Friday 28 September 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"How can you be bored? There are so many books to read!" Lailah Gifty Akita

"If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one's chances of survival increase with each book one reads." Sherman Alexie

"Reading - even browsing - an old book can yield sustenance denied by a database search." James Gleick

"For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading." Eudora Welty

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Henderson, Kristin "Driving by Moonlight"

Henderson, Kristin "Driving by Moonlight: A Journey Through Love, War, and Infertility" - 2003

Years ago, a member in our book club suggested this and I bought it back then. However, somehow I never really got around to starting it, and now I know why.

I thought this was going to be a book about a woman struggling with her inability to have children but it wasn't really. Yes, she speaks about that, as well. But she also speaks about struggles that have nothing to do with it, the military, September 11th, religion. While I understand that all these played into her life, it wasn't for me. She jumps from one point to the next without finishing the first thought and then returns sometimes later without giving any more information about the second thought. Just a little higgledy-piggledy.

As to the other, non-infertility related topics, maybe I'm not American enough for them.

Not my book.

From the back cover:

"When Kristin Henderson's husband, a Lutheran chaplain, ships out with the Marines to Afghanistan after 9/11, Henderson struggles to reconcile her Quaker belief in pacifism with her strong feelings about the smoking rubble in her hometown of Washington, D.C. Together with her German shepherd, Rosie, Henderson sets off in an old Corvette on a cross-country journey through America's byways, exploring a changed country and her own altered emotional landscape. Hoping for answers, Henderson finds peace instead, and learns the freedom that comes with letting go."

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Abulhawa, Susan "The Blue Between Sky and Water"

Abulhawa, Susan "The Blue Between Sky and Water" - 2015

This is my second book by Susan Abulhawa. I loved "Mornings in Jenin" and was sure this wouldn't be bad, either. And I was not disappointed.

The author tells us about ordinary Palestinians whose lives changed when the Israeli state was formed. All of a sudden, they had no country any more, no rights, nothing. They were pushed from one side to the next and the world looked upon them as troublemakers. I always wonder what others in their situation would have done. Probably nothing else.

We always hear about Palestinians in the news when they have attacked something. We never hear when they have been attacked. The news would be full of them, I guess.

Anyway, this book is about several generations of a Palestinian family, how the different members cope with the changes - or don't cope. It is especially about the women who, like usual, have to carry most of the burden. And they often become stronger with the troubles that are coming their way.

I have friends in Israel and I don't want this to be seen as a criticism against them. But I totally understand the people of Palestine and that they would wish to have their country back. A lot of the troubles in the Middle East could have been avoided, had not some Europeans decided this was the best way to solve their conflicts.

I will definitely read more books by Susan Abulhawa. She is a great story-teller.

From the back cover:

"It is 1947, and Beit Daras, a rural Palestinian village, is home to the Baraka family - oldest daughter Nazmiyeh, brother Mamdouh, dreamy Mariam and their widowed mother. When Israeli forces descend, sending the village up in flames, the family must take the long road to Gaza, in a walk that will test them to their limits.

Sixty years later, in America, Mamdouh's granddaughter Nur falls in love with a doctor. Following him to Gaza, she meets Alwan, who will help Nur discover the ties of kinship that transcend distance - and even death. Told with raw humanity, The Blue Between Sky and Water is a lyrical, devastatingly beautiful story of a family's relocation, separation, survival and love."

Friday 21 September 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"Personally, I am a hedonistic reader; I have never read a book merely because it was ancient. I read books for the aesthetic emotions they offer me, and I ignore the commentaries and criticism." Jorge Luis Borges

"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." Coolio

"This is every reader's catch-22: the more you read, the more you realize you haven't read; the more you yearn to read more, the more you understand that you have, in fact, read nothing. There is no way to finish, and perhaps that shouldn't be the goal." Pamela Paul

"There is a space on everyone's bookshelves for books you have outgrown but can't give away. They hold your youth between their pages, like flowers pressed on a half-forgotten Summer's day." 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 20 September 2018

Fry, Stephen "Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold"

Fry, Stephen "Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold" - 2017

I have never been a huge fan of all those Greek gods and their myths and I have always thought that's because I don't know enough about them. So, when I found this book by Stephen Fry, whom I really admire, I thought, okay, I'll give it another go.

