Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • Michelle

      Important Announcement!   07/28/2018

      Dear BCF members,   This forum has been running now for many years, and over that time we have seen many changes. Generalised forums are nowhere near as popular as they once were, and they have been very much taken over by blogs, vlogs and social media discussions. Running a forum well takes money, and a lot of care and attention, as there is so much which goes on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.   With all of this in mind, and after discussion within the current moderator team, the decision has been made to close this forum in its current format. I know that this will disappoint a lot of our long term members, but I want to reassure you that it's not a decision which has been taken lightly.    The remaining moderator team have agreed that we do not want to lose everything which is special about our home, and so we are starting a brand new facebook group, so that people can stay in touch, and discussions can continue. We can use it for free and should be easier for us to run (it won't need to be updated or hosted). We know not everyone has FaceBook, but we hope that those of you who are interested will join the group. We will share the link, and send invites as soon as we are ready to go. Added: We may as well get this going, find us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/195289821332924/   The forum will close to new registrations, but will remain open for some time, to allow people to collect up any information, reading lists etc they need to, and to ensure they have contact details for those they wish to stay in touch with.    The whole team feel sad to say goodbye, but we also feel that it's perhaps time and that it feels like the right choice. We hope we can stay in touch with all of you through our new FaceBook group.   I personally want to thank everyone who has helped me moderate the forum, both in the past and the present, and I also want to thank every single person who has visited, and shared their love of books.. I'm so proud of everything we've achieved, and the home we built.   Please visit the new section in the Lounge section to discuss this further, ask questions etc.
Alexander the Great

Alexander's Literary Odyssey 2017

Recommended Posts

Currently Reading

 

Twilight of the Romanovs, by Philipp Blom & Veronica Buckley

 

Read in 2017

 

  1. Het verborgen leven van Eurídice Gusmão, by Martha Batalha
  2. De ondergang van het oude Europa, by Miranda Carter
  3. Met de deur in huis, by Kristina Vindevogel & Hendrik De Clerck
  4. The Cider House Rules, by John Irving
  5. In het gezelschap van de courtisane, by Sarah Dunant
  6. Oorlog en Terpentijn, by Stefan Hertmans 
  7. Pure, by Andrew Miller 
  8. Blood & Beauty, by Sarah Dunant
  9. Het kraaienmeisje, by Eriksson & Sundquist
  10. Het hongervuur, by Eriksson & Sundquist
  11. De laatste aanwijzingen, by Eriksson & Sundquist 
  12. Wat Alleen Wij Horen, by Saskia De Coster
  13. Until I Find You, by John Irving 
  14. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs 
  15. Hollow City, by Ransom Riggs 
  16. Library of Souls, by Ransom Riggs 
  17. Sickened, by Julie Gregory 
  18. The Dark Room, by Rachel Seiffert
  19. We Need To Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
  20. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, by George R. R. Martin
  21. The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore 
  22. Vele hemels boven de zevende, by Griet op de Beeck 
  23. Gij nu, by Griet op de Beeck
  24. The Fourth Hand, by John Irving 
  25. Joe Speedboot, by Tommy Wieringa 
  26. Matilda, by Roald Dahl 
  27. Before I Go To Sleep, by S.J. Watson
  28. It, by Stephen King 
  29. The Returned, by Seth Patrick 
  30. The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud 
  31. Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner 
  32. The Shock of the Fall, by Nathan Filer 
  33. Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving 
  34. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie 
  35. Cards on the Table, by Agatha Christie
  36. Hercule Poirot's Christmas, by Agatha Christie
  37. Five Little Pigs, by Agatha Christie 
  38. The Labours of Hercules, by Agatha Christie 
  39. The Blood Detective, by Dan Waddell 
  40. The Quickening Maze, by Adam Foulds
 
Edited by Alexander the Great

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Het verborgen leven van Eurídice Gusmão review

 

Published in English as The Inisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão, this is the debut of Martha Batalha.

 

After reading Allende's The House with the Spirits earlier in 2016, I took a liking to the style of South American novels. I liked the different stories of different people, meandering descriptions of their lives and the peek into everyone's background.

