Friday 31 January 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life." Norman Cousins

"There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away." Emily Dickinson

"Some books leave us free and some books make us free." Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” Stephen King 

"Always read something that will make you look great if you die in the middle of it." P.J. O’Rourke

"A good book is the best of friends, the same today and for ever." Martin F. Tupper

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 30 January 2014

Woodhouse, C.M. "Modern Greece. A Short History"

Woodhouse, C.M. (Christopher Montague) "Modern Greece. A Short History" - 2000

Great overview over Greek history. But not just Greek history. If you are at all interested in the history of the world, this is an excellent account of Ancient and Modern Greece and how it developed into the country it is today.

The title might be a little misleading as it says both "modern" as well as "short". It starts in the year 324, so not exactly just a decade ago. And it stretches over almost 400 pages (although I wouldn't have minded if it had been twice as long). However, the book is interestingly written and we get to understand modern Greece a lot better through its history - as we do with almost anything. It contains a few maps that make us realize how much the world as changed in that part of the world throughout the centuries. Great analysis of a people that formed our modern day world.

From the back cover: "Acclaimed for its penetration, balance, and insight, Modern Greece tells the story of Greece and its people, from the founding of Constantinople to the eclipse of socialism in the late twentieth century. C. M. Woodhouse is uniquely qualified to write the history of Greece, having served there in the Allied military and the British embassy during and after World War II before writing several books on Greece. In this classic work, which Woodhouse has updated five times to create a truly comprehensive history, the depth of his knowledge and understanding of the country and its citizens comes through clearly in every chapter, as he ranges from the ascendancy and eventual fall of the Byzantine Empire through the emergence for the first time of a unified Greek kingdom in the 1800s to the political turmoil of twentieth-century politics. This is a book for readers and travelers who wish to understand the history and culture behind the beauty that is eternal Greece."

Monday 27 January 2014

Scott, Mary "Breakfast at Six"


Scott, Mary "Breakfast at Six" - 1953 

For many years, Mary Scott was one of my favourite authors. I read all her books in my youth. I have already blogged about her here and I wasn't going to review her books separately. But recently, I just had to dig out her books again (all of which I have only in German, unfortunately) and start reading them again. I will go back to her fantastic novels from time to time and review them as they go.

Her most famous books were probably the Susan and Larry stories. Susan is a young newlywed in the fifties, her husband Paul having recently acquired a sheep farm in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand after returning from the war. She soon meets Larry, the wife of Paul's neighbour Sam, and the two become best friends. They both become good farmwives, manage their chores in the house as well as on the field but also try to play the matchmaker, help an escaped convict, perform in a theatre play.
If you can get a hand on one of her novels, try it. She is hilarious!

I love Mary Scott's humour and hope that one day her books will reappear. I might even consider getting an eReader for that.

The interesting thing about the stories, Mary Scott herself was in a similar situation, she also married a sheep farmer, only that she was born in 1888 and married in 1914, so her own stories would have taken place half a century earlier.

From the back cover: "Bestselling novel by a talented New Zealand writer about newlyweds Susan and Paul, their life on a back-blocks farm, and the problems and pleasures of a rural community. Susan's friendship with Larry, the glamorous wife of a local farmer, is one of the things that keeps her going during tough times."

This is the first book in the series. And this is the list of all of them:
"Breakfast at Six" - 1953
"Dinner Doesn’t Matter" - 1957
"Tea and Biscuits"  - 1961
"A Change From Mutton" - 1964
"Turkey at Twelve" - 1968
"Shepherd’s Pie" - 1972
"Strangers for Tea" - 1975
"Board, but no Breakfast" - 1978

Friday 24 January 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader. That's why we go to movies and say, 'Oh, the book is better'." Paulo Coelho

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." Cyril Connolly

"Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let's not forget this." Dave Eggers

"A book is a dream that you hold in your hands." Neil Gaiman   

"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond." C.S. Lewis

"Books are the carrier of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print." Barbara Tuchman

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

2013 Reading Challenges - Wrap-Up

I took part in three online challenges,
Chunky Books Reading Challenge:
My final result is 38 chunky books, 13 of them super chunky. I think I can easily say I have reached my "goal" of 8 and 3. ;-)
The "Piggybank" Challenge:
I read 85 books so far which resulted in €170 for spend for something nice. Officially, this challenge goes from 1 March 2013 to 1 March 2014 but it's easier to wrap this up now with the rest of the challenges.
European Reading Challenge:
The goal was to read as many books about Europe or by European writers as possible. That was quite an easy one for a European reader.
21 books from the UK (of which 19 from England, 1 from Northern Ireland, 1 from Wales)
17 from Germany
6 from France and Spain/Catalonia
4 from Turkey
3 from Italy and Russia
2 from the Netherlands and Ukraine
1 each from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, and Switzerland
I hope to read some books from those countries that I haven't read this year, or before.

