Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord

English translation published by Gallic Books – 2010 (originally published in 2004) – 164 pageshector happiness

Hector is a successful psychiatrist. But next to people with actual disorders, he treats many others who are unhappy without anything in their lives being really wrong. Dissatisfied and unhappy himself that he can’t help those, he sets off on a journey to find out what really makes people happy (and sad). Meeting old friends and making new ones, Hector not only learns about others but also learns some important lessons himself.

The only shadow on my happiness is when I tell myself sometimes as it’s all going well, it can’t last, that one day things won’t be so good.

This book is part of the series Hector’s Journeys with other books in the series being called Hector and the Secrets of Love or Hector and the Search for Lost Time and a bunch more that haven’t been translated into English (available in French and German though).
I usually wouldn’t have picked this book up but I saw it at a charity shop and it seemed familiar to so I got it. Turns out it’s familiar because a movie (with the same title) came out in 2014 starring Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgård and more, directed by Peter Chelsom. Although I haven’t seen the movie, so if you’ve seen it let me know in the comments what you thought about it!

Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.

Psychiatry is such an interesting field but I really don’t like books or movies with psychiatrist in major roles and I’m sorry that this book wasn’t able to prove me wrong. I’m a fan of Simon Pegg so having in mind that he played Hector, book Hector disappointed me alot. Unfortunately he wasn’t likeable at all. He kept talking about beautiful woman and how he can’t look at them when they talk because they are so pretty and then he simply stops listening to them whenever they talk and there were some generally sexists and “old-fashioned” statements made, too (fine, mind you that was first released in 2004 before the new wave of feminism, but boy it’s still the 21st century).

The basic mistake people make is to think that happiness is the goal.

Now, I actually checked a couple times whether this isn’t a children’s book, it isn’t, because the way it was written felt so much like it. The sentence structures were very easy and things kept being repeated how they do for children who only just start reading, and the book kept posing questions that it would answer straight away and it was just so weird. I don’t mind reading children’s book from time to time but this book had none of the charm Dahl books have, for instance.
Oh, and having sex is called “the thing people do when they love each other” which again is wrong on so many points. If it isn’t a children’s book why talk around it like that, and it isn’t mentioned only once but like a lot on Hector’s travels, although he has a girlfriend back home. Also, you can love each other without doing the do and vice versa.

Many people see happiness only in their future.

All in all, there were some nice parts in this book but nothing life-changing. I didn’t enjoy the style, and the characters were all very generic and had no depth (it is a very short book but still no excuse). Now that I look at it it’s obvious to me that I never enjoyed these kind of books so I really don’t even know why I picked this up, oh well.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

Published by the Penguin Young Readers Group – 2004 – 370 pages

Nina, Avery and Melanie, who form the Bermudez Triangle, have been best friends for life. bermudez traingleHowever, this summer they will be seperated for the first time. While Avery and Mel stay and get a summer job, Nina attends a program at Stanford. When Nina comes back after ten weeks nothing’s the same anymore. While Nina tries to keep up a long-distance relationship with Steve whom she met at the program, Mel and Avery became more than friends. There are secrets and lies, the friends grow distant just to grow toegether again. It’s a whirlwind of feelings, finding your identity and learning to forgive.

You might have figured by now that characters are the most important thing for me in a story, so a big part of this getting such a low rating from me is due to them. None of the three main characters is in any way likeable. Avery never takes responsibility for her actions and runs away from everything, Mel is clingy, naive and never understand what is going on around her and Nina is self-centered and obsessively in love with a person who treats her horribly. Now, I know these are all traits we all may have at times, too and I’m all for characters being real and not always being perfect and agreeable, but in all of the 370 pages each of the girls might had one scene in which she was bearable. The only nice character that I enjoyed was Parker, but even he made a horrible joke and was into like three girls in the course of the book. But all in all, the boys were generally more bearable (gosh, I hate saying this, but it’s true in this book). Johnson is great at writing boys. She’s horrible at writing girls.

You know how you can sometimes tell when a person might like you? There’s just something about the way they look at you or the way they keep trying to talk to you?

