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Jelle

Jelle

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The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien
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Joseph Heller
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J.R.R. Tolkien
How to Be Good - Nick Hornby Sort of the same feeling that I got from 'A Long Way Down'. Great first half, then watering down a bit, floating between 3 and 4. I suppose it was less the case in this one, so I went for 4. As always with Nick Hornby the dialogue and characters are very lifelike and amusing and his observations spot on.

At some points the book drags a bit, and the inclusion of the faith healer fellow (or whatever kind of healer he is), is a bit alien in a Hornby book, but I just imagined him as the annoying hippie from Futurama, and all was well. Overall a nice Hornby read, which I didn't really expect, going into it with the low Goodreads rating in the back of my mind.

The book provides some interesting musings on what it is to "be good". Not in a complex religious or philosophical way, really, just Hornby-style, the thing i love most in his books: wittily observed, crystal clear, yet complex in its simplicity. I scratch my head and mutter: 'heh yeah, true', that's the feeling I get all the time with Hornby.
I reckon the biggest difference with other Hornby books is not that it's the only one written completely from a female perspective, but that it's damn depressing.
Yeah, sure, Hornby tends to take you on mental trips down misery lane, but at least he's there next to you, saying: 'Yeah, it all sucks, doesn't it? I've been there mate. It's alright, though, I'm here for you. Here, grab a beer, puff away on this joint. Life's a bitch, buddy, but check out this new record I bought.'

Not this time, though. This book is very bleak and offers very little hope. It's basically a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' kind of thing. But I guess that's a head scratching truth as well.

3.5-4/5




PS: I can't believe it took me like a month to finish this anorexic book. I really need to up my reading rhythm. I'm a slow, easily distracted reader, so I really need to be reading a lot (gymnastics for the mind) to maintain a decent book reading speed. Maybe it was because I grabbed this to cheer myself up, and that's why I couldn't read too much of it in one sitting, because in the cheer up department this book does not deliver. In fact, it just confirmed that being sad all the time is the only good option.

But an even more important fact is that the fact that I bought a laptop and can now access non-top internets with the stretch of an arm, which is seriously imposing on bedtime reading, where I do most of my reading. SO, I need to dedicate more time to reading and withstand the webs, unless I get severely constipated and have hours to read on the can. Go reading!
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak Extremely highly rated, a magnificent book cover (the one where Death dances with a little girl), a seemingly intruiging tale, and Death as the narrator. Bought this book with very high expectations, albeit lowered upon finding out this is actually falls into the 'young adult' genre, which always puts me in apprehensive mode.

I really struggled to finish this. Around page 400, with 100+ still to go, I was tempted to put it away, but I pushed on. I don't want to end up like last year, putting three books on hold and finishing only a measly handful of books!

Anyway, yeah, struggling. It wasn't that it was bad. In fact it was pretty good for most of the time. It was fairly well written, the characters were fairly interesting, the narrator, although not as awesome as I had expected, gave it all a tweak of originality, the plot should be something that keeps one's interest. But it didn't. It was all nice enough, really, but I just didn't care much.

This book tried very hard to make me sad and it's probably because it tried so hard that it didn't manage very well. The narrator gives you a clue on some characters' endings, but you could easily predict how everything was going to wrap up, even without that. So not only did I not care what would happen, I could see what would happen from a mile (kilometre) off. So after a while I just wanted it to end.

The book felt too childlike at times as well, which, I think further contributed to my lack of connection to the book. I also didn't like how the narrator tried to use colours to haphazardly metaphorise events. It just didn't work. It was little things like that, and the reasons mentioned above that made this book a little underwhelming for me.

I can see why people like this, especially kids and teens (you know, the target audience), but this just wasn't for me. Certainly not bad, though. That is why I'm giving it a 3.

But hey, if this is what teens are reading nowadays, it's a big step up from Twilight. It's good to see a book from the point of view of average Germans during WWII as well. Sometimes people forget that a lot of Germans were also victims under the destructive rule of a megalomanic psychopath. It's not bad for kids to realise this and maybe relate it to some more current events.


