The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist, #1)

…for only a madman believes what every child knows to be true: There are monsters that lie in wait under our beds.

Let me start by saying that if you’re easily disgusted this is not the book for you. At all. There’s some serious gore going on here guys and my stomach doesn’t turn itself easily (I’m studying to be a biologist, so really, that would be a bad thing), so believe when I say this. There’s lots of blood and Yancey describes death with careful precision, perhaps even too much precision. Kind of like this:

As he spoke, the doctor tapped thin strips of flesh from the forceps into the metal tray, dark and stringy, like half-cured jerky, a piece of white material clinging to one of two of the strands, and I realized he wasn’t peeling off pieces of the monsters flesh: The flesh belonged to the face and neck of the girl.

And it gets worse as it goes. This sounded like an early teen’s book (or even children’s lit) when I picked it up, but since it’s so gory and disgusting I’m not exactly sure. That being said I can now get on with the review.

The Monstrumologist takes place at the late 1800s and is the written account of Will Henry’s time as a monstrumologist’s assistant, a man called Pellinore Warthrop. This is the first installment in the series and it covers Will’s first three ‘journals’, in which he and the Dr. Warthrop encounter a headless monster, Anthropophagus, living in their hometown’s cemetery and feeding off the corpses buried there. But Anthropophagus normally feed on living flesh and soon corpses won’t be good enough for them.

I really liked this book, despite the kind of meh reviews I’ve seen on Goodreads, and can’t wait to read the other two books in the series. I thought it was cleaver, with a nicely woven plot. I’m happy with the character development (though it’s not really a character driven book, I think) and thoroughly enjoyed the action scenes (bloody as they were). I also loved the illustrations it has on every other page, all medical tools of some sort drawn on the edges of the pages, like scissor and needles and things. It gave the book an even creepier feel.

I liked Will, I felt like he was very mature for his age (which is 12 by the way), since he had to basically take care of himself and help the doctor with his work. We get the clear message that he doesn’t like it, but he doesn’t go around whining about it or feeling sorry for himself. He was just a quiet little boy with a strange mentor.

He turned the severity of his countenance fully upon me, startling me from my semi-stupor, for suddenly I existed again. I was dead; I was reborn. I was forgotten, and in the blink of an eye – his eye – the world remembered me.

Warthrop, though, is an entirely different story. I didn’t care for him through most of the book, I just wanted to shake him and point out that Will Henry was right there if he’d just care to look, thank you very much. I like that we get to see why he’s relationship with Will is the way it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.

I did not think the doctor was a monster that hunted monsters, but I was about to meet a man who did – and was.

My favorite character was probably the worst of the lot, so I can’t really complain about Warthrop. John Kearns (or whatever his name actually is) is cunning, cold and a murderer. He doesn’t care for any one’s life (not even his own) and will do anything to achieve his goals. He called people out on their hypocrisy and twisted morals a lot. I really wished we could see some of his past, because it must have been gruesome. And the plot twist in the end? Brilliant, Mr. Yancey. I hope he’ll show up in the other books (though I was cursing him through half of this one).

“We are very much like them: indiscriminate killers, ruled by drives little acknowledged and less understood, mindlessly territorial and murderously jealous – the only significant difference being that they have yet to master our expertise in hypocrisy, the gift of our superior intellect that enables us to slaughter one another in droves, more often than not under the auspices of an approving god!”

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

ImageI finished reading Shadow and Bone about a week ago and might be a little fuzzy on the details, but I needed to let this story rest for a while before I could talk about it. I absolutely devoured this book, I read it in basically one sitting and on the same night I bought it I was already looking for the next one. That’s not to say it was perfect, but I’ll definitively pick up the next one.

“It’s such an honor to finally meet the Sun Summoner.”

Shadow and Bone is about an orphan called Alina Starkov who, together with her best friend Mal, is a soldier at the First Army. While crossing what is known as the Shadow Fold, a dark and impenetrable place with creatures that eat human flesh, she unknowingly saves everyone by displaying Grisha abilities. Soon she’s swept away into this glamorous and mysterious world that is the Grisha world or, how they are also called, the Second Army. But this elite magical people hide many secrets and Alina has to deal with them all, including her dangerous attraction to their leader: the Darkling.

