Monday, 13 May 2019

Bookmark Monday

This meme is hosted by Guiltless Reading. It was a while ago since I posted one of these, actually back in November last year. I obviously have not collected any bookmarks since. This is not really a bookmark, but I like to use different sizes and forms for my bookmarks, so it is fine.

I visited the Modern Museum here in Malmö last week. There was an exhibition on Andy Warhol. I did see another exhibition with him and Pablo Picasso in a museum in Brugge, Belgium about a year ago. There were no bookmarks, only by Picasso, of which you find a sample under the link, as well as a postcard and key ring. Key rings are another obsession. I like these small souvenirs which you can also use. Sorry, lost track there!

In the exhibition which also hosted some of his designs for vinyl records (I did not know he designed these kind of things) as well as some of his famous faces. The most interesting part though, was a film on his Brillo box. We followed a family's purchase of the box, and the signature on it by Warhol. Quite interesting. Especially, since the box was sold for 2,7 million dollars not so long ago. Although, the family who originally bought it and used it as a coffee table, had sold it many years prior.

To memorise this exhibition I bought a postcard on one of his Marilyn faces and, of course, a magnet for the fridge with the famous Campbell's Tomato Soup label. The words above appeared in the program for the 1968 Andy Warhol exhibition in Stockholm. I think sometimes we are already there.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Weekly mix

It has been rather quiet here lately. I have been rather occupied, with nice things only, and when I was finally at home, I did not feel like sitting down in front of the computer. Well, these things happens. I would like to share some of the things I have been doing.

On April 27, I was invited to Lena for dinner. Her friend Tina was visiting from Stockholm. I have not seen here in a long time, so we had a great evening talking about old memories.  The day after we went for an evening at the concert hall Malmö Live. There was a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. I love the music and used to know all the lyrics by heart. It was really great to see it performed live.

30 April is Walpurgis Night and a day when we celebrate the coming of spring. We do this by lighting big fires and sing to the spring. I must admit though, that most of the time the weather is very far from spring. Hail, rain and snow have shown themselves on this very night. However, this year it was quite a pleasant evening, so Lena and I walked down to the beach. In this part of the city they put a fire in the water. In some areas it was so dry so lighting a fire was forbidden, but this place was obviously perfect.

On May 2, I went to have lunch with Lena, at the Modern Museum here in Malmö. It was a wonderful lunch, a shrimp sallad with quinoa. One of the tastiest sallads I have ever eaten. Afterwords I visited an exhibition on Andy Warhol. A post on Bookmark Monday will be up on Monday 13 May, with a little bit more info.

On May 3, I drove about 20 min to Höllviken, a small town by the sea a little bit south of Malmö, to visit friends. Friends I have not seen in a long time. We met in the mid 80s, but afterwards always lived far away from each other. But you know what it is like with some friends. You have not seen each other for years, but you pick up as if you just met the week before. It was a lovely day with lots of talk and a walk in the surroundings.

Yesterday I went with two friends to Sassnitz, Germany, just for the day. It was a rather long ferry trip. Next time I will stay in the wonderful surroundings on Rügen, and visit one of my favourite cities; Stralsund. So beautiful.

Tomorrow is a lecture, Thursday is a theatre and on Friday/Saturday I will go with my husband to visit the island of Ven, situated between Denmark and Sweden. This is where Tycho Brahe lived and worked. He was a Danish nobleman, astronomer and writer. Edwin Arthur Burtt, says in his The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science: A Historical and Critical Essay (1925), that he was "the first competent mind in modern astronomy to feel ardently the passion for exact empirical facts." He was granted the island by king Frederick II and he built his research stations Uraniborg and Stjerneborg there. I think you can still se at least the last one today. It is a very small island so we will rent bikes and stay overnight.

And what about the reading you might ask? I did manage to squeeze in a couple of books. Med Örnen mot polen, a scientific book about the Andrée expedition. Three men trying to reach the North pole by balloon in 1897. They disappeared and were found only 33 years later. More about them in a separate post.

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito, about a fictional school shooting. It was chosen as the best criminal story of the year in Sweden. It has been made into a series by Netflix. Since I have now finished the book, I will go on to watch the series. Anyone who has seen it?

For our book club we choose a French book this time, and rather new. I could not find an English title, so don't know if it has been translated. It is La fille qui lisait dans le metro The girl that read on the metro) by Christine Féret-Fleury. More about it in another post.

