Vices / Virtues, Beatrice DeSoprontu

A 5*

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

I got a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions included in this review are my own and are in no way affected by the exchange.

This is not my favorite type of books. It is also far from being my favorite genre to read. But when the book is good the honor is due.

Vices/virtues has everything a good book needs. There is a good story, interesting characters, and a hook that kept me turning the pages.

From the first pages of the book you will delve into a story that is told as it is, no embellishment needed, no filter applied.

And that is what makes the story so interesting and the characters so attractive. These could be real people with real problems. These are the characters that have their flaws and their strengths, that evolve on each page and have interactions with each other in a way that we can understand and relate to.

Each chapter of the book is named after a virtue or a vice and some of the chapters allow us to see through other character’s eyes, see their past and present, understand why are they working as dominatrices and what made them who they are.

The whole point of the environment and genes making you who you are is brought up constantly in the book and mixed with the philosophical musing on how we end up doing what we do makes for an interesting read and food for thought. From time to time it did feel as too much, but at the same time, it kept me turning the pages.

And of course, I must say, I love a writer who doesn’t fear to talk about taboo’s, might it be BDSM-culture, illegal immigration, poverty in a rich country, non-classic relationships, drug consume, rape, and others. This might be the main reason I give this book 5-stars (not that it doesn’t merit it due to an amusing story and refreshing characters). To talk about all these subjects and still make an engaging story is no small feat.

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Cards on the Table, Agatha Christie

A 5*

“Oh, my dear friend, it is impossible not to give oneself away – unless one never opens one’s mouth! Speech is the deadliest of revealers.”

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

This was an interesting read. Agatha Christie builds an interesting story around a premise that is so unique but at the same time could be considered a classic one. Nine people are invited to a dinner, one of them is killed, four are suspects, four are sleuths ready to solve the murder. And it is not someone you would never suspect, you might have guessed from the beginning who the real killer is. But in any case, you will want to read the book till the last pages to get to know what Mr. Shaitana knew the crimes were of the suspects.

Everyone around the table of suspects is guilty, but who is guilty of this particular crime? This is the real question you will be asking yourself throughout the book. And the intrigue will be kept till the end.

Clues and tips are dropped throughout the pages of the book. But some will misguide you more than help you. You will suspect everyone and no one and that what makes this book a masterpiece.

I must say, I’ve never played Bridge and don’t know the rules. It might have been easier to guess the killer if I knew the rules, but it didn’t bother me too much to not know.

The detective work of the four sleuths is a bit slow and sluggish, but Cards on the Table is an interesting dive into the criminal minds and why the suspects did what they did and why they are who they are.

For all the lovers of classic Agatha Christie’s mysteries, this will be an interesting read.

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The Midnight Sea, Kat Ross

A 5*

“I took a step back. I couldn’t help it. His daeva? I’m not sure what I expected. Horns and a forked tail, perhaps. A creature as ugly on the outside as it was on the inside. But they looked just like us.”

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

This book is a hidden gem. It is only 0.99 on amazon kindle store. But it is good, enticing and engaging. It is also not appreciated enough.

The story swipes you up and doesn’t let you down till the end. From the death of Nazafareen’s sister until meeting Alexander the Great. It is engaging and addictive. The world is well constructed and richly developed. It might help that it is based on the real-world and our myths but Kat Ross entwines it with not typical monsters (Druj that possess a body and are not so easy to kill), and lies and control by the King of kings.

Kat Ross lets you in a world and then swipes it from under your feet. By Nazafareen’s side, we discover that not every story perfect, not everything you told to believe is true, that even the person you trust the most can sentence you to death or wound you to the deepest of your soul.

I have to say that the enemy in this book was perfect. Kat Ross managed to construct a character who is not evil just for the kicks of it, but because of deep, profound grief. His reasoning is sick and twisted but not unheard of. It takes us by surprise, but it is well thought and incredibly powerful for one of the main characters to become evil and the enemy to become your friend.

The Midnight Sea is an incredible YA book. Because it is not perfect. Because it hurts. Because it engages with complicated subjects such as amputation and grief. Because it shows the unpredictable nature of humans when you don’t know who you should trust. And because it demonstrates the power of religion and following your orders without question.

The romance in this book is slow-building and almost absent but it allows us to fall in love with the characters as they are with their faults and imperfect nature.

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Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie

A 5*

“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

I may be biased in my evaluation of this book. Mainly, because it has been some time that I read a book that I enjoyed from the first page till the last and wanted to read in one sitting. It had been months since I had a really good read. But then again, it was infallible Agatha Christie and her Hercule Poirot.

