Monday, 20 February 2017

Book Beginnings on Fridays and Friday 56

Better late than never! Here is my contribution for last 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:

I had never heard of this gruesome couple from the 19th century Paraguay. She is Eliza Lynch of Irish origin and he is Francisco Solano López, Paraguayan. Together they managed to kill almost a whole country due to their paranoia and greed. A terrifyingly interesting story. Review will follow.


Beginning
"One night in May 1961, a Paraguayan of Lebanese descent named Teófilo Chammas scaled the walls of Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. The gates were locket but the high walls were not topped with barbed wire as they are today. Nor was the cemetery patrolled at night. Then, as now, young lovers climbed into the graveyard to lose themselves in the darkness there."
Page 56
"Francisco's infidelity clearly did not unduly concern Eliza: 'Although he was unfaithful to her, with any woman who took his fancy for the time,' wrote Cunninghame Graham, 'she knew he never would forsake her, for he relied upon her knowledge of the world to deal with consuls, ministers, and in general with the outside world, a world of which, brought up as he had been, he was quite ignorant.'"

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Book Beginnings on Fridays 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.



Just bought today Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. I wanted to read something by him for a long time. You all write so well about him. So here I am, and here is the first paragraph of the Introduction.

"It's as hard to have a favourite sequence of myths as it is to have a favourite style of cooking (some nights you might want Thai food, some nights sushi, other nights you crave the plain home cooking you grew up on). But if I had to declare a favorite, it would probably be for the Norse myths"

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) in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.


On page 56 I found the following:

"Loki kep smiling, but he scowled on the inside. The day had started out so well. Still, he simply had to ensure that Eitri and Brokk lost the contest; the gods would still get six wonderful things from the dwarfs, and Sif would get her golden hair. He could do that. He was Loki.
"Or course," he said. "My head. No problem."" 
 The beginning is good, so I am sure I will love this book. I will be back with a review once it is read.

Friday, 10 February 2017

6 Degress of Separation - February 2017




New month and time for another chain of books. This month, host Books Are My Favourite And Best starts with Fates and Furies by Laureen Groff. I must admit I have never heard of it, although I see that it was one of the most popular books in 2015. Just shows how stuck I am with my TBR shelves! Never to late to change. Seems like a fascinating book.


Reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, my attention was drawn to the line "is essentially about how the different people in a relationship can have disparate views on the relationship". That is certainly true, and it immediately made me think of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, where Rachel has a totally different view on the relationship with her ex-husband, and we could say people she sees from her train window.



From there my connecting word would be train and I am thinking of a book I have had on my shelves for many years; Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux. It is a travel book about his travels through China in the 1980s, and his aim was to disprove the Chinese maxim "you can always fool a foreigner". I am looking forward reading this one.


Here the connection continues with travels and I come to think of Tiziano Terzani's book A Fortune-Teller Told Me. It describes his travels across Asia by land and see following the advice and warning from a fortune teller in Hong Kong that he must avoid airplanes for the whole year of 1993.



That leads me to Asia and an interesting book called Monsoon Traders, The Maritime World of the East India Company by Bowen, McAleer and Blyth. The East India Company was one of the most powerful commercial endeavours the world has ever seen. An interesting story of the development of world trade, although depressing in its treatment of people and countries to achieve commercial success.



The chain word here is ships and leads me to Kapare och Pirater i Nordeuropa under 800 år (Privateers and Pirates in North Europe During 800 Years). When we hear pirates we normally think of the Caribbean area, although they were common in all areas where sea travel was frequent. I know there were some Swedish pirates, but was not aware of the whole picture. Interesting book covering the Baltic and North Sea areas.



A big force and influence in this area was the Hanseatic League, which takes me to Thomas Mann and Buddenbrooks. His family saga of the decline of a wealthy north German merchant family through four generations. Here he portrays the life and manners of the Hanseatic bourgeoisie in the mid-19th century. It is based on his own family who lived in Lübeck, one of the Hanseatic cities.



That was my chain of six books. Hope you enjoyed this chain which took me almost all over the world.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

What's on the bestseller list in Germany?

In the beginning of January we drove back from Sweden to Belgium. Most of the way we drive through Germany. Everything is super organised along the roads with petrol stations and places where you can grab a bite to eat. Of course, you also find these small shops where they have everything they think you need along the way. In one of them I found this bestseller list by the book shelves. It is always interesting to see what is popular in other countries.





Here is the list, where I have mentioned the nationality of the authors and the title in English (if it exists).


S.L. Grey - Under ground (Pseudonym for Sarah Lotz and Louise Greenberg, South Africa).

Marc Elsberg - Zero (Pseudonym for Marcus Rafelsberger, Austria.) Can't find an English title, maybe not translated.

Samuel Björk - Federgrab (Norway. English title: I'm Travelling Alone - A case for detective Munch)

Tess Gerritsen - Der Schneeleopard (US. Original title: Die Again - A Rizzoli&Isles case).

Jonas Jonasson - Die Analphabetin, die rechnen könnte (Sweden. English title: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden)

Andreas Gruber - Todesmärchen (Austria) Can't find an English title, maybe not translated.

Harlan Coben - Ich  vermisse dich (US. Original title: Missing you)

Karen Slaughter - Bittere Wunden (US. Original title: Busted)

John Grisham - Die Anklage (US. Original title: Gray Mountain

Nora Roberts - Sternenregen (US. Original title: Stars of Fortune)

Eric Berg - Das Küstengrab (Pseudonym for Eric Walz, Germany)  Can't find an English title, maybe not translated.

Geneva Lee - Royal Passion (US)

Mary Simses - Der Sommer der Sternschnuppen (US. Original title: The Rules of Love and Grammar)

Lucinda Riley - Helena's Geheimnis (Ireland. Original title: Helena's Secret)

Jeffrey Archer - Spiel der Zeit (UK. Original title: Only Time Will Tell - Clifton Chronicles)

Nicholas Sparks - Bis zum letzten Tag (US. Original title:  The Choise)

Out of 16 bestsellers there are 8 (or 9 since one pseudonym hides two persons) different countries represented. That is a good variety I think. Most of them are from the US. I must admit I have only read Jonas Jonasson's The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden. It was good and funny and hilarious. Have you read any of the books? Any favourites of yours? Any recommendations?

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Effie by Suzanne Fagence Cooper

Around two years ago I happened to see a youtube video on the making of "Desperate Romantics" about the Pre-Raphaelites. Looked like something I would like, so I ordered the book Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites by Franny Moyle and the DVD and fell in love with the works of the pre-Raphaelites. Not only are their works a marvel, I managed to view some of them at the Tate Gallery in London on a visit. I find the group and the people around them fascinating. At the wonderful museum shop I found several interesting books, which I have now finally read. The first one was  Lizzie Siddal - The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel by Lucinda Hawksley, the second one Effie by Suzanne Fagence Cooper and last but not least, A Circle of Sisters by Judith Flanders, review will follow.

Effie's story is extraordinary for a woman in the Victorian times. She is another one of those remarkable Victorian women who managed to make a life of her own, in spite of the not so many rights of women at the time. I recently read Mrs Robinson's Disgrace (The Private Diary of a Victoria Lady) by Kate Summerscale. In her case it was her husband who filed for a divorce. Effie filed for an annulment after six years of marriage.

At 19 she married John Ruskin, a well known art patron, social thinker and philanthropist.  They were very much in love, and it was a good marriage for Effie, as they said in those days. However, already on the wedding night something went wrong. Something which was never to be healed. Ruskin was living with his parents, doted by them and probably affected by his mother's strong religious beliefs. The young couple moved in with them, which was probably not a good idea. The relationship with her parents-in-law was never good. A very tight family who did not let anyone else into their sphere.

Effie had some problems as well and was often ill. She felt it was her husband and his parents against herself. She was even accused of being mad and one can only imagine the pressure this situation caused her. Ruskin was much involved in the architecture and art world of the day and saw the pre-Raphaelites as something new and different. He invited one of them, John Everett Millais, to paint his wife. He later became ne oof the the most famous of the group. He fell in love with Effie, and she enjoyed his company.

As the years went on and the strains of the marriage increased, she finally confided her secret to a friend in high society. It was something she could not even speak to her parents about.  The marriage was never consummated and she felt no affection from her husband. Appalled by the whole situation her friend advised her to get an annulment of the marriage. One can only imagine how desperate she was to go through this public display of such a very private thing. However, she managed to get the marriage annulled and returned to her parents place. Millais continued his courting and the year after they married. They got eight children.

Ms Fagence Cooper has written a fascinating biography, thoroughly researched with numerous quotes from letters and articles of the time. Her writing takes us right back to the times and the circumstances and we follow Effie and John Ruskin from the nature of Scotland, to the city life of London and the romantic trips to Venice and other places in Europe. A biography that keeps you tied to the pages, a life of sadness and happiness, and the story of another remarkable Victorian woman.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Bookmark Monday


I am joining Guiltless Reading for a Bookmark Monday meme. I love her bookmarks and don't know where she finds the variety. Well, I was visiting a museum in Antwerp the other day, and found these three bookmarks in the shop. Of course, I cannot help buying bookmarks, I just love them.

The first is on a view over Antwerp depicted on a cabinet in the excellent Plantin-Moretus museum.


The other one comes with a painting by Willem Van Haecht, 'The art room of Cornelis van der Geest" from the house of Rubens.



The third one is a poster for the Red Star Line.



Lovely aren't they? Are you also obsessed with bookmarks?

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Back to the Classics challenge 2017

Back to the classics are hosted by Karen @ Books and Chocolate. I participated with six books in 2016 and almost made it. For 2017 I will be bold and go for 12 classics. Most of them already on my shelves since long, and they are also included in other challenges.


The challenge is the same as last year, 12 classic books, but with slightly different categories. You do not have to read all 12 books to participate in this challenge!

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

Here are the books I will read for each category.

1. A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899 - George Elliot - The Mill on the Floss (published 1860)

2.  A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1967. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications - Farewell to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood (published 1939)

3.  A classic by a woman author - Kristin Lavransdotter by Sigrid Undset

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories) - Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (from German, reading in Swedish)

5.  A classic published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category - Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (published 1597)

6.  A romance classic. I'm pretty flexible here about the definition of romance. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot - Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

7.  A Gothic or horror classic. For a good definition of what makes a book Gothic, and an excellent list of possible reads, please see this list on Goodreads - The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

8.  A classic with a number in the title. Examples include A Tale of Two Cities, Three Men in a Boat, The Nine Tailors, Henry V, Fahrenheit 451, etc. An actual number is required -- for example, Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None would not qualify, but The Seven Dials Mystery would - One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  It can be an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name in the title. Examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Metamorphosis, White Fang, etc. If the animal is not obvious, please clarify it in your post - Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux

10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc - The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe

11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. Any award, just mention in your blog post what award your choice received - The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (Pulitzer Prize)

12. A Russian classic. 2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author - Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj

Many of them rather thick books, so a little bit of a challenge. But that what challenges are for. Most of them are books I wanted to read for a long time, and it seems that time has now come.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Book Beginnings of Fridays

My book this week is All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith


Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Fridays.



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.

Beginning
"Jane Austen just won't stay on the page." 


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

*Grab a 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.



Page 56
"Guatemala was not my first venture into Latin America. More than a year before my Antigua Austen group, I flew to Puerto Vallarta for an end-of-semester beach break. That's when I met Diego, my driver for the half-hour ride to the hotel. He was tickled, he later told me, by my pre-Escuela Spanish, as I bounced from window to window in the backseat to take in the gorgeous sights, sputtering out gems like "Very good ocean! Very! Mountain pretty!"


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith

Being an Austen lover I could not resist this title. This is about the author Amy Elizabeth Smith's quest to see what people think about Austen outside the English speaking world. She decided to take a year off her tutoring literature at a university in the US, to travel to six countries in South America in order to discuss Jane Austen's books. To do this she had to start by learning Spanish.

If you love Austen it is a great read. Even if you don't love Austen you can enjoy it. She gathered book loving people from Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay and Argentina, had them read a book by Austen and meet up to discuss it. Amy Smith was surprised to see how much Austen's writing was valid also in a total different society from which she wrote. Almost all of the participants found something in her book which they could adapt to present life.

This is probably the charm with Austen, and why she is still so popular 200 years after her death. There is something there for everyone. As the book starts:
"Jane Austen just won't stay on the page."
Amy Smith asks what it is about Austen that makes people talk about her characters as if they are real people. They are characters that we still recognise all around us today. There is someone there for everyone. Some we love more than others, and some we just don't like at all. But there is a common denominator; they all engage us one way or the other. I think that is what we all want from the books we read. Characters that engage us, and Austen is a master in this sense.
"Soledad from the reading group back in Mexico had been curious about the degree of fame Austen achieved in her lifetime - and while Austen lived to see public acclaim, in her wildest dreams she could never have imagined that nearly two hundred years after her death, in a country of steamy jungles and skyscraping mountains half a globe away, men would be arguing in a crowded post office about a Spanish translation of her dear Pride and Prejudice."
Smith not only went to South America to discuss the books of Austen, she also wanted to read authors from the countries she visited. She ended up sending quite a lot of books back home. One peculiar thing she found (and it took her visiting several of the countries before she got an explanation to the riddle) is that when she asked for Austen's books in the bookshops, the person working in the shop, did not pick up the books from the same shelf. They picked the books from very different shelves, all over the book store, and she could not understand why. In the end it turned out that the book shops are not organised in alphabetical order by author as we are used to, but by publishers.
"Why do you do that?" I asked.  
He shrugged again and said, predictably, "Why not?"
Smith realised during her trips that even if she did not know anyone in advance, she very quickly got new friends, because they all had a common interest. Books! A common interest, like books for example, take you a long way to get to know people, share views, enjoy the company of others. It does not matter if you come from different countries, have other beliefs, books takes you on a common road forward.

