Friday, 23 June 2017

Long time no see!

Hello everyone! It was quite some time since I posted here. A little bit of fatigue entered my life and I have just been letting the days past. I have spent a week in Sweden which was very nice. I managed to get me some energy there, in the fresh winds from the sea. I played tennis and swam, so exercise every day. I also used the opportunity to read two books from my shelves there.

Most of my books are in English, but lately I have bought a few books in Swedish since I have spent some more time there. I do prefer to read English books in the original language, but when there is a language I don't read, like Icelandic and Portuguese in this case, I enjoy reading in Swedish.

One of my favourite authors is Arnaldur Indridason and I found his Oblivion in my book case and I read it in one day. It is difficult to stop reading when you start one of his books. What I especially like with his books is, that apart from the murder mystery, there is a very personal and interesting story of either the victim or someone close. In this case detective Erlendur looks for a cold case of a missing girl that was never found. This story runs parallell with the murder story. Exciting to the very end. Well written and descriptions of the Icelandic nature and society. Especially interesting for me since we are going to visit Iceland this summer. I also discovered that I have another to books by Indridason on my shelves, so there will be something for my next visit.

While in Sweden I was looking for a book for my mother's birthday. The book shop had an offer of 4 for 3, so I found one for her and three for me! They were Paulo Coelho's The Spy, Stefan Zweig's Amok and Karin Bojs' Min europeiska familj (My European Family) about our ancestors from the beginning of time.

I did manage to read The Spy while I was there. It has not got very good reviews from you fellow bloggers, but I must say I am really into Paulo Coelho for the moment. I can't say how much of the story that is true, but it seems he has done a lot of research and, as usual in these cases, it is the dialogue and the thoughts that are made up. I am always overwhelmed by the wisdom of Coelho and I thought there were a lot of thought worthy elements on life, how it is, and how we interpret it. I don't know a lot about Mata Hari, only the outline. However, Coelho's story shows us a woman ahead of her time, who lived the life she wanted and embraced life and its possibilities.

I was quite happy to find Stefan Zweig's Amok. So many of you have recommended him and I really look forward reading the book. He is also Austrian, like my husband, and since I have not read that many authors from there, I always enjoy finding someone good. Like Robert Seethaler's A Whole Life

That was a small catch up from me. I have four reviews that will come within short. The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry, Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann, Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicin by Roy Porter and Self Power by Deepak Chopra. See you soon!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Bookmarks Monday

Guiltless ReadingI am joining Guiltless Reading for the Bookmarks Monday meme. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting England and Stratford upon Avon. It was a great visit and I walked around all the places connected to Shakespeare's period. The Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Nash's House, Hall's Croft and of course Shakespeare's birthplace. They were all wonderful places and I really enjoyed walking around Stratford as well.

One bookmark and one book was the outcome of my visit there. The book was Roy Porter's Blood and Gut, A Short History of Medicin. Great book and not as bloody as I expected. The bookmark is all related to Shakespeare and you see it here.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Life's different phases

It has been rather quiet here lately. This is partly due to a travel I did to London and Menorca. While in London I also visited Oxford and Stratford and hope to do a couple of posts on these wonderful places later.

Otherwise life has been very heavy from the beginning of the year. I am trying to cope with lack of energy and hope that I am now on the right way. Something that helps is to read your blogs which always inspire me. It feels good to see what you are all up to, what you are reading and how you cope with life.

I have a couple of book reviews waiting to be written. I read Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. A huge book, but what a treat it was to read it. In Stratford I bought a book, Blood and Guts, A Short History of Medicin by Roy Porter. Very interesting story on the development of medicin. To help out my present state I finally read Self Power by Deepak Chopra, which has been on my shelves for some time. It contains a lot of useful tips on how to approach life and, if necessary, change your outlook and situation.

This week, while sitting by my computer, I am enjoying the French Open in tennis. A lot of interesting games, surprise wins and overall good tennis play. It is a windy day here today, so perfect to stay inside and enjoy the games.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

20 Books of Summer

I have been away for 12 days (London and Menorca) and had a wonderful time. More about that later. When I managed to go into feedly to read your blogs, I ran into this challenge. Sounds like a good idea for the summer.

