Wednesday, 16 December 2020

My Life in Books

My Life in Books hosted by Annabelbooks invites us to use the books we have read for 2020 to answer a few prompts. You should not repeat a book title. These exercises are always fun, so let's see how this works out for me.  

In high school I was The Prisoner of Heaven (Carlos Ruiz Zafón)

People might be surprised (by) The Labyrint of Spirits (Carlos Ruiz Zafón)

I will never be The Railwayman's Wife (Ashely Hay)

My life in lockdown was like Days Without End (Sebastian Barry)

My fantasy job is The Merchant of Venice (William Shakespeare)

At the end of a long day (I look for the) Laterna Magica (Ingmar Bergman)

I hate being The Andalucian Friend (Alexander Söderberg)

Wish I had A Turning Wind (J.G. Harlond)

My family reunions are The Book of Secrets (Tom Harper)

At a party you’d find me with Mario and the Magician (Thomas Mann)

I’ve never been to Ostende (Volker Weiermann)

A happy day includes Vermeer's Little Street (Franz Gruzehout)

Motto I live by:  Don't Look Back (Karin Fossum)

On my bucket list is The Empress Emerald (J.G. Harlond)

In my next life (I am) Falling for Provence (Paulita Kincer)

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Memes 2020 - Summary

As you see in the image above I have five different choices under this link. 

The Classic Club contains the list I am following for the Spins. I think I only managed to read one or two of my choices this year.

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader and The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice saw five posts this year. Less than usual, but probably because I read more Swedish books now that I am back in Sweden.

I did non of 6 Degrees of Separation, hosted by Books Are My Favourite And Best, although I really like this meme. 

Bookmark Monday hosted by Guiltless Reading (although I think she mostly posts on Instagram) saw only one entry this year. Typical of the pandemic year when travelling and visiting places was out of the plans. 

I keep the same Memes for 2021 but might change some things during the year. 

Monday, 14 December 2020

The Unread Shelf Challenge

This is a challenge just in my taste. The Unread Shelf is hosted by Whitney Conard who guides us through how to best tackle the unread books on our shelves. Once you enrol you get a small guide to follow, as you see fit yourself. It helps and encourages you to tackle the challenge in a scientific and orderly way. I am quite confident that it will help me lower the number of unread books. Go to her website to get more information and inspiration in this Hercules task. 

There are several ways how to approach the task. You can name 10 top books you really want to finish this year. There is a guide to choose a book for each month of the year, and a bonus guide to further help you choose the right books to read. For me mostly, I am aiming at the oldest books I have on my shelves. 

I am looking forward to lowering the number of unread books which amounts to around 200 at the end of 2020. Let's meet again in December 2021 and see how far I have come.

Friday, 11 December 2020

Anne Tyler re-read project 2021


Liz Dexter at Adventures in reading, running and working from home is inviting us for a re-read of Anne Tyler's books. I love the books I have read by her, and it was a long time since I read them. 

It might be to ambitious for me to read all of her books, but I will try to catch up with the schedule as best as I can. Here are the basic rules. Go to Liz' link above for further information. 

How will it all work?

My plan is to read one of the books each month by the 10th of the month and review it then, and the other by the 20th and review it then. Then my review will be available for linking and commenting by the middle and end of the month respectively.

I will link to my review on this page and I will try to link to anyone’s who does a review, including on Goodreads, and sends me the link.

How do I join in?

When you’ve read your book, you could do any of these things …

  • Post a review in a comment on my review
  • Write your own review by the 15th or 30th of the month respectively and include a link to my review
  • Write your own review by the 15th or 30th of the month respectively and pop a link to your review in the comments on mine
The schedule


If Morning Ever Comes (1964)

The Tin Can Tree (1965)


A Slipping-Down Life (1970)

The Clock Winder (1972)


Celestial Navigation (1974)

Searching for Caleb (1975)


Earthly Possessions (1977)

Morgan’s Passing (1980)


Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982)

The Accidental Tourist (1985)


Breathing Lessons (1988)

Saint Maybe (1991)


Ladder of Years (1995)

A Patchwork Planet (1998)


Back When We Were Grownups (2001)

The Amateur Marriage (2004)


Digging to America (2006)

Noah’s Compass (2010)


The Beginner’s Goodbye (2012)

A Spool of Blue Thread (2015)


Vinegar Girl (2016)

Clock Dance (2018)


Redhead by the Side of the Road (2020)


It should be fun so it does not matter if you cannot read them all. The main thing is to exchange views and thoughts about the books. Read in your own pace and link reviews on Liz' website.

Looking forward getting in touch with Anne Tyler again. 

Friday, 4 December 2020

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56


This week I have ventured back to an old classic. Maybe being influenced by the latest challenge I have joined; Back to the Classics. It is George Sand's A Winter in Mallorca. George Sand and her lover Fredrick Chopin visited Mallorca during the winter of 1838/39. They stayed in Palma and in the monastery in the picturesque village of Valldemossa. Still today you can visit the apartment they stayed in, although it is not exactly the same rooms and the same furniture. But it is a beautiful place. Unlike most people who visit Mallorca, George Sand was not over-enthusiastic about the place and the people. 

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader

This quote is from the 4th paragraph of Chapter One. 

"Without quite the same claims to immortality as Jean-Jacques and in search for something that I could achieve, I thought that I might perhaps become as famous as the two Englishmen in the valley of Chamounix and claim the honour of having discovered Mallorca. "

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

"Here quite simply is the theme of my book and why I bothered to write it, when it was hardly a pleasant task, and as I promised myself, at the beginning, to keep my personal impressions to myself as much as possible, it now seems to me that this omission would be an act of cowardice and I withdraw it."