Let me start by saying that what first drew me to it was the cover, all that black and red and gray that becomes white; I just had to pick it up. But this book also has an impressive world building, and that it was always shown rather than told. It definitively gets points for that. I really liked the contrast between everyone else and the Grisha: we get to see the First Army (a more traditional army) which is disciplined and not at all luxurious and then the Grisha, who live on a palace beside the King’s and wear fine fabrics.

The hair rose on my arms. I had the same feeling I’d had as we were crossing the canal, the sense of crossing the boundary between two worlds.

I can’t say too much about the Darkling because that way lays some major spoilers, but while I never liked him much personality wise I have to admit I wavered between wanting him to be good and wanting him to be bad. Court life didn’t interest me very much, I preferred to hear about the army and fights, but there was some important plot development going on there that kept me reading.

One of the things I loved about this book was the names. Everything has beautiful Russian-like names and that’s one of my favorite languages. It gave Ravka, Alina’s fictional homeland, a foreign feel to me. Made everything more magical, since it’s not a language I hear much here in Brazil. Another was the different point of view she gave the prologue and the epilogue, going from first person to third, it set the ethereal feel of the whole book that much higher.

“Goed morgen, fentomen!” a deckhand shouts to them as he passes by, his arms full of rope.

All the ship’s crew call them fentomen. It is the Kerch word for ghosts.

That’s pretty much it from what I remember. One of the problems of letting a story steam too long is that I end up forgetting some of the details I wanted to talk about, but I think I covered most of what caught my attention.

Mini Review: Holes by Louis Sachar

I’m so sorry that I’ve let this blog gather dust, but it’s been crazy at uni and no book seemed to catch my attention. But here is my promised review of Holes (and yes, I know, it’s actually a mini review, but still). I also seem to be back on the reading track and will soon have some other reviews to post. Thanks for not giving up on me?

ImageHoles tells the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy who is always at the wrong place at the wrong time. Stanley is convicted for a crime he did not commit, and when given a choice between jail and Camp Green Lake he took what seemed like the lesser of two evils. But digging holes every day is no holiday and soon he’ll discover that they may not be digging simply to ‘build character’.

“Well, let me tell you something, Caveman. You are here on account of one person. If it wasn’t for that person, you wouldn’t be here digging holes in the hot sun. You know who that person is?”

“My no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.”

When I picked this up I thought it would be a funny book about an unlucky boy. And it is funny, I spend the whole book being amused at what was going on. Like when Stanley would finally have some luck in his life and be granted a day off digging, he had to give his finding to X-Ray. Plus the whole great-great-grandfather thing, of course.

And the parallels, don’t even get me started on the parallels. The thumb, the onions, K. B., Stanley and Zero’s friendship, and even the Warren. They all coincided nicely with the flashbacks, connecting everything together. One thing I didn’t like was that I tended to forget Stanley didn’t know the same things I knew, which made me want to shout at him sometimes until I realized he had no way of knowing. So the flashbacks were a bit confusing.

I think Zero was my favourite character. He’s called dumb, nobody, nothing and a bunch of other demeaning things during the book, when in reality he was the complete opposite. So it might or might not have been really satisfactory when he hit Mom in the face with a shovel. And kept saying he loved digging holes when he actually hated it.

I’ll definitively check out the movie now. I mean, Sigourney Weaver and Shia LaBeouf? It has to be good.

His legs were sore from remaining rigid for so long. Standing still was more strenuous than walking. He slowly allowed himself to lean against the side of the hole.

The lizards didn’t seem to mind.

Through the Bookshelves or How I spend My Money (4)

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Since I didn’t do a book haul last week this is a bit of a big one, so on with it. From top to bottom:

1) The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
I keep picking this book up, carrying it around the bookstore, then putting it down again in favor of something more expensive. Because I got it considerably cheep compared with the normal price for books here in Brazil. So I’m supper exited to finally have it!

2) The Running Man by Stephen King
I grew up watching this movie, together with Terminator and True Lies and Jurassic Park, so when I saw it on the store I knew it would go home with me. It’s also the first Stephen King book on my shelf… we’ll see how it goes.

3) The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
I liked some other plays of his (and well, he’s Shakespeare), so this seemed like a good idea.

4) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
This is another one of those classic that I’ve been meaning to read, but never get around to it. Now I’ve got no excuse to keep doing it!

5) Holes by Louis Sachar
I’ve just finished this one, so I’m not going to talk about it much. But it’s a hilarious read.

