gives some spoilers of the first book in itself (but after my review of book one, I do expect you to have bought and read it. Right?). It took me a bit to get warmed up to THE FLUX. You get dumped right into the story from the first page, but I found it hard to get the feel back. Maybe because it seems to want to and get you back in the atmosphere and give clues to the past, and be action packed. My brain couldn’t do that.
After a bit, I did did find the right feel again and loved the descriptions of all the different kinds of ‘mancy, and could relate to most of the characters, who have to deal with their life not being as it once was, and change is always hard even for people in books. And the geekery. How I love the referencing in this book. To completely get all of it, you have to read FIGHT CLUB (or watch the movie, I suppose). There are even Pokémon-references! (and you’ll finally learn how life if inside of a pokéball). However, there was this sense of things being too easy for everyone, especially with some plottwist that felt like deus ex machina’s at times.

And then… there is another plottwist, but this one makes it all right again. It made me yell at the book (see the tweet at the beginning of this post), because shit got real, and real is often horrible. There is genuine chaos, destruction and emotion, and it made the first two thirds of the book much better in retrospect, because it made this changing view in the mind of the main character much more intense.

So. Again. Get this book. Read it. Be entertained.