Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Review: Soldiers of Salamis

Title: Soldiers of Salamis (Solados de Salamina)
Author: Javier Cercas
Translator: Anne McLean
Genre: (Historical) Fiction
Year: 2001
Pages: 214

Soldiers of Salamis is a novel about an author, a fictionalized version of the novel's author Cercas, who does not know what to write about. He then stumbles upon the story of Rafael Sanchez Mazas, who was supposed to be executed by firing squad near the end of the civil war, but was able to run away. Wanting to find out how he was able to escape his death and how he spent the rest of his life, Cercas starts writing.

The novel is divided into three parts. The first one introduces Cercas as a journalist struggling to find his ambition. The second part tells the story of Mazas through the eyes of many of his acquaintances of the time of the Civil War. This part is supposedly the actual novel. Once this part is over, however, Cercas thinks the story incomplete. Here, we're thrown back into (fictional) Cercas's life, learning more about him, as well as Mazas and the Spanish Civil War.

While the premise of the story is intriguing, what struck me once I'd finished the novel, was that I enjoyed the first and last parts most, even though these are, in a sense, not the actual plot. This was mostly due to the structure and writing style of the middle part. As this existed of testimonies of men who may have misty memories as it was over 60 years ago, and then retold by Cercas, none of it was even remotely reliable. While many may think this is a strength of the novel and the way of story telling, it bothered me greatly. Moreover, it was told rather dryly. I would imagine Mazas's friends telling the stories with passion, grief even, but Cercas's report would then be really factual, summing up dates and events.
I was greatly pleased when I noticed the last part adapted a completely different style: the personal view of the start of the book came back and we get much more emotion as well as more engaged and beautiful writing. While I cared little for the main characters of the main storyline, Mazas and his friends, the characters in the last section truly touched my heart.

To conclude I would thus say that the novel was okay. Had it not been for the final part it would have hardly reached two stars, had it not been for the middle, I may have rated it four. Obviously, however, there would have been no story if it hadn't been for the middle part.




Monday, 8 December 2014

Review: The Maze Runner

Disclaimer: I read this novel quite a while ago. Therefore, this review will be a little bit short and simple because I took no notes etc.

Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Genre: YA Dystopian
Year: 2009
Pages:  374

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, he remembers nothing but his name. He is circled by boys he’s never seen before, and has no clue where he is. The boys gradually fill him in, and he finds out they all started out like this: waking up in a shaft, not remembering anything. He also learns where he is: in the middle of an enormous maze, which the boys have been trying to solve for years, and failed every time so far.

As seems to be the case with most young adult novels I’ve been reading recently, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, but the writing style did not grasp me. It took long before I got used to it, and therefore, it again took me forever to finish this novel. The author was quite repetitive, and I felt he could have used more synonyms for certain words, as well as refer to people with other words than their names.

Over all, I did like it, but am yet again not too eager to pick up the sequal. I will, eventually, but I am in no hurry.


Just over a week ago I also got the opportunity to watch the film, and I must say it was pretty good. It is, however, extremely different from the novel – even basic plot points have been radically changed. Consequently, I was on the edge of my seat, despite the fact that I had read the book.



Thursday, 4 December 2014

November Wrap Up! (a.k.a. reviews you may expect in the upcoming weeks)



Recently, I've mostly been reading books for uni classes. I've been taking one class on English South-African literature - reading Coetzee and Gordimer, and one class on European conflicts such as the Spanish Civil War and how these are represented in literature. The upcoming reviews will thus have to do with these novels. So let's go on to what I read in November!


Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
This novel is about a woman, Emma, who after her marriage expects a great life, but this turns out to be an illusion. She tries reading to escape her boring life, but this doesn't work. Religion doesn't distract her either, and having a child turns out to only be a burden. I enjoyed this novel, but did not love it, so I rated it three out of five stars. 


Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas
An author - a fictionalized Cercas - wants to write a novel, but is stuck on the subject. When he thinks about the story of Rafael Sánchez Mazas, who should have been executed by firing squad near the end of the Spanish Civil War but was able to escape, he decides to dive into this story. Another three out of five stars for me. 

In The Heart of the Country by J.M. Coetzee
Magda, the daughter of a white farmer in South-Africa, has grown up alone with her father and the servants at the farm. It's soon clear that Magda is delusional, and maybe even mad. Difficultly written and extremely conflusing at times, resulting in an only 2.5 star rating for this novel. 

The Sleeping Voice by Dulce Chacón
This novel is set right after the Spanish Civil War. It centers around Pepita who is a young woman, not at all interested in politics. However, she does get dragged into it as a messenger between her sister Hortensia who is imprisoned, and Hortensia's husband Filipe, who is a fugitive. While Pepita, I think, can be seen as the protagonist, we also learn a lot about the women in the prison with Hortensia. A heartbreaking story. 3.5 stars. 

Burger's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer
Rosa Burger's parents are very politically involved, being against the South-African apartheid regime. As a result, they are constantly in and out of prison. Her mother died when she was quite young, meaning she was to care for her father from quite a young age onwards. When he then dies, Rosa can for the first time focus on herself, establishing an identity for her own. The writing style of this novel is extremely confusing, and I did not have a pleasant reading experience, hence my two star rating. 

