Friday 31 May 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading is my favourite occupation, when I have leisure for it and books to read." Anne Brontë

"You are not done with a book until you pass it to another reader." Donalyn Miller

"Reading books removes sorrows from the heart." Moroccan proverb

"Reading teaches you empathy, and it really gives you a chance to examine all the grey areas of life. You get to think about and see things from other perspectives - it's awesome!" Nyeisha

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Beckett, Samuel "Waiting for Godot"

Beckett, Samuel "Waiting for Godot" (French: En attendant Godot) - 1952

Plays are not my favourite read but I was always interesting to read "Waiting for Godot". The first surprise was that the Irish author Samuel Beckett has written this in French. I had never heard of that but when I ordered a copy in the library, it was written in both languages.

Anyway, an interesting story. True, as Estragon, one of the two main characters says, "Nothing happens, nobody comes", nothing much happens. There are two guys, Estragon and Vladimir who wait for this other guy, Godot. That's about the gist of the story. But the way they are waiting, that's the interesting part. The writing is done so well, even though you know that nothing happens and most probably nothing will happen, the suspension is there.

From the back cover:

"Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful?' Estragon's complaint, uttered in the first act of 'Waiting for Godot', is the playwright's sly joke at the expense of his own play - or rather at the expense of those in the audience who expect theatre always to consist of events progressing in an apparently purposeful and logical manner towards a decisive climax. In those terms, 'Waiting for Godot' - which has been famously described as a play in which 'nothing happens, twice'- scarcely seems recognizable as theatre at all. As the great English critic wrote 'Waiting for Godot' jettisons everything by which we recognize theatre. It arrives at the custom-house, as it were, with no luggage, no passport, and nothing to declare; yet it gets through, as might a pilgrim from Mars."

Samuel Beckett received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 "for his writing, which - in new forms for the novel and drama - in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation".

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Alsanea, Rajaa "Girls of Riyadh"

Alsanea, Rajaa "Girls of Riyadh" (Arabic: بنات الرياض‎ Banāt al-Riyāḍ) - 2005

What a fabulous story about life in a part of the world so unknown to us. The Girls of Riyadh are all friends of the author. Sadim, Kamra, Michelle and Lanis let us take a glimpse into their world.

I have grown up in a Western country. Even though in my times girls didn't have the chances they have now - and I don't want to say they have equal chances, they just have more in modern times - we were never as limited as those girls in the novel. I was allowed to go to public dances as a teenager, I was allowed to go to parties in homes that my parents didn't know. And I don't know anyone who couldn't marry the guy they wanted to marry. Well, I know some cases, where the parents weren't happy with the choice but that doesn't mean they could prevent a marriage.

I myself couldn't imagine marrying someone I don't know, someone I didn't choose myself. It's hard enough as it is, so many divorces tell us that it's not easy to keep up a relationship but just getting hitched to someone your parents chose, just sounds impossible to me. And all the other restrictions, those girls can't decide much about their own life. How sad.

An interesting book.

I quite like the cover of the Arabic edition, little emojis. How cute.

From the back cover:

"When Rajaa Alsanea boldly chose to open up the hidden world of Saudi women - their private lives and their conflicts with the traditions of their culture - he caused a sensation across the Arab world.

Now in English, Alsanea’s tale of the personal struggles of four young upper-class women offers Westerners an unprecedented glimpse into a society often veiled from view. Living in restrictive Riyadh but traveling all over the globe, these modern Saudi women literally and figuratively shed traditional garb as they search for love, fulfillment, and their place somewhere in between Western society and their Islamic home."

We discussed this book in our international online book club in May 2019.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Favourite Books Released In the Last Ten Years

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish".

It is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

May 28: Favourite Books Released In the Last Ten Years (one book for each year)

Kristof, Nicholas D. & Wudunn, Sheryl "Half the Sky. How to Change the World" - 2009
Levy, Andrew "A Brain Wider Than The Sky: A Migraine Diary" - 2009
-- I just could not decide which of the two was my favourite, so I listed them both.
Bryson, Bill "At Home. A Short History of Private Life" - 2010
Oates, Joyce Carol "A Widow's Story. A Memoir" - 2011
Ackroyd, Peter "The History of England, Vol. 2 Tudors" - 2012
Yousafzai, Malala; Lamb, Christina "I am Malala. The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" - 2013
Harari, Yuval Noah "Sapiens. A Brief History of Mankind" (Ḳizur Toldot Ha-Enoshut/קיצור תולדות האנושות) - 2014
Bryson, Bill "The Road to Little Dribbling: more Notes from a Small Island" - 2015
Weir, Alison "Six Tudor Queens. Katherine of Aragon. The True Queen" - 2015
Şafak, Elif "Three Daughters of Eve" (Havva'nın Üç Kızı) - 2016
Ahmad, Aeham "The Pianist from Syria" (aka The Pianist of Yarmouk) (Und die Vögel werden singen. Ich, der Pianist aus den Trümmern) - 2017
Obama, Michelle "Becoming" - 2018

I think this shows that I seem to prefer mostly non-fiction books.

