Thursday 29 February 2024

#ThrowbackThursday. Half the Sky and A Path Appears


Kristof, Nicholas D. & WuDunn, Sheryl "Half the Sky. How to Change the World" - 2009

"Half the Sky" - The most extraordinary book ever. Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn are an American-Chinese journalist couple who have travelled the world and give us a heart-rendering account of women's lives all over this globe, women struggling to make ends meet, women who have to fight for every little thing but especially for their life.

This book can change your life. Read it.

Kristof, Nicholas; WuDunn, Sheryl "A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity" - 2014

This is a fabulous book, so many great causes that the couple draws our attention to and what we can do to help those unfortunate people either on the other side of the globe or even next door who only need a little money to change their life for the better.

The authors have done some great research. If you want to donate money, find a cause that you consider is worthy and make sure you give it so that this money really makes a difference to someone. The authors make us understand that even a small donation can make a big change. Or if we don't have money that there are still things we can do, volunteer or write, for example.

An informative and inspirational book.

The authors won the Pulitzer Prize for their reports about China in the New York Times. They also have started a foundation, read more about it here: "Half the Sky Foundation".

Read my original reviews here and here.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Lessing, Doris "The Grass is Singing"

Lessing, Doris "The Grass is Singing" - 1950

This was our international online book club book for February 2024.

Doris Lessing's first novel. It received a lot of praise and she was an author of whom much was excepted. She fulfilled it all, her Nobel Prize is a great testimony.

The story takes place in Zimbabwe when it was still called Rhodesia. I guess it could have been any other colony where the white rulers made the black natives their subservients. As we all know, that didn't last forever, it couldn't last forever.

We can see the trouble by looking at some settlers and their problems. Not only did they not know the land and its very own specifics, they were not meant for a climate and a country like this. It had to lead to disaster, one way or another.

Doris Lessing describes the problems very well by looking at Mary, married to a poor farmer, unhappy with her life, not knowing how to improve it. You can tell that she lived in the country herself.

Comments by other members:
We had a really good discussion about this book and it was scored 4/5 or 5/5 by all.
The writing was excellent in making one see and feel the location and climate. We discussed many topics: the main characters, their psychology and motivations, the time and history and societal pressure for marriage and being the "right kind of white" and pressure to conform to the status quo. Gender roles. Mental health. The different ways of farming the land in the story. The slow gradual changes from outright slavery but not yet really an equal society. And obviously the obsessive and very inappropriate thoughts and behaviour that led to the gruesome end.
I probably forget a lot of aspects, but very interesting.
I again feel older and wiser for having read this book. I might even add some other of her works to my TBR pile.

Read also the excellent review of another book club member here.

I have read "The Golden Notebook" years ago. It was a completely different book but just as great. I think I should read more by this remarkable author.

Book Description:

"Set in South Africa under white rule, Doris Lessing's first novel is both a riveting chronicle of human disintegration and a beautifully understated social critique. Mary Turner is a self-confident, independent young woman who becomes the depressed, frustrated wife of an ineffectual, unsuccessful farmer. Little by little the ennui of years on the farm work their slow poison, and Mary's despair progresses until the fateful arrival of an enigmatic and virile black servant, Moses. Locked in anguish, Mary and Moses - master and slave - are trapped in a web of mounting attraction and repulsion. Their psychic tension explodes in an electrifying scene that ends this disturbing tale of racial strife in colonial South Africa.

'The Grass Is Singing' blends Lessing's imaginative vision with her own vividly remembered early childhood to recreate the quiet horror of a woman's struggle against a ruthless fate."

Doris Lessing "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007.

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 26 February 2024

Yates, Richard "Revolutionary Road"

Yates, Richard "Revolutionary Road" - 1961

For the Classics Spin #36, we received #20 and this was my novel.

A story about a young American couple in the 1950s. They go through the typical problems many young couples have, not enough money, too little time for each other because the children need a lot of it, just the usual couple, you would think. However, they are both pretty selfish and therefore can't deal with the usual problems.

All in all, I found this quite a depressing story, nothing too exciting, just listening to a bunch of selfless people fighting each other. I doubt I will read another book by the author.

From the back cover:

"In the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model American couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank's job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is now about to crumble. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves."

