When you’re in the midst of things, it’s easy to lose perspective.
“All around him was whiteness which glittered with needlelike points of fire. He ga
...moreWhen you’re in the midst of things, it’s easy to lose perspective.
“All around him was whiteness which glittered with needlelike points of fire. He gasped at the immensity of what he saw. (…) He blinked and cupped his hands over his eyes; but even upon his closed lids he saw only whiteness. A small inarticulate cry came from his lips; he felt that he had no weight in the whiteness, and for a moment he did not know whether he remained upright or whether he had gone down into the snow.”
Will Andrews, an idealistic Harvard student at the end of the 19th century drops out of school to head West, to find what nature is and to ‘figure it all out’. He funds and joins a buffalo hunting expedition and after a gruelling journey (paradise doesn’t come easy after all), they finds an idyllic part of land with mountains, green grass, blue sky and … immense buffalo herds.
But what Andrews really learns about the nature of men is not idyllic: greed, cruelty, thinking we are stronger than nature itself, but most of all how at the end of the day some of our ‘grand’ actions and expeditions are not justified, but utterly pointless. As pointless like snow as far as the eye can see, and after losing nearly all his illusions he feels weightless compared to so much snow, or to a mountain river in spring.
This book is no romantic Western, but it captures the other side of the medal. Our instincts lead us so often astray and make us snow blind for what is really going on. And what we really can do on this world and with the life we are given.
“You live all your life on lies, and then maybe when you're ready to die, it comes to you--that there's nothing, nothing but yourself and what you could have done. Only you ain't done it, because the lies told you there was something else. Then you know you could have had the world, because you're the only one that knows the secret; only then it's too late. You're too old."
"No," Andrews said. A vague terror crept from the darkness that surrounded them, and tightened his voice. "That's not the way it is."
When you’re in the midst of things, it’ easy to lose perspective. Because you don't get to see know whether you’re just walking around ruining things, or whether you’re making a masterpiece with your foot steps.
Kort onderbouwd boek met tips over slapen. Er zit weinig wereldschokkends in het advies (veel tips die ik in de 'boekskes' al had gelezen), maar het g...moreKort onderbouwd boek met tips over slapen. Er zit weinig wereldschokkends in het advies (veel tips die ik in de 'boekskes' al had gelezen), maar het grote verschil is dat die adviezen ook worden uitgelegd. Ze hebben mij bijvoorbeeld al vaker gezegd dat 's ochtends blijven liggen of uitslapen niet helpt, maar ik ben nooit gestopt dat toch een beetje te doen. Na het lezen van dit boek ben ik al 3 werkdagen naeen uit mijn bed gestapt zonder zelfs maar één keer te snoozen (eigenlijk al drie keer voor de wekker afgaat).
Snel te lezen boekje, als je het in de bibliotheek tegenkomt zou ik zeggen: lezen maar. Het bevat tips voor slapeloze mensen, voor mensen die te veel slapen en ook voor ouders wiens kinderen slaapproblemen hebben.
En baadt het niet, dan schaadt het niet. Dat is ook al veel.(less)
It’s true, I’m a sucker for social science research: the human mind just intrigues me like there is not tomorrow; and the emotional side even more so...moreIt’s true, I’m a sucker for social science research: the human mind just intrigues me like there is not tomorrow; and the emotional side even more so than the rational one. After accidentally seeing Brené Brown’s TED speech for a second time this week, I was intrigued enough to pick up her books.
Unfortunately her book is nowhere near as exciting. First of all, for someone who claims to be an obsessive organizer, there is a remarkable lack of structure in her book. It seems more like a collection of blog posts than anything else, and near the end I started wondering what the topic of her book actually was.
In her talks she is forced to distill and focus for 20minutes, but in the book her editor seemed to have let her run wild. And it’s a shame. She has a few really nice insights, but she gets stuck in trying to put everything into neat definitions, and the actual stories and research trends disappear in obscurity. I really couldn’t care less about her personal definition of joy versus happiness, I’d rather learn more about how it all happens between our ears. (less)
I like adore what Elizabeth Moon did here. Twenty years after completing The Deed of Paksenarrion she went back for a visit to Paks' world. This book...moreI like adore what Elizabeth Moon did here. Twenty years after completing The Deed of Paksenarrion she went back for a visit to Paks' world. This book picks up straight after the trilogy ends, so there is no time jump in the story, but the writing style definitely made a gigantic leap right into the 21st century. Gone is that dated feel from the story, and a lot of the more modern styles are applied, including multiple point of views and much more subtle foreshadowing.
To be clear: I don’t have anything against 80s fantasy (quite the contrary!) but the surprises of then have been used so often they became tropes and therefore many of the stories are highly predictable for the frequent fantasy reader. And that’s exactly what changed with this book. Where the plot of Oath of Gold was utterly unsurprising, ‘Oath of Fealty’ has twists and turns that I did not see coming, and it kept me wondering where things were headed throughout. I became enthralled mid-way and just had to finish the book. I didn’t even stop reading to apply sunscreen this very sunny afternoon, which is why my nose now resembles a red herring – but that’s beside the point.
