Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Monday, 2 July 2018

Cupcakes by Susannah Blake (2007)

A truly irresistible collection of cupcake recipes for parties, snacks or your own enjoyment. 
In Cupcakes, Susannah Blake brings together many irresistible cupcake recipes. The recipes are very well explained which makes it easy to make a plateful of gorgeous cakes. There are irresistible flavours but also celebration Cupcakes, from Wedding to Halloween and Christmas.
Author: Susannah Blake is the goddess of recipe books. She has published a large range of cookery books about appetisers, soups, party food etc.
My thoughts: Today I am in the mood to present to you a really cute, girly and fun book so you can let the creative baker in you shine. This book was a birthday gift I received from my mum a while ago. Leafing through it, I felt like baking all twenty-seven recipes. The cupcakes are gorgeous and this book has wonderful pictures. The recipes are very easy to follow and, of the ones I have baked, the results have been beyond my expectations. I have found myself trying different flavour combinations and pretty decorations. It is such fun…and so yummy!

Monday, 21 May 2018

The Collector by John Fowles (1963)

A young London office worker, an avid collector, admires a giant butterfly from afar: a young and radiant student of Fine Arts. He kidnaps her, installs her in his country house, purchased with his winnings from betting on football results, and yearns for nothing more than the pleasure of her company. But neither the champagne nor the caviar nor the new dresses nor the art books make her accept her prison. Miranda tries to escape, to call for help and, even, to kill herself. Driven to desperation she offers herself to him. This is a fatal mistake; you cannot make love to a butterfly. Miranda catches cold and soon dies of pneumonia. Meanwhile, in the distance, a girl appears who looks like Miranda and the collector is already considering catching her in his net.

Author: John Fowles was born on March 31, 1926 near London. He studied French Literature at Oxford. He travelled widely in Europe, especially in France and Greece. He was much more influenced by French writers (Flaubert, Camus) than British authors. Fowles’s books have been translated into many languages and he was named by the Times of London as one of the fifty greatest British writers since 1945. John Fowles died in 2005 at the age of 79. 

My thoughts: I read this book twelve years ago (August 2006) and I have been a Fowles fan ever since. I love his writing! I chose this book at Payot bookstore along with the same author’s novel “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”, a Victorian-era romance. I read it in French translation. I adored this novel and remember reading it in one go. Right from the outset this story surprised, fascinated and deeply disturbed me. The plot remains uncertain and worrying until the final page. This is really not a fairy tale story but charts the evil instincts of a criminally insane madman who kidnaps women to remove boredom from his empty life. This is a very scary story - what freaked me out the most about this fiction is that it felt like a true story…

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Amores da Cadela « Pura » by Margarida Victória Borges de Sousa Jácome Correia (The Loves of the Pure-Bred Bitch) (Vol. I, 1975 and Vol. II 1995)

The Marquise Jácome Correia was born in Ponta Delgada on 31 March 1919 into a wealthy aristocratic Azorean family. With a childhood dominated by an ultraconservative mother, she grew up almost left to herself and, very early, she clung on to a hopelessly doomed marriage. From then on, Margarida’s life was a constant laboratory of the oddest human experiences, shrouded by the veil of an exotic, fantastic and cosmopolitan romanticism.

Author: Margarida Victória Borges de Sousa Jácome Correia hesitated a lot before publishing her autobiography. She was a woman who had suffered deeply, chained to a society of ruthless prejudices. She dedicated her book to distressed and frustrated beings. She advised “Have the courage to sever your bonds to the environment you live in if it does not suit you. Follow your destiny. The essential is to fulfil yourself.”

My thoughts: Where do I begin? What a memoir! This is one of the most disturbing true stories I have ever read. It's a phenomenal account of a lady who went through numerous dramas in her life, but who never lost the faith in her capacity to overcome the challenges that life reserved for her.

