dinsdag 30 september 2014

Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl

Hi again

Here’s my review about the hype novel Gone Girl.
It’s been on my shelf for more than a year and as the movie is coming out soon, I decided it’s time to read this one.
My copy has 474 pages and I got it at a Charity Shop for like 1 pound.

"Nick and Amy’s marriage has been going downhill for quite some time. They both lost their job and they had to move from NYC to Nick’s hometown North Carthage to take care of his ill mother. Nick opens a bar together with his sister Margo with the remaining money of Amy’s trust fund. On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing and Nick becomes the prime suspect in the investigation.
In her journal, Amy seems a happy, lively and easy-going woman with a brute, inconsiderate and self-important man. Nick’s story shows a very different side of Amy and their wedding."

To my shame I learned, again, that a hyped book is not the same as a book I will like.

Every chapter is told from the point of view of Nick or Amy. Nick made this story intriguing. He’s hiding something, but what? Why does he react the way he does? What is he lying about?
Amy’s diary in the first part of the novel shows us a whining little girl who is a walking cliché. Her husband is blameless and everything is her fault. It only took me two or three chapters to see through this. These parts made me cringe.
In reality, Amy is a self-centered bitch who thinks she’s perfect and the husband is to blame for everything. Completely the opposite of her diary-Amy.
Turns out, both Amy and Nick are self-centered, pathetic, deranged, annoying people.
The writing is entertaining but very plain and easy.
The first few surprises were indeed surprising, clever and interesting. But by the time I got to page 300 I just had enough. Everything deteriorates from then on. The characters became extremely unlikable, unconvincing, unrealistic and awful. I can’t understand their reasoning and motives. Why would they do the things they did? The story is too far-fetched.
The ending is just horribly bad, and absurd and a disappointment and incredulous. I hated it.

This book took me from being unable to put it down to just reading out of duty because I really felt the need to review this.
I would definitely recommend you not to read this one.

Happy reading.
Helena

Writing a review about this one.

donderdag 25 september 2014

Why I read Dutch Books

Hi again

In one of my last posts, I wrote about my reasons for reading English books. In this post I will try to explain to you why I still read some books in Dutch.

There are two main reasons for reading in Dutch.

First and foremost; the writer is Flemish or Dutch. Reading in the original language is always the best way to enjoy a novel. Plus, it is kind of stupid to read translations of novels written in my own language.

Secondly; I own other books by this author and they are in Dutch. I hate it when novels of an author don’t look the same (different writing, different height or paperback/hardcover) so, I try to avoid this. This means that if I own a novel of a writer in Dutch and I want to read more of his work, I will buy it in Dutch. Maybe I got these books in Dutch as a gift, I bought them on sale or I got them when I was much younger and not as experienced in reading English as I am now.

These are the reasons that come to mind when I see for example my novels by Umberto Eco, John Irving and Robert Jordan in Dutch instead of English.

Happy reading.
Helena

dinsdag 23 september 2014

Paulo Coelho: Brida

Hi

This review is about Brida by Paulo Coelho. It’s his fourth book I read by Coelho and I don’t think I’ll be reading more of him for some time. I bought my copy in the Fnac and it counts 238 pages.

“Brida, a young Irish girl, has long been interested in various aspects of magic but is searching for something more. Her search leads her to people of great wisdom. She meets a wise man who dwells in a forest, who teaches her to trust in the goodness of the world, and a woman who teaches her how to dance to the music of the world. As Brida seeks her destiny, she struggles to find a balance between her relationships and her desire to become a witch.”

