dinsdag 30 juni 2015

Fiona McIntosh: Royal Exile

Hi

Royal Exile is the first novel in the Valisar Trilogy. It took me quite some time to find all three of them. Normally I wouldn’t buy the whole series before reading at least one of the novels. But this time it was different for two reasons. I read a series by Fiona McIntosh before and I enjoyed that a lot. I bought the third novel very cheap and that buy made me go and search for the first and the second part. Which I eventually found over the course of a few months.
This one has 390 pages.

“From out of the East they came riding like a merciless plague—destroying kingdom after kingdom and the sovereigns who had previously mocked the warlord Loethar and his barbarian horde. Now only one land remains unconquered—the largest, richest, and most powerful realm of the Denova Set…
Penraven.
The Valisar royals of Penraven face certain death, for the savage tyrant Loethar covets what they alone possess: the fabled Valisar Enchantment, an irresistible power to coerce, which will belong to Loethar once every Valisar has been slain. But the last hope of the besieged kingdom is being sent in secret from his doomed home, in the company of a single warrior. The future of Penraven now rests on the shoulders of the young Crown Prince Leonel who, though untried and untested in the ways of war, must survive brutality and treachery in order to claim the Valisar throne.”

This novel was a disappointment.

It has great potential but it doesn’t live up to the expectations I had.
The series has a very intriguing villain; Loethar. He has merits; he has a few good traits, or traits that change for the better throughout the novel. Nothing is simply black or white; the way it is in a lot of Fantasy. Here, there are all shades in between.
Almost every character is important. There are no characters without a purpose. And I like that. It was one of my complaints in my review about Game of Thrones; too many characters that serve no purpose and are just there to make the novel seem grander than it is.

But the story is slow, too simple and straightforward and lazily told with convenient plot twists.
A wooden dialogue makes everyone sound pretentious (especially the teenagers) and unconvincing. The interactions between the characters are awkward because of this.
And I don’t care about the characters. I was surprised to find so many of them killed, but it did not bother me.
I want to care about the characters!

I’ll surely read the second one because I own it already, but we’ll see after that.

Happy reading.
Helena

Heaven, I'm in heaven...

zondag 28 juni 2015

Bookhaul: Boekenfestijn

Hi

Here’s the 'loot' I got at the Boekenfestijn.

It’s not much this time, but a lot of the books were the same as last time, and their English novels collection was very small.


Have a nice weekend!
Helena


vrijdag 26 juni 2015

DNF - Sarah Dunant: In the Company of the Courtesan

Hi

Another one I started and couldn’t finish. I started this one two weeks ago and I tried several times to get through it but I just couldn’t.
In the end I read 109 pages.

“With their stomachs churning on the jewels they have swallowed, the courtesan Fiametta and her companion dwarf Bucino escape the sack of Rome. It’s 1527. They head for the shimmering, decadent city of Venice. Sarah Dunant’s epic novel of sixteenth-century Renaissance Italy is a story about the sins of pleasure and the pleasures of sin, an intoxicating mix of fact and fiction, and a dazzling portrait of one of the world’s greatest cities at its most potent moment in history.”

I disliked the characters and I felt no sympathy for them whatsoever. And because of that I wasn’t interested in the story at all.
The plot doesn’t go anywhere.
I find nothing alluring about Fiametta.
The dwarf is such a typical, overused stereotype of a dwarf. Smart and cunning but ugly.


On to something better!
Helena

dinsdag 23 juni 2015

Jonathan Coe: Expo 58

Hi

Expo 58 is my first Jonathan Coe.
It has 274 pages.

“London, 1958: unassuming civil servant Thomas Foley is plucked from his desk at the Central Office of Information and sent on a six-month trip to Brussels. His task: to keep an eye on The Brittania, a brand new pub which will form the heart of the British presence at Expo 58 - the biggest World's Fair of the century, and the first to be held since the Second World War.
As soon as he arrives at the site, Thomas feels that he has escaped a repressed, backward-looking country and fallen headlong into an era of modernity and optimism. He is equally bewitched by the surreal, gigantic Atomium, which stands at the heart of this brave new world, and by Anneke, the lovely Flemish hostess who meets him off his plane. But Thomas's new-found sense of freedom comes at a price: the Cold War is at its height, the mischievous Belgians have placed the American and Soviet pavilions right next to each other - and why is he being followed everywhere by two mysterious emissaries of the British Secret Service? Expo 58 may represent a glittering future, both for Europe and for Thomas himself, but he will soon be forced to decide where his public and private loyalties really lie.”

It is so cool and fun to read a novel set in your own tiny country by a foreign writer. Some of the things Coe writes about the Belgian people are so true it’s unbelievable.
The novel is very easy to read, light, amusing and entertaining. But I wouldn’t call it any more than that. It’s funny but also boring at times. The story is straightforward and undemanding but not that well thought out. Neither are the characters. It lacks depth over the whole line and I didn’t care about any of the characters.
This frustrated me at times. When I got frustrated I had to put the novel aside and read something else.

And those last 30 pages were unnecessary. Coe wanted to give us a fully completed story with dates etc. but I really didn’t care for the predictable motives and reasoning behind it all.

