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Review – History of the Rain by Niall Williams

Hello,

The secret is out, Richard Flanagan won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. As you might have noticed, I already read some Man Booker Prize long- and shortlisted books this year (but didn’t read Richard Flanagan). The one I’ll be talking about today is Niall Williams‘ longlisted novel History of the Rain. Its cover made me want to read it as soon as I first set eyes on it. Thank you Rupertus Buchhandlung for providing me with a free copy for review.

History of the Rain

Image provided by Bloomsbury UK¹

Synopsis quoted from Bloomsbury UK¹:

We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling. In Faha, County Clare, everyone is a long story…

Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to grandfather Abraham, to her father, Virgil – via pole-vaulting, leaping salmon, poetry and the three thousand, nine hundred and fifty eight books piled high beneath the two skylights in her room, beneath the rain.

The stories – of her golden twin brother Aeney, their closeness even as he slips away; of their dogged pursuit of the Swains’ Impossible Standard and forever falling just short; of the wild, rain-sodden history of fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland – pour forth in Ruthie’s still, small, strong, hopeful voice.

My Thoughts:

History of the Rain is set in a small town in contemporary Ireland. It is very hard to think of the setting as contemporary because the story could as well be set in the early 20th century. The town is a very small rural town and Niall Williams’ writing gives it a vintage touch. It’s quite shocking when suddenly a modern car winds its way up the road.

Our main character is Ruth Swain, who tells us about her ancestors’ lives. She is a young, intelligent woman bedbound in her family’s home. Ruth tells us a lot about her father Virgil, a great thinker born into a world of doers. Virgil turns out to be a very intense character in the second half of the book. He loves writing so much that he starts to forget everything around him.

History of the Rain has two stories to tell. While Ruth recounts the lives of her ancestors, we observe how Ruth leads her own life. These two plotlines are interwoven and alternate just like two fish taking turns jumping out of the water. The novel is beautifully written and some passages are amazing and create very strong feelings. On the whole, however, History of the Rain very often drags on. I was wondering about this, because the story isn’t boring. I think it was the writing (some very long sentences in there) that made the book tedious to read, at least for me. Nevertheless, History of the Rain is a book that you will enjoy if you’re looking for a novel you can analyze (and reread), because I think there is more to it than I had time to discover.

 3beans

¹ http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/history-of-the-rain-9781408852026/

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Frankfurt Book Fair 2014 – It’s Been A Pleasure

Hello,

I’m back from a wonderful weekend at Frankfurt Book Fair. Fortunately, this year we didn’t have a snow storm, so we arrived Friday late afternoon, just in time for a quick stroll through the halls and the Virenschleuder-Preis award ceremony.

The Virenschleuder-Preis award is a German marketing award established in 2011 by Leander Wattig and Carsten Raimann. The winners of this year’s awards were:

On Saturday, my friend and I were on a tight schedule. First on our list was the dotbooks and Skoobe blogger breakfast. When we arrived, the stand was already bustling with bloggers. We were served coffee, orange juice and pretzels and soon got talking with Lena and Adrian from Büchernest. The breakfast ended with dotbooks and Skoobe handing out nice little goodie bags containing postcards and a smart phone wiper.

Kein & Aber stand

Particularly beautiful stand by Kein & Aber publishers

On our way to my next meeting, we came by the stand of the Museum of the Printing Arts Leipzig where we were able to do an etching which we printed using a historical press from the mid-19th century. This was most definitely one of my highlights at the fair.

Etching Eye

The etching I did

After our creative rest, we moved on to meet Ulrike from Penguin Random House UK. We had a very nice time and were treated to coffee (my friend said it was the best she had on our trip) and coke. I’m going to tell you more about our meeting with Ulrike in a separate blog post in the upcoming weeks.

Frankfurt Book Fair

A foggy view of Agora at Frankfurt Book Fair

As soon as the meeting was over, we had to rush to hall 4.1 to be engulfed by a mass of (mainly) girls at the Lovelybooks readers’ and blogger get-together. We had a great time talking to Tina and Dani from Lovelybooks, IraWira of … always time for a nice cup of tea and a good book!, Mareike and Maike from Herzpotenzial and, again, Ulrike. The get-together was a blast and Lovelybooks made our day by serving cupcakes and cookies and providing us with a huge goodie bag with lots of books, notebooks and a teeny-weeny stamp in it. Thank you so much! My shoulders and legs hurt for three days and some Christmas gifts are already covered. ;)

Finland Kids

Kids’ corner in Finland’s hall

On Sunday, we spent a large part of our remaining three hours visiting the hall of the guest land Finland and the antiquarian fair. I have to admit that I had expected more of Finland’s hall. It was very basic and cold. I also wasn’t tempted to browse the books on display, as they were arranged chaotically with all sorts of languages and topics mixed up. The only thing I found nice was the children’s area, as it was warm and inviting. The antiquarian fair was warm and inviting as well and so we stayed there for a while to gaze at delicately painted book pages, beautiful old leather bindings and books as big as modern TV screens. We were so in awe of these very expensive artifacts from another time, we didn’t dare to touch a single book. Another highlight at the fair!

Finland

Finland’s hall

Soon after, we had to leave the fairgrounds to hop onto our bus to make our long way home to Austria. But there’s one more thing left to tell you. Strolling through the halls, I’ve written down the names of a few books that grabbed my attention.

Unfortunately, many stands in hall 8 weren’t very inviting. A lot of the publishers were packing, many had already left, others had arranged a wall of chairs to hinder you from browsing their books.

Empty Stand

Finally I’d like to direct special thanks to Mr Besold from Buchhandlung Besold for helping us out of a difficult situation. Buchhandlung Besold is a local bookstore in Carinthia that offers free shipping ;).

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Review – The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Hello,

Before I’m off to Frankfurt Book Fair, I’d like to share another review. Thanks to Penguin Random House UK I had the pleasure of reading Ian McEwan’s latest novel The Children Act in a LovelyBooks reader’s circle.

The Children Act

Image provided by Jonathan Cape¹

Synopsis quoted from Jonathan Cape¹:

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now, her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith? In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital – an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

My Thoughts:

The Children Act is set in contemporary England and from the very first page, Ian McEwan draws you into Fiona Maye’s world with detailed descriptions of her surroundings.

Fiona is an introvert High Court judge approaching sixty who has been living by the rules for all her life. She has problems showing her feelings and in consequence her marriage suffers. When Fiona meets Adam, a young man suffering from leukaemia, her world starts spinning. Adam, who is almost 18, is very different from Fiona. He is overly self-confident, poetry-writing know-it-all and he is determined to live his short life to the fullest – finally, a teenager acting like a teenager.

The Children Act is built around a theme that some might be bored by and it is written in beautiful, refined prose that can be hard to understand for those who aren’t advanced speakers of English. But please don’t be put off by the complex language and the law theme, as McEwan manages to give you insight into a world unknown to most of us, and while I was sceptical at first, this book kept me glued to the pages. So go on and read this riveting novel about life and the choices you make.

4beans

¹ http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/the-childrens-act/9780224101998

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Review – How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Hi,

Today I’d like to show you a book that surprised me, because, judging the book by its cover, I thought this would be your usual coming-of-age fare. The novel is How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran and I’d like to thank HarperCollins International for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

How to Build a Girl

Image provided by HarperCollins US¹

Synopsis quoted from HarperCollins US¹:

What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Bröntes—but without the dying young bit.

By sixteen, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realizes she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

My Thoughts:

How to Build a Girl is set in England in the 1990s. To be more specific, our main character Johanna lives in Wolverhampton, about two hours north of London.

We accompany Johanna Morrigan through the worst of her teenage years. Johanna is a chubby girl who wants to change the way people see her. This is why she reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, a goth and music critic who has seen it all. While I can absolutely identify with Johanna, I’m having problems with Dolly. Sure, like Johanna, Dolly has traits that remind me of my teenage self (very spooky!), but sometimes I get the feeling that Dolly’s character is a bit over the top. I can’t think of any person I know who, as a teenager, behaved like Dolly – and I was in the goth and heavy metal scene myself for some time.

Overall, reading How to Build a Girl feels like traveling back in time. I got to relive my teenage years with a different perspective. The novel is fun and includes bite-sized historical background information for those who aren’t that familiar with the UK in the 1990s. How to Build a Girl is the perfect read for 20- and 30-somethings, as they can relate to the 1990s setting and connect with Johanna/Dolly.

4beans

¹ http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062335975/how-to-build-a-girl

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Frankfurt Book Fair 2014 – Tips, Preparation and Anticipation

Hello,

As Miss Treegarden and I loved our trip to Frankfurt Book Fair last year, I have to go there again this year. I’m taking a lovely friend and, as a special guest, Nana from Nana – What Else?. We’ll be there Friday late afternoon ’til Sunday noon.

Frankfurt Book Fair 2014

Image provided by Frankfurter Buchmesse¹

In two weeks, Frankfurt Book Fair will open its doors and there are still way too many points on my to-do list. I still don’t have a new digital voice recorder for my interview(s). I cannot say if it’s interview or interviews because I still don’t know if it’s going to be more than one :D. But I’m really looking forward to this one! And I finally know what to wear. That’s another huge plus. I’m also not sure if my friend will get a ticket for the fair on Friday but I’m working on it. I really hope she’ll get one so we can attend the Virenschleuder Preisverleihung on the fairgrounds together. All this sounds chaotic but at least I know what I’m dealing with this year. This time last year I had no clue what Frankfurt Book Fair would be like and so I thought I’d share some hopefully helpful tips with you.

The Beginner’s Guide to Frankfurt Book Fair
What to wear
  • Comfortable shoes: comfy shoes are probably the most important thing on the list. Don’t wear your favorite shoes if you can’t walk miles and miles in them. The fairgrounds are huge. They are actually twice the size of the old town I live in and that doesn’t count the multiple levels of the halls.
  • Layered look: I can’t predict the weather but I can tell you that fall will have arrived in Germany. ;) It might be rainy and cold outdoors, but the halls will be heated and full of people, so no matter if you’ll go with a business look, or a more down-to-Earth casual-visitor look, you should think about dressing in layers. Jackets, blazers, bolero jackets, cardigans, etc. will do the trick.
Things you might need
  • A small bottle of water: food and drinks are awfully expensive on the fairgrounds, so I prefer to bring something.
  • Granola bars: they are small & fill you up until lunch or dinnertime.
  • A small notebook & a pen: to note down great books and contact details of people you meet.
  • Business cards: if you have some, bring them :) .
  • A camera or a camera phone: you’ll see awesome stuff!
  • Lip balm: beware of dry air ;) .
  • A comfy shoulder bag or a rucksack: Last year, I took a tiny shoulder bag for the things I needed close at hand and a rucksack for the water, granola bars and everything I picked up along the way on my day at the fair. A good decision.

You can save money by eating at the mall right next to the fairgrounds. Just exit through the East Entrance in Hall 3 or the City Entrance in Hall 1. The mall is a one-minute walk from Hall 3.

Bloggers, journalists, everyone else who wants one: You don’t have to bring one of those plastic badge holders because you can pick one up for free at every entrance.

So I hope this was helpful or informative for some of you! I hope you’ll have a great time experiencing Frankfurt Book Fair. If you want to meet, my calendar still has open spots. Just drop me a line :)

If you have any tips, please share them with us in the comment section! Thank you :)

¹ http://buchmesse.de/en/

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The Thing About December by Donal Ryan

Hi,

Today I’d like to introduce you to Donal Ryan’s novel The Thing About December. I have the hardcover edition, but there’s a new, very beautiful paperback edition that was released last week. Donal Ryan’s first book The Spinning Heart was longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize and won the Guardian First Book Award in the same year.

Also, thank you Iris from Leseerlebnis for this wonderful gift!

