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.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Bookbeginnings on Friday

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 "Byron in Love" by Edna O'Brien

Book beginnings on Friday

"Lord George Gordon Byron was five feet eight and a half inches in height, had a malformed right foot, chestnut hair, a haunting pallor, temples of alabaster, teeth like pearls, grey eyes fringed with dark lashes and an enchantedness that neither men nor women could resist."

Friday 56

"Not too long after, he received a letter from Ann Edleston to say that her brother John had died of consumption in May. At once Edleston was enshrined in a poem and given the name Thyrza to disguise his sex -

Yet did I love thee to the last
As fervently as thou,
Who didst not change through all the past,
And canst not alter now.

Interesting biography,  I did not really know very much about his life. Review will follow. 

Advent Calendar, box no. 1 - December is here

The 1 December is here and we are counting down to Christmas. This year I will make an Advent Calendar. Did we not all love them when we were kids? This one will be about books and preparations for Christmas. Do comment and let me know what you are up to.

Here in Europe it is a dark season and especially in Sweden. I think that is why we Swedes love our lights and candles to make the darkness a little bit less dark. Personally, I love Christmas, the decorations, meeting the family and enjoy some special food.

Just in time for 1st Advent on Sunday we did get some snow here in Belgium. I am afraid though that it will be gone by tomorrow. I have to look at the photo and remember.

The Content Reader

I have bought a new blog calendar for 2018, The Reading Woman. There I will keep track of my books and my posts. This will hopefully lead to a more regular posting for 2018! My aim for next year is to read a few more new books. I have concentrated so much on Classics and my TBR shelves, that I feel I am loosing out on new books. I have around 180 books on my shelves, so there still has to be a little bit of focus on them.

For the moment I am still reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marques. I kind of like the magic realism he provides, but I don't seem to be able to concentrate for long. So, really, I have to finish soon. It is more difficult when you don't read for longer parts, to catch up with what is happening. And then there is the problem of all the names...

As usual I have a couple of books on my wish list. Let's see what Santa Claus will bring! Yesterday I visited the Book festival in Mechelen, just outside Brussels. Of course I came away with a lot of new books which I will present soon.

What did you find in your first box of your advent calendar? As you see, I found a twig of eucalyptus.

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Holiday reading

I have been on Mallorca. It is a lovely place, all the year around, but especially in the autumn, where the weather here in the northern part of Europe is grey, rainy and depressing. We had a wonderful time, and apart from two days of rather windy shores, beautiful sunshine and t-shirt weather. We visited all our favourite places, since we don't know when we will come back next time.

I brought two books with me, already started, and thinking I would finish them. And so I did. It was Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd and Burning Bright by Trace Chevalier. Mostly read at the flat, but managed to read also in beautiful and favourite places.

I recently read Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd, highly recommended from my brother-in-law. Really loved the book, so eager to read another one. This I had on my TBR shelves. It is not in the same league as Brazzaville Beach. Totally different setting, this time starting in Vienna in 1913 where Lysander Rief, an actor, comes for a psychoanalytical consultation. His life in Vienna makes him consider his old life so far and he is thinking of staying. However, he is forced to leave. Once back in England he is drawn into the British secret service and the lookout for a spy during the First World War.

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Classic Club Lucky Spin Number

It is time for a lucky spin with the Classic Club. The lucky number is 4. I updated my list at the last minute and on number 4 is Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. It is a rather thick book with small text, so hope I can make it until the end of December.

Sigrid Undset received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928 based on this work of historical fiction. It is a trilogy covering The Wreath, first published in 1920, The Wife, published in 1921 and The Cross, published in 1922.

Looking forward reading this classic tale. Have you read it? What do you think about it? See you back in December for the review, or maybe in January!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Odyssey by Homer

For my literature course I read The Odyssey by Homer. I must say that I dreaded it a little bit, but found it quite fresh and interesting. Not to mention very dramatic. The Odyssey is about Odysseus' troublesome journey back from the war in Troy, described in The Iliad. He upset Poseidon by blinding his son and was thus prevented from reaching his home.

After seven years of captivation by Calypso, Minerva persuaded her fellow gods that he should be let out of captivity and allowed to return home. Even so he had to fight for three years before he reached Ithaca, where his wife was 'under siege' by suitors. Once Odysseus were at home he killed off the suitors and reunited with his wife.

Well, that is a rather simple summary of the story. It is very dramatic and I am quite fascinated by the story as such. The involvement of the Greek gods in man's lives and how they control it. Even so, they also fight in between themselves. It was certainly different times and seems rather violent to us today. It is beautifully written and the stories of the various monsters, sirens and others wanting to prevent Odysseus from going home are classic.

