#WeekendCoffeeShare: If We Were Having Coffee… On April 30

Hello, book lovers!

How are you? Welcome to the Weekend Coffee Share, a blog hop by the lovely Diana over at Part Time Monster. Every weekend we get together for virtual coffees and a little casual chat. How has this past week been for you?

If we were having coffee today, I’d first of all tell you that I have finally caught up with all my review writing for the A to Z Challenge. Yes! You read that right: I AM DONE! I survived the A to Z Challenge! Check out my 26 posts here, all nice and in order, and in a format that will allow me to add my entries for the next few years. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it, especially as I had to give up on the challenge on my other blog Study.Read.Write. I think this deserves a huge coffee and possibly ice cream. Oh, and sushi tonight with my gran.

With this challenge now (finally) complete, I will be focusing on my normal, day-to-day reviews of the books I’m currently reading, and joining a few more weekly features. At the moment I’m part of this Weekend Coffee Share, and of the Top Ten Tuesday, but I am hoping to expand the range over the next few weeks.

If we were having coffee, I’d also tell you about my studies. Now that the challenge is out of the way, I will need to focus more on my last few assignments and my thesis. So far I haven’t been able to do much as I was still waiting for books to arrive. But now I only have 4 outstanding orders.

Then again, I am contemplating whether to get some of the (free) eBooks I found printed and bound. I found a cheapish service, and I much prefer reading physical copies of twenty 400-page-strong books than reading them on the computer. I am someone who likes to add index tabs and post-its to my textbooks and highlight any passages I could use. I’d get them printed without any fancy designs or formatting, just so I can pick up an actual book and use it rather than printing out odd pages or none at all. It’s just the way I work. Mind you, I am someone who sometimes adds marginalia, however, I only do so if it is my book. I’d never disrespect someone else by writing in their book, and I am not getting rid of my books, so it doesn’t matter to me. I also love finding margin notes in second-hand books to see what others thought or what was so important that they had to make a note. Marginalia were actively taught and encouraged at my school, so that’s the way I work.

Do you write in the margins? Did you develop a system that helped you get through 20-odd massive textbooks for grad school?

Anyway, I need to get on with my studying and planning my future blog posts. Thank you so much for having coffee with me today, I needed a little chat, relaxation and sanity after the craziness of the A to Z. check out what the other Weekend Coffee Sharers have been up to, I’m sure they’d love to have coffee with you as well!

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Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance embodies that 70’s spirit of road trips and the search for enlightenment.

The story follows the narrator and his son on a motorcycle trip across the North-Western USA. It’s a very personal and moving account, which is not only testament to their father and son bond, but also feels incredibly raw and real.

Along the way, the father and son duo have many philosophical discussions which they call Chautauquas, ranging from ethical emotivism to the philosophy of science. Unfortunately, the son, Chris, does not often get a word in edgeways. His father, or Phaedrus as he refers to his past self, has a lot to say. And while his teachings are solid, they are a mere introduction to philosophy and touch on the great philosophers who should be explored more after reading the book.

Despite the name, there is not as much Zen Buddhism, or motorcycle maintenance come to think of it, as one would expect. That being said, the explanation of the scientific method and how we as a society and as individuals go about discovering the truth, and the analogy of working on a motorcycle is beautifully written.

Road trips have this habit of serving as time for contemplation and finding oneself. The open road can do that to you. And discussing philosophical aspects and teachings with a fellow traveller is a valid past-time. Towards the end of the book, Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance really tips over into preaching, though. It’s no longer a discussion or an anecdote seen for its philosophical value. And that’s when the reading turns from being fun into being tedious. The search for enlightenment has turned into a lesson.

As a road trip story between father and son, during which the father wants to share some life advice, this would be great! But the author apparently could not resist temptation to turn absolutely everything into a philosophy lesson, which takes away from the story at the heart of this novel.

 

My Rating: ♥♥♥

Title: Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Author: Robert M. Pirsig
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Release Date: June 6, 1991 (originally published September 1974)
Pages: 416
ISBN:  978-0099786405

Young Sherlock Holmes – Death Cloud by Andy Lane #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud (as it is known in English) by Andrew Lane takes place in the 1860’s with a fourteen-year-old schoolboy Sherlock Holmes solving his very first mysterious case.

