Thursday 31 December 2020

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers
New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Falter im Spätsommer"
"Butterfly in Late Summer"

Let's hope that 2021 will bring us more joy than its predecessor. Best wishes!

I know I'm a tad early for some but our friends in New Zealand and Australia are there already. 


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

You can also have a look under my labels Artist: Frank Koebsch and Artist: Hanka Koebsch where you can find all my posts about them. 

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Favourite Books of 2020

"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 Jana from 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.
Since we are approaching the end of the year rapidly, this week's topic is
Favourite Books of 2020
It's always tough to decide which ones were the best book of the year, even if you have a list that you carry on during the years (see here).

I had to eliminate a few from my long list but I came up with ten in the end. I put them in alphabetical order so I wouldn't have to decide which one comes first, second, etc. But I think my overall favourite is "The Offing".
Falcones, Ildefonso "Die Erben der Erde" (Los herederos de la tierra/La catedral del mar #2/The heirs of the earth) (La catedral del mar #2) - 2016 (I will review this once it's translated into English.)
Hislop, Victoria "Those Who Are Loved" - 2019
Khorsandi, Shappi "A Beginner's Guide to Acting English" - 2009
Myers, Benjamin "The Offing" - 2019
Owens, Delia "Where the Crawdads Sing" - 2017
Rand, Ayn "We the Living" - 1936
Rutherford, Edward "Sarum: the Novel of England" - 1987
Taylor, Helen "Why Women Read Fiction. The Stories of Our Lives" - 2019
Whitehead, Colson "The Nickel Boys" - 2019
Wodehouse, P. G. "Right Ho, Jeeves" - 1934

Monday 28 December 2020

Camus, Albert "The Just Assassins"

Camus, Albert "The Just Assassins" (aka The Just) (French: Les Justes) - 1949

I'm not the biggest fan of reading plays but I love Albert Camus. And what should I say, this almost read like a novel. It probably helped that it was about a subject I am very interested in. Apparently, this is based on real social revolutionaries.

The big philosophical question of the play is: Can you kill for the sake of revolution? Is it just or is it still murder? Do you kill a few in order to save thousands or even more? It's for you to decide.

Not just with the location, also with the subject and the way he asks the questions, does he remind me of my favourite Russian authors, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.

In any case, this book leaves us with a lot to ponder about. Perfect.

From the back cover:

"Camus’s The Just (Les Justes) is a five-act play based on the true story of a group of Russian revolutionaries who assassinated Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich in 1905. First produced in 1949, The Just is a significant, eerily resonant, moving, and highly theatrical work. With a humanist perspective, Camus delves into the hearts and minds of five idealists who each grapple with a heinous choice and ultimately commit murder, in the name of justice. Now, more than ever, the play provokes and reverberates with a troubling yet necessary line of inquiry. Do the ends justify the means? Is terrorism ever a viable choice? What is the true cost of resistance? What is the difference between a freedom fighter and a murderer?

The Just makes so compelling and haunting is the way Camus uses clearly drawn characters to tell such an intimate yet horrific story. He completely understands and sympathizes with his characters but never apologizes for their actions. And although it was written more than fifty years ago and set in another era, The Just feels entirely contemporary and vital. In this play, Camus attempts to understand what it would require to take violent action and assassinate someone in power yet somehow maintain a sense of justice and morality. Is this even possible?"

Albert Camus received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times".

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

Thursday 24 December 2020

🌟 🌟 🌟 Merry Christmas! 🌟 🌟 🌟

🎄 Christmas Eve. We call it Holy Evening in German. Traditionally, everyone gets their presents on this day. If you have children, you go to church in the afternoon where they have a special mass with a nativity play and Christmas carols. After that, the "Christ Child" has been visiting the house and the children start opening their Christmas presents. This is also the day when the Christmas tree and all the decorations are put up. Things have changed since my childhood, but we still don't put up our tree much earlier than the 4th advent, it just feels wrong to have it up during the advent time.

🌟 Nowadays, many companies close on the day but when I was little, everyone worked until lunchtime on Christmas Eve.

🎄 Since there is not a lot of time neither for the preparation nor for the eating of a big dinner before the children need to go to bed, most families have potato salad and frankfurters or meatballs on Christmas Eve. The big dinner or lunch, often with a roasted goose or a carp, follows on Christmas Day when families gather at the house of the grandparents.

🌟 Families without children or where the kids are older, people go to midnight mass. For many, this is the only time of the year when they visit a service. Those people are commonly called "U-Boot Christians" since they only "turn up" at Christmas.

🌟 🌟 🌟 Peace on Earth! 🌟 🌟 🌟 

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Hubbard, Fra Elbert "A Message to Garcia"

Hubbard, Fra Elbert "A Message to Garcia" - 1899

Another book that has been on my TBR list for ages and came out of hiding due to the Classics Spin.

When I started reading this, I knew why I hadn't been too keen on it. It's one of those "self-help", "holier than though", "if only everyone would read this, it would solve all the problems in the world" books.

I do understand the message. We all should do what our tasks are without having to be guided for every little thing. And I agree. But this kind of book doesn't help anyone. In a nutshell, a man called Rowan was supposed to be the true hero of the Spanish-American war in Cuba, because he accepted with no questions the order to carry an important message to Garcia. He didn't know how to reach General Calixto García, but he brought him the message nevertheless.

