30 January 2017

Reading report, 30 January 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is "a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week."

Visit the Book Date to see what various other book bloggers have been up to in the last week.

As for myself, I reread two books last week, and finished one first time read.

The rereads were:
  • Dogs and Goddesses by Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart & Lani Diane Rich. I needed a bit of zany fantasy and this fit the bill perfectly.
  • Crazy For You by Jennifer Crusie. A nice bit of romantic suspense.
  • The first time read was Marco Polo's Silk Road: The Art of the Journey. I'll say nothing about it for now, as I intend to review it.

As for other activities, I continued to weight-lift and then went on a long hike yesterday with my hiking group. This was a good 18 km in length, starting out on trails and then going on to trackless, rougher terrain alternating between beaches (sandy/rocky) and terrain composed of very tussocky stretches interspersed with short stretches of very rocky terrain, and then onto roads for couple of kilometres before we reached our cars (the cars are driven to the end-point, and the hikers are taken by bus to the starting point and then they hike back).

I was unlucky enough to forget my phone at home, so I could not track the hike, but my father was with me and he brought a GPS tracker. I also forgot to bring a camera, but never mind: it was cold and quite windy so I buried my head inside the hood of my sweater and that of my down jacket and wrapped a scarf around my neck, with the result that I could barely turn my head and my field of vision was mostly limited to the people walking ahead of me. I could only really look at the landscape when we stopped. I would love to repeat at least the wild part of this hike in good summer weather.

This is part 2 of an 8-part serial hike from Reykjavík to Botnsdalur, a beautiful nature area in Hvalfjörður. We go every second Sunday, and the last hike will take place on the Sunday after Easter Sunday. This suits me just fine, as on the following weekend I am setting off on an adventure...

27 January 2017

Friday links, 27 January 2017

I still have quite a backlog of links, so these are mostly older:

One interesting link related to writing but not to books: 

The list:
Today I'm linking to two lists. The first is a list of books about Africa, but is characterised by a scarcity of books by black African authors. The second list remedies this. There is only a tiny overlap. I've read 5 books from the former list, and none from the second list, but I'd like to remedy that*.
*I.e. When I've finished my 850 or TBR books.

 Finally, a book I would like to read:

25 January 2017

What I found inside Marco Polo's Silk Road

I've mentioned this book in my last two Monday reading reports, and commenters have been showing some interest in it, so I figured I would review it. First, however, I thought I'd mention what I found inside it. The review will come once I have finished reading it.

I buy most of my books second hand, at a rather marvellous charity shop not far from where I live. Since the shop lies between my home and the two supermarkets where I do most of my grocery shopping, I often stop by there on my way to buy groceries.

Sometimes I come out empty handed, but occasionally I emerge with a stack of books, or a bag of yarn, a new-old handbag or some other "necessity" of life.

Because most of the books are second hand, I often find stuff inside them. Most often it's a bookshop receipt, but sometimes I'll find a boarding pass or a handwritten note, a postcard or a purpose-made bookmark. On this particular occasion I found three items inside: a bookmark, a paper tag and a printout of an email with a content list for what I assume to be a home-made cosmetic. Here are the bookmark and the tag:

 The tag reads: "A Christmas book" and was given away with books at a local bookshop around Christmas a few years back. You can also see one of sumptuous background graphics that grace many pages of the book.

I like the cheekiness of this label. I think it came from a handbag rather than an item of clothing. I intend to add a ribbon to it and use it as a bookmark to remind myself that sometimes there is no shame in buying what you want.

It turns out that three place-markers are actually necessary when reading this book if one intends to get the most out of the experience, as the text is heavily peppered with endnote references. There are also photographs on many of the pages but none of the photos are labelled, so if you want to know what you're looking at, you need to refer to a list at the back of the book. Bookmarks are useful for this when the book is resting, but I use my fingers to keep my place in the endnotes while I am reading, and have decided to just enjoy the photos as they come for now and check up on the references later.

23 January 2017

Reading and activity report, 23 January 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is "a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week."

Visit the Book Date to see what various other book bloggers have been up to in the past week.

  I didn't do a whole lot of reading in the last week. I decided to focus on crafts and listen to podcasts and was quite productive.

Through the week I worked on an adult-sized Call the Midwife blanket.

During the weekend I took a break from the monotony of the blanket and made two amigurumi toys.

These are all yarn buster projects - I own a lot of yarn and decided it was time I used some of it.

 I did finish a couple of books:
Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie was a reread. This is a 20th century reimagining of The Turn of the Screw, or perhaps it's about what happened after the house was disassembled and then rebuilt in Ohio. Here's the author's explanation.

I love the cover!

The Hollow by Agatha Christie. Audio book read by Hugh Fraser. The detective elements in this novel would fit nicely into a short story, but never mind: it's the characters and their relationships and mind games that make up the bulk of it, and that is highly enjoyable.

I also started listening to Christie's Endless Night, but could see the conclusion a mile off after less than one chapter, and since I found it depressing, I stopped listening to it. This is not a good time of year for me for books with depressing endings.

I'm still reading Marco Polo's Travels and expect to finish it this week.

Other stuff:
One thing I forgot to mention last week, perhaps because it has nothing to do with books, is my quest to find a type of exercise I actually enjoy. Exercise is a must for me, as it helps keep my blood sugar at acceptable levels. However, finding exercise I actually enjoy has been a pain.

I find aerobics, running, stationary bike exercise and machine workouts boring. I like dancing, but would have to find a stranger to dance with because no-one I know wants to take lessons with me. I classify Zumba as a glorified form of aerobics. I loathe competitive sports, so team anything is out of the question. I love cycling but after an accident involving black ice that damaged my knees I no longer cycle during the winter. I like swimming, but I don't like the light-headed feeling I get after spending a long time in the water.

My favourite form of exercise is walking and hiking, but I felt I needed something that would exercise more of my body than just my leg muscles and my heart. I could, of course, go for pole-trekking to exercise my arms as well, but I'm such a klutz that I would probably end up accidentally stabbing someone with my trekking poles or putting a spike through my foot.

Last year I participated in a 6 week exercise programme that alternated Spinning, Body Pump training and Hot Yoga, and quickly found that Spinning was definitely not to my liking (seriously, if you get intestinal cramps 10 minutes into the exercise, it's not for you). I did like the Body Pump exercises, but would gladly have swapped out the Hot Yoga for Hot Fitness or Pilates. Additionally, I am not masochistic enough to try the Boot Camp training someone suggested to me.

At the beginning of this month I finally bit the bullet and decided to try weight-lifting, and I also joined a hiking club. The weight-lifting entails three hour-long sessions per week and I'm now on my third week and I love it! The muscle pains after the first class were so horrendous that I had difficulty getting up and down the stairs at my house (I live on the fourth floor and there's no elevator...), but by the second week I was already lifting heavier weights and doing deeper stretches than in the first week, and I can see myself continuing with this exercise once the programme ends. I have done one hike with the hiking club, and discovered that all the walking I have been doing has paid off so well that I barely felt tired after covering 11 km in 2,5 hours.

20 January 2017

Friday links, 20 January 2017

I haven't done one of these in a while, and in the meantime I have been stockpiling links.


Not about books:

No Friday Links post would be complete without a book list: Top 10 dictionaries according to The Guardian.

Just one more:
I came across this book at the EST Translation Congress in Aarhus, Denmark, last September, and really regret not buying it, because it was available there at a discount. I am decidedly not going to buy it because it is EXPENSIVE, but I would love to read it.

I might try for an interlibrary loan, or I maybe I'll try to mooch it off my colleague who did buy a copy.

16 January 2017

Reading report, 16 January 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is "a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week."

Visit the Book Date to see what various other book bloggers have been up to in the past week.

I have only finished two books in the last week. The time that would have been spent reading or listening to a couple of other books I instead used to listen to a number of podcasts. In the last few months I have been exploring the BBC website and finding podcasts to listen to and I have discovered some that I like and others I am ready to like but haven't listened to enough to decide if I do.

Among the former are iPM, a program where listeners are interviewed, often revealing extraordinary stories; More or Less, where statistics are discussed and sometimes set right; Woman's Hour, a long-running program for women where everything and anything of interest to women is discussed; and Elements, where the role of the elements in the world's economics is explained.

I already enjoyed listening to Excess Baggage, a travel programme that was cancelled in 2012 (I still have some episodes to go before I finish it, and as a matter of fact, I'm in no hurry), and Thinking Allowed, a program on sociology.

iPM is the only one I have caught up with, so I still have plenty of episodes to catch up on, which is just as well because I am running out of audio books to listen to while I do my crocheting.

Ah, yes, crocheting. I went through my projects and finished several that I had put aside while I finished a bedspread I made for my mother for Xmas. I tried to upload some photos, but Blogger wasn't having any of that, so on the the books:

The books I did finish were: 

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. I'd forgotten how much I like Hemingway's prose. This is the first non-fiction book of his I read, and it is definitely going on the keeper shelf.

Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie. Audiobook read by Hugh Fraser. A fine standalone detective novel.

In the next week I expect to finish Marco Polo's Silk Road: The Art of the Journey, a sumptuous edition of Polo's Travels, based on two 19th century English translations, and also a reread of Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie, a ghost story that shows us (possibly) how The Turn of the Screw might have ended if the governess in that story had had some sense...

09 January 2017

Reading report, 9. January 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is "a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week."

Visit the Book Date to see what various other book bloggers have been up to in the past week.

The reading year began well for me. I have finished three books so far, which is considerably fewer than the same time last year, but they were good books.

First came Thee Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann.

I found the idea of the story intriguing: a herd of sheep, a mixed bag of an old Irish heritage breed and some other breeds, some of them rescue animals, find their beloved shepherd dead in their pasture, a spade lodged in his abdomen. The humans around them don't seem too concerned or eager to investigate, so the sheep decide to solve the mystery themselves.

There is a sequel, about what happens to the sheep after the case is solved.

Then came Maigret and the Wine Merchant by Georges Simenon.

One of the things I love about Simenon's crime novels is that they are usually not all about finding out whodunit, but rather about proving that a particular person did it and finding out why. There is sometimes some uncertainty about the killer's identity, but it is usually cleared up around midway through the story, and the rest is a psychological chess game with the killer on one side and Maigret and his team on the other.

In this case, a rich wine merchant is murdered and no-one seems to care overmuch. Maigret's investigation reveals a man obsessed with being the boss, with an apparently insatiable appetite for sex that's driven by a need to dominate. A lot of people might have wished him dead, but who had the nerve?

The final book was All Fishermen Are Liars by Linda Greenlaw.

I first found out about Linda Greenlaw when I found her first book, The Hungy Ocean, at a book sale and bought it on a whim. I grew up in a fishing village in northern Iceland and heard and read a lot of sea stories. It was therefore interesting to read a sea story from another fishing culture.

This book is a collection of sometimes funny, often hair-raising sea stories, possibly true, possibly not, probably somewhere halfway in-between, framed by the story of the author and her concerns for the health of a good friend and her attempts to persuade him to go into retirement. I have another one of her books on my TBR shelf and will read it soon - if I can find it.

05 January 2017

Most memorable books I read in 2016

I have just tallied the books I read in 2016, and they come to 234 (oops, forgot some that were on my Kindle, so  make that 246), only including those I finished after a full reading. I also skimmed several more, maybe 20 or so, but they don't count. When you read this many books in one year they tend to blur together into a muddle of indistinguishable plots, characters, pages and covers, even some of the good ones. However, I keep a scoring system for the books I read, and so I can go over them and use the list to jog my memory. 

Books were judged memorable by the simple expedient of taking the top-ranking books from my list of read books, removing all rereads and then weeding out the others until I had narrowed the choice down to the 16 books I remember the best from the year's reading. If there had been any memorably terrible reads I would have included them, but I generally stop reading such books as soon as i realise how terrible they are.

Note that memorable does not necessarily mean the book was particularly good or that I placed it on a keeper shelf, only that I found it memorable enough that the whole story more or less flashed before my eyes as I read the title from the list. This, in itself, is a certain measure of quality, but by no means the only one, or even the best one. If truth be told, I read only a scant handful of books last year that I would be willing to reread, another measure of quality.

It's funny, but I don't think I have ever had so few books on my end-of-year list that had a title beginning with the definite article: only two.

Half the books were non-fiction. Broken down by genre there were:
2 travelogues and 2 books about humans and their relationships with each other and with nature;
one historical biography; one book about the food industry; one history book; and one you might call a documentary, as it's combination of travelogues, history and profiles of Volkswagen Transit campervan owners and their vehicles.

The fiction books partially parallel the non-fiction. There are:
3 historical novels, of which one is biographical; 2 detective novels, of which one is historical; two fantasies, of which one is an animal story (of sorts); and one novel (which is also a prison break story of sorts).

I finished all of these books in the second half of the year, and 14 of them after I began book blogging again.

I may do a statistical analysis of all the books I read, but don't hold your breath waiting.

The books were, in alphabetical order of author (foreign authors by last name, the Icelandic author by first name, because that's how we do in in Iceland):

  • Ben Aaronovitch : Rivers of London. Urban fantasy detective story. Lots of Good Book Noise over this one.
  • James Anderson : The Affair of the Mutilated Mink. Historical murder mystery. Lots of chuckles and a couple of outright laughs.
  • Tim Butcher : Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart. Travelogue, reportage.
  • Annie Caulfield : Show Me the Magic: Travels Round Benin by Taxi. Travelogue.
  • Agatha Christie : Five Little Pigs. Murder mystery.
  • Rob Cowen : Common Ground. Humans and nature. Evocative and lovely, but ultimately lacking.
  • Emma Donoghue : Room. Novel. By turns sweet and harrowing, and a very emotional read.
  • David & Cee Eccles : Campervan Crazy: Travels With My Bus. Coffee table book.
  • Gretel Ehrlich : The Solace of Open Spaces. Essays about humans and nature. More Good Book Noise.
  • Einar Kárason : Ofsi (Rage) and Óvinafagnaður (A Gathering of Foes). Historical novels, based on the Icelandic Saga of the Sturlungs.These are the first two books in a trilogy, but unfortunately the last book, Skáld (Skald) didn't live up to the expectations awakened by the first two.
  • Christina Henry : Alice. Urban fantasy thriller. Dark and imaginative pastiche.
  • Daniel Kehlmann : Measuring the World. Historical and biographical novel. Funny and made me want to read more about the characters and the time period.
  • Ian Kelly : Casanova. Biography. More Good Book Noise. Not only a portrait of a man, but also of the times he lived in.
  • Felicity Lawrence : Not On the Label: What really goes into the food on your plate. Reportage. Scary and sometimes revolting. I still don't have much of an appetite for chicken.
  • E.S. Turner : What the Butler Saw: Two Hundred and Fifty Years of the Servant Problem. History.Very informative social history of an often neglected underclass.

01 January 2017

My November and December book haul, pt. 2

Happy New Year! 

These are the rest of my November and December book haul:

First photo:
  • I bought the Billy Connolly book because I saw an episode of the TV series some years ago and liked it.
  • The Bro Code is a rescue book. I was never regular watcher of How I Met Your Mother, but have enjoyed the few episodes I have seen, and decided this might be interesting.
  • A Light in the Attic I got because I have enjoyed Shel Silverstein's song lyrics and drawings and have hear good things about his poetry.
  • Feathered Friends is a colouring book my mother gave me. I have a fair number of adult colouring books that I use as inspiration for my own art and this was a nice addition to the collection.
  • Dr. Mütter's Marvels is the kind of intimate history book that I love to read, and  
  • The Science of Discworld IV is the final book I needed to complete my collection of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. It's the only new book among those shown.

Second photo:
  • Being an agnostic, I like to read literature that both supports and denies the possible existence of a higher power. One of the points of agnosticism is a willingness to explore both sides of the religious argument and therefore a book like The Portable Atheist is a good text to sample various aspects of the anti-God side of the argument. God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, who edited this collection, was also available, but I decided to rather choose this, to get a flavour of the atheist argument rather than one man's point of view. 
  • The Disappearing Spoon is a book I read in 2012 and enjoyed hugely, but it was a library book and so had to go back to where I got it from. Now I have a copy of my own to reread whenever I want!
  • The Year of Living Biblically describes one of those ludicrous things that people sometimes do. In this case, the author decided to follow the Bible's precepts for behaviour for one year. I'm interested to see what happened. It might be a disaster or it might not, but it only cost me 100 kr., so it's not a big deal if I don't like it.
  • High Tide in Tucson is a collection of essays by Barbara Kingsolver. I love essays, and look forward to reading these.