Friday, 17 August 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"The fluent reader sounds good, is easy to listen to, and reads with enough expression to help the listener understand and enjoy the material." Charles Clark

"When you read a book, and who you are when you read it, makes it matter or not." Ann Hood

"How do you explain to somebody who doesn't understand that you don't build a library to read. A library is a resource. Something you go to, for reference, as and when. But also something you simply look at, because it gives you succour, answers to some idea of who you are or, more to the point, who you would like to be, who you will be once you own every book you need to own." Howard Jacobsen

"You should never read just for 'enjoyment'. Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends' insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick 'hard books'. Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don't let me ever hear you say, 'I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.' Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of 'literature'? That means fiction, too, stupid." John Waters

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Oates, Joyce Carol "Jack of Spades"

Oates, Joyce Carol "Jack of Spades. A Tale of Suspense" - 2015

Joyce Carol Oates is definitely one of my favourite authors. Her novels are always full of suspense, full of psychological meanings, full of interpersonal relationships. This is all of that and still quite different from her other novels. I doubt I would have read this kind of book had it been by any other author, I doubt I would have been drawn to it.

This novel is clever as always. It seems kind of short and I'm not usually a fan of short stories but this one was just the right size. The story is twisted and you can't wait for it to come all together, can't wait for the end.

I really did enjoy it, Joyce Carol Oates is just a fantastic writer. As mentioned in a New York Times Book Review on another of her novels: "After all these years, JCO can still give me the creeps." Well said.

From the back cover:

"From one of the most highly regarded writers working today, Jack of Spades is an exquisite, psychologically complex thriller about the opposing forces within the mind of one ambitious writer, and the delicate line between genius and madness.

Andrew J. Rush has achieved the kind of critical and commercial success most authors only dream about: he has a top agent and publisher in New York, and his twenty-eight mystery novels have sold millions of copies around the world. He also has a loving wife and three grown children and is highly respected as a philanthropist in his small New Jersey town. Only Stephen King, one of the few mystery writers whose fame exceeds his own, is capable of inspiring a twinge of envy in Rush.

But unbeknownst to anyone, even in his own family, Rush is hiding a dark secret. Under the pseudonym 'Jack of Spades', he pens another string of novels - dark potboilers that are violent, lurid, even masochistic. These are novels that the refined, upstanding Andrew Rush wouldn’t be caught reading, let alone writing. When his daughter comes across a Jack of Spades novel he has carelessly left out, she insists on reading it and begins to ask questions. Meanwhile, Rush receives a court summons in the mail explaining that a local woman has accused him of plagiarizing her own self-published fiction. Before long, Rush’s reputation, career, and family life all come under threat - and in his mind he begins to hear the taunting voice of Jack of Spades.

Tunneling into the most fraught corners of an immensely creative mind, Jack of Spades is a startling, fascinating novel by a masterly writer."

Monday, 13 August 2018

Domínguez, Carlos María "The House of Paper"

Domínguez, Carlos María "The House of Paper" (Spanish: La Casa del Papel) - 2007

An interesting book about a woman who dies reading, a man who builds a house out of books and another guy who tries to find the link between them. Too short for my liking (only 96 pages), one doesn't get to meet the characters very long, you just get started and the story is over.

But it was a pleasant enough read. And as a bonus, there's a lovely map in the front of the book showing the route of the protagonist to South America. It looks like those old maps that were printed on parchment, a detail every book lover must also love. A lovely little story about people who love books.

From the back cover:

"Bluma Lennon, distinguished professor of Latin American literature at Cambridge, is hit by a car while crossing the street, immersed in a volume of Emily Dickinson's poems. Several months after her untimely demise, a package arrives for her from Argentina-a copy of a Conrad novel, encrusted in cement and inscribed with a mysterious dedication. Bluma's successor in the department (and a former lover) travels to Buenos Aires to track down the sender, one Carlos Brauer, who turns out to have disappeared.

The last thing known is that he moved to a remote stretch of the Uruguayan coastline and built himself a house out of his enormous and valuable library. How he got there, and why, is the subject of this seductive novel-part mystery, part social comedy, and part examination of all the many forms of bibliomania.

Charmingly illustrated by Peter Sís, The House of Paper is a tribute to the strange and passionate relationship between people and their books."

There are a lot of books mentioned in this novel. The main one is
"The Shadow-Line" by Joseph Conrad.

Burckhardt, Jacob "The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy" (GE: Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien)
Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote" (E: El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha)
Dickinson, Emily "Poems"
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor "The Brothers Karamazov" (RUS: Братья Карамазовы/Brat'ya Karamazovy)
Faulkner, William "Absalom! Absalom!"
Hesse, Hermann "Siddhartha: An Indian Poem" (GE: Siddhartha)
García Márquez, Gabriel "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (E: Cien años de soledad)
Hemingway, Ernest "A Farewell to Arms"
Salgari, Emilio "The Tigers of Malaysia" (IT: Tigre della Malesia)

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Carle, Eric "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"

Carle, Eric "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" - 1969

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" is a lovely picture book that every child should have. It is such a lovely story but it is so beautifully illustrated and the children can "work" their way through the story.

My son's teacher did an art project with the kids, they had to do their very own Eric Carle picture, the children really enjoyed doing this and it was great for those kids that believe they "can't do art".

Besides enjoying a cute story, kids can learn a lot from this book, for example that eating too much can make you sick. But also the circle of life, a caterpillar doesn't stay a caterpillar all his life but has to eat and grow in order to become a beautiful butterfly.

All in all, a very educational book with a charming little story.

From the back cover:

"One sunny Sunday, the little caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry. On Monday, he ate through one apple; on Tuesday, he ate through two pears; on Wednesday, he ate through three plums--and he was still hungry. Strikingly bold, colorful pictures and a simple text in large, clear type tell the story of the hungry little caterpillar's progress through an amazing variety and quantity of foods. Full at last, he made a cocoon around around himself and went to sleep, to wake up a few weeks later wonderfully transformed into a butterfly!

Brilliantly innovative designer and artist Eric Carle has dramatized the story of one of Nature's commonest yet loveliest marvels, the metamorphosis of the butterfly, in a picture book to delight as well as instruct the very youngest reader or listener."

According to Wikipedia, "in a 2012 survey of School Library Journal readers, 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' was voted the number two children's picture book behind 'Where the Wild Things Are'."

