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Pitter Patter of Little Thoughts

If I had an addiction, it would probably be books. All kinds of books. There is almost nothing better than curling up with fuzzy pillows, warm blankets, a mug of hot chocolate, and of course a book to fall into. Trying to get a full account of all the books I've read in the past - and also trying to be more diligent about documenting the books I read nowadays (and reviewing them). Thus, all current books I read will be reviewed, and all books I've realized I read in the past will not be reviewed unless I read them again. Also trying to expand my palate in books and genres. There's nothing I love better than a recommended new book in a different genre that surpasses my expectations. Feel free to leave a recommendation ^^

Currently reading

A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens, Stephen Koch
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein

I expected something much different from the synopsis. I imagined something more similar to HG Wells's The Time Machine. Probably because I categorize these two books as "old sci-fi books", even though they aren't even in the same century ha. But I imagined something dense with a lot of description and old sci-fi style. Instead, I got culture shock, first person dialogue, a subtle treatise on government and revolution, and a theoretical question about the meaning of sentience. It was fascinating. 

At first I was annoyed at two specific things: the language and the attitude towards women on Luna. The dialogue slang felt like a cheap trick that was just hacked off English plush a smattering of references to other languages. And the obnoxious whistling and treatment towards women seriously threw me off. But then about two hundred pages into the book, my annoyance dissipated somewhat. It's always a little difficult to sink into the world when it's radically different. And I think the Loonies's slang and cultural differences is definitely something that needs a lot of time for the reader to adjust. I guess it also helped that the seemingly-chauvinistic attitude was more of blatant appreciation. Crude on "Terra", but normal on Luna, I suppose. Like I said: culture shock. But I made my peace with these problems and found myself more enraptured by the plot. But please note, I did not like ANY of the female characters. So I might have made peace with it, doesn't mean I approved entirely.

I was definitely not expecting how much time Heinlein put into the ideology of government. It almost felt like a salute to Machiavelli's The Prince in how it describes the way to establish a revolution and then the resulting government. How to rule, one might say. I love how Heinlein put in opposing theories and then made them clash a little. The Loonies's faux Congress was fascinating in its infancy - especially because I could understand why Man gave the ultimatum to fire the yammerhead idiot, but Prof almost resigned if that happened. Freedom of speech, even for idiots, or a much-needed smackdown of idiots. Situations like that really made the book for me. Things like implementing a monarchy over democracy, or using an honest man to lie for you unknowingly, or the motivation of man and revolutions. This book was layers deep. Not just an easy story to read, unless you felt like skimming through the book. But it holds so much potential for thought. Lovely. 

I also noted a lot of references from this book! "Salty" and "Simon Jester" were both like red flags when I read them. I was surprised that it stemmed from this book. 

I vaguely mentioned this before, but I was really surprised at the first person dialogue. It's been a while since I've read such a first person limited, dialogue-heavy book. It's not common at all. I... was very uncomfortable with this style of writing for the first 100 pages or so. It felt clunky (and it didn't help that the slang sounds really uneducated and sloppy). But I did settle into it. It helped that Man was a person that the reader liked and wanted to succeed. Sometimes it frustrated me because I'd rather have a clever protagonist that makes the situations than one that falls into place. Mike was more the director than Man for the majority of book. But this sort of first person limited perspective made the revolution and raw emotional side of the book more realistic. It gave more impact of what kind of people (ex-convict and unwanted) were stranded on Luna. It was different. And I do think it worked quite well. And I did appreciate the obvious humor than the main character's name was Man. Ha.

I must say, though, I didn't really like Mike. It was rather cute at first when he was shyly creating his own jokes and such. And then he turned into the mover, the shaker of the story. And I prefer my main character to do the action. So I got a little bored in the middle when things were always going within his calculations. But only a little, because the next stages of revolution were quite interesting. I wish the interaction between Mike and Man was more fleshed out in the story. A couple times that Man felt annoyed at Mike... I feel like there was something underlying there. Sometimes it seems that Heinlein only put Mike there was for a computer ex machina to actually give the Loonies a fighting chance. Rather than an insight into science fiction exploration of what it means to have artificial intelligence and all of the implications it might have on humanity. But eh, I guess you can't fit everything into one book. 

I think the ending was a bit of a cop out, to not let us see what would happen with a supercomputer that would potentially outlive everybody, that would be in control of everything, that could potentially grow bored.... but I suppose that is another story in itself. At least the story did wrap up quite nicely. 