As someone who has grown up with the original Sherlock Holmes canon and more recent TV regenerations of the sleuth from Baker Street, I was intrigued by this book.

Sherlock is meant to spend the summer with his aunt in the country, and the teenager couldn’t be more bored by that prospect.

The case Sherlock comes across involved a mysterious cloud, which descends on people and leaves them dead and covered in boils. However, at age 14, Sherlock’s world-famous deductive skills are still seriously lacking. His sidekick is not a teenaged version of John Watson but a boy called Matty. And while Matty is a great character and their friendship is nicely written, Sherlock is disappointing for fans of the sleuth.

Young Sherlock Holmes is not at all what I expected. While I find the concept of a teenaged Sherlock really intriguing, it is hard to reconcile this young boy who suggests rather than deduces and has a love interest with the well-known adult Sherlock Holmes everyone knows. If the premise of a book is the childhood of one of the best known fictional detectives ever, I would expect that at least some part of the story hints at what shaped this teenager into the aloof, friendless and highly analytical sleuth people know.

A Sherlock Holmes story – no matter how old the protagonist happens to be – should be clever, witty, interesting, and at the end baffling. Unfortunately, this novel is none of that. Granted, the plot is original, as are most of the characters, but the character of Sherlock feels wrong for true fans.  It reads like sophisticated fanfiction, and  – dare I say it? – there’s more convincing fanfiction out there which explores Sherlock’s childhood in Victorian England. If the protagonist had any other name, I doubt I would have recognised that he’s meant to be the detective.

 

My Rating: ♥♥

Title: Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud
Author: Andrew Lane
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s
Release Date: June 4, 2010
Pages: 313
ISBN:  978-0330511988

Xingu by Edith Wharton #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

This short story is usually part of a collection entitled Xingu and Other Stories, but it is now also available by itself.

Edith Wharton’s Xingu is a hilarious take on Ladies Book Clubs and luncheons.

Written in 1916, the story centres around a group of six ladies who regularly get together to discuss literature, even though some of the women do not even bother to read the books. And yet, their contributions are often somehow fitting.

When a famous guest author comes to town, nothing really goes to plan as this guest does not want to discuss anything – except for Xingu. While all of them assure that they have studied it, and the guest wants to appear superior, it’s one of the less popular members of the women’s club who has to take her down a peg.  It’s a brilliant satire of book clubs and critics and hilariously funny. Calling out the snobbery and pretentiousness of ladies who want to seem cultured but refuse to do the legwork.

Incidentally, the book club members also represent the different types of readers. The purist who wants to internalise the entire book, and the one who only reads a book if the man gets the girl at the end, to the non-reader who just wants to look and sound cultured. Despite the story only having 48 pages, it is full of sarcasm and social critique.

Xingu is a clever, timeless story, that makes for an entertaining short read.

 

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Title: Xingu
Author: Edith Wharton
Publisher: Kessinger Publishing
Release Date: June 1, 2004 (originally published February 7, 1916)
Pages: 48
ISBN:  978-1419195136

 

Where the Streets have no Name – Interview with author Kapka Kassabova #tbt

It’s Throwback Thursday, and I thought I’d share this article with you.

It’s an interview I did with Bulgarian writer Kapka Kassabova for the Words by the Water festival in Keswick, Cumbria 2009.

First published in Write On! magazine which was created by my journalism course at the University of Cumbria as the official Words by the Water magazine for 2009.

Continue reading

Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

Witi Ihimaera’s Whale Rider is a beautiful gem of a story, highlighting and celebrating Maori culture and society.

Eight-year-old Kahu is a girl growing up in a male-dominated world. Her tribe claims to go all the way back to the whale rider Kahutia Te Rangi and the current chief is her ageing grandfather Koro. It’s a sore point with him that his first grandchild is not only a girl, but also named after the legendary ancestor.

In a society, in which the tribal ways still dictate social and cultural behaviour, the little girl has to prove her worth as her grandfather desperately seeks a successor.

