zaterdag 31 januari 2015

W. Somerset Maugham: Don Fernando

Hi

Don Fernando is a non-fiction work and I regret buying and reading it as my introduction to Maugham.
I bought it second hand on a holiday and it has 178 pages.

“Considered by Graham Greene to be Maugham's best work, "Don Fernando" is a paean to a golden age of enormous creative energy. It discusses the writings of St Teresa and the paintings of El Greco, and comments with sagacity and wit on such illustrious figures as Cervantes, Velazquez and the creator of Don Juan. This vibrant assessment of a great people at their greatest hour is full of happy surprises, curious facts and stimulating opinions that reflect Maugham's lifelong enchantment with the landscape and people of Spain.”

Don Fernando covers a range of topics about Spain including El Greco, traveling, food, literature and Catholicism. All in one book.
It sounds boring but it actually isn’t. Maugham is a very interesting writer. He is able to capture your attention and keep it, whether you’re interested in the topics or not. It’s the way he writes that make it so good.

I would love to read more of Maugham’s work. Fiction that is. It’s unfortunate I bought a non-fiction work to start with, but I love his writing style, so it won’t stop here.

Happy reading.
Helena

vrijdag 30 januari 2015

Bookhaul: My 26th Birthday

Hi again

Last Saturday was my 26th birthday and as you probably expected I got books! And money to buy even more books!
Most of these books were on my wishlist and three of them I got myself already with part of the money.

My wonderful husband got me a beautiful bookend, The Night Angel Trilogy and a funny little man to hold my glasses.


Thank you everyone for these gifts!
Helena




donderdag 29 januari 2015

Nathan Filer: The Shock of the Fall

Hi

I’m back with another review. This one is about The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer.
It has 314 pages and I got it from bol.com.

 “I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.”

A very short and intriguing blurb. It got my attention for sure.

Filer’s use of different fonts, the childlike drawings, the lack of details in the past, the references to the past and the inconsistent thought process made me feel like I’m sneaking around and reading someone’s diary. It is perfectly done.
The characters are wonderfully done; they feel so real you can just see them.
Reading about family life before and after Simon’s death and about their involvement in Matt’s health (especially his Nan) was heartbreaking.

The Shock of the Fall is a gripping, deeply moving and very honest story. BUT, it is not a sentimental story; it’s not overly dramatic or sad.
Filer writes realistic but he handles things with great sensitivity. His own outrage at the system comes out through Matt.

I would have liked more information about his mother and her problems but it fits into the story to not tell us everything.

I will definitely read this one again. It is very beautiful and it stays with you for a while.

Happy reading.
Helena

It'll be an early night.

dinsdag 27 januari 2015

Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey

Hi

I decided to reread all Jane Austen novels. This time I’ll read them in the order she wrote them. This means I have to start with Northanger Abbey; even though it was published posthumously.
I own Austen’s novels in the very, very beautiful Penguin English Library editions. My copy of Northanger Abbey has 236 pages plus a 10-page article by Susannah Carson.

“The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.”

I’m quite surprised to say so, but this novel is a true parody of Gothic Fiction. Which is probably why it is so different from her other works. Austen sounds much younger in this novel; she’s trying to find herself.

Northanger Abbey is a lighthearted, young and simple novel with a humble, charming, pure and genuine protagonist. Catherine is so much fun; she’s so innocent and naïve, she’s a bit crazy and I loved her.
John and Isabella are really, really irritating but it brought out the best in Catherine (and mrs Allan).

Reading this novel was pure joy; the kind that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.

Happy reading.
Helena

Finishing this one tonight!

maandag 26 januari 2015

Stephen King: Doctor Sleep

Hi

It’s been about 8 years since I read a Stephen King novel, but when I saw this one at Waterstones, I had to buy it.
My copy has 485 pages.

“On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.”

The story is good. It’s a bit predictable and it lacks suspense because of that and because we know from the very beginning how powerful Abra is.
It’s a very satisfying read. It’s not scary but it is suspenseful and compelling; it’s so easy to read and fluent. Lots of details, vivid descriptions, almost real psychic abilities and his characterization is the work of a master.
I could keep on reading for hours because of that.
King's allusions to popular culture, music, YA novels and movies are perfect. Just perfect. They make me smile, they’re exactly right and they are an example of the seamless blend of The Shining in our mundane world. This novel is set in our world and it is this day.

