Monday 29 February 2016

Schami, Rafik "A Hand Full of Stars"

Schami, Rafik "A Hand Full of Stars" (German: Eine Hand voller Sterne) - 1987

Rafik Schami is a Syrian author who has lived in Germany for almost 35 years. He writes in German but has never forgotten his native country and his stories are mainly about that. In this book he tells the story of the son of a baker, well, the young boy tells the story himself, about his problems of growing up but also about the political problems in his country and how he gets involved.

I think Rafik Schami has written part of his own life, he himself is the son of a baker and started writing at a very early age. The fact that the protagonist tells his own story, leads even more to this assumption.

In any case, this is a wonderful story about growing up as well as about the situation in Syria. If you read this, you will notice that the situation has only grown worse in the 25 years since its publication, and I think it would help a lot of people rethinking their opinion about the refugees that come to our countries because they have nowhere else to go anymore. We can learn of the situation in a country where democracy is a foreign word, where people can just get picked up by the police for no reason at all or for something that we all take for granted.

Great read.

I have read two of Rafik Schami's books, so far, but will add more, that I am sure of:
"The Calligrapher’s Secret" (Das Geheimnis des Kalligraphen) - 2008
"Eine deutsche Leidenschaft names Nudelsalat: und andere seltsame Geschichten" [A German passion called noodle salad: and other strange stories]. This one is only available in German, he talks about all the little things that only a foreigner would notice in a host country. I loved these stories just as much as those about Syria.

From the back cover:

"Amid the turmoil of modern Damascus, one teenage boy finds his political voice in a message of rebellion that echoes throughout Syria and as far away as Western Europe. Inspired by his dearest friend, old Uncle Salim, he begins a journal to record his thoughts and impressions of family, friends, life at school, and his growing feelings for his girlfriend, Nadia. Soon the hidden diary becomes more than just a way to remember his daily adventures; on its pages he explores his frustration with the government injustices he witnesses. His courage and ingenuity finally find an outlet when he and his friends begin a subversive underground newspaper. Warmed by a fine sense of humor, this novel is at once a moving love story and a passionate testimony to the difficult and committed actions being taken by young people around the world."

Friday 26 February 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"To feel most beautifully alive means to be reading something beautiful, ready always to apprehend in the flow of language the sudden flash of poetry." Gaston Bachelard

"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books." Jorge Luis Borges

"I know every book of mine by its smell, and I have but to put my nose between the pages to be reminded of all sorts of things." George Robert Gissing

"It is pleasanter to eat one’s own peas out of one’s own garden, than to buy them by the peck at Covent Garden; and a book reads the better, which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots and dog’s-ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins, or over a pipe...." Charles Lamb, letter to S.T. Coleridge, 11 October 1802

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them." Mark Twain, attributed

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Scott, Mary "The Long Honeymoon"

Scott, Mary "The Long Honeymoon" - 1963

Another book from the favourite author of my teenage days. These simple stories about a life on the other side of the world in a time before I was born still fascinate me.

In this case, there is Lee who marries the farmer Andrew and they hope to have a quiet life on their farm. However. Many of their friends take them up on their invitation to visit them and the life is not as quiet as they had thought it would be.

As always, Mary Scott puts a lot of humour into her stories, there are the usual neighbours, both nice and, uhm, not so nice, the former student friends who start a Shakespearean theatre group in the middle of nowhere, the helpful Maoris without whom the community couldn't survived. Like all her other stories, a nice and pleasant read.

From the back cover: (translated) "Honeymoon with obstacles
Living on a farm, riding over large paddocks, swimming in the beach surf - that has always been the wish of city girl Lee Connor. When she marries the young farmer Andrew Marsden, her dreams become reality. Full of expectation, the young couple moves into the old house, which belongs to the farm shortly after the wedding.
Lee and Andrew hadn't been stingy with invitations on their wedding to visit them on the farm, and this carelessness takes its revenge soon. After a few days, the first guests appear: the snobby Lawrence with his counterpart Grant, Miss Connor from Ireland, Lee's only aunt; even Andrews capricious cousin Sally arrives full of curiosity.
Lee is doing everything possible to ensure a pleasant stay for the farm guests. But the hopes for a nice honeymoon for Lee and Andrew dwindle from day to day."

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.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Kristof, Nicholas; WuDunn, Sheryl "A Path Appears"

Kristof, Nicholas; WuDunn, Sheryl "A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity" - 2014

I read "Half the Sky. How to Change the World" by the same authors and couldn't wait for this book to appear. So, I bought the first copy I could get my hands on. Usually, I don't mind whether I get the US American or the British edition but in this case I wish I would have checked whether the British one would have been different. Or would have at least given some more European links.

Don't misunderstand me, this is a fabulous book, so many great causes that the couple draws our attention to and what we can do to help those unfortunate people either on the other side of the globe or even next door who only need a little money to change their life for the better. Unfortunately, most of the addresses given in the book are for Americans who give US Dollars.

