Thursday 31 October 2013

Bernières, Louis de "Birds without Wings"

Bernières, Louis de "Birds without Wings" - 2004

Years ago, Louis de Bernières' first novel "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" was the first book I read with a book club. We had different opinions about it and even I wasn't sure I would not necessarily put it on my list of favourite books.

So it took me a while to tackle another book by this author. What a mistake. I absolutely loved this novel. Greece and Turkey at the beginning of the last century with a lot of information about their history, a great addition to Victoria Hislop's "The Thread" which I read earlier this year.

Same as in the other novel, Turkish and Greek people live peacefully alongside each other, Christians, Muslims and Jews. They have no problems with their neighbours, even agree to their children getting married to each other or asking someone from the other faith to pray to their saints, for example. Until the fall of the Ottoman empire when all Christians are relocated to Greece and all Muslims to the newly founded Turkey. We also learn about the childhood and the early days of Mustafa Kemal, better known to the rest of the world as Atatürk.

One quote that says so much about the sentiment behind this book: "It is not possible to calculate how many Armenians died on the forced marches. In 1915 the number was thought to be 300,000, a figure which has been progressively increased ever since, thanks to the efforts of angry propagandists. To argue about whether it was 300,000 or 2,000,000 is in a sense irrelevant and distasteful, however, since both numbers are great enough to be equally distressing, and the suffering individual victims in their trajectory towards death is in both cases immeasurable."

I have always said that about the deaths in any war but particularly in World War II, people start discussing how many Jews were really killed. Even if we knew the exact number, we would never know about the amount of grief behind that number. Any number is too much, even one person being killed through a war is not worth whatever the people who started the war think it is for. And it is true, whether there are a thousand or a million, it just means there are more people grieving about their loved ones. Too many in every case.

In "Bird Without Wings", a lot of those numbers get faces. And that's what I love most about reading novels like that, it is so much easier to imagine what people suffered if you hear about individual cases, you can never imagine it really before you haven't heard someone's story.

The characters are completely remarkable, most of them quite lovable. We learn of wonderful friendships and love that lasts forever. We learn about heroism and senseless fighting. We hear about the good and the bad in people. And we can still learn a lot from them today.

In the end, we even see a link to his earlier book, "Captain Corelli's Mandolin".

A wonderful book, one of my favourites.

And this is what the title means: "Man is a bird without wings, [...] and a bird is a man without sorrows".

From the back cover:

"In his first novel since Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernières creates a world, populates it with characters as real as our best friends, and launches it into the maelstrom of twentieth-century history. The setting is a small village in southwestern Anatolia in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. Everyone there speaks Turkish, though they write it in Greek letters. It’s a place that has room for a professional blasphemer; where a brokenhearted aga finds solace in the arms of a Circassian courtesan who isn’t Circassian at all; where a beautiful Christian girl named Philothei is engaged to a Muslim boy named Ibrahim. But all of this will change when Turkey enters the modern world. Epic in sweep, intoxicating in its sensual detail, Birds Without Wings is an enchantment."

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Gabaldon, Diana "Outlander"

Gabaldon, Diana "Outlander" (UK: Cross Stich) - 1991

So many of my friends have told me I should read this, it has been suggested in my book club, yet, it never really caught my attention, I didn't think it was me.

So, when I saw this was read in an online book club, I jumped at the opportunity to discuss this with some other people and read it.

What can I say? I was right all along? Yes, I was right all along. This is not my kind of read. Granted, the story itself is not too bad, Claire, a nurse who has been in World War II, all of sudden finds herself in the 18th century. Well, I don't believe in time travel but I am willing to overlook that part. She then has to start living in that time and does pretty well integrating with her medical knowledge and all.

The story about the people in the 18th century is also not completely uninteresting. It's just, the whole style of writing is so chick lit, so simple, there is way too much importance on sex and, even in the 1700s, clothing. The whole story seems to turn around those subjects. And everything is totally predictable. Not really any surprising facts. "The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily.  That is what Fiction means." As Miss Prism says in Oscar Wilde's fantastic play "The Importance of Being Earnest".

