Wednesday 30 September 2015

Wilde, Oscar "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Wilde, Oscar "The Picture of Dorian Gray" - 1890

I read this book many many years ago in German and always wanted to re-read it in the original. Now, I finally did it.

I love Oscar Wilde's plays, I read quite a few of them, even though I prefer watching plays. My favourite is probably "The Importance of Being Earnest" closely followed by "A Woman of No Importance".

Having also read quite a bit about his life, especially his biography "Constance" by Franny Moyle, I cannot help but think that there is a lot about Oscar Wilde in Dorian Gray.

The novel certainly raises a lot of questions and gives everyone a lot to think about. How shallow are we really? How vain? And what would we swap for eternal beauty?

The book is full of quotes that can be thrown into any conversation and whole discussions can start around them. One of my favourites:
"But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face."

I would certainly put this on a list of books everyone should read, a list of books I would take to a desert island, a list of books that will stay with me forever. If you haven't read it, you definitely should.

From the back cover: "When the exquisitely handsome Dorian Gray sees his portrait he dreams of remaining young forever while his painted image grows old and, in a sudden moment, he offers his soul in return for perpetual youth. While his beauty remains unblemished, the potrait begins to reflect the wildness and degredation of his soul as he surrenders to a worship of pleasure and infinite passion.
The Picture of Dorian Gray caused outrage when it was first published in 1890 and marked the onset of Oscar Wilde's own fatal reputation and eventual downfall. An evocative potrayal of London life and a powerful blast against the hypocrisies of Victorian polite society it has beconme one of Oscar Wilde's most celebrated works, full of the flamboyant wit for which he is justly renowned."

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Lawson, Mary "Road Ends"

Lawson, Mary "Road Ends" - 2013

After reading "Crow Lake" and "The Other Side of the Bridge", I was really looking forward to another Mary Lawson book. I like the author for her realistic description of the characters and their actions. Even though her former books were situated in Canada only (where I've never been), I could always connect to them. Now, this one takes place partly in London, England, as well, a place I do know quite well. So, it made it even more exciting to compare.

What an interesting story, not just about young Megan who leaves Canada for England but also and especially about the family she leaves behind, her father, brother, but mostly her mother. A story about mental illness in a time where that was such a taboo, people wouldn't acknowledge it anywhere.

I always love novels narrated by several different characters and this is just one like this. And I also love Mary Lawson's style. Can't wait for her next one again.

And, of course, what I do like about the book, as well, there are a few readers in the novel, they mention the following books:
Alcott, Louisa May "Little Women"
Hardy, Thomas "Jude the Obscure"
Melville, Herman "Moby Dick"
Mitchell, Margaret "Gone with the Wind"
Salinger, J.D. "The Catcher in the Rye"
Service, Robert "The Cremation of Sam McGee"
Steinbeck, John "The Grapes of Wrath"

From the back cover:

"Twenty-one-year-old Megan Cartwright has never been outside the small town she was born in but one winter’s day in 1966 she leaves everything behind and sets out for London. Ahead of her is a glittering new life, just waiting for her to claim it. But left behind, her family begins to unravel. Disturbing letters from home begin to arrive and torn between her independence and family ties, Megan must make an impossible choice."

Thursday 24 September 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.

Y is for ... Yearbook

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Titchmarsh, Alan "Trowel and Error"

Titchmarsh, Alan "Trowel and Error" - 2002

Alan Titchmarsh, to know him is to love him. He brought gardening to a world that had almost forgotten about it. I am not a big gardener myself, alright, I am not a gardener at all, but my father was a very enthusiastic one and I see a lot of him in Alan Titchmarsh - or is it the other way around?

Anyway, the presenter of "Ground Force" and "Gardener's World" writes about his life. He writes the way he talks, he is the same nice guy from next door as he is in his programmes. And listening to his story, you understand why that is the case. He had a normal upbringing, nothing posh, nothing special. He found his love of flowers and made it his job. No, his destiny. He is very smart, so he doesn't just stay in the garden, he goes out and teaches the world. And not just about gardening. I also love it when he presents classical music or other important British events.