It is Cathy at Cathy 746 Books who hosts this annual challenge;  20 Books of Summer. Well, since she admits the rules are a little bit slack, you can choose 10, 15 or 20 books from your TBR shelves. They should be read between 1 June 2017 and 3 September 2017. Suits me fine, since I want to read at least 50 books from my TBR shelves, if possible more.

I have the same problems like some other bloggers, that as soon as I put a book down on a list, I dread to read it. I just don't know why. I hope this list will not cause me look for other books on my shelves. However, whatever book that disappears from there is a good deed.

Here is my list:

Bowen, McAleer, Blyth - Monsoon Traders, The Maritime World of the East India Company
Bryson, Bill - Notes from a Small Island
Chopra, Deepak - Self Power - Spiritual Solutions to Life's Greatest Challenges
Gogol, Nikolaj - The Overcoat and Other Short Stories
Hannah, Kristin - Viskar ditt namn (Angel Falls)
Indridason, Arnaldur - Den som glömmer
Isherwood, Christopher - Goodbye To Berlin
Marques, Gabriel Garcia - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Morton, Kate - The Secret Keeper
Tolstoy, Leo - Anna Karenina

It is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction books. I will check in on this challenge sometimes in beginning of July to see where I am. Maybe I can add a few books.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears

"Julien Barneuve dies at 3:28 on the afternoon of August 18, 1943."
That is the first sentence of The Dream of Scipio. It is my first book by Iain Pears. Luckily, I have another one waiting on my shelves. This book was such a wonderful surprise and I think he will be one of my favourite authors in the future. 'The Washington Post' has put it right to the core: "A thrilling journey through history, into the human heart and soul."

We follow three men and their beloved through history and it takes place in France. In the 5th century we meet Manlius Hippomanes and his beloved Sophia. In the 14th century Olivier de Noyen and his beloved Rebecca and in the 20th century Julien Barneuve and his beloved Julia. Julien is an historian and is researching the other two.  Olivier is the middle man, already having had an interest in old manuscripts in the 14th century, his researched gives Julien the story of Manlius. It is only in the very last stage of his life, that Julien realises the real consequences of the life and actions of Olivier. Here an ancient murder mystery is part of the story.
"And Julien returned to his books, turning in these years to the subject that had been in the back of his mind for so long: to describe the resilience of civilization, its enormous strength, the way that even when near death it could revive and regrow. Bringing its benefits to mankind once more."
The novel takes up the eternal story of what civilisation is. Who are the civilised people? We or the others? What actions are to be called civilised? What is morally and ethically correct? Is it ethically correct to sacrifice one person to save another? This story covers big questions on these matters and it is heartbreaking at times. It also shows that it does not matter in which century you are living.  In time of war our decisions and actions change. We go through emotions we could not even dream of and have to act in ways we could never imagine.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Bookmarks on Monday

Monday again and this week I have another bookmark for the Bookmarks on Monday meme, hosted Guiltless Reading.

I bought i recently while visiting Le Mont du Saint Michel in France. As expected it shows the lovely island on a wonderful photo.

Visiting was almost like a fairy tale experience although the thick walls were maybe more fortress like than fairy tale like. Small alleys to walk around in, or climb rather. It is rather steep inside the walls. We stayed one night, walked around, up and down and had a lovely dinner watching the tide coming in.

Friday, 12 May 2017

6 Degrees of Separation - May

May is here and neither spring or summer seem to be with us. Still chilly and unstable weather. What better than to join Books Are My Favourite And Best and another 6 Degrees of Separation. This month starts with The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I have never heard about either the book or the author, but reading up on Wikipedia gives me a hint. Seems like an interesting book and excellent book for a discussion, either in a book club or at a dinner.

The people in the book gather at a barbecue and brings my mind to The Dinner by Dutch author Herman Koch. Two brothers and their wives gather for dinner to discuss something that their sons have done. It is only in the end we get to know what they have really done. The deed lies underneath the thoughts and dinner conversation of the party.  A novel with many layers.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Classic spin #15

For once I did finish my book for the Classic spin. It was Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams. It is a play and I am not really into reading plays, rather prefer to see them. However, this one was quite easy to read.

