Thursday, 17 January 2019

Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus



Nele Neuhaus is a German writer and new to me. I found the book (original title: Schneewittchen muss sterben) while using my Christmas gift card.  I was intrigued by the story on the back cover, and when I found the front cover with a snowy landscape, I knew I had to take this one. I needed a snowy motive for the Calendar of Crime 2019 challenge hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block. The criteria for January was themes connected to this month or the season. A snowy landscape was therefore perfect. And what a hit this crime novel was.

I have to admit that I started the book in the afternoon, could not put it down and finished it at 3 a.m.! Yep. One of those 'unputdownable' crime stories, where you just need to know 'whodunnit'.

Tobias is coming out of prison after a ten years sentence for killing two teenage girls. The bodies were never found, so the verdict was based on circumstantial evidence only. Coming back to the small village where he grew up and where the murders took place, he finds the family restaurang closed and his father living in a poor condition. The neighbours are not happy to see Tobias home again and try to force him away. At the same time a skeleton of a girl is found and the police starts an investigation. Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver Bodenstein are the two policemen put on the case.

It is a crime story, and I would not like to reveal too much of the story if you intend to read it. If you are a crime fan, you just have to! It is very well written. Pia and Oliver are well characterised and we follow them both privately and professionally. The police work is very well described and seems realistic. What makes this story so fantastic is the psychological effects on a small village, where everybody know each other, and where a local 'important' person makes sure that everyone is dependent on him, so he can pull the strings in all aspects of village life. And, so it seems, most of the village people have a secret to hide.

The intrigue is so well composed that it keeps up the excitement all through the book. It is impossible to guess who the culprit is until the very end. The village characters, who are very diverse, are well built up and you think you know them all. It is a nerv racking book, and as I said, impossible to put down until you know the end.

Nele Neuhaus has written nine books about Kirchhoff and Bodenstein, of which this is number four. I am happy to see that there are more books where this came from.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Trains & Boats & Planes by Killen McNeill

"Love for Harry Moore will be forever linked with Marie, the beautiful girl from Alsace. Ever since his magical teenage encounter with her in a tine holiday resort in Donegal, it has never lived up to his expectations.
Thirty years later, Harry, middle-aged, but not quite disillusioned, travels to Strasbourg to take up the search for Marie and the innocence and longings of his youth."
McNeill's book is a coming of age story. Events of his early youth affects Harry Moore his whole life. He is not able to forget Maria, the girl he met during an enchanting summer, at a time when he is going from being a teenager to become a man. Good and bad things happened during this last summer of childhood, and it affected all of the people involved.

The story starts in the present time when Harry Moore is visiting Strasbourg on a business trip. Having never forgotten Maria, he intends to look her up. Thirty years is a long time and people change. He is hesitant, but in the end he contacts her.

This is Killen McNeill's first novel (from 2001) and a very good one. He is from Norther Ireland, but is living in Germany. The story is set with the Northern Ireland conflict as a background, although it is not at the forefront of the story. McNeill's way of writing reminds me a little bit about two Irish writers that I like, namely Colm Tóibín and Sebastian Barry. It is something in telling a story, where nothing much is happening in the physical sense, but more on a psychological level. Wonderfully, straightforwardly written, with a feeling of how young people act, their dreams and visions, or no visions at all.

The younger years and the devastating summer are seen in flash backs, and take up the bigger part of the book. It is only now, in middle age, that Harry finds the possibility to see clearly what happened all those years ago. Maybe we do need a life time to settle certain parts of our life. However, what if that has prevented us from living a full life?

Meeting Marie opens up a lot of feelings within Harry, feelings not easily controllable. And then he finds out other things, about Marie and his wife. A low toned book with a lot of feelings, thoughts and an outlook on what life is really about. Is it not all about the people we love?

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

2019 - Year of Shakespeare



The Classic Club and Rachel @ Hibernators Library have joined forces in order to read Shakespeare. There are two options here; to read all his plays over a three year period or read one comedy, one tragedy and one history play over the course of a 3-4 month period.

A short survey from the Classic Club showed that Rachel's idea is very popular. Rachel will host the first trimester - the comedies. She is aiming for 4 of them, but I think I will have enough struggle to read one.  Erica @ The Broken Spine has offered to co-host the tragedies with Rachel which are planned for September - December. Histories for May - August will also be hosted by Rachel, who is on a look-out for a co-host. You will find all the information under the links above.

If this is turning out well, the Classic Club might extent the challenge into 2020 and beyond.

