Thursday, 13 August 2015

Throw Back Thursday: Mina drömmars stad (Stockholm: City of My Dreams by Per Anders Fogelström

Mina_drommars_stad So school is the topic of the blog this week but this book isn't about school (although indirectly it is as education is a way out of poverty but...) as I say in the review this book was on my assigned reading list in high school and I loved it, which is why I thought I would high light it this week.

Mina drömmars stad (Stockholm: City of My Dreams (Stockholm Series Book 1) ) by Per Anders Fogelström

Publisher: Albert Bonniers Förlag

Synopsis: Fifteen year old Henning is walking into Stockholm. The city lies before him with all its possibilities. The city however doesn’t quite live up to its promises.
My Thoughts: If you read this blog regularly you probably know by this time that I don’t do to well with assigned reading. I tend to resent them. This was one of my exceptions. I was assigned this book the summer between my junior and senior year in high school and I am pretty sure I read it from cover to cover, and then went out and bought the rest of the books in the series. It is that good.
It has one of the most compelling opening chapters I have ever read. I read this in Swedish, but it is translated into English by Jennifer Brown Baverstam. Fogelström in the opening of the book makes the city into a character in its own right. He paints a picture of the city as both a protector and an enemy. These are the last few lines of the opening chapter (my translation):
The City waited. For the fifteen year old boy who had yet not seen any of its glory – and for everyone else who sought it out.
It existed in their dreams and invited all possibilities.
But a young boy neither could nor wanted to see that most were dark, that joy and the possibilities of life were much fewer than those of sorrow and death.
The boy dreamed. The City waited.
Isn’t it evocative and foreboding? The story of young Henning and his family also tells the story of the growth of Stockholm. This is the first book in a series of five books that follow the family from 186o until 1968. This first book covers the period from 1860 until 1880 and is very much the story of the horrors of the industrial revolution. How the poor were used. And how this impacts on the individual. Young Henning has no family and at first no friends. He also has no education and no contacts. This means that he ends up with the hardest jobs there are. However the book also shows the love and friendship that grows even in the at first bleak life of the rented bed and work in the harbour. Somehow it is incredibly beautiful. And the end makes me cry every time.
Although this is a work of historical fiction there is a certain amount of realism. Fogelström presents a well researched book where actual events are incorporated into the book. One of the things I appreciate about this series is that the characters are never given an important part in the historical events of the time. Rather we see them through their eyes, the eyes of the normal person. That makes the books more real to me. One criticism of sorts is that the main characters are incredibly good. It can get a bit grating at times but at the same time makes an important point of not giving into your circumstances.
Copyright ©2011 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Friday, 7 August 2015

What I've Been Listening To: When I'm 64

So I recently read Kiss Me and Thrill Me both by Susan Mallery, and Eddie and Gladys made me think of "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, which makes me think of Beatles "When I'm 64" so I had to listen to it.


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Throw Back Thursday: Re-Review The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

kite-runner We were discussing The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns in one of my book groups last week so I thought it was fitting to post this review for my Throw Back Thursday. The further out from reading the book I get the less likely I am to recommend it. I still think it has value but  I don't think it would be top of my list of books I think people should read.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Category: Fiction/ Audio

Synopsis: From

The Kite Runner follows the story of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, and Hassan, the son of Amir's father's servant. As children in the relatively stable Afghanistan of the early 1970s, the boys are inseparable. They spend idyllic days running kites and telling stories of mystical places and powerful warriors until an unspeakable event changes the nature of their relationship forever, and eventually cements their bond in ways neither boy could have ever predicted. Even after Amir and his father flee to America, Amir remains haunted by his cowardly actions and disloyalty. In part, it is these demons and the sometimes impossible quest for forgiveness that bring him back to his war-torn native land after it comes under Taliban rule. ("...I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.")

My Thoughts: I have been meaning to read this book for ages and I finally bought it when my mentor told me that my first years were reading it for Swedish. I am glad I listened to it.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book. I loved what it had to say about Afghanistan and the west's culpability in what happened. I loved how it described why the Afghanistan as we know it happened. I loved the descriptions of how it was. I also loved the insight into the feelings of those who flee their home country and why they love it.