Reading this kind of literature you can understand why they have survived. Beautiful prose, a variety of characters, exciting stories and a glimpse of life 2.500 years ago. Or even longer...!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018

It is time to start looking for challenges for 2018. That means it is also time to check out the results for the challenges for 2017. I am afraid I still miss a few books. Time is very busy now with my literature course, but it is very interesting, but it also means I am not always free to read the books I want.

Bev at My Reader's Block alerted me to the focus ahead. It is time for a new sign-up for this challenge, which is one of my favourite ones. It also takes away a few books from the TBR piles.
Just looking at my sign-up post for 2017, I thought I would be able to read more than the 51 books I read for 2016. Haha! Just shows you can not foresee how life will turn out. So far I have read 37 books this year. Will I make it to 48? I hope so.

Considering the challenge, and the pleasure when you reach your peak, I will go for Mt Ararat and 48 books this year as well. If I manage more, it is a great bonus.

Which peak will you aim for this year?

Thursday, 26 October 2017

2 x Vampire stories

I have never been very fond of vampire stories, nor watched all the classic films about them. However, that changed a few years ago when I read the absolute classic of vampire tales; Dracula by Bram Stoker. It was a surprisingly, vivid and interesting read, even after all these years.

Today the world of vampires has changed due to a number of modern accounts on them; Twilight, The Sookie Stackhouse series (True Blood) and Interview with the Vampire and many more. Not to talk about the various TV-series following in the wake.

According to the British Library, the first vampire in English literature came with Robert Southey's epic poem Thalaba de Destroyer. The vampire takes the form of Thalaba's bride Oneiza, who dies on their wedding day.

Her very lineaments, and such as death
Had changed them, livid cheeks, and lips of blue.
But in her eyes there dwelt
Brightness more terrible
Than all the loathsomeness of death.

It seems that Southey added a very detailed footnote where he recounts the vampire tales from continental Europe. It was probably the best, otherwise people would not have understood, I guess.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Reading Woman

Yesterday, on a very nice, sunny day here in Brussels, I went downtown. It does not happen that often. The trees are changing their colours so you could get quite some nice photos. Passing by the Museum of Art I went into their shop. I really love museum shops. They have so many beautiful things and if you are looking for presents it is perfect.

This time I found a present for myself. I don't know if I mentioned it before, but I am a fan of notebooks. I have therefore put a ban on myself, not to buy any more until I have used the ones I have. It is a little bit like books. I can't resist them when I see something I love. Yes, you are right. I did buy another one. Not a notebook but a calendar.

It is call The Reading Woman - 2018 Engagement calendar. The cover is beautiful, and the calendar is filled with paintings of women, not always reading. However, each painting come with a quote connected to books.

I will use this one to note what I am reading and when. It will also come in handy to plan my blog posts. I always try to be disciplined, but it somehow does not work. Could this be the solution? I don't know, but will certainly try. In the end there is a 2019 planner and Notes & Expenses for each month. I am not sure I want to put down the figures I spend on books, so I might just use it for notes.

Can't wait to use it. Do you have a special system how to plan your posts? A special notebook or calendar? I guess many people just use electronic devices, but I kind of like the idea of having a book in my hand, even if it is just a notebook!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Brontës in Brussels by Helen MacEwan

As you might know, I am a fan of the Brontës. While living here in Brussels I came into contact with the Brussels Brontë Group. A group, founded by Helen MacEwan and some fellow enthusiasts. I did not have so much knowledge about the Brontës. Just that they grew up on the moors of Yorkshire and wrote wonderful, passionate novels.

Being part of the group have, for me, opened up a whole new chapter in the history of the Brontës. The group has taken on numerous investigations in order to track the lives of Charlotte and Emily during their stay here in 1842-43 (Emily only the first year). For Charlotte it was a life changing experience. The life she lived here and her studies for the charismatic M. Heger gave her another output in life. She became infatuated with him and he entered into her literary characters.

Helen is the source of information concerning the sisters life here in Brussels. She has written several books related to their stay here. The Brontës in Brussels is a well written account of their reason for coming here, how they saw life, the people they met, the studies and how life was led in the Belgian capital in the mid of the 19th century. Most of all; how it effected Charlotte and changed her life. Most experts today acknowledge that without her stay here, she might not have written the novels she did.

