Monday, 19 March 2018

Bookmark Monday

I am joining Guiltless Reading for Bookmark Monday.

On Thursday I went to Passa Porta, which is an international book shop here in Brussels. Visiting author was John Banville. I bought four of his books, which he kindly signed.

When buying a book at the book shop, you get a bookmark and this is my sample of a Monday bookmark this week.

As you see, I bought Mrs Osmond by John Banville and got his signature. It was a joy to read.  More will come on the evening and the interview and the new books.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Bookmark Monday

I am joining Guiltless Reading for Bookmark Monday. It was some time ago.

On Saturday we went to Bruges for the day and visited a museum with pictures by Andy Warhol and Picasso. It was a very interesting visit and I came out of the museum shop with two bookmarks, one postcard and one keyring. I want to share these beautiful items with you here.

What do you think? Are they not wonderful!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

Hello, a little bit late for this meme, but I really do not want to miss it. This week I choose a book I have just finished. The Girl in Rose, Haydn's Last Love by Peter Hobday. The beginning comes from the Overture to the book, obviously following a musical work.

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader
"Studying history is like reading by candlelight: it takes time for the eyes to become accustomed to the shadows."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice
"Back at the house in Bedford Row Fanny, the maid, had raised the alarm and told the Master that Miss Rebecca had left the house early in the morning and got into a gentleman's coach. "
A review will follow on this book, which is well written, but most of it concerns the music world, which might not be such a bad case.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

6 Degrees of Separation

The Content Reader

It is March and another chain of books for 6 Degrees of Separation, hosted by Books Are My Favourite And Best.  This month begins with a book published in 1990, The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. Summary from Wikipedia: "The basic premise of The Beauty Myth is that as the social power and prominence of women have increased, the pressure they feel to adhere to unrealistic social standards of physical beauty has also grown stronger because of commercial influences on the mass media. This pressure leads to unhealthy behaviours by women and a preoccupation with appearance in both sexes, and it compromises the ability of women to be effective in and accepted by society." It comes well into the #metoo movement and is worth thinking of.

That brings me to someone who was not happy with her looks, Charlotte Brontë and her heroine Jane Eyre. It is about a plain girl who manages to catch the hero with her brain rather than her looks. Women still fighting today to be taken for who they are rather than how they look.

Another classic comes to mind, Jane Austen's Emma. An annoying heroine who is trying matchmaking her friends into marriages. That also includes how they should look and how they should act. Luckily, she is not very successful.

A woman who did not care what people said and lived her adventurous life as she pleased is Lady Jane Digby. Mary S. Lovell has written an excellent biography of her life: Jane Digby - A Scandalous Life.  She had four husbands and many lovers, among them Ludwig I of Bavaria and King Otto of Greece. She died in Damascus, Syria as the wife of Arab Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab, who was 20 years younger than her. She was born 1807 and died in 1881.

Continuing with Mary S. Lovell and her book about The Mitford Girls - the extraordinary lives of the six Mitford sisters. A fascinating set of sisters who also lived their lives to the full.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Varied reading

February so far has been a fabulous reading month for me, and I managed 12 books so far. Reading faster than I could review, so here comes a few smaller reviews.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
I listened to this book of short stories, narrated by Tom Hanks himself. What a treat! The stories mostly take place in the past and some I liked more than others. I awaited a twist in the end of the stories, but either there was none or I did not understand them. I thoroughly enjoyed the story with the very active, healthy and enthusiastic girl friend who tried to introduce her rather tired boy friend to the world of adventure. A story about an actor who gets to kiss the heroine and is envied by all the men in the world. It sounds very romantic, but the hard work shooting a movie which takes place all over the world is something different, as we learn. The story of a rich man who pays to travel back in time, meets a young girl and falls in love. He constantly goes back to the same time, try to meet her a little bit earlier, before he has to travel back. He is only allowed to stay for a certain number of hours. In the end he stays on and....! Although I did not enjoy all of them, some were really great and tell stories of different kind of people, and I think anyone can find something interesting.

