Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas reading

Christmas is over for this year. We had a quite Christmas here in Mallorca. Beautiful Christmas mass in the Cathedral of Palma to get a little bit of tradition to an otherwise rather untraditional Christmas. At least for a Swede. No snow here, just lovely sunshine, blue sky and around 20 degrees C.

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As you see from my December reading I have managed quite a few books this month. I also got two books for Christmas; Blå stjärnan by Jan Guillou - the fifth instalment in Guillou's family saga of the 20th century and from my geology studying son, Fossiljägarna (The Fossil Hunters) by Björn Hagberg and Martin Widman. One of the big mysteries of evolution when and how 'the fish went ashore'. I love these kind of books and have already started reading it. Have a look at the wonderful book marks, also a present from my son.

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I see many of you have already done a summary of your 2015 reading. Since I expect to read at least one more book before the end of the year, I will post my summary after the new year. I have also reflected on how to proceed with blogging and other interests in 2016, as well as a list of my favourite books this year. All in good time.

Thank you all for sharing my love for books and being friends out there. I wish you all

A Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Brontës: A Biography by Brian Wilks

The Content ReaderHaving just read Brian Wilks book about Jane Austen, it was with great pleasure that I opened his book about the Brontës. Being part of the Brussels Brontë Group and, as such, a fan of the Brontës, I have read quite a few biographies about them. However, as with the Jane Austen biography, I like the way Brian Wilks approach his subjects.

He manages to extract the most important things on the lives he is writing about. It does not mean that you feel that he has left anything out. Not at all. It is all in there, and all verified by his own interpretation of actions and happenings. I actually felt that I have learned more about the Brontës, although I thought I knew it all, by reading Wilks’ biography and his way of making us acquainted with the Brontës.  Being such a unique family they have managed to keep us spellbound almost 200 years later.
They were a tightly knit group of people all sharing exceptional gifts, interests and ambitions. As Charlotte tells us: 
My home is humble and unattractive to strangers, but to me it contains what I shall find nowhere else in the world - the profound, and intense affection which brothers and sisters fell for each other when their minds are cast in the same mould, their ideas drawn from the same source - when they have clung to each other from childhood, and when disputes have never sprung up to divide them.
Brian Wilks gives us a thorough knowledge, as far as it is possible of both parents, Maria and Patrick and of their aunt Branwell. He questions some ’acknowledged facts’ and shares with us his ideas, built up with the knowledge there is.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Jane Austen by Brian Wilks

Yet, another biography of Jane Austen. This time published as an e-book by Endeavour Press. The book was originally published in 1978, but still feels very fresh.

I have recently read three books about Austen, related to food and names in; Jane Austen and Food, Jane Austen and Names by Maggie Lane, as well as Only a Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen by Jane Aiken Hodge. Although, after reading the books above and thinking I know Jane Austen by now, I was quite captivated by Brian Wilks version of her life. It does not go into too much details, but keeps it on a track which can be compared to a novel in itself. Beautifully written and approaching Jane Austen with a wonderful insight into the person she might have been. It is a personal story of her life and deeds. Like Brian Wilks says in the Foreword:
"’It is a truth universally acknowledged that,’ writers are congenitally wired for communication. The evidence in Austen’s novels of her use of gossip, malicious and otherwise, her use of letters, stories, anecdote, her character assassinations and mischievous exploration of motive and intention, all suggest she would be blogging away with the best of us."
This quote shows the essentials of Brian Wilks’ understanding of Jane Austen. He manages to put her novels into our modern world and makes us understand them,  her writing and her times. There are numerous quotes from her books to show how she translated her own world into her books.

Although living a ’narrow’ life in the countryside, she was very well aware of the politics and social rules of her time and which she put into her novels. Through her brothers she had access to the navy and its life, the Napoleonic as well as other wars were part of her life. Socially she belonged to the country-side gentry, but through her brother Edward, who was adopted by the Knight family and their sole heir, her social circles widened from her own into the higher circles of the Knights. Edward also provided a house on his estates for Jane, her sister and mother when their father died.

Wilks matches life and customs in England at the time and how real life might have inspired the novels of Jane Austen. As Wilks describes it:
”Despite the rumblings of the industrial and agricultural revolution that were to shift the centre of gravity for the whole of the civilized world, rumblings that steadily grew through each year of Jane Austen’s life, England in the period 1775 to 1817 was stilla rural, picturesque, agricultural society.
Many economic historians see the very years of Jane Austen’s life as the hey-day of the English leisured class.
She wrote for many years before she was published and it was only in the end of her life that her books became more widely published and popular. Many were the evenings when she entertained her family with her writings.
”’The cultivation of her own language’ is precisely what Jane Austen set about. Words were to her playthings in her own personal life, and in her writing for publication she developed a sensitivity and confidence that resulted in a fine facility with English prose. It was the society which she found in her home that provoked the enthusiasm for and exploration of styles and techniques that were to become so eloquent a vehicle for her ideas.”
Jane Austen was a product of her own time. Her outstanding quality was the possibility to look at her surroundings with a sharp intellect combined with a wonderful sense of humour.
”In the later Austen family it was believed that Jane was a blend of both her parents’ natures: ’If one may divide qualities which often overlap, one would be inclined to surmise that Jane Austen inherited from her father her serenity of mind, the refinement of her intellect, and her delicate appreciation of style, while her mother supplied the acute observation of character, and the wit and humour, for which she was equally distinguished.’"
Jane Austen had a lot of inspiration from her own surroundings. The Austen family was very tight and helped each other out through all of their lives. Her many brothers all married and had many children (except her brother George which seems to have been mentally ill). Two of her brother’s were in the navy so she was well informed about what happened there, and we see references to the navy in several of her works. The ’marriage game’ of the country-side was all around her. All in all she managed to put it all into her novels with a grace and wit that still entertains people two hundred years later.

Brian Wilks’ biography of Jane Austen is written with care and a personal approach to her person. Highly enjoyable story of her life and work. Now I am heading for his biography of the Brontës!

Thank you to Endeavour Press for a review copy. The views above are my own personal ones.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Allison Brennan continuing...

