donderdag 30 april 2015

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Beautiful and Damned

Hi

This review is about the second novel in the book; ‘The Beautiful and Damned’.
This specific novel has 343 pages.
You can find all my F. Scott Fitzgerald reviews here.

"The Beautiful and Damned tells the story of Anthony Patch (a 1920s socialite and presumptive heir to a tycoon's fortune), his relationship with his wife Gloria, his service in the army, and alcoholism. The novel provides an excellent portrait of the Eastern elite as the Jazz Age begins its ascent, engulfing all classes into what will soon be known as Café Society. As with all of his other novels, it is a brilliant character study and is also an early account of the complexities of marriage and intimacy that were further explored in "Tender Is the Night." The book is believed to be largely based on Fitzgerald's relationship and marriage with Zelda Fitzgerald.”

I feel quite the same about this novel as I did about ‘This Side of Paradise’. It could be the reason why they are in the same book.

This novel is just a story about a couple whose lives are filled with waste and decay. They are waiting for his grandfather to die to get their inheritance and fill their life with even more parties and other forms of pleasure.

Both Anthony and Gloria are unlikable characters and that’s why I honestly didn’t care about them, the novel and its progress. They are selfish, useless, banal, vain, haughty, impatient, lazy, and proud and they just generally lack any form of empathy. Furthermore, there’s no evolution in their characters. There’s an evolution in their relationship (no one didn’t see that coming the moment they married) but not in their characters, not really at least.
But it is quite fascinating to read about their downfall and their inability to try and change anything about it.
And it is impossible to feel any kind of sympathy for Gloria and Anthony as they “struggle” to survive.
The drama is too much for me. I can’t stand the constant whining of Gloria, their feeling of superiority, their banality, their arguments and, well, generally, the drama.

Again, there are moments of beautiful prose, but it’s not engaging or unforgettable. I really do feel like this author is a bit overrated.
This is a story told to us through long descriptions and little (inner) dialogue. To me, it didn’t feel like a reading experience. Someone could read this to me and I’d feel just the same; not absorbed at all.
But it is easy to read and the characters are skilfully painted.

See you tomorrow for my Wrap Up!
Helena

zondag 26 april 2015

John Williams: Butcher’s Crossing

Hi

I got this novel in the Vintage Red Classics version (which I love) but I do so hate it when they put those round thingies on them that seem to be stickers but they aren’t. I hate that.
The novel has 326 pages and I got it second-hand.

 “It is the 1870s, and Will Andrews, fired up by Emerson to seek “an original relation to nature,” drops out of Harvard and heads west. He washes up in Butcher’s Crossing, a small Kansas town on the outskirts of nowhere. Butcher’s Crossing is full of restless men looking for ways to make money and ways to waste it. Before long Andrews strikes up a friendship with one of them, a man who regales Andrews with tales of immense herds of buffalo, ready for the taking, hidden away in a beautiful valley deep in the Colorado Rockies. He convinces Andrews to join in an expedition to track the animals down. The journey out is grueling, but at the end is a place of paradisal richness. Once there, however, the three men abandon themselves to an orgy of slaughter, so caught up in killing buffalo that they lose all sense of time. Winter soon overtakes them: they are snowed in. Next spring, half-insane with cabin fever, cold, and hunger, they stagger back to Butcher’s Crossing to find a world as irremediably changed as they have been.”

First and foremost; I loved Williams’ novel ‘Stoner’ more.
That being said, I did enjoy this one a lot too, but it’s just not there with ‘Stoner’.

Williams does an amazing job depicting these four men in a frenzy of killing and then being reduced to mere animals trying to survive in the worst situation possible. They lose who they are, they are numb and they devolve the entire period they are in the mountains.
You feel their pain when they lose the carriage with the hides and when they reach the town. You feel the cold, their hunger and thirst and the hard work. It’s a very vivid novel.
The descriptions of nature and the unfolding events are amazing. The way he writes about the flaying of the buffalo but also the vividness of their way of living; especially during the snowstorm. Those are scenes I won’t forget easily. I mean; it’s like you’re right there with them the whole time.
By the end of their journey, Andrews' fantasy of nature has been greatly disrupted by reality and he will never be the same again. Even though we knew from the beginning it would end this way. The moment we met Miller it was clear it would end badly because he is a man on a mission a man with a purpose and only one purpose.

But I do feel the characters are a bit archetypical. The student without any knowledge of the world, the one who doesn’t want to be there, the one in charge who goes into the killing frenzy.
Especially by the end of the novel Williams gives us some insights into humans, capitalism, economy etc. which I thought were a bit too much.

I think I would have loved it without the ending. Just their coming home would be enough for me.

Happy reading!
Helena

Calm Afternoon.

donderdag 23 april 2015

Brandon Sanderson: The Hero of Ages

Hi

The Hero of Ages is the third and last part in the Mistborn series.
I got it in the Fnac and it has 748 pages.
You can find all my Brandon Sanderson reviews here.

*SPOILERS!*

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

The Hero of Ages is the mind blowing ending to the stunning Mistborn Series. And I truly mean those words. It’s better than the second part and equally good as the first novel.

There are clues hidden throughout the book that I thought I had solved, but half the time I was wrong. The times I was right I felt like a hero myself, but there was still so much to understand and to learn and to uncover that I was never, ever bored. I mean some of the events and uncovered knowledge left me flabbergasted.
It is an amazing novel, intense, truly compelling and satisfying to the very so bittersweet ending.

I loved reading about the kandra because they are unlike any species I have ever read about. And the revelations about the koloss are just morbid. The world building is stunning, unlike anything I’ve read before.

I did find some faults too I’m afraid.
It is a bit hard to believe that Tindwyl left such an impression on Elend because he changed into a completely different person. He’s about the greatest leader there ever was when once he was just a scholar.
As an atheist myself; I had a rather hard time to get through Sazed’s doubts and search for answers about death and grief in religion. As if it is impossible to handle loss and grief without the belief in something higher.
Also, Spook really should be dead after everything he went through.
The politics are still a bit tiring.

Sanderson did a truly amazing job with this novel. Except for some minor points I loved it from beginning to end.
The Mistborn series is definitely, highly recommended.

Happy reading!
Helena

Tea Time!

vrijdag 17 april 2015

F. Scott Fitzgerald: This Side of Paradise

Hi

This Side of Paradise is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel.
It has 245 pages. I got it as a gift in one book with The Beautiful and Damned.

You can find all my F. Scott Fitzgerald reviews here.

 “This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald's romantic and witty first novel, was written when the author was only twenty-three years old. This semiautobiographical story of the handsome, indulged, and idealistic Princeton student Amory Blaine received critical raves and catapulted Fitzgerald to instant fame. Now, readers can enjoy the newly edited, authorized version of this early classic of the Jazz Age, based on Fitzgerald's original manuscript.”

It’s obvious to everyone that although Amory Blaine is a selfish, detached, egocentric and superficial man; it is because he is a product of the time he lives in and because he is the son of his parents with their own faults. Life as an upper-class gentleman and woman was just tedious and boring.
He's not really unlikable, but it's not that I care about him either. 


Fitzgerald writes about all this in a very believable manner. I can't find fault with the writing because it is good, it's just detached and definitely not engaging in any way.

I mean, it’s good and all (see above) but the story really is boring. Really boring.

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 14 april 2015

Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Hi

To make sure I’d read another novel by the literature giant named Charles Dickens, I asked my father what his favorites are. He had to think a bit but in the end he came up with Bleak House, Great Expectations and The Pickwick Papers.
I purchased Great Expectations before, but finding Bleak House in the Fnac, I decided to start with this huge book. It’s a 1055-page long novel with a 26 pages explanation about the novel.
You can find all my Charles Dickens reviews here.

“At the novel's core is long-running litigation in England's Court of Chancery, Jarndyce v Jarndyce, which has far-reaching consequences for all involved. The litigation, which already has taken many years and consumed between £60,000 and £70,000 in court costs, is emblematic of the failure of Chancery. Though Chancery lawyers and judges criticised Dickens's portrait of Chancery as exaggerated and unmerited, his novel helped to spur an ongoing movement that culminated in the enactment of legal reform in the 1870s.”

The novel is one big satire. 
You don’t ever really understand what the court case is about but it goes on and on and on. And that’s what it’s all about.
How people get so hung up on it. Ever hoping, ever waiting until they’ve won the case.
Richard is the prime example. He’s ruining himself and his fiancé. Always expecting to win the case and become rich and therefore he doesn’t feel the need to have a job. His degeneration from a bright, respectable youth full of potential into this doubting, obsessed man is heartbreaking. I felt even more so for his fiancé.

