Saturday 30 May 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

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

"On rare occasions there comes along a profound original, an odd little book that appears out of nowhere, from the pen of some obscure storyteller, and once you have read it, you will never go completely back to where you were before. The kind of book you may hesitate to lend for fear you might miss its company. The kind of book that echoes from the heart of some ancient knowing, and whispers from time's forgotten cave that life may be more than it seems, and less." A.B. Curtiss

"That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet." Jhumpa Lahiri

"And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good." John Steinbeck, East of Eden

"Books are the gateway to the world and the escape from it." 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 28 May 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.

H is for ... History. 

My history atlas from school but my geography atlas is also history already. It shows countries that no longer exist, the USSR, Yugoslavia, Dahomey, ...

All the books I read that belong only remotely to the "history" or "historical fiction" category can be found here or here.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Scott, Mary "Freddie"

Scott, Mary "Freddie" - 1965

The last book in the Freddie trilogy by Mary Scott. After seeing her sister getting married and completing her nurse's training, Freddie and Jonathan are next in line to tie the knot. But, knowing Mary Scott, this is not as easy as they think. Freddie's father Max suffers a heart attack and somebody has to look after him. Who better than a daughter who has just qualified as a nurse. Freddie spends some time at his farm and meets many nice people. And the readers can see how life in the sixties was in New Zealand.

Funny as all her novels, lovely entertainment.

From the back cover: "Freddie is now a fully qualified nurse, she has the medal she insisted she must earn before she would marry Dr. Jonathan Blake, and she is free to make plans for her wedding. Unforeseen circumstances arise and she must deal with these first.'"

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.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Dugain, Marc "The Officer's Ward"

Dugain, Marc "The Officer's Ward" (French: La Chambre des officiers) - 1999

Another book club read, suggested by our French member. Not a big book like the one we read before, fewer than 160 pages, almost a short story.

A different kind of war story, one that has only one battle at the beginning of the story, at the beginning of the war. Here, our protagonist Adrien is wounded, heavily wounded. Half of his face is gone and he has to spend the rest of the war in a hospital near Paris where he meets other wounded, some that make it through many surgeries, others that don't.

Adrien meets other wounded men and even one woman and they form a bond only those who have a similar fate can form. A friendship starts that will last beyond the war, for the rest of their lives.

This is a simple stories, told in simple words and simple sentences (that's why I had no trouble reading it in French). It is an interesting story but I would have liked it to be a little more elaborate, a little deeper.

However, we had a wonderful talk about this. Most of us found the story sad but also showing a lot of hope, showing how the human side comes through when nothing else is left. How in the end we are all the same.

We discussed this in our book club in May 2015.

From the back cover:

"In autumn 1914, on one of the first days of shooting, Adrien Fournier, a lieutenant in the French Army, leads a reconnaissance mission to the Meuse River. From the opposite bank, German mortar fire blasts the team, killing all but Adrien who is hit in the face by shrapnel. He sustains terrible injuries. In the ensuing years, Adrien is left to wonder whether it would have been better had he, too, died that day on the river. 

* Adrien is sent to the hospital at Val-de-Grace on the outskirts of Paris - to a closed ward without mirrors, reserved for those who have been disfigured. He will never know the incredible hardships his comrades will suffer in the trenches, nor the agony of a long war that most expected to last only a few months. 

* Instead, Adrien's war is an endless round of pain and reconstruction and this one room, which he shares with a Jewish aviator and a Breton aristocrat. Between bouts of surgery, a special bond of friendship forms among these faceless men. And when a once-beautiful woman joins their group, Adrien discovers that hope, humanity, and humor can endure even there, in the officers' ward."

Monday 25 May 2015

Follett, Ken "Edge of Eternity"

Follett, Ken "Edge of Eternity" - 2014

When I first learnt there was a trilogy about the past century, each part concentrating on a different war: First, Second and Cold, I thought the last one might be the one that least interests me. After all, I've been there, I lived during the Cold War, I keep telling my kids how it was - and probably bore them to death.