I am not sure I liked Amir. I understand why he did what he did. I understand why he felt the way he did towards Hassan. I can also understand the actions of the grown-ups but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel revulsion. I guess that is what I should feel. Seeing the dark side of humanity can also be good because otherwise how can we recognise it when we see it? But that doesn’t stop the nauseous feeling I got when I heard the scene in the alley walking to the bus one morning. It stayed with me. It has haunted me.

I suppose this is a book that will stay with me. Not necessarily one that I will go back and read again but one that will stay in my brain informing the way I think and feel. I think this book has changed me in ways I had not predicted when I started listening to it. I suppose this makes it a book of value.

Audio: I liked the fact that the author narrated the story. Hearing the Afghan names pronounced properly was a treat. However, I did at times have a problem following with all the names as they were not familiar to me (my own ignorance). I found that the author was able to bring the characters alive. I could almost smell the smells he described and see the sights. I do so wish that the country wasn’t ravaged by war.

Overall this is a book that I would recommend to others. I think it is an important read.

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Teaser Tuesday: Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen

I stepped into a foyer and looked around with surprise. I had expected something like Buckingham Palace—walls lined with royal portraits, antiques and statues everywhere. But this was more like an ordinary home, slightly outmoded and with a lingering smell of furniture polish and damp. I gave a sigh of disappointment, mingled with a small sigh of relief. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about knocking over priceless objects every time I turned around, the way I did at Buckingham Palace. It was also rather cold in that foyer, with a draft swirling about my legs.. Not too welcoming a first impression for a visiting princess, I thought. But perhaps they were not planning to turn on any form of heat until she arrived.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. I wondered if the queen would have supplied servants of if Princess Marina was bringing her own and they weren’t here yet. I realized that I should have asked to be taken to Major Beauchamp-Chough, not have gone straight to the apartment. Protocol probably demanded that he escort me to my quarters. But it was a long, wet walk back to the front of the building. There was an archway at the end of the entry hall leading to a passageway beyond. As I looked toward it I saw a woman walk across it. She was moving swiftly, almost gliding and making no sound.
“Hello,” I called. “Wait a minute, please.”
When she didn’t stop I ran after her, and found myself standing in a long dark corridor that was completely empty. Where had she gone? There were no side hallways and she would not have had time to open and close a door. That’s when I realized she was wearing a long white dress and her hair had been piled upon her head in little curls. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

From Rhys Bowen's facebook page 

Malice at the Palace (The Royal Spyness Series Book 9) is due out today August 4th

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Monday, 3 August 2015

Book Review: Focus on Me by Megan Erickson

Focus on Me

Author: Megan Erickson

Publisher: InterMix

Genre: Romance, m/m

Synopsis: Colin Hartman can now add college to his list of failures. On the coast-to-coast trek home from California, Colin stops at a gas station in the Nevada desert, and can’t help noticing the guy in tight jeans looking like he just stepped off a catwalk. When he realizes Catwalk is stranded, Colin offers a ride.

Riley only intended to take a short ride in Colin’s Jeep to the Grand Canyon. But one detour leads to another until they finally find themselves tumbling into bed together. However there are shadows in Riley’s eyes that hide a troubled past. And when those shadows threaten to bury the man whom Colin has fallen in love with, he vows to get Riley the help he needs. For once in his life, quitting isn’t an option… from Megan Erickson

Thoughts: There will be spoilers in this review. I highly recommend the book but make sure you have a good supply of tissues handy, you are going to need them. Stop reading now if you do not want spoilers. (Don't worry I don't think it is a MAJOR spoiler, you'll get the spoiler fairly early on if you pay attention).

This book comes with a four kleenex box warning (five Kleenex box warnings are for character death). I could not put it down, despite the tears running down my face. I had to find out what happened. Although I knew, because of the genre that things would be okay, I still had no idea how things were going to get there. Part of the reason this book hit me so hard is because it is a very personal subject. Riley suffers from depression, a very serious depression and this is something I have dealt with myself. For me the Kleenex were needed because I could see myself in Riley. I really felt the pain that Riley felt. The not feeling. The numbness and wishing that you could feel. Ericksson perfectly captured those feelings and that hit me very hard.

