Review: I heart Christmas by Lindsey Kelk

I heart xmasTitle: I heart Christmas
Author: Lindsey Kelk
Series: I Heart (#6)
Genre: Chick-lit
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 347
DOP: November 2013
Stars: 4/5

Angela Clark is back and ready to celebrate Christmas in New York, Angela style. But then she gets a new job and Jenny’s got the idea she wants to have babies. If that’s not making her panic yet, Alex decides it’s time to grow up and gives Angela an early Christmas surprise. Louisa shows up with Grace, and her parents invite themselves over for the holidays. Angela’s Christmas promises to fall apart and so Angela does what only Angela does well: ignoring it all.

I stumbled upon this series by a friend’s recommendation a few months back but it wasn’t until the Christmas holidays when I started to read the books, and I fell in love straight away! I couldn’t put them down and once I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of I heart Christmas, it happened all over again.

In this instalment, Angela stays in New York, which differs from the previous five books when she travels to a different city each time. At first, I was a bit sceptical. Why change a vibe that everybody knows (and likes)? We already know New York and we had a Christmas (sort of) there as well. So what could Kelk do to make this one different and still likeable for her fans? The answer is simple: this, and the fact that we already know all the characters, gave Kelk a chance to take it up a notch. The daily drama of Angela’s life is still present but Kelk has added more grown-up related issues in this book. Angela’s story became more developed and kicks away from dramas such as exploding Louboutins (I’m still in shock about that though).

Although some of the issues Angela has to deal with are more evolved, it feels as if she’s stuck, making the same mistakes all over again. She isn’t learning nor growing up. She never seems to realise that the decisions she makes, affect other people too and Alex, bless his perfect little soul, puts up with it every time. I’m sure Kelk does this on purpose but I can’t help but hope that Angela stops making rash decisions or acting spontaneously without thinking of others. Otherwise I fear she might become a flat character and she’s already starting to annoy me. It is easy to hide a flat character if there’s only the one book but in a series, people expect growth and Angela doesn’t do any of that.

Besides that, Lindsey Kelk has a cunning way of making my heart swell with love and warmth for Alex (there’s never enough of him in the books). She makes me snort unlady-like at some of the things Angela gets herself into (something to do with a ventilation system) and she makes me laugh out loud in public, earning me the odd stare. But it’s so worth it! I would recommend the series (and the book!!) in case you haven’t read it yet. It’s fun, it’s heart breaking, it’s sometimes ridiculous (in a good way) and Alex is the boyfriend we all want but can’t find. It’s a great book to settle down with after an exhausting day.

Advertisements

Review: Absolute Power by David Baldacci

Absolute Power Title: Absolute Power (Het recht van de macht)
Author: David Baldacci
Genre: thriller
Publisher: A.W. Bruna Uitgevers, Utrecht
Pages: 468
Date of Publishing: 2012 (first published in 1996)
Stars: 3/5

When Luther witnesses a murder from his hiding spot while on a job, he is horrified to notice who is involved. He decides to get as far away as possible but not without taking a souvenir from the crime scene with him first. Once he’s sorted out his first panic, he starts blackmailing a woman who plays an important part in covering up who’s responsible for the murder. Soon, the fight for justice has begun. But who will have the absolute power? Will Luther succeed to out the killer’s true identity or will he be shut up for eternity?

I’ve heard so many good things about David Badacci’s books so by the time I picked up his first thriller; I was excited to say the least. As the story began, it had all the ingredients to become everything I’d been looking for in a thriller. The tension was building up rapidly from the start and all parties involved were clear from the first moment. However, after that the adrenalin disappeared. One hundred unnecessary pages about an affair that began and ended before it truly began, felt completely pointless within the story. Sometimes, the background information of characters (as how they ended up doing what they did) went on way too long for the story to be fluent and again, without any purpose. I struggled to continue reading this bit and by the time I was halfway through the book, I was literally begging for something to happen. Soon!

And it did. Did I expect it? Not at all! I was shocked, confused and wondered how the story would continue and with the rolling of the ball (finally!), it picked up my interest again. The next thing I knew, the book was finished and I was jumping with satisfaction.

