Book review, Traditional Art, Travel

Easter in Norway

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Norwegian Easter Traditions

Easter is a time when Norwegians head for the hills, or in Norway’s case, the mountains.

Most families have a cabin they own in the ‘fjeller’ – or mountains, decorated in traditional Norwegian ‘Hytte’ style. ‘Hytte’ means cabin, plural ‘Hytter’, in Norwegian.

Hytter are timber cottages decorated with Norwegian crafts such as Traditional Rosemaling Art, woodcarving, weaving and embroidery, with mostly rustic interiors, fitted with benches topped with reindeer furs, (sitteunderlag), and other traditional furnishings.

Norway
Tradition Norwegian embroidery decorates the windows

Norwegian ‘Hytter’ Mountain Cabins

Hytter, or cabins, are quite rudimentary houses, partly because of the remoteness of their locations and partly due to the Norwegian tradition of getting back to nature. Visiting a family mountain cabin at Easter is a therapeutic time for Norwegians to ski, breathe in the fresh mountain air, relax and for a short time, not rely on everyday modern conveniences.

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Beitostølen

So when I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Hytte in Beito, high up in the Norwegian mountains with Norwegian friends, how could I resist?

The area known as Beito is part of the community at Beitostølen, an elite skiing location where the likes of the Norwegian Olympic ski team spent their time. Norwegian-Australian friends who heard I was going to visit Beitostølen, were quite rightly jealous, reacting with comments like,

“That is where the ski team practice.”

“Do you realize how lucky you are to be going to Beitostølen?”

I did. It was different to any other holiday I had experienced.

Mountain cabin
A Norwegian Hytte

The Hytte at Beito comprised three timber cabins, with adjoining composting toilet and washroom; that would later hold a shower at some point in the future.

The cabins, themselves, were not equipped with running water, so we sponged ourselves using a bucket, with water sourced from the nearby spring. Fetching the water is a chore that would traditionally be delegated to children.

Living as I do in Australia, meant things like fetching water in the snow proved to be a novel experience. I was the first to volunteer for this task as it was another chance to be outside in the hushed, cosy silence of the snow-covered hillside.

If it meant I was to traipse through knee-deep snow to collect water, those mediative moments of silence, amidst the breathtaking mountain scenery, inhaling fresh Norwegian air and hearing only my muffled footsteps, were merely a comforting, restorative practice for me.

snowy mountains
Norway

Norwegian Hytte Meals

Hytter meals are simple, apart from breakfast. The traditional hytte breakfast is a feast of eggs, salmon, cheese, bread, jam and vegetables, such as cucumber and carrot and also perhaps some yoghurt/kefir or waffles. Our bodies needed lots of food, ostensibly, to keep warm and active out in the snow.

Lunch is almost non-existent, but really after the filling Hytte breakfast, who needs lunch? A Norwegian chocolate bar, known as a ‘Quiklunsj’ (Quick lunch), or an apple, would suffice.

Dinner is mostly a laid back affair of home-made soup, cold meat such as lamb or boiled sheep and bread, or ‘Lompe’ – basically a hot dog, with a bread-like wrap made from potato flour, cooked on the outside barbeque or grill, of course.

Things to do at the Hytte

Skiing Bitihorn Beitostolen Norway

We spent the daytime out of doors, unless it was snowing heavily. We skied, tobogganed, slide down snowy slopes with the ‘akebrett,’ a paddle like slide, or the snow bike; walked about in snowshoes, built snow castles, threw snowballs and made plenty of snow angels, and snow “candles,” just because.

Once darkness arrived, it was time to ‘play’ inside, talking, drawing or Rosemaling – another Norwegian tradition, which is actually my great passion. If it was snowing hard outside during the day, there would be more Rosemaling as wells as card games or puppet shows, for the children. We read books too, as there was no TV, nor phone reception, unless you visited the grocery store a few miles away.

Rosemalt kubbestol

To get into the full spirit of the Norwegian Easter experience, I read one of the rivetting crime novels from Norwegian crime fiction author Jo Nesbø to complement my surroundings. He is a compelling writer and if you have not come across him before, you can read a Book Review.

