Thursday, 19 April 2018

New Audio Books



In a few days I will go to Sweden. It is, more or less, a 12 hour drive. Normally, I listen to music, but lately I have tried to listen to audio books. With music your mind can drift without a problem, but with an audio book? No! That is a little bit my problem when driving and I don't use my ear plugs. On the other hand, it is probably just a matter of getting used to. It definitely helps to smooth the journey.

For the time being I am listening to Mythos by Stephen Fry, and he is also narrating it. This is the first audio book, where I really enjoy listening. The stories are great, each one is not so long, so very suitable to listen to when you do it in small doses. Furthermore, Stephen Fry is an excellent narrator and I have to laugh loudly sometimes. I really enjoy this book. A new way of looking at the Greek myths. Review will follow once I have finished. I have a little bit over six hours to listen, which will take me half way to Sweden.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

4 x Allison Brennan



When it comes to detective novels, Allison Brennan is one of my favourites. I follow two of her series; Lucy Kincaid and Max Revere. They are different in crimes, but both series are excellent.

Lucy Kincaid is a FBI agent and is solving big crimes like trafficking, serial killers etc. She has a troubled past which still afflicts her, but also makes her determined to put the bad guys and gals behind bars. She is part of a big family, as is her husband Sean Rogan. The family works in different kind of crime preventing/solving areas, have a lot of money and can do a little bit like they like. Well connected in society and in the FBI.

Max Revere, also with a troubled past (how come all detectives have a troubled past?) coming from a rich family and, due to the fact her mother left her/disappeared when she was ten, has committed her life to solve cold cases. She is a reporter and has her own crime show on TV.

Both women are strong, but vulnerable at the same time. I really enjoy both characters and when Allison Brennan decided to let them meet in her latest novel, Shattered, I was not sure it would work. It did. Very well I would say. The stories differ between the two protagonists. Lucy normally deal with big criminal gangs, which is frightful reading sometimes. Max concentrates on cold cases, which is more family related. Brennan's characters give you an insight into 'normal' families and their problems.

Allison Brennan writes very well and her stories are fascinating. I really don't know how she can come up with all the good stories, considering she is writing several books a year. I have not read any of them for a while and was happy to see that I had four books to read. The Lost Girls and Make Them Pay with Lucy Kincaid and Poisonous with Max Revere. Shattered with both of them. The books are really difficult to put down, once you start. That is probably why I read four of them in six days! You get so into their world it is difficult to come out. Can hardly wait for the next one in these series. Furthermore, Sean Rogan found information on the disappearance of Max Revere's mother, which will be her next cold case. I forgot to tell you that Sean Rogan is a computer whizz. Yes, both the Kincaid and Rogan families cover more or less the whole spectrum of knowledge in society. It might not be so realistic, but it makes for great reading.

Have any of you read anything by her? Please let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The Empty Family by Colm Tóibín

"I imagined lamplight, shadows, soft voices, clothes put away, the low sound of late news on the radio. And I thought as I crossed the bridge at Baggot Street to face the last stretch of my own journey home that no matter what I had done, I had not done that."

A sample of the wonderful writings of Tóibín. The Empty Family, is a short story collection on the family theme, which is a theme he mostly uses. Colm Tóibín seems to have so many different versions of what a family is. Here we find a unique set of characters and their various family relationships. So diverse, so different and so touching. Family relations are, as we know, not always the easiest kind of relationships. Tóibín manages to takes us along the various routes that can be called family ties and it is fascinating. His language is poetic and it is like you are on a river in a small boat that carries you with a slow current.

The stories cover love between man and woman and man and man. Not only the feeling you have for your beloved, but also love for a relative. All of them give you something to think about. My personal favourite story is Two Women. The quotes below are from that story and it highlights different relationships in just a few words.
"Frances called them her neighbours now, but they were not her neighbours, they were the family who looked after her and lived in a cottage in her garden that had been, at her expense, extended many times."
"She had been with Luke for twelve years, but she had never lived with him. They had mostly met in New York, or London, or Paris. And his way of greeting her, or of seeing her to a taxi, almost tearful in the amount of tenderness he could offer, stood in for the domestic life they never had together."
"'She was with Luke before me,' she said, and once again her smile had a terrible sadness in it, but there was something elegant about her too, almost beautiful.
'This woman was the love of his life,' Rachel said to her companion and then smiled again at Frances.
'He was lucky with both of us, wasn't he?' Frances asked.
'He was the love of my life,' Rachel said. 'I can say that'."

