August Reading

Despite my busy weekends in the latter half of August, I did read quite a lot.

Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
I’m half-way through this amazing book. It is very strange in places (I will write a review when I’m done which will probably not be before the end of the year).

Poetry:

  • Heinrich Detering (ed.), Reclams Buch der deutschen Gedichte.
    A big two-volume anthology of German poetry from the Middle ages to modern times. I’ve the finished the first volume and might be able to finish the second volume in September. It’s good.
  • Robert Pinsky, Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters.
    I’ve had this poetry collection since October 2014 and have started reading it when I didn’t want to drag the bulky German anthology around on my trips. It’s also very enjoyable.

Short Stories:

Alas, no short stories read.

Non-Fiction:

  • Gavin Maxwell, Ring of Bright Water Trilogy.
    A very interesting memoir about an eccentric English aristocrat’s life with otters. Sometimes idyllic, sometimes very depressing. Quite amazing. I still plan to write a review.
  • Douglas Botting, Gavin Maxwell: A Life.
    As I found Maxwell’s memoir so interesting, I fancied an outside look at his life. I’m only half-way through but am enjoying it so far – I couldn’t finish it, because I forgot my tablet at home and don’t want to read it on my small smartphone screen.
  • Mason Currey, Daily Rituals: Women at Work.
    Lots of vignettes about how creative women organize their work, quite interesting. I reviewed it.
  • Jose Arce, Liebe Deinen Hund.
    A German book about how to maximize the enjoyment both dog and human get on their daily walks. Gave me some tips on how to get my dog to stop pulling on his leash (well, basically it said “be patient and calm under all circumstances”). Easier said than done but I quite liked it. Not sure if it will help, because Curious Dog is just a really excited when he’s outside and then he pulls (especially in strange places). But I try my best and sometimes it works better than other times. But we do enjoy our walks (on the normal ones he usually stops pulling after a while).

Herondale

Novels:

  • Laurie R. King, Pirate King and Garment of Shadows and Dreaming Spies.
    Installments 11-13 of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. As usual, I liked them a lot and will write a review soon.
  • Christopher Morley, Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop.
    Two short novellas about secondhand book shops (the first one about a traveling horse-drawn one – very cosy, with a love-story). The second one I didn’t like as much, but it was also not bad. A bit old-fashioned (which I don’t mind). A crime/spy novel, also with a love-story and a nasty German villain. Somewhat clichéd.
  • Joan Aiken, Eliza’s Daughter, Castle Barebane, The Silence of Herondale and Foul Matter.
    I love most things written by Joan Aiken and will definitively write a post about these.
  • Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary.
    A great read, reviewed here.
  • Shari Lapena, The Couple Next Door.
    About which I ranted here.
  • Louise Erdrich, Tracks.
    The next book in my Erdrich series – very good, but I’ve only read half so far.

A good reading month was August.

Keep safe, world.

Project Hail Mary

Having read a glowing review of Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary, and having liked the film The Martian, which is based on another Weir novel, I was curious and looked at the preview on Amazon last Friday. That preview was enough to seduce me to download the Kindle version and spend the rest of the day and a good bit of the night in gobbling up the book. What was so thrilling? Well, for one thing, the main character, one Ryland Grace, is stranded in space with no memory of how he got there. We get the story how he copes with his current situation interspersed with his returning memories, as flash backs.

HailM

The gradual revelation of the background kept me glued to my Kindle screen, but the unfolding events in Ryland’s present did the same – there are no slow parts to the novel, everything is fast-paced and plot-driven. I’m sure that this novel, like The Martian, would make an excellent sci-fi film. I don’t want to go into details, as that would spoil the novel if you haven’t read it yet. But now that I’ve read it, I’m also sure that I will revisit it whenever I feel like a reading a very engaging novel, anticipating my favourite moments in the story.

Although the novel is plot-driven and there isn’t really much character development, there are some very emotional scenes, which brought tears into my eyes, so it’s not only mechanical plot progression without feelings. At first, Ryland seem a little emotionally cold, but that’s due to his amnesiac state.