This may all be good in the military, to follow a task without questioning but in any job I had, my employers expected me to think and also tell them if their order was wrong.

Anyway, I'm glad this was such a short book, I doubt I would have finished it. It read more like political propaganda than the trial to help. I think this is terribly outdated and should definitely not be reprinted.

Quote: "The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one."

And then I found this on Wikipedia:
"The phrase "The graveyards are full of indispensable men" may have originated with Hubbard
He and his second wife, Alice Moore Hubbard, died aboard the RMS Lusitania when it was sunk by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915.

From the back cover:

"A Message to Garcia has carried its simple message of hard work, integrity, and dependability to readers around the world for over 100 years. As one of the keystones of American self-improvement literature, this short celebration of the diligence and loyalty shown by one man is truly a life-changing classic that demands to be read again and again.

A Message to Garcia is an inspirational essay written by Elbert Hubbard. It was originally published as a filler without a title in the March, 1899 issue of the Philistine magazine which he edited, but was quickly reprinted as a pamphlet and a book. It was wildly popular, selling over 40 million copies, and being translated into 37 languages. It also became a well-known allusion in American popular and business culture.

The essay celebrates the initiative of a soldier who is assigned and accomplishes a daunting mission. He asks no questions, makes no objections, requests no help, but accomplishes the mission. The essay exhorts the reader to apply this attitude to his own life as an avenue to success. Its wide popularity reflected the general appeal of self-reliance and energetic problem solving in American culture. Its 'don't ask questions, get the job done' message was often used by business leaders as a motivational message to their employees."

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

"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 Jana from 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.
🎄🎄🎄 Books I Hope Santa Brings 🎄🎄🎄
Maybe someone will pick up on this. 😉
Ebuehi, Benjamina "New Way to Cake"
Follett, Ken "Kingsbridge" (The Evening and the Morning)
Harris, Kamala "The Biography of Kamala Harris"
Harris, Kamala "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey"
Hislop, Victoria "One August Night"
Lawson, Mary "A Town Called Solace"
Obama, Barack "A Promised Land"
Rutherfurd, Edward "China"
Voland, Maxim "Die Republik" [The Republic]
The Bake-Off Team "The Great British Bake Off: Love to Bake" (see here)

Yes, yes, some of them will only be published next year but Santa can do magic, right?


Monday 21 December 2020

Myers, Benjamin "The Offing"

Myers, Benjamin "The Offing" - 2019

The latest "Favourite Book of the Independents" was announced and it was "The Offing". I had seen it in a bookshop and thought it sounded interesting but because my TBR pile keeps growing and growing, I hadn't bought it. This is the one time where I am glad that I can't borrow English books in my new home town because now I own it. It's definitely a keeper.

I'm glad this received the prize because so far, "Where the Crawdads Sing" (which had received last year's prize), had been my favourite book of the year. I think it has been replaced with this one.

Robert is only sixteen years old. He is to follow his dad as a coal miner, like every other young boy in his village in Durham in the Northern part of England. World War II has just ended and Robert wants to see a little from the world. Post-war England isn't exactly a dream but him being strong and many men missing, he finds jobs here and there and then carries on into the next village.

Until he hits the sea in Yorkshire and Dulcie's cottage. Dulcie is older, a lot older than Robert, lives alone but has had an interesting life. She shares her experience with the young foundling, gets him interested in literature and shows him that there is a lot more out there in life than what his village back home has to offer.

This is a brilliant book about so many things, England and Europe, the ocean, literature, poetry, the simple life, nature. He writes it as a sort of memoir from when he himself is old.

It already starts with a great quote: "For no one really wins a war: some just lose a little less than others." I don't understand how people don't get it.

To just show you his brilliant use of language, here's one of his nature descriptions.
"The land flowed forward now in a grassy tessellation of fields farmed and grazed, and divided by dusty tracks and densely packed tree-covered glades."

This book is just beautifully written. A fantastic example of great literature.

The author is from Durham himself. He has received many prestigious prizes already. I'll have to read more of his books.

From the back cover:

"'After all, there are only a few things truly worth fighting for: freedom, of course, and all that it brings with it. Poetry, perhaps, and a good glass of wine. A nice meal. Nature. Love, if you're lucky.'

One summer following the Second World War, Robert Appleyard sets out on foot from his Durham village. Sixteen and the son of a coal miner, he makes his way across the northern countryside until he reaches the former smuggling village of Robin Hood’s Bay. There he meets Dulcie, an eccentric, worldly, older woman who lives in a ramshackle cottage facing out to sea. - and she introduces him to the pleasures of rich food, sea-swimming, sunburn and poetry. The two come from different worlds, yet as the summer months pass, they form an unlikely friendship that will profoundly alter their lives.

From the Walter Scott Prize-winning author of
The Gallows Pole comes a powerful new novel about an unlikely friendship between a young man and an older woman, set in the former smuggling village of Robin Hood’s Bay in the aftermath of the Second World War."

"The Offing" has been chosen favourite book of the year 2020 by the German Indepent Bookshops.

Friday 18 December 2020

Book Quotes of the Week

"Despite his money and his looks and all the good-on-paper attributes he possessed, he was not a reader, and well, let’s just say that is the sort of nonsense up with which we will not put." Eleanor Brown, The Weird Sisters
A sentiment I can totally underline.

"I don’t know a lot about history, but I do understand that all it takes is a whole bunch of bystanders and people just doing their jobs for ugly things to happen." Sarah Crossan, Moonrise
This is so important. Don't just say something political is wrong to your friends who agree, say it especially to those who disagree if you see that others suffer through it.

"What we read and why we do so defines us in a profound way. You are what you read, I suppose. Browsing through someone’s library is like peeking into their DNA." Guillermo del Toro
Very true. I always have to look at people's bookshelves, tells me so much about them.

"Books, which we mistake for consolation, only add depth to our sorrow. "
Orhan Pamuk, My Name Is Red
That can be true in many ways but sometimes a book helps. Not those self-help books that are just written to confuse us even more. But reading about someone who has similar problems, even or especially if they don't get solves, often helps a lot better.

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 17 December 2020

Malouf, David "Fly Away Peter"

Malouf, David "Fly Away Peter" - 1979

I belong to those people who think that the internet is fantastic. Granted, there are some downfalls, people try to make others feel bad just because they can and they know they won't get caught.

But I see the advantage. I have met many, many lovely people on the internet. First, in some chatrooms (remember chatrooms? Those were the days!), then on Facebook and other social networks, and at last here in the blog community. So many great people from all over the world.

One of those lovely people is Brona from Australia who published a list of Australian novellas a while ago. I asked her which one she said she'd recommend and she said "The Ladies of Missalonghi" by Colleen McCullough.

I ordered it but am still waiting for the copy to arrive. In the meantime, I asked another great Australian friend which one she would prefer and she recommended this one. And since that copy arrived faster, I started with this one.

I don't think David Malouf is much known in the Northern hemisphere. And what a loss. He seems to be a great author. This novella could have been a thousand pages long, I still would have loved it. Well, if you know my taste, I probably would have loved it even more. LOL. Although, that is hardly possible.

This is a great story about World War I. But not just that. We first meet Jim Sadler in Queensland where he is observing birds. The whole story is lined with birds but Jim soon gets to see parts of the world he probably would have liked not to visit. He is one of those soldiers that fight in Flanders fields. The difference between his two lives could not have been greater.

The author was born 1934, after the war ended and too early before the next war to have participated in it. But he must be a great listener because with this story he tells us how it was to lie in the trenches, to see comrades killed, you get such a good view about the war. A view you might rather not have. But it certainly helps to understand what war could mean.

This is a novella written for young adults/children. I agree with my friend there, who recommended this. It's required reading in Australia and she said she doubts that many kids are mature enough for it. I think it might be too much for some younger readers to cope with, as well. However, those that love reading and are interested in history, they might appreciate it. I would recommend it for anyone over 16.

While researching, I found this quote by the author.
"I knew that the world around you is only uninteresting if you can't see what is really going on. The place you come from is always the most exotic place you'll ever encounter because it is the only place where you recognise how many secrets and mysteries there are in people's lives".
I don't know about this. I always am more interested in other places and find the one I come from boring because I know all about it (or at least think I do).

From the back cover:

"For three very different people brought together by their love for birds, life on the Queensland coast in 1914 is the timeless and idyllic world of sandpipers, ibises and kingfishers. In another hemisphere civilization rushes headlong into a brutal conflict. Life there is lived from moment to moment.

Inevitably, the two young men - sanctuary owner and employee - are drawn to the war, and into the mud and horror of the trenches of Armentieres. Alone on the beach, their friend Imogen, the middle-aged wildlife photographer, must acknowledge for all three of them that the past cannot be held.

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Seasonal Movies

"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 Jana from 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.

This week's topic is:
Books On My Winter 2020-2021 TBR 
(or summer if you live in the southern hemisphere)
I have done many seasonal TBR lists before and I post lists of books I want to read all the time, so I thought I'd change this topic to seasonal movies we like to watch. Maybe there are some that you don't know, yet, because they're from a different area/era you're used to. So, hopefully, you'll find a nice new one here (I added the IMDb links).

It's a Wonderful Life
The Family Stone
The Holiday
Little Lord Fauntleroy
Little Women
Love Actually
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

We're No Angels
While You Were Sleeping
White Christmas

Some years, we don't get to watch them all but I'm sure with the lockdown situation, we will have plenty of time to see these and many others.

🎄🎄🎄 Have a good Christmas time and stay safe! 🎄🎄🎄

Monday 14 December 2020

Classic Challenge 2021

For the eighth year, the Classics Club hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge, a year-long challenge in which participants are encouraged to finally read the classics they've always meant to read -- or just recently discovered. At the end of the year, one lucky winner will receive a prize $30 (US) in books from the bookstore of their choice. The rules and prize are the same as last year, only the categories have changed. They have some fun categories -- I think we could all use as many fun and relaxing reads as possible!

