Wednesday, 26 December 2018

2019 European Reading Challenge

Once again I am joining Gilion on Rose City Reader to participate in the European Reading Challenge for 2019.  Go to link above for more detailed information. There are five levels of participation.

FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE): Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

FOUR STAR (HONEYMOONER): Read four qualifying books.

THREE STAR (BUSINESS TRAVELER): Read three qualifying books.

TWO STAR (ADVENTURER): Read two qualifying books.

ONE STAR (PENSIONE WEEKENDER): Read just one qualifying book.

I will go for the Five Star (deluxe entourage) and read five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

Challenge 2019: Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks

I am signing up for this challenge again for 2019. I did not make it with one book a week last year, but almost, missed five weeks. Ah well, a good try. It is hosted by Robin of my two Blessings. The mini, weekly and monthly challenges are all optional, Mix them up anyway you like or follow your own path in the quest to read.

The challenge will run from January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019.
Our book weeks will begin on Sunday
Week one will begin on Tuesday, January 1st.
Participants may join at any time.
All forms of books are acceptable including e-books, audio books, etc.
Re-reads are acceptable as long as they are read after January 1, 2019
Books may overlap other challenges.
If you have an blog, create an entry post linking to this blog.
Sign up with Mr. Linky in the "I'm participating post" in the sidebar
You don't have a blog to participate. Post your weekly book in the comments section of each weekly post.
Mr. Linky will be added to the bottom of the each weekly post for you to link to reviews of your reads.

My efforts will be shown under Challenges 2019. 

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Book Challenge by Erin 10.0

A book challenge through a facebook group. Well, first time I join, but it sounds like a good challenge, and as always, I will try to find the books on my TBR shelves. Here are a few general rules (in short, for more info join Book Challenge by Erin on facebook):

  • Have fun. Don't stress, read as many as you like. 
  • The challenge will run from JANUARY 1, 2019 to APRIL 30, 2019. 
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audio books are fine too.

  • A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once.  
  • You can read your books in any order you choose.

  • Rereads can be used only once. 
  • There will be a photo album for each category with links to books chosen. Please comment on the photo for each of your books when you finish reading them. A comment can include a review, a rating, a recommendation…other readers want to hear what you thought of your choice. 
  • There will be 10 book categories with a possibility of earning 200 points. That’s 10 books in four months. For some of you, this will be a BIG challenge; for others it will be easy peasy. It’s all for fun, remember!

Here the categories and my list:

5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages - The Greek Treasure by Irving Stone

10 points (from BCBE 1.0): Read a book that was made into a movie - Snabba cash (Easy Money) by Jens Lapidus
10 points (from BCBE 2.0): Read a book that is set in Europe - The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
15 points (from BCBE 3.0): Read a book that was a Newberry Award winner (medal winner or honor book); this link should help: ***for this category only, since many children’s literature books may be shorter, the page number requirement is only 100 pages - Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo

20 points (from BCBE 4.0): Read a book that is a friend or family member’s favourite...or the favourite book by another participant in this challenge
 - Stalker by Lars Kepler
20 points (from BCBE 5.0): Read a book originally published over 100 years ago; this link should help:…/16.Best_Books_of_the_19th_Centu…
 - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (published 1916)
25 points (from BCBE 6.0): Read a book with six words (and only six words) in the title
 - A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz
30 points (from BCBE 7.0): Read a book with a compass or cardinal direction in the title
 - Civilization - The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson 
30 points (from BCBE 8.0): Read a book that was originally published in a different language than your own
 - Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd (my language is Swedish)
35 points: (from BCBE 9.0): Read a book that begins with the letter “N” - Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks

Saturday, 22 December 2018

The Bugatti Queen by Miranda Seymour

I very much enjoyed Miranda Seymour's biography Robert Graves, Life on the Edge, so it was with much anticipation that I started her biography of Hélène Delangle, or as she called herself Hellé Nice. One of these women that seem to embrace life and go for it.

She was born in a small French village in 1900. The 1920s saw her in Paris and its swinging life. She started out as a model for nude photos, took ballet and dance lessons and entered show business. She had numerous lovers, she really could not stay with anyone for long. Many of them within her own business, and many of them within the car racing business. That is how she became one of the best and most famous women in the car racing area.

She was fearless and loved to challenge life. And, she was interesting in winning which made her a fierce competitor.
"Hélène charted out her own course of victories in the ALps. Bobsleighing and skiing in the winters, she spent each summer with Kléber Balmart, one of France's finest skiers, climbing L'Aiguille Verte, Le Greppon Bland and Mont Blanc. In 1925, she noted with satisfaction that she had climbed Mont Blanc again, and by the most dangerous route; photographed at the end of the climb, she beamed down at the camera, glowing with the pleasure of a goal achieved."
Once she entered into the car racing business there was nothing holding her back. She broke speed records that stood the time, competing against men in competitions where women were allowed in. Otherwise in women's racing. She did consider herself good enough to compete with men, so that was her favourite runs. The competitions took her around Europe, North Africa, USA and South America.

Miranda Seymour has, once again, written an exciting life story of a woman who is rather little known today. As so often happens, it was just a coincidence that she 'ran into' Hellé Nice, and it was not always easy to find facts about her life. Even so, Seymour has done a wonderful work with her research, stayed with the facts she found and given us a fascinating story of a woman who conquered the world and her times by her own efforts. Highly recommendable.

