Category Archives: Books

August reads

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As some of you may know I read 5 books in July. I haven’t read as much in August, but I have a couple of reads to tell you about:

The Toll-GateThe Toll-Gate
Georgette Heyer

Yes, another Heyer novel! his is one of my favourites so far and I recommend it to those of you who like novels taking place in the Regency era, adventure and just a touch of romance.

In this book we follow John Staple, a captain who just came home from the battle of Waterloo. His love for a good adventure has earned him the nickname Crazy Jack. Life in peacetime does not suit him, and he soon leaves his comfortable home to visit one of his old friends. On his journey there he happens upon a toll-house that has been abandoned by the gatekeeper. The only person manning this gate is the son of the gatekeeper, an 11 year old boy who seems frightened witless. Captain Staple decides to stay for the night to learn more about the gatekeepers disappearance and what might have scared the boy, and soon finds himself in a great adventure.

The reason that I liked this book is that main focus is on the adventure and mystery, and the romance is not too lovey dovey. I find the main male character very likeable; he is not a insensitive brute, and he loves when things get interesting. The main female character gets less room in this novel than in many of Heyer’s other stories, but she is a rather unusual and sensible lady.

schackmaskinenochthechessmachine copySchackmaskinen
Der Schachautomat
The Chess Machine
Robert Löhr

Okay, so this book I listened to in Swedish, because it’s originally written in German, and I don’t know German well to read a whole book in it. But the book is also available in English, so I put the title in those three languages here in case you’d be interested in this book and want to be able to find it.

This story is based on historical events, people and objects. It is not meant to be taken as historical fact. The early history about the chess machine is not well known, so the author has woven an interesting adventure around it with some characters who really existed, and some who he made up.

So what is this “chess machine”? For you who have not heard about it I recommend the wikipedia article about it for a quick and fun history trivia. But in all shortness: Wolfgang from Kempelen, an inventor and author, built an automatic chess playing machine in the late 18th century. This machine looked like a Turk sitting by a table of chess, and it beat almost everyone of its opponents. Von Kempelen toured Europe with this remarkable machine, and they were everywhere met with wonder, fascination, and curiousness. How had he managed to build a machine that could think?! Well, it was a grand hoax. Inside the machine sat a person who steered the machine movements, and it was this person who actually played the game of chess.

In this book, this chess player, hidden in the machine, is a little man named Tibor. Von Kempelen saves him from prison, in return for help with his hoax. Tibor accepts these conditions, and starts a life hidden away in darkness where he has to play chess under slave like conditions. He’s only comfort is his religion, and now and then the sin of the flesh (beware of 18th century dress up parties). Tibor eventually grows tired of this life of chess and lies, but Von Kempelen still has use for him, and some drama between them spurs. There are also the non-believers, who mistrust Von Kempelen and his seemingly magical machine, and they are going to great length to prove the inventor to be a swindler.

I really enjoyed this book because of the more or less glamorous setting in the 1700’s. Von Kempelen and his chess machine is a fantastic slice of history, and the characters Löhr made up for the other main roles are interesting and likeable. The adventures of the chess machine’s make a great foundation for a fun and fascinating story!

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July reads

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Before we begin:
Today my blog reached a hundred followers! Thank you guys! <3

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This summer I have been quite the reader compared to during the semesters. I am very happy to have the time and inspiration to enjoy books for fun again! Since I have conquered a few books in July I thought I’d write a little something about them here. Nothing deep or fancy, just a few short sentences about the books and what I though. In the order I read them:

johannes-cabal-the-necromancer

Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer
Jonathan L. Howard

Johannes Cabal is, as you might have guessed, and necromancer. He has made a deal with the Devil and sold his soul. Now he wants it back. To get it back the Devil makes him a wager: If Cabal can collect 100 souls for him within a year by operating a hellish carnival manned by living dead, demons and other weird creatures, he will give Cabal his soul back.

