Book 8-9-10- The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner

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This is another book trilogy which is targeted at teenagers and young adults, for the most part – I definitively don’t fall into that category but for some reason I love this stuff. And like most other popular book trilogies, this too has been turned into a couple of movies – two so far have been in the theaters the long wait is for the last part in the trilogy (or maybe the last book will be turned into two movies which will be shown in theaters a year apart, since that is what they have been doing these last couple of years with all of the stories which consist of multiple parts).

First things first, what I really wanted to mention is the fact that the main character is a boy, sixteen year old Thomas or at least that might be his age he’s not sure since he doesn’t have his memories after all. Lately most popular books were written from a girls perspective, one of my favorites being of course the very flawed Katniss Everdeen and there was Triss in Divergent. And who can forget Bella from Twilight? Reading a story from a boy’s perspective was different. Of course we had Harry Potter but that was quite a few years ago, and since then a lot of books had strong female characters. In this book it takes a loooonnggg time before the first female character actually enters the story – literally a long time.

Take note, I’m reviewing three books so naturally there will be spoilers how else am I supposed to review three books in a row?

The Maze Runner

Thomas wakes up, in an unfamiliar place – a sort of box which brings him to the surface – the Glade. A walled in environment in the center of a maze, where a group of boys live and survival is what they do each and every day. Thomas has no idea who he is or how he got here, he’s lost his memories as have all the other boys. Some of them have been at the Glade for as long as two years. But all he can do is adjust to life in the Glade and find his place in the group of boys. However Thomas doesn’t stay the new kid for very long, soon after he arrives the box comes up again but instead of a boy there is a girl inside. The first girl, Teresa. And she claims she knows Thomas, she has a message which doesn’t make much sense ‘Wicked is good’.

Thomas is intrigued with the maze but the only way to enter it is if he becomes a runner. With the help of Minho Thomas becomes one of the maze runners and together they go out each day to explore and hopefully eventually find the exit of the maze. Afterall finding the exit of the maze would mean the end of their life in the Glade and freedom.

The Scorch Trails

Eventually they escape the Glade and the maze, but this is only just the start and they have no idea what’s ahead of them but it certainly isn’t freedom. Wicked – the organisation which put them in the Glade – won’t let them go, escaping the maze is merely the end of phase one and phase two is about to start. They are told that they have two weeks to make it across the Scorch, a vast and dead landscape but they are not alone. When they wake up in the dormitory where they ended up after their escape they find that Teresa has disappeared and instead there is a boy named Aris. He tells them a similar story of how he ended up in a group of girls and they too escaped their maze. A man who works for Wicked tells them that the earth has been ravaged by solar flares and that people have caught a very contagious disease which turns them into zombi-like creatures called cranks. And that they might have the disease as well but if they make it across the Scorch in two weeks time the cure awaits for them at the safe haven. With no other choice Thomas, Aris and the surviving Gladers leave the dormitory and try to find their way across the Scorch to find the safe haven.

The Death Cure

Okay, for those who are wondering how the hell I suddenly managed to read a book in two days. I didn’t. It’s the truth I didn’t read it myself. I actually listened to the audiobook. I was painting the walls and ceiling of my bathroom and I decided that it would be a good time to listen to an audiobook and it worked out quite well. I finished almost half of the book by the time I was finished with the painting. And I listened to part of it while I was driving home to my parents and that is how you work through a story in a matter of hours instead of in my case months of weeks. So let’s get on with the review.

Once again making it across the Scorch and even more important surviving wasn’t the end of their troubles. The groups are ‘saved’ by Wicked and brought to Wicked HQ. Once there Thomas is kept in a room for almost four weeks before he’s allowed to return to his friends. He’s told that he’s immune to the Flare (as the disease is called) but that some of his friends are not. In order for Wicked to show the teenagers that they really are who they say they are they want to give them their memories back. However Thomas and some of the others refuse to get them back because they don’t trust Wicked. Thomas and a small group of his friends escape and flee to Denver, one of the few remaining cities in search for answers which eventually bring them back to Wicked and a frantic race against the clock.

In conclusion

What did I think of this story, these books?

Honestly, I certainly enjoyed myself while reading the story of Thomas and his friends trying to get away from Wicked. But to me Thomas wasn’t as interesting a character as Katniss is, which in turn means that I was less invested in the story. I can’t really explain it but when I was reading The Hunger Games the story pulled me in so many different directions emotionally speaking that it changed the whole experience and with Thomas that simply wasn’t the case.

