Friday, January 31, 2014

Leading Lines (FMTSO)

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August 2013: 150th anniversary of the railway between Borås and Herrljunga. Steam train meeting a modern train at Fristad.

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(For more pictures from the railway anniversary, see the post Steam Train Nostalgia - September 1, 2013)

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Can’t resist including a Swenglish pun: “Livsfarlig ledning”  = “lethal [power] line”, as in high voltage. But “ledning” can also mean “lead[ing]”…

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Wooden footbridge, and shadows (May 2013)

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The tall birch trees form lines leading upwards.

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The lake beach in spring, before it’s been cleaned up for the summer season. Lines in the sand shaped by the water.

Friday My Town: Leading Lines

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: Entry Island by Peter May

Entry Island by Peter May (2014)
*****

If you liked Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy (The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man and The Chessmen), I think you will most probably enjoy Entry Island as well. This too is a detective novel, but with different characters, and set mainly on another island, in another part of the world: Entry Island, belonging to the Madeleine Islands in the French-speaking province of Quebec in Canada. However, the population on Entry Island (less than 130 people) forms an isolated English-speaking community.

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Which is why, when a murder takes place on Entry Island, the police team sent there from Quebec, includes Sime Mackenzie (Sime pronounced Sheem; a Scottish variety of the name Simon), fluent in both languages: English as well as French. One of the other members of the team is his ex-wife, Marie-Ange.

The murder victim is a man named Cowell, who lived on the island; and one of the main suspects is his wife Kirsty. When Sime first meets her, he is struck by a weird feeling of recognition, for which he can’t find any logical explanation.

Sime suffers from insomnia since his divorce, and the few hours he manages to doze off at all are filled with weird dreams. On Entry Island, not only does Kirsty Cowell pursue him even into his dreams, but the dreams also become mixed up with memories of stories he was told in his childhood, about his ancestor who emigrated to Canada from the Hebredian Isle of Lewis in the mid 1800s.

Throughout the novel, the perspective shifts between the contemporary murder investigation, and a diary kept by Simes ancestor (by the same name), who grew up on the Isle of Lewis as the son of a crofter.

While I loved the double or triple layers of mystery as such, to begin with I found myself questioning the old diary entries. Did they not seem a bit too detailed and modern in narrative style?

Then I remembered Daniel Defoe, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and Charles Dickens; and decided to give up that line of criticism and just enjoy the story!

Reaching the end, I really could not find any reason to give this book any less than five stars. There is a depth to Peter May’s storytelling (in this novel as well as in the Lewis trilogy) that goes way past being just entertainment for the moment. These books leave me with a feeling of having “been somewhere”, rather than just having read about it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Snow from the Past

There’s still now much snow on the ground here this winter (just a sprinkle), but if you’d like to see some snowy pictures from the past, I just put in a snowy Sepia Saturday post in my family history blog Greetings from the Past.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Open Space (Friday My Town)

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Just behind where I live, there is a wide open space in the form of a football ground.

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The view from my kitchen window across one end of that same field is one of the reasons why I live where I live just now. (That view was one of the things I immediately loved about this flat when I first came to have a look at it; which will be six years ago in April.)

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On rare occasions in the summer, I’ve been able to see a full rainbow (or even a double one!) stretching from one end of that field to the other.  There a few things, I think, that give as much impression of “open space” as a full rainbow… (For the camera to do it justice is another matter!)

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Water and sky meeting is another of those “openings”  that make your mind stretch the usual boundaries. This is from the lake outside town near ‘the House’ (where my parents lived in their retirement years, and my grandparents before them, back in my childhood).

I have to confess though, that while I love looking at water and skies… I really prefer to have my feet on the ground, and civilisation just round the corner.

Friday My Town: Open Space

SkyWatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Postcards: Castles of Eastern Europe

Two recently received postcrossing cards:

Castelul Bran

Bran Castle, Romania

Commonly known as "Dracula's Castle", this castle is marketed as the home of the titular character in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). The author never actually visited Romania, but is thought to have based Dracula’s castle on a description of Bran Castle that was available in turn-of-the-century Britain.

I was fascinated to receive this card and to look up and read a bit more about Bran castle, as I read the original novel by Bram Stoker only a few years ago, and found it a much better read than I had expected. (Not really being a big fan of vampire stories or movies otherwise.)

The original Bran castle was built ~ 1377-1388. The Castle was damaged and restored a number of times through the following centuries. Between 1888-1918, it was allowed to fall into decay, and was just used to house the region’s forestry staff.

After 1918, Transylvania became part of Greater Romania. The castle was restored by Queen Maria of Romania, and used as a residence of the royal family.

After WWII, the royal family was forced to leave the country by the communist regime, and the castle was turned into a museum.

