somehow....I read

In 2011 I would love to read a lot more. In the past few years when the kids were essentially babies I was lucky to even get through 'heat' magazine. Now the the 'toddler years' are nearly by (can I really say that when Hamish is still 2?) my aim is to get back into books, and ignore the children climbing the bookshelves.


A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler - ***  - My January Book Group Book. My mum has read a lot of Anne Tyler and loves them. This is good and a nice read and enjoyable, and we may even be reading another Anne Tyler in April. (Amazon)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - **** - My February Book Group book. I'm glad I read it, it gave me a little more insight into life in Afghanistan and the male culture there. It also made me want to read his second book. A great story too. (Amazon)

Collins Easy German Grammar - ***** ugh! But for me, essential ugh! I've found this essential reading for me and I keep it in my bag just in case we venture into a new grammatical area and I haven't got a clue what the teacher is talking about. A complete bargain at £4.99 in the shop I bought it in. £5.59 in... (Amazon)


A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini**** - really enjoyed it! I bought this straight after reading 'The Kite Runner'. This book is about a girl growing up in Afghanistan and marrying an older man who ends up taking a second wife. A harrowing story of how life can  be, but an excellent read. A book group member recommended 'In Afghanistan' by Rory Stewart, so I might get on to that at a later date. (Amazon)

Buy.ology by Martin Lindstrom - *** - interesting reading. Fundamentally it describes the research which shows why anti-smoking campaigns actually encourage people to smoke. Despite saying that the boxes with the pictures of the lungs or heart or whatever on them discourages them from smoking, there are parts of the brain that see these images and are sparked into thinking "mmm...a cigarette would be nice.". It's got lots of other little interesting stories about things like the Pepsi Challenge, and the models hired to stand outside Abercrombie & Fitch. But, I do think at times it is a little long-winded and drags the point out just a little. (Amazon)

Squirrel seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris - *** - fun, quick, but not as good as his others. I love David Sedaris, but if you only read one of his books read 'Me Talk Pretty One Day'. It's especially funny for Expats who are learning a foreign language. (Amazon - Squirrel) (Amazon- Me Talk Pretty)

33 Moments of Happiness by Ingo Schulze - * - reading this won't make you happy. This is my March Book Group book. It's killing me. I am dragging myself through it, and only because we've got the translator coming in to talk about it. It's basically a lot of short stories about Russians and so far all the stories have been either gloomy or violent. Maybe it'll pick up...  (Amazon - you can only buy it used)


Solar by Ian McEwan- *** - I started reading this in the KaDeWe while the kids were refusing to leave the creche. I read 40 pages and it felt rude not to buy it. It's an enjoyable book about a Nobel-prizewinning physicist and his life of science, women and salt & vinegar crisps. It's quite humourous at times and manages to combine this with the subject of climate change. Not anywhere near as great as 'The Innocent', the only other book buy him that I've read, but I would read more. (Amazon)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - ***** - I must be one of the few people left who haven't read this trilogy. I've just had too many books piling up to get round to it. So you probably don't need me to tell you it's great. I managed to read it in just over a day - the only benefit of being ill. I started the second book this morning while I was waiting to see the eye doctor. I only got a little into it before I had to get the pupil dilating eye drops in and that was the end to my fun in more ways than one. Anyway, if you haven't read it, read it now. (Amazon)

Stasiland by Anna Funder - ***** - I got back on my little 'life in the DDR' book train and read this book by Anna Funder that documents the stories of some of the people who lived in the DDR and were subject to scrutiny by the Stasi, and also some of the people who worked for them. Anna Funder is an Australian who worked for a tv company producing programmes about German life for broadcast abroad. (I'm sure I should be more grateful for BBC Entertainment, but it's soooo hard). Anna was in charge of responding to viewers questions or requests, and was asked if they would consider producing something about the lives of those behind the wall. When she asked her superiors they told her that noone was interested in them. So this was the starting point for her book. I loved it. I thought it was so interesting and the only downside was that I wanted to read more.(Amazon)


