Monday, 30 March 2015

Poldark series; Ross, Demelza, Jeremy and Warleggan by Winston Graham

Addictive! This is the word to describe what happens when you start reading the first book in this
series. Winston Graham has written historical fiction at its best. Cornwall in the end of the 18th century, where people are mainly depending on the tin and copper mines.

The story starts when Ross, a young man from the higher classes, but without money, comes back after having fought in the American wars. Being rather disillusioned by his experience, he is on his way home. Already in the stage coach he gets news that his father has died. Deciding at the spur of the moment, not to go directly home, but visit his uncle to inquire more about the circumstances, he get his second chock when he learns that his first love, Elizabeth, is to marry his cousin Francis. With these devastating news he goes back to his house, Nampara, where he grew up. It is in an appalling state, and no money to take care of it. However, he is determined to take it back to how it once was. The other part of his inheritance is a couple of mines, where his father already had given up on finding anything. His prospects does not look that good.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

New purchases!

Yes, you read it right! I have downloaded a couple of e-books to enlighten my stay in Mallorca. I am going there tomorrow. Being alone for the first few days, I will enjoy the freedom to read most of the days. Having been busy lately with visitors, I have not been able to read as much as I would have liked. So, promise that there will be a few reviews coming up here.

So, what has inspired me to buy books again? First, having started to watch the BBC drama Poldark, based on the books by Winston Graham, I had to buy the first four books. I read the first two, when I was young (many years ago now, and quite forgotten, although I remember loving them). The first four are Ross, Demelza, Jeremy and Warleggan. I also found for free from Endeavour Press, To Be a Lady: Biography of Catherine Cookson by Cliff Goodwin. I remember reading a lot of her books as I was younger (!!don't worry, I am not going back to my childhood memories yet, although it might seem so).

Also found on YouTube a video about Desperate Romantics. Turns out to be a drama from some years back. It is about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, that is, three painters from the Victorian times who were changing the way of painting. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais and their wild, bohemian life, that made the scandals at the time. The book that it is based on is written by Frannie Moyle.

That should keep me busy, together with some other Endeavour Press books, which I have promised to review.

Path to the Silent Country by Lynn Reid Banks (about Charlotte Brontë)

Queens and Empresses of the Ancient World (from A(da) to Z(enobia) by Ingrid de Haas (sounds like it could be really interesting).

Richard III and the Princes in the Tower by A.J. Pollard (sounds like a must after my course on Richard III)

The Double Life of Jane Austen by Jane Aiken Hodge (a must again for an Austen lover).

The Empress of South America by Nigel Cawthorne (exciting it must be).

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald - An American Woman's Life by Linda Wagner-Martin (wanted to read about her for a long time. Fascinating woman married to a fascinated man).

These should keep me busy, or what do you think? Have you read any of them?

Looking forward to some quite days, reading in some of my favourite places.

My reading chair!

Looking towards this view!

Or why not on a bridge in Alcudia?

Monday, 23 March 2015

Richard III and the quest to find his grave

I have just finished my course on England in the time of Richard III with Future Learn. Quite suitable, on the day after his reinternment in Leicester cathedral. If you did not manage to see anything - and is interested - you can watch some key videos here.

It was an interesting course, very accessible, meaning, not too academic. Mixed with texts, videos and discussion forum, it covered the whole range of society, food and living habits, clothing, manuscripts, religion and in the end the whole fantastic story of how the grave of Richard III was found, in a car park in 2012. Philippa Langley was the person behind the quest, and she wrote the book The Search for Richard III - The King's Grave together with Michael Jones who added the historical background to his life (review here). I will visit England in April and will definitely put Leicester on my itinerary.

The course also opened up my eyes to all the fantastic archives that are now available on-line. That will be something to explore further.

I have still not read Shakespeare's Richard III. However, I now know he was biased by Henry VII and his times to put Richard III in a bad light, but that means I have to read it with an open mind and compare his text with what I know now.