This novel was very hard to read and even harder to enjoy.
The people in this novel talk incessantly about God. As an atheist, it was rather hard to stomach. And apparently, the only way to truly connect with God was to have an intense orgasm. I mean, seriously?
Coelho gives us a lot of Wise Words, Life Lessons or Universal Truths so much so that it becomes boring. I know it’s his style, but in this novel he gives them excessively.
Brida is a confused novel, it seems like Coelho didn’t really know what he wanted to write so he decided to do it all; a story with a love triangle, Universal Truths and religious theory. In my opinion, it didn’t combine well. The story jumps from one point to another and Brida forgets about her Soulmate and The Magus for a while. Later, she comes back to this. What is this novel even about?
I know The Ultimate Quest in this novel is the Search for your Soulmate and it is a very apt Quest. But I think Coelho should have focused more on this and not so much on everything else.

As you can see, I didn’t really enjoy this novel.
Did you?

It is a shame though, Brida is the 4th novel by Coelho I read, and I enjoyed the others much more. Maybe I didn’t really get it? Maybe I missed something? What do you think?

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 22 september 2014

Why I read English Books

Hi

As you might have noticed, I read books in English and in Dutch.
I will explain to you in another post which books I still read in Dutch and why.
This post is about the novels I read in English and why.

In Belgium we get to study English in school once we’re 13 or 14 years old. Before that, everyone watches movies and series, listens to songs or sees messages in English. This means that most of us already know some words and others are able to catch on with it fairly easily.
I was one of them.
My parents (and especially my father) call themselves anglophiles. This means that I have traveled to England and Scotland yearly since I was very young. Secondly, my brother is and I was part of a Pipe Band and I practiced Scottish Highland Dancing for twelve years.
I guess you can understand where this is going.
I always had a love for the language itself, savoring the words and their meaning, trying to pronounce them correctly and so many great and funny expressions.
And that’s why I started reading English novels when I was around fifteen years old. I started with children’s novels off course. But I worked my way up from there over time.
Sadly, I’m nowhere near perfect but I still practice by speaking English on holiday, writing this blog and reading English books.

Which brings us to the first reason for reading English books: practicing the language, learning new words and new expressions. English is the one language that can get you anywhere.

Secondly; most books are way better in their original language than translated. I once read a book translated in Dutch, hated the translation, sold the book and bought it again in English. It was soooo much better! A lot can get lost in a translation, expressions change, jokes change and the original meaning of the author gets interpreted by the translator. This means that as a reader you already read someone else’s interpretation.
If the translator is really good at his job (e.g. Venugopalan Ittekot (Discworld) and Wiebe Buddingh (Harry Potter), then kudos to them. But most of the translators aren’t able to really grasp the style the writer intended or translate funny names and places or a lot of the times I can tell by the translation if it was translated by a Flemish or a Dutch translator and that makes a huge difference.

The third reason is plain and simple: money. English paperback cost between eight and fourteen Euros. Dutch paperbacks are fifteen Euros and up to twenty-two. I can buy a lot more books if I buy them in English.

The forth and the fifth reason go together. The majority of the novels in the whole world will never be translated in Dutch. This means that there is a much wider variety in English books then in Dutch books. And I don’t have to wait for a translation! I can read it the moment it is in store.

I hope this post made some thing clear.
You can always contact me with further questions!

Happy reading.
Helena

zaterdag 20 september 2014

Hugh Howey: Shift

Hi

Shift is the second part in the Silo series.
This novel counts 565 pages and I ordered it from the Book Depository.
It really is NOTHING like The Hunger Games, no matter what the cover says.
You can find my other review of a Hugh Howey novel here.

It is strange to read the second novel in a series when it turns out to be set before the first novel.
The idea is magnificent. Why did they start building the silos? How did they manage it? How is it possible that everyone but Solo died in his silo? How did they keep all those secrets?

We get to know entirely new people and some old acquaintances in this novel. Time and space separate them but their timelines do collide. We learn a bit about the start of this Silo Project and how it was executed. We learn how the people in Silo 1 manage the whole operation. And we know how their lives are so very different from the people in the other silos. Instead of having children and then dying after a long life; the people in silo 1 go into a cryogenic sleep after every shift of 6 months (hence the title). The whole operation is managed with the same few thousand people over and over again.
Well, I’m sure you know after reading Wool that not everything goes as planned.

I definitely enjoyed this novel. I didn’t love it as I did Wool. But I did like it very much.
Howey set the start of this project not even 40 years in the future and by choosing to do so, the novel gives us a dark view of a possible future.
Thinking about the life in silo 1 gives me the creeps. They wake up from a cryogenic sleep every 50 years, work for 6 months while they continuously take pills to forget what is really going on and to forget their past. After their shift, they go back to sleep. It is a horrific way to live. And the way Howey describes it; we understand and feel just how robotic and empty these workers are.
The claustrophobic atmosphere jumps off the pages.  Even the lethargic state off the people in silo 1 can be felt in every chapter.
I loved the parts about Mission and life in his silo. Mission was a really thoroughly thought out character and I could feel the tension in the silo in every chapter.
This novel can be seen as a warning too. What if things go too far? What if we really can’t live together and war drives us even further apart? How will the human race survive if technology keeps on improving weaponry?
The whole novel is very confusing but I think Howey did that on purpose. I really needed the timelines inside the book to stay focused and understand everything.

What is it about Thurman? He’s completely nuts! How can he be believed by everyone?
Donald is an unsympathetic slug. We’re never shown that he really loves his wife even though he breaks down after finding out what happened to her. But he lived apart from her, kept secrets and was attracted to Anna.
I didn’t really understand him too. Why the decision on silo 40? He’s always wondering about everything but he takes no action to find any answers. He’s such a whining , lethargic and stupid man!
The chapters on Solo were way too long. We already know what happened to him because we’ve read Wool. I really didn’t need the whole sappy story about him. I’m glad we know something about his life, but it didn’t have to be so long.
And I’m sorry Howey but you made a big mistake with your reason for not unfreezing the women.

In short; I liked it. It is a much slower novel than Wool and I wouldn’t recommend you to read this novel before Wool because the surprises in Wool would be spoiled.

Happy reading.
Helena

That's my spot! Oh well, there's place for two.

donderdag 11 september 2014

Sue Townsend: The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year

Hi

This review is about The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend. I read four of her Adrian Mole novels so I was excited to try something else. I ordered my copy from www.bol.com and it counts 437 pages.

“The day her gifted twins leave home for university, Eva climbs into bed and stays there. For seventeen years she's wanted to yell at the world, 'Stop! I want to get off'. Finally, this is her chance. Perhaps she will be able to think. Her husband Dr Brian Beaver, an astronomer who divides his time between gazing at the expanding universe, an unsatisfactory eight-year-old affair with his colleague Titania and mooching in his shed, is not happy. Who will cook dinner? Eva, he complains, is either having a breakdown or taking attention-seeking to new heights. But word of Eva's refusal to get out of bed quickly spreads. Alexander the dreadlocked white-van man arrives to help Eva dispose of all her clothes and possessions and bring her tea and toast. Legions of fans are writing to her or gathering in the street to catch a glimpse of this 'angel'. Her mother Ruby is unsympathetic: 'She'd soon get out of bed if her arse was on fire.' And, though the world keeps intruding, it is from the confines of her bed that Eva at last begins to understand freedom.”

This novel is just how I expected it to be.
The characters are a caricature of real people and they act accordingly. In real life, no-one would stay in bed for a year and no-one would let his wife do so. By writing about larger than life characters, the novel becomes very perceptive and hilariously funny.
And let’s face it, Townsend has humor, you have to understand her style and her quirks, but once you do you will surely laugh about the absurdity of the situation. The humor is sharp and to-the-point, well-observed and uplifting.

I’m sure everyone dreams sometimes of not caring, of staying in bed for a while and letting the world be the world while examining the basis of our life. Eva does it and we see that this year is not the careless time for figuring out herself and her life she hoped it would be. But we still wonder how it would be like to do it ourselves.

