Saturday, August 31, 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge, Day 12

I think it is pretty hilarious that April's question for day 12 is:

How do you fight blogger fatigue?

And this is my first post in a week.  Ahem.  But it wasn't really blogger fatigue, so much as life: I'm in the middle of 2 super-long books so I don't have much to post about (though I do have one finished title to write up, so it's not that much of an excuse), we're getting settled into our school routine and I am running a new science group that is taking lots of time, and I started back at work this week too.  I've hardly been on the computer, but I have been making strenuous efforts to set aside reading time, so I'm happy about that.

Really, I might deal with blogger fatigue in a few ways:

I am OK with taking a week off to do something else; though I usually do like to produce a fairly steady stream of posts, I dislike making myself stick to a strict schedule.  If this becomes a job, it's no fun anymore and then I won't want to do it.

I find that new challenges, memes, or events can give a boost to my blogging energy.  An appealing event--like my James-a-day/Gothic October last year--can be really fun and productive, though I usually react afterwards with a week of silence.  And all book bloggers know that we're never tired at the beginning of January, with all those yummy new challenges!

Reading other people's blogs (which I do all the time of course) can help too.  A really thought-provoking question can keep me going.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge, Day 11

Today April at Good Books and Good Wine wants me to show off five of my best blog posts.  I went through my archive--though I left out my first year on the theory that it probably wasn't that great--and picked some favorites.  Here you go:

  1. My post on What Makes Diana Wynne Jones Magical from DWJ March of this year.  I can't say it does any justice whatsoever to the amazingness of DWJ, because I am not that articulate, but I tried.
  2. In January, I co-hosted a children's literature event.  This post on 19th-century illustrators was fun to write.
  3. I love books like Pink and Blue, with lots of cultural history and information about clothing.
  4. Last October I read The Castle of Otranto for a Gothic novel event.  I had fun reading it and writing what I hope was a sort of humorous post.
  5. I'm including this one because I'm such a sucker for ancient British history and antiquarians: Ancient British Trackways.
Bonus post: I had a really good time writing up a readalong of Madame Bovary with the WEM Ladies.  I even managed to get a Bollywood reference in there...

The mailed fist from Castle of Otranto

Thursday, August 22, 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challege, Day 10

Today April wants to know how I choose what book to read next.

Mood, mostly.  I have my TBR/classics pile, and a bunch of books out of the library, and I choose according to what mood I'm in.  Since I always have several going at once, it's easy to make room for another one if I really want to read it right away.

I also follow along, mostly, with the WEM Ladies' reading list, if it's something I haven't read and want to read.  Right now they're doing Native Son, and I've read that so I'm skipping it this time.

Since I'm signed up for lots of challenges, that gives me plenty to pick from, plus of course whatever I happen to want to read just because.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back to the Classics Challenge--Wrapup Post

I have finished Sarah's Back to the Classics Challenge!  This year, there were 6 required categories and 5 optional categories.  I did all of them:

The Required Categories:
  1. A 19th Century Classic--The Red and the Black, by Stendhal
  2. A 20th Century Classic-- Botchan, by Natsume Soseki 
  3. A Pre-18th or 18th Century Classic-- Pamela, by Samuel Richardson
  4. A Classic that relates to the African-American Experience - The Souls of Black Folk, by W. E. B. DuBois
  5. A Classic Adventure--Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper
  6. A Classic that prominently features an Animal - My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell
Optional Categories:

    A.  Re-read a Classic--Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen
   C.  A Classic Non-Fiction title--The Life of Olaudah Equiano, by Himself
   D.  A Classic Children's/Young Adult title--The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
   E.  Classic Short Stories - The Black Monk and Other Stories, by Anton Chekhov (11 stories read if you don't count the title story, which I read last year)
Some of these books were really great!   I loved most of them.  A couple of them kind of stank, though--Pamela and Last of the Mohicans, I'm looking at you.  Recently I've been seeing (in several places!) James Fenimore Cooper touted as one of the greats of American literature, that any sensible kid would love.  I'm going to have to disagree with that opinion!

This was a fun challenge and helped me to get to some of the books I've been wanting to read.  Thanks for hosting, Sarah!  (Business detail: I get three entries.)

My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell

In order to finish Sarah's Back to the Classics challenge, I was supposed to come up with a book having something to do with animals.  This stumped me.  Look at my CC list--nary a critter to be found.  So I wandered around my bookshelf and found one of my all-time ever favorite books.

Gerald Durrell was a famous naturalist, and started one of the first conservation zoos in the world--Durrell Wildlife Park on Jersey Island.  He publicized and partly financed his conservation efforts by writing books about his adventures with animals, and My Family and Other Animals is probably the most famous of them.

For five years in the 1930s, the entire Durrell family lived on the Greek island of Corfu.  This consisted of Mrs. Durrell, widow; pompous Larry,* gun-obsessed Leslie, fashion-conscious Margo, and Gerry, age 10 and animal-mad from birth.   Durrell combines animal adventures with stories about his eccentric family and their even more eccentric friends, and the whole thing is just completely funny and wonderful.   You really have to read it to believe how great it is.

Gerald Durrell could wax more lyrical about animals than anyone else I've ever read.  Nowhere else will you read a loving description of a scorpion that can convince you of its beauty and excellent character traits.  Even if you're not an animal person (I am not), you should not go through life deprived of My Family and Other Animals.  That would just be terrible.  Don't do it to yourself.

*The novelist Lawrence Durrell, who I really must read someday, but it's hard to take a highbrow literary novelist seriously after seeing him so thoroughly skewered in these books. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The World's Strongest Librarian

The World's Strongest Librarian: a Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family, by Josh Hanagarne

I've been looking forward to getting this book!  I had to wait my turn at the library, but once I got it (yesterday), I gulped it down.

Josh is a librarian at the main Salt Lake City library (I've been there, it's really nice.  After all, when you're visiting a new place you have to see what the library is like, right?).  He's got lots of good library stories, which is of course my favorite part.  This is a guy who understands the librarian soul:
I also work here because I love books, because I'm inveterately curious, and because, like most librarians, I'm not well suited to anything else.  As a breed, we're the ultimate generalists.  I'll never know everything about anything, but I'll know something about almost everything and that's how I like to live.