Even while there is a lot of comparison between the two stories. In both stories kids are being used / abused by the government / a company in one case for pure entertainment and punishment and in the other case to find a cure for a disease that was man-made. So in that regard there is a lot these series have in common. But there is little character development in this story which means that you don’t care so much for the characters. Another similarity between The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games is the friendship between Thomas and Chuck and Katniss and Rue. And while both end tragically I literally cried when Rue was killed but with Chuck all I could think was okay that happened and I continued reading the next chapter.

It simply didn’t have the same effect because I didn’t feel for these characters what I should have felt for them at that point in the story.

So are the books entertaining – yes. Does the story have promise – certainly. Would you recommend them? That depends, if the other person has read The Hunger Games I wouldn’t recommend this story. If they never read The Hunger Games I would tell them to read this first followed by The Hunger Games. That might work, but only if I know for certain that the other person loves reading. If I’m not sure however The Hunger Games will always be my first choice.

These three books conclude my year of reading. And as you might have gathered I certainly didn’t reach my goal for this years reading challenge. Better next year, I guess. Hope to see you then.

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Book 7 – I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

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This book came highly recommended by my uncle and he is one critical reader especially  when it comes to stories and movies in regards to realism. Even more so when it comes to Police procedures and those type of things since he’s a former Police officer and he knows a thing or two about the subject.

He knows that I like these kind of stories – crime novels – so this book came highly recommended by him. And once I started reading it was difficult to put the book down, it is one of those stories that literally sucks you in. Partly because of the realism and known facts about Nine Eleven and the fight against terrorism which has been going on for years now.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed myself by reading this book writing this review was a lot harder than I first expected it to be. The thing is you don’t want to give away too many details yet at the same time I want to make sure that people get what a good read this story was. The thing is when you take a look at the Goodreads page for this book you’ll notice that you apparently either love or hate this book, there seems to be nothing in between. Most people who hate it stopped reading long before they reached the end and therefore in my opinion can’t really form a real opinion about the story. And the other group of readers are the readers like me who couldn’t put the book away. I read this book in Dutch, this time because I basically didn’t have a say in the matter since I borrowed the book from my uncle. My mother and I were reading the e-book at the exact same time, sometimes I was a little bit ahead of my mother and other days she would surpass me.  Which really made it a fun experience because we would always discus what happened and therefore I know for a fact that my mother enjoyed reading this story as well.

So what is this story about you ask? It’s a story about a breakneck race against time to safe the world from a deadly biological attack with modified small pox virus which is immune to all known medication and treatment. The story takes place in the world we know today, a world which has changed drastically since Nine Eleven and the fight against terrorism is in full swing. Since the American government doesn’t want to create mass-hysteria and panic they want to keep hide the details as long as they possibly can and that means that they have to involve as few people as they possibly can. So they literally choose to send one man after the terrorist.

There was something really thrilling about this story, the way it was written gave you great insight into the different characters and their reasons behind the way they act in the story. You see the story and the reasoning behind certain choices in the past and the present from different points of view. As the main storyline progresses you get glimpses into the past showing you bit by bit why the main characters in the story are who they’ve become. To me that is what makes this story interesting, it gives you complicated characters who are three dimensional. And it even gives a man who becomes a terrorist a true identity without just making him out to be the bad guy which would have probably be much easier but it also would have made the story less interesting.

The book came out back in 2014 but for some reason I’ve only recently been hearing about it, I have no idea why that is. But it was as if something was triggered, suddenly I saw this story everywhere. It probably has to do with the fact that there is a movie going to be made or maybe they are even currently working on it. I’m not sure, there is a page on IMDb but it doesn’t give a whole lot of information at this point in time. Honestly I think that it would make for a good movie but I think that they would have to leave a lot of information and twists and turns out of the movie. So if they do this I really hope that they make a mini-series out of it. It would be a perfect way to tell the whole story, simply because there is more time to set up the plot and let it take it’s course instead of trying to fit it all in an hour and a half or two at the most.

I really need to see if this author has written more books because if this is the start the sky is the limit. I loved it and I will recommend it to anyone. This is definitively my favorite read of the year.

