Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

P1010197Bernadette Fox is notorious.

To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she’s his talented, volatile, troubled wife. To fellow mothers at the school gate, she’s a menace. To design experts, she’s a legendary architect. But to 15-year-old Bee, she is quite simply Mum.

Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee’s search for her mother reveals an extraordinary woman trying to find her place in an absurd world.

First published: 2012
Publisher: Phoenix


I picked up Where’d You Go, Bernadette at my local bookstore months ago because I was just so curious. The cover, the title, the blurb… It all suggested something fun, something different, and it sparked my interest. I finally got around to reading it a few weeks ago, and it turns out I was right: this book is so much fun!

It started out a bit differently than I had expected. First of all, the structure is not your straighforward narrative: the story is mainly told through emails, letters, articles, etcetera, with only here and there a few paragraphs of traditional narrative. Besides the structure being a bit different, I was also surprised by the place we enter the story. For some reason I thought Bernadette would already have disappeared, or would disappear within the first few pages, which was not the case. I wondered a few times about the beginning of the story — why take this particular point to start? It felt sort of random (though not in a bad way), but later on all of the pieces fell into place.

Like I said, this book was a lot of fun, and I laughed out loud several times. The satirical and very smart humour was just my cup of tea, and the whole idea of this female genius who is slightly mad and misunderstood really spoke to me. It was funny and witty, but also so profound at times. To me, it was just the right combination. For example, we get to read lots of emails from Bernadette, in which she pours her heart out to a virtual stranger. She tells so many hilarious stories, but then there’s also a passage like the following, which brings such a sense of realness to the story:

I can feel the irrationality and anxiety draining my store of energy like a battery-operated racecar grinding away in the corner. This is energy I will need to get through the next day. But I just lie in bed and watch it burn, and with it any hope for a productive tomorrow. There go the dishes, there goes the grocery store, there goes exercise, there goes bringing in the garbage cans. There goes basic human kindness.

While I had some trouble connecting with the story at times (probably because of its structure), passages like these made me love Where’d You Go, Bernadette. That, and the fact that, although the characters have very real and serious problems, there is always a lot of room for absolute hilarity.

Top Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is a good one! Top ten places books have made me want to visit, both fictional or real. The setting of a story is usually quite important, and sometimes reading about a certain place can just make you long to be/go there. At least, that’s what I’ve experienced. Here’s my top ten! In no particular order, as always.

  1. Hogwarts (from the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling)
    I mean, come on, does this really need explaining? I’m still waiting for my acceptance letter…
  2. Wuthering Heights/Thrushcross Grange (from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë)
    Although living at Wuthering Heights doesn’t seem like the most pleasant experience, the descriptions of the setting and the nature and everything is part of why I adore this book.
  3. London (from ALL the books)
    There are so many books that are set in London! It’s my second favourite city in the world (next to my home town), so every time I read a book that’s set in London I want to go there again…
  4. The Cotswolds (from Making Your Mind Up by Jill Mansell)
    Jill Mansell describes places in such a way that I immediately want to go there. The Cotswolds is only one example, but a really good one at that.
  5. Cornwall (from A Suitable Vengeance by Elizabeth George)
    I love Cornwall, and the description of inspector Lynley’s childhood home and everything around it is just…gah!
  6. Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl)
    Some weird things went down in there, but wouldn’t it be so cool to see the chocolate factory? And the Oompa Loompas? Getting out alive would be pretty cool as well…
  7. Barcelona (from The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón)
    These books have such an amazing atmosphere, and make Barcelona seem like a magical place. When I read them I immediately wanted to go there and visit, as I did last summer.
  8. Montmartre (from The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris)
    I basically want to go wherever Vianne Rocher goes, and just follow the chocolate, but Montmartre seems like the best option.
  9. Santorini (from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares)
    I remember pretty much falling in love with the place when seeing it through Lena’s eyes as she is visiting her grandparents. I’ve never been to Greece, but these books have definitely made me want to go there.
  10. Pemberley (from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)
    I’m just curious, really. Plus, the chance to meet Mr Darcy would be really great as well…

And that’s my top ten! What are some of the places that books have made you want to visit?

Also, Books Baking and Blogging is on Twitter now! It’d be cool if you’d follow me! @bookbakeblog

Pear and Berry Crumble and a Birthday

I turned 21 on Tuesday, and of course I needed to bake something for the occasion. What’s a birthday without some home made sweetness to munch on? I had a lovely dinner with my parents, grandparents and aunt on Monday, and made an absolutely delicious crumble for dessert. It included all kinds of berries and a couple of pears. Read on for the recipe!