If you're new to the challenge, here's how it works:
•    Complete six categories, and you'll get one entry in the drawing;
•    Complete nine categories, and you'll get two entries in the drawing;
•    Complete all twelve categories, and you'll get three entries in the drawing

Without further ado, here are the categories for 2021:
1. A 19th century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899
2. A 20th century classic: any book first published from 1900 to 1971. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1971 and posthumously published.
3. A classic by a woman author.
4. A classic in translation, meaning any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer.
5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author.
6. A classic by a new-to-you author, i.e., an author whose work you have never read.
7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author -- a new book by an author whose works you have already read.
8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title. The animal can be real or metaphorical. (i.e., To Kill a Mockingbird).
9. A children's classic.
10. A humorous or satirical classic.
11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction). It can be a travelogue or a classic in which the main character travels or has an adventure.
12. A classic play. Plays will only count in this category.

We do NOT have to read 12 books to qualify for the drawing! The rest of the rules also remain the same.

All books must have been written at least 50 years ago to qualify; therefore, books must have been published no later than 1971 for this challenge. The only exceptions to this rule are books which published posthumously but written before 1971. Recent translations of classic novels are acceptable.
All books must be read during read from January 1 through December 31, 2021. Books started before January 1 do not qualify. All reviews must be linked to this challenge by 11:59 p.m. on January 1, 2022. I will post links the first week of January for each category, which will be featured on a sidebar of this blog for convenience through the entire year. (The link for the final wrap-up will be posted towards the end of the year, to avoid confusion).
The deadline to sign up for the challenge is March 31, 2021. After that, I'll close the link and you'll have to wait until next year's challenge. Please include a link to your actual sign-up post, not your blog URL/home page. Make sure you sign up in the   below, not the comments section. If I do not see your name in the sign-ups, you are not eligible. If you've made a mistake with your link, just add a new one and let me know in the comments. It's no trouble for me to delete an incorrect link.
•    Books may NOT cross over within this challenge -- that is, you may not count the same book multiple times within this challenge. You MUST read a different book for each category in this challenge, or it doesn't count.
•    Participants must post a wrap-up and link it to the challenge, and it must include links to all the books they've read for this challenge, specifying which books for each challenge. If I cannot confirm which books you've read for each challenge, I will not enter your name into the drawing. It is fine to rearrange books for the challenge, since many books can fit multiple categories -- just let me know in the final wrap-up!
•    The wrap-up post MUST include contact information so that I can contact the winner privately before announcing the winner on this blog. If your blog doesn't have a link, or if you have a Goodreads account, let me know in the comments of wrap-up post. If I cannot contact you, I cannot award you the prize!
•    The winner will be announced on this blog the first week of January, 2021. All qualifying participants will receive one or more entries, depending upon the number of categories they complete as stated above. One winner will be randomly selected from all qualifying entries. I will contact the winner privately and award the prize before posting on the blog.
•    The winner will receive a gift certificate in the amount of $30 (US) from (US) OR $30 in books from The Book Depository. Winners must live in a country that receives shipment from one of these online retailers. To check if your country receives deliveries from The Book Depository, click here. 

So, here are my books, all from my TBR pile and since I want to tackle it more again, I think it's a great idea to take part. I think I can manage one classic book a month.

1. A 19th century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "Italian Journey aka Letters from Italy" (GE: Italienische Reise) - 1817

2. A 20th century classic: any book first published from 1900 to 1971. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1971 and posthumously published.
Ford, Ford Maddox "Parade's End" (Tetraology: Some Do Not, 1924, No More Parades, 1925, A Man Could Stand Up 1926, Last Post 1928) - 1924-28

3. A classic by a woman author.
Sand, George "Fadette" (aka Fanchon, the Cricket) (FR: La Petite Fadette) - 1849

4. A classic in translation, meaning any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer.
Gogol, Nikolai (Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь, Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol) "The Overcoat" (RUS: Шинель) - 1842

5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author.
Jacobs, Harriet Ann (Linda Brent) "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" - 1861

6. A classic by a new-to-you author, i.e., an author whose work you have never read.

Rhoides, Emmanuel (Emmanuel Roidis) "The Curious History of Pope Joan" (GR: Papissa Ioanna) - 1866

7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author -- a new book by an author whose works you have already read.
Dickens, Charles "The Old Curiosity Shop" - 1840

8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title. The animal can be real or metaphorical. (i.e., To Kill a Mockingbird).

Storm, Theodor "The Rider on the White Horse" (GE: Der Schimmelreiter und andere Erzählungen) - 1888

9. A children's classic.
Savage Carlson, Natalie "The Family Under the Bridge" - 1958

10. A humorous or satirical classic.
Twain, Mark "A Tramp Abroad" - 1880

11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction). It can be a travelogue or a classic in which the main character travels or has an adventure.
Martin, Catherine "The Incredible Journey" - 1923

12. A classic play. Plays will only count in this category.
Shakespeare, William "Much Ado About Nothing" - 1598/99

Friday 11 December 2020

Book Quotes of the Week

"Books aren't interested in who is reading them... A book will welcome any reader; any age, any background, any point of view. Books don't care if you can't understand every word in them, or if you want to skip bits or reread bits. Books welcome everyone who wants to explore them, and thankfully no one has ever worked out a way to stop that." Anna James, Tilly and the Lost Fairytales
Books don’t judge. Books understand.

