Saturday, 29 January 2011

Zusak, Markus "The Book Thief"

Zusak, Markus "The Book Thief" - 2005

This was really a success in our book club. Most of the members loved it, only one said she couldn't get into it easily, the other one didn't like certain parts, e.g. Death as a narrator.

From the beginning: This is the story of a little girl in Nazi Germany. Her parents have been taken away and she grows up with foster parents. Liesel, the little girl, steals books, makes incredible friendship, but the most important part, Death tells the story. An account of little girls growing up, Nazis, Jews, theft, death but most of all, a lot of hope. A warm story, real people dealing with devastating events. We were all deeply touched by it.

One point our members brought up that I didn't see as being German myself, the author managed to draw a picture of the ordinary German people, the non-Nazis. It was good to see another side of the war. People in Germany suffered the same as the people in other countries. They liked the description of that side of the Germans. This novel brought up "cultural memories", it's a secondary story, a story about the losers of the war.

I liked Death as the narrator, I think the author gave death a human face. Now we can compare humans and death, see a picture that is more innocent.

Zusak captures the personalities of all the characters very well, good or bad, he makes them very believable.

All in all, a very interesting book, easy to read (it is officially a young adult novel), yet very deep.

We discussed this in our book club in January 2011.

From the back cover: "It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist - books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul."

Friday, 28 January 2011

Stockett, Kathryn "The Help"

Stockett, Kathryn "The Help" - 2009

Three women in Jackson, Mississippi. 1962. There is Skeeter, a daughter from a rich house and there are Aibileen and Minny, two black maids. Skeeter tries to find out how it feels being a black woman and writes a book about the life of her friends.

A very interesting story, the first book by Kathryn Stockett. A new author where people will wait for her next one to come out. She manages to write a very gripping style, you really want to find out what comes next. The story alternates between the three women, they each have their own language and style which makes the book even more interesting.

You can tell that the author knows what she is talking about, that part of herself is in that story. She is Skeeter and writes her book about the maids.

In a way I am very glad I found this book before it became so famous. I am always a little cautious when there is too much publicity with a book, especiallywith a new author. This is certainly a book I will recommend to my friends.
 
From the back cover: "Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren't trusted not to steal the silver . . .
There's Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son's tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.
Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they'd be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell...
"

Cather, Willa "My Ántonia"


Cather, Willa "My Ántonia" - 1918 

I love this book, I think the description of the characters and the landscape are so wonderful, it shows great writing, one of our book club members compared it to a bouquet of flowers. this book is certainly worth reading.

A great description about new settlers in America, about a hundred years ago but I think it still has a lot to teach us. You could really feel how hard life was. It's amazing they made it. A good account of the hard lives people led.

We talked about this in the book club with US American members who had lived in those part of the States.

A very gentle and reaffirming book which I really enjoyed. I will definitely read more of her novels.

We discussed this in our book club in October 2008.

From the back cover: "Willa Cather’s heartfelt novel is the unforgettable story of an immigrant woman’s life on the hardscrabble Nebraska plains. Through Jim Burden’s affectionate reminiscence of his childhood friend, the free-spirited Ántonia Shimerda, a larger, uniquely American portrait emerges, both of a community struggling with unforgiving terrain and of a woman who, amid great hardship, stands as a timeless inspiration."

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Hosseini, Khaled "The Kite Runner"

Hosseini, Khaled "The Kite Runner" - 2003

This was not my first book about Afghanistan, I have read quite a few. But apart from "The Sewing Circles of Herat" which I still consider the best, this has been one of the more interesting ones. Even though it is not necessarily just about Afghanistan - or maybe just because of that - and it doesn't go on all the time about the Afghanistan during and after the Taliban, I thought this was very informative.

We discussed this in our book club in October 2007.

Book Description: "The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons - their love, their sacrifices, their lies.
A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years,
The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic."

I did read other books later on that I liked even more, e.g.
Shakib, Siba “"ach Afghanistan kommt Gott nur noch zum Weinen" (Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep) – 2002
Shakib, Siba "Samira und Samir" (Samira and Samir) - 2004

I also really really liked his next book "A Thousand Splendid Suns" - 2007
His latest book is the best one: "And the Mountains Echoed".

Golden, Arthur "Memoirs of a Geisha"

Golden, Arthur "Memoirs of a Geisha" - 1997 

I have read this book twice - once with my first book club, again with my present one. The first time, I liked the book but didn't think I would read it again. The second time, I enjoyed it much more. After discussing it at the meeting, I found it even more interesting.

This book shows the difference of Eastern and Western culture as well as the changes in society during the couple of decades. There was so much to discuss, this book just contains so many different ideas. It is definitely worth (re-)reading.

We discussed this in our book club in October 2005.

From the back cover: "A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel presents with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.
In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction - at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful - and completely unforgettable."

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

de Bernières, Louis "Captain Corelli's Mandolin"


Bernières, Louis de "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" - 1994

This was the first book I ever read with a book club. While reading it, I wouldn't say I had a hard time understanding it but I probably could say I had a hard time getting to it. After discussing it, I looked at the book in a completely different way. That's why I've been a member of a book club ever since.

I think this book deserves more than a Hollywood movie, there are so many topics in the book itself, so many questions that come up. It certainly is one of those books that can be read more often than once.

The only thing I still don't like is the ending. It was too long in a way, too short in another. If you have read it, I am sure you know what I mean.

From the back cover: "It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to the Greek island of Cephallonia as part of the occupying forces. At first he is ostracised by the locals, but as a conscientious but far from fanatical soldier, whose main aim is to have a peaceful war, he proves in time to be civilised, humorous - and a consummate musician. When the local doctor's daughter's letters to her fiance go unanswered, the working of the eternal triangle seems inevitable. But can this fragile love survive as a war of bestial savagery gets closer and the lines are drawn between invader and defender?"

I read "Birds Without Wings" in the meantime and absolutely loved it.

García Márquez, Gabriel "Love in the Time of Cholera"


García Márquez, Gabriel "Love in the Time of Cholera" (Spanish: El amor en los tiempos del cólera) - 1985

We discussed this book in our book club and we came to the conclusion that it is difficult for us Western European women to understand a Latin American man. We found it a little slow or even hard at the beginning, didn’t understand why we needed the first part because Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, the photographer didn’t have anything to do with the story. And we didn’t understand why the doctor was so mad about him when he had an affair himself.

