YVO’S SHORTIES #7: Captain Alatriste & Utopia


Time for more Yvo’s Shorties! This time around I will be reviewing the last two books I read in 2017. Basically I picked up these two instead of other titles to try and finish at least two more challenges before the end of the year. I was supposed to read these long before, but with the slump and all things got a little last minute. Oops? The first is my first and only Spanish read last year called El Capitán Alatriste (Captain Alatriste) by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, which is set in 17th century Spain.The second is a long pending classic called Utopia by Thomas More, first published back in 1516.


Title: Captain Alatriste
(Adventures Of Captain Alatriste #1)
Author: Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure
First published: January 2nd 1996
Publisher: Alfaguara
Finished reading: December 30th 2017
Pages: 242
(Read in original language, Spanish: ‘El Capitán Alatriste’)

“No era el hombre más honesto ni el más piadoso, pero era un hombre valiente.”


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I had made a promise to myself last year to start reading more in Spanish again, but apparently that promise was soon forgotten… I only just managed to squeeze in this story before 2017 ended, which definitely wasn’t what I had originally planned for the year. I have read Arturo Pérez-Reverte‘s work in the past, so I thought the first book of the Adventures Of Captain Alatriste would be a safe bet. This first book is simply named after the main character of this series set in 17th century Spain: El Capitán Alatriste. I have a weak spot for both historical fiction and books set in one of my favorite countries, Spain, so I thought I would really enjoy this one. Unfortunately, things turned out to be different. I know Spanish isn’t my native language, but I both have a degree in Spanish Philology and have been using Spanish daily for years, so I can confirm the language itself wasn’t a barrier. What did slow me down considerably is the general tone and pace of the story, and the fact that nothing much happened during the story. Not only was the historical setting quite weak and could have been elaborated a lot more, but I also found the way the story was told through someone close to Alatriste not entertaining at all. This probably has a lot to do with the writing as well as the lack of a proper plot and more action… I did appreciate the incorporation of old Spanish literature in the text. But still, I definitely won’t be continuing this series any time soon.


Title: Utopia
Author: Thomas More

Genre: Classics, Philosophy, Politics
First published: 1516
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: December 31st 2017
Pages: 135

“Pride thinks it’s own happiness shines the brighter by comparing it with the misfortunes of others.”


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I’ve had this classic on my TBR pile for ages now, and to be honest I was a bit intimidated by the fact that Utopia was published that long ago. This kind of classics are not always easy to read, but thankfully the English translation I read was not difficult to read at all. Thomas More wrote Utopia originally in Latin back in 1516, and in it he reveals some both very interesting and puzzling ideas on what the ideal society would look like. I can’t say I agree with everything he said, but every aspect of the Utopian society is well elaborated and shows exactly how things would work for the inhabitants of Utopia. The beginning of Utopia reads a bit slow, but as soon as the story starts elaborating the different aspects of Utopian life the pace picks up considerably. All in all quite an interesting read for those who are interested in philosophy and politics.


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BOOK REVIEW: Neverwhere – by Neil Gaiman

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Title: Neverwhere
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Horror
First published: September 16th 1996
Finished reading: January 4th 2016
Pages: 336
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“I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don’t want to be sane.”

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I finished this read over a week ago, and I’m still trying to get my thoughts together. What I do know is that while I’ve read and enjoyed other Neil Gaiman novels in the past, Neverwhere is without doubt my new favorite by this author. This novel starts out as a fiction story with a dash of magical realism, but soon turns into a dazzling urban fantasy story where surreal descriptions are combined with both scary and funny moments. I simply loved the prose and its underlying messages… The characters really started to grow on me as well; especially the Marquis, Richard and Door. Neverwhere is Neil Gaiman‘s first novel, and for me it’s without doubt the best I’ve read so far. What’s it about? This quote says it all:

“Dear Diary, he began. On Friday I had a job, a fiancée, a home, and a life that made sense. (Well, as much as any life makes sense). Then I found an injured girl bleeding on the pavement, and I tried to be a Good Samaritan. Now I’ve got no fiancée, no home, no job, and I’m walking around a couple of hundred feet under the streets of London with the projected life expectancy of a suicidal fruitfly.”

The part in London Above maybe isn’t that interesting, but I LOVED the descriptions and plot set in London Below. Definitely recommended if you like a good (urban) fantasy story with a healthy dose of horror and humor!

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Richard Mayhew is a young London businessman who seems to have a perfectly ordinary life with a good job, a home and a beautiful fiancée. But everything changes as he sees an injured girl bleeding on the street and decides to help her. His demanding fiancée dumps him for not making it to an important dinner, but Richard wants to help the girl anyway. At home he realizes the girl isn’t just any ordinary girl, and soon his life changes forever… The next day he seems invisible and it’s almost as if he had plunged through the cracks of reality into a world of shadows and darkness in London Below. Against all odds he is able to survive his first moments there, and soon realizes he will have to find and help the girl if he ever wants to return to London Above.

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Neil Gaiman never fails to surprise you with his books; each book has a completely original feel. What I think made Neverwhere into my new favorite Gaiman is the unique mix of realistic fiction, magical realism, urban fantasy and horror. I really liked both the main characters and the prose, and once Richard started having his adventures in London Below it was really hard to stop reading. As you might have guessed from the rating, I absolutely loved this read and I would recommend Neverwhere with my eyes closed to anyone who enjoys the genre.

BOOK REVIEW: Into The Wild – by Jon Krakauer

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Title: Into The Wild
Author: Jon Krakauer
Genre: Non Fiction, Biography, Travel
First published: January 13th 1996
Finished reading: September 15th 2015
Pages: 207
Rating 3,5qqq

“Nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

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Into The Wild has been on my wishlist for ages and after watching the movie last month I thought it was about time I read it. This travel biography written by Jon Krakauer without doubt leaves its mark, although I do think it is one of those exceptions where the movie is actually better than the book. I’m not saying it is a bad read, but I would have prefered to have the story focused on the adventures of the main character Christopher McCandless alone. Jon Krakauer included his own experiences with nature and those of other people as well, which distracted from the main story and didn’t really add anything important. Christopher McCandless’ journey is impressive enough as it is and the other chapters are not necessary or don’t exactly help understanding why Christopher did what he did. Or maybe I was just spoiled by the movie, who knows… I’m not sure I actually agree with his ideas or actions, but I do respect Christopher for thinking outside the box and starting an adventure that most people won’t dare to even fantasize about. Therefore I cannot deny Into The Wild is a very impressive read with a tragic ending that is perfect for those who enjoy reading non fiction and travel/survival stories.

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After Christopher McCandless graduated from college in 1991, he decided he was sick of his life chained by money and belongings and he wanted to start wandering around experiencing true nature. He left his family, gave away his money, abandoned his car and possessions and gave himself a new name: Alexander Supertramp. He now felt truly free from his past and society and started traveling around without having a penny in his pocket. He experiences the many sides of the country walking, hitchhiking and meeting a lot of interesting people on the way. McCandless travels both north and south and in April 1992 he decided to hitchhike to Alaska to finally walk alone into the wilderness. He isn’t truly prepared for what Alaska has in store for him, but he is determined to continue his journey anyway…

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Christopher McCandless’ journey is truly impressive and unfortunately has a very sad ending. A lot have judged him badly over the years and I’m not saying it was stupid of him to start his Alaska adventure that unprepared, but it cannot be denied that he actually WAS able to survive for a really long time in such a difficult situation. Jon Krakauer‘s writing was interesting in general, although, like I said before, I would have prefered to read just McCandless’ story. I would still recommend this read though if you are interested in the genre. The movie is even better if you haven’t watched it yet!