He is an example to us all, he does what he loves and brings it to perfection.

Well done, Mr. Titchmarsh. Stay the way you are and delight us more with your many different talents.

From the back cover: "With the engaging charm, warm humour and down-to-earth style that has made him Britain's favourite television gardener and a popular TV presenter, Alan Titchmarsh has now written 'a touch of the memoirs'.
Brilliantly evoking the 1950s of his Yorkshire childhood, this is a story of a wide-eyed childhood, of early and embarrassing encounters with girls, of unhappy school days and the eventual discovery of a talent and love for making things grow.
With warnings that he would never amount to much, he left school at fifteen to become a gardener, and worked his way up to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Having picked up his spade at a n early age, he went on to pick up his pen, editing the books of his hero Percy Thrower, and finally getting a chance to put his own wards in print, and present his own gardening programmes.
Few gardeners can boast of meeting Nelson Mandela and Bette Davis, Julia Roberts and the Queen. Fewer still can claim to be best-selling novelists. But whether he is writing about a visit to the Palace, or giving 'Pretty Woman' a gardening book, Alan Titchmarsh recounts his tales of 'a life on earth' with wry amusement and gentle self-deprecation.
While others kiss and tell, Alan Titchmarsh smiles and passes by, taking notes along the way, and wondering why the heck it happened to him."

Tuesday 22 September 2015

20 Classic And Important Books That Will Make You Feel Well-Read, Even If They're The Only Ones You Read

"Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace
"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood
"A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers
"Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"The Complete Novels of Jane Austen"
"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville
"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini
"The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck
"One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez
"1984" by George Orwell
"Frankenstein" by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
"Beloved" by Toni Morrison
"The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan
"If on a Winter's Night a Traveler" by Italo Calvino
"Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut
"White Teeth" by Zadie Smith
"A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens
"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Complete Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi
"The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka

An interesting article (read it here). The author claims that these are the most talked-about books at the moment. I don't know whether that's the truth.

Whether you just want to look well-read or actually want to be well-read, I think the list is not bad. I have read 17 books from this list with a few more on my wishlist and think it is a good list to start broadening your reading experience. Give it a go. Try one of them. You can read my links to see which one might be the best one for you to start. Or you can tell me your favourite reading and I'll recommend one of them to you.

Happy Reading

Monday 21 September 2015

McCarthy, Pete "The Road to McCarthy"

McCarthy, Pete "The Road to McCarthy: Around the World in Search of Ireland" - 2002

After reading "McCarthy's Bar" a couple of years ago, I was extremely sad to learn that the author had passed away in 2004. I read that that was his only book he had every written. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found this book in a second hand bookshop because it gave me another tale of Pete McCarthy's travels.

This time, he travels from Ireland to Morocco, New York, the Caribbeans, Tasmania, all sorts of destinations that somehow have to do with the name McCarthy, places you wouldn't even imagine having a link to Ireland at all. But Pete McCarthy found it.

Another hilarious book by a funny writer who left us all too early.

From the back cover: "From the bestselling author of McCarthy's Bar, this is a hilarious and thought-provoking journey into his Irish heritage around the world. As a veteran traveller, Pete McCarthy has long been intrigued that the emigrant Irish can be found in all corners of the globe. Determined to pin down mythical tales of his own clan history, Pete is thrust into a world-wide adventure that reveals an unsettled and poignant history, while unearthing a good pint in the most unexpected locations. From the Holy Ground of Cork harbour he travels to Gibraltar and Morocco, then onwards to New York, Tasmania, Montana, and the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat before finally reaching the remote Alaskan township of McCarthy and its population of just 14 people, but a lot more bears."

Thursday 17 September 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.

X is for ... X-rated (censored) or banned books.

Wolfgang Borchert, Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich Heine, Ernest Hemingway, Erich Kästner, Franz Kafka, Heinrich Mann, Klaus Mann, Thomas Mann, Joachim Ringelnatz, Kurt Tucholsky, Carl Zuckmayer, Stefan Zweig

On this Tuesday (An diesem Dienstag), The Bread (Das Brot), The Man Outside (Draußen vor der Tür).

Levithan, David "Every Day"

Levithan, David "Every Day" - 2012

An interesting book. Not especially my genre. I wouldn't even call it fantasy because to me that's trolls and dwarfs and giants and all those characters that are like humans only a little different and that don't really exist. I wouldn't call it science fiction, either, because that means to me future technology and aliens. Maybe it's dystopian but it's not a different world, at least not for most of the characters.

This is about someone who we know can't exist, either, but the idea is just too captivating not to follow it. What if there were "beings" without a body who would go from one person to the next and live their life for one day? One such "being" is A who has lived 5994 days at the beginning of the book and 6034 at the end. Which means we accompany him/her on forty days of a very complicated life. As a boy he falls in love with this girl Rhiannon and tries to see her again. This changes quite some lives, the lives of the teenagers he or she is inhabiting on those days. We meet a lot of different people together with A and see how he gets to understand them, how  he can live in them for only a short time but really jump in as if he'd been there all the time.

As I said, interesting concept, well written, certainly deserves to be a best-seller, especially for the "young adults" it has been written for because it pauses so many questions that ever teenager goes through. Who am I? Who am I really? How come I am not somebody else? What if I were a boy or a girl? What if I were adopted? What if I could live in someone else's body for one day?

This book was recommended to me by someone who is a lot younger than me. She claimed it was her favourite book ever. I would not go that far but, let me say, I understand her.

From the back cover:

"I wake up.

Immediately, I have to figure out who I am. It's not just the body - opening my eyes and discovering whether the skin on my arm is light or dark, whether my hair is long or short, whether I'm fat or thin, boy or girl, scarred or smooth. The body is the easiest thing to adjust to, if you're used to waking up in a new one each morning. It's the life, the context of the body, that can be hard to grasp.

Every day I am someone else. I am myself - I know I am myself - but I am also someone else.
It has always been like this.

Apparently, there is a "sequel" to this both "Another Day" which could also be called "The Story of Rhiannon" and a "prequel" called "Six Earlier Days" which talks about, well, six earlier days of the protagonist A.

Monday 14 September 2015

Hislop, Victoria "The Sunrise"

Hislop, Victoria "The Sunrise" - 2014

A gripping story. A story about the common people, rich or poor, winner or loser, the ordinary people who always suffer most in a war. A story that goes deep and shows how stupid any war is, anything that some people who think they are more important than others want to change with weapons and destruction. What do we gain of it? Nothing. Ask anyone who lived in a country during wartime.

Famagusta, a town in Eastern Cyprus, is not different. People live their ordinary lives. They go to work, they go home. They love their families, they love their lives. Then the invasion. First just a big hotel somewhere, well, they will stop, this will be it. Nope, they carry on. Some people leave. Others stay, thinking/hoping it won't be that bad. It gets worse, some more leave. Until it is too late for some to leave. Must be terrible knowing you are trapped somewhere and could have left if you would have just not clung to your possessions too much. Or thinking you can evade a destiny if only you close your eyes and your ears.

The worst part of the story, the war in Cyprus took place in 1974, more than forty years ago. The city of Famagusta still has parts that cannot be visited by anybody, even people who used to live there. That is what war does. It doesn't just kill people, it destroys everything, first and foremost humanity.

Another brilliant book by Victoria Hislop whom I've come to love after reading her other books:
"The Island" - 2005
"The Return" - 2008
"The Thread" - 2011
"The Last Dance and Other Stories" - 2012

From the back cover:
"In the golden city of Famagusta, Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike enjoy a life of good fortune.
Invasion comes without warning, bringing chaos and terror.
As forty thousand people flee their homes in panic, Famagusta becomes a ghost town. But not everyone will find it so easy to leave."