It’s entertaining, but I expected a lot more out of it.

Happy reading!
Helena

Time to relax before a wonderful evening!

zondag 21 juni 2015

Bookhaul: A gift from my Meter

Hi everyone

My grandmother (Meter) gave me these bookends yesterday. She got them in 1954 when she was 18 and teaching in Ghent.

I love them. They are from my grandmother, they are a very thoughtful gift and they really are beautiful.

Thank you Meter!
Helena

donderdag 18 juni 2015

Brent Weeks: Shadow’s Edge

Hi

Shadow’s Edge is the second part in The Night Angel Trilogy.
It has 636 pages and a very ugly cover.
You can find all my Brent Weeks reviews here.

*  NO SPOILERS AHEAD  *

There are only a few things to add to my review of the first part

My main complaint is my dislike of Elene. She’s just way too perfect, too good and too virginal. After all she’s been through I find it very hard to believe how Good she still is. She’s boring, very unrealistic and way too much of a caricature of a Good Wife.
I grew annoyed at Elene trying to change Kylar. He’s the one to save the city, yet she takes him away from it. She’s such an idiot.
Their moving away and their relationship are really dragging the book to a slow pace. It only picks up after Kylar’s visit from someone.
And aside from Elene; every woman in this series is either a whore or a virgin.

I really like Vi though. She’s strong, independent and a daredevil. She’s much better suited to Kylar than Elene ever will be. But Weeks just uses her and the parts where it’s apparent she’s in love with Kylar are almost nauseatingly sticky with her love.

It is a quick and enjoyable read. The novel has some nice surprises, cool fight scenes and fun characters. Just don’t think too much about it.
The (side) characters are better thought out in this one, which I really did appreciate.
It is much darker and crueler then the first novel, and at times you need a strong stomach to keep on reading.
And (one of my bookish pet peeves) Weeks doesn’t just sum up what happened in the previous novel, it is worked into the story.

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 16 juni 2015

Embracing My Books’ 1 Year Anniversary: My To Be Read Books

Hi

In honor of my blog’s first year anniversary I decided to show you all the books I own but haven’t read yet; my To Be Read Books (or my TBR).
That’s 110 books. Some might say I have a problem, I buy too many books, I will never read them all or it’s just weird.
I say ‘you can never have too many books’.

Helena






Embracing My Books’ 1 Year Anniversary!

Hi

Happy anniversary to my blog!

It’s been exactly a year since I decided to finally start a blog about books. And I honestly don’t regret it. I’m not in the mood to elaborate ‘till the end of time, so this will be short.

After a year my blog has 7814 views and 114 likes on its Facebook page.

I would like to start a ‘tradition’ to celebrate EMB’s anniversary every year. A post about all the books on my To Be Read Pile. That one will follow after this one.

So, the end of the first year and on to many more.

Happy reading, always.
Helena

vrijdag 12 juni 2015

Edgar Allan Poe: The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales

Hi

I finished this collection of stories by Edgar Allan Poe.
This beautiful edition has 320 pages and I got it at the Fnac.

Reading a bit of Poe’s work has been on my To Do list for a very, very long time.
Now That I finally did read some short stories, I can tell you my thoughts on experiencing Poe for the first time.

Poe’s stories should be read slow and thoughtful. They are straightforward and easy to read, that’s not why. It’s because Poe writes about the horrors in the stories with too much ease. Sometimes it’s barely there! And if you read too fast you just missed why the character is running/afraid/crying out/… It all happens so, normal almost. In just a few sentences it has happened. And then the story has ended. And you didn’t even realize what went wrong.

Most of the stories in this collection were rather slow in my opinion; the interesting turn of events only happening in the last few pages after a quite boring journey or description of the character’s life.

Most of his stories are written through the character’s eyes. This makes it difficult to read the stories one after the other. I started to get confused. Which is why I decided to only read a few each time or to do something else in between.

All in all I’m glad I finally did read a small part of Poe’s work. Though I’m not inclined to read more. 

Enjoy your weekend!
Helena

woensdag 10 juni 2015

Jean Teulé: The Suicide Shop

Hi

This review is about ‘The Suicide Shop’, a 169-page novel from the French writer Jean Teulé.
I got it from bol.com a very long time ago.

 “Has your life been a failure? Let's make your death a success With the twenty-first century just a distant memory and the world in environmental chaos, many people have lost the will to live. And business is brisk at The Suicide Shop. Run by the Tuvache family for generations, the shop offers an amazing variety of ways to end it all, with something to fit every budget. The Tuvaches go mournfully about their business, taking pride in the morbid service they provide. Until the youngest member of the family threatens to destroy their contented misery by confronting them with something they ve never encountered before: a love of life.”

This is a very entertaining read. It made me smile; it’s very unique, silly, absurd and so amusing. A light-hearted, easy and quick read.
The ‘goods’ they sell, or rather the ways to kill oneself in this novel are ridiculous and utterly laugh-out-loud fun.
Every member of the family is unique in an almost Addams Family way. They are all painted so visually and larger than life; I was able to see them right before me.

It’s not an exceptional novel, it’s not ‘Real Literature’ or a Classic but just great fun.
Just one thing though, instead of placing this in a dystopian future and not building this world; this novel would have worked in the present too. Or even better, because the setting doesn’t add anything to the novel.

The morale? Life is how you see it. Black or white. Good or bad.

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 8 juni 2015

Haruki Murakami: Norwegian Wood

Hi

This is my second time reading Norwegian Wood.
It has 389 pages and I’ve got it in the Vintage edition.
You can find all my Murakami reviews here.

“When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire.”

I loved it all over again.
It’s written so beautifully, so eloquent and lovingly written, so gentle and descriptive. It all seems other worldly.
The story is full of sadness, loneliness, grief and loss. It’s gloomy and melancholy.
In the end, it is about love and the fragility of life. How delicate we are. How quickly something can topple it all. It’s about caring for others and for one ’s self. How to get through life. How to love. How to live.

I just really hate Midori. There’s just nothing likeable to her. Why Toru keeps seeing her is a mystery to me. It’s all about sex with her; watching porn, making Tory (and me) uncomfortable with her comments. Ok, she is the complete opposite from Naoko, but that should not be her main attraction. She’s childlike, harsh, a liar and way to self-involved.

I loved it, even though I wish I could change some things.

Happy reading!
Helena

zondag 7 juni 2015

zaterdag 6 juni 2015

Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile

Hi

Death on the Nile is one of Agatha Christie’s novels about Hercule Poirot I’ve read before from my mom.
It has 416 pages and I got it second hand.
You can find all my Agatha Christie reviews here.

“The detective Hercule Poirot is on holiday in Egypt when he is drawn into the mysterious affair of the newlywed couple: society's beauty, Linnet, and Simon Doyle. Linnet had allegedly stolen Simon from his former fiancee, Jacqueline de Bellefort, who is enraged. As a method of revenge, Jacqueline follows the Doyles anywhere they go, and when Linnet and Simon arrive at their honeymoon destination in Egypt, Jacqueline is waiting for them. She follows them onto the river cruise up the Nile, just when the Doyles had believed that she'd stopped. Linnet is extremely scared, and speaks to Poirot of how she is surrounded by enemies. Some days later, Linnet is found shot through the head in her cabin and Poirot is under pressure to find the killer, before they strike again...”

Poirot is as cocky as ever and I really like it. He doesn’t care what others think because he knows, in the end they’ll feel the same about him.
This novel has it all; jealousy, murder, love, hope, despair and lots of gossip.
It took almost half of the book to get our murder but I can’t say it really bothered me. Sure, it starts out rather slow because of that, but it’s so much fun to read the gossiping and the talking of the guests.
Really, fun and entertaining. It just sucks you right in and it doesn’t let go until you finished it.

Happy reading!
Helena

woensdag 3 juni 2015

Terry Pratchett: A Hat Full of Sky

Hi

This review is about the 32nd novel in TP’s Discworld series.
I bought my copy in the Fnac and it has 357 pages. The cover has the same theme as the other Tiffany Aching novels and I like it when writers and publishing houses stick to the theme.
You can find my other reviews of Terry Pratchett’s novels here.

“We see you. Now we are you.
No real witch could casually step out of their body, leaving it empty. Tiffany Aching does. And there’s something just waiting for a handy body to take over. Something ancient and horrible; the Hiver.
To deal with it, Tiffany has to go to the heart of what makes her a witch. Get past the ‘I can’t’.
But even with the help of the Nac Mac Feegle – the rowdiest pictsies on the Disc, who like facing enormous odds – she still might not be able to win herself back …
Tiffany leaves the Chalk to learn witching from Miss Level. An ancient evil called the hiver goes with her and Tiffany doesn’t realize just how dangerous being as good as Granny Weatherwax supposes she is, can be."

I really enjoyed this novel.
It’s the second Tiffany Aching novel and the sequel to The Wee Free Men and it’s even better than the one before. Though I would recommend reading that one first.
Tiffany is in some ways a typical 11-year old. But she’s smart, precocious, realistic and she has her very own and unique personality. And she’s a witch. What’s not to love?
I love the Nac Mac Feegle even more though. They’re smart in their own way, they’re endearing, impossibly funny, witty, strong, drunk, loyal and foolishly brave. They all have their own distinct voice, which must have been hard for TP because there are a lot Feegles.
The chapters wherein the Feegles learn to read and write are hilarious!
It is simply amazing how TP is able to write about human nature in a teenager book full of fun and magic. It’s one of the things I admire most in him. In this case, TP makes us think about identity, personal development and image without even realizing it.

I hope you liked this review!
Helena

Quality Time!

maandag 1 juni 2015

Wrap Up: May 2015

Hi

Due to the three holidays in May I got more reading done than I thought I would.
I started my new job and I’ve been very tired so I expected to be too tired and lazy to read after work, but those three days made up for that.
I read 10 books for a total of 4068 pages.

Here’s what I read in May:
What did you read? Anything you can recommend me?

Happy reading!
Helena