Let’s move on to the relationships. So, they’ve been best friends for pretty much their whole lives and I honestly barely felt any real connection between them. Like when Mel tells Nina something that’s really important to her and Nina has to fake her interest because she can’t stop thinking about her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend. Yeah, best friend award definitely won’t go to any of these girls.

 Irony is the word I forget the meaning of immediately after I look it up, but I kind of feel like I live in a constant state of it.

Now to the LGBTQA+ part, or well rather just the L and the B. This book was written over a decade, this has to be noted, and representation is great. Now, I can’t judge how accurate all of that was, I’ll leave that to people who actually relate to it. I did think it was great that one of the characters seemed to struggle with the whole “gay” thing and questioned and denied it, because I suppose that does happen to people, too. And it was great that Mel wasn’t the “stereotypical lesbian” but then there’s a scene where they go to a dance for lesbians and guess what EVERYONE HAS SHORT HAIR!!! yeah great way to ruin it all.
And then there’s Nina who’s asking herself after everything she says or does “omg is that/am I homophobic??”. And when she dances with a girl at a party (as you would dance with any of your friends) “omg it happened, am I gay, too. Will people think I’m gay??”

Sorry, this review is so messy but this book was really messy, too. Everything was pretty predictable. There were some nice scenes and moments, but most of it was just enervating.
Anyhow, I was gonna give it 3 stars at first but so many moments that just made me shake my head happened in the last 80 pages, and the last impression is the lasting one so…

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Published by Indigo – 2013 – 419 pages

Most big cities have  a quarantined part called Coldtown. In them vampires live but also humans who got infected, hope to be turned or simply want to be part of the big and glamorous party world, that is being streamed live out of the Coldtowns. After a party in the “real world” Tana’s life has been turned upside-down. She has to learn whom to trust and decide what she really wants. Shecoldest girl takes all the risks but will she be able to protect the people she loves, and herself?

I started this book a few years back when it only just came out and was all over. I loved the title and still believe it’s so intriguing. However, I must have been in some really bad reading slump because I only made it a few pages in and then abandoned it for another time. Therefore, I was quiet hesitate about starting it again remembering how badly I did with it before. In the end, curiosity won, and I picked this up again after 3 years.

First of all, I lovelovelove when books have a quote at the beginning of each chapter but the font was so adorned and curvy some words were so hard to read which was simply maddening. Why would you chose a font you can barely read when there are so many beautiful ones out there that you CAN read? I know, Holly is friends with Cassie Clare and the quotes at the beginning definitely reminded me of her (though she didn’t invent that of course) and there’s also a character that reminded me of Simon Lewis, oh well.

Every hero is the villain of his own story.

While the cover says it is not suitable for younger readers the writing style reminded me of Middle Grade books, which makes sense since Black has written books for children before. There wasn’t much going on sexually either, well excpet for some kissing and seductivelly getting bitten. However, me being a Person that hates needles and having their blood drawen and really can’t think about much worse Things than a needle going into my veins or seeing it happen to anyone else, some scenes for me were a bit like “make it stop. make it stop. make it stop”. But that’s a personal thing, generally I don’t believe there’s much of anything explicit or triggering in this book.

Clever girl. You play with fire because you want to be burnt.

Now, the idea in general and some passages were really good, but I don’t feel that this book really lived up to ist potential. Some of the secondary characters I loved and wished to get to explore their story a bit more, but the main characters were quiet flat in my opinion. Seriously, what is it with all those teenage protagonists having such a death wish?

So, as I mentioned there were some really nice and interesting parts and this book definitely had potential but it wasn’t done well through all the parts. And the writing style was too childish for me (although, I do love MG) and some parts simply made me cringe.

Rating: 3 out of 5

The Neverending Story: Books I Didn’t Finish

neverending

Hello people! Listen, I’m one of those people that are quiet fussy and like everything to be orderly and finished a and therefore, it doesn’t happen often that I DNF a book, even if I hate it. So today’s list won’t be too long but I thought it might still be interesting to see. Especially since it seems me DNFing a book has a lot to do with what else is going on in my life and my general mood, and doesn’t always have to do with the book itself, though sometimes it does.

