Of the 3 Doctor Who books I've read so far this was definitely the one I enjoyed the least. The story in itself was ok, not terribly interesting but n...moreOf the 3 Doctor Who books I've read so far this was definitely the one I enjoyed the least. The story in itself was ok, not terribly interesting but not horrible either and at times just utterly silly (which I don't mind, I like silly. But what bothered me most were the little details and characterisations that were off. The author didn't get the voices of either the Doctor or Sarah Jane quite right which is a bit confusing. And also, he kept mentioning little things about Sarah Jane's background and her parents which were so clearly wrong because she lost both parents when she was a baby and she was raised by her aunt.
So with this book it was the little things that irked me, but overall not a bad story.(less)
I love books about Turkey, especially when they’re set in Istanbul, so this in itself was already a real treat for me. The second thing that I really loved about the book is that it taught me a lot about a period that I didn’t know very much about. Last year I wrote my thesis on the Arab Revolt, but I had no idea of all the things that went on in Turkey as the last remnants of the Ottoman Empire slowly crumbled, and what it took before an independent Turkish state could be created. Amidst all this turmoil the main character Mary, an American artist, travels to Istanbul to join her sister and brother-in-law there after her husband was killed during WWI. She settles in fairly quickly and is amazed and enchanted by the wonderful city of Istanbul. But soon after her arrival she witnesses an assassination of a young Turkish man by Allied troops, and before she knows it she’s actively involved in the Turkish Nationalist Movement.
What I liked about this novel and its main character is that this isn’t a story about someone who sets out to make a difference in the world, but rather about an ordinary person who, per chance, gets involved in some extraordinary events. When the situation calls for it she proves to be anything but ordinary, but rather a very determined and courageous young woman. While the rest of the Americans prefer to stay safe within the perimeters of the American Embassy, Mary chooses to go out by herself and observe the world around her. She doesn’t care much for Embassy parties and socialising with other Westerners, but prefers to make friends with the locals. She quickly becomes friends with some of the most prominent members of the Nationalist Movement, something she didn’t know about at first, and as the fight for self-governing begins to take flight she decides to stay and fight alongside them. In all this turmoil she even manages to find love, if only for a short time.
The Dervish is a beautifully written book about love, friendship, loyalty, and the fight for freedom. I would recommend it to anyone with a fondness for Turkey, the Middle East, or history in general.(less)
What if one important historical event hadn't happened, or had turned out differently. What would the world look like then? These are fun things to speculate about, and this is exactly what The Boleyn King is all about. The story starts off on the premise that Anne Boleyn didn't miscarry her second child, but had a healthy son instead. Because of this Henry VIII never had her executed and he remained married to her until his death. Their son Henry IX, who goes by William, became King at the tender age of 10, and this book follows his story starting when William is 17 years old. His uncle George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, is Lord Protector of the realm until William comes of age.
Life as a boy King is sometimes hard on William and he is wary of people in general. The only people he really trusts are his sister Elizabeth, his best friend Dominic, and Minuette, Elizabeth's lady in waiting who happened to have been born on the same day as William.
This story is extremely well written and well researched, which you can tell by the in-depth way in which certain historical aspects have been changed. Many things in this alternate reality, if you will, are different, though certain historical aspects haven't changed. The tension between the Catholic and Protestant nations of Europe is still there, England is facing difficulties with France and Spain, and Mary Queen of Scots is starting to pose a threat as well. And then there are difficulties within the Kingdom as well. Mary Tudor, who still considers her father's marriage to Anne Boleyn to be invalid, refuses to make an appearance at court and goes out of her way not to be in the vicinity of Queen Anne, who she refers to as 'that woman'.
The story switches between narrator quite often, though most of it is told from either Minuette's or Elizabeth's perspective, and a few times from Dominic's perspective as well. Although the reader is never notified of this switch in the narrative it is always easy enough to pick up on, because the writing is very clear. Even though the novel is supposedly about William, it actually focuses a lot more on courtly life and the people closest to him. A great deal of the novel is focues on Minuette and her position at court, and also on Elizabeth and the role she will play in the ruling of the Kingdom.