I know people will ask whether they have to read The Deed of Paksenarrion before this book. In my opinion it isn’t required; the book has been written in a way that will give you all the information you really need, but having finished the trilogy will make it more pleasant as you are familiar with most of the characters and you will care so much more. If you go straight to this series, you will cheer a lot less for people's rise or downfall, nor will you care as much when my favourite sergeant goes down, simply because you won't know him. The general world building, and especially the Gods will make more sense if you finish the previous book. In this one the names Gird, Falk, Liart are thrown around as if common knowledge, but I'm not sure that it really would hurt the reading experience. Still, while the previous trilogy is no required reading, I think it’s better to read it first.(less)
(given this is book 3 in a series, it might contain some mild spoilers, consider yourself warned)
I was psyched to start this book: At the end of book...more(given this is book 3 in a series, it might contain some mild spoilers, consider yourself warned)
I was psyched to start this book: At the end of book 2, we went somewhere peculiar and unexpected and Paksenarrion could be found at the metaphorical rock bottom of the ocean. The first half was (by far) the best part of the book: Paks struggling to get through the days, her finding her way back to Brewersbridge and getting helped by my favourite Kuakgan. That whole part was actually really cool.
The second half on the other hand was a bit disappointing: The entire sword-plot was so predictable that a toddler could see it coming from a mile away. The ending with Paks sacrificing herself was just over the top and too ridiculous to be true. I really wish Moon would have stayed away from that, and have it ending on a fight.
The first half (and the rest of the series) are making up for it though. As a whole, it's still a really enjoyable fantasy series. (less)
The ‘problem’ with reading 80’s-fantasy a few decades later, is that it sometimes feels somewhat… dated and predictable. I cannot judge whether it wou...moreThe ‘problem’ with reading 80’s-fantasy a few decades later, is that it sometimes feels somewhat… dated and predictable. I cannot judge whether it would have been predictable at the time, but I suspect not. Many of their twists and turns have been used so frequently by now that they became tropes.
Still, I liked this book much better than the first. First of all, I’m happy to report that my beef with book 1 (the lack of secondary characters) has been removed. Not because it’s gone, but because I now understand why it was done that way.
Most of all though, I liked the way this book ended, which took a turn I definitely hadn’t expected. Up to that part, it did feel a bit ‘too easy, too soon’, but the end put a good stop to that and I was actually baffled by it. Nicely done, Mrs Moon! (less)
Over the years Robin Hobb has become an absolute powerhouse in the world of fantasy. After devouring all her Elderling books, it was time for the odd...moreOver the years Robin Hobb has become an absolute powerhouse in the world of fantasy. After devouring all her Elderling books, it was time for the odd trilogy in the bunch: the soldier son. A lot is different in this trilogy, and yet a lot remains the same: there are mysterious plotlines brewing (excellent for speculation!), but at the end of the day, it’s all about the characters. I’m more than ok with that – I’m a very character-driven reader. Yet what this book didn’t have versus all the other trilogies is an instant connection with the main characters. Perhaps that will still follow, but I didn't get there yet.
Like Farseer, the Soldier Son is written in one fixed first person narrator. That narrator is a New Noble son called Nevare, but I’ve come to know him as Little Stick In The Mud. He’s one of those fairly inactive protagonists: things happen to him, but he doesn’t do much. And that makes me impatient.
Nonetheless, the book sets up some interesting storylines. The boarding school feel (buddy reader David Sven compared it to Hogwarts which was an excellent call) is really well done, comraderies are formed, not so much by choice as by coincidence, but it works and it will be important in the following books I’m sure. There is a lot of ‘unfairness’ in the story, which worked for me, but me rooting for all the little Davids in the story would have worked better if I would actually have loved the little Davids. (At least I already loathed the cross-generational Goliath Stiets, so no issues on that account.)
In short, this book isn’t a homerun for me, but it’s promising and I’m looking forward to see what she does with it. And even more so, I’m curious to find out whether I will ever come to like our little Stick-In-The-Mud.(less)
If you ask me, no-one is going to rain on this parade – simply because there is no rain on the books here. No matter how much I often enjoy a dark and...moreIf you ask me, no-one is going to rain on this parade – simply because there is no rain on the books here. No matter how much I often enjoy a dark and epic fantasy book, having one that is completely different in tone is refreshing. It’s a fantasy novel told from the perspective of one humble and utterly likeable young man – somewhat back to the fantasy novel style of the ’80s. Throughout the book, I honestly couldn’t shake the feeling that in another life Maia might have been raised in Aunt Pol’s kitchen at Faldor’s farm.
Maia, fourth son of the Elflands’ emperor and born from his fourth and purely political marriage with a goblin princess, was raised in seclusion far away from court. In a country dominated by pure elves, his existence had always been considered somewhat of an abomination, and he only set foot in court at one occasion: his mother's funeral. Fourth sons are never expected to raise the throne, but accidents do happen and Maia is forced to the capital city.