Friday, 20 March 2015

On sale this week!

In Bookreporter newsletter of week 17-24 March I found a few books that might be interesting. The only one I have heard about, and which have got very good reviews among my book blogging friends, is The Pocket Wife. Have any of you heard about the rest of them?

HAMMER HEAD: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlin (Memoir)
Nina MacLaughlin spent her 20s working at a Boston newspaper, sitting behind a desk and staring at a screen. Yearning for more tangible work, she applied for a job she saw on Craigslist --- Carpenter’s Assistant: Women strongly encouraged to apply --- despite being a Classics major who couldn't tell a Phillips from a flathead screwdriver. She got the job, and in HAMMER HEAD she tells the rich and entertaining story of becoming a carpenter.
W. W. Norton & Company * 9780393239133

THE BULLET by Mary Louise Kelly (Thriller)
In a split second, everything Caroline Cashion has known is proved to be a lie. A single bullet is found lodged at the base of her skull. Caroline is stunned. She has never been shot. Then, over the course of one awful evening, she learns the truth: that she was adopted when she was three years old after her real parents were murdered. She was wounded too, a gunshot to the neck. Surgeons had stitched up the traumatized little girl, with the bullet still there. Now, Caroline has to find the truth of her past.
Gallery Books * 9781476769813

MADEMOISELLE CHANEL by C. W. Gortner (Historical Fiction)
For readers of THE PARIS WIFE and Z comes this vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel --- the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and become one of the most influential and controversial figures of the 20th century.
William Morrow * 9780062356406

THE POCKET WIFE by Susan Crawford (Psychological Thriller)
Dana Catrell is shocked when her neighbor, Celia, is brutally murdered. To Dana’s horror, she was the last person to see Celia alive. Suffering from mania, the result of her bipolar disorder, she has troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia’s death. The closer she comes to piecing together the shards of her broken memory, the more she falls apart. Is there a murderer lurking inside of Dana...or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again?
William Morrow * 9780062362858

INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD by David Morrell (Historical Thriller)
The year is 1855. The Crimean War is raging. The incompetence of British commanders causes the fall of the English government. The Empire teeters. Amid this crisis comes opium-eater Thomas De Quincey, one of the most notorious and brilliant personalities of Victorian England. Along with his irrepressible daughter, Emily, and their Scotland Yard companions, Ryan and Becker, De Quincey finds himself confronted by an adversary who threatens the heart of the nation.
Mulholland Books * 9780316323932

I suppose I just have to put them on my to read list since I am fully occupied with other books for the moment.

Please leave a comment if you have any views on any of them.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Classics on my table

I am now reading so many different books, that I never end any of them. I am quite frustrated about it, especially since I don't have so much time to read for the time being! So what do I do? I go to the public library in another errand, and come out with two books!! Grrr, especially since they are on loan for a limited time, I have to abandon the others to finish these two off. Nobody but myself to blame.

They are classics and have been on my reading list for quite some time, so I felt that I had to grab the opportunity. It is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Looking forward reading both of them and hope to publish reviews soon.

Furthermore, I am reading a book to review for Endeavour Press, Path to the Silent Country: Charlotte Brontë's years of fame by Lynn Reid Banks. It is a continuation of The Dark Quartet: the story of the Brontës which I reviewed here. It was an excellent read, so looking forward to this one. Yes, I have started!

Visiting the Waterloo battle field the other day, I managed to buy a booklet guide to the battlefield by David Howarth. They also had a very interesting map on how Europe looked in 1815, to be explored more closely. This year, it is 200 years since the battle of Waterloo, which took place on 18 June 1815. There will be a lot of events here in Belgium to commemorate the battle. More posts on the booklet and the celebrations later on.

That was just a short update on my reading. The confused reading might just be a sign, that I want to read too many books. As always when you try to do several things at the same time, it always takes longer!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Sunday bliss!

Sunday again! I don't know where the days go? Maybe it went faster than usual, since my family has been visiting. My brother and his kids, Anton and Sanna left today, and my parents will stay on for another week. That means that the garden will look fabulous after the magic touch of my father, now 90 years old!

Showing a few highlights of our visit today to Waterloo and Atomium!

Buttes de Lion

It is a long way up!

Anton and Sanna were climbing the stairs faster
 than me and my brother! I wonder why?
Fortunately we did not see this warning
before we started the climb!
"Good level of fitness recommended..."
 And last but not least - Atomium. Did not shine as usual due to the gloomy weather!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Synchronicity in history!

My history course on Richard III is continuing, with a lot of interesting aspects. Week 4 is named 'Death and Commemoration'. There is a really interesting find of a middle age (middle aged as well!) skeleton, the so called 'St Bees Man'. This web-site tells the story of Dr John Todd and his wife's search for the identity of the man, and the woman who was found in the same grave. It is more exiting than any mystery book. At the end of the page, there is an update to the status of today.

In week 2, we read about peasants and farmers and their situation. I am reading, since quite some time, historian Lars-Olof Larsson's book on the Kalmar Union (Kalmarunionens tid). Not yet finished, but I found an intresting reference to the peasant revolt of 1381 in England that we read about in the course.

The Kalmar Union, was a union between Denmark, Norway and Sweden, named after the city of Kalmar where the Treaty was signed in 1379. In those days it belonged to Denmark, today it is in Sweden. It was Queen Margareta (one of the few Queens in our history) who was the first, very capable ruler, for the three countries.  The union actually lasted until 1523, but I think we can safely say, that the Nordic co-operation today is more peaceful and harmonic.

Wat Tyler (picture from Wikipedia)
In 15th and the beginning of 16th century was the time of peasant revolts in Sweden. Normally they were headed by someone from the upper range of farmers, as was the case in England. One of the most famous is Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson, active in the beginning of the 15th century. He is unique in the sense that he is the first one from this class, who during turbulent times, made an impact on the political scene, and thus landed himself a place in our history books.  He was assassinated in 1436.

Engelbrektsson was unique for Sweden, but Larsson makes references to other actors on the European scene with similar backgrounds. Such as Joan of Arc, albeit being from a very humble origin and a woman was even more unique.  Jan Hus, theologist and university professor, acting as a church reformer and Czech nationalist, opposed the German dominans in the Bohemian Kingdom. He was burned at the stake. Parisian mayor Etienne Marcel's fight against the French autocracy. And...the big but short lived peasant revolt in England during Wat Tyler's lead in 1381. Here we come to the synchronisation with my course. It was satisfying to read this peace in the book and I could say - to myself of course - yes, I know about this revolt!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Sunday bliss!

At last a sunny, rather warm day. Another bike tour this morning to villages in the neighbourhood. We stopped at a farmhouse, which has a shop and café, and enjoyed an ice cream in the sun.

The place was nicely decorated with different kind of pumpkins (see picture below).

Just a short break and then we continued to Ottenburg and Wavre, on the way back to Overijse. Lovely weather, and being Belgium, a lot of bikers on the way. And being Sunday, not that many cars.

I was really tired in the end of the tour, especially in the legs. We have a very long, tough road uphill to come back home. I hardly made it with my turbo level of the bike. Luckily Martin is in a better condition, but even he had to walk up part of the way. He does not have an e-bike!


Feel really good now. With a good conscience I can now lie down and read a nice book. As usual I am on several books at the same time. I can choose between a history book about the Kalmar union in the 14th century, Barbara Erskine's Daughters of Fire, about time travelling and two parallell stories in the celtic world and today. The other option is an historical fiction about Charlotte Brontë by Lynne Reid Banks. I read and reviewed her The Dark Quartet about the Brontë sisters recently (review here). I liked it very much, so I have also big hopes about this one.

I still have a few lessons to do in my on-line course of Richard III and am now waiting for a 'webinar' about writing. For tonight I am eagerly anticipating the first episode of the new BBC series 'Poldark', based on the books by Winston Graham. Read them when I was younger and really loved them. The trailer is promising another good series.

Sundays are really quite good day! What do you think? How are you spending your Sundays?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

New goals for a healthy life!

My husband tells me I can not only read books. I have to do some exercise as well! Realising that he has a point there, I have - today, when we went biking for the first time in ages - set a goal for my exercises. I will bike at least 100 km a week. That should get me into shape and hopefully later on I can extend it. Just a reminder! I have an e-bike, and biking is so much more fun. Maybe not entirely due to the e-bike, but due to a new, proper bike. Here is a first proof of my good intentions.

With the battery comes a screen with useful information, that tells me everything I do. No getting away from it here. Today's tour generated 23.5 km in 1h15min! We broke for lunch in between in the huge park of Tervueren. My maximal speed was 43 km! Can you imagine? However, the average was 18.8 km.

Lunch plate, but no eating the bread!
A terrace with a view!

Friday, 6 March 2015

Gutenberg and printing

As we all know, or at least, thought we know, Gutenberg is the father of modern typography. Now taking a course with the University of Leicester on England in the times of Richard III,  we have reached the chapter on printing. We are now in the 15th century, when printing of manuscripts and books started. To my surprise, there seems to be 'recent events' that indicates that Gutenberg was not the first one with doing moulds in wood. Well, it seems that the 'recent events' refer to research from 2001, so nowadays, it is not so recent.

An article in The New York Times says that the mould printing acknowledge to Gutenberg, was a gradual process that went on 20 years after Gutenberg's first attempts. The mould printing made all letters the same size and you therefore had a print which looked the same. Two scientists have checked the printing of Gutenberg, and can see that there are slight discrepancies in the letters from his printing. They think that he made the moulds of sand. Sand was not durable and could not be reused, and therefore he had to make a new mould every time.

Spring is in the air?

I found this in the garden yesterday! A great surprise. The crocus were stretching to try to catch the last of the sun's rays.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

A day in Antwerp

Rockox House
Yesterday, Karin and I went to Antwerp to visit the Rockox house and museum. Since the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp is on repair, part of their collection is shown in this house. So who was Rockox? He lived in Antwerp from 1560-1640, born into a wealthy, bourgeois family, and studied in Leuven, Paris and Douai (a town in north eastern France (I had to look it up!). Married to Adriana Perez, who also came from an old and wealthy merchant family (of Spanish origin). During the first half of the 17th century he was an important figure in the political, artistic as well as in the social life of Antwerp. At one time he was a mayor. He gained an exceptional reputation as a patron, antiquarian, humanist and numismatist (the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects; had to look this up as well; thank you Wikipedia). Interested in the arts, he commissioned, and hereby supported the local artists, including Rubens. He also was a benefactor of the poor. When he died he requested his house to be sold and to benefit the poor.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A Brief History of the Celts by Peter Berresford Ellis

A while ago I visited an excellent exhibition of 'Vikings' in Tongeren in Belgium. While checking out the museum shop I found this interesting book about the Celts. We are full of admiration for the Romans who were so ahead of things in a lot of areas. Well, to my surprise a lot of things the Romans did, came from the Celts and was adapted by the Romans. Now we know!

At the start of the first millennium BC, a civilisation which had developed from its Indo-European roots around the headwaters of the Rhine, the Rhone and the Danube suddenly erupted in all directions through Europe. Their advanced use of metalwork, particularly their iron weapons, made them a powerful and irresistible force. Greek merchants, first encountering them in the sixth century BC, called them Keltoi and Galatai. Later, the Romans would echo these names in Celtae, Galatae and Galli. Today we generally identify them as Celts.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Monday morning

Monday morning again. At least it is a sunny day and I was already out for a walk. The weather changes so quickly here, so it is better to seize the moment.

The Snow Drops are getting braver!

This is not from the garden, but birthday flowers
from a friend! Aren't they lovely!