Tuesday, 12 April 2016

April reading


Stories are such a wonderful way to escape! I have done a lot of escaping lately, not because I really needed to but because I was completely hooked by a new to me series. I worked my way through Asa Larsson's crime series set in Kiruna, Northern Sweden ('The savage Altar', 'The Blood Spilt', 'The Black Path', 'Until Thy Wrath Be Past' and 'The Second Deadly Sin'). I do this all the time, binge watching, binge reading, binge listening. I am not good at pacing myself.

The older I get the more I enjoy being read to, rather than reading myself. There is something magical about being read to. It is also more kind to tired eyes. I listened to all five novels of this crime series. 


Kiruna is an interesting place and makes a good setting for a crime series. You can read about the town here. It is 145 km north of the arctic circle. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of snow and ice in Kiruna. The monthly average temperature is below zero from October to April! I imagine it would take some time getting used to. I am not going into any details about the plots of each book, I'll just give you a brief introduction to the characters. Rebecka Martinsson is a tax layer by training, accidental prosecutor in the first novel and prosecutor by choice in later novels. We meet her in the first book when she is called back to Kiruna to help a friend in need, whose brother has been brutally murdered. Rebecka's personal life is shaped by her childhood and teenage years, each troubled in their own way. She is a strong woman, but also very fragile and we find her extremely traumatised at the end of the first book. More of her struggles and her multilayered complicated personality is revealed as the series progresses. Equally important for the series is Anna-Maria Mella, a police inspector. In the first novel, Anna-Maria is just about to go on maternity leave with her fourth child. She is a skilled investigator, bright and insightful. She has an uncomplicated character. Anna-Maria's personal life is comparable to mine, four children, full time job, mild chaos. This makes her very likeable (for me). At first it is difficult to see how these two women could work together. In the first novel, they don't but they cross paths. Their relationship is tenuous to begin with but at the end of the fifth novel, a tender friendship is developing. I like both women, each in her own way. The crimes are not so outrageous that they cannot possibly happen in one single place. They are a result of passion, greed, anger and fear, rather than psychopathy.  Each book is presented with a lot of background, for example you'll learn about the role of Sweden in the second world war in one of the novels, the history of Kiruna in another. Each novel has multiple layers, the characters are real, with flaws and loveable treats and are not overly stereotyped. Gender, race, and disability issues each have their place. So often crime series are shallow and boring and if you have read the first you don't need to bother with the rest. This series isn't like that. I enjoyed all the books but I enjoyed the first book the least, maybe because I hadn't warmed to Rebecka yet. What do you think? Is this a series you might enjoy?

I have very nearly finished 'A year of Marvellous Ways' by Sara Winman. I haven't enjoyed it as much as the author's first novel, 'When God was a rabbit'. I'll tell you what it is, I actually find Marvellous irritating, I am not too sure why. Here is the Goodreads blurb:
'Cornwall, 1947. Marvellous Ways is a ninety-year-old woman who's lived alone in a remote creek for nearly all her life. Recently she's taken to spending her days sitting on the steps of her caravan with a pair of binoculars. She's waiting for something - she's not sure what, but she'll know it when she sees it. Freddy Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the war. He's agreed to fulfil a dying friend's last wish and hand-deliver a letter to the boy's father in Cornwall. But Freddy's journey doesn't go to plan, and sees him literally wash up in Marvellous' creek, broken in body and spirit. When Marvellous comes to his aid, an unlikely friendship grows between the two. Can Freddy give Marvellous what she needs to say goodbye to the world, and can she give him what he needs to go on?'
I didn't think the flow of the story was a beautiful as it could have been. I found it a little confusing and disjointed at times. This may of course be due to the fact that I read a page here and there, whilst waiting for the microwave to ping or the shower water to warm up. It is quite astonishing how much you can read whilst waiting for the microwave actually.

I just finished listening to a quirky story by Fredrik Backman, 'My grandmother asked me to tell you she is sorry'. It is a not quite fairytale about a seven year old girl, Elsa, whose beloved and very eccentric grandmother dies, leaving behind a series of letters that she needs to deliver to various people. It is a treasure hunt of sorts, the letters are not just left on a nightstand. Elsa is different, in a sweet way, very precocious, too. I don't think you would find many seven year olds quite so clued up. We gradually get to know all the people in her apartment block. At the beginning, it appears quite an ordinary block of flats but there is more to it than one might think, much more. There is the strange creature that is not quite a dog and lives on its own, eating sweets. There is Britt-Marie who is disproportionally annoying but I couldn't help warming to her. There is the drunk and the coffee drinker, the green eyed police woman and more. Old hold together by the threads Elsa's grandmother held in her hands.