The Hytte was good, clean fun and a really healthy, energetic holiday.

Was it cold by Australian standards?

Yes, but did I like it?

Absolutely. I loved it.

Being at the tail-end of a Norwegian winter, the weather towards Easter is generally calm, without storms. After a cold night, the sun could be so warm, my face became tanned!

During these sun-filled days, the Norwegians would enjoy sitting against a sunny wall, their face upturned towards the sky, taking in much needed Vitamin D that their bodies had missed during the long, dark winter. They even have a word for this kind of activity: Solveggen.

Warming the soul and the body!

This is what the Norwegian Easter did for me, too!

Hand-painted-Easter-eggs-from-Budapest

Wherever you are in the world, you can still travel virtually. When are you going this Easter?

In the words of Norwegians, God Påske.

Happy Easter to you and yours.

Linking to Trent’s #Weeklysmile

Easter Holiday Norway Fieldfare CabinNorwegians, Easter, cabins and crime literature belong together like horse and carriage – a tradition that started over 90 years ago. Here you can find out how to celebrate a typical Norwegian Easter.

First: Ensure that you have skis – either bought or borrowed. Also, make sure you have ski wax even if you are not sure how to use it. There is always someone along the tracks that can help a ‘forlorn wretch’.

When it comes to clothing it is important that it has red color, preferably with a home knitted wool sweater that smells of last year’s bonfire.

But wait a minute. If you do not know it already: Norwegians love skiing, especially at Easter, and many go several miles to their cabins where to spend the vacation. Surprisingly many people ski into a different era where outdoor toilet, drafty cabins and totally deserted landscape are considered paradise.

Easter Holiday Norway skiingAnyhow…

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Iceland
Book review, Community

Summer Reading

Summer in Australia, means that many of us can use the excuse of the heat, to relax inside the air-con with a good book, guilt free. And if you are anything like me, it would usually be a good crime novel that you reach for.

As my summer is now over, I thought I’d share a few lesser known authors I read, in particular some Icelandic authors. 

Iceland Thingvellir

Authors from Iceland

One Icelandic author that you may not be familiar with is psychological thriller/crime writer, Arnaldur Indridason. I really enjoyed the tone of his books, particularly how he depicts the cold bleak landscape of Iceland using this to not only to illustrate the tragedy and sadness in the plot, but also to reflect thoughtfully on the past.

It’s easy to feel sympathy for Indridason’s protagonist, when the character reveals the great personal cost of police detective work. Two of Indridason’s books include, The Draining Lake and Tainted Blood which is alternatively: “Jar City” and both give an insight into police procedures.

Jar city is the story of a murder mystery that spans a generation and discusses the implications of inherited traits or diseases in a country where they Human genome project is extremely topical. (The Icelandic genetic pool has, to a large extent, been isolated from external influences). Jar city has been made into a motion picture and the cinematography in certain rural scenes, is absolutely fantastic, as one would expect from a country as scenic as Iceland. And right now, virtual travel is best!

‘The Draining Lake’ delves a little into historical fiction and Icelandic political attitudes during the Cold War era, so it also provided an insight into cultural beliefs of that time. For example, police staff being rung at home by members of the public or getting into political arguments with suspects, seems not to be an unusual occurrence for detectives in Iceland. 

Iceland

One Review states,” THE DRAINING LAKE boasts an interesting and unusual angle, especially for those of us not familiar with Iceland’s recent history. There’s a link to the Cold War and spying, and to the 1950s when idealistic Icelandic teenagers went to study in East Germany. Unlike Indridason’s earlier books, where I never felt much of a sense of place, Iceland and its society plays a more vital role in this book – particularly as the posting from hell for diplomats! “

Suggested reads  by Icelandic authors: Arnaldur Indridason or,  if your preference is not for thrillers/crime, you might like to try Iceland’s Nobel prize for Literature winner Halldor Laxness, whose books are available include, Independent People, The Fish can Sing, Iceland’s Bell and Atom Station. I hope you find these entertaining as Icelandic literature is something well worth pondering over.

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Reading Recommendations

Blogger M-R has just referred me to the Daughters of Time, which I downloaded on the Kindle last night, so I am keen to get started on that book today.

I hope you enjoy discovering some new authors this summer. (Or winter if you are living in the south).

Do you have any recommendations of books you have read lately?

Crime fiction/Historical Fiction/Autobiographies? It matters not the genre.

I would love to hear them.

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iceland
Book review

The Darkest Room – Johan Theorin

Imagine a bitterly cold Swedish winter, on the bleak treeless coastal island, in an old manor house built from the wood of a wrecked ship in which scores of sailors drowned, where one’s only neighbours are 2 lighthouses, one of which no longer works and is haunted. Is there any better location for a thriller/murder mystery?

Iceland

I’d not heard of this author before, but I have had more opportunity to read lately and picked up this Swedish novel, set on the very real Swedish island of Oland, in mythical locations. This is the world that the character, Joakim Westin has recently moved to, with his family of wife and two small children. The grand plans to renovate and rejuvunate the manor house is destroyed when shortly after their move, one of the family drowns not far from the house.

Joakim struggles to come to terms with the death, while others on the island become immersed in a struggle of their own. One is a young female police officer finding her feet in a new beat, and another is a young man involved in petty crimes, who becomes haunted by his the results of his misdemeanors. As Christmas approaches, a sageful relative of the police officer tells of an old Swedish folk tale where the dead come back to visit the living on the darkest night of the year. What does this mean for Joakim, and his family, isolated in the manor house during one of the worst blizzard’s of the decade?

Atmosphere by the bucketload is what you get from Theorin’s spine- tingling novel. Whilst it remains a murder mystery, those who like supernatural touches or ghostly happenings would get their kicks from the story. Theorin weaves a mystery into believable occurrences, yet manages to get the reader to sympathize with the bereaved man and remain hungry for the next chapter.

Theorin also gets into the head of the protaganist and takes the reader on a psychological journey of grief. Themes of retribution/karma also simmer under the surface when it becomes clear what happened to Ethel.

emotion

Despite a head splitting migraine, I was determined to finish the book, such was the effect this story had on me. Be warned….

The good: Dark windswept landscape expertly described. You are there in the blinding snow along with the characters.

The bad:   Would a father leave his children alone?

The ugly:  Depiction of alcoholic tarts…….

Rating out of 10: 9

Vejen, Denmark
Book review, Community

Invisible Murder – Book Review

With the topic of refugees and terrorism very much in the news, this novel by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis, is written for our time and makes for illuminating reading.

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Two impoverished Roma boys are scavenging for something to sell in the ruins of an abandoned Soviet military hospital. Purportedly to improve the lives of themselves and their poverty-stricken families in a rural village of Hungary, one of the boys embarks on a radical plan. Far away in middle class Denmark, Red cross nurse, Nina Borg inadvertently risks her own life and those of her family, to assist a group of Hungarian refugees but little does she know her actions will have disastrous ramifications.

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Source: Economist.com

“Jobbik. It had to be Jobbik, taking to the streets to protest the Jews, Communists and Romas from ‘ruining out nation.’ Lusja straightened herself up pursing her lips as though she had found something disgusting on her shoe. ‘God spare us from any more racist, goose stepping idiots.’ The driver turned in his seat. ‘Jobbik aren’t racists,’ he said. ‘They’re just for Hungary.’ Lusja straightened up in her seat and stared daggers at the driver, 128 pounds of indignant humanism versus 260 pounds of overweight-but-muscular nationalism. ‘And what kind of Hungary would that be?’ she asked. ‘A Hungary clinically scrubbed of all diversity? A Hungary where you can be arrested just because you skin is a different colour? A Hungary where it’s totally okay for Romas to have a life expectancy that’s fifteen years shorter than the rest of the population?’

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Source: Hungarianfreepress.com

A novel that is carefully crafted and well-balanced, allowing you to understand both sides, their personal  motives and furthermore, to feel empathy for the characters woven into the story line: The studious brother who in one brief moment is denied a legal career and betterment for himself, and his family, only because of a racially slanted agenda, his quest to save his wayward orphan brother who, by way of contrast, chooses an extremist, crash-through course of action, and the consequences for each; the innocent bystanders; the well-meaning humanitarians in Denmark, the terrorist thugs and ordinary residents of homogeneous, suburbia integrating with ‘foreigners’.

Are they all helping or hindering the cause? What toll does it take, personally, on those who help the less fortunate, the traumatized, the dangerous, and those on the fringes of society?

In the face of a changing Europe, this Scandinavian novel illuminates some salient points to ponder about inter-related events that shape our modern lives.

Rating 8/10

Other Novels by these bestselling authors: The Boy in the Suitcase

 

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Book review, Community

Strange Shores – Arnaldur Indridason Book Review

 

Iceland

Arnaldur Indridason is one of my favourite crime authors, and when I read novels that form part of a series, I  become quite attached to the characters,  as I did, with Detective Erlendur, in Strange Shores. This is the final book in the Detective Erlendur series, although there is the possibility of Erlender prequels being mooted, across the net, at the moment.

Erlendur,  himself, is a bit of a loner; a somewhat sad character who nevertheless has a keen intellect for solving crime. He hails from a family that has encountered hardship, loss and mental instability, which has been the undercurrent permeating story lines in the series, including Jar City, Hypothermia and Silence of the Grave.

Erlendur has, since he was young, been deeply affected by the disappearance of his only brother, who was lost in a Snowstorm, never to be found. It seems guilt is a driving factor in his inability to emotionally move on from this traumatic event.

Strange Shores wraps up this background story in a surprising way as Erlendur, ostensibly on leave in the East Fjords, becomes interested in the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of a young wife back in WWII, in circumstances similar to that of his young brother, Beggi. The subsequent rumours were, that after Matthildur’s disappearance, she returned to haunt her husband, who then later drowned in a storm. During his leave in the area, of his childhood, Erlendur chats to locals, and discovers that there just might be more to the ghost story than meets the eye.

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Iceland – where nature can so quickly turn ugly

This novel is not what one would call, fast-paced, but it does illuminate life in Iceland in the post war period and the public and private difficulties associated with living in a harsh environment, of that era. I found the splashes of history interesting and especially useful in anchoring the story to make it more believable.

Then there is the way the old Icelandic culture contrasts with the modern innovations of industry in contemporary Iceland and this pivots well with the connections between the old and new story lines.  Indridason’s character portraits are well-developed and the ‘old timers’ literally jump out from the pages with their craggy beards and pointed fingers.

One of the few remaining Icelandic sheep farms

In attempting to investigate and perhaps solve the mysterious disappearance of Matthildur, Erlendur comes face to face with his own demons and, in the process, the reader learns a lot about what drives the detective, as a person. This adds an element of psychological depth to the story that I found highly readable, however, this may not be so much the case for first – time readers, of an Indridason novel, as they would not have formed such a strong bond with Erlendur, as a character, as yet.

There are tragic themes in this novel as well, and it does delve into some of these. Society’s loners, recluses, and those suffering with mental illness feature in this novel, with the added issue of  how that may affect the family as a whole. The resilience of the Icelandic folk is self – evident throughout.

Iceland Hekla
Hekla – Volcano Iceland

Traveling through Iceland in the winter of 2008, I remember encountering the occasional abandoned farmstead, some, such as the one below, that Icelandic folk vehemently claimed, is haunted by ghosts. In the barren and unrelenting winter landscape that is Iceland, where nature reigns supreme and man is simply an afterthought, I don’t for one second doubt that the locals find imaginative ways to explain adverse happening such as the ghost in this story. So, it was with this memory and images in my head that I read Strange Shores, a story so Icelandic, with subterranean spiritual and psychological undertones. A fitting end to the Erlendur series.

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The Good: Visual imagery of the characters and landscapes and how life in Iceland is really living at the very edge of possible human habitation

The Bad: Jacob’s treatment of Ezra and the strange dreams Erlendur experiences

The Ugly: Erlendur’s actions in the graveyard

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Something to Ponder About

Book review, Community, Painting

Proverbial Thursday – Proverbs and Sayings from around the World

I find profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and across cultures, and speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes like proverbs, can make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking.  I hope you will too.

From Africa this week:geranium1

“A building of sand falls as you build it.” – Cameroonian Proverb

Aesop once wrote, “In trying to please all, he had pleased none.”

 

Something to Ponder About

 

Book review

30 Day Book Challenge – A book you hated.

DAY 29. – HUNGER by Knut Hamsun

Hunger is a 1890 novel by Norwegian author Knut Hamsun. Parts of it  were published anonymously in the Danish magazine ‘Ny Jord‘ in 1888.

It is an astonishing book for its time, belonging I think more to the avant-garde modernist writing than to the sometimes considered “proper” late 19th century.  A writer encounters difficulties financially and mentally when he loses his job, and then is left without income for food and essentials in 19th century Christiania, (the former Oslo), where he slowly and agonizingly descends into mental confusion.

George Egerton claims this book is:

“One of the most important and controversial writers of the 20th century, Knut Hamsun made literary history with the publication in 1890 of this powerful, autobiographical novel recounting the abject poverty, hunger and despair of a young writer struggling to achieve self-discovery and its ultimate artistic expression. The book brilliantly probes the psycho-dynamics of alienation and obsession, painting an unforgettable portrait of a man driven by forces beyond his control to the edge of self-destruction. Hamsun influenced many of the major 20th-century writers who followed him, including Kafka, Joyce and Henry Miller. Required reading in world literature courses, the highly influential, landmark novel will also find a wide audience among lovers of books that probe the “unexplored crannies in the human soul”

Notwithstanding the huge body of opinions that this is/was literary genius, I disliked the book, neigh, I hated the book, yet I hung on reading it to the final page.  If I was to read it now, I can honestly say I would never finish it. I found the novel too brutal, raw and dark.  If I wanted to feel utter despair at the world and at the human spirit, I would read it with a passion. But I don’t. Can this really be the role of the writer? To depress readers under the guise of giving them reality, no matter how brutal?

I want my books to be entertaining, to lighten my spirit, to take me to a place where I can momentarily forget the gloom and doom a worldly future might bring. This is not to say that I would read Romantic novels, or smarmy soap operatic stories, rather, I have no patience to be suppressed in the realms of the negative. This is why I hated Knut Hamsun’s book.

But perhaps I missed the point, for there were sections that I admired for their literary power.

“The intelligent poor individual was a much finer observer than the intelligent rich one. The poor individual looks around him at every step, listens suspiciously to every word he hears from the people he meets; thus, every step he takes presents a problem, a task, for his thoughts and feelings. He is alert and sensitive, he is experienced, his soul has been burned…”

But then again, this:

“The heavy red roses smoldering in the foggy morning, blood-colored and uninhibited, made me greedy, and tempted me powerfully to steal one–I asked the prices merely so I could come as near them as possible.”

The sad tale of this writer’s mental demons and his fight to survive without income, in a non-existent welfare state was depressingly repetitive throughout the book, and then one day: (N.B. Spoiler alert!) – he ups and leaves on a ship….. and that’s it? Ummmm, did I miss something? I read pages and pages of long detailed descriptions of hunger, and despair and mental anguish, the complete all encompassing absence of hope,  to reach a point with no closure?????  I felt completely marooned – let down by Hamsun.

Yes, perhaps I missed the point!       – Something to Ponder About

30 Day Book Challenge Update

It has been over 30 days, but I admit that I had reservations as to whether this challenge could be done. Read here

Final day of the 30 day Challenge:
DAY 30. – Book you couldn’t put down.

Book review

30 day Book Challenge – A Book that Made You Laugh Out Loud

Day 26 – Håkan Nesser – The Mind’s Eye

“Van Veeteren was generally able to decide if he was looking the culprit in the eye in nineteen cases out of twenty, if not more.  No point in hiding his light under a bushel.”Birch tree

Such is the wry humour behind Swedish crime fiction novelist Håkan Nesser 1993 novel’s protaganist: Inspector Van Veeteran, (which has been ably translated from Swedish to English by Laurie Thompson), published in 2008.

This novel I have chosen to profile for Day 26, is philosophical at times, due mainly to comments raised by the alleged perpetrator, Janek Mitter’s, (a philosophy and history teacher). Comments which inspire the reader to ponder more about the nature of life and death. This occurs several times throughout the book, and is something rarely found in the crime fiction genre, and therefore, makes this author special.

The story itself, revolves around a disconnected innocent husband (isn’t it always the husband? according to ‘Harry Hole’), who is held to trial for the murder of his wife. He claims he is not guilty, his only pathetic defense is memory loss. In the novel, he wakes with a severe headache and an enormous hangover, and can’t remember any events of the previous night except that he finds his wife dead in the bath tub, (behind a locked bathroom door). Suspiciously, upon finding her, he cleans the flat and to add to his worsening prospects, he ridiculously claims in court, that he “will admit to everything if someone would give [him] a cigarette!

Despite this, Van Veeteran has reservations that he is the real killer and this is confirmed when, a month after Mitter’s imprisonment in a psychiatric facility, he is murdered. The dead wife, a sex goddess type with a dysfunctional family background is another real mystery, and the colleagues at the school where Mitter worked, seemed unwilling to support him in any way so his guilt seems obvious, except that he is also now dead.

“Eva Ringmar turned up in the fourteenth chapter of his life. Between pages 275 and 300, she played the role that overshadowed all others: the priestess of love, the goddess of passion, and then she went away, would probably continue for a while to live a sort of life between the lines, but soon she would be forgotten. It had all been so intense that it was preordained to come to an end. An episode to add to the plot? A sonnet? A will-o’-the-wisp? Finished. Dead, but not mourned. End of valediction. End of contradicton. No doubt this must be the state of shock that was driving his thoughts into such channels. That had crushed and demolished everything, made it impossible for him to grasp what had happened. To grasp what was happening to him….?

Van Veeteran’s tenacity comes from his belief in a “determinant” and this helps him solve this puzzling crime, even in the absence of leads.

It’s an unusual story, solvable but only in the dying pages of the book. The humour is apparent from page 1 and really sets Nesser’s novel apart from other crime writers. One cannot get enough of them, and it comes highly recommended.

If you are hoping to read about the real Sweden in these pages, forget it, as the locations are as mythical as the stories themselves! Still the Scandinavian genre of murder mysteries is evident in the wintry, cold rainy atmosphere so pervasive in this book!

The Good: Humour, in small to moderate doses that compliments the story and the philosophical touches

The Bad:  The frustration a reader feels when one’s instinct tells one that the wrong person will be jailed. And the tragedy that leads to the murder and depressing nature of institutional life.

The Ugly: The meaning of the title?

Rating: 9 out of 10

Here is a list of Nesser’s Van Veeteran series that have been translated, thus far:

1993 The Mind’s Eye translated 2008

1994 Borkmann’s Point translated 2006

1995 The Return translated 2007

1996 Woman with Birthmark translated 2009

1997 The Inspector and Silence, translated 2010

1998 The Unlucky Lottery, translated 2011

1999 Hour of the Wolf, translation 2012

The following are available but am not sure if that includes Australian bookstores at this point:

  • 2000 – Ewa Morenos fall English translation: The Weeping Girl, 2013
  • 2001 – Svalan, katten, rosen, döden English translation: The Strangler’s Honeymoon, 2013
  • 2003 – Fallet G; English translation: The G File, 2014

Nesser is the winner of the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award three times over and a Glass Dagger Award in 2000 for another book in the Van Veeteren series.

Nesser has written another detective series, none of which have yet been translated into English.

I have ordered the two more of his books from Amazon! Does that say something that I am pondering about?

Other entries worth reading:

http://keatspeare.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/30-day-book-challenge-day-26/

Book review

30 Day Book Challenge – Least favourite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise

Day 22- Wordy Title but I get it  and the least favourite plot device is….

Waking up in another person’s body or going forward/back in age in your own body.

You know those stories where the protagonist goes to sleep and dreams he or she is 40, (if they are young), or 16 years old, again, if they are middle aged. When they awake, they realize it is real. They are inhabiting another body.

Stupid, inane, detestable plot device that insults our intelligence. Waste of resources, space and our time.

I will admit to them having a small modicum of entertainment value, and note that they seem to have been used in more American films than I could count. So clearly, some people enjoy this kind of rubbish.

Do you?

Something to Ponder About.

See guidelines and links to previous days of this challenge here

DAY 23. – Best book you’ve read in the last 12 months.
DAY 24. – Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like/liked.
DAY 25. – The most surprising plot twist or ending.
DAY 26. – Book that makes you laugh out loud.
DAY 27. – Book that has been on your “to read” list the longest.
DAY 28. – Favorite quote from a book.

Book review

30 Day Book Challenge – Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t

Day 20 – Harry Potter Series

Okay, I admit it – I haven’t read them!!! My kids have, and I half listened to their reading aloud, in their primary school years, so that counts??? and I read the first three chapters, but that was it.

This series just didn’t grab me like it did the entire population of the Western world.

Perhaps the heady commercialism of it all put me right off.

Perhaps if Harry and Hermione took off to Stockholm or Fjallbacka, I might sit up and take more notice.

Perhaps if I was interested in Twilight, I would like Harry Potter?

I really don’t know what more I can say on this day’s topic.

Oh! And I am not into Twilight either!

Something I don’t ponder about – ever.
DAY 22. – Least favourite plot device employed by way too many books you actually
enjoyed otherwise.
DAY 23. – Best book you’ve read in the last 12 months.
DAY 24. – Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like/liked.
DAY 25. – The most surprising plot twist or ending.
DAY 26. – Book that makes you laugh out loud.
DAY 27. – Book that has been on your “to read” list the longest.
DAY 28. – Favorite quote from a book.

Book review, Community, Food

30 day Book Challenge – Favourite Childhood Book

Day 20 – Winnie The Pooh Series by A. A. Milne

It’s a tad embarrassing but yes, it’s Winnie The Pooh!!!!

The challenge did ask for  the favourite childhood book, as opposed to favourite children’s book. That’s my childhood, right?

All things considered, A.A. Milne had a captive market with me, and his Winnie The Pooh  series. As a child growing up in the sixties, in a lower-middle class family from the “burbs”,  we were far away from being poverty stricken, yet even so, I only had five or six books to my name, (and A.A. Milne was the author of four of them). This was due mainly to my spendthrift father who ensured we utilized the city council library, with its many literary resources,  (costing him next to nothing), as opposed to him buying books, which he clearly considered an extravagance to a child in my era. Geez, we were lucky to get a new t-shirt or pair or socks for our birthdays, let alone something as non-essential as a BOOK!

Thus, I read and re-read those Pooh books over and over, to the point where I could easily recite parts of the ‘hundred aker wood’ dialogue some 40 years later. Eeyore’s depressive comments, Owl’s wise lyricisms, (but incredibly bad spelling), the dopey but lovably loyal Pooh Bear, the neurotic Piglet and the blubbering Tigger were such a delight. I could never forget Rabbit’s attempt to ‘unbounce’ Tigger, or the discovery of the ‘North Pole’ in the flooded river when Pooh was rescuing Roo, nor Pooh getting ‘stuck’ in his quest for ‘hunny’.’

Such was the mind of the 7 year old me that it was a several years before I realized Christopher Robin was in fact, a boy. After all, the book’s illustrations had him wearing some pretty girlish attire to say nothing of his long unruly hair! Every boy I knew sported a #2 crew cut and bat wing ears, so this ‘Robin’ must therefore be a girl!

To say it was my favourite childhood book is a slight exaggeration, as I didn’t really have many other book to compare it too, only discovering classics like Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ when a friend introduced me to that series, years later. (By then, it was too late, I was hooked on the hunt for the ‘heffalump’ and the rest of Pooh corner).

When my own children came along, (being the bookworm that I am), I was determined to create a mini-library in their bedrooms, but the world had significantly changed and Pooh Bear had long been supplanted by the likes of Mem Fox, (who writes the best-ever-carefully crafted, children stories), Spot and his various escapades, Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank,  (modern editions) and several individual stories that are memorable more for their iambic pentameter and illustrations than for their author’s names.

Piglet and Eeyore didn’t endear themselves to my kids, nor did the map of the 100 Aker Wood tantalize their imagination as it did mine for theirs was the world where books were made with high tech “lift-the-flaps” adaptations. In my day, children read the words  in books and illustrations were few, and far between,  forcing imagination to create the visuals, not Disney.

Perhaps one day, I will get to see the real Pooh Corner and the 100 Aker wood in Ashdown Forest, Sussex, England and compare my memory to that which inspired A.A. Milne.

That is something like Pooh, I will spend some time pondering about.

DAY 21. – Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t
actually finished).

 

 

 

Book review

30 Day Book Challenge: Favourite Author

Day 19 – Karin Fossum

Often called the Norwegian Queen of Crime, Karin Fossum is undoubtedly my favourite, although she does have competition from the likes of other Scandinavian writers.

I have read all but two of her 13 books that have been translated to English, most of them featuring the strong and dependable Police detective Konrad Sejer. However, the latest translation: ‘I Can See in the Dark’, offers a first person crime fiction story narrated by the perpetrator, and is not part of the Sejer series.

Not everyone will love Fossum’s books, even some Norwegians I know, don’t like her writing, but don’t let that stop you. It is presumably because Fossum’s characters are those who live on the fringe of society: They are troubled souls, who don’t always  feel they ‘fit in’  to society – sometimes they are the victim, sometimes the perpetrator and sometimes, the ones left to cope with the consequences of the crime. They may have a mental illness, or a borderline personality disorder, or disability, or they may just be lonely, but it is this quirkiness that makes them interesting.

I have not really thought too much about why these books appeal to me, but Karin writes in such a way as to enlicit empathy for the poor devils in the story. And, I also like the meticulous way her detective, Sejer identifies the culprit. But Sejer isn’t always there. In the psychological suspense novel ‘Broken,’ (2006),  Karin writes about characters within a story that come to life. But do they really come to life? Or, is this just another device, cleverly used by the author to tell a story? Click here to read my review of Broken.  Opening a window into the mind of an author just shows Karin’s versatility as an author. As her characters often narrate the story, I feel this gives her the opportunity to discuss their intentions, motivation and attitudes more than other writing styles.

In Elskede Poona (translation title: The Indian Bride 2005) Fossum’s character is that of an older single man looking for a woman to keep him company. There is much in that novel that sticks in my mind, even today. It was a tragedy from many angles, and interestingly has an American translation from 2008.

The plot lines hold my attention, and the books are crafted stories, not overly long or complicated.Every word Fossum uses is important, sometimes right down to the very last sentence!

Finally, I like that real towns and places in Norway are featured in Karin Fossum’s stories and that means I can visualize them better. ‘Broken’ was set in the Norwegian town of Drammen, one that I have visited several times.

If you like crime fiction: check out Karin Fossum

You can find the full list of her books here

I have just finished  (I Can See in the Dark) where Karin draws on her real life experience working in a nursing home to add authenticity to the plot.

Day 20 – Favourite Childhood Book

Something to Ponder About

Book review, Mental Health

30 Day Book Challenge – Most thought-provoking book.

DAY 16 –

Endearing Love by Ian McEwan

This story is a surprising book about obsessional love and the actual psychiatric condition that underpinned the story added realism to the plotlines. It really make me think a lot about the mechanisms in the brain that trigger mental illness and those feelings and action that may not yet be classified as such, but have this same basis.

In this thought – provoking book, I found myself, as reader, really wanting the victim to mount an assertive response and understand he was contributing to the situation. I pondered how much this happened in reality. (After all, celebrities have, at times, contributed to their own stalking issues. For example: Agnetha Falskog from ABBA.

I was led to questioned his own sanity at one stage in the story as he delves into the criminal underworld for solutions to his problem. Had he really gone off the rails? Buckled under the constant pressure and stress?

This is a book that won’t grab your immediate attention, but once it has you in its grip, it won’t let go. I still think about some of the things that were said and discussed as well as the events that occurred in this book.

Something I will continue to ponder about.

Day 17 – An Author I wish People Would Read More