Monday, 29 September 2014

Tolkien - J.R.R. Tolkien's Double Worlds and Creative Process by Arne Zettersten

Arne Zettersten is a Swedish lingvist with a special interest for ancient languages and dialects. He became a friend and colleague of Tolkien in the 1960s when they both worked with a collection of medieval manuscripts, the "Katherine Group". Their friendship continued until the death of Tolkien. In this book he tells the story of this friendship and gives an insight into the worlds of Tolkien. The book is rather academic, as maybe can be expected, but gives an overview of what Tolkien achieved during his life time. And it was a lot!

For most people, like myself, he is known for the Lord of the Ring books. The epic fantasy has been voted the greatest book of the 20th century in a reader's poll (by Britain's Channel 4 and the Waterstone's bookstore chain). Tolkien is the father of the modern fantasy books and it seems, that so far, nobody has been able to equal him in quality and popularity.

Reading this book, you realise that for Tolkien, his books are just not books. It is his life. He started reading very early, studied several languages and was fascinated by ancient languages, some of them no more existing. Even as a child he made up secret code languages, and of course, for the Ring books he created new languages. He was one of the most knowledgeable scholars on old manuscripts, stories and myths. He was fascinated by the old Icelandic and Nordic myths, as well as the English, Germanic and Gothic ones. He became an expert of interpreting Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the original medieval manuscript of the Arthur legend.

These old legends and myths occupied his mind during his whole life. Maybe, it is not so strange that he used it to write his big epic books. He used to write Christmas letters to his children each year. They all contained a story and drawings (he could also draw very well) and he loved to tell stories for children. He also used to read for his fellow colleagues (in various groups that he belonged to) like C.S. Lewis who became a life long friend.

What is real and what is fiction? Tolkien lived so much into the world of the myths and legends and the world he created for his books is a "real" world. His whole professional work and private interests have been put into these books. The world and how it is populated, the people or the elfs, dragons, trees and all the other creations he thought up, the nature, the climate, everything is there. He also drew maps of the landscapes, which further gives it a real touch. Maybe his real world was his made-up world?

There were several attempts to put the books into film, which was not a positive idea for Tolkien. He never thought that it was possible. However, with the modern way of making cinema, 30 years after his death it was made into popular films and it visualises everything that he wrote about. He might have like it, had he lived to see it?

There is so much more to read about Tolkien's life and deeds in the book. For those of you who are interested in his work and life, I can recommend it.

I have never read the books, but after reading this book and the background to how they were created, I think I must read them one day. The books I saw always had this very tiny font and it seemed to me unreadable. Not to talk about the size of the books! However, with the e-books there might be hope also for me.

I have seen the films, and have to admit that I found them very dark. It is after all the eternal fight for good and evil, light and darkness. They are very well made and fantastically filmed.

I am full of admiration for this man who managed to create such a world!

Have you read the books? Seen the films? Did you like them?

Friday, 26 September 2014

A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This is one of the books I grabbed with the promotion "Take 4 pay for 3" while I was in Sweden. I had heard a lot about it and also read some very positive reviews from you out there. I can only agree, what a wonderful, funny reflection on people and lives today. It has been compared to "The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared", and it is in the same genre, but still a totally different book. The humour and the reflections on life are the same though.

This is the story of Ove, recently widowed, and still missing his wife. She was the only person in the world that understood him. He is a grumpy old man, and was already when he was young. A very practical person who can fully take care of himself and fix everything around him that needs to be fixed. Not very verbal, maybe not very intelligent, but he makes up his own world and live in it according to his principals. He is annoying most people around him, and now it is even worst after his wife died.

Then one day and Iranian/Swedish family move in next door in this little suburban area where he lives. His life will never be the same again. All of a sudden, Ove, who is a man of solitude and likes it this way, seems to have a lot of people around him, plus a cat, and he does not even like cats! Slowly, slowly Ove is drawn into another kind of life, and thinking of is not that bad.

There is a lot more to this story and it is told in a very humorous way, and through Ove's mind and comments we see the world in all its weirdness and it gives us a little bit to think of. I can easy relate to certain things that are happening, and understand Ove's reactions. He is, like many of us, stuck in our way of being and the most difficult thing is to change. There needs to be an outside force that hits us Ove's case this is a young, pregnant Iranian woman!

A must read!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014


I am really panicking a little bit about all my challenges. I have hopelessly behind in my reading, and now having bought new books, I tend to stretch out and take one of them instead on being disciplined and read "what I should read".

Since I am feeling that I am behind I tend to start even more books than normally, thinking that I will finish more books this way. It does not work!

So, I have decided to throw off all the challenges for the time being and when I read one, I will be happy to update my Challenge page. Considering all the new books, my TBR shelves will suffer as well, but that's life! These ones have to be added to them!