Then there are the other challenges that go for longer than a year, well, I do them for longer than a year.
A Century of Books

The goal is to read a book from every year of the 20th centry.
I only added three books but "every little helps.
1933 - Pearl S. Buck "The Mother"
1951 - Jack Kerouac "On the Road"
1954 - William Golding "Lord of the Flies"
Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century

Again, I added three books to this list.
#17 Carson McCullers "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" - 1940
#41 William Golding "Lord of the Flies" - 1945
#55 Jack Kerouac "On the Road" - 1951
Nobel Prize Winners and Their Books
I was invited to join this group "Read the Nobels" and have thoroughly enjoyed adding some of my blogs about the books by some Nobel Prize winners. I love reading the Nobel Prize Winners' work and found a lot of interesting reviews on this page.

These were the 14 books I reviewd on this page in 2013
Andrić, Ivo "The Bridge on the Drina" (Serbo-Croat: На Дрини Ћуприја or Na Drini Ćuprija) - 1945
Buck, Pearl S. "East Wind: West Wind" - 1930
Buck, Pearl S. "Peony" - 1948
Buck, Pearl S. "The Exile" - 1936
García Márquez, Gabriel "Love in the Time of Cholera" (E: El amor en los tiempos del cólera) - 1985
Hamsun, Knut "Pan" (Pan) - 1894
Le Clézio, Jean-Marie Gustave "The African" 2008
Mo, Yan "Red Sorghum Clan" (Chin: 红高粱家族  Hóng gāoliang jiāzú) - 1987
Morrison, Toni "Paradise" - 1998
Müller, Herta "The Appointment" (GE: Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet) - 1997
Alice Munro "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage" - 2001
Naipaul, V.S. "A House for Mr. Biswas" - 1961
Pamuk, Orhan "Istanbul - Memories of a City" (TR: Istanbul - Hatiralar ve Sehir) - 2003
Steinbeck, John "Of Mice and Men" - 1937

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.
Best European Literature
Homer "Odyssey" (GR: Ομήρου Οδύσσεια, Odýsseia) - 800-600 BC
Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote, vols. 1 and 2" (E: El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha) - 1605/161
Mann, Thomas "The Magic Mountain" (GE: Der Zauberberg) - 1924
Dostoevsky, Fyodor "Crime and Punishment" (Rus: Преступление и наказание) - 1866
Defoe, Daniel "Robinson Crusoe" - 1719
Bradbury, Ray "Fahrenheit 451" - 1953
Golding, William "Lord of the Flies" - 1954
Oscar Winning Books
Aleichem, Sholem (שלום עליכם) "Tevye the Dairyman" (Tevye der milkhiker, טבֿיה דער מילכיקער, Yiddish and טוביה החולב,  Hebrew) - 1894-1916
Keneally, Thomas "Schindler's Ark" - 1982
Homer "Odyssey" (GR: Ομήρου Οδύσσεια, Odýsseia) - 800-600 BC
The 100 Greatest Fiction Books as Chosen by The Guardian 
Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote, vols. 1 and 2" (E: El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha) - 1605/161
Defoe, Daniel "Robinson Crusoe" - 1719
Sterne, Laurence "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" - 1759-67
Golding, William "Lord of the Flies" - 1954
Kerouac, Jack "On the Road" - 1951
Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (German: Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels)
Alexijewitsch, Swetlana "Voices from Chernobyl" (RUS: Чернобыльская молитва/Černobylskaja molitva)
Grossman, David "To the End of the Land" (Hebr: אשה בורחת מבשורה/Isha Nimletet Mi'Bshora) - 2008
Pamuk, Orhan "The Museum of Innocence" (TR: Masumiyet Müzesi) - 2008
Pamuk, Orhan "The Silent House" (TR: Sessiz Ev) - 1983
The Top 10 Most Difficult Books
Still only one book. Should try to read another one this year.

Oprah’s Book Club
Ansay, A. Manette "Vinegar Hill" - 1995
McCullers, Carson "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" - 1940

Top 10 Most Read Books in the World
I have read seven of these and don't think I will read any of the other three, well, maybe the Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung but certainly not "The Twilight Saga" from Stephenie Meyer and probably not "Think and Grow Rich" by Napolean Hill.
100 Books by the BBC
The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here
Dostoevsky, Fyodor "Crime and Punishment" (RUS: Преступление и наказание) - 1866
Faulks, Sebastian "Birdsong. A Novel of Love and War" - 1993
William Golding "Lord of the Flies" - 1954
Jack Kerouac "On the Road" - 1951

Total: 62 books, 34 movies

Not really a challenge but a wonderful list of valuable books to read. I am happy to have read six of them and only one did not really receive my approval.
Smiley, Jane "13 Ways of Looking at the Novel" – 2005
Sturluson, Snorri "Egil's Saga" (Icel: Egils saga Skallagrímssonar) - 1240
Boccaccio, Giovanni "The Decameron" (IT: Il Decameron, cognominato Prencipe Galeotto) - 1350
Navarre, Marguerite de "Heptameron" (F: Heptaméron) - 1578
Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote, vols. 1 and 2" (E: El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha) - 1605/161
Defoe, Daniel "Robinson Crusoe" - 1719
Sterne, Laurence "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" - 1759-67

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

"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 othter bloggers who share their lists here.

January 21: Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist
(if you could make authors write about these things you would. Could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.)

Presently, I am only waiting for one book to be released and one to be translated.

Amitav Ghosh "Flood of Fire" the third book in the "Ibis Trilogy" - announced for 2015
Ildefonso Falcones " La Reina Descalza" - waiting for a translation, any translation (well, into a language I know) (The Barefoot Queen)

Then there are authors I really love but haven't read all of their books, yet

I know I could come up with more but have stopped at ten.

Monday 20 January 2014

Grjasnowa, Olga "All Russians Love Birch Trees"

Grjasnowa, Olga "All Russians Love Birch Trees" (German: Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt) - 2012 

I heard about this book on the German radio, a journalist (Christine Westermann) who talks about special books recommended it. I love her suggestions and I liked the title, so I wanted to read the book.

The protagonist is a young woman not unlike the author. She grew up in Azerbaijan and speaks several languages. So does Masha, our main character. She lives in Frankfurt with her boyfriend. After a tragedy, she goes to Israel where she tries to settle. Her home could be everywhere, yet, she finds it is nowhere. She has to come to terms with being from an immigrant family from the big Soviet Union, being Jewish and all that involves including her family's history both in Azerbaijan as well as in Germany, But she also describes the way she is treated in Germany, how her family lives there. Should be an interesting read for young people.

It is not the story as such that is so extraordinary, it's the sequence of events and the dreams of a woman, the search for happiness. A story well worth reading. That is probably the main reason why this has not just been translated into various other languages but that one of the languages is English.

A captivating story that I read in the original German.

From the back cover: (contains spoilers)

"Set in Frankfurt, All Russians Love Birch Trees follows a young immigrant named Masha. Fluent in five languages and able to get by in several others, Masha lives with her boyfriend, Elias. Her best friends are Muslims struggling to obtain residence permits, and her parents rarely leave the house except to compare gas prices. Masha has nearly completed her studies to become an interpreter, when suddenly Elias is hospitalized after a serious soccer injury and dies, forcing her to question a past that has haunted her for years. Olga Grjasnowa has a unique gift for seeing the funny side of even the most tragic situations. With cool irony, her debut novel tells the story of a headstrong young woman for whom the issue of origin and nationality is immaterial—her Jewish background has taught her she can survive anywhere. Yet Masha isn’t equipped to deal with grief, and this all-too-normal shortcoming gives a particularly bittersweet quality to her adventures."

Friday 17 January 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"Life is a book and there are a thousand pages I have not yet read." Cassandra Clare 

"The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it." Elizabeth Drew

"Books give not wisdom where none was before. But where some is, there reading makes it more." Elizabeth Hardwick

"A house without books is like a room without windows." Horace Mann

"Let us read and let us dance, these two amusements will never do any harm to the world." Voltaire

"I ransack public libraries, and find them full of sunk treasure." Virginia Woolf

"I found comfort through literature, I loved getting lost in things as marvelous and as wonderful as books. They made me forget about my own troubles, like a submarine and the sea, they submerged me so perfectly." N.N.

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

George, Margaret "Elizabeth I"

George, Margaret "Elizabeth I" - 2011

I first heard about his book through the Chunkster Reading Challenge. I probably would have come across it anyway since it belongs to the kind of genre I do like to read. Historical Fiction. The story of Elizabeth I. 680 pages of it. Told by herself and her cousin Lettice, the granddaughter of her mother's sister. So we can see various sides of the Queen's life.

Of course, this is a historical novel, that means most of it is fiction based on the life of the protagonist. The facts that can be traced back (year of birth and death, people they met etc.) have to be correct but the rest can only be guessed. What I still like about these kind of novels it what we learn about the life of people during that time in general. How did the poor live, how the aristocrats. What went on behind closed curtains, what did they need the different servants for? That is why I love historical novels.

And this one was very well written. I am sure I will read more by this author.

From the back cover:

"1588. In the height of her power is the legendary Elizabeth Tudor, history's most enigmatic queen. She is the virgin with many suitors; the victor of the Armada who hated war; the jewel-bedecked woman always pinching pennies.

Elizabeth's flame-haired cousin, Lettice Knollys, is her bitter rival. In love with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and mother to the Earl of Essex, the mercurial nobleman who challenged Elizabeth's throne, Lettice has been intertwined with Elizabeth since childhood.

This is a story of two women of fierce intellect and desire: one trying to protect her country and throne; the other trying to regain power and position for her family. Their rivalry soon involves everyone close to Elizabeth - from the famed courtiers who enriched the crown to the legendary poets and playwrights.
And, for Elizabeth, to be married to her people meant she must rule as much with her heart as with her head . . .

Friday 10 January 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"I can feel infinitely alive curled up on the sofa reading a book ..." Benedict Cumberbatch

"Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book." John Green

"I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide." Harper Lee

"It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story." ♥ Patrick Rothfuss ♥ The Name of the Wind 

"Educate yourself, welcome life’s messiness, read Chekhov, avoid becoming an architect at all costs." Kurt Vonnegut

"Book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, an absurdity, a fate, it is not a hobby ..." Jeanette Winterson

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 9 January 2014

2014 Postal Challenge

2014 Postal Challenge

Another interesting challenge I found through the Canadian bookworm blog.

The creator of the challenge thinks that in this day and age, the idea of handwritten and posted letters need all the help it can get. I totally agree. Everyone likes to receive handwritten letters, I enjoy writing them. So, trying to find some books based on letters seems like a good idea to me.

The rules and conditions are easy:
"The key is to read and review books with a postal theme. These can be non-fiction on the subject of letter writing, collections of real letters, or epistolary fiction of any era. Be creative! Review each one and link back to the challenge -- there will be quarterly roundup posts for you to link reviews and posts to as you create them."

There are four different levels to choose from:
Postcard Level: 4 books
Snail Mail Level: 8 books.
Parcel Post Level: 12 books
Air Mail Express Level: 12 books AND commit to sending at least 12 old fashioned letters this year.

I have no idea whether I will find 12 books based on letters but would love to send more letters. I think 12 will be possible, so I will sign up for the Air Mail Express Level which is totally appropriate because I have many friends overseas.

I don't think I have done very well with this one because I didn't pay much attention to the prompt as such. However, I have written letters and card during the year and there were certainly letters in these:
Austen, Jane "Emma
- "Mansfield Park"  

- "Northanger Abbey"
- "Persuasion"  
- "Pride & Prejudice
- "Sense & Sensibility"
Berry, Wendell "Hannah Coulter"
Dickens, Charles "The Pickwick Papers""
Faulkner, William "Light in August"
Fowles, John "The French Lieutenant’s Woman
Gaarder, Jostein "Sophie's World" (Sofies verden)
George, Margaret "Elizabeth I
Heller, Joseph "Catch-22
Montagu, Ewen "The Man Who Never Was"
Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich [Влади́мир Влади́мирович Набо́ков] "Lolita
Pamuk, Orhan "
My Father's Suitcase" (Babamın Bavulu)
- "Snow" (Kar)
Roth, Charlotte "Als wir unsterblich waren" [
When We Were Immortal]
Shields, Carol "The Stone Diaries"
Seth, Vikram "Two Lives
Tartt, Donna "The Goldfinch

Thackeray, William Makepeace "Vanity Fair, or, A Novel without a Hero"