Monday 31 August 2015

Shakespeare, William "Hamlet"

Shakespeare, William "Hamlet" - 1599-1602

I am not a big fan of reading plays. I think they should be watched, not read. Preferably in a theatre. However, since we don't have a good one nearby, and certainly not one that plays classics in English, I am determined to read some of the classics that I really would like to know.

"Hamlet" is one of them. You always hear about the Danish Prince, the Skull, "To be or not to be", Elsinore, Ophelia, Rosenkrantz & Guildenstern etc. etc. But you never know the whole story until you have seen the play or read the story.

Well, I made it. A fascinating story. Quite complex. I am sure I will have to read it again to fully comprehend it. And again. And hopefully I will be able to watch it one day.

From the back cover: "There is arguably no work of fiction quoted as often as William Shakespeare's Hamlet. This haunting tragedy has touched audiences for centuries.
Hamlet is the story of the Prince of Denmark who learns of the death of his father at the hands of his uncle, Claudius. Claudius murders Hamlet's father, his own brother, to take the throne of Denmark and to marry Hamlet's widowed mother. Hamlet is sunk into a state of great despair as a result of discovering the murder of his father and the infidelity of his mother. Hamlet is torn between his great sadness and his desire for the revenge of his father's murder."

Thursday 27 August 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.

U is for ... U is for ... Utopian (and dystopian) literature

All the utopian/distopian books I read can be found here.

Monday 24 August 2015

Orsenna, Erik "Grammar Is a Sweet, Gentle Song"

Orsenna, Erik "Grammar Is a Sweet, Gentle Song" (French: La grammaire est une chanson douce) - 2001

An interesting book. A different book. A grammar book. A story.

An interesting story that explains grammar not only to children but also to learners of the French language. I have no idea how the translation compares because grammar is not the same in every language and especially English misses many of the different kind of tenses the French have, for example.

Still, a beautifully written story about two kids who relearn their own language. Lots of plays with words, lots of background information. I liked this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in languages. A very creative story, written with a lot of imagination. It also has some lovely illustrations.

I read this book in the original French.

From the back cover:

"At the heart of its message is an impassioned plea for the magic and power of words. Jeanne, the tough-minded ten-year-old narrator, and Thomas, fourteen, are traveling to America on an ocean liner to visit their mother when a violent storm sinks their ship and tosses them up on an island. They are unhurt, but the shock of the experience leaves them without the ability to speak. Taken into the care of Monsieur Henri, an elderly islander, Jeanne and Thomas discover that the island is unlike any place they've ever been. There is the Word Market, where Monsieur Henri visits the Poets' and Song-Writers' Corner to see if they have any rhymes for sweet and mom. At town hall, pairs of words are married by the mayor. And Jeanne sneaks off to the Vocabulary of Love Shop, where a woman whose husband has left her wants to buy "a word that will make him understand how hurt I am, a mighty word that will make him ashamed." A celebration of language in all its forms, Grammar Is a Sweet, Gentle Song will delight confirmed word-lovers and inspire the uninitiated with the pleasures of the spoken and written word."

Friday 21 August 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"No matter what his rank or position may be, the lover of books is the richest and the happiest of the children of men." J.A. Langford

"'Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are' is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread." François Mauriac

"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves." Will Rogers

"How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book." Henry David Thoreau, Walden

"Books have a way of making you homesick for a place you've never been to." 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.

T is for ... Travel.

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

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Bryson, Bill "Notes from a Small Island"

Bryson, Bill "Notes from a Small Island" - 1995

In preparation of Bill Bryson's next book "The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island", I just had to reread his first book about my beloved island, Great Britain. It had been far too long that I had picked it up.

I should remember this and will give you this peace of advice: Always pick up a travel book by Bill Bryson when gloomy. It is the best remedy against depression, even if he describes a place I miss so much that it might have started the depression. He is better than any psychologist. Will go and get more of his travel books because I realized that I haven't read all of them, yet.

I have talked about this book before here.

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2023.

From the back cover: 
"After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson - bestselling author of The Mother Tongue and Made in America - decided to return to the United States. ('I had recently read,' Bryson writes, 'that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another,so it was clear that my people needed me.') But before departing, he set out on a grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.

Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie's Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile."

