Article

Books in 2011 and 2012

My book count in 2011 was not that great, I must admit. Of the 100 books planned (that figure just came to me because it looks so nice, it’s not that I had a real *plan*) I have only started 67, and only finished 55. 12 were DNFs! Here are all the books I tried to tackle in 2011:

Books read in 2011 

Pages read: 16.979 minus all the DNF pages, which I can’t possible find out. Some of them were some real chunksters, like Udolpho or Empress

In 2012 I must be a little less ambitious. For the Outdo yourself reading challenge I chose the “Getting my heart rate up” level, which means 1-5 books more than in 2011.

Where does this leave me for 2012? At 56 to 60 books!

For the other challenges I joined twenty books are already certain to be read (theoretically, at least). 36 to 40 are open to whim. Knowing me I have an inkling that this is a bad idea, but we will see how it goes.

What are your reading goals for the new year?

Article

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith

friendsBlurb:

In this delightful second installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s best-selling new detective series, the irrepressibly curious Isabel Dalhousie, editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, gets caught up in an affair of the heart—this one a transplant.
When Isabel’s niece, Cat, asks Isabel to run her delicatessen while she attends a wedding in Italy, Isabel meets a man with a most interesting problem. He recently had a heart transplant and is suddenly plagued with memories of events that never happened to him. The situation appeals to Isabel as a philosophical question: Is the heart truly the seat of the soul? And it piques her insatiable curiosity: Could the memories be connected with the donor’s demise? Of course, Grace—Isabel’s no-nonsense housekeeper—and Isabel’s friend Jamie think it is none of Isabel’s business. Meanwhile, Cat brings home an Italian lothario, who, in accordance with all that Isabel knows about Italian lotharios, shouldn’t be trusted . . . but, goodness, he is charming.
That makes two mysteries of the heart to be solved—just the thing for Isabel Dalhousie.


In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Yes       

For people who like: cosy mysteries, philosophical  musings, Edinburgh


My thoughts: 

This is the second instalment in “The Sunday Philosophy Club “ series and another delightful read. The atmospheric Edinburgh setting, the “mystery” and the lovely characters make for another very cosy read.

Isabel herself is a character I am not 100% sure about. Do I like her or do I dislike her? In this book I tended towards the latter because she came over as a terrible busybody who just can’t leave anything alone. Her excuse that she has a “moral obligation” to act because someone told her something and now she is somehow responsible for the outcome is rather shaky. Ian never asked her to act – either on his behalf or independently – and still she digs and digs and hurts people along the way. She is the type who stops at nothing just to salve her own conscience (which is an oxymoron really, when you come to think about it).

In this particular case she tries to find the person who donated the organ and does so by flipping through papers to find a death, eventually finds one that seems the right one and assumes he is the donor. How naive and simplistic can you get? And this from a person who is supposed to be a philosopher who thinks every little detail through until the very end. First of all how likely is it that an organ donor dies in the city where the recipient lives? Who says that the dead person was an organ donor at all? Her method is “assuming – acting” without one bit of thought for the people involved. So she goes, hurts the supposed donor’s family and makes an enemy at the same time.

There is no end to her rash acts and  inconsideration in this story. When it would be better to call Jamie to get her out of a tricky situation she rather calls Ian and gets him into an even trickier one! The poor man just had a heart transplant, but she calls him (without warning to boot) to go and meet the person eye to eye who supposedly causes his anguish!

And what about the wish of the donor’s family to remain anonymous? It’s nothing to Isabel. To hunt them down she doesn’t shy away from asking a journalist friend to call in a favour from a surgeon who surely has to violate medical confidentiality. Then she goes and visits the mother who tells her that the father of the donor doesn’t know about the donation and she wants to leave it at that. Can you guess Isabel’s next action? Right! She goes and visits the father (who seems like a nice guy to her) and tells him about it.

She goes through the whole story pondering philosophical issues, pondering what it takes to be a good and charitable person and at the same time judges any situation or person according to her whim and acts on that without any respect for the wishes, feelings and possible consequences for other people.

The most amazing thing is that Isabel still comes over as only human and rather likeable – even though I wanted to beat some sense into her throughout the book.

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Map UKRobert Fergusson's grave

Product info and buy link :

Title Friends, Lovers, Chocolate
Author Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher Anchor
ISBN 9781400077106
I got this book from I bought it
Buy link Buy Friends, Lovers, Chocolate
More info Alexander McCall Smith’s website

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Head over Heel by Chris Harrison

head_over_heelBlurb:

Presents the author’s story of leaving his previous life for La Dolce Vita – or rather the Southern Italian version of that seductive way of life,with its luscious foods, physical beauty and sun-drenched vistas.

 

 

 


In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Yes, but found it too detailed and I lost interest

For people who like: Southern Italy, stories about getting used to another way of life, Mediterranean flair


My thoughts: 

Head over Heel is a fun book about the “adventures” of an Australian moving to Italy to be with his Italian girlfriend. He goes to Italy and has to deal with the very unusual everyday life, corruption, language and what not that every expatriate has to face in one way or the other.

I found the book very amusing and entertaining, however, I just couldn’t be bothered reading about all the details of Italian life. Chris Harrison describes many aspects and I just found it too tedious, maybe because I have been to Italy numerous times (even though never as a resident) and didn’t find the situations as strange as other readers might. I stopped reading after maybe 80 pages when the plot hadn’t gone very far yet and the couple was about to move from the South to the very different North of Italy, so I assume there were many more surprises in store for the narrator.

If you have never been to Italy and know next to nothing about it, you will enjoy this greatly.


Location: Andrano, Puglia, Italy

Map Andrano Festa Madonna delle GraziePiazza Castello 

All images from wikipedia. Image of piazza by user Lupiae


Product info and buy link :

Title Head over heel
Author Chris Harrison
Publisher Nicholas Brealey Publishing
ISBN 978-1857885217
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy Head Over Heel

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Empress by Evelyn McCune

empress Blurb:

Sweeping through exotic, turbulent seventh-century China, EMPRESS is the captivating epic of one extraordinary woman who would become the only female emperor in all of China’s history. The story of Wu Jao, set against the backdrop of medieval China, reveals not only an age of horrifying barbarism, daring treachery, and precarious power, but also an eternal culture of sophistication and enlightenment.

 

 

 


In a nutshell:

I read it in: German

I liked it:     Yes up to half of the book

For people who like: Ancient China, historical fiction


My thoughts:

 

The cover

Now, before anyone cries out and complains about the cover: Yes, yes, I know. Thanks to the amazingly knowledgeable reviewers on amazon.com I have learned that the cover of this book is totally wrong, a shame, incredible negligence on the publisher’s part, how could they?! This is not an image of anyone in China during the 7th century , but it is (or is supposed to be) Ci Xi, the Empress Dowager who lived from 1835 until 1908. An unforgivable mistake that occupies everybody more than actually reading the book does. Or so it seems.

Obviously I am the only one who did not immediately realize this and who didn’t jump at the throat of Ballantine Books or Goldmann, the German publisher who made the same mistake. The Germans only used a photo of the older Ci Xi. I wonder whether just one particularly scholarly person on amazon said “Hey, this can’t be Wu Jao, her dress is not right, this is a dress from 1889, and therefore this must be Ci Xi. The publisher screwed the cover up.” and all the following reviewers didn’t want to lose face and chimed in or whether really every reviewer knew this anyway. God, people, chill out a bit!

 

Another DNF

This is another DNF for me, I am afraid. I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the book. All the intrigues and the machinations of the courtiers were exciting and entertaining to read. After Wu Jao became empress I lost interest. Somehow I found her character right after that turning point in her life rather strange, because it was not in accordance with her previous one. I didn’t like at all one particular incident and therefore I gave up on her and her story. I couldn’t face reading another 300 pages or so just for the sake of finishing it.

Sorry!

 

You like Judge Dee?

Oh, one more thing. If you are a fan of Judge Dee, this might be of interest to you. He was mentioned by Wu Jao early on as one of her childhood friends when she was still living at home. Since he later became chancellor I assume he will play a part in the second half of the book.


