zondag 31 mei 2015

Ira Levin: A Kiss before Dying

Hi

This review is about the first novel by Ira Levin; A Kiss before Dying.
It has only 275 pages and they flew by.
You can find all my Ira Levin reviews here.

 “A Kiss Before Dying not only debuted the talent of best-selling novelist Ira Levin to rave reviews, it also set a new standard in the art of mystery and suspense. Now a modern classic, as gripping in its tautly plotted action as it is penetrating in its exploration of a criminal mind, it tells the shocking tale of a young man who will stop at nothing—not even murder—to get where he wants to go. For he has dreams; plans. He also has charm, good looks, sex appeal, intelligence. And he has a problem. Her name is Dorothy; she loves him, and she's pregnant. The solution may demand desperate measures. But, then, he looks like the kind of guy who could get away with murder. Compellingly, step by determined step, the novel follows this young man in his execution of one plan he had neither dreamed nor foreseen. Nor does he foresee how inexorably he will be enmeshed in the consequences of his own extreme deed.”

It’s almost a pulp novel; character development is lacking and it’s simply written. But it reads like a train; it just goes by so fast.

The first part is not really suspenseful. From the very beginning we know he’s going to murder her. But man, the process of deciding, making a plan, changing the plan and executing it is horrifying. He is so cool and determined. It is so creepy to read about his meticulous planning and scheming. So exciting!
The second part, when Ellen goes in search of the murderer is much more suspenseful. I was dreading every moment she was with one of the possible murderers. Because suddenly the novel is told from her point of view, and we don’t know who the murderer is. Oh my word. So exciting!
And by the third part I couldn't stop reading.

I enjoyed this a lot. The Boys from Brazil is definitely better, but this is only his first novel.
Highly enjoyable, not Great Literature in my opinion, but very entertaining. 

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 30 mei 2015

C. J. Sansom: Sovereign

Hi

Sovereign is the third novel in the Matthew Shardlake Series by C. J. Sansom. You can find my other review on C. J. Sansom’s work here.
This novel has 662 pages and I got it at the Boekenfestijn.

“Autumn 1541. A plot against the throne has been uncovered, and Henry VIII has set off on a spectacular progress from London to York, along with a thousand soldiers, the cream of the nobility, and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, to quell his rebellious northern subjects. Awaiting his arrival are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his loyal assistant, Jack Barak. In addition to processing petitions to the king, Shardlake's task is to protect a dangerous conspirator until he is transported back to London for interrogation.
But when a local glazier is murdered, things get a little more complicated as the murder seems to be not only connected to Shardlake's prisoner but also to the royal family itself. Then Shardlake stumbles upon a cache of secret papers that throws into doubt the legitimacy of the entire royal line, and a chain of events unfolds that threatens Shardlake with the most terrifying fate of the age: imprisonment in the Tower of London.”

This is not a romantic portrait of Tudor England. It is a violent, ignorant, corrupt and filthy time.
It is full of details that bring the time and the story to life. From colors, to smells, and headshakes, it all feels so real as if I’m right there.
The plot is exciting, it’s full of surprises and the ending is unexpected and satisfyingly complex.
And I just love Shardlake and Barak. They are a perfect combination of book smart and street smart. 

I did feel too sorry for Shardlake. It seems as if everything goes wrong for him and lots of people hate on him and basically hate him. It is too much.
And I wish Tamasin wasn’t as one-sided as she is. Sansom should have developed her better; more fully rounded than she is.
Lastly, it is a bit too slow. It drags in certain places. Something happens and after that, the plot just drops. I like the details and the methodical figuring out by Shardlake and Barak. But the time in between drags.

It has a few faults, but I still enjoyed it.

Happy reading!
Helena

This. Now.

donderdag 28 mei 2015

Bookhaul: Book Depository

Hi

I got even more new books!
After finishing The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson, I needed more novels of his.
Seeing these on The Book Depository I decided to try this new series.
Shipping is always free, but it took quite a while to get them so if you want to get them sooner, try bol.com or the bookshop.



Can’t wait to start reading them!

Helena

dinsdag 26 mei 2015

Bookhaul: Gifts

Hi

My husband and I visited family on Sunday. As you probably know, I grew up surrounded by lots of readers. My father’s father/my opa/my grandfather is one of them. And he felt the need to get rid of some books. He liked them but he said he wouldn’t read them again. 
Well let me tell you something. No one gets rid of books without showing them to me or my father. That’s a rule around here.

So here are the ones I decided to try.

I just love it. Books read and enjoyed by both my grandfather and my father. Love it.

