Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Books finished in July 2017

It's the first of August and I'm already blogging the books finished in July!! There IS such a thing as catching up!!!

Fools' Gold, Philippa Gregory This is the third book in "The Order of Darkness" series, and although I continued to be irritated by the denseness of some characters, I was also getting to like quite a few of the characters by this point, and was very disappointed when I went on-line to discover that Philippa Gregory has not yet published more books in the series, although she said the fourth one would be out in 2016.

The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory  Having read the three supposedly "children's" books by this author, I finally picked up one of Marie's books. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and I know I was fascinated by Anne Boleyn at some point as a teenager, but I don't really remember why. Especially as everything I've read since indicates that she wasn't a particularly nice person at all! This is mostly about Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary, and there are many more details about her relationship with Henry VIII (and many other women's relationships with him...) than I was happy about. Also, enormous liberties were taken with the historic facts, more so than I feel justified in historic fiction. In a way, the story made out of the (not all that many) known facts reminded me of a movie made from a book. It was more that the facts inspired a novel than that Philippa Gregory actually set out to write a plausible "it could have been this way" story.

The Truth About Melody Browne, Lisa Jewell  It was quite fascinating to find out about the main character's childhood at the same time she, as an adult, did. She'd lost virtually all of her memories from before the age of nine, and is completely surprised by them as they start coming back. The more she remembers, the more she goes searching for more memories and explanations.

Blue-Eyed Son, The Story of an Adoption, Nicky Campbell  I think this may have been a book that Jörn gave me long ago. In any case, it had been on my shelf for a long time, but I'd never read it. This is yet another British celebrity of whom I'd never heard (like Alan Titchmarsh), with a writing style I like very much, writing memoir-type non-fiction. It's mostly a very uplifting book about his search for his birth parents. There's nothing tremendously traumatic, but certainly issues that give him serious pause for thought.

The Potluck Club, Linda Evans Shepherd & Eva Marie Everson  Finally, a free book for the Kindle which I enjoyed very much! I got a little bit confused at first, with each chapter being from the viewpoint of a different person, but as I got to know the characters, I was able to know immediately who was talking without the name even being said. I never quite understood the point of the existence of the reporter guy, though, but at least his chapters (between almost all of the other chapters, which alternated between half a dozen or so women, all in first person) were very short.

Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn  None of the other books I've included this year (except some of the books I've read to children, and those I only listed in January) were books I'd read before. We went up to Rocky Point (a private campground in the Troodos Mountains--this was our seventh year in a row to go!) last week, for five days, and I READ. I'd read a tiny bit of The Potluck Club before we went up, but I finished that by reading it at night after the others were asleep and I couldn't use a regular light. (I love my Kindle Fire for reading at night!) I do read at home most evenings, too, but less, because I first spend time on the computer (such as right now...it's 10:54 p.m. at this moment...) And I read this book, as well, one that I read when we went last year, and which I was pleased to see was still on the shelf in the lodge. Although I haven't included any other books I've re-read, I just had to include this one, partly because I enjoyed it very much, and partly because it almost didn't feel like reading the same book as a year ago. Last year, it was just amusing. This year, I saw so much deeper meaning in it, about how easy it is to get stuck having to go along with something that you totally disagree with, how easily that starts and how nearly impossible it is to escape. Basically, the entire book consists of letters written by Ella Minnow Pea, her cousin, her parents, and a few other people. They live on the island of Nollup, a utopian (quickly becoming dystopian, of course) society off the coast of North or South Carolina. (I don't remember which, but it's not important.) Their country is named after the person who came up with the sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs," which includes all 26 letters of the English alphabet, and they of course have a monument to him, with the sentence on it, in tiles. And then the tile with the Z falls off. The council decides that this is a sign from Nollup that they should no longer use the letter Z...and the story goes on from there with fewer and fewer letters available for use, and almost nobody left on the island. The people who really feel it is absurd and have enough guts to put actions to their beliefs all emigrate or are exiled, leaving people who increasingly realize that they're in trouble but feel helpless to do anything. Which reminds me of a LOT of situations throughout history, and at this moment particularly, of the situation for home educating families in countries where home education is not allowed...

