:: Quick Lit July ::

Finally, summer holidays! We started with two weeks in France, where my only fixed plan was to find a little town with a bookstore and take any recommendation on French authors. Well, that worked. One question and I had my arms full of lovely French pockets, including a title that was recommended to me by another client in the bookstore. I just love that. I have read a lot, but in little chunks. My e-reader was packed with non fiction, mostly about green, frugal, simple living and related topics.

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Amerikanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I have seen this title mentioned on so many places and was glad to find out that it has been translated. It was a good read to me. Relevant, personal, witty and sharp. Slightly uncomfortable at the same time. Reading from a very white-privilege perspective, I’m not completely sure if my description is okay. I mean: to me, race doesn’t matter. But then again, as is stated in the book: I can only say that speaking from that white-privilege point of view. Anyway: it was good writing, a good story, and it sticks.

 

The Simple Home
Down to earth – both by Rhonda Hetzel

I devored the first one and immediately bought the second one (mentioned, that is. Down to earth chronologically came first). I follow Rhonda’s blog for a long time now, it was one of the first blogs I consistently read and I enjoyed the (now stopped) forum. She has a way of writing that is firm yet motherly and warm. Very encouraging, and therefore very inspiring. If I smiled doing three loads of laundry today, it’s because of her.  (Okay and because I don’t mind doing laundry as long as I don’t have to iron it lol).

 

Mémé dans les orties – Aurélie Valognes

One of the recommendations in the French bookstore. Finished it in a few hours. Lovely story, although a tad cheesy at the end. Grumpy old man meets witty little neighbour girl and slowly starts to see a bit of light in life again. It’s about purpose and relationships, but there are enough surprising twists and turns to keep it interesting. Good read!

 

Want more reading inspiration? Check the Modern Mrs Darcy linkup. And while you’re at it, check her whole site. If you’re not inspired by then, I don’t know!

What have you been reading lately?

 

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:: Quick Lit May ::

While I had the project to work on a book blog in my mother tongue, I don’t seem able to really commit, mainly because it’s hard to find the time and the inner peace needed for some uninterrupted reading. I don’t have problems with reading small chunks, but larger blocks of time help a lot to make some progress.
The last few weeks were all about short chapters and a few pages here and there. I didn’t finish many books, but I have been reading quite often. Let me show you:

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On my e-reader I downloaded Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. I’m still reading it, and while I think it will be very hard to implement much of it into my daily life, it gave me a lot to ponder. I’m only three chapters in and I finally had the urge to clean out the room of our toddler girl. I did the same thing for the preschooler in the house and I already see great improvement: he goes to his room more often for some independent play. I’m highlighting while reading and I’m sure to come back to give a more in-depth review of this book and the lessons I took from it, once finished. If you can’t wait and are interested: Meagan from Whole Family Rhythms has a series in which she discusses the book chapter by chapter.

 

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I finished two novels this month. One is actually a secret – an author asked to read it and give my honest opinion (I still have to make time to give my feedback) . While I was hesitant at first and thought his story could use some decent editing, his use of short chapters pulled me into his narrative and I ended up finding it an enjoyable read (it’s a heavy subject though).

 

The second one is The Truth by Michael Palin. I randomly picked it up from a library shelf and I am glad I did. It was maybe slightly predictable but I appreciated this story about a man, plain midlife crisis, trying to live up to his once big ideals, hoping there is still enough left of them to make the right decisions.

 

I still have De Ommegang, the newest one of Jan Van Aken on my bedside table. He’s a Dutch historical fiction writer (as far as I know his work has not been translated). There is some reading progress but it is a slow read and I’m not sure yet if I will finish it.
A book I abandoned although I was really eager to read it, is Over oude wegen (on ancient roads, also untranslated) by Mathijs Deen. I was expecting more fictional storytelling on a historical canvas, but got a bit disappointed. I guess it’s not a bad book, it’s just not what I was hoping it would be.

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Lately I’ve been enjoying rereading one of my own favorites as a child with my boy: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. I sometimes have to adapt the vocabulary a little while reading and some of the stereotypes make me shiver now. We both love it as a bedtime story book and I’m proud to tell that my son requested it himself!

Our current favorite picture book is also a reread: Guess how much I love you by Sam Mc Bratney and Anita Jeram. My boy read it at school for Mother’s Day and all children got a copy as a present. Even if it’s everywhere and completely commercialized now, I still love the beautiful heartwarming story about the little rabbit and his father.

 

 

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The youngest kid in the house is loving her books lately. I’ve drastically reduced the pile of books in the living room and now she has a few favorites left that she loves to bring us (that includes me, my husband and her big brother, who takes his job very seriously!). Because she knows them well, she starts using some of the words in it herself and my heart always swells with pride. I love it, those first steps in verbal communication! She’s really fond of the story of Max and his pacifier by Barbro Lindgren and Eva Eriksson (I can’t find that one in English though, but it is a series and I think in English the main character is called Sam), but also a word book with her favorite clown (Bumba, a rather loud and annoying television character here in Belgium. It’s supposed to be educational but it uses made-up words all the time. The thing is: the kids love it. Adore it. *sigh*) and a lovely little book by Fleur van der Weel that tells the day of the cute cat Piep.