It is an easy read, perfect also for those without too much knowledge of the sisters. Charlotte's novels The Professor and Villette take place in Brussels and Helen shows us references from the books and what inspired Charlotte in real life Brussels. It is a fantastic tour around the old and new parts of Brussels. Cultural happenings, traditional feasts, eating habits and much more. The book is like a bible for Brontë fans, just the right amount of background information, and written in a way that make you feel like you are walking with them, over the pebbled stones of Brussels.

The Brussels Brontë Groups arranges guided walks a couple of times a year. The walk is highlighted at the end of the book. It is easy to follow, cover the places Charlotte and Emily visited, all close to each other. Take the book with your a walk in the footsteps of the Brontës.

Other books by Helen: Down the Belliard Steps: Discovering the Brontës in Brussels, Winifred Gérin: Biographer of the Brontës. Soon to be published: Through Belgian Eyes: Charlotte Brontës Troubled Brussels Legacy. All of them add a little bit more to the life and inspiration of Charlotte.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

This is my first book by the highly appreciated Haruki Murakami. It contains short stories of men and their relationship with women. Although I had a slight problem with the first story, or the way it was written (might have been the translation), it improved with each of the stories.

The stories are about different men from different parts of the society and their often troubled relationship with their women. Together, they show the different ways of love. One of my favourite was the one about a man who did not want to get married, and had a lot of different affairs. It was always him that ended the affairs. Then, one day, the thing happened, that I always think happens to most of us, he fell in love with his mistress. All of a sudden the situation was the reverse. He was the eager one and she withdrew. It lead to a total downfall for the man and ended in disaster.

This is just one of the extremes of the stories Murakami tells us. They are all told in a calm, matter of fact way, and it is almost like you see a movie, rather than read a text. The stories are very visible. Although it takes place in the Japanese society, I think the stories are universal. Love is a very complicating thing, no matter what happens.

I loved the book and am looking forward reading more by Murakami.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Poems of Catullus

A book from my TBR shelves came in handy for the literary course I am taking. The history of literature, starts, like so many other things, with the Greeks and the Romans. The Poems of Catullus has been on my shelves for several years, and finally, I read it. It is not entirely easy to interpret the poems, even with the very good introduction by the translator, Peter Whigham.

Here a few lines from the introduction.
"We know very little about Catullus's life: even the dates of his birth and death are uncertain. The likeliest figures are: born 84, died 54 B.C. His full name was Giaus Valerius Catullus. … He appears as one of the lovers of the notorious Clodia Metelli, and a leading figure - perhaps the leading figure - in the new movement in poetry. … In short, the tradition that he died of what our grandmothers called 'a broken heart' finds no support in the poems. It is based solely on the assumption that his love for Clodia was of the conventional type of romantic - i.e. 'fatal' - passion. But I believe that many of the poems point to an altogether different and more complicated state of mind. All we can say for certain about his death is, that like his birth, it happened."
In the poems Catullus calls Clodia for Lesbia. Here are three of my favourite poems. In the first one I recognise some lines from "The Outlander" TV-series (Season 2, episode 13). It is slightly different in the TV-series, it seems that version is based on a translation by Richard Crashaw, from the 17th century (suitable of course).  I found it beautiful when I heard it and so it is when you read it. This version probably more strictly translated.

Poem no. 5

         Live with me
& love me so
we'll laugh at all
the sour-faced strict-
ures of the wise.
This sun once set
will rise again
when our sun sets
follows night &
an and endless sleep.
Kiss me now a
thousand times &
now a hundred
more & then a 
thousand more again
till with so many
hundred thousand
kisses you & I
shall both lose count
nor any can
from envy of
so much of kissing
put his finger
on the number
of sweet kisses
you of me & 
I of you,
darling, have had.

Poem no. 49

Silver-tongued among the sons of Rome
the dead, the living & the yet unborn,
Catullus, least of poets, sends
Marcus Tullius his warmest thanks:

- as much the least of poets
as he a prince of lawyers.

Poem no. 87

No woman loved, in truth, Lesbia
               as you by me;
no love-faith found so true
               as mine in you.

This is the first time I read Catullus. Have you read any of his poems? Are you a fan?

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Swedish Crime Novels

Continuing my crime novel streak, I want to share two great crime stories from Sweden. One is Spring Tide by Cilla & Rolf Börjlind and the other is Tjockare än vatten (Thicker Than Water, my translation) by Carin Gerhardsen. Both are of the kind, difficult to put down. That is why you read until 1 a.m in the morning, just to finish it.