I must say I had committed a crime in a reader circle. I watched the movie before reading the book. But… I was still intrigued. It was entertaining and captivating. Agatha Christie knew how to keep the suspense till the end and make an incredible murder story out of a trip on the Orient Express.

This is one of the books that no matter the ending, no matter how and who did it, you will take the ride only to enjoy the trip. Because Agatha Christie will keep the mystery till the end and there will be so many turns in the story that you will be confused and lost and, in the end, you will smack yourself on the head saying “This is what I thought all along” or “How didn’t I see this coming?”.

For all the lovers of detective stories and fans of Agatha Christie, this is an absolute must and I only hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did.

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Humans: A Brief History of How We Fucked It All Up, Tom Phillips

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“In a list of ‘moves designed to piss lots of people off’, banning coffee in Turkey probably ranks somewhere alongside banning cheese in France, banning guns in America and … well, banning national stereotyping in Britain.”

Humans: A Brief History of How We Fucked It All Up by Tom Phillips is cynical and funny, it is direct and simple, and it depressing and true. It is one of those non-fiction books that you will enjoy reading from the first pages till the last ones. It has a fun opening and it keeps the same humor throughout the book.

Reading it, you will learn a lot and you will enjoy it too. It is filled with fun facts and even those that are not so fun are written with humor. All the stories lead to one and only objective. To show the reader how stupid we can be, wanting it or not, but inevitably leading our race to chaos.

This book underlines our biggest and most wrecking mistakes. Our efficiency in destroying the world around us, not worrying about our future; our capacity to change the world with unforeseen consequences, sometimes lead by one sole individual; and our determination to keep doing the same things we did in the past, even knowing they were not exactly the right choices.

Humans: A Brief History of How We Fucked It All Up is well researched, proposing unique and famous stories, which are entertaining and mind-opening.

But the most important thing, it helps to remind us that all of us make mistakes. Yes, some of them are horrible. And yes, we shouldn’t ever do the same. But we are all humans and it is okay to fuck up from time to time, hopefully, on a much smaller scale.

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All Systems Red, Martha Wells

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“I liked the imaginary people on the entertainment feed way more than I liked real ones, but you can’t have one without the other.”

I absolutely loved this novella.

I had doubts before buying it but the review by Patrick Rothfuss evaporated those. He actually said at least four times to try this novella. And well who am I to contradict Patrick Rothfuss.

It was short.

It was fun.

It was fast.

It was refreshing.

It was breathtaking.

That’s about everything you need to know about this book. For if I tell more, I might spoil all the fun of this novella.

I hope I will not forget to check on the next installments in The Murderbot Diaries series. And I hope you will give it a chance because it is totally worth it and you will love it!

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Everything is F*cked, Mark Manson

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“True freedom doesn’t really exist because we all must sacrifice some autonomy for stability. No one, no matter how much you love them or they love you, will ever absolve that internal guilt you feel simply for existing. It’s all fucked. everything is fucked. It always has been and always will be. There are no solutions, only stopgap measures, only incremental improvements, only slightly better forms of fuckedness than others. And it’s time we stop running from that and, instead, embrace it.”

I am a big fan of The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson. I have it in an audio-book format and I listen to it from time to time. It has that dose of humor and good advice that allows us to take a step back in any given situation and rethink our position on some subjects.

When I found out that M.Manson wrote a new book and with the title Everything Is F*cked, it was immediately placed on my to-read list and no longer after that it migrated to currently-reading. It took me less than four hours to finish and I enjoyed every moment of it.

M. Manson has a way of telling a story without any filter, without caring who will think what. I must say I agree with most things M.Manson says, not all of them. But it doesn’t change the fact that I see him as a person with strong opinions that are clearly stated throughout the book.

I saw a few reviews that range from “I liked this book, it was more mature than The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” to “Horrible writing, bad comparisons…”. Different people hoped for different things when they started reading this book and I think not all of them wanted to hear what M.Manson had to say.

Well, I didn’t come with high expectations for this new installment but I was surprised. M.Manson has his opinions and he is putting them down on paper. That you do not agree with them or do not like them does not mean that he is wrong or that the book is bad. Yes, what he says sometimes is rough and radical. But we got used to living in a bubble where even a single word or opinion can hurt us. There are some much harsher things happening all around us and we need to remember that. We need to fight for the inequalities to disappear, instead of being drawn to the new scandal between some celebrities on the tabloids.