Rose The Hat is the perfect villain; she and the Crow are frightening, but her gang is a bunch of comically, stupid rednecks.
I would have liked to know more about The True Knot instead of having to accept them as they are.
The novel is too long. Doctor Sleep would have been better with 100 pages less and the same story. It starts slow and it goes on too long; not some specific chapters but throughout the novel.

Overall, the novel has a good feel about it. The importance of family, friendship, support, recovery after addiction and good vs. evil are all themes.

If you want a sequel that’s much the same as The Shinning, you’ll be disappointed. If you want to find out what happened next to little Danny, you’ll like this.
Stephen King changed a lot since The Shining, and that shines through in his novels. I don’t mind, as long as you don’t put the label ‘horror’ on this novel, because it isn’t and it sets you up to disappointment. Read it like the sequel it is and as a supernatural thriller.

Happy reading.
Helena

 Time to relax before I go to sleep.

donderdag 22 januari 2015

Bookhaul: Fnac

Hi again

My husband and I went shopping last Saturday and I found this one in the Fnac!
It’s the first part in the trilogy by Fiona McIntosh of which I bought the third part at the Boekenfestijn.


Now I need to find the middle book.

Happy reading.
Helena

dinsdag 20 januari 2015

Tatiana de Rosnay: Sarah’s Key

Hi again

I had a lovely long day of reading on Sunday and I finished this novel and Vile Bodies.
Here’s my review of Sarah’s Key.
A friend at work gave this to me to borrow. It has 331 pages and the novel is translated into my native language; Dutch.

“Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel' d'Hiv's 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.”

Based on true events, Sarah’s Key brings a difficult and dark period in the history of France to life.
A very important and to most French people unknown period is told from the viewpoint of a child in 1942 and a woman doing research in 2002.
It shows us how ignorant the French (and most of Western-Europe) were by helping or ignoring and forgetting those four years and their part in it.

The parts told by Sarah were too childlike. It would have been stronger and more haunting if it was told by a third party. Either way, this is a very strong and, sadly, realistic storyline.
Julia however has too much to say. I really don’t care for her husband, her problems or the baby. Those pulled the quality of the story down to an almost chick lit novel. And I must say I HATE CHICK LIT. de Rosnay should have kept Julia as a journalist and nothing more. The whining, the drama and the doubting made me go insane.
An overall very predictable storyline.

The storyline about the Holocaust had so much potential. She could have made me cry, she could have written a book that makes everyone think about their family and their country’s part in the Holocaust. She could have made this a very important book, a book everyone should read.
Instead, de Rosnay gave us this.

What’s your opinion?

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 19 januari 2015

Evelyn Waugh: Vile Bodies

Hi

This review is about Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. I bought it in a second-handshop in Brighton for only 3£.
The novel has 189 pages plus 47 pages introduction and notes.

“In the years following the First World War a new generation emerged, wistful and vulnerable beneath the glitter. The Bright Young Things of 1920s London, with their paradoxical mix of innocence and sophistication, exercised their inventive minds and vile bodies in every kind of capricious escapade. In these pages a vivid assortment of characters, among them the struggling writer Adam Fenwick-Symes and the glamorous, aristocratic Nina Blount, hunt fast and furiously for ever greater sensations and the hedonistic fulfillment of their desires. Evelyn Waugh's acidly funny satire reveals the darkness and vulnerability beneath the sparkling surface of the high life.”

It took me quite some time to get used to Waugh's style of the novel and the absurdity. It’s not a laugh-out-loud story but I did smile a lot reading it.
It’s not purely a comic novel but rather a dark comic novel and a satire. The novel is pessimistic and desolate, the characters are hollow and alone and surrounded by a brittle, imagined reality.
Vile Bodies moves from gaiety to bitterness, especially in the last, grimmer few pages. It doesn’t end well for the BYT.

The novel is full of eccentric characters. The relationship between Nina and Adam is ridiculous and hilarious. The Bright Young Things are empty, frivolous and superficial.
Although the novel is about 85 years old, the story and the absurd situations become relevant again when seen in the light of our celebrities and the gossiping surrounding them.