Helena


maandag 25 mei 2015

Brent Weeks: The Way of Shadows

Hi

The Night Angel Trilogy was a gift from my husband for my 26th birthday. It was a finalist for the David Gemmell's Legend Award, it has 661 pages and all three novels have some of the ugliest covers I ever saw.

“For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city's most accomplished artist.
For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he's grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly - and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.
But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins' world of dangerous politics and strange magics - and cultivate a flair for death.”

The novel reads as easy as a YA novel. It is fast-paced and it’s written in easy to read prose. A bit too easy in my opinion.  Throughout the novel there are words missing, spelling mistakes and sentences that just aren’t right. It’s as if no one edited this novel. Isn’t that supposed to be a real process when you publish a novel? Apparently, Weeks skipped this step.

It is suspenseful, full of action, fast-paced and it has surprising turns.
But Weeks skips several years for no apparent reason. I don’t like it when a writer does this. It makes me feel disconnected from the characters. We miss important years, decisions and events and he doesn’t even fill us in on them.
Characterization isn’t great as well. Motivations and thoughts aren’t known to us for most of the characters so connecting with them is virtually impossible. Every character has a few main characteristics but that’s all there is to them. Logan, for example, is handsome, strong, just and he has a quick temper. That’s it. All four characteristics stay the same throughout the novel; he doesn’t change is what I mean. Weeks created his characters and they don’t evolve, they don’t learn or change. It’s a very shallow novel.
World-building was almost non-existing in this novel. There’s virtually no background to the characters, to the city or to the world outside this city.
Weeks is not afraid to let his characters die. Almost every major character dies in this single novel. At this rate there won’t be anyone left for the third part in the trilogy.
The climax was a little underwhelming to be honest. The main characters had no real influence or task in it even though it was made out as if they would change the whole outcome.
The magic is intriguing and it seems different from other magic-systems I’ve read about. And Kylar his talent is broken! Now that’s exiting to read about. A hero who needs to find out how he can use his broken talent.

But for all these flaws I had a fun time reading this. It is fast, pure escapism, entertaining and highly enjoyable; just don’t expect this to be Great Literature in any way.

Happy reading.
Helena

Enjoying this!

vrijdag 22 mei 2015

Stephen King: The Green Mile

Hi

I got this one very recently but I wanted to dive in right away!
The Green Mile won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel and was nominated as Best Novel for the British Fantasy Award and the Locus Award.
This novel was originally published as a six volumes serial novel with King writing every next part by a deadline.
My copy has 435 pages and I got it at the Boekenfestijn.
You can find all my Stephen King reviews here.

 “At Cold Mountain Penitentiary, along the lonely stretch of cells known as the Green Mile, killers are depraved as the psychopathic "Billy the Kid" Wharton and the possessed Eduard Delacroix await death strapped in "Old Sparky." Here guards as decent as Paul Edgecombe and as sadistic as Percy Wetmore watch over them. But good or evil, innocent or guilty, none have ever seen the brutal likes of the new prisoner, John Coffey, sentenced to death for raping and murdering two young girls. Is Coffey a devil in human form? Or is he a far, far different kind of being?”

The novel is simply amazing and I couldn’t put it down (almost being late at work because of reading late at night).
It is very beautifully written, every scene is vividly sketched and the story is told by a real master. This means that it’s almost perfect. Not too humorous for this type of novel, not too emotional for a non-dramaqueen like me and not too suspenseful to be a real thriller.
Aside from Paul; the characters were a bit superficial but it didn’t bother me at all. The story didn’t need it.
It is gripping and heart-breaking and I could feel for every one of the ‘good’ characters. I laughed when they made jokes, I hated Percy with them and I felt the way they did about John.

I loved it. You really need to read this!

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 18 mei 2015

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice

Hi

I’m halfway through reading Austen’s work for the second time.
This one has 396 lovely pages.
You can find all my Jane Austen reviews here.

“Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.”

I LOVED this novel.

Here’s why.
The novel is so easy to read it’s almost unbelievable it is 200 years old. I flew through this.
Her characters (though intentionally overdone) feel very real, which makes the novel so satisfying. And this makes the annoying, hateful characters even more irritating I’m afraid.

But, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett lack serious judgment and they didn’t raise their daughters vey sensibly.
Women back then depended completely on the men in their lives (father or husband) to support them. So finding a husband with the means to do so was the one most important goal in a woman’s life. Seen in this light, Mrs. Bennett’s reactions are (although irritating and annoying) understandable (although I want to slap her sometimes to get the air and fluff out of her head). Mr. Bennett clearly does not understand the importance of this. I love his remarks and his sweet irony but he needs to be serious in his duty to find loving, providing husbands for them. Because that’s what life was like. Mr. Bennett dies, and the girls don’t have a penny.
Even after Lizzy asks her father to not let Lydia go to Brighton where she will surely make a spectacle of herself and disgrace herself and all her sisters; he doesn’t see it. Women’s reputations were and still are very brittle. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett should have done something about the two airheaded sisters Kitty and Lydia. But Mr. Bennett is lazy and he just doesn’t care.

Both Darcy and Lizzy are not completely conforming to social rules (like empty talking) and this is exactly what attracts them to each other.
Lizzy is intelligent, fun, independent, witty, loving, well-spoken and social. I would love her as a friend.

This is a truly amazing novel. It’s ironic, wise and just beautifully written.

Happy reading!
Helena

vrijdag 15 mei 2015

P. G. Wodehouse: Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

Hi

This is my first Wodehouse. My father has loved his work for years (hence the gift).
It only has 211 pages and this series is very beautifully published.

“A Bertie and Jeeves classic, featuring an Alpine hat, a black amber statuette, and the dreaded Totleigh Towers.
In Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, Bertie's newt-breeding friend Gussie Fink-Nottle must marry Madeline Bassett or Bertie will be obliged to take his place. Understandably, Bertie is aghast. It seems like certain suicide, but Jeeves must find a way to save his employer from the clutches of the drippy Madeline. If he fails, Bertie's bachelor days -- not to mention Jeeves's leisure time -- will be at an end.”

First of all, and most importantly, I enjoyed this a lot.
 It is a swift read; I just flew through this. It is light-hearted and charming.
The novel reads more like a play; I could see everything happening right before my eyes.
Wooster has a peculiar way of talking about himself but after getting used to this it didn’t feel strange anymore.
He’s so sweet, amiable and just plain stupid. Everything he said or did made me smile.
Not a laugh-out-loud novel, but a smile-the-whole-way-through novel.
AND some language jokes, which I always enjoy (whenever I get them because this is not my mother’s tongue).

The series is not meant as a serious, literary fiction worthy, fully developed series with well rounded characters and logical events. It’s (in my opinion) meant as a sort of ‘poking fun at’, sniggering and almost satirical play.

It would have been better to read them in the order they were published. Events from former novels play a part in this one and I didn’t understand the references and characters have a history I didn’t know of.

I still enjoyed it very much and I will continue the series in the order I buy them (because they’re not that easy to find here).
It was a pleasure reading this.

Happy reading to you too!
Helena

donderdag 14 mei 2015

Robert Jordan: New Spring

Hi

This will be my second time reading the whole Wheel of Time (WoT for the fans) series. Initially I didn’t start with the prequel; I never do. It’s so much more fun to discover everything gradually then just by reading the prequel. So I suggest you read at least the first 5 or 6 books before reading the prequel as an interlude.
This novel has
350 pages.

“For three days battle has raged in the snow around the great city of Tar Valon. In the city, a Foretelling of the future is uttered. On the slopes of Dragonmount, the immense mountain that looms over the city, is born an infant prophesied to change the world. That child must be found before the forces of the Shadow have an opportunity to kill him. Moiraine Damodred, a young Accepted soon to be raised to Aes Sedai, and Lan Mandragoran, a soldier fighting in the battle, are set on paths that will bind their lives together. But those paths are filled with complications and dangers, for Moiraine, of the Royal House of Cairhien, whose king has just died, and Lan, considered the uncrowned king of a nation long dead, find their lives threatened by the plots of those seeking power.”

This novel is not as surprising, gripping, suspenseful or thrilling as (most of) the others in the series because it is a typical prequel. It’s light-hearted and so, so charming.
We get to know Lan, Moiraine and Siuan almost 20 years before the events that start unfolding from the first novel on.
And I love all three of them. Moiraine and Siuan are still young and not Aes Sedai yet.  But oh they’re trying so hard to compose
themselves and act like real Aes Sedai. They feel true to their future selves; but younger obviously.
And Lan is just magnificent.

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 12 mei 2015

Bookhaul: Fnac, De Slegte and Standaard Boekhandel

Hi

My husband and I went shopping Saturday. Which means I dragged him to four bookstores and one clothing store.
In the end, I bought books in three of those stores.

Here they are:
  • Anthony Doerr: All The Light We Cannot See
  • Jeffrey Eugenides: Middlesex
  • Kate Mosse: The Taxidermist’s Daughter
  • Haruki Murakami: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage
  • Richard Yates: Cold Spring Harbor

I should be crushing my TBR. Instead I keep adding to it.
It’s an illness (only because I need an excuse).
So many books and so little time.

Happy reading!
Helena


maandag 11 mei 2015

Anne Brontë: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Hi

This is my second to last novel by one of the Brontë sisters!
The novel has 383 pages and a 16-page introduction.

“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerful and sometimes violent novel of expectation, love, oppression, sin, religion and betrayal. It portrays the disintegration of the marriage of Helen Huntingdon, the mysterious ‘tenant’ of the title, and her dissolute, alcoholic husband. Defying convention, Helen leaves her husband to protect their young son from his father’s influence, and earns her own living as an artist. Whilst in hiding at Wildfell Hall, she encounters Gilbert Markham, who falls in love with her.”

*SPOILERS*

Helen might be the first women in fiction to take her rights into her own hands. She flees an abusive husband and shows incredible strength and courage in doing so. This in a time where a wife’s role was to please her husband.
And then the dimwit goes back to nurse him! After everything he has done to her. She is that stupid.

You can only feel admiration for Anne because of her frankness and courage to write this novel. It must have been a whirlwind once it was published.

But the story is so incredibly boring! It took me ages and ages to get through the book.
The characters are totally Good or Evil.
Next to nothing happens.
This book set my teeth on edge. No idea why I finished it.

Happy reading!
Helena

woensdag 6 mei 2015

Alan Bennett: Smut

Hi

Smut is a collection of 2 short stories by Alan Bennett. It only has 189 pages and I got it from The Book Depository.
You can find my other review by Alan Bennett here.

“In The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson, a recently bereaved widow finds interesting ways to supplement her income by performing as a patient for medical students, and renting out her spare room. Quiet, middle-class, and middle-aged, Mrs. Donaldson will soon discover that she rather enjoys role-play at the hospital, and the irregular and startling entertainment provided by her tenants.
In The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes, a disappointed middle-aged mother dotes on her only son, Graham, who believes he must shield her from the truth. As Graham’s double life becomes increasingly complicated, we realize how little he understands, not only of his own desires but also those of his mother.”

I enjoyed this very much. It is such a fun, amusing, relaxing read.
The two stories are full of misperceptions, secrets, witty one-liners, poignant humor, deception and peculiar or even strange events.
I liked the first story more though. Mrs. Donaldson is so sweet and endearing; you just have to love her.

Perfect if you want a short, light read.

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 5 mei 2015

Ernest Hemingway: For Whom The Bell Tolls

Hi

Finished my first novel of the month; For Whom the Bell Tolls. It has 490 pages. It was first published in 1940 and is based on his own experiences in the Spanish Civil War.
After a few chapters I recalled reading this when I was just starting to read adult novels. I can’t remember how I liked it then.
You can find all my Hemingway reviews here.

“In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from "the good fight", For Whom the Bell Tolls. The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan's love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo's last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms.”

The novel spans just three days but those three days are filled with treason, love, suffering, camaraderie, bravery and dedication. So much so that these few days might and can represent the whole war.
Andres and his message show us how the leaders pull the strings and how they themselves are safely away from the places where the war actually happens. It’s frustrating and aggravating to read what he has to go through to get the stupid message delivered, and in the end, nothing even changes.
For Whom the Bell Tolls is subtle, sweet and almost picturesque; but other scenes were full of suspense, intense and terrifying. It can be a bit of a roller-coaster ride.
The novel gives us great insight into what drives someone, into someone’s passions and beliefs.

The dialogue, as though in translation from Spanish, is crude and basic. But Robert’s inner thoughts are ‘normal’.  This is a very interesting way too remind us that Robert is in another country, alone and talking too people he doesn’t know in a language he studied because in essence, he is a teacher. These dialogues took some getting used to but I liked it this way. Also, Hemingway censors his own writing in this novel! Very funny to read these censored sections.

Robert is not a fascist, so his ‘side’ didn’t win the war as is generally known. And that’s quite surprising; it’s not the way you expect the novel to go. From the very first pages you know their efforts and work were, in the end, to no avail. They lost.
But the violence and murder are carried out by both sides; Hemingway doesn’t try to idolize this group of guerrilla fighters. Fascists and communists alike killed and tortured people.

Hemingway is a wonderful writer and I will definitely read more of his work.

Happy reading!
Helena


I had a healthy snack!

vrijdag 1 mei 2015

Wrap Up: April 2015

Hi

April was a great reading month. I honestly can’t believe I read so much and I feel very proud.
I read a total of 14 books or 5166 pages.

In the beginning of the month I was home for two weeks which is why I read so much this month.
It feels great to get so much reading done and to reduce my TBR.
But I bought so many new ones, so the amount of books on my TBR didn’t change. :)

Here are the books I read this month:

Aside from all the reading, I had my first experience with haters online but I got some wonderfully sweet comments as well, so that’s equals everything out.

How was your reading month?
Helena