In 2006, after several years of legal proceedings, the castle was returned to the heirs of Princess Ileana of Romania and Archduke Anton of Austria. In 2009, they opened the refurbished castle to the public as the first private museum of the country.

You can read more about its history here:
http://www.bran-castle.com/history.html

 

Vorontsov Palace

The Vorontsov Palace, Alupka, Ukraine

The Vorontsov Palace, or Alupka Palace, is situated at the foot of the Crimean Mountains in southern Ukraine, near the town of Alupka. It is one of the oldest and largest residential palaces in Crimea, and a popular tourist attraction. The palace was built 1828-1848 for Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov for use as his personal summer residence.

The palace was designed in a loose interpretation of the English Renaissance revival style by English architect Edward Blore and his assistant William Hunt. Blore is particularly well known in the UK for completing the design of the Buckingham Palace in London.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rustic Details (FMTSO + MosaicMonday)

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Ooops. I forgot to post for FMTSO back on Friday, in spite of having thought ahead for once. I took these shots last weekend, with the theme for this one in mind!

It’s one of the footbridges over the river in my town, and the sign on the railing says it was built in 1900 by a local engineering workshop.

I’ve usually been posting for Friday My Town from my DawnTreader’s Picture Book blog; but as this winter season so far has been uninspiring from photographic point of view, I’ve decided to let the Picture Book go into hibernation for a while. I might wake it up again when spring starts bringing a bit more colour back into the world. (I’ll let you know when I do!) For now, I think it’s enough for me to keep up this one!

Linking (“at the last minute”) to FMTSO: Rustic Details

- and also to Mosaic Monday

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Postcard from Hungary

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I must share this wonderful postcard that arrived today. It’s my first Postcrossing card from Hungary (and as far as I can recall, the first card I ever received from that country).

The image on the front is matched on the back with stamps by the same artist:

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Károly Reich (1922-1988) was a Hungarian artist best known for his children’s books illustrations. The sender of the card informes me that he is still one of the most famous and favourite illustrators in her country.

I wrote his name into Google Image Search, and many more wonderful, happy, colourful pictures came up... I think I’ve found a new favourite! Smile

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Changing Skies

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Sunday

We’ve had a weather change in the last few days, from mild, grey and wet to colder temperaures.

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Monday morning

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Wednesday, 11:00 a.m., looking east

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Wednesday, 11:15 a.m., looking south

We’ve even had a little snow – but so far only a sprinkle, around here. We’re likely to get a bit more in the next few days. Perhaps. We seem to be in an area caught between weather fronts, so not easy to tell!

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Looking down: Who’s been here before me?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Birds

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I was reminded of the Hitchcock movie The Birds today (walking through the park in town).

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Even though this is a very scary film, thinking of the first time I saw it always makes me smile (or laugh). It was in my mid-teens (around 1970) at the cinema in the company of two girlfriends. In one of the most suspenseful scenes in the film, the people on screen are just sitting inside a house waiting anxiously for the next attack… The whole audience in the cinema is holding their breath too – it’s so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Then one of my friends breaks the silence by whispering: “Why are they just sitting there? Why don’t they play Ludo or something?” – and to everyone else’s annoyance, the three of us burst out in giggles of the unstoppable kind only teenage girls can produce. Totally embarrassing – and unforgettable! (still, after over 40 years)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: The Clockwork Giant

One of my recent downloads of a book temporarily free for Kindle introduced me to a subgenre of sci-fi/fantasy whose existence (as a genre of its own) has so far escaped me: Steampunk.

When looking it up, I learn that the term has actually been around since 1987 – so not really all that new. I’ve probably even managed to read some books that might belong within it (like Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass) without coming across that particular label to unite them. I’m glad the word was mentioned in the Amazon introduction to this book, so that I could look it up and get a better idea of the whole genre.

Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or the modern authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, Stephen Hunt and China Miéville. [Wikipedia]

Thus somewhat prepared for what might await me, I started to read

The Clockwork Giant (Chroniker City series, book 1)
by Brooke Johnson
**

Petra Wade is a young woman who grew up as an orphan and is now working as shop-girl in a pawn-shop. However, she is also a self-taught clockwork engineer who dreams of becoming a certified member of the Guild. To achieve that, though, she’d need to go to University – and no women are accepted there.

Still, Petra refuses to give up; and when one day she meets a wealthy young engineer, Emmerich Goss, who takes a certain interest in her, opportunities begin to open up. Emmerich is working on an automaton with an intriguing design; just the kind of thing to set Petra’s brain working with ideas for improvements…

I have to say I quite liked the beginning of this book, and also the character of Petra; in spite of not really understanding a iota of the technology details. (Not blaming the author for this. Science was never really my “thing”.)

