Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 5

My fifth post about my project to read the entire Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King. Previous posts include:

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 1
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 2
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 3
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 4

Since my fourth post in July, I’ve read five more of the series:

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Pirate King

In this novel, Mary Russell infiltrates a film crew that’s shooting a film Pirate King (based on the musical The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan). She’s the assistant and general dogsbody of the film’s assistant director and has to cater to the whims of the eccentric director. The rehearsals for the film take place in Lisbon while the filming itself is to happen in Morocco. Russell is supposed to find out whether a missing previous assistant was murdered because she found out the film’s directors may be involved in criminal activities (drug smuggling and/or gun running). While investigating, she is also supposed to chaperone or otherwise look after a dozen young actresses who are being wooed by their disreputable acting colleagues, a shady lot of fishers (or smugglers?) hired in Lisbon to play pirates. Things take a sinister turn when the decrepit hired “pirate ship” under its sinister captain reaches Morocco and suddenly the actresses, including Russell, are confined in a well-appointed town house. Russell and Holmes (who joined the film crew later than Russell) must solve the mystery of what’s going on while keeping Russell’s charges from harm.

This was a zany novel, but quite amusing. It was fun seeing Russell hassled by those young actresses and the exotic settings in Lisbon and Morocco was interesting.

Garment of Shadows

Hard to believe, but Mary Russell quite enjoyed working with the film crew of the previous book and stayed on in Morocco to take the starring role in the next film, The Pirate Queen. Horrified, Holmes goes off travelling through Morocco while Russell enjoys her brief sojourn on the film set. However, when Holmes returns, he finds that she has gone missing. This novel is about politics in Morocco between the wars. There’s an uneasy peace between the French colonial powers lead by a distant relative of Holmes’ one Hubert Lyautey (an actual historical figure) and the Moroccan resistance. We meet again the cousins Ali and Mahmoud Hazr (from O Jerusalem and Justice Hall). They are spying for Mycroft Holmes but become disillusioned with their roles because they develop sympathy with the rebel leader. There’s a lot of action in this novel. At the beginning, Russell has lost her memory due to a head injury.

This one was really good. Russell’s way of dealing with her amnesia was well done and the whole novel was very exciting. The novels that feature Ali and Mahmoud are some of my favourites in the series.

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Dreaming Spies

Of these five novels, I liked this one best. It’s basically two in one: one plot deals with an acquaintance Russell and Holmes made some years ago while on a ship on their way to San Francisco via Japan. They interrupt their journey in Japan, where they give aid to the Japanese emperor (in a round-about sort of way). I absolutely enjoyed reading about their travels and investigations in Japan. The second storyline involves a character they dealt with in Japan and it’s basically a continuation of the first plot, because some ends were not tied up and lead to England, namely to Oxford, Russell’s home base. Their interaction with their Japanese acquaintance leaves Russell and Holmes outsmarted for a change.

The Murder of Mary Russell

Did or did she not get murdered? Holmes has a few anxious days… the series continues, so basically the reader knows that Russell didn’t get killed, but it was still a good tale. The most interesting thing about it was the backstory we get about Mrs. Hudson, Holmes’ housekeeper and Russell’s substitute mother figure. Also, there’s a bit about Holmes as a young man which was also fascinating.

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Island of the Mad

A friend of Russell’s from her time at college (who also appears in the second book of the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women) contacts her because an aunt of hers has disappeared. The aunt was visiting the family home, on leave with an attendant from Bedlam, the mental institution, where she had been living for years. Not only does she disappear, but also jewels from the family safe. Did the nurse do away with her charge in order to steal the jewels? Were the two in cahoots? Russell investigates and is blinded by her unwillingness to face facts, which I ranted about previously.

Despite my annoyance at Russell’s uncharacteristic obtuseness (not to mention that of Holmes), I liked the novel because of the interesting info about Bedlam, the rise of fascism in Italy, and the roaring twenties in Venice. It’s part of the charm of the series that it has so many unusual settings.

I’ve now read almost all the currently available novels in the series; there’s only two more to go. I’ll be all caught up and can wait for new installments to be published (that will probably take some time, as the last novel came out this year). It’s been an enjoyable journey and I hope the last two books will live up to the others – I might get round to them this month, definitively in December.