6) Quincas Borba by Machado de Assis
Machado de Assis is my favorite Brazilian writer and I’ve wanted this book for some time now. What was my surprise when I found an orange penguin edition of it? I grabbed it immediately and didn’t let go! Now it sits prettily on my shelf.

7) The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
This book sounded interesting (I love monster books!) and I fell in love with the pretty cover. What else do I need? I think it was the most expensive book of the bunch, but not by much, so I’m not feeling guilty about it.

I also got a bunch of classic e-books from Girlebooks: The Anne of Green Gables series, some Elizabeth von Arnim I didn’t have, Frankenstein, Little Women, and others. Can’t wait to start reading them!

Tchau!

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

penumbraMr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a story narrated by Clay Jannon, an unemployed web-designer desperately needing a job. To keep himself focused in actually finding one, he prints out ads and goes out to walk around San Francisco while reading them. On one of this walks he stumbles upon a small bookstore and before he knew it he was Penumbra’s new night clerk.

The floor of the bookstore is far below me, the surface of a planet I’ve left behind.

At first glance this seems like a book for book lovers, but if you bother to read it you’ll realize that it’s about so much more. It’s about human curiosity, the human need to always know what comes next, what came before and how it all connects together to form history, which is actually someone’s description of life so far. It’s really hard to talk about all the things I loved in this book without giving anything away, so I’ll try my best to keep to the spoiler free zones.

Our friendship is a nebula.

First: the characters. This book had all the nerds in it, the computer nerd (many of those, in many different areas), the book nerd, the history nerd, the art nerd and a bunch of others I can’t remember now. Which is brilliant, they’re my kind of crowd after all. But there are also some lost people – people who don’t know what to do with their lives and try to tag along with others in hopes of finding out. If they do or not depends on how important you think Griffo Gerritszoon’s final message is.

The Unbroken Spine. It sounds like a band of assassins, not a bunch of book lovers.

Second: the plot. This is a very intricate plot and Clay’s not really in the know for half of the book (maybe more) so we figure out what he figures out. And solving the mystery beforehand is kind of impossible (and cheating, right Clay?), at least I didn’t guess. Well, I did guess a couple of things, but others just flew over my head. Although I have to admit, because I want to be completely honest here, that the reason this is not a five star book for me is that there were some parts that had me yawning, especially in the first part. The pace really picked up by the second part though, so hang in there people.

Books used to be pretty high-tech, back in the day. Not anymore.

Third: books. Because despite that gloomy quote this is a book about books. About the meaning of them and that in the end no matter how evolved our technology gets there are certain kinds of knowledge that only come from living human lives (they might also be cyborg or android or alien lives, but you get my point). Why else would there be bookstore in the title if this wasn’t going to involve some amazing books?

Penumbra says, and produces another e-reader – it’s a Nook. Then another one, a Sony. Another one, marked KOBO. Really? Who has a Kobo?

Fourth: I resent that Robin Sloan (or Clay, but whatever, he didn’t write the book). I own a Kobo and I’m proud of it. I actually read this e-book in it, so yes, people do have Kobos. And I realize this is not one of the reasons I loved the book, but it needed to be said.

Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.

And Finally: Thanks Aldrag the Wyrm-Father. And Moffat (not Steven, no).

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

ImageThere’s been a mad hype around this book (and the sequel) and it sounds like the kind of thing I’d love, I mean: fairytale retellings, aliens, cyborgs and a charming prince (or is it prince charming? I don’t know). Before I properly go into the review zone I apologize for the lack of quotes in this, it’s because I didn’t mark any. Which doesn’t mean it didn’t have some great ones, it’s just that after every single line I was already jumping to the next, I needed to know what happened. And now I have.

Cinder is about, well, Cinder. She’s a cyborg (which means she has mechanical parts inserted into her body, like prosthesis) and in the society she lives in that’s bad. Cyborgs aren’t considered human anymore, even though they are, and there’s a lot of prejudice against them. That’s one of the reasons her step mother hates her. So her only friends are her little sister, Peony, and an android called Iko. Cinder is a very well-known mechanic, but she’s surprised when Prince Kai comes to her to fix his android. That was the first of many events that turned her life upside down, twisting everything she thought she knew.

