of whales and men.

the North Water by Ian McGuire (2016)
 Behold the man is the opening sentence, and that we really must do. The man in question, Drax, is a brute, a lover of rum and young boys. He is about to ship out with a whale boat named the Volunteer. The year is 1857, and the traditional whale ships are met with hard competitions from the steamers. The captain on the ship is deemed unlucky as he has lost ships and men before, so the atmosphere aboard the ship is nervous.

There is another man we must observe, Patrick Sumner, who has signed up to be the ship’s doctor. He has come back from India where he witnessed the siege of Delhi and the horrors of war. And because of that he is not able to sleep and function without laudanum. But as the ship’s doctor he will witness things equally as bad or even worse; venereal diseases, clubbing of baby seals, conspiracies, frost bites, rape and even murders. One thing that is for certain is that both the ship and its crew are beyond hope.

When I read the book’s description, I knew that this would be right up my alley and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint. Although it is dark, violent and gory, sometimes bordering the grotesque, I loved every word of the book. The language is crucial in order to make such a wild tale work, and it flows perfectly while being entertaining and salty. The only fault I see is that it was simply too short, I wish the author would give more details of the returns at the end.

I have a sneaking feeling that the North Water might end up as one of my 2016-favourites.

january – march.

I have read 21 books so far this year. And only written about 2. I wanted to write about more, but I have never gotten around to it because life is simply too much everything right now (and that is why I’m reading so much – escaping reality).

So. I’m just going to list them (except the recent Norwegian ones, they will get a post of their own).

6. Disgrace by J.M Coetzee (1999): Race and rape. Bleak. It is still on my mind. Won the Man Booker Prize, is on the 1001 books list and Coetzee has a Nobel prize. Read for Line’s 1001 books challenge: books by a Nobel prize winner.

7. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski (2000): Scary, but too much academic writing and nonsense. Disappointing in the end. 1001 books.

8-16. Harry Hole book 2-10 by Jo Nesbø (1998-2013): I developed a love/hate relationship to Harry Hole and the books. Too many similar plots. But at least Harry Hole has a great taste in music.

18. the Radetzky March by Joseph Roth (1932): The downfall of a family and the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Read it with a smile on my face and also learnt a lot of history. Read for Hedda’s off the shelf challenge: books written in German.

20. the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1892): Sherlock Holmes #3. Short stories. Entertaining, but some were too predictable. Read for Line’s 1001 books challenge: crime and mystery

21. the Black Echo by Michael Connelly (1992): Harry Bosch #1. I watched the Bosch series and fell in love. The book was tougher to get through, probably because I overdosed on police corruption reading the Harry Hole books. Ingalill says it will get better. Started on #2.

Clean slate. I’m enjoying Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel tremendously, all I want to do is read about the Tudors all day long. Luckily I have Bring Up the Bodies to look forward to.

I also set up an instagram account and it is more up to date than this blog. 

Berlin, Berlin!

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood (1939)

“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will
have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.”
Christopher moves to Berlin where he spends his time giving English lessons, writing and having a jolly good time. But this is Berlin in the early 1930s and behind the decadence lurks Nazism and violence and Christopher decides to leave the city in 1933.

Through his years in Berlin he meets a lot of interesting characters. My favourite is Sally Bowles, an English cabaret dancer who loves men and money. I think the reason why I love Sally is her complexity, she is both fun and depressed. There are other important and fascinating characters as well, and many of them Jewish or gay. And that is why this book is so sad. The last chapter made me cry because we now know what happened. It is also the reason why this book is important.

Isherwood simply amazed me with this book, in fact I read in just a few hours on a train between Oslo and Trondheim back in February (I’m superslow at logging my books this year). Now I’m eager to read the rest of his works. I already bought Mr Norris Changes Trains when visiting fantastic Berlin during Easter and his autobiography Christopher and His Kind is very high on my wish list.

trust me, I’m telling you stories.

the Passion by Jeanette Winterson (1987)
 Henri is the man who prepares chickens for Napoleon. And because of that he gets to see the battlefields of Europe, all the way to Moscow. Meanwhile, in Venice, a web-footed girl named Villanelle works at a casino. At work she cross dresses to flirt with the customers and she falls in love with a married woman. Years later, Henri and Villanelle meet on the outskirts of a burning Moscow and they decide to desert together, making their way to Venice where Henri has to find Villanelle’s heart.