Now, having sobered up from the excitement – in which I nearly forgot about the painful hundred pages – I’ve come to realise that although it wasn’t the worse thriller I have ever read, it’s not particularly the best one either. His characters somewhat bored me and in my opinion, he may have laid down the wrong accents while trying to make the reader empathise with the main characters. I wasn’t interested in Jack’s relationship with a pointless woman. I understand her (little) meaning in the story but was it needed for him to get there in order to help Luther? I’m sure that didn’t make any difference. To me it felt like a way to fill up the pages.

Since this was his first thriller, and he’s sort of big now compared to when this came out, I’ve decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m a true believer that writers grow with each book and learn from their mistakes. So for that, he will receive three stars and I might pick up his next book.

If you’ve read Absolute Power, please let me know your thoughts. Were you somewhat disappointed too? Did you like it? Have you read any of his other books? Are they better? Any recommendations?

Until the next review!

 Fien.

Back from being gone

I apologise.

I could come up with a thousand excuses but the real thing is: life happened. I lost track of time and before I realised it, it was January 2014! Happy new year! I hope it was a night to never forget.

So a new year, a new beginning. I have big plans for this blog, but the first step is all about updating this frequently. And once I’ve managed that, I’ll start the next step of the big plan. Have you noticed the new look? Been playing around on pixlr.com – it’s not what I want, yet, but I’m getting there 🙂 Tell me if you like it or not. Also, all tips and tricks are welcome! Pixlr is a tiny bit confusing, although I’m finally understanding the concept of “layers” – took me about seven years!

There will be a review on a book later this week!

Until then,
keep calm and stay safe.

Love,
Fien

Review: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

her-fearful-symmetry_1Title: Her Fearful Symmetry
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Genre: adult fiction, fantasy, paranormal, mystery
Publisher: Vintage Books London
Date of publishing: 2010 (first published in 1999)
Pages: 482
Stars: 3/5

Favourite quote:
“Something moved. Valentina wasn’t properly awake and saw it without really seeing. She thought it was the Kitten, but the Kitten was sleeping beside her on the bed. Valentina looked harder, and as she did the thing unfolded itself from where it had been sitting by the window and Valentina realised that she was seeing Elspeth. It was like seeing from a distance.” – Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, p295

When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her apartment in London to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina on the condition that their mother never crosses the threshold. Once the twins have arrived, they are met with plenty obstacles, not in the least their fragile bond. Valentine grows more and more annoyed with the dominating nature of her sister and tries to find a way to get rid her. Julia, being pushed aside, finds friendship in their upstairs neighbour Martin while Valentina falls in love with Robert, Elspeth’s lover when she was still alive. But then, strange things start to happen and Valentina feels that they’re not alone. As if someone’s watching them but she cannot see whom…

I am disappointed with this story. I’ve read The Time Traveller’s Wife a few years ago and that book was epic, one of my favourites even, which is a high contrast with what I am feeling now. Maybe I expected too much? Maybe I shouldn’t compare Her Fearful Symmetry with The Time Traveller’s Wife? Because the books have only one thing in common: something happens that most people would consider impossible.

What bothered me the most were the rules of paranormal activity in the book. Or lack of, I suppose. I don’t mind if an author creates their own world but the rules should be consequent and not change whenever it pleases the story. If a ghost is restricted to an area where it may haunt, then to me it’s restricted to that area for all eternity until it finds a way to move on. Not by compressing itself in one’s mouth. Seriously? And without explanation even?

Rationality was far fetched in this story as well. I simply can’t understand nor agree with Elspeth’s and Robert’s motivation to continue with what Valentina wants in order to break away from her dominating sister. Who in their right mind would? Honestly? No one. Especially not Elspeth, in my opinion. In addition, I never felt connected with a character and although I don’t necessarily feel the need to have to go through the same thing to connect, the way characters behave, react and think has to be plausible in my head. Only Martin felt in a certain way real. Even though his OCD made me raise an eyebrow or two. Someone who can’t leave his apartment but can travel to Amsterdam without going outside first to test the waters? Hmm.

Okay, the basic idea of the story was…acceptable. If you look past the, sometimes weird, reasoning of the characters, there is a lot more going on. Love played a central role. In some cases it created strength to experience new opportunities but in other cases, it was capable of ruining the foundations of a relationship when it was taken to an obsessive level and that’s what Audrey Niffenegger told us so subtly. Her descriptions are so beautiful and spot on, which gives this story at least enough beauty to earn three stars. It wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t good. It was simply okay. There were a few twists that I didn’t expect but unfortunately the reasoning of the characters was weak, confusing and selfish.

