woensdag 30 november 2016

Charles Dickens: Dombey and Son

Hi everyone

This is my review for Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son.
My gorgeous copy has 1022 pages of story and 36 pages about the novel itself.
I bought it at Waterstones.
You can find all my Charles Dickens reviews here.

“Dombey and Son is both a firm and a family and the ambiguous connection between public and private life lies at the heart of Dickens' novel. Paul Dombey is a man who runs his domestic affairs as he runs his business: calculatingly, callously, coldly and commercially. Through his dysfunctional relationships with his son, his two wives, and his neglected daughter Florence, Dickens paints a vivid picture of the limitations of a society dominated by commercial values and the drive for profit and explores the possibility of moral and emotional redemption through familial love.”

First, take a moment to admire the beautiful cover. And if you have a copy with the original drawings inside, take a look at those too because they’re gorgeous.
I really, really enjoyed this book.

It took me a whole month to finish it because I read a few chapters each day. I find it easier to enjoy Dickens this way then reading it all a week or two. Dickens wrote most of his books as serials so they were meant to be read in parts and reading them in parts definitely enhances the experience.

Dombey and Son is such a beautiful book.
The story is very moving and more emotional then I had expected. I did shed some tears. One scene especially is truly heart wrenching. It’s a tragic story with a few uplifting (sometimes even comedic) elements.
Dickens’ characterization is, as always, perfect. Some characters are clichéd or just a bit too much to be realistic but realism wasn’t his goal. He wanted to drive a point home. Florence for example is too kind, too good and too forgiving, so much so it can be annoying. But in the end, Florence’s love and kindness prove to be the only things that matter. Her father’s self-importance, pride and money didn’t save him; her love did. There are quite a few contrasts of this kind in the novel.
The novel is very well constructed, there’s a host of distinct, warm and charming characters and the writing is elegant and beautiful.

I don’t know about you, but it took me quite some time to figure out whether Carker is actually a good or an evil character.
Dickens is brilliant.
I loved it.

5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 28 november 2016

Charles Dickens: To Be Read at Dusk

Hi everyone

This is a little something about Charles Dickens’ To Be Read at Dusk.
My copy has 54 pages and I got it from Bol.
You can find all my Charles Dickens reviews here.

“Three ghostly tales from a master of the form, 'The Signalman', 'The Trial for Murder' and the title story, 'To Be Read at Dusk'.”

I liked it. It’s a nice collection and I enjoyed the stories. The first one especially had me thinking.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zondag 27 november 2016

Virginia Woolf: Orlando

Hi everyone

This is my review for my fourth Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. I read Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and The Waves a few years ago.
My copy has a 16-page introduction and 162 pages of story.
I got it at the Standaard Boekhandel.

Virginia Woolf's Orlando, "The longest and most charming love letter in literature," playfully constructs the figure of Orlando as the fictional embodiment of Woolf's close friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West. Spanning three centuries of boisterous, fantastic adventure, the novel opens as Orlando, a young nobleman in Elizabeth's England, awaits a visit from the Queen and traces his experience with first love as England, under James I, lies locked in the embrace of the Great Frost.
At the midpoint of the novel, Orlando, now an ambassador in Costantinople, awakes to find that he is a woman, and the novel indulges in farce and irony to consider the roles of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. As the novel ends in 1928, a year consonant with full suffrage for women, Orlando, now a wife and mother, stands poised at the brink of a future that holds new hope and promise for women.”

I had a mixed experience reading this book and I know I should love this but my reading over the past few years has made me realize that I don’t usually love the classics everyone seems to love.

Orlando’s gender switch was great and different, unlike other things I’ve read so far. It’s not an important part of the story though, it doesn’t matter most of the time whether she’s a man or a woman.
And I really appreciate the philosophy in Woolf’s books. She’s never really moralizing but she still manages to get her message out there.

But the book is so boring and dull! There’s nothing to the story, the writing-style is uninspired and the book didn’t captivate me at all. I struggled to get through it because it made me go to sleep.

