Monday, February 27, 2017

Finished At Last

Rise of the Dragons (Kings and Sorcerers--Book 1) by [Rice, Morgan]El Despertar de los Dragones (Reyes y Hechiceros-Libro 1) (Spanish Edition) by [Rice, Morgan]

Rise of the Dragons by Morgan Rice*

At last I’ve reached the end of this book that’s taken me 8 months to read – on average, one chapter per week. But then I’ve read each chapter twice: first in Spanish (which I only started learning in May last year), and then the same chapter in English to pick up what I might have missed, before going on to the next chapter. As I’ve never read a book in that way before, I suppose one might call it a novel experience (haha)

I did of course miss details here and there, and my poor knowledge of grammar also occasionally made me “reverse” meanings (like who hit whom with what). On the whole, I usually got the gist of the story from the Spanish (and feel rather proud of myself for that). But at the same time I doubt I’d have made it all the way without having the English version as well.

It probably wasn’t a bad book for the purpose. Even in Spanish I noticed a lot of repetition – like the exact same phrases often used over and over again. When learning a new language, that can be useful. From a strictly literary point of view, however, it tends to get a bit… well… repetitious!

I think I can imagine the book perhaps appealing more to younger readers. Not too young though, as some of the scenes involve a lot of violence.

The setting is kind of unspecified medieval fantasy (as in no modern transportation or technology; but with trolls and giants and dragons).

The main character is Kyra, a young girl on the verge of becoming a woman, but dreaming of becoming a warrior like her father. Her mother died when Kyra was young; and she grew up being the only girl in a fort full of boys and men.

When Kyra comes of age (15), her father wants to wed her off to the lord of the region (to save her from a fate possibly worse, as according to his own laws the lord has the “right” to take whoever he wants anyway). Kyra refuses, and in the midst of midwinter, she wanders off alone into the woods, where she encounters a wounded dragon — a meeting that turns out important, but also raises a lot of questions. Kyra also learns that there is some mystery connected to her own background and birth, that no one wants to tell her about.

There are a couple of more storylines involving other characters (and further threats to the kingdom) as well. All the storylines do not come together within the span of this book – but I was prepared for that, as I knew from start that it was the first in a series.

Alas (or perhaps somewhat to my relief!) I can’t say that I feel immediately tempted to jump straight on to the next book to find out what happens. On the other hand, I do suspect that “images” from this book may stay in my mind for a quite a while; and not all to do with the double language experience. Because if a book without illustrations, and read primarily in Spanish (a language I’d only just started learning when I began reading the book) can leave me with lingering visual impressions of scenery and events (rather as if I’d seen it on film) – then surely some of the credit for that must go to the author.

Trying to consider the story from a “young adult” reader’s perspective (easier said than done at my age), I think I would say that its main strength is probably a young female heroine fighting her own way in a world of men – and seeking/finding her inner strength along the way. Apart from that I find the characters rather  shallow and “either black or white” – and in my opinion (as already indicated above) too much focus on physical fighting and killing. (But to be fair, I suppose the same thing can too often be said about the real world as well!)

* PS. Morgan Rice, it seems, is a highly productive writer of  self-published fantasy novels.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Postcards for the Weekend – Serenity

serene – clear and calm, unruffled; placid, tranquil, unperturbed
The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1976)

170220-170223 from John 17-005

Unicorns – The Stream; by Niki Broyles
(from John in England, February 2017)

Ireland

‘Early morning on Derryclare Loch, Connemara, Ireland’
(sent to my parents from Swedish friends on holiday in Ireland, probably in the late 1990s – the card not dated, and the postmark alas illegible)

Isle of Skye

‘Sgurr nan Gillean from Portree Bay’, Isle of Skye, Scotland
(sent to my parents from British friends on holiday there, August 1999)

- - -

In Swedish we have a verb “återfinna”, meaning “to find again” –  used for example about finding things that you thought you had lost, or had forgotten about.

Still being in the (slow) process of reorganizing things in my study (after getting new furniture with more drawers back in January), I seem to be re-finding a lot of things lately… including old postcards. This week I (re-)found some cards that were sent to my parents in the past. Most of them from family; but also these two (above) from friends of theirs whom I never met. 