Do I know more about the gods, titans, and all the other mythical creatures? Well, yes. Will I remember who is who and in which stories they appear? Mmmmh … probably not. And this has nothing to do with the brilliancy of Stephen Fry's way of telling those myths. No, he's as great as ever. But I have decided that those stories are not for me. There are a few stories that are not too bad but on the whole, they don't really interest me. Not even when someone as fantastic as Stephen Fry tell them. Probably too much like fantasy for me.

From the back cover:

"No one loves and quarrels, desires and deceives as boldly or brilliantly as Greek gods and goddesses.

In Stephen Fry's vivid retelling we gaze in wonder as wise Athena is born from the cracking open of the great head of Zeus and follow doomed Persephone into the dark and lonely realm of the Underworld. We shiver when Pandora opens her jar of evil torments and watch with joy as the legendary love affair between Eros and Psyche unfolds.

Mythos captures these extraordinary myths for our modern age - in all their dazzling and deeply human relevance."

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Erpenbeck, Jenny "The End of Days"

Erpenbeck, Jenny "The End of Days" (German: Aller Tage Abend) - 2012

Jenny Erpenbeck is quite a well-known German author so I thought it was about time to read one of her books. I was not disappointed. What an interesting book.

How long is a child going to live, what kind of life is it going to be? Who is going to be around, who will be there to mourn them when they die. In this book, we get a feeling on how different a life can go and how different the end can be. A very interesting concept of describing how certain decisions can end a life or prolong it.

A brilliant story that is written with so much poise, so much dedication, it's almost as if the author writes about someone she knows herself personally.

A very moving book, a great novel by a great author.

From the back cover:

"Winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Hans Fallada Prize, The End of Days, by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, consists essentially of five 'books,' each leading to a different death of the same unnamed female protagonist. How could it all have gone differently? - the narrator asks in the intermezzos. The first chapter begins with the death of a baby in the early twentieth-century Hapsburg Empire. In the next chapter, the same girl grows up in Vienna after World War I, but a pact she makes with a young man leads to a second death. In the next scenario, she survives adolescence and moves to Russia with her husband. Both are dedicated Communists, yet our heroine ends up in a labor camp. But her fate does not end there….

A novel of incredible breadth and amazing concision, The End of Days offers a unique overview of the twentieth century."

Monday 17 September 2018

Briley, John "Cry Freedom"

Briley, John "Cry Freedom: The Legendary True Story of Steve Biko and the Friendship that Defied Apartheid" - 1987

I have never seen the movie "Cry Freedom" but it has been on my wishlist for ages. Now, I put it right on top. This is a book that was written after the film - quite a rarity. An interesting story about a man who tried to claim freedom for his people, equal treatment, no matter the colour of your skin, the end of apartheid. He wanted all that peacefully and paid the ultimate price. I don't think this is a spoiler because Steve Biko has been dead for over forty years.

But it is also the story of another man, one born into privilege in a country where it makes a huge difference who your ancestors are, born with that kind of attitude that makes them think they deserve this privilege for whatever weird reason. When Donald Woods meets Steve Biko, a friendship develops. John Briley, the author, describes this in a very subtle way, you can just imagine how the friendship evolved slowly but surely.

The life of Donald Woods is probably just as interesting as Steve Biko's. The story about their friendship describes the story of South Africa, the story of Apartheid. I have read quite a few books about the people from this country and it shocks me again and again how something like this could even happen, how people could accept this. I doubt that I will ever understand but I urge everyone to read about it and make sure this doesn't happen again, in your own country or elsewhere.

Brilliant story.