Josh's story is about how he wound up where he is now, with a family and a library career.  He has had a bit of a difficult time.  He talks about his early childhood as very happy, especially with his family, despite the tics that started to assail him.  But adolescence was something of a nightmare.  His tics got much worse, and hardly anything seemed to help.  His Tourette's is quite extreme, and got in the way of everything, to the point of severe self-injury.  School, work, or anything like a normal life became extremely difficult to maintain.  How Josh managed--with the help of his family and a really interesting coach--to figure out what worked for him and to build a happy life makes for a book I couldn't put down.  And he's a very funny guy, too.

Good memoir.  I liked it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Spin Number

The Classics Club posted the spin number today and it is:  4!  Which means I will read Jens Peter Jacobsen's great Danish novel, Niels Lyhne.  I'm very excited.  It's another title that I really liked in college, and now cannot remember one thing about.  It's a later novel than The Queen's Diadem, and at the moment I'm kind of thinking it's going to be a bit like The Sorrows of Young Werther, but hopefully without the suicide.

Looking at ebook offerings, I see that you can get it for free on Kindle if you want a German edition, but the English costs $5 or so.  Penguin has a nice-looking paperback, too.  My own copy is hardback, and I can't find an image of it at all.

In other news, today was our first day of school.  It was a very good day; we reviewed math and grammar skills, started modern history with a discussion of the British Empire in the 1850s, and began a study of American government.  This year we are hosting a physics class, which should be quite fun, but it grew while I was planning it and now I'm a little daunted by my 3 high schoolers, 3 8th-graders, and I'm not even sure how many younger kids.  Today we had the older kids over to watch lectures from The Teaching Company, and labs for everybody will be on Fridays.  Whee!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge, Day 9

Today April wants to know:

Why do you blog about books?

I sort of fell into this gig, really. The homeschooling message board I hang out on has a reading group, and Robin runs an ongoing challenge called 52 Books in 52 Weeks.  It sounded fun and I wanted to join up for the 2012 year, but I had never particularly wanted to blog about anything.  I was not into reading blogs much, didn't know much about them, was not terribly interested.  But as I looked at this challenge, it became clear that I was going to need a blog for it.  So I got my brilliant friend Jenny, who already had a book blog, to show me how to do this weird blogging thing (she has since quit blogging in favor of law school--told you she was brilliant).  I came up with my super-cool blog name, and she showed me how to get a fancy background from our other brilliant friend Alicia (who has since quit blogging in favor of actually making money at web design).

It's Robin's fault.  That's why.  Thanks, Robin!

Then I discovered that there are OTHER reading challenges out there!  I think I joined two.  The next year I joined a few more.   In 2012 I did a bunch of them, plus my own Greek Classics challenge, and the Classics Club was established too.  I tried to cut back on challenges for this year but that didn't turn out so well--I think I wound up with 10 or so, though several are freebies that I don't have to work for.

It wasn't super-popular or anything but I had fun.

Reading challenges--the fun of participating in them and meeting all the neat people who host and participate too--is the main reason that I blog about books.  The other great benefit is just talking about books and learning about more books from other folks.   I like to learn about books and authors I don't know about, and the 'requirement,' voluntary as it is, stimulates me to read more difficult books in greater variety than I would otherwise.  The occasional events are also great and sometimes I feel like I can contribute something, as with January's children's literature event.  I am happier for it, so I keep going. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge, Day 8

April at Good Book and Good Wine asks:

Quick! Write 15 bullet points of things that appeal to you on blogs!  (She means things I like to see on other people's blogs, not things about blogging in general.  Wow, I used the word blog way too many times there.  Isn't it just the ugliest word?  Blog.  Ick.  I think I need Shakespeare or Samuel Johnson or somebody to invent a word with some dignity to it--clearly we 21st century folks are no good at naming things.)

  1. Pretty pictures, but not GIFs.  Especially really neat photographs from the past--I'm no good at it myself but I appreciate it!
  2. A layout I can look at.  Not a dark or busy background, a nice clear font, and a clean layout (not sure I have that myself!).
  3. Interesting thoughts--I love long rambly posts that have a point about life or literature or whatever.
  4. It is awful of me but I like to know a bit of personal information, like location and stuff.  I absolutely understand the desire to be anonymous, but I do love to get to know people a little bit.
  5. A little bit of variety--fun stuff as well as straight book reviews.  But there needs to be enough real content to keep me coming back.
  6. People who introduce me to amazing new authors--and there are so many!
  7. Bloggers with different interests, who can teach me something about some special genre or corner of the world.  If someone has a thing for Polish literature or golden age mysteries or something, I want to read about it.  The more obscure the better.
  8. Only one sidebar.  I find it hard to focus when there are two.
  9. People who host neat challenges!
  10. An easy comment system.  Spambots are making that impossible, so it's a bootless wish.  But Disqus is a pain.
  11. Things that don't move or make noise.  Which is a backwards way of saying that I dislike things that move or make noise.
  12. I also don't like videos much, because I can read a lot faster than I can listen and watch.  If it can be written, I prefer it written, but I know there are good reasons for vlogging too (vlog.  An even worse word than blog.)
  13. Comment replies--which I am totally guilty of not doing.  I can't always think of something to say!
  14. An appreciation of good cover art--from the past as well as the present.  I subscribe to several blogs that are just about vintage cover art.
  15. People who comment on MY posts!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Moura, by Virginia Coffman

I saw this recommended as a spooky Gothic read recently, and it was cheap on Kindle, so I snapped it up.  Indeed it's a pretty good Gothic!

Anne is housekeeper at a girls' seminary--this is 1815.  When a young French student is taken back to her home estate of Moura, Anne gets worried about her and travels to France to check up.  She finds an ancient, crumbling chateau, surly servants, a murderous ghost, and plenty of other chilling elements.

It's a good spooky story, dating from 1959 when they knew how to turn 'em out.  Unfortunately the Kindle scan is terrible.  There are a couple of pages missing at one point, I think some other skipped passages, and lots of typos.  That was disappointing.

A new challenge--crazier than ever

There is a non-fiction challenge to compliment the Classics Club!  I must join.