Not my cup of tea. This will have been my one and only "Outlander" novel, I know there are plenty more to read. If you are interested in them, here is the list of the sequels:

Outlander - 1991 (UK edition: Cross Stitch)
Dragonfly in Amber - 1992
Voyager - 1994
Drums of Autumn - 1997
The Fiery Cross - 2001
A Breath of Snow and Ashes - 2005
An Echo in the Bone - 2009
The Exile – An Outlander Graphic Novel - 2010
Written in My Own Heart's Blood - 2014

What have I learned from this? I often do know whether I would like a novel or not. It doesn't happen often that I am pleasantly surprised even if I pick up a book I think might not be me. That should count for something, right?

From the back cover: "The year is 1945 and Claire Beauchamp Randall, a former British combat nurse, is on holiday in Scotland with her husband, looking forward to becoming reacquainted after the wars long separation. Like most practical women, Claire hardly expects her curiosity to get the better of her. But an ancient stone circle near her lodgings holds an eerie fascination, and when she innocently touches a corner of one of the giant boulders, she's hurtled backward in time more than two hundred years, to 1743.
The past is a very different country, boiling with rumors of the Jacobite Pretender's Rising, beset with ignorance and superstition, ravaged by pestilence and disease. Alone where no lady should be alone, and far from the familiar comforts of her other life, Claire's usual resourcefulness is tested to the limit. The merciless English garrison captain so feared by others bears a disturbing resemblance to the husband she has just left behind. Her own odd appearance and even odder behavior expose her to accusations of witchcraft. And the strands of a political intrigue she doesn't understand threaten to ensnare her at every turn.

Determined to make the best of things, Claire uses her nurses training to help heal the sick, her wits to foil those who would brand her a spy and her humor and courage to disarm any would-be captors. Struggling to keep the all-too-present past at bay, she plots to return to the stone circle, and home. but of all the perils Claire's new life holds, none is more disquieting than her growing feelings for James Fraser, the gallant young soldier she is forced to marry for her own protection. Sworn by his wedding vows to keep her from harm, Jamie's passion for Claire goes beyond duty. The emotions between them are stronger, and far more real, than anything she has ever known. As she struggles with the memory of another life - indeed, another husband - Claire is forced to choose between the future she has left and the past she now inhibits. And, having been plunged into an adventure that is at once unimaginably bizarre and unmistakably real, she learns an unforgettable lesson: that a man's instinct to protect the woman he loves is as old as time."

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Scariest Looking Book Covers

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish". Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

October 29: Top Ten Scariest Looking Book Covers 

This is one of the toughest topics so far. I am not a fan of fantasy, science fiction, horror, I prefer my novels as close to real life as possible. Therefore, my book covers never really look scary. So my list might be a little different from that of other contributors to the blog. I have just added all the books I read that contain a ghost or an otherwise scary environment.

Aaronovitch, Ben "Rivers of London" (US: Midnight Riot) - 2011
Adams, Richard "Watership Down" - 1972
 Brijs, Stefan "The Angel Maker" (De engelenmaker) - 2005
Brontë, Charlotte "Jane Eyre" - 1847
Brontë, Emily "Wuthering Heights" - 1847
Fforde, Jasper "The Eyre Affair" - 2001
Golding, William "Lord of the Flies" - 1954
Kostova, Elizabeth "The Historian" - 2005
Palma, Félix J. "The Map of Time" (El mapa del tiempo) - 2008
Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "Marina" (Marina) - 1999

Friday 25 October 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

"The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours!” Alan Bennett 

"One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have to power to change us." Cassandra Clare 

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” Confucius 

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Madeleine L'Engle 

"A book should serve as the axe for the frozen sea within us." Franz Kafka 

“Clearly one must read every good book at least once every ten years.” C.S. Lewis 

"The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame." Oscar Wilde 

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Johnson, Adam "The Orphan Master's Son"

Johnson, Adam "The Orphan Master's Son" - 2012

A hard book to read. And not just because of the subject. Adam Johnson switches narrators. Not the way Wilkie Collins switches narrators, he even switches the characters, they become someone completely different and then they are themselves again. You never know who is who.

However, it is still worth reading this book. The insight it gives into North Korean life is immense. And the reason the book is so confusing is probably because this sort of life is so confusing. Pak Jun Do grows up in an orphanage, even though he still has his father but he is the orphan master. Jun Do ("John Doe" in Korean) joins the military and from there his way is as weird as the whole book.  He  is sent on kidnapping missions to Japan as well as diplomatic trips to Texas, then he takes over the place of an important politician and is married to that person's wife.