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Rutherfurd, Edward "Russka. The Novel of Russia"

Rutherfurd, Edward "Russka. The Novel of Russia" - 1991

I have read Edward Rutherfurd's various epic historical stories about Britain, Ireland, Paris, I'm looking forward to all his other books and now it was Russia's turn.

What a book. Like in his other novels, the author did a lot of research which resulted in a superb telling of one country's life and history.

As usual, he describes the lives of four different families and their descendants, beginning in the year 180 and ending almost 2 millennia later in 1992 and thereby telling us the story of this great and vast land that has influenced world history for so long but also was influenced by it. The families include various ethnic, they belong to the serfs and the nobility, so you can have a good look into all kinds of lives. As we get to know the characters, we can get a better understanding about Russian history and politics, going from Genghis Khan over Ivan the Terrible to Peter and Catherine, both the Great, until Lenin and Stalin during the revolution in the 20th century. But we also hear about Russian art, literature, music, everything this country has to offer. I have recently learned that you call these kind of stories "multi-generational sagas". In any case, such an easy way to learn about history. And that is getting more and more important.

It is, of course, also a very chunky book, like all his other novels, 945 pages, wonderfully written, brilliantly composed. There is so much information on those pages, I can't believe he actually finished before reaching 1,000.

Now I need to read "Sarum" and "New York" (and then "China" at the end of the year) after having read all his other novels (see here).

From the back cover:

"The author of the phenomenally successful Sarum: The Novel of England now turns his remarkably vast talents to an even larger canvas.

Spanning 1800 years of Russia's history, people, politics, and culture, this grand saga is as multifaceted as the country itself: harsh yet exotic, proud yet fearful of enemies, steeped in ancient superstitions but always seeking to make its mark on the emerging world.

In Russka, Edward Rutherfurd transforms the epic history of a great civilization into a human story of flesh and blood, boldness and action, chronicling the lives of four families who are divided by ethnicity but united in shaping the destiny of their land."

Find a link to all my reviews on his other novels here.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Jason, David "Only Fools and Stories"

Jason, David "Only Fools and Stories: From Del Boy to Granville, Pop Larkin to Frost" - 2017

If you have never seen David Jason in one of his great roles, you have missed out. If you have seen him, you've probably seen them all. To know him is to love him. He has given us so many hours of fun. Here we can look behind the scenes of our favourite characters, be it Del Boy in "Only Fools and Horses", Granville in "Open All Hours" or any of his other hilarious roles.

The nice thing about this book is, you think David is sitting opposite you and you can hear his voice with every word he has written. He sounds just like you imagine him to be, a lovely, caring character who wants to do everything to perfection.

I also found out, that he has already written another autobiography, "My Life" (which he remarks in a typically David-Jason-like manner several times, another fact that shows you how funny this guy is). I will certainly add that to my wishlist.

And now I'm off to watch some David Jason!

From the back cover:

"From Del Boy to Granville, Pop Larkin to Frost, David Jason has lived many lives over the years. Now, Britain's favourite actor takes us behind the scenes and under the skins of some of the best loved acts of his career.

With his typical charm and wit, David relives his favourite moments from the sets of
Only Fools and Horses, A Touch of Frost and Open All Hours, among many others, and shares his most memorable off-screen capers with cast mates, crew members and friends.

Funny and poignant, honest and heart-warming, this is the story how David brought his characters to life - and how they change his life too.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

 "The act of reading makes it appear to us for the time that we have lived another life - that we have had a miraculous enlargement of experience." Henry James

"Books … the smell, the feel, the words, the weigh, the progression of turned pages, the portability, the immersion, the knowledge, the adventure, the addiction!" Mimi

"Reading is an act of civilization; it’s one of the greatest acts of civilization because it takes the free raw material of the mind and builds castles of possibilities." Ben Okri

"Life is like a book. Some chapters are sad, some are happy, and some are exciting. But if you never turn the page… you will never know what the next chapter holds." N.N. 

[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Carey, Peter "A Long Way From Home"

Carey, Peter "A Long Way From Home" - 2017

This is my third book by Peter Carey. While I really liked "True Story of the Kelly Gang" and absolutely loved "Oscar and Lucinda", it took me a while to get into this novel. I thought the topic was interesting and the story itself could have been fascinating. It wasn't even written badly. I just couldn't warm to any of the characters, the story jumped back and forth and sometimes I didn't even care who was telling their part of the story (which could have been marked a little better, e.g. by using different fonts for different narrators). The race could not have been less interesting to me - even though I usually quite like motor racing - and the story about the aboriginals didn't really find any compassion with me, either. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven't read it but I'm sure those who have will understand my point - even if they liked the book.

But having read two good books by this author, I'm sure I won't mind reading another one of his, if someone can recommend it to me. Please?

From the back cover:

"Irene Bobs loves fast driving. Her husband is the best car salesman in rural south eastern Australia. Together with Willie, their lanky navigator, they embark upon the Redex Trial, a brutal race around the continent, over roads no car will ever quite survive.

A Long Way from Home is Peter Carey's late style masterpiece; a thrilling high speed story that starts in one way, then takes you to another place altogether. Set in the 1950s in the embers of the British Empire, painting a picture of Queen and subject, black, white and those in-between, this brilliantly vivid novel illustrates how the possession of an ancient culture spirals through history - and the love made and hurt caused along the way."

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Happy August!

Happy August to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch

"Summer Messengers" 

August is usually the hottest month of the year. I hope this year it will only be the second hottest one, July was more than hot enough. Good thing the holidays are still on in most areas. 

One of the birthstone of this month is the peridot. The main thing I know about it is that it's green, my favourite colour. One of the gemstones where we don't really know how it got its name. We do know, however, that it was mined already in the 4th century. They used to call it topazios back then.

Researching for the birthstone, I learned that it is a "green semi-precious mineral, a variety of olivine". Because of its colour, it's often confused with emeralds. In popular culture, they attribute healing powers to the stone, as well as the power to drive away evil spirits. 

Even though we don't really need any messengers to tell us it's summer, enjoy this month with this beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch.

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Lopez-Schroder, Maite "Romping through Ulysses"

Lopez-Schroder, Maite "Romping through Ulysses" - 2013

While we visited Dublin recently (as described in this blogpost), we stayed in this wonderful guest house that was just like our own home. It was filled with books. What a treasure!

There was one that I really had to read as it gave me the opportunity to look at our host city through the eyes of James Joyce, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus or, easy, Ulysses.

A lovely little book that tells us how the two protagonists made their way through the city on 16 June 1904, better known as Bloomsday.

And the best part of it, there are more "Romping through …" books. You can romp through Dublin or any other Irish books as well as through other literature or even mathematics. What a cute idea for a booklet.

From the back cover:

"Read all about the strange affair of the garter and the bowler hat. This is a 64-page illustrated improper guide to James Joyce’s Ulysses. It's pocket-size with a retro vibe. There are maps to help you create your own romp through Dublin.

Dip into it as an introduction to Joyce's big book. You will find out what's happening in the story, get ideas of what to do and places to visit. Arm yourself with a quote or two and pick up some insider titbits."

Monday, 30 July 2018

Czerski, Helen "Storm in a Teacup"

Czerski, Helen "Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life" - 2016

I found this book through a group on Goodreads (don't you just love Goodreads? Well, I do.) that gets together and suggests "brilliant books you've never heard of" (see my post here).

If you read the book description, there isn't much else to add, the book is about physics and how we can discover it in our lives. I have never been a huge science fan and just about went through my lessons at school by learning stuff by heart without really understanding it. I wouldn't say this was the book that finally made me understand, I've read other books about that before (like Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything") and I have reached a point where I probably have understood as much as I ever will or there possibly is to understand.

However, this is a very informative book. If only our teacher had explained us magnetism through coins in our purse or evaporation through the stains coffee spots leave.

It was a pleasure for this non-scientific person to read this scientific book and I'm glad it was suggested in that reading group.

From the back cover:

"Take a look up at the stars on a clear night and you get a sense that the universe is vast and untouchable, full of mysteries beyond comprehension. But did you know that the key to unveiling the secrets of the cosmos is as close as the nearest toaster?

Our home here on Earth is messy, mutable, and full of humdrum things that we touch and modify without much thought every day. But these familiar surroundings are just the place to look if you’re interested in what makes the universe tick. In Storm in a Teacup, Helen Czerski provides the tools to alter the way we see everything around us by linking ordinary objects and occurrences, like popcorn popping, coffee stains, and fridge magnets, to big ideas like climate change, the energy crisis, or innovative medical testing. She guides us through the principles of gases (“Explosions in the kitchen are generally considered a bad idea. But just occasionally a small one can produce something delicious”); gravity (drop some raisins in a bottle of carbonated lemonade and watch the whoosh of bubbles and the dancing raisins at the bottom bumping into each other); size (Czerski explains the action of the water molecules that cause the crime-scene stain left by a puddle of dried coffee); and time (why it takes so long for ketchup to come out of a bottle).

Along the way, she provides answers to vexing questions: How does water travel from the roots of a redwood tree to its crown? How do ducks keep their feet warm when walking on ice? Why does milk, when added to tea, look like billowing storm clouds? In an engaging voice at once warm and witty, Czerski shares her stunning breadth of knowledge to lift the veil of familiarity from the ordinary. You may never look at your toaster the same way."

Friday, 27 July 2018

Mukherjee, Neel "A State of Freedom"

Mukherjee, Neel "A State of Freedom" - 2017

I like stories about India and so far, haven't found one I didn't like. Well, I think I might have "achieved" it this time. What I didn't know - and it isn't mentioned anywhere in the book - that this is more a book of short stories, you discover it when the first story is over all of a sudden (on page 22).

The two longer ones seem to belong together but they might as well have been about different people as you only notice toward the end that this is the same person they talk about in the other story. Those were the only ones I could get into, as well. The three others, I couldn't really relate to any of the characters, even less the story itself. The second and the fourth story tell us about a rich Indian guy who returns home every other year to visit his family while the fourth goes more into the lives of the domestic personnel his family has hired. That was my favourite.

The first, third and fifth story are also supposed to be linked but the connection is far less obvious and doesn't really add to the individual stories.

As I said, whilst liking Indian stories, this was not mine. I shall go back to authors like Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri, Rohinton Mistry, V.S. Naipaul, Vikram Seth, and others that I hopefully will come across.

Lesson to be learned for the publisher: Don't call short stories a novel, you get bad reviews from those who expect a novel and readers who only like short stories will not attempt it.

From the back cover:

"What happens when we attempt to exchange the life we are given for something better? Can we transform the possibilities we are born into?

A State of Freedom prises open the central, defining events of our century - displacement and migration - but not as you imagine them.

Five characters, in very different circumstances, from a domestic cook in Mumbai, to a vagrant and his dancing bear, and a girl who escapes terror in her home village for a new life in the city, find out the meanings of dislocation, and the desire for more.

Set in contemporary India and moving between the reality of this world and the shadow of another, this novel of multiple narratives - formally daring, fierce but full of pity - delivers a devastating and haunting exploration of the unquenchable human urge to strive for a different life."

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift." Kate DiCamillo

"My mother taught me that reading is a kind of work, and that every paragraph merits exertion, and in this way, I learned how to absorb difficult books. Soon after I went to kindergarten, however, I learned that reading difficult books also brings trouble. I was punished for reading ahead of the class, for being unwilling to speak and act "nicely." I didn't know why I simultaneously feared and adored my female teachers, but I did know that I needed their attention." Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

"We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don'ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever." Philip Pullman

"The nicest thing about a book is no commercials" Charles M. Schulz, The Peanuts

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Brilliant Books You've Never Heard Of

Goodreads is fantastic, don't you agree? They supply so much information, give you the opportunity to share what you've read with friends and offers groups where you can find new inspiration. I've been following "Emma's Book Club" for quite a while and thoroughly enjoy it.

In any of my posts, I will put the link to Goodreads under the picture of the book. If you are interested in my Goodreads page, here is the link.

I always enjoy new kind of literature, something I haven't read before. So, when I saw the group "Brilliant Books You've Never Heard of" on Goodreads, I decided to join it, as well.  They decide once a month on their next read and you can forward suggestions that must only meet three criteria:

Published in or after 1960, but at least 6 months old
No more than 5,000 Goodreads ratings
No self-promotion

You will see that this results in some very diverse literature. I will try to read some of them when I can get my hands on them.