A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson I borrowed this the day before we left, started it in the mountains on Monday, and by Friday had read about 450 pages (as well as the other two books, and playing a lot of games with my family, and taking naps, and going for short walks (no hikes this year, not one!!), and hanging out with people, etc. The last 125 pages took me Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning before church, mostly in hurried moments of a few pages at a time. I very much enjoy Bill Bryson's writing style, the first book of his I read being Mother Tongue:English and How It Got That Way. Even in that first book, though, I knew that I didn't agree with everything he says, but that doesn't bother me. (I don't even agree with everything I say...) Overall, the book was a fascinating history of HOW people have researched and come to conclusions about many aspects of science. I did find it amusing, though, just how many times a chapter basically went, "First they thought this because of that. Then they realized they were wrong and thought that instead because of the other thing. Then it became clear that that wasn't right either, so they..." etc. over and over again, until the final sentence of, "But now we know this to be the fact." Really? After just spending a whole chapter explaining how many people sincerely believed something to be true, and then it was disproved?

I got in trouble three times that I remember in second grade. (Not counting all the times I got in trouble for reading. That was just constant, all through school.) One of the times was because I talked back to my mother in the hearing of my teacher, and my teacher gave me an extra page of math to do. Totally logical. Yep. Once was because we were given brown, orange, and yellow construction paper to make an owl, and the eyes were supposed to be yellow and the beak and feet were supposed to be orange, but I insisted on doing them the other way around. I was Wrong. That was Bad. (However, I got an A on the poem I wrote about it for a college English class.) And the other time was because when the teacher said that brontosaurus was the largest land creature that had ever lived, I asked how they could know that there wasn't anything bigger that just hadn't been found yet? I got told off for talking back. A couple of years later, we learned about several bigger dinosaurs. And MANY years later, I learned that "brontosaurus" didn't ever actually exist, because the specimen that was labeled as such was actually the body of one (already known) creature, with the head of another (already known) creature. Maybe. And much more recently, I researched some of the dates of discoveries, and learned not only that the so-called brontosaurus had been disproved a couple of years before I was in second grade, bigger dinosaurs had been discovered more than 70 years before I was in second grade!!. And even more recently (2015--I had to google to check on that, though), brontosaurus has been reinstated as having existed. They now "know." As they "knew" before. Basically, my take on it is that I wasn't there and I don't know, and that's cool.

Books finished in June 2017

June looks rather better than May as far as books finished, but at least two of them were started before June (one of them many months before), and one was very short.

The Very Thought of You, Rosie Alison I've read SO many books set during World War II, and a majority of them set mainly in England, and this is another one. It's also far from the first one I've read about children sent to the country to avoid the bombing in London. This one still stands out for many reasons, though. For one thing, it keeps switching points of view, so it's hard to say that the eight-year-old girl who first seems to be the main character IS the main character, but although most of the other characters are adults, and the book is intended for adults, the child's voice is very real and realistic, a child without being childish. This isn't a book about everything ending up wonderful, though. I had a premonition that certain people would die, who did, but other deaths took me totally by surprise. I think the thing that bothered me the most was the completely omniscient viewpoint. I don't mind when the reader knows what a particular character is thinking when other characters don't know, and when the author switches back and forth between characters (and these were not at all confusing, which some books are), but I think I generally feel that that's acceptable because that character COULD have written it down or told someone later...but it bugs me when there are things that nobody could possibly have known, such as a person's last thoughts before they died.

Changeling, Philippa Gregory Marie left a pile of Philippa Gregory books here, and a friend was here when Katie picked one up and asked if she could read it. I didn't know the book, but our friend Dena happened to be here at that moment and suggested that it might not be appropriate, but said she had some other books by that author, which were written for children. This is the first of the three books Dena gave Katie, and Katie talked me into reading it. I wouldn't have said it was "for children," so much, as I'd say Katie (just turned 12 last week) would be more or less the minimum age for this book...except then later I read one of Marie's books that is targeted at adults, and all of a sudden, Changeling (and the sequels) seemed totally innocent... Anyway, this book is the first of "The Order of Darkness" series, set in the 15th century in Europe (at least, the first three books are, and no more have been published as of yet). While it (and the others) CAN be read independently, there's definitely a story thread going through all of them that make them better to read one after another, and some plot points that only make sense when taking them together.

