Thursday 30 April 2015

Photo ABC

I am a member of a photo group where we get a prompt for every day and have to take an appropriate picture. Because we had the alphabet one month, I decided to do a book theme.

I always added either the link to my blog or to the books. I have decided to post a picture every week so my booky friends can enjoy them, as well.

D is for ... Dutch books. 

The Dutch have decided that this is their favourite book:
Harry Mulisch "De Ontdekking van de hemel" (The Discovery of Heaven)

All Dutch books I read and reviewed can be found here.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Hugo, Victor "Les Misérables"

Hugo, Victor "Les Misérables" (French: Les Misérables) - 1862

What a story. "Les Misérables" - those who are miserable. And miserable they are indeed. Someone steals a bread because children are hungry and has to pay for it for the rest of his life! Someone else doesn't do anything wrong, at least not at today's standards and is punished, as well. Only because she is poor.

And that is the crime of all those miserable characters. They are poor. Their destiny in life is written down even before they are born and there is nothing they can do.

Or can they? In times like this, it is no wonder that people crave a revolution and that they will do anything to get out of their hell on earth. Even kill.

I have no idea why I never read this before, I just have to say that I loved everything about it. The plot was interesting, you always want to know what is going to happen next, the characters well described, every single one was so well written, they could have jumped off the page. I was so happy this was such a long book (more than a thousand pages, what a story!) because I didn't have to say good-bye so soon. And that way it stretches over the lives of several protagonists.

This is a book you would like to start reading again the minute you put it down. A true classic.

From the back cover:

"Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean - the  noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. In Les Misérables Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832.

Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope - an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart."

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Scott, Mary "No Sad Songs"

Scott, Mary "No Sad Songs" - 1960

Part two of the Freddie trilogy by Mary Scott.

We meet the Standish girls again, Angela gets married to Stephen, Freddie prepares for her nursing school. She is not engaged to Jonathan at the beginning of the book as the back cover claims but I don't think I reveal a huge secret when I write that everything will end well. ;)

Mother Alicia turns up and is just the way she was described in the first book and we get to know Maxwell a little better. There are also some new characters, the fun loving neighbour Maurice Gresham and his lovely sister Pat who soon become good friends with the girls.

Again, Mary Scott manages to incorporate her love of the New Zealand outback when Freddie visits her sister and her husband on their farm.

Same as all of Mary Scott's book, a nice little story, something you can read in between when you need cheering up.

From the back cover (translated): "News from the Standish family
Mother Alicia has returned from Ireland to New Zealand to finally get her divorce - what her children don't regret at all.
Angela Standish and Stephen Lorimer have entered the harbour of marriage after many difficulties and want to enjoy their happiness on Stephen's Farm.
Freddie Standish, eighteen years young, both beautiful and spirited, is engaged to Dr. Jonathan Blake. But the fact that the successful young doctor has so little time for her, irritates Freddie.
Thus, Freddie decides to visit Angela and Stephen. And she soon brings buzz and excitement to the remote farmhouse. She wins the hearts of the neighbours, and even begins a little flirt with one of them, the handsome Maurice Gresham.
But at the end of all the misunderstandings, the complications and petty squabbles, Freddie will be wiser and will know to whom she belongs"

Freddie trilogy:
Scott, Mary "Families are Fun" - 1957
Scott, Mary "No Sad Songs" - 1960
Scott, Mary "Freddie" - 1965

Unfortunately, the 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.

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who Love 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.

April 28: Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who Love to Read 
(The topic was general, I could have had: are musically inclined, have lost someone, have depression, who grow up poor, etc. but I chose this, of course. Who wouldn't?)

