donderdag 30 oktober 2014

Arnon Grunberg: Tirza

Hi

The last book I read in October is Tirza.
This novel won the 2007 Libris Literatuurprijs  and the De Gouden Uil 2007. Both are very prestigious prices in Belgium and The Netherlands.
Tirza is translated in English, so my international readers can enjoy this one too.
My copy has 430 pages and I got it second-hand.

In this novel we follow Jörgen Hofmeester; devoted father to Ibi and Tirza and husband to his absent wife who lives on a boat with her childhood boyfriend. His life is about perfection, control and keeping up appearances. Fatherhood is a task, a duty and it is his only purpose in life. He wants to be the perfect father for his youngest daughter; Tirza. After hearing again and again how he caused Tirza’s illness he decides to let her be and not to control her life any more. Because Tirza will leave on a trip to Africa, he wants to throw her the best graduation party ever.

This was a rather difficult novel to finish.
It is tragic and sobering.
I felt shamed and humiliated reading about his actions and the events that take place. My heart sunk every time something went wrong or every time he said something racist etc.
I wanted to keep on reading but at the same time I dreaded it because it is so tragic.
The questions behind this novel are urgent though; is Hofmeester a singular case or is he like everyone else? Is he like us or not? Is there a beast in every one of us? What if we lose control over our lives?
It’s about life and how we are disillusioned living it. How we are all alone after all.

Happy reading.
Helena

Relaxing on a Saturday night.

maandag 27 oktober 2014

vrijdag 24 oktober 2014

C. J. Sansom: Dark Fire

Hi

Dark Fire is the second novel in the Shardlake Series by C. J. Sansom. I bought the second and the fourth novel at the Boekenfestijn.
I didn’t read the first one so I can’t compare them yet.
I have read two of his other novels though: Winter in Madrid and Dominion and I loved those.
My copy of Dark Fire has a beautiful cover and it counts 581 pages.

I started this novel at the beginning of the month but I couldn’t concentrate on it at the time so I had to put it aside.

“It is 1540 and the hottest summer of the sixteenth century. Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the king’s chief minister – and a new assignment . . .
The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother brutally murdered – the formula has disappeared.
Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client’s innocence. But very soon he discovers nothing is as it seems . . .”

I wasn’t blown away by this novel because it’s not perfect, but I liked it.
Sansom is a fantastic writer and this is a really lovely novel.
The mysteries are rather weak but that didn’t bother me all that much. Sansom could've cut 150 pages easily though. And the pace of the story did annoy me at times.There were a lot of uninmportant meetings, talking and traveling that weren't helping the story forward.
I love the setting of this novel. It’s rich, full of details, an astoundingly well-rounded historical background and wonderful descriptions. But it is never too much, I didn’t get lost in the details.
Unlike Hilary Mantel and many others, Sansom made a fictional character the main-character and real historical figures play only supporting roles.
I like it this way better.I find it easier to set the truth apart from fiction.
Shardlake and Barak are perfect together. Guy is a wonderful character and the other supporting characters are very well thought out. They all have their distinct voice.

Happy reading.
Helena

Pie from the bakery my great-grandfather founded and a book!

zondag 19 oktober 2014

DNF - Stan Nicholls: Weapons of Magical Destruction

Hi

Well, October isn’t treating me very well this year.
Second novel in a row I couldn’t finish.

“When the orcs discovered a world filled with their own kind, they thought they would live there till the end of their days. But the appearance of an unlikely ally will change everything.
This ally - a human - tells of the atrocities being visited upon orcs back in the other world. He implores Stryke and his companions to come back so that they may save their kind from extinction and wreak vengeance upon the humans who've wronged them.
But can this human be trusted? Is he a rare friend to the orc -- or is he there to lure them back for their own personal annihilation?”

It might be a bad translation or it might be the writer’s style, but it was all so simplistic. The plot seems good, but it turns out to go from fight to fight without any real plot going on. It’s the writing that’s really simplistic. Very short sentences, not a word with more than three syllables.
The characters are flat; they have no emotions, no thoughts beyond the superficial ones and they seem so stupid!

I wouldn’t recommend this one if you’re used to reading more High Fantasy or any book with a plot for that matter.

Happy reading.
Helena

woensdag 15 oktober 2014

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

Hi

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of those books ‘you have to read’ and I finally did.
My copy has 115 pages and a 14-page introduction. I bought it at the Boekenfestijn.

The prose is beautiful and well-crafted. It is however not unforgettable or the sign of a true genius. It is an easy to read novel. You can feel the emptiness in the novel, you can feel how life was in those days.
I enjoyed this in the novel. Everything is very clean and pure; there are no words and sentences that don’t serve a purpose.

But it is a distant novel. I felt no connection whatsoever to the story or the characters. And the novel is described to us; we’re not a part of it. We know nothing about these characters, we get no motivation for their actions. We feel no relationship between Gatsby and Daisy, no passion, no desire. We know nothing about Tom and Myrtle and Jordan except for what we’re told. Even our narrator Nick is a mystery to us.
This novel feels like a story you tell someone and not like a reading experience.

Jay Gatsby is a man who has the means to do anything but who is hungry for love. He has filled his life with pursuing his dream: Daisy. By throwing with money, organizing huge parties and reinventing himself he tries to win her over. He has the illusion that he can rewrite the past, that everything will be fine if he could erase the last few years. He wants to reclaim the past; he needs to hear that Daisy always loved him so he can go back to a time where they were pure and innocent.
His dream of winning back Daisy aside, he’s empty.
And that idea is very beautiful.

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 13 oktober 2014

Terry Pratchett: Night Watch

Hi

Here’s another review of one of TP’s novels. Night Watch is the 29th Discworld novel and it counts 474 pages. This is the first Discworld novel without a cover by the late Josh Kirby. The new artist (Paul Kidby) does pay him tribute by placing him in this picture.
You can find my other reviews of Terry Pratchett’s novels here.

My grandfather died so I had a hard time concentrating on anything. Luckily I was reading two books at the same time so I decided on something I knew I would like and is fairly easy to read. TP never disappoints.

 “Truth! Justice! Freedom! And a hard-boiled egg!
Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had it all. But now he’s back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck.
Living in the past is hard. Dying in the past is incredibly easy. But he must survive, because he has a job to do. He must track down a murderer, teach his younger self how to be a good copper and change the outcome of a bloody rebellion. There's a problem: if he wins, he's got no wife, no child, no future...”

Vimes gets send to his own past while pursuing the murderer, Carcer.
However, this past is very different from what I thought it would be. Ankh-Morpork is on the verge of revolution. And these Men of the Watch are not his men. Some of them are corrupt, others are lazy, some still have to join and some have to learn to become the ‘best’ they can be. Vimes can see how different they were before and what needed to happen to stop de laziness and the corruption in The Watch.
Learning about our ‘old’ characters and how they became who they are now was a really fun ride. I love Vimes. This novel deepened his character and I loved that. The part where he puts on these old shoes and walks around the city is just genius. And Nobby Nobbs is brilliant! Every word out of his mouth and every sentence about him makes me laugh.
This novel shows us how a revolution or a war can get glorified very easily by losing sight of the men fighting it. These ordinary people are the real heroes. Not the ones making the decisions way up.
Vimes already knows the outcome but he doesn’t always see the way to it. Our Vimes has matured and learned by his past. The past he sees now happening to his younger self. And his younger self really needs help to be able to get where Vimes will be in later life. It’s getting weird huh.

This is definitely not a Discworld novel you should start with. You won’t be able to understand the people he’s meeting in the past that we already know from previous books. And to understand how he traveled in time, you should read Thief of Time first.

I loved it, even though it is a bit harder to read then some of the others. You should definitely read this, but you’d better start with some older novels.

Happy reading.
Helena

zondag 5 oktober 2014

Bookhaul: A Gift!

Hi

My brother and his girlfriend went to Cuba on holiday.
They got me a very thoughtful gift: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
Hemingway wrote this book when he was in Cuba and my copy is second-hand so it really is infused with Cuba!


Thank you Peter and Sophie!

Happy reading.
Helena

donderdag 2 oktober 2014

Wrap up: September 2014

Hi again

I got married on the 30th of August but because I just started work, my husband and I weren’t able to go on a honeymoon and we had to start work right after.
Hence the slow reading in the first half of September. I was just too tired.
And we were busy with wrapping things up after the wedding.

Basically, work and life came between me and my books. I’m afraid it will always be that way from now on. I won’t be able to read as much as I did when I studied. I studied for an hour and then paused 15 minutes. Being alone at home during the day, I read mostly when I took time off from studying or writing my master’s thesis.
It doesn’t work that way at work of course.

I read a total of 2388 pages in September. 

Here’s the list of the novels I read:

•    Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire
•    Sue Townsend: The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year
•    Hugh Howey: Shift
•    Paulo Coelho: Brida
•    Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl

Did you read any of these? How did you like them?

Happy reading.
Helena