My Poirot project and other plans

This year feels like a year for reading projects!

I’ve had the first one in mind for ages: The Poirot Project: I absolutely love the 1920s and 30s and am also rather fond of Agatha Christie! Though I have always been rather obsessed with the Poirot tv adaptations starring David Suchet, I’ve only ever read a couple of the actual books – the shame! So, I’ve decided to read at least one Poirot mystery a month; here is my plan for the next few months:

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I’m also intrigued by Christie as a person and fancy reading some non-fiction about her. Any recommendations are appreciated😉. And look at the covers for January and February – I’m in love with these vintage looking, naked hardback editions!

Project 2: World War II fiction and nonfiction: As I have German roots and have lived here in the UK for most of my life, I have a very personal interest in this time period and therefore like to read as much as I can  from both sides of the channel. I’ve built up quite a themed collection of books on my tbr shelves and would like to dedicate significant time to immerse myself properly. Here’s a list of my books so far- some I’ve already read and will review in the near future:

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Orphan Monster Spy: Matt Killen. This was on the Costa children’s category shortlist this year and is the story of a Jewish teenager, who loses everything but survives because of her Arian appearance. By chance she meets an English spy and a bond develops, leading her to enter a Nazi elite boarding school to fulfil a crucial mission.

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Heimat: Nora Krug ( Belonging is the translated title). This is Nora Krug’s memoir of her journey to discover the stories of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and to understand how her life as a German woman living in America today has been shaped by her personal past and that of the German people. It is absolutely stunning in its layout – mixed media, graphic novel storytelling, significant artefacts from the past, reflection on what it is to be German…

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Dear Mrs Bird: A J Pearce. Emmy wants to become a war correspondent, to make a real difference during difficult times. But instead, by mistake,  she manages to land herself a job as a typist assistant for Mrs Bird, the agony aunt of a failing women’s magazine. She secretly begins to answer the letters deemed unsuitable by the imposing, extremely conservative Mrs Bird.

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Salt to the Sea: Ruta Sepetys. Told from multiple perspectives, this tracks the journey of several refugees desperately seeking freedom in East Prussia towards the end of World War II. A ship, the Wilhelm Gustav promises them survival…Salt to the Sea is based on a real event that I haven’t come across before.

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Ich war dabei. Geschichten gegen das Vergessen: Gudrun Pausewang. (sadly not translated into English as far as I know. A collection of short stories about childhood in the Third Reich.)

Project 3: Read some classics from on my shelves that I haven’t read before: I’ve read a fair number of classics and definitely have my favourites but I also love collecting classics (only the ones that speak to me though, you won’t find any Dickens) and so there are a fair few waiting to be read! In 2019 I want to read:

*Something by Nancy Mitford (I have Love in a Cold Climate, Don’t ask Alfred and The Pursuit of Love)

*Something by Virginia Woolf (Orlando, To the Lighthouse, The Years)

*Something by Elizabeth von Arnim (Vera, Elizabeth and her German Garden, Fräulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther, The Enchanted April)

*Stella Gibbons: Westwood

*Barbara Pym: Excellent Women

Have you got any projects planned for this year? If so, tell me about them – I am loving all the booktube videos featuring reading plans for 2019 😊

P.S. I nearly forgot: Project 4: Read some German books!!! Looking through  my goodreads from last year I realised how few German books I actually read. I am a translator by profession and spend a significant amount of my days reading German as part of that. Yet somehow, I’ve near enough stopped reading in German for pleasure. This must change! So, I’ve invested in a couple of books to get me back on track:

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Die Fotografin: Petra Durst-Benning. This is the first in a new series following the adventures of Mimi Reventlow, who becomes a photographer in 1911 despite the odds being stacked against her.

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Deutsches Haus: Annette Hess. In 1963, a young translator called Eva  is asked to translate during the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trails, giving a voice to victims and learning about a time in her country’s past that she has until this point known little about. For any German TV series lovers, Hess wrote Weisensee and Ku’Damm 56/59 – so I know this is going to be brilliant.

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Nesthäkchen und der Weltkrieg: Elsy Ury. I have very fond childhood memories of my Omi reading me the Nesthäkechen series of children’s books at bedtime during my summer holidays in Bayern. It follows the life of Annemarie Braun, from being a little girl in Berlin during Kaiser times, all the way to old age. This one concerns the First World War and is the only one I don’t know – it wasn’t reprinted after World War 2 due to its nationalist content being seen as inappropriate. This version has a preface by Marianne Brentzel, who has researched the life and work of Ury in great detail.

Our Lady of the Dunes

I am in two minds about Our Lady of the Dunes by Jeannette de Beauvoir. Part of me really enjoyed it, part of me was left disappointed.

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The plot outline holds so much promise: Jessica, a young woman in 1930s America, is sent with her German housekeeper Anna, to the backshores of Cape Cod by her parents. They wish to protect Anna against further threats and harassment because of her nationality at a time of war. The backshore beach huts are a place of solitude and eccentric souls, who will leave Anna in alone. Whilst there, Jessica meets Sophie and a first true love blossoms. However, war is never far away and the presence of German U boats in the area, attempting to prevent supplies reaching British waters, present life changing challenges for all three women.

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So here is what I loved about the book:

The sense of coming of age, of feeling truly alive and experiencing everything so deeply, comes across wonderfully. De Beauvoir captures that essence and certainly made me reminisce of when I was Jessica’s age, looking at the world with a fresh perspective. I also thought Jessica’s vulnerability, naivety and genuine hope for the future, were all beautifully told.

The descriptions of the sea and the dunes. I have an affinity with the sea and this book desperately made me want to pack up and live in a dilapidated cabin on the coast.

The focus on the outsiders of society at the time; be it because of nationality, class, mental health, old age or sexual orientation. I love a book that explores what it is to be an outsider.

Did I mention the sea and the dunes?!

An interesting subplot: Helen, an older lady in declining health, who had been a central part of the artist and writer community back in the 1910s and 1920s.

The interspersed snippets of socio political commentary.

The portrayal of the German officer later on in the story. So often books rely on stereotypes but this officer is a human being, with hopes and fears and regrets and so much pain. I love that Jessica cannot see him as an abstract enemy.

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And here is why I was left disappointed:

There were a few too many tangents, Jessica would often ramble on in her head, sometimes rather randomly, and this made the story flow feel disjointed at points.

There was a lot more telling than showing.

I found the repetition of certain descriptions and imagery frustrating.

I also found it frustrating that the above mentioned Helen subplot fizzled out– I wanted to know so much more.

And last of all, the German officer’s English. At times, it read as if Yoda was speaking, I kid you not! Anna’s use of random German words as she spoke, also seemed a little false, as if we had to keep being reminded that she was German.

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All in all, I give Our Lady of the Dunes 3 stars: certainly a good read but in my opinion, sadly not a great one.

The Carlswick Deception (Carlswick Mysteries 4)

I was delighted to be given an advance copy of The Carlswick Deception by S L Beaumont in return for an honest review. This is the forth in a contemporary, young adult mystery series and is just as original and engaging as the previous three books. Now, I am very aware that I am not the target audience and there are elements, which were too young for this 38-year-old, but I do love a good quality young adult book and The Carlswick Deception certainly didn’t disappoint.

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Here is a little background to the series so far- without giving too much away! The main character, Stephanie, has been described by some as a modern-day Nancy Drew and I think this is a great comparison, especially as I love Ms Drew still.  The story begins with Stephanie moving from New Zealand to England in order to spend more time with her father and to study at Oxford. She spends the summer before university with her grandmother and connects with an up and coming indie band member, James, in the village. It turns out that there is a feud between the two families, going back to events in World War 2. The mystery then revolves around stolen German art from that period and a connected mysterious death. The next two books continue along this art history theme with lots of twists and turns as well as how Stephanie and James navigate their relationship as Stephanie begins university and James’ band career takes off.

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The Carlswick Deception moves on from art history to priceless literary works. Stephanie takes on a summer job working with the police, as part of a stolen art recovery unit. A precious Shakespearian First Folio is taken as part of a robbery, which turns out to part of a larger operation. There is trouble afoot with James, as they struggle to find time for each other and a rather handsome young detective in the picture too. Throw in that that the plot takes part in Oxford and Venice and you have a fantastic summer read.

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I think that Beaumont’s use of art and literature as the basis for her mysteries is refreshing and certainly well researched. She pays great attention to detail in subject matter and in her setting descriptions. I do like how different countries are woven into the storyline too and Beaumont’s clear love for these countries is contagious. I love Stephanie for her fierce independence, her curiosity and intelligence. I also like how her character is developing throughout the series and I’m really looking forward to seeing where Beaumont takes her next.

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My problem with the genre of YA fiction is that it is quite often dominated by a selected few, well-known names and that lesser known authors are sometimes not given the recognition they deserve. S L Beaumont’s books are currently a bit of a hidden treasure and I’m so glad I stumbled upon them.

A first bookish post

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Hello there, welcome to my freshly created, bookish blog. If this was a physical space, I would be offering you a cup of tea and some rather delicious shortbread biscuits as these are by my side as I write this. Tea + biscuits + books = my happy place.

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I have been inspired to create this bookish blog by all the amazing people I have discovered on ‘booktube’ and on Instagram, especially by my rather wonderful friend, Mel (Mel’s Bookland Adventures on YouTube).

Photo 28-06-2017, 08 44 20Though I am generally social media savvy, this community of book lovers is a fairly new revelation to me and I am at that stage of new love, where I can’t get enough of all the recommendations, insights and new connections. My piles of books to be read have grown extensively and I am reading like I am a teenager again; focused, engaged and just loving the experience whole heartedly.

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I am toying with creating my own channel on YouTube, if the shy introvert that I am can face her fears of video making! In the meantime, I thought I would create this space to share my own reviews, discoveries and anything bookish, which takes my fancy.

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I have an eclectic reading range; anything from good quality young adult fiction to the classics, with a passion for murder mysteries and historical fiction thrown in for good measure. I am also part of a ‘Read Around The World’ bookclub on Goodreads, which is focusing on contemporary female authors translated into English and I hope to write about these book adventures too.

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And so I’m hoping that I will have a rich and varied mixture of posts on here in the coming months.

Wishing you a lovely day,

Milena