Alcott, Louisa May "Little Women"
Austen, Jane "Pride & Prejudice"
Byatt, A.S. "Possession"
Fforde, Jasper "The Eyre Affair" (Thursday Next 1)
Nafisi, Azar "Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books"
Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Shadow of the Wind" (La Sombra del Viento)
Shaffer, Mary Ann & Barrows, Annie "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society"
Shields, Carol "The Stone Diaries"
Zusak, Markus "The Book Thief"
Zweig, Stefanie "Nowhere in Africa/Somewhere in Germany" (Nirgendwo in Afrika/Irgendwo in Deutschland)

Monday 27 April 2015

Buck, Pearl S. "The First Wife and Other Stories"

Buck, Pearl S. "The First Wife and Other Stories" - 1933

Some wonderfully described stories about Chinese life up until the beginning of the 20th century. The author talks about the clash between the traditional Chinese and the Western way, something she must have experienced herself as the daughter of a US missionary in China. The title story talks about a guy who goes abroad and doesn't really relate to his coutry wife anymore so that he divorces her and takes a new one, something that would not have happened before.

But there are also other subjects in the various other stories, some talk about the revolution and what was going on at that time, the devastations after a great flood, daily life in China at the time.

This is a great book to see what changes in tradition and life can do to people. Not just in China. If I compare my chidlren's life with that of my grandparents, there is a huge difference and I don't think my grandparents would have understood any of it. Pearl S. Buck saw this when living in China, she saw how people struggled with the newness of everything adn how a lot of them couldn't cope with it.

A nice collection of stories.

Old and new:
  • The first wife
  • The old mother
  • The frill
  • The quarrel
  • Repatriated
  • The rainy day
  • Wang Lung
  • The communist
  • Father Andrea
  • The new road
  • Barren spring
  • The refugees
  • Fathers and mothers
  • The good river 

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

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

Friday 24 April 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"Literacy Is A Bridge From Misery To Hope and opportunity. Literacy changes the trajectory of a family's story." Kofi Annan

"Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them." Samuel Butler

"Literature exists because the world isn't enough." Fernando Pessoa

"No two persons ever read the same book." Edmund Wilson

"When a library is open, no matter its size or shape, democracy is open, too." 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 23 April 2015

Deary, Terry "Horrible Histories"

Deary, Terry "Horrible Histories" - 1993ff.
My sons were still quite small when the first Horrible History books (The Terrible Tudors and The Awesome Egyptians) were published. Which was great because that way there were a few around by the time they started reading and they could read a lot of them while growing up. They both love history and I think this is partly due to these books.

The subtitles of most of these books are "History with the nasty bits left in!" Boys, especially boys, love a bit of gruesomeness, some blood spilled in the books and since most of history has usually both of those parts, it's easy to get them there.

The language is just right for kids. For example, in "The Awful Egyptians", the chapter "Phunny Pharaohs" (yes, they also play with words in a fantastic way), it is mentioned that the awesome Egyptians lived in the land by the Nile: "Every year the river flooded and left lovely squidgy mud covering the fields ... lovely squidgy mud that was good for growing crops. ..." Not only can the kids squirm at the thought of the squidgy mud, they also learn that the mud is god for something.

There are a lot of books about all sorts of history, from the Egyptians to the Aztecs, the Middle Ages to the World Wars in the 20th century, from Kings and Queens to the United States, there is something there for everyone. But, be warned, once the kids have read one book, they will become addicted and won't stop reading until they've seen them all.

This is a list of the history books. There are now also science (Horrible Science), geography (Horrible Geography) and math (Murderous Math) books available.

Angry Aztecs
Awesome Egyptians
Awful Egyptians
Barmy British Empire
Blitzed Brits
Bloody Scotland
Cruel Crime and Painful Punishment
Cruel Kings and Mean Queens (The Kings and Queens of England, Britain, and the United Kingdom)
Cut Throat Celts
Dark Knights and Dingy Castles (The history of Knights and Castles)
Frightful First World War
Gorgeous Georgians
Groovy Greeks
Horrible History of Britain and Ireland
Horrible History of the World
Incredible Incas
Loathsome London
Measly Middle Ages
Rotten Romans
Rotten Rulers
Rowdy Revolutions
Ruthless Romans
Savage Stone Age
Slimy Stuarts
Smashing Saxons
Stormin' Normans
Stratford Upon-Avon
Terrible Tudors
Terrifying Tudors
The Twentieth Century
Vicious Vikings
Vile Victorians
Villainous Victorians
Wicked Words (History of the English language)
Wild Warriors (Vikings, Celts, Huns and Samurai)
Woeful Second World War