The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson - *** - It's taken me ages to read this book. Mostly because I've not had that much time. But also because I just found the first half a real drag. I couldn't really have cared less about the prostitution trade between Sweden and Estonia and I ended up skim reading rather a large portion of it. So much so that I could very well be wrong about it being Estonia. Anyway, I enjoyed the second half and it really picked up towards the end. So much so that I popped the kids back in the Ka De We creche for 2 hours and nipped up to the bar on the 6th floor to finish it off. I've just started the final book, and oh dear, my heart has slightly dropped because it's a continuation of the second book...ho-hum I was kind of hoping for a different story (Amazon)

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne - ***** - What a great book. I picked this up at 'The Story of Berlin' shop the other day and although it doesn't say much about the book's content on the back cover, I decided to take a chance on it. I'm so glad I did. It's possibly one of my favourite books this year. Tremendous! I read it in an afternoon! (Amazon) - update: Stevie read this after I recommended it to him and afterwards told me he never wanted to read anything like this again. He found it a bit much. So there's a warning for you.


The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson - *** - Finished at last! Once again it has taken me ages to finish this book, but mostly because I seem to have been on quite a few trips away over April, and unlike people who get to read lots of lovely books on holiday, I seem unable to get the time to read even one. I enjoyed this book much more than the second one, but even so, for some reason, I find myself quite glad that I've finished and there's no more. For me it seems to have taken too long to get through these and it's time to move on to something else. (Amazon)

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson - **** - I haven't read Kate Atkinson for years. I read Behind the Scenes at the Museum when I was younger and loved it, and then I think I read Emotionally Weird and didn't love it anywhere near as much and that kind of put me off. But at Christmas my mum was talking about her as I'd read something in a magazine about her and I thought I'd try some of the others. This book has been in my big pile of Christmas books and it's taken me this long to get to it. Anyway, I really enjoyed it. I liked all the characters and it reminded me what a great story teller Kate Atkinson is. It weaves a story around a crime that took place 35 years in the past and brings all the characters back into the present with another storyline. I never even knew that there was a series of mystery/detective stories around the character Jackson Brodie. Who knows, I might even try the earlier ones. (Amazon)

One Day by David Nicholls - **** - A few years ago I started Starter for Ten and really didn't get into it, so this book which was sent across by my friend has been sitting in the pile for months and months and I've not really been too keen on starting it. But I did, and what a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed the story and loved the characters. It's the story of 2 people who meet on their graduation day and it follows the course of their lives on one day every year for the next 20 years. When I was about half way through it I found out there's a film version coming out in the summer with Anne Hathaway as the main female character, and since I saw her in the trailer, the characters I had in my head switched to look like the characters in the film. I hope the film isn't disappointing, like books to films can often be. I'm looking forward to seeing it. (Amazon)

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger - ***** - I loved this book! It's the story of twins who come to the UK from America after inheriting their aunt's flat who is their mother's twin sister. There's loads going on in the book with the twins story and the untold story of the rift between the twins mother and their aunt. Oh and a little haunting too. I thoroughly enjoyed The Time Traveller's Wife and this is just as good. (Amazon)


When you are engulfed in flames by David Sedaris - ***** - I do love David Sedaris. I'm not sure that will ever change. So possibly quite predictably I loved this book - even though there were snippets I had read before. But he's just so funny, and re-reading (the very small amount) was no hardship. I especially love what he writes about learning to speak French. Certainly rings a few bells. Brilliant! (Amazon)

Through the language glass by Guy Deutscher - *** - I enjoyed this book on language, even though it was a little dry in parts. It explores the development of the language of colour, and the similiarities and differences between colour language in different cultures. One bit I found particularly interesting was when he told of how just over 100 years ago German anthropologists and scientists were bringing back tribespeople from the jungle and keeping them in Berlin Zoo in order to study them. Can you imagine? Crazy! But very interesting. (Amazon)

Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok - **** - This is a great book. I found it so interesting. It tells the story of a girl and her mother moving to New York and their struggles to get by once they get here. Their trip has been funded by the girl's auntie who it turns out is a bitter, horrible woman. They survive by working in the uncle's factory while the daughter works very hard at school. She realises that their only way out of this life is through her mastering English and exceeding at school. But it's some journey!  (Amazon)

The hand that first held mine by Maggie O'Farrell - ***** - A great story. I have always really liked Maggie O'Farrell's writing and this doesn't disappoint. It's the sort of book you want to read in one sitting and don't want ever to end. (Amazon)