So many different aspects of Jane Austen's writing came up in the discussions of the various groups. Here is one.
"…Austen wasn't interested in sketching the countryside. She was drawing psychological landscapes. It's the opposite of a writer like Emily Brontë. The countryside is so central to what's she's writing about, it's almost -""It's a character, really," I cut in."Exactly!" Hugo said."Just look at the titles," Hugo continued." Wuthering Heights. The place is a character, it controls the characters. In Emma, it's the woman who's in charge."
Amy Elizabeth Smith has written a charming book about her year with Austen. It is not only about Austen, but also about the various countries she visits, the customs, the people, happenings, good and bad. It is very well written, and you are curious how people in the next country will view Austen. She also manages to highlight how well Austen's writing is adaptable also on our modern way of life. Or like one of the participants (in a divorce procedure) in a group said: "You know," he went on, "I thought I married a Lizzy Bennet, but maybe I really picked a Lydia?" Austen is always there lingering in the background!

Monday, 30 January 2017

The First Murder by The Medieval Murderers

The pen name of "The Medieval Murderers" hides five historical mystery writers, all members of the Crime Writers Association (Bernard Knight, Ian Morson, Philip Gooden, Susanna Gregory and Karen Maitland). It seems this is not the first book they write. I find information on another seven books they have written together. This book is not exactly what I expected (more of real time medieval murders), but turned out to be quite interesting and enjoyable. The more you get into it, the more difficult it is to put down.

The story covers the period from 1154 to 1944 and the theme is the same. Can a play possibly be cursed? It definitely seems like it. Every time The Play of Adam is enacted, somebody dies. The drama is divided into a Prologue and Epilogue with Four acts in between. The programme reads as follows:

Prologue - In which Ian Morson tells of Prior Wigod of Oseney Priory writing The Play of Adam, and how the world's first murder - of Abel by his brother Cain - is enacted with equally murderous results (1154)

Act One - In which Susanna Gregory relates how The Play of Adam travels from Oxford to Carmarthen in the year 1199, and the castle's constable and his wife encounter murder among rival clerics (1199).

Act Two - In which Karen Maitland tells how the townspeople of Ely fear that The Play of Adam has unleashed a demon upon the town, after a gruesome discovery is made in the cathedral (1361)

Act Three - In which Philip Good tells the story of a playwright who wishes to obtain revenge on William Shakespeare and comes to an unfortunate end, while player Nick Revill faces the secret agents of the Privy Council (somewhere between 1603-1616).

Act Four - In which Ian Morson writes about Doll Pocket satisfying her yearning to become an actress, while Joe Malinferno struggles with the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Unfortunately, the rehearsals for the newly discovered Play of Adam result in a murder. But has it to do with thespian jealousies, or something much more arcane? (1821)

Epilogue - In which Bernard Knight recounts how The Play of Adam is revived by an academic department during the Second World War, which provides an unexpected finale (1944).

This is a cleverly written book. As you can understand from the above The Play of Adam is in the centre of the story, travelling merciless through time. Whenever it is played, somebody dies. Already in 1199, Prior Alan knew that the play was cursed and he took his steps to never let it be played again.

"Brother Stephen, choose two of our younger brethren. Tell them they must be ready to leave Ely at dawn. They must take this scroll straight to the Benedictine House at Westminster, and give it into the hand of the abbot. He's an old friend of mine. He will understand my warning. …
'If God wills it, this Play of Adam might for once save two young lives instead of taking them.' 
He handed the scroll to Stephen, who looked down at the words his superior had written. 
In that this scroll contains Holy Writ, you shall not suffer it to be destroyed. Yet neither shall you break the seal upon it, lest fools and knaves make of it swords to slay the innocent and infect man's reason with the worm of madness.
Alan of Walsingham, Prior of Ely."

Well, obviously the play found its way out from the hidden archives. As it travels through history you get historical notes after each act. Upon these notes the authors have woven their stories. It is quite fascinating and I really enjoyed this book. On top of it, it has a great ending. A different kind of mystery, and really enjoyable. If you like history and historical fiction it is a great read.