Whale Rider is written from the perspective of Kahu’s uncle Rawiri, who – like the author – knows the Maori culture. Trying to gain her grandfather’s love, Kahu throws herself into her studies of the Maori language and local legends. And with a little curiosity and the secret help of her relatives, Kahu learns the skills usually reserved for boys. When whales start to wash up on the beach of the small Maori community, it is time for the real heir of Kahutia to take their rightful place in the tribe.

It is a beautiful story, weaving together the past and present, highlighting the generational shift in dynamics while trying to hang on to the old ways and legends. The relationship between Kahu and her grandfather is both beautiful and incredibly sad. All Kahu wants is for her grandfather to love her. She’s a good, well-behaved girl, who does not understand why she is being punished with neglect; while he is an old man who only knew one way of running the tribe, and what positions girls in his family are supposed to take and struggles with breaking from tradition.

The book does a wonderful job of introducing Maori culture and includes many Maori names and words. There’s no westernized view of tribal life or belittling of the traditional ways. It showcases the importance of the ancestral legends and the how their culture defines their everyday life. But at the heart, it is a touching story about a little girl and her granddad who live in Aotearoa – the Land of the Long White Cloud – and who have to work at  finding mutual respect in a world in which cultural limitations are changing.

Whale Rider was the first novel by a Maori author to be published, and to me, this is a defining piece of Kiwi Literature. If you are interested in New Zealand at all, read this book first and foremost!

 

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Title: Whale Rider
Author: Witi Ihimaera
Publisher: HMH Books
Release Date: May 1, 2003 (originally published in 1987)
Pages: 150
ISBN:  978-0152050160

Books of Colour: Pink

@Conny Kaufmann / Literati Girl

@Conny Kaufmann / Literati Girl

In this picture:

  • Wendekreis des Krebses by Henry Miller
  • Grete Minde by Theodor Fontane
  • East is East by Ayub Khan Din
  • Das Schicksal in Person by Agatha Christie
  • … ein gewisses Lächeln by Françoise Sagan
  • Ein intimes Gespräch by Truman Capote
  • Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Bookworm Delights

Top Ten Tuesday is the brainchild of The Broke & the Bookish. Every Tuesday, we compile a list of our literary Top 10, and then add it to the blog hop.

This week is all about our Top 10 Bookworm Delights.

1.) Finding that perfect reading spot
You know the one. That perfect place to relax and put your feet up while reading your books and sipping tea during the day and wine in the evening. My perfect reading spot – which I haven’t actually found yet – looks like this: One of those old sofas covered in afghans and pillows, on a sunlit, wide porch or wrap-around verandah on a secluded house in the bush. It’s nice and sunny and warm in the sunlight, but so sheltered through the wide porch that you can even sit there in the rain or even snow and watch the elements while you get cosy under the blankets with the book. There’s a coffee table nearby to hold cups of tea and coffee, and glasses of wine and a notebook to hold all your thoughts.

2.) That Old Book Smell
If Old Book Smell came as an air freshener, I’d buy it! I love that smell old-fashioned libraries have, of paper, ink, and knowledge. It’s a comforting smell, a calming smell and a grounding smell.

3.) Second-hand Bookstores
There’s something special about shelves upon shelves of pre-loved books looking for a new forever home. With a bit of luck and by really reading the spines and not just glancing over the titles, you can find real treasures. Many second-hand bookstores also have comfy reading nooks, and a whole, loyal community. To me, heaven is a second-hand bookstore, like Shakespeare & Co, or Abbey Books in Paris.

4.) Finding books at a flea market
Not only will the books be cheap, there may be unexpected treasures among the offers. By now I know which of the stalls at my local, annual city-wide flea market Zöppkesmarkt has English-language books, who has the best preserved, who is cheapest and who might have the volumes of collections I’ve been after.

5.) Bookish merchandise
Let’s face it: I love bookish merchandise, though my family has not really caught on yet. My bestie has, however. For example, this Christmas just gone, she surprised me with a Dewey System Scarf, a typewriter-print handbag and a huge mug with the opening lines of famous novels. Back in 2014, I even put together a Gift List for Booklovers on my other blog (just ignore it says Christmas).