"The thing is - those books made my days bearable. " Aisha Saeed, Amal Unbound
That is such a true word. Where would we be without books.

"I love books because I don’t have to wait for the commercials to be over to find out what happens." N.N. *
There is hardly anything you could compare to a commercial in a book - and if there is, you can just skip it. 😉

[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 10 December 2020

Morrison, Toni "A Mercy"

Morrison, Toni "A Mercy" - 2008

In my post about Anti-Racism, I listed many, many books that tell us a lot about the lives of black people past and present. This is another one from the past that I will add to that list.

In this day and age, nobody should have to suffer from being "different" (no matter what that entails) and, yet, so many still do. When I see all the accusations made against former US President Barack Obama, it shows that even when you have worked your way up and are an excellent, qualified person, it doesn't help you if people don't like the colour of your skin. You still get no respect.

In this story, Toni Morrison tells us all about a little girl called Florens. She is lucky in a way that she gets into this family. Her "master" is not abusive. That doesn't say she is to envy. If you can't decide where you want to live, whether you want to stay with your family (and which eight-year-old wouldn't?) or what kind of work you would like to do, you are never to be envied.

Having said that, I'm just reading another book ("Capital" by Karl Marx) and from what we can learn there, poor people in Europe were not in a much better position, either. However, that's not an excuse.

Coming back to this story. It's not just a story of Florens but of all the male members of that family, the Native American Lina, Sorrow who was shipwrecked and Rebecca, the owner's wife who was sent over from England and didn't know her husband before she got married. They all have a different kind of fate but are all in this together.

Toni Morrison knows well how to describe the feelings of her characters, you can follow her stories as if you were a member of the family, as if you were one of the characters in her book.

Her books should become a required reading in all the schools. Maybe, just maybe, we would all understand racism a little better. Her Nobel Prize is well-deserved.

Florens' mother describes her arrival in Barbados after her capture in Africa and a long sea voyage:
"It was there I learned how I was not a person from my country, nor from my families. I was negrita. Everything. Language, dress, gods, dance, habits, decoration, song– all of it cooked together in the colour of my skin."

I think this says it all. What is it that defines us? Certainly not the colour of our skin. You might as well say someone with dark (or light hair) is worth less than someone with light (or dark). What's the difference? The difference is only what some of us make of it.

From the back cover:

"On the day that Jacob agrees to accept a slave in lieu of payment of a debt, little Florens' life changes. With her intelligence and passion for wearing the cast-off shoes of her mistress Florens has never blended into the background and now, aged eight, she is taken from her family to begin a new life. She ends up part of Jacob's household, along with his wife Rebekka, their Native American servant Lina and the enigmatic Sorrow, who was rescued from a shipwreck. Together these women face the trials of their harsh environment as Jacob attempts to carve out a place for himself in the brutal landscape of the north of America in the seventeenth century."

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2022.

Toni Morrison "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

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

Read more about other books by the author here.

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Seasonal Books ~ Winter

"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 Jana from 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.

Holiday/Seasonal Freebie
(holiday books/covers/titles, wintry reads, snow on cover, cool color covers, etc. 
Winter will only start next week but I quite like the topic. And I have a few lovely books that I read representing this. Winter, Snow, Cold. (Mind you, I didn’t care much for the last one but some people do, so I included it anyway.)
Calvino, Italo "If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller" (Italian: Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore) - 1979
Follett, Ken "Winter of the World" - 2012 (part of a trilogy)
Hannah, Kristin "Winter Garden" - 2010
Stachniak, Eva "The Winter Palace. A Novel of Catherine the Great" - 2011
Guterson, David "Snow Falling on Cedars" - 1994
Hamill, Pete "Snow in August" - 1998
Høeg, Peter "Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow" (Danish: Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne) - 1992
Pamuk, Orhan "Snow" (Turkish: Kar) - 2002
Frazier, Charles "Cold Mountain" - 1997
Gibbons, Stella "Cold Comfort Farm" - 1932

Monday 7 December 2020

Fatland, Erika "Sovietistan"

Fatland, Erika "Sovietistan: Travels in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan" (Norwegian: Sovjetistan. En reise gjennom Turkmenistan, Kasakhstan, Tadsjikistan, Kirgisistan og Usbekistan) - 2014

After reading "The Border" by this Norwegian author where she travels all around the Russian border and visits every adjoining country, I was eager to read her first book where she visited the Central Asian "Stans" who became independent after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

I was not disappointed. Erika Fatland seems like someone who really researches what she does. She speaks several languages, i.a. Russian which makes it easier but she still meets many people who don't speak any of the languages she knows. You can definitely tell she knows a lot about exploring other cultures. And it's interesting to read a woman's perspective about this part of the world, doesn't happen too often.

There is so much history in the part of the world, longer than the European one, definitely longer than any of the "new world" and this book makes us aware that we should always look at someone's history if we try to understand them. From the Mongolian invaders through the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, these countries have all had to endure a lot. It's not easy to go back to what we would call "normal democracy" in just one generation. Some of the countries seem to be on a better way than others but I'm sure it will still take a long time until all the inhabitants will be able to live a free life.

