Sunday, 26 August 2018

A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly

The back cover of this book promised an interesting story. It reads:

”Based on a real murder at the turn of the century, this outstanding debut novel is a powerful and moving coming-of-age book. Mattie is torn between her familial responsibilities, her desire to be a writer, and the excitement of a first romance. Her dilemmas and choices are quietly reflected in the life of a young woman found drowned in a lake, a woman that Mattie only gets to know through reading her letters.”

The first chapter starts with the murder, which gets you right into the story. However, then you are taken back to Matties life leading up to her being at the hotel where the murder took place. From there the story goes back and forth, with a chapter here and there on the murder perspective. In the beginning I wanted to know more about the murder, rather than the background of Matties life. It took me more or less 100 pages before I settled into the rytm of the story and realising that the majority of it took place before the murder.

Camping in Austria

Summer time, holiday time. I am presently in Austria holidaying. The weather has been fabulous so me and my husband decided to inagurate our new tent, that we bought last year. We found it on the Caravan Fair in Düsseldorf and it was delivered to us in March this year. It is a big tent, so you can easy stand inside. It is really a tent to use with you car, but can also be used independently.

We started out at Achensee, a beautiful alpine lake, 9 km long with tropical, green water. It is also icing cold. This year it had a record 19,5 C, due to the goo weather. Huuh! But, when you are warm and sweaty after a walk along the mountain walls of the lake, it is still quite ok. Once your in it is wonderful. It was a great camping facitily, with new sanitary areas, worthy a very good hotel. The village offered enough of restaurants to keep you going for a while. 

After a couple of days there we continued to Walchsee, where we got a spot just by the water. Totally beautiful. We could walk straight out of our tent into the water. Here the water has a temperature of around 22-23 C. What a treat. The fantastic thing here is that you are swimming with the mountains around you. It is a strange and wonderful feeling. Sooo beautiful.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

The Classic Club Spin #18 - Richard III by William Shakespeare

Believe it or not, but I managed to finalise this month´s spin. My number 9 was Richard III by William Shakespeare. I am not good at reading Shakespeare, but this seemed easier to approach. The reason being that I have recently read quite a lot about this time, in connection with the finding of his bones in Leicester.  The drama is not a very long, I read it as an e-book and it went rather smoothly.

The beginning was a little bit confusing, including a lot a characters I do not remember. Ideally, one should look them up and check up the history. 
However, I am travelling and there was no time.

(Many Books Net
(Many Books Net)

Time has shown us a development in the interpretation of historical events, and this is also the case here. Partly, the drama felt a little bit out of date, but it is a drama after all.  It was written during Tudor times (during the reign of Elizabeth I) and the first Tudor, Henry VII, beat his enemy Richard III at the battle of Bosworth.  But a classic is a classic, and has to be approached from the time it was written. I just read through without too much thought of the beauty of the text or the excellence of Shakespeare´s language. It will be for another time. I finally got to the famous lines, ”A horse, a horse, a kingdom for a horse”. 

I have written a few reviews on Richard III and his time, as well as of a visit to Leicester to visit the tomb of Richard III. For those interested you find them here.

Richard III and the Princes in the Tower by A.J. Pollard

The Search for Richard III - The King´s Grave by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones

How did you do with your classic challenge?

Monday, 20 August 2018

2 x Paulo Coelho

Looking for summer reads from my TBR shelves, I find two books by one of my favourite authors, Paulo Coelho. It is By The River Pedra I Sat Down And Wept and Adultery. They both cover relationships and their ups and downs. The first one is about a young couple who grew up together and then were separated many years, since they chose different paths in life. The second is about a woman in a happy marriage, with two children and a good economy.

By The River Pedra I Sat Down And Wept she is a young woman who has learned to look at life in a rational way, studying for a profession; he is a man who follows his religious calling, travelling around the world. Eleven years after they last met in the village where they grew up, they meet again. This time he is holding a lecture on his calling, on life and how we should approach it. She travelled to Madrid just for the day to hear and meet him. Like all the rest of the audience, she is mesmerised by him and his talk. Instead of going back she follows him on his tour in the northwestern part of Spain.

Coelho always surrounds his stories with philosophical thoughts and various aspects of life. Both of them have to reconsider their lives if they want to be with each other. It is probably more difficult for him, being a religious person and, as it seems, having saintly gifts. She has less to loose, but does not want him to give up his gift for her. Through their one week travel they reflect on they way their relationship has developed and they have to make a decision for the future.
"I imagine that some people spend years allowing the pressure to build up inside them without even noticing, and then one day some tiny incident triggers a crisis.Then they say: "I've had enough, I don't want this anymore."Some commit suicide. Others get divorced. Some go to poor parts of Africa to try to save the world.But I know myself. I know that my only reaction will be to repress my feelings until a cancer starts eating me up inside. Because I do actually believe that many illnesses are the result of repressed emotions." (Adultery)
In Adultery I find that Coelho has slightly ventured off his ordinary route. This is a more down to earth story, without the more magical moments that usually appear in this book. Linda has everything but is still unhappy. Well, maybe not really unhappy, but she feels that something is lacking in her life. It covers a big problem in the world today, when a lot of people, in principal, have everything they need, but are stuck in a world of routine. Coelho is spot on in describing the good life which still does not make us happy.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

This week's quotes come from Carlos Ruiz Zafón's book The Angel's Game. He is one of my favourite authors, never disappoints you.

Book Beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader
"A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood, and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price." 

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice
"My meetings with Cristina were always by chance. Sometimes I would bump into her in the Sempere & Sons bookshop, where she often went to collect books for Vidal. If the opportunity arose, Sempere would leave me alone with her, but soon Cristina grew wise to the trick and would send one of the young boys from Villa Helius to pick up the orders."

Thursday, 16 August 2018

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson

This is one of those popular help yourself books that seems to overflow these days. However, it defies all the good advices we have been given during the last years, that is; stay positive. Manson says: "Let's be honest; sometimes things are fucked up and we have to live with it." Right! That is life after all.
"One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful."
Sigmund Freud 
With this quote in mind Manson argues that values such as "pleasure, material success, always being right, staying positive", are poor guidelines for a persons life. After all, some of the greatest moments in our lives are "not pleasant, not successful, not known, and not positive". Which leads him to the belief, and I am bound to agree with him, that it is the individual who is responsible for everything in his/her life. We just have to act due to external circumstances. We are not always in control of all aspects of our life.
"We don't always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond."
Manson has established his own Law of Avoidance: "The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it." He relates this to the comfort we feel in our own world and life. We know what we have, but we don't know what is out there. Even if we have a "goal" in life which takes us far from the life we have today, it takes a lot of effort to actually make something to fulfil it. It is the same with dreams we have of what we want to be, or what we always wanted to be, but did not have the effort to pursue.
"Aristotle wrote, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." Being able to look at and evaluate different values without necessarily adopting them is perhaps the central skill required in changing one's own life in a meaningful way." 
"That's simply reality: if it feels like it's you versus the world, chances are it's really just you versus yourself."
Sometimes we just try too hard and one of Manson's advice is "Don't try." I agree with him here. Sometimes we just try too hard to achieve something and then we fail. When one does not really care, or just care a little bit, but put it to faith, things seem to fall into place.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Six Degrees of Separation

Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best, is hosting this interesting meme. This month we start with Ian MacEwan's  Atonement.  I am probably one of the few who have neither read the book nor watched the movie. It is a chronicle over a crime and its consequences over six decades.

That leads me to my first chain which is Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper. As in Atonement it is about a crime and how it effects the family. It is only fifty years later that everything is revealed.

Another family saga and hidden secrets I found in Habitaciones cerradas by Care Santos. Violeta Lax is the grand daughter of the famous, Spanish artist Amadeo Lax. When he died he left his house and art to the Catalonian state. Violeta comes back to have a look at the house a last time before the house will be turned into a museum. Once the renovations starts a hidden room is found.

The novel takes place in Barcelona and that takes me to one of my favourite author; Carlos Ruiz Zafon and The Shadow of the Wind. A book with secret libraries and houses and a search for a forgotten book, The Shadow of the Wind by an even more secret and forgotten writer, Julián Carax. A wonderful book of magic realism.

Magic realism takes me to Gabriel Garcia Marques and his Nobel Prize winning book One Hundred Years of Solitude. Another family saga in a world full of magic, realism and very special people.

Talking about special people (and a hundred years), I come to think of The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. A hilarious story of a man where nothing is impossible. Through his last(?) adventure we have flash backs of his quite extraordinary life.

While in Sweden why not end with A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Another hilarious story about a grumpy old man who finally meets his faith in a young woman. From loneliness and grumpiness to be part of a neighbouring family sphere, showing that if you give a little bit of yourself you get something back.

The chain took me from tragic family sagas, from secrets and hidden rooms to a more easy-going, humorous ending. It took me over the world from England to Spain, on to Columbia and Sweden.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

I found this book when I visited the local library. For someone who loves reading, such a title is obligatory. Manguel himself, Argentinian, but roaming the world with his diplomatic parents, fell in love with books from an early age. It seems he has read it all and a little bit more.  The history oozes love of books and he takes us through times to find out who read books and how.

It starts from the very beginning when there was no writing and people had to learn stories and tell them. A time when people read aloud for an audience. A time when being able to read and write made you a privileges person in society. And, closer to our time when a book became more common and readable in your own language, and not just something for a learned few.

The next part he dedicates to the powers of the reader. From the beginning when only a few people could read, on to the people who could read the future. The symbolic reader and reading inside of walls. Stealing books. Yes, there were people so interesting in collecting books that they actually stole them from museums and libraries. Then there is the reading of writers and translators. There is a very interesting section on Rainer Maria Rilke translating the 16th century female poet Louise Labé. There is also a section on forbidden reading, where, through history, books have posed such a threat to the leaders of a country that they had to be burned.

All through the history of reading it was believed that the book changed people's mind. They would be affected of what they read, so therefore leaders must be careful what was let out to the public. Censuring books has been a big part of its history. It was easier at a time when books were handmade. With the invention of Gutenberg's printing press, the spread of books became more common. Manguel quotes a letter from a Enea Silvio Piccolomini to the cardinal av Carvajal, dated 12 March 1455, where he informs the cardinal about Gutenberg's Bible. He is very impressed by the beauty of the book, with clear and neat letters free from mistakes. It is possible to read without effort and without glasses. He will try to get an example, but fears it is impossible. There are customers who orders the Bible even before it is printed. The first most popular book!

Manguel's research into the history of reading is huge, and he takes us through it from all angles. Small details like when glasses were introduced, and how difficult it was for the writers to work on copying books and writing letters. Even special chairs made for reading and/or studying. Kafka said to a friend that "you read to ask questions". Well, after reading this book, at least questions relating to reading is more or less answered.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Betrayal by Karin Alvtegen

I love Karin Alvtegen. She tells stories about ordinary people, or almost ordinary. There is always a twist to the story and you never know how it will end up. It is psychological and enters into the mind of the characters she is creating.

In Betrayal we meet Eva and Henrick who have a little bit of a marital problem. As the relationship unfolds everything is not what it seems to be. At the same time we meet Jonas who is guarding his girl friend, Anna, who is in a coma in the hospital. Due to circumstances Eva's and Jonas' lives are intertwined and takes a turn for the worse.

For Eva life is marriage and a happy family. That is how she grew up and she can not consider anything else. When this life is threatening her and her son Axel, she goes to extraordinary circumstances to save it. But has she ventured in to the wrong way to solve the problem?
... In some way she had to defend herself against the feelings he awaked in her. Shield herself. If she allowed herself to give in she was lost, a victim, poor Axel's rejected mamma who had lost control over her life. Sometime in the future he would understand that she did it all for his sake. That she was the one who took responsibility and tried to protect him, not like his father."
When Jonas girlfriend dies his life is turned upside down. Circumstances have it that he meets someone who reminds him of Anna and he has already planned their life together. For Jonas love is unconditionally.

" The day he got married and someone really loved him for the person he was, the day someone truly saw him, he would never again look at anyone else. He would drag out all the passion inside him and make his woman a queen. He would worship her, do everything she asked, be there loving her every second. He would never fail. His love could work miracles if someone would only let it. If anyone would only accept it. Why could no woman see his capacity, see the inherent power in him? Why was there no one who wanted to accept all that he had to give?
Anna had known. And yet he wasn't good enough for her." 
 Eva is craving to be loved and taken care of. She is always the strong one, she is the one keeping the family together. When she finally gets the unconditioned love she wants, it comes her way in the mind of a dangerous man.

As in all of Alvtegen's books there is a scary undertone in the story. Sometimes you can not touch it, it is just there. When it finally shows itself it is scary. More so since her characters are what we would consider normal people, but underneath lurks something bad.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Book beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

Another week and another book beginning and page 56. This week I choose a book I have just finished. Review will come on Monday 13 August. It is one of my favourite, Swedish writers, Karin Alvtegen. Her books are psychological with a scary undertone. It is about normal people, who turn out to be not quite that. Excellent suspense.

Book beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader:
"I don't know.'
Three words.
Each by itself of in some other context completely harmless. Utterly without intrinsic gravity. merely a statement that he was not sure and therefore chose not to reply.
I don't know.
Three words.  

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice:
"She went on to the bookshelf. Where? Where would he hide something that she could never be allowed to find? Ws there any single place in this house where she never looked? Where he knew that his secret would be safe?
Suddenly she heard the front door open." 

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Austen in August

Austen in August is celebrating all things Jane Austen. The logo is absolutely wonderful and so Austen. For more information on what is going on, go to The Book Rat who is hosting.  I will be on holiday mid-August so there should be ample time to read Austen, as well as my Classic Club read.

This is the first time I am joining and I will read Mansfield Park. I have read all the others, except the Juvenilia, so it is a suitable challenge. My favourite books by Austen are Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. I am curious if Mansfield Park will be able to push them down the steps?

I recently visited an exhibition with clothes from Austen movies and tv-series. It was delightful to walk around and even recognise some of the clothes. Mostly from Pride and Prejudice. 

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The Classic Club - spin #18

The Classic Club spin # 18 has taken place. This is a recurring challenge which you can join. Create a post with your list for twenty classics you want to read (before August 1 this time). On August 1 the spin took place and up came number 9.

My spin list for August 2018 is:

1. Washington Square by Henry James
2. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Carter
3. New Grub Street by George Gissing
4. Karin Lavransdotter by Sigrid Undset
5. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
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. Richard III by William Shakespeare
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. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
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
19. Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
20. Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

As you can see, I get to read Richard III by William Shakespeare. I read a lot about Richard III in connection with finding his grave and got very interested in the man and the era. I wanted to read this special play for some time, BUT, I find it very hard to read Shakespeare. I think you have to get used to it and it can take some time. I am quite excited though and hope I will be able to finish it by 31 August. Going on a holiday mid-August and I can read it on my ipad mini.

I am optimistic! Let's see how far it takes me.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Paris in July 2018 - Nana by Èmile Zola

I have had a visitor all the way from Australia, so I have been quite busy the last week. Therefor not too much blogging about Paris in July lately. However, I wanted to share with you, my experience of reading Nana. The title might be a little bit misguiding, because it reads like I have actually read the book. Well, I have not. I tried to read it for last years' Paris in July and once again this year. I just can't get through it.

I remember part of the plot, since I saw it as a tv-series when I was a teenager. It somehow stayed with me, especially the part (SPOILER ALERT) in the end where Nana gets smallpox and her career is over. I have recently read Thérèse Raquin by Zola and I liked it very much, but I just don't seem to be able to get through Nana. A few thoughts about why I am not able to get through it.

Zola was much into realism. In György Lukács' essay Realism in the Balance he speaks about the objects that only live "in connection with human destinies". He says that Zola, uses the objects as a "complex of facts" and make them into the middle point, different descriptions of the theatre, the room, the dinner etc. Lukács compares them with a painting. Like a painting they hang side by side in a gallery. The objects of the novel becomes a loose thread and does not connect the story. Luckács means that this is typical for naturalismen and Zola. Especially with Zola, naturalismen tips over into symbolism.

I did not find that troublesome in Thérèse Raquin, but I find it troublesome in Nana. There are so many descriptions of objects around the persons, AND, there are so many different people. I am not able to separate them, or remember who they are. Maybe this is just a problem in the beginning of the book, because honestly, I have only reached a little bit into the book.

But, as they say: 'So many books, so little time' and therefore I decided not to continue with the book for the time being. I have other books waiting for me.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Bookmark Monday

This meme is hosted by Guiltless Reading and it is all about bookmarks. I tend to buy bookmarks while travelling. It is perfect. You have a souvenir and they do not take up a lot of space. While cleaning out a box full of scrapbook items recently, I found three bookmarks that I had totally forgotten about. And, they are really nice ones. I bought them when visiting Oxford more than a year ago.

The top one is wooden and of Oxford Castle & Prison. On it reads: A Norman motte-and-bailey castle was built by Robert d'Oilly in 1071, incorporating the Saxon St George's Tower. It saw two civil wars and, in 1142, the escape of Empress Matilda. The church on site was the birthplace of the University and legend of King Arthur. A gaol from 1531, holding some of Britain's most infamous criminals, it was reformed by Daniel Harris from 1785 and later expanded. It remained a prison until 1996.

Unfortunately, we missed one of the guided tours. But there is a lot of other things to see in Oxford. We walked around the city to grasp the atmosphere. It was the time of the exams, so a lot of student celebrating in the streets.

The other two are made of material, almost silky, and beautiful to touch. Will look very luxurious in any book. The Oxford Old Boys shows where the famous boys where studying. At Wadham - Christopher Wren, at Magdalen - Cardinal Wolsey and Oscar Wilde, at Christ Church - Robert Peel, John Wesley and Lews Carroll, at Jesus - TE Lawrence and at Merton - JRR Tolkien.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

A few library books

Being back in Sweden I can enjoy the pleasure of going to the library. We have a small, local library in the area where I live, and a bigger one down-town. I visited the local library the other day to see what they have. It is rather new, very nice and comfy. There are areas where you can use the computer, sit an read a book or a magazine. Only thing missing is coffee, but we can't have it all.

As always when I linger among books I find something to buy, or in this case borrow. I came out with three books. Don't ask me why when I have around 200 at home on my shelves. I think it is just the pleasure of running into an unexpected book.

Three interesting books, of which I have read two.

Arvet från Bagdad ('The Bagdad Inheritance'; my translation) by Ingmar Karlsson. He is a translator and author, specialising in books about minorities, different religions, the Middle East, China and Germany. This is a pearl of a book. There are a lot of myths about islam and the Middle East area. He shows us that mostly they are just that; myths. The truth is something else. It was the well educated arabs that protected, developed and took the greek classics back to Europe. During 8th and 9th century they were translated into Arabic. Many of the learned men moved to Spain, islamic at the time, and spread the knowledge further into Europa. He gives numerous examples of how well forward the Arabic world were compared to Europe at the time. Very interested and easy accessible book about the inheritance from Bagdad, which still today is part of our culture.

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a book about the obsession gambling. Looking into his biography, I see that he himself was, at a time, a gambler, so he probably knows what he is writing about. A mixture of people find themselves in Rulettenburg, which is a German spa with a casino and an international setting of people. They are all waiting for the rich grandmother to die, and is totally chocked when she suddenly turns up at the hotel and starts gambling away her money. It is a story of greed, love and how easy it is to get obsessed by the gambling tables. As always Dostoevsky gives us an insight into different characters and their rational or irrational behaviour.

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel is exactly what the title suggests. Manguel takes us through the reading habits through history, about libraries and books of treasure, about accepted and forbidden reading, about book thieves and book burners and peculiar reading machines. I have just started it, and it is just wonderful. A book for all of those who loves to read and hold a book in your hand. The mystery and imagination of the story you are about to read. Review will follow.