Tuesday, 31 December 2013

My best reads of 2013

In the beginning of this year I didn't really have time to read a lot of books due to school, but later I managed to read some more. I read a total of 22 books this year according to goodreads.

The books I enjoyed the most this year:

Pride and Prejudice (Modern Library Classics)The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeThe Night CircusThe Giver (The Giver Quartet, #1)City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)

1. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (novella)
3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
4. The Giver by Lois Lowry
5. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

What where your most enjoyable reads this year?

Monday, 30 December 2013

Movie review - The Desolation of Smaug (The Hobbit #2)

Yesterday me and my friends finally went to see the second Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug. I was blown away. I loved it even more than the first movie. The scenery is beautiful and the characters are amazing. I thought Bard was played really well and it was nice to see Legolas again. I really loved that they had added the chracter of Tauriel to the movie because she made it more emotional. Eventhough I liked this movie better than the first one, I felt like the first one had more of an ending while this movie seemed to stop at quite a critical moment. You could hear the whole audience in the theater go 'What?' when the screen turned black. Watching the movie got me in the mood to reread The Hobbit so I'll definitely will be doing that in 2014.

Have you seen the movie, and what did you think of it?

Friday, 27 December 2013

Review - Eric in the Land of the Insects by Godfried Bomans

Genre: fantasy / childrens
Pages: 143
Rating: 4,5/5 stars

Summary (from a Goodreads user)
One evening in bed Eric, a third grader studying for a test on insects, magically enters grandfather's painting that depicts a meadow filled to the brim with insects. When Eric understands what actually has happened, he decides to start his search for the frame of the painting, so that he can jump back to his room. This quest will get him in contact with a colorful world of friendly and sometimes not so friendly insects. The wasps, bees, butterflies and other critters are all intrigued by that strange creature that calls himself Eric. As he gets invited to their homes, Eric discovers that in the end the difference between man en insect is not that big. You can indeed learn a lot from the insects, although they themselves have also quite a lot to learn.

My thoughts
I received this book through Nederland leest ('The Netherlands reads'). It is a yearly event to stimulate people to read books. In october or november members of a public library can pick up a free copy of a certain book by a dutch author.

In highschool I had to read several dutch books, none of which I extremely enjoyed, and afterwards I didn't feel like reading dutch books anymore until this one came along. This book is a Dutch classic. Some people regard this book as a childrens book, while others think that children would not be able to understand the whole story. I personally think that children will be perfectly able to understand the storyline, and eventhough there may be a few extra layers that they will not see, it might be a book they will really enjoy. I certainly did! Because of the absurdity of the characters it reminded me a little of Alice in Wonderland and on Goodreads I saw a lot of others making this comparison. Eventhough the language of the book is slightly outdated (which I actually enjoyed) it was a very readable book and fast paced. It read a little like a fairytale. I thought it was definitely not a boring book and I've added some other books by the same writer to my to read list. After reading this book I feel like I might need to give more Dutch books a chance, because by this one I was pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Review - Looking for Alaska by John Green

Genre: young adult / contemporary
Pages: 272
Rating: 3,5/5 stars

Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

My thoughts
On the internet I had seen that a lot of people where very enthusiastic about John Green's books so that was the reason I asked Looking for Alaska for my birthday. I had quite high expectations from this book, and although I really enjoyed this book a lot, it didn't completely meet them.  I thought this would be one of those books that I wouldn't be able to put down, but it wasn't. I wished that I hadn't heard so much about this book already, because then I probably would have been able to read it more open minded. Apparently I had already formed a very clear idea of what the book would be like.

Although I sometimes do read contemporary fiction, it is not my favorite genre. Looking for Alaska was a pleasant surprise on that front. I loved the descriptions of life at Culver Creek boarding school and it's characters. I do wish that I had gotten to know the characters a little bit better, but the book wasn't very long so it is not strange that this didn't happen. Eventhough the characters smoke and drink in the book, they are far from stupid, which I think was nice for a change. A lot of writers have the tendency to write characters who smoke and drink as dumb. Maybe drinking a lot or smoking is not clever, but that doesn't mean that smart people in real life don't do it. John Green did a great job of writing real teenagers. They swore like teenagers do (and not like some adults seem to think they do), they questioned life and they got mad at each other for no particular reason. The main character Miles Halter was a believable character and I really liked hist interest in people's last words.

