Saturday, May 30, 2015

Run your own race

My short review on goodreads

I promised to write more about this book when I wrote about opening horizons.

And this book did it in different ways.

I hate running, actually I hate all sorts of physical exhaustion. I can't understand how anybody would torture themselves to run a marathon. I can't understand how this could be fun or even addictive.

Mark is mixing in a perfect way the physical experience and the thoughts, feelings and mental experience during a run.

If I wasn't too lazy and undisciplined after reading this book I'd like to start training for long runs - but I know this won't happen.

I'm no runner but I got into the mind of a runner by reading this story. I mentally ran a marathon - entirely without physical exhaustion.

But there's more to this book than just running.
Jan was abandoned by her china-mama when she was 7 days old and adopted by Americans 10 months later.

What does it feel like being adopted? And not just adopted, but adopted from ethnical different parents, growing up in a world where everybody can see immediately that your parents have adopted you?
By reading her thoughts I get an idea of those feelings.

And Jan is a social worker in Detroit at a shelter for children in need. Of course she relates with the girls she meets there and we learn about their stories of abondonment and survival.

Jan is running her own race - on the racing track and in life.

Life as a race

Yes, this book shows that our life is like a race, like a marathon.

That reminds me of the apostle Paul who compared our life as christians with a race  in
2. Tim.,4:7-8
7 I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.
8 Now there is a crown waiting for me. It is given to those who are right with God. The Lord, who judges fairly, will give it to me on the day he returns. He will not give it only to me. He will also give it to all those who are longing for him to return.
24 In a race all the runners run. but only one gets the prize. You know that, don't you? So run in a way that will get you the prize.
25 All who take part in the games train hard. They do it to get a crown that will not last. But we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
26 So I do not run like someone who doesn't run toward the finish line. I do not fight like a boxer who hits nothing but air.

The finish line makes the difference. What will be your prize?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Open Horizons

Reading opens my horizons.

I can't travel as much as I'd like to, I can't meet as many people as I'd like to,
Wouldn't want to experience all possible feelings and adventures.

But I can read.
I'm not talking about non-fiction here. I'm talkng about good novels from all over the world.

By reading I'm able to go wherever I want to. A good book will take me in countries I'll never visit. What I want to see and a good book will show me isn't the landscape, the beautiful mountains, oceans or cities - it's every day life.

Or it will make me understand the thoughts and feelings, the motivations and hopes, often enough much different from my own.

Good novels can give you hope or throw you in depression. They sometimes open your eyes to the truth about society, life, and God.

Reading sometimes may be an escape from reality, at times making me dream, at times making me see that things could be much worse.

This week I've been reading two very different books.

I was offered my first book written by a Pakistani, Sulaiman Dawood, White Lies.
Although his story takes place in the USA I got a glimpse of life in a muslim family.
And I could feel what the main character, a neglected and abused child is feeling. It was like seeing the world through is eyes.

Then I started reading Mark Matthews Jade Rabbit:
A totally different experience.
I can't know neither what it feels like being adopted from a different culture nor running a marathon.
But Mark has got the amazing ability to make me feel it.
I haven't finished yet. Next time I'll probably write more about it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

No expectations

I started this blog telling myself that I do so without expectations, just as a diary, just because I like writing.
Obviously that's easier said than done.

I discovered there are expectations that I can't shut out. I don't want them,
I don't want to check every day if anybody read what I write. I don't want to look where they come from. I don't want to see a lot of traffic from Ireland (who could that be??) or one from Russia, Ukraine and Italy. But I find myself checking every day more than once.

I really never expected to reach people all over the world by google or whatever. But I expected some interest by those who know me.

If this really was a diary I'd hide it hoping nobody would ever find it, or if so at least after my death.
No, I'm not hiding, instead I'm going public. And doing so implies wanting some kind of public, some acknowledgement, some kind of feedback.

That's what I'm really looking for.