Happy reading.
Helena

Cozy night in.

zondag 7 september 2014

Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire

Hi

This review is about The Final Empire; the first installment in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Series. I got my book from www.bol.com some time ago. It counts 647 pages and it has a very beautiful cover.

"A thousand years ago, the Lord Ruler established himself as the emperor of The Final Empire. No-one can remember the battle where the hero failed and the Lord Ruler became victorious. No books or tales survived those years. Humans are divided into two classes: the Nobles and the Skaa. The Skaa are the poor workers who have to slave away to clean the ever-falling ashes and to provide for the nobility. Kelsier, a Mistborn and the only survivor of the Pits of Hathsin and his crew of Mistings start a rebellion against the Lord Ruler. These Mistings and Mistborns are able to burn different kinds of metal in order to get certain powers. They recruit Vin, a sixteen-year old Skaa Mistborn for the crew and the plans take form."

I LOVED this novel!
This novel left me wanting more. I just couldn’t stop reading; I wanted more free time so I could read even more. It is a magnificent book.
It is something completely new, interesting and unique. The epic battle happened in the past and the Hero failed. There is also an entirely new system of magic. He explains the magic from a science-like point of view; making it a very believable sort of magic. I love it when a writer does something else, something new and Sanderson definitely succeeds!
Sanderson had an easy-going writing style that I’m sure will captivate every reader, experienced or not.
It is a very easy read. It’s simple and understandable. Even though I like a writer who loves his language, I wasn’t troubled by the almost simplistic style in this novel. His action-scenes stopped my heart and his explanations of the world or the magic are simple and they cover everything I need to know.
As the story progresses, we get answers together with the characters. It felt like Sanderson knew when we were wondering about something and he was able to anticipate our questions.
The world of The Final Empire is very well crafted. It is an incredibly thorough built world; accessible and surprising. Sanderson put a lot of thought into this novel. It’s not about a simple rebellion; it’s not about good versus evil where everything is static and black and white. It’s about so much more!
Every character is very well thought out. They’re interesting, different, they have depth and the characters evolve. The characters aren’t frozen or black-and-white. Emotions change, they have doubts, their motivations change, they question their emotions and they change opinions. They are fantastically developed throughout the novel. And I hadn’t any trouble keeping all the characters apart, a fault a lot of fantasy-writers make.
The novel is compelling and engaging. I was anticipating what would happen next throughout the entire novel and how their plans would work out.
You won’t see the ending coming, I can assure you.

But… Where are the other female characters? The only woman in this rebellion is Vin. Every other woman in this novel is a walking cliché. Big mistake Sanderson.

I loved this novel and I would definitely recommend this to everyone out there! I felt happy the whole time I was reading this and I will buy the next one very, very soon.

Happy reading.
Helena

Yummy peaches and a fantastic book!

dinsdag 2 september 2014

Wrap Up: August 2014

Hi

Here I am again with my monthly wrap up.
I had an amazing reading-month (3667 read pages). Some novels I thoroughly enjoyed, other not so much.

I read a lot in Brighton and we emptied every weekend in August to plan our wedding. In hindsight we really didn’t need all that time. So I got to read a lot last month!
Sadly, I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to read this much every month. As a nurse, I have a rather tiring job every day and by the time I get home, I’m done with cooking and some household chores there’s not much time left to read. And our weekends are planned like they used to be which means; less time to read.

I still love reading, and I always will, I’ll just have less time to do so.

Here’s the list of the books I read last month.

•    Erika Mailman: The Witch’s Trinity
•    H. G. Wells: The Island of Doctor Moreau
•    Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express
•    Rachel Joyce: Perfect
•    Paul Hoffman: The Left Hand of God
•    Terry Pratchett: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
•    Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games Trilogy
•    Veronica Roth: Divergent

I hope you’ll check out some of these books!

Happy reading.
Helena