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Dreams & Goals for 2017

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Every year is another chance to look back, figure out what went well and what didn't, and think of ways to make the next year even better.  I call my list "dreams and goals," instead of "resolutions."  What I've discovered, especially this past year, is that you don't know what unexpected opportunities may pop up or how you will change as a person.  It's good to dream and plan, and it's also healthy to let yourself be flexible and spontaneous.

A few dreams / goals I met in 2016:
Read 25 books.  Some of them were short, and one or two of them were quite long (I'm looking at you, Mack).  It felt great to make a dent in that TBR list!Take photos.  I started learning about photography in earnest.  Will continue this one in 2017.Love my neighbors.  That is, I tried to love the people with whom I interacted in "real life" and online.  As we all have experienced, it's been a contentious year.  More than ever I realized the struggle - an…

The Chronological Sherlock Holmes Challenge: Full schedule

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In the interests of planning ahead, I thought it might be a good idea to go ahead and post the full schedule for the challenge.  Let me know if you see any typos.
There will be weekly check-in posts for each short story, and one post for each 3-week novel.All book formats are welcome (audiobooks, ebooks, translations, etc.) Feel free to drop in at any time!  No blog posts required.  :)Click on any story to go to the check-in post for that week.

January
Week 1  (Jan 1-7):  "The Gloria Scott"
Week 2:"The Musgrave Ritual"
Week 3:A Study in Scarlet
Week 4:A Study in Scarlet
Week 5 (Jan 29-Feb 4):  A Study in Scarlet.  (Finish by February 4th.)

February
Week 6 (Feb 5-11):  "The Speckled Band"
Week 7:"The Yellow Face"
Week 8:"The Red Circle"
Week 9 (Feb 26-Mar 4):  "The Beryl Coronet"

March
Week 10 (Mar 5-11):  "The Resident Patient"
Week 11:"The Reigate Squires"
Week 12:"The Second Stain"
Week 13 (Mar 26-Apr 1):  &quo…

Top Ten Books of 2016

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This week's topic is the Top Ten Best Books of 2016, from The Broke and the Bookish.

My top ten, in approximate order of reading (oldest to most recent):

Works of Love - Soren KierkegaardIn the Land of White Death - Valerian AlbanovNot Forgotten: The True Story of My Imprisonment in North Korea - Kenneth Bae.  Reading this memoir filled in the blanks of the story of someone who'd been on my prayer list for a long time.  It also shows an emotional, yet undramatized picture of the North Korean people as Bae encountered them.  Despite the fear, guilt, and uncertainty that Bae experienced in his imprisonment, you find a greater sense of hope, for him and for the North Koreans.  I also strongly recommend Jeffrey Donenfeld's blog post Exploring North Korea and Running the Pyongyang Marathon, either by itself or as a companion to this book.  Donenfeld's post and photos give you a poignant context to North Korea as it was just after Kenneth Bae was released.The Man Who Was Thurs…

The Forest Giant (Le Gigantesque)

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Since watching Lawrence of Arabia last year, I've been actively seeking books written by or related to T. E. LawrenceThe Forest Giant, by Adrien Le Corbeau, is one of the more obscure books.
Lawrence, for the most part, withdrew from politics after the disappointing Paris Peace Conference.  However, he continued to write books and critique literature - writing was one of the few pieces of his past life that he actually still valued.  His French-to-English translation of a book called Le Gigantesque was published in 1924, and along with Homer's The Odyssey, it is one of the few of his written works that are non-autobiographical.

I seem to recall The Forest Giant has been referred to as a "novel," but it is really a philosophical ramble.  The "giant" referred to is the California redwood, and Corbeau explains his thoughts and questions through the journey of the tree's life.  Lawrence was enthusiastic at the beginning of the book, but by the end of his …

Russian Literature Challenge 2017

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Ok - I saw this challenge, hosted by Keely, and decided it was irresistible.  In 2014 I participated in o's Russian Literature challenge, which was awesome, so I'm more than ready for another Russian lit focus!

I'll be aiming for a large Level 2 "Chekhov"; these six books:

Forever Flowing - Vasily Grossman.  I heard about Grossman from one of my favorite book bloggers, SRK, and this sounds like a really good novel.The Letter Killers Club - Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky.I loved this author's writing style in Memories of the Future.  This book is about a club of story tellers who are committed to writing nothing down.  Cancer Ward - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while, a Powell's splurge.  The Soviet era interests me, for academic and personal reasons, and I'm eager to read more by Solzhenitsyn, since he is one of the most famous Soviet authors.Five Plays - Anton Chekhov.  One by the man himself!  I haven't read any …

2017 Mount TBR Challenge

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This year, I had fun tackling books that had been on my TBR mountain for a while, so I want to do it again in 2017.  Again, it'll be Pike's Peak (12 books) for me, which really is a challenge.  This is my list as of today, subject to change if I happen to acquire more books this month...
Till We Have Faces - C. S. LewisThe Children of Hurin - J. R. R. Tolkien✓  (My siblings bought me this book when it was practically fresh off the printing press in 2008, and I'm sorry to say I've been procrastinating mightily.  No more!)The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro✓ (did not finish)The Begum's Millions - Jules VerneNostromo - Joseph ConradFelix Mendelssohn: A Life in LettersThe Twentieth Century - Albert RobidaCancer Ward - Aleksandr SolzhenitsynFrankenstein - Mary ShelleyPeter Pan - J. M. BarrieRecollections of Japan - Hendrik DoeffHighlands and Hollows - Dallas Lore SharpStar Trek: Federation - Judith and Garfield Reeves-StevensOptional/alternative:  The Count of Monte Cr…

The Chronological Sherlock Holmes Challenge

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12/29/16 edit: Full schedule here.

