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Showing posts from December, 2017

My Life in Books: a Tag

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Courtesy of Lois at You, Me, and a Cup of Tea , who is evidently the best at finding these things.  I thought it would be fun for an end-of-year post. Find a book for each of your initials J -- Johnny the Clockmaker , by Edward Ardizzone (Js are hard! It took me a long time to find this one!) K -- Kaleidoscope , by Eleanor Farjeon L -- Leave it to Psmith , by P. G. Wodehouse P -- Persuasion , by Jane Austen Count your age along your bookshelf... What book is it? Before We Visit the Goddess , by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.  A wonderful novel and a fun thing to get, since I got to meet her a year or so ago. Pick a book set in your country The Grapes of Wrath , by John Steinbeck.  It's a definitive California novel, after all, and partly set in Bakersfield, where I was born.  I should really re-read it. Pick a book that represents a destination you'd love to travel to Hum.  I have a long list of destinations I would love to travel to!  I'll pick Ireland

Favorite Books of 2017

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Reading-wise, it's been a pretty good year.  Let's hope other things improve too.  I wasn't as consistent with my blogging as I would like to be, but it all got there eventually, and I read lots of great stuff.   This is not a list of my top ten or anything, and it doesn't include all the best stuff; I'm sure I missed lots.  But here are some favorites of 2017: While I didn't get to read as much medieval literature as I would have liked (I guess this is a constant theme in my life, I did have the great fun of re-reading Eneas .  Another favorite was The Treasure of the City of Ladies .  And Bovo-Buch !   And Merlin and the Grail !  I was in a kind of German mood and read some good history:  Germania and Stasiland were both excellent.   Voices From Chernobyl -- well, there's not much to say about it.  A very important book that I'll never forget.    Their Eyes Were Watching God was a great novel, and probably the best American book I re

Mount TBR: Final Checkpoint

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It's time for that final post on the Mount TBR Challenge, and Bev says : 1. Tell us how many miles you made it up your mountain (# of books read). If you've planted your flag on the peak, then tell us, take a selfie, and celebrate (and wave!).  Even if you were especially athletic and have been sitting atop your mountain for months, please check back in and remind us how quickly you sprinted up that trail. And feel free to tell us about any particularly exciting book adventures you've had along the way. My goal was to read 24 books, and I exceeded it by reading 29.  Some of them were really great, and a few were kind of meh.  Dirt was meh. 2. The Words to the Wise According to Mount TBR: Using the titles of the books you read this year, see how many of the familiar proverbs and sayings below you can complete with a book read on your journey up the Mountain. Feel free to add/subtract a word or two to help them make sense.   A stitch in time ...[saves

Spin title: Henry IV, Part 1

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Henry IV, Part 1 , by William Shakespeare My Spin title!  It wasn't exactly a 'scary' one, but I wasn't too excited either; I'm more looking forward to Part 2.  But here we go...this play is second in a line of four, after Richard II and before Part 2 and Henry V. Henry IV is king of England, but the story is really more about his son, Prince Hal -- the future Henry V.  It's set in 1402-03, and we have a couple of major plot lines that converge.  The king won't do as the powerful Percys wish, and he threatens young Hotspur (Henry Percy, and about the 4th Henry in the play), who decides to foment a rebellion.  Meanwhile, Prince Hal is spending all his time hanging around inns, drinking with commoners, and generally causing consternation at court.  He's always with Sir John Falstaff, a corrupt old knight who prefers carousing to all else, and everybody is wondering if the Prince is going to be able to do his job.  The Prince's plan is to quit this

The Faithful River

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The Faithful River, by Stefan Żeromski  A badly wounded soldier, near death, stumbles into a mostly-deserted manor house.  The only people there are Salomea, a young woman whose father is off fighting, and an elderly cook.  They take the soldier in and hide him during his long, slow recovery. The novel, published in 1912, is set during the Polish uprising of 1863 and 1864, when Polish volunteers fought the Russian occupation of the eastern part of the country.  Poland didn't technically exist at this time, having been carved up and shared out between Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Prussia.  The novel is set in what is now south-central Poland, the Kielce region, and I think the river must be the Vistula.  The reader doesn't need to know a lot of this background, but a little bit is helpful. Josef Odrowaz is a dashing young nobleman -- or he was, before the Russian troops slaughtered every wounded man on the battlefield.  Now he is only barely alive, and the locals dare n

Marshall Islands Legends and Stories

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Marshall Islands Legends and Stories, coll. by Daniel A Kelin II I lifted this title straight from Ann Morgan's project list , since there aren't a lot of Marshallese writers.  But I was extra-excited about this one anyway.  For one thing, I just like collections of folktales.  They are pretty well irresistible to me.  (Possibly this is a thing for most librarians?)  Plus, one of my very good friends lived in the Marshall Islands for a couple of years at about the same time that these tales were collected, in the early 1990s.  She speaks Marshallese and I'm going to lend her this book tomorrow, now that she's done with the semester and has some time to indulge in fun reading.  I think we're both sort of hoping that she'll recognize one of the storytellers as somebody she knew, even though that isn't really very likely. In the Marshall Islands, storytelling is sort of an official calling.  You have to get permission from the iroij, the chief, to tell sto

Back to the Classics Wrapup

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OK, I've finished this challenge just under the wire!  I wanted to fulfill all 12 categories, and I did, which earns me three entries in Karen's prize drawing. I always have a lot of fun with this challenge.  Thanks, Karen, for keeping it going! 1.   A 19th Century Classic-- The Heart of Midlothian, by Sir Walter Scott 2.   A 20th Century Classic -- The Foundation Pit, by Andrei Platonov 3.   A Classic by a Woman Author . -- Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston 4.   A Classic in Translation .  Marie Grubbe, by J. P. Jacobsen 5.   A classic published before 1800 .  The Histories, by Herodotus 6.   A romance classic   -- Shakuntala, by Kalidasa 7.   A Gothic or horror classic.   Castle of Wolfenbach, by Eliza Parsons 8.   A classic with a number in the title .   The First Wife, by Paulina Chiziane 9.   A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse 10. A classic set in a place

Ajax

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Ajax , by Sophocles I really needed just one more classic for a challenge, and it was a tricky one -- an award-winner, published before 1967.  But I wasn't in the mood for a Pulitzer or a Newbery, and prizes weren't being given out in most of my favorite historical periods.  What to do?  O gave me the answer: a Greek play!  Sophocles never got less than second place.  So I picked a play I'd never read before, and voila!  An award-winning classic. Poor Ajax.  He's the strongest and most mighty warrior around, but his pride has been hurt.  Achilles has just been killed, and Odysseus and Ajax both claimed his armor.  In the argument, the wily and smooth-tongued Odysseus naturally managed to convince all of the Greeks that the armor should be his.  The play opens after this; Ajax feels he's been dishonored, and he has every intention of killing not just Odysseus, but the leaders of the expedition who allowed the whole thing to happen.  Athena, however, is none too p

Vintage Sci-Fi Not-a-Challenge in 2018

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One of my favorite January things is this event!  Little Red Reviewer says: Welcome to the Vintage Science Fiction not-a-challenge !  Through out the month of January, 2012, 2013 , 2014, 2015, 2016, , 2017 I will be reading and discussing as much “older than I am” science fiction and fantasy that I can, and everyone is invited to join me!  We’ll be talking about time travel, laser guns, early robotics, first contact, swords and sorcery, predictions for humanity and the authors who came up with it all. Haphazardly, the defining year for “vintage” is 1979.  The only “rule” for this not-a-challenge is that your blog post must be during the month of January. To see previous posts about Vintage Science Fiction Month, just type “Vintage” into the little search box-thing. I have three or four books ready to go.  One is, er, the Silmarillion.  We'll see...

Back to the Classics 2018 Signup

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I'm not quite finished with the 2017 challenge (almost there!) but I'm ready to sign up for next year!  Karen at Books and Chocolate says:  It's back! Once again, I'm hosting the Back to the Classics Challenge.  I hope to encourage bloggers to discover and enjoy classic books they might not have tried, or just never got around to reading. And at the end,   one lucky winner will receive a $30 (US) prize from Amazon.com or The Book Depository!   Here's how it works: The challenge will be exactly the same as last year, 12 classic books, but with slightly different categories. You do not have to read all 12 books to participate in this challenge! Complete six categories, and you get  one  entry in the drawing Complete nine categories, and you get  two  entries in the drawing Complete all twelve categories, and you get  three  entries in the drawing And here are the categories for the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge: 1.   A 19th century cl

2018 European Reading Challenge Signup

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I can never resist this one!  Tour challenges are my favorite.  I would sign up for other continental tours if anybody offered....anyway, Rose City Reader is offering her usual , and since I was a little disappointed to only hit 12 countries in 2017, I'm going to aim for more in 2018: Welcome to the 2018 European Reading Challenge – where participants tour Europe through books.  And have a chance to win a prize. Please join us for the Grand Tour! THE GIST:   The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but  each book must be by a different author and set in a different country  – it's supposed to be a tour. (See note about the UK, below) I always sign up for the Five-Star level, and then I secretly hope to beat Maphead,

TBR Challenge 2018 Signups

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I've left the 2018 challenges until the last possible second, and now I'm going to have to post a bunch at once!  I haven't seen any new-to-me challenges that grabbed me, and so I'm going with my tried and true old friends like... the TBR challenges!  I have about 90 books crammed on to two shelves which are my TBR shelves, and they need some clearing. Bev at My Reader's Block says: January 2018 will kick off the seventh year for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge (I miscounted last year!) and I don't seem to be getting those mountains moved at all. ...So, once again, I plan to concentrate on reading primarily from my own books in the coming year. And you're invited to join me in knocking out some of those books that have been waiting in the wings for weeks....months...even years. Challenge Levels: Pike's Peak : Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s Mount Blanc : Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s Mt. Vancouver : Read 36 books from your TBR pile

Jamilia

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Jamilia , by Chingiz Aitmatov A while ago, I read Aitmatov's novel The Day Lasts Over a Hundred Years .  (It's actually over a year ago, holy cow.)  I also wanted to read Aitmatov's much shorter, and apparently more famous, novella, Jamilia.  The blurbs call it a great love story of the steppes.  It's told from the point of view of a Kyrgyz artist, Seit, looking back on his memories. Jamilia is the beloved daughter-in-law of the house, a beautiful girl and a hard worker.  Her husband is off at the front, and she spends her days working with her much younger brother-in-law, Seit.  Seit sees her as a perfect older sister and watches as she shrugs off the advances of the men still remaining at the village.  He also sees how hurt she is by her husband's dutiful letters to the whole family, never to her.  When an injured ex-soldier, Daniyar, moves to the village, Seit and Jamilia enjoy his singing talents, and Seit is wholly sympathetic when Jamilia and Daniyar elope

2017 Challenge Wrapup

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Time to start wrapping things up, though I still have one or two things to check off the list: Reading All Around the World: Good progress with 27 countries. My very own project!  It's officially not a challenge, and it's certainly not just for 2017, so if you'd like to join me, please do.  This is a long-term deal.  I read books from 27 countries (two of which are freshly read and will be posted in a day or two).  That's about 15% of the total, so not bad!  Mount TBR 2017: Completed with 29/24.   I aimed for 24 and wound up with 29 titles read, and of course more books on the TBR shelf than were there when I began...though that's largely because I went through my bookshelves and moved a bunch! European Reading Challenge 2017: 12 unique countries.   I read a lot of things set in Europe -- I have 17 on the list but there were plenty more -- but only managed to hit 12 countries.  I was hoping for more.  Maybe in 2018! Russian Literature R

My Life in Books

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A fun tag for 2017 reading I lifted from Adam at Roof Beam Reader : In high school I was: The Postmortal, by Drew Magary People might be surprised (by): The Story of My Teeth, by Valeria Luiselli I will never be: Mrs. Miniver, by Jan Struther My fantasy job is:  Celtic, Viking, and Anglo-Saxon Embroidery, by Jan Messent At the end of a long day I need:  Time for the Stars, by Robert Heinlein I hate it when: [My] Girl[s are] at War, by Sara Nović Wish I had (a):  House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier My family reunions are:  Bad News, by Anjan Sundaram At a party you’d find me with: Uncle Boris in the Yukon, by Daniel Pinkwater I’ve never been to: The Castle of Wolfenbach, by Eliza Parsons A happy day includes: The Power of Glamour, by Virginia Postrel Motto I live by:  The Skies Belong to Us, by Brandon Koerner On my bucket list is:  The Valley of Song, by Elizabeth Goudge In my next life, I want to have (a): Tunnel in the Sky, by Robert Heinlein    

Blitzed

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This cover is hard to look at Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, by Norman Ohler I don't know who purchased this book at my work, but it was immediately snatched up by staff and passed around, so I had to wait my turn.  It's not all that long for a history book, and it's packed with eye-opening information.  Ohler has two main threads: drugs in the German social landscape, especially in the military, and then Hitler's personal drug use. Recreational drugs like cocaine and heroin were popular in Weimar Germany, and the Nazis put a lot of effort into stamping out drug use -- at least at first.  German drug manufacturers then came up with a very pure form of methamphetamine, and this, marketed under the name Pervitin, seemed like the perfect pick-me-up for the new Germany.  It was modern, and scientific, and supported the fast-paced new lifestyle!  It became immensely popular (you could even get meth-laced chocolates for your lady friend!).  The military, in parti

Two 'Miss Read' stories

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I've been reading a couple of Miss Read books; if you're not familiar with them, they're a series of novels set in the English countryside and focused on the doings of a small set of villages.  A nice element of these novels is that they could so easily slide into sentimentality, but they don't; they are in fact a little on the astringent side. The Christmas Mouse is a very short novel, featuring a three-generational family of grandmother, widowed mother, and little girls.  On Christmas Eve, a mouse gets into the grandmother's bedroom, pushing her to sleep downstairs, where she is awoken by a runaway boy looking for food.  He is also in need of some sensible talk.  It's a charming little story, and if you're looking for a little dose of literary Christmas, this would be a good choice. Miss Clare Remembers features one of the recurring characters, a beloved elderly teacher.  As she waits for her friend's visit, she remembers her youth.  It's

The Story of English in 100 Words

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The Story of English in 100 Words, by David Crystal I've been listening to an excellent podcast, the History of English , which I highly recommend to language nerds.  It starts with a whole series on Indo-European roots and language.  I'm only in the early 20s of the episodes (so far about 100), and we haven't gotten to Old English yet.  It's a lot of fun. So I thought it would be a good time to take this book off my TBR shelf and indulge in a little fun etymology.  And indeed it was fun!  Crystal goes chronologically, which is nice, starting about 1500 years ago with a runic inscription.  His words are chosen not just for their individual interest, but also for what they illustrate about the English language, so "street" talks about Latin loan-words generally, and "gaggle" is about the fun of collective nouns.* The last ten or so words are from my lifetime and include app, LOL, and sudoku , so not quite as interesting to my mind.  But the ti

Lady of Quality

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Lady of Quality , by Georgette Heyer Everybody needs a little Georgette Heyer in their lives now and then!  This one had been sitting around on my shelves for...probably a year or so, and I picked it up in a fit of "I'm going to read easy books that I can then put in the Little Free Library and clear up some space."  I wound up having a lot of fun with it. Because guess what, this novel is set in Bath!  And now I have been to Bath, and I know much better what the Pump Room and Milsom Street look like, and I can have a lot more fun imagining the story. Miss Annis Wychwood is wealthy and independent, and at 29 has never thought it worth her while to marry.  Tired of living with her overbearing (if well-meaning) brother, she has set up her own very respectable household in Bath, complete with irritating elderly cousin as chaperone.  Accident brings the sweet but headstrong heiress Lucilla Carleton into Annis' household, and the ensuing chaos -- along with a lot of

A Riffle of Winter Reviews

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I've been posting about recent books instead of dealing with my backlog, and now it's time to do some end-of-year cleanup around here (and on my desk!). Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, by Marvin Kaye -- I read a bunch of the stories featured in this book for RIP.  There are some great classics in here, some really spooky stuff!  I ran out of steam and did not finish the collection (which is huge), but I really liked a lot of what I read. The Mutabilitie Cantos of the Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser -- OK, it is way too late for me to be posting about these, but I did read them!  I want credit, darn it.  They were pretty interesting actually, being entirely different from the other cantos, set in Ireland (in Spenser's neighborhood, probably), and involving a judicial hearing with Nature as judge. The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet, by Emily Stimpson Chapman -- I'm not Catholic, and lately I'm not much of a

Something on Sunday: 12/10

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I missed last week, even though I meant to write; I mean to write a Sunday post and then the next thing I know it's 7:30pm and I'm tired! Anyway, this is Jenny's weekly event where we list things that got us through the week. I had a pretty tiring week, really, because I tackled my annual chocolate project.  I've downsized it considerably, because I'm too tired to do more, but I did dip a lot of almonds and marshmallows.  I felt hugely short on sleep all week, but today (after something resembling a decent night's sleep) I feel much better.  And I do love chocolates.  Just the scent is something else! We are slowly but steadily getting ready for Christmas.  We don't put up a tree until later, but I did get the Advent calendar out on the first.  One Danish thing I just have to do every year is an Advent candle, where you burn a bit every day.  But I couldn't find the brass candlestick I set it in!  I think I must have packed it into a Christmas box in

The Nordic Theory of Everything

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The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life , by Anu Partanen Remember how a few years ago, Finland was everybody's idea of a perfect country?  Finnish education was the best!  Scandinavian government was the tops!  Right about then, Anu Partanen was moving from Finland to the US, because she'd fallen for an American and it seemed to make the most sense for her to move.  She was surprised to see Americans holding up Finland as an ideal, because Finns are notoriously pessimistic and find this puzzling at best, but as she got used to living in the US, dealt with culture shock, and found many things to love about both countries, she thought she might share a few ideas about what works (or not) in Scandinavia.  Buckle up, people; I have THOUGHTS. Now, I spent over a year living in Denmark, so I'm pretty familiar with a lot of the stuff people talk about when they laud the Nordic lands.  And while I love DK, I've also got some of their attitude about the