At First Glance: Gunslinger

At first glance is a new feature I am launching here on Rantings, Ravings and Ramblings. I base this new feature on the book Rat’s First Impressions feature. Just like her I will give my opinion on a book after having read only a small part of it so far.

On the menu today:

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)

The Gunslinger, by Stephen King. It’s the first book in the Dark Tower series. I am reading the Dutch translation of the book, this was done by Hugo Timmerman and Hugo Kuipers.

So far not so good. This book came to me highly recommended by multiple people but I’m finding it really hard to get into. It’s not that the general story doesn’t appeal to me, it’s more the writing that is rubbing me the wrong way. Seeing as it’s a translation I can’t tell you for sure if it’s King’s writing I dislike, or if it’s the translators’s work on this book that I don’t enjoy. I’m guessing it’s more King’s work that I don’t like as much, seeing as it’s the way things are described in the book, where the writing focusses in its descriptions of things. The story itself is starting off pretty slow, but I’m intruiged. I will definitely continue reading this book, if only for the great reviews and the intrigue of finding out who the gunslinger is following (and what makes a gunslinger so special).

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Review: All the light we cannot see – Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr
 Goodreads Synopsis:
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

This is a book where I went in blind (pun not intended). I pretty much just picked it up because I liked the title and kept on seeing it pop up all over the place.But I was so happy that I did pick up this book, and maybe I wouldn’t have if I had known the theme of the book. Because in general I tend to stay away from books that take place during either of the World Wars. It’s not that I hate reading about it, but it’s just not something I willl find myself longing to read about. But in any case, I did pick it up and I thouroughly enjoyed this book.
The writing in this book was very gorgeous. The prose stood out to me in a very positive way, with me often thinking of how beautifully something was phrased. There was also such attention for detail, which really did give the whole story a very realistic feeling. I liked that there were about 4 storylines converging in this book. If you read the synopsis you might think that I have two storylines too many in that count, but I just think that there are four different starting points from which we go forward, which I highly enjoyed. (If you are stil confused, just pick up the book and you’ll see what I mean).
All the characters in the book felt very realistic. This story is about two interesting people who are becoming steadily more interesting by meeting and interacting with new people. Especially in this time-period, the way people interact carries very big consequences. This book very beautifully shows us what war does to the small people. It’s not about the important people at all. It’s about the people that had nothing to do with the situation but that got sucked into it regardless.
The only thing that was not 100% my cup of tea is the pacing. At times it was just that little bit too slow. The whole book was not very fast paced but often I did not have a problem with it. But there were a couple of parts in the book where there was too little happening for too many pages.
In my opinion the emotionality to this book just keeps building and building throughout the book, and by the end of it all you just feel heartbroken. The lives that these charaters lived is just so unlike what we’re going through in the western world. And the way that the story is told really lends itself to that slow buildup of sadness in your heart for all the things these people had to endure and how they were shaped by the situations of their time.
“Now it seems there are only shadows and silence. Silence is the fruit of the occupation; it hangs in branches, seeps from gutters…So many windows are dark. It’s as if the city has become a library of books in an unknown language, the houses great shelves of illegible volumes, the lamps all extinguished.”
— All The Light We cannot See

Review: Those Girls by Lauren Saft

Those Girls

Those Girls

Lauren Saft
Goodreads Synopsis:

Some girls will always have your back, and some girls can’t help but stab you in it.

Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good?

Lauren Saft masterfully conveys what goes on in the mind of a teenage girl, and her debut novel is raw, honest, hilarious, and thought-provoking, with a healthy dose of heart.

I’ll start of by saying that I read this book in one go. This was mostly because it was captivating in the same way that a horrible car-accident is. That’s not to say that there isn’t a redeeming quality about this book, because there is: the writing. But good writing alone is not enough to save this book from itself, the flat characters and the hollow story.
The three main characters in this book are supposed best friends, but along the way I just kept on wondering why they even bother calling each other friends and how they ever thought that they should call each other that. Throughout the entire book they seemed to have to force any contact between them. If it had been in the light of “drifting apart because of puberty” that would have been okay, I could have enjoyed that. But even in the flashbacks to the earlier days, they just didn’t really seem to be friends, let alone best friend material. They are continually very mean to each other and they seem to need a lot of alcohol to showcase any honesty. These girls are as mean to their best friends as I wouldn’t even dream of being to people I actually dislike. There’s alos a couple of boys that play a somewhat bigger role in this book but they left me wanting for more depth. There’s the jerk, who is very one-dimensional. There is the sort of boyfriend, who is never given enough attention for us to really care about. And there is the “nice” guy who still says some not okay things but is the only one that makes a rational decision by the end of the book. None of the characters seemed like real people, and I’m not saying that because I disliked pretty much all of them. I’m not saying that teenagers can’t be interested in what these kids are interested in. Nor am I saying that real people can’t be this mean to each other. But there just doesn’t seem to be anything more to these people. We don’t find out what drives them to this meanness, we don’t see how they ever had good days as friends. Everyone seems like a hollow shell of stereotypes, of what teenagers these days are expected to be by some people.
Throughout the story there is so much deceit, lying and just general dishonesty going on that it felt hard to connect with these characters. That along with the fact that the focus of this book was mostly on sex, drugs and alcohol made this book feel like a watered down version of a book that could be something. These girls are horrible to each other, they lie and they cheat. But if there had been some honesty or just a realisation about how their behavior is just really awful, it might have given the story a bit more body. As it is, there isn’t a whole lot of story throughout this book. In the end there is an event that could have led to some more meaningful conversations between these girls. Or at least a small revelation here or there, because that event is pretty gruesome in what it could have entailed. Instead they pretend like nothing really happened and there doesn’t seem to be a need for these best friends to talk about this crisis.
As you can see I was not impressed by this book, though the writing really was pretty strong. I guess it just wasn’t enough to really make me like this book. There were just too many flaws here, and it’s really a shame because there was potential in this story. I’m not saying that every book should be some kind of morality lesson, or convey this huge message. This novel just lacked direction and real characters.

