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Where do you go when it’s time for a relaxing, sun-soaked vacation? For many, those who don’t want to travel too far, use their dollars rather than exchanging for foreign cash, and not leave America somewhere like Mexico or even Belize probably comes as a possible choice. Long, clean beaches, few tourists, but with a tourist infrastructure. Somewhere out-of-the-way, but not too far. Today both Mexico and Belize are popular vacation resorts, with their mixture of cultures, the sights we don’t normally get to see back home, and a wealth of history. And if we do go, then one of the better resorts like Cancun or, further south just belong the Yucatan Peninsula, the Cayes. Life is relaxed, without stress, living is simple but with everything that a holidaymaker needs.
It wasn’t always so, there was a time when tourism wasn’t the big business that it is now, at least, when you get down to Belize, to Guatemala, Honduras. Life consisted of simple tasks to bring the daily bread to each family table, without the need to hurry from one appointment to another, without the pressure of that pay check at the end of the week or month. The boats riding gentle waves were used for fishing, for occasional trips back to the mainland, to bring explorers out to the Cayes.
Photo Credit: brongaeh – Creative Commons
Norbert Schulz has managed to capture these times perfectly. His writing is easy and relaxed, laid back and flowing. He takes us into a time when Hollywood was still a place people wanted to go, to a time when fish were plentiful, when the great globalization move hadn’t brought fast food restaurants and soda to every foreign high street, every makeshift bar along the beach. He takes us into a time when Marilyn Monroe was at the height of her fame, and to a young man with a dream. It is the early Fifties. The United States is confronting the Soviet Union, casting awkward glances towards Cuba, still recovering from the losses incurred during the Second World War. Belize – at the time still British Honduras – is a country hardly recognizable on the map, a British colony where few travel for their vacation. Those few, though, fall in love with the land, with the water, with the Cayes as much as Pablo, a young fisher still learning his trade, falls for the image of Marilyn Monroe, his first love. We are shown the close bonds between man and boy – the adopted Grandpa – as one learns and the other recounts his exploits. We see the rivalry between fishermen, sometimes joking, sometimes serious, and almost always brushed out-of-the-way over a few drinks. We see a world which is fast disappearing, and can immerse ourselves in it, in the hopes and dreams of Pablo, as if it is just across the road, just a few days in the past.
Easily written with a very calm and enjoyable pace, Am Meer Damals is a pleasure to read, an experience of bygone days and the true ease of living.
Published by Rothenstein (in German). ISBN: 978 3 9814491 0 5.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
Supplied by the publisher for review through Goodreads First Read.
First of all, I would like to thank the many people who sent me their best wishes following the death of my father last week. As you can imagine it has been a difficult time for me, we have been separated from another since I traveled over to Germany to study and the only ‘meetings’ we’ve had have been through mail contact, which is difficult enough as it is.
We managed to get to Baltimore without any difficulty, flying through Paris and then on to Dulles where we were collected and brought to Baltimore and had a chance to rest after our long flight, even though it was only mid-afternoon in the States. Most of the legal and administrative work – there is a lot of paperwork to be sorted out for his estate – is now nearing completion and, since all the hard work has been done by an attorney, we have had it fairly easy with some time to get out into the city and clear our heads. The loss of a loved one is not something that can easily be overcome, and I am often distracted or have my thoughts elsewhere. Having someone by your side helps more than I can say, as I am sure many other already appreciate.
The way things are going we will probably fly back at the end of the week, if none of the airlines happen to have a strike, and then life continues. By then I will probably have visited all the museums here, walked all the streets, sampled every single bench around the Inner Harbor looking at the view.
I apologize in advance if I haven’t been in touch with anyone, I don’t have my passwords for mail accounts with me and wasn’t sure whether I would even be able to access this account to post an update or not. I will answer everyone as soon as I get back, update my Google Plus and Twitter accounts and generally do all those things which, when I was in Germany, seemed to work without a break, without any stress.
Love & Kisses, Viki.
Everyone has secrets, little personal matters which we don’t want to share, which bring us pleasure or pain, actions we regret or which would be unacceptable to others, things from the past better hidden from view. What happens, though, when these secrets are more than just a personal matter, when they have to be kept out of the public eye, when even the closest friends and relations shouldn’t discover that something dark is lurking in the past? There are secrets which can destroy and entire family, which remove all feelings of trust and denigrate all the good that has been done, which drag an entire family down into the dirt with little or no hope of finding a way back.
In Germany, with its well documented history over the twentieth century, such hidden secrets can be found in many families: an uncle who served for the wrong people during the war; a father or brother who spied on the neighbors for the East German government; a daughter who earned her living through personal, intimate services in order to bring bread to the table for her family. We are brought into something similar to this milieu by Elisabeth Herrmann, but with a secret which goes back several decades, to the darkest period of German history, to a time when different rules, different ideals controlled the lives of all. A time when society comprised people of many levels, and those classified as non-human or considered unworthy of living a free and ordered life of their own in their own country, through ethnic origin or religious belief.
Photo Credit: vauvau – Creative Commons
A family highly placed in society with the best contacts, a name held with considerable pride, a public standing based on many good deeds, connections. A young woman with the best prospects, beautiful, intelligent and influential. A young attorney – Joachim Vernau – preparing to enter this higher society through marriage, also well-placed and respected. Nothing, as far as both of them are concerned, can stand in the way of their marriage, their future lives together until, during the public party for their official engagement, a young Ukrainian woman appears and brings the memories, the events of a half lifetime earlier back into the limelight, back into the here and now.
Joachim Vernau is thrown into a new world, one which traces its roots back to a Germany long since gone, but one which influences the thoughts and actions of many to this day, and finds himself battling against old hatreds, against those who wish what happened before to remain in the past, and who are prepared to go to the ultimate lengths of ensure that the truth does not come to light.
Elisabeth Herrmann has written a work of excellent depth, one which highlights to past as much as the problems of coming to terms with what has happened before. Her flowing thriller takes the reader on a journey into the depths of a period when the rules of society were completely different, when slavery existed in the home as much as in the work and concentration camps, where a human life was considered worthless in many cases, where the loss of a nanny could be passed over as if nothing had happened, and a new one ordered to replace her without question. She takes us into a world where personal interests had and have the upper hand, where fortunes were made at the expense of others, where whole lives – entire families – could be wiped out for the sake of a painting, an object of art, a comment at the wrong moment to the wrong person, and she does it with exceptional skill and professionalism.
Das Kindermädchen – which has been successfully filmed – is not yet available in English, although it should be. It is a book which will intrigue many, which has all the marks of an excellent crime thriller as well as a storyline which speaks to the mind, to the imagination, bringing two worlds together – the past and the present – into one flowing, exciting revelation of how that which is hidden influences our daily lives.
Published by Goldmann Verlag (in German). ISBN: 978 3 442 46455 5.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
Writing comments is not easy, or so it appears when I go through some of the wonderful outpourings various websites and news media allow to infest their pages. We all know that spammers don’t write comments themselves, they have a special template which constructs some form of something which might pass as a real comment, but which the expert eye can spot rather further than a million miles away. These templates, as we have seen all too often, simply don’t work: they tend to spew out random rubbish fit only as examples of how not to write, how not to express yourself.
For most recent information you have to pay a quick visit the web and on the web I found this web site as a finest web page for most up-to-date updates.
I dread to think what it would be like if someone actually spoke in such a manner. There are, though, some who make their own comment sup on the spur of the moment, perhaps to gain a link to their own site or, equally likely, to hide themselves behind some sort of protective wall and prevent attack for their trash.
You could be forgiven for believing that the zoo is a place of peace and calm in the center of the hectic city. Family outings, the lure of the (caged) wild, an exploration of that which is otherwise only to be seen on National Geographic. There are lions and tigers, antelope, elephants, reptile houses swarming with snakes all put on exhibition to enthrall and educate. What goes on behind the scenes, though, is seldom seen: the animals need to be fed and, as we all know, they tend to eat one another, and each one has to be catered for according to individual needs. The killing for food is one thing, but there is another killing on this spring morning in the Tierpark in Berlin. This time it is not to feed the animals, this time it is a brutal murder.
Within a few days Charlie Rubin, responsible for preparing the food each animal eats during the course of their lives in captivity, has admitted the crime and is being held by the Berlin police. Not everyone, however, is happy with this speedy result. Sanela Beara, a young policewoman who was one of the first on the scene, has her doubts, having spoken to Rubin at length. Jeremy Saaler, a young psychologist still learning his chosen trade, assisting Professor Brock in assessing the mental capabilities of the suspect, is also not convinced of her guilt.
Photo Credit: 96dpi – Creative Commons
Elizabeth Herrmann takes us from the hustle and bustle of Berlin life out into the peaceful world of surrounding villages, where life continues in a completely different vein, where the changes in German society since the reunification have had other effects than those the politicians wished for. She shows us life in a land still reeling from the long rule of a socialist government, where the chances of a job let alone making an adequate living are a constant struggle. In Wendisch Bruch she shows us the other side of the new prosperity but, even here, things are not as they may seem on the surface. A village slowly dying, the men disappearing under mysterious circumstances, and a disinclination to accept strangers all add to the well-formed, well executed plot.
Two separate investigations, neither one of them approved, follow the threads of a story which stretches back over twenty years and bring these threads masterfully together in a thrilling ending which will capture the imaginations of all those who love real amateur detective work. Well, known in Germany, some of her books have already been filmed, it’s about time the English-speaking world got to know Elizabeth Herrmann better too, and placed her in the position her books deserve, at the top of the bestselling lists for intense, well-written crime novels.
Published by Goldmann Verlag (German). ISBN 978 3 442 48114 9.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
There are times when we all wonder whether we are in the right place, whether what we have worked for all our lives has really been worth it, or whether things have changed so much that what we knew, what we cared for, has vanished forever and remains just a memory. There are many reasons for not going back to a favorite place: mainly the times have changed, and what we knew then is no more but, more than that, we see what was as what is now, with different eyes, and discover things which change our memories, which can make us question our existence and all that we have worked for down the years.
Photo Credit: campdarby – Creative Commons
Jack Reacher goes back to his former unit, the 110th Military Police, for one simple reason, he liked the voice of the new Commanding Officer. This is, perhaps, not quite so strange as it may seem at first glance, we are all subject to sudden whims, fantasies, the draw of something pleasant. A voice can build a beautiful picture in our minds, which does not necessarily have anything to do with the reality, but it can inspire, and Jack Reacher lets this voice inspire him to travel back to Virginia. What he finds when he gets there is another matter entirely. His old unit is not what it was, something has happened and it is not a good something. He finds a new Commanding Officer there, and finds himself drafted back into the Army, into his old unit, many years after he left it for good. Worse still, Major Susan Turner, the beautifully inspiring voice, is not there.
What follows is a mixture of good detective work and plain excitement. Forced to stay by his new duties, although they cannot be more limited than they are, Reacher begins asking awkward questions, seeking out the real reason Turner has been incarcerated, trying to find out who has usurped the good name of his old unit, and what they are using the power of the United States Army for. Naturally he also breaks all the rules, takes matters into his own hands, collects a few bruises along the way, and fights against a system which shouldn’t exist. A good, exciting read from start to finish, Lee Child keeps his hero working against the odds, and his readers enthralled from one page to the next.
Published by Bantam Press. ISBN 978 0 553 82555 8.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
It’s always the little people who suffer, not those of smaller stature, but the ordinary folk, the workers, those who keep a country functioning by their hard work and dedication in the face of all odds. Within those masses there are those who stand out, and those who are singled out for better, or for worse. A small enclave of civilization within the greater mass of population, the outsiders. Adam Johnson’s book takes one of these singular people, a young orphan from one of the many State orphanages in North Korea, and creates an at times unbelievable story around his life: the beginnings with poverty and a hard life within the forced-work regime of a state-run home through to a form of fame and fortune. For this work, Johnson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2013, and it is very clear why.
Photo Credit: RNW.org – Creative Commons
Trying to place a character into surroundings which are so alien to most readers is, normally, the work of the fantasy or science-fiction writer. They create worlds outside of our grasp, on the peripheral of our imaginations, and populate them with all manner of weird and wonderful creatures, with strange rites and rituals, with customs and lives beyond what we would normally see or experience. There are, though, also such worlds within our own, where the imagination needs to be stretched to attain belief, where actions and living styles are so foreign to us that we cannot accept them as being more than a work of fiction. North Korea is one such country, a land many believe they know about, but which has many hidden facets which never come out, which remain locked within the closed borders and behind the restrictions of a very secretive ruling party. What we read in the news, predominantly the rantings and threats of a dictator unable to accept the devastating truth of his country’s plight, is merely a gloss over reality.
Whilst this is a work of fiction, Adam Johnson breathes so much life into his words that we can see and believe North Korea has such people within its ranks. We understand, through a first-hand recounting, the troubles of the times, the struggle of ordinary people to survive on a daily basis, the madness that decrees who should live and who should die with the stroke of a pen. We see the power struggles at all levels, the bureaucracy of those with little power, the fawning of those wishing to remain in some semblance of favor.
While some aspects of this wonderful tale may beg imagination, stretch our conception of reality beyond its normal bounds, Adam Johnson weaves his words in such a way that we can follow everything, can see how madness pitted against madness works, can follow the life of a single person, fighting against the corruption and selfishness from the lowest levels through to the highest powers. At times with humor but always with an eye on accurate description, Adam Johnson has brought a world within our world before our eyes, and shows us what it can be like to live, to fight against, a regime filled with corruption and the need for personal gain, against the odds, and still succeed, if only in a small way, to live and survive.
Published by Random House. ISBN 978 0 812 98262 6.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
The hardest thing that anyone has to bear is the loss of someone close to them. My father has died. At the moment we are trying to get flights back to the United States, but it is difficult at such short notice, and some of the companies are hit by strikes in Europe which ground everything moving out in any direction. Somehow we will make it there.
I will post personally again when I return, but a few book reviews I have already programmed for publication will appear in the meantime, even though I am not here.
Love & Kisses, Viki.
Apparently there is an old saying: if you can’t beat them, join them. Sorry, but I can’t do that in this case, I just can’t. It is something which has annoyed me for such a long time that I simply overlook it now – well, mostly – automatically assume a meaning for what has been written and correct the mistake in my mind. Although, having said that, I was audacious enough to send a corrective Tweet to a New York Times journalist for just this sort of thing.
Image Source: Twitter
Of course we’re talking about the Internet here, and particularly about those who use Facebook and Twitter, although I am sure every single social network out there is plagued / filled with such cases. The difficulty some people have in writing your and you’re, there, their and they’re correctly. Naturally there are plenty of other words, but none which are so easy as these five. You just need to be able to think, and it comes almost naturally. Or does it?
A few days ago I was considering letting the number of spam comments I get, which was not too great, accumulate over a twenty-four hour period just to see how much of a problem it is for this blog. Rather than deleting them every few hours, which I have been doing up until recently, I would collect them, run my eyes over them, and see what it is about them which makes people – people is such a strange word when used for spammers – are trying to sell.
This morning, checking my blog before setting off for college, I changed my mind. There were nearly five hundred spams there, considerably more than usual. I guess someone has found me again.
Photo Credit: leff – Creative Commons
This evening I estimate the total to be well over one thousand spam comments, coming from quite a range of different IPs around the world. And that’s just the ones which make it into my spam box, many are automatically deleted by Akismet, and I don’t get to see them at all. Even as I delete eighty-four, the next three are there, waiting for me.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a great problem since I can delete them all with one click of a button. Even so, don’t these people – there’s that word again – ever check to see whether their hard work is bearing fruit? Don’t they look to see whether even one of their messages, their adverts, their links to other sites, has managed to get through? Whether anything has been published at all? It strikes me that someone is paying them to do this, but paying only for it to be done, not relying on results to show that it works. It’s rather like having billboards on roads which no one uses, in magazines no one buys, on television channels which are never watched. So pointless.
Still, I guess it keeps people employed, keeps them off the streets. Better than selling Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers.
Love & Kisses, Viki.