This book is fast paced and is very easy to read. It was not hard to get into at all. I read it over several days, but if I would have read it in one go I could definitely have finished it in one day.

I can't really pinpoint why I wasn't blown away by this book. There is really not that much I can say against it. It's just that I had expected it to be even better. This is definitely a book that I will be reading again, because maybe now that I see it in a different light I can apreciate it more, because the writing style is really beautiful and I really want to love this book.

'I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails.'

Thursday, 19 December 2013

She's my rose

“You're beautiful, but you're empty...One couldn't die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she's the one I've watered. Since she's the one I put under glass, since she's the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she's the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies). Since she's the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she's my rose.” 

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

I always dreaded reading for French class and Le Petit Prince was probably the only french book I ever truly enjoyed. My book had these pretty, little drawings in it, which were made by the author himself. Eventhough the language is not very complicated, the book contains so much beautiful reflections on love and life.

Friday, 13 December 2013

More room for books

I've been blogging for a while now over at Do not feed the fears, and recently I started posting about books there too. For my birthday and Sinterklaas (a dutch holiday where we receive presents) I received the books above and I realised that I wanted to blog about books so much more. My books needed more space so it was time for them to move out and get a blog of their own. Besides books I will also be posting here about writing, my favorite quotes and movies or tv series that are being made and are based on books.

I'm really excited to start reading Looking for Alaska, The remains of the day, The City and the Stars, City of Ashes, Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe and A Christmas Carol and other Christmas Stories and blog about them.

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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Review - Forever Beth: Lost and found by Elizabeth Cook-Howard



Set within the boroughs of New York City, 12 year veteran of the NYPD, Detective Kevin Walker is faced with the daunting task of solving the murder of a mother and her six year old daughter. Investigating as he has many times before, Detective Walker finds this particular case more disheartening to solve compared to all past cases he has investigated.

Beth Morris, a Domestic Violence Case Worker for the past seven years finds herself in a place of loss once again. Two of the most important people in her life are brutally murdered. The two same people who helped her understand what unconditional love is, how to give love and more importantly how to accept being loved. Their murder, their loss unearths Beth’s past filled with abuse, rejection and a wish for death.

Meeting Detective Walker when her life was crumbling, Beth found refuge in his need to protect. Initially assuming his protectiveness was routine, Beth realizes he too has a past filled with tragedy and the lack of maternal love. Kevin and Beth are two souls drawn together assumed by murder but realistically by love loss and painful pasts.

I received a copy of this book via Goodreads giveaway.

In the beginning of the book we meet the domestic violence case worker Beth Morris. Beth has had a tough life. She had a bad relationship with her mother, her husband physically abused her and her beloved father died. Beth can no longer live with all the pain and sees suicide as the only way out. Luckily she is saved and when she meets Rosa and Rosie through her work she finally finds people she can love again. Rosa and Rosie treat Beth like family, so when they are both murdered Beth's life is turned upside down once again.

What I really liked about this book was the pace in which the story was told. There was not a moment while reading this book that I was bored. I would have liked to get to know Beth a little better, but I presume the sequel will take care of that. The mystery of who murdered Rosa and Rosie didn't seem very complicated in the beginning but I was happy that it turned out to be a lot more complex in the end. I defenitely did not see that twist coming. Eventhough the book ends with a cliffhanger I didn't mind it at all. The story itself was well written. I do feel like there could have been a little more editing though. Kevin Walker is called handsome pretty often and that could have been a little less. A description of why he was so handsome would have been better, because I still don't really feel like I know what he looks like.
I was a bit confused that the exlamations are written between parentheses, since I have never seen that before.

