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Things have been quiet over here, so wanted to pop in and just say hi. I’ve been reading and commenting on other blogs and vlobs, tweeting, but lazy about writing my own posts.

Still, I’ve had read a really good book life lately. May’s readings ranged from a Russian historical mystery to Southern family drama, from a Swedish suburbia tearjerker to non-fiction about British early Renaissance. In between I squeezed in some feminist essays and superhero comics.

Also started re-reading Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. This time around I’m determined to get every single obscure reference. I even got a dedicated notebook. It’s been great in a history nerd kinda way.

I gave into the hype and started The Raven Cycle. No regrets… except about wishing there was more Blue in it. Also worth mention the amazing River of Stars audiobook narrated by Simon Vance. Guy Gavriel Kay recently released Children of Earth and Sky also read by Vance and set in an past Dubrovnik-like city (get out of my brain!). It’ll be the perfect beach audio. I’m almost afraid to start it, the expectations are so high.

Also in May I went back to Brussels for a friend’s birthday and bought some comics in French (they’re double the price here in Geneva).

I’m especially curious about La Dame à la licorne, a collection of stories by different authors (art students) inspired on The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Re-read Tracy Chevalier’s book about them recently and last year finally had the chance to see the tapestries live at the Musée de Cluny in Paris. I was mesmerized. In turn, they (and the whole museum, really) made me want to read more Dunnett. And that’s the way life and books intersect and complement each other 🙂

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Aaaand that’s a wrap!

Listened to all the books in my category (well, Little Big Man was a DNF) and am now ready to place my bet. Had great fun with Literary Fiction & Classics, especially because for the first time I got to share the category, which makes it much more fun. In the end, Tanya and I agree that the winner should be:

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The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, read by Chukwudi Iwuji

In all my years doing the Armchair Audies I have yet to pick the winner 😛 so maybe this is the year!

Iwuji did the book justice (a native Nigerian accent helped). It’s a story full of emotions, I laughed and cried, got outraged, was sick to my stomach and filled with hope for humanity. Iwuji made this happen without me being constantly aware of his presence.

My 2016 Armchair Audies posts:

And here’s the Ballot for the other categories (thanks Jennifer for once again organizing!)

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This is my plan for #comicsfebruary.

Some old- and new-school super-hero stories, some high-brow Franco-Belgians. Some fantasy, some sci-fi, one memoire, one just plain… literary?

Are you joining the fun?

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From Venice to Caffa, from Antwerp to the Gold Coast of Africa, merchants anchored their ships and unloaded their cannon and flipped open their ledgers as if in twenty years nothing had changed, and nothing was about to change now.

Last night I finally begun the last book of Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Niccolò series. I’d ended my previous read two days ago and still hadn’t found the right time to pick up Gemini. But last night, at around 9:30PM, when David was finally asleep and the husband was out for a concert, I made myself comfortable with a rare after-dinner Coke, got the two Companions, put the BBC on mute for company, and finally was able to engaged my brain 100% – Dunnett never asks for (or deserves) anything less.

This means I’ll soon end my first-time reading of her historical series. I’ve been postponing this moment since I first begun The Lymond Chronicles (Niccolò‘s sequel in plot but prequel in publication date) back in 2009 and my reading life was changed for ever. From then on, every historical fiction (every fiction really!) will always be compared to these books.

Two chapters in and the Companions had already failed me in translating the Middle Scots opening quote, there was a line to be discussed with other fans in the yahoo group (“He had met other husbands like this. Men who could sail but not navigate.“) and I got the sudden urge to eat oysters. It’s going to be a ride.

I already know that for the rest of my life I’ll always be re-reading Dunnett and will always find something new to awe me, but first-time readings are special. The end of Gemini will be the end of an Era and I’m feeling rather emotional about it.

I’ll skip the stats this year for lack of time, but still wanted to record for posterity a general impression of 2015 and make 2016 reading goals.

2015 was a good one, professionally probably the happiest I’ve ever had, but also did great travelling and really enjoyed family life (it helps we’re back to almost normal sleeping patterns…).

