Watching Castle

Castle's lesson of the day...

In this 11th episode of season 2 I am currently watching, one guy has been saved from a bullet by a copy of Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment in his inner jacket pocket.

Beckett: "Good thing he reads"
Ryan: "Good thing he reads Russian literature. If the guy was a Nicholas Sparks fan, he'd be dead."
We get it: reading dense (in every sense) literature instead of chicklit will save your life.

BBC Lost in Austen

At first I was sceptical about this BBC production (2008). A 21rst century Janeite does an Alice-in-Wonderland-kind of jump into the world of Pride and Prejudice and experiences what we all would love to: she takes Elizabeth Bennet's spot and meets another very handsome version of our beloved Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Most of the story evolves around her efforts to put everything "right", that is how Austen wrote it in her novel. But the more she tries, the messier it gets.
I will try not to reveal any spoilers here, but in many respects, the series does not end in a very concluding happy ending manner, as it leaves some blatant catastrophies (like Jane's marriage to a man who's not M. Bingley) unresolved, though with a lot of hope...
Even if I needed some time to get used to the alternate universe concept - I am not a huge fan of it - I soon started to love the story and the characters, their developments are audacious but work! Elizabeth's attraction towards our modern world seems natural and sincere, it is almost sad that we do not really see her story as she discovers Britain in the 21st century. M. Bingley is an even bigger coward in this series than he is usually depicted and therefore forces Jane's character to be even more accepting and endearing. Their story is a sad one.
Fitzwilliam Darcy is well written, handsome and perfectly conveying the legendary snobbish tenderness à la Darcy.
The other characters, especially Mrs Bennet, are extremely well cast and written and bring in numerous funny moments. Overall, Lost in Austen is a good comedy that shows how Austen's characters would react when confronted to our blunt manners and words.

To repeat it, I loved it and would recommend it to any Austen-lover; don't be afraid of the alternate universe - I'm sure our Jane Austen is not turning over in her grave.

What the library let me hunt down

Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, I already finished just now in my beloved armchair. It is a good story to read and reread, the ending is quite different from the movie.

If you let yourself love a wild thing. You'll end up looking at the sky.
Two by Eva Ibbotson, A Company of Swans and A Countess below Stairs, both often recommended to me and I was n the mood to alternate literature and chicklit. And Eva Ibbotson is a fantastic writer for children/young adults (I absolutely loved Secret of Platform 13), so her chicklit must be good stuff.

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is a book that I am not sure of having read, because I remember that the husband of my mother's friend gave it to me when I was thirteen and as it was not in a language that I liked to read (and I did not like his taste in books in general, and I did not like the cover, and he was a teacher who basically treated his whole surroundings, even friends and family, like pupils), I just skimmed through it or so I think. So this is a fresh start.

I have always liked novels about China, especially about Chinese women, be it in ancient or modern China or their lives as immigrants or whatever. Amy Tan has produced several novels of that kind now and after I finished The Bonesetter's Daughter totally enthralled, her other novel The Joy Luck Club immediately ended up on my TBR-pile. I found it today and will read it as one of the first.

As I let my eyes float over the bookshelves (because that is how I see it, my eyes are like sliding from one book spine to another, waves of thick paper), I saw the beautiful oriental style book spine of In the Walled Gardens by Anahita Firouz, set in Iran before and around the Revolution. I did not even finished reading the back description, there it already was in my pile to be taken home.

Looking forward to read all of them!

A Thanksgiving quote

I am currently watching the 8th episode of The Middle and obviously it is about all the trouble a family can have on the glorious day of Thanksgiving.
The ultra relaxed Axl goes with his brother Brick (yes..) to a corn maze, loses him there and completely freaks out: "He's got like a green jacket, a yellow hat and ... OMG, HE'S DRESSED LIKE CORN! We are never going to find him in here!" Turns around and there is Brick.

I will try my best tomorrow to find someone about whom I can say that he's dressed like corn. It's simply amazing.

Terry Pratchett 2010 Challenge

It is maybe not the best thing to sign up for another challenge (even when it goes for a whole year) just when you admitted to have technically failed one.

But it was just one book out of 5 for the Classics challenge! and almost every Austenite hates it! shouldn't have taken damn Mansfield Park, Fanny Price was unbearable once summer was over, in fall you need real women like Thursday Next in my current book The Eyre Affair, that I recommend highly by the way if you're not troubled by weird alternate universes and Crimean hundred year wars.

BUT this Terry Pratchett challenge at Marg's Reading Adventures is a must-do, I love having this cool death button on my blog (how I love Pratchett's Death! it must be one of the best written fantasy characters) and I already planned to read more of the Discworld so naturally I am signing up. But I'm playing it cool, I already restrained myself from joining the 100+ challenge. Of course I am secretly watching out for a 50+ one.. I had read 50 books this year by the end of June and afterwards slowed down with the end of the exchange year as "serious" college started again. For next year I will have to keep in mind that I will NOT have the time to read as much as last one. I'm not in Iceland anymore where long dark nights force you to either drown your brain cells with beer or read through the English section of the local library. And I am not an exchange student anymore who basically can do what the heck she wants.

Back to business, I am aiming at the 4-5 books to be a Guard of the City Watch (reading over 10 books would make me Death's apprentice, can you imagine? but I would never make it..).
Thinking about reading:
- Good Omens (with Neil Gaiman)
- Mort
- Making Money
- Small Gods
- Night Watch

Yay, looking forward to December 1rst!

Classics Challenge 2009 ended

Yes, ended (October 31st actually), but unfortunately not completed as I missed out on one: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen did just not flow with me and I couldn't finish it in time. I am not even reading it at the moment, I don't feel for it at this time of the year.

So in the end, I have read
- Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca [x May 31st 2009]
- Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
[x June 2009]
- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina [x August 2009]
For the "Will-be-classics"-round:
- Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner [x 25th May 2009]

I liked this challenge alot because it made me read for good one books I have wanted to read for a while: Anna Karenina. I am very glad about this read and especially loved the idea that I partly read it during my stay in Moscow and St Petersburg, two important locations in the story.

Less reading, no posting, lazy me...

Since September, I have been really busy in every single aspect of my life. Classes at university started again and it was quite weird to go back to work, studying, reading regularly. I did not go back to my soccer team but started rugby where I am surprisingly not too bad at, actually not bad at all and am maybe even going to be one of the regulars as the right hand prop. Yay!
Partying is irregular but heavy this semester, our housewarming party was a huge mess and also a huge success - we set the standards quite high for the others ;-) We decorated the flat around the theme of the seven deadly sins, each of our rooms representing one sin. I was dressed as the Bride in Kill Bill and my room full of dark and red paintings, a make-your-own-voodoo-doll-activity and nasty ideas on how to kill someone on the walls. Actually, because of my blonde wig that far too many guys started fantasizing about, I ended up as yet another symbol of luxury in my male flatmates' room. My other female flatmate was representing envy (as a sort of Blair Waldorf) and of course it was easy for her to turn it into luxury too, obviously the favourite sin for everyone. One of my best friends came with a huge tshirt full of bills and coins (greed) and therefore basically won the award for the best costume as she had put so much effort and thought into it and dared to take the one sin no one usually ever wants. Another great costume was my other friend: she came as glass of jam (gluttony)!
Reading has been quite a tough one lately, as I had to go through most of Bernard Lewis' books on Islam for a course and got less time left for "personal" reads. Nonetheless, I finished "The Thord Birds" successfully among others and am now watching the series. At the moment, I am reading "The Eyre Affair" by Fforde and really enjoy it despite some difficulties to get into it during the first pages.

So long, this was a quick update to revive this blog. Hope that I will find some time after monday (big presentation I still have to work on) to write about some challenges I want to do 2010 and about the books I absolutely have to read soonish!

Friday Fill-Ins #139

1. He was a squirrelfan.

2. Starting a new university year with new books, new courses, new colleagues and new social life is what I look forward to most this time of year.

3. My best friend is nonexistent, I am more the type of having a few close friends than one best.

4. I want to be in a world where you can expect people to be honest with you and be rightfully angry if they're not.

5. Appearances can be revealing or unrevealing, deceptive or undeceptive - there are no rules and that is great!

6. The last person I gave a hug to was my dad, when he picked me up at the airport.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to finish watching the webcomedy MerriMe on TheFriskey, tomorrow my plans include finish packing my suitcase, go lastminute shopping and get on the plane to Southern France and Sunday, I want to see my grandparents!

Hooray me! Hooray Anna Karenina!

Just to announce my immense satisfaction and relief: I have finished Anna Karenina!

Yes, I loved it but no, it was not easy to read. Not because of the style, which was extremely good and very funny at moments but because of the content and Tolstoi's tendency to stress details, especially anything about: agriculture, spirituality, agriculture, the process of thinking without actually getting into the content of the character's thoughts (whoa, the last chapters on Lewin were pure hell), agriculture, Russia's society, the conditions of peasants, and did I mention agriculture?

It is a long, long book and at many times I just thought: "Please give this author a good editor!" but no, Tolstoi's work wouldn't be as a literary monument as it is without his overwhelmingly rich prose. Many parts seem not necessary because the story is supposed to be about the tragedy of Anna Karenina and they shift the focus towards Lewin (who apparently is an embodiment of Tolstoi himself) and theories on farming and society. I still could not decide if the title was well chosen or a failure, the character Anna Karenina is not structuring the book enough to justify it. In fact, Lewin's parts are so prominent and his connection to Anna Karenina so few and even if I understand that he is her counterpart, why is her name the title?

Reading Tolstoi is like going through a mill but it is worth it. 5 stars. But I am not going to reread it anytime soon, nor will I read any other Tolstoi for the next 2 months.

China Challenge 2009-2010

Jennie at Biblio File is hosting this amazing challenge about China and I am all excited to make my list of books and things - yes, things! more on that later.
The challenge runs from September 1st 2009 to September 1st 2010, which is even better as I am therefore having a "Chinese" year exactly between my 21st and my 22nd birthday!
There are three levels, the Armchair Traveler, the Fast Train to Shanghai, Hiking the Great Wall and the Silk Road Trek. I know that I am slightly behind in my challenges at the moment as I am working quite a lot and being very slow with Anna Karenina at the moment, but this will change after I am done with Tolstoi, so I participate in the Silk Road Trek!

Mostly because the guidelines are so eclectic...
1. Read 10 books about China of which 1 nonfiction and 1 translated fiction (1 book can deal with Chinese immigration, thus not entirely taking place in China)

My list is not definitive, but as a start I will consider these works:
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan (the one novel including immigration)
Waiting by Ha Jin
Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
Red Azalea by Anchee Min (the nonfiction one)
Wild Ginger by Anchee Min
Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck
The Girl who played Go by Shan Sa

2. Do three or more of the activities listed in Jennie's post.
I will..
- (1) Listen to Chinese Pod and learn some Mandarin
- (3) Go out for Chinese food. (really, this will happen more than once, I crave for Asian food in general)
- (4) Read a blog about China. Don't know which one yet, but the suggestions are great.
- (6) Watch a Chinese film. Think about watching 2046 by Kar Wai Wong
... and maybe I'll find myself doing even more. Unfortunately, I won't be going to China anytime soon, I have too many other projects and not enough money to do everything. But it is definitely on my mind.

I think the most difficult and therefore challenging for me will be to blog about all this, as I am a very "moody" blogger. I do not write reviews about all the books I read like so many other bloggers and sometimes even these few reviews come up weeks after I finished a book. So this time, I will do my best, as it is part of completing the challenge.

Thursday Thunks 13/08

1. Hypothetical question- you are in a building with famous works of art, old manuscripts of famous novels, and original sheet music from famous composers. The building is on fire and looks to be completely destroyed. Do you grab any of the famous works before fleeing, and if so what?
Of course I grab as much as I can, but I would rather take paintings than manuscripts or original sheets, as long as these are not the only copies in the world.

2. In August 1969, the Manson family went on a 2 night killing spree. Do you think 40 years later they have paid for their crimes?
Maybe as I am not American, it is for me just any other horrible crime and not of national outrage. But I believe that they should be locked up for life as any other person who commits a crime of such sort.

3. Power Outage! What's the longest you have been without power?
Not long, maybe few hours.

4. Just bought a new tazer gun. Will you let it be tested it on you to see if it works, and how it feels to be tazered?
I am curious, but not insane.

5. A neighbor's mail was delivered to you. In it is a magazine not wrapped in plastic. Is it ok for you to flip through it before giving it to the neighbor? Do you tell them you looked through it?
I would not read itas I don't want to take the risk to damage it in any way. Flippping through it is okay I guess and I would not feel the need to tell them, unless it comes up and we talk about something metioned on the cover. If the magazine is not wrapped, I do not see any big deal. However, I think I would not flip through any porn magazine etc, I really do not want to know what my neighbors are into!

6. If I went through your purse/wallet right now, what all would I find in there?
My purse is not so full today... there is my wallet, a blue scarf, my mobile phone, Anna Karenina, two small notebooks, two lip moisturizers from Nivea, a small mirror... actually there are many many small little things women tend to carry around

7. Have you been living under a rock?
I have been living on a rock.

8. Tell us something crazy you did this week.
Nothing crazy ever happens before I am asked this question! So nothing this week, but the week before a friend took a picture of me in the middle of the night sitting and making faces next to a sleeping old man in the underground. Childish, I know.

Jane Austen: "Northanger Abbey"

Jane Austen has surprisingly established herself over the years as one of my favourite authors and I have to admit my presence among the hardcore Pride & Prejudice and Mr Darcy devotees of which there are many in world. Knowing very well her "three big ones", Pride & Prejudice of course, Emma and Sense and Sensibility, I have recently decided to catch up with her other novels and bought Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park.