But that is the only complaint I have. After all, it is a US American book, probably written mainly with US American readers in mind.

The authors have done some great research, as I had already experienced in their former book. What it comes down to, in a nutshell, if you want to donate money, find a cause that you consider is worthy and make sure you give it so that this money really makes a difference to someone. The authors make us understand that even a small donation can make a big change. Or if we don't have money that there are still things we can do, volunteer or write, for example.

So, even though the last part of the book is not very helpful for me, I still have learned a lot. How I can find an organization that I want to support, what I can do in order to help where I think help is needed most. They also underlined that any help is helpful, no matter how small.  So, research for the right charity, just as if you want to buy a new gadget, check what the charities do and whether you like what they are doing, don't just throw money at something and think you have done a good deal, if you know where your money goes to, it is so much better. And don't just look at how much money they spend on advertising, check how much money is raised and goes to the cause in the end.

An informative and inspirational book. Well done, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2024.

From the back cover:

"With scrupulous research and on-the-ground reporting, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn explore how altruism affects us, what are the markers for success, and how to avoid the pitfalls. In their recounting of astonishing stories from the front lines of social progress, we see the compelling, inspiring truth of how real people have changed the world, underscoring that one person can make a difference.
A Path Appears offers practical, results-driven advice on how best each of us can give and reveals the lasting benefits we gain in return. Kristof and WuDunn know better than most how many urgent challenges communities around the world face today. Here they offer a timely beacon of hope for our collective future."

The authors won the Pulitzer Prize for their reports about China in the New York Times. They also have started a foundation, read more about it here: "Half the Sky Foundation"

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Mantel, Hilary "Wolf Hall"

Mantel, Hilary "Wolf Hall" - 2009

If you like historical fiction at all and haven't read "Wolf Hall", yet, you should that put on top of your list. This is such a great novel about Thomas Cromwell and all the other people that played an important part in the life of probably the most interesting king among all the kings of England, Henry VIII. Hilary Mantel tries to look behind the curtain of the throne, of the court, of the royal family.

I think it is highly interesting, all the little tidbits of the life of people during the Tudor time. I hardly knew anything about the background, about Thomas Cromwell's childhood, his life. Also all the intrigues behind the divorce from Catherine of Aragon and the subsequent wedding to Ann Boleyn, truly worth looking into.

This has encouraged me to read further, to explore that part of history more. That's what I always love about a book, if it awakens my interest in a subject.

It's not always an easy read and I would have loved a better family tree in the book but all in all, a great novel, a chunky book, just the way I love them. I ordered the follow-up "Bring up the Bodies" right away and hope to read it soon.

I'm also looking forward to watching the TV series. Damian Lewis as Henry VIII? Should be fantastic.

Hilary Mantel won the Booker Prize for "Wolf Hall" in 2009.

From the back cover:
"In this simply one of the finest historical novels in years, the opulent, brutal world of the Tudors comes to glittering, bloody life. It is the backdrop to the rise and rise of Thomas Cromwell; lowborn boy, charmer, bully, master of deadly intrigue, and, finally, most powerful of all Henry VIII’s courtiers."

Monday 22 February 2016

Hawkins, Paula "The Girl on the Train"

Hawkins, Paula "The Girl on the Train" - 2015

Before I started reading this book, I wasn't sure whether I would like it or not. If I would have have to make a guess, I probably would have thought I might not like it.

So, I was quite surprised to find that I did like it. A lot, actually. I am NOT a fan of mysteries, thrillers, crime stories, chick lit, and this has a little of all of them. The girl on the train looks at the people in the gardens while she passes them by. It's interesting to see how much she can see from the short glances she gets. Makes you think whether you can spin a story from every glimpse you get from anybody's life.

Anyway, the story was well written, full of suspense (although it is easy to guess what happened but you are not a hundred percent sure). Rachel, the protagonist, leads a bad life, she's an unemployed alcoholic. The way her life is described makes you realize how empty such a life can be.

I wouldn't say this was the best book I read last year but it certainly had something.

From the back cover: "Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train"

Friday 19 February 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one." Augustine Birrell, Obiter Dicta, "Book Buying"

"There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read." Gilbert K. Chesterton

"In reading, a lonely quiet concert is given to our minds; all our mental faculties will be present in this symphonic exaltation." Stéphane Mallarmé

"With some cards, you pay interest. With library cards, your interest pays you." Susan Rinehart

"TSUNDOKU: Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books." Japanese. From "Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Catalog of Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World" by Ella Frances Sanders.

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

The moment when you think you have 10 pages left in your book and it turns out to be a preview for another book.

 Word cloud made with WordItOut

I saw the title somewhere on the internet and thought: "Yes! I'm not the only one!" How disappointing. You imagine what could still happen on those 10 pages and then there is THE END. It's almost like an unexpected death, so sudden, without any warning. Yes, that's what it is. My book has died before it could get to the end. I always feel deceived.

