maandag 29 december 2014

Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse-Five

Hi

Slaughterhouse-Five has 215 pages and I got it from bol.com.
It was nominated for the Nebula Award and for the Hugo Award.

“Slaughterhous-Five is one of the world's great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.”

This unstuck in time premise makes it clear that there are parallels between his past life in the war and his fantasylife with the aliens (especially the captivity). In his fantasylife he can rewrite his past, thus the pornstar who doesn’t make him feel emasculated. He wishes for a better life without all the faults he made and without the war.

I liked the jumping back and forth as Billy Pilgrim travels in time. There’s no suspense whatsoever because of that, but it is a nice touch.

The writing is very monotonous and honestly boring.
I just didn’t care for this book. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it; I don’t feel any sort of strong emotion about it. It’s strange, boring, tedious and aggravating.
And the 'so it goes' made me so irritated!
I can’t for the life of me see what makes this book so loved.

Lastly; a truly inspiring quote from the novel to leave you:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to always tell the difference.”

Happy reading.
Helena

zaterdag 27 december 2014

John Boyne: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Hi

This review is about Boyne’s first children’s book; The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
It has 216 pages.

“Bruno is a nine-year-old from Berlin who has three best Friends For Life, an elder sister who is a Hopeless Case, and an ambition to be an Explorer. One day in 1943 someone called The Fury decides that Bruno's soldier father is to be posted, together with the whole family, to somewhere called Out-With, which is far away from Berlin, and quite possibly not in Germany at all. The new house is bleak and shabby, and from one side of it you can see a high-wired compound inhabited by sad-looking people in striped pyjamas.”

I had a mixed reading experience.

I’ll start with the good points about this novel.
The novel read like a train and I wanted to keep on reading just to get to the (very predictable) end.
Boyne writes fluent. It’s so easy to read, gripping and compelling that it’s hard to put the novel down.

But Boyne clearly thinks that all children are idiots.
How in hell can a nine year-old son of a Nazi commander not know about Jews, Hitler or the fatherland? Especially if he moves to Auschwitz.
How is that possible? He’s a moron! I know smarter six year-olds.
And there are more faults like this.
I know Boyne meant Bruno to represent every blind and innocent person but it’s allowing people to claim innocence or disbelief about Nazism.
I do believe that Boyne made a big mistake by trivializing the real conditions and events in the novel. In real life, every child was immediately killed.
In the novel, there’s a big unguarded part of the fence and a small boy who can escape to that place every day without being missed or seen? Unbelievable.

As you can see, I wouldn’t allow my children to read this without some proper explanation afterwards.
Maybe I’m overreacting and overanalyzing this novel.
But what do you think?
How do you feel about this novel?

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 22 december 2014

Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol

Hi

This must be my fourth time reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
As it is only 94 pages (and an article of 7 pages), I'd suggest you make yourself a cup of tea and snuggle up in the sofa. This novella deserves to be read in one sitting.

I’m not going to bore with the story or the message behind it; I’m pretty sure everyone has either read this (I hope) or at least seen a movie adaptation.

This is a heartwarming story full of rich details, vivid descriptions and amazing prose. It’s a vibrant and magnificent read.
Most of the characters are designed to tug on your heartstrings and they do so very effectively.
Every part of it is larger than life; is the best or the worst there has ever been. The weather has never been finer, the carols have never been sung better.
All of this serves a purpose in making us feel the very spirit of this novel.
Even though I hate clichés, I really don’t care. It is such a wonderful, emotional and heartwarming story.
It’s as if you’re really there. Dickens’ magnificent writing sucks us right in and only lets you go after the final well-wish of Tiny Tim.

I hope you’ll have a wonderful Christmas and happy reading!
Helena

It's that time of the year!

zaterdag 20 december 2014

George Mastras: Fidali’s Way

Hi

This review is about Fidali’s Way by George Mastras.
A friend from work gave it to me to read, so thank you Joke!
The colors on this cover are beautiful and inviting though the image is a cliché and this style of covers has been done before for like almost every novel about South Asia.
As if there’s nothing else worth a photo there...
This copy has 445 pages.