The further you get into the book, the more you realize how disturbing life in a dictatorship can be. I remember a trip to a castle in my school years where we were shown the torture chambers with the remark that this kind of thing doesn't happen anymore. Well, if you read this book (or other books about countries like this), you are amazed at how many ways men can find to mistreat and torture other human beings. It is incredible.

So, not a book for the light-hearted and not a book you wish to read in a day or two, hardly any page that is not grasping at your belief in the goodness of human nature, hardly a page where you can gather some hope for the poor souls who have to live in these circumstances.

Of course, the author has never lived in North Korea, only visited it once and that was probably not a visit where he could freely roam and talk to just anybody, so I guess we have to rely on what research he did in any other way. I still believe that this is not purely fiction.

From the back cover:

"An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, 'The Orphan Master’s Son' follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother - a singer 'stolen' to Pyongyang - and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.

Considering himself 'a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,' Jun Do becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress 'so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.'

Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, '
The Orphan Master’s Son' is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, 'The Orphan Master’s Son' ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today’s greatest writers."

Adam Johnson received the Pulitzer Prize for "The Orphan Master's Son" in 2013. 

Wednesday 23 October 2013

I have more books than I can fit on my bookshelf.

"I have more books than I can fit on my bookshelf." I read this somewhere the other day. The person went on to say the books were hidden in shoe racks, boxes, under the nightstand etc.

True, we bookworms like to accumulate our books. They seem to grow and grow, the more we try to read, the more books we have on the shelves waiting to be read. In our house, there are books all over the place. We have books in the living room, in the kitchen, on the corridor, in the bedroom, in the children's rooms, in the office. They are on shelves, in cupboards, in boxes, under the nightstand and the bed, even on the floor next to the shelf.

Where do you keep your books?

That's the (pleasant) life of a bookworm.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Character Names I Love or Top Ten Unusual Character Names

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish". Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

October 22: Top Ten Character Names I Love or Top Ten Unusual Character Names

Interesting topic. I thought I'd go for unusual character names and really had to decide. Since I do love classics, a lot of them came up, especially Charles Dickens who was known for his characters' weird names. In alphabetical order since there is no way I could say which one is my favourite.

Fitzwilliam Darcy from "Pride & Prejudice" by Jane Austen 
Atticus Finch from "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
Dorian Gray from "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde
Sherlock Holmes from the Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Wilkins Micawber from "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens 
Philip Pirrip, called Pip from "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens 
Ebeneezer Scrooge from "A Christmas Carol" byCharles Dickens 
Obadaiah Slope from "Barchester Towers" by Anthony Trollope
Augustus Snodgrass from "The Pickwick Papers" by Charles Dickens 
John Uskglass from "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke

Monday 21 October 2013

Binet, Laurent "HHhH"

Binet, Laurent "HHhH" (French: HHhH) - 2010

"HHhH", the French title is the same as the English, the German has an addition that explains the weird letters: Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich. The translation: Himmler's Brain is called Heydrich.

The story is not about Hitler or Himmler but about Reinhard Heydrich, a high ranking German Nazi officer and Jozef Gabčík, a Slovak soldier, and Jan Kubiš, a Czech solider and their "Operation Anthropoid" whose goal was Heydrich's assassination.

Heydrich was a member of the SD (Sicherheitsdienst = security service, part of the SS). The least-known and the most sinister of all Nazi organizations. Including the Gestapo. He didn't just'invent' the yellow star to be worn by all Jews, he also designed the gas chambers. Needless to say, he was considered the most dangerous man in the Third Reich, they called him the "Hangman of Prague", the "Butcher" and the "Blond Beast". Not really a title any sane person would want to achieve.

Lauren Binet has found a unique way of combining the telling of a non-fiction story, part of an autobiography and making that into a novel. Apparently, he calls it the infranovel. Interesting way to get through the subject, great way to get the reader accustomed to the characters in the book. It might need some getting used to him jumping from the first to the third person but I really love his style.

Even if you don't want to read any more about WWII or the Nazis, this is one book you should give a try. There is a lot of heart in it and it is very informative at the same time.