 

All these elements are to be found in Batalha's novel as well. Eurídice Gusmão is the protagonist, but we also learn more about her sister Guida, her mean neighbour Zélia (and why she is so mean) and many other characters. It was a very enjoyable read and it kept me hooked on its pages. Eurídice is a very interesting character to be reading about and my only complaint is that this novel could have gone much further. It's a lovely read, but not an epic one - and I do feel the characters had that greatness in them.

 

The novel doesn't keep to the surface, but it could have delved deeper into these people and into the setting. I do look forward to reading more by this author and to seeing if she will grow in this. 

 

A short read (with an admittedly somewhat abrupt ending), to be recommended to anyone who wants to disappear into another world for a little while.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Happy Reading in 2017 . :)

 

Isabel Allende is one of my favourite authors. :D I tried looking at the Martha Batalha book, but it isn`t out in an English translation until October. :o

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2017, Alexander the Great! :smile2: 

 

By the way, I read somewhere that House of Leaves is the favorite book of one of your friends, and as they'd read the e-book version, you gave them a tree book version as a gift. I thought that was really nice of you :smile2: 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@athena, bobblybear and Chrissy: Thank you, hope you have a great reading year too!

 

@Little Pixie: I'd expect a Dutch translation to be slower than an English one! October's a long time from now - wonder why it takes so long - but it'll be worth the wait (at least, it would be for me).

 

@frankie: Have a great reading year yourself. I did give my best friend the tree book. I love giving books - in November, I stayed at someone's house for a couple of days and since this was free of charge, I went and bought the parents each a book to express my thanks. The book for the mom was a bit later, so my friend ended up handing it to her and even before she'd opened it, she'd said "This is from Alexander? It's going to be a book."

 

De ondergang van het oude Europa review

 

So far, 2017 is shaping up to be very different as a reading year from 2016. I read in English so often that the first book I read in Dutch in 2016 was in July. I usually read fiction and the first non fiction book I read in 2016 was in November. This books is non fiction and a Dutch translation - and this is only January!

 

The original title of this book is "The Three Emperors: Three Cousins, Three Empires and the Road to World War One". I picked this up because I love history and have a special interest in the Long Nineteenth Century and the First and Second World Wars. I've been very interested in the Romanovs for a few years now and even though - or maybe precisely because of it - this book sheds light on the English king, the German emperor and the Russian czar, this feels like the most completely portrayal of Nicholas II I've read so far. 

 

The book begins with the childhoods of the three protagonists and further elaborates on how they all interacted, how they reigned, how they felt about each other. It describes how much they were shaped by their upbringing and how that affected their decisions, or lack thereof, and how that would eventually change the course of history.

 

This is non fiction, but especially in the beginning it almost reads as a novel. As it goes on, however, it becomes more complicated. The monarchies are very entwined, which makes it difficult enough. It doesn't help that the author uses the birth names, royal names and pet names of people seemingly at random. This is further complicated by the fact that the same names tend to be used over and over. The author could have done a better job of specifying who's she's talking about. I've studied history (and read A Song of Ice and Fire) and I don't usually have trouble remembering names or keeping people apart. But honestly, if it's been 200 pages since you've mentioned her and so many people pass in between, I don't remember who Minny was again. I'm not sure if the translation is to blame, but the family tree at the beginning wasn't nearly sufficient or elaborate enough.

 

This book is presented as an explanation for how World War One could happen. It was actually much more than that - we really get a detailed look at the private lives of the monarchs. That was interesting enough, but because of the structure gradually unravelling, it became quite messy.

 

The author did a really good job of portraying these people completely, though. You see their strengths and their flaws - and those flaws in turn are put in a context where we can understand why someone would turn out to be that way. This causes Carter to offer explanations I've never read anywhere else. I really appreciated the psychological insights as well as the insight into the political inner workings.

 

Carter clearly knows a lot on the subject and it must have been monstrous to put this together in a narrative. But what a great one it is.

 

I have my criticism, but those might fade on a re-read, and overall I would really recommend this to any history fan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Met de deur in huis review

 

I work at a judicial officer's and this book is written by two judicial officers. It's a compilation of stories of what their job entails, memorable anecdotes, tips on how to handle the visit of a judicial officer, etc.

