Url Phantomhive

Url Phantomhive

Trying to shed a light on the wonderful maze of books...

URL
Please [redacted] my last e-mail

I recently found out Nature, the scientific journal, has a series of sf shorts that are being published together with the research. Please [redacted] my last e-mail was one of the latest and I enjoyed this short story, that starts as something, but ends quite differently.

Review
3 Stars
Percy Shelley
Percy Shelley (Percy Shelley) - David Vandermeulen

Percy Shelley is mostly remembered as the husband of Mary Shelley. I knew he also was a poet, but much more I didn't know. This graphic novels tells his story as he is expelled from Oxford and pisses off many people in the pursuit of his dreams.

I don't know how accurate this story is, but I felt most sorry for his first wife, Harriet. Percy didn't came across as a likeable character. The art is rather cartoonish and not really my style. I'm however curious to find out more and would probably read the second part in this series.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
2 Stars
A Walk Through Hell
A Walk Through Hell, Volume 1 - Garth Ennis

I have trouble describing what I just read. It was a mix of so many different story, both set in the present and the past that I had great trouble distilling the story from the pages. It sounded interesting enough though. Two FBI agents, still struggling with the aftermath of their previous case, are called to investigate a warehouse. Something strange and deadly is certainly going on.

I had the feeling it tries to be to much different things and therefore, it sort of fails at all of them, if that makes any sense. Also, I didn't really like that the ending was so open, I have to read the second and possibly more volumes to get even some kind of closure. The artwork was okay, but nothing special. I just felt like it didn't live up to its potential.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
4 Stars
Lucy
Lucy: Speak Out! (PEANUTS AMP Series Book 12) - Charles M. Schulz

With Peanuts, you know you're going to have a good time. While we were fans of Peanuts at home, I never read much of the comics when I was younger. Thus, I'm having a great time reading many of them for the first time.

This volume focuses around Lucy, who is loud at the best of times and definitely in this one. As per usual, I much liked Woodstock. There is also some social commentary about gender equality which remains a hot topic still.

Would recommend!

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
3 Stars
The Weathermonger
The Weathermonger - Peter Dickinson


I haven't finished a book in almost two weeks. It feels unnatural, and The Weathermonger is not to blame, but not a single book could keep my attention over the last 10 days. I miss the rest I can usually get from reading.

Anyway, I read this was actually written and published first, with the other books being prequels, and I kind of would have liked to see it that way. There are some things that are being explained in the Weathermonger which make that the other books make more sense. However, I also sort of see why the publisher would switch the order, because some part of the excitement will be spoiled this way.

There are once again two new main characters who are forced to flee to France, only to be immediately sent back to England in order to spy and search for what has been causing the changes. What they will uncover is some much sought after explanation for what has been going on in the other two books. I liked this one best, it felt slightly less cut and closed as the previous two books and the start especially I found gripping.

I think I would recommend starting with this one.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Snakes And Ladders Master Post

I'll be updating this post as I move along the board.

 

This looks like a lot of fun and just the kind of thing I was looking for at the moment. Now, that I see everyone playing snakes and ladders, I suddenly understand why yesterday I got a notification of a like of a years-old review of Seanan McGuire's short story, Snakes and Ladders. ;)

 

As I'm usually reading multiple books at the same time, I think I will try to always fit books to the squares I'll land on.

 

I remember I hated Snakes and Ladders as a kid, since I never seemed to land on a ladder. I hope I'll have better luck this time around.

 

 

1. Author is a woman - The Thorn and The Sinking Stone - CJ Dushinski

 

12. Author's last name begins with the letters T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z. - Vivatera - Candace J Thomas

 

18. Set in a school - The Connelly Boys - Lily Velez

 

This book started at a school but by the far the biggest part had nothing to do with schools, so I decided this book wasn't a fit after all. So, only one dice this time.

 

22. Set in Asia - Real World - Natsuo Kirino

 

One of the oldest books on my TBR, set in Tokyo, Japan.