Location: China during the Tang Dynasty, 7th century

China during Tang dynasty Taizong giving an audience

Official portrait of Wu Zetian at Wu's burial place


Movie tip

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

 


Product info and buy link :

Title Empress
Author Evelyn McCune
Publisher Ballantine Books
ISBN 978-0449907498
I got this book from some sort of bookcrossing
Buy link Buy Empress
More info More about Wu Jao on wikipedia

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith

The Sunday Philosophy Club vcBlurb:

Isabel, the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics and an occasional detective, has been accused of getting involved in problems that are, quite frankly, none of her business. In this first instalment, Isabel is attending a concert in the Usher Hall when she witnesses a man fall from the upper balcony. Isabel can’t help wondering whether it was the result of mischance or mischief. Against the best advice of her no-nonsense housekeeper Grace, her bassoon playing friend Jamie, and even her romantically challenged niece Cat, she is morally bound to solve this case.

 


In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Yes, very much      

For people who like: cosy mysteries, philosophical  musings, Edinburgh


My thoughts: 

What a treat! After reading “The perils of morning coffee” I was eager to read the first book in the series and I wasn’t disappointed. “The Sunday Philosophy Club” was not only cosy, but even gentle, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Isabel Dalhousie sort of becomes entangled in a mystery – to tell the truth, she gets involved by choice –, and tries to get behind the reason for a young man’s death. A death that the police finds unsuspicious, it was an accident to everybody but Isabel.

In her sleuthing attempts she meets interesting people and continuously ponders philosophical issues. It was interesting to observe how her awareness of how to be nice and charitable was thrown out the window when she herself assumes the worst of people and is not too shy to share those thoughts with others. Often we would just read an inner monologue where she tries to decide what to do and what it entails, then again she has delightful conversations with her housekeeper Grace, her niece Cat and other people somehow involved either in her life or the case. Especially Grace was a wonderful character whom I will be happy to hear more about in the next books.

I very much liked the location (how could one not love Edinburgh?), the description of social life there and the different circles Isabel got in contact with, the philosophers, the musicians, the financiers. Our sleuth Isabel  has quite a vivid imagination. She is rather quick with her assumptions and conclusions, and in her mind someone turns from friend and ally to murderer in a heartbeat. It was fun to see how her carefully thought out ideas turned to dust.

Now I am coming to Jamie. I am not sure what to think about Isabel’s relationship with him. In the short story I read previously he was there also (that story is set later on, not sure when) and from the context and his being mentioned in the way he was I gathered he was Isabel’s boyfriend, husband, someone along those lines. Now it turns out he is Cat’s ex boyfriend and Isabel and he are only good friends, even though Isabel might be a little bit in love with the younger man. So, I am curious to see how that relationship develops and into what direction.

This was a delightful first book of a series that makes me want to read the next one right NOW. 

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Map UKUsher Hall

Images from wikipedia. Usher Hall by Kim Traynor

Product info and buy link :

Title The Sunday Philosophy Club
Author Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher Anchor
ISBN 978-1400077090
I got this book from the library
Buy link Buy The Sunday Philosophy Club
More info The Sunday Philosophy Club series
and more Alexander McCall Smith’s website

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

B.P.R.D. Being Human by Mike Mignola and others

No, I still am not reading graphic novels. This is another review by John.

being_human Blurb:

Mike Mignola”s strangest heroes, in their earliest adventures! In terrifying tales of witchcraft and the undead, Abe Sapien, Roger, Liz Sherman, and Johann Kraus learn the ropes as agents of the Bureau For Paranormal Research and Defense! Abe reels with the guilt of surviving a mission that killed more experienced agents, Roger goes on his first adventure with Hellboy, Liz tells the story of how she killed her family, and Johann Kraus dies!

 

 

 


In a nutshell:

John read it in: English

He liked it:   Yes     

For people who like: graphic novels for mature readers, tales of the supernatural, Hellboy


John’s thoughts: 

This is another welcome anthology of short stories featuring the characters of the B.P.R.D. The collection consists of three longish strips and one very short one.

We have encountered references to Liz Sherman’s past, specifically her unintentional killing of her family, and to Johann Krause’s unfortunate demise during the Ghengdhou disaster previously over the period the B.P.R.D. stories have been published, but both were not dealt with in any great detail, and there were blanks in the narrative. This book seeks to fill in those gaps and does so relatively well.

The Liz Sherman story, whilst interesting, is possibly the weakest of these  stories in that we see how the terrible tragedy happened, but as the event unfolds it turns out there’s not actually that much to it at all, and the accidental burning of her family does not play the central role in the story that one expects.

Also there does seem to be a lack of emotion at the centre of the story as it is related, with the central harrowing event not having any deep emotional resonance even with the characters. In fact the episode reads more as a coming of age story than as something which mars her life. The main event here is how she and Bruttenholm deal with the haunting of a local community, and is standard B.P.R.D. fayre. This is a world in which magic and witchcraft exist and witches on the whole are a bad lot. The witch theme is often revisited and this is no different as  we encounter a witch haunting a local priest in the story.  Still, although I feel the key event in Liz’s life perhaps could have been dealt with better on the whole it is well written and enjoyable.

The Johann Krause story for me was much better than that featuring Liz Sherman. I feel this story could only have been written now with the character of Krause having been fully developed over the series. The villain of the piece is interesting, and the story emphasises the determination of Krause supporting the character’s arc quite well. His reasoning for donning the survival suit are both believable and unexpected. The end frame of this piece is a brilliant image that brought to mind the iconic image of the Priest in the Exorcist. The composition of that end frame is quite superb and hints at the outcome between Krause and the villain more clearly than a 5 page story. Absolutely wonderful.

The shortest piece in the anthology –  ‘Casualties’ –  is a sort of throwaway story, only a few  pages long but somehow very satisfying. For me this underlines the title of the anthology ‘Being Human’. The characters are stating the obvious but it has a nice emotional heart at it’s centre. I always enjoy these stories where we are given glimpses of the characters questioning their actions and reasoning it out. These always build on the human element, and enrich the characterisation, and although short, these type of stories are often amongst the most enjoyable.

The last strip features Roger the Homonculus who was killed earlier in the series. I like this aspect of the B.P.R.D. where the reader can revisit characters who have left the B.P.R.D. universe, often tragically. We encounter Professor Bruttenholm in the Liz Sherman story as well of course. I like the way there is no reset button on the death of a major character, it is a breath of fresh air amongst comic books where the reset button is pressed way too often. Usually we find these characters being revisited in their new stories earlier in their timeline way before the events that led to their demise come about. This is the case in this story featuring Roger and Hellboy. Roger always came across as a reluctant hero, and this aspect of the character is underlined here once more. The only problems I have with these sort of stories are the outcome and the fact that there is no consequences for the actions of a character, as if nothing takes place in the real world. Well, this is the Universe of Hellboy so I suppose this is to be expected.

This is a tale of revenge  where a practitioner of Voudoun has come to exact a terrible price for the misdeeds of others. It left me with a bit of a nasty aftertaste. Of course denouements in comics are often violent so I shouldn’t be surprised, endings are often throwaway as well with things quickly resolved. I was personally sympathetic to the antagonist and I feel the point of the story, which was somehow to help Roger grow and appear human, although he isn’t, could have been handled a bit better. Sometimes it is hard to see the reasoning behind how these stories develop – probably it’s a sign of the times – but not in a good way.

In the collection overall the writing is a bit of a mixed bag, the artwork is immaculate, of course, with some very beautiful page compositions. For a long time fan of the B.P.R.D. the anthology is a pleasant interlude between the developing major arc. Although I have some minor reservations with one or two of the stories, still, it  is certainly the case that the Universe of the B.P.R.D. and Hellboy remains the most detailed and interesting in the comics milieu at the moment, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes comics aimed at the mature market.

Product info and buy link :

Title B.P.R.D Being Human
Author Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Scott Allie, Richard Corben, Ben Stenbeck,Karl Moline, Guy Davis, Andy Owens
Publisher Dark Horse Comics
ISBN 9781595827562
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy B.P.R.D.: Being Human
More info All B.P.R.D. products at Dark Horse Comics

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? John would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Where the God of Love hangs out by Amy Bloom

Where the god of love hangs outBlurb:

Explores the unexpected patterns that love, and its absence, weave into our lives. With her understanding of human complexity and contrariness, the award-winning author takes us to the margins and centres of people’s lives, introducing us to some of her most unforgettable characters yet.

