Three days in Sala

Time never flies as fast as in the summer. We’ve been out and about all the time except this last of our four weeks vacation. Three of those days last week was spent with my grandma in Sala and we had such a great time there. Mikael have met her once before, but now it was more personal with just the three of us.

July 19th

We arrived, had lunch and went to an incredible limestone quarry. 80m deep and we were completely alone there. I was afraid the water would be cold because it’s so deep and not as warm air temperature as three years ago, but it was amazing! Mikael and I were swimming for quite a while. Grandma couldn’t get in unfortunately. We had some friends in the form of a duck family with very curious spring babies. They actually nibbled on grandma’s toes.

July 20th

The full day we had in Sala was first spent in Helgonmossen, a bog north of Sala. Me and my brother spent a lot of time there both riding a bike and walking with grandma and grandpa when we were kids. Grandma and I were walking for a bit and Mikael rode his MTB. I tried out my new phone camera and I’m super satisfied with everything so far. I few weeks ago I got a OnePlus 9 with a Hasselblad’s camera and it’s out of this world!

In the afternoon we went to the silver mine. I think I’ve only been down to the 29m depth before. The children’s depth. You can also go down to 60m with stairs but we were badass and went all the way down to 155m below ground. Fortunately, they had elevators so we didn’t have to walk all that way. I think grandma said she hadn’t been down there either. Which is weird, she’s been living in Sala since the mid 70’s. It was a great experience, and they had adjusted it really well to the covid-19 pandemic. Here’s a link to a 360-picture I took down in the mine.

Inside Victoria’s hall, one of the women working there sang us a miner’s song, and wow. I’m not kidding about those goosebumps. The acoustic in there was amazing! They told us what it was like working in the mine back in the day and I’m glad I didn’t have to risk my life every day, jumping onto the swinging big basket that transported tools down into the mine, and silver up to the surface. They were hanging on on the outside of it. Insane. Mikael had never heard of the silver mine in Sala so I bet he thought it was super interesting. It has an important part of the Swedish history.

In the afternoon/evening, we took a swim in the lake where grandma lives. Which is not a lake, it’s a built dam for the silver mine.
The camera even takes great pictures facing the sun! I LOVE it!

Inside this big man, there’s a small farmer boy I think, haha ;).

Stens Botten (Rock’s Bottom, except that his name was Sten, which means rock, it’s funny). I remember this hole being open to the public when I was a kid. My dad brought me down there all the time. But a few years ago, there was a horrible accident and they closed it off to the public.

The lake underneath Queen Christina’s shaft. This was super cool! You see that snake-thing on the wall? That’s volcanic ash! We had volcano’s here in Sweden some years ago.

 

July 21st

Our last day consisted of another swim in a limestone quarry, this time in Finntorpsbrottet, where I’ve been several times before. Grandma was smart and brought swim shoes. The rocks were not merciful.

A fun thing about this trip is that we did almost the exact same trip three years ago when grandma turned 80. On the exact same dates, we visited the limestone quarries and went swimming. What are the odds?

Thank you, grandma, for having us!

Review of “House of Earth and Blood” by Sarah J. Maas

Title: House of Earth and Blood
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Crescent City #1
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 803
Published: 2020, Bloomsbury Publishing
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

 

MY REVIEW

One of my favorite authors have started a third series, Crescent City. I was super excited after loving both Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses. I had no expectations, and had honestly barely even read what it was about when I picked it up. I trusted Maas enough to pre-order this one signed as well (I’ve lost count on how many signed copies I have of her books by now, haha).

Even with no expectations, more than she being the author, I have to admit that I was almost ready to put it down at first. It honestly took me half of the book before I actually started to get into it and understand and sympathize with the characters and here’s why.

Maas is an amazing worldbuilder, I would love to pick her brains to find out where she gets all of her ideas from. It’s the same with House of Earth and Blood. She has a little bit of a different approach this time though. At first I hated it, but after reading the whole thing, I think I like it. She introduces the world and all its politics and hierarchies and characters and races in a very natural way. You never feel like she is explaining something, but everything comes naturally in the story. But, this is a whole new world, new races, a lot of characters, and I couldn’t keep up and felt frustrated when I didn’t understand anything at all the first half. I still feel unsure about some things honestly. This is the main reason why I had such a hard time reading this in the beginning.