He starts with: "Let me tell you a story. A true story. A story that you might know, but only in the passing." and that is how he carries on, talking to the reader as if he were in the same room."

And I shall finish with another quote:
"Memory is of no use to the remembered, only to those who remember." Therefore, let us remember.

From the back cover:

"'HHhH: 'Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich', or 'Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich'. The most dangerous man in Hitler’s cabinet, Reinhard Heydrich was known as the 'Butcher of Prague'. He was feared by all and loathed by most. With his cold Aryan features and implacable cruelty, Heydrich seemed indestructible - until two men, a Slovak and a Czech recruited by the British secret service, killed him in broad daylight on a bustling street in Prague, and thus changed the course of History.
Who were these men, arguably two of the most discreet heroes of the twentieth century? In Laurent Binet’s captivating debut novel, we follow Jozef Gabćik and Jan Kubiš from their dramatic escape of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to England; from their recruitment to their harrowing parachute drop into a war zone, from their stealth attack on Heydrich’s car to their own brutal death in the basement of a Prague church.

A seemingly effortlessly blend of historical truth, personal memory, and Laurent Binet’s remarkable imagination, HHhH - an international bestseller and winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman - is a work at once thrilling and intellectually engrossing, a fast-paced novel of the Second World War that is also a profound meditation on the nature of writing and the debt we owe to history.

Some of the books mentioned by the author:
Burgess, Alan "Seven Men at Daybreak"
Flaubert, Gustave "Salammbô"
Harris, Robert "Fatherland"
Sand, George "Jean Zizka" (Žižka)
Schmitt, Éric-Emmanuel "La Part de l'autre" (no translation)
Vollmann, William T. "Europe Central" 

Saturday 19 October 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

"Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." Walter Cronkite

"I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Just the knowledge that a good book is waiting at the end of a long day makes that day happier." Kathleen Norris

"When you read a book, the neurons in your brain fire overtime, deciding what the characters are wearing, how they're standing, and what it feels like the first time they kiss. No one shows you. The words make suggestions. Your brain paints the pictures." Meg Rosoff 

"I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them ... with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself." Eudora Welty

"We must believe in the power and strength of our words. Our words can change the world." Malala Yousafzai 

"We buy books because we believe we are buying the time to read them." Warren Zevon

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Guterson, David "Ed King"

Guterson, David "Ed King" - 2011

Certainly not my favourite book by David Guterson but what a story! You only notice to the very end that you know it already and I am not going to reveal here what I mean but if you read any other description, even some of the book jackets, you probably will. I was glad I didn't before I read this and my copy didn't spoil anything for me, either.

This is the story of Ed King as well as his parents and foster parents, a child born out of wedlock at a time where this was definitely not possible to raise a child alone without the support of anybody. So, he ends up with foster parents who couldn't have loved him any more. They give him all the opportunities they can, both financially as well as in any other way. A dream life. Or is it?

There is always something unsettling in Ed's life, some shadow that follows him around, some foreboding that he might not end up where everyone sees him. In the meantime, there are a lot of sub-plots and twists that make reading this novel all the more pleasurable. It's a classic story with a modern setting.

Anyway, cleverly written, I do like David Guterson's style. As I said above, not my favourite (that would definitely be "East of the Mountains") but I am a huge fan of his writing and will carry on more of his novels.

One last remark: David Guterson received the "Literary Review's bad sex in fiction award" for this book and he totally deserved it. That still does not make the whole book bad, though.

From the back cover: "In 1962, when Walter Cousins sleeps with his British au pair, Diane Burroughs, he can have no sense of the magnitude of his error: this brief affair sets in motion a tragedy of epic proportions, upending Sophocles's immortal tale of fate, free will, and forbidden desire. At the centre is Ed King, an infant given up for adoption who becomes one of the world's most powerful men. But beneath the gripping story of Ed's seemingly inexorable rise to fame and fortune is a dark and unsettling destiny, one that approaches with ever-increasing suspense as the novel reaches its shattering conclusion."

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Civardi, Anne; Cartwright, Stephen "Things People Do"

Civardi, Anne; Cartwright, Stephen "Things People Do" - 1985

Little kids just love the illustrations of animals and people in all sorts of jobs and activities. When they get older, they love the humour behind the names. There is Mayor Naze, the mayor of Busytown on the island Banilla. Manuel Laber is the builder, Ivor Hose the fire chief, of course. Penny Sillin is the doctor, Les Chatter the teacher, you can go on and on, you find one charming picture after another. They make children talk about their surroundings, tell you what they know and learn new stuff. The language is easy and clear, the illustrations are also quite simple but with a lot of details.

My children loved any book illustrated by Stephen Cartwright, his pictures capture anyone. I think it is supposed to be for pre-school children but they love his stories a lot longer.

From the back cover: "Cartoons show the kinds of work done by fishermen, builders, hotel managers, teachers, bakers, farmers, reporters, pilots, fire fighters, doctors, TV producers, police officers, vets, ballet dancers, and auto mechanics."

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish". Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

October 15: Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read (either by teachers, friends, other bloggers, reviews)

Some weeks, I find it hard to come up with ten, in other weeks, I find it hard to delete so many that only ten will remain.

This is one of the latter weeks. I was "forced to read" books in school but have always enjoyed them, probably with the exception of Franz Kafka, I really did not like his books. But I am still a huge fan of classics. Maybe I just had the right teachers, maybe I was always destined to like them because I was born in the wrong century, who knows.

Therefore, I will mention some of the books I read in school but wouldn't say I disliked reading them.

Borchert, Wolfgang "Das Gesamtwerk" (complete works, I’m pretty sure some of them have been translated) - 1945/47
Brecht, Bertolt "Das Leben des Galilei" (Life of Galileo) - 1938
- "Der kaukasische Kreidekreis" (The Caucasian Chalk Circle) - 1944/45
Büchner, Georg "Woyzeck" (Woyzeck) - 1879
Droste-Hülshoff, Annette von "Die Judenbuche" (The Jew's Beech) - 1842
Dürrenmatt, Friedrich "Der Besuch der Alten Dame" (The Visit) - 1956
- "Der Richter und sein Henker" (The Judge and his Hangman) - 1950
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "Iphigenie auf Tauris" (Iphigenia in Tauris) - 1787
- "Die Leiden des jungen Werther" (The Sorrows of Young Werther) - 1774
Gotthelf, Jeremias "Die schwarze Spinne" (The Black Spider) - 1842
Hauff, Wilhelm "Das kalte Herz" (Heart of Stone or The Cold Heart or the Marble Heart) - 1837
Kafka, Franz "Die Verwandlung" (The Metamorphosis) - 1912
- "Das Urteil" (The Judgment) - 1912
Kleist, Heinrich von "Die Marquise von O..." (The Marquise of O-) - 1808
- "Prinz Friedrich von Homburg oder die Schlacht bei Fehrbellin" (The Prince of Homburg) - 1809/1810
Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim "Nathan der Weise" (Nathan the Wise) - 1779
Plenzdorf, Ulrich "Die neuen Leiden des jungen W." (The new Sufferings of Young W.) - 1972
Rhue, Morton "The Wave" - 1981
Schiller, Friedrich "Kabale und Liebe" (Intrigue and Love) - 1784
Storm, Theodor "Pole Poppenspäler" (Paul the Puppeteer) - 1874

Monday 14 October 2013

Pamuk, Orhan "Silent House"

Pamuk, Orhan "Silent House" (Turkish: Sessiz Ev) - 1983

Turkey in the late 20th century. Three siblings, a sister and two brothers, visit their grandmother who lives outside of Istanbul. Everyone seems to have their own problems. While everyone tries to solve their specific issues in their own special way - those who see the bigger issue, want to solve the bigger issue and we see especially the political upheaval of the time. Those with more personal problems reflect more on themselves, show their selfish side - stories of the past interfere with today's life.

The family is an unhappy one, and the story touches many different topics, there are different classes, different generation, the Orient and the Occident with Turkey's transition from one to the other, political extremes, like in most of Orhan Pamuk's novels, you have it all. There are the family members that are not among them anymore, there are political.

The story is told by alternating narrators, a kind of storytelling I particularly love. In listening to the different characters, we can see and understand each one of them better and can follow the story from many different aspects. Orhan Pamuk has a rare talent in that he is able to talk in all kinds of different voices, old people, young people, boring people, interesting people, active people, sick people. He makes every character stand on his own and it is easy to distinguish who is who.

The author has said that in each of the different characters is something about him, he was one of them at different times of his life. Interesting.

From the back cover:

"In an old mansion in Cennethisar, a former fishing village near Istanbul, an old widow Fatma awaits the annual summer visit of her grandchildren. She has lived in the village for decades, ever since her husband, an idealistic young doctor, first arrived to serve the poor fishermen. Now mostly bedridden, she is attended by her faithful servant Recep, a dwarf and the doctor's illegitimate son. They share memories, and grievances, of the early years, before Cennethisar became a high-class resort.

Her visiting grandchildren are Faruk, a dissipated failed historian; his sensitive leftist sister, Nilgun; and Metin, a high school student drawn to the fast life of the nouveaux riches, who dreams of going to America. But it is Recep's nephew Hassan, a high-school dropout, lately fallen in with right-wing nationalists, who will draw the visiting family into the growing political cataclysm issuing from Turkey's tumultuous century-long struggle for modernity."

I have read several other books by Orhan Pamuk which you can find here.

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.

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

Saturday 12 October 2013

Collins, Wilkie "Armadale"

Collins, Wilkie "Armadale" - 1866

My favourite literature are English classics. I have read the two most famous books by Wilkie Collins, "The Woman in White" and "The Moonstone", "Armadale" was written in between those two.

Like in his other books, the author partly lets his characters tell his different characters tell the story, either through their letters or their diaries. It takes us from the deathbed of an old man in Germany to various other places in Europe but is definitely an English novel through and through.

Even though the introduction might seem a little slow, Collins builds his characters and his story meticulously, he gives us all the aspects so we can make follow the story thoroughly. I love that. His writing style is fantastic, every sentence is both exciting and descriptive, his story is sensationalist, full of deceit, betrayal and revenge. His characters are lively and memorable. The fact that there are four Allan Armadales in the story, is easily explained but adds some comic effect to a more sombre story.

Wilkie Collins has often been compared with Charles Dickens, he's supposed to be the poor man's Dickens. I read somewhere that he is "Dickens without the exaggerated characters and ridiculous names." I love that comparison though I love them both.

Definitely a book for you if you like Victorian literature. It would be good reading for a cold winter evening.

From the back cover:

"When the elderly Allan Armadale makes a terrible confession on his death-bed, he has little idea of the repercussions to come, for the secret he reveals involves the mysterious Lydia Gwilt: flame-haired temptress, bigamist, laudanum addict and husband-poisoner. Her malicious intrigues fuel the plot of this gripping melodrama: a tale of confused identities, inherited curses, romantic rivalries, espionage, money - and murder. The character of Lydia Gwilt horrified contemporary critics, with one reviewer describing her as 'One of the most hardened female villains whose devices and desires have ever blackened fiction'. She remains among the most enigmatic and fascinating women in nineteenth-century literature and the dark heart of this most sensational of Victorian 'sensation novels'."

Friday 11 October 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

"When I was a child, when I was an adolescent, books saved me from despair that confined me that culture was the highest of values." Simone de Beauvoir 

"A book is a device to ignite the imagination." Alan Bennett

 "A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor 

“Literature duplicates the experience of living in a way that nothing else can, drawing you so fully into another life that you temporarily forget you have one of your own. That is why you read it, and might even sit up in bed till early dawn, throwing your whole tomorrow out of whack, simply to find out what happens to some people who, you know perfectly well, are made up.” Barbara Kingsolver

"Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking." Ann Patchett 

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." Alvin Toffler

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 10 October 2013

Alice Munro to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature 2013

Every year, I eagerly await the announcement of the Nobel Prize winner for Literature. This year, Alice Munro has been chosen as the first Canadian to receive this prodigious prize. I have no idea why this big country has not received the prize before because I have read quite a few great books by its authors.

Now I have to ask myself this question: Should I be proud that I know the new recipient and have read something by her or should I be sad that I didn't find a new great author this way as I usually do? I think I am a little of both.

Congratulations not just to Alice Munro but to all my Canadian friends, one of whom even suggested her when I asked the question "who would be your favourite Nobel Prize winner" on my facebook page a couple of days ago.

Alice Munro received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013 for being the "master of the contemporary short story".

