Monday, 11 December 2017

Advent Calendar, box no. 11 - 2018 Cloak and Dagger Challenge

Today it is snowing here. I better enjoy it why it lasts, because here in Belgium it usually does not last very long! At least it makes it all a little bit Christmas like.

Now it is only two weeks to Christmas and so much to do for us bloggers. Making a year end summary and sign up for new challenges. I came into this challenge from Stormi and Kathy at Books Movies Reviews Oh My. I have not heard about it before, but it seems a perfect one for me. I do not read a lot of detective stories, but more mystery, suspense and thrillers. Here you get it all.

Challenge Rules:
You can read any book that is from the mystery/suspense/thriller/crime genres. Any sub-genres are welcome as long as they incorporate one of these genres.
You don’t need a blog to participate but you do need a place to post your reviews to link up. (blog, goodreads, booklikes, shelfari, etc.)
Make a goal post and link it back here with your goal for this challenge.
Books need to be novellas or novels, please no short stories. (At least 100 pages +)
Crossovers into other challenges are fine.
The Challenge will  be from Jan. 1st to Dec. 31st. (Sign up ends April 15th)

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

I will not be overbold, like I usually am. I do have other plans for books this year as well. I go for Amateur sleuth with max 15 books. If I do a few more, I can become a Detective. But let's leave it there for the moment.

Thank you for hosting. Looking forward to this challenge.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Advent Calendar, box no. 10 - Alfred Bernhard Nobel by Kenne Fant

Today is December 10 and in Sweden it is called" The Nobel Day". Alfred Nobel, chemist, inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist died this day in 1896 in San Remo, Italy, 63 years old. What he had feared most happened: he died alone, only surrounded by servants. After reading Kenne Fant's depiction of Nobel's life, perhaps that is the most striking thing; he was a lonely and solitary person throughout his life. He was what we today call a workaholic, and his work was at the same time his hobby and greatest interest.

Alfred Nobel was one of eight children, of whom four reached adulthood, the brothers Robert, Ludvig and Emil. The father was also an inventor, although during Alfred's first years, the times were hard for the family due to the father’s bankruptcy.  They moved to St. Petersburg where the father started a new company, which the other brothers eventually took over and developed. The family became successful in Russia, and involved in the oil business in Baku.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Advent Calendar, box no. 9 - A finalised challenge

Today I am proud to announce that I have finalised one of my challenges. There will probably not be that many that I have managed to follow up thoroughly, so very proud of this achievement. The challenge is the Full House Reading Challenge 2017 hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. Here is the list

Non fiction - Kapare och Pirater/Privateers and Pirates by Lars Ericson Wolke
On TBR for 2+ years - The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears
More than 500 pages - Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
Page Turner - Effie by Suzanne Fagence Cooper
Middle Grade Book - Lisbeth by Ragnhild Hallén
2017 published - Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Published pre 2000 - Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (1995)
UK/European author - The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry (Ireland)
Back List book from fav. author - Eden Close by Anita Shreve
Book from a list - Kim by Ridyard Kipling
Award Winner - Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd
Book about books - All Roads Lead to Austen - A Yearlong Journey with Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith
Size word in the title - Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicin by Roy Porter
Two worded title - left bank by Kate Muir
Debut book - Spring tide by Cecilia and Rolf Börjlind
Cozy mystery - Maigret Mystified by Georges Simenon
Food on cover or title - Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
Book from childhood - The World Around in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Diversity book - Dr Luther and Mr Hyde by Per Svensson
Australian/NZ author - Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
Western - Notorious by Janet Dailey
USA/Canadian author - Lord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon (American)
Not really for you - The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
Attractive cover - The Last Girls by Lee Smith (Swedish version)
Borrowed - Alfred Bernhard Nobel by Kenne Fant

There are 25 books in this challenge and a nice variety of genre books. I will sign up for the 2018 challenge. Great way to read books.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Advent Calendar, box no. 8 - Book beginnings on Friday & Friday 56

Friday, 8 December and time flies. I have to start preparations for Christmas. Luckily, we will be with my parents, so I can just come in an help out. It is a little bit of luxury. Friday is time for book beginnings and here is one for you.

Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Friday. She says:

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Freda’s voice is hosting Friday 56 and the rules are:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is one I am reading for the moment The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Advent Calendar, box no. 7 - New purchases, part 1

It is this time of the year, when the Dutch Boekfestijn (Book festival), just in time for Christmas visits our neighbourhood. As usual I set out on the first day to see what they had to offer this time. It takes place in an exhibition area and apart from books there are also some scrapbooking items, plays, puzzles and much more.

I managed to find 16 books! Yes, I know, too much for my already overfull shelves. Three of them went for Christmas present so that leaves me with 13 books. Today I present six of them, under the genres history non-fiction and biographies. I start with two books of one of the greatest writers all time.