I think it’s supposed to be adult fantasy, but with the exception of quite a bit of swearing, I don’t really see it. It’s still very similar to her other young adult works. Nothing bad, in my opinion, just something I thought about while reading.

And since it was supposed to be an adult fantasy, and in her latest books had included a lot of sex, I was expecting the worst. But honestly, not a single sex scene. Lots of plays on it though, but nothing that I really thought about. Except that scene when Hunt jerks off in the shower and comes so hard that he sees stars. I actually laughed out loud at that, like wtf?

What was so great about it at the end then? Well, I really liked the mix between science and fantasy. It took place in a modern world but where there was also magic. I really liked the balance she had created there.

The characters’ development were also amazing! All of them were hopeless in the beginning, they all had such attitudes that I just thought it was ridiculous. But it was on purpose and fitted the story and how everything developed at the end.

Also, at the end, so much action. So much was happening! I couldn’t put it down!

The end was an end, but there will be two more and I will obviously read them, but it was a satisfactory ending.

I feel like grading this book is hard. My general feeling now that I have finished it, is that it was a great book! I loved it! But it shouldn’t take 50% into the book to start caring for it. A three is too low, a five (considering the first half) is too much. So I guess a 4 is fair? If you enjoyed her other series, I’m super confident you’ll like this one as well. And if you haven’t read any of Maas’ books previously, start with Throne of Glass.

Review of “Kometen Kommer” by Tove Jansson

Title: Kometen Kommer (~Comet in Moominvalley)
Author: Tove Jansson
Series: Mumintrollen #2 (~The Moomins)
Narrator: Mark Levengood
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 3 hours 31 minutes
Published: 2007, Bonnier Audio (first published 1947)
My Grade: 3 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

When Moomintroll learns that a comet will be passing by, he and his friend Sniff travel to the Observatory on the Lonely Mountains to consult the Professors. Along the way, they have many adventures, but the greatest adventure of all awaits them when they learn that the comet is headed straight for their beloved Moominvalley.

MY REVIEW

The second book about the Moomins was about the comet that flies across the sky. I like how it actually deals with science and explains it in a simple way. Even if it is not described in detail. There are new characters introduced and once again, I’m sad to have listened and not having seen the illustrations. The Snork and Snork Maiden are similar trolls, but change colors. The Snork is so extremely blue it’s ridiculous. But I guess that’s how a children’s book should be written, in extremes to show a point. I honestly found it a bit annoying. And something else that’s annoying is Sniff, the small animal they found in the first book. I’m guessing he’s gonna be by Moomintroll’s side throughout the whole series. He is such an annoying baby. Maybe these stories are better to read myself instead of listening to when the narrator apparently is doing such a good job at reading out loud, haha!

I still very much enjoy the setting and storylines though. So it still gets a three.

Review of “Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen” by Tove Jansson

Title: Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (~The Moomins and the Great Flood)
Author: Tove Jansson
Series: Mumintrollen #1 (~The Moomins)
Narrator: Mark Levengood
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 59 minutes
Published: 2007, Bonnier Audio (first published 1945)
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

The Moomins and the Great Flood was the original Moomin story, published in Finland in 1945. Moomin and his mother is searching for the lost father and experience dangers before the family happily reunites. Finally they come across a valley that is more beautiful than anything they had ever seen before.

MY REVIEW

This was an easy listen. Moomins originates from Finland and having Mark Levengood, Swedish-speaking Finn narrate this hour-long book was perfect. But I think it would have been better to actually read it myself to see the illustrations made by the author herself. It’s been so long since I saw any movies or TV-shows or whatever it was when I was a kid that I didn’t really remember how all the creatures looked like.

The story was short, fast-paced, and cute. A perfect listen while doing chores. But why did the Moomintroll’s father leave in the first place? Why did the Moomintroll’s mother not expect the dad to have built a house for the whole family? Questions perhaps a kid doesn’t even think about.

It was a cute story and it gets a four.

Review of “Ronja Rövardotter” by Astrid Lindgren

Title: Ronja Rövardotter (~Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter)
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Narrator: Astrid Lindgren
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 4 hours 59 minutes
Published: 2013, Astrid Lindgren Aktiebolag (first published 1981)
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

On the night Ronia was born, a thunderstorm raged over the mountain, but in Matt’s castle and among his band of robbers there was only joy — for Matt now had a spirited little black-haired daughter. Soon Ronia learns to dance and yell with the robbers, but it is alone in the forest that she feels truly at home.