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

Monday 17 August 2015

Ghosh, Amitav "Flood of Fire"

Ghosh, Amitav "Flood of Fire" (Ibis Trilogy #3) - 2015

After reading "Sea of Poppies" two years ago, I was happy that the second book "River of Smoke" had already been published and I could just carry on reading. Then I was so disappointed to find that the third book had not even been written, yet.

Well, it was worth the wait. I probably should have reread the first two first and then carried on with the last one but I just couldn't wait. Characters, scenes, events did come back but I would have liked a little more reintroduction in some cases. I was also happy to see what happened to some of the characters from "Sea of Poppies" that were hardly or not at all mentioned in "River of Smoke" so that it all came back together again. I was not happy to learn that the author abandoned the thought of carrying on further with the story as he had intended after the second book. What a shame. I do hope he will write more, though, because I do love his style which I already admired in "The Glass Palace".

Just  a fantastic read. Mesmerizing, captivating. So much more history of a part of the world I don't know much about. I don't think we went into much detail in our lessons about the opium war because I certainly didn't remember that but I know a lot about it today.

If you are really interested in the history of this part of the world or if you just would like to read a good adventure story or like a captivating tale about a lot of people, this trilogy is for you. Enjoy.

From the back cover: "It is 1839 and tension has been rapidly mounting between China and British India following the crackdown on opium smuggling by Beijing. With no resolution in sight, the colonial government declares war.

One of the vessels requisitioned for the attack, the Hind, travels eastwards from Bengal to China, sailing into the midst of the First Opium War. The turbulent voyage brings together a diverse group of travellers, each with their own agenda to pursue. Among them is Kesri Singh, a sepoy in the East India Company who leads a company of Indian sepoys; Zachary Reid, an impoverished young sailor searching for his lost love, and Shireen Modi, a determined widow en route to China to reclaim her opium-trader husband's wealth and reputation. Flood of Fire follows a varied cast of characters from India to China, through the outbreak of the First Opium War and China's devastating defeat, to Britain's seizure of Hong Kong."

This is also a book about books. Quite a few are mentioned, either because the characters are reading them or because they quote from them.

Defoe, Daniel "Robinson Crusoe"
Goldsmith, Oliver "The Vicar of Wakefield"
Haywood, Eliza "Love in Excess"
Richardson, Samuel "Pamela"
Sterne, Laurence "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman"
Voltaire "Zadig"

You can find my reviews of other Amitav Ghosh novels here.

Saturday 15 August 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"Not reading a beautiful book again because you've already read it, that is, as if you were not visiting a dear friend again because you know him already." Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

"The great objection to new books is that they prevent our reading old ones." Joseph Joubert

"He fed his spirit with the bread of books." Edwin Markham

"The smallest bookstore still contains more ideas of worth than have been presented in the entire history of television." Andrew Ross

"Books, not which afford us a cowering enjoyment, but in which each thought is of unusual daring; such as an idle man cannot read, and a timid one would not be entertained by, which even make us dangerous to existing institution - such call I good books." Henry David Thoreau

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 13 August 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.

S is for ... Science 

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

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Zweig, Stefanie "Nowhere in Africa"

Zweig, Stefanie "Nowhere in Africa" (German: Nirgendwo in Afrika) - 1995

I reread "Nowhere in Africa" by Stephanie Zweig with an online book group, created by a friend for some of her friends on Facebook. Everybody suggested a book and then would "lead" through the discussion with some questions.

If you have not read the book before, I refer you to my review here.

If you have read it, you might want to go through my questions and maybe add a thought or two to it. Here they are:

1.    What do you think of Jettel, the mother? Do you think there were many people in Germany who didn't see what was coming?

2.    What about Regina? How do you think she will be feeling when she is being transplanted to Germany after the war?

3.    Walter, the father, is mostly described as a caring father who just wants to bring his family through the war. In retrospect, this was the right decision. What do you think he would have thought if the war hadn't been like it was, if he'd transplanted his family for nothing?

4.    Did you know that "Nowhere in Africa" is almost a memoir of the author Stefanie Zweig, that all this happened to her family, that she does have a younger brother called Max who was born in Africa, for example? If you did, how did that make you feel during the read. If not, do you think differently about the novel now?

5.    Do you have the feeling that growing up in Africa has influenced the author's style? Did you feel her storytelling had a specific flow?

