Friday, October 5, 2012

Books I read during the summer

It turns out I prefer actual reading of books over writing about them. Even though I set out to review the books I read each month, I haven't gotten around to it since the beginning of summer. On a positive note though, I have been reading much more lately than those meager 2 books a month I read before.

Right now, I am actually re-reading all of Karin Slaughter's books, as I love them and never managed to read them all in the correct order. I'm up to book 5 I think, and it's such a joy. If only more books could be such fun, easy reads!

What else have I been reading since July? Here's a brief overview:

Criminal and Undone by Karin Slaughter (crime/suspense)

These were the only 2 of her books I hadn't read yet. Like all other books, they were a great read! Not sure what more to say about them, then you should definitely read her books if you enjoy crime novels.

Broken Harbour by Tana French (crime/suspense)

Another author you should check out is Tana French. This is the fourth book of hers I read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. She just writes great, interesting, intriguing crime novels.

Greetings from Jamaica - Wish you were queer (and the sequel) Camptown ladies
by Mari SanGiovanni (romance/comedy/lesbian)

These books were such fun to read!

As I summed it up on Goodreads

Book 1: "It was a fun read. Finished it in one day. I thought the storyline was a little unbelieveble, but it kept me entertained. It was rather funny, with lots of light drama and a great love story thrown in the mix."

Book 2: "I really enjoyed reading this book. It's fast-paced and funny, and you just want to keep on reading. The storyline was very predictable and the cluelessness of the main character annoyed me a bit, but besides that it was a pretty good sequel."

Keeping you a secret by Julie Anne Peters (romance/ya/lesbian)

From Goodreads: "I thought it was going to be a cute love story. It was. But way too much time was spent on the horrors of coming out in high school (complete with getting kicked out the house etc. etc.). I think from now on authors should only write cute lesbian love stories, which can have lots of drama but please no more of the "the world is a cruel and homophobic place" because it's simply too depressing."

Ash by Malinda Lo (fantasy/ya/lesbian)

Not really my cup of tea (i.e., fantasy), but beautifullly written nonetheless. Ash is a lesbian retelling of Cinderella. If you like fantasy or fairytales, you're going to love this book.

Finally I read three crime novels that I thought were rather boring, hard to get through or just plain a waste of time:

A stain on the silence by Andrew Taylor (crime/suspense)

Ritual by Mo Hayder (crime/mystery)

Marked man by William Lashner (crime/suspense)

                  Don't read these!  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Books I read in June

June was a good month for reading. It helped a lot that I had my summer holidays and while in Barcelona (which is an awesome city btw - if you've never been you should definitely remedy this soon) we even dedicated entire days to doing nothing but reading (and eating, of course - oh how I love Spanish tapas!).

The result is that I managed to finish 5 books last month (yay for me!). All of these books were from authors I had read books from before, so they were all enjoyable to read. Some more than others though, because when a favorite author just keeps writing more books about the same topic there's always the risk of it all starting to sound the same. You start a new book and it feels like you have already read it.

The faithless and The business by Martina Cole

Unfortunately, Martina Cole's novels have started to fall in this category. I used to be a big fan of Cole's novels about the poor and the criminal of London. However, after having read more than a dozen it's starting to get rather boring. Not only is the topic of the story pretty much the same every time, with these two books  it's also felt like the characters keep being the same and even some of the same names are used.

For example, in every novel there's always a woman who is so full of envy or selfishness it ruins her life and everyone else's. There's always a bloke who's very strong but very dumb; there's always a guy who is a psychopath etc. etc. Even the stories start sounding the same.

The faithless and the business are different books with different outlines on the back covers, yet they felt very interchangeable. With the exception that the business was extra boring! It read like it could have been told in half the number of pages. In fact, I found out if I just read the first sentence of every paragraph I could still follow the story line just fine! Such a disappointment. Stay away from these books!

