Friday, 14 May 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

"Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing. Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolours. Every stroke you put down you have to go with." Joan Didion

I like that comparison. In any case, authors are just as great artists as painters and sculptors.

"He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two."
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Who hasn't done that every other day? The first one, of couse, never leave the house without anything to read. 

"I would say it weighs as much as 2 hard covers!" Mayersche Buchhandlung

And I would say that's a good way of comparing weights!.

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books with Trees on the Cover

"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 with Nature on the Cover (flowers, trees, landscapes, animals, etc.)

Nature on the cover. Nature can be many things, as Jana says, flowers, trees, landscapes animals or anything else that's beautiful juust by itself.

I have always loved trees, especially if it's just a single tree standing majestically in the middle of a field. So, it was clear to me that I had to look for books that have a tree on its cover.

I found many and it was hard to weed out the books until I was down to ten. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Brontë, Emily "Wuthering Heights" - 1847
Drinkwater, Carol "The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love and Olive Oil in the South of France" - 2001
Droste-Hülshoff, Annette von "The Jew's Beech" (German: Die Judenbuche) - 1842
Frazier, Charles "Nightwoods" - 2011
Guterson, David "The Other" - 2008
Powers, Charles T. "In the Memory of the Forest" - 1997
Powers, Richard "The Overstory" - 2018
Tokarczuk, Olga "Primeval and Other Times" (Polish: Prawiek i inne czasy) - 1996
Zweig, Stefanie "Nowhere in Africa" (German: Nirgendwo in Afrika) - 1995

Monday, 10 May 2021

See, Lisa "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan"

See, Lisa "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" - 2005

Lila and her friend Snow Flower were both born on "the fifth day of the sixth month of the third year of the Daoguang Emperor's reign" which translated into June 5, 1824 in our calendar. Because of that and some other traits they have in common, they are destined to be "laotong", we would probably say BFFs (best friends forever) today. Yet, same as their husbands, they don't choose the laotong themselves, it's the stars that predict it.

I have already read another book by Lisa See, "Peony in Love", where she mainly writes about the Chinese culture about death and how to take care of your dead ancestors. This one is more about the living, especially the women, the way women in the 19th century in China lived. Not only were they more or less confined to the women's chambers (and the kitchen) of the house, they also had to endure foot binding. This horrible custom gets described very well in this book and while I have read many books about China (my first ones were by Pearl S. Buck when I was a teenager), I don't recall it ever being described so vividly. It's also interesting to see how important it was to have small feet, the smaller, the more marriageable a young girl would be, the better her station in life later on.

It is hard for us today to even understand how parents could do that to their children. And how women were treated in general. How could a mother do that to her daughter? Well, first of all, they all get told all their life that women aren't worth anything and that they raise their daughters for another family. But they want them to have a comfortable or at least half-way decent life. And culture dictated that women had to have small feet. The smaller the feet, the better the marriage. I doubt I could have done that today but it's easy to make that judgment from our point of view. We can decide not to get married or choose our own husbands without big problems. But back then it was essential for survival.

But we also read about Nü Shu, a secret phonetic form of 'women's writing which is something that fascinated me from the moment I heard about it. And the custom that a woman only started living with her husband (and his family) once she had given birth to her first child. Until then, she stayed with her parents and then she would only return to them on certain days of the year when everyone else did the same.

In the book, Lily starts looking back at her life from the view of an 80-year-old woman. She tells us all about her life in her native family, her married family, her friendship and breakup with Snow Flower, her life during the Taiping Rebellion (Wikipedia) her roles as daughter, wife, mother, friend. She doesn't leave anything out.

I also thought it was interesting how important horoscopes were. Lily and Snow Flower were horses which meant they were free-spirited and independent, but also hardworking.

But the language in the book is also beautiful, makes you want to read on and on.

A very interesting novel if you are interested in history, China, or the life or women in general.

From the bck cover:

"In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, 'old same', in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men.

As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

"There is something wonderful about a book. We can pick it up. We can heft it. We can read it. We can set it down. We can think of what we have read. It does something for us. We can share minds, great actions, and great undertakings in the pages of a book." Gordon B. Hinckley

True, there is so much in and about a book. But the best part of all is that you can read it.

"Strange, isn’t it? To love a book. When the words on the pages become so precious that they feel like part of your own history because they are. It’s nice to finally have someone read stories I know so intimately." Erin Morgenstern, Starless Sea

That is definitely strange. A book can become life. But we have to open the cover and start reading. Good luck! 

