donderdag 25 juli 2013

Review "Jack and the Jungle Lion" + "The Elephants of Shanghai"

Some information

Title: The Elephants of Shanghai
Author: Stephen Jared
Pages: 276
Genre: Adventure
Published: May 2013
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
My Scource: Author (thank you!)
My score on Goodreads: 4 stars


It’s 1942. With war raging, and millions of lives hanging in the balance, the world faces an urgent need for chin-up heroics. Having barely escaped South American headhunters in his last adventure, Jack Hunter seizes the chance to prove his courage. He uses “skills” picked up as a former actor so he can pretend to be a Chicago gangster and pursue spies collaborating with the mob.
A bold plan, however, is not always a clever plan, and when Jack goes missing hope falls on Maxine Daniels, the great love of his life, to pick up a trail that leads all the way to Shanghai, China. Once there, she finds Jack in a race against time involving priceless jewels, secret weapons, a mysterious Chinese singer, and a fiendish warlord. 
It’s been five years since they survived the Amazon. This time Jack and Max set out to save more than each other – and end up facing a greater danger than they ever could have imagined.
Also included, a book bonus – Jack and the Jungle Lion, Jack Hunter’s first adventure.

Rave Reviews for Jack and the Jungle Lion…

"I was delighted with it from page one to the end. It's amusing, rollicking tale will make you nostalgic for the old days of glitzy Hollywood when fantasy and reality were often too close to tell apart." – Ron Fortier, Pulp Fiction Reviews

"... has the crackle and snap of a thirties comedy. There's also plenty of the cliff-hanging action of a Saturday morning serial." – Kendahl Cruver, A Classic Movie Blog dot Com

"Here's a debut novel that will knock your socks off. The pacing is spot-on, the characters believable and endearing, the action jumping off the page. Stephen Jared has just staked his claim as a pre-eminent voice in the growing legion of writers producing retro style adventures. Jack and the Jungle Lion is a topnotch entertainment." – Errol Flynn biographer Thomas McNulty

"Jack and the Jungle Lion may be an affectionate tribute to adventure serials and screwball comedies of the 1930s, but it stands on its own as a great fun read. The story is as entertaining as it is refreshingly free of cynicism. I loved Stephen Jared's first novel, and sincerely hope it's not his last." – Indiana Jones and Star Wars author, Ryder Windham

My review

Reading this book was like watching an old movie like Casablanca. From the beginning on I noticed the ability of our author, Stephen Jared, to picture a whole scene without using too many words or long descriptions. He seems to know the just amount of words/sentences needed to bring a story to live and give us the feeling we are in this story as well. Being an actor himself, Stephen did a very good job in depicting his main character Jack Hunter as an actor too. Thing is I had the feeling we only got to know the "star" Jack Hunter and it was hard to discover his true feelings although they sometimes slipped through. We know he loves Maxine Daniels, but that's all. We don't know his favorite food, color, music,... Just NOTHING! Maybe the author did this on purpose. "Jack and the Jungle Lion" as well as "The Elephants of Shanghai" start with a little introduction. An unknown person (and I often wondered who he/she could be) lets us know he/she will tell us Jacks story just like Jack told him/her. It is possible this narrator doesn't know more personal details about Jack. He also says in the beginning: "Everyone liked Jack Hunter. The whole world knew him - or thought they did. His movies were marvels of light-hearted heroics, quick wit, and charm, each almost perfect portraits of the dashing star himself." (p. 11) Maybe Jack didn't mention personal details while he told his story because he wanted to focus on his heroic deeds. 