A Non-Fiction Adventure

Michelle, the hostess, says:  Taking the lead from the awesome creators of the Fill in the Gaps: 100 Project and The Classics Club, I have decided to create a similar challenge focusing on non-fiction books.  The fruition of this idea came to me yesterday as I was looking at my shelves of non-fiction books.  In my library of 3000+ books, non-fiction makes up about 1000+ of that total.  I focus so heavily on fiction I never take the time to squeeze in some non-fiction reads which I do love to read.  So I thought, why not follow the lead of those I mentioned above and create this challenge for the non-fiction genre.

Here are the guidelines:
  • choose 50+ non-fiction books; the number is up to you.  Choose 50, 75, 100, 200.  It's entirely your choice
  • Books must be non-fiction--biography, autobiography, history, memoir, cooking, travel, science, etc.
  • list them at your blog (or on Goodreads or another social media site, if you do not have a blog)
  • choose your completion goal date five years in the future and make note of it with your list of titles (like this:  reading goal--50 books  goal dates--March 20, 2012 - March 20, 2017)
  • come back here and post the link to your list in the linky below
  • write a review (or a short summary) on the book when finished and link it to the title in your list (or link to your review on Goodreads, again, if you don't have a blog)
  • there will be pages posted at the top of the blog for you to link your reviews
  • when you have completed the challenge, come add your link to the Completed Challenges page
  • there will be a blog roll in the sidebar where I will list you/your blog linked to your lists
  • grab the button in the right sidebar and link it back to this blog
  • check out this PAGE which contains links to various online sources with lists of reading ideas
  • I might host a read-a-long from time to time.  If you are hosting one, or an event or challenge surrounding a non-fiction title, post about it at this PAGE
A couple more important details:
  • this challenge can be crossed over with any other challenges
  • your link in the linky below must lead to your list, not just your main blog address.  Any links that are blog links only will be deleted
*I was asked if the list has to be made in advance.  The idea is to work toward reading non-fiction that you've been wanting to read so the list is mandatory. However, the list does not have to be set in stone. You can change out titles as the mood suits you.

I am about a year late to this party, but I do want to join in--I have lots of big scary non-fiction books I want to read!  Mostly history.  A whole lot of history.  So here is my list, in no particular order--50 non-fiction books, with a goal date of August 14, 2018.  You can check in on my progress at the page.

...Now that I have put them all up there, it's terrifying.  What is it with me and gigantic tomes of history?  This is ridiculous, it will never happen.  But I will give it a good go.

  1. The History of the Renaissance World, by Susan Wise Bauer
  2. Bible and Sword, by Barbara Tuchman
  3. The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (abridged)
  4. Revolutionary Mothers, by Carol Berkin
  5. Affairs of Honor, by Joanne Freeman
  6. Snakes and Ladders, by Gita Mehta
  7. Eight Pieces of Empire, by Lawrence Scott Sheets
  8. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, by E. Randolph Richards
  9. Hitler's Savage Canary, by David Lampe
  10. Roll, Jordan, Roll by Eugene Genovese
  11. The White Man's Burden, by William Russell Easterly
  12. Napoleon's Buttons, by Penny Le Couteur   
  13. Our Oriental Heritage.  
  14. The Life of Greece. 
  15. Caesar and Christ.  
  16. The Age of Faith.  
  17. The Renaissance.  
  18. The Reformation.  
  19. The Age of Reason Begins.  
  20. The Age of Louis XIV
  21.  The Age of Voltaire.  
  22. Rousseau and Revolution.  
  23. The Age of Napoleon, by Will and Ariel Durant.
  24. The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
  25. The Coming of the Third Reich, by Richard J. Evans
  26. Lectures on Russian Literature, by Nabokov
  27. Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder
  28.  Full Tilt, by Dervla Murphy
  29.  Keynes Hayek, by Nicholas Wapshott
  30.  Elizabeth and Hazel, by David Margolick
  31.  25 Books Every Christian Should Read, by Richard Rohr
  32.  Grand Strategies, by Charles Hill
  33.  In Search of Ancient Ireland, by Carmel McCaffrey
  34.  In Genuine Cowgirl Fashion, by Mary Higginbotham
  35.  Basic Economics, by Thomas Sowell
  36.  The Proud Tower, by Barbara Tuchman
  37.  Beauty in the Word, by Stratford Caldecott
  38.  The Green and Burning Tree, by Eleanor Cameron
  39.  Mimesis, by Erich Auerbach
  40.  The White Goddess, by Robert Graves
  41. Fairy Tale as Myth, by Jack Zipes
  42.  Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion, by Jack Zipes
  43.  Fire in the Bones, by David Wilcox
  44.  The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis
  45.  The Obedience of a Christian Man, by Tyndale
  46.  In the Steps of the Master, by H. V. Morton
  47.  Understanding the Book of Mormon, by Grant Hardy
  48. The Golden Bough, by Sir James Frazer
  49.  1491, by Charles Mann
  50.  India: from Midnight to the Millennium, by Shashi Tharoor
  51.  From Dawn to Decadence, by Jacques Barzun
  52.  My Childhood/Apprenticeship/Universities, by Maxim Gorky

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge, Day 7

April at Good Books and Good Wine asks:  What are your blogging quirks?

  •  I'm not very disciplined about this whole blogging thing.  I'll write a post a day for two weeks and then ignore it for a week.  To be fair, I usually have to have finished a book in order to post, and that does not happen three times a week.
  • I have to have an image but I won't use animated GIFs.  Ever.  (This statement ensures that the universe will find some way to make me use a GIF, I suppose.)
  • I like to make my posts publish first thing in the morning, so I will usually set them to post at 7am or something.
  • I have a semi-colon problem; I also use too many dashes.  I have to go through my writing at the end to take out the overflow of parenthetical comments too.  Strunk and White would cry if they saw me.
  • I try to follow the rule that I can't post two non-book review things in a row.  It doesn't always work, but if I've got a pile of memes and no actual books, I don't like it.
  • The more I like a book, the less I can find to say about it.  My favorite books are usually the shortest posts, but I'm good at arguing with a book I didn't like.
  • I try to make my posts about medium length--not too short.  
  • I think my blog's name is the awesomest.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Host

The Host, by Stephenie Meyer

I read a Stephenie Meyer book, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I have huge problems with the Twilight series, but a couple of friends were reading The Host and I said I would too.  My husband read it several years ago and he thought the premise was neat but there were too many feeeeelings

I do think the premise of the story is great.  This parasitic alien species invades Earth, Goa'uld style (or like Invasion of the Body Snatchers), but the story is told from the one of the alien invader's point of view.  And she thinks of herself as a good person, a member of a beneficial species that goes around improving the planets they settle.  She has been on several planets before, and she is anxious to do a good job on Earth too.