3.5 stars, rounded down. It was very good. But it didn't click with me. But honestly, if I were rating purely on the writing and plot and the story, I'd give it a solid 4 stars. However, I read books for enjoyment, edification, and eh some sort of resonance. The book has to resonate with me to rate it highly. I feel a little silly basing my rating just on feelings rather than statement facts, but it really didn't grip me. Is that enough reason to not give it a higher rating? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's enough for me to dock it half a star and round it down. So there's that.
Definitely recommended for those who like sci-fi (be aware it's less fantasy than modern sci-fi). Classic book.

The Shadow of the Wind - Lucia Graves, Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I closed this book quietly, to just sit still for a moment and let all of the words and story wash over me until it settles softly in my thoughts. This is a difficult book to review because I could have given this book five stars. Could have, being the key words.

But I can't. Because I have too many problems with it. But ah, this book with its dark plot in shadows and the air of the femme fatale in Barcelona and the heart of a writer's soul written in black, flowing ink from a pen that might have been Victor Hugo's very own... this book... I almost don't want to talk about its problems. I just want to let words drip from the very marrow of my bones to somehow capture the feeling of the book, the colors of the words, even though anyone can see that this book was written in black ink.

 

That is why I loved the book. Because moments spoke to a reader's heart. This book is meant for people who love words and understand the intimate feeling of when a book is able to reflect the shadows of your heart that you might not have even realized was lingering there.

 

But here is where I pause and just shake my head. Because it didn't last. And that is why I couldn't give this book five stars. Because I had too many problems with the structure of the book. I am not sure if it's because it is a translation and perhaps the original language would have embraced me to its full capacity, but I could not stand the unveiling of the story.

 

I really did not like how most of the story told by a character reciting their story and past. It made for rather strange and awkward jumps in first person to third person narrative. It was particularly annoying because I would be caught up in this magnificent and tortuous story and then I realize that the person telling the story should have no way of knowing how another character thought. They would tell the story in first person, but share something that seemed more third person omniscient. That might sound really nit-picky, but it bothered me to the extent that I couldn't fully immerse myself into the story.

 

Another problem with this format of story-telling was that it was dialogue. Or should have been, if the person was telling his or her story to Daniel. But the sentences never sounded like anything a person might say. It was very much so a written sentence, not dialogue. These two points completely threw me out of the head space of the book and made me too aware that I was reading instead of feeling like I was in the character's shoes waiting to know what would happen next.

 

And then once I was out of the feeling of the book, I started thinking about how annoyed I was of love in this book. See? I was perfectly fine when I was feeling the character's passion and blah blah blah. But not really. How can you expect me to believe that Daniel "loves" Bea? There is nothing to confirm it. He goes from "love" for Clara to lust for Nuria, and then straight into soulmate-forever-and-beyond-and-maybe-idiocy-too for Bea. I just don't get it. I'm all for love and passion, but I wanted to see it beyond obsession. That was my major problem with love in this entire book. You can probably exchange the word "love" with "obsession" and not change anything. Was Julius and Penelope's feelings anything but obsession? Or Nuria and Julius? I am just not convinced at all.


But see here? If I don't think about it too much, I could probably let this quibble on "what is love" slide because the characters's emotional reaction are all very realistic. (It's just I don't believe the basis for their emotion, if that makes sense.)

 

Ah, there are just so many too-coincidental parallels too, when I start nitpicking. Discovering Julius and Penelope's love as Daniel figures out there's something with him and Bea. The silly thing with the pen. Whatever. I don't feel like nitpicking right now.

 

This was a lovely book and I can see why people loved it enough to give it five stars and wax poetic about it. But I just can't reconcile the structure of the book's format. So three stars it is. In some ways, it could have been five, and in others, it would have been a two. So it ends up about a three.

Let's try this out

I've been pretty consistent with GoodReads when I first discovered it some few years ago. But then I found out that BookLikes had an open blog. And that's appealing. Really appealing. I like the idea of being able to randomly make comments about a couple of books or authors or styles that I've been noticing in an extra post. That just isn't possible in goodreads right now. 

 

But it's always hard to juggle more than one platform. Hopefully I can figure out what goes where. 

 

So far, in the past ten minutes I've been here ha, I'm liking it. 

 

Here's to a good time, BookLikes!

The Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch I freaked out when I saw this book was dropped! I've definitely been waiting.

And this book does pick up where Red Skies left off, leaving Locke a sliver away from death and Jean panicking out of his mind to fix him. Of course, only Bondsmagi have the solution and it's just another game they're thrown into. Heyo, they've survived anything, they should be fine, win, and prosper. Right? A certain Lady Bastard might disagree when they find out she's their opponent.