Can you recommend any brilliant books that others have never heard of?
Mine would be:
Stroyar, J.N. "The Children's War" and "A Change of Regime"

July 2017
Saintcrow, Lilith "She Wolf and Cub" - Goodreads
Aug 2017
Owens, Mark + Delia "Cry of the Kalahari" - Goodreads
Sept 2017
Stackpole, Michael A. "A Secret Atlas" - Goodreads
Oct 2017
Delport, Melissa "The Cathedral of Cliffdale" (Guardians of Summerfeld #1) - Goodreads
Nov 2017
Ryan, Anthony "The Waking Fire" - Goodreads
Dec 2017
Höst, Andrea K. "Hunting" - Goodreads
Jan 2018
Owen, Zachary T. "Beauties in the Deep" - Goodreads
Feb 2018
Marlow, Faith "Being Mrs. Dracula" - Goodreads
Mar 2018
Jans, Donald "Freaks I've Met" - Goodreads
Apr 2018
Austin, Emily R. "Oh Honey" - Goodreads
May 2018
Crispell, Susan Bishop "The Secret Ingredient of Wishes" - Goodreads
Jun 2018
Penn, J.F. "Stone of Fire (Arkane #1) - Goodreads
Jul 2018
Czerski, Helen "Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life" - 2016

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Remarque, Erich Maria "All Quiet on the Western Front"

Remarque, Erich Maria "All Quiet on the Western Front" (German: Im Westen nichts Neues) - 1928

The original German title of this novel is "Nothing New in the West" which is sort of the same as the English title but you can interpret it in two ways, not just something being quiet but something just as normal, in this case, people have been dying just as any other day of the war.

Anyway, I wanted to read this book for ages, it's been on my wishlist for decades. I have no idea why it took me so long. I remember knowing about it when I was in school and having seen part of the film (I think they might have shown it to us in school) and that it certainly contributed to me becoming a life-long pacifist. That and my parents who had to survive World War II as children and teenagers.

But it's not just the part that tells us about the war, the trenches, the fights, the cold, the dampness, the rats, the bad food, seeing the friends fall one after the other, worrying you might be next ... The protagonist has a home leave in between and his rendition of the visit with his family and him being in turmoil because it is a different life and he is a different person, it tells us a lot about what those soldiers went through when they survived, what soldiers still go through today. They are never the same again.

The edition I read (see the right picture) had a lot of additional information about how the book was received, how the Nazis forbade the film (of course!) and how they generally tried to bring this book into miscredit.

I recently read "War and Turpentine" by Stefan Hertmans who told us just about the same kind of story about his Belgian grandfather. The young men or rather boys on both sides went through a lot of hardship while the politicians were sitting in their warm homes and pushed further and further. As usual. So, that really is no news.

I think this should be a must-read, if not for all students in school but definitely for all politicians who think a war is a good way to solve their problems.

From the back cover:

"Considered by many the greatest war novel of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front is Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece of the German experience during World War I.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . .

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. They become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks in pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

'The world has a great writer in Erich Maria Remarque. He is a craftsman of unquestionably first rank, a man who can bend language to his will. Whether he writes of men or of inanimate nature, his touch is sensitive, firm, and sure.' The New York Times Book Review

Friday, 20 July 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"When I got [my] library card, that was when my life began." Rita Mae Brown

"A book is a whole world that you can fit into your pocket." Matshona Dhliwayo

"Books are many things: lullabies for the weary, ointment for the wounded, armour for the fearful, and nests for those in need of a home." Glenda Millard

"Wear the old coat and buy the new book." Austin Phelps

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

LeSieg, Theo (=Dr. Seuss) "The Cat in the Hat"

LeSieg, Theo (=Dr. Seuss) "The Cat in the Hat" - 1957

An absolute classic. A children's book that is just as much enjoyed by the adult reading it to them as to the first reader who manages their way through the pages. It is not surprising that it still belongs to every kid's library after more than half a century. We can tell that nothing has changed, children still like to hear of mischief but love to learn from it to. An early "stranger danger" story but with a lot of fun.

So, whether you have little children or not, this is a cute book for the hidden child in all of us.

From the back cover:

"Join the Cat in the Hat as he makes learning to read a joy! It’s a rainy day and Dick and Sally can’t find anything to do . . . until the Cat in the Hat unexpectedly appears and turns their dreary afternoon into a fun-filled extravaganza! This beloved Beginner Book by Dr. Seuss, which also features timeless Dr. Seuss characters such as Fish and Thing 1 and Thing 2, is fun to read aloud and easy to read alone. Written using 236 different words that any first or second grader can read, it’s a fixture in home and school libraries and a favorite among parents, beginning readers, teachers, and librarians.
Originally created by Dr. Seuss, Beginner Books encourage children to read all by themselves, with simple words and illustrations that give clues to their meaning.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Crwys-Williams, Jennifer (ed.) "In the Words of Nelson Mandela"

Crwys-Williams, Jennifer (ed.) "In the Words of Nelson Mandela: A Little Pocketbook" - 1998

A lovely little collection of quotes by Nelson Mandela who has received the Nobel Peace Prize and whose "Long Walk to Freedom" has given us so much inspiration. Here is a short version of what hes has said about all sorts of different subjects, about hope and freedom, racism and love, Africa and the world, shortly, about everything.

One of my favourite quotes:
"When we read we are able to travel to many places, meet many people and understand the world."

And another one which is especially interesting.
"There are men and women chosen to bring happiness into the hearts of others - those are the real heroes."
Nelson Mandela is definitely one of them.

From the back cover:

"Through his words and deeds Nelson Mandela has been embraced by the whole world as a symbol of courage, hope and reconciliation. Collected in In the words of Nelson Mandela, his comments on subjects as diverse as humanity, racism, friendship, oppression and freedom provide an insight into the man and all he stands for. By turns moving, generous, humorous and sad, this title eloquently conveys his warmth and dignity. It will be both an inspiration and a source of strength for all who read it."

Nelson Mandela received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993 "for ... work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa".

Friday, 13 July 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"Books, books, books... all of them were necessary to me. Their presence, their smell, the letters of their titles, and the texture of their leather bindings." Colette

"My parents, and librarians along the way, taught me about the space between words; about the margins, where so many juicy moments of life and spirit and friendship could be found. In a library, you could find miracles and truth and you might find something that would make you laugh so hard that you get shushed, in the friendliest way." Anne Lamott

"I'm always amazed at friends who say they try to read at night in bed but always end up falling asleep. I have the opposite problem. If a book is good I can't go to sleep, and stay up way past my bedtime, hooked on the writing. Is anything better than waking up after a late-night read and diving right back into the plot before you even get out of bed to brush your teeth?" John Waters, Role Models

"Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners." Virginia Woolf

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018


Dia dhuit
("Hello" in Gaelic)

Last month, our family took a trip to Ireland. We visited Belfast where my son did an exchange semester but mainly, we spent our time in Dublin (or Baile Átha Cliath, as it is called in the native Gaelic), capital of the Republic, largest city of the Emerald Isle. Its original name means Blackpool in English. With a little over 1 million inhabitants (1,173,000 to be a little more precise), Dublin is a lovely city with lots of cultural and touristy sites but not too large to get lost in it.