 

What have you been reading lately?

:: summer reading ::

Because books are a uniquely portable magic. (Stephen King)

I’m an avid reader, but I’m easily tempted to stick to the screen. This summer I promised myself to read more books and not only fantasy novels. I thought one book a week would be manageable and it was. I really enjoyed my summer reading and hope to keep up the rhythm for the time to come. Even if there will be probably a complete lack of sleep involved and a lot of diaper changing…

 

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First of all, fantasy. I really love that genre, it lets me escape. I prefer a good series above individual books. Maybe because it gives me the chance to completely go under in a new world. Naomi Novik  for me really has been a revelation. I’ve finished the fourth book of her series about the dragon Temeraire and I’m eager to continue. Alas, someone else is enjoying the fifth part right now, so I’ll have to wait a little longer for it to arrive in my library. What I like about it most, is the way the characters are deep and sophisticated where needed without overdoing it, and the setting that feels historical even when it isn’t completely (I mean, Napoleon fighting wars with dragons against the English with their own army supported by dragons…).
Less impressed I am with the second series I started this summer, it’s the Bitterbynde Trilogy by Cecilia Dart-Thornton. The first book got me though, it’s the second that was slightly disappointing. She has a way of weaving ancient tales through her stories, but it isn’t as subtle as I would like. At the end of the second book there were two fairy tales used to get her story together. It was a bit much for me and I didn’t like the way it turned out. In the first book it’s about a child, completely deformed, completely lost her memory and her ability to talk. In the second book everything turns out for the best, but she’s still haunted by her lost memory and scary creatures. I have the last book here, but when I read the first chapter, I don’t know if I will finish it…

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Then there are a few books that are written in Dutch, my mother tongue, and not translated (yet). 30 is een schoon getal (30 is a beautiful number) by Frauke Joossen is a book that did get a lot of great reviews. I, on the other hand, didn’t like it at all. For me it was a bit too cynical, in a way I could have written it myself. Ok, that sounds arrogant. But what I love about reading, is that I can fall in love with the style. I want to read words and sentences of which I wished I had invented them myself. Not because they’re difficult, but because the use of very normal everyday language has a kind of poetry in itself. But I sat it out until the end and the author has managed to surprise me anyway. A bit of research learned me that she’s a journalist for the magazines in which I read the reviews… maybe that explains my somewhat divergent opinion.
De moeder van Ikabod by the known Maarten ‘t Hart is a collection of short stories. I enjoyed them, but couldn’t retell any of them.

And then De rode droom (the red dream) is a reread. The author, J. Bernlef,  passed away in 2012, and it’s one of my favorite authors ever. You really should check out his translated work if Dutch is not your language. The book is about two men who try to survive in a state that used to be communist. They see how the world has changed, and how it impacts them deeply, but they long for the ideals that came with the everyday life they once knew.
I really loved the book, because it’s so typical for Bernlef. He has a simple writing style and knows how to evoke with just the right words a whole setting. I discovered the man in high school, when we had to read Hersenschimmen (Out of Mind). I was completely flabbergasted by that book. I might reread that one soon too.

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And last but nog least, four novels that, each in their own special way, made me happy to be a reader. I started the summer with All that is solid melts into air by Darragh McKeon. Oh lord, that book really hit me in the face. It tells about the gigantic cover-up operation after the Chernobyl disaster and the going-down of the Soviet Union, through the stories of ordinary people that aren’t ordinary because, you know, people just never are. To me, this book is frighteningly applicable to today.

With The war of Don Emmanuel’s nether parts, Louis de Bernières threw me back to my college years, when Latin-America seemed just around the corner to me. I studied French-Spanish and there is something with Hispanic literature that makes me feel at home. And de Bernières did very well in translating the inspiration he got from Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I love the style, the setting, and the way he makes that enormous amount of story lines click together. Irony is never far away, and it just works.

The house of special purpose wasn’t the book I intended to read from Joh Boyne, but I’m glad I did anyway. It’s just that I should have seen coming the end way before I actually did. It’s quite predictable, but it didn’t matter at all. It’s well written and a lovely story.

And finally The Illegal, by Lawrence Hill, left me godsmacked too. Because it’s real. It’s happening. Because it’s not just a story, it could be the story of any many talented kid that gets here and tries to make the best of his life. And while I’m willing to trust our government and leaders, I think in many cases corruption makes the situation of those kids even sadder and more unpredictable.

 

So far for my summer in books. As I want to keep up in the months to come, I’d always be happy to take your advice. What book did you enjoy the most this summer?

 

 

 

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