Sabetha. Ah, we finally meet her. The only person who turns silver-tongue Locke into a stuttering idiot. I am impressed that I don't hate her. I say that with all seriousness. Usually authors who only hint at potential women can't write them to meet up to the expectations that we've set. Sabetha comes very close to what I would have imagined. And Locke's stupid silly obsessive nature and love makes up for the rest. I love that she was written in such a way where she has reasons to dislike him, reasons to say no, where she's not perfect by any means, etc. She actually has personality, even though most of it is not entirely friendly. I can see why a lot of people won't like her, especially since most will root for Locke (and she turns him into a 7 year boy, ha). But I'd rather have the character with character flaws than the one who is perfect and boring. I can't say Sabetha is one of my favorite characters because she's still barely penciled in and shaded as a character. I haven't seen enough of her to say much besides she is a strong, female character that very closely lives up to expectations (which were high to begin with, so there is that).
I must say though... Locke did get a little annoying after a while when he doesn't have any confidence. Poor guy.

The other characters aren't really worth talking about because Locke and Jean don't really changes. And the rest aren't here to stay and play - they're just accessories for this one book. Oh, except for the flashbacks.

I loved reading about their younger days! And I was glad to have the Sanzas back. I really liked the two of them as a comedic relief pair. And seeing their dynamics when they were younger, thinking about Chains's difficulties with pubescent and hormonal Bastards, haha. It's great. But as much as I adored reading about the whole gang when they were younger, the acting stint arc was just so-so. He put too many pages of actual play dialogue for me to be happy. I rolled my eyes at the stupid lines and skipped on to the real plot.

I didn't like this book as much as the previous two. I think it's because the plot had less thought. Lies of Locke Lamora was meticulously planned out and it was fantastic. Plot after scheme after counterplot and betrayal and lies. It really was crazy. And then Red Skies got a little less intricate. And then Republic of Thieves definitely had the least amount of intricate plot. This was an "introduce Sabetha" book. The amount of plot was mostly paragraphs hinting at Locke's plans. But nothing truly deceptive or deep. Which made me feel a little lacking because I wanted to be blown out of the water with his ingenuity. I'm not entirely sure if that's fair of me because I know coming up with schemes means the author has to seriously plot something out and sometimes you run out of crazy ideas... but as a reader, I was still a little disappointed.

I also didn't like how Locke's true background was revealed. I thoroughly enjoyed book one because of how anonymous he was, even after the entire book ended. But here, the mysteries are starting to be peeled back, and it's not as wonderful and mysterious as it seemed from the far away distance of book one. ... I think I'm just afraid of how the next few books are going to turn out with the reveal of his background. I don't want it to follow too many tropisms. But already, it seems like it's heading in that direction. Ahhh!! I just hope Lynch knows what he's doing.

And (spoilers) pooh on the last chapter. I don't entirely approve of ending books with the rise of the villain for the next book.

Like Red Skies, book #3 only gets 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3. It was good and I liked it, but in the end, it's the plot that has to sell me and I really only bought two and half stars of it.
Definitely read if you've already become acquainted with Locke Lamora. And I definitely recommend the first book to anyone who's wondering what this series is all about.
Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch Reread for the second time to prepare myself for Republic of Thieves.

I think most of the plot was forgettable, which is a major problem when the entire book hinges on the thrill of the confidence game and sneaky schemes of our lovely Gentlemen Bastards.

I didn't care for most of his nautical scenes, even though they weren't bad. They were just really not gripping enough. I think the reason is because even though they were time-pressed, it felt more like lackadaisical character-development scenes. Oh you know, despite the battles and such. But in all seriousness... Locke had to prove his cunning a little too many times for me to care because I already knew he was a witty bastard. I get that it had to happen for it to be believable, but it made the book slower. And less memorable.

I did like the addition of new characters.

The ending was just done too hastily. It seems everything was sewn up in one quick intake of breath... and done. I didn't have enough resolution for me to truly appreciate them getting out of it alive. Or not enough mastermind-background schemes were revealed for me to truly be satisfied that they were cleverer than everyone else rather than just dumb luck and crazy amounts of silver-tongue.

I probably gave this 2.5 stars the first time I read it and rounded down to a 2, and I think similarly to my past self... but I will probably round up to 3 stars because it wasn't as boring as I remembered. I suppose I was just being overly harsh the first time around.
The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch Reread this book for the third time. Once to read it. Second time to set myself up for Red Skies. And now, the third time because of the Republic of Thieves.

I keep forgetting how good this book is! Even despite knowing the tricks and plots beforehand, I'm always shaking my head at how clever these Bastards are.