P1010740On Tuesday I celebrated my birthday with a few of my closest friends. They came over for dinner, and of course this called for another really great dessert. I had already figured out what I wanted to make a couple of weeks ago. It was something really simple but also really pretty and so tasty. I made a couple of brownies (recipe) in my muffin tin, added a perfect scoop of vanilla ice cream, and topped if off with some chocolate sauce and a fresh raspberry. One of my friends is lactose intolerant, so I bought raspberry sorbet for her, which also tasted really good. I was pretty proud of how it turned out to look!

P1010743One last birthday related thing I want to share with you all is two of the presents I received. I’ve talked about how much I love Roald Dahl’s Matilda a couple of times before, and about how I still wanted a nice English edition of the book… Guess what my parents gave me? A really gorgeous edition! And my cousin got me a very nice book as well; a cookbook from The Hummingbird Bakery. I’ve already looked through it, and it features some absolutely mouthwatering recipes! I’ll definitely be trying some of those in the future.

Anyway, enough about my birthday. Let’s get on with the crumble recipe!

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I Won’t Apologise (or: On Reading Choices)

A while ago, Jaclyn from Covered in Flour wrote a great post about reading choices and owning them. She mentioned an infamous article that said that adults who read YA novels should be ashamed of themselves, which prompted her to write a post about all of the reading choices she won’t apologise for. I really loved her post since I think it is ridiculous to be ashamed of your reading choices and preferences. Everyone should read whatever they like, and not feel guilty about it. So, I decided to contribute my own list of things (related to reading) I won’t apologise for.

  • I won’t apologise for reading chick lit. I actually wrote an entire post about this back in December, but I’m still not done talking about it. Chick lit often gets looked down upon by people who write it off as simple, predictable stories that are all one of a kind. It’s often true that these stories are rather predictable, but I don’t care about that. Reading chick lit every once in a while makes me happy, since you’re guaranteerd to find a happily ever after at the end of the book. Knowing that is nice sometimes. Plus, these stories are often very witty and just overall feel good.
  • I won’t apologise for having read and liked Twilight. I remember being 17 and just starting university, and not wanting anyone to find out that I liked Twilight because I was an English major now. How stupid was I? There are a lot of things about these books that are kind of cringeworthy, but I loved them at the time. I raced through all four of those books in no time at all. No clue if I’d still like them today, but as for now I have a nice memory of those books.
  • I won’t apologise for being a slow reader. If I see how fast some (most?) of the book bloggers around here go through their books, I’m astonished. I wish I could read that fast, but I definitely can’t. I’ve only read 23 books this year, which is probably a lot for most people, but most certainly not for most book bloggers. Perhaps it has to do with English not being my first language, but I’m not really sure about that, since my English seems to be better than my Dutch these days. I guess I’m just slow. And that’s okay!
  • I won’t apologise for The Fault in Our Stars being my favourite John Green book. Lately, I almost feel like that is something to explain or apologise for. TFiOS has grown into such a hype, and some reason people are less convinced of something being really good if it’s all hyped up. Which is weird if you think about it, since a hype just means a lot of people like something. I’m the same, though. As soon as everybody raves about something, it isn’t attractive to me anymore. Which is why I sometimes feel weird for saying TFiOS is one of my favourite books. Especially to other readers of John Green’s books, since many seem to prefer his earlier work. (On that note: I won’t apologise for calling it TFiOS, ’cause if John Green uses it, I can use it too).
  • I won’t apologise for wanting my books to look pretty. This both refers to wanting the prettiest cover possible for my books, and wanting them to stay undamaged. I’m a bit more lenient when it comes to slightly cracked spines these days, but that’s it as far as I’m concerned. No dog ears, no writing in books (apart from study books, but that’s very difficult for me as well), and as little damage as possible from carrying them around in bags. Oh, and there are few things that bother me more (reading-wise, that is) than books in a series not all being the same edition. That’s just awful. Those spines have to match up!

That’s my list! I’m sure there are many more things I won’t apologise for, but these are all that came to mind right now. What are some bookish habits or choices you won’t apologise for?

Reread: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

P1010194It is Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As Voldemort’s sinister forces amass and a spirit of gloom and fear sweeps the land, it becomes more and more clear to Harry that he will soon have to confront his destiny. But is he up to the challenges ahead of him?

