Saturday, September 30, 2017

Interview with a Book Translator - #InternationalTranslationDay

It's International Translation Day, so what better way to celebrate than to interview a book translator. I met Jeannette Bauroth at Thrillerfest this July, and once we got talking, I realized she had great stories to tell about translating books - including mysteries from English into German. I learned a lot from talking with Jeannette and I hope you will too. 

What is your favorite part of translating books? What is your least favorite part?
My absolute favorite part is solving the linguistic puzzles in a translation, the thrill to come up with just the right words to make the text work in the new language. My goal is always to create the same emotions for the German reader that the book triggered in the original language. Some decisions are more invasive than others. Usually, we try to stick as closely to the source text as possible but sometimes a bit of cultural adaption is necessary. For example, Germans express some emotions with a different gesture than an American would. Or a name is used to characterize a person but has no meaning to the German reader. Then we try to explain the issue to the author and see if we can come up with a solution together.

My least favorite part are revisions. As much as I love these books, after five rounds of editing and proofreading I’m ready to move on. I guess that’s something authors can very well relate to.

How did you start translating books? 
I’m afraid my answer is really boring – I‘ve always wanted to be a translator, and I‘ve always wanted to translate English books into German. I didn’t get to do it right away, though. Growing up in East Germany meant that I was taught Russian at school, not English. But we were given the option to come in at our own time to take some English classes later on in 7th grade. The vocabulary was kind of odd, though, because our lessons were titled „Karl Marx in London“ and the like. Not exactly the kind of terminology you’ll find useful for translating novels.
After the wall came down, the career councelors discouraged us from becoming translators. They were convinced that within 10 years time everybody would speak English and there would be no more need for human translators. Luckily, that prediction turned out to be wrong.
However, back then I went and got a degree in physical therapy instead and for almost a decade I worked with professional athletes. All that traveling around with them on the bus gave me some free time and I ended up taking up some translation classes after all. I finally got my degree in translation in 2004 and have been working as a freelancer ever since, doing what I‘ve always wanted to do.

What are the hardest things to translate?
Word plays, poems, songs and puzzles. I’ve just finished translating a book about a treasure hunt in New York City (York: The Shadow Cipher“ by Laura Ruby). The hardest part was to make all the clues work (and sometimes rhyme) in German while making it sound natural to the storyline. When the editor wrote to me saying that she loved how I made that work, I was really relieved. It’s a fantastic book, by the way. I’m very much looking forward to translating the sequels.

Can you tell us the names of some of the books that you’ve translated?
As far as crime fiction goes, I have translated these books into German:
Watch Me Die by Lee Goldberg
Loose Ends by Terri Reid
Exhume by Danielle Girard
Lethal Bayou Beauty, Swamp Sniper, Malevolent and Sinister by Jana DeLeon
Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes and Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons by Denise Grover Swank 
plus several romance novels, new adult and non-fiction books.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love Agatha Christie. In fact, I have a huge collection of her books at home. I also really enjoy Jana DeLeon’s books, especially her Miss Fortune series. Harlan Coben is another favorite author of mine. I also like to read cozy mysteries; it’s a real pity that this genre is said not to do well in Germany, so publishing houses are rather reluctant in acquiring them for translation.
I’m currently reading the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch, and that’s also something I highly recommend if you like somewhat bizarre crime fiction. Think Harry Potter goes Bobby in nowadays London.

Jeannette at work?

What’s the funniest thing that you’ve had to translate? The most challenging?
Despite what people assume, humor translates really well, unless the jokes are rooted in some very specific pop culture reference. But if it’s funny in English, it’s usually also funny in German. I believe that’s the reason why shows like The Big Bang Theory are so successful internationally. 
The funniest scene I had to translate is probably the wedding scene between Libby and Noah in Denise Grover Swank’s contemporary romance The Gambler. Go read it – you’ll see what I mean. 
The most challenging may have been the treasure hunt story I mentioned above because of all the clues and puzzles. I also had to do an enormous amount of research for that one because the author set her story in an alternate New York City and refers to a lot of historic events that may or may not have taken place. The editor kept sending me notes, asking: Did this really happen? Did this person really say this? We have to be very careful not to infringe someone else’s copyright. If it is a historic text with an "official" translation we need to make sure we are granted the right to use it, or else make up our own. 
Another challenging translation project was the new adult novel Making Faces by Amy Harmon. It’s a story about losing friends in a war, and what happens to those who return. It was a very touching book and stirred up all kinds of emotions in me when I worked on it.
And Lee Goldberg’s Watch Me Die is the only story I‘ve ever worked on that’s told from a male point of view, so that was also an interesting and challenging experience.

