Nyx Book Reviews

fantasy ♥ paranormal ♥ horror ♥ science-fiction

The Sunday Post #33

Sunday PostThe Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba from The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

This week I learnt that I do not cope very well with high temperatures. We’ve been having an exceptionally warm July in the Netherlands, with an all time high on July 1st of 38 degrees Celsius. The heat is making me lie around like a slug all day, chugging water and feeling overheated.

The good news is that I managed to write a coherent first draft of my thesis, so I’m enjoying my week of relaxation before I start the rewrites. I took this very tired selfie after printing the whole thing before handing it in. Luckily the end is in sight – and my supervisor has already told me my thesis (although not very good yet) is sufficient for graduating in August. Which means it’s certain that I’ll be able to start my master’s degree in September!

This week on Nyx Book Reviews

Will you look at me, all blogging and everything? I’m sharing all of my Harry Potter reading memories for Harry Potter Month. You should check out that post for the pretty pictures alone. I’ve also reviewed Shadowdance, the fourth book in the Darkest London historical paranormal romance series.

Read this week

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I had a decent reading week, with one manga and a mystery novel. Though the start of this Death Note volume was a bit dreary, towards the end it picked up speed again, and I’m looking forward to finding out how this series progresses towards the ending. The Whitstable Pearl Mystery is a nice cozy mystery featuring a coastal town close to Canterbury, where the annual oyster festival is disturbed by the discovery of two dead bodies. Though I had some issues with it, I quite enjoyed it.

How was your week?

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Review: Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan

Title: Shadowdance
Author: Kristen Callihan
Series: Darkest London #4
Rating: 4 Stars

448 pages
Published July 29th 2014 by Piatkus
Bought

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Kristen Callihan writes romance the way I like it: interesting setting (an alternate 19th century London with a touch of steampunk), interesting creatures (we got demons, shifters, and people with clockwork hearts), and interesting characters.

Mary is a Ghost in Machine, someone who has died but is given new life by being given a clockwork heart. She works for the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals, and is finally given an opportunity to prove herself in the field, rather than being behind a desk all day. She is partnered with Jack, an irritable shifter.

What I enjoy in the Darkest London series is that all pairings have a different background, catering to different tastes. Shadowdance features a hate-to-love couple; not necessarily my favourite, but I was glad with how this one worked out. Enough time was spent between the characters working out their differences and getting to know the person underneath the anger/resentment.

The non-romantic plot introduces some extra lore, again expanding the Darkest London universe. The mystery of Shadowdance wasn’t my favourite of the series, mainly because I didn’t fully grasp the connection between the villain and our main characters. That being said, it was nice to see Mary kick ass; I honestly enjoyed every scene with her.

Though the Darkest London books never cross over from “great” to “awesome” for me, they’re always solid reads that keep me entertained and make me feel good on a dreary day (the first book, Firelight being the exception to this rule). I’m looking forward to the next book, Evernight, which features Holly, the awesome scientist lady.

Blurb

Once a heart is lost in shadow…

Life has been anything but kind to Mary Chase. But the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals has given her purpose. Now she’s been tasked with catching a vicious murderer dubbed the Bishop of Charing Cross. But someone is already on the case—and the last thing he relishes is a partner.

Only someone who lives in darkness can find it.

Jack Talent has been alone with his demons for many years. He never expected to have the willful Mary Chase assist him on the Bishop case. Their age-old rivalry reaches new heights—even as their desire for one another reaches a fever pitch. Though he aches to bring her close, Jack’s dark secrets are a chasm between them. With dangerous enemies closing in, Jack must find the strength to face the past…or risk losing Mary forever.

Other reviews you might be interested in
Other books in this series
  1. Firelight
  2. Moonglow
  3. Winterblaze
  4. Shadowdance
  5. Evernight
  6. Soulbound

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My Harry Potter Collection

Two lovely ladies have teamed up for this year’s Harry Potter Month. This event hosted by Faith and Micheline celebrates anything Harry Potter. People can compete in a house cup by collecting points through participation. Like last year, I’m representing Slytherin! Because this post is so incredibly image heavy, it’s hiding behind the read more tag.

Harry Potter Month starts today, and I thought it would be nice to share my Harry Potter collection. Mine is a rather humble one, compared to the wonderful collections I’ve seen from other fans, but it’s very dear to me anyway.

Taking these books off my shelves is a little trip down memory lane. It was actually my brother who was gifted the first two. When I finished the books I got from the library, I would often troll my family’s book shelves, so at around 2001 little seven year old Celine grabbed the Dutch version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Like my brother before me, I completely devoured the two books we had, and it wasn’t long after that until our mom also started reading. We played catch up for a while, but starting with the fifth book, we had to join all those other people eagerly awaiting every release. Unlike the first four, we actually have two copies of Order of the Phoenix, so both my brother and I could read it at the same time.