Back to the Classics Challenge 2021

I did say in a recent post I will not enrol in too many challenges. My main aim for 2021 is to be firm on lowering the number of unread books on my shelves. They amount to around 180 as I write this. It would be perfect to reach down to 100 at the end of next year. So, I choose only challenges that will help me in my endeavour. I did not think I have so many classics on my shelves, but checking them I found 18! Well, well, should be enough for this challenge, if I can fit them in. Anyway, I am interested in reading more Classics, so this challenge will be a suitable complement to my list from The Classic Club.

For eight years now Karen at Books and Chocolate has been hosting the Back to the Classics Challenge. Here is my preliminary list (might be changed depending on the situation). Scroll down below to find the rules for the challenge.

Without further ado, here are the categories for 2021: 

1. A 19th-century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899 - The Red and the Black by Stendhal (1830)

2. A 20th-century classic: any book first published from 1900 to 1971. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1971 and posthumously published - The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham (1919)

3. A classic by a woman author - Katherine by Anya Seton (1954)

4. A classic in translation, meaning any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language if you prefer - Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1878) (Russian will read in English). 

5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author - The Prophet by Khalil Gibran (1923)

6. A classic by a new-to-you author, i.e., an author whose work you have never read - Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (1957)

7. New-to-you classic by a favourite author -- a new book by an author whose works you have already read -  Sandition by Jane Austen (1817)

8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title. The animal can be real or metaphorical. (i.e., To Kill a Mockingbird) - Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)

9. A children's classic - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

10. A humorous or satirical classic - Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (1889)

11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction). It can be a travelogue or a classic in which the main character travels or has an adventure -  The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino (1957)

12. A classic play. Plays will only count in this category - The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde (1895)

That is my list. Seven of them I have on my shelves, one on my iPad and the rest I will either borrow from the library or buy as an e-book. 


Here are the rules for the challenge.  Please go to her website for further information. 

A year-long challenge in which participants are encouraged to finally read the classics they've always meant to read -- or just recently discovered. At the end of the year, one lucky winner will receive a prize $30 (US) in books from the bookstore of their choice. The rules and prize are the same as last year, only the categories have changed. This year, I've tried to come up with some fun categories -- I think we could all use as many fun and relaxing reads as possible!

  • Complete six categories, and you'll get one entry in the drawing; 
  • Complete nine categories, and you'll get two entries in the drawing; 
  • Complete all twelve categories, and you'll get three entries in the drawing

So -- I hope everyone likes the categories, I tried to make them fun and as light as possible for next year. And of course, you do NOT have to read 12 books to qualify for the drawing! The rest of the rules also remain the same.


All books must have been written at least 50 years ago to qualify; therefore, books must have been published no later than 1971 for this challenge. The only exceptions to this rule are books which published posthumously but written before 1971. Recent translations of classic novels are acceptable. 

All books must be read from January 1 through December 31, 2021. Books started before January 1 do not qualify. All reviews must be linked to this challenge by 11:59 p.m. on January 1, 2022. I will post links the first week of January for each category, which will be featured on a sidebar of this blog for convenience through the entire year. (The link for the final wrap-up will be posted towards the end of the year, to avoid confusion). 

The deadline to sign up for the challenge is March 31, 2021. After that, I'll close the link and you'll have to wait until next year's challenge. Please include a link to your actual sign-up post, not your blog URL/home page. Make sure you sign up in the below, not the comments section. If I do not see your name in the sign-ups, you are not eligible. If you've made a mistake with your link, just add a new one and let me know in the comments. It's no trouble for me to delete an incorrect link. 

Books may NOT cross over within this challenge -- that is, you may not count the same book multiple times within this challenge. You MUST read a different book for each category in this challenge, or it doesn't count. 

Participants must post a wrap-up and link it to the challenge, and it must include links to all the books they've read for this challenge, specifying which books for each challenge. If I cannot confirm which books you've read for each challenge, I will not enter your name into the drawing. It is fine to rearrange books for the challenge since many books can fit multiple categories -- just let me know in the final wrap-up! 

The wrap-up post MUST include contact information so that I can contact the winner privately before announcing the winner on this blog. If your blog doesn't have a link, or if you have a Goodreads account, let me know in the comments of the wrap-up post. If I cannot contact you, I cannot award you the prize!

The winner will be announced on this blog the first week of January 2021. All qualifying participants will receive one or more entries, depending upon the number of categories they complete as stated above. One winner will be randomly selected from all qualifying entries. I will contact the winner privately and award the prize before posting on the blog. 

The winner will receive a gift certificate in the amount of $30 (US) from (US) OR $30 in books from The Book Depository. Winners must live in a country that receives a shipment from one of these online retailers. To check if your country receives deliveries from The Book Depository, click here. 


There you go! I hope some of the books from my Classic Club list will fit in here somehow. What about you? Interested?

Thursday, 3 December 2020

2021 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge


Another challenge that goes well with my aim to reduce the number of unread books on my shelves. Hosted by Escape With Dollycas Into a Good Book. The rules are simple.


  • The Alphabet Soup Challenge means that by December 31, 2021 your bowls must be filled with one book for each letter of the Alphabet.
  • Each Letter Counts As 1 Spoonful
  • This challenge will run from January 1st, 2021 until December 31st, 2021.
  • You can join anytime. You do not have to post a review of the book. Books can come from any genre.
  • You do not need to link up each spoonful.
  • Make a page or a post or a GoodReads shelf where you will keep track of your spoonfuls. I keep track of mine on my Challenge Page.
  • Crossovers to other challenges are allowed and encouraged! 
  • It’s an alphabet challenge!!! The challenge is to read one book that has a title starting with every letter of the alphabet.
  • You can drop the A’s and The’s from the book titles as shown below.
  • The First Main Word Needs To Be The Letter You Are Counting 
  • Except For that pesky Q, X, AND Z titles when the word that starts with the challenge letter can be anywhere in the title.