There are two narratives in this novel: Esther and a third unidentified, overseeing narrator. I liked that. Esther’s was generally more interesting to read. The third person’s was more about the court case and the lawyers and thus more frustrating to read. But it’s also about Lady Dedlock and other characters when Esther doesn’t meet them. Esther’s storytelling shows us how she feels inside; her wishes and dreams. The third person’s doesn’t’ of course.
I love Esther. She’s a hard worker, an optimist, she’s sweet, feminine and she always puts others first. And Lady Dedlock has so many layers! She has a weakness but she also has pride and other feelings.
Dickens is a writer who is able to write in depth characters.

Dickens’ descriptions read like you’re watching a movie it’s so amazing how he is able to describe everything with a lot of details without boring us to death.

It’s a funny novel too. There’s the spontaneous combustion of an evil alcoholic, the obsessed Mrs. Jellyby, Mr. Turveydrop and the funny and frustrating at the same time Mr. Skimpole.
Dickens describes characters of every social standing and in every social situation.

But it is a very, very long book and I had a hard time getting through it. It’s pretty boring in places and just way too long.

Happy reading!
Helena

I've been reading this one since the beginning of the month.

zondag 12 april 2015

Bookhaul: Boekenfestijn Kortrijk

Hi

My First bookhaul of the month. And it’s a big one!
Eleven new books! I’m lucky I read so much already this month because my TBR has now (again) about 100 books on it.

Here’s the damage:

I hope you had a nice weekend too!
Helena





zaterdag 11 april 2015

Jim Butcher: Fool Moon

Hi

Fool Moon is the second novel in The Dresden Files. I haven’t read the first novel so I can’t compare them.
The cover is intriguing and the book has only 341 pages.

“Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment. Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn't been able to dredge up any kind of work--magical or mundane. But just when it looks like he can't afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise. A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses--and the first two don't count...”

It’s a detective story with magic! How can you not love that?

Don’t expect fantastic prose or in depth characters. Why not? Because it’s not in there.
The writing is simple and to the point; it’s effective.

Why read it then?
It’s pure and simple entertainment; it’s perfect escapism.
The novel is full of adrenaline-charged action, witty dialogue and dark, ironic humor.
Harry is a wizard but he doesn’t save the day everytime with some dumb magical trick of spell. Instead he gets beaten up, saved, beaten, saved, beaten up again en he saves himself a few times. He is not a typical hero and I like that.
It’s kind of adorable how Harry and Murphy are mad at each other for protecting one another. Harry by keeping secrets from Murphy and Murphy by not employing Harry to keep him from getting arrested. Sweet right?
The whole history and theory behind the werewolves is very detailed and I like that. I hope there’s more in the other novels.

I am certainly going to read other novels in this series. It’s very promising!

Happy reading!
Helena

vrijdag 10 april 2015

A Cartoon!

Jeroen Brouwers: Bezonken Rood

Hi

This novel only has 125 pages and I borrowed it from the library.

I really didn’t enjoy this novel.
His writing style is most definitely not my cup of tea.

On to the next one!
Helena

donderdag 9 april 2015

Patrick Rothfuss: The Slow Regard Of Silent Things

Hi again

The Slow Regard Of Silent Things isn’t a real part of The Kingkiller Chronicles. But since it is about a secondary character in those novels; I’m giving it the label on my blog.
I got this one as a gift.
It has 159 pages.

You can find all my Patrick Rothfuss reviews here. 

“Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place.
Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows...”

This novel is about Auri in her everyday life while she is always searching for the perfect gift for Kvothe in exchange for his companionship and his songs. It's about her collecting, organizing, feeling and touching of objects and her ever-busy mind, her childlike reasoning at times but also her sweetness and her gentleness.
This is a bittersweet novel.


I do think Rothfuss missed the mark a bit. I would have loved to know how Auri came to be who she is. What caused all this? That's what we all want to know.
Why is her life centered around Kvothe? It seems as if she has nothing else in her life to make her happy but caring for him, thinking about him and thinking about what would make him happy. As a woman, I find that notion quite offensive. 