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

Sadly, I already broke my goal of posting once a day in November by not posting anything yesterday. I just didn’t feel like it because I was totally busy, as I always am on the days we travel from Bavaria to Baden-Württemberg or the other way round. I should have written a post in advance… I guess.

Anyway, yesterday I got up quite late and took Curious Dog on a slightly shorter walk than usual on Sunday mornings. I’d packed my office stuff and clothes the night before, but still needed to pack my books, all the left-over food, Curious Dog’s things (he’s got his own bag of toys, leashes, and towels). Then we had to check that everything was properly locked up and ship-shape and load all our bags into the car, so by the time we got started, it was almost noon.

The trip was fine. Almost no traffic, no traffic jam at the construction site on the Autobahn junction so that I didn’t need to take the alternate route I’d looked up on Google maps. There was a lot of rain on the way, but luckily it didn’t rain when we arrived, so that I could unload all our bags without getting wet. But it must have rained recently, because when Partner and I took Curious Dog on his afternoon walk, CD got totally muddy because all the paths through the fields were in a terribly muddy state (and still are – it was another mud-fest this morning). Fortunately, we have a lot of old towels which we use to clean and dry CD after our walks.

After the afternoon walks, I cooked a creamy soup made of potato and leek. It turned out very nice. Just some potatoes cooked with two stalks of leek in vegetable broth, some ginger, a small onion, and a few chili flakes, a bit of sweet paprika and curry powder, some fresh garlic. After the vegetables were done, I pureed the soup with an immersion blender, added some soy milk for creaminess and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for taste. It turned out very nice. I love soup anytime, but most of all on rainy autumn or winter nights.

IslandMad

By then it was quite late and although I set up my home office again, in preparation for work today, I really wasn’t inclined to post anything.

Today has been the usual Monday mess. The usual lot of Monday meetings and in addition post-deadline quality stuff to deal with. People who should know better doing stupid stuff and mailing me about their problems. Their mails showed them to be super clueless – I like helping new hires, but if I have to explain elementary stuff to colleagues that have been working with our tools for years and still don’t know what they are doing… And it’s always the same colleagues. They always seem to think that the software is out to get them (it probably is, by now). When I see their particular names on e-mails in my inbox, it’s time to roll my eyes. Sometimes it’s quite funny.

There was no time for anything except meetings before lunch and after lunch I had to do some obligatory trainings. They were easy and only took about half an hour, about stuff which isn’t anything I need to deal with in my daily work (thankfully). Then another couple of meetings, a short coffee-break and the afternoon walk with Curious Dog. Nothing very exciting.

I finished reading Laurie R. King, Island of the Mad, the 15th novel in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes yesterday. That’s why I got up late on Sunday, I was reading in bed when I should have been packing. That hunch I had about why the missing person had gone missing (I talked about that in my last post) was correct and Mary Russell had apparently kind of known the reason all along but “had managed to squirm out from the unpleasant hypothesis” (p. 318 of my edition, a Bantam paperback from 2019). That was probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever read in the series. Even if Russell had managed to ignore this hypothesis, what about Holmes? He should have caught it. That’s the problem with characters that are established to be a great deal more intelligent than normal people. It’s just not believable when they make normal-people mistakes. This novel is definitively not my favourite in the series, but I found other things in it to enjoy that made up for this silly plot device. These novels usually have interesting settings and in this case it’s 1925 asylums for the insane in London and Venice as well as life for rich expats in Venice. And the rise of fascism in Italy and, to a lesser degree, in Britain. That did make for interesting reading.

Keep safe, world.

Another Busy Day

On the morning walk with Curious Dog it was foggy but we had a pleasant walk anyway. We met up with one of CD’s dog friends, but she was accompanying a Husky, who didn’t look too pleased to see Curious Dog. Curious Dog also wasn’t too pleased, but he apparently decided that he couldn’t take on a Husky and then pretended not to see him and instead spent five minutes sniffing all around the verge of the footpath until the other two were way ahead. It was quite funny and a lot more relaxed than if the two dogs had thrown a fit. Curious Dog is quite canny about the dogs he’ll get upset at. They can’t be too large or too many (he never gets mad at two or more dogs). He’s got two favourite enemies, one here in Bavaria and one at my place and they are both small male terriers. They hate him right back. Mostly CD is friendly with other dogs, especially if they are female.