Northanger Abbey, published in 1817, is the story of young Catherine Morland who is a passionate reader of mystery novels, the more bloodspilling the better. She is sent to accompany Mr and Mrs Allen to Bath for some weeks and meets Isabelle and John Thorpe of which the former becomes her new best friend.
When she also gets close to the Tilney siblings, of which Henry becomes her love interest, the Thorpes start clinging to her. Indeed, as the Thorpes mistake Catherine for the heiress of the Allens’ fortune, they plan to make double marriage to Catherine and her brother. While Catherine refuses John, Isabella succeeds in getting engaged to James Morland. Catherine subsequently accepts Eleanor Tilney’s invitation to their mansion Northanger Abbey, where her imagination goes wild and she imagines that General Tilney killed his wife.
As in the meantime Isabella discovers the truth of their lack of wealth, she dissolves her engagement and tries to catch Henry’s brother Frederick Tilney instead. Thereby, General Tilney who had been mislead about the Morland’s wealth as well, more or less throws Catherine out and it is Henry who closes the story with a happy ending.

Catherine is a young, naïve but somewhat foolish girl, as her love for gothic romance and unbound imagination lead her first to wish for some mystery and horror in her own life and to imagine it herself and take it for reality later on. I did not feel very much with her, she is entertaining at most, often charming in her stupidity but overall not interesting beyond that.
Even though Henry presents some similarities with Darcy, the wit and sarcasm and the quality of being a good brother to his sister Eleanor, Catherine is no Elizabeth. Indeed, she barely understands what he is talking about in their long discussions and thinks he is utterly charming and intelligent from the first moment. That Henry ends up marrying her is based on his preference not for an equally intelligent partner, but a refreshingly naïve girl. I liked him in general but maybe he disappointed me somewhat as I thought at the end, “here goes a future Mr Bennett” even if that may be unfair to Catherine, who is by no means as insufferable as Mrs Bennett.

I watched the BBC movie two years or so ago but fortunately I did not remember exactly the details of the storyline anymore so that I could discover the novel on its own. I found Northanger Abbey a rather short read compared to the novels I previously read but not less entertaining. It is a surprising read, as Austen ventures into open parody and chooses as a target the gothic romance novel. Basically, if Austen was writing this today, she would turn Catherine into an even weaker Bella (is that actually possible?) and make fun of Twilight.

Musing Mondays 10/08/09

Yesterday, Musing Mondays came up with this question:

Do you have a favourite publishing house -- one that puts out books that you constantly find yourself wanting to read? If so, who? And, what books have they published that you've loved?

Like most people I know, I do not have any favourite publishing house, I am in fact simply considering the whole range of book genres that interest me when deciding what to read next. However, I often pick up the little catalogues publishers use to print in Germany to see their new books and the other ones with small introductions. The format is nice and handy and I always find something intriguing that I will eventually read. Now that I try to answer this question, I effectively become aware that I tend to pick up the same publisher catalogues all the time, limiting my choice on 2-3 of them. Indeed, I always take the dtv catalogue (Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, German paperback publishing house) which has an extremely broad range of books from classics to new publications of quality, the Oetinger catalogue more of for the child inside me than any buying interest (they are the one big children fiction publishing house in Germany and were the first to publish Pippi Longstocking outside of Sweden) and the Diogenes catalogue.

Comments section fixed

It took some days for me even to figure out that it was impossible to comment on this new layout! But now it should be fixed and I even have the "posted by" back at the bottom I was looking for. When I will find some motivation again to look at the template code again, I will try to get the date header a bit down, there's too much space between it and the post title.

Friday Fill-In #136

1. Litchee juice is my favorite summertime drink.

2. My favorite John Hughes movies is The Breakfast Club.

3. Shark skin is something I love to touch.

4. The full moon is the perfect moment to go out and have a midnight walk.

5. I want to crawl back into my bed right now.

6. When daylight fades, the sky is tainted in thousand colors.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to enjoy my early goodbye-dinner with my work colleagues, tomorrow my plans include visiting Bulgakov's flatmuseum and Sunday, I want to see the Palace of the Romanov Boyars that I couldn't go to last weekend!

What to (not) do with a book

Today's news are filled with trial reports about people who get indemnities because they put their cat into the microwave or drink burning coffee and no proper instructions told them not to.
So just in case, take notes.

Book Rules

Terry Pratchett: "Equal Rites"

Equal Rites is the third fantasy novel of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and was recommended to me by my former professor of Icelandic folklore. Published in 1987, it explores the themes of female magic vs male magic, gender equality, institutionalised vs grassroot magic and the use of power.

The story goes as follows: Drum Billet, a wizard, ends up in Bad Ass, a small village up the mountains to give on his magical staff to the 8th son of an 8th son. As the child is born, Drum Billet dies without knowing that the newborn is not a son, but a daughter, who per definition can never be a wizard.
However, Esk, as the girl is called, develops extensive magical powers and is taken in to be trained by the with Granny Weatherwax. As this is not enough for the long term, Granny Weatherway and Esk travel to the Unseen University, a hotspot for wizards.
At first, Esk is refused, because she is a woman, but after a lot of troublemaking in which her wizard friend accidentally lets in creatures from the dungeon dimensions, the university is flooded and the head of the institution is more or less saved by Granny Weatherwax on the way to get the magical staff back - hey, it's Discworld! - a happy end finishes the book not à la "and they had many children" but as in "they continued to research the power of how to not use magic".
Discworld novels are always an enjoyable read, some are simply genius, some are just plain funny. Equal Rites is not part of the best ones, but does not fail on its themes and even surprises by its conclusion on magic: that the greatest power comes when you refuse to use any other power. The great character Granny Weatherwax is introduced, who fortunately will pop up in the following novels from time to time and who maybe adds the most fun to the story. The other characters are not developed as much and even Esk just seems to serve the purpose of one story. Indeed, the story ends while she is still a teenager and so we do not get to know what kind of wizard she will be.
Overall, a funny and quick read with some great points that could have been developed further, but we feel that this is still the beginning of Discworld.

Musing Mondays 03/08/09

1) If you don't frequent your local library, why not?
At the moment, I am abroad in Russia and as I do not speak Russian well enough to read novels, I did no see the need to look for a local library.
2) If you do visit the library, how often do you go?
When I am in my city, I try to go every week. My "local library" is actually half an hour bus drive away so when I am very busy I cannot make it so often.
3) Do you have a favorite section that you always head to first, or do you just randomly peruse the shelves?
I usually check out the shelf with the new books first and the ones that have been freshly returned. Then I go through the shelves of fiction and spend most of my time there.
4) How many books are you allowed to check out at one time? Do you take advantage of this?
I am allowed 10 I believe and usually there are around 8 in my bag when I am leaving the library.
5) How long are you allowed to have the books checked out?
4 weeks.
6) How many times are you allowed to renew your check-outs, if at all?
2 times I believe.
7) What do you love best about your particular library?
It is never crowded when I come (usually on Friday afternoons), there is a very nice childrens' section on the whole upper floor. It's simplicity of a honest small city library that is also hosting children events esp. around Christmas reminds me of the library I went to as a kid.
8) What is one thing you wish your library did differently?
I wish they had more space for more fiction, one half a floor is really not enough, even if I am far from having read all their books. I also think they should stock up on classics, some authors really should be there with their whole work.
9) Do you request your books via an online catalogue, or through the librarian at your branch?
I usually do not request books as I am never sure if I will be able to go there on the day I have to pick up the book. But I use the online catalogue to make my pre-choices beforehand.
10) Have you ever chosen a book on impulse (from the online catalogue OR the shelves) and had it turn out to be totally amazing? If so, what book was it, and why did you love it?
Taking books on impulse happens really often, esp. when it is a library and not a bookshop. I remember how I took once A Wild Yearning (at least I think that was the title) by Penelope Williamson, a genre I am not usually reading and I really enjoyed it. Afterwards I read two of her other books and they were a disappointment as typically in the cheap romance genre I am not into.

Jeffrey Eugenides: "Middlesex"

I have wanted to read this Pulitzer-winning Middlesex for at least a year, not only because I had read and liked reading The Virgin Suicides maybe 3 years ago but because the story seemed fantastic. I have always been very fond of marginal people, different lives and I felt that this novel was about a literature-shaping character.

In the end, the story turned out to be even better than "just" the life of a hermaphrodite so that I closed this book knowing that it had made its way into my list of favourites. Middlesex is about Calliope, a child that grows up as a girl and discovers she's a boy in her teens - that is the very basic storyline. But as Calliope herself does not retell her life until the reader has got maybe 60% into the book, the story reveals itself as the story of her Greek family that traces back its origins to a small village in today's Turkey, where their fate is sealed.

Reading along the line of the adventurous migration of the grandparents who flee Smyrna during the Greek-Turkish war to the lovestory of the parents is also reading about Greece and Turkey, about Greeks in America, about America's economical boom, about Ford and immigrants' neighbourhoods in Detroit, about the prohibition and Canada, about self-made-men and recession, about the sixties, about the seventies. About family dynamics.

And about growing up also, as Calliope struggles through puberty. As it is a life changing development that we experience all, one can relate to Calliope so far and feels with her when she gets further into questions that we have been lucky enough not to face. Being a hermaphrodite is less difficult as becoming one and Calliope has to leave her family and her love in order to find Cal, the man who is a good daughter to his mother.

Overall, I immensely enjoyed reading this novel. Eugenides has a fantastic way of telling this story, of using the Greek mythology to soften its corners and leave the readers with a real masterpiece.

Friday Fill-In #135

1. It's time for coffee and biscuits.

2. Work; it's not a bad place for filling out Friday Fill-Ins.

3. I must be crazy to always come back to the same question whether I should go back to that bookstore again to "have a look" - my suitcase will not take all these books I buy here!

4. Travelling is the best thing I have ever known.

5. My office coffee cup is simply blue.

6. The last time I laughed really loudly was yesterday evening with my work colleague, sitting on a small stone wall near Okhotny Ryad at midnight and sharing stories about the abesent-mindedness of our boss..

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to sleep sleep sleep (oh, and eat these d*** potatoes I always forget about), tomorrow my plans include visiting the Palace of the Romanov Boyars and Sunday, I want to do some other small museums - there is so much to see!

Reading in hard times

It has been a long while since I finished a book (last one was Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett maybe two weeks ago) and it is funny how I feel bad about that. I know that I read for the pleasure of reading and not only to make my TBR-list smaller, but apparently I need a regular "book ending" to happen, to give me a sort of structure.
Plus, I hate to be reading so many books at the time. Anna Karenina is too big to be carried around, so I only read it at home - and as I am either at work or visiting the city until I am fall-into-bed-tired, the chapters to be read are not getting fewer. My metro read is Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and is maybe the only one I am progressing with. For the size of the book it is a relatively light paperback that I read while the train rushes through the labyrinth (depending on the distance, up to 30 pages), on the neverending escalators (up to 5 pages!) and one or two pages while I am walking out until I realise that no, readwalking is definitely not possible in Moscow.
At work I use the great DailyLit system to get familiar with Moby Dick, Frankenstein, and Swann's Way. Moby Dick is far more easy to read than I expected, while Frankenstein had a surprisingly unengaging and almost boring start. It is getting better now that Dr Frankenstein himself is telling his story but duh! was this Walton annoying!
Ishmael is hilarious and I hope I'll stay with him for a long while. "Ignorance is the parent of fear" is in today's snippet. Well-said, Ishmael.

The Big List of Bookish Social Networks

I would quickly like to share this article by on bookish social networks. Written in 2007, it lists a number of different platforms I did not all know. What is even more interesting is the description following each mention. For example, Goodreads is a

"Simple bookish social network that emphasizes book recommendations from other users."

Others like ConnectViaBooks or LibraryThing are called to be "watched". As I use Goodreads, after trying out LibraryThing among others, I am surprised how the net has changed over the last 2 years and how it has affected the book community. I do not know how GR was before this spring 2009 when I joined, but I believe it is today one of the most promising bookish networks. It is easy to use and allows any reader to be complex in shelving or not. Authors like Paulo Coelho and Neil Gaiman have joined and contribute to their fans' newsfeed with their blog entries and readings. But what makes GR able to face the future is its flexibility based on its librarians - readers who participate in a wikipedian style to improve book information and correct mistakes.

I will check out some of these other bookish networks and would be pleased about an update of this list.

Newsweek's Top 100 Meta-List

Newsweek came up with this best of best-of-lists and even if it is again another list that stressed how many books I have not read, I like the concept enough to put it here. Enjoy.

1. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoi
2. 1984, George Orwell
3. Ulysses, James Joyce
4. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
5. The Soung and the Fury, William Faulkner
6. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
7. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
8. The Iliad and Odyssey, Homer
9. Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
10. The Divine Comedy, Dante
11. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
12. Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift
13. Middlemarch, George Eliot
14. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Saliner
16. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
17. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
18. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
19. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
20. Beloved, Toni Morrison
21. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
22. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
23. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
24. Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
25. Native Son, Richard Wright
26. Democracy in America, Toqueville
27. On the Origin of Species, Darwin
28. The Histories, Herodotus
29. On the Social Contract, Rousseau
30. Das Kapital, Karl Marx
31. The Prince, Machiavelli
32. Confessions, St Augustin
33. Leviathan, Hobbes
34. The History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides
35. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
36. Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne
37. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
38. A passage to India, E.M. Forster
39. On the Road, J. Kerouac
40. To kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
41. The Holy Bible
42. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
43. Light in August, William Faulkner
44. The Souls of the Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois
45. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
46. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
47. Paradise Lost, John Milton
48. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoi
49. Hamlet, Shakespeare
50. King Lear
51. Othello
52. Sonnets
53. Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
54. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
55. Kim, Rudyard Kipling
56. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
57. The Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
58. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
59. For Whom the Bell tolls, Ernest Hemingway
60. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
61. Animal Farm, George Orwell
62. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
63. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
64. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
65. The Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust
66. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
67. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
68. The Sun also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
69. I, Claudius, Robert Graves
70. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
71. Sons and Lovers, D.H.Lawrence
72. All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
73. Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
74. Charlotte's Web, E. B. White
75. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
76. Night, Elie Wiesel
77. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
78. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
79. Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth
80. An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
81. The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West
82. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
83. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
84. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
85. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
86. The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud
87. The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams
88. Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong
89. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, William James
90. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
91. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
92. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, John Maynard Keynes
93. Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
94. Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves
95. The Affluent Society, John Kenneth Galbraith
96. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
97. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley and Malcolm X
98. Eminent Victorians, Lytton Strachey
99. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
100. The Second World War (The Gathering Storm; Their Finest Hour; The Grand Alliance; The Hinge of Fate; The Second World War (The Gathering Storm; Their Finest Hour; The Grand Alliance; The Hinge of Fate; Winston Churchill

Update 8/12/2009: Lolita and Anna Karenina now read.

Missed Friday Fill-Ins #131 and #132


1. When I heard my waking call I groaned and tried to forget work.
2. Laughing is best medicine.
3. It's late, but I want to see another episode of Pushing Daisies.
4. Never or always.
5. My eyes have seen many soldiers and militsya guys since my arrival and I don't like it.
6. I need some coffee, strongly.
7. -


1. The last thing I ate was chocolate :) and some raisins.
2. An artbook about the Russian painter Войо Станич is something I recently bought.
3. When it rains, it smells like a fresh start is possible.
4. The demanding cat Pusya was the first person I talked to today.
5. Hugs are saying "calm down and let go, here and now is family.
6. Even in the summer, this cat seems to want pillows and cushions for extra comfort.
7. -

Long time no update!

Wow, it's been quite a while since my last post but I think that writing a new one immediately on the first evening I got wifi again qualifies me for being a willing blogger. I am now writing from the not-so-red-anymore city of Moscow, where I will be living until end of August. A change of scenery and of lifestyle that will undoubtedly affect my reading habits. The summer of doing nothing but reading and lazily staring at the screen is over, even though I successfully managed to open some other reading options inbetween work, sightseeing and sleeping.

First of all, I discovered and started using the very nice DailyLit website, where I started today with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, read far into the short story Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri and scheduled the first snippets of Moby Dick by Melville and Du Côté de Chez Swann (the French original of Swann's Way) by Proust for tomorrow.
As you see, I will really try not to fall back in terms of reading. Especially as I brought Anna Karenina by Tolstoi from Germany (for my nightstand) and bought Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (a light paperback for my metro journey every day) straight off the English shelves of the great Biblio Globus bookshop in central Moscow.

Fine. Now let's get back to business and leave the daily randomness.

Southern Reading Challenge 2009 Completed!

I have finished Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge very much in advance, as it runs until August 15th. But I am quite glad to have one little reading success on this blog; I am doing so many challenges and my TBR-list is so huge that I need to get something done-done-done from time to time.
Here again are the three southern books I have read:

  • William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury. Maybe the most difficult read from my list and I will definitely have to re-read it again to fully grasp it.
  • Robert Tallant, The Voodoo Queen. A great fictional attempt to make a biography of one of the most fascinating women of Louisiana in the 19th century. (Longer review here)
  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening. I finished it this night and am really surprised about the modern approach of Edna's struggle. Also a great depiction of the south.
Thanks for this challenge that made me search for great southern books, read and love them.

Everything Austen Challenge

Stephanie from The Written Word is hosting this perfect challenge for any Jane Austen fan. Running through six months from July 1st 2009 to January 1st 2010, six "Austen-themed" works have to be read or watched and I am terribly looking forward to do a very mixed list of Jane Austen herself, sequels and/or spinoffs by authors fans of Austen and some of the many movies/series that have been made over the years and that I have not all watched yet.

Here is my list - changes might happen:

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
Have to read it for two other challenges, so I put it on this list too to help me read and finish it (I tried it once and did not get far).
Sean Grahame-Smith, Pride & Prejudice and Zombies
Hearing so many good things about this book, I have planned to read it for quite awhile now.
BBC Pride & Prejudice | TV mini-series (1995)
A classic adaptation of my favourite Austen novel I love to watch and re-watch.
Amanda Grange, Mr. Darcy' Diary
Another sequel/adaptation of Pride & Prejudice I would like to read, esp. since it is Mr Darcy's POV.
Lost in Austen | TV mini-serie (2008)
I can get it from someone, so that quite different approach to Austen will complement the list.
Pride & Prejudice | Movie (2005)
A little jewel of a movie. Again a re-watch.

Friday Fill-In #130

1. She had a great smile.

2. Even is not physically present because of the distance, my family is by my side, always.

3. I know this: sleeping with socks feels weird.

4. "Silent" in German is still.

5. These words apply to me: "I'd rather be a climbing ape than a falling angel." (Terry Pratchett).

6. Until quite late in the evening, the sun was shining.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to relax after my Berlin trip and sort out my pictures, tomorrow my plans include doing a hell lot of laundry and Sunday, I want to call my "third grandmother"!

Dangerous Berlin

Huge chain bookstores, small but surprisingly well furnished used-books stores and flea markets - Berlin is extremely dangerous for booklovers who are not completely broke. After almost one week in Berlin, I leave this overall amazing city with these treasures:

*from the Berliner Trödelmarkt (famous flea market on sat/sun)*
John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men - Cannery Row
Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders
E.M. Foster, A Passage to India

*from Another Country (used books | link)*

Marie Phillips, Gods Behaving Badly
Susan Hill, Mrs de Winter

*from Fair Exchange (used books | link)*
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Kate Chopin, The Awakening and selected stories

*from Hugendubel (chain store | link*
Dorothy Parker, Marion Meade (ed.), The portable Dorothy Parker

What I have read 2009

I am filling my list in the Goodreads "50 Books a Year" group, but I thought I could make it a post here too, slowly growing until December.

1. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells [Jan 5]
2. Sex and the City, Candace Bushnell [Jan 3]
3. Gods behaving badly, Marie Philipps [Jan 13]
4. Hectors Reise oder die Suche nach dem Glück, Francois Lelord [Jan 10]
5. The Nanny Diaries, Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus [Jan 15]
6. Lipstick Jungle, Candace Bushnell [Jan 24]
7: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood [Jan 29]
8: 44, Scotland Street, Alexander McCall Smith [Feb 2]
9: The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Grace Under Pressure, Kim Izzo [Feb 4]
10: Princess Academy, Shannon Hale [Feb 3]
11: Pride and Promiscuity The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen Parody by Arielle Eckstut [Feb 11]
12: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer [Feb 12]
13: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend [Feb 14]
14: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald [Feb 20]
15: The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan [Feb 25]
16: A Piece of Cake A Memoir by Cupcake Brown [Feb 22]
17: Silence of the Grave A Thriller by Arnaldur Indridason [Feb 24]
18: Roses Are Red by James Patterson [Feb 25]
19: Wicked The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire [March 9]
20: Lonely Planet New Orleans by Tom Downs [March 8]
21: Disappearing Moon Cafe A Novel by Sky Lee [March 15]
22: The Queen and I by Sue Townsend [March 19]
23: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling [March 20]
24: Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King [Apr 3]
25: The Diviners by Margaret Laurence [Apr 6]
26: The Jane Austen Book Club A Novel by Karen Joy Fowler [Apr 5]
27: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields [Apr 16]
28: A brief history of Finland by Matti Klinge [Feb]
29: Facts About Finland by P. Elovainio [Feb]
30: Cane River by Lalita Tademy [Apr 27]
31: The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier [Apr 30]
32: Obasan by Joy Kogawa [May 8] (Review)
33: Voodoo in New Orleans by Robert Tallant [May 9]
34: Le Cheval Soleil by Steinunn Sigurðardóttir [May 12] (Review)
35: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner [May 22]
36: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini [May 25]
37: Q & A by Vikas Swarup [May 26]
38: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier [May 31]
39: The Voodoo Queen A Novel by Robert Tallant [June 2] (Review)
40: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [June 7]
41: Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott [June 10] (Review)
42: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini [June 12]
43: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf [June 19]
44: Settlers of the Marsh by Frederick Philip Grove [Jan 20]
45: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
46: The Awakening by Kate Chopin
47: Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (Review)

48: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Review)
49: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
50: Siddharta by Hermann Hesse
51: Le Sabotage amoureux by Amelie Nothomb
52: Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie [Sept 7]
53: Kafka am Strand by Haruki Murakami [Oct 5]
54: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough [Oct 20]
55: The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall [Oct 27]

Last update: September 8th, 2009

Double Friday Fill-In #128 and #129

As I was away on a trip without my laptop last WE, I missed one Friday Fill-In and make it a double Friday this time. Obviously no WE plans for the first one. :)


1. I grew up thinking that I would always live near the same best friends, in the same towns around.
2. Goodreads of course was the last website I was at before coming here.
3. Why don't you put some lemon juice into your water?
4. A rainy day with no plans helps me relax.
5. Thanks for the flowers, goes the German title song for Tom&Jerry.
6. Underage Twilight fans who can't even spell are very off-putting.
7. -


1. All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting that this time it won't go well.
2. Show me a good loser and I will show you a bad winner.
3. Getting too many very good news in one day is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs at one time.
4. Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy collecting futures votes and talking about things that go well.
5. I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine work and organizing his childrens' extracurricular activities.
6. It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without vegetables or a mix of herbs in it.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to make a schedule of sights for next week, tomorrow my plans include packing my suitcase and Sunday, I want to enjoy Berlin!

Some new old books

I just came back from a weekend in Düsseldorf to visit family with several used and not so used books I found when strolling through the amazing bookshop Sternverlag there.
So that's what's in my suitcase:

- a 1962 Rowohlt edition of Hunger by Knut Hamsun
- Oblomow by Iwan A. Gontscharow
- Doctor Schiwago by Boris Pasternak
- Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton (the only new one)
and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf for my mum.

But as I fell behind with my reading of Mansfield Park, because I was too busy with my marvelous cousins (being the photographer of one kid's birthday party), all of these books will be put on my TBR-pile...

L. M. Alcott: "Good Wives"

This sequel of the wonderful Little Women has been laying around for at least a year and it is in the middle of many challenges to finish that I pick it up to read it.

The little women are now three years older, Meg is getting married, gives birth to twins very soon and is learning to become the perfect little housewife she is meant to be. Beth stays the quietest of the family members and slowly drifts towards her death. Amy's ambitions of succeeding in the great society and marrying for wealth change as she falls in love with Laurie, whom she ends up marrying. And Jo, my funny beloved Jo, writes alot but basically gives it up in the end, gets more and more boring, has no interest in men until she meets the much older Bhaer and spoils what could have been one of the best love stories in literature by refusing Laurie.

I liked this novel a great deal because of Alcott's very good writing, because it allows me to stay a little longer with the little women and draws quite a few interesting storylines at the beginning. Meg's domestic difficulties to manage both her role as a mother and as a wife to John for example could have been an actual theme in the book, were their appearance and their resolution in a happy ending not condensed in a single chapter. Beth does not take part in the story anymore except when she dies and as much as I agree that she has ever been a quiet and invisible girl, I feel she has been left out here.
I never had much liking for Amy, but Good Wives made her more interesting. Her ambitions both in drawing (and her eagerness to see the limits of her own talent) and society in the context of her deep feelings for her family and background were the foundation of a rich character. Her scenes with Laurie, even if the second part of the books changed him and made him hard to believe, were excellent in developing her character. However, as soon as their marriage is settled, she disappears as a good little wife behing him and does barely utter a word anymore until the end. Disappointing.
I still don't know if Jo's fate pleases me or not. Of course I would have loved her to say yes to Laurie in the end, keeping of course the dramatic first proposal and rejection as a twist. The very basic facts however, that she meets Bhaer, falls in love with that antihero and builds a school for boys, fit her character and interesting adds to her personality. But that her humor disappears along the chapters as well as her character, that she tries to become a second Beth and stops writing - that is not showing how someone is growing up and becoming a woman, that is spoiling and killing off the leading force of Little Women.

Friday Fill-In #127

1. I never get so much done as when I am alone at home.

2. My favorite thing for dinner lately has been a Chinese vegetables mix.

3. I haven't heard bark! bark! bark! for a while, but several mooooooo!

4. A nice long walk is finally possible again after days of cold and grey weather.

5. I hope to get some good news about my visa soon.

6. When all is said and done, it's time for some tea in peace.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to do the cooking again with my dad (he's still learning), tomorrow my plans include going for a walk and Sunday, I want to vote for the first time in EU elections!

Robert Tallant: "The Voodoo Queen"

I bought this novel on my trip to New Orleans in March 2009 in the Voodoo Spiritual Temple along with Robert Tallant's other work Voodoo in New Orleans, a collection of accounts of Voodoo practices and believers.
Here's the text on the back of the book:

"Witch? Sorceress? Daughter of Satan? Murderer? Thief? Saint? Which label best fits Marie Laveau? Queen of the Voodoos, she is considered to have been the most important voodooienne ever to have reigned on this continent. Robert Tallant, attempted to make use of all available facts and information in re-creating the life of this famous woman. Marie Laveau, the last and most stories American Sorceress, continues to weave her spell as those who read this fascinating portrait will discover."

The novel is a fictionalized biography of the mysterious Marie Laveau, an attempt to explain what her life could have been starting from the little known pieces. She was a Voodoo queen, she was a hairdresser, she got married once and gave birth to many children, she got a house for helping a rich man's son to win his trial, she fed prisoners close to hanging, she was called a good Catholic and famous for her gris-gris.
As I read Tallant's Voodoo in New Orleans beforehand, I knew how what Tallant considered the basic elements of Marie Laveau's characters, using her appearances in newspapers to structure her life. In the novel, we start with a young Marie who gets married to her soulmate. But her few contacts with Voodoo priestesses estrange her skeptic husband from her and she finally looses him to the sea. To make a living, she works as a hairdresser - a position which will be very useful to her later, as it gives her insight into society gossip (and therefore power over potential clients) and control over the slave grapevine. Slowly, she becomes a known and feared figure within the Voodoos and reaches the status of queen.
The whole novel shows her struggle to manage her family, do her work (Voodoo) and keep her position against several rivals, make a living and salve her conscience when her Catholicism puts her in front of a dilemma. At some moments, Marie can seem selfish, because she does not behave very motherly towards her children and does not know them all too well. But the more one gets into the story, the more becomes clear, that Marie Laveau is simply a business woman of her time. Her attempts of managing and succeeding in every aspect in her life are rarely that successful, as she either looses her clients, her followers or her family. Her love life is a compromise after the loss of her husband, as she only slowly agrees to allow Glapion in her life. In her last years, she refuses that her male best friend and companion becomes more to her and finishes her life as the solitary woman she had always been, despite her many children and acquaintances.

I liked this novel very much because I did not take it as a biography - for that, there was too much speculation and pure fiction. But Tallant's work is a nice attempt to draw Marie Laveau's personality and I see her with different eyes now that I have read how she could have maybe lived. Beyond that, this novel is of great value to any New Orleans-lover as it depicts the exciting city at its peak of a melting pot of Spaniards, Creoles, French/Cajuns, Americans, free Blacks and slaves.

Friday Fill-Ins #126


1. It's cold and too windy to read outside without a blanket.

2. For me, a salad is spoilt with tomatoes.

3. My favorite health and beauty product is Nivea cream, it simply works for everything.

4. When we take enough good music with us, I can really enjoy a nice long ride.

5. Well, first of all I am on vacation and I don't need to do anything - I love to say that every morning to myself because it's true.

6. Many known but unnamed people; those were the cast of characters in a recent dream and it was chaotic.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to (Friday's already over and I have watched Volver by Almodvar), tomorrow my plans include taking some pictures of the nature in the sunlight and Sunday, I want to have finished Rebecca!

Thursday Thunks

21. How many states have you been in?
I guess, US states are meant. As I have been only once to the US, not many at all. I have traveled to Massachusetts, Florida and Louisiana and had stopovers in Pennsylvania and and Georgia. Makes 5.

22. If a sexist Man is called a pig, what is a sexist Woman called?
Why not also a pig?

23. You see the one person who you absolutely despise. If you were guarentee'd that he/she couldn't say or do anything back to you.... What would you do??
Nothing. There's neither fun nor honesty in arguing with a silent enemy.

24. How many states are to the right of you? And don’t give us a map to look at.
As I am in Europe, there are either all of them on my right or none, depends on which direction I'm facing.

25. You can go anywhere in the world for free. Where are you?
Somewhere like Australia or New Zealand to where the plane tickets are freaking expensive.

I'm neither drunk, nor spread out almost unconsciously on the floor, so I don't need to answer.

27. Are you a boxing fan? Do you think there will be a rematch of the Hatton-Pacquiao fight?
Can't say. I like boxing somewhat, but have no knowledge about it.

28. What is the most disgusting thing you have ever eaten?
Watery tomato soup when I was really really sick. I can't eat tomatoes since then.

29. Is it cloudy right now?

30. What is your dream job?

31. Someone gives you a $500 gift card to WalMart or Target. What are you going to buy?
I don't know Target, and I have been only twice to Wal Mart. Are there any electronic household things? Then I would buy a good mixer for everything and try to get the rest back in cash.

32. When you were little, what did you want to be "when you grow up"? And, how much different is your occupation now from where you thought it would be when you were younger?
I wanted to be a teacher for elementary school. Now I'm a student in politics and economy but have always helped kids around me with their homework or teached them some other things.

33. What was your favorite toy as a child?
My soft toys and puzzles. After I learnt to read, I basically stopped playing with toys.

34. How do you think these things up??
I'm not in charge, my cornflakes tell me all I have to do. :)

35. Why do you think so many "fake" veterans get away with pretending? Why don't people question them more (especially the media who eats up their stories?)
Maybe because we have our heads full of the horrors of war and do not want to open their wounds with too many questions. But the media should be much more critical.

36. What is the last place you had a good cry and why?
In my bed, with The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini). Sometimes, I could really see the parallels of Amir's life and mine.

37. What do you mean?
I mean what I wrote.

38. Which Sesame Street Character do you relate with the most and why?
I don't remember it very well. I liked The Count and Finchen (only in the German version as I discovered), she was a cute little snail, but I don't feel I related to them.

39. What song one would you listen to over and over if you absolutely had to?
Hoppípolla, Sígur Rós.

40. Did you ever make what you believed at the time to be a horrible mistake - that in hindsight turned out to lead you on the best path in your life?
No idea, I don't think I call anything I did and do a horrible mistake.

41. If you could change one thing on your person, what would it be?
My knees.

42. What’s your favorite show to watch on television nowadays?
I don't really watch it on TV (here we're always so many episodes behind), but I love Fringe. And I'm very eager to watch Weeds again when the new season starts.

43. Do you believe there is life after death?

What's on my nightstand - May

It's time again for "What's On Your Nightstand?" in the suddenly very rainy and windy end of May.
On my nightstand in May are not many books I am actually reading, because I am having a time in which I read one book at a time. So the other books besides my current reading Rebecca are all books that are waiting to be the next one.

, Daphne Du Maurier
The Voodoo Queen, Robert tallant
Moscow, a travel guide
Good Wives, Louisa May Alcott
A thousand splendid suns, Khaled Hosseini

Reading updates and May/June plan

I'm really happy my copy of Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier) has arrived so quickly and I'm looking forward to read it, as soon as I have finished Slumdog Millionaire (Vikas Swarup).
So my reading plan for end of May->end of June should be the following:
- finish Slumdog Millionaire (Vikas Swarup)
- read Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier) for the Classics Challenge, Royal's Romance Reading Challenge and my Fill in the Gaps List.
- read The Voodoo Queen (Robert Tallant) for the Southern Reading Challenge
- read Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey or both (Jane Austen) for the Classics Challenge and the Royal's Romance Reading Challenge

I hope I am not overestimating myself and the power of my current vacation lazieness, but I will at least try to get that done before I start with my July reads: Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy), another Russian classic and maybe Atonement (Ian McEwan)

New books!

Friday Fill-In #125


1. Moving furniture around is my dad's annoying quirk.

2. Real holidays make you feel free.

3. My best quality is my ability to adapt quickly and never get dependent on things.

4. I haven't count the number of people that have gone mad because of the importance I can give to little details.

5. In nearly 10 years, I want to have my own stable place and stop worrying about what happens to my belongings.

6. Mixed fruit juice is what I need right now!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watch "Changeling", tomorrow my plans include doing some laundry and cook pasta with zucchini and Sunday, I want to go out for a walk!

Classics Challenge 2009

Okay, the Classics Challenge (April 1rst 2009 - October 31rst 2009) is again another challenge but I totally need to sign up for this one as I tremendously love classics!
But I'm also starting late and have other challenges to complete, so my list will only contain four classics for the Classics Snack level that will contain crosspostings:

1. Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca [x May 31st 2009]

2. Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
3. Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey [x June 2009]
4. Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina [x August 2009]

And I read one book for the "Will-be-classics"-round:
5. Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner [x 25th May 2009]

Slow progress - no progress?

I think I've never been so slow reading a book as I am with The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I've bought The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini I am very eager to start but this damn Faulkner novel doesn't want to let me finish it and go over to the next book! Terrible. I cannot even think how I am going to write a review about it, as it is difficult to read and doesn't tie me to the story as every good book does, yet it is very fine literature.

So, this was my Thursday complaint on Father's Day, which I am spending with my Dad for the first time in many years: after lunch at a restaurant, I'm doing my own stuff and he's snoring on the couch :)

Friday Fill-Ins #124

1. If we had no winter I would forever be stuck in my (fortunately light) spring and summer depression.

2. I can't stand those tourists whose favourite occupation is to stay in a perpetual astonishment.

3. If I had my life to live over, I would rather not - I want to see what's next!.

4. I'll be moving out of my place, moving into a friend's place with another friend's things and give these things to the latter as soon as possible to prevent any further nervous breakdown inside of four and twenty hours.

5. If you've never been thrilled to read a classic fairytale again, someone forgot to give you something important in your childhood..

6. To be interested in the changing seasons is to experience how a small death means a small life means a small death means a small life means a..

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to party party party as a newly homeless with a friend who just came back to Iceland to search for her mind she lost here last year, tomorrow my plans include visiting the Art Museum, buy and send a "Lost in Iceland" longsleeve to my mum and party again like a native and Sunday, I want to see the island Videy and get some last impressions of my soon-to-be former home, Reykjavík!

Royal's Romance Reading Challenge

Yes, I know it really doesn't look like me and more like someone hacked my blog, but to vary a little bit in the genre and try out the extra challenges in letters and such, I signed up for Royal's Romance Reading challenge.
Oh, and I thought the picture was cute. Did I mention that I secretly have been a huge fan of Sarah Kay all my life? (Yes, it's still me, I happen to be more than one-dimensional) The soft colors of this picture with the girl on it reminded me that a little bit, voilà!

So, hum, what was it? Right, 7 books from June 1rst to November 30th 2009 and their title or the author's name have to begin with one of the letters of the word R-O-M-A-N-C-E.

Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier [Kehl] [x May 31st 2009]
Odaantje, Michael, The English Patient [Kehl]
Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
Atonement, Ian McEwan [Kehl]
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen [Kehl] [x June 2009]
Colleen McCullough, The Thord Birds [Kehl: Dornenvögel]
Eva Ibbotson, A Countess Below Stairs [Kehl: Sommerglanz]

The list may change during my reading.

Steinunn Sigurðardóttir : Le Cheval Soleil

Title: Sólskinshestur (Icelandic), Le Cheval Soleil (FR), Sonnenscheinpferd (DE), in English that would be Sunshinehorse, but it hasn't been translated yet.

Steinunn Sigurðardóttir, is an Icelandic novelist and poet. I got this French translation from my Grandmother for last Christmas and did not read it until now. These last days I needed a book to fill the gap until the start of the Southern Reading Challenge, for which The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner is waiting, so I finished Sólskinshestur (for no challenge at all).

For a brief summary, I would just say that the story evolves around Lí's childhood and adulthood as the daughter of absent-minded parents. She is somehow brought up by her German housemaid, who leaves early and then by Nellí, a poor alcoholic single mother whose own daughter has been taken away. Lí blossoms out like a flower when she experienced her first love, but she ends the relationship to mourn it for the rest of her life. After an unsuccessful marriage that brings her to Copenhagen for some years, she leaves her husband and two daughters to come back to Iceland.

This book was very different from what I expected, maybe because I did not know that Steinunn was also a poet. The writing is very poetic and from time to time, parts of the story are presented in poems, about which is unclear whether they are Lí's thoughts (as she is usually the narrator of the story) or an unknown voice. Even if this poetic writing sometimes made a distance between the reader and the story, I was captured by Lí's life and the sad characters around her.

I loved her adorable brother Mummi and was intrigued by her cold mother Ragnhild, whose job as a doctor and the children dying under her hands have torn her apart on the inside and made her incapable of showing love and attention to her children. Haraldur is a father who tries to escape having the same behaviour as Ragnhild, but generally fails.

The character of Lí is broken by two things. First, the suicide of Nellí she discovered and never accepted as the truth (she invented that Nellí went working in the countryside) until she finds Nellí's daughter to tell her the story to realize it at last. Then, the loss of the love of her life, who brings the story's climax as he suddenly comes back to Iceland and makes of the past a possible future.

Steinunn herself called this novel her saddest story and it is true that I closed the book deeply moved by the broken lives it contained.

Disney Literature Challenge

I'm getting quite fond of those perpetual challenges, as it is very easy to convince myself that I'll be able to finish them some time in my life.
Sarah's Disney Literature Challenge is even better, because the point is just reading whatever I like from the books that inspired the Disney movies.

Surprisingly, I have read more books than I thought, or maybe I just don't always link the book and the movie when it is Disney. Concerning the folk stories, I won't list them here, as I want to concentrate on the novels as a challenge and I have read them all anyway (yes, including Mulan etc).

Books I have read:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving (1820)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (1865)
Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, by Lewis Carroll (1871)
Peter Pan, by Sir J.M. Barrie
Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers (1934)
The Little Mermaid, by Hans Christian Andersen (1836)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo (1831)

Books I plan to read:

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame (1908) [also on my Fill in the Gaps List]
The Once and Future King, by T.H. White (1958) [also on my Arthurian Challenge List]
The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling (1894) [also on my Fill in the Gaps List]
Bed-knob and Broomstick, by Mary Norton (1957)
Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne (1926)
The Rescuers, by Magery Sharp (1959)
Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens (1838) [Kehl]
Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914)

Constantly changing places is inherent to my life. Books have always been steady friends which I could bump into wherever I was all over the world.
Stumbling upon Kaminer's German stories of "Die Reise nach Trulala" in Reykjavík's city library is as moving as meeting the Icelandic sagas in Boston's Borders.
To see a book again, that I've read thousands of kilometers away makes me smile "Hey I know you.." and shake hands by thumbing through it for a while.