Happy reading.
Helena

donderdag 15 januari 2015

Brandon Sanderson: The Well of Ascension

Hi

This review is about The Well of Ascension; the second book in the Mistborn Series.
You can find all my Brandon Sanderson reviews here.
I got this novel in the Fnac and it has 781 pages.

*SPOILER FREE!*

There’s not much to add to my review of the first novel; so here are some additional or changed opinions.

The Well of Ascension is a typical middle book because of these three points; it ends on a cliffhanger. It is setting things up for the last book. The story is completely different from the first book and I assume/hope the third book will be closer to the first one.

Sanderson is a very captivating writer. It’s a very different and unique world definitely worth reading about.
The characterization and the world building are even better than before.
I love most of the characters because they all grew on me in this novel. And the addition of two new types of species keeps it interesting. Most of them seem very real with emotions, faults and merits.

But there’s way too much drama going on between Vin and her lover. Does he love me? He deserves someone better. I’m not worthy of her. She should find someone better. That kind of stuff. Aggravating as hell.
Also, all the talking, deliberating and the politicking get really boring after yet another chapter full of these. There’s no actual progress in the plot. Such a slow story! Not a lot happens, and after these actual events; it’s back to politicking and talking.

Even though this book was rather boring and dragging, I did finish it quickly. And that’s all thanks to the writing and the fantastic world-building.

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

Have a nice day!
Helena

Writing a review about this one.

dinsdag 13 januari 2015

Bookhaul: Christmas and New Year

Hi again

I received some really wonderful gifts for Christmas and New Year’s.
Aside from the books, I got a few other things and money to buy more books.

Here are the books I got.

I read the Shannara trilogy like 2 years ago and I totally forgot this prologue even existed.
My niece gave me Saramago as her Secret Santa gift but she didn’t know I bought it in Lisbon a few weeks before. And it is such a nice and thoughtful gift. It was the perfect gift for a booklover because it is a story that meant something to her. Thank you Anneke!

And thank you mom, dad, oma, opa, meter, husband, mother-in-law and father-in-law.

Happy reading.
Helena



woensdag 7 januari 2015

H. G. Wells: The Time Machine

Hi

The Time Machine was first published in 1895. This is a science fiction novella and it counts 106 pages.
I love my copy. Better yet; I love every Penguin English Library novel (which is why I bought every Jane Austen novel in these editions). Just love them, they’re so pretty, so unique and calming in their effortless orderliness.
This is a reread for me though it has been years since I’ve read it.
You can find all my H. G. Wells reviews here.

We only get to know the protagonist, an English gentleman and scientist as The Time Traveler. No name or other details are known about him. On one of his weekly meetings with his gentlemen friends, he discusses time and how he thinks he might be able to travel in time as it is the fourth dimension. He goes on to show them his model time machine. A week later, at their next meeting he arrives late and in a disheveled state. While eating he recounts what happened.
The Time Traveler tested his time machine and he landed in a world hundreds of thousands years in the future. There, he meets the Eloi, childlike humans who are afraid of the dark and have no energy or interest in work. They lack any kind of curiosity and they make no effort to understand our Time Traveler. Tired of this small society, he goes back to his time machine to find it gone and possibly taken by a more violent group of ‘humans’.

The feel of the century and the time it is placed in shines off every page. The fear of change, Wells’ own political and social views are important aspects of the novel. Society and class are a big part of the story, but it starts very subtle, and as reader, it takes some time to catch on to what he really means.
I must say I really liked this novel.
I didn’t know what to think about it in the beginning.
The Time Traveler explains us his machine and the theory behind it, but it was boring and I didn’t really grasp it all that well; especially in a language that’s not my own. Even though *shame on me* it is the second time I read it, I kind of skimmed over it. This scientific part does make it believable though as I’m sure I wouldn’t understand the reasoning behind it in real life too.
But once our protagonist disappears! Ye gods! It becomes an adventure story mixed with a psychological thriller and some horror. I loved it, I really did. The suspense was almost killing me! Wells shows us that he really is a master storyteller and he definitely deserves his status as a classic sci-fi writer.