Eventhough I'm not a very religious person I found that the religious aspect of this book was well written.

My favorite part of the book is actually when Beth has had an OD of heroine and she is in between the world of the living and heaven. To me that part of the book was written the best. Sometimes when I read a book that includes religion I feel like the sole purpose of the book is to convert me, which feels a bit annoying, but this book was very different.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

1984 by George Orwell


War is peace
Freedom is slavery
Ignorance is strength
I had expected quite a lot from this book. Unfortunately it did not live up to my expectations. Eventhough the subject, a totalitarian regime, was very heavy the story seemed boring to me. Winston Smith was a pretty flat main character. That is something that I would be able to overlook because of the environment he lives in, but what really made the story a little boring was the fact that at some point Winston gets a book about the totalitarion regime he lives under and many chapters of 1984 consist of chapters from that book. If it had given me any new insights into how the system worked it could have been interesting, but it didn't tell me anything new. Also, in a non-fiction book I would expect to find this sort of information, but not in a novel. 

I'm not really sure why I felt about this book the way I do. It was clear that the setting was dystopian and a scary place to live, but somehow I didn't really feel that fear.

The only thing I appreciated about the book was the fact that the ending was really blurry because Winston had kind of lost his mind because of all the torturing.

Did you read the book? What did you think of it? Am I completely alone in my not liking the book?

Friday, 8 November 2013

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

One of my favorite books as a teenager was 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. Eventhough I loved that story I somehow never read another book of her again. Finally I stumbled upon Suite Scarlett in the library a couple of days ago. I was so curious to read another book of her that I picked it up.

Her new summer job comes with baggage.
Scarlett Martin has grown up in a most unusual way. Her family owns the Hopewell, a small hotel in the heart of New York City, and Scarlett lives there with her four siblings – Spencer, Lola, and Marlene.
When each of the Martins turns fifteen, they are expected to take over the care of a suite in the once elegant, now shabby Art Deco hotel. For Scarlett’s fifteenth birthday, she gets both a room called the Empire Suite, and a permanent guest called Mrs. Amberson.
Scarlett doesn’t quite know what to make of this C-list starlet, world traveler, and aspiring autobiographer who wants to take over her life. And when she meets Eric, an astonishingly gorgeous actor who has just moved to the city, her summer takes a second unexpected turn.

Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, romantic missteps, and theatrical deceptions. But in the city where anything can happen, she just might be able to pull it off.

The characters were almost all pretty likeable. The main character Scarlett Martin is a believable and nice girl. We learn enough about her interests and her feelings.
Her brother Spencer was one of my favorite characters. He knew very clearly what he wanted his future to look like and he was een funny guy who liked to cheer Scarlett up. I loved the little bond that the two of them shared. Lola and Marlene were a little less interesting, but the relationship they both had with Scarlett seemed like a very realistic realtionships between sisters. Marlene was a little annoying, but that was understandable. I liked that Scarlett fell out with her eventually, because it seemed like something someone really would do. Scarlett doesn't have a big development throughout the book, but in the end she does seem a little more independent and less afraid to take charge.
Scarlett's parents seemed a little absent throughout the story. Eventhough they have a hotel of their own where they work, it felt like they weren't around much. The kids had to help out a lot in the hotel, eventhough there were barely any guests. What were the parents doing all day if they weren't doing all those chores? That was the only part of the book that felt a little bit unrealistic.

This part contains some spoilers
At first I really liked Eric and he really did seem like the gentleman kind of guy, but further in the story I started to get a little annoyed with him. He was the one who made Scarlett lie to her brother and eventhough Scarlett was the one who did it, he was the one who suggested it. Also after Spencer found out what was going on between Eric and Scarlett, Eric became a coward and didn't want to talk to her in public anymore. Eventhough he said that he didn't want to cause problems for Scarlett, it felt more as though he himself wasn't ready to have their 'relationship' made public. Personally I wouldn't want to be with someone who wants to keep me a secret. Near the end of the book we find out that Eric indeed is hiding something. He was still in a relationship with someone else when he kissed Scarlett. I was already starting to hope that they would not end up togethere, so even if, because of the kind of open ending, it isn't sure that they will not end up together it's also not sure that they will, so I was satisfied with that. I would have loved the ending more though, if Scarlett would have shown a little bit more of her newly gained independence and just forgot about Eric.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

If I stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.

