Url Phantomhive

Url Phantomhive

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

Review
3 Stars
A Hippo Banquet
A Hippo Banquet (Little Black Classics #32) - Mary Henrietta Kingsley

This was an interesting read. The Hippo Banquet features travel stories by Mary Kingsley, being an explorer in a time where female explores where very rare. So for that I found it interesting to read about and she actually writes quite well. However, her views are very Victorian (obviously) and I've found that I never like these travel stories very much.

 

~Little Black Classics #32~

Review
3 Stars
Lot No. 249
Lot No. 249 (Penguin Little Black Classics) - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is credited for being the first to write an evil mummy story. This is that story. I thought it was an interesting read, not in the least because these type of Victorian horror stories would hardly be called that today. The story is in fact rather slow. But what I liked about it most was how it showed the total craze for mummies/everything Egyptian that was ongoing at the time.

~Little Black Classics #121~

 

Review
2 Stars
How To Be a Medieval Woman
How To Be a Medieval Woman - Margery Kempe

How To Be a Medieval Woman was like the polar opposite to last week's Little Black Classic: The Suffragettes, and it was a terrible read.

Maybe if the main character was not called 'said creature' the entire time, THIS creature would have somewhat enjoyed reading it. This was what put me off right from the start but it was also heavily repetitive and Margery main skill seems to be weeping, which she does a lot and at everything.

I still gave it two stars. Not because I enjoyed reading it, I did not. However, this is still the biography of a woman who managed to convince men to write it for her (as she was illiterate) in a society which would just as easily (more easily perhaps) have burned her at the stake for not submitting to their rules.

~Little Black Classics #95~

Review
3 Stars
Curse
Curse - Steven James

Curse is the final book in the Blur trilogy, featuring Daniel who has been seeing 'blurs', which are basically hallucinations, or are they? In the previous books, he has been thrown into several murder cases because of this ability, but in Curse there is very little going on besides Daniel solving crime through his ability. Only, this time he is not only helped by his friends but also by some like-minded kids. By which I mean, they have special abilities as well. And these abilities just happen to be the exact ones they need to crack the case. What a coincidence, right?

 

This was another fast read, but I get the feeling more and more that I don't completely understand the YA mystery genre. Teens solving crime seems weird to me under the best of circumstances but where is the police in all this? The ending did not surprise me, but left me wondering because Daniel didn't really receive a way to better handling or accepting his blurs. As such, I had hoped Curse would bring more closure to the 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
Knights of Sidonia Vol 3
Knights of Sidonia, Volume 3 - Tsutomu Nihei

This third volume was the last one I have in this series and frankly, I don't think I will continue after this. While I'm a bit intrigued whether they will at some point be able to communicate with the Gauna and what they would learn from that, I don't think it is worth it continuing the series.

 

More battles that are hard to follow, interspersed with some seemingly random scenes which do little however to develop the characters further. There's a couple of flashbacks as well, and one of them did confirm some of my suspicions, while another one left me with more questions and less answers still.

 

Interesting premise, but it didn't really work for me.

Review
2 Stars
Knights of Sidonia Vol 2
Knights of Sidonia, Volume 2 - Tsutomu Nihei

Continuing Knights of Sidonia, volume 2 mainly is more of the previous. There is a lot of battles against different types of Gauna, which is the alien races fighting the humans. There is a lot of inexperienced people who have to do important jobs. The main character goes from hero to zero and back again in the span of chapters.

I find the drawings are a bit full which sometimes make it more difficult to follow the story, especially during all the battles where there's so many tentacles and other things that it sometimes becomes a bit of a blur. I'd rather see a little bit more character development.

Review
3 Stars
Knights of Sidonia Vol 1
Knights of Sidonia Vol 1 - Tsutomu Nihei

I got the first three volumes of Knights of Sidonia (couldn't help but think of Muse's Knights of Cydonia) a while back and have finally come around to reading them. It's a space opera Manga about a self-sustaining colossal ship Sidonia and its mecha fighters that battle against an alien, shape-shifting species dead set on destroying humans.