 

It's a very short read - I read it on the way to London and back and I slept in between. It was a very enjoyable read - quite some things are very recognisable from work, but I've also learnt things I didn't know yet. It's a book I'd definitely recommend with the necessary professional pride.

Edited by Alexander the Great

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your reading year is interesting so far! Hope it continues.

Is this the book above? https://www.amazon.com/Three-Emperors-Cousins-Empires-Paperback/dp/B00NPMO0VU/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486671985&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Three+Emperors%3A+Three+Cousins%2C+Three+Empires+and+the+Road+to+World+War+One

 

A couple looked similar.

Edited by pontalba

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@pontalba It's certainly been interesting and also very surprising! I'd compiled a list at the end of 2016 and called it a reading plan. As these things go, other books have been presenting themselves left, right and center, though. That link is indeed the book I read!

 

The Cider House Rules review

 

Brilliant.

 
That is the first word that comes to mind after finishing this novel. The only other novel I've read by John Irving so far was In One Person and in both works, Irving creates a fantastic world that I wasn't ready to leave.
 
The Cider House Rules, about the orphan Homer Wells, his life at the orphanage and later on with his friends at Ocean View, is unlike anything I've read. This must be one of the few novels where the main story is not the orphan looking for his parents. Homer wonders about his mother and imagines her, but never tries to find her. Of course, that would be difficult in the 1940s - but still. 
 
Homer lives by rules, both written and unwritten, his entire life. He also learns about bending the rules - and just how far you can go with that. It's a clear theme in the novel, but Irving manages to never overdo it. 
 
The characters each have their own past, their own motivations, which is most cases are explored. No character was perfect, yet it made them all even more interesting. Irving doesn't dive deep into their psyche, so you're left wondering at some of their choices, but I like figuring some things out for myself, finding my own explanations.
 
I will surely reread this and I'd recommend it to anyone looking to lose themselves in a book, anyone looking to be completely immersed.
 
 
--
 
I loved the Harry Potter series. Then I read The Casual Vacancy, which left me astonished at her talent. Reading the Cormoran Strike novels cemented it for my: J. K. Rowling is my favourite author. Now I know it might be soon to tell after reading only two of his many novels, but both In One Person and The Cider House Rules made such a deep impact on me that I can safely say that John Irving is my favourite male author. Not that the gender of an author matters - just stating it like this since I can't call him my favourite author.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In het gezelschap van de courtisane review

English title: In the Company of the Courtesan

 

Having studied history and loving to read, historical fiction has always appealed to me. This novel is set in 16th century Venice.

 
I loved exploring that era and exploring the workings of high-end prostitution in that time. However, I think it would have been better if we'd seen more of Fiammetta's point of view, the actual courtesan. Everything is written from Bucino's point of view - the dwarf - and while he's certainly an interesting and complex character, especially toward the end it would not have hurt to see other points of view.
 
The other characters deserved a bit more of the spotlight as well and some plot twists seemed random and didn't serve any purpose, but I still gave it four stars. It's just so easy to read this novel, so easy to get lost in this world and go on adventures with Bucino. Despite the remarks, I loved this journey and would recommend it to anyone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another Dutch book! Hard to believe I've only read one book in English this year.

 

I'm ahead of my reading challenge - the book reviewed below was the 6th this year and I set my goal at 20, when my goal last year was 15.

 

Oorlog en terpentijn review
English title: War and Turpentine

War and Turpentine was published and almost instantly it became a must-read. Four years after publication I am late in reading it, but better late than never!

 

I enjoyed reading this book. We hear so much about World War I, but a personal story of a soldier always gives us a more intimate look. However, that look only starts around halfway throughout the book - before that, we learn about life in Ghent in the beginning of the 20th century. I liked reading about that very much, because I know the city, but know little of its history.

 

Seeing as I usually read in English, it was special to read a book about World War I that was written by a Flemish author, with memories of and from a Flemish grandfather. More than once, I felt this recognition, also because of my own West-Flemish roots. I really felt this is my history, a part of my identity. That doesn't happen often when I read. Hertmans uses words to paint a raw portrait of a shockingly raw era, both before and during the war.

 

Having said that, I'm not entirely convinced this book is as good as so many people say it is. In the beginning, the author reveals that he has had the notebooks on which the book is based in his possession for years. He kept postponing the project, but sped it up when the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I was coming up and he knew the market would be flooded with books on the subject. 

 

I could sense the speed in the chaotic structure. I'm not sure if the blame lies with the author, the editor, or both. It feels as if the book wants to be too much at once. Sometimes, we are served reflections from the author, other times diary fragments, other times memories. It doesn't match, though. It's probably a matter of personal taste, but the author and his personality were too present for me. Especially toward the end, Hertmans loses himself in endless philosophical reflections that don't go anywhere or reveal insights. He seems to want to display his knowledge and his way with words far too often.

 

He is a virtuoso with words and writes very fluently, but especially toward the end, it felt too forced. So this book leaves me with mixed feelings - truly interesting, I'd recommend it, but too much doesn't feel right to be over the moon about this.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pure review

 

Pure is unlike any other historical novel I've read. It was never quite clear to me which was the focus - sketching 18th century Paris on the brink of revolution, a story of a man from Normandy dismantling a cemetery in the bustling capital and changing in the process, or a detailed look at an extraordinary year in an otherwise simple life.
 

Nearly every character is peculiar in their own way, interesting and elusive. I did find the women were very one-dimensional and the author could definitely have done better in that department. Heloïse's willingness was hard for me to believe as well.

 

All by all, an odd novel that I don't regret reading, but don't think I'd recommend to someone unless I knew them very well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I struggled with Pure. I can't recall why, but I know that I didn't like it much (even though I thought I would, judging by the blurb).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@bobblybear Pure was not at all what I expected from the blurb either. I didn't hate it, but it was quite strange - and not in the good way. Very mixed feelings on it.

 

Blood & Beauty review

 

Sarah Dunant is becoming one of my favourite authors in the historical fiction genre. She brings 15th/16th century Italy to life so vividly that I just couldn't stop reading.

 

Dunant takes historical events and describes them vividly, filling in what we don't and can never know with her own imagination. Previously, I had only seen the tv series The Borgias and this novel takes place around the same time. I felt Dunant treats the characters with respect and takes care not to present gossip and slander as fact. The main characters were quite complex and I reckon it must be a difficult balance given that these are real people. This had the potential of being an epic novel, but stopped too abruptly to become that. I reckon there's a sequel and I can only fully make up my mind after finishing the entire story, but I loved what I read so far.

 

This book reminded me of the works of Ken Follett and George R.R. Martin.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I started reading this novel and promised myself it was the last one before I would finally start the book my best friend gave me for my birthday last July: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Then I found out it's a trilogy... so obviously I need to finish the trilogy first before starting the next one!

 

So far, it's been a surprising reading year. So far, I've read more novels in Dutch (6) than in English (3), while I generally prefer to read in English. I also remember that at the end of December, I drafted a reading plan for the first months of 2017. So far, I have read exactly none of those books - I keep getting distracted. The library is to blame, really. I bring a book back, see one other I like but then I have to walk past more books and I promise myself it's the last before finally getting to those books I actually own...

 

Het kraaienmeisje review
Original title: Kråckflickan
English title: The Crow Girl

 

I like a good detective/mystery novel from time to time and especially if they're set in Scandinavia. Reading the blurb, I was also pulled in by the psychological aspect and the friendship between two professional women. 

 

This novel was not at all what I expected. The characters felt quite real to me - I didn't like Jeanette entirely, but I didn't hate her either, so she's written in a very balanced way. The same goes for her husband, Åke - though I'll admit I disliked him significantly more. Sofia puzzled me and seems to be the most imbalanced character in the novel, which is a bit ironic as she's a psychologist, but she's well-written.

 

The plot was okay, but could have been more fleshed out. It seems to scratch a few surfaces, but never really go through on that. The entire novel seems to be more character-driven then it is plot-driven. The reveal near the end took me completely by surprise and the authors did an excellent job of slowly unveiling that, letting the reader figure it out for themselves without spelling it out.