However, I only was there during part of the Cold War, I only lived the West German one, not the East German, the Russian or the American one. I think my part was closest to that of the English and Welsh families in the story, after all, we had free elections and could do as we pleased.

As in the previous parts, the author introduces the characters from the different families one by one and most of them are very close to some important people. They either work for Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, Khrushchev or there is a fictional character who resembles Solchenitsyn ... lots of true life connections that explain what happened in that time. Of course I knew about the civil rights movement but this book has taught me more about it, and I am sure it teaches others more about the parts they don't know.

I was surprised that some people had given this book a bad rating, I think that is mainly because they didn't agree with the way history was portrayed, their view were a little (or a lot) different from Ken Follett. Compared to American Republicans, most Europeans seem to be communists and that is the most evil of them all.

Well, I enjoyed all three books. A lot. I grew to love the characters, I felt like I was part of their families or at least a close friend of them. All together, I read about 3,000 pages of wonderful storytelling. And I am still in awe of the amount of research Ken Follett must have done for this.

From the back cover:

"Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy follows the fortunes of five intertwined families - American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh - as they make their way through the twentieth century. It has been called 'potent, engrossing' (Publishers Weekly) and 'truly epic' (Huffington Post). USA Today said, 'You actually feel like you’re there.'

Edge of Eternity, the finale, covers one of the most tumultuous eras of all: the 1960s through the 1980s, encompassing civil rights, assassinations, Vietnam, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, presidential impeachment, revolution - and rock and roll.

East German teacher Rebecca Hoffman discovers she’s been spied on by the Stasi for years and commits an impulsive act that will affect her family for generations… George Jakes, himself bi-racial, bypasses corporate law to join Robert F. Kennedy’s Justice Department and finds himself in the middle of not only the seminal events of the civil rights battle, but also a much more personal battle… Cameron Dewar, the grandson of a senator, jumps at the chance to do some espionage for a cause he believes in, only to discover that the world is much more dangerous than he’d imagined… Dimka Dvorkin, a young aide to Khrushchev, becomes an agent for good and for ill as the Soviet Union and the United States race to the brink of nuclear war, while his twin sister, Tania, carves out a role that will take her from Moscow to Cuba to Prague to Warsaw - and into history.

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as they add their personal stories and insight to the most defining events of the 20th century. From the opulent offices of the most powerful world leaders to the shabby apartments of those trying to begin a new empire, from the elite clubs of the wealthy and highborn to the passionate protests of a country’s most marginalized citizens, this is truly a drama for the ages.

With the Century Trilogy, Follett has guided readers through an entire era of history with a master’s touch. His unique ability to tell fascinating, brilliantly researched stories that captivate readers and keep them turning the pages is unparalleled. In this climactic and concluding saga, Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again."

And these are the first two books of the trilogy:
Follett, Ken "Fall of Giants" - 2010 - World War I
Follett, Ken "Winter of the World" - 2012 - World War II

Friday 22 May 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"Books, I found had the power to make time stand still, retreat or fly into the future". Jim Bishop

"Writers open our hearts and minds, and give us maps to our own selves." Alain de Botton

"Having books standing on a shelf in a room is like having completely different worlds at the reading watiing to be explored." J.F. Hermans

"Every time a newspaper dies, even a bad one, the country moves a little closer to authoritarianism; when a great one goes, like the New York Herald Tribune, history itself is denied a devoted witness." Richard Kluger

"Knowledge is free at your library. Just bring your own container." 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 21 May 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.

G is for ... German books.

My favourite German book ever:
Mann, Thomas "Buddenbrooks" (Buddenbrooks)

All the German books I read and reviewed can be found here.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Munro, Alice "Runaway"

Munro, Alice "Runaway" - 2004

A brilliant collection of very interesting short stories that grip you from the first page. However, and it is a big however, I am not a big fan of short stories and this has shown me again why not. I love long novels, books that slowly move into the story, that give you enough background information so that you can get to know the characters and live with them for a while. Short stories just don't do that. I had to go back to the titles when I finished the book to see what they were about. I hadn't forgotten about Juliet but that was mainly because three stories focused on her ("Chance", "Soon" and "Silence")

But I couldn't remember Carla from "Runaway" as I hadn't really felt much about her, felt for her at all, I still have no idea why she had run away.  "Passion", again, I couldn't find a connection with the characters, not enough time to get to know them "Trespasses" was so weird, even during the story I didn't find a connection, almost like in "Runaway" and "Powers" seemed a haphazard short story of many short stories. Not my thing.