Lies of Silence by Brian Moore
Michael Dillon has finally decided to divorce his wife and go to London with his mistress. The night he wants to tell his  wife, however, they get in a fight and he decides to wait until the morning. That night, however, they're taken hostage by the IRA and their life is turned upside down. Although this was an enjoyable and thrilling story, the writing was not interesting and the characters were flat as well as stupid. I rated it 3 stars, but I may rate this down to 2.5. 


Stay tuned for reviews on all of these novels! 

Also, December has been pretty productive for me so far too, I've already read three books and will finish the fourth one today :)

Have a great Thursday! x

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Review: Slaughterhouse-Five

Disclaimer: I read this novel, and the novels in the upcoming reviews, quite a while ago (mostly during the summer). Therefore, these reviews will be a little bit short and simple because I took no notes etc.

Title: Slaughterhouse-Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: War, Modern classic, Absurdist
Year: 1969
Pages: 215


Slaughterhouse-Five is an unconventional novel discussing the Second World War and consequential trauma. The narrator tells us the story of Billy Pilgrim, who, after having been abducted by aliens, gets unstuck in time.
         
I feel like it’s really been too long since I’ve read this novel to write a proper review. All I really wanted to say is that I was very intrigued by the story, and want to read it again and again. The writing style, the story, everything was equally interesting.

Once I reread this novel – hopefully within the next year – I will write a more elaborate and meaningful review. 




Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Review: The Fifth Wave

This is actually a review I wrote quite a while back, and forgot to publish. 


Title: The Fifth Wave
Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Year: 2013
Pages: 480
3.5 stars

“After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one”



Our protagonist Cassie has survived these four waves. Not knowing what to expect from the next wave, all she does is running, trying to avoid contact with anybody – you never know for sure whether they’re even human. This distrust has kept her alive so far, but also meant being alone ever since she lost her family. But then the mysterious Evan Walker saves her life, and she has to choose between trusting him, or running away. However, she is weak, and she needs to rescue her brother. Evan may be her only chance to achieve this.

As you are probably aware, this novel has been extremely hyped up. That lead to me having high expectations. The beginning of this novel did live up to this, and I grew even more curious about the plot. However, it quickly became clear to me that Yancey’s writing style is not necessarily my cup of tea. It was too simple and there was too little depth to it. About half way through, I got stuck, even though the story was still quite intriguing.

While the writing was my main struggle, it was not the only. Without spoiling any of the story, I want to point out that I felt Cassie’s character was perhaps not the strongest. She is supposed to have survived quite horrific things, as well as having struggled alone for a while. However, after only a few moments of hesitation, she decides to trust Evan. I felt this was out of character, and it bothered me much more than it probably should have.

Over all, though, I did really enjoy it, and I’m very excited for the movie which will come out in the beginning of 2016. However, I am not running to the store to buy the sequel.





Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Review: Lord of the Flies

Disclaimer: I read this novel, and the novels in the upcoming reviews, quite a while ago (mostly during the summer). Therefore, these reviews will be a little bit short and simple because I took no notes etc.


Title: Lord of the Flies
Author: William Golding
Genre: Young adult / Classic
Year: 1954
Pages: 202



A plane crashes on an island. Only children survive. For them, this first appears a utopia: no adult supervision, Ultimate freedom. This changes quickly. Fights about who is to lead. The youngest children scared for a 'monster'. The perfect world collapses into a nightmare.
     While I was aware of the horrifying turn the novel would make later on, the beginning of the novel felt like an adventure story. Perhaps I had understood other people wrongly, maybe this was not such a haunting story. Obviously, I was too naive, and the tone of the story changed quickly.
     In the very beginning, already, there is the notion of power, of leadership. Who is to lead the group? Even when we've only been introduced to two characters, there is already a clear 'superior'. When more children come together, this battle becomes even more intense. Without authority, the children immediately decided some structure was needed, tasks also are divided. However, this results in multiple quarrels. Reading the novel critically, the novel never starts out as an excitin adventure, it's already a dramatic horror story to begin with.
    The structure they impose on themselves may delude the reader into thinking the children have it all together. Alright, there is a struggle on whom is to do what, but there's no real harm in that. Quickly, though, the children turn into savages, and the slight order they had is turned around. They split up into two camps who fight eachother brutally and this is when any reader will be disgusted and terrified.
     A few things bothered me about this novel, probably all related to the fact that it is a children's book. The writing style was, to me, uncompelling, and resulted in me having a hard time reading the novel quickly as I was unable to concentrate for too long. I cannot truly remember what it was about the style, but I feel like it is likely a result of Golding's eyed audience. This is also the case in terms of morals: they are too obvious which annoyed me.
    However, Golding makes up for this by writing no single sentence without allusions. Any sentence can be analysed, and on each page one can write a three thousand word essay. This is interesting and extremely entertaining, but only to a certain extend. I could not be bothered to actually look into each word in great depth, as that would slow down my reading so much, and honestly, I can only bring myself to doing that for some of my favourite novels, and this one is not one.
     I do feel everyone should have read it. It is a classic, and it is rightly so.

