Friday, September 30, 2022

September 2022

 September, complete tonight. Here's the book count.

Books read:

  • The Changeling, by Victor LaValle. Easily one of the best this year.
  • How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphics, by Collier & Manley. For my class I started back in November. Excellent book for those who want the basics.
  • Putin's Playbook, by Rebekah Koffler. If you want to know what Putin's thinking, read this. It'll sound outrageous, but history has proven Ms. Koffler right.
  • Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut. His weirdest? How to measure that. Each one of his I read is weirder. 
  • The Mating Season, by PG Wodehouse. Great Jeeves & Wooster novel. Loved this.
  • Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. A must read. 
Books bought:
  • Cocktails on Tap. Been experimenting with cocktails here at Chez Eels. Wife has loved it, as have I, although I'm still leaning preferably toward beer.
  • The History of the Siege of Lisbon, by Saramago. The two of his I read were so good, I pretty much just buy his whenever I see them on sale. Two bucks.
  • The Old Fashioned. See above in re: cocktails. Two bucks.
  • All These Worlds are Yours, by Jon Willis. Book about search for extraterrestrial life. Sounded interesting. Two bucks.
  • Esperanto and Languages of Internationalism of Revolutionary Russia, by Brigid O'Keeffe. She wrote the intro to a great book in Esperanto about WWI: Antau Unu Jarcento (One Century Ago). I pre-ordered this one months ago. So looking forward to reading this one. Not two bucks.
  • Project Hail Mary, by Weir. Two bucks.
  • The Multiethnic Soviet Union and its Demise, by O'Keeffe. Again, in my wheelhouse. Definitely not two bucks.
  • Fall of a Cosmonaut, by Kaminsky. #13 in the Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov mysteries. I've only read #1, but when these come up, I buy them. Two bucks.
  • February House, by Tippins. Story about a bunch of great writers and poets under one roof in Brooklyn. Two bucks.
  • Rostnikov's Vacation (#7), Blood and Rubles (#10), Hard Currency (#9), Tarnished Icons (#11), by Kaminsky. See above. Each two bucks. 
  • House of Suns, by Alastair Reynolds. I'll always buy a Reynolds. $3.
  • The Changeling, by Victor LaValle. My pick for family book club. Fifteen bucks and worth every penny. 
  • The Writer's Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands, by Lewis-Jones. Maps to fictional places you wished you could visit. 
  • The Alexandrian War, by Caesar. I've read his other two Loeb Library "war" books, now it's time to read his last one.
  • The Old Fashioned, by Simonson. Can you tell what our new favorite drink is?
Doing an additional chapter in Middle Egyptian, which'll be done by the end of October. And the Serbian/Croatian course. That's still going twice a week. Here's hoping for a 2/2.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Finished some books

 I'm a little behind on the book reviews, and for my dear reader(s) who follow this blog: this ain't in-depth reviews. Anyway, I've read the following since my last "review" post (for The Changeling).

How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs, by Collier & Manley. Finally finished the book for the moderated "class" I've been taking. Started back in November (October?) and learned a lot about tomb offering formulas. Started a translation (moderated) course too, but am woefully lacking in knowledge of other grammar points in Middle Egyptian. Thankfully, the moderator for the C&M class has created a chapter 9, which we're working through now and through October. Someday in the future I'll take Glyphstudy's Hoch or Allen course (22-ish months long). 

Putin's Playbook, by Rebekah Koffler. Preaching to the choir, of course. I already know Putin is a bastard, but Ms. Koffler has much more background than I. Was a nice "read" (Audible). 

Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut. Continuing my reading of this master. This author is so cray-cray. A made-up religion, made-up Carribean island, particle that could destroy the Earth...what else does a reader need? Looking forward to the next Vonnegut in the list (Galapagos).

The Mating Season, by PG Wodehouse. This was the September read. This is a Jeeves & Wooster novel I'd never heard of before, but parts of it were in an episode of the A&E series. 

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. I'd read this maybe 15 years ago. Still the same. Was my wife's choice for the family book club. Remembered it towards the end. Sad. 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Got my spin number for Classics Spin #31

 My spin number is 2, which means I have to read Paul Theroux's The Mosquito Coast by 30 October.

In a breathtaking adventure story, the paranoid and brilliant inventor Allie Fox takes his family to live in the Honduran jungle, determined to build a civilization better than the one they've left. Fleeing from an America he sees as mired in materialism and conformity, he hopes to rediscover a purer life. But his utopian experiment takes a dark turn when his obsessions lead the family toward unimaginable danger.

I'm looking forward to this one. And it's a movie, so that'll be fun! 



Thursday, September 15, 2022

Classics Spin #31

 My Book Spin list for the Classics Club:

  1. American Pastoral
  2. The Mosquito Coast
  3. Solaris
  4. In Patagonia
  5. King Lear
  6. Love's Labour's Lost
  7. Dead Souls
  8. The Fellowship of the Ring
  9. Orlando
  10. Of Human Bondage
  11. The Guide
  12. Cakes and Ale
  13. King Soloman's Mines
  14. The Stories of J.F. Powers
  15. The Professor
  16. Homage to Catalonia
  17. Kidnapped
  18. The Turn of the Screw
  19. Out of Africa
  20. The Monk
Will find out Sunday which book I have to read between then and 30 October!



Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The Changeling, by Victor LaValle

 I picked LaValle's book for our family book club. After reading Children of Cain, I had "changeling" on my mind. When I saw the author of The Ballad of Black Tom (one of my best reads from 2021) wrote a book about a changeling, I just had to read it.