First Read: 2005
Times Read: No clue


When I started this blog I was a little bit worried that I wouldn’t get to reread some of my favourite books since I now review every “new” book I’ve read. That’s why I came up with this new feature. Every time I reread a book (which isn’t all that often, but still) I will keep track of my reading progress and thoughts on Goodreads, and I will then make a small post and review about it on here. This time I’ll also include some of my favourite quotes, just because the Harry Potter books are so quotable. I might do the quote thing again, I might not, who knows!

Thoughts while rereading…

HP 6

As most of you will know, the Harry Potter books are very close to my heart, and they will always be my favourites. I love rereading them once in a while, and as you can see in my reading progress thingy, it had been a while since I’d last read the Half-Blood Prince. I had actually forgotten quite a lot of what happens in the book (although I did remember the main storylines, of course) and it was SO much fun rereading everything!

One of the things I was most pleasantly surprised by was the focus on love and crushes and all that teenager stuff. I know that those things become more present as the series goes on, but I think there’s much more attention for it in this book than in the Order of the Phoenix and all the previous ones. I really liked it! It made me chuckle quite a bit, actually. It also makes the story even more real, because even though these kids are fighting evil, they’re still growing up at the same time, and dealing with the same (sometimes silly) stuff every teenager deals with.

Another thing that I love about all of the Harry Potter books, and sometimes forget about, is the humour. There is so much witty banter going on between Harry, Ron and Hermione! And of course Fred, George en Ginny as well.

I tend to forget just how funny some of these conversations are because of all of the serious and sad stuff happening, such as the ending. That got me all over again. Of course I knew exactly what happened, but it still made me really sad. I went to have dinner with some friends after I finished reading the novel, and she asked me how my day had been, and all I said was: “Meh. I finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince today” and she knew exactly what I meant!

Favourite Quotes

Man, that Dumbledore is wise:

It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.

This conversation between Harry and Snape just had me grinning very widely:

“Do you remember me telling you we are practicing non-verbal spells, Potter?”
“Yes,” said Harry stiffly.
“Yes, sir.”
“There’s no need to call me “sir” Professor.”
The words had escaped him before he knew what he was saying.

And this one had me chuckling out loud:

“An Unbreakable Vow?” said Ron, looking stunned. “Nah, he can’t have…. Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure,” said Harry. “Why, what does it mean?”
“Well, you can’t break an Unbreakable Vow…”
“I’d worked that much out for myself, funnily enough.”

There are so many more quotes I love from this book, but I’ll just leave it at these three for now!

What are your favourite Harry Potter moments or quotes?

Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I am once again a day late with my Top Ten Tuesday. Oops! Even though I had made the list in advance, I didn’t write the actual post yesterday. I still wanted to do so, though, so here it is! My top ten books that were hard to read, for whatever reason. As always, this is in no particular order (although American Psycho definitely tops the list…).

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  1. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
    Anyone who has read my review on this novel will know why it’s on this list. I couldn’t even finish American Psycho, it was so gruesome and awful and just… left me feeling really sad and scared.
  2. Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
    I didn’t even post a review of this novel on here (I read it in Dutch for another website), but it was bad. Perhaps it had to do with the translation, but I don’t believe I can blame it all on that. This novel had me rolling my eyes pretty much every two pages.
  3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
    This book was so touching and raw. I loved it, but it was also really sad, being both about the aftermath of 9/11 and the Second World War.
  4. Sonny Boy by Annejet van der Zijl
    Sonny Boy is a Dutch novel based on a true story about interracial love during the Second World War. It’s a heartbreaking story, and knowing it’s all based on something that actually happened makes it even harder to read.
  5. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
    I had to read this novel for my studies, and absolutely despised it. It left me with a bad taste in my mouth and I seem to remember a discussion in class about Conrad’s racism.
  6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
    I read The Kite Runner when I was still in high school (I must have been about fourteen or something), and man, did it home. There are two scenes in particular that I will probably never forget. That doesn’t mean I don’t think this is a  great novel, though.
  7. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
    This one’s still fresh in my memory, as I wrote a review about it only last week. I thought this novel was really good, but at sometimes it was hard to keep reading because of all the despair and hopelessness.
  8. A Dry White Season by André Brink
    This was the first novel I’ve read about apartheid, and just like with My Sister’s Keeper the despair and hopelessness of the situation sometimes made it hard to keep reading.
  9. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
    I had to read this novel for another one of my university courses and I just thought it was quite dull. It was okay, I guess, but I had trouble to keep on reading since I just didn’t want to, really.
  10. Prime Deception by Carys Jones
    This novel clearly needed to be looked at by another editor before publication because it was riddled with spelling mistakes and typos, which made it quite frustrating to read.