The Thing About December

Image provided by Transworld Publishers¹:

Synopsis quoted from Transworld Publishers¹:

‘He heard Daddy one time saying he was a grand quiet boy to Mother when he thought Johnsey couldn’t hear them talking. Mother must have been giving out about him being a gom and Daddy was defending him. He heard the fondness in Daddy’s voice. But you’d have fondness for an auld eejit of a crossbred pup that should have been drowned at birth.’

While the Celtic Tiger rages, and greed becomes the norm, Johnsey Cunliffe desperately tries to hold on to the familiar, even as he loses those who all his life have protected him from a harsh world. Village bullies and scheming land-grabbers stand in his way, no matter where he turns.
Set over the course of one year of Johnsey’s life, The Thing About December breathes with his grief, bewilderment, humour and agonizing self-doubt. This is a heart-twisting tale of a lonely man struggling to make sense of a world moving faster than he is.

My Thoughts:

Donal Ryan set his novel in a village in contemporary Ireland. Large parts of the story take place on Johnsey Cunliffe’s farm which is so lonely it sometimes resembles a still life.

In The Thing About December, we follow one year in the life of the main character Johnsey Cunliffe. Johnsey is a lonely young man with a job he doesn’t like, less than a handful of people he can count on and a lot of problems coming his way. I was instantly able to connect to Johnsey. He is a very sweet man who knows much more than people seem to notice.

Donal Ryan doesn’t use standard English to tell Johnsey’s tale, so some passages might be hard to read for those who aren’t native speakers of English. The language however, reduces our distance to Johnsey to a minimum and helps us to empathize with him. Throughout one year, we get to know the intimate thoughts of a man whom we would probably just pass on the street. The Thing About December will leave you thinking about all the lonely people spending day after day within their four walls and it will make you cherish your friends and family even more. A wonderful novel for everyone.

5beans

¹ http://www.transworldbooks.co.uk/editions/the-thing-about-december/9781781620090

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Review – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Hello,

I hope you’ve heard that David Mitchell has written a new novel. It’s called The Bone Clocks and it was longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

The Bone Clocks

Image provided by Sceptre¹

Synopsis quoted from Sceptre¹:

One drowsy summer’s day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for ‘asylum’. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking . . .

The Bone Clocks follows the twists and turns of Holly’s life from a scarred adolescence in Gravesend to old age on Ireland’s Atlantic coast as Europe’s oil supply dries up – a life not so far out of the ordinary, yet punctuated by flashes of precognition, visits from people who emerge from thin air and brief lapses in the laws of reality. For Holly Sykes – daughter, sister, mother, guardian – is also an unwitting player in a murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world, and may prove to be its decisive weapon.

My Thoughts:

The Bone Clocks is set on various continents between the 1980s and the 2040s. Sometimes the story takes you even further into the past. David Mitchell is good at setting different scenes. I really enjoyed my time at an Alpine ski resort and got scared visiting other places and times (I’m being vague, so I don’t spoil anything ;) ).

Throughout the book we meet a lot of different characters: writers, a war reporter and the members of two old organizations. We actually switch between those characters and that becomes quite confusing at times. The book is written in first person narration and each time the narrator changes you have to find out who you are. The first character we meet is Holly Sykes. She plays a vital role in the Script, which is a sort of prophecy, but she also connects the various characters we meet. Another important character and narrator is Marinus. He is very old and was easier to empathize with than some of the other narrators.

As I’ve already said, The Bone Clocks is divided into sections that each feature a different character. It was easy to find into the story and the first two sections flow wonderfully, but by the third section things slow down and the plot distances itself from the supernatural part of the book and what in my opinion is most gripping about it. Unfortunately, the plot only picks up after about 300 more pages. So, 300 out of 600 pages didn’t really add to the main plot. Not that they weren’t written well, but they just didn’t fit the story and made me want to skip them altogether (which I didn’t do of course). In The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell shows off his talent, so we get to read a little bit of everything, like for example young adult literature, dystopia and fantasy. I would have preferred a condensed version of The Bone Clocks without having the feeling of reading a portfolio. I’ll still read Cloud Atlas though!

3beans

¹ https://www.hodder.co.uk/Books/detail.page?isbn=9780340921609