Last weekend we rented a Swiss Chalet up in the mountains and had an amazing time. Like us, none of our friends skies (gasp! goes everyone in Switzerland), so we just hanged out with the kids, ate, drank, read, played board games, walked in the snow, sledged and generally relaxed.

I could’ve gotten used to the 1% life…

16346648695_5bd5cceb3a_kThe view

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15724971494_cd6debf909_zA new experience for David: running in the snow

15727463093_a3531ca0be_zPerfection: cheese fondue lunch

15726744983_915a242c4e_zHusband in the hot-tub (yes, there was a hot-tub!)

16161427557_7206f6b069_zReading Patrick O’Brien during kid’s nap

16159837708_b114e5d76d_zThe boys, marvelling

16346619912_6ef5a45884_zGeneral fun was had

16346645752_16af116198_kThe swap shelf, no Nora Roberts in sight, all very high-brow at the Swiss Chalet

we-the-drownedThis is the story of Marstal, a tiny town on the island of Ærø in the Danish archipelago, between 1848 to 1945. It’s the story of its sailors, the women who wait their return and the children who grown up with intermittent dads.

Marstal really exists and the author was inspired by many of the tales its people had to tell, the type of stories that are passed down from father to son until they become the stuff of legend. This is probably why there’s something mythical in the way We, the Drowned is told.

The story begins with Laurids Madsen, who went up to Heaven and came down again, thanks to his boots, then there’s Albert who journeyed to the far side of the world looking for his father and came back with the shrunken head of James Cook. Also, there’s the time when a swarm of butterflies was blown across the ocean and clung to a ship, and the miraculous story of the woman who was giving birth on a ship when it was hit by German bombers.

Such great stories, told so vividly. And I loved the balance between darkness and light, between stories that broke my heart (the juggler chef, Kato… sniff) and those that make my day for their joy.

It’s a character-driven book and, fittingly, the sea is one of the most dominant. It’s otherworldly, worthy of a good fantasy novel – something I can easily recognized, coming from a country of seafarers. My respect to Jensen: it takes a good writer to capture the mix of fear and attraction while still amusing and educating the reader.

It’s not a perfect book: its female characters are not as interesting as the males ones, even though there was great potential (for those who’ve read it, wouldn’t you like to know more about the painter’s widow, Sophie’s adventures as a sailor or Klara’s life during the German occupation?). Also, pet hate peeve: Portugal is NOT Spain. The town of Setúbal (Mr. Jensen, as a Dane you should have an appreciation for accents) does NOT speak Spanish. *sigh*

All the same, a great start of the year and a reminder of the rewards of reading in translation. Also, look at the pretty cover!

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Other thoughts: Stuck in a Book, Man of La Book, Roxploration, The Book Coop (yours?)

The_Martian_2014This is one of the most uplifting books I’ve ever read, the perfect antidote to last week’s events. Who knew that a book about an astronaut left for dead by his crew on Mars could be this fun?

It’s basically an ode to human intelligence and ingenuity, to the power of science, courage and team work. After Charlie Hebdo, this book left me thinking “we’ll be ok” and for that I’ll be forever grateful to Weir.

I just wish my knowledge of chemistry and physics would do it more justice. Although the science parts were well explained and concise, I’m sure I’d have been even more impressed if I knew more about space exploration.

Don’t have much more to say about it, really. It deserved to show up in so many bloggers’ best-of-2014 lists. And a big thank you to who recommended the audiobook version.

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Other thoughts: Dribble of Ink, The Guilded Earlobe, The Speculative Spaceman, That’s What She Read, Stainless Steel Droppings, Speculative Book Review, The Book Cove, Cheap Thrills, the Little Red Reviewer, Love, Laughter and a touch of Insanity, Rinn Reads, Book Chatter, Collateral Bloggage, Don’t be afraid of the Dork, Jenn’s Bookshelves (yours?)

BRRead for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge:
A sci-fi novel

Anything I should pay special attention to? Anything I should put on the back-burner?

(1/102/10)

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9572203Perfect book to read on a winter night by the fireplace when everybody has gone to bed. It helped there was no snow in Lisbon, so I was just agreeably scared and not freaked out by the possibility of someone building a snowman in my yard. I’ll never look at snowmen in the same way again.