Fractured and Fallen by Karin Slaughter

I've also read more than ten books byKarin Slaughter, yet I never get tired of these. They are always on the same topic as well (or actually about the same people, in the same towns), but every new book is another great read. Why? Because they are well written, I love the characters and the story lines which are always suspenseful and never boring or predictable.

Fractured is the second novel in the Will Trent series and Fallen is the fifth and is also is the latest novel by Slaughter in paperback. I've already written many review on these books, so I am not sure what to add, besides that they are definitely worth reading. If you enjoy crime novels, start with the first of the Grant County series and see if it will keep you entertained until the final Will Trent book.

Brand new friend by Mike Gayle

I first discovered Mike Gayle when I came across his novel about making the ultimate to do list. I wasn't so much interested in the story, but what I really was looking for was inspiration for my own to do list. As it turned out, it was quite a fun novel as well. The same can be said for Brand new friend.

It tells the story of a guy who moves from London to Manchester to move in with his gf, leaving his life and friends behind. He then has to find some new great mates, but this task is a lot harder than it seems. After a lot of time and effort he finally makes a new friend, only she is female.

A lot of time is devoted to the question whether men and women can really be friends, which I found rather annoying. Especially when it turned out in every single male-female friendship in the book there were feelings of love/lust involved. Besides that, it was a really fun read. Nothing more and nothing less.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Books I read in May

Now that I have accepted I don't read nearly as much as I thought I would, I am fairly content with my 2 books a month. Yes, May was no exception. I also stayed with my usual genre of crime/suspense and I loved it!

Dead Sky by Tami Hoag

I've read novels by Tami Hoag before, but I was never a very big fan. Her novels are pretty good I guess, but I always find them kind of boring. It's something about the pace of the book, the details I do not quite care about or the long time it takes to get into the story. However, Dead sky did not have any of that.

Ok I think it did take me a few chapters to get into the story, but once that was over I didn't want to but the book down until it was finished. It was such a nice surprise! Why? I am not sure. Perhaps because it was a more appealing story, or the main characters were more likable. If you want to start reading Hoag's novels, I recommend reading this one first.

It tells the story of a judge who rules that evidence in the case of a brutal murder is inadmissible and there's a big public outcry. The judge in question is attacked and detectives try to figure out who was responsible for the attack as well as who's the real perpetrator who committed the murders.

What's interesting about this story is that it's told from many different perspectives (the judge, the detective, the killer). It is a little hard to get into at first, but once you're into it you just want to keep reading. Great, suspenseful plot, interesting characters, well-written. I'm glad to say I enjoyed it a lot.

Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter

As I've probably mentioned before, I'm really into Karin Slaughter's books. They are all well-written, fast paced suspense novel with very likable main characters and a good plot. I've already read many of her books, but someone I had missed one of her Grant County series (the very first one). So after having read the entire series, I read the first novel where everything started.

I have to say it is weird reading it in this order, because you already know everything that will happen later, but it was very interesting to find out about all this earlier stuff that I missed. Blindsighted is just a good as all the other novels in this series. I recommend reading them in the correct order, but even if you just pick one of these books it will make sense without having all the back story.

This one tells the beginning of the lives and adventures of Dr. Sara Linton the towns doctor and coroner, Jeffery Tolliver the chief of police (and Sara's ex husband she cannot get over) and the only female detective in the town, Lena Adams. Blindsighted starts with the brutal rape and murder of Sibyl Adams, Lena's sister. Most of the novel revolves around this murder and Sara, Jeffery and Lena trying to find out who's responsible. Another great read I definitely recommend.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Awesome iPhone apps

Looking for some new apps for your iPhone? My gf makes the most awesome iPhone apps, and I'm not just saying that because I'm biased. They're awesome because 1) they're all apps that are very handy; 2) most of them involve making lists of some kind; 3) they're very pretty. You might think reason number 1 is the most important, but don't underestimate the appeal of a well-designed app that's pleasant to look at.