Two years ago, I started on a rereading of the Sherlock Holmes series, with the intent of reading the stories in the approximate order that they occur in Holmes's lifetime.  I didn't get very far, but I never abandoned the concept.  It's been about ten years since I first read the complete Sherlock Holmes, and he is my favorite fictional character.  It's time to get serious about this overdue challenge!

So - I'm revamping it in under the wordy title of "The Chronological Sherlock Holmes Challenge," 2017-2018 edition.  This is a 16-month mission to read all 56 short stories and the four novels.  Of course, the series could be easily read in half a year, but I want to take my time, blog about each tale, and leave room for other reading, too.  If anyone wants to join, I'd love to share the discussion!

The idea is:
Read the stories in the order found on this Sherlock Holmes Timeline...with one exception.  I really can't…

Mount TBR 2016 - Recap

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For this recap, something a little different.  I was mighty pleased with the little mountain of to-be-reads I climbed, so everyone's a winner - and they all get awards!  Thanks to Bev for hosting this challenge!


*** The Unexpected New Favorite Award *** An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro
This was a thrift store find I bought on a whim.  I was greatly moved by this fictional historical memoir, written by Ishiguro (of The Remains of the Day fame).  An aging Japanese man realizes his past is not creating the bright legacy he had envisioned.  Subtly written, yet incredible.
*** The Finally, Finally Read It Award *** The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane
I liked the beginning of this book a lot.  That made the ending somewhat disappointing.  However, I had to admit it is a worthy American classic, with good writing and thought-provoking scenes.
*** The History Is Disturbing Award *** Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron - Nicholas Fraser, Marysa Navarro
This is supposedly the bes…

Reading England 2016 - Recap

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When I joined this challenge a year ago, I had every intention of branching out and reading books from multiple counties.  As it turns out, I stayed in familiar territory and read London for all three books (Level 1).

The Mint was a fitting sequel to Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  For some reason I went into it expecting a novel, but it's actually a journal-like memoir of T. E. Lawrence's peacetime experiences in the military.  After his campaigns as "Lawrence of Arabia" - and, as importantly, after his attempts to deal with politicians - T.E. was sick of being a leader and wanted to disappear from the public eye.  He joined the service under an assumed name, and that is where he found a place of security and camaraderie, the R.A.F.  The Mint is a coarse novel, written in a modern voice (for the times) and full of all the profanities and vulgarity that Lawrence encountered around him.  I found myself unable to rate the book, because it came across as an honest, unidealized…

A month of writing

For those who still read this blog - a little update!

Though I have so many ideas for posts, both reading and book reviews have been put on hold this month.  For the fourth year in a row, I've joined Nanowrimo, which is an annual challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in November.  The really exciting part is I'm actually on track to win this year (winning = reaching 50k words).  This will be a personal first.  :)  I've never got so far before, and this kind of dedication, to something of my own, is really unusual for me.  Hopefully I might even finish early, before the 30th!

That said - once Nanowrimo is over, I'll be back blogging again.  I am so excited to talk about my reading challenges from this year, as well as new books and new TBRs that have come my way.  Some upcoming posts might cover:
The Picture of Dorian GrayRecap of the Reading London ChallengeRecap of the Mount TBR ChallengeA brief glance at other reads from this year (which I haven't reviewed in full)…

The Bookish Tag

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Saw this over at Kristin's blog Wool and Wheel...it's been a while since I did one of these, so I thought it would be a fun interlude to reviews.  Feel free to fill this out on your own blog, or in the comments - would love to read your answers!

1. What book is currently on your nightstand?  Right now, there's The Heart of the Antarctic (Ernest Shackleton), the Bible, my Nook, and my tablet.


Heart is turning out to be a lovely read so far - more informal and relaxed in tone than South.  Maybe it's the pre-War zeitgeist, or Shackleton's personal optimism at this earlier point in his experience.  His excitement over the ponies is rather sobering...considering he didn't bring them on the Endurance, I can only imagine how badly things will go on the Nimrod.  (But, I digress.)

2. What was the last truly great book that you read?  An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I'd recommend it to nearly anyone; it was that great.  The Japan he wrote about may b…

"...he might be understood; but not today."

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If you've been following me on Goodreads, you'll understand I have been reading books this year, while blogging at a record low.  Far from a lack of interest in blogging, my motivation was the need to take a break...I still consider myself on break as I write this.  However, I wanted to say a few thoughts on my longest read of the year (thus far) before removing all my markers in it and packing it off back to the library.

A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence was written by psychiatrist John E. Mack, published in 1976, and came highly rated (based on my internet research).  Let me take a moment to dissect that sentence: 
First off, I felt uncomfortable with the title.  The quote is not by Lawrence, and while it's provocative, I had no idea going into the book what the "disorder" refers to.  What a great and awful title for a biography.The author is not a historian by profession, but a different type of social scientist, a psychiatrist.  Interesting.…

A Deal Me In catch-up post

Hello again!  Hope anyone who is reading this is doing well and, if it's winter where you are, staying warm.  :) 

I was off to a good reading start this year, but the last month has been nothing short of hectic.  My excuse this time is I've been mentoring young programmers on a local robotics team, gearing up for a big competition next month.  Between work during the day and robots in the evening, reading was pushed to the back burner.  However, the bulk of our programming is completed, and now we can kick back a little and I can (hopefully) find time to read again.

I'm actually on track with Deal Me In; I've just not blogged regularly.  Here are the stories I've drawn for the last month or so (and yes, diamonds keep randomly showing up!).

Q ♣ Circles

This essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson is probably quintessential Transcendentalist reading.  In "Circles," Emerson encourages the reader to look at life in the form of circles - Venn diagrams, really.  He suggests …

7 ♦ Hansel and Gretel

I have memories of sitting in a computer science lecture and viewing a graph of what looked to be white noise.  "You may think it looks random, but a truly random pattern wouldn't look so evenly distributed."  This Deal Me In challenge is confirming it in every respect - my thorough shuffling may have been random, but that doesn't necessarily equal balanced!

I'll assume you know the story of "Hansel and Gretel"...there is really not a whole lot I can add to it.  It does bring me to the question - why are the antagonists in fairy tales so very often female?  And not just female, but in a twisted mother-figure role: the stepmother in "Hansel and Gretel," the stepmother in "Cinderella," the Snow Queen, all the witches, etc.  Now I'd be curious to know whether the original storytellers were male or female, and whether any of these stories were based on real life events.  After I finish this challenge, I think I'll be seeking out f…

Q ♦ The Snow Queen

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" His stuff always makes me cry.  :( "  That was my summary note, on finishing "The Snow Queen."  It's true; either his stories have aged well, or I have aged hardly, but Andersen always gets to me.  I shouldn't have put this one off, and I'm glad it came early on in Deal Me In (while it's still winter in the Northwest!).

"The Snow Queen" was the original inspiration for Frozen.  I love the story of Frozen, and I'm not sorry they deviated from the original, but "The Snow Queen" is as good a story as it is a different one.  It starts with a magical mirror that distorts the viewer's sight, so that if they look into it, all they see is bad things.  The mirror breaks into pieces that get scattered over the world and find their way into people's eyes and hearts, making them cold hearted.  At the same time, two neighborhood children, Gerda and Kay, find their friendship split apart when Kay disappears while sledding in the s…

J ♦ The Prince Who Feared Nothing

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The Prince Who Feared Nothing is another strange tale from the Grimm Brothers' collection.  It is about a young prince who, "sick of living in his father's house," goes off into the world to end his boredom by having adventures.  As is usually the case in the world of Grimm, his boredom is soon relieved by the equivalence of an R-rated film, when he falls into the path of an evil giant and vies against demons to save a beautiful princess from her spell.

It is hard to find a rhyme, reason, or moral to this story, since the prince is rather dense, not exactly "fearless" in the best sense of the word.  Some reviewers find the princess's subplot to be a racist statement; it could be, or it could be referring to some kind of disease, I'm not sure.  Either way, the story has a speed of narrative that is typical of Grimm tales.  Maybe after so many generations, the tale lost some of its old morals and meaning, and became simply one child's imperfect me…

Deal Me In 2016

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In 2015, I was on a roll with this challenge, then, eight stories in, failed as gloriously as I had begun.  On the bright side, I still have my list and eight new stories to replace the "read" ones.  I'm going to ace it this time (pun intended)!  :)

Challenge hosted by Jay at Bibliophilica.


A – Snow White - Grimm
2 – The Minotaur - Hawthorne
3 – The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights - Pushkin
4 – The Woman with Two Skins - African folktale
5 – Rumpelstiltskin - Grimm
6 – The Shadow - Andersen
7 – Hansel and Gretel - Grimm
8 – The Girl Without Hands - Grimm
9 – The Fir Tree - Andersen
10 – Puss in Boots - Grimm
J– The Prince Who Feared Nothing - Grimm
Q – The Snow Queen - Andersen
K – King Thrushbeard - Grimm


A – The Argonauts of the Air - Wells
2 – A Country Doctor - Kafka
3 – The Adventure of the German Student - Irving
4 – Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor - Kafka
5 – The Artist of the Beautiful - Hawthorne
6 – The Purloined Letter - Poe
7 – The Country of the Blind - Wells
8 –…