zondag 31 januari 2016

William Makepeace Thackeray: Vanity Fair

Hi again

My last review this month will be about Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.
I got this book from friends (thank you Andries en Marina) when they visited us. It’s the beautiful Penguin English Library edition and it has 883 pages and 14 pages of reactions to Vanity Fair by its contemporary writers.

I was ill this last week but luckily, I started the book around the 10th of January because I wanted to read it slowly. So I was able to finish the remaining pages on time.

 “No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her sentimental companion Amelia, however, longs only for caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour of Regency society, battles - military and domestic - are fought, fortunes made and lost. The one steadfast and honourable figure in this corrupt world is Dobbin with his devotion to Amelia, bringing pathos and depth to Thackeray's gloriously satirical epic of love and social adventure.”

Vanity Fair is basically a very big satire and a family history in one.
Thackeray mocks the different classes of people and mainly the elite; how fast they rise and fall. It’s funny and witty but also very tragic.

The writing style is really easy to read and conversational (the writer is actually talking to us). However, I did not really like it when he breaks the fourth wall. It’s confusing and it doesn’t really add much to the story.
The narrator does go on and on, meaning it’s too long winded for the story he’s telling. I would have enjoyed it more had it been shorter and more condensed. There’s no need to talk about the future of characters barely mentioned for example. Rather tedious.
As with Dickens’ work and The Green Mile by Stephen King, Vanity Fair was published as a series and it shows that the writes was paid per issue and not for the novel as a whole.
And I didn’t like his generalizations about women. He doesn’t do that to men but whatever one woman does or says wrong is seen as normal for all women, everywhere.

Becky and Amelia; two very different women. Sometimes I could strangle them and sometimes they made me smile.
Becky is manipulative, funny, ambitious, mean, brutal, tough, strong-minded, unloving and really unlikable. She wants to get higher up in a world where she’s meant to stay where she is. And I do love it when a character is fighting for a better life against all odds. But she’s highly unlikable and she deserves so much of her heartbreak and suffering too!
Amelia is naïve, weak-minded, rather stupid, simpering, blind and insipid but also very sweet and lovable.
I did appreciate what the characters were standing for but I didn’t like them and that’s what made it hard for me to love the book. I find it hard to sympathize with both of them but for different reasons. One is cruel and the other is a simpering idiot.

The ending was not for me. Why did it have to be Becky to point things out to Amelia? I don’t want redemption for Becky, I want to keep on hating her, or at least not loving her. She doesn’t deserve some sort of redemption.

I’m torn and I’m not sure how much I enjoyed this book because I’m unsure about the characters. I do think there’s a certain kind of beauty in unlikeable characters but I can’t take it when the book is full of them.

2 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena


Enjoying this.

zaterdag 30 januari 2016

Herman de Coninck: De Gedichten

Hi everyone

Herman de Coninck is one of Belgium’s (if not the) most famous poets.
This book, released after his death in 1997 contains every poem he ever wrote. It consists of the poems published in his own poetry collections as well as those he wrote for other purposes.
The book has 616 pages of poems.

It took me a whole month to read this collection because poetry is not something I could read for a full hour at a time.

My father received this same collection as a gift from my mother and I really felt like rereading the collection.
I wanted to read it in a relatively short time (one month) in order to follow his evolution better. The first time I read it I took it really slow and I finished the book over the course of at least half a year. By that time I’d forgotten quite a bit about the first few hundred pages.

I find it difficult to review a poetry collection and especially such an extensive one as this. How can you review everything someone wrote without feeling like either a complete jerk or a swooning fan?
Besides this is the first time I attempt to review poetry on my blog and it’s been a long time (high school I suppose) since I had to do that.

I’m kind of in the middle between loving it and finding it just meh.
My opinion differs so much between the little collections, let alone the separately published poems.
In general, his published collections are his best works.

Thinking about it there are a few recurring themes that I don’t like. His poems about animals are too simplistic for example. And I very seldom like a poem of his about sex or nakedness because most of them are too coarse in my opinion.

I adore most of his published work aside from those two themes.
He has quite a few I could recite by heart because I love them so much.
He is a genius when it comes to poetry about love and loss, having lived through that himself.
My husband and I used a poem of his on our wedding invitations and I recited one during our ceremony. That’s how much I love part of his work.

