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Showing posts from 2013

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

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This is a real classic and a book that we decided to read in one of my reading groups. It was totally different from what I thought it would be. I thought it would be heavy, tragic and with horrible details of the times at the front. It is horrible of course but told in an easy and accessible prose. It is told in first person singular with the voice of nineteen year old Paul Bräumer, a soldier at the Western front during the first world war. We follow Paul from the first staggering steps as a new soldier into the more routine soldier who has been there and seen it all. It is told in a matter-of-fact way that makes you feel you are standing beside him and experience all the things he experiences. That is probably also why you can identify with him. You follow him in school with his friends who also enrol. During the initial training which does not prepare them for what they are about to experience. Through the bullies who think the most important thing is the drill and who punish the

The Black Ops. Inc. Series by Cindy Gerard

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One day during my two week 'not feeling well' time when scrolling down my bookmarks on book blogs I came into the forgotten site of 'Xoxo After Dark' (xoxoafterdark.com). There is a free read section. Mostly Fantasy and Romance and not always to my liking but from time to time something pops up. And this series did. You normally have a limited time to read them free directly from the internet. This Black Ops. Inc. series remind me of Alison Brennan's books on the Kincaid family. It is the same easy read, very thrilling stories and a little bit of romance in between. This series is about a bunch of tough, brave and gorgeous men and women who fight for the good side! Yes, it is a lot about the good guys and the bad guys. The series start in Sierra Leone where our guys are on a mission with their special forces group. One of them dies in the attack. This makes them think of what they are doing especially since they suspect that he died by foul play.

The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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Book beginnings on Friday I will use this wonderful book for the book beginnings challenge. This one is really wonderful and this is the kind of beginning that captivates me from the first line: I'll never forget the night it snowed over Calcutta. Yesterday I was a little tired due to a cold so I decided to spend the day reading (what luxury even if the upper respiratory system is blocked!). I grabbed a book from my TBR shelf since the reader was set for loading! The book I choose is from one of my absolute favourite writers, Carlos Ruiz Zafón. His "The Shadow of the Wind" is a magic book, as is "The Angel's Game". I thought that I picked the third book in the series (although they are all independent books). How wrong was I not! The third book, I have now learned, is called "The Prisoner of Heaven". This turns out to be the second book of two he wrote in the 1990's for Young Adults (the first being "The Prince of Mist"). Howev

Kinship With All Life by J. Allen Boone

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If you have any kind of animals this is a book for you but of course for all animal lovers. Dr Dolittle invited us to 'speak to the animals' and this is book that has the same message but maybe on another level. The initial story of the book is about the German shepherd Strongheart who Strongheart was a famous movie dog in the 1920ies. He came to stay with the writer for some time and a very strong bond developed between the two. This was of course a very well trained dog and when you read about their time together he seems very human. Ah, but stop... this is exactly the point. Boone means that we humans always put ourselves above the animals and think ourselves superior. However, in the dealings with Strongheart the writer discovers time after time that the dog has his own private sphere and life which is on an equal level with himself. Mentally, we have to see each other as equal creatures and try to find the level where we can communicate with each other. Words are not

Visit to Amsterdam

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Your local bread shop! As I mentioned in the Tulipomania post we had scheduled a trip to Amsterdam for the long weekend. Although I have lived in Brussels for 16 years we never visited the city (although my husband have been there before). Well, some things you regret! This is a wonderful city and I should have visited it much earlier. But...never too late! There are a lot of things to see and just to walk around the city is a pleasure in itself. The wonderful canals, the beautiful Dutch houses, the flowers, the house boats just about everything. The people all speak English and they are all very friendly. We arrived on Friday afternoon and having settled into our Designer hotel, Artemis, in the outskirts of Amsterdam we took the bus downtown. First the important thing to find something to eat and then we were ready for the Rijksmuseum where the main attraction is Rembrandt's 'Nightwatch'. The Library in the Rijksmuseum Nightwatch by Rembrandt I like art, esp

