BOOK REVIEW: Flowers For Algernon – by Daniel Keyes

Title: Flowers For Algernon
Author: Daniel Keyes

Genre: Classics, YA, Science Fiction
First published: 1966
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: September 21st 2017
Pages: 311

“How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibilty, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes—how such people think nothing of abusing a man with low intelligence.”

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I’ve had this modern classic on my TBR for a long time, although I admit I was completely clueless about the plot and didn’t even have a general idea of what the story was going to be about. Then again, I do like my surprises… And Flowers For Algernon turned out to be a very pleasant surprise at that. Because WOW. This is one powerful story that managed to break my heart completely by the time I reached the last page… I can definitely understand why this novel by Daniel Keyes has become a modern classic. Brilliant prose, intriguing plot, well developed characters… This story has it all. Flowers For Algernon is a science fiction read with a very interesting theme: intelligence enhancement with the help of a brain operation. This theme is very well developed with the help of the main character Charlie, showing both the before and after of this experimental operation. First of all I just loved how the writing itself was a very clear demonstration of Charlie’s mental state and how things change over time. I agree I was a bit surprised when I first encountered myself with the seemingly horrid spelling, but once you understand its significance and the fact that this story is told with the help of Charlie’s progress reports during the experiment, you will realize the brilliancy of it all. Charlie is the perfect character to help show the light on the prejudices around (the lack of) intelligence and how people treat others differently accordingly. You will become really invested in this story and will find your heart broken before the story ends. Flowers For Algernon will go straight to my list of favorite classics and I can highly recommend this one.

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Charlie is a mentally disabled man, but he has always wanted to improve his intelligence and be ‘normal’ as his mother always wanted. He participates in an experiment and undergoes a brain operation that will possibly increase his IQ and change his life. The experimental procedure starts to work and slowly Charlie’s intelligence starts to expand… But at what cost?

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up my copy of Flowers For Algernon, but I’m more than happy with what I found. The writing is simply brilliant, as both the progress reports and the prose itself give the perfect insight of what happens to Charlie during the experiment. The way others react to Charlie during different stages of the experiment is both intriguing and unfortunately very accurate as well. Hopefully an eye opener! Flowers For Algernon is able to provoke strong emotions and is utterly heartbreaking in the end.


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ARC REVIEW: I Am Behind You – by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Title: I Am Behind You
(Platserna #1)
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Genre: Horror, Dystopia, Paranormal
First published: August 1st 2014
Publisher: Riverrun
Finished reading: September 4th 2017
Pages: 416
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Himmelstrand’)

“The things we take for granted are the things we miss the most when they disappear.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Riverrun in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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!! Happy Publication Day !!

Warning: some mild swearing ahead. Couldn’t express my feelings for this one otherwise. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read my share of crazy, weird and quirky stories and I actually enjoy reading them to take a break from the ‘ordinary’. But there is weird, and then there is I Am Behind You. My first thoughts when I started reading were literally: what the hell did I sign up for when I requested a copy?! Because there is one thing for sure, and that is that even after finishing it the only thing my mind is able to process is WTF WTF WTF did I just read?! I Am Behind You is actually a translation of a Swedish novel published back in 2014… I wonder if part of the story was lost in translation and made it more difficult to enjoy it, but considering the other reviews out there I’m quite certain this is not the case. The first thing that stands out to me is the plot, or actually the lack of a plot that actually makes sense. Like the characters, you are left in the middle of an empty field without a clue what is going on. Instead of adding suspense and intrigue, it only made me feel VERY frustrated and added to the overall struggle I had with this story. The worst part is that a lot of things are never explained at all and leave you empty handed and with that WTF feeling I mentioned before. The multiple POVs are also confusing and take a long time to get used to… The flashbacks are a nice touch, and I think I would have actually prefered seeing more of those instead of the current POV since the flashbacks at least made a bit more sense. I wasn’t a fan of the characters at all though. I disliked one even more than the other and this made it very hard to care about them or what would happen to them. And apart from the the lack of a proper plot, multiple POVs, unlikeable characters and the sheer absurdity of it all, I had a hard time connecting to the writing style as well. It might have been the translation, it might have been the writing, but it took me a lot longer than normal to reach the final page and to be honest it was a real struggle. And after such an unsatisfying ending, I kind of wish I could have DNFed this story instead. Because there is one thing for sure: this story 100% isn’t for me. I like weird, I like unconventional, but I Am Behind You was just batshit crazy. Guano style.

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When Molly wakes up early in the morning and asks her mother to go to the bathroom, something strange seems to be going on. Because the toilet block is no longer there. In fact, everything else has gone too and the only thing left are four campers in a neverending field of grass. Where are they? And why are they there in the first place? The four families will do whatever it takes to get back to the ‘normal’ world… But is that even possible?