For popular non-fiction, the book was well researched and when one opinion or another was given, there was a solid-base explanation behind it. The book was easy to read and had down to earth explanations of the philosophical teaching that

It wasn’t as much fun as The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck even though I hoped for it, but some chapters and passages reminded me of it, like How to Start a Cult. But I think to compare it to The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck is to be unfair to Everything is F*cked. The books are different. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck is an autobiography of sorts, Everything is F*cked is an essay on the current state of our society. The subjects explored in Everything is F*cked are broader but everything is related to the main theme of hope and human relationships.

This is a book that I recommend you to read if you have an open mind and you are not scared to hear someone to disagree with your opinions.

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Red Rising, Pierce Brown

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Funny thing, watching gods realize they’ve been mortal all along.”

I was going to leave for a trip for 3 weeks and couldn’t bring physical copies of the books with me. At least not as many as I would want to. So, for the first time in years I bought kindle versions of a few books.

I decided to clean my want-to-read and owned-to-read shelves and this is one that’s been on one of those lists for a long time. I don’t think the synopsis really convinced me and I wasn’t sure the book would be worth buying.

I regret that I formed an opinion before giving it a real chance. I think I might want to have it on a shelf of my bookcase so I can re-read it or just flip through the pages to savor the good passages.

This is one of those books that really surprised me. There was action, a bad-ass character, suspense… Everything you want in a good novel that takes you in its grip and doesn’t let go before you flip the last page.

The future that this book is painting is simple but evil.

It has been compared to The Hunger Games, and I thought the same by the middle of the book but P. Brown created something new. It may be another dystopian future, another example of our flaws and habits, but it is also an example of what we might become if a handful few can grab the seats of power and impose their will, hiding the rest of us in the dark for the next centuries.

If I only knew that there would be Greek and Roman mythology involved I would have picked the book sooner. P. Brown used the names of the gods and their characteristics and attributes to show the different battling houses of the Golds, but at the same time mentioning the differences between Greek and Roman mythology.

The main character is not perfect, but deep and easy to connect to. He might be above average in his skills or strength, but then again, it was all built for him. And throughout the pages P. Brown shows us the change in the protagonist, his doubts, his fears, but also his never ending will to push forward. We get to presence his evolution and the adjustment to his new role in the society.

The story is gripping and full of twists. Even though some of the turns of the events are easy to foresee, the story is ever changing. The fluid relationship between the characters and the protagonist is sometimes surprising like with Tactus, Servo and Pax, other times not so much as with Mustang. But the author is not afraid to kill one or several of the characters you liked or started to like, leaving you on the edge of the seat to see what will happen next.

It was a good ride and I hope you will take it too.

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The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Ignorance is fatal.”

The Martian Chronicles was a book that my dad mentioned whenever we talked about good books and classic science fiction. Ray Bradbury was known to me since I was little and I think Fahrenheit 451 was one of the books that showed me that love for literature that all of us practiced readers have. It was short, precise and it painted a futuristic image that we’ve almost achieved in today’s society. With the exception of burning books… Wait, I heard some priests in Poland actually have burned Harry Potter ones

But I am here not to talk about Fahrenheit 451 no matter how good it was, but about The Martian Chronicles.

It had been on my want-to-read list for far too long and then on my bookshelf for another few months before I finally opened it.

I came biased and I don’t regret it. I enjoyed every last page of it.

Not a single review of this book can be done without a quote that describes the human nature just the way it is. For me there was a passage to be remembered on almost all the pages.

But I am going to try not to copy the whole book just to make the review. I just think that Ray Bradbury saw us for who we are. Humans, creatures capable of adapting, but preferring to smooth the edges whenever it is possible to make our lives easier, to pollute and corrupt whatever we touch but still capable of greatness.

This book is a collection of stories, sometimes a few-pages long showing only a glimpse of a well-constructed and a bit scary world, other times they’re a long-narratives exploring an alien race and their upper hand in the evolution but lacking to foresee the total destruction by the our race. The symbolism of our perceived greatness, but flawed actions appears throughout the book.

The Martian Chronicles makes us ask numerous questions about who we are and what is the reason for our presence here. I just hope that there are more of us out there that are like Jeff Spender or even Captain Wilder than Biggs or Parkhill.

As in any science fiction, Ray Bradbury uses the imagined future it to create a world in which he can talk about what he wants, to describe and criticize it in subtle ways. He succeeds in getting the message across to the reader. The only question is will we achieve greatness or stay a blunt race that will do anything to accommodate themselves disregarding the consequences.

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