Friday 24 May 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"If I had to give a young writer some advice I would say to write about something that has happened to him; it’s always easy to tell whether a writer is writing about something that has happened to him or something he has read or been told. Pablo Neruda has a line in a poem that says 'God help me from inventing when I sing.' It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination." Gabriel García Márquez

"I owe everything I am and everything I will ever be to books." Gary Paulsen

"You use a glass mirror to see your face. You use works of art to see your soul." George Bernard Shaw

"Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you've finished just to stay near it." Markus Zusak

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 23 May 2019

Lundberg, Sofia "The Red Address Book"

Lundberg, Sofia "The Red Address Book" (Swedish: Den röda adressboken) - 2015

This is the story of Doris, an old lady. She is 96 years old and dying. Of all her friends, only her grand-niece Jenny is left. And the only connection to her are their weekly Skype sessions. Isn't technology great? Without that, she would have nothing. We can begin to imagine how lonely a lot of old people are and that the computer can be a life-saver.

This is a lovely story about an elderly person who reflects on her life. We accompany Doris from when she is very little through her working life as a model and writer, get to know her family and friends and what they meant to her. A quiet story, yet full of events.

Apparently, Sofia Lundberg also had a great-aunt called Doris and she found an address book after her death, just as the one described.

Did I love those address books that I also owned? Indeed, I did. But I'm happy to have my lists on my computer now. My friends move far too often for me to keep up with changing them on paper.

But there was another part that struck home. Jenny lives in the States and speaks Swedish with her kids. When questioned about their ability in this language, she mentions that her little girl understands it well because she only speaks Swedish with her and she watches Swedish kids' shows online. Her older boys are "so-so". Jenny talks to them in Swedish and they reply In English. That's exactly what happened in our family (only replace Swedish by German). I had to smile when I read that.

This is the first novel by this author and I'm looking forward to reading more.

Doris' motto, given to her by her mother. I think it's a good one for all of us.
"I wish you enough. Enough sun to light up your days, enough rain that you appreciate the sun. Enough joy to strengthen your soul, enough pain that you can appreciate life's small moments of happiness. And enough friends that you can manage a farewell now and then."

From the back cover:

"Meet Doris, a 96-year-old woman living alone in her Stockholm apartment. She has few visitors, but her weekly Skype calls with Jenn - her American grandniece, and her only relative - give her great joy and remind her of her own youth.

When Doris was a girl, she was given an address book by her father, and ever since she has carefully documented everyone she met and loved throughout the years. Looking through the little book now, Doris sees the many crossed-out names of people long gone and is struck by the urge to put pen to paper. In writing down the stories of her colorful past - working as a maid in Sweden, modelling in Paris during the 30s, fleeing to Manhattan at the dawn of the Second World War - can she help Jenny, haunted by a difficult childhood, unlock the secrets of their family and finally look to the future? And whatever became of Allan, the love of Doris's life?

A charming novel that prompts reflection on the stories we all should carry to the next generation, and the surprises in life that can await even the oldest among us, The Red Address Book introduces Sofia Lundberg as a wis - and irresistible - storyteller."

Tuesday 21 May 2019

James, Henry "Daisy Miller"

James, Henry "Daisy Miller" - 1879

I have always loved classics and recently joined an online club: The Classics Club.

The beginning for me was Spin # 20. Everyone listed 20 classics from their TBR pile and one number was chosen, it was # 19 which for me was "Daisy Miller".

I had read one book by Henry Miller before, "The American".

Same as there, the author describes life of an American woman in 19th century Europe. How life in the States clashes with that in Europe where some old-fashioned manners still have to be observed whereas the Americans were a lot more independent at the time.

My one complaint about the story is, it's too short. You've only just started reading the novel and it's already over. Not really great for me. And I wouldn't call it a comedy. I haven't laughed once which I usually expect from a comedy.

Even so, there is a lot in this book that needs to be looked at. Have we really changed that much that we don't believe in conventions anymore as we try to tell ourselves all the time, are we really that much more "modern" than the people who lived 200 years ago? Sometimes, no, often, I have my doubts.

It's a good book about society and its prejudices. Worth reading. Certainly not my last book by Henry James.

From the back cover:

"Travelling in Europe with her family, Daisy Miller, an exquisitely beautiful young American woman, presents her fellow-countryman Winterbourne with a dilemma he cannot resolve. Is she deliberately flouting social convention in the outspoken way she talks and acts, or is she simply ignorant of them? When she strikes up an intimate friendship with an urbane young Italian, her flat refusal to observe the codes of respectable behaviour leave her perilously exposed. In Daisy Miller Henry James brilliantly dramatized the conflict between old-world manners and nouveau riche tourists, and created his first great portrait of the enigmatic and dangerously independent American woman, a figure who would come to dominate his later masterpieces."

Friday 17 May 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"My grandma always said that God made libraries so that people didn't have any excuse to be stupid." Joan Bayer

"Oh, I just want what we all want: A comfortable couch, a nice beverage, a weekend of no distractions and a book that will stop time, lift me out of my quotidian existence and alter my thinking forever." Elizabeth Gilbert

"We read to know we are not alone." C.S. Lewis

"Read obsessively. It will make you a better human and a better writer." Pittacus Lore

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Trollope, Joanna "Next of Kin"

Trollope, Joanna "Next of Kin" - 1996

I thought, I had read something by Joanna Trollope before but it turned out to be another author. I doubt I would have picked this book otherwise.

It was an alright read, not badly written but I couldn't relate to the characters, it was all a little too wishy-washy, not deep enough for the promises on the book cover.

I file it under chick-lit.

From the back cover:

"The land running down to the River Dean has been farmed by the Meredith family for generations. Robin Meredith bought the farm from his father, just before he married his wife Caro and now he and his brother Joe work on the land. But now Caro has died, as much as a mystery to the family as she was when she arrived twenty years ago, and the whole family feels her loss acutely, none more so than her adopted daughter Judy.

Into this unhappy family comes Zoe, Judy's London friend, an outsider with an independent spirit and a disturbing directness. Everyone underestimates Zoe's power as a catalyst for change as the realities behind the seeming idyll of a rural community become ever clearer."

Tuesday 14 May 2019

Chukovskaya, Lydia "Going Under"

Chukovskaya, Lydia (Чуковская, Лидия Корнеевна) "Going Under" (Russian: Спуск под воду/Spusk pod vodu) - 1972

I found the translation of this book in a German bookshop. The reason I picked it up at first was the cover picture, a birch forest in winter. (see below). I love birches, they have a certain something.

And since I love Russian literature, I was curious about this author who was completely new to me.

"Going Under" takes place in a Russian sanatorium. The first-person narrator has lost her husband through the Soviet regime and tries to find out what happened to him.

The author must have been really courageous. As a fearless critic of the regime, she couldn't publish her autobiographical book in the USSR but it was done in a New York publishing house years later. This led to a professional ban. Very brave.

If you're interested in history, in Russia, in the Stalin regime, the USSR, this is a story that rings true.

From the back cover:

"In the winter of 1949, Nina Sergeyevna spends weeks in a sanatorium for artists on the countryside. Here everything is focused on forgetting. But she wants to know more about the past, about her own suffering, and that of her fellow human beings.

When she met Bilibin, who was in the same labor camp as her husband, she was looking for his closeness. There is a tender affection between the two, but disappointed, she turns away, as Bilibin seeks not the truth but repression and forgetfulness."

Friday 10 May 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"Read books. Some of them have been written especially for that." Michail Genin

"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief." Franz Kafka

"Buying a book is not about obtaining a possession … but about securing a portal." Laura Miller

"A home without books is like a tree without birds." N.N.

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 9 May 2019

Ondaatje, Michael "Warlight"

Ondaatje, Michael "Warlight" - 2018

"In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals."

That's how the novel starts. At the beginning, I had no idea whether I would like it at all and how I would feel about it, there is another quote that I think goes with the feeling I had:

"Mahler put the word schwer beside certain passages in his musical scores. Meaning difficult. Heavy."

I think this was the intention of the author, he wanted us to be just as confused as the protagonists.

So, these two teenagers, Nathaniel and Rachel, are left in the care of a stranger, someone who lived in their house as a lodger for a short while. Their parents are going to Asia. But it's all a little weird, they don't trust the guy, they don't trust the people he brings into his house, they have a strange feeling.