Find the other Victoria Hislop books I read here.

Thursday 10 September 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.

W is for ... War books 

All the books I read about any kind of wars can be found here:
Civil Wars 
Cold War 
Vietnam War 
World War I 
World War II 

Fowler, Karen Joy "The Jane Austen Book Club"

Fowler, Karen Joy "The Jane Austen Book Club" - 2004

I'm reading this with an ad hoc online book club a friend started to read this and Jane Austen's books. Since I just reread all of them, I am refering you to the link here for my reviews of them.

I'm afraid this book does not give Jane Austen any credit. The book club is like many of the clubs my friends have told me about - and I once briefly was a member of one, too, but left it rather quickly since I would love to talk about the books we read, not gossip about everything but books. The sticker on the cover "Richard & Judy's Book Club" should have rung huge bells. I will let that be a warning to me.

Do they ever talk about the books? Has Karen Joy Fowler even read any of them? If she did, she doesn't know how to talk about a book because I am under the impression she hasn't even opened any of these fabulous novels. Why else would she construct a story around Jane Austen without even getting into her writings?

A disappointing read. I only finished it so we can talk about it in our little group.

From the back cover: "In California's Sacramento Valley, six people meet once a month to discuss Jane Austen's novels. They are ordinary people, neither happy nor unhappy, but all wounded in different ways, all mixed up about their lives and their relationships. Over the six months they meet marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and, under the guiding eye of Jane Austen, some of them even fall in love . . ."

There were, however, some other books mentioned in the book, apart from all the Jane Austen novels:
Henlein, Robert A. "Stranger in a Strange Land"
Junger, Sebastian "The Perfect Storm"
LeGuin, Urusla K. "The Left Hand of Darkness"
LeGuin, Ursula K "The Lathe of Heaven"
LeGuin, Urusla K. "Searoad"
Radcliffe, Ann "The Mysteries of Udolpho"
Rand, Ayn "The Fountainhead"
Tolkien, J.R.R. "The Lord of the Rings"

Thursday 3 September 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.

V is for ... Vocabulary books 

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Scott, Mary "Yours to oblige"

Scott, Mary "Yours to oblige" - 1954

Mary Scott managed to write many charming little stories that tell the tale of a hard but humorous and loving life in New Zealand in the 1950s. Like this one of Justin, a lawyer's son who has just finished his studies and whose girlfriend asks him to give up his cosy life for three months and work hard in a little village where it's difficult to find workers because of the tough life they have to lead.

It wouldn't be a Mary Scott novel if Justin didn't manage to find a job and find a lot of friends in the middle of nowhere. We meet many new characters, most of them lovely and delightful.

This novel is just as nice to read as all of her others books. Find a list of all her books here.

From the back cover:

"Engagement - postponed on probation

There are difficulties between Justin and Elaine, a young, almost engaged couple. Because Elaine wants to know whether Justin can live without his father's money, whether he is able to stand on his own feet. They want to separate for three months, as a test.

Justin hitchhikes into the country where only the real guy counts, someone who can work hard. In Totara, a pioneer settlement on the New Zealand coast, he passes his practical test: In a bushfire, he shows willingness and courage, and now he is recognized by the villagers as one of them, as a real guy.

When Justin gets to know the young farmer's daughter Sally, he believes he has found the woman of his life. But first there is still his old friend Elaine, and secondly, everything turns out quite differently."

Unfortunately, Mary Scott's 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, like this one here.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Happy September!

September is my favourite month, summer ends and with it the hot and humid days. It is one of the best months for my migraine. And the days get shorter so there is more time to read.

So, I am happy that there is such a happy picture on my calendar this month: Watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch "Small Happiness".