Unapologetic Reviews

My reviews, My views, No apologies

The Black Prism - Brent Weeks

I started reading The Black Prism because one of my English students recommended it to me. I’m a big fan of fantasy, and I had been in a book funk lately. Anything I tried, I just couldn’t get into. However, I started to read this book. I put it down, and kept thinking about it, and that was when I knew, I had a series to read. Finally!


The story itself in a way is standard fantasy. There are rich and poor people, a coming war, feuding, magic users vs non-magic users. What sets it apart partly is the magic system. It was very interesting, though at first a bit hard to comprehend. It’s common nowadays to not actually explain stuff, but just have the reader gradually find them out. It did make it hard to understand in the beginning. I often wish people would just have a foreword to explain these things. It makes it a bit hard to get into the story, because you spend your brainpower trying to work out a complicated fantasy magic system. Once I got it though, I do like how it works.


The main reason why I really got into the story was one of the main characters, Kip. An overweight, kind of a loser, barely teen boy with a mouth on him. Usually, the main characters are special. He is kind of special, but he’s also really terrible at most things. I’ve never been a teen boy, but I find it immensely funny how he keeps having inappropriate thoughts in the worst moments possible. I also love how he’s not skinny. Most of my life, I’ve been overweight. He is a lot like me in that he hates his fat, but it’s not really something he can help. So while Kip is special, like most main characters nowadays, he still has qualities that make him more relatable.


My other favourite character is Gavin. Now, my student looked at me kind of funny when I said this, so I may come to not like him so much in the future, but for now, I do. From the first moment, he is kind of a mystery. There are hints that some things are going on in the background that we don’t know about. There had been one big reveal in the book, and I really loved it, since I never saw it coming. However, there are still some unanswered questions. It keeps the reader really engaged, because you just want to find out the answers.


My one problem with the book was the battle scenes. Honestly, after a while, they were dragging on, and I was having a hard time following in my head. It could just be me, because I’ve had a similar problem with other writers. I’m just not a big fan of battles.


Overall, I really liked the book. I recommend it to fans of fantasies with good magic systems, or with big battles. I’m definitely reading on, and already snuck a peek at the next book, even though I should be doing other stuff. It’s on my Kindle now though, so I’m definitely reading more today. I only gave it 4 stars, because 5 stars go to books like Harry Potter. The kind where I never want to let go.


Cross-posted at Unapologetic Reviews, where you can find more reviews.

Really enjoyable audiobook version

The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman

I listened to this book as an audiobook. I actually enjoyed it in this format very much. It was mainly read by the author, but it also had a full cast for the characters. Much better than when a male reader tries to imitate female voices. Though sometimes that can be very funny. It reminded me of the fairy tale cassettes I used to fall asleep to as a child.


The story itself is about a girl, Lyra. It's obvious from the first moment that she's one of those destined children so popular in fantasy fiction. She's also 11, which is a common age to start child characters off. Lyra is a smart and cunning child. One of those natural leaders that can be the next Martin Luther King Jr., or the next Stalin. Which one she will become depends entirely on her basic temperament and life experiences. She is also very adaptable, just like her daemon. Whatever environment she finds herself in, she becomes part of it. She does feel like a normal child though. Sometimes children in stories are like mini-adults, but she isn't. I do find it interesting that a man picks a little girl to write about, while a similar destined character, Harry Potter, was written by a woman.


Daemons are the very core of the story. At first, I didn't feel they were properly explained. I got that daemons were the souls of people, but how they could function only became clearer as the story progressed. Daemons were the true forms of souls. They revealed the hidden desires, personalities, thoughts of people. It would be nice to have a daemon in real life. According to a Buzzfeed test, mine would be a cat.


There are some other characters, that were very intriguing, and a joy to read about. My personal favourites were the witches. Interestingly enough, they're the non-Christian characters, though they also seem to have some sort of a religion. I loved how Serafina Pekkala talked about the life of witches, how their longevity was a blessing and a curse.


