Saturday, October 31, 2015

October - This Month in Reading

October wasn't a bad month for reading, all things considered. I read 7 books, one of which was unplanned, and one of which was the completion of a book in Dutch, which I read very slowly. I'm almost done with the next book but due to other circumstances I'm not going to finish it tonight. Naturally I would have liked to read more, but in general I think I am on track - most of my reading challenges are very close to being completed (if they're not already finished) and I have a plan to finish up the rest in the next 2 months. So all in all, I'm OK with this month's reading. How was your October reading? 

Happy Halloween! 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Steppenwolf - Herman Hesse

Readers, I can honestly see why this book became popular in the 1960s - I can imagine that it spoke to many people at that time of societal change and upheaval, which in its own way was much like the time period that produced this book (the 1920s). This book is frank and it's evident that the relatively new field of psychology influenced it quite a bit. It's also obviously a sharp critique of "bourgeois" values, which was again a popular thing to do again in the 60s. In some ways I am not sure what to make of it.

I suspect this book would be a very interesting text to read as part of a college-level class that studied the history of Germany from the time leading up to World War I and then the aftermath of that, culminating in World War II. To discuss the societal norms and how Hesse skewers many of them, as well as exploring the meaning of the last part of the book, which takes place in a theater unlike any other. That portion of the book alone would provide quite a bit of fodder for a lively discussion. I think if you are a fan of classic literature, this is a very readable book that also provides a lot of food for thought.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Het Achterhuis - Anne Frank

Toen ik was een meisje, ik las het boek voor de eerste keer (in het engels natuurlijk). Het raakte mij. Het werd een van mijn favoriete boeken. Anne was als een vriend voor mij. Omdat ik jong was begreep ik haar problemen met haar moeder en dergelijke. Nadat ik dit boek had gelezen, las ik meer boeken over de Holocaust en de tweede wereld oorlog. Ik wilde meer over Anne te weten komen maar het was moeilijk in de tijd voor het internet. Een grote wens voor mij werd Annes boek in het Nederlands, de taal waarin ze het dagboek schreef, te lezen. Ik wilde de Nederlandse taal leren.

Het is raar om een boek dat je zo goed kent in een andere versie te lezen. Er zijn zo veel nieuwe verhalen en details in deze versie. Ik denk dat sommige hadden moeten worden weggelaten. Het waren te persoonlijke gedachten. Maar in het algemeen was ik erg blij om nieuwe informatie over Anne en de andere schuilers/onderduikers. Omdat ik een volwassene ben, begrijp ik de volwassenen in het verhaal meer. De gedachten en gevoelens van een "bakvis" zijn nu vreemder, maar ze helpen me herinneren hoe het was om die leeftijd te zijn.

Vandaag heb ik mijn doel ongeveer bereikt. Ik las het boek, maar mijn Nederlands is niet zo goed. Ik denk dat ik het boek een andere keer moet lezen nadat ik meer Nederlands heb gesturdeerd. Ik las het boek op hetzelfde moment als de Engels versie, en dat was voor mij een goede methode. Op deze manier kon ik het verhaal beter begrijpen, maar nog niet niet elk woord.

October Reread - The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition - Anne Frank

As someone who grew up reading (and rereading) the previous version of this book, I was really excited to read this newer version when it was first released in the 1990s. This was mainly because it contained a lot of new material that had been omitted for various reasons from the version I grew up with. That seemed incredible to me - to have thought for so long that the diary was a finite document, and to find out that in fact, there was a lot more to be discovered - it was a wonderful gift.

To be honest, though, I have mixed feelings about some of the "new" material. In some cases, the passages are completely innocuous and just add depth to the reader's experience of Anne's life in her own words. In other cases, though, I sort of wish some of the passages that are obviously of a more personal and private nature had been left out. Part of this feeling is that I feel sure that Anne didn't intend these passages to be read by others, and might be horrified to think that other people are reading things she would never have intended for publication. The addition of these passages has also opened up the book to criticism from the book banners, who can now point to these passages as a good excuse to keep younger people from reading the book. I'm sure this was unintended, and it shouldn't factor in to a decision about editing any book, but it's the reality of today's political climate here in the US, unfortunately. But all in all, the new translation and the new material deepen my love for this book, one of my favorites.

Obviously, I had originally intended to reread this book over the summer, since it was part of my summer reading theme, but that didn't quite happen. I originally intended to read all 4 versions of the diary together, but soon discovered that this wasn't easily done. As it happened, the previous edition and the French edition I have corresponded exactly, but the Dutch version I have corresponds to this version exactly - so I chose to read the books in pairs instead. I'm very slow at reading in Dutch so it took me a lot longer to read that version, which is why I wasn't able to finish it in the summer. Obviously I would have rather finished it sooner, but still, reading this book is the achievement of a life goal I set for myself as a child, so I'm still happy I managed to make it happen.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo

Readers, are you familiar with "Murphy's Law?" Wikipedia gives this definition:

"Murphy's Law is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

I have developed a similar "law" that I will call "Anja's Law," which states:

"If you assume things will go one way, they will actually go the opposite way."