I have read "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage" and "Runaway" by her.

Alice Munro received the Man Booker International Prize in 2009 for her lifetime body of work.

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

Photograph by Derek Shapton.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Best/Worst Series Enders

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish". Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

October 8: Top Ten Best/Worst Series Enders 

I am in quite a conundrum with this one since I don't read many series. The genre and type of books I read does not offer many sequels. Therefore I will just add a list of series I did read. And I managed just ten.

Alcott, Louisa May "Little Women" Series 
Allende, Isabel "The House of the Spirits" (La Casa de los Espíritus), "Daughter of Fortune" (Hija de la Fortuna), "Portrait in Sepia" (Retrato en Sepia)
Bristow, Gwen "Plantation Trilogy"
Denuzière, Maurice "Louisiana. Trilogy" (Louisiane. Trilogie)
Follett, Ken "The Pillars of the Earth", "World Without End"
Ghosh, Amitav "Sea of Poppies", "River of Smoke", "Flood of Fire" (Ibis Trilogy)
Ingalls Wilder, Laura "Little House Books"
MacLachlan, Patricia "Sarah, Plain & Tall" Series
Scott, Mary "Susan and Larry Series"
Turner, Nancy E. "These is my Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine", "Sarah’s Quilt", "The Star Garden"

Monday 7 October 2013

Basti, Abel & van Helsing, Jan "Hitler in Argentina"

Basti, Abel & van Helsing, Jan "Hitler in Argentina" (German: Hitler überlebte in Argentinien) - 2011

A great and interesting book, whether you believe the authors or not. According to their research, Hitler survived the end of the far and fled to Argentina.

There is a lot to learn about World War II and about South America (and the connection between the two, no matter how much you read, there is always more. That is the impression I have. Even though I read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction about this topic (look here), there is something new in every book I read about it. This one was probably the most different one from all the others, the authors try to prove the assumption that Hitler survived the war and lived in Argentina for many many years. I remember hearing the rumours when I was a little child, and they have never stopped.

If this subject interests you, try to find a copy. The research is highly interesting.

Even though I found the English title of this book, I have not been able to find it from one of the online booksellers. This is what I found in English in one of the descriptions. You can find more information about the publications here.

About Abel Basti:

"Basti claims that Hitler has fled to Argentina after world war two.

He also was the coordinator of several expeditions near the Argentinean sea coast, with the goal of finding submarines that were used by the German Kriegsmarine."

Saturday 5 October 2013

Book Quotes of the Week

"Librarians save lives by handing the right book at the night time to a kid in need." Judy Blume 

"The only way to do all the things you'd like to do is to read." Tom Clancy 

"A big book is like a serious relationship, it requires a commitment. Not only that, but there's no guarantee that you will enjoy it, or that it will have a happy ending." Mick Foley 

"The universe is not made of atoms - it's made of tiny stories." Joseph Gordon-Levitt 

"You must understand that when you are writing a novel, you are not making anything up. It's all there and you just have to find it." Thomas Harris 

"Some women have a weakness for shoes. I can go barefoot if necessary. I have a weakness for books." Oprah Winfrey 

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Book Turn-Offs

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish". Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

Tuesday October 1: Top Ten Book Turn-Offs

10. Books with movie covers, I'd like to make up my own mind. (see: Can a movie ever be better than the book?)

9. No description of the book on the cover, just "Magazine XYZ thinks this is brilliant" or something like that

8. Spoilers in the introduction (see: Introduction to a classic novel - - To read or not to read? and To read the introduction or not to read the introduction - that's not really the question)

7. Description of clothes, big chick lit flag!!!

6. Mentioning shoes, instantly recognizable as chick lit.

5. Bad translation (see: Why I am glad that I can read in more than one language)

4. Contradictions within the story or even compared to real life, e.g. someone is 30 in 1980 and then 40 in 2000 but even worse in science fiction, they are on a planet with no gravitiy and someone falls off something, you know the kind of subjects ...)

3. Wrong dates, e.g. war started three years later in reality, a real life character was born on the wrong date, so easy to check, so unncessary; (see: Novels and their link to reality)

2. Wrong grammar, wrong spelling, I am a Grammar Nerd. But, honest, if you write for a living, get your grammar correct.

1. Bad language. See #2.