So there are two different ways you can set up your own A-Z Reading Challenge.

A – How I plan to do it: Make a list on your blog from A-Z. Throughout the year, as you go along, add the books you are reading to the list. Towards the end of the year, you can check and see which letters you are missing and find books to fit.


B – Make a list now of 26 books, picking one for each letter of the alphabet.

Looking forward to the challenge and a lot or more books from my shelves that will be read. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

2021 Alphabet Soup - Author Edition Reading Challenge

I said to myself that I will not join any challenges this year. Of course, when the challenges are now published for 2021, it is difficult not to be inspired. I am only following challenges which will go with my overall aim of lowering the number of books I have not yet read on my shelves. This fits perfectly into that challenge, although I am not sure I have authors enough to cover all the letters of the alphabet. Let's see.

It is hosted by Dollycas at Escape With Dollycas Into a Good Book and the rules are simple.


  • Start keeping track of your authors and by December 31, 2021 your bowls must be filled by one author for each letter of the Alphabet. Be sure to include the book title too.
  • This challenge will run from January 1st, 2021 until December 31st, 2021.
  • You can join anytime. You do not have to post a review of the book. Books can come from any genre.
  • You do not need to link up each spoonful.
  • Make a page or a post or a GoodReads shelf where you will keep track of your spoonfuls. I keep track of mine on my Challenge Page.
  • Crossovers to other challenges are allowed and encouraged!
  • It’s an alphabet challenge!!! The challenge is to read one book that has an author whose first name, middle, or last name starts with every letter of the alphabet.
  • So there are two different ways you can set up your own A-Z Reading Challenge.

A – How I plan to do it: Make a list on your blog from A-Z. Throughout the year, as you go along, add the authors with the book you read to the list. Towards the end of the year, you can check and see which letters you are missing and find authors/books to fit.


B – Make a list now of 26 books, picking one for each letter of the alphabet.

My books are sorted alphabetically by authors name, so should not be too difficult to find an author that fulfil the criteria. I have been thinking of just starting at A and continue down the letters to finally read all my books. However, I am a little bit of a mood reader, so I have to find the right book for the right moment. 

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Nonfiction November - week 4


Week 4: (November 23-27) – Katie@Doing Dewey is rounding things up with her post "New to My TBR".  As she says, it has been a month full of amazing nonfiction books. Her last question for this year's challenge is: "Which ones have made it onto your TBR?" Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book! 

I have been inspired by all of you, especially for books outside my comfort zone. I have added a few books to my wishlist. I mention the books here but can't, unfortunately, not remember at which blogs I read about them. I hope you recognise your own titles. If you do, please leave a comment below. 

For week 2 I asked the experts for books set in the Kingdom of Naples at the beginning of the 14th century. I had just read historical fiction The Girl Who Tempted Fortune by Jane Ann McLachlan, and wanted to read nonfiction about the same time. Emma at Words and Peace kindly recommended two books which are now on my wishlist. 

  • The History of the Kingdom of Naples: From the Accession of Charles of BOurbon to the Death of Ferdinand I by Pietro Colletta
  • Medieval Naples: A Documentary History 400-1400 by Ronald G. Musto

Other recommendations that I am looking forward to read. 

  • Writing Wild by Kathryn Aalto
  • Only Happiness Here (about Elizabeth von Armin) by Gabrielle Carey
  • Happy Old Me by Hunter Davis
  • Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway's First Wife by Gioia Diliberto
  • Coffeeland: One man's dark empire and the making of our favorite drug by Augustine Sedgewick

Thank you all for providing interesting nonfiction reads. 

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Nonfiction November - Week 3


Week 3: (November 16-20) – Rennie@What's Nonfiction is asking you to Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert). 

I have decided that I want to become an expert on 17th and 18th-century history. Mostly European, but the world opens up so much during these centuries that I will definitely read up on other areas. If you have any books to recommend, I am interested. 

I can't really say I am an expert on a specific subject. Possibly, the Brontës of which I have read a lot. I was also a member of the Brussels Brontë Group which was very interesting and educating. So many experts there. A big advantage being in Brussels was that you could follow in the footsteps of Charlotte and Emily who spent two and one years respectively there. 

In the meantime, I am reading a book about Delft and Vermeer. Hopefully, I will have read one of the two books on evolution, anticipated at the beginning of the month. 

Friday, 20 November 2020

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

Friday coming up! I am just wondering where the time goes? Tomorrow the sun is promised, so I hope we can go out for a walk. Very windy here in Sweden now. On the other hand, bad autumn weather is a good excuse to stay at home and read a good book.

Therefore I have chosen one of my favourite authors for this week's beginning and page 56, Sebastian

Barry's Days Without End.

"Time was not something then we thought of as an item that possessed an ending, but something that would go on for ever, all rested and stopped in that moment. hard to say what I mean by that. You look back at all the endless years when you never had that thought. I am doing that now as I write these words in Tennessee. I am thinking of the days without end of my life. And it is not like that now ..."

Book Beginnings on Fridays
hosted by Rose City Reader

"The method of laying out a corpse in Missouri sure took the proverbial cake. Like decking out our poor lost troopers for marriage rather than death."