As mentioned above, this book consists of two stories. You start with "Jack and the Jungle Lion" and you end with "The Elephants of Shanghai". I have to admit I liked the first book a little more. The story just seemed to be a little more coherent while the second book raised a lot of questions. In the first one we get to know Jack and Maxine. He's the movie star who catches a plane to his new film set, meets the animal trainer Maxine, falls in love with her and accidentally falls into a big adventure with her. Ok, we all get that. The second story though has nothing to do with Jack as a movie star. Now he just tries to be a "real" hero, he wants to save the world for real,... I didn't get it completely although Jack tried to explain Maxine why he changed so much. He didn't want to be useless, he wanted to mean something and help people. Hmmmm... Maybe author Stephen Jared could have wrote this story linking it to a new movie Jack was going to appear in. Now our main character just seems so different. He has a whole new idea of the world and his role in it and we didn't even notice this change in him. We just had to discover it when he already thought different on things.

Besides this difference there was one other thing I didn't like switching from the first to the second book. In "Jack and the Jungle Lion" we also meet Maxines adopted children (the cousins she takes care of after her sister died in an accident). Lindy and Tyler are great characters. Two honest children who adore their auntie and admire the "hero" who accompagnies them on their unsuspected trip through the Amazon. In "The Elephants of Shanghai" Lindy and Tyler are only mentioned in the beginning but they don't play a role in the rest of this story. That's a shame because they made the first one lighter to read. They also were a great help to Jack in the first book. Luckily Jack always meets a young boy with a piece of clothing that's too large. In the first book it's a boy who wears the hat of Clancy, the pilot who's also in this adventure. In the second book it's a boy with a part of a too large suit. Both of these children help Jack and his friends to get out of the awkward circumstances they're in.

I know it seems like all I do is complaining about the fact I didn't like the second book as much as the first one. But I gave 4 stars and did that with a reason. I really enjoyed reading these books. Even though the second one was a little more chaotic than the first one, I liked the story. Even though I didn't always had the feeling I knew the characters, I liked them. (couldn't always connect with them because of the lack of info, but in these circumstances (having an actor as main character, having somebody else telling us the story) I didn't mind)
I recommand this book to all kinds of readers because it's a story with love and action in it. Also it's written in a beautiful way and I really believe Stephen Jared has a gift for telling stories and bringing big adventures to live. 

P.S. What a beautiful cover!!!

woensdag 24 juli 2013

Waiting on Wednesday 24/07

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Bloggers have to put an upcoming book they'd like to read in the spotlights.

This week I chose:  A Bride for Keeps
by Melissa Jagears

Title: A Bride For Keeps
Author: Melissa Jagears
Genre: Romance, Country
Pages: 336
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: October 1st, 2013
Goodreads & Amazon

What's it about?

A Tender Tale of Love on the Prairie Perfect for CBA Readers 

Although Everett Cline can hardly keep up with the demands of his homestead, he won't humiliate himself by looking for a helpmate ever again--not after being jilted by three mail-order brides. When a well-meaning neighbor goes behind his back to bring yet another mail-order bride to town, he has good reason to doubt it will work, especially after getting a glimpse at the woman in question. She's the prettiest woman he's ever seen, and it's just not possible she's there to marry a simple homesteader like him. 
Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. Having finally worked up the courage to leave her life in Massachusetts, she's determined to find a place where people will value her for more than her looks. Having run out of all other options, Julia resorts to a mail-order marriage in far-away Kansas. 

Everett is skeptical a cultured woman like Julia could be happy in a life on the plains, while Julia, deeply wounded by a past relationship, is skittish at the idea of marriage at all. When, despite their hesitations, they agree to a marriage in name only, neither one is prepared for the feelings that soon arise to complicate their arrangement. Can two people accustomed to keeping their distance let the barricades around their hearts down long enough to fall in love?

