Monica (MGovers) reads in 2018
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22. Innerlijke rust by Seneca - 4 stars
21. Life and Death of Harriett Frean by May Sinclair (1922) - 4 stars
20. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (1942) - 4 stars
19. De blinde vlek by Jo Claes - 3 stars
18. Broertje by Michael Berg - 2 stars
17. Wiegelied by Cilla Börjlind (2016) - 3,5 stars
16. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (2011) - 3 stars
15. The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti (2016) - 3 stars
14. Peachez, een romance by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer - 3,5 stars
13. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005) - 3 stars
12. De zaak Torfs by Jo Claes - 3 stars
11. Mazzel Tov mijn leven als werkstudente bij een orthodox-joodse familie by Margot Vanderstraeten (2017) - 4 stars
10. De heilige Rita by Tommy Wieringa (2017) - 4 stars
9. De bekeerlinge by Stefan Hertmans (2016) - 2,5 stars
8. Digital detox by Florence Peres (2017) - 4 stars
7. The Little Red Chairs by Edna O'Brien (2015) - 3 stars
6. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García (2016) - 4 stars
5. Last Friends by Jane Gardam (2013) - 3,5 stars
4. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West (1918) - 4 stars
3. I'm Not Scared by Niccolò Ammaniti (2001) - 3 stars
2. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) - 3 stars
1. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (2017) - 4,5 stars
2017 has not been the reading-year I had hoped for: too much going on in my life to find the peace and quiet I need to read and a major book-slump that lasted for months. That resulted in just over 50 books read (and still counting, who knows...).
I have decided to focus more on reading in 2018 as it makes me happy. I will set myself no challenges because they tend to be counterproductive and will try to find the pure joy of reading again.
I enjoy reading all sorts of books, mainly world literature, classics, historical fiction, non-fiction and new novels. In between, I like to read detectives and mysteries. I'm not into SF, horror and fantasy, but maybe someone can convince me to read out of my comfort-zone. A good story always works for me.
Btw, I'm in my early 50s and I live in the northern (Flemish) part of Belgium. I work as an information-specialist (aka archivist).
You're welcome to visit my thread.
And yay for more Belgium folks! :D
>4 .Monkey.: - Hi Monkey, in a way I'm relieved to see that I'm not the only one who struggled this year. Yay for more Belgian folks indeed. Funny to see that you, Rachel and I are forming a small 'Belgian' cluster on the introduction's page (although I suspect that will change soon). I look forward to follow your reading-adventures too.
Occasionally there are books that surprise me beyond all expectations. Home Fire is such a book. It is about two Pakistani families in London who get intertwined.
The story begins with Isma, the eldest daughter of a Muslim family who, after the death of the parents, has taken care of her ten-year-younger twin brother Parvaiz and sister Aneeka. Now that the twins are old enough to go their own way, Isma decides to continue her studies in America. There she meets Eamonn, the son of the secularized British Pakistani Muslim politician Karamat. But then Parvaiz is recruited by IS and that has disastrous consequences for both families.
The story is told more or less chronologically by the different family members who each have their own vision and their way of being in the world. Through their eyes we learn different views within the Muslim world, but especially the problems, misunderstandings and mutual conflicts that Muslims face today. In this book, different themes are subtly intertwined: the role of a father figure, the all-consuming power of love, identity. The link to the classic Antigone story is never far away. The characters are very credible, even though their visions are miles apart. Besides an unforgettable reading experience, this book has taught me that the image we have of Islam is a lot more nuanced than the mainstream media shows today.
>12 Ameise1: It's a book I can really recommend to you, Barbara. I'm quite confident you'll love it. It even got me excited about literature again after my major book-slump.
>13 .Monkey.: It really is, Monkey!
>14 japaul22: I guess with all the excellent reviews, the queue for this book will become longer, Jennifer, but it's worth the wait, I think.
>15 Cait86: You're in for a great reading-experience too, Cait, Well, at least I hope so because I'm afraid I'm not familiar with your reading-tastes yet. In real life, I like to recommend the right books to the right people and that's a matter of taste and opinion.
>16 arubabookwoman: Hi Deborah, I noticed Home Fire between your reviews and quite frankly, I did not know what to add to your
excellent review that you hadn't already said better. I haven't read any other books by Kamila Shamsie, and to be honest, I had never heard of this author before, but I'll definitely try to find her other books.
>17 dchaikin: It was a nice surprise indeed, Dan. And it's good to be back in CR. I did miss the book-talk and anything book-related.
Well, I'm reading something completely different now. Jennifer talked me into reading Lord Darcy (>6 jjmcgaffey:), so I started reading that yesterday. I'm hooked already!
But I'm three quarters into Bram Stoker's Dracula too, which I'm reading from the 1001-list. I'm actually enjoying it far more than I'd expected because it has this typical 19th-century that I cannot really describe and far less horror than I'd expected. It seems I'm actually cured from my reading-slump which is really good news.
Glad you're enjoying Lord Darcy! The only bad thing is that there's so little of it...someone tried to continue, but didn't come anywhere near capturing the feel of Garrett's stories.