Tulipomania by Mike Dash - Book Beginnings on Friday Challenge

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Since we are popping over to Amsterdam for the weekend I thought it would be interesting to read something connected to Holland. Recently I found a reference to 'Tulipomania' by historian Mike Dash as a reference book for an historical novel. Tulipomania is the name for a period in the Dutch Golden Age in the beginning of the 17th century during which prices for tulip bulbs which had then recently been introduced to Europe reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed. Do we see here a forerunner to modern share markets?  "The Viceroy", from a 1637 Dutch catalog. Price between 3,000 and 4,150  guilders (florins)  depending on size. A skilled craftsman at the timeearned about 300 guilders a year. Just starting it and it is bound to be a fascinating book. During the years 1633-37 there was a boom in the prices of tulip bulbs than can only be compared to the frenzy of shares today. Fortunes were made and lost over night. People paid more for a tul

La liste de mes envies (My Wish List) by Grégoire Delacourt - European Reading Challenge

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In the European Reading Challenge I have said I will read five books from five different European countries. This is the first one and as you see it is a French book (although I read it in Swedish, my French is not that good). This is about Jocelyne an ordinary French woman or any woman. Her life did not exactly turned out the way she dreamed of. She is living in a small French town, married to Jocelyn and have two children (one child died at birth). She has a small haberdashery and she also has a blog about sewing, knitting and similar handicraft. Nothing much happens in her life. The prose is very calm, down to earth and you can feel the eventless life slowly pacing on. The neighbouring shop is run by her friends which are also twin sisters. They always play the lotto and convinces Jocelyne to play as well. She pays 2 euros for a lotto shine from the machine and wins 18 million euro (or 18 547 301 euro and 28 cents)! She is shocked and doesn't know what to do. She receives a ch

Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

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Charles Dickens has been hot the last year, mainly since 2012 was the 200 anniversary of his birth, but also because after all this time his books are still read and admired. The book about his life that I have read is a brick stone of around 500 pages written by Claire Tomalin. Claire Tomalin is a new acquaintance to me but she will become a close friend in the future. This is an excellently written biography and when you look at the list of books by the same author you have a very interesting list of biographies that she has written. Can't wait to read about Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelly, Katherine Mansfield, Jane Austen, Samuel Pepys and Thomas Hardy. Back to this book. It is a very thorough and very detailed book. It really must cover most aspects of his life. It covers his younger years, the beginning of his carrier as a journalist, his marriage to Catherine Hogart, his carrier as a writer, his travels (America, Italy, France) his friends, family and monetary problems etc etc.

Book Beginnings on Fridays - New Challenge

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I just joined this very interesting challenge. I love a good beginning of a book. The sentence(s) that capture you from page 1. Anna's website: www.annabelfrage.com/Home/ For my first 'beginning' within this challenge I start with the book I am presently reading; A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage. This is about time travelling which is not really my very favourite theme of a book or movie (although I loved Back to the Future) however this book is rather fascinating. It is about Alexandra Lind who suddenly disappears without a trace. She finds herself transferred to 1658 on the deserted moors of Scotland (same place as where she disappeared in). The transfer is rather violent and she is injured but is luckily found by a nice guy Matthew Graham. Although it turns out that this guy has run away from the gaol and there are soldiers all over the place to hunt them. In parallel you follow the people she left behind. It turns out that there are more time travellers aroun

Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig

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I just don't understand how I could have missed this book which came out already in 2007! Me being a fan of Gone With the Wind  and all. Unlike the sequel Scarlett  by Alexandra Ripley this is not a sequel but takes place at the same time as the story in Gone With the Wind but seen from another angle; that is Rhett Butler and his people. It is an absolutely fantastic book and a MUST for fans of Gone With the Wind. Reading about the American south, in the south of Europe, with a glas of rose overlooking the Mediterranian Hmmm, not bad The book follows Rhett Butler and his family from his young years. His parents, brother and his sister who plays the biggest part. There are his childhood friends and the life in Charleston at the time. As the story evolves we also get to meet Scarlett, Melanie and Ashley Wilkes, Miss Pittypat, Mammy, Belle Watling and other old friends. He weaves a fantastic story but wholly credible around these people. The most impressive part is in the way