"Disillusioned with American life, Nicholas Sunder has spent months backpacking through South Asia, most recently in the company of a beautiful French woman he met in India. When the woman is found brutally murdered in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, Nick is arrested and tortured by the Pakistani police, who are convinced he is the killer. Amazingly, Nick escapes their custody and heads off on foot through the steep mountains of Kashmir, the highest war zone on earth. Now a fugitive without papers, money, or a country that will welcome him, Nick is reduced to his most elemental human identity in an unforgiving mountainous landscape where his very survival is unlikely." Nick's fortune turns when he encounters an eccentric Kashmiri smuggler and his mysterious companion, Fidali. An enormous, nearly silent man, Fidali not only knows a hidden way through the mountains but makes a deep impression upon Nick through his sacrifices for others. In time, after barely surviving great violence, Nick reaches an idyllic mountain village in Indian-occupied Kashmir, where he is drawn to Aysha, a remarkable woman unlike any he has ever met, who operates a medical clinic in the remote region. It is there he will confront the divide between Islam and the West and be forced to ponder how he has reached such a place - forced to consider, in other words, Fidali's way.”

I will be short.

Fidali's Way begins as a thriller; dangerous, full of suspense and fast. I loved this part.
Sadly, it went quite a bit downhill.
It becomes sentimental.  Sharp and gripping parts are interrupted by very clichéd characters and storylines.
The story is very predictable. No shocking turn of events or out-of-the-blue changes in this novel. It’s a novel worth a dime a dozen.
It is however easy to read and relaxing. Perfect for a holiday or an afternoon in a sunny garden.

I’m very sorry Joke, I didn’t really enjoy this novel. Just a bit too easy breezy for me.

Happy reading.
Helena

 A cozy blanket, my favourite scarf, warm milk with honey and cinnamon, my glasses and a relaxing novel. I'm definitely ill.

woensdag 17 december 2014

Terry Pratchett: Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook

Hi

I read this companion novel in one sitting and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It only has 175 pages and some beautiful illustrations.
You can find my other reviews of Terry Pratchett’s novels here.

“They say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach which just goes to show they're as confused about anatomy as they gen'rally are about everything else, unless they're talking about instructions on how to stab him, in which case a better way is up and under the ribcage. Anyway, we do not live in a perfect world and it is foresighted and useful for a young woman to become proficient in those arts which will keep a weak-willed man from straying. Learning to cook is also useful.
Nanny Ogg, one of Discworld's most famous witches, is passing on some of her huge collection of tasty and above all interesting recipes, since everyone else is doing it. But in addition to the delights of the Strawberry Wobbler and Nobby's Mum's Distressed Pudding, Mrs Ogg imparts her thoughts on life, death, etiquette ('If you go to other people's funerals they'll be sure to come to yours'), courtship, children and weddings, all in a refined style that should not offend the most delicate of sensibilities. Well, not much.
Most of the recipes have been tried out on people who are still alive.”

This book is set up as a cookbook and a book about etiquette by Nanny Ogg. Throughout the book we get the sense that this is still a draft because there are notes from the publisher and the managing director about certain not so innocent topics discussed by Nanny.
It’s put together very well. It makes sense that Nanny has the recipes from other characters mostly by some sort of blackmailing. The same kind she uses on her daughter-in-law for example.
The short introductions to the recipes are very funny. So much so I had to read some parts to my husband.
The illustrations by Paul Kidby are amazing.

This book is not meant for people who want a real novel. This is something for real Discworld fans, for those readers who want more than the next novel. It’s nice to have and to look through but definitely not essential. Perfect as a gift though since I surely wouldn’t have bought it myself but I love having it.
The recipes are real, and based on the ingredients they should all work just fine. I will try them some day.

Happy reading.
Helena

dinsdag 16 december 2014

Bookhaul: Boekenfestijn

Hi again

My husband and I went to the Boekenfestijn in Gent.
I was very, very good this time and only bought three books.