I love that Lynch doesn't make it easy for his characters. He puts them in crapholes and forces them to scheme their way out of it. I love it.

The flashbacks and present day plots are juggled very well. Inserts tension, inserts history. Well done.

Only slight flaws is that his descriptions are terribly boring and I find myself skimming through details of the city rather than soaking in images of setting.

It's easy to fall in love with these characters, that's all I can say.

3.5 stars. Not exactly a story that moves me, so it's hard to give it 4 stars. But I really might have to bump it up to 4 stars if I keep rereading it.

The Audition (Seraphina, #0.5)

The Audition (Seraphina, #0.5) - Rachel Hartman Ah, does this even count as a book?

Regardless, this little prequel teaser reminds me of how much I enjoyed Seraphina.

The characters are fantastically delightful.
Not really much to say about the prequel though. It was just good to see a little backstory to the characters relationships.

Looking forward to the sequel whenever it comes out.

Three stars because it was good, but... it's not really a book...
Seraphina is definitely recommended though.
The Long Earth - Stephen Baxter, Terry Pratchett I read this book in chunks, which is pretty telling of its enthralling capabilities (not that great).
Read it because of a friend's recommendation and Terry Pratchett's name on the cover.

The only reason it's worth reading is for the introduction of the long earth and the steppers. This concept really has not been seen before in science fiction, to my knowledge, and is just a delight to get to know this world (worlds?). But other than that, there aren't that many other positives. I didn't really care for the characters because they had such a low impact on the book. They are more like tour guides, or the eyes through which we see the world rather than characters that make or resolve conflicts and start actions and climaxes.
Joshua was too bland of a character. It's cool that he's an introvert, but his lack of interaction with people does have an impact on how much character development is possible. Lobsang was only interesting in theory - how he won his rights to not be called just an AI, how he steps, and such. But his personality was really quite obnoxious. and together? They make a weird dynamic that is mostly silent or small and witty.

It was a boring book, to be completely honest. Only the reaction of Datum's population to the discovery of stepping was interesting. The concept of whether people would just pick up and leave or utilize it to start over.

I don't know Baxter's style of writing, but I could definitely see some of Terry Pratchett from the dropped references to pop culture, a bit of the crazy worlds, some evolutionary aspects that reminded me of the Fifth Elephant. But I don't think their collaboration worked. All of Pratchett's humor seemed to be cut out and replaced by monotony.

The ending felt incomplete, but that just might be because it's a series with 5 books. But still, I wish there were a little more closure. Also, I looked over the reviews for the sequel and it seems that it is more dull than this book. Which, eh, makes me not want to read it. I might in the future.

Two stars because only the premise was interesting. And a premise could be read from the summary.
Read at your own risk, Terry Pratchett's fans. Keep your expectations low.
Star of the Morning - Lynn Kurland Don't be fooled by the description. This book is actually a romance hidden under a flimsy fantasy-book disguise. I was lured in by the promise of adventure and a fantasy plot, but instead I just got endless pages of slow-building romance. Which is not a bad thing, but definitely not what I expected.

I can't say that I like this book though. It hits a lot of the usual notes for a female-lead fantasy book, but it missed the mark for me, overall. I had problems with main characters, the side characters, the romance, the plot... I guess I had a lot of problems with this book.

To start off, Morgan is supposed to absolutely kick-ass what with her amazing sword skills and no-nonsense personality. She takes it like a man and can throw down harder than one in a swordfight. But even though she is supposed to be the strong female character (and I love those in my books!), I don't like her. I think the reason is because I haven't seen her "earn" her strength. She just comes into the book already the strongest shieldmaiden that can take down any man and a pretty little backstory of being trained by one of the greatest fighters. But I don't care about that. I haven't seen her sweat tears and blood for that strength so it bores me. It's like a cheap way of making her a strong character. She's a "strong female character" because she's physically strong. That's not strength to me.

Morgan also really annoyed me whenever she spoke. She complains about Adhemar bragging about himself, but her words are so freaking arrogant and casually dismissive. And then she would pry for Miach's secrets with the parting words that she'll figure him out, and then be obstinately closed-mouth about herself, her goals, and her past. Until, of course, y'know, they start falling in love. Then they're open books. Blahh..

Other major problem I have: freaking perfect main characters. Not only are Morgan and Miach powerful and magical and the strongest of all, they are also beautiful. Insta-fall-in-love beautiful. I don't do perfect characters and I don't do beauty without a major flaw. I think having characters moon over someone's beauty cheapens any romance that develops.
Riddle me this: what character flaw do they have?
... right. Thought so. And that makes them boring.