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After the morning walk, I had to drive to the supermarket in the next village as I’d forgotten some stuff yesterday (it always happens). On the way, it was still foggy, but on my way back half an hour later the fog disappeared and the sun came out. It was quite hot in the south-facing rooms of the house. After lunch, I vacuumed everywhere and later cleaned the bathroom. Mum did the kitchen and also baked a very nice apple roll which we tasted after a stint in the garden. We didn’t do much, it was still too wet, but I cut back one of our lilacs and Mum tiedied up some potted plants. At three 3:30 p.m. the fog started coming back. By 4:00 p.m. the sun was gone, and I had another foggy walk with Curious Dog in the woods.

In between vacuuming and gardening I spent an hour reading Islands of the Mad (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes part 15). I’ve read slightly less than half the novel and I have a strong hunch about why the missing person chose to go missing. I’m looking forward to finding out if my guess is correct. Annoyingly, Mary Russell doesn’t seem to get it which either means that I’m wrong or that she is obtuse. It’s kind of annoying if she’s not seeing the obvious, because she’s supposed to be a genius. Or maybe my guess is wrong in which case the author laid a false trail which would also be annoying. Still, I’m enjoying the read. It’s a nice change from my non-fiction November tome From Dawn to Decadence of which I also read more than a few pages this morning in bed because I woke up early and couldn’t fall asleep again.

After I’ve posted this perfectly unexciting report of my day, I’ll power down my notebook, dismantle my home office setup and pack everything up ready for tomorrow’s trip back to Baden-Württemberg. Our next week in Bavaria will be at the beginning of December. The second half of this year has passed so fast. It seems a few weeks ago I was moaning about the summer workload and now it’s already time to start thinking about Christmas presents and how long my vacation should be over Christmas and the new year.

Keep safe, world.

September and October Reading

I read more in August than in September and October combined. I was busy with other stuff on most of the September weekends and as weekends are my main reading time, I naturally couldn’t read as much as I usually do. I’m lumping September in with October, which was a better reading month, but also not optimal. I was on vacation and did things with my family and only read a bit every now and then. Still, October was passable, as my vacation only took up the first half of the month. Here’s the list of books read:

 

Ongoing project:
Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
I read a few pages, but not very many. I need to prioritize it in November and December to get through it this year.

Poetry:

  • Roger Lonsdale (ed.), Eighteenth-Century Women Poets.
    I’m about three-quarters done. Some of the poems in this anthology are very good. It’s a mixed bag, but no worse that poems by the more well-known male 18th century poets. I’m enjoying it.
  • Heinrich Detering (ed.), Reclams Buch der deutschen Gedichte.
    I continued reading this poetry collection in September (too unwieldy to take on vacation). I’m not yet done but should be done soon. I quite like my foray into German poetry.

Non-Fiction:

  • Robert Alter, The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age.
    A short book that explains the elements of style that distinguish literature from other texts. I enjoyed it a lot.
  • Adrienne Rich, Essential Essays: Culture, Politics, and the Art of Poetry.
    This was a kind of companion to Rich’s Selected Poems that I read in April. Some of the essays were very good, others I  didn’t find particularly memorable.
  • Mitchell Zuckoff, Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11.
    Inspired by the 20th anniversary of 9/11. A detailed look at what happened during the terrorist attacks, with a focus on people’s experiences. Terrible and moving.
  • Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography.
    An amazing tome that I spent about three weeks reading.

Novels:

  • Laurie R. King, The Murder of Mary Russell.
    The 14th in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Not bad, but not one of my favourites.
  • Louise Erdrich, The Bingo Palace.
    The next novel in the Love Medicine series. It was great.
  • Halldor Laxness, Fish Can Sing.
    The first book I’ve read by this author from Iceland, who won the Nobel Prize. I once had a Nordic phase, where I read all the Icelandic Sagas (very good) and I’ve always wanted to try a novel by Laxness. I enjoyed it a lot and am up for reading others by him.
  • Anthony Trollope, Phineas Finn.
    The second of Trollope’s Parliamentary series. I read the first one, Can You Forgive Her, last year but never got around to writing a review. I still remember it because it was great. This one had a slow start but improved in the second half. My only Victober read for this year.

