Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

This book has been on my wish list for some time. Mainly I think because of the title! But also because of the story. While staying in the guest flat where my parents live, and checking the small book shelf they have there (people who stay leave books behind) I found this one to my surprise. I grabbed it immediately, and started to read.

It starts in January 1946 in London, just after the end of the Second World War. Juliet Ashton is a well-known writer who wrote column under the pseudonym Izzy Bickerstaff during the war years. Her friend and publisher, Sidney Stark, published them as a book, and she sets of for a promotion tour. However, now she is looking for something else to bite into. By pure chance she receives a letter from a man namned Dawsey Adams on the island of Guernsey. One of the Channel Islands it was occupied during the war and life is very harsh. The islanders stick together and form a rather close community. Dawsey, who is a avid reader, comes across Juliet's name in a book written by Charles Lamb. He writes her a letter, to ask if she knows of any more books by him.

They start a correspondence, leading to the information that Dawsey is part of a reading group calling themselves The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This sets the whole story in motion and Juliet gets the background to the founding of the society, which goes back to the war years. It spreads and soon she is in contact with everyone in the society and gets their view on events, and some views from people outside! It leads to a mystery of what happened to one woman who were taken away by the Germans and her daughter still on the island. In the end Juliet has to go there to see for herself. I will not reveal how the story develops but life sometimes runs in mysterious ways.

The whole story is told by letters going back and forth to Juliet from the involved parties. It is a real fell good book, but with a serious under tone. A lovely book that makes you happy. Unfortunately, this is the only book by Shaffer, who passed away in 2008.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

New purchases

While in Sweden I want to buy Swedish books. Normally, I venture into a book store and see what is new and exciting. Books are rather expensive in Sweden so mostly I don't buy that many. However, this time I went twice to a second hand shop that also had a big library section. When prices are 0.50 or 1.00 euro there is not much thinking of it. Especially, since I had the car, and could load the books in there. Flying is always difficult considering the weight of the books.

One thing that hit me, while looking in the book stores, is that books these days tend to be VERY THICK! You could buy five books and end up with half a metre! Difficult choice when you have no space in the book case. I don't know what is with this trend of writing books that covers 800 to over 1.000 pages! You could argue that you get a lot for your money! Yes, true, or it is just an inflation in words? And what about holding them why you are reading? They are heavy, you might have to sit by a table. Don't even think of lying in bed reading, you'll get muscle ache in your arms.

Friday, 19 September 2014

I have missed you!

This is not a title of a new interesting book. It is a statement from my side. I am now back home and in business again. It has been some busy weeks in Sweden helping my son install himself for the university studies. Now he is up an running and I can go back to my books.

I did not have time to read a lot but I managed to buy a lot of books, mostly second hand; 50 cents for the pocket books and 1 euro for the hardback! Unbelievably cheap. A list will come, hopefully, already tomorrow.

Crossing the bridge between
Sweden and Denmark
My challenges are totally lost for this month I think. I did not manage to finish Emma by Jane Austen in August, I did not manage to read the Gissling book for the Brontë Reading Group, not the two books for the other book club; Beloved by Toni Morrison and Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marques, so far not the two books about Hemingway for a Swedish 3xbooks challenge. It is rather depressing and I am wondering whether I should skip challenges for the time being? BUT, when I organise myself I might be able to read them after all!

In the middle of the bridge
I managed to listen to a book for the first time. I drove from Sweden to Belgium which took more or less 12 hours. I thought that this might be the time for me to listen to a book. I found a thriller called Ghostman by Roger Hobbs. I see that he got a nomination for the Edgar Prize for first novel by an American author. Hmm, I don't know whether I can agree. The story itself, or really two stories; one present and one going back five years, were rather thrilling, but for me the whole story was too technical. It looks more like a manual for bank robbers; there were endless details how to act in a bank robbery, on guns, on get away cars, on preparations, on drugs etc etc. The story sort of disappeared in all the technical details. Since I am more of a macro person then micro person it did not do it for me. However,  it kept me occupied with something during the drive.

 Will I listen to another audio book? Maybe, give it another try. I can't imagine doing it at home, but while driving for example, or out walking maybe, I can imagine to listen to a book. I still prefer to read myself.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Election day in Sweden

Today is election day in Sweden. There are two 'blocs' as we call them; each bloc consists of several parties that come together to form a coalition or alliance in order to govern; there is not one party strong enough to govern by itself. The two blocs are from middle to left and from middle to right. This year it is very tight so it will be a very close match.

While waiting for the result I took a walk around the city with my mother. The city is very quiet today. People are voting in the areas where they live. Here is my mother in front of the lovely, old houses that are bordering Borgmästaregatan, which is one of the big streets in the city. Made into a pedestrian walk these days, one can enjoy some food or coffee on the pavements.

So that is what we did after the walk. We took a caffe latte with a pecan nut cake with vanilla ice cream in a café that was open for the day.

The cake was lovely, but so sweet and filled with calories, that we had to continue our walk afterwards as well. 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

David Garrett a modern 'Pirate'?

Sorry for being slow with posting these last weeks. Still in Sweden, lots to do and I have hardly read anything! Terrible, I know. Hopefully things will improve in the coming week(s).

In the meantime I wanted to share with you one of my favourite film theme songs with a wonderful young violinist to go with it (from you tube). David Garrett is a pop and cross-over violinist and records and performs both classical as well as modern music. This one has really made me one of his many fans. What do you think?

I get goose skin when I hear it.

As I am sure you know, it is the wonderful theme song 'He's a Pirate' from Pirates of the Caribbean. The music is written and composed by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Quality time in Karlskrona

Today is Sunday and yet another wonderful, sunny day here in the south east corner of Sweden. I
decided to take a walk around the city, listening to my iPhone and taking some pictures. The centre of Karlskrona, Trossö, was once several islands, but have today merged into one.  Trossö is, in its turn, surrounded by several islands, yet visible today. To walk around the centre means, mostly, walking along the water front. On a sunny, calm day like today, Karlskrona is a beauty.

Friday, 5 September 2014

True Blood and Sookie Stackhouse and Co

Still on the road so the posts are coming quite irregular. I had time though, one evening, to watch the last episode of True Blood. I am quite happy that it is finished. The ending...well, it was sort of ok I think. SPOILER here: It was quite strange though to have followed Sookie the whole time and in the end she married someone we don't even know who it is! In the books...SPOILER again... she ended up with Sam, and I didn't like that ending either. I loved all the books in the series (13) but though the last one lacked something from the rest of them. For the series, season 1-4 were fine but then it all went 'all over the place'.

I think this is the problem with most series; they should have a decided ending and number of seasons decided before they start. If the series become popular, it seems they decide from season to season if they are to continue. Well, this can only hurt the story, which in the end is the most important thing.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Expeditionen - Min kärlekshistoria (The Expedition) by Bea Uusma

Here I am, on my odyssey in Sweden, my bag full of books. Do I read any of them? No, not so far. It is funny how interesting books tends to turn up at every turn you do. This is one of them. My aunt Maggie received it as a present. It is a thick book, but sooooo nicely designed, containing pictures from the expedition and is so very nice to read. The story is totally fascinating and I read it in one evening and one morning.

The André expedition in 1897 was aimed at travelling to the North pole by air balloon.  The three persons that was part of the expedition were scientists, but not really explorers. They were badly prepared for disaster and expected to fly to the North pole, put a flag there, collect samples of various interesting species or whatever they would find, and return by balloon to Sweden. Unfortunately, the last time they were seen alive was when they flew away. For thirty-three years nobody knew what happened to them. In the 1930s they were found on the White Island by a scientific ship.

For a hundred years researchers, journalists and doctors have tried to solve the riddle of what happened to them. Why did three men die, in spite of a lot of food, warm clothes, a lot of ammunition and three rifles?

Bea Uusma attended a boring party in the middle of the 1990s. She choose a random book from the hosts book shelf and found herself with a book about the André expedition. She left the party with the book, read it and her destiny was made. The book and the story has been part of her life ever since. She educated herself as a doctor to be able to see for herself the reasons for the death of the members of the expedition, she studied archives, old letters, other researchers, all the documents she could lay her hands on. The result we see in this very interesting and loveable book. It is like she says in the title: "My love story".

During the years there have been numerous theories on how the three persons died. After her research she came up with another one, which I personally find believable. There will probably be many more theories in the future. However, this book tells the story of three men, dedicated to the exploring of the North Pole and risking their lives. This book is a wonderful dedication to such daring people.

It is written in Swedish and I don't know whether it has been translated to English or any other language. It should be. More people should be able to read such a love story. 

Photos from the expedition itself and some pages of the book

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Books for travelling

My travel companions!
On Monday I am heading to Sweden with my son. Time for university studies for him. Time passes so quickly, I don't know where the 17 years disappeared! We are bringing his things with us, so we are taking the car. We are heading for south of Sweden so in principal you can make it in a day...long day! We are driving to Malmö to stay with friends overnight before continuing to Växjö, in the middle of the deep forests of Sweden.

Normally, when I travel these days, I bring my iPad mini for reading. Books are heavy to carry if you have to check in luggage and carry it around. The car brings some flexibility to bring a few more books. However, there are very good libraries in Sweden so you can always pop in and see what you find. These are the books and the iPad I am bringing with me:

I have three books for book clubs: Beloved by Toni Morrison, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, New Grub Street by George Gissing (iPad). All for September.

For August I have to finalise Emma by Jane Austen for the Austen in August challenge.

Jean-Paul Satre, La Nausée is for the Classical Club spin and has to be finalised in beginning of October.

Already started books are Tolkien by Arne Zettersten and The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark.

The Pursuit of Glory by Tim Blanning is about five revolutions between 1648 and 1815 that made modern Europe. Should be very interesting and has got ravishing reviews.


Today we are invited for a cray fish party in the evening. Mmm, this is a Swedish tradition this time of the year. Tomorrow is bag for me (hopefully) and a few more for my son. The read bag in the middle is mine. The rest is his, plus a few things not visible in the picture...and then of course the bike, his tennis rackets/bags/ball etc and the tennis string machine...! And the two of us...

I forgot to say that he is a very good packer!

The Maze Walker by myself

After finishing The Maze Runner I took a walk in our forest. There it is like a labyrinth/maze. You can really loose yourself if you don't know the place. Taking this opportunity to try out and to learn how our camera works, in order to place some better pictures on my blog. It is really great fun. Even the small cameras, we have a Canon S100, can do a lot of amazing things when you leave the AUTO mode, which I have used so far.

On Monday Hannes, my son, and I are heading for Sweden to install him for the start of the university studies. That means that I will post when feasible, and hopefully, with some nice photos on the way. To go from Belgium by car, we cross the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. From Germany to Denmark there is a ferry and from Denmark to Sweden we have the new, longest bridge in Europe at least. It is a wonderful, mighty bridge. The full connection is 15.9 km and consists of roads, bridge and a tunnel. There is also a railway tunnel for trains between Malmö (Sweden) and Copenhagen (Denmark) and first stop on the Danish side is the airport Kastrup. The bridge is a total of 7.845 km and 5.35 of them are on the Swedish side. You cross the border on the bridge.