So, ironically, the book that gave this post its title is The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (I read it in the original German: Die Unendliche Geschichte), which for me indeed is neverending since I never finished it. I started reading this as a kid (maybe some 8 years ago?) and I honestly don’t know why I didn’t manage to finish this one. It is exactly the kind of story that I like (Fantasy) and I never had problems with long books (this one is around 500 pages). All I remember is that I did like it and that I read pretty much every day and yet I never seemed to make progress, so I ended up ditching it. And up to that time it was the first book I ever didn’t finish, so it must have been really frustrating. So it wasn’t that I didn’t like the book really. I think I might come back to this one, one day.

Now to a book that I actually did hate and therefore DNFed pretty early on: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I’ve seen the movie (which was hyped a lot) before I read the book (or didn’t read it) but it doesn’t really Count since I’ve only seen like the first 15 to 20 minutes. At one point my mom and I just looked at each other and said “Shall we watch another movie?” The story just didn’t seem to go anywhere, which I think is just the worst in movies. Before I tried watching the movie I picked up the book at a second-hand shop. So afterwards I was curious to see whether the book was better. I really thought I might understand the movie better then and it all would make more sense. But the book was pretty much the same for me. I couldn’t get into it at all. And I’m all for suspense obviously, but this book just almost didn’t tell you anything. A lot of people I know also enjoyed this book a lot, but it just makes me shake my head.

A book that I didn’t mean to DNF but it just so happened: Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, the third book in The Inheritance Cycle, or as I just call it The Eragon Series. It must have been around 6 years ago I started reading this (having loved the two previous books in the series) and it was right around the time we moved house. And everyone who’s already moved knows how much work it is, how much time it consumes and how tired you are all the time. So, after everything was finally more or less set in my room I somehow randomly flipped through Brisingr and found a bookmark in the middle of it. I had completely forgotten that I was reading it, and had no time at all to read during the weeks and months of the move (including preparation). Excitedly, I wanted to continue but it was so hard to get into. Everyone who’s read the series knows how many names (and complicated ones at that) and places there are, and I simply didn’t remember them all anymore. So I had to decide to stop reading it. Now, even a fourth book came out, so I’ll definitely have to read the whole series from beginning again one time.

And lastly, one I do not regret leaving unfinished: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I was so excited to read this one, it was a bit before the movie was annoucned, I believe. But I in all honesty just couldn’t get past the first 30 pages, God knows why. I usually don’t give up a book very quickly (and certainly not even 30 pages in) but I just couldn’t read it and I have no real explanation for it.

Anyhow, people, it’s okay not to finish a book or not to like a book. Just because everybody else seemed to love it it doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you if you’re not liking it, it’s absolutely okay. Life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy, since there are so many books out there that you will enjoy!

What books did you DNF and out of what reason? Do you also have books you didn’t finish but actually enjoyed? Have you read any of the books I DNFed?

The Book of Shhh by Lauren Oliver

Published by HarperCollins – 2016 – 49 pages

Hello Delirium fans you guys probably know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t read the Delirium trilogy, book of shhhlet me tell you real quick what the setting of the story is.

It’s the United States of the future (that’s new, right) and love is seen as a disease. It makes us lie, be irrational and commit crimes (and other horrible things). So the government experimented for a cure and found it. Everyone over 18 must get the cure (which consist of brain surgery) and will then get matched with a partner. But wait, there’s 18 years you have to live in fear of getting infected with Amor Deliria Nervosa. Thank God, there’s The Book of Shhh, The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook who will tell you exactly what to do when you think you’re infected, what the symptoms are and how you can detect them in other people who might refuse to believe that infected they are a danger to other people.

First of all, let me tell you guys, this little 80 pages ebook is for free! Lauren kindly left this as a gift to all the Delirium fans, so you can get it for free wherever you buy (or in this case don’t buy) your ebooks!