It tells the story of a gigolo, Chance Wayne, who is returning to his home town in company of a faded movie star. He has aspirations to become a movie star and hope that she will be the key to opening the right doors. A reason for coming home is also to try to get back what he lost in his youth; his girlfriend whose father made him go away years ago. However, you can never get back your youth. What has been done can not be made undone. This is a lesson he learns over a couple of days. The revenge of a small town can be hard.

It is a typical Tennessee Williams I would say. Set out in the South, young and not so young lovers, underlying feelings of heat, anger and violence. I really enjoyed it.

Monday, 1 May 2017

A Room With a View

My father says that there is only one perfect view — the view of the sky straight over our heads, and that all these views on earth are but bungled copies of it.” 

E.M. Forster, A Room with a View
THE SIGNORA HAD NO business to do it,” said Miss Bartlett, “no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a court-yard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy" 
E.M. Forster, A Room With a View

A room with a view is always a nice thing. As E.M. Forster lets his characters wish for in his novel with the same name. We have been on a tour in Normandy, Guernsey and Jersey and were lucky to have wonderful views from our hotel rooms, most of the time. Here are a few views:

Chataeu Rozel

La Vieille Auberge in Le Mont St Michel

La Porte de Saint Pierre in St Malo

The Savoy in Jersey

Three wonderful views and one back yard. Well, you can't have it all. The Savoy was a wonderful hotel otherwise with a marvellous restaurant Montana. So good we ate there both nights.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Fridays.

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Freda’s voice is hosting Friday 56 and the rules are:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think it is a great beginning.

Book beginning:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

Page 56:

"In that discomfort, breathing quicklime and tar, no one could see very well how from the bowels of the earth there was rising not only the largest house in the town, but the most hospitable and cool house that had ever existed in the region of the swamp."

Still reading this book. The pages are very dense, hardly without any space at all and it takes time. The story is sort of magical.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Borden Murders - Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller

Lizzie Borden took an ax,
Gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

This is a song that was created around this famous murder case and it seems that it is quite well known in the US. However, it does not give us the whole extent of this extraordinary murder mystery. Behind it, is a real life murder mystery, to which there is no answer to 'who dunnit'!

Sarah Miller has done a thorough research into these gruesome murders which took place on 4 Augusti, 1892 in Fall River, Mass. The police was called to the house on 92 Second Street and found Mr and Mrs Borden murdered in the house. Mrs Borden upstairs in her bedroom and Mr Borden on the sofa in the living room.

The only persons in the house was the youngest daughter Lizzie and the maid Bridget. The police did not do a very good first investigation of the murder scene and this was later an obstacle in the trial. However, after a few days the police decided to arrest the daughter Lizzie Borden for murdering her parents.

Sarah Miller takes us through the events of the day of both the women, checking the house and the barn for evidence and not finding very much. There was quite a lot of blood from the bodies, but no blood was found on either of the women or anywhere else. The murder weapon was not found. A reason for the killing was not found, although it was said that Lizzie did not get along with her step mother, and, it seems, had no problem with her father. It is a complete mystery. Lizzie insisted all through this ordeal that she was not guilty. However, some of her initial remarks on what she was doing that day, left more questions than answers.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Bookmark Monday

I am joining Guiltless Reading for the Bookmark Monday meme.

I was recently travelling around Normandie and in the castle in Falaise, the birthplace of William the Conquerer, I found these lovely bookmarks. They really fit the Norman times.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Read lately

I have a pile of five books that I read lately and have not yet reviewed. Here are mini reviews of the books, although some of them really deserves a 'real' review.

The Last Girls by Lee Smith

A wonderful book about a group of young girls who, while in college, decides to go in the footsteps of Huckleberry Finn, and go down the Mississippi on a raft. Thirty-five years later four of them meets to make a different trip down the Mississippi. "Baby", who was the 'wild one' during their college years, has died and her husband has asked her friends to take her ashes down the river to commemorate their earlier trip.

