Thursday 27 June 2019

Doyle, Roddy "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha"

Doyle, Roddy "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" - 1993

This book was highly praised and it sounded interesting and all, so when a friend left and gave it to me, I thought, great, I'll read it.

It still took me a couple of years until I finally started it. And now I know why. It just wasn't my story. To me, it wasn't really a big story. A man remembers what he experienced as a little boy. Nothing spectacular, just what little boys are up to. I don't mind that kind of reminiscences but they were neither funny nor in any way interesting.

Funnily enough, someone compared this to "The Catcher in the Rye" and "On the Road", and not in a positive way. I couldn't agree more.

Roddy Doyle won the Booker Prize for "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" in 1993.

From the back cover:

"It is 1968. Patrick Clarke is ten. He loves George Best, Geronimo and the smell of his hot water bottle. He hates zoos, kissing and the boys from the Corporation houses. He can't stand his little brother. He wants to be a missionary like Father Damien. He coerces the McCarthy twins and Willy Hancock into playing lepers. He never picks the scabs off his knees before they're ready. 

Kevin is his best friend. Their names are all over Barrytown, written with sticks in wet cement. They play football, knick-knack, jumping to the bottom of the sea. Shoplifting. Robbing Football Monthly means four million years in purgatory. But a good confession before you died and you'd go straight to heaven. 

He wants to know why no one jumped in for him when Charles Leavy had been going to kill him. He wants to stop his da arguing with his ma. He's confused: he sees everything but he understands less and less. 

'Witty and poignant, earthy and exuberant, Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha charts the triumphs, indignities and bewilderment of Patrick Clarke and his world, a place full of warmth, cruelty, love and slaps across the face."

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Wells, H. G. "The Time Machine"

Wells, H. G. "The Time Machine" - 1895

I watched the movie of this book (the 1960 version with Rod Taylor) sometime in the sixties or seventies and really like it. Usually, science fiction is not my thing but this was fascinating. I suppose the dystopian side did it for me.

Then I read "The Map of Time" by Félix J. Palma a couple of years ago and was fascinated again. I knew I would have to read the novel one day.

And I did not regret it. Quite a story, even if the movie took quite a few liberties … but what else is new?

As I said in my other reviews about dystopian novels, they always mirror the fears and hopes of a generation. Did the Victorians fear we would all end up as Morlocks and Eloi? I can imagine, even though the appeal of the book at the time certainly must have been the time travelling. But, in any case, this was probably one of the first books that moved away from a utopian future, that tried to warn the people that things could also go wrong.

This is certainly a great book. And with just 150 pages, anyone could read it.

From the back cover:

"'Great shapes like big machines rose out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black shadows, in which dim spectral Morlocks sheltered from the glare.'

Chilling, prophetic and hugely influential, The Time Machine sees a Victorian scientist propel himself into the year 802,701 AD, where he is delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty and contentment in the form of the Eloi, an elfin species descended from man. But he soon realizes that they are simply remnants of a once-great culture - now weak and living in terror of the sinister Morlocks lurking in the deep tunnels, who threaten his very return home.

H. G. Wells defined much of modern science fiction with this 1895 tale of time travel, which questions humanity, society, and our place on Earth."

Friday 21 June 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading to me is like unconditional love. I always feel like I'm home when I read a book." Susan Boyiddle

"My father always said, "never trust anyone whose TV is bigger than their bookshelf." Emilia Clarke

"In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time - none, zero. You'd be amazed at how much Warren reads - and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I'm a book with a couple of legs sticking out." Charles T. Munger

"Books are not men and yet they stay alive." Stephen Vincent Benet

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Zweig, Stefan "The World of Yesterday"

Zweig, Stefan "The World of Yesterday" (German: Die Welt von Gestern. Erinnerungen eines Europäers) - 1942

Stefan Zweig is probably one of the greatest Austrian writers. He lived through WWI and WWII and can tell a lot of stories first hand.

In this book, he describes his life as a Jewish author both during the first as well as the second world war. He was the most amazing guy, lived in several different countries, wrote about his experiences and how the world changed slowly but surely. Not to the better, mind.

Stefan Zweig can tell us all about those times in a very clear and vivid way. It's not only his own life he describes, he describes the history of our countries and how they became what they are now.

Let's all learn from it.

From the back cover:

"By the author who inspired Wes Anderson’s 2014 film, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Written as both a recollection of the past and a warning for future generations, The World of Yesterday recalls the golden age of literary Vienna - its seeming permanence, its promise, and its devastating fall.