From the back cover:

"They said Steve Biko was a man of violence; then why did he talk of peace? They said he wanted revolution; so why did he talk of friendship? They said he died of hunger; why was his body broken and bruised? This is the story of a man's fight with the government of South Africa. It is the story of all people who prefer truth to lies. It is the story of all people who cry 'Freedom', and who are not afraid to die."

Friday 14 September 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while." Malorie Blackman

"You will always have friends. Real life doesn't always hand you the right people. But a book is the perfect place to find your people whenever you need them." Gillian

"Reading is departure and arrival." Terri Guillemets

"You are a reader, and therefore a thinker, an observer, a living soul who wants more out of this human experience." Salil Jha

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 13 September 2018

Chekhov, Anton "Summer Holidays"

Chekhov, Anton/Tschechow, Anton/Чехов, Антон Павлович/Anton Pavlovič Čechov "In der Sommerfrische: Meistererzählungen" (Russian: Дачники) [Summer Holidays] - 1880/87

Anton Chekhov was born about a century before me (1860-1904), so it is interesting to see how people lived back then. I always wanted to read one of his novels but when I happened to come upon this collection of short stories, I thought that might be a nice beginning.

It definitely was. I love Russian authors and have not been disappointed by any of them so far. They just have a great way of telling stories, each one of them is unique and interesting.

As with other Russian authors, we hear a lot about the misery of Russian life, the stories are all quite short, and I don't normally like short, in fact, I would have preferred some larger stories in between, but Chekhov manages to come to the point within just a couple of pages and tell you the whole life story of a character, and his whole surroundings, as well.

As there are different kinds of collections and none of them is the same as the others, here is the list of all the stories that are there. Some might not have been translated into English but I'm sure the majority has.

1886: Eine Bagatelle (Kleiner Zwischenfall; russ. Житейская мелочь) - A Trifling Occurrence
1886: Grischa (russ. Гриша) - Grisha
1887: Zu Hause (russ. Дома) - At Home
1887: Die Jungens (russ. Мальчики) - Boys
In der Sommerfrische (russ. Дачники) [Summer Holidays]
1886: Der Redner (russ. Оратор) - The Orator
1886: Ein Glücklicher (russ. Счастливчик) - The Major Plays
1884: Eine schreckliche Nacht (russ. Страшная ночь) [A Terrible Night]
1885: Der Gast (russ. Гость) [The Guest]
1883: Der Dicke und der Dünne (russ. Толстый и тонкий) - Fat and Thin
Aus dem Regen in die Traufe [From Bad to Worse]
1884: Das Drama auf der Jagd (russ. Драма на охоте) - The Shooting Party
Mnemotechnik [Mnemonics]
1899: Die Dame mit dem Hündchen (russ. Дама с собачкой) - The Lady with the Little Dog
1886: Agafja (russ. Агафья) - Agafya
1887: Ohne Auslagen (russ. Хороший конец) [Without Expenses]
Was Fräulein N.N. erzählt [What Miss N.N. Tells]
1886: Die Plappertasche (russ. Длинный язык) [The Chatterbox]
1886: Ein bekannter Herr (Ihr Bekannter, russ. Знакомый мужчина) [A Well-Known Gentleman]
Der Dramatiker [The Dramatist]
1885: Die letzte Mohikanerin (russ. Последняя могиканша) [The Last Female Mohican]
Eine Schutzlose (russ. Беззащитное существо) [A Defenseless Woman]
1887: Wolodja (russ. Володя) - Volodya
1887: Typhus (russ. Тиф) [Typhus]
1886: Gram (russ. Тоска) - Misery
1883: Die Verleumdung (russ. Клевета) [The Slander]
In den Chambregarnies (russ. В номерах) [In the Furnished Rooms]
Der böse Knabe (russ. Злой мальчик) - A Naughty Boy
1884: Ein Chamäleon (russ. Хамелеон) - The Chameleon
1884: Der Orden (russ. Орден) [The Medal]
1884: Die Rache einer Frau (russ. Месть женщины) [The Revenge of a Woman]
Misslungen [Failed]

[Titles in Brackets have been translated by me because I couldn't find the English title anywhere. They might have been translated, though.]