The Content ReaderEnd of the year and I have treated myself to some very easy going reading. Allison Brennan is really a little bit addictive! Finishing Best Laid Plans and continuing with the latest in the Lucy Kincaid series No Good Deed, I realised that there will not be another one for at least half a year. I therefore looked into her Max Revere series and hit another interesting series, of which there is a novella and two novels already out. Next one in the series will be out in April next year.

No Good Deed is the ending of the story starting in Best Laid Plans. There is suspense on every page, and when you think there can't be any more...she speeds up the action to another level before the end of the affair. It is really amazing. You just can't let the book down until you have finished. At least me. Her stories are so complex, with many characters, but she manages to keep it all together until the very end.

Starting on the Max Revere series was another hit. The first one is a novella, Maximum Exposure, with the background story of how Maxine Revere came to be solving crimes. She is a criminal journalist and TV show hostess, trying to solve cold cases. She is tough and independent, have money in the background (that always makes it easier!) and is - sometimes - an obnoxious character. She is working with David, former military man, who is both assistant and bodyguard when needed.

The Content ReaderWhat I find so addictive with this series, almost more than with the other, is that the stories are so good. I just finished Notorious where Max goes back to her family in California to attend a funeral of a childhood friend, Kevin. Seventeen years ago, one of their friends, Lindy was brutally murdered and Kevin was accused of the murder. He was acquitted due to circumstantial evidence only, but was believed to be the culprit. He was not. Ever since his life went into a downward spiral until recently, when he started to look into who the murderer really was.

The Content ReaderIt is a fascinating story of dysfunctional families and ties, where family goes before anything else. The more Max looks into the various deaths; Lindy's, Kevins suicide (was it really suicide or murder), another murder taking place and another murder discovered, she gets more and more confused.   Working with the local police is not always straightforward or easy. Looking into old family secrets is not popular either, so Max feels antagonism from all sides. Not that that would discourage her. And when she meets detective Nick Santini other feelings start surfacing.

Ms Brennan manages to provide her stories with fascinating characters, whether they are good or bad. Often, at least in the Lucy Kincaid series, we get to follow also the bad characters, so you have two storylines that in the end collides. This makes it even more suspenseful since you don't know how your 'heroes' will get away from, or avoid these evil deeds. For the Max Revere series the stories are more complex and it is difficult until the very end to find out who really is the culprit. There are several to choose from, at least in Notorious. However, I suspected the real murderer, I had to abandon the idea along the way, just to pick it up again in the very end.

I have just started the third book in the series, Compulsion, but really have no time to read today, plus I have a couple of other books I have to finish. But it is difficult to stay away. My fingers are itching to take up my ipad and continue reading!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Best Laid Plans by Allison Brennan

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Just found book #9 in the Lucy Kincaid/Sean Rogan series, which I just love. When checking which number in the series it is,  I just realise that there is already a #10. Aren't we lucky!

Allison Brennan has written books about other characters as well, and I like them too, but this series is special. There is always a very interesting, quite intricate  story and the suspense is great, sometimes almost too much. Lucy is a FBI agent and her boyfriend Sean is a private consultant in computer technology. The system that he cannot hack into does not exist. They often work together on Lucy's assignments. Both of them have a lot of siblings and they all seem to work in the same business. A family affair one could say.

In this story Lucy and her FBI partner Barry work on a case where the husband of a congress woman is found dead in a hotel room, in a town he supposedly should not be in. He is naked and it looks like he has been with a prostitute. Not everything is what it seems and there are many leads, correct and false, threats and more deaths before the two of them manage to solve the case. Excitement along the way, I promise. The crooks are bad. There are some loose threads in the end, indication an continuation of the story in the next book, No Good Deed. Sorry, have to go and download the book. Maybe an early evening...!

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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Hidden Lives by Margaret Forster

The Content ReaderI first came into contact with Margaret Forster reading her biography of Daphne du Maurier. So when I ran into this book, which is a story about her own family secrets, I was thrilled. And she does not disappoint.

When Margaret Forster’s grandmother died in 1936, she took secrets with her to her grave. Just before she died there was a mysterious woman in black who visited her. She never revealed to her daughters what it was all about. At her funeral, when the daughters gather and discuss this mysterious event there is another knock on the door. Outside is an unknown woman claiming to be her daughter and asking if she left anything for her.

After Margaret Forster’s mother died in 1981, she started to look into the history of her family. She discovered that her grandmother was born out of wedlock. But what was disturbing was the fact that she found her birth certificate and then there are no traces of her life until she reappears in the official records at the age of twenty-three!

The story is the starting point for telling the lives of her own mother and her siblings. They were born in the beginning of the 20th century and Margaret Forster traces their lives through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It is a fascinating story of three women in the beginning of the century and how they coped with the modern developments during their own life time, based on the inheritance from their mother. The three sisters are very different and have different dreams. Even if it seems that at least some of them got the life they wanted, it did not always come out as expected. The siblings were very close and the family was the most important thing in life.

It is also a century where there was a huge development for women in society. When Margaret Forsters mother married she had to give up a very good, well paid job at the local Health Departement. It was not allowed for married women to work. She was an educated and intelligent woman who was obliged to stay at home and take care of the family. That was women’s duty of the day and it seems it was done without much reflection. Margaret Forster saw the unhappiness of her mother and decided early on to not become like her. She had inherited her mother’s intelligence, loved school and educated herself. Her life became different from her mother’s and grandmother’s.

Margaret Forster has written a wonderful piece of female history during the 20th century. A century that has evolved so much and so fast that it is hard for each generation to grasp the developments and ideas of the last one. It is told with feeling and a will to understand each generation. In the end she also discovers that when you look at the basics, the women in each generation are not that different after all.

This story stayed with me a long time after finishing the book. It makes you think of how women lived before and the hardships they endured. It is also a story of how the 20th century changed and affected people in a small town.

Margaret Forster has written many books of fiction, have edited Poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and biographies of Charles Edward Stuart, William Makepeace Thackeray, Elizabeth Barrett Bowning and Daphne du Maurier, as well as The Grassroots of Active Feminism 1839-1939.

Monday, 30 November 2015

First of advent and book launch

Yesterday was first of advent. We don't have a candle stick with four candles this year, which is customary in Sweden. In stead we settled for a 'christmas tree' candle that we received from Sally.