I really enjoyed the novel, despite the use of some plot devices I normally don’t care for but which, surprisingly in this case, didn’t reduce my enjoyment. I’m going to put those quibbles under the cut, because they are a bit spoilery. Don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoilered.

Read More »

Tuesday Tidbits

Already my work week is almost done. Time flies. I had my second Corona vaccination today, the BionTech one. As with the first one, I got it at my company, so I commuted in the morning and returned home in the early afternoon. There wasn’t much traffic, but I can still do without the commute. The office was still pretty empty, as it is vacation time coupled with the fact that most people are still doing home office. I brought my tea and lunch sandwiches from home and didn’t see anybody, except for some unknown colleagues when I was getting my vaccination (which was very fast and very well organized, like last time).

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As I was driving to work, I heard on the radio that there had been a tragic accident on one of the motorways involving a driver who had, presumably by mistake, entered the motorway in the wrong direction. On Sunday, on our trip back from Bavaria, we had to pass a large and confusing construction area at an Autobahn junction. I’m used to it, because I’ve driven through that construction site a few times already, but the signposts are not very clear and a couple of times I thought that I missed an exit or took a wrong one by mistake. It wasn’t actually the case, it always worked out fine, but it’s definitively confusing. Well, on Sunday, I saw a car standing at a closed exit facing the wrong way and looking as if they were going to drive onto the motorway on the wrong lane, in the wrong direction. There was a lot of traffic and I could hardly believe that someone would do it. I considered calling the police, but there wasn’t anywhere to stop, and Mum can’t deal with smartphones, so I left it for someone else to call. A few minutes later, I actually heard a warning message on the radio about a driver on the wrong lane at just that junction. Must have been that same person. Fortunately, in that case no accident happened. In German, these drivers are colloquially called Geisterfahrer, that is “ghost drivers” – meaning that these people are basically courting death, their own and others, because obviously it is extremely dangerous to drive onto the motorway in the wrong direction. I’ve never seen it before, and I can’t understand how anyone can do that in the case we had on Sunday. If hundreds of cars are coming head-on at you in the lanes you are trying to enter, doesn’t that indicate that you should turn around or at least stop? That something must be wrong? Or is it such a stressful situation that your brain just shuts down? Very strange. Although, as I said, partly it must have happened because the construction signage and everything else at that junction is currently so confusing.

We returned late on Sunday instead of early as usual because I was trying to avoid a lot of traffic jams. Some of the northern German states had the last day of their summer school holidays and lots of vacationers were on the way back traveling in the same direction as we did. My tactic paid off – there was a lot of traffic but only a couple of short traffic jams.

The weekend in Bavaria was rather nice. The weather was changeable, but I managed to mow the lawn and get rid of the gardening rubbish at the collection point. I did the usual amount of grocery shopping and cleaning (that is, not very much). Walks with Curious Dog were also, as always, on the agenda. The rest of the weekend was spent reading – inspired by Naemi of A Book Owl’s Corner, I looked up Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary on Amazon and was hooked. I downloaded it on Friday afternoon (even though I had meant to finish my unread books bought this year before getting more new ones) and finished reading it late that night (stayed up very late). It really drew me in. I’ll write a more detailed review soon (it was very engrossing, but in places it did require a lot of suspension of disbelief). On Saturday, I got back on track with my reading, with A Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell, which I had downloaded in March. It’s about Maxwell’s life with otters, very interesting – I have mixed thoughts about the book, which I will also devote a separate post to (keeping wild animals as pets, generally not a good idea). When I finished that one, I started a biography on Maxwell (which I’d also got in March, because Maxwell was such fascinating person). I’ve just started it. I didn’t get any further with Aristotle’s Metaphysics as I wanted something lighter to read on the weekend. I’ll get back to it.

Along with everybody else, I found out last week that Amazon Prime’s series about the Second Age of Middle-Earth is planned to start next year on September 2. I am so looking forward to it!! I love The Silmarillion. It’s still ages till the series’ start, more than a year – I’m definitively planning to reread The Silmarillion beforehand, so that I will be up to speed on the background. So much fun to be looking forward to another filmed version of Tolkien’s world. Reminiscent of waiting for the three installments of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Keep safe, world.