This was an easy and entertaining read. Cabal is a really cynical and sarcastic fellow, which made me like him even though he is highly unsympathetic. There are also a lot of other fun characters in this book, like Cabal’s vampire brother. I will probably buy the next book in the Johannes Cabal series when I am in the mood for some witty lines dripping with sarcasm. Maybe I can call this genre gothic comedy? Yes I think I can.

There was one thing though that bugged me when I read this book, was that the author never mentions when it takes place. I spent quite some time guessing from the settings and famous persons mentioned when this takes place. At last I let it go and just enjoyed the floating timelessness of it.

quiet gentlemanThe Quiet Gentleman
Georgette Heyer

If you read about Georgette Heyer on Wikipedia you’ll pick up that she’s a pioneer within historical fiction and lived 1902 – 1974. Most of her books, like this, take place in regency England, but she also wrote some contemporary detective/mystery novels. This is the first of her novels that I have read, and I really really enjoyed it!

It is about the dandy looking Earl of St Erth who comes home after the battle of Waterloo war to claim his inheritance. Being the son of his father’s first wife, his now dead father’s new family is not at all happy to see him claim the earldom. They had hoped he’d die in the war and thus letting the title go to the eldest son of his father’s second wife, a brother he hasn’t met since childhood.

The things I really like about this book are:
Heyer’s eye for historical details. And who doesn’t love to live in the regency era for a few hundred pages? I also love the mix of mystery, romance and humour. The love story in this novel is not too cheesy, which is important to keep me reading. I can’t take sappy romance! At least not a whole book based on that concept. The mystery bit gave it an interesting story line, and I also enjoy the characters and the wit some of them possess.

I really recommend this to anyone who’s interested in an easy to read historical fiction set in the Austen-era. (My boyfriend claims there’s no historical era called the Austen-era, but I’m the historical archaeologist so I should know, right?)

Augustus Carp
Augustus Card Esq.: The Autobiography of a Really Good Man
Henry Howarth Bashford

I bought this book  on a whim after reading a review on goodreads about it. It’s written in the 1920’s with an anonymous author, but now we know it’s by Henry Howarth Bashford.

This book is a mock-autobiography by/about Augustus Carp. He’s a very pious and good man, and always act in the best intention. Or so he believes, and would have us believe. It covers the time from his birth to the birth of his own son, and we get to know how he was raised and how he makes his school years, his career and choice of church and wife.

It is a satire, and it drips with venom. Funny venom. I found it quite hilarious at some times, but a bit tedious now and then. All in all an interesting and entertaining contemporary comment on society in the 1920’s, and it’s not too long so it was worth it’s time.

cousin kate
Cousin Kate
Georgette Heyer

So after reading The Quiet Gentleman I had to buy a few more novels by Georgette Heyer.

This one is about Kate, a girl from a good family, but she’s without fortune. Her father’s marriage was against his family’s wishes, and he became an outcast. This left Kate without any family connections and no one to provide for her when her father passed away. She has to WORK for a living! The horror! (Well, to be fair Kate doesn’t find this too horrible.)

In the start of the book she get sacked from a position as a governess, and she has nowhere to go but to her old nurse and the nurse’s family. There they decide to write to her aunt, whom Kate has never met, to tell her about her niece’s poor situation. This aunt comes along and invites Kate to her mansion, where she is to stay as long as she wish. Kate is incredibly grateful for this gesture, but can’t help feeling like her aunt’s home is not a very happy place.

This book has a love story, but is of a more gothic character than The Quiet Gentleman. I really liked the dark family drama. This is written from the heroine’s point of view, and Kate is a strong and slightly different woman from the females surrounding her. This, I think, is a typical thing for Heyer’s female protagonists.

devil's cubDevil’s Cub
Georgette Heyer

Yes, another one by Heyer! I really like her books so far.

The Marquise of Vidal has a wild temper and wild habits. He is known as the “The Devil’s Cub”, because he is just as wild as his father was in his youth. He is flirting with a beautiful bourgeoisie girl named Sophia, and intends to bring her as a mistress to Paris. Sophia’s mother sees this as an opportunity for her daughter to shame him into marrying her daughter, and Sophia is quite excited about the prospect of becoming a Duchess one day. Sophia’s more sensible sister Mary realises that the marquise has no intention at all to marry her sister though, and that this adventure will lead to her sister’s ruin. So what does she do? She dresses up like her sister and fool the marquise into kidnapping her instead. Thus she is thrown into the power of the Devil’s Cub and find herself in France with him.

This one though was more focusing on the love story, and it was a little too cliché for my taste. You know with the dark and mysterious man, and the woman falling in love with him against her better senses. It still had the Heyer wit going for it, and the historical details and setting made it well worth the read. I must say though that Mary is the Heyer heroine so far that I’ve like the least.

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Currently reading: The Toll-Gate, by Georgette Heyer. More on that in month :)

Rivers

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So yesterday the new semester started, and I think it will be an intense but exciting one. It’s time for me to write my bachelor’s thesis on historical archaeology, and we’ll also actually be digging. I have dreamed about this very moment since I was 7-ish years old. If I die during the process of writing my thesis I can die happy knowing I followed my childhood dream :) Kind of cheesy and kind of true.

denise

The bad news is that I have still not managed to kick my writer’s block’s ass, so I don’t have much incoming or outgoing mail to show you guys. (I hope I’ll be out of this writing slump when the thesis writing begins! O__O) But I did send a postcard to Denise, which should reach her soon I hope. I love the pig stamp :)

KarinThis is an envelope containing two granny squares that will be sent off to Karin, my boyfriend’s sister. The granny squares will be added to a big blanket made of lots and lots of squares crocheted by a group of persons from different places in Sweden. Most of us have never met in person, but we have a facebook group dedicated to sharing of crocheting patterns, blanket planning and general wooing over the prettty granny squares we all make ;) When the blanket is finished it will be donated for a good cause. It’s such a great project! We’re currently on our third blanket, and it’s really fun to see the end result!

readingThis what I am currently reading.
Since I’ve finished A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin and I’m still waiting for the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series (also known as Game of Thrones) I had to find something else to read in between books. I was brave enough to try another fantasy book. I don’t like to read another book in the same genre as the book I just finished and loved, because it usually turns out to be a disappointment since my mind is still stuck in the world of the last book. Does this make any sense? Anyway, this is a totally different kind of fantasy and style, so it was not a problem this time. Rivers of London is an urban fantasy crime fiction. It has ghosts and nymphs and magic. Yes magic. I do love magic. And the author has that dry sarcasm in his voice that I just can’t resist. I’d recommend you to give this book a try if you’re looking for a humorous modern day fantasy about crime solving in London. It’s not a heavy read, so you can easily plough through in a couple of days if you don’t have a very busy life. I’ll probably have to read more from this author because I’m really enjoying this book!

Summer holidays

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So all my classes are finished, I got a good overall grade for the semester, and I have no job to spend my days on. How to entertain myself during these 10 weeks of total freedom?

hurtsFirst of all we had the whole moving two blocks to a better apartment project. We are almost all packed up now, and we even got room for some new furniture. This wonderful little drawer thing from IKEA for example! I store my paper scraps, stamps, stickers and tapes in it (and other stuff :). Love it!

I also try to catch up on my mail. It is a slow progress, but I’m getting there. Even though I am behind on my mail I still get some loveliness in my mailbox:

20130710_13374320130710_133752The two postcards I got in a swap with Linda. Steam Age and Orient Express. They’re awesome!

joanaA thick beautiful envelope from Joana in Portugal. Nothing is better than a long letter to read on a rainy summer day :)

rutorI also keep myself busy crocheting granny squares for a quilt or two. I just can’t stay away from those brightly coloured yarns!

Hallvi_picture118And yeah, I play way too much The Secret World. I also recently installed The Sims 3 again, so I can escape the warm sunny weather all days with computer gaming if I feel like it (and I do).

a storm of swordsLast but not least I love summer holidays for the simple reason that I finally have time to read again! Yesterday I finished A Clash of Kings, and today I’m starting on this one.

In the midst of this productiveness I’m also planning a trip to visit my family and friends.
How do you guys plan to make the most of your summer holidays/leave?