Sunday 31 December 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch

"Nicht so schnell"
"Not so fast" 

I wish you all a wonderful reading year with many great books.

Friday 29 December 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"The most dangerous person has read only one book." (Hominem unius libri timeo. = I fear the man of a single book.) Saint Thomas Aquinas

"Man is what he reads." Joseph Brodsky

"There is much to discover that’s not on the back cover!" E.A. Bucchianeri

"Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them." Arnold Lobel

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 28 December 2017

Michaels, Anne "Fugitive Pieces"

Michaels, Anne "Fugitive Pieces" - 1996

I really wanted to like this book. It is absolutely my genre and it was praised a lot. However, I wouldn't call this a tough read but nevertheless, I didn't find a closeness to the characters. A lot of things happened, obviously, but there seemed to be no action and no continuance.

More fleeing fragmented thoughts, bits and pieces thrown together. Someone trying to bring their thoughts in order but not being very lucky with it. Such a shame. This could have been a great book, the story is very promising.

What annoyed me most was that you hardly know who is talking if you don't read the introduction. But if you do read the introduction, you are given spoilers that can ruin the whole story. I hardly ever read the introduction but noticed halfway through the lecture that it was necessary in order to understand what this was all about.

I think a lot of people like it for it's poetic writing but then it shouldn't be classified as a novel.

Definitely not my book.

There were a few quotes I did like, though, the final sentence under "Anne Michaels' favourite books":
"When I was young I felt there was a mystery contained in the fact that the word 'read' was two words - both past and present tenses. This time travel is one way we hold our life in our hands."
and a quote, a Hebrew saying:
"Hold a book in your hand and you're a pilgrim at the gates of a new city."

From the back cover:

"Jakob Beer is seven years old when he is rescued from the muddy ruins of a buried village in Nazi-occupied Poland. Of his family, he is the only one who has survived. Under the guidance of the Greek geologist Athos, Jakob must steel himself to excavate the horrors of his own history.

A novel of astounding beauty and wisdom, Fugitive Pieces is a profound meditation on the resilience of the human spirit and love's ability to restore even the most damaged of hearts."

Sunday 24 December 2017

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

☆☆ Merry Christmas to all my Friends and Readers ☆☆
☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Peace on Earth! ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Emcke, Carolin "Against Hate"

Emcke, Carolin "Against Hate " (German: Gegen den Hass) - 2016

Carolin Emcke is a German journalist who received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) last year. I have read "Echoes of Violence: Letters from a War Reporter" (Von den Kriegen) by her and was very impressed.

This is another book, not a report about the war zones as in her other books but a thoughtful expression of what we can do in our lives, what needs to be done, to get rid of our hate of the unknown, get rid of racism, fanaticism, sexism, homophobia, anything where anyone thinks he is better or has more right than others for being born into a certain group.

Carolin Emcke is a wonderful writer, you can tell that she knows what she is talking about and that her thoughts come from the heart. I wish everyone could read this book, especially those with hate in their hearts and with an open mind to do something against it.

This world would be such a better place if we all thought like her.

From the back cover:
"A great defence of a humanistic attitude and an open society

Racism, fanaticism, anti-democratic sentiment – our increasingly polarised, fragmented public sphere is dominated by a type of thinking that admits doubt about others’ positions, but never its own. Carolin Emcke’s spirited essay contrasts this dogmatic thinking with praise for a polyphony of voices, and for the “impure”: Only the courage to speak out against hate, and the will to maintain and discuss plurality, will allow democracy to be realised. Only in this way can we successfully combat religious and nationalist fanatics, because differentiation and precision are the things they most reject."

Carolin Emcke received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2016.

Friday 15 December 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading ... a vacation for the mind ..." Dave Barry

"One writes only half the book; the other half is with the reader." Joseph Conrad

"Books allow me to get lost in the right direction." Leiter 1919

"Un enfant qui lit sera un adulte qui pense." Flore Vasseur (A child who reads will be an adult who thinks.)

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 14 December 2017

Scott, Mary; West, Joyce "The Mangrove Murder"

Scott, Mary; West, Joyce "The Mangrove Murder" (Inspector Wright #3) - 1964 

I found this book by my favourite author from my teenage years. And I hadn't read it, yet! Because, in general, crime stories are not really my genre.  But since I have read and re-read all her other books, I thought it was time to tackle the five stories she wrote with another author from New Zealand, Joyce West.

The people in this story are just as charming as everyone in Mary Scott's other books, well, except for the killer, of course. But other than that, we read about people who live in New Zealand at a time when life was still very different from today.

I also found her other crime books in the meantime and will read them at my leisure

From the back cover (translated):
"Pauline's engagement broke. When she wants to take a break in the countryside, instead of the longed-for rest she finds the body of an unknown person."

Find my reviews of her other books here.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Dickens, Charles "Oliver Twist"

Dickens, Charles "Oliver Twist" - 1838

One of the many classics by Charles Dickens I haven't read, yet.

Charles Dickens certainly is one of the best classic authors you can think of. His love of detail, his way of telling you every single event, describing every person, makes his era come alive.