The Friday 56
hosted by Freda's Voice

"We was told in St Louis to take a northern route because every blade of grass was eaten between Missouri and Fort Laramie. Them thousand thousand horses, cattle, oxen, and mules. Lots of new boys in the 6th, lots of forlorn Irish, usual big dark boys. Joking, all that teasing Irish do, but somewhere behind it the dark wolves staring, the hunger wolves under the hunger moons."

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Classic Spin #25

The Classic Club has announced another Classic spin. This will take us over Christmas and New Year for the deadline of 30 January 2021. The spin will take place on Sunday 22nd November 2020, so make sure you update your list. You should read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period.

There is a problem with Pages in Blogger so all my pages disappeared. It is said they are working on it, but so far no solution it seems. Therefore I put my updated list in this post.

Hope to see you on Sunday and am looking forward to seeing what is awaiting us. 

My spin list (updated 19 November 2020, for spin #25

1. The Master and Margarita by Michail Bulgakov
2. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Carter
3. Daisy Miller by Henry James
4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj 
6. The Master and Margarita by Michail Bulgakov
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. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
14. Jaget och det undermedvetna (Die Beziehungen zwischen dem Ich und dem Unbewußten)
by C.G. Jung
15. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
16. Moments of being by Virginia Woolf
17. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
18. Barabbas by Pär Lagerkvist
19. The Brothers Karamazov by Fjodor Dostojevskij
20. A Writer's Notebook by Somerset Maugham

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Nonfiction November - Vermeer's Little Street by Frans Gruzenhout


I bought two books when I visited Delft earlier this year. All about Delft and painter Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer mostly painted interiors from his(?) house. Young ladies in different occupations around the house, working, maybe being visited by a suitor, or just having a good time. He painted three outside views of which only two are known to exist today. One is View of Delft and one is The Little Street. Both wonderful, as everything that he painted.
"After 1696 we lose sight of The Little Street and the View of Delft for a very long time, and we have heard nothing whatsoever about the third town-scape since then. It is possible that it is lurking unrecognized as an anonymous work in a collection somewhere, or has been lost. The Little Street did not surface for more than a century, when it appeared in the estate of Gerrit Willem van Oosten de Bruyn, who died in Haarlem in 1797."
Since Vermeer became popular again at the end of the 19th century, art historians interested in his paintings have been asking themselves where he painted The Little Street. The buildings are not visible in Delft of today, or even a hundred years ago. The guesses have been many, but not entirely satisfying. Until art historian Frans Gruzenhout (or Grijzenhout) happened to come upon a source never before used for this purpose. 

Due to tax regulations, houses facing the canals and having access to gates towards the canals had to pay extra taxes. The peculiarity of Vermeer's little house is that the neighbouring houses have facing gates. Usually, the houses were built house/gate, house/gate etc. Here we have house/gate, gate/house. Out of only three possibilities, it was possible for Gruzenhout to, almost for certain, place the house on Vlamingstraat, in the mid-eastern part of the city. Furthermore, looking into the habitants of that house he discovered that an aunt of Vermeer had been living there.

Gruzenhout takes us through this mystery with elegance and facts, opening up a whole new world, not only of the house itself but of the family of Vermeer, including friends living in the same street. It is more exciting than any mystery book. 

So why are we so obsessed with which house he painted? " 'The Dutchman's desire to see everything as real: Vermeer's Little Street is there of there, no, it's a painting.' This was how the Flemish author Hugo Claus once responded with irritation when, in an interview with Ischa Meijer, he found himself having to defend his own use of -the convention of reality as a form.' " Because we do not know so much about Vermeer's life, apart from what he left behind, we are more eager to know where he painted the view of The Little Street. Especially, as this was an unusual motif for him. Maybe it is not important which house it is, it still gives us an intimate view of life in the Netherlands at the time. This is also what his other production is giving us. The ordinary people and the way they live. 
"We must, though, guard against drawing too simplistic conclusions in this respect. After all, Vermeer very deliberately chose not to make portraits of the figures in the painting. The face of the seated woman is indicated with no more than a dab of paint, the younger woman in the passage is a very general type and the children, entirely at odds with the conventions of portraiture, are pictured from behind. As is so often the case in Vermeer's work, all the figures seem to be wholly absorbed in their own occupations. In this specific instance of Vermeer's art, therefore, we can best think of these figures as possible allusions to the existence of these relations, whom the painter did not want to immortalize as individuals, captured in the dimension of the time when they lived, but at the same time lifted out of it into a more general, seemingly timeless form."

This last passage describes very well the specifics of Vermeer's paintings. His paintings draw you in, they give you details of life at the time, but still leaves a lot to your own imagination. Vermeer is one of my favourite painters, and it was so interesting to come a little bit closer to him through this painting. Especially, since it is a painting quite different from his most common ones. 

The book contains images of his paintings as well as other contemporary painters. A wonderful story of a painting. The original is exhibited at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. 

Friday, 13 November 2020

Nonfiction November - The Gospel of the Eels by Patrik Svensson

We have reached week 2 of Nonfiction November, hosted by Julie@Julz Read. I  have actually been following my list of reading, which I posted in my initial post about Nonfiction November

Patrik Svensson won the August prize (in Sweden) in 2019 for best nonfiction book with his The Gospel of the Eels. The Eel, Anguilla Anguilla, it seems, is one of of the most enigmatic creatures nature has created. Within the world of natural science, it is referred to as 'the eel question'. People from Aristotle to Sigmund Freud have tried to understand the eel without succeeding. Now it is threatened with extinction and scientists don't know enough of how the eel is living, reproducing and dying.  