Restless by William Boyd

Another thrilling novel by William Boyd. What do you do when your old mother tells you that someone is trying to kill her? Ruth's mother Sally Gilmartin tells her one day that her name is Eva Delectorskaya, and with this news, Ruth's life will never be the same. The story is told in parallell lines, from WWII and today, and Ruth learns that her mother was once a spy. Boyd, I find, creates wonderful characters and stories that keep you stuck to the book, and you are never really sure how it will end. A drama of high class and, what it seems to me, a good insight in the world of espionage and the secret services. The story how Eva ended up a spy also seems feasible enough. Fascinating to me was the way she "disappeared" when she had to. But as they say, the past will always catch up with you and this is where this story starts.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Another wonderful story of past and present in the typical Morton style. It is such a pleasure to read and both her stories are intriguing. When Laurel Nicolson was sixteen years old she was witness to a crime that affected her family. Today she is a famous actress. When their mother falls sick the siblings gather to help her. When going through old photographs, Laurel starts thinking back of the crime she saw her mother commit and she wants to find out what really happened. The story of their mother, before she married their father, is a totally different life, and slowly Laurel learns the truth. Morton manages to keep the story going and you think you know where it will end. But, as in her other books, there is a twist in the very end. I find the way she approaches her stories interesting. What you see today, is not always what it was. A page turner.

Angel Fall by Kristin Hannah

A present day romance, but not going over the edge. Michaela Campbell falls off a horse and lands in a coma. Her husband Liam is devastated and is spending most of the time by her hospital bed. Their two children are also affected by the accident. Hannah manages very well to describe the trauma the family goes through. When Liam look through Michaela's wardrobe he finds photos of her first husband and he is rather chocked when he realises who he is. It turns out that Michaela, in her own world, stirs when she hears his name. This is a story of love in different ways. How is it when you cannot live with the love of your life. Even so, this love takes over everything else, and you don't have enough to give to somebody else. The novel looks at the different aspects of love and how it effects the people involved.  The insecurity of Liam on Michaela's love did take up a little too much space, and could have been shortened. Otherwise, it is an easy read and, yes, I have to admit it, I cried in the end!

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

Sorry, again a little bit late with my Friday book quotes. This time I have chosen a book, just finished. I read a reviews from my blogging friends and thought, yes, this book I have to read. It is really great and I will download her first book. It is Jane Harper's Nature of Force.  It is a book you just cannot put down, so therefor it is read in one or two days.

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader

"Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No one saw the bushland swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

"Falk could smell the decay of winter roses in the air and hear the distant rush of traffic. And on the second floor of Alice Russell's home, through a streak-free window overlooking the road, he could see a five-pointed white star of fingertips pressed against the windowpane, a flash of blond hair, and the gaping, openmouthed circle of a face looking out."

This is a great read and I was totally hooked on the story after the initial lines. What do you think?

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Dolce Belezza is hosting a read along of The Portrait of a Lady, and has written a short summary of the plot here. As always with the novels of Henry James, the ending holds more questions than answers (compare The Turn of the Screw). Belezza has two questions: why did Isabel Archer marry Gilbert Osmond? Why did she plan to return to him on the very last page? Two relevant questions and I am looking forward seeing what the other read alongs will answer. Here are some of my thoughts.

Why did she marry?

Although she, unknowingly, was manipulated into the marriage, it is not the whole answer. She already had two offers of marriage and friends and relatives were much for both of them. However, she refused. She had clearly stated that she did not want to marry, but travel around the world. She wanted to have an independent life, settle down somewhere nice and live her life as she chooses. It was definitely easier after she came into the money, and would have been difficult without money. It is not clear how she intended to support herself in the latter case.

As for women at the time, her future was clear. She should marry a nice young man and settle down. She had other ideas. Both offers of marriage was too much like the expected prospects and I think that is why she refused them. When Osmond came by, he was different. He had another kind of life, his ideas attracted her, she loved his lovely daughter and the sense of a life in bliss. As we know life is not always what it seems like. I think that she actually was in love with Osmond in her own way. Maybe not so much with the man as with the idea of his life. Unfortunately, for her, he did not reveal all of his ideas, or she just did not grasp them in time. She was part of the beauty he admired in a building or a painting, but she did not see that his idea of the marriage, apart from the money, was to acquire another rare piece to show off.