In my teens back in the 1970s, we went on two longer (3 weeks or so) family road trips in Britain – driving through England, Wales and Scotland. (We also spent one week in London, without car; and one summer I stayed one month “on my own” with a family in Yorkshire.) My parents went back to Britain on car holidays a few more times after that, though – and also made some friends there, with whom they kept in touch and met more than once. However, I don’t think mum and dad ever visited Ireland, or the Isle of Skye – and neither did I. On one of our family trips we did go as far north as Inverness and Loch Ness, though; which makes the (serene) landscape in these two cards still feel kind of familiar to me.

PS. We never saw a unicorn either… But we almost saw Nessie Winking smile

The Loch Ness Monster. Postcard bought at Loch Ness in 1971; glued into my photo album from that trip. It seems pretty unperturbed to me, even if perhaps not as serenely tranquil as the unicorn…

 

Weekend Linky Party:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Fickleness of Early Spring

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As I said a week ago:
”…
spring in mid February is never to be trusted…”

Early this morning I woke up to a snowstorm. Before the plow had been round, the ground was covered in more white stuff than I’ve seen all winter. It soon turned back to rain though, and this evening it’s all been washed away again. The photo was taken at some point in between…

Meanwhile – not today, but last week, inspired by the sun – I put my spring/summer curtains back up in the kitchen …

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… and also changed some decorations in the living room.

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Alas tulips only last a week (at most). But I also bought a couple of flowering potted plants that will last a bit longer.

Some time a bit further on in spring I think I shall have to get a new camera. My little Casio is getting old and tired… (My blog, which remembers more than I do, informs me that I’ve had it since 2011.) The flash has not been working for a while, and lately it has started seeing black spots (or one) when zooming. I was very puzzled by this at first. For one thing, I have very similar black fuzzy floaters in my own eyes as well (from PVD)…! So it took me a while (not sure how long) to realize that the smudges I’d noticed in some recent winter photos were actually from inside the camera.

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(In some photos it’s harder to spot than in others…)

Ah well. A good excuse to start looking around for a new camera when “proper” spring starts showing its colours…

Friday, February 17, 2017

Postcards for the Weekend - Gratitude

2017-044 Tack

A yet unsent Swedish card of thanks:
“Thanks – from the bottom of my heart”

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Postcrossing card from Russia, Sakha (Yakutia) Republic
(December 2016)

Text printed on the back:
Diamonds are, quite literally, the main treasure of Yakutia. The republic’s export accounts for almost a quarter of all the diamonds produced in the world. Yakut diamonds are considered to be some of the best out there, valued for their outstanding quality and purity.

The woman is wearing the national costume of the Sakha people.

I thought of this card for the Gratitude theme because she looks like she’s holding those precious diamonds like a gift… And of course it also made me happy to receive such a beautiful card!

 

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Yesterday I was having a look in a box of old postcards (sent to me in the past), and found this – which I have to confess I did not remember at all.  It’s a card of thanks from the Royal Court to graciously acknowledge that the card I sent to His Majesty King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden for his 90th birthday (in 1972) had been received by him. He did not sign the card of thanks personally, though… But I guess on one’s 90th birthday a king may be excused for just having a secretary type the address!Winking smile

Gustaf VI Adolf (11 November 1882 – 15 September 1973) was King of Sweden from 29 October 1950 until his death (which occurred less than a year after his 90th birthday). He was succeeded on the throne by his grandson, Carl XVI Gustaf (born 30 April 1946), who is still our king.

I have absolutely no idea what may have been on the card that I sent 45 years ago. I wonder if it’s still kept in the Royal Archives somewhere…

 

Weekend Linky Party:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Swans

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I spy with my little eye…
Some whooper swans swimming in among the reeds in the river.
From Wikipedia I learn that whooper swans pair for life, and that their cygnets stay with them all winter. So I assume the grey one here is the offspring of the two white ones, from last year.

“Spring in the air” here today – even if spring in mid February is never to be trusted…

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Photos taken with my phone.