2.5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

vrijdag 25 november 2016

Bookhaul: Book Depository

Hi again

I got new books!
I’m a big sucker for coupons or booksales so when I got a 5% coupon from Book Depository I had to make use of it.

Here are the books I got.


So happy to add to my Shirley Jackson and Richard Yates collection and I’m really looking forward to finally reading Ursula K. Leguin.

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 24 november 2016

Anne Rice: The Vampire Lestat

Hi everyone

This is my review for Anne Rice’s second book in The Vampire Chronicles; The Vampire Lestat.
I got it as a gift from friends and it has 550 pages.

“The story begins in our own time with Lestat, tall, blond, and handsome, a world-renowned rock star. His gifts are timeless, his youth never withers. But he was not always the powerful and famous child of darkness. Before his long earth-encrusted sleep, he was an aristocrat in the heady days of pre-Revolutionary France. It was then that he came face-to-face with the incarnation of evil and the temptations of love that he has ravenously pursued through time. Where it has led him and what he has become is the heart of the tale that has captured millions of readers.”

                                                *   SPOILERS   *

The Vampire Lestat didn’t blow me away like I had hoped it would.
It’s not a bad book in general, I’d almost call it good but it just didn’t capture me.
I never felt compelled to read on, I wasn’t captivated by the characters and what happened to them didn’t really interest me.

Lestat is a brilliant character and I loved how Rice made him seem human in his emotions and actions. Marius is great too and I like the history he tells us.
Nicolas, Armand and Gabrielle though, they aggravated me so much! I did not care for them at all and they felt very unrealistic both in character and actions.
The pacing was off too, especially when Lestat moved to different parts in the world the plot would go down and the story got really boring in some chapters of the book.
And lastly; the book was too dramatic for me. I absolutely hate drama for drama’s sake and Rice drowned us in it.

I enjoyed the story (though it might have been shorter) and most of the characters but the book just didn’t grab me.

2.5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 21 november 2016

Thomas de Quincey: Confessions of an English Opium Eater

Hi everyone

I read Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater.
This is my dad’s copy and it has a 9-page introduction and 127 pages of story.

“Once upon a time, opium (the main ingredient of heroin) was easily available over the chemist's counter. The secret of happiness, about which philosophers have disputed for so many ages, could be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat pocket: portable ecstasies could be corked up in a pint bottle. Paradise? So thought Thomas de Quincey, but he soon discovered that 'nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium'.”

I did not like this at all.
It’s incredibly boring, nothing more than a stream of consciousness, the main-character is a vain, dumb, self-absorbed twit and the writing style is tedious, trying too hard to be intelligent, dull and overwritten.

1 STAR

Happy reading (the next one).
Helena

zondag 20 november 2016

Bookhaul: A Gift

Hi everyone

As you may know, I got the first and second books in the Burton & Swinburne series by Mark Hodder. My father bought the third part at the Boekenfestijn and he just finished it while I still have to start the series.
But he didn’t really enjoy his book so he gave it to me. It’s kind of our rule to let the other choose first from books we want to give away or sell. 
This means that I own the first, second and third part in a series I still have to start.
Here’s to hoping I’ll love the books. :)

  • Mark Hodder: Expeditions to the Mountains of the Moon

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 19 november 2016

William Peter Blatty: The Exorcist

Hi again

This review is for William Peter Blatty’s classic The Exorcist.
My copy has 351 pages and I got it from my grandfather because he was getting rid of quite a few of his old books.

“The terror began unobtrusively. Noises in Regan's room, an odd smell, misplaced furniture, and icy chill. Small annoyances for which Chris MacNeil, Regan's actress mother, easily found explanations. The changes in eleven-year-old Regan were so gradual, too, that Chris did not recognise for some time how much her daughter's behaviour had altered. Even when she did, the medical tests which followed shed no light on Regan's symptoms, which grew more severe and frightening. It was almost as if a different personality had invaded the child. Desperate, Chris turned from the doctors to Father Damien Karras, a Jesuit priest who was trained as a psychiatrist and had a deep knowledge of such phenomena as satanism and possession. Was it possible that a demonic force was at large? If psychiatry could not help, might exorcism be the answer?”

