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)!