This was my first Jo Nesbø and I was hooked by the twists and turns, red herrings and shocking revelations. The scenes made from the killer or victims’ POV were ridiculously vivid and suspenseful and that last scene – I was holding my breath (looking forward to Scorsese’s take on it).

Also, it was refreshing to read a crime novel that’s not set in London or a major US city. Nesbø’s Oslo in the winter was dark, silent, isolated and oh-so creepy, perfect for a book like this.

Although the author didn’t bothered too much with hiding who the real killer was, some creative details made this book stand out from other thrillers, like (no spoilers) the first chapter revelation, or the end scene about the mold (didn’t you think it was like an end-of-credits trailer?)

That being said, I wish Harry Hole was a more original character and didn’t fit so well into the embittered, drunk, loose-cannon, Neil Young-loving detective trope.

I don’t think I will religiously follow the series, but I know at some point I’ll crave for a read just like The Snowman.

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Other thoughts (yes, I was the last person in the world to read this): Rhapsody in Books, Leeswammes, Reading on a Rainy Day, Beth’s Book Nook, Walk with a Book, A Book Sanctuary, Crime Scraps, Farm Lane Books, Literary Housewife, Winston’s Dad, Book Chatter, Book Chase, RA for All, Dot Scribbles, You’ve GOTTA Read This, Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog, Page 247, Mysteries Paradise, On My Bookshelf, Back to Books (yours?)

BRRead for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge:
A book that was originally published in another language

This was an eventful year, in a very good way, but I wouldn’t mind a bit of stability in 2015 though (careful with what you ask for? :S).

Some highlights:

  • Got married
  • David’s a toddler now – what a year!
  • Got a dream job at the UN and the family moved to Geneva
  • Added two new countries to my list: Canada and Kenya

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I’ve read 65 books, which is an increase from the 54 of Baby Year. I’m very proud of myself for this, and for taking on some pretty long ones too (The Count of Monte Cristo, Winter’s Tale, Doctor Zhivago). Also happy to have returned to blogging. I was almost a year out, but I’m happy I waited until it was really calling me back.

Here are the usual geeky statistics (2013 figures between brackets):

Format

As in earlier years paper continues to rule. Being away from blogging made me focus much more on the TBR shelves.

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Fiction vs. Non-fiction

I’m disappointed in these figures. For years I’ve been increasing my share of non-fiction and found some of my favorite books this way. Have no explanation for this and can only try to bring back more balance in 2015.

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A closer look at Fiction

Basically: no blogging = no challenges = no poetry or plays. Glad about the increase in graphic novels though. By joining Jay’s Deal Me In Challenge I hope to see the short-story figure continue to increase.

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I’m also happy about this division of genre, even with a decrease in YA and children’s (yes, I know they’re not exactly a genre, but you know what I mean!). In 2015 I’d like to push the sci-fi number even a bit higher, then I’ll have a nice balance between sci-fi, crime, historical, fantasy and classics.

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A closer look at Non-fiction

I didn’t read enough Non-fiction for the graph to show much…

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Languages

For shame Alex! How many years will it take to balance this, even if only a bit? Any book challenge out there about reading in the original?

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Translated vs. original

A bit better than last year, but nowhere near good enough. It sounds fine to read “in the original”, but not when it’s almost all in English.

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New-Years-Resolution-Cartoon-11

1. Continue to re-read
100 Years of Solitude is a prioritymy favorite for many many years. Will also celebrate the 200th anniversary of Emma’s publication.

2. Read more sci-fi
… but avoid reading only the classics as I did in 2014 (although Dune has been in the TBR for too long). They were interesting, but none made the best-of list. Heard great things about The Martian in audiobook.

3. Read more in Portuguese, Spanish and French

This has been a resolution for years but I never really manage to pull it off, especially when it comes to Spanish (zero for the last 3 years). French does better because of graphic novels (4 in 2014) and Portuguese because of a virtual book club, but still, only 1 last year :(.