6.) Signed copies
I love meeting authors and getting books signed. Especially if the signing includes a personal message or dedication. What I love even more, is finding  a copy signed by a favourite author or one who is dead. Imagine finding a second-hand copy of the Hobbit, just to find it’s a signed first edition!! And sneaky authors are the best – like Neil Gaiman, who had time to kill at the airport somewhere and stealthily signed as many of his books as he could. Didn’t tell the staff, didn’t tell anyone at the time. Then he took to social media and said “by the way, I signed a few copies, and here’s where to find them. Thought it’d be a nice surprise” (or something to that extent).

7.) Book Fandoms
People who love your favourite book just as much as you are automatically your friends. Unlike real-life friends, fandom friends won’t think you’re crazy if you spend hours analysing a scene or writing fanfiction.

8.) Seeing someone read your favourite book in public
It’s really the case of the book recommending a person. You’ll know the story and what they *should* be feeling if they are as immersed in the book as you were. When you try and catch their eye just to give them that knowing look.

9.) Discovering a new favourite author
Sometimes there are authors you simply *get*. You love their style, their humour, the imagery in their writing, the characters they bring to life. And then you soak up everything they’ve ever written. The latest author  I had this feeling with was Neil Gaiman.

10.) Beautiful collections and editions
Only today I found out about the Penguin Drop Caps collection with their gorgeous, colourful cover designs. And I’m still trying to get my hands on the Penguin Clothbound Classics.

Voss by Patrick White #AtoZ #60Books

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge. Also part of my 60 Books Challenge: Based on a true story.

Based on a true story of exploration in the Australian Outback, Voss, by Nobel Prize for Literature winner Patrick White,  epitomises nineteenth-century Australian society and explorer mentality.

Johann Ulrich Voss is a German explorer who is set on being the first to cross Australia, based on Ludwig Leichhardt, who famously got lost in the Australian Outback.

It’s as much a story about passion as it is about exploration. Voss meets a young woman called Laura, who is new to New South Wales and who is the – slightly naive – niece of Voss’ expedition sponsor. Laura and Voss connect on a deep level and share an almost spiritual bond as he leaves on his ill-fated expedition into Australia’s red centre.

Why a character like Voss, who although being enigmatic is also quite arrogant and introverted, would choose to lead an expedition is a bit of a mystery. His sponsors insist on him taking a whole entourage of characters with him, even though it is obvious that Voss would prefer to travel solo. Keeping in contact with Laura as far as possible as many letters do get lost, they come to see each other as husband and wife, even though most of their relationship exists and progresses only in their dreams and imaginations.

Though it is not the main character who is the most interesting figure in this story. Voss’ team consists of a handful of men, all distinct and all misfits, even in their own small group of misfits. Their interactions are what moves the plot along, and they are fascinating to observe. Once the group of explorers encounters aboriginal folk in the Outback, the story becomes infused with their spiritualism as well. Aboriginal people come across as completely “other” and strange, compared to the colonial explorers, and their interactions with Voss’ band of people are rife with communication problems and cultural misunderstandings which are nevertheless crucial to the story.

Patrick White’s writing is simultaneously strange and beautiful. He creates characters and paints landscapes the descriptions of which will stay with readers.White’s story is littered with observations and psychology, and sentences are sometimes designed to be tripping people up while reading.

A story of love, loss, and the dangers of the Outback. Voss truly is the quintessential, modernist Australian novel.

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Title: Voss
Author: Patrick White
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Release Date: 1994 (originally published in 1957)
Pages: 464
ISBN:  978-0099324713

Celebrating #WorldPenguinDay the Bookish Way

Selection of my Penguin Books Collection ©Literati Girl

This is the sort of penguins we’re talking about, right? Took me a while to herd these back together.

In this picture:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  • To the Holy Shrines by Sir Richard Burton
  • The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
  • Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
  • The Timeout Book of London Short Stories
  • Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
  • All Points North by Simon Armitage
  • Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka
  • A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka