Thursday 30 March 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Istanbul - Memories of a City

Pamuk, Orhan "Istanbul - Memories of a City" (aka Istanbul - Memories and a City) (Turkish: İstanbul: Hatıralar ve Şehir) - 2003

Orhan Pamuk is one of my absolute favourite authors. I have been to Istanbul in 1984 and was very impressed with the city.

If I hadn't loved Istanbul already, I certainly would so now. Orhan Pamuk grew up in Istanbul and knows the city better than many, I would say. With this book, he wrote a love letter to a city.

If Istanbul is considered the bridge between East and West, Orhan Pamuk should be declared the ambassador between the two worlds.

Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

Orhan Pamuk received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2005.

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

Read my original review here

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Books for People Who Like Barbara Kingsolver


"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, our topic is Books for People Who Like Author X.

I have done lists from certain genres but I don't think I ever started with one author. Still, even though there are several I could have chosen, in the end, I decided to go for Barbara Kingsolver because I believe she is well known and well loved, so a good starter. She is a great author who tackles many different topics but is always highly interesting.

Kingsolver, Barbara "The Lacuna" - 2009
Allende, Isabel "Island Beneath the Sea" (E: La isla bajo el mar) - 2010
Chevalier, Tracy "The Virgin Blue" - 1997
Fredriksson, Marianne "Hanna's Daughters" (S: Anna, Hanna og Johanna) - 1994
Grenville, Kate "The Secret River" - 2005
Hansen, Dörte "This House is Mine" (GE: Altes Land) - 2015
Hislop, Victoria "The Thread" - 2011
Lawson, Mary "Crow Lake" - 2002
Oates, Joyce Carol "The Falls" - 2004
Proulx, Annie "The Shipping News" - 2003
Turner, Nancy E. "These is my Words" (Sarah Agnes Prine Trilogy #1) - 1999

As you can see by the links, I have read several books by most of the authors. In the cases where I haven't they have not written that many books. Yet, I hope.

📚 Happy Reading! 📚

Monday 27 March 2023

Kampfner, John "Why the Germans Do it Better"

Kampfner, John "Why the Germans Do it Better. Notes from a Grown-Up Country" - 2020

Another Christmas gift by one of my sons. They know what I'm interested in.

This book gives us an overview of the Germany's post-war politics, economics, and social history. The title might be a little misleading, John Kampfner does not only praise Germany for everything. He compares it mainly with the United Kingdom and their recent politics with which he doesn't seem to agree - well, neither do I. We should all strive for more unity and not drift apart. In that, I seem to be more German than I ever thought I might be.

All in all, the author sees Germany with the eyes of a foreigner who lived here long enough to judge. Many of my compatriots complain about our social security system, our health insurances, anything, really. But they don't know how it is elsewhere. Especially healthcare is still a top priority and every German has a right to medical care. Unfortunately, it's not like that everywhere. But also our politics is exemplary, according to the author. In the book description, we are even described as an eternally fascinating country. I think many Germans would be surprised to hear that. Unfortunately, not all foreigners would agree with John Kampfner. Many still live in the 1940s and see us as the eternal enemy.

A big part of the book is how Germany was rebuilt after the Second World War, how it helped building a united Europe, how it faced the challenges after reunification and how it welcomed many more refugees from Syria than most other countries. He mentions, that "in Germany there had long been a consensus around the principles of generous contributions directly from the pay packet in return for high-quality service. There is similiarly broad support for the principles underlying higher taxation and the role of the state - that you are paying not just for your own benefit, and that of your family, but for the needs of society at large. That way of thinking has been in place for decades."

And about the challenges the reunification posed, he asks: "Could any other nation have dealt with a situation such as that with so little upheaval?"

Mind you, the book is not just written with rose-tinted glasses. The author doesn't just mention the good parts, he also describes what could be better and what could lead to problems in the future. However, he has been asked by many Germans to change the title and include more about what we get wrong.

Still, an interesting book that is probably even more interesting for Germans than it might be for outsiders.

From the back cover:

"Emerging from a collection of city states 150 years ago, no other country has had as turbulent a history as Germany or enjoyed so much prosperity in such a short time frame. Today, as much of the world succumbs to authoritarianism and democracy is undermined from its heart, Germany stands as a bulwark for decency and stability.

Mixing personal journey and anecdote with compelling empirical evidence, this is a critical and entertaining exploration of the country many in the West still love to hate. Raising important questions for our post-Brexit landscape, Kampfner asks why, despite its faults, Germany has become a model for others to emulate, while Britain fails to tackle contemporary challenges. Part memoir, part history, part travelogue,
Why the Germans Do It Better is a rich and witty portrait of an eternally fascinating country."

Thursday 23 March 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Swords of Ice

Tekin, Latife "Swords of Ice" (Turkish: Buzdan Kiliçlar) - 1989 

We did not just discuss this book in our book club, we were able to talk with the author via video conference.

A surreal book in the style of magic realism. A description of the poor man's search for richness. Halilhan, the main character, tries to open a business with a Volvo from the scrap heap.

We also see that poverty is not necessary a bad thing, it's a way of life.

We discussed this in our international book club in February 2011.

Read my original review here

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The City of Mist"

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The City of Mist" (Spanish: La Ciudad de Vapor) - 2020
(El cementerio de los libros olvidados #5)

Yes, we return to Barcelona, one last journey with a wonderful author who left a big hole in the literary world with his death. His fans can look forward to a last greeting. All stories that fit somewhere in his Cemetery of Forgotten Books. How it came about and what it has contributed to. One or the other story has already been read beforehand, e.g. "Gaudí in Manhattan" or "The Prince of Parnassus" (El Príncipe de Parnaso), but that doesn't detract from the joy of this book.

And if you haven't read the wonderful series yet, you should do so as soon as possible. These short stories are also good for getting in the mood. You can read all of his books in any order, they complement each other well.

From the back cover:

"Return to the mythical Barcelona library known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in this posthumous collection of stories from the New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow of the Wind and The Labyrinth of the Spirits.

Bestselling author Carlos Ruiz Zafón conceived of this collection of stories as an appreciation to the countless readers who joined him on the extraordinary journey that began with
The Shadow of the Wind. Comprising eleven stories, most of them never before published in English, The City of Mist offers the reader compelling characters, unique situations, and a gothic atmosphere reminiscent of his beloved Cemetery of Forgotten Books quartet.

The stories are mysterious, imbued with a sense of menace, and told with the warmth, wit, and humor of Zafón's inimitable voice. A boy decides to become a writer when he discovers that his creative gifts capture the attentions of an aloof young beauty who has stolen his heart. A labyrinth maker flees Constantinople to a plague-ridden Barcelona, with plans for building a library impervious to the destruction of time. A strange gentleman tempts Cervantes to write a book like no other, each page of which could prolong the life of the woman he loves. And a brilliant Catalan architect named Antoni Gaudí reluctantly agrees to cross the ocean to New York, a voyage that will determine the fate of an unfinished masterpiece.

Imaginative and beguiling, these and other stories in
The City of Mist summon up the mesmerizing magic of their brilliant creator and invite us to come dream along with him.

Blanca and the Departure
A Young Lady from Barcelona
Rose of Fire
The Prince of Parnassus
A Christmas Tale
Alicia, at Dawn
Men in Grey
Gaudí in Manhattan
Two-Minute Apocalypse"

Thursday 16 March 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. London


Rutherfurd, Edward "London - The Novel" - 1997

I'm a huge fan of England and London is one of my favourite cities ever. As usual, the author describes the history of this fantastic town through the lives of about half a dozen different families.

The fictional families also stem from all sorts of backgrounds, you have fishers and priests, merchantes and dock workers, maids and mistresses.

Read my original review here.

Find a link to all my reviews on his other novels here.

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Buck, Pearl S. "Love and the Morning Calm"


Buck, Pearl S. "Love and the Morning Calm" - 1951

Like many of Pearl S. Buck's books, I read this many years ago. Although the story of the two sisters can be a bit dated, it shows what it's like when two different cultures meet, how people who grow up in one sometimes have a very difficult time fitting into another.

And that is a topic that is more current today than ever before.

From the back cover (re-translated by me):

"They grew up in Korea, the two sisters Deborah and Mary; the active Christianity of their missionary parents and the ancient wisdom teachings of the East formed their world view. When they, one seventeen, the other eighteen years old, arrive in New York,
they appear to their relatives like flowery creatures from another planet, bewildering and alienating - just as they themselves are bewildered and alienated by the strange mysteries that American life throws at them. It is an encounter portrayed with great grace and a humour almost mischievous between East and West, which Pearl S. Buck has made the subject of this little novel. But behind the grace and the mischievousness stands a very serious concern, because the quiet work of the two sisters, carried by selfless concern for the fate of their fellow human beings, in their new environment, like a pure, clear mirror, reveals all the hollow, meaningless nothingness of our own self-centeredness on existence. A story to think about, presented in the most entertaining form."

Pearl S. Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces".

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

Tuesday 14 March 2023

The Classics Club: The Classics Spin #33


"Words and Peace" is a blog I've been following for a couple of years and I have always found some interesting new (or olde) books there, especially French ones.

On her page, I found the posts by "The Classics Club" asking us to create a post, this time before next Sunday 19th March 2023, and list our choice of any twenty books that remain "to be read" on our Classics Club list. They'll then post a number from 1 through 20 and we have time until Sunday 30th of April 2023 to read it.

In the meantime, I read only one book from my old list (Classics Spin #32), mainly because I have finished reading my original list (except for one) and am trying to read more books from my TBR pile. The books are all in chronological order.

1.    Aristophanes "Lysistrata and Other Plays" (Lysistrata) - 411BC
2.    Voltaire "Candide, ou l'Optimisme" (Candide, or Optimism) - 1759
3.    Dickens, Charles "Nicholas Nickleby. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby" - 1838/39
4.    Brontë, Charlotte "The Professor" - 1857
5.    Turgenjew, Iwan Sergejewitsch "Fathers and Sons" (Отцы и дети/Otzy i deti) - 1862
6.    Mann, Heinrich "Der Untertan" (Man of Straw, The Patrioteer, or The Loyal Subject) - 1914
7.    Conrad, Joseph "Victory: An Island Tale" - 1915
8.    Hamilton, Cicely "William - an Englishman" - 1920
9.    Hesse, Hermann "Wir nehmen die Welt nur zu ernst" [We just take the world too seriously] - 1928
10.    Faulkner, William "The Sound and the Fury" - 1929
11.    Hemingway, Ernest "A Farewell to Arms" - 1929
12.    Meigs, Cornelia "Invincible Louisa" - 1933
13.    Orwell, George "Down and Out in Paris and London: A Gritty Memoir on Life & Poverty in Two Cities" - 1933
14.    Canetti, Elias "Die Blendung" (Auto-da-Fé) - 1935
15.    Orwell, George "The Road to Wigan Pier" - 1937
16.    Némirovsky, Irène "Les biens de ce monde" (All Our Wordly Goods) - 1941
17.    Mahfouz, Naguib "Midaq Alley" (Zuqaq El Midaq/زقاق المدق) - 1947
18.    Lagerkvist, Pär "Barabbas" (Barabbas) - 1950
19.    Kazantzakis, Nikos "The Last Temptation of Christ" (Ο τελευταίος πειρασμός/O telefteos pirasmos) - 1951
20.    Yates, Richard "Revolutionary Road" - 1961

This time, it's #18, so my novel is:
Lagerkvist, Pär "Barabbas" (Barabbas) - 1950

If you want to take up the challenge, here is the post: The Classics Spin #33 

Here are all the books on my original Classics Club list.
And here is a list of all the books I read with the Classics Spin.

Monday 13 March 2023

Baker, Jo "Longbourn"

Baker, Jo "Longbourn" - 2013

I don't care much for novels that are based on someone else's work (so-called fan-fiction) and I might never have started reading this one if it hadn't been for a friend who had finished reading this and lent the book to me.

What can I say, it was an interesting read to learn about the servants at Longbourn, the house of the Bennets from "Pride & Prejudice". I think we know all more about their lives since watching "Downton Abbey".

While it is helpful to know the original story and thereby following the life of the Hills, Sarah, Polly and James, I don't think you necessarily need to have read it.

However, the author has gone a little too far with some of her assumptions and I doubt Jane Austen would have agreed with her protrayal of the family. I can only grant the author a lot of imagination. She should have written a book about a fictional house in the Regency Period with the main focus on the servants. Would have avoided a lot of silly allusions to the Bennet family.

Yeah, as I said before, not a fan of books written about other books. If you can't think of a storyline by yourself, leave it. I am sure it will be a long time until I pick up some fan-lit again.

From the back cover:

"It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah's hands are chapped and raw. Domestic life below stairs, ruled with a tender heart and an iron will by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman, bearing secrets and the scent of the sea."

Thursday 9 March 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Cane River and Red River

Tademy, Lalita "Cane River" - 2001

I am a fan of American history and I am a fan of women's history. This book combines both. Lalita Tademy describes the different lives of four of her ancestors, the first one born into slavery, the last one born into "freedom", all of them having children with white men. I liked the way these women's lives were described with all the problems, African-Americans had during those times.

We discussed this in our international book club in March 2003.

Tademy, Lalita "Red River" - 2007

And here is the story of her father's ancestors, the Tademy family that came all the way from Egypt as free men only to be turned into slaves in the States. The story begins after the Civil War when the slaves have officially been freed but white supremacists don't want to accept that, so there is still a long struggle ahead of them.

Read my original reviews here and here.

Wednesday 8 March 2023

Spell the Month in Books ~ March


Reviews from the Stacks

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.

It's easy to sea why Jana chose this topic, we have the beginning of spring this month, well, at least in the Northern hemisphere.

March: Spring

I found it difficult to find books that totally go with the subject this month but I managed in the end.


Brooks, Geraldine "
March" - 2006
I just had to use this book for the first word, what would be more appropriate for March than "March".
Grjasnowa, Olga "
All Russians Love Birch Trees" (GE: Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt) - 2012
Birch trees bloom in the spring, as most hayfever sufferers can attest. I love them but I understand those who don't.

Tucholsky, Kurt "
Rheinsberg - a Storybook for Lovers" (GE: Rheinsberg - ein Bilderbuch für Verliebte) - 1912
A young couple in love goes on a weekend trip. I don't know whether it is mentioned at what time of the year they went, but don't you think the picture looks rather "spring-ey?
Harris, Joanne "
Chocolat" - 1999
Well, this I certainly know, the story takes place during Lent and that is definitely spring.

Berry, Wendell "
Hannah Coulter" - 2004
This book is part of a series of stories about the inhabitants of Port William. So, it takes place over a long period of time but I think the cover looks very much like spring.

It's not always the case, but I liked all the books from my March list.

Happy Reading!
📚 📚 📚

* * * * *

I am not feeling too well at the moment. My regular followers will have noticed. So, I am a little late with my Spell the Month in Books but since I prepared it already, at least I can post it now.

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Six Degrees of Separation ~ From Passages to Silent House


#6Degrees of Separation:
from Passages to Silent House

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

This month's prompt starts with Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life by Gail Sheehy (Goodreads)

Same as last month (or as most months), I have not read our starter book. I'm not into self-help books. At all. Therefore, I didn't even have a close look at the content of this one. Sorry. I have only read one book with "passage" in the title and that leads me nowhere.

Therefore, I will start with a book written by another author with the name Gail.

Brumbeau, Jeff/de Marcken, Gail "The Quiltmaker’s Gift" - 2001
This is a beautiful book with great illustrations about the most beautiful quilts ever.

Lindberg, Anne Morrow "A Gift from the Sea" - 1955
A nice little book to meditate and think about where your life is going.

Allende, Isabel "Island Beneath the Sea" (E: La isla bajo el mar) - 2010
A great description of life on a plantation, first in the Caribbean, later in Louisiana, the life of the slaves and the free, lots of history, an incredibly rich account of the lives people had to lead.

Bryson, Bill "Notes from a Small Island" - 1995
You can tell Bill Bryson loves the UK and its people, he knows their habits, their humour (especially their great humour), their towns and their countryside, and their history.

Trollope, Anthony "The Small House at Allington" - 1864
Part 5 of the Barchester Chronicles 5. The author is able to portray some very lively and modern personae, describe life at the end of the 19th century in a very interesting and accessible way and write a fascinating and enthralling story.

Pamuk, Orhan "Silent House" (TR: Sessiz Ev) - 1983
Turkey in the late 20th century. Three siblings, a sister and two brothers, visit their grandmother who lives outside of Istanbul. Everyone seems to have their own problems. 


There we are. I managed to sneak in some of my favourite authors. Does the first book have something in common with the last? Well, the subtitle of the starter book is
Predictable Crises of Adult Life and there are crises in the lives of all the characters in the last book, let us take that as a link.

* * * * *

I am not feeling too well at the moment. My regular followers will have noticed. So, I am a little late with my Six Degrees of Separation but since I prepared it already, at least I can post it now.