Friday 23 February 2024

Clinton, Hillary Rodham "It Takes a Village"


Clinton, Hillary Rodham "It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us" - 1996

"No Family is an Island" is one of the chapter titles in this remarkable work by Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is a wonderful person. If you don't agree, read this book. You can tell how dedicated she is to help children and families to raise their children. This is what her politics is based on, how most politicians should base their values on. We all need to stand together to help the next generation.

The contents of her book can already be seen in the chapter titles. Aside from the one mentioned above, there is "Every Child Needs a Champion", "Kids Don't Come with Instructions", "Child Care Is Not a Spectator Sport", "Children Are Citizens Too", and many more.

I totally agree with her in her point. We all need to help each other out. When my children were in school, I always had other kids over to help them with the subjects that were difficult for both themselves and their parents, to feed them or just to give them a home after school when their parents were at work. I was in the lucky position to be at home with our boys but I opened it up for many other kids most of whom are still in touch with us.

But that's not the main aim of the book. Society in general should help the children to find their way into this world. Often, when I hear about American politics its those who are against guns (as am I) against those who are against abortion (as am I). We can be against both. We can support children and make sure they don't get pregnant as teenagers. And if they do get pregnant, as long as we don't help them, there will be abortions, and illegal ones are very dangerous. If you I pray for the unborn babies, you should also pray for their mothers for whom it was the last resort, the only way out. And for those kids who get killed in the schools and on the streets through the gun laws. Educate kids better, give everyone access to healthcare, help single mothers that they don't end up in total poverty, those are the things that avoid abortions, making them illegal only makes it worse. The United States has 3 times as many abortions as Germany. They also have one of the highest known rates of adolescent pregnancy and births in developed regions. Being pro-birth and not pro-life increases abortions. So, don't just pray for the unborn children but also for the poor girls who are pushed into a situation where they see only one way out. Amd for those who have their children and end up in poverty because of it. And that those who make the laws will make it better for those girls who do get pregnant and can't help themselves.

All in all, Hillary Clinton gives great examples on what we can do better, and we should all strive for a better world, especially for the poorest and weakest among us.

Here are some quotes that give us food for thought:

"Some of us can recall an aunt who longed to go to college, a grandmother who kept voluminous journals she showed to no one, a female cousin with a head for figures. Much of the fiction written by and about women over the centuries contains an undercurrent of disappointment, dissatisfaction, or simple wistfulness about roads not taken."
I was one of those women, and I had to regret all my life that I was not given the opportunitz to go to university.

"Roosevelt's words reflected the popular view that would dominate much of this century. As the private sector grew, people assumed that the excesses of unbridled competition had to be restrained by government. As a result, consumers have been protected by antitrust laws, pure food and drug laws, labeling, and other consumer protection measures; investors have been protected by securities legislation; workers have been protected by laws governing child labor, wages and hours, pensions, workers' compensation, and occupational safety and health; and the community at large has been protected by clean air and water standards, chemical right-to-know laws, and other environmental safeguards.

Over the course of the century, our environment has become cleaner, we have become healthier, our workers safer, our financial markets stronger

"But government is a partner to, not a substitute for, adult leadership and good citizenship."

"In Germany, too, there is a general consensus that government and business should play a role in evening out inequities in the free market system and in increasing the ability of all citizens to succeed. Compared to Americans, Germans pay for higher base wages, a health care system that covers everyone but costs less than ours, and perhaps the world's finest system of providing young workers who do not go on to college with the skills they need to compete in the job market. As a result of such investments, German workers command higher wages than their American counterparts, and the distribution of income is not so skewed as ours is."

There are also many great people whom she quotes in the book, but I will leave it at this one:

"There is not one civilization, from the oldest to the very newest, from which we cannot learn." Eleanor Roosevelt

From the back cover:

"For more than twenty-five years, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has made children her passion and her cause. Her long experience with children - not only through her personal roles as mother, daughter, sister, and wife but also as advocate, legal expert, and public servant - has strengthened her conviction that how children develop and what they need to succeed are inextricably entwined with the society in which they live and how well it sustains and supports its families and individuals. In other words, it takes a village to raise a child. This book chronicles her quest - both deeply personal and, in the truest sense, public - to discover how we can make our society into the kind of village that enables children to grow into able, caring, resilient adults. It is time, Mrs. Clinton believes, to acknowledge that we have to make some changes for our children's sake. Advances in technology and the global economy along with other developments society have brought us much good, but they have also strained the fabric of family life, leaving us and our children poorer in many ways - physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. She doesn't believe that we should, or can, turn back the clock to 'the good old days.' False nostalgia for 'family values' is no solution. Nor is it useful to make an all-purpose bogeyman or savior of 'government.' But by looking honestly at the condition of our children, by understanding the wealth of new information research offers us about them, and, most important, by listening to the children themselves, we can begin a more fruitful discussion about their needs. And by sifting the past for clues to the structures that once bound us together, by looking with an open mind at what other countries and cultures do for their children that we do not, and by identifying places where our 'village' is flourishing - in families, schools, churches, businesses, civic organizations, even in cyberspace - we can begin to create for our children the better tomorrow they deserve."

Thursday 22 February 2024

#ThrowbackThursday. Edward Rutherfurd and Salisbury

Rutherfurd, Edward "Sarum: the Novel of England" - 1987

I’m a huge fan of England and this is not just the story of Salisbury, it is first and foremost the story of England, how it first was settled, what happened next and how did the ordinary people live throughout the centuries.

Edward Rutherfurd's style of describing the history of a country or town by their inhabitants, not by the kings who ruled, the dictators or the rich aristocracy but by the "little man" is just fantastic. I love how we always meet a couple of people and then see what their descendants are up to, how a family feud can go on for generations but also how times can change and the tides can turn for some, not always positively.

Rutherfurd, Edward "The Forest" - 2000

Just like "Sarum", this is a book about the South of England. Edward Rutherford describes the history of the New Forest, from William the Conqueror until today through the people living there.

If you love England, this is the book for you.

Read my original reviews here and here.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Reading Challenge - Chunky Books 2024


I have taken part in this reading challenge since 2013. The moment I saw that post, I know this was the most interesting challenge for me. I signed up for the highest of the four levels "Mor-book-ly Obese" which meant eight or more chunksters (books over 450 pages) of which three must be 750 pages or more.

I have carried on with that challenge without setting goals, I love big books and I will always read some. And I am more than willing to tell my friends about them.

If you are interested in the challenge, check out this link. They discontinued their challenge in 2015.
You can still find suggestions by page number, in case you can't find any chunksters yourself. 😉

Or you can check out my lists from the previous years (below), maybe you are interested in a couple of them.

I read in
2013: 38 chunky books, 13 of them chunksters
2014: 37 chunky books, 15 of them chunksters
2015: 26 chunky books, 8 of which chunksters
2016: 28 chunky books, 3 of which chunksters
2017: 35 chunky books, 6 of which chunksters

2018: 29 chunky books, 6 of which chunksters
2019: 20 chunky books, 7 of which chunksters
18 chunky books, 7 of which chunksters
24 chunky books, 10 of which chunksters
11 chunky books, 3 of which chunksters
12 chunky books, 3 of which chunksters

I will be posting the books I have read here:
(I add the German title, if available, for my German friends)
[I add my own translation of a foreign book title if it's not available in English.]

Kingsolver, Barbara "Demon Copperhead" (Demon Copperhead) - 2022 - 560 pages
Yates, Richard "Revolutionary Road" (Zeiten des Aufruhrs) - 1961 - 463 pages
Harris, Robert "Fatherland" (Vaterland) - 1992 - 560 pages
Hyde, Catherine Ryan "When I found you" (Als ich dich fand) - 2009 - 512 pages
Towles, Amor "A Gentleman in Moscow" (Ein Gentleman in Moskau) - 2016 - 462 pages
Melandri, Francesca "Alle, außer mir" (Sangue giusto) [Right Blood or Everyone but me] - 2017 - 608 pages

I read 6 chunky books in 2024
of which 0 are considered a chunkster.

If you want to do this challenge or just check at the end of the year what category you are, here is the list:

    The Chubby Chunkster - this option is for the readers who want to dabble in large tomes, but really doesn't want to commit to much more than that. FOUR Chunksters is all you need to finish this challenge.
    The Plump Primer - this option is for the slightly heavier reader who wants to commit to SIX Chunksters over the next twelve months.
    Do These Books Make my Butt Look Big? - this option is for the reader who can't resist bigger and bigger books and wants to commit to SIX Chunksters from the following categories: 2 books which are between 450 - 550 pages in length; 2 books which are 551 - 750 pages in length; 2 books which are GREATER than 750 pages in length (for ideas, please refer to the book suggestions page for some books which fit into these categories).
    Mor-book-ly Obese - This is for the truly out of control chunkster. For this level of challenge you must commit to EIGHT or more Chunksters of which three tomes MUST be 750 pages or more. You know you want to.....go on and give in to your cravings. 

Looks like I've always been "more book-ly obese". 😂

Thursday 15 February 2024

Uusma, Bea "The Expedition"

Uusma, Bea "The Expedition: a Love Story: Solving the Mystery of a Polar Tragedy" (Swedish: Expeditionen: min kärlekshistoria) - 2013

This was our international online book club book for January 2024.

We don't read many non-fiction books in our online book club, so this was quite a change. And a good one.

The story is very old. It started at the end of the 19th century when three Swedes wanted to go to the North Pole in a balloon.

Unfortunately, they didn't make it. For 33 years, nobody heard from that or knew what had happened. Until some fishermen found their bodies.

But what really might have happened, was still a big mystery. Until Bea Uusma, a Swedish author, illustrator and medical doctor happened upon the story and got curious. She found a lot of evidence and put together the story as it most possibly happened.

Quite an interesting story, even if some parts of the puzzle will never be solved. I thought it was nice to follow the author on her quest to finding the key to the riddle.

A lot of pictures and illustration complete the report about the search.

From the back cover:

"11 July, 1897. Three men set out in a hydrogen balloon bound for the North Pole. They never return. Two days into their journey they make a crash landing then disappear into a white nightmare.

33 years later. The men's bodies are found, perfectly preserved under the snow and ice. They had enough food, clothing and ammunition to survive. Why did they die?

66 years later. Bea Uusma is at a party. Bored, she pulls a books off the shelf. It is about the expedition. For the next fifteen years, Bea will think of nothing else...

Can she solve the mystery of
The Expedition?"

Monday 5 February 2024

Kingsolver, Barbara "Demon Copperhead"

Kingsolver, Barbara "Demon Copperhead" - 2022

I must have mentioned this a hundred times. I'm a huge Charles Dickens fan. I really love Barbara Kingsolver's books, so this was just the book for me, a modern version of my favourite Dickens book, "David Copperfield".

I am not necessarily a fan of rewritten classics. I always say, authors should have their own idea for a story and not pick up that of another one. However, this is just a story that deserves to be picked up and looked upon with fresh eyes. It's easy to say that was so long ago and isn't part of our lives anymore. But what if it is?

Barbara Kingsolver managed it perfectly to transform the story into the 21st century. We follow Demon aka David through his sad life where he slides from one problematic situation to the next - or is pushed.

So, even if you know "David Copperfield" inside out and know exactly what must be coming next, it still is a highly suspenseful novel, or maybe even because of that. You know what is coming but you wonder how she transformed the story. Brilliant.

I think this gives us a good view about today's problems, even in so-called first world countries, and a lot to think about. Something that Barbara Kingsolver does so well.

This might even become my favourite book of the year.

From the back cover:

"Demon's story begins with his traumatic birth to a single mother in a single-wide trailer, looking 'like a little blue prizefighter.' For the life ahead of him he would need all of that fighting spirit, along with buckets of charm, a quick wit, and some unexpected talents, legal and otherwise.

In the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, poverty isn't an idea, it's as natural as the grass grows. For a generation growing up in this world, at the heart of the modern opioid crisis, addiction isn't an abstraction, it's neighbours, parents, and friends. 'Family' could mean love, or reluctant foster care. For Demon, born on the wrong side of luck, the affection and safety he craves is as remote as the ocean he dreams of seeing one day. The wonder is in how far he's willing to travel to try and get there.

Suffused with truth, anger and compassion,
Demon Copperhead is an epic tale of love, loss and everything in between."

Saturday 3 February 2024

Six Degrees of Separation ~ From Books That Changed the World to Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes


#6Degrees of Separation:
from Books That Changed the World to Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

#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 we start with the book we finished on last month (or the last book read).
My six degrees in January ended with Books That Changed the World which is a good starter book for February.

I will use a word in the title from one book and find another book with that same word in the title. The starter word is World (or that changed, whatever you like).

Winchester, Simon "The Map that Changed the World" - 2001

Palma, Félix J. "The Map of Time" (E: El mapa del tiempo) - 2008

Azevedo, Francisco "Once Upon a Time in Rio" (PO: O Arroz de Palma) - 2008

Ashworth, Andrea "Once in a House on Fire" - 1999

Domínguez, Carlos María "The House of Paper" (E: La Casa del Papel) - 2007

Coerr, Eleanor "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" - 1977


All quite interesting books about the world and time and history. The link between the first and the last. Well, one is a non-fiction, the other a children's book. But they are both about changing the world. Almost like last month.

Friday 2 February 2024

Spell the Month in Books ~ February

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.

February: Comfort Read

Comfort Read means something different to everyone. I'm not happy with "easy reads" but there are always those that challenge our minds but are still "nice".

I'm looking forward to seeing what other bloggers will come up with. Here is my month of comfort reads:

Agus, Milena "From the Land of the Moon" (IT: Mal di Pietre) - 2006
This is a short but very powerful story about family history, told by the granddaughter of the woman in question. Maybe not the ideal "comfort read" for many but I can identify with the protagonist which makes it a good read.

Austen, Jane "Emma" - 1816
Jane Austen is alwas a good read and since one of her heroines starts with E, it had to be this one..

Bourgeois, Paulette "Big Sarah's Little Boots" - 1988
Some might be surprised that I list a children's book. This was one of those that I read and re-read with my children and it always reminds me of the time when they were little. What more is there to say?

Chevalier, Tracy "Remarkable Creatures" - 2009
Tracy Chevalier is a great author and this is one of her favourites. What's not to like about a book about the girl who discovered dinosaurs?

Hanks, Tom "Uncommon Type. Some Stories" - 2017
Short stories about a typewriter by a brilliant actor who also seems to be a brilliant author..

Atkinson, John "Abridged Classics" - 2018
Hundred classics that you can read in five minutes. Do one at a time and you always have something to laugh.

Kaminer, Wladimir "Russian Disco" (GE: Russendisko) - 2000
The author is one of the many Russian-Germans that came to Germany shortly after the wall came down. This is a book about all of his compatriots who - like him - ended up in Berlin. His short stories tell us how he got to know his new country by exploring Berlin and finding his way into the discos that were often led by Russians. A hilarious author with a serious background.

Johnson, Maureen; Cooper, Jay "Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village" - 2021
If you like to watch the British crime series "Midsomer Murders", you know right away what we are talking about. The authors must have watched the series and drew their conclusions.

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These are definitely some books you can read in between.

Happy Reading!
📚 📚 📚

Thursday 1 February 2024

Happy February!

   Happy February to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Beginning of Spring

Frank says to this picture:
Zum Frühlingsanfang gehören einfach Schneeglöckchen und Krokusse dazu. Es ist schön bereits Anfang März am meteorologischen Frühlingsanfang in den Gärten und Park eine Vielzahl von Frühlingsblühern entdecken zu können.

The beginning of spring simply includes snowdrops and crocuses. It's nice to be able to discover a variety of spring bloomers in the gardens and park at the beginning of March, at the meteorological start of spring.

(see here)

Another great watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch. Enjoy!

Read more on their website here. *

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Spring is around the corner here. Mind you, we didn't really have a proper winter. And you won't hear me complain about that.

Here's a picture of our "snowy" winter.
 * * *

We saw several plays this month - what else is new? One of them was a classic: "The Judge and his Hangman" (Der Richter und sein Henker) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. A very successful production which we enjoyed a lot.

* * *

The German word for February is Februar, but the old German word is Hornung, because in this month the mature red deer sheds the bars of his antlers and begins to grow new antlers, so you could say the name of the month is "antlering". But there are also other old names based on natural phenomena and seasons. This month it's Schmelzmond (melting moon) and Taumond (dew moon).  

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

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🌼 I wish you all a Happy February! 🌼