Not Enough Women

Amelia always watches in fascination as I read, and then gets angry when she can’t turn the thick cardboard pages of her own books.  This got me thinking that much of the literature I read is by male authors, and in the future, I will be wanting to introduce Amelia to a good blend of both men and women.

Winter reading with Amelia, she made sure I was pronouncing all the words correctly.

As most of my readers are of the female variety, this is where your expertise would be greatly appreciated.  I would love some recommendations for good authors, especially beyond the women who wrote the classics.  I have a bit of list of books gathered already but would love to add to it and have a richer reading list.

I am already a huge fan of Virginia Woolf, Irène Némirovsky as well as the recently read Marguerite Yournecar, and Daphne Du Maurier, and plan to read some more Barbara Kingsolver, Dava Sobel, Eowyn Ivey, and Enid Blyton. Continue reading “Not Enough Women”

On the Shortness of Life – Seneca

The writings of the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca offer powerful insights into stoicism, morality and the importance of reason, and continue to provide profound guidance to many through their eloquence, lucidity and wisdom.

Picking this book was entirely thanks to a video by PewDiePie, who, in between his usual meme and gaming content enjoys indulging in books, and particularly those of a philosophical nature. This time he explored Stoicism.  Being at a loose end for a book, and not having a copy of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations to hand, this slim tome was the next best thing.

Of the three essays on offer, those being On the Shortness of LifeConsolation to Helvia, and On Tranquillity of Mind, the first was my favourite, mainly because of all the famous Roman military and political figures that have become familiar over many books about that empire. The message of bettering oneself is always one that resonates strongly as well and writing that encourages reading is already preaching to the converted.

Each essay is written to a particular person, the first to Paulinus talks of spending time fruitfully in the timeless pursuit of wisdom through philosophy, the second consoles his mother on his exile to Corsica, and the final essay is written in letter form to Serenus, in which he offers advice on how to achieve a peaceful mind with moderation and self-control. Continue reading “On the Shortness of Life – Seneca”

A Blue Tale and Other Stories – Marguerite Yourcenar

Published to great acclaim in France in 1993, this collection is not only a delight for Marguerite Yourcenar fans but a welcome port of entry for any reader not yet familiar with the author’s lengthier, more demanding works. The sole published work of fiction by Yourcenar yet to be translated into English, this collection includes three stories written between 1927 and 1930 when the author was in her mid-twenties. These stories cover a range of themes, from an allegory on greed and a scene from the war of the sexes, to a witchhunt that obsessively creates its own quarry.

I admit to picking this up purely because I haven’t reviewed a book by an author whose last name begins with a ‘Y’.  The only other time I picked up a ‘Y’ author was when reading David Yallop‘s, How They Stole the Game, but the machinations of FIFA corruption isn’t to everyone’s interest so that shall be for another day.

A Blue Tale, the book’s title story is a strong start.  The colour blue is used as a simple description for many objects, which in turn allows the reader to visualise and appreciate the many hues of blue, this works both for the visual but also for the different emotional shades of tale.

When other colours are mentioned they gain a more pleasing vibrancy due to the blue saturation, this also helps bring out the geographic imagery of various places as well, as this story is told in the form of an adventure by merchants journeying to the east, with a desire for riches and the (un)expected adversities that this can bring. Continue reading “A Blue Tale and Other Stories – Marguerite Yourcenar”

Get Yourself A Free Book

Everyone loves free stuff, and what can be better than a good book bargain to take your mind off whatever is on currently on it?

I have been informed by my good friend Estelle – who runs a blog for the books of Indrajit Garai – that The Bridge of Little Jeremy, is currently on a free giveway on Amazon, which you can find at the link here.

I have also read and reviewed Indrajit’s two short story volumes, The Sacrifice,  and The Eye Opener, which I enjoyed immensely. Both of which I can happily recommend to you.

Here’s the blurb for The Bridge of Little Jeremy, check it out and indulge yourself in a story about family, the changing face of Paris, and the meaning of beauty, for absolutely no pennies.

Jeremy’s mother is about to go to prison for their debt to the State. He is trying everything within his means to save her, but his options are running out fast.

Then Jeremy discovers a treasure under Paris.