I think most people have seen the movie "Oliver" which is a good musical. However, the book - as usual - is so much better, the characters are more lively, the scenes ring more true.

This is certainly one of his best novels - although, I haven't found one, yet, that I didn't love.

From the back cover:
"Dark, mysterious and mordantly funny, Oliver Twist features some of the most memorably drawn villains in all of fiction - the treacherous gangmaster Fagin, the menacing thug Bill Sikes, the Artful Dodger and their den of thieves in the grimy London backstreets. Dicken's novel is both an angry indictment of poverty, and an adventure filled with an air of threat and pervasive evil.

The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War."

Friday 8 December 2017

My Life in Books Tag

Another tag to steal! I found this list here on one of the Blogs I follow, You, Me and a Cup of Tea and thought it was a lovely idea.

Find a book for each of your initials
M - "My Name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk
M - "Middlemarch" by George Eliot
I don't have a middle initial and the two I have are the same but I still found some.

Count your age along your bookshelf... What book is it?
Gao, Xingjian "Soul Mountain" (Chinese: 灵山, língshān) - 1989

Pick a book set in your country
Mann, Thomas "Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family" (German: Buddenbrooks) - 1901

Pick a book that represents a destination you'd love to travel to
Bryson, Bill "Down Under/In a Sunburned Country" - 2000

Pick a book that is your favorite colour
Green is my favourite colour, followed closely by blue. Now, while there are a lot of books in blue, I could hardly find one in green. However, my favourite dictionary company in Germany publishes their books in green and here is one of the best:

Which book do you have fondest memories of
It is so tough to choose a book here because there are so many that bring back the best memories.
So, after thinking about it for quite a while, I've come up with this one, it was the first book I read in a book club and I have read so many other great books ever since and met the loveliest people by discussing them.
Bernières, Louis de "Captain Corelli’s Mandolin" - 1994

Which book did you have the most difficulty reading
Joyce, James "Ulysses" - 1922

Which book on your TBR pile will give you the biggest accomplishment when you read it?
I think after "Ulysses", I'm ready for anything. If I look at the length of the books on my TBR pile, the next challenging is probably:
Kermani, Navid "Dein Name" [Your Name] - 2011

Well that's it! Feel free to steal the tag if you so desire!

Book Quotes of the Week

"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer." Ernest Hemingway

"Our high respect for a well-read man is praise enough of literature." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"People don’t read any more. It’s a sad state of affairs. Reading’s the only thing that allows you to use your imagination. When you watch films it’s someone else’s vision, isn’t it?" Lemmy Kilmister

"Books are best preserved in the minds of readers." Kat Lowe, Dream Cat

"I have never known any distress that an hour’s reading did not relieve." Charles de Montesquieu

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 7 December 2017

Bryson, Bill "Notes form a Big Country"

Bryson, Bill "Notes from a Big Country" (US: I'm a Stranger Here Myself) - 1999 

After many years in Great Britain, Bill Bryson returns to his home country with his family for a while. He is one of my favourite authors.

If you need to laugh out loud, really laugh, pick up a Bill Bryson book and get carried away. I always said my favourite of his books was "Notes from a Small Island" (added by "The Road to Little Dribbling" later on) but I am not so sure after this one. Maybe because I also have left my home country and lived abroad for about a quarter of a century and don't always know my own country that well myself any more, maybe because this book seems to be even more personal than many of the other Bryson books ... in any case, I loved it.

Please, write more books, Bill!

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2023.

From the back cover:

"Bill Bryson has the rare knack of being out of his depth wherever he goes - even (perhaps especially) in the land of his birth. This became all too apparent when, after nearly two decades in England, the world's best-loved travel writer upped sticks with Mrs. Bryson, little Jimmy et al. and returned to live in the country he had left as a youth.

Of course there were things Bryson missed about Blighty but any sense of loss was countered by the joy of rediscovering some of the forgotten treasures of his childhood: the glories of a New England autumn; the pleasingly comical sight of oneself in shorts; and motel rooms where you can generally count on being awakened in the night by a piercing shriek and the sound of a female voice pleading, 'Put the gun down, Vinnie, I'll do anything you say.'

Whether discussing the strange appeal of breakfast pizza or the jaw-slackening direness of American TV, Bill Bryson brings his inimitable brand of bemused wit to bear on that strangest of phenomena - the American way of life."

I have a blogpost called "Bill Bryson - Funniest Author ever" where I link to all my Bryson reviews.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Oates, Joyce Carol "Big Mouth & Ugly Girl"

Oates, Joyce Carol "Big Mouth & Ugly Girl" - 2003

I don't think that I need to mention it again that JCO is one of my favourite authors.

This is about two young people at a school where someone has to stand up for what's happening. The story belongs to one of her youth books which are just as well written and interesting as her adult ones. But this is a particular good one for the youth, there is so much to learn. That the popular kids are not always the best kids to be friends with, for example. That in the end, it doesn't matter what you look like or what others think about you, it's your personality that counts and that you should be true to yourself and to others. The two kids in this book learn this the hard way.

A journey back to our teenage years. Oh, if we had known then what we know now ...

A beautiful story that confirms the old saying: "A friend in need is a friend indeed."

From the back cover:
"Matt Donaghy has always been a Big Mouth. But its never gotten him in trouble until the day Matt is accused of threatening to blow up Rocky River High School. Ursula Riggs has always been an Ugly Girl. A loner with fierce, staring eyes, Ursula has no time for petty high school stuff like friends and dating or at least that's what she tells herself. Ursula is content with minding her own business. And she doesn't even really know Matt Donaghy. But Ursula is the only person who knows what Matt really said that day and she is the only one who can help him. In her first novel for young adults, acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates has created a provocative and unflinching story of friendship and family, and of loyalty and betrayal."

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Turner, Nancy E. "The Star Garden"

Turner, Nancy E. "The Star Garden: A Novel of Sarah Agnes Prine" - 2007

The third book in a trilogy. I loved "These is my words" so had to read the sequel "Sarah's Quilt" and this one. The story about the author's pioneer grandmother. In the first part,

In "These is My Words", we meet Sarah Agnes Prine who teaches herself to read, "Sarah's Quilt" we heard about Sarah Agnes Prine dealing with life as a widow and mother of young children.

This story is just as coloruful, the characters come alive just as well, the scenes are just as exciting as in the first two books ... you should definitely read them in order, though.

I would have only one tiny little complaint. I don't live in the USA and so I had to chase down this third book in the trilogy and it took me quite a while. So, I didn't remember every single family member and who belonged to whom etc. I would have liked a little reminder of who is who in the family. A family tree, a list, or something like that. Or at least on the author's website.

But other than that, the book was great. The protagonist surely led an adventurous life. And her Great-Granddaughter Nancy E. Turner did a good job describing her life.

From the back cover:
"From the bestselling author of These Is My Words comes this exhilarating follow-up to the beloved Sarah's Quilt. In the latest diary entries of pioneer woman Sarah Agnes Prine, Nancy E. Turner continues Sarah's extraordinary story as she struggles to make a home in the Arizona Territory.
It is winter 1906, and nearing bankruptcy after surviving drought, storms, and the rustling of her cattle, Sarah remains a stalwart pillar to her extended family. Then a stagecoach accident puts in her path three strangers who will change her life.
In sickness and in health, neighbor Udell Hanna remains a trusted friend, pressing for Sarah to marry. When he reveals a plan to grant Sarah her dearest wish, she is overwhelmed with passion and excitement. She soon discovers, however, that there is more to a formal education than she bargained for.
Behind the scenes, Sarah's old friend Maldonado has struck a deal with the very men who will become linchpins of the Mexican Revolution. Maldonado plots to coerce Sarah into partnership, but when she refuses, he devises a murderous plan to gain her land for building a railroad straight to Mexico. When Sarah's son Charlie unexpectedly returns from town with a new bride, the plot turns into an all-out range war between the two families.
Finally putting an end to Udell's constant kindnesses, Sarah describes herself as 'an iron-boned woman'. She wants more than to be merely a comfortable fill-in for his dead wife. It is only through a chance encounter that she discovers his true feelings, and only then can she believe that a selfless love has at last reached out to her. . . ."

Find Nancy E. Turner's website here.

Monday 4 December 2017

Glasfurd, Guinevere "The Words in my Hand"

Glasfurd, Guinevere "The Words in my Hand" - 2016

A novel about the mother of René Descartes' daughter, a Dutch maid in the 17th century. Not badly written but also not really that challenging. I may have read too many books about this time so that there wasn't much that was new to me or it might just not have been the goal of the author to tell us about that kind of topic.

In any case, I didn't enjoy this very much. I meant to suggest it to my book club because we always look for stories about the Netherlands, contemporary or historical, but I know a few better ones that gives us more to talk about.

From the back cover:
"The Words in My Hand is the reimagined true story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid in 17th century Amsterdam working for an English bookseller. One day a mysterious and reclusive lodger arrives - the Monsieur - who turns out to be René Descartes.
At first encounter the maid and the philosopher seem to have little in common, yet Helena yearns for knowledge and literacy - wanting to write so badly that she uses beetroot for ink and her body as paper.
And the philosopher, for all his learning, finds that it is Helena who reveals the surprise in the everyday world that surrounds him, as gradually their relationship deepens in a surprising story of love and learning.

Friday 1 December 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"We’re all strangers connected by what we reveal, what we share, what we take away – our stories. I guess that’s what I love about books – they are thin strands of humanity that tether us to one another for a small bit of time, that make us feel less alone or even more comfortable with our aloneness, if need be." Libba Bray

"We read five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to forget that we are reading printed words on a page; we begin to see images." John Champion Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist

"One reads books in order to gain the privilege of living more than one life. People who don’t read are trapped in a mine shaft, even if they think the sun is shining." Garrison Keillor

"Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become." C.S. Lewis

"Owning a book is a third of the goal. The others are actually reading it and applying it." Israel Wayne

Find more book quotes here.

Happy December!