Children’s Literature:

Jutta

  • Helga Marten, Juttas großer Tag (German for Jutta’s Big Day).
    I found this one, which used to be a great favourite during my childhood, while I was sorting boxes of old books to get rid of. I reread it, still mostly liked it, and kept it for nostalgic reasons.
  • Robert O’Brien, The Silver Crown.
    Also one of the books I discovered, reread and kept. A classic fantasy story
  • Michelle Magorian, Goodnight Mister Tom and Back Home.
    Two books set in or just after WWII in the UK. The first is about a young boy sent to the country for safety, the second about a young girl just returned from America, where she had been sent during the war and the difficulties she faced on her return. An awful depiction of boarding school life – quite the anti-Blyton version. Both books were good reads.

I plan to write more detailed reviews for most of these books, so I didn’t go into much detail in this list. I’m rather behind with my reviews. As I only did one post in October, I haven’t managed to review the books I read in August. This will give me lots of topics to write about this month when I’m planning a post per day, to get back into the groove and catch up on things. I managed it last year and hope to manage it this year too – as I said before, it’s my NaNoWriMo project.

Keep safe, world.

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.

July Reading

In an unprecedented display of efficiency, I’m actually posting my July reads at the end of July instead of sometime in the next month. The reason is that as my cousins are visiting from Friday to Sunday, I won’t get much more reading done, so I might as well do my wrap-up today.

SilverBrumby

Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji
I read a few pages this month but not that many. I’ll have to pick up again next month.

Poetry:

Roger Lonsdale (ed.), Eighteenth-Century Women Poets
I started this anthology for Jane Austen July and am enjoying it very much. I’m about half way though and will continue with it till I’m done. It’s a shame that these poets aren’t more widely known, as they are just as good as male poets.

Short Stories

Robert L. Mack, Arabian Nights’ Entertainments
I didn’t make much progress with this either, but I’ll keep at it.
Also short stories by Laurie R. King listed with the novels.

Non-Fiction

  • Claire Tomalin, A Life of My Own
    This was also a round-about Jane Austen July book. It was very good, see my review if you are interested.
  • Peter Martin, Samuel Johnson: A Biography
    This one I reviewed yesterday. Not bad but only if you are interested in the details of Samuel Johnson’s life. But in that case, you should start with Boswell’s Life, which is great.

Novels

  • Jane Austen, Persuasion
    Read for Jane Austen July – very good.
  • P.D. James, Death Comes to Pemberley
    Also part of Jane Austen July. I reviewed it and Persuasion here.
  • Janice Hadlow, The Other Bennet Sister
    Another excellent (except maybe a bit long) novel for Jane Austen July, reviewed here.
  • Laurie R. King:
    • Mary Russell’s War and Other Stories of Suspense
    • The Language of Bees
    • The God of the Hive
      My ongoing project to read all of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, reviewed here.
  • Elyne Mitchell, The Silver Brumby
    Revisiting my childhood with this lovely book about the adventures of a special wild stallions in the mountains of Australia. I wrote a bit about it in this post and then felt the need to read it once again. It’s very good and available on Kindle. My edition is an old library book which I got second-hand, which has lovely drawings of brumbies and other Australian wildlife (see the photo above).

July was a good reading month – I read a lot and managed to write all the reviews this months, too. I’m not sure if I ever managed this before. I hope you also had a good time reading in July!

Keep safe, world.

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 4

This is my fourth post about my project to read the entire Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King, which I used to be keen on, but then lost track of. Previous posts:

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 1
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 2
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 3

I’ve now read the next three installments in the series, books 8, 9 and 10, as well as a short story collection. Three of the books I read in Bavaria last week:

Locked Rooms

In this novel (which I already read in June), Russell and Holmes travel to San Francisco, where Russell spent part of her childhood before it brutally ended with the death of her mother, father and younger brother in a car accident. The story starts with our two protagonists on the ship bound for SF. Russell is plagued by strange dreams, has trouble sleeping and is irritable. Holmes becomes quite concerned, but later on we find that the dreams are due to Russell’s subconscious grappling with traumatic experiences she had as a child: the 1906 earthquake with it’s destruction of much of San Francisco and, at 14, the fatal accident of her family where she was the only survivor. Russell had been convinced for years that the accident was partly her fault, but this novel clears up what really happened and why.

For much of the novel, Russell denies that anything is wrong or that her family might have died for other reasons than just a random accident. Holmes therefore starts investigating behind Russell’s back (or at least without her involvement in his investigation). He teams up with Dashiell Hammett, the well-known writer of hard-boiled detective novels who worked for the Pinkerton detective agency (in real life). This was a fun little gimmick.

