Tuesday, 17 September 2019

The Classic Club and Spin # 21

Time for another Classic spin. It is a favourite challenge of mine and guides me towards reading the classics. I have updated my list with a new book, to replace Orlando.  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 Mark 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 replaced by: The Brothers Karamazov by Fjodor Dostojevskij
20. A Writer's Notebook by Somerset Maugham

My 50 classics list, with still 21 books to go. Although I have replaced this list with others along the way. Now I will save this one, and new books will enter a list no 2.  Looking forward seeing which book will come up and what you are given to read. There are a few, really good books I think, but very thick. I will leave it to destiny to choose.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

This week, I have chosen the book Gloved Heart by Charlotte Brentwood. A historical fiction, with an unusual story line. My review under link above.

Book beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader
"Screams echoed in every corner of the room, and in her mind. 
There was agony, humiliation and confusion... Her dress torn, her skin ripped, and a man intent on possessing her, no matter the cost. She had never felt more helpless, worthless, or alone.  
Amy woke with tears pouring down her cheeks, but the incessant cries she could hear were not her own.  
It was the consequence of that hideous night: a baby born of sin. Motherhood had been thrust upon her, her life irrevocably altered."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda´s Voice
"Henry was inwardly bubbling with anticipation at the idea of spending some time with her as he took her home, completely alone. But first there was a job to be done, and it was more challenging than shifting hay."

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

20 books of summer and beyond

20 Books of Summer
20 Books of Summer was hosted by 746 books, and I daringly joined in the end of May. It was at a time when my reading was at its highest. Even in June I finished 11 books. Looking at the list now, I realise is a little bit on the ambitious side. Some of the books are rather thick and take time to read and consider. Having read only four books from the list is somewhat a failure.

My summer reading was SLOW! I was travelling, camping, had visitors and visited family, so there is a little bit of an excuse. From having read 11 books in June, I went to 1(?) in July and 7 in August. We are already a third into September and I have only read one book. What is happening?

1. Ashdown-Hill, John - Eleanor, the Secret Queen - Read
2. Barry, Sebastian - On Canaan's Side - Read
3. Boyd, William - Ordinary Thunderstorms - Read
6. Freud, Esther - Mr Mac and Me - Read
10. Larkin, Philip - The Whitsun Wedding (poetry) - Started
14. McBain, Laurie - Tears of Gold - Started

The full list is found here.

I will keep the list and see how many I have finished by the end of the year. Considering that they are all on my TBR it would be good to finish some of them. It seems I have read a lot of thrillers this summer, mainly by Swedish writers. You can't avoid them living in Sweden. They seem to 'spam' the market.

Read this year
I have read 62 books so far this year, and I am pleased with that. Every time I read your posts, read a review in the paper, there are so many interesting books. Almost panicking a little bit, that I can't read them all. But that is life.

From my shelves, and for Bev's Mount TBR challenge, I have read 23 books (books purchased before 2019). I have aimed for 48, so a few to go. I better get starting. All in all I have read 33 books from my shelves.

Print only 
As told by Tina's challenge of Print only books, I have read 46. I have the privilege to borrow books at the library now, as well as a, Borrow and Read club at the local book shop.

Calendar of Crime
Another challenge from Bev at My Reader's Block. A crime book a month with certain criteria for every month. April and July are missing otherwise I managed to find the right books. Still looking for September.

The year of Shakespeare
Hosted by Hibernator Library, the aim is to read one History, one Comedy and one Tragedy. I managed the Comedy with The Taming of the Shrew, missed out on King John for history, but might make it before the end of the year. Still to come is Hamlet for tragedy.

What's in a Name
I just recently joined this and have read three titles that fit in to the six mentioned. It is hosted by Andrea @ Carolina Book Nook. Three to go. Full list under Challenges 2019.

The European Reading Challenge
I have finalised this one with five books by authors or books set in five different European countries. Hosted by Rose City Reader means I took a 'Five Star (Deluxe Entourage) tour.

Read 52 books in 52 Weeks
Another great challenge which, due to my lack of reading in summer has big gaps through several weeks. Hosted by Robin. I have missed out weeks; 18, 20 and 28-33.

Moby Dick Read Along
This is the first read along I am participating in. Hosted by Brona's Books, I think I will be able to read this classic. It should be read between August 2019 - February 2020. I am on chapter 18.

