Thursday 28 February 2019

2019 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

This is another highly interesting Reading Challenge I joined in 2016.

I don't think Evie from the Bookish Blog still carries this on, as I can't find it on her page but her words with which she started this challenge are still true: "We all have those books. We buy them, win them, they're gifted to us. Then we put them up on a bookshelf and there they stay, collecting dust, waiting for the time when we'll finally decide to pick them up."

After three years of participation, my TBR (To Be Read) pile is still a lot longer than it should because I just can't resist buying any new books and going to the library but I have tried to attempt reading more old books than buying new ones.

I could, of course, try to tackle the 50+ challenge but we all know that is not going to happen, instead, I tried to do at least 11-20 old books in addition to the new ones I'm buying and those I get from the library and wished to be pleasantly surprised at the end of the year. That happened, I have reached the 21-30 (First Kiss) and 31-40 (Sweet Summer Fling) in the last years, maybe I can get to 41-50 (Could This Be Love?) one day.

I have read
37 books in 2016,
32 in 2017, and

38 in 2018
of the books that had been waiting to be read for more than a year.

So far, I have already read these of my "old books" in 2019:

Dostoevsky, Fyodor "The Brothers Karamazov" (Братья Карамазовы/Brat'ya Karamazovy/Die Brüder Karamasow) - 1879-80
Weir, Andy "The Martian" (Der Marsianer) - 2011
Fielding, Henry "The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling" (Tom Jones: Die Geschichte eines Findelkindes) - 1749

Finkbeiner, Bernhard, Brekle, Hans-Jörg "Frag Mutti" [Ask Mum] - 2006
Fredriksson, Marianne "Eva" (Evas bok/The Book of Eve) (Paradisets barn/The Children of Paradise #1) - 1980
Sparks, Nicholas "The Notebook" (Wie ein einziger Tag) - 2004 

Achebe, Chinua "Things Fall Apart" (The African Trilogy #1/Okonkwo oder Das alte stürzt/Alles zerfällt) - 1958
Pamuk, Orhan "Das neue Leben" (Yeni Hayat/The New Life) - 1994

Eschbach, Andreas "Eine Billion Dollar" (One Trillion Dollars) - 2001
Noack, Barbara "Auf einmal sind sie keine Kinder mehr" [All of a sudden, they're not children anymore] - 1978
Trollope, Joanna "Next of Kin" (Die nächsten Verwandten) - 1996
James, Henry "Daisy Miller" (Daisy Miller) - 1879 

Alighieri, Dante "Die Göttliche Komödie" (The Divine Comedy/Divina Commedia) - 1308-20
Doyle, Roddy "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" (Paddy Clarke ha ha ha) - 1993
Hirata, Andrea "Die Regenbogentruppe" (Lasykar Pelangi/The Rainbow Troops) - 2005
Hawthorne, Nathaniel "The Scarlet Letter" (Der scharlachrote Buchstabe) - 1850
Hüsch, Hanns Dieter "Frieda auf Erden" [Frieda/Peace on Earth] - 1959
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander (Солженицын, Александр Исаевич) "August 1914" ["The Red Wheel" cycle] (Узел I - «Август Четырнадцатого», Красное колесо) (Solschenizyn, Alexander; August Vierzehn, aus dem Zyklus "Das Rote Rad") - 1971
Kishon, Ephraim "Kein Öl, Moses?" [No Oil, Moses?] - 1974 

Erfmeyer, Klaus "Karrieresprung" [Career Leap/Career Jump] - 2006 
Wilding, Valerie "Top Ten Dickens Stories" - 2000

All in all 23 books that I eliminated from my ever growing pile.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Nicoletti, Cara "Voracious"

Nicoletti, Cara "Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books" - 2015

This is such a lovely book. If you like recipes, you might want to read it just for the recipes. But if, like me, you love reading, you will love to read it for the parts in the books you loved. Who doesn't remember Mr. Woodhouse (in "Emma") tell everyone at their dinner about the perfectly boiled egg? Makes me laugh every time I boil eggs.

And the other recipes are just as nice, great reminders about some wonderful books. Even if you don't like cooking or would never cook any of those recipes.