Tinkers by Paul Harding - *** - Oh what a quiet month for me, book-wise. I'm not quite sure how, but I have managed to read very little this month. Only my book group book: 'Tinkers'. It's a Pulitzer prize winner, and the funny thing is, I never really like prize-winning books. I'm not sure why either. This is beautifully written, there are gorgeous passages of prose, but if you're looking for much of a story, then this isn't the book for you.   It tells of the last few days of the life of a dying man. There are memories of his childhood woven in with passages from his fathers life, and portions from a clock repair manual. (After the first one of those, I skipped every bit of clock-repair that came up afterwards). Anyway, let's just assume it's me that's wrong, and it really is an amazing book.  (Amazon)


The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O'Hagan - *** -  This was one of my 'oh I'll try this on a whim' choices from the limited supply of books in my local bookshop. It also jumped out at me because it seemed like it was written from the dog's perspective. Anyway, it's an ok book. I think it would have helped if I was a Marilyn Monroe fan, but I quite liked it nonetheless. I got a little bit bored though towards the end. I was kind of waiting for the bit where Marilyn dies, and that's no use really. (Amazon)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon - ***** -  This is a re-read for me. I read it when it first came out and kept it because I loved it so much, which it turns out was rather lucky as it's my book group book for September. Anyway, if you like my German bookgroup friends haven't had the good fortune to read it it's the tale of an autistic boy who finds his neighbour's dog dead on the front lawn and sets out to discover who comitted the crime, and makes another startling discovery along the way. (Amazon)

Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland - ***** -  Another re-read for me. This time because I have run out of books in the house which I haven't read, and needed something to take to the pool with me. I'd forgotton how much I love Douglas Coupland's writing. I started this thinking 'oh well, if I just read it today while I need it until I can buy something new, it'll do' and I was gripped by it immediately and had to finish the whole thing. I can't remember when I read this the last time, it must have been a fair old while ago because I couldn't remember the story or how it ended until I was about half way into it. It's the story of a lonely woman who is discovered by her son. But it's very, very good. (Amazon)


Player One by Douglas Coupland - *** -  I saw this by chance in the bookshop just after I finished re-reading Eleanor Rigby. It's the story of 5 people stuck in an airport lounge after a disaster occurs. Strangely, or perhaps not, there are a lot of shared references with Eleanor Rigby. At times it was a bit deja vu. For example, the lead in Eleanor Rigby shares the view with a character in Player One that witness relocation programmes are all a sham, and what really happens is that instead of being relocated and given a new identity, the person is simply shot by the FBI. The fact that the person is never heard from again is proof that the programme works. There are quite a few little shared snippets throughout the book. Not that these marred the book in any way, and I would still recommend it to Douglas Coupland fans. (Amazon)

The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt - *** -  I picked this up a couple of times before in the bookshop and I don't think I was ever really in the mood to read it. I did eventually buy it and I quite enjoyed it. It's the story of a woman whose husband leaves her for a younger woman and she goes to spend the summer in a town near where her mother is living in a nursing home. It follows the story of her grief and relationship with her mother and her mother's interesting friends in the nursing home.  (Amazon)

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton - ****

 -  I have had this book on my shelf for so long and it was only desperation that finally made me read it. I had nothing else. My mum gave me it thinking I would like it, and she also gave me 'The House at Riverton' which I left in Scotland. The reason I never took it, and haven't read this one until now? I didn't like the look of the cover. In fact I pretty much hate the cover. It's the type of cover I find on books I don't like. But it's true what they say - don't judge a book by it's cover. I liked it. Quite a lot. So shame on me for leaving it so long. And now I want the other one, but will have to wait until the end of October.  (Amazon)

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella - ** -  I had to read this at some point.  I've read all the other Shopaholic books and every time I go to the bookshop I see this and almost pick it up, but then I see something that I think might be better and less 'chick-litty'. But I eventually bit the bullet and bought it. I wasn't sure though if it was just me, but I didn't really like it. I felt a bit uncomfortable with Becky's spending habits when everyone around her was struggling with the onset of the recession. It felt a bit awkward too with all the secrets about the spending, the meetings, the secret clients and phonecalls going on. AND, to top it all off, it made me worry that the reason I wasn't enjoying it was because I've suddenly got too old to enjoy the Shopaholic books. But I've just looked at the reviews on Amazon and it seems I'm not alone. A few people make the very good point that despite the title it's not really about her daughter being a mini-shopaholic at all, more just being a wee whiney brat. Ah well, all in all that was a bit of a shame. It could have been much better.  (Amazon)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett - *****