The author tells us about the Silk Road, the mountains and valleys, the rich cities of the past (like Samarkand, doesn't that name just conjure some dreamy 1001 night-like picture?). And the ethnic people who have inhabited this area for thousands of years. In telling her story where it fits in the historical parts she mentions, she gives us a good idea about how life in those countries seems to be. From old cultures like bride-stealing to the wealth brought through oil, there is a lot to take in

We hear about Genghis Khan and Amir Timur or Tamerlane, two Mongol conquerors, who influenced the region just as much as Stalin later on.

A while ago I read a book about the Hutterer (The Forgotten People) who came to Canada via this region and Erika Fatland also mentions the Mennonites who suffered the same fate, some of whom still occupy their area. It was interesting to compare these two religious' groups.

But those are not the only interesting people the traveller met. There are so many anecdotes about the people she met and how she often was welcomed with open arms.

There is this guy (Igor Savitsky, see here on Wikipedia) who founded a museum in the middle of nowhere, even in Uzbek standards, the State Art Museum of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, named after I.V. Savitsky, also known as Nukus Museum of Art or Savitsky Museum and the Desert of Forbidden Art.

Or she talks to human rights activists, people who live in the mountains without any electricity or anything else we all consider necessary to live a decent life. They don't and chose to live like that. Totally interesting.

As always, it was great to read about a part of the world we know so little about. Most Europeans would even be able to find the right countries on a map if questioned let alone name the capital cities. I've learned them now and hope to remember them:
Kazakhstan: Nur-Sultan, formerly Astana
Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek
Tajikistan: Dushanbe
Turkmenistan: Ashgabat
Uzbekistan: Tashkent

Granted, there are so many topics in this book, anthropology, communism, dictatorship, economy, ecology, human rights, politics, religion, sociology, you name it, everything that fits into human life is there, but it is still a highly pleasurable read.

I also really appreciated to see this world through the eyes of a woman. A woman who grew up in a free world and therefore would see more of the restrictions women in these countries have to live with than any man ever would. Well done, Erika!

This was our international online book club read in November 2020.

Some comments by the readers:

  • I had once read a travel book I didn't like, therefore didn't think I would like this one, but it absolutely gripped me and held my interest through all the many layers of history, politics, culture, travelling, etc.
  • At the meeting we talked a lot about how the USSR nostalgia seem to appear and how for example we in Finland reading this book might be reacting to that.
  • Personally, I really, really enjoyed this book. It definitely widened my knowledge of a lot of things and was really well written.

From the back cover:

"Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan became free of the Soviet Union in 1991. But though they are new to modern statehood, this is a region rich in ancient history, culture, and landscapes unlike anywhere else in the world.

Traveling alone, Erika Fatland is a true adventurer in every sense. In
Sovietistan, she takes the reader on a compassionate and insightful journey to explore how their Soviet heritage has influenced these countries, with governments experimenting with both democracy and dictatorships.

In Kyrgyzstani villages, she meets victims of the tradition of bride snatching; she visits the huge and desolate Polygon in Kazakhstan where the Soviet Union tested explosions of nuclear bombs; she meets shrimp gatherers on the banks of the dried out Aral Sea; she witnesses the fall of a dictator.

She travels incognito through Turkmenistan, a country that is closed to journalists. She meets exhausted human rights activists in Kazakhstan, survivors from the massacre in Osh in 2010, and German Mennonites that found paradise on the Kyrgyzstani plains 200 years ago. We learn how ancient customs clash with gas production and witness the underlying conflicts between ethnic Russians and the majority in a country that is slowly building its future in nationalist colors.

Once the frontier of the Soviet Union, life follows another pace of time. Amidst the treasures of Samarkand and the brutalist Soviet architecture,
Sovietistan is a rare and unforgettable adventure."

Friday 4 December 2020

Book Quotes of the Week

I did it!
I did it!
Come and look
At what I’ve done!
I read a book!
When someone wrote it
Long ago
For me to read,
How did he know
That this was the book
I’d take from the shelf
And lie on the floor
And read by myself?
I really read it!
Just like that!
Word by word,
From first to last!
I’m sleeping with
This book in bed,
This first FIRST book
I’ve ever read!"
David L. Harrison
I often still have the feeling with any book I read, especially if it speaks to me and has been written a long, long time ago.

"He found solace in what he wrote. It was an attempt to discover who he was at the moment." Brian Krans, A Constant Suicide
And then we often find solace in what others wrote.

"It’s one of the greatest gifts that reading can give a person: easy access to peace inside, even when the world outside is in shambles." Jennifer Williamson
And one of the easiest gifts you can find.

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Marx, Karl "Capital"

Marx, Karl "Capital. Critique of Political Economy" (German: Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Ökonomie) - 1867

For my classic non-fiction November read I chose a book I wanted to read for ages. "Capital". When I first joined Facebook, I used to take part in some of their "games" and found that I am very liberal (not a surprise), "as far left as can be before heading into Stalin's backyard". That was a US American test, of course. (Compared to their Republicans, that is certainly true.) But I know Karl Marx would turn in his grave if he saw what has been made out of his ideas in many countries. The Scandinavians are probably the best examples of what he wished for the people. And I belong to those people who "believe" in public healthcare, free education for everyone, a decent minimum wage, a good retirement plan, everything people are against who think that brings "communism" to their country.

