PawsforThought's reading in 2019
This topic was continued by PawsforThought's reading in 2019, part 2.
Join LibraryThing to post.
I joined LT, erhm, some years ago, and have been a bit on-and-off both with my reading and with my presence on the site in the past few years. We'll see how 2019 goes. Right now I'm on the middle of six different books, which is not a great sign, but I have been reading the same one diligently albeit slowly for the past, ahem, while.
When I'm doing well on the reading front I always try to fit my books into one of the TIOLI challenges, and if I'm not doing well I at least check in and see what challenges are posted.
I'm hoping that the new year will at least se me finishing the books I'm currently reading, and maybe also some poetry, since my usually fairly dormant interest in poetry has woken up a bit in the past few weeks.
Books read in 2019:
#1: Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones (1986. 346 pages)
#2: Lord Peter Views the Body - Dorothy L. Sayers (1928. 207 pages)
#3: Scoop - Evelyn Waugh (1938. 248 pages)
#4: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club - Dorothy L. Sayers (1928. 287 pages)
#5: Mrs McGinty's Dead - Agatha Christie (1952. 241 pages)
#6: Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (1811. 490 pages)
#7: Strong Poison - Dorothy L. Sayers (1930. 224 pages)
#8: The Man in the Brown Suit - Agatha Christie (1924. 277 pages)
#9: The Mysterious Mr. Quin - Agatha Christie (1930. 286 pages)
#10: American Gods - Neil Gaiman (2001. 530 pages)
#11: Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (The Moomins and the Great Flood) - Tove Jansson (1945. 56 pages)
#12: Katitzi - Katarina Taikon (1969. 151 pages)
#13: Kometen kommer (Comet in Moominland) - Tove Jansson (1968. 157 pages)
#14: Josefin (Josephine) - Maria Gripe (1961. 132 pages)
#15: An Elephant in the Garden - Michael Morpurgo (2010. 212 pages)
#16: Hugo och Josefin (Hugo and Josephine) - Maria Gripe (1962. 158 pages)
#17: Toro! Toro! - Michael Morpurgo (2001. 107 pages)
#18: Hugo - Maria Gripe (1966. 127 pages)
#19: Trolltider - Maria Gripe (1985. 29 pages)
#20: Trollkarlens hatt (Finn Family Moomintroll) - Tove Jansson (1948. 153 pages)
#21: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips - Michael Morpurgo (2005. 188 pages)
#22: Flamingo Boy - Michael Morpurgo (2018. 216 pages)
#23: Listen to the Moon - Michael Morpurgo (2014. 320 pages)
#24: Muminpappans memoarer (The Exploits of Moominpappa) - Tove Jansson (1950. 166 pages)
#25: Ture Sventon i London - Åke Holmberg (1950. 110 pages)
#26: Shadow - Michael Morpurgo (2010. 191 pages)
#27: Billy the Kid - Michael Morpurgo (2000. 72 pages)
#28: The Butterfly Lion - Michael Morpurgo (1996. 110 pages)
#29: Five on a Treasure Island - Enid Blyton (1942. 121 pages)
#30: A Young Doctor's Notebook - Mikhail Bulgakov (1920s.166 pages)
#31: We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson (1962. 176 pages)
#32: Crooked House - Agatha Christie (1949. 256 pages)
#33: Cool! - Michael Morpurgo (2002. 109 pages)
#34: The Return of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle (1905. 400 pages)
#35: A Dog's Heart - Mikhail Bulgakov (1925. 176 pages)
#36: Kaspar: Prince of Cats - Michael Morpurgo (2008. 203 pages)
#37: Maisie Dobbs - Jacqueline Winspear (2005. 309 pages)
#38: Ture Sventon i Paris - Åke Holmberg (1953. 109 pages)
#39: The Labours of Hercules - Agatha Christie (1947. 287 pages)
#40: Five Red Herrings - Dorothy L. Sayers (1931. 384 pages)
#41: His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle (1917. 256 pages)
#42: Ture Sventon i Stockholm - Åke Holmberg (1954. 105 pages)
#43: The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson (1959. 224 pages)
#44: Ture Sventon och Isabella - Åke Holmberg (1955. 127 pages)
#45: The Fatal Eggs - Mikhail Bulgakov (1925. 85 pages)
#46: Black Coffee - Agatha Christie & Charles Osborne (1930/1998. 189 pages)
#47: Pappa Pellerin's Daughter - Maria Gripe (1963. 188 pages)
#48: The Valley of Fear - Arthur Conan Doyle (1915. 224 pages)
#49: The Woman in Black - Susan Hill (1983. 140 pages.)
Poetry read in 2019:
#1: Edith Södergran: Dikter (Poems); Septemberlyran (The September Lyre); Rosenaltaret (The Rose Alter); Framtidens skugga (The Shadow of the Future); Landet som icke är (The Land That Is Not)
#2: Edna St. Vincent Millay: Renascence: and Other Poems, A Few Figs from Thistles: Poems and Four Sonnets; Second April; The Harp-Weaver, and Other Poems
#3: Sten Selander: Avsked: efterlämnade dikter (Farewell: Poems Left Behind)
#4: Gustaf Fröding: Guitarr och dragharmonika: mixtum pictum på vers; Nya dikter; Stänk och flikar; Nytt och gammalt; Gralstänk
#5: T. S. Eliot: Prufrock - 1917; Poems - 1920; The Waste Land; The Hollow Men; Ash-Wednesday; Ariel Poems; Unfinished Poems; Minor Poems; Choruses from 'The Rock' - 1934; Four Quartets; Occasional Verses
I see from your message on the Introductions thread that I can never have too much Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.
I'm going to do a re-read of all Sayers's fiction this year, and I love everything by Dame Agatha (except Tuppence and Tommy), so I can see we've got a great deal in common.
Happy reading in 2019.
>11 karenmarie: Hello Karen!
Ooh, a re-read of all of Sayers sounds amazing! I'm fairly new to her, and am working my way through her works for the first time (currently reading Lord Peter Views the Body). And I pretty much always have an Agatha Christie lying around - currently going through some of her less known ones (and the Tommy and Tuppence ones which I've not read before).
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised
I look forward to keeping up with you, Paws, this year.
Hi Cousin Paws! Checking in because it just would not be a new year if I didn't...
I finished a book! Can't remember when I last did that. I was getting to tired of myself still reading the same thing that I just sat down and read for two straight hours until I'd finished it. I don't know how long it's been since I sat down and read for that long. Felt so good.
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
This book has been on my TBR list for a long time, since I saw the (absolutely amazing) Studio Ghibli film a few years ago. And then I saw Neil Gaiman mention Diana Wynne Jones on his twitter and figured that if she's endorsed by Gaiman, I really should get my thumb out of my behind and try reading her probably most famous book.
It's taken me a long time to read this - not the book's fault - and I'm so glad I finished it. It's a great book, where you can't really predict anything that's going to happen and it's quite a wild ride. I would love to read more of Jones's books at some point.
>16 PawsforThought: I haven't watched the film in ages. I really should pull it out for viewing sooner rather than later. Happy to hear that the book is also enjoyable.
>17 MickyFine: I was planning on rewatching it soon-ish, and possibly pair it with a few other Ghibli films that I haven't got around to watching yet.
Since I'm trying to read more poetry this year, I've spent some time this week reading Edith Södergran's Collected Poems. I've always been a bit hesitant to reading Södergran, for two reasons. 1. I'm usually more fond of rhyming poetry and Södergran has neithter rhymes nor necessarily much rhythm in her poems. 2. One of my teachers in upper secondary school - whom I wasn't very fond of - adored Södergran and couldn't stop talking about her.
But there's a new show on TV about poetry that I really like and it's opened up my eyes a bit so I'm diving in, and I'm liking it quite a bit so far. I doubt she'll ever be my favourite, but she wrote some wonderful poems that are just amazing (and profound).
>19 PawsforThought: I'm usually more fond of rhyming poetry and yet another thing we have in common. My major exception is e.e. cummings.
>21 karenmarie: I haven't read enough e. e. cummings to say what I feel about his poetry in general, but what I have read I liked - despite the non-rhymes. They do have a good rhythm, so that helps.
I really should read Howl's Moving Castle. I loved Diana Wynne Jones when I was a kid.
Lord Peter Views the body by Dorothy L. Sayers
Finally! I don't know why this took me so long to read, bcause it's neither a brick nor very slow to read. But I stalled about halfway into the first story and then didn't get anywhere for ages. But once I put my mind to finishing it the pages just flew by.
This is the first Wimsey short story collection I've read and I really liked it. I seems likely that Lord Peter would have a ton of smaller adventures and not just big murder investigations and the like. Not all the stories are as good, but I liked them all and loved about half of them. Obviously, like with most books of this kind, you have to use a fair amount of suspension of disbelief but I have no problem with that.
There are wills gone missing, uncles bequeathing their intesinal tracts to nephews, Lord Peter's own nephew stumbling on a literal treasure hunt, and of course a few murders.
Now, if only there was a publisher who would print these books in a hardcover version with the cover I picked for this post. I'd buy the whole lot in a heartbeat.
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
Where to begin with this one? Waugh doesn't pull any punches and he doesn't spare anyone. Everyone gets their share of ridicule, be it the journalists, editors or revolutionaries. Everyone is either incompetent, clueless or a combination of both.
William Boot, who writes a nature column for a newspaper, gets mistaken for another writer called both and is sent off to cover a brewing revolution in the country of Ishmaelia. Except there doesn't seem to be much of a revolution happening, and even if there was, Boot - whose packing took up so much room it has to have a separate cab - wouldn't know how to either spot it or report on it. But somehow, he manages to do it anyway.
I've always wanted to be the kind of person who reads a lot of poetry, but never really got there. Every time I see someone in a TV show reading or reciting poetry I get a little bit jealous. I'm not new to poetry but I'm fairly ignorant when it comes to Swedish poetry and poems/poets that aren't the best known.
Poetry wasn't prioritised when I was at school and I can really only think of two times when we really talked about poetry (each time about a week's worth of lessons, so maybe 2,5 hours per time, 5 hours in total). Not enough to get you to learn much and certainly not understand much. So it's not just me that's bad at reading poetry, but I think the nation as a whole is fairly bad at it.
