Holiday Reading

Each year at this time, there are some hard decisions to make. When going on holiday, one of course have to bring a book – or several. I agonized over this for days before I finally decided on which three to bring.
holidayreadingThese two are the ones that I actually got to read during the week we spent on the beautiful Spanish island of Mallorca. Now, I’m not one for spending too much time on a beach or next to a pool but the good thing about it is, that you do get some time to read. And luckily I brought these two amazing books – or rather this one long book split into two – and I loved them. I just finished them today so I will try to write reviews soon(-ish).
I also brought NOS4R2 by Joe Hill with me but didn’t have time to start reading it.
When spending time on the beach, I did notice that a lot of people were reading. The beach is the place where a lot of people read – more than people do in other places, or at least it seems so to me but then I don’t use a lot of public transportation (unfortunately). And after all the talk about the book being dead, I was happy to see that books were still the main go-to for people on the beach. Books or magazines. Things that doesn’t break when you get sand in them. Now I’m not coming out against e-books – I love my Kindle – but I still really liked to see people reading and people reading books.
And as you can see from the above picture, even though I try to keep sand out of my stuff, I still got sand – and a small fly – in my books…
Even though I was really impressed with the quality of books in the various tourist and beach shops, I didn’t buy any books for myself. We did however pick up a wonderful children’s book for the girls.
CuevasDelDrachThe last day we visited the amazing Cuevas del Drach. These caves are huge and beautiful and within the caves is one of the largest subterranean lakes in the world. When we exited the caves, we were completely awed by what we had seen and had to get this book about two children visiting the caves together with their grandparents and meeting the dragon living in the caves, Drach.
61pBtbFe4nL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The book is called Mariona & Max in the Caves of Drach. I love the idea of creating children’s book based on real places like this and I have enjoyed reading this book for the girls and talking to them about what we experienced on our trip. Especially since I haven’t found any books written by people from Mallorca, taking place on Mallorca or something similar. So we settled for this and it’s such a nice book.
According to the back cover, this book is part of a collection of books introducing kids to various places around the island – however, I haven’t been able to find any information about other books.
Anyway, that was my vacation experience and my holiday reading. What are you reading this summer?

Adding to the Shelves

One of my favorite things to do, is to buy new books. Even for those periods of time when I haven’t been reading, I have still bought books. Not so during this recent reading slump. I really haven’t bought any books since February. And that’s actually kind of scary. I haven’t bought any new books and I haven’t kept up with book publishing or anything. I have really  been doing a cold turkey. I’m trying to view it as a good thing since my normal practice of buying books whether I was reading or not, is the cause of my having more than 200 books on my shelves that I haven’t read…
Still, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t acquired new books. But ever since buying a lot of books back in February, only three new books have been added to my shelves.

041549-fc222 First of these are Tolkien’s Silmarillion. When I still was reading a lot and was on track with my goals for the year and just enjoying myself, I was participating in The Official 2014 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader. And I was so lucky to win a book of my own choice, thanks to Adam’s generosity. I had been planning to read The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion this summer, and since I already owned the first two, I of course asked for The SilmarillionI’m not sure if I ever properly thanked Adam – and now I see that he has stepped down from Roof Beam Reader due to work obligations so he will not be around much. Still, thank you so much Adam! Now I’m back from my hiatus, I’m looking forward to explore Middle Earth!

9781451660326_p0_v3_s260x420The second new book I have acquired during these last 4 months, was a birthday present from my 3 years old daughter. Whenever she is asked what she want to give to someone, she always answers ‘a book’. I can count the number of times, she whispered to me ‘I’m giving you a book, mommy’. And so she did.
Last year I read Félix J. Palma’s wonderful The Map of Time and it was just such a thrilling ride that I haven been looking forward to reading the second book ever since. And this was the book I was so lucky to receive for my birthday thanks to my little girl knowing exactly what her mommy wants – and her father helping her pick out the right book!