Anyway, I liked this novel and so did most of our members. We liked the style of the book but not the characters which made it difficult to like the book on the whole. We still hate it when a woman doesn’t have control of her life.

The writing was great, the imagination marvellous, the characters were described very lively, the details amazing. The author is obviously a great storyteller. Right, I didn’t agree with their lifestyle but that doesn’t mean they have to be entirely unsympathetic. And they were all looking for the "Great Love". We all agreed that we were not sure there is just one person you can have a wonderful life with. There were many kind of loves: infidelity, unrequited, passionate, long standing marital love.

I guess that does make this book a love story - and certainly one of the greatest ever written.
Since we were interested, one of our members looked up the diagnosis of cholera and there are similarities between love and the disease.

This novel was written from within in the Latin American culture, from the male perspective, we could not see a woman writing that. However, we did not regret reading it even though it was not what we expected. This is certainly a book to pick up again and to recommend to other book clubs.

We all agreed the most realistic part was when he talked about old age.

Apparently, the movie is one of the closest depictions of the book.

We would like to read more about South America by other authors. Should be interesting.

My first García Márquez novel was "One Hundred Years of Solitude" which I still prefer over this one.

Gabriel García Márquez received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts".

We discussed this in our book club in November 2008.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Dash, Mike "Tulipomania"


Dash, Mike "Tulipomania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused" - 2000

When our book club discussed "Tulip Fever" by Deborah Moggach, I purchased two additional books to go along with it. I thought both of them were very interesting as an additional read to what was really going on. One of them is this one, the other one is "The Tulip" by Anna Pavord is a book about the general history, this one adds a lot of extra information about the craze about Tulips in the 17th century and almost reads like a crime story.

 From the back cover: "In 1630s' Holland thousands of people, from the wealthiest merchants to the lowest street traders, were caught up in a frenzy of buying and selling. The object of the speculation was not oil or gold, but the tulip, a delicate and exotic bloom that had just arrived from the east. Over three years, rare tulip bulbs changed hands for sums that would have bought a house in Amsterdam: a single bulb could sell for more than 300,000 at today's prices. Fortunes were made overnight, but then lost when, within a year, the market collapsed. Mike Dash recreates this bizarre episode in European history, separating myth from reality. He traces the hysterical boom and devastating bust, bringing to life a colourful cast of characters, and beautifully evoking Holland's Golden Age.

Pavord, Anna "The Tulip"


Pavord, Anna "The Tulip" - 2004

I thought this book was a good addition to "Tulip Fever" by Deborah Moggach that I read with my book club.

It was very interesting. I'm not a gardener myself and I wouldn't even say tulips are my favourite flowers but I really thought this was so interesting.

The author tells the tale of this flower that is known to us as "THE" Dutch flower today but has a long history and a long way to get her. It was brought to Europe via Turkey from a lot further East, its exact origin is still not known. We follow the way throughout the ages, especially the tulip mania of the 17th century when incredibly unusual flowers would bring in a lot of money. The writing is accompanied by beautiful illustrations which makes the book even more special.

Here is the book's description:
"'The Tulip' is not a gardening book. It is the story of a flower that has made men mad. Greed, desire, anguish and devotion have all played their part in the development of the tulip into the world-wide phenomenon it is today. No other flower has ever carried so much cultural baggage; it charts political upheavals, illuminates social behaviour, mirrors economic booms and busts, plots the ebb and flow of religious persecution. Pavord tells how the tulip arrived from Turkey and took the whole of Western Europe by storm. Sumptuously illustrated from a wide range of sources, this beautifully produced and irresistible volume will become a bible, a unique source book, a universal gift book and a joy to all who possess it."

Another interesting book on this subject:
"Tulipomania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused" by Mike Dash

Moggach, Deborah "Tulip Fever"


Moggach, Deborah "Tulip Fever" - 1999

Amsterdam, 1630. Wealthy merchants. Famous painters. Love and Betrayal. Rise and Fall. A lot of subjects in a book that really has only one major topic: Tulips and what it meant to the people of the 17th century in Holland and Flanders. Some bulbs would yield the price of a house in the most expensive quarter of Amsterdam.

One of the novels most book club members really loved, it is very interesting both from the historic point of view as well as the story itself.

I read some other books in addition to this:
"The Tulip" by Anna Pavord
"Tulipomania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused" by Mike Dash

Both of them gave a big insight into the craze that was a reason for this book.

Nevertheless, I would have enjoyed this novel without the historical background, I liked the way the author described the characters and everything else. I haven't read anything else by Debborah Moggach. Yet.

We discussed this in our book club in November 2007.

From the back cover: "Amsterdam in the 1630's. Sitting for a portrait is Sophia Sandvoort and her elderly husband Cornelis. They are surrounded by objects showing her husband's piety, as well as a tulip. Cornelis has made money from the speculation on this exotic flower and its bulbs. But as the painter, Jan van Loos, starts to capture Sophia on his canvas, so a slow passion begins to burn..."

Monday, 24 January 2011

McCall Smith, Alexander "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" Series



McCall Smith, Alexander "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" Series

McCall Smith, Alexander "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" (1) - 1999
- "Tears of the Giraffe" (2) - 2000
- "Morality for Beautiful Girls" (3) - 2001
- "The Kalahari Typing School for Men" (4) - 2002
- "The Full Cupboard of Life" (5) - 2004
- "In the Company of Cheerful Ladies" (6) - 2004
- "Blue Shoes and Happiness" (7) - 2006
- "The Good Husband of Zebra Drive" (8) - 2007
- "The Miracle at Speedy Motors" (9) - 2008
(There are three more in the meantime.)

I usually don't read this genre.

However, I have read all the Ladies' Detective stories and liked them a lot (obviously, otherwise I wouldn't have carried on). They are light stories, easy reads but quite amusing, not the usual "easy reads" with nothing memorable in it. The author doesn't just tell some nice little detective stories, there is a lot of information about Botswana in it, too. The people in the books are good people, especially Mma Ramotswe, the First Lady Detective in Botswana.

All of my friends who have read the novels, liked them, as well. You should read them in order.

We discussed this in our book club in November 2004 and June 2008 (different members).

From the back cover: "The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency consists of one woman, the engaging and sassy Precious Ramotswe, who sets up shop in Gabarone, Botswana. This unlikely herione specialises in missing husbands, wayward daughters, con men and impostors."

McEwan, Ian "Atonement"


McEwan, Ian "Atonement" - 2001

We read this book a couple of years ago and didn't like it at all. I just thought the beginning was soooo boring, going on and on about the same thing without letting you know what he was going on and on about. Anyway, I don't think I'll ever read a McEwan book again since there are so many great authors out there who write great books. Sorry. I didn't want to watch the movie either.

Ian McEwan was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for "Atonement" in 2001. 

We discussed this in our book club in November 2002.

From the back cover: "Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century,
Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece."

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Frazier, Charles "Cold Mountain"


Frazier, Charles "Cold Mountain" - 1997

"Based on local history and family stories passed down by the author's great-great-grandfather, Cold Mountain is the tale of a wounded soldier Inman, who walks away from the ravages of the war and back home to his prewar sweetheart, Ada. Inman's odyssey through the devastated landscape of the soon-to-be-defeated South interweaves with Ada's struggle to revive her father's farm, with the help of an intrepid young drifter named Ruby. As their long-separated lives begin to converge at the close of the war, Inman and Ada confront the vastly transformed world they've been delivered."

I have read this book twice, the first time with my British book club when it was just published and then again when the movie came out and I wanted to get into it again before watching it. I was not happy with the ending the first time round, well, I didn't really get it but the second time it made sense and I liked it better.

This is a book about the American Civil War, about love, struggles in bad times, companionship. But it doesn't just show the life of people during the Civil War, it seems to be a never ending description of life. I think it is a great novel that will live on and be read for generations.

All in all, "Cold Mountain" fantastic, the movie was very good, too, I rarely say that after I read a book, really worth watching, whether you've read the book or not.

This was his book about the Civil War, his second book "Thirteen Moons", dates earlier, it has a lot about the Indians (or Native Americans as they are called now but in the book they were called Indians because that was the term at the time). I love reading any books that bring history or other cultures into my life, I can really recommend his books.

Have read the next book by this extraordinary author. "Nightwoods". Charles Frazier is amazing.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Buruma, Ian "Murder in Amsterdam"


Buruma, Ian "Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance" - 2006

Murder in Amsterdam. Not any murder. The murder of a director, a public figure. Why? He made a movie not everyone agreed with. He made a movie about the Muslim faith.

We read this book in the same year as we read Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel: My Life" (Mijn Vrijheid). Theo Van Gogh had made the movie "Submission" together with the Somali-born feminist, activist, writer, politician. Ian Buruma, a British-Dutch writer, tries to explain the events in his book.

Most of us were glad we read the book, it contains so many thought provoking issues about so many topics. Besides Islam it gives a good view about the Netherlands and its people, how tolerant the Dutch really are. It also made us aware of our situation as a foreigner in this country.

The book gave us a good insight into Dutch culture and immigration. At the end of the day, it's all about tolerance. Faith and religion caused and still causes so many problems all over the world.

Our book club members have all lived in several countries besides their own and have come across racism. As an immigrant you feel like an outsider, you have friends from your own culture, there is always this tiny thing: where do I belong?

This book doesn't answer that, either, but gives a lot of insight into today's politics.

We discussed this in our book club in December 2007.

Hirsi Ali, Ayaan "Infidel: My Life"


Hirsi Ali, Ayaan "Infidel: My Life" (Dutch: Mijn Vrijheid) - 2006

I had suggested this book to our book club because we live in the Netherlands and would like to get a little more information about the topic, actual present Dutch politics, something going on at the moment while we live here, I always wanted to read something like that.

We all thought it was a very interesting book and it led to a lively discussion about religion, women's rights, different lives in different countries and other books about these topics. We were surprised about the way Dutch people think about this.

We didn't find there were any new views about the politics here in this country. The question came up how much the Muslims would have to adjust in our countries.

There will always be people with prejudices. We have to change our minds if we want to understand the Islamic world. And we have to change them through moderate ways, Europe hasn't changed in a couple of years, it took a long time. Kader Abdolah (an Iranian-Dutch writer) says: "We Muslims in Europe have to stop importing imams from Muslim countries. We shouldn't forget that the consequences in breaking the rules are not the same as in Christianity."

The author had an interesting childhood. We were astonished how well-educated people in Somalia live to the Islamic rules. Also, the difference between towns and villages was very well documented - and the problems growing up as a girl.

Hirsi Ali also mentions how difficult it was to stir up people, to make them aware of the problems. The book shows how easy it is to manipulate people.

In some ways the book was depressing but we found a glimmer of hope in it. It is difficult when you see so much pain. We should enforce women's rights. Islam needs to be pulled up to modern standards. Ayaan Hirsi Ali had the courage to stand up for something so fearful. Education is the key.
We did think it was sad that she lost God but she is still young. We hope she finds him again. The difference between poor and rich is a battle between religions. God's word is above human love but we don't always see it that way.

As we saw in this book, great privilege comes with great responsibility. If you are from another background you say something and people think it's different. When we came here, we thought the Netherlands is a free country with open-minded inhabitants. Some areas, especially in the Amsterdam/Rotterdam area are just populated by a lot of immigrants.

We all agreed that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is so extraordinary, remarkable, a fantastic person. She lived in different countries, times, systems. We all hope she doesn't get assassinated, the Islam needs her.

I would recommend this book to anybody who is interested in understanding Muslims and who would like to work towards a better world for all of us.

We discussed this in our book club in March 2008.

From the back cover: "
In this profoundly affecting memoir from the internationally renowned author of "The Caged Virgin", Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells her astonishing life story, from her traditional Muslim childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, to her intellectual awakening and activism in the Netherlands, and her current life under armed guard in the West. One of today's most admired and controversial political figures, Ayaan Hirsi Ali burst into international headlines following an Islamist's murder of her colleague, Theo van Gogh, with whom she made the movie "Submission".
 

"Infidel" is the eagerly awaited story of the coming of age of this elegant, distinguished -- and sometimes reviled -- political superstar and champion of free speech. With a gimlet eye and measured, often ironic, voice, Hirsi Ali recounts the evolution of her beliefs, her ironclad will, and her extraordinary resolve to fight injustice done in the name of religion. Raised in a strict Muslim family and extended clan, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries largely ruled by despots. In her early twenties, she escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim immigrant women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Even though she is under constant threat -- demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from her family and clan -- she refuses to be silenced.

Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali's story tells how a bright little girl evolved out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no story could be timelier or more significant.
"

Ayaan Hirsi Ali continues her story in  "Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations"

See also "Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance" by Ian Buruma

Friday, 21 January 2011

Buck, Pearl S. "Sons"


Buck, Pearl S. "Sons" - 1932

The second volume in the "Good Earth Trilogy", this book focuses on Wang Lung's sons and how life goes on after his death. Again, Pearl S. Buck manages to describe everyone's life in so much detail.

I didn't like the characters as much as the ones in "The Good Earth" but I thought the actions were very interesting and exciting. You can tell how China got closer to the revolution. You can also tell why they had a revolution and how history evolved from there.

Great book. I'm still looking for the third volume "A House Divided" which is out of print. :-(

From the back cover: "Second in the trilogy that began with The Good Earth, Buck's classic and starkly real tale of sons rising against their honored fathers tells of the bitter struggle to the death between the old and the new in China. Revolutions sweep the vast nation, leaving destruction and death in their wake, yet also promising emancipation to China's oppressed millions who are groping for a way to survive in a modern age."

Find other books by Pearl S. Book that I read here.

Pearl S. Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces"
 
I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Sachar, Louis "Stanley Yelnats' Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake"


Sachar, Louis "Stanley Yelnats' Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake" - 2003

Same as with "Holes" and "Small Steps", this book was in the house and after I'd read those two already, I thought I'd give this a go, as well. It is a funny little book for children who might not want to read too much at one time or who are not that much into fiction. Also for children who have read "Holes".

The book features information on how to:
* Dig the Perfect hole
* Identify Rattlesnakes, Tarantulas, Yellow-Spotted Lizards, Mr. Sir, and other dangerous creatures
* Win friends and influence people
* And more

From the back cover: "Imagine your misfortune if, like Stanley Yelnats, you found yourself the victim of a miscarriage of justice and interned in Camp Green Lake Correctional Institute. How would you survive? Thoughtfully Louis Sachar has learnt his knowledge and expertise to the subject and created this wonderful, quirky, and utterly essential guide to toughing it out in the Texan desert. Spiced with lots of information about the characters in 'Holes', as well as lots of do's and don'ts for survival, this is an essential book for all those hundreds of thousands of 'Holes' fans."

Sachar, Louis "Small Steps"


Sachar, Louis "Small Steps" - 2006

I read this book as a follow-up to "Holes". I picked it up simply because it was in the house (my boys read it) but really enjoyed it. The story is told just as well as Holes and even though it revolves around a different character in quite a different setting, it reminds you of that novel.

From the back cover: "Armpit and X-Ray are living in Austin, Texas. It is three years since they left the confines of Camp Green Lake Detention Centre and Armpit is taking small steps to turn his life around. He is working for a landscape gardener because he is good at digging holes, he is going to school and he is enjoying his first proper romance, but is he going to be able to stay out of trouble when there is so much building up against him? In this exciting novel, Armpit is joined by many vibrant new characters, and is learning what it takes to stay on course, and that doing the right thing is never the wrong choice."

Sachar, Louis "Holes"


Sachar, Louis "Holes" - 1998 

Both my boys read this book and really enjoyed it. It also was a huge hit on our school book sales.

Anyway, even though both my boys had read it, I never did so myself. Somehow it always seemed like a book for little boys. So, I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn't that at all. (We even have the DVD and I never watched that either!)

I can recommend this book to anyone. It's a quick read, yet very interesting and there is a lot in this.

There is also a follow-up: "Small Steps".

From the back cover: "Stanley Yelnats' family has a history of bad luck going back generations, so he is not too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre. Nor is he very surprised when he is told that his daily labour at the camp is to dig a hole, five foot wide by five foot deep, and report anything that he finds in that hole. The warden claims that it is character building, but this is a lie and Stanley must dig up the truth. In this wonderfully inventive, compelling novel that is both serious and funny, Louis Sachar has created a masterpiece that will leave all readers amazed and delighted by the author's narrative flair and brilliantly handled plot."

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Syal, Meera "Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee"


Syal, Meera "Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee" - 1999

Not one of our favourite books. We excpected a somewhat funny account of Indian life in Great Britain, expatriates as we are, but the stories were kind of shallow and we couldn't really find any humour in it. The member who had originally suggested the book even wanted us to take it off the list after she had read it herself.

We discussed this in our book club in December 2003.

From the back cover: "On a winter morning in London's East End, the locals are confronted with the sight of a white horse skidding through the sooty snow, carrying what looks like a Christmas tree on its back. It turns out to be a man covered in tinsel, with a cartoon-size turban on his head. Entrepreneur Deepak is on his way to get married. As he trudges along, he consoles himself with the thought of marrying Chila, a nice Punjabi girl (a choice which has delighted his surprised parents) does not mean he needs to become his father, grow nostril hair or wear pastel coloured leisure wear.

LIFE ISN'T ALL HA HA HEE HEE is the story of Deepak's bride, the childlike Chila, and her two childhood friends: Sunita, the former activist law student, now an overweight, depressed housewife, and the chic Tanja, who has rejected marriage in favour of a high-powered career in television. A hilarious, thoughtful and moving novel about friendship, marriage and betrayal, it focuses on the difficult choices contemporary women have to make, whether or not they happen to have been raised in the Asian community."

Gibran, Khalil "The Prophet"



Gibran, Khalil "The Prophet" - 1923 

"The Prophet is a book of 26 poetic essays written in 1923 by the Lebanese-born American artist, philosopher and writer Khalil Gibran. In the book, the prophet Almustafa, who has lived in the foreign city of Orphalese for 12 years, is about to board a ship which will carry him home. He is stopped by a group of people, with whom he discusses many issues of life and the human condition. The book is divided into chapters dealing with love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, houses, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death."

I read this book a while ago since it had been a suggestion for our book club (although we didn't choose to read it). Even though I normally don't like poetry as much as novels, I really liked this one.

Somewhere I read the book attempts to provide the reader with a guide to living. And I think that is exactly what it tries and in what it succeeds quite well. There are different chapters on life and death, joy and sorrow, work and play, marriage, children, truth, etc. Even though this is a book mainly settled in the Eastern culture, I think we can all learn from it, even in our modern times.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

van Loon, Karel "A Father's Affair"


van Loon, Karel "A Father's Affair" (Dutch: De passievrucht) - 1999

We read a book about the Netherlands or by a Dutch author from time to time. This was our first one.

Armin, the main character, lives with his 13 yo son whose mother passed away. Now Armin wants a child with his new girl friend. He finds out he's infertile and has always been. Which means he cannot be the father of his former girlfriend's son.

Even though the book is an easy read, it asks a lot of questions about relationships and parenthood. An interesting twist at the end, maybe not too unexpected but still quite nice.

We discussed this in our book club in December 2002.

From the back cover: "When Armin, the father of a 13-year-old son, discovers that he has been infertile all his life, he sets out on a quest to discover the biological father of his son, and is forced to reconsider everything he has ever believed in. This text asks the question, how well do we know the ones we love?"

Monday, 17 January 2011

Buck, Pearl S. "The Good Earth"


Buck, Pearl S. "The Good Earth" - 1931

The first volume in the "Good Earth Trilogy", the second one is "Sons", the third "A House Divided".

I absolutely love this book. Pearl S. Buck was my first "grown up" author, I read all the books our little library had.

The description of all sorts of people in pre-revolutionary China is really interesting, Pearl S. Buck manages to desribe every single person and event so vividly, you feel like you're almost there.

We lead a very different life today and I'm grateful for that. It was a hard life back then, especially for women who were considered a burden to their families and often sold when they didn't have enough money.

Wang Lung, the protagonist of the story, manages to get very rich through the land he buys. He owes all this to his wife who used to be a slave. But he doesn't really recognize this and leads a life any male would lead at the time. I cannot really judge him for that because he didn't know any better. I feel sorry for his wife, O-Lan, though for whom life was one big misery.

We discussed this in our book club in October 2009.

From the back cover: "This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers; but they will soon meet their own downfall.

Hard times come upon Wang Lung and his family when flood and drought force them to seek work in the city. The working people riot, breaking into the homes of the rich and forcing them to flee. When Wang Lung shows mercy to one noble and is rewarded, he begins to rise in the world, even as the House of Hwang falls.
"

Find other books by Pearl S. Book that I read here.

Pearl S. Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces" and the Pulitzer Prize for "The Good Earth" in 1932. 

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Bryson, Bill "Notes from a Small Island"


Bryson, Bill "Notes from a Small Island" - 1995

This was my first experience with Bill Bryson, I read it with my British book club in the last year before I was leaving this "Small Island", so beloved both by the other and myself. I fell in love with his humour and writing style right away. Sooo hilarious.

You can tell Bill Bryson loves the UK and its people, he knows their habits, their humour (especially their great humour), their towns and their countryside, their history and their present politics.

I have read quite a few Bryson books in the meantime, including some great books about the English history, however, this one remains my favourite.

From the back cover: "After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson - bestselling author of The Mother Tongue and Made in America - decided to return to the United States. ('I had recently read,' Bryson writes, 'that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another,so it was clear that my people needed me.') But before departing, he set out on a grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.

Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie's Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile."

I love all of Bill Bryson's books. Find a link to my reviews here.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Lamb, Wally "The Hour I First Believed"


Lamb, Wally "The Hour I First Believed" - 2008

Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado, 1999. Caelum Quirk is a teacher at that school, his wife works there as a school nurse. He is in Connecticut visiting his aunt after her stroke while his wife hides in the school hoping not to be killed by the two students to are out on a warpath.

This book is not about those unfortunate students and teachers that were killed on that terrible day, it is about those "lucky" enough to survive, those that got away. Looking at the life those people led after the attack, one could almost with to die in such an event. Even though the day is described, the shootings aren't too detailed, the author doesn't linger on every detail, this is not a horrendous thriller that likes to show gruesome deeds.

This is my third Wally Lamb book and I have loved all of them. The author always finds a great way to describe people's feelings, little by little he dissects any situation. I love his style. He has a great way of telling a story. Some critic called him a modern day Dostoevsky, certainly a great praise but not too great for this fantastic storyteller, a good psychologist. There is so much humanity in this book, so even though a lot of negative events happen, it still is a book of hope and love. The characters are very human, not overdone, realistic. We also learned that people are a product of their circumstances, especially if on thing follows another.

The novel isn't just about Columbine and the shooting, it combines so many other topics, Wally Lamb could have made the material into three books. It was great to read about these characters who always try to get up after falling down. I thoroughly enjoyed this very descriptive book.

The question came up what we thought it was that he "first believed in"? There were several who opted for "Hope", others for "God". The Dutch title "Vleugelslag" (wing stroke) alludes to the butterfly effect.

From the back cover: "From the author of the international number one bestseller I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE comes a magnificent novel of a life turned upside-down by tragedy – and the search for a way to carry on in the aftermath.

Caelum Quirk is a middle-aged schoolteacher. Students at Columbine High School generally respect him and turn to his wife Maureen, the school nurse, when in trouble. When he has to return to his home town for the funeral of his beloved aunt, Maureen promises to join him the next day - but she goes to work that morning, and that’s when the shootings happen. She hides in a cupboard, unable to see what’s happening, but listening to the students being taunted, then killed.

Life can never be the same again. In the face of Maureen’s trauma, Caelum searches for meaning, delving into his own family history and discovering that nothing was as he’s always been told. As the couple inch towards recovery and suffer setbacks, the stories of Caelum’s redoubtable ancestors illuminate how he came to be the man he is, and how he and Maureen might live in the future with freedom and dignity. With no easy answers, Caelum gradually comes to an understanding of who he really is and what he can believe in.
"

We discussed this in our book club in January 2010.