Monday, 24 November 2014

November Book Haul


I decided to make a little post about the few books I bought a while back in Amsterdam.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
I must admit that this is a title buy. I don't know too much about it, other than that it's set in Guernsey and during the Second World War.

The Shock of the Fall - Nathan Filer
"I'll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name's Simon. I think you're going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he'll be dead. And he was never the same after that"
The blurb is really all I know about this one, and it sounds so intriguing to me. Also, a lot of people on booktube have been reading and loving it.

Unravel Me - Tahereh Mafi
This is the second book in the Shatter Me trilogy. I can't tell you too much about it without spoiling the first book, so if you care to know what the first book is about, check out my review.

Cinder - Marissa Meyer
This is the first one in a series of retellings of fairy tales. In this one, Cinder(ella) is a mechanic in New Beijing, but also a cyborg. When a disease is spreading, Cinder's life changes dramatically.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
I actually did not buy this book in Amsterdam, but I thought I'd include it in here. This is basically a history of Anglo-Saxon times, written back then. Obviously, this has been translated. I've read a few entries in Old English back when I took a course on that, and I was excited  when I found this for a few Euros in an antique book store.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Top 5 Wednesday: Titles



I thought I'd do a quick top 5 Wednesday! Today's topic is favourite titles. This entry will be short as I feel my answers need no explanation. In no particular order, these are my favourite titles (of novels I own):

1. The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules
2. Aristotle and Dante Discover  the Secrets of the Universe
3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
4. The Night Circus
5. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children


*I've lent out my copy of The Little Old Lady which is why the picture doesn't include it*

Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey. Check out the goodreads group.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Review: The Night Circus



Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Adult magic/fantasy 
Year: 2010
Pages: 508


Firstly, I want to point out that I went into this novel without knowing anything about it. I did not even read the back. Honestly, I would recommend doing the same thing, as to me it was part of the mystery of the novel. Even though this review will be spoiler free - I won't talk about anything that is not in the blurb - a tiny bit of the plot is revealed in the next paragraph.

So first, a minor summary: Cecilia is six years old when her father enrols her in a challenge. She has no clue what the exact rules are, nor does she know who her opponent is, or even when and where the game will take place.

There are many aspects to this novel I adored, and only few I did not. As I want this review to end on a happy note, I plan to discuss the negative parts first. This mostly has to do with the pace. I felt the story progressed rather slowly throughout the first 3/4th. Now, I did not mind that at all, although it did give me the impression it took forever to get through. Then the final, say, 100 pages, all of a sudden went extremely fast which resulted in only little explanation of what was going on, even though I felt that especially the events could do with some more explanation. While the magic throughout the novel felt quite realistic, as far that's possible, in the end I simply couldn't wrap my head around it.

Apart from that, the novel is near perfect - Morgenstern's writing is easy, yet beautiful. The description of both environment (the circus, wow!) and characters is impeccable; even non-magical things sounded magical in her words. The mystery, the suspense, it was all so well thought through it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. The novel takes place over quite some years and thus character development is certainly something to be expected in this story. While this is not really done explicitly, when looking back at the main characters, there are certainly some changes in personality, all of which understandable and realistic, adding to the strange sense of familiarity and credibility created in this novel.

What weirdly enough also contributes to this, is the magical feeling of the circus. We want to visit it so badly, perhaps even join it - experience the magic from up close. Never before have I been engrossed in a world so much that I felt such a strong desire to be there. It is difficult to explain how exactly that makes the world more believable, but trust me, it does.

All I really have left to say is that I want all of you to read this beautiful tale. It is not quite fantasy, but too much magic for magical realism. So don't think it's not your cup of tea because you don't like either of those. Also, this is not young adult. For content, there really is no reason, but I do believe it is a bit more sophisticated in plot and writing than your average YA. 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

University



In the beginning of September, I wrote quite a few reviews and was able to post regularly, even though I had started my final year of university. Unfortunately, although I really wanted to continue, it soon became clear that I had no time for reading (reading novels, that is), and thus no content to post on this blog.

I will try to pick this back up again soon, as for next term (our year is devided into four parts rather than two semesters) I will have to read about 15 novels. I will have time to think about them thoroughly as we will be discussing in detail at school and thus I will hopefully have inspiration to write a review.

If you did not know, I'm a student of Literature and Cultural Criticism. This is a one year master's programme, and before this I did my bachelor's in English Language and Culture. As you may expect, the first term of a degree in criticism involves reading a lot of (philosophical) theory. This means I do have to read a lot for uni, just not novels. I am currently reading Seeing by José Saramago and this is for a course, but it literally is the only piece of pure literature I will be reading.

This all does not mean that I have reviewed all the books I read this year so far. I do in fact have about 4 books I still want to write about but as I read them in the summer, it feels like a long time ago and I'm not sure whether I will actually be able to write something decent.

Anyway, this was all just an apology, really. Soon, I will be posting regularly again.

