Posts

Showing posts from October, 2021

A few short stories in Urdu

Image
 Back in August, I got hold of a book of Urdu short stories translated into English.  It's a large book, so I wanted to read just the women authors for WIT, and that would still be a good amount.  August got away from me, and I only read one or two stories back then, but I've continued reading them since.  I've now finished all the short stories in the book that were written by women (luckily for me, there are short biographies in an appendix, since I could only tell from the name about half the time).  I'll just highlight a couple: "The Wagon," by Khalida Asghar, is a hallucinatory, apocalyptic story.  The narrator meets three strange men who are watching the evening sky and point out that it has become red.  No one had noticed until they said so, but the sky is now strangely red.  Then a smell arrives, so offensive and sickening that it causes real pain -- but only once it's pointed out.  And finally, a mysterious wagon, which may be the source of the s

Ravenmaster

Image
 Ravenmaster: My Life With the Ravens at the Tower of London, by Christopher Skaife If you've ever been to the Tower of London, or read very much about it, you know that there are ravens living there.  The story goes that ravens have always been at the Tower and that if they ever leave or are lost, the kingdom will fall.  There is, therefore, a Ravenmaster whose job it is to care for the ravens.  There are usually around six birds at any given time; they are usually rescues of some kind or occasionally former pets.   Chris Skaife has been the Ravenmaster for several years and he gives us an enjoyable rundown of the history and current state of ravenkeeping at the Tower.  This ranges all over the place, and includes the Tower's history as a sort of zoo for exotic animals, details of raven life and habits, stories from Skaife's own life, and tales of hair-raising ravenic moments.  Skaife also explains how ravenkeeping has changed over time and that his own policy is that the

The Shape of Thunder

Image
 The Shape of Thunder, by Jasmine Warga I saw this recommended recently, and was intrigued, so here it is.  This is a middle-grade novel, and I actually read it in one sitting, during which I sniffled and got teary a lot.  Prepare to have your heart broken. Cora and Quinn have been next-door neighbors and best friends for their entire lives, but for almost a year now they haven't spoken at all.   Last fall, Quinn's big brother took a gun to school and shot several people before killing himself, and one of those people was Cora's big sister.   On Cora's 12th birthday, Quinn leaves a box on her porch -- it's full of her plan to go back and fix everything.  She's read that time travel is theoretically possible, and she needs Cora's scientific mind to put it all in action.  Surely, together they can make it so it never happened. The two girls' family lives and friendships are beautifully evoked, and the story is heartrendingly real.  But make sure you have p

Don't Label Me

Image
  Don't Label Me: An Incredible Conversation for Divided Times, by Irshad Manji Irshad Manji is a person well worth following; she's just so interesting!  For several years she's had the Moral Courage Project on Youtube , which is about getting people of opposing viewpoints together to discuss solutions.  Manji dislikes labels because she feels, rightly enough, that they diminish our humanity and complexity.   As both a devout Muslim and a lesbian, she tends not to fit neatly into the expectations those labels generate. The foundational conceit of the book is Manji's own experience with dogs.  Raised to fear and loathe dogs as unclean and dangerous, Manji discovered a whole new dimension to life when she ventured to get to know dogs -- and the woman who became her wife.  Here, Manji sets up her thesis as a fictional conversation between her and Lily, urging all of us to look past our labels and our fears, and talk honestly with each other -- not to score points or win a

Angels Fall

Image
Angels Fall: Book 3 of the Z-Tech Chronicles, by Ryan Southwick In the summer of 2018 I read  Angels in the Mist , written by an old buddy of mine.  He later sent me the sequel, but then things got complicated and by the time all was done, that sequel was two books, expanded from the previous story; and IMO that is for the better, because some layers of complexity were added.  So here we have a review of the third installment, but definitely not the last.  It feels like there will need to be a couple more books before all this is done, but I don't actually know. The trouble here is that the story is quite complex, and I wouldn't want to give away spoilers.  It's the perennial middle-book dilemma!  I mean, how do you describe The Empire Strikes Back to somebody who hasn't seen Star Wars ? Anne Perrin has developed close friendships and new love in her group of friends -- though she hasn't abandoned old friends, either; her BFF is along for the ride.  But there

And the lucky Spin number is...

