Friday, 15 November 2019

Book Quotes of the Week


"Reading is like breathing in, writing is like breathing out." Pam Allyn

"No books are lost by loaning except those you particularly wanted to keep." Alan Atwood

"Readers are plentiful: thinkers are rare." Harriet Martineau

"Good children's literature appeals not only to the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child." 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.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Aitken, Ben "Dear Bill Bryson: Footnotes from a Small Island"


Aitken, Ben "Dear Bill Bryson: Footnotes from a Small Island" - 2015

If you know me even a little, you know how much I love Bill Bryson's book. And therefore, I just had to read Ben Aitken's homage. He travelled the same route as Bill Bryson did in 1995 (as described in his book "Notes from a Small Island"), only about twenty years later. Even though Bill Bryson did a second tour ("The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island") through the UK and a lot has changed in the meantime, it was a pleasure to accompany this author in his footsteps through the UK.

Sometimes he was a tad too sceptical about what Bill Bryson had done or said but it was still lovely to reminisce with the author. Some of his criticism is probably a generation question, I bet he sees it different in twenty years.

Not as funny as Bill Bryson but still quite worth reading.

From the back cover:

"'Long story short, I've decided to retrace your steps. Why? Because I'm bored. Take it from me, there's only so many tacos a guy can serve before he wants to put a pint of salsa down his windpipe.'

An irreverent homage to the '95 travel classic Notes from a Small Island, wherein Ben Aitken retraces Bill Bryson’s journey as precisely as possible - same hotels, same plates of food, same amount of time in the bath - before finishing outside his house on Christmas Eve.

Ben Aitken was born under Thatcher, grew to 6ft then stopped, and is an Aquarius. He followed Bill Bryson around the UK for Dear Bill Bryson: Footnotes from a Small Island (2015).

'It would be wrong to view this book as just a highly accomplished homage to a personal hero. Aitken's politics, as much as his humour, are firmly in the spotlight, and Dear Bill Bryson achieves more than its title (possibly even its author) intended.' Manchester Review"

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

Monday, 4 November 2019

Dick, Philip K. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"


Dick, Philip K. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" - 1968

Why would androids dream of electric sheep? I always wondered about this weird title. I didn't wonder enough though to want to read it but when my book club decided to take it on, I had to have a go, of course.

The story is primarily about the bounty hunter Rick Deckard. After a nuclear global war damaged the earth tremendously, there are hardly any animals left. Or humans. Those that survived, mainly emigrated to Mars or other colonies on other planets. The ones left behind, are divided into two groups, the ones that are damaged through the war are called "specials" being considered second-rate people. And the androids, well, they are supposed to be modern slaves and are mainly intended to accompany to settlers to the colonies and not return to earth. Those that do it anyway are hunted by guys like Rick Deckard. But the androids get smarter and smarter and the hunt gets harder and harder.

I don't want to tell the whole story. The reason I liked the book was mainly because of the way, the different inhabitants of earth are described, the empathy that is not there between the species, the understanding that other people also have their needs. Even if we don't consider the androids, wouldn't we try to help each other after such a disaster rather than splitting up in different groups? A very philosophic question.

The androids are the slaves of the future. If they don't do what they are supposed to do, they get killed, or "retired", as they like to call it.

Oh, and then there was one part that I really liked. When they describe "stuff". Both my husband and I are more gatherers than minimalists, so I could relate very well.

"Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there's twice as much of it. It always gets more and more."

Do I even need to mention that I never watched the movie? I tried to see who plays whom but it looks like the film is more than "loosely" based on the book. I could only find a few names that are in both.

From the back cover:

"War has left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalks, in search of the renegade replicants who are his prey. When he isn’t 'retiring' them, he dreams of owning the ultimate status symbol -- a live animal. Then Rick gets a big assignment: to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But things are never that simple, and Rick’s life quickly turns into a nightmare kaleidoscope of subterfuge and deceit."

Friday, 1 November 2019

Happy November!

Happy November to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch


"Herbst am Jagdschloss Granitz"
"Autumn at the Hunting Lodge Granitz"



This is the first November that I live in the area where I grew up. And it's also the first time, I'm close by my parents' graves when the tombs receive their blessings. Another good reason for coming home.

The Germanic tribes called November Blōtmōnaþ which means blood month or month of sacrifice, slaughtered cattle were dedicated to the Gods. In German, we called it Windmond (wind moon), Wintermonat (winter month) and Nebelung (the foggy one).

The flowers of the month are the chrysanthemum and the peony. I understand the connection with the chrysanthemum since it often symbolizes death and is therefore used for graves which is also something you think about a lot in November. But in the Victorian language of flowers, it also stands for cheerfulness. 
The peony, however, flowers in or around May only, so why is it a symbol for November? Anyway, it stands for compassion, good fortune, a happy marriage, romance, prosperity, riches, and honour but they can also symbolize bashfulness. They are native to China and known for its medicinal uses.

Have a happy November with this beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch. The Granitz Hunting Lodge is located on the German island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea.

You can find many more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Pamuk, Orhan "The Red-Haired Woman"


Pamuk, Orhan "The Red-Haired Woman" (Turkish: Kırmızı Saçlı Kadın) - 2016

Did I mention already how much I love Orhan Pamuk? (Of course I did!) He always finds a new way to portray his country, the people who live there, the uniqueness of a place between East and West.

Same as his other books, I really loved this story about a young guy between child- and adulthood. He lost his father early on and tries to find the father figure in his boss.