When I know a friend has got a personal blog I make sure to have a look at it. If it's interesting I'll return on a regular basis. If it's not, I'll leave nevertheless an encouraging comment.

Truth is that's what I'm missing, an encouraging comment. Would I accept and could I cope with critical ones? Sure. It would show me that there wasn't only a robot checking but someone actually reading and caring enough to leave a comment. Perhaps it could help me to improve. Maybe I'd just dismiss it as irrelevant. I don't know not having experienced.

I wish I was independent from feedback, self-confident enough to continue without checking constantly, without pleading for acknowledement. I wish I could write this blog without any expectations, but I just can't.

If there's anybody who's read all this text reaching this sentence: Please leave a comment!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Thoughts about a bestseller

For mother's day my daughter bought me a book, what else? Of course she knows me, but when chosing a book for me she wants to be sure that I'll love it. So this time she decided to buy a bestseller: The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared or - in this case - der Hundertjährige, der aus dem Fenster stieg und verschwand - by Jonas Jonasson.

I thanked her heartily and felt unsure what to expect. I generally have my doubts when there is such a hype. These books sometimes (but not very often) are really fantastic, most times just average and there are times my taste is totally different from mainstream.

So I startet reading with limited enthusiasm wanting to give the book a chance not wanting to disappoint Anna.

The book is overloaded with stories supposed to be funny. The writing style is elaborate and strains to be humorous throughout all the 412 pages. The problem I have with the mostly childish jokes is that most of them don't make me laugh. Ok, a book must not neccessarily be funny. If the story is insteresting with good twists and some suspense I easily can go without laughs.
There are gripping parts, but there's no climax and the ending is quite colourless and fanciless.

Allan is excruciatingly unemotional and unpolitical without strong opinions, interested only in eating, drinking and explosions. He has inexhaustable patience but no conscience. There are other more interesting characters  but besides Stalin they are all dispassionate.

All this doesn't mean that the book wasn't entertaining. It just didn't justify the international hype.

For my German review click here

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Me an author?

Goodreads asked me to edit my author profile. That was a real surprise. I'm „only“ a translator, I didn't think they would consider me as an author, but they did. I must admit it feels great!
Obviously they appreciate not only the work a translator invests in a book but also the authorship of the translated version. In fact the translator's responsibility is actually much bigger than the average reader realizes. A bad translation can ruin a good story. The goal is to make the reader forget they are reading a translation. Did I achieve this goal? I'm not the one to judge.

Who knows, perhaps this blogging experience might lead to more writing and someday make me a real author? I don't know.
No, I don't think I'm an author. My writing is very limited.

Lately I often wake up in the middle of the night. The last dream is still dwelling in my mind and I know immediately that this dream is a fantastic beginning for a story. And while in this stage of half-awareness I'm trying to put together the puzzle of the story in my dream I'm slowly drifting back to sleep, wake up again, trying to remember because I know there was something worth being written, but I just can't remember. And the more I try the farer away seem the images to flee. That's new. I had certainly dreams before, sometimes I remembered them, sometimes not. But I didn't care and they never resembled stories.

Will I ever be able to grip one of these dreams and put it into words? I doubt it, but who knows, perhaps reading all the time all these different stories can empower my imagination enough one day to bring those beginnings I see in the middle of the night to an ending.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

First review of my translation

Well, I shouldn't be complaining: 5 stars and a short review mentioning the „well-done translation“.
But I know this is just a favour. We're working together, she didn't want to disappoint me. By her sparse comments I understood she didn't really like it.

Ok, it's not my story she didn't like. I didn't write it, I'm just the translator. But I spent a lot of time with it, every day struggling with the best expressions, searching the right tone of voice for each character, trying not to alter Peter's style.

What a challenge! Somehow it became my baby and I felt proud when it was „born“. I wanted everybody around me to read it – with faint response. Until now not even my children have made the effort. I didn't expect it from my husband – he never reads fiction.
So, I'm still waiting for a „real“ review.