I liked this novel, because we learn something of Russel’s background before she met Holmes and because her childhood traumas are put into their proper perspective.

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The Language of Bees

The novel is set directly after Locked Rooms. Russell and Holmes have just returned from America when a relative of Holmes turns up, needing help. The novel is about the involvement of the relative’s wife with a budding cult leader (I don’t want to reveal who the relative is, because that would be a major spoiler). The wife has disappeared and later her husband also disappears with their young daughter. It becomes a thrilling race against time to save the child and her father – let’s just say that the cult leader has some rather gruesome plans.

I really liked this book, as it contained some new revelations about Holmes and the story was thrilling. It is the last of my re-reads in this series. It ended on a bit of a cliffhanger (although not a very urgent one).

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The God of the Hive

This novel goes on where the last one left off. Weirdly, I got it when in came out in 2010 but never read it until last week. Somehow, I lost momentum with the series and never found a good time to go on reading until this year, when I restarted the series from the beginning.

It turns out that the would-be cult leader was manipulated by another mastermind, someone who in this novel becomes very dangerous to all the members of the Russell/Holmes family, including Mycroft, the all-powerful spymaster. Most of the novel Russel and Holmes spend in hiding from the villain, but of course, they manage to foil him at the end. Some memorable secondary characters were introduced (some of which will turn up in later books) and all the open plot lines were nicely tied up. Russell had a bit of a (to my mind silly) crisis of faith in Mycroft, but otherwise it was an enjoyable read. I should have read it when it came out.

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Mary Russell’s War

This is a collection of short stories some of which give some more and interesting background to some of the staples of the series. We get a story with Holmes point-of-view of his first meeting with Russell, we get some more of info about Russell’s childhood and a story when she is 92 years old. This one was rather strange as Holmes was still alive (!). He would have been about 128 years of by then, which was pretty unbelievable (there’s a bit of a joke about that in the beginning of the book). I’m kind of interested in how Russell would deal with Holmes’ death, since she is so much younger than him. So, I thought that this story was a bit of a cop-out. Still, it was tongue-in-cheek, so maybe I’ll get my “death of Holmes” novel at some time in the future.

The collection should not be read earlier in the series, as it contains some, if mild, spoilers for some of the novels in the series.

All-in-all, still a very enjoyable series and I’m thrilled at the prospect of now reading only completely new-to-me installments.

Keep safe, world.

June Reading

June was an average reading month; as anticipated, I didn’t read as much as in May. Here’s the list of books I read:

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Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
After having caught up in May, I didn’t get round to continuing this novel in June (neither did my reading buddy). I’ve started up again and will catch up in this month of July. It’s a good read, I don’t know why I keep letting it lie.

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 read most of the first volume up to and past Goethe and Schiller in the chronology. At the moment, in July, I’m giving it a rest, because I’m focusing on women poets of the 18th century for Jane Austen July. But I will return to the German anthology again in August.

Short Stories:

Robert L. Mack, Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.
I haven’t been reading much in the Arabian Nights, but I have made some progress. I’m at about two thirds.

Non-Fiction:

No non-fiction in June.

Novels:

  • Martha Wells:
    • Fugitive Telemetry.
    • All Systems Red.
      The first was the new novella in the Murderbot Diaries which I liked so much that I was motivated to red the first installment, All Systems Red, again. I mentioned it briefly here.
  • Laurie R. King, Locked Rooms.
    Number 8 in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. I haven’t posted about it, as I’m waiting until I’ve read another one, so that I can do a combined post. It was a good read, I love the series.
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun.
    My favourite read this year so far. Here’s my review.
  • Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate and Other Novels.
    A very enjoyable collection of three novels for which I wrote a review.
  • Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police.
    The novel we read in my book club. It was very interesting and I’m still planning to write a review.
  • Caroline Alexander, The Iliad.
    This was a great reading experience, as I discussed here.

So, I didn’t read as much in June as I did in May. Not sure why I didn’t, maybe I just had too many other things on my plate. I’m still happy, I didn’t have a reading slump or anything. It’s a bit strange that I didn’t manage a non-fiction book. Maybe I’ll get around to one in July, although I haven’t got one planned at the moment.

Keep safe, world.

