Monday, August 28, 2017

Bout of Books 20 Final Report

Bout of Books

Bout of Books 20

 I'm declaring it a successful Bout of Books. Even though I had a slow start and one day of online only reading, I read about 1500 pages, and did a couple of challenges.

What I read on a very quiet stay-at-home Sunday:

The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk, translated from the Estonian by Christopher Moseley
315 pages (127-442) Finished. It was a good fantasy allegory. Library book. 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
207 pages (59% on Kindle) started this digital Library loan. 


Monday:         80 pages
Tuesday:       116 pages
Wednesday:  156ish pages
Thursday:      257 pages
Friday:             58ish pages
Saturday:         305 pages
Subday:           522 pages

Total:           1,494 pages (plus or minus given that I estimated the online stuff)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bout Update (6)

Bout of Books

Bout of Books 20

Nice and quiet Saturday
Saturday Challenge: "Who's the character you LOVE to HATE? For today's challenge, share with us one (or more!) of the characters you love to hate."

When you read a lot of noir stories--as I do--you kind of love to hate most of the characters. Otherwise the stories wouldn't be noir. Like Mrs Danvers (in Rebecca) and Amy in (Gone Girl), the dark characters are what make the stories work.

Montana Noir by James Grady & Keir Graff, editors
179 pages(98-277) Finished
(I liked all of the stories in this anthology but some more than others. I've highlighted my favorites from today. Of the three I read on Thursday,

  Fireweed / Janet Skesien Charles
  Dark monument / Sidner Larson
  All the damn stars in the sky / Yvonne Seng
  The road you take / James Grady
  The dive / Jamie Ford
  Bad blood / Carrie La Seur
  Oasis / Walter Kirn
  Motherlode / Thomas McGuane
  Trailer trash / Gwen Florio
  Custer's last stand / Debra Magpie Earling
  Red skies of Montana / Keir Graff

The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk, translated from the Estonian by Christopher Moseley
126 pages (12-137) Wasn't sure I wanted to stay with this but I'm 1/3 through so I guess it's a go.

Monday:         80 pages
Tuesday:       116 pages
Wednesday:  156ish pages
Thursday:      257 pages
Friday:             58ish pages
Sturday:         305 pages

Saturday, August 26, 2017

August (fourth week) 2017 Reads

This is brief because it is Bout of Books 20  week I have posted every day.

“Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: California by Sean Bernard (in Watchlist : 32 stories by persons of interest)
A group of friends in a California suburb periodically receive very short film clips featuring a popular TV host. They are puzzled, yet fascinated, by the brief clips. Some appear to be outtakes from the show's filming, others seem to have been shot for the sole purpose of preparing mysterious clips to be sent to the group.

Card: 3  of Hearts

This week I chose to showcase this gold leaf deck, rather than isolate a specific card. Why gold? Well the TV personality in the story is identified only as "The Host" but most Californians will recognize him as Huell Howser the host of the series "California's Gold" which ran on KCET from 1991-2012.
Deck is for sale on several online shops.


Old Hong Kong Mahjong  by Vicky Wong.
Article about the only female carver of Mahjong tiles in Hong Kong. Nicely illustrated with photos by the author. (I spend Tuesday mornings playing Mahjong)

 For Centuries, Readers Annotated Books With Tiny Drawings of Hands by Anika Burgess
"They were the medieval version of a highlighter." 

Yesterday (Friday) was an online only reading day which I reported in my Bout Update (5) posted earlier today. 

from the library... 

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World  by Peter Wohlleben, Tim Flannery (Foreword), Jane Billinghurst (Translator), Susanne Simard (Afterword) (Kindle edition)

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Kindle edition)
Too many notes. Is this a character study? A novel of place? of time? It tries too hard to be Victorian, tries to hard to be Essex. There are so many characters with conflicts within themselves and between one another that everything seems contrived and under developed.

Buenos Aires: The Biography of a City by

from my shelves...

The Boys by Toni Sala,  translated from the Catalan byMara Faye Lethem
Excellent story of how the tragic death of two brothers in a village affects those left behind.

Bout Update (5)

Bout of Books

Bout of Books 20

I know it's called "Bout of Books" but on Friday it was hard to concentrate because they are tearing up the street in front of my house, very noisy and distracting. So it turned into a short attention span online reading day. Saturday & Sunday should be better because I don't think they work on the weekend--the street will be a mess, but a quiet mess.

Did not do challenge.

