Thursday 30 September 2021

Molnár, Ferenc "The Paul Street Boys"

Molnár, Ferenc "The Paul Street Boys" (Hungarian: A Pál-utcai Fiúk) - 1907

This story takes place in Budapest at the end of the 19th century when Hungary and Austria still belonged together. A group of boys plays in a storage area between tall buildings and regards that as their home country. They even have their own flag, in red, green and red, the colours of Hungary. Another group with a red flag representing the rebels wants to take over the space and declare war.

We have all the typical characters as in a real war, we have the two groups who want the same thing but don't want to share, we have the traitor who thinks it's better to belong to the other group, we have the hero (who isn't always the strongest or the one people expect to be the hero) who saves the day, no matter what it will cost him.

It's amazing how much is always the same in any war. And the reason is usually materialistic. One group wants something the other has. Nothing new there. But the idea to let children copy the "great warriors" is fascinating. I mean, kids do copy adults. And I remember my brothers playing Cowboys and Indians when they were little, probably a similar game to the "war" the Paul Street Boys played.

And like all wars, everyone loses, even the "winners". And I think this book shows that even better than all the numbers we get about "real" wars. It should have us think more about patriotism and what it can do to people.

This book is so well-known in Hungary, they even have a sculpture in Budapest (see here on Wikipedia) depicting the Paul Street Boys playing marbles. And they made several movies of the book.

Comments from other readers:
"I must say, this book was such a positive reading experience. A book I had never heard about before it got chosen for reading and I wondered what possibly a little boys book could offer me for though. But it absolutely surprised me positively how engaging the story was, and amazing to think it was written well over 100 years ago. A real little heroes story with a very thoughtful ending."

We read this in our international online book club in September 2021.

From the back cover:

"The war between two groups of Hungarian boys living in Budapest. One with Hungarian national colours (red, white, green) is defending the square from redshirts (from Garibaldi's redshirts), who want to occupy the square."

Similar stories are the French novel "La Guerre des Boutons" (War of the Buttons) by Louis Pergaud (1912) and the German book "The Flying Classroom" (Das fliegende Klassenzimmer) by Erich Kästner (1933).

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Nobel Prize Winning Books


"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 a Freebie.
(We can come up with our own topic or do a past TTT topic that we missed or would like to do again.)

Nobel Prize Winners is so ME. I absolutely love most of those that I've read. Therefore, I will list my favourite ones this week. Whenever I don't know what to put first, I usually do my lists in alphabetical order. These are in chronologica order according to the year the author was awared the prize.

1929 Thomas Mann, Germany
Mann, Thomas "Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family" (German: Buddenbrooks) - 1901

My favourite German author. My favourite German book.
His home town,
Lübeck, is also a wonderful German city.

1938 Pearl S. Buck, USA
Buck, Pearl S. "Peony" - 1948

She was the first Nobel Prize winner I read and "Peony" was the first book. It's so hard to choose my favourite because they are all fantastic

1957 Albert Camus, France/Algeria
Camus, Albert "The Stranger" (aka "The Outsider") (French: L'étranger) - 1942

Albert Camus is one of my favourite writers, certainly my favourite French author but I had no problem picking my favourite.

1958 Boris Pasternak, Russia
Pasternak, Boris "Doctor Zhivago" (Russian: Доктор Живаго = Doktor Živago) - 1957

I have only read this book by Boris Pasternak but, even though I love Russian authors, this is one of my favourite Russian novels.

1961 Ivo Andrić, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Andrić, Ivo "The Bridge on the Drina" (Serbo-Croat: На Дрини Ћуприја or Na Drini Ćuprija) - 1945

This is one of the few Nobel Prize winners who received his award for just the one book. This one. And it is definitely worth it.

1982 Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia
García Márquez, Gabriel "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (Spanish: Cien años de soledad) - 1967

Not easy to pick my favourite but this was my first book by him.

1988 Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt
Mahfouz, Naguib "Children of Gebelawi" (aka Children of our Alley) (Arabic: اولاد حارتنا Awlād ḥāritnā) - 1959

He was the first Arab speaking recipient of this prestigious prize. I have chosen this novel rather than his Cairo trilogy because it is just one book. But the trilogy is also fantastic.

1993 Toni Morrison, USA

Morrison, Toni "Beloved" - 1987

Another tough one to choose my favourite from. I love all her books but this was my first one. And she also received the Pulitzer Prize for it.

1999 Günter Grass, Germany
Grass, Günter "The Tin Drum" (German: Die Blechtrommel. Danziger Trilogie 1) - 1959

Probably my second favourite German author after Thomas Mann ^^. They both are linked to Lübeck, a wonderful German city.

2006 Orhan Pamuk, Turkey
Pamuk, Orhan "My Name is Red" (Turkish: Benim Adim Kirmizi) - 1998

Probably my favourite author among all the Nobel Prize Winners. And "My Name is Red" is his best book, although the other ones are all pretty fabulous, as well.

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

Monday 27 September 2021

McCall Smith, Alexander "The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency" Series # 11-17

McCall Smith, Alexander "The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency" Series # 11-17

See my previous reviews of the other books in this series by Alexander McCall Smith:

McCall Smith, Alexander "The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency" Series # 1-9
McCall Smith, Alexander "Tea Time for the Traditionally Built" - 2009
McCall Smith, Alexander "The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency" (1) - 1999
- "Tears of the Giraffe" (2) - 2000
- "Morality for Beautiful Girls" (3) - 2001
- "The Kalahari Typing School for Men" (4) - 2002
- "The Full Cupboard of Life" (5) - 2004
- "In the Company of Cheerful Ladies" (6) - 2004
- "Blue Shoes and Happiness" (7) - 2006
- "The Good Husband of Zebra Drive" (8) - 2007
- "The Miracle at Speedy Motors" (9) - 2008
- "Tea Time for the Traditionally Built" (10) - 2009
- "The Double Comfort Safari Club" (11) - 2010
- "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party" (12) - 2011
- "The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection" (13) - 2012
- "The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon" (14) - 2013
- "The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café" (15) - 2014
- "The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine" (16) - 2015
- "Precious and Grace" (17) - 2016
- "The House of Unexpected Sisters" (18) - 2017
- "The Colours of All the Cattle" (19) -2018
- "To the Land of Long Lost Friends" (20) - 2019
- "How to Raise an Elephant" (21) - 2020
Extra: 2013: The Slice of No. 1 Celebration Storybook (ebook only)

After having described the first ten novels (see links above), I have carried on readin the next books in the series.

They are all as delightful to read as the first ones were, especially in between more serious and challenging reads.

Whether Mma Ramotswe is chasing some criminals or tries to make everyone around her feel good, she is always a lovely person to read about.

McCall Smith, Alexander "The Double Comfort Safari Club" (11) - 2010

As I said in my first blog about The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, I have enjoyed reading the series about Mma Ramotswe and her family and business a lot. They are easy going reads where you learn a little about Botswana, try to follow the lady detective in her pursuit of wayward husbands, "loose women", petty criminals but mainly in her special way to protect those she loves.

The author's writing style is warm and gentle. His way about describing about Botswana and its inhabitants makes you want to go and visit.

From the back cover:

"The delightful new installment in Alexander McCall Smith's beloved and bestselling series finds Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi travelling to the north of Botswana, to the stunning Okavango Delta, to visit a safari lodge where there have been several unexplained and troubling events - including the demise of one of the guests.

When the two ladies of the
No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency arrive at the Okavango Delta, their eyes are opened, as if for the first time, to the natural beauty and wildlife of their homeland. With teeming wildlife, endless grasslands, and sparkling rivulets of water running in every direction, it is breathtaking. But they can't help being drawn into a world filled with other wildlife: rival safari operators, discontented guides, grumpy hippopotamuses. On top of that, the date has still not been set for Mma Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti's wedding, and it's safe to say that Mma Makutsi is beginning to grow a bit impatient.

And to top it all off, the impossible has happened: one of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's apprentices has gotten married.... Of course none of this defeats the indomitable Precious Ramotswe. Good sense, kindness, and copious quantities of red bush tea carry the day &- as they always do.

McCall Smith, Alexander "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party" (12) - 2011

I preferred this one to the last book. Not only does Mma Makutsi get married to her Mr. Phuti Radiphuti, we also have an interesting crime story within the novel. Mma Ramotswe has to find a cattle killer, something as criminal in Botswana as if you killed your neighbour.

And then there is the story of Mma Makutsi and her love of beautiful, even if unpractical, shoes.

From the back cover:

"As the countdown to Mma Makutsi's wedding begins, all is not as it should be at the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency. While investigating unpleasant occurrences on a southern cattle-post, Mma Ramotswe, always on the side of the weak against the strong, has reason to reflect on Rule No.3 of The Principles of Private Detection: never lie to the client. Apprentice mechanic Charlie seems to be avoiding certain important responsibilities. And as Mma Makutsi's big day approaches, her nemesis Violet Sephotho is casting her net wider: by standing for election which could spell trouble for the entire nation. But as friends and family gather under starry African night skies, it turns out that even the most perplexing of apparitions - and the most shocking of crimes - may yield to rational explanation. And, of course, to Mma Ramotswe's inimitable way with love, intuition and redbush tea."

McCall Smith, Alexander "The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection" (13) - 2012

Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi meet their hero, the author of their detective book, Clovis Anderson.

How lovely to meet the guy they quote almost daily. He helps them with some of their cases. As always, life in Botswana is calm and quiet, except for some troublemakers. This is my "in-between" reading.

From the back cover:

"Mma Ramotswe, normally a peaceful sleeper, finds her slumbers disturbed by dreams of a tall stranger, but she is not quite ready to learn what this vision portends. Soon even Mma Makutsi has to admit that untoward things are occurring around the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, not least with the construction of her marital home. At Speedy Motors Fanwell finds himself in trouble with the law, and the indomitable Mma Potokwani flees the orphan farm. Armed with courage, kindness and an instinct for the truth, Mma Ramotswe sets out to restore order."

McCall Smith, Alexander "The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon" (14) - 2013

And the story goes on. There is an addition to the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, not 97% but 100%. Mma Makutsi has a baby whom she calls Itumelang Clovis Rhadiputhi. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe carries on solving her small but still disturbing crime scenes in her usual, cheerful manner. You just have to like her.

From the back cover:

"There are joyful tidings at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency with the arrival of Mma Makutsi's baby. However, while her assistant is busy with motherhood, Mma Ramotswe must tackle tea-making and detective work alone. Well-known troublemaker Violet Sephotho may or may not be behind a smear campaign against the Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, and a dispute over the will of a local dignitary points to a shocking family secret. But the agency is resilient, adaptable and open to useful lessons - on particular, that our enemies and allies are not always obvious."

McCall Smith, Alexander "The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café" (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #15) - 2014

Mma Ramotswe and her No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency will always have a special place in my heart. I love her kindness and cleverness, she is the type of person you would like to have as a friend. And there are not twenty murders in every book, there are hardly any. Just other everyday problems anyone of us could have.

Mma Makutsi on the other hand is getting too full of herself often and I know I would not have the patience of her employer. Shows again what a great lady she is.

From the back cover:

"The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency often helps people find things they have lost. But they have never had to help a client find herself - until now, in this latest installment of Alexander McCall Smith’s best-selling and beloved series.

A kindhearted brother and sister have taken in a woman known only as 'Mrs.' - a woman with no memory of her name or of how she came to Botswana. And so it’s up to Precious Ramotswe and her new co-director, Grace Makutsi, to discover the woman’s identity.

Meanwhile, motherhood proves to be no obstacle to Mma Makutsi’s professional success. As she settles into her role as partner at the agency, she also launches a new enterprise of her own:
the Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café, a restaurant for Gaborone’s most fashionable diners. But even Miss 97 Per Cent isn’t fully prepared for the temperamental chefs, drunken waiters, and other challenges that come with running one’s own business. Help may come from an unexpected source, if only Mma Makutsi can swallow her pride and ask.

And next door to the
No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is all too familiar with the difficult decisions of business owners. He is finally forced to make a tough choice, one that will bring major changes to both Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency - and that will require all of Mma Ramotswe’s finesse and patience to sort out.

With sympathy and indefatigable good humor, Mma Ramotswe and her friends see one another through these major changes and discover along the way what true friendship really means.

McCall Smith, Alexander "The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine" (16) - 2015

Another story about Mma Ramotswe, the 1st lady detective in Botswana and her assistant. When I read the last book (The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café), I said that Mma Makutsi was getting too full of herself and in this one she even gets to run the detective agency by herself. She didn't get more bonus points from me but this story was a little more interesting and fun than the last one. I might go back and read some more.

From the back cover:

"Mma Ramotswe is taking a break, leaving important tasks in the capable hands of Mma Makutsi, co-director of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. But Mma Ramotswe soon finds herself interfering in cases (secretly, or so she intends). While 'on holiday', she delves into the past of a man whose reputation is brought into question, she is called upon to rescue a small boy - and discovees Violet Sephotho's latest underhand business endeavour: the No. 1 Ladies' Secretarial College. Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi hires a part-time science teacher as an assistant, and suspects that her authority is being undermined. Will Mma Ramotswe be caught out?"

McCall Smith, Alexander "Precious and Grace" (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #17) - 2016

So, I started (and finished) another Mma Ramotswe book. I must say, I enjoyed this one more than the last one, maybe because it concentrated a little more on Mma Ramotswe again. And on some of the other people working for either Mma Ramotswe or Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, all of them lovely in their own way. I wonder whether we will learn more about the young clerk whom Mma Ramotswe promised to find a bride.

I usually look for the blurb on the book and was quite shocked to find in one of the descriptions (presumably) from the book that a lady was coming from Australia to get help from Precious and Grace. No, no, no. She came from Canada. Is it too much to expect them to get that right?

From the back cover:

"The one with the woman who lost her past.

Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi's friendship is tested by a curious case: a client who left Botswana thirty years ago and remembers little of her past. The quest for the truth takes the detectives in very different directions - but what if they are both wrong? Meanwhile, Fanwell adopts a stray dog, Mr Polopetsi becomes entangled in a tricky business deal and Violet Sephotho could be running for a prestigious award. Can Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi move beyond their differing views to solve the case and bring harmony to the agency?

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2022.

Friday 24 September 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

Word cloud made with WordItOut

"The classics are books which, upon reading, we find even fresher, more unexpected, and more marvellous than we had thought from hearing about them." Italo Calvino

This author has written so much about the truth of classics, he hits the point with this quote again.

"Whenever a party tells you national identity matters more than anything else in politics, that nationalism can sort out all the other problems, then watch out, because you’re on a road that can end with fascism." C.J. Sansom in "Dominion"

There are still people around who believe they are something special because they are born in a certain country, with a certain skin colour, into a certain society or religion ..., which is something totally random and nothing we can do about or have "earned". That always sounds very suspicious to me because I know where it once led my country.

"Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag. Use your memory! Use your memory! It is those bitter seeds alone which might sprout and grow someday." Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

I guess he knew exactly what he was talking about. They put him in places where most people wouldn't survive for a week but he knew what he knew and what they couldn't take away from him.

Find more book quotes here

Thursday 23 September 2021

Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass"

Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" - 1845

After reading Harriet Jacobs' story "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" earlier this year, I had this next on my list of books for one of my challenges. I thought the story of Harriet Jacobs was extraordinary but this one was even better. Probably, because it was told by the person who experienced this life himself. Frederick Douglass didn't learn reading and writing like we do, at school, he had to do it secretly. And what a writer he became.

I guess, freedom is something we all would wish for if it were denied to us. And not having experienced it, it would be impossible to understand how it is if you can't just choose where you want to live and what you want to do but also with whom you want to live. Families got ripped apart and you never knew what happened to your loved ones, probably nothing good.

The author understands all this very well. He has lived it. If you want to read about how a slave truly feels, this narrative is probably one of the best you can find. If you read this book, you will definitely join in with all the anti-racist people and organizations and say: Never again!

This is a very important book!

One of his quotes is:
"Once you learn to read you will forever be free."
But the best one is probably: "I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity."

From the back cover:

"Born a slave circa 1818 (slaves weren't told when they were born) on a plantation in Maryland, Douglass taught himself to read and write. In 1845, seven years after escaping to the North, he published Narrative, the first of three autobiographies. This book calmly but dramatically recounts the horrors and the accomplishments of his early years - the daily, casual brutality of the white masters; his painful efforts to educate himself; his decision to find freedom or die; and his harrowing but successful escape.

An astonishing orator and a skillful writer, Douglass became a newspaper editor, a political activist, and an eloquent spokesperson for the civil rights of African Americans. He lived through the Civil War, the end of slavery, and the beginning of segregation. He was celebrated internationally as the leading black intellectual of his day, and his story still resonates in ours.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books on My Fall 2021 To-read List


"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 Fall 2021 To-read List

I still have two books from my Books On My Spring 2021 TBR list but that doesn't mean I don't have more that I want to read before the end of the year. I joined quite a few challenges this year and therefore have no problem filling in this list.

So, here is a collection of books, fiction (A Column of Fire, Del Boy, Dracula, The Incredible Journey, Much Ado About Nothing, The Satanic Verses, The World of Jeeves), non-fiction (Der Geist fiel nicht vom Himmel, Narcissus and Goldmund, The Silk Roads), English (A Column of Fire, Del Boy, Dracula, The Incredible Journey, Much Ado About Nothing, The Satanic Verses, The Silk Roads, The World of Jeeves), German (Der Geist fiel nicht vom Himmel, Narcissus and Goldmund), funny (Del Boy, The World of Jeeves), serious (The Incredible Journey, Narcissus and Goldmund, The Satanic Verses, The Silk Roads), classic (Dracula, Der Geist fiel nicht vom Himmel, The Incredible Journey, Much Ado About Nothing, Narcissus and Goldmund, The World of Jeeves), modern (A Column of Fire, Del Boy, The Satanic Verses, The Silk Road), short stories (The World of Jeeves) and a play (Much Ado About Nothing), a selection of all sorts of books I like to read.

Ditfurth, Hoimar von "Der Geist fiel nicht vom Himmel: Die Evolution unseres Bewußtseins" [The mind did not fall from the sky: the evolution of our consciousness] - 1976
Follett, Ken "A Column of Fire" (Das Fundament der Ewigkeit) - 2017
Frankopan, Peter "The Silk Roads. A New History of the World" (Licht aus dem Osten: Eine neue Geschichte der Welt) - 2015

Hesse, Hermann "Narcissus and Goldmund" (Narziss und Goldmund) - 1930

Martin, Catherine "The Incredible Journey" - 1923

Rushdie, Salman "The Satanic Verses" - 1988 (Buddy Read/
Buddy Read)
Shakespeare, William "Much Ado About Nothing" - 1598/99

Stoker, Bram "Dracula" - 1897

Trotter, Derek "Del Boy" (Family of John Sullivan) "He Who Dares" - 2015

Wodehouse, P.G. "The World of Jeeves" (Jeeves #2-4: The Inimitable Jeeves #2, Carry On, Jeeves #3, Very Good, Jeeves! #4) - 1923/1925/1930

And what's on your TBR list for the next season?

Monday 20 September 2021

Jackson, Shirley "The Lottery"

Jackson, Shirley "The Lottery" - 1948

Once a month, Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best invites us to participate in her challenge Six Degrees of Separation (see here my latest post).

Often, we have not read the book but still can start our chain with the information given. This time, since it is the first time she started with short story, she said there were no excuses for not reading the starting book, right? While I don't care much for short stories, I thought this was as good a reason as any to read it. And it is available online (here). I don't read books online but for a short story that I have to get quickly, I thought I could do it.

It is hard to review this story without telling the whole story. In any case, a lot of towns in the USA seem to hold this lottery once a year. (Don't forget, this is fiction!) Nobody wants to win in this case but someone has to. This story reminded me of "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins. Mind you, since that novel was written in 2008 and this short story in 1948, we can only imagine who copied the idea from whom, if that was the case.

A very dark, sinister and shocking story that could have been made into a series and probably would have as "The Hunger Games" and "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood and several other stories demonstrate.

While looking for a picture for this post, I saw this "joke":
"I hope you win the Lottery soon. Not the state-run lotto, but the Shirley Jackson one."
I'm glad to say I don't know anyone to whom I would say that. I know that these kinds of things happen in other parts of the world and I don't wish it on anyone.

From the back cover:

"In a small American town, the local residents are abuzz with excitement and nervousness when they wake on the morning of the twenty-seventh of June. Everything has been prepared for the town’s annual tradition - a lottery in which every family must participate, and no one wants to win.

The Lottery' stands out as one of the most famous short stories in American literary history. Originally published in The New Yorker, the author immediately began receiving letters from readers who demanded an explanation of the story’s meaning. 'The Lottery' has been adapted for stage, television, radio and film."

Another book that this reminded of is "The Wave" by Morton Rhue, it's a good addition to this short story.

Friday 17 September 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

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"I like to write when I'm not supposed to be writing. Like, in a bathroom at a party, just hiding in there for half an hour. On the subway, or just walking around New York on my phone." Melissa Broder

I totally understand her. I have the best ideas when there is nothing to write on anywhere in my surroundings.

"We live for books." Umberto Eco

Definitely. I couldn't live without them. And I'm glad my husband supports me in this.

"I tell you these stories because these things happen to everyone. It’s not about being starched or polished or cute or polite. It’s about having ears that stick out, about breaking yet another glass. It’s about seeing something for the first time and making a million mistakes and not ever getting completely discouraged." Maira Kalman

Sometimes when I read something I think, oh yes, this sounds so familiar, happens all the time. Other times I think, I'm glad that doesn't happen to me.

Find more book quotes here

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books With Numbers In the Title


"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 Numbers In the Title

What an interesting subject. I found so many books with numbers in the title. First I thought I might just take some with years but in the end I thought I'd rather count from one to ten.

Hislop, Victoria "One August Night" - 2020

Dickens, Charles "A Tale of Two Cities" - 1859

Mortenson, Greg & Relin, David Oliver "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time" - 2006

Shalev, Meir "Four Meals" (Hebrew: כימים אחדים aka "As a Few Days" or "The Loves of Judith") - 1994

Murphy, Jill "Five Minutes Peace" - 1986

Scott, Mary "Breakfast at Six" - 1953

Fo, Dario "My first seven years (plus a few more)" (Italian: Il Paese dei Mezaràt: I miei primi sette anni (e qualcuno in più)) - 2004

Cognetti, Paolo "The Eight Mountains" (Italian: Le otto montagne) - 2016

Brown, Daniel James "The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics" - 2013

Yu, Hua (余華/Yú Huá) "China in Ten Words" (Chinese: 十個詞彙裡的中國/Shi ge cihui li de Zhongguo) - 2012

Do you have any books with numbers on their title that are special to you?

Monday 13 September 2021

Leaf, Munro "The Story of Ferdinand"

Leaf, Munro "The Story of Ferdinand" - 1936

The first time I heard of Ferdinand, the bull, was in a small little German book. Pixi books are 10x10 cm (3.94 inches) and always consist of 24 pages. They have always been cheap and were lovely little presents for kids. My boys loved them. They would have many classic stories but also some just written for that purpose.

Well, one of the stories they published was "The Story of Ferdinand" about Ferdinand, the bull, who was peaceful and rather sat in his pasture smelling flowers than going to a bullfight. It is a sweet story for children about peace.

I was reminded of this when I watched "The Blind Side", a wonderful story based on real life about a homeless boy who is taken in by a family and becomes a big sports star. They read the book and compare this boy to Ferdinand the Bull because he also wants peace. So cute.

In any case, it's a wonderful story for children, they all love it.

From the back cover:

"Ferdinand, the peaceful bull who loves to sit and smell flowers, is mistakenly carted off to a bullfight in Madrid, where he is believed to be the fiercest bull around. Ferdinand trots into the ring, only to sit and smell the flowers in the ladies' hair. No matter what the frustrated matador and his helpers do, they cannot get Ferdinand to fight. Lawson's memorable black-and-white pictures speak volumes in this childhood classic."

Friday 10 September 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

Word cloud made with WordItOut

"I think what's rare is to have both a talent for writing and a pragmatic, stubborn sense that makes you go to the desk every day and keep doing it." Kevin Barry

I do think you need a lot of self-discipline to work in any independent job but for creative people it's probably the worst.

"We all suffer alone in the real world. True empathy's impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character's pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with their own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple." David Foster Wallace

I truly believe that reading helps us empathize with others better.

"Women with clean houses do not have finished books." Joy Held

So true. Mind you, I always try to have a clean house even if not always a tidy one. I hate dirt.

Find more book quotes here

Thursday 9 September 2021

Describe Yourself Book Tag

I found this meme via Lectrice Vorace by Cath (Read-warbler), through Lark's blog (Lark Writes). The idea is to answer the questions with the titles of the books you've read in 2020. That year has been over for a while, so I thought I'd just use any books I have read in the past.

If you decide to do this, leave a link in the comments so I can check out your post.

Here are my answers!

Describe yourself: The Uncommon Reader 

How do you feel: Displaced 

Describe where you currently live: At Home 

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Away From It All, especially now during Corona times

Your favourite form of transportation: A Boat 

Your best friend is: A Woman of No Importance, except for her friends

You and your friends are: The Reading Group

What’s the weather like: Before the Storm, at least they predict one every day

You fear: The End of Days

What is the best advice you have to give: Live and Remember

Thought for the day: I'd Rather Be Reading, always

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Twelve Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face


"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 Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face

Smile as in laughing or smile as in feelgood smile?

We had laughing earlier this year (see here), so I decided to go for the second option.

Sometimes, these are just nice reads. Most of these books made me find some trust in humanity. There are good people around us, we just have to look for them with open eyes and hearts.
Alcott, Louisa May "Little Women" - 1868
Calvino, Italo "If on a Winter's Night a Traveller" (Italian: Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore) - 1979
Chevalier, Tracy "The Virgin Blue" - 1997
Doerr, Anthony "All the Light We Cannot See" - 2014
Hislop, Victoria "The Thread" - 2011
Otto, Whitney "How to Make an American Quilt" - 1991
Powers, Richard "The Overstory" - 2018
Rhue, Morton "The Wave" - 1981
Schami, Rafik "The Calligrapher’s Secret" (German: Das Geheimnis des Kalligraphen) - 2008
Schmitt, Éric-Emmanuel "Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran" (French: Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran) - 1999
Turner, Nancy E. "These is my Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901" - 1999
Vreeland, Susan "Girl in Hyacinth Blue" - 1999

Monday 6 September 2021

Le Guin, Ursula K. "The Left Hand of Darkness"

Le Guin, Ursula K. "The Left Hand of Darkness" - 1969

I'm not the biggest fan of science fiction but my book club seems to select one every couple of months. What can I say, some of them are quite interesting, others not so much.

"The Left Hand of Darkness" can be fascinating in many ways. There is a different kind of life on planet Winter, it is a cold life, as the name of the planet already suggests. But it's also different to our kind of life as in all its inhabitants are ambisexual. They call it differently and anyone who is just one gender (like the inhabitants of our planet, Terra) is a pervert. Maybe this would help people who consider anyone who is not straight a weirdo. Though I doubt they would read a book like this.

So, other than making us understand the LGBTQ community better, what else is there to learn from this book. Well, the Ekumen reminded me a little of the United Nations or the European Union which have the same kind of problems because everyone wants a communion but it should, please, be moulded on their own culture.

Apparently, this book belongs to a series of novels called "The Hainish Cycle" but you are not supposed to read them all in order, they are published as single novels without any follow-up of one of the stories.

And it definitely gives us food for thought about our world and all the people living in it.

Some comments from our members:

  • It gave much topics for discussion. Beside topics of what is Sci-fi, space travel, Mindspeak, gender difference, habitable ice planet, its people, politics and customs.
  • I especially found the attitude towards time and societal progress interesting.
  • Imo, her best book (not that I've read all of them) is The Lathe of Heaven. It's very different to her usual style. Highly recommend.
  • While reading "The Left Hand of Darkness" I also reviewed Ursula Le Guin's rendition of Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching". It made for an enriched experience to consider the plot and characters of The Left Hand of Darkness through a Taoist lens. The shifting of Gethenian power and ways has a yin-yang quality that is very true to life.

We read this in our international online book club in August 2021.

From the back cover:

"A lone human ambassador is sent to the icebound planet of Winter, a world without sexual prejudice, where the inhabitants’ gender is fluid. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the strange, intriguing culture he encounters...

Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world,
The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction."

Urusla K. Le Guin has received many prizes for her works, i.a. the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award.

Saturday 4 September 2021

Six Degrees of Separation ~ Second Place

Second Place
Cusk, Rachel "Second Place" - 2021

#6Degrees of Separation:
from Second Place (Goodreads) to The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

#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 Second Place (Goodreads) by Rachel Cusk.

This month, Kate selected a book that was nominated for the Booker Prize. I have not been very lucky with those books so hardly ever touch them. However, there are always descriptions on Goodreads. This story is about "a woman who invites a famous artist to use her guesthouse in the remote coastal landscape where she lives with her family."

And that reminded me of a book that also centres around an old house and some artists.

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

When hearing the name clock in a title, I always have to think about a very important dystopian work:

Burgess, Anthony "A Clockwork Orange" - 1962

And when thinking about oranges, what else is there to think of than the city of oranges, Jaffa.

LeBor, Adam "City of Oranges. An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa" - 2006

I have several books with the word city in the title but this one is quite different because it is from a country we have all read little about: Albania.

Kadaré, Ismail "The Fall of the Stone City" (aka Chronicle in Stone) (Albanian: Darka e Gabuar) - 1971

And the same with stone, there are so many books with the word stone, so I chose one from another country whose authors are not that widely published abroad: the Netherlands.

Dorrestein, Renate "A Heart of Stone" (Dutch: Een hart van steen) - 1998

Which leads us to the last book this month. We have to get to the heart. And where do we hear the heartbeats? In Burma or Myanmar as it is also called.

Sendker, Jan-Philipp "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats" (German: Das Herzenhören) - 2002

Do the first and the last book have anything in common? Probably not. Though the word "art" appears in the last book and the first one is about artists. So, there you go.

Look for further monthly separation posts here.

Friday 3 September 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

Word cloud made with WordItOut

"Books do not age as you and I do. They will still speak when we are gone, to generations we will never see. Yes, the books must survive." Corrie Ten Boom, The Rabbi of Haarlem in The Hiding Place

Isn't that fantastic? A book can be hundreds of years old and still as new to us as if it had been written yesterday.

"Books aren't like broccoli. You don't have to eat it because it's good for you. Books drag you in because they are fascinating." Jackie French

Nevertheless, books are good for you and, at times, we can devour them.

"Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope." Dr. Seuss

He might be true there, yet, I prefer to look from the right end of the telescope. Still, I know many agree and love and need fantasy, so it's good that it's there for us. I remember when Harry Potter came out and even the kids who never wanted to read started reading, especially the boys.

Find more book quotes here

Thursday 2 September 2021

Orth, Stephan "Couchsurfing in China"

 Orth, Stephan "Couchsurfing in China: Encounters and Escapades Beyond the Great Wall" aka "High Tech and Hot Pot: Revealing Encounters Inside the Real China" (German: Couchsurfing in China. Durch die Wohnzimmer der neuen Supermacht) - 2019

I already got to know Stephan Orth with his book about Russia (Couchsurfing in Russia: Friendships and Misadventures Behind Putin’s Curtain/Couchsurfing in Russland. Wie ich fast zum Putin-Versteher wurde = Couchsurfing in Russia: How I almost started to understand Putin). When I came across this edition about China, I couldn't resist, I just had to read it.

And again we can take a little glimpse into the life of normal people in China. Although, most hosts are probably not completely represenative, after all, they are very social and offer total strangers a roof over their head and a bed to sleep in, guide them through their city and talk about their lives, the average citizen probably doesn't do that in any country.

Nevertheless, or perhaps because of it, Stephan Orth's books are very interesting. I've read about giant cities that are bigger than the largest European cities that you had never heard of before. But his reports from his hosts are also totally exciting and make you want to go on such a trip yourself.

Another great book. On the one hand, I will see that I will soon read "Couchsurfing in Iran" and for the second time I am curious to see where our globetrotter will take us the next time.

From the back cover:

"An award-winning writer reveals a changing China - one conversation and adventure at a time.

When Stephan Orth lands in China, he knows it’s his last visit, having lied about his job as a journalist to get into the country. So, he makes the most of it, couch-surfing with locals instead of hitting the nearest hotel. Starting in Macau - a former Portuguese colony and now gambler’s paradise - Orth takes on the world’s biggest casino. Next, he visits Shenzen, where more than 200 million sidewalk cameras monitor citizens who win and lose points on Sesame Credit, an app that sends data to Alibaba - and to the government. As his adventure continues, Orth encounters a bewildering mix of new tech and old traditions. Over a steaming bowl of hot pot, he learns ancient chopstick etiquette from a policewoman who later demos the facial recognition app she could use to detain him. He eats dog meat as a guest of honor one day - and finds himself censored on live TV the next. He even seriously considers joining an outlawed sect. Self-deprecatingly funny, compassionate, and observant, High Tech and Hot Pot is a formidable addition to a well-loved series, and offers a timely travelogue of an enigmatic country poised to become the world’s next superpower."

Wednesday 1 September 2021

Spell the Month in Books ~ September


I found this on one of the blogs I follow, Books are the New Black who found it at One Book More. It was originally created by Reviews from the Stacks, and the idea is to spell the month using the first letter of book titles.

This month, I was lucky again to find some books with just one title. Hurrah!

Chabon, Michael "Summerland" - 2002

This is fantasy mixed with a little sports and adventure. A youth novel but interesting for adults, as well.

Austen, Jane "Emma" - 1816

Not necessarily the most famous of Austen's novels. However, there is something likeable in Emma, Jane Austen's only heroine without money problems which makes it different to her other books.

Rutherfurd, Edward "Paris" - 2013

Paris is one of my favourite cities in the world. And Edward Rutherfurd is a wonderful writer of history related to places.

Dash, Mike "Tulipomania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused" - 2000

This book gives a lot of extra information about the craze about Tulips in the 17th century and almost reads like a crime story.

Glover, Douglas "Elle" - 2003

This award winning novel is based on a true story or legend, not a favourite among our book club members but interesting.

Eliot, George "Middlemarch" - 1871-72

A wonderful book, a must for anyone who loves classic novels. "Middlemarch" is more difficult than, let's say, a Jane Austen novel but it is definitely worth reading.

Mann, Thomas "Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family" (German: Buddenbrooks) - 1901

I have read "Buddenbrooks" a couple of times and think this is one of the best books of German literature. A great family saga.

George, Margaret "Elizabeth I" - 2011

The story of Elizabeth I. 680 pages of it. Told by herself and her cousin Lettice, the granddaughter of her mother's sister. So we can see various sides of the Virgin Queen's life.

Munro, Alice "Runaway" - 2004

A brilliant collection of very interesting short stories that grip you from the first page.

Happy September!

 Happy September to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch

"Unter der Sonne Afrikas"
"Under Africa's Sun"

Normally, Hanka and Frank surprise us with a picture from their home area, the Baltic Sea. But this time we can travel with them halfway around the world, to Africa's savanna. And Hanka painted my favourite animal, an elephant. And what a wonderful picture it is. Just beautiful.

* * *

The Low German name for September is "Harwstmaond", the English translation is "Autumn Moon" (or "Fall Moon", as the Americans say). The High German word for autumn is Herbst, so you can see where that word went. And that's a good word for this month as it is the beginning of autumn, at least in our Northern Hemisphere. And autumn is my favourite season.

* * *

So, my favourite animal, my favourite season, and my birthday month. Could it get better? Yes, indeed, it could and it can. Last month, our youngest son found a new apartment in Brussels and in order for him to move in, he needs some of his stuff. So, he came round in August and we could see him for the third time in two years. And this month he will come again with his brother, picking up some furniture. We will then have seen them for the third and fourth time in two years.

 Let's all hope, Covid will allow us more get-togethers in future. If you haven't been vaccinated and have the chance, please, do so, you're making it harder for all of us to get back to a normal life if you don't.

* * *

As I mentioned last month, schools have started or will start again. The holidays were not the same as usual, it wasn't very full anywhere, even though most people did not go on a long and faraway trip. Everyone is still very cautious.

* * *

This month is very important for us Germans. Every four years, we have elections to the federal parliament (Bundestag). It is going to be quite hard this year as many parties have used the Covid pandemic as a basis for their campaigns. We all hope that things will get better after the elections but I doubt it.

The biggest problem will be: who will be the new chancellor? Angela Merkel has been IT since 2005 and nobody knows who would be good enough to replace her. But she is definitely retiring. She doesn't belong to a party I would ever vote for but she has my respect. She knew how to get people to do something and I am sure we would have had a lot more problems during the pandemic than we have had if it hadn't been for her.

So, wish us luck that we get a good new chancellor and a good new party (or parties) to govern our country.

* * *

Weather lore (or farmers' rule) for September

Am feinen Septemberregen ist dem Bauer gelegen.
The farmer cares about the fine September rain.

Maria Geburt fliegen die Schwalben fort.
Marymas (Nativity of Mary) the swallows fly away. (= 8th of September)

* * *

Which reminds me of another "Mas" day, Michaelmas (29thSeptember). It was traditionally a popular legal date to pay rent, lease or interest and to hire new servants (same as Candlemas on 2nd of February).
And farmers believed that when they opened gall apples on Michaelmas, their content predicted the fertility of the coming year.

To this day, it's tradition to bake Michaelibrot (St. Michael's bread) from freshly ground cereal grains.

St. Michael is supposed to be the highest of the archangels and hence the greatest of all the angels.

* * *

Since the early 1990s we celebrate Open Monument Day as part of the European Heritage Days. A lot of monuments that are usually not open to the public, are free to be visited. Always a nice way to see something you don't get to visit otherwise.

This year's motto is "Existence and appearance - in history, architecture and monument preservation". (Sein und Schein - in Geschichte, Architektur und Denkmalpflege)

I wish you all a wonderful "autumn month" with many great books to read.

* * *

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

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.