After having read about 30% of the book, and getting to the parts where things begin to literally steam up, also involving an increasingly greasy mix of romance and adventures among the subcity steam boilers and pipelines, I began to question whether it would really be worth my time to finish it – especially since I knew this book to be just the first in a series.

Petra rested her arms against the railing, breathing in the rich scents of coal, gasoline, and oil. Emmerich’s copper eyes were brighter than she had ever seen them, filled with an excitement she knew well. He felt the thrum of the machines in his chest, the whir of gears in his mind, the oscillations of linkages in his bones, and the hiss of steam in his lungs. Here, he was one with the machines, connected in the same way she was.

Johnson, Brooke. The Clockwork Giant (p. 70).  Kindle Edition.

At the same time, while both the romance and the engineering as such failed to fascinate me, I was still feeling just a little bit curious where it would be going in the end. So I decided to skim or speed-reed the rest of the book very quickly (skipping details and just trying to find the essential bits moving the story forward).

My conclusion at the end is that while this kind of book is not “my can of oil”, I still have to give the author some credit for her imagination and vivid descriptions. In my mind, I can see an action movie based on this book. It would probably require a very wealthy steampunk enthusiast to finance it, though!

Book Review: The Book of Nonsense

The Book of Nonsense (Sacred Books 1)
by David Michael Slater
****

The Book of Nonsense is the first book in a Young Adults fantasy series by David Michael Slater. (It was temporarily free for Kindle when I downloaded it.)

Daphna and Dex Wax are twins, but very different from each other. Daphna takes after their father, Milton, who is a book scout; i.e. he travels the world in search of rare books, and sells them on to others with the same interest. Dex does not share their interest in books. (We learn more about the reasons further into the story.)

On the day before the twins’ 13th birthday, Milton comes home from one of his journeys, bringing a very old and tattered book. Daphna meets him full of enthusiasm: a new Antiquarian Book Center (ABC) has recently opened in town. It is a really amazing place, and she is eager to show it to her father.

The ABC is run by a very old man, with a young and weird-looking assistant. When Milton goes to meet the shop-owner, Daphna follows him (to the middle of the labyrinth of bookshelves in the shop). The conversation between her father and the shopowner that she overhears puzzles her, as it does not at all follow the usual routine when her father tries to sell books…

From the very first page, we get right into the action in this story, and the fast pace is kept up all the way. I found it to be a page-turner, hard to put down. However, it is a story with a limited set of characters. There are vivid descriptions of details, but the background remains hazy, and the action takes place within just a couple of days (around the twins’ 13th birthday). Within that time, they do also learn some things about the past, though – and I suppose further explanations might follow in the sequels.

My spontanteous feeling at the end was that this book could have been made into a really good stand-alone fantasy novel. The fact that it is the first in a series makes me hesitate. I’m not sure if I’m really interested enough to invest (time and money) in the next one as well (and the next, and the next, and…) I’ll let the decision rest for a while. Time will tell whether the story will linger enough in my mind to tempt me to follow Daphna and Dex on more adventures. (There are three more books in the series published so far, I think.)

If I had fantasty-loving young teens in the family, though, I think I might consider the Sacred Books one of the better series of its kind to recommend (based on the first one).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: Dead Ernest

Dead Ernest

Dead Ernest
by Frances Garrood
****

When Ernest dies (suddenly, of a heart attack, at age 83), his widow Annie will not agree to have the words “beloved husband” put in the advertisment.

Annie’s son Billy worries about his mother’s reactions after the death of his father. And no doubt, some of her behaviour does seem rather odd; and would probably by most people be ascribed to shock, grief or dementia (or all three). 

Death, it would seem, muddled up all the rules of normal behaviour.
(quote from Ch. 1)

The two people who manage to see past the oddities and show genuine interest in Annie as a person, are the local vicar, Andrew, and Annie’s granddaughter, Ophelia. Talking to Andrew, Annie gets a chance to look back on her life and tell her story; while the arrival of Ophelia helps her not to get too stuck in the past.

The main focus of the novel is not really ageing and death, but relationships. I think that Frances Garrood manages quite well to spotlight not only the changes taken place in society over the past seventy years or so (in what we regard as “normal” when it comes to love, relationships and marriage) but also a more timeless discrepancy between romantic ideals vs real life. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Life is a Tapestry

As mentioned in my previous post, on Saturday this past weekend, I went to see an art exhibition in the company of my aunt and uncle, who were visiting.

