5 Best Books … Re-reads

5 Best BooksCassandra of Indie Reader Houston runs the meme: “5 Best Books”. Every week, a different topic is suggested by Cassandra and participants list what they think are the 5 best book for that topic. Click HERE to see the topics for the next few weeks.

This week, the topic is 5 Books that I’ve re-read.

I re-read books regularly. Well, I did until I became a book blogger and had too many books to read for the first time, even. No, it’s not quite true, I do try and re-read a book every now and then, but it happens less often than it used to.

Here are some books that I’ve re-read in the last few years:

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Millennium trilogy by Stieg LarssonI loved reading this series. And I was lucky, because before the third book was translated into English, I had already read the trilogy twice, in Dutch.

I didn’t care too much about the movies, they were OK, but I loved the books.

It’s a mystery about a woman, Lysbet Salander, who is a computer buff but also rather strange. She helps a journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, solve a mystery, but in the second and third book she herself is accused of a crime.

This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes

This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. HomesThis was my first book by A. M. Homes and since then, I’ve read most of the others. I.Love.This.Book. I don’t think I can even say exactly why.

It has something to do with the fact that the main character, who has everything one could ever wish for, in fact has nothing to live for. During the book this changes almost completely around.

The events in the book are slightly improbable but such fun to read. I think I could re-read this book quite regularly and still not get bored.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki MurakamiThis was the first book I read by Murakami (is there something about first books that become favorites?).

It’s a surrealist book, but only very lightly so, the events almost seem possible in the real world.

The story is mysterious and as a reader, you are never in control with Murakami. You have to go with the flow and just see where the story will end. Here’s my review.

Beyond Sleep by W. F. Hermans

Beyond Sleep by W. F. Hermans

W. F. Hermans is a Dutch writer, and this book my all-time favorite book. I have re-read it so often!

The story: A PhD student in Geology goes on a summer trip to Norway to prove a theory. He is suspicious of his fellow team members and of the Norwegian professor who did not provide him with the aerial maps that he was promised.

I love the writing and the story. Nothing goes well for Alfred and somehow, that’s funny! (Sorry, Alfred!).

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Prodigal Summer by Barbara KingsolverA book about nature. Three people play a main role in this book.

I loved the story of Deanna especially. She’s a biologist who spends a year living in a remote cabin in Appalachia, studying wildlife. But she cannot get away from human contact completely, to her great annoyance.

There’s also the story of Lusa, city girl turned farmer when she married a country boy who subsequently died. She tries to keep the farm going even though her in-laws would love her to up and leave.

I read this book twice, but I don’t think it will be long until re-read 2.

What books have you re-read?

5 Best Books … About Real People In Fiction

5 Best BooksCassandra of Indie Reader Houston has started a new meme: “5 Best Books”. Every week, a different topic is suggested by Cassandra and participants list what they think are the 5 best book for that topic. Click HERE to see the topics for the next few weeks.

This week, the topic is 5 Books about real people in fiction.

I don’t actually like to see real people in fiction. In fact, I do avoid it, if I can. Why? Because I’ll remember things about these people that aren’t true. They will not really have said or done exactly what’s in the book, but I may remember it as something they did. And I don’t like that.

But of course, I do sometimes inadvertently come across real people in a novel. If it’s someone I hadn’t heard about in the first place, I don’t actually mind so much, because I can treat it as fiction.

So, here are a few books in which real people make their entrée.

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver In this book, the main character, Harrison Shepherd, spends some time in Mexico where he works for Rivera and Kahlo, painters (that really existed). They take in Lev Trotsky, the communist, after he is on the run from Stalin (this also really happened). Shepherd works as a secretary for Trotsky for a while, still at the Rivera house.

I wasn’t too interested in these real-life people but the book itself was good. It’s about America in the 1950s and includes the “communist threat” where lots of people were arrested for supposedly being communist.

A big tome, this book, but I found it worthwhile.

The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Girl with a Pearl EarringThe story takes place in Delft, in the Netherlands, so it was interesting for me as a native Dutch. The famous painter Johannes Vermeer is a secondary character who paints his maid, Griet and falls in love with her. He paints her – and this painting and the painter really existed.

This is 17th century Netherlands in which nothing is said out loud but everything is implied. Griet has to decide between marrying a butcher’s boy or stay at the household of Vermeer.

The book is written in a very sparse style, very beautifully. It’s slow paced and very atmospheric.

The Women by T. C. Boyle

The Women by T. C. BoyleIn The Women, T. C. Boyle describes the relationships of the famous architect from the first half of the 20th Century, Frank Lloyd Wright, with the four main women in his life.

A lot of the story focuses on the repeating situation where he leaves one woman for the next: How does this affect the woman left behind and how does the new woman fit in his well established life.

It’s a little bit dull (not really a book for “5 Best”), but it stayed with me for a long time. If you have a particular interest in the architect, you’ll like it a lot.

Jpod by Douglas Coupland

Jpod by Douglas CouplandA humorous book about the life of a computer programmer in Canada called Ethan. He works at JPod, a company that make computer games. We read about the working life of him and his co-workers and of his marihuana-growing mother, his often-drunk father, his Chinese criminal “friend” Kam and other interesting characters.

There is a body that needs hiding, a JPod boss that needs rescuing from a factory in China, a lesbian mother (“I’m not a lesbian!”, “No, of course not, mom”). In the end, everyone quits their job at JPod and starts working for Douglas Coupland, who Ethan meets on his trip to China.

So, in this book, the author himself makes an appearance, which I thought was very funny. Well, the whole book was funny. I loved it!

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell I’m afraid this is a little cheat. The “real people” in this book are not real. But they also appear in a different book by this author: Black Swan Green.

In Cloud Atlas, one of the main characters stays at the Belgian house of the composer Vyvyan Ayrs whereas in Black Swan Green, the main character meets the daughter of the Ayrs.

I thought this was great! I love it when characters appear in different books. And actually, somehow I did think Vyvyan Ayrs was a real person (I remember googling him after reading the book).

Cloud Atlas is a complex book, made up of several loosely linked stories from the past to the distant future. I loved it, but it’s not an easy read.

What fiction do you like that has real people in?

5 Best Books … About Love

5 Best BooksThis meme is organised by Cassandra of Indie Reader Houston. Every week, a different topic is suggested by Cassandra and participants list what they think are the 5 best book for that topic. Click HERE to see the topics for the next few weeks.

This week, the topic is 5 Best Books About Love. 

I don’t read a lot of books where love is the main ingredient, but there are enough books where it does play an important role in the story…

Click on the titles to see my review (only organge titles have reviews behind them).

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob deIn the late 18th Century, a Dutch clerk, Jacob de Zoet spends some time in Japan, where he falls in love with a midwife, Orito. She reminds him of his fiancée back at home.

He is fascinated by her and would like to get to know her better, which is not officially allowed and very hard to achieve.

Very well written, interesting era and location, beautiful book.

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Ferney by James Long

Ferney by James LongMike and Gally are looking for a new house in the English countryside when Gally falls in love with a dilapidated cottage. With the cottage, it seems, comes an old man, Ferney.

There is something odd about Ferney. He seems to know things that he could not know. Soon it becomes clear that Gally and Ferney have a long history in past lives. In fact, they used to live in the house that Gally and Mike bought.

An intriguing story!

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The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnival

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnival

Historical Fiction in 1920s China. 17-year old Russian girl, Lydia, is living in destitute circumstances with her alcoholic mother. She steals whenever she can, and one day ends up in a back street where she is attacked by some Chinese men. A young Chinese, Chang An Lo, saves her life and they fall in love.

Of course, their love is forbidden, which makes for a great and adventurous read (and if you like this, there are a few sequels, too).

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Rosie Meadows Regrets by Catherine Alliott

Rosie Meadows Regrets by Catherine Alliott

Rosie Meadows regrets marrying her good for nothing husband. When he dies, the story becomes a whodunnit, but it’s also the story of a widow starting a new life in the country side where she meets a new man.

Things don’t go easy for Rosie, though.

It’s written very fluently and very often I felt compelled to keep reading. Definitely a book for when you have a lot of time, plane, beach, illness, etc.

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Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger

This is such a fun book about vampires and werewolves and a bit of steampunk.

Set in Victorian London, Alexia Tarabotti is a preternatural, whose touch will temporarily take away the supernatural powers of vampires and werewolves.

Alexia kills an unregistered vampire and both she and Lord Maccon of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry are looking into the case. Such a pity they can’t stand each other! Lord Maccon is a big, Scottish werewolf and they come across each other the whole time during the investigation.

A real pity they can’t stand each other! Yes, they really can’t!  A very funny and original book (with a few sequels, too).

What’s your favorite book about love?

5 Best Books … Of 2011… So Far

5 Best BooksThis meme is organised by Cassandra of Indie Reader Houston. Every week, a different topic is suggested by Cassandra and participants list what they think are the 5 best book for that topic. Click HERE to see the topics for the next few weeks.

This week, the topic is 5 Best Books of 2011 … So Far. Cassandra says: Since we’re halfway the year it seems fitting to make a list of what best books we’ve read so far and see how this list changes towards the end of the year.

I’ve read quite a few good books this year already, that were published this year, too. So, it’s easy to come up with 5. Ten, I could do, but it makes such a long list, who will read through all that?

Click on the titles to see my review.

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

Before I go to Sleep by S. J. WatsonThis is a great thriller about a woman who can only remember things for 24 hours. Once she falls asleep, she’ll forget them again. Her husband has to tell her every morning who she is, and who he is.

When she sometimes remembers flashes from the past, she starts to keep a diary, that she reads every day. She realises that her husband isn’t always telling the truth. Is this for her own benefit to keep things simple? Or is there something else behind it?

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The White Devil by Justin Evans

The White Devil by Justin EvansA ghostly thriller about an American boy who spends a year at a private English school, where the poet Byron used to study, too. As he resembles Byron, he is recruited to play the main part in a play about this poet

But killings start to happen and the boy keeps seeing a ghost. It becomes rather scary when he realises his best friends are the next on the killer’s list.

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Caribou Island by David Vann

Caribou Island by David VannLiterary fiction about a couple living in Alaska who decide to temporarily move to an inhabited island and try to live off the land.

It’s been a long-time wish of the man to do this, and the woman goes along with him, but not happily. The sense of location is beautiful, the description of the land is very real.

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Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Blacklands by Belinda BauerA thriller in which a young boy contacts a serial killer in prison. The killer is suspected of having murdered the boy’s brother who is still the number one son in the eyes of his mother and grandmother. The boy hopes to become a hero by finding and digging up the remains of his brother.

A letter correspondence between the boy and the killer begins and a thrilling story follows.

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I Is An Other by James Geary

I Is Another by James GearyThis is a non-fiction book about metaphors.

A metaphor is used when you use unrelated words to describe something. For instance, “My job is a jail” or “She had a bright idea”. A job isn’t literally a jail and an idea can’t emit light.

The psychology behind using metaphors is explained for various areas of our life, such as advertisements, science, innovation, stock market and politics. There is also a chapter on Aspergers and metaphors. Easy to read, full of great insights.

What’s your favorite book for this year so far?

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