Here are the recipes with links to the books I reviewed:

Austen, Jane "Emma" - Perfectly boiled egg
Austen, Jane "Pride and Prejudice" - White Garlic Soup *
Banks, Lynne Reid "The Indian in the Cupboard" - Grilled Roast Beef
Burnett, Frances Hodgson "The Secret Garden" - Currant Buns
Capote, Truman "In Cold Blood" - Cherry Pie
Cunningham, Michael "The Hours" - Birthday Cake
Dahl, Roald "The Witches" - Mussel, Shrimp, and Cod Stew
Dickens, Charles "Great Expectations" - Pork Pie
Didion, Joan "Goodbye to All That" - Grilled Peaches with Homemade Ricotta
Eugenides, Jeffrey "Middlesex" - Olive Oil Yogurt Cake
Flynn, Gillian "Gone Girl" - Brown Butter Crepes
Franzen, Jonathan "The Corrections" - Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Buttercream Frosting
French, Tana "In the Woods" - Chocolate-Covered Digestive Biscuits
Golding, William "Lord of the Flies" - Porchetta di Testa
Grimm, Jacob + Wilhelm "Hansel and Gretel" - Gingerbread Cake with Blood Orange Syrup
Harris, Thomas "The Silence of the Lambs" - Crostini with Fava Bean and Chicken Liver Mousses
Heller, Peter "The Dog Stars" - Whole Roasted Trout
Homer "The Odyssey" - Red Wine-Rosemary Bread
Houston, Pam "Waltzing the Cat" (incl."The Best Girlfriend You Never Had") - Red Flannel Hash
Hugo, Victor "Les Misérables" - Black Rye Bread
Ingalls Wilder, Laura "Little House in the Big Woods" - Breakfast Sausage
Irving, Washington "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" Buckwheat Pancakes
Keene, Carolyn "Nancy Drew" - Double Chocolate Walnut Sundae
Kesey, Ken "Sometimes a Great Notion" - Blackberry-Hazelnut Coffee Cake
Lee, Harper "To Kill a Mockingbird" - Biscuits with Molasses Butter
Lindgren, Astrid "Pippi Longstocking" - Buttermilk Pancakes
Maurier, Daphne du "Rebecca" - Blood Orange Marmalade
Melville, Herman "Moby Dick" - Clam Chowder
McCloskey, Robert "Homer Price" - Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts
Montgomery, L.M. "Anne of Green Gables" - Salted Chocolate Caramels
Morrison, Toni "The Bluest Eye" - Concord Grape Sorbet
Numeroff, Laura Joffe "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" - Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Orwell, George "Down and Out in Paris and London" - Rib-Eye Steak
Paola, Tomie de "Strega Nona" - Black Pepper-Parmesan Pasta
Plath, Sylvia "The Bell Jar" - Crab-Stuffed Avocados
Poe, Edgar Allen "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" - Goat Cheese Pumpkin Pie
Rawls, Wilson "Where the Red Fern Grows" - Skillet Cornbread with Honey Butter
Roth, Philip "American Pastoral" - Hot Cheese Sandwich
Salinger, J.D. "The Catcher in the Rye" - Malted Milk Ice Cream
Sendak, Maurice "In the Night Kitchen" - Scalded and Malted Milk Cake
Singer, Isaac Bashevis "Gimpel the Fool" - Challah
Tartt, Donna "The Little Friend" - Peppermint Stick Ice Cream
Tartt, Donna "The Secret History" - Wine-Braised Leg of Lamb with Wild Mushrooms
Tolstoi, Leo "Anna Karenina" - Oysters and Cucumber Mignonette
Toole, John Kennedy "A Confederacy of Dunces" - Jelly Donuts
Virgil "The Aeneid" - Honey-Poppy Seed Cake
Warner, Gertrude Chandler "The Boxcar Children" - Chocolate Pudding
Waugh, Evelyn "Brideshead Revisited" - Blinis with Caviar
White, E.B. "Charlotte's Web" - Pea and Bacon Soup
Wilder, Laura Ingalls "Little House in the Big Woods" - Breakfast Sausage
Woolf, Virginia "Mrs. Dalloway" - Chocolate Éclairs

* Here, I would have chosen the "excellent boiled potatoes" that are served in a "superbly featured room". As we all know, it's been many years since Mr. Collins had had "such an exemplary vegetable".

From the back cover:

"An Irresistible Literary Feast

Stories and recipes inspired by the world's great books

As a young bookworm reading in her grandfather's butcher shop, Cara Nicoletti saw how books and food bring people to life. Now a butcher, cook, and talented writer, she serves up stories and recipes inspired by beloved books and the food that gives their characters depth and personality.

From the breakfast sausage in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods to chocolate cupcakes with peppermint buttercream from Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, these books and the tasty treats in them put her on the road to happiness.

Cooking through the books that changed her life, Nicoletti shares fifty recipes, including:
* The perfect soft-boiled egg in Jane Austen's Emma
* Grilled peaches with homemade ricotta in tribute to Joan Didion's "Goodbye to All That"
* New England clam chowder inspired by Herman Melville's Moby-Dick
* Fava bean and chicken liver mousse crostini (with a nice Chianti) after Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs
* Brown butter crêpes from Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl

Beautifully illustrated, clever, and full of heart, Voracious will satisfy anyone who loves a fantastic meal with family and friends-or curling up with a great novel for dessert."

And I just had to add both English book titles since they combine books and food so well.

Monday 25 February 2019

Weir, Andy "The Martian"

Weir, Andy "The Martian" - 2011

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...." ... "Captain's Log, Stardate …" Oooops, wrong story! The star trekkers and star warriors went a lot further than our protagonist, Mark Watney.

I don't know why I decided to read this book because it is usually so out of my comfort zone, I'm not a fan of science fiction, I can't get over illogical assumptions or contradicting effects. This one seemed a little different. And it was. Mars is a planet that humans might get to land one of these days.

A great story, the third crew that ever lands on Mars is surprised by a dust storm and has to evacuate, leaving one of their crew behind, assumed dead. However, he isn't. Now he needs to survive until the fourth crew will arrive more than 3,000 km away from where he is situated at the moment. And, he needs to produce oxygen, water and food in order to survive. Luckily, he was the crew's botanist and engineer (what a coincidence!).

While nobody on earth knows he's still alive, he starts preparing his living quarters and a vehicle that will take him to his destination …

I don't want to give away too much but nothing turns out to go the way Mark intends it to go.

A fantastic story, well written. I really liked that the crew included two women, one of them being the commander, but also a German scientist and one with a very Spanish sounding name. Great mix.

While following Mark Watney's quest for survival, we get to know and love him. Besides being extremely intelligent, of course, he is a very humorous guy. You feel for him, you feel for everyone else, great writing!

There is a lot of technical detail in the book where the author explains how certain things function - not that I could follow them all - but it was great to see how this might work.

I also learned that Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, well, I knew that before but I don't think I'll ever forgot it again.

"The Martian" was made into a film and received the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

From the back cover:

"Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive - and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old 'human error' are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills - and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit - he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?"

Friday 22 February 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"The more I read the easier it is to express what I am thinking or feeling. Thanks to books, I have the words." Melanie *

"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." Anne Michaels in "Fugitive Pieces"

"I don't like to be alone, but I do cherish the moment that I'm alone with a good book." Vin Scully

"I always read books twice. The first time you appreciate the story. The second time you appreciate the writing." N.N. *

Find more book quotes here.

* [If anyone can tell me the originator of these quotes, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Thursday 21 February 2019

Morton, Kate "The Clockmaker's Daughter"

Morton, Kate "The Clockmaker's Daughter" - 2018

When picking up my "Watergate" book ("All the President's Men" by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward) from the library, I stumbled across this book by Australian author Kate Morton. The title sounded inviting and the cover looked fascinating, so I borrowed it.

What an interesting book. We go through almost two centuries of life in a house that seems "enchanted". We meet its inhabitants throughout the ages, live through two world wars. There is a link between them all, the storyteller, the clockmaker's daughter herself, even though the people seem to have no connection. But the house does it all. I would love to see it. Must be breathtaking.

I loved how the stories of all those characters were told side by side and more and more parts of the mystery unfolded over time. Brilliant style.

I really liked this book and would love to read more by this author.

From the back cover:

"My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

More than one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the mysterious, unidentified woman in the photograph? As Elodie pursues these clues, the lives of the many people who have passed through the house are revealed. There is Radcliffe, whose love affair with his model and muse consumes him; his sister Lucy, who opens a school for young ladies; Leonard Gilbert, a soldier and scholar who retreats to Birchwood after World War I to heal and to write a biography of Radcliffe; Juliet, a young widow who takes refuge there with her three small children during the Blitz; and, in the present day, Jack Rolands, who has come from far away to search for lost treasure and who meets Elodie when she eventually arrives at the house.

Intricately layered and told by multiple voices across time, this is a kaleidoscopic story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker's daughter."

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Dostoevsky, Fyodor "The Brothers Karamazov"

Dostoevsky, Fyodor "The Brothers Karamazov" (Russian: Братья Карамазовы/Brat'ya Karamazovy) - 1879-80

I have always loved reading Russian authors. Dostoevsky is no exception. And this novel had more than 1,200 pages, so the right book for me.

This is not the first book I read from this author and he has not disappointed me so far. Brilliant writing, the setting is always exceptional, the way the story unfolds, the many different characters he describes in detail. Everything is so well done. You get caught from page one until you are finished. What a book!

And the book is packed full with philosophical and religious questions, questions about human existence. The three brothers Karamazov all represent a different side, all have different answers. Dmitri or Mitya is most like the farther Fyodor, He is a soldier and leads an unrestrained life. Ivan has visited the university and is more an enlightened, mind-oriented, atheist intellectual. Alexei or Alyosha, the protagonist, is a religious man, he is a novice in a monastery.

Then there is a fourth, illegitimate brother who is a servant in the father's house.

We discover the Russian society through these different men and their miseries. The story is spellbinding, not the easiest of reads but certainly one of the most deserving. It is a philosophical as well as a spiritual drama, an account of a country that is about to change into modern times and what that does to its inhabitants. A story that stays with us for a long long time.

After "Crime and Punishment", "The Gambler" and "The Adolescent", this is my fourth novel by this fantastic author. I am sure it won't be the last.

From the back cover:

"In 1880 Dostoevsky completed The Brothers Karamazov, the literary effort for which he had been preparing all his life. Compelling, profound, complex, it is the story of a patricide and of the four sons who each had a motive for murder: Dmitry, the sensualist, Ivan, the intellectual; Alyosha, the mystic; and twisted, cunning Smerdyakov, the bastard child. Frequently lurid, nightmarish, always brilliant, the novel plunges the reader into a sordid love triangle, a pathological obsession, and a gripping courtroom drama. But throughout the whole, Dostoevsky searches for the truth - about man, about life, about the existence of God. A terrifying answer to man's eternal questions, this monumental work remains the crowning achievement of perhaps the finest novelist of all time."

Monday 18 February 2019

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl "All the President's Men"

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl "All the President's Men" - 1974

Wow, what a story. Unbelievable what a president can do! Or is it? If I look at the present incumbent, yet is more to come …

Watergate. It was always a name that elicited strong feelings in everyone. I have read a lot about it but not enough, I always wanted to read the book and now I have. I am glad I did. I think it is more current than ever and should warn many people to watch some people more than closely.

American politics is not my politics but as a world citizen I truly believe that it concerns us all. When something happens in America, it has a huge influence on the rest of the world. And that goes for many other big countries, too, only too few people realize that and think they are by themselves and whatever is decided in their country only counts for themselves.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.are heroes. They risked a lot for the truth. Even today, journalists sometimes pay with their lives for detecting certain stories.

The book also tells us what goes on behind the scenes, how a newspaper is run, how stories are written and how is decided what is published and what isn't. It's a tough job in a tough world.

I was not surprised about a lot of things, especially this paragraph:
"During their Watergate investigation federal agents established that hundreds of thousands of dollars in Nixon campaign contributions had been set aside to pay for an extensive undercover campaign aimed at discrediting individual Democratic presidential candidates and disrupting their campaigns." It really seems that nothing has changed.

It looks like the book is in high demand at the time being. I had to wait almost six months to get it. There is hope. You would think that politicians would be able to learn their lesson through history. Unfortunately, not.  So, we all have to be even more vigilant.

I'm definitely glad I have finally read this book.

From the back cover:

"In what must be the most devastating political detective story of the century, two young Washington Post reporters whose brilliant investigative journalism smashed the Watergate scandal wide open tell the whole behind-the-scenes drama the way it really happened. 

The story begins with a burglary at Democratic National Committee headquarters on June 17, 1972. Bob Woodward, who was then working on the Washington Post's District of Columbia staff, was called into the office on a Saturday morning to cover the story. Carl Bernstein, a Virginia political reporter on the Post, was also assigned. The two men soon learned that this was not a simple burglary.
Following lead after lead, Woodward and Bernstein picked up a trail of money, secrecy and high-level pressure that led to the Oval Office and implicated the men closest to Richard Nixon and then the President himself. Over the months, Woodward met secretly with Deep Throat, now perhaps America's most famous still-anonymous source. 

Here is the amazing story. From the first suspicions through the tortuous days of reporting and finally getting people to talk, the journalists were able to put the pieces of the puzzle together and produce the stories that won the Post a Pulitzer Prize. All the President's Men is the inside story of how Bernstein and Woodward broke the story that brought about the President's downfall. This is the reporting that changed the American presidency."

The authors were part of two Pulitzer Prizes won by The Washington Post for Watergate and the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1973.

Friday 15 February 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading and thinking breeds limitless progress." Auliq-Ice

"My perfect reader doesn’t just read – he or she devours books." Anthony Horowitz

"All evidence points to the seemingly illogical conclusion that the faster most people read, the better they understand." Harry Shefter

"When we read, we paint new worlds with our imaginations." 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 14 February 2019

Obama, Michelle "Becoming"

Obama, Michelle "Becoming" - 2018

This book was everything I expected it to be. It was smart, witty, funny, warm. It was like the picture I have from the author, her husband, her family, what a loving family they are. A couple I have admired from the first time I saw them, who never disappointed, who were the hope for the whole world, the hope that everything can get better if we are only willing. What a shame so many didn't understand that.