Harriet, a teacher, unmarried, careful, not taking any risks. Courtney, married rich and have to deal with her husbands infidelity and her mother-in-law's dominance. Anna, comes från poor circumstances, got a scholarship to college and is now a successful bestseller author. Catherine, the southern beauty who went against her upbringing to become a sculptor and are in her third marriage.

They all remember Margaret "Baby" Ballou, beautiful, wild, rebellious, deceitful, promiscuous at college. She has died in a car accident and the friends suspects suicide.

The group has had not contact during the thirty-five years and they have to get to know each other again. They all think everybody else are more happy than themselves. During the trip they talk and get to know each other again. Looking back on their youth, their lives, what they made of it and where they ended up. After the trip they are all changed and realise that there is still time to live their lives.

A wonderfully written account of youth, life and where it takes us. In the background is the ever flowing Mississippi.

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

The famous opening of this wonderful account of a young man's experiences during a hot summer holiday. Leo is invited to spend the summer with his upper class school friend Marcus. He is asked to act as a messenger between Marcus' sister Marian and the farmer Ted. He is deeper and deeper drawn into their relationship of deceit and desire. One day he wakes up to make a shocking and premature revelation which ends in disaster. 
"He had made me realize something of what Marian and he meant to each other, and though I did not understand the force that drew them together, any more than I understood the force that drew the steel to the magnet, I recognized its strength."
It is a beautifully written story. A pure pleasure to read. Although the story is slow you never notice and the story slowly, slowly takes you towards the inevitable. When we reach the end, in Leo's old age, we are once again drawn into the go-between. 
"Perhaps this was unfair to Marian and Lord Trimingham, who had both treated me with signal kindness. To to them, I knew, I was a go-between, they thought of me in terms of another person. When Lord Trimingham wanted Marian, when Marian wanted Ted, they turned to me. The confidences that Marian had made me had been forced out of her. With Ted it was different. He felt he owed me something - me, Leo: the tribute of one nature to another. 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

New purchases

Long time no see! I have been on a trip to Normandie, Guernsey and Jersey. It was a nine day trip on the road from morning to evening, so I had not so much time to blog. There will be some reports from our trip which was very nice and interesting, as well as a few short reviews of books read lately.

During the trip I was exhausted in the evenings and I just read a few very easygoing historical fiction books. Now at home again I will go back to One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is a little bit more demanding to read.

Today I went to a "Book Festival" and though I was very restricted and disciplined (at least I thought so myself!) I came back with 16 books! Yes, I know. As if I don't have several TBR shelves already full of books. But when the books cost 2-5 € each, it is difficult to resist.

Of the 16 books I have divided them into four piles; five books with favourite authors, six books with authors I wanted to read, three with biographical content and two thrillers.

Favourite authors

Diana Gabaldon, The Scottish Prisoner - a 'side' book out of her Outlander series. I love historical fiction and Diana Gabaldon writes very well.

Philip Kerr, Prague Fatale - I read his book The Quiet Flame and loved it. Therefor I grabbed this one and I am sure I will not be disappointed.

Tracy Chevalier, Burning Bright - historical fiction at its best. London at the end of the 18th century.

Catherine Cookson, Kate Hannigan's Girl. Read several books by her when I was young, but that was a long time ago. I recently read a biography about her To be a lady: Story of Catherine Cookson by Cliff Goodwin and, after that interesting account of her life, I wanted to read something else by her.

Paulo Coelho, Adultery. I think Coelho does not need a lot of introduction. I recent read his The Witch of Portobello and loved it. This should be an interesting read.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017 - checkpoint #1

Bev at My Reader's Block is hosting the Mount My TBR challenge. She has called for the first check point and here is mine. As of 31 March I have read 15 books from my TBR pile and that has taken me to the top of Pike's Peak (4.302 m or 14,155 ft or 12 books) and 1.202 m or 3,943 ft or 3 books) up the Mont Blanc. I am steady on my way. 9 more books to reach the peak on 4.808 m (15,774 ft). I hope to read at least 100 books this year, but all of them will not be from my TBR pile, so the end of the year will tell which mountain I will climb.