 -  Wow, I think I have surpassed myself on the book-reading front this month. It may have something to do with the fact that twice this month I have sacrificed at least 4 straight hours of sleep trying to finish a book that I can't put down. This was one of them. I was at book group the other week and someone mentioned that the reviews of the film 'The Help' were in the New York Times. This little fact was greeted with such enthusiasm that I couldn't help but ask about it. The Help was a book they had read shortly before I joined the group and a rare book that (almost) everybody loved. I went and bought it straight away while I remembered the title/author and more or less haven't put it down. I really enjoyed it. Brilliant story-telling, great characters and not a boring bit in sight. I just wish it had gone on longer. It is the story of 3 women in 1960's Mississippi, one white lady, Skeeter, and two black maids, Aibileen and Minny. The book is about how unmarked lines are crossed, how trust is formed and about the injustices in life and the cruelty of women wielding power. Anyway, I would probably recommend this book the most out of everything i've read this year so far. Loved it. (Amazon)


Generation A by Douglas Coupland - *** -  Another Douglas Coupland book for me, this one just slipped into my Amazon cart when I was ordering some other things for my mum. I 'quite' liked this book. I wouldn't say I loved it, and I think I have maybe read or re-read too many in a short space of time. I'm getting a bit bored of them. Sometimes it seems as though a lot of his ideas are being recycled and at others it feels like his characters are fundamentally all the same. This book was the latter. But I still enjoyed a lot of the humour and the language and the occasionally different, yet insightful views he has on numerous topics. This book tells the story of a wold in the future where bees are extinct and where people are having to self-pollonate their own apple trees etc in order to have any kind of fresh fruit. 5 people across the globe get stung by bees and are taken for testing and eventually brought together. Each person tells their tale through the chapters and eventually we discover the real reason for their grouping. Enjoyable reading, but I think I'm done now.  (Amazon)


Goodbye To Berlin by Christopher Isherwood - ****  - Every time I go to Hugendubel in the KaDeWe I see Goodbye to Berlin, think: "I like the cover", but never buy the book. My urgency to read Christopher Isherwood has never been that strong. But then I saw 3 Christopher Isherwood books bundled together for a ridiculously low price on The Book People and decided now was the time to have them. I started off with this, and really quite enjoyed it. It is such an interesting view of pre-war Berlin, and not entirely hard to imagine. I especially loved all the street names he mentions, most of which are not too very far away from where I live so it was great to visualise. It's a great collection of stories and great, interesting characters he describes. (Amazon)

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood - ****  - I struggled a bit with this one. I found it very put-downable in the beginning, but it is a lovely story about a middle-aged gay man who has lost his lover and is living in California.  (Amazon)

The Imperfectionists by Christopher Isherwood - **  - I struggled a bit with this one too. This was my book group book for October, and while I had it already on my shelf but just hadn't gotten round to reading it, when the time came to read it I didn't have enough time and I already knew I wasn't able to make that month's book group so I just stopped reading it. Anyway, I liked the cover. Nice font, huh? I did manage to read the first 3 or 4 chapters and I did enjoy what i read but I couldn't get a handle on how it was going to all tie together and I felt as though I was waiting for 'something' to happen, but suspect that this is a collection of little stories describing each of the journalists who write for this international newspaper. I will pick it up again soon no doubt and see where it goes, but to date I wouldn't stretch further than 2 stars.  (Amazon)

By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham - ****  - This was my bookgroup book for November, and oh, if it wasn't for bookgroup I probably wouldn't have stuck with it past the first 20 pages. It's the story of a 40-something man (Peter) who runs a successful NY art gallery. He's married to Rebecca, happily, settled, and then her younger brother comes to stay with them. Mizzy is in his 20's, a drug addict, perpetually trying new things to find some way of leaving drugs behind and finding his way in life. His arrival marks a change for Peter, who starts questioning his marriage. It's a nicely written book, and it explores the characters  thoughts on beauty and it's got a good twist. Sadly I missed bookgroup AGAIN! (Amazon)

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