This first translation was the realization of my old dreams. Now I've got a new one: to make this hobby a job. Dreaming isn't forbidden, is it?

I think that's what I should have done from the beginning: study languages and persue my aim at that time and become an interpreter. But a good friend who was studying to become a translator (of written word only) told me that all those students who went for interpretors had grown up with two native languages and that I wouldn't have a chance. I really regret believing her.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

The bright side of literature (II)

I had to split up the bright side in two posts because nothing can ever be as bright and important as the Bible.

But there are some enlightening books worth reading because they show Gods character and His love in a different way within a well-written story.

Some of them are famous among christians and I still remember them,

 such as  Frank Peretti's books about angels and demons
or Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion Trilogy

The Shack by William Paul Young

An other one is Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory.

And of course my favorite: The circle series by Ted Dekker (unfortunately in German only the first three are available)

Two books I read this year unfortunately aren't yet available in German.

I discovered a book about the unseen world that really has impressed me and belongs amongst those long-time-favorites:                         

The influence by Matt Slick

An awesome book that might seem unbelievable but is so true. Since This Present Darkness (F.Peretti) I haven't encountered a similar book about angels and demons and their influence on earth. Clear message and biblical truth entwined by a gripping story. 
I know many people who should absolutely read this book, but unfortunately they won't do that because the purpose is quite clear from the beginning. 
What I really love are the conversations between Sotare and Mike and I appreciate the focus on prayer, a force we generally underestimate. 
I must admit that I envy Kathy and Mike a bit, I'd love to see what they saw in the end. But it doesn't matter: Knowing that I will see is enough.

Very often christian love-stories seem too smooth and unreal but I came across this book by Faith Simone 

I remember reading on her profile that the author wishes that her words ring true - and I want to assure her: oh yes, they do! It's a rare thing finding a book that's so honest about the struggle with our own feelings while wanting to do God's will without really asking Him.

This book is full of lovable characters, two wonderful men who are able to express their feelings, thoughts and faith - I wish there were more of this sort - a mother full of wisdom, good friends (Kim, Darren, Mike) and a woman I can really feel, full of doubts and fears, longing for real love as we all are.

I love the narrative of the past events thrown in in small portions, I love how she creates sensual tension without ever getting "dirty", I love the life-like dialogues - a great story taken from real life.

The bright side of literature (I)

A few days ago I wrote about the dark side of literature – but there's also an other kind of literature: inspiring and full of hope that brings light in my life, making me focus on what's really important: faith, hope and love.

Can I really write about the Bible as literature? How could I not? God's own word is surely the most important part of my reading experience. No novel, no story, no poem or any other piece of literature could ever give me what the Bible does: truth, encouragement, admonishment, faith and hope. And it helps me to understand how much I'm loved.

But the most amazing thing about the Bible is it's newness. After so many years I know the Bible quite well, I constantly encounter verses I know by heart. I know all the famous stories. So why do I read it again and again?

Because God himself is talking to me. And He uses one and the same verse to tell me countless truths about Himself and about me. All the wellknown stories show a new aspect according to what I need to hear.

The brightest book bringing light into my life is the Holy Bible.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ebooks changed my reading experience

I have always been a book lover. I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't reading.
As a child I read all the books my sister had and then all the old children books of my mother. I remember some times when I was really ill in bed I read up to ten books a day. Of course this meant reading the same books again and again. Some of them I still consider my friends. The only times I got some new books were Christmas, Easter or birthdays.

When I worked in the library for some years I finally had the opportunity to read a lot of books. That was the period I devoured everything about Greece and every book written by Greeks I could find at the library because I wanted to learn more about the culture of my later husband. But I loathed bringing the books back when I liked them. I wanted to possess them, to make them mine.

Riding every day by train to work I once discovered a small bookstore at the station that sold remaindered books. I became a regular customer of that shop.