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(more…)

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The Sunday Post #32

Sunday PostThe Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba from The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I did a Sunday Post. Graduation is within my reach, only a few more pages of thesis writing away… And after that, blissful summer break! I’m still taking it easy on the blogging front until I’m well and truly done, but it is so soon, my friends. I already have all of the plans for this summer, which include (but aren’t limited to) reading everything I can get my hands on, getting ahead on blogging, start developing a new website, going on a trip to Paris (eep!), and just do a whole load of nothing in between.

Since last time we spoke, I went to two fabulous music festivals, Rock am Ring and Pinkpop. Since the Foo Fighters cancelled their show on Pinkpop, tickets were incredibly cheap. I got to see Placebo, one of the bands that was on my top wishlist to see!

I’ve also been watching a bunch of Netflix lately – saw the entire first season of Grace and Frankie, half a season of Rules of Engagement, half a season of Supernatural, am caught up with Penny Dreadful, and have started The Tudors and Lilyhammer. My favourite at the moment is Penny Dreadful, and it’s been torture having to wait for new episodes every week!

This week on Nyx Book Reviews

House of Leaves wasn’t my cup of tea – and I’m not expecting to find a whole load of people who do enjoy it. In “Blogging While in College” I talk about how I struggle with writing my thesis and blogging in the meantime.

This week on Irresponsible Cactus

Over at the everything-and-nothing blog I reported on the happenings at Rock am Ring! It was quite the adventure, with sicknesses, apocalyptic storms, my 21st birthday, and awesome music. Oh, and of course, I made pictures.

Read this week

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This is what I read in the last few weeks. I’m quite pleased with the quality of the books I’ve been reading lately. I’m hovering towards lighter/shorter reads (because of obvious reasons), and it has been serving me well. Black Moon was a delicious apocalyptic story with dark and weird vibes; Pooka in My Pantry a fun and cheeky urban fantasy book with a dash of romance; Yours All Along a nice romance novella with characters I rooted for.

How was your week?

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Blogging While in College

I’ve been blogging for a very long time (for over five years – whew), and I don’t think I’ve ever had this hard a time to keep up with it. I blogged through my high school graduation, through good times and bad. And now I’m in my last few months of my bachelor’s degree and it’s kicking my butt.

A question I get asked quite often is “how do you keep up with blogging while getting your degree?” or a variation on that tune. My answer is usually some random grumbling – I read a lot on the train, I schedule posts in advance, I’m just secretly super-blog-woman. All of this is true, but it’s not exactly the reason I can combine studying and blogging that easily. What it truly comes down to is that I don’t find my study all that time-consuming. Sure, I have to write papers, go to classes for a bit, and just generally engage into study-related business. But on an average week, I would spend only about 20-ish hours on university things. That means that I have copious amounts of time to spend on any other interest I feel like pursuing. The flip side of this is that during exam period (which can span up to a month) I can clock up to 50 hours a week. I’m not saying getting my bachelor’s degree is necessarily easy for me, but I wouldn’t say it’s terribly hard either.

To brighten this post, here is a picture of me at a music festival last Sunday. I saw Placebo, it was glorious

To brighten this post, here is a picture of me at a music festival last Sunday. I saw Placebo, it was glorious

Well, I guess that notion bit me in the ass. The last few months have been crazy. I already took one university-induced break. And then I extended the break. I came back, reduced my blogging schedule, but I’m still floundering. This post isn’t so much of an excuse, but rather a look behind the screens. My blog used to run like clockwork, but now posts go through in stutters. Comments stay unanswered, my Twitter is quiet.

My thesis has become my arch enemy.

It’s probably because I never had to work all that hard before, that I’m finding writing a decent thesis so hard. I’ve churned out entire class papers in a week, some of them even in three days. I’ve never failed a test or paper in my entire bachelor’s, but somehow I feel like I can’t seem to work my magic on this thesis. It just doesn’t. want. to. get. into. shape. The writing process has been incredibly frustrating and challenging, and when I’ve worked on it for a few hours, I just want to forget all about it. So I watch a lot of Netflix and go to music festivals.

So that’s what’s been up with me lately. I’m sorry if you were looking for awesome tips to keep handle blogging while in college, because I don’t really have any at the moment. I desperately want to blog, but I feel like I just blink and another week passed by.

One way or another, this will be over soon. My thesis deadline is on July 1st. Gulp.

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DNF Review: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Title: House of Leaves
Author: Mark Z. Danielewski
Series: Standalone
Rating: 1 Star

709 pages
Published March 7th 2000 by Pantheon
Bought

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Stopped reading around page 320. This book is so meta that even meta isn’t meta enough for it. Sheesh.