I’m amazed by the fact that this book is a mere 180 pages long, but has so many stories within the story. I loved the setting, and if I could time travel, Venice would be one of the places I’d visit (but not now, as it is a tourist trap). I also learnt more about Napoleon. All in all, it’s a great read and that was a pleasant surprise as I didn’t enjoy Orange is the Only Fruit when I read it years ago.

(Why is it always so hard to write a lot about the books you have come to love?)

This was my choice for Hedda’s off-the-shelf 2016 reading challenge; a book with a red cover. I’m months behind in blogging.

all the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (1936)
 “Their combined ages were two hundred and sixty-three years. None of them had ever been out of England, fought in a war, been in prison, ridden a horse, travelled in an aeroplane, got married, or given birth to a child. There seemed no reason why they should not continue in the same style until they died. Year in, year out, nothing ever happened in the Comstock family.” 
 Gordon hates money so much that he left his good job and started working for a small book shop. At night he writes poetry while glaring at the hated aspidistra on his shelf in his rented room. And always thinking about money and the fact that he is too poor to do anything.

So goes his life, until one day when he receives a letter and a cheque for 10 pounds from an American magazine that will publish one of his poems. He is going to give half of it to his sister who has always given him a hand, but first he is finally going to invite his girlfriend and a friend out to dinner. But the perfect night turns into a drunken stupor that ends in jail.

Orwell is a master in portraying the life on the dirty, poor streets of London. And as in all of his novels, the political aspect is close to the surface. Although Gordon is a miserable character, Orwell writes with an excellent sense of humour, and it is hard to feel sorry for  Gordon as he can only blame himself for his position. After all, the war against money is a battle that he is doomed to lose. The way the book ends is another plus, although I predicted it.

This was the remaining Orwell novel on my shelf, and that is a little sad. But he has written some very interesting non-fiction books, so I have something to look forward to. If you have only read Animal Farm and 1984, I highly recommend his other works.

Folkens! Lines 1001 bøker lesesirkel har gjenoppstått fra de døde. I januar leser vi en bok vi har lenge hatt lyst til å lese. I februar er det en 1001 bok fra en nobelprisforfatter som står for tur. Sleng deg på!

2015: annus horribilis

Well, maybe horrible is a stretch too far. But, it has definitely not been one of the best years in my life. I spent most of January to April off work due to an illness that was only getting worse until my doctor had a vague diagnosis and gave me some pills that worked wonders. It turned out that I have hypothyroidism which really fucks up your body, but is easy to manage. And because of that, I slept through most of the autumn. My grandma got really sick just before Easter, and I decided to spend the summer taking care of her. It was really tough, but luckily she recovered and is in her 86th year doing better than she has in years. It hasn’t been easy to live a good life the last year (a proof of this is all the things I ended up not going doing – concert, parties, travel plans).

So, here’s to 2016! The year of getting out there and doing things. I’m going to quit my job and sell my apartment. It may result in travelling the globe, or just moving to a different city. Perhaps I even take a swing at writing out the two ideas that have been stuck in my head for years.

Fortunately we who read have the chance to escape to other worlds when things are lousy. My reading has been influenced by the year I have had. I read very little before April, and I read a lot through the summer and then less as the autumn progressed. And as 2014, I barely managed to read 50 books. Looking back, my reading goals seem very hairy. So, how did I do?

  • Read more than 50 books: Yes, just in time!
  • Read the alphabet (author’s surname of course): I think I gave it an attempt, then gave up.
  • Read at least 5 non-fiction books: 3 of 5, fail.
  • Read A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell. That’s 12 books in all: Didn’t even think about it. A great idea, though.
  • Continue working my way around the globe in books (47 countries so far): I counted, and I have just read books from 8 different countries this year. But, two of them were new (Slovenia and Bulgaria).
  • Lifelong goals: cross off as many 1001 books you must read before you die (11, 9%) and Nobel Prize winners (27/111): Up to 12,6% and 29/112 (Lagerlöf and Kawabata + another Steinbeck) so that’s at least something. Need to focus on 1001 books again.
  • If I want to buy a book, I’ll have to read one off my shelf first: I haven’t counted, but I did a pretty good job of restricting my bookbuying. But I bet I bought more than 50 books.
  • Read in a book every day, even if it’s just a page: This has been fairly successful and a good goal.