It was so lovely to hear about her growing up in an ever increasing racist world with nothing to begin with and how her parents, herself and her brother worked toward a better future for themselves and their loved ones. It was lovely to hear about her first steps in a busy professional world and how she met her husband. It was lovely to hear how they decided things together, how they raised their girls to become confident citizens of this world.

It was lovely to hear how they cared for others, no matter what their skin colour, their religion, anything. How they really live the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States. How they are great examples on how we should lead our lives. What a wonderful couple. What a strong woman, what a caring husband.

I did not know everything that she introduced during their time in the white house. I knew the Obamas were very much in favour of health care, I knew they supported the military, especially the families who often get forgotten when it comes to honouring soldiers. But the way she cared for children and their health, her idea of mentoring young women to grow in society, just wonderful.

I know they will still do a lot for their country and thereby for the rest of the world, no matter where they are.

I am happy to have read this book. Michelle Obama will always have a special place in my heart.

From the back cover:

"In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America, she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private. A deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations.

'An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States. When she was a little girl, Michelle Robinson's world was the South Side of Chicago, where she and her brother, Craig, shared a bedroom in their family's upstairs apartment and played catch in the park, and where her parents, Fraser and Marian Robinson, raised her to be outspoken and unafraid. But life soon took her much further afield, from the halls of Princeton, where she learned for the first time what if felt like to be the only black woman in a room, to the glassy office tower where she worked as a high-powered corporate lawyer - and where, one summer morning, a law student named Barack Obama appeared in her office and upended all her carefully made plans.

Here, for the first time, Michelle Obama describes the early years of her marriage as she struggles to balance her work and family with her husband's fast-moving political career. She takes us inside their private debate over whether he should make a run for the presidency and her subsequent role as a popular but oft-criticized figure during his campaign. Narrating with grace, good humor, and uncommon candor, she provides a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of her family's history-making launch into the global limelight as well as their life inside the White House over eight momentous years - as she comes to know her country and her country comes to know her.

Becoming takes us through modest Iowa kitchens and ballrooms at Buckingham Palace, through moments of heart-stopping grief and profound resilience, bringing us deep into the soul of a singular, groundbreaking figure in history as she strives to live authentically, marshaling her personal strength and voice in service of a set of higher ideals. In telling her story with honesty and boldness, she issues a challenge to the rest of us: Who are we and who do we want to become?'"

I have also read her husband's books and can only recommend them from the bottom of my heart.
"Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" - 1995
"The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" - 2006
"Of Thee I Sing" - 2010
"A Promised Land" - 2020

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Palma, Felix J. "The Map of Chaos"

Palma, Felix J. "The Map of Chaos" (Spanish: El mapa del caos) - 2014

I usually wait until a book is available in paperback, lighter, cheaper, takes up less space etc. And translations, I prefer to read them translated into German though I was tempted to get this one in English when I found a reduced copy with only some minor damages in a German bookshop.

Anyway, I was glad I did. After reading the first two editions of this trilogy, "The Map of Time" and "The Map of the Sky", I was eagerly awaiting the third part.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of science fiction and these books are based on H.G. Wells' novels. But Félix J. Palma has created some marvels. In this novel, he doesn't just travel in time, he travels in worlds, parallel worlds that are slight copies of each other. The idea that there might be another world with exactly the same people in it but different destinies is quite amazing. The ideas for the story are so unique, I don't think I've ever read anything like that.

Whilst he based "The Map of Time" on "The Time Machine" and "The Map of the Sky" on "War of the Worlds", this last part is based on "The Invisible Man". I shall have to read all three of them, just to see where this author got his inspiration.

"Chaos is inevitable". That's the theme of the book and there is a lot of chaos to be found. We visit Victorian London, meet lots of real-life characters from the time like the prolific writers H.G. Wells, Lewis Carroll and Arthur Conan Doyle as well as some good old acquaintances from the former books.

A marvellous conclusion of a fantastic trilogy.

I know the author has written more books and I hope they will all be translated one day.

From the back cover:

"From the New York Times bestselling author of The Map of Time and The Map of the Sky, the final installment in the award-winning trilogy that The Washington Post called 'a big, genre-bending delight'.