Hampton Court, Henry VIII and others

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Last weekend of September my husband and I went to London for the weekend. It is very convenient with Eurostar from Brussels centre to London centre. We are favourable with friends who have an apartment in London where we can stay (thanks a lot R & M). On Friday evening we enjoyed some lovely tapas in a Spanish restaurant and on Saturday we went to Barbacoa one of Jamie Oliver's restaurant. I think I don't have to mention how heavenly that meal was! Saturday we spent at Hampton Court which was absolutely fabulous. I visited it many years ago but can only remember the maze (probably because I panicked when I couldn't get out of there)! The castle has recently been renovated and the tours through the various apartments is a real treat. Furthermore, the audio guides are really great and give you exactly what you need to know to enjoy what you see. Hampton Court is forever connected to Henry VIII who never cease to fascinate us. However, part of the castle was renovated

Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 - Alice Munro

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We are heading towards the end of the year. In Sweden this is the time of the Nobel Prizes. In October when the prizes are announced and on 10 December when the prizes are delivered the eyes of most of the world is turned on Sweden. This is all due to one man, Alfred Nobel (1833-1896). He was a chemist, engineer, innovator and armaments manufacturer. He held 350 different patents of which dynamite was the most famous. In his will most of his money went into the establishment of the Nobel Prize. The receivers of the scientific prizes are mostly unknown to the general public, but we normally can engage ourselves a little bit more in the prizes for literature and peace (given out in Norway). Especially the prize in literature. Having said that, I think this is probably the most controversial one. To the general public it seems it is often given to writers you have never heard about. Ok, it is fine we are happy to try a new writer. But many of them - at least I think so - are very diffic

A wonderful bookshop

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Hello again. I have been away for ten days and believe it or not no real access to the internet. At least not in such a comfortable environment where I can write something on my blog. But, I have not been lazy, been reading a lot and also visited a wonderful antiquarian bookshop in Palma city on Mallorca. And I want to share this experience with you. Fitfh & Bond Fine Books (The English Bookshop, Calle Morey 7, Palma (just off Plaza Santa Eulalia - nottinghillbook@hotmail.com) is situated in the old city of Palma, its surrounding very fitting. You come inside and there are books absolutely everywhere. There are some small paths without books and here is where you have to carefully walk along. The whole place is like a labyrinth and where ever you turn there is a book case or books lying on the floor in piles. You come in on the top floor and work yourself downward 3-4 floors. When you are at the bottom of the shop you quietly wonder whether you will find your way up again! You

The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon

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Autumn has come to Brussels. The leaves are changing colour and the air is more damp. Today, however, as I write this we have a wonderful sunny day with blue sky and clear air. Over 22 C I would say. A book suitable for this time of the year is the Alchemist's Daughter. I got it on a book swapping day and it has been on my shelves for some time. A fascinating book, full of the earth and dampness of the autumn and with a story that takes twists and turns all the time. Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition and from antiquity onwards it has claimed to be the precursor to profound powers. The definitions are varied but some of them more common ones historically are the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone, the ability to make gold or silver and the development of an elixir of life. It is today recognised as a contribution to modern chemistry and medicine but differs from them in its inclusion of Hermetic principles and practices related to mythology, magic, reli

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski

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I got this book from my son who had to read it in school for his English class. I say had to read, because for him it is almost a punishment to read a book. Unfortunately, he is not so fond of reading as I am myself. This is really an easy read, a very thin book but it says it all. I remember the film when it came in 1979 starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine and I always wanted to see it but never got around. Well, it is not too late to watch the movie yet. The book is about a gardener named Chance. He has lived his whole life in a room adjacent to a closed in garden in a big house in New York. It is owned by the Old Man as Chance calls him. We don't get to know too much about him only that he has 'taken care of' Chance and given him this position. Chance has never left the house. It is hinted that he might be the son of the Old Man but it is not for sure. He has been given a room, a TV and a job as a gardener and this is his whole life. When his work with the gard