I know why publishers do that, they want you to start reading the next book and then really go and buy it right there and then. But this has never happened to me that way. Either, the book I read spoke for itself and I wanted to read the follow-up or another book by the same author. Or it didn't. I never read that start of the next book. And that's my promise. 

So, publishers: Stop doing it!

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Delacourt, Grégoire "The list of my desires"

Delacourt, Grégoire "The list of my desires" (aka My wish list) (French: La liste de mes envies) - 2012

I love reading a French book from time to time but I love it even more if it is an interesting book.

This one was suggested by one of our French members in the international book club. It's an easy read, at least concerning the language, so I shall try to read more books by the author.

Jocelyne is married to Jocelyn, they have two grown up children, both work, their marriage seems perfect on the outside but there are a lot of cracks in the shell. When something unexpected happens, Jocelyne can't cope and everything seems to fall to pieces.

Interesting read. What I loved best was that the protagonist thinks about what is important in life and what isn't and that making such a list can change your perspectives.

Jocelyne loves and reads "Belle Du Seigneur" (Her Lover) which I had never heard about. It's written by Swiss author Albert Cohen of whom I'd never heard before, either.

We discussed this in our book club in November 2015.

From the back cover:

 "What would it take to change your life? Jocelyne is 47. She lives in a small provincial French town, runs her own dressmaking shop, has been married to the same man for what seems like an eternity, has had two children and lives a very ordinary existence. In fact so ordinary that she is beginning to wonder what happened to her, to all those dreams she had when she was seventeen. Then comes the chance to change her life completely - but should she? For when Jocelyne begins to look at her life and its small pleasures - her friendship with the twins who run the hairdresser next door, her weekends away, her sewing blog - she realises that maybe ordinary isn't so bad. Until the decision is taken out of her hands... The List of my Desires is a wonderfully heart-warming novel about what we value in life and the search for happiness."

Monday 15 February 2016

Dickens, Charles "Hard Times"

Dickens, Charles "Hard Times" - 1854

I think I mentioned before that I love Dickens even though I haven't read all that many of his novels. I decided it was time to devour his next novel and happened upon "Hard Times". My first thought was, that could be the title of any of his novels. And I still think I was right there.

Anyway, Charles Dickens is one of the best authors that ever lived. He manages to describe people, their traits and personalities, the interaction between them, their lot in life, he does all that just wonderfully and still it sounds like it was the most normal thing in the world. As most of my friends know,  I do prefer large books, this was not THAT large but it had all the components and told a great story. Another tale of how different lives were for the rich and the poor, how hard it was to get through life if you were not born on the lucky side. And still, there is so much humour in this story, The characters are all brilliant. Every single one of them is so special, some of them quite warm hearted, others not so much.

I really enjoyed reading this story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys classic novels and maybe even for a starter novel for those who pretend not to enjoy them.

From the back cover: "Hard Times is both a tragic story of human oppression and a dazzling work of political satire. It depicts Coketown, a typical red-brick industrial city of the north. In its schools and factories children and adults are caged and enslaved, with no personal freedom until their spirit is broken. Against this social backdrop where harsh regimes are enforced by the likes of Josiah Bounderby, the pompous self-made man, and Gradgrind, the censorious disciplinarian, the personal tragedies of Louisa Gradgrind and Stephen Blackpool are played out. Despite its vivid portrait of the horrors of the newly mechanized society, Hard Times is shot through with a wit, good humour and a conviction that entertainment is essential for human happiness, making it one of the most uplifting of Dickens's novels."

Read about the other Dickens' novels I read here.

Friday 12 February 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story's voice makes everything its own." John Berger

"I still love books. Nothing a computer can do can compare to a book." Ray Bradbury

"For my whole life, my favourite activity was reading. It's nto the most social pastime." Audrey Hepburn

"One of the joys of reading is the ability to plug into the shared wisdom of mankind." Ishmael Reed, Writin’ is Fightin’: Thirty-Seven Years of Boxing on Paper

"Reading - the best state yet to keep absolute loneliness at bay." William Styron

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Fleischhauer, Wolfram "In a Tender Hold"

Fleischhauer, Wolfram "In a Tender Hold" (German: Schule der Lügen - aka Die Inderin)  - 2014

I have read another book by this fantastic author, "Das Buch in dem die Welt verschwand" [The Book In Which The World Disappeared], a historical novel about the Age of Enlightenment. Unfortunately, that one has not been translated into English. Luckily, this one has. It has only been published as an eBook but I hope this will lead to a printed edition one day and that it will find many international readers. Wolfram Fleischhauer would deserve it. He is a brilliant writer.

Like his other book, this is a historical novel about history in general but also about the history of philosophy, in this case about the influence of Eastern philosophy on Europe, about how certain directions were taken in order to get the people where they wanted them. The story of Edgar Rabov is not boring, either, but the main focus is on the philosophy and its history.