"It's always better to have too much to read than not enough." Anne Patchett

Story of my life. I doubt I'll ever run out of reading material and that's a calming thought.  

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Stroyar, J.N. "Becoming Them"

Stroyar, J.N. "Becoming Them" (The Children's War Book 3) - 2017

Ten years ago, I read "The Children's War" and "A Change of Regime", one of the best books I ever read and still my favourite. As a German, having to live with the consequences of one of the most terrible wars ever, I have always asked myself what would have happened if the Nazis had won the war. We all would have lost, that's for sure. J.N. Stroyar has brought these thoughts to paper and painted a very vivid picture in her first two books. Then, one day, I learned there was a third one. Wow! I couldn't believe it. I was lucky to find a copy. I have no idea why these books don't get reprinted, I know so many people who would love to read it.

So, I finally found a copy. It had been ten years since I read the first two books. Would I remember enough to jump right back in? Looks like I didn't even have to. The author was so clever to include a ten pages of summary in the front where she retells the story for those who want to review what was in the first books and it might even be enough for those who never read the first ones. I think this should be obligatory for any sequel to any book. Makes reading the follow-up so much easer.

They say on the back cover "the long awaited finale". I didn't even know there was to be a finale. I didn't even know there would be a third book. Mainly, I think, because so little is known about the author. All I know is that she's a US physisict who used to live in German (Frankfurt, I believe) and now lives partly in London and partly in the USA. And that she won the "Sidewise Award" in 2001, an annual award for "Alternate History". She doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. So, I haven't seen anywhere that she was writing a third story.

In this final book of the trilogy, we see how everything gets together in the end, how the long and arduous underground work finally leads to the end of the Nazi party. But not without many, many difficulties first. This third book is just as fascinating, exciting and thrilling as the first two. I hope many people will be able to read it.

I also hope that the author is going to write more books.

Quote from Wikipedia:
"The Bradenton Herald described The Children's War as 'a brutal look at what might have been and a reminder of the price of freedom.'"
So very exact and true.

From the back cover:

"The long awaited finale of The Children’s War is presented in Becoming Them. Drawn from genuine historical incidents and people, both from the past and the present, the story examines the psychology of war, torture, and resistance, of guilt and innocence.

Set in a world sixty years after the conquest of Europe by Nazi Germany, the resistance movement continues its struggle for freedom, passing their war on from generation to generation. Peter Halifax, one-time member of the English Underground, has just been released from prison and now works with his assassin wife Zosia Król in Berlin under the direction of her brother, Ryszard, who, as his alter-ego Colonel Richard Traugutt, is second in command of the Third Reich. Together they attempt to collapse the Nazi Party and reform the Reich from within.

The story begins in London where Peter has been sent to liaise with the English Underground as a member of the newly formed Nichtdeutsch Council, but instead he becomes the target of an assassination attempt. It is only one indication of the growing chaos and violence in the Reich as the population becomes disenchanted with the dithering leadership of their new Fuhrer, Josef Frauenfeld.

As a member of the Nichtdeutsch Council, Zosia attempts to organize the various opposition factions into a coherent movement while struggling to raise her family, carefully keeping her three children away from Berlin high society where Magdalena, who is Elspeth’s and Peter’s daughter, might be recognized. She also maintains contact with her base in the Carpathian mountains and undertakes jobs for them that lead her into ever more questionable actions.

Richard Traugutt, as special advisor to the Fuhrer, works to change the laws of the Reich to give more rights and freedoms to its subjects, but he is endlessly stymied by Frauenfeld who has fallen under the sway of Richard’s enemies, the Lederman brothers, who are staunch supporters of the racial categorizations of Reich law. In an attempt to shatter Frauenfeld’s illusions about the rigid class system, Richard maneuvers Peter, who is still classified as subhuman, into the highest tiers of Berlin society, into re-establishing his illicit relationship with Elspeth Vogel, and even into befriending the Fuhrer in the hopes of causing a cultural clash that will force Frauenfeld to re-evaluate his adherence to Nazi philosophy. Traugutt’s plan falls foul of all his directives, and his determination to follow his own personal agenda for reform, ruthlessly manipulating people and events to maximize their effectiveness – whatever the personal cost – results in constant conflict with his allies and a withdrawal of support from the Underground hierarchy.

As their plots unfold and the Resistance begins to tear itself apart, the past comes back to haunt them all, sowing distrust and fear among the conspirators. With each passing month they more and more come to resemble that which they hate. Their loyalties are frayed, their motives are questioned, trusted comrades turn traitor, and their enemies grow in power. Time is running out.