I seem to be all over the place with this review.

Anyway, worth a read for anyone who loves de Coninck’s work.

3.5 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

vrijdag 29 januari 2016

Bookhaul: Book Depository

Hi again

My order from Book Depository finally arrived!
It took them three weeks to get all the books here and just in time too because I’m going to read at least two or three of them in February.

Why so soon?
Because I’ll be participating in my very first BuddyReads!
Michael from Bitten by a Radioactive Book on Youtube asked me whether I’d be interested in reading two books together. Hell yes!
I’m not completely sure how it will go but I’ll find out.

Here are the books I got.

I honestly can’t wait to start reading these.

See you tomorrow for a review.
Helena




donderdag 28 januari 2016

J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Hi

When I first started reading the Harry Potter series as a child I was too young to be able to read them in English so I read them in my native language; Dutch.
For quite a few years now I wanted to read and own them in English but I always thought it too expensive and a bit posh and redundant to own them twice.
Luckily, I have a wonderful husband who got me the series and I will receive the whole series spread throughout the year. Isn’t he a darling?
My absolutely gorgeous, GORGEOUS copy has 332 pages.

I wanted to read this in one sitting on my birthday (last Sunday) but I had the flu so it took me quite a bit longer then just one day to finish it.

“When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him that apparently he's the last to know. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord's curse when Harry was just a baby, and which he somehow survived. Leaving his unsympathetic aunt and uncle for Hogwarts, a wizarding school brimming with ghosts and enchantments, Harry stumbles upon a sinister mystery when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. Then he hears of a missing stone with astonishing powers which could be valuable, dangerous - or both. An incredible adventure is about to begin!”

                * SPOILERS *

I absolutely loved this book.
This must have been about my fifteenth time reading the story and I still adore it.
The characters are amazing, Hogwarts is awesome and the story is fast, witty, complex, fun, emotional, intense, heartbreaking, clever, suspenseful, humorous and full of honest wisdom.
The whole world comes alive right before your eyes.

Some things struck me more this time, like how incredible poor Harry is treated by the Dursleys and how lonely he actually is, how unused to friendship or receiving a gift. He has never seen a picture of his parents. How sad is that?

Rowling always believes in her audience, in these children’s capacities to follow a story that’s more than 100 pages and has more than 8 characters. She made children read again and I will always love her for that.

The only thing about the story that bothered me a bit is the decision to go into the woods with four first year students. That might be the grownup in me.

Other than that; this book is pure perfection.
It was a pleasure as always and I can’t wait to get on with rereading the series.

5 STARS

Happy, happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 23 januari 2016

Robert Jordan: The Fires of Heaven

Hi

This is the fifth book in The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
I am now back on schedule with the series!
This book has 862 pages.

* SPOILERS! *

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I hate it when authors feel the need to remind us of EVERYTHING that has happened up until now. This is the fifth book in a series. You’re just stupid if you think you can start with this one. And Jordan reiterates everything about the series. What is Saidin/Saidar? What are Aes Sedai? Who’s Rand? Who’s Morgase? What’s The White Tower?
We know already!
Shut it and get on with the story.

This is the one where Moiraine ‘dies’. I remember being heartbroken about it the first time. Not so much now because I know she’ll be back, but still. I’ll have to miss her for a long time. And I liked her for her dedication, her wisdom, her wit.
And I love Lann and he’ll be absent for a while too. He’s awesome; strong, manly, skilled. He’s a bit of a cliché, but I don’t mind so much with him.

The world in the series has amazing depth and the novel is full of details of absolutely everything. The world building is one of the most special things about the whole series. The thought that must have gotten into it! There’s just so much you know. The different countries and cultures, so many details, the intricate political weavings and lots and lots of characters. I love it.
The battles were fantastic too; very absorbing, detailed and thrilling.

I love the different peoples and cultures though they aren’t all completely logical.
The Aiel for example are a mixed bunch. Jordan tried too much to make them different from anyone else; so some of their views feel forced.
Ji'e'toh is my prime example in this. It is ridiculous! Aviendha asks for a switching because she lied? And her ‘debt’ to Rand is absurd and not at all logical.
Their views on nakedness and sex are completely contradictory. The Far Dareis Mai can walk around naked without shame, Aviendha sleeps and dresses with Rand in the same room, men and women sit naked, together in a sweattent but kissing in public is frowned upon and Isendre has to walk around naked as punishment and is punished even more when she shows herself like this (naked) to Rand. And Rand is not allowed to look at her? She’s naked! Of course he will look at her. Everyone would.
Like I said; the whole thing is absolutely ludicrous and nonsensical.