A few notes on what I have been up to. I do keep reading your blog posts and am, as always, amazed at what you are achieving and doing.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Big Bad Wolf (Böser Wolf) by Nele Neuhaus

I was happy to find another book by Nele Neuhaus in our residence library. Still fresh in mind is my first read by her; Snow White Must Die (Schneewittchen muss sterben), which was an excellent read. This is another "non-put-downable" book. Had to read into the night to finish it, after having read almost the whole day. Yes, it is such a book.

The story is built up the same way as the previous one. At the beginning we meet a man who was convicted as a pedofile and is now out from prison, fighting with his life. We meet once again the police officers; Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein and their colleagues. The story starts when the body of a young girl, badly mistreated, is found in the river. Nobody seems to know who she is and the clues are none. Then a popular TV hostess is found beaten almost to death and looked into the trunk of her car. She is working on a new series of child abuse documentaries, where the culprits can be found at the highest level of society.

As usual, Neuhaus builds up a complex story. There are several story lines, not seeming to have anything in common at all, but as the story develops they come closer and closer together. Each story is a fascinating family story in itself and very well characterised. Neuhaus writes about police work as we can imagine it is. Not so much action, although there are some here for sure, but following different clues, many of which don't take them further. It is a slow process, but so exciting. Like Agatha Christies, she gives us the clues and we can make up our own mind of what is happening and has a fair chance of guessing who the culprit is. At least easier than in an Agatha Christie mystery, where the clues are not always that clear.

A highly recommended author. I see there is another one available in Swedish; Annars skjuter jägarn dig, as well as in English; I Am Your Judge/To Catch a Killer). Original title; Die Lebenden und die Toten. Are you familiar with the author and her books? Please let me know.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Becoming Mrs. Smith by Tanya Williams

Publisher: Rippling Effects; 1 edition 
Published: October 3, 2017
Paperback - 109 pages
I received a copy of this book from the author, Tanya E Williams, for a fair & impartial review

Becoming Mrs. Smith is a bitter sweet tale of coming of age. During her teenage years, Violet is down with Scarlet fever. She recovers, but her heart is weakened.  She grows up with John and the two of them falls in love.

Both of them study and want a better life for themselves. For Violet the road is clear, for John, not so. Everything changes when John decides to enrol in the army to fight in World War II. John's vision is clear. He wants to help to make the world a better place and fight for the right thing. Violet sees it as a betrayal of their life together.

Tanya E Williams tells a story of two ordinary people, with dreams and wishes. They both have to find a way to come to terms with their choices, and ask themselves what is really important in life, and above all, in their life together. Do they have a future? How does their different experiences affect that life?

It is a wonderful tale. The peril of living in the shadow of a war is well described. The uncertainty of what will happen and how the future will look like. Well written, and Williams manages to keep the story free from sentimentality. It is a lovely story.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Professor K: The Final Quest by Gabriel Farago

Cover courtesy the Publisher
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Published: October 25, 2018
Hardcover - 538 pages
Volume 4 of the Jack Rogan Mysteries
I received a copy of this book from the author, Gabriel Farago, for a fair & impartial review

Having been introduced to Jack Rogan through the pre-quel The Kimberley Secret, and liking the hero, it was with some anticipation that I started the number 4 volume of the Jack Rogan Mysteries. The books are stand-alone and can be read in any order you like.

Extract from the publishers summary:
"A desperate plea from the Vatican. A kidnapped chef. An ambitious mob boss. One perilous game. 
When Professor Alexandra Delacroix is called in to find a cure for the dying pope, she follows clues left by her mentor and friend, the late Professor K, which lead her on a breathtaking search through historical secrets, some of them deadly. ..."

The story starts at the Topkapi Palace in Constantinople on a dark January morning in 1595. Murad III is dying, and as custom is, all his sons, except the one to inherit the throne, will die with him. Fatma Hatun, one of Murad's consorts is afraid for her own son, Osman, who will die the very same day, if she cannot prevent it. The introduction leads us into a world where forgotten art and its hidden messages might provide a cure for a dying pope 500 years later.

Jack Rogan and his friends are out to save the day in this entertaining and thrilling novel. Alexandra Delacroix, a distinguished medical professor trying to find a cure for a deadly disease; Lorenza da Baggio, top international chef; Tristan, a gifted psychic; Dr Amena Algafari a Syrian medical doctor on the run; Salvatore Gambio a mafia boss eager to gain control of his empire; Luigi Belmonte an assassin with ambitions;  Antonio Grimaldi chief prosecutor in Florence determined to stop the mafia; a sick pope and a few other characters enrich the plot.