The Content Reader

In the afternoon we ignored the grey weather and headed down town to Waterstone to attend my friend Helen's book launch. Helen MacEwan is the founder of the Brussels Brontë Group and has written two earlier books about the Brontës; Down the Belliard Steps - Discovering the Brontës in Brussels, a book about how the group came together. Her second book is The Brontës in Brussels, a complete guide to Charlotte's and Emily's stay in Brussels and the places they visited.

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Her third book was inspired by her earlier books. While researching them she came upon the first biographer of the Brontës after Elizabeth Gaskell, Winifred Gérin. She is actually the only one who has written one book for each of the siblings, four altogether. Helen discovered that, not only was she a Brontë fan, but she had an amazingly exciting and varied life.

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Helen MacEwan
Helen gave us a short summary of Gérin's life, as well as all the detective work that was put in to find information about her, especially from her younger days. It took Helen two years to finalise the book, which included a lot of travel and visiting people who once met Gérin or have the papers she left behind. Can't wait to read this book. I got a signed copy of course!

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Helen signing books

Friday, 27 November 2015

'Bonjour Tristesse' and 'A Certain Smile' by Francoise Sagan

Two short books by famous French author Francoise Sagan. Bonjour Tristesse was her first book, written when she was only 18 years old. It is also her most famous book. Both books are about young love and complications. However banal that may sound, it is not banal at all. I was quite overtaken by both stories, they are very well written and you turn the page to see how the love stories will end.

Bonjour Tristesse is about 17 year old Cécile who lives with her father, the mother is dead. The father, Raymond, is a seductive, amorous man, with a string of mistresses coming and going. This story is mostly set in the south of France during some summer months. Elsa, the latest of the young mistresses, come to live with them in a rented villa. All is well. Cécile meets Cyril a neighbouring young man, and they fall in love with each other. In comes Anne Larsen, a woman the same age as Raymond, independent, self assured, intelligent and successful. Totally different from the usual women that hangs around. Very soon Raymond and Anne informs Cécile that they are going to get married. Anne is also a sort of guarding for Cécile and is trying to sort out, what she thinks, the too carefree life that Cécile and her father live. Cécile sees that their lives will be totally different with Anne around. She plots a scheme to separate Anne and Raymond and get Elsa back into their lives. It has devastating consequences.

A Certain Smile has a similar story, but this time Dominique is a law student and Bertrand, a fellow student, her boyfriend. One day he takes her to visit his aunt and uncle. The uncle, Luc, is a bohemian kind of man, well travelled and mentally on pair with Dominique’s mind. They are attracted to each other and manages to get away together to spend two weeks together in Cannes, where their relationship is confirmed. However, Luc, and in principal Dominique, know that it is only an affair and love has nothing to do with it. As the affair develops, Dominique realises that she is falling in love with Luc. When both Bertrand and Francoise (Luc’s wife) get to know about the affair it comes to an end. Luc is not changing his life and Dominique is devastated.
…Besides, I admired Luc. I could not help admiring his intelligence, his equilibrium, his virile way of giving to each thing its right weight and importance, without being either cynical or complacent. Sometimes in exasperation I wanted to say to him: ”Why can’t you love me? It would be so much more restful for me.” But I knew this was impossible. Ours was more an affinity than a passion, and neither of us could ever bear to be dominated by the other. Luc had neither the opportunity, the strength, nor the desire for a closer relationship.

He smiled mockingly. If i had shown him that I wanted it otherwise he would soon have changed his ’little girl and her protector’ attitude. Fortunately I felt quite adult, even rather blasé.
”No, ” I said, ”I feel perfectly responsible. But what am I supposed to be responsible for? There is only myself, and my own life, which, after all, is simple enough. Still, I am not unhappy, I’m sometimes even contented, but never really happy. I am nothing, except when I’m with you, and then I’m all right!”
Two excellent stories of love and relationships, told in a rather harsh, matter of fact way. You wonder where their feelings are? It seems to me that all the characters see love more as a means of living for the moment, rather than deeper feelings that, with the years, will evolve into something steady and truthful. Two novels, that are still interesting to read today. After all, love is universal through times.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Human Factor by Graham Greene

I am almost ashamed to say that this is my first book by Graham Greene. A classic spy thriller in the same fashion as John Le Carré. The set-up is classic:  a small unit in MI6, a leak and a search for the traitor.

Our man, Maurice Castle, is close to retirement. His only post abroad was in South Africa some years back.  Now he is back in London. During his years in South Africa, a local girl was working as one of his sources. He fell in love and he managed, with some difficulty, to get her and her son out of there. They married and are living a quiet life in a suburb to London. Living exactly like everybody else in the street, not to stick out, always to hide their real business. Their whole life is an artificial one, but at least they have each other.

The leak has been connected to the African section where Castle works. He jokes about it with his colleague Davis, and they don't take it too seriously to start with.  Things are moving very slowly forwards. In parallel we follow Castle and Davis and several of these mysterious, secret men in typical British outfits, meeting at their clubs, seeming not to have any friends, and often, no family. The move around in a world of their own, not connected to the world around them. The situation takes a turn to the worst when one of the colleagues is found dead.

This is not an action filled book, but there is tension on every page. It is an amazing story in all its simplicity, but so well told that you are turning the pages to see how it ends. The spy world is a harsh world and there is no mercy for traitors. Or is there?

Graham Greene approaches his story with love and care and with very small means he shows us that not everything is ’black and white’ in the espionage world.  The story has so many layers, that in the end we ask ourselves what was wrong really? More can not be revealed without spoiling the story.

I have two more books on my shelves by Graham Greene; Our Man in Havanna and Travels With My Aunt. They are both supposed to be good, so I have something to look forward too.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Have Mercy On Us All (Pars vite et reviens tard) by Fred Vargas

The Content ReaderThe first book I read by Fred Vargas was ’The Chalk Circle Man’. A different kind of ”inspector solves murder” kind of book. So happy when someone in the book club suggested another title of hers, Have Mercy On Us All. Fred Vargas is a pseudonym for Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau, a French historian, archaeologist and writer. Fred is the diminutive of Frédérique, but Vargas comes from Ava Gardner’s character of a fictional Spanish sex symbol Maria Vargas in the film The Barefoot Contessa.