 

 

 

 


In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Yes, very much

For people who like: stories that get you emotionally involved


My thoughts: 

One thing I know for certain. I am giving the spot where Amy Bloom’s God of Love hangs out a wide berth.

“Where the God of Love hangs out” consists of two sets of four connected stories with four separate short stories in between. The first set is titled “William and Clare” and is about a two friends, both married to other people, discovering their love for each other rather late in life. This was very different from any other romance (if you can call it that) I have read. The couple are two elderly people and they are neither beautiful, sexy nor healthy. Their story moved me very much and made me like Amy Blooms’ writing style from page one. (I posted a book beginning on Friday here where you can read the first paragraph). The ending was extremely upsetting and it got me thinking for a long time afterwards.

The second set is called “Lionel and Julia” and is about a young man falling in love with his stepmother. They spend one night together and this one night overshadows the rest of their lives. Again quite upsetting how we see that one mistake – if it can be called a mistake – has consequences for years and years to come.

The four stand alone stories – one of them giving the book its title – were very good, too, each of them in their own way. The one is liked the least was “By-and-by” simply because I don’t like reading about violence and this was a violent story.

I found the stories very touching and shocking at the same time, and immediately went in search for more of Amy Bloom. Unfortunately I found out that some of the stories in “Where the God of Love hangs out” had been published in previous books as stand alones, whereas here they were connected to others in the set. I can see why Lionel and Julia had more stories in them but I really don’t want to buy a book when I already own some of its content. I suppose I will have to wait until I find Amy Bloom at the library.

Spoiler SelectShow

Product info and buy link :

Title Where the God of Love hangs out
Author Amy Bloom
Publisher Random House
ISBN 978-0-8129-7780-6
I got this book from I bought it
Buy link Buy Where the God of Love Hangs Out
More info Amy Bloom’s website
and more Interview with Amy Bloom at The Guardian
and even more

Amy Bloom reads Where the God of Love Hangs Out

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

The perils of morning coffee by Alexander McCall Smith

perilsBlurb:

Summer in Edinburgh is a season of delicate sunshine and showers, picnics with loved ones in blossoming gardens, and genteel celebrations of art and music. But Isabel Dalhousie’s peaceful idyll is broken when a single meeting over coffee with fellow philosopher Dr. George McLeod brings an irate phone call from his wife, Roz, who implacably accuses Isabel of conducting an affair with her husband.
            Wounded by the injustice of Roz’s wild allegation and concerned both for her standing among the gossipy group of her scholarly peers and for Roz’s apparent state of hysteria, Isabel sets out to discover more about the McLeods, and to set the record straight before the bitterness in their marriage poisons her own reputation. For insight into the McLeods’ relationship she turns to Millie, who is both an old acquaintance of Isabel’s and a university colleague of George’s.


In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Yes     

For people who like: cosy mysteries, Isabel Dalhousie, short stories, Edinburgh


My thoughts: 

I have only ever read one book by Alexander McCall Smith before I came across this short story. It was the first book in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and I didn’t like it. I gave that one and the following two books that I had bought in a fit of optimism (it was a 3 for 2 at Waterstones, so I was right to buy three) away and decided that Mr. McCall Smith was not for me.

As it turns out now, I think it was Africa that was not for me, because this short story with Isabel Dalhousie, of whom I had never heard before, was just right for me. I loved the setting in Edinburgh, the characters, the topic and the writing style. This is a very short story of only 43 pages, still it introduced me to Isabel Dalhousie’s world quite effectively. It was a very enjoyable read which made me want to read more of this series, as well as some of Alexander McCall Smith’s other series. I am particularly fond of the name of the “Portuguese Irregular Verbs” series – what a charming title! The first book in “The Sunday Philosophy Club” series is already waiting for me.

However, I will definitely steer clear of Botswana, I know that much.

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Map UK  Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh

Product info and buy link :

Title The perils of morning coffee
Author Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher Pantheon
ISBN ASIN: B005GQ40H2
I got this book from the library
Buy link Buy The Perils of Morning Coffee (only available as e-book)
More info The Sunday Philosophy Club series

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Der heilige Eddy von Jakob Arjouni

heilige_eddy

Blurb:

Neuer Held des Kayankaya-Autors ist Eddy Stein. Der hat sich im linksalternativen Kreuzberg eine Klischeeidentität aufgebaut, während er in den Bonzenvierteln ausgeklüngelte Trickbetrügereien startet und sich so sein Musikerdasein finanziert. Doch bei einem Handgemenge im Hausflur seiner Altbauwohnung tötet er aus Versehen Berlins meistgehassten Prominenten: den Großkapitalisten Horst König, der als Käufer der Tempelhofer Deo-Werke zunächst als Retter gefeiert wurde, nach der angekündigten Schließung aber als Vernichter von 8000 Arbeitsplätzen in den Schlagzeilen ist. Um seine Tarnung nicht auffliegen zu lassen, muss Eddy die Leiche verschwinden lassen. Als das gelingt, hören die Schwierigkeiten trotzdem nicht auf, denn der vermeintliche Mord an König wird zum Großereignis, und die Boulevardmedien feiern den unbekannten Mörder als Volkshelden.


In a nutshell:

I read it in: German

I liked it:     Yes      

For people who like: Screwball Comedies, Billy Wilder


My thoughts: 

Da das Buch ohnehin nur auf deutsch erhältlich ist, und dies ausserdem so gut in den German Literature Month passt, ist es nur angebracht, auch auf  deutsch darüber zu bloggen.

Ich habe bisher kaum von Jakob Arjouni gehört, und erst Lizzy’s giveaway post hat mich auf ihn aufmerksam gemacht. Da erinnerte ich mich vage an den Titel “Happy Birthday, Türke”. Wie es der Zufall will, bin ich kurz darauf in unserer Bücherei auf “Der heilige Eddy” gestossen.

Der Anfang erinnerte mich sehr an Billy Wilders “One, Two Three”, nur ohne Schwiegersohn in spe, dafür aber mit Leiche. Herrlich komisch, und Eddy’s Gedankengänge und Grundsätze sind einfach wunderbar.

Später lässt die Komik etwas nach, aber deshalb wird es nicht weniger unterhaltsam. Jakob Arjounis Stil zu schreiben hat mir sehr gut gefallen und Eddys Stimme war sehr realistisch – soweit ich das beurteilen kann, ich bin weder mit Trickbetrügern noch mit Original Berlinern bzw. Berliner Originalen gut vertraut.

Die Geschichte wies ein recht grosses Loch gegen Ende zu auf. Eddy’s Geschichte, die er der Polizei erzählte, klang zwar plausibel, jedoch könnte sie in Miuten wie eine Seifenblase platzen, wenn die Möbelpacker oder Königs Bodyguards aussagen würden. Die Bodyguards mögen ja vielleicht noch aus bekannten Gründen den Mund halten; weshalb aber die anderen schweigen sollten, leuchtet mir nicht ein. Und damit wäre dann auch Arkadi dran. Irgendwie hat mich das nicht zufriedengestellt.

Abgesehen davon ist dies eine wunderbare unterhaltsame, komische Geschichte, die schnell gelesen ist, einfach deshalb, weil man das Buch nicht aus der Hand legen mag.

Location: Berlin, Germany

Berliner BezirkeKreuzberg Hotel Adlon Schloss Charlottenburg

Alle Bilder von wikipedia. Klick auf das Bild führt zu dem wikipedia Eintrag mit Urheber.

Product info and buy link :

Title Der heilige Eddy
Author Jakob Arjouni
Publisher Diogenes
ISBN 978-3257240177
I got this book from the library
Buy link Kaufe “Der heilige Eddy”

 

Hast du dieses Buch auch gelesen? Wie fandest du es?

