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Like all toddlers, David loves everything with a touch-screen. He climbs furniture, flashes his winning smile and any other stratagem to get just a few minutes with our phones or tablets. The Kindle isn’t his favorite but it’ll do if nothing else is available.

Over the last few month he accidental bought 6 books (thank heavens for Kindle’s return policy!). He seems to have an eclectic taste: a couple of mysteries, a romance, a sci-fi, one non-fiction that sounds really depressing and finally (my boy, sniff) a Lonely Planet!

Have your kids ever bought anything by accident?

(Blurbs from Goodreads)

obsessedObsessed (Lizzy Gardner #4) by T.R. Ragan

Desperate for better ratings, radio psychologist Madeline Blair tells her listeners she’s being stalked, unaware that her long-time listener and biggest fan, Seth Brown, will do anything to protect her. When her publicity stunt is revealed, Seth becomes enraged by her deceit and dangerously unhinged.

When her friends mysteriously begin to vanish and damning evidence points to Madeline, she turns to private investigator Lizzy Gardner for help. Lizzy knows her way around a murderer’s mind, after surviving her own horrifying ordeal at the hands of a serial killer years ago. As Lizzy closes in, Seth Brown is undeterred. Madeline wanted a stalker and now she has one. Nothing is going to stop him. He’s obsessed.

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true crime

True Crime (Nathan Heller #2) by Max Allan Collins

Nate Heller survived his confrontations with Al Capone, only to find himself facing Ma Barker, Baby Face Nelson, and perhaps the biggest and most dangerous question in his life: Who was the man shot down in the alley next to the Biograph Theater, the man the FBI had confidently identified as John Dillinger?

Heller’s search for the answer leads him into a confrontation with J. Edgar Hoover, and into a much more comfortable meeting with Sally Rand…but not before the streets of Chicago run red with blood.

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38 resonsI Want To Marry My Boyfriend by Lynn Enright

She has a fulfilling career, a wide friendship group, a supportive family, a lovely boyfriend and quite nice hair. So why does Lynn Enright’s life seem to be missing something? Why, she wonders, does she still care so much about getting married?

Armed with a suspicion that she is not the only one, she sets out to explore the role marriage plays for women of her generation. It’s an outdated institution, which seems to fail so very often – so why are we still in thrall to the idea of being wed?

A listicle with ambitions above its station, this is a hilarious and moving account of being a woman in love in 2015.

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speakerSpeaker for the Dead (The Ender Quartet #3) by Orson Scott Card

In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: the Speaker for the Dead, who told of the true story of the Bugger War.


Now long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens’ ways are strange and frightening…again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery…and the truth.

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silence of the godSilence of the God by Max Gray

The other side of the story to great history is not as pretty as they teach us in grade school. ‘Silence of the God’ by Max Gray is a book filled full of live excerpts from eyewitnesses for the outrageous crimes against humans ever recorded in history.

These people had no chance of survival. There are only so many ways to describe babies getting their heads bashed in, women and children raped, men and women having their body parts chopped off and burnt to death.

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europeLonely Planet Europe on a shoestring

A guide to traveling in Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland features information on galleries, museums, motoring tours, and more. Original.

 

 

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So I spent last week in New York, and between a visit to Forbidden Planet and Strand, this happened.

Some are series I already follow (Serenity, Saga, Chew, Fables), others were your recommendations (Ex Machina, Ms Marvel, Runaways, Rat Queens, Hawkeye) and other were pushes from the nice staff at Forbidden Planet (Locke & Key, Preacher, Planetary).

They’ll keep me busy for a while and fully supplied for the Graphic Novels Challenge 2015.

It’s that time of year again: Boekenfestijn was in town and this time I went a bit wilder than in previous years.

Yes, what you see there are 21 of the 34 books (so far) of the Morland Dynasty series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. What makes it even worse is that the first one has been on the TBR for years now… (*blush*). They were so cheap! And they do look like the sort of books I’d love!

The others in the loot:

  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – I’ve heard great things about it;
  • The Olive Tree: A Personal Journey Through Mediterranean Olive Groves by Carol Drinkwater – because I’ve always been fascinated by olives, olive oil and olive trees;
  • The Distance Between Us by Maggie O’Farrell –  I really liked The Hand That First Held Mine and wanted to try something else by her;
  • The Glass Painter’s Daughter by Rachel Hore – I know nothing about this one other than the blurb. It’s my blind choice of the year.