Colm Tóibín is a master of the language of love and beauty in a setup of happiness, unhappiness and loneliness. It is something there for all of us to consider. 

Monday, 16 April 2018

Bookmark Monday


The Content Reader

Joining Guiltless Reading for another Bookmark Monday. Being on a trip, visiting houses, castles and museums I mostly manage to find some bookmarks. I showed you two last week connected to Bussy-Rabutin. This week it is time for a more famous person, Voltaire.

Having read Candide for my litcourse, I was eager to visit houses where he had lived. Unfortunately, I was unlucky in both places. During the last years of his life he lived in Ferney, just on the border to Switzerland. They even renamed the town to Ferney-Voltaire (which is the name today) after him. The castle is under renovating since 2015 and will only open this summer. We could walk around the garden though. It is a beautiful, small (to be a castle) with a lovely view over the surroundings. Who would not enjoy living here? The small shop was full of Voltaire memorabilia and I bought two bookmarks.


The other home of Voltaire is situated in the Délice area of Geneva. We were here mid-day but the museum only opens at 2 p.m. It has to wait for another time.

We also tried to visit the castle of Madame de Staël in Coppet in Switzerland. The castle, in private hands, still from Madame de Staeël's family, only opens on 1 April. Definitely, will have to visit this area again.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56




I have packed most of my books, so difficult to find something of this meme. I recently finished The Mistresses of Cliveden by Nathalie Livingstone. A fascinating story of a house with mostly women owning it. It was built for a woman in the first place. The Duke of Buckingham built it for his mistress Anna Maria in the 17th century. From there it was enlarged and hosted different families.

Book beginning hosted by Rose City Reader


"In the thin light of a January morning, the Duke of Buckingham galloped towards Barn Elms, the appointed site for the duel he had so long awaited."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice


"The most convenient way to travel from London to Cliveden in 1671 was by boat along the River Thames."

I am fascinated by old houses, castles and manor houses, and this book gives you not just the story of the house, but also the story of the fascinating people who inhabited it.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

The Art of Vanishing, A Memoir of Wanderlust by Laura Smith



How easy is it to vanish without a trace? Well, it happens all the time as Claire says in the beginning of the time travelling series Outlander. This also happened to Barbara Newhall Follett, a free spirit, who walked out of her flat one evening, never to be seen again.

When Laura Smith's wedding day was nearing she felt a little bit of panic. Was it possible to be married and still feel free? Luckily, her husband was a kindred spirit, and instead of settling down near their families, they went travelling for a year or two, before they came back to settle, temporarily, in New York. She was finishing her studies and was looking for a theme for her thesis. Someone mention Barbara Newhall Follett and she was hooked.

Barbara was a very special child. Her parents taught her to read, write and use a typewriter before she was six years old. She wrote her first novel at 11 and enlisted as a deck hand on a boat heading for the China seas when she was 15. She was the first woman to hike the Appalachian trail, met her future husband there, travelled around the world, for a time settling down in Mallorca. When she was 25, on a December afternoon in 1939, she left the apartment where she lived with her husband (although the marriage was more or less over), never to be seen again.

A fascinating story of an independent woman. Laura Smith started her own investigation to try to find out what happened to Barbara, but I will not spoil it by revealing anything here. As the investigation goes ahead Lauran discovers that she is a kindred spirit and the story of Barbara is intertwined with her own life and way of looking at it.

The mystery is not only the disappearance, but Laura Smith also looks at how our childhood dreams may vanish when we are caught up in the rytm of life. Must we all do the same things in life; have a steady work, get married and have children or are there other options for those who do not approve? Laura Smith shows with her book that you can have and live your dream and still be part of society. It is a balancing act. Because after all, if we give up our dreams what do we have?

As you know these kind of real life mysteries are my favourites. I enjoyed the book and liked very much how Laura Smith intertwine her life with Barbaras. It gives you a perspective of the various ways you can live your life.