I think that her profession as a historian and archaeologist, is the base for the fantastic stories she tells. Her novels are not just any murder mystery; there is a complicated, intricate story behind. It is not for every inspector to solve these kind of murders, but inspector Adamsberg is not anyone. I doubt he would ever have a chance to go up the ranks in real life. But here he certainly is allowed to use his unorthodox methods of murder solving. In this book it seems that the plague is back in Paris, killing specific people. Or is it?

If these two books are anything to go by, it is not until the very end that you know who the murder is. And…in both cases I thought it was someone else, rather than the actual culprit. Once caught you don’t really feel very satisfied, because, the murderers themselves have a past of personal and tragic history.

This being a French book, there is a mistress involved, Camille. She comes and goes in Adamsberg’s life and they seem to have a sort of love/hate relationship. It is all very unclear, and according to a friend in the book club who have read many more books than I have, she continues to come and go. Although Adamsberg is more or less middle aged, he is not one of these worn out, divorced, half alcoholic, depressed inspectors that we often see in series these days. I am rather tired of them, so Adamsberg sticks out like a, maybe not a totally agreeable character, still a character that you like. At least I do.

Bring me the next book!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

2016 Challenge - What's in a Name?

I will not participate in too many challenges in 2016. I have noticed that the biggest challenge I have is on my own TBR shelves, so will continue with them. I have managed to read quite a few in 2015, so I am happy about that.

The "What's in a Name" challenge, hosted by The Worm Hole seems to be something that I could manage and it is a challenge that tickle my curiosity. The basic rules are simple enough.

The basics
The challenge runs from January to December. During this time you choose a book to read from each of the following categories (examples of books you could choose are in brackets – I’ve included some from other languages, and translations most definitely count!):
  • A country (try not to use ‘Africa’!) Suggestions: Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, Xiaolu Guo’s I Am China, Martin Wagner’s Deutschland)
  • An item of clothing (Su Dharmapala’s Saree, Ann Brashare’s The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, Javier Moro’s El Sari Rojo; Pierre Lemaitre’s Vestido De Novia)
  • An item of furniture (Marghanita Laski’s The Victorian Chaise-Longue; C S Lewis’s The Silver Chair; Goslash;hril Gabrielsen’s The Looking-Glass Sisters)
  • A profession (Adriana Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife; Mikhail Elizarov’s The Librarian)
  • A month of the year (Elizabeth Von Arnim’s The Enchanted April; Rhoda Baxter’s Doctor January)
  • A title with the word ‘tree’ in it (Ai Mi’s Under The Hawthorn Tree; Elle Newmark’s The Sandalwood Tree)
 Remember the titles I’ve given here are only examples, you can by all means use them if you want to but it’s not necessary. There are plenty of other books that will fit the categories and you may have some in mind already or even some on your shelves you can read.
So what should I read. I choose to look for my TBR shelves and did find books for all categories.

  • A country - The Knight Templar in Britain by Evelyn Lord (hope Britain is ok?)
  • An item of clothing - The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (hope this ok as well, white hinting at a robe?)
  • An item of furniture -  The Binding Chair by Kathy Harrison
  • A profession - Alkemistens dotter (The Alchemist's Daughter) by Carl-Michael Edenborg 
  • A month of the year - Light in August by William Faulkner
  • A title with the word 'tree' in it - Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
I am quite pleased that I actually did find, with a little bit of flexibility, books that fit into the categories.

Looking forward to exchange views on these specific inclusions in a title.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Four Shades of Brown Book Covers

The Content ReaderI have read a few books recently without writing a review of them. Partly because I have been very
busy, and partly because of some lack of inspiration. When I took photos of some of the books I have read, I realised that they all had different kind of brown covers. Brown is not my favourite colour, it is not very common on book covers, so I was quite surprised to find four of them on my last reads. Here they are with a short summary of the books.

Opening Pandora's Box by Ferdie Addis

A book in the same series as The Classical Education; the Stuff you Wish You'd Been Taught at School, this time about phrases borrowed from the Classics, and the stories behind them. Many of these phrases we use today, often maybe, without knowing where they came from. Like the opening of Pandora's box, which today means 'to unleash a stream of unforeseen problems; to open a can of worms'.  The original being...

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According to the Greek poet Hesiod, Pandora was the world's first woman, created by the gods as a punishment for humankind. Pandora was blessed by the gods with all sorts of skills and graces, but beneath her extraordinary charms, they gave her a 'shameless mind and a deceitful nature'. At last, decked in Olympian finery, Pandora was given to the demigod Epimetheus as a wife.
Pandora brought with her a storage jar (later mistranslations made it a box), which the gods had filled with wars, plagues, famines and all the other evils in the world. When she arrived on earth, Pandora, perhaps through curiosity of perhaps out of malice, lifted the lid and unleashed a torrent of troubles on mankind. Only one thing remained behind: Hope, which comforts people through all their misfortune.
 The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde

As you see, this is an old edition of Oscar Wilde's tales for children. I presume they are for children, but maybe they are mostly meant for adults. They all have a moral point to make. As usual with Oscar Wilde it is just wonderful! The book contains, apart from The Happy Prince also The Nightingale and the Rose, The Selfish Giant, The Devoted Friend and The Remarkable Rocket. Quite enjoyable.

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Fågelbovägen 32 by Sara Kadefors

The title is an address in an unknown town in Sweden. Here we meet the middle aged doctor Karin who is devoted to her work, above everything else. She also works freely for an underground medical centre that helps paper-less immigrants. There she meets Katerina, sick with pneumonia and working for a family that treats her badly. Karin decides to help her and asks her to come an stay with them.

It was a spur of the moment decision and Karin did not realise the consequences of her offer. The story tells how Karin's family, husband, son and daughter, and herself, are changing with the introduction of Katerina in their lives. All of the family, except Karin, accept Katerina, but for Karin it is not that easy. She finally lets her work in the house and she is doing a marvellous job, but for Karin the situation is a dual one. She does not want to use or take advantage of a paper-less person, at the same time she can not tell her to leave. Where would she go?