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I was actually really looking forward to this book, but I guess I should have known after reading the blurb. The thing is: I normally like stories that are unconventional. Call me weird, but I find a dose of crazy to be rather refreshing every once in a while… But I wasn’t prepared for I Am Behind You. Because this story will definitely give you an overdose of crazy. The plot is basically absurd and doesn’t make sense and I was clueless even after reaching the final page. I didn’t manage to connect to the characters or writing style and overall unfortunately I had a really hard struggle with it. The fact that it took me about three times as much as normal to just finish it will say enough… Definitely not a story for me.


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BOOK REVIEW: Never Let Me Go – by Kazuo Ishiguro

Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: March 3rd 2005
Publisher: Vintage Books
Finished reading: August 31st 2017
Pages: 288

“Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.”

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Sometimes you stumble across books that are simply not a right fit, and I’m having a feeling that is exactly what happened between me and Never Let Me Go. I’ve had this title on my TBR for ages and always wondered if this story would be for me… This doubt is probably one of the main reasons I have posponed picking this title by Kazuo Ishiguro up for as long as I have, and it seems like the author and me will not be friends. Because even though this book has been highly rated by many and is very well known, I actually struggled a lot with it. I had a really hard time making sense of it all when I started reading and while things became better as I forced myself to keep reading, I can’t say I exactly enjoyed the reading experience. And this surprised me, because I’ve seen so many people naming Never Let Me Go one of their favorites… Call it unpopular opinion, call it a bad book-reader match, but this dystopian story wasn’t for me. The prose never managed to lure me in completely and like I said I had a hard time figuring out what was really going on. I like a healthy dose of weird and mystery, but apparently I ended up being allergic to this particular brand. As for the characters… Kathy wasn’t all that bad, but I absolutely loathed Ruth. I guess the fact that she was able to provoke such strong emotions is a sign of good character development… But it also ment I ended up enjoying a story I was already struggling with even less. I seem to be one of the few though, so definitely take my experience with a grain of salt. And to be honest, with my reputation with popular books I’m not surprised this review has turned out to be another ‘unpopular opinion’ one.

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Kathy, Ruth and Tommy grow up attending an exclusive boarding school called Hailsham in the middle of the English countryside. They have never experienced life outside the school and are not allowed to leave the premises. The teachers keep reminding them just how special they are, even though they don’t really understand why. That understanding comes years later when their real purpose is revealed… And slowly the understanding comes of exactly what it is that makes them special.

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I’ve tried really hard to like Never Let Me Go, but I’m convinced that this book/author and me simply aren’t a right fit. Especially since this book has received so much praise over the years… I personally really struggled with both the prose, plot and characters and I had a hard time making sense of it all. It’s almost as if the readers are clueless students as well and quite a lot of key information is left out in the beginning. In the end Never Let Me Go wasn’t my cup of tea, but since most people did enjoy it don’t let my review stop you from picking it up.


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BOOK REVIEW: Monsters Of Men – by Patrick Ness

Title: Monsters Of Men
(Chaos Walking #3)
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 3rd 2010
Publisher: Candlewick
Finished reading: August 28th 2017
Pages: 602

“Choices may be unbelievably hard but they’re never impossible. To say you have no choice is to release yourself from responsibility and that’s not how a person with integrity acts.”

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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead. Dun. Dun. Dun. The unpopular opinion curse has punished me once again… Because behold: I didn’t love the final book of the Chaos Walking trilogy as much as I expected and hoped I would. And trust me, I am still shocked myself I feel this way as well. Despite some minor issues with the slang used in the first two books, I was actually really enjoying this series so far. Like most people who have read at least part of this trilogy, I have really grown attached to both Todd and Viola and I was really looking forward to find out how things would end for both of them. I was expecting to devour Monsters Of Men despite its whopping 600 pages… But that wish didn’t came completely true in the end. Why? First of all, I want to make clear I didn’t hate this story despite the things Patrick Ness does to make my poor heart suffer. I just don’t think it was as good as the first two books. I have been wondering if this has to do with the fact I read A Monster Calls in between and nothing will ever be able to live up to that story… But here’s me trying to explain why I gave Monsters Of Men a lowish rating compared to most. I will not take into account the use of the slang, which I have repeatedly said I didn’t like and since the use is consistent throughout the series won’t affect my relative opinion of Monsters Of Men. It wasn’t the how Patrick Ness decided to end it all or how he made us readers suffer along with the characters either. No, my mean problem with Monsters Of Men is the new POV that is suddenly introduced into the story. A new POV, would you ask? Isn’t this series just about Todd and Viola? Well, the third book is now also about ‘The Return’. This new POV and its chapters left me mostly feeling confused and instead of adding an interesting new angle to the story, I mostly struggled trying to understand what they were talking about or who/what they were referring to. Honestly, I was never able to warm up to those chapters and even confess I started skimreading them at one point. I can’t deny they are beautifully written and Patrick Ness is a pro at creating creative and unique prose, but this POV just wasn’t for me and put a real damper on the rest of the story. I just wish he would have sticked with the Todd/Viola POVs instead… But I guess we can’t have it all. I feel really sad I wasn’t able to like this final book better though.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Todd and Viola will have to face some very difficult decisions as the situation starts to escalate further. Not only are the indigenous Spackle a threat, but the different human leaders will also do whatever it takes to make sure they reach their goals… Even if this means others will have to suffer for it. They all will defend their own ideas at all costs; endangering the others in the process. Who will win this demostration of power? And what about the convoy of new settlers?