But her human host has other ideas.  Melanie was a rogue human, one of the few left, before she was caught.  Her personality is still in there, and as the alien tries to suppress her, Melanie fights back.

Yeah, there are a lot of feelings.  There is a love triangle (quadrangle?) that is kind of weird.  Well, really weird, but this is the same mind that came up with imprinting, remember?  What I liked was how new questions about the situation would pop up all the time.  What about this?  How about this?  What happens if we do this other thing?

Pretty interesting story.  Too much romance, but what are you going to do, I knew that going in.  Much better than the Twilight series.  (Well, OK, I only read the first one, when a friend made me, but that was enough.)

Classics Spin #3

It's time for another Classics Spin!  My reaction is two-fold: oh goodie! and, but I just started A Suitable Boy!  I should have known that starting a 1500-page novel would get me into trouble.  (I'm really liking it.  Do not let the length intimidate you!)

Obviously I can't just skip the Spin, though, because that would be no fun and probably cowardly too.  So here are my 20 titles--some I want to read, some I'm scared of, some I'm indifferent to, and some random choices:

  1. Shakespeare:  Richard III
  2. Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington.
  3. Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
  4. Jens Peter Jacobsen, Niels Lyhne
  5. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,  Faust.  (1 and 2)
  6. Kaestner, Three Men in the Snow  
  7. Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls.  
  8. Mark Mathabane, Kaffir Boy
  9. Mohandas GandhiMy Experiments with Truth.  
  10. Junichio Tanizaki, The Makioka Sisters 
  11. Rudolofo Anaya, Bless Me Ultima 
  12. Willa Cather, My Antonia
  13. 'My Brilliant Career' by Miles Franklin
  14. Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
  15. Miller, The Crucible
  16. Voltaire, Candide.
  17. Albert Camus, The Stranger
  18. Lawrence Sterne, Tristram Shandy.
  19. Mario Vargas Llosa, The Time of the Hero or another work
  20. T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock"
Wow, some of those are pretty darn scary.  We'll find out what number comes up on Monday, which is also the first day of school for us.  

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge, Day 6

At least, I'm pretty sure it's 6: Describe how you shop for books.

Dang, I think I already did that with the 15 confessions bit.  OK, well, mostly I fuss around for a couple of weeks trying to figure out exactly how I can get the books I want for as few dollars as possible.  Then I finally purchase something.

My husband and I do really enjoy going to the bookstore on our dates sometimes.  We'll go out for dinner and then hang out at the bookstore afterwards.  This doesn't usually involve purchasing anything, but every so often we will.  It's really special when we can go to the used bookstore, run by a friend, instead of plain old Barnes & Noble.  That's always extra-fun.

Mostly I get my books at the library.  I go to the public library about once a week, and I usually have something waiting for me on hold.  I also work at a community college library, so every day that I work I stop by the new books to see if anything different has shown up.  My co-worker and I agree: it's always better in the stacks.  You walk into the stacks, and everything is just good.  I could pretty much stay all day.  I can spend the day at work and then go to the public library to enjoy myself.

I also really like getting InterLibrary Loans.  It's like getting a present!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Rithmatist

The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson has started up yet another sprawling epic series.  Dude must have quite a mind.  This one is YA and not really as dark as some of his other stuff.  I thought the magic system was bizarrely improbable (even for a fantasy series) and I wasn't sure I was going to read the whole thing, but then I did.  I got into it by about halfway through.

The premise: Joel, teen boy, is a charity student at the prestigious Armedius Academy.  He's an outsider, and he's obsessed with Rithmatics, the geometrical magic that only a few can perform.  Rithmatists attend special classes and hold themselves aloof from the others.  Over the summer, Joel meets Molly, a Rithmatist student who is as much of an outsider as he is.  When young Rithmatic students begin disappearing from their homes,  Joel and Molly have to learn to get along and use all their talents to figure out what's going on.

So, kind of formulaic, but Sanderson does a good job with it.  I really liked that most of the adults at the school are good folks who are doing their best for the students and the school.  None of them are bumbling idiots and the teenage protagonists work with the adults.  Joel is a hilariously typical teenage boy, who doesn't see the point in doing well in his classes if he doesn't like them and who comes up with weird schemes to get what he wants.  The principal reacts by asking him to just come and ask next time, and Joel's professor mentor is given a great opportunity to point out exactly why it is worthwhile to pay attention in school.  Hee hee.

The magic system: Sanderson specializes in elaborate magic systems.  This one is based on geometry, which I think is really neat.  Everything happens in chalk drawings on the ground, which then come to life--that's the bit I had a difficult time swallowing.  The origins and reasons for Rithmatics are still pretty obscure, so it might get interesting.  But Rithmatics is the only defense against the truly dangerous, but enigmatic, creatures that wish to destroy Joel's society.  The war is a permanent part of the background, but it's all rather secret.  Much more goes on than ordinary people realize.

The setting: this is an alternate-universe setting, like our world but tweaked a bit.  The North American continent is a group of allied but independent islands which were mysteriously empty when Europeans arrived (this is going to be the central mystery of the series, I'm pretty sure).  South America is run by the Aztek Empire.  Europe was conquered a couple hundred years ago by Koreans commanding an Asian empire, so all of Eurasia is under the JoSeun Empire.  Technology has also developed differently and everything is clockwork, so there is a steampunky flavor to it.  Quite fun.

It's very nicely illustrated too.  I really enjoyed the chapter heading illustrations.

My 13-year-old read it twice in two days and says it's awesome.  I enjoyed it too.  Give it to your bored teenager.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Oh wow!