The End of your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

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This is one of the books I grabbed at Sterlings bookshop the other day. The title had my attention right away. Anything with a book club in it because it has to be a book about books. This is so much more. The writer has written a book about the books he and his mother are reading after she is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The mother was always a great reader and loved books. They decided to have a book club between the two of them. They decided on the books, read them and discussed them, often while waiting for the chemo therapy. This could easily be a very sentimental book but it is not. It is all through written in a matter of fact way and keeps a wonderful balance between the terrible times that are coming, a son's love for this mother and how to create quality time together. The mother Mary Anne Schwalbe seems to have been a wonderful person. Full of energy and care for everyone around her. She was working all her life (not so common for women to work when she was yo

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell

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The Sterling Bookshop in Brussels had an open day on Saturday 31 August to inaugurate their new book cafe. I had to have a look of course and being in a bookshop I had to buy a few books. I managed to limit myself to two! One of them is a really funny book on Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops collected by Jen Campbell. The comments come from The Edinburgh Bookshop, and the Ripping Yarns bookshop in London and from some other bookshops around the world. I inaugurated the cafe and started to read this easily read book. I was sitting there on my own and laughing about the hilarious comments people make. It continued during my metro ride home and during cooking dinner in the evening. For your benefit and as a teaser I quote some of the comments here. Customer: I read a book in the sixties. I don't remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean? Customer: Do you have any books by Jane Eyre? Customer: Do you have any

The Garden of Evening Mist by Tan Twan Eng

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There is a goddess of Memory, Mnemosyne; but none of Forgetting. Yet there should be, as they are twin sisters, twin powers, and walk on either side of us, disputing for sovereignty over us and who we are, all the way until death. Richard Holmes, A Meander Through Memory and Forgetting This is the introduction to this wonderful book on memory and trying to forget. The book is written on such wonderful prose so it is almost like reading poetry. It tells the story of Yun Ling. She is a chinese malayan and she and her sister are taken prisoners by the Japanese during their occupation of Malaysia 1941-42. Yun Ling is the only survivor of this prisoner's camp. After the occupation she is trying to find out where this camp was situated but she finds out that nobody knows.  The introduction of the books is as follows: 'On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan. Not many people would have known of him before the

Duchess of Milan - A novel of the renaissance by Michael Ennis

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You know what it is like when you find such a good book that you never want it to end. When it does, it is like parting with a good friend. This is such a book. As you saw from my last blog I am into history (again) for the time being. Therefore I grabbed this book from my TBR shelves. And it sure was a good choice? I love books set in a historic perspective and especially when following history as well as this one. It's almost like reading a biography about a historic person. To sideline a bit I would just like to mention a couple of my favourite historic biographies:  'Potemkin' by Simon Sebag Montefiore (absolutely excellent). Luckily I have two other of his books on my TBR shelves ('Stalin' and 'Jerusalem') so something to look forward to. Another favourite writer of biographies is Mary S Lovell ('A Scandalous Life' (Lady Jane Digby), 'A Rage to Live' (Sir Richard Burton the explorer, absolutely fantastic) and 'The Mitford Girls'

Summertime - Sweden time and this year historic time

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Summertime is the time I go to Sweden. This year I was very lucky with the weather; sunshine but not too hot. I spent the time in Karlskrona which is situated in the south east corner of Sweden by the sea. It is built on islands so wherever you go you see the water. It is possible to walk around the whole city on the water front. Karlskrona was founded in 1680 by Carl XI who needed an ice free harbour for his war ships. The province of Blekinge where Karlskrona is situated was perfect. This area as well as Skåne and Halland was given back to Sweden from Denmark in the peace of Roskilde in 1658. However, the Danes were still trying to take it back so a harbour in this area seemed perfect. This year I decided to go historic in my reading (as you see from the reading list) and discover more about this city where I lived between 1968 and 1980.  The city has many houses still from the 18th and 19th century. Unfortunately there was a big fire in 1790 which destroyed most of the houses