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The pleasure of classics

There has not been that many reviews here lately. I have been busy with my studies and also in the process of moving. However, I have read quite a lot, and especially classics. Here are a few thoughts around them.

Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

This is in a way a hilarious book. Mr Nobody, Charles Pooter, decides to write a diary of his life. Nothing much happens. He relates to everyday life, work, house, wife, son and the social life (not that much) that they entertain. It does not sound very exciting, but it is a satire of middle class life in England in the 19th century, and as such great fun. The brothers were actors, illustrators and writers. When we discussed this book in the Brontë Reading Group references were made to Three Men in a Boat. The same kind of understated humour. I really enjoyed this book.


The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

One of the great Russian authors. This is a short novel, written in the realism of the time. Tolstoj was a master in creating timeless characters and describe the human being in all his/her nakedness. Ivan Ilych is a successful man in his profession, has a family and a good life. One day he has an accident which leads to an incurable disease. Instead of trying to come to terms with his destiny, all his efforts go to find another doctor that might be able to cure him. The novel is a criticism of the emptiness of the middle classes and their happiness over trivial things. His colleagues start discussing who should take over his job and his wife tries to find out if she can get a higher pension. All the while Ivan Ilych is lonely fighting death.



Monday, 9 April 2018

Bookmark Monday



It has been rather quiet here on the blog, the reason being, that I have been on a tour in France and Switzerland. On our way to visit friends in Zürich, we decided to take a few days and drive via Champagne and Bourgogne in France, to do wine tasting and sightseeing. I had some literary visits planned, but unfortunately, most of the houses I wanted to visit did not open until 1 April. They will have to wait for another time.


The good thing about travelling is that I can collect yet a few bookmarks, which will be revealed during the next three Mondays. I start with two bookmarks from Chateau de Bussy-Rabutin which we visited. Very interesting castle and owner, Comte de Bussy, or as he was called Bussy-Rabutin. The castle is located in the Cote-d'Or department of Bourgogne, in eastern France. We just happened to pass by and stopped to investigate. The castle was founded in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 14th century, and the galleries (beautiful) were added in the 1520s.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Mount TBR 2018 - first check point



The first three months have passed very quickly. I am quite pleased with the number of books I have read so far. Bev at My Reader's Block invites us to share our efforts in climbing the world mountains, and, our TBR shelves. I have read 13 books from my shelves and that means I have reached Pike's Peak and am looking out over the beautiful surroundings from 4.302 meters (or 14.115 ft). Yay! Furthermore, it takes me 200 meters (or 657 ft) up Mont Blanc! Very suitable since we were not far away from that mountain during our Easter holiday. I need 23 more book to reach the top. That will be my aim for next check point. My aim for the year is Mt Ararat and 48 books. I think I am doing well so far.

Over to Bev's questions:

A. Favourite cover so far is from Andrea Camilleri's The Hunting SeasonAbsolutely wonderful.

B. Who has been your favourite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.

It has to be "Girl in Rose" the last love of Haydn. Probably because she is illusive. Not very much is known about her, but she seems to linger on in the background, making a great impact.

C. Have any of the books you have read surprised you - if so, in what way?

I have to go for Love in a Blue Time by Hanif Kureishi. I have heard so much about him, but was rather disappointed. I have to admit thought, that this short story book is probably not his best.

D. Title Scrabble. See if you can spell a word using the first letter of the first word in the titles.

Hm, not easy when you only have one vowel! But here we go - the word is FLASH.

Finding your element by Ken Robinson
Love in a Blue Time by Hanif Kureishi
Angel Fall by Kristin Hannah
(The) Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
(The) Hunting Season by Andrea Camilleri

Thank you Bev for hosting one of my favourite challenges. I love your questions to go with them. They give another dimension and thought to what you have read.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Bookmark Monday



I am joining Guiltless Reading for Bookmark Monday.

On Thursday I went to Passa Porta, which is an international book shop here in Brussels. Visiting author was John Banville. I bought four of his books, which he kindly signed.

When buying a book at the book shop, you get a bookmark and this is my sample of a Monday bookmark this week.


As you see, I bought Mrs Osmond by John Banville and got his signature. It was a joy to read.  More will come on the evening and the interview and the new books.