Miranda Seymour has written several biographies as well as fiction. Here some biographies that I just have to read; A Ring of Conspirators: Henry James and his literary circle, 1895-1915, Ottoline Morrell: Life on the Grand Scale, Mary Shelley, In Byron's Wake: The Turbulent Lives of Lord Byron's Wife and Daughter: Annabella Milbanke and Ada Lovelace. 

Now there are two favourite biographers of mine; Miranda Seymour and Mary S. Lovell. Of Lovell I have read; Jane Digby, A Scandalous Life, Sir Richard Burton, A Rage to Live, The Mitford Girls - the extraordinary lives of the six Mitford sisters. Luckily for me, there are more books to look forward to by these authors.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Washington Square by Henry James

The Classcic Club spin #19 gave me this book to read. Since spin # 19 are aimed at chunksters and I did not adapt my list, I will also read Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. I failed to finish it last time, and have just read a few pages.

Henry James is always a pleasure to read. This is a very short novel so I have already finished it. I think we could say that this is one of the highlights of James' novels. It is his usual slow, easy going story telling. What always amaze me in James, is that nothing much happens and still you don't get bored. Or maybe this is the wrong way to put it. It seems nothing much is happening, but it does. Not so much in action as by his sharp glimpse of family relationships, society and its peculiarities. What makes it so readable, as with all of James' work is his wonderful prose. Here is the opening line:

"During a portion of the first half of the present century, and more particularly during the latter part of it, there flourished and practised in the city of New York a physician who enjoyed perhaps an exceptional share of the consideration which, in the United States, has always been bestowed upon distinguished members of the medical profession." 

Dr Sloper is a widower and a man with strict views. He has a well educated, but rather dull daughter, Catherine, who is also very obedient to her father. He has hopes that with her dowry, she will attract a suitable man to marry. However, during a family gathering she meets the young, versatile and beautiful Morris Townsend. He has toured Europe, spent his money and is now on the lookout for a woman of means to marry. She falls high over heels in love and they start courting.
"My allusions are as kind as yours, Elizabeth," said the Doctor frankly. "How many suitors has Catherine had, with all her expectations -- how much attention has she ever received? Catherine is not unmarriageable, but she is absolutely unattractive."
Dr Sloper does not like the young man, and thinks he is only after Catherine's money, and does not care for her. He considers that Townsend will make his daughter unhappy. Both Catherine and Townsend are trying their best to convince him that this is not the case. Catherine's aunt Elizabeth, the sister of Dr Sloper is a widow, living in the house. Her favourite occupation is to read romance novels. All of a sudden she sees a romance develop just in front of her eyes, and she just can't help interfere.

From here on the intrigues are thickening while we follow the actions of the four protagonists. I will not reveal the outcome of the story, however, one can not help to think that however the choices are made, some of the protagonists will be happy and some not. Or, is it that no one can be happy.

It seems that Henry James based his story of a true event told to him by his friend Fanny Kemble. This is often the case with James' stories. They are based on true events, or partly on true events, and maybe that is why he is such a joy to read.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

A modern relationship?

A couple of years ago, I took a correspondence course on "How to write historical fiction". One of my fellow students, Magnus R Lindgren, has now published, not a historical fiction (although he tells me it will come) but two books on poetry. Far longer than I have come myself.

Magnus R Lindgren can call himself writer, poet, copywriter and teacher, and he also has a diploma in creative writing. His poetry debut, "Om det inte hänt hade jag inte blivit" (If nothing had happening I would not have been) is a reflection on the changes in life and the search for oneself.

In "Detta privata" (This private) he continues with the same theme. He uses Lydia Stille as a co-writer, but she is actually his muse (a character from The Secret Game by Hjalmar Söderberg), an inspiration for his writing. Each chapter starts with a poem and thoughts on the difficulty to enter into a new relationship. Especially, when you are divorced and a little bit older and wiser? The story is written in the form of a facebook/messenger conversation between a man and a woman who has just met on-line.

Then, the day comes when they meet in real life. After several weeks of daily contacts on-line, they do feel that they know each other. Even if their meetings turn out pretty well, both of them are afraid to let go. An insecurity of one's own ability to love, the ability of the other to love. To meet in real life turns out to be more difficult than to meet on-line. This is shown in the introductory short story for each chapter, which contains the man's thoughts when they do meet. The real life meetings show the insecurity he feels. The Messenger conversations, on the contrary, are more secure.

It is a book for reflection. Not only over relationships, but also on the modern society in which we live. Do we have two lives? One on-line and one real life? If so, which one do we feel most comfortable in? The book is often spot on. Maybe it is easier today to "meet" and speak on-line. Will the physical meeting be too realistic? While on-line, using text rather than speech, might give us a feeling that we are within the pages of a novel, that is, it is not real. Does a good artificial contact, exclude a good realistic one?

Lindgren has written a modern short story on relationships on-line. It is beautiful and warm, and point towards many of the problems with relationships today. Here are two persons with more or less the same need for closeness and comfort. The obstacles though seem to be overwhelming, especially as concerns the anxiety to get hurt again. Will this relationship last? Is it worth the effort to give in to your feelings? Does one dare to let go and enter a new relationship unconditionally?

It is a thought provoking little book, well worth a read and to reflect over. It opens up for many interpretations, and this is just one of them.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Books on my to read list

It seems that, while I am struggling to read the books on my own book shelves, the list of books I would like to read, gets longer and longer. The books ending up here are books that you have written about and sounds very interesting to me. Or, they can be from a review in a paper or elsewhere. I wanted to share the list with you. Please recommend your favourites and I might start with them. Do I have a dead-line? NO! Whenever. But, and that is the thing. They, like the books on my TBR shelves tend to get older with the years, and sometimes it is just nice to read new books.

I am a member of a "borrow and read" group with my local bookshop. There, at least, I get to read new books. Here is the list, filled up as I have read about the books. Any of them on your to read list?

  • The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
  • The Country Wife by William Wycherley
  • Time After Time (eBook) by D.P. Mendes-Kelly 
  • The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri Murari
  • A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick
  • En dos stryknin by Olle Mattsson (a book about poison in literature))
  • The Dutch Golden Age by Hans Goedkoop and Kees Zandvliet
  • The Seventh Etching by Judith K. White
  • I am Rembrandt's daughter by Lynn Cullen
  • Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
  • The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
  • The Entity by Eric Frattini
  • The Last Romance by Kathleen Valentine
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • Stoner by John Williams
  • The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay
  • Hitler's Daughter by Jackie French
  • The Quick by Lauren Owen
  • Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly
  • Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks      
  • Neverhome by Laird Hunt
  • The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevive Valentine 
  • Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
  • Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
  • The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffmans
  • Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seely
  • Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice
  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Sweet Water by Christina Baker Kline
  • The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim
  • Paris was ours by Penelope Rowlands
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Melissa Pessl
  • Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod
  • The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell
  • An Unseemly Wife by E.B. Moore
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  • Portrait of a Woman in White by Susan Winkler
  • The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith
  • Book of Ages by Jill Lepore (about the sister of Benjamin Franklin)
  • Vanessa and her Sister by Priya Parmar 
  • Dark wood by Rosemary Smith
  • Florence Gordon by Brian Morton
  • The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer
  • The Moor: Lives Landscapre Literature by William Atkins
  • The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  • The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock
  • The Name of Things by John Colman Wood
  • Dancing with Mrs Dalloway by Celia Blue Johnson
  • Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan
  • The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
  • A Triple Knot by Emma Campion
  • The Poisoned Crown by Maurice Druon
  • The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell
  • Silver Lies by Ann Parker
  • Den omöjliga kärlekens hus by Christina Lopes Barrio
  • A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd
  • The Orphan Train by Christina Baker
  • Amy Snow by Tracy Rees
  • The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
  • Lärjungen by Henrik Senestad
  • Boundary Layer by Kem Luther
  • Encounter with an Angry God: Recollections of My Life with John Peabody Harrington by Carobeth Laird
  • We and Me by Saskia de Coster
  • The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunder
  • Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
  • Katedralen vid havet by Ildefonso Falcones
  • Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
  • That Summer by Lauren Willig
  • The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
  • Murder-on-Ile-Saint-Louis by Cara Black
  • J R Ward family drama series
  • The Sunne in Splendor by Sharon Penman
  • The Last Painting of Sara de Vis by Dominic Smith
  • Captivity by György Spiro
  • Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
  • Paris Runaway by Paulita Kincher
  • Detective series by Sulari Gentil
  • Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier
  • The Journal of Mrs Pepys by Sara George
  • The Chosen Maiden by Eva Stachniak
  • Cleopatra's sister by Penelope Li
  • Walking with Plato by Gary Hayden
  • The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle
  • The Forbidden Garden Ellen Herrick
  • Jayne Coleman series
  • The Body in the Ice by A.J. MacKenzie
  • Inheritance by Victoria Wilcox
  • Lives for sale, Biographers's tale by Mark Bostridge
  • How to stop time by Matt Haig
  • The streets of Paris by Susan Cahill
  • The Passions of Sophia Bryant by Shauna Gilligan
  • Roanoke by Lee Miller
  • Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent
  • Michael J Sullivan fantasy epic adult
  • A Dying Note by Ann Parker
  • Lily of the Nile by Stehanie Dray
  • The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medications, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman
  • The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny
  • The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine
  • The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
  • Nine Perfect Strangers by LIane Moriarty
  • The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay
  • The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen
  • The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
  • The Black Count:Glory, Revolution, Betrayal,
and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
If I calculated correctly, this is 106 books. About a year's reading for me. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Six Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. This month it starts with the classic Christmas story by Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

I have not read very many books by Dickens (and I have given up to be honest), but I have read A Christmas Carol and I liked it very much. It is a perfect story for the season. Mr Scrooge is evil and that leads me to Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Here Emily created a character who is the embodiment of evil and eternal love.

Just finished a Swedish thriller called Solitairen (the Solitaire) by Anna Lihammer & Ted Hesselbom, which also features a very evil man, who controls all the people around him.

Evil lingers on the American plains in Alma Katsu's The Hunger. Stephen King says: "Deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down, not recommended reading after dark."  He is right, there is something disturbing out there in the wilderness. The novel tells the story of the Donner party, a group of American pioneers who travelled west to California in a wagon train in May 1846. This is a true story and the party was delayed due to mistakes in planning, bad organisation and choosing the wrong route. They were stuck in the Sierra Nevada over the winter. Of the 87 members of the train, only 48 survived. It is said that they resorted to cannibalism to survive. A very tragic story.

The heroes and heroines of Allison Brennan's excellent books are always surrounded by evil. Wether it is in the Lucy Kincaid series, Make Them Pay, or the series about Max Revere, Poisonous

That leads me to Pere Goriot by Honoré de Balzac, which also contains evil and selfish people, who is trying to get as much money as possible by any means.

The last evil thread will go to the old, Greek Gods, and Mythos by Stephen Fry. He, himself, narrates his own book and here is a fight for survival on all grounds. Power to control the world can make people, and even gods, really nasty.

Well, that was a little bit of an evil chain today. I don't know how that came up, at a time, when we want to be kind to everybody. Alas, it is not always the case. Hopefully, the Christmas atmosphere will make the world a better place to be.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë

These ladies are two of my favourite authors. I have now read everything (except the Juvenilia) they have written. It really was a fight at the end. The two novels left to read were Mansfield Park and Shirley. Have I struggled? Indeed I have. It was a heavy road uphills. They are classics, I like the authors so I really wanted to read them. In the end I had to use my method of reading a chapter a day to be able to finish them.

Both novels are "much ado about nothing" as Shakespeare put it. The stories are boring, the characters are boring, ok, they are little better in Shirley than in Mansfield Park. The first book contains 572 pages and the second 330 pages. Rather long and thick in other words. They could both have been written in 100 pages if the authors had restrained themselves a little bit. There are so many stories about nothing interesting, nothing that takes the story further, descriptions of nature and for Shirley thoughts about circumstances that is probably more of an interest to Charlotte Brontë than to the characters in the book. I know that it was the way they published novels in those days; often a series of three. Although I kind of like Charlotte's heroines Caroline and Shirley, I have no mercy with Jane's heroine Fanny Price. She has not much to recommend her and is afraid of her own shadow. How this timid, anxious grey mouse can attract all the feelings she does, is a mystery to me.

Well, there was some harsh words to come from me. I usually don't dislike books this much, and if I do, I just don't finish them. But, as I said earlier, they were written by Austen and Brontë and therefor I felt I had to read them. Charlotte Brontë has a wonderful prose and this comes through in Shirley as well. She builds up her characters and they become vivid and realistic in her hands. Charlotte sometimes uses the technique to turn to speak to the reader. I can accept it in the end of Jane Eyre, when she says: "Reader, I married him", but I don't particularly like this feature in a novel. It somehow takes away the illusion you have to be part of the story. What do you think? Do you mind?

Shirley is set against the Luddite uprisings in Yorkshire during 1811-12. An interesting fact I found on Wikipedia, is that Shirley became a popular woman's name. Before the publication it was distinctly a male name. Today we would only consider it a female name.

Mansfield Park is written in Austen's style and is therefor also quite readable. However, I think she lingers too long on the dining here and there, walking in the park with endless descriptions of uninteresting features in nature. Not to talk of the setting up of a theatre play, with the endless planning, which in the end leads to nothing.  Mansfield Park as such is a portrait of the countryside gentry and their lives.

Charlotte Brontë's novels are more critical on how society works. This is not so clear in Jane Austens novels. However, especially Mansfield Park, has been used to analyse colonialism and slavery in England at the time. Edward Said, for example, has written an interesting analyse on  "Jane Austen and Empire". So much more can be read into this novel, but this is not anything I venture into with this rather negative overall impression. I leave the stories behind as well.

Have you read any of the books. Please let me know what you think.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Book Beginnings on Fridays and the Friday 56

It is Friday and time for some interesting book beginnings and to see what we can find on page 56. It is Rose City Reader and Freda's Voice who are hosting these challenges. This week I have just started to read the book for the Classic spin #19. It is, from a favourite author, Henry James and his Washington Square. He is famous for his long sentences, and his beginning here does not disappoint. Isn't it just wonderful how much information he manages to put into the first sentence.

Book beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader
"During a portion of the first half of the present century, and more particularly during the latter part of it, there flourished and practised in the city of New York a physician who enjoyed perhaps an exceptional share of the consideration which, in the United States, has always been bestowed upon distinguished members of the medical profession." 
The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice
""My allusions are as kind as yours, Elizabeth," said the Doctor frankly. "How many suitors has Catherine had, with all her expectations -- how much attention has she ever received? Catherine is not unmarriageable, but she is absolutely unattractive.""

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

My lucky spin number is...

The number for the #19 Classic club spin is 1. Since I just filled up my list, all of them are not chunksters, and my number 1 is the contrary. Rather thin. It is Henry James' Washington Square. I think I have actually read it, but since I can not remember it, it will be a re-read. No problem, since James is a favourite author. Maybe I will add Kristin Lavransdottir, which I failed to read last time. That is a chunkster at least.

Looking forward to see what you all will read! Good luck with your reads, especially if it is a chunkster.

Thank you for your reviews on this novel; Becky and Nish

Monday, 26 November 2018

Archeological discoveries in Sweden

I always like to have a non-fiction, bigger format book, to read when I eat breakfast. They are easier to lay on the table in front of you, and they keep open. The latest breakfast literature is this book about archeological discoveries in Sweden, Arkeologiska upptäckter i Sverige by Anna Lihammar.

I have lived abroad for 35 years, travelled extensively and read up on the local history where I was living or visiting. Sometimes you tend to forget your own country. You just take it for granted. Maybe not for those of you who live in huge countries, where history and archeology might be totally different. Although Sweden is not a huge country, it is rather long, and nature are quite different from the north to the south.

It was very interested to read this book, which in an understandable way tells of important discoveries from the stone age up until modern times. It covers how our ancestors treated their dead; treasures, rituals and religions, memorial stands and how people lived and worked. Then, of course, we have the fascinating ruins of citadels, castles and the never ending feature of history; war. It is amazing to see, that from very early on Sweden, or the area at the time, had vivid connections to people far away. You would think people were quite isolated here, but that is not the case. Numerous treasures of among others roman coins shows that people travelled and traded with people far away.

Ales' Stones

I made notes on interesting places in the south where I am living, and hope to visit some time in the near future. Are there interesting places and archeological sites close to where you live? Not so far away from where I live, there is a  megalithic monument built around 1,400 years ago, called Ales' Stones. It is situated by the sea and is Sweden's best preserved ship tumulus, made up of 50 standing stones.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

The Classic Club - Spin #19

Time for another spin challenge from the Classic Club. The rules are simple:

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty CHUNKSTER books that you've got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Tuesday 27th November.
  • We'll announce a number from 1-20. 
  • Read that book by 31st January 2019.
I am pleased to notice that I only have 27 books to go on my 50 classics to read. After having read the 20 on my shortlist, there are only 7 to go. There are of course hundreds waiting in the line to be put on the list. One step at the time though. Here is my updated list (published and updated under Memes).

1. Washington Square by Henry James
2. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Carter
3. Daisy Miller by Henry James
4. Karin Lavransdotter by Sigrid Undset
5. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë (reading)
6. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
7. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
8. Child Harold by Lord Byron
9. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
11. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
12. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
13. The Taming of a Screw by William Shakespeare
14. Jaget och det undermedvetna (Die Beziehungen zwischen dem Ich und dem Unbewußten
by C.G. Jung
15. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
16. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
17. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
18. The Divine Comedy by Dante (reading)
19. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
20. A Writer's Notebook by Somerset Maugham

The extended dead-line gives us time to read until end of January. No excuses then! What do you have on your lists?

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

This is a book that I have had since the mid-90s. It was much talked of when it was published and I don't really know why it has ended up so long on my shelves. It was due to the Classic Club's invitation to DARE reading a book that frightens you, one way or the other, that I grabbed this book. The sub title of the book is An adventure in philosophy, and I was thinking that it would somehow be 'over my head'. It is not...or is it? From the cover a short summary.
"One day Sophie comes home from school to find two questions in her mailbox: Who are you? and Where does the world come from?
This is the start of Sophie's adventure in philosophy - from the Greeks to Descartes, from Spinoza to Hegel, Mars and Freud - with a mysterious mento who will not reveal his identity. But this is not the only mystery in Sophie's world. Why does she keep receiving postcards addressed to someone called Hilde? Why do Hilde's possessions turn up among her own? Who is Hilde - and who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, Sophie uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined."

A philosophy teacher is the one who has approached Sophie. He wants her to learn about philosophy and question the world around her. Almost each chapter is dedicated to a philosopher from the old Greeks to the modern day thinkers. Jostein Gaarder is a philosophy teacher, and one just would like to attend his lessons. He manages to make you understand the various philosophies by putting forward simple explanations and examples. The book can actually be used as an encyclopaedia over philosophy and how it has developed from the old days.

It is all very well, until we come midway though the book. So far we followed Sophie and her adventures with the philosophy teacher. Now Hilde comes into the equation, and the idea I had, that I do understand this after all, is all gone. While reading you do wonder how it will all end. There certainly must be a catch with the different people, things and stories that evolves around Sophie. I don't want to spoil anything for a potential reader, so I leave the story here.

Jostein Gaarder creates the wonderful world of Sophie and we follow her quest to know the deeper meaning of the universe and life. The story is not as simple as I thought, having gone a little bit into hybris when I thought I understood it all. With the two stories of Sophie and Hilde, Gaarder takes us straight into the philosophical world and our beings. What is real and what is a dream? How does our sub-conscience work? And, all the other questions concerning our existence. Excellently written, and a wonderful way to approach philosophy.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Short reviews of latest reading

I am a little bit behind with reviews, so here is a post with short reviews of books I have read lately.

The Katharina Code by Jørn Lier Horst

A famous Norwegian thriller writer, but this is the first time I read a book by him. It is the first in a series of cold cases with detective William Wisting. Twenty-four years ago Katharina Haugen disappeared from her home, never to be seen again. She left behind a small note with cryptical figures. Every year, of the day of her disappearance, Wisting is visiting her husband, Martin. With the years a special friendship has developed between the two. When visiting this year, Wisting finds the house dark and quiet and no sign of Martin.

This is the starting point of this fascinating story. It is not a book of action, it rather slowly follows new leads and new interpretations. It is all very exciting and I really enjoyed the cleverness of the story, the background and the build up to finding the solution to the case. The characters are well outlined and Wisting's daughter, who is a journalist, is also part of the solving of the case. Looking forward to the next in the cold case series.  There are several earlier books with William Wisting.

Lises Lettering (The Art of Drawing Letters) by Lise Hellström 

My handwriting is terrible, and I always admire people who can write decent letters. In order to improve, and being able to use it in my journaling, I bought this book for inspiration. It is a pep-talk book about daring to venture into something you don't know, and think you cannot achieve. She says, that if she can write beautiful letters, anyone can! I hope so. I thought there would be more sample writing but it is more of a "you can do it" book. For samples to practice on, I bought, Nib+Ink, The New Art of Modern Calligraphy by Chiara Perano, which seems to do the trick. I am just at the very beginning.

Frostnätter (Hypothermia) by Arnaldur Indridason

Indridason never disappoints. In this novel his detective Erlendur Sveinsson takes on a mysterious death. A cold, autumn evening a woman is found hanging in her summer house, by an isolated lake. All the evidence shows that the woman committed suicide, still Erlendur is not able to let it go quite yet. At the same time he engages himself in a few old cases where people disappeared without a trace.

Erlendur, like so many other middle aged, divorced and slightly depressed detectives, has to face ghosts in his own life. The reason he feels with the relatives whose nearest has disappeared, is that his own brother disappeared when he was a kid. He was lost in bad weather in the mountains. Erlendur has never really come to term with the fact the he was saved, and not his brother.

A master story teller, Indridason takes us on another, or several mysteries. Like with Lier Holst book above, this is also a slow action story, but never boring, always on the trail of new evidence. At the same time creates such interesting characters, so you are really there where it happens. The ending binds everything together in a most interesting way.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Bookmark Monday

This meme is hosted by Guiltless Reading. In the beginning of September I was in London and visited one of my favourite museums; Tate Britain. Mainly to visit the Pre-Raphaelites again. This time I had an audio guide, and I am glad to have discovered two beautiful paintings of other artists. I ended up with four bookmarks.

Millais' Ophelia is a favourite of mine. It is just so beautiful and seems so real. Well, maybe it should be after all the dramatical events during its production.

"Millais produced Ophelia in two separate stages: He first painted the landscape, and secondly the figure of Ophelia. Having found a suitable setting for the picture, Millais remained on the banks of the Hogsmill River in Ewell...for up to 11 hours a day, six days a week, over a five-month period in 1851.
This allowed him to accurately depict the natural scene before him. Millais encountered various difficulties during the painting process. He wrote in a letter to a friend, "The flies of Surrey are more muscular, and have a still greater propensity for probing human flesh. I am threatened with a notice to appear before a magistrate for trespassing in a field and destroying the hay ... and am also in danger of being blown by the wind into the water. Certainly the painting of a picture under such circumstances would be greater punishment to a murderer than hanging."
Ophelia was modelled by artist and muse Elizabeth Siddal, then 19 years old. Millais had Siddal lie fully clothed in a full bathtub in his studio at 7 Gower Street in London. As it was now winter, he placed oil lamps under the tub to warm the water, but was so intent on his work that he allowed them to go out. As a result, Siddal caught a severe cold, and her father later sent Millais a letter demanding £50 for medical expenses. According to Millais' son, he eventually accepted a lower sum." (Wikipedia)
Dante Gabriel Rosetti is also a favourite of mine. Here is his Proserpine, painted with model Jane Morris.  "She was an embroiderer and English artists' model who embodied the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty. She was a model and muse to William Morris (1834–1896), the English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist, whom she later married, and to Dante Gabriel Rossetti."

John Singer Sargent and John William Waterhouse are the two new painters I discovered. These two paintings are absolutely beautiful. On the bookmarks you only see parts of the painting. While looking at the paintings, it feels you are a part of it. Like you can just step into it.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

My book for this week's beginning and page 56 is from one of my favourite authors; Simon Sebag Montefiore. I have three of his non-fiction books; Catherine the Great & Potemkin, Stalin, the Court of the Red Tsar and Jerusalem, the Biography. The book about Catherine and Potemkin is absolutely fantastic, so interesting. I am reading the book about Stalin for the moment, and Jerusalem will come one of these days.

When I found Sashenka, a novel of fiction by him, I just had to have it. I love his writing, so it will be interesting to see if his fictional book lives up to his non-fictional ones. As you understand, I have not read it yet.

Book beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader
"Part One - St Petersburg, 1916
It was only teatime but the sun had already set when three of the Tsar's gendarmes took up positions at the gates of the Smolny Institute for Noble Girls. 
The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice
"She could not understand why the workers of the industrial world, especially in St Petersburg and Moscow, the peasants in the villages of Russia and Ukraine, the footmen and maids in her father's houses, did not rise up and slay their masters at once. She had fallen in love with the ideas of dialectical materialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. "

Thursday, 8 November 2018

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Sometimes I just like to read, and I find it difficult to sit down to write a review. Or maybe, I just don't have time just after reading and then you tend to forget more detailed thoughts of the book. Sometimes I do make notes, mostly on non-fiction books, but it is more useful if you take notes also on fiction books. However, that also takes away the flow of the reading. How are you doing? Do you make notes as you read along? Well, here we are with a book I read about a month ago. The author is new to me, Alma Katsu.

"Deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down, not recommended reading after dark." That is a short review from Stephen King. He is right, there is something disturbing out there in the wilderness.

The novel tells the story of the Donner party, a group of American pioneers who travelled west to California in a wagon train in May 1846. This is a true story and the party was delayed due to mistakes in planning, bad organisation and choosing the wrong route. They were stuck in the Sierra Nevada over the winter. Of the 87 members of the train, only 48 survived. It is said that they resorted to cannibalism to survive. A very tragic story.

Alma Katsu has used the true story to build up her fictitious story. Her deviation from the true story mostly concerns the disappearance and death of the people that did not survive. A small research of Katsu reveals that, according to Publishers Weekly's review of her first book The Taker, she has "the ability to portray a supernatural setting in an immediate and realistic way ("makes the supernatural seem possible").  This very much also describes The Hunger. I will not reveal and spoil her ideas of what happened to the people. It is rather scaring, although I did not really like the interpretation. But then, I am not so much into supernatural things.

What her interpretation did though, and I find it very skilfully, is to give the reader a vision of people in harsh conditions. The supernatural influence helps describe peoples feelings and reactions to the situation. It is a chilling feeling. When does hope fail and you realise not all is going well. In the end the big culprit is HUNGER. It is difficult to imagine how you would react if you were in a similar situation.  Out in the middle of nowhere, snow all around you, the cold, no game to add to your meal. Katsu manages to describe this rather realistically, with the use of the supernatural elements.

The novel is a page turner, is well researched and written. I did like her writing and am thinking of trying something else by her. My mistakes was probably that I thought the novel was more of a non-fiction account of the trip. Having said that, the basic story is a true story. I love when writers use real life persons or happenings and incorporate it in their story. So, yes, I can recommend this book.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

The Diary of a Book Seller by Shaun Bythell

I am slowly, slowly getting into audio books. They are good when you are occupied by something and can't use your hands to hold a book. I love listening while walking and driving for a longer distance. I am still to remember to put it on while cleaning or doing things in the flat.

One perfect book for listening is Shaun Bythell's The Diary Of A Bookseller. Shaun bought a book shop in Wigtown, Scotland in 2001. It is simply called The Bookshop. Shaun kept a diary for one year and we follow him in his daily chores in the book business. Wigham seems to be a wonderful place, and famous for its many book shops.

It is a funny and sometimes hilarious diary, and gives us an insight in how it is to run a book shop these days. The competition with on-line businesses, although that is also part of the daily life of selling books. There seems to be on-line orders almost every day, except the days the system goes down!

Shaun shares his note about his life, his staff and different events at the book shop. The struggle to take care of loads of books at the time and to sort out what is worth keeping. We also gets a few comments from customers, which is always interesting. Various booking events take place during the year and you just wish you were there.

Each chapter is a day, and therefore easy to listen to and put down, even if you are only listening for a short while. Each day is a new chapter (so to say) and you don't have to worry if you don't remember exactly what happened yesterday.

After listening to the diary I am eager to visit Wigtown and its surroundings which sounds like a good place to spend a day or two. And who does not want to go through this huge bookstore and see what is hidden on the shelves. On The Bookshop, Wigham web-site it says that it is the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland and it has over a mile of shelving supporting roughly 100,000 books. Let's go!
You can also enjoy a few videos from the bookshop. Here is one with Shaun Bythell talking about his bookshop and here a funny video with the staff. I mean, while waiting to visit in real life.

If you love books this is an easygoing diary of life, far from the madding crowds. A nice relaxing ride into the world of books.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Bookmark Monday

This meme is hosted by Guiltless Reading. For this week's bookmark I have been to Ystad. Ystad is the city of chief inspector Wallander in Henning Mankell's books. Not only Wallander is filmed here, but other productions as well, and the film museum visualises these productions. Mostly about Wallander of course. In the very small shop, I found a bookmark and some other small items that will make good Christmas presents.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Challenges for 2019

It is the time of year when you look at what you are up to for the next year. Bev at My Reader's Block are inviting people to join her challenges. Here are the ones I will follow.

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2019

One of my favourite challenges, that helps you lower the number of books you have on your TBR shelves. It is the eighth year that Bev is hosting this challenge! Well done.

Here are the main rules (please visit Bev's site above for all the rules).

Challenge Levels:

Pike's Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

The main Rules:
*Once you choose your challenge level, you are locked in for at least that many books. If you find that you're on a mountain-climbing roll and want to tackle a taller mountain, then you are certainly welcome to upgrade. All books counted for lower mountains carry over towards the new peak.

*Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2019.

*You may sign up anytime from now until November 1st, 2019.

*Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2019.

I will aim at Mt Ararat for next year as well. I still have a few books to read from my shelves before reaching the top. All in all 48 books. If there is time and will, I might reach for Mt Kilimanjaro.

Calendar of Crime 2019 

The Rules (in short, for the complete rules visit Calendar of Crime challenge).

~Challenge runs from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019. all books should be read during this time period. Sign up any time between now and November 1, 2019.

~All books must be mysteries. Humor, romance, supernatural elements (etc.) are welcome, but the books must be mysteries/crime/detective novels first.

~ Twelve books, one representing each month, are required for a completed challenge and to be eligible for the end-of-year prize drawing. Each month comes with several categories (see chart) that may be selected to fulfil the month's reading.

Usually, I don't read many of these books. However, lately, I have been quite busy reading just these kind of books. Love a good mystery story, as long as the murders are not too violent (often these days unfortunately) and the detective is someone else than a middle aged man, divorced, depressed and living an unhealthy life (often these days as well)!

Friday, 26 October 2018

The Gothic Book Tag

The Classic Club continues to keep us busy, and they are doing it with bravur. While we are enjoying our scary classics for the month of October, here are 13 questions to answer about scary classics. To come in the mood, I am sitting here in my empty flat, lights out, except one at my desk. The corners are getting dark, the shadows are up and soon the autumn darkness will fall upon us. Hoooo! Since I have to go down to the cellar, I think I will do that first before answering the questions!

Well, I am back and because the cellar is also the garage it is really well lit! I did not have to worry. Back to the questions.

1. Which classic book has scared you the most?

Well, first of all I hardly read scary books in general, less so in classics. However, I found Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu rather scary. Mostly, because the heroine was so helpless, once she figured out the truth about her uncle. She tried to get away, but was blocked everywhere. A sense of being trapped and not being able to get out. That is scary to me. 

2. Scariest moment in a book?

The same as above when the heroine is trapped in the house and sees no way out. It is a little bit the same in Wilkie Colling The Woman in White.

3. Classic villain that you love to hate?

It must be Dracula, the original one.

4. Creepiest setting in a book?

The laboratory of Dr Frankenstein.

5. Best scary cover ever?

Had to go to the internet for this and found: "Twelve Creepy Tales" by Edgar Allan Poe. Some of his stories are really creepy.

6. Book you’re too scared to read?

I can't think of anyone right now.

7. Spookiest creature in a book?

The creature in Alien. I have not read the book by Dean Alan Foster. The movie was enough!

8. Classic book that haunts you to this day?

Dance of the Dwarfs by Geoffrey Household. I read it many, many years ago, but still think about it from time to time.               

9. Favourite cliffhanger or unexpected twist?

Dance of the Dwarfs by Geoffrey Household. Never forget the end.

10. Classic book you really, really disliked?

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Sorry!

11. Character death that disturbed/upset you the most?

Can't think of anyone for the time being.

12. List your top 5 Gothic/scary/horror classic reads.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In) by John Ajvide Lindqvist

13. Share your scariest/creepiest quote, poem or meme.

I go for a gothic quote from Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights

"If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it."

Monday, 22 October 2018

Bookmark Monday

This meme is hosted by Guiltless Reading. This week's bookmark, I found in the local book shop. It is formed as a pencil, with an opening in the middle where you can see the line where you should start reading. It is not too long, so I hope it goes into the page, over the text! It is very cute though, so could not resist it.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Bookmark Monday

This meme is hosted by Guiltless Reading and is all about bookmarks. Hmm, or a postcard to be used as a bookmark. This week I share with you what I found in Apsley House, the grand home of the Duke of Wellington.

Having lived in Brussels and not too far from the field of the Battle of Waterloo, I found it apt to visit the Duke of Wellington's house in London. It is called Apsley House and situated very central by Hyde Park Corner. Passing by the house you almost miss it. It is a rather grey, enormous, monument that does not look like a mansion of one of the most famous men in Britain. However, opening the doors you enter into a glorious house and beautifully decorated rooms.

It took about 1,5 hours to walk around the house with the audio guide. It presented the dining room, ball room and rooms containing a huge collection of his paintings, urns and other artefacts. Not to mention the fantastic silver and porcelain tableware collections which were gifted to the Duke. To be invited to his house was one of the most sought after invitations in its days.

There was no bookmarks to add to my collection, so I bought a post card (also good as a  bookmark), a beautiful pencil and a ruler showing both cm and inches.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Book beginnings on Friday and The Friday 56

The book beginning and the Friday 56 this week comes from a favourite author; Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before. It takes a little bit of time to get into his books, but once you are there, it is really great. I have had this one for many years. I picked it out of my shelves, to fit in the title in one of my challenges, Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge. You read a book starting on one of the letters in the alphabet. I might not be able to finish all letters, the tricky ones are left. 

Book beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader
"I take pride withal in my humiliation, and as I am to this privilege condemned, almost I find joy in an abhorrent salvation; I am, I believe, alone of all our race, the only man in human memory to have been shipwrecked and cast up upon a deserted ship.
Thus, with unabashed conceits, wrote Roberto della Griva presumably in July or August of 1643."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

"Meanwhile the emperor - and there was no telling the thousand different ways Olivares put pressure on him - remembered that Mantua was in the hands of a commissioner, and Nevers could neither pay nor not pay for something that was still not his due; the emperor lost patience and sent twenty thousand men to besiege the city. The pope, seeing Protestant mercenaries running about Italy, immediately imagined another sack of Rome and sent troops to the Mantuan border. Spinola, more ambitious and determined than Gonzalo, decided to besiege Casale again, but seriously this time. In short, Roberto privately concluded, if you would avoid wars, never make treaties of peace."

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Six Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. This month it starts with a classic teen novel, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I have not read the book, or for that matter, heard about it. When checking the net, I find it is about troubled teenagers. Reading the summary, I immediately thought about East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I have not read it, but seen the movie. So much connected to James Dean, I think you sometimes forget that it was written by one of the great American writers.

That leads me to another James Dean movie and American writer with Giant, written by Edna Ferber. From I find the following introduction to the book. "Edna Ferber is the author of Giant, the book that caused one of the greatest scandals in Texan history. You may be familiar with the book's movie adaptation because it was James Dean's last role. Regardless of the narrative's presentation, the content inside of Ferber's novel created controversy for all the right reasons. Could you imagine reading a book about your town in the present day that shined a light on all the social norms you practiced? In an era when racism and classism ran amok through the state of Texas, Giant provides a good hard look at the struggles many people faced due to circumstances beyond their control." The word here as well in the other two references is 'trouble'.