>20 jjmcgaffey: Indeed, Jennifer. I'll post my thoughts on Dracula in the next post. You're right of course about the sexism, but I can live with it because the book was written in a time that sexism was very normal then. It would be different if it were a modern book. That's a no no for me, unless it's to make a point about sexism, racism or whatever -ism the book is about.
I intend to read a Lord Darcy-story in between reading books. Given the fact that there's so little of them, it's probably best to take them in small doses anyway.
>21 .Monkey.: I had the impression Bram Stoker was in love with Mina too :-) But yes, they were a bunch of dabblers.
>22 labfs39: I'm so glad you are here, Lisa! Twins may change their names, but not their ways. So glad you found me!
And yes, Shamsie's book already was the revelation of the year for me. Probably a bit strange to say that about the first book I read in 2018, but I take into account all the other books I read these past few years. I'll look into Burnt Shadows.
>23 AlisonY: Thanks for the star, Alison. I hope you'll find some inspiration here, if you're into my genres.
Perhaps almost everybody knows Dracula, the prototype of the vampire, complete with pale skin, sharp fangs and red lips, but the book on which this character is based, is rarely read. And that's a shame, because Dracula is really a nice book. It is just about the ultimate vampire story that inspired many authors and filmmakers. The story is quite simple: the young British lawyer Jonathan Harker is sent to Dracula's castle in Romania to get the papers for the purchase of a house in London in order. Soon it turns out that something is not right in the castle and Harker eventually ends up in a hospital with a breakdown. In England, his fiancé Mina is waiting for Jonathan to return but in the meantime she has to watch her friend Lucy slowly deteriorate due to a strange condition. Dracula also seems to have a hand in that. Ultimately, just about all male characters, all more or less in love or engaged with Lucy and Mina, join forces to battle with Dracula.
As a contemporary reader, you should not expect too much from this story. There is a chronological structure through letters, diaries and reports and there is certainly speed in the whole story, especially to 19th century standards, but sometimes there are jumps and contradictions that give the impression that the author wanted to write an exciting story, without bothering too much about inconsistencies and rather too abrupt turns. The characters are not very well rounded either but are used for the benefit of the story. As a modern-day reader, you should not be bothered by the fact that the women are regarded by the men as "damsels in distress", even though it appears that especially Mina can stand her ground. But all in all, the book is surprisingly entertaining and much easier to digest than expected. To conclude with a silly jest: Dracula is an entertaining story pur sang.
If you like short stories then there was a collection of Stoker short stories published in 1914 Dracula's guest and other weird tales They are good.
During the hot summer days in a southern Italian hamlet, nine-year-old Michele discovers a secret that he should not have. The story is a bit superficial and there is little depth. Also the characters are not fleshed out well and actually do not rise above the cliché. But because the story is told from the childlike point of view of Michele, it creates recognizable and moving situations, especially in his interactions with his friends and family. The author is able to portray the atmosphere of the Italian hamlet well. So all in all, this was not a wow-book, but I enjoyed it anyway.
>31 rachbxl: - A wave back from Flanders to you, Rachel.
It is quite surprising that I had never heard of Kamila Shamsie before, but I'm glad to hear that her other books are so well-loved too. It seems there is plenty to look forward to.
>32 NanaCC: - Indeed, Colleen, apparently I'm not the only one who's blown away by Home Fire. Do join the cavalry.
>33 BLBera: - Thank you, Beth. Happy 2018 to you too.
Soldier Christopher Baldry is sent home from the front for recovery. Physically nothing is wrong with him, but he has lost 15 years of his memory. Because of this he does not remember that he is rich, manages the family-estate after the death of his father and has been married for 10 years to Kitty, a rich and superficial lady who cares mainly about decorum. Christopher has lingered in his own past, in the period in which he had a romance with an innkeeper's daughter Margaret. She is now married and leads a rather sad life in a much lower position.
The story is told from the perspective of the niece Jenny. Initially she's not happy with the fact that Christopher wants to meet Margaret, but gradually she gets more understanding for the situation. Her attitude is a contrast to that of Kitty, which revolves in self-pity and incomprehension.
The strength of this book lies mainly in the beautiful language and the subtle way in which the contrasts between the characters are highlighted. A short but very imaginative and powerful book that still is worth the read 100 years after its first publication.
>37 chlorine: - Thanks, Clémence. I came across Rebecca West in the list of 1001 books to read before you die, a challenge I'm not going to try to finish, because there are quite a few books that don't appeal to me. But it's fun to discover the ones that do appeal. And it broadens my horizon.
A lovely, heartbreaking novella about the love that transcends time and the value of truth.
A well-to-do British officer returns mid-WWI with no memory of anything for the last 15 years. His beautiful, cold and unimaginative wife is appalled to find that all he cares about is spending time with his teen sweetheart, now a kindly village woman of limited means and broken physical appearance. Narrated by a cousin, the tale asks whether the truth of our reality is more important than our happiness.
A perfect little story.
>40 labfs39: - Yes, it was a gem. And I've also noticed that some authors fell off my radar, while I'm interested to read more of them. I sometimes wonder if it's a subconscious thing that I'm afraid that other books won't live up to the expectations. When I was in my twenties, I have read a lot of John Irving's books, but I have not read any of his books ever since. After having been bowled over by A Prayer for Owen Meany, something's holding me back to try his more recent books. And he's not the only author like this.
>41 Ameise1: - I look forward to see what you think of it if you come to it eventually, Barbara.
>42 auntmarge64: - Hm, that does sound familiar. And it looks like a book that I would enjoy too.
>43 Tess_W: - It's a short book, so if you have it within arm's reach, it won't take too long, Tess.
>44 auntmarge64: - Thanks for updating me and I'm glad you enjoyed it too.
>45 fannyprice: - I could not agree more.
This is the third and final part of a trilogy that revolves around the life of the British judge Edward Feathers ("Old Filth"), his wife Betty and his archrival Terry Veneering.
I read the first and second part a few months ago and loved it. I looked forward to the third book in which Veneering, the flamboyant charmer who was already omnipresent in the first two books, played the leading role.
This third book, however, does not have the strength and credibility of the first two books, of which the first part, in particular, has really charmed me. Although we learn a lot more about Veneering and his mysterious origins, it seems a bit too "clean" to me. Some characters and situations are a bit over the top. The pieces of the puzzle fit too well, the threads are too neatly woven. But the atmosphere and style of this book continued to please me. For those who have already read the first two books, this third part is cautiously recommended to get the whole picture, but it's not as good as the first one.
An easy to read non-fiction-book of which the title says it all. In this book, the authors try to discover why people in a certain area in Japan grow a lot older than other people and stay healthier for longer too. Obviously, the secret is in a healthy life-style, of which the different aspects are explained in this book, but basically, it's all about ikigai, which more or less means "a reason to get up in the morning". An insightful book.
A rather unbalanced book, with a very strong first part in which a mysterious stranger turns up in a remote village in Ireland, presents himself as a healer and disturbs everyone and one woman in particular. But then things go horribly wrong. The second part takes place in London in the world of poverty and homeless people, while the third part takes place in the court in The Hague, where the healer has to answer for war crimes. The style of the first parts is in sharp contrast to the sentimental second and the raw-realistic third part. It may have been the intention of the author to make a clear distinction between the three parts, this did not work for me. But I loved the first part.
A self-help booklet on the ways in which we can reduce the use of our digital resources to a healthy and acceptable level. Always interesting as a reality check.
In this book Hertmans tries to reconstruct the life story of a Christian girl who fell in love with a Jewish boy in the time of the crusades. Together they flee, hunted by Christian knights who have opened the hunt on the orders of the girl's father, to the south of France and beyond.
This book is based on real facts, but those facts and the sources from that period are so scarce that the author has to add a lot of fiction to make it a coherent story. Through his story he then weaves a record of his own quest through Europe and Egypt for traces from that past.
The book is written in that dreamy, baroque style that typifies Hertmans. I did not, however, like it. Hertmans has to fantasize a lot, but can not convince. Moreover, he often balances on the edge of the kitsch sentimentality.
I don't comment much on your thread, but like reading your reviews.
>53 chlorine: - Hm, yes, there is some contradiction to talk online about digital detox. You may have noticed that I was absent for a couple of months, but it had little to do with a digital detox.
Good to know that you like reading my reviews. I wondered if anyone read them still :-)
Paul, a middle-aged man lives with his sickly father on the family farm in a small village in the north of the Netherlands, on the border with Germany. At the time his mother left husband and child with a Russian who had been stranded behind his farm with his plane. Paul drives a business in militaria and lives his monotonous life. A few events, all in all small facts with major consequences, affect the already fragile fabric of the village community even further.
Wieringa beautifully reflects on the atmosphere and the hopelessness of life in a corner of the Netherlands. There is a haze of melancholy, sadness and loneliness about the story, but also of deep friendship and affection, of tragedy but also of humor and self-relativity. Very warmly recommended.
The story of the period in which the Flemish author gave extra lessons to the children of a Jewish family in Antwerp. With her Catholic background, her Iranian friend and her modern lifestyle, she was by no means an obvious choice for this orthodox Jewish family. But soon the trust between her and the family grows and they learn to know and respect each other's habits. Even after her job has been completed, she keeps in touch with the family.
To outsiders, this book provides a unique insight into the life of this closed community. The author weaves her own life through the story and can therefore focus on things even sharper. She does not judge, but mainly observes. Even though she occasionally has her reservations and she also gives her own opinion, she always remains respectful without losing herself.
Because of the fascinating subject, but also because of the casual style and the sense of humor, this book is highly recommended.
Entertaining Flemish police-detective about solving the murder of an art-expert. First in a series about the middle-aged policeman Thomas Berg. The plot itself is quite simple and the characters far too formulaic for my taste, but I liked it anyway, because the story’s set in Leuven, where I studied and of which I have very fond memories. Thomas Berg wanders around a lot. He also reminisces about how Leuven has changed and how things were when he studied. Since he and I are in the same age-bracket, it was fun being reminded of so many things. So, a very nice trip down memory-lane for me and a series I will continue for this reason only, hoping the series will improve as it progresses.
Edited: No touchstones today?