 

34. Snake - go back to 1

 

I told you I always have the worst of luck in these games.

 

1. Author is a woman - The Path Keeper - NJ Simmonds

 

7. Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D. - Heartsease - Peter Dickinson

 

13. Author is a man

Review
3 Stars
Heartsease
Heartsease - Peter Dickinson

This second book in the Changes Trilogy is set five years after the first, but follows a different set of characters. The Changes have become more grounded is this book and there is a whole generation emerging for whom this life is becoming the norm.

The society is one built on fear. When an American spy is caught, he is stoned as a Witch and left for dead. A couple of youngster conspire to help him escape from Britain, still mysteriously the only country affected by this apocalypse.

I liked this part a bit better than the first. It felt less dated, and the world seemed a little bit more explained, although many questions remain. The story is also rather concise, since it is not very long and like I noticed in The Devil's Children, the book has a very closed and neat end, which seemed a bit too simple after what happens in the book.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

 

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This was my read for square 7. Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D.

Since the author is Peter Dickinson, I get to roll 2 dice.

Review
3 Stars
The Devil's Children
DEVIL'S CHILDREN (Changes Trilogy) - Peter Dickinson

I don't know what to think about these books. I was unfamiliar with the series, but came across it on Netgalley when a new ebook version of the entire trilogy was published. What I didn't realize was that the books had first been published in the late 60s.

And I have to admit that to me this first novel The Devil's Children felt rather outdated. It had some interesting ideas and some themes that remain relevant today (xenophobia; a country whose inhabitants have lost their minds and isolated themselves from all other countries and all technology (looking at you, Brexit)), but it ultimately fell flat on many of the same aspects.

All Britons have developed an overnight fear for everything with machines or technology and are reverting back to pre-industrial times. Nicky joins a group of Sikhs who are looking for a new place to stay.

What was so strange about this particular apocalypse was that it was a) confined to Britain, b) had some very special rules about what was allowed and what not in terms of technology. Evacuation of the island seemed fine. Also immigrants were not affected by this plague and we are not given a clue as to how the apocalypse came to be. The story was wrapped up a bit too smoothly for my liking, and book two features different characters, so I think this ends Nicky's story.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
2 Stars
The Path Keeper
The Path Keeper - N.J. Simmonds

I liked the cover. I probably should have read a bit further before requesting it on Netgalley. Ella has it all in London, but she can't find her place until she meets her stalker, ehm love interest. He spends the entire book saying how he always loved her, through all her previous lives. That is not scary at all.

It was one of the most cringe worthy romances I read in a long while. After she meets Zac there is not a single thing besides him that she can do or think about. He will break the rules, just for her. Add to this a random attempted rape, which was completely glanced over, and a rather ridiculous subplot about Ella's parents and I found I was not really caring any more about any of the big revelations with the angels, who may or may not play a part in life.

It was a fast read, sure, but I never got into the story. The characters don't really have a personality besides loving each other. This was definitely not for me.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

 

------

 

After I took the snake I was back to square 1: by a female author. This book is written by NJ Simmonds, a woman, so I get to roll 2 dice.

 

7. Author's last name begins with the letters A, B, C, or D.

Review
3 Stars
Her Infernal Descent
Her Infernal Descent Vol. 1: Contrapasso - Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler

I really liked the concept for this. A middle-aged woman, mother of three, descents into Hell in order to find her lost family in this modern take on Dante's inferno.

What I liked was the main character, she was a real person and not a likely main character. I also liked the concept, as I said, but I felt that in the execution is was sometimes a bit too crowded, and I felt less would have been more in this case. Virgil has been changed for William Blake, possibly because he wrote some works on heaven and hell, that I haven't read. Also, Agatha Christie alters as the guide. There are a lot of quotes from the works of people they encounter, but once again it was a bit too much.

Also, the artwork was not really my style. While I appreciate the desperateness that is clear from it, it was a bit too sketchy for me.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
2 Stars
Real World
Real World - Natsuo Kirino, Philip Gabriel

This is one of those books that has been on my shelves for seemingly ever, or at least since before I joined GR 8 years ago. I was looking for a book set in Asia, and came across Real World by Natsuo Kirino, about five teens in Tokyo who are unhappy about their lives.