                                                *    SPOILERS   *

Even though I haven’t seen the movie, the internet has spoiled me for quite a few key-elements of the book. Aside from that, even without these spoilers, the title kind of says it all. This is a book about the exorcism of a young girl. Add to that the blurb on the back and you can basically guess how the story will go.
And because of those spoilers the book isn’t scary to be honest, I had more of a ‘yuk’ feeling reading some scenes.
More than half the book is just drama, drama, drama and Chris trying to figure out what’s wrong with her daughter. We already know, so I truly wished Blatty would get on with the story.
He didn’t.
He just kept going on and on about what could be wrong with her. Why did he even give the book this title if he wanted to write the story of figuring out what’s wrong with her?
There’s too much drama and too little is happening.
And the too overtly religious aspect of the story made it hard to stomach at times.  I really don’t care for the religious details and the long, meandering explanations.

I did enjoy the writing-style. It’s old-fashioned, but is fits the story very well.
The characters are clearly defined and have more depth than you’d expect from a book like this.
That’s about what I liked about it I’m afraid.

2 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

donderdag 17 november 2016

Toby Frost: Space Captain Smith

Hi everyone

Space Captain Smith is the first book in the Chronicles of Isambard Smith by Toby Frost.
My father lent me this copy and it has 306 pages.

“In the 25th Century the British Space Empire faces the gathering menace of the evil ant-soldiers of the Ghast Empire hive, hell-bent on galactic domination and the extermination of all humanoid life. Isambard Smith is the square-jawed, courageous, and somewhat asinine new commander of the battle damaged light freighter John Pym, destined to take on the alien threat because nobody else is available. Together with his bold crew—a skull-collecting alien lunatic, an android pilot who is actually a fugitive sex toy, and a hamster called Gerald—he must collect new-age herbalist Rhianna Mitchell from the laid back New Francisco orbiter and bring her back to safety in the Empire. Straightforward enough—except the Ghasts want her too. If he is to get back to Blighty alive, Smith must defeat void sharks, a universe-weary android assassin, and John Gilead, psychopathic naval officer from the fanatically religious Republic of New Eden before facing his greatest enemy: a ruthless alien warlord with a very large behind.”

This book is definitely only for fans of dry English humor and space-opera so keep that in mind.

I enjoyed this one.
It’s incredibly funny and I actually laughed out loud (or snorted to be honest) a few times. It’s a very dry sort of humor with lots of references to movies and British culture in general.
It’s silly though, so don’t expect too much. And the story isn’t great either. There are a few plot holes and some difficulties in the pacing.

I liked it, it was light and entertaining. It’s just not hilarious or great.

3.5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

dinsdag 15 november 2016

Aldous Huxley: The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell

Hi everyone

This is my review for the book containing both ‘The Doors of Perception’ and ‘Heaven and Hell’ by Aldous Huxley.
My copy has 123 pages story, a 2-page forward by J. G. Ballard and 10 pages about Aldous Huxley. I got it at the Standaard Boekhandel.

“In 1953, Aldous Huxley took four-tenths of a gram of the drug Mescalin, sat down and waited to see what would happen. When he opened his eyes everything was transformed. He describes his experience in The Doors of Perception and its sequel Heaven and Hell.”

I did not enjoy this at all.
It wasn’t even interesting to read it as a disconnected essay about his experiences.
It’s an utterly boring and pretentious, stream of consciousness promoting drug use.

1 STAR

Happy reading
Helena

maandag 14 november 2016

William Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra

Hi

This is a little something on Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare.
My copy has 134 pages play and 15 pages introduction.
I got it at the Boekenfestijn.

“Antony and Cleopatra is one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies: a spectacular, widely-ranging drama of love and war, passion and politics. Antony is divided between the responsibilities of imperial power and the intensities of his sexual relationship with Cleopatra. She, variously generous and ruthless, loving and jealous, petulant and majestic, emerges as Shakespeare's most complex depiction of a woman”

The book is a different take on how love changes people, how it affects them.  It’s also about politics and how that changes people. To me, those are the most important and most obvious elements.
But I’m no literary scholar, I just read it for my own enjoyment and I can’t say I enjoyed it that much.
The differences in style were really aggravating me. I’m not sure whether those were part of the original play or just my edition but they really dragged me out of it.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zondag 13 november 2016

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter: The Long Utopia

Hi everyone

I finished the fourth book in The Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter.
My copy has a gorgeous cover and counts 434 pages. I got it on holiday in Amsterdam.
You can find all reviews in the series here.