Here are a few things Bev asks us to consider.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Six Degrees of Separation

April and we are to consider another book chain in the meme 6 Degrees of Separation, hosted  Books Are My Favourite And Best . This month we start with the book Room by Emma Donoghue. I have not read the book, but heard about it, or at least the movie, which I have not seen either.

I make it easy for myself and start with Emma, which leads me into the book Emma by Jane Austen.
A book I tried to read for ages and just could not get into it. Finally, I decided "just to read it" and, although it is not my favourite Austen read by far, (I just can't stand Emma) it does improve after about half the book. The latter part is a relatively pleasant read.

From Austen I go to Austen! Or almost at least. Recently I read All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith, about her trip to six South American countries in a quest to find out how Austen is interpreted by modern South Americans. A pleasant read.

Friday, 31 March 2017

"Book beginnings on Friday" and "The Friday 56"

Rose City Reader

Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Friday. She says:

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Freda's Voice
Freda’s voice is hosting Friday 56 and the rules are:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

This absolutely fantastic book has one of the most famous book beginnings ever.

The Content Reader


"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

Page 56

"I decided it would be impossible to like him, and immediately liked him better. He was nothing to be afraid of, even without the handicap of his ambiguous social position, which I judged to be below that of a gentleman but above that of, well, such a person as Ted Burgess. "

A lovely, lovely book, a review will come soon. Hope you enjoyed the quotes.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Circle of Sisters by Judith Flanders

"Four women connect four men by a slender but steely thread. One man is an earl, and three times prime ministers; the second a Nobel prizewinner who turned down a knighthood, the Poet Laureateship and the Order of Merit; the third is a baronet, who has been both director of the National Gallery and president of the Royal Academy. The thread is the Macdonald sisters - four women who were the mothers of Stanley Baldwin and Rudyard Kipling and the wives of Edward Burne-Jones and Edward Poynter. "
Alice, Georgiana, Agnes, Louisa and Edith Macdonald, five sisters of which four of them married into  the history of the Victorian cultural age.

The Macdonald sisters came from the lower middle classes without any great prospects of social advancement. However, they made their name, as wives and mothers, to some of the most famous men (yes, they were all men) of their times. The sisters received an education and through their one surviving brother, Frederic, who studied at University, they came into contact with people from the higher, social classes. The father was a Methodist preacher and they moved frequently during their childhood. Their mother had the sole responsibility to raise the children and take care of the household, which she did with a firm hand. It was only when they moved to London, where the future artists and writers gathered, that their life took a turn. With their charms they met the men they came to love, and whom they supported in their future careers. Not all of them were happy, but they created a big family and kept tight all through their lives. The youngest sister, Edith, did not marry and lived with her sisters all her life, as well as helped them with their families. Not all of them were very organised and their lives were at times rather chaotic.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Bookmark Monday

Joining Guiltless Reading for Bookmark Monday. Today I have two bookmarks from Argentina! Yay! My husband, Martin,  was there last week for a business trip, and I asked him to go to Corrientes to check out this street with all the book shops. If you read my review of All Roads Lead to Austen, you know what I mean. I don't think he found that actual book shop, but he found a lot of others and came back with beautiful photos of one, which seemed to have been adapted from a theatre, Grand Splendid El Ateneo. 

He also bought me a couple of bookmarks. One with the, maybe, most famous thing about Argentina, the TANGO and one magnetic one with wise words from Einstein.

"Life is lika riding a bicycle. To keep your
balance you must keep moving."

