Tuesday, 23 August 2011

My favorite books, never reviewed!

My Shelfari shelf displays 23 favorite books. Those are the ones I marked with a heart because I enjoyed reading them more than all the other books on my shelf. And reading them made me happy and sad. Those books were able whirl up the most extreme emotions. That is why I love them.

As I started blogging a little over one year ago, I never wrote a review for all the lovely books I read prior to blogging. Here is a shout out for my ten favorite books for which I never wrote a review.

On the list from top left to bottom right:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Set this House in Order by Matt Ruff
What I loved by Siri Hustvedt
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
ExtremelyLoud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Thoughts: Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky

Irène Némirovsky died in Auschwitz in 1942. A suitcase which harbored the manuscript of Suite Francaise was opened in the 90s for the first time. An unfinished masterpiece came to light. Némirovsky purposed a book build like a symphony made of five pieces. But there was only time for two pieces before she was deported.

The first part Storm in June deals with Parisian war refugees. Germany is up to take Paris and people see themselves forced to flee their homes, hastily pack their dearest belongings, catch a train or a car, or if that is not possible walk. On the streets reigns chaos, heavily packed cars have come to a halt because of a lack of gas, guest-houses are overcrowded and the refugees are hungry, especially the children. Nobody knows how long this, the war, the hunger, the misery, is going on. Those are the miserable conditions in 1940 in German-occupied France.

Némirovsky already introduces us to a varying set of characters in the first part, who all seem so real and whose problems are touching. There are the Michauds, an elderly couple, whose son fights in the war. Poor Madame Michaud keeps looking for the face of her son in the stream of passing soldiers. The Perrins, a rich family with a grumpy old grandpa on whom lays the hope of a rich heir and lots of children; one a young priest, who is killed by the orphan boys, which were entrusted on him and Hubert, who is only sixteen but wants to fight and therefore leaves his family. There is also Corbin, the owner of a bank, the Michauds are working for him, he has got an affair with a young dancer and now wants to safe her as well as his wife and the very important documents of the bank.

The second part Sweet deals with the young German soldiers occupying the villages. Each French family, be they aristocrats or peasants, has to take at least one enemy in. But the young Germans are polite and cheerful, they make a positive impression. Here and there gentle bonds are flowering. Quite a few are torn between the human beings those soldiers are and the enemy they represent.

Lucille is one of the main characters in the second part. She is meant to be a young and beautiful but cold woman. But the German officer living in her house stirs up some forgotten emotions.

Némirovsky's language mediates feelings and a sense for the surroundings. I especially loved that. Her linguistic pictures overwhelmed me now and then. One example would be the raindrops on the window panes running down like tears. I think everybody should read this and be swept away by the author's genius.

The story ends with the soldiers leaving for Russia. Némirovsky planned to take up a third part about imprisonment from here.

5 stars, of course!

Monday, 15 August 2011

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Last week I posted a review of The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, which you can read here.

And as I plan a trip to Lisbon I posted a list of sites, which helped me getting some insider information on the city. You can read the post here.

Last week I finshed reading Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky. I will post a review this week. Unfortunately I made no progress on reading The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto last week, which I will try to finish this week.

I also plan on reading A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka this week. After that I will probably pick up The Gathering by Anne Enright or The Likeness by Tana French.

Have you read or plan on reading any of my books? Did you like them?

And as for the weekend: It was fantabulous. We had a treasure hunt I organized for my friend's birthday. Everybody had fun and as for a treasure there were two birthday cakes I made. For ten people you better have two cakes, right?

It's Monday is hosted by Sheila from BookJourney.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

If you plan a trip to Lisbon ...

As you might know, I'm going to visit Lisbon in September. While I prepared my trip, I thought it was very difficult to find some decent sites, which provide some insider tips or the really lovely sights only known to locals. I decided to put a list of official sites and private blogs together, which to me were very helpful.