But enough of that, I think I've said it often enough and I know people who don't agree but don't come up with a better answer. They seem to think it's great that the super-duper rich get away with paying low income tax whilst others go hungry.

So, the book. When I announced at the classics club that I was reading this in November, I received a lot of comments like "tough read", "well done, you, would be too hard for me". Actually, at the beginning, I thought it was rather boring. My background is more or less business, at least I had to take a lot of classes in that direction during my education. So, I knew how demand and supply set the price, material and manufacture together are the basis for that.

But all in all, there is a lot in this book about the beginning of industrialism and what went wrong there for the "little man", weirdly enough, a lot of that still is wrong, the worker is still exploited by the employer. See minimum wage discussions. They have more rights nowadays (thanks to those "bl...y" trade unions, another idea most conservatives are against) but that doesn't mean that many employers won't try to circumnavigate them and, if they have to adhere to it, won't go one step further than they have to.

I am sure there are many books around who explain this better in a contemporary way even for the most die-hard opponents to understand that the world doesn't just turn around themselves, that it would be so much nicer if people gave up their selfish attitudes. But I doubt they would want to understand them. This book and ideology have been around for more than 150 years now and not much has changed. Unfortunately.

This also is a great history lesson.

Granted, the book has some drier parts but all in all, I believe it is very readable. I would love to discuss this with people who have read it and see whether their opinions have changed.

"Let us finally imagine, for a change, an association of free men, working with the means of production held in common."

From the back cover:

"Capital by Karl Marx is a foundational theoretical text in materialist philosophy, economics and politics. Marx aimed to reveal the economic patterns underpinning the capitalist mode of production, in contrast to classical political economists such as Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill. Marx did not live to publish the planned second and third parts, but they were both completed from his notes and published after his death by his colleague Friedrich Engels. Capital is the most cited book in the social sciences published before 1950. The Communist Manifesto (originally Manifesto of the Communist Party) is an 1848 political pamphlet by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Commissioned by the Communist League and originally published in London just as the revolutions of 1848 began to erupt, the Manifesto was later recognised as one of the world's most influential political documents.

Wage Labour and Capital is an essay on economics by Karl Marx, written in 1847 and first published in articles in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in April 1849. This essay has been widely acclaimed as the precursor to Marx's important treatise Das Kapital.

Value, Price and Profit was a speech given to the First International Working Men's Association in June in 1865 by Karl Marx. It was written between the end of May and June 27 in 1865, and was published in 1898. Karl Marx (1818–1883) was a famous German philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist."

This was instigated by our Classics Club reading challenge. I found them through Words and Peace. Thank you.

See also:
Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich "The Communist Manifesto" (GE: Das kommunistische Manifest) - 1848

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Happy December!

Happy December to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch

"Auf dem Weg zum Nordpol"
"On the Way to the North Pole"

  I don't think Hanka Koebsch thought that so many people might want to follow the two characters in her painting on the way to the North Pole now. Who could have imagined last year that we would wish us to be anywhere but where there are many people around?

Usually, December is the time where the days get shorter, the temperature colder and wetter. But we can also look forward to lovely evenings at home with the family celebrating advent and Christmas or outside on Christmas markets and later welcoming the new year. I don't think there has been a new year as eagerly awaited since the end of the last World War. Let us all hope that it will be better than this one and that it brings us relief from Covid-19.

* * *

At least it has done our environment some good. We still have a long way to go but let's hope that even the last climate change sceptics have learned it now (after at least half a century that really should be a discussion point any more). I think this year has shown us that we need to do something.

The "German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation" (Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland) declared the broad-leaved marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis) for their orchid of the year. Orchids are not my favourite flowers but these don't look much like those imported versions, they live in our wet meadows and are endangered because most of these biotopes are roded nowadays.

Let's hope they still bring joy to us for many, many years to come.

* * *

I wish you all a very happy December. And don't be too sad if you have to celebrate Christmas alone. We don't think our sons can come this year, they both live in different countries, we all have different rules and regulations and even if it is possible, it's really too dangerous to travel. So, if you can only see your kids from time to time, think about me. We saw our oldest son in March, shortly before Corona started and then both boys in August when it was easier for them to travel. And that's it. But with the internet and all the modern possibilities to talk to each other, we are not in such a bad position as our grand-parents and great-grand-parents were a hundred years ago.

* * *

And think about the Islandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð! Maybe a good way to spend Christmas instead.

* * *

And one more quote from one of the books I just read: "Did it ever occur to you … that tolerance can reach a point where it is no more tolerance? When that happens, the noble-sounding attitude which most of us pride ourselves degenerates into weakness and acquiescence." Grace Metalious, "Peyton Place"

* * *

Have a happy December with this beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch. Stay safe!

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

You can also have a look under my labels Artist: Frank Koebsch and Artist: Hanka Koebsch where you can find all my posts about them.

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Authors that Deserve More Recognition

"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 Jana from 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.

Our topic for today would be Book Quotes (these could be quotes from books or quotes about books/reading). Since January 2013, I've been posting them every week and you can find a list of all the quotes I ever gathered here.
Also, we did a TTT about book quotes in September (see here).

So, I thought I'd search through the old themes and choose one of those that I missed.

Authors that Deserve More Recognition
There are a couple of authors that I count among my favourite ones but if I mention them, most people either say "I never read a book by them" or, even worse, "I have never heard of them". Therefore, I like this topic and hope that some of you will pick up at least one of their books:
Falcones, Ildefonso (Spanish/Catalan)
Frazier, Charles (US American)
Fredriksson, Marianne (Swedish)
Ghosh, Amitav (India/Bangladesh)
Hislop, Victoria (British/English)
Lawson, Mary (Canadian)
Rutherfurd, Edward (British/English)
Schami, Rafik (Syrian, writes in German)
Sendker, Jan-Philipp (German)
Waltari, Mika (Finnish)

My favourite one by any of them is in the the pictures, you find all the other books I read by them in the link.

And which authors would you recommend?

Monday 30 November 2020

Non-fiction November - Week 5


Leann from Shelf Aware and Julie from julzreads have given Non-fiction November a new twist.

They encourage us to not only read a non-fiction book this month but also to look at non-fiction books in general.

It's the end of November and also the end of Non-fiction November. To round this up, Leann from Shelf Aware has published a podcast. If you're interested, have a listen here.

Also, she has done a photo challenge. It wasn't my month, so I didn't take any pictures but I have read so many non-fiction books over the years that I thought I'll give you a list instead. Some of the books are older, that's when I haven't read a book in 2020 that fits into the category.

1.    TBR
Crafts, Hannah "The Bondwoman’s Narrative" - 1855-69
2.    2020 Fav
Taylor, Helen "Why Women Read Fiction. The Stories of Our Lives" - 2019
3.    Biography/Auto
Khorsandi, Shappi "A Beginner's Guide to Acting English" - 2009
4.    Own Voices
Booth, Cathleen "Mercy & Grace on the Camino de Santiago" - 2020
5.    Humour
Ephron, Nora "I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman" - 2006
6.    Technology
Hawking, Stephen "A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes" - 1988
7.    How To
Sanders, Ella Frances "Lost in Translation. An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World" - 2014
8.    Shelfie
Some cook books, some other non-fiction books

9.    Writing
Campbell, Jen "The Bookshop Book" - 2014
10.    Birth
I have two children and two of my nieces have given birth this year but I haven't read a non-fiction book about birth for ages.
11.    Literary Bio
Lindgren, Astrid "Samuel August from Sevedstorp and Hanna from Hult aka A Love Story" (Swedish: En kärlekshistoria: Samuel August från Sevedstorp och Hanna i Hult) - 1975
12.    Business
Bythell, Shaun "The Diary of a Bookseller" - 2017
13.    Psychology
Nietzsche, Friedrich "Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future/On the Genealogy of Morality" (German: Jenseits von Gut und Böse. Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft/Zur Geneologie der Moral) - 1886
14.    True Crime
Yousafzai, Malala; Lamb, Christina "I am Malala. The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" - 2013
15.    Nature
Bryson, Bill "The Body. A Guide for Occupants" - 2019
16.    Parenting
Gilbreth, Frank + Gilbreth Carey, Elizabeth "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Belles on their Toes" - 1948/1950
17.    Education
Mortenson, Greg & Bryan, Mike "Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan" - 2009
18.    Literary Memoir
Russell, Helen "The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country" - 2015
19.    Comfort Read
Tung, Debbie "Book Love" - 2019
20.    Medical
Levy, Andrew "A Brain Wider Than The Sky: A Migraine Diary" - 2009
21.    Animals/Pets
Solstad, Lexidh "Catpasity" - 2015
22.    Mental Health
Coory, Kasey "Pious Evil. Condemn not my Children. A mother's journey to insanity" - 2014
23.    Fav Author
Bryson, Bill "Notes from a Small Island" - 1995
24.    Community
Harari, Yuval Noah "Sapiens. A Brief History of Mankind" (Hebrew: קיצור תולדות האנושות/Ḳizur Toldot Ha-Enoshut) - 2014
25.    Relationships
Biden, Joe "Promise Me, Dad. A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose" - 2017
26.    Food
Collister, Linda; Berry, Mary; Hollywood, Paul "Great British Bake Off: How to Bake: The Perfect Victoria Sponge and Other Baking Secrets" - 2011
27.    Death/Afterlife
Weidermann, Volker "Summer Before the Dark: Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Ostend 1936" (German: Ostende - 1936, Sommer der Freundschaft) - 2014
28.    Organization
Kristof, Nicholas; WuDunn, Sheryl "A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity" - 2014
29.    Rainbow
Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books with Colours In the Titles
30.    Boost a Book
Most of my favourite non-fiction books of the year have already found their way onto this list. So, I'll go with one of my favourite authors, even though that book is not a new one. And, it's his only non-fiction book I've read so far.
Pamuk, Orhan "Istanbul - Memories of a City" (Turkish: İstanbul: Hatıralar ve Şehir) - 2003

I know, I know, some of them seem a little far-fetched but those are the closest I could find to the themes. I would love to see your suggestions.

Note to self: Read more self-help books so I can find some better examples next year (we all know that's NOT going to happen, though).