This is a very hard book to summarize, there’s just so much going on and it goes at a break-neck speed. I was honestly heeling at one point. And it was so good, I mean it’s not suddenly my favorite book of all time, but it’s worth the read. It absolutely is. Go pick it up RIGHT NOW. There’s just something magical about seeing those characters you’ve grown up with in a different way: Cinderella and her step family, the Prince and the fairy godmother (though I’m not entirely sure who that’s supposed to be, but I have a hunch).

In the topic of characters, I hated Cinder’s step mother, hated her. She was just plain mean; there was no excuse for what she did. None of it. I’m sure I’d have hated the bad sister too, Pearl, if she’d had a more active role in the story, because from what we can see of her she’s just like her mother. There was no pity in her and no empathy of any kind. I saw no redeemable qualities in her.

I really liked Cinder, she was a strong girl even after everything her step mother put her through. But we could still see the pain in her, the brokenness, just around the corner. And since the story is from her perspective we have a much better understanding of her than any other character. We get this unfair balance through her eyes and it only makes everything much more real.

There are also some chapters where we see things from Prince Kai’s perspective, but they aren’t many. Which is good, because I don’t really like those books that keep switching perspective’s every chapter. But we see enough of him to know his interest in the welfare of his country.

Now, the aliens. They are called Lunars and they used to be humans from an old moon colony, but have long since evolved into something very different. Lunars have what is called Glamour, or magic by some people, and with it they can make people see whatever they want them to see. Their queen, Levana, uses it to make herself beautiful and will do everything in her power to marry Prince Kai.

I’m starting Scarlet right after I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but I’m kind of scared. What if it doesn’t live up to my very high expectations of it? Waiting for the third book is going to be horrible. So, has anyone read Cinder? What about Scarlet? Wouldn’t a movie of this book be amazing?

Tchau!

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

ImageI’ve heard about this book from so many different people, everyone seems to either have read it or intends to. It’s also been staring at me from the YA part of my favorite bookstore’s English books section. And it’s a bit hard to resist this title; I mean how brilliant is it? Especially after I’ve read the story.

There are lights stretched out as far as they can see, like reflections of the stars, making great constellations of the runways, where dozens of planes sit waiting their turn.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is about Hadley and Oliver (but mostly about Hadley), two strangers who meet at the airport on their way to London. Hadley is on her, belated, way to her father’s second wedding, this one to a woman she’s never met. And doesn’t want to. Oliver is the cute guy who helps her with her bag, then spends the whole flight beside her. When they reach London, they lose each other at customs, and Hadley believes she’ll never see him again. And that’s it for a mostly spoiler free summary of the book.

This is a fun, quick book about love and family. About fixing broken connections and making new ones. I breezed through it in a single day and even managed to squeeze a Doctor Who episode in between chapters, but not because it was the most amazing book ever. I liked it a lot and got to see a bit of my beloved London (how I miss thee), even though most of Hadley and Oliver’s meetings were pure luck, or fate if you believe in that kind of thing (or the author’s writing, but that’s beside the point).

So, this is a short review, because it’s a short book and pretty straightforward in its development. It made me smile, it made me cry (I’m soft hearted like that) and made me glad I picked it up.  It also made me want to read more of her novels, especially This is What Happy Looks Like. As soon as I can find it that is. My favourite bookstore is unpredictable like that.

He laughs, then lowers his mouth so that it’s close to her ear. “People who meet in airports are seventy-two percent more likely to fall for each other than people who meet anywhere else.” 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

ImageI have been meaning to read this book for a long time, but I’ve always been afraid of tragic stories, of sad stories. And this was a sad story and so, so much more. I fell in love with this book, now it’s definitively one of my favorite books of all time. If you haven’t read it yet: go pick it up right NOW.

The Book Thief is the story about a girl who steals books in Nazi Germany, Liesel Meminger. Since her mother can’t afford to take care of her, and after the death of her brother, she is adopted by Hans and Rosa Hubermann and goes to live in Molching with them. There she steals books from Nazi book-burnings, from the mayor’s wife and hides a Jew in her basement. She learns that Hitler was wrong about the world and makes Death an old friend.

Liesel stood in the mayor’s library with greed in her fingers and book titles at her lips.

There are just no words to describe the beauty of this book. It’s so good I tried to hold off finishing it by reading slower than I usually do, and I’ve never done that before. Of course, I sobbed during it. Of course, I had to stop reading because I couldn’t make out the words through my tears. But it was worth it. It was so worth it. I’m so sad it’s over.