Very interesting moral dilemmas are discussed in this very well written book.

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The Song of Taliesin - Tales from King Arthur's Bard by John Matthews

This is a book with Celtic stories, based on The Mabinogion, Triodd Ynys Preydein and other tales from this time. John Matthews has studied the original sources and used the fragments to write the tales. It is very much in the style of the Celtic stories of gods, giants, good and evil. Gives an interesting insight into a world which did not give a lot of written sources to go down through history.

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle: my 100th book in 2015

I have reached my 100th read books this year. This is the goal I set on Goodreads. However, it seems that not all the books I have read is available on Goodreads so I have to go on for another couple of books. That is no problem at all.

A Study in Scarlet was read for the 'Brontë Reading Group' and we will meet next week to discuss it. I have only read the occasional Sherlock Holmes book, but seen films and TV-series. This is the very first book about Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, and we get to know how they met in the first place. Very soon after their first meeting they decide to share accommodations on 221B Baker Street! Very soon after that their on to their first murder mystery. The inspectors Gregson and Lestrade are contacting Holmes to get his opinion on a mysterious murder, taking place in an abandon house, no sign of violent entry and the murderer has written the word RACHE (meaning 'revenge' in German) on the wall with blood.

Sherlock with his sharp eye has soon detected a lot of clues and makes his own conclusions and investigations. As usual it is difficult for the rest of us to make the correct deductions from the evidence, but of course, Sherlock is in a league of his own. Dr Watson, as usual, is puzzled and full of admiration.

This is not a very thick book and very soon we come to the situation where Sherlock is catching the murderer. None of the others have any clue what is going on. Now is the time to tell the story of what really happened. Here the first part of the books ends very abruptly and part two, which is titled, The Sign of the Four starts. Since it is a totally different story I thought that this was actually a different book, but it is the story of the initial reason for revenge and murder. The road to revenge had been going on for twenty years, before it could be finished.

This second part of the story is totally different to the Holmes/Watson part. It is very well written, and in a different style. You can hardly imagine that it is written by the same author. Obviously it is, because in the end we come back to our little group and all the revelations. The second story is very touching and even more exciting that the actual murder piece.

It seems that only the first part was published to start with. The second part, where the background to the story is told, was only published around four years later. Seems very strange to me, but...! Not very popular to start with, it was though, the first book in a series, that became very popular and have survived to our days. The books are still popular and remakes of films and TV-series are continuing.  

Friday, 13 November 2015

Broken Harbour by Tana French

The Content ReaderEver since I read Tana French’s debut novel In the Woods some years ago, I wanted to read something else from her. I really loved the book, although, I was not entirely satisfied with the ending. Maybe because I felt that part of the story did not get an explanation. On the other hand, it leaves you with an option to make your own ending and interpretation. We had a great discussion on it in our reading group. It is open for a lot of different interpretations.

I recently bought her fourth book, and it was with great anticipation I started it. Like with the other book you are directly thrown into a murder case. And not just any murder; it is a murder case with a twist.  The text from the back cover says it all in a few words:
Sometimes there is no safe place. 
Nothing about the way this family lived shows why they deserved to die. 
But here's the thing about murder: ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it doesn't break into people's life. 
It gets there because they open the door and invite it in.  
Michael Kennedy is assigned to this case, together with the newbie Richie Curran. Also here we get parallel stories; the detectives and the actual murder case. They are called out to a new development called Brianstown, former Broken Harbour. Husband and wife and two kids. The wife is still alive but in a serious condition. No signs of intrusion.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

An ’outdoor’ challenge came my way!

Last week I heard about a company named Cotopaxi and they had a challenge that tickled my curiosity. So, here I am, inspired to participate in a Cotopaxi project, to write a post about my favourite adventure book.
The Content Reader
Apart from Mount Sinai, this might be
the highest climb I ever did!
From Mallorca, Spain

Since I was not familiar with Cotopaxi, I did a little bit of research on the web. The first thing I learn is that Cotopaxi is an active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, looks fabulous  in the pictures, and yes, I would like to visit! Scrolling further down I found the relevant Cotopaxi who is making outdoor clothing and accessories. They presents themselves as ”an outdoor gear company with a social mission”. That sounds like something I can agree too. Furthermore, and here is where she wanted my contribution; they have a section of their blog called "5 road trips inspired by adventure books". The books already there are:
  1. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  3. The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  4. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  5. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson 
The posts on these books are illustrated by a map with the tracks laid out. How easy can it be to ’follow in the foot steps’ of the books! And… do some healthy exercises on the way!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Sunday bliss!

As usual on the weekend we try to take a walk in the forest, close to us. Yesterday, we made a little bit of a shopping round instead. Walking, in stead of taking the car as usual, we went to various shops along the main road. Imaging what you see when you walk, rather than taking the car. We discovered new shops and managed to buy a birthday present for a friend's 60th birthday next week.

The Content Reader

The Content Reader
Today we made it to the woods. It must have been a special day, because I have never seen so many people here. This is a popular spot for people living in Brussels. They come out here to walk in the woods and then to go for one of the many restaurants that are covering the area close to the woods.

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Not entirely matured blackberries!

The wood, or more like it a forest, is so huge so, once your inside and choose your own paths, you are quite on your own. A lovely day, 19 degrees C, and the autumn colours of red and yellow fight with the still green plants and trees. There were leaves everywhere, so one has to lift ones feet, not to stumble on a hidden root.

I hope that your Sunday was as relaxed as ours?

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Reading habits?

The Content Reader
A book well read? Bended spine
and a lady's fan?
There are many different kinds of reading habits. What we most commonly talk about is probably; “Where do you like to read?” Another one is if you mark the page where you are by folding the corner (“dog ear” we call it in Swedish and I am not able to remember the English word for it. Maybe someone can enlighten me?) Another one is how you read your books and this is the topic of today’s post.

My husband gets very irritated with me when he, from time to time, spots the books I have read (I am talking about pocket books here, hard cover is something else). He says I ‘destroy’ the books! Hm, thanks.  In my case it means, that some way inside the book, I fold the spine ‘inside-out’ to be able to read properly. In most books, but not all, after a certain number of pages you cannot read the text closest to the spine. Do you know what I mean? You have to move the book left/right to be able to read properly. I admit that when the book is finished it does not close properly. The pages make the book opens up like a lady’s fan, and the spine is full of traces from my folding it the ‘wrong way’. But, I love when you can see that a book has been read. Don’t you?