This book is a case in point - a perfect example of Anja's Law in action. Let me explain.

So as you may have guessed by my constant references to my crazy TBR pile, I have a bit of a problem with finding way, way, way too many things interesting and bringing home books and sometimes other things that in reality I don't need. I also try to keep things neat around the house, but usually fail miserably. I'm not dirty, but I am messy and lazy and that leads to an untidy house. I have gotten a lot better (seriously, a LOT better) about not bringing so much stuff into the house, and I have in fact gotten rid of a lot of unused stuff, but I am still working on generally keeping things neat and getting rid of other stuff that I just don't need. So when I heard about this book, and what a sensation it was, I decided I should probably read it and see if it had some techniques I might find helpful. My library had a really long waiting list too (like, REALLY long) so I assumed (uh oh, here's the magic word from Anja's Law!) that I wouldn't get my hands on it until early 2016, so it wouldn't infringe on my late-2015 catching-up-on-all-my-challenges reading.


To be fair, I did place the request for this book at the library a while ago, and in fact I forgot I had even placed the hold at one point, so it's not like I was on the waiting list for only a few days; but I still got the notification that this book was ready for me much earlier than I had anticipated. But I didn't want to miss my chance to read the book, so I picked it up.

Luckily for me, it's a small book and took very little time to read. I'm glad I read it, because I think the author's method is something that could really work for me. I won't get into details but I will say that I was surprised that there was so much anthropomorphizing of inanimate objects. I'm someone who has a tendency to do this, so that aspect of the book really spoke to me. I did somewhat disagree with her assertion that when you mean to read a book "sometime" you are highly unlikely to ever read the book - the progress I have made with my TBR pile* is proof that someone who is determined enough can actually accomplish this, but overall, I do agree that in most cases it's unlikely. All in all I think I am ready to downsize things like books I have already read, clothes I never wear, and generally rid myself of possessions that don't spark joy, so I think this book will ultimately help me on my quest for a neat and tidy home.

*In reality, even though I complain about my TBR pile a lot, it's really shrinking. I started being a lot more careful about not bringing home any old book that seems like it might be interesting, and I have strategically used my reading challenges to help keep my focus on reading books from the pile. I've also avoided the library so that I don't load up on books that seem interesting at the expense of reading books that are gathering dust on the pile, etc. So I can in fact state that it might be possible to clear this pile once and for all in the very near future. Crazy, I know, but it feels good to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Giveaway: advance copy of This Is Where It Ends plus fun stuff!

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let you all know that there's a fun giveaway that you can participate in, to get an advance copy of This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp plus some other fun stuff! You can enter at this link:

The giveaway includes an advance copy of this gripping YA book, as well as a chalkboard and some chalk. Sourcebooks Fire is asking readers to express their feelings after they finish the book, using the chalkboards, and then take a quick photo to share on Tumblr and other social media with #thisiswhereitends #sourcebooksfire tags. I couldn't put this book down, and I can think of a lot of things I would put on that chalkboard! 

You can also be one of the first to follow the Tumblr site for the book:

The giveaway runs until November 1, so get over there and enter ASAP! 

I'm still working on my October reading, and I hope to have some reviews up soon! :) 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Blindness - José Saramago

Wow, readers, this is yet another novel that I have had on my pile for far too long and now wonder what took me so long to get to it. I can't lie, the actual writing style kind of put me off initially, and it can be a bit hard to read and confusing, but I got used to it after a while. Despite that, I was immediately drawn into the story and once I started reading I could barely put the book down. It's fitting that I read this book during October, as the story isn't technically horror, but much of the book is definitely horrific in content. I believe it was an accurate description of that might happen to the world in any kind of cataclysm though, which is frightening. Apparently there is a sequel; I might have to read that when I have cleared the TBR pile. All in all this is a book that will have you thinking about it long after you are finished reading.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Don't Look Now - Daphne du Maurier

Found this book on my office's book exchange shelves a few years ago, and assumed it was a novel, like Rebecca, which I read last year. So I was surprised to find out that this book is really a collection of short stories, most of them suspenseful. I enjoyed the creepy atmosphere of the title story, and "The Breakthrough" and "Not After Midnight" were creepy,  if baffling; I'm still puzzling over some of the events. "A Border-Line Case" was disturbing in an entirely different way, and had a relentless air of menace. In many ways, these four stories, despite differing on all the broad strokes, had a lot of little phrases and details that seemed to repeat, which I guess only makes sense, since they have the same author. I have to say that I enjoyed the final story, "The Way of the Cross," the best. I liked the shifting points of view and the different atmosphere that was more about the characters. All in all I think fans of creepy or macabre stories would like this collection.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Beautiful Blue Death - Charles Finch

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free, time-limited, electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been otherwise compensated for this review in any way and my opinion is my own.

What an enjoyable mystery! I really liked Charles Lenox, amateur sleuth, and I'm a sucker for stories set in 1860s London. This was a charming series debut novel, with a mystery that kept me guessing and cast of characters that I am eager to learn more about. Great cozy-style mystery for those so inclined.