In the three different parts of this novel, we find parts of classic tales, "Oedipus Rex" (Sophocles, Σοφοκλῆς, 497/6 – 406/5 BC) and "Rostam and Sohrab" from the epos Shahnameh (Persian: شاهنامه‎, romanized: Šâhnâme) by Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusi (Persian: ابوالقاسم فردوسی طوسی‎; c. 940–1020), or just Ferdowsi. Whilst I haven't read either of them, I think most readers are well aware of the stories. Again, two similar tales on the same theme, the former Western, the latter Eastern.

What I also like about Orhan Pamuk and his writing is that he doesn't just combine East and West, he also combines history and present. He explains what is going on in present day Turkey in his own way. And he uses a lot of symbolism that is easy to understand. Just brilliant.

And then there is always a way where he brings us closer to Eastern culture, e.g. by mentioning "Shahnameh" but also other work of arts, like Ilya Repin's painting "Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan" or "Oedipus and the Sphinx" by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. He can only widen our horizons.

From the back cover:

"On the outskirts of a town, thirty miles from Istanbul, a master well-digger and his young apprentice are hired to find water on a barren plain. As they struggle in the summer heat and develop a filial bond neither has known before, the boy finds an irresistible diversion - The Red-Haired Woman, an alluring member of a travelling theatre company, causing a horrible accident to befall on the well-digger and making the boy flee to Istanbul. A beguiling mystery tale of family, romance, tradition and modernity, by one of the great storytellers of our time."

Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

Orhan Pamuk received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2005.

You can read more about the books I read by one of my favourite authors here.

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

Monday, 28 October 2019

Clinton, Hilary Rodham "What Happened"


Clinton, Hilary Rodham "What Happened" - 2017

Years ago, I read "Living History" with my book club and really liked the way, Hillary Clinton described her life as a first lady but also her life as a politician herself.

Nobody who is not US American understands how someone can lose an election when they have three million more voters behind them. Only in America.

I don't think I can make anyone change their mind about Hillary Rodham Clinton or her party. Those who are against her will come up with hundreds of reasons why they didn't vote for her. I can name one very good reason why they should have: Donald Trump. Anyone who still supports him either doesn't want to know what is going on or is just as ignorant as he is. Because who would support a misogynist like him?

Hillary Clinton tells us everything that happened during the election. Not that a lot of it was any news for me, I followed it quite closely. I have a lot of American friends who - like me - were shocked by the outcome; unfortunately, I also know some who were happy about it.

Even in Europe, my view is considered left-wing, so I would agree far more with Democrats than with Republicans. I found it quite eye-opening at some points, how far right even the American left is.

What I liked was her humour, her tongue-in-cheek which shows how much more intelligent she is than the present incumbent of the post.

If you are really interested in politics, you give this book a chance. Hillary Clinton is a strong woman and we all should be glad there are people like her.

Some quotes:
"The election is now over,
The result is now known,
The will of the people
has clearly been shown. *
Let’s get together;
Let bitterness pass.
I’ll hug your Elephant;
and you kiss my Ass."
* Yes, the will of the people was Hillary.

Here she explains quite interestingly, how some of the stories start:
"Bernie: I think America should get a pony.
Hillary: How will you pay for the pony? Where will the pony come from? How will you get Congress to agree to the pony?
Bernie: Hillary thinks America doesn’t deserve a pony.
Bernie Supporters: Hillary hates ponies!
Hillary: Actually, I love ponies.
Bernie Supporters: She changed her position on ponies! #WhichHillary? #WitchHillary
Headline: 'Hillary Refuses To Give Every American a Pony.'
Debate Moderator: Hillary, how do you feel when people say you lie about ponies?
Website Headline: "Congressional Inquiry into Clinton's Pony Lies"
Twitter Trending: #ponygate"

From the back cover:

"Almost two years on from one of the most unprecedented and unpredictable elections in American history, the world is still gripped by the circumstances and consequences of Hillary Rodham Clinton's devastating loss to the ever-controversial Donald Trump.

Free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes us behind the scenes of an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, foreign interference and an opponent who broke all the rules. In her most personal memoir yet, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet after the mistakes and disappointments of her candidacy and what the experience has taught her about the challenges, criticisms and double standards that come with being a strong woman in the public eye.

In this edition, now updated to include a comprehensive new afterword reflecting on the events that have come to pass under Trump's administration, Hillary connects the dots to show just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the presidential outcome and why Americans need to understand them to protect their values and democracy in the future.

What Happened is the enthralling story of a campaign and its aftermath - both a deeply intimate account and a presciently cautionary tale."

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Gárdonyi, Géza "Slave of the Huns" aka "The Invisible Man"


Gárdonyi, Géza "Slave of the Huns" aka "The Invisible Man" (Hungarian: A láthatatlan ember) - 1901

The husband of a friend of mine translated this famous Hungarian book into Esperanto (La nevidebla homo) and I decided to read it. I haven't read many books about Hungary, let alone about the Huns. I think this is the first book I read about that people.

This story takes place in the early 5th century.

Zeta is Hungarian, his family is so poor that his father has to sell him as a slave. We follow him from one owner to the next until he comes to the household of a Byzantine diplomat named Priscis. Because he serves him well, he frees him and takes him to the court of Attila the Hun. He stays with the Huns, fights in the "Battle of the Catalaunian Plains" in the year 451 and doesn't leave until Attila dies in 453.

An interesting book not just about this nomadic people but also about Hungarian history and culture. I would like to read more about them.

From the back cover:

"The tale of a Byzantine slave of the Huns; based on the historical account of the Byzantine diplomat Priscus about his visit to the court of Attila the Hun."