My first ever Wally Lamb: "She's Come Undone" 
I have also read "I know this much is true" and his next books, find the reviews here.

Lessing, Doris "The Golden Notebook"


Lessing, Doris "The Golden Notebook" - 1962

It has been ages since I read "The Golden Notebook", probably shortly after it was published. It is one of those books that I still remember after many many years. I thought it was very good and very sensitive, approached the subject of women's liberation in a very unique but helpful way.

When we discussed this in our book club, most members did not really like the book very much. A few of us "older" members had the feeling that the younger readers couldn't really follow the reasons this book was written for, they had not lived during the time where a girl did not need an education because she would get married anyway. Ladies like Doris Lessing and her characters are responsible that the situation isn't as bad any more, at least not in our part of the world.

From the back cover: "Anna is a writer, author of one very successful novel, who now keeps four notebooks. In one, with a black cover, she reviews the African experience of her earlier year. In a red one she records her political life, her disillusionment with communism. In a yellow one she writes a novel in which the heroine reviles part of her own experience. And in the blue one she keeps a personal diary. Finally, in love with an American writer and threatened with insanity, Anna tries to bring the threads of all four books together in a golden notebook.

Doris Lessing's best-known and most influential novel,
The Golden Notebook retains its extraordinary power and relevance decades after its initial publication."

Doris Lessing "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007.

We discussed this in our book club in January 2009.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Austen, Jane "Emma"


Austen, Jane "Emma" - 1816

Jane Austen is my favourite author ever. I have read all her novels and try to read everything else she ever pinned down.

"Emma" is not necessarily the most famous of Austen's novels. Emma Woodhouse, a rich clever girl who lives with her father is quite spoiled. She doesn't want to get married as she has enough money herself but looks out for everyone else. Jane Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like."

She might be right there. However, there is something likeable in Emma, after all. She is rather selfish and starts a lot of different things only to abandon them later but she means well with other people. She might be too intelligent for her time, women were not supposed to think.

Emma is Jane Austen's only heroine without money problems, that's already a difference to her other novels. Maybe that's what makes it so interesting.

I have reviewed "Emma" a second time as a member of The Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club. Find that review here and a list of all my "motherhood" reviews here.

From the back cover: "'I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,' wrote Jane Austen in planning Emma (1816).Yet few readers have failed to enjoy the ironies of Emma's high-handed vanity, or to warm to her liveliness and wit. While she devotes her formidable energies to matchmaking between friends and acquaintances in the village of Highbury, the plot turns on a romance of which she is wholly unaware. Her own falling in love delights readers who have been anticipating it as profoundly as it perplexes Emma, who has not.'Of all great writers, she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness,' wrote Virginia Woolf of Jane Austen. This is never more true than in Emma, as Fiona Stafford discusses in her introduction to this new Penguin Classics edition."

I read a lot of novels by or about Jane Austen. Find a link to all my reviews here.

Edwards, Kim "The Memory Keeper's Daughter"


Edwards, Kim "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" - 2005

1964. A doctor delivers his own twins during a blizzard. The son is perfectly healthy, the daughter has Downs syndrome. He is shocked and has to act fast, before his wife is awake again. What would you have done. What do we do with children today that are born with disabilities? That was the big question we asked ourselves. Can we judge someone when he did something in a different time or culture?

Everyone in our book club enjoyed reading the book although it sometimes made some of us sad and others angry. The book was an easy read, yet the writing was very interesting and it gave us lots of good thoughts.

The great thing about a book club is that you can share youre feelings and experiences, in this case various experiences with disabled children, either as a caregiver or through friends.

Years ago, I was told a story by a mother of a disabled child. She had read it in a magazine. I was lucky to find it on the internet, here's a link: Welcome to Holland

The book also showed us how one decision can change the rest of somebody's life and it taught us to be grateful for the things you have.

Lots of thought-provoking issues. The dynamic of the lie, a lie starts disturbing everything.

The title was only mentioned at one point in the book, so we thought it might be hard if you like to flick through the pages.

We also had a discussion about translated titles, e.g. in this case the German title was translated as "The Photographer's Daughter", some of us thought it was not as good, others thought it was better. Then there is "Gebroken licht" in Dutch (Broken Light), "Figlia del silenzio" in Italian (Daughter of Silence) and "Billede af et barn" in Danish (Images from a Child). So many different titles to choose from.

We discussed this in our book club in January 2008.

From the back cover: "Kim Edwards's stunning family drama evokes the spirit of Sue Miller and Alice Sebold, articulating every mother's silent fear: what would happen if you lost your child and she grew up without you? In 1964, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins, he immediately recognizes that one of them has Down Syndrome and makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and to keep her birth a secret. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child as her own. Compulsively readable and deeply moving, The Memory Keeper's Daughter is an astonishing tale of redemptive love."

Noor Al-Hussein, Queen of Jordan "A Leap of Faith: Memoir of an Unexpected Life"


Noor Al-Hussein, Queen of Jordan "A Leap of Faith: Memoir of an Unexpected Life" - 2003

"Born in 1951 to a distinguished Arab-American family, Lisa Najeeb Halaby became the fourth wife of King Hussein at age 27. With her husband being not only Jordan's monarch but the spiritual leader of all Muslims, Lisa was unsure what her role would be. This moving memoir provides a timely look at one woman's story against a backdrop of 30 turbulent years: the displacement of over 1 million Palestinians by the creation of Israel, King Hussein's frustrated efforts for peace, and the effect of Saddam Hussein and the Gulf War on Jordan and the royal family. Queen Noor offers intimate new glimpses of King Hussein, Saddam Hussein, Queen Elizabeth, Arafat, and many other world leaders."

An interesting book about an interesting woman in her interesting life. What more can I say?