The side characters were useless. Why were they even there?

I am just annoyed because this entire book was a romance. The plot is a flimsy reason for these characters to meet. Honestly, in the whole book nothing happened but the romance. In the long journey, only a romance was achieved. At the end of the book, we find out that Morgan is indeed the swordbearer. Which we knew from the beginning since they introduced her!! So what excitement is there for the reader? Uhhhhh no plot (since the big plot purpose was figured out from meeting Morgan), not world building (we just see trees and horses). What's left? Oh right. Romance. Whoop-de-doo.

If you think about it, Adhemar and Miach don't even have a method to figure out who is the swordbearer. Did they think they were just going to waltz around the country randomly and find her? Well, I guess they did, and I think that's ridiculously stupid. Honestly, they met her and if they didn't travel with her and she didn't accidentally touch the sword, they would never have known. What kind of idiots are they? Did they even have a solid plan? No wonder their country is going to be invaded if the rulers just up and leave their throne to go on a wild goose chase with no plan. Their meeting was too contrived. Too happenstance for it to have happened.

What more can I say about this book? It was empty of magic. Oh there are shapeshifters and spells, but it's the same old, same old you see in any fantasy book. There are monster. Yep, scary things that you fight. There are... horses? Pretty horses. It's just such an empty world besides Morgan and Miach. And I don't like them nearly enough to like this book.

I was going to give it 2 stars because it was okay, but after writing all of my annoyances out, it's more like a 1.5 stars. But I'll round up to 2 because I'm generous and I did manage to finish without ever angrily tossing the book at my window.
I don't think I would recommend it to any of my friends though. I can't recommend it to people who like fantasy, because I think it's more of a romance novel. I can't recommend it as a romance because the pacing is a little too slow. I can't recommend it for people who like strong female characters, because I don't think she is one (besides her physical strength). I just don't know who I could recommend this to, even though it's really not a horrible book. Maybe nobody.

Note: I do not think I will pick up the second book unless I run out of things to read. I was just not convinced. And running out of things to read? Haha, highly unlikely.

Fangirl

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell GUILTY PLEASURE ALERT.

Written for introverts and bookworms and girls who are addicted to fanfiction and fantasy and dreams of love. Written for girls who are a little uncertain, more than a little crazy, and completely in love with writing and the idea of falling madly in love.

I am completely surprised I finished reading it. Read the first few pages and dropped it after I saw that the main character was a fanfiction writer because I knew that it would read like a fanfiction. And... it does. You can tell. You can totally tell that the author wrote and read fanfiction. It has the hidden guilty pleasure marks written all over the character's thoughts and personality.

And then I opened it up idly again just to flip through all the pages to see when she would inevitably end up with the boy. ...and found myself actually reading the darn thing.

But even more so, meh. You would only read this book because you can kind of sorta relate to the main character Cather. Introvert, a little socially inept, witty enough to make dry jokes, scared of falling in love but desperately hoping for it, trying to find herself, etc. It's a typical coming-of-age college girl book. And it does read like a fanfiction story. Like a self-insert of some sort.

That's why I'm so surprised I finished it. Honestly... it was a pure guilty pleasure. Probably even more so than the mindless PNR and YA fantasy girly romance novels that I shove in the back of my bookshelf so my friends and guests don't judge me.

Oh yeah, I definitely skipped over all the excerpts of her fanfiction. Boring. The book had quite a lot of construction issues.

I really can't give it more than two and a half stars though. Because it was all a little too obvious. Like any fanfiction, you know how the story is going to go. The characters are already set in stone. You know the ending and the progression. But you still read it. GUILTY PLEASURE.
Battle Magic - Tamora Pierce It almost pains me to give this book one star because I love Tamora Pierce and Winding Circle so much. But honestly this book really disappointed me.

I think one of the major issues was that she had already hinted at so many plot points from her other books, which limited the direction of the story flow. We knew that they would be in a war, we knew that Evvy would meet Luvo, we knew they would be forced to do things that would give them horrible nightmares. These plot points were basically the entirety of the story, and we already knew them coming into the story. It made the book predictable and not very... real. Like she's following an outline of a story rather than letting the characters and situation develops as it pleases.

Another major problem was the battle scenes. This book relied heavily on actions and war scenes, focusing on the darker side of life. But Tamora Pierce just doesn't write this sort of genre and it shows. The battles come across as very watered-down and almost childish. She attempts to make dark and gritty scenes where killing people is equivalent to murder in the real world, but the scenes read more like fantasy battles where deaths are not as important as the fantasy. But then her characters mourn their loss of innocence as if it really mattered and then it just didn't feel believable because the war scenes didn't translate to that darkness she was aiming to convey.

In the same light, there just wasn't enough exposure to the villain. They spend a couple days with the emperor, he burns the rose bushes and keeps couple of prisoners and suddenly he is evil incarnate. Uh... no. That's really not convincing enough for me to see that he is evil. It's so white and black, it really is like a children's book - which makes the realistic deaths even more unbelievable. And Evvy and Briar saving one prisoner. Is it realistic that there is only one prisoner? They want to do good, to save their friends because it is the right thing to do, but they only save the one person because they know him. That is such children's book logic. Ughhh that's the major problem with this book. It attempts to be an older book, what with dark scenes of torture and murder and revenge, but has unmistakable traits of a children's book. And it fails at being either.

The scenes with Rosethorn just didn't work for me either. She didn't read well as a character because she seemed so world-weary as an adult. I just didn't believe her character when the plot was focusing solely on her. And sometimes it slipped into first person.... Uh strange. And then that quest? RIDICULOUS. It felt fake, unnatural, just another random task that she had to do. Actually, most of the book's plot felt like that - like the characters were just going though the motions.

The only redeeming thing was seeing the characters interact with each other. Because I love Briar and Rosethorn and Evvy, those scenes were fun to read. But.... Even those weren't up to par, to be honest. The characters didn't change, they never revealed anything different than what we knew of them beforehand. And that is a problem when a character doesn't change in a book at all. They were like stereotypes of their own character. Evvy was always hoarding food, Briar was always subtly trying to care for Rosethorn, and Rosethorn was always tweaking someone's ear. Cool. But I've seen it all before. I wanted more or something different.
What's more is that none of the side characters even made an impression on me. In all of Pierce's other books, you do end up loving the secondary characters - but here, they might as well be cardboard cutouts.

And was it just me, or did Pierce suddenly turn into an overly descriptive writer? I've never had a problem with this before from her writing, but she really piled on this descriptions of clothing and buildings. Descriptions that did next to nothing for giving greater understanding of characters or scenes. It was too much.

The ending was a cop out. Literally deus ex machina with the gods.

This was just a weak book from Tamora Pierce overall. I am so disappointed because I thought The Will of the Empress was absolutely amazingly well done. This felt more like Melting Stones. Unpolished and more than a little boring.

One star because I didn't think this book was written well. Too many problems with unnecessary plot, unrealistic battles and emotions, uncertainty if this is a children's or adult book, weak character development, etc. I would still read it because I love this world and the characters. But to be honest, if this was the first book I read of Winding Circle.... I would not even pick up the other books. Recommended only for fans of the previous books.
Voice of the Lost - Andrea K. Höst I gave a decent rating to the first book, but I cannot give this book anything besides one star. I close this book feeling utterly annoyed.

This is the romance book, straight up. It's what all the romance lovers wanted from book one where Illukar and Medair declare their love for each other and get together. Oh yes, there's some vague plot in the background, but not really. It's mostly about these two. Who could have possibly guessed that a convenient fog would leave these two together on their own, all primed and ready to spill some emotional words. Someone must have spilled the pheromones in this book.

And I am so pissed off about the vague plot! I think it's completely frustrating that the author keeps dropping us in different timelines randomly at will. It's disorienting and it doesn't do a freaking single thing for the book. It's like the book has no direction at all except for the romance slant. Oh, nothing is happening? I guess we'll just change the timeline/dimension! No problem. Infuriating because it just strings the reader along thinking that something is actually going to happen.

The ending sucked. Majorly. What the freaking heck? I don't buy it for a second. How in the world does she end up loving someone she hates in the span of 40 pages? Nuh uh. It doesn't work that way. And what a stupid way of resolving a character death. If you're going to build up the emotions for someone dying, I want you to follow through with it. Please, thank you.

But even beyond the ridiculous two-in-one package deal Medair gets to play with, for goodness sakes, even her romance with original pretty-boy ice perfect was fake enough. The only reasons we knew they liked each other was because we were explicitly told through our ability to know the character's thoughts. Nothing in their actions or dialogue would suggest their interest in each other. And the author's reasoning for when they "fell in love"? Bull crap.

One star. It does nothing for the "series", if you can call it that. This is pure fan service, in my opinion, where she just gives the romance lovers from the first book something to squeal over.

And if I really wanted to break down what I thought about Medair... ah, that would probably get me in another rage. I thought she was a strong character from book one (besides the suicidal idiocy for a few stupid moments -not deriding those who actually struggle with suicidal tendencies, but this stupid character who does it even though it's not in her already established nature and has so many more options), but then basing romance as her reason for living and how she continues on afterwards? Excuuuse me. Ridiculous.