Spoilers hence:

Since early in our marriage, I think when we started having kids, my wife has mentioned the changeling. I think she first learned of changelings from the Charlotte Mary Mew poem of the same name. I read it years ago when she pointed it out to me, but about 60% through LaValle's book, I had to read it again. Was this the influence for Maurice Sendak's Outside Over There? Possibly. (No, I'm not going to look it up.)

What can I say here? Great story, only slight negative I have is the (tendency nowadays?) inclusion of "white folks are racist" themes. I am so tired of reading this in books. It ruined Rushdie's Quichotte for me so much that I quit reading it halfway, and it'll be a hard sell for me to read any other book by him. In this book, I dropped it one star due to this. I highlighted several areas in the book where the author's characters insisted that we're all racist. Sorry if you experienced that in your life, but it's not common. No, not even in the south.

But this book is more than that, thankfully. It is magical realism, just like his other book. This one takes the poem farther. And it doesn't hold back on the killin'. 

Spoilers, what they are, complete.

Well worth your time. I'm going to keep reading LaValle: he's creative and original. Two things I adore in an author. 



Thursday, September 1, 2022

Earth Alone, by Daniel Arenson

 Bleck. Probably would have loved it when I was 15, or 22. Blatant rip-off of Starship Troopers, both the book (from what I can remember of reading it in 1990) and movie. A couple quick examples:

They stomped centipedes--these ones Earth centipedes, only a couple of inches long--under their shoes. "That is why we fight!" they chanted.

Insert in comparison the scene in the movie with the kids stomping on bugs and the narrator saying something just like that quote.

Most of the platoon was already there, naked under the hot water, boys and girls alike.

cf the shower scene in Starship Troopers the movie. Also present in this book: the girl who is just a friend but maybe she could be more (Dizzy Flores in Heinlein's book, and Addy Linden in Arenson's). The sweetheart back home who goes to officer training while the main character goes enlisted (never again to meet? Nope, in an army of 300 million, yep, they meet only 6 weeks into his basic training: YGTBFKM). And of course: the alien race massacring the humans? A bug-like race. (And don't get me started on this being set 200 years in our future, yet everyone knows all the 20th c. references. Worked for Ready Player One, as it had a basis & purpose, but not in this book.)

And oh dear God, there are 14 more in this series. No thank you.

I'm probably being too hard on the guy. It's a fun, juvenile read, and that was probably his intended audience. But the reviewer who said "If you're a military veteran...you'll be able to associate with this story very, very well," I don't know WTF he's talking about. Uh, yeah, you'll associate it with an author who has no idea how the military works. No enlisted soldier, let alone an E-1, is going to worship an ensign. Period, dot. And, lieutenants are dumb, too. They're not perfect. Many do stupid shit, but don't get written up in base newspapers. No military is going to give people right off the streets weapons and live ammo only a couple weeks into their military service. Even a military who's been training draftees and volunteers for 50 years. Not. Gonna. Happen. 

Ugh. Still, not the worst book I've ever read. But I wish I could have spent those 300+ pages on something else. 



August 2022

 Another month has come and gone. I more than doubled last month's, despite being busy in Vegas the last four days. 

Books read:

  • How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, by Corinne McKay. 
  • The New Plant Parent, by Darryl Cheng. We're getting houseplants again and this time, I don't want to kill them.
  • From Here to Eternity, by James Jones. One off my 50 Classics list. Very good.
  • Civil Wars, by Caesar. Also good. One more Caesar "war" book to go.
  • Mulliner Nights, by PG Wodehouse. Great, as usual.
  • Children of Cain, by a friend. Really good. Can't wait to see in print and listed in Goodreads.
  • Earth Alone, by Daniel Arenson. Not good. A bad version and obvious plagiarism of Starship Troopers
Books bought (all $2 deals this month!):
  • Extinct Languages, by Johannes Friedrich. I can't pass up a book on language for two bucks.
  • Fear: A Novel of World War I, by Gabriel Chevallier. Ditto for war books in NYRB editions.
  • The Smell of Night, by Andrea Camillieri. My wife read his first in this Italian detective series and loved it, so now I buy his whenever I see the $2 Kindle deals. I need to read one thought, to see if I've wasted my money.
  • Putin's Playbook: Russia's Secret Plan to Defeat America, by Rebekah Koffler. Reading this on Audible. Preaching to the choir.
  • The History Man, by Malcolm Bradbury. I heard he's a good author, so why not for two bucks.
  • Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide, by John Cleese. Yes, that John Cleese. 
  • Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages, by Gaston Dorren. I hope this one is better than the traveling 60 language one I read (again) several months ago.
Almost done with the Middle Egyptian class and they've announced the next translation group. We'll be translating The Instructions of Amenemhat. Can't wait to start it. It'll start sometime in September. 

Speaking of September, my Serbian/Croatian refresher with the DLI instructor starts again in a couple weeks. I plan on taking the DLPT the week of Thanksgiving. Fingers crossed for a 2/2. I've got to get back to watching Novine, but have been busy this trip. I might start reading Agatha Christie's A Cat Among the Pigeons, which I've got in a Croatian version.

I paused the Esperanto book for a bit so I could beta-read my friend's book and finish the family book club choice. I'll jump back in it after BCS. I am still reading plenty of the language, though, as I'm still translating Mi Stelojn Jungis al Revado, by Mikaelo Bronstejn. 

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...