EDIT: I did care for the Papa character for a while, even though he was unrealistically nice, until he did something so stupid that I just gave up. In fact I think that's where I really stopped caring for/about this book. Actually, I enjoyed most of the characters up until the non-caring kicked in. Oh well.
Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie I suppose I must've been around 10 at the time when I started digging into my dad's collection of horror stories and thrillers, most of which were old classic tales (mostly compilations of horror short stories, including Poe and the like and detectives like Simenon or Christie), supplemented by my own R.L. Stine era horror. We also watched a lot of detective series on TV: A Touch of Frost, Silent Witness and my favourite: Poirot!

Now I don't remember for sure if I started reading Christie because I enjoyed the TV series or if the two just coincided; the series has been running since the late 80s and is now close to having covered every Poirot story ever written. Unfortunately the latest installments seem to have turned Poirot into a grumpy, religious old man rather than the clever and quirky Poirot I grew up loving. It's still great to watch though, David Suchet's Poirot is perfect. In fact, whenever I see a different actor portraying him, it makes me physically sick.

Anyway, I loved the series, I loved Christie, or more specifically I loved Poirot, because I scanned the back covers of all the Christie omnibi to see which stories or novels included Poirot, because I sure as hell wasn't going to waste my precious time on Miss Marple!

Obviously, seeing as I was 10 (this is a rough estimate, I always have a lot of trouble sticking an age on life events, so I might have been 8, or 12 or something), I read all these stories in Dutch translation, which works quite well for old horror stories and detectives and either way my English proficiency wasn't quite up to scratch yet.

A while ago, I decided to revisit my old love and again searched through my dad's dusty long-time-no-read collection of books, I think it was induced by seeing half of a Poirot episode on TV or by listening to the old Poirot theme.

Please enjoy the smooth jazzy sounds of the exquisite Poirot theme song and savour the sight of David Suchet's big, bald, smiley head kaleidoscopically embracing your screen. I get a big nostalgia orgasm every time.


Soon enough, I found Moord in de Oriënt-express, which I remembered liking a lot. I started reading it, but quickly realised I couldn't deal with Poirot speaking Dutch. I tried to move past it, but I could only see David Suchet's face in my head, uttering Dutch lines, and it was just wrong, so wrong. So I put it away and ordered a used copy in English online. I don't think my dad would be too pleased if he found out I'm ordering books he already has. Tssk.

I'm happy to say, I still love Poirot. Not that he is all that loveable, really. He's an arrogant, elitist know-it-all, with a slightly worrying psychopathic streak. Sure, he doesn't kill anyone, but this guy adores murder and death. If some poor soul got brutally stabbed or viciously beaten to death everywhere Hercule went, he'd be a happy camper. One scene in particular made me laugh:

At one point in the beginning of the novel, when no one has been killed yet (spoilers! someone totally dies!), Poirot is sitting in the dining wagon with his friend, having a nice meal. His friend, Mr. Bouc, I believe, is mentioning to Poirot how nice it is that so many people of different nationalities and class are gathered here together, enjoying their voyage, only to go their separate ways again. Poirot then ventures an alternative turn of events, where all this lovey-dovey harmony is struck down SHOULD someone have a little accident, or you know, get brutally murdered.

What a buzzkill, that Hercule. A little creepy too. There you are eating a nice meal and celebrating the joys of life when your moustached friend starts getting all morbid. Now what Mr. Bouc should have said was probably something like: "Huh? What! Murdered? What are you on about? We're having a nice meal here and you can't shut up about lethal accidents and murder. What the fuck is wrong with you, dude?"

Sure enough, though, Poirot was right, one of those people, did get murdered. Funny how that works. Sometimes I think that Poirot sets up every murder he solves, just for the hell of it. It's awfully suspicious how he's always around murders and when he just plainly starts predicting them out of the blue, I wouldn't feel safe anymore.