Spring Tide was spoken of quite a lot in Sweden some years ago. It has a different set-up of characters from other novels, and this is the first in a series involving Olivia, a trainee at the police academy and Tom, a former police inspector, now home-less. Olivia is given a cold case to look at during the summer holidays. It concerns the murder of a woman in 1990 on an island on the west coast of Sweden. The case was never solved, and the identity of the woman was never found.

Olivia gets involved in the case, and starts her own investigation. At the same time people involved in the actions years ago are feeling nervous and unexpected things happen. It is a fascinating story, good characterisation and many side stories. In the beginning you don't know why they are there. They don't seem to have anything to do with the main case. But, as the story evolves it all comes together. It is exciting, scaring and you hear a lot of sounds around you, lying alone in the dark, reading! Huuh! The ending is unexpected to say the least.

The other crime story I read Thicker Than Water is part of a series about a team of policemen and women in Stockholm. Also here we find several side stories, which come together in the end. However, not as you expect. Tragedy follow the main characters, a sister and brother who become orphans at a young age, when their mother dies in a drowning accident. People seem to drown in their surroundings. Are they accidents or murders? Many years later a case with cats that are drowned hits Stockholm. The team realises that it might not be what it seems. This is one of these books where you think you know the culprit as you read along. In the end it is a total surprise! Love it.

Now being into crime novels, I feel like continuing. Alas, no more such books here and I have a mission to finish a few books from my TBR shelves. Not to talk about my studies, where I will have to read a lot of books outside my natural choice. It does not mean it is a bad idea. It makes you go outside your comfort zone.

What about you? Are you into crime novels? Or crime novels with a mixture of other novels?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

2 x Indridason

I have spent a couple of weeks in Sweden, seeing my son and friends, decorating the flat and doing some studies. The last was more of an emergency call, since I had misread the dead-line! Well, know I have caught up again.

Looking at my TBR shelves in Sweden (yes, these shelves exists both in Belgium and Sweden!) I discovered to my great pleasure,  two unread books by Arnaldur Indridason.  Nordic crime writers are very popular these days. For one reason or the other, I don't read so many crime novels. However, having found some unread on my shelves, I went all crime fiction during these weeks. I start with one of my very favourite author.

Artic Chill and Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason. As usual, interesting cold case stories mixed with a murder mystery.

In Arctic Chill a dark-skinned young boy is found dead and his Thai half-brother is missing. Is it a racial murder? Or a paedophile murder? Or did the boy see something he shouldn't see? The options are many and Erlendur and his team find tension in the boy's surrounding. As usual there is a lot of tragedy connected to the people surrounding the case. At the same time Erlendur faces shadows from his past.

In Reykjavik Nights I found, to my surprise, a young Erlendur, just having started working for the police and doing night patrols. Checking the book on the internet, I saw that there actually are four books in a "Young Inspector Erlendur" series. Here he is solving a case with a murdered home-less begger and a missing wife. He is not yet and inspector and pursues the case on his spare time.  We can see the future inspector and his special way of approaching a murder case, already here. A different case, but not less interesting.

As always Indridason makes you guess until the very end. I really love his books, and they have a lot of interesting, touching stories of ordinary people. Many of them from the dark side of society. His characterisations are very good and you always get a dose of the Icelandic scenery! What is not to love?

Have you read anything by him? Do you like the books?

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Mount TBR Reading Challenge - check point #3

October is here and time for another check point for our mountaineering efforts. Bev at My Reader's Block has called upon us to tell you where we are. So far I have read 35 books from my TBR shelves. Well, it is really some more, but for this challenge it has to be books which were on the shelves before 1 January 2017.

On 1 July, I had read 23 books, and now I am at 35 books. That is just one book short of climbing Mt Vancouver. It is 4,812 m to the top, and I am on 4,678 m. Another book and another 135 meters and I am there!

Bev has given us a few tasks to complete, based on the books we have read. Here we go!

  • Who has been your favourite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.
I think I go for a family, the Buddenbrooks. Thomas Mann manages to fully engage us in the members of this family and their rise and fall. A fantastic book.

  • Which book (read so far) has been on your TBR mountain the longest? Was it worth the wait? Or is it possible you should have tackled it back when you first put it on the pile? Or tossed it off the edge without reading it all?

I think it has to be "The World Around in 80 Days" by Jules Verne. Probably should have read it then. Although the idea behind it is great, the prose as such was a little bit static. This is the only book by him I have read, and it seems he is not famous for his characterisation, but more for his ideas. Good enough. 