 

This is a real pageturner and I literally could not stop reading. That was made even harder by the short chapters, making it so tempting to read "just one more chapter".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, Alexander the Great said:

I also remember that at the end of December, I drafted a reading plan for the first months of 2017. So far, I have read exactly none of those books - I keep getting distracted. The library is to blame, really. I bring a book back, see one other I like but then I have to walk past more books and I promise myself it's the last before finally getting to those books I actually own...

 

Libraries can be really devilish... :blush:   I've been meaning to get back to my TBR this year, but then I go and look at the new titles at the library and always find 2-3 new books I want to read. :rolleyes:  

 

8 minutes ago, Alexander the Great said:

 

Het kraaienmeisje review
Original title: Kråckflickan
English title: The Crow Girl

 

I like a good detective/mystery novel from time to time and especially if they're set in Scandinavia. Reading the blurb, I was also pulled in by the psychological aspect and the friendship between two professional women. 

 

This novel was not at all what I expected. The characters felt quite real to me - I didn't like Jeanette entirely, but I didn't hate her either, so she's written in a very balanced way. The same goes for her husband, Åke - though I'll admit I disliked him significantly more. Sofia puzzled me and seems to be the most imbalanced character in the novel, which is a bit ironic as she's a psychologist, but she's well-written.

 

The plot was okay, but could have been more fleshed out. It seems to scratch a few surfaces, but never really go through on that. The entire novel seems to be more character-driven then it is plot-driven. The reveal near the end took me completely by surprise and the authors did an excellent job of slowly unveiling that, letting the reader figure it out for themselves without spelling it out.

 

This is a real pageturner and I literally could not stop reading. That was made even harder by the short chapters, making it so tempting to read "just one more chapter".

 

This has been on my wishlist for a while, I hear it's good! Your review has not made me think otherwise... :D  I should really get to reading the books! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@frankie It's hard to say much about the book without revealing something major that if spoiled, takes away so much from the reading experience. But I definitely recommend it - it's not perfect, but it's well-written and the authors have clearly put a lot of thought into this. There's a bit of foreshadowing, but not too much, and you really get to work out for yourself where all the clues were.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Alexander the Great said:

So far, it's been a surprising reading year. So far, I've read more novels in Dutch (6) than in English (3), while I generally prefer to read in English. I also remember that at the end of December, I drafted a reading plan for the first months of 2017. So far, I have read exactly none of those books - I keep getting distracted. The library is to blame, really. I bring a book back, see one other I like but then I have to walk past more books and I promise myself it's the last before finally getting to those books I actually own...

 

This has happened to me a lot too.

 

This year I've been making a consious effort to read more of my own books, and I've read twice as many owned books now as library books (this year so far). But I'm kind of longing to go to the library (I even dream about it!) - so I think soon I might just go and do that haha.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great job, Athena ^^ I remember when I was reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, I made a pact with myself not to go to the library until I'd finished them all. Same for when I was reading Lord of the Rings. I was always so glad to be going back to the library.

 

Is your library near to where you live?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That makes a lot of sense :).

 

It's not too far from where I live, it's in my town. The problem is more that I don't drive and it's too far to walk there or cycle there (for me). So my parents take me there sometimes. I live on their property, in a separate house. Sometimes they want to go near the library into shops and such, then I get to go to the library. It's not too far by car. I was just thinking earlier this morning, to ask them if I can go there again sometime soon, as I feel the itch!

 

What about your library, is it far from where you live?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My library's in my town as well. When I was a kid, I had to wait for my parents to take me or ask them. I think I was in primary school when I'd take my bike and go on my own, though. As soon as I was old enough to do that on my own! It's only a 10-minute ride by bike. 

 

My library is also on my way home from work, so I often stop after work ^^ They built a new library that opened last year and that's even more on my way.

Edited by Alexander the Great

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm just about to start Blood and Beauty for my book club read this month, and I'm a little bit apprehensive as it's very long and this type of historical fiction is not usually my sort of thing.  I'm glad you enjoyed it, and it gives me hope that I might be ok with it. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×