I loved this book. Queen Noor is a very special person. I have visited Israel in 1986 and I loved it. I always saw history the Jewish way, how they had problems, never really the problems they caused. Maybe, being German, this is only natural. Although, I always felt sorry for the Palestinians, as well, so maybe I never really saw it as black-and-white as I thought. I think everyone ought to read this book in order to get a better and larger picture of the problems the people in this region - and in the meantime all of us - face. Up until then, I knew very little of the Islam, not as much as compared to the Jewish belief, and I have been working on changing that.

I was really impressed with this book and the description of the country. It has made a deep impression on me and I would love to visit Jordan.

We discussed this in our book club in January 2007.

From the back cover: "'Leap of Faith is the dramatic and inspiring story of an American woman's remarkable journey into the heart of a man and his nation.' 'Born into a distinguished Arab-American family and raised amid privilege, Lisa Halaby joined the first freshman class at Princeton to accept women, graduating in 1974 with a degree in architecture and urban planning. Two years later, while visiting her father in Jordan, she was casually introduced on the airport runway to King Hussein. Widely admired in the Arab world as a voice of moderation, and for his direct lineage to the prophet Muhammad, Hussein would soon become the world's most eligible bachelor after the tragic death of his wife. The next time they met, Hussein would fall headlong in love with the athletic, outspoken daughter of his longtime friend. After a whirlwind, secret courtship Lisa Halaby became Noor Al Hussein, Queen of Jordan.' 'With eloquence and candor, Queen Noor speaks of the obstacles she faced as a naive young bride in the royal court, of rebelling against the smothering embrace of security guards and palace life, and of her own successful struggle to create a working role as a humanitarian activist in a court that simply expected Noor to keep her husband happy. As she gradually took on the mantle of a queen, Noor's joys and challenges grew. After a heartbreaking miscarriage, she gave birth to four children. Meshing the demands of motherhood with the commitments of her position often proved difficult, but she tried to keep her young children by her side, even while flying the world with her husband in his relentless quest for peace. This mission would reap satisfying rewards, including greater Arab unity and a peace treaty with Israel, and suffer such terrible setbacks as the Gulf War and the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin.' Leap of Faith is a remarkable document. It is the story of a young American woman who became wife and partner to an Arab monarch. It provides a compelling portrait of the late."

Pearson, Allison "I Don't Know How She Does It"


Pearson, Allison "I Don't Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother" (Working Mum) - 2002

This book wasn't at all what I expected it to be. It had been suggested by one of our book club members who had been a working mum herself for quite a while. So I thought it would be a book that discusses the problems these mothers have and maybe suggest some solutions for the average working mum.

Instead, I found it was a chick lit disguised as faction. The average mum I know does not work in a managerial position and can afford a cleaning lady (or whatever the PC word for it is now) and an au pair girl etc. I have read similar books and they are all the same. The women are doctors, lawyers, etc. and have all the help they can get. And then they worry about the cake they contribute to the school fayre or something else. Sorry, I cannot pity them.

When I lived in England, I knew working mothers who would drop off their children at school (often after having dropped off another one at playgroup) and stay for half an hour to read with the kids, then move on to their workplace only to come rushing back shortly before three to pick them up again, go shopping etc., do the homework with the kids, clean the house, do the washing, cook dinner until the husband comes home. They didn't have time to complain (let alone write a book about their problems).

We discussed this in our book club in January 2006.

They made this into a movie in 2011. So, the big question is, do I or don't I - watch it?

Not to compare with Esther Vilar's "The Manipulated Man".

From the back cover: "Delightfully smart and heartbreakingly poignant, Allison Pearson’s smash debut novel has exploded onto bestseller lists as 'The national anthem for working mothers.' Hedge-fund manager, wife, and mother of two, Kate Reddy manages to juggle nine currencies in five time zones and keep in step with the Teletubbies. But when she finds herself awake at 1:37 a.m. in a panic over the need to produce a homemade pie for her daughter’s school, she has to admit her life has become unrecognizable. With panache, wisdom, and uproarious wit, I Don’t Know How She Does It brilliantly dramatizes the dilemma of every working mom."

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Kingsolver, Barbara "The Lacuna"


Kingsolver, Barbara "The Lacuna" - 2009

Another great novel by Barbara Kingsolver. This one stretches from Mexico over the United States to Russia, describes the lives of Mexican painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo an Russian leader Trotsky, all woven together by the life of one Mexian-American guy who is thrown into their lot.

Wonderful book about politics (especially the evil side of it), prejudices, art, love - and cooking.
This certainly is one of my new favourites.

I have also read other books by Barbara Kingsolver, you can find my reviews here.

From the back cover: "In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. 'The Lacuna' is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.

Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico--from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City--Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.

Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America's hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach--the lacuna--between truth and public presumption.

With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist--and of art itself.
'The Lacuna' is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time."

Leapman, Michael "The Ingenious Mr Fairchild: The Forgotten Father of the Flower Garden"


Leapman, Michael "The Ingenious Mr Fairchild: The Forgotten Father of the Flower Garden" - 2001

A very fascinating book, even if you're not into gardening at all (like me). The story of a gardener who first experimented in breeding different plants by “interfering with nature”.

The author describes the history alongside with a very interesting tour through London but also draws our attention to the concerns we have today towards genetic manipulation. It only sounds like a historical report about something long forgotten.

We discussed this in our book club in January 2004.

From the back cover: "An award-winning journalist pens a fascinating account of the life and times of Thomas Fairchild, a London nurseryman who discovered hybridization and paved the way for the growth of gardening as a cultural obsession. 8-page color photo insert."

Krasnow, Iris "The Surrendering to Motherhood: Losing Your Mind, Finding Your Soul"


Krasnow, Iris "The Surrendering to Motherhood: Losing Your Mind, Finding Your Soul" - 1997

According to the publisher, this book is "the story of one woman's search for spiritual fulfillment and personal identity", according to our book club members it's just a story of a spoilt right woman who has no idea how the normal people live and tries to judge over whether mothers should be working or not.

One of the worst books our book club ever read.

We discussed this in our book club in January 2003.

Not to compare with Esther Vilar's "The Manipulated Man".

From the back cover: "The story of a woman who came of age with the sexual revolution who finds emancipation in the Zen of motherhood, "Surrendering to Motherhood" is about letting go of the need to achieve and finding one's true self."