If you want to see what I'm up to, go and follow me on twitter, instagram, or goodreads!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury



Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Science Fiction
Year: 1953
Pages: 159


Fahrenheit 451 is set in a dystopian world in which it is strictly forbidden to own books, and firemen are to make sure this law is complied with. Their job is to burn books, and if needed the houses in which these are hidden.
Our protagonist, Guy Montag, is one of these firemen. Not aware of the fact that once books were allowed to be read, and firemen actually put out fires, he never questioned his occupation. Not until he meets his new seventeen-year-old neighbour who teaches him to think independently.

I thought the concept of this story was pretty well thought out, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The characters are well-developed, as well as the world. Most remarkable perhaps, was the realistic feel to it. Whenever Bradbury had a character explain the workings of the world, it almost sounded rational, and as if it could happen in real life.

When reading reviews written by women on this book, I noticed the feminist point-of-view: women are portrayed as stupid and brainwashed and of the books mentioned, no author is female. I’m not at all used to feminist reading, and thus had not noticed the latter. The former remark, however, I feel is unjustified. Every single person in this novel is at some point brainwashed – men too. I would even like to argue that the most important character in this novel is female: Clarice. She is the instigator – without her, Montag would have remained naïve in terms of his profession. To me thus, it feels inappropriate to mark Bradbury, or at least this novel, misogynist.

Though I was compelled by the story, the ending seemed rather incoherent – both in relation to the rest of the novel, as well as by itself. I was confused as I kept losing track of the story line, and I felt the ending just did not suite the over-all style and ambience. I will, however, not go in too much detail about this, as I want this to remain spoiler-free.

There was another aspect of this novel I felt dubious about: although the story is critical towards society in so many sophisticated ways, the general moral seems cliché: television ruins you, read books instead! Although I understand this is not at all all Bradbury tries to convey, it is the undertone throughout the novel, and it felt too basic for the potential this book had.




Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Review: Fangirl



Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell 
Genre: YA Contemporary
Year: 2013
Pages: 461


“Cath and Wren are identical twins and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair any more – she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She would rather bury herself in the fanfiction she writes where there’s romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life”


Fact is, this was just such an enjoyable read. I read it within a day and I fell in love with every single (main-ish) character. Compared to other current YA authors, Rowell’s writing is phenomenal, and she certainly has a way of writing characters every girl can relate to. Honestly, I would recommend it to anyone (female, that is). You do not have to be a fangirl, write or even read fanfiction. I don’t, and I loved it. However, the fanfiction is sort of why I did not rate it 5 stars: I was just not interested in the parts about Simon Snow. Perhaps this was because I never really was a huge Harry Potter fan growing up? (shame on me). 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Review: The Road



Title: The Road
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Genre: Post-apocalytic 
Year: 2006
Pages: 287



This novel follows a man and his son as they wander through a desolate country which once was America.

I have not yet read many post-apocalyptic novels, and I don’t believe I ever read an adult one. Yet what I feel often in these type of worlds is the inaccuracy of characters. Suddenly, everyone becomes heartlessly brave. And yes, I understand generally only the brave people will survive, but they often become rather emotion-less, all of a sudden. Again, I can see that this is supposed to be a natural transition people are to go through in order to live, yet I don’t think most authors are capable to write believable characters in post-apocalyptic worlds.
Cormac McCarthy, however, is.
The two protagonists are so real, even though greatly damaged by what has become of the world. We as readers can see the man has indeed become harsher, but we learn he was not always like that. Besides, we also get  to know the weaker side to his personality – especially when he is with his son, who he is in fact trying to teach how to be cold-hearted at moments it is necessary. The relationship between the boy and his father is so well described. Despite the situation in which they find themselves, their interaction feels as though it would have been the same in a normal world. Surely, they would talk about different topics, and so on, but you get the general gist of what I am trying to say here.
The little boy himself, too, can be seen as much more realistic – he has mental breakdowns all the time, and keeps complaining about the fact that he is hungry and tired: sounds like a normal teenager, doesn’t it? (Although I believe the boy is supposed to be a little younger than that).
A small sidenote to my own rant of it, especially the boy's behaviour, being realistic: We never get to know for sure when this apocalypse happened, or even what it was, but by small events we learn it was a very long time ago: the boy grew up in it. Thus, never having known another world, is it realistic for him to sound like he needs to adapt to their way of living?

Conversations were another strong part of this novel. Even though they often consisted of only a few short sentences, this was another aspect which made the characters realistic.

I must admit that it did take me quite some time to get used to the writing style. The omission of the apostrophe in words such as don’t and won’t bothered me most, but there are also hardly any punctuation marks other than final stops. However, after a while, I began to appreciate this as a unique trait of this author. I am still dubious about the loss of the apostrophe, just because I feel it is grammatically incorrect not to use them when he leaves them out.

You should be aware that nothing much happens throughout the novel, and the characters is really all there is. By stating this, however, I am not trying to say I did not enjoy the story. I did. I’m not sure what to compare it to, and thus do not know who to recommend this to, so I would say, does the novel still sound interesting after what I just wrote? Go read it!  

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Summer!



I'm back from summer holiday! I went to Gran Canaria with my boyfriend and we had an amazing time. I did get to read quite a bit while we were there, so you should be expecting a number of reviews in the near future!