But when I had my first son I was cut off from these occasions. In our town there was only one bookstore and I couldn't afford a new book at least every week. So, I was still reading but less than before. And I became more selective. New books aren't cheap.

The internet was a little help offering used books but with postage fees money was still a problem. But I ordered a lot of books for my children. I'm really happy that all three love reading. And I read their books, too. You're never too old for good children books. For around ten years I spent about one hour every night reading to my children.

With the internet and amazon I started to read English books – they are cheaper than German books.
But still I couldn't afford as many as I wanted.

I always believed only books that you can take in your hands and put on your shelf are real books, real tangible friends.

I was wrong.

When I got my kindle as a Christmas present in 2013 I found out how many books you can read for free and how much I like reading without having to turn the pages of a heavy book in bed and to take only my kindle with me for the holidays instead of an entire suitcase.
For the first time in my life I could read as much as I wanted without waiting for the next after finishing a book.

Of course when you try to read only books for free or at low cost you will pick some titles you would never pay for. But there are advantages: if I don't like something there's no need to finish it – and I can explore genres and authors I never thought of.

All these years as a reader I never thought of seeking contact to the authors. They seemed to be distant and unaproachable. Some of them may be.

But I discovered goodreads – and that I actually can have some kind of contact with authors.

My newest discovery is NetGalley where I can get the opportunity to read books that haven't even been published yet.

The times I had to wait for something new to read are definitely over. Now I can't keep up with all the books I have in store.

Who needs furniture? Books are all we need!

My daughter Anna is the best companion when I want to buy something. She knows to give good advice without being demanding. Despite our difference of age we have similar tastes and I enjoy these rare occasions.

Today the two of us went to a furniture shop. Since we moved in here two months ago we still need some things. Especially her room is still too empty. But after all the expenses lately we need to limit our purchases. So we visited a shop selling second-hand-furniture. We didn't find exactly what we were looking for. There were some interesting pieces that would never fit into her room. A bit disappointed we were ready to leave – but then we spotted the corner with books.... We just couldn't leave without having a look. And having a look had finding as logical consequence.

Who needs furniture? Books are all we need!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The dark side of literature

Why am I fascinated by dark creepy books about mental insanity, cruelty, evil, addiction, depression, suicide....that take me to places where I really don't want to go?

It's not entertaining, you can't call it a pleasure. - It's even some kind of intriguing challenge.
Torture, fear, desperation, sometimes it hurts physically, at times it is disgusting, sometimes unbearably sad. But I insist.

I'm not talking about stories with monsters, aliens, ghosts, witches or other paranormal things. I'm talking about the normal madness, books that feel all too real.

Depression is all around us, friends commit suicide, others are addicted or in recovery, we all know someone who has been in a psychiatric ward, we read about shooting sprees in schools, girls who have been kept for years in some basement ... That's the world we live in.

I want to see the whole image. I want to understand the twisted minds, the reasons behind. I don't want to close my eyes.

And of course there's the thrill, the suspense, the roller-coaster-feeling!

Here are some of the best books I've read last year from the „Dark Side“ that really stay in mind:

(The links lead to my reviews on Goodreads)


The damage done, the most striking of all,  Milk Blood and

On the lips of children
are so extreme that I really hope that these things don't happen anywhere – but Mark Matthews has a way to make them feel real, and it's frightening.

Stray isn't as shocking as the others but very realistic.

                 And, totally different

My Dead Friend Sarah  by Peter Rosch.

Mothers and their mental insane sons:

It's a special relationship between mothers and their sons and sometimes love itself is insane.

Mother be the judge by Sally O'Brien 
The insanity inside by Theodore Andrew
House rules by Jodi Picoult 

We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Insane minds

There are a lot more, but those come to my mind immediately.

Persona by Mark Horn who is a master of insane minds but this one is my favorite of his books.

The Roommate by T. Scott McLeod

by Clark Kline


When my fire burns low
by Aslyn Foran

by Danielle Tara Evans

The line between habit and addiction, between a depressed mood and deep depression, between exhaustion and burnout is very slim. And I know that depression is waiting for me just behind the next corner. I don't see myself as a potential killer and I don't think I'd be able to commit suicide. But the human mind is a fragile thing and I have fallen in some dark holes and I don't know where I'd be now without my faith, without Jesus who has always pulled me out of the holes.

Monday, May 4, 2015

"Good Books"

What makes a book a good book? What does it need? What am I looking for? What's the difference between a good book and my favorite books? What makes a book special to me?

Often I find the rewarded bestsellers not worthy of all that praise. Or I'm disappointed by famous authors. Or I discover a book I love, recommend it to somebody and they just say: „Ok, it's not bad, but it's not what I'd chose.“

There must be some criteria that all can agree on. Like good grammar, fluent and consistent writing, a good story without logical flaws ….But sometimes it's necessary to strech the grammar to fit with the setting, sometimes short, disconnected sentences give the right feeling – and what is a good story?

Maybe the question can be answered only individually. So, what do I like? I think about all the books I've read, searching my memory. The majority I don't even remember. I look at my shelves in my home, the accumulated literature of a lifetime – I know I've read all these pages – but sometimes I only remember the title or the author, the cover or wether I did like it or not. I open the list on my kindle and it is even worse – worse because there are no covers to trigger my memory, there's no distinct tactile experience. In only 16 months I've accumulated more than 200 titles there.

But some stand out. And that's my first creterion:

A good book will stay in my memory for a long time. But why?

(Should I wait some years before judging?)

Some of the reasons I've found so far:
  • I could connect with one of the main characters
  • They made me think about life and myself
  • I could totally emerge in the story
  • There was intense atmosphere
  • There were enough twists to keep me interested
  • Outstanding writing style
  • Stayed in my mind when I wasn't reading
  • I didn't want them to finish
  • Made me smile, laugh and/or cry
  • They feel real
  • The message is true
  • .

I'm still searching but I think you get what I mean.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The difficulty writing a review when the book isn't good

This weekend I spent too much time with a book I didn't like. If I hadn't got it for free from NetGalley I wouldn't have finished it. But I feel obliged to write something. And I don't want to be too negative. I never want to hurt the author who put all his energy and a lot of work in his text.

It's very strange to read something boring or annoying and while reading asking yourself why you do it and looking for anything positive to say while constantly feeling that you don't like what you read. Sounds stupid? It probably is.

So, why didn't I just switch of my kindle and forgot the book and the review altogether to do something more pleasant - go for a walk (it was raining), watch a movie (there's nothing nice on TV on Sunday afternoons) or finally finish due paperwork (I'd do a lot to have a reason to avoid this)?

I wanted to give it a chance, I wanted to find out, why others had written reviews full of praise. And I don't want to judge without finishing. I wanted to find some surprising twist or a little suspense building up in the end – but it just stopped without anything, without any solution, no happy ending, no sad ending. Nothing.

I sat there with an empty feeling. I had wasted all this time for nothing. And the publishers expected a review. They got one. But I don't think they'll like it. They always declare they want honest reviews. They got it.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Do I really want to start a blog?

Am I really going to start a blog about the books I read? What are the reasons that make me think about it? Do I really want people to read what I think not only about books? I don't know.

Perhaps one of the reasons is that NetGalley has declined three of my requests. I understand that publishers want to sell their books and are looking for reviewers with influence. I'm not. My eight friends and four followers on goodreads or my 30 friends on facebook aren't much of a public. My rank as reviewer on amazon isn't worth mentioning so why should they give me their books for free? No, I have no impact on the reading world.

Do I believe this could change with this blog? Of course it won't. Why should anybody want to read this, why should anybody even find this?

Maybe I think my reviews to be worth reading. But I doubt it. Maybe they are pregnant but normally too short.

I've read some really good books from nearly unknown writers who I try to support by writing reviews. But what kind of support is this if nobody's going to read them? I like to think that the authors do and I want to encourage them by giving praise to their good works.

I'm still waiting for this encouragement. Seemingly nobody wants to write a review for my first translation.

After reading a bunch of English books and especially after Peter Rosch's books without difficulty I got the impression my English wasn't as bad as I thought and built up the courage to ask Peter to allow me to translate his book But I love you.

Peter was the first author to contact me after one of my reviews on goodreads. I hadn't expected any reaction, I hadn't even rated his book with 5 stars, but he offered me a free copy of his second novel and asked me to write a review. It felt so good! Of course I read But I love you within two days and wrote this review:

Peter Rosch

 This is the first time I got a free copy from an author who is asking me to write a review. That's why I try to be not too short without telling too much.

About two weeks ago I read My dead friend Sarah – and fell in love with Peter Rosch's writing style. I'm glad that his style hasn't changed. Obviously he loves to create long twisted sentences full of sarcasm, details, a little humor and an enormous vocabulary (for me as Non Native Speaker quite a challenge). With two or three sentences he makes you feel the awkwardness of a situation or the odor of a place. It's really amazing.
In My Dead Friend Sarah I didn't really like neither Max nor Sarah. In this book it also takes some time to get to know the not really lovable characters but you learn to understand them and to feel with them. 
Did you ever wonder what's going on in an insane mind or why, when and how an alcoholic is drinking? This book will put some light on it.
This is not a crime novel even though there are quite a few crimes nor is it a love story. Perhaps you could call it a psychodrama about unanswered love mirroring the insanity of our society.

In the end I felt a bit like Alicia: “Her emotions – half a dozen or more – were bouncing their way around inside of her, pounding from within, and looking for her to help them escape“ - just missing one crucial emotion: hope.

If you're looking for an optimistic or funny book with a typical happy ending make a different choice. 
If you appreciate awesome writing style and want to emerge in someone's mind this is a must-read!

During the following summer the idea of translating this book didn't leave me. And when I finally asked him he seemed to be thrilled. And I plunged into work. It sure was a challenge to translate these incredible run-on sentences. But it was fun! And I was so proud to see the result on amazon.

There have been other positive reactions from authors that are encouraging me to write reviews.
Patrick McCarty wrote :"You seem to me an exceptionally acute reader. I would have you read a book of mine anytime. You are an extraordinarily sensitive and alert reader. I would like to have a dozen like you."

D.B. Wallace
I had written this review about Moonlight murder:
Truth be told, if I had come across this book in a bookstore I wouldn't have bought it. I never buy poetry, most times I don't even like it (only my own) – but there was and is this feeling that I long to read something different, not this „normal“ stuff you can find everywhere. So when there was this request for a review I took the chance. And I would have missed something if I hadn't.
The book starts with some poems. I must admit, that I do not understand them. I felt over-challenged, intellectually unable to grasp the meaning. And I blamed the fact that English isn't my native language and therefore I probably just couldn't intuitively feel the beauty of the text. 
But as it seems this isn't the reason.
As soon as I got to the prose the beauty of the language hit me with undeniable force. These beautifully crafted sentences absorbed me and I wonder how it is possible to create such an intense atmosphere by writing just a few phrases.
This book is like a museum full of wonderful paintings painted not in oil but in words. And while wandering through the rooms you're meandering the memories of a boy.
This book is not about the story although there is one, it is about the beauty of language, the joy of expression, the pleasure of reading.
Who is D.B. Wallace? Whoever he might have been or whether he has ever lived – he is a fusion of Dickens and Poe writing in modern language. I'd love to read more.

 So these experiences among others encourage me to start a blog.

But there's something else: I'd like to be a writer myself, always enjoyed writing, knowing I could never write a novel. I lack imagination, would never be able to compose an interesting story. The only thing I really can write about is myself and I doubt this would be interesting enough.
Maybe that's why I started to write about my reading experience. Ultimately that's writing about me.