My husband and my sons loved the opportunity to try all sorts of different Irish beers, visit the Guinness brewery and the Jameson distillery, but for me the most important part was its approach to literature.  Slàinte! ("Cheers" in Gaelic)

First, there is the old library in Trinity College which dates back to the times of Queen Elizabeth, the first, not the current one. It was really full, so you couldn't take any nice pictures like the ones you always see online (after all the tourists are out, I suspect) but I still managed to capture a few.
Then there were all the locations I remember from "Ulysses", "Dubliners" or other Irish novels like the ones by Ernest Rutherfurd, "Dublin. Foundation" and "Awakening".

But one of the best parts here was seeing the Statue of James Joyce. I know he is not the easiest writer and maybe not the best liked one, but I love his books and was happy standing face to face with him. He lived from 1882 to 1941 and even though he spent quite a large part of his later life on the continent in Trieste, Paris and then Zurich, Dublin plays a major role in all of his novels. I can imagine how you can never forget this city, especially if you've grown up here.

My only regret was that I wasn't well enough to join the Literary Pub Crawl because I wasn't well enough to walk a lot. Maybe next time.

So, I hope you enjoy these pictures at least a little.

Slán! (which simply means "safe" in Irish but also "Good-bye")

Monday, 9 July 2018

Greer, Andrew Sean "Less"

Greer, Andrew Sean "Less" - 2017

So far, I have never read a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that wasn't interesting. I guess I had to come across one at one point. This was it.

If the author had expanded more on the fear of the protagonist of turning old, or even on the fear of being left alone since his boyfriend got married, this could have been a good story. Or if he had concentrated on the different events he visits in the different countries, it could have been a good "holiday story" or "summer read". But this way, it was nothing at all. The story jumps from the present into the past and while I usually like that, I still would like to know where I am at the moment.

According to the notes on the back cover, this book is supposed to be funny, hilarious. I didn't laugh even once.

The only difference between this book and chick lit? They don't talk about shoes all the time.

From the back cover:

"Arthur Less is a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the post: it is from an ex-boyfriend of nine years who is engaged to someone else. Arthur can't say yes - it would be too awkward; he can't say no - it would look like defeat. So, he begins to accept the invitations on his desk to half-baked literary events around the world. 

From France to India, Germany to Japan, Arthur almost falls in love, almost falls to his death, and puts miles between him and the plight he refuses to face.
Less is a novel about mishaps, misunderstandings and the depths of the human heart."

Friday, 6 July 2018

Dickens, Charles "David Copperfield"

Dickens, Charles "David Copperfield" - 1850

Full title: The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account)

Every time I read another book by Charles Dickens, I have the impression, this is definitely my favourite. But, I do believe I have found the best ever now. Apparently, it mirrors Charles Dickens' life the most of all his books.

Somewhere I read "I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child, and his name is David Copperfield". I couldn't agree more.

I loved all the nice characters and hated all the bad ones, as it should be but this was really a very story where you could get immersed. The language is as beautiful as the flow of the story, the details as great as the English countryside. We can follow our hero from his childhood into maturity, get to meet everyone who is important in his life. Even though the book is more than 150 years old, we can still retrace the steps, feel for the protagonist and his sidekicks. That's what constitutes a real classic.

As always, his names are always hilarious. But nothing really tops Uriah Heep!

Of course, the disadvantage of reading such a big book of 1,000 pages always is, you feel like you lost a friend when you finish it.

I will definitely have to find my next Dickens book soon!

Even if you're not much into classics or chunky books, if you ever considered reading a Dickens novel, take this one.

From the back cover:

"Dickens's epic, exuberant novel is one of the greatest coming-of-age stories in literature. It chronicles David Copperfield's extraordinary journey through life, as he encounters villains, saviours, eccentrics and grotesques, including the wicked Mr Murdstone, stout-hearted Peggotty, formidable Betsey Trotwood, impecunious Micawber and odious Uriah Heep.

Dickens's great Bildungsroman (based, in part, on his own boyhood, and which he described as a 'favourite child') is a work filled with life, both comic and tragic."

Monday, 2 July 2018

Happy July!

Happy July to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch


July - most kids have their school holidays this month, at least in the Northern hemisphere so we all know what that means - full roads! 

One of the birthstones of this month is the ruby, one of the cardinal gems together with amethyst, sapphire, emerald, and diamond. The word comes from the Latin word for red because that's is colour. It's always been considered a stone of nobility, "the queen of stones and the stone of kings". 
Apparently, it is good to counteract exhaustion and stimulates circulation, helps to reduce fear and sharpens the mind.

 Another one, and a lot more mine because it's green, is the aventurine, a quartz stone. Its name from the Italian "a ventura" meaning "by chance". It's supposed to be have a soothing and comforting energy which is understandable given its green colour. 

Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch. 
My favourite flowers are peonies but hydrangeas come a very close second. And we have a lot longer to enjoy them, as well.

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Soon the new calendars will be on sale again. 
If you are interested, have a look at their website.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality -- the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape." Arthur Christopher Benson

"Words are the voice of the heart." Confucius

"Are we not like two volumes of one book?" Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

"It's the special role of a novelist to have the mystical belief in the power of art to bring meaning to people's lives". Rachel Kushner

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Benali, Abdelkader "Wedding by the Sea"

Benali, Abdelkader "Wedding by the Sea" (Dutch: Bruiloft aan zee) - 1996

A weird book. I chose it because it's written by a Dutch author with Moroccan origin and I thought it might be interesting. He received the Best Literary Debut Prize in the Netherlands for this and was shortlisted for the Libris Literatuur Prijs which is like the Booker Prize.

Anyway, the story itself is interesting but the author swerves from one topic to another without any lines that you can follow. I thought it might be more a story of Moroccans in the Netherlands rather than what it was, someone growing up in the Netherlands seeing life in Morocco from the outside. Again, not a bad subject but the author didn't manage to capture me. A confusing story with an even more confusing end.