This post is part of

german_lit

Article

A taste to die for by J. G. Goodhind

A taste to die forBlurb:

The new Honey Driver mystery – Chefs can be arrogant, competitive and downright murderous at times, so when Bath International Taste Extravaganza (BITE for short) organize a best chef competition, Honey Driver, the Hotels Association police liaison officer, senses trouble. Her instinct proves correct when the winning chef is found dead in his own kitchen. Then a second, and a third . . .

 

 

 


In a nutshell:

I read it in: German (Dinner für eine Leiche)

I liked it:     No

For people who like: food mysteries, cosy mysteries, Bath and who don’t mind a convoluted story with neither head nor tail


My thoughts: 

"A Taste to die for" is the second book in the Honey Driver series and the first one I have read. There is no need to read the first book to get into the story.

Honey is the owner of a small hotel in bath and at the same time liaison between the police and the hotel association. Why a position like that is necessary at all I have no idea but apparently it is. Again, why a liaison  would be actually not only included in the investigation but also actively engaged in it is another mystery. Honey goes around questioning people as if she had a right to do so and, astonishingly, people acknowledge that right and tell her whatever she wants to know. If someone tries to refuse she is not beneath blackmailing by suggesting if they won’t cooperate she will simply ask someone else, i.e. a person the witness feels he has to protect, and thus she manages to extract the information from them after all. I personally would tell her to piss off and come back with the investigating police officer.

The mystery in this book is convoluted at best. There are so many potential candidates for position of murderer that after a while I completely lost track. Who hated whom and why got so entangled that towards the end I really couldn’t care less about who did it and why. The whole story felt disconnected and situations seemed to be thrown in at random in order to confuse the reader.

On the side there is a romance between Honey and the police detective, that started in book one. Those two continuously undressed each other with their eyes, but then never got down to it. Unfortunately this did not lead to a tension where the reader – if so inclined; after all this is a mystery, not a romance – was eagerly anticipating the consummation of their love.

Originally I found the setting very interesting, as I work in the hospitality industry myself, but my expectations were not met. I don’t think the setting could be more unrealistic than it was. The behaviour of those hotel managers towards each other left a lot to be desired. There were shouting matches and almost violent outbreaks because of some minor issues which were just ridiculous.
Even considering that Honey’s hotel is a private one it is hard to imagine that she would allow an eighty year old permanent guest who dabbles in occultism and speaks to ghosts to help out at the reception and answer phone calls.
Also I have never seen a hotel manager who passes out from drinking too much in the hotel bar and spends the night on a sofa in the hotel’s public areas. This was just too much.
The only credible aspect of the story was the behaviour of the chefs, I give the author that. Cooks in general are a very special species and chefs are even stranger. So their behaviour rang true to some extent.

All in all I found the story hard to follow, it didn’t make much sense to me, the included romance was lacklustre and the plot disappointing. The only saving grace was the location and the descriptions which made me want to visit Bath. I would only recommend this for the die hard English cosy mystery lover who has read all other series out there already and is looking for something new to give a go.

Location: Bath, England, UK

Bath, Somerset Royal Crescent

Roman Baths Cleveland House

All images from wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title A taste to die for
Author J. G. Goodhind
Publisher Severn House Publishers
ISBN 978-0727877413
I got this book from my mom who picked it up from a grab table
Buy link Buy A Taste to Die For
More info The Honey Driver mysteries

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Easy and elegant beaded copper jewelry by Lora S. Irish

Easy & elegant beaded copper jewelryBlurb:

Bend It, Shape It , Anyway You Want It…Wire Jewelry

Prolific craft author and instructor, Lora Irish is back with a fresh volume of craft techniques – this time on making wire jewelry.

Using inexpensive wire and tools commonly found around the home, readers will learn how to bend, twist and coil wire to create an endless variety of shapes for attractive necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Once readers master the basic wire shapes, they will learn how to create finished pieces by incorporating fasteners, earring hooks and cording. When these basic building blocks are mastered, readers will learn how to embellish their designs with beads and more complex designs. Practice projects, step-by-step instructions and a gallery of designs will show readers just how easy it is to get started in this fun and rewarding craft.


In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Yes       

For people who like: beading, making jewelry, creating wire elements from scratch


My thoughts: 

This book reminded me a little of Sara Withers’ “The encyclopedia of wire jewellery techniques”. However, it is even more detailed and gives even clearer instructions about bending and shaping wire.

It consists of three parts. The first is about the necessary tools and materials to create jewelry, the second is about the techniques, the third about projects that you can create with the newly learned abilities.

The techniques part is the biggest one and the amount of shapes is incredible. It starts with the easiest side-loop and continues to the most complicated looking spiral links. All shapes are shown with a number of clear and detailed images so that the instructions are easy to follow.

All links used in the book are listed in a chart complete with numbers and name of the link. This helps when you get to the projects part. For every project you will find a list of links used, a supply list and instructions. The projects go from easy to elaborate and cover earrings, bracelets and necklaces, either made completely with wire and beads, or with additional cord.

I liked how the book was structured, the clear pictures and the overall look of it. I personally prefer silver to copper jewelry, but all instructions can be used for silver wire as well. If you are only interested in creating beautiful bead necklaces using bought wire elements, this book is not for you. If you are looking for a beginner’s book for working with wire, this is perfect.

Product info and buy link :

Title Easy and elegant beaded copper jewelry
Author Lora S. Irish
Publisher Fox Chapel Publishing
ISBN 978-1565235144
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy Easy & Elegant Beaded Copper Jewelry

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Styx and Stones by Carola Dunn

Miss Daisy und der tote ProfessorBlurb:

In the 1920’s, in post-WWI England, the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple, newly married to Detective Inspector Alec Fletcher, is asked by her brother-in-law to discreetly investigate a series of poisoned pen letters that many of the local villagers have been receiving. When the pompous and unbearable brother of the local vicar is killed by a very large rock dropped on his head from a great height, it seems clear to all that this campaign of gossip has escalated to murder. With the help of her husband, who’d rather she not get involved in murder, Daisy undertakes to uncover the identity of the viper in the local nest is and who that person has driven to murder before the murderer strikes a second time.


In a nutshell:

I read it in: German (Miss Daisy und der tote Professor)

I liked it:     Yes, sort of, but now I’ve had enough of Daisy for a long while

For people who like: village gossip, the English country life, the 20s, the English upper class, cosy mysteries


My thoughts: 

This is the fourth Daisy Dalrymple book that I read and I liked this one best. I found the setting extremely appealing, a small village with all the gossip and underlying currents of tension. Daisy is staying with her sister and brother-in-law and at first only tries to find out who is the writer of the anonymous letters her brother-in-law is receiving. She goes about this in her usual way, which means she goes someplace and everybody tells her their innermost thoughts. I know I am complaining about this every time but how realistic is it if someone tells a woman he has never seen before about the anonymous letters he is receiving just because "it feels good to tell someone". If it wasn’t for Daisy’s inexplicable ability to make everybody confide in her there never would be much "sleuthing" going on.

The murder happens only after half of the book and the solving of the crime, once more, is done in such a haphazard way that I could only wonder at the end how on Earth they got their killer. Daisy makes assumptions and comes up with theories that are so out of the blue, it is bordering on the ridiculous. In the end there was no definite proof, but Daisy, Alec and Inspector Flagg were all convinced they got the case solved. This was so, but how it happened I can’t say. The reasoning made no sense to me.

In the course of the investigation there were some statements being made that were simply false, like for example at one point a witness says something like "Do you think X found out who the letter writer is and was murdered because of that?". One page later Alec would say to Daisy "Do you remember how the witness said that X found out who the letter writer was?" Actually, no, I don’t because the witness never said that.

If you want a puzzling mystery and an ingenious detective or two solving the crime in an Agatha Christie way, then this is not the right choice. If you want nice atmosphere, country gossip, the usual characters (venomous old spinster, drunken pillar of the community, busybody pastor’s wife etc.) and a cozy atmosphere, then go for it!