I must admit I found the beginning, with the introduction of the many story lines and characters somewhat overwhelming. I also thought that too many of todays' international problems were used for the story. However, as the plot develops I am hooked and Farago deals very well with the complexity of the story line.

Professor K: The Final Quest is an ambitious story, with historical details mixed with present day phenomena. Jack Rogan appears mostly in the latter part of the story. It does not matter since the other characters are well crafted and makes an interesting mix. One has to admire Farago's knowledge and eye for details, whether they come with complicated medical science, his many different characters or the places.

A fascinating and complicated story. The suspense is building up through the whole novel, and keeps it up until the very end. Unexpected turns, more than once, keep you tied to the pages. While reading, I wondered how so many loose ends would come together? Not to worry. When you come to the end and think you have figured it all out, the story takes another turn...and another.

Enjoyable and thrilling!

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

The Classic Club and Spin # 20

The Classic Club - Spin #20

Time for another Classic spin. It is a favourite challenge of mine and guide me towards reading the classics. I have updated my list with five new books, since I managed to read a few classics outside the last spin. I am happy about that. Here is my updated spin list.

1. The Master and Margarita by Michail Bulgakov
2. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Carter
3. Daisy Miller by Henry James
4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj
6. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
7. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
8. Child Harold by Lord Byron
9. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
11. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
12. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
13. A Merchant in Venice by William Shakespeare
14. Jaget och det undermedvetna (Die Beziehungen zwischen dem Ich und dem Unbewußten)
by C.G. Jung
15. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
16. Moments of being by Virginia Woolf
17. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
18. The Divine Comedy by Dante (reading)
19. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
20. A Writer's Notebook by Somerset Maugham

My 50 classics list is here. I am nearing the end with these last 20 books, so will start a new list. Looking forward seeing which book will come up and what you are given to read.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

The Kimberley Secret by Gabriel Farago

The Kimberley Secret is a prequel to Gabriel Farago's Jack Rogan Mysteries' series. After four books it seems his audience wanted to know the background of journalist Jack Rogan, on his quest to solve historical mysteries. Luckily, for me, it is the first book I read, receiving it as a free gift from the author via Booksweeps. However, I think you can read the books in any order.

Jack Rogan is a successful war correspondent in Afghanistan, when he receives a phone call, telling him his father is dying. He hurries home, just to get the chocking news that he was adopted as a young boy. The whole adoption process is rather mysterious, so Jack Rogan sets out to find out who his parents were, and where he comes from.

What I find so attractive with this book, is that it is an old fashion mystery of a kind we seldom meet these days. There is a mystery, a riddle to solve, and clues that lead you further and further into the story and its solving. Not necessarily a murder. Or maybe, just one, passing by in the outskirts of the story, but not to be diminished nevertheless. His trail takes him to unexpected places. They lead him back into Australia's wilderness, to forgotten history and stories and on a global trip where he finally finds an answer to his own background and who he is.

It is a charming story about a charming man. An enjoyable easygoing read, with history surrounding the story, and told very well. It has a little bit of Agatha Christie style over it, or those mysteries written earlier in the 20th century, that we love so much. Far away from the sometimes very violent detective stories we get today. I am now going to read Professor K; The Final Quest.  What better stories to read while travelling?

Monday, 1 April 2019

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Harper Collins

Publisher: Harper Collins
The book will be on sale on 9 July, 2019
Hardcover - 400 pages
I received a copy of this book (via Edelweiss) for a fair & impartial review

Sometimes you open a book, of which you only have a summary of the plot. You read the first chapter and you are lost in the story. It does not happen often, but here is one story that captivated me from the very beginning. A couple of chapters later, I never wanted it to end! Well, you do want even a good book to end, but I think you understand what I mean.

The Bahamas, 1941. Newly-widowed Leonora “Lulu” Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that glamorous couple whose love affair nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years earlier. What more intriguing backdrop for their romance than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a colonial playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires?
Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glister of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies an ugly—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau seethes with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle of it all stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of tremendous charm and murky national loyalties. Inevitably, the wilful and wounded Lulu falls in love.
Then Nassau’s wealthiest man is murdered in one of the most notorious cases of the century, and the resulting coverup reeks of royal privilege. Benedict Thorpe disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London and beyond to unpick Thorpe’s complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a mother from whom all joy is stolen.
The stories of two unforgettable women thread together in this extraordinary epic of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and human courage, set against a shocking true crime . . . and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple."
Harper Collins summary

The Golden Hour tells a story of suffering, love, spies and treason, even murder. We are presented with two stories; about Lulu and Benedict Thorpe, and a parallel story of Thorpe's parents (a German woman, Elfriede, and a Scottish man, Wilfrid) meeting in the beginning of the century. How they meet and fall in love, and how their personal circumstances make a relationship difficult. Hers is a story of suffering and complicated family history. He is a soldier. And then comes World War I. Where does love take them when their countries are fighting against each other?

The "present" story is set against the tropical scenery of the Bahamas in 1941-43. It is inhabited by a society with 'runaways', with or without money, using it as a haven during troubled times. Old aristocracy, rich businessmen and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor,  the center of society and its intrigues. Lulu Randolph arrives in order to write a society column for a New York magazine. Preferably, about the Duchess and her life. Lulu is trying to come closer to the couple, but it seems rather impossible. Until one day the Duchess is approaching her with an offer she cannot refuse.

When Lulu meets Benedict Thorpe, a friend of the Windsors, she has no idea of who he is, his complicated family history, or for that matter, his mysterious work. He might not just be the scientist he makes you believe he is. Worried times also hit the Bahamas, and under the perfect surface, something looms. A mystery, murder and spy story slowly develops. And then, after a passionate romance between Lulu and Benedict, he suddenly disappears.
"He said that's when everything looks the most beautiful, just before the sun sets. This luminous air turning everything to gold. He said it made him want to paint the whole world. And then it's gone, just like that."
There is a mixture of real time events as backdrop to this exciting story. The life of the Windsors after the abdication of the Duke in 1936. A sort of restlessness in their lives. Maybe the same restlessness that seem to possess many other persons staying in the Bahamas during the war. It seems everyone is waiting for something. But what? A wealthy businessman Harry Oakes is mysteriously murdered. The Duke of Windsor, being the governor, initiates an investigation that leads to unexpected results. Rumour has it that the investigation is poorly executed, leading to more rumours. 

For all fans of historical fiction, this is a perfect story. It is a story about two strong women, trying to find their way in the world. Both stories are as fascinating. Fighting for their loved ones, over years and continents. I love how Beatriz Williams has managed to merge her own, exciting and mysterious story, with real life events. It is well written and reflecting the times. She moves comfortably in the circles she is writing about. It is exciting, especially when you realise that the outcome is not what you expect. There are several twists at the end of the story. Amazing and fantastic. Just love it!

Beatriz Williams is the successful author of several novels of historical fiction. You can find out more about herself and her books on the link above. I am already looking for another one of her novels.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

About Grace by Anthony Doerr

I loved his book All The Light We Cannot See, and when my book club choose this for the next read, I decided on another book by the same author. This novel is not an easy read. It took me more or less 200 pages before I felt that the story ran off with me. Usually, I don't wait that long to continue a book, but Anthony Doerr is different. His stories do engage you and the prose is so beautiful, it is a pleasure to read it, for this feature alone. From the back cover:
"Here Doerr tells, in luminous prose, the story of David Winkler, a man graced with the gift of premonition and plagued by a dream that foretells his daughter's death. He flees thousands of miles from his family and home in a desperate hope that his dream will not come true. Set in Alaska, Ohio, and the Caribbean, About Grace is a heartbreaking, radiant, and astonishingly accomplished novel about the tiny but lifesaving miracles happening around us at each moment, and about our longing for grace."
It is a very tragic story and you feel this sadness all through the novel. A man's gift of premonition can easily turn into a curse. It is easy to just take in the sadness of the story, but when you stop and think further, you do find, among all the misery, a few things, which might be the most important things in life. Winkler thinks a lot about how life is treating us, what we do, and don't do with our lives. What is time?:
"Did time move forward, through people, or did people move through it, like clouds across the sky?"
"What is time? he wrote in his pad. Must time occur in sequence - beginning to middle to end - or is this only one way to perceive it? Maybe time can spill and freeze and retreat; maybe time is like water, endlessly cycling through its states."
After his flight from his family, David Winkler ends up in St Vincent, with Felix and Soma and their children. They are refugees from Chile. He is welcomed into their family, and he creates a special bond with their daughter Naaliyah, who is the same age as Grace. He is a scientist and has a special interest in nature. In Naaliyah he finds a soulmate, and he teaches her on how nature is working. They become his new family.

When, finally, after 25 years, he decides to go back and find out whether his wife and child are still alive, his life turns into another loop. During the 25 years in the Caribbean he let life lead him wherever it took him. "The inn itself began to slump, as though it had simmered too long in a covered pot." The same could be said about himself. Finally, he takes his life in his own hands. Or, does he really? Is he not just moving into another timeframe and continue to let life take the lead?
"He marvelled at the indifference of the world, the way it kept on, despite everything."
He decides to go looking for Sandy and Grace. Like in his earlier life, he is once again pushed around by life rather than by his own decisions, maybe guided by his fears of what he will find.  "To enter a world of shadows is to leave this world for another."  Failing to find his family, he goes back to Anchorage where it all started.

