Sunday, 15 July 2018

A Leisurely Stroll

You already know that I visit Ludwigsburg's palace grounds often, and never find it boring. Earlier this week, I posted a review of a book (click two posts back if you want to know more) set right there in the park.

One of my longest-going friends (we've known each other from school since we were about ten years old) lives not far away from one of my clients' offices, and as I worked there on Thursday, we arranged for me to walk over to her place after work and then go for a walk in the palace grounds together.

It was a lovely evening, not too hot but still sunny and pleasantly warm. The soft late afternoon / evening light is so beautiful on the park, its flowers and buildings. We were the last visitors to the fairytale garden, which is inside the park but closes its gates earlier than the rest of the park. I apologize for not having taken any pictures of the fairytale scenes; In my opinion, they simply do not offer themselves very well for photos and would not come across as nice as they are in reality.

I was home just ater 7:00 pm; enough time to do the ironing and make myself something to eat to sit down with for the main evening news on TV.

My friend and I agreed that we should do this more often, as there is nothing like a leisurely stroll in the park and chat with a friend to clear your mind after an intense day at the office.

Read in 2018 - 10: Bubblegum Smoothie

Bubblegum Smoothie
A Blake Dent Mystery
by Ryan Casey

Another free ebook from Amazon's Kindle shop, this one could not be more different from my previous read (see one post back).

Not only because I was back for my usual reading language English after a brief German interlude, but also because of the whole setting, story, style - everything, really.

Blake Dent officially runs a smoothie stall in Preston, a not very attractive sounding town in England (I wonder if the real Preston in Lancashire is meant).
He comes up with overly creative concoctions, such as the name-giving Bugglegum Smoothie, which results not only in some of his customers developing severe allergic reactions but also in his smoothie stall being closed down by the authorities.

Good job then that just at that time, he has an offer to work again at his other, not official job as a bounty hunter for the police.

Only the lure of the large sum promised (inofficially, of course) makes him agree, and also the fact that he really does not have much of a choice because a dark spot in his past threatens to resurface.

With the help of his friend Martha (formerly Martin), Blake catches the sadistic murderer just before he can complete his plan of killing two more people after the five lives he has already taken.

Blake's methods are as unconventional as his life: in his mid-thirties (I think), people expect him to "settle down", when all he is interested in is buying more of the latest models of TVs, mobile phones, tablet PCs and other gadgets.

During the investigation (which puts Blake himself and Martha in danger, too) his priorities slowly start to shift. Since this is the first book of a series, I expect that some of the loose threads here will be picked up again and developed further in the next books.

I did not like Blake as a person all that much, but he had charm and I certainly wanted to know how and when he was going to solve the case. Also, the change of perspective (chapters written from Blake's point of view alternating with the murderer's) was well done, and the author managed to keep tension up until the end.

The sadistic murders are described without going into too much gorey detail - although they make for hard reading and I usually don't like this when I want to read just for entertainment on a train ride or at night. Still, with the characters well fleshed out and the story being interesting enough, I liked this book. Maybe not enough to actively look for more of the series, but certainly not minding if I should happen to come across another (free) one.

Learn more about the author and his books here, if you like.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Read in 2018 - 9: Nachts im Park ist alles anders

Nachts im Park ist alles anders
Mona Jeuk

This was an easy read, aimed at children from about 10, and one I really enjoyed - mainly because of where the story is set: The palace grounds of my hometown.

Ludwigsburg has extensive and beautiful palace grounds which I have regularly been visiting since I was a baby; you have seen them often featured on my blog.
(For more, you can click on the label "Ludwigsburg" in the upper part of this page, or put "palace grounds" in the search box in the top left corner.)
As I got older and started to walk and talk, of course the Märchengarten ("garden of fairytales") became the most attractive part for me.
There, as if by magic, the characters and places I knew from the story books read to me by my parents and grandparents came alive. By the time I went to school, I often dreamt of sneaking into the park  at night and checking on the fairytale scenes there.