6.    What do you think about the other characters, mainly Walter Süßkind and Lilly and Oskar Hahn but, even more important, Owuor? How do you think Walter and Owuor influence each other and change the other's life?

7.    This book was made into a film and received the prize at the 75th Academy Awards in 2003 for Best Foreign Language Film. If you saw the film, how do you think it compared to the book? What would you have done differently if you'd been the director?

8.    I like to learn something with every book I read. Whether you belong to those readers or not, what did you learn from the book?

9.    Any other subjects I haven't touched that you would like to discuss?

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Authors I've Read The Most Books From

"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.

August 11: Top Ten Authors I've Read The Most Books From

Now, this should be one of the easiest ever. We all remember what kind of books we read and by whom, right? Anyway, will give it a try. 

1. Mary Scott - my favourite author from my youth and she has written a lot of them. I have read
2. Bryson, Bill - 12 books on my list but I know I will read more.
3. Buck, Pearl S. - I reviewed nine of her books here but I know I have read more.
4. Oates, Joyce Carol - Nine so far but since I love her writing, I am surely going to read more.
5. Pamuk, Orhan - Another author with nine books. More on my wishlist.
6. Ruiz Zafón, Carlos - Seven, only seven. Señor Ruiz Zafón, you'll have to write more books! 
7. Austen, Jane - only six books because she only has written six. I have read almost everything else by her that was published.
8. Trollope, Anthony - another author with six books that I read but luckily he has written more. 

Now I will have to add a "five book" category: 

Monday 10 August 2015

Multatuli "Max Havelaar"

Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker) "Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company" (Dutch: Max Havelaar of de koffiveilingen der Nederlandsche Handelmaatschappy) - 1859

Eduard Douwes Dekker aka Multatuli should probably be called the Dutch Charles Dickens. At least, he's from the same era and is just as popular in the Netherlands as Dickens is in the United Kingdom.
His book seemed to have opened the eyes of many Dutch people at the time as to what colonialism really meant. "Max Havelaar" is also called "the book that killed colonialism" and was chosen as the most important book in Dutch literature in 2002.

There are other lists around in the meantime where it is still number three, following "The Discovery of Heaven" by Harry Mulisch and "The House of the Mosque" by Kader Abdolah, two very influential and important works I highly recommend.

The book is translated (not just) into English but I read it in the original Dutch. In any case, I think it still has a message for us today, it is as important now as it was then. It's subtitle "Or the Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company," does not really say a lot more about the book than just the plain title because it is a lot more about the life in Indonesia both for the local people as well as the colonialists back then than about the trading itself. It is a work about the oppression of Europeans over other nations, you can compare it to what we have done in Africa or even to slavery. The natives had no rights whatsoever and only worked to keep their own lives so they could create more money for their "masters". All sounds very familiar.

The author got his contemporaries thinking about what colonialism really meant. And he still has a voice today. Well done. Definitely a book worth picking up.

From the back cover:

"When Max Havelaar was first published in Holland in 1860, it ignited a major political and social brouhaha. The novel, written by a former official of the Dutch East Indian Civil Service under the pen name Multatuli, exposed the massive corruption and cruelty rife in the Dutch colony of Java. Max Havelaar is an undeniably autobiographical novel; like his hero, Multatuli--the pseudonym for Eduard Douwes Dekker--was an Assistant Resident of Lebak in Java; like Havelaar in the novel, he resigned his position when his accusations of corruption and abuse were disregarded by higher authorities, resulting in years of poverty for both author and fictional hero. Max Havelaar is told from several different perspectives; the reader first meets an Amsterdam coffee dealer named Droogstoppel, a man so obsessed with coffee that his every thought and action is governed by it. Droogstoppel has come by a manuscript from an old schoolmate who, down on his luck, has asked him to get it published. The schoolmate is Havelaar, and the manuscript relates his experiences as an idealistic and generous young civil servant who tries to protect the poor and bring justice to the powerless.

The central part of the novel details conditions in Java, particularly Havelaar's efforts to correct injustices in the face of a corrupt government system. That his efforts will prove futile soon becomes apparent, and there is something almost Greek in the inevitability of Havelaar's declining fortunes. Despite its tragic themes, Max Havelaar is savagely funny, particularly the chapters narrated by Droogstoppel, a character unmatched for his veniality, narrow-mindedness, or singular lack of understanding or imagination. Though Multatuli's masterpiece is nearly 150 years old, it wears its age well, and Roy Edwards's excellent translation offers English-speaking readers a wonderful opportunity to experience one of the Netherlands's great literary classics."

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.

R is for ... Religion

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

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Schoemperlen, Diane "Our Lady of the Lost and Found"

Schoemperlen, Diane "Our Lady of the Lost and Found" - 2001

This was one of the books a friend left behind when she moved and said she thought I might like it. I don't think I would have picked it myself because it seemed to me like chick lit crossed with a religious theme. Breakfast with Mother Mary. Or something like that.

And it reads a little like that. I still couldn't say this was one of my favourite books but it had something. The information about the Virgin Mary, for example, the author puts together a list of Marian apparitions and other stories around her. That I found quite interesting.

From the back cover: "On a Monday morning in April, a middle-aged writer finds a woman standing in front of the fig tree in her living room. The woman is wearing a navy blue trench coat and white Nikes, and is carrying a small black suitcase. She is the Virgin Mary and, she explains, after 2,000 years of petition, adoration and travel, she is in need of some R&R.
In Our Lady of the Lost and Found, Diane Schoemperlen has created a profound and original novel that captures the hearts and imagination of readers. Now available with a P.S. section featuring insightful background material, this captivating story is an exploration of our capacity for faith and of the miracles of daily life."

Two books are mentioned in the book, books the author supposedly reads before and during Mary's visit:
Allende, Isabel "The House of the Spirits"
Grunwald, Lisa "The Theory of Everything"

And there was  an interesting passage I would like to quote: "For those with a bookish bent, reading is a reflexive response to everything. This is how we deal with the world and anything new that comes our way. We have always known that there is a book for every occasion and every obsession. When in doubt, we are always looking things up."
I couldn't agree more!

Monday 3 August 2015

Doerr, Anthony "All the Light We Cannot See"

Doerr, Anthony "All the Light We Cannot See" - 2014

The last couple of years, I have read the latest Pulitzer Prize winner and have usually been very happy with them. So, I had to read this one, as well. And it has not disappointed me.

Anthony Doerr managed to write a different kind of war story, a story about the little people, on either side of the war, those that had not much to say about what was happening to them and who paid the highest price. He tells the story of a German orphan boy and a blind French girl who both suffer from what happened, who were probably not even in school when the election in Germany decided about their fate and who had to pay the highest price.

The story is fascinating, the writing is careful yet beautiful, the characters are described in a loving way. This is one of the books that you would like to read as slow as possible because you hope it will never end. Because, even though you hope for a good ending, you fear for a bad one.

I wish there would be more books written like this because it might teach the people of today what it might have been like to live in Germany during that time, that not all Germans were Nazis and that even those who were often had no choice.

A brilliant book that I would recommend to anyone.

Anthony Doerr received the Pulitzer Prize for "All the Light We Cannot See" in 2016.

From the back cover:

"The epic new novel, set during WW2, from Sunday Times Short Story Prize-winner Anthony Doerr.
Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee with a dangerous secret.

Werner Pfennig is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine that claimed his father’s life, until he discovers a knack for engineering. His talent wins him a place at a brutal military academy, but his way out of obscurity is built on suffering.

At the same time, far away in a walled city by the sea, an old man discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. But all around him, impending danger closes in. And yet, it will not allow him to remain shut in forever

Doerr’s combination of soaring imagination and meticulous observation is electric. As Europe is engulfed by war and lives collide unpredictably, ‘
All The Light We Cannot See’ is a captivating and devastating elegy for innocence and of how, against all odds, people try to be good to one another."

There were also a few books mentioned/read in the book.
Darwin, Charles "The Voyage of the 'Beagle'"
Hertz, Heinrich "The Principles of Mechanics"
Verne, Jules "Around the World in Eighty Days"
Verne, Jules "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea"

Saturday 1 August 2015

Happy August!

Another month, another beautiful picture from Frank and Hanna Koebsch's calendar. I am happy to be able to share it with you just like last month. I hope you enjoy them just as much as I do and I will post more of them in the future.

You can check their blog here.