Surrounded by the leading literary lights of the epoch, Stefan Zweig draws a vivid and intimate account of his life and travels through Vienna, Paris, Berlin, and London, touching on the very heart of European culture. His passionate, evocative prose paints a stunning portrait of an era that danced brilliantly on the edge of extinction."

Monday 17 June 2019

Powers, Richard "The Overstory"

Powers, Richard "The Overstory" - 2018

After a bad choice last year ("Less" by Andrew Sean Greer), the Pulitzer Prize committee has redeemed themselves.

And what a book this was! Richard Powers put so much into this novel about environmentalists, you get to know every single character pretty well and can follow their reasons for their protests. I would have understood them anyway but I think also those people who usually don't care much about the environment or the fight about it, will understand why some people fight for it, even if they have to take up illegal measures.

We meet many different kind of people, successful scientists as well as those who can't find their place in society. We get to see their wishes and hopes, their aims and their aspirations.

This book makes you think, think about the trees and what becomes of them, think about the people who live with theses trees, think of those who destroy them. We have to think about the future of our planet and that includes taking care of animals, plants and trees, we cannot let them disappear, that would be the end of all of us.

A very passionate story.

My favourite quote:
"… when you cut down a tree, what you make from it should be at least as miraculous as what you cut down."

I have never read a book by Richard Powers before but I think I will go and read more of his novels. A very interesting author.

The story reminds me of books by Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favourite American authors.

From the back cover:

"An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These four, and five other strangers - each summoned in different ways by trees - are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.

In his twelfth novel, National Book Award winner Richard Powers delivers a sweeping, impassioned novel of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of - and paean to - the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds,
The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. There is a world alongside ours - vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

The Overstory is a book for all readers who despair of humanity’s self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of a homecoming. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? 'Listen. There’s something you need to hear.'"

Richard Powers received the Pulitzer Prize for "The Overstory" in 2019.

Friday 14 June 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page 
Of prancing Poetry - 
This Traverse may the poorest take 
Without oppress of Toll - 
How frugal is the Chariot That bears the Human Soul". Emily Dickinson

"Fairy tales in childhood are stepping stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. The value of fairy tales lies not in a brief literary escape from reality, but in the gift of hope that goodness truly is more powerful than evil and that even the darkest reality can lead to a Happily Ever After. Do not take that gift of hope lightly. It has the power to conquer despair in the midst of sorrow, to light the darkness in the valleys of life, to whisper 'One more time' in the face of failure. Hope is what gives life to dreams, making the fairy tale the reality" L.R. Knost

"Parents should leave books lying around marked 'forbidden' if they want their children to read." Doris Lessing

"To become smart you need to read just ten books, but to find those ten, you need to read thousands." 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 13 June 2019

Ackroyd, Peter "Revolution"

Ackroyd, Peter "The History of England, Vol. 4 Revolution" - 2016

After having read the first three books in the series "The History of England" by Peter Ackroyd (Foundation, Tudors, Civil War), I couldn't wait to read the fourth one.

Was it as interesting as the first ones? It surely was though I would have loved more information about the kings of that period. However, I learned a lot about the industrial revolution and the people at the time. For example, the reason the British were quicker to industrialize their country because they didn't have all the little states like Germany, France, and Austria had at the time. Should maybe make them think about whether it's such a good idea to leave the European Union.

It certainly was just as exciting a time as the Tudors which are my favourite times in English history so far.

Same as in the previous books, I missed a list at the back about who became king when and who was the son of whom etc. But I guess that's not going to happen in this series.

From the back cover:

"The fourth volume of Peter Ackroyd's enthralling History of England begins in 1688 with a revolution and ends in 1815 with a famous victory.

In it, Ackroyd takes readers from William of Orange's accession following the Glorious Revolution to the Regency, when the flamboyant Prince of Wales ruled in the stead of his mad father, George III, and England was - again - at war with France, a war that would end with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.

Late Stuart and Georgian England marked the creation of the great pillars of the English state. The Bank of England was founded, as was the stock exchange, the Church of England was fully established as the guardian of the spiritual life of the nation and parliament became the sovereign body of the nation with responsibilities and duties far beyond those of the monarch. It was a revolutionary era in English letters, too, a time in which newspapers first flourished and the English novel was born. It was an era in which coffee houses and playhouses boomed, gin flowed freely and in which shops, as we know them today, began to proliferate in our towns and villages. But it was also a time of extraordinary and unprecedented technological innovation, which saw England utterly and irrevocably transformed from a country of blue skies and farmland to one of soot and steel and coal."