A small summary of my summer reading and a re-cap of the challenges I am participating in.  On, on, for the next books.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Gloved Heart by Charlotte Brentwood

Charlotte Brentwood reached out to me in 2014 to ask if I wanted to review her first book The Vagabond Vicar. I accepted with pleasure, being a fan of historical fiction (review under link). She has recently finished her second book, Gloved Heart, and I am happy to have the opportunity to review also her second novel.

From the back cover we learn:

"Amy Miller is struggling to come to terms with her new life as a mother, while being a reluctant guest in a rigid gentry household. A victim of abuse, she is determined to never trust a man again. 
Henry Russell has loved Amy for as long as he can remember, but his family want nothing to do with her. A chance encounter with Amy rekindles a friendship which might save both of them.
The discovery of a secret which holds the key to Amy’s past will change them forever, and jeopardise any chance they have for happiness. Can Henry show Amy that true love will give her everything she could ever need?"
The genre of historical fiction (Regency in this case) often has an element of romance in it. How much of romance differ from author to author. Personally, I like when the story has a streak of 'realistic' life rather than too much romance. Charlotte Brentwood manages this balance perfectly in her novels. Although we usually know which two characters will end up in the end, Charlotte keeps us guessing to the very end.

There are no straight lines in this novel, and the story takes off in unexpected directions. Charlotte has recently become a mother, and that is maybe why a baby has a big part in her latest novel. As historical fiction goes, the beginning is quite unusual and surprising.
"Screams echoed in every corner of the room, and in her mind. 
There was agony, humiliation and confusion... Her dress torn, her skin ripped, and a man intent on possessing her, no matter the cost. She had never felt more helpless, worthless, or alone.  
Amy woke with tears pouring down her cheeks, but the incessant cries she could hear were not her own.  
It was the consequence of that hideous night: a baby born of sin. Motherhood had been thrust upon her, her life irrevocably altered."
The beginning takes you directly, and without further ado, to the heart of the story of Amy and her baby. How will they survive in England in the beginning of the 19th century? A baby born out of wedlock after a rape. It is a different approach to historical fiction and makes for interesting reading. Maybe because Charlotte is herself a mother now, the relationship between Amy and her son is very well characterised in the book. Is it possible for Amy to love her baby? Looking at him, will she forever remember that traumatic night? Can she put her past behind her and find love again?

Charlotte's prose is beautiful and so easy to read, like a river slowly flowing through the landscape. Gloved Heart with its secrets and mysteries, keeps you wondering until the very end.

In Charlotte's thank you note at the end of the novel, she reveals that she is busy on her next book, Barrington Meets His Match. Barrington is the man who imposed himself on Amy. I can't wait to see what Charlotte Brentwood will do with his story. I have learned that one can never be too sure where Charlotte will take her stories, and how they will end. Looking forward to her next story. 

Sunday, 8 September 2019

What's in a Name 2019 - Challenge

In 2019 this challenge is hosted by Andrea @ Carolina Book Nook. It extends from January 1 to December 31, 2019.  You can sign up any time, but only count books that you read between those dates. For more info use link above. The six examples of subjects we want to find in the title are:


I am just signing up now, and have read three out of the six subjects. Hope to finish by the end of the year. 

Monday, 2 September 2019

After the summer

Hello again. Long time no see! It has been quiet on this blog for some time. From mid-July I have been travelling, seen family and have had visitors. A busy time which gave no time neither for blogging, nor for reading. In July I only finished ONE book! Scandalous, but what can you do.

We have been camping among other things. We visited the island of Gotland and Fårö on the SE coast of Sweden. Wonderful place and more about that later. This picture is from the mainland, but it is not so bad to fall asleep and wake up to this view!

Now things are calming down, but I have been reluctant to come back to the computer. I have tried to follow my usual blogs, commenting some, and even following a read-along of Moby Dick. Slowly, slowly, I also have finished a few books. Mostly thrillers which tend to be easily read.

I have had a few thoughts during the summer on where I want to go with my blog. I am still thinking and planning a few changes. They will be revealed soon.

I did manage to read seven books in August, of which there will be one review and a few short ones. I have now enrolled in my book store's annual book group, 'Borrow and Read'. You pay around 40€ and you get to borrow and read 55 books. A good deal if any. You get to keep the last book you borrow as well. I started with a favourite author and a book that has got good reviews among my blogger friends, Kate Morton's The Clockmaker's Daughter. So far so good.