The armoured bears were also interesting. I was especially intrigued by Iofur Raknison. He is a bear, who wants to be a man to be baptised. In a way, he reminded me of many peoples that decided to convert to Christianity, shunning their own native cultures. It wasn't properly explained though, what his motivations were. Maybe a form of self-hate. Hating being a bear, because he thought being a man would be more. Or he wanted the absolution for the things that he had done that the Catholic Church offers to people. To be free of his sins. Of course, sins can only be forgiven by ourselves if we want to be free of them, and some sins are purely imaginary, like the whole Original Sin idea. Religion tells you, you are sick, and they have the cure. The only trouble is, most people aren't sick at all. If you do have true sins, like Iofur, the forgiveness of others has no real meaning. It can help people to find a way to forgive themselves, which is probably what Iofur is really seeking, but in the end, the matter has to be dealt with on the inside of every person.


The story is about the importance of self, of thinking, free will. The evil people in the story are basically all those religious organisations that try to tell people how and what to think. I'm not completely sure yet what dust is exactly, but I have a few theories. I'm sure the story will be more and more about religion, having listened to Philip Pullman in interviews, but I'm curious as to where he will take the story. I do have the whole series as audiobooks, and lots of time to listen to them as I come and go.


This book can be read two ways. As a child, seeing the adventure, the evil characters, and cheering Lyra on. Or as an adult, observing the underlying themes, thinking about how freethinking has been hampered, progress, imagination stiffened by religion. I know, probably lots of religious parents are scared to give the book to their children, because of the very thing that I've written. However, if their religion is true, should it not withstand the test of reading fiction?


I do recommend this book. It's great fun, though brace yourselves for the ending. In a way, on its own, it was a bit like The Hunger Games' brand of dystopia. Also makes you think. Who ever said that books that made you think about religion had to be boring?


Read my review of the movie as well! I do compare it with the book.


Cross-posted at http://unapologetic-reviews.blogspot.com, where you can find more reviews.


Today I walked around the place where I live. It snowed last night, so I got my camera and decided to just go crazy with it. My face almost froze from the wind, but it was worth it.

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

I've been meaning to read this book for a while. I started to do the Popsugar challenge, and this fit in with the murder mystery novel.


The circumstances under which I started reading were a bit funny. I was on a train to London, heading from one Swan hotel to another. I happen to work in a Swan hotel. If you read the book, you get the hotel bit.


The story itself unfolds in the account of three women. While it jumps around a bit in time, it doesn't feel confusing. The killer isn't impossible to figure out, you get all the clues. I knew who it was around 60%. It's not so bad, I often know around 20%.


The main character is Rachel, who is a bit of a train wreck. Her life is at a standstill, and she's unable to move on. The funny thing is that getting mixed up in the whole mystery is not a bad thing, possibly one of the best things ever to happen to her. Though from where she is, the only way is up.
Megan is another character we follow. Her life isn't all that great either, though in part it seems like it's of her own making. We can excuse some of her behaviour by the things that happened to her, but a different person would have handled it differently. However, after the initial catalyst some of her actions feel unexplained, like something is still missing. Not vital to the story, but the character.
Anna is the third woman. She's different from the other two, and appears the happiest. However, one must remember that not all that glitters is gold.
Apart from the mystery, that is very much the theme of the book. You see people from the outside, and think their life is perfect, and they’re happy. Then you read their diary, and discover that isn't even remotely so.


Overall, I enjoyed the book. It didn't have much actual action, but I was curious as to how it was going to play out. If you like action though, this isn't really for you, since the story is actually a lot of walking around and talking to each other.


Cross-posted at http://unapologetic-reviews.blogspot.com, where you can find more reviews.

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

I really want to like this book, but I'm on chapter 19, and I'm bored. The language is beautiful, and there is an atmosphere, but nothing much is happening. Will it pick up at all? It's like listening to classical music. It's nice and all, but 5 minutes in I'm switching to dance music.

