July has really been a good reading month. I had read a lot in January through May but then in June I hit a major reading slump. I just hate those. Reading is really one of my favorite things to do but in Summer it is always harder to motivate myself to grab a book and sit down. I really don’t like heat so you won’t find me on the beach with a book (well, I might read when there is plenty of shade). My favorite readings spots are curled up in my blanket or in the tub and both seemed a little bit ridiculous when it’s July. It seems that the weather gods heard some of my prayers because it was absolutely fall weather these past few weeks. All of sudden I was back in my mojo! So, this post is meant to show you want I have read this past month with a couple of lines about the book and whether I liked it or not. Hopefully you will find some new reads!
Shipbreaker – Paolo Bacigalupi
Shipbreaker is a dystopian novel set in a future United States. Mankind has harvested all fossil fuel, so there is no longer any oil. The oil tankers that used to carry oil across the oceans are not wasting away before the coastline and has marked the beginning of a lucrative business (at least for some). Nailer works for the light crew, a crew that strips the light metal from the massive oil tankers, hard work that he will soon outgrow because he no longer fits into the small pipes of the tankers. Nailer’s world revolves around scavenge and quota’s. Few people survive the harsh circumstances without fighting, drinking or drugs. Then one day Nailer finds the perfect scavenge. But he finds more than he bargained for!
In my opinion this was solid book. At times I felt that the main characters were so young (I think they were around 14/15), that some decisions did not really make sense. The world, however, was really interesting. Whether we like it or not, there is a real possibility that we are going to run out of fossil fuels (sooner rather than later). Paolo has just created a scenario of what could happen when the world as we know it now changes. The world was also what made me like this books the most. The characters felt a little flat at times and the climax was really quick. The entire book leads up to a certain resolution and in this book it was solved way to quickly. Therefore I would say that this is a good book, but the ending could have been more lengthy. 3.5/5 stars.
Drowned Cities – Paolo Bacigalupi
Drowned Cities is the companion novel to Shipbreaker. Although it is set in the same world, it does only share one character. The main characters are living in a different area of the Shipbreaker world and come from different backgrounds. In Drowned Cities we meet Mouse and Mahlia. Mouse and Mahlia are both orphaned by the ongoing wars that devastated the city of New Orleans (now aptly called the Drowned Cities because it has been flooded). After a bad run in with a band of soldiers, one of the many factions fighting for control of the city, Mahlia lost her hand. Luckily a local doctor has taken them in and learned Mahlia how to treat patients. One day they find a half-man in the jungle, a beast genetically engineered for war, who takes Mouse captive. Mahlia now has to decide whether to risk everything to save him or get as far away as possible to save herself.
Mahlia, in comparison with Nailer from Shipbreaker, was a much better developed character. She appears to be older but at least thinks things through. As with Nailer there is a lot of naive behaviour but it somehow fits better with her character. Mahlia and Mouse are more real. They are not idealistic or delusional: at times this means that things are not always happy ending. Where Shipbreaker was more about the world building, Drowned Cities was much more focused on character development. Sometimes I just saw it click in the character. Hard to explain but it ultimately led to a much better book. Combined with the world I gave this book 4/5 on Goodreads.
Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone is set in a fantasy world based on Russia, called Ravka. Alina is an orphan and is a cartographer in the King’s service. Then one day she discovers she has a unique gift: she might hold the key to stop the Shadow Fold from spreading. The Shadow Fold is darkness and in it nothing can live. Created by a Darkling hundreds of year before it has been attacking all those that dare to cross its boundaries. The Grisha, men and women with special magical abilities, are helping to protect the king of Ravka and the ruling Darkling but even the cannot break the impenetrable darkness of the Fold. But now that Alina has discovered her gift and receives Grisha training there might still be hope for the people of Ravka.
Shadow and Bone is the perfect fantasy novel for ‘beginner’ fantasy readers. On the one hand Ravka is fictional and magical but on the other hand there are many elements that you might recognize from Russian culture and/or history. This makes the book really accessible The magic system is easy and the first book is straightforward. There are not many storylines to keep track off, just one: that of main character Alina Starkov. At points I though that the main character was too naive, but I have heard that this problem is fixed in the two sequels. I also hope that the second book goes a little bit more in-depth in the world. I would love to have some extra history on Ravka. Right now it is interesting but I think Leigh Bardugo could have given her readers much more! After I finish my next read I’ll pick up Siege and Storm, book 2 in the Grisha trilogy to see if I like that one just as much. 4/5 stars on Goodreads.
World Without End – Ken Follett
This book is absolutely massive: a whopping 1056 pages to be precise. I started reading this book the regular way aka in paperback version. For some reason I just couldn’t get through it. World Without End is historical fiction, and as you might know by now I love history. Despite the interesting time period of this book (during the reign of King Edward the Second) it was just too much information. Since a couple of months I have been a member of Audible (an Amazon company), a subscription service for 1 audiobook a month. Because I just couldn’t get into the book even though I really enjoyed the first, I decided to give the audiobook a try. This made a world of difference! I was pretty scared by the size of the audiobook: 46 hours!! I took me quite some time to finish this one. I think about 3 months. In the end though it made all the difference. The narrator John Lee was excellent. He had a really nice voice to listen to and he was consistent with the voices of each character throughout!
So lets just back up a bit: World Without End is the companion novel/sequel to Pillars of the Earth. World Without End like Pillars of the Earth is set in Kingsbridge, England. Some of the characters WWE are descendants from Jack Builder from Pillars of the Earth. As you can imagine quite some time has passed between the two books (about two centuries). The story of WWE takes place from 1327 to 1361 (but not all years are covered) to see a full life of the people of Kingsbridge. The book centers around four main characters that have a chance meeting that throws their fates together, destined to stay entwined for the rest of their lives. Some people commented that this book looks a lot like Pillars of the Earth. Personally I did not really see this connection that much, but I can imagine that if you read these back to back there are a lot of similarities in plot lines and character traits. Despite the lengthiness of this book I really liked it and I therefore give it a 4.5/5 stars!