The cover and the illustrations are so beautiful! They are really wonderful.
It’s a novel to keep looking at or to display for a time.

This novel is only for those readers who love the character of Auri, for those who love the atmosphere of the novels and not only the action and interactions.

Happy reading!
Helena

woensdag 8 april 2015

Griet Op de Beeck: Vele Hemels Boven De Zevende

Hi again

This review is about a Flemish novel; Vele Hemels Boven De Zevende. Unfortunately it hasn’t been translated in any language so far.
It has 271 pages and I got it at the Boekenbeurs Antwerpen.

Five characters’ lives are interwoven and we find out how. It’s a story of love and family

This novel is a real hype in Belgium (or at least in Flanders). 
And it’s proven again that hypes aren’t necessarily my cup of tea.

I found this novel too easy. The prose feels like it’s written for a 16-year old.
The story itself is slow too. But that’s generally okay because I don’t mind it if a novel’s strength comes from the characters and the atmosphere. But it lacks a bit in that department too.
It’s not realistic, which it is supposed to be. It’s dramatic and no-one talks like that in real life even though that’s what Op de Beeck wanted it to be like.
And the feelings, man the feelings, I don’t know where to begin about that.
It’s just all kind of meh. It reads more like a soap. Especially with the unnecessary Lou as a POV.

What are you reading?
Helena

dinsdag 7 april 2015

Junichirõ Tanizaki: Some Prefer Nettles

Hi again

Some Prefer Nettles is rumored to be Japanese writer Tanizaki’s most autobiographical novel. I can’t compare with his other work because this is my first read. This was written in 1929.
It has 151 pages and I got it at the Waterstones some time ago in the UK.

“The marriage of Kaname and Misako is disintegrating: whilst seeking passion and fulfilment in the arms of others, they contemplate the humiliation of divorce. Misako's father believes their relationship has been damaged by the influence of a new and alien culture, and so attempts to heal the breach by educating his son-in-law in the time-honoured Japanese traditions of aesthetic and sensual pleasure. The result is an absorbing, chilling conflict between ancient and modern, young and old.”

To me, this novel has many layers and I can’t presume to be able to write about them in the way they should be explained. As a non-literary student I can only give my own opinion and interpretation of a novel.

I’d say that half of the scenes are centered around Traditional Japanese puppets and performances. I think that this is meant as a way to show us that the real performers are Kaname en Misako. They try to keep up the appearance of a rather happy marriage, especially to her father when in reality they have wanted a divorce for several years. She has been driven away to someone else by his lack of interest in her. But he thinks love and sex aren’t vital to a happy marriage. Something she desperately needs.

Secondly there’s the clash between the old Japanese traditions and the new Western habits. We see Kaname slowly leaning more to the old traditions even though that’s not the way he is introduced to us at the beginning.
Kaname longs for a traditional marriage with a doll-like traditional eastern wife. Someone just Like O-Hisa (who we discover on further reading isn’t as traditional as her husband would like to believe). But he can’t bring himself to actually make the decision whether to stay or go.

This was such a beautiful novel. The coldness between the couple is always hidden behind politeness and a façade of happiness. Both have treated each other well, there is just no love between them. The loneliness and the struggling are captured in rich details. Their own flaws are never hidden from us as a reader. 

It is subtle, lyrical, intricate, delicate and subdued. A stunning novel.

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 6 april 2015

H. G. Wells: The Invisible Man

Hi

The Invisible Man was the novel today!
Only 156 pages and a 4-page afterword.
This novel was a gift from my parents.
You can find all my H. G. Wells reviews here.

“This masterpiece of science fiction is the fascinating story of Griffin, a scientist who creates a serum to render himself invisible, and his descent into madness that follows.”

I really liked Wells’ prose in this novel. It reads so easy, so fast and it is very intriguing.
Griffin’s descent into madness and his increasing brutality and violence make this a very, very suspenseful novel.
His sudden outbursts, the slowly culminating anger and his unexpected, sudden changes in mood are actually terrifying.
The atmosphere Wells created is amazing. Fear, expectation and trepidation on every page.

Definitely recommended!

Happy reading.
Helena

zondag 5 april 2015

Mary Shelley: Frankenstein

Hi

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus! Only 170 pages and 18 pages introduction.
I got it in the Wordsworth version even though I love the Penguin English Classics more, but they don’t publish Shelley’s other work.
I read the 1831 revisited version.

“Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.”

The novel is very expressive. Both Frankenstein himself and mainly the monster have the ability to explain their feelings and the events in a way that makes us feel for them. Especially the monster generates a feeling of empathy when he recounts his life since birth. It’s amazing how Shelley does this.
The moment Victor refuses to take responsibility for his creation is the moment I was repulsed by him. In a way, every death by the hands of the monster is in essence because of Victor and his lack of guidance and support.
The story itself is (today) rather weak. But you cannot judge it in our society as a new novel. You have to bear the zeitgeist in mind.
In the end, we’re left wondering what real ‘evil’ is and the many faces it has.

Did you have a nice weekend?
Helena

zaterdag 4 april 2015

Terry Pratchett: Monstrous Regiment

Hi

Monstrous Regiment was the next Discworld-novel waiting in line to be read by me.
My copy has 494 pages.
You can find my other reviews of Terry Pratchett’s novels here.

“It began as a sudden strange fancy …
Polly Perks has to become a boy in a hurry. Cutting off her hair and wearing trousers was easy. Learning to fart and belch in public and walk like an ape took more time...
And now she's enlisted in the army and is searching for her lost brother.
But there's a war on. There's always a war on. And Polly and her fellow recruits are suddenly in the thick of it, without any training, and the enemy is hunting them.
All they have on their side is the most artful sergeant in the army and a vampire with a lust for coffee. Well...they have the Secret. And as they take the war to the heart of the enemy, they have to use all the resources of...the Monstrous Regiment.”

I loved this one. LOVED it.

The Monstrous Regiment is not only a parody of life in the army; it is so much more. It is a critique on racism, patriotism, prejudice, equal rights and sexism.
It is a novel full of subtleties and laugh-out-loud humor at the same time. It’s witty and clever, but it’s also sad at times.
Every character has his/her own story with its own distinctive voice. I had no trouble whatsoever keeping them all apart. There’s another Igor, a coffee addicted vampire and a troll. Every single one of them has their own well-rounded character.
TP’s genius really shines throughout this novel.

This is a perfect stand-alone novel. Some old characters make a short appearance, but you don’t have to know about them to enjoy Monstrous Regiment.

I hope you enjoyed this review.
Helena

donderdag 2 april 2015

Terry Brooks: First King of Shannara

Hi

I finished this 534 pages novel very fast!

 “Horrified by the misuse of magic they had witnessed during the First War of the Races, the Druids at Paranor devoted themselves to the study of the old sciences, from the period before the collapse of civilization a thousand years before. Only the Bremen and a few trusted associates still studied the arcane arts. And for his persistence, Bremen found himself outcast, avoided by all but the few free-thinkers among the Druids.
But his removal from Paranor was not altogether a terrible thing, for Bremen learned that dark forces were on the move from the Northlands. That seemingly invincible armies of trolls were fast conquering all that lay to their south. That the scouts for the army--and its principal assassins--were Skull Bearers, disfigured and transformed Druids who had fallen prey to the seductions of the magic arts. And that at the heart of the evil tide was an archmage and former Druid named Brona!
Using the special skills he had acquired through his own study of Magic, Bremen was able to penetrate the huge camp of the Troll army and learn many of its secrets. And he immediately understood that if the peoples of the Four Lands were to escape eternal subjugation they would need to unite. But, even united, they would need a weapon, something so powerful that the evil magic of Brona, the Warlock Lord, would fail before its might...”

I read the original Shannara Trilogy about two years ago.

The novel is really fast-paced, full of action, epic battles, magic and sacrifice.
As with a lot High Fantasy, this novel is rooted too much in The Lord of the Rings in my opinion. It didn’t really bother me, but it is definitely there.
The characters need more depth and the prose is lacking too.

But in the end, this is just a satisfying, entertaining and suspenseful read.

Happy reading!
Helena

woensdag 1 april 2015

Wrap Up: March 2015

Hi

It’s time for my monthly Wrap Up again!
Time flies when there’s so much reading to be done.

I read 9 books this month for a total of 3383 pages.
Obviously, I had a great reading month.

Here are the novels I read with links to their reviews.

How was your reading month? Anything you would like to recommend?

Have a nice day!
Helena