Here is what I read on Friday

Approx 15 pages on comedy films from the BBC. (Hard to count pages as there are lots of pictures and lists.
The 100 greatest comedies of all time
What the critics had to say about the top 25
The full list of critics who participated – and how they voted
Why Some Like It Hot is number one
Does comedy differ from region to region?
Do men and women find different films funny?
Approx 8 pages (again lots of pictures, so hard to count--I'm thinking "time spent" on very bookish topics)
For Centuries, Readers Annotated Books With Tiny Drawings of Hands
17 Living Writers Currently Immortalized on Stamps 
Two Never Before Published Letters from Marcel Proust to His Neighbor translated by Lydia Davis
English Translations of Obscure Medieval Texts Go Online
Approx 10 pages (more pictures since this group is about art)
Ikebana – vision of transcendence 
The Divine Calligraphy
Enrique Chagoya, (Mis)Appropriation: Then and Now
Dan Woodger channels the fun of the beach for McDonald’s Japan
Geta Brătescu: Romania's remarkable avant-garde artist is more resilient than ever
Approx 25 pages (short stories)
Motherhoods by Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse, a Ruwandan writer; translated from French by Edward Gauvin. (4 pages)
The History of Grains by Gianni Skaragas in which Greek islanders witness the mysterious arrival of abandoned vessels. (5 pages)
Refuge By Dina Nayeri  (Excerpt from the novel, Refuge) The experience of an Iranian teenage refugee in Oklahoma. (14 pages)
Monday:         80 pages
Tuesday:       116 pages
Wednesday:  156ish pages
Thursday:      257 pages
Friday:             58ish pages

Friday, August 25, 2017

Bout Update (4)

What I read on Thursday
Bout of Books

Bout of Books 20

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller,
40 pages (99-139) that's as much as I had planned for this week.

Buenos Aires: The Biography of a City by James Gardner
105 pages (140-245) Finished the book. Very interesting and informative. library book

Montana Noir by James Grady &

The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk, Christopher Moseley (Translator)
11 pages (1-11) read the first chapter of this Estonian sci-fi/fantasy/allegory. I may or may not stick with it. library book.

Old Hong Kong Mahjong
4 pages (+ neat pictures) Online article about a carver of Mahjong tiles. (Spent Tuesday morning playing Mahjong)

Monday :        80 pages
Tuesday:       116 pages
Wednesday:  156ish pages
Thursday:      257 pages

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bout Update (3) & Thursday Challenge

Bout of Books

Bout of Books 20

Thursday challenge:
Book recommendation "If you like.....then try..."

OK: If you like...a relatively quick but fascinating read that really can't be compared to anything else then try...The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux.

The link is to the Goodreads page, my comments on the book are at my August (third week) 2017 Reads

Here's what I read on Wednesday 

Blogs, Tweets, Grams, etc.: spent a couple of hours looking at other participants updates (commented on a few). Some great reading and reading ideas there!
30 pages (approximately- counted blog entries & their comments as 1 page each; Tweets with their follow-ups as 1/2 page each; Instagrams as 1/4 page each. 

Buenos Aires: The Biography of a City by James Gardner
116 pages (23- 139) moving right along with this--am about halfway through.

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller,
10 pages (88-98) less than I intended but it's not an easy book.

Monday :   80 pages
Tuesday:  116 pages
Wednesday:  156ish pages

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bout Update (2)

Bout of Books

Bout of Books 20

Day 2, Tuesday, August 22
(note : not doing the Wednesday rainbow challenge)

The Boys by Toni Sala,  Mara Faye Lethem (Translator)
73 pages (143-216) finished. (Goodreads says this has 256 pages, but that's wrong by 40 pages.)

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller,
20 pages (69-88) this is a planned slow read so I don't expect to finish until October but will read some more this week.  (Follow link to learn more about the slow read project.)

Buenos Aires: The Biography of a City by James Gardner
23 pages (preface &pp 1-21) Just started this library book so will continue (maybe even finish) it this week.

Monday :   80 pages
Tuesday:  116 pages

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bout Update and Synopsis Challenge

Bout of Books

Bout of Books 20

Day 1

I read very little on Monday, I kept getting interrupted. Didn't even manage 100 pages.

The Boys by Toni Sala, Mara Faye Lethem (Translator)
 read pages 63-143. I started this last week, hope to finish it this week.

My Synopsis Challenge is for a book I finished on Sunday. Challenge: Synopsis Rewrite ("...rewrite the synopsis of a book from another character's point of view. Make it their story instead.)

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
It lives in the depths of Blackwater. It has lived there for longer than remembering. It likes to come to the surface from time to time. Years? Decades? Centuries? Time has little meaning, It doesn't know the 1800s are nearly over. It only knows that whenever It breaks the surface there are always more people with better ways of seeing a creature who can't bear to be seen. It only wants to rise to the surface, flop over, and feel the belly warming sun. But sunny days are the worst. So many people come out to the watery verge. No, best to come up at night, if at all.