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 5 januari 2015

Terry Pratchett: The Wee Free Men

Hi

Another Terry Pratchett novel!
The Wee Free Men is the first novel of four about the young witch Tiffany Aching. These novels are aimed at teens, but I can guarantee you that I enjoyed it very much.
Completely new cover art for this series, and I like it!
My copy has 327 pages.
You can find my other reviews of Terry Pratchett’s novels here.

 “Every land needs its own witch …
Up on the Wold, there’s a monster in the river and a headless horseman in the drive. And now Granny Aching has gone, there's only young Tiffany Aching left to guard the boundaries. To stop … things getting through.
It's her land. Her duty.
But it's amazing how useful a horde of unruly pictsies can be - as long as they are pointed in the right direction and can stop fighting each other first …”

I LOVE Tiffany. She’s witty, smart, a bit of a potty-mouth, she’s proud but she’s also a bit troubled by her own feelings.
The reason she wants her brother back is because he is her brother. It has nothing to do with love because he’s a drooling, sticky toddler, it has everything to do with him being her brother. I love that about her. She’s so honest.
Her wit and the situations she encounters are just excuses are fantastic.
And The Wee Free Men! Oh, they are just brilliant! Hilarious!
Together with her ‘wise mentor’, the toad, they are a perfect team to help Tiffany.

The Wee Free Men is a very funny and intelligent book, recommended for everyone.
This is a perfect novel to start with because of the new cast of characters and the ease with which it reads. And from here you can move on to the almost 50 other books!

I can’t say enough good things about this one.

Happy reading.
Helena

zondag 4 januari 2015

Wrap Up: 2014

Hi

I read a total of 20449 pages or 51 books in the last 7 months of 2014, not counting the ones I didn’t finish.
I’m very surprised. Seeing it like this for the first time is such a wonderful feeling. I feel like I accomplished something.
I guess I really love reading. :)

I ended the year with 4021 views on my blog and 86 likes on my Facebook page.

Here are all the books I read these last 7 months with a link to the review.

-    Eduardo Mendoza: The City of Marvels
-    Sándor Márai: The Rebels
-    Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray
-    Julian Barnes: Levels of Life
-    Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere
-    Terry Pratchett: The Truth
-    Alan Bennett: The Uncommon Reader
-    Sarah Waters: The Little Stranger
-    Andrew Miller: Pure
-    Patrick Rothfuss: The Name of The Wind
-    Kazuo Ishiguro: When We Were Orphans
-    Robin Hobb: Forest Mage
-    Mitch Albom: The Time Keeper
-    John Irving: Setting Free the Bears
-    Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus
-    Hugh Howey: Wool
-    Jeffrey Eugenides: The Marriage Plot
-    Terry Pratchett: Thief of Time
-    George R. R. Martin: A Game of Thrones
-    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
-    Suzanne Collins: Catching Fire
-    Suzanne Collins: Mockingjay
-    Veronica Roth: Divergent
-    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
-    Terry Pratchett: Night Watch
-    F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
-    C. J. Sansom: Dark Fire
-    Arnon Grunberg: Tirza
-    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
-    Patrick Rothfuss: The Wise Man’s Fear
-    Terry Pratchett: Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook
-    George Mastras: Fidali’s Way
-    Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol
-    John Boyne: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
-    Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five

Starting this blog was a big yet great step.

I love writing these reviews. I love how books stay much more with me. I love seeing comments on Facebook about how others liked that novel. I love seeing the views going up. I love researching and reading about books. I love talking about my blog. I love recommending books to others. I love having my own space to talk about something I love. I love making this blog my own and doing it my way. I love being recommended books by others.
So much to love about Embracing My Books.

Thank you all for this.

Happy reading!
Helena

vrijdag 2 januari 2015

Wrap Up: December 2014

Hi everyone

Another month gone by means another Wrap Up. And the last one of 2014 at that.
Despite the holidays and everything I had a good reading month. I read 2146 pages in 6 books.

Here are the novels I read this year.

-    Patrick Rothfuss: The Wise Man’s Fear
-    Terry Pratchett: Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook
-    George Mastras: Fidali’s Way
-    Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol
-    John Boyne: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
-    Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five

Happy reading.
Helena