Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bookreview: A Thing of Beauty

Author: Menno Wigman and Rob Schouten (ed.)
Genre: poetry
Published: 2009
Personal rating: 4/5
Yearly count: 10

This book is a collection of the world’s most famous poems. The two editors picked poems of which a sentence (often the first one) is very well known. This gives a really interesting collection of poems. They’re in chronological order of author’s birth year and some authors have several poems in their ‘chapter.’ So it also gives a (somewhat skewed) view of the evolution of poetry.

The way this book is laid out the original text on the left page and the translation on the right. Translations were done by a lot of different people, so it’s not just one translator. Where possible, I read the original text – meaning if the poem was originally in English. What I found out by doing that is that translations don’t really work for poetry. I could definitely see quality differences between the original English text and the translation. There’s already a bit of loss in meaning, humor, and language when translating fiction and those problems are exacerbated when translating poetry. It’s good to keep in mind when reading poetry.

Some of my favorite poets are in this book. Homer, William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Dickinson. I also discovered some new favorites, with Thomas Grey scoring very high with ‘Elegy Written in a Country Graveyard.’ Aside from old and new favorites, I also managed to see differences between poets from different nationalities and in general I responded differently to them. I found out that I don’t really like the French poets. I like the Italians and the English, the old Greek and Latin ones too. The German ones were hit and miss. Asian ones…I don’t really get, most of the time. The worst poem of the entire book was ‘Fisches Nachtgesang’ by Christian Morgenstern, which is…well, just Google it. You’ll see what I mean.

All in all, though, I highly recommend this book. It’s a very good introduction to poetry and it lets you see what you like and what you don’t like. Lovers of poetry will find many of their favorites in here and maybe, like me, discover some new poets to explore.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bookreview: Met de trein door China (By Train Through China)

Author: Jesse Goossens
Genre: non-fiction, travelogue
Published: 1994
Personal rating: 3/5
Yearly count: 9

By Train Through China is perhaps a bit of a misnomer, as the first third of the book the train journey goes through Russia. Still, it’s a nice, quick read. The adventures in the train are the focus, although sometimes an anecdote about time spent in a place between train journeys is give. But while an enjoyable read, there wasn’t anything sparkling in the story. At times it even felt a bit repetitive. I think it might have done better if it hadn’t just focused on the train journeys and also included the stops in between.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bookreview: The Book of Chameleons

Author: Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Genre: literature, magical realism
Published: 2006
Personal rating: 4.5/5
Yearly count: 8

The Book of Chameleons is a difficult book to describe, as it touches on many different elements. On the one hand, it’s a book set in present-day Angola – or present-day when the book was published, which is now almost a decade ago. So it gives a very good, realistic image of what the country is like. On the other hand, it’s a satire that enlarges the issues Angola struggles with to bring attention to it. Add in the fact that the book tells the story in a magical realism way and you’ve got a very unique piece of literature.
I do not want to spoil the story of this book by saying too much about it. It’s not a very long book, but it has quite an impact. The story flows very well and despite the sometimes abrupt shifts from chapter to chapter in events there was never a moment I felt lost as to what was happening. But what I love most of all is the main storyteller in this book. Absolutely brilliant choice. The only reason I did not give this book five stars is because of the ending. I was left with a few questions and I personally don’t like that. I understand this is how the author meant to end it, but I’m not convinced it was the best place to stop. If he’d stopped just one chapter before it would have been a better ending for me. But that’s a personal opinion and others may disagree. Either way, I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bookreview: The Lions of Lucerne

Author: Brad Thor
Genre: thriller
Published: 2002
Personal rating: 5/5
Yearly count: 7

The Lions of Lucerne is a typical thriller – Scot Harvath, an ex-SEAL, now Secret Service agent, must go at it alone in order to rescue the president of the United States. Framed for murder and with two different parties trying to kill him, it’s a constant struggle to stay alive and free so he can clear his name and get the president back. This is not the only book that uses this kind of plot, but when reading this that doesn’t matter. The plot is well executed, with enough tension in it to keep you reading as well as likable characters to play the main parts. I really liked Scot Harvath as a character – he’s competent, sympathetic and interesting. The only little quibble I had was that sometimes Scot is called by his first name in the narrative, while only a paragraph below he’s called by his last name again. It was like the author couldn’t chose whether to have Scot go by his last or first name in the narrative. But that small issue didn’t detract much from the book and I wholeheartedly give it five stars. I’m very much looking forward to reading more in this series.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bookreview: Moon Dance

Author: J.R. Rain
Genre: mystery, detective, fantasy
Published: 2009
Personal rating: 3.5/5
Yearly count: 6

Moon Dance is a detective story with a vampire as a PI. What makes it different is that this vampire had a normal life until six years ago and now Samantha’s life has been turned upside down. There are no sparkling vampire here, nor is the idea of being a vampire treated as something romantic and easy. It’s a great ‘real life’ look into how turning into a vampire would really be. However, during the entire book I felt that the mystery was secondary to Samantha’s life issues and the ending felt rushed. It’s an intriguing book that’s different than most in its genre and I enjoyed it, but not enough to pursue other books in this series.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bookreview: An Undeniable Rogue

Author: Annette Blair
Genre: romance, historical
Published: 2002
Personal rating: 5/5
Yearly count: 5

An Undeniable Rogue is a very nice romance novel. More serious than some of Annette Blair’s other books, but still with plenty of humor in it. What I loved most about this book was its realism. There’s no magical healing of a traumatic past for Sabrina, the female heroine of this tale. The love of a good man does not erase the past, but it does give the strength to move past it and maybe trust again. That is where the strength of this book lies – the realistic evolvement of the relationship. Never mind the subplot, the mystery that wasn’t always as mysterious as the author maybe intended. I loved the characters in this book and I loved the relationship between Sabrina and Gideon. A full five stars for this historical romance.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bookreview: Save with Jamie

Author: Jamie Oliver
Genre: non-fiction, cookbook
Published: 2013
Personal rating: 4/5
Yearly count: 4

This latest book from Jamie Oliver is all about making great tasting meals that don’t cost a lot. It’s also about not wasting food – good for the environment and your wallet. There’s several buying and storing tips throughout the book, as well as ways to deal with ingredients to make them last longer and get the most out of them. He also points out cheaper alternatives to more expensive ingredients, like steaks. In many of his recipes he indicates what else you can use in them, so you can make optimal use of in season vegetables and sales.

There are six main chapters of recipes: vegetables, chicken, beef, pork, lamb and fish. These chapters (except the vegetable chapter) all have the same general lay-out: a main recipe that’s enough to feed 6-8 people and still have leftovers of the meat or fish. Then there are several recipes that use these leftovers. The chapter is topped off with several general recipes. The recipes in the book are for 4, 6, or 8 people generally, but can easily be adapted to other amounts. There’s also a few pages with bonus recipes, for 1 or 2 people. All the way in the back is one page dealing with fruit, which is also the only page that mentions dessert. The final pages in the book give nutritional information about all of the recipes in the book.

I like this book a lot. Unlike several of his other books that contained involved recipes and sometimes harder to get ingredients, I think this one holds a lot of recipes that can be cooked during the week. I made two recipes already, a vegetable one and a chicken recipe, that tasted amazing and weren’t hard to make. The only thing that I missed, especially since this is a book about saving money and wasting less food, is information about freezing the leftovers of whatever recipe you’re making. For instance, I made the recipe sticky chicken and noodles. Could I have frozen my leftovers or would it have become inedible once thawed? How long would it have lasted in the freezer? That’s information I missed, especially since he did include that information for the main recipe where you’re supposed to have leftovers from. But all in all, this is a cookbook I’m definitely going to be cooking from a lot.