This is sort of a political fantasy book, chronicling the struggles of an unprepared boy to take the throne and stand up for himself. Anyone who demands fast action in their fantasy novels should probably walk away, but if you like character-based books this would suit you. There is a lot of court intrigue, but above anything else it has heart, a sense of friendship, responsibility and a lot of humour.
“He thrives on brambles. The thornier a problem is, the happier he seems to be in the solving of it.” Her smile made her lovely. “Our thanks is worth little, to be sure, but nevertheless, we thank you, Serenity. For landing him in the brambles.”
The language in the book - with the royal ‘we’ - works really well: it fits its premise and the court environment without getting heavy or difficult to read. I also loved the little quirks that were added, including the subtle notions of elf ears that might betray some emotions by twitching or flattening, leading to Maia's internal instructions to appear self-confident: "Back straight, chin and ears up."
Behind the hopeful tone of the book are a lot of current world themes: No-one lets him forget how he is ‘the goblin emperor’ and not a white, pure-blood elf. I personally cannot stand the way media (and people) keep referring to others: Obama, the first black president, or how some CEOs will always be referred to as ‘the female CEO of company X', or even how Belgian’s Elio Di Rupo is referred to as the first (openly) gay prime minister. The fact people feel the continued need to point this out means that we still regard it as 'not normal'. So I keep wondering whether this is anything to celebrate, or whether it is just really depressing.
Another theme is gender equality and the right for everyone to get proper education no matter what race or background they have. In the Elflands, high society women are for babies, point. Maia is giving women a chance to pursue the things they want to pursue. When one of his step sisters asks why he helped her to study the stars, he answers “We were not considered worth educating, either.” I won’t lie: that one small sentence got to me. It really did.(less)
I had never heard about Greg Bustin, but it seems that within CEO-atmospheres (somewhere way above me) he’s quite well known and has built himself an...moreI had never heard about Greg Bustin, but it seems that within CEO-atmospheres (somewhere way above me) he’s quite well known and has built himself an impressive consultancy track record. Years of experience resulted now in a book, which I can best describe as a practical textbook for CEO’s.
And that’s where it might have gone wrong: I’m not the right audience here. I am no-one’s CEO, nor do I have any such ambition. It wasn’t really clear to me when I read the back cover, but the book is very CEO focused. Unless you lead a mid-size or large organization there is little insight to be gained from the book. That’s why I will also refrain from giving any sort of rating to the book: I simply don’t feel I can judge it.
There are some things I liked about his approach: it’s not focused on the cold, hard numbers. More than about words, he talks about how a message is being perceived, and brings some heart and soul to cold vision statements. Bustin definitely has a larger definition of Accountability than I have. And so on some points I was surprised about the links he makes: the link of learning to accountability is somewhat of a stretch, but within his larger story I can believe it.
Net, it feels like a practical text book for organizational leaders, and I feel unable to really judge how good it is.
Disclaimer: This book has been provided by the publisher. This review reflects my own experience and opinion with this book. (less)
This book feels like the psychology version of ‘Sophie’s World’: a whole lot of psychology lessons woven into a fiction plot. I have to say that I lik...moreThis book feels like the psychology version of ‘Sophie’s World’: a whole lot of psychology lessons woven into a fiction plot. I have to say that I liked it a lot more than Sophie’s World though, but that’s probably because while I couldn't care less about philosophy, I do have an interest in psychology.
The book opens on top of the Eiffel tower. Alan Greenmor just climbed to the very edge and is about to take his own life. Just when he’s about to jump, he notices a stranger watching him and with some powerful reverse psychology Yves Dubreuil manages to make a deal with Alan: he remains alive and Yves will look after him to set him back on the right road. And that’s where the real story starts: Yves pushes Alan around with some strong tasks taken from a behaviour therapy textbook, and a lot of psychological discussion.
The writing in this book is solid and there is enough suspense to keep me going from chapter to chapter (Why is Yves doing this? What’s in it for him? How far can he push Alan?). There are some things that bothered me a bit though, and I think it’s due to the fiction non-fiction blending nature of the book: In fiction, you never want to spoon-feed information, most certainly not on background or on what drives your characters, but in non-fiction you sometimes have to bang your message home. The combination of the two made that some of the psychological parts of the book really felt overcooked to me. I also wasn't fond of the ending. I think this book would have been better without the Audrey bit. I would have preferred an open ending on how Alan would live his ‘new’ life.
Something else i liked, was the opening quote of the book by Sœur Emmanuelle, a Belgian-French catholic nun with very unorthodox views (pro-contraception! anti-celibacy for priests! can you even imagine?) and one of the few ecclesiastics I have a profound respect for. I’m not sure it’s her best quote, but it’s a nice opening to the book:
Life is a risk. If you have not risked, you have not lived. It’s what gives… that champagne taste.
Which sounds to me a bit awkward in translation, so in honour of Sœur Emmanuelle, here's the original in French: « La vie est un risque. Si tu n’as pas risqué, tu n’as pas vécu. C’est ce qui donne… un goût de champagne. »