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare and the Countess by Chris Laoutaris  -  "In November 1596 William Shakespeare was engulfed by a catastrophe. The force which stormed inot his life and shook it to the core was a woman named Elizabeth Russell. This is the true story of the woman whose battle with Chakespeare and his associates in the Blackfriars of London gave birth to the world's most iconic theatre: the Globe."

The Lodger - Shakespeare on Silver Street by Charles Nicholl - "In 1612 Shakespeare gave evidence at the Court of Requests in Westminster - it is the only occasion his spoken words are recorded. The case seems routine - a dispute over an unpaid marriage-dowry - but it opens up an unexpected window into the dramatist's famously obscure life-story. --- Charles Nicholl applies a powerful biographical magnifying glass to this fascinating but oddly neglected episode in Shakespeare's life."

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Advent Calendar, box no. 6 - Byron in Love by Edna O'Brien

Love is a theme of Christmas, and I thought it would be suitable to read a book about love. Maybe this is not the right book about love since Lord Byron's attitude towards love is somewhat different from most peoples. However, there are a few people in the world like Lord Byron. He has gone down in history with an everlasting fascination for later generations. Lord Byron was worshipped, by both men and women, already during his life time. A life that has fascinated people ever since.

Edna O'Brien's biography is a vivid account of his life, in beautifully written prose. She has been concentrating on his countless love affairs, but we have enough of background information to give us an idea of his rather nomadic life. Fascinating is to say the least. From a rather unhappy childhood, wild years of university studies and into adulthood and poetry, there was no stopping him. At the age of ten he inherited the Barony of Byron on Rochdale, and from then on used the name of Lord Byron.

His first adult love was a cousin, Mary Chaworth, but she later married someone else. Sixteen years after loosing her he wrote:
I saw two beings in the hues of youth

Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill,
Green and of mild declivity
During his student years he had a relationship with John Edleston. "John Edleston, two years younger than Byron and an orphan of low birth, was one for whom he formed the purest and most intense passion, a mystic thread joining them both." Their relationship broke after some time, but some years later when Edleston had died of consumption he wrote:
Yet did I love thee to the lastAs fervently as thou,Who didst not change through all the past,And canst not alter now
Claire Clairmont, the sister of Mary Shelley, was quite obsessed with Lord Byron and managed to enter into a love affair with him. It resulted in a child, Allegra, who Byron acknowledged and raised. In this relationship, both to the mother and the child the brutal nature of Byron is shown.

Byron was used to scandals along his way. His love affair with Lady Caroline Lamb, might be the most famous and passionate. Even long after he left her, she haunted him. However, his greatest love was for his half-sister Augusta. They had a relationship for many years. When Byron married Anna Isabella Milbanke in 1815, he spent more time with Augusta than with his wife. They separated early and he treated her very cruelly. It was a devastating love triangle, and this scandal together with a huge debt, forced Lord Byron to leave England for the Continent in 1816, never to return as it turned out. Until he was dead.

He was a famous man already in his lifetime and was welcomed everywhere, and there were no shortages of women either. He must have been a very charismatic person, and as I read along, I wonder how it would be to actually meet such a person. Nobody was indifferent to him. As he grew older, his lifestyle took its toll, and he got bored with how he was living. He thus involved himself in the Greek movement of independence and left for Greece to fight. He died there in the aftermaths of flue like fever symptoms.

In 1819, he wrote a letter to Augusta from Venice:
"My dearest Love - I have been negligent in not writing, but what can I say. Three years absence - & the total change of scene and habit make such a difference - that we have now nothing in common but our affections & our relationship. - But I have never ceased nor can cease to feel for a moment that perfect & boundless attachment which bound & binds me to you - which renders me utterly incapable of real love for any other human being - what could they be to me after you? …We may have been very wrong - but I repent of nothing except that cursed marriage - & your refusing to continue to love me as you had loved me - I can neither forget nor quite forgive you for that precious piece of reformation - but I can never be other than I have been  and whenever I love anything it is because it reminds me in some way or other of yourself."
Not only his poetry is beautiful, his letter writing as well. Lord Byron was a complicated man, and it takes a lot more to get to know the man. Or, maybe it is not even possible. Having read this excellent biography, at least one can form an idea of him. It might not be a very positive one. I think he had difficulties loving other people, he was often rude to people, even those close to him and did not care for them. However, a fascinating character. Edna O'Brien has complemented her writing with extracts from his poems, which are really beautiful. Now it is time to read them.

Have you read any biography of Lord Byron? His poems? What do you think?

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Advent Calendar, box no. 5 - 6 Degress of Separation

This, the fifth day of December it is time to visit another favourite meme. Books Are My Favourite And Best is hosting 6 Degrees of Separation and starts December with Stephen King's It. I have not read it. Actually, the only book I read by Stephen King is Christine, so this is my first link. I am not fond of horror stories, seldom read them, but I really liked this book. I read it many years ago when I was young, so can't say what I will think today. But memories are good.

That takes me to another book called Christine by Helle Stangerup. It is about the Danish princess, daughter to King Christian II of Denmark and Norway and Isabella of Austria. She lived 1521-1590. She became duchess-consort of Milan and Lorraine, and served as a regent 1545-52 during her son's minority. After a long and adventurous life she became the sovereign Lady of Tortona in 1578-84. A strong, female character who managed to survive in a man's world. Definitely, because she refused the marriage proposal of Henry VIII!

Another strong, female, royal character is our own Queen Christina. I read the book Drottning Christina by Marie-Louise Rodén some years ago. She abdicated, converted to Catholicism and settled down in Rome, where she died in 1689. She is the only woman buried in St Peter. She was one of the most educated women of her time, but she also had a bad habit to meddle into international politics, which was not always appreciated. Excellent book.

Continuing with strong women, I just read Odd Women by George Gissing. Written in the end of the 19th century it seems a very modern book. At the time there were around one million more women than men in England, and this book is about women who wants to be independent and work, and not have to marry to be able to survive. Well, it is so much more and interesting discussions on working women, living together without being married and the overall situation of women at the time.

That leads me to Mrs Jordan's Profession, a biography by Claire Tomalin. She was the most celebrated actress of her days and mistress to the future King William IV. They had ten children together. She was a working mother and quite ahead of her time as regards her thinking.

Another independent woman was Agatha Christie. In her book Come, Tell Me How You Live, we see a different side of her. She accompanies her archeological husband, Max Malloran to the Middle East and his excavations. Here we see how she manages to live a more simple life than in England. We also see where she got the inspiration to her books which take place in this interesting part of the world.

Well, there was a chain of strong women, starting in a run-down garage, going to the golden rooms of palaces, to poor and rich living in London, to end up in the desert in Iraq. Hope you enjoyed the ride!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Advent Calendar box no. 4 - Bookmarks on Monday

Today I am joining Guiltless Reading for Bookmarks Monday meme. I love bookmarks so one of my favourite memes.  Wherever I am, I try to find a bookmark. Very good as a souvenir and it does not take a lot of space.

Recently, I visited the Artmuseum here in Brussels. They have a lovely museum shop and I came out with a few items. Among them bookmarks and three postcards. I think postcards are very useful as well to mark where you are reading.

Lately, I have got a fling for Gustav Klimt's (1862-1918) paintings. I find them really lovely and colourful. Wikipedia has this to say about Klimt. "He was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objets d'art. Klimt's primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism".

There are twelve bookmarks with different paintings and a calendar for each month. Maybe to use them as a marker which books to read which month! I am sorry that I can not show you all the wonderful paintings in the calendar.

For January 2017

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Advent Calendar box no. 3 - First of Advent

How time flies. Today is the first of Advent, the time in the Christian faith when we are waiting for the birth of Jesus. A lot of traditions has grown up around this time, one is the advent calendar and another is the advent candle stick with four candles, one for each Sunday in Advent.

It is also a time for preparations for Christmas. Those of you who celebrate St Nicholas day on 6 December, are busy with preparations I can imagine. Here in Belgium it is a big celebration, as in my husbands native Austria. I remember, years ago when our son was a child, and our neighbours invited us to celebrate with them. Our  son made big eyes when he saw St Nicholas.

It is the perfect time to check out what you have read during the year and where you are with your challenges. One is so eager and enthusiastic in the beginning of the year and when there are fewer and fewer days to read, a little bit of stress creeps up. That is ok and it is enjoyable to exchange status with fellow bloggers and  challengers.

I don't have a real advent candle holder, so just use
these three candles all the way

As usual I am reading several books at the time. My very first aim for next year is to finalise them. Here are some of them.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Axel Oxenstierna, book 1 by Gunnar Wetterberg
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Story Genius by Lisa Cron
Freud by Peter Gay (a huge book)
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber (another huge one with 876 pages!)

Do you stick to a book at the time or are you mixing the reading, depending on your mood?

I wish you all a nice First of Advent.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Advent Calendar, box no. 2 - Audio books

Are you into audio books? I am really not, although I am trying. I have used them a couple of times driving to Sweden and it has been good company. But somehow, I cannot concentrate on the book so good when I am driving.

However, one should not give up too easy. I have noticed that it is quite good to use when you are doing your household chores. So, I looked around to find a suitable app to use and found Audible (not sponsored post). You get one free credit a month and for the moment it is more than enough for me. I don't go through one audiobook a month for the time being, so there are a few waiting for me.

I started out with The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure, but could not continue. I don't know if it was that I did not like the narrator, but the story did not engage me. The second try is much better. I am now listening to The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. Can you guess who is narrating? Colin Firth! You just can't dislike anything he narrates I think. Wonderful voice and English accent. That I am a fan of Graham Greene makes it even better. I really love this book and it is soon finished.

Two other audio books are lining up. The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict, about Einsteins wife. Looking really forward to this one which should be interesting. The other is a non-fiction called A Little History of Religion by Richard Holloway. Always interesting topic.

What are your ideas about audio books? Something useful when you can not sit down and read? Any favourite books and/or narrators?

Have a wonderful Saturday.