This first volume is like many first volumes. Some things are promising but a large part of it is dumping characters and information about the world on you as you try to figure out what will become important later. The main character at this point was this typical nobody with a mysterious past that I'm sure will become important at some point.

Review
4 Stars
The Gurkha And The Lord Of Tuesday
The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday -  Saad Z. Hossain

First book of 2020! And what a lot of fun it was.

Melek Ahmar, an imprisoned djinn king and among other things The Lord of Tuesday, who has just woken from a millennia long slumber in his prison and is completely forgotten by all but himself, is dead set on retaking the rule of at least some of humanity. Climate change however has caused all humans to drone together in big mega cities where the air gets cleaned all the time by an army of nanobots.

The closest city and an easy starting point for Melek Ahmar is the city of Kathmandu Inc. ruled by the AI Karma, who has abandoned money in favor of Karma points. Together with Bhang Gurung, a Gurkha soldier even the djinn is a little bit afraid of, he travels to the city in order to start a revolt and take over but also to have a good party.

Like I said, this was lot of fun. It is impossible to put this novel in a genre or even try to begin to explain what makes it so much fun. It was original and it never failed to surprise me. Besides, many times I found myself grinning. Would recommend to everyone who wants to know what all the fuzz is about or wants to read something else for a change.

Review
4 Stars
The Suffragettes
The Suffragettes - Various

This year I plan to read one of these Little Black Classics a week, so that I will finish them (currently at #94 of 127) and can start with the Little Mint Classics (the Modern classics). The Suffragettes was first on the list, and while it would have been a perfect read for last years (100 years since women got the Vote in NL), this didn't occur to me until after I started reading.

Quite different from the other books in the series, this is a collection of articles, pamphlets, cartoons and speeches on the topic of Suffrage, when the good fight was being fought. I found it very interesting to read, and was astounded by quite some things I didn't know. It was a hard and rocky road, but are massively indebted to them as I couldn't imagine being born without having this Vote, the chance to study, work, etc.

~Little Black Classics #94~

Review
3 Stars
Smoke And Dagger
Smoke and Dagger: A SPECTRA Files Prequel - Douglas Wynne, Thomas Fitzsimmons

I haven't read the SPECTRA files novels, to which Smoke and Dagger was a prequel, but I liked the cover so I wanted to give this book a try even though I had no clue what to expect.

It set immediately after WW2 and as such there is a lot of talk about communists and other un-American activities. The main character is the first woman allowed into some kind of Freemason organization and send to investigate a character from another organization, because he likes redheads. There is a lot of talk of the occult and an endless supply of arcane occult artifacts, be it daggers, mirrors or otherwise. Thrown into the mix also is a secret organization investigation the paranormal which is so secret, even its own members don't know what the acronym stands for.

While it was in fact an easy and not unpleasant read, I found the pacing a bit odd at times and I missed something that could give it that little bit extra. I only found out in the acknowledgements that this story is set some generations before the main series, but for now I'm undecided whether to continue with the main series.

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 Murders Of Molly Southbourne
The Murders of Molly Southbourne - Tade Thompson

Reading-wise, 2020 has been a blast so far. The upside of being sick in bed is that it gives a pretty good excuses for reading the books one might have accidentally bought in an end of year TOR sale. The Murders of Molly Southbourne was indeed one of those.

I didn't know anything about it going in, except that I had seen it passing my feed a lot some time ago. And I think it was for the better. I was definitely not expecting this kind of strange, original tale and coming-of-age of Molly and her 'hemophilia'. I'm still a bit surprised it was possible to put so much story in so short a novel.

The only downside for me was some thing, rather important for the worldbuilding and as far as I can tell not so very important for the overall story, where quite randomly dropped on the reader and never really explained well. I hope the sequel will take care of that. But don't let that stop you from reading this.

A Bookish Decade

Hello there, I hope everyone is having fun on the last day of the decade. It is a period of looking back and I took a look at my reading of the last decade. While I didn't collect all the data for the last 10 years, I started keeping precise track of what I was reading at the end of 2009, providing quite a lot of data for this decade.