I already jotted down some notes in my beloved Lisboa city notebook. I for sure want to check out the Pasteis de Belem, some kind of pastry filled with custard and the Oceanario, the biggest oceanarium in Europe.

For more information check
out those sites:

1. Visit Lisboa - is an official site about everything Lisbon, certified by Turismo de Lisboa.

2. The Lisbon Connection - a Lisbon guide from the inside, provides awesome tips about an alternative Lisbon.

3. Spotted by Locals Lisbon - offers reviews of famous sights and places in Lisbon by people who live in the city.

4. In Love with Lisbon - a very personal view on all things Lisbon has to offer.

5. This article from delicious days - delicious days is an awarded food blog and author Nicky shares the most beatuiful and delicious spots she visited during her stay.

BTW has anybody read Nighttrain to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier? Have you enjoyed it? I am considering it as accompanied reading during my stay.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Thoughts: The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

The day Flimmy, Templeton's lake monster, is found dead is also the day when Willy Upton arrives back home. She is pregnant and the father of her child is her married professor. Willy has to make up her mind whether she wants to keep the child or not. During her stay she learns that her own father is not a man her mother lived with in a commune, as she was always told, but a man from Templeton. Her mother leaves it to Willy to find out who it really is. The only clue she provides is that her father, too, is a descendant of Marmaduke Temple, the founder of Templeton who lived in the 19th century.

This novel encompasses the lives of about five generations of descendants of Marmaduke Temple. Though this could turn out confusing, Groff managed to keep it neat. Every time Willy gets to know something profoundly new about her family the changes are drawn into a family tree. I personally like to watch family trees, I don't know why exactly. But Willy's search for the truth holds lots of surprises and reveals some odd birds, while her personal life takes twists and turns, too. Sometimes I just couldn't understand Willy's emotional life, e.g. why she is so angry with her mother, or why Primus Dwyer, her professor, suddenly is an a..hole. ***spoiler*** Must have been the pregnancy which later turns out to be a pseudo pregnancy.

I very much fell for one of the last chapters about Flimmy and how it comes that it died, it was sad but beautiful.

It is a strong debut novel and a shame it is not more well known in the reading world. Four stars.

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Since my last Monday post tthree weeks ago I read and reviewed:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins which I couldn't put down and whole heartedly gave five stars - see my review here.
The Giver by Lois Lowry which was not my cup of tea - see my review here.
I also read The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff which I'm going to review this week.

I am reading Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky now. Let's say that the writing is beautiful, the story so true it hardly can be called a novel and the characters are diverse and lovely. I am also reading The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto, where there is not much action going on but deep thinking.

After those two I'll probably pick up A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka. I read that it is humorous. Have you read it?

It's Monday is hosted by Sheila from BookJourney.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Thoughts: The Giver by Lois Lowry

I totally liked the initial concept of this book. Imagine a world where you get served up with everything you need, a family, meals and even your job. You do not need to make your own decisions, you only need to obey some simple rules, like not asking any rude question and the precise use of language. This is the sort of controlled world Jonas lives in. Where the community lacks the memories of the world as it was. The social commentary is easily grasped. I was really looking forward to exploring the world Lowry created.

But the novel lacked in execution. Everything was either black or white. There was either individualism or sameness. The community or Elsewhere. Plenty of food in the birth-controlled society or starvation, overpopulation and warfare outside. And although Jonas immediately understood that a life without memories and emotions and individualism was not right, there was never even a hint about how and why the community decided to live this way. We are given to believe that the community abandoned warfare but operates planes and trains pilots. And what about the other communities' receivers of memories? Do they share their memories? They are not even acknowledged.

I understood the concept of 'release' immediately as euthanasia, because even children could be 'released'. But the whole community lacks understanding it, is even looking forward to it, although the Nurturers and Caregivers execute the actual 'release'. I wonder how the society managed to hide the truth from itself.

And for the ending well, I wondered about it. But I, as many others, could put no sense into it. This must be because the whole rest of it lacks sense, too. Sorry, absolutely not my cup of tea.