So I was intrigued when I discovered a new TV show about poetry. It lets a group of (musical) artists choose a poem by a Swedish-language poet and put music to it, which they then perform live. It's the kind of thing that can go really wrong, and I wasn't expecting anything good when I started watching but I should have had more faith because I loved it. Not every song was amazing, but they've all been at least "pretty good". And learning more about something is always great.
One of the first poets that was covered was Edith Södergran, who I've always been way of because a teacher I didn't like adorded her. So I picked up her collected works and read it all. And I liked it. I preferred her early poems to later ones (her first collection is the best) because she got more religious as she got older and that's just not my thing.
Edith Södergran was a Finno-Swedish poet born in Russia to a Finnish family and wrote her poetry in Swedish. Yes, it's a bit complicated. She was born in 1892 and died at the far too young age of 31 (in 1923) of tuberculosis, which she'd contracted in her teens. She was one of the first modernists in Swedish literature and as such has had a big influence on the literary scene, though primarily after her death.
She wrote five volumes of poetry, the last of which was collected and published posthumously.
* Dikter (Poems)
* Septemberlyran (The September Lyre)
* Rosenaltaret (The Rose Alter)
* Framtidens skugga (The Shadow of the Future)
* Landet som icke är (The Land That Is Not)
My favourites are probably "Stjärnorna" ("The Stars") where a star falls into the poet's garden and fills it with glass shards (beautiful imagery) and the probably most famous of her poems, "Vierge Moderne" ("The Modern Maiden"), which is essentially a feminist anthem. (Vierge Moderne's opening line is "I am not a woman. I am neuter.") I posted them both below. I can't seem to find an English translation of Vierge Moderne online, but some of her other poems (including The Stars and "A Wish", which is quoted above) can be found here and here, if anyone's interest has been piqued.
När natten kommer
står jag på trappan och lyssnar,
stjärnorna svärma i trädgården
och jag står i mörkret.
Hör, en stjärna föll med en klang!
Gå icke ut i gräset med bara fötter;
min trädgård är full av skärvor.
(When night comes
I stand on the steps and listen,
stars swarm in the yard
and I stand in the dark.
Listen, a star fell with a clang!
Don’t go out in the grass with bare feet;
my yard is full of shards.)
Jag är ingen kvinna. Jag är ett neutrum.
Jag är ett barn, en page och ett djärvt beslut,
jag är en skrattande strimma av en scharlakanssol...
Jag är ett nät för alla glupska fiskar,
jag är en skål för alla kvinnors ära,
jag är ett steg mot slumpen och fördärvet,
jag är ett språng i friheten och självet...
Jag är blodets viskning i mannens öra,
jag är en själens frossa, köttets längtan och förvägran,
jag är en ingångsskylt till nya paradis.
Jag är en flamma, sökande och käck,
jag är ett vatten, djupt men dristigt upp till knäna,
jag är eld och vatten i ärligt sammanhang på fria villkor...
>24 PawsforThought: So glad you liked the Peter Wimsey short stories. They are definitely a mixed bag.
My Sayers stuff is a hodgepodge of mass market paperback, hardcover, and multi-novel volumes. I'd like to have them all the same, too.
>27 karenmarie: Yeah, they were a mixed bag, but I think the quality of the "worst" ones was still high enough.
I really don't like paperbacks, because I feel lilke they fall apart at the seams if you just look at them, so I avoid buying them (except for books to read while travelingl, there I have different priorities). But publishing houses don't seem to think people want quality books anymore, just cheap ones (though paperback prices have shot through the roof, I think).
I can't think of anything Sayers wrote, fiction-wise, that I dislike except The Five Red Herrings. I will read it as part of my year long DLS fiction read, but it will only be the second time as I have started and abandoned it several times over the years.
I don't like mass market paperbacks any more either. Few stand even a reasonable test of time. Hardcover is my first choice, then a good trade paperback. I use my Kindle about 5% of the time on average and have been trying to use the library more to save money.
>29 karenmarie: Guess I should be prepared for when it's time for me to read The Five Red Herrings and not expect as much as I usualy do from Sayers.
I nearly always go to the library first when I want to read something. It's partly for financial reasons (books are expensive!) and partly just that I don't want to buy thing unless I know I want to keep them. And with books you can't really know that before you've read them. There are a few expections when I do buy the book "unread", but they're pretty far between. I don't have a Kindle, but do read e-books on my Ipad or laptop when I can't get hold of a physical copy.
Oops! I didn't mean to comment on a book you hadn't read - I apologize - guess I should have paid more attention. However, I just looked and every other novel on LT has a higher rating than its 3.62.
And,any book by Sayers is heads above the best of many authors, in my opinion, and I'm going to go into this reading of it with a totally positive attitude.
>31 karenmarie: No worries, you didn't spoil the plot so I don't mind you commenting.
I added some info about Edith Södergran and a photo to my post about her and her poetry from the other day.
Next I'm going to be reading some Edna St. Vincent Millay.
>26 PawsforThought: The TV show sound good, Paws.
The last two years I try to read some poetry, I managed to read 16 poetry books in 2017 and 17 in 2018. We have a lot on the shelves, as my husband collects some poets, and awarde Dutch poetry.
>34 FAMeulstee: It was really good. I hope they make a second series, but I don't want to set my hopes too high.
Good of you to read over 30 poetry books in two year - a lot more than most people, I'm willing to bet, even here on LT.
I've read about one poetry book a day for the past week or so, but they haven't been big tomes but just small ones of up to ≈100 pages.
I think the only poetry books I have on the shelves is a Dorothy Parker collection I stole from my dad. My local library has quite a few good poetry anthologies that I look through to get inspired, and then I read most of the works online.
The next poet in my poetry reading "project" is Edna St. Vincent Millay. I was somewhat acquainted with her and her poetry already, as I've read some of her most famous shorter works before and loved it. But that was really just scratching the surface, so I've done something of a deep-dive. I didn't read all her poetry, because it's not easily available in Sweden, so I only read the the full first poetry collections, as they were available online.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay (St. Vincent was her real, actual middle name) was an American poet and playwright who was born in 1892 and died in 1950, after having a heart attack that led to her falling down the stairs. Millay was a bit of a powerhouse, very respected in her own time - winning the Pulizer Prize for Poetry in 1923 - and a very staunch and outspoken feminist.
One of my favourite podcasts, Stuff You Missed in History Class, did a two-part episode on Millay that you should definitely listen to if you're interested. (Part 1 and part 2)
A lot of her poems, at least the ones I read, were concerning loss, particularly the death of a lover. There are poems dealing with fantasies of how she thinks she'd react if her love died, poems about continuing to live after someone's died, discussions on burials, and more.
But there are also more lighthearted and cheerful poems like "Recuerdo", about staying up all night (being "very merry", which I assume means drunk) taking the ferry back and forth until the morning.
Millay wrote both longer and shorter poems, and while most of them where rhyming and in a more traditional rhythm-scheme, some of them were neither. I did generally prefer the shorter ones, because I have a tendency to get a little lost when reading longer poems and forget what I read, and the ones with rhythm and rhyme are undoubtedly easier to read, I think.
It's a shame poetry collections of a certain age are difficult to find in shops today - it's nearly always collected works, and I'd really like to have Millay's works in their "intended" editions.
Millay was very productive and published a tons of works, including prose and plays, and her poetical works include the following:
* Renascence: and Other Poems
* A Few Figs From Thistles: Poems and Four Sonnets
* Second April
* The Harp-Weaver, and Other Poems
* The Buck in the Snow, and Other Poems
* Fatal Interview
* Wine from These Grapes
* Conversation at Midnight
* Huntsman, What Quarry?
* There Are No Islands, Any More: Lines Written in Passion and in Deep Concern for England, France, and My Own Country
* Make Bright the Arrows: 1940 Notebook
* The Murder of Lidice
* Mine the Harvest, A Collection of New Poem
My favourites were "Alms" from Second April, and "Sonnet III" and "Sonnet VI" from The Harp-Weaver, and Other Poems. I've posted the two sonnets here below. The quote at the top is the entirety of the poem "First Fig" from Few Figs From Thistles: Poems and Four Sonnets
Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
Give me back my book and take my kiss instead.
Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,
“What a big book for such a little head!”
Come, I will show you now my newest hat,
And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!
Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.
I never again shall tell you what I think.
I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
You will not catch me reading any more:
I shall be called a wife to pattern by;
And some day when you knock and push the door,
Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows it boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers
"Unpleasantness" is the understatement of the year - though that's of course the point, because that's the way Lord Peter Wimsey and his ilk talk.
One of the older members of the Bellona Club, which Lord Peter is a member of, is found dead. That in itself isn't surprising since he wsa elderly and had heart problems, but things get a bit murky when it turns out that his sister dies the same day and the question of who died first is of outmost importance for determining who inherits what.
And then it turns out that old man Fentiman's death might not have been so natural after all.
I keep loving these books, and my enjoyment of Lord Peter has yet to diminish. The mystery in itself isn't the most exciting, and I have to admit I didn't quite follow when they figured out who the guilty person was and how they knew that. But it's still a fun read, and we get to see plenty of Bunter - at least in the first half of the book - which is always a great thing.
>36 PawsforThought: I wish I were a better poetry reader. I just can't get myself to concentrate on poetry unless it is very literal - and of course the best poetry tends to be symbolic. I know practice will make me better, but I can't even concentrate on short stories for some reason. You'd think I'd better be able to concentrate on short snippets than longer books, wouldn't you?
>38 The_Hibernator: I completely understand what you mean about being able to concentrate better on longer books. I have a tendency to "space out" a bit now and then when I'm reading, and longer books can allow for that without making you completely bewildered and lost, but if you do that with shorter stories you've missed to much. And re-reading isn't always fun.
This is really an attempt to make myself a better poetry reader - I never really was one before (except for a period in my teens when I read almost all of Shakespeare's sonnets). I'm enjoying it so far, and not only am I a better poetry reader than I gave myself credit for, I'm also enjoying more poems than I thought I would - even those that aren't really "my style".