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

It took a while for me to get into it, but now I'm curious as to how it's going to turn out. That will cover my mystery book for my reading challenge too.

Let me start out by saying that I haven't read the books. So if you're expecting some sort of comparison, not in this review. Though the books have been on my list for about a decade, maybe I'll finally read them.


MTV makes TV shows. It was odd at first, after all, first it was music, then reality shows, and now, TV shows. I was sceptical at first. That is, before I saw Teen Wolf. I kept hearing about it, so one day I decided to give the first season a shot. About 10 hours later, I couldn't stop watching it. Now with The Shannara Chronicles I was hoping for more of the same. Let me tell you, it didn't disappoint. When is the next episode again?


So I'm writing this 3 episodes into the series. Let's start with the visuals. Every good fantasy has to wow us with the visuals, that's sort of a given. It certainly does. One thing I didn't know about the world was that it's actually set on a future Earth. The pictures in the show never make us forget this. Sometimes boldly, like the remains of what I think is the radio astronomy observatory in New Mexico, to a toy in the bottom of a river. There is something poetic about these reminders of us. Then there are the new buildings. The elven palace is just as beautiful as it should be. They sure didn't spare any expense here.


The cast is a mix of relative newcomers and old dogs. While looking at the work of some of the main characters shows that they haven't done too much, they blend in well with the likes of John Rhys-Davies, who plays the king. There is definitely talent there.


The story itself is exciting. Straight from the beginning we are plunged into events that move the story along. No lengthy sitting around wondering about what's going on, but straight into action. I'm someone who likes that sort of thing, so it swept me along right from the first moment. When is the next episode again?


So if you love fantasy, action, magic, this is the show you want to watch. It's probably not going to be the one that tries to resolve the philosophical questions of our age, but who cares! Jump on the horse, and ride along with these characters, because it's shaping up to be one great adventure! Again, next episode MTV? 


Cross-posted at http://unapologetic-reviews.blogspot.com, where you can find more reviews.

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

It just gets worse...

Fifty Shades Darker - E.L. James

In a way, I got desensitized by now against some aspects of this god awful story. The bad writing is a given. The facepalm moments with the Inner Goddess and the subconsciousness are also there. It never really stops being disturbing that Ana basically has three people in her head with their own personalities. Maybe she's actually a schizophrenic in a mental institution and all this is in her head. What an idea! Something like in Sucker Punch. She's actually being abused by a guy there, but in her head he's Grey, and they are having a love affair.


You may be wondering what happens in this book. Actually, I'm kind of wondering about that myself. The only way I could actually finish this thing was by listening to it being read out by Mark. This books is really boring, and about three things happen in it. The rest is sex. I think probably even a porn addict would be fed up. This is where it's obvious that the book used to be fanfiction. Fanfics are updated once a week at best, and that way you get the sex scenes in instalments. Being read one after the other becomes too much, especially because the plot is almost non-existent.


In a way, the first book was actually a lot better than the second. It had more things going on, and there was some conflict. I almost enjoyed that in a "shout at the insanity of the book" way. There isn't too much conflict in this one, and if there is, it gets quickly swept under the rug by either sex or alcohol. Not necessarily by Christian. There is one case where an uninvited guest comes into Christian's apartment, who sends Ana away to deal with it. So far so good. So what does Ana and another person do? Go for a drink.

I just don't have much to say about it, since it's really just glorified porn at this point.


Overall, I'm wondering what I'd rather do; bang my head against a wall, or read this.


Cross-posted at http://unapologetic-reviews.blogspot.com, where you can find more reviews.

Okay Doctor Who book

Doctor Who: Royal Blood - Una McCormack

I haven't read a Doctor Who book in a while, and when I saw this at WHSmith, I had to grab it. It was a good book, but I felt it lacked in some ways.


The story itself was intriguing with the mixture of medieval and modern equipment and surroundings. Trying to evade a war is never easy, but in a way the plot was given away from the start. The search for the artefact felt glossed over. Probably the biggest problem of the book was that the author was trying to keep it short, but by doing that was afraid to get into anything in detail. Most of the book was taken up by talking, plotting, without anything much actually happening.


The Doctor seemed to play a minor character here, and I found that that must have been because the author didn't have a good grasp of him. It was a bit strange, because one of her other books, The Way Through the Woods is actually one of my favourite Doctor Who books.

Clara was more of a central character in the story, getting mixed up in trying to stop a war. She seemed to have gone rogue, acting on her own.

Bernhardt was the author's own character. For some reason, his parts were in first person. This constant change of perspective was very strange. I do see the point in it, but the story was disjointed because of it. 


Overall, it was an interesting story, but lacked depth and excitement. Hence only three stars, since it wasn't bad, just not enough.


Cross-posted at http://unapologetic-reviews.blogspot.com, where you can find more reviews.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Flooding in Cumbria, where I live

For anyone wondering, I'm okay. I live on a hillside that's pretty built in, so it doesn't look like it's moving anywhere. Keswick is as bad as it looks. It seems like the road between Grasmere and Keswick won't be passable this year anymore.

The End of a Great Series

Winter - Marissa Meyer

Winter is the last novel in the Lunar Chronicles, which was kind of sad. I discovered the series a few years ago, and devoured the first two books. They had the perfect blend of adventure and romance, without the romance overpowering the adventure, as so often happens with books aimed at young adults. Frankly, I like some romance with my adventure, but if there is too much of it, I get bored. Then throw the book against the wall.

This book I started with a mix of anticipation and sadness. I wanted to find out how Cinder would get her throne, since she obviously would, but I knew that once I turned the last page, that would be the end of my adventures with the girls. Yes, I did tear up in the end for these very reasons.


The story itself is the longest, and the most complex of the series. There are times when I wonder how they're going to get out of the situation. All the girls have their roles to play, the end result could not be reached by the end. I also liked how no one comes out without reminders of the things they've gone through. It's very hard to write about the story without spoilers, but suffice to say, yes, it does take place on Luna, and we actually do get to see a great deal of it. It makes me hope that some day we do see the series made into film, because I would love to see it all on the big screen. However, I somehow think it would be better as an anime. Probably because of the Sailor Moon influence, but I kind of saw them as anime characters in my head.


Cinder is not the centre of the story. She is kind of the main character, but everyone is equally important, and gets equal time. These books are, in a way, very feminist. Cinder is a mechanic, Cress a hacker, Scarlet a bad-ass farmer, kind of like a pioneer woman. Winter has some issues, but in spite of her problems and limitations, she still gets things done. It could be said, that Winter does it with her feminine beauty, but that's not actually true. She wins people by paying attention to them. Her beauty comes from an inner gentle heart, and that is really what people respond to.


Levana is the villain. I thought a bit about if it would have been better to have a man as the antagonist, but not really. There are some issues that are brought up that can be talked about even outside the world of the book. After all, she was hurt by her sister, so she hurt her niece, and her people the same way. We could have pity for her, and Cinder does as well, but the truth is, she could have been a better person with what happened to her. Often, in the real world, people who have injuries, bad things happen to them, we treat them as saints, and expect them to be pure. We make allowances for them. The truth is, most of the time, their experiences don't make them good people. If they were good to start with, they will be good afterwards. However, if they weren't, they'll just be worse after their negative experiences, because often they feel entitled to be mean.


The guys in the story do their fair share, they're not there just to look pretty. While they are protective of the girls, they don't try to stop them from doing what they need to. They all work together as a team of equals.


Overall, a very good finish to the series. I did stall reading it at times, but that was more about prolonging getting to the end, than not wanting to read. I know the author is going to publish a collection of short stories, which I'll read, but I wouldn't mind if she thought of another series in the same world. I wouldn't mind going back. The question now is, what to read next that won't feel like rubbish after this?


Cross-posted at http://unapologetic-reviews.blogspot.com, where you can find more reviews.

A story from the FLDS

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs - Elissa Wall, Lisa Pulitzer

Many years ago, I've seen reports on a group called "FLDS", and their prophet, Warren Jeffs. I remember Oprah talking to a group of girls looking like something out of House on a Prairie, who said how their one goal in life was to get married. Having been a student of Gender Studies, and chosen religions as my focus, I was saddened by how these girls were brainwashed into thinking that was all they were good for. I wanted to get married and have children all my life myself. However, I also wanted other things, and was ever so glad that I had options, opportunities unlike most women before me, and a lot of women even now.

Mormons had been a special interest to me, since they were a major focus of my thesis paper that served as the conclusion of my university studies. I've learned a lot about their beliefs, and it always fascinated me how people could believe so much in something that had been so obviously constructed as a fraud.


I had been looking at books connected to getting out of religions, when Amazon brought up this book as something that would interest me. I decided to download a sample. Once the sample finished, I eagerly downloaded the whole book. I was fascinated by the story. I have always been curious about people who lived different lives than mine, and a girl growing up in a religious sect that for the most part lived in the 19th century, was about as different as possible.

At the start of the story we learn that at fourteen she was forced to marry her first cousin, Allen, whom she disliked for some reason. However, the story then takes us back to a much earlier time, even to before her parents were even married. It was a very interesting look into the workings of polygamous households, the FLDS, prophets, religious schools, all sorts of things. In a way, the marriage itself was just the cherry on the top.

In a way, life in the FLDS must have its good sides. Close community, keeping together is something that I've never had much experience of. However, the religion, and the whole make-up is just ripe for abuse. It wasn't so bad with the previous prophet, but only because the previous prophet wasn't such a bad man. He wasn't good either, but he sometimes tried. That's the problem with closed sects. All the people brain-washed to surrender their critical thinking, their scepticism, their rationality to a religion, a man, are just waiting to be exploited.

This sadly, is the same with all religion, but not exclusive to them. Ideologies aside from religion can have the same impact. That is why we should always keep our wits about us, and employ critical thinking to everything.

I must admit, I kind of hoped she would become an atheist. True, with all the things that had happened to her, Elissa probably needed her faith to support her hope of a better life. However, I feel a bit that she had placed in the hands of an outsider the very deeds she had done, and others as well. For it was humans that helped her get out. Her friends and family that supported her, and above all, it was her strength that lead her to not take the easy way and just submit, but to stand up for herself and her sisters. She sees a god in there, somewhere. All I see is good people. In the end, that is all we really have, each other.


Cross-posted at http://unapologetic-reviews.blogspot.com, where you can find more reviews.

I'm back!


No book review now, but I'e been very busy with work, doing 12 hours shifts at the hotel. When I can get out, this is where I live. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

My life is about to change

This isn't really about books, I just wanted to tell you guys about how my life is about to change. So some of you may have noticed that I live in Hungary. I just turned 33, and a couple of things happened recently, that made me look at my life, and think about what I want to do. I almost lost my job. This made me look harder for another one. I've had a desk job for 8,5 years, the last 6 at the same company. I have chronic neck pain. Since I lost 13 kg, I have a hard time sitting, because I have so little meat left, and haven't been able to gain much muscle. In the past few months, my elbows started to hurt from keeping my arms bent all the time. My fingers hurt from all the typing. I have come to realise that I can't sit and work in front of a computer for 9 hours every day anymore. Not to mention that I'm very bored of my job. I also realised I'm bored of Hungary.


I got a new job on Friday. It's scary and amazing. It's just a receptionist job at a hotel, but what a place that hotel is in! It's in the Lake District, England. It means leaving behind everything I know, everyone I know. I'll be far away from family, friends. However, I feel that it will be for the better. That place is beautiful. I plan on doing a lot of writing. I haven't had inspiration for a long while.


Have any of you went through something similar?

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