From the back cover of "England" (one of many examples): "History with the nasty bits left in! The Horrible History of England reveals the awful truth behind the rebellions, riots and rumpuses that have made England what it is today (whatever that is). From the cruel Celts right up to the terrible 20th century it's a tale that will make you quake. Want to know: - which monk tried to pinch the devil's nose with a pair of tongs? - why some people in the Middle Ages ate dove droppings? - which English king was accused of being a werewolf? Whether it's plague, fire, and civil war, or roast beef, fish and chips and a cup of tea, if it's got anything to do with the English it's in this book. Mull over the miseries of Middle Ages monarchs, discover ten ways to be killed down a Victorian mine, and find out which dreadful days in history to celebrate with a day off school. History has never been so horrible!"

Photo ABC

I am a member of a photo group where we get a prompt for every day and have to take an appropriate picture. Because we had the alphabet one month, I decided to do a book theme.

I always added either the link to my blog or to the books. I have decided to post a picture every week so my booky friends can enjoy them, as well.

 C is for ... Cook books.

This one from Mary Berry incorporates all the basics you need.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Clayton, Meg Waite "The Wednesday Sisters"

Clayton, Meg Waite "The Wednesday Sisters" - 2008

I don't think I would have read this book if it wasn't for a friend and her Facebook book club. Somehow the title seemed more like chick lit even though the cover photo is quite tempting, a book on a bench with a pencil ... and it does show what the book is about. Women on a bench in a park, talking and writing about literature. But there is so much more in this novel. The story starts in the 60s when the right place for a woman would be at home, taking care of husband and children.

A good book about friendship. And reading. And friendship about books. Any book club can be like these women, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett, and Ally who meet by chance in a park while their kids play in the playground. While they get to know each other better, they start not just discussing the books they love and read but also to write their own stories. And while the friends grow with their reading and writing, women on the whole grow, after all, it is the sixties. We can compare the role women played back then to today. Certainly a subject not many of today's generation understand because they didn't experience it this way. Telling a student from today how hard it was for women to even get into higher eduction just half a century ago is more difficult than telling them about the war. Even though they have experienced neither, it is easier for them to understand the fighting with weapons than the fighting for equal opportunities.

I still think this could be classified as chick lit because it certainly is an easy read and despite some problems in the story, it is still easy going. So, one of those "easy reads" you could attempt if you don't want a long and depressing story.

Meg Waite Clayton mentions herself that "Not every book is for every reader." However, I think, this book could be for many different kind of readers. It has a story for everyone. Not my favourite but I'm glad I read it.

From the back cover: "Friendship, loyalty, and love lie at the heart of Meg Waite Clayton’s beautifully written, poignant, and sweeping novel of five women who, over the course of four decades, come to redefine what it means to be family.
For thirty-five years, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett, and Ally have met every Wednesday at the park near their Friendship, loyalty, and love lie at the heart of this novel of five women who, over the course of four decades, come to redefine what it means to be a family.
In the late 1960s, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett, and Ally find themselves meeting every Wednesday at a park in Palo Alto, California. Defined at first mainly by what their husbands do, the young homemakers and mothers are far removed from the Summer of Love. These "Wednesday Sisters" otherwise seem to have little in common: Frankie is a timid transplant from Chicago, brutally blunt Linda is a remarkable athlete, Kath is a Kentucky debutante, quiet Ally has a secret, and quirky, ultra-intelligent Brett wears little white gloves with her miniskirts. But the women are bonded by a shared love of literature, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Austen, du Maurier, Plath, and Dickens, and the Miss America Pageant, which they watch together every year.
As the years roll on and their children grow, the quintet forms a writers' circle to express their hopes and dreams through poems, stories, and, eventually, books. Along the way, they experience history in the making, Vietnam, the race to put a man on the moon, and a women's movement that challenges everything they have ever thought about themselves, while at the same time supporting one another through changes in their personal lives brought on by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.
The novel is a literary feast for book lovers and a celebration of the mysterious, unbreakable bonds among friends."