Well, there it is. Not too happy, and especially about how little varied my reading has been. Too many Norwegian books (18!) and books published in 2015. I also hardly participated in any reading circles, and I feel like I have been missing out. I’m most pleased by finally getting to read Moby Dick, even though it wasn’t the best book.

New goals:

  • Read more than 50 books
  • Read Ulysses by James Joyce
  • Read at least 5 non-fiction books
  • Continue working my way around the globe in books (49 countries so far)
  • Lifelong goals: cross off as many 1001 books you must read before you die (12,6%) and Nobel Prize winners (29/112)
  • Read in a book every day, even if it’s just a page
  • Write more

 Nothing too difficult, except perhaps Ulysses.

And finally, the list of books I read in 2015 which you should read in 2015

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)
  • Drop City by T. Coraghessan Boyle (2003)
  • the Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (2015)
  • the Hobbit and LOTR by J.R.R Tolkien
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)
  • the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy
  • Morvern Callar by Alan Warner (1995)
  • the Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahata (2015)
  • All the Rage by Courtney Summers (2015)
  • Career of Evil by Robert Gailbraith (or J.K Rowling, 2015)
  • Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata (1952) 

 I don’t ever think the list of books I recommend has been so small as this year. I blame it on annus horribilis. Bring it on, annus mirabilis!

Midnight at Grense Jakobselv, Norway. A fine summer’s day in July 2015.

den norske bokhøsten, del tre.

Jeg har aldri lest så mange norske bøker som i år. De fleste har vært så som så, men det har da vært litt gull også. Det er heldigvis ei uke igjen til nominasjon til Bokbloggerprisen, og jeg har funnet en del kandidater, men fortsatt usikker på rekkefølgen. Forhåpentligvis rekker jeg å lese en eller to til før fristen er ute.

Vingebelastning av Helga Flatland handler om Andreas som sakte og sikkert går i oppløsning mentalt. Gjennom hans timer hos psykolog får vi et innblikk i barndommen og relasjonene hans til venner, familie og kjæresten. Jeg ble helt nærmest besatt av Andreas mens jeg leste, men dessverre så var det lett å glemme han når boka tok slutt.

En av de beste bøkene jeg har lest i år er Stjerner over, mørke under av Ingebjørg Berg Holm. Det er en historisk krim om et mord i skogen nær en kvekerbosetning. Mannen som er drept dro til Canada ti år tidligere og ingen har sett han siden. Lensmannen forteller historien i brevform og forteller også om egen skyld. Det er rett og slett en fantastisk bok som jeg håper flere får gleden av. Og at Berg Holm er en debutant er enda mer imponerende. Les!


Kledd naken av Agnes Lovise Matre rørte også sjela mi. I likhet med All the Rage handler denne også om voldtekt og den gjorde meg like forbanna. Den er veldig godt skrevet, og det eneste som virkelig irriterte meg var slutten – den ble litt for mye for meg. Enda en bok som du bør lese!

Etter å ha slitt meg igjennom Moby Dick, så var jeg svært skeptisk til Havboka (Morten A Strøksnes). Enda en bok som handler om fiske? Men der Moby Dick var kjedelig og endeløs, var Havboka underholdende og altfor kort. Jeg koste meg skikkelig! Det mest utrolige er at dette ikke er skjønnlitteratur, men faktafaen. Denne er en sterk konkurrent til A Little Life om årets bok.

Den siste norske boka i 2015 ble Alt inkludert av Marit Eikemo. Den sitter enda i meg, mest fordi jeg plutselig bråvåkna av en grusom ide om hva hovedpersonen egenlig drev med. Gleder meg til å diskutere denne med andre bokbloggere hvis sjansen byr seg (altså et hint til selv om å komme seg på tvangslesingskafeene i år). Uansett, den handler om en mor og et barn som bare eier en koffert og bruker finn.no til å fylle opp leiligheten og de møter mange interessante karakterer igjennom prosjektet. En tankevekkende bok om det bruk-og-kast samfunnet Norge har blitt. Nok en bok som du bør lese!