And that’s my list! Do you agree with my choices, or do you think I’m completely wrong about some of these novels? Let me know!

Officially Autumn: Speculaas and Chocolate Muffins

Well, summer is definitely over now, so it seems… It’s starting to get dark much earlier, the leaves are changing and, most importantly, it’s getting cold. No more warm, sunny days, my friends. It’s back to warm jumpers and lots of tea. Which is fine by me, to be honest. I’m a sucker for a cosy jumper and, as most of you will know, I love tea. Yes, I really do love autumn, although I’d have been fine with a few more weeks of summer as well.

I came up with this recipe last week, while I was feeling all autumn-y, with the rain pouring down outside and me drinking the inevitable hot cup of tea inside. Autumn and also winter are the seasons for comfort food with rich tastes and lots of chocolate, so that’s exactly what these muffins are all about!

You’ve got your cinnamon, your nutmeg, your ginger and your cloves, or for the Dutchies among you: simply your speculaas. Add some chocolate to this bunch and the lovely texture of a good muffin, and you’ve got yourself this delicious treat. This is most definitely a new favourite recipe of mine, and I’m quite proud of my little masterpieces. I’m not even going to be modest about it. These muffins are amazing.

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My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

P1010196Sara Fitzgerald’s daughter Kate is just two years old when she is diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. Reeling with the helpless shock of it, Sara knows she will do anything — whatever it takes — to save her child.

Then the test results come back time and again to show that no one in their family is a match for Kate. If they are to find a donor for the crucial bone marrow transplant she needs, there is only one option: creating another baby, specifically designed to save her sister. For Sara, it seems the ideal solution. Not only does Kate live, but she gets a beautiful new daughter, Anna, too.

Until the moment Anna hands Sara the papers that will rock her whole world. Because, aged thirteen, Anna has decided that she doesn’t want to help Kate live anymore. She is suing her parents for the right to her own body.

Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
First published: 2004


This books left me feeling all the feels. Seriously. I was a bit of a wreck when I just finished it, just wanting to scream “WHY?” over and over again. My Sister’s Keeper takes the term “emotional rollercoaster” to a whole new level, that’s for sure. This was the first novel by Jodi Picoult I have read and I definitely want to read more. It’ll just take some time before I’ve recovered from this first one, I’m afraid. I thought it was a really good novel, but also very heartbreaking.

One of the things I liked most about My Sister’s Keeper was the structure of the book. Anna tells a large part of the story, but you also see part of it through the eyes of her father, her mother, her brother, her lawyer and her guardian ad litem. This structure really added to the story, since you experience different points of views throughout the novel. I think that was a very good choice for this novel since it’s about such a difficult topic that clearly has a lot of sides in need of exploration. I don’t think the story would’ve worked as well as it did if we’d only get to see one character’s perspective on the matter. What I thought was very striking is that we never get to see Kate’s point of view on anything. We read about what everyone around her thinks and feels, except for her.

The story and all these different perspectives really make you think. The position Sara finds herself in is utterly impossible to deal with: she has to choose between her two daughters. There is no correct way to deal with that. I totally got that as a reader, but still I resented her for the way she treated Anna, who feels as if she’s just some kind of spare, so to speak, who’s only needed when Kate needs a transfusion or a transplant. Sara (understandably) always chooses Kate, and it becomes clear throughout the novel that doing so has done great damage to her other two children. But what was she supposed to do? Sure, she should have paid more attention to her healthy children, but I can imagine that seems entirely impossible when your other child could die at any given moment. Whichever way I looked at it, I always ended up thinking: “I don’t have the tiniest of clues of what I would do.”

And then there’s thirteen year old Anna, who has to choose between being her own person — having a life of her own — and saving her sister’s life for however long that might still last. It’s heartbreaking to read about her struggle. I felt so bad for her, and got even more angry at Sara for how she handled the situation. (I probably would’ve reacted differently to Sara if I’d be a mother myself, now that I think of it.)

That’s what it keeps coming down to with this novel, though: the moral dilemma. What would you do if you’d be in Anna or Sara’s shoes? You won’t know until you have to actually make a choice like that yourself (which hopefully none of us will ever have to do). It’s just impossible. This all makes it seem as if this novel is all heavy and sad all the time, which isn’t the case. There are fun moments as well, although the heaviness is always present.

The one thing I didn’t really get about this novel was the subplot about Anna’s lawyer, Campbell Alexander, and her guardian ad litem, Julia Romano. I didn’t mind the focus on them, but I didn’t really get the relevance to the story. I’m also not quite sure if I agree with the ending, although I do understand why Picoult might have chosen to end it that way.