Now, back to Business. So, The Book of Shhh is mentioned a few times in the trilogy but we only get to “read” very few of it. So, this ebook should be a bigger excerpt, still however only an excerpt though. They call it the pocket companion for every day. You know, like there are those small Bibles, but then at home you’re supposed to have a bigger one? Yeah, that’s kinda like that. I suppose (it is stated however, that this is NOT a Bible, this is a word from the old world, away with it!).

First we get a little bit of history about the disease and the cure in the United States, including case studies, from single moms, suicides and crimes of passion (see? love is badbadbad!). Then we get a little part about the importance of community and how you, yes you!, should form your own group to control people in your neighbourhood (isn’t that lovely? *sigh* I love dystopia.). Then how you recognize the disease and the symptoms and how to respond to people who don’t believe it’s a bad thing. My favourite chapter title: “For Parents: How to Discourage Curiosity in Children”.

So, there’s lots and lots of stuff like this, my favourite favourite favourite part however the quotes and proverbs sections where there have been made “minor updates and additions”. Here 3 of my favourite one’s (including the original quote):

1. Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and be grateful. – Mark Twain
(Original: Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.)

2. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one indicated safer by a sign, And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost
(Original: Two roads diverged in a Wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.)

3. Think different and you risk an all-too-common devastating fate. – Steve Jobs
(I couldn’t find a certain quote for this one, but Jobs made a whole “Think different” campaign!)

So, obviously this book isn’t anything life changing or something that stays with you for a long time but it’s great for Delirium fans. I at least, love getting some background info on the whole world that has been created. It was very cleverly written, too, with a lot of references to modern life. And I have so much respect for Lauren for making this for free for her fans and I feel like these kind of books aren’t very easy to write (but what book is?).


In other news, it’s now exactly been a month since I started my blog. Thank you, to all of you for liking and commenting and generally being lovely people. I couldn’t imagine a cooler group to share this space with!

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Published by Little, Brown and Company – 2012 – 503 pages
(German copy on the picture published by Carlsen – 2012 – 575 pages)

As a member of the city council dies a sudden death, the small town of Pagford is launched into an internal war. While in company of other people everyone is eager to show themselves from their best side but not everything is as it seems. Behind closed doors lurk lies, violence and betrayal. It’sthe casual vacancy the poor against the rich, kids against their parents, teachers against students and wives against their husbands. Who will win the election, and maybe even more importantly what secrets about your neighbours will be revealed?

I went into this book very carefully, since a lot of people did not enjoy this book and I had to ask myself if I really wanted to risk not liking something from J.K.R. But I believe that these are seperate projects and one does not influence the other, so even if I won’t like it, it won’t invalidate the Harry Potter books. So, I guess, why not try reading this one?

First of all, I haven’t really read any proper reviews of it, only heard what people generally and friends and family said about the book (they DNFed it or they didn’t like it, or both). And the blurb is quite vague, too, what kind of “war” is the town getting into? It is something with the election, filling the casual vacancy (damn, I love when titles do that). But I couldn’t really imagine how the election of a small town council could fill a 500+ pages book.

He never seemed to grasp the immense mutability of human nature, nor to appreciate that behind every nondescript face lay a wild and unique hinterland like his own.

Let’s get to the beginning, which I actually loved but was also very confusing. There are A LOT of people introduced and perspective jumps from one person/family to another. Often only realizing after a couple of paragraphs or even pages who you’re with right now. Also, people are being introduced with their first names sometimes, then they are called by their family names and then they suddenly have a nickname and it’s all difficult to keep track of at the beginning. But I suppose it makes sense, since I think the beginning is supposed to show us how the different people in the town react to the dead of Barry, and all of them have different relations to each other, thus calling them differently.
Anyhow, what I did love about the beginning was that it kept up quiet some suspense. Although, it was like we were slowly, very slowly, crawling towards the plot and I kept wondering “What actually IS gonna happen?”, having no idea in which direction this was gonna go.