When the person he loves most dies in tragic circumstances, the mysterious protagonist of The Map of Chaos does all he can to speak to her one last time. A session with a renowned medium seems to offer the only solution, but the experience unleashes terrible forces that bring the world to the brink of disaster. Salvation can only be found in The Map of Chaos, an obscure book that he is desperate to uncover. In his search, he is given invaluable help by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lewis Carroll, and of course by H. G. Wells, whose Invisible Man seems to have escaped from the pages of his famous novel to sow terror among mankind. They alone can discover the means to save the world and to find the path that will reunite the lovers separated by death.

Proving once again that he is 'a master of ingenious plotting' (Kirkus Reviews), Félix J. Palma brings together a cast of real and imagined literary characters in Victorian-Age London, when spiritualism is at its height. The Map of Chaos is a spellbinding adventure that mixes impossible loves, nonstop action, real ghosts, and fake mediums, all while paying homage to the giants of science fiction.

It won the 2015 Ignotus Awards for Best Spanish Novel."

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Sadler, Michael "An Englishman in Paris"

Sadler, Michael "An Englishman in Paris: L'éducation continentale" - 2000

I think a lot of people dream about living abroad for a while and Paris is certainly on top of the list for many of them. Well, Michael Sadler made his dream come true, he went to Paris for a year and lived among the French.

The result is a hilarious book about his experiences in the French capital. It might help if you know French because he uses a lot of colloquialism without bothering to translate which might be a problem for some. But I just laughed the whole way through.

Whether he describes his first time driving in Paris, his meetings with his neighbours where he is introduced to the weirdest culinary meals, his excursions into the city to get some shopping done during a major strike, it all sounds so real. I have a friend near Paris and have been visiting her on and off in the last four decades, so I've come across quite a few of his adventures, even though I never lived there.

Even HRH Prince Charles called it "Wonderfully amusing". I couldn't agree more.

I will certainly read this book again some time.

From what I read, he is married to a French woman and lives in France now.

From the back cover:

"South coast-born, Parisian manqué, Michael Sadler set out to spend a year in the city of light to educate himself in the mysterious ways of the continent. Triple-parking, tasting wine at the Bon Marche, keeping one's end up at a diner bourgeois, keeping one's wicket in a liaison dangereuse afterwards - each challenge is broached with a mixture of distance (British) and relish (Gallic). Abrasive and tender, naive and in the know, An Englishman in Paris is a sharp, hilarious and affectionate look at our nearest neighbours and the nature of foreignness."

Monday 11 February 2019

Mistry, Rohinton "Such a Long Journey"

Mistry, Rohinton "Such a Long Journey" - 1991

This is my third book by Rohinton Mistry after "A Fine Balance" and "Family Matters".

Let me tell you right away, it didn't captivate me as much as the others did. I wouldn't say it was too gloomy, too political (although I loved that) or there wasn't enough material about India. I also wouldn't say it wasn't just as well written as the others. Maybe it was just the characters. I don't think I liked a single one of them. Except for the painter in the street who paints pictures of all the different Gods of all the different religions. That was nice.

I liked to see how even innocent people can be caught up in a political upheaval. But all in all, I disliked that there were too many stories, too many characters, none of them didn't really have a huge role, not even the main characters.

The author probably wanted to portray the hopelessness these people live in. He managed that but it wasn't something that touched me as much as it should have. Tough to describe but there we are.

I guess the book was too slow for me. However, this was his first book, so I know he is getting better with time.  It didn't put me off reading more novels by this author. And I did learn something about the politics of the time. That was worth reading it.

From the back cover:

"Gustad Noble is a hard-working bank clerk and a devoted family man who gradually sees his modest life unravelling. His young daughter falls ill; his promising son defies his father's ambitions for him. One day he receives a letter from an old friend, asking him to help in what at first seems like a heroic mission. But he soon finds himself unwittingly drawn into a dangerous network of fraud and betrayal. 

Compassionate, moving and rich in details of character and place, this unforgettable novel charts the journey of a moral heart in a turbulent world of change."

Friday 8 February 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"Read widely. To me it is that simple. Every new book you read puts language and imagery and storytelling techniques into you head that weren't there before." E. Lockhart

"Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book." Bill Watterson

"If you read a book which does not make you wonder, ponder!" Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

"You know you're a bookworm when your house is one book away from being considered a library." N.N. (I think I've passed that step a long long time ago.)
[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 7 February 2019

Reading Challenge - Chunky Books 2019

I have taken part in this reading challenge since 2013. The moment I saw that post, I know this was the most interesting challenge for me. I signed up for the highest of the four levels "Mor-book-ly Obese" which meant eight or more chunksters (books over 450 pages) of which three must be 750 pages or more.