As background to the story, Becoming Them contains a complete summary of both
The Children’s War and A Change of Regime."

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ My Ten Most Recent Favourite Reads

"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: My Ten Most Recent Reads

I thought it would be too easy to just share the last ten reads, so I thought I'd share the last ten reads of this year I enjoyed the most.

I was surprised how many of them were either about women oppressed or whole countries or parts of them oppressed.

Dickens, Charles "The Old Curiosity Shop" - 1840
Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors and even though this is not his best book, it certainly is good enough to make it into my top ten. Nobody can tell us about poverty in the 19th century better than Mr. Dickens.

Elliot, Jason "An Unexpected Light. Travels in Afghanistan" - 1999
I have read many books about Afghanistan but next to Lamb, Christina "The Sewing Circles of Herat" by Christina Lamb, this is certainly one of the best reports about this country. Written by a guy who travelled through it during all kinds of dangerous times and really got to know the people.

Gogol, Nikolai (Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь, Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol) "The Overcoat. Stories from Russia" (Russian: Шинел/Shinyeliь) (German collection: Gogols Mantel. Erzählungen aus Russland) - 1842 et al.
If you like Russian authors, you will certainly find one or probably more among the authors in this collection of short stories.

Hansen, Dörte "Mittagsstunde" [Lunchtime] - 2018 (Goodreads)
A German book that has not been translated. Yet. Her first book, This House is Mine, has been, so I am hopeful this will be finding its way onto English speaking shelves, as well. A good story about the end of many villages, and this doesn't just happen in Germany.

Harris, Kamala "The Truths We Hold. An American Journey" - 2019
Do I need to explain who Kamala Harris is? I hope not. I have read this book shortly after she was elected vice president of the USA. What a fantastic woman.

Jacobs, Harriet Ann (Linda Brent) "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" - 1861
One of my books on my classics list. I have read lots of books about slavery but this one was actually written by a slave herself. With all her thoughts and fears.

Lee, Min Jin "Pachinko" - 2017
A book about Korean immigrants in Japan. Nobody wants them there and people are awful to them. A great book for anyone, especially those who have to deal with foreigners in their own country.

Obama, Barack "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters" - 2010
I have read some books by Barack Obama whom I greatly admire but not a children's book, yet. This one is wonderful.

See, Lisa "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" - 2005
After reading "Peony in Love" by the same author, I was looking forward to this one. While "Peony" is about Chinese tradition and their beliefs of the afterlife, "Snow Flower" is about the life of women in 19 century China.

Stroyar, J.N. "Becoming Them" (The Children's War Book 3) - 2017
"The Children's War" and "A Change of Regime" belong to my all-time favourite books, so I had to read "Becoming Them". It's a good finish of a long, long story.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Andersson, Per J. "From the Swede who took the train and saw the world with different eyes"

Andersson, Per J. "From the Swede who took the train and saw the world with different eyes" (aka: Take the train: on the track through history, present and future) (Swedish: Ta tåget: på spåret genom historien, samtiden och framtiden) - 2019

This is one of the books where I found an English title (even two English titles in this case) but no picture of the cover. So, I hope it has been translated. If not, sorry, let's hope it will get a translation. Because it is a good book. It's not what I expected. It thought this was a description of his travels. And it is, in a way. But it was more a description of his time in the train in order to get to the places rather than about the places itself.

It starts by the author travelling by train with his parents as a little child. It includes a description of his grandparents who worked for the train company in Sweden. Then he goes on how he travelled as a teenager by interrail and later with his children when they reached that age. He visits Italy and Germany, India and Nepal, the USA, takes the Orient Express. And mainly, he advocates travels by train in order to save the world.

I used to take the train a lot when I was younger. From fifth grade onwards, I took the train to get to my secondary school, at the beginning it was even a steam train which always amazes most of my American friends. Then, I used it to get to work. I also participated in the Interrail community, I went to Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden, Finland) with it, Great memories. And all in all, a very well written book.

The author also mentioned quite a few films that include train rides:
The Arrival of a Train (French: L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat), 1896
The General, 1926
The Lady Vanishes, 1938
Tåg 56, 1943
Brief Encounter, 1945
Strangers on a Train, 1951 (Hitchcock)
North by Northwest, 1959 (Hitchcock)
From Russia with Love, 1963 (James Bond)
The Train, 1964
Closely watched trains (Czech: Ostře sledované vlaky), 1966
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, 1974
Runaway Train 1985
Darjeeling Limited, 2007

Then there are books that mention train rides:
Greene, Graham "Stamboul Train" - 1932
Christie, Agatha "Murder on the Orient Express" - 1934 (the story was also turned into several wonderful films, my favourite Hercule Poirot is, of course, David Suchet, but the greatest landscapes can be seen in the recent one by Sir Kenneth Branagh)
Guthrie, Woodie "This Land is My Land" - 1943
Theroux, Paul "The Great Railway Bazaar" - 1975
MacLean, Alistair "Death Train" - 1989
Diskis, Jenny "Stranger on a Train - Daydreaming and Smoking Around America" - 2002
Nair, Anita "Ladies Coupé" - 2001
Liksom, Rosa "Compartment No. 6" (Finnish: Hytti nro 6) - 2012

I am sure we can all find other books where trains play an important role. I can think of a few, some of them I've read, others are on my wishlist, others I just came across.

Christie, Agatha "4:50 from Paddington" - 1957
- "The Mystery of the Blue Train" - 1928
Dickens, Charles "Dombey and Son" - 1848
Fowler, Christopher "Hell Train" - 2011
Hawkins, Paula "The Girl on the Train" - 2015
Hay, Ashley "The Railwayman's Wife" - 2013
Highsmith, Patricia "Strangers on a Train" - 1950
MacNeill, Alastair "Alistair MacLean's Death Train" - 1989
Mercier, Pascal "Night Train to Lisbon" (German: Nachtzug nach Lissabon) - 2004
Nesbit, E "The Railway Children" - 1906
Pasternak, Boris "Doctor Zhivago" (Russian: Доктор Живаго = Doktor Živago) - 1957
Rowling, J.K. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone" (US: "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) - 1997
Stoker, Bram "Dracula" - 1897
Tolstoy, Leo (Толстой, Лев Николаевич) "Anna Karenina" (Russian: Анна Каренина = Anna Karenina) - 1877
Verne, Jules "Around the World in Eighty Days" (French: Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours) - 1873

He also has a good website (in Swedish): Bloggarvagabond

And this is the German cover:

From the back cover: (Description here.)

"All Aboard! How You Learn to Stop Worrying About Climate Change and Love to Travel by Train
Per J. Andersson

A powerful reflection on the importance of train travel and a mesmerizing love letter to trains

In times of climate change and shifting global powers, traveling by train can offer not only a green alternative but also fascinating way of exploring the distance between two places and the people you meet on the way…

In this book Per J Andersson makes us his travel companions on enthralling train rides throughout the world. We embark on classic train journeys through the gruff North of England and on Indian railroads, on exhausting long-haul train rides through America and even on a trip on the infamous Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul.

While we watch the world roll past us through the windows, Andersson tells us all about what we see and about everything else hidden from our view: from stories and meanings behind train stations to the multi-layered history of train travel itself, its value in different times and places, how humans experience and use trains and what impact the railway will have in the future. As trains represent participation, social responsibility and environmental awareness, everyone who believes in a future for the railway also believes in the value of caring for future generations.

Per J. Andersson has written an exciting and informative book that will make every train ride an astonishing experience.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Six Degrees of Separation ~ Beezus and Ramona

 Beezus and Ramona

Cleary, Beverly "Beezus and Ramona" - 1955

 #6Degrees of Separation: from Beezus and Ramona (Goodreads) to Samuel August from Sevedstorp and Hanna from Hult

#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. I love the idea. See more about this challenge, its history, further books and how I found this here.

This month’s prompt starts with Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary. It was chosen in honour of the author who died last month.

It's always interesting to see how the covers, especially of children's books, change over the years. Since I haven't read anything by Beverly Cleary, I thought I make a little image strip of some of the covers. I don't remember seeing anything by Beverly Cleary in Germany when I was little and my boys were not much into her, the books were "too girly". 

Since this book is about two girls whose names appear in the cover, I have chosen to list books with two names (mainly children), as well. Some of them are better known than others but I hope some people will find something that interests them.

Dai, Sijie "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" (French: Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse Chinoise) - 2002
Children growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution were often thrown into another life, from the city to the countryside and vice-versa.

Grimm, Jacob und Wilhelm "Jorinda and Joringel" [German: Jorinde und Joringel] - 1812
A fairy tale about two young people who fall in love but have to overcome some obstacles, as usual in fairy tales. You can find a link to the translation of this and other fairy tales in my link.

Busch, Wilhelm "Max and Moritz" (German: Max und Moritz) - 1865

Two very well-known boys in Germany, not the nicest of kids with not the best ending but it came to mind right away.

Atwood, Margaret "Oryx and Crake" (MaddAddam # 1) - 2003
The two main characters in this dystopian novel, Oryx and Crake, remind me of children, they are naïve and innocent. Let's hope we never get to this stage.

