Book Review: Caraval, written by Stephanie Garber

We all know tha phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Well, that doesn’t only mean the dull looking books, but the pretty looking ones too. Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a good example of a book that is really pretty on the outside, but on the inside it’s both problematic and not particularely good. I picked up Caraval from the library, because there had been so much hype about it on Instagram. Sometimes I think a book being a hype might be a warning sign, but with the book’s consept, which I actually like, I thought it at least had some potential.

One of the first things I reacted to while reading the book was how women were portraied. To be honest, I find it highly problematic that we’re supposed to dependant on a man to be free and happy. Other than that, the characters are fairly flat, and there’s no real charachter devolopment. And the characters were in general annoying, especially the main character, Scarlett. At several occations did I feel like shaking her, because she acted just plain stupid. And often in those situations she was saved by a man, namely Julian. Julian was another character I really didn’t like, as there was absolutely no depth to him, plus he was fairly predictable. So, yes, in general the characters were just too flat, and too annoying.

It being a fantasy book, I would also expect more about the world building. After having read the book, I know just a little more about the world than I did when I started. There’s magic, yes, but other than that, there’s not much description. Even though there’s a map of Caraval on the inside of the book, I never got the impression from how the world look like when I read it, that resembled the map on the inside. The map gave me assosiations to Venice, while reading the book, there was no such resemblance. At all.

This was actually the sort of book I normally would have put away, but for once I finished it just so that I could write a review on it. An over-hyped book like this needs to be taken out into the light and be shown as what they are not as good as the hype tells you it is. Another thing is, that I haven’t gone into here, was the abusive father of the main character and her sister. So consider this to be a trigger warning for that.

If I am to say anything good about the book, it’s its writing style. The language flowed fairly well, and I never felt that it was an obstacle, so that’s a good thing. I hope that the next book in the series (though I’m not likely to read it) will be less problematic, though I honestly don’t think it will be…

The book "Caracal" resting o some branches in a tree.
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2017

Book Review: Binti, written by Nnedi Okorafor

When I first heard about Binti, a novella written by Nnedi Okorafor, it intrigued me, even though I didn’t really know much about it. Since this is such a short book, it’s a quick read, and even I managed to read it in one day.

This is the story about Binti, the very first of her people to be accepted into the Oomza University, which is the best university in the galaxy. The Himba people, which she is one of, hardly ever leave their home country, so accepting her place is a huge step for her. On her way to Oomza, the space craft she’s travelling on is attacked by the Meduse, and they kill everyone except for the pilot and Binti. The Meduse have been wronged by the Oomza University, and they’re angry… Will she sirvive the trip? And will the Meduse go to war with Oomza or not?

This was such an interesting read. I loved how communication and lack of knowledge about other people not like our own are such central themes here. I also enjoyed how influenced the book is by Nigerian culture and language. It really does give the story something extra for a westerner line myself. It is a well written and exciting book, and I hope to read the next book in the series in not too long! And maybe other books by the author too?

The book "Binti" laying on a red sheer fabric with swirl pattern, there are some green leaves tucked in under it to the top right.
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2017

September Challenge – how did it go?

As I wrote earlier, I set myself a challenge to read more books in Norwegian. So, how did my challenge go? How many books in Norwegian did I manage to read?

1. Hålke, written by Helene Uri

I was fortunate enough to win a ARC of Helene Uri’s new book, Hålke. It was published early in September, and is a book on an elderly couple who early in January don’t get to leave their flat due to it being icy outside. With only a little food to get by on, and the coffee running out, we get to know this elderly people. What’s their marriage built on? Why do they still keep together after over 40 years, in spite of unfaithfulness (her) and violence (him)? It was a really interesting read, and I really enjoyed it.

2. Odinsbarn, written by Siri Pettersen

This was actually a reread. I first read Odinsbarn (meaning Odin’s Child in English) shortly after it came out, and it’s the first book in the Ravneringene (meaning “The Raven Rings”) trilogy. I love this trilogy, and thought Odinsbarn was even better the second time around.

3. Et norsk hus, written by Vigdis Hjorth

This was my first book Vigdis Hjorth, and I borrowed it from the library’s ebook app. I enjoyed reading about this middle aged textile artist who rented out a part of her house to a Polish family and the conflict between them. And even though this lady is a weird woman with many faults, I grew to love her… I am definitely going to read more books by her!

4. Forbannet, written by Tonje Tornes

This was the second book in the Kire series, and it has been a while since I read hulder, the first book in the series. I am loving this series, and I liked the second book even more than the first – it’s darker and there’s more magic! I can’t wait for the third book, even though I have no idea when it will be published.

So, I ended up with four Norwegian books in September, which wasn’t so bad. I also read On Writing by Stephen King, which is also a very good read. I think my conclusion is that this challenge was good for me, even though one of the books was a reread. I will try to read even more Norwegian books, and am hoping to get some more read this year.

Did you succeed with your September challenge?

A pile with some of the books mentioned in the post.
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2016

Book review: The Fault of Our Stars, written by John Green

Not long ago I read The Fault of Our Stars by John Green. This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, but it took me ages to get around to actually read it.

In many ways I enjoyed reading the book. It’s heart warming and sad at the same time, and you know from the very beginning that this is a story that can’t have a happy ending. I mean, with a character that has terminal cancer, it can’t be more obvious, right?

The only thing I didn’t like so much, was how religious it was. When i heard that john Green actually is a chaplain by training, it made perfect sense. Not being a Christian myself, I think the editor of his book could have asked hime to tone down on the religious aspect, as that would have made this a better book, in my very personal opinion. There were also a couple of insidents in the book I found a bit too “far out” to be realistic, without saying to much in case of spoiling the book for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

That being said, I have no problem understanding why this was a big hit with the young adult audience. The book has been translated into several languages, and is adapted into a film (I must admit I actually liked the film better than the book – that doesn’t happen very often!) The book carries a certain grines of reality but also some hope. And you have a sweet little romantic love story as well.

All-in-all the book ended up being an “average read” for me, but would have no problem recommending it for a younger audience. I guess I’m not in the targeted audience anyway…

The book "The fault of our stars" on a white table cloth, pink roses with green leaves are tucked in under the top left corner.
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2016

Dublin 2014, part IV – in where I’m feeling lazy

The last few days have been far less eventfull that my first week of travel. I haven’t done a whole lot, but slowed it down. I think that after traveling for a bit, your energy level just isn’t at the same peak anymore, and you just feel like doing less.

My main event on Tuesday was visiting Trinity College and the Books of Kells. It was amazing! But more about that in another entry.

I also went to a place called Tea Garden, where my goal was to drink tea. I had looked it up on Yelp, and it had good reviews, so I wanted to try it out.

I was first not sure if I’d gone to the right place, as I had to go down a pair of steep, winding stairs to get there. It also didn’t look like what I expected from a tea place. However, I had come to a proper tea place, and the tea was really good (but I missed having milk in my black tea, but didn’t dare ask for it).

The Tea Garden also seemed to be a very hip place. Not so much for the interiour, but because a lot of young, hip people were there. I, on the other hand, is not a hip person, but was still happy to sit by myself, drink wonderful tea and read my book.

A book is open on a table, there's a tea cup in the back, and a teapot to the right.
Drinking tea and reading at the Tea Garden
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2014

After drinking tea, I headed to the Longstone Pub, to the monthly Dublin bookcrossing meetup. We weren’t very many, but it was a nice bunch of people, and I had a brilliant time. Before I went there, I had a plan on leaving early, but I ended up staying until the end.

Wednesday was another quiet day. I had decided to sleep in, but didn’t, as there was too much noise in the hotel. Not extraordinary noise, just the regular noise that comes from super thin walls. So, I was waken by the fact that the people in my neighbouring room were talking (normally) to eachother. However, I decided to stay in my room and relax, before I went out for breakfast. The breakfast at the hotel I was staying at wasn’t exactly the greatest, to say the least. Instead I went out for brekfast, and then did a bit of walking around Hanry’s street.

I then went to an early showing at the cinema. Off peak tickets were cheaper, only €7.50, and I landed on a film called What If, with Daniel Radcliffe. It’s not the sort of film I’d normally go to, but it wasn’t too bad. Not too crazy about the ending, but, oh well.

After the film, it was already dinner time, and I headed for a cheap, vegetarian place. The food was good, and only €3 for a plate of food. And that was pretty much what ended my day.

On Thursday, i.e. yesterday, it was time to move to another hotel. I’m staying at the convention hotel for Shamrokon (EuroCon), and was fortunate enough to have a bus going directly from right outside my former hotel to where I’m staying now. So, I went to the new hotel after breakfast, and then walked to the centre of the city. Walking through St Stephen’s Green is actually qiote nice, and I was in no hurry, so I did stop and have a look around as well.

A memorial fountain in St Stephen's Green
A memorial fountain in St Stephen’s Green
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2014

I met up with Peadar, whom I first met at EasterCon last year, for lunch, and he then took a couple of other science fiction fans and I on a privately guided tour in Dublin Museum. Peadar was the perfect tour guide, with so much interesting knowledge! Dublin Museum has free admission, and is most definitively a place I’d like to visit again at some other point.

Floor details inside the Dublin Museum
Floor details inside the Dublin Museum
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2014

After the museum visit, we headed back to the hotel, and I got to check in and then head for my room. I had amazingly tasty Indian take away for dinner (in my room), and the evening was spent chatting to strangers. I was warmly welcomed to sit by the table with a group who had come over from Australia, and it was very nice.

It was then bedtime, and I headed for my room, for a cup of tea and some reading before I got a good night’s sleep.

Book Review: The lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch

I picked this book up at a bookcrossing meet up back in 2008, but didn’t get around to read it until now. And I’m mighty glad I did, as this was a very good read! The lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch is the first book in the Gentleman Bastard series, and was first released in 2006. Lynch was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, in 1978, and had since written two more books in the series: Red seas under red skies (2007) and The Republic of Thieves (2013). There are at least five other books planned to be released in the series.

The book "The lies of Locke Lamora" on a silver coloursed plate.
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2014

The story in this book is about Locke Lamora, who at the age of six ends up being bought by Father Chains, a priest of the Crooked Warden, the god of thieves. Here he is brought up to, along with a group of other young boys, to be a master of disguise, and they become “the Gentlemen Bastards”. This is the setting for an exciting thriller of a journey for us readers…

This book was different from any other fantasy book I’ve read in many ways. Not only did it have a pretty original plot, but it had a rather colourful language as well. If you’re of the religious kind, you might find it offensive, as it does contain swearing. Personally, I think it fits with the rest of the story.

For me, this book was a real page turner. There’s so many good things about it, not only the language and the originality, but it is full of humour and is at times so exciting, I almost forgot how to breath! I also loved all the different and colourful disguises that were described, and kept wondering how Locke could fool so many.

I must say though, this is not a book for the faint-hearted. Lynch has not spared any details in the combat scenes. They are quite bloody, to say the least. But if you don’t mind such things (personally, I think it makes the book just that much more believable), you’ll probably enjoy it.

As far as I’ve understood, Warner Brothers bought the movie rights to the book shortly after it was released. However, I’m not sure if I’d like to see it at the cinema, though it were to be screened, I’d probably go. I’m worried, though, as the descriptions in the book are so lively and great food for your imagination, I have a hard time seeing the film can come anywhere near the book. But we’ll see, time will show.