So far, she has 4 apps in the app store, some of which I've mentioned before.

It all started with Stay in touch - with you, a handy tool to help you keep track of your social life. We use this to plan appointments with friends and family (or really to get told off by the app that so and so misses us!). If you want to know more about it, my gf made a YouTube instruction video for it.

The second app idea came about because we had been using pedometers for a while, but we had no good way to keep an overview of how many steps a day, week and month we were walking. The answer to that problem is Pedometer tracker - Walk home (PT walk home for short. Get the reference?).

We had been using different apps to make all kinds of lists (because who doesn't like a nice list. Or two?), but what we really wanted was an app to keep track of recurring tasks. You know, like when it's time to change the sheets, renew subscriptions, that sort of thing. So that resulted in the third app: Recurring tasks.

The latest iPhone app to be added to the collection (which is also available for iPad) is Dinner Planner. Every week we like to sit down and plan what we'll be having for dinner that week. All that was missing was a nifty app to make this process more fun and systematic. I think this app is probably the prettiest of them all!

Pretty cool huh?

Monday, May 28, 2012

New Rainbow Duo cartoon: Paris food adventure

Our latest Rainbow Duo cartoon is out entitled Paris food adventure. Most of these cartoons are inspired by our real life, but this one literally happened to us when we were in Paris last summer.

I'm glad I did not know what I was eating at the time...and yes, it was surprisingly yummy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Books I read in April

April was the month in which I attempted to read many books, but only managed to finish two. Sometimes I can be a real lazy reader and if a book doesn´t manage to grab my attention within the first few chapters I can´t be bothered to continue reading. That happened to me a lot last month.

Luckily, I do have 2 more books to add towards my goal of reading 30 books this year. At the rate I´m going I´m slightly behind schedule, but I´m sure the summer holidays will help me catch up. The two books I read were another crime novel and a lesbian fantasy novel.

Ice run by Steve Hamilton (crime/suspense)

I can best describe Ice run as a good choice to pick if you need something to read on the train or plane. It´s a nice crime novel, nothing more and nothing less. It´s not as good as many of the crime novels I have read, but it did manage to keep me entertained throughout.

Ice run tells the story of a former PI Alex, who after a lot of bad luck in life decides to move back to the small town where he grew up. Of course, life doesn´t really stay quiet and his help is needed time and again. On his last job he came into contact with Natalie, a former cop who´s also had too many bad cards dealt to her.

The two of them embark upon an affair of sorts. Soon it turns out there´s many things from Natalie´s passed that Alex doesn´t know about, some of these things have come back to hunt them. Luckily they both have plenty of skills to sort it all out - but will their relationship survive? And do we really care?

It´s not a very well thought out plot. Even though the story is captivating in general, some of the parts I found rather boring. Like Alex spends a lot (!) of time plowing snow. This is described over and over again. At some point I wanted to scream: "I get it, it snows there a lot! Stop mentioning it!" I also thought Natalie could've been portrayed a little less annoying. I had a hard time understanding what the hell Alex saw in her. Besides that, it's not a bad read.

Saint Olivia by Jacqueline Carey (fantasy, lesbian)

This novel was such a nice surprise. It started out a little boring, but after that I couldn't put it down. Saint Olivia tells the story of a nowhere land between the United States and Mexico, where the US military rule things and life is rather restricted. The military have been experimenting on creating so-called Wolf-men who look just like men, but have the strength of wolves and also have absolutely no fear.

One of wolf-man gets involved with a woman of the town and Loup is born. Loup looks like other girls, but is ten times as strong and ten times as smart. Most of the book is about her life, how she tries to stay hidden and pretend she is just like everyone else, but at the same time longs to be herself. Being herself involves using her abilities, showing her strength, and being together with the girl she loves.

Before she gets to do this, she has to go through a lot. After her mother and brother die, who have always protected her, she has to go to an orphanage. She ends up having great friends there though, and together they figure out how to make a life for themselves in the military town.

I loved this story and especially the main character Loup. I'm not usually a big fan of fantasy novels, but I liked that this story had enough reality in it for me to be able to get into it. It was a really interesting book and a great read, which made me think I should read more novels that don't fall into the crime domain.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

25 Belgian beers I tried and (mostly) liked

Many great and wonderful things come from Belgium - including fries, chocolate, smos and, of course, my awesome girlfriend. Another thing the Belgians do best is beer. As an avid beer drinker, I've quite enjoyed sampling their many different brands over the years. 

More recently, I've started to try and drink as many different ones as possible (on separate occasions, of course!). This has resulted in a list of 25 different Belgian beers that I would like to share with you. I did not only drink these beers, but I also used my own very subjective rating scale to judge each one:

**** = loved it! Will drink it again and again.
*** = liked it a lot! Will order it again.
** = it's ok. Not bad, but I won't order it again.
* = bleh, bleh, BLEH! Stay away from this one.

Luckily for me, only few of the beers I drank fell into the one star category and more than a handful I rewarded with 4 stars. Some of the beers I hated are actually ones many people love, but well, there's no accounting for taste.

If you're a beer drinker you probably recognize most of these brands, but hopefully there's also some surprises. I've taken the liberty of sometimes listing more than one beer per brand and at other times just lumping them all together. 

In case you know nothing of the different types of Belgian beer, find out the basic distinctions here.


01. Bobeline **
I wanted to try this beer because it looked "different" plus I love Spa water. Yes, I made the silly inference that because this town makes great water their beer would be nice as well. Not so much. It wasn't bad, but I don't think I'll ever order it again.

02. Bon Secours **
This is another beer I thought looked interesting, but had a disappointing taste. I've learned since then that if you see a beer you've never seen before there's probably a good reason for it.

03. Brugse Zot blonde ****
Brugse zot is one of my new favourite beers to drink. I first discovered it while visiting Brugge and I loved it right away. Don't let the silly logo fool you, it's a really good beer!!

04. Brugse Zot brown ***
The dark version of Brugse zot is also pretty good, but I don't like it as much as the blonde one. I guess it's a matter of taste, so if you prefer darker beer try this one instead.

05. Chimay triple ***
This is one of the Trappist beers. They usually come in (at least) 2 different kinds double and triple, but sometimes there's other variations like quadruple or blonde. Chimay is an nice brand and I would drink their beers again, but it's not really the kind of beer I get really excited about.

06. Duvel ***
Duvel is one of those nice beers that's always a good choice. It's not the best beer I've ever had, and it's not in my top 5, but it's still a really nice beer.

07. Ezel blonde **
This is the kind of beer that tastes pretty much like it looks: cheap and average. Still I was rather disappointed about that. You shouldn't give this brand a try unless there are no better options.

08. Ezel brown *
The only thing worse than the blonde donkey beer, is the brown version. I had two sips, then threw it out. I thought it was disgusting. So stay away from this one!

09. Grimbergen **
Grimbergen is an Abbey beer that comes in a few different versions. I think I tried a six pack of the gold variety (or maybe it was the blonde), but I did not care for it much. It's not a bad beer, I just didn't like the aftertaste of this brand.

10. Jupiler ***
This is the first entry of regular ale on this list (I think it's called 'pale lager' but then I'm not that versed in official beer terminology). Because Belgium is so good at making beer, even their regular stuff is pretty good. I would choose this over Stella (number 19 on this list) any time.

11. Keizer Karel (blonde) ***
Keizer Karel was surprisingly good. I only tried the blonde version and I really liked it. 

12. De Koninck ***
This is the beer I usually order when one of my other favourites Palm (number 18 on the list) isn't available. It's similar, but not as good. Still, it's a very nice beer to have.