This is the story of the Marquise Jácome Correia, known as Margarida Victória who has been raised in a very conventional way in a noble family where there was very little love. Her family raised her with such strict beliefs and weird ideas. She went to a boarding school in Switzerland, was forced into a psychiatric institute as a mentally unbalanced person, lived in Egypt and the USA. She married a several times and finally found her soul mate later in life. 

I loved this book of confessions written with great lucidity and courage. The writing is fluid and without pretensions. Its tone is conversational, very intimate, frank and terribly poignant. I read it twice in 2013 and 2015. At each reading I was overwhelmed by emotions. I am grateful to this lady for having written her testimony. She is inspiring in many ways. In 2010 Bertrand published a new edition, the two volumes in one book. Within a few weeks the book was sold out. While on vacation, I went to almost every Bertrand bookstore in Lisbon. The day before my departure I found a copy of this new edition. I have translated the synopsis of the book in my words because this book has not been published in other languages. For those who are fluent in Portuguese, I urge you to discover this poignant story - 464 pages of pure joy.

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (2017)

“When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
It’s about a jealous wife, obsessed with her replacement.
It’s about a younger woman set to marry the man she loves.
The first wife seems like a disaster; her replacement is the perfect woman.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
You will be wrong.”

My thoughts: Those who are fans of psychological dramas will adore this domestic thriller. I adored this book and found it totally captivating! It’s the best psychological thriller I’ve read so far this year. This novel has been sold in 30 countries and Hollywood has bought the film rights.

It was written by the duo of Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, and became a bestseller. This is a difficult book to review since I can’t tell you much for fear of giving anything away. I can just say that this is the story of two women. The first is Vanessa, Richard’s ex-wife, who is obsessed with her successor, a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry her ex-husband. Then there is Nellie, the new wife-to-be, who feels safe, loved and protected by Richard, a good-looking, financially successful man, with an imposing personality...The story is told from the points of view of Nelly and Vanessa, who are very alike (apparently...) on the outside and who love the same man.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (1989)

This book is beautifully written and “unputdownable”. I wasn’t sure that I would like it when I first started reading, but I’m so glad that I persevered (after the 2nd chapter I was completely immersed in the book).

As the story unfolds, a host of events multiply and allow fate to intervene. I had a lot of fun reading this novel. I love Esquivel’s imagery and style, which are strikingly raw and simple, but also the mysterious and magical setting for the story and I found every character to be amazing.

Like Water for Chocolate (original title: Como Agua para Chocolate) was a number one bestseller in Mexico and has since been translated into more than 30 languages.

The book follows the story of Tita de la Garza, the youngest of three daughters of the tyrannical and generally unpleasant widow, Mama Elena. According to Mexican tradition, Tita’s lot in life, as the youngest daughter in the family, is to remain unmarried and care for Mama Elena until the latter dies.

Tita falls in love with her neighbour Pedro at the age of 15 and when Pedro asks Mama Elena for Tita’s hand in marriage, Mama Elena refuses because of an inhuman tradition. Instead, she suggests that Pedro marries Rosaura, Tita’s elder sister. He accepts this only in order to be close to Tita, whom he loves enormously.

From then on, as a passionate and skilled cook, Tita uses her cooking talent to secretly express her heartache and desire for Pedro through the food she prepares. This is the only way she can express herself because Mama Elena is watching them closely to see that they behave... Later on, we learn that Mama Elena had her own hard struggle in life and a lot of frustration too.

All of the chapters begin with recipes that are woven throughout the narrative to create a metaphor for Tita’s emotions. These recipes are methodically detailed. This allows us to dive into the beauty of ancient Mexican cuisine.

This is definitely a marvellous novel that I urge you to discover.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (1999)

The book centres on Vermeer’s prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel’s quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator (Griet) becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. A complex domestic tension rises in the household, ruled by the painter’s jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law.

Author: Tracy Chevalier was born on October 19, 1962. She grew up in Washington, DC. She moved to England in 1984, and worked for several years as a reference book editor. In 1994 she graduated from the MA course in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. Her first novel, Virgin Blue, was chosen by WH Smith for its Fresh Talent promotion in 1997. She has written seven novels, mostly in the historical genre. Tracy lives in London with her husband and son.

My thoughts: I read this masterpiece twice. I loved this beautifully written historical fiction, all the more so as I am fond of Vermeer, a little known painter born in Delft in 1632. Johannes Vermeer painted mostly domestic interiors, often portraying a woman performing a task. He only painted about thirty-seven pictures and one of my favourite paintings is without a doubt the “Girl With a Pearl Earring”.

Although it is a fiction, the facts around the famous painter Johannes Vermeer are true. The author has respected the historical facts with respect to the dates and events that have taken place. I loved the character of the maid, Griet, a very intelligent and wise girl, who evolves in the course of the story. The other characters are intriguing, including the painter; most of the time the narrator (Griet) makes him seem very mysterious.

The style of the book is what I would call a “huis clos” in French (a claustrophobic drama behind closed doors). As the story develops the reader feels the tension growing and is gripped by an anxiety: how will Griet manage to survive among the vipers? It's an intense and sad story, but so beautiful. I urge you to read it.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Child of Happy Valley: A Memoir by Juanita Carberry (1999)

If you enjoy a pleasant read that takes you to distant horizons, such as Kenya in the 1920s, this book is well worth reading.

This is the memoir of Juanita Carberry who was born and raised in Kenya, it tells us about her both extraordinary and unhappy childhood. She lost her mother at the age of three and since that time she lived with her unloving father, stepmother and a vicious nanny.

As we read this book, we also learn a little more about the lives of those who made up the Happy Valley set and the events surrounding the death of Lord Erroll. Juanita wrote that Delves Broughton admitted to her privately that he was in fact guilty of the murder, but was acquitted at the trial. Juanita knew all the members of the Happy Valley set. She disliked this group and when she grew older she avoided becoming part of it.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Johannes Vermeer by Norbert Schneider

I was first attracted to Johannes Vermeer after receiving a reproduction of his painting “Girl with the pearl earring” as a gift twenty years ago. It still is my favourite, but I very quickly came to appreciate all of Vermeer’s paintings. One of my biggest dreams is to visit the Vermeer museum in Delft, which might happen soon, on my own, because Sweetheart is not a Vermeer fan.

I enormously love TASCHEN’s art books and have them for a variety of artists. This series is not only affordable, but it is rich in information. This art book features a detailed chronological summary of the life and works of Vermeer, covering his cultural and historical importance. It also contains a concise biography and it is full of illustrations with explanatory captions.

The author of this book, Norbert Schneider (born in 1945), is Professor of Art History at the University of Karlsruhe. His research focuses on the art history of the Middle Ages and early modern times.

Little is known about Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). We do know that he was the second child and only son of Reynier Jansz, a specialist in silk weaving who simultaneously practised the profession of art dealer. Vermeer married Catharina Bolnes in 1653 and lived in Delft. All of his paintings were done in his workshop in the attic of the house of his very wealthy mother-in-law, Maria Thins. 

Vermeer only produced 35 paintings; he was one of the great masters of the golden age of Dutch art. He sold very few of his works as he relied on other means to support his family. Most of his paintings (all shown in this book) depict women going about their daily business. Vermeer recorded the tasks and duties of women, the imperatives of virtue under which their lives were lived.

The last years of Johannes Vermeer were darkened by the dramatic deterioration of his finances. This afflicted him to the point of ruining his health and he died in a short space of time. He left 11 underage children.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (2015)

Regular readers will know that Erik Larson is one of my favourite historical novel authors. It is therefore no surprise to learn that I loved this book tremendously. Even if we know from the beginning how it will end, we feel the suspense rise in each chapter and that, to keep you going all the way through 555 pages, is an art, believe me!

May 1st, 1915. As the First World War begins its tenth month, the Lusitania, a luxurious British liner, leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Nearly 2,000 passengers enjoy the modern amenities of this powerful and fast ship nicknamed the “Greyhound of the Seas”. Germany has classified the seas surrounding England as war zones, but the captain, William Thomas Turner, knows the rules prohibiting attacks on civilian ships. Shadowing the liner aboard the German submarine U-20 (Unterseeboot-20), Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger, nevertheless decides to ignore these rules. On May 7th, as U-20 and the Lusitania make their way to Liverpool, an array of forces both large and achingly small - hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret and more - all converge to produce one of the great disasters of history. 