Then one day Ronia meets Birk, the son of Matt’s arch-enemy. Soon after Ronia and Birk become friends the worst quarrel ever between the rivals bands erupts, and Ronia and Birk are right in the middle.

MY REVIEW

On my 30th birthday, a couple of weeks back, my mother told me that the reason I don’t remember these books, is because she actually never read them out loud to me. I know I was scared of everything growing up (some movies, like Gremlins, Scary Movie and The Princess Bride (which by the way isn’t even a scary movie) gave me nightmares for countless of years), but being scared of Astrid Lindgren’s children’s stories? I guess I do see it. There are some pretty badass antagonists in all of these books that I’ve listened to lately. I remember seeing the movies and yes, they were scary too. Vildvittror, ugh, they were the worst!

Since I saw the movie many times growing up, I did recognize it all while I was listening now and it is as good as I remembered. Now, I want to see the movie again. That will bring back many memories, for sure.

Astrid’s writing is as usual very colorful and I saw the whole story taking place in front of my inner eye. Maybe even more so because I saw the movie so many times. It was amazing! Astrid herself reading is incredible. I am so infinitely happy that she recorded all of her biggest books (maybe even all, I’m not sure?) to audio. She is not just an amazing author, she has a great storytelling voice and she definitely goes all in while reading her own words. 5 out of 5!

Review of “Mio, min Mio” by Astrid Lindgren

Title: Mio, min Mio (Mio, My Son)
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Narrator: Astrid Lindgren
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 3 hours 34 minutes
Published: 2013, Astrid Lindgren Aktiebolag (first published 1954)
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

With help from a genie, young Karl Anders Nilsson travels by day and night, beyond the stars, to reach Farawayland. There, his father the King, who has been searching for him for nine long years, tells him his true name is Mio, and lavishes upon him the loving attention he never received from his foster parents back in Stockholm. Mio learns of a prophecy that has been foretold for thousand of years. With his best friend Pompoo, and his horse with the golden mane, Miramis, he must travel into the darkness of Outer Land to battle the cruel Sir Kato.

MY REVIEW

I don’t think I’ve ever read Mio, min Mio. And it is supposed to be one of Astrid Lindgren’s best works! I think I have to agree.

It’s fast-paced, it’s easy to follow along, the story is captivating, and it is surprisingly dark. Not as dark as Brothers Lionheart, but there’s the Dead Forest, the super evil villain who kidnaps children. There’s beautiful sceneries and even if I never saw the movie, I could still see it all before my inner eye.

The absolute best part about it though is that I listened to Astrid herself reading it. She does it so enthusiastically! I’m sure reading it myself is great too, but hearing her voice, knowing exactly what feelings she wants to evoke in the reader, it’s absolutely amazing! Highly recommend listening to her narration. 5 out of 5!

Review of “Bröderna Lejonhjärta” by Astrid Lindgren

Title: Bröderna Lejonhjärta (The Brothers Lionheart)
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Narrator: Astrid Lindgren
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 5 hours 18 minutes
Published: 2013, Astrid Lindgren Aktiebolag (first published 1973)
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

The Brothers Lionheart (Swedish: Bröderna Lejonhjärta) is a children’s fantasy novel written by Astrid Lindgren. It was published in the autumn of 1973 and has been translated into 46 languages. Many of its themes are unusually dark and heavy for the children’s book genre. Disease, death, tyranny, betrayal and rebellion are some of the dark themes that permeate the story. The lighter themes of the book involve platonic love, loyalty, hope, courage and pacifism.

The two main characters are two brothers; the older Jonatan and the younger Karl. The two brothers’ surname was originally Lion, but they are generally known as Lionheart. Karl’s nickname is Skorpan (Rusky) since Jonatan likes these typical Swedish toasts or crusts.

In Nangijala, a land in “the campfires and storytelling days”, the brothers experience adventures. Together with a resistance group they lead the struggle against the evil Tengil, who rules with the aid of the fearsome fire-breathing dragon, Katla.

 

MY REVIEW

I would like to say that I grew up with Astrid Lindgren’s works. But after reading this, I’m not sure I can say that anymore. Maybe I grew up with the movies more so than with the books? Did my mom read these to me when I was too young to remember? It doesn’t really matter but in one way I’m glad I didn’t remember. Because it was like I read this classic for the very first time, I had no idea what would happen and was surprised just 20 minutes in. I didn’t even remember that the whole story starts with the two brothers dying. That’s not really a spoiler, so I don’t feel bad about writing it.