13. Leffe blonde ****
Leffe is always a good choice of brand when choosing among similar standard brands. I really enjoy their blonde beer.
14. Leffe brown ***
Leffe brown is just as good a beer as the blonde version, but as with most beers I prefer the lighter version slightly over the brown one. 

15. Lucifer ***
I had to try this one just because it looked unusual. I expected to be disappointed, but it's actually a really good beer!

16. Maredsous **
Another Abbey beer (or is it Trappist? I am never sure which is which) on this list, but one I don't really care much about. I think I tried several of their beers, but it's just not for me. I think it's just the typical taste this brand has I don't really like.

17. Morte subite natural Oude Geuze *
I thought this beer was disgusting! It's described as "special" and "unusual", which I suppose it is, but if you enjoy any of the beers I've listed so far I doubt you'd want to try this. They also have flavored beers like Kriek, which could be decent, but stay away from this particular version.

18. Palm ****
You can never go wrong ordering a Palm. It's just a really really nice beer, one that I've been drinking for years.

19. Stella artois **
I couldn't decide whether to give this 2 or 3 stars. It's not a brand I would ever choose if I had better options, still it's not that bad a beer to drink. It's just a little boring and average.

20. Straffe Hendrik *
Perhaps if you enjoy really dark, strong, bitter beers you should give it a try, otherwise stay the hell away from a Straffe Hendrik!

21. Tempelier ****
This beer was such a nice surprise. I just thought the label looked cool so I had to try it, but it's actually a really good, yummy beer.

22. Verboden vrucht (dark) **
Verboden vrucht (Forbidden fruit) is described as different and unusual and I can tell you that usually means it's got a weird, bad taste. This one wasn't actually as bad as some of the other beers I've drank with a similar description, but I would never order this again.

23. Westvleteren X *
Westvleteren is one of the most exclusive Trappist beers, which means that everyone claims it's o-so good. We got the chance to buy a six pack last year and it's one of the few beers I just couldn't finish. I thought it was absolutely disgusting!

24. Westmalle (double, triple) ****
Westmalle is my favourite Trappist/Abbey beer. I even got to drink one at the bar across the actual Abbey it's brewed! I always have a hard time deciding which one I like best, the double or the triple. This doesn't really matter though as they are both delicious.

25. Winterkoninkske *
The final beer on the list was another disappointment. If there's one thing I learned from tasting some of these  random beers is that very, very dark beer is just not for me. This is another beer I thought was disgusting and could not finish.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Books I read in March

I'm happy to say last month I did a little better than the previous months, but only a little. Instead of 2, I managed to read 3 books. Woohoo for me! Not only did I read more, I also diverted from my usual genre. Only one of the novels was a crime novel, but I read some fantasy YA too, and a creepy gay thriller.

Live Wire by Harlan Coben (crime/suspense)
Live Wire is one of the many books I've read by Coben and it's also number 10 (it could be the 8th or the 12th, the latest anyway) in the Myron Bolitar series. I'm not sure what I could say about this novel that I haven't said about any of the previous ones. It was a fun read - just like all the others.

Myron Bolitar is a former basketball star turned sports rep, and he is also a bit of a private investigator. Somehow there is also some trouble he needs to sort out and he does this with the help of Win, his best friend and a bit of a psychopath. This time it's one of his clients that needs his help and once Myron starts investigating it turns out it has something to do with his brother and his wife (who he lost contact with 15 years ago).

This novel isn't very original, but it's good at what it's supposed to do: give you a fast-paced, well-written, entertaining crime novel.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (YA fantasy)
I'm not usually a big fan of YA novels and I don't really understand why they are so popular these day. Not with adults that is. I read lots of YA when I was a young adult and a period after that, but at 35 it gets a little boring to keep reading about high school kids and all their drama. Having said that, I quite enjoyed the Replacement.

It tells the story of Mackie, who has a hard time fitting in in high school. Not just for the usual reasons, but because he is not really human. Mackie replaced the real Mackie as a baby and now he is pretending to be something he's not. This isn't very easy as he has some peculiar allergies, including iron, blood and consecrated ground. Mackie is not the first replacement in the small town, but it's something no one really talks about. Until another little kid goes missing and Mackie travels to the Slag heap to rescue the kid and find out where he really comes from. Of course, while doing so he learns who he really is and finally finds his place in the world.

What can I say? It was well-written, interesting and a fun read. It was a bit unbelievable, but then I'm not big into fantasy. I can understand why many people liked it, as it's original and written in a way that makes you want to keep reading (which is easy to do as the book isn't all that big). Still, at the end of the day it's a YA novel and I really don't think it's my kind of genre.

Troll: a love story by Johanna Sinisalo (thriller, fantasy, gay)
I bought this book because many people said good things about it and it seemed like an intriguing read. What I learned from this is that nothing is a subjective as what makes for a good book. I sure did not think this novel qualified. Sure, the topic is very interesting if not intriguing: Guy finds a troll one night and decides to take it home to look after it. As time goes on he start to care more and more for his "pet" and the two form a strong bond.

There's two things I didn't really like about this books. Firstly, the way it was written. The story is told in (very) short chapters each telling the story from a different perspective. This can be a nice way to read a book sometimes, but the chapters were so short that I found it very hard to get into the story. This would have been ok if those chapters were not alternated by pages and pages of unnecessary information about trolls, like the history of trolls, random troll poems etc. I ended up just skipping these parts.

The actual story was kind of interesting, or it could have been if we had had a little more of it and more time had been taken to give the characters some back story and developed their relationships further. For example, I really don't know why the neighbor lady got such a big part in the novel, as her story wasn't very interesting or necessary for the story that was being told.

The story about the bond that forms between the guy and the troll...I'm not sure what to say about that. I had a very hard time understanding why they would have such a connection, especially since the troll seemed like a rather wild animal without many ways to communicate. The fact that the main character got so turned on by the troll was very hard to believe, and I also found it quite disturbing. I cannot believe it wasn't mentioned in any of the reviews I read about this novel.

In sum, Troll might sound like an intriguing read but I would advice you to just take my word for it and stay far away from it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Books I read in February

Last month I complained about not having read enough and I said I hoped to do better next month. Well, February wasn't much better. Despite my best intentions, I only managed to read two books. I'm not sure why, as it's not as if I don't have the time to read...Anyway, on to the books.

Silent Scream by Karen Rose

I read another book by Karen Rose, this one was entitled Silent Scream. I was going to write an extensive review about it, but it really is more of the same. Read any of my previous reviews of her books and you get a pretty good idea of what her style is like.

This doesn't mean I didn't enjoy reading this novel, because I did, but it's more like watching another episode of season 10 of a TV show you like than the excitement of watching an episode of season 1 or 2 of a new cool show you just discovered. I'm not sure whether the TV series comparison works, but it does give me a great excuse to refer you to all the great TV shows I'm watching.

The other reason why I"m not that excited about this novel is because of the one I read after this. The other book I read was similar, but just written so much better.

Broken by Karin Slaughter

Just as with Karen Rose, I have also read many books by Karin Slaughter. They are always crime novels revolving around detectives or medical examiners who have to solve some horrible murders or kidnappings. Yes, sounds like many other crime novels, but the reason I love the books by Slaughter is because they are just very well written. Or at least much better than some of the other stuff I have read.

Broken is number two in the Georgia series, although I am not sure why it's a new series as we come across the same main characters as we've seen in the Grant county series. This novel is set 4 years after the final Grant county series, wherein medical examiner Sara Linton returns to Grant county for the holidays.

Of course in no time she gets up to her neck involved in mysterious deaths taking place in the small town. She asks Will Trenton to help out and together with Lena Adams he tries to solve the case. There's some animosity, some loving feelings and of course, a lot of suspense. I can't wait to read part 3!