Heatwave? Read These 6 Books to Cool You Down

heatwave cool down books

The best way to forget about the monster heatwave and scorching, hot temperatures outside is to read books set in a chilly location guaranteed to cool you down. Looks like summer won’t give us a moment of respite this year either. With lock-down and social distancing to consider, there is one sure way to cool off during the warmest months of the year and to keep safe from the torments of the heat.

Reading. Chilling crimes, Scottish or Nordic Noir; books set in frozen settings are perfect for cooling off and de-stressing.

One chilling place to start is In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin, just for its hard-hitting storytelling blended with humor. When everyone has something to hide and nobody is innocent, when all trails lead to John Rebus, will he be able to prove his innocence? This book is an ideal heatwave read as it asks for a full attention to keep up with its twists. The 22nd book featuring former detective John Rebus, it deals with two cases; a missing persons’ cold case and a recent murder. A complicated, complex and very satisfying read dripping with banter and some lighthearted humor bouncing between the two main characters. An instant No.1 Amazon Bestseller, shortlisted for British Book Awards, Crime & Thriller Book of the Year.

Summers are for keeps even when the possibilities for outdoor chilling are slashed, forcing us to focus on social media. So I’m looking next at another read, classic humor mixed with chilling crime, All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride because the victim was a Twitter addict. So when he disappears, what are the chances that it was only an innocent act? Logan McRae, here in book 12, is faced with a perplexing case to solve while the story, spun by a master storyteller, is anchored in the present political issues from a master storyteller and a No 1 bestselling author.

For a play of words and on what to read during a hot day, dare touch Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg. The book pulls us in a Copenhagen covered by snow where a scientist who lives in a world numbers and science and is faced with solving a murder. If the clues leading to Greenlander are not enough to chill you, read it for the explosive secret that lies beneath the ice. Welcome to Nordic Noir, the bleakest of the bleak crime fiction and a book that won too many awards to even count them.

We remain in the territory of horrors, because they prove to be the best option for a hot day. Read The Shining by Stephen King. Can you say no to the prospect of a luxury hotel in Colorado, snowy and full of ghosts? Surely at least the minus something degrees will already seem bearable, by comparison to the heat outside your window. Danny is a five-year-old with paranormal powers, his father, Jack, is an alcoholic writer, and his mother Wendy is a bundle of nerves. What could go wrong? The book, published in 1977, turned King into a master of the horror genre, but also one of the best-selling writers of all time.

The day’s still too hot for you? How about Moscow, in the middle of the Russian winter? I’m thinking of one of the best crime novel set in Russia, Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park. The book successfully contrasts both Soviet and American societies, as well as the methods of Soviet and American detectives. Police investigates a triple murders set in Moscow’s Gorky Park in the middle of Russian winter and all clues point to a KGB hit. Arkady Renko, the Moscow homicide investigator, finds himself pulled into a web of intrigues connected to powerful American business interests. Chilling and atmospheric, the Arkady Renko series now includes eight gripping novels.

And if everything else fails, a hot drink on a hot day can also cool you down – or a read set in a hot location, temperature hot, action hot, politically hot: Afghanistan.

If you wish to survive through what seems to be the hottest summer in recent memory of the world, conventional wisdom says that you can cool down by drinking a hot beverage. But if you wish to forget the nagging heat outside your window, then escape in a book: Silent Heroes.
Chosen one of 5 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime.
As vivid as a movie, you will share the life of the Marines deployed in an Afghan military base; climb the breathtaking Hindu-Kush Mountains to a secluded Taliban camp; dive in the belly of ancient Qala-e-Bost fortress in the middle of a battle, and experience the culture of the Afghan people. Silent Heroes is a race against time, “an emotional rollercoaster of a read,” a page-turner, a thrilling contemporary story with a vivid sense of the place, history and politics that shines a light on the humanity of the Marines and their special relationship with their canine buddies. The utterly thrilling war fiction read inspired by true events from a Historical Fiction bestselling author – it will keep you gripped until the final page.

Start with any one. You won’t be disappointed and not even the heat will seem oppressive anymore.