Shakib, Siba "Samira and Samir" (German: Samira und Samir) - 2004
Another world, another story about a girl growing up in Afghanistan with no chances to ever get out of a vicious circle … unless she changes her identity.

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
The famous Swedish author tells us about the life of her parents. Of course, we don't just see them as children but that's where the story begins.

Look for further monthly separation posts here.

Happy May!

Happy May to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch

"Playing Hide and Seek"

The little seagull chicks are playing Hide and Seek. Let's hope nobody finds them.

* * *

The official name in Low German is "Maimaond" which doesn't need any further explanation, I think.

* * * 
May starts with a holiday. The night to the 1st is celebrated as Walpurgis Nacht (Walpurgis Night). According to legend, witches meet on the Brocken in the Harz mountain and dance with the devil.

The rest of the country usually dances in the night, we call it "Dance into May". According to tradition, a fire is lit (though not all communities do that anymore) to drive away evil ghosts. In many areas, boys bring a maypole (often cut from birches) to their girlfriend. They get decorated with strings of crepe paper in many colours and put next to the girl's bedroom window (see left picture). Nowadays, it's often the whole group that brings one to each other.

In some areas, boys bring a heart decorated with paper flowers and the initial or name of their beloved. (some examples in my pictures)

The 1st of May is a holiday in Germany, International Worker's Day. Everyone uses it for a day out. You see many people on their bikes or with little toy wagons which we call Bollerwagen. If you have little kids, they can take a rest in there, the others fill it with beer for their "arduous" trip. Of course, things are different this year.

And then there's Pentecost which usually falls into May. And Ascension Day, another holiday in Germany. These are two important days in the church and because it brings extra holidays (Pentecost Monday and Ascension Day Thursday) for those who don't celebrate anything in church.

* * *

Weather lore (or farmers' rule) for May:
"Mairegen bringt Segen." May rain brings blessings.

From May 11th to 13th, we celebrate the days of the Ice Saints St. Pancras, St. Servatius, and St. Boniface. They are followed by St. Sophia on the 14th and we call her
"the Cold Sophie". 
When I say "celebrate", I don't mean that there is a particular feast, it's just that the weather gets quite colder again around those dates on those days and we blame it on the Saints.

Hubby and I have been lucky to have received our first vaccination last month since we are both on the high risk list. I hope that most of you will get yours soon, as well, so that we can all go back to normal one day.

* * *

Have a happy May with this beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch.
 Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

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.

Friday, 30 April 2021

Adiga, Aravind "The White Tiger"

Adiga, Aravind "The White Tiger" - 2008

While this book has a lot of information about the life of any average Indian who lives in poverty, it wasn't my favourite book about India. By far not my favourite, maybe even the one I liked least.

Was it the style? Maybe. Did I dislike the protagonist? Of course I didn't. Could I warm to any of the others? Certainly not.

Having said that, I am sure it is a picture of the true India, at least part of it. But even in the worst society of all, there is usually someone who is kind-hearted, there are people who are not just selfish and egotistic. I couldn't find anyone like that in the whole story. And I know many really nice Indians. None of them showed up in this book.

All in all, I couldn't really "believe" in the characters, they had no voice, they had no soul.

I have tried to find the reason why this book won the Booker prize. Apparently, "Balram’s journey from darkness of village life to the light of entrepreneurial success is utterly amoral, brilliantly irreverent, deeply endearing and altogether unforgettable."

Maybe it is unforgettable but not because it is such a great book. At least not in my eyes. This is not the first Booker prize winner I disliked. Maybe I should stay away from them in future. Mind you, there are a few I do like but they are more the exception than the rule.

This was our book club read in April 2021.

Comments from the discussion:

  • I am really enjoying the way he writes and tells the story. I do, however, agree that it is a horrific, negative story that I hope has no base in the real world. 
  • Maybe I only know people from "Light India"?
  • Either way it is definitely a broadening of my world and reading.

Btw, the protatonist always talks about the four greatest Persian poets and mentions "Rumi, Iqbal, Mirza Ghalib and another fellow whose name he has forgotten". I keep wondering who the fourth one is supposed to be.

From the back cover:

"No saris. No scents. No spices. No music. No lyricism. No illusions.

This is India now.

Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life - having nothing but his own wits to help him along. Born in a village in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for a wealthy man, two Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man's (very unlucky) son.

Through Balram's eyes, we see India as we've never seen it before: the cockroaches and the call centers, the prostitutes and the worshippers, the water buffalo and, trapped in so many kinds of cages that escape is (almost) impossible, the white tiger. And with a charisma as undeniable as it is unexpected, he teaches us that religion doesn't create morality and money doesn't solve every problem - but decency can still be found in a corrupt world, and you can get what you want out of life if you eavesdrop on the right conversations.

Aravind Adiga won the Booker Prize for "The White Tiger" in 2008.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Turkish Authors


"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: Animals from Books (these could be mythical, real, main characters, sidekicks, companions/pets, shifters, etc.)

I'm not really an animal person and we already had this topic a while ago (in November), well, a similar one: Books with Animals. And since I have only read one other book in the meantime that would fit here (One Man and His Dog), I have decided to twist the top ten a little today. I try not to stray too far away from this, but in a cheeky way.

I was thinking what other books I could have that link to an animal and then it dawned on me. I love Turkish authors and they come from a country that shares its name with an animal (at least in English): Turkey.

In Turkish it's Türkiye for the country and Hindi for the bird, in German Türkei and Truthahn, in French Turquie and Dinde, in Spanish Turquía and pavo, in Dutch Turkije and Kalkoen, in Swedish Turkiet and Kalkoner and in Esperanto Turkio and Meleagro. None of them has the same word for both. Maybe someone knows an example where it is the same word in both languages (other than English) but I don't know of any.

Ali, Sabahattin "Madonna in a Fur Coat" (Turkish: Kürk Mantolu Madonna) - 1943
Kemal, Yaşar "The Drumming-Out" (Turkish: Teneke) - 1987
Kulin, Ayşe "Rose of Sarajevo" (Turkish: Sevdalinka) - 1999
Mağden, Perihan "Two Girls" (Turkish: İki Genç Kızın Romanı) - 2002
Pamuk, Orhan "The Museum of Innocence" (Turkish: Masumiyet Müzesi) - 2008
I try not to always use my favourite of his books (My Name is Red). His books are all great.
Şafak, Elif "The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi" - 2001
Sevindim, Asli "Candlelight Döner: Geschichten über meine deutsch-türkische Familie" - 2005 (Goodreads)
(I never reviewed this since it hasn't been translated into English. It's a humours book about a German-Turkish family.)
Tanpınar, Ahmet Hamdi "The Time Regulation Institute" (Turkish: Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü) - 1961
Tekin, Latife "Swords of Ice" (Turkish: Buzdan Kiliçlar) - 1989
Toptaş, Hasan Ali "The Shadowless" (Turkish: Gölgesizler) - 1995

Monday, 26 April 2021

Storm, Theodor "Paul the Puppeteer"

Storm, Theodor "Paul the Puppeteer" (German: Pole Poppenspäler) - 1874

A novella by a famous German author known as one of the most important figures of German realism.
He has been compared to Thomas Hardy. I think the comparison isn't bad. Theodor Storm is certainly worth having a look at.

In this story, he tells us about a guy called Paul (Low German Pole) who is a puppeteer (you guessed it, Poppenspäler in Low German).

Of course, this was a novella we had to read in school. I enjoyed it tremendously and even after all these years, it's still vividly in my mind. Still, when I came upon my old copy when moving, I decided to read it again.

And there is no change. The book is still as good as it was when I first read it. We learn about the changing of the world, how the marionette theatre vanishes from everyday life, like so many other things that disappeared with the coming of the television. But we also hear about the life of those travelling and bringing joy to the people.

The author was born in Husum, a lovely city on the North Sea where you can still visit his house. He called it "The Grey Town by the Sea". But it's not at all grey, it has some lovely (mainly red brick) buildings and being located at the sea makes it even more attractive.

As an English translation, I only found a collection with two other books, "The Village on the Moor" and "Renate" which I haven't read. Maybe some day when I happen to find them.

From the back cover:

"Pole Poppenspäler is the nickname given to the cabinet-maker Paul Paulsen, because of his childhood enthusiasm for Herr Tendler's travelling puppet theatre and his friendship with the latter's daughter, Lisei. In later life Paul comes across Lisei in great distress while he is working as a journeyman in a town in central Germany; her father has been imprisoned on a false accusation of theft. Paul's local influence succeeds in freeing Herr Tendler and shortly afterwards he marries Lisei, taking both her and her father to his north German home, Husum. Herr Tendler is able to help Paul in his workshop for he is a wood-carver of great skill, as demonstrated by his former creation of the puppet 'Kasperle' which plays a leading part throughout the tale. His desire, however, to continue to produce puppet plays is strong, but his first attempt in the town hall is ruined by rowdy local youths. He retires deeply hurt and dies a saddened man shortly thereafter."