Dude, check this out--our local used bookstore, run by my friends Josh and Muir, is featured in the New York Times.  There is a huge picture and everything!  The story is up now and will run in tomorrow's edition.  I might have to go buy one.

The reason for the story is the Indie gogo campaign they ran earlier this year.  I posted about it at the time.  The owner of the store announced his retirement, and when Josh wanted to buy the store, the deal was expensive and sudden.  The whole community stepped in to save a bookstore that is irreplaceable.

15-Day Book Blogger Challenge, Day 5 (well, 4)

Since I got the days mixed up, this is really the Day 4 question:

What's the last book you flung across the room?

Ooh, that's a toughie.  Of course I don't actually throw any books, but even metaphorically speaking it's hard, because when I don't like a book I just quit and forget about it.  I don't write it down or blog about it unless I actually finish it, and I'm quite willing to drop it if it's not worth reading.  So I'm going to have to think really hard here.  I know I dropped one quite recently, but goodness knows what it was.

I would have thrown Last of the Mohicans across the room if I hadn't vowed to finish it no matter what.  Never again will I try to read James Fenimore Cooper!  And the same goes for Pamela, especially the second volume.

And London Under was kind of aggravating.  I would have thrown that at times for sure.

Life of Olaudah Equiano

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African. By Himself, ed. Joanna Brooks

The life of Olaudah Equiano is the first slave narrative we have, an autobiography written by a man who was taken from his home in (now) Nigeria and sold as a slave.  He eventually bought his freedom and was able to write his story down, so this is an extremely valuable text.  It's also a remarkably old one, since Equiano was born in 1745 and wrote his book in 1792.  He argued for the abolition of slavery, but did not live to see it happen in the British Empire.

Equiano tells the entire story of his life, starting with his family and the society he was born into.  He was kidnapped as a child (about age 10, I think), and moved slowly out to the coast, where he was put onto a slave ship of the kind we read about in school.  This one was bound to the West Indies, and he was sold to a sea captain.  Equiano spent most of his life at sea, and his adventures take up a good 60% of the book.  It reads like a Horatio Hornblower story--ships of the line, privateers, battles and wrecks--very exciting stuff.

He also worked hard at learning everything he could.  He got fellow sailors to teach him reading and writing, and any other skill that came along, so he became an expert hairdresser and learned the new science of purifying seawater.  He engaged in trade as much as he could, starting with a halfpenny and eventually earning quite a lot of money--even though he was frequently cheated.  And he became a very devout Christian.  Equiano relates his religious life in detail, describing times when he was assisted by God and how he was converted.

Of course his central theme is the iniquities of slavery and the injustice of the law.  He describes many abuses in detail and is very eloquent about the consequences of slavery to both black and white people.  He also talks about how free black people are always in danger, either from kidnappers or from abuses, for there was no law protecting free black people from being cheated or beaten or whatever.

I'll certainly have my daughters read this when they are older.  It's an amazing book.  I don't think American students generally read it, since it has fairly little to do with the American slave trade, but it should be more known.  But if you have seen the film Amazing Grace that was made a few years ago, Equiano is portrayed in it.

I found this book in an interesting little edition that is part of a series--the Lakeside Classics.  I'd never seen it before.  It's been going since 1903, and every year they publish one new volume.  They are all non-fiction having to do with  American history.  (I was pleased to see John Bidwell on the list!)  This one may be a little bit of a stretch, since Equiano was mostly involved with the British and spent little time in the American colonies, but I'm glad it was included.  It's a beautiful edition, liberally sprinkled with illustrations and maps, and made for a nice reading experience.  It also has very good footnotes.  But I think it will be easiest to find this book in the Dover Thrift edition.

I did not realize at first that the editor is the same Joanna Brooks who is now known for her commentary on the LDS Church.  It took me a while to track the information down, in fact, since this is not listed as one of her books, and at first I looked it up because I assumed it must be a different academic with the same name. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 4

It's time for another installment of April's 15-day challenge!  Today's item is:  

Recommend a tear jerker.

Say what?  Hm, I am not much on tear jerkers unless they are Bollywood films.  I don't like stories with a lot of tragedy, since these days it seems like there is quite enough tragedy to deal with in real life.  I don't need extra.  (Bollywood films don't count, because they are so over the top about it.)

Aha!  I know!  Connie Willis' time-travel saga, Doomsday Book.  I've only read it once because it's so darn sad.  It's a great book!  And the sequel, To Say Nothing of the Dog, is clever and hilarious, so I've read that several times.  It's a great cheering-up book.  Ahem.  Doomsday Book--the publisher's summary:
For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin -- barely of age herself -- finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.
Kivrin accidentally arrives in the Black Plague, and meanwhile back in her own time, a new strain of influenza strikes down half of the people who are supposed to be monitoring her.  It's a great story, and it's really really really sad.

Edit after the fact: I didn't look carefully enough.  This is actually the prompt for Day 5, not 4.  Oops.  So, I'll do 4 tomorrow.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Queen's Diadem

The Queen's Diadem, by C. J. L. Almqvist

Once upon a time, I was a comparative literature major and I took classes in Scandinavian literature.  Sometimes I read the book in Danish (or Norwegian, or Swedish, because the attitude is why translate when the languages are so close?  Just figure it out already) and then wrote the paper in Danish too, probably badly.  I read some really great books, but that was a long time ago and I forgot quite a bit.  I still have the books, though, and so I put them on my Classics Club list to re-read.  English only, this time.  The Queen's Diadem, or Drottningens juvelsmycke, was one of those books.  I wrote a paper and everything, but that was in 1995 or something and I'd forgotten all but the central symbol of the novel. 

I found a weird and fantastic tale.  I can't believe I forgot this!

C. J. L. Almqvist was one of the greatest voices in Swedish/Scandinavian literature and a leading Romantic writer--this would be in the 1830s.  He worked in many genres, writing drama, essays, novels, and poetry.  Reading the biographical note, I was reminded of Pushkin (though with less duelling). He was very interested in politics, especially in the status of women, and also in a re-interpretation of history; in fact his original ambition was to write a poetic history of the entire world, but that turned into a sort of series of works he called the Book of the Wild Rose.  The Queen's Diadem is part of that set.