Location: A village in Kent, England, UK

Kent, UK Rolvenden Rolvenden Layne

Product info and buy link :

Title Styx and Stones
Author Carola Dunn
Publisher Kensington
ISBN 978-0758213952
I got this book from the library
Buy link Buy Styx and Stones
More info The Daisy Dalrymple mysteries in chronological order
and more Two free Daisy Dalrymple short stories

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Hellboy:House of the living dead by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben

And now for something completely different. As announced some time ago I have procured a reluctant enthusiastic  guest reviewer. John is an avid comic reader (he does read other stuff as well, don’t worry) and his review of “Hellboy: House of the living dead” is his first post here. I am amazed at the shortness of his review actually, normally he is pretty long-winded and once he starts talking he never shuts up. I am sure he will find to his usual lengthy self soon enough.

hellboy_1 Blurb:

Devastated over the loss of his luchador comrade to vampires, Hellboy lingers in Mexican bars until he’s invited to participate in the ultimate wrestling match with a vicious Frankenstein monster!

 

 

 

 

 


In a nutshell:

John read it in: English

He liked it:     Yes     

For people who like: Hellboy, supernatural stories with unusual twists and turns


John’s thoughts: 

This is a follow on to a recent story in ‘Hellboy: The bride of Hell and Others’. The short story was titled ‘Hellboy in Mexico or A Drunken Blur’ and was one of the best in that Hellboy collection. Mike Mignola mentioned that there was at least one other Mexican wrestler story to be released so I kept my eye open.

It does at a cursory glance look like Mike Mignola  has a thing about Mexican wrestlers, probably not really an obsession but maybe the start of one. For which I am thankful. This is a really good addition to the Hellboy collections. The story is superb, and again somewhat ambiguous. I like the twist at the end. The Hellboy universe is full of monsters but it is also full of mad doctors, mad being the operative word, I like it. I read an early review copy of this book but I will definitely be buying it for my collection when it is on general release. This will be a well thumbed book.

A word about the art. Richard Corben is a marvelous artist and his very idiosyncratic style is perfectly suited to this book. Those stories Richard Corben illustrates I am always drawn to. His characters are grotesques, but grotesques infused with life, the images just leap from the page, full of action and a style that is extremely appealing. I hope to see more Hellboys drawn by Mr Corben. All things considered this graphic novel is definitely up there with the best of the Hellboy series and I highly recommend it.

Product info and buy link :

Title Hellboy: House of the living dead
Author Mike Mignola & Richard Corben
Publisher Dark Horse Comics
ISBN 978-1-59582-757-9
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy Hellboy: House of the Living Dead
More info Other Hellboy products at Dark Horse Comics

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Article

Maybe this time by Alois Hotschnig

Die Kinder beruhigte das nichtBlurb:

A spellbinding short story collection by one of Austria’s most critically acclaimed authors.

A man becomes obsessed with observing his neighbours. A large family gathers for Christmas only to wait for the one member who never turns up. An old woman lures a man into her house where he finds dolls resembling himself as a boy. Mesmerizing and haunting stories about loss of identity in the modern world.

 

 

 


In a nutshell:

I read it in: the original German (Die Kinder beruhigte das nicht)

I liked it:     Yes      

For people who like: creepy short stories with an eerie atmosphere


My thoughts: 

You have probably heard of this book by now. So had I before I started reading. I read this is German and I don’t think I have ever come across a writer who writes in such a precise way and who conjured such a clear picture of what is going on. I read the stories, strange and disturbing, watched people do things and could picture every little detail.

The story that stuck with me most was the one that gave the book its English title “Maybe this time, maybe now”. Those family gatherings were so bizarre and at the same time so common. Maybe here it is a bit more unusual than most, but haven’t we all been to events where a lot of time was spent wondering who would still be coming, when they would arrive or what keeps them from showing up (all this possibly to hide the fact that there is nothing else to talk about). The ubiquitous Uncle Walter who at the same time was never there was familiar in a strange way.

The German title “Die Kinder beruhigte das nicht” (This didn’t calm down the children) is not the title of one of the short stories, but it is part of a sentence in the third story in the book “Then a door opens and swings shut”. An upsetting  story that gave the idea for another German cover with a doll face on it. I find dolls rather frightening and women keeping dolls and treat them like children have a certain weirdness about them, sorry, no offense intended.

In that particular scene the narrator visits a school friend and inquires about their neighbour, an old woman with an odd collection of dolls. She is an outcast, the children are afraid of her and avoid her whenever they can, they throw pebbles against her window etc. So the friend’s wife tries to appease their two daughters by saying that the woman will be moving away soon and that the reason she is only looking for company is that she is lonely. The narrator then observes that “this didn’t calm down the children”.

Some stories I didn’t like as much, for example “Encounter” or “The beginning of something” but I loved Alois Hotschnig’s writing style and will definitely get more of his books.

Here are the stories with their original and English titles. My favourites were “Two ways of leaving” and “Maybe this time, maybe now”, probably because even though they were strange and creepy, they were still conceivable (at least for me).

Dieselbe  Stille – dasselbe Geschrei (The same silence – the same noise)

Zwei Arten zu gehen (Two ways of leaving) 

Eine Tür geht dann auf und fällt zu (Then a door opens and swings shut)

Vielleicht diesmal, vielleicht jetzt (Maybe this time, maybe now)

Der Anfang von etwas (The beginning of something)

Begegnung (Encounter)

In meinem Zimmer brennt Licht (The light in my room) 

Morgens, mittags, abends (Morning, noon and night) 

Du kennst sie nicht, es sind Fremde (You don’t know them, they’re strangers)

Product info and buy link :

Title Maybe this time
Author Alois Hotschnig
Publisher Peirene Press
ISBN 978-0-9562840-5-1
I got this book from I swapped it
Buy link Buy Maybe This Time
More info Maybe this time at Peirene Press

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Want to know what others thought of this book? Have a look at:

Caribousmom

Chasing bawa

Beauty is a sleeping cat

Andrew Blackman

Tony’s reading list

The Parrish Lantern 

This post is part of

german_lit

Article

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

The winter palaceBlurb:

From award-winning author Eva Stachniak comes this passionate novel that illuminates, as only fiction can, the early life of one of history’s boldest women. The Winter Palace tells the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.

 

 

 

 


 

In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Sort of. It was not what I expected.

For people who like: court intrigue, historical stories from the point of view of a non-historical character


My thoughts: 

This book is supposed to be “A story of Catherine the Great”. Let me tell you that it is not. If anything it should be called “A story WITH Catherine the Great”. It does NOT tell Catherine’s epic story but rather the story of a young girl who ends up working as a spy for the Russian chancellor and later for Catherine.

While it was interesting to learn more about the life of the common people, about the behind the scenes of the palace, about the servants’ viewpoint of events, it is not what I came here for. I read this book to learn more about Catherine and I wanted to compare it to Robert Massie’s biography of Catherine and, frankly, I could not have cared less about someone else’s wedding night. Unfortunately Catherine’s life plays the second fiddle.

I assume that Massie’s book gives us the facts so in “Winter Palace” Eva Stachniak seems to have taken some poetic license in order to weave Varvara into the story.
As everything is told from her point of view most events in Catherine’s life just happen but we don’t get to know that much about them. So the book did not meet my expectations at all. As a historical fictional story of a girl at the Russian court in the 18th century this was a good read, it was simply not at all what I expected or hoped for.

Location: Mostly St. Petersburg, Russia

Map St. Petersburg, Russia St. George's Hall

Winter Palace

Winter Palace

All images from wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title The Winter Palace
Author Eva Stachniak
Publisher Bantam
ISBN 978-0553808124
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great
More info Eva Stachniak’s website

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Falling for Me by Anna David

falling for meBlurb:

Like most women, whether they’ve chosen the Fortune 500 career path or have five kids by 35, Anna David wondered if she’d made the right choices. Then she came upon the classic Sex & the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown, Cosmo’s fearless leader from the mid-sixties to the late nineties.

Immediately connecting with Gurley Brown’s unique message of self-empowerment combined with undeniable femininity, Anna vowed to use Sex as a lesson plan, venturing out of her comfort zone to meet men in new ways and date those she would have never before considered. She decides to open herself up in every way possible, hoping to overcome the fears that have haunted her for years.


