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Summerbook #5: This is How You Lose the Time War

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This is How You Lose the Time War , by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone   In the war that rages across all the branches and braids of Time, there are two factions: the Agency, which encourages orderly technology, and Garden, which encourages chaotic nature.  Their agents engage in subtle actions that will influence the world in two generations, or two hundred years.  Or they may push a planet to war and destruction.  It doesn't sound fun, but the agents were designed and raised to this job, and they're constantly watched to make sure they do their jobs. Red works for Agency; Blue, for Garden.  They have never met, but when you've got a perfect nemesis, you get to know them well, and they've been fighting each other for a very long time; neither of them are human.  And then Red receives a letter from Blue. Their letters to each other are highly secret, and they practically never come written in ink on paper.  Instead they're coded into objects and destroyed after re

Germany trip #4: Oberammergau

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In the morning, we went to one of Ludwig II's earlier palaces, Linderhof, situated in the countryside where the royal family had a hunting lodge.  It's an absolutely lovely area and I wish I could take walks around there!  Linderhof is a compact little place modelled on Versailles, which Ludwig greatly admired.  I've never been to Versailles (or France, for that matter) so I cannot compare.  The rooms were not large, but they were certainly heavily gilded!  Every room had more rococo gilt, and painted scenes, and sculpture, and porcelain, than you would think would be possible.  The bedroom had a huge chandelier more suited to a ballroom, and there was a room of mirrors that made me a bit dizzy.  Oddly, little porcelain vases were often placed on small outcroppings in the gilded swirls on the walls - all different.  Another interesting feature in a couple of the rooms was that the ceiling paintings went for a three-dimensional effect, with a few legs and draperies modelled

Summerbook #4: The Dechronization of Sam Magruder

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  The Dechronization of Sam Magruder , by George Gaylord Simpson  This was such an interesting little SF novel!  George Gaylord Simpson was an eminent paleontologist -- one of the big names of the 20th century.  He wrote many scholarly articles and books, and one time travel story, which he doesn't seem to have tried to publish at all.  Simpson died in 1984, and his daughter published the novel in 1996.  She also cleverly got Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Jay Gould to write accompanying pieces. The story is deliberately told in a narrative frame in the style of H. G. Wells' Time Machine .  A group of future men (date unknown, but after 2162), called only by titles like the Ethnologist and the Universal Historian, spend several convivial evenings learning the story of Sam Magruder, who disappeared completely from his research lab on February 30, 2162 (!).  He had been researching the nature of time; does time happen in a series of points, or in some other way?  According to his o

Germany trip #3: Castles!!

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We got up pretty early for a trip to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau -- two castles at the same location.  Both are so booked up and difficult to get into that you have to show up way early for your booked tour, and you're out of luck if you're late.  So we took a shuttle bus most of the way up the mountain, and walked from there.  Amazing, gorgeous views, just incredible.  It was either raining or hot, and I had to schlep my dang sweatshirt all day and only wore it a little bit (this was a theme throughout the trip -- mostly I was hot from the much higher humidity, and usually sorry I'd brought the sweatshirt).  View of the town, Hohenschwangau, and the lake. Walking up to the castle The gatehouse Just hanging out at the fancy castle There is a waterfall into a gorge, but the bridge is being repaired right now. We hung around for a bit, waiting for our turn, and talked with a nice Dutch fellow who has a book of places to go and stamps each one when he visits them.  Reall

Summerbook #3: The Brothers Lionheart

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  The Brothers Lionheart, by Astrid Lindgren I guess I'm not very well up on Astrid Lindgren's body of work, because I'd never seen this book before.   Little Karl has always been sickly, and has spent much of his life lying on the sofa while his hard-working mother sews to make their living.  He just about worships his older brother, Jonathan -- who is not only healthy and strong, but also very kind, and intelligent.  He is able to go to school and everything, so every day Karl waits for him to come home.  Jonathan affectionately calls him Rusky, and to comfort him when he is afraid of dying, he tells him tales about the wonderful land of Nangiyala, where they will go when they die.  In Nangiyala Rusky will be healthy, and they'll camp out and have lovely times.  But in a tragic accident, Jonathan dies first. Karl lives for several more months, but at last he dies and indeed, he finds Jonathan in Nangiyala, and they have a cabin, and horses, and a river.  Rusky is very

Germany Trip #2: Dachau

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On day 2 w e started off pretty slow, because we were waiting for more of the group to join un.  At 7am the breakfast opened, and we had the greatest breakfast of our entire lives .  Amazing croissants, 6 fabulous kinds of bread, 4 honeys, 6 jams, cheeses and wursts and fruit/veggies galore.  And an entire muesli bar -- I love muesli and will happily eat it for days with plain yogurt.  But then we just had to sit around for a while and wait for the bus to arrive. We drove to Dachau, a suburb of M ü nchen that housed the first concentration camp, which is now a memorial site.   Dachau started with regular criminals and political prisoners -- just whoever the Nazis didn't like, especially Communists -- and expanded to Jews, Roma, and religious objectors. There's a gatehouse with "Arbeit Macht Frei" over the gate, and the main building still exists, as well as the prison block.  The prison is very long and has innumerable cells, including 'standing' cells and 

Summerbook #2: The Honjin Murders

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 The Honjin Murders, by Seishi Yokomoto Winter 1937: in a small village, the well-off and proud Ichiyanagi family is preparing for a wedding.  The eldest son of the house, Kenzo, is finally getting married to a lovely girl, but the family is disapproving, because of her ordinary family background.  The Ichiyanagi family is intensely proud of their family history; they once owned a honjin, an inn for officials.  The day before the wedding, a strange man, wearing a mask over part of his face (much like a modern covid mask!), has been asking questions. The newlywed couple is spending their wedding night in a small annexe house, away from the main family compound.  In the middle of the night, strange sounds and screams are heard -- and then silence.  The house is locked up tight, and the family has to break down a shutter to get it, but then they find husband and wife, gruesomely murdered.  Outside, a blood-covered katana sword stands, point-down in the snow. The police call in some outsid