There's some flaws in this, sure. Having been written in the 30s, it uses a lot of discriminating stereotypes when it comes to European ethnicities. Italians are passionate people, they stab. English people are basically robots, they'd never stab. Things like that, but in the end all these "facts" are not relevant to the solution, so to me it's only interesting to read a book in the 30s mindset. Besides, I'm Belgian, I come off fucking great. You won't hear me complaining.

Poirot's deductions and revelations are sometimes on the verge of psychic, which, I suppose, somewhat thwarts the reader in his quest to the solution. I did figure out the solution before I finished, but I'm guessing I didn't really solve it but just remembered the unravelling from when I read it so many years ago. I can't imagine that I actually figured it out. Quite unlikely, because, in my vision, it's not really a bad thing that you can't figure out the full array of things, because Poirot is supposed to outsmart everyone. He's supposed to know things you don't know, and draw conclusions you never would. If I weren't hopelessly outsmarted by Hercule Poirot, what kind of life would this be? Who would I look up to? Poirot is smarter than you and that's just how it should be, and I'm glad.

Finally, I'd like to say that I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have enjoyed this nearly as much as if it weren't for David Suchet. Even when Poirot is being a pompous dick, Suchet's comforting face appears in my head and everything he does turns from annoying to eccentrically charming and all is right with the world.

Je vous remercie, monsieur Suchet, mon ami. May your little grey cells continue to rage in full force.


Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie I suppose I must've been around 10 at the time when I started digging into my dad's collection of horror stories and thrillers, most of which were old classic tales (mostly compilations of horror short stories, including Poe and the like and detectives like Simenon or Christie), supplemented by my own R.L. Stine era horror. We also watched a lot of detective series on TV: A Touch of Frost, Silent Witness and my favourite: Poirot!

Now I don't remember for sure if I started reading Christie because I enjoyed the TV series or if the two just coincided; the series has been running since the late 80s and is now close to having covered every Poirot story ever written. Unfortunately the latest installments seem to have turned Poirot into a grumpy, religious old man rather than the clever and quirky Poirot I grew up loving. It's still great to watch though, David Suchet's Poirot is perfect. In fact, whenever I see a different actor portraying him, it makes me physically sick.

Anyway, I loved the series, I loved Christie, or more specifically I loved Poirot, because I scanned the back covers of all the Christie omnibi to see which stories or novels included Poirot, because I sure as hell wasn't going to waste my precious time on Miss Marple!

Obviously, seeing as I was 10 (this is a rough estimate, I always have a lot of trouble sticking an age on life events, so I might have been 8, or 12 or something), I read all these stories in Dutch translation, which works quite well for old horror stories and detectives and either way my English proficiency wasn't quite up to scratch yet.

A while ago, I decided to revisit my old love and again searched through my dad's dusty long-time-no-read collection of books, I think it was induced by seeing half of a Poirot episode on TV or by listening to the old Poirot theme.

Please enjoy the smooth jazzy sounds of the exquisite Poirot theme song and savour the sight of David Suchet's big, bald, smiley head kaleidoscopically embracing your screen. I get a big nostalgia orgasm every time.


Soon enough, I found Moord in de Oriënt-express, which I remembered liking a lot. I started reading it, but quickly realised I couldn't deal with Poirot speaking Dutch. I tried to move past it, but I could only see David Suchet's face in my head, uttering Dutch lines, and it was just wrong, so wrong. So I put it away and ordered a used copy in English online. I don't think my dad would be too pleased if he found out I'm ordering books he already has. Tssk.