I will certainly read the next edition of "The History of England", Vol.5 Dominion and other books by this great author.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Ahmad, Aeham "The Pianist from Syria"

Ahmad, Aeham "The Pianist from Syria" (aka The Pianist of Yarmouk) (German: Und die Vögel werden singen. Ich, der Pianist aus den Trümmern) - 2017

I have read quite a few books about Palestinians in Israel (see here) but I believe that this is my first book that I read about Palestinians in Syria and how much the war has affected them.

What a tragic, what a sad story. The author grew up as the son of Palestinian refugees in Syria. His father is blind but tries to do everything for his son so he can have a better future than was given to him.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. The Syrian Civil began in 2011, when Aehmed Acham was just 22. I kept comparing his life to that of my son who is just a year younger than him. We moved him from one country to the next and there was always a school, medical care, recreational facilities, music teachers, sports groups, the Scouts etc. Anything we wanted for him and his younger brother was there.

Not so for the people in Syria, especially not the Palestinian refugees who were gathered together in a part of Damascus, Yarmouk Camp, that was extremely hard if not impossible to leave.

In the end, Aeham Ahmad was able to escape Syria and really lucky that his family was able to follow him within a year. Many have not been so lucky. I fear for all of them.

The memoir is very well written, the author received some help, but you can hear his voice, his despair about all that has happened to him and his friends. I really loved how he mentioned that the German people had been so extremely kind to him and helped him and his family and friends. Like me and my family, most of our friends have always said we need to help as much as possible. This is a personal story that will hopefully make everyone understand that these are people like you and me who have the same need, wishes, hopes, and dreams. We can all work for a better future by sticking together.

From the back cover:

"An astonishing but true account of a pianist’s escape from war-torn Syria to Germany offers a deeply personal perspective on the most devastating refugee crisis of this century.

Aeham Ahmad was born a second-generation refugee - the son of a blind violinist and carpenter who recognized Aeham's talent and taught him how to play piano and love music from an early age.

When his grandparents and father were forced to flee Israel and seek refuge from the Israeli–Palestinian conflict ravaging their home, Aeham’s family built a life in Yarmouk, an unofficial camp to more than 160,000 Palestinian refugees in Damascus. They raised a new generation in Syria while waiting for the conflict to be resolved so they could return to their homeland. Instead, another fight overtook their asylum. Their only haven was in music and in each other.

Forced to leave his family behind, Aeham sought out a safe place for them to call home and build a better life, taking solace in the indestructible bond between fathers and sons to keep moving forward. Heart-wrenching yet ultimately full of hope, and told in a raw and poignant voice, The Pianist from Syria is a gripping portrait of one man’s search for a peaceful life for his family and of a country being torn apart as the world watches in horror."

Friday 7 June 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"A novel is a conversation between a reader and a writer." John Green

"My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read." Abraham Lincoln

"Do you know what they call people who hoard books? Smart." Lisa Scottoline

"When I want to travel, I don't need an airplaine, a train or a bike. Just give me a comfortable seat, a cup of tea and a really good book." N.N. *

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.]

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Alighieri, Dante "The Divine Comedy"

Alighieri, Dante "The Divine Comedy" (Italian: Divina Commedia) - 1308-20

I love classics. I love chunky books. So, those should be two points for this book.
I don't like reading plays. I don't like reading poetry. Those are two points against this book.
Which side wins? Hard to say. If you don't enjoy reading something, it doesn't get better when it gets longer, so the chunkiness played against the read.

I also didn't think this was a very funny book, not that I have anything against that but if a title is "comedy", you should have to smile at least from time to time. Hmmm, didn't happen. Maybe not my kind of humour (though that is usually slapstick and this is certainly not that kind, either).

I know how often this work is praised as highly intelligent, greatest work of art, etc. but for me, it was not something I could relate to very well. Let me put it like this, if you are a classic lover, this is probably a must read and I am glad I finished it.

From the back cover:

"Long narrative poem originally titled Commedia (about 1555 printed as La divina commedia) written about 1310-14 by Dante. The work is divided into three major sections - Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso - which trace the journey of a man from darkness and error to the revelation of the divine light, culminating in the beatific vision of God. It is usually held to be one of the world's greatest works of literature. 

The plot of The Divine Comedy is simple: a man is miraculously enabled to visit the souls in Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. He has two guides: Virgil, who leads him through the Inferno and Purgatorio, and Beatrice, who introduces him to Paradiso. Through these fictional encounters taking place from Good Friday evening in 1300 through Easter Sunday and slightly beyond, Dante the character learns of the exile that is awaiting him (an actual exile that had already occurred at the time of writing). This device allowed Dante not only to create a story out of his exile but also to explain how he came to cope with personal calamity and to offer suggestions for the resolution of Italy's troubles as well."

Tuesday 4 June 2019

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books From My Favourite Genre

"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.

June 4: Books From My Favourite Genre

Historical Fiction

Definitely one of my favourite genres. But - decisions, decisions! It's always so hard to choose ten books only. I have reduced it to ten authors but even that was hard enough:

Falcones, Ildefonso "Cathedral of the Sea" (Spanish: La catedral del mar)
Follett, Ken: Medieval Duology ("The Pillars of the Earth", "World Without End") and Century Trilogy ("Fall of Giants", "Winter of the World", "Edge of Eternity")
Frazier, Charles "Cold Mountain"
Hislop, Victoria "The Sunrise"
Lowenstein, Anna "The Stone City" (Esperanto: La Ŝtona Urbo)
Mahfouz, Naguib: Cairo Trilogy: ("Palace Walk", "Palace of Desire", "Sugar Street")
Rutherfurd, Edward: any ("Awakening", "Dublin", "The Forest", "London", "Paris", Russka")
Schami, Rafik "The Calligrapher’s Secret" (German: Das Geheimnis des Kalligraphen)
Smiley, Jane "The All-true Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton"
Weir, Alison: The Tudor Queens ("The Six Wives of Henry VIII", "Katherine of Aragon", "Anne Boleyn", "Jane Seymour")

As you can see, I have labels for almost all of those authors which means, in most cases I have read a lot more of their books than just the ones mentioned here. As soon as I have read three books by one single writer, I give them a label

I had chosen eleven other books/authors but, unfortunately, was restricted to ten only. If you're interested in them, I can always add them in the comments.

Monday 3 June 2019

Melville, Herman "Moby Dick or The Whale"

Melville, Herman "Moby Dick or The Whale" - 1851

Moby Dick, an epic tale, "Call me Ishmael", one of the most famous first lines ever. So, I just had to read it one day.

Was it everything I thought it might be? Probably not though it is quite interesting. The story itself is a good one, the mad captain who is looking for the whale who is responsible for him losing his leg, the crew that is out for money, the encounters with wales or other ships. That alone might have made a good novel.

But Herman Melville had to add more, I was reminded of lessons at school where all I wanted was that this class would be over and the next, more interesting one, would begin. If I want to know all about wales, maybe I should better buy an illustrated book about them. Or what about fishing? Ships? How to dissect a whale? Various other seafood? I think after reading this most people know enough to go whaling themselves. Only - do they want to?

Anyway, one of the lesser classic tales, in my opinion.

From the back cover:

"On a previous voyage, a mysterious white whale had ripped off the leg of a sea captain named Ahab. Now the crew of the Pequod, on a pursuit that features constant adventure and horrendous mishaps, must follow the mad Ahab into the abyss to satisfy his unslakeable thirst for vengeance. Narrated by the cunningly observant crew member Ishmael, Moby-Dick is the tale of the hunt for the elusive, omnipotent, and ultimately mystifying white whale - Moby Dick.

On its surface, Moby-Dick is a vivid documentary of life aboard a nineteenth-century whaler, a virtual encyclopedia of whales and whaling, replete with facts, legends, and trivia that Melville had gleaned from personal experience and scores of sources. But as the quest for the whale becomes increasingly perilous, the tale works on allegorical levels, likening the whale to human greed, moral consequence, good, evil, and life itself. Who is good? The great white whale who, like Nature, asks nothing but to be left in peace? Or the bold Ahab who, like scientists, explorers, and philosophers, fearlessly probes the mysteries of the universe? Who is evil? The ferocious, man-killing sea monster? Or the revenge-obsessed madman who ignores his own better nature in his quest to kill the beast?

Scorned by critics upon its publication, Moby-Dick was publicly derided during its author’s lifetime. Yet Melville’s masterpiece has outlived its initial misunderstanding to become an American classic of unquestionably epic proportions. "

Saturday 1 June 2019

Happy June!

Happy June to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch

"Lila Mohnblüten"
"Purple poppy flowers"

May is done and dusted. It was pretty mild here but I've seen many pictures of other parts of this world where they had heavy snowstorms, even in areas where it usually is warmer at this time of the year.

In the Northern Hemisphere, we wait for the Summer Solstice, beginning of summer in many countries, Midsummer in the Scandinavian countries. Always a happy occasion.

The old Germanic word for June is "Brachmond", named after the Brownfield land, the month, where in the three-field system the fields were left fallow (or "brach" in German). Gardeners also call it the rose month.

And the rose is one of the flowers of the month. In Victorian flower language, the rose has different meanings, depending on its colour, yellow stood for jealousy, red for love, and white for purity and silence, colours that still mean the same nowadays.

Have a happy June with this beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch.

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