I don't know if the translation is to blame, I read it in Dutch, but I had a very hard time liking this book. Each chapter is from a different POV as four teenage girls come into contact with with another teen, who has just murdered is mother. All are discontent about various aspects of their lives.

I didn't like it. If anything, I thought the ending was quite strong and redeemed the story a little bit. Which is why I settled for 2 stars. I wouldn't pick up another Kirino book soon I think, but I'm glad I got to read one of the oldest books of the TBR.

 

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I read this for Snakes and Ladders square 22. Set in Asia. This is set in Tokyo, Japan, so I got to roll two dice.

 

This means I land on a Snake and are quite literally back where I started: at square 1.

Review
2.5 Stars
Literary Places
Literary Places (Inspired Traveller's Guide) - Sarah Baxter, Amy Grimes

This was not at all what I had expected it to be. First of all, it wasn't really so much a Traveller's Guide, as a book with short descriptions of books and some of the locations it was set in. If I were planning an actual literary based holiday, I doubt this would have helped me.

What it does do is describe all books it mentioned shortly, and since I read less than a quarter of all the books mentioned this was nice. However, not really a travel guide. It then goes a bit deeper into some of the places that are mentioned (or sometimes not mentioned) in the book. While interesting, there were many instances of books chosen where you can not visit the places because they have either been demolishes, or the actual location was never given in the book and the author suggests it might have taken place there. This concept became repetitive rather quickly, and I would have liked to see some more variation.

Everything was accompanied by some colorful, bright drawings which I really enjoyed even though they were quite simple in style. For me, they were the part I enjoyed best. While I liked the idea of Literary Places, I found it was not what I expected and I think there could have been more in the book.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review
4 Stars
The Connelly Boys
The Connelly Boys (Celtic Witches #1) - Lily Velez

It's somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars, actually, as I quite liked this Celtic mystery. Scarlet has just moved to Ireland after her mother passed away, and she is still settling in her new school, an all male boarding school. Soon, however she finds out there is more to this world than she ever expected.

The story started with Scarlet stating how fabulous all the boys at her new school are, moving from one to the next, and I admit, for a second I was worried. Luckily once she has established how interesting all the Connelly boys are the story much improved. It had me guessing for a while and even though not everything came as a surprise to me in the end, it didn't bother me. Some things were a bit glanced over in this book, but I would like to see if they are explained further on.

What I liked was that while it is clear from the start who the love-interest will be, the other brothers are not entirely pushed into the sidelines but rather play their own part in the story. I would like to see where this is going.

The author provided me with a free copy of this book. This review, however, solely contains my own opinions.

 

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This was my read for square 18. Set in a school. However, except for the opening scenes the book doesn't take place in school, so I will only roll one dice this turn.

Review
3 Stars
Aria
Aria, Volume 1 - Kozue Amano


I don't read a lot of manga. I've read Death Note and a couple of others but not enough to really know something about the genre, but since I like to read comics/graphic novels every now and then I wanted to try Aria, in which the main character travels to Mars, now called Aqua to become an Undine who rows the gondolas through Neo Venice.

I was not completely prepared for the weirdness of the CEO being a cat, but said, the rest was pretty normal. I think this would classify as 'casual', which is how Netflix has started describing series that are nice to watch but where there is not a lot happening. She is training to be an Undine, and that's what happens. There is never really any kind of problem and she just seems to be having a good time. One thing I liked was the lights festival with lights that glow for a month and afterwards everyone collects at the sea to bid them farewell.

However, it seemed rather unnecessary to put the story in space, as everything seemed about the same, except for the cat. Also why did Mars have to be called Aqua and Earth Manhome? I quite liked the art though and it was a nice and quick read.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Tackling Mt TBR (With Numbers And Stats)

This post has been in the making for a while. I've been struggling with the TBR seemingly forever, and every couple of months I come up with something new I sure hope will do the trick, except of course the only thing that will really work: not adding books. Point is, it is still growing, but I wanted to get a better view of its composition and I decided to throw another of my hobbies onto it, i.e. making lists and collecting stats, to get a better view of what exactly I still have on my shelves.