I'm happy to say, I still love Poirot. Not that he is all that loveable, really. He's an arrogant, elitist know-it-all, with a slightly worrying psychopathic streak. Sure, he doesn't kill anyone, but this guy adores murder and death. If some poor soul got brutally stabbed or viciously beaten to death everywhere Hercule went, he'd be a happy camper. One scene in particular made me laugh:

At one point in the beginning of the novel, when no one has been killed yet (spoilers! someone totally dies!), Poirot is sitting in the dining wagon with his friend, having a nice meal. His friend, Mr. Bouc, I believe, is mentioning to Poirot how nice it is that so many people of different nationalities and class are gathered here together, enjoying their voyage, only to go their separate ways again. Poirot then ventures an alternative turn of events, where all this lovey-dovey harmony is struck down SHOULD someone have a little accident, or you know, get brutally murdered.

What a buzzkill, that Hercule. A little creepy too. There you are eating a nice meal and celebrating the joys of life when your moustached friend starts getting all morbid. Now what Mr. Bouc should have said was probably something like: "Huh? What! Murdered? What are you on about? We're having a nice meal here and you can't shut up about lethal accidents and murder. What the fuck is wrong with you, dude?"

Sure enough, though, Poirot was right, one of those people, did get murdered. Funny how that works. Sometimes I think that Poirot sets up every murder he solves, just for the hell of it. It's awfully suspicious how he's always around murders and when he just plainly starts predicting them out of the blue, I wouldn't feel safe anymore.

There's some flaws in this, sure. Having been written in the 30s, it uses a lot of discriminating stereotypes when it comes to European ethnicities. Italians are passionate people, they stab. English people are basically robots, they'd never stab. Things like that, but in the end all these "facts" are not relevant to the solution, so to me it's only interesting to read a book in the 30s mindset. Besides, I'm Belgian, I come off fucking great. You won't hear me complaining.

Poirot's deductions and revelations are sometimes on the verge of psychic, which, I suppose, somewhat thwarts the reader in his quest to the solution. I did figure out the solution before I finished, but I'm guessing I didn't really solve it but just remembered the unravelling from when I read it so many years ago. I can't imagine that I actually figured it out. Quite unlikely, because, in my vision, it's not really a bad thing that you can't figure out the full array of things, because Poirot is supposed to outsmart everyone. He's supposed to know things you don't know, and draw conclusions you never would. If I weren't hopelessly outsmarted by Hercule Poirot, what kind of life would this be? Who would I look up to? Poirot is smarter than you and that's just how it should be, and I'm glad.

Finally, I'd like to say that I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have enjoyed this nearly as much as if it weren't for David Suchet. Even when Poirot is being a pompous dick, Suchet's comforting face appears in my head and everything he does turns from annoying to eccentrically charming and all is right with the world.

Je vous remercie, monsieur Suchet, mon ami. May your little grey cells continue to rage in full force.


Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk Oh dear. Another rating conundrum. Soooo, Fight Club. This book dives right into the action. In fact, Palahniuk serves us bite sized pieces of plot, packed in chapters. His style is pretty unique, post-modern, shall we say. I did not care for it much at first. I don't think I would've been able to follow very well if I hadn't seen the movie (although the last time I saw it was many years ago). Then you get the violence, then he started namedropping brands and listing formulas for explosions and details about his automobilian line of work. I thought, oh shit, no! Another American Psycho! While that book wasn't half bad. It was half-ruined by this tireless namedropping and description of high-tech stuff (which, due to the book being from 1991 becomes a tad risible, HQ tape decks, fuck yeah!). It also, eventually, managed to bore me with over the top torture, which can't be good.

Anyway, there I was, fearing the worst, and even thinking that for once the movie might have been better than the book, but my worries had been premature. At one point it all clicked, and the namedropping and technical gibberish faded away or was at least used in a stylish way. The book just kept getting better and better. I started to really dig Palahniuk's style of writing and the subject matter was just beyond cool. Dark, cynical and pessimistic? Sign me up!