Books that were mentioned in the novel:
Austen, Jane "Pride & Prejudice"
Capote, Truman "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
Du Maurier, Daphne "Rebecca"
Eliot, George "Middlemarch"
Flaubert, Gustave "Madame Bovary"
Fowles, John "The French Lieutenant's Woman"
Forster, E. M. "Aspects of the Novel"
Greer, Germaine "The Female Eunuch"
Millett, Kate "Sexual Politics"
Plath, Sylvia "The Bell Jar"
Proust, Marcel "Remembrance of Things Past"
Segal, Erich "Love Story"
Shakespeare, William "Romeo and Juliet"
Tolstoy, Leo "Anna Karenina"
White, E.B. "Charlotte's Web"

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten ALL TIME Favourite Authors

"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.

April 21: Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors (yeah, I'm mean like that! You could narrow it down to a genre if you it REALLY kills you...or just make your list a top 20) 

1. Jane Austen 
2. Brill Bryson 
3. Amitav Ghosh 
4. Wally Lamb 
5. Thomas Mann 
6. Joyce Carol Oates 
7. Orhan Pamuk 
8. Carlos Ruiz Zafón 
9. Edward Rutherfurd 
10. Mary Scott 
11. Jane Smiley 
12. Stefanie Zweig  

Okay, okay, there are twelve but I just couldn't kick any of them out.

Monday 20 April 2015

Follett, Ken "Fall of Giants"

Follett, Ken "Fall of Giants" - 2010

What a book. And it's only the beginning of a trilogy. From the coal mines of Wales to the communists in Russia, from the English to the German aristocracy, from the American president to the Russian Tsar, we can see from the poor and thee rich in all these countries, how World War I happened. We can see that nothing is as black and white as the historians would like us to believe. We grow to love the characters just as much as if we would know them in real life. The interweaving of fictional with real life people makes us even believe they really exist. All these stories could have happened, they probably did happen to several people in any of these countries.

We meet a Welsh miners family, two Russian orphans, an English Earl and his family, a German diplomat, an American politician and many many more. Through their eyes we can see their fear of a looming war, what they can do or can't do to prevent it and how they have to arrange their lives to get through it.

"Fall of Giants". I would say it compares very well to "The Pillars of the Earth" and "World without End" which also belong to my favourite novels and that's why I got this one. This is just as brilliant. It is just a very different time. Europe in the twentieth century. This one takes place during WWI, the next one will be WWII and then the third the Cold War.  This way of showing history reminds me a little of Edward Rutherfurd, another favourite author of mine, who always describes the history of a country, region or city through the ages by using several fictitious families and also some real historical figures. This one is very similar. The families in the book come from Wales, England, Germany, Russia and the USA and they all have very different backgrounds, you have the feeling you are there when the war starts but you have been living through all the anxiety with the characters.

Ken Follett's style of writing is beautiful, his research into a subject astonishingly perfect. I have read a lot of books on this subject and still learned  many new details.

The only bad point of the book is that you can hardly put it down and really want to start the net one the minute you turned the last page. I was lucky to have waiting long enough until all three parts of the series are out so I don't have to wait too long until the next one.

In any case, we can all learn a lot from this book. If we didn't know it before, I'm sure everyone agrees after reading this. War is evil. Everyone loses in a war.  Let's not start another one.

The next two books, "Winter of the World" and "Edge of Eternity", will treat WWII and the Cold War respectively. Can't wait to read them.

From the back cover:

"Five families are brought together through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the struggle for votes for women.

It is 1911, and the coronation day of King George V.  Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams begins his first day at work in a coal mine.

The Williams family is connected by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of Gus Dewar, ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Two orphaned Russian brothers soon become involved, but Grigori and Lev Peshkov’s plan to emigrate to America fall foul of war, conscription and revolution. 