Through the Searching Eyes of Mona Lisa

through the eyes of Mona Lisa

Through the searching eyes of Mona Lisa is an attempt at seeing, watching from the perspective of the observed, in this case a portrait in the Louvre.

She was used to the crowd by now. The way it trickled in the morning, growing exponentially in the blink of an eye like the leaves of a vineyard in spring. For although they acted as individuals, they reacted as a whole in the large room that housed her. She had watched them so many days, the visitors, she had lost count. Of the passing time, of their number.

A leaf may flutter in the wind, but all leaves twist under its tease, and turn as one to follow the sun. And like the vineyards of Cesena, and of Florence, the crowd would change appearance, its impetuosity diminish, and wither by night time, but would still move as one around the room. Bound by visiting rules.

But the vineyard grows in strengths by tendrils holding tight even in the death of winter. They, the crowd, would hold only onto their cameras. Even in death, she asked herself.

Through the Searching Eyes of Mona Lisa

Yet with each day’s crowd she was, still, expecting him to return and go on with his job. She was waiting for him. Looking for his unmatched appearance. His wavy locks, that she’d later seen specked with silver, more often spotted with paint. His overflowing beard, the way he’d tuck it, but only with his left hand and, especially of late when he’d pause for thought. For she’d watched him too, like he’d watched her. She’d studied him, like he’d studied her.

His spirited, dark eyes that always locked and held, never allowing her to drop her gaze. Eyes that saw beyond the ordinary, the outer shell of things where ordinary people chose to cease seeing. Like them… Eyes that remembered before the mind did. She had studied his eyes, learning line after line, as they sprouted around. The way they twitched when he chose and mixed colors. The way they rose with the corner of his mouth. How their sparked, flanking his long, straight nose, the sign of the perfectionist he was.

She was searching for their unmatching magnetism within each daily swarm. For their kindness.

She was searching for his bright tunic and hose that only a man with his grace of movement and force of spirit would attempt to wear. For his easel and his artist satchel, the one that held his miraculous silk brushes.

She was searching for his exuberance, his generosity, for the way he would move through a crowd as an individual, as that one leaf of the vineyard that would follow the sun out of her own accord, for the sun itself came out looking for her.

In all the world there wasn’t another like him. For her. For he was her creator. He was Leonardo da Vinci.

And she was waiting for him to finish his work.

Happy to join Becky’s Square – Perspective blog feature 🙂 with a retrospective of our 2018 trip to Paris.

The Sinking House, Paris Photography

the sinking houseof Paris, Montmartre

The Sinking House of Paris is, for me, one of three striking Parisian images that have entered, through reading and photography, my imagination.

The other two, in case you wonder, are the Louvre, its Pyramid included, and the House of Nicolas Flamel.

We approached Montmartre with our eyes saturated with images of the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur, of its ivory, gentle domes, of its unsullied, milky stone, miraculously whitened by time, not grayed.

We approached Montmartre expecting, and finding, a Parisian village within a metropolis city. Narrow, cobblestone streets steeping up. Tiny terraces with lilliputian coffee shops, surely painted by an artist, sprinkled left and right. Long stairways spilling into alleys, creating intimate squares.

Everything here is art.

But up must we hike. Past shielding trees, past chic homes, past quaint light-poles. Upward we put step after step. Has Picasso painted here? Are we literally stepping on Renoir’s footsteps? Degas? Utrillo? Always climbing.

She is waiting for us. The church. The view of Paris. And something else.

The sinking house of Paris.

the sinking houseof Paris, Montmartre

Are the hills of Montmartre and the constant up-climb meant to prepare us, emotionally, for the spiritual beauty awaiting at the top?

It was Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, a 19th century Irish novelist, who wrote in one of her books: ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.

But so it is true that beauty can be found everywhere, as long as we are prepared for it. To look for it. To see it.

The Sinking House of Paris can be spotted on your right hand side as you climb the final steps towards le Sacré-Cœur. You cannot miss its white and brick facade and rows of chimneys on the roof.

Happy to join Becky’s Square – Perspective blog feature 🙂

Squarres Photography
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Doors from Bucharest or Paris? Guess!

Thursday Doors, Bucharest or Paris, guess game

Can you tell where doors originate just by looking at them, Bucharest or Paris, and will you play the game and guess – just for fun?