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I was so sure I was going to enjoy Monsters Of Men just as much as the previous two books, but I guess my instincts were wrong. It wasn’t the prose. Besides the slang I still find annoying, the writing was just as strong as ever. I still love Todd and Viola just as much as in the first books. And it wasn’t the fact that Patrick Ness is basically an expert at breaking my heart and crushing my feelings either. I had one big problem with Monsters Of Men: ‘The Return’ and his newly introduced POV. This POV is more lyrical and in a way very beautiful, but unfortunately it left me mostly confused and I had a hard time figuring out the who and what of the things mentioned in those chapters. I actually found myself starting to skimread them at some point… Definitely not a good sign. It’s the main reason I had to lower the rating considerably despite my overal positive opinion about the rest of this final book.


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ARC REVIEW: Reincarnation Blues – by Michael Poore

Title: Reincarnation Blues
Author: Michael Poore

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
First published: August 22nd 2017
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Finished reading: August 12th 2017
Pages: 384

“Death was a door. You went through it over and over, but it still terrified people.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Del Rey Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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This book isn’t exactly what I would normally pick up, but there was just something about the cover and blurb of Reincarnation Blues that caught my attention and made me want to read it. Reading books out of my comfort zone can go either way, but all in all this novel by Michael Poore turned out to be a little gem. The first thing that stood out when I started reading Reincarnation Blues was the writing style. I fell in love almost immediately with the way this story was told and I found myself completely absorbed into this piece of speculative fiction with a sci-fi twist. This story is about a man called Milo who is reincarnated through many many lifetimes set both in the past, present and future. He is now about to start life number 9.996… Just when he finds out he only has five more lives to get it right and reach Perfection. The chapters are a mix of what happens during these lives, what happens in between and how he fell in love with Death herself.  Some lives are told in more detail while others seem less important, but they all help develop his character in a very fascinating way. Basically you can say Reincarnation Blues is a collection of connecting short stories about the different lives Milo lives and how his actions influence his next life. The romance is subtle, very well done and didn’t bother me at all; the wordbuilding of the different world in between fascinating. I personally didn’t enjoy some of the chapters set in the future (for example chapter 14, which is set in a prison in space) as much as the rest of the story, but that could have been just me not being into full-blown science fiction in the first place. The wonderful writing and rest of the story in general mostly made up for those feelings though. Reincarnation Blues isn’t for everyone, but it is a truly fascinating read that I can definitely recommend if you think this sounds like your cup of tea!

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Milo has been reincarnated nearly 10.000 times when he finds out he only has five more lives to get it right and reach Perfection so he can become part of the Oversoul. He is not sure he truly wants this though because it might affect his relationship withhis one true love: Death herself. They only see each other in between lives and he can’t imagine having to continue without her… But Milo doesn’t seem to have any other option than to try his best, because if he doesn’t get it right before the deadline, his soul will vanish forever. His lives take him from ancient India to outer space to Renaissance Italy to the present day in the hope of finally living that perfect life. Will he be able to reach that goal in time?

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Reincarnation Blues isn’t the type of book I normally pick up, but sometimes browsing outside your comfort zone can bring some very pleasant surprises. This book turned out to be a hidden gem and I really enjoyed following Milo’s story as he lives his lives through time and space. Some chapters were a bit too futuristic for me, but that is probably mostly me since sci-fi isn’t really my genre in the first place. The writing was wonderful though as well as the rest of the story.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Ask And The Answer – by Patrick Ness

Title: The Ask And The Answer
(Chaos Walking #2)
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 4th 2009
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd.
Finished reading: August 7th 2017
Pages: 536

“If you ever see a war,” she says, not looking up from her clipboard, “you’ll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors.”