Tuesday Tidbits

When Partner was away, I drove to the garden centre where Mutti and I bought our small raised bed and I got another one plus some herbs and salad to plant in it. I got some more chives, some red-veined dock (mostly because it looked nice, but it is edible), some savory, some Thai basil (hoping that it will be hardier than normal basil), some lemon thyme, a chili plant and two salad plants (one romaine lettuce and one that I’ve forgotten the name of). Mum and I assembled the wooden bed, filled it with earth and planted the plants. They are doing really well (we’re already using them to season salads and other dishes), but I’m worried about next week, as we will be going to Bavaria again for 10 days and it’s supposed to turn quite hot, without rain (the last four or five days have been pleasantly cool and very rainy). So now I’m planning to put up a sunshade made from an old bed sheet above the plants and half drown them before we leave so that hopefully they will survive. They only get direct sun for about three hours every afternoon, so I think they have a chance.

Last weekend was a long one, due to the public holiday last Thursday (Corpus Christi). Partner returned on Thursday, which was super. For once I did the baking and made a rhubarb cake. A flat yeast bottom (like pizza, only sweet), rhubarb on top and a crumble on top of that. It lasted for three days and was tasty. Tart (because of the rhubarb) and sweet (because of the crumble). As Partner had returned early, while I stayed in bed reading and then had to take Curious Dog for his walk, he insisted on helping me with the cake when he arrived. He wouldn’t take “no” for an answer (he’s like that, always very helpful) and peeled and cut the rhubarb for me.

Last Friday, I had to get Curious Dog some new kibble. The last two 15 kg bags are almost used up and so I drove to the dog food shop and picked up another two bags. On the way back, I stopped off at a market and bought some fresh asparagus. I also did the usual cleaning and vacuuming, but there was also a lot of time to relax and read or watch movies. I tried to get an appointment for my Corona vaccination, because my company has now started vaccinating the employees, but lots of my colleagues also tried to get the vaccination, so it didn’t work out. There’s not enough vaccine for everyone. I’ll try again every Friday until I get my appointment and maybe I’ll also sign up at a local vaccination centre (now that it’s possible, as the prioritization has been dropped in most German countries). I’m actually not unhappy that I didn’t get an appointment for this week at my company, as we Mum and I will be driving to Bavaria on Thursday and that might not have been possible if I’d had a bad reaction to the vaccine. Mum’s got a doctor’s appointment next Monday in Bavaria and I would have hated to miss it.

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Partner and I continued watching The Underground Railroad. We are almost done, only two more episodes. As I’ve said before, it’s dark and powerful. Very unsettling. The only thing I don’t like about the series is that it is literally dark. Very often the scenes are set at night, or in dark places, and you can’t really see much. That’s annoying. We also watched the next episode of The Bad Batch (fun) and Raya and the Last Dragon on Disney+. I liked Raya a lot. The animations were lovely, the world-building great and the story was enjoyable. It was adventurous, funny, sometimes sad, with a happy end. Nice entertainment.

On Sunday, we watched the latest Tatort (Crime Scene) episode, but I didn’t like it much. It was one set in Berlin and somehow, I don’t like the police detective duo in the Berlin episodes. I don’t like their personalities and how they interact, so I’m not sure if I will watch another episode set in Berlin.

Yesterday, we watched an absolutely depressing documentary about the trade in apes, that is, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas. The population of those animals are declining very fast, because they are hunted for bush meat and to sell off the babies. They end up in terrible totally exploitative conditions and the states who are members of the Washington Convention (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) don’t do anything. In fact, government officials are often bribed to turn a blind eye. I can understand why poor people might kill and sell endangered animals, but those government officials aren’t poor. They are just greedy. It’s very sad for all the people in all the countries that work to safeguard the apes but are not supported by their own leaders. If this illegal trade is allowed to continue, soon there won’t be any apes living in freedom in their traditional habitats.

To turn to a less depressing topic, I read a lot on the weekend:

  • Martha Wells, Fugitive Telemetry.
    This is the 6th novella in the Murderbot Diaries. I loved it. I read it once, quickly and then reread it straight away. Then I went on and reread the first of the series, All Systems Red, just because I was in the mood.
    I’ve also discovered that there’s a short story set in the Murderbot world that I haven’t read yet, but I’m keeping it for a treat for later.
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun.
    I got this one from my birthday (in March) from Partner. It’s great. Blew me away.
  • Laurie R. King, Locked Rooms.
    A reread, 7th in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Also very good.
  • The Iliad (translated by Caroline Alexander). I only started this one.
    I read the Iliad in German ages ago, either while I was still in high school or while I was at university and didn’t love it. I thought I’d give it another try. I want to read the Odyssey in the translation by Emily Wilson, but the Iliad is kind of the prequel and I didn’t want to read one without the other. Now I’m loving the Iliad (maybe the translation is better or maybe I’ve just changed as a reader in the 20+ years since I last read it). I plan to finish by the end of June. Later on this year, I want to read some of the retellings of ancient Greek myths by authors like Madeline Miller, Jenifer Saint, Natalie Haynes and Pat Barker.