Erik Larson enfolds us in an incredible plot with a suffocating atmosphere. He has done tremendous research work to tell us this true story where espionage mixes with sentimental setbacks and the rivalries of decision makers....

I can tell you that I was disgusted by the British leaders who, instead of behaving like noble men, behaved like idiots (to be polite). Instead of using information intercepted from their German enemies to save civilians, they remained in manipulative mode for the sole purpose of forcing the United States to join the war against Germany.

I find that the strength of this book lies in the characters of the story. Here are a few: the captain of the ship Thomas TURNER, an old sea wolf;  US President Woodrow WILSON, in full sentimental turmoil; Alfred VANDERBILT, a millionaire; Edith BOLLING GALT, the second wife of President Wilson; Winston CHURCHILL, already in a position of responsibility; the bookseller Charles LAURIAT who carries a unique manuscript copy of Charles DICKENS’s “A Christmas Carol” of 1843, a treasure; “Dowie”, the ship’s cat mascot, who leaves the ship before it sails...
And let us not forget the one by whom the horror arrives, the Captain of U-20, Walther SCHWIEGER, described by his officers as a handsome man of great culture and kindness.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Life and Soul by Helena Sacadura Cabral (2013)

Today there is a great need to rediscover values and emotions that most of us would consider lost. They are not. They just lie dormant. It is maybe this realisation that sparked in me the will to rethink them. This led to this compendium of feelings, one for each day of the month. At this difficult time for many, should we all not try to refocus our priorities in order to feel a little less unhappy and empty?

Author: Helena Sacadura Cabral was born in Lisbon in December 7, 1934. She is an economist, journalist and Portuguese writer. She was the first woman to join the Bank of Portugal. Since 2005, she has published over 10 books. She is divorced and mother of two boys.  One of her sons is the politician Paulo Portas.

My thoughts: I bought this beautiful book in the bookstore of El Corte Inglés in Lisbon a couple of years ago. As I was running early on my way to see a movie, I went downstairs to the book department to pass the time. To be honest, it was the cover that attracted my attention: tiny and girly. I read a few lines and I found it wise, inspiring and genuine. “Life and Soul” is a great little book that invites reflection, it banishes the superfluous noise that invades our everyday lives. 

I choose this daily maxim at random: “The worst betrayal is to our principles, because it is committed by us, against us” Think of what you owe to yourself in the defence of your dreams and be faithful to the principles you have chosen. I strongly think we should not use masks; we should love and accept ourselves even when we fail. Happiness can only come from authenticity.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

You Can’t Jack Black (1926)

This is a fabulous read, a very entertaining and exciting memoir of an outlaw. I loved it enormously and I offered it to Sweetheart as a birthday gift. Any man will love this memoir. Jack Black has a storytelling talent that keeps us going all the way through the book’s 470 pages.

Thomas Callaghan, aka Jack Black, born in 1871, lost his mother young and was entrusted by his father to nuns to take care of his education. When he leaves the convent, he becomes fascinated by the criminal underworld about which he devours newspaper articles and stories. This young man of 14 years of age falls in love with this life on the margins of society that provides intense freedom.

In this magnificent memoir, Jack takes us with him on an exciting journey into the underground life where we get to know hobos, men who cross North America on freight trains. Petty larceny and arrests for vagrancy end up making him meet the brotherhood of the Johnsons, thieves with a strict code of honour based on mutual aid and join the ranks of the yeggs (safe crackers) and other burglars.

A reformed Jack Black became archivist for a San Francisco newspaper and wrote his memoir of thirty years of sometimes successful, but far more often aborted crimes, unwavering, unbreakable friendships and betrayals, addiction to opium, and, of course, fifteen years in prisons, from Canada to Folsom.