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Mrs Jordan's Profession by Claire Tomalin

I have read another excellent biography by Claire Tomalin. The first one was about Charles Dickens and this is about Mrs Jordan, one of the best known actresses of her time. Claire Tomalin creates a fascinating and vivid portrait of a remarkable woman.
Dorothea Bland was born on 22 November 1761, as one of six siblings. It is not clear whether her parents Francis Bland and Grace Phillips were married. Her mother was an actress and that is the career that Dorothea, or as she was commonly known, Dora, entered into. She was very talented, worked her way up towards the stages of London. But it started on the darker side.
She was raped by a friend of the family, became pregnant and gave birth to her first daughter Frances, or Fanny, when she was hardly more than a child herself. After some years touring the countryside she came to London and success was almost immediate. She met Richard Ford, a police magistrate and lawyer, moved in with him and got three daughters. She left him several years later because he did not want to marry her. By this time she was very famous and made good money, so could afford to move into a house of her own.
It is at this point that she meets Prince William, the Duke of Clarenden, and he gets infatuated by her. His is the third son of King George III, a little bit of a fallout who does not really find a purpose in life. When the public found out about their relationship, they were given a hard time.  For a long time the papers were full of caricatures of the couple. However, they seemed to have been very happy together.
"An her effect on him was tonic. Not only was her dedication to her work exemplary, she also provided a centre and order to his life. She gave him good advice. Under her tactful guidance he largely gave up drinking - the exception being when he visited the Prince of Wales, which meant being on what Dora called 'hard duty' in that department. She teased him and even quarrelled with him, but she was loyal and constant."

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Books in marble

Last weekend we took the car and drove over to Namur. There is an old Citadel which casts its shadow over the city. The old city is small and quite nice, and we took a stroll through the narrow streets. Passing by the church of Saint-Loup we ventured inside for a look. A beautiful church with a row of confession boots on each side along the church, beautifully carved and art pieces in themselves. Furthermore, there was an exhibition of a Russian artist, Aidan Salakhova.

In the information sheet I read: "Her sculptures in the Église Saint-Loup continue the overarching theme of "Vices and Virtues", questioning how religions take account of the flesh or whether they deny it. How the female body is stigmatised as a symbol of temptation or modesty and how it can be protected. Her work addresses the taboos of our society, particularly those relating to desire and sexuality."

What attracted me specifically were the marble books she had created:
"Another dialogue is established between the eight confessionals and the white marble books placed on the platform. Like the enclosed surroundings of a confessional, a private space is created for each individual, whether through the acts of reading and gaining knowledge or of revealing their inner life.

The book's pages bring to mind both the folds in a veil and a ploughed field: the parchment of life. Her works are open books on a range of symbolism: white and black, dag and night, darkness and light, a cosmic well, the cubic form of the Kaaba or Malevitch's Black Square and symmetry breaking."

Books, in whatever disguise, holds a spell on me!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Miscellaneous reading

I have read a variety of books lately, but not really had time to write about them. Here are three books that I finished recently, and that I enjoyed.

The Holy Grail, History, Myth, Religion by Giles Morgan is an interesting summary of the Holy Grail and how it has appeared through history. From the very first pre-Christian sources on a magical vessel to the Cup of Christ. Continuing we enter into the magic world of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, where we also meet Merlin, Excalibur as well as Lancelot and Lady Guinevere, Camelot and visits the Isle of Avalon.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

I wanted to read Virginia Woolf for a long time, but somehow did not get around to do it. One day recently, I grabbed To the Lighthouse which I have had in my bookcase for quite some time. If this is something typically of her, I am a new fan. A wonderfully written book, with mesmerising characters.

While reading I was thinking of the Bloomsbury group and her own family. How people gathered in the summers to be creative, social or anti-social, meeting friends and enjoying themselves. I read that this novel is partly autobiographical and it was a great strain for her to write it.

The novel is divided into three parts; in the first part we meet Mrs and Mr Ramsay, their family of eight children and invited friends and colleagues. The story starts when their son James wants to go to the Lighthouse and Mrs Ramsay promises to take him there tomorrow, should the weather be fine. Mr Ramsay spoils it by saying that the weather will not be fine.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Bookmark Monday

Joining Guiltless Reading for Bookmark Monday. Visiting the Sterling bookshop here in Brussels, I found a lot of bookmarks available for customers. They were all designed by people working in the shop. I think this is a very good idea. Here are some of the ones I choose.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Empress of South America by Nigel Cawthorne

Opening this book was like opening Pandora's box. All the evils came out, not to be spread through the world, but over Paraguay.

The title of this book tickled my curiosity when I was offered a review copy from Endeavour press. The Empress of South America? Who could that be? It sounded impressive, but I had never heard about such a title or empress.