FALL OF GIANTS combines richly developed historical details with fast-moving action and powerful emotion to deliver this absorbing narrative."

Friday 17 April 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats." Richard Bach

"Bookshops are time machines, spaceships, story-makers, secret-keepers, dragon-tamers, dream catchers, fact finders & safe places." Jen Campbell

"I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense." Harold Kushner

"I read because one life isn’t enough, and in the page of a book I can be anybody." Richard Peck

"I'd rather write about this world than live in it and I'd rather play music all day and wander around bookstores and watch humans but not be one of them." 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 16 April 2015

Photo ABC

I am a member of a photo group where we get a prompt for every day and have to take an appropriate picture. Because we had the alphabet one month, I decided to do a book theme.

I always added either the link to my blog or to the books. I have decided to post a picture every week so my booky friends can enjoy them, as well.

B is for ... Books.

I love reading and always have a couple of books "on the go".

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Virgil "The Aeneid"

Virgil "The Aeneid" (Latin: Aeneis) - 29-19 BC 

I am not a big fan of poetry and this is the biggest example of a poem, one of the very earliest. I found it hard to follow because I prefer to read a flowing story, prose.

However, I can see why so many of the stories from this have been turned into big screen movies, very successful movies. The stories of the start of the Roman nation, the start of our lives today. Many of us have learned the history of Troy in school and a lot of the other stories that are captured in this poem.

As I said, tough read but I am truly happy I made my way through it and it will stay with me forever, same as "Odyssey", another epic story.

From the back cover: "The Aeneid of Virgil (70-19 B.C.) describes the legendary origin of the Roman nation. It tells of the Trojan prince Aeneas, who escaped with some followers after Troy fell, and sailed to Italy. Here they settled and laid the foundations of Roman power.
The Aeneid is a poet's picture of the world, where human affairs are controlled by human and superhuman influences. It is a literary epic inspired by Virgil's love of his native Italy and his sense of Rome's destiny as a civilized ruler of nations.
This translation by W.F. Jackson Knight aims to preserve the range, vitality, and music of the original."

Monday 13 April 2015

Scott, Mary "Families are Fun"

Scott, Mary "Families are Fun" - 1957

Another happy series by Mary Scott. Not as long as the Susan & Larry series (find all my other reviews here), "only" a trilogy but the story of the Standish family is just as nice as her other books.

You can tell that the novels were written more than half a century ago, that the author more or less writes about a life almost a century ago. In this episode, we can read how people thought about separated couples, not divorced, just separated. Quite different to the view most people have today.

But nevertheless, we can visit the outback of New Zealand again and meet some more lovely young people. Bill, Shelagh, Angela and Freddie might not be the normal kind of kids one would have come across at the time but they are all lovely and kindhearted and have a wonderful holiday with their friends Nick, Stephen & Jonathan. Also their father and Anna, Nick & Stephen's aunt, and some other adults are around to help them find their way into the world.

Another nice little story. They remind me of my youth when I first started reading them.

From the back cover (translated): "A father, a mother, three daughters and a son - but no family.
In a country house close to the New Zealand coast, a father, three young, pretty and lively daughters and a successful son meet at Christmas time. Alicia, the mother, a beautiful, spirited Irishwoman who is interested in anything but her family, fortunately decides to stay away from the idyll, and Maxwell Standish is a charming, but not exactly a responsible father. So far, the children have preferred to go their own ways, and everyone anticipates this unusual family reunion with mixed feelings."

Freddie trilogy:
Scott, Mary "Families are Fun" - 1957
Scott, Mary "No Sad Songs" - 1960
Scott, Mary "Freddie" - 1965

Unfortunately, the 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.

Find all my links to Mary Scott's books here.