I have really enjoyed this book and will certainly read more books by Wolfram Fleischhauer. Luckily, I speak his language.

From the back cover:

"Edgar von Rabov is a regular customer at Berlin's Eldorado bar, but this evening on a chilly night in February of 1926 is different. A strikingly attractive Anglo-Indian woman catches his attention. Edgar is captivated and her lingering glances betray an interest.

in him too. As she gets up to leave, she slips him a note: -Meet me here in two days' time. I'll be expecting you.- Soon Edgar, son of an aristocratic family and heir to his father's company, has fallen under the spell of the exotic young woman. But what appears to be a chance encounter soon turns out to be sophisticated plot to lure him into the heart of darkness of family secrets...

Wolfram Fleischhauer's novel, a magnificent love story and family saga, tells of seduction, deception and conspiracy. Set amid the new-age movements of the early twentieth century and the political and philosophical turmoil of the Weimar Republic, this elegant and gripping story about religion, politics and self-knowledge takes the reader on a voyage of discovery from Berlin and London to Madras and Pondicherry.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Paull, Laline "The Bees"

Paull, Laline "The Bees" - 2014

The story about a bee who does not conform with what she is supposed to be doing, she is smarter than other bees from her status, she is "above her class".

This book has given me a lot to think about. At times I felt the story could have been about me, as well, I feelt quite a connection to Flora, the worker bee, the one born into the lowest class who should have been grateful for anything she had. But she wasn't, she wanted more, she wanted to do more, not just be more. But it is hard to get up even one step on a ladder in a society that puts you in a certain drawer.

Anyway, the story was written very well, the whole bee society was described with a lot of detail. It is certain that the author doesn't just want to write about bees but about humans and their society, about how we deal with someone who is different, who doesn't "belong", who doesn't fit in a certain "norm". Does anyone ever fit? Aren't we all born to be special?

What I did not like very much was the way the bees were given a human-like religion. I am sure no bee has to worship the queen bee, they all work so she can survive and the whole hive can survive, but they work on instinct rather than any religious rules. This is one of the problems I have with science fiction and fantasy, some human behaviour just does not transfer into the animal kingdom and/or outer space etc. The whole religion part was a little too much for me.

From the back cover: "Flora 717 is a survivor. Born into the lowest class of the totalitarian hive society she is prepared to sacrifice everything for the Queen, surviving internal massacres, religious purges and terrifying invasions by vicious wasps. With each act of bravery her status grows, revealing both the enemies within and the sinister secrets that rule the hive. But when her instinct to serve is overwhelmed by a fierce and deeply forbidden maternal love, she breaks the most sacred law of all..."

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Beautiful Blogger Award

I've been nominated for another award, the "Beautiful Blogger Award". Thank you so much to "The Captivated Reader" for this lovely thought.

Here are the rules for the Beautiful Blogger Award:
1.    Link to the blogger who has nominated you. You will find it "here".
2.    List 7 random facts about you.
3.    Nominate 7 creative, beautiful bloggers and let them know about about the nomination.

Seven random facts. Mmmh, a lot of my friends might know these but not all of my blog contacts, so here we go:

1. I have lived in four different countries - so far (in this order): Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands.
2. My biggest hobby is reading but I also love crafting, especially stamping and making cards, and photography.
3. I have a husband, two sons and three younger brothers, lots of testosterone in my life.
4. In my youth, I had dozens of penfriends, nowadays I have them on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest or here on my blog.
5. I love languages, speak five and a half of them (German, English, Esperanto, French, Dutch, improving my Spanish) and understand a few more.
6. My favourite colours are blue and green and all the shades in between.
7. I'd love to live near the ocean.

It wasn't that easy to decide whom to nominate, not because I don't know enough but because I know too many. So, if I haven't nominated you this time, I probably nominated you earlier for the Liebster Award. I follow a few great blogs and if I follow you, I love your inputs.

So, these are my nominees!

Bibliophilic Madness

Edith's Miscellany

Joy's Book Blog

Silver's Review

Stuck in a Book

Words and Peace

You, Me and a Cup of Tea

Please check out these blogs. Each one of them is wonderful, inspiring and offers something unique.

Monday 8 February 2016

Lalami, Laila "The Moors' Account"

Lalami, Laila "The Moors' Account" - 2014

What a fantastic way of retelling history. "The Moors' Account" tells us a story that has been told before - but by Spanish people, white people who came as conquerors to the new continent to be called America. This is told by one of their slaves, a guy from Morocco, who survives a lot of ordeals because of his determination to get back home again. Out of the 600 people who went on an expedition in 1527, only four survive and Mustafa, who was renamed Estebanico by the Spaniards, was one of them.

We don't just learn about the expedition and how life in America was before the Europeans arrived, we also learn about life in Morocco at the time.