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

If you are interested in the challenge, check out this link. They discontinued their challenge in 2015.
You can still find suggestions by page number, in case you can't find any chunksters yourself. ;-)

Or you can check out my lists from the previous years (below), maybe you are interested in a couple of them.

I read in
2013: 38 chunky books, 13 of them chunksters
2014: 37 chunky books, 15 of them chunksters
2015: 26 chunky books, 8 of them chunksters
2016: 28 chunky books, 3 of them chunksters
2017: 35 chunky books, 6 of them chunksters

2018: 29 chunky books, 6 of them chunksters

I will be posting the books I have read here:
(I add the German title, if available, for my German friends)
[I add my own translation of a foreign book title if it's not available in English.]

Palma, Felix J. "The Map of Chaos" (El mapa del caos/Die Landkarte des Chaos) - 2014 - 864 pages
Obama, Michelle "Becoming" (Becoming - Meine Geschichte) - 2018 - 480 pages
Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl "All the President's Men" (Die Watergate-Affäre) - 1974 - 480 pages
Dostoevsky, Fyodor "The Brothers Karamazov" (Братья Карамазовы/Brat'ya Karamazovy/Die Brüder Karamasow) - 1879-80 - 1,249 pages
Morton, Kate "The Clockmaker's Daughter" (Die Tochter des Uhrmachers) - 2018 - 608 pages
Fielding, Henry "The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling" (Tom Jones: Die Geschichte eines Findelkindes) - 1749 - 1,104 pages
Murdoch, Iris "The Philosopher's Pupil" - 1983 - 576 pages

Pamuk, Orhan "Das neue Leben" (Yeni Hayat/The New Life) - 1994 - 472 pages
Weir, Alison "Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour. The Haunted Queen" - 2018 - 576 pages
Eschbach, Andreas "Eine Billion Dollar" (One Trillion Dollars) - 2001 - 896 pages
Jason, David "My Life" - 2013 - 480 pages 

Rhodes, Ben "The World As It Is. Inside The Obama House" - 2018 - 480 pages 
Melville, Herman "Moby Dick or The Whale" (Moby-Dick oder Der Wal) - 1851 - 752 pages
Alighieri, Dante "Die Göttliche Komödie" (The Divine Comedy/Divina Commedia) - 1308-20 - 895 pages
Zweig, Stefan "Die Welt von Gestern. Erinnerungen eines Europäers" (The World of Yesterday) - 1942 - 512 pages
Powers, Richard "The Overstory" - 2018 - 640 pages

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander (Солженицын, Александр Исаевич) "August 1914" ["The Red Wheel" cycle] (Узел I - «Август Четырнадцатого», Красное колесо) (Solschenizyn, Alexander; August Vierzehn, aus dem Zyklus "Das Rote Rad") - 1971 - 896 pages
Harari, Yuval Noah "Homo Deus. A Brief History of Tomorrow" (Homo Deus. Eine Geschichte von Morgen) - 2016 - 528 pages 

Clinton, Hilary Rodham "What Happened" (Was passiert ist) - 2017 - 512 pages
Stachniak, Eva "The Winter Palace. A Novel of Catherine the Great" (Der Winterpalast) - 2011 - 512 pages

I read 20 chunky books in 2019 of which 7 are considered chunksters.  

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Kingsolver, Barbara "Unsheltered"

Kingsolver, Barbara "Unsheltered" - 2018

This was my sixth book by Barbara Kingsolver. My favourite is probably "The Lacuna", closely followed by "The Poisonwood Bible".

As in her other books, the author addresses well-known problems. In this case, why do people work hard all their lives, do everything right, and still end up in dire straits?

We get to know two couples who live in the same house, about two centuries apart. And yet, they end up with similar problems, the house is old and decrepit but there is no money for the restoration, the characters are in danger of losing their jobs or have lost them already, the society is not ready for changes that need to be made.

We wonder how people could not understand Charles Darwin but overlook the fact that we get ignorant people like that even today. People who don't "acknowledge" science. How can you not?

Anyway, I like the way Barbara Kingsolver tackles the trials of our generation. I like the way she makes us compare the two generations. I like her writing style. And I like the book. It's a good one.

I will definitely have to read her other three novels.

From the back cover:

"How could two hardworking people do everything right in life, a woman asks, and end up destitute? Willa Knox and her husband followed all the rules as responsible parents and professionals, and have nothing to show for it but debts and an inherited brick house that is falling apart. The magazine where Willa worked has folded; the college where her husband had tenure has closed. Their dubious shelter is also the only option for a disabled father-in-law and an exasperating, free-spirited daughter. When the family’s one success story, an Ivy-educated son, is uprooted by tragedy he seems likely to join them, with dark complications of his own.

