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review 2016-01-26 07:16
The Visitors - Sally Beauman


This was a strange book, and therefore difficult to rate. Overall, I have to say I enjoyed it, but it dragged on many places, and the last third or so felt unnecessary... Still enjoyable, I did like reading it, but it felt like it didn’t belong in the book.

It’s essentially a coming-of-age story with the famous archaeological expedition as background. The protagonist, Lucy, isn’t directly involved in the research; she’s more of an interested bystander who happens upon it by chance. She observes what is happening from afar, and the story centers on her life.

The book is rife with interesting and captivating characters (most of them not directly involved with the expedition either; god, those archaeologists were annoying... a bunch of grown men acting like pissbabies, throwing mantrums all the time) but I was somewhat disappointed in the end. After they open Tutankhamen's burial chamber and find him intact (at about 70% of the book), everything else seems extra. Maybe the beginning of the book focuses too much on the expedition, or maybe Lucy’s interest is too vivid, but it feels like the book should have ended there, and there is very little interest in what happens afterwards. Because the characters were so good, I did enjoy reading the rest, but more as a matter of course than because I really wanted to know what happened.

The writing is beautiful, and the language used is amazing. The research is all there, and it definitely pays off; the portrait of the time and place is quite vivid. The characters, as I said, are well written and interesting. But it’s not a very gripping book, it won’t keep you up at night, turning pages in a frenzy. It’s more of a reflective kind of story, and sometimes you have to stick with it, force yourself to read the boring parts to get to the good ones. 

Up next: The Lost Thorn, by Joshua P. Aguayo

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review 2016-01-14 13:29
Being Light - Helen Smith


Another one I couldn’t finish. And this one was very short, so I can hardly say I tried... But I have to admit, this one is almost entirely due to my own preferences. I won't even rate it, since I'm sure I'm being very subjective.

Ever since I left my teens and stopped trying to impress other people with how cultured and witty I was, I also stopped having time for quirky and deep books. That is not to say, of course, that there is anything wrong with liking them; I’m sure there are plenty of people who genuinely love this kind of book. The issue I have is that I never really enjoyed them, but for many years I’ve forced myself to read them, and the result is that now I can’t stand the sight of them. 

My personal impression was: way too many characters who do impossible things (better yet, have those things happen to them, they actually do nothing) and who then proceed to do absolutely nothing about it. I’m sure there must be thousands of metaphors for stuff, but I’m really not into it. I like trash. I like books that have no pretension other than be entertaining.

Someone also told me that this book was supposed to be funny... Honestly, I didn’t get it. Maybe it was something very British, or maybe it was because of the language barrier... Either way, I would hardly categorize this as “humor.”

Up next: The Visitors, by Sally Beauman

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text 2016-01-14 12:35
Lady of the Butterflies - Fiona Mountain


Couldn’t finish it. And I tried, by God, did I try. Had to give up about 50% in; by then I was already mourning the time I had wasted on it. It’s not a horrible book: there are many problems, but, mostly, it just wasn’t my thing. My review will be based solely on what I did read (obviously).

First, the good part: it is very well researched. She paints a beautiful picture of the time and place. Her style of writing is very poetic and the language is beautiful. Romance isn’t really my thing (actually, that’s not true, I love romance; but I’ve come to learn that I like, specifically, adult literary romance, and every other kind falls pitifully short in my eyes) and I absolutely abhor love triangles -- they’re boring, childish, unnecessary, objectifying, and one of the laziest plot devices an author can use. That having been said, the setting and the limitations imposed on the characters justify the love triangle’s existence, and I have to give her some points for that. (Still didn’t enjoy reading it, though.)

Now, the bad part. I thought this was going to be Historical Fiction... I knew there was romance, but I didn’t know it was the main part. I thought the book would focus on Eleanor’s life and achievements, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of pining and swooning. Plus, I said it in the last paragraph, but it bears repeating: I HATE LOVE TRIANGLES. This, however, can be filed under “my own personal preferences”, and it isn’t really a problem of the book.

This is, though: the book is boring. There is no suspense at all, nothing that makes you want to keep on reading. After the first three chapters, I actually had to read the best and most positive reviews this book had, just as an incentive to try and finish it. As far as I read, the only source of conflict is the romance, and it takes Eleanor more than 100 pages to start romancing her first beau. Another 150 until she meets the other one. And even when it does start, it’s stilted and awkward, completely disconnected from the rest of the chapters -- even the sex scenes are awkward and off-putting (and a bit confusing, too, it felt like she wasn’t sure if she was writing historical fiction or a Harlequin romance).

There is way too much exposition. Endless descriptions of everything. A lot of “telling instead of showing” and “as you know, Bob”. I had to fight to keep my eyes open; after a while, even looking at the cover was enough to make me sleepy.

Even the romance itself was badly done. The characters have no chemistry at all and the attraction between them is simply unbelievable. Eleanor falls madly in love with the first man of her own age and social class she meets; she starts having doubts as soon as she meets another. Richard and Edmund are two-dimensional polar opposites that only exist for Eleanor to pine over. (Eleanor herself is a much more developed character, even if, at the beginning, I had to use a lot of my will power not to throw the book out of the window every time I read “she was not like other girls” *groans* and “she didn’t think she was beautiful, she was petite instead of voluptuous and tan instead of pasty” *gags*.)

In the end, I was very disappointed. The story I wanted to read was the one in the blurb: an entomologist, a scientist, trapped by the constrictions of her time. That was not what I was given. Not even the expectation of the protagonist being accused of witchcraft could keep me going.

Up next: Being Light, by Helen Smith

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review 2016-01-05 02:58
Mayhem - Sarah Pinborough

1. MAYHEM, BY SARAH PINBOROUGH (Book 1 of Dr. Thomas Bond)

Starting off the year with a book I loved because of the cover. I like historical fiction, and the overall theme of the book also interested me, but this cover is just fantastic. And it does a very good job of representing what the book has to offer...

This is a very nice read, quite well written and vastly entertaining. There is enough suspense to keep the reader interested, and the supernatural elements do not seem absurd (which can be quite hard to do in this kind of novel). The characters are all believable and well constructed.

I’m not very knowledgeable about London at that time, or of Jack the Ripper, more specifically, but as far as I can tell this is historically accurate enough. The atmosphere and portrayal of the time and place deserve special compliments, they’re masterfully done.

If there is one thing I would complain about, it’s that, for a book with a doctor as the protagonist, there is remarkably little medicine. Yes, I know that this isn’t a book about medicine or diseases, and there is really no call for sciency talk, but it is one of my main interests, and I can’t help but be a bit miffed whenever I expect it and am denied.

Up next: Lady of the Butterflies, by Fiona Mountain

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