"It was as if her vigil from the boat shed, decades earlier, had begun anew. In his clearer moments Winkler wondered if, sooner or later, every event recurred, if life consisted of a series of repeated patterns: the scar on his knee; now an injury to his foot. Viewed from above, maybe lives looked like matrices of color, scarves on a loom. He wondered: When I wandered out of that town, heading toward the airstrip, was I planning on coming back? Or was I trying, as I did with Nanton's rowboat, to let the world take me?"

There are a lot of layers in Winkler's story and life. Must family be blood bound, or could family be accidental. Could you be considered a family, living among friends, sharing their lives, their children, their sorrows and happiness? Being part of some kind of unity. Is life taking us on a ride, or is it possible to control it? Can we change our destiny?
"But what was family? Surely more than genes, eye color, flesh. Family was story: truth and struggle and retribution. Family was time. "
"But there was a worse feeling: the possibility that it didn't matter what he had done, that outcome was independent of choice, that action or inaction, no decision mattered, and his entire attempt at family was now dead and nobody was left to care whether he gave up or kept on."

I started saying this is a very sad and tragic story. It is. Part of the time I was irritated with Winkler and his lack of action. Why does he not speak up? Why does he not take his life in his own hands? What is he waiting for? As I said, not an easy read. Having finished the book, it did stay with me, made me face the big questions in our lives. Who are we? Are we able to control our actions, or are we bound by destiny?  What have we become? And why? And how does time affects our life? Is there any hope for Winkler in the end? I was really hoping there was, but will not spoil the end for you who intend to read it. The book is definitely worth reading, if not solely for the story itself, but also for the prose, the thought provoking comments and a look at life from another angle. The beautiful prose, which makes the novel a pleasure to read, in spite of the difficult story. Just look at the quotes here. Much more where these come from.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber

A book that has been on my shelves for a very long time. I read it for the Book Challenge by Erin, as a "book that has been made into a film". It was filmed with Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper, directed by Sam Wood. I have been trying to watch it, but am not able to find it anywhere (at least not for streaming).

It is a great read and has a lightness about the story. The novel starts in Saratoga where Colonel Clint Maroon and his wife Clio Dulaine attend the Saratoga season as usual. They are now in their 80s and still the most popular persons during the season. This year Clint Maroon has decided to tell the truth about himself and his wife. However, the gathered journalists do not want to hear. They just see the successful, beautiful couple, still in love with each other after all the years.

Instead, Ferber tells us the story of how Clio Dulaine, an illegitimate daughter of an aristocratic New Orleans Creol father and his beautiful mistress Rita Dulaine. When she happens to kill her lover, she, her sister and daughter have to leave New Orleans and Clio grows up with her mother, aunt, the maid Angélique Pluton and a dwarf manservant, Cupidon in Paris, France. When her mother and aunt dies she decides to go back to New Orleans. The somewhat mixed family enters, Clio moves in and renovates her mother's old house and settles down to become a nuisance to her father's family. There is a half sister ready to go out into society. Clio needs money and she knows how to get it.

She very soon meets a cowboy, Clint Maroon; tall and handsome who falls for Clio. Clio sees something special in him and they start a relationship. He lives on gambling and day by day. Clio has a more settled situation in mind. She wants to marry rich and not have to worry about anything more in her life.

Together with Maroon they plan a sejour during the Saratoga season. Clio is pretending to be a widow of a French aristocrat, Maroon is there as himself. In Saratoga the crème de la crème meets during the season, and there are not shortages of eligible, rich bachelors. Clio plays out her scheme as the full feathered actress that she is.

It is a totally charming story, intermingled with the fight for the control of the lucrative railway lines, being constructed at the times. It is exciting and as the people gathering in Saratoga, with gossips, relationships and a place at the top, they await the next move from Clio, as is the reader.

This is the first book I have read by Edna Ferber, and it makes you want more. It was published already in 1941, but the writing is easy and charming. The story grows slowly, and although you do know the end of the affair, she manages to capture your attention for the whole of the novel. It makes for more. I see some titles of her that I will try to find;  So Big (won the Pulitzer Prize), Show Boat, Cimarron, Come and Get It, Giant, Ice Palace. I think some of these titles have been made into films as well.