This time is the worst ever. It means no harm but senses danger lurking everywhere. Not from the ring of children with their useless incantations, nor from the clergyman with his even more useless prayers, nor the drunks, nor the old codger skinning moles, not even from the silly mannish woman who thinks she can study It. It can set decoys to fool them. But the seeming weak ones are the ones to fear--the strange boy whose sight is too keen and the sickly woman whose hearing is too sharp. Will they be the ones to finish off It?

Or is It still lurking, waiting?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

August (third week) 2017 Reads

This week I continued with the Two Month reading of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller, plus three of my library holds came in so I'm juggling a bunch of stuff.

“Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: Happy This, Congratulations That by Lauren Fox, Illustrated by Roman Muradov
This story of a divorcee rebuilding her life while working in a supermarket bakery department is part of the CNET Technically Literate short story collection.

Card: 10 of Hearts which I found here on a rather complicated web site (but fun to explore). The artist is Emmanuel Jose.

I thought the pretzel cookies went nicely with the bakery in the story.

 from my shelves...

Lunatics, Lovers and Poets: Twelve Stories after Cervantes and Shakespeare
edited by Daniel Hahn and Margarita Valencia. Introduction by Salman Rushdie. Stories by Ben Okri, Kamila Shamsie, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Rhidian Brook, Valeria Luiselli, Yuri Herrera , Nell Leyshon (Goodreads Author), Marcos Giralt Torrente, Hisham Matar, Soledad Puértolas, Vicente Molina Foix, and Deborah Levy. Translations by Anne McLean, Lisa Dillman, Samantha Schnee, Rosalind Harvey, Frank Wynne, and Christina MacSweeney. Overall, an excellent  and diverse collection.

New Haven Noir by Amy Bloom (Editor)
Stories by: Michael Cunningham, Roxana Robinson, Stephen L. Carter, John Crowley, Amy Bloom, Alice Mattison, Chris Knopf, Jonathan Stone, Sarah Pemberton Strong, Karen E. Olson, Jessica Speart, Chandra Prasad, David Rich, and Hirsh Sawhney.

I really like the Akashic Noir series and this one is especially good. There is a real sense of New Haven, both the Yale part and all the rest.

The Madeleine Project  by Clara Beaudoux,  translated from the French by Alison Anderson
When Clara Beaudoux moved into a Paris apartment she found a storage room full of a former tenant's possessions. She decided to archive the objects on Twitter ( ) and try to discover more about the woman who kept them until she died. This book grew out of that documentation.

I enjoyed the book and was as fascinated by the author's dedication to the project as I was with the things Madeleine kept.

One object leapt off the page and triggered a bunch of personal memories. In a box that belonged to my grandfather we found a pair of binoculars exactly like this pair--including the same lined leather case--that Beaudoux found among Madeleine's things. How we loved to use them.

And here is some strange Food Prep on You Tube

Tarantino's Spaghetti:​
Wes Anderson's Smores:
Alfonso Cuaron's Pancakes:
Michael Bay's Waffles:​

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bout of Books 20

Bout of Books

Bout of Books 20

I'll give this a try. Just what I need--a gentle reading boost.

"The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 21st and runs through Sunday, August 27th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 20 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August (second week) 2017 Reads

This week we started Two Month Review #2.1: Introduction to Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller

This Icelandic novel promises to be a challenging (and rewarding) book. I will try to resist the temptation to read too far ahead.

The first read is a short one (pp 1-31) and the podcast is an informative one with the translator, Lytton Smith, as Chad's guest.

Last week I fell behind on my  “Deal Me In 2017!” short story challenge so I have two this week.

Last week's Story: The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut by Mark Twain (on my Kindle)
A clever story about a man who comes face to face with his conscious, there is a verbal duel, the man wins, society loses.

Card: The Ace of  Clubs from the Game of Authors. 

This week's Story: Egyptian Puppet by Vicente Molina Foix, translated by Frank Wynne (in Lunatics, Lovers and Poets: Twelve Stories after Cervantes and Shakespeare, edited by Daniel Hahn and Margarita Valencia; introduction by Salman Rushdie)
This anthology was put together to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the deaths of Shakespeare and Cervantes. Six English speaking authors were asked to contribute original stories inspired by Cervantes. Six Spanish language authors contributed stories inspired by Shakespeare.

This story was inspired as much by Shakespeare's times as much as by his works. It is not a retelling of any work, it is a telling of what life might have been like for one of the theater goers who attended one of the plays. Margaret attends a performance Antony and Cleopatra with her husband, a prison guard. The next day the husband disappears and this is the story of Margaret after that. It involves a meeting with a performer and a look backstage at the Globe.