She has a new book out since the beginning of May: Raven Girl
Has anyone already read it? If so, did you like it? Do you recommend reading it? I’m not sure if I want to indulge into this one after reading Her Fearful Symmetry. The summary sounds too weird for my liking but I could be horribly wrong, of course.

Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

The Tenant of Wildfell HallTitle: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Author: Anne Brontë
Published: 1848
Genre: literature, romance, 19th century, historical fiction

Favourite quote:
He dislikes me to have any pleasure but in himself, any shadow of homage or kindness but such as he chooses to vouchsafe: he knows he is my sun, but when he chooses to withhold his light, he would have my sky to be all darkness; he cannot bear that I should have a moon to mitigate the deprivation. This is unjust.
 – p254 (Helen Huntingdon)

As controversial as The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was at its time of publishing, it is as much loved, if not more, compared to Anne Brontë’s sisters’ works now in my opinion. Published in the Victorian era when women had not much to say, Helen Huntingdon (or Mrs Graham as she is first introduced) is a woman ahead of her time. She’s a mystery to Gilbert when she arrives as the tenant of Wildfell Hall and when a mysterious woman appears in a small town, the gossipmongers dig deep. Accusing her of having an affair with Gilbert’s friend, and Gilbert being in love with Helen, Gilbert is determined not to believe any of it. And then he discovers that where there’s smoke, there’s also a fire. It’s only after a passionate (for its time) discussion with Helen, that she shows her inner thoughts and feelings and that her secrets are finally slowly revealed.

The story had a slow beginning but as soon as I was being pulled in Helen’s life, the pages were quickly turned. As it touched themes such as abuse, alcoholism and feminism, there was only one thing left for me to do: fall in love with the book. I originally thought that Helen was a passive character but I was wrong. She probably had more strength than I could ever have. She struggled with what was expected from her by society and what she thought would be better for her and her child. When she finally decided to defy her husband, and thus society, I appreciated her even more.

It’s easy to understand why this novel didn’t receive the appreciation that it should have had. A woman wasn’t supposed to stand up for herself or deny her husband. Add the fact that the men were portrayed as drunken selfish swains, and the worst swain being her husband Arthur, and I suppose you have the perfect Shock the Culture cocktail.

Although I truly admire Anne Brontë’s courage to publish a novel like this, the love story didn’t meet my expectations. I’ve read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë early 2012 and although that felt over the top dramatized, I’m sure Anne could have used 10% of that drama to add to her own storyline. The relationship between Gilbert and Helen felt at the least…stretched. If it hadn’t been literally written down for me to read and know, I would have never thought Helen felt the slightest emotions towards Gilbert. This resulted into the fact that the ending left me hungry for more. Negatively. I couldn’t believe the relationship as it felt rushed. Therefore, I can only give 4/5 for the whole story.

If you ever feel the need to read a classic by the Brontë’s sisters, then I definitely recommend you this one (in comparison with Wuthering Heights). It’s not as known but definitely better in more than one way.

Literaire Lente 2013

De literaire lente is weer van start en hoewel het buiten regent, waait en sneeuwt, krijg ik al de kriebels om een boek vast te nemen en een plekje in het zonnetje te vinden. De zon zal ik deze keer moeten verzinnen maar de boeken die liggen alvast te wachten. De literaire lente duurt twee weken (van 16 maart tot en met 30 maart) en ik hoop dan ook om mijn steentje bij te dragen tijdens deze periode. Om onze Nederlandstalige auteurs een beetje te sponsoren, ben ik van plan om deze week mijn lokale Standaard Boekhandel een bezoekje te brengen. Welk boek ik ga nemen, dat weet ik nog niet, maar ik ben wel benieuwd naar het geschenkboek van dit jaar dat je bij aankoop van literatuur vanaf €12,50 gratis krijgt. Dit wordt geschonken door de Nederlander Kees van Kooten (een cabaretier en schrijver) die een speurtocht naar zijn familiegeschiedenis heeft neergepend in het boek De verrekijker. De schrijver is mij onbekend maar ik sta altijd open voor het ontdekken van nieuwe dingen. Een klein beetje avontuur kan nooit kwaad en wie weet heeft hij er binnenkort een nieuwe fan bij.

Tot schrijfs,

Fien

P.S. Momenteel ligt Her Fearful Symmetry door Audrey Niffenegger op mijn nachtkastje.

Exploring new worlds one book at the time