Monday 10 September 2018

Sansom, C.J. "Dominion"

Sansom, C.J. (Christopher John) "Dominion" - 2011

"The Children's War" by J.N. Stroyar is probably my favourite book ever. Therefore, I was quite pleased to find this book that tells another story about what would or could have happened, had the Nazis won the war. I have always said I am glad they didn't, even though some of my foreign friends might think I shouldn't be thankful Germany lost the war. But that is wrong. Germany didn't lose the war, the Nazis did and that was for the good of everyone, not just the foreigners. My parents who were still quite little when they were elected have been telling me stories that go hand in hand with these kinds of books.

Therefore, well done, Christopher John Sansom. In this novel, we assume that there wasn't a WWII, just a short war in 1939 and that the Nazis won and carried on ruling the world. And what an awful world that was. Just as bad as living in Germany during those years when you weren't a Nazi. You had to hide your feelings from everyone around you, just in case they disagreed with you and reported you. My grandfather made the mistake to warn everyone before the elections and was given quite a hard time afterwards. Luckily, they lived quite remote and he could hide in the nearby bogs.

Back to the book, we follow different kinds of people in Nazi ruled Britain, the followers, the resistance, the Jews, and even some German military guys who come to "help out". We get to know them quite well and follow their stories, their hopes and their dreams.

It was extremely interesting for me to read all this, imagining my grandparents in a time like that. Maybe someday I will come upon a great book about the German resistance in those hard times.

Best quote:
"Whenever a party tells you national identity matters more than anything else in politics, that nationalism can sort out all the other problems, then watch out, because you’re on a road that can end with fascism."

From the back cover:

"1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers, and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages on in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent auxiliary police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. There are terrible rumours too about what is happening in the basement of the German Embassy at Senate House. Defiance, though, is growing.

In Britain, Winston Churchill's Resistance organisation is increasingly a thorn in the government's side. And in a Birmingham mental hospital an incarcerated scientist, Frank Muncaster, may hold a secret that could change the balance of the world struggle forever. Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, secretly acting as a spy for the Resistance, is given by them the mission to rescue his old friend Frank and get him out of the country. Before long he, together with a disparate group of Resistance activists, will find themselves fugitives in the midst of London’s Great Smog; as David’s wife Sarah finds herself drawn into a world more terrifying than she ever could have imagined. And hard on their heels is Gestapo Sturmbannfuhrer Gunther Hoth, brilliant, implacable hunter of men . . .

At once a vivid, haunting re-imagining of 1950s Britain, a gripping, humane spy thriller and a poignant love story - with Dominion, C.J. Sansom once again asserts himself as the master of the historical novel."

Friday 7 September 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"The more you read, the more you learn, the more you learn, the smarter you are." Dr T.P. Chia

"Libraries are the thin red line between civilisation and barbarism." Neil Gaiman

"Collect books, even if you don't plan on reading them right away. Nothing is more imprtnat than an unread library." Austin Kleon 

"Reading is an adventure that never ends." Charles M. Schulz 

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Weir, Alison "Six Tudor Queens. Anne Boleyn"

Weir, Alison "Six Tudor Queens. Anne Boleyn. A King's Obsession" - 2017

After having read "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" and "Six Tudor Queens. Katherine of Aragon. The True Queen", I had to read the story of the next queen, probably the most well-known and disputed one of King Henry's wives, Anne Boleyn. A wonderful portrayal of a young woman who seemed to have it all, at least for a while.

Just as the story about Katherine of Aragon, this one is told from the point of view of the new queen, Anne Boleyn. We hear about so many other facts about her life and can understand her a little better, I believe. Was she really the woman who wanted to break up a marriage for the sake of her own advantage, to become queen, and was she thereby responsible for the creation of the Church of England? Or was she simply just another playball in men's politics, a way for her father advance into higher royal circles and thereby getting richer and more important, a new toy for the king to play with?

We may never know the real truth behind her but Alison Weir gave us the chance to have a look at her from a different side, to try to get to know the real Anne Boleyn. The author has a great knowledge about the Tudors and therefore is able to bring them closer to us.

When I was younger, I always wondered how this despotic king managed to find six women who were willing to marry him but I have since learned that getting married back then wasn't the same as it is today, certainly not in the royal and aristocratic circles. I am really looking forward to reading about the other four wives in the next books.

A wonderful novel.

From the back cover:

"The young woman who changed the course of history.

Fresh from the palaces of Burgundy and France, Anne draws attention at the English court, embracing the play of courtly love.

But when the King commands, nothing is ever a game.

Anne has a spirit worthy of a crown - and the crown is what she seeks. At any price.

ANNE BOLEYN. The second of Henry's Queens. Her story.

History tells us why she died. This powerful novel shows her as she lived.

Find my reviews of Alison Weir's other books here.

Monday 3 September 2018

Kästner, Erich "When I was a little boy"

Kästner, Erich "When I was a little boy" (German: Als ich ein kleiner Junge war) - 1957

Erich Kästner is a famous German author, even outside of Germany. He has mainly written children's books that were translated and read all over the world and they were also made into many films. He is the author of "Emil and the Detectives" (Emil und die Detektive) as well as "The Parent Trap" (Das doppelte Lottchen), "The Flying Classroom", "The Animal Congress" and "Three Men in the Snow" (to name but a few) and was nominated for the Nobel Prize several times, though never received it. All of his stories are lovely, always with a hint of sarcasm and criticism of our society.

But in this book, he describes his own life. His life as a little boy. Emil Erich Kästner was born in 1899 and his childhood lasted for fourteen years when it was ended by the beginning of the Great War.

Erich Kästner describes his life as a little boy just after the turn of the last century. We see him growing up in Dresden as the only child of a saddle maker and a hairstylist.  They were poor but they were happy.

We see little Erich play with his friends, learn at school, help his mother with her work, we see how families lived a hundred years ago.

Erich Kästner has the gift to describe all the details, even after many years. He wrote this book in 1957, such a long time ago. He mentions that you can't visit his home town Dresden anymore because it was destroyed. He would have been happy to see that they rebuilt a lot of it after the fall of The Wall. It's a lovely city now, I've been and I hope to go again. And the next time I will think about Erich Kästner and all his wonderful novels.

From the back cover:

"Autobiography by the author of 'Emil', detailing his childhood in Dresden and giving behind the scenes insight as to how some of the most famous children's books came to be written.

'When I Was a Little Boy' begins with a lament for Dresden: 'I was born in the most beautiful city in the world. Even if your father, child, was the richest man in the world, he could not take you to see it, because it does not exist anymore. (...) In a thousand years was her beauty built, in one night was it utterly destroyed.'"

Saturday 1 September 2018

Happy September!

Happy September to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Lasst uns Laterne gehen"
"Let's Walk with the Lanterns"

September is the month when my favourite season starts: Autumn. An old Germanic name for this month is also "autumn moon". It always starts with the same day of the week as December. 

The birthstone for this month is the sapphire which is attributed to the planet Saturn. The name comes from a Latin word for blue and the stone is generally blue, though there are other varieties. 

A sapphire jubilee is celebrated after 65 years, so quite a long time. 

Coming to the lovely picture, a tradition in Germany is for little kids to walk around with Lanterns in the autumn. In recent years, it is usually done for the feast of St. Martin in November but when I was little, it was done all throughout the autumn, hence the picture, I suppose. You can buy many ready-made lanterns nowadays but it's always fun to make your own and many playgroups and elementary schools still do this with kids. 

So, enjoy this month with this beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch.

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