Although I normally don't read books like this, I have to say this one has caught my attention. I love the story and it looks to me as if you'll have to cry a little when you read this book. I don't know the author, so I have no idea if her writing is something I might like, but I think I just need to try this book when it's released!
Have to say I don't like the cover at all. It's just so... I don't know... typical for this genre? A man looking back (past troubles him), a woman who's trying to look at the future and will be the rescue of this man... Or something like that? 

dinsdag 23 juli 2013

Top Ten Tuesday 23/07

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme (and one that I really like) hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week bloggers have to make a top ten concerning the topic of that week. This week the topic iiiiissss:

Top ten words/topics that make you NOT pick up a book

Wow, this is really difficult for me. It's easy to come up with five words/topics, but the other five seem to be a huge stumbling block. There are a few things I don't like in books, but when I have to sum them up, it just seems like I love aaaaall kinds of books and there aren't so many topics that stop me from picking one up. Yet I have to choose ten things and here they are (not in order of "importance"):

I really don't know why I don't like to read stories with Zombies in them because I like movies and TV series about them. I'm a huuuge Jane Austen fan and when I leave a book based on Austen behind because there are Zombies in it, that says enough...

What can I say? I'm just not interested in them. A lot of people believe that everybody needs to be involved with politics, but I say "Hey it's ok if you don't and especially if you don't want to read books about it" ;)

I just can't connect with characters who travel in time. Maybe I will when it becomes possible to actually travel in time. I need books I can believe (that's not always true, but you know what I mean)...

I saw this topic in the list of our host and I have to say the same thing. I'm not at a point in my life where I'm thinking of becoming a mother. In the future this will change for sure, but for now: naaah, not my thing ;)

I don't like this genre for the same reason as time travel. Most of the time I can't connect with Sci-Fi stories because they are/seem so unreal. Also in movies I don't like the Sci-Fi aspect most of the time.

I hate books where people die. Life is already difficult and hard enough, so when I read a book I want to escape that life. Escapism is really one of the reasons why I read books. The world in which I flee has to be a happy one or at least with a happy ending.

Nah, not my thing. Like I said: I need a happy ending. I believe there are horror stories with happy endings, but I don't want horrible things happening, waiting for that ending. 

I'm just so cheesy! I need love in a book. I don't care if it's love in a family or between two other people. We all need some love in our lives, so for me every book has to provide a little in that... 

It's not that I don't like to think when I'm reading a book, but I just don't like the typical detective story where you have to pay attention to every little detail and where you have to be on your guard every single page. Also I have the feeling most of the detective stories are kind of the same thing...

Too much problems, too much pain,... I don't like war... Not in real life, not in books. That's all.

Voila, these are a few of my least favorite things. I'm sure there are more things I don't like but I just can't come up with them right now. 
If you think I should try some books to get over this "hate", you can leave a comment below ;)

donderdag 18 juli 2013

Preview "The Beach House" + Detachment

Today I found something really great in the mail: a book! Yes, I know as a reviewer you receive books in the mail from time to time, but every single one makes me happy and is special to me! The effort authors make to write this book and send it to me, means a lot and is appreciated over here! 
Thank you authors!
The book I received today is "The Beach House" by Helen McKenna. What a beautiful one! I hope I will enjoy it (but I think I will... love the covertext). Review will follow in a few days/weeks.

If you want the book trailer for "The Beach House", here it is! 

I expect this book to be something I enjoy reading. The covertext gives me the idea it's going to be a book with interesting content without being too heavy. It seems to be a story where there will be love and hate, where past and present will intertwine, where people will really discover themselves. Just the kind of stories I like to read! I hope my expectations won't be something to dissappoint me, but most of the time I'm not wrong when I expect a book to be good. We'll see about that when I finished reading it ;)

Before I read this book though, I'll have to finish "The Elephants of Shanghai" by Stephen Jared. A book that I like so far. After that I have to read "Keeping Score - A guide to love and relationships" by Marc Brackett. I know this one is on my list for quite a while, but I didn't read it sooner because I wasn't in the mood to read a book about love and relationships (if you know what I mean ;) ). Totally over it for a while now, so I think I will be able to read and review this one too very soon!

I also wanted to let you know I watched "Detachment" last night. Finally! I really wanted to see this movie for a long while because I'm a teacher myself and I worked for several months as an interim teacher in a school with difficult students near Brussels. Good reason to see a movie like this one and I haven't regretted it! Loved it, though I thought it was strange sometimes. Have to admit I did cry now and again (but hey, I do this all the time when I'm watching movies by myself :p) 
Here you find the trailer of Detachment too ^^ 


woensdag 17 juli 2013

Books, books and more books

A little while ago I visited the "Boekenfestijn" at Ghent. A place where it's possible to go in with only €10 and come out with 10 books. Unbelievable how cheap books can be, especially when you know this aren't used books or strange books nobody wants. No! Here you can find the best classics for almost no money. No wonder I love this place! It's a pity this "Boekenfestijn" moves from town to town and even from country to country, so you can't visit it every week. Hmmm, maybe that is not sooo bad ;) I would have to build a bigger house to chelter all of my purchrases. To give you an idea of what I bought for only a little more than €40:

You see I don't buy Dutch books anymore. I don't know why exactly, but I'm starting to love English books a lot more than the ones in my mother tongue. Maybe it's because the English language has so much more depth... Don't know ;)
Of this pile, I only read "Adorkable" by Sarra Manning so far. You can find my review below this one :D
The rest will follow... 

dinsdag 16 juli 2013

Review "Adorkable"

Some information 

Title: Adorkable
Author: Sarra Manning 
Pages: 387
Genre: chick lit
Published: May 2012
Publisher: Atom
My Scource: Boekenfestijn Gent
My score on Goodreads: 5 stars 


Jeane Smith's a blogger, a dreamer, a dare-to-dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand and has half a million followers on twitter.

Michael Lee's a star of school, stage and playing field. A golden boy in a Jack Wills hoodie.

They have nothing in common but a pair of cheating exes. So why can't they stop snogging?

My review

"I have bunny slippers just like yours! I'm going to put them on so we can be slipper twins!" A book with phrases like this in it has to be a fun read. And it was! Although it wasn't an extraordinary piece of literature, I enjoyed it a lot! 

In "Adorkable" we meet Jeane Smith, a girl devoted to her own lifestyle brand for dorks. She doesn't need real friends because she has loads of them on the internet. She almost breathes tweets and blogposts about her special life and interests. Jeane is 17, lives alone in a flat, doesn't like people, dresses like an old lady and loves dyeing her hair in the strangest colors. On top of that one of her dearest hobbies is to argue with people.
While performing this hobby she meets Michael Lee, the star of the school. Handsome, smart, friends with almost everybody. Not exactly the guy Jeane wants to talk to. Little problem: Michael's girlfriend is in love with Jeane's boyfriend Barney and vice versa. Michael just needs to talk about this with Jeane although she isn't his favorite person in the world either. 
A strange thing happens when Jeane and Michael start kissing during one of their arguments/discussions. They both think it was some weak moment, but they keep repeating this strange thing and both of them start liking it...

I just loved this story because it was simple but also had a lovely plot. We can really connect with the characters too because they each write a chapter in turn. We see events through Jeane's eyes and then through Michael's eyes. I loved it that Sarra Manning didn't repeat all the events (first the version of Jeane and after that the version of Michael). The story just keeps going but each character tells us a part of it. 
It's a very predictable story but one where you don't mind that. It's just fun to read!

P.S. I think this book would make a good and fun movie :D

Review "The professor"

Some information

Title: The Professor
Author: Charlotte Brontë
Pages: 199
Genre: romance
Published: 1994 (first published: 1857)
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Limited
My Scource: Boekenfestijn Gent 
My score on Goodreads: 5 stars


Charlotte Brontë's first novel certainly benefits from the vocal gifts of reader James Wilby. Title character William Crimsworth's attempt to find his own way in a world obsessed with money and manners comes alive as Bronte's vivid images and Wilby's lyrical delivery combine. Met with a rainbow of characters, the listener can easily establish each as an individual and understand how they impact Crimsworth. This recording is a fine introduction to nineteenth-century literature.

My review

As a "Flamande" (to use the word Brontë seemed to like a lot) it was really strange to read a book written by Charlotte Brontë about a professor, named William Crimsworth, who came to BELGIUM to teach English. There was a long time I didn't even know this book existed. Until one day I discovered there's a Brontë-tour in Brussels ( because Charlotte and her sister Emily visited our beautiful country with their father in 1842. They stayed in a Pensionnat for a while and that's the place where Charlotte fell in love with a Belgian professor, monsieur Heger. With this man in her mind, she wrote her first novel "The professor" (only published after her death in 1855). 

The special thing about this novel was that Charlotte inhabited the voice and consciousness of a man. In all of her later novels she writes about a female main character. Some critics believe her male perspective in this book was flawed... I wouldn't know since I'm not a man, but for me she did a pretty good job in bringing William Crimsworth to life. She gives us an image of a man with a very special character. He knows this too and doesn't deny it. On our way through the story we find an honest man who seems to write his diary. He lets us know everything he does, what he thinks, what the people around him say and/or do. This may sound boring, but I promise you: this book isn't boring AT ALL! Charlotte knows how to keep her readers interested and we can see that she has practiced writing before she began her first novel. Untill the very end of the story you don't exactly know what to expect and that's one of the things a truly loved about this book. 

Now... something on the story. William Crimsworth hasn't exactly known in his life what it feels like to have a loving family, let alone one person in your life who loves you and supports you. His parents died when he was very young and his older brother, although very rich and successful, isn't quite loving or helping either. After a failed attempt to work for his tyrinnical brother, William decides to leave for Belgium. With some help he soon finds a job as English professor in a boarding school for boys. After a while he also starts to teach English in a school for girls. It's in this last school he meets the directress, miss Zoraïde Reuter, and falls in love with her. She seems to answer his love, but soon he finds out that things aren't always what they seem to be. Miss Zoraïde only saw him as a distraction and is secretly engaged to the director of the boys school where Crimsworth also works. 
This is a moment in the book where Charlotte really captures the feelings and thoughts of our main character. We can see him develop from a state of disappointment to a state of anger and finally to a new state of being in love. Indeed William falls for one of his students. Luckily this student isn't just one of the minor girls he tries to teach English, but a colleague who wanted to improve her English, Frances Henri. I'm not going to elaborate about this beautiful moment in Crimsworths live. You just need to read for yourself how William and his beloved student are being torn appart but finally find each other back.

If I have to find one thing I didn't like about this book, it's the fact Charlotte seems to find Belgians ugly and stupid. She grabs every opportunity to say something bad about the Flemish boys and girls in Crimsworths classes... Meuh! ;)
A thing a liked was that Charlotte Brontë used a lot of French in this novel. It just makes it a little bit more "real".

woensdag 3 juli 2013

Movie - Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks (2012) Poster  

As you all know, I'm a big lover of movies too. When I'm not reading, I'm watching movies or listening to music. Today I saw "Ruby Sparks", a 2012 movie with Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, and I loved it! 

Author Calvin Weir-Fields has a bestseller on his name. Unfortunately his inspiration is lost at some point. He struggles to get something on paper, needs therapy and doesn't have friends except for his own brother. As part of his therapy Calvin needs to write something about a person he could meet in real life, a person who would like or dislike his dog Scotty. It doesn't matter what kind of story he writes or who it's about, but his therapist just wants to get him back to writing. Calvin doesn't feel the desire to write something again but at the same time he starts to get weird dreams about a wonderful girl, Ruby. It's a girl he totally makes up, he creates her... and he starts to write about her, doing what his therapist asked him to do. He writes about this dreamgirl and makes her a girl he would really like to meet in real life.
One day the unexpected happens and Calvin DOES meet this immaginative girl, Ruby Sparks. The girl he created stands in his living room and acts like she's been his girlfriend for a while. She looks exactly like he imagined her in his dreams and has the past/history he gave her. Not believing what he sees, Calvin thinks this is the moment where he's finally gone totally crazy. Strange thing is... all the people around Calvin also see his "girlfriend" and talk to her. She's real. He made her real without knowing it...