I will also continue with Moby Dick read along hosted by Brona @ Brona's Books. Feel free to join, it will continue until end of February. I find it excellent to read it this way. I notice that some bloggers don't seem to have a problem reading it all at once! Like Deb Nance @ Readerbuzz! Well done, and excellent blog post about it as well. Me, I take it rather easy. Although must admit that the writing is very good, and so far, not so difficult as I expected. Let's see what I think, once I have finished it.

Yes, it is me swimming in the Blue Lagoon on Fårö
Now, I am thinking back of the wonderful holidays camping. Such a simple life and close to nature. A lot of swimming, like on this photo, since it was another nice and warm summer here in Sweden.

Looking forward catching up with you all and be inspired for more interesting reading and blogging in the autumn.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Travels in Austria, Switzerland and Italy

Summer time, travelling time. The holiday is spent in western Austria, which means you are close to several countries in Europe. We already had tickets for the opening of the Bregenzer Festspiele, so there is where we headed first.

We started with a short daily excursion to Ebenalp in Switzerland. Our son visited it some weeks ago, and the pictures were so nice, so we could not resist a visit. It is situated in a beautiful valley. You take the cable car up (unless you want to climb a steep mountain). From the top station there is a short walk to caves, where they have found traces from the Neanderthal period. Quite stunning. You walk through the caves and comes out on the side of the mountain. There is an Hermitage where monks used to live and also a small chapel, where the church room is situated in a cave. Further along the mountain wall, there is a small path. It is really like walking on the wall itself. You come around the corner and there is a guest house with restaurang stuck in the wall. Quite amazing!

The Content Reader
Ebenalp in Switzerland where we had lunch at the guest house
In the evening we visited the music festival. It is quite stunningly situated along the shores of Lake Konstanz. The theatre is a half moon, quite like the old antique amphi theatres, overlooking the water. The scene, or scenes because there are several, are situated on the water. Quite fantastic. The festival is famous for there mechanical works of stages and decor, and it was quite fascinating to see. They gave Rigolette by Guiseppe Verdi. It was all very good, with excellent singers. However, for me, all the mechanical works, and the actions taking place all around, took away the attention of the opera itself. It was the first time I saw Rigoletto, so have nothing to compare with.

The Content Reader
Lake Konstanz in Bregenz by sunset
Now we went for three days of camping. First camp was Morteratsch in the Swiss alp, close to St Moritz. Beautiful place. It is the largest glacier area in the Bernina Range.  We took a hike to the Chamanna Boval Hütte. It was a tiresome walk for me, quite steep with a lot of stones to climb. The hütte is situated on around 2.500 metres. The view from there was quite stunning.

The Content Reader
Chamanna Boval hütte and the road to get there!
After two days we continued towards Italy and stayed one night at Prato allo Stelvio camping. Another lovely camping with a pool, where we could cool down. The next day we visited the castle ruin of Lichtenberg. The castle was built in the 13th century by the Tyrolean Counts as a defence against the Bishops of Coira.

The Content Reader
Castle Lichtenberg and a sunken town in Reschensee
We also visited the walled city of Glurns/Glorienza. It is the smallest town in South Tyrol. It was a medieval trading centre and walking around the town, is like walking in history. Imposing gates and fortified towers, narrow alleyways and beautiful squares. We had a wonderful lunch overlooking the main square.

Heading back to Innsbruck for relaxing days in the sun.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Paris in July - French salons

I mentioned in an earlier post an exhibition about Claude Cahun, and that I bought a book in the art gallery about salons in Paris in the 1920s; Ett magiskt rum (A Magical Room) by Ingrid Svensson. It is an excellent and very interesting book. Unfortunately, I don't think it is translated. It was a nice surprise to read, and tells a lot about Paris at the time and the general atmosphere among the intelligentsia. She also gives and account on the background to all the expats 'overflowing' Paris at the time. "Art, literature and tolerance - not at least sexually - drew artists, writers and intellectuals to Paris."

Since the Middle Ages, the Left Bank has been the centre of the intelligentsia in Paris. This is where the literary circles gathered. People lived poorly, so the cafés became a meeting point. The area was full of small book shops. Montparnasse became the centre of art. Also here the cafés were important as places for people to meet.

The Salon 

According to Wikipedia a salon is:
"a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "either to please or to educate" (Latin: aut delectare aut prodesse). Salons in the tradition of the French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries were carried on until as recently as the 1940s in urban settings."
The history  of the salons goes back to the antique, but it is often said to have started in France during the 17th century. One of the most important hostesses (it seems often to be women hosting these events) was Marquise de Rambouillets who dominated the Paris scene between 1610-1650. Here people discussed science and literature. After her came Madeleine de Scudéry. She was a writer herself and quite controversial in her own time. She was satirised by Moliére in his plays Les Précieuses ridicules and Les Femmes savantes. Her salon mostly discussed feelings and love, as a protest to the strict culture of the courts.

The salons in France were often magnificent as well as influential; they were dominated by art and literature, and the most influential guests were encyklopedists, filosofers and writers. The salon was developing as a power base that could influence even the elections to the French academy. It has also been argued that the academy is a mixture och institution and salon.

The Salons in Paris in the 20th century

Who were hosting the salons in Paris in the beginning of the 20th century? Marcel Proust was an eager visitor to the salons and he talks about Countess de La Rochefoucauld and madame Madeleine Lemaire. Both of them appear in his own texts. Another one that he frequented is Princess Edmond de Polignac's salon. These three women were part of presenting newly created art through their salons. Other salons were run by Gertrude Stein and Natalie Barney. Polignac's salon was more directed towards music, Stein towards art and Barney towards literature. It was at Polignac's salon that people could listen to musicians like Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy and many others. Durin half a century, from 1890 - 1940, she was the most influential hostess.

Countess Greffulhe, also admired by Proust and entered into his texts, was interested in everything new, but was a great patron for music. She supported, among others, Camille Saint-Saëns, Isadora Duncan, Diaghilev and the Russian Ballet. It was thanks to her that Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss came to Paris to conduct.

Duchess de Clermont-Tonnerre was another hostess and writer. She had advanced ideas and was politically radical. To her salon came many different people from various areas of the society.

These are just a few of all the women hosting salons in Paris in the beginning of the century. They were influential in promoting upcoming writers, composer and artists. There were an estimated forty saloons during this time. Some of them lived on into the 50s, but today there are none in this sense of the word. One important aspect of the salons according to Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska is the importance of servants. To be able to organise such grand evenings, you needed servants to take care of the administration.

Today the salons look different. They are open for bigger groups, from different parts of the society and take place in libraries and book shops. Literary societies arrange meetings with themes; either a single writer or a genre of books that will be discussed. Writer meetings are also quite common today. Personally, I think it is very interesting to meet a writer in person. Having said that, I would have loved to be able to go to a literary salon, either in 17th century Paris or in the 1920s.

Next post will be about the four important hostesses in Paris in the 1920s; Gertrude Stein, Natalie Barney, Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach. 

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Paris in July - My love for French history

When I was young I had a period where I was really obsessed with French history, especially the time of Louis XIV. I read a lot about his time, both non-fiction and fiction. I can't remember how it started, but maybe it was with the books about Angelique. Written by Serge and Anne Golon, which in the English and Swedish translations were merged to Sergeanne Golon. According to Wikipedia it was mainly Anne who wrote the books and her husband Serge who did the historical research.

The books were a big success at the time. I wanted to read them and went to the local library (in a village) to ask for them. I never forget what the librarian said: "We don't keep books like that!" They were obviously not comme-il-faut enough! So what did I do? I bought them. This must have been in the beginning of the 70s, and I still have them on my shelves! From time to time I re-read some of them.

I think I love them because of the historical settings. It is set during the time of Louis XIV, mostly in France, but also in Morocco and, the last books, in the New World. It was a turbulent time, and Angelique is moving in different worlds; from the rich aristocratic world to the poorest part of Paris. Many of the historical events in the books have inspired me to further reading. There is a lot of action as well as romance. A good mix.

It is always interesting to read about kings and queens, and Louis XIV was grander than life itself (not talking about his political deeds, just his way of promoting himself). L'état c'est moi! He built Versailles which was the model for later palaces in different countries. Still today, it might be considered the grandest of them all. He ruled as an absolute monarch for 72 years. Must be a record long reign? Even today, many books on historical fiction are set in this time.

Being obsessed with French history, led to the book Désirée by Annemarie Selinko, which I read about the same time, that is, in my youth. She was the daughter of a merchant in Corsica, and was engaged to Napoleon. That was before he went to Paris and met Josephine. She did not do bad when she married one of Napoleon's Marchals, Jean-Baptist Bernadotte. He became King of Sweden in 1818, and she, Queen Desideria. It seems she was not too happy being queen of this dark and cold country. She probably fared better though,  than if she had been married to Napoleon.

Lately, I read a great biography, Marie Antoinette - The Journey by Antonia Fraser. An Austrian princess married to the doomed Louis XVI. She was not entirely happy at the French court and was rather disliked. There is a little bit of a Swedish connection here. The Swedish Count Axel von Fersen is rumoured to have been her lover. He also staged a rescuing attempt when they were threatened with imprisonment. It failed and you all know what happened.

Axel von Fersen is also an interesting character; "a Swedish count, Marshal of the Realm of Sweden, a General of Horse in the Royal Swedish Army, one of the Lords of the Realm, aide-de-camp to Rochambeau in the American Revolutionary War, diplomat and statesman, and a friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette of France." (from Wikipedia). He met a terrible end in Sweden, but more about that when I have read a recent purchase; Huset von Fersens uppgång och fall (The Rise and Fall of the House of von Fersen, my transl.) by Göran Norrby.

Another book that is waiting to be read about this time, is Bussy-Rabutin's Histoires Amoureuses des Gaules. It is in French so it will take me a long time. Last year, for Paris in July, I wrote about his beautiful castle. Bussy-Rabutin was part of the court of Louis XIV, although he had some troubles.

Château de Bussy-Rabutin is an interesting and very well preserved castle. It was originally built in the 12th century by Renaudin de Bussy, but has been extended and renovated through the centuries. In the 17th century it belonged to Roger de Rabutin, Comte de Bussy (1618-1693). He was a member of the Academy during the reign of Louis XIV, a notorious womaniser, and on top of that, he was bold enough to put his impressions on the life at the Sun king's court into print. The book, Histoires Amoureuses des Gaules, led him directly to the Bastille and later on, in exile at his castle in Bourgogne. Although my French is not that good, I could not help but buy the book. A page a day?

A few French memories from my reading life.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Reading and highlights January - June 2019

I cannot believe it, but we have entered the second half of the year. Time for a round-up of my reading for the first half of 2019. I have read 54 books, of which I am rather proud. Of those, 20 books come from my TBR shelves. I aimed for 48 books, so have to hurry up a little bit.

I really liked most of the books I read, but here are some highlights that stick out.

Two thrilling books by Nele Neuhaus, Snow White Must Die and Big Bad Wolf. Her books are so well written and the story lines so exciting, with twists and turns. They also go deep into the characters, whether it is the police women/men, the culprit or all the people surrounding the story. Thrilling until the very end.

The Third Man by Graham Greene is a classic. I have seen the film many times, but not read the book. Greene wrote it as a script for the film, and it has then been turned into a book. I actually listened to it. It was wonderfully narrated by Martin Jarvis. The very dark and brooding atmosphere that you see in the film, is very well transformed into this narration.

Falls the Shadow by Gemma O'Connor has been on my TBR shelves for a long time. It is a different kind of murder case, going back to the 1940s. A young girl is witness to a murder and 50-60 years later is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Her daughter is questioning the verdict and starts looking into her mother's life, and finds some interesting and surprising aspects.

Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber is a classic that has been on my shelves for a long time. I loved the story of Clio Dulaine and Clint Maroon and their struggle to make themselves a better life.

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams. I received this novel as a reading copy via NetGalley. It is about to be published. An interesting historical fiction of the 'beautiful' set in Bahamas during World War II, with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the forefront. It is a wonderful story of love, deceit, spies and political turmoil. This is my number one favourite so far this year.

Sebastian Barry never disappoints you. On Canaan's Side is another of his real life stories of Irish people immigrating to America. He very well describes the situation in Ireland and how the Irish fare when coming to America. It is narrated by 89-year-old Lily Bere. She looks back on her life and we feel all the sorrows, but also joys, she has gone through. A beautiful tale.