978-87-997204-0-8And finally, the third book was a present from my best friend. Henrik has his own publishing company, H. Harksen Productions, where he publishes weird fiction, H.P. Lovecraft inspired fiction and similar themed books, both in English and Danish. One of his latest publication is this Killer Killer by Danish author Morten Ellemose. This is supposed to be following in the tradition from the Hannibal Lecter books and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a very scary read. Maybe I should try to get around to reading it while it’s still summer and the nights are still light. I don’t do scary very well, I’m afraid.

So that’s the books which have been added to my stash recently. So while few in numbers, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a great time reading these. Have you read any of these? Did you like them? And what else have I been missing in books and book blogging in these last months? I feel dreadfully out of touch…

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Jim Butcher: Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3)

Grave-PerilWhen I was a kid, I liked ghost stories. My father had some books about white ladies and he told me about castles which have their own private ghosts. He didn’t believe in them. I think he just wanted to make my world a bit richer, just like I tell my kids how their grandparents had to run from dinosaurs when going to school and how their father saved me from a dragon.
Now I don’t believe in ghosts as white sheaths moving softly through walls. But I do believe that extreme sadness, pain and anguish can leave behind some kind of remnants that we – or some of us at least – can feel.
Now, Jim Butcher is not this subtle. When he lets Harry Dresden go up against ghosts, he doesn’t just find some whimpy moaning white lady to pit him against. He of course creates the worst kind of ghost imaginable and lets this ghost have the most powerful helpers – and then he lets Harry, poor messed-up Harry, face off with these and takes us along for the ride.
Now it’s not like Harry hasn’t got any help. Taking a back seat in this story are Harry’s normal helpers such as Karrin Murphy, a police officer from Special Investigations and also to some extent Susan Rodriquez, Dresden’s girlfriend. But they are put on the back burner to make room for interesting new characters such as Michael, a Knight of the Cross, and his family. Now Michael comes with a special connection to God and a magnificent sword and while constantly lecturing Dresden on how to be a decent person and a better man, he knows how to handle himself when trouble comes around.
The intrigue in this book also allows us to delve into the Nevernever for the first time – an experience which is not altogether pleasant for our dear Harry. It also allows us to experience the Vampire courts more intimately than earlier – again not altogether pleasant for Harry. It also introduces faeries, especially Harry’s godmother Lea.
If you ask me to say exactly why I like these books, I’m not quite able to get you an answer. I can give you all the normal reasons – it’s a thrilling exciting read with an interesting main character and it’s just the right thing to loose yourself in. But so is a lot of books. I haven’t  yet pinpointed what it is that so far makes me enjoy these books. But I do enjoy them and I guess I’ll keep reading ’till I can find out what it is that attract me about Harry Dresden.
Other than he is a cool, but not too cool, wizard living in Chicago trying hard not to destroy any and every modern technology he gets remotely close to while attempting to help ordinary people exposed to supernatural situations and creatures while trying to have a somewhat normal relationship with his girlfriend.

  • Title: Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3)
  • Author: Jim Butcher
  • Publisher: Roc 
  • Year: 2001
  • Pages:  388 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars:  stars out of 5

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The Book That Defeated Me

So. My last post was three months ago. In those three months, I haven’t read a single book. I have tried to read one but in three months, I have been reading the same book. Or rather, I have had the same book lying on my night table next to me and then I have been ignoring it for three months.
I managed 214 pages of it and then … nothing more. And the strange thing is, that I didn’t dislike it. I liked it. I liked it when I was reading it. But I forgot about it when not reading it and if you ask me now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you precisely what it was about. That may be because it was a 800+ pages book and I haven’t reached the part where it all comes together and starts making sense – it might also be because this is not a book for me.
And that bugs me.
Because I want to like this book. I want to like this author.
mdT2qD0PAy_ect1IYhvl5gQ-2The book I’m talking about, the book that has completely destroyed me and made a deserted wasteland of this blog, is Don DeLillo’s magnum opus Underworld. And there are parts of it I really, really like. I have written down quotes and impressions and they are all positive and things I enjoyed. But not enough to keep reading apparently. And then I stopped reading for the first time in 7 years.
When I have read other bloggers write about reading slumps and how to defeat them, I have to admit I have felt a bit superior. A reading slump couldn’t positively happen to me, I thought. I love reading too much, I thought. Reading slumps are for others who just don’t care about books the way I do, I snickered.
Watch me cover in shame!
Reading slumps can happen to everybody, I know now. I should have known earlier, of course, since when I started using Goodreads back in ’07, I was just coming out of a slump caused by too much studying. This was a time when I felt guilty whenever I read something that wasn’t related directly to my master’s thesis.
From this slump, I have learned two things. The first one is also going to sound arrogant, just like my idea that I was immune against reading slumps. A non-reader is just a person who hasn’t met the right book yet. I’m back to reading and I’m just loving it. I’m completely engulfed in this book and am enjoying myself so so much.
The second thing I’ve learned is, that my way back to reading, is fantasy literature. Last thing, I used DragonLance novels mostly and loved it. This time I’m reading urban fantasy – the Jim Dresden novels. I read the first two last year – and I almost finished the third one last night but the World Cup kind of distracted me.
Still, even though the last months have been filled with distractions – I started crocheting, I started trying to journal more in my moleskine and I discovered smash books – I’m hoping that I’m back to my normal dose of reading daily. And with that, I’m hoping I’m back to blogging and I’m hoping that there’s still someone out there reading…

Bob Tarte: Enslaved by Ducks (review)

EnslavedbyDucks‘In days gone by, if anyone had asked me if I owned any pets, I could readily rattle off their names. To answer the same question now, I would have to excuse myself, find a pen and sheet of paper, sit by myself for several minutes, and try to sort the problem out.’ (p. 249)

So I think I have a lot of animals. Or, rather, my boyfriend thinks I have a lot of animals. I don’t think so. Does one dog, one hamster, three bunnies (with one more moving in soon) count as a lot? Even if I had considered it a lot, I wouldn’t any more after reading this book. Bob Tarte and his wife have a lot of animals and a lot of animals moving in and out of their home. At one count they have three rabbits, two cats, three parakeets, a dove, two parrots, three turkeys, two geese, a canary and nine ducks. Now that is a lot of animals!
So what this is, is an account of the chaos that ensures when you keep on adding animals to your household. Animals who almost all have their own needs and wants and are very vocal about getting them met. So vocal in fact that for some periods, Tarte’s wife eat her lunch outside in the car to get away from the birds demanding to taste.
Tarte is a very funny writer. I don’t know much about birds but I can easily visualize the troubles they got from Binky the bunny. As I always say, bunnies are terrorists and escape artists and Binky is just another proof of this. I loved reading about Binky!
It’s also about a man from the city finding a purpose in his life through these animals. Bob is struggling with depression and slowly realizing, that the structure needed to care for these animals as well as the love he starts to feel for them, is actually helping him overcome his disease.
I had a lot of fun reading this book. Only issue I had with it was, that they kept adding animals to the household without any knowledge about them. It was a bit discouraging to read about them acquiring animals and having these die in their care. However, as I read one, they became more knowledgeable and it clearly shines through that they love all their animals and care for them to the best of their ability. Still, I was sometimes a bit put off by smaller things – like them not going to the vet immediately when something happens to one of their animals or going to bed, leaving one of their birds to die on its own in the basement.
Still, it is clear that they care about the animals and it is very entertaining to hear about their inabilities to construct pens or their attempts to eat a quiet dinner while simultaneously catering to a host of birds or trying to get a bunny to leave it’s chosen hiding place.
It is a light cozy read for the animal lover and as such, it’s very enjoyable – even if it has as many characters as your average Russian novel.

First lines: I should have known I was doomed to write a book about our animals. Since they had taken over just about everything else in my life, it was only a matter of time before they commandeered my word processor, too.

  • Title:  Enslaved by Ducks
  • Author: Bob Tarte
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • Year: 2003
  • Pages: 308 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Margaret Atwood: MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy #3) (review)

13_10_atwood_book_club_eventIf you look at a basic hierarchy of needs, you’ll find things like food and water at the bottom with safety on the next level. In some ways, this is what the two first books in the MaddAddam trilogy was about. The world fell apart and we followed a few people and saw them carve out a way to survive, securing their basic needs. But in this third book, they are beginning to be able to strive for bigger and better things like beginning to create a foundation for a way to live together, the beginnings of a society for both Crakers and plain old-fashioned humans.
Granted, the world is not safe. Three men who have served time in the Painball tournament, a tournament where murderers are pitted against each other and the survivors are released, are doing what they can to satisfy their needs, no matter how depraved.
These men are a constant threat for our settlers in this book. Other than that, this is mostly the book of Toby and Zeb. The Crakers have added Zeb to their pantheon of gods and this means that Toby has an excuse to get Zeb to tell her his life story and we get to listen in on this as well which fills out even more of the puzzle we have been working on fitting together throughout the first two books.
What I absolutely loved in this book, was, whenever it was story time for the Crakers. Each evening, preferably, they want a new story and these stories are part of their mythology, their way of understanding the world. Whoever tells the story has to put on Jimmy-the-Snowman’s red cap, eat the fish (or frog) brought by the Crakers and then tell them a story about Crake, Oryx, Zeb – or maybe Fuck, the special helper you call whenever you are in trouble. I absolutely adored reading these stories and how the story teller, Toby on most occasions, are really struggling to keep the Crakers from breaking out singing whenever the name Crake is mentioned and is really trying to explain the Crakers what’s going on as well as tell them stories from the past.
At later points, a young Craker named Blackbeard starts telling the stories and Atwood does a masterful job of changing the voice of the story teller while at the same time letting some things be a stable of the story telling. Both Jimmy and Toby has repeatedly been asking the Crakers to stop singing when they tell stories, and of course when Blackbeard is telling a story, he says the same things even though he too is a Craker and used to the singing.
I also really loved the Pigoons, the Pig Ones. After having seen animals reduced to what was needed to create meat in the first book, it is amazing to see these half pigs/half humans express themselves, care for each other and work together with the humans to eliminate a threat.
The ending of this book was sad, yet hopeful. I am torn between thinking that the ending was a very brave move on Atwood’s side and the only way this trilogy could possibly end. Either way it was a very fitting end to an amazing trilogy. A lot of things were explained but not quite everything. I’m still trying to piece together why Crake did what he did to Oryx and also, the importance of this girl who plays a somewhat small role but is still important enough to be in the title of the first book and be the mother of all animals in the Craker mythology.
Whereas the focus in the first two books was on survival and how they ended up in this dystopic world, this book is more about living. This means building relationships, making long-term solutions for their lives as well as teaching the Crakers things. Not only teaching them their history through story telling but also teaching writing and the importance of caring about books. What Toby learns Blackbeard is similar to the practice in Medieval cloisters where the monks copied the books when they read it so the words were spread. Particularly the Bible, of course.
It is interesting how Crake tried to remove all what we normally consider human qualities from the Crakers and yet, some parts were impossible to remove if they were to have anything resembling a working mind. He couldn’t do away with the singing – they became mindless bag of bones if he did. So what this book also is, is a comment on what makes us humans. The Crakers are humans too and they need to have both their singing and their stories, their faith, to exist. In a time where we often focus more on making money and on productivity than on almost anything else and where the world is being destroyed, it is necessary that we are reminded of what makes us humans and not just shells of flesh. We need the arts, the humanities, philosophy – we need all that to be the best we can be.

‘If a nation’s culture survives, so too does the nation.’
Jan Mládek

First lines: In the beginning, you lived inside the Egg. That is where Crake made you. Yes, good, kind Crake. Please stop singing or I can’t go on with the story.

  • Title:  MaddAddam
  • Author: Margaret Atwood
  • Publisher: Virago
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 394 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

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