"Tricks" was probably my favourite, simply because it had a great twist at the end, because I could relate to the heroine, Robin, could truly feel the pain and longing with her. As to the rest, the same as with many short stories, they will forever remain acquaintances, never become friends.

I would love to read a novel by Alice Munro, one that has at least 500 pages. I'm sure it would be a great one! And I already said that about her novel "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage" that all her stories would have enough background to write a large one.

Titles of the short stories:

From the back cover: "The matchless Munro makes art out of everyday lives in this dazzling new collection. Here are men and women of wildly different times and circumstances, their lives made vividly palpable by the nuance and empathy of Munro's writing. Runaway is about the power and betrayals of love, about lost children, lost chances. There is pain and desolation beneath the surface, like a needle in the heart, which makes these stories more powerful and compelling than anything she has written."

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

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.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Hoffmann, Heinrich "Struwwelpeter"

Hoffmann, Heinrich "Struwwelpeter" (or Shockheaded/Slovenly Peter) (German: Der Struwwelpeter) - 1845

Not necessarily my most favourite children's book but it's a classic German one that I know from my childhood and that is still around. The author was a doctor and nowadays people think that everything in this book is too cruel. But thousands and thousands of children grew up with them and I don't remember suffering from them - same as with fairy tales that are supposed to be too cruel now and need to be sugarcoated. In general, children have a good sense of justice and even think that the characters deserve the punishment.

In the book itself, children are punished for their "deeds". Some of them don't sound too bad but some really are not very nice but the punishments are all pretty harsh. For example, there is the boy who won't eat his soup but then there is also one who terrorizes animals.

The author wrote and illustrated this book for his own three-year old son.

The book has been so popular in the past that there are a lot of adaptations/new versions of it, the most popular one probably "Struwwelliese", the female version. It has also been translated into many different languages.

Some of the stories have been taken over into the German language, if we talk about a "Zappelphillipp", for example, we talk about a child who cannot sit still. Nowadays, in German we talk about the "Zappelphillipp-Syndrom" when talking about ADHD A lot of the problems the kids have in the book are also taken into account in psychology, Dr. Hoffmann certainly was ahead of his time.

From the back cover:

"Pauline knew not to play with matches, Philip's parents told him not to fidget, and Conrad was duly warned about the tailor who snips off thumbsuckers' thumbs - a morbidly hilarious, much-loved classic volume of cautionary verses 

In December 1844, Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann, a German doctor, couldn't find a suitable book to give his three-year-old son as a Christmas present. Instead he bought a blank book and set out to write and draw what was to become his world-famous picture book. Hoffmann filled his book with dazzling and gruesome stories and pictures that he had invented to try to put his frightened young patients at their ease. After its publication in 1845, the book's popularity continued to grow and it has been published in thousands of editions throughout the world.

Now just over 150 years old, Struwwelpeter (Slovenly Peter) is an unforgettable and morbid collection of stories that show children the horrific outcomes of naughty behavior. Other characters in this classic collection of cautionary tales include Simple Hans, Phoebe Ann, the proud girl and Jimmy Sliderlegs."

Monday 18 May 2015

Eco, Umberto "The Name of the Rose"

Eco, Umberto "The Name of the Rose" (Italian: Il nome della rosa) - 1980

I think I wanted to read this book ever since I first heard about the movie. And that has been a couple of decades ago. Well, finally I made it. But I still do not know why the title is "The Name of the Rose" but maybe that will forever remain a mystery.