  • Choose 1-4 titles from your stacks and using a word from the title, do an image search. Post the first all-eyes-friendly picture associated with that word. 
Unsolved Mysteries of Amsterdam

That was all from me on this quest for Mt Vancouver. Hopefully, see you on Mt Ararat or Kilimanjaro at the end of the year!


Saturday, 7 October 2017

6 Degrees of Separation

I don't know where the time goes. Reading your blog posts I realise it is time again for a 6 Degrees of Separation, hosted by Books Are My Favourite And Best. This month starts with the book Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. I have not heard about the book and thus, not read it. "Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico blends poignant romance and bittersweet wit. " Sounds like an interesting read, just what I like. It will be added to my to read list.

Being about cooking, my first thought goes to The Dinner by Herman Koch.  It is about a family
drama where two brothers with their wives meet up for dinner to discuss what their sons have been up to. A drama slowly evolves and it keeps you in suspense to the very end, what the sons have really done.

Thinking of family dramas I opt for The Go-Between by L.P. Harley and one of my favourite books. Leo is invited to his best friend Marcus' manor house and during the summer he is the go-between for Marcus' sister and her lover. The act has unexpected consequences.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsey

For Full House Reading Challenge hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, I had to read a book by an Australian/New Zealand author. Having just read a blog post from Brona's Books  about Top Ten Tuesday Aussie writers I found a reference to Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. This is a typical story that attracts me. A mystery never solved. Although, in a perfect world, there wold be an answer in the end.

The backdrop story is a group of young, female pupils, that made an excursion on Valentine's day in 1900 to Hanging Rock. Four of them and a teacher ventured up the rock. One of them did not follow the others and came screaming back without remembering very much. The others three and the teacher went missing. A week later one of the girls is found. She neither remembers anything of  what had happened to her.

From this tale Joan Lindsay has written an account of what might have happened. Were they snatched by aliens? Did they fall into a time zone? Was it a case of female hysteria? Or did they just fall down into a crevice? Even after all these years nobody knows.

The novel is a fascinating read and difficult to put down. Lindsay manages to balance her story without taking part for anyone solution over the other. It is well written, the mystery is hanging all over the novel, including a nasty school mistress. I went on to watch the film by Peter Wier, just after having finished the book.

Looking into the story a little bit more it seems that Lindsay's novel is a work of fiction, based on actual events. Although she includes newspaper articles in the end of the novel, the events she describes are not all part of real events.  This was a little bit of a setback for me, since I though she had researched the matter very well. For all we know, she might have, but still choose to make it a novel of fiction. Whatever is the case, it is a great read.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Careless People by Sarah Churchwell

Careless People tells the true story behind what inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby. Churchwell has written a fantastic story of the Jazz Age and the people who were the forerunners. In the middle of the circle is Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, their lives, friends and work.

Parallell to Fitzgerald's lives, Churchwell has read newspapers and books of the time and highlights what was going on in America in the 20s. One big thing is the Hall-Mills murder mystery which was never solved. We follow the development of New York, people moving out to Long Island, constructions, inventions, dramas, prohibition and much more. It is a lively, charming tale of a time when people seemed not to have any bigger troubles. But, there is always a snake in paradise.

Churchwell shows us how many things that was happening in America at the time, in their lives and with their friends, entered into The Great Gatsby. There are numerous references to similarities in the book and happenings at the time. Fitzgerald was set to write a classic and according to himself The Great Gatsby was it. It did not sell very well during his own lifetime, and it was only after his death that it was more highly appreciated, not to talk about almost 100 years later.

It is a charming tale, and Churchwell also manages to describe the life the two Fitzgeralds lived, their time in France and the inevitable fall from the peak years. The times are very well described, the details sometimes a little bit too much, but it gives the reader an insight into what made the Jazz Age such a charming time. Maybe a belief that you were living on the edge and life was a party. For some but not for everyone.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Bookbeginnings on Friday and The Friday 56

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 "Careless People" by Sarah Churchwell


"At 10 a.m. on 3 May 1924, armed with seventeen pieces of luggage and a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica, F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda and their two-year-old daughter Scottie departed from Pier 58 on the North River in New York for Cherbourg, France, on board the SS Minnewaska."

Friday 56

" Knowing where their money comes from tells a great deal more about their character than knowing where their families come from. The American east-coast aristocracy saw itself as fitting into the mould of European aristocracy. But what it took the Europeans centuries to accrue, families like the Morgans and the Harrimans did in a generation, sufficient time in America's rapidly cycling class system. The difference between old and new money is, after all, purely relative: it just depends on when you start counting."