This was neither at Borås Art Museum, nor at the Textile Museum, nor at any of the smaller art galleries in town; but a private art museum founded some years ago by a married couple whose private collection of art had grown too large for their own home. They decided it deserved to be shown to a larger public, and started the Abecita Art Museum in the premises of a former textile factory. By now it has expanded to occupy three whole floors in the building. Besides works of art owned by the founders (or the foundation that they started), they also show temporary exhibitions by various artists. Their focus is on photography, graphics, and textile art.

Out of three current temporary exhibitions going on, the one that my aunt especially wanted to see was Tapestries by Swedish textile artist Annika Ekdahl (winner of the Nordic Award in Textiles 2013):

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This was my aunt’s favourite in the tapestry exhibition:

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Close-ups from the same:

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(From a brochure I learn that one square metre of a tapestry like this can take 240 hours to weave.)

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My own favourite among the big tapestries was this one:

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Looking at my photos of the tapestries, a song by Carole King came to mind (from her album Tapestry, 1971) :

My life has been a tapestry
of rich and royal hue
an everlasting vision
of the ever changing view.
A wondrous woven magic
in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see,
impossible to hold.

~ Carole King ~

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Celebrating 5 Years of Blogging

5 years ago today, on 5th January, 2009, I started my first blog: The Island of the Voices.

“After some trial and error, it seems I have created a blog!

In choosing the title, I had in mind the Island of the Voices in C.S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Lucy enters a Magician's House to find the Magician's Book, and within that book A Spell to make hidden things visible.

She read it through to make sure of all the hard words and then said it out loud. And she knew at once that it was working because as she spoke the colours came into the capital letters at the top of the page and the pictures began appearing in the margins. It was like when you hold to the fire something written in Invisible Ink and the writing gradually shows up...

I really have no clear idea yet what hidden things I want this blog to make visible. But maybe if I start writing, I will find out...“

3 years ago, for technical reasons, I had to move the blog to a new account, and in connection with that I also changed the name to Beyond the Lone Islands.

What I wrote then also still remains true:

“My very first blog post has remained kind of prophetic to me. I had little idea back then how hooked I would get on blogging, how much it would inspire me to keep up both writing and photography, and how many new friends I would be making around the world... And yet I obviously sensed the "magic" and the spirit of adventure involved already at the very beginning; or I would not have chosen the names that I did.”

Something I consider really amazing is that after five whole years, I’m still in touch with several bloggers that I came across very early on, back in 2009. A special thanks to you. I won’t name names, as time is far from the only factor in friendships. But please know that I’m really glad that you’re still here!

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Happy New Blogging Year
to all old and new blogging friends

Monica / DawnTreader

PS. The photo was taken at an art exhibition I visited yesterday together with my aunt and uncle. There will be a few more photos from that occasion coming up in a separate post.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

BTT: Favourite Books in 2013

Booking Through Thursday is back, and Deb starts the new year by a look in the rear mirror:

It’s always good to look back so you know where you’ve been, so the first question for the year is an oldie but a goodie: What were your favorite books last year?”

I keep a Works database list on my computer of the books I read (or listen to). In 2013 I listed 62 titles.

Below is a shortlist of ten that “popped out” to me as memorable reads when I glanced through the longer list. The order is just that in which I happened to read them. The links go to my own reviews published on this blog. (I don’t write reviews of every book I read. For example I usually find it pointless to mention Swedish books here, unless they’re also available in English.)

The Chess Men by Peter May (3rd in the Lewis trilogy)
(I read the previous two books in the series in 2012)

The ‘Psammead’ trilogy: Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet, and The Story of the Amulet by Edith Nesbit (children’s books from the early 1900s)

The Unicorn Road by Martin Davies

The Curiosity Cabinet by Catherine Czerkawska

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets by Frances Garrood

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym for J.K. Rowling)

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George

The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

And there was Evening, and there was Morning

2014-01-01 New Year's Eve

And there was New Year’s Eve 2013; and then that year was no more; but lo, it was the first day of 2014.

For those of you wondering, the film we ended up watching this last (!) year was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (from 2012), with among others Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton and Judi Dench. (It turned out I was the only one who had seen it before.)

The New Year never quite starts with a clean slate (plate)...” And if you’re wondering who said that, it was me, this morning! Just a philosphical observation, mind! – not meant to imply that I was left with all the work. (My friends did the first round of washing up after dinner, as well as brought some of the food and drinks consumed during the evening.)

New Year’s Eve is usually the only night in the year nowadays that I stay up after midnight. Even if I weren’t having guests, it would be impossible for me to go to sleep early anyway, because of all the fireworks going on outside all evening, culminating during the hour around midnight.

Luckily, today, on New Year’s Day, I’m free to be as lazy as I please. I think of it as a sort of in-between place, like the Wood between the Worlds in The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis: “It’s not the sort of place where things happen. The trees go on growing, that’s all.”

Hope you all had a good start to the new year.

 

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