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.