Even though the story often doesn't focus directly on the way ruling a Kingdom at such a young age affects William, it does show how he has to deal with a multitude of conflicts both at home and abroad. He goes to war against France which ends in a triumph, and he even manages to win some of the cities back that were lost during the reign of his father. But at the same time he discovers a secret plot, with the help of Minuette, aiming to put Mary on the throne by claiming that William was born from an incestuous relationship between his mother and her brother George, and is therefore not the legitimate heir to the throne. And on top of that he also finds himself caught in a love triangle when both he and his best friend Dominic fall in love with Minuette.
The story ends at rather a strange moment when William proposes marriage to Minuette, but this is because it is the first part of a trilogy. So it ends on a real cliffhanger, which leaves the reader wanting more. I am definitely eagerly awaiting the second instalment!
This book was extremely difficult to put down and I finished most if it in one sitting. It's a story that will appeal to any fan of historical fiction, and especially to people with a fondness for Tudor history.(less)
I didn’t have any real expectations when I started reading this book, because to me it wasn’t quite clear what exactly it was going to be about. So two things could happen: I could either be left disappointed, or I could be in for a pleasant surprise. Fortunately for me it was the latter, because I really enjoyed this book. It tells the story of sixteen-year-old Jon who, after being the only one in his family to survive a disastrous accident, is sent to live with his grandmother, whom he has never met before, in the small town of Jackson, Indiana. While he’s trying to cope with the loss of his parents and brother he has to find his way in an unfamiliar town, all the while dealing with his grandmother who gives him the cold shoulder and prefers to acknowledge his existence as little as is humanly possible.
Soon after his not quite successful start at his new school things take a turn for the worse when word gets out that Jon is Jewish. It’s 1941 and as America is about to be sucked into WWII people are wary of Jews. Not only is he treated as a pariah at school, he also gets fired from his job at the local hardware store because of his religion. Luckily his life isn’t all bad, and by accident he meets Ben, a man of middle age who used to be in the army and whose hobby it is to fly his own private plane. He takes a liking to Jon and teaches him how to fly, something Jon appears to have a talent for.
Next to his flying lessons he also finds the time to fall in love with Mary, the mayor’s daughter. He explicitly forbids the two of them to be in contact with each other but in spite of this, Jon and Mary keep seeing each other. They manage to keep their relationship under wraps for a few months until things go very wrong.
Jon gets accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and Mary is severely wounded and ends up in a coma. Mary’s father, who is trying to make his big break in politics, doesn’t want to be associated with a crime involving a Jew, so rather than standing trial Jon is forced to enlist in the army. At only 17 years of age his life suddenly becomes a lot more interesting, but also a lot more dangerous. But the question is: will Jon and Mary find their way back to each other?
What I really liked about this book is that it’s not a typical romantic, and somewhat soppy love story. On the contrary, for the best part of the novel the relationship between Jon and Mary isn’t even a very prominent factor. You see a boy change into a man over the course of two years, and it is very interesting to see how he develops and keeps it together even in the most difficult of circumstances. Another thing that I liked is that Mary isn’t a stereotypical girl; she isn’t shallow or vain, she doesn’t really care about clothes or boys, but is very smart and hard working and is determined to make her own way in the world. She’s independent and free-thinking, and that’s what I like about her.
You can tell that this story is well researched because it’s very detailed, both with regards to the war and with regards to aviation. The characters are interesting and well developed, and once you get into the story it’s difficult to put down.
Marty Steere has managed to write a beautiful love story that even people like me who don’t like romantic novels will enjoy very much. I can recommend it to anyone who loves a good love story, a bit of mystery, and a fair amount of history.(less)
Over the years I've read quite a few books about Israel and Palestine, but this one is unlike anything I've ever read before. I knew that this book was about someone's personal account of life in Palestine, but I had no idea that Olson hadn't specifically intended to go to Palestine. She went backpacking in the Middle East and happened to come across some people who invited her to come along to Israel with them, and took her with them to Palestine after that. The fact that the Middle East was a relatively unknown region to Olson before she started out on her journey is actually really nice, especially for people reading this novel who don't know much about it either, because you gradually discover more and more about the region and Israel and Palestine in particular.
The best thing about this book, in my opinion, are the personal accounts of the people she meets during her time in Palestine. Here in the West we get so much information thrown at us about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but there is nothing we can directly empathise with. By recording people's personal accounts and allowing us a brief glimpse into their personal lives, it brings the conflict much closer to home. Olson shows that Palestinians are just ordinary human beings who try to go about their normal life as much as they possibly can in spite of all the restrictions imposed by the Israeli government.