Some while ago I remember reading someone describing this book as it being the world Dudley was left in after Harry went to Hogwarts. And how sure, Harry Potter deals with a lot of serious issues, but it is by partly dimmed by the magic and the creatures and all the fantasy elements. Which is not the case in The Casual Vacancy.

But who could bear to know which stars were already dead, she thought, blinking up at the night sky; could anybody stand to know that they all were?

All in all, this book is not very plot-centered, what’s important are the characters. How they act and react, and how none are really good or bad. Everyone is kind of both in at least some part of the story. In the beginning of the story, most people will probably side with certain people, but by the end you’ll just be like “honestly, you all are horrible”.
Due to this book being more of a character study the book is quiet slow so if you need a lot to happen, this book isn’t for you. But I personally really enjoyed how everything was revealing itself slowly. It honestly might had to do with me only just having come out of a reading slump and therefore was very keen on reading. I might have reacted differently otherwise. Also beware, this is a book for adults and there is quite some sex talk, vulgar language and violence.
On a side note: I did love how the dust jacket is all colourful and then the book itself is black. Showing how everything’s prettier on the outside. Or well, maybe it was just done randomly?
I can say however, that I am generally very pleasantly surprised after having heard so many bad things about this. I’ll definitely go on and read the other Rowling series that came out.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi

Published by Bloomsbury – 2004 – 274 pages

athensWhen the body of a young woman is discovered the local police is quick to dismiss her death as an accident or suicide. Until a stranger from Athens arrives, determined to investigate further and thus, disrupts the island’s established “looking away” when it is convenient. The stranger brings questions with himself. Who is he and who has sent him?

This book very much is about small town, or rather small Island, living, where everyone knows everyone. People love to gossip about each other, and yet everyone seems to have their secrets. Most everyone also is cheating on their spouse, however it is tolerated by most. The double standards between male and female is visible quite well though. It is a tale of revenge, passion, honour, mistrust, betrayal, lust and sensationism.

And remember this isn’t the only place in the world. Your feet are not chained to this island – to this rock. There are cities, and other islands; there are other countries, if you were brave…

This book is actually the first book in a series called The Mysteries of the Greek Detective with 7 books so far. I bought this at the bargain shop at The Book Depository and basically just let myself be lured in through the Greek looking cover and the mythology references, which there are actually a couple of in the book, as well as in the titles of the sequel. However though, it is a detective story. And I didn’t expect to like it very much and rather just thought it would be a quick read I’d Forget about soon enough. But it honestly surprised me, I did quiet enjoy it and will probably get the sequel. Although, as with most detective novels you can read them in whatever order. I’m actually surprised how I always say I’m not much of a detective story reader, well I don’t read them often, but whenever I do, I end up liking them quiet much. Oh well, maybe it’s time to admit to myself that I do enjoy them.

I knew this island would never let me go free; it would haunt me and call me back, always.

So, this book was a mix of mostly third-person narrative and then short passages of first-person narrative, at which point it was always a different person, and it also kept changing between present and past. Basically this detective just started talking to people, and then he’d go to a person and he’d talk to her or him and we’d go back into the past and see a part of the story where that person was somehow involved. But it kept jumping quiet randomly and you didn’t always know straight away what exactly is going on and who’s talking. But it was quiet nice how the story or the solution was resolving itself piece by piece and there were a lot of side plots. Also, I did not expect the guilty one to be the person it was in the end which is always a good sign in detetctive stories.

Since, this is an adult book however, there are quite some explicit sex and violence scenes, so if you’re sensitive to that, this book isn’t for you.

Rating: 4 out of 5

After You by Jojo Moyes

My reviews never contain spoilers of the book being reviewed, however, since this is a sequel there will be spoilers (major!) to Me Before You, otherwise the discussion would not be possible, since the whole sequel is about the consequences of the major plot in the first book.

Published by Penguin – 2015 – 410 pages

After YouAfter Will’s death Louisa is left with a flat in London payed for. Working a job she hates at an airport bar, watching people leave to new places while she seems to be rooted to the same place and state of mind. Until one night a stranger stands before her door and Louisa has to make a decision: close the door and continue as before or open the door and risk everything. Torn between wanting to hold on but needing to let go. Will Louisa get back to her old self and learn to live her life to the fullest, between love, friendship and family struggles?