It’s the first of Lindgren’s works that I’ve read, well listened to I suppose, and more will there be. Hearing her book, with her has the narrator, was amazing! I don’t think I would have seen it all before my inner eye as clearly as I did when she read it. The different voices, the singing, the anxiousness she got aced completely in the right scenes! Goosebumps!

For a children’s fantasy book, it was very dark. Death, oppression, terrible monsters. I do remember the movie being scary. Now I thought it was sad as well. Especially the ending. It was a brutal ending! I had to google what happened next, and apparently she wrote an open letter to a Swedish newspaper a year after it was released telling everyone about the ending and how it continued in the land of Nangilima. It was a happy ending! If you want spoilers, you can read about it on the Swedish Wikipedia page.

I haven’t really read any children’s books in my adult life and at first I thought it was very simple. As it should be. Still all the environments and pictures flooded throughout the whole story. Things happened all the time, it was fast-paced and had lots of events. I can compare this experience with reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I had no idea it was a screenplay but even without the descriptions, I could clearly see what was going on. The brain is fascinating.

I can’t wait to listen to more of her books. I think I will go on with Mio, Min Mio (Mio, My Son). The Brothers Lionheart gets a solid 5!

Review of “Seeking Shadows” by E. A. Cartwright

Title: Seeking Shadows
Author: E. A. Cartwright
Series: Chrionicles of the Balance #1
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Published: 2021, EC Editorial
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Death can be a curse, but also a blessing. For aeons, the reapers have been the keepers of the Balance, maintaining the universal order of life and death in the human realm. And as a High Reaper, it will one day fall on Branwen to guide the flock… should she be crowned, that is. For she is not the only one eligible to take the throne, and with a tarnished reputation, Branwen has long since accepted she will remain a pawn of her lifelong rival, Taren. For why would the Balance crown her, the reaper disfigured with a power to embarrass all of her kind?

But Branwen is forced to confront her insecurities when Taren does the unthinkable. Jealous and impatient, he allies himself with a pompous businessman hungry for invincibility, transforming the world of Kana into a deathtrap as humans unite under a common goal: no more reapers, no more death.

While starving reapers grow weaker and humans feel the consequences of a life with no end, it falls on Branwen to navigate a world of technology to bring Taren to justice and restore the natural order. But an unlikely friend leads her to a discovery that there is more to the humans’ unified behaviour than meets the eye, and saving the worlds may no longer be so straightforward.

The problem is locked inside an old clocktower, and the solution could tear the worlds apart.

 

MY REVIEW

The idea of reapers and angels taking and giving life is intriguing and Seeking Shadows is the first book I’m reading on the topic. And I loved it!

Cartwright is writing in first person perspective from all the three main characters and she does it really well. I like that you feel the characters more this way if you write it correctly and she really did. I’m thinking a lot about the writing style while I myself am writing in first perspective and I wish that I will reach the varied and interesting yet still easy way of writing that she does. The story flows so easily.

One thing I thought about in the beginning of the book was how I got the feeling that when she is writing, she really lets the characters decide where conversations are going. I recognize it since I myself end up there pretty much every single time I’m writing dialogue. I have an initial thought but then the characters keep on talking and discuss other things than what I had had in mind.

One thing I didn’t quite understand though was the consumption of the reapers. The Shadows have different professions, some are reapers, some are readers for example. I assume that the reapers are the only ones who go to the world of Kana to reap the souls who area ready and that’s how they gain their energy, by consuming souls. But how do the readers consume? I didn’t quite understand it when Ina, a reader, consumed a soul and felt sick at first when it was trapped. Other than that, her world-building totally made sense.

It is definitely a fast-paced first book. Things are always happening and you as a reader don’t know at all where the story is going. At the end it was easier to guess, but that’s how it’s supposed to be if you wrote the story the right way, I guess?

I loved the ending! It was an end, but at the same time definitely not and I really hope that she will write her butt off so I can continue the story.

I received this as an e-ARC copy in exchange for my honest review in time for the release on February 6th this year. Life came in between and I am now posting this a couple of weeks too late. I don’t like stressing out a book and this way I can enjoy it more. Which I did. It gets a 4 out of 5 and I cross my fingers she will release the follow-up soon!

Review of “The Universe in Your Hand” by Christophe Galfard

Title: The Universe in Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time, and Beyond
Author: Christophe Galfard
Narrator: Anton Körberg, Swedish
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 11 hours 32 minutes
Published: 2016, Volante
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Quantum physics, black holes, string theory, the Big Bang, dark matter, dark energy, parallel universes: even if we are interested in these fundamental concepts of our world, their language is the language of math. Which means that despite our best intentions of finally grasping, say, Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, most of us are quickly brought up short by a snarl of nasty equations or an incomprehensible graph.

Christophe Galfard’s mission in life is to spread modern scientific ideas to the general public in entertaining ways. Using his considerable skills as a brilliant theoretical physicist and successful young adult author, The Universe in Your Hand employs the immediacy of simple, direct language to show us, not explain to us, the theories that underpin everything we know about our universe. To understand what happens to a dying star, we are asked to picture ourselves floating in space in front of it. To get acquainted with the quantum world, we are shrunk to the size of an atom and then taken on a journey. Employing everyday similes and metaphors, addressing the reader directly, and writing stories rather than equations renders these astoundingly complex ideas in an immediate and visceral way.

 

MY REVIEW

First, I want to say that I listened to this in Swedish, narrated by Anton Körberg, and he did it absolutely brilliantly. Second, this book was brilliant. An excellent combination and I do recommend everyone to read it. Yes, everyone! Even people who think they don’t “know physics”. You get a deeper understanding of our universe and the theories of today that explain our world, what it consists of and how it works. It does so in an easy and very entertaining way with only one formula presented and I bet a big majority of this world’s population have at least heard it, I would like to think so at least: E=m*c².

The most special thing about this book that separates it from all the other books on astrophysics I’ve listened to lately is the perspective it’s written in. It’s written in a second person perspective. I don’t think I’ve ever even read a book written in that way before. The super cool thing about that, is that the author puts you in the center and describes the universe from your perspective. You get to see planets and galaxies and the ridiculous size of our expanding universe just to be shrunk to your “mini you” to enable you to look at atoms and quarks and strings and everything.

I think Galfard’s intention of writing in second person perspective is to make it easy for everyone to understand when you picture yourself in the middle of it all. He succeeds. I loved being on that beach in the beginning of the book, only to fly out in the universe and observe everything. But I have to admit that I once again zoned out a bit when he started describing quantum physics. No, zoned out is the wrong word. It was harder for me to imagine what was going on. I couldn’t visualize it as easily because I don’t have any understanding of quantum physics. And it seems like no one does. Was it Einstein who said that if you said you understood it, you really didn’t?

To sum it up, it is a visualizing book about astrophysics and Galfard explains it… No, shows it to you in a simple way. I absolutely loved it! There’s also humor and it’s easy to relate to the things he uses as examples, like the old aunt in Australia who always gives you vases.

I highly recommend you to read it. Or if you’re Swedish, listen to it with Anton Körberg narrating. It’s only available on Storytel in Swedish unfortunately. But it was worth signing up for a month listening to it, haha! Easily the highest grade: 5!

 

Review of “The Haunted Mask” by R. L. Stine

Title: The Haunted Mask
Author: R. L. Stine
Series: Goosebumps #11
Genre: Horror
Pages: 144
Published: 1993, Scholastic
My Grade: 3 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

How ugly is Carly Beth’s Halloween mask? It’s so ugly that it almost scared her little brother to death. So terrifying that even her friends are totally freaked out by it. It’s the best Halloween mask ever. It’s everything Carly Beth hoped it would be. And more. Maybe too much more. Because Halloween is almost over. And Carly Beth is still wearing that special mask…

MY REVIEW

It was a while ago I read any Goosebumps now. And honestly, it was because I had one book to reach my Goodreads’ goal of 20 books. I reached the goal before finishing this, but it’s nice to read a variety of books.

I have to admit that this book was not as predictable as the previous ones. All the chapters still end with a huge cliffhanger and some were super easy to know what the following page would read. I had no idea how it would end though. I had an idea and it was in the ballpark, but not entirely.

There was one thing that really bothered me though. When she first takes on the mask, she gets super angry and can’t control her feelings. But those feelings are completely gone later on? It feels like either Stine forgot about it, or he had a deeper meaning of it. But since it’s a children’s book, I doubt the latter.

It was an enjoyable read and gets a 3.