4. Read the only two Brontë sisters’ books I’ve never read
Charlotte’s The Professor and Shirley.

5. Finish several series
The Tea Rose, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Narnia, The House of Niccolo, The Dark is Rising

6. Participate in more blogging events
This was also a resolution last year, but I only truly returned to blogging at the end of the year, too late to do anything about it. In 2015 I plan to join the Deal Me In Short-Story Challenge, Ada Lovelace Day, The Armchair Audies and anything else that catches my eye along the way.

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If people didn’t know me and just looked at this pile they’d immediately learn a lot about me…

The Pride & Prejudice in French and Arabic were my husband’s contributions to my collection and I’m really looking forward to the two other Austen-related books – I can never get enough of those!

Moby Dick I bought myself for an upcoming read-along and Camilla Läckberg’s The Ice Princess was from my mom, the Scandinavian crime fan. Also very curious about Spanish author Santiago Posteguillo’s book about “The Secret Lives of Books”, which will go nicely with Books as History – I can also never get enough of books about books!

I’ve read 65 books this year, better than 2013 (54), which was Baby Year, but nothing like the 80-something of Pre-Baby Years. Curious to see when I’ll be able to get back to that level (college?).

The nine books that got a 5-star:

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A Morgadinha dos Canaviais by Julio Dinis (re-read)

A Portuguese classic that completely won my heart. When I first read it at 16 I focused on the romantic part and thought: meh. This time it was the social commentary and the strong female lead that made a difference. I’m noticing big changes of heart in my recent re-reads (like Mansfield Park below).

Chroniques de Jérusalem by Guy Delisle

One of my goals for 2014 was to try non-fiction graphic novels for the first time. Only read one, but it turned out rather well.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (re-read)

Another book age taught me to appreciate better. In my early 20s it was my least favorite Austen, even behind Northanger Abbey. After P&P, S&S, Emma and Persuasion I had great expectations about the romance – big mistake! How did I not realize how interesting Mary Crawford is or Edmund’s douchiness? Mansfield Park is not romantic, but it’s an amazing work, full of depth and perfect for a book club discussion. Also, I highly recommend Ron Lit’s videos about it – Mansfield ParkWhat’s Up With Fanny Price? and the hilarious Mansfield Park’s Hero Sucks:

 

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

If you’re into Malcolm Gladwell and “popular science” in general, you have to try this one, regardless of whether you have kids. It’s the Freakonomics of education. The chapters about race, intelligence and language were amazing and I often mention this book in conversation.

The Pastor’s Wife by Elizabeth von Arnim

How come the world forgot about Elizabeth von Arnim?! I’m determined to read everything she ever wrote, since she seems to write just for me. The Pastor’s Wife amazed me by its subtlety. It’s often witty, but it still managed to point the finger (without preaching) on the devastating effect the inequalities of the late 19th century had on women’s lives.

The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin #4) by Patrick O’Brien

What’s one of my end-year lists without a Aubrey/Maturin? Jack is made Commodore and has to coordinate several captains, British army forces and local militia to regain the islands of Mauritius and La Réunion from France. Shenanigans ensue.

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Caprice and Rondo (The House of Niccolo, #7) by Dorothy Dunnett

Together with Patrick O’Brien, my list wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory Dorothy Dunnett. What will happen to my life when I’m done with Gemini and King Hereafter?

Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #10) by Dorothy L. Sayers

If you twisted my arm and asked me to choose just one 2014 favorite, I’d have to go with this.

Washington Square by Henry James

The big surprise of the year. Was expecting something dense and moralistic and found a light and funny novel. It was a (guilty) pleasure to watch James take apart his own characters.

XmasThere are moments when you just need a bit of Louisa May Alcott and it’s likely they will come during the Holidays. This little book will hit just the spot: short, gentle, heartwarming.

It starts off with the wonderful Christmas chapter of Little Women and then offers six other short-stories full of kindness, charity and poor people gratifyingly thankful for the kindness of others.

Nineteenth-century stories like these helped build the Christmas traditions that we still follow today and just for that they were a pleasure to read. It also helps that the book and the rest of the Penguin Christmas Classics collection are lovely (at least I couldn’t resist them!).

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imageedit_4_6917589873Book read for
Advent with Alcott

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