That's it for this quick update! Check back Saturday for the first review!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Review: Out of Mind // Hersenschimmen



Title: Out of Mind (Hersenschimmen)
Author: J. Bernlef
Genre: Contemporary literature (I guess)
Year: 1984
Pages: 125


This novel was originally written in Dutch, and I've also read it in that language. As an English translation does exist, I feel justified writing this review in English. It should however be noted that I could not find an English copy (online) under 127 pounds. 

Out of Mind centres around 71-year-old Maarten who figures out he has been having trouble remembering  lately.  This story beautifully describes his and his wife's struggle with getting older.

As this is quite a short book, it will be no surprise I read this book within 24 hours. At one point, around page 100, I put it down as it was time to go to bed. However, it took me a while to disconnect with the fictional world, and mostly the protagonist. For some reason I remained in his mindset for some time, thinking I was the one with dementia. I clearly understand this sounds crazy, but I guess the only thing I can conclude from that is how phenomenal this author writes. It has been a while since I've been so engrossed in a novel - identifying with a character so much while he is so completely unlike me.
When I continued reading in the morning, it felt different. Because of Maarten's change in character, I felt completely disconnected, and although of course I cared for him, I could no longer feel the empathy I felt the previous night. It took much effort to get through the last pages mainly due to the writing style. Now I understand that this can easily be some literary device: the author allowing us to detach from the protagonist just like a. He does to himself, and b. The world around him does. However, it did drag on too long for me (considering the full length of the story). Therefore, rather than rating it 4 stars, it'll have to do with 3.5

Friday, 15 August 2014

Book Haul!



A while back, I bought yet another bunch of books :) 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
This book tells the story of the author who, when she feels she has nothing left to lose, goes on a hike - the Pacific Crest Trail. This has been made into a film with Reese Witherspoon which will come out in America in December.
Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
Ham on Rye is Bukowski's most autobiographical work. It follows Henry Chineski - a boy bullied through high school and growing up into alcoholism. 
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Marquez
The main character, Florentino Ariza falls in love with a beautiful woman, but she rejects him and marries a rich doctor. 50 Years later, the doctor dies, and Florentino tries to woo her again. 
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Celie, a young black woman with a though childhood - being raped by her father as well as being forced to marry an awful man. This story follows her in her journey to finding joy in life. 
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
The War of the Worlds is about an alien invasion set in London. 
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A plane with a bunch of schoolboys crashes on an Island. At first the children are excited - living without parents, nobody telling them what to do. But then life out there turns out to be a lot harder than they expected it to be.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Fifteen-year-old Alex robs, rapes, tortures, and murders people. He is then jailed and the State tries to reform him. 
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Sixteen-year-old Holden talks about a couple of days in his life after he's been expelled from school.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
In the world in which this is set, Firemen start fires, and literature is on the brink of extinction. 
Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
This is an anti-war novel, centred around the bombing of Dresden. 
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
In this post-apocalyptic novel, a man and his son walk alone through America, trying to survive. 

Woah, writing those summaries made me realise even more how depressing all these novels are. However, I'm excited for all of those! I feel like all these books - except for Wild - are modern classics everyone should have read and I feel horrible for not having read them yet, so I'll try and read these as soon as possible!


Friday, 8 August 2014

Reading Slump

I have not been posting anything the past week. This is the result of a terrible reading slump. The last book I finished was If I Stay and that was on July 22nd. I did not really love this book, and so was the case for quite some books I read prior to that. Consequently I did not feel like reading anything - afraid I would not enjoy it.

In these few weeks I have started some books, which I have not yet finished, and probably won't in the near future: 
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis 
        I was so excited to be reading this book. Its premise sounded so interesting, yet I did not at all like it,             mostly due to the writing style. However, I feel this is merely because of my reading slump and will                 probably finish this book later (though, as said before, not in the near future) 
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
        I had intended to join a booktube readalong for this novel, and I have started it. However, it's just too           dense and too difficult and I've put it down for now. 
Discworld 1: The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
        Certainly too confusing for my state of mind at that time. Not sure if I will ever pick it up again. 

However, today's little story has a happy ending! Last night I started reading A Series of Unfortunate Events 1: The Bad Beginning and I just finished it this morning! 

So do look forward to some new posts! I have two reviews to write and got an exciting haul coming up, so please check back soon! 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Top 5 Wednesday: Top books that made me cry


I honestly believe they require no explanation, because even if you didn't cry, you will understand when or why I cried in these novels.

5. If I Stay - Gayle Forman
4. Wonder - R.J. Palacio
3. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
2. My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
1. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

To check out everybody who does these top 5 wednesdays, check out this link

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Top 10 Tuesday: Authors I own the most books from

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Today's topic is top 10 authors you own the most books from. This will be quite tricky because I try to first own many different authors before buying more books by him or her - but let's see!
I own quite some collection books which include all novels or short stories an author has ever written - I will not include those.