It all started with Elisa Alicia Lynch, born in Ireland in 1833. Ten years later the family emigrated to Paris due to the Great Famine in Ireland. That was the beginning of a life that was to be anything but normal. She married at seventeen, separated from her husband three years later, and entered into the world of the courtesans. Through connections she managed to move into the highest circle; the one surrounding Princess Mathilde Bonaparte. It was in this circle that she met her fate; the Paraguayan general Francisco Solano Lopez.

But, let's start where the book starts. In Paris, one night in May 1961, when a Paraguayan of Lebanese descent, Teófilo Chammas, scaled the walls of the famous Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, to steel the bones of Eliza Lynch. When he finally finds the mausoleum where she is buried, he reads the plaque, saying in Spanish:

"Monument erected
Enrique, Federico and Carlos Solano López. 
To the illustrious memory 
of their always beloved and unforgettable mother
 Dona Elisa Alicia Lynch-López. 
Died 25 July 1886."
"Reading this, students of Latin American history would instantly recall the bloodiest war in the history of the Americas, a war which left more dead than the United States' bitter Civil War and all but destroyed a wealthy nation, through the weakness of a man and the ambition of a woman. It was this woman, Elisa Alicia Lynch - López - better know as Eliza Lynch - that Chammas had come for."

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

6 Degrees of Separation

March is upon us and there is another book chain to consider.  Host, Books Are My Favourite And Best, starts with Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. I am not familiar with the book, but it is about football in general and the author's relationship with Arsenal Football Club in particular. It is Hornby's first book, published in 1992, and is said to be an autobiographical essay.

The first word coming into mind is of course 'sport'. I don't really like reading about sports, and don't know about any books about sports either. However, I did read I am Zlatan by David Lagercrantz, which is a biography about one of our greatest football players ever, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

That takes me to 'David Lagercrantz' who wrote the sequel to the Millenium book by Stieg Larsson. It is called The Girl in the Spider's Web. I have not read it, and am not sure I will, although I read the first three ones.

The word girl, or girls, takes me to Lee Smith's The Last Girls, which I finished recently. A group of girls went on a raft down the Mississippi, in the foot steps of Huckleberry Finn, during their college years. Thirty five years later, four of them meet up again, to take a boat down the river, in honouring their friend who died. A really good story, where nothing is as it seems to be. Review will follow.

The word to go from here will be 'voyage', and I settle for Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs. Our favourite forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan  is in action again. Don't we just love her?

'Forensic' takes us to any murder mystery, and I settle for one book on my shelves, not yet read. That is Playing With Fire by Peter Robinson. I have read one book by him and liked it.

'Fire' takes me to Sweden and the second part of a fantasy trilogy by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark, Eld or Fire. I have read the first one, The Circle which is very good. Looking forward to his one.

There I went very quickly from football, to girls, to fire and a few travels in between.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Classic Spin #15

Time for Classic Spin #15 with the Classic Club. What is the spin? Here is what they say over at the Club.

"It's easy. At your blog, before next Friday, March 10th, create a post to list your choice of any twenty books that remain "to be read" on your Classics Club list.

This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books in March & April. (Details follow.) Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favourite author, re-reads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

On Friday, we'll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by May 1, 2017. We'll check in here in May to see who made it the whole way and finished their spin book!

Here is my spin list, but it is also available under Challenges 2017.

  1. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  2. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  3. Goodby to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
  4. Karin Lavransdotter by Sigrid Undset
  5. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
  6. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  7. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
  8. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
  9. Richard III by William Shakespeare
10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
11. The Overcoat and Other Stories by Nikolaj Gogol
12. Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams
13. The Taming of a Screw by William Shakespeare
14. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
15. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
16. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
17. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
18. The Divine Comedy by Dante
19. The Go-Between by J.P. Hartley
20. Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

Are there some I am dreading? Yes! For example; The Mill on the Floss and possibly The Divine Comedy. The plays; yes, I find it difficult to read plays. Much nicer to see the actual play in the theatre. Otherwise most of them are classics that I look forward reading.