Friday, 23 April 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

"The classics are books that exert a peculiar influence, both when they refuse to be eradicated from the mind and when they conceal themselves in the folds of memory, camouflaging themselves as the collective or individual unconscious.
Italo Calvino "Why Read the Classics"

I couldn't have said it any better. Well, I probably couldn' have even said it that well but I agree wholeheartedly. 

"Don't worry, it only takes four chapters!" Mayersche Buchhandlung 

Heehee. Story of my life!

"You're in a world full of color and you want to see it in black and white." by Philip Pullman, The Secret Commonwealth

This reminds me of a cartoon where this one guy sits in the bus or tram reading. Everyone else looks into their mobile phones and is black and white. Only he is in colour. So true.

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Dickens, Charles "The Old Curiosity Shop"

Dickens, Charles "The Old Curiosity Shop" - 1840

When I mentioned to another blogger that I was just reading this book, he said that it "… was not one of my favorite Dickens, but that's a high bar, I still enjoyed it." Now that I just finished it, I can say that he put my thoughts into words. It's definitely not my favourite, that's still David Copperfield, but I have yet to read a book by Charles Dickens I don't enjoy.

The enjoyment of reading wasn't improved by the copy I had, an A4 sized cheap reprint (letter size in the US). Well, it couldn't be helped. It taught me to look for the size of an edition when ordering books online.

Funnily enough, this is supposed to be the most popular of Dickens' books during his lifetime. As it says on the cover, readers in New York even stormed the ship bringing the final instalment. Reminds me of Harry Potter today. Wow! This that not all tales stand the test of time equally well.

However, as with all books by Dickens, he observed his surrounding so well and could describe it so you are transformed to his world that it is definitely worth reading. Especially if you like classics. And chunky books.

I still have a few to go and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on them.

From the back cover:

"The Old Curiosity Shop is a novel by Charles Dickens. The plot follows the life of Nell Trent and her grandfather, both residents of The Old Curiosity Shop in London. The Old Curiosity Shop was one of two novels (the other being Barnaby Rudge) which Dickens published along with short stories in his weekly serial Master Humphrey's Clock, which lasted from 1840 to 1841. It was so popular that New York readers stormed the wharf when the ship bearing the final instalment arrived in 1841. The Old Curiosity Shop was printed in book form in 1841."

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Colourful Covers

"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: Colourful Book Covers

We had "Book Titles That Sound Like They Could Be Crayola Crayon Colours" and we carry on with colours this week. 

What is colourful? It can be a cover with many different colours. Or one with two contrasting colours that immediately catch your eye. Or one with just one colour but that one very vibrant. Even though I don't often read books with colourful covers, I think (hope) I found examples for all of them. 

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi "Americanah" - 2013
Brown, Rita Mae "Loose Lips" - 1999
Dai, Sijie "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" (French: Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse Chinoise) - 2002
Fredriksson, Marianne "Hanna’s Daughters" (Swedish: Anna, Hanna og Johanna) - 1994
Gavalda, Anna "Hunting and Gathering" (French: Ensemble c’est tout) - 2006
Kingsolver, Barbara
"The Lacuna" - 2009
Lee, Min Jin "Pachinko" - 2017
MacDonald, Ann-Marie "The Way the Crow Flies" - 2003
Pamuk, Orhan "The Red-Haired Woman" (Turkish: Kırmızı Saçlı Kadın) - 2016
Stewart, Sheila "Ramlin Rose" - 1993

Monday, 19 April 2021

Obama, Barack "Of Thee I Sing"

Obama, Barack "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters" - 2010

This is one of the cutest picture books I have seen. Every page adds a new example of a person who is an ideal for as all. There is Martin Luther King jr., Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, but also Helen Keller, Billie Holiday and many, many fabulous people who do their bit in order to make this world a better one.

Barack Obama wrote this for his daughters when they were little. It shows how much he loves not just his own children but people in general. He shows the compassionate president he would become (the book was written before he was elected). The world needs more people like him and those he quotes in this book.

The illustrations are also wonderful. On the first page you see Malia and Sasha with their Portuguese water dog, Bo, then, on every page they add another character who is the famous person he introduces as a child, they are smart, creative and inspriring, part of a family, never give up … And they then join in the group of children who watch the next person. Beautiful.

Loren Long, the illustrator, has also written some books of his own and they are just as beautifully illustrated as this one.

I think this is a great book, especially if you have young children and want to guide them on the right path. You can tell from the family Obama how important love is and how it can be given and what it does to the children.