Book 5 – Snatched by Karin Slaughter

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This is another story by Karin Slaughter, my copy of ‘Criminal’ contained the short story ‘Snatched’. In my opinion it’s quite strange, ‘Criminal’ is book six, but ‘Snatched’ is story #5,5 in the Will Trent storyline. It’s kind of strange that it was added to the back of the book since no one would read it before starting reading ‘Criminal’.

The story is kind of a standalone story. Let’s analyze it, first of all it’s short, just about 60 to 70 pages I think. Besides that it was quite an easy read – one page after another was turned and I think it only took me an evening, maybe a little more. It was one of those stories where you just need to keep on reading, you want to know what happens.

Will Trent did something to piss Amanda off and he’s paying for it by being on Airport duty, the last place he wants to be on a good day. And to top it off he’s in the airport bathroom of all places when a man and a young girl come in. Suddenly he hears the girl saying  little girl to the man that she wants to go home. Of course she could just be a home-sick or traveling with her dad and missing her mom. But Will immediately knows that something isn’t right, this is not a little homesick girl who wants to go back home. This is a kidnapping.

With time running out quickly all he can do is call in the order to shut down the entire airport – the last thing you want to do when you are at a busy airport but he has no real choice if he wants to make sure that he can safe the girl.

If you have a chance to read this story and you like Karin Slaughter’s writing I would definitely recommend reading this short! It’s a quick read but that doesn’t make it any less interesting or less intense.

This review is a lot shorter than the reviews I usually write, however since we’re dealing with a short story I think that’s okay. Of course I don’t want to give away too many details.

Book 4 – Criminal by Karin Slaughter

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Choosing to read this book is such a typical thing for me. I love reading books, but I never really take notice of things which could be important information. Like this being the sixth book in a series for instance. So typical of me – insert roll-eyes here – anyway so I have a lot of books by Karin Slaughter. Chances are that I have the whole or at least a big part of the Will Trent Series and I know that these are books which are part of a series but I simply didn’t check it before I started reading the book.

The other thing is that I started reading this book on January 28th. Nope, that’s not this years January 28th but last years. And I finished reading on June 10th, so that’s well over one year, five months and thirteen days later or in total 529 days! Had I set myself the goal of reading a page a day I would have finished sooner. That must be a record! I’ve never claimed to be a quick reader but this certainly is bordering on ridiculous. For some reason, which I can’t explain it didn’t work – and by no means does this have anything to do with the book – I just couldn’t sit down and focus on reading it. Weirdly enough January 28th was also around the time when I became a member of GoodReads so in fact this book was one of the books I was reading when I became a member and started participating in the Reading Challenge.

Anyway let’s get on with this review, like I said my lack in finishing this book literally had nothing to do with the book itself, it’s a great book to read. Honestly I would recommend this book, ‘Criminal’ to anyone. It’s a very interesting story set over the course of forty years, part of it playing out in the past and part of it in the here and now. And that is part of the charm of this story, you get an inside look into some of the characters past and what makes them tick. I love how Karin Slaughter says that this is a Will Trent story but doesn’t shy away from allowing other characters their spot in the limelight. The majority of the story is being carried by Amanda and Evelyn.

Another interesting part of the story – in my opinion – was the insight you get into the workings of a Police Station the the 1970’s. Especially the way women were treated on the force as well as the rivalry between Caucasian cops and Afro-American cops. I love stories with strong female characters and this story certainly gave me that. We see some great character development especially in Amanda – who’s now Will Trent’s boss. But in the past she was the young female cop who struggled to work a murder case.

I know that a lot of people don’t agree with me – I’ve read some of the reviews on GoodReads in regards to ‘Criminal’ – but I loved the 1970 parts. It made the story that much more interesting to me, especially since you kept switching back and forth between then and now and slowly you see the pieces of the puzzle connecting with one another.

Anyway since I don’t want to give any details away I’ll give you the recommendation to read this book and I’ll leave this review here while I go in search of another story to add to my GoodReads Reading Challenge.

So here it is, my latest review of a book which I’ve read a little while back but still hadn’t added to my reviews. I still have a lot of unread books lying around in my apartment so I should be able to read a couple of books before the second half of this year is over. See you soon for another book review.

Book 3 – Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James

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Technically this book should have been on last years list. I started reading it right after I finished the second book. Though I never finished it till today. In fact, I stopped reading it all together. I hated it. After finishing two books basically back to back I was so annoyed with the series that I honestly couldn’t be bothered to read further.

At the beginning of this year when I closed off last years Reading Challenge I was annoyed by the simple fact that this book was still on that list unfinished, which is basically what got me back to reading it. I wanted – no, needed to finish it.