As someone who has been trained in literary theory of various flavours, I do get what House of Leaves is trying to do. It seems like the author had an absolute field day putting in as many obnoxious references to various literary theories as possible.

Let’s talk narrative. The main body of the text is a pseudo-academic article about a piece of film. This article is then commented on by some random guy who has a lot of sex adventures and becomes increasingly paranoid. Those commentaries are then mentioned and bundled by nameless editors curating the work. The whole thing becomes a mess as more and more pieces of the different layers become interconnected and deconstructed.

What started as quite a fun idea, turned into boring slush. The form of the text mirrors the narrative. For example, as the article goes into discussing labyrinths, the reader’s eye is forced to go all over the page trying to take all of the footnotes in, some going nowhere, forcing you to backtrack. When the narrative mentions windows, we see a square on the page which illuminates a certain (random) piece of text. When we turn the page, we see the piece of text mirrored, exactly as it would have looked if the text had been written on a window. It’s nifty. But Mr Danielewski’s trickery didn’t make up for the fact that the story itself is incredibly dull.

When I started reading House of Leaves, I really enjoyed it. It’s deeply disturbing, both the story itself as the reading experience. It has the same nightmarish quality Kafka has, which is high praise indeed. However, every inch of enjoyment I might have had, had drained away by the 150th page. The problem is that the heart of the narrative is an extensive pseudo-academic article. If you’ve ever been forced to read an academic article, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that they don’t necessarily make for exciting reading material. They’re not too bad if you have an interest in the subject that is discussed – but when it’s a hundred page long dissertation on some fictional piece of film, I’m not on board.

The second layer of the story was okay, but didn’t move fast enough to hold my interest. House of Leaves is a book I would recommend for literature professors who would like to have a few chuckles, and no one else.

Blurb

Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

Other reviews you might be interested in

The Sunday Post #31 – It’s My Birthday!

Sunday PostThe Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba from The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Happy birthday to meee! I’m turning 21 today. I’m really in my twenties now, how weird.

I’ve scheduled this post on Wednesday, because I’m actually not here (spooky, right?). Instead I’m hanging out on the festival of Rock am Ring. The venue is different from the previous years, but I’ll basically be one of all of those people in that picture. I’m very excited, because it’ll be my first time at this particular festival! A ton of fantastic bands are playing, including the Foo Fighters, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, The Prodigy, Royal Republic, and Yellow Card. It ends tonight, so I’ll be back tomorrow (probably in a near-comatose state). No better way to celebrate your birthday than standing in a crowd with a few thousand sweaty Germans, methinks 😀

This week on Nyx Book Reviews

Instead of a readalong post, I’m discussing authors this week. There are some things authors say that make me think less of them (and no, it’s not about their political views). Secondly I’m sharing my thoughts on Cress – which aren’t very positive, sadly.

Read this week

 

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Okay, since I’m writing this before even half of the week is over, I’m slightly cheating in this section. I’m going to list the books I *think* I’ll have finished by the end of the week. I’m currently reading these two books – Shadowdance is a great romance so far, but I’m not really into the poetry of Keats.

How was your week?

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Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cress
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Rating: 2 Stars

550 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Feiwel & Friends
Bought

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Oh Cress, how I long to have enjoyed you. Both your little sisters, Cinder and Scarlet were five star reads for me. And although you are longer, you only merit half their rating.

Cress has been stuck in a satellite in orbit around earth for eight years. She is an accomplished hacker, and follows the progress of the rebels on board the Rampion ship. Her life changes drastically when the people on board contact her.

Ms Meyer lost me. Cinder was a fantastic debut. It had a likeable cyborg main character, a fascinating futuristic world, and it used its fairytale roots to its maximum. Scarlet saw Cinder and Kai separated, something I didn’t like, but we got a heartbreaking plot with Scarlet and Wolf at the center instead. Cress, however, doesn’t seem to offer anything new or interesting.

When we meet Cress in her satellite, I felt for her. The poor girl hasn’t had proper human contact in years, yet she’s still spunky and self-sufficient. The moment Cress gets caught up in a whirlwind of events, she loses her spark. All she does is hide behind others, afraid, and gets herself in trouble because of her naivete. We are told she’s an awesome hacker, but any hacking she does is off-page. She’s the classic bland damsel in distress that I though Ms Meyer was above of writing. I was hoping Cress could maybe become great friends with Iko or Cinder, but she never does.

My biggest disappointment was the plot. Cress hinges on a first, pivotal action, which was terribly executed. Let’s just say that two main characters act as if they only have one single brain cell in their heads, causing trouble that takes longer than this book to fix. I was expecting better plotting from Ms Meyer in a third book in a series. After the starting action, the speed slows down to a crawl. There are too many points of view which have to get page time to create any sense of development. The main cast is split up for too long, and their chemistry disappears. It’s clear that Cress is simply a setup for the last book in the series, Winter.

I’m very worried about Winter. As it stands now, it seems to be 800 pages long – twice the length of Cinder. Since Cress already has pacing issues at 550 pages, I can’t imagine how the author is going to manage to keep the story moving for so long. Added to that is the fact that every book introduces a new romantic love interest – but unlike in romance series, there is no happily ever after at the end of the books. None of the current pairings, Cinder and Kai, Scarlet and Wolf, Cress and Thorne, are actually in a relationship. At the end of Cress one of them gets a slightly satisfying development, but on the romantic front there isn’t enough resolution, and I’m not sure how we’re going to get four couples together in one book.

I loved Cinder. Scarlet was great. But Cress was a slog and single-handedly put me into a reading slump. It does have its good moments, but they’re few and far in between.

Blurb

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Other reviews you might be interested in
Other books in this series
  1. Cinder
  2. Scarlet
  3. Cress
  4. Winter

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I Am Suspicious of Authors Who…

Maybe it’s because of my education in culture studies and literature, or maybe I have always been this way – but for me, books are something special. They are to be craved, touched, enjoyed. They are crafted through a fascinating process of pure creation to the meticulous shaping of the perfect plot, down to the perfect sentence.

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I’ve talked before about how authors are unicorns for me – sort of shapeless sort of forms, really. They are the driving force behind the book, but I’m never truly all that interested in the authors. It’s the book I care about, not necessarily that ordinary human that’s behind it. I tend to avoid getting to know too much about them. Sometimes though, it becomes inevitable that some information trickles through.

Sometimes, the authors turn out to be awesome and kind and inspiring people. Other times their views might make you curl your lip in distaste.

There are some pointers that I encounter in interviews that makes me think less of authors – besides the obvious.

  • I’m suspicious of authors that don’t read. Are they not trying to be the best writers they can be? Don’t they love books? This makes me suspect they might be into writing for all of the wrong reasons
  • I’m suspicious of authors that stop writing after they’ve “made it”. Sadly this happens to countless best-selling authors, including Suzanne Collins, Stephenie Meyer, Markus Zusak, Deborah Harkness, and Arthur Golden. Why do they stop writing? Where did that itch to share, to tell stories, go? Did that disappear the moment they made bank?
  • I’m suspicious of authors that keep writing the same series over and over again. I understand the concept of creating a world that might fascinate endlessly, but if an author seems stuck writing the same thing repeatedly, this saddens me. Was that boundless creativity a fluke? Is the author not brilliant, but simply a one-trick pony? Cassandra Clare seems to be the epitome of this type of author.

There are some authors I thoroughly admire, like Stephen King and Joanne Rowling, who keep writing even though they have made more money out of their craft than they can realistically spend. Rowling could have chosen to live out the rest of her life, living off the Harry Potter profits, but instead of doing that she put herself out there again, writing something completely different. She’s the sort of author I aspire to be, and the sort of author I can truly root for.

Are you ever suspicious of authors? Do you stay away from certain authors for reasons like these?

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The Sunday Post #30

Sunday PostThe Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba from The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Back to thesis writing this week. I’ve been considering my overall argumentation, trying make my point clearer and fixing the structure of my paper. It’s hard work and not very easy, but it’s slowly starting to take shape. I also passed the 10k word mark this week – whoa! I’ve never written this much text for school before.

On the bright side of things, I’ve watched a movie with my boyfriend (About Time), FINALLY read some books, and finished the first season of Penny Dreadful. Go me!

This week on Nyx Book Reviews

I’ve fallen a bit behind with the Kushiel’s Dart readalong, but I’ll make up for that this week. I spent more time reading The Dragonbone Chair, the gigantic fantasy tome. I did post one review this week, on the second book in the Kate Daniels urban fantasy series.

This week on Irresponsible Cactus

Less posts on Nyx Book Reviews, more on Irresponsible Cactus. I guess that’s the way things go 😀 I’m sharing how I try to make the most of my time by using some simple productivity techniques (whoa – doesn’t that sound like a perfect click bait?), and I filmed my first vlog in ages. In it I chat a bit about what’s up in my life lately. I hope you guys check out my Youtube channel as well.

Read this week

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I DID ITTTTTT. I READ A BOOK. Not just one book, even, but THREE. Sort of, at least. One of them was a book of poems and the other a graphic novel, but honestly, I’m taking anything I can right now. All three of them were great – the first moody and atmospheric, the second funny and cute, and the third epic and thrilling. What more can one want in one week of reading?

How was your week?

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