One of the highlights of my literary year here in Brussels is the coming of the Boekenfestijn, a travelling book festival. A few weeks ago it was in Zwolle, and Iris from Iris of Books also posted about her own shopping spree.

This year I missed it here in Brussels, so on Sunday I traveled about 25km to the city of Mechelen, to carry on the tradition (in 2010 I also posted about my loot).

(click to enlarge)

I was especially lucky this time because I found four books that were already on my wishlist:

  • Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
  • The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

Arrived Sunday night from a mini-vacation in Istanbul, which was confirmed as one of my favorite European (and Asian) cities (if not really the favorite).

Of course there was some book shopping involved, this time at the Robinson Crusoe bookshop in Beyoglu’s main street. It’s reputedly “Istanbul’s best foreign book shop” and it has a great vibe, with its tall shelves in dark wood. I especially appreciated their section on Turkey and came out with three souvenirs, all ideal for my Istanbul/Constantinople/Byzantium theme of the One, Two, Theme Challenge:

(View from our hotel)

  • The Flea Palace by Elif Shafak
  • The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk
  • Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City by Hillary Sumner-Boyd and John Freely

Today I have the honor to be on Lesswammes’ “Book Bloggers Abroad” weekly feature.

Drop by her blog for some thoughts on living, blogging and book-shopping in Brussels… and a photo of my living room 😀

Thank you once again for having me, leeswammes!


One of the highlights of literary life in Brussels is the annual Book Festival. A huge warehouse full of new books at mouth-watering prices. Most of the books are in Dutch, but there’s still a great selection in English.

I’ve been dreaming about it for weeks and finally spent 2 zen hours there this weekend, until my trolley was full to the brim. The final loot: 28 book at an average of 2 Euros each. Here they are, my new precioussss… I’m particular proud of the beautiful edition of Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.

(photo from here)

In almost exactly 1 month I’ll be on my way to check mark one of my bucket-list items: doing a Trans-Siberian. We’re starting in China (Beijing), cross Mongolia and finish in Russia (St. Petersburg). It will take about 3 weeks to complete. We’re planning how to spend our time in the long train hours, especially the 4-nights stretch between Lake Baikal and Moscow, and my preparations of course involve the development of my Ultimate Trans-Siberian Reading List 🙂

When I started compiling it in my head it was already waaay too long. We’ll have a lot of free time on our hands, but I also hope to do some sight-seeing, talk with fellow travellers, play board-games (our Settlers of Catan: Travel Edition is already put aside), and idly ruminate about life, the universe and everything else. So the list will have to come under control. I’ve made up my mind about the categories but still need to make a final decision on which books to include in each. The categories are:

  • One book from/about each of the 3 countries
  • One BIG book I’ve been wanting to read for ever
  • One Portuguese book from my TBR shelves
  • One random book from the TBR shelves
    +
  • Two random audiobooks from my To-hear folder

6 + 2. I think that’s a good number for this trip. As much as possible I’ll try to find Sony Reader’s versions or paperback editions of the ones I don’t already have, so I don’t have to carry them around in the backpack.

Russia
Completely split between Dr. Jivago and The Master and Margarita. Help! Although I’ve had bad experiences with surrealism, the story of Master and Margarita seems right up my alley. On the other hand, everyone I know that ever read Dr. Jivago fervently vouches for it – in my mind it’s a sort of Russian Gone With the Wind. I know it’s likely I’ll just take both, especially if I get them in digital format, but I still need to prioritize.

Mongolia
Very though one. I’ve been searching for classic or contemporary Mongolian authors but so far no luck. All I have are three possibilities which, although they sound interesting, are written by foreign authors about Mongolia and that’s not what I was going for:

Wolf Totem by Rong Jiang
China’s runaway bestseller and winner of the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize. Part period epic, part fable for modern days, Wolf Totem depicts the dying culture of the Mongols the ancestors of the Mongol hordes who at one time terrorized the world and the parallel extinction of the animal they believe to be sacred: the fierce and otherworldly Mongolian wolf. (from Goodreads)


I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Wilson
In early 14-century China, Oyuna tells her granddaughter of her girlhood in Mongolia and how love for her horse enabled her to win an important race and bring good luck to her family. (from Goodreads)





The Shadow Walker by Mike Walters
As winter falls upon the streets of Ulan Bataar, Mongolia, a serial killer is just getting warmed up. When the mutilated body of a fourth victim is found in one of the city’s most expensive hotels, Nergui, the former head of the Serious Crimes squad, is no closer to catching the killer and will accept any help he can get. (from Powell’s Books)




China
I’ve read Wild Sawns some years ago, and I must admit that my contact with Chinese literature is limited to the best-seller types such as Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstresses and Amy Tan. I really enjoyed most of them, but they were all written by Chinese-Americans or Chinese-French, so I feel I’m not tapping the source directly. There’s also Pearl Buck, which I’ve been meaning to try for ages.

I browsed my local English bookshop and Goodreads’ lists and came up with three options, but they also unavoidably fall into the Chinese-Western category:

Waiting by Ha Jin
Lin Kong is a devoted doctor in love with a modern young woman – a nurse who is educated, clever, and vivid. The only complication is the wife to whom he was married when they were very young – a tiny woman, humble and touchingly loyal, whom he visits in order to ask, again and again, for divorce. (from Goodreads)



Once on a Moonless Night by Dai Sijie
When Puyi, the last emperor, was exiled to Manchuria in the early 1930s, it is said that he carried an eight-hundred-year-old silk scroll inscribed with a lost sutra composed by the Buddha. Eventually the scroll would be sold illicitly to an eccentric French linguist named Paul d’Ampere, in a transaction that would land him in prison, where he would devote his life to studying the ineffably beautiful ancient language of the forgotten text. Our unnamed narrator, a Western student in China in the 1970s, hears this story and pursues it.
(from Goodreads)

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

The setting is China’s Forbidden City in the last days of its imperial glory, a vast complex of palaces and gardens run by thousands of eunuchs and encircled by a wall in the center of Peking. In this highly ordered place – tradition-bound, ruled by strict etiquette, rife with political and erotic tension – the Emperor, The Son of Heaven, performs two duties: he must rule the court and conceive an heir. To achieve the latter, tradition provides a stupendous hierarchy of hundreds of wives and concubines. (from Goodreads) Anchee Min recently released a Pearl Buck biography which also caught my eye: “Pearl of China”.

The Big book
It’s decided: The Count of Monte-Cristo by Alexander Dumas

The Portuguese book
Although being my native language, ever since I’ve started comfortably reading in English I’ve read very few books in Portuguese. There are several reasons for this but the main ones are that I avoid translations as much as possible and I’ve always felt more drawn to Anglo-Saxon literature. This, mixed with my taste for historical fiction, led me the embarrassing point where I know more about British history than that of my own country.

That’s why one of my New Year’s resolutions was to read more about Portuguese history in Portuguese. So far there hasn’t been much (no) progress…

The book in this category is also already chosen:  1808 by Laurentino Gomes. The book is about “How a mad Queen, a fearful Prince and a corrupt Court fooled Napoleon and changed the course of Portuguese and Brazilian history.” Basically, how our Court fled the country to escape Napoleon and established the first European capital outside Europe –  for some years, the capital of Portugal was Rio de Janeiro. This also contributed to the development of Brazil into an integrated country, with a unique cultural and national identity, which eventually led to it’s independence soon after. Sounds promising and I’m looking forward to it.

Random book
To be decided. Maybe some fantasy.

Two audiobooks
Only one decided: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson read by Bill Bryson.

I still plan to browse around and talk to people about this list before finalizing it, but meanwhile, actually planning it it’s been one of the best  parts of planning the whole trip. I’ll post the final list later in the month.

… according to The Guardian is the Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht.

What does a city do with an 800-year-old church with no congregation? Well, it could make like the Dutch and convert it into a temple of books. The old Dominican church in Maastricht was being used for bicycle storage not long ago, but thanks to a radical refurbishment by Dutch architects Merkx + Girod it has been turned into what could possibly be the most beautiful bookshop of all time.

They put the list together back in 2008 and shortly after I organized a trip with some friend to see what the fuss was about. We’re only about 1h30 away by car. I came across the photos today and wanted to share – makes your mouth water, doesn’t it?

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