The author manages to convey this strange feeling onto the reader which in itself is a good achievement. And his writing is superb.

Over the next hundred pages, you start to like the protagonist as well as the other characters and get more and more interested in what is going on.

In the end, everything is revealed and it is a highly interesting story. An extraordinary book.

I read "Anil's Ghost" by Michael Ondaatje several years ago. Very different story, just as great a book. And I still haven't read "The English Patient".

One more quote from the book which I have to comment on:
"He spoke French, as well as other languages, though he never referred to this ability.
Perhaps he assumed he would be mocked. There was even a rumour, or was it a joke, that he knew Esperanto, the supposed universal language, which no one spoke."

First, why would anybody mock someone for speaking several languages. I have always only encountered admiration for that.

Second, even before and during the Second World War, there was a huge number of people who spoke Esperanto. Both Stalin and Hitler did not like that very much as it enables more people to talk to foreigners. They not only forbid it but several of the speakers ended up in concentration camps and/or were killed. That led to a decrease of speakers after the war but in the meantime, numbers have grown again. I know thousands of people who speak it, including myself. But, of course, there are probably still people around who believe that nobody knows it and it's not good for anything whereas, in reality, it is a great language to know which enables you to communicate with people all over the world, now more than ever.

From the back cover:

"In a story as shadowed and luminous as memory itself, Warlight sets the careless freedom of adolescence against the turmoil of post-war England.  It is 1945, and London is recovering from the years of war.  Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, unexpectedly abandoned by their parents, are left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth.  They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, who seem determined to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways), Nathaniel and Rachel.  But are they really what and who they claim to be?

Caught up in the escapades of youth and first love, Nathaniel ignores the uncertain signs of danger.  A dozen years later, he sets out to piece together - as much through recollection and imagining as through the truths he uncovers - all he didn’t know or understand in that times: a journey that will draw him in to a morally ambivalent, secret world."

Tuesday 7 May 2019

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books I wish I read as a kid

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish".

There is no official Top Ten Tuesday anymore and I haven't published any of the lists for ages. But a few of the bloggers still carry on and since I haven't even done half of the topics, I shall also do so from time to time.

Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

The last time I picked Top Ten Childhood Favourites, this time it's:
Top Ten Books I wish I read as a kid 

A lot of those books did not exist, yet, when I was a child but others I just didn't come across or they were not translated into German at the time. However, I enjoyed all of them when reading them later, either to or with my boys or by myself. 
Alcott, Louisa May "Little Women" (Series)
Civardi, Anne; Cartwright, Stephen "Things People Do" (Series)
Deary, Terry "Horrible Histories" (Series)
Ende, Michael "The Neverending Story" (Die unendliche Geschichte)
Handford, Martin "Where's Wally?" (Series)
Hodgson Burnett, Frances "The Secret Garden"
Ingalls Wilder, Laura "Little House Books" (Series)
MacLachlan, Patricia "Sarah, Plain & Tall" (Series)
Montgomery, L.M. (Lucy Maud) "Anne of Green Gables" (Series)
Scarry, Richard "What Do People Do All Day" (Series)

Monday 6 May 2019

Atwood, Margaret "Oryx and Crake"

Atwood, Margaret "Oryx and Crake" (MaddAddam # 1) - 2003

I always like reading dystopian novels. It makes you think about what might happen if we carry on living the way we live now and makes us more aware of what we should or shouldn't be changing. It usually exaggerates the problems we have today but that's the point, it makes us more aware of it.

This story is about a genetic engineering world where the plan to destroy humanity through "medication" is almost successful. The "Children of Crake" who are supposed to replace humans are more like children, they remind me of the Eloi in "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells. Just as innocent, just as naïve.

I hope I won't be around to see the world change that much but if we carry on like that, I might. In the meantime, let as many people read these kinds of books and hopefully see that we need to try to save this planet as long as it's still possible.

From the back cover:

"With the same stunning blend of prophecy and social satire she brought to her classic The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood gives us a keenly prescient novel about the future of humanity and its present. 

Humanity here equals Snowman, and in Snowman's recollections Atwood re-creates a time much like our own, when a boy named Jimmy loved an elusive, damaged girl called Oryx and a sardonic genius called Crake. But now Snowman is alone, and as we learn why we also learn about a world that could become ours one day."

Margaret Atwood was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for "Oryx and Crake" in 2003.

Margaret Atwood received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2017.

Friday 3 May 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"I feel like I have friends all over the world, through space and time, who I can visit whenever I need a break from my own life." Kat *

"To read well is to prepare oneself to live wisely, kindly and wittily." Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

"We read fiction to satisfy a more basic need - to imagine our way into other lives, to explore characters and situations that tell us something new about the world, and maybe about ourselves, or to remind us of something important that we may have forgotten." Tom Perrotta

"A lot of people ask me if I were shipwrecked and could only have one book, what would it be? I always say, 'How to Build a Boat'." Stephen Wright

Find more book quotes here.

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

Thursday 2 May 2019

Rhodes, Ben "The World As It Is"

Rhodes, Ben "The World As It Is. Inside The Obama House" - 2018

A while ago, I bought three books that all related somehow to Barack Obama and his presidency:
"Promise Me, Dad" by Joe Biden, "Becoming" by Michelle Obama and this one by one of the most important staffers Barack Obama had in those days.

Ben Rhodes began his career in the White House as a speech writer in 2008, working for the presidential campaign.

He soon became even more important than that. As the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, he was the main contact with Cuba in the negations to reestablish diplomatic relations. He seems to have been one of the closest advisers the president had.

In the book we learn about all the success and the failures of the presidency, the problems they had with their opponents and their successor, all the lies we have heard so often. I always wondered how so many lies can be told about one single person and how many people are willing to believe it. Now I know.

But he also mentions their own problems, not just those caused by others. A very honest and thoughtful account of a decade of politics.

If you've enjoyed the TV series "West Wing", you will enjoy reading about the real place. Lots of details.

Ben Rhodes is a good writer which makes this book even more readable than many other non-fiction books.

He also wrote Obama's 2009 Cairo speech "A New Beginning" which I will be reading soon, as well, I hope (in his book "We are the Change We Seek").

What a shame this wonderful presidency had to come to an end. Better luck next time, I hope people will have learned from their mistakes.

From the back cover:

"This is a book about two people making the most important decisions in the world. One is Barack Obama. The other is Ben Rhodes.

The World As It Is tells the full story of what it means to work alongside a radical leader; of how idealism can confront reality and survive; of how the White House really functions; and of what it is to have a partnership, and ultimately a friendship, with a historic president.

A young writer and Washington outsider, Ben Rhodes was plucked from obscurity aged 29. Chosen for his original perspective and gift with language, his role was to help shape the nation’s hopes and sense of itself. For nearly ten years, Rhodes was at the centre of the Obama Administration - first as a speechwriter, then a policymaker, and finally a multi-purpose aide and close collaborator.

Rhodes puts us in the room at the most tense and poignant moments in recent history: starting every morning with Obama in the Daily Briefing; waiting out the bin Laden raid in the Situation Room; reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran; leading secret negotiations with the Cuban government; confronting the resurgence of nationalism that led to the election of Donald Trump.

This is the most vivid portrayal yet of Obama’s presidency. It is an essential record of the last decade. But it also shows us what it means to hold the pen, and to write the words that change our world."

Barack Obama received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009 "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.".

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Happy May!

Happy May to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Blütenpracht in der Boddenstraße von Groß Zicker"
"Splendid Blooms in the Bodden Street of Groß Zicker"

April was pretty mild over here but I've heard of other areas that couldn't say so. Well, let's hope that May will be nice everywhere. The beginning is already promising, lovely weather. In German, we call it the blissful or merry month (Wonnemonat). 

It's the most popular month for weddings. Nowadays, one of the reasons is probably because the weather is more consistent and it's less likely to rain or be too hot. I read somewhere that it was also a reason that there were flowers again so the bride could carry a bouquet - in order to mask the smell of body odour since people didn't take baths very often, if at all. 

The flower of the month is lily of the Valley which stands for happiness, humility, and sweetness, Other names for it are May bells (the translation of the official German word for it: Maiglöckchen), Our Lady's tears, and Mary's tears. I also like the French name: Muguet. Sounds so pretty. 

In French folklore, the lily of the valley wedding symbolizes the 13th wedding anniversary On May 1st, the lily of the valley is traditionally offered as a "lucky charm", a very popular tradition, in France, Switzerland, and Belgium. 

In the area of Germany where I come from, boys bring a "May tree" to their girlfriend, a birch decorated with strips of crèpe paper. In other areas, they bring a heart made from paper flowers. In many regions, the whole village puts up a May pole. 

Thus, May is a month of festivities. 

Enjoy it with this beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch.

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