Friday, 20 April 2018

Book Quotes of the Week



"Of all man’s instruments, the most wondrous, no doubt, is the book. The other instruments are extensions of his body. The microscope, the telescope, are extensions of his sight; the telephone is the extension of his voice; then we have the plough and the sword, extensions of the arm. But the book is something else altogether: the book is an extension of memory and imagination." Jorge Luis Borges

"Thinking is more powerful than talking. Reading is more enlightening than seeing." Dr T.P. Chia

"It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view." George Eliot

"So it is with children who learn to read fluently and well: They begin to take flight into whole new worlds as effortlessly as young birds take to the sky." William James

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Labyrinth of the Spirits"



Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Labyrinth of the Spirits" (Spanish: El laberinto de los espíritus - El cementerio de los libros olvidados #4) - 2016

It was a lucky day in 2001 when I first stumbled upon my first book by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Finally the fourth book in the series of the Cemetery of Forgotten books has been published and was available as a paperback in translation. You can't imagine how I have waited for this.

And I was not disappointed. The fourth novel was just as exciting as the first three that had originally been called a trilogy but - luckily - the author decided to turn it into a tetralogy. Maybe he'll even write a fifth one? No matter what, if he is writing another book, I am going to read it.

We have learned a lot about the family Sempere and the authors they read, their friends and their lives, esp. the lives of the people in Catalonia during the Franco regime. It must have been horrible. But the author manages to describe all the incidents meticulously, with so much detail that you can imagine having been there yourself.

In this novel, he gets behind the scenes of a minister and his evil deeds. The Sempere family is involved again and we also hear about some of the characters from the previous episodes. Apparently, you can read the series in whatever order you want, there is always some information from the other books. I intend to re-read all the other three books soon.

These are the first books in the series:
- "The Shadow of the Wind" (La Sombra del Viento)
- "The Angel’s Game" (El Juego del Ángel)
- "The Prisoner of Heaven" (El Prisionero del Cielo)

From the back cover:
"The internationally acclaimed New York Times bestselling author returns to the magnificent universe he constructed in his bestselling novels The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven in this riveting series finale - a heart-pounding thriller and nail-biting work of suspense which introduces a sexy, seductive new heroine whose investigation shines a light on the dark history of Franco’s Spain.

In this unforgettable final volume of Ruiz Zafón’s cycle of novels set in the universe of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, beautiful and enigmatic Alicia Gris, with the help of the Sempere family, uncovers one of the most shocking conspiracies in all Spanish history.

Nine-year-old Alicia lost her parents during the Spanish Civil War when the Nacionales (the fascists) savagely bombed Barcelona in 1938. Twenty years later, she still carries the emotional and physical scars of that violent and terrifying time. Weary of her work as investigator for Spain’s secret police in Madrid, a job she has held for more than a decade, the twenty-nine-year old plans to move on. At the insistence of her boss, Leandro Montalvo, she remains to solve one last case: the mysterious disappearance of Spain’s Minister of Culture, Mauricio Valls.

With her partner, the intimidating policeman Juan Manuel Vargas, Alicia discovers a possible clue - a rare book by the author Victor Mataix hidden in Valls’ office in his Madrid mansion. Valls was the director of the notorious Montjuic Prison in Barcelona during World War II where several writers were imprisoned, including David Martín and Victor Mataix. Traveling to Barcelona on the trail of these writers, Alicia and Vargas meet with several booksellers, including Juan Sempere, who knew her parents.

As Alicia and Vargas come closer to finding Valls, they uncover a tangled web of kidnappings and murders tied to the Franco regime, whose corruption is more widespread and horrifying than anyone imagined. Alicia’s courageous and uncompromising search for the truth puts her life in peril. Only with the help of a circle of devoted friends will she emerge from the dark labyrinths of Barcelona and its history into the light of the future.

In this haunting new novel, Carlos Ruiz Zafón proves yet again that he is a masterful storyteller and pays homage to the world of books, to his ingenious creation of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and to that magical bridge between literature and our lives."

Favourite quotes:
"You drink to remember, you write to forget." David Martín
and
"The Semperes travelled through books, not the map."

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Roach, Mary "My Planet"


Roach, Mary "My Planet. Finding Humor in the Oddest Places" - 2013


I have read articles by Mary Roach for a long time and certainly have been one of her biggest fans. I looked for a book by her ages ago and didn't find it. So now I was happy to hear from a friend that she did indeed publish several in the meantime. I had to get one immediately.

Whether she tells every phone operator what she thinks about their message "your phone call is important to me", talks about every woman's horror about getting their husbands to ask for directions or any other nightmares we might have with our beloved, she really does find humour in the oddest places.

On three pages, she tells us all about problems we face every day, maybe more when we are married but a lot also goes for single people. In any case, I'm glad I didn't read this on the bus. Her stories are a treasure and I will certainly look out for more.

From the back cover:

"A Hilarious Collection of Essays from one of America's Most Gifted Humorists!

Mary Roach, the bestselling author of Stiff, Spook, Bonk, and Packing for Mars, is considered one of the funniest science writers of all time. Roach removed the medical gauze to reveal a different side of her comedy in the Reader's Digest column "My Planet" - which was runner-up in the humor category of the National Press Club awards. Now available as a complete collection for the first time, the quirky, brilliant author takes a magnifying glass to everyday life, exposing moments of hilarity in the mundane and revealing amusing musings about marriage to, as she puts it, "the man I call Ed." 

Learn to laugh at your spouse's obsessions, appreciate automated customer service, and find pockets of pleasure in mazelike bargain stores. You'll never look at a grocery list the same way again."

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Craig, Charmaine "Miss Burma"


Craig, Charmaine "Miss Burma" - 2017


A recommendation by my blog friend Judy from Keep the Wisdom, (check out her post here) and I though it sounded totally interested. I had read a book about Burma/Myanmar before, so I didn't necessarily need to read it for my challenge "Travel the World Through Books" but that's not the main reason I do that list.

This story is based on the author's mother and grandparents, so I suppose a lot of the events are exactly as they happened. What a tragic story. If you are expecting a book about how a beauty queen is chosen, I wouldn't recommend it. If you want a book about Myanmar and its history, what they did to the people and why we didn't hear more about it, I highly recommend it. This novel reads a little more like a non-fiction book - which I like. There is so much the author covers about the history and culture of her country here, the different peoples that were thrown together. And we see what this does not only to her family but to all those members who don't belong to the ruling class. Her grandfather was a Jew from India, her grandmother a member of the Karen minority in Burma.

In any case, this is a great book if you want to learn more about that part of our world. And I think we all should know more about it.

From the back cover:
"Based on the remarkable lives of the author's mother and grandparents, Miss Burma is a beautiful and poignant story of how ordinary people come to be swept up in the fight for freedom.

A beautiful and poignant story of one family during the most violent and turbulent years of world history, Miss Burma is a powerful novel of love and war, colonialism and ethnicity, and the ties of blood.

It is 1939, and Benny, a young Jewish officer, is working for the British Customs Service in Burma. One day during his shift at the docks, he catches sight of a young woman with hair down to her ankles, standing at the end of a jetty. This is Khin, who belongs to Burma’s Karen ethnic minority group, which for centuries has been persecuted by the Burman majority. She and Benny soon marry, but when World War II comes to Asia, and Rangoon finds itself under threat of the Japanese occupation, the young couple and their baby daughter Louisa are forced to take shelter among Khin’s Karen countrymen in the eastern part of Burma. After the war, the British Empire strikes an independence deal with the Burman Nationalists, led by Aung San, leaving the Karen and other ethnic minority groups in a precarious position. Soon Benny will become an architect of the Karen revolution, which sparks the longest running civil war in recorded history.

Nearly a decade into the civil war. Louisa captures the country’s imagination, becoming Burma’s first national beauty queen. As she navigates her soaring fame and increasingly dire political reality, Louisa will be forced to reckon with her family’s past, the West’s ongoing covert dealings in Burma, and her own loyalty to the cause of the Karen people.

A captivating story of one family during the most violent and turbulent years of world history, Miss Burma is a masterful novel of love, war, and the struggle to lead a meaningful life."

Monday, 16 April 2018

Mbue, Imbolo "Behold the Dreamers"


Mbue, Imbolo "Behold the Dreamers" - 2016

Not as much a book about Cameroon but about immigrants in the States. There is some part that tells about Cameroon but the majority of the "action" takes place in New York City.

It is interesting to see the comparison with an immigrant family who had nothing back home and a US American who has everything and then everything falls to pieces as he loses his job, i.e. his company goes bankrupt. How they deal with the problems they are faced with.

This would be a great book club book. Does really everyone want to come to America? Are women treated that much differently in the two cultures? What about the children? Yes, great topics to discuss.

The characters were described very well, you got to like some of them a lot, others not so much. I don't think anyone is surprised to find that I preferred the Africans but I wonder how any of them would behave had they been born into the other culture …

This was a debut novel but I hope Imbole Mbue will write more.

From the back cover:
"Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty - and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job - even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice."

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The "Piggybank" Challenge 2018



This is my sixth year of taking part in this challenge and decided to carry on. Why? You will discover once you read this text:

This is a challenge idea by a German blogger. I have translated her text and you can find the original site here at "Willkommen im Bücherkaffee". They seem to have discontinued the challenge but I will carry on.

How long does this challenge last?
1 March 2018 to 1 March 2019

What goes into the piggybank?
For every book I've read - €2.00 into the piggybank
(Amount can be individually altered, of course)

Rules
• For every finished book, the amount chosen is inserted into the piggy bank/ money box.
• This money is then off limits until the end of the challenge, i.e. the piggybank stays closed.
• On 1 March the piggybank can be opened and you can go shopping extensively - or carry on reading and saving.
• Be consistent and put the money into the bank immediately, otherwise you will lose track easily. (Personally, I put the books I read right next to the money box  until I drop the money in, otherwise it gets forgotten very quickly. Only after that do i put the book back on the shelf.)
• A list of books read would be very nice because you can perfectly observe the savings success.
• In addition, it would be great if you post a challenge post on your blog. This way, everyone can follow the progress of the other challenge participants so much easier. If you don't have a blog, then just leave a comment here in the comments from time to time about your opinion or your progress.

Would you like to join us?
Go ahead! It is worthwhile in any care and you will certainly not regret it.

Just write in the comments or by email to buecherkaffee@yahoo.de and send your link to the post. You may use the challenge logo with a link to the challenge in the Bücherkaffee.

The hashtag for the Twitter exchange : # Sparstrumpf

Last year, I read 136 books in that timeframe which resulted in €272 to spend on something nice. :-D

My progress (I add the German title, if available, for my German friends):

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "Das Labyrinth der Lichter" (El laberinto de los espíritus - El cementerio de los libros olvidados #4/The Labyrinth of the Spirits) - 2016 

Scott, Mary; West, Joyce "No Red Herrings" (Das Rätsel der Hibiskus-Brosche) - 1964 (Inspector Wright #4)
Bollen, Christopher "The Destroyers" - 2017
Olson, Pamela J. "Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland" - 2011 

Schaik, Carel van & Michel, Kai "The Good Book of Human Nature: An Evolutionary Reading of the Bible" (Das Tagebuch der Menschheit. Was die Bibel über unsere Evolution verrät) - 2016
Bandi (반디) "The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea" (고발/Gobal/Denunziation) - 2014

 
My lists of 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Piercy, Joseph "The Story of English


Piercy, Joseph "The Story of English: How an Obscure Dialect became the World's Most-Spoken Language" - 2012

I love languages. I love to know everything about them, so I can't really pass over a book that says "The Story of English: How an Obscure Dialect became the World's Most-Spoken Language". Obscure dialect. That sounds interesting.

I have read a lot about how the English language developed, I know about the Celts and the Romans, the Angles and the Saxons, the Vikings and the Normans and you can tell which words come from which language and why English has such a weird spelling. We know about Chaucer, Shakespeare and many other important writers and what they have done to shape the language.

This book reads like a novel about some people who inhabited a small island, were invaded and then started to invade otters, as well. Totally interesting. There is a lot of history in this book but you can't understand the English language without getting into their history.

It's a quick story about the evolution of the language (less than 200 pages), not as funny as those by Bill Bryson ("Mother Tongue", "Troublesome Words" and "Made in America") but still not a bad read.

My favourite quotes:

"To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up."
George Orwell, English Novelist (1903-59)

and

"If you describe things as better than they are, you are thought a romantic; if you describe things as worse than they are, you are thought a realist; if you describe things exactly as they are, you will be thought a satirist."
Quentin Crisp, English Writer and Raconteur (1908-99)

From the back cover:
"This is the compelling account of how the obscure dialects spoken by tribes from what are now Denmark, the Low Countries, and northern Germany became the most widely spoken language in the world.

English may have originated with just one country, but it is actually built upon influences from many different languages. From the Anglo-Saxons in the fifth century to the Normans in the eleventh, and on to present-day America, The Story of English shows how our language has evolved during the last two millenia.

Divided chronologically into sections ranging from pre-Roman and Latin influences to today's global language, this fascinating book also explores, among much else, the history of the printing press, the works of Chaucer, the evolution of The American Dictionary of the English Language - better known as Webster's - and the magisterial Oxford English Dictionary, to the use of slang in today's speech and the coming of electronic messaging: language for a postmodern world. 

The Story of English is the perfect gift for any lover not just of English, but of the history and development of language."