Musing Mondays

I realized I’m now writing more about books than knitting or spinning and I need / want to keep my blog a bit more balanced but this week’s Musing Mondays is about favourite children’s books! I love children’s books and I have fond memories of the ones I read when I was small!

This week’s musing asks…

Do you have a favorite children’s book? Either one that you loved as a child, or one that you discovered later, and still enjoy? Tell us about it!

 

 

I had to think about this a bit (couldn’t decide!) but in the end I have to say that the first book I can remember reading is

“Die kleine Hexe” (The little witch) by Otfried Preussler


It’s a story about a witch who wants to fit in with her fellow witches and decides to be an especially good witch for a year. As it turns out, her coven has a very different view on what it means to be a good witch…

With children’s books I have a quirk about editions and covers – I love reading the same editions I read as a child and I’ve searched high and low for the right ones to replace books I lost. Sadly, my old 1958 edition (see picture above) became a victim of moves but I found another one on abebooks some days ago. Can’t wait to read it again!

Another case where I had to replace a much-loved copy is “Ronja Räubertochter” (Ronja, the Robber’s daughter) by Astrid Lindgren. My cousin gave me a bright green edition illustrated with beautiful ink drawings which was published by Büchergilde Gutenberg ( a book club with special editions for club members). I lent it to a friend and never got it back. Some years ago I managed to find another copy online about which I’m very glad since it isn’t available anymore.

Remembering those two books takes me directly back to a time when I would curl up to read for hours and try to organize my books with sticky tags to give my shelves a public library look 🙂

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The Angel’s Game – Straight from the Shelves Friday

I’m really glad I’ve been able to keep up with my reading for the last weeks and managed to write a review for Friday.

So, Monday evening I finished reading „The Angel’s Game” (German title: Das Spiel des Engels) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I really liked “The shadow of the wind” which I received a s a present some years ago but somehow never managed to get a hold of “The Angel’s Game” until last week.

I read the German translation since the original is written in Spanish (which I don’t speak) and I really liked it.

Lots of reviews called ‘The Angel’s Game’ a page-turner and I have to agree – after the first chapters the story keeps you reading and I finished it in only two sittings over the weekend. I think the story is a really good mixture of mystery, romance and a some creepy bits. Set in pre-civil war Barcelona and told by the protagonist, David Martín himself ”The Angel’s Game’ takes the reader from the first years of Martín’s life as an unsuccessful journalist over his career as an author of pulp fiction to a fateful meeting with a mysterious French publisher who wants him to write a special book for him. There’s a faint hint of Faust in all this and I found the story both intriguing and exciting. I’ve checked two of Zafón’s earlier publications out from the library I’m looking forward to reading them!

“Excellent Women” by Barbara Pym

To be honest, this book barely made it  on my to-read-shelf before I snatched it up after last weekend’s Persephone Book event. I can’t remember where I came to find this title but it must have been one of those weird clicks through the net one won’t ever be able to reconstruct. The beautiful cover of the Virago Modern Classics edition definitely served as an eye-catcher!Alexander McCall Smith wrote the introduction to ‘Excellent Women’ and in my opinion his writing style is a bit reminiscent of  Barbara Pym.

Barbary Pym (1913-1980)  is known to write about ordinary people, mostly middle-class women, and their thoughts and feelings. ‘Excellent Women’ is set it the post-war London of the 1950s but although the war hasn’t been over it is only mentioned ‘in the margins’, e.g. the still half-destroyed church where the lunch-time service the protagonist attends is held next to piles of rubble. Pym mostly focuses on people’s thoughts and inner developement and the use of the first-person-narrator in ‘Excellent Women’ assures that the reader is privy to Mildred’s most private thoughts and feelings and has a front-row seat to see how the disruption of her structured life opens new possibilities and a change of behaviour.

From the blurb:

“Mildred Lathbury is one of those excellent women who are often taken for granted. She is a godsend, ‘capable of dealing with most of the stock situations or even the great moments of life – birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sale, the garden fête spoilt by bad weather’.”

I really enjoyed reading ‘Excellent Women’ although I found myself getting a bit annoyed with Mildred’s constant worrying about other people’s needs and going out of her way to manage their messes. But she can’t help it!

“I suppose an unmarried woman just over thirty, who lives alone and has no apparent ties, must expect to find herself involved or interested in other people’s business, and if she is also a clergyman’s daughter the one might really say that there is no hope for her” (p.1)

With the arrival of her new neighbours and other new acquaintances Mildred sometimes breaks out of her usual path and seems frustrated with the way people behave around her and her standard reactions to this.

‘Excellent Women’ describes the prominent roles a middle-class women in 1950s England (and this could be transferred to, say, 1950s Germany as well!) could assume: dutiful, married women leading a happy and fulfilled life or unmarried women, leading a life on the sidelines, observing but not really participating.

While Mildred is certainly an independent, capable woman, her surroundings try to find her a “suitable” husband and Mildred herself can’t help thinking about being married.

This is not a novel with happy marriages all around and certainly not a romance but rather a poignant social study of woman’s lives and roles. Nonetheless, it’s an incredible good book and a pleasure to read! I may have ordered a bunch of Barbara Pym’s other novels 😉

Splurge

Oh boy, I need to stop buying books … I’ve discovered two UK online bookstores with free or nearly free shipping to Germany, one of them with a huge amount of incredibly low-priced second-hand books. I may have ordered six books just now. Then, another two on the way from amazon, one delivered today and a local store had a bargain offer on English paperbacks… Well…let’s say my to-read-shelf has grown.

I try to think of this shopping spree as a reward for a productive week – I finished the first handout for the new class I’ll be teaching next semester and I’ll be able to complete the second one tomorrow. And I finished “Excellent Women” by Barbara Pym – I’m still struggling with the review though…

All this buying English books made me think about the fact that nearly all the books I acquired and read in the last year are written in English. While I’m secretly a bit proud (shhh!) I’ve become quite proficient in reading English based on the fact that it’s not my first language (and my students seem to constantly complain if I assign an English text for class) I seem to put a lot of pressure on myself because of this. I find myself standing in front of the crime and mystery shelf at my local library and struggling to pick books originally written in English – because I could / should read them in English! Totally stupid, I know and I deliberately picked up two Charles Todd novels in the German translation. (Sometimes I wish I had been born English 😦 ).

So, hopefully I’ll be back  tomorrow evening with a review on ‘Excellent Women’ and pictures of my new book piles – I plan to hole up in my flat until Monday evening because it’s the ‘fifth’s season’ again here in Germany: Carnival has arrived and I hate it. (I wouldn’t even be able to get to campus on Monday because of the parade!)

Teaser Tuesday

Once I started to try posting everyday I realized how much work this is. As I need to work more for my PhD, one or two ‘memes’ are a good idea! So, here’s my first time participating in

“Perhaps I was getting spinsterish and ‘set’ in my ways, but I was irritated at having been woken. I stretched out my hand towards the little bookshelf where I kept cookery and devotional books, the most comforting bedside reading”

p.19 from “Excellent women” by Barbara Pym

 

I love reading cooking books when I can’t sleep!

Persephone Weekend

Two things came together today that made me write the second post of today – 1. I started reading my first Persephone book and 2. I stumbled – while tag-surfing WordPress – over a lovely event called ‘Persephone Reading Weekend‘ hosted by Cardigangirlverity and the Paperback Reader.

So, I’ll be joining and do my best to finish reading ‘Good evening Mrs. Craven’ by Mollie Panter-Downes which is book No. 8 on the Persephone book list. I’m actually still reading the preface, a very interesting introduction to the author and journalism / fictional writing during World War II. Since the book is a collection of short stories I will manage some reviews this weekend even if I won’t be able to finish the book. So, back to reading!

Off the shelf challenge 2011

Off The Shelf!

I’ve looked through a lot of blogs about books lately and found an interesting reading challenge which may be a way to cut the shelf of unread books I acquired over the last year. Since I started spinning as well as knitting I find myself reading a lot less, plus the mountain of linguistic books I need to read for work / PhD make me a lot less enthusiastic about reading in my spare time. A sad thing, because books and reading were once the most important things in my free time! I read during meals (bad, I know, but I live alone), in public transport, in the park, through breaks and in bed. I went to the public library at least once a week and easily finished three to five books a week. Bookstores and libraries were my favourite places (they still are – I just don’t visit them as often as I used to). Now I find my self struggling to read that amount in a month and often return unread books to the library. I still buy books and I think it’s time to get back to reading them! Ergo, the challenge! I’ll try to read 30 of the unread books in my possession until the end of the year! (Although I hope I will manage to read more than 30 books this year :-))

Here’s the list:

  1. The secret diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James
  2. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (audiobook)
  4. Carrie on, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
  5. The roar of butterflies by Reginald Hill
  6. Firmin by Sam Savage
  7. The Complaints by Ian Rankin (audiobook)
  8. The other book by Philip Womack
  9. Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
  10. Real Murders by Charlain Harris
  11. A bone to pick by Charlaine Harris
  12. A murder is announced by Agatha Christie
  13. Excellent women by Barbara Pym
  14. The mapping of love and death by Jaqueline Winspear
  15. Good evening, Mrs. Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes
  16. Few Eggs and no oranges by Vere Hodgson
  17. Henrietta’s war by Joyce Dennis
  18. The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  19. Theodosia and the serprents of chaos by R. L. LaFevers (audiobook)
  20. Theodosia and the eyes of Horus byR. L. LaFevers (audiobook)
  21. Theodosia and the staff of Osiris by R. L. LaFevers (audiobook)
  22. The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black
  23. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  24. The weed that strings the Hangman’s bag by Allen Bradley
  25. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  26. 20.000 leagues under the sea by Jules Verne
  27. How to twist a dragon’s tale by Cressida Cowell (audiobook)
  28. How to ride a dragon’s storm  by Cressida Cowell (audiobook)
  29. Tintentod by Cornelia Funke
  30. Through England on a side saddle by Miss Celia Fiennes

Let’s see how that works! Now back to work 😦