My own choices for one of his plays in each category are:

Comedy - The Taming of the Shrew
History - King John
Tragedy - Hamlet

Slightly hoping they are not too long. If so, I might change the titles later on. Since we are already in January, I better get started with The Taming of the Shrew. It is also on my spin list for the Classic Club so here I can hit two birds with one stone.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Challenge performance for 2018

Another year is gone and it is time to look how I fared with the Challenges I enrolled in for 2018. I did pretty well, I think, although I did not totally finish some of them.

For info on which books I read for each challenge go to Challenges 2019 and scroll down to link
2018.



The Full House Reading Challenge

Hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. The challenge is to read books that match the criteria in the grid. I proudly managed to finalise this challenge.


Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018

Hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block. Read as much as you can from your TBR piles and try to climb a mountain. I set my aim for Mt. Ararat which is 48 books. Unfortunately, I only made it up to 4, 602 meters which is 535 meters below the top and 5 books down. Well, well, the air is thin up here. Not giving up thought, trying again for 2019!

European Reading Challenge 2018

Hosted by Rose at the Rose City Reader, the idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries. I aimed at the Five star - deluxe entourage, to read at least five books. Here I excelled a little bit with 11 European authors. Yay!


Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge

Stormi and Kathy at Books Movies Reviews Oh My, are hosting the reading of mystery, suspense and thrillers. I did aim rather low, since I usually do not read a lot of suspense books. However, something happened and I read 30! I thus went from Amateur sleuth to Inspector. Quite proud.

Levels: 

5-15 books - Amateur sleuth
16-25 books - Detective
26-35 books - Inspector
36-55 books - Special agent
56+ books - Sherlock Holmes

Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge 2018

Hosted by Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book, this challenge is to read one book that has a title starting with every letter of the alphabet. I managed all but six letters; I, Q, W, X, Y and Z. I did look into what was missing to late and had not time to choose books starting with these tricky letters.

Where Are You Reading Challenge 2018

Hosted by Book Dragon's Lair, this is all about places and locations in books. Here, as well as above, I managed all except six letters; J, M, O, Q, T and X. Some not that difficult letters, but once again, I just floated with the books I read.

2 x 18 Challenge

Hosted by Rose City Reader, and it is all about reading two books for each year of the century, and they should come from your TBR shelves. Considering most of my TBR books are older, I did not manage to fulfil this challenge. I managed to read 29 out of 36. I failed the following years: 2x2002, 1x2005, 1x2007, 1x 2008, 2x2011.

52 Books in 52 Weeks

Hosted by Robin of my Two Blessings, the aim is to read a book each week of the year. I failed weeks 22, 36, 42, 44, 45 and 52. Well, better luck and planning for the new year.

All these are challenges I enjoy and I will continue follow some of them for 2019.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Mount TBR Final Checkpoint 2018

Bev at My Reader's Block has posted the final checkpoint for this year's challenge. One of my favourite challenges, not only because it has as its aim to lower our TBR piles, that are lying around our houses. It also reminds us that we should be out climbing, walking or whatever we enjoy doing to keep our health up. Climbing is not my cup of tea, but with this challenge I am doing my best.

I tried to be realistic and aim at 48 books and an ascent to Mt. Ararat. I almost made it but not quite. By 4.602 meters, or 43 books, the air got a little bit thin and I had to stop. The last 535 meters, or 5 books, alas, had to be abandoned. I will try to do better this year. Still, I had a few interesting adventure along the way.

It was not really Hundred Years of Solitude but I can understand the feeling. The Hunting Season was on, but I did not manage to shoot anything. However, The Mysteries of Beethoven's Hair followed me along the path, and I looked out for it, without finding it. I did Find Your (my) Element, and was happy to learn more about the stars above. When I got Restless I walked over to The Secret Keeper who always provided me with a little bit of sweets. I learned of Brontë in Love and wanted to roam the moors, rather than climbing the mountain. However, when I saw the Girl in Rose, I heard Haydn's music in my head. I did run into The Tiger's Wife and was dreading that this would be a Fatal Voyage. Must be safer in Brooklyn I thought. Or in Ireland where The Heather is Blazing. It reminded me of The Thirteenth Tale and I wonder if The Virgin's Lover made it. Then of course it was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which made me wonder wether I had entered Sophie's World or not. Or, was it just The Bugatti Queen racing by in her car?

A stitch in time - is Hundred Years of Solitude
Don't count your chickens  (during) - Hunting Season
A penny saved is (makes) - The Heather Blazing
All good things must come (with) - The Tiger's Wife
When in Rome - Angel Falls
All that glitters is not - Love in a Blue Time
A picture is worth a - Streetcar Named Desire
When the going gets tough, the tough get - Restless
Two wrongs don't make (a) - Betrayal
The pen is mightier than - The Mistresses of Cliveden
The squeaky wheel gets - The Secret Keeper
Hope for the best, but prepare for - Cathedrals of the Flesh
Birds of a feather flock  (makes the) - Butterfly Effect

Hope to meet you up a mountain in 2019.

Stuck with reading!

Sitting in Munich airport since our flight this morning was cancelled. We have been re-booked to another flight later this afternoon. Luckily, I have my computer with me and can take this opportunity to update my blog for 2019. Look over my challenges, read your blogs and enter into a little bit of meditation for the reading year to come.

For the most time though, I will open my chunkster book for the last Classic Club spin. It is Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, and I expect to come a lot further into the book. I have finished the first part of the first book. The version I have contains all three books.

Next week will see a few more reviews here. The holidays are over, time to go back to serious reading and blogging!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Reading statistics 2018

A new year means statistics from the old year. It is quite interesting to go through what you have read last year. Some books you tend to forget you have read, but when you see the titles they come up to the surface again. I don't have any one book that stands out this year. It probably means that I have been on a good, even level in my reading.

I have read 83 fiction (78%) and 23 non fiction (22 %) books. They are divided into: Historical fiction 8, Classics 20, Mystery 28, Other fiction 27; Biographies 6, History 5 and other non fiction 12. Top individual categories turn out to be Mystery and Classics. The division between fiction and non fiction is quite good. Although I might try to read some more non fiction this year. I listened to five audio books, and I am at the end of another, rather long one. It takes a long time for me to go through the audio books, since I listen mostly when out walking. I read both paper books and e-books and enjoy both ways of reading.



Overview of 2018 books

The 2018 reading year was for me quite different than usual. First of all, I read a lot of classics which, to a large extend, was due to my university course in Literature. It made me discover some unexpected pearls. For example Chrétien de Troyes' Lancelot. Estimated to have been written in 1177 and 1189, it holds a freshness and modernity that is amazing. Another classic I enjoyed was Voltaire's Candide. A humorous intake on the world at his time, and a real pleasure to read even today. Maybe not much have actually changed?

By far the best mystery was Jane Harper's Force of Nature, which had a compelling story which kept you guessing until the end. I also liked the two detectives and their interaction. I wanted to read another book by her, but I never got around it. Just lets me have some joyous reading for 2019.


A wonderful combination to read was Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady and the continuation of the story, Mrs Osmond, as written by John Banville. Always a fan of Henry James, as is John Banville, which is the reason it took him many years to decide on a sequel. It is done with utmost skills and a language close to James, that it is hard to notice a difference. The only difference might be that Banville makes an ending.

I cannot say that any book this year stood out against the others. It was an even reading year, a lot of mystery books, which I usually not read a lot of. Maybe the influence on being in Scandinavia? Most books appealed to me, but Arnaldur Indridason always sticks out. I must admit though that the last book I read, The Shadow Killer, left me without a clue on whodunnit? Anybody who has read it and can give me a hint. I wanted to re-read the last chapter again, but forgot and gave the book back before reading it through more thoroughly.

After many years on my TBR shelves, and thanks to the Classic Club, I finally read Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. It is an interesting book, where Gaarder manages to make you understand a little bit of philosophy. That is, until the philosophical world enters the real world. Or, is it the real world that enters the philosophical world? Hmm! A pearl of a book and a must if you are interested in philosophy.

Always interested in people's lives, I enjoyed a few biographies. To mention is Miranda Seymour's The Bugatti Queen, with its tale of an unusual woman's life. The Mysteries of Beethoven's Hair by Russell Martin and Lydia Nibley is another interesting story of how life move items through history. A last mentioning will go the Marie Benedict's The Other Einstein. A historical fiction about Einstein's first wife Miléva Maric. An interesting take on the value of wives' influence over scientific husband's work.


HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019!

A new year is upon us, and how fast the old year disappeared! From a reading point of view it was a good year for me, managed to read over 100 books. More on my reading and statistics in another post.

Just wanted to check in and wish you a new good blogging year, with lots of reviews and posts about what we like to do. I feel privileged to share your blogging events from all over the world. What books you are reading, which trips you do, the challenges and memes. You are a great community and I am happy to be part of it.


I celebrated new year in Innsbruck, Austria with a firework in the city. On New Year's Day we attended the New Year's Concert (Neujahrskonzert) in the Congress hall. It was a fantastic concert. The theme was Maximiliam Ist. 2019 it celebrating the 500 years since his death, and events will unfold through the year. The music chosen was from his time and forward towards the famous Strauss, father and son. Beautiful music all through. It was managed by the fantastic, 26 year old conductor Kerem Hasan. Indeed a remarkable performance.



I continuous good blogging year and all the best for 2019!