The book I am actually trying to review here tells exactly that story: At night, the park comes alive.
Some of the fairytale characters, dummies during the day, are living, breathing, thinking creatures at night. They are a bit scary, like their story character demands.
In the end, a man (a real human being) loses his life, and others are in danger until an old puzzle can be solved and the figures turn into lifeless dummies again.

This is cleverly put against the background of a growing-up story: Young Ludwig and his little sister have lost their parents in a car accident. They live with their grandma, but the elderly woman has serious health problems which prevent her from taking proper care of the siblings.
Social Services threaten to separate them from grandma and each other, and to avoid this, Ludwig hatches a plan: One night, he manages to bring his small family into the park just
across the road from where they live. In an old gardener's house (the house really exists, like all the other places mentioned in the book), they set up their new living quarters, well hidden from the prying eyes of Social Services and nosy neighbours.

But as they become more and more aware of strange goings-on in the park at night, with each passing day and week they spend in hiding, the situation becomes more dangerous.
For the reader, tension remains until the end, even though quite a few developments are rather foreseeable (it is a children's book after all).
Who will "get to" Ludwig, Matti and their grandma first - Social Services, the police or the out-of-control fairytale characters?

As I said, I really enjoyed this book mainly because of its setting and because it picked up my own imagination as a child. Without the link to a place I have known so well all my life it probably would not have interested me at all.
But the author does a good job of keeping the story going, and telling dramatic events without them being too scary for children. This was (of course) a free download at the Kindle shop.

The author (who was completely unknown to me) is only one year older than I. She grew up in another town near Stuttgart and often came to visit Ludwigsburg and its fairytale garden during her childhood and youth. She now lives in a small town within walking distance and has written several children's books set at places of interest in our region.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Last Night and Last Weekend

If you know me only a little bit through my blog, you know at least one thing: I am not a big follower of sports events. In fact, I hardly ever watch any sports on TV - with one exception: A match here and there during football world championships such as the one currently underway. The only matches I watch (and definitely not each and every one of them) are when Germany or England play. Since Germany are out (and fully deserved it, too), I am cheering for England. Last Wednesday, watching the match was disappointing and boring. Last night, it was a different story - anything but boring! I watched together with my sister at her place:

Early on in the match, we became fed up with the goings-on: fouls left, right and center, each followed by endless "discussions" between players and the referree. Speaking of the latter, he seemed unable to establish the authority his role commands; the "boys" seemed to be doing as they pleased, like a very rumbunctious crowd of rowdy school boys at play time when they know exactly that the only teacher watching them is the one who never really carries out any punishment.

Anyway, the match went on, and finally, we had a goal. Then the other team scored, and with no more goals during the 2 x 15 minutes (I was so ready to go home and to bed, it was well past 10:00 pm by then), what we dreaded happened: Penalty shootout! Oh our nerves... I am not kidding you when I tell you that my sister had to leave the room when it was England's turn to make the decisive strike. Well, we all know how it ended, and I was finally on my way home and in bed about half an hour later.


Now for the weekend, which was one of the most beautiful summer weekends we have had so far this year: Really warm (around 30 Celsius), but not muggy or humid, just clear blue skies. I was at O.K.'s and we had a family BBQ on his parents' allotment, with all delicious food and drink, and of course each other's company, to enjoy.

The evening light was beautiful, and shortly before 8:00 pm, I went for a little walk "around the block" (actually, around the patch of woods near the allotment, and back through vineyards and orchards). It is the same route O.K. and I often use for our Sunday morning runs, but this time, I was not running. Instead, I was taking photos:

Back at the allotment, we were sitting there for another half hour or so, watching the sunset. At some point, those of us with mobile phones got up to take pictures of the sunset. Mine are like a time line, taken within minutes of each other until it became too dark:

We packed up and went home, sated with good food and beautiful views. 

As we were standing there, admiring the sunset, it occurred to me how nice it is to know that nearly everyone appreciates those colours and the special light of a sunset; no matter how many we have seen in our lives, we can not seem to get enough of them. This is something we as humans have all in common. A comforting thought to return to when I despair of my fellow humans and their inexplicably mean actions.