>36 PawsforThought: I am definitely intrigued. I may have read one or two of her poems in anthologies, but she’s never been on my radar before. Thank you for the information about her and reproducing her poems here. I love rhyming poetry much better than non-rhyming poetry, and those two sonnets really speak to me.
I have nothing by her, but perhaps something in an anthology. I'll have to look. I do have Nancy Milford’s biography of her, unread, given to me last summer by a friend. I may try to get to it this year.
>40 karenmarie: Hi Karen! Ooh, you should definitely have a look around and see if you have anything by her in an anthology. She had such an amazing way with words.
The biography looks good. i haven't read it, but I probably should. Millay led a very interesting life, so I'm sure it's a riveting read.
>42 PaulCranswick: Yeah, she really had a way with words. I don't know if it's just her or if poetry (especially the rhyming "classic" type of poetry) in general is neglected nowadays. Most of the time I hear about poetry it's more modernist stuff and poetry slams and such.
Today (February 22) is Edna St. Vincent Millay's birthday. Happy Birthday Vincent!
Have any of you seent he trailer for the new BBC series of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials? I caught it accidentally on Sunday (the day it was released) and have to say I think it look really good. I'm looking forward to watching it. It has James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda!
>41 PawsforThought: I will see if there's anything by her in the Poetry section of the upcoming Friends of the Library sale.
The next poet is Sweden's pride and joy Gustaf Fröding - who was, among many other things, an incredibly interesting person, and another instance in the apparently ongoing series of "poets who died before their time" (3 out of 3, so far).
I was well aware of Fröding before this, he's one of Sweden's literary greats, but I hadn't actually read much of his poetry. My preconceived notion was that he was a bit of a 19th century frat boy, which isn't far off, but he was more than that.¨
The quote above comes from the poem "Idealism och realism" (Idealism and Realism) and means something like "Rubbish is rubbish and snuff is snuff, even in golden boxes, and roses in a cracked jar are are roses anyway."
Gustaf Fröding was born in 1860 to parents who both suffered from mental illness and would die fairly early. Sadly, Gustaf inherited whatever "nerv problem" his parents had had and spent a lot of time in hospital as a result. He died in 1911, at age 50, from a combination of alcoholism and diabetes.
I've read five of his poetry collections these past couple of weeks, and the subject matters seem to mostly be nature (hardly surprising as he lived in the great era of romantic nationalism), the realities of life, and philosophy.
He was a very productive poet, despite his health issues and short life, and published numerous collections of poetry, including the following:
* Guitarr och dragharmonika: mixtum pictum på vers
* Nya dikter
* Räggler å paschaser på vårat mål tå en bonne
* Enoi, enoi
* Räggler å paschaser på vårat mål tå en bonne: boka numra två
* Stänk och flikar: dikter (tredje samlingen)
* Fyra dikter
* Nytt och gammalt: dikter (fjärde samlingen)
* Gralstänk: ett dikthäfte
* Reconvalescentia: Gustaf Frödings sista dikter
I really enjoyed reading his works, even if some of them were a bit of a slough to get through. The poems that are more philosophical (questioning the excistance of God and talkign about myths and fables) are mostly very long and have a complicated rhyming scheme which threw me off a little bit. And those subjects aren't as interesting for me to read.
What I loved most was the poems about nature and the ones describing how people in 19th century Sweden really lived. Sweden was a 3rd world country then and many lived in misery, which he expertly portrays. He is also one of the most poetic poets I've ever read. He was an expert word smith and there is a ton of playing with words in his poetry (adding syllables to words but still making it clear what the word is, repeating prefixes or suffixes, etc.)
My favourite poems are "I skogen" (In the Forest), "I ungdomen" (In Youth), "Min stjärnas sånger" (The Songs of My Star), and "Variatio" (Variation).
One of his most famous works is the erotic poem "En morgondröm" (A Morning's Dream), the publication of which led to Fröding being procecuted for obcenity - but he was acquitted. Fröding doesn't mince his words and flat out describes intercourse in the poem, so I'm not terribly surprised about the trial.
Another of his most famous poems is "En kärleksvisa" (A Love Song) which I've copied below. It's an excellent example of both his realistic view of life and his way with words. The English translation is quite good.
Jag köpte min kärlek för pengar,
för mig var ej annan att få,
sjung vackert, I skorrande strängar,
sjung vackert om kärlek ändå.
Den drömmen, som aldrig besannats,
som dröm var den vacker att få,
för den, som ur Eden förbannats,
är Eden ett Eden ändå.
(I purchased my love (how dearly!)
For money — what else could I get?
O jangling strings, sound clearly
The theme of my love-song yet!
For the dream, though the truth were vanished,
Was the princeliest dream I could get,
And for him who from Eden is banished
Is Eden an Eden yet.)
Gustaf Fröding is perhaps the poet in Swedish history whose work has been most interpreted by musicians (not counting Carl Michael Bellman and Evert Taube who wrote their own music).
One of the most recent examples is the band Mando Diao, who made a concept album of sort a few years ago - where all the lyrics were Fröding poems (or parts of them). I really like that album and if you want to listen to an example, this is the lead single "Strövtåg i hembygden", with lyrics from the first part of the poem with the same name. The video has English subtitles.
Mrs McGinty's Dead by Agatha Christie
I thought I had run out of "regular" Christie mysteries (Marple or Poirot in a small town and the murderer is the one you least expect, etc.) and only had the "different" ones left, but apparently not. This is a fairly typical Poirot mystery, apart from the fact that a suspect has already been found guilty in court and sentenced to death. And instead of just figuring out who could have killed Mrs McGinty, Poirot tries to find out if the suspect has been framed or is really guilty.
I quite like this one - I wouldn't say it's one of Christie's strongest ones, but it's on par. I did have some difficulty keeping track of who everyone was, but that's not a big problem.
>39 PawsforThought: I read a book of Keats' poetry once and really enjoyed it. I was very surprised that I could. I'm probably a better poetry reader than I think I am, like you.
>49 The_Hibernator: Oh, good! It's really nice to realize that you enjoy something more than you thought you would. It's like a different side to your personality you didn't know you had.
I've read some Keats before, but really not much. I will definitely get to him at some point in this project.
Okay, friends, I need some help.
The Good Omens miniseries has been popping up all over my social media (no wonder since I follow Neil Gaiman) and it looks pretty amazing and has made me really interested in reading the book.
So I'm planning on reading Good Omens sometime fairly soon (which isn't saying anything when it some to me, but probably during the spring, as long as I get somewhere with the books I'm currently reading) and after that I thought I might try something else by Terry Pratchett. Discworld, primarily. The problem is - I don't know where to start with him. I tried reading The Colour of Magic a few years ago and never really got anywhere but I was in a weird place reading-wise so I don't think it had anything to do with the book and Pratchett's writing. But he wrote so very many books and as far as I can tell, the Discworld books aren't neccessarily best read "in order". So what order do I read them in?
Those of you who have read Discworld, suggestions, please!
>53 MickyFine: Thank Micky! I'll have a good long look at that guide and see if I can make a decition on where to start.
>54 PaulCranswick: I usually read series in chronological order too, but I've heard ans read several people say that that's not necessarily the best way to read Discworld, and since I didn't really get anywhere with The Colour of Magic I think they might be right.
I've seen a few people (on here, I think) recommend that the witches series is a good place to start, so I might go with that.
I'm so sick of the snow now. It had started to melt and it's been around 0C for about a week straight now so we're all ready for spring, but it just keep snowing. Today is the third time in the past week that we've had "very heavy snowfall", and they've even issued a level 2 warning (out of 3) for heavy snow. Might be reissued as a level 3 if there's more snow that they've predicted.
Sigh. I just want it to melt.
>58 PawsforThought: Hang in there, Paws. Spring is coming, I promise.
We're in the gross, slush and puddles during the day, icy after dark phase at the moment and more and more brown grass and leftover gravel is on display. Not as pretty but at least it's a sign spring is coming.
>59 MickyFine: Yeah, that's the kind of weather we're having too, except topped with fresh snow. I honestly have no problem with slush, because it means the snow is on its way out, but it's not exactly a pleasant period of the year. It's just disheartening when you thought you were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and then it goes dark again.
At least it's warmer now than it has been, which means I'm not freezing as much. For someone as cold-blooded as me, winter is just a big of wooly jumpers.
>61 PaulCranswick: Thank you, Paul. I'm around, just not reading or posting much.
The new treasure hunt is up and the theme is books and libraries, for (American) National Library week. I had some trouble with two of the clues, but got help and now have all 13. I love the hunts, and would gladly have one every week if I could.
>63 PawsforThought: I'm impressed - I've only gotten 5 but haven't looked at hints yet.
>64 karenmarie: I didn't think I'd be able to get as many as I did without help. I think I might have been helped by my recent binge-watching of Only Connect - a brilliant UK quiz show.
Well, I had promised myself I wouldn't borrow any more books from the library until I'd finished at least one of the books I have on loan already, but I just broke that promise. I didn't have any poetry books borrowed and it's been a month since I read any poetry so I felt I needed to borrow soemthing. That doesn't explain why I borrowed TWO massive tomes, but oh, well.
Today's been really good. I took my borrowed poetry to one of the good coffee shops in town and sat down for half an hour with some nice coffee (I can't remember the last time I had coffee), a lovely cardamom bun and the collected works of John Keats. It was just what I needed.
And then after I cam home and had dinner I did what I often do and checked out the NYT archive crosswords and one of them was Lewis Carroll themed. So lovely.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I'm not quite sure how I've managed, but despite having dedicated the past decade or so to mostly reading "the classics", and genuinely liking the Jane Austen books I've read (and yes, binge-watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series on more than a few occasions), I had not only not read Sense and Sensibility until now, but also never watching any part of the movie or managed to find out anything about the storyline other than that it's about two sisters.
I actually listened to this on audiobook, which I don't usually do, but I've been running low on podcasts and I wanted to be able to read even when I couldn't hold a book, so audiobook it was. It was a free version available on Spotify and I wasn't too keen on the reader at first but she grew on me.
It's a lovely story, but I don't think it's quite as strong as Pride and Prejudice (though better than Mansfield Park, which so far is my least favourite Austen). The story is similar to other Austen books - young women of marrying age and with excellent manners, fall in love, have obstacles and heartbreak, and finally have happily ever afters. Austen is as always a master of implying things while not actually saying it "out loud" - she's the 19th century queen of sarcasm.
>67 PawsforThought: This and Persuasion are my favorite Austen books. And I love both the movie with Alan Rickman, and the lesser known BBC miniseries. Though the miniseries makes it into a melodrama instead of a comedy.
>68 The_Hibernator: I didn't actually know there was a BBC mini-series of this one. I knew of the movie of course, even though I haven't seen it (I probably should). Amazing cast.
Melodrama, huh? Hmm, the book sort of straddles the line between drama and comedy (dramedy, I suppose) so the film/TV versions ought to follow that. The P&P adaptions managed that well - both the mini-series and the Knightley/Macfadyen film.
Yeah, the BBC version inserted some melodramatic scenes that didn't occur in the book.
>67 PawsforThought: While I like Sense and Sensibility, I prefer Mansfield Park. As for the movies I much prefer the movie with Alan Rickman than the BBC miniseries on this one. There is a later version of Mansfield Park where Jonny Miller plays Edmund, I much prefer that movie to the BBC one also.
>71 fairywings: I didn't really like Mansfield Park at all when I read it, but it was a long time ago and my opinion of books I read at that time in my life has sometimes changed (I detested Jane Eyre back then but thought it was pretty good when I re-read it some years ago). Might be something I re-read later so check if my opinion has changed.
I haven't read Sense and Sensibility in forever, but watch the movie with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman at least once a year, usually with my daughter.
>74 karenmarie: It's been on my "I should have read this already" list for ages, but somehow I never got around to it. But when I saw it in the list of audiobooks I thought it'd be a good one to try out. I really ought to watch the film - so many great actors! - but the thought of Alan Rickman still breaks my heart. Maybe in the summer.
My dear kitty (who we usually just call Kisse (Kitty), or Kurre (which is a play on the Swedish word for "purring" because goodness, can he purr!)) just gave me the biggest fright.
Those of you who hang out at Karen's thread (karenmarie) might have seen me posting about kitty not being well. He's been really not himself all winter and just getting worse and worse - tired, greasy fur, not as social, not as thick a winter fur, not eating as much, drinking TONS, peeing tons, etc.
So we took him to the vet about a month ago and he was diagnosed with cortisone-induced diabetes (he got a long-term cortisone shot in the autumn for a skin issue). The vet thought the best thing - since twice-daily insulin shots is not a viable option for us, either financially or psychologically (kitty would not be happy having to get shots) - would be to put him down. We decided to wait a little, but I mentally prepared to have to say goodbye.
I read up on cortisone-induced diabetes and learnt that it fairly often resolves by itself when the cortisone is no longer in the body so we decided to just wait and see. Either he'd get better or he'd drop dead. He seemed to get better. He ate more, slept less, cleaned himself more (and his once-silky smooth fur is now almost back to what it used to be), drank and peed less, cuddled more and even started hunting a bit again (he hasn't done that since at least October). So we thought he was getting better.
And then he threw up yesterday. Which happens, and normally I wouldn't blink because outdoors cats throw up sometimes. Usually it just means he's eaten a bird or mouse and got worms. I couldn't see any, though, but throught not much more of it. But then he threw up again today. And my heart skipped more than one beat.
One of the symptoms for ketoacidosis is vomiting. And ketoacidosis basically means death for a cat. So I - again - started to mentally prepare for losing him.
And then I saw a worm. I've never in my life been happy to see a worm, but I could have cried with joy. I'll swing by the pharmacy after work tomorrow and get him some de-worming meds. Little secretly-mouse-hunting devil that he is. I might just get to keep him a while longer.
Oh Paws, how scary! And if it's just worms, hooray.
Our Coco had diabetes and we couldn't afford the shots and weren't going to go to extraordinary lengths. My husband's boss has a kitty who's just been diagnosed with diabetes and is being told that it will be $1500/month for the insulin. Of course they can't afford it, and are looking at sad times ahead too.
>77 karenmarie: Yeah, I've been on edge for weeks - it's very scary. I really do think it's *just* worms right now, because he seems so healthy and happy otherwise. Lots of energy, very social, great appetite - and if he was going into ketoacidosis he should be the opposite of that. So I think, and hope, that we're okay for now. Of course, we have no idea what his blood sugar levels are and he could be at death's door without us knowing (his blood sugar levels were multiple times higher than then should when we went in last time). But we'll let things be and hope for the best.
Diabetes in animals is crazy expensive, and even if we had the money it wouldn't work for us - or him. There's no way we'd be able to give the shots on the right shedule - or make sure he eats at certains intervals (we travel, have other people look after him, and sometimes have him in a cat kennel if there's no other option and he's out and about at all hours of the day).
Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
Yet another brilliant visit to the world of Lord Peter Wimsey. This time we're introduced to Harriet Vane, who I already knew would become a recurring character and play a big part in the following Wimsey books. She's been accusted and stood on trial for murder, and only manages to - temporarily - avoid being hanged because of a hung jury. A new trial is set and Lord Peter Wimsey, who is convinced that Harriet Vane is innocent, has only a few weeks to prove who the real murderer is.
It seems impossible, because all the evidence points to Harriet Vane, and any other possible suspect seems to lack both motive and opportunity. But not even impossibilities have a chance against Lord Peter Wimsey. Especially when he's fallen in love.
Wimsey is greatly helped in this book by some of his helpful "cattery"-women, namely Mrs Murchison and Ms Climpson. Their part in both the murder investigation and the book itself are really quite big and important, and I was very pleased to see how well-fleshed out their chracters are and how much time we get to spend with them.
There's of course also the wonderful Mr Bunter, who get to display his newly learnt skill of arsenic detection and is also apparently an expert at making Turkish coffee.
Nice review, Paws. Are you going to dive into another Wimsey or Wimsey/Vane soon? If so, what's on your radar?
The Five Red Herrings was next up in publication order, too, so it's also my next one.
But yay for Agatha.
The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
Anne Beddingfield, daughter of the recently deceased professor Beddingfield, decides on a whim to spend the entirety of her paulty inheritence on a ticket from London to Cape Town, when she unexpectedly is caught up in a murder mystery and sets her mind on finding out the truth.
I really liked this book at first, Anne is a confident young woman who isn't afraid to do what she wants (now that she's able to) and if that happens to be solving a murder then so be it. I did think her character changed quite drastically towards the end of the novel, and not for the better. There is an intentional mirroring of Anne's favourite cinema adventures series (The Adventures of Pamela) and her own life, which I understand but doesn't work well for the book or Anne's personality. She becomes boring and stereotypical when she was neither at the start.
Still, I liked it enough, and Anne's friendship with Mrs Suzanne Blair is a great example of female friends.
Sorry I've been a bit absent in the past week. I went to visit my brother's family for a few days, and spent one day with my best friend and her family. So there's been decidedly less time online (I brought my ipad but never even took it out of the bag, and the only time I spent online apart from checking tube, bus and train times was scrolling Twitter while on public transport). I spent nearly the whole train journey - both there and back - reading, and thus managed to finish one of the books I borrowed from the library on Friday (see the post above this one). And I spent most of the time there reading Barbapapa and singing Baby Shark.
I was hoping to get some shopping done while I was away, because there's just so much more in Stockholm than there is up here, but nothing in the fashion world really stood out to me. So instead I bought some tea (which I always do when I'm down there) and a book for the nephew (one of Neil Gaiman's Chu books, because you need to start the indoctrination early) and a book for me (Good Omens, because the edition was so pretty I couldn't stop myself - I really hope I like the Discworld books because all of Terry Pratchett's novels were available in the same edition and I want them ALL).
Look at them:
I did my book shopping at the SciFi bookshop, which is one of my favourite haunts in Stockholm and one of the places I ALWAYS go to when I'm there. If you like books you should really go visit if you're ever in Stockholm - especially if you'er into science fiction, fantasy, horror or any kind of comic books/graphic novels. They have so much great stuff. Both in Swedish and English. And not just books but movies (I think games too) and of course lots of accessories and tchotchkes. I was this-close to buying a gorgeous and adorable plush Totoro, but it was really pricey and I couldn't justify it to myself.
But now I'm home again (and have to work again tomorrow, sigh). There'll be more mystery novels, poetry and fantasy epics and fewer toddler classics.
The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie
This is a collection of short stories all featuring Mr Satterthwaite in the "detective role", who manages to figures out the mysteries with the help of the eponymous Mr Harley Quin, who works as a sort of catalyst. I don't think this is a particularly well-known Christe (there rarely are unless it's Poirot or Marple), but I quite liked it. I liked Mr Satterthwaite and his love of the arts. As with all short story collections, there are hits and misses in this. Sadly, the one I liked the least was the last one.
There is a reference's to Wagner's Ring Cycle in the book, and as it happend I'd lsitened to a podcast episode about Wagner and the Ring Cycle earlier this week so was familiar with the story - if I hadn't I wouldn't have understood the reference. I love when things like that happen.
Deep, deep, sigh.
Why does life have to seemingly conspire to make me want to read books I don't have time to read?
All week I've come across things that have made me go "Oh, I should really read that. It'd be a great book (or series of books) to read this summer". Except that summer is only so long and I couldn't possibly read them all even if I acquired some form of speed-reading skill and could read several books a day. But I keep adding these books to my "summer reading list". I'm incorrigible.
And then to top it off, I was listening to a podcast about The Fellowship of the Ring (the movie), which made me want to watch the film because it's been ages since the last time. So I did, and now I want to read the books again. Because I've only read them in Swedish, and it'd be nice to read them in English, or maybe the new Swedish translation, because I've only read the old one and that was quite bad.
My first thought? "It'll be a perfect summer read!" Sigh.
>87 MickyFine: You're evil, Micky!
I've thought a bit about it, and I think I'm going to let myself dig into this "summer readin list", IF, and only if, I can finish one on the big tomes I have at home before summer starts (which I count from the end of the school year, so about 4 weeks from now). That should be doable, but you never know with me.
>88 PawsforThought: Enablers gotta enable.
Sounds like you've got a good reward program set up for yourself. Good luck with the tome!
>90 karenmarie: Yeah, some of these books are ones I'd never heard of before making my list of all Christie novels.
I do hope I can make some headway in the tomes I have at home, but it's not going terribly well. I am reading, just not enough. I'm actually considering abandoning A Storm of Swords because I have SO MUCH of it left and it feels like I'll never get through it. And while I've liked reading it (and the previous books), I never really feel like picking it up and continuing.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
This book has taken me about two years to read. I'm not sure why, really, other than I've been in a reading funk for a lot of those two years and reading a massive tome like this when you're struggling to read *ANYTHING* is tough. I like Neil Gaiman - scratch that, I LOVE Neil Gaiman. He's amazing, and I really liked the book. And I like mythology so it ticked a lot of boxes but it took me a long time to finally get to the end of it.
I'm glad I stuck t it, despite the work it required. It's a really interesting book, and like with most everything Gaiman writes (at least his grown up books), you can never really know how things will end, which is quite refreshing.
I do think I would have gotten even more out of it if I'd known more about the different mythologies and gods that we meet in the book. Obviously, I'm very well acquainted with the Norse pantheon (they taught us that in first grade) but a lot of the others were unfamiliar or just barely familiar to me and since I'm the kind of person who always wants to know as much as possible about everything not knowing who they were and what they were - even if it didn't impact my ability to understand the plot - was an annoyance. So I guess before I re-read this I'll just have to make a deep dive into Native American, Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Hindu, Russian and Chinese mythology. And a few others.
Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (The Moomins and the Great Flood) by Tove Jansson
I was absolutely certain that I'd read this book a few years ago, but I don't remember the storyline so I suppose I must have just decided to read it and then not got around to it.
The story revolves around Moomintroll and his mother who have left their old home behind a masonry heater and are looking for a new place to live, but they not only have to get through a dark and dangerous forest (were they meet Sniff - though he's only referred to as "the little animal" in this book), go across a stormy sea and make it through a huge flood. And were is Moomintroll's dad? Has he survived or has the flod taken him?
Like everyone else of my generation (and a few before) in Sweden, I grew up with the Moomins. I don't think my parents ever read me the books, but the comic strips were usually in the papers and I did watch the TV cartoons.
I've heard and read comments from people from other countries - especially the US - that they think the Moomins are too dark or weird or unsettling. I think that is were the fundamental difference between Nordic people (and Europeans more generally) and Americans lies. The feeling in these books that people seem to have difficulty with is melancholy - there is TONS of melancholy in the Moomin books - and that's a common thread in a lot of Nordic literature, and Finnish especially (and music too).
Well, I did it. I finished one of my big tomes (American Gods) and I'm now allowed to read all those books I've been itching to read since I was clearing out at work. It's mainly children's books so should be fairly quick and easy reads, and I've read many of them before, albeit many years ago now. I'm really looking forward to a summer of light and easy reads. I still have one of my bog tomes left (I decided to give up on A Storm of Swords) - so if I want to bite into something a bit more challenging I can always pick up War and Peace. I was contemplating a re-read of The Lord of the Rings, too, but we'll see how I feel when I get closer to my vacation time.
Katitzi by Katarina Taikon
I'm re-reading some of my childhood favourites this summer and this books, the first in a series about the Roma girl Katitzi, is the first one out.
I read several of the books in this series when I was around 10-11 (though I can't remember exactly which ones I read) and adored them. While they're definitely quite romanticized, they were a great way for me to learn about Roma people and their history and situation in Sweden.
Katitzi is a seven year old Roma girl in Sweden during World War 2, and has been living in an orphanage since her mother died. The orphanage is run by two women who are portrayed as very good cop-bad cop and Katitzi has both friends and enemies among the children. But one day, her dad shows up to take her home to her family again, which results in quite a culture shock since Katitzi has gotten used to the non-Roma way of living and has pretty much everything about her real family and their Roma life. But with the help of her sisters Rosa and Lena, she gets re-familiarized with their life - both the good and the bad things.
Katarina Taikon was one of the most famous Roma people in Sweden, and this series of books, based on her own life, is the main reason for that fame. She was also an avid proponent of human (and in particular Roma) rights. She sadly died at too young an age. Her sister Rosa was a famous silversmith.
Hi Paws, glad I found your thread again.
I love the Moomins. If they are dark, it's not the kind of dark I have problems with, there is plenty of light in there as well.
Hurray for finishing a big tome! Lighter reads are the thing for the summer.
>96 EllaTim: Glad to have you here, Ella.
I agree that there's a balance between the melancholy and the lightness in the Moomin stories.
I was very happy to have finished that big book. It had been weighing pretty heavily on me for a while now. It's nice to start summer with nothing hanging over you and tons of light, easy reads ahead.
Kometen kommer (Comet in Moominland) by Tove Jansson
Somethign strange is happening in Moomin Valley. There's a weird feeling in the air and a mysterious dust covered everything after the rain. The muskrat claims it's all because of the comet that is on it's way, and that when it comes, it'll be the end of the world. Could it really be? Moomin and Sniff decide to go to the observatory to find out, and they have a great many adventures on the way, and meet lots of new friends, including Snufkin and Snork Maiden.
This was both full of adventure and full of more philosophical thoughts - most of them coming from Snufkin. I'm really enjoying getting to spend time with Moomin and his friends (though my favourite character - Too-Ticky, won't make an appearance for a few more books).
>99 The_Hibernator: Hi Rachel! Yeah, they're lovely. They remind me a bit about the creatures in the Studio Ghibli films - like Totoro and the like, or rather those creatures remind me of the Moomins, since I've known the Moomins much longer.
Josefin (Josephine) by Maria Gripe
Josefin is a six year old girl whose real name is Anna, but she feels like she hasn't quite grown into that name yet, and has put it into her closet for now. She is the daughter of the local vicar and is a very lonely child, since her parents are both very busy and all of her siblings are much older and have all moved away from home. Josefin sometimes says and does things that don't seem so bad in the moment but that upset people a lot and have big consequences - like when she just wanted some fabric to make butterflies out of but then her sister got upset that she'd cut pieces out of her bridal veil.
Maria Gripe was one of the greatest Swedish children's authors of the past century, and was one of my absolute favourite authors as a kid. A lot of her books for slightly older children have just the right amount of thriller and eeriness for a children's book. I was overjoyed to find out that most of her books have been republished with slightly changed covers. The cover illustrations are still the same as in the older, classic, editions (most of Gripe's novels were illustrated by her husband Harald), but the fonts have been changed to look the same on all the books. There are still a few that haven't been given this treatment but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll get there, too. It'd be amazing to have them all in these lovely editions.
This is the first in a trilogy of books about Josefin and Hugo, who are not quite like the other kids in the village. The books about Hugo and Josefin were Gripe's big breakthrough, and followed by a string of successful books, including the shadow-series, the Elvis-series, the Nightdaddy books, the Stairs-books, The Glassblower's Children, Agnes Cecilia and my favourite - Tordyveln flyger i skymningen.
An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo
Michael Morpurgo is probably best known for writing (the very excellent) War Horse. This is also a story about war, and also about an animal. This time the story is set in WW2 Dresden, where our narrator (Elizabeth) lives with her family. But when the bombs start falling and never stop, they flee the city and they take with them the elephant Marlene, whom Elizabeth's mother has been working with at Dresden Zoo. And so begins the long and arduous journey away from the burning remains of Dresden and towards safety.
This was a lovely book, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a children's book (somewhat older children, around 10-12, I'd say) about WW2 generally or the bombing of Dresden in particular. There are of course scary and horrifying parts in it, but it's kept down so it doesn't become a difficult read. And it has a happy ending. (Sorry about the spoiler, but it IS a children's book.)
Hugo och Josefin (Hugo and Josephine) by Maria Gripe
It's finally time for Josefin to start school. She's been waiting for so long and has high expectations. But when she gets there on the first day nthing is right. Her teacher doesn't look the way teachers are supposed to look (and Josefin knows this because she's seen a picture in a weekly magazine), and the kids won't let her join in with them. But one day she meets Hugo, a classmate who doesn't care about what other people think and who doesn't have time to get to school on time in the mornings because there are plants to look at and wooden trolls to carve.
The way this books describes how children think and act is just superb. Josefin's experience with her classamtes not approving of her because her things (or she herself) are just not quite *right* are painfully similar to how my own experience in school was - no wonder I adored this book when I was a kid. It's not just bullying and the difficulties of making friends, there's fun and lighthearted things too (like eating everything on the menu at the fancy restaurant in town (except the fish because you don't have to eat things you don't like at restaurants).
Toro! Toro! by Michael Morpurgo
Antonito is a boy living with his family in 1930's Spain. The family are cattle farmers and primary raise bulls for bull fighting. Antonito is present at the birth of the calf he names Paco, and gets to hand-rear him when Paco's mother dies. But soon he's forced to stop, because you can't have a tame bull fighting bull, and when Antonito realises just what bull fighting means, he swears he'll run away and take Paco with him. But then Franco's regime arrives with both bombs and machine guns.
This is an incredibly difficult theme for a book aimed at somewhat younger kids. Not only is the subject of bull fighting difficult enough, but paired with civil war (and a massacre), it's not for the faint of heart. Morpurgo doesn't beat around the bush, but we never get to see any of the horrors up close. It's a very good book, though because of the intended reader age (and thus the brevity of the book) you don't get as much of a story as you might have otherwise.
>102 PawsforThought: This looks like a book I'd like to read. Children do like to read about difficult subjects, but there should be some positive element as well, like here the elephant and how they try to take care of it.
>107 EllaTim: It was a lovely book and I would definitely have liked it if I'd read it when i was in the intended reader's age.
Reading about difficult topics is one of the ways children learn how to handle and process the difficult things we experience in life, and that's probably one of the reasons children like books with difficult topics. But of course, it can't just be doom and gloom, because then we don't know how to handle it - it becomes too much. It's the same with adults, really. We need a glimmer of hope to be able to handle really tough scenarios.
Hugo by Maria Gripe
This is the last book ni the trilogy about Hugo and Josefin. This time Hugo comes back to school after having been absent for a long time - because he's had more important things to learn about, namely spiders. And then a new girl starts at their school, but she's different from the other children and doesn't seem to want to make any friends, not even when Hugo and Josefin are invited to her house.
All the books about Hugo and Josefin are great, and there's a lot of philosophy in them - especially coming from Hugo, who has his own way of thinking about the world. This one might have the most Hugo philosophies of them all, and I greatly enjoyed the way he (and his dad) compared humans to spiders.
Trolltider by Maria Gripe
Every Saturday Ulrika is given a bag of sweets by her parents (Saturday sweets is a Swedish national institution) but it goes missing almost immediately, without Ulrika having even had a taste. It turns out that the bag has been nicked by a small troll called Kleva who justifies the theft by reminding herself that humans get tooth ache from eating sweets but trolls don't so she's really doing Ulrika a favour. And then the sweets go missing again.
I remember this book so clearly from when I was child - not just because it's another Gripe classic. Children (at least in the region where I live) are given books from the local library when they reach certain ages (right now it's newborn, 3 years and 6 years, I think it was similar when I was a child but I only remember the last one). When my class at school marched off to the local library to get our *very own* library card we were also given a copy of Maria Gripe's Trolltider (also called Godispåsen - the bag of sweets). I was scared of trolls as a kid so barely dared to open it but the story is very sweet and I did like it once I plucked up the courage, and I still like it today.
Trollkarlens hatt (Finn Family Moomintroll) by Tove Jansson
After a long winter's sleep, Moomin, Snufkin and the other inhabitants of Moominvalley wake up to find that spring has arrived. Moomin and his friends decide to walk up to the high hilltop so they can be the first ones to reach it. But when they get there they find a black hat - the magician's hat. And mysterious things happen to things that are palced in that hat, which Moomin learns when he hides in the hat during a game of hide and seek.
The moomins are as lovely as always, and have several little adventures that are mostly tied together with the frame story of the magical hat. We're introduced to a few more classic characters, including the hattifatteners (some of my favourites - and the episode where the hattifatteners turn electric because of a thunderstorm is one I remember clearly from the TV series, it was quite scary), Thingumy and Bob and the very frightening Groke.
Both troll books look lovely. I've never seen a tv-series with the moomins, but I do remember a comic series. Definitely prefer the books though.
How nice to be given books from the library. Would have liked that custom as a child!
>112 EllaTim: Yeah, it's a nice thing to do, and obviously it's good for the libraries too, because it get parents to take their kids to the library, which might make it a habit eventually.
>114 karenmarie: Oh, that's really good. Getting children into libraries is so important.
The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo
This story is not really about Adolphus Tips, but about his owner, Lily and her life during WW2 in Devon, England, as the village her family lives in is evacuated because the military needs to use it to practise for the invasion of Germany and D-Day. But just as Lily's family are packing up all their belongings to move to her uncles house, her cat Tips goes missing.
This is a sweet story that deals with the realities of war when you're not actually at the front. Lily and her family and friends are greatly affected by the war even though they are neither invaded nor bombed. It's a good way to show that war affects everyone, not just those on the front lines.
And the love Lily has for her cat Tips is one I think everyone who's had a pet can feel.
Flamingo Boy by Michael Morpurgo
Vincent decides to go on a sort of pilgrimage of sorts to Camargue in France, after nearly being killed by having a painting by his namesake Vincent Van Gogh fall on his head. since the painting was from Camargue he decides he needs to see it in real life. Once there, he meets Kezia, a Roma woman, and Lorenzo, a man ho is “not like others” and can seemingly speak to animals. They grew up together there during World War 2 and the Vichy government and all the dangers that meant for the both of them.
I like how Michael Morpurgo writes about parts of war and other historical events by shining a light on people and places that don’t always get their stories told otherwise. It feels as if most stories about France during WW2 are set in Paris during the occupation or dealing with Jewish people. This book lets you learn about both the situation in Southern France and the dang result that both Roma people and those deemed “unwanted” (such as Lorenzo and his probable developmental issues”). It’s a lovely story and Lorenzo and his love of both the Camargue flamingo and Kezia’s family’s carousel warms the heart. And there is also a reminder that even people who are the enemy can show kindness and humanity.
You are still going strong with the Michael Morpurgo books.
I just finished War Horse, and liked it very much. Still my favourite remains Private Peaceful, also set in WW I.
>118 FAMeulstee: Yeah, I have a whole pile of them at home. I read War Horse some years ago (when I was in the midst of a WW1 reading phase) and thought it was lovely. All the Morpurgo books I've read have been lovely, actually, and I'm really enjoying this deep-dive. I also read Private Peaceful, but don't actually remember much about it.
Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo
One day when Alfie Wheatcroft and his father are out fishing mackerel in the waters outside the Scilly Isles they hear a strange sound, like someone is crying. The sound comes from the deserted island St Helens, once used to quarantine plague victims. But the person crying isn't a plague victim but a sick, starving and terrified girl. They have no idea where she comes from and the only word she says is "Lucy" so that's what they call her as she's allowed to recuperate at the Wheatcroft home, but she never talks and doesn't seem to remember anything about who she is or where she comes from.
This book is of course mostly about Lucy - her story both before and after being talken in by the Wheatcrofts, and Alfie and the family. But it's also a story about life on the Scilly Isles, life during World War 1, the importance of music and friendship, and the good and bad that humans are capable of.
It's a really lovely story, and I always like when stories set during wartime don't demonise "the other side" but instead humanise them.
The only thing I didn't care much for was the post-script, but it doesn't really have any impact on the real story so you could just ignore it.
Muminpappans memoarer (The Exploits of Moominpappa) by Tove Jansson
During a bout of sickness when he's feeling rather miserable, Moominmamma encourages Moominpappa to write down his memoars. And since Moominpappa thinks he's very interesting and that his life has been very exciting and full of adventures he wants to tell people about, he does. So we learn the story of Moominpappa, from being found wrapped in a newspaper on the steps of an orphanage, through running away, making friends and having adventures (primarily at sea on the river boat named) and up until he meets Moominmamma.
Like the other moominbooks, this is a sweet story full of adventures, big and small, weird nd wonder creatures and, primarily, friendships. The main difference between this and the previous books is that it's written from the point of view of Moominpappa who thinks very highly of himself - to the point of hilarity. Many of the characters in this story are ones we don't see much of again in the books series (that I'm aware of), but some, like Little My, are here to stay.
Ture Sventon i London by Åke Holmberg
In this the third story of Private detective Ture Sventon (Tam Svenson in English translation) he is contacted by a Lord Hubbard of Park Street, London, because something strange is happening in his house. There are strange men popping up claiming to have fixed a non-broken telephone and plumbing, and a pair of shoes sticking out from under a pair of curtains. Ture Sventon thinks the infamous villain Ville Vessla might be behind it.
I read the first two Ture Sventon books a few years ago and meant to keep reading, but never got around to it. I'm glad I picked this one up because these stories are fun. Sure they're full of stereotypes (they've been criticised for that), but they're completed intended and so exaggerated that they're part of why the stories are funny.
Shadow by Michael Morpurgo
Aman lives with his mother and grandmother in war-torn Afghanistan, where the Taliban are still very much in control of things. To avoid being arrested and tortured by the police, Aman and his mother start their journey towards a safer life, in England. It's a long and dangerous journey, but they have a friend with them, the loyal and ever helpful dog Shadow.
I didn't like this one quite as much as I have the other Morpurgo books I've been reading, and I'm not really sure why that is. Maybe because the subject matter is still "ongoing" and it's difficult to really capture the feelings involved without sounding preachy. It is a really important subject and the book *is* good, it just didn't speak to me the same way Flamingo Boy did, for instance. I'd still recommend it.
>123 PawsforThought: Hi Paws. Yes, sometimes it's difficult to say why a particular book doesn't grab you as much as others by the same writer. This was of course one of Morpurgo's later works?
>124 EllaTim: Yes, it's from 2010, so fairly new. But several other books of his that are newer have appealed more to me (The Elephant in the Garden is also from 2010, and Flamingo Boy is from last year). It's possible that I just prefer when there's a wider gap between the time the storyline is set and "now" (both the now in the book and now in real life).
Billy the Kid by Michael Morpurgo
Billy, a elderly gentleman with the aches and pains that come with age and a hard life, sits on a park bench and watches a group of kids playing football. One of them reminds him of himself when he was young and he starts to tell the story of his life, of his football prowess as a child, how he got to play for Chelsea when he was still only a teenager, and how he join up and served in WW2 with all the horrors that brought.
This is such a lovely story. I wasn't expecting to be so moved by it because football isn't really my thing and WW2 is always horribly depressing (as it should be, of course). But I was really drawn into this story and loved to read about Billy's life. I especially liked the little interjections where he breaks out of his story and comments on things happening "now" (the kids playing football, a squirrel begging for food, etc.) - it really worked well with an elderly man narrator.
The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo
Bertie Andrews is young boy who lives with his parents on a farm on the south african veld in the very early years of the 20th century. One day he sees a lioness with a cub at the watering hole near the farm - it's a white lion cub. When the mother is killed, Bertie decides to take the lion cub in and raise him. But they are both getting older and when Bertie is sent away to bording school in England, the lion is sold to a circus.
This is a book about friendship, both between Bertie and the lion (which reminds me a great deal of the story of "Christian the lion") and between Bertie and the narrator of his story, Millie. I was hoping there would be more of the story set in South Africa, because it's not a very common locale in the books I usually read. Most of it plays out in England, though. There is a bit of a supernatural element to the end of the book, which I'm not too keen on. I like supernatural fiction just fine, but not when it makes a random appearance in a non-supernatural story.
The illustrations (by Christian Birmingham) in this book are very pretty - black and white ink drawings.
Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton
Instead of going to a seaside town wit their parents for the summer holiday like they always do, Julian, Dick and Anne are sent to stay with their aunt, uncle and cousin. Their cousin Georgina, who prefers to be called George, isn't particularly friendly at first but it doesn't take long before they're all friends, and on a trip out to George's very own island in Kirrin Bay to check out the old castle ruins, they make an incredible discovery, one that is also dangerous.
I devoured the Famous Five books when I was a kid, and I can still see why. No, they're not great literature, and they're definitely both formulaic and full of stereotypes, but they're also fun and the adventures are just exciting enough. They are a product of their time and should be read as such.
I read that people have complained about the constant eating in these books, which I'd honestly never have notised if it hadn't been pointed out, but I quite like those parts. Food is a great way to learn about history and culture, and the cousins gorging on sandwiches and sponge cake is fun to read about.
>128 PawsforThought: And didn't they use to drink ginger beer? I didn't have a clue what that could be, but it sounded wonderful.
>129 EllaTim: They probably did. I'm reading the Swedish translations, in which they (at least in this one, it might be different in other ones) drink Pommac - a classic Swedish fizzy drink/soda, that is mostly used as a festive non-alcoholic alternative to champagne and other sparkling things. Pommac is one of my favourite fizzies; I don't really drink anything carbonated nowadays but if I would, Pommac would be high on the list.
A Young Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov
A young doctor - only just graduated from medical school - is sent out to work at a in a small hospital days away from civilization and in the middle of the Russian nowhere. He is terrified of having to perform surgeries he's not familiar with and frequently makes dashes up to his lodgings to double-check with his medical books about diagnoses, treatments and surgeries. It's (at least partly) based on Bulgakov's own life as a young doctor, and is full of the kind of humour Bulgakov was a real master of.
I watched the mini-series based on this short story collection (with Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm) a couple of years ago and loved it. For some reason I was still wary about reading it, because I didn't want to not like the book. But I did like the book - and I can't really understand why I thought I might not.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Six years ago, most of the members of the Blackwood family died after having ingested arsenic that had been put in the sugar. The only family members still alive are Mary Katherine - our narrator - who had been sent to bed without dessert, Constance, who didn't put any sugar on her berries and was put on trial - and declared not guilty - for the murders - and the frail uncle Julian who nearly died from the poisoning and is now working on his memoirs. They still live in the family mansion but are shunned by nearly everyone in the nearby village - something that neither helps or is helped by Constance's fear of being around people and thus sending her younger sister to do the few errands the have in the village.
And one day it all changes.
I picked this up because I'd watched (and loved, and rewatched) the Netflix mini-series of Hill House, and my local library had (as a result of said series) bought a new copy of both this and Hill House, so I borrowed them both. It's a strange book. It took me a while to understand how old Mary Katherine was, because her thoughts are so childish you think she'd be much younger. It's classified as a horror book but I wouldn't call this horror. It's eerie and tragic, but I didn't think it was really scary. Still very good, and an interesting psychology. If you're looking to be frightened, this is not the book for you.
Crooked House by Agatha Christie
The very wealthy Aristide Leonidas has died, and not only that, but he's been murdered. The police are called in and it just so happens that our narrator Charles is not only the hopeful future husband of old Leonides's granddaughter Sophia, but also the son of a Scotland Yard officer, and so helps the police figure out who the killer might be.
I'd never heard of this Christie before picking it up at the library, and I can't say I think it's one of the best, but it's a bit different from her usual style and that's always interesting. The characters aren't the best, though, and I can't say I cared all that much about any of them.
I've been a bit absent in the past couple of weeks. It's not another reading funk, though I'd read less than in May and June, but my brother and nephew have been visiting and it's difficult to get much reading time in when there's a very high-energy three-year-old around. They've gone back to theirs now, and it's very quiet all of a sudden.
At least I can read a bit more now. I have a whole bag of books from the library and am partly through some of them already.
>134 PawsforThought: Nice, a family visit, and a three year old nephew. A fun age. So you have to get used to the quiet again.
>135 EllaTim: Three is a very fun age, he's understanding things now so you can really talk to him. Unfortunately he also has his own opinions on everything including how (not) dangerous things might be. So it's been a very hectic two weeks. But lovely, of course.
Cool! by Michael Morpurgo
Ten-year-old Robbie is in a coma after a car accident where he was trying to stop his dog from running into traffic. Robbie narrates what it's like being in a coma (he's mostly bored and irritated that he can't wake up) and listening to his family and friends doing what they can to help him wake up and gaining and losing hope along the way.
This was a fairly interesting read and would probably be a pretty good way to explain the concept of being in a coma to a younger reader. I did get a little irritated at Robbie's constant use of the word "cool" and absolutely understand why his mum kept telling him off for using it.
>132 PawsforThought: I've added it to my wish list. Sounds good.
Happy quiet and reading!
The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
This is a collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories (the last of the SH short story collections) where Holmes and Watson investigate all manner of crimes, from stolen and broken statues to missing letters of a sensitive international political nature. And a handful of murders, of course. All of whom are cleared up with the help of the ever-genial Holmes.
I haven't been reading Sherlock Holmes in order. I did read A Study in Scarlet first, but after that I'm mostly just read them in the order I've either had them available at the library of (in this case), which of the audiobooks downloaded fastest. This was a perfect book to listen to, because the stories are short enough that you can finish listening to a complete story while doing a (longer) chore or on the bus, and the narration by David Clarke (it's a Librivox book) is really good.
A Dog's Heart by Mikhail Bulgakov
Street dogs in Moscow don't have an easy life, trying to find food in trash bins and constantly being abused by the people living in the city. But one day, one of the dogs - called - gets taken in by a renowned surgeon and suddenly is taken care of and gets to eat the fanciest food. But there's always a but, and after some time, the surgeon and his assistant perform a very experimental surgery on and the results are shocking
You never know what to expect with a Bulgakov, because his plots can't be expected, and this is no exception. It makes you wonder what on earth was going on in Bulgakov's head, and reminds you of how fine the line between genius and madness can be, because this is both.
It is a marvellous satire of Bolshevism (Filip Filippovich Preobrazhensky's hatred of Comrade Schwonder is great fun), and also of the delusions of grandeur or the medical community at the time. I read that this is seen as an allegory of the Communist revolution, which makes absolute sense, but I didn't think about that while I was reading - too busy with the madness.
Kaspar: Prince of Cats by Michael Morpurgo
Young Johnny Trott works as a bellboy at the fancy Savoy Hotel in London, where one day the duchess Kandinsky and her cat Kaspar check in. Johnny quickly befriends both the duchess and the cat, and that is the beginning of a story that will see both Kaspar and Johnny make friends with the adventurous girl Lizziebeth and travelling on the doomed Titanic.
This is a very sweet story and I really liked both the character Johnny and the cat Kaspar (but I like nearly all cats, so that's no surprise) and the first part of this book is a really good story and an interesting look at life working at a hotel in London a hundred years ago. I wasn't quite as keen on the Titanic part of the book, mainly because I've seen and read so much about the Titanic that I knew what Johnny was saying wasn't really the truth - he claims that no men tried to get into the lifeboats early and they were all helping with the lifeboats. No mention of the third-class passengers (of which Johnny was technically one) being stuck under the deck. It's a bit too rosy when I think most people know that's not how it was. But I guess a child who hasn't learnt much about the Titanic might not pick up on those things.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Maisie Dobbs is a a combined detective and psychologist who is just setting up her own firm in 1920's London. She is helped by the eager and kind Billy Beale, and quickly starts to see clients, partly thanks to her old benefactor Lady Rowan and her former mentor Maurice Blanche.
This seemed like it could be the perfect book for me: detective fiction - check, female sleuth - check, historical London - check. I was hoping it'd be like a more toned down Phryne Fisher. It's not. On the whole, I found the book rather "meh". It starts out with Maisie setting up shop at her new office, get a client with what turns out to be a fairly non-mysterious mystery, then we get Maisie's entire history - taking up just under half the length of the book, and finally, with less than 100 pages left (closer to 70) we get something of a mystery but we don't really get to find out any details until it's all solved.
And the author's insistence on mentioning in every major event during WW1 annoyed me - it's not likely that someone would know a person involved with every single major event during such a big war.
This could have been so great, but I doubt I'll be reading any more books in this series.
Ture Sventon i Paris by Åke Holmberg
The great private detective Ture Sventon is hired to investigate a new and curious case - the wealthy Mrs Smith from Chicago (who owns stocks) wanted to buy a small holiday castle in France, but after she paid the realtor a down payment of a million francs, both he and the castle disappeared!
Sventon uses both his wit and many excellent disguises (including a French mustasch) and gets some extra help from his trusted friend Mr Omar.
This is an excellent book, and if it hadn't been for an instance of blackface and some usage of the Swedish version of the "n-word", it'd be my favourite Sventon book. This book was meant to be republished (like the others have been), but the association that owns the rights to the book didn't want to change the "n-word" for "black" and the publishing company refused to publish it with the old text. Åke Holmberg seems to have been a very nice man, and I doubt he would mind the change of word. It's not in any way important to the storyline.
I read We Have Always Live in the Castle last year and I just loved it! Wished I'd saved it for October for my book club instead of choosing The Haunting of Hill House, which, by comparison, was only okay, I thought.
The cover of Kaspar is so sweet. I am such a sucker when it comes to an appealing cover and an appealing cover with a cat is so hard to resist.
A Dog's Heart is going on the wishlist for sure.
This is not the first time I've run across your feelings about Maisie Dobbs. Makes me very glad that I bought my copy at a library book sale and paid just a few dollars for it.
Must have been nice having your brother and nephew for a visit and the return of quiet time for reading equally enjoyable, I'm sure.
>141 PawsforThought: I have that one in the house somewhere, Paws, and will get to it sooner now.
>144 Fourpawz2: Sorry to hear you weren't as fond of The Haunting of Hill House as We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I've just started on The Haunting of Hill House, so I hope I like it better than you did (the beginning is good, at least).
I really like the cover layout for the Morpurgo books genreally It's a good style choice, works both with the books for younger kids and the older ones, and I always like it when books by the same author have the same style. And pretty kitties on the cover is never a bad thing.
I liked Bulgakov immensely before reading A Dog's Heart and A Young Doctor's Notebook, but he just keeps affirming his place among my favourites every time I read something else by him.
I really wanted Maisie Dobbs to be better than it was.
It was a real treat to have my two favourite boys here for two whole weeks. Nephew is the sweetest kid, and very affectionate. But getting my quiet time back is much appreciated.
>145 PaulCranswick: Do read it - I'd love to know what you think of it.
The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie
The masterful Hercule Poirot has started to think about retiring and spending his time growing peas. He's reminded of the labours of his namesake Hercules and decides to take on cases that can be his "labours" - a great way to end a long and successful career. The cases he takes on are not the typical murders and jewellery thefts (though there is some of that), but range wildly - from dognapping to art theft to pure gossip.
I enjoy reading crime short stories, and while this was genreally good, it wasn't one of my favourite Poirots. There's nothing wrong with it, and some of the labours are really good mysteries, but I did think the references to Hercules were a bit so-so and some of the adventures were not as good.
>146 PawsforThought: I still want to read one of Shirley Jacksons books. Will wait and see what you have to say about them.
>147 PawsforThought: I must have read this one as I recognise the title, but can't remember any of it. Usually I like her novels better, there's more room for the plot to develop, and one gets to know her characters better.
>148 EllaTim: Yeah, that was one of the issues I had with The Labours of Hercules - you didn't get to know the characters very well. Also, because of the shortness of the story, you don't have as many characters so it's much easier to guess who the guilty person is.
Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers
Lord Peter Wimsey is up in Scotland for a little holiday, in an area where the two most popular past times are painting and fishing - both of which will play an important part when one of the local artists is found dead in a minnoch, and it turns out to be murder. Wimsey helps the local police work out who could and couldn't have been involved, which is not an easy task considering several suspects are missing and others have very strong alibis.
This is the Wimsey novel I'd been warned about before reading - the "worst" one and one people would never re-read. I can't say it's my favourite one, and there are definitely too many place names, train times tables and witness testimonies to make it an easy read, but I thought it was okay. A map of the area with the place names in question marked out would have been very helpful. And maybe I'm a bit biased, because I love trains (to the point where I've actually written to a train museum to ask about an old times table) and the task about painting made me want to dig out my mother's old watercolour palette.
So while I would read this again, I'd do it with a map of Dumfries and Galloway nearby.
Also, I really, really love these covers. I wish they were available for hardcovers - if they were, I'd buy them all in a heartbeat. So pretty, and so perfect for Wimsey.
His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
This is another short story collection featuring the ever-genial Sherlock Holmes and his constant companion Dr. Watson. In this collection they face the disappearance of submarine plans, a wealthy woman seemingly going up in smoke, a human finger being sent in a cardboard box and a woman dying and her two brothers going mad at a family dinner - among many other adventures.
I didn't like this collection as much as I did The Return of Sherlock Holmes - the stories aren't as strong or as entertaining in this. And the last story, the eponymous His Last Bow, was the weakest, I thought, which is sad, since it's a farewell between Holmes and Watson.
The best story I thought was The Bruce-Partington Plans, a tale of international espionage and important papers that had gone missing. We get to meet Holmes's brother Mycroft who is the one to ask for Sherlock's help. Also good was The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax.
Ture Sventon i Stockholm by Åke Holmberg
It's just before Christmas and jeweller Henrik Eriksson has a very peculiar problem. Someone has broken into his family's flat, but the only thing missing is the keys to the flat itself - not the keys to the jewellery shop below. He contacts the masterful private detective Ture Sventon to see if he can help. And Sventon immediately realises that it's the work of the infamous Nickel Silver Gang.
Another fun one. I really like Holmberg's cool and calm sarcasm, which just makes everything that happens even more funny. When describing the street where Sventon has his office - Drottninggatan, the biggest shopping street in the whole country - he says while a few of them are there to do some shopping, almost everyone is there to see Sventon. And he goes into detail about the usefulness of a Santa suit when doing reconnaissance in December.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Dr. Montague has decided to conduct and experiment and have a few people stay in the supposedly haunted Hill House, where he can monitor what happens and how they feel. He invites a group of people to join him and three of them arrive: Theodora, who only goes by that name; Luke, the heir to Hill House; and Eleanor, whose mother has just died after Eleanor took care of her for over a decade and who is now ready to feel free for the first time. Hill House is a strange place where no one feel comfortable and all the angles are off - and it doesn't like to let people leave once they've come there.
Shirley Jackson didn't write typical horror novels. They aren't scary in the way that scary movies are scary, with jump scares and lots of action. This is quite the opposite - very little happens at all to begin with, and you only get a feeling that something isn't right. Actually, no real "action" happens at all (and by that I mean haunting-wise) until more than half way through the book. It's a very understated kind of horror, where the scary things are hinted at and a lot of it is purely psychological. I really liked this book, but I would understand why some people might not "click" with it.
Ture Sventon och Isabella by Åke Holmberg
Circus Rinaldo are about to have a great gala premiere for their new show - full of fantastic new performances, the greatest of which is the horse Isabella, a fantastically beautiful horse performing with Miss Rita (real name Vanja Gustafsson, the wife of the ringmaster). But just as the performance is about to begin, Isabella goes missing. Ringmaster Max Rinaldo (real name Erik Gustafsson) contacts the great detective Ture Sventon to help find her.
Another fun Sventon-adventure. This is one of my favourites, I think. Not quite as good as the London book, but on par with Stockholm (this one also takes place in Stockholm, btw). The sarcasm is superb (Sventon listening to the ringmaster bragging about the trapeze artists not using a safety net and thinking to himself that it's very cheap of them, but "they probably don't make enough money to buy one").
This is one of the Sventon-books that haven't been republished because of a use of the "n-word", which the publisher wanted to remove, but the rights holders (the Authors Association) refused. I completely agree with the publishers in this case, but I'm sad they can't work it out.
>153 PawsforThought: Hani has been reading it, Paws, and definitely finds it scary. She won't even read it in the dark and didn't take it with her to the UK as she couldn't face reading it alone!
>155 PaulCranswick: Really? Well, eeriness can certainly be scary, and way more unsettling than more typical jump-scare horror.
>142 PawsforThought: I read Maisie Dobbs and had the same reaction as you did – won’t read any more of them. I had a quibble you didn’t mention – anachronisms – which irritated me.
>150 PawsforThought: I’ve never seen those covers before and must admit that one is appealing. Glad the trains and painting made this a good’un for you.
>153 PawsforThought: I don’t have that one on my shelves and have only ever read The Lottery, but do have a volume with 3 novels and 11 short stories that I might poke around in sometime this year.
>157 karenmarie: Ooh, I might not have notised the anachronisms because I, ehm, didn't quite pay attention enough. Which anachronisms did you spot? I did think there were some things that didn't match up regarding Lady Rowan's son and also about Simon and Maisie, but thought I might just have misunderstood or misremembered.
I haven't read The Lottery, but I'd like to get to it. It's not available at my local library and I wasn't wowed enough to go out and buy her novels, so I'll keep an eye out for if they become available at the library or online.
The Fatal Eggs by Mikhail Bulgakov
After having been interrupted by his assistant while adjusting a microscope, Professor Persikov (of the Zoological Institute in Moscow) makes an incredible discovery - a red light which seems to be some form of life-giving ray that not only makes the professor's amoebas and frogs go through their life cycle several times faster than normal, but also makes them more agressive.
Elsewhere, a mysterious form of plague strikes the Soviet poultry population. These two events will lead to horrifying and devestating consequences.
Bulgakov was a genius, there's absolutely no doubt about that. And while this story wasn't one of my favourites of his, that has more to do with my dislike of reptiles and amphibians than it does his writing. Persikov is a fantastic main character, and the depictions of Soviet bureaucracy is as sharp as a knife and absolutely hilarious - especially the naming and evolution of the different government departments. With every book of his I read, I am less and less surprised that he was in trouble with the bureaucrats - they don't come out of it looking good.
>160 The_Hibernator: Ooh. I'll have to see if I can get hold of it somehow.
Black Coffee by Agatha Christie & Charles Osborne
In this novelization of a play, Poirot is asked by the brilliant physicist Sir Claud Amory to come to his country house and try to figure out who in Amory's household is trying to steal an important formula. But Poirot doesn't make it to Amory's house before Sir Claud is murdered.
This was a pretty good Poirot, though I didn't particularly care for any of the suspects, and I tend to enjoy it more when there's someone I'm cheering for (and desperately hoping isn't the murderer). Hastings is a skirt-chasing fool as usual.
>163 FAMeulstee: The Master and Margarita is one of my all-time favourite books. Possibly THE all-time favourite. I'm sorry you didn't like it, but we're all different (and sometimes we come across authors/books at a time that isn't the right time, and a later re-acquaintance changes our views - that's what it was like with Jane Eyre for me). I really hope you do give Bulgakov a second chance and that that chance is rewarded.
Pappa Pellerin's Daughter by Maria Gripe
Loella lives in a cottege in the middle of the woods. It's just her and her two baby brothers - her mother is working at sea and hardly ever comes home, and her father disappeared when Loella was little. She tries hard to take care of her brothers and make sure they have somethign to eat and aren't cold, but it's not easy. She has a bit of help from Auntie Adina, who lives nearby but it's still not enough - one day Child Services come and pick them up - her brothers are placed with a friend of their mother's and Loella is put in an orphanage.
Maria Gripe was a fantastic author, and this book is just as good as most of her others. It's not one of her best know - I was only vaguely familiar with the title and knew nothing about the story before I started reading. Loella is a similar kind of stubborn and obstinate but sweet girl as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden and Anne Shirley of Green Gables - exactly the kind of person I identified a lot with as a child (still do, to be honest). I would have loved this book as a child.
The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle
Holmes and Watson become involved with solving the strange murder of John Douglas, whose widow is behaving very strangely and all of a sudden Holmes declares that there is no way one can solve Douglas's murder.
This isn't a good Holmes story. When you're reading Holmes mysteries you want a seemingly unsolvable murder, amazingly solved by the genius of Holmes's mind. While we do get some of that, there's hardly any effort put into the mystery part of the bit and once that's solved, which is less than a third of the way into the book, we're taken to a small mining town in Colorado and spend the rest of the book getting to know a rogue charter of freemasons.
This topic was continued by PawsforThought's reading in 2019, part 2.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.