Almqvist sets his novel at the time of the assassination of King Gustav III in 1792, and many of his characters are real people, but the main characters are fictional.  We have two sisters in love with two cavaliers who are involved in the assassination plot, and at the center--of everything--is the enigmatic Tintomara.  Her names change--in fact she has no real name.  Her clothing (therefore gender) changes--it is never clear whether she is a boy or a girl.  She is beautiful and irresistibly alluring to everyone, and that throws her into despair. 

It's all right in the Romantic tradition; there are mistaken identities, masquerades, duels, scheming dukes, and everything you could want, though it is not Gothic.  There is a lot of symbolism, and the story is told using several different forms, shifting between novelistic narrative and dramatic dialogue.  It has as many layers and baroque frames as an Isak Dinesen story (I think she must have been very influenced by Almqvist).

 For some reason, The Queen's Diadem was not translated into English until 20 years ago or so.  It's this fantastic novel, one of the greatest works in Swedish, but practically unknown in English.  The assassination of King Gustav may, however, be familiar to opera fans; Verdi wrote Un ballo in maschera about it.  The character of Tintomara has been very influential in Scandinavian art, and a film was made about her in 1970.  (After poking around Youtube a bit, it seems that she also got her own opera, written by someone named Werle.)

If you're interested in European Romantic literature, put this on your list.  It's really something.

A note, though--I'd forgotten that this book was really expensive for some reason.  It's since been translated again as The Queen's Tiara, so be sure to look for it under both titles.   The link I've provided goes to the newer edition.

Also--the book is absolutely littered with Swedish placenames,  At all times, you could trace everyone's location on a map, so that could be a bit tricky for a reader not familiar with how they work.  Happily there are lots of helpful footnotes, but the main thing is just to know that torget means a square, kyrkan is a church, and gatan is a street.  The majority of placenames end with one of those three!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge, Day 3

Today's question is: Who are your blogging BFFs?

To be honest, I'm not in love with this question!  I will try.  But I don't like to single people out (and not others)...

However, I have met LOTS of wonderful people through this book blogging gig!   So here are a few.

Amy at Book Musings reads great books and is forever inspiring me with ambition to read some of them too.  Plus she's a fellow homeschooling mom and all.

Emily at Classics and Beyond is another classics lover, and I just always like to see what she says.   She is a college student, lucky thing (I really liked college) and usually finds way more to say about literature than I can.

Eva at A Striped Armchair hasn't been around as much lately, hopefully because she is busy traveling and having an amazing life.  Her blog is a treasure trove of amazing and unusual books, and she has put many great titles onto my list!  I think she reads more than anyone I've ever met.

Adriana at Classical Quest and the WEM Ladies at A Classic Case of Madness are my WEM buddies.  They challenge me to read the books and dig into them deeply instead of forgetting about them when they're done.

Jenny at Reading the End is hilarious and insightful and a fellow DWJ-adorer, as is Kristen M. at We Be Reading, who shares many of my tastes and hosts the best month of the year, DWJ March.  These two people go together in my head, so I've put them together here too.

Ekaterina at In My Book gives me recommendations about Russian and Eastern European books, and listens to me when I tell her to give Terry Pratchett another try.

Petya at the Migrant Bookclub does not post often, but it is always great.  Plus she finds the best photographs!

A Petya-selected photograph.  See?

It's interesting to me that these people are all women, and the vast majority of blogs that I read are also written by women.  Is it me?  Is it that book blogs are nearly all by women?  Both maybe.  We probably need more guys in the mix.  Come on men, join the crowd, you know you want to!

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

I just love this book. *happy sigh*  Adam at Roof Beam Reader is hosting Austen in August, and this is my contribution.  I was lucky and got to read most of it while I was away for a couple of days, so I just sat and read large chunks at a time--something I practically never do.  It was great!

I'm not going to reiterate the plot, since just about everybody knows it and if you don't you can easily look it up.  I'm going to talk about Catherine for a minute.  She is so breathtakingly young and naive!  Yes, she is only 17, but really it's mostly because she has lived deep in the country her whole life and hasn't known very many people.  She has a small circle of acquaintance, and they are all 'prosy' sorts of people.  To the modern reader, Catherine's incredible naivete must seem rather unlikely, but I don't think Austen is exaggerating.

In Bath, Catherine meets a whole lot of new people, and she simply doesn't understand them at first.  She believes whatever they say, which is a mistake with John and Isabella Thorpe.  John Thorpe may be the most irritating male character in Austen's books; I just want to smack him.  Isabella is a bit cleverer than her brother, but still, her manipulations and hypocrisy are transparent to everyone but the too-honest Morland siblings, and even Catherine figures her out before very long.

If the Thorpe siblings are an Awful Warning, the Tilneys are a pattern to follow.  Older than Catherine, they are better-educated and more acquainted with the world, so they can teach her how to cope.  Most importantly, they are truly good people--considerate and kind.  Catherine is safe with them.

The elements of humor, parodying Gothic novels, never fail to crack me up.  It probably helps that I read so much Gothic last fall, but this time I think I noticed it more than ever.  Catherine is humiliated when she realizes that she has been getting carried away by her imagination--as if such things could happen in modern England!--but General Tilney turns out to be just as bad as she had thought, only with modern English methods.

Somebody, I presume the BBC, made a movie of Northanger Abbey a couple of years ago.  I thought it was really well-done; Catherine and Isabella are wonderful.  It's been a long time since I saw it; I wonder if I could get it again?

Isabella and Catherine in Bath

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Julia at Stamping Ground hosts What's on Your Workdesk? Wednesday.  I've mostly been prepping for school to start, but I did get a bit done on my quilt project, and I won a pack of fat quarters from the local quilt shop!  I picked the neutrals pack because it goes perfectly with this quilt, and I've been keeping an eye out for several of those colors to use as setting triangles.

In the picture you can see my prize and a couple of 6" squares.  I like the pinwheel one a lot, and the unfinished one is a feat because I used what may be the World's Ugliest Fabric, or at least the one hardest to match.  What looks like a greyish rose-pink is actually a hideous shade of pink with a tracery of black squiggles all over it.  It doesn't go with anything but black.  I tried.


