Monday, 31 January 2011

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Book Journey to share with others what you've read the past week and planning to read next.

This last week I read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, which I will review soon.

I also participated in Allie's readalong of Rebecca and posted my thoughts on the second half of the book.

I'm going to read Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost. I'm excited about what this book will teach me about China and if the author really is another Bryson. I read this book for the Book Read Round the World event which is hosted by Carin at A Little Bookish.

If I have a good reading time this week I will try and read Still Alice by Lisa Genova, too.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Rebecca Readalong Post #2

I didn't think the beginning to be slow as many of my fellow readers thought and I was not so hard on our narrator as well. Maybe that was because she is so young and not very decisive, some flaw of the character that I can still detect in myself. A weak character always leaves for improvement. And emotions are stirred with such a character whom one always wants to grab by the shoulders and make see/act.

With the second half though, I always thought I knew what was going on but - way of the mark - it came different throughout the book. I won't give away anything. Du Maurier is a remarkable narrator and I think the best recommendation I can give is to grab the book and start reading immedietly if you havent't done so yet.

One question remained in my head until the end: Why doesn't the narrator have a name? I searched the internet and of course somebody cared to ask du Maurier herself. She replied that she could not think of a name and that it even became a challenge for her to write the novel without naming the narrator. Of course not naming her hints on her not being worthy to have a name. Rebecca then is not only the more beautiful, witty and capable character but although the one deserving to have a name.

I won't go as far as to count it one of my favorites but one should certainly not miss it.

This readalong was hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

New books!

I can now count three new books to my posession. I have bought Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood used and since I take part in the Book Read Around the World event, Julie sent me the book Lost on Planet China which we all read and additionally the book Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen for me to keep. That's so awesome. Thanks Julie!

So when I have finished Sense and Sensibility I'm going to read Lost on Planet China. I'm really looking forward to it. And it feels nice to have a book in my hands which some of my fellow bloggers already held in theirs.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Top Ten Books I wish I had read as a kid.

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme to share your top ten bookish things. It is especially funny for people who like to make lists.

The very hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle - Alone the cover is just adorable, it is definitily a book I would read to my children.

Pünktchen und Anton by Erich Kästner - It's a German children's classic and I owned it but cannot recall reading it. Kästner wrote Emil and the Detectives, too.

Momo by Michael Ende - Another German children's classic. I never read this one but recall it being one of the books in the waiting room at the children's dentist.

The Robber Hotzenplotz by Ottfried Preussler - I remeber having read many books by Ottfried Preussler,like the Little Witch or the Little Water-Spritebut I never came around to the Robber Hotzenblotz.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren - I watched the movie more than once together with my younger brother but I did not come around reading the book, although one can get them in every IKEA in Germany.

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister - I remember this one to have the most impressing cover I have ever looked at as a child. The colorful fish with those amazing glittering fish scales. It was one more book in the waiting room of the children's doctor. I think I always wanted to take it home with me.

Those are not ten yet but I can't think of any more. But the meme remebered me how much my reading is influenced by English language literature today. As a child it seems I knew way more German authors.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Hello Japan! January mini-challenge: Something New

Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there will be a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. This meme is hosted by Tanabata at In Spring it is the Dawn

For January the task is to try something new Japanese, which one has never tried before. And I did, twice. I read two books by Banana Yoshimoto, an author I have not tried before.

You can find my review for Kitchen here and my review for Goodbye Tsugumi here.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Review: Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto

Goodbye Tsugumi is my third read for the JLC 4 hosted by Belezza. Therefore I accomplished the challenge.

To the question to what her favorite season was, Banana Yoshimoto replied it was summer because she loves the sea. Both the sea and summer are the settings of this story. A story about two girls, who were brought up at the peninsula Izu, Japan. Maria lives in Tokyo now but spends the summer at her aunt and uncle's guest-house in the little village by the sea. It will be her last summer together with her cousins, Tsugumi and Yoko as the guest-house is going to close its gates due to a hotel build in the village.

We get to know Tsugumi, Maria's cousin, who is a girl with a strong character but a weak body. Tsugumi gets ill a lot. With every little exertion a fever puts her to bed. Tsugumi is said to die a young age. Nonetheless she behaves like a bully and makes her family feel uncomfortable with her gift of the gab and other vulgarities.

First I thought Tsugumi troubles the people in her reach to make a difference in their lives, that when she is gone people won't forget her. But when I got closer to the end I changed my mind. I think her motives lay in opening the eyes of the others; trying to make it easier for them.

"Each one of us continues to carry the heart of each self we've ever been, at every stage along the way, and a chaos of everything good and rotten. And we have to carry this weight all alone, through each day that we live. We try to be as nice as we can to the people we love, but we alone support the weight of ourselves."

Death again is a motive in this work, it's a constant thread to Tsugumi, which it seems she wants to shy away with her boldness. I think it is one of the author's messages in general: to not shy away from life even when facing death like strong Tsugumi.