As with all such projects, the quality and appeal of the stories vary. I suspect that I didn't start with the best although I appreciate the approach the author took with it. I look forward to reading the other stories.  The other authors are Ben Okri,  Kamila Shamsie, Juan Gabriel Vasquez, Yuri Herrera, Nell Leyshon,  Marcos Giralt Torrente, Hisham Matar, Soledad Puértolas, Deborah Levy, Rhidian Brook, and Valeria Luiselli.

The card was the Two of Spades: According to Rushdie in the introduction "We don't know if they [Shakespeare and Cervantes] were aware of each other...."

Perhaps they will meet in some future or alternate world and will be joined at the hip and collaborate on some wondrous, Spanglish, steampunk classic.

The card, appropriately, is from a sort of art anthology--the Collective Art Project (CAP) Deck: 52 Aces Playing Cards by Zeixs [2nd Edition] The 2♠ is by Argentine artist  Diego Hernan Mazzeo

And while I am on the subject of anthologies, here is an ambitious project: the Global Anthology "an initiative that highlights a work of prose from every country on Earth, as well as many nations, states, sovereignties, territories, and flag-less regions."  These are links to material in various online publications. Each piece is written in or translated into English and each writer is native to the country represented. Worth exploring.

And I finished this from my shelves...

Nowhere People by Paulo Scott, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
Not much to say about this fine novel. The info on Goodreads says it all. 

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Six Degrees: Austin to Thiebaud and back again

For the 6 Degrees of Separation Meme we start with Pride & Prejudice, a book I had to read in high school. I hated it then and don't especially like it now, although I've grown up enough to appreciate its importance in literary history.

(Cover is from the 1950 Signet edition--which may or may not be the one we read in the late 50s)

Austin just isn't my cuppa, but it takes me to another high school required reading which I did like...

...Les Miserables. I loved the book. Later I saw the musical when I was in grad school. I had a really cheap student ticket. My seat was in the back row of the balcony with little leg room. I was scrunched between two really tall gentlemen who had to sit spread legged thus considerably invading my space. We all tried to be nice--they actually stood up during much of the show. I stood through one long musical number so they could sit. There was much joking about how our situation gave a whole new dimension to the title of the play.
(None of the covers from the 50s fit any edition we'd have read in school so I went with this image from  Amazon. It's a playbill and ticket--probably a better seat than I had--for the show I attended in Boston 1988.)

And that little story leads me to a book I read in another cramped circumstance...

...The Octopus: A Story of California written by Frank Norris in 1901. I am currently reading this on my Kindle so I decided to read it in the car while waiting for someone who was having a long appointment. This was just a few days ago. I have often read in the car with no problem but I have a new car. I love my car but a compact is no match for a standard sedan for getting comfortable with a good ebook and this book is just not that good. It's all about farmers vs railroads in the early days of rail transport in the San Joaquin Valley. A classic California novel which, for me, hasn't stood the test of time.
(Boring cover 'cause it's a Kindle freebee)

This leads to a classic set in the same region which has stood the time test...

JohnSteinbeck TheGrapesOfWrath.jpg...The Grapes of Wrath another California classic (from 1939) which is also set in the San Joaquin Valley. I've read this a ton of times. When the book first came out many farming communities banned the book from schools and libraries. By the time I was old enough to read it the ban was pretty much gone. In 2002 it was chosen for the California statewide reading program.
(This is the cover from the first edition, which my parents had and hid because they lived in rural California. It's my favorite of all the covers for the book.)

And, staying in the valley, with still another California classic with a great cover...

...My Name is Aram, a 1940) book of linked short stories by William Saroyan about an Armenian immigrant family in Fresno. I read this during the summer between grade school and junior high.
 (Love these original covers!)

This leads me another California classic I read in the summer (different summer)...

 ...Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays (cover for first edition, which is the edition I read). This one is set further south and more recent (1970)
When I think of this book I vividly remember the character Maria Weyth aimlessly driving the freeways.

Those freeways lead me back north to Sacramento (Didion's and my hometown) for a step into the art world and an artist who was getting noticed in his field at the same time Didion was getting noticed in her field...

Wayne Thiebaud was painting cakes and ice <--cream cones when Didion wrote Play it as it Lays, but he later moved on to landscapes often featuring freeways.-->

   And all of this can circle back to---        
        ---Pride & Prejudice---


Because while I was reading P&P at Didion's alma mater,  Didion was beginning her career at Vogue and Thiebaud was teaching at the college which was to become one of my alma maters. Although I knew some of her family I've never met Didion. I did know Thiebaud (but not well) back in the day.