Borrowing books from my friend Lena can be a very nervous enterprise. I see the book, know she has read it, and still, it looks totally new! Like it was taken directly out of the shelf in the book shop! I just received a non-fiction, history book from my aunt Maggie (thank you very much!). I think she has already read it, but it looks totally new to me. Well, not anymore, because I am 70 pages into the book! I do not know how people do it? It is like magic! I would not be able to have a book look like new, once I am finished with it, however hard I try.

The Content Reader
A very well read sample of a wonderful book!

The Content Reader
...and looking at it from the other way!
Some years ago I read a wonderful book called Oscar’s Books by Thomas Wright. He goes through Oscar Wilde’s books (those he owned and which are still around). In the margin of his books he wrote comments on what he was reading. I wouldn’t normally do that, and today we would probably just use a marker (how boring!). In days without markers you made a comment by pen. How wonderful for us today to be able to read these comments, especially when it comes from someone like Oscar Wilde. Lovely book which parallels his books and his life.

The Content Reader
Audrey Niffenegger's excellent books,
read with love!
I would never treat a hard back as I treat a pocket book. But, it does not mean I have less regard for the pocket books, it is just not done…and it is not necessary, because they are bound in a different way. It is the same with folding the book corner to mark where you are. I would never do that in a hard back, but I would do it in a pocket book. There you go! Me in a nut shell.

How do you read your books? Bending the spine? Making comments in the margin? Folding and ear instead of using book marks? Any other ideas on reading habits? Leave a comment and share with me the way you read.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Thackeray - A Writer’s Life by Catherine Peters

Recently I read Pendennis by William Thackeray. Someone told me that it was, in certain parts, based on experiences from his own life, so I made a mental note to read a biography of him. I have just been to Mallorca for two weeks, and stepping into the flat I was astonished when the first book I see on the shelf is a biography of Thackeray! Just shows the overview I have of my TBR shelves, especially in Mallorca.

This is a biography by Catherine Peters from 1987. Got raving views at the time and it is very well written. Ms Peters chooses to analyse his books in the back drop of his own life, which makes an interesting angle. She points out influences from his life and how they made it into his writing.

The Content Reader

His childhood was not happy and his school years disastrous and remained with him all his life.
We Indian children were consigned to a school of which our deluded parents had heard a favourable report, but which was governed by a horrible little tyrant, who made our young lives so miserable that I remember kneeling by my little bed of a night, and saying, ’Pray God, I may dream of my mother!. (Roundabout Papers, ’On Letts’s Diary’
His continuous studies at Cambridge were idle and he had no clear idea of what he wanted to do. He was very good at drawing and writing was also one of his favourite occupations. He had a small heritage from his father, who died when he was young, but somehow he managed to waste part of it and lose the other part in bank failures by the time he was twenty-one. He travelled around Europe, spent time in Weimar, met Goethe and enjoyed the somewhat decadent life that took place there at the time. He married Isabella Shawe, a young lady totally under the influence of her mother (Thackeray had a life long antipathy for his mother-in-law) who was too fragile for this world and after giving birth to three daughters (one died when only eight months old), became incurably insane. Thackeray was not able to take care of her at home and she was living for the rest of her life in a private home with a private nurse. She survived him by twenty years.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Still Life With Murder (Nell Sweeney Mysteries) by P.B. Ryan

The Content ReaderBeing in Mallorca my reading habits is slightly different. More like; you take what you have. I do have a small library here, but most of the books I have already read, but there are of course still some. It would not be me if there wasn’t a TBR shelf or two!

Then there is the iPad where I save books for a day when no actual paper books are appealing. Being on a holiday it is nice with some easy going novels to spend the days in the sun. I subscribe to some newsletters who offers free or very cheap books. Most of the time they are not appealing to me, but from time to time there is a gem. Like this one!

I hadn’t heard of neither the book of the author, but the summary sounded interesting. A detective story set in Boston in the latter half of the 19th century. With a bold and intelligent woman as the heorine and the black sheep of one of the old families as the hero, and, taking place in a historical setting… was too much for me to resist. And what a wonderful, very thrilling story, taking you towards an end which you could not imagine until the very end. It was only when I came to the end that I realised that this is a series of six books!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain

The Content ReaderThis book was read by many during the Paris in July 2015 challenge, and with raving reviews. I had put it on my to-read list and was therefore happy when I found it recently at the Book festival in Brussels. On Tuesday, on my way to Mallorca, I finished it during the two hour flight. An easy read and very entertaining.

Wonderful story of the president’s hat, that is President Francois Mitterand. He forgets his hat in a brasserie in Paris, and Daniel Mercier, who dines at the table next to the President, finds it and takes it with him. Very soon he notices that the hat seems to have hidden powers. He acts totally out of character and achieves things he only dreamed of before. He realises it is the hat that makes him make decisions that changes his life in a positive way.

One day he forgets the hat on the train and is devastated. The hat is taken by someone else and her life is also changed. And so it goes…the hat makes stop overs with persons who are at cross roads in their life. The persons are not happy with their lives, but don’t have the energy, or, don't know how to change it.

It is a thought provoking book and it has a twist in the end which I like very much. One of these books that just gives you a positive feeling and hope for the future. Although the persons described in the book are totally different, Laurain manages to make us understand them and hope the best for them. It is written in a low tone which contrasts very well with the excitement of the individual stories. Highly recommended.

In my edition there is an interview with Antoine Laurain and one of the questions is:
"There are other real-life characters and actual events featured in the novel. Do you enjoy mixing the fictional and the real?
Very much. It’s a fundamental part of creative writing and especially so in the case of The President’s Hat. Some readers have even asked me if it was a true story! Perhaps it really did happen, without anyone knowing."

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Frankfurt Book Fair, 2015

Just back from two days at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It was amazing! Imaging going around a huge area with books everywhere. Well, we were not the only ones, and from time to time you really had to squeeze through people. That was, naturally, where the German speaking books were. When you entered into the international areas it was more space to move around. We covered most of what we wanted to see on Saturday and the rest we looked at today. I will write a few more posts about some of the interesting features, but here a small summary.

The Content Reader
On Saturday we were early! Not so many people at this time

The Content Reader
Lots of Halls - 1 - 11, we only visited some of them!
We started out at Hall no 3 where the German speaking books were. The Hall held a variety of fiction, and being Germany a lot, and I mean a lot of thrillers. They seem to be very popular. Other fiction both German and translations, books about travels, nature, cooking, gardening and much more.

The Content Reader
A German stand
There were several Halls covering international books; a huge area for Asian books with a lot of lovely stands; Indonesia was in focus during this years' Fair; European books where most countries of Europe were represented; then of course the English speaking world which covered two floors!

The Content Reader
The inner yard of the area
One floor of Hall 4 covered scientific and educational books. I will come back later to what was on offer here. Some great features for modern learning. A lot of new web applications for self publishing and other apps that are interesting for a book worm. Martin was looking at a few more halls, while I was resting my feet and having a nice Indian lunch. A lot of walking; from nine a.m. to nine p.m in principal! After a dinner, typical of the region, we headed back to our airbnb and had an early night.

This morning we were at the Fair at ten a.m. and were ready at around 2.30 p.m. On the Sunday, which is the last day, some of the publishers sell their books. Some people, the 'professional' ones I presume, come with small trolleys to carry the books! At the very end we bought two gardening and herb books and some beautiful, different kind of book marks. Pictures and more about that later.

Frankfurt is around four hours drive from here, so not so bad. However, I am feeling a little tired so I am heading for another, early night. There are so many things we have seen during these two days, so it takes a little bit of time to digest.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Book festival in Brussels

From today and until Sunday, the annual book festival takes place in the exhibition area, north of Brussels. I went there today to have a look at what they are offering this year. I spent two and a half hours there, and managed to buy 14 books and a lot of scrapbooking material. I really tried to control myself as regards the number of books. In reality I bough nine books to read. The other five goes under the category "junk journals". Yes, this is my latest obsession. By chance I came into some videos on Youtube and once having looked at some of them, and the tutorials, I am stuck. So, five of the books will be made into journaling books. Here is a list of the books I bought (for reading) with a summary.  Quite wonderful book and I am excited to have found them.

The Content Reader

Four of them are non-fiction:
The Disinherited - The Exiles Who Created Spanish Culture by Henry Kamen:
Henry Kamen's The Disinherited is the most significant and enjoyable book on Spain to appear for many years. He creates a picture of a dysfunctional, violent country that, since the destruction of the last Moslem territories in Granada in 1492, has expelled wave after wave of its citizens in a brutal attempt to create religious and social conformity. Moslems, Jews, Protestants, Liberals, Socialists and Communists were all driven abroad at different times, and consequently what we think of as Spanish culture was substantially their invention - a creative response both to having no home and to the shock of encountering new worlds.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Highgate Cemetery, East side

The East side of the Cemetery is less pretentious, but not less beautiful. Since you are allowed to walk around by yourself, you can take your time, enjoy the greenery and the old grave stones and tombs, hear the birds sing and get into a contemplative mood!

© The Content Reader

© The Content Reader

I had already looked out a few graves to visit, but we started just behind the entrance and walked south and then back up north again. I hope the photos will give you an idea of the peaceful surroundings.

© The Content Reader

While checking the map I spotted two Austrians buried here (my husband is Austrian so it seemed a good idea, no Swedes there unfortunately) Carl Mayer, author, mostly known for co-writing the screen script to the 1920s classic, silent movie The Cabinet of Dr Caligari's. According to Wikipedia:

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Audrey Niffenegger and Highgate Cemetery

Some years ago I read an interview with Audrey Niffenegger in connection with her latest book Her Fearful Symmetry (all quotes below from the book). The novel takes place in and around the Highgate Cemetery in London. Reading this book made me very curious on this burial ground, of which I was not aware of before. It was therefore high on my list during my last visit to London. And it does not disappoint.

The Content Reader
The entrance to the West Cemetery
There were a lack of burial ground in and around London in the mid-19th century. Stephen Geary, architect and entrepreneur bought the land and established the cemetery in 1839. However, it is not one ordinary cemetery; he constructed tombs and buildings where people could buy burial grounds for their whole family. The area, today very lush and at places overtaken by vegetation, is a fantastic, wonderful place to walk around in. In 1854, the west side of the cemetery became too small so an eastern part was bought and added to it. To solve the problem with transporting the coffins after services (there is a road in-between the two sides), they dug a tunnel under it and problem solved. On the East side you can walk around by yourself, but the West side is only accessible by a guided walk, well worth to take.
"The Victorians had created Highgate Cemetery as a theatre of mourning, a stage set of eternal repose."

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Fourth King by Glen Petrie

I have finished another book from my TBR shelves. It is from 1986, so has been there for some time! It is a mystery how some books stays so long on the shelves without being read. This one especially, since it is a historical novel, which I love. This novel tells the story of Alexander Pushkin, considered by many to be Russia's greatest poet (I actually have a book with his poems, so now seems the time to read them as well) and his marriage to one of the most beautiful women of the time, Nataliya Nikolaevna Goncharova.

The Content ReaderThe novel starts with a Pushkin in exile. It seems he was at odds with the Tsar, Nicholas I, during most of his life. However, he is invited to come back to St Petersburg and meets for the first time Nataliya. She is only 13 years old, but he is fascinated and lost. They marry four years later. The novel mostly lingers on their married years. Pushkin is a man of the world, had many love interests and was a very experienced man. Nataliya is an innocent girl, having grown up in a family from the higher echelons of society, but somehow fallen down due to improper behaviour of the parents, plus lack of funds. Pushkin is not the first choice of either Nataliya or her mother, but in the end they both accept his proposal. This is a time when Pushkin feels ready to settle down and raise a family. Nataliya, on the other hand,  is overwhelmed coming into society, attending balls, flirting, dancing and the excitement of being close to the imperial family. She is so much younger than him and her life is just starting. Although warned by friends of Pushkin, to be careful since gossiping comes easy to this circle, she continues on a path on which there is no return. Her actions, as well as Pushkin's pride, lead to the cold, devastating January morning in 1837, when Pushkin is deadly wounded in a duel with his rival, Baron d'Anthès.