 

I hope not to bore you with these stats, but since I know that at least some of you enjoy these kind of stats yourselves, I wanted to share them with you. The first thing I did was by hand, collecting the books I had read starting from 2014 (when I really got going with the reviewing thing and started keeping good records of when I received and read book). For the unread books I took a GR library export which I fine tuned a bit (this was not really possible for the read books because there is a bug currently that dates are incorrectly processed when books are finished the same day as they were started). To this I added some additional information, for example the book format I have in my library, the language (EN/NL for me) and the gender of the author. This was by far the most work and after was finished, the real fun could start.

 

What follows is the accumulation of >1400 books I read between 1/1/2014 and 17/2/19 and >1700 books waiting on my TBR also accurate until 17/2/19.

 

I started with some random, useless, information like the day in the year I add the most books (July 19th) and the month where books added usually need to wait longest to be read (January; 391 days). After playing around for a bit I took a look at my TBR (I'm not afraid to call it a mountain, because that is what it has become). First I wanted to know the book format of my TBR, I was pretty sure it was mostly ebooks (they are so easy to add) and this proved right. By far the biggest fraction of my books is in English, which didn't surprise me either, as I have the feeling I almost exclusively read English these days. What did surprise me a bit was that almost half of my current TBR was added in 2015 (~45%). This was the year I first got a KIndle (hello, free ebooks!) and I got a lot of ARCs. Please note that I joined GR in 2011 and all books that were in my possession prior to this day have been marked 2011 (because I didn't keep records of buying books before that).

I then looked a bit deeper into what I added per year. I expected to find lots and lots of ebooks, especially in 2015, both in my total library and the TBR. Ebooks are indeed the most common books in my library, followed by books made from trees. Some audiobooks are also present, but this is mainly limited to the SYNC books and some freebies from audible. After the "child-in-candy-store" syndrome of 2015, my adding of books has somewhat normalized, but is still very high. Also, even though I've already read around 400 of the books I added in 2015, still around 800 remain. But it was nice to see I finished reading most of the books from 2011 to 2014 (with 2012 and 2013 cleared altogether).

The next figure started as another fun statistic, but it actually showed some really interesting things. The months I add the most books are typically months were I have more days off, like July (summer holidays), December (Christmas holidays) and May (Labour Day, Ascension Day, Pentacost; plus the winter season of books is announced in May). The ebooks (data not shown) show pretty much the same distribution, while the audiobooks (also not shown), follow the yearly SYNC months). The tree books however, follow a different pattern, which can nevertheless be easily explained. April is my birthday and as everyone knows what to get me, it is a huge supply of books for me. In June and August I have usually trips to London for the theater season, and I can never resist the chance of browsing real English book stores (which we lack where I live). December is holiday season.

Last year I started the ambitious project of clearing away the old book from my TBR. As is shown above, there is still some work. What I wanted to plot was the number of days a book would spend on the TBR, so the days between adding the book and finishing it. On the left it just shows these data for all the individual books, while in the middle I've calculated the median of days books spend on the TBR (which is 37). On the right you can see my effort to improve the reading of books that I've had for a while (from 22 in 2017 to 1068 in 2018). While it's to early to say something about 2019 yet, the median currently is 1341.

Knowing that my approach seemed to work, at least as far as reading the older books was concerned, I wondered whether the TBR represented the overall composition of my library, or that I was skewed to leaving certain books on there. Looking at the books I read, it seems I have a slight tendency to read more ebooks, which was the feeling I had myself, because it is so easy to read on the eReader, especially when traveling or for example in bed, because the viewing angles are better compared to tree books.