Totally interesting story, told in alternating chapters, switching from Morocco to American and back. I also loved that we hear the history from another side.

It's interesting to learn that we only have one line about Mustafa in an account of one of the three others (Cabeza de Vaca): "The fourth [survivor] is Estevanico, an Arab Negro from Azamor." It's amazing, how Laila Lalami fashioned such a great story from it.

"The Moor's Account" was on both the Pulitzer Prize and Man Booker Prize longlist. Totally deserved it. I'm looking forward to more books by this author.

From the back cover: "In 1527 the Spanish conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez arrived on the coast of modern-day Florida with hundreds of settlers, and claimed the region for Spain. Almost immediately, the expedition was decimated by a combination of navigational errors, disease, starvation and fierce resistance from indigenous tribes. Within a year, only four survivors remained: three noblemen and a Moroccan slave called “Estebanico”.

The official record, set down after a reunion with Spanish forces in 1536, contains only the three freemen’s accounts. The fourth, to which the title of Laila Lalami’s masterful novel alludes, is Estebanico’s own.

Lalami gives us Estebanico as history never did: as Mustafa, the vibrant merchant from Azemmur forced into slavery and a new name, and reborn as the first black explorer of the Americas, discovering and being discovered by various tribes both hostile and compassionate.

In Estebanico’s telling, the survivors’ journey across great swathes of the New World transforms would-be conquerors into humble servants and fearful outcasts into faith healers. He remains ever-observant, resourceful and hopeful that he might one day find his way back to his family, even as he experiences an unexpected (if ambiguous) camaraderie with his masters.

The Moor’s Account illuminates the ways in which stories can transmigrate into history, and how storytelling can offer a chance for redemption, reinvention and survival."
Laila Lalami was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for "The Moors Account" in 2014.

Friday 5 February 2016

Book Quotes of the Week

"To choose a good book, look in an inquisitor’s prohibited list." John Aikin

"What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it thinks about education." Harold Howe, former U.S. Commissioner of Education

"It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between." C.S. Lewis

"When you sell a man a book you don’t sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue — you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night — there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book." Christopher Morley

"When you're a reader, nobody can call you spineless." 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. 

Reading Challenge - Chunky Books 2016

In 2013, I participated in the most interesting challenge, reading "chunky" books (I love that word). I signed up for the highest of the four levels "Mor-book-ly Obese" which meant eight or more chunksters (books over 450 pages) of which three must be 750 pages or more.

I have carried on with that challenge without setting goals, I love big books and I will always read some. And I am more than willing to tell my friends about them.

If you are interested in the challenge, check out this link. I don't think they even do one this year, so I just use the link for 2015.
They also give you suggestions by page number, in case you can't find any chunksters yourself. ;-)

Or you can check out my lists from the previous years (below), maybe you are interested in a couple of them.
I read in
2013: 38 chunky books, 13 of them chunksters
2014: 37 chunky books, 15 of them chunksters
2015: 26 chunky books, 8 of them chunksters

I will be posting the books I have read here:
Ulitzkaya, Lyudmila "Imago" or "The Big Green Tent" (Zelenyi shater/Зеленый шатер) - 2010 - 592 pages
Twain, Mark "The Innocents Abroad" - 1869 - 786 pages

Smiley, Jane "Early Warning" - 2015 - 811 pages
Mistry, Rohinton "Family Matters" - 2002 - 512 pages

Trollope, Anthony "The Way We Live Now" - 1875 - 976 pages 
Schwarzer, Alice "Lebenslauf" [My life] - 2011 - 451 pages
Mora, Terézia "Das Ungeheuer" [The Monster] - 2013 - 688 pages
Oates, Joyce Carol "The Man Without a Shadow" - 2016 - 512 pages
Mitchell, David "Cloud Atlas" - 2004 - 544 pages

Mercier, Pascal "Perlmann's Silence" (Perlmanns Schweigen) - 1995 - 640 pages
Landers, Brian "Empires Apart. A History of American and Russian Imperialism" - 2010 - 576 pages
Joyce, James "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" - 1916 - 520 pages

Waters, Sarah "The Night Watch" - 2006 - 560 pages
Obama, Barack "Dreams from My Father" - 1995 - 453 pages
Bryson, Bill "The Road to Little Dribbling: more Notes from a Small Island" - 2015 - 528 pages
Eliot, George "The Mill on the Floss" - 1860 - 691 pages
Perkins, Sue "Spectacles" - 2015 - 464 pages 

Alexijewitsch, Swetlana (Alexievich, Svetlana) "Second Hand Time. The Last of the Sovjets" (Время секонд хэнд/Vremja sekond khend) - 2013 - 569 pages 
Rushdie, Salman "Midnight's Children" - 1981 - 647 pages
Mantel, Hilary "Bring up the Bodies" - 2012 - 608 pages
Obama, Barack "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" - 2006 - 464 pages
Grass, Günter "Beim Häuten der Zwiebel" (Peeling the Onion) (Autobiographical Trilogy #1) - 2006 - 480 pages