I finished it and I thought, wow, hey, that was great. This is one I should re-read and then I might even dig the first bits. Oh and I should watch the movie again, haven't seen that in ages. But wait. The movie! The movie I initially thought was going to be superior to this. Hold on. This book was great, but how cool would it have been had I not known most of the plot (albeit vaguely), had I not known the big plot twist (you don't forget a thing like that)? Then this might have been an easy 5.
Sure, there were clues all throughout the book, that pointed towards this solution, but I'm slow, I'm sure I would have been surprised as hell. Like I said, I haven't seen the movie for quite a while, but I do remember some things were different.

I think there was a big explosion at the ending of the movie, with WhereIs My Mind playing. That was cool. In the book he ends up shooting himself and ends up in heaven, which I think is supposed to be a mental hospital. I think Tyler introduces himself as a soap maker on a plane, rather than on a nude beach. I still think the movie was really good, but I can't help but wonder what it would have been like if I hadn't known. It's a bit of a shame. It's also a bit of a shame that no one seems to know the movie was based on a book, which Palahniuk reiterates in a comical fashion in the afterword. I read somewhere on goodreads that he does think the movie is better though. Go figure. I'm sure he would've expected the plot twist as well.


For now I think this floats around the 4.5 mark. Maybe I'll change my mind. Maybe not.


A Wild Sheep Chase - Haruki Murakami, Alfred Birnbaum Murakami's first widely published novel. It took me a while to get into this one, the first 30 pages or so went very slowly. This is the fourth book by him I've read and it seems to me that Murakami wasn't yet running at full speed with this one. All the Murakami-typical elements are here: a cat, solitude, girls, cooking, smoking, drinking and also crazy shit. There are great parts in here: the Dolphin hotel, the chauffeur and the mystery surrounding the man in the black suit and the sheep, the Sheep Man,... but to me it feels like it doesn't really come together. This could be because I have not read the two books leading up to this one, but supposedly it should not be an issue. It does feel quite fragmented, and at times I was was completely at a loss. Now it is not a novelty that Murakami confuses me, but I don't really get what he's trying to convey here as a whole. That might well be faulted completely at my end, though. Mayhap this needs a re-read. And mayhap I need to wildly chase those hard to find first two books of his.

That said, I did enjoy this. Murakami is a fantastic writer, whether I know what he's on about or not. And hey! Sheep. What do you know? Bloody sheep. Not like any of the sheep I've ever known. I can't really think of any cartoon that prominently feature sheep, or even just one. I can't even think of a company logo that uses a sheep. Poor sheep, so underused. Baa. So, in that respect, I am glad I have finally endulged in sheep-themed media. Hooray for sheep!

Anyway, yeah, this was pretty good, and I'll keep working my way through Murakami's oeuvre, because he rocks. Have a 3.5/5.
Het diner - Herman Koch 3.5

Vergeef mij de liefde

Vergeef mij de liefde - Brusselmans H. 3.5/5



1st read: November 2009

11/20/2009 page 954 99.79%
11/08/2009 page 527 55.13%

2nd read: april 2012

Mank

Mank - Herman Brusselmans 3.5
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson, Ralph Steadman Fuck yes.
Watership Down - Richard Adams It's a story about talking bunnies and their adventures. What more do you want?
Watership Down - Richard Adams It's a story about talking bunnies and their adventures. What more do you want?
Moab Is My Washpot - Stephen Fry A book in which Stephen Fry reminisces about his early life and digresses about stuff that comes to mind, a lot. It's brutally honest and self-relativising. Some parts were a little hard to get through, either because I found them boring, or he was referring to things I didn't know, or because I just didn't know what the hell he was on about. Most if it is amusing, interesting and charming in that typical Stephen Fry way. Let's face it, he's a slick bastard. I especially enjoyed his antics and pranks at school. He really manages to capture the feel and dialogue of schoolboys. It's also fun to imagine him reading this in his silky smooth voice that is the best thing to happen to narration since Morgan Freeman. A good read for Fry fans. 3.5 or 4
A Long Way Down - Nick Hornby I feel this book didn't deliver as much as I had hoped. Admittedly, my hopes are always high for Hornby. I really liked the first 150-200 pages but as I was waiting for Hornby's usual insight, I was left sort of empty handed. Well maybe not empty handed. Let's say only one hand was filled. Some characters were rambling on about things that really didn't 'click' with me, I wasn't sure what they were on about sometimes, or sometimes I didn't know why they were going on about it.

