Archive for September 2013

Book Review: Black Venus by James MacManus

Black Venus by James MacManus Boring and poorly written. So many predictable cliches, vague descriptions that beat around the bush, strange bits of innuendo, repetitive details about the characters, and what was with all the dull clothing descriptions? It felt like the author was playing with dolls, and the characters seemed just as real.

Book Review: The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta I just couldn’t get into it.

Book Review: Billiards at Half-Past Nine by Heinrich Böll

Billiards at Half-Past Nine by Heinrich Böll An intriguing look at one family’s experiences through two world wars in Germany, as seen from different perspectives and points in time. However, the writing can be a rather weighty and takes work to get through, especially with so many perspective changes and so many people to keep track of.

Book Review: A Country Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov

A Country Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov Most of the stories have a humorous, albeit anxious, writing style to them that makes them entertaining to read, despite the (gross!) subject matter. A few towards the end are a bit more grim though, and they weren’t as appealing to me.

Book Review: Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon

Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon Very plodding, but not really to anywhere interesting.

Book Review: The Collector of Worlds by Iliya Troyanov

The Collector of Worlds by Iliya Troyanov I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish this book, especially after the writing style seemed a little too full of itself, maybe even pretentious. And full of unfamiliar words — either outdated or foreign to me — that required a quick search of the dictionary to keep me going. It reminded me of other German historical fiction books I’d tried to read and quit on, but I kept going.

I am glad that I persisted, because it really was an enjoyable read. Not having known anything about Sir Richard Francis Burton, I became intrigued by this English explorer who was curious about the world and the people in it, and set himself apart from his fellow explorers in many ways.

The story is split into three main sections, each focusing on a different place Burton visited: India and Pakistan, the Middle East, and Eastern Africa. Each section switches between Burton and other individuals, either servants who helped him in his travels or outsiders trying to figure him out. We see his attempts to learn more about the places he visits and the people he meets, including his difficulty in sharing his interest and curiosity with his fellow Englishmen.

The only downside to the book is that it can take some work to get through, so don’t expect a bit of light reading. Some sections get a bit weighty in philosophy or theology, either due to the content or the flowery writing. And it’s best to have a dictionary (or the Internet) handy, since the included glossary — which I found a bit too late — didn’t have definitions for everything, and sometimes the meaning isn’t clear from the context.

That said, I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction that features traveling or a great adventure as the main theme. Although it wavers a bit towards the end, the story is a pretty intriguing one that kept my interest throughout.