I didn't give a crap for any of the characters by the end of this. Or the plot, because really, what plot?
And the world? Haha, which world? There was no world because it was always arbitrarily changed. So in the end, what's left of this book? A wish-fulfillment romance.

One star. No more.
Not recommended for anyone. Unless you read the first book and are longing to see the two main characters hook up.
The Silence of Medair - Andrea K. Höst Shorter review because I'm on a book-reading binge currently (and am getting lazy).

This was a good read. I really appreciated a break from hack-and-slash-adventures or a typical tour-the-new-world fantasy book. This is more of a character development, mull on some morals, what-if scenarios put into actual writing, kind of book. It's a little slower paced, a little more in the character's head, but overall, very nice.

Medair is a pretty good strong female lead and I like sticking with her third person limited point of view. She succumbs a little too easily to the geas (I would have liked a little more fight to get away from it) even though we all know it's to put Medair and whats-his-name-main-male-character-lead together.

That was a big problem. Names. Usually I'll get it after the end of the book, but this book... seriously there were so many K- names and titles. It was a little frustrating trying to figure out who was who and what were titles versus real names.

I did not like the second twist of landing the whole freaking city in an alternate timeline because it felt a little contrived. Actually a lot of the plot points felt contrived. The Conflagration happening right before Medair leaves was eyebrow-raising, to be sure. But I guess if Host wants to make a series, it had to have happened.

The attraction happened a little too obviously. I wish there was more development than obvious interest.

I loved the verbal sparring and would have loved to see a little more of it.

I like the philosophical musings on what it means to be loyal and to whom do you give your loyalties.

Overall, I was very impressed by this book because it feels mostly fresh. It doesn't have all the cliches of a fantasy novel. Sure, there are a couple of things I've seen before, but it was all written in a new perspective. Very cool.

(edit: And actually, I take it back. I have seen this before. It's like Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. Demoting it down half a star.)

Three 2.5 stars. Good job. I liked it.
Recommended for people who like fantasy books with a decent (not stupid) female lead.

-edit-
Read the second book (which was originally part of one big book). It was crap, unless you just want to read a pure romance-without-thought book. You don't need to read the second book. Actually, I really would recommend you just stop after book one.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman This story is like a fairytale for adults. A little darker, a little more mature, but whimsical enough to remind you of magical things.

One thing that I did love was his style of writing. Somehow Gaiman is a genius and manages to convey a seven-year-old mindset through his writing. But it didn't bother me at all because it read like an adult book. Absolutely fascinating because usually books are unable to capture a younger voice and make it resonate with adults. Fantastic writing.

But everything else was fairly straight forward.
So I liked it, but other than that, I can't say much for it. It didn't leave an impression on my mind. It's a bit like a very nice dream that had something strange and out of the ordinary, but it doesn't really stick with you when you wake up.

For that, three stars. I liked it. It was well written, introduced the characters and made me like them, ended very well, etc. It was a good book. But not much more than that.
Recommended for people who want to read something like an adult fairytale.
The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi I picked up this book because the premise was fascinating: in a futuristic Thailand, calories are more precious than anything we can imagine today. Calorie companies and governments and other factions struggle for power, even as people struggle to survive in the background of daily life, searching for scraps of food that aren't infected by plagues or mutated into killing bites of food. And in the middle of the story, a windup girl, genetically engineered for perfect obedience, finds herself overheating in this burning city as she struggles to survive.

Ugh, I ultimately didn't like this book because I thought it couldn't portray the world and characters as well as it should have.

One of the biggest problems, for me, was the backdrop of the story. Set in a supposed futuristic world, the setting was more like a direct imitation of history. And I'm just not historically literate enough in Thai or Malaysian history to understand the finer points of the story. This is a major sticking point for me because he tries to integrate the very culture of the countries into the book. But since he does next to nothing introducing any sort of historical background, he essentially relies on the reader to know history prior to reading the book. A lot of things went over my head culturally, including languages, certain references to religious aspects of the culture, the integration of different ethnic groups over time, etc. It was pretty frustrating because I could see that I was missing a lot, but there wasn't much I could do besides go do some extracurricular reading (and please, my time is limited as it is).

So lack of historical integration aside, I also had major problems with stereotyping. The first hundred pages in, I honestly thought the author just decided to take all the largest stereotypes of about the ethnic groups and shove them into a story. It was like taking a piece of history and shoving stereotyped characters into it - and overall, it didn't feel very... reverent to the history. Especially the mentions of slaughter and whole destruction of villages. Although the author writes that it's all set in a futuristic world, it's obvious he's drawing on historical references - but pays no attention to sensitivity when writing about it. That bothers me quite a bit.

