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.