10. Charlotte Brontë - 4 books
9.   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - 4 books
8.   Stephany Meyer - 4 books
7.   Fyodor Dostoevsky - 5 books
6.   Emile Zola - 5 books
5.   Jules Verne - 5 books
4.   John Grisham - 6 books
3.   J.K. Rowling - 8 books
2.   Cassandra Clare - 8 books
1.   Charles Dickens - 10 books

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Review: If I Stay



Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: Young Adult > contemporary
Year: 2010
Pages: 272'


If I Stay by Gayle Forman follows a seventeen year old girl who has just been in a carcrash with her family. While she is in a coma, she can see the world around her as a sort of out of body experience - sort of like a ghost. She looks back on her life, as well as dealing with looking at all the people at the hospital who care about her 'staying'.
This novel should be read in one sitting because the first 170 pages are rather tedious. Putting it down before getting through them will allow you to slip into a reading slump. After that, though, it does become quite good, and you will realise why you picked it up in the first place: it is in fact a wonderful story.
I'll try and explain why, to me, the beginning was tough. Firstly, this book was hyped up so much, I expected a master piece. It certainly was not. The writing, although clearly not bad, was not too interesting, nor was the story. The characters seemed underdeveloped, which resulted in me not caring about what happened either. The flashbacks, I supposed engineered to give the characters depth, were too arbitrary and uninteresting - if I even were to finish this novel, I would only care for the main story line.
Throughout reading, I kept thinking about putting it down for the time being, and definitely not picking up the sequel. I kept reading 10 pages or so, and quiting which did not at all help in me liking the novel. Now, you have clearly seen I've rated it three stars, so it cannot all have been bad, I hear you think. And it surely wasn't. The last 100 or so pages I read in a night before I went to bed. I couldn't stop reading because all of a sudden I felt the emotion the author meant to put in it. I understood what Mia was thinking and why. Even the other characters started to make sense to me and the flashbacks became interesting and related to the main story line. I shed some tears in that final half of the novel, something I couldn't imagine happening yesterday.
I am thus proud to say I pushed through this novel, ending up loving the ending - and liking it as a whole. I will definitely be picking up the sequel.

Sidenote: I picked up this novel because it is going to be made into a film, which will be out somewhere around September. It will star Chloe Moretz as Mia. Check out the trailer here. (Do not watch if you've not yet read the book - it's full of spoilers.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Review: The Little Prince



Title: The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince)
Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Translator: Irene Testot-Ferry
Genre: Children's literature
Year: 1944
Pages: 109


A pilot's plane crashes in the Sahara Desert. Here he meets the Little Prince, who is essentially an alien from a tiny asteroid. Throughout the story, we learn about the Prince's adventures, which teach us valuable life lessons.

I had to read this book for French when I was about 17, obviously in the original language. Although I remember liking it, I did not at all remember the story, mostly because I did not understand it very well. When I saw this edition at a book market, I knew I had to buy it and reread it.

This week, I finally got around to reading it - and I liked it a lot, although not as much as I expected to. The story is absolutely adorable, but I was not intrigued by the writing style. Of course, it is children's literature, so I did not expect it to be beautifully written, but it did disappoint me. Now, I don't know to whom I am to attribute this, it could be the author's writing style, but it could also be the translator's input.
This really is the only point of critique I have though. It's definitely a story everyone should read, and if you have the ability, please do read it in the original language.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Review: Robin Hood


Title: Robin Hood
Author: Henry Gilbert
Genre: Classics > Historical fiction / Folklore
Year: 1912
Pages: 288

We all know the story of Robin Hood: a man who for one reason or another robs from the rich, and gives to the poor. Now, the problem is that the Robin Hood histories originate from a time before stories were written down. In the oral traditions, the stories were subject to change, for obvious reasons: everyone remembered other things, exaggerated what they found crucial parts, and so on. Therefore, when they were finally written down, several editions existed. Henry Gilbert mixed them up, and invented some stories himself
- as he notes down in the preface - "to give a truthful picture of the times in which he lived".

Maybe I should have looked into this edition of the novel before I bought it. I knew it was a children's version, but I did not think it would be so different from the 'originals'. I have studied Robin Hood in some classes, so I read some of the older stories. Throughout Gilbert's version, I kept thinking it would have been better if he kept to one edition, rather than alternating and even adding. It just felt inaccurate. Of course, this is only an issue if you have any knowledge about the folklore and even though this novel will give you a confused image of our hero, it will be a great introduction to him.

The thing that really bothered me about this novel is the writing style. Gilbert tried to imitate the medieval speech, using words and structures uncommon for the early twentieth century, which is when this was first published. This decision is easily rectifiable, yet it did not fit into the general way in which Gilbert told the story. Not only does that type of language belong to poems, the gap between the storyteller and the characters is consequently enormous too. By this I mean that the narrator uses modern language, whereas the sentences spoken by characters are so-called medieval.  Choosing one type of language would have made the story better readable. 

So, in all honesty, I did not at all enjoy this novel. Some parts were fun enough, but I felt too detached from it and could not care what happened to the characters. It is, however, a classic story, which should read and known about, so if you're looking for an introduction to Robin Hood, and don't know anything about him, go for this one - it's a relatively easy read (as opposed to the Old English ones), and you get to know about several versions of the story. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Review: Ocean at the End of the Lane





Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Pages: 240
A middle-aged man returns to his childhood town for a funeral. Here he is mysteriously drawn to the house of Lettie Hempstock - a girl he met when he was seven. He slowly remembers his friendship with her, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane tells this story. 
This novel was so hyped up -as is everything written by Neil Gaiman. I was thus beyond excited to start
reading this book. I had never before read a Gaiman book, and wanted to know what I was missing out on.

Boy was I disappointed. First of all, it is marketed as an adult book, and I felt it was very young adult, or even middle grade. I suppose that this annoyed me enough to honestly dislike every aspect of the novel - even the story.

I was highly tempted to only rate it two stars. However, when looking at it in retrospect, I figure the story was in fact highly original, and the writing was not aweful either. I just was in the most crappy mood, and I don't even know why I finished the book when I was reading it - I know I would have enjoyed it much more if I had read it when I was feeling better.

Therefore, I will not continue writing about what I thought of this novel. I will reread it some time in the future and then decide what I thought about it when in a good mood. Unfortunately, now the story is spoiled which will obviously ruin my experience yet again.  

Monday, 14 July 2014

Title Words Tag

This Tag was created by Wiebke over at 1book1review on youtube! (original video). Obviously, I was not tagged, but I really liked the idea so I decided to do the tag! :)
Basically you list books - which are on your shelves - , starting with one of which the title has one word, then two, then three and so on, to see how far you can go! So let's see how this goes!



1. Shirley - Charlotte Brontë
2. Don Quixote - Cervantes
3. If I stay - Gayle Forman
4. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
5. The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien
6. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
7. I Know why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
8. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
9. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

So I got up to 9! Fun fact: I only read the last two books..

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Review: Shatter Me


Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahera Mafi
Pages: 338


Juliette's touch is lethal. Consequently, she has been kept in an institution, in a solitary cell, for over 250 days. The novel starts off when she gets a cellmate.

As many current young adult novels, this one can too be classified as dystopian. The world in which Juliette lives has been taken over by the Reestablishment, who are not afraid of killing - many people have already died in a war.

Let's first talk about the story itself. To me, it felt rather original, but please keep in mind that I have not yet read much of this genre. What I also liked was that I felt like I knew what was going to happen all the time, but my predictions always turned out wrong. Over all, I thought the story was really good. However, I was a little iffy about the romance. I did not really buy it, and even though I liked Juliette's love interest (I know many readers don't), I felt it took up too much of the story - I wanted action! 

The brilliantness of this novel lies not in the story itself, but in the writing style. Tahera Mafi writes like a poet, yet the novel is written from a perspective of a 17 year old girl, and even in a sort of diary form. That is something that not many novelists are capable of. The crossing out of words allows the readers to explore an aspect of her without spending pages explaining she is confused. Mafi also cuts off sentences in the middle - enjambment - which has been looked at critically by many of her readers. I, however, really enjoyed this, and I would actually love to reread the novel, just to figure out exactly why she used that device, at those certain moments. 

The writing would thus really grant this novel five stars, but as I was not completely convinced by the story itself, I rated it four. I am definitely buying the second novel soon, and maybe even the novellas which are meant to be read in between the novels. 


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Review: Candide


Title: Candide
Author: Voltaire
Pages: 163


"The story begins with the hero Candide's expulsion from the Westphalian castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh for making love to the Baron's daughter, Cunégonde. So begins a series of disastrous misadventures on a fantastic odyssey for Candide, Cunégonde and the incurable optimist, Dr. Pangloss."

I must admit that this novel did not leave a very big impression on me. Although I liked the cynical writing style, as well as the story, I did not love it. However, I cannot pin point why I was not impressed. I think I was just not in the mood for it, and I may have to re-read it some time in the future, especially because I feel like I should have enjoyed it much more than I did as it sounds right up my alley.


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Book Haul: Presents!

A few days ago I received the final grades of my exams - and I passed them! That means I have obtained my Bachelor's degree! Therefore, my father got me some presents! Guess what? They're books!


The first one is a little poetry book called Red and White Roses and it's full of famous poets' poems about flowers. There's some Shakespeare, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Shelley, etc. It's a beautiful little leather (?) bound booklet, and I love it.

Next up is a bind-up of three plays by Chekhov: Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard. I've been very interested in reading some more Russian literature, so I'll probably be reading this one soon.

The next one too, is Russian literature: The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. I don't really know what it is about, but I know I read a bit of The Idiot by the same author, and I remember really enjoying it (don't ask me why I didn't finish it though..)

The final one is a Dutch classic, called Dichtertje (translated: little poet) by Nescio. I must admit I had never heard of this novella, but again, I'm excited to be reading it :)

So thanks a gazillion dad! (not that he reads my blog but anyway)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Review: City of Lost Souls


Title: City of Lost Souls
Author: Cassandra Clare
Pages: 544


City of Lost Souls is the fifth book in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. The series follows Clary in her discovery of an entirely different world: that of shadowhunters, werewolves, vampires, and more. 
Originally, the author had planned this series to be a trilogy. Just like all true fans, I was over the moon to find out that there was going to be a fourth. However, as I grew older, I disliked the books more and more. When I wanted to start City of Lost Souls one or two years ago, I decided to reread the first four books, because I felt I didn't remember enough of them. When I did, however, I found out I no longer liked Clare's writing style, nor was the story very interesting. So I took a brake. 
A while ago, the sixth and - this time for real - final book came out: City of Heavenly Fire. I decided to start reading City of Lost Souls again and then finish off the series. I first read summaries of the previous books, and I - quite hesitantly - embarked on the journey in City of Lost Souls. 

I must say I was pleasently surprised. Clearly, Clare's writing is focussed on a younger audience - people who do not yet notice bad writing. However, the story was quite interesting and very fast paced. I flew through  it. Although a lot was quite predictable, there were some unexpected turns. The characters are all very well developed, but that is only to be expected when you're so far along in a series. 
Clare's writing is not all bad. The way in which she writes dialogues or other conversations is hilarious and realistic. This is one of the main reasons why the novel is highly entertaining, and why you will keep reading - unfortunately, the story does not truly do that - knowing not all will be solved because there will be another beast of a sequel. 
It's certainly a vast improvement when comparing it to the fourth novel in the series, and it did make me curious to read the next book. Unfortunately, I recently found out that City of Heavenly Fire will be much more fun if you have read the entire Infernal Devices series (another series by Cassandra Clare, set in the same world but in another time) as some of the story lines will intertwine. This means I still have to read another book and a half before I can tackle the final book. Most likely, I will thus not finish the series any time soon. 


Monday, 7 July 2014

#AYEARATHON



I've recently been looking for reading marathons to participate in, because it sounds like great fun. However, I'm usually quite busy with school and work and just life. Now since I've been off uni for summer and the whether is rather awful, I don't have t work too much and obviously have no schoolwork. That is why I decided it was time for a readathon. After a bit of research, I found out about the #ayearathon. Every month they have a theme and they choose a week for the marathon. This month the theme is classics, and the week will be from today, the 7th, until this Sunday. You may know I love reading classics, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to find out whether readathons is really something for me.

I've created a small TBR for myself, but it's honestly not too big. I'm currently reading Robin Hood (Henry Gilbert), then I will read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne), and then I will probably try and read as much of The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas).

If you're interested in participating in these marathons, go and check out the goodreads group!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Top 5 Wednesday: Best books of 2014 so far

These are in no particular order. As I have full reviews of all these books, so I feel there's no need for explanations in here - if you want to know what I thought of these books, just check out the reviews.

1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz
     review
2. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
     review
3. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
     review
4. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
     review
5. Wonder - R.J. Palacio
     review

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

June Book Haul


1. The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis
2. Beloved - Toni Morrison
3. Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami 
4. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz
5. The 5th Wave - Rick Yancy
6. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
7. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell 
8. Shatter Me - Tahara Mafi
9. The Maze Runner - James Dashner
10. If I Stay - Gayle Foreman
11. Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman 
12. City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Top 5 Wednesday: Top final sentences

I had quite a hard  time finding these, as I often do love endings in books, but final sentences are rarely ever fascinating when standing on their own.

These are in no particular order :)

1. "I am haunted by humans."
          - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. "And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
     Shall be lifted - nevermore!"
          - "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe
3. "As soon as they had strenth they arose,joined hands again, and went on."
          - Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
4. "P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard."
          - Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
5. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
          - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Want to join in top 5 Wednesday? Check out the goodreads group :)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Review: Lolita



Title: Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov 
Pages: 361
My Rating: 4.5/5

“Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece”



"Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, fastidious college professor. He also likes little girls. And none more so than Lolita, whom he'll do anything to possess. Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? ...Or is he all of these?" 
I had, as I assume most people do throughout their lifetime, heard many things about this novel. I had heard it was brilliant, but more prominently, I had heard people talk about how terribly appalling it was. The latter, I could not quite comprehend: it is only a novel, merely a made-up story - how could such a thing ever be so horrifying? 
Even though Nabokov's writing style is flawless, and the story is over all incredibly fascinating, I somehow felt it was at times repetitive. Also, towards the ending I got rather confused, but I will not spoil that on here, assuming some of you may not yet have read the novel.  Therefore, along with the fact that I could not read it in one go and had to take a reading pause of about a week, I 'only' rate it 4.5 stars, rather than 5. 
I have never before read a novel like Lolita, and believe I never will again. 



Now, I do not feel like I should be saying too much about this novel, because so much has already been written, but I do want to get some things off my chest.


This was the first novel that I ever had to put down because the writing was too brilliant. Let me explain this. The perspective this novel takes on, is that of the pedophile Humbert Humbert. The novel is written as a kind of plead to the jury who are about to decide whether he is guilty or not. Therefore, the narrator tries to justify his actions. He does this by explaining how beautiful Lolita is in his eyes, and how she supposedly seduced him - He couldn't help himself, it was her fault. Readers will at this point understand that Humbert is not a reliable narrator at all, and that he truly is a pervert. Despite his effort to defend himself, he will never mislead the audience. However, because of Humbert's excellent command of the English language (as it is not his first language, and nor Nabokov's), and impeccable description of feelings, we will understand exactly what he is feeling, and we will believe it is real. This is, I then started to understand, why so many people had a hard time reading this novel, and I must admit, I did too. Because of Humbert's grusome imagination and Nabokov's brilliant writing, I had to quit reading for about a week - just to cut myself loose from this mesmerising pedophile.