The book mostly covers the relationship between Pushkin, his wife and the supposed lover. Pushkin is troubled by his work (censorship and difficulties to write what he wants to write), money to pay for the lavish lifestyle, Nataliya's family, his own family and friends. But we meet many more people surrounding Pushkin and there are some surprises along the way. I don't know so much about Pushkin's life, so it is difficult to say where this historical novel is dealing with facts and fiction. Having read a little bit on the net, the grand design of the novel seems to relate to real events. Glen Petrie, has introduced a conspiracy by 'enemies' of Pushkin which I am not sure has any relevance in real life, but who knows. The writing feels genuin so I imagine that it is well researched. However, it makes for an exciting latter part of the book, and it is first here that the novel becomes a bit of a page turner.

Glen Petrie, is a historian, teacher and journalist (I think; it is difficult to find much information about him) and has written many books. This is well worth a read if you love historical fiction about real life characters. You get a hint of Russia at the time, but there is no in-depth story of either Pushkin, Nataliya or the Tsar, which supposedly is out of scope for a novel like this.

Petrie ends with an Epilogue and Afterword, which seems a summary of facts. The Epilogue is entitled "For many years to come I shall be beloved by the ordinary people", and this is probably no understatement. The Afterword is entitled "The great and good Pushkin should have had a wife who understood him better".  History can be very hard on people like Nataliya. Especially if they are married to a 'hero' of some kind and is not able to live up to the high standards that are set. Nataliya left for the countryside after Pushkin's death, but came back to St Petersburg and the social scene some years later. It is rumoured that she was the mistress of Tsar Nicholas, although he never formally acknowledged it. Petrie says though, that "there can be no doubt whatever that Tolstoy modelled Anna Karenina on her, and particularly his heroine's unflawed beauty and restless, suspicious unhappiness in Book Seven of the novel".

Last but not least, the word is Nataliya's.
"Her children of both marriages reported her as being an unhappy woman. Her youngest daughter - by Peter Lanskoy - recalled her saying shortly before her death in 1863, at the age of fifty-one, "They say people should never speak evil of the dead, but I know I shan't be allowed any peace, even in my grave."

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

43 Books You Won’t Be Able To Stop Talking About

Over at BuzzFeed Books they asked subscribers to their newsletter which books they could not stop talking about. The answers resulted in a list of 43 books, which really cover the whole range of genre books from Classics to modern YA fantasy. Head over to Buzz Feed Books (link above) to get a summary of each book.

For us with a huge number of TBR books it is difficult to look at such a list, because it is so tempting to read all the books. I guess they have to go on the To Read list instead. A book that seems very popular, considering the many and raving reviews from other bloggers, have ended up as No. 1;  A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara. This is a must it seems. From the list I find four books that I have read; Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, 1984 by George Orwell, The Secret History by Donna Tartt and Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. L.P. Hartley's classic The Go-Between is waiting on my TBR shelves.

1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara
2. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
3. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
5. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
6. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
7. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
8. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
9. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
10. I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
11. The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
12. The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
13. The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips
14. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
15. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
16. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
17. Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
18. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung
19. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
20. The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman
21. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
22. The Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
23. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
24. Death with Interruptions by José Saramago
25. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
26. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
27. Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius
28. 1984 by George Orwell
29. Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
30. Defending Jacob by William Landay
31. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marr
32. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
33. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
34. Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
35. Easy by Tammara Webber
36. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
37. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
38. Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
39. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
40. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
41. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
42. Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
43. Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

What about you? Have you read most of the books and do you agree that it is difficult to stop talking about them? Do you have other books that you cannot stop talking about. I agree about Wuthering Heights, The Secret History and Cutting for Stone. I am not so sure about 1984, although I read it many years ago and should maybe try it again. After all we are now closer to the times Orwell describes.

I also see some of my favourite writers in the list; Agatha Christie, Barbara Kingsolver, Paulo Coelho and José Saramago (of which I have one book on the TBR shelves, but have never read anything by him).

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

London revisited

The Content Reader
Me on the Cutty Sark
I have been to London this weekend. It is always such a treat. Lucky with the weather for two days at least, blue sky and sunshine, you could even sit outside to eat. Monday came with grey skies but we managed more or less to avoid more than a drip of rain.

My visits to London always comes with a well prepared list of things to see. My husband joined me this time and his wish was for Greenwich, which we visited on the grey Monday. We arrived Saturday afternoon, so just went for a walk down-town for some shopping. I wanted to buy the new iPhone, but alas, you had to order and wait for right one. That means I have to wait until it comes to Belgium, which will not be until around Christmas time. I managed to find a new calendar for my filofax and some stickers, and that was all. Walked back to our friend Richard's flat where we are luckily invited when in London. He lives in the Barbican, which is a terribly ugly building, today a protected one with very special architecture in concrete, but so central and convenient. In the evening we enjoyed a nice dinner at Cote Brasserie, in the neighbourhood.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Just finished this amazing book which I bought during my last sejour in Sweden. When checking the original title I realised that the original book is in German. Jan-Philipp Sendker was a foreign correspondent for German magazine Stern in the nineties (from 95-99 in Asia). In 2002 he wrote this book entitled Das Herzenhören.

It such a beautifully written book about the most important thing in life, love. In our busy world we tend to forget that, and we are stressing through the 'squirrel wheel' to achieve more and more. If you want to stop for a moment and reflect, you just have to read this book.

It is difficult to make a summary of the story without spoiling it for new readers.  It is developing in a way that surprises you all the time. Just a few hints of the story. Tin Win (originally from Burma) is a very successful Wall Street lawyer. One day, he is retired by this time, he leaves the flat in the morning not to return. Investigations show that he flew to Bangkok, but from there the track ends. Four years later, his daughter Julia, finds love letters her father wrote to a Mi Mi living in Burma. The curious thing is, the letters were never sent. She is somewhat shocked to find out that her father might have had a secret love affairs and curious why the letters were never sent. She has the address and decides to go looking for him.