The author tries to illustrate the injustices in the region the best she can, and she does so from a fairly objective point of view. It is very easy for a casual observer to generalise a situation and condemn only one of the parties involved, but Olson manages to depict everyone she encountered as human beings, Palestinians and Israelis alike, which is exactly where the power of this book lies. There is no doubt about the fact that Israel is the oppressor in this conflict and Palestine the oppressed, but that does not mean that Israel and all of its inhabitants are the source of all evil, which is how they are often depicted by pro Palestinians. The same goes for the general image of Palestinians in the media. Very often they are either depicted as victims of a great injustice, or as terrorists. The author shows that there are good and bad people on both sides, and also tries to understand and explain why certain people are drawn to certain courses of action. She doesn't just depict the Palestinians as a poor, homeless people with no prospect, but rather as a multitude of people with hopes and dreams, and with very diverse expectations of life. Olson gives a voice to people who would normally be ignored by the general media, to show that there are many Palestinians who condemn suicide bombers, and there are many Israelis who oppose the settlements in Gaza and on the West Bank, just to name a few examples.
The way in which the book is written, as a kind of travelogue, works really well. Together with the author we gradually peel back the layers of society and of the conflict, and it makes reading the book really exciting because it almost feels as if you are there with her. Olson also manages to strike the right balance between the more light hearted moments of her time in Palestine, such as accounts of helping families with the harvest, enjoying dinners with a large variety of people, and sightseeing, and the more shocking and depressing moments when talking about the many civilian casualties, people being robbed of their land, and tragedies at the various Israeli checkpoints. This way the book offers a perspective that is neither too positive nor too depressing or pessimistic either. It shows how strong human spirit actually is, and that people can manage to retain a degree of optimism even in the most dire of circumstances.
I think this is a must-read for anyone who is remotely interested in the Middle East and who wants to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but doesn't want to read a dry text packed with statistics and facts. This book does occasionally contain some statistics to back up arguments, but it is a lively and beautifully written account of a young woman whose life took some truly unexpected turns. It is an engaging and thought provoking book, and I definitely think everyone should read it. (less)
I absolutely adore historical fiction, and Tudor court novels are by far my favourites. I've read so many by now that I could easily write my very own detailed book about the Tudor monarchs. So why do I keep reading them then? A very good question, and I think it's mostly to do with the fact that I love history, and also I just love the descriptions of life at court which is just so complex and other-worldly when you look at it from our modern perspective. And even though I've read so much about Elizabeth I, it was really nice to read her life story from another person's perspective. I think it's odd that I had never heard of Elin (later called Helena) von Snakenborg, even though she was one of the women who was closest to the Queen for the majority of her adult life. Elin travels from the Swedish court to England at a young age and, at the prospect of marriage and becoming a true Englishwoman, she decides to stay at the English court rather than return to Sweden. The book follows her life through the years as she marries, becomes a widow, remarries below her status, has children and so on. Her life at court in service of Queen Elizabeth is a very prominent factor all through the book.
What I really liked about reading this story from Elin's perspective is that at times you could see the more human side of Elizabeth, as a woman rather than a Queen. These moments never lasted long, but it made her personality all the more likeable and 'real', rather than the fantastic and almost mythical ways in which she is usually described in the history books. I really liked Elin as a character as well. She's very kind and caring, and she must've been such a good friend and confidante to Elizabeth, which is why I don't understand why she isn't better known. There is almost no mention of her in most historical novels that I've read, and if she was mentioned it was probably so fleetingly that I can't even remember it.
The first 2/3 of the book were absolutely amazing and I read most of that in the same day because I just couldn't put it down. After that the story seemed to stall a bit and, in my opinion, it lingered a bit too long on the question of Mary Queen of Scots. But luckily the story picked up again after that and I was actually disappointed when the book was finished.
I really enjoyed this book from start to finish, and it was refreshing not only to read a familiar story from someone else's perspective, but also from another author who was unknown to me before.(less)
I have to admit that this is one of those books that took me by surprise. When asked if I wanted to review this book I thought the synopsis sounded reasonably interesting, but not like the kind of book I'd normally pick up myself. Still, at the beginning of the year I decided that I should broaden my horizons when it comes to the genres I read, so I felt that this was a good place to start. And I was about to be pleasantly surprised.