                                                *    SPOILERS    *

The Long Utopia wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as engaging and interesting as the previous ones.
There’s one overarching plot and a bunch of family history. The history was a nice addition but it was too big a part of the book. It should have been more of a side plot.

It was enjoyable and entertaining though.
I simply love the worldbuilding and the general idea of this Long Earth. It’s truly fascinating and it made me think and dream.
The characters are great and I love them all and those giant bugs really gave me the absolute creeps.
The ending is so sad it almost made me tear-up.

This book is more grounded than the ones before. There’s less time to explore the worlds and more time to get to know the characters and what’s happening all around.
All in all, I enjoyed it but it was too slow and the real plot was of too little importance.

3.5 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 12 november 2016

Bookhaul: Boekenbeurs Antwerpen

Hi everyone

My dad and I went to the Boekenbeurs in Antwerp yesterday.
We had a lovely day together talking about books, looking at books, researching books and buying books.

I got three new ones.

Until next time!

Happy reading.
Helena



dinsdag 8 november 2016

Dawn French: A Tiny Bit Marvellous

Hi everyone

A Tiny Bit Marvellous is my second Dawn French book.
I got this one as a gift from my mum and dad. It has 404 pages of story and a 15-page interview.

“Everyone hates the perfect family.
So you'll love the Battles.
Meet Mo Battle, about to turn 50 and mum to two helpless, hormonal teenagers. There's 17-year-old daughter Dora who blames Mo for, like, EVERYTHING and Peter who believes he's quite simply as darling and marvellous as his hero Oscar Wilde. Somewhere, keeping quiet, is Dad . . . who's just, well... Dad.
However, Mo is having a crisis. She's about to do something unusually wild and selfish, which will leave the entire family teetering on the edge of a precipice. Will the family fall? Or will they, when it really matters, be there for each other?”

This was entertaining. Nothing special but it was a nice read.

The characters are true stereotypes and they sometimes really set my teeth on edge. Other times though I liked them and I could understand what they were going through.
The plot is very predictable, rather boring and full of cliches.  The writing is exactly like you would expect the character to write his or her diary so that’s good.
In my opinion, all three of them deserved a few slaps from time to time to see what’s happening around them.

The humor and the heartwarming (though predictable) ending make the book into a slightly better than mediocre one. French is bloody hilarious at times.

3 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

maandag 7 november 2016

E. M. Forster: Where Angels Fear to Tread

Hi

This is my review for ‘Where Angels Fear to Tread’ by E. M. Forster.
My copy has 153 pages of story and 7 pages on the novel by David Dowling.
I got my copy in the Fnac.
You can find all my E. M. Forster reviews here.

E.M. Forster's first novel is a witty comedy of manners that is tinged with tragedy. It tells the story of Lilia Herriton, who proves to be an embarrassment to her late husband's family as, in the small Tuscan town of Monteriano, she begins a relationship with a much younger man - classless, uncouth and highly unsuitable.
A subtle attack on decorous Edwardian values and humanely sympathetic portrayal of the clash of two cultures, Where Angels Fear to Tread is also a profound exploration of character and virtue.”

This was a boring read.
Nothing special really.

The characters were mediocre, Philip was the best part of the novel; I rather liked him.
The plot was OK and the book was fun to read but it didn’t make me laugh like a comedy should.
It’s well-written enough but the story is dull and I just didn’t care.

Meh.

2 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zondag 6 november 2016

Aliette de Bodard: Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight

Hi

This review is for Aliette de Bodard’s short story ‘Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight’.
You can read it for free, or listen to it on the website of Clarkesworld Magazine.

This story was sweet, sincere, different, interesting, moving, and very beautiful.
Highly recommended.

