zaterdag 30 april 2016

Chris Beckett: Dark Eden

Hi everyone

I just finished Dark Eden by Chris Beckett and I wanted to review it today so I can include it in my Wrap Up for April.
This book won The Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2013.
My copy has 404 pages and I got it from Bol.

 “On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it.
The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say—and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return.
But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark…and discover the truth about their world.
Already remarkably acclaimed in the UK, Dark Eden is science fiction as literature; part parable, part powerful coming-of-age story, set in a truly original alien world of dark, sinister beauty--rendered in prose that is at once strikingly simple and stunningly inventive.”

The world-building in Dark Eden is great. The surroundings feel very real and I could see it right in front of me. Some creatures are similar to species we know but some of them are very different and imaginative. Eden has no sun and light comes from the plants, trees and animals around them.
I really liked the setting in general; it’s very interesting.

I liked the language too. It took some time to get used to the new words and the different spelling but I really enjoyed that element. Not new in any way, but I liked it.

Characterizations was a bit too clichéd. Everyone had one or two defining traits and that’s all there is too them. And Johnny is a self-centered bastard to be honest. There’s only so many times you want to read how much of a dick he is.

The relationships and the importance of sex in the story were making me uncomfortable. Basically, everyone comes from one man and one woman so they are all one big family; but (with a few exceptions) everyone can sleep with whoever they want. I definitely did not like the emphasis on that and I felt very awkward reading about people having sex. The way it was written made me feel very, very uncomfortable.

I felt like the story didn’t really go anywhere. The ending was really obvious and the story itself wasn’t exciting or engrossing. It was boring and repetitive. I finished it because I liked the setting and the way they live is very interesting. Dark Eden is quite enjoyable and it reads very fast but I didn’t find it all that special and it has quite a few things I didn’t like about it too.

And this won The Arthur C. Clarke Award?

2 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

vrijdag 29 april 2016

Hella S. Haasse: Maanlicht

Hi again

This very short review is about Hella S. Haasse’s short stories collection Maanlicht.
It has 118 pages and a gorgeous cover.
I got my copy at the Boekenfestijn.

Maanlicht is an amazing collection. I loved it.

The stories are mysterious, thrilling scary (the second one especially), dark and ominous. But they are also beautifully written and very atmospheric. Her writing is amazingly eloquent. It’s a pleasure to read.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 28 april 2016

Terry Pratchett: I Shall Wear Midnight

Hi again

This is the 4th Tiffany Aching novel and the 38th Discworld novel.
The cover art fits perfectly into the series and my copy has 423 pages.
You can find my other reviews of Terry Pratchett’s novels here, my Discworld reviews here and my Tiffany Aching reviews here.

 “A man with no eyes. Not eyes at all. Two tunnels in his head …
Somewhere - some time - there’s a tangled ball of evil and spite, of hatred and malice that has woken up.
And it’s waking up all the old stories too - stories about evil old witches …”

I Shall Wear Midnight is a lot darker than the previous Tiffany Aching novels.

Tiffany is a wonderful character. She is smart, ignorant about some topics and wise about others. She’s strong and opinionated. I absolutely love her. She has grown a lot and she has become an amazing woman and witch.
The Nac Mac Feegle are hilarious as ever.
The Cunning Man is an amazing villain. He’s terrifying with his power to turn everyone against someone else. It’s absolutely horrifying.

This book has quite a lot (more or less) hidden meaning or messages. It’s about, prejudice, the role of women in society, gratitude, mass hysteria and finding friends. I appreciate this side of Pratchett’s novels a lot.

Since the very beginning Pratchett has made us aware of the witch and her tasks. There’s no cackling involved, nor stirring in big cauldrons or dancing naked. Instead we have a young girl who’s changing bandages, clipping toenails and burying the dead. But when someone is in need of a true witch, she can be that too.

Loved it.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

Homemade rocky road fudge to share.
Book and tea just for me.

dinsdag 26 april 2016

Joe Abercrombie: The Blade Itself

Hi

The Blade Itself is the first book in The First Law by Joe Abercrombie.
My beautiful copy has 515 pages and I got it from Bol.

 “Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.
Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.
Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.
Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult.
Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.”

                                *  SPOILERS  *

The Blade Itself was a great read.

Abercrombie’s characters grew fast on me.
Most of them weren’t in the least likeable but I did enjoy reading about them.
The characters are well developed and they all have their own distinct voice. I liked that a lot.
Reading about another character through someone eyes can be very interesting and entertaining. Because they are all so different they don’t understand the other characters like we do (because we see through everyone's eyes). That makes for quite a few funny situations, thoughts, events and conversations.
The characters quite are different from the typical, Fantasy stereotypes too. Take Logen for example. He seems to be the quintessential hero. He used to be a true barbarian but he’s had enough; he has seen what it does to a man (a lot) and where it brings him (nowhere).
I truly hated Ferro though. She is such a cliché ex-slave-turned-vengeful-fighter it’s hard to grasp that she’s there between those other great characters. Women in general aren’t Abercrombie’s forte. There are only two women in the whole book. Both are victims of abuse, both have no real purpose but to make things difficult for men by flirting, getting drunk, doing what they want or being a vengeful bitch. Really Abercrombie? Not one woman with some measure of true depth in the whole book?

The plot is slow and there’s not much to it; but what did happen was great and very nicely written.
Life is hard and cruel, but the novel is never really gritty or bleak.

Worldbuilding was a bit lacking so I hope that gets better.

There’s not much depth to the novel but it was very enjoyable and entertaining to read. It’s light, easy to follow, full of action and humor. The fights are great and most characters are interesting and different enough to make this worth your time.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 21 april 2016

Isaac Asimov: Second Foundation

Hi everyone


Second Foundation was very captivating and I liked it a lot more than the previous one; Foundation and Empire.

The characters were great. I loved Arcadia, she was so funny, sassy and smart.
The part about Han Pritcher was very interesting. He knows he’s being mind controlled but he can’t help it. And that’s absolutely frightening to be honest. Just imagine knowing that.

The story is better too. There is a lot going on, it’s exciting, very original and there are a few twists I didn’t see coming.
There is one rather important thing I did not understand while reading and that’s the role of The Second Foundation. When did they become the villains? Did I just miss that in a previous book? I can’t remember them being the ‘evil’ ones before.

Asimov’s writing is very easy and fast to read. It’s a small book but a lot happens. I like books that have a more in-depth storyline and characters that are fully fleshed out, but this is real escapism and I enjoyed it.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 19 april 2016

Stephen King: The Shining

Hi everyone

This review is about my reread of The Shining by Stephen King.
I got my copy from Bol and it has 659 pages.
You can find all my Stephen King reviews here.

 “Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.”

*  SPOILERS  *

I’ve read a few reviews by other bloggers and/or Booktubers where they talk about how predictable the story is. And it is. The Shining really is predictable. But in my opinion that’s the point. You know Jack will go mad, you just know it’s going to happen at some point. But when will it happen? Will he kill his wife and son? Will he realize what is going on? When will it happen? Those are the real questions.

The Shining is very well plotted. Again, the story is predictable, especially because everyone has seen the movie (which Stephen King himself hated) but the way the story builds is amazing. It starts so subtle and slow and the ending is an amazing culmination of panic, fear and madness.
The atmosphere is creepy and eerie, the isolation is almost panic inducing and It’s amazing how gradually the pace builds to where you can’t put it down.
Choosing a hotel as the setting for this was a stroke of genious too because throughout the novel you get this sense not only of isolation but also of simply not-belonging. It’s not their home, they are in a sense trespassing.
Rereading the book has made me see and appreciate the subtleties throughout the novel and the gradual buildup of tension and horror.

King is a master at characterization. Wendy is such a strong character and she is like a lion when it comes to protecting her son. King could’ve made her a caricature very easily, but she still feels very realistic.
Jack’s background of alcoholism and abusive behavior towards his wife and son give the story so much credibility. His road to madness is very realistic because he has these tendencies in him already. And that’s the scariest part of The Shining. A father murdering his wife and son because he truly believes he should kill them.
But they barely talk. We are privy to every thought all three main characters have, but they do not talk to each other about them. And these thoughts feel so real with unfinished sentences, pure feelings and flitting impressions. Very realistic.

I really, really enjoyed it.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

There's nothing better than chocolate and a book.

zondag 17 april 2016

Bookhaul: Fnac

Hi

I took my Fnac giftcards with me to Ghent to do some shopping!
Book shopping of course, what else?

Here are the beautiful books I got:

Have you read one of them? If so, how did you like it?

Happy reading and I’ll see you next time with a review.
Helena

dinsdag 12 april 2016

Richard Yates: Disturbing the Peace

Hi again

Disturbing the Peace is my fourth Richard Yates novel. You can read my reviews on his other books here.
My beautiful, beautiful book has 253 pages and I got it from Book Depository.

 “John Wilder is in his mid-thirties, a successful salesman with a place in the country, an adoring wife and a ten-year-old son.But something is wrong. His family no longer interests him, his infidelities are leading him nowhere and he has begun to drink too much. Then one night, something inside John snaps and he calls his wife to tell her that he isn't coming home...”

I loved this book.
I loved it so much.

All characters are very mundane, normal or ordinary but that makes the book so much stronger. They are all wonderfully thought out. They have their flaws and their merits; they truly come alive while reading.

We read John Wilder’s slow descent into madness while he keeps denying his illness. As the novel progresses, he spirals ever down.
John always puts himself and his own whims and wants first without considering others, least of all his wife and son. He is utterly dissatisfied with his life, his marriage and his job. Alcohol seems to make him cope with it all, but it doesn’t. I don’t think one leads to the other, but I do believe that the alcohol makes his insanity worse and descend faster.
He is arrogant, selfish and I did not like him for the most parts. But I did care for him.
And that’s Yates’ genious at work.
It is compelling, powerful,  and it feels very realistic.
I had no idea where it would go, let alone where it would end, if it even would or could end somewhere.
Though the subject matter is difficult and it leaves ample place for moralizing, Yates never does.

The ending was absolutely stunning. To see it from someone else’s point of view was a great addition to the way it was going. I cannot imagine a better ending for this book.

5 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

maandag 11 april 2016

Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea

Hi

This review is about my second time reading The Old Man and the Sea. You can find my review of my first time reading it here.
My copy has 99 pages and I got it from Bol.
You can find all my reviews on Hemingway’s novels here.

 “Set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana, Hemingway's magnificent fable is the story of an old man, a young boy and a giant fish. In a perfectly crafted story, which won for Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of man's challenge to the elements in which he lives.”

The Old Man and the Sea is a very demure, restrained, sober and almost solemn book.
The prose is straight-forward and sparse; it’s very easy to read. But Hemingway accomplishes so much with very few words.

The story itself seems to be very simple, even plain if you read it solely for the story.
But you shouldn’t. There’s a lot behind the story and it’s rather obvious too.

The book is about defeat and failure, about never giving up. It's about the courage to go on, the determination to see what is possible and fighting for what you need, what you need and what you feel is right.
It’s about pride and honor.
I never felt sorry for Santiago and I don’t think you’re meant to pity him. He respects his opponent and so should we. But I did feel so very, very sad for him.

4 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

zondag 10 april 2016

Bookhaul: Boekenfestijn Kortrijk

Hi everyone

I went to the Boekenfestijn in Kortrijk with my father. We try to go together to the one in Kortrijk and both editions in Ghent. It’s been a sort of tradition for a few years now.

This edition was great and I got 7 new books! I’m truly, very happy with them.

Here’s what I got:

I’m so happy with them! Even more so because I only paid 26 EUR for all of them. That’s a great bargain in my opinion.

Happy reading!
Helena



zaterdag 9 april 2016

Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House

Hi

The Haunting of Hill House is my third Shirley Jackson novel. You can find my reviews on the other two here.
This book has 246 pages and I got it from Book Depository.

 “Hill House stood abandoned, six miles off the road. Four people came to learn its secrets - Dr Montague, an occult scholar; Luke, a spendthrift heir; Theodora, escaping a love affair; and Eleanor, who is lonely and vulnerable - to the house.”

This is a rather strange novel. 
It’s definitely not scary or suspenseful but it is unsettling.

The story is told from Eleanor’s point of view and as the story progresses we start to doubt her sanity. The lines between what’s real and what isn’t start to blur. We can’t be sure if what’s she’s hearing is only there in her head or if everyone can hear it. I liked that element a lot. The doubt creeps up on you and it takes a while before you realize that you can’t really trust what she’s experiencing.

The story unfolds subtly and Jackson manages to build an eerie, suffocating atmosphere throughout the novel. It is well-written and she shows great skill in characterization and descriptions. I love her writing-style.

I enjoyed it a lot but I felt a bit dissatisfied with the lack of suspense.

4 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

donderdag 7 april 2016

Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon & Around the Moon

Hi
Believe it or not, but this is my first experience with Jules Verne.
I chose this bind up of From the Earth to the Moon & Around the Moon to start with.
It has 418 pages and I got it at Standaard Boekhandel.

“Jules Verne (1828-1905) was internationally famous as the author of novels based on ‘extraordinary voyages.’ His visionary use of new travel technologies inspired his readers to look to the industrial future rather than the remote past for their dreams of adventure. The popularity of his novels led directly to modern science fiction. In "From the Earth to the Moon" and "Around the Moon," Jules Verne turned the ancient fantasy of space flight into a believable technological possibility – an engineering dream for the industrial age. Directly inspired by Verne’s story, enthusiasts worked successfully at overcoming the practical difficulties, and within a century, human beings did indeed fly to the Moon. Curiously, however, Verne is unlikely to have thought it possible that a manned projectile could actually be fired out of a giant cannon, rising higher than the Moon, swinging around it, and then landing safely back on Earth. He had used the science of the day to construct a literary conjuring trick, a hoax, one of the most successful in all history. By skilful misdirection he drew the attention of readers away from weaknesses in the project. Read the book and you, too, will be fooled into accepting the realistic possibility in Verne’s time of that dream of flying to the Moon.”

I really needed this after finishing Oorlog en Terpentijn.

Both stories are captivating, well thought out, very detailed and really entertaining.
The characters are all very distinct and funny, everyone certainly serves a certain purpose to the story. They are all there for a reason and they are a bit caricatured but it works that way.
Considering the age of these stories (over 150 years) the plots really stand up to time. I mean, they are obviously dated and wrong but it doesn’t read that way. The book reads like it really could be possible so you wonder whether it will all work out or not.

But the stories are rather boring in places because of all the science the characters tell us about. It’s just too much. I’m really not interested in the distance between the different planets and stuff like that.
Around the Moon especially suffered from this and I enjoyed that one less.

I do want to read more of his works because it was so relaxing and entertaining. 

4 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

Enjoying a big mug of tea and a relaxing book.

maandag 4 april 2016

Stefan Hertmans: Oorlog en Terpentijn

Hi

I got this book from my nephew Wouter as a Secret Santa gift last year.
It has been hugely popular here in Belgium and I’ve wanted to read it for ages but I just never got around to buying or borrowing it.
My copy has 334 pages. In it is a really lovely dedication written by Wouter. I love it when people write a dedication in a book they give to me; it gives the book so much meaning and when rereading it years from now you can still remember who gave it to you.

Oorlog en Terpentijn is the story told by the grandson of our protagonist. It is the true story about this man, his life and his experiences during The First World War. The book is a mixture of this grandson’s memories of his grandfather and two notebooks written by his grandfather before his death.

It’s very difficult reviewing and rating a book based on someones life. Especially if that life has been so hard and miserable. If I have something negative to say about it I almost feel like I’m undervaluing his achievements or like I’m underrating what he went through. And that’s definitely not what I’m saying.

That being said I can move on with the review.

I don’t think this is the masterwork everyone seems to think it is.

Hertmans’ writing style is a bit too snobbish. He is part of the same bourgeoisie he condemns in the novel and it shows in his sentences and the way he writes. It’s flowery, philosophical, dramatic and he tries way to much ‘literary’.
And it’s those parts written in Hertmans’ language that make the novel only so-so for me.
It’s also very confusing. Hertmans jumps from talking about himself to his grandfather and his great-grandfather and back and so on. Some moments it’s not clear who he’s actually talking about.
What I did especially like about his parts were the historical tidbits about Ghent. Having lived near Ghent and studied there I know all the places he talks about and it was super interesting to see them before me like clouds from a past.

The middle part is supposed to be from the notebooks his grandfather left him and those recount his life during the war.
Those chapters were hard, shocking and absolutely heart-wrenching. I had to take a breather at the beginning of the second part. It gets better but only because his grandfather doesn’t feel the need to keep writing about the same horrible conditions over and over again even though these conditions were true at the time. It didn’t change so he saw no purpose in repeating himself. He got numb for a time.

Oorlog en Terpentijn is difficult to get through because it rings so true and because of the subject. But it is well worth the read especially for those of us who haven’t grown up with stories about it by their grandparents.
It’s important to keep this alive. Read it. Please.


3 STARS

Happy reading.
Helena

Sunday evening.

zondag 3 april 2016

Jim Butcher: Blood Rites

Hi


                                *   SPOILERS   *

I enjoyed this book so much! 
I’ll be short because there’s not much to add to my other reviews only that this one is the best so far in my opinion.

Butcher always manages several plot lines at the same time while giving Harry not a single moment to rest and reflect. His plot is super fast without any apparent slips and it’s amazing how it all comes together in the end. And even more amazing is how every new book builds upon the previous ones.

The writing is sharp, strong and very, very vivid.
His world is terrific,  rich and intriguing, the magic system is really well constructed.
The characters are great and we get to know them a lot better in this one.
I found this book even funnier than the other ones.

But I still hate Harry’s dual attitude towards women. Admiring their asses and bosoms and being overly chivalrous at the same time?
If the bitch is evil, just kill her already.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

vrijdag 1 april 2016

Wrap Up: March 2016

Hi everyone

Per monthly tradition it’s now time for my Wrap Up.
It has been a very busy month. I started a new job and my husband and I went to Valencia on holiday.
March was great!

I read a total of 3827 pages in 9 books. That’s 425 pages per book or 123 pages every day.
Here are the books I read:

And this was my favorite book last month:

How was your reading in March?

Happy reading!
Helena