Friday 10 April 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"I would like my readers to close the cover at the end and say, 'Wow, I never thought of it like that before'." Ted Dekker

"When I read a good book, I wish my life were three thousand years long." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Books were my friends when no friends were around." Katrina Mayer

"I love books way more than movies. Movies tell you what to think. A good book lets you choose a few thoughts for yourself." Karen Marie Moning

"Closing a good book before it's finished is like pressing stop in the middle of the best part of your favourite movie." 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.

Photo ABC

I am a member of a photo group where we get a prompt for every day and have to take an appropriate picture. Because we had the alphabet one month, I decided to do a book theme.

I always added either the link to my blog or to the books. I have decided to post a picture every week so my booky friends can enjoy them, as well.

A is for ... Autobiography

Two biographies by some very strong women:
Anne Frandi-Coory "Whatever Happened to Ishtar?"  
Immaculée Ilibagiza "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust"
(German translation: Aschenblüte. Ich wurde gerettet, damit ich erzählen kann)

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Smiley, Jane "Some Luck"

Smiley, Jane "Some Luck" (Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga #1) - 2014

I have liked Jane Smiley from the first time I read one of her books ("The All-true Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton") and I still love her several books later. Of course, she deservedly received the Pulitzer Prize for "A Thousand Acres".

This is the beginning of a trilogy, a family saga that spans over a hundred years. It starts in 1920 on a farm in Iowa, shortly after the end of World War I. The Langdon family is a family like every other one, working their land and trying to survive during depression and war. We get to love some of them and dislike some of the others. Jane Smiley manages to describe them as if they were our own family, as if we read the stories of our ancestors and just want to know what happens with the next generation.

The author has chosen an interesting way of describing this family, describing each year in a chapter, so we can follow the life and death of our characters.

I have grown up in a village, our house was surrounded by farms, so I could relate to a lot of the subjects in the story, even though that is not my generation. Yet.

We have to leave the family in 1953 as this is the end of the book, the end of an era. But I am looking forward to reading more about the Langdons in the next book, "Early Warning" and the final one "Golden Age".

I will put more of her books on my wishlist in the meantime.

From the back cover:

"From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize: a powerful, engrossing new novel - the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America.  On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father’s heart.

Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change. As the Langdons branch out from Iowa to both coasts of America, the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis; later still, a girl you’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own, and you discover that your laughter and your admiration for all these lives are mixing with tears.

Some Luck delivers on everything we look for in a work of fiction. Taking us through cycles of births and deaths, passions and betrayals, among characters we come to know inside and out, it is a tour de force that stands wholly on its own. But it is also the first part of a dazzling epic trilogy - a literary adventure that will span a century in America: an astonishing feat of storytelling by a beloved writer at the height of her powers."

Monday 6 April 2015

Sefton, Maggie "Knit One, Kill Two"

Sefton, Maggie "Knit One, Kill Two" - 2005

Read this with an online book club. I must say, this is not my type of literary, too simple, too obvious, too much sports. And I don't need dozens of pages explaining to me how to knit, I know that already and I doubt anybody would learn it through that. Maybe someone would feel inspired to learn it and if someone does then I'd say, go for it.

Maggie Sefton has written a whole series of these "Kelly Flynn Mysteries" but I doubt I will read any of the others, even though I admire her titles.

Knit One, Kill Two, June 2005
Dying to Sell, October 2005
Needled to Death, December 2005
A Deadly Yarn, August 2006
A Killer Stitch, May 2007
Fleece Navidad, October 2008
Dyer Consequences, June 2009
Skein Of The Crime, June 2010
Dropped Dead Stitch, June 2010
Double Knit Murders, November 2010
Unraveled, June 2011
Cast On, Kill Off, June 2012
Close Knit Killer, June 2013
Yarn Over Murder, June 2014

The fact that she churns out more than a book a year on average might show her enthusiasm for the stories but I doubt that it is a sign for any quality of the writing.

From the back cover: "Despite the fact that her aunt was an expert knitter, Kelly Flynn never picked up a pair knitting needles she liked - until she strolled into House of Lambspun. Now, in the first in a brand-new series, she learns how to knit one, purl two, and untangle the mystery behind her aunt's murder. - Kelly Flynn would be the first to admit her life in Washington, D.C., is a little on the dull side. But coming back to Colorado for her beloved aunt’s funeral wasn’t the kind of excitement she was seeking. The police are convinced that her Aunt Helen’s death was the result of a burglary gone bad, but for the accountant in Kelly, things just aren’t adding up. After all, why would her sensible, sixty-eight-year-old aunt borrow $20,000 just days before her death? With the help of the knitting regulars at House of Lambspun, Kelly’s about to get a few lessons in cranking out a sumptuously colored scarf - and in luring a killer out of hiding."

Sunday 5 April 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live." Annie Dillard

"Having a huge number of books is not exactly about reading them all - it’s about having the possibility of reading them all. ..." Michael Lipsey

"If books were roads, some would be made for driving quickly—details are scant, and what details there are appear drab—but the velocity and torque of the narrative is exhilarating. Some books, if seen as roads, would be made for walking—the trajectory of the road mattering far less than the vistas these roads might afford. The best book for me: I drive through it quickly but am forced to stop on occasion, to pull over and marvel. These books are books meant to be reread. (The first time through, I can tear along, as fast as possible, and then later, I’ll enjoy a leisurely stroll—so that I can see what I’ve missed)." Peter Mendelsund, author of "What we see when we read"

"I do so hate finishing books. I would like to go on with them for years ..." Beatrix Potter

"A library is many things, but particularly it is a place where books live, and where you can get in touch with other people, and other thoughts, through books… Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had." E.B. White

Find more book quotes here.

Friday 3 April 2015

Brown, Daniel James "The Boys in the Boat"

Brown, Daniel James "The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics" - 2013

So, I'm reading this with my real life international book club. Very interesting if you like non-fiction, real life, even if - like me - you don't like sports, there is so much in this book about humanity, perseverance, history ...

The world in 1936. The Nazis are "hosting" the Olympic Games. Hitler wants to show the world how brilliant his country (and his party and his race) is. He'd rather not have Jews or coloured athletes participate but that is against the Olympic spirit (even though he does managed to keep a lot of them out). So, he'd prefer to see them defeated. Which doesn't work all the way, as we all well know. Who doesn't remember Jesse Owen winning four gold medals in the sprint and long jump.

One of his hopes was the rowing competition, especially the Men's eights. "His" crew only made Bronze.

But it was not only the Nazis that needed to be beaten in this case. Eight boys from the lowest classes made it into a rowing team that until before had only been composed of rich students from elite universities. These boys didn't just have to row well, they had to study well and work to support not just themselves but in many cases even their family, brothers, sisters, parents ...

And this is their story. One man managed to write down what these young men had to go through in that time, how they achieved their dream and won Gold in an impossible race.

Daniel James Brown interviewed mainly one of the team for this extraordinary book, Joe Rantz, who had to fend for himself from a very early age, whose mother died when he was very young and whose father left him alone a couple of years later. How he managed to become one of the most successful athletes after that is a long story that is definitely worth reading.

We discussed this in our international book club in February 2015.

From the back cover:

"Out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times - the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.

Daniel James Brown’s stirring book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. It was an unlikely quest from the start - a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, who first had to maser the harsh physical and psychological demands of collegiate rowing and then defeat the East Coast's elite teams that had long dominated the sport.

The emotional heart of the story lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but to find a real place for himself in the world. Plagued by personal demons, a devastating family history, and crushing poverty, Joe knows that a seat in the Washington freshman shell is his only option to remain in college. The crew is slowly assembled by an enigmatic and determined coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat designer, but it is the boys' commitment to one another that makes them a winning team. Finally gaining the Olympic berth they long sought, they face their biggest challenge - rowing against the German and Italian crews under Adolf Hitler's gaze and before Leni Riefenstahl's cameras at the “Nazi Olympics” in Berlin, 1936.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream,  Daniel James Brown has created a portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and chronicle of one extraordinary young man's personal quest, all in this immensely satisfying book."