Book review

30 Day Book Challenge– A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving.

 DAY 10.

How often can you say that there was nothing at all you disliked about a book? Not too often but this is what  I said about Simon and the Oaks by Marianne Fredriksson. When I first heard the title and the subject matter, let me tell you, I wasn’t champing at the bit to read it, but it was on the list for the book-club, so read it I did. I didn’t regret it.

An uplifting and sad tale about a gifted boy growing up in Gothenburg, Sweden during World War II, who is sent to a school where sons of the working class do not go. Here he makes friends with a Jewish boy and during his formative years some truths are revealed about his own background that destroys his close relationships and makes him question his future.

There are so many layers to this story, and Marianne tells it with empathy, sensitivity, and a little bit of daring. The characters are highly believable, especially that of Simon and his parents, and the descriptive prose almost engrossing. A great book to discover the history of this era and its effects on everyday life, particularly in countries not directly involved in the conflict. ( Sweden maintained neutrality during WWII)

The book was made into a Swedish movie in 2011 and deservedly won a multitude of awards. A young Skårsgard (Stellan’s son) plays the leading role giving a outstanding performance as Simon.

If you haven’t read this book, please do.

Tomorrow DAY 11. – Favorite classic book.

Something to Ponder About

Community

The 30 Day Book Challenge – DAY 6 – A Book you’ve read the most number of times

“It’s not a silly question if you can’t answer it.”
Jostein Gaarder, Sophie’s World

A Book you’ve read the most number of times

Who reads a lengthy book about philosophy a number of times? Me, I whisper tentatively.  Aghast! I imagine you think I am some kind of nerd, but you are wrong, because Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder is not just your ordinary philosophy book.

It is a story within a story, fascinating, perplexing and a great and very readable introduction to the world of philosophy. Gaarder makes philosophy entertaining and the difficult to comprehend, rational and logical.

This was a book I read after a number of years of reading very few books, so it does qualify for today’s book by my re-reading of some passages due to interruptions and ‘new mother’s brain’. But it is a book that you can go back to again and again as each chapter, explains a mode of philosophy whilst perpetuating an evolving storyline with characters.

It is beautifully and cleverly written and it is very clear he wants to open our eyes to the wonders of our own amazing world, through Sophie’s eyes, and the vehicle is philosophy, as he alludes to in this comment: “How terribly sad it was that people are made in such a way that they get used to something as extraordinary as living.”

Sophie’s World,  by Jostein Gaarder  – I hope you like it as much as I have.

One day fourteen-year-old Sophie Amundsen comes home from school to find in her mailbox two notes, with one question on each: “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?” From that irresistible beginning, Sophie becomes obsessed with questions that take her far beyond what she knows of her Norwegian village. Through those letters, she enrolls in a kind of correspondence course, covering Socrates to Sartre, with a mysterious philosopher, while receiving letters addressed to another girl.

Join in the 30 day book challenge by linking back here with a comment or ping-back. Everyone is welcome.

Tomorrow: DAY 7. – A guilty pleasure book. Something to Ponder About……..

 

Book review

Book Review – Karin Fossum “Broken”

As most bloggers have a passion to write,  I have picked the following novel to review, from one of Norway’s most popular authors, Karin Fossum, as it is a story that gives a window into an author’s life and their thinking processes. Reading this book, after having visited the town in which it was set, (Drammen, in Norway), was an added bonus that made the story come alive.

Karin Fossum – “BROKEN”

Genre – psychological suspense (Norwegian author)

 A woman wakes one night to find someone in her room. She lies there in terrified silence, unable to move. The woman is an author and the man begs her to tell his story.

Initially, the reader may be a little confused  with this unconventional approach in telling a story, as it is written from the perspective of a writer. At times, the  boundary between the author in the story, and the main character, become a little blurred. The female author imagines the characters in her future book, to be standing in a queue outside her door, waiting to enter. One man gets sick of waiting and “jumps the queue,” appearing beside the story-teller’s bed one night, begging for her to tell his story. He can’t wait any longer, he tells her:
 “There’s always someone ahead of me — I’m used to that. But I can’t bear it any longer. I’m exhausted. You have to tell my story now — you have to start this morning!”

And so she does. She creates his name, Alvar Eide and begins to tell his story: that of a shy, middle aged social misfit who lives on the fringe of society, seemingly content with his life working in an art gallery. Little does he know that a simple act of kindness will irrevocably change his well-ordered, but predictable, life. A young, thin, drug-addicted girl enters the gallery one day and instead of turfing her out, he offers her a cup of coffee. From then on, he is unwittingly drawn more into her world, while his, spirals out of control. Alvar Eide is a good man, but the vulnerabilities of living a sheltered life lead him to a situation, where he is not only taken advantage of, but also one he cannot control.

“BROKEN” is about vulnerability, control and the perils of good intentions. How much should we become involved in other people’s lives? Is there a personal cost? A suspenseful story rather than a mystery, Broken is a story set in the town of Drammen, Norway and explores issues such as control, emotions and destiny and the role these might have in shaping personality and experience. It is a really enjoyable read and I so liked the window into both the writer’s mind and her thinking processes.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

If you liked this novel, Karin Fossum has a series of other stories, all set in Norway, with Inspector Konrad Sejer as the central character.

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Drammen

Drammen, is a town a little under an hour away from Oslo, the capital. For the tourist, it is worth a visit, not least because of the scenic lookout, called ‘Spiraltoppen’, (see pics attached) accessed by a road tunnel, constructed in 1961,  that spirals six times around inside the mountain itself. Visitors can enjoy the view  at 1650 metres, lunch at a restaurant, or stroll along the many forest walks and winter ski trails. Spiraltoppen also has an open air museum, with well-preserved examples of Norwegian cottages and farm buildings of yesteryear. If you visit in summer, Spiraltoppen comes alive with festivals of folk- dancing, music, traditional painting and craft, and if you are really lucky, you might even spot both moose and deer, enjoying the scenic countryside that you find here.

Here is what you see when you drive to the summit of Spiraltoppen:

 

 

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Reading crime fiction always gives me something to ponder about.


Community, History & Traditions

Proverbial Thursday – Proverbs and Quotes from around the World

vigelandI find profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and marvel at the way they can be 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.

“Liten tue kan velte stort lass”–Little strokes fell great oaks.

Norwegian proverb

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

(Robert Louis Stevenson)

Some words to ponder about.

Book review, Community

Recommended Scandinavian Authors

blog pictures 001Until recently, I ran a Scandinavian book club amongst the Nordic clubs in my city. The book club was a success until everyone got too busy and decided to go home to Scandinavia for the summer. (Can’t say I blame them!) Over the years that it was active, I managed to accumulate a list of interesting authors, and at my blogger friend Poppy’s The Viking Queen’s suggestion, have published the below list according to country of author’s origin, for anyone who wishes to discover the wonderful world of Scandinavian fiction.*

  • My primary interest is crime fiction so be warned that this list is not exhaustive and is heavily biased towards  writers of crime fiction. Most of these titles have been translated into English.

I will reveiw Lars Kepler’s book in coming weeks.

Danmark –

Christensen, Lars Saaybe – Historical Fiction

Christian Jungersen – The Exception TBR
Sara Blaedel – Blue Blood, tr. Erik J Macki & Tara F Chace. Crime fiction featuring Louis Rick.
Elsebeth Egholm – Three Dog Night. An Excellent Writer

Friis, Agnete & Kaaberbol, LeneThe Boy in the Suitcase; Not a bad read

Peter Høeg – Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, (a great read) and others much more obscure
Steffen Jacobsen – When the Dead Awaken
Martin Jensen – The King’s Hounds, tr. Tara Chace

Lotte and Soren Hammer – The Hanging, tr. Ebba Segerberg

Jussi Adler-Olsen – Redemption

Dan Turrell – Murder in the Dark, tr. Mark Mussari

Finland –

Antti Tuomainen – The Healer tr: Lola Rogers  TBR

Leena Lehtolainen – Her Enemy, tr. Owen Witesman  TBR

Pekka Hiltunen – Cold Courage, tr. Owen Witesman TBR

Jokinen, Seppo  – Detective Sakari Koskinen series TBR

Iceland –

Arnaldur Indridason – Cold Crime/ police procedural series featuring Inspector Erlendur: at least one of which was made into a movie (Jar City)

Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson – Daybreak,  TBR

Halldor Laxness – Iceland’s Bell and Atom Station (historical fiction; depicts Icelandic rural life)

Yrsa Sigurdardottir – Someone to Watch Over Me TBR

Norway –

Thomas Enger – Burned

Karin Fossum – I Can See in the Dark, tr. James Anderson. Crime Fiction. Often writes about people on society’s fringe. Inspector Konrad Sejer series

Jostein Gaarder – Sophie’s World – Fiction story that introduces you to philosophy in a fascinating way.

Knut Hamsun – Hunger; I would get shot for not mentioning it, and drawn and quartered for saying that it was boring, my apologies to all Norwegians, but,as it was considered a landmark in literature, it is listed here.

Gaute Heivoll – Before I Burn, tr. Don Bartlett

Anne Holt – Crime fiction from a former Norwegian Minister for Justice including the Hanne Wilhelmson detective series and characters: Former FBI profiler Johanne Vik & Detective Inspector Adam Stubo

Jorn Lier Horst – Closed for Winter, tr. Anne Bruce. Character: Chief Inspector William Wisting, Larvik

Jan Kjaerstad – The Conqueror

Gunnar Kopperud – Historical fiction and politics intertwined. Should be just my thing but “The Time of Light” is violent and not my favourite book, but listed here anyway)

Jo Nesbo – Thriller/crime fiction series with Detective Harry Hole. Also stand alone novel “Headhunters” was made into a movie in 2011

Per Pettersen – Out Stealing Horses and To Siberia (set in Denmark during WWII)

Gunnar Staalesen – Cold Hearts, tr. Don Bartlett

Linn Ullman – Daughter of actress Liv Ullman, novelist. Stella Descending is a good read.

Sweden –

Karin Altvegen – Shame, Shadow:- psychological thrillers

Ake Edwardson, – Series of crime fiction including Death Angels

Kerstin Ekman,

Kjell Eriksson,Crime series

Marianne Fredrikkson – Hanna’s daughters: Wonderful story of three generations of woman. Excellent fiction. ‘Simon & the Oaks’ was made into a movie in 2011

Grebe & Traff – More Bitter Than Death

Marie Hermanson – The Devil’s Sanctuary, tr. Neil Smith

Published in the US only (at the moment):  Anna Jansson – Strange Bird, tr. Paul Norlen, Stockholm Text

Mari Jungstedt – The Double Silence, Unseen, Unspoken. (Crime Fiction)

Mons Kallentoft – Savage Spring, tr. Neil Smith; Midwinter Sacrifice

Lars Kepler – The Fire Witness, The Hypnotist (currently reading, and reads well, scarey, and a bit bloodthirsty in parts)

Camilla Lackberg – Journalist Erica Falck crime fiction series set in Fjallbacka, Sweden Light crime fiction where the characters become more like old friends

Jens Lapidus – Never F**k Up (apa Never Screw Up), tr. Astri von Arbin Ahlander

Stieg Larson – Lisbeth Salander Trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, well you know the rest…..

Åsa Larsson – Rebecka Martinsson series of detective novels.

John Ajvide Lindqvist – Let the right one in- Story about vampires, but don’t let that put you off. I would never read books on vampires, but this one is very different and was also made into a movie, and remade into an American movie.

Henning Mankell – Very popular crime fiction writer. A multitude of books, and TV series (Swedish/English)

Liza Marklund – Very popular crime fiction with the character: Annika Bengtzon (journalist) Also a TV series

Anders de la Motte – Game, tr. Neil Smith

Håkan Nesser – Set in a fictional town in Sweden with Inspector Van Veteran (police procedural/crime fiction with cutting sardonic wit)

Woman with Birthmark, The Return

Kristina Ohlsson – The Disappeared, tr. Marlaine Delargy

Leif Persson – Linda, as in the Linda Murder

Roslund & Hellstrom  – Fictional character Detective Inspector Ewert Grens. – in my TBR pile.

Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo – A timeless Martin Beck police procedural and crime fiction series written in sixties/seventies

Alexander Söderberg – Set in the South of Sweden

Johan Theorin – The Darkest Room. Creepy thriller/crime fiction set on Gotland, an island off the coast of Sweden

Tursten, Helene – crime fiction featuring  Inspector Huss, Gothenburg

Worthy also of note:

Andrew Stevensen – Non- Fiction; “Summer light”; A Walk across Norway. Not a Norwegian writer, but nevertheless great travel account.

Thunder God – a historical fiction novel about the Vikings and what it was like to live in those times. Loved this one, was really in the moment with the character.

Some more authors that I am not so familiar with:

Tor Age Bringsvaerd – science fiction literature – Norwegian
Ingvar Ambjörnsen – Elling series – one has been made into a movie
Anne B Ragde
Zoë Ferraris
Roy Jacobsen
Erlend Loe
Louis Masterson
Sulaiman Addonia
Margit Sandemo
Dag Solstad – • Professor Andersen’s Night

And if you like those books, you probably would also like this one, which is  more a travel book, but its non-fiction theme is Scandinavia.

True North – Gavin Francis  Travels in the Arctic, following the travels of ancient Nordic explorers.

I recommend checking out Karen over at Euro crime for seeking details of other Scandinavian authors and further listings of individual Scandinavian titles to ponder about.

Book review

Book review – The REDEEMER by Jo Nesbø, Crime fiction pick of the month

Book Review – The Redeemer Jo Nesbø

# 4 in the Harry Hole Series, The Little Redeemer is the continuing story of unconventional Detective Inspector Harry Hole of the Norwegian Crime squad.  His skill for solving confusing and impossible cases, and his penchant for alcohol do not endear him to many sections of Oslo mainstream police, but no one can argue he gets results. But where does Harry draw the line? Will he still be able to distinguish between the perpetrator, the instigator, the implementer and the accessory? Can he turn a blind eye to retribution, when a close colleague dies? Will he fall prey to corruption or the hounds of alcohol? The Redeemer touches on these issues in Harry’s life.

This story revolves around the Salvation Army and its pastoral community care work, this book begins in the Bosnian war with a story of Croatian soldiers. Quickly moving to a dark and freezing pre-xmas Oslo, Harry is appointed head of the team to investigate a puzzling murder, that has no motive, no murder weapon and no witnesses. In short, almost perfect, and no leads. Is it the work of a professional hitman, and if so, why does he not leave and move on to the next job and anonymity?

If you have read the Harry Hole series in order, you will by now be accustomed to Harry’s unorthodox life and ways. He endears himself to the reader, even though at times one becomes frustrated by his actions.

In the novel his old friend sums up a philosophical viewpoint on crime and society in the following paragraph:

“Its chances and nuances that separate the hero from the villain. that’s how it’s always been. Righteousness is the virtue of the lazy and the visionless. Without lawbreakers and disobedience we would still have been living in a feudal society. ”

By now I am a true Harry fan, being sucked in to the expected twists and turns the plot takes. Try as I might, I did not pick up on the clues Nesbø gave us, in Redeemer, but I did manage to score some points along the way. I think this is what is so attractive about these Nesbø plots, they keep you guessing up to the last chapter, at times to the last few pages. Even if you are in the killer’s head, there are always surprises that are completely unexpected. And that is what we as readers want, isn’t it?

Harry talks a little in this novel about the perfect crime, stating that the “plan was like a circle of logic that worked, the illusion of the  ( Viking motif ) snake eating itself, a self destructing creation that would guarantee nothing would be left afterwards, no loose threads.” But is it truly perfect, or will the plan go horribly wrong……

If you don’t read it it will only be something to ponder about…..