This book wasn’t anything spectacular. But I don’t think it was supposed to be. This book is slow at times, especially the first half, frustrating, sometimes sad, maybe even annoying and maddening. And I think that’s right for this book, because grief isn’t easy and it isn’t fast. Grief is permanent in some way, it won’t ever really leave you. Life can be slow afterwards, there will be days you don’t really do much and don’t want to. So, if there are parts like this in the book it might not benefit the pace or suspense but it feels real. The reader gets frustrated, maybe even mad at the characters sometimes, wanting to scream “just do it!!”, and it shows how helpless people wanting to support grieving people sometimes are. In the end, it is the person itself that has to take that step to move on, and know that it’s okay to do so.

Although, the book did feel quite real there are of course parts, especially the ending where it gets a bit unrealistic as usual, but then again unbelievable stuff happens in the real world all the time, too. And it’s a book after all, people wouldn’t have been very happy with Moyes if she had let it end any other way.

Our eyes locked. And in that moment everything shifted. I saw what I had really done. I saw that I could be somebody’s centre, their reason for staying. I saw that I could be enough.

But don’t you worry guys, there IS some action and some plot in the book (the person at the door, yup, you’ve guessed it; and more). So, it’s not all sad and depressing, although I did shed some tears here and there (but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way!). And you will get to know some quite cool new characters (and also less cool ones; I will let you know one thing: look out for Donna, she’s the realest) and see some unexpected developments in other characters.

As almost everyone, I did prefer Me Before You because there’s simply more happening, and despite of it all, more happy moments. But as I said previously, I don’t think After You was supposed to be able to compete with Me Before You, it was just to show people: “Hey, it’s not okay and it won’t be for quite a while, but eventually it will be.” And for that alone I believe this book was worth it.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers – 2011 – 358 pages

After decades of genetic engineering without consequences, humanity in the near future has to pay the prize. Males die at age twenty-five whereas girls die at age twenty. This leads to girls being kidnapped on the streets or even in their own hWitheromes to be sold as brides to rich families and bear their children. When Rhine, the sixteen year old protagonist, gets taken, she finds herself in a luxurious world. She can have anything, excpet her freedom. Will Rhine manage to escape with the help of servant Gabriel, or will her conflicting feelings towards her husband, Linden, and her protectivness over her younger sister-wife, Cecily, hold her back?

Dystopia can get repetitive at times, especially if you read it as much as I do, but this book has a quite unique and very intriguing story. However, what makes me love or hate a book are writing style and most importantly, the characters and their development. And I have to say Wither gave me everything I could have wished for in that perspective. You know, how sometimes (like a lot) there are just straight up wanting-to-tear-your-hair-out characters that just make everything unnecessarily complicated. Well, there ARE annoying, a little naive and evil characters in Wither, but the way they are written they always have more to tell than just this one trait. Characters are never used just for the sake of plot, and that’s why I wouldn’t want to have it any other way with this book.

You shouldn’t try to look for her anywhere else, because you’ll never find her. You’ll see her walking away in a crowded street, and when you reach her, she’ll turn around and be somebody else.

DeStefano’s descriptions are very detailed. It might have had to do with me having read most of this book on the train, but there are some scenes that made me feel a little queasy. Now, this sure isn’t my favorite feeling but gives credit to the amazingly vivid writing (also, I might have shed a tear or two reading this in public, but shhh).

All in all, this book didn’t leave me like all-time-favourite-book-omg-I-am-dead but it was a solid first in a series with characters that have a lot of potential (and some sentences, so beautiful, that I wish I had written them). There are a few scenes and little plots that are predictable for the genre but the overall idea is quite unique and definitely worth a read. The way this book ended this also could have been a stand-alone with a very open ending, so I’m excited to see where Fever (the second book) will take me.

Rating: 4 out of 5