This is a spoiler-free review 

 My favortite aspect about this book, was the close bond Mia had with her little brother Teddy and with her parents. They all loved and cared for each other, which I think is something you don't see very often in young adult/teen books. The family members seemed all very real and I wanted nothing, but to be a part of their family. It's actually not just the family members, but all the characters in the book seem like people you could meet in your everyday life.
Music plays a big part in this book and I loved how, eventhough everyone didn't like the same music, they connected trough the fact that they all liked music.

I found Mia a pretty strong main character for a young adult novel. She wasn't being dramatical all the time, but instead she was a very serious girl who thought a lot about her life and her future. In the book she is seventeen years old, and for once she is a character that actually comes across as a seventeen year-old.

The flashbacks and memories that Mia experienced were a nice interruption of the part of the story which plays in the hospital. If that would have been continuous it would probably have become boring.

I thought Forman did a good job by not making the book overly philosophical, but I would have liked to see Mia ponder a little bit more about her decision whether or not to stay. Eventhough it's mentioned that she thinks about it, it is not exactly clear what her thoughts about it are. How does she envision her 'life after death', or how does she envision her life if she stays?

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Review - The strange case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

When I picked up this book at the library I was so surprised at how little pages it has, because so many refrences are always being made to this novella that I just assumed it was a bigger book! Eventhough it wasn't a very long story I loved it from the beginning to the end. It's not often that I really like shorter stories because I feel like you don't get to know the characters good enough.

Everyone has a dark side

Dr Jekyll has discovered the ultimate drug. A chemical that can turn him into someone else. Suddenly, he can unleash his deepest cruelties in the guise of the sinister Hyde. Transforming himself at will, he roams the streets of fog-bound London as his monstrous alter ego.

It seems he is master of his fate.

It seems he is in complete control.

But soon he will discover that his double life comes at a hideous price...

The story was a little predictable but it was intruiging throughout the whole book. I found it very enjoyable that the story was not told from Dr Jekyll's pont of view. Grabriel John Utterson was a pleasing character with a curious mind, which I liked. I loved that the story didn't only focus on the horrible character of Mr. Hyde, but also on Gabriel finding out what was really happening to his friend Dr Henry Jekyll. I really liked the idea that every person has a better and a darker side and Stevenson did a great job of making me think about that.

The story had the perfect lenght. Eventhough it's only 88 pages, a lot of details of the story were told, so  after I had finished I felt just like after reading a bigger book. Maybe I'm mainly so enthousiastic because I actually had not expected much of this story, but I still recommend it highly.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

More books

I had decided that I wouldn't buy any new books for a while and just go to the library or read some of my unread books, but I was looking around in a bookstore and my mom found me with a book about world mythology in my hand. She offered to buy it for me. When someone does that there is no way I can say no. (And technically it wasn't even against my own rules, I never anticipated anyone else buying a book for me.)

I also got four books at the library. An omnibus of If I stay and Where she went by Gayle Forman, The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
I have been quite curious about The Casual Vacancy for a while now. I loved the Harry Potter series, but I found the summary of this books sound a little bit boring. Everytime I saw it in the bookstore I wasn't sure whether or not to buy it, but when I saw it at the library I realised that I could borrow it first and I could always buy it later if I really liked it.

Have you read The Casual Vacancy? What did you think of it?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Unread book stack

It is unbelievable how much time I spent on finding new books to read. I browse Goodreads, online shops, local bookstores and thrift stores. Today I ordered a new book online eventhough I know I already have a huge pile of to-be-read books. The picture does not even show all of them. Most of them I bought or got ages ago. I just love that feeling of always having something to read. Some days I'm into fantasy, others I want to read in a foreign language, read non-fiction or an historical romance. Those books may sit on my shelf for ages, and then, the moment is finally right to read them.

Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear, The Girl Who Played with Fire and Eldest by Christopher Paolini are all sequels to books I read quite a while ago and all really loved. I have started to read in The Children of Húrin and The bookthief a very long time ago, but because I was so bussy with school I quit. I really do want to read them though, so they might be some of the first books to be read. People of the Pharaos by Hilary Wilson is a non fiction book that I just need to be in the right mood for to be able to really enjoy. Ingen sommar utan dig (It's not summer without you) and Genom dina ögon (The host) are both books in Swedish. I bought them last year while I was in Sweden along with Hungerspelen (The Hunger games). I was only planning on buying one swedish book to practice reading in Swedish, but they had had a three for the price of two deal that I could not resist, haha. No et moi (No and me) and Le Grand Meaulnes are both French books. I made a bookreport about Le Grand Meaulnes for school once and I actually did start reading it, but I never finished it. It was not even a bad book and now that I own it I'll definitely be reading it some day. I'm currently reading A clash of Kings, the second book in the A song of Ice and Fire series, and A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons are the other sequels.

Are you like me and do you also have a big to-be-read pile? What book has been on your shelf forever?

Friday, 27 September 2013

Review - The Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonas' world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

 The biggest part of the book is about establishing the society Jonas lives in. There are an incredible amount of rules and people even get punnished for simple things like leaving their homes at night or using an incorrect word. The idea of so little freedom sounds very oppresive, but Lowry does an incredible job of making the society actually sound like a nice place to live. The people seem pleasant and everything seems neatly organized. I loved reading about the society and finding out how it worked. The first half of the book or so, it seems like everything about Jonas' life is good, but later that changes. From the very beginning it is clear what kind of society it is, but somehow I too, like the adults in the book, ignored that fact.

The pace of the book is great and slowly the tension is rising, but the ending seems a bit rushed. The Giver has found a solution to the problem that no one experiences true feelings but it doesn't receive a very extensive explanation. The ending of the book was also very open and personally I found that a bit dissatisfying. Those were the only shortcomings I could find. I found it a very entertaining book with a lot of beautiful descriptions of things that Jonas experiences through memories.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Review - Inside out by Maria v. Snyder

I picked this book up at a local thrift store. I wasn't expecting much of it, but it got a pretty good rating on Goodreads, so i gave it a chance.

Keep Your Head Down.
Don't Get Noticed.
Or Else.

I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? The only neck at risk is my own…until I accidentally start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution.

I liked it a lot better than I had expected. Although the story was a little predictable I was eager to read on. The characters were all pretty likeable and well balanced, which I found good for a change. The main character Trella is pretty smart, but not a know-it-all, which often seems to be the case with main characters. She is stubborn and bold which I like about her, but she doesn't have many friends or particular interests. Because Trella doesn't have many friends the book is more about action than the interaction between different people. Trella has one friend Cogan, but during the book he gets locked up so she doens't see him very often. She meets Riley, one of the Uppers, and that is one of the very few people she genuinely likes. Riley is sweet and also stubborn and I liked him as well, although he could have been fleshed out more. Hopefully the next book will make sure of that.

The other characters is the book were all pretty flat, but considering they didn't show up that much it was acceptable. What I found a little bit confusing was that Riley said that he had never seen a Scrub before, when he met Trella, eventhough later in the book the mentions what kind of clothing scrubs working on the upper two levels wear. He couldn't have known that if he had never seen a scrub before. The fact that Doctor Lamont turned out to be Kiana, Trella's mother, I found a little predictable. I do like the fact that Trella wasn't that eager to confront her mother with that, and Snyder did a good job not letting her tell it yet, because I'm a little curious to see how that is going to play out. I'll probably get to read that in the next book. This is not a book that I will read over and over again, but I am probably going to read the sequel.

Have you read Inside out? What did you think of it?