Lanfear is a walking cliché.
Nynaeve and Elayne were my most hated characters in this novel. They complain, criticize and nag, they are ungrateful, venomous, proud, haughty and they find fault with everyone (men especially).  And they are doing absolutely nothing for way too many chapters. I will never understand why Jordan wrote so many chapters about them because at least half of them are completely boring, dragging, uninteresting and full of their catfights and hateful bickering but very little else. It drags the whole book down. Why not ignore them and revisit them only when something happens instead of filling page after uneventful page with their fighting?
Their actions towards men are especially loathsome. I don’t care about Uno’s language or Juilin Sandar’s hat so shut up about it. All men are supposedly stupid. And everything is always a man’s fault. Everything. Always.
Nynaeve’s constant complaining about clothes has gone way beyond the ‘details’ into tiresome, aggravating and tedious.

Jordan has a problem with characterizing women in general. We’re all stubborn, hateful, man-hating, gossiping, sulking, jealous and self-righteous creatures. We believe we’re so much better, smarter, more logically thinking and braver then men. There’s lots of sniffing about foolish men who need our guidance or they’d be lost. And no man understands a woman, like ever in this series.
Jordan clearly had issues.

Egwene becomes an admirable young woman. She’s smart, dedicated and she works tirelessly to get what she wants. I like her and I remember that she grew on me this way the first time too.
Siuan Sanche is an amazing character. Her storyline with Logain, Min and Leanne was interesting, and funny. Siuan and Gareth Bryne with make for a very special couple. 
Perrin and Faile aren’t a part of this novel. And I liked that because I hated them in The Shadow Rising.

I loved the split of The Tower. Amazing decision and it makes for two very interesting storylines. I would have loved more details about it. It was merely glossed over now and I wanted more about this and less over and over repeating of the whole Nynaeve/Elayne thing please!

I hate it when men (and Rand especially here) don’t want to hurt women out of their being oh so noble. Get over it. There are bad women out there too.

And I don’t really like the Rand having multiple lovers thing. It feels contrived, it’s annoying and it’s dehumanizing in a way.

The series is never just about Rand. By now it’s clear to everyone that even though Rand is The Chosen One; he can’t do it alone. He never was and he never will. He needs others to fight this battle against The Shadow with him. Heck, he needs the whole world to fight it. And I like that very much. To see everyone coming together for this one cause. I always love that. I guess that’s the romantic in me.
And this also makes it so much more interesting. It would be boring to read 14 books from Rand’s point of view. All these POV’s show us the whole world and every possibility and problem there is with a plot like this.

The Fires of Heaven is one of the lesser installments in the series. But there are better ones to come.

3 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

vrijdag 15 januari 2016

John Wyndham: The Day of the Triffids

Hi

This is my review of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.
The book is only 233 pages long and it has a 11 page introduction by Barry Langford.
I got my copy from The Book Depository.

“When Bill Masen wakes up blindfolded in hospital, there is a bitter irony in his situation. Carefully removing his bandages, he realises that he is the only person who can see: everyone else, doctors and patients alike, have been blinded by a meteor shower. Now, with civilization in chaos, the triffids – huge, venomous, large-rooted plants able to 'walk', feeding on human flesh – can have their day.”

It reminds me of José Saramago’s Blindness (which I loved) but The Day of the Triffids was actually the first book.

I absolutely loved this story.
It’s so interesting, so different and really haunting.

The characters are very stereotypical English men and woman. This added humor and sensibility to the story. It might make it hard to connect to the characters for some readers, but I liked this actually because the characters are stereotypes but they’re not caricatures.

Wyndham’s writing is suspenseful and vivid and it made me feel like I was actually there with Bill, going through everything with him. I really felt connected with them.
It’s easy to read and I flew through this.

I have one problem with the book and that’s the case of insta-love. That’s something that always annoys me.