I have not yet managed to find a space for the new ones! Still lying in a noble pile on our guest bed.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Märta and Hjalmar Söderberg - A Marriage Disaster by Johan Cullberg and Björn Sahlin

We read books to read about other lives, other countries, other horizons and for a lot of more reason. However, as they say, life is often more rich than anything you can read about. This is what I thought about this book. I read a review in a Swedish paper and found the story intriguing; one of our great writers, his unhappy, 'crazy' wife, leaving the wife with three children and in the end trying to achieve a divorce by forcing her into a mental institution. Here sure is juicy details for a TV-series to run for at least 6 seasons.

I had never heard about his wife, or his marriage, or his dramatic life before, so I thought it was a good reason to buy the book. I have only read two of his books, also being two of his most famous, Doctor Glas and The Serious Game. Both of them have some real life aspects in them.

Of the two writers one is a professor in psychology and the other a publisher, author. They mention that it was supposed to be a book about Märta and her fate, but hers and Hjalmar's lives are so connected that it was difficult to exclude him from the story. Therefore, here is a biography on both of them and seeing
events of their lives from each's point of view.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

This book has been on my wish list for some time. Mainly I think because of the title! But also because of the story. While staying in the guest flat where my parents live, and checking the small book shelf they have there (people who stay leave books behind) I found this one to my surprise. I grabbed it immediately, and started to read.

It starts in January 1946 in London, just after the end of the Second World War. Juliet Ashton is a well-known writer who wrote column under the pseudonym Izzy Bickerstaff during the war years. Her friend and publisher, Sidney Stark, published them as a book, and she sets of for a promotion tour. However, now she is looking for something else to bite into. By pure chance she receives a letter from a man namned Dawsey Adams on the island of Guernsey. One of the Channel Islands it was occupied during the war and life is very harsh. The islanders stick together and form a rather close community. Dawsey, who is a avid reader, comes across Juliet's name in a book written by Charles Lamb. He writes her a letter, to ask if she knows of any more books by him.

They start a correspondence, leading to the information that Dawsey is part of a reading group calling themselves The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This sets the whole story in motion and Juliet gets the background to the founding of the society, which goes back to the war years. It spreads and soon she is in contact with everyone in the society and gets their view on events, and some views from people outside! It leads to a mystery of what happened to one woman who were taken away by the Germans and her daughter still on the island. In the end Juliet has to go there to see for herself. I will not reveal how the story develops but life sometimes runs in mysterious ways.

The whole story is told by letters going back and forth to Juliet from the involved parties. It is a real fell good book, but with a serious under tone. A lovely book that makes you happy. Unfortunately, this is the only book by Shaffer, who passed away in 2008.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

New purchases

While in Sweden I want to buy Swedish books. Normally, I venture into a book store and see what is new and exciting. Books are rather expensive in Sweden so mostly I don't buy that many. However, this time I went twice to a second hand shop that also had a big library section. When prices are 0.50 or 1.00 euro there is not much thinking of it. Especially, since I had the car, and could load the books in there. Flying is always difficult considering the weight of the books.

One thing that hit me, while looking in the book stores, is that books these days tend to be VERY THICK! You could buy five books and end up with half a metre! Difficult choice when you have no space in the book case. I don't know what is with this trend of writing books that covers 800 to over 1.000 pages! You could argue that you get a lot for your money! Yes, true, or it is just an inflation in words? And what about holding them why you are reading? They are heavy, you might have to sit by a table. Don't even think of lying in bed reading, you'll get muscle ache in your arms.

Friday, 19 September 2014

I have missed you!

This is not a title of a new interesting book. It is a statement from my side. I am now back home and in business again. It has been some busy weeks in Sweden helping my son install himself for the university studies. Now he is up an running and I can go back to my books.

I did not have time to read a lot but I managed to buy a lot of books, mostly second hand; 50 cents for the pocket books and 1 euro for the hardback! Unbelievably cheap. A list will come, hopefully, already tomorrow.

Crossing the bridge between
Sweden and Denmark
My challenges are totally lost for this month I think. I did not manage to finish Emma by Jane Austen in August, I did not manage to read the Gissling book for the Brontë Reading Group, not the two books for the other book club; Beloved by Toni Morrison and Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marques, so far not the two books about Hemingway for a Swedish 3xbooks challenge. It is rather depressing and I am wondering whether I should skip challenges for the time being? BUT, when I organise myself I might be able to read them after all!

In the middle of the bridge
I managed to listen to a book for the first time. I drove from Sweden to Belgium which took more or less 12 hours. I thought that this might be the time for me to listen to a book. I found a thriller called Ghostman by Roger Hobbs. I see that he got a nomination for the Edgar Prize for first novel by an American author. Hmm, I don't know whether I can agree. The story itself, or really two stories; one present and one going back five years, were rather thrilling, but for me the whole story was too technical. It looks more like a manual for bank robbers; there were endless details how to act in a bank robbery, on guns, on get away cars, on preparations, on drugs etc etc. The story sort of disappeared in all the technical details. Since I am more of a macro person then micro person it did not do it for me. However,  it kept me occupied with something during the drive.

 Will I listen to another audio book? Maybe, give it another try. I can't imagine doing it at home, but while driving for example, or out walking maybe, I can imagine to listen to a book. I still prefer to read myself.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Election day in Sweden

Today is election day in Sweden. There are two 'blocs' as we call them; each bloc consists of several parties that come together to form a coalition or alliance in order to govern; there is not one party strong enough to govern by itself. The two blocs are from middle to left and from middle to right. This year it is very tight so it will be a very close match.

While waiting for the result I took a walk around the city with my mother. The city is very quiet today. People are voting in the areas where they live. Here is my mother in front of the lovely, old houses that are bordering Borgmästaregatan, which is one of the big streets in the city. Made into a pedestrian walk these days, one can enjoy some food or coffee on the pavements.

So that is what we did after the walk. We took a caffe latte with a pecan nut cake with vanilla ice cream in a café that was open for the day.

The cake was lovely, but so sweet and filled with calories, that we had to continue our walk afterwards as well. 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

David Garrett a modern 'Pirate'?

Sorry for being slow with posting these last weeks. Still in Sweden, lots to do and I have hardly read anything! Terrible, I know. Hopefully things will improve in the coming week(s).

In the meantime I wanted to share with you one of my favourite film theme songs with a wonderful young violinist to go with it (from you tube). David Garrett is a pop and cross-over violinist and records and performs both classical as well as modern music. This one has really made me one of his many fans. What do you think?

I get goose skin when I hear it.

As I am sure you know, it is the wonderful theme song 'He's a Pirate' from Pirates of the Caribbean. The music is written and composed by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Quality time in Karlskrona

Today is Sunday and yet another wonderful, sunny day here in the south east corner of Sweden. I
decided to take a walk around the city, listening to my iPhone and taking some pictures. The centre of Karlskrona, Trossö, was once several islands, but have today merged into one.  Trossö is, in its turn, surrounded by several islands, yet visible today. To walk around the centre means, mostly, walking along the water front. On a sunny, calm day like today, Karlskrona is a beauty.

Friday, 5 September 2014

True Blood and Sookie Stackhouse and Co

Still on the road so the posts are coming quite irregular. I had time though, one evening, to watch the last episode of True Blood. I am quite happy that it is finished. The ending...well, it was sort of ok I think. SPOILER here: It was quite strange though to have followed Sookie the whole time and in the end she married someone we don't even know who it is! In the books...SPOILER again... she ended up with Sam, and I didn't like that ending either. I loved all the books in the series (13) but though the last one lacked something from the rest of them. For the series, season 1-4 were fine but then it all went 'all over the place'.

I think this is the problem with most series; they should have a decided ending and number of seasons decided before they start. If the series become popular, it seems they decide from season to season if they are to continue. Well, this can only hurt the story, which in the end is the most important thing.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Expeditionen - Min kärlekshistoria (The Expedition) by Bea Uusma

Here I am, on my odyssey in Sweden, my bag full of books. Do I read any of them? No, not so far. It is funny how interesting books tends to turn up at every turn you do. This is one of them. My aunt Maggie received it as a present. It is a thick book, but sooooo nicely designed, containing pictures from the expedition and is so very nice to read. The story is totally fascinating and I read it in one evening and one morning.

The André expedition in 1897 was aimed at travelling to the North pole by air balloon.  The three persons that was part of the expedition were scientists, but not really explorers. They were badly prepared for disaster and expected to fly to the North pole, put a flag there, collect samples of various interesting species or whatever they would find, and return by balloon to Sweden. Unfortunately, the last time they were seen alive was when they flew away. For thirty-three years nobody knew what happened to them. In the 1930s they were found on the White Island by a scientific ship.

For a hundred years researchers, journalists and doctors have tried to solve the riddle of what happened to them. Why did three men die, in spite of a lot of food, warm clothes, a lot of ammunition and three rifles?

Bea Uusma attended a boring party in the middle of the 1990s. She choose a random book from the hosts book shelf and found herself with a book about the André expedition. She left the party with the book, read it and her destiny was made. The book and the story has been part of her life ever since. She educated herself as a doctor to be able to see for herself the reasons for the death of the members of the expedition, she studied archives, old letters, other researchers, all the documents she could lay her hands on. The result we see in this very interesting and loveable book. It is like she says in the title: "My love story".

During the years there have been numerous theories on how the three persons died. After her research she came up with another one, which I personally find believable. There will probably be many more theories in the future. However, this book tells the story of three men, dedicated to the exploring of the North Pole and risking their lives. This book is a wonderful dedication to such daring people.

It is written in Swedish and I don't know whether it has been translated to English or any other language. It should be. More people should be able to read such a love story. 

Photos from the expedition itself and some pages of the book