Review: Is everyone hanging out without me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

 Mindy Kaling
Goodreads Synopsis:

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

So this was me diving into non-fiction again, and it once again confirmed me in sticking with fiction. It’s not that this book was horrible, not at all, I enjoyed it for a non-fiction book. But  the essential part for me in that sentence is “for a non-fiction book”.  I like Mindy Kaling as a comedian and I did think there were some really funny bits in this book. But non-fiction just doesn’t seem to be able to capture my attention  the same way that fiction does. It fails to have that pull on me that keeps me coming back for more, that just gets me hooked to the story to the point that I just really want to keep reading this book. While I did sort of enjoy this while I was reading I had to push myself to pick it up from time to time which is never a great feeling when reading a book. The enjoyment I got from reading this book didn’t even come close to the type of joy I get from reading a really good fiction book, and the biggest part of that is that reading non-fiction doesn’t just drag me away in this story.

But as I said, this book is fun to read. It’s like a bunch of sketches collected in a book. The writing is clever and I love that despite the editing,  the writing still sounded like Mindy. As in all comedian’s show is the case: some things will work better for you than others; and this book has the same thing going for it. Some bits are just funnier than others are, but someone else might disagree with me completely on what the funny parts are.

This will not be the last non-fiction book I ever read, though I don’t think I’ll be picking one up again real soon. Maybe it’s just about finding the right type of non-fiction book for me. Maybe I just need mine to feel more like story while it still talks about true events, who knows. In any case: I do recommend this book to people who like Mindy Kaling and her sketches, this is pretty much exactly that, but only written down (or if you prefer the audiobook: Mindy Kaling is the narrator, so that’s fun).

The Graphic Novel Reviews (Saga, Glass swords & Largo Winch)

So recently I’ve read some graphic novels and I thought I’d share my thoughts. If you want to find out more about the book, click the cover which will take you to its Goodreads page. Seeing as these books are for the most part not originally English, I’ve had some trouble finding the English pages on Goodreads/ covers in English. I tried, I swear, but some things can’t be helped.

Saga vol. 1

So I’ve seen a lot of very positive reviews on this graphic novel so I thought it was about time I looked into it. And when I came across the book in my local library, the time had finally come. But if I’m completely honest I really wasn’t blown away by this graphic novel. The artwork was amazing, the basic storyline was also good. But it just felt a bit all over the place to me. Maybe this is because I’m not really used to reading graphic novels that it felt a bit haphazard with all that jumping around from one seemingly random scene to the next. I also found that it lacked a bit of depth, and I think this ties in with the way the story jumped around. Some things were just very blatantly put down in writing and I lacked a little of the subtle art of storytelling. There were just a lot of things that were so vulgarly said that I felt drawn out of the story, because in my experience people seldomly communicate like this.  I might check out the second volume if I come across it in the library but I won’t go looking for it. But you never know, maybe if I read more of the book it will redeem itself a little on those sore points.

 Saga, Vol. 1

The glass swords (book 1, 2 and 3)

In my same library-run that brought me Saga, I also came across this series of graphic novels and it looked interested so I took them home. These three books did end up sitting better with me than Saga because it just felt like the storyline felt more structured. It was going places that my mind could follow. The dialogue was sometimes a bit over the top which took away from authentic feeling dialogues. Sometimes things were being said that I felt could be shown instead. But I liked the story, and the characters. The fact that the main protagonist is a strong female just makes the whole thing cooler also. I will definitely be looking for the next books in the series to see how the story continues.

 The Swords of Glass Ilango (Die Gläserenen Schwerter, 2) Tigran (Die gläsernen Schwerter # 3)

Largo Winch series (books 1-19) *

This was actually a re-read for the most part, because I read a good part of these when I was younger. But I was hoping that by re-reading them I would understand the economic issues better this time around. And I have to say that I really did understand the economy better and it really did help to make the story more interesting (if you’ve read these books you will definitely understand why this is the case). Because understanding the big lines is ok, but there’s definitely enough explanation to really understand the magnitude of the events that take place. This does mean that at times there is a lot of dialogue going on in these books, but I don’t really mind (though this might be because I’m just so used to reading novels that I am used to an abundance of text). I liked how these books are actually all paired up (you can even tell by the cover because the titles will be in the same font if they are part of the same story arc) though I will say that I’m very happy to be reading them a while after they came out (so I don’t have to wait forever with a giant cliffhanger in my mind).

De Erfgenaam (Largo Winch, #1) Groep W (Largo Winch, #2) O.P.A. (Largo Winch, #3) Business Blues (Largo Winch, #4) H (Largo Winch, #5) Dutch Connection (Largo Winch, #6)  La forteresse de Makiling (Largo Winch, #7) Het Uur van de Tijger (Largo Winch, #8)  See Venice... (Largo Winch #9) ... And Die Golden Gate (Largo Winch, #11) Shadow (Largo Winch, #12) The Price of Money: Largo Winch Vol. 9 The Law of the Dollar The Three Eyes of the Guardians of the Tao  The Way and the Virtue Cold Black Sea: Largo Winch Red-Hot Wrath: Largo Winch Crossfire (Largo Winch, #19)

*So far I’ve technically only read the first 16 books in this series, but I will soon be reading the other three and I’m fairly certain the quality of the graphic novels won’t disintegrate at too steep a pace ;)