Outdoor Wednesday

Monday, February 13, 2017

Here Comes The Sun

We’ve been having a rather “dull” winter here this year. Of course there have been subtle varieties: Sometimes frosty and icy grey; sometimes grey wet and windy; and sometimes just plain grey… But not really tempting my camera.

Today, finally, the sky looked a bit more cheerful!

So I went for a walk into town; and took these photos with my phone on the way back.

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Thin, thin ice on parts of the river after a week or two of temperatures below freezing point.

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More new buildings rising close to the river near the city center. It’s been a few weeks since I last walked that way, so a few more floors had been added to the ones under construction (those in the middle, furthest away from the camera).

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I turned my back to the apartment blocks and looked down at the reflection of the sun in the water instead… And a little bit of white snowy ice just along the shore near the jetty.

And some ducks came flying in and landed with a big splash in the water, singing…  

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it's all right

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun,…

Listen: YouTube (George Harrison – Here Comes the Sun)

Linking to Mersad’s

Through My Lens

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Woman on the Orient Express (Book Review)

The Woman on the Orient Express Audiobook

The Woman on the Orient Express

  • Written by: Lindsay Jayne Ashford
  • Narrated by: Justine Eyre
  • Length: 9 hrs and 42 mins
  • Audible + Kindle

 

This novel is a mix of fact and fiction, with the famous mystery writer Agatha Christie as the main character. The author Lyndsay Jayne Ashford has found inspiration for the story in Christie’s autobiography as well as in some of her novels – like The Murder on the Orient Express, and Murder in Mesopotamia.

I have not read Agatha Christie’s autobiography, and have to admit I felt a bit itchy along the way in this novel, wondering what was pure fiction vs (closer to) the truth in this story. But I also noticed that along the way, this grew less important to me, while the story itself took over and kept my interest up. I did recognize the general atmosphere of the train journey and the archaeological site from Christie’s books (which I read many years ago). 

In short: Wanting a fresh start after a broken marriage, Agatha Christie boards the Orient Express in disguise and under an assumed name. On the journey she meets two other women, Katharine and Nancy, who both turn out to have their own secrets to hide. On the train, and and at the archaeological site at Ur where their journey takes them, the three women gradually get to know each other and share secrets and experiences that make them rely and depend on each other’s help and discretion.

In an afterword, the author says that Agatha did travel on the Orient Express in 1928. She also did visit a dig at Ur; and her divorce from her husband Archie came through shortly after that. Katharine is based on a real character she met at the dig (and Agatha in turn based a character in one of her books on her). Nancy on the other hand is only very loosely based on Agatha’s husband’s lover (by name and looks, but not when it comes to events).

The author, Lindsay Jayne Ashford, is a former BBC journalist and the first woman to graduate from Queens’ College Cambridge with a master’s degree in criminology. She has written other crime novels before (none of which I’ve read).

I’m feeling a bit tempted to read Agatha’s own autobiography now… But just putting it on my “wishlist” for now, as I already have so many other books waiting.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Love … (Postcards for the Weekend)

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BY-2025760 – Postcrossing card from Belarus (December 2016)
”March” by Irina Zeniuk

170205-170209 from Jarina_0010

From Jarina in the Netherlands (February 2017)
”Wat een vrijheid!” – What a freedom!
Oil on canvas by Ilya Repin (1903)
Ilya Repin (1844-1930): Russian realist painter
, who played a major role in bringing Russian art into the mainstream of European culture.

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone who’ll be celebrating

Weekend Linky Party:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fantastic Beasts - the Screenplay

I have not yet seen the film, but I couldn’t resist buying myself the screenplay book as Christmas present. Having read the manuscript to Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (the stage play) before, I did not doubt that Rowling would manage to make a film script readable as well. What can I say? I was right in my assumption, of course… So I have just spent two afternoons apparating myself away from the dull winter weather outside my windows, to New York in 1926, where strange and mysterious events are taking place. In true J.K.R. magic style, it is a breathtaking mix of wonderful, funny, compassionate and gruesome – not really allowing us to “escape” at all; but rather inviting us to see the unseen…

The clever design of the cover art and black & white illustrations inside enhances the reading experience. They hint at the shape of things but at the same time leave much to your imagination.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the filmmakers made of it – but I shall probably wait another couple of months, until it’s released on DVD.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Reread: Momo

Relaterad bildMomo Audiobook

Momo

  • Written by: Michael Ende
  • Narrated by: Gert Heidenreich
  • Length: 8 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release Date:05-02-13
  • Language: German

Momo, also known as The Grey Gentlemen or The Men in Grey, is a fantasy novel by German author Michael Ende (1929-1995). It was first published in 1973, and was awarded the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 1974.

