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'.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Mountaineering Check Point #3

Bev at My Reader's Block is reminding us to check in with the altitude where we are at present. It is all about climbing a mountain of your choice and highlight the altitude in connection with the number of books you have read from your TBR shelves. Well, I am afraid I have not got that far since the last check in, but let's see if I have advanced a little bit at least.

  1. Last time I reached 4,545 m with 34 books. Another two took me to the top. Had to rest a little bit up there before starting my descent. The very next day I started to climb Mt Ararat. It is        5. 137 m high. I have now read 37 books (only three since July), which leaves me at 107 m. My goal is Mt Ararat, which leaves me another 11 books to read. 
  2. Who has been your favourite character so far? Why? Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Christopher sets his own rules and does it with bravur. 
  3. Pair up two of your reads, but go for the opposites.  Love in a Blue Time by Hanif Kureishi and The Girl in Rose, Haydn's Last Love by Peter Hobday. Sorry, best I could do.
  4. Which book read has been on your TBR mountain the longest? Was it worth the wait? Or is it possible you should have tackled it back when you first put it on the pile? Or tossed it off the edge without reading it all? A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Both in the same edition. Well worth a read. They are both classics so can be read anytime. 
  5. Using titles from your list, see if you can tell a short story (or story blurb) or make a mini-poem.    Suffer the Little Children (inside) The Empty Family. (However, I go on telling) My Life as a Wife (although my husband was) The Virgin's Lover.  (I took) A Streetcar Named Desire (to) The Mistresses of Cliveden (but only experienced) Hundred Years of Solitude. (My) Restless (life was guarded by) The Secret Keeper

Monday, 8 October 2018

Bookmark Monday

This meme is hosted by Guiltless Reading. It is all about bookmarks. This week I have been visiting the Sherlock Holmes' shop in London. The queue to the house was too long though, so that is for another time.

As usual in the museum shops in England, there are so many nice things to buy. One just have to try to limit oneself. I bought the usual bookmark and added a story of Sherlock Holmes' adventures. I have only read one book, A Study in Scarlet, and here I will find a few others. Beautiful cover for the book.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughn

This book was gifted to me by Leigh, a friend visiting all the way from Australia. He described it to me as a court room book, and in a way it is, but not totally. The theme is very actual these days. A British politician is accused of raping a fellow colleague. The story is told from the prosecutor's side, a woman with a past, the wife of the politician and how it effects her and her children. There is also a couple of stories from the past, which all effect the present day situation. Most of the story actually takes place outside the court room. 

As always in cases like this, it is difficult to reveal the story without giving away clues. I use Goodreads introduction to the story.
"Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.
Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes."
Sarah Vaughn builds up the story in a thrilling way. Especially, how the story effects the family of James is told in a realistic way from Sophie's point of view. I think it gives a good view of the British society and these are matters we often read about in the papers. In the wave of the "Metoo" movement the story is chillingly told. There is such a thin line in the truth of the matter and the action of the participants.  Who is right? How do we know how the other party reacts to the act? It is up to the court to tell. However, even after the court has given its verdict, the action affects the people involved. Very well written and Sarah Vaughn is an interesting new acquaintance. She is presently writing her fourth novel, which will be published in 2019.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Classics Club's Unbelievably Detailed 50 Question Questionnaire

On Readerbuzz I found a post about 50 questions put forward by The Classics Club. They want to know why, how and what you read when it comes to classics.  I am not able to find the questions on the Classic Club web-site, but copied from Readerbuzz. Always a fan of questionnaires I can not resist this one. Here we go.

  1. Share a link to your club list. The Classics Club: Fifty Classic(ish) Books I Will Read in the Next Five Years
  2. When did you join The Classics Club?  I think I joined in 2014 or 2015 . So far I have read 22 of 50 titles. It seems I did not properly registered, which I have now done! 
  3. What are you currently reading? Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and Shirley by Charlotte Brontë. Both of them hard to get through although I love their other books.
  4. What did you just finish reading and what did you think of it? My latest classic was Richard III by Shakespeare. Not an easy read, but I managed. 
  5. What are you reading next? Why? Whatever comes up in the next spin.
  6. Best book you’ve read so far with the club, and why? I have actually not read that many books for the club. But if I look at my list of 50 classics, I would choose two books; Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann and The Go-Between by J.P. Hartley. Both wonderful books. 
  7. Book you most anticipate (or, anticipated) on your club list? The Wings of the Dove by Henry James. Just love James.
  8. Book on your club list you’ve been avoiding, if any? Why? A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I started once but could not continue. However, it is not a very thick book so I will probably go through one day. 
  9. First classic you ever read? 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë? Possibly.
  10. Toughest classic you ever read? I think it has to be Shirley and Mansfield Park. I just don't like any of them. 
  11. Classic that inspired you? Wuthering Heights. 
  12. Longest classic you’ve read? Longest classic left on your club list? Probably Buddenbrooks. Still there on the list, probably Forever Amber. I read it when I was young, but decided that I wanted to re-read it. 
  13. Oldest classic you’ve read? Oldest classic left on your club list? Oldest left on the list is probably Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. Oldest I have read? Hmm...The Odyssey by Homer.
  14. Favourite biography about a classic author you’ve read — or, the biography on a classic author you most want to read, if any? The Brontës by Juliet Barker. Covers the whole family.
  15. Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? Why? The old Greek classics. They seem to have things to tell us even after all these years. 
  16. Favourite edition of a classic you own, if any? Non specific.
  17. Favourite movie adaption of a classic? Gone With the Wind.
  18. Classic which hasn’t been adapted yet (that you know of) which you very much wish would be adapted to film. Can't think of anyone.
  19. Least favourite classic? Why?

 Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and Shirley by Charlotte Brontë. I just can't find anything interesting in them. 
  20. Name five authors you haven’t read yet whom you cannot wait to read. Henry Fielding, Sigrid Undset, Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, Willa Carter.
  21. Which title by one of the five you’ve listed above most excites you and why? Anything by Willa Carter, mostly because the name pops up everywhere, and I have not read anything by her. On my list is Death Comes for the Archbishop.
  22. Have you read a classic you disliked on first read that you tried again and respected, appreciated, or even ended up loving? I seldom re-read books and especially classics, so none. If I don't like it, I rather give it up. 
  23. Which classic character can’t you get out of your head? I have to say Heathcliff. He is such a strong character and the more you read the book, the more complex and nastier he seems to be. Yes, this is a classic I have read several times. 
  24. Which classic character most reminds you of yourself?

  Can't think of anyone. 
  25. Which classic character do you most wish you could be like? Scarlett O'Hara, with all her good and bad sides. But she has a survival instinct that is impressive.
  26. Which classic character reminds you of your best friend? 
Can't think of anyone. 
  27. If a sudden announcement was made that 500 more pages had been discovered after the original “THE END” on a classic title you read and loved, which title would you most want to keep reading? Or, would you avoid the augmented manuscript in favour of the original? Why? Although there has been sequels written by other authors, I would say Gone With the Wind. I would definitely have liked to read something else by Margaret Mitchel. It is difficult to judge a person for one book. 
  28. Favourite children’s classic? The books on Emil and Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  29. Who recommended your first classic? Probably no one.
  30. Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature? I trust a lot in my blogging friends. They are the most initiated readers I have around. 
  31. Favourite memory with a classic? Although a bad one, but I remember being so in to Gone With the Wind that I was reading it during class. Bad, bad...!
  32. Classic author you’ve read the most works by? The Brontë sisters and Jane Austen.
  33. Classic author who has the most works on your club list? I try to diverse the authors, but it is probably Henry James. 
  34. Classic author you own the most books by?
 I have one book of several classic authors, but not a lot of books. I tend to read classics on my ipad. 
  35. Classic title(s) that didn’t make it to your club list that you wish you’d included? (Or, since many people edit their lists as they go, which titles have you added since initially posting your club list?) I edit the list, take away those I have read and add another title. Although on my 50s list I tend to keep them, and move titles from there to the spin list.
  36. If you could explore one author’s literary career from first publication to last — meaning you have never read this author and want to explore him or her by reading what s/he wrote in order of publication — who would you explore? Obviously this should be an author you haven’t yet read, since you can’t do this experiment on an author you’re already familiar with. Or, which author’s work you are familiar with might it have been fun to approach this way? Maybe Walter Scott. I have not read anything by him (seen the movies), but that could be a possibility. 
  37. How many rereads are on your club list? If none, why? If some, which are you most looking forward to, or did you most enjoy? I seldom re-read classics or books in general. Only my very favourite ones. 
  38. Has there been a classic title you simply could not finish? Nana by Émile Zola.
  39. Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving? Lancelot by Chrétien de Troyes. Quite refreshing for such an old book. 
  40. Five things you’re looking forward to next year in classic literature? I am thinking on maybe concentrate on one author and read, if not all, most of their production.
  41. Classic you are DEFINITELY GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year? I have wanted to read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj for a long time. Maybe I will make i happen next year! Yay.
  42. Classic you are NOT GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year? James Joyce's books.
  43. Favourite thing about being a member of the Classics Club? Being "forced" to read classics. Sometimes one looks more for modern literature. I also like the different memes, the interchange with other members, and that there is a goal in reading. The exchange of views often opens up a whole new world.
  44. List five fellow clubbers whose blogs you frequent. What makes you love their blogs? I follow and love Brona's books, The Travelling Penguin, Dolce Belezza, The Reading Life, My Reader's Block and many more. Their posts contains a variety of reviews on books, travelling and anything cultural. 
  45. Favourite post you’ve read by a fellow clubber? Can't remember any specific post. I tend to enjoy people's posts on classics. It always brings something new to the reading, as well as inspiration to read more classics.
  46. If you’ve ever participated in a readalong on a classic, tell about the experience? If you’ve participated in more than one, what’s the very best experience? I did participate in Dolce Belezza's readalong on Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady, otherwise I seldom participate in these kind of challenges.
  47. If you could appeal for a readalong with others for any classic title, which title would you name? Why? The Illiad by Homer. It would be interesting to read such a book with support from others and the possibilities to discuss such a classic tale as you read along.
  48. How long have you been reading classic literature? Maybe 10 years. It all started when I joined the Brussels Brontë Group in Brussels. They have a classics reading group, in principal 10th century English literature.
  49. Share up to five posts you’ve written that tell a bit about your reading story. Reviews, journal entries, posts on novels you loved or didn’t love, lists, etc. An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin; The Last Kings of Norse America by Janey Westin and Robert Glen Johnson; Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann; The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I hope it shows my different interests in history, poetry and classics.
  50. Question you wish was on this questionnaire? (Ask and answer it!) I can't find the question, at least not clearly spelled out of; what is your favourite classics book? I will go for two - Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. They raise above everything else for me. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

I think I got this book through my son who read it in school (or was supposed to read it, unfortunately, it is difficult to get him to read any book at all!). It was much talked of when it was published. It is a wonderful story, told by a boy with Asperger's Syndrome. The neighbour's dog is found dead with a garden folk in his body. Christopher takes it on himself to solve the murder mystery. He starts a diary to write down everything that is happening.

We just don't enter into a murder mystery, we are entering into a totally different mind set. Christopher's way of approaching life, people and his surroundings is a different world and we realise how difficult it must be. He is a very intelligent boy and knows a lot about maths, but little about human beings. His life is limited by obstacles in his mind. He does not like yellow and brown things and cannot eat anything with such colours. He does not like being touched. His world is limited to his own street and his school. When deciding to solve the murder of the dog, his life takes a whole new path. He enters into areas where he has never been before. His family life is uprooted and it takes him on a terrifying journey.

Mark Haddon takes you into another world, and he does it in a respectful way. Although we cannot understand all the obstacles that Christopher has to live with, and how it effects his family. Haddon makes us try to understand. It is very well written and you are there with Christopher on his unusual journey. Sometimes you just want to say; "Stop it, on you go"; "pay no attention to that", but we realise that it is impossible for him. The novel highlights the difficulties for such persons, but not in a "I feel sorry" kind of way. No, we are there with Christopher, following along and encouraging  him when he ventures out of his comfort zone. We are proud when he manages to achieve what he wanted to do.

It is remarkable how well Haddon describes Christopher and his world. It is an eye opener and you just get to love this young kid. On top of it all, Haddon adds a lot of humour to the story. That is probably why we realise, that there is not anything wrong with Christopher's world, this is the world. Amazing book.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson

The Icelandic crime writers does not disappoint. I have read another book by Ragnar Jónasson, Rupture, but The Darkness is a different kind of story. They are both set against the wild landscape of Iceland and it gives a certain atmosphere to the stories. In a way, I guess, both books are similarly built up, although totally different. Rupture is set against and old story, cold case, that pops up out of the blue, and there is a dramatic family story to it. The Darkness is slightly different.

Huld Hermannsdóttir is about to retire. She feels she has been neglected by her boss and colleagues and not taken seriously. When the boss tells her she should go earlier due to the arrival of a younger colleague, she becomes devastated. She already has problem coming to terms with retirement. The boss tells her to hand over her cases and maybe look into a cold case for her remaining weeks in the office.

This leads her to the death of a Russian immigrant girl a year earlier. Reported as a suicide she rather quickly realises that it was murder. We follow Hulda on her last quest to solve a murder case. Simultaneously, we get a hint of her own sad background. As often is the case with criminal investigators these days, Hulda is depressed, lonely and does not seem to be able to enjoy life. Hulda little by little finds more evidence of a murder, and as she venture further into the deserted areas of Iceland, something unexpectedly happens. The ending is one big surprise.

I love the Icelandic crime noir and Jónasson is certainly there among the best authors. Although I enjoyed both books, I probably liked Rupture more, due to the old story coming up to the surface. But, again, that is me, love these kind of things. This is the first book in the series of Hulda Hermannsdóttir.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Bookmark Monday

This meme is hosted by Guiltless Reading. It is all about bookmarks, but this week I will mention some other items in connection with the bookmark.

Recently, I visited London and took the opportunity to visit Sigmund Freud's house. It is beautifully situated close to the metro "Swiss Cottage". A small walk up the hill takes you to a lovely little house in an old garden. This is where Freud spent the last year of his life and where his family lived on afterwards. His daughter Anna, who was the only one of his children following in his footsteps, wanted it to be a museum after her death. It is very interesting and Freud's office, it seems, looks the same as it did in his office in Vienna (his choice).

I bought a bookmark and a lovely note book.

Sigmund Freud's lovely house in a London suburb

The famous couch. Freud used to sit in the green
armchair, slightly behind his patients