A big thanks to Jeannette for sharing her stories with us. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Halloween Drink - The Bone Chiller Halloween with Ghost Peeps

Ghost peeps and a new book from Carol Perry. What could be a better way to prepare for Halloween today on Drinks with Reads...

For folks in Salem Massachusetts, the day after Halloween usually means empty candy wrappers, sagging pumpkins and a community-wide identity crisis. That is until Lee Barrett’s TV production class suggests extending the spooky season with the traditional Mexican celebration, Dia de Los Muertos.

A series of graveyard visits convinces the class that not all of Salem’s dead are resting in peace. Lee and her detective boyfriend, Pete Mondello connect a fresh body with an unsolved missing person case. Driven by a series of chilling visions, Lee calls on her cleverest allies including her shrewd cat, O’Ryan and her tech-savvy Aunt Ibby for help.

Together they go underground and dig up the evidence needed to put a lid on a cold case forever. . .before the latest headstone has Lee’s name on it.


Aunt Ibby is still working on writing her recipe book and she came up with this tasty, if caloric, drink to celebrate the release of Carol’s newest Witch City Mystery—Grave Errors. It’s a candy-loving grown up Trick-or-Treaters dream come true. . . with Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur, sugar, a huge dollop of Reddi Wip, topped off with a marshmallow Peep!

1 ¼ cups whole milk
1/3 cup whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
¾ cup vodka
2/3 cup Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
Ice cubes
Ghost Peeps

In a small pitcher or glass measuring cup, combine milk, whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Stir until sugar dissolves. Stir in vodka and liqueur. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours. To serve, for each drink, put ice cubes in cocktail shaker, add 1/3 to ½ cup of milk mixture. Cover, shake and pour into glass. Top with Reddi Wip and a Ghost Peep.

(Makes six four ounce servings)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Orient Express Napkin Rings

Our preparation for the Murder on the Orient Express party continues. Last week we showed you how to make a ticket invitation and today we're sharing instructions for these napkin rings designed by Lorraine Masonheimer.

Concept: The loose button from the Compagnie Internationale des Wagon Lits uniform has found a home slipped onto the infamous pipe cleaner and tucked into the center of a black fabric flower to make an Orient Express napkin ring.  A luggage tag with a key dangles from the bottom.

Black pipe cleaners (3)
Gold button
Key charm
Flower-like black fabric trim
Black twine
Gold mini circle brads (3)
Round paper punch
Black/brown leather texture paper
Tan paper

Step One:  Assemble Luggage Tag
Cut a 2½” x 1½” rectangle from the black/brown leather texture paper.  Cut a 2½” x 1½” rectangle from the center. 

Using the computer, type and print onto tan paper the words: “Name, Address, Telephone” as shown.  This example uses AR Julian at 11 points. 

Cut to fit and glue to the leather rectangle.  Punch a hole in each corner and insert three gold brads leaving the upper left corner empty.

Step Two:  String Button, Key and Luggage Tag
String the button onto three black pipe cleaners. 

Using the black twine, tie the key to the luggage tag and the luggage tag onto the button leaving about 2” to dangle. 

Step Three: Form Flower & Clip to Size
Cut enough black fabric trim to wrap tightly around the button until a flower forms.  Tuck it tightly between the button and the pipe cleaner.  Wrap the pipe cleaners around the napkin and twist.  If desired, clip away the excess and you are done.

TIP:  Write in the names of your guests so these napkin rings double as place cards, and let the conversation begin.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders is a compendium of some of the most interesting and some of the least well known places on earth. I adore this book by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras & Ella Morton. It's page after page of unique locations, maps and photos from Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, Canada, the United States and Latin America.

