Tuesday, November 30, 2021

November 2021

 Good reading month for me. Read five books. If I had no life I could have added a sixth today, but you know, daddy needs money, so he's gotta work... 

  • A Legacy of Spies, by John le Carre. Another great addition to the Smiley universe, with the benefit of having an interesting character in my eyes (a Breton!). 
  • Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. Knocking book #1 off my list of 50 classics to read before December 2026. It was ugh, but now I've read it, so no one can make fun of me for reading the Cliff Notes instead of the novel in 12th grade. 
  • Empire of the Sun, by JG Ballard. And there is book #2 from the classics list! Great book. War book. Loved this. 
  • Kromosomoj, by Lorjak. My read for the Esperanto Sumoo this month. Fun book. Don't know that this would work in English, or be as exciting. 
  • Phantoms, by Dean Koontz. Scary. Can't wait till the wife finishes so we can rent the movie. 
Books bought this month (uh-oh):

  • Leviathan Falls, by James SA Corey. Best space opera in a long time (book #5 notwithstanding). Can't wait to read this. Sad it'll be over.
  • Stars and Bars, by William Boyd. I loved the first two of his that I read. I'm sure this will be good. Another author for whom I may decide to read the entire oeuvre. I very possibly might pick this for our family's book club when it is my turn again.
  • Flights, by Olga Torkarczuk. Bought based solely on her placement in awards (hello, Booker), and for the fact that it was just $1.99 in Kindle.
  • Starship Troopers, by Heinlein. Wife and I love his earlier (smaller) books over horrors such as Stranger in a Strange Land. Yeah, I said it. Re-read it. You'll realize you were wrong. Same with Ringworld. (Bleck!)
  • I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I've Ever Had, by Tony Danza. Yes, that Tony Danza. Had no idea he did this. Want to read about it.
  • Phantoms, as discussed.
  • American Moonshot, by Douglas Brinkley. Can't wait to read this. Read a "space" book last year (Leaving Earth) that was a bit dated. This looks so good.
  • The Good Soldier, by Ford Maddox Ford. On my "50" list and it came up for three clams, so I grabbed it. 
  • The Lost Shtetl, by Max Gross. Sounded good in the description, and again Kindle deal for $1.99, so why not try?
  • The Exorcist, by William Blatty. Another cheap deal and it is, after all, The-capital-T Exorcist!
  • The Arrest, by Jonathan Lethem. I loved his Motherless Brooklyn and this one sounds good. 
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. My wife says this is his best. We'll see.
Sad but those are my purchases. And only the Kindle ones. I also bought the following in dead tree versions:

  • Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin, by PG Wodehouse. This is the December read for the FB group I'm in (PG Wodehouse Book Club). 
  • Listen, by Joseph Kerman. Last year, or maybe 2019, I was on an Art kick, and read a bunch of books on art. This book always comes up for those who want to learn about classical music. I'll read this sometime in the new year. 
  • The Swarm, by Frank Schatzing. As discussed, this was my #GermanLitMonth pick. And I quit it. See my blog entry on why. 
  • BUtterfield 8, by John O'Hara. GREAT book. (So far.) I love this book. I love ingenue books. Gloria (again, so far) is an ingenue. This reminds me of other books. Full review to follow. (Yes, the U should be capitalized.)
I am probably missing some used books I might have bought, but now that I've started these monthly posts, I'll start keeping track. 

Oh, and to be fair (to my wallet?), most of my Kindle purchases are deals, in the $0.99 to $2.99 range. Also, I'm too tired now to add Amazon links to these books. But if you're planning on buying one of these books and wanna help me out, leave me a comment and I'll send you an Amazon link that'll give me a credit. Thanks! Smooches!

Edit: Oh, and I should mention I got the idea of doing monthly posts from Nick Hornby in his Ten Years in the Tub. I almost didn't read the book (got it from the library, so not in the above list) due to the stupid intro by Jess Walter, whoever the hell he is. (Member of the Polysyllabic Spree? Probably. Jackass.) He makes fun of a lady on a plane because she likes the second amendment. Why the hell would you even mention this? You're pissing off 50% of your potential readership! 

Anyway, I decided to try one 'chapter' of Hornby's and I was so happy I did. I love his writing and will finish that book. Thank you Nick!

Saturday, November 27, 2021


 Just finished Phantoms, my wife's pick for the family club. This is my first Dean Koontz. Not sure I'll read another. Nothing wrong with the author. I'm just not that in to horror. 

Spoilers may follow: There's a movie for this book. As I recall it had Peter O'Toole in it? I didn't want to look it up for fear that I'd remember about it and ruin the book. I don't remember it as the book has it, devil or demon, viscous liquid, what have you. And the characters. The whole other story line with the baby killer and motorcycle gang. They probably edited that out for the movie. Once my wife is done with the book she'll want to watch the movie. I predict she will be less than satisfied. Spoilers done.

But Phantoms was a much better pick than mine, Maynard's House. Phantoms was pure horror whereas my choice was more of a haunting. (And not haunting enough for my taste.) I'd read another haunting. Horror, though? Swan Song and The Stand were both great and I think are considered horror. But I'm good reading one every few years. 

Now what to read? I've still got the short stories I need to read from #ccspin #28. I've also been looking at BUtterfield 8 on my bookshelf. It's kinda been calling me. Language-wise, I found my three linguistics books in Russian and will pick one of them to read. My linguistics subject vocab is pretty good in Russian, so I feel whichever one I choose, I'll read it quickly. Still in my slow lead-up to Russian study for my language tests in early February. 


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Swarm no more

 I dumped The Swarm. Just got too preachy. Yes, I agree science and industry should get together, should work together. Yes, military and science should work together. Stop telling me.

It got to be too much. In the book two scientists (of the three I'd met by then) were talking to each other, repeating over and over again how science needs to work together with the oil industry. Yes, we get it. I withstood it for a few pages, but it finally became obvious I was hearing the author speaking instead of the two scientists. I don't need that. Even though the premise of this book intrigued me. 

So, sadly, my #GermanLitMonth is over. I'm off to my family book club's current choice, Phantoms, by Dean Koontz. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021


 I'm still translating Medalionoj for my writing group. I translated the first chapter, "Professor Spanner," last month and my colleagues enjoyed it. Well, enjoy is probably not the best verb when talking about Nazis making soap from human bodies. Now I'm translating a chapter called "The Hole." Imagine concentration camps and mothers waiting for their sons to return after WWII. Not the happiest of stories.

For those new-to-the-blog dear reader(s), Medalionoj is the Esperanto translation of the Polish-original novel by Nalkowska, fictionalizing actual Nazi atrocities. I don't know Polish, so I have only the Esperanto to translate. But I chose this book purposefully because I read the Esperanto version a few months ago, but also I found the actual English translation so I can "check my work" once done. My first chapter was quite close to the English version. I was happy with my translation!

I've been searching for and following (the few) blogs from translators. One such translator (Corinne, merci!) hosts the site Training for Translators. Experienced translators hold trainings for those of us out there who want to find out more about this career. I'm particularly interested in the upcoming Translating Official Documents. There was also one earlier this month that, if available to view after the class, I will pay for: Editing and Proofreading for into-English Translators. I've reached out to the site owner to ask if one can buy a course after the fact. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021


 Kromosomoj (Chromosomes) by Lorjak. In Esperanto. Spoilers follow. English after the Esperanto.

Interesa koncepto: se via patro estis seria murdisto, ĉu vi havas la genojn por murdo? La patro de Bernard Dubosk brutale mortigis multojn da virinoj, bruligante iliajn korpojn en forno. Nu, laŭdire. Li estis gilotinita ankoraŭ asertante sian senkulpecon. Ĉiuokaze, la edzino de lia filo malkovras ke ŝia nova edzo estas la filo de terura krimulo kaj maltrankviliĝas ke ilia infano heredos la "murdan instinkton."

Interese, la leganto kredas ke homoj ne povas heredi murdemajn intencojn tra siaj gepatroj, tamen la ĉefpersono kiu malkovras ke li havas la genojn kiuj estas konataj kiel la mistika geno. (Li ja estas sufiĉe agrablulo dum la tuta libro.) Sekva ĉapitro? Li malkovras ke lia reala patro estas katolika episkopo. Do ne, vi ne povas esti murdisto nur ĉar via patro estas, sed Oj vej! vi povas esti sanktulo se via patro estas.

La vort-ludoj estis bonegaj. Multaj adjektivoj-iĝi-verboj, kiuj estas unuj el la kialoj, ke mi amas Esperanton. Ekzemple: trudflegma: truda: adjektivo el trudi, difinas to force, to impose. Do, imposing? forceful? Plus flegma de flegmo: indifference, phlegm. Do, adjektivo (-a difinas adjektivo) difinas forcefully indifferent? Jen kial Esperanto estas interesa. Ho, kaj la sceno kun la kokido estas amuza.

Interesting concept: if your father was a serial murderer, do you carry the genes for murder? Bernard Dubosk's father brutally murdered a bunch of women, burning their bodies in an oven. Well, alleged. He was guillotined still claiming his innocence. Anyway, his son's wife discovers that her new husband is the son of a horrible criminal and worries that their child will inherit the "murder instinct." 

Interestingly, the reader is led to believe that people can't inherit murderous intentions through their parents, yet the main character discovers he has the gene which is known as the mystical gene. (He is, after all, a pretty nice guy throughout the book.) Next chapter? He finds out his real father is a Catholic bishop. So no, you can't be a murderer just because your father is, but boy oh boy you can be a saint if your father is. 

The words were great. Lots of adjectives-turned-into-verbs, which is one of the reasons I love Esperanto. For example: trudflegma: truda: adjective from trudi, meaning to force, impose. So, imposing? forceful? Plus flegma from flegmo: indifference, phlegm. So, an adjective (-a gives that away) meaning forcefully indifferent? This is why Esperanto is fun. Oh, and the scene with the chicken is funny.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Friday Book Beginnings

 Rose City Reader hosts Friday Book Beginnings, and I'm taking part today! Technically I'm not starting the book today, but I should be done with my current read (Kromosomoj) tomorrow. 

The Swarm is the book I posted about yesterday. A big book, I'm so looking forward to reading a good scifi book as it's been a while. 

Juan Narciso Ucañan went to his fate that Wednesday, and no one even noticed.

--The Swarm, by Frank Schatzing. 

November being #GermanLitMonth, this fits. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Kromosomoj, and an update

 Kromosomoj is going well. I'm a bit over half done. Very good Esperanto, very creative use of word building. 

Speaking of Esperanto, I'm still translating the book Medalionoj, on chapter 2. It's fun trying to find the right words. I've read a few books on translation in the past year or so, and looking to read some more. If I can find The Translation Studies Reader or The Craft of Translation, I'll read those soon. 

Language-wise, besides Esperanto, I'm working still on Middle Egyptian. Just submitted exercises 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6. We have to use a particular transliteration schema called Manuel de Codage. And we're doing adjectives now; they follow the noun btw.

nDr iqr: (an, the) excellent person

sxr iqr: (an, the) excellent plan

Those are just two examples.

I'm only reading two books currently, which is unusual when one of them is a foreign language. I can read two fiction books as long as one is not in English. And a non-fiction book, too. Now I'm reading Kromosomoj, already mentioned, and The Kaiser's Holocaust, about Germany horrible history in South West Africa (Namibia). 

But after?!?! This month is #GermanLitMonth (hosted by Lizzy and Caroline), where one reads a book or three from a German author. My German is only a 1+ (DLPT5, earlier this year), so there won't be any lesen auf Deutsch. But I did pick a book: The Swarm. So I could have gotten the book in Kindle form for 12 bucks. But then I looked for used, and found a copy for 4 bucks. Well, no debate!

And the book is huge. And hardback! 896 pages. EIGHT HUNDRED. No. Four more pages and it would be NINE HUNDRED PAGES. Ho. Lee. You-know-what. 

So looking forward to reading it next. 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Family book club's next pick

 The wife had the next pick in our family book club. We stuck with the horror genre and so she picked a Dean Koontz: Phantoms. I recognized the title immediately and think I saw the film many years ago, with Peter O'Toole. 

I'd never really been into horror, except for The Stand and Swan Song. My choice (Maynard's House) was a haunting, and a relatively tame one at that. Hoping for some chills with this one. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Another Challenge!

 Found a great reading challenge for 2022, thanks to My Reader's Block. It involves a random number generator based on the number of books on your TBR shelf. And yours truly has a ridiculously large TBR shelf. 1269 books. Holy shit. How'd it get so big? 

So the challenge has goals for each month, two books a month off your TBR shelf. I'll probably do this challenge if only to knock some books off the shelf. And DNF is allowed, so if I start a book and hate it, that still counts in the challenge. 

So, in January 2022, based on the following rules, I'll read:

Number generated randomly (622): A School for Fools, by Sasha Sokolov; and random number after list ordered on "date added" (472): Campusland, by Scott Johnston. 

February will be different. ;)

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Empire of the Sun

 What else do you do when you can't sleep? Finish a book, of course. But also, watch the movie adaptation!

Empire of the Sun, by JG Ballard, has been on my TBR shelf for a long time. I first discovered him by paying attention to the credits from Waterworld. Yes, that movie. Supposedly based on Ballard's The Drowned World, so of course I had to read it. 

Wow, so different. And better. 

So next I got his short stories, volume 1. Great stuff in there. Read that 10+ years ago, so don't remember much, except the two or three I skipped as they were way too psychological, a la weirdo stuff from the early 1970s. 

A few years back I tried his Kingdom Come. Didn't like it much. Can't remember how much of it I read, but not much. Maybe I'll attempt it again someday. 

Recently, when I found the Classics Club and had to come up with my 50 classics, I sought out lists. There I found Empire of the Sun. I'd already had it on my shelf, as I said, but I thought here's an excuse to read it. I went to the library last Saturday with my list of 50 on my phone and started at the card catalog. Empire was one of the few the library actually had on its shelves. 

So glad I did. What a great book. I also found the audiobook on Hoopla, so I managed several chapters each day driving to/from work and walking the dog. A chapter or two at night before bed. 

Great book. Great war book. Again, one of my preferred genres. Not quite sure how much of the book was Ballard's own experiences and how much fiction, but I don't care. Not even going to look it up. 

And the film. I'd never seen it, only known that Christian Bale was in it. A very young Bale. And it was incredible. Everyone in the film was great. A bit long, and of course changes and reductions from the book, but altogether a great watch. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Esperanto Sumoo #72

 Karaj leguloj, the 72nd Esperanto Sumoo is about to start. For those unaware, the Sumoo is a 15-day event whereby you commit to reading a set number of pages per day. In this particular case, the book is written in Esperanto

Esperanto is one of my better languages. I have a C1 in writing and reading it, based on the KER exam I took in 2017 in Moscow. For those used to ILR scales, that's equivalent to level 3. I've read dozens of books, many originally in Esperanto, the rest translations from various source languages (Hungarian, English, Russian, и так далее). Weekly I get email notifications about new Esperanto books being published. A quick look at my email and I can say about 5 books a week are published in the language. 

The Sumoo happens six times a year, so this November Sumoo will be the last for 2021. I had a great time in the five previous ones, mostly reading non-fiction but not finishing them. (Finishing is not the point; number of pages is.) This time I've decided on fiction, and reading till I'm done. 

The book is Kromosomoj, by Lorjak. 

The book's 152 pages, so 10 pages a day should do it. The book is sci-fi-like: Is the murder-instinct hereditary? Sounds good, right? 

Timing is everything, and I'm about 20 pages away from finishing the great Empire of the Sun. So, question is: Start another tonight and finish it by Sunday for the Sumoo start? Or just start Kromosomoj right away? Oh, first world problems...

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Wuthering Heights

 OK, so finally finished Wuthering Heights, Ms. Jay. Started in 12th grade in 1984 and never finished. Unless you count Cliff's Notes. 

I'm not sure how much I like this book. As I said in my quick GR's review, were 18th century peoples' constitutions so poor that they could drop off after a loud argument? And my goodness, what kind of romance is this? Horrible. 

But the writing. Oh so sweet. I listened to about half of it, for free! (thanks Audible) and read the rest. But amazing how much different this is to Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. The writing, just as good. The story, so much better. I know, I know, decades separate the two. We'll see how much I like this era of writing when I read another from her or her contemporaries. 

This is the first of the 50 classics I endeavor to read over the next five years, based on the list I created for the Classics Club

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

German Literature Month

 I discovered that November is German Literature Month. If you know me, you know I love groups, lists, things like that. So why not German literature (in English, meine Deutsch ist nicht so gut)? 

A few months ago I read (and did a quick review of) The Glass Bees by the wonderful Ernst Jünger, author of the equally great A German Officer in Occupied France. He's also written one called Heliopolis, but I'm having issues trying to find a copy. Therefore, one must look elsewhere.

They Divided the Sky sounds good, and having spent four-plus years in the divided city, this might be a fun read. There's also The Swarm, which might hit both the German lit box and the sci-fi box. 

How about you, dear reader(s), do you have a recommended novel for German Literature Month?

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Middle Egyptian

 Glyphstudy started a new iteration of their Collier and Manley study session of Middle Egyptian. 

For those dear reader(s) who haven't followed me for a while, Glyphstudy is a group of language lovers who are interested in the languages of ancient Egypt (or further abroad, in the case of Hittite). The group is led by advanced students who guide others through specific books covering Middle Egyptian and Coptic. Most of the courses follow a book, during which the students read a chapter for a couple weeks then do exercises for a couple of weeks. 

I started the Hoch course way back in 2018, but life got in the way and I had to drop. Last year I joined the Coptic group, and kept to it for 7-or so months until I dropped everything to work on my Russian (resulting in a first-ever 3/3 in the DLPT!). I also started the Hittite course last year, but it was concurrent with the Coptic and thus the Russian got in the way. 

Glyphstudy just started the Collier and Manley section yesterday. C&M is a simpler intro to Hieroglyphics than Hoch, and perhaps that means I'll be able to keep up. For the next two weeks we are tasked with reading/studying chapter one, after which we'll start working on the exercises. 

I think I can do this. I'm also going through Teach Yourself's Complete Old English, a great book which has allowed me to already read some bits of Beowulf in the original (which dear reader(s) will know is a goal of mine, using Heaney's bilingual edition). I'm going to try and keep C&M up even when I start on Russian hard for my DLPT in February. I might pause Old English for a bit while doing Russian (and Middle Egyptian), but we'll see. 

A Legacy of Spies

 John le Carre's last Smiley book, A Legacy of Spies, tells the behind the scenes story of Alec Leamas, late of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. This one is 1st person, but done well. The person in this case is Peter Guillam (played excellently by Benedict Cumberbatch in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). We learn more about his prior work for the Circus, and Smiley makes a few appearances. All in all, a nice addition to the Smiley novels, and a great way to get the reader, whether or not they've already read the others, back to the first novels in the sequence. In fact, the pull is strong for me to reread book #3 in which Alec features prominently. Or at least watch the excellent 1965 film version with the incomparable Oskar Werner and Richard Burton. 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Lingo: A Language Spotter's Guide to Europe

 Lingo, by Gaston Dorren, is a good book that'll hold the interest of a language lover and/or hobbyist, but don't expect depth here. Pick something interesting about many languages (60) and write a short chapter about it. That's what Dorren has done in Lingo. My issues are these:

Ossetian, the one member of the Iranian branch present in Europe (by way of Russia), is covered over three pages of text. He discusses where Ossetian can be found in the first paragraph. Along with a list of languages found in Russia beginning with just those that start with T. Then K. All of that in chapter number one. Then nothing at all about Ossetian until the last paragraph. And, you guessed it, the only thing apparently of interest with the language is that it is the only member of the 10th branch of the Indo-European tree (Iranian languages) found in Europe. Whoopie-doo. 

His chapter on a "much-needed merger" was silly and a waste of a chapter. Why try and convince the reader that Slavic languages are hard thus let's merge two of them into a horribly named Slogarian? What's the use, when this chapter could have covered another European oddity, or even another Slavic language if he so chose? For the first category I'd recommend Meadow Mari, spoken in Russia between the Vyatka river and the Urals, thus officially in Europe. It's Finno-Ugric, so unlike most of Europe's languages. Or for the latter category how about Rusyn, the not-just-a-dialect-of-Ukrainian language of over half a million? 

Despite these issues of mine, the book was engaging. Just don't expect depth in any of the 60 chapters. 

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab

 Great book. I'm on a roll.  Spoilers : Adeline "Addie" LaRue has a problem. She's being forced to marry. This is 1600s Fr...