I tillegg til disse, så leser jeg Max, Mischa og Tetoffensiven av Johan Harstad. Har ikke kommet så veldig langt enda, men jeg gleder meg til de resterende 900+ sidene. Jeg orker ikke å stresse meg igjennom den, så det får ta den tida det tar – kosebok med andre ord.

Godt nytt leseår!

september-december.

It’s been a dark and long autumn and I haven’t done half of the things I was supposed to. Like writing here. My reading has been mostly good, I finished my 50th book two hours before the new year. I haven’t been good at writing about the books I have read in the past few months.

The first book, read all the way back in September, was All the Rage by Courtney Summers (2015). It is about a teenager being raped at a party and no one believes her because he is the popular girl. And they bully her. The book gave me a lot of feelings, and especially the raging kind. This is a book that should be taught in schools worldwide. If you’re curious about what rape culture is all about, this book will give you an idea.

The 7th Vera Stanhope novel, the Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves (2015) was also read in September. I wasn’t entirely won over by the last Vera novel, so I’m happy to report that she’s back on track with this one. Ann Cleeves is my go to crime writer and I regularly check when she has a new book coming out.

From June to November I have been chasing Moby Dick (Herman Melville, 1851). My chase has been as hard as Captain Ahab’s. It should have been a great read for me, but all the detours made it boring. And that’s a shame because I was totally into it until the ship left the harbour. Oh well, at least now I can understand all the references to Moby Dick. I’m hoping Ahab’s Wife will be better.

I finally got around to reading Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (1945). I should have read it before visiting Monterrey back in 2012 (possibly the most touristy place I have ever visited – we ended up with a quick stroll and an expensive Mexican restaurant before continuing to Big Sur). Anyway, it is about a group of young men in Monterrey trying to work as little as possible and party as much as they can. It is a short, entertaining read and I wanted more. I’m glad I still have a lot of Steinbeck’s work unread on my shelves.

Book #49 was Career of Evil by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Gailbraith (2015)). I haven’t been too happy about the previous Comoran Strike books but this was bloody near perfect. It is surprisingly and delightfully dark, nearly grotesque and I was unable to put it down. I hope Rowling will never stop writing!

The final book of last year was Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata (1952). I chose it because of its length, 147 pages. It is about a young man attending a tea ceremony with 3 sexually frustrated women (okay, that was maybe taking it too far, but you can definitely feel the sexual tension between him and the women). It is a beautiful book and I fear I didn’t give it the attention it deserved as the clock was ticking towards midnight. Kawabata is an author I will definitely read more of, having won the Nobel prize and all.

Noon at the darkest day of the year in Jarfjord, Norway.

Happy New Year!

den norske bokhøsten, del to.

Nok en runde med miniomtale av norske bøker. Lesingen er fortsatt i rute, men skrivinga går det tregt med. Har endelig funnet gull! Det er nå iallefall 3 bøker som er gode nominasjonskandidater til bokbloggerprisen. Planen er å få lest noen til før året er omme. Og hadde jeg bare vært like flink til å bli ferdig med Moby Dick, A Brief History of 7 Killings og Jazz, så hadde leselivet vært en lek…

Djevelens giftering av Vidar Sundstøl (2015)
Tags: crime and mystery


Max Fjellanger har dratt hjem til Norge for å gå i begravelsen til en tidligere politikollega i Telemark. De hadde jobbet sammen med en forsvinningssak som fremdeles er uoppklart, men så rystende at begge to valgte å slutte i jobben. Hvorfor hadde kollegaen vendt tilbake til åstedet så mange år senere? Max Fjellanger tviler på at kollegaens dødsfall er naturlig som politiet hevder og starter sin egen etterforskning.

Jeg var en av dem som leste Minnesotatrilogien med hjertet i halsen, så jeg gledet meg veldig til ny krim fra Sundstøl. Og den engasjerte og fikk med meg, helt til det nærmet seg slutten. Da gikk det altfor fort i svingene og det var for mange løse tråder til at jeg fant det troverdig. Og det ritualet da… sukk. Men jeg kan se for meg Max og Tirill som privatetterforskere i USA.

Ingrid Winters makeløse mismot av Janne S. Drangsholt (2015)
Tags: family and self, war and travel, books that made me laugh


Ingrid Winter har det ikke lett. Hun har budt over evne på et hus, kollegaene skylder på henne når det blir oppvigleri på instituttet og hverdagen er ikke lett. Og på toppen av alt så skal hun til St. Petersburg for å overbevise russerne om at de bør samarbeide med universitetet.