I’ll provide a more detailed review of those books soon (I hope).

I also continued reading Arabian Nights, which I also want to finish in June, and I read some more German poetry. I had a great long reading weekend and managed to do the normal amount of housework and a bit of weeding in my small garden as well. I felt quite accomplished by Sunday night.

I’ve got another long weekend coming up because I’ve taken next Monday and Tuesday off. On Monday there’s Mum’s doctor’s appointment (just a check-up) in the afternoon. I want to use those two days for some gardening and other chores at our place in Bavaria, but I’m sure I’ll also get some reading in. I’m too lazy to work in the garden all day (and it looks like it will be too hot in the afternoons anyway). I should also get an appointment for Curious Dog to get his yearly vaccinations. There’s lots to do in Bavaria.

Work is picking up again. I’ve planned my tasks for this and next week around my days off (I’m also taking this Thursday afternoon off, for the trip to Bavaria, as I didn’t feel like working on Friday instead. There’s lots to do, but at the moment things are manageable, knock on wood that it stays that way (it won’t, I’m pretty sure).

Keep safe, world.

May Reading

This morning I felt a bit of Weltschmerz. Memento mori and all that … what’s the point of reading or anything really when it all ends in death? I think I was feeling gloomy because Partner isn’t here, but sometimes I just have these sad feelings. However, they went away when I got up, showered and had breakfast and especially during my lovely walk with Curious Dog. CD is the best and the sun was shining, the birds twittering, the flowers in the fields, the crisp morning air… It made me feel thankful and glad to be alive. The point of life is loving-kindness (I think).

Anyway, here’s the list of books I read in May. Most of them I’ve already posted about (a rather astonishing feat of efficiency that I hope to be able to keep up – sometimes I wait so long to post my reviews that I start forgetting the details).

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Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
I’ve managed to catch up. It’s very good, although also very strange. Eventually, I’ll write about the reading experience. I’m glad my friend and I chose this classic to read.

Poetry:

  • Mary Oliver, Dog Songs.
    A lovely little illustrated volume of poetry celebrating the author’s dogs. This one I haven’t managed to post about yet, but it’s on my to-do list. If you like poetry and dogs, it’s for you!
  • Tim Kendall (ed.), Poetry of the First World War.
    A very good selection, with some biographical information about each poet and a good introduction. Due to the subject matter, the poems can be very brutal. They really show up the horrors of war, but also the fleeting joy that is sometimes found in unlikely places. I’m glad I read it.
  • 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 only read a bit of the first volume and find it very interesting.

Short Stories:

Robert L. Mack, Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.
Not really short stories, more like folk or fairy tales, but they are good. I’m a little more than half-way through.

Non-Fiction:

  • Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name: A Biomythography.
    See my review.
  • C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism.
    See my review.
  • John Bayley, Elegy for Iris.
    See my review.

These three books were all very good in their own way.

Novels:

  • Sally Wright:
    • Watches of the Night.
    • Code of Silence.
    • Breeding Ground.
      See my review. I liked these crime novels. They were a good read and I went on a small binge.
  • Laurie King, The Game.
    See my review. I’ve now reread the first seven novels of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Soon I’ll get to ones that I haven’t read yet (but the next couple or so will still be rereads). Also a very good series.
  • Ellery Queen, The Glass Village.
    See my review – an unexpected good read.
  • Louise Erdrich, The Beet Queen.
    Read last weekend, the review is still pending. I enjoyed it a lot.

May was a great reading month. I read a lot, probably due to the couple of long weekends we had, with the public holiday before Whitsun and then Whitsun (or Pentecost) itself. Lots of time for reading and the weather was pretty bad, too. It was nice to hunker down cozily with a hot cup of tea or cocoa laced with rum and read crime and other books. Probably won’t get round to so many books in June, but it’s early yet.

Keep safe, world.