Tess of the d'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy

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Tess, Tess, Tess...! What can I say. What a miserable story this is. I recently read the wonderful 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and earlier I re-read 'Far from the Madding Crowd'. I loved the two books and started with Tess with a very positive mind. What a gruesome story! Misery, misery, misery. Here we have poor Tess who is the daughter of a poor farmer. Their name is Durbeyfield and someone put in the head of the father that they are descendants from the noble family of d'Urberville. Since there is a family with such a name nearby the mother arrange for Tess to go there to work for the widow of the d'Uberville. It turns out that the son  Alec arranged everything and did not tell his mother of the possible relationship. So Tess come to work for the mother and all is well until Alec one evening takes advantage of Tess. She immediately quits her job and goes back to her family. It is soon discovered that she is pregnant and she gives birth to a son who soon dies.

The Midwife's Daughter by Patricia Ferguson

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This is a wonderful book set in England in the beginning of the 20th century. It is about a midwife, Violet  Dimond, who lives in a small town. Her husband is dead and her son has emigrated to America. Her twin sister Bea,  with which she has never been of equal terms lives nearby and is running a home for orphans. On one visit Bea shows her a black girl of 2 years that has been found on the street. Violet is connecting to the girl since she reminds her of her dead daughter and decides to adopt her. She names her Grace. The story tells of the difficulty to grow up in a small community being black at the time when people had hardly seen a black person in their lives. But also how difficult it is to be different. Prejudices and narrow mindedness is part of the life. But it is also a story about the changing times coming up towards the first world war. The poverty and the strife to survive the day. The story follows Grace, Violet's and Bea's lives. Things are not always wha

The Lucy Kincaid series by Allison Brennan

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I recently reviewed the book 'Love Me to Death' by Allison Brennan. I liked it so much so I threw myself over the rest of the books in the series (Kiss Me Kill Me, If I Should Die, Silenced, Stalked, Reckless and Stolen). The books are just soooo good I can't stop reading. The stories are absolutely fantastic, so thrilling with many different layers and I can't remember when I read such suspense novels last. Maybe the books of Henning Mankell can match. There you also have a story and a suspense that makes it difficult to put down the book. This is a series of books and like with the Sookie Stackhouse novels it is a continuing story that covers a shorter period. Where one book ends the next one takes up. That makes you feel like part of the family and you follow the development of the relationship between Lucy and Sean and their relationship with their respective families and jobs. It seems there is a new trend in writing series with characters that belong to a ti

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam

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When finding this title on the Kobo site I got intrigued. This is for someone like me who can hardly do anything before breakfast... even when breakfast comes at 10 a.m.! However, just having gone into early retirement and finding that on the contrary to what I believed, my days have become shorter and I am achieving less then when I was working, I thought this was a good hint. And so it is. It turns out that a lot of the most successful people in the world (at least on the American continent) go up at 5-6 a.m., go for a jogging run, reading the papers, spending time with their family and in this way manage to spend some valuable time by themselves and with their family before heading for a stressful work. It sounds really good and I got a little bit inspired.  I do realise that the reason I don't get anything done is because I start the day too late and I spend around 1,5 hours breakfasting, reading the papers and e-mails etc. By the time I have dressed it is already mid-da

Love Me To Death by Allison Brennan

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It seems that every time I now go into the Kobo books web-site I find another book to purchase. Perfect with the E-Reader, then you can start reading right away. The summary of the latest book in the series of Lucy Kincaid 'Stolen' by Allison Brennan drew my attention. I realised quickly that this is a series so looked for the first book. I downloaded 'Love Me To Death' and finished it over two days. This was really a surprisingly good suspense book. It tells the story of Lucy Kincaid, her PI boyfriend to be Sean Rogan, FBI agent Noah Armstrong, other family members and agents. Such a book could easily become a cliché but Allison Brennan manages to keep the whole book within all limits. While reading I was thinking of good old fashioned thriller books 'noir' like the books of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mike Hammer and filmed versions like 'The Maltese Falcon' and 'The Big Sleep'.  The story is really exciting and is moving forward