In a nutshell:

I liked it:     Yes     

For people who like: self-improvement stories


My thoughts: 

"Falling for me" is the tale of Anna David almost re-inventing herself with the help of a book from the 60s written by Helen Gurley Brown about "Sex and the Single Girl". She takes every single advice from the book and tries to adapt it for her own use and integrate it into her life.

At the beginning of her transformation she is suffering from severe heartbreak and realizes she has to do something to change her attitude. She is a workaholic who has basically no hobbies and never sticks to anything. At times I wondered how on Earth she manages her life on her own. She can’t cook, she buys furniture simply because they are cheap with no sense of what goes together at all, her wardrobe is an eclectic mess, she always picks the wrong men. In some ways she is so naive that I was wondering how she ever gets anything done without being taken advantage of.

Even though she continuously tries to convince me that she is doing all that self improvement for herself and finding a partner is not the main goal, I could never shake the feeling until the end that it is. Even when she says that she is perfectly alright with being single now that she has found her best self, it didn’t quite ring true to me.

Also, on her various dates, there is always something that puts her off the guy. She continuously tells herself she has to lower her standards, but she doesn’t really seem to do that. Before you start arguing now, I am not saying that lowering one’s standards is a good thing per se, but Anna David’s standards seem to be unreachable for ANY man. She doesn’t seem to give them a chance at all or maybe she is just looking for things to complain about. I was starting to wonder whether she even WANTED a relationship and then her therapist puts my thoughts into words when he asks her whether she was available at all.

All her "adventures" are interesting and a lot of them very funny. I suppose that is because a lot of her dates are such failures that you can’t help but laugh.

I wouldn’t say this book is for someone who is looking for the same sort of self improvement project, as quite a few of the steps of the program require a good deal of money. Buying furniture, new wardrobe, taking classes, hiring professionals etc. doesn’t come cheap. So if you are a single girl looking for a man (or simply want to change your style in a big way) and have to live on a small income don’t use Anna David’s way as your guide.

Location: Manhattan, NY, USA & Sevilla, Spain

Manhattan  Sevilla

 Sevilla Sevilla

All images from wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title Falling for Me
Author Anna David
Publisher Harper Collins
ISBN 9780061996047
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy Falling for Me
More info More about the book at Anna David’s website

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

The hottest dishes of the Tartar cuisine by Alina Bronsky

gerichteBlurb:

Rosa Achmetowna is the outrageously nasty and wily narrator of this rollicking family saga from the author of Broken Glass Park. When she discovers that her seventeen-year-old daughter, "stupid Sulfia," is pregnant by an unknown man she does everything to thwart the pregnancy, employing a variety of folkloric home remedies. But despite her best efforts the baby, Aminat, is born nine months later at Soviet Birthing Center Number 134. Much to Rosa’s surprise and delight, dark eyed Aminat is a Tartar through and through and instantly becomes the apple of her grandmother’s eye. While her good for nothing husband Kalganow spends his days feeding pigeons and contemplating death at the city park, Rosa wages an epic struggle to wrestle Aminat away from Sulfia, whom she considers a woefully inept mother. When Aminat, now a wild and willful teenager, catches the eye of a sleazy German cookbook writer researching Tartar cuisine, Rosa is quick to broker a deal that will guarantee all three women a passage out of the Soviet Union. But as soon as they are settled in the West, the uproariously dysfunctional ties that bind mother, daughter and grandmother begin to fray.


In a nutshell:

I read it in: the original German (Die schärfsten Gerichte der tatarischen Küche)

I liked it:     Oh, yes.

For people who like: matter of fact storytelling, who don’t mind an un-likable heroine


My thoughts: 

Rosalinda is someone who gets things done. Living in the Soviet Union this is definitely a plus. She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. She thinks she knows what is best for everybody and would sell her grandmother if it helped her plans along. Unfortunately the other people in her life often don’t agree with her meddling and feel quite a bit of resentment. However, Rosalinda is sure they will come round eventually and see how great she is.

Rosalinda is the heroine of this book and we see everything through her eyes. From her point of view everything she does makes perfect sense. It would have been interesting to see what Sulfia, her daughter, and later Aminat, her granddaughter, think about how she manipulates them and how she more or less rules their lives.

Alina Bronsky told this story so fabulously in such a dry, matter of fact voice that it is a pleasure to read it. Already after the first few pages where Rosalinda talks about Sulfia’s pregnancy and the following attempts at abortion I knew that I would love the book. The short passage that sold it to me right away was this one (sorry, it is in German):

Ich wusste, dass solche Fälle vorkamen. Eine Jungfrau träumte, und neun Monate später brachte sie ein Kind zur Welt. Ich kannte sogar einen noch schlimmeren Fall, meine Cousine Rafaella: Sie hatte ihre einzige Tochter in der Blüte einer grossen, exotischen Zimmerpflanze unbekannter Art gefunden, deren Kern sie aus dem Süden mitgebracht hatte. Ich konnte mich noch genau erinnern, wie ratlos sie damals gewesen war.

Rosalinda’s extremely self-assured, not to say conceited, view of herself and the way she dismisses the rest of the world was just astonishing. Whatever happens, she never finds fault with herself, but always with the others. Even at the end when she reads about Aminat’s life story in the paper – a story where her grandmother, i.e. Rosalinda, features in a very negative way -, she doesn’t realize it is her they are talking about and comments that she is not even mentioned. In her eyes she just can’t do wrong.

All this doesn’t make Rosalinda sound like a kind and loveable character, but I liked her nevertheless. Her story got never boring, it was funny, tragic, sad, everything you could wish for. After reading Alina Bronsky’s second novel I will be sure to get her debut "Scherbenpark" (Broken Glass Park).

Location: Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg), SU (I think) & somewhere near Frankfurt, Germany

Map Russia Ekaterinburg Ascension church Map Germany

All images from wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title The hottest dishes of the Tatar cuisine
Author Alina Bronsky
Publisher Europa Editions
ISBN 978-1609450069
I got this book from I swapped it
Buy link Buy The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Only Orangery reviewed this book some time ago.

Lizzy’s review at Lizzy’s Literary Life

This post is part of

german_lit

You can find all posts relating to German Literature Month at Beauty is a sleeping cat.

Article

Dead in the water by Carola Dunn

Dead in the waterBlurb:

In July of 1923, the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple travels to Henley-on-Thames to visit her aunt and uncle as well as to work on her latest writing assignment – to cover the Henley Royal Regatta for an American magazine. Daisy plans a simple trip researching her article, enjoying the races, and, come the weekend, having a pleasant time with her fiance, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard. But the tensions between the Ambrose team’s coxswain, Horace Bott – a shopkeeper’s son and scholarship student at Oxford – and rower, Basil DeLancey – the younger son of an Earl and all-around bounder – are constantly threatening to erupt into violence. The team then proceeds to lose their next heat in the eight because Bott is ill from the previous night’s overindulgence, an action he was goaded into by DeLancey. DeLancey publicly humiliates Bott. Bott, in turn, publicly swears revenge. The following day, in the coxless four, DeLancey himself keels over and dies mid-race. Foul play is immediately suspected, with Bott the logical suspect. But nothing is obvious in this tangled web of jealousies and secrets, and while Inspector Fletcher investigates the murder, Daisy once again must ferret out the truth.


In a nutshell:

I read it in: German (Miss Daisy und der Tote auf dem Wasser)

I liked it:   Yes, but slowly I am getting sick of Daisy

For people who like: Cosy mysteries, sports events, the 20s, the English upper class, rowing


My thoughts: 

This is the third Daisy Dalrymple mystery that I have read and I know that soon I will need to take a break from her.

"Death on the water" has an interesting setting. A widely known regatta takes place and we learn about the rivalries between teams as well as the problems misfits (i.e. members of the lower classes) have to deal with when attending a college – especially, it seems, when they are smarter than the average nobleman’s son.
However, I would have preferred to learn about those problems in a less "ram them down your throat" way. Before we encounter even one situation where the low class boy is being harassed by his supposed superiors he already pours his little heart out to the ubiquitous Daisy, even though he has only seen her for the first time at the very moment. Again she wonders briefly why everybody wants to take her into their confidence, but then again, she is so curious, not to say nosy, that she takes to being the confidante like a fish takes to water. She really got on my nerves with her "I’ll stay to make sure s/he is alright" demeanour when, in reality, she just wants to stay in order to know everything that is being said and done. How her fiancée Alec puts up with that shit, I don’t know.