Patrik Svensson mixes his own childhood memories of eel fishing with his father, with scientific research on the life of eels. A little touch of philosophy and psychology and he has us hooked. Although scientific research has been going on for centuries, the answer to the enigma of the eel and its life, reproduction process and death is still alluring mankind. The only thing we know is that the Sargasso Sea plays an important part in the life of the eel. That is the place where they are born, reproduce and die. The rest of their lives they live elsewhere. 

The Gospel of the Eels is a charming book and the author holds our interest on both accounts; sweet memories of childhood and interesting scientific developments. One can also consider it as a warning. The eel will disappear if nothing is done within the near future. Mankind usually manages to maintain most species by adding a little bit of 'help' in the process of protection and reproduction. However, when one does not know exactly how the eels reproduce and live their life this is not an option.  

A book for anyone interested in nature and its wonders. 

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Nonfiction November - Week 2


We have reached week 2 of Nonfiction November, hosted by Julie@Julz Read.

Week 2: (November 9-13) – is all about Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be an “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. 

I read a lot of historical fiction, and find that I often want to read a nonfiction book just to see how well the author has followed history. I recently read The Girl Who Tempted Fortune by Jane Ann McLachlan. It is set in the Kingdom of Naples at the beginning of the 14th century. I have read quite a lot about the time as regards the region of Tuscany and Milan, but not so much about Naples. So far I have not found a nonfiction book to read about this time. Could you recommend one? 

After having visited Florence in February this year (just before the pandemic started) I got inspired to read about this wonderful city. I have read quite a lot earlier and have several books about Florence and the Medicis on my shelves. I did find two books at the library which were interesting. 

  • The Tigress of Forli (Renaissance Italy's most courageous and notorious countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de' Medici by Elizabeth Lev - what a woman! She achieved so much during her life, and in a time when the world was ruled by men. Amazing and interesting. 
  • A book by Göran Hägg about the Medicis - Magnifika miljardärer och mördande mecenater i renässansens Florens (Medici - Magnificent Billionaires and Murderous Patrons in Renaissance Florence - my transl.) 

 This second week I am also reading two books about Delft. We visited Delft in August and it is, as mentioned above, always inspiring to read a nonfiction book about your destination. Delft is so full of history and art that it is difficult to choose. I bought two books at the Vermeer Museum.

  • Vermeer's Little Street by Frans Gruzenhout - it is about one of the few views of Delft that he painted. Review to come.
  • A View of Delft, Vermeer then and now by Anthony Bailey - a history of the city and its most famous resident. Still to read.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Book Beginnings on Fridays and the Friday 56

It has been a while since I posted here. Maybe because, since I now live in Sweden, I read more books in Swedish. We have excellent libraries here and that means I don't have to put more books on my already over-full TBR shelves. My local library has a shelf with new books, or new translations or just themes they want to promote. There I usually find good books. They also have a shelf with themed books related to events, time of the year etc. Now they have a shelf with horror books or at least spooky books. It is not my favourite genre, but I was attracted by this particular book; Thin Air by Michelle Paver. "The higher you go the darker it gets." 

"The Himalayas, 1935

Kangchuenjunga. Third-highest peak on earth. Greatest killer of them all.

Five Englishmen set off from Darjeeling, determined to conquer the sacred summit. But courage can only take them so far - and the mountain is not their only foe.

As mountain sickness and the horrors of extreme altitude set in, the past refuses to stay buried. And sometimes, the truth won't set you free."

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader

"Were we wrong to attempt the conquest of Kangchenjunga? Some would say that we were, and that it is a sin to lay siege to the highest mountains on earth. Morover, of the three mightiest peaks - Mount Everest, K.2 and Kangchenjunga - seasoned alpinists regard Kangchenjunga as the most lethal. "


The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

"'My God! My God!' I whispered. Wherever I turned, I was assaulted by dizzying heights of fluted ice, a glaring white against an indigo sky. Such immensity. It was overwhelming. I couldn't take it in. Daunting to think that every one of them is thousands of feet lower than our mountain."

Nonfiction November - Week 1


Nonfiction November has started. Leann@Shelf Aware is guiding us through the first week. The aim is to look at what you have already have read this year, choose your favourite and recommend to others. 

What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year? 

I have read 23 nonfiction books so far. I think that is more than I usually read. Most of them are about history, some biographies and some reflection books. I will not mention all of them here, just a few of my favourites.

The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood by Jan Marsh about the women who surrounded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Very interesting to see the relationships from the women's point of view, and how it affected their lives. 

The Tigress of Forli (Renaissance Italy's most courageous and notorious countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de' Medici) by Elizabeth Lev. An interesting story of an extraordinary woman surviving politics, intrigues, relationships, plagues, war and much more during the end of the 15th century. Her courage and determination never abandoned her. There is an interesting account of how she is trying to protect her people from the plague. Being in a pandemic where we have all learned a lot about these kinds of things, it is amazing to see how well she knew what to do. The paragraph is quoted in my review under the link. 

Laterna Magica by Ingmar Bergman. A surprisingly interesting account on his life and deeds. A talented man, ideas not always understood by others and a creative vein that took him to world fame.  

Ostend by Volker Weidemann is about a gathering of authors, journalists and creative people in Ostende in 1936. Many of them Jews who felt the tightening grip of the situation in Europe. Mostly it is about Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth. It is a gripping, but also a sad account of the present time and the prospects for the future.  

Familjen Mann (Die Manns, The Mann Family) by Tilmann Lahme is a biography about Thomas Mann and his family. The family is somewhat dysfunctional and the family's dynamic very strange. As a reviewer from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung states: "Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, says Tolstoy. One should read this book to understand the meaning of it." I can only agree. 

You will find the titles of the others that I have read under Read 2020. Nonfiction books have NF after the title. 

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? 

As always my main interest is history, also this year. I have a couple of books on evolution and would like to know more about that. Biographies are also a big interest of mine. In my introduction to Nonfiction November, I choose five subjects: History, Evolution, Literature, Life and Nature. Well, I guess that about covers most subjects?

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? 

I think I recommend all books by Simon Sebag Montefiore. He is a British historian and author and writes fantastic books. Well researched and are read like a thrilling story. A warning though, they are usually very thick. For those interested in Russian history I can recommend:

Catherine the Great and Potemkin (2001) 
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2003)

Still have two to read on my shelves: 
Jerusalem: The Biography (2011)
Sashenka (2008) (Fiction)

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?  

I find it interesting to see what other nonfiction readers are interested in. I also hope and am sure I will, be inspired to read something I usually don't read. 

Reading this week

So far I have read two nonfiction books. The Gospel of Eels and an educational book about literature.  I am currently reading Näktergalen (The Nightingale) by Ingela Tägil, a biography about Jenny Lind. She was the most famous opera singer of her time in the mid 19th century. 

Monday, 26 October 2020

Short reviews - part IV

Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan 

"The Museum of Broken Promises is a beautiful, evocative love-story and a heart-breaking exploration of some of the darkest moments in European history.

Paris, today. The Museum of Broken Promises is a place of wonder and sadness, hope and loss. Every object in the museum has been donated - a cake tin, a wedding veil, a baby's shoe. And each represent a moment of grief or terrible betrayal. The museum is a place where people come to speak to the ghosts of the past and, sometimes, to lay them to rest. Laure, the owner and curator, has also hidden artefacts from her own painful youth amongst the objects on display.

Prague, 1985. Recovering from the sudden death of her father, Laure flees to Prague. But life behind the Iron Curtain is a complex thing: drab and grey yet charged with danger. Laure cannot begin to comprehend the dark, political currents that run beneath the surface of this communist city. Until, that is, she meets a young dissident musician. Her love for him will have terrible and unforeseen consequences. It is only years later, having created the museum, that Laure can make finally face up to her past and celebrate the passionate love which has directed her life."

There is a lot to reflect on in this novel, especially memories and what they can do to us. In general, the flashbacks in Prague feel a bit long. The time was different, but Laure's naivety can sometimes feel a little annoying. On the other hand, dreams of love belong to the youth, rightly so. It is interesting to follow how Laure develops between the three, time periods that make up the book. In a way, she is three different persons, with the older one being the most appealing.

It is a story about memories and their impact on our lives.  Patrick Modiano often writes about memory and oblivion in his novels, and asks: "What do you really remember about an event thirty years later - and what do you just think you remember?"

How well it fits in here. Is Laure's memory reliable? Does she interpret the events differently today, with life experience? Laure's memories have kept her imprisoned for the past thirty years. Would it not be better to forget, as many advised her to do? What kind of life do you have if you live on memories based on shattered dreams? 

Contemplating Adultery, The secret life of a Victorian Woman by Lotte and Joseph Hamburger

"'And yet if you knew what rapture it would be for me to minister in any way to the pleasures of a man who loved me as I desire...'

In the early 1830s Sarah Austin, trapped in a loveless and dutiful marriage, falls in love with a man she has never met - a German prince, author of the bestselling book she is translating into English. Their romance by letter becomes increasingly intimate as she eagerly confides the secrets of her inner life - her disappointment in marriage and her hunger for affection.

Thus begins one of the more extraordinary relationships ever recorded its erotic tension and passionate tenderness heightened by the danger of discovery as every nuance of emotion is committed to paper."

This is a fascinating account of the mind and thoughts of a middle-class Victorian lady. Living in a loveless marriage might have contributed to her fascination and love for a man, prince and romantic adventurer, which she had never met. I could not help thinking the couple was very much ahead of their time; a sort of online dating. They wrote physical letters, today we write online. But, with the correspondence, they really got to know each other. That is if they were true to what they wrote. 

The story of how these long-lost letters were found is also interesting. In short, they belonged to the Varnagen collection. During World War II, officials at the German State Library in Berlin moved manuscripts and other documents to a Benedictine monastery in Silesia. This area was ceded to Poland in the postwar settlement. The collection was considered as a war loss until in the 1980s archivists became aware that the collection was kept in the Jagiellonian University at Cracow. 

And then of course... How could I not read a book having as cover The Day Dream by Dante Gabriel Rosetti?

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

"This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of all of them...

In the middle of the night, Creusa wakes to find her beloved Troy engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of brutal conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over, and the Greeks are victorious. Over the next few hours, the only life she has ever know will turn to ash...

The devastating consequences of the fall of Troy stretch from Mount Olympus to Mount Ida, from the citadel of Troy to the distant Greek islands, and across oceans and sky in between. These are the stories of the women embroiled in that legendary war and its terrible aftermath, as well as the feud and the fatal decisions that started it all..."

The Iliad hardly mention any women, I think only Helen (of course) and Briseis. Natalie Haynes has corrected this and gives us a dramatic account of what happened to the women surrounding the fighting men. We meet the goddesses and mortals and get the Troyan war from another angle. It is exciting and thrilling as well as terrifying. Women always fare badly in wars. I love the Greek sagas and their gods and goddesses, and it was nice to meet them again in all their menacing ways; they are after all utterly selfish, revengeful, intriguing, beautiful and ugly, always trying to interfere with both immortals and mortals. Most of the women mentioned in the novel I had heard about, but there are a few new acquaintances. We know what happened to some of the women, but with others Haynes gives us a tale of another life. 

Friday, 23 October 2020

Short reviews - part III

 Three more short reviews of books I really liked.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

"For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens."

At the beginning of 2019, Where the Crawdads Sing, was the top best-selling novel in the US. It has got raving reviews and it does not disappoint. It is a bittersweet story about a girl who grows up alone in the marshes. We follow how she adapts to life, learns about nature where she lives, and how she struggles with survival, emotions and coming to terms with her lonely life. It is an amazing story that stays with you for a long time. Although the murder case affects the story and Kya, it is part of a greater story. Delia Owens deals so well with the emotions and turmoils of Kya's life, so tears are not far away. In spite of this, she never goes sentimental. Kya would not have liked it. The ending of such a story is hard to predict but does not disappoint. One of the books one just have to read. 

in her wake by Amanda Jennings

"A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life."

A book I had never heard about, the back cover sounded interesting and it turned out to be a hit. A wonderful story of family ties and what they mean. A woman trying to find her past and future, and discovering things about herself along the way. A wonderfully, written account of a young woman's life and sorrows. 

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

"Australia 1948

Anikka Lachlan has all she ever wanted - until a random act transforms her into another post-war widow. Awash in grief, she looks for answers in the pages of her favourite books.

A local poet, Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. His childhood friend Dr. Frank Draper also seeks to reclaim his pre-war life but is haunted by his failure to help those who needed him most - the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps.

Then one day Ani finds a poem. She knows neither where it came from, nor who its author is. An unexpected and poignant love triangle emerges, between Ani, the poem, and the poet - whoever he may be."

A beautifully written story about a young woman in Australia, her past, her family and her future. The remnants of the war loom over this story. How the affected men are trying to come to terms with their experience and what they have seen, and how it affects their families that were not there. It could easily be read for this part only, but the poem Ani finds gives another dimension to the life of the people in the small village by the ocean. Another bittersweet novel which gives you a lot to think about.  

Monday, 12 October 2020

Non-fiction November 2020


Another favourite challenge is coming up, namely Nonfiction November. Hosted by Katie@Doing Dewey, Rennie@What's Nonfiction, Julie@Julz Read and Leann@Shelf Aware. As you see below, they will host one week each.

As usual, each week is filled with a challenge as regards Nonfiction. It will be exciting to exchange views on our different interests when it comes to Nonfiction. 

Week 1: (November 2-6) – Leann will be kicking things off with Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?  

Week 2: (November 9-13) – I’ll be rocking Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be an “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. 

Week 3: (November 16-20) – Rennie is asking you to Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert). 

Week 4: (November 23-27) – Katie’s rounding things up with New to My TBR : It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book! 

Week 5: (Nov. 30) – To cap the month off, we’ll be talking nonfiction via podcast.

This year's reading

I have read 18 Nonfiction books so far this year (from my own shelves and from the library). My TBR shelves host another 92 nonfiction books. My favourite nonfiction subject is history. I cannot say exactly what I will be reading, will leave some 'spur of the moment' decisions. However, I would like to mix the subject. From my list:


Having recently visited Delft in the Netherlands, I bought two books about the city and its most famous citizen, the painter Johannes Vermeer.

- Vermeer's Little Street, A View of the Penspoort in Delft by Frans Gruzenhout

- A View of Delft, Vermeer Then and Now by Anthony Bailey


I have a couple of books about evolution and it might be time to read them:

- Min europeiska familj, De senaste 54000 åren (My European Family, the latest 54000 years) by Karin Bojs

- Evolutionen och jag (The Evolution and I) by Johan Frostegård


Always interesting to read books about literature, how to read and ways of interpreting them.

- How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster


How should we approach and live life? Big questions. Jordan Peterson's book was talked about when it came out, and now might be the time to read it. 

- 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson


One of the most talked-about, and prize-winning book in Sweden in 2019. The lives of eels turned exciting. 

- Ålevangeliet (The Gospel of Eels) by Patrik Svensson

That is seven books. Let's see where we are at the end of November. 

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Short reviews - part II

 Continuing with a few more short reviews on books read during the summer.

1794 - Niklas Dag och Natt

His first book, 1793, was a big hit in Sweden, and according to Goodreads, it is called The Wolf and the Watchmen in English.  It is a juicy piece of 18th century he gives us. You feel the dirt, the smell and the poverty of Stockholm at the time. It is a continuation of the first book but can be read independently. 

A young mother is mourning her daughter who was brutally killed on her wedding night. Nobody wants to investigate the murder so she turns to Mickel Cardell who is working for the authorities to investigate crimes committed.  A young nobleman is arrested for a hideous crime he is accused of. And then there is Anna Stina Knapp who thought she had arranged her poor life in a good manner. But times change and she has to enter out into the crowded, rotten world of Stockholm, to save herself and her child. 

The first book was very brutal, difficult to read. This one is not less brutal. At the same time, apart from the brutal crimes, I would say, it is a realistic description of the people and the times in which they lived. . Natt och Dag writes well, it is exciting and thrilling to the very end. There is a 1795 coming!

Ostende by Volker Weidermann

Volker Weidermann is a German writer and literary critic. He is the literary director and editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 

"Ostend, 1936: the Belgian seaside town is playing host to a coterie of artists, intellectuals and madmen, who find themselves in limbo while Europe gazes into an abyss of fascism and war. Among them is Stefan Zweig, a man in crisis: his German publisher has shunned him, his marriage is collapsing, his house in Austria no longer feels like home. Along with his lover Lotte, he seeks refuge in this paradise of promenades and parasols, where he reunites with his estranged friend Joseph Roth. For a moment, they create a fragile haven; but as Europe begins to crumble around them, they find themselves trapped on an uncanny kind of holiday, watching the world burn."

An interesting account of the last summer among friends, before the coming of World War II. We meet Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, unequal friends that put strains to their friendship. Zweig is the person with money and Roth the person who is dependent on money from his friend. Frictions are unavoidable. 

They are meeting up at the Belgian coastal resort for a relaxing, cultural and hopefully productive summer among other exiled writers. There are troubled times ahead, and most troubled is Joseph Roth. After the summer they split for different parts of the world. The future is not good for all of them. 

Death in Delft by Graham Brack

I was recommended this historical thriller set in the 17th-century Dutch town, as I was visiting Delft at the end of August.  

"Three young girls have been abducted from their homes. The body of one has been found in a shallow grave. The other two are still missing. The murder has shocked everyone in the peaceful city of Delft and the mayor is desperate to catch the perpetrator before panic can spread any further. With the bitterly cold January weather intensifying it is doubtful that the other two girls are still alive. But whoever took them is still at large. The mayor requests the help of Master Mercurius, a gifted cleric from a nearby university, and local artist Vermeer, who uses his skills to sketch the crime scenes."

A pleasant murder mystery to read. Perfect when you are visiting Delft, because going around the town and learn about its history, you meet the people you read about. Johannes Vermeer, the painter is of course there, as well as several other prominent people. With a map, you can easily follow Master Mercurious around this gorgeous town. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Short reviews - part I

  I have not been in the mood to write reviews lately, even if I have read some really good books. As you might have noticed, not in the mood for any posts. Well, I thought I will make an effort and at least write a short summary of some of the books I have read in the last couple of months. 

Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

"Forcibly removed from the ancient village of Ein Hod by the newly formed state of Israel in 
1948, the Abulhejas are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. There, exiled from his beloved olive groves, the family patriarch languishes of a broken heart, his eldest son fathers a family and falls victim to an Israeli bullet, and his grandchildren struggle against tragedy toward freedom, peace, and home. This is the Palestinian story, told as never before, through four generations of a single family."

Through Amal's eyes, we see the fragile existence of her family and friends. Her story is very touching and dramatic and highlights the ups and downs of their insecure lives. A beautifully written family saga in a world of turmoil and violence. I really loved this novel. 

Vågspel (Venture) by Ann Rosman

"On June 5, 1916, the British warship HMS Hampshire sinks off the Orkney Islands. It takes 700 men, including the Minister of War Lord Kitchener, with it into the sea. World War I is ongoing and according to rumours, the ship was on its way with expensive cargo to Russia when it hit a German mine. Many divers, with their lives at stake, have tried to find and salvage Hampshire's mythical treasure.

Almost a hundred years later, a sailboat drifting off the same coast is found deserted. There are traces of blood and signs of a fight on deck. The boat belongs to Bo Stenman, a retired diver based in Marstrand. When it is clear that it was Bo himself who sailed the boat,  Detective Inspector Karin Adler and her colleague Folke go to Orkney to assist the police in the investigation. In a search for answers to what happened, the find that the connections between the missing Bo and the ship that sank a long time ago become stronger. 

Ann Rosman's sixth book with Karin Adler from Marstrand in the lead role takes place on the green and the windswept Orkney Islands, a place with strong folk beliefs and deep secrets. A place of death and sincere love."

One of my favourite thriller writers. Her present-day crime stories always have a historical background. Cannot be better for someone who loves historical fiction.  As usual, Rosman manages to keep up the pace of the story, keeping the secrets and mysteries hidden until the very end. 

The Magic Lantern by Ingmar Bergman

" 'When a film is not a document, it is a dream. . . . At the editing table, when I run the strip of film through, frame by frame, I still feel that dizzy sense of magic of my childhood.' Bergman, who has conveyed this heady sense of wonder and vision to moviegoers for decades, traces his lifelong love affair with film in his breathtakingly visual autobiography, The Magic Lantern.

More grand mosaic than linear account, Bergman’s vignettes trace his life from a rural Swedish childhood through his work in theater to Hollywood’s golden age, and a tumultuous romantic history that includes five wives and more than a few mistresses. Throughout, Bergman recounts his life in a series of deeply personal flashbacks that document some of the most important moments in twentieth-century filmmaking as well as the private obsessions of the man behind them. Ambitious in scope yet sensitively wrought, The Magic Lantern is a window to the mind of one of our era’s great geniuses."

I bought this book second hand, thinking I should read this autobiography about one of our most famous and skilled filmmakers. I was completely taken in by this account of his life. It is not a very detailed memoir, but he takes us through the ups and downs of his life. It is interesting, exciting and also explains from where his inspiration came and his thoughts (I think we all think they are dark and peculiar sometimes) about his productions. He also includes bits of his private life, being quite open about his relationships and why they did not last. It is a refreshing account, and you are feeling that you come a little bit closer to the man Ingmar Bergman. 

Last year we visited Fårö where he had a house. The island outside Gotland was a great inspiration for his work and many films were shot there. There is a small, very good museum of his work and his time on the island. The Magic Lantern added another piece to the man Ingmar Bergman. 

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I bought this book at 221, Baker Street. We did not go into the museum, the queue was too long, but we visited the museum shop. It contains several novellas on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I had only read a very few of his mysteries before and was not overly interested in reading more. However, it was a nicely printed book.  

To my surprise, I was totally taken in by both the writing and the stories. They were not so dry as I had imagined them to be. Furthermore, Watson seemed to be a little bit more spirited than you normally see him in the film/series adaptations. Here are the stories: 

A Scandal in Bohemia - The Red-Headed League - Five Orange Pips - The Blue Carbuncle - The Speckled Band - The Beryl Coronet - The Hound of the Baskervilles.