The book certainly is one. A murder mystery. A monastery in the 14th century. One death occurs after the other, some of them seem very suspect, but for most of them it is very clear that another person caused the death. In other words, there is a mass murderer at large. Two visiting monks start to investigate and find a lot of links, some of them correct, others definitely false.

But that is not the most interesting part of the story, at least not for me. I am not the biggest fan of crime stories. But what fascinates me is the library and the labyrinth built around it to prevent people from entering and getting books they shouldn't see. If you are interested in medieval buildings, labyrinths and especially libraries, this is the ideal book. Furthermore, there are a lot of names that seem familiar, a lot of homages paid to real or fictitious persons (Brother William of Baskerville aka Sherlock Holmes, the blind monk Jorge of Burgos pays tribute to Jorge Luis Borges).

There are a lot of allusions to the bible, e.g. the seven trumpets of the biblical apocalypse who proclaim the events of the end of the world are not just used as a scheme of the narration, the novel is also divided into seven days.

I also found the discussions about the Franciscans interesting. Having grown up in a village with a Franciscan monastery and also continued to know Franciscan monks all my life, it was new to me that they had been regarded as heretics at the beginning.

I would have loved to visit this abbey and explore the library as our protagonists do. But since I can't do this, I will have to reread the book again. Which I certainly will do one day.

If you are interested in the middle ages, or in books, or in murder mysteries, or in classics ... you should read it, as well.

From the back cover:

"Novel by Umberto Eco, published in Italian as Il nome della rosa in 1980. Although the work stands on its own as a murder mystery, it is more accurately seen as a questioning of 'truth' from theological, philosophical, scholarly, and historical perspectives. The story centers on William of Baskerville, a 50-year-old monk who is sent to investigate a death at a Benedictine monastery. During his search, several other monks are killed in a bizarre pattern that reflects the Book of Revelation. Highly rational, Baskerville meets his nemesis in Jorge of Burgos, a doctrinaire blind monk determined to destroy heresy at any cost."

And here is a wonderful part of the book that shows some of the explanations given by the philosophers:

"'An admirable fortress,' he said, 'whose proportions sum up the golden rule that governed the construction of the ark. Divided into three stories, because three is the number of the Trinity, three were the angels who visited Abraham, the days Jonah spent in the belly of the great fish, and the days Jesus and Lazarus passed in the sepulcher; three times Christ asked the Father to let the bitter chalice pass from him, and three times he hid himself to pray with the apostles. Three times Peter denied him, and three times Christ appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection. The theological virtues are three, and three are the holy languages, the parts of the soul, the classes of intellectual creatures, angels, men, and devils; there are three kinds of sound - vox, flatus, pulsus - and three epochs of human history, before, during, and after the law.'
'A wondrous harmony of mystical relations,' William agreed.
'But the square shape also,' the abbot continued, 'is rich in spiritual lessons. The cardinal points are four, and the seasons, the elements, and heat, cold, wet, and dry; birth, growth, maturity, and old age; the species of animals, celestial, terrestrial, aerial, and aquatic; the colors forming the rainbow; and the number of years required to make a leap year.'
'Oh, to be sure,' William said, 'and three plus four is seven, a superlatively mystical number, whereas three multiplied by four makes twelve, like the apostles, and twelve by twelve makes one hundred forty-four, which is the number of the elect.' And to this last display of mystical knowledge of the ideal world of numbers, the abbot had nothing further to add. Thus William could come to the point."

Saturday 16 May 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"By nature, a storyteller is a plagiarist. Everything one comes across - each incident, book, novel, life episode, story, person, news clip - is a coffee bean that will be crushed, ground up, mixed with a touch of cardamom, sometimes a tiny pinch of salt, boiled thrice with sugar, and served as a piping-hot tale." Rabih Alameddine

"A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway." Junot Díaz

"I have read Fahrenheit 451 enough times to know that libraries are one institution that should never be eliminated from a society.... Even when certain civil liberties are taken away, the liberty to read should never be tampered with." Marilyse Figueroa

"Books are uniquely portable magic." Stephen King

"They say you are what you read. Therefore, I am an archer, a debutante, a vampipre, a detective, a spy, an empath, a dragon, a sniper, a werewolf, a profiler, a pyromaner, a dancer ..... In other words, readers kind of rock." 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 14 May 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.

F is for ... Fantasy. 


Certainly one of the most successful fantasy story of all times.
Tolkien, J.R.R. "The Lord of the Rings"

All the books I read that belong only remotely to the "fantasy" category can be found here.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Yousafzai, Malala; Lamb, Christina "I am Malala"

Yousafzai, Malala; Lamb, Christina "I am Malala. The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" - 2013

Everybody talks about freedom all the time. Freedom of education, freedom of speech, freedom of religion. We all know about the Taliban and what they do to the people in the countries they occupy, especially the women.

And here is a young girl who has always spoken out for freedom, who has been fighting for education her whole life, disregarding any threats she received, disregarding anything that we in our Western world would notice right away if we had to live like that. We take so many things for granted. We send our children to school and don't even think about the fact that this right had to be fought for at some point.

This young girl went to school even though it was against the law in her country and got shot by some madmen, some extremists who believe that if you keep the people stupid you can rule over them a little longer. They are right, but you don't have to have an education to be smart, some people are not that stupid, even if you deny them the education. Malala is a great example for them. As a "reward" for her efforts, she was shot and could have died if it hadn't been for some determined doctors to save her life.

In this book, Malala describes her life before and after the shooting, her life and that of her sisters in Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai is a courageous and brave woman who will get far in this world. I know she will continue to fight for the right of all girls to get a decent education. I hope we can all support her in our own way.

I also loved that a non-fiction writer who I admire very much and who knows a lot about that part of the world helped Malala write down her story. I have read "The Sewing Circles of Herat" and "The Africa House" by Christina Lamb and thought they were both excellent.

From the back cover:

"I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. 

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.
It will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi  received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 "for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education."

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

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Authors I REALLY Want To Meet

"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.

May 12: Ten Authors I REALLY Want To Meet 

There is one author I would love to meet but I know that is no longer possible because she's been dead for two centuries. However, I just have to mention her. It's (of course) Jane Austen. I love her books, I love her writing, I love her characters, I love the locations, I love her country. Would be fantastic if I could talk to her. But there are so many authors that would be great to meet, as well, alive and still writing. So, here is my list (in alphabetical order because I really really couldn't put them in order of which one I'd love to meet most and which one least, they are all favourites):

Isabel Allende
Bill Bryson 
Charles Frazier
Amitav Ghosh  
David Guterson
Barbara Kingsolver 
Wally Lamb
Joyce Carol Oates 
Orhan Pamuk 
Carlos Ruiz Zafón 
Jane Smiley

Of course, I wouldn't mind many many more but at least I could keep it to ten this time. ;)

And then there is one whom I have met and he is the nicest guy ever: 
Jim Forest 

Monday 11 May 2015

Shteyngart, Gary "Absurdistan"

Shteyngart, Gary "Absurdistan" - 2006

Certainly a funny book. Quite weird actually. A novel about sex, drugs and rock'n roll but in today's times. However, in a country that still lives in the sixties, I suppose. Absurdistan, a fictional country near the Kaspian Sea. Misha, the son of a rich Russian who has earned his title of 1,237th rich man in Russia under obscure and certainly not very legal circumstances, never had to work and is now not just an orphan but also homeless. The US, where he lived before his father's death, doesn't want to let him in, he doesn't want to stay in Russia, so maybe Absurdistan is the solution.

If you don't mind swearwords, you might actually enjoy the novel. If you don't like them, this is not for you.

I am sure the author Gary Shteyngart, who has a lot in common with his protagonist, meant this book as a satire and I think he did a good job. Goal achieved.

From the back cover: "Open Absurdistan and meet outsize Misha Vainberg, son of the 1,238th-richest man in Russia, lover of large portions of food and drink, lover and inept performer of rap music, and lover of a South Bronx Latina whom he longs to rejoin in New York City, if only the American INS will grant him a visa. But it won't, because Misha's late Beloved Papa whacked an Oklahoma businessman of some prominence. Misha is paying the price of exile from his adopted American homeland. He's stuck in Russia, dreaming of his beloved Rouenna and the Oz of NYC.
Salvation may lie in the tiny, oil-rich nation of Absurdistan, where a crooked consular officer will sell Misha a Belgian passport. But after a civil war breaks out between two competing ethnic groups and a local warlord installs hapless Misha as Minister of Multicultural Affairs, our hero soon finds himself covered in oil, fighting for his life, falling in love, and trying to figure out if a normal life is still possible in the twenty-first century.
Populated by curvaceous brown-eyed beauties, circumcision-happy Hasidic Jews, a loyal manservant who never stops serving, and scheming oil execs from a certain American company whose name rhymes with Malliburton, Absurdistan is a strange, oddly true-to-life look at how we live now, from a writer who should know."

Friday 8 May 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination." Gabriel García Márquez 

"Reading is by far the most successful pursuit of happiness." John Grisham

"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." Anaïs Nin

"A good book is an event in my life." Stendhal

"A good book makes you want to live in the story. A great book gives you no choice." 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 7 May 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. 

E is for ... English Classics. 

My favourite. Jane Austen.

All books by Jane Austen I read and reviewed can be found here.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Setterfield, Diane "The Thirteenth Tale"

Setterfield, Diane "The Thirteenth Tale" - 2006

Margaret Lea is a non-fiction author who has written several biographies about dead personalities. Now she gets offered a job to write down the life of one of the most famous but also most secretive authors in England, Vida Winter. She has written twelve stories about her life, all of them more fictitious than any of her own stories which I probably wouldn't want to read. The titles look quite chick lit-ish but we don't have to read the stories in order to read "The Thirteenth Tale".

The author and her biographer find they have something in common, they are both twins and Margaret's mother has not coped well with the loss of the twin sister.

While Margaret listens to Vida's life story, she doesn't just get to know the twins Emmeline and Adeline and everyone else at Angelfield House, she discovers a lot about herself but also about the secret parts Vida doesn't tell. A big surprise waits at the end.

This is quite an interesting story, even though I wouldn't call it great literature. But nice to read.

As both of the protagonists love to read, especially classics, a lot of them are mentioned:
Ainsworth, William Harrison "The Spectre Bride"
Austen, Jane "Emma"
- "Sense & Sensibility"
Braddon, Mary Elizabeth "Lady Audley's Secret"
Brontë, Charlotte "Jane Eyre"
- "Shirley"
- "Villette"
Brontë, Emily "Wuthering Heights"
Collins, Wilkie "The Woman in White"
Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur "The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes"
Dickens, Charles "Hard Times"
Eliot, George "Middlemarch"
James, Henry "The Turn of the Screw"
Kingsley, Charles "The Water Babies"
Stevenson, Robert Louis "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide"
Trollope, Anthony "The Eustace Diamonds"
Walpole, Horace "The Castle of Otranto"

Even though I have not read all of them, I'd rather read the remainder than any of the books "written" by Vida Winter (according to the cover picture):
The Puppet Show
Rules of Affliction
The Birthday Girl
(13) Tales of Change and Desperation
Twice is Forever
Betwixt and Between
Out of the Arc

From the back cover:

"Reclusive author Vida Winter has created several 'biographies' for herself, each one different, but now she wants to tell the truth. When she asks Margaret Lea to write her biography Margaret is reluctant - not least because of the family secrets she herself is guarding so painfully.
Margaret's research takes her to Angelfield House and into Vida's enigmatic past - and what she uncovers sheds a troubling light on her own life."

While visiting Miss Winter in her bedroom, Margaret discovers a picture they talk about. It's called "Dickens' Dream" and was painted by Robert W. Buss.
There is some information on these pages:
Dickens Picture by Robert W. Buss
"Dickens Dream"
Robert Williams Buss 

Monday 4 May 2015

Follett, Ken "Winter of the World"

Follett, Ken "Winter of the World" - 2012

The second book of the trilogy about the 20th century, certainly one of the most dramatic centuries, ever, and definitely one that is still with us because it has only just ended.

After our five families have made it through what they thought would be the worst part of their lives, the "War to end all Wars", later called World War I, they now embark on an even darker time, World War II. A lot of our heroes from "Fall of Giants" have grown up, had children and/or died, so it's on to the next generation. They don't have it any easier than their ancestors, they have to fight against their friends, and sometimes even against their family.

Just like in the first book, the author gives a good insight into the lives of the people in the various countries, he introduces both the people who anticipate the war and the evil that will come as well as those who think their country can do nothing bad, that it is all for a greater good.

We see all the negative sides of any war but especially of this one that was so different from all wars ever fought before and hopefully from all of those following. I love that a lot of the characters are directly involved with some of the important events and people throughout this time because it makes us look at the incidents even more closely. We can read some very detailed accounts of battles and other war atrocities and since we got to "meet" the characters before, it makes it even more shocking.

We learn how the Nazis took over Germany and then tried to do this with the rest of the world, how everyone who opposed them was "quietened" in very different ways. We see how the Germans tried to fight them (or not) and how that ended. And if we didn't know it already, we now know for sure that they didn't kill just the Jews but anyone who didn't fit their view of a "decent" person. Whether someone was from a race they didn't know or opposed them, was handicapped or gay, nobody who fitted into their "norm" was safe from their persecution. I have heard a lot of stories from my parents who were still little children when Hitler was elected, but there are a lot of younger people who never had these time witnesses in their lived and there are even more people around the world who don't know about these details, either.

A book mentioned/read by one of the characters: "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque, a novel by a WWI veteran, it's been on my waiting list forever, so I probably should give it a go soon. *

A great quote given by one of the protagonists: "Why was it, Lloyd wondered, that the people who wanted to destroy everything good about their country were the quickest to wave the national flag?" I've been asking myself the same all my life and I guess you must have grown up in Germany (even post-war) to have a weird feeling every time you see people proudly waving their flags. There is always a strange aftertaste.

An excellent narrative of a time that still lingers with us even seventy years later. A fascinating story of one of the worst time in history. Well done, Mr. Follett.

From the back cover:

"Winter of the World picks up right where the first book left off, as its five interrelated families - American, German, Russian, English, Welsh - enter a time of enormous social, political, and economic turmoil, beginning with the rise of the Third Reich, through the Spanish Civil War and the great dramas of World War II, up to the explosions of the American and Soviet atomic bombs.

Carla von Ulrich, born of German and English parents, finds her life engulfed by the Nazi tide until she commits a deed of great courage and heartbreak. . . . American brothers Woody and Chuck Dewar, each with a secret, take separate paths to momentous events, one in Washington, the other in the bloody jungles of the Pacific. . . . English student Lloyd Williams discovers in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that he must fight Communism just as hard as Fascism. . . . Daisy Peshkov, a driven American social climber, cares only for popularity and the fast set, until the war transforms her life, not just once but twice, while her cousin Volodya carves out a position in Soviet intelligence that will affect not only this war - but the war to come.

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as their experiences illuminate the cataclysms that marked the century. From the drawing rooms of the rich to the blood and smoke of battle, their lives intertwine, propelling the reader into dramas of ever-increasing complexity."

Third book of the trilogy: "Edge of Eternity"

* I read it in the meantime, see here.

Friday 1 May 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"In a library we are surrounded by many hundreds of dear friends imprisoned by an enchanter in paper and leather boxes." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?" Mo had said..."As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells...and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower...both strange and familiar." Cornelia Funke

"Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself." George Bernard Shaw

"If you love to read, you can learn anything you really want to know." Zig Ziglar

"I will never cease to be amazed by books. Seriously. Just think about it: thousands of people read the same book but in each one’s mind the characters look different and the setting changes and we’re all reading the same thing but it’s so unique to each of us. That is insanely cool." 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.