Monday, 4 December 2017

November Monthly Round Up

Life Lately: In Geneva, we are starting to see the Christmas decorations in the shops. It is only natural that I want to share with you a list of independent shops where you might find the perfect gift for your family and friends. As far as I’m concerned, I always start in advance to go hunting for beautiful gifts. It’s so nice when the shops are not yet overrun. When I sat down to write this blog post, I realised that my list had grown considerably... and the result is that it has ended up being a Christmas Shops List and a very photo-heavy monthly round up. I really hope you enjoy…

Coop City (12, rue de Carouge)
Coop City is a Swiss institution (the only non-independent shop in my list). On November 1st they displayed everything you need to make a special decoration for this Christmas. This year, I would be tempted to make an Antarctic decoration, all blue and white.

Ñ (Egne) Wine & Tapas Bar (12-14, rue du Cendrier)
The freshly opened EGNE is a 10 minute walk from Geneva Cornavin train station. The vibe is really relaxed and cool, with a minimalist elegance, and the staffs, two young smiling guys, exude Spanish warmth. You can also buy exquisite wines and other fine Spanish products, since the bar is a delicatessen too.

Chloë Jewellery Shop (6, Rond-Point de Plainpalais)
I love their cosy and girly universe and their high-end fantasy silver, gold plated and rose gold plated jewellery. All their jewellery is handmade. All creations are then presented in a very nice gift package, in pastel or bright colours.

Les Filles Indignes (10, rue de l’Arquebuse)
This is a coffee, wine and delicatessen whose concept is to have no predefined menu. Every day the menu, made of quiches, salads, soups, and homemade cakes, is concocted according to what the chef finds at the market. I like this bohemian atmosphere and the little corner bookshelf is a real plus.

SBC SPA (77, rue des Eaux-Vives)
Should you decide to offer yourself a treat or want to offer a very nice gift to a friend, what about an afternoon at Sbc Spa? This is a freshly opened spa with an Arabian Nights decor. One can enjoy the hammam, jacuzzi, sauna, a haircut or a massage with Decléor products, a brand renowned for its high quality.

Mr & Mrs Renou (39, rue Saint-Joseph, Carouge)
Freshly opened, this gem of pastry shop is very popular among the gourmets in Geneva. It must be said that their creations are uniquely delicate and terribly delicious. The chef has been decorated with the prestigious medal “Meilleur Ouvrier de France”. That day, I fell for a dark chocolate and Madagascar vanilla cake.

Atelier Floral Création (28, rue Ancienne, Carouge)
Where can you buy a beautiful Christmas wreath? Here’s your answer! I really think that a bouquet of flowers is one of the nicest things to brighten up your house.

Librairie du Boulevard (34, rue de Carouge)
A book is always one of the best Christmas presents! One of my favourite bookstores in Geneva is the Librairie du Boulevard, an independent bookstore in the popular district of Plainpalais. Whenever I can, I take a look at the new arrivals. I really enjoyed reading the summary of these three books.

“Et puis ça fait bête d'être triste en maillot de bain”. (And then it’s stupid to be sad in a swimsuit) by Amandine Dhée, a French author whose books are inspired by everyday life…

“Summer” by Monica Sabolo, an Italian author whose book has won a prize and become a hit. This psychological novel is full of intrigue; we are immediately prisoner in its yarns…

“Bakhita” by Véronique Olmi, a French author who won the “Prix du Fnac 2017”. In the 19th century, Bakhita was kidnapped at the age of seven in her village in Darfur…

City Coop - Book Corner
While shopping at a Coop supermarket, I stopped by its “book corner” to check out the new book releases. I choose a pretty selection of books, each one completely different from the other: a book on Portuguese cooking, a novel by a famous Belgian author, the second book of an English author who excels in working-class heroes and the romance genre.

I didn’t buy any of these books; I simply put them on my Santa Claus gift list…If I am good he will probably leave one of them in my Christmas stocking.

So what’s next? Christmas…counting the days already!!!