Atkinson, Kate "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" (Familienalbum) - 1995 - 496 pages
Oates, Joyce Carol "Carthage" - 2014 - 496 pages.
Nguyen, Viet Thanh (Việt Thanh Nguyễn) "The Sympathizer" - 2015 - 499 pages 

Zeh, Juli "Unterleuten" - 2016 - 639 pages
Kostova, Elizabeth "The Swan Thieves" (Die Schwanendiebe) - 2010 - 611 pages
Pamuk, Orhan "Cevdet und seine Söhne" (Cevdet Bey ve Oğulları/Cevdet Bey and His Sons) - 1982 - 672 page

I read 28 chunky books in 2016/17 of which 3 are considered a chunkster.

Happy Reading

Thursday 4 February 2016

Funke, Cornelia "Inkheart"

Funke, Cornelia "Inkheart" (German: Tintenherz) - 2003

I am not a huge fan of fantasy (read: I usually try to avoid these novels) but this book was on so many of my lists, had been suggested by so many friends - and my son owns a copy. So, I thought, why not. After all, I did like "The Neverending Story" by Michael Ende. And yes, I did like this story, as well. Probably, because it didn't contain any weird creatures but was just about magic and the middle ages where people believed in that sort of stuff. And - more importantly - a book. I love anything about books. There is a beautiful library and some interesting characters that make the story gripping.

Every chapter is introduced with a quote from another fantasy and/or children's book. That is also quite an interesting aspect of the storytelling.

So, all in all, a great concept and a lovely story. What's not to like?

I read this in the original German language.

From the back cover:

"Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can "read" fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.

Characters from books literally leap off the page in this engrossing fantasy. Meggie has had her father to herself since her mother went away when she was young. Mo taught her to read when she was five, and the two share a mutual love of books. He can "read" characters out of books. When she was three, he read aloud from a book called Inkheart and released characters into the real world. At the same time, Meggie's mother disappeared into the story. This "story within a story" will delight not just fantasy fans, but all readers who like an exciting plot with larger-than-life characters."

The story is continued in "Inkspell" (Tintenblut) and "Inkdeath" (Tintentod).

Other books mentioned in "Inkheart"
Anonymous "The Arabian Nights"
- "The Thousand and One Nights, Vol. I. Commonly Called the Arabian Nights' Entertainments"
- "Beowulf"
- "The Mabinogion"
Adams, Richard "Watership Down
Andersen, Hans Christian "The Complete Fairy Tales"
Barrie, James M. "Peter Pan"
Basbanes, Nicholas A. "A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books"
Blades, William "The Enemies of Books"
Blake, William "The Four Zoas"
Boston, Lucy M. "The Children of Green Knowe" (Green Knowe #1)
Bradbury, Ray "Fahrenheit 451"
Bury, Richard de "The Love of Books: The Philobiblon of Richard de Bury"
Carroll, Lewis "Alice in Wonderland" (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland #1)
Celan, Paul "Engführung"
Collodi, Carlo "Pinocchio"
Cotroneo, Roberto "Se una mattina d’estate un bambino. Lettera a mio figlio sull'amore per i libri"
Dahl, Roald "The BFG"
- "The Witches"
Dickens, Charles "Great Expectations
- "Oliver Twist"
Doyle, Arthur Conan "The Complete Sherlock Holmes"
Eagle, Solomon "Moving a Library"
Ende, Michael "Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver" (Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer)
- "The Neverending Story" (Die unendliche Geschichte)
Goldman, William "The Princess Bride"
Grahame, Kenneth "The Wind in the Willows"
Hertz, Wilhelm "Spielmannsbuch"
Homer "Odyssey
Ibbotson, Eva "The Secret of Platform 13"
Kästner, Erich "Emil and the Detectives" (Emil und die Detektive)
Kipling, Rudyard "The Elephant's Child"
- "The Jungle Book"
- "Just So Stories"
Larrabeiti, Michael de "The Borrible Trilogy"
Lewis, C.S. "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" (Chronicles of Narnia #1)
Lindgren, Astrid "Mio, my Son" (Mio, min Mio)
Lofting, Hugh "The Story of Doctor Dolittle" (Doctor Dolittle #1)
Manguel, Alberto "A History of Reding"
Milne, A.A. "Winnie-the-Pooh" (Winnie-the-Pooh #1)
Morrison, Toni "Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech"
Nabokov, Vladimir "Lectures on Literature"
Preußler, Otfried "Krabat"
Rabinowitz, Harold (Ed.) "A Passion for Books: A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books"
Sendak, Maurice "Where the Wild Things Are"
Shakespeare, William "The Merchant of Venice"
- "The Tempest"
Silverstein, Shel "Where the Sidewalk Ends"
Singer, Isaac Bashevis "Naftali the Storyteller and His Horse Sus and Other Stories"
Stevenson, Robert Louis "Kidnapped" (David Balfour #1)
- "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
- "Treasure Island"
Tolkien, J.R.R. "The Fellowship of the Ring" (The Lord of the Rings #1)
"The Two Towers" (The Lord of the Rings #2)
"The Return of the King" (The Lord of the Rings #3)
- "The Hobbit
Twain, Mark "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn #1)
- "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn #2)
Voltaire "Candide, or Optimism" - 1759
Walton, Evangeline "Mabinogion tetralogy"
White, E.B. "Charlotte's Web"
White, T.H. "The Sword in the Stone (The Once and Future King #1)
- "The Book of Merlyn" (The Once and Future King #5)
Wilde, Oscar "Selfish Giant"

