T5W: Characters I wouldn’t want to trade places with

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and  is now hosted by Sam fromThoughts on Tomes if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here.


Topic

“We always talk about how cool it would be to be a character in our favorite books, but who would you not want to trade places with?”

I love reading books about people fighting against dystopian societies but I am a 100% sure that I wouldn’t want to live in their world or be in their shoes. I wouldn’t make a great hero, I’ll probably just hide in my bed under a duvet with a cup of tea. I’m not that brave.

I haven’t mentionned The Traitor Baru Cormorant in a while so here it is! Baru is a great character, she’s not what I would call likeable but she’s extremely patient and she really fights for her values. I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes for a second though because, during the entire novel, she tries to play with forces that are way bigger than her. As  explained above, I don’t see myself being that brave (or stubborn). I love the book, it’s a great geopolitical fantasy story but I wouldn’t want to live in this world, even less as Baru!

I really need to read The Obelisk Gate, the latest installment out in the series but Essun is a character from this trilogy I WOULDN’T want to trade place with (not that I would like to be any of the other characters in this world mind you). Her world is basically literally falling apart, her husband killed her son and kidnapped his daughter because of who she is and, basically, everything is turning sour in her life. The Fifth Season is one hell of a book but, my life is pretty alright as it is, I don’t exactly want to be in this situation!

I just don’t want to be stranded on Mars.

I might actually prefer to be stranded on Mars that stranded on Westeros (or Essos for that matter).

 

 

What about you? What characters would you not want to trade place with?

Book Review: The Apothecary’s Curse by Barbara Barnett

 

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction 29236424

Publisher: Pyr

Length: 340 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3.5 stars

Release Date: October 11th 2016

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

This genre-bending urban fantasy mixes alchemy and genetics as a doctor and an apothecary try to prevent a pharmaceutical company from exploiting the book that made them immortal centuries ago.

In Victorian London, the fates of physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune entwine when Simon gives his wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her cancer, it kills her. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder—only to find he cannot die.

Five years later, hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it’s Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan’s missing manuscript.

When modern-day pharmaceutical company Transdiff Genomics unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company’s scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?

 

Review

I first heard about this book months ago and I was immediatly intrigued, I am not usually a fan of fantasy stories set during the Victorian era because they tend to be very steampunk heavy and I don’t particularly enjoy this genre , however The Apothecary  is different, it still manages to incorporate cool elements of magic without falling in the steampunk category.

The Apothecary’s Curse follows two main characters: Gaelan Erceldoune a mysterious apothecary working in London and his friend Dr. Simon Bell. The novel opens up when Bell runs to see his friend late in the night: he’s desesparate to find a cure for his wife Sophie who is suffering from terminal cancer and has hew hours to live. After some convincing, Erceldoune agrees to concoct a potion to save her thanks to a very old family artefact: a book supposedly written by faes of the Tuatha Dé Danann. However, the mixture is not enough to save Sophie and she dies in the arms of Bell who, in desesparation decides to drink the remaining drops of the substance to die with her. To his dismay, not only his tentative fails but he also only manages to make him immortal exactly like Erceldoune who drank an elexir from the book centuries ago to cure himself from the plague.

However, soon after, Erceldoune is accused of murder, and because of that: his house and shop are burnt and the manuscript is nowhere to be found. There begins an epic quest to find the manuscript and cure the two men of immortality.

 

The structure of the book is very interesting; it takes place in two very different periods: early Victorian London and modern day Chicago  The chapters switch between those two timelines: I really liked this aspect of the narration because I found that it made the book way more dynamic that it would have been told in a linear format. I did have a slight preference for the Victorian chapters because they felt richer but I still enjoyed the other ones.

The Apothecary is a debut-novel and it feels like one, it’s a very enjoyable fast-paced read but I did find that it suffered a bit from a lack of characterization, Bell and Erceldoune weren’t one dimentional per say but for immortal beings, I would have liked to see more of what they managed to learn and experience during their life. Also, I thought that the language was a bit too flowery for my liking during the Victorian chapters even though I understand that Barnett tried to make it as close to the actual Victorian way of speaking as possible.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, it took me a while to get through (about two weeks) but that wasn’t the problem of the book since I was (and still am) in a reading slump. The fact that I actually managed to finish it is a pretty good sign.

I will definitely give her other works a try in the future because I’m sure they will improve and I’m always on the hunt for quick and fun adventures !

Recommended.

 

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. My Thanks to the SFWA and Pyr. All opinions are my own.

 

Book Review: The Unnatural Alliance: Israel and South Africa by James Adams

 

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Politics

Publisher: Endeavour Press

Length: 248 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3.5 stars

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

“A new and powerful influence has emerged on the world scene, involving two of the world’s most improbable allies…

Israel, a state founded by a people in flight from racism, and South Africa, a state founded on ideas of racial superiority.

James Adams gives the first detailed account of this strange alliance. He shows how, for very different reasons, the two states have become increasingly estranged from the international community and in their isolation have found new and unexpected common interests.

Israel has provided South Africa with vital help in military and espionage matters, and the two countries have forged close links in the arms trade, economic development and nuclear programmes.

But, most bizarre of all, this alliance has also won them new friends in black Africa.

 

Review

I don’t usually read nonfiction but lately I felt the urge to read some so I browsed the History category on Netgalley and I requested a few titles. I was intrigued by this title in particular because I didn’t even know that the alliance between South Africa and Israel was a thing and I’m always interested by things I don’t know about.

I studied a bit the Israeli-Palestian conflict in high school and it’s a subject that I found fascinating even though it is extremely complicated. Israel and South Africa are isolated countries in both geographic and ideological terms. This isolation is the main reason they work so well together, which may seems a little counterintuitive if we take in consideration that most their collaboration South Africa enforced Apartheid.

This book was fascinating, I thought that it was going to take me ages to read but no, it took me only three days. I’m a bit of a history nerd so it’s not that incredible but still. It was really impressive to learn how deeply but secretly those two countries worked together for such a long time, how they managed to trade arms, nuclear programs and money even when South Africa was in a supposed embargo.

The Unnatural Alliance was first published in 1984 so it’s not exactly up to date. Indeed, it only takes in consideration Apartheid South Africa (since it was abolished in 1991), I would have loved to see a preface or an epilogue that took this in consideration and made a link between how the situation was and how it is today. Also, because of how old the book is, some sentences were oddly disarming like for example when Adams mentions that the situation is so tense between Palestine and Israel that the conflict might takes ten years to solve itself. It was a bit optimistic if we take in consideration that, in 2016, it’s far from over. Also, at one point, the author mentionned that:

“The ANC [African National Congress] has now been operating since 1812, and at the present rate, ther is no possibility of it becoming powerful enough to institute change in South Africa”

This sentence now sounds completely obsolete since the ANC has been ruling South Africa since the election of Mandela in 1994. However, there again, it’s just because Adams couldn’t predict that in 10 years, South Africa would completely change, it’s just funny to see how he imagined our present.

I had a few issues with this book though, I liked how precise it was in term of economic and material trade but I would have liked to see a bigger part on the cultural aspect of their alliance. It was a bit discussed right at the beginning, but still, in my opinion, it would have improved my reading experience quite a bit because it wouldn’t have seemed so dense.

However, I really enjoyed the book, so much so that I spent quite a bit of time researching the elments that interested me the most while reading when I finished it. I will definitely be reading more nonfiction in the future!

 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. My thanks to Endeavour Press.

August July Wrap-Up and September Reading Plans

August is now over which means that I’ll be heading back to college very soon, I’m both happy and sad about it because I know that I won’t be able to read as much as I did this summer but at least, I will be with my friends so not everything is lost!

August was a weird month reading wise, I read some really good books but also some terrible ones and, because of them, I’m now in a reading slump (yaaay…). I started a ton of books and I can’t really bring myself to finish them… Anyway, I hope to get out of my slump sooner rather than later because I received some amazing ARCs lately and I want to get to all of them soon!

Books/SF Magazines read

  • Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wending ★★★
  • Interzone #264 ★★★★
  • It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover ★★★★
  • The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic ★
  • Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie ★★★
  • Koijiki by Keith Yastuhashi ★★★ 1/2
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater ★★★★
  • Children of Time by Adrain Tchaikovski ★★★★★
  • A Little Life by Hanya Hanagihara ★
  • Interzone #265 ★★★

 

Favorite Book of the Month

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I did a pretty long review of this book last month, it was very different from what I expected but in a great way. Thanks for the wonderful feedback on the review by the way , I really hope that some of you are going to read this one, it’s great!

DNF

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I received an ARC of this book but I gave up on it pretty fast, it’s not bad at all but I had some issues with the main character and I had to force myself to pick it up. It took me two or three weeks to read the first quarter and I didn’t want to write a harsh review of it because I do think that fan of cyberpunk will like this book, it’s more a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”. So if this book intrigues you, give it a try, you’ll probably like it way more than me! Thanks again to Angry Robots for the opportunity of reading this book in advance.

 

 

Currently Reading & September Reading Plans

I am currently reading five books, Reaper’s Gale by Erikson, The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, An Unnatural Alliance: Israel and South Africa by James Adams, The Apothecary’s Curse by Barbara Barnett and The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley. I am almost done with  An Unnatural Alliance,  I don’t usually read nonfiction but this is really interesting so far.

I’d also like to read The World Reimagined : Americans and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century by Mark Philip Bradley which is another nonfiction book that I received through Netgalley and finally, if I have time, I would like to read A City Dreaming by Daniel Polanski and The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe by Kij Johnson. I don’t know how many books I’ll manage to read but I’m excited about all of them!

 

What about you? What do you want to read next month? 🙂

 

 

 

Mini-Reviews: Star Wars Aftermath, Who Fears Death, A Little Life

As always, I am way behind on reviews so I decided to do three mini reviews in one post since I don’t have a ton of things to discuss on each books but I still want to talk about them for a bit.

 

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wending (Aftermath #1) ★★★

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“The second Death Star is destroyed. The Emperor and his powerful enforcer, Darth Vader, are rumored to be dead. The Galactic Empire is in chaos.

Across the galaxy, some systems celebrate, while in others Imperial factions tighten their grip. Optimism and fear reign side by side.

And while the Rebel Alliance engages the fractured forces of the Empire, a lone Rebel scout uncovers a secret Imperial meeting…”

 

I read this book at the beginning of this month when I was in holidays, I wanted to read something fun and I was in the mood for some Star Wars adventures. It was the first time I read a tie-in book and I’m glad I did because it’s a fun way to experience stories in a world you love in a different format. This book received a ton of mixed reviews (it has a 3.11 average rating on Goodreads) and I can understand why, I am not sure Wending’s writing style suits well Star Wars and the book follows way too many character which made it hard to connect to them.

Also, one of the main complains I noticed in the reviews I read of ti was that this book is supposed to fill the void between The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens and it doesn’t really. This series is a trilogy so maybe the later books will be more interesting “bridges” between the two movies but as a standalone, Aftermath doesn’t bring a lot to the Star Wars universe. However, I found it fun and fast-paced so I will pick up the sequel sonner rather than later. (And I’ll definitely give a try to other Star Wars books!)

 

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor ★★★ 1/2

7767021“In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand and instinctively knows that her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?” in an ancient African tongue.

Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers her magical destiny–to end the genocide of her people. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to grapple with nature, tradition, history, true love, the spiritual mysteries of her culture-and eventually death itself.”

This book has trigger warnings for pretty much everything: child abuse, rape, racism, genocide… It’s dark and angry. If you think that its prequel The Book of Phoenix was angry well, expect Who Fears Death to be it but on steroids. I can’t really say that I enjoyed it but the more I read Okorafor’s work the more I realize that they are not supposed to be pleasant, they are supposed to make you react.

However, I don’t think that it is her best works out of the other I read this year, the pacing was completely off and because of that the ending was underwhelming: everything happened too fast and some plot points were there just because Okorafor wanted to accentuate some of her opinions (the whole trip in the desert would have been great if it had been cut to half. Reading about teenagers having or not having sex for I don’t know how many pages is a tad boring, especially when they are supposed to stop a genocide from happening. Get your priorities straight guys, please.) Nevertheless, I had really interesting things to say on the body, race and bullying and for that, I would still recommend it.

 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara ★

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” When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.”

 

I saved the “best” for the last. I am currently in a reading slump and that’s because of this book. I have a pretty unpopular opinion of this book since almost everyone on Earth adores it. I found it offensive, disguting, badly written and dumb. It is was I would refer to as “ruin porn” (term used in The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi). It’s a story made for people who love to see other human being suffering because it reminds them that their life isn’t that bad after all. This book was so ridiculous it could have been a soap opera, it turned abuse into a joke and I don’t even know why I finished it. It’s more than 800 pages long and  every word of it shouldn’t exist. Ugh, I’m glad it didn’t won the Man Booker last year but, at the same time, I don’t even know why it was on the longlist (and then the shortlist) to begin with. Do not read it, it doesn’t deserve your time.


 

Well that’s all for me today. I haven’t been posting lately because I (and when I say “I” I mean my father) finally fixed a problem I had with WordPress for about a week now. Everytime I try to log-in, this would appear and I couldn’t do anything. Now I can actually write posts and access my dashboard. Not gonna lie, it drove me completely nuts!

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I hope that you’re having a good day!