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Ask me why on earth it took me this long to pick up the sequel, and I don’t have an answer. Ask me why I always ended up reading other series instead of continuing with one I had already started and loved, and I don’t have an answer either. The fact is that it took me just about TWO years before I finally opened my copy of The Ask And The Answer (I checked). Like I said before, I really don’t know why because I loved the first book… And have had Patrick Ness on my list of favorite authors ever since. There is one thing I do know though: I won’t wait this long to read the final book. Because The Ask And The Answer has reminded me just how much I enjoyed reading about this dystopian world. True, the slang the men use still bothered me considerably (it’s probably the philologist in me who’s to blame), but that’s my only real complaint. The whole slang use (cuz, yer, thru, addishun, instruckshuns etc. etc) in Todd’s chapters was highly annoying, but I did appreciate the fact that this way it was very easy to distiguish Viola’s chapters, which do have ‘normal’ language. This sequel is quite easy to follow even if you don’t remember all the details of book one. How I can know this? It had been two years since I read The Knife Of Never Letting Go and I didn’t do a reread before starting with The Ask And The Answer; I was able to pick up the storyline quite easily anyhow. I quite enjoyed the sequel and learn about how things continue and see the main characters develop. The writing style is quite unique and apart from the slang I absolutely loved it. I had a great time reading this story and literally flew through the pages… You don’t feel it at all this book has actually 500+ pages. I can’t wait to read book number three now!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book of this trilogy yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

They thought they would be safe in Haven, but what they found was something completelydifferent. Because instead of fleeing successfully the army that was trying to catch them, Todd has carried Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy. They are separated and imprisoned, forced to see the new way if they want the other to be safe… But can they be sure the other is still alive? Will they be able to escape and be together again?

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It’s been too long since I read the first book, so I can’t properly compare the two… But what I do know is that I enjoyed The Ask And The Answer just as much as the first book. I had once again the same reaction to the slang the men use in Todd’s chapters, which I found mostly highly annoying. That would be my only real complaint though and I still thoroughly enjoyed this sequel. I’m definitely going to read the third and final book soon now!


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ARC REVIEW: Americosis Vol. 4 – by Haydn Wilks

Title: Americosis Vol. 4
Author: Haydn Wilks

Genre: Short Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: December 2nd 2016
Finished reading: July 25th 2017
Pages: 56

“It’s all madness.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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First of all a little note: since the cover is basically a swearword, I’ve decided not to display it on my blog for personal reasons. It’s bad enough it already shows up on my Goodreads timeline as it is. xD

The quote above describes these Americosis volumes perfectly: absolute madness. I’ve read the first three volumes in the past, so I did know exactly what I signed up for… There is nothing ordinary about the world created in Americosis, the plot or the characters. And it has been one heck of a crazy and absurd ride so far! Volume four continues where the last part ended; there is almost no recap so it’s important to read/remember the previous volumes to make sense of it all. Although ‘making sense’ maybe isn’t the right phrase to look for, because I don’t think Americosis is ment to make sense in the first place. Volume four had a few very interesting elements I liked; predominantly the parts set in the future (4046). The idea of every person having a different vision of what happened since the moment in history they were snatched away is intriguing and would be a great topic for a standalone novella or novel. Just imagine the endless possibilities of famous personalities of the past getting together and share their version of the ‘future’! This new storyline added a whole new interesting level to the story and made me curious about the finale… But I do have to say there were some things that started to bother me. I don’t think Americosis Vol. 4 has changed much in tone, but somehow the EXCESSIVE and CONSTANT swearing started to get to me. I don’t mind a swearword or two as long as its use is constructive, but I felt it really crossed the line in this volume. I basically have a quote where a variation of the word ‘f*ck‘ is used no less than eleven!! times in one sentence; overkill much? Apart from the swearing, the story is also very graphic and violent in general and stuffed with adult and sex-related comments and scenes. In short there is no doubt this short story isn’t for everyone… Only a select few will be able to truly savour it and I can see why the target group would be predominantly adult (white) male. If you like crazy, graphic, messy, chaotic, dystopian, violent and all over the place stories, Americosis will probably be for you. There’s one thing for sure: you won’t be bored with this one!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first  three volumes yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Things have slowly started to get out of control… The race against the clock for the Savior is real and he will have to fight hard to be able to reach his goal before it’s too late. Because America is being destroyed from the inside, and it’s winning. In the mean time, the Presidential race is going strong… And the two candidates will do whatever it takes to win.

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It might just have been I wasn’t in the right mood when I read Volume 4 and that’s why I rated it slightly lower than the previous three… But I did feel the excessive swearing and graphic scenes started to get out of control. It does read like a train and is basically an explosion of action and absurdness right in the middle of a dystopian America. The right person will probably love Americosis, but it is without doubt an acquired taste. The storyline set in the future was fascinating though!


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