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Schimmel, Betty "To See You Again"

Schimmel, Betty with Gabriel, Joyce "To See You Again. A True Story of Love in a Time of War" - 1999

A lot of my friends will say "not another Holocaust survival story". And if that's not your cup of tea, don't touch it. However, this is a remarkable account of a strong woman, of several strong women indeed, who survived the most awful ordeal anyone can survive and grow stronger through this survival. I know Betty Schimmel didn't write this book alone, she had a helper. But that doesn't change the story she tells. It is heartbreaking.

We can all learn from people like Betty Schimmel, not to give up even when everything looks hopeless. A good read. Almost like "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank with a happy(er) ending.

Apparently, Kenneth Brannagh plans to turn this story into a movie. It should be a success.

From the back cover:

"The sunset was breathtakingly beautiful, the bright orange sun slipping from view below the horizon as we watched from the high banks of the Danube. The sky was slashed with vivid arcs of fuchsia, purple, and gold. Suddenly I felt a chill down my spine as the last of the light fade. 'Will you always love me just as you love me now' I asked. Richie cupped my face in his hands and lightly kissed my lips, soft as a whisper. 'Always,' he promised.

With these words, Betty Markowitz and Richie Kovacs pledged their hearts to each other forever. They met as children in 1939 in Budapest, where Betty and her family had fled to escape the escalating tensions in Czechoslovakia. As teenagers, they fell in love amid the terror and uncertainty of a world at war. They planned their future together, secure in the belief that their love could survive anything, even Hitler.

Then, in March 1944, the Germans invaded Hungary.

Separated from Richie by the Nazis, Betty vowed that someday she would find him again. Even when her mother, sister, brother, and she were forcibly marched from Hungary and imprisoned in a concentration camp, where they endured unimaginable horrors, she never gave up hope. In all the years that followed - through Liberation, through her marriage to Otto Schimmel, an Auschwitz survivor who promised her a new life in America, through the joy and struggle of raising her own three children - Betty never forgot her first love.

Then in 1975 she returned to Budapest and saw someone across a crowded room.

A story that unfolds with all the suspense and drama of a novel, it is all the more compelling because it's true. To See You Again follows Betty Schimmel on her journey from independent young girl on the threshold of adulthood to Holocaust survivor to wife and mother at a pivotal crossroads. When Betty returned to Budapest, she faced the most agonizing choice of her life. It would force her to question everything, from her values to her desires to the meaning of betrayal. Confronted with a secret that had been held for over a quarter of a century, this woman who had already suffered grievous losses would now make a surprising discovery about herself and her capacity for love and forgiveness.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

2016 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

I have joined quite a few reading challenges since I started my blog but this one sounded the most interesting of them all.

As Evie from the Bookish Blog says: "We all have those books. We buy them, win them, they're gifted to us. Then we put them up on a bookshelf and there they stay, collecting dust, waiting for the time when we'll finally decide to pick them up."

Okay, I admit, my TBR (To Be Read) pile is a lot longer than it should be and I can't resist buying any new books but I will attempt to read more old books than buying new ones this year.

I could, of course, try to tackle the 50+ challenge but we all know that is not going to happen, instead, I will try to do at least 11-20 old books in addition to the new ones I'm buying and those I get from the library and hopefully be pleasantly surprised at the end of the year. Wish me luck. Thank you.

So far, I have already read these of my "old books" in 2016:

Weizsäcker, Richard von "Drei Mal Stunde Null? 1949-1969-1989" [Three Times Hour Zero] - 2001
Perry, Anne "A Christmas Odyssey" - 2010
Twain, Mark "The Innocents Abroad" - 1869
Camus, Albert "L'Étranger" (The Stranger/The Outsider) - 1942
Smiley, Jane "Early Warning" - 2015
Ephron, Nora "I Remember Nothing. And other reflections" - 2010
Grass, Günter "Mein Jahrhundert" (My Century) - 1999
Mistry, Rohinton "Family Matters" - 2002 

Paluch, Andrea; Habeck, Robert "Der Schrei der Hyänen" [The cry of the hyenas] - 2004 
Trollope, Anthony "The Way We Live Now" - 1875
Marini, Lorenzo "Der Tulpenmaler" (L'uomo dei tulipani/The Man of the Tulips) -  2002
Swarup, Vikas "Q & A" - 2005  