4 STARS

Happy reading!
Helena

zaterdag 5 november 2016

Robert Jordan: Crossroads of Twilight

Hi

Crossroads of twilight is the tenth book in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.
My copy has 660 pages and I’ve got it for quite some time now so I can’t remember where I got it.
This is a reread.
You can find all my Wheel of Time reviews here.

* SPOILERS! *

Right now, I’m actually regretting my decision to reread the series.

Why does Jordan think it necessary to recount everything that happened in the previous nine books? We’re not stupid. This is book nine; we know what’s happened so far. Who would start a series with book nine?

The plot in this installment goes nowhere. It’s at a complete standstill and this book is almost superfluous because so little is happening. Whatever does happen is only the aftermath of the previous novel. Endless rehashing of the channelers’ reaction the the cleansing of Saidin and little else.

Tuon and Egeanin are unrealistic, egoistic, self-important, stupid and self-involved.
I can only admire Mat for coping with those women the way he does. In his place they’d have gotten a few slaps a long time ago.

Perrin bores me to death and I absolutely hate Faile. I wish they’d both just die so we could get rid of them. Or maybe Faile could die so Perrin could go back to being the strong character he was before he got involved with Faile. Even reading about Perrin actually doing something would be a nice change. I hate this plotline even more than the first time I read The Wheel of Time books. I don’t see why they should have such a big part in these books. Both are disconnected from the rest of the world and they aren’t really important for the overall plot too.

Elayne seems to be the main focus of this book and though I don’t really hate her, I really dislike her. She’s so stupid! And Aviendha’s attempts to adapt to the court are cringe-worthy. Their plotlines really don’t work for me. Countless eye rolling moments to be had with these two characters.

Taims plans for The Black Tower are Rands fault. He left them alone for too long without even checking in on them from time to time.

I’m tired of reading about Egwene’s wobbly chair. I like her storyline, even the truly mundane things like the papers on the provisions and the army. It gives us a view of how much work a camp that size is. But I hate to read the same thing over and over again (like the wobbly chair). I would have liked to know more about her plan so the suspense would be higher. Now she’s captured a few pages after revealing the plan to us. I was surprised (the first time I read it) but now, upon rereading it, it would have worked better had we had more foreshadowing.

Crossroads of Twilight is definitely a slow book that doesn’t add anything new to the series. You could almost skip it to be honest but I do wish you wouldn’t because the series overall is pretty good and enjoyable.

3 STARS

Happy reading
Helena

donderdag 3 november 2016

The books I want to read before the end of 2016

Hi

There are a few books on my TBR I would really like to get to before the end of the year.
Like last year, I wanted to write a blogpost about the books on my immediate TBR.

One of my Reading Goals for 2016 is to read a Jim Butcher novel and a Robert Jordan novel every other month so those are obviously on my immediate TBR. I like reading these big series spread over quite some time so I read a book every other month and it helps me to not get burned out of enjoying them.
The Miles Cameron, Justin Cronin, Karen Miller and Pratchett & Baxter books are four of my ongoing series. I haven’t had time yet to catch up with them so I’m hoping to do just that.
I spent Halloween watching movies with friends like we do every year and we came close to watching William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. Because I have it on my shelves I want to make sure I read the book before I get the chance to watch the movie.
And lastly, I really want to start the books by Mark Hodder and Anne Rice so they aren’t a real priority but I will definitely read them very soon.

Here's the final list.

What books would you like to finish in 2016?

Happy reading!
Helena


dinsdag 1 november 2016

Wrap Up: October 2016

Hi everyone

October was a great month. I read a lot of books and I’ve no idea how I managed that with my awfully busy schedule in October.
Actually I do, I'm a very bad sleeper and this month was worse than usual.
Aside from that, I’m very happy with another milestone; my blog reached 30.000 views! I still can’t quite believe it. Thank you so much!

I read 14 books for a total of 4883 pages. That’s 349 pages per book and 157 every day.
Here’s what I read in October.


And this is the book I didn’t finish.

How was your reading month?

Happy reading!
Helena