And that is exactly what I did, I finished it this morning. I was surprised by the ending. I thought that it would go one for a little while longer when I suddenly reached the epilogue. That got me confused, my first thought was that I had never before seen a fifty (or so) page epilogue. Of course as I continued reading it became clear that it wasn’t, in fact E.L. James used it to promote her new book, the whole series written from Christian’s perspective.

There is one small story about Christian as a young child right after he was adopted by his parents. The little boy with the copper colored hair who lived in silence, who was constantly living in fear because of all the things he’s seen in his short lifespan. Despite the fact that you know the background why this little boy is so scared the story is also endearing. But it reads like a fanfiction, and in this case I think that it probably was written in that way too we all know how this series started. As a fanfiction writer you often get challenged by readers and short stories are written to explore certain aspects of a story. Sometimes to explain something that happened in the past or that will happen in the future. This story gave me that exact same feel. Usually in books you won’t see that.

The second story is the basically the first chapter of the first book all over again, this time from the moment Anastasia Steele steps into Christian’s office to interview him. Immediately he wants her and it’s clear that he’s used to getting what he wants.

Are people really waiting to read that? Isn’t it enough already?

Personally I can assure you that I will not read that book, I don’t have any interest in it. Especially given that it took me this long to read the third book and I’m not sure I really want to know what Christian Grey thinks.

Book 2 – Tough Love by Kerry Katona

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If you grew up in the nineties, like I did, the name Kerry Katona will probably sound familiar. At least it did to me as soon as my eyes crossed the cover of this book, in all honesty it’s the reason why I bought it. It intrigued me, she used to be one of the singers of Atomic Kitten, and lets be honest in a lot of ways you never really hear anything from the 90’s girl / boy groups unless there is an reunion coming up or a huge scandal hits tabloids. So I was really surprised when I noticed her name on a book cover – a novel at that, rather than a biography. Of course with this type of story, I’m sure that she can use a lot of her own experiences to her advantage – at least that is what I think. This is Kerry Katona’s debut novel.

This story is about a former model, Leannne Crompton who’s dropped by her modelling agency because she’s ‘too old’. Due to her own naivety she’s never saved up any of the money she earned. She’s used to living the life in London and her money is quickly dwindling. Eventually she’s out of options, she has no choice but to go back to Bradington with her daughter Kia. Bradington is the hometown she struggled to get away from, one the other hand it’s where her family still resides and she knows that they will help her no matter what. It’s difficult for Leanne and Kia to leave there life in London behind and ‘tough love’ is definitively one of the things Leanne has to deal with when it comes to her family and her life in Bradington.

If you’re asking me if I would recommend this novel the answer is yes. If you’re able to call this your debut novel it’s definitively not a bad start. On the other hand it sure isn’t the best book or story in the world either. However I did enjoy reading it, mostly because it reads away easily and it gives you  a glimpse into the life behind all the fame and fortune and how easily someone can fall from their pedestal. If you’re looking for something to read which doesn’t require much thought then this is definitively one of those books and therefor I recommend it.

Book 1 – Sollicitatiegesprekken doe je zo by Aaltje Vincent

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After last years ‘2015 Reading Challenge‘ I’ve decided to do it again this year. And like last year I signed up for 50 books, still I don’t think I will reach that goal because it’s quite a lot. But it keeps me on my toes about reading and moving forwards to at least make a good effort. I hope to at least surpass the 22 books I read last year. And I still have a lot of books laying around my apartment waiting for me to pick them up and read them.

The first book I read this year was a book named ‘Sollicitatiegesprekken doe je zo’ by Aaltje Vincent. I don’t read a whole lot of Dutch books, but sometimes I have no choice either because I have a Dutch copy of the book. However this was one of those books that proves to be quite difficult to review in English simply because I know that there is no use to do so. If I translate the title correctly it says ‘Job interviews, this is how to do them’ and that really says it all.

It’s a Dutch book focused on the Dutch job-market and how to prepare for job interviews written by Aaltje Vincent. She is a Dutch job-coach who trains people to find that new dream job. She has written a couple of different books on the subject of jobhunting. She was recommended to me by a job-coach at the job-agency in my city. You are required to register with them as soon as you are out of a job. I never had been in this situation before and in all honesty I was quite overwhelmed and I didn’t know where to start. Besides that with the economical crises of these last couple of years a lot has changed on the job-market. The woman at the job-agency recommended a couple of different websites to me and among them was Aaltje Vincents’ website. I read a couple of different articles on the website and decided that I wanted to read this book.