As deeply as I felt Riley's feelings, Riley isn't actually the narrator of most of the story and that is another stroke of genius from Erickson. Most of the story is told by Colin and therefore it also becomes a story of what depression does to those who love a person with depression. This perspective is less familiar to me but again the book really captures the feelings that others have told me about. When I was getting better from my depression my mom asked me if there was anything she and my dad could have done differently. I told her no. They loved me and that was enough. But I could see (and I can understand) that this didn't feel like enough. And this is the feeling I get from Colin as well. Intellectually he knows what he has done is enough but it still does not FEEL like enough.

Although I have already mentioned the narrative structure of this novel I want to talk about it some more since it was one of my favourite aspects of the book. The book opens with an e-mail from one man to another (if you have read Trust the Focus you will recognize the writer). That is the only time we are given this persons "voice". The rest of the story is told by Colin as the story unfolds and through e-mails from Riley. We never get to see the replies to Riley's e-mails, although they refer to answers to previous messages. The e-mail sections are much shorter than Colin's sections and this means that the story unfolds quite slowly, and you find things out pretty much at the same pace as Colin. You sort of have to guess at the coming conflict. For me this lent a certain mystery to the story that I really enjoyed.

Overall, although this was a though book to read it is a book I highly recommend.

 Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Plan With Me August: Day 1 How I choose my planner

Some of the parts of me are tightly connected other parts are more lose and free flowing. I am an English teacher who likes to read. I am sure you are all shocked. In the four years I have been a teacher I have discovered that one thing teachers like is stationary. Let a bunch of teachers lose in a stationary store and it will be expensive. An extension of this is a love of organization. Now not all teachers will be organized (I will have nightmares about my friend C's desk for years to come, but that's okay my desk gives her nightmares). One of the ways in which my love for organizing comes out is thru my love for planners. I recently saw a planner challenge over on Pintrest (the actual challenge is on Instagram) and I thought I would take part. I'll be posting pictures over there every day but I will write some longer posts here on some of the days.

So today is all about how you choose your planner. Now I've tried many different ways over the years from simple pocket calendars to bullet journals to the big Kikki-K planner I have now. I've done paper planners and electronic planners. Finding the right planner is HARD. And, add to that your planner needs change. That small pocket planner with squirrels I had in 8th grade isn't going to cut it for the slightly scattered teacher, so you have to re-evaluate. 

One thing that has been consistent for me (and a big reason why I abandoned the bullet journal) is a need to see a week at a time. Less or more leaves me feeling stressed. A week is Goldilocks perfect for me. 

My first few years as a teacher I got A5 calendars for teachers that we bought through work and these worked okay for keeping track of what was happening. The had a week per spread. And usually some good information. But something was missing. I realized I wanted to add in pages. I wanted to be able to keep my notes from meetings and my absence sheets with me (I'll talk more about my teacher planner in a later post). I was also tired of carting around all these extra pages that I never use. Enter a Filofax. I had a personal size one in high school and liked it but wanted something bigger. I ended up going for the Filofax Metropol Organiser in red. I thought I wanted the notepad at the back and the business card holders. I wasn't super happy with the colour but a girl can't have everything. The A5 had a horizontal calendar that suited me as it gave me more space to write on each day than my previous vertical calendars had. I kept a short note of what I was planning on teaching for each class, using different colours for each class. I ended up not using the note pad since the top page curled but despite that we were moving along nicely.

Dark Cherry
Then a friend of mine pictured her Kikki-K calendar on Instagram. I had such organizer envy. And it only grew when I checked out the web page. I was in Organization heaven. I swear I had palpitations. I wanted the Large Planner in Mint. But it was sold out so I ended up getting the Black Cherry one instead. And boy am I glad. The colour suits my beloved Kate Spade handbag perfectly and it just suits me. At first I kept my Filofax pages but I didn't like how they stuck out over the tabs so in the end I ended up getting the Kikki-K pages. And I love them. Right now I am happy with the planner. I can add the pages I need, especially since the planner comes with stickers that you can replace the already printed labels. It is a good size for my handbag and my life. Right now it is perfect for me.

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission