Posts

Showing posts from 2022

Whither Howling Frog Books?

Image
 Sorry, I couldn't resist the pretentious title.   Taking the last few months off has been really nice, but I've also missed the blog and all of you nice folks out there in book-blog land.  I've decided to slow down from my previous posting rate -- I was aiming for 2/3 a week but then I'd skip a while because I was tired.  I'm going to try for fewer posts, and will probably cover groups of books and/or the titles I really want to talk about.   In 2023, I'm going to sign up for my usual challenges (see below), which don't really cost me any thought, and skip pretty much everything else.  My TBR shelf is far overladen, and so is my library pile, so I'm going to concentrate on those.  In 2021, I focused on WWII and aimed for one book a month.  In 2022, I was going to try for chunksters but didn't really succeed much there.  In 2023, I'm going back to the idea of a historical focus, and I'm going to work on making a dent in my large Russian/Easte

My Year in Books and 2022 Wrapups

Image
We're getting down to the wire, so here's one big long wrap-up post for 2022: Using only books you have read this year (2022), answer these prompts. Try not to repeat a book title… (Links in the titles will take you to my reviews where they exist) In high school I was a Goblin People might be surprised by a Runaway Robot I will never be [one of the] Model Children My life post-lockdown was: Being Seen My fantasy job is The Prince of Morning Bells At the end of a long day I need Celestial Bodies (I like stargazing!) I hate being The Seventh Bride Wish I had a Chess Set in the Mirror My family reunions are A Sudden Wild Magic At a party you’d find me with Our Mutual Friend I’ve never been to The Lost Island A happy day includes The Secret of Zi Motto I live by: "We Never Make Mistakes " (ominous!) On my bucket list is The Gate of Horn In my next life, I want to have a Cathedral of Mist My kid assures me that this is a good meme for the Gen Z students I want to appeal t

The Female Quixote

Image
 The Female Quixote, by Charlotte Lennox This is my Spin title, so I want to save the 'real' post for January 29th.  I'm posting now just to say that I have finished the novel, it was a lot of fun and not too difficult or crazy-making (despite the innumerable Capitals applied to Nouns), and indeed Arabella needs some help in understanding modern (to her) mores and letting go of ideas gleaned from bad translations of old French romances about ancient princesses.  What may be appropriate for a fictional Thracian princess is not necessarily correct for the maiden of 1750!  

The True Believer

Image
 The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, by Eric Hoffer My sister lent me this fascinating short book, which was published in 1951.  Eric Hoffer was not an academic or famous intellectual; he was self-educated and worked as a longshoreman, and he was a thinker with plenty of experience of the world.  He wrote ten books, apparently mostly "in his spare time while living in the railroad yards."  This book is a collection of observations and thoughts on, well, the nature of mass movements -- not just in the 20th century, though that's a lot of it, but all over the place.  Religions, rebellions, and takeovers through history are the grist for his mill.   Though there are footnotes, this is not what we would think of as an academic treatise.  It's Hoffer giving us his thoughts, and he doesn't expect us to agree with everything; indeed some things are overdone to make an interesting point.  Because I'm reading it with 70 more years of history go

A Winter Riffle of Reviews

Image
I'm hoping to get this year wrapped up in this final week.  Which is kind of a lot to leave undone until December 26, so wish me luck! I've read some neat books and a good bit of fluff in the last couple of months, and I'm just going to run through some of the ones I want to count for challenges...    Mink River, by Brian Doyle Doyle writes the story of a town: Neawanaka , a tiny place on the Oregon coast where a river meets the sea.  It's beautifully written, and I highly recommend it. Read Dangerously, by Azar Nafisi Written as letters to her (deceased) father, Nafisi discusses the importance of reading literature, especially in troubled times.  I wanted to save a couple of quotations: It is when you cast off the mantle of victimhood that you become a menace, a danger to your oppressor.  It it intriguing that in order to cease being a victim, you must accept responsibility for who you are and who you might become -- thus, ironically, acknowledging your enemy an

My Spin number is...

Image
 It's the number 6! This gives me probably the most intimidating book on the list, The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox, published in 1752.  It's the story of a girl, raised in too much solitude and with too many romance novels to read, who thinks the novels are accurate descriptions of life.  Her adventures were admired by Henry Fielding and Samuel Johnson, and of course Jane Austen used them for inspiration in Northanger Abbey . So it's probably not super-difficult to read -- though every Noun has a Capital Letter, which can be irritating to the Spirits after a While, at least my digital Copy does not poſseſs the long ſs that undoubtedly adorned the Original.  It does seem to be -- like almost every Georgian novel -- very long indeed, so we'll see how it goes.  I'll report back on January 29th.

CC Spin #32!

Image
 Well, I told you I'd be back for Spins.  I've been enjoying my break and am not yet ready to come back, but... .Spin!  You know the rules, so here we go:  First Love and Other Stories, by Turgenev Bluebeard, by Kurt Vonnegut It is Acceptable (Det Gaar An), C. J. L. Almqvist  The Black Arrow, by R. L. Stevenson Diary of London, by Boswell The Female Quixote, by Charlotte Lennox Rob Roy, by Sir Walter Scott Second-Class Citizen, by Buchi Emecheta The Leopard, by di Lampedusa  Madwoman on the Bridge, by Su Tong   I Served the King of England, by Bohumil Hrabal It Can't Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of Norwich Thus Were Their Faces, by Silvina Ocampo  Motl, the Cantor's Son, by Sholem Aleichem Conjure Tales, by Charles Chesnutt The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster  Amerika, by Kafka The Well at the End of the World, by William Morris The Annotated Flatland, by Edwin Abbott In other news, I've finished my 12 TBR books for Adam

Taking a break

Image
 I think it's been nearly a month since I posted, and I missed Witch Week!  I just got kind of overwhelmed.  I think I'm going to take the rest of the year off, with occasional posts to wrap up challenges or have a Spin, and I'll see how things go.  I'm still reading your blogs, so I won't completely disappear, and I hope everybody is having a lovely fall/winter (or spring, as the case may be)! Also, I made a meme at work for a newsletter post encouraging students to use library resources for their research papers.  I consulted with my 19yo to see if it was reasonable or hopeless.   See what a hip, with-it librarian I am?

CC Spin #31: The Gray Earth

Image
  The Gray Earth, by Galsan Tschinag I finished my 31st Spin title!  This poor book has been waiting around for a while.  It's the second book in an autobiographical trilogy (though considered novels, so somewhat fictionalized) which was written in German.  I read The Blue Sky a few years ago, and am quite upset that the third book, The White Mountain, never actually got published in English.  That was supposed to happen in 2018. Galsan Tschinag is Mongolian, of the Tuvan culture, which was ravaged by Soviet dictates.  In this trilogy, he tells the story of his life; the first volume was his early childhood on the steppes, and now he is 8 years old and taken to a Soviet boarding school.  Instead of his childhood name of   Dshurukuwaa, he is now known as Galdan. Galdan's oldest brother is the principal of the school and his other sister and brother already live there, so he is fortunate in that he has family there, but he's also under pressure not to embarrass his brother

The Prince of Morning Bells

Image
 The Prince of Morning Bells, by Nancy Kress I heard of this some time ago, undoubtedly from somebody's blog, but it took a while to track it down.   It was originally printed in 1981, and has been out of print for a very long time.  This is Nancy Kress' first published novel, and she went on to do more fantasy and then SF, which I have not read (though I wouldn't mind).  And I rather assumed this was a story for younger readers, which it isn't.  It's a somewhat unusual fantasy tale, really. Kirila is the crown princess of her small kingdom, but what she really wants to do is go on a quest.  Not just any old quest, but a Quest, for the Heart of the World.  So in her eighteenth year, off she goes, with a fine horse, a jeweled dagger, plenty of everything she might need, and a small talking bat the court wizard gives her for company and guidance. The bat doesn't actually work out too well, but Kirila soon meets Chessie, a talking dog, who says he's an enchante

Nettle and Bone

Image
 Nettle and Bone, by T. Kingfisher I tell you what, T. Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon is really fantastic.  What a great story.  I love that she takes the (possibly rather tired) fairy-tale retelling thing -- or just the fairy-tale style genre and wrenches it into a new shape that is sharp and truthful, not at all frilly, and also funny. Marra is the youngest of three princesses in a tiny kingdom squished between two large and powerful realms.  Her parents are constantly walking a tightrope over an abyss, and the solution seems to be to marry the oldest daughter to the crown prince of the Northern Kingdom.  When Marra's beloved sister is killed in an accident just a few months later, the second sister is sent in her place and Marra, always awkward and difficult, is placed in a convent.  She stays there for years, learning many skills, and is quite happy.  When she's summoned to her sister's side, though, she realizes that Kania may be a queen, but she's also a prisoner to a s