The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers by Henry James

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Some years ago I read a book which has become one of my favourite ones. It is a biographical novel on Henry James called 'The Master' by Colm Tóibín. It is an absolute masterpiece and has to be read if you are in to both Henry James and Colm Tóibín. Since then I have read several books by him and 'The Master' really made me want to read something of Henry James. I can remember having read 'Washington Square' but not remember it (have to read it again). I was therefore quite eager to read 'The Turn of the Screw' when my Brontë reading group put this on the list. Since 'The Aspern Papers' is in the same Penguin book I finished both of them within a couple of days. The 'Turn of the Screw is a ghost story. A group of people are gathered in an old house around Christmas. They amuse themselves by telling ghost stories. One of the guests, Douglas, says he has the most dreadful story to tell, but it is written down, placed in a safe and he has t

The Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris

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Yes, continuing with the vampire theme. Charlaine Harris' books about supernaturals in the fictional town of Bon Temps in Louisiana is like a fairy tale (also including faries) and a lot of other creatures like vampires, shapeshifters, werewolves (of dogs or tigers or panthers or....) meanads and a lot of other things you have never heard about. In the centre of all this attention is telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse. Her boring life changes dramatically when she falls in love with Vampire Bill. This is in a time when vampires have come out into the open and have more or less the same rights as humans. From now on her life is never boring. She herself, has a little bit of fairy blood which attracts vampires and other supernaturals. With her specific telepathic gift (or curse as she sees it herself) she is hunted by various groups who need her to read the mind of people. The books are the base for the successful TV series "True Blood". The series is far more juicy

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

I really loved her first book ' The Tenderness of Wolves '. A lovely story set in the wilderness of Canada in the mid 19th century. Her second book which I just ran into by chance (thank you very much) is called ' The Invisible Ones ' and has a similar theme but a totally different setting. Both books are about people disappearing and the search for them. The new book is about private detective Ray Lovell. He is approached by an older man looking for his daughter Rose who disappeared 7 years ago. She married a man from another family, moved to them and was never heard of again. The man is of gypsy origin and Ray is half gypsy so that is why he is getting this assignment. The story is told from two different points of view; from Ray's side and from JJ's side. JJ is a teenager boy from the family where Rose married into. The parallel stories covers more or less the same time frame and it is interesting to see how the two sides see things and are affected by the

Four new books in my Library

As of January 1, 2013 I went into retirement. A new life lies ahead of me. Time for more blogging possibly! When I left I got a voucher from my colleagues for buying books. This is what I did this week. Bought four new books and have still some money to go. I was quite happy to find four quite different books. ' The Notebook ' by Nicolas Sparks,  which is an easy read. I finished it in a couple of hours. A fantastic love story (many tears from me as well). I happened to come into the middle of the film one evening and the little I saw made we want to buy this book. In all the misery in the world it is sometimes nice to just read a very nice, romantic love story. The second book which I am reading for the moment is more of a fantasy fiction book. ' The Left Hand of God ' by Paul Hoffman got fabulous reviews. Quite opposite to the first book you don't find that many nice people here. The beginning is very dark and reveals a hard life. Let's see wether there wi

Reading in 2012

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Another year is gone. As far as reading is concerned it was a good year for me. A lot of new books and new experiences in sharing reading. Thanks for my friends Alex (The Sleepless Reader) and Patty (Three Tales of a City) (thank you for that) I got into blogging and created my own blog. Yet still in its first infancy but hope that 2013 will see it expand and grow. 2012 was the first year that I read and recorded the books. I have always been a vivid reader but it adds and extra touch to really note it down and from time to time write a review. Looking back on the 70 books I read last year I was lucky to read one of the best books just in the end of the year. It was a Christmas present for my son (yes, I am still trying to get him interested in reading!) but so far I am the only one who has read it. It is a book for youngsters but can be read by adults without any problems. It is an absolutely fantastic book by Ransom Rigg 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'.