The plan for April is not have a plan. I have plenty of unread books on my pile and one will tickle my interest. I have started with the book that you can see at the top of this post, 'Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither' by Sarah Baume. It is beautifully written and I think I will enjoy the book very much (whilst waiting for the microwave, as usual). 

I hope you are enjoying the books you are reading? Do you like to read, or do you prefer being read, too? Do tell, I am curious. xx


16 comments:

  1. I like reading myself. I've not been read to since I was a child (well, except hearing children read at school!) but it doesn't appeal to me at the moment. I have A Year of Marvellous Ways on my pile to read in May. I'm reading loads at the moment - devoting pretty much all my free time to reading - and am already on my 9th book this month (they've all been pretty quick reads!). I'm trying to get a lot of reading in now because I'll probably not have a lot of time to read during the summer months.

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  2. I am definitely going to check out that Swedish crime series. Sounds like my sort of reading. I love being read to when I am knitting or sewing. But I also love reading myself . So a bit of both. Just started a new Donna Leon. Not a murder this time but a musical mystery set in Venice. Not her usual Brunetti series. B xx

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  3. I had to laugh when I read your words about binge watching and binge reading. Before now, I had not dared used those words describing my activities. The truth is, I also binge read and watch. I get so tangled up in a story and author that I must read all I can about the life of the author and read all their books...I've recently finished the newest series of "Poldark" with yummy Aidan Turner. Now I have ordered Winston Grahams' first 3 books in the Poldark Series. You are not alone !!

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  4. I seem to have got out of the habit of reading of late, I have got a lot of books stacked up ready for when I want to get started. I do prefer to read to myself rather than listening to someone else read. The crime series certainly seems to be a good read that I should take a look at.

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  5. As always, enjoy your reading! I finally seem to be enjoying a book, so I hope that you are enjoying yours too! xx

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  6. I've just started a year of marvellous ways, I too am finding it disjointed and so far it's not making me want to pick it up, which is annoying, as I've just abandoned another book and I had high hopes for this one....

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  7. I enjoy reading, but of late have been reading more fact than fiction. I really must give audio books more of a try...I have been picky about the sound of the voice of the reader on some I have listened to. Isn't it fun to find a writer you enjoy and read all they have written! xx

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  8. I love to read. I'm currently on the fifth book of the Game of Throne series. I love the books though I'm really looking forward to reading something else! I've accumulated a few books (though I haven't bought a book since DECEMBER!) and I can'T wait to get started on those!
    And I prefer reading to myself. I'm a very, very quick reader. That's why I can't stand to listen to audio books. They are way too slow for my taste!

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  9. I love reading your book reviews and every time I think I must give audio books a try... They could be my alternative to TV while I am immobile. I'm still enjoying God in Ruins.

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  10. I think you would love teh Sue Grafton alphabet series starting with A is for Alibi, I have enjoyed listening to every book.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  11. That crime series sounds intriguing. Have you read the Louise Penny books? The first in her series is called Still Life, and I highly recommend them. I prefer to read, but do listen to books when I am on long drives to my mom's home in the US.

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  12. I am enjoying being read to at the moment, it helps to make sorting through so many boxes from the attic less of a chore. Asa Larsson's books sound interesting.

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  13. Hey Christina,
    I have bookmarked that crime series for future Kindle purchase! Such a shame you didn't enjoy Marvellous Ways. I adored it. It was almost like a poem. But yes, I guess I can see why she would have been a little annoying ;) I'm glad you are enjoying Spill, Simmer.... I read that a couple of months ago, and loved every word. It was recommended to me by Nina Stibbe of 'Love Nina' fame. She reads some very interesting things.
    Leanne xx

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  14. As always an interesting selection of books. I hope you enjoy the latest one xx

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  15. I'm a total convert to the audio book now. I've also been listening to podcasts of Radio 4's Book at Bedtime. It is so relaxing being read to. Xx

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  16. I don't think anything replaces the joy of holding and reading a book, but I find life is so busy at the moment that time to read is very hard to find, and I greatly enjoy audio books, particularly as I can work/cook etc as I listen. The narrator has to have the right kind of voice though, otherwise I can't listen. X

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Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment, I love to hear from you, I really do. I sometimes reply by email but I am not all that reliable... Christina xx