Those things aside, which are only a little bit of the author's actual skill in writing, I guess I would also say that I only felt the mildest of attachments to the characters. If they lived or died, eh. It didn't really matter to me. Which is a bit of a problem, in my opinion. And did they really have different personalities? Not really. Everyone is paranoid, everyone is scheming, everyone is being played. Dialogue also wasn't anything of note - predominately because his dialogue was used so minimally and only then to further the plot line. That isn't a bad thing, and I think it was fine. But all of those things just lead to characters that are just characters trying to survive. And none of them with a special place in my heart.

See, Bacigalupi just does plot well. Hmm wait, no let me qualify that. He juggles scenes with different characters and interweaves different plot lines very well. I don't think he does plot that well, to be honest. But first, on the juggling aspect. Dang, this guy is amazing. We see how one character's actions impact five other ones in the next chapter, all while leading up to the next point of action. It's astonishing and really quite lovely. I think that's predominately what kept me reading this book. Seeing what would happen next, even if I didn't care about the next person's thoughts.

Now, on the aspect of plot... If you take a step back and think about what happens in the book, it's all very bland with a complete lack of direction. It's just masses of people running around with their own ideas of plots in their mind, other people countering those plans, and in the end, just everyone trying to survive. But for a clear plot? Meh, not so much. Who was the major players? They hardly even appear in the book. What was the climax of the story? Barely relevant.

This book did a pretty good job of showcasing survival. And that's pretty much it. No, wait. It did introduce new concepts in scifi that I haven't seen before. But those are only mild, with flaws. For example, how is a windup person heechy-keechy but also super fast in movement at the same time?

I wish he placed more emphasis in exploring the idea of gene ripping or the windup people or something in this new world. Instead, he focuses on the bare bones methods of survival in this world.

Not impressed, even though I felt there was so much potential in this world and story. It wasn't bad, just not good. And the historical stuff bothered me a little too much.

Glad I read it, but it still gets two stars.
Would probably recommend to someone who has a better history of Thailand and Malaysia and likes science fiction. Hmm.. but also isn't bothered by stereotypes either. Y'know, I might not recommend it to anyone other than a scifi lover with nothing left to read.
The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery - Wendy Moore This was a bit of an interesting read that takes you back into the late 1700's and headfirst into the medical fields where surgery is starting to emerge from the barbers as a more prestigious field. And in the middle of this transition into scientific thinking and experiments and modern surgery is John Hunter.

The book was a lot denser than I would have expected just because there was so much information that didn't read as easily as a story would. But that is to be expected because it really is hard to condense a person's life into so many pages. It went from experiment to discovery and back to experiments with bits of John Hunter's life to connect them all. Which was fascinating when I cared about the experiment or didn't realize that Hunter had a hand in a discovery. But at times, it bogged down a bit and I just didn't care about some fantastical freak or strange exotic animal called the giraffe.

But the experiments were quite fascinating, and sometimes the name-dropping was interesting. Such as the knowledge that Hunter treated Lord Bryon, or his writing on whale anatomy would inspire the book Moby-Dick, or that he was the one to use vivid dyes to highlight veins and blood flow, or that he managed to be the first to understand human embryology by dissecting a pregnant lady, etc.

There were so many ethical issues! So many of his experiments would NOT have gone down in modern times. Stealing someone's dead body despite their last will? Pulling teeth from impoverished kids to implant into wealthy nobles? Digging up cadavers, injecting himself with syphilis and gonorrhea for an experiment, etc. My goodness!

But one very interesting thing that I kept noticing throughout the book was how there are still similarities from the late 1700's in modern medicine. Things like publication wars, differing opinions of certain surgeries, the lack of respect between different scientific professions, the disagreement between religion and science, the use of connections to get ahead... I can see a lot of it in the present world as well.

I found myself a little distracted with the title of the chapters because they weren't always exactly relevant to the central theme of that chapter.

Really, it was all very fascinating and quite cohesive, following a chronological flow.

Two and a half stars rounded up to three because it was a good read and I'm glad I read it. I won't read it again because I don't think there is any reason to revisit these experiments. It was enough to know that Hunter was a part of this revolutionary ideas. I've expanded my knowledge and learned something new. The book was interesting, but not enrapturing and completely engaging, so two and a half. But it was good, so I'm putting it up as three.

Only recommended for people who like biographies and a bit of a history lesson - with some interest in the medical field. This is a book for pretty specific interests.