Here’s what I got.

I know, I bought the third part in a trilogy by McIntosh. But I read her work before and I know I can get the first two novels in the same edition. And the search begins!

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 15 december 2014

Patrick Rothfuss: The Wise Man’s Fear

Hi

The Wise Man’s Fear is the second part in The Kingkiller Chronicle. It won the David Gemmell Legend Award and it has 994 pages.
You can find my review on the first installment; The Name of the Wind here.
I got this novel from bol.com.

For those of you who need some kind of reminder about what happened in the first novel; Rothfuss put a little comic on his site: http://blog.patrickrothfuss.com.

“My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me...”

Kvothe is still searching for information on the Chandrian and the Amyr but his search is almost at a standstill. I find that very disappointing. Isn't this the Quest at the heart of the novel? I really miss some kind of crisis. It’s hinted at in the surrounding story but that’s it. Right now it’s just a simple recounting of the life of an atypical student. It’s a wonderful story, but it lacks something greater.
I had hoped to leave all those daily-life parts a bit more behind. I’m tired of reading about his money problems, Ambrose and Denna (definitely tired of Denna).
The whole Denna thing is way too long. I didn’t like her in the first novel, I hate her now. She’s annoying and I always felt so glad when she left. She’s boring, unlikable, mean and not mysterious at all. Their story goes nowhere, it has no purpose whatsoever. I hate her.
Devi is a truly fascinating character. I wish she had a much more prominent part.

Rothfuss seems to have no respect for women whatsoever. Almost every female character in this novel wants to have sex with Kvothe. How difficult is it to have a female character with some kind of personality and importance?
And there is way too much sex in this one. It’s over the top. Totally unnecessary. The whole part is juvenile, it’s the sexdream of a lonely teenager. It ads nothing to the story.

Rothfuss could have cut 300 pages easily. Reading about the xth lesson, the xth search in the Library or about yet another encounter with Denna was too much for me. Let alone yet another sexscene or fight with the Adem. It’s too drawn out.

That all being said, I did enjoy this book.
Almost every bit of action happens by accident. And it is fantastic to read how these incidents became the stuff of legends. How people exaggerate incidents that then turn into legends. And I’m sure Kvothe does this too. I love it.
I love the characters (except for Denna) and most of the story is gripping. It’s not as uneventful as the first novel and the pace is definitely better in this one.
I don’t know even with all those faults, I still enjoyed most of the novel. I think it’s his writing style. That is just fantastic. So absorbing and entrancing.
The magic system is very well thought out. It’s not contrived, it’s rooted into the world and it is consistent throughout the novel. The different cultures are more distinct in this novel then the first. They seem much more real. The humor is great. And the characters are very well realized.
And I’m glad we get right into the story without Rothfuss retelling the whole first novel.

Happy reading!
Helena

Some quiet time before a short trip with my husband!

dinsdag 9 december 2014

Bookhaul: Lisbon

Hi

My husband and I went on a short trip to Lisbon, Portugal. We had an amazing time. Simply relaxing, enjoying the sun, good food and long walks.
We couldn’t wish for more.

And of course; I had to get a new book.
In one of the very few bookstores selling English books I found this famous novel by a Portuguese writer. I have been wanting to read this for more than 10 years but I never came round to it.


Have you read it? If so, did you like it?

Happy reading.
Helena

dinsdag 2 december 2014

Wrap Up: November 2014

Hi

Another month has gone by. Which means … another Wrap Up to post!

Without further ado; here are the novels I read in November.

-    Neil Gaiman: American Gods
-    Yoko Ogawa: The Diving Pool
-    Khaled Hosseini: And the Mountains Echoed
-    Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore
-    Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451
-    Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
-    Agathe Christie: The ABC Murders

I read a total of 2439 pages. That’s a lot. Even with work and other stuff going on, I still read this much. I feel a bit proud.

Happy reading.
Helena