I’m going to try to write some of my thoughts on this book, so bear with me if this doesn’t make much sense.

To me, this is a book about what it means to be human. That even the most unpleasant of people can get hurt. But that the good people are the ones that suffer the most. And it’s about reality; it’s about what these people went through during the war: the uncertainty of living and the death of good people.

The world is an ugly stew, she thought.
It’s so ugly I can’t stand it.

The Book Thief shows us that there are bad people everywhere, that they can be of every age and gender. Like Viktor Chemmel. Like Franz Deutscher. Like Adolf Hitler. People who think they are better than everyone else for many reasons. None of them are right.

It’s about suffering without sugarcoating it, but it’s also about happiness and the beauty of small things. Like a snowman in a basement, a book in a river and a really big cloud. About the power of words and how much they affect us. Be it good or bad. And the loss, like many other things in wars, of the innocence of youth.

As she watched all of this, Liesel was certain that these were the poorest souls alive. That’s what she wrote about them. Their gaunt faces were stretched with torture. Hunger ate at them as they continued forward, some of them watching the ground to avoid the people on the side of the road. Some looked appealingly at those who had come observe their humiliation, this prelude to their deaths. Others pleaded for someone, anyone, step forward and catch them in their arms.
No one did.

Obviously, this post could not be complete without talking about the narrator. Markus Zusak is a genius, really. I think this is the best narrator I have even seen, because, like he himself admits, he knows us at our best and our worst. It’s Death itself, of course. Seeing the war through his eyes was brilliant. Not that the war was good, just that we got to see the tattered souls of the Jews and the terrified souls of the soldiers. And understand: nothing is worth so much suffering and murder.

I have hated the words and
I have loved them,
and I hope I have made them right.

Through the Bookshelves or How I spend My Money (3)

Third edition of Through the Bookshelves or How I spend My Money is now here. Is it just me or has it been less time between this and the last one than before? My money waves at me as it goes, flying out of my wallet. The bastard. So, this weekend I bought:

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1) Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston
Since I had such a good foray into Crichton’s books I thought I should try another one. Unfortunately, he died before finishing this book, so Richard Preston did it for him. It sounds Jurassic Park-ish, because it has all this biological experiment thing going for it. We shall see how it goes. Not super excited for it though.

2) Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
I am SUPER EXCITED for this! I can’t believe I didn’t have this book yet, it’s been in my TBR list for years really. That strong wish to read it returned to me full force since the new movie came out and I fell in love with it. With the story, the characters, the feels… everything! Now all I need is the time to read this book.

3) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I could say the same things I said about Les Mis (except the movie part) for this one: I have been meaning to read it for ages! And now I am, since I picked it up the second I got home. Expect a review of this soon, because I have a feeling I won’t be putting it down.

Any new buys or loans this week?

Through the Bookshelves or How I Spend My Money (2)

Here’s the second edition of Through the Bookshelves or How I Spend My Money, in which I can’t resist a good book. They are just so… good? But anyway, these are my recent buys:

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(from bottom to top)

1) The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy
I’ve always wanted to read Tolstoy, though I have to admit that I’m a bit intimidated by Anna Karenina, so I thought I’d start somewhere else and work my way up. The Kreutzer Sonata seemed a good place as any and it sounds like my sort of book. Meaning: murder. Even though it’s about much more than that. I’m so excited!

2) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Sir Orfeo by J. R. R. Tolkien
Tolkien + Arthurian legend = instant buy. It’s a collection of three stories in verse about some of the Knights of the Round Table written by an unknown poet and translated to modern english by Tolkien. Which goes along with my recent interest in the legends of King Arthur (if only I could finish The Once and Future King).

3) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I’ve been seeing this book in my local bookshop for a few weeks and although it sounded interesting, I wasn’t sure about buying it. Until I saw this video at booksandquills about it and it convinced me to try. I’m surprisingly excited to read it.

4) The Complete Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe by (surprise, surprise) Edgar Allan Poe
Ever since I read Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue and his other Dupin tales I’ve been wanting to read more from him. So I armed myself with all his poetry and all his short stories plus The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket which is his only novel. I’m thinking about making a project of it: The Poe Project. I’m also super excited to start it!

And those are all my new books. So: share your own recent buys with me and we shall squee together like the bookworms we are.

Tchau!