The story starts of in an intriguing manner, but I can't say the first 15% (I read this on my Kindle) were terribly exciting, though interesting enough for me to want to continue. Joel, a 21 year old guy from Seattle, goes on a road trip to Montana with his friend Adam just a few weeks before graduation. When he goes off to inspect an abandoned mine just outside Helena, he mysteriously gets transported back to 1941. Even after Joel finds himself stranded in 1941 the story doesn't pick up immediately. It is a slow burn, but so worth it in the end.
Joel decides to go to Seattle, where he hopes to find some sort of familiarity in a decade that is completely alien to him. The only problem is that a credit card and 21st century dollars won't get him very far in 1941, which means he's facing the rough life of the streets. After rescuing a complete stranger from a fight outside a bar, he befriends the young man, called Tom, and his life takes a turn for the better and he begins to make a life for himself. This isn't your straightforward, predictable time travel story. The protagonist isn't panicking about the fact that he's stuck in another era, nor do you find him sobbing helplessly in a corner somewhere. He takes everything that happens to him in his stride, and tries to make the most out of the unique situation he's found himself in. He makes friends, finds a job, and even manages to fall in love. For the best part of the story he isn't even thinking about going home. He enjoys life in the early 40s, and regards everything with a sense of nostalgia the way only someone from the 21st century can (for more on Nostalgia mode I'd suggest reading Fredric Jameson). For this he occasionally needs to be grounded by his friends; war is looming after all, and everything is not as picturesque and idyllic as it seems.
Joel adapts well to life in the 40s, and when he's faced with the opportunity to return to his own time he has an important and difficult decision to make: will he stay and make the most of his life, or will he go back home?
I will not give away the ending, but what I will say about it is that it took me by surprise. It is not what I had expected, but I do think that it was the best ending for the story. What I really liked is that Joel didn't start questioning whether his life in the 40s had been real or not until the very end. He didn't think he was dreaming, or that he was still lying in the mine in a comatose state or something like that. He really believed that he was there, and it wasn't until the end of the story that he started doubting this.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read a very refreshing and different take on a time travel story.(less)
I only discovered the Young Adult genre at the beginning of this year, and even though I'm not part of the target audience I have to say it's not a ba...moreI only discovered the Young Adult genre at the beginning of this year, and even though I'm not part of the target audience I have to say it's not a bad genre! Divergent sounded interesting and I noticed that a lot of people were reading and discussing it, so I figured I'd give it a go.
It's definitely an interesting read, and even though it has a bit of a Hunger Games feel to it at the beginning, it's quite a different sort of book. I'm never particularly drawn to dystopian fiction, but this is a well constructed book and it's very detailled. What surprised me most is that the author is actually my age, and that she wrote the book while she was at university. The book ended on a cliffhanger and kept me wanting more, so I'll be getting the second part very soon!(less)
To be honest I hadn't really read the synopsis when I bought this book, so initially I had expected it to be the book the Doctor was reading in The An...moreTo be honest I hadn't really read the synopsis when I bought this book, so initially I had expected it to be the book the Doctor was reading in The Angels Take Manhattan. When I started reading it and realised that this wasn't the case, I was pleasantly surprised. It is actually a prequel, if you will, of the episode. If you're a fan of River Song, which I am, then this is the book for you. It's 100% sass and sexy, and very much in-character. I could definitely hear Alex Kingston's voice in my head as I was reading it. It's a great background story which really sets the tone for the episode The Angels Take Manhattan. So if you love Doctor Who and you love River Song, then this is definitely the book for you. Just download it, it's not expensive, and I can guarantee that you won't regret it.(less)
I have a bit of a difficult relationship with this book, which is why I gave it only 3 stars. Not because I didn't like it, because I did, believe me,...moreI have a bit of a difficult relationship with this book, which is why I gave it only 3 stars. Not because I didn't like it, because I did, believe me, but there are some things that just don't sit quite right with me.
First of all the beginning of the book. I read this on my kindle, and I was very much put off by, roughly, the first 10% of the book. The use of language, the typical teenager, MTV-esque way of speaking, and the overuse of the word 'like' in a sentence almost made me put the book down and not finish it. But I didn't, because I don't like to leave books unfinished unless it's pure drivel (like Fifty Shades of Grey, but that's a whole different story). And I'm very glad I didn't, because the quality increased so much after that. It still wouldn't be my book of choice, but I began liking it.
This is not your standard book about brave people dealing with a life-threatening illness, who are fighters and are brave until the very end. It's not like, say, My Sister's Keeper. I'm sure Hazel would hate that book. This is what's so refreshing about it. This book tells the story of ordinary teenagers who want to do ordinary teenage stuff, but happen to suffer from this very annoying, inconvenient thing called cancer. But they will not let it define who they are.
But no matter how refreshing this may sound, I do have a slight problem with it as well. I know some of you will probably think I'm nagging too much already, but it's the way I feel. I can't help feeling that the author is sometimes trying too hard to make this story not about cancer. Sometimes it feels as though the author is trying with all his might to make sure the book is the complete opposite of all those soppy, dramatic, tragic, and heartbreaking books that are about the disease and nothing else. To me it feels like he's trying too hard, some of the time, but at times he gets it just right.
And then there's Peter van Houten. I like the fact that Hazel and Augustus bond over a book that she loves and he comes to love, and the fact that Hazel's story ends in the same way as An Imperial Affliction does is a nice touch, and very realistic. However, and this is me nagging again, I don't really get the van Houten character and what he brings to the book. They way he behaves when Hazel and Augustus are in Amsterdam, as well as at Augustus' funeral is to an extent incomprehensible. The fact that he was never the same person after he lost his daughter is something I can definitely understand. But this is exactly the reason why I don't understand why he refuses to tell Hazel what happened to the characters after the book ended. I'm sure that if it had been his daughter's dying wish to hear her favourite author tell her what happened to the characters of her favourite book, he would've wanted nothing more than for her wish to come true. Which is why I don't understand why he's so self-absorbed and self-pitying that he can't fulfil the wish of a terminally ill girl who has travelled thousands of miles to see him. Other than adding even more anger and frustration to the story, it doesn't really add much. The upside to that part of the story is that Hazel and Augustus got to spend a few lovely days in Amsterdam.
I know this review may sound negative and nagging at times, and might give the impression that I disliked the book. However, this is not the case, far from it. It's a book I definitely enjoyed reading, and I'm glad I gave it a go. I didn't take an instant liking to most of the main characters, but I grew to love them as the book progressed. By the time I reached the part about Augustus' funeral I was crying my eyes out (I'm a very emotional person). I know a lot of people think it's a brilliant book, and have listed it as one of their all-time favourites. But I'm afraid it'll never be one of my favourite books, and I hope that people will respect my opinion, even if it differs from their own. I did enjoy reading it, if enjoy is the right word to use for a book which is essentially about children dealing with cancer, and I would definitely recommend it to others.(less)
Having seen the play The Lion In Winter in London last January, I really wanted to know more about Eleanor because I found her such a fascinating char...moreHaving seen the play The Lion In Winter in London last January, I really wanted to know more about Eleanor because I found her such a fascinating character. It is a shame that so very little of her is known today, and that a big part of the book is mainly a background story to illustrate the world that she lived in. Nevertheless, considering how little she had to go on, I think Alison Weir did an excellent job portraying Eleanor's life the best she could. It was a bit dry to get through at times, but then again most history books are, but it proved an absolutely fascinating read. After finishing it I really felt I knew so much more about Eleanor and the beginning of the Plantagenet line than I did before. I would recommend this to anyone who loves history and doesn't need to have a story romanticised in order to enjoy it. (less)
This book had me in stitches from page 1. The original, which I couldn't even finish because it was just too horrible for words, really was just badly...moreThis book had me in stitches from page 1. The original, which I couldn't even finish because it was just too horrible for words, really was just badly written fan fiction. The parody, however, is 50 shades of sillyness and nothing else. If it were a movie, it would be a Leslie Nielsen slapstick movie of the silliest variety. I really enjoyed reading it.(less)
I enjoyed this book immensely from start to finish, and not for one moment did I feel like the story was dragging on, even though the book is nearly a...moreI enjoyed this book immensely from start to finish, and not for one moment did I feel like the story was dragging on, even though the book is nearly a thousand pages long. However, there is one reason why I decided against giving this five stars. Sometimes event after event happened in such quick succession of each other, that I felt as if the novel was in danger of becoming too much soap opera like. Not that I actually want to compare it to one, on the contrary, but it seemed that some of the characters lived in a perpetual state of bad luck that sometimes bordered on the implausible. But other than that I found this an intriguing, beautiful book. It is well researched, and the characters are fascinating and multi-layered in their own right.(less)