Mora, Terézia "Das Ungeheuer" [The Monster] - 2013    
Grimm, Jacob und Wilhelm "Jorinde und Joringel. Acht Märchen der Brüder Grimm" [Jorinda and Joringel. Eight Fairy Tales] - 1812
Adorf, Mario "Der Dieb von Trastevere" [The Thief of Trastevere] - 1994
Mitchell, David "Cloud Atlas" - 2004 

Robertson, Adele Crockett "The Orchard: A Memoir" - 1995
Mercier, Pascal "Perlmann's Silence" (Perlmanns Schweigen) - 1995
Waters, Sarah "The Night Watch" - 2006

Obama, Barack "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" - 1995
Sedano, Nina "Die Ländersammlerin" - 2014
Bryson, Bill "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" - 2006

Eliot, George "The Mill on the Floss" - 1860
Perkins, Sue "Spectacles" - 2015
Grossman, David "
The Zig Zag Kid" [יש ילדים זיגזג/Jesh Jeladim) - 1994
Oates, Joyce Carol "Sexy" (Sexy) - 2005
Mak, Geert "De goede stad" [The Good Town]  - 2007
Aaronovitch, Ben "Whispers Under Ground" (Rivers of London 3) - 2012 
Rushdie, Salman "Midnight's Children" - 1981
Mantel, Hilary "Bring up the Bodies" - 2012
Adams, Douglas "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" - 1979
Obama, Barack "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream"  - 2006
Pye, Michael "The Edge of the World: How the North Sea Made Us Who We Are" - 2014

Atkinson, Kate "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" (Familienalbum) - 1995 - 496 pages
Štimec, Spomenka "Kroata Milita Noktlibro" [Croation Nocturnal] - 1993Oates, Joyce Carol "Carthage" - 2014
Kostova, Elizabeth "The Swan Thieves" - 2010

37 books

Reading Challenge 2016

Since last year's reading challenge was so interesting, I am going to try it again this year.

1. A book based on a fairy tale
2. A National Book Award winner
3. A YA bestseller
4. A book you haven't read since high school
5. A book set in your home state
6. A book translated to English
7. A romance set in the future
8. A book set in Europe
9. A book that's under 150 pages
10. A New York Times bestseller
11. A book that's becoming a movie this year
12. A book recommended by someone you just met
13. A self-improvement book
14. A book you can finish in a day
15. A book written by a celebrity
16. A political memoir
17. A book at least 100 years older than you
18. A book that's more than 600 pages
19. A book from Oprah's Book Club
20. A science-fiction novel
21. A book recommended by a family member
22. A graphic novel
23. A book that is published in 2016
24. A book with a protagonist who has your occupation
25. A book that takes place during Summer
26. A book and its prequel
27. A murder mystery
28. A book written by a comedian
29. A dystopian novel
30. A book with a blue cover
31. A book of poetry
32. The first book you see in a bookstore
33. A classic from the 20th century
34. A book from the library
35. An autobiography
36. A book about a road trip
37. A book about a culture you're unfamiliar with
38. A satirical book
39. A book that takes place on an island
40. A book that's guaranteed to bring you joy

Monday 1 February 2016

Scott, Mary "The White Elephant"

Scott, Mary "The White Elephant" - 1959

As all my friends and readers know in the meantime, I love Mary Scott. But I have my favourite books among her novels, as well. This is definitely one of them. I always liked the idea of two young girls opening a boarding house of their own.

As usual, Mary Scott manages to describe them all very well again, the two young cousins, their friends who help them out, the first guests, both the loveable ones and the weird ones. And then there are her hilarious stories, episodes that happen to the characters. As always, a nice, easy read that makes you forget all sorts of things for a while.

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.

From the back cover: "Misfortunes never come alone ... It was an unfortunate coincidence that Katherine Lee ended her engagement with Deryk Ross exactly on the same day when her cousin Jane terminated her position at Park, Fairbrother and Park. For Katherine, it was a case of incompatibility of tempers, for Jane it was her spelling ... The amusing, optimistic novel by Mary Scott about two young girls who don't give up starts with this double misfortune .As Katherine and Jane inherit an old house on the coast, they open in the boarding house The White Elephant'. This does not go without difficulty and trouble, without minor and major disasters, but at the end success is inevitable - even in love ..."

Find all of my reviews of Mary Scott's books here and a list of all her books here.

Happy February !

February is not really the most beautiful of months but it's getting a little better with this calendar picture of the beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch "It's getting colourful". 

Same as last year, I'd like to share the wonderful watercolour paintings from Hanka and Frank Koebsch with you every month. I have bought their calendar every year for five years now and have loved every single one of their pictures. I hope you enjoy them just as much as I do.  

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their blog here.