The Box of Delights

Image
 The Box of Delights, by John Masefield This story has been ridiculously difficult for me to find.  I've wanted to read it for years, as it's always being mentioned as a classic, beloved by generations of British children.  I read The Midnight Folk last year, and that turned out to be the first book, so I already knew Kay Harker when I started this one.  It was kind of a goofy thing to do to read a Christmas story in the September heat, but who cares? Kay is now about 14, I would guess, and he's home from school for Christmas.  Some friends are staying with him, so there will be plenty to do.  On the way from the station, Kay meets a little old Punch and Judy man, and invites him to come and perform at his house...and this plunges him into another adventure.  The wolves are running, and they're after the little magic box that the old man entrusts to Kay.  With it, Kay can shrink or be whisked to another place, or he can see into history.  Kay's old nemesis, the rot

Burmese Moons

Image
 Burmese Moons, by Sophie Ansel and Sam Garcia I have just not been very diligent lately, and the result is that I have five or six posts that need writing.  Anyway, I've been looking for a book about Burma (aka Myanmar) for a while, and this graphic novel seemed just the ticket.  It turned out to be a harrowing read. A note about the Burma/Myanmar thing.  I don't know too much about it. Myanmar is the official name now.  But, when I got to know some international students from there last year, they were all quite firm that they are Burmese.  I gather that using Myanmar sort of implies that one accepts the military dictatorship as legitimate. So I'm going to stick with Burma because of the students. Thazama, a young boy of the Zomi, grows up in his beloved village.  Raised by his grandfather, he runs around with his best friend Moonpi and has a crush on his classmate Kim.  When the soldiers arrive and demand that villagers go with them to work for a few days, Thazama's

Witch Week 2022: Polychromancy!

Image
 Are you ready for Witch Week?  As all Diana Wynne Jones fans know, Witch Week runs from October 31st through November 5th, and is when magic is running around loose in the world.  Anything can happen!  As in the last few years, Chris at Calmgrove and Lizzie Ross are hosting.  Their theme is polychromancy, a lovely word, as we look for fantasy works by authors of all races.   There's a discussion of Zen Cho's Black Water Sister , and other fun scheduled!  Will you be joining in?  

The Silence of the White City

Image
  The Silence of the White City, by Eva Garcia Saenz It's a mystery novel set in Basque country!  This was my second WIT month title, but obviously I wasn't able to finish it in August.  At least it is actually a translated book, though!   Twenty years ago, a series of bizarre, ritualistic murders terrified the city of Vitoria.  The culprit turned out to be a charismatic TV host, and he was turned in by his own twin brother.  Now, the murders have started again, but with the original suspect still in prison, who could be committing them?  Inspector Unai Ayala and his partner are on the case, but clues are few.  Ayala thinks it has something to do with a medieval church in the country, San Vicentejo, which has a symbolic carving portraying the "alchemical marriage."  Ayala must dig into the past to find his quarry before more people are killed. This is a very long mystery, and it took m a while to get into it.  Flashback chapters tell a story from 40 years in the past,

Quicksand

Image
 Quicksand, by Nella Larsen    Some time ago I read Nella Larsen's 1929 novel, Passing, and I also wanted to read her earlier novel from the year before, which is semi-autobiographical.   Helga Crane is mixed-race, the daughter of a Danish immigrant woman and a man from the Danish West Indies.*  She is a teacher at Naxos, a (fictional) school in the South built along the lines of Booker T. Washington's ideas, and she hates it.  Helga drops everything and goes to Chicago, where she was raised by her mother's white relatives, and eventually ends up in New York City.  Here she discovers Harlem and Black culture for the first time. Helga is a mercurial woman who falls in love with one way of life, is sure it will be permanent, and eventually feels an absolute need to escape.**  After a couple of years in Harlem, she flees to Copenhagen, where she lives with an aunt and uncle, and loves that until she absolutely must flee.  Back in Harlem, she drifts a bit, unsure of what to do

Four L. M. Boston stories that I wish were better known

Image
 I have long wanted to collect Lucy Boston's lesser-known works, but for some reason it took me a long time to realize that I could just look on Abebooks and order them.  A couple of them are practically unobtainable, but I found four at good prices and have been enjoying them.   If you're unfamiliar with the name, Lucy Boston wrote the classic and strange Green Knowe books, which I love.  She actually lived in the house that she calls Green Knowe in the stories, which is a good 900 years old, and the house inspired much of her writing.  Some years ago when my mom and I took my kids to the UK, we visited the house and it was wonderful .  I highly recommend that you go! The Guardians of the House: Tom likes to fish by the river, and he's seen the strange old house nearby.  When he sees the owner leave one day, he decides that he must explore.  Tom gets into the house, and finds many strange old items, all of which have faces.  Looking at the head of a goddess, he is transpo