I started reading the book on January first, it only took me three days to finish it. First and foremost because I suddenly had a job-interview planned for the fourth of January and I wanted to read this book before that job interview and secondly because it is a very easy read. Especially for the type of book it is and the topic it describes, which – let’s be honest can be a bit of a drag. It really goes into detail and gives you good advice – some of the advice seem rather obvious however I am realistic enough to know that what seems obvious to me might not be obvious to other people – yet at the same time it doesn’t get boring and there is enough room for funny cartoons and stories. If you’re Dutch or if you are looking for a job in the Netherlands this book definitively gives you good advice on how to approach those interviews.

Personally my situation is quite unique (I know a lot of people will claim that, but trust me without going into details this is a unique situation) and therefor I didn’t have a ‘regular’ job-interview, so in my case a lot of the information I read in the book was not suitable. But I can definitively see why this book could be very helpful in most cases. Besides that information like this is never lost and you can apply it on different situations besides job-interviews.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a new job and has to do job-interviews in the Netherlands.

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Niet vaak komt het voor dat ik een Nederlands boek lees, en nog minder vaak gebeurd het dat het betreffende boek alleen in het Nederlands verkrijgbaar is. Maar dit boek is zo specifiek dat het alleen voor de Nederlandse markt verkrijgbaar is. Het gaat immers over de Nederlandse banenmarkt en sollicitatiegesprekken.

Vandaar dat ik ervoor kies om voor een keer de review ook in het Nederlands te plaatsen. Ik heb het er al vaker over gehad het afgelopen jaar is heel moeilijk geweest en uiteindelijk heeft dat erin geresulteerd dat ik zonder baan kwam te staan. Een hele vervelende situatie maar ook een situatie waar ik persoonlijk niks aan kon doen faillissement.

En dan komt het moment dat je weer op zoek moet naar ander werk, en ik weet van mezelf dat ik geen held ben in dit soort gesprekken en dat ik dus alle hulp kan gebruiken. Als je werkeloos bent dan ben je in Nederland verplicht je aan te melden bij het UWV. Tijdens een gesprek met een jobcoach heb ik een aantal verschillende namen en website adressen gekregen waarvan ze dacht dat die mij zouden kunnen helpen bij het zoeken naar een nieuwe baan. Een van die namen was Aaltje Vincent. Ik heb de website bezocht en een aantal artikelen gelezen, en ben meteen begonnen met het volgen van Aaltje Vincent op Twitter. Er komen vaak zeer bruikbare tips en interessante links voorbij. Zeker een aanrader om te volgen als je op zoek bent naar een nieuwe baan.

Via de website heb ik de keuze voor dit boek gemaakt, het leek mij zeer geschikt voor iemand die met minimale ervaring sollicitatie-interviews moet aangaan. Het boek heb ik ontvangen als een kerstcadeau, maar door de drukte van de feestdagen was ik er nog niet in begonnen toen ik plots op vier januari een sollicitatiegesprek had. Uiteindelijk heb ik het boek in drie dagen uitgelezen. In eerste instantie omdat het een makkelijk te lezen boek is. Ondanks het nogal zware onderwerp want zoeken naar een nieuwe baan is vaak niet leuk is het een toch een boek wat goed weg leest. Ten tweede word de tekst voorzien van cases uit het bedrijfsleven en af en toe een grappige anekdote of cartoon. Sommige van de tips kwamen op mij over als logisch maar ik ben realistisch genoeg om te begrijpen dat wat voor mij logisch is voor anderen misschien toch iets wat even extra benoemd moet worden. Iedereen is uiteraard anders en heeft een andere kijk op het leven.

Gezien de uniek situatie waarin ik mij bevond, had ik geen tijd om de opdrachten uit te voeren en daarnaast wist ik ook dat het gesprek wat ik aanging niet bepaald een ‘gewone’ sollicitatie zou zijn. In mijn geval heb ik niet uit het boek kunnen halen wat een ander er misschien uit kan halen maar het heeft me wel geholpen. En ik zou dit boek zeker aanraden aan andere mensen. Want ik weet zeker dat iedereen die een baan zoekt er baad bij kan hebben.

Reviews in English as well as in Dutch are only going to be posted if it is necessary.