In another time, a troubled husband and public servant asks, How can a man tell the truth, and be reviled for it? A science teacher with a passion for honest investigation, Thatcher Greenwood finds himself under siege: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting work just published by Charles Darwin. His young bride and social-climbing mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his worries that their elegant house is unsound. In a village ostensibly founded as a benevolent Utopia, Thatcher wants only to honor his duties, but his friendships with a woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor threaten to draw him into a vendetta with the town’s powerful men.

Unsheltered is the compulsively readable story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum in Vineland, New Jersey, navigating what seems to be the end of the world as they know it. With history as their tantalizing canvas, these characters paint a startlingly relevant portrait of life in precarious times when the foundations of the past have failed to prepare us for the future."

Tuesday 5 February 2019

Atkinson, Kate "Transcription"

Atkinson, Kate "Transcription" - 2018

I have read Kate Atkinson's "Behind the Scenes at the Museum"and quite liked it. Therefore, I could not pass this by when I saw the book in the library.

Written almost twenty years later, the story is just as captivating. We follow Juliet Armstrong through WWII where she works for MI5 and has various tasks, first as a typewriter, later also as a secret agent, but it always involves the observation of British fascists. We also get to know her colleagues and the people they observe both during and after the war.

The author has a great way to involve the reader with the story and to get her message through. I especially like the quote: "Do not equate nationalism with patriotism, nationalism is the first step on the road to Fascism." How true. I wish more people would at least try to understand that.

Wonderful historical fiction. The tale jumps around between past and present but because it mainly concentrates on the main character, Juliet Armstrong, it is easy to follow and understand.

Kate Atkinson also explains at the end what she took from real life and what she added herself. Great read.

From the back cover:

"In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past forever. 

Ten years later, now a radio producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence. 

Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of the best writers of our time."

Monday 4 February 2019

Spufford, Francis "Golden Hill"

Spufford, Francis "Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York" - 2016

I saw this book first in a German bookstore as a translation. I liked the title. "Neu-York", literally New York in German. The pictures looked more Dutch to me, no wonder, since the main settlers at the time of the novel came from the Netherlands.

Anyway, I was getting curious, so I decided to get the original and read it.

An interesting story. Manhattan in the 18th century. Manhattan in a Dutch style. A young man comes from the Netherlands to claim a high amount of money for a project he is not going to tell anyone anything about. He has to go through a lot of trials and tribulations before he can finally reveal the plan. And it's a good one!

The novel is full of surprises, the writing style is interesting, the setting also. It's an easy but certainly not a boring read. A nice historical novel. humorous as well as informative.

From the back cover:

"New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, 1746.

One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat pitches up at a counting-house door in Golden Hill Street: this is Mr Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion simmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge amount, and he won't explain why, or where he comes from, or what he can be planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money.

Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?

As fast as a heist movie, as stuffed with incident as a whole shelf of conventional fiction, Golden Hill is both a novel about the 18th century, and itself a book cranked back to the novel's 18th century beginnings, when anything could happen on the page, and usually did, and a hero was not a hero unless he ran the frequent risk of being hanged.

This is Fielding's Tom Jones recast on Broadway - when Broadway was a tree-lined avenue two hundreds yards long, with a fort at one end flying the Union Jack and a common at the other, grazed by cows.

Rich in language and historical perception, yet compulsively readable, Golden Hill has a plot that twists every chapter, and a puzzle at its heart that won't let go till the last paragraph of the last page.

Set a generation before the American Revolution, it paints an irresistible picture of a New York provokingly different from its later self: but subtly shadowed by the great city to come, and already entirely a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall in love - and find a world of trouble."

Friday 1 February 2019

Happy February!

Happy February to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Endlich Frühling"
"Finally Spring"

February is the shortest month of the year.
Exactly four weeks and therefore sometimes doesn't have a single full moon. 
The next time this will happen in 2037.

It's the last month of the meteorological winter and in many Catholic regions we celebrate carnival which used to be the driving out of the winter.
Today it's the beginning of lent where we can eat and drink however much we want before it's "good bye to meat" (Latin: carne vale).

The flower of the month is the primrose (primula vulgaris),
maybe because it flowers in early spring.

It stands for modesty, distinction, and virtue.

It's a very popular pretty little plant that needs little attention and is one of the first messengers that winter is over.

Its flowers as well as its leaves are edible and they used to be a remedy for colds.

In the language of flowers, it stands for early youth.

Enjoy this month with this beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch.

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