Penhallow, by Georgette Heyer

Heyer's mysteries are hit-and-miss for me.  Some of them aren't any good at all, and some are fine.  This one is quite good, but darker than Heyer's usual tone.  It's really not quite a mystery; more of a novel with a mystery in it, because readers know perfectly well who did it, but the characters do not.

Penhallow is both the Cornish estate and the owner.  Old Penhallow is a tyrant who rules the house from his bedroom and insists on having all of his grown children there, under his eye, no matter what they would rather be doing.  Although he's always been domineering and insensitive, he's getting worse and is now just plain gleefully cruel.  But when one family member thinks to relieve the intolerable situation by hastening his death, it becomes ten times worse.

It's a dark and tragic story, but gripping and hard to put down.  One of Heyer's better mysteries, I should say.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Classics Club: August Meme

The Classics Club question for August is:

Do you read forewords/notes that precede many classics?  Does it help you or hurt you in your enjoyment/understanding of the work?

Mostly I try to abide by the dictum set forth by Susan Wise Bauer in The Well-Educated Mind:  proceed with caution.  Forewords may be dangerous, because they often offer an interpretation of a text before you even get to the text.  SWB advises--
Do not automatically read the preface.  In the case of a nonfiction book, the preface may set the book in context for you...But the preface can also give you an interpretation before you even read the book--something to be avoided...[because it is] something you should do yourself before turning to an expert to do it for you.

Generally, you should read the preface only if it has been written by the author (or translator) personally.  If the preface of introduction was written by someone else, skip it.  Read the first chapter of the book instead, and if you aren't lost or confused, keep on going; save the reading of the preface until you've finished reading the book itself.  If the first chapter befuddles you, go back and read the preface before going on. (p. 43-44)

In this model, you're supposed to be reading the book more than once anyway, so avoiding the preface until after a first read makes sense.   Anyway I haven't always got the patience to read a foreword before jumping in.

I mostly do read prefaces of history books.  If it's literature, and I'm nervous about the book because I'm thinking it will be difficult, I have been known to skim through it.  But I tend to be impatient unless something really catches my attention. 

Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Francis of Assisi

Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Francis of Assisi, by G. K. Chesterton

Some years ago, on a Chesterton kick, I bought this double edition of two biographical sketches.  Then I realized that I can only read so much of him at a time, and the book has been sitting on a shelf ever since, waiting for me.  I enjoy Chesterton, but his trademark paradoxical style gets to me after a while.

The book on Thomas Aquinas is pretty interesting, and the funny thing about it is how very little biographical information is in it.  This is in no way an ordinary biography with details about when and where events took place.  There is very little of that, and none of it is in chronological order.  Mostly Chesterton draws a sketch--rather a haphazard one--of Aquinas' time, his personality, and most especially his philosophy and theology.  And he often goes off into Chestertonian flights of fancy, too, of course.

I don't quite feel like I have a good handle on Aquinas' life details or anything, but if Chesterton's descriptions are accurate (and who knows about that?) then I'd recognize him if he walked down my street.

The St. Francis book was written just after Chesterton's conversion to Catholicism, and starts off with a very interesting (and typical of GKC) description of the temper of the 12th and 13th centuries.  He goes on to write a character sketch similar to the previous one, but with a completely different mood that expresses his feeling about Francis and his world, which was very different.  Again, I still don't know much about Francis' biography, but I'd recognize him.

Overall a very good book; it just has to be taken slowly if Chesterton starts to wear on you after a while.

15 Day Book Blogging Challenge, Day 2

Today's question is pretty easy; it's about my bedtime reading routine.

Once I'm in bed, I read for a while.  As usual, I have to take two or three books with me so I'll have a nice choice available.  I don't want to pick anything too difficult.  I try to read some scripture first.  Then I read until I get sleepy.

Quite often I'll wind up reading on my tablet because I can turn off the light and keep reading (on the night setting) if my husband wants to go to sleep before I do.  And reading in so much darkness is almost guaranteed to send me to sleep quickly, so I pick something easy.  It's also handy for the occasional bout of insomnia--just pick something really boring!

Not very exciting, but she did ask...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Home and the World

The Home and the World, by Rabindranath Tagore

The great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore is one of those writers that I want to read, but am a bit afraid of.  Someday I'll get to the poetry, but for now I'm sticking to prose.  As far as I can tell, Tagore wrote just the one novel, published in 1915, and as you might expect it is excellent.

The Home and the World is set on a Bengali estate in 1908, in the midst of political upheaval and rebellion.  The three major characters take turns narrating their own points of view.  Bimala, at the center, is torn between her husband Nikhil and the leader of the radicals, Sandip. 

Bimala has lived her adult life in purdah, as is traditional, but Nikhil, a thoughtful modern man, wishes her to leave her seclusion and enter the world so that they may be equals.  Nikhil is a serious and gentle man who despises coercion and above all wants individual freedom for everyone; as a result he dislikes argument and refuses to assert himself.

Sandip, in contrast, is a believer in might making right.  He is charismatic, a persuasive speaker, and willing to justify any wrong or injury in the name of his goals.  His wish is to lead Bengal, and he is happy to force people to live as he wants them to.  He is great at making fiery speeches and whipping up mobs to follow him.

The two men disagree over the doctrine of swadeshi--the practice of boycotting British-made goods and encouraging Indian industry.  Nikhil has supported swadeshi for many years, but will not stop other people in his market from buying or selling British goods.  Sandip insists that people must be forced to abide by it and resorts to destroying British goods and terrorizing anyone who buys or sells them.  This mostly punishes the poor, who cannot afford the more expensive Indian-made goods or survive when their livelihoods are taken from them.

As Bimala gets to know Sandip, he enchants her with his flattery as Nikhil insists that she be free to choose.  Her home and the outside world pull her in different directions and she cannot reconcile the two.  Her choices dictate the future for the whole estate.

This is all very symbolic of the situation in India.  Bimala is Bengal itself, torn between possibilities.  She constantly compares herself to a river, to the country, to a goddess of the earth.  Tagore's writing is poetic and Bengali, given to high-flown sentences that may sound overly dramatic and sentimental to a modern ear unless the reader understands that Bengali really does sound like that.  It is very beautiful writing, but you have to come at it with the right attitude.