Monday, 10 January 2011

Nichols, Peter "A Voyage for Madmen"


Nichols, Peter "A Voyage for Madmen" - 2002

The title of this book is fantastic. The guys who undertook this journey really were mad, and if it didn't show before, it surely did afterwards. I am no big fan of sports but this book was really captivating. You just had to fear with the sailors and their families and friends. I loved this book - and so did the other members of my book club.

It's just amazing what people are willing to sacrifice for their five minutes of fame or even for the feeling to have done it. I'm all for winning, but not at any cost. And still, I understood those guys, somehow.

We discussed this in our book club in January 2005.

From the back cover: "The story of the last great sea adventure - the 1967/68 Golden Globe round the world yacht race. Nine people - a Frenchman, an Italian and six Englishmen began the race. Only one finished. This is their story.
In 1967 nine men set out in small boats to race each other round the world. It had never been done before. This was before satellites provided pin-point navigation. Their world at sea was far closer to Captain Cook's age than ours. When they sailed, heading for the world's stormiest seas, they vanished over the horizon into the unknown.
One man, sending reports of tremendous progress, never left the Atlantic. These were not sportsmen- one didn't even know how to sail. Once at sea, they were exposed to conditions frightening beyond imagination and loneliness almost unknown. Their boats were primitive compared with the today's yachts. The living space was the size of a VW bus. Sealed inside their tiny craft, the sailors met their truest selves. This it turned out, was their greatest danger. They failed and succeeded on the grandest scale.
"

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Hardy, Thomas "Tess of the d'Urbervilles"


Hardy, Thomas "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" - 1891

Tess Durbeyfield is a girl from a poor family who is thrown into a difficult situation without any fault of herself. This will determine her later life which is not a happy one.

This novel certainly belongs to the tragic ones. A friend of mine said it was the most horrible book she ever read. But usually we disagree about books. As we do this time. I loved this novel. Of course, I didn't like everything that happened to Tess or the other girls in the story, but the way Hardy describes the ordinary people's lives and the countryside is just great. I really enjoyed reading this book.

From the back cover: "Hardy tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a beautiful young woman living with her impoverished family in Wessex, the southwestern English county immortalized by Hardy. After the family learns of their connection to the wealthy d'Urbervilles, they send Tess to claim a portion of their fortune. She meets and is seduced by the dissolute Alec d'Urberville and secretly bears a child, Sorrow, who dies in infancy. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer Tess love and salvation, but he rejects her—on their wedding night—after learning of her past. Emotionally bereft, financially impoverished, and victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality, Tess escapes from her vise of passion through a horrible, desperate act."

Kingsolver, Barbara "Prodigal Summer"


Kingsolver, Barbara "Prodigal Summer" - 2001

"Three interwoven love stories set in the Appalachian farmlands, US. The first - involving a reclusive wildlife ranger and a young hunter, the second, a young widow taking over her husbands farm, and the third - between two old cantankerous farmers, one a traditional farmer and the other organic. As always with Kingsolver, nature and the environment rule!"

So far, I liked all the Barbara Kingsolver's books I've read. I like her style, the way her characters come alive. This one involves a lot of family history, the different people in the book all seem to have some links to each other, but there is also quite a bit about nature protection which I liked a lot but some other book club members have found a little "too much".

Anyway, if you are a fan of Barbara Kingsolver and similar writers, you will like this one, as well. A book that gives you a nice feeling.

I have also read other books by Barbara Kingsolver, you can find my reviews here.

We discussed this in our book club in January 2003.

Book Description: "Prodigal Summer weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives inhabiting the forested mountains and struggling small farms of southern Appalachia.
From her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin, Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, watches a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. She is caught off guard by a young hunter who invades her most private spaces and confounds her self-assured, solitary life. On a farm several miles down the mountain, Lusa Maluf Landowski, a bookish city girl turned farmer's wife, finds herself unexpectedly marooned in a strange place where she must declare or lose her attachment to the land that has become her own. And a few more miles down the road, a pair of elderly feuding neighbours tend their respective farms and wrangle about God, pesticides, and the possibilities of a future neither of them expected.
Over the course of one humid summer, these characters find their connections to one another and to the flora and fauna with whom they share a place. Prodigal Summer demonstrates a balance of narrative, drama and ideas that is characteristic of Barbara Kingsolver's finest work.
"

MacDonald, Ann-Marie "The Way the Crow Flies"


MacDonald, Ann-Marie "The Way the Crow Flies" - 2003

The second novel of this Canadian author. We read the first one "Fall on Your Knees" in 2002.

Same as her first book, this novel is based on some family history, in this case also on a real life tragedy in the neighbourhood.

Not a lighthearted, nice novel, a lot of tragedy in this novel. Again, the author has a great way of describing the people in this book and I liked it just as much as her first one.

From the back cover: "The optimism of the early sixties, infused with the excitement of the space race and the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of high-spirited, eight-year-old Madeleine, who welcomes her family's posting to a quiet Air Force base near the Canadian border. Secure in the love of her beautiful mother, she is unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in a web of secrets. When a very local murder intersects with global forces, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine will be forced to learn a lesson about the ambiguity ofhuman morality -- one she will only begin to understand when she carries herquest for the truth, and the killer, into adulthood twenty years later."

We discussed this in our book club in October 2004.

MacDonald, Ann-Marie "Fall on Your Knees"


MacDonald, Ann-Marie "Fall On Your Knees" - 1997

We read this book because we didn't want to read another Oprah book - it turned out to become an Oprah book the next month. ;-)

Anyway, not everyone shared my enthusiasm but I really liked it. I loved the author's talent to let the people come alive. I think, part of the story was based on the author's family. The novel is dark but also funny, it incorporates history as well as immigration and religious problems, quite a variety. It's a love story as well as a crime novel, has character studies and a lot of interesting tales.

This was the author's first novel. We read her second one "The Way the Crow Flies" a couple of years later.

We discussed this in our book club in January 2002.

From the back cover: "A story of four sisters tied by inescapable family bonds, of miracles, terrible secrets, attempted murder and an extraordinary love affair. The settings range from haunted Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, through the battlefields of World War I, to the emerging jazz scene of New York City."