Just to illustrate how varied this book is, I selected five pages to highlight an entry from, each entry one hundred pages apart. 

On page five I read about the real Chained Books of Hereford Cathedral that reminded me of the same chained volumes in the Marvel movie Dr. Strange. 

On page one hundred and five I learned about Necropants - apparently it was the not so equivalent of the organ donor card in 17th century Iceland. If a person gave their permission before death, a friend could dig up the body and make a pair of pants with the skin. Um. That's pretty gross.

One two hundred and five I learned about a former human slave market on Bunce Island in Sierra Leone. From 1668 to 1807 it served as a "warehouse" for people. When Britain's parliament abolished the slave trade in 1807, the island stopped being a clearing house for this atrocity. The book says the site is now it's overgrown and wild.

On page 305 I read about Prada Marfa - a "site specific sculpture" in the middle of nowhere in Texas where there is a fake Prada shop filled with real merchandise. None of the products are for sale and the store doesn't open. It's meant to be art. 

One page 405 I read about Chan Chan, a Peruvian sand castle built in 850 CE. It'e the world's largest adobe city. It has a complete irrigation system built underground.

What a interesting reference book for the curious adventurer. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: A Casualty of War by Charles Todd

Bess Crawford is Charles Todd’s brave and capable WWI nurse who always finds herself in the middle of a mystery. Kerry Hammond is here to review the most recent book in this great series.

A Casualty of War by Charles Todd is the 9th book in the Bess Crawford series, featuring a British WWI nurse who often works right near the front line, caring for the wounded soldiers. The book releases September 26, 2017, in Hardcover from Harper Collins. I read each and every book in the Bess Crawford series and always look forward to the next like a visit with old friends. I love when these books come out in the fall because I can cozy up on the couch with some hot tea and a blanket and dive right in.

In A Casualty of War, we find ourselves at the end of The Great War, with talk of an armistice and German defeat. While performing her nursing duties Bess meets Captain Alan Travis and spends a few minutes talking to him over a cup of tea in the canteen before they both leave the base, he to return to his regiment and Bess to assist Dr. Weatherby at a forward aid station. Not long after she arrives at the aid station, a wounded soldier is brought in and to her surprise it’s Captain Travis. He has a head injury and is claiming that he was shot by another officer and that it was deliberate. To make matters worse, he begins to believe that the man who shot him was a distant cousin of his, John Travis.

Bess tries to make inquiries into the Captain’s claim, but hits a dead end and has to give up her search. Soon after, she is given a two-week leave and plans to spend the time with her family in England. She is reunited with the Captain once again and unfortunately his condition has gotten much worse. His ramblings have made doctors and nurses believe he has shell shock and his inability to calm himself has required that they restrain him. Bess finds him strapped to a bed in a hospital and she believes him to be completely sane, making it imperative that she investigate his claims and help him get released. With the help of her old friend Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon, she travels to Captain Travis’s cousin’s hometown and begins her search for the truth.

When I reviewed last year’s The Shattered Tree, I proclaimed it “one of my favorite books in this series.” I think this book is a close contender and possibly even knocks the previous one from its perch at the top. One of the major reasons (no pun intended) is that one of my favorite recurring characters, Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon, appears in the entire story. I just love Simon and I secretly want Bess to fall in love with him, so it was nice to see them work side by side in solving the latest mystery.

The mystery itself was also very intriguing. I found the discussion of family blood lines and inheritance to be fascinating. The way the villagers closed ranks and supported their own against outsider interference was frustrating for Bess and Simon, but true to how I expect things were, and perhaps still are, in a village. Bess showed us more of her caring and honest nature by continuing to investigate on behalf of Captain Travis, to the detriment of herself since she had to forego spending that time with her family.

New readers will find that this book can be read as a standalone, as can most of those in this series. It’s no spoiler that the war eventually ends, or who wins. Anyone can jump right in and follow along; the only thing missing might be an appreciation for getting to know the characters slowly through each book. The authors are adept at writing each installment in a way that introduces characters to new readers without duplicating knowledge to bore those of us who have been following along. But let’s face it, when you read a series as it’s written—at the rate of one book a year—it can’t hurt to get a few reminders as you go.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent.