Southern Reading Challenge 2009 Completed!

I have finished Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge very much in advance, as it runs until August 15th. But I am quite glad to have one little reading success on this blog; I am doing so many challenges and my TBR-list is so huge that I need to get something done-done-done from time to time.
Here again are the three southern books I have read:

  • William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury. Maybe the most difficult read from my list and I will definitely have to re-read it again to fully grasp it.
  • Robert Tallant, The Voodoo Queen. A great fictional attempt to make a biography of one of the most fascinating women of Louisiana in the 19th century. (Longer review here)
  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening. I finished it this night and am really surprised about the modern approach of Edna's struggle. Also a great depiction of the south.
Thanks for this challenge that made me search for great southern books, read and love them.

Everything Austen Challenge

Stephanie from The Written Word is hosting this perfect challenge for any Jane Austen fan. Running through six months from July 1st 2009 to January 1st 2010, six "Austen-themed" works have to be read or watched and I am terribly looking forward to do a very mixed list of Jane Austen herself, sequels and/or spinoffs by authors fans of Austen and some of the many movies/series that have been made over the years and that I have not all watched yet.

Here is my list - changes might happen:

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
Have to read it for two other challenges, so I put it on this list too to help me read and finish it (I tried it once and did not get far).
Sean Grahame-Smith, Pride & Prejudice and Zombies
Hearing so many good things about this book, I have planned to read it for quite awhile now.
BBC Pride & Prejudice | TV mini-series (1995)
A classic adaptation of my favourite Austen novel I love to watch and re-watch.
Amanda Grange, Mr. Darcy' Diary
Another sequel/adaptation of Pride & Prejudice I would like to read, esp. since it is Mr Darcy's POV.
Lost in Austen | TV mini-serie (2008)
I can get it from someone, so that quite different approach to Austen will complement the list.
Pride & Prejudice | Movie (2005)
A little jewel of a movie. Again a re-watch.

Friday Fill-In #130

1. She had a great smile.

2. Even is not physically present because of the distance, my family is by my side, always.

3. I know this: sleeping with socks feels weird.

4. "Silent" in German is still.

5. These words apply to me: "I'd rather be a climbing ape than a falling angel." (Terry Pratchett).

6. Until quite late in the evening, the sun was shining.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to relax after my Berlin trip and sort out my pictures, tomorrow my plans include doing a hell lot of laundry and Sunday, I want to call my "third grandmother"!

Dangerous Berlin

Huge chain bookstores, small but surprisingly well furnished used-books stores and flea markets - Berlin is extremely dangerous for booklovers who are not completely broke. After almost one week in Berlin, I leave this overall amazing city with these treasures:

*from the Berliner Trödelmarkt (famous flea market on sat/sun)*
John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men - Cannery Row
Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders
E.M. Foster, A Passage to India

*from Another Country (used books | link)*

Marie Phillips, Gods Behaving Badly
Susan Hill, Mrs de Winter

*from Fair Exchange (used books | link)*
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Kate Chopin, The Awakening and selected stories

*from Hugendubel (chain store | link*
Dorothy Parker, Marion Meade (ed.), The portable Dorothy Parker

What I have read 2009

I am filling my list in the Goodreads "50 Books a Year" group, but I thought I could make it a post here too, slowly growing until December.

1. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells [Jan 5]
2. Sex and the City, Candace Bushnell [Jan 3]
3. Gods behaving badly, Marie Philipps [Jan 13]
4. Hectors Reise oder die Suche nach dem Glück, Francois Lelord [Jan 10]
5. The Nanny Diaries, Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus [Jan 15]
6. Lipstick Jungle, Candace Bushnell [Jan 24]
7: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood [Jan 29]
8: 44, Scotland Street, Alexander McCall Smith [Feb 2]
9: The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Grace Under Pressure, Kim Izzo [Feb 4]
10: Princess Academy, Shannon Hale [Feb 3]
11: Pride and Promiscuity The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen Parody by Arielle Eckstut [Feb 11]
12: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer [Feb 12]
13: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend [Feb 14]
14: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald [Feb 20]
15: The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan [Feb 25]
16: A Piece of Cake A Memoir by Cupcake Brown [Feb 22]
17: Silence of the Grave A Thriller by Arnaldur Indridason [Feb 24]
18: Roses Are Red by James Patterson [Feb 25]
19: Wicked The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire [March 9]
20: Lonely Planet New Orleans by Tom Downs [March 8]
21: Disappearing Moon Cafe A Novel by Sky Lee [March 15]
22: The Queen and I by Sue Townsend [March 19]
23: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling [March 20]
24: Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King [Apr 3]
25: The Diviners by Margaret Laurence [Apr 6]
26: The Jane Austen Book Club A Novel by Karen Joy Fowler [Apr 5]
27: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields [Apr 16]
28: A brief history of Finland by Matti Klinge [Feb]
29: Facts About Finland by P. Elovainio [Feb]
30: Cane River by Lalita Tademy [Apr 27]
31: The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier [Apr 30]
32: Obasan by Joy Kogawa [May 8] (Review)
33: Voodoo in New Orleans by Robert Tallant [May 9]
34: Le Cheval Soleil by Steinunn Sigurðardóttir [May 12] (Review)
35: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner [May 22]
36: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini [May 25]
37: Q & A by Vikas Swarup [May 26]
38: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier [May 31]
39: The Voodoo Queen A Novel by Robert Tallant [June 2] (Review)
40: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [June 7]
41: Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott [June 10] (Review)
42: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini [June 12]
43: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf [June 19]
44: Settlers of the Marsh by Frederick Philip Grove [Jan 20]
45: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
46: The Awakening by Kate Chopin
47: Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (Review)

48: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Review)
49: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
50: Siddharta by Hermann Hesse
51: Le Sabotage amoureux by Amelie Nothomb
52: Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie [Sept 7]
53: Kafka am Strand by Haruki Murakami [Oct 5]
54: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough [Oct 20]
55: The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall [Oct 27]

Last update: September 8th, 2009

Double Friday Fill-In #128 and #129

As I was away on a trip without my laptop last WE, I missed one Friday Fill-In and make it a double Friday this time. Obviously no WE plans for the first one. :)


1. I grew up thinking that I would always live near the same best friends, in the same towns around.
2. Goodreads of course was the last website I was at before coming here.
3. Why don't you put some lemon juice into your water?
4. A rainy day with no plans helps me relax.
5. Thanks for the flowers, goes the German title song for Tom&Jerry.
6. Underage Twilight fans who can't even spell are very off-putting.
7. -


1. All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting that this time it won't go well.
2. Show me a good loser and I will show you a bad winner.
3. Getting too many very good news in one day is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs at one time.
4. Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy collecting futures votes and talking about things that go well.
5. I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine work and organizing his childrens' extracurricular activities.
6. It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without vegetables or a mix of herbs in it.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to make a schedule of sights for next week, tomorrow my plans include packing my suitcase and Sunday, I want to enjoy Berlin!

Some new old books

I just came back from a weekend in Düsseldorf to visit family with several used and not so used books I found when strolling through the amazing bookshop Sternverlag there.
So that's what's in my suitcase:

- a 1962 Rowohlt edition of Hunger by Knut Hamsun
- Oblomow by Iwan A. Gontscharow
- Doctor Schiwago by Boris Pasternak
- Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton (the only new one)
and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf for my mum.

But as I fell behind with my reading of Mansfield Park, because I was too busy with my marvelous cousins (being the photographer of one kid's birthday party), all of these books will be put on my TBR-pile...

L. M. Alcott: "Good Wives"

This sequel of the wonderful Little Women has been laying around for at least a year and it is in the middle of many challenges to finish that I pick it up to read it.

The little women are now three years older, Meg is getting married, gives birth to twins very soon and is learning to become the perfect little housewife she is meant to be. Beth stays the quietest of the family members and slowly drifts towards her death. Amy's ambitions of succeeding in the great society and marrying for wealth change as she falls in love with Laurie, whom she ends up marrying. And Jo, my funny beloved Jo, writes alot but basically gives it up in the end, gets more and more boring, has no interest in men until she meets the much older Bhaer and spoils what could have been one of the best love stories in literature by refusing Laurie.

I liked this novel a great deal because of Alcott's very good writing, because it allows me to stay a little longer with the little women and draws quite a few interesting storylines at the beginning. Meg's domestic difficulties to manage both her role as a mother and as a wife to John for example could have been an actual theme in the book, were their appearance and their resolution in a happy ending not condensed in a single chapter. Beth does not take part in the story anymore except when she dies and as much as I agree that she has ever been a quiet and invisible girl, I feel she has been left out here.
I never had much liking for Amy, but Good Wives made her more interesting. Her ambitions both in drawing (and her eagerness to see the limits of her own talent) and society in the context of her deep feelings for her family and background were the foundation of a rich character. Her scenes with Laurie, even if the second part of the books changed him and made him hard to believe, were excellent in developing her character. However, as soon as their marriage is settled, she disappears as a good little wife behing him and does barely utter a word anymore until the end. Disappointing.
I still don't know if Jo's fate pleases me or not. Of course I would have loved her to say yes to Laurie in the end, keeping of course the dramatic first proposal and rejection as a twist. The very basic facts however, that she meets Bhaer, falls in love with that antihero and builds a school for boys, fit her character and interesting adds to her personality. But that her humor disappears along the chapters as well as her character, that she tries to become a second Beth and stops writing - that is not showing how someone is growing up and becoming a woman, that is spoiling and killing off the leading force of Little Women.

Friday Fill-In #127

1. I never get so much done as when I am alone at home.

2. My favorite thing for dinner lately has been a Chinese vegetables mix.

3. I haven't heard bark! bark! bark! for a while, but several mooooooo!

4. A nice long walk is finally possible again after days of cold and grey weather.

5. I hope to get some good news about my visa soon.

6. When all is said and done, it's time for some tea in peace.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to do the cooking again with my dad (he's still learning), tomorrow my plans include going for a walk and Sunday, I want to vote for the first time in EU elections!

Robert Tallant: "The Voodoo Queen"

I bought this novel on my trip to New Orleans in March 2009 in the Voodoo Spiritual Temple along with Robert Tallant's other work Voodoo in New Orleans, a collection of accounts of Voodoo practices and believers.
Here's the text on the back of the book:

"Witch? Sorceress? Daughter of Satan? Murderer? Thief? Saint? Which label best fits Marie Laveau? Queen of the Voodoos, she is considered to have been the most important voodooienne ever to have reigned on this continent. Robert Tallant, attempted to make use of all available facts and information in re-creating the life of this famous woman. Marie Laveau, the last and most stories American Sorceress, continues to weave her spell as those who read this fascinating portrait will discover."

The novel is a fictionalized biography of the mysterious Marie Laveau, an attempt to explain what her life could have been starting from the little known pieces. She was a Voodoo queen, she was a hairdresser, she got married once and gave birth to many children, she got a house for helping a rich man's son to win his trial, she fed prisoners close to hanging, she was called a good Catholic and famous for her gris-gris.
As I read Tallant's Voodoo in New Orleans beforehand, I knew how what Tallant considered the basic elements of Marie Laveau's characters, using her appearances in newspapers to structure her life. In the novel, we start with a young Marie who gets married to her soulmate. But her few contacts with Voodoo priestesses estrange her skeptic husband from her and she finally looses him to the sea. To make a living, she works as a hairdresser - a position which will be very useful to her later, as it gives her insight into society gossip (and therefore power over potential clients) and control over the slave grapevine. Slowly, she becomes a known and feared figure within the Voodoos and reaches the status of queen.
The whole novel shows her struggle to manage her family, do her work (Voodoo) and keep her position against several rivals, make a living and salve her conscience when her Catholicism puts her in front of a dilemma. At some moments, Marie can seem selfish, because she does not behave very motherly towards her children and does not know them all too well. But the more one gets into the story, the more becomes clear, that Marie Laveau is simply a business woman of her time. Her attempts of managing and succeeding in every aspect in her life are rarely that successful, as she either looses her clients, her followers or her family. Her love life is a compromise after the loss of her husband, as she only slowly agrees to allow Glapion in her life. In her last years, she refuses that her male best friend and companion becomes more to her and finishes her life as the solitary woman she had always been, despite her many children and acquaintances.

I liked this novel very much because I did not take it as a biography - for that, there was too much speculation and pure fiction. But Tallant's work is a nice attempt to draw Marie Laveau's personality and I see her with different eyes now that I have read how she could have maybe lived. Beyond that, this novel is of great value to any New Orleans-lover as it depicts the exciting city at its peak of a melting pot of Spaniards, Creoles, French/Cajuns, Americans, free Blacks and slaves.

Constantly changing places is inherent to my life. Books have always been steady friends which I could bump into wherever I was all over the world.
Stumbling upon Kaminer's German stories of "Die Reise nach Trulala" in Reykjavík's city library is as moving as meeting the Icelandic sagas in Boston's Borders.
To see a book again, that I've read thousands of kilometers away makes me smile "Hey I know you.." and shake hands by thumbing through it for a while.