Friday, 19 May 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"The mere brute pleasure of reading - the sort of pleasure a cow must have in grazing." Lord Chesterfield

"I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. It's tosh. It's snobbery and it's foolishness. Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading. We need our children to get onto the reading ladder. Anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy." Neil Gaimain

"Books amuse and touch. And they can distract - not least from ourselves." Andrea Gerk "Reading as Medicine" ("Lesen als Medizin")

"Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keep friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment." Greenville Kleisser

"To survive, you must tell stories." Umberto Eco

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi "Half of a Yellow Sun"

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi "Half of a Yellow Sun" - 2006

I remember the time when we were teenagers and I was a member of a youth group at church. We bought oranges, wrote "Biafra" on them and sold them after mass. We wanted to help all those poor children that were dying of hunger in Biafra.

I don't think many of us knew where Biafra was. After all, it was a new country. We learned the African countries at school but Biafra hadn't been among them.

And even though I am sure many others have collected money for Biafra, I totally can relate to the quote "The world was silent when we died." Yes, we were silent, we are still silent. Many of us don't know what happened and I am so content that I read this story and learned a little bit more about a part of this continent that still has to overcome so many problems thrown at them by us Europeans. Biafra is just one of the areas, I can think of many others, Rwanda, for example.

This book has been on my TBR pile for a while. Why? I think the only reason is that my TBR pile is too large. The book is marvelous. The story just throws you right into the lives of Ugwu, Olanna and Odenigbo, Kainene and Richard. You are in the middle of their struggles, their problems, their will to survive. What a fantastic story. You want to finish it within a day but you also don't ever want to finish it because you are afraid of what is coming at the end. You get to know not only the characters but the whole situation, you get to know the country and the history. Just brilliant.

The title of this novel represents the flag of Biafra, a flag I had never seen, therefore the title didn't tell me anything at all. But if you know the flag, all becomes clear. Look it up.

I will surely read more by this wonderful author.

From the back cover:
"In 1960s Nigeria, a country blighted by civil war, three lives intersect. Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university lecturer. Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. The third is Richard, a shy Englishman in thrall to Olanna`s enigmatic twin sister. When the shocking horror of the war engulfs them, their loyalties are severely tested as they are pulled apart and thrown together in ways that none of them imagined ..."

The author lists a lot of books that she used for research. I think all of them would be worth reading, as well, though I doubt I will ever manage to finish them all.

Achebe, Chinua "Girls at War and Other Stories"
Amadi, Elechi "Sunset in Biafra"
Brandler, J.L. "Out of Nigeria"
Collis, Robert "Nigeria in Conflict"
De St. Jorre, John "the Nigerian Civil War"
Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert "The Biafran War: Nigeria and the Aftermath"
Ekwensi, Cyprian "Divided We Stand"
Emecheta, Buchi "Destination Biafra"
Enekwe, Ossie "Come Thunder"
Forsyth, Frederick "Biafra Story"
Gold, Herbert "Biafra Goodbye"
Ike, Chukwuemeka "Sunset at Dawan"
Iroh, Eddie "The Siren at Night"
Jacobs, Dan "The Brutality of Nations"
Kanu, Anthonia "Broken Lives and Other Stories"
Madiebo, Alex "the Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War"
Mok, Micheal "Biafra Journal
Niven, Rex "The War of Nigerian Unity"
Njoku, Hilary "A Tragedy Without Heroes"
Nwankwo, Arthur Agwuncha "The Making of a Nation"
Nwapa, Flora "Never Again"
Nwapa, Flora "Wives at War"
Odogwu, Bernard "No Place to Hide: Crises and Conflicts Inside Biafra"
Okigbo, Christopher "Labyrinths"
Okonta, Ike and Douglas, Oronta "Where Vultures Feed"
Okpaku, Joseph "Nigeria: Dilemma of Nationhood"
Okpi, Kalu "Biafra Testament"
Soyinka, Wole "The Man Died
Stremlau, John J. "The International Politics of the Nigerian Civil War"
Uwechue, Ralph "Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War"
Uzokwe, Alfred Obiora "Surviving in Biafra"

There are more books mentioned at the end by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and other African writers that are worth reading:

Achebe, Chinua "Arrow of God"
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi "Purple Hibiscus"
Chinodya, Shimmer "Harvest of Thorns"
Oguibe, Olu "Lessons from the Killing Fields"
Wainana, Binyavanga “How To Write About Africa.”

She also mentions this book several times in the novel:
Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave"

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Ballantyne, Tony "Dream London" - 2013

Ballantyne, Tony "Dream London" - 2013

I love London and I love reading about it. I also love dreaming about it but this book was not my thing. Too much fantasy, too little of anything else, the plot goes all over the place and makes no sense at all. Not my type of book.

I doubt I will read another book of "The Dream World" series, looks like Paris is the next one. I think I rather read something historical about them, like anything by Edward Rutherfurd.

From the back cover:
"Captain Jim Wedderburn has looks, style and courage. He's adored by women, respected by men and feared by his enemies. He's the man to find out who has twisted London into this strange new world.

But in Dream London the city changes a little every night and the people change a little every day. The towers are growing taller, the parks have hidden themselves away and the streets form themselves into strange new patterns. There are people sailing in from new lands down the river, new criminals emerging in the East End and a path spiralling down to another world.

Everyone is changing, no one is who they seem to be."

Friday, 12 May 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"Let us tenderly and kindly cherish therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write." John Adams

"When you read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before. You see more in you than was there before." Clifton Fadiman

"He that loves reading has everything within his reach." William Godwin

"Never discourage anyone...who continually makes progress, no matter how slow." Plato

"Usually, when people get to the end of a chapter, they close the book and go to sleep. I deliberately write a book so when the reader gets to the end of the chapter, he or she must turn one more page." Sidney Sheldon

"I like big books and I cannot lie." N.N. 

[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Scott, Mary "It Was Meant" - 1974

Scott, Mary "It Was Meant" - 1974

Another reread of the pleasurable books by Mary Scott. Since I read her novels as a teenager, I always dreamt of New Zealand. Not that I would have loved to live during the time Mary Scott and her husband had to run their farm but the author makes it sound so pleasant and lovely.

As in all her other books, there is so much humour in this one, even thought she doesn't even mention a library, usally one of the locations her heroines are seen in. This story shows us a bus tour, a pre-school, a gas station, a hospital and a farm. And a dog, of course, there always has to be at least one animal in her stories.

Maybe these books are outdated but they are a reminder of my youth and I always like coming back to them.

Unfortunately, Mary Scott's books are out of print and only available second hand. I have heard in the meantime, that you can buy some of them as eBooks.

From the back cover: (translated)
"A storm can be good for many things, as witnessed by Elizabeth Mortimer, called Liz, on an adventurous bus trip to the north of New Zealand. She meets a group of enterprising women from Windythorpe, and these newfound friends give her life a new meaning.
Liz decides to start her new life in Windythorpe. And, of course, this decision is right. Firstly, she unexpectedly rediscovers her friend Kay and secondly she finds the man of her life. In the end there is even a nice double wedding - to the delight of the people of Windythorpe."

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Grass, Günter "The Box: Tales from the Darkroom"

Grass, Günter "The Box: Tales from the Darkroom" (German: Die Box. Dunkelkammergeschichten) (Autobiographical Trilogy #2) - 2008

I think I can easily say that Günter Grass is one of my favourite authors. This novel is the sequel to "Peeling the Onion", the first book in his autobiographical trilogy.

In this book, he lets his children tell his story, or rather the part of his life where he has the children. There are quite a few of them, six of his own, two of his last wife, they all get together during various events and tell their side of their youth, of growing up together and/or apart. They also tell us about the mysterious photo box of one of the author's friends, Maria Rama. Her camera can show you the past and the future. It shows the wishes and desires of everyone on the pictures. It makes the story even more interesting, more imaginative. What could happen, what could have happened, I like that.

Even though this is more a novel than a real autobiography, I still think it tells a lot about the author's life and that time in Germany. A fascinating story.

I'm looking forward to number three of this series "Grimms Wörter. Eine Liebeserklärung" (Grimm's Words. A Love Declaration).

From the back cover:
"'Once upon a time there was a father who, because he had grown old, called together his sons and daughters—four, five, six, eight in number—and finally convinced them, after long hesitation, to do as he wished. Now they are sitting around a table and begin to talk . .'

In an audacious literary experiment, Günter Grass writes in the voices of his eight children as they record memories of their childhoods, of growing up, of their father, who was always at work on a new book, always at the margins of their lives. Memories contradictory, critical, loving, accusatory—they piece together an intimate picture of this most public of men. To say nothing of Marie, Grass’s assistant, a family friend of many years, perhaps even a lover, whose snapshots taken with an old-fashioned Agfa box camera provide the author with ideas for his work. But her images offer much more. They reveal a truth beyond the ordinary detail of life, depict the future, tell what might have been, grant the wishes in visual form of those photographed. The children speculate on the nature of this magic: was the enchanted camera a source of inspiration for their father? Did it represent the power of art itself? Was it the eye of God?

Recalling J. M. Coetzee’s Summertime and Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, The Box is an inspired and daring work of fiction. In its candor, wit, and earthiness, it is Grass at his best."

Günter Grass "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

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, 8 May 2017

Laker, Rosalind "The Golden Tulip" - 1989

Laker, Rosalind "The Golden Tulip" - 1989

The members of our book club wanted to read something about the Netherlands, so I suggested this one that I had recently found.

Francesca is the daughter of a late 17th century Amsterdam painter and an aspiring painter herself. She begins an apprenticeship with a not so famous painter, later better known: Johannes Vermeer.

I had never heard of Rosalind Laker but when I checked what she had written, I wasn't surprised, most of the titles of her books sound like "threepenny novels" or rather chick lit to me.

However, this was a pleasant enough story about how life was in the 17th century, especially for women. Add a little bit of Dutch history, a little bit of art, and you have a story.

Not a bad story, certainly a book that can initiate a lot of talk.

We discussed this in our book club in March 2017.

From the back cover: "Francesca’s father is a well-known painter in the bustling port city of Amsterdam; he is also a gambler. Though their household is in economic chaos, thankfully the lessons she learned in his studio have prepared her to study with Johannes Vermeer, the master of Delft.

When she arrives to begin her apprenticeship, Francesca is stunned to find rules, written in her father’s hand, insisting that she give up the freedoms she once enjoyed at home- including her friendship with Pieter van Doorne, a tulip merchant. Unaware of a terrible bargain her father has made against her future, Francesca pursues her growing affection for Pieter even as she learns to paint like Vermeer, in layers of light. As her talent blooms, 'tulip mania' sweeps the land, and fortunes are being made on a single bulb. What seems like a boon for Pieter instead reveals the extent of the betrayal of Francesca’s father. And as the two learn the true nature of the obstacles in their path, a patron of Francesca’s father determines to do anything in his power to ensure she stays within the limits that have been set for her.

The Golden Tulip brings one of the most exciting periods of Dutch history alive, creating a page-turning novel that is as vivid and unforgettable as a Vermeer painting."

Other books I read on the same subject:

Chevalier, Tracy "Girl with a Pearl Earring" - 1999
Dash, Mike "Tulipomania: The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused" - 2000
Marini, Lorenzo "The Man of the Tulips" (Italian: L'uomo dei tulipani) - 2002
Moggach, Deborah "Tulip Fever" - 1999
Pavord, Anna "The Tulip" - 2004
Vreeland, Susan "Girl in Hyacinth Blue" 1999