 

I have also read mainly English books in the last five years (recently I even read a Flemish book in English translation!). It has come to the point were reading in Dutch often feels less comfortable to me, and a little bit strange. That's how used I've become to reading in English. I find that it has really helped me to develop my English language skills, considering it was my worst subject in high school. The graph on the right shows what I alluded to earlier, namely that I've spend last year reading books that I more or less had forgotten about or at least they never got read until that time. The percentage of ROOT (read our own tomes, books that were in my possession before the start of the year) for me was 61%, far surpassing 2016 and 2017. For this year, I am once again aiming for 60% of books I owned before the start of 2019. Finally, I show the months in which I read the most, which mostly follows the months with days off (reading time!), as well as November, in which there are also some holidays, I tend to have a lot of vacation days left (which I try to spend a couple of) and I feel the end of the reading challenge nearing, so I have to get my act together ;).

I then wanted to figure out what this all means to my library. How do the read and unread books compare. As I already knew, I have slightly more (1400 vs 1700) unread than read books. When I looked at the pages (as provided by GR) it would seem I've only read about 1/3 of my entire library. So, I guess I better get back to reading. When looking per year, the one thing that stood out for me was the side effect of my above described ROOT project. My proportion of read book from 2018 has dropped. One other reason for this is the Penguin Modern Mints books that were published last year and that I bought completely, but since I still have to finish the Little Black Classics, I haven't started to read them yet.

One thing I also wanted to look at was the gender distribution in my library. I always had the feeling this was rather balanced, and the data confirms this. There are some slight fluctuations between years (45% to 50% female authors), but on average 48% of my books is written by women. The distribution is exactly the same for my TBR, showing no preference.

Sure, this is all nice to know, but I was supposed to be tackling this Mt TBR. For the final time I looked at the data to see (and confront myself) with the biggest problem. An ever growing TBR of course has a clear cause: books that are added. This is why I plotted the number of books I've added and the number of books I've read per month. The dotted line represents the median of the combined years (40 added books and 21 read books each month). There is also some good news as the median of added books has dropped over the last couple of years and was only 22 for 2018.

How to go from here? It's clear I should try to do something, but I know it doesn't help to give myself a book buying ban, because as with very strict dieting, these things don't work. However, even if I would assume I keep reading 20 books a month for the next years and add only 15, this would mean I would clean the TBR in about 30 years. Which doesn't sound very appealing. However, a couple of remarks should be made. This TBR contains everything I own, including a lot of books (sometimes complete series) from people who wanted to get rid of them and donated them to me because 'I like books'. I'm not sure I'll ever get to reading them since for now I'm mainly focusing on the ARCs I still have and the tree books, since I don't like standing in front of a book case were I have not read half of the books (at least if it is my own book case). On the other hand, the idea of not having some books available to read is even more terrifying. Maybe a hundred books or so? To have some choice...

 

Sorry about all the rambling. Now, about your TBR? Any tips or strategies you would like to share?

Review
3 Stars
Vivatera
Vivatera - Candace J. Thomas

Vivatera is the first in a Young Adult fantasy series that focuses on Naomi, who discovers secret powers in herself and a bunch of other people. Add to this an interesting magic system, a corrupted king and something like a magic school and I was sure to take the bait.

This was a fun, quick read. The story starts quickly and I was drawn into the story from the beginning. There is just enough mystery and guessing to make you want to continue, and while I first read it as part of all the books I'm currently reading, I decided to give it some priority and after that finished it almost in one sitting.

While I liked the story and the magic seems complex, in the sense that it is eating the people from the inside out since humans are not supposed to mingle with magic, Naomi I liked less. She was the typical sort of perfect, much more special than anyone else kind of girl which is kind of cringe-worthy. It was why I liked the secondary plot arc, following Zander, more, even though Naomi was the one who was kind of in magic school.

I will probably read the second book also.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

 

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This was my read for square 12: Last Name with T to Z. Since I completed the task I get once more to roll two dice.

 

Which lands me on square 18. Set in a school.

currently reading

Progress: 80/394pages
The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Stories - Edgar Allan Poe
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