Monday, September 1, 2014

Nest - Ester Ehrlich

I loved this book.

It's an instant classic. This is a book that kids of this generation will remember as a favorite when they are adults. They'll reread it as adults and still love it.

The main character, Chirp, is a wonderful, fully realized person that reminded me of the kind of characters I used to love in my favorite books as a child (a couple of which are mentioned in this book!). I also felt such a strong sense of empathy for Joey; I so want to just give them both a big hug. As someone who was around as a child in the time period in which the book is set (ahem), it felt very true to that setting, down to the mention of my perennial favorite soda, Tab. I cannot wait to read more from Ester Ehrlich. Highly recommended.



Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch - Eric Orchard

What a fun way to kick off my Fall reading! This was a lovely middle grade/YA graphic novel. The story and the characters are charming - they had me at "family owns a bookstore" and the addition of  talking animals cemented my enjoyment. Maddy Kettle is a fun character, and once again I must say it's so nice to see intelligent children, particularly girls, depicted in books. I can see that this has endless potential for expansion as a series, and I look forward to as many books in this series as the author releases. Recommended.

Oh, and now, in addition to a starcat, I would love to add a floating spadefoot toad to my imaginary animals menagerie! :-)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August - This Month in Reading

Despite it being a stupid, busy summer month I managed to meet my reading goals for August:

-Finish my 2 review books
-Finish the 2 books I was working on for the Language Freak Summer Challenge

Hooray!

Of course, I would have liked to read more books, but between work commitments and personal life commitments it wasn't going to happen this month, so I'm just happy I managed to meet my goals. Careful readers will realize that I posted several reviews on the same day (the last day of August - ahem) but in reality I was just able to carve out some reading time today to finish books I had in progress. Really. Even I can only read so much in 1 day :^) 

For September, I have several review books lined up, and I also need to wrap up a few more of my challenges. I am going to shoot for 6 books, which covers my reviewing commitments and a couple extra for some challenge books. 

And most importantly, long time readers (there must be at least 1 of you, right?) know that in my deranged mind, Fall/Autumn, my favorite time of the year, begins on September 1, which is now in just a few short hours. As always, I am thrilled to see the back of summer and I cannot wait to embrace all things Fall. BRING. IT. ON!!!!! 

How was your reading this summer? 

Frontier Incursion - Leonie Rogers

Hague Publishing has done it again. This company seems to specialize in books that were written in such a way as to be firmly on my wavelength. As a cat lover (I have 2 here at home and I love them dearly, even when they seem to be deliberately preventing me from doing things like typing this post) I was hooked by the beautiful cover, depicting a "starcat" (a fascinating creature from the world of the book). Leonie Rogers is a wonderful writer, she has created a fully realized setting and story that totally captured my imagination. She has a gift for vivid description that made her inventive creations easy to visualize as I read. I really took to the main character, and very much empathized with her throughout the book.

This is yet another book I would have loved if it had been around when I was reading fantasy books as a kid - but that I can still enjoy very much as an adult who had written off fantasy books. Apparently I wasn't reading good fantasy books - and I'm very happy that I am doing so now. The only criticism I have for this book is that it ends - and this is not a big problem, as the sequel is nigh - hooray! Recommended.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers - Paolo Giordano

(This book is sort of a part of the Language Freak Summer Challenge; read on for the review and the explanation. The previous review in Dutch is for this same book - but the Dutch version for both the book and the review :^) )

So at least a year ago, and maybe even more (I am totally embarrassed about that!) my Dutch teacher lent me her copy of this book, in Dutch. I dragged my feet about reading it because I read really slowly in Dutch, and it seemed like it would be hard and take a lot of time. Then I had an idea - I could buy the same book in English, and I could alternate my reading - first reading each chapter in Dutch, and then reading it again in English. This ended up working really well, but I still put both books off and didn't get very far in the reading until this challenge.  

I am at a weird, middle level of Dutch where I can always get the main point when I read in Dutch, but the details elude me. It's like watching a silent, black and white film on fast-forward and then watching a later remake, with color and sound, played at the proper speed. You can get the gist of what's going on from the former, but the latter fills in all the finer details. So it took me quite a while - believe it or not, I have been working on it for most of the summer! - but I finally managed to finish (and yes, it's the last day of the challenge; what can I say!). 

I found this book to be a beautiful character study. I did find the main characters frustrating, but I always felt sympathetic toward them. There's a somber feeling throughout the book, and it made me feel sad a lot of the time, but not entirely hopeless. 

One odd thing about reading the same book but in two different languages is noticing small changes made by the translators. This book was originally published in Italian, so both the Dutch and English versions that I read are translations of that original. When I found small differences, I wondered what the original wording had been in Italian, and the reason for the change - a cultural difference? A word preference on the translator's part? It was something interesting to note while I was reading. 