The highlights:

  • Watching David grow – how fascinating to see him become a little boy!
  • Visited 3 new countries: Lichtenstein, Morocco and Senegal (other travelling highlights: Edinburgh and Paris with BBFs, south of Portugal and Genova with family)
  • The Dave Matthews Band concert in Lisbon this fall was one of the best of my life
  • My quiz team was top-3 in the yearly Quiz League
  • Working on the inception of the Sustainable Development Goals

(see 2014, 2013 and 2012)

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It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a good reading year really makes a good year in general. To get me back into blogging and pre-David reading performance I joined lots of challenges and other community activities and managed to complete every one of them. This includes:

  • The Armchair Audies – always one of my favorite book blogging events
  • Jay’s Deal Me In Challenge – one short-story per week the whole year. Also a good challenge, although I didn’t blog much about it. Two quick thoughts: 1) German classic short-stories are great and want to read more of them and 2) modern short-stories are obsessed with infidelity!
  • The Re-Read Challenge – very worth while, led me to some of the year’s best
  • Graphic Novel Challenge – 2015 was my comics/GN year. Read an average of 2 a month.
  • Books in Translation Challenge – 12 books (one a month, yay!), written in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, French, Spanish, German and Italian.
  • Book Riot Read Harder Challenge – It was an interesting one to join, although I ended up with the feeling it didn’t really challenge me much, as most of the books that ticked the boxes were already in my TBR. I’ll take that as a good sign!
  • Sherlockian Month
  • German Literature Month
  • A More Diverse Universe
  • Finding Ada

And looking back at my 2015 plans:

  1. Continue to re-read, 100 Years of Solitude and Emma a priority: re-read both and 3 others
  2. Read more sci-fi: read 15 sci-fi books, 9 more than in 2014. Highlights: The Martian, Saga, Station Eleven
  3. Read more in Portuguese, Spanish and French: read 2 in Portuguese (+1 than 2014), 4 in French (=) and 2 in Spanish (+2).
  4. Read the only two Brontë sisters’ books I’ve never read: fail in both
  5. Finish several series: fail in all but Narnia
  6. Participate in more blogging events: success – see above!

Plans for 2016

  1. Continue to re-read, at least at the same rate as 2015. Consider His Dark Materials, Atonement, Harry Potter, Lord of the RingsA Short History of a Small Place, some by Guy Gavriel Kay.
  2. Continue to read in different languages and in translation, also at least at 2015 rates
  3. New try: read the only two Brontë sisters’ books I’ve never read (Shirley and The Professor)
  4. New try: finish several series (The Tea Rose, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The House of Niccolo, The Dark is Rising)
  5. Less challenges, but more read-alongs/bookclub books, recommendations welcome!

Happy 2016 everyone!

 

Happy New year everyone! I have a good feeling about 2016 🙂

Things have been a bit quiet around here, but work then laziness happened. Still, I read a lot: 104 books, which puts me back to pre-Baby levels (comics and travelling for work helped).

I gave 8 books 5-out-of-5 stars, one less than last year. The resolution to re-read more payed up (3 of the list) and I’m also happy about their variety: historical, classics, children’s, crime, 2 not written in English, 6 by women, 4 audiobooks.

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Rosa, minha irmã Rosa by Alice Vieira
A favorite from my childhood that brought me to tears. It’s about a 10-year-old girl adjusting to a new-born sister. Unfortunately, there’s only translations from Portuguese to Spanish and Hungarian.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The plan was to re-read it ahead of Go Set a Watchman, but that one is still on the TBR. I just didn’t have the courage to ruin Atticus…

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
Still a beautiful book and once again, 15 years after, I’m awed by Márquez’s genius.

Saga Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
What’s there to say about the series that hasn’t been said before? All the hype was well deserved.

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Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
One of those book where the brilliancy of the author just shines through. A gentle story with hidden depths.

Desolation Island by Patrick o’Brian (Aubrey & Maturin #5)
Aubrey and Maturin travel to Australia with a hold full of convicts. Shenanigans ensue. Five books into the series, the quality remains.

Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith
The surprise of the year and the most underrated book I’ve read in a long time. Also, the best audiobook of the 36 I listened to last year, closely followed by:

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
I was expecting to like it, but not love it. It pushed all the right buttons and proved once again that just because it’s genre, it can have just as much characterization as the best literary fiction. It was the book that got me more emotionally involved with the characters, and that’s saying something when Maturin and Finch are on the list.

Honorable mentions:

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John mandel
  • We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Busman’s Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #11) by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman

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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.

 

 

brontessmCredit: Hark! A Vagrant

I have a dysfunctional relationship with the Brontës. I often find myself rolling my eyes at all the DRAMA! in their stories, which I usually go out of my way to avoid in other books. I rebel against Charlotte’s negative portrayal of my beloved Brussels and her snide remarks about Jane Austen. I cringe at Emily’s glorification of an abusive hero. I go a bit easier on Anne because I have a soft spot for her – she has her sanctimonious moments, but I’m anxiously waiting for the day when the world realizes she’s the true ground-breaking feminist in the family.

The truth is: I can’t get enough of them and can’t think of a more interesting family (maybe the Mitfords come close?). It’s almost like I’m also a Brontë sister, always bickering but loving them all the same, vigorously defending them from outside attacks.

I’m also a proud member of the Brontë Society, and its Brussels Bronte Group  branch (post about our weekend in London). I’ve read many books about the family and since Charlotte’s birthday is coming up, I’ve decided to start celebrating earlier with a list of my favorites. Have you read any of them?

51Hre4BoOvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Brontës by Juliet Barker
(Previous reviews: Part I; Part II)

This is on my top-3 favorite biographies of all time. It’s huge, but it reads like a 300-page Sarah Addison Allen novel. It starts with Patrick Brontë’s youth and arrival in England and goes right through to the family’s growing popularity after everyone’s been long dead.

Juliet Barker’s approach is that a reliable biography of each Brontë cannot be done in isolation, since their lives were too connected and they constantly inspired each other’s work. She’s also in the business of myth-busting.

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41QR7VCP9HL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Brontë Myth by Lucasta Miller

Like Start Trek, each new generation creates a new zeitgeist version of the Brontës. Miller examines the way these perceptions change over time by taking a comprehensive a look at all body of work produced about the family.

The impact of Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë was especially interesting to read, as well as the ripple effect of the cinema adaptations of their works and lives.

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The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell

This was the book that started the Brontë myth and crystallized it for many years. Gaskell was a friend of Charlotte Brontë and, for better or worst, it shows. Even if you know little about Charlotte, it’s obvious this is a very romanticized and sanitized version of her life. Gaskell was very keen to keep up Charlotte’s domestic-goddess image – fascinating stuff to read from a 21st century perspective.

I’ve had really geeky conversations with other Brontë aficionados on the best order to read the first three books on this list. The Brontës was the last to be written and it’s a great intro to the family. It talks about how both The Myth and The Life fit the narrative. The Myth describes in detail how The Life impacts how we perceive the Brontës even today. It’s really interesting to read The Life after The Brontës and The Myth, but it would probably be a very different experience if read first.

107973The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë by Daphne du Maurier

Oh Branwell, golden child, the unfulfilled promise, the most tragic element of a tragic family. This is Branwell’s biography and a great example of du Maurier’s non-fiction skills. From what I’ve gathered, she saw this book as an opportunity to prove herself beyond her “popular literature”.

Confession: I didn’t know this book even existed until I won it in a raffle at the last Brussels Brontë Society Xmas Lunch.

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The Brontës Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson

A novel for a bit of change. The Brontës Went to Woolworths is about three sisters that share an imaginary world that threatens to become more real than reality. And it actually does, because after a table-turning session, the Brontë sisters come knocking on their door.

It’s such a witty and fun book and unlike The Eyre Affair (don’t get me started on that one, a pet hate of mine), the Brontës act as I’d expect them to. It’s one of those forgotten diamonds that deserve more limelight. How come it’s not a Persephone?

Any other recommendations?

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

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