 

I started by taking a look at how many books I have read and whether these were tree books or ebooks (There's only a couple of audiobooks actually). This year I read 213 books (surpassing my goal of 208!), six more than last year. My record remains 2016 when I read a 366 books (= one book per year). Ebooks got a hold and basically took over my reading when I joined Netgalley and bought first my Kobo and later my Kindle eReaders. This year there was a little bit more tree books, as I was making my way through Penguin's Little Black Classics series. I read over 52000 pages, which is 1000 more than last year, and averaging on 244 pages per book vs 246 last year.

I'm always looking for weird and not necessarily useful stats, like months where I read more or less books than others. This has been divided per year. In 2015 I read most evenly resulting in more or less similar months. 2019 it is clear I had to do some catching up with the challenge in November and December, but I made it. Reading is more concentrated in July and December now that I no longer have month-long holidays. Between the days of the month there is, as expected, no real differences.

I took a look at the male/female author ratio for my books, which had become increasingly balanced over the year, where I have switched from reading Dutch books to almost exclusively English books (only 2 Dutch books in the last year). I knew I was reading a lot of English books from 2014 onward, with the reviewing and all, but apparently the switch was already in the making from 2011 from the moment I no longer had to read books for English lit.

Finally, I wanted to take a quick look at the TBR and the ROOTS. You may be aware that I have quite a lot of books I still need to read, and I wanted to take a look how for I had come since last February, when I also posted an update. In the end the TBR went down all the way from 1729 to 1720. (I had hoped for more). I will continue reading old books next year and hope for the best. 68% percent of my books this year were ROOTS, so in my possession at 1/1/2019, added during a variety of years. I hope to get similar numbers in 2020.

Looking at the TBR, there is still a lot of books from 2015 left, so I know where to start in 2020.

Finally, I took a quick look in the data and found each year's longest read. Les Mis was the longest read and only took me a couple of years to read. I already have a good contender for the 2020 spot; I'm currently reading War and Peace.

 

 

I wanted to finish with some books and series that I thoroughly enjoyed over the last decade. While it is definitely not complete, I liked all of them a lot. In no particular order.

 

 

Happy 2020! Happy Bookish New Year and All The Best!

Review
4 Stars
The Steam Pump Jump
The Steam Pump Jump - Jody Taylor

If you're a fan of this series, it can by no means be a surprise there's these short stories every year to keep us fans happy until the next full length novel arrives. They usually are a lot of fun, as is this one, but I do recommend to read them only when already submerged in the series. Some of the characters, let's say, need some getting used to.

Very nice short story following closely after the 9th book. Told from Markham's perspective for a change.

Review
4 Stars
Christmas Past
Christmas Past: A Chronicles of St Mary's Short Story - Jodi Taylor, Zara Ramm, Audible Studios

It has become something of a Christmas tradition, a short story from St Mary's, usually involving some bad advised time travel, uhm, investigation of historical events in contemporary time, of course.

This one was very cute. It features Max and Matthew as they travel to 19th century London to bring a little bit of joy. Very much Charles Dickens. I enjoyed it a lot.

Review
2 Stars
The Deep Beneath
The Deep Beneath - Natalie Wright

How unlucky can a bunch of teenagers be?

While they were just minding their own business on some military training ground, they first encounter some rapist, then H.A.L.F 9 and to top that they are finally held at gunpoint by the military. Just another weekend I guess.

This was one of these books were a lot happens, but nothing is really worked out well, and it all feels a little bit flat. For me the most interesting part was the interaction between H.A.L.F. 9 and 10, with their different upbringings and conflicting principles. I hope to see more of that in the next novel.

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

Review
1 Stars
Toxicity
Toxicity - Max Booth III

I'm sorry. I didn't like it.

I'd previously read How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers, and while it failed to deliver on the premise of its name, it was a nice enough read that I wanted to read Toxicity, too. Toxicity however, was toxic.

I feel like I have lost over the last two years the enjoyment in the extreme bizarre, hardly fitted together kind of novel. This one was one of those. It features a lot of different POVs and characters, and of course everything is going to fit in together at the end but it is the way how they get there and that was just not really there. None of the characters were even in the least likeable and I didn't like the raw writing in this one.

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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