Image
 Would you believe I went through all of Sunday without remembering to check my Spin number??  That was a first.  I was probably distracted because I had to teach and that always makes me a little nervous.  Anyway, the lucky Spin number is....TWELVE! Twelve gives me Plum Bun by Jessie Redmon Fauset, a novel of the Harlem Renaissance.  I knew nothing about this novel when I put it on my Classics Club list -- I wanted some Harlem titles and found Plum Bun an attractive-sounding name.  So I just now went and read the Library of American summary, and here it is for you: Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun (1928) brilliantly exemplifies the cultural, social, and creative ferment of the Harlem Renaissance. Its heroine, the young, talented, light-skinned Angela Murray, hopes for more from life than her black Philadelphia neighborhood and her middle-class upbringing seem to offer. Seeking romantic and creative fulfilment, and refusing to accept racist and sexist obstacles to her ambition,

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth

Image
  The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth: And Other Curiosities From the History of Medicine, by Thomas Morris My oldest would love this book!  The premise is simple:  Morris spent a lot of time combing through antique medical journals for the unusual case studies that were sometimes published in them.  The resulting collection is organized on a somewhat thematic basis, and is a wonderful read (though not for reading over your lunch) and, at the same time, a minor survey of historical medical practices. One chapter is "Unfortunate Predicaments," featuring such stories as the sailor who swallowed pocketknives in quantity as a party trick, which worked for years but eventually ended badly; and a young boy who was playing with a goose's larynx (it works like a kazoo!) and coughed, which lodged the larynx in his own throat. "Mysterious Illnesses" contains some very eye-opening stories, and "Dubious Remedies" describes such inventions as mercury cigarettes and

The Dark Archive

Image
 The Dark Archive, by Genevieve Cogman I'm still really enjoying this Invisible Library series, and recently got around to reading the 7th and latest book -- though not for long!  The Untold Story , #8, will be out at the end of this year. If you've never read this series, it revolves around Irene, a librarian.  But not just any librarian -- Irene works for THE Library, which holds the many realities in shape by collecting All The Books.  Realities tend towards either order -- dominated by the dragons -- or chaos -- dominated by the Fae.  Irene has had a dragon apprentice for quite some time now, but the Fae are not interested in settling down into relationships -- until now.  Irene has taken on Catherine, a Fae who desperately wants to be a librarian and share her love of reading with the world.   Irene and Catherine, however, don't understand each other very well.  Catherine can't understand why Irene keeps doing all this spying and adventuring instead of teaching her

How to Be a Dictator

Image
 How to be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century, by Frank Dikötter  I found this title pretty hard to resist!  Many of the people in this book (though not all) are very familiar; Dikötter takes us on a selective tour of dictators of the 20th century -- specifically those who fostered a cult of personality -- starting with Mussolini.  Of course Stalin, Hitler, and Mao are included, but Dikötter keeps the focus just on the personality cult, which means that I learned quite a bit even though I'm pretty familiar with those guys.  After that, we take a turn into lesser-known dictators: Kim Il-Sung (North Korea), Duvalier (Haiti), Ceaușescu (Romania), and Mengistu (Ethiopia).  These were fascinating.  Most of them were not as adept or as focused as the Big Four (that's an Agatha Christie joke for you, sorry).  Some were Communist or Fascist, and some just plain dictators; they all felt the need to have a self-named philosophy and published works, but those

The Sacrifice Box

Image
80s callback cover art  The Sacrifice Box, by Martin Stewart I was intrigued by the description of this novel when I first saw it, and eventually I got a copy to read.  It's very appropriate for RIP season! On a small British island in the mid-1980s, September has been waiting his entire life to leave.  He's a misfit geek, and he has no friends, so he's put all his energy into earning a university scholarship so he can get to the mainland and start his life.  Four years ago, though, when he was 12, Sep did have friends.  For one perfect summer, he and four other kids ran around together.  They found an old stone box in the woods, and they decided to make sacrifices to it -- each of them would bring something important.  Then they made rules. Never come to the box alone.  Never open it after dark.  Never take back your sacrifice.  Once summer was over, the social forces of school kicked back in.  The kids dropped each other and never spoke again, until they were about to g

It's Classics Club Spin #28!!

Image
 Hey folks!  I have been in a little bit of a slump, but I've also been working on blogging projects that were due way early, and that's where the energy has gone.  Keep an eye out for Witch Week, that's all I'm saying!  I have five or six books here waiting for review and I want to work on them, but first -- a SPIN!  Yay!! You know the rules, or if you don't, you can read them at the Classics Club post .  Brona and I now hold the record for having participated in all the Spins!  Here are my picks, and I'm excited because now that I'm back at work on location, I don't have to limit myself to titles I already have.  I can spice it up some.  I've tried to pick a few seasonally-appropriate spooky-sounding titles... Madwoman on the Bridge, by Su Tong Old Norse Women's Poetry    The Leopard, by di Lampedusa  Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens The Gray Earth, by Galsan Tshinag  Samguk Yusa (Korean legends) The Female Quixote, by Charlotte Lennox Dar