Morsom og lettlest bok som fikk meg til å savne St. Petersburg og universitetslivet. Ingrid blir kanskje litt vel nevrotisk for min del, og særlig det som skjer på instituttet er litt for absurd. Og dessverre så er boka fort glemt. Men les den så absolutt hvis du har behov for noen som takler hverdagen verre enn deg!

Fortellingen om øde av Idag Hegazi Høyer (2015)
Tags: family and self, explorers/adventures, crime and mystery, war and travel

Carlo er lei av mennesker og det siviliserte samfunn. Han stikker til Galapagos hvor han blir eneboer. Men han får ikke være alene lenge for hans beretninger om øya fascinerer i Europa, og et ungt ektepar flytter til øya, etterfulgt av en gal baronesse og hennes harem.  Boka er basert på en sann historie.

Jeg var en av de som frydet seg når Ida Hegazi Høyer fortalte om den nye boka si på bbp14, så forventningene var høye. Og jeg koste meg, helt til jeg nærmet meg slutten. Da virket den uferdig og at hele handlingen gikk på hurtigspoling. Og det er synd, for jeg heier på Ida. Det jeg liker best med romanene hennes er språket. Jeg merket at når jeg leste denne så begynte jeg å tenke på samme måte som romanen er skrevet (ja, jeg er litt merkelig).

Lev vel, alle av Hilde K. Kvalvaag (2015)
Tags: family and self, war and travel, books you should read

Gunhild tar med seg den 16 år gamle sønnen sin til Vancouver Island på sommerferie. Det var hit oldefaren dro for å tjene penger mens kona og seks barn ble igjen i Norge. Han kom aldri tilbake og Gunhild vil gjerne finne ut hvorfor. Hennes sønn, Knut, har slutta på skolen etter en voldsepisode og hun håper turen til Canada får han på rett spor igjen.

Jess! Endelig en bok hvor jeg ble helt revet med. Den traff meg midt i alle følelsene og ga meg mye å tenke på. Det hjalp kanskje at den er lagt til en av favorittstedene mine og at den handler om slektsforskning (akkurat nå leser jeg flere kirkebøker enn vanlige bøker). Og så er det språket da. Nydelig. Håper flere for øynene opp for denne for det fortjener Kvalvaag.

Marlens historie (I morgen er alt mørkt #2) av Sigbjørn Mostue (2015)
Tags: young adult fiction, it’s the end of the world as we know it, family and self, books you should read

Oppfølger til Brages historie. Les den først! Jeg skal ikke si noe om innholdet unntatt at denne ikke begynner der Brages historie slutter, men er en parallellhistorie fra Marlens synspunkt. Tror jeg hadde mer hjertet i halsen når jeg leste denne, og det har nok noe med det som dessverre ofte skjer med kvinner når katastrofer inntreffer. Og det er jeg kjempeglad for at Sigbjørn Mostue fokuserer på, for det syns jeg har manglet i mange andre post-apokalyptiske bøker. Når kommer bok 3??

baby, now we’ve got bad blood.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (2015)
 
Mare Barrow (or Bone Marrow as my brain called her) is a common Red girl biding her days until she has to enlist, just like her brothers had to. She lives in a society where the colour of your blood determines what kind of life you will have. Silver means that you have some sort of superpower and you are the ruling class. Red means that you have no power and are worthless.

Mare is helping out her family as she can, mainly by being a pickpocket. Then one day she steals from the wrong person, but instead of being punished, she is offered a job as a servant for the Silvers as they will find the new queen. Then she suddenly stumbles and falls over the banister, but instead of dying, she survives and it’s discovered that she beholds a superpower.

How will the society react to the fact that a common Red girl has superpowers? And who is she?

The kids are currently reading the Hunger Games and I decided not to read it for the third time, but instead to read some of the ya novels in my pile. I told them that I expected Red Queen to be quite similar to the Hunger Games, and in some ways I was correct and in others very wrong. I really liked the idea of the superpowers despite it being one of those things that I usually find boring. It was a good read even if some things were totally predictable. I’m eagerly waiting for the sequel!