Happy December to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch

"Zum Dahinschmelzen"
"To Melt Away"

December is the "tenth" month in the old Roman calendar. In any case, it has always been the last month of the year, the winter days following December did not count as months. The days are getting shorter, winter begins ... at least in the Northern hemisphere. 
Christians celebrate Advent and then Christmas, certainly one of our most important feast days. So it is time to get all those decorations out in order for Christmas. 
And watch all those Christmas movies again. Enjoy! 

Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch. If you have children, try copying the snowman.
Or even if you don't have children.

You can find many more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Thursday 30 November 2017

Young European Collective "Who, if not us?"

Young European Collective (Vincent-Immanuel Herr, Martin Speer, Katharina Moser, Krzysztof Ignaciuk, Liza Noteris, Zlatin Georgiev, Thomas Goujat-Gouttequillet, Stylia Kampani, Zara Kitson, Nini Tsiklauri, Giulia Zeni, Phelan Chatterjee) "Who, if not us?" (Wer, wenn nicht wir?: Vier Dinge, die wir jetzt für Europa tun können) - 2017

More a book for the next generation but highly interesting. What does Europe have in store for us and what can we do for our future? A few young people got together and worked on a plan how to improve all our lives, get recommendations on what each one of us can do in order to have a better future.

Quite a short book (less than 100 pages) that anyone can read in a couple of minutes but with a text so interesting and meaningful that it will stay with us forever. Check out their website, you can even read the book there.

From their website:
"European youth is hit by a whole series of challenges these days. From our travels and first-hand encounters we can say that this is true. Large scale unemployment, raising levels of xenophobia, tensions between countries who were once friendly neighbors, and a resurge of nationalism. Either something will be done to fix all of this, or our continent will break apart under the stress. Obviously, nobody in their right mind wants the latter. But what needs to be done? What our continent needs most is fresh inspiration, new ideas, and creative ways of tackling difficulties. Or, to put it differently: our continent needs us, Europe’s youth. Our generation has all of the skills and tools necessary to pull Europe and ourselves out of this mess and begin a new era of life as Europeans."

Read more here: Who if not us?

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Pamuk, Orhan "A Strangeness in my Mind"

Pamuk, Orhan "A Strangeness in my Mind" (Kafamda Bir Tuhaflık) - 2014

Orhan Pamuk is definitely one of my favourite authors. I love reading Nobel Prize winners and he won the Nobel Prize. I love reading the winners of the German Peace Prize and he won the German Peace Prize (before winning the Nobel Prize). I love reading Turkish books and he writes Turkish books. So, what's not to love?

In this novel, he describes the life of a Turkish guy who marries the sister of the girl he has fallen in love with. The characters are about my age which makes it even more interesting, comparing my life with that of similar people in Turkey. You get to know the protagonist and his family and friends very well and you get to like them, no matter what.

What I also like about his books is that he doesn't shy away from talking about political problems in the country. How do poor people move up on the social ladder? They don't. What about women's rights? There hardly are any. How do they treat minorities (like the Kurds)? Not good.

As always, the author's home city Istanbul plays a major part in this novel. You can see in his portrayal that he loves his city but that he also sees the negative parts of it.

A great account of ordinary people, a lovely tale that starts good but grows on you with every page you turn.

From the back cover:
"A Strangeness In My Mind is a novel Orhan Pamuk has worked on for six years. It is the story of boza seller Mevlut, the woman to whom he wrote three years' worth of love letters, and their life in Istanbul.

In the four decades between 1969 and 2012, Mevlut works a number of different jobs on the streets of Istanbul, from selling yoghurt and cooked rice, to guarding a car park. He observes many different kinds of people thronging the streets, he watches most of the city get demolished and re-built, and he sees migrants from Anatolia making a fortune; at the same time, he witnesses all of the transformative moments, political clashes, and military coups that shape the country. He always wonders what it is that separates him from everyone else - the source of that strangeness in his mind. But he never stops selling boza during winter evenings and trying to understand who his beloved really is.

What matters more in love: what we wish for, or what our fate has in store? Do our choices dictate whether we will be happy or not, or are these things determined by forces beyond our control?

A Strangeness In My Mind tries to answer these questions while portraying the tensions between urban life and family life, and the fury and helplessness of women inside their homes."

Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

Orhan Pamuk received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2005.

You can read more about the books I read by one of my favourite authors here.

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 28 November 2017

Defoe, Daniel "A Journal of the Plague Year

Defoe, Daniel "A Journal of the Plague Year" - 1722

What a story! Daniel Defoe shows us how it was to live at the time of the plague, how people coped (or didn't) with the death threat hanging over all of them.

I have read many books that take place during various plagues at various places but this was the most informative, the most vivid one. There are many different figures about how many people actually died but the fact is that this caused more deaths than any other natural catastrophe in England. People always talk about the Great Fire of London ten years later but only very few people were lost there.

Daniel Defoe makes this visible, we can feel like almost having been there. That is great writing. However, it is not an easy read, it is more like an article than a novel. And we have to appreciate when this was written, novels like we are used to nowadays were just being invented, i.a. by Daniel Defoe whose biggest novel "Robinson Crusoe" belongs to one of the earliest ones. But I am glad I read this.

From the back cover:
"The haunting cry of "Bring out your dead!" by a bell-ringing collector of 17th-century plague victims has filled readers across the centuries with cold terror. The chilling cry survives in historical consciousness largely as a result of this classic 1722 account of the epidemic of bubonic plague - known as the Black Death - that ravaged England in 1664-1665.

Actually written nearly 60 years later by Daniel Defoe, the Journal is narrated by a Londoner named 'H. F.', who allegedly lived through the devastating effects of the pestilence and produced this eye witness account. Drawing on his considerable talents as both journalist and novelist, Defoe reconstructed events both historically and fictionally, incorporating realistic, memorable details that enable the novel to surpass even firsthand accounts in its air of authenticity. This verisimilitude is all the more remarkable since Defoe was only five years old when the actual events took place."

And another one that describes this book just as well:
"In 1665, the Great Plague swept through London, claiming nearly 100,000 lives. In A Journal of the Plague Year, Defoe vividly chronicles the progress of the epidemic. We follow his fictional narrator through a city transformed-the streets and alleyways deserted, the houses of death with crosses daubed on their doors, the dead-carts on their way to the pits-and encounter the horrified citizens of the city, as fear, isolation, and hysteria take hold. The shocking immediacy of Defoe's description of plague-racked London makes this one of the most convincing accounts of the Great Plague ever written."

Monday 27 November 2017

Cogman, Genevieve "The Invisible Library"

Cogman, Genevieve "The Invisible Library" - 2015

I found this book because of its title. I knew right away that it wasn't really my kind of literature, it's about spies etc. However, I realized soon enough, that it was even worse, it's more a fantasy/science fiction type of book. And a very easy read, very easy indeed. So, if you like that kind of genre, this might be the book for you. It wasn't one for me and I am not going to read the next titles from the series.

I try to be objective if a book is not my genre but I doubt that this is one of the greatest books ever written even if you like this genre. The story does not really flow, facts are just mentioned in between without any connection to the story, I would have expected more about books and libraries in a book where the title says just that. In my opinion, too many dragons, not enough books ...

Lesson learned, the next time I find the word "mysterious" on a book, I have to check whether it is a book for me. The answer is probably NO.

From the book cover:
"Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake."

Monday 20 November 2017

Jones, Edward P. "The Known World"

Jones, Edward P. "The Known World" - 2004

The story about a black farmer and slave owner at the time of the civil war.

One of the few Pulitzer Prize winning books that I didn't enjoy very much. Not because I dislike the subject in general, on the contrary, I believe we need to know about it as much as possible. I have read many books about slaves and slave owners etc. and most of them were highly interesting. But this book is not a novel but it also isn't non-fiction, it is blobs of non-fiction - and nothing new really - thrown together in order to look like a novel.

It reads more like a history book where you have to learn a lot of dates that are not related to each other.

I would certainly not recommend it to anyone who wants an "easy read".

Honestly, I have no idea why this book received the Pulitzer Prize. Maybe a black author was "due" again and so they chose this one. If you want a good and unique book about slavery, read last year's Pulitzer Prize winner, Colson Whitehead. "Underground Railroad" is certainly better. A lot better.

From the back cover:
"In one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, Edward P. Jones, two-time National Book Award finalist, tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold the estate's order and chaos ensues. In a daring and ambitious novel, Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all of its moral complexities."

Edward P. Jones received the Pulitzer Prize for "The Known World" in 2004.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Koch, Herman "The Dinner"

Koch, Herman "The Dinner" (Dutch: Het Diner) - 2009

Our latest book club read, a story about two couples going for dinner but everything seems to go wrong.

While this is a good book to discuss, I didn't actually enjoy it a lot. I didn't like any of the characters, well, I felt a little sorry for the wives but no, I really didn't like any of them. They were not just shallow, they were calculating, only out for their own gain. Another member said she got so angry but we did agree that it was a good book to talk about.

I enjoyed the description of the waiter, of the whole "star restaurant". I have been to a few restaurants like that myself where you seem to pay for the whole plate and therefore don't get much on it ... but everything is somehow "special". I rather go to a nice little restaurant that still cooks everything from fresh ingredients but also makes sure their customers don't leave their place with a hollow stomach.

I found the characters racist or fascist or whatever you might call people who just dislike someone for having less money than they do, Just the type of people I would not want to call my friends. Whatever happens, I don't want to spoil it for anyone like this, I would not do "anything" for my children out of love, I would like to keep them out of trouble before something happens.

The question is, do we want to live in a society determined by these kind of people?

The book has been made into a movie. I'm not sure whether I want to watch it.

We discussed this in our book club in November 2017.

From the back cover:

"A summer's evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness - the banality of work, the triviality of holidays.

But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened... Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified - by everyone except their parents.

As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love."

Friday 10 November 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"What I like about black-and-white photographs is that they're more like reading the book than seeing the movie." Robert Heinecken

"It is both relaxing and invigorating to occasionally set aside the worries of life, seek the company of a friendly book … from the reading of 'good books' there comes a richness of life that can be obtained in no other way." Gordon B. Hinckley

"There's nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over. When you do, the words get inside you, become a part of you, in a way that words in a book you’ve read only once can’t." Gail Carson Levine

"Books are like friends to me. Words come alive on the page." Beverly Lewis

"Books give me an escape from reality even if it’s only for a few minutes.” 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 9 November 2017

Scott, Mary "Days that have been"

Scott, Mary "Days that have been" - 1966

A reread of Mary Scott's auto-biography. She has written many funny stories about her life in New Zealand on a remote farm about a hundred years ago.

I have loved all her stories and red every single one that I could get my hands on but this is probably my favourite. Not as funny as the other ones but you can see where she gets her humour. A lovely account of a woman who had to endure many hardships, who lived a life long forgotten, at least in our part of the world. Born in 1888, she was a little older than my grandmothers but I know from their stories (and those of my parents) that times were about the same, no electricity, no technology, no cars etc. And since none of them has written a book, this is also a sort of getting together with those from my family who have been gone for a long time now. One of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors.

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.

I have not read any of her crime stories or her early and later books "Barbara Bakes", "The Prisoner Escaped" and "The Unwritten Book" and would be grateful if anyone could let me know how I could obtain a copy.

From the back cover: (translated)
"Mary Scott, the farmer's wife and best-selling author from New Zealand, has retold her own life in this book - from her childhood, from her school and university days, from her honeymoon 'on horseback' to living on a farm in the New Zealand bush, isolated and far away from culture and civilization.
As Mary Scott, an almost perfect countrywoman and mother of four children, begins to write between cooking, sewing and milking (for chronic money shortage, by the way) and comes to world fame with her optimistic novels - that itself reads like a cheery novel. Only this time he is not invented by Mary Scott, but experienced."

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Guo, Xiaolu (郭小橹) "Language"

Guo, Xiaolu (郭小橹) "Language" - 2017

The story of a Chinese girl who moves to England.

I found this little book at the till when paying for another book (or two or three ...) and it sounded interesting. It really is only an extract from another book, "A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers" which certainly must be interesting, as well. Anyway, our Chinese girl has learned some English but she really doesn't know much when she first comes to England. It must be quite daunting living in another country and not knowing the language, especially if you are from a completely different culture. I have lived in several countries in my life but always knew the language and the cultures between some Western European countries are not all that different.

The book is written like a diary of the young girl who comes to England and at first, her English is rather limited. But you can tell by the time you get to the end that she gets better all the time. I quite liked that.

Anyway, I have learned more about the Chinese customs in this book than about the English language and that is exactly what I like. Nice short read.

From the back cover:

"Have you ever tried to learn another language? When Zhuang first comes to London from China she feels like she is among an alien species. The city is disorientating, the people unfriendly, the language a muddle of dominant personal pronouns and moody verbs. But with increasing fluency in English surviving turns to living. And they say that the best way to learn a language is to fall in love with a native speaker…

Selected from the book A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo"

Friday 3 November 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

How to Read More:
1. Throw your phone in the ocean (or keep it in airplane mode).
2. Carry a book at all times.
3. Have another book ready before you finish the one you're reading) make a stack of books to-read or load up your e-reader).
4. If you aren't enjoying a book, stop reading it immediately (flinging it across the room helps provide closure).
5. Schedule one hour a day for reading on your calendar like you would an important meeting (try commutes, lunch breaks, or getting into bed an hour early).
6. Keep a reading log and share it (people will send you even more good books to read).
Austin Kleon
Most of them work for me, especially #s 2, 3 and 6.
"The books that help you the most are those which make you think the most." Theodore Parker

"There’s no book that absolutely everyone loves." Carolyn Parkhurst

"It is when we are faced with death that we turn most bookish." Jules Renard

"Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all." Henry David Thoreau

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 2 November 2017

Fforde, Jasper "Shades of Grey. The Road to High Saffron"

Fforde, Jasper "Shades of Grey. The Road to High Saffron" - 2009

A dystopian novel about a future where colour perception rules the world. I like colours, I like Jasper Fforde's style I read a few of his "Thursday Next" books (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book), so I couldn't resist when I saw this book even though the title surprised me a little. When my son saw it on my reading pile, he looked at it curiously and I said "It's not 50 Shades of Grey", and he laughed and said "I wouldn't think you'd step that low". Oh, my kids know me so well. ;)

Anyway, I think dystopian novels (or "disturbian" as my husband likes to call them) are great. They show our society in a different way. What kind of fears are there, how do we imagine the world would look like if some of them came true. Or something else happened that made us give up the ways we live now.

In this case, Something (always capitalized) happens and the world changes, the people change. Everyone is only able to see certain kinds of colour and even there is a difference in how well they perceive "their" colour. Families even have their last names showing what colour they can see, like our hero Eddie Russett, who - obviously - belongs to the Reds. Then there are the deMauves, the Ochres, the Magnetas, Mr. Yewberry, Mrs. Lapis-Lazuli, etc. The Greys don't see any colours and are therefore just given a number.

But here's the thing, people manage to get racism even into this, you are not judged by the colour of your skin but by the colour you can see. The ultra-violets are the highest, the Reds come second last, just above the Greys.

What I liked about this novel is not just the author's style, he does write interestingly and his novels always contain a lot of humour, but the way it makes you think about how we really perceive this world. That is my favourite part not just about this novel but of any dystopian one.

From the back cover:

"Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour.
Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane - a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed.
For Eddie, it's love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey . . .
If George Orwell had tripped over a paint pot or Douglas Adams favoured colour swatches instead of towels . . . neither of them would have come up with anything as eccentrically brilliant as Shades of Grey."

According to Wikipedia: "Fforde's books contain a profusion of literary allusions and wordplay, tightly scripted plots, and playfulness with the conventions of traditional genres. His works usually contain elements of metafiction, parody, and fantasy."

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Happy November!

Happy November to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch


November is the "ninth" month in the old calendar, the last of the four months with 30 days and the days are getting shorter and greyer. I have always liked November, definitely no more hot days but usually not too cold, either, at least in our area. In the Christian religion, we remember the dead mostly. I guess this is because we see the year running out as our lives do. And we celebrate the end of WWI. Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch. Isn't the little squirrel just too cute?

You can find many more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Morgan, Ann "Reading the World"

Morgan, Ann "Reading the World. Confessions of a Literary Explorer" (aka "The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe") - 2015

Last year, I wrote my blogpost "Travel the World Through Books".

I must admit, I have not progressed much, I do try to read about different kinds of countries all the time but a lot of them come just from the "usual suspects". It is in my thoughts all the time and I do choose new books accordingly.

However, here is a lady who managed to read a book from every independent country - 196 of them - in one year. It was so interesting to follow her quest for literature from around the world, on how she wrote to people in small countries and begged them to translate books into English for her. Fantastic! It means she leaves a list for all of us that we can follow and hopefully get there ourselves one day. Look here: A Year of Reading the World.

It doesn't mean I will read exactly the same books as Ann Morgan did, I have read quite a few from different countries already and I might choose some others from other countries where there are more available translations into German, for example.

But the book wasn't just interesting because of my original quest. The author tells us a lot about the world of literature and how we are more or less forced to read from what is made available to us in the language(s) we speak. For example, she mentions a list compiled by French scholar Raymond Querneau who put together an "ideal library". He asked several writers to choose their 100 favourite titles from a list of 3,500 works and in the end he had 60 French books, 9 British/American ones, 6 Germans, 3 Spanish, 1 each Hebrew and Arabic ... I wasn't too surprised. Since I have been a member of an international book club for most of this century (Ha, doesn't that sound like a long time?) and one of our conditions for any book we read is that it must be available in English, I have discovered that more translations are made into German than into English and not just translations from English into German but from many other languages, as well. A fact that the author also talks about when she mentions that non-German fiction makes up more than 50 per cent of Germany's bestsellers. She doesn't even mention a percentage of translated books published in the English language, only that it is a very tiny number. I loved, of course, that she calls my home country "a nation of book lovers".

The author doesn't write reviews about the books in this work but that is not necessary, you can check it out in her blog. But she gives us more, she gives us a background about literature around the world and how we can find our way through it.

So, whether you want to conquer the world by reading it or just would like to enlarge your spectrum of literature, this is a great book to read. It gives you the instigation to read more books that are not in your comfort zone and thereby getting to know the world better, even your own place in it.

One quote I liked and totally agree with
"As readers, we don’t travel. In fact for many of us that’s precisely the point: we open books to experience ideas and places that we don’t have the budget, time or stomach to go through in real life."

Needless to say, I am following her blog in the meantime and am anxious to read her next book, "Beside Myself".

From the back cover:
"In 2012, the world arrived in London for the Olympics .. .and Ann Morgan went out to meet it. She read her way around all the globe’s 196 independent countries (plus one extra), sampling one book from every nation. It wasn't easy. Many languages have next to nothing translated into English; there are tiny, tucked-away places where very little is written down at all; some governments don't like to let works of art leak out to corrupt Westerners.

Her literary adventures shed light on the issues that affect us all: personal, political, national and global. Using her quest as a starting point, this book explores questions such as: What is cultural heritage? How do we define national identity? Is it possible to overcome censorship and propaganda? And how can we celebrate, challenge and change our remarkable world?"

You can find the list here. And these are the books I read.

Afghanistan Khaled Hosseini The Kite Runner; A Thousand Splendid Suns /
Albania Ismail Kadaré The Fall of the Stone City (Darka e Gabuar) /
Australia Markus Zusak The Book Thief /
Bangladesh Tahmima Anam The Good Muslim /
Belarus Svetlana Alexievich Voices from Chernobyl  (Чернобыльская молитва/Černobylskaja molitva) /
Belgium Hergé The Adventures of Tintin / Stefan Brijs The Angel Maker (De engelenmaker) /
Bosnia and Herzegovina Zlata Filipovic Zlata’s Diary  (Zlatin dnevnik: otroštvo v obleganem Sarajevu) / Ivo Andric The Bridge on the Drina (На Дрини Ћуприја or Na Drini Ćuprija) / Saša Stanišić How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone (Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert) 
Brazil Paulo Coelho The Almchemist (O Alquimista); Brida (Brida) /
Cameroon Imbolo Mbue Behold the Dreamers
Canada Alice Munro Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Love, Marriage; Runaway / Carol Shields Jane Austen; The Stone Diaries / Michael Ondaatje / Timothy Findley /
Chile Isabel Allende The House of the Spirits (La Casa de los Espíritus) /
China Cao Xuequin Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦/Hung lou meng/aka The Story of the Stone) /
Colombia Gabriel García Márquez Love in the Time of Cholera, (El amor en los tiempos del cólera),  One Hundred Years of Solitude,  (Cien años de soledad), The General in His Labyrinth (El general en su laberinto) /
Denmark Peter Høeg Smilla’s Sense of Snow (Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne) /
Dominican Republic Alvarez, Julia "In the Time of the Butterflies" - 1994
Egypt Ahdaf Soueif The Map of Love / Naguib Mahfouz / Alaa Al Aswany The Yacoubian Building (عمارة يعقوبيان , Imarat Ya’qubian) /
Estonia Jaan Kross Professor Martens' Departure (Professor Martensi ärasõit
Finland Mika Waltari The Egyptian (Sinuhe Egyptiläinen) /
France Marie NDiaye Rosie Carpe (Rosie Carpe) /
Germany Günter Grass / Heinrich Böll / Jurek Becker Jacob the Liar (Jakob der Lügner) / Jenny Erpenbeck The End of Days (Aller Tage Abend) / Herman Hesse Siddhartha (Siddhartha) / Thomas Mann / Christa Wolf They Divided the Sky (Der geteilte Himmel)
Hungary Imre Kertész Fatelessness (Sorstalanság) /
India Rohinton Mistry Family Matters; A Fine Balance / Amitav Ghosh River of Smoke / Vikram Seth A Suitable Boy /
Indonesia Andrea Hirata The Rainbow Troops (Lasykar Pelangi)
Ireland James Joyce Ulysses /
Israel David Grossman To the End of the Land (אשה בורחת מבשורה/Isha Nimletet Mi'Bshora) / Amos Oz A Tale of Love and Darkness (סיפור על אהבה וחוHשך, Sipur) /
Italy Primo Levi If Not Now, When? (Se non ora, quando) / Roberto Saviano Gomorrah (Gomorra)
Japan Haruki Murakami Kafka on the Shore (海辺のカフカ Umibe no Kafuka) /
Kyrgyzstan Chinghiz Aitmatov Jamilia (Джамиля - Jamilia) /
Lebanon Amin Maalouf Samarkand (Samarcande) / Khalil Gibran The Prophet /
Morocco Benali, Abdelkader Wedding by the Sea (Bruiloft aan zee) /
Netherlands Harry Mulisch The Discovery of Heaven (De Ontdekking van de Hemel) / Tessa de Loo The Twins (De Tweeling) / Kader Abdolah The House of the Mosque (Het huis van de moskee) /
Nigeria Achebe, Chinua Things Fall Apart
Norway Per Petterson Out Stealing Horses (Ut og stjæle hester) / Knut Hamsun /
Peru Mario Vargas Llosa Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (La tía Julia y el escribidor); The Storyteller (El Hablador) /
Poland Tokarczuk, Olga "Primeval and other Times" (Prawiek i inne czasy)
Portugal José Saramago Blindness (O Ensaio sobre a Cegueira) /
Romania Herta Müller The Appointment (Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet) / Mircea Eliade "Marriage in Heaven" (Nuntă în cer)
Russia Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich / Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina
Saudi Arabia Rajaa Alsanea Girls of Riyadh (بنات الرياض‎ Banāt al-Riyāḍ)
Senegal Mariama Bâ So Long a Letter /
South Africa Nelson Mandela The Long Walk to Freedom / Alan Paton Cry, the Beloved Country /
South Korea Han Kang "The Vegetarian" (채식주의자/Ch'angbi) /
Spain Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote / Carlos Ruiz Zafón The Shadow of the Wind /
Suriname Cynthia Mcleod The Cost of Sugar /
Sweden Henning Mankell / Jonas Jonasson The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared /
Switzerland  Dürrenmatt Der Richter und sein Henker/The Judge and his Hangman / Gottfried Keller / Syria Rafik Schami 
Tanzania Abdulrazak Gurnah Pilgrim's Way 
Trinidad and Tobago VS Naipaul A House for Mr Biswas /
Turkey Orhan Pamuk Snow / Latife Tekin / Elif Safak The Forty Rules of Love / Sabahattin Ali / Yaşar Kemal / Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar The Time Regulation Institute /
United Kingdom Virginia Woolf / Kazuo Ishiguro / JK Rowling /
United States of America Norton Juster The Phantom Tollbooth / Barbara Kingsolver The Poisonwood Bible / Cormac Mccarthy / Eliot Weinberger / Jhumpa Lahiri / Amy Tan /
Zimbabwe Tsitsi Dangarembga Nervous Conditions /