Don't get me wrong, I love pointless rambling, but it just wasn't of Hornby's usual level, nearing the end. I still finished this book quite quickly though, and the characters were quite lively painted as usual. Jess did sometimes get a little on my nerves, but that was the point, I'm sure. I was more disappointed about JJ, really. He was the musician, a young guy who had lost faith in music, love and life, but somehow I couldn't relate much to him.

I'd still say this is a quite enjoyable book, especially the first part. It's a quick read and I still adore Hornby's style. The chapters were switched between the characters, each rehashing the events in their own style, which I found quite amusing.

3.5/5
Claudius the God - Robert Graves I picked up I Claudius and Claudius the God, because I remembered really liking the BBC Series, which we watched in Latin Class. I approached the first book with some caution, not sure if they would live up to the TV series, after all, these books were written almost 80 years ago. I was not disappointed. They're great. Really great. It is written in a manner that projects a lot of authenticity, yet very pleasant to read.

'I Claudius' deals with Claudius' childhood up until Caligula's assassination, in the form of an autobiography. 'Claudius the God' describes Claudius' life as emperor of Rome until his death.

It's obvious that Graves knows his stuff and that he has done a lot of research. Granted, he does portray some of the wild stories that Suetonius and the like wrote about as being true, and most historians will tell you to take this with a pinch of salt. But hey, I remember loving those stories in my Latin classes, the crazier the better. I adored Caligula, he was just awesome. Horse elected senator, war against Neptune, oh man. Good stuff.

So many times while reading these, I came upon facts, or names or whatever and I would have an 'ohhhh yeah!' moment and remember things that I'd been taught years ago. These two books are a must-read for people who are interested in Roman stuff. Graves does tend to go into a lot of detail, so make sure you're a total geek before you start. Myself, nine times out of ten, I was very interested. And there's always epic battles, murder, deceit, banishment and adultery to mix things up.

Personally, I enjoyed the first book a little more than the second one, but that might be because the first one has historical V.I.P.'s such as Caligula and Augustus (who is, by the way, probably a little slower and a little more pussywhipped than the real Augustus was), but they are both still very much recommended. By me.

Claudius the God - Robert Graves I picked up I Claudius and Claudius the God, because I remembered really liking the BBC Series, which we watched in Latin Class. I approached the first book with some caution, not sure if they would live up to the TV series, after all, these books were written almost 80 years ago. I was not disappointed. They're great. Really great. It is written in a manner that projects a lot of authenticity, yet very pleasant to read.

'I Claudius' deals with Claudius' childhood up until Caligula's assassination, in the form of an autobiography. 'Claudius the God' describes Claudius' life as emperor of Rome until his death.

It's obvious that Graves knows his stuff and that he has done a lot of research. Granted, he does portray some of the wild stories that Suetonius and the like wrote about as being true, and most historians will tell you to take this with a pinch of salt. But hey, I remember loving those stories in my Latin classes, the crazier the better. I adored Caligula, he was just awesome. Horse elected senator, war against Neptune, oh man. Good stuff.

So many times while reading these, I came upon facts, or names or whatever and I would have an 'ohhhh yeah!' moment and remember things that I'd been taught years ago. These two books are a must-read for people who are interested in Roman stuff. Graves does tend to go into a lot of detail, so make sure you're a total geek before you start. Myself, nine times out of ten, I was very interested. And there's always epic battles, murder, deceit, banishment and adultery to mix things up.

Personally, I enjoyed the first book a little more than the second one, but that might be because the first one has historical V.I.P.'s such as Caligula and Augustus (who is, by the way, probably a little slower and a little more pussywhipped than the real Augustus was), but they are both still very much recommended. By me.