Monday, 19 February 2018

More classics

Of my recent reads there were three classic novels that I really loved. Still fresh and interesting today. The first one is Candide (or Optimism) by Voltaire. One of his most famous books, and one of the great books of the Enlightenment. An ironic outlook on the surrounding world. The characters, the happenings and trips are written in a hilarious, witty way. With irony it is both tragedy and comic. Candide is living a sheltered life until one day he happens to kiss the daughter of the house. He is ousted by the angry father and life takes him around the world. His philosophical teacher Pangloss, taught him "we live in the best of worlds" and with this motto he looks on the world around him. In the end? He realises that it is not true and replies to Pangloss: "Let us cultivate our garden". 
“Optimism," said Cacambo, "What is that?" "Alas!" replied Candide, "It is the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst.”

Lancelot by Chrétien de Troyes is the classic saga of King Arthur and his knights. This concentrates on Lancelot and his quest to save Queen Guinevere, who is also his lover. Here we meet the traditional knights fighting for honour and damsels in distress. I found it quite refreshing and it kept me thrilled until the very end. de Troyes has also written several other novels from King Arthur's court.
“Through their kisses and caresses they experienced a joy and wonder the equal of which has never been known or heard of. But I shall be silent...; for the rarest and most delectable pleasures are those which are hinted at, but never told.” 

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This novel saw an "epidemic" of suicides among the men, unlucky in love. Werther is an artistic soul, middle class, no firm goal in life. When he falls in love with Charlotte, who is the fiancée of another man, he is devastated and sees only one way out. The novel is written as letters to a friend an we get to know Werthers output on life. Nature plays an important part of life and are often used as comparisons with his feelings for Charlotte. The tears of Charlotte are compared with the drops of rain on the leaves.

It was still thundering at a distance: a soft rain was pouring down over the country, and filled the air around us with delicious odours. … her eyes wandered over the scene; …, and then turned them upon me; they were moistened with tears;”... ”It was a most magnificent sunrise; the whole country was refreshed, and the rain fell drop by drop from the trees in the forest.” 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

The Content Reader

This week (sorry being late) my book beginning and page 56 come from The Secret Scripture from one of my favourite authors, Sebastian Barry. From the back cover:
"Roseanne McNulty is nearing her hundredth birthday in the mental hospital where she was committed as a young woman. Finishing up his case notes before the hospital is closed, psychiatrist Dr Grene finds himself intrigued by the story of his elderly patient. While Dr Grene investigates, Roseanne looks back on the tragedies and passions she has locked away in her secret journal, from her turbulent rural childhood to the marriage she believed would bring her happiness. But when Dr Grene finally uncovers the circumstances of her arrival at the hospital, it leads to a shocking secret." 

Book beginning hosted by Rose City Reader
"The world begins anew with every birth, my father used to say. he forgot to say, with every death it ends. Or did not think he needed to. Because for a goodly part of his life he worked in a graveyard."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

"History needs to be mightily inventive about human life because bare life is an accusation against man's dominion of the earth."

A wonderful book and a totally unexpected end makes this novel both thrilling and telling a realistic story of life in Ireland in the beginning of the 20th century. A must read.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Coffin Road by Peter May

Serendipity happens sometimes. I recently read a review on Beth Fish Reads about Peter May's book Coffin Road.  Just days after, I visited a friend who handed me the very same book and asked if I wanted to read it. YES, indeed I will. I have read a couple of Peter May's books some years ago and remember loving them. This is another thrilling book from this very productive writer.

It is about a man who is watched up on a deserted beach on the island of Harris, in the Hybrides. He realises that he has escaped death, of which he is happy. He is less happy when he realises that he has lost his memory. He has a hinge that something terrible has happen, but he does not know what.

It is interesting how he slowly gets to know more and more about his life, from neighbours and friends. It does not really makes sense to him though. That he is not an ordinary man, with an ordinary life is quite clear from the beginning.

It is a very thrilling book and I could not put it down. Read into the night to come to the unexpected end. Peter May uses the Hybrides as a setting for many of his books, and make them come to life. The harsh climate, the harsh nature, but his love for the area shines through. He puts the setting, the nature and the people in a story that has an input, not only to the area, but the whole world. I found the theme very interesting.