The sleuthing seemed to be somewhat slow and little goal oriented. If there hadn’t been a witness of sorts and a murderer ready to confess (either through words or actions) Alec would have been in the dark forever. On top of that the case is not quite as clear as it seemed, which only comes out almost as an afterthought. And once more – I feel like I am turning into a fighter for the plebs reading those books – I got the uncomfortable feeling that exceptions are being made for people simply because they belong to a class that seems to be untouchable.

I have one more Daisy Dalrymple book from the library, "Styx and Stones", which I will read and then I will call it a day for now. There is only so much lenience towards the upper class I can take.

Location: Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, UK

England map Temple IslandHenley-on-Thames 

Regatta in 1907 Regatta in 2004

Product info and buy link :

Title Dead in the water
Author Carola Dunn
Publisher Kensington
ISBN 978-0758227294
I got this book from the library
Buy link Buy Dead in the Water
More info The Daisy Dalrymple mysteries in chronological order
and more Two free Daisy Dalrymple short stories
and even more Henley Royal Regatta

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie

catherineBlurb:

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.

 

 

 

 


In a nutshell:

I read it in: the original English

I liked it:     Yes      

For people who like: royalty, biographies, European history


My thoughts: 

“Catherine the Great” starts before the birth of Sophia (later Catherine) and tells us a lot about the background of her mother and father, which is important to understand later events. The first part of the story until Catherine’s accession to the throne is told chronologically, whereas from then on it is told in a mix of chronological and topical. At first I thought I might not like this topical approach, but it turned out to be the much better way.

A lot of topics, like for example the Turkish war, Pugachev’s rebellion or her relationship with Potemkin could be understood much better when told in one big chunk instead of split up in between other events. Often certain situations were mentioned later again in passing when it came to that moment in the chronological timeline. This helped to see why something happened without having to digress into long explanations.

External events like the French Revolution were given quite a bit of room to make the reader understand Catherine’s actions that sometimes contradicted her own previous beliefs. The story was structured very well and left nothing to be desired. It brought all the characters, not only Catherine herself, to life. It was not only extremely informative but also very entertaining.

For readers who want to know more facts about Catherine the Great, her time and her contemporaries this is the book to go to.

Location: Mostly St. Petersburg, Russia

Map St. Petersburg, Russia Peter the Great

Images from Google maps & wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title Catherine the Great
Author Robert K. Massie
Publisher Random House
ISBN 978-0679456728
I got this book from Random House Early Bird Read
Buy link Buy Catherine the Great

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

The perfectly imperfect home by Deborah Needleman

perfectly_imperfect_homeStyle is a luxury, and luxury is simply what makes you happy.
Over the years, design expert Deborah Needleman has seen all kinds of rooms, with all kinds of furnishings. Her conclusion: It’s not hard to create a relaxed, stylish, and comfortable home. Just a few well-considered items can completely change the feel of your space, and The Perfectly Imperfect Home reveals them all.

 

 

 


 

In a nutshell:

I liked it:  Yes    

For people who like: Interior design, home decor, home makeovers


My thoughts: 

This is a great book if you would like to know more about how to decorate your home in a livable way. The book is divided into chapters like for example

  • Nice lighting
  • Places for chatting
  • Cozifications
  • Bath as a room
  • Delicious scent which deal with one aspect of living in various sub-chapters. 

All topics are accompanied by very nice  illustrations. Those images give you an idea of how to do it but don’t force you to think you have to re-create a specific setting like you do when you see a photograph.

Each chapter gives you additional historical information (for example about what entries were used for in the 18th century) or explanations to the various types of sofas, lampshades or tables. Did you know, for example, what a Bridgewater sofa looks like? Well, I didn’t.

Interspersed there are quotes about living and little side notes with how-tos, style tips, nice to know tidbits and so on. 

It is a fabulous book to either look through whenever you feel like getting some inspiration, when you need a solution for a specific design problem or when you just want to get some new ideas how you could improve your space of living.

Product info and buy link :

Title The perfectly imperfect home
Author Deborah Needleman
Publisher Clarkson Potter
ISBN 978-0307720139
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy The Perfectly Imperfect Home

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

Sweat Shop Paris by Martena Duss & Sissi Holleis

sweat_shop_parisBlurb:

The Sweat Shop Book brings the namesake Paris Sweat Shop founded by Martena Duss and Sissi Holleis to North America with more than 50 DIY fashion and home projects, including instructions and more than 200 helpful, inspiring full-color photographs. The first "café couture" sewing shop in Paris, the Sweat Shop was named to highlight the questionable nature in which store-bought clothing is sometimes made. Instead of rewarding dubious labor practices, the Sweat Shop and The Sweat Shop Book inspire crafters to make something unique with their own sweat equity and creativity.

 


In a nutshell:

I liked it:     No, but that is me and my lack of skill.

For people who are advanced seamstresses, have an extravagant style.


My thoughts: 

I feel inadequate to talk about this book.

Apart from maybe two projects all the patterns in “The Sweat Shop Paris” are not for beginners, so I am not really the person to judge whether they are explained well or not. All projects are accompanied by a number of illustrations and a photograph of the finished piece. They range from a tote bag to a twisted hoodie to flapper trousers to a sweater and many, many more.

As for the style, it was not mine. While all projects looked very professional they were just not my taste at all and I wouldn’t be interested in recreating any one of them, even if I was able to.

I am sure that for the experienced seamstress with an unusual, very individual taste that matches the one in the book, it will be a treasure trove. Unfortunately I am neither the former nor do I have the latter and don’t belong to the target group.

Product info and buy link :

Title Sweat Shop Paris: Lessons from a sewing café
Author Martena Duss & Sissi Holleis
Publisher Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN 978-1449408404
I got this book from netgalley
More info Sweat Shop Pairs website
Buy link Buy Sweat Shop Paris: Lessons from a Sewing Cafe

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

And yet another DNF

GRC

 

The mysteries of UdolphoLately it seems I pick up quite a lot of books that turn out to be a DNF. I tried so hard to read (and like) “The mysteries of Udolpho” which is a book I have been wanting to read for a long time, actually ever since reading “Northanger Abbey”. The Gothic Reading Challenge was the perfect opportunity to finally tackle it.

According to Goodreads I started reading that book on June 26. You want to know how far I got? To page 48!

I was willing, I compared covers, I told you the book beginning, Udolpho turned up on my monthly reading lists – to no avail.  That book is so long winded, it defies description. Admittedly, at 880 pages I didn’t expect it to go medias in res, but the descriptions of scenery bored the hell out of me, and I didn’t want to read through 200 pages of them before the gothic “horror” would start. If it ever started I don’t know. 

I think it’s time to say good bye to it and just face the fact that the mysteries of Udolpho will remain a mystery to me.

Article

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn

Death at Wentwater CourtBlurb:

It’s the early 1920s in England – the country is still recovering from the Great War and undergoing rapid social changes that many are not quite ready to accept. During this heady and tumultuous time, the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple, the daughter of a Viscount, makes a decision shocking to her class: rather than be supported by her relations, she will earn her own living as a writer.
Landing an assignment for Town & Country magazine for a series of articles on country manor houses she travels to Wentwater Court in early January 1923 to begin research on her first piece. But all is not well there when she arrives.
Lord Wentwater’s young wife has become the center of a storm of jealousy, animosity, and, possibly, some not-unwanted amorous attention, which has disrupted the peace of the bucolic country household. Still, this is as nothing compared to the trouble that ensues when one of the holiday guests drowns in a tragic early-morning skating accident. Especially when Daisy discovers that his death was no accident …


In a nutshell:

I read it in: German (“Miss Daisy und der Tote auf dem Eis”)

I liked it:   x  Yes, with some reservations about the ending

For people who like: cosy mysteries, mystery with no violence (except, of course, for the murder), easy reading, the atmosphere of the 20s


My thoughts: 

“Death at Wentwater Court” is the first book in the Daisy Dalrymple series. I read it after reading the fourth instalment “Murder on the Flying Scotsman” which I liked quite a bit.

In this first book Daisy meets Alec Fletcher, the smart detective for the first time and the foundation stone for their future relationship is being laid. We also find out why Alec is always investigating the crimes taking place in “High Society”, I had already wondered about that. Daisy is a very nice, down-to-earth girl. However, her overall likeable-ness started to get on my nerves when everybody, really everybody, wanted her to stay/go with them when they had to confess to the police or talk about a difficult topic. Those people only knew her slightly, if at all, and still she became their confidante almost immediately. Even Alec himself, who is a police officer, talked about the current case as if she was a co-worker instead of a , let’s face it, nosy female who just happened to be at the right place at the right time. His readiness to tell her confidential information was odd, to say the least.

Spoiler below!

The discovery of the culprit was based on another confession made in Daisy’s presence which was a bit of a disappointment.

What followed after was downright shocking. I know this is supposed to be a harmless cosy mystery, but somehow the end rubbed me the totally wrong way. Daisy played judge, jury and executioner (or rather the opposite) in one go and decided to let the culprit go free by coming up with a cunning plan to get him out of the grasp of the police. As justified as this may seem, it was highly irregular. The motivation behind this was basically to protect the noble family involved from being dragged through the press and prevent further pain. All very nice, indeed, however, if the same incident had happened in a working class environment, I am sure, the outcome would have been different. The subsequent outburst of Alec was understandable.  How quickly he was placated and  the laissez faire attitude of his superior – a friend of the family involved–, made me feel slightly uneasy.

It might very well be that the situation during those times was exactly like that – hang the rabble, spare the upper classes – but really, in a mystery novel one expects to see justice done. If a jury had found the accused not guilty, which would have been not unlikely, then all would have been good. As it was it leaves an uncomfortable feeling with me. 

Location: Hampshire, England, UK

Map UK, Hampshire  Back entrance to Hyde Farm

Binley Bottom, Hampshire Hampshire village

All images from wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title Death at Wentwater Court
Author Carola Dunn
Publisher Robinson
ISBN 978-1845298654
I got this book from the library
Buy link Buy Death at Wentwater Court
More info The Daisy Dalrymple mysteries in chronological order
and more Two free Daisy Dalrymple short stories

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

A week at the airport by Alain de Botton

week-at-the-airportBlurb:

In the summer of 2009, Alain de Botton will be invited by the owners of Heathrow airport to become their first ever Writer in Residence. He will be installed in the middle of Terminal 5 on a raised platform with a laptop connected to screens, enabling passengers to see what he is writing and to come and share their stories. He will meet travellers from around the world, and will be given unprecedented access to wander the airport and speak with everyone from window cleaners and baggage handlers to air traffic controllers and cabin crew. Working with the renowned documentary photographer Richard Baker, de Botton will produce an extraordinary meditation upon the nature of place, time, and our daily lives. He will explore the magical and the mundane, personal and collective experiences and the interactions of travellers and workers all over this familiar but mysterious site. Like all airports, Heathrow (the 15th century village of Heath Row lies beneath the short stay car park) is a ‘non-place’ that we by definition want to leave, but it also provides a window into many worlds – through the thousands of people it dispatches every day. "A Week at the Airport" is sure to delight de Botton’s large following, and anyone interested in the stories behind the way we live.


In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:  x Yes       No

For people who like: Alain de Botton in general, philosophical chatter, airports, travel


My thoughts: 

I love airports. Every time I travel by plane – provided there are no kids with me –, I try to get connecting flights that are not so close that I would have to run from gate to gate without the possibility to spend some time at the airport. So the first sentence of “A week at the airport” struck a chord with me.

While punctuality lies at the heart of what we typically understand by a good trip, I have often longed for my plane to be delayed – so that I might be forced to spend a bit more time at the airport.

From the beginning to the end this was a pleasure to read. I have always been interested in everything travel related so this book was just right for me. Working in the hospitality industry myself I very much enjoyed reading the chapters about his stay at the Sofitel and the training of customer service staff especially. When Alain de Botton describes how beautiful the meals on a hotel menu sound, a beauty that surpasses that of any haiku of the masters; when he wonders about the “scribe” who comes up with those flowery descriptions; and when you then start to think about a colleague of yours who sits in his small chef’s office writing his menus for the day, you can’t help but chuckle.

My line of work has made me very receptive to passages like this one which is all too true:

Though one can inculcate competence, it is impossible to legislate for humanity. In other words, the airline’s survival depended upon qualities that the company itself could not produce or control, and was not even, strictly speaking, paying for. The real origins of these qualities lay not in training courses or employee benefits but, for example, in the loving atmosphere that had reigned a quarter of a century earlier in a house in Cheshire, where two parents had brought up  a future staff member with benevolence and humour – all so that today, without any thanks being given to those parents […] he would have both the will and the wherewithal to reassure an anxious student on her way to the gate to catch BA048 to Philadelphia.

Alain de Botton describes his week at the airport starting from departure to airside to arrivals in small chapters and paragraphs talking about this and that covering a lot of topics, none of them in depth but enough to make you wish to know more. As far as I am concerned the book could have been much much thicker. A mere 107 pages wasn’t nearly long enough. I would have liked to read on and on.

Location: Heathrow Airport, England, UK

heathrow1 heathrow2 heathrow3 heathrow4

All images from wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title A week at the airport
Author Alain de Botton
Publisher Vintage
ISBN 978-0307739674
I got this book from Birgit at The Book Garden as a RAK
Buy link Buy A Week at the Airport
More info Heathrow’s website
and more Alain de Botton’s website
and more 5 minutes with Alain de Botton interview

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Article

The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin

The dragon and the pearlBlurb:

Former Emperor’s consort Ling Suyin is renowned for her beauty; the ultimate seductress. Now she lives quietly alone—until the most ruthless warlord in the region comes and steals her away….
Li Tao lives life by the sword, and is trapped in the treacherous, lethal world of politics. The alluring Ling Suyin is at the center of the web. He must uncover her mystery without falling under her spell—yet her innocence calls out to him. How cruel if she, of all women, can entrance the man behind the legend…

 

 

 


 

In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Yes    x  No  The book was a DNF for me.

For people who like: typical romance, ancient China


My thoughts: 

It seems I am having to deal with more DNFs than usual at the moment. Not sure why this is, the books that I did not finish were not at all comparable. Anyway, this one was yet another DNF for me.

I got “The Dragon and the Pearl” because I found the cover adorable. Not a very good reason to get a book (some people might disagree, I know), and it did turn out to be the wrong one here.

The story starts medias in res with Li Tao coming for Suyin and takes her with him to his own mansion deep in the forest. The perfect setting for a blossoming romance, isn’t it. And here we go! From the first moment Suyin was drawn to Li Tao and her heart started beating faster whenever he came near. It is very much possible that Li Tao felt the same way, as  he always got this gleam in his eyes when he set them on her. Needless to say he was muscled, hard as a rock, pure masculine power. I was only waiting for the term “predator” to crop up and I was not disappointed. It was in chapter three and appeared in the form of a “predatory glint” in his eyes. Two lines before that he “prowled” closer, which had me wondering once more why a man who “prowls” seems so desirable to some women (and romance authors).

Very soon after I decided to stop reading. I am sure had I gotten to the love scenes I would have encountered “molten lava” in abundance – or something similar, I am not sure whether Christine Feehan has the monopoly on molten lava or not.

Romance lovers will devour this book I am sure, especially since the setting is interesting and unusual. Maybe I was just disappointed because I expected the story to be different (why, I can’t say) and instead I only got the ordinary romance formula.

Location: Ancient China, capital Chang’an (now: Xi’an)

Map of China, Chang'an Wild Goose Pagoda, 652AD Mount Huashan near Chang'an

Images from wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title The Dragon and the Pearl
Author Jeannie Lin
Publisher Harlequin
ISBN 9780373296620
I got this book from Netgalley, because I found the cover very appealing
Buy link Buy The Dragon and the Pearl
More info Jeannie Lin’s website

 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.