Monday, 22 February 2016

Writing About Books vs. Talking About Books

I have been thinking for a while about how I write blogposts for this bookblog. More and more I am starting to think that I am better at getting my thoughts on a book across when I talk to someone than when I write them down. Sometimes I really have to force myself to write a review and that lessens my excitement for it. For a really long while I have enjoyed watching videos about books on youtube. I have always loved filming, but I was always the person behind the camera, hardly ever in front of it. At the beginning of this year I finally convinced myself to start a booktube channel myself. It was very awkward talking to the camera to make my first video, but I am starting to become more and more comfortable with it. I am not sure what will happen to this blog. From time to time I might still post a written review of a book, but I do think that I am going to focus on making videos. Perhaps I will also post them here. If you would like to check out my channel it is called: B reads Books.

Here is my latest video. It is by no means perfect, but I am pretty proud of myself for doing this and I am sure I will only continue to get better.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Mini Review - An Atlas of Tolkien by David Day

27875123Genre: non fiction about fiction?
Pages: 256
Rating: 3.5/5

J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional universe is as vast as the human imagination, so an atlas is a helpful tool to get around. Consider this book your navigational guide to Middle-earth and the Undying Lands. Maps, images, and vivid descriptions in full color create an enchanting reference to all the fantastical places and creatures that sprung from Tolkien’s mind.

My thoughts
This book is not so much an atlas as it is a history of the world J.R.R. Tolkien created. The book is beautiful with a green faux leather binding and beautiful illustrations throughout that go perfectly with Tolkien's stories. Most topics are discussed in one page with an illustration next to it, sometimes it is a bit longer. Because the information is bite-sized it is very easy to pick up and just read a couple of pages before going to do something else. If, like me, you are fascinated by the world Tolkien created, you will probably find this book an interesting read. Though, of the 256 pages only a little more than half of the book is text, because there are so many illustrations and a couple of maps and timelines, but the book still goes into a lot of depth.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Reading Goals for 2016

This year I am setting my Goodreads challenge at 50 books. I read 68 books in 2015, but I do not want to push myself too hard. Otherwise I will end up reading really short books, eventhough there are a couple of long books I want to get around to. I do not just want to focus on the number of books I am reading, but also on what kind of books I am reading.

That is why I am also challenging myself to read the types of books listed below. I'm okay with crossing of multiple descriptions for one book, it is just a way for me to get out of my comfort zone or read books that I have been wanting to read for ages but somehow just never got around to.

  • A final book in a series (why haven't I read Allegiant yet?)
  • A poetry collection
  • A non fiction book
  • A book in another language than English or Dutch
  • Historical fiction
  • A book with more than 600 pages
  • Dutch literature
  • A short story collection
  • A graphic novel
  • A book by a non European or American author
  • A banned book
  • A book I started but never finished
  • A book that has been made into a movie
  • An unread book that has been on my shelf for more than a year
  • A book published before 1900
  • A book published between 1900-1980
  • A second book in a series (because I tend to read first books in series and even if I like them I forget to continue with the series)
  • An old favorite
  • A book of less than a hundred pages
  • A book by Agatha Christie (this one is more specific, but I own at least a dozen unread books by her)
  • A young adult novel
  • A high fantasy novel
  • A contemporary
  • A book finished in a day
  • A Christmas book
  • A trilogy/series
  • A book by a female author
  • A romance novel
  • A borrowed book
  • A translated book 
As for my writing, I hope to finish at least one of my longer stories this year. I often start new projects, but I also need to finish them!

What are your reading or writing goals for 2016?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Favorites of 2015

On Goodreads I set myself the challenge to read 45 books in 2015 and I ended up reading 68 books, which I'm super happy with! Today I'm sharing my favorite 10 books I read throughout the year.

Saga, Volume 11. Saga Comics by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
I read the first volume of Saga and I was immediately hooked! This sci-fi series has beautiful artwork, great characters and really made me want to read more comics! I read the next three volumes and love them all just as much as the first one, or maybe even more. I can't wait to read volume five!

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)2. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
10338850I already loved the world Tolkien created in The Hobbit, but in the Fellowship of the Ring the world is so much more fleshed out. It truely feels like it is a real place and I can really imagine things happening before and after the story that is described in this book. I think Tolkien's world is truely fascinating!

3. The Lily Pond by Annika Thor
This historical middle grade book was a reread from when I was younger. I usually don't read a lot of books about the second world war because I have a hard time connecting to the story, but Thor manages to describe life during that time very well, while still making the main character relatable.

Tales from Outer Suburbia4. Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
In 2014 I read The Arrival by Shaun Tan and immediately fell in love with his artwork. Though it is still my favorite book of him, Tales from Outer Suburbia again shows how creative Tan is. The stories are all very inventive and the artwork is amazing.

Wild Magic5. Wild Magic by Cat Weatherill
North and SouthI don't generally read a lot of fairy tale retellings, but this was one I absolutely loved! The story revolves around the legend of the Pied Piper. Eventhough there are a familiar elements to the story I loved how Weatherill used the story to create her own.

6. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Book of EverythingWhen I first started this book I felt like it was very serious, but as I read on I absolutely grew to love this book. There where just so many beautiful descriptions! A lot of times I reread a passage because the writing was so beautiful...

7. The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer
The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1)This book was also a childhood reread. While I enjoyed it when I read it as a kid, I think I love it even more now that I am older. There are a lot of subtle details that I did not even realise where there when I was younger. Kuijer creates a very likeable main character and his story deals with faith in a beautiful way.

Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper (Amulet, #1)8. The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did I loved the unique fantasy world that Sanderson created. The book also contained a mystery and I am a huge fan of fantasy combined with mystery. I can't wait to read the sequel!

Into the Wild9. Amulet Volume 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
This middle grade graphic novel was a really good introduction to the series. It is adventurous and full of fantastical elements and the main characters Emily and Navin are wonderful. The artwork is very different from other graphic novels I have read, but I loved it!

10. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
This is one of the very few non fiction books I read in 2015. The story of Chris McCandless is a tragic but fascinating one. Eversince seeing the movie I have been curious to know more about his life. The book definitely goes into a lot more dept than the movie does. Whereas the movie portraits his parents a little bit as 'the bad guys' the book is much more nuanced. Krakauer really tried to look at the story from all points of view.

Dit you manage to reach your reading goal for 2015? What was your favorite book you read?

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Review - Let It Snow

18272314Genre: young adult, romance
Pages: 368
Rating: 3.5/5

An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girl takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.

A trio of today's bestselling authors - John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle - bring all the magic of the holidays to life in three hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and kisses that will steal your breath away.

My thoughts
I don't read a lot of contemporary books, but since I wanted to read something Christmasy, I decided to give Let It Snow a try. The first story by Maureen Johnson I quite enjoyed. The main characters were all likeable and it had a lovely cosy atmosphere. I would have like the ending to be a little longer, now it felt a litte abrupt. Eventhough this story is only about 120 pages a lot happens and the main character in this story, Jubilee, felt the most real out of all the characters in the book.
The second story by John Green I thought was a little dull. Not a lot happened except that the characters were trying to drive through the snow. The story did have a sweet ending and Angie was really likeable. I did get really annoyed with JP's and Tobin's obsession with the cheerleaders. I also think John Green tried too hard to make the situation funny that it just was not funny anymore.
The third story was by Lauren Myracle, of whom I have never read anything. I was pleasantly surprised by the story. The main character Addie was very self-absorbed in the beginning, but she went through a transformation (which did happen rather sudden). I enjoyed that the stories intertwined a little, especially when you get to see the main characters of the first two stories shortly at the end of the last story.
If I would rate the stories seperately I would give Johson's story 4 out of 5 stars, Myracle's story 3.5 out of 5 stars and Green's story 2 out of 5 stars. Johnson's story The Jubilee Express was my favorite, it had the right amount of ridiculousness to still be funny. I will probably be rereading the  book another year to get into the Christmad mood, but I will probably skip John Green's story.

I wish you all a Happy Christmas!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Mini Review - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling

6351469Genre: fantasy, childrens
Rating: 3.5/5
Pages: 123

A copy of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them resides in almost every wizarding household in the country. Now Muggles too have the chance to discover where the Quintaped lives, what the Puffskein eats and why it is best not to leave milk out for a Knarl.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Comic Relief, which means that the pounds and Galleons you exchange for it will do magic beyond the powers of any wizard. If you feel that this is insufficient reason to part with your money, I can only hope that passing wizards feel more charitable if they see you being attacked by a Manticore.

- Albus Dumbledore

My thoughts 
Eventhough I loved the entire Harry Potter series I never read the companion books Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages and Tales of Beedle the Bard. Now that a movie revolving around the fictional author of this book is in the making it finally was the right time to read it. If you love the Harry Potter series you will probably enjoy this book, as once again it shows Rowling's incredible creativity. The book contains descriptions of magical beasts such as what they look like, where they can be found and some interesting facts. Throughout the book Harry and Ron have made some annotation, which was a lovely touch. I did very much enjoy this little book, but I do have to say that it was definitely long enough. If the book had been longer I probably would have gotten a little bored. Also, I would have loved if there had been illustrations for all of the beasts. Perhaps one day there will be an edition that includes this?

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Review - Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

16034235Genre: young adult, fantasy, romance
Pages: 404
Rating: 1.5/5

In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.

My thoughts
I know many people love this series, and that was exactly why I was hesitant to read this story. The premise sounded like something I would really enjoy: a competition, a mystery and a kick-ass heroine, but I was wondering if the book wasn't hyped up to much.
When I finally started the book I quickly realised that this one would not be for me. I did continue the book, because I was hoping for it to get better, but it did not. The main reason I did not like this book was the main character, Celaena Sardothien. She wasn't the kick-ass heroine I was promised. She was vain, whiny, judgemental and immature. I do like flawed characters, but they definitely also have to have some positive traits, and I found it hard to find those in Celaena. The only positive thing I can come up with is that she doesn't give up. Celaena was very mean, she was constantly saying nasty stuff about lady Kaltain before Kaltain ever did anything to her. Celaena is also VERY BEAUTIFUL AND HAS GORGEOUS HAIR!!!!!, okay sure, but I already got that after the first ten times it was mentioned, and all the exclamation marks are unnecessary, there is no need to yell.
My biggest problem with Celaena was not that I did not like her, but that she just was not believable as an assasin. She is supposed to be the country's most notorious assasin, but instead she can't keep her emotions in check and constantly bursts out in anger (she has tantrums), people are constantly able to sneak up on her, she doesn't recognize poison eventhough she supposedly knows a lot about it and she does not take threats serious. Sure, everyone can have a bad day, but by the end of the book I was wondering how Celaena could possibly still be alive. Also, how on earth would she ever be able to kill someone secretly if she bursts out in anger every five minutes just because someone said something she does not like.
I found Celaena's immaturity rather strange. She has lived in a very harsh environment for many years and I just cannot imagine she would still be so immature after everything that happend to her (which, by the way, is way too much).
According to the synopsis the competition is the main focus of the book, but in reality it is not. In the beginning some aspects of the competition are explained, but later on pretty much any thing to do with the competition gets summarized in a few lines. Instead the book is about Celaena looking awesome in dresses, Celaena having awesome hair and a crown prince who is very atracted to Celaena because she is so beautiful. Don't get me wrong, I honestly love clothes, but I did not pick up this book to read about clothes. I picked up this book because I was hoping for some action, but sadly this was lacking.

The mystery in this book was not able to hold my attention. Celaena herself clearly does not care about it in the beginning, which does not really give the reader a reason to care about it, and apart from that it was both predictable and lacking in depth. Most of the research Celaena does trying to solve the mystery is only mentioned in summary. In truth, pretty much the entire plot gets summarized, which did not make me connect to the story at all. Instead we read about Celaena admiring herself, hanging out with a friend and talking about people behind their back and most of all, very akward (but not cute) moments between prince Dorian and Celaena, so basically things that do not really add anything to the plot.
Only the final battle towards the end is actually shown at the moment itself rather than summarized afterwards, but by that point I did not care enough about the story that it could keep my interest. The final battle showed again that Celaena cares to much about appearances: she is annoyed with the first opponent she gets to fight, just because 'he is not very clean'. Why would she even care he is not clean? She is going to fight him, outside, ofcourse that will result in blood and dirt so it's not going to matter if he was clean to begin with. And besides, I think it makes more sense to worry about staying alive than if other people are looking good...

The last few chapters of the book did make me a little bit curious about the next book, but since this was only the last 20 pages or so out of a 400 page book I don't think I will continue with this series.

Most characters were not very convincing, but surprisingly enough the king truely seemed quite scary, because Celaena's reaction to him was shown. This was one of the few instances were truely something was shown instead of told.

This book promises a love triangle in future books. However, I could not really take Dorian and Celaena's relationship seriously, so it does not bother me that much. Prince Dorian's love for Celaena was not convincing. They were only attracted to each other because they were both such beautiful people. I liked the other love interest, Chaol, more. Mostly because he is one of the very few people in the book who is not stupid enough to forget that Celaena is an 'extremely dangerous assasin' and actually sometimes calls Celaena out on her bad behaviour. Dorian and Chaol do not really have a life of their own, they are there to fall in love with the main character and that is it.

For a fantasy story, the world was surprisingly dull and it's magic system (or lack thereof) was not explained. I have a vague idea of what the country is like: there is the capital with a glass castle, there are the salt mines where the slaves work and there are mountains and a forest in this country. That is it, everything I learned about this country.

I do feel a lot in this story is left unexplained on purpose, as to lure people into reading the next books, but I just got to little depth to really get excited about this book, which is a shame. It does have good potential, I just don't think it lives up to that.

To end on a more positive note, I did think that Celaena's past was interesting and that does mean there is still some potential for the future books, since that probably will be explored more.

Did you read Throne of Glass? Am I truely alone in feeling the way I do about this book?