If you are at all interested in Indian literature, this is probably a necessary book to read, and not a bad choice for a relative beginner.  I got the title from one of my favorite writers, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, who teaches a course on "India in the Writer's Eye."   I put the works on her syllabus, which she posted on Facebook, into the bonus section of my Classics Club list.  

The novel was made into a Bengali film, Ghare Baire, in 1984 and was shown at the Cannes Film Festival.  I'd like to see it very much.

Bimala in Ghare Baire

Friday, August 2, 2013

15 Day Book Blogging Challenge: Day 1

This little challenge has been making the rounds lately and it looks neat.  It's hosted by April at Good Books and Good Wine.  There isn't a set schedule and it's just for fun.  I won't be posting every day, more like every few days I should think.  Or maybe I will surprise you (and myself).

The first task is to make 15 book-related confessions.  I am going to have a hard time coming up with 15 confessions, but I'll try:
  1. I don't buy very many books anymore.  I  am too cheap, so when I do buy them I fret and worry about it.  Used books are easier, but not by a whole lot.  Recently I had some gift money at Amazon and it still took me a couple of weeks to decide what to get.  I usually only buy books if I know I want to own them forever, and I can't easily get them at the library.
  2. My TBR pile is thus relatively small, and heavily weighted with books I bought used years ago and never got to--or else books that I've picked up for no cost at all.  It's still there of course, and being added to because I buy Big Heavy Classics that take forever to read.  I'm excited about them and can't wait to get to them, but I can't read them all at once.
  3. Where my book acquisition mania gets triggered is at the library.  They are free, and I don't have to feel like I should read them, and I can take anything home whether it looks worthy or not.  I can easily collect more books than I can carry, and I go every week.  So my library bookshelf is always overfull.
  4. Ellie says she matches her bookmarks to her books.  Yep, I do that.  I love to collect bookmarks (free ones) and I have a pile of them, but what I consider a worthy bookmark is sometimes a little odd.  One of my favorites is an overdue notice postcard from about 1970, or my Catholic card of Father Serra.  I particularly treasure bookmarks from now-defunct bookstores I liked, such as Berkeley Book Consortium or Cody's.
  5. I used to be a terrible dog-ear-er, but I've cured myself with bookmarks.
  6. I am not very good at home dec, but that is OK because I can use bookshelves instead.  Or wall quilts.  Or book-themed wall quilts.
  7. I only like e-books when they are free, or practically free.
  8. I always have at least 3 books going at any given time.  I don't have very good focus and like to jump between books a lot.
  9. So when I go on a trip, even just overnight, even when I know I won't have time to read, I have to take about 4 books just in case (plus my tablet with 100+ e-books on it).  Then, when I get there, I'll see a totally different book and read that instead.  Yes, this is ridiculous.
  10. I'm not kidding that my focus is not so good.  It's probably a combination of Internet shallow-brain and mommy-brain, but I usually read for a fairly short time and often while doing something else.  My friend recently caught me putting a trash bag in the outside bin and reading a book at the same time, and thought it completely characteristic.  If I sit down on the couch and plan to read, I either fall asleep or jump up to do something within a few minutes.
  11. I have a tendency to lend books to anyone who comes along, and then I forget who I lent them to.  I really need one of those home library kits you buy with the cards and the record book, but it will never happen, because I wouldn't spend the money to buy such a thing.
  12. I also commit the accompanying sin of borrowing books that I then fail to read or return.  Luckily I don't do it very much, and most often when someone presses a book upon me.  And my one former college roommate says she forgives me for keeping that Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni book for ten years (I still have it, but she lives in Idaho so it's hard to give it back).
  13. My TBR pile may be relatively small, but my Amazon wishlist of books I want to read is way out of control.  Thus the Wishlist Challenge this year.
  14. My 13-year-old is now old enough to have read many of the same books that I love.  This is so great, you do not even know.  We have all these in-jokes now, especially about Diana Wynne Jones books.  Or about avocados--Daniel Pinkwater is big with us too.  My 10-year-old is not there yet, but don't worry...I'll get her.
  15. I don't really have a movie in my head when I read.  (Do you? Because I don't really know if other people always do.)  I sort of do, but it has much more to do with movement than with how things look.  I don't get a clear picture of each character and setting at all, more suggestions.  If a character is minutely described it doesn't stick that well.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Trial

I found a lot of good covers!  I like this one.
The Trial, by Franz Kafka

I've read some Kafka before, but never this famous novel.

Joseph K. has a good position at the bank and is doing well, until the morning that they come to arrest him.  Officers of the Court take over his landlady's house and inform him that he is free to go about his ordinary life, but he is under arrest and must come to Court when required.  He may not know what he is charged with, who accused him, or anything else.  K. is confident he can prove his innocence, but he finds that the Court is in the attic of a crowded apartment building.   He gets a lawyer, who never seems to get out of bed.  People who claim to have influence give him contradictory instructions.

Everyone seems to know about this Court, but it is secret and labyrinthine.  K's case requires all his energy, but is completely unknowable.  Detailed paperwork is mandatory, but goes nowhere.  Kafka writes in this amazing style that is both detailed and vague:

...if he were to conduct his own defence he would be putting himself completely in the power of the Court, at least for the time being, a policy which would eventually bring about his absolute and definite acquittal, but would meanwhile, provisionally at least, involve him in far greater dangers than before...

Although K. is not in prison, the case gradually takes over his whole life--even though there is nothing he can really do about it.  He can think of nothing else, but progress is impossible; in fact it becomes clear that the best that can happen is for it to drag on forever without progress.  No matter what he tries, the result is the same.  His situation is nightmarish.  By the time they come, inexplicably, to take him away and execute him, K. is just about ready to go. 

This is a really impressive novel.  When I think that Kafka wrote it 100 years ago, in 1914 and -15, and yet he captures perfectly the feeling of being caught up in the cogs of modern bureaucracy, it's just amazing to me.  I expect, however, that the Austro-Hungarian empire was quite proficient in bureaucracy too.