From the back cover:

"Twenty-year-old Lamarat Minar returns home from Holland to a deserted seaside village in Morocco for his sister Rebekka's wedding. During the festivities, he discovers that the groom has made his escape - to the local brothel, 'Lolita'.

Lamarat is given the task of retrieving Mosa, the reluctant husband-to-be, and returning him to his waiting bride. With the help of know-all taxi driver Chalid, and after many U-turns, detours and hairpin bends, Lamarat finds Mosa, and drags hm back to the village by the sea where Rebekka is waiting to administer a sweet and gruesome revenge …"

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Lennox, Judith "Before the Storm"

Lennox, Judith "Before the Storm" - 2008

I wouldn't exactly call this book bad chick lit but I'm sure it goes very well with the description "summer read". The story of a young man who falls in love with a young woman, the family they subsequently have, problems with relatives, a little bit about the war, and there's your story. It was a nice read that I can recommend to anyone who doesn't want to much of a challenge. But that was it.

From the back cover:

"On an autumn day in 1909 wealthy young Richard Finborough catches sight of twenty-year-old Isabel Zeale at the harbour at Lynmouth in Devon. Her beauty captivates him. Aware of shameful secrets in her past, Isabel has no intention of letting anyone into her life, but Richard's persistence and ardour eventually win him her trust - and her hand in marriage. The decades pass and Isabel and Richard raise a family through the turbulent times of the First World War and the 1920s. As her children reach adulthood, Isabel is convinced her secret is safe - until an old acquaintance emerges from the shadows, turning her world upside down. To protect the happiness of those she loves most, Isabel must find the courage to confront what came before, and live with the consequences..."

Friday, 22 June 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"School libraries are part sanctuary, part laboratory, part university, part launch pad; every library on earth is a multiverse - truth inside of truth, story inside of story, idea inside of idea - which is to say, infinite." Kelly Barnhill

"Reading a good book in silence is like eating chocolate for the rest of your life and never getting fat." Becca Fitzpatrick

"What great writers do is to turn the reader into the writer." David Comer Kidd

"My imagination has always topped anything a movie could come up with ..." Karen Marie Moning

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Frazier, Charles "Varina"

Frazier, Charles "Varina" - 2018

After falling in love with Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain", I have read all of his books so far. I had no idea what this book was about, that it followed the life of Jefferson Davis' wife. How much of that is true, I have no idea since I never heard of her before but the other dates and remarks about the people seem to be correct, as I would have expected of this author.

We always know too little about the wives of important historical figures. The saying goes that behind every great man there's a great woman, so I expect there must still be a lot of fantastic stories about great women out there.

I have read quite a few books about the Civil War so far and there is always some different aspect to look at. Because any war always comes down to the people who have to suffer through it.

But even if the subject wouldn't interest me, Charles Frazier deserves to be read because of his beautiful writing, he has a very special way of describing anything around him. I would love for him to publish a new book every year but I guess that would not necessarily be a good idea. So, I just have to wait another couple of years until I can enjoy another one of his great writings.

There is only one thing that bothered me, and this must not necessarily be the author's fault. Varina Davis is always referred to as V in the novel. I guess it saves some paper but you always have to "remember" what her name is and that that's what this abbreviation means. I wouldn't have voted for that option.

From the back cover:

"In his powerful fourth novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of the Civil War

With her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects a life of security as a Mississippi landowner. He instead pursues a career in politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history - culpable regardless of her intentions.

The Confederacy falling, her marriage in tatters, and the country divided, Varina and her children escape Richmond and travel south on their own, now fugitives with 'bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit.'

Intimate in its detailed observations of one woman’s tragic life and epic in its scope and power, Varina is a novel of an American war and its aftermath. Ultimately, the book is a portrait of a woman who comes to realize that complicity carries consequences."

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Scott, Mary; West, Joyce "Who Put It There?"

Scott, Mary; West, Joyce "Who Put It There?" - 1965 (Inspector Wright #5)

This was a sad book to read because I know it will probably be the last book by Mary Scott that I read for the first time. I doubt I'll ever find any of her other ones. If any of my friends and readers knows of one that I didn't mention in my post "Mary Scott writes about New Zealand".

In this novel, the authors let a young girl find herself in the position that there is a body in her boot (or, if you're American, in her boot). And that's how the trouble starts …

Another pleasant read - despite the murder - of one of my favourite authors from my teenage years.

From the back cover:

"On her way to take up a position as companion to the wealthy Mrs Warwick-Smith, Delia Hunt is held up by a thick fog. By the time she is clear of the fog she has had morning tea with an attractive man and been stopped by policemen who discover a body in the boot of her car. The body is that of Mr Warwick-Smith. Who put it there?

Who killed the unpopular Mr Warwick-Smith? When Inspector Wright is called in, he finds that any one of several people, from friends to groundskeepers to mysterious cousins, could have done it. To complicate the mystery further, the overpowering Augusta Wharton, famous author of 'novels of passion', and her meek secretary, Miss Minnie Pink, become involved. The deeper Inspector Wright digs into the murder, the more strange things he discovers in what is normally a quiet country district.

In an exciting, deftly written climax, the murderer gives themselves away - by attempting a second murder.

Unfortunately, Mary Scott's books are out of print and only available second hand. I have heard in the meantime, that you can buy some of them as eBooks.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Donaldson, Julia "The Gruffalo"

Donaldson, Julia "The Gruffalo" - 1999

A happy book. A funny book. A book about an animal that doesn't exist and therefore might have terrible claws and terrible jaws but can't scare you because after all ... it does not exist.

This was a huge favourite in our house when the boys were little. It reminds you of a fairy tale but is a modern storybook. Lots of beautiful illustrations, a funny but simple story, not as short as some other board books, already a "big kid" book but equally enjoyed by kids of any age. It rhymes, you can almost sing along to the rhythm, but you can definitely growl and hoot along, imitate all the animal sounds from the forest.


From the back cover:

"A mouse is taking a stroll through the deep, dark wood when along comes a hungry fox, then an owl, and then a snake. The mouse is good enough to eat but smart enough to know this, so he invents . . . the gruffalo! As Mouse explains, the gruffalo is a creature with terrible claws, and terrible tusks in its terrible jaws, and knobbly knees and turned-out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of its nose. But Mouse has no worry to show. After all, there’s no such thing as a gruffalo. . ."

I saw it's also available in a Scottish edition. That should be fun.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "Gaudí in Manhattan"

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "Gaudí in Manhattan" (Spanish: La Mujer de Vapor) - 2009

A short story about a young architecture student who can go to New York with his much admired hero Antonio Gaudí. A very short story. But it was by one of my favourite authors, so I had to read it. And it was just as beautiful as his novels. I just don't get why he didn't make it into a whole book.

A rich person offers Gaudí to pay for the rest of the Sagrada Familia and it turns out to be a young woman … or was it all a dream? A magic realism story like no other. Plus, there were some great illustrations and pictures in the booklet.

From the back cover (translated):

"A young student of architecture accompanies the famous architect to America, where Antonio Gaudí is to receive the order to build a skyscraper. But when they arrive in Manhattan, things take a different course."

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Hertmans, Stefan "War and Turpentine"

Hertmans, Stefan "War and Turpentine" (Dutch/Flemish: Oorlog en terpentijn) - 2013

I had not heard about this author before even though he probably should be known in the Netherlands since there are not so many countries that write in Dutch. When it was suggested in our book club, I thought this would be a good choice to read another Belgian author.

And it was. Stefan Hertmans tells about his grandfather's life according to the memoirs the latter hat written. It is a heartwarming tale about a young man who was 23 when World War I started and had to go into a war nobody wanted. His father had been a painter and so was he. We hear a lot about that part of his life but even more about his life in the trenches in the fields of Flanders.

The story is us about the life of the protagonist as a child, a young man, a married man and later, an old man, partly through his own diary. But its also a story about the author and how he grew up with his grandfather.

A nice story, well told, very picturesque.

I read this in the original Dutch language.

From the back cover:

"Shortly before his death in 1981, Stefan Hertmans' grandfather gave him a couple of filled exercise books. Stories he’d heard as a child had led Hertmans to suspect that their contents might be disturbing, and for years he didn’t dare to open them.

When he finally did, he discovered unexpected secrets. His grandfather’s life was marked by years of childhood poverty in late-nineteenth-century Belgium, by horrific experiences on the frontlines during the First World War and by the loss of the young love of his life. He sublimated his grief in the silence of painting.

Drawing on these diary entries, his childhood memories and the stories told within Urbain’s paintings, Hertmans has produced a poetic novelisation of his grandfather’s story, brought to life with great imaginative power and vivid detail.

War and Turpentine is an enthralling search for a life that coincided with the tragedy of a century - and a posthumous, almost mythical attempt to give that life a voice at last."

We discussed this in our book club in May 2018.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Schami, Rafik "The Dark Side of Love"

Schami, Rafik "The Dark Side of Love" (German: Die dunkle Seite der Liebe) - 2004

Rafik Schami has managed to get on my list of all time favourite authors with just three of his books. Luckily, he has written a lot more so I am looking forward to more great novels.

Rafik Schami once said you cannot understand the history and present of the Arabs without the prohibition of love. And with this book he has shown us a great example and hopefully helps us to understand each other better. Apparently, it took him 30 years to write this book. 30 years well spent, even if this had been his only one.

His real name is Suheil Fadél, his pen-name means "friend of Damascus". He fled from his country in 1970 and settled in Germany where he still lives today. All his books are written in German. This book is slightly autobiographical.

This is the story of Farid Mushtak, born in Syria in 1940, into a Syriac-Christian family (like the author). His father is a baker - like the author's …

This is the story of Farid's love to Rana Shahin, a love that cannot be because their families are arch-enemies.

This is the story of the families Mushtak and Shahin who have been enemies for so long that hardly anyone remembers how it all started.

This is the story of Damascus, the capital city of Syria, a city that has lived through difficult times for a long long time.

And finally, this is the story of Syria and its history. Lots of information, especially if you have never read a book about this country.

The book has about 1,000 pages but at the end you think, this was far too short, could have been twice as long. It's just that brilliant!

I read this in the original German language.

Translation of the German back cover:

"In his opulent story mosaic, Rafik Schami tells of a love that must not be, of blood revenge, tribal feuds and family strife, and spans an oriental-colourful picture arc over a century of Syrian history."

Even though this is a lot shorter, it's much better than the blurb on the English back cover which only describes the beginning of the novel:

"A dead man hangs from the portal of St Pauls Chapel in Damascus. He was a Muslim officer and he was murdered. But when Detective Barudi sets out to interrogate the man's mysterious widow, the Secret Service takes the case away from him. Barudi continues to investigate clandestinely and discovers the murderers motive: it is a blood feud between the Mushtak and Shahin clans, reaching back to the beginnings of the 20th century. And, linked to it, a love story that can have no happy ending, for reconciliation has no place within the old tribal structures. Rafik Schamis dazzling novel spans a century of Syrian history in which politics and religions continue to torment an entire people. Simultaneously, his poetic stories from three generations tell of the courage of lovers who risk death sooner than deny their passions. He has also written a heartfelt tribute to his hometown Damascus and a great and moving hymn to the power of love."

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Hunt, Ken; Taylor, Mike "Xenophobe's Guide to the Aussies"

Hunt, Ken; Taylor, Mike "Xenophobe's Guide to the Aussies" - 1995

I found this book on an airport. And since my son has lived "down under" for a while and I have many lovely friends there, I couldn't leave it behind.

Even if you don't plan to go there and don't know any Aussies, this is hilarious. One of the writers is Australian, the other one has lived there most of his life, I think that is a great combination to get the particularities of a a people.

In any case, a funny read, a hilarious but very loving description.

What a lovely way of explaining to foreigners what is so special about Oz and its inhabitants, how they came to be how they are and what you should know before embarking on a voyage there. I also liked the masses of words that are explained.

Even if you don't plan to go there and don't know any Aussies, this is hilarious. One of the writers is Australian, the other one has lived there most of his life, I think that is a great combination to get the particularities of a a people.

In any case, a funny read, a hilarious but very loving description. And it also makes clear that we are all the same, after all. I can explain how funny this book is by an example. Apparently, the reason, they say "G'day" is, it has to be so brief because of the flies. The longer your mouth is open, the more flies crawl in." LOL

There is just one part of the book I don't agree with and I'm sure it wasn't written by the authors. The declaration for Xenophobia is "A phobia about foreigners, probably justified, always understandable." Nope, sorry, I don't understand it. In our day and age where people either travel the world themselves or know about a hundred who do and where we have the world at our fingertips - literally! - xenophobia is NEVER justified.

From the back cover:

"This is one of a series of guides designed to tell the truth about other nations, using sweeping generalizations and observations as a base, detailing what to expect and how to cope with it. The guides try to explain why things are done the way they are and they try to allay the feelings of trepidation with which the xenophobe approaches new territory. This particular book looks at Australians.

A guide to understanding the Aussies which takes an insightful, laconic look at their character and attitudes.

Appearances are deceptive
Never make the error of underestimating the Aussies. They love to portray a casual disregard for everything around them, but no-one accidentally achieves a lifestyle as relaxed as theirs.

Logic down under
Aussies will twist any statistics to their own ends. One statistic doing the rounds was that 40% of drivers in accidents had been drinking. Since this left 60% of drivers who hadn't had a drop, but who still had accidents, it must obviously be safer to drink and drive.

Let's talk 'strine'
The Aussies are not subtle and neither is their language. They will say what they mean. The problem is that the words they use don't always mean what they say. For example: bluey - someone who has red hair; you're orright - you are absolutely super; itsa bit warm - it is probably 120¼F in the water bag (water bags are always hung in the shade); that'd be right - I don't believe it either.

Out in the outback
Nature is the biggest single influence on the Aussie attitude. And a very harsh and unforgiving influence it is. Reality, totally uncontrollable, is never far outside the suburban limits."

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Kross, Jaan - Professor Martens' Departure

Kross, Jaan "Professor Martens' Departure" (Estonian: Professor Martensi ärasõit) - 1984

I meant to read a book about Estonia for my project "Travel the World Through Books".

And I read a book about Estonia through the life of an Estonian diplomat under the Russian Czar, Friedrich Fromhold Martens. So much history there. Professor Martens wrote a lot of books about international law and was highly involved in establishing what we would call International Law now. He was among those politicians who negotiated after the end of the Russo-Japanese war and was even falsely reported of receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace which he certainly would have deserved. But he received various other prizes and honorary degrees. One of his major achievements was the establishment of the World Court in The Hague.

So, even though this claims to be a novel, it reads as a biography and it is probably more accurate than many others who claim to be one. It doesn't take long while reading this book that you want to know more about the character and whether he really was as described. Google is full with articles about him. And this book is full with details, a very rich tale of an interesting life in an area we still don't know enough about.

From the back cover:

"Widely read in Europe, the Estonian novelist Jaan Kross is considered one of the most important writers of the Baltic region, and is an often-named candidate for the Nobel Prize.

His new historical novel, Professor Martens’ Departure, is written in a classic elegiac style reminiscent of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, and it evokes the complex world of czarist Russian society at the turn of the century. The character of Professor Martens is based on an actual official of the czarist reign, a distinguished Estonian jurist curiously reminiscent of Henry Kissinger.

Faced with a dire financial crisis in Russia, Professor Martens orchestrates a major loan from the French government to stave off famine; as time passes, however, he realizes that he has managed to perpetuate a brutal regime that keeps its political prisoners in chains.

This fictional memoir, written at the end of Martens’ life, finds him reliving his past and questioning the degree to which he has sacrificed himself to maintain a corrupt regime, one that ultimately disdains both him and his people. Considered an outsider by the czar’s adviser, Martens is nonetheless needed for his skills. Still, he is marginalized and kept in the shadows.

Far more than just a political or philosophical novel, Professor Martens’ Departure is an astonishing reconstruction of czarist Russia."

Monday, 4 June 2018

Boom, Corrie "The Hiding Place"

Boom, Corrie ten with Sherrill, John and Elizabeth "The Hiding Place. The Triumphant Story of Corrie Ten Boom" (De Schuilplaats) - 1972

If you have read Anne Frank's "Diary of a Young Girl", you should also read this book. It's the story of a family who was hiding people like the Frank family and what happened to them.

How someone can watch these atrocities - both on the side of the enemy and of those of your own people - and still stay so positive, believe there is a meaning to all this ... that's beyond me. I am grateful that these kind of people exist and would hope that I'd react the same way when I would have to make the decision.

In any case, the ten Boom family was part of the Dutch Underground. They hid anyone who needed help, mostly Jews, and helped them leaving the country.

I especially liked the father who was such a model for his family. Here is a quote that shows it all:
"Father held the baby close, his white beard brushed its cheek, looking into the little face with eyes as blue and innocent as the baby's own. At last he looked up at the pastor. 'You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.'"

Another quote I would like to talk about:
"Strangely enough, it was not the Germans or the Japanese that people had most trouble forgiving; it was their fellow Dutchmen who had sided with the enemy."
I do understand that. A lot of the Germans or Japanese had no choice but these people had betrayed their own. Mind you, after having lived in the Netherlands for almost nineteen years now, I disagree that they were all so forgiving of the Germans, there are plenty around who still haven't forgotten.

It was quite interesting to see how they built the hiding place, how they managed to put another room into a house without anyone noticing.

Granted, the book is quite religious, Corrie ten Boom and her family were Calvinists and belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church which was very strict and very conservative. But that was part of their reason for doing what they did. In any case, the book is totally worth reading.

From the back cover:

"Corrie ten Boom stood naked with her older sister Betsie, watching a concentration camp matron beating a prisoner.' Oh, the poor woman,' Corrie cried. 'Yes. May God forgive her,' Betsie replied. And, once again, Corrie realized that it was for the souls of the brutal Nazi guards that her sister prayed. Here is a book aglow with the glory of God and the courage of a quiet Christian spinster whose life was transformed by it. A story of Christ's message and the courageous woman who listened and lived to pass it along -- with joy and triumph!"

Friday, 1 June 2018

Happy June!

Happy June to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Ruderbootfähre Baabe - Moritzdorf"
"Rowing Boat Ferry Baabe - Moritzdorf"

June - Summer will start this month. 

The month is named after the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage. This makes sense since most couples like to get married in the summertime when the weather is hopefully going to be good. 

The birthstone of this month is the moonstone which is a feldspar variety and comes in many different colours and is supposed to bring strong energies and protect you from dangers during pregnancy, childbirth and travel at sea. 

To me, the name always reminds me of the novel "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins which is said to be the first detective language in English.

Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch, another absolute beauty from the sea.

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their website here.