It shows the kids how one person can change the world if they just pursue their ideas.

Definitely one of my favourite books of the year.

From the back cover:

"In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, former President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped his nation. From the artistry of Georgia O'Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, Barack Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children and within all children.

Evocative illustrations by the award-winning artist Loren Long at once capture the personalities and achievements of these great Americans, and the innocence and promise of childhood.

This book celebrates the potential within all of us to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths.

Friday, 16 April 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

"It is only a novel… or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language." Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey 

Says one of the greatest authors of all time.

"A good book was its own brand of magic." Kerri Maniscalo

Definitely true. I'm not into fantasy books but I agree that all books are magical. 

"With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?" Oscar Wilde

All I need there is freedom and books.

Find more book quotes here.  

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Lee, Min Jin "Pachinko"

Lee, Min Jin "Pachinko" - 2017

I was drawn to this book because of its Asian appearance. These lovely drawings can only come from the Far East. The title didn't tell me anything. Pachinko? Who or what is Pachinko? I had to find out. The description convinced me further.

Now, if - like me - you don't know what Pachinko is, let me tell you. It's a Japanese mechanical game that is mainly situated in game arcades. I have never set foot in any of those slot machine places, so even if it is also known in Europe, this is not my world.

And there isn't much about the world inside those parlours, more about the life of Koreans in Japan. If you don't know anything about that, there is a lot to learn. I know there have been animosities toward foreigners no matter when and where. Always. I have lived abroad most of my life. Being German, I have experienced much the same hatred towards me and my family as the Koreans in this story had to endure in Japan.

Maybe that's why I liked this book so much, I could identify with their feelings. Unlucky for the family here, they couldn't go back to Korea since they came from the Northern part. And that is the case with many immigrants. Even if the first generation still would love to, the second and further generations are even less inclined to because for them, their new country is home, not the one where their ancestors come from.

The Koreans in this book are hard-working, honest people and, yet, they have no chance to ever get accepted. Sound familiar? This book could go onto any list of books about racism. The characters are loveable and unforgettable.

In any case, this is such a great tale about a family through several generations. If you like this kind of literature, you should read this book.

Min Jin Lee includes a a quote by Benedict Anderson, author of "Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism". I absolutely love this:

"I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.

It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion…

The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them, encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind…

It is imagined as
sovereign because the concept was born in an age in which the Enlightenment and Revolution were destroying the legitimacy of the divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm…

Finally, it is imagined as a
community because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep horizontal comradeship.

Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly die for such limited imaginings.

Could anyone explain it better? I have to read that book!

From the back cover:

"Yeongdo, Korea 1911. A club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then a Christian minister offers a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country in which she has no friends, no home, Sunja's salvation is just the beginning of her story.

Through eight decades and four generations,
Pachinko is an epic tale of family, identity, love, death and survival."

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Top Ten Tuesday - Crayola Crayon Colours

"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: April 13: Book Titles That Sound Like They Could Be Crayola Crayon Colours (Take a moment and Google some of the crazy Crayola crayon colors that exist. Can you think of any book titles that sound like they could also be a crayon color? It might be fun to include a description of the kind of color you’re picturing.)

What a funny challenge. Jana gave us the hint to look up Crayola colours. My sons were never much into drawing, so we only had the basics. But wow, they have any mixture of any colours on earth. Unbelievable.

It was a tough decision, would I stick to the known colours or rather use those funny ones. In the end I went with blue and green, my favourite colours. I would have loved to come up with a title like "Periwinkle" or "Wild Blue Yonder". I'm sure there are books with those words in their title.

You see the colours here in the order of my book list. Arent' they beautiful?

And here are the books:

Drinkwater, Carol "The Olive Series" - 2001-2010

Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud) "Anne of Green Gables" - 1908

Cullen, Bill "It’s a long way from Penny Apples" - 2003

Powers, Charles T. "In the Memory of the Forest" - 1997

Falcones, Ildefonso "Cathedral of the Sea" (Spanish: La catedral del mar) - 2008

Collins, Wilkie "The Moonstone" - 1868

Betancourt, Íngrid "Even Silence has an End: My Six Years in the Jungle"
(French: Même le silence a une fin) - 2010

Abulhawa, Susan "The Blue Between Sky and Water" - 2015
There are even two colours in this title. Blue and Sky.
Having said that, there might even be a "water blue".

Levy, Andrew "A Brain Wider Than The Sky: A Migraine Diary" - 2009
Faulkner, William "Light in August" - 1932