I'm really sad that this challenge is over for 2014! I didn't read nearly as much as I was hoping to read for it, but I have more books on hand for next year - and knowing it's coming up, I can plan my time better to accommodate more books. In fact, I already have a plan for some of it :) So many thanks to Ekaterina, for helping me finish the Dutch version of this book so I can return it to its rightful owner! 

De eenzamheid van de priemgetallen - Paolo Giordano

(This is the 3rd book I read for the Language Freak Summer Challenge - I did a read-along with the same book in English, so the next post will have my English language review :^)

Dit was het eerste boek dat ik las in het Nederlands. Het boek behoort tot mijn leraar. Ik schaam - nu heb ik dit boek voor meer dan een jaar - ! Ik was bang om het te lezen, want het was moeilijk om te lezen. Bedankt Ekaterina, het boek is nu klaar, en nu kan ik het terug.

Het boek was in het Nederlands, met geen noten voor studenten, als het boek en het Frans (La Canne de Jonc) - ha ha ha. Dus had ik een andere methode voor het te lezen - ik kocht het samen boeken in het Engels, en las voor de eerste keer een hoofdstuk en het Nederlands, en den las ik de samen hoofdstuk in het Engels. Dit werkte heel goed. Ik kan niet in het Nederlands snel lezen, en ik kan niet in het Nederlands ieder woord begrijpen. Dus, het boek in het Nederlands was voor mij als kijken naar een stomme, zwartwit film op "fast-forward" (op "snel"?). Ik kan altijd begrijpen van de belangrijkste idee, maar mis ik de details. Ik vond de fijn details op het boek in Engels. Maar altijd het verhaal ontvouwde eerste in het Nederlands.

Dit boek was een mooi karakterstudie. Ik vond de hoofdpersonen heel frusterend, maar al samen tijden voelde ik veel sympathie. Er was iets somber over het verhaal de hele tijd. Het liet me verdrietig, maar niet hopeloos gevoel. Ik weet dat ik zal denken over het in de toekomst.

Ik ben ook verdrietig dat de "Zomer uitdaging voor de taal-fanatieke" het klaar is! Het was een heel erg leuk uitdaging, en ik hoop dat ik kan het andere keer te deelnemen!

Alstublieft, zag mij mijn fouten! *<|:-)


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

La Canne de Jonc - Alfred de Vigny

I finally managed to finish the second book I was working on for the Language Freak Summer Challenge! I found this book on the Library Sale shelves, and as I love vintage books and can always use books in foreign languages for practicing, I eagerly brought it home... where it sat on my shelf unread for several years :-/ Thanks to this great challenge, I have finally managed to read it, and this was a great way to get in some French practice this summer.

My little book was originally published in 1898, but this military story, some of which is apparently loosely autobiographical, was originally published in the early 1800s. My edition was edited by Victor J.T. Spiers, a professor of French at Oxford, and about half of the book is actually notes on the text with helpful translations and grammatical explanations. This book was obviously meant for students of French, and that was equally obviously very helpful for me, as a reader. I think I'm at an intermediate level of French; I can read it reasonably well but I won't lie and say I perfectly understood every word I read. I did, however, always get the main idea, and the notes helped with unfamiliar vocabulary. 

The full title of this book is "La Canne de Jonc, ou La Vie et La Mort du Capitaine Renaud" ("The Malacca Cane [or the walking-stick], or The Life and Death of Captain Renaud"). The titular Captain's life as a military man is fascinating and includes encounters with Napoleon and some interesting philosophy concerning war. I cannot say it was a book I would have eagerly picked up if it had been in English, but from the perspective of someone who is reading a book about the Napoleonic wars after two world wars (and countless other wars, many still raging) I found it to be much food for thought. 

Et maintenant, mon review en français ! 

J'ai lu le deuxième livre pour le défi pour les fanatiques de langues étrangères ! J'ai trouvé ce livre dans la bibliothèque et j'adore les livres antiquaires, et j'ai toujours besoin de livres en des autre langues pour les pratiquer. Mais le livre était sur l'étagère, attendant.... :-/ Mais grâce à ce défi, maintenant, c'est fini, et c'était bon pour pratiquer un peu de français pendant l'été. 

Mon petit livre est de 1898, et c'est une édition destinée aux étudiants de la langue française. La moitié du livre contient les choses utiles (notes de vocabulaire et de grammaire). Je lis français à un niveau intermédiaire; je ne suis pas une menteuse, et donc je ne vous dis pas que j'ai compris chaque mot. Cependant, j'ai toujours compris l'idée essentiel.

Cette histoire militaire, une biographie du Capitaine Renaud (l'homme qui porte la canne de jonc), était fascinant. Il comprenait Napoléon, un Pape, et quelques hommes célèbres militaires anglais, et apparemment, il est semi-autobiographique. de Vigny a inclus aussi de philosophie conçernant la nature de la guerre. Moi, je suis un produit de la 20ème siècle, après deux guerres mondiales et divers autres guerres, et donc j'ai trouvé cette philosophie comme matière à réflexion. 

S'il vous plaît, corregez les erreurs/fautes ici ! :-)