This discovery may save his mother, but it doesn’t come for free. And he has to ride over several obstacles for his plan to work.

Meanwhile, something else is limiting his time…

Right Night Light

Recently I have been reacquainting myself with reading in low light. I spend an inordinate amount of time getting the illumination exactly right for my nightly reading forays. During my experiments, I have found that the best light is that which is almost too dark, but just bright enough to make out the words with a bit of concentration.

My reasoning is simple, to truly connect with the book, quite literally in hand, there needs to be complete immersion.  With less light, the world beyond the page in my peripheral vision becomes just a black abyss, and visual distractions are extinguished, except for what my imagination conjures in that murk. Add to this the near silence (Amelia permitting) and complete escapism is fully achieved.

I spent most of my 20’s engaged in doing this as I didn’t go out clubbing or whatever else was ‘hip’ back then. The plethora of books I first enjoyed in this way varied, and of the calibre which was thus: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, The Woman in Black, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rendezvous With Rama, Phaedo, The Wind in the Willows, The Stand, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Complete Hercule Poirot short stories, The Midwich Cuckoos, The castle of Crossed Destinies, The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek, The Island of the Day Before,  Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Peter Pan, and Endymion Spring.  Continue reading “Right Night Light”

Hymns and Hymn Writers of Denmark – J. C. Aaberg

Hymns and Hymn Writers of Denmark tells the fascinating life stories of three major Danish hymn writers: Thomas Kingo (the Easter Poet of Denmark), Hans Adolf Brorson (the Christmas Singer of Denmark), and Nicolai Grundtveg (the Singer of Pentecost). The lives of other significant Danish hymn writers are also covered. In addition to telling about the musical influences, marriages, and Christian experiences of each of these talented musicians, “Hymns and Hymn Writers of Denmark” provides the translated text of many Danish hymns.

Never let it be said that I do not scour obscure literature to bring you an unexpected review, and as I lack knowledge on hymns in general, but especially Danish hymns, this book was a prime candidate to help remedy this intolerable situation.  As I always say to myself, any subject can be fascinating as long as the authors enthusiasm shines through, so it was worth a punt on both counts, just in case.

Naturally, I am out of my depth with this book, with little foreknowledge about the Danish church or its singing traditions, I still found it interesting, especially when learning such facts as, American Lutheran hymnals contain a number of Danish entries (at the time of publishing, 1945). What more could I need as a hook to explore further? Especially since having my appetite for the region whetted with Northern Light: Norway Past and Present.

As the Catholics forbade singing in church, the Danes chose to do so at home instead, first with translations of the Latin works before composing their own. There are plenty of hymns included here, and as a form of poetry they are of interest even if you aren’t a Christian.  Some of those included, perhaps lose something in translation but as the foreword compelling states: Continue reading “Hymns and Hymn Writers of Denmark – J. C. Aaberg”

Under the Jaguar Sun – Italo Calvino

A couple on an epicurean journey across Mexico are excited by the idea of a particular ingredient, suggested by ancient rituals of human sacrifice. Precariously balanced on his throne, a king is able only to listen to the sounds around him – sure that any deviation from their normal progression would mean the uprising of the conspirators that surround him. And three different men search desperately for the beguiling scents of lost women, from a Count visiting Madame Odile’s perfumery, to a London drummer stepping over spent, naked bodies.

Once again Italo Calvino delights with a – sadly -never completed, but ultimately rewarding collection of short stories that explore the senses, taste, hearing, and smell. Just like his other books, most notably The Castle of Crossed Destinies and Invisible Cities, Calvino‘s love of symbolism and theme is thickly lavished throughout the prose.

Each story is a pleasure to read, and all are, unsurprisingly, totally different in their execution, nevertheless each tale is filled with intensity as well as both intoxicating and sometime repulsive imagery.  It is a feast for the eyes, so in a way that sense is indeed incorporated into the book and tells its own story through the reader.

“To be sure, the palace contains some so-called historic chambers, which you would like to see again, even though they have been redone from top to bottom, to give them back the antique aspect lost with the passing years.”

Different facets of each of the senses are explored, the differing perceptions and sensations, and the thought processes which logically follow in this world of magical realism. Continue reading “Under the Jaguar Sun – Italo Calvino”