I really loved this story and wished there was a book upon which this story was based. Sadly there isn't one, or I haven't been looking good enough. This movie made me laugh out loud sometimes. Other times it made me sad. One thing stayed the same during the entire movie: I really didn't want the story to end (the story of the film, but also Calvin's story) and I wanted to know how it would all end. 
About that end I'm not going to say a thing. I think you should discover it for yourself and let me know what you thought about it! 


maandag 1 juli 2013

Review "A beautiful mess"

Some information

Title: A beautiful mess
Author: Ali Berlinski
Pages: 211
Genre: chick lit, autobiography
Published: May 2013
Publisher: Pubslush Press
My source: won it from Chick Lit Club (thank you!!!)
My score on Goodreads: 3 stars


Biracial and bicoastal, Berlinski spent her childhood flying between the families of her divorced parents, without ever feeling like she fit in anywhere. Fortunately, she never lost her sense of humor, which is apparent on every page of her first book, a riotous and revealing look at the consequences of divorce, too much air travel, cultural diversity and conflicting and conflicted parents. With an open heart and an honest soul, she recounts her somewhat misspent youth and a wildly exciting (though equally torturous) love affair with the guy of her dreams. She loves, she loses and she packs it in, leaving behind the guy, two dysfunctional families, and a comfortable life to move to a foreign country and start all over again. 

She’s Carrie Bradshaw reimagined as a third grade teacher in Brooklyn with zero interest in Manolo Blahniks. She’s a tough New Yorker with a tender twist of California sunshine in her blood that knows when to fight and when to surrender. Her journey will be oddly familiar and utterly unique to anyone who’s ever believed that love would save them—if not with this guy, then maybe with the next.

As her grandfather once said, “Well, it may not be the party you hoped for, but since we’re here, we might as well dance.” So now she lives in Spain and, despite everything, Berlinski keeps on dancing.

My review

Funny, witty, well written,... I loved to read this book, but I have to admit it wasn't what I expected it to be. Author Ali Berlinski tells us the story about a part of her life, but sometimes it seemed a little chaotic. There were storylines from different periods in her life put together, whereby I wasn't always able to make a clear timeline in my head. I know I'm a reader who needs structure. A book may be chaotic, but for me there needs to be structure in the chaos. I have to believe this chaos is leading me towards something. In "A beautiful mess" I found the chaos, but I didn't always see the structure. This gave me the feeling I was just reading something without it would lead to something bigger or something special. This is not really criticism, it's just something I liked a little less.

"A beautiful mess" is written and told by Ali Berlinski. She's our writer and main character at the same time. This makes this book other than the chick lit books I'm used to, but I liked this style. Ali tells us about her difficulties finding her real "me", her real identity. She struggles when people ask her "who are you?", "where do you come from?", "what nationality do you have?",... Every single time she needs to do a lot of explanation. As you can see on the drawing on the cover, she's child of a polish father and a filipino mother. After they're divorced, both of them found a new partner. To make it really difficult, Ali's father marries her former nanny, Julie. A woman Ali always considered as a second mother. 
Because of the seperation, Ali sometimes lives on the east coast, sometimes on the west coast. On top of that her father has some older sons from a marriage before he married Ali's mother. In this family, Ali is the youngest child. Her mother on the other hand, has two children from her new marriage after her divorce from Ali's father. In this part of the family Ali is the oldest child. When you put the two families togheter, she's a middle child. Along with all the advantages of a divorce (two birthday parties, getting presents for each occasion twice,...) Ali finds there are a lot of negative aspects too. 

As you can see, Ali tells us everything. She doesn't back out when it becomes difficult or hard or maybe even shameful. We get to know her and her family just like we would live with them too. This is an aspect about this book I really liked. You can understand Ali very good, even though you don't always have to agree with her (at least I didn't agree all the time). A thing I didn't like, is the fact the end is a little abrupt. I expected she would give us more of a closing to her story or the expectation of a second book. But she did neither of those things. Some people like open endings, I just don't. That's a matter of personal taste. And as Ali lets us know throughout the book, it's good to have a personal taste!