5 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

Homemade fudge, a cup of tea and an amazing novel. I'm having a great evening.

woensdag 13 januari 2016

Stephen King: Salem’s Lot

Hi everyone

I finished Salem’s Lot! This is my first Stephen King novel of the year but it certainly won’t be the last.
The novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for the All-Time Best Fantasy Novel.
The book has 653 pages and I got it from Bol.
You can find all my reviews of Stephen King’s books here.

“ Salem's Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in 'Salem's Lot was a summer of home-coming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to 'Salem's Lot hoping to cast out his own devils... and found instead a new unspeakable horror.
A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved.
All would be changed forever—Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of 'Salem's Lot.”

For the last three days, I couldn’t read this book at night.
It’s honestly that good. We live in a new house now and every time I heard a sound I couldn’t place I thought about this book.

The writing is easy, to-the-point and really tension building. The suspense rises slowly, subtly and it doesn’t let you go. It’s brilliantly done and it’s very hypnotic.
The characters are compelling, tragic and realistic. They’re not the hero-type of character but they have real emotions and they are afraid of what’s happening.
I liked how big it is. The whole town is involved, there are a lot of characters and the scope in general is rather big.

I could only find two faults.
In my opinion, telling the same story but a bit shorter would have made it even better. Not that it’s boring, certainly not; it’s just a bit slow.
And there should be a bigger role for at least one woman in the novel. But more women would be better.

4 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 11 januari 2016

David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas

Hi

My first review of 2016 will be about Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
This was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
My copy has 530 pages and I got it from Bol.

“The narrators hear their echoes in history and change their destinies in ways great and small, in a study of humanity's dangerous will to power. A reluctant voyager crosses the Pacific in 1850. A disinherited composer gatecrashes in between-wars Belgium. A vanity publisher flees gangland creditors. Others are a journalist in Governor Reagan’s California, and genetically-modified dinery server on death-row. Finally, a young Pacific Islander witnesses the nightfall of science and civilization.”

The book can’t be put into one specific genre or time period and I like that a lot. The narrative is different for every story too; Mitchell uses an interview and diary entries for example.
Every story could be written be a different author because they are all so different; quite an accomplishment!

It started out with two quite boring and slow stories. The ones after those got better but the middle story is just awful and gimmicky.
I didn’t care for most of the characters.
The story is not even based on that clever an idea because I’ve read a few books like this before (to be honest the ‘rebirth’ thing is new to me but the whole interwoven stories through time and space is definitely not new). So in my opinion, the praise for the book being clever and new and different is very much misplaced.

There is one thing I want to take away with me from this book; a beautiful quote. “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

2.5 STARS

Have you read this book? If so, how did you like it?

Happy reading.
Helena


A book, homemade coconut-chocolate and a big cup of tea!

zondag 10 januari 2016

Bookhaul: De Slegte

Hi everyone

My husband and I went sales shopping in Antwerp yesterday.
I got almost as many books as I got clothes.
They were all very cheap because I got them second hand and I’m very, very happy with them.
Most of them are Science-Fiction and I was surprised to find so many in the shop. I always browse their SFF shelves but I seldom buy any of them because they’re always old and battered. These are in mint condition!

Here are the books I got:

I love those SF Masterworks editions, they are so pretty! I really enjoyed The Picture of Dorian Gray and I’m looking forward to rereading Rosemary’s Baby. I can't wait to read my new books!

Happy reading!
Helena



vrijdag 8 januari 2016

My 2016 Reading Goals

Hi

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. It’s been going around Booktube and I have seen it on several blogs too and that got me thinking. I’m big on planning and I made some sort of goal every year but I’ve never really written it down.
I wanted to keep it small so I made just a few goals.

Last year I started rereading The Wheel of Time, I started and I finished a couple of series and I started reading A Dresden Files and a Discworld novel every other month. Those were my goals for 2015.

So, without further ado, here are my Reading Goals for 2016.


Reread the Harry Potter series

I really, really want to reread the series! It’s been several years and I feel like reading Harry Potter again.


Read a Wheel of Time novel every other month

To make sure I don’t get burned out of enjoying my reread of The Wheel of Time while not forgetting what it’s about because I take too long a pause in between two books in the series; I will read one book every other month.


Read a Dresden Files novel and a Discworld novel every month in between

Same goes for The Dresden Files as for The Wheel of Time. I really love this series so I want to get on with it.
In 2016 I will have finished the Discworld series for the first time ever! I have read and reread the first 20 books before I started my blog but I never got to the end.


Read at least 75 books in 2016

Now, hold your horses, I know (or I’m pretty sure) I will surpass this. I just want to keep my goals really low to keep myself from only reading smaller books. There are some pretty big books on my TBR (Vanity Fair, The Woman in White, The Stand, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Wheel of Time books, The Quincuncx, …) and I want to read those too without feeling like I won’t reach my goal. I don't want to feel like having to read smaller books to be able to reach the number of books I set myself.
I might up this goal by June or July when I see how this one is going.

Have you made some sort of Reading Goal for 2016? If so, what goals and why?

Until next time!
Helena


woensdag 6 januari 2016

Bookhaul: Christmas and New Year

Hi everyone

I’m a bit late with this one because of my December Wrap Up, 2015 Wrap Up and My 2015 Favorite Books but I still wanted to write a quick post about the bookish stuff I got for Christmas and the New Year.

This year I mostly got money and a gift card (to spend on books obviously) but I got a few books/nerdy gifts too so I want to show you those.

My grandparents wrote their favorite quotes and inspirational sentences in a little book. I was so happy with that it almost made me cry. It is such a sweet gift.
Stefan Hertmans was a Secret Santa gift from my nephew; Wouter.
Jim Butcher’s Dead Beat was a gift from my other grandmother.
World without End by Ken Follett was a gift from my husband
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson and A Cavern of Black Ice by J. V. Jones were gifts from my parents.
I got two Funko Pops from my husband! They are both my favorite characters from The Walking Dead; Daryl Dixon and Carol. They are so pretty and so much fun!
And finally some lovely tea.

I hope you had an amazing time with your friends and family. I absolutely did although it was a very busy period.

Happy reading and I’ll see you next time for my 2016 Reading Goals.
Helena






maandag 4 januari 2016

My Favorite Books of 2015

Hi

Some of you asked me about my favorite books of the year and that really got me thinking. I find a question like that always very difficult to answer. I read 124 books in 2015 (as you can see here). How can anyone expect me to pick the three books I loved the most?
It took me three days to come up with this list. Three days! Literally! I’m really not good at this.

Apparently it’s ‘not done’ for blogs and booktube to include rereads and multiple books by the same author so that made it a lot easier for me (Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Richard Yates, Aldous HuxleyGeorge Orwell and Muriel Barbery had to go) to narrow down my first list (26 books) to this one.

Lesson learned; in 2016 I will add a star rating to my reviews and to my Goodreads page.

So, here’s the list for those of you who are interested. I couldn't get it any smaller.
If you click on the title you will automatically be directed to the review.
What were your favorites? Have you read any of mine? If so, how did you like them?

Happy reading and I’ll see you soon.
Helena



zondag 3 januari 2016

Wrap Up: 2015

Hi

Well this is one giant end of the year wrap up.
I read 124 books. Yes. 124. I’m as amazed as you (probably) are.
Aside from finishing so many books, I DNF 4 books and I got rid of two books without reading them (I DNF the second one in the series so there’s no need to keep the third and fourth books on my TBR).

Because I read so many books, the amount of pages I read is absolutely enormous; 47.677. That’s 384 pages per book and 131 pages every day. That’s pretty amazing if I may say so myself.
I read 17 books out of 124 in Dutch and 107 books were written in English.

The year ended with 14.372 views on my blog, 136 people liked my Facebook page and I now have a Goodreads page too!


Here are the books I read in 2015 in the order I read them. If you click on the title of the book you will automatically open the review.
A few of these books aren't included in the pictures because I don't own them anymore.

Happy reading in 2016!
Helena



zaterdag 2 januari 2016

Wrap Up: December 2015

Hi everyone

It’s time for my last monthly Wrap Up of 2015.
Hard to believe it’s 2016 and I’ve been blogging for a year and a half now. It’s even harder to believe people actually read my blog.
Thank you!

I read a total of 2894 pages in 6 books so that’s 482 pages per book.
You can find the book reviews by clicking on the titles below.

Without further ado, here’s what I read in December:
How was your reading month?

My 2015 Wrap Up will be online on Monday so look forward to that!

Happy reading and happy 2016!
Helena