I want to write that I really enjoyed reading My Sister’s Keeper, but I don’t think “enjoy” is the right word here. I’m certainly impressed by this novel and it was a very good read. The writing was wonderful as well. However, I wouldn’t recommend reading this when you’re feeling a bit down, because it is quite a difficult and heavy story. For anyone who is up for a novel like that: do give it a go, it’s a very good novel and the story will give you lots to think about.

Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read List

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is top ten books on my Fall TBR list. Some of the books on this list were in my top ten books that will be in my beach bag this Summer as well, since I didn’t get around to reading all of them. Most of these books are books I already own, so I feel like I should read before buying new ones (the struggle), but the last two books on the list are ones I definitely want to buy and read this Fall. Funny how both of those are second books in a series… There are of course many more books I want to read, and since I’m a mood reader I’m probably not going to keep to this list, but it was fun compiling it!

As always, these books are in no particular order.

toptentuesdayseptember23

  1. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  3. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
  4. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
  5. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  6. The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy
  7. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  8. Sheer Mischief by Jill Mansell
  9. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
  10. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

The Seven Deadly Sins Book Tag

The other day Brittany from The Book Addict’s Guide did a book tag that seemed like a lot of fun to do. I always like book tags, so let’s give the Seven Deadly Sins Book Tag a go!


Greed

What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?
My most inexpensive books, for me, are obviously the books I have received as gifts, but I figured that wouldn’t be a really fair answer. The first book that came to mind to fit this category was my copy of The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. I bought that one for a pound at a book market in Tavistock in the south of England. Man, I’d love to go there again and stock up on some more books… Book markets in England are the best.
I think my most expensive book is one of my Norton anthologies for literature. I needed those for my studies, and they’re amazing books but also quite expensive. The Norton Anthology for Theory and Criticism was probably the most expensive one of those. And the least fun, as well.

Wrath

What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
I found this one a bit more difficult because I don’t really have a love/hate relationship with any author. The only one that came to mind is Jane Austen. I absolutely loved Pride & Prejudice, but I had to read Mansfield Park for one of my courses and did not like it one bit. I found the characters annoying and the plot boring and … I just didn’t like it. Those are the only two books by Jane Austen I have read so far, though, and I have high hopes for the other ones. So, you can’t really speak of a love/hate relationship, but I had to pick someone, so yeah…

Gluttony

What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?
Well, there’s only really one answer possible for this question, isn’t there? It’s the Harry Potter series, obviously! I’ve read those books many, many times (mostly the first five) and still haven’t gotten tired of them. I just finished rereading the Half Blood Prince last week and it gave me all of the feels all over again. Another very good answer to this is Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I’ve definitely read that one even more often than the Harry Potter books.

Sloth

What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
That would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy for me. I set out to read it years ago (when I was probably still a bit too young for it anyway) but after I struggled through the first, I don’t know, 150 pages of The Fellowship of the Ring I was kind of done with it. I figured I’d give it another go after a while, but I still haven’t. Still think I should’ve read it, though, and I’m still claiming I will one day.

Pride

What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?
Ha, I like this question! I think everyone does this sometimes, but I can’t really pinpoint one book which I use for this. I’m a literature student, so by default I have to talk and write about intellectual books quite a lot. Especially when writing essays it’s easy to try to come off as more knowledgeable about a subject than you actually are. I remember writing an essay on Derrida last semester and not having a clue what on earth the man was rambling on about most of the time. That’s true for pretty much everyone who writes about Derrida, though.

Lust

What attributes do you find attractive in male or female characters?
Ah, book crushes. We all have them! What makes characters pretty much irresistible to me is wittiness. I love witty banter between characters! That’s probably why I love Jill Mansell’s books so much. I’m also a sucker for crooked smiles or any kind of smile for that matter. Oh, and Mr Darcy. I don’t think I have to explain that statement, do I?

Envy

What book would you most like to receive as a gift?
I’ve been wanting to own an English version of Matilda for a while now. I own a very nice copy of the Dutch version, but after talking about it in so many Top Ten Tuesdays I want to reread it in English. It’s one of my favourite childhood books, so I figure I should own a pretty version of it in English. Oh, and I’d also like a pretty version of Wuthering Heights, since my copy is almost falling apart and I plan on rereading this book many more times.


That was so much fun to do! I tag my good friend Emmie from Another Night of Reading and the lovely Cathy from 746 Books. I also tag anyone else who feels like doing this! I’d love to see more people’s answers.