Only 14 doors, guess, then hold the mouse over or tap the image to find out the door’s origin, Bucharest or Paris – there’s no right or wrong, it’s fun!

I like Norm’s Thursday Doors feature because it brings out doors’ positive vibes. Each Thursday doors smile under the lens, they are inviting or mysterious, cheery, dressed up for the occasion or caught in their PJs… Chatty on their front porch, from behind a mask of flowers, or bashful at the end of a dark corridor that, perhaps, does not represent them.

Doors open towards light or pull your attention towards overlooked territory. Doors guard, as well as offer secrets, to the curious and the brave that will open them.

When I think of a door my mind jumps to wood. Wood, brought from forests, has been available to humankind from ancient times and has been widely used, so much so that today we can speak of a civilization of wood in its many crafted forms. Except for iron, humans have relied on wood for transport, weapons, shelter, household and religious objects, rituals and even for jewellery and currency 🙂 So much so that wood entered the folklore and mythology of many nations.

So, when we open a door, we glimpse into our past.

Have you notices how you recognize each (close) family member by the way they open a door? Is the door recognizing each one of us too? By the bounce in our step, by the quickness of our breath, or the time in the day we approach it? If yes, what is she thinking? Do we want to know? 🙂

First look at the photos below and take your guess, Bucharest or Paris, then scroll with your mouse over the image to discover if you were right. If you view from your phone, hold onto the picture to select it and you can see the location city 🙂

I’ll star with one of my favorite doors in the world!

Doors from Bucharest or Paris, Guess! Lourve Museum Glass Pyramid Entrance
Doors from Bucharest or Paris, Guess!
Doors from Bucharest or Paris? Guess!
Doors from Bucharest or Paris, Guess!
Doors from Bucharest or Paris, Guess!
Doors from Bucharest or Paris, Guess!
Paris Opera House, Orchestre door
Doors from Bucharest or Paris, Guess!
Doors from Bucharest or Paris, Guess!
Paris, ufanknunknown side of Eglise Sacre Coeur
Doors from Bucharest or Paris, Guess!
Doors from Bucharest or Paris, Guess!
a blue door
door, half open half closed

If you are a Harry Potter fan, then Door Number 4 is a must see. Scroll up and have another look for it is the door to 51 rue de Montmorency in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris where Nicolas Flamel, a historical character in Harry Potter, lived during the fourteenth century and is supposed to have discovered how to make a Philosopher’s Stone.

If you enjoyed this Doors from Bucharest or Paris, Guess post, and I hope you did, have a look at my other guessing game post, Bucharest or Paris? Travel Photography.

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The Church Door, a Short Story for Thursday Doors

I hope you will enjoy reading The Church Door, a short story matching the Thursday Doors weekly feature.

This is my first attempt at doing a post for Thursday Doors, but since I am fascinated with doors and I just happened to find my way through a scene involving a door in my WIP, I thought, why not?

The doors are from Brașov, a city in the Transylvania region of Romania over 800 years old. We went there on holiday in 2019. Enjoy!

The Church Door, a (very) short story

Their plan was to arrive at the church before closing time, when the sanctuary was still open to visitors, but voided of worshipers, and the church custodian would be too tired of curious tourists and too exasperated by chatty old crones, so he would wave them in and then rush to finish his last chores.

They reached the holy ground well after nigh fall. It’s been the old town that threw them off, one that none was familiar with, full of labyrinthine nooks where Google Maps had never set foot. They lost their way a few times. As if the town had a mind of its own. As if its troubled spirits, the ones denied for eternity the sanctity of a peaceful sleep, were trying to stop them.

The church rose behind a curtain of trees. Or at least they hoped it was there, cradled in the sombre, hollow space at the back. The street lamps were off and it was too early for the moon to rise.

So why they pushed on? Because they came thus far. And she needed to get an answer.

The church door should face the front, the street, Kate knew that much. The altar would face east and that was to the right.

They would have knocked they heads in the sanctuary’s door, should she not have extended her arms. It was that dark underneath the old trees. She had removed her gloves earlier one, heated from the march, so the door felt warm and cold under her hands, smooth and rough.

Drachen thumbed on a flashlight.  

The door, ten feet tall, had been forged five centuries ago during the times of its founder, Vlad the Monk. Kate’s hands rose and sank with the wood rods that seemed to have been twisted by time, reinforced in battle. Old oak, like the one that it was still alive around them, standing guard. The breams were reinforced with iron plates fixed in place with iron studs, hammered while the metal was still red. The wood and iron were spotted with years of water damage, be it from heavy summer rains or hibernal blizzards. Kate wondered how many battles it witnessed, how many Ottomans and Tatars it fought in silence. For how many weddings it pulled aside quietly, shrinking in the shadows, keeping its smoked-patina away from the pristine ivory of the bride’s gown. Or how many secrets it bear witness to, unwillingly. Unknowingly.

Kate always found churches approachable, a spiritual consecutiveness  between man and god, people and families, intended for peace making. But this door looked as if it’s been forged to keep the intruders, and the worst of the weather, out.

‘As old as the church,’ said Drachen and his words came out in whisper. As if he didn’t want anyone else to hear them. Although there was no one else around.

Except for them, the spirits, a thought crossed Kate’s mind and she shook it off right away, surprised by her naïve predisposition to superstition.

‘Its locking mechanism is incredible, I saw a design once, for another door. It is a complex system made up of no less than 19 locks created in 1515 by local craftsmen, intended to shield the Episcopal treasure kept inside. Only one key can open it,’ he said.

‘A Bramah key?’

‘No, no Kate. You mean the cylindrical keys with different slots of varying depths? You’re nearly three centuries off. The Bramah lock was invented towards the end of the 18th century.’ He leaned towards the door, almost smelling it. ‘ Would you hold the flashlight, please,’ and Drachen leaned on his hands, both palms spread over the door’s relief, the only two areas that reflected the beam coming from the torch.

‘Now this, this is something much better.’

Behind the door with its 19 locks was the old church, full of secrets. One of them, hers.

© Patricia Furstenberg

A gate door along the narrow cobblestone streets winding through Schei, Brasov’s traditional Romanian quarter:

The Beth Israel Synagogue in Brasov (Hebrew: בית ישראל):

The lovely lady in the rope-ed statue below points towards Strada Sforii (Rope Street), a medieval lane and one of the most narrow streets in the world:

Doors are like people.
Some stand proud, some pull in the shadows, some look inviting and throw open both arms, some keep to themselves. Some are round, some tall and dark, some fancy, some barely keeping up. But all, all doors have a story to tell.
At least one.
What is your story, I ask each one as I walk past. I’m listening.

See you all next Thursday! 🙂 Thank you for visiting.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature that brings door lovers from around the world together, while sharing their joy towards door photography. Feel free to join by creating your own weekly Thursday Doors post and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

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Travel to Romania via 25 Amazing Photos

travel Romania via photos

I invite you to travel to Romania via a few amazing photos because Romania is a country that deserves to be seen. Not many know, but its brave people have watched over the central and western Europe for centuries, acting like a breathing barrier against the Ottoman and Russian powers.

Alone and awake, Romania is a guardian of the world, coming from the eternity and sure to remain in the pages of history. Romania has views that last, a heart that beats proudly to the rush of its streams; and slowly, to the rhythm of its sunsets; a mysterious spirit in tune to the song of its forests.

Travel to Romania via a few amazing photos that will show you the peaceful shades of its landscape, the endless poetry of its shadows, the smile of its innocence, or the islands of silence that punctuate the song of its birds.

See the kneeling of the twilight,
Hear the hesitation of a footstep at dawn,
Admire old landscapes,
Growing young with the joy they give.
A light that calls
Through history,
Stories that perpetuate,
For each one of us
Is a facet of their reflection.

© Patricia Furstenberg

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos of…

Breathtaking Landscapes

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - Bucegi mountains
Bucegi Mountains
Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - sunrise at the Black sea
Sunrise at the Black Sea

Where do our thoughts escape to?
The wondrous one that sneaks out while we languidly watch the sea change its colors? The pressing ones that run away as soon as our mind got caught in the seagull’s wing. The long forgotten ones that elope us before we even blink the sun away. Where do they go? Join me in Looking at the Sea.

Romania’s majestic forests
Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - evergreen, coniferous forests
Evergreen, coniferous forests

A World Class Capital City, Bucharest

In the period between the two World Wars, Bucharest’s elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned the capital city of Romania the nickname of ‘Paris of the East’ or ‘Little Paris’.

 Arch de Triumph (Arcul de Triumf). Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
The Arch de Triumph (Arcul de Triumf), built to celebrate Romania’s Independence, 1878.

This past holiday I chose to look up, towards the sun, the sky and the buildings’ roofs. I discovered some surprising sights that put a smile on my face. Lamp posts can have intricate designs while bordering past and present – which side would you choose? Let’s look up together, in Bucharest.

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
Bucharest, the CEC Palace, 1900, and behind the 21st century glass tower of Bucharest Financial Plaza
Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
The Palace of National Military Circle, French neoclassic architecture, Bucharest
The Palace of National Military Circle, a 1911 building in French neoclassic style.

Have you listen to Angela Gheorghiu performing Peter Noster in a deserted Bucharest?

Bucharest, the InterContinental Hotel
The InterContinental Hotel, Bucharest, opened in 1971

Historical Towns

Sighisoara - Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
Sighisoara, Romania’s inhabited medieval town

Searching for the history of Vlad III, Vlad the Impaler or Dracula, we journeyed through the magical, medieval city of Sighisoara in the midst of winter.

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - Rope Street, Strada Sforii
Brasov, Rope Street, Strada Sforii

Brasov is a town that’s sure to enchant you, whether you visit during summer or winter. Brasov, Corona in Latin or Kronstadt in German, is a historical and cultural city found in the heart of Transylvania, in the heart of Romania, and not far from Sighisoara. It was first mentioned in 1235 and, not many know, it was the birth place of Katharina Siegel, the only woman Vlad Tepes (Dracula) is said to have ever loved.

Brasov
Brasov view from Casa Cristina, our B&B of choice. Far on the hill you can see Rupea Fortress.
Sibiu with its Bridge of Lies - it is said that if you are on it and tell a lie, the bridge will collapse. Been there!
Sibiu with its Bridge of Lies – it is said that if you are on it and tell a lie, the bridge will collapse. Been there!

Let’s move on. Let’s travel to Romania via some more amazing photos of…

Breathtaking Castles

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - Bran Castle
Bran Castle, since 1212
Brasov Fortress
Brasov Fortress, since 13th century
Rasnov Fortress, since 1211. Traces of a fortress from prehistoric Dacian times were discovered here.
Peles Castle, Romania
Peles Castle

Exploring Romania’s Top Movie Locations: Peles Castle – Peles Castle belongs to Hohenzollern Family, a German ruling dynasty. The castle was built between 1873 – 1914 in Neo-Renaissance style, at the order of King Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. King Carol I was the monarch of Romania between 1866 – 1914.

Corvin Castle
Corvin Castle

Corvin Castle is a fairy-tale castle of Gothic-renaissance architecture, built on an old Roman fortification and a stunning sight – read more about it here.

Fascinating Churches

Saint John Church, Brasov
A medieval wooden Christian Orthodox Church in Village Museum, Bucharest
The church of Putna Monastery

Everlasting Art

The Gate of the Kiss by Constantin Brancusi

The Sculptural Ensemble of Constantin Brâncuși at Târgu Jiu is an homage to the Romanian heroes of the First World War. The ensemble comprises three sculptures: The Table of Silence, The Gate of the Kiss and the Endless Column. The ensemble is considered to be one of the great works of 20th-century outdoor sculpture.

Nicolae Grigorescu, Profile of a Young Peasant

A contemporary of Auguste Renoir, next to whom he trained as a painter, Grigorescu took part as war painter in the Romanian War of Independence of 1877 against the Ottoman Empire. Grigorescu is considered one of the painters who established the Romanian modern art.

As always, you can find my books on Amazon worldwide, as eBooks and paperbacks and you can also read them for free if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

5 books everyone should read in their lifetime
5 books everyone should read in their lifetime: Jodi Picoult, Ken Follett, Patricia Furstenberg, Victor Hugo.