Yoshimoto's style is "easy-to-read" and she tends to use common language. It is refreshing and youthful. Dialogues often follow a scheme not like one character telleing something and the other inquiring further but as if characters knew each other so well, they would not need to ask for more details to give an appropriate answer.

As I tend to get a lot out of Yoshimoto's works right now I lined up another book by her for a near future read already. It's going to be Lizard.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Rebecca Readalong Post #1

Participating in the Rebecca Readalong, I have read the first half of the book now and want to share my thoughts about it. In the first chapter a preface is given by the unnamed narrator du Maurier has chosen to tell the story. She escaped Manderley with her husband Maxim de Winter as she could not succeed becoming its new Mistress. She is haunted by Maxim's first but dead wife Rebecca. The story sets on describing how the young, orphaned girl became the second Mrs. de Winter and how she was received at Manderley, Maxim's home, where one year ago the beautiful Rebecca has drowned in the bay.

Our narrator is still aware of the former presence of Rebecca, who entertained many visitors at Manderley and with a sure hand had run the house, who was talented and had a good taste. The narrator struggles to follow in Rebecca's steps. But she can only fail. The reason for that is the constant comparison between the idealized Rebecca and the insufficient second wife. She had never had a chance because people who had adored Rebecca had set their minds before even getting to know the new girl. For an example take Mrs. Danvers. She hates the new Mrs. de Winter not for being the person she is but for not being Rebecca. Mrs. Danvers would have hated every new Mrs. de Winter for not being Rebecca as a matter of fact. And all the other people the new wife has to face feel the same way.

"When I go returning these calls, as I did this afternoon, I know people are looking me up and down, wondering what sort of success I'm going to make out of it. I can imagine them saying, "What on earth does Maxim see in her?" And then, Frank, I begin to wonder myself, and I begin to doubt, and I have a fearful haunting feeling that I should never have married Maxim, that we are not going to be happy. You see, I know that all the time, whenever I meet anyone new, they are all thinking the same thing - How different she is to Rebecca."

I have read about this and found a German Wikipedia entry terming it the Rebecca Myth. In a glorifying retrospect people believe that everything had been for the better in the past, Rebecca's past. The myth becomes stronger the more this subjective belief strengthens.

Actually I would have hoped for the narrator that she finds a way in the hearts of the people and frees herself of shyness and fears but for the preface everything points at the narrator not being able to ever meet the expectations of the people at Manderley. Nevertheless I'm looking forward to read on hoping for the new girl.

This readalong is hosted by Allie at The Literary Odyssey.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Bookish Resolutions

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme to share your top ten bookish things. It is especially funny for people who like to make lists.

1. I'm going to read 50 books this year. At least I will try - again. I read 48 books in 2009 and 42 books in 2010. To achieve this goal I try to read a book a week, starting and finishing Saturdays.

2. I'm going to read books already on my shelf as I bought each because it appealed to me and they still do, so they have to get a chance.

3. I will try to read more German books. I have been neglecting books from my country for too long now. I will get those books from the library and report back if I found something appealing.

4. I'm going to read the classics. First of all I think of Jane Austen I read Pride and Prejudice and want to read the other Austen novels, too.

5. I will try and widen my Japanese Literature horizon in 2011. I already read and reviewed Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto this year and want to read some more Murakami. Other recommendations are welcome.

6. I have to read more non-fiction. That's a fact.

7. I'm an occasional re-reader. When I feel like it I will do it.

8. I'm trying to review every book I read on my blog.

As I can't think of more for now I will stop here. Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for this nice Tuesday meme.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

My first book for 2011. It is a short one though as my edition has only 183 pages. My motivation to read it was the JLC 4 hosted by Belezza.

It is a novel but reads like three short stories, two being connected.

First Mikage's grandmother dies. Now she is all alone in the world. Fortunately Yuichi, who cared about Mikage's grandmother too, asks her to stay with him and his mother in their apartment. Mikage accepts and finds herself a new family and a new home with a good kitchen. This is most important as kitchens are the most comfortable places for her.

In the second part Yuichi becomes an orphan, too. He is loosing himself and Mikage is one of a few to understand his misery. She understands that the only chance to save him and herself can be found in them being together.

The third part is a story called Moonlight Shadow. Again it is about the sudden loss of a beloved one and the way the bereaved have to deal with that loss. It was in fact Yoshimoto's first piece of writing and delivers already many themes which later are parts of Kitchen, like death, the exuberance of emotions and mysterious twists in the plot, like when Mikage decides to visit Yuichi in his hotel and intentionally knocks on the right window without really knowing which room belongs to him.

Yoshimoto's stories are sad ones. But she uses language and style to make it easier to endure. Her protagonists are young and lusting for life as well as anxious for it. The process of the stories do not always follow logic, like the panels in comic books. I think this is not so much important for the progress of the story but much more for the psychological background of the characters, which is intentionally not described any further.

In an after-word the author states that she has to say things and will continue to write novels until this need is satisfied. Great - I think to myself. I look forward to read Goodbye Tsugumi.