Book reviews: Don Quichote & Night Film

As many of you may (or may not) know, I love to read books (fiction books that is, never really ventured into non-fiction territory to be honest). My pile of to-read-books has shrunk a little bit since my last update, so I thought I would share my thoughts about two books I’ve read the past couple of months.

There are some spoilers in these reviews, so if you want to read any of these books without prejudice, I suggest you skip these!

1. Don Quichote – Cervantes
This one is a lie actually: I haven’t finished it. I stranded on page 111 of this 785-page thick book a couple of weeks ago and I just had to put it down for a while. The story is about a Spanish nobleman who’s obsessed with tales of medieval chivalry, when one day he decides to take matter into his own hands and become the greatest knight of La Mancha. His new purpose in life is to fight injustice and to one day become very famous for his good deeds. Together with his squire, Sancho Panza, he hits the road fighting giants, criminals and joining armies in the greatest fight of their lives. Or at least he thinks so. In reality he’s fighting windmills, priests and tries to butcher a flock of sheep. Although this all sounds very promising, nothing really happens besides him and his squire getting beat up again, and again, and again and again. The repetitiveness of the story annoys me so much that I just had to take a break. I should maybe give it some slack as it is an almost 400-year old story and is in no way in compliance with ‘literature standards‘ these days, but with still a rough 600 pages to go, I was afraid I wouldn’t get much more out of it than Don Quichote, getting his ass kicked due to his brain gone insane. I know I should persevere and read that book to the last page, and one day I will. But for now I just have other interesting books lying around that don’t take me months to finish.

2. Night Film – Marisha Pessl
Oh how I’ve waited for this followup to Special Topics in Calamity Physics, basically my holy grail book in high school. You can imagine expectations were very high and, to be honest, weren’t entirely fulfilled. The story itself immediately got me hooked: disgraced journalist Scott McGrath investigates the death of Ashley Cordova, daughter of the infamous and mysterious director Stanislas Cordiva, known for his dark and macabre movies and adored by hundreds of fans called Cordovites. Scott and his two sidekicks are trying to figure out the truth, piece by piece, and get sucked into this world of demonic withcraft – and that’s where I got lost. I just couldn’t believe that this dark magical world, where Marish Pessl was leading me into, was true. I just couldn’t, not after reading Special Topics, which to me had a total different mindset than Night Film, one that, I believe, suited me better. So when at the end of the book, the reader got to choose between two different realities – the dark magical truth or the rational scientific truth – I chose 100% for the second believable reality.

This ultimatum reminded me of Life of Pi (one of the best stories I’ve read btw. If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch it and read the book instead), where, after the revelation that Pi’s story might not be the incredible journey he’s told you about, your mind is just blown and you can’t think about anything else or pick up another book after this huge bomb that has dropped and shattered your beliefs and everything you thought was real.
Well, I didn’t have this at all with Night Film, and this is why this book wasn’t such a hit for me. It put so much effort into trying to make us believe that his whole fucked up history about spells and witchcraft was true, that, when it turned out that there might be a different explanation to it, I was just like: oh, thought so. And that was it. No bomb, no minds that were blown, no disbelief.
Is Night Film therefore a bad read? No, it’s not. If you want to get lost and get carried away, you should definitely give it a try. Will it be the best thing you’ve ever and are going to read? Probably not.

Lastly, there’s actually another book that’s disappeared from my to-read-pile, and that is Heldere Hemel by Tom Lanoye. I don’t think it has been translated into English, so I’m going to keep it short: the story is based on an accident that occurred in 1989, when an unmanned Russian jet fighter crashed into a house in rural Belgium. The story is told from the viewpoint of different characters: the pilot of the jet, two people working at NATO and Vera, resident of said house and currently trying to separate from her cheating husband, and their hippie-son. With its 92 pages it is a short, but enjoyable read. I wasn’t a big fan of Belgian/Dutch author to be honest: based upon books I’ve read in high school, I thought of Duth/Belgian literature as mostly depressing, pessimistic and some of them were just oozing with sexual frustration. But this book surprised me and made me realize that I definitely have lived with a wrong prejudice about Dutch/Belgian literature for years and that I should give them another chance. Which I have btw! Started reading Post Mortem by Peter Terrin yesterday. – So proud of myself.

Any of you had any good reads the past couple of months? Any life changing or disappointing stories you absolutely want to share? Feel free to do so!

Talk to you next time!
Janice

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Sunny day in June

Summer finally decided to hit Ghent, so my boyfriend and I decided to take a break from analyzing data and went into town

We decided on a whim to visit the Belfry, one of Ghent’s famous medieval towers that overlooks the city. The fact that I’ve been living in Ghent for four years now without having a decent view of the city centre, felt like such a shame to me, that I decided now was the time to be all touristy and climb up the tower to the top.

Sint-Baafs

The Saint Bavo Cathedral, almost packed and ready to be renovated.


On the other side, you can see the Saint Nicholas’ Church. The recently constructed park in front of it, is where we had our little afternoon pick nick.

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon with Starbucks Frappuccino’s and a very disgusting snack which is supposed to be an apple donut (Do not get this, ever! It’s so bad). I also started reading the 1Q84-trilogy by Haruki Murakami. I know, I’m pretty late to jump on the band wagon, but better late than never right? I’m loving the story so far, and been very intrigued by the personalities of Aomame and Fuka-Eri. It’s been a constant in my life: whenever I’m reading a book or seeing a movie or series, either the very powerful girls and women or the very bizarre and strange ones are my favorites.


Enjoy the rest of your week. Talk to you soon xx

Antwerp Book Festival

So, one thing you need to know about me, is that I love books. I used to read a lot when I was in primary school. I would go to the library every week and bring back heaps of books and just sit in my corner and read. That’s all I did, reading. When I grew older, my interest in reading and books in general disappeared – guess I had other, more important teenage stuff on my mind.

But that all changed in my last year of high school. My Dutch teacher, who was actually kind of an ass, got me back to reading. He taught everyone in class about classic literature. Whether it’d be famous Belgian, English or Russian authors, we all had to cram them in our heads for what probably was the most feared exam by all seniors that year.

Although I didn’t really like the classes, I just couldn’t wait to run to the library or bookstore again and purchase all these books that I’ve been learning about! This feeling got even stronger when I discovered the new and upcoming blogosphere, where I discovered even more books I wanted to read. After a while I finally purchased the first books in my new ‘literary life’ : Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by J.S. Foer and Special Topics on Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (can’t wait for her new book Night Film to come out!). And many more were to follow.

And that was the start of my now humble collection of books. I hope one day I can fill an entire Billy-bookcase (specifically this very nice special edition).

Now to get to the actual point of this blogpost: I went to a Book Festival in Antwerp on Thursday, where book publishers sell their stock at lower prices. Last time I went to one of these book sales, I scored pretty good. So that’s why I decided to hop on a train to Antwerp and get as many books on a budget of 20 euro’s. Here’s what I brought home with me:
Books 1

1. Frida Kahlo, een vrouw (Frida Kahlo, a woman) by Rauda Jamis: a biography of the famous Frida Kahlo.
2. Eén voet verkeerd (One foot wrong) by Sofie Laguna: hadn’t heard about his author or book before, but for some reason I was drawn to this book.
3. Heldere Hemel by Tom Lanoye: this book I actually got for free. Visitors got send a voucher which you could trade for one of the selected books at the counter. Most of them were crap (which was expected) except for this one. Tom Lanoye is probably the most-read Belgian author in Dutch-speaking regions and has published a lot of award-winning stories. So I was pretty excited to get his most recent piece of work.
4. Don Quixote by Cervantes: after hearing my Dutch teacher in senior year in high school rave about this book, it’s been on my to-read-list ever since.
5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert: another classic I’ve got to know at high school, this time in my senior French class. I know I’m actually supposed to read this in French, but I don’t think I’d be able to fully understand it after not reading, speaking or hearing French for four years now.
6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: another classic that’s been on my to-read-list.
7. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: can you believe I’ve never read Alice in Wonderland? Or seen the Disney-version of it? Shame on me, I know!
8. This Side of Paradise & The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald: two other classics on my list.
9. The Great Comedies and Tragedies by Shakespeare: this collection just deserves a spot in my future Billy-bookcase. Probably won’t read it overnight though.
10. Lying Together by Gaynor Arnold: didn’t know this author or book either, I was just drawn to it for some reason. You see, you can’t be picky at these book sales, you just get what you like and hope it will be good.

All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with my purchases. I walked out of that Expo with a huge smile on my face (which no rain shower could wash off that day). But I am definitely on a book-buying-ban. You’ll understand once you see my growing pile of books I still need to read:

Books2

Yes, I know. I just keep buying books and don’t have time enough to read them all. But now I will wait to expand my collection until I’ve read all of these pictured above (well, except for when Night Film comes out in August – but that’s my only exception!). I’ve read the parody Fifty Shames of Earl Grey today (which was meh) and tomorrow I’ll start reading Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I will read them all!

How about you guys? Also an avid reader? How big is your to-read-pile?

Catch you later!

Janice xx

The World Book of Love & You Are Awesome

Books

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I celebrated our 6 month anniversary. Although we decided not to give each other gifts, the sneaky bastard got me some anyway. Above on the left, you can see The World Book of Love, a book I’ve been eyeing for quite a while now. This book basically collects a 1000 views and ideas of professors and theoretici about the science and mystery that is called love. Haven’t read it yet (shame on me, I know), but I can’t wait to start and read one theory a day, before heading to bed.

Next up is a craftsbook called ‘You Are Awesome‘. It explains 21 DIY you can easily do in your spare time. Thinking about customizing some wooden clothespins, as seen on the cover, as my next DIY project. Would be perfect to hang my polaroids I took with my FUJI instax-camera I bought myself as a Christmas-present. Love that camera so much!

Talk to you soon!

Janice xx