The full title in German is: Momo, oder Die seltsame Geschichte von den Zeit-Dieben und von dem Kind, das den Menschen die gestohlene Zeit zurückbrachte; i.e.: Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves and the child who brought the stolen time back to the people.

My Swedish copy is from 1982, so I guess that’s when I first read it. It’s another of those books that I have reread a few times over the years. But only in Swedish; not in the original language. I do have Michael Ende’s other famous fantasy novel The Never-Ending Story (1979) in German, though (Die unendliche Geschichte) – and know I read that one at least twice or thrice. I have the original edition, printed in alternating red and green ink – the meaning of which is interwoven with the story itself.

After just recently having freshened up my German a bit in the Duolingo app, I suddenly felt a desire to be bold and try an Audio book in German. I’ve never tried that before. My university days were way back in the Cassette Tape Age, and it was way beyond my imagination then that one day I’d be reading and listening to books in a phone-computer-thingy small enough to fit into my pocket or handbag… (I was proud to have a Travel Typewriter, and an Extension Cord to my phone so that I could drag that with me around the flat… But I digress…) Anyway, when I checked now, both these two favourites of mine were available in German by a simple click & download from Audible... Perfect! 

I started with Momo, which is the shorter of the two (8½ hours); and found the experience quite encouraging. Apart from nodding off now and again (which happens whatever the language or book, as I often listen when resting with my eyes closed!), I had no problems understanding. The reading performance was excellent; very clear.

I also still find it a good and thought-provoking fantasy book that may appeal to both children and adults. It is set on the outskirts of an undefined city in (implied) Mediterranean environment (Italy?) with hints of the time intended to be around when it was written. It’s a changing world with elements of both older traditions and modernity. Momo herself is an orphan girl of unknown origin, who lives in the ruins of an abandoned old amphitheatre on the outskirts of the town. The citizens of the town let her be who she is and let her live by herself in the ruin, and she becomes popular among them. She shows a remarkable ability to listen to people; and just by her listening without saying much, even grown-ups often feel encouraged and find solutions to their problems. And the children love her for her way of inventing exciting stories and games to play. 

All is well until the Men in Grey turn up, all looking the same, wearing grey suits, carrying grey briefcases, smoking grey cigars, and driving grey cars. They claim to come from the Timesavings Bank, and start persuading people that they need to save time (which they say will be paid back to them with interest). In reality, however, it turns out that the more time people “save”, the less time they seem to have. The whole atmosphere of the community changes, as no one has time for  fun and games and leisure any more.

The only person who seems immune to their influence is Momo. This worries the Grey Men, and they start plotting against her. One night, however, Momo gets an unexpected visit from a mysterious tortoise, who does not speak, but now and then lets a few words appear on her back for Momo to read. Momo follows her, and ends up in a place where some of the mysteries of Time are revealed to her…

Alas, in spite of the outcome of the story (which I won’t reveal here), I would say that rereading it now makes me wonder if there aren’t still some Grey Men left lurking around and blowing smoke in our eyes to deceive us about the best use of our time…

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Postcard for the Weekend – Happiness

Once again I found at least one recent card to fit Maria’s weekly postcard theme. The little mice below certainly look very happy - and made me happy as well, when they came dancing through the letter slot in my door. As I don’t know Russian, I have no idea what exactly they are celebrating… But I managed to decipher the name of the artist to be Olga Ionajtis. (An image search on that name leads on to lots of other wonderful illustrations as well.) 170125  RU-5371469; by Olga Ionajtis

RU-5371469 (from Russia, January 2017)

Postcards for the Weekend

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