The Wings of a Falcon, Cynthia Voigt I have maybe a dozen or so of Cynthia Voigt's books, most of them from when I was a teenager. Homecoming is probably her most well-known one, contemporary and totally realistic fiction, along with its several sequels or spin-offs. Jackaroo was always my favorite of her books, though, set in an undetermined place or time, but giving the impression of being Medieval times in Europe, and never entirely clear about whether there was an element of fantasy or not. This book I picked up from the give-aways at the library, very excited to see a Cynthia Voigt book I didn't have (and the price was right!), then even more so when I noticed it said that it was a "companion" (not a sequel, but somehow related) to Jackaroo. I don't remember when I started this...probably last year. I found this very hard to get into, starting with a Lord-of-the-Flies situation, really (and THAT's a book I HATED...), and it mostly stayed on the shelf next to my bed. Sometimes I would pick it up and read a page or two, usually having to backtrack to figure out what on earth (or wherever this is set...) was going on and who the people were. (It didn't help any that one of the main characters didn't even have a name for quite awhile...) But at some point in June, I started to get into the book and I probably read 90% of it over two or three days. The connection to Jackaroo is extremely loose (I think the name of the possibly mythical character of Jackaroo is mentioned once, and that's it), but I take it that it's the same country, more clearly a made-up country in this book. I did enjoy the book...mostly. One person died who most certainly should NOT have died, but then, not a single one of Cynthia Voigt's books go for unequivocal happy endings, although possibly Jackaroo comes the closest. (Maybe that's why that's one of my favorite books. I like neatly tied up and basically happy endings. Real life doesn't have many of those, and I read to have something DIFFERENT from real life...)

Stormbringers, Philippa Gregory This is the second "Order of Darkness" book, and the "Order" gets "darker". I had many moments of wanting to tell off dense characters. But it was compelling enough to finish...

At Home in the World, Tsh Oxenreider This one is proof that my husband reads my blog! I'm pretty sure I never mentioned the book to him, but I did mention it in a blogpost, and all of a sudden, he presented me with this book. :-) Tsh's family (and no, her name is not a pseudonym nor is that a typo...her parents had decided that her name didn't need vowels) traveled around the world for one year, and this is a chronicle of that trip, with quite a lot more than just "we went there and did that." I enjoyed it very much.

A Miracle in the Making, Patricia Batoba Jones Well, once again...there's a reason that some books are only available free for Kindle. My main complaint about this book was that it would have seriously benefited from some decent proofreading. From ANY proofreading. Anyone can make typos, anyone can write run-on sentences, anyone can use non-standard grammar...but if one is going to get a book published, I think it's reasonable to at least make an attempt at having it proofread. This was about the author having a micro-preemie who (spoiler alert) survived, and that's wonderful. And her own spiritual journey during that time. Cool. Completely the kind of book I like, and with a happy ending. But exhausting to read, because there wasn't a page in it without multiple typos and weird grammar. And sentences starting with conjunctions. Fragments, too. It reads like a collection of blogposts. Maybe it was.

Books finished in May 2017

So now that it's August 1st, maybe I'll blog the books I read (or at least finished) in May, June, AND July??

Starting with May, anyway...

Ah...and now that I've gotten my list out, this is impressively short.

the totally and completely perfect even when you feel like the worst mom ever, Michelle Wilson Yes, that's how the title was written. Very irritating. And the book was too. I shouldn't even count it. I don't know how long it was. It was another free book for the Kindle that was worth what I paid...

Running Wild, Victoria Clayton This book on the other hand, was awesome. Even though there are similarities (of course) in style and plot, Victoria Clayton's books don't seem "same-y" to me. Yes, there was one rather major plot point that I think was meant to startle people but I guessed pretty much immediately, but that didn't spoil it. And there were a LOT of characters that really beggared belief (one of which I also guessed very nearly immediately was the person I thought he was, even though the main character didn't have a clue), but it still managed to feel realistic.

And...that was it. I did start or continue other books which got finished later (or haven't been finished yet), but May was rather consumed with drama rehearsals. Mondays I helped in the class for three- and four-year-olds (okay, no rehearsal, just an hour of FUN); Tuesdays when I could I helped in Helen's class (mostly ages 8-9, I think), rehearsing The Giant's Giant Pizza (Helen made an awesome queen), although I usually could only help for part or not at all because I was babysitting a little girl; Wednesdays I helped in Elisabeth's class (ages 6-8, although Elisabeth was the only one who was six, and she turned seven the day before the exam performance), rehearsing Daffodil Scissors; Thursdays I had adorable little girl again as well as going to Midi-Club with Helen and Elisabeth, where I sometimes helped (and Katie and Lukas had their rehearsal for Shut Up, followed by Jacob's for Nuts, but I wasn't involved in either of those at all); Fridays I only had to show up ten minutes before the end of Elisabeth's other drama class (for ages 5-7) to watch their weekly performance; Saturdays there were a few rehearsals; and Sundays there were rehearsals with Helen and with Elisabeth and sometimes for Katie and Lukas. Then the performances were on two Sundays in May, plus the exam performances (of all four plays) in June.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Books finished in April 2017

July is nearing its end, so why not finally blog the books I read (or finished) in April?

Folly, Alan Titchmarsh  Yet another book by this author (also given to me for my birthday by Sue), I enjoyed it very much, definitely my favorite of his books that I've read so far. Most of the chapters alternate between the years 2007 and 1949 and it was fascinating putting together some pieces, suspecting some things before the characters did, but mostly having "aha!" moments about the same time as they did.

Finding You, Giselle Green This is the sequel to Little Miracles, which I read sometime last year. I was EXTREMELY disappointed with the ending of Little Miracles, which ended without solving the mystery of nearly the entire book. Sue admitted that she knew the answer to the one burning question, and I begged her to tell me, which she finally did. I don't remember if she found it out by reading this book, or by looking it up on-line. Either way, despite having a wonderful writing style, I highly disapproved of Giselle Green's ending! I like tied-up ends, or at least, the hope of them happening. This book answers that one burning question in one fell swoop, and poses a whole lot more. While leaving the ending open as to what might happen next, it was still a satisfying ending. In particular, very early in the book I thought, "Hmm...it's interesting that the trauma of this situation would mimic that particular diagnosis." It turned out that it wasn't the case at all...that particular diagnosis was actually correct.

Crown of Blood, The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, Nicola Tallis This book rather dominated April. The first two books had both been started in March, and then Jörn gave me this one as a late birthday present right at the beginning of April. I like history in general. I love historical fiction. I very much like biographies that READ like historical fiction. This didn't. This was loooooooong. And yet...compelling. Just as I was deciding I was giving up on it (like, 135 times or so...), there would suddenly be a new, intriguing fact or link or something, and I kept reading. For at least a few weeks after finally finishing it, I could have told you just about anything you might have wanted to know (or not) about Lady Jane Grey and her nine (or 13, depending on how you count) as Queen of England, and why so many paintings are inaccurate, and what kind of things probably happened and probably didn't. I think I've probably forgotten most of it now.

The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Sojourner Truth  This was a free book for the Kindle, and although I'd heard of Sojourner Truth, I didn't really know anything about her. She was born a slave and escaped to freedom in 1826, only half a year before all slavery was ended in New York anyway. She never learned to read (her books were dictated) and she never stopped fighting for abolition, and after the legal end of slavery, for equal rights for former slaves, for women, and for anybody and everybody who was oppressed. This book was published in 1850, well before slavery was finally abolished completely in the United States. Quite fascinating.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Books finished in March 2017

Since I wrote them down (at least some of them...), I figure I may as well go ahead and list the books I finished reading in March this year. I'm curious how many of them I'll even remember!

Dance With Me, Victoria Clayton I continue to enjoy Victoria Clayton's style, although by the third or fourth book of hers I read, I knew certain things about the plot for the whole book by the end of the first page. Still, I don't mind predictable when it's well written (which this is) and has lots of surprises despite the overall predictability, and just the right number of loose ends are tied up.

Rosie, Alan Titchmarsh I discovered Alan Titchmarsh at the library a year or so ago, never having heard of him (he's apparently well-known in the U.K. as a TV gardener...), and really enjoyed the couple of books I read then. My friend Sue, who is better at remembering what interests me than I am, gave me two Alan Titchmarsh books for my birthday in March! It's a little debatable who the main character of this book is. Rosie is definitely central, but it's really her grandson Nick who is the one changing and growing throughout the story, and most of it (if I remember correctly) is told from his point of view. I haven't particularly enjoyed very many novels written by men, but this is a wonderful exception.

The Midwife's Tale, Delia Parr Every week I get several free books for my Kindle, and this was one of them. It was...okay. It was one of those that reminded me that sometimes things that are free are worth about what was paid for them. There were quite a few anachronisms that irritated me, but the story was interesting enough to keep going. I disagreed with one plot twist. Not so much that it happened (that's up to the author, and it DID surprise me...), but because it wasn't, in my opinion, at all foreshadowed, and depended on yet another anachronism and so felt totally fake...

Beautiful Child, Torey Hayden I thought I'd read all of Torey Hayden's books (and I think I have most of them), but came across this in the give-aways at the library and it didn't look familiar. I can't ever read more than one Torey Hayden book in a row, as they can be too depressing. The author has received a certain amount of criticism for allegedly implying that she is perfect, "look at all the children she has saved." I don't think she comes across that way at all. She's honest about her failures, signs she's missed, etc., but yes, obviously she writes about cases where she was successful in her job with children with some pretty extreme special needs. I find HER encouraging, while the situations of some of the children make me very sad.

Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett Despite the best efforts of several people, I haven't been able to get into Terry Pratchett, really. But this book was lying around (sort of...it's Marie's, and I was moving some of her stuff from one place to another and saw this and it appealed...) and I started reading it, and actually finished it. Neil Gaiman is apparently also famous, but I'd never heard of him. Surreal and very funny and thought-provoking, too.

Parker Twins Bundle: Cave of the Inca Re, Jungle Hideout, Captured in Colombia, Mystery at Death Canyon, Secret of the Dragon mark, Race for the Secret Code Jeanette Windle I think I started this last November or so. I got it (them?) free for the Kindle, and it's pretty much another case of getting what I paid for. I think the target age group is around 10-12 and they're certainly very easy reading, but I have nothing against well-written children's books. These aren't, particularly. There's a pair of twins who get to travel to South America with their uncle. In the first book they're in Peru and stumble across smugglers. Spoiler: the twins don't get murdered. (That's clear anyway, because there are five more books.) The smugglers also get caught. This is because the twins pray. In the second book, they're in...Bolivia, I think and they stumble across...hmm...some other lawbreakers. The lawbreakers get caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. In the third book they stumble across drug smugglers. The smugglers get caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. (Sorry, I know I'm giving away the whole and complete plot of each and every book here...) In the fourth book they're actually back in the U.S. They stumble across smugglers. The smugglers get caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. In the fifth book they're also in the U.S. They stumble across a violent gang. The gang gets caught. The twins don't get murdered. This is because they pray. In the sixth book--PLOT TWIST--the boy twin doesn't pray. He gets tricked into doing stuff he shouldn't. This leads him to stumble across more illegal behavior. Finally, like a couple of pages before the end, he prays. So he doesn't get murdered and the bad people get caught. I don't really know why I finished these books, unless it was because I was reading them when I couldn't sleep...

I also read lots and lots of books to the children and don't feel like leaving my comfortable seat in the air conditioning (set at 28 Celsius) to look at the list in the living room, which isn't even a complete list. None of the books I read to them were books I hadn't read before, except maybe a few picture books from the library.

Monday, April 17, 2017

At home in the world...

I've sort of sometimes kind of skimmed the blogposts at "The Art of Simple," but there are a lot of posts, and many of them just aren't all that interesting to me, personally. There are several contributors to the blog, and some of them have ideas of "simple" that are way more complicated than my ideas of simple. For example, a recent blogpost about "packing light" included at least twice as much as I pack! But every once in awhile a post catches my eye and I read the whole one, and I WOULD like Tsh Oxenrider's book, which is being released tomorrow.

The newest post, in honor of the release of the book, "At Home in the World," posed several questions and challenged people to answer them. That appeals to me, partly because I'm not particularly creative but love talking (= writing), but also for the sake of the topic itself. So for those three people who sometimes read my blog, here goes. (For all I know, at least two of those people skim my occasional blogpost the way I skim most of those I "read", but that's why I like blogs...nobody is forced to listen, but I get to ramble all I want without feeling guilty for doing so, because if YOU decide to read the whole thing, it's YOUR problem.)

So finally getting to the point, here's the first question (in italics) and my response below.

1. Share about a place where you feel at home in the world.
This can be anything from a little coffee shop in an obscure back alley in a tiny village in Central Asia, all the way to your favorite armchair in the corner of your bedroom. Tell me why you love being there so much, and why it feels like home to you.

My spontaneous response to the title of the blogpost was "anywhere but in the U.S." Despite having lived in the United States for just over 19 years (not consecutive, but from birth until 20 1/2, so nearly), and that still being my only passport, I never "fit in." And the problem is that when one doesn't fit in where one is expected to fit in, the result is, at best, being ignored. Maybe that's mostly just childhood (and definitely teenagerhood) in general, but the three months I spent in the U.S. at the age of 35 weren't any different. I don't particularly "fit in" anywhere else, either, but nobody expects me to anywhere else. Outside of my passport country it's kind of that I'm given more freedom to be me, but I mostly take the freedom to be me whether it's given to me or not, so it's not even that. At the very least, outside of the U.S. people can shrug and blame my me-ness on my passport, but they don't reject me because of it. At least, that's the impression I get.

There ARE specific attitudes I enjoy in other places that I never knew I missed in the U.S. until I met them other places. In Latin America, for example, hugs and kisses are everyday life, every day, multiple times a day. I like that. When with my host family in Costa Rica (I was an exchange student there for seven weeks when I was 17, and have been back to visit ten times since), I enjoy greeting and being greeted every morning, by every member of the family. When anyone leaves or arrives, it's hugs and kisses all around, and the same when anyone goes to bed. Some people would hate that (and most U.S.ians seem to), but I love it.

In Germany, where I lived for over 17 years, it's "only" handshakes, but there's still always a connection. In some ways, Latino culture and Northern European culture are totally opposite (maybe "warm climate culture" vs. "cold climate culture" could be the topic of another post...), but I feel very at home in both.

Another aspect with both is that I KNOW where I stand. In Costa Rica and in Mexico (I lived in Mexico for one year when I was 18-19), people say, "Stop by anytime!" and they really mean it, and if you don't stop by, they'll ask you why you didn't and when you are coming. I've only been back to visit Mexico once, for one week, and at the end of that week I flew back to Germany from a city 20 hours away by bus from where I'd been staying with a friend. When my friend realized I'd be arriving at 9:00 at night and my flight was the next morning, she said I should stay with her cousin. Her cousin didn't have a phone and there was no other way for anyone to get a message through, but they gave me the cousin's address. When I arrived, I took a taxi to the address. These people who had never even HEARD of me before opened the door to a stranger, in the rain, late at night. When I said I was a friend of Carolina in Tuxtla, they welcomed me in, fed me, and put me not only in the room but in the bed with a teenage daughter, and were disappointed that I was leaving the next day.

In Germany, it's nearly the opposite in that people only invite you if they really want you, and they don't necessarily, so one doesn't get the "open invitation" of Latino culture. However, again, I'm comfortable with that because I know where I stand. If they invite me to stop by next week for coffee, they want me to do so and they expect me to do so, and if I don't do so, they'll wonder what's wrong and probably feel hurt. I don't have to wonder whether they're just being polite, because in my experience, Germans don't bother "just being polite." (And having been married to one particular German for 22 years, I do have a little bit of experience to go on.) Some U.S.ians mean it when they issue an open invitation, and some even expect to be taken up on it, but I am so utterly lacking in intuition that I can't figure out who does and who doesn't, so it's just a source of confusion for me.

And now I live in Cyprus. The friendly attitude here to large families (which we also experienced in Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, and South Africa, but not, unfortunately, Germany) is a huge bonus, and I do very well with the laid-back attitudes about time that resemble my experiences in Latin America. And hugging and kisses (on both cheeks, as opposed to only one in Mexico and Costa Rica) are normal and people are hospitable and mean it. That's all cool. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten to be really immersed in Cypriot culture, the way I was in Costa Rica, Mexico, Germany, and even some in our short time (two months) in Thailand. There are certainly practical reasons for that, one being that virtually everyone speaks such good English that it's not been necessary to learn Greek (I'm the only member of the family who can communicate in Greek beyond greetings and set phrases), and there are so many ex-pats that it's very easy to have a very full life without encountering many Cypriots. All the children take drama classes, four are currently taking music lessons (from British teachers), we're active in an English-language church which includes activities during the week for all ages, etc.

At the end of all this rambling, though, there's still the question of how I define "home." I'm good at feeling AT home nearly anyplace (except in the U.S., where I mostly feel stressed...), and I'm good at LIVING where I am. We were only in South Africa for four months, but we had library cards within days of arriving, I joined a homeschool mothers Bible study and a mother-toddler group, the children played with the neighbors, I taught Sunday school, we took the train regularly, we knew where to go grocery shopping: we lived there. Still, "home" was in Germany, where my books were, and that's a definition I've used before. By that definition, the only homes I've had were my childhood homes (five, although three were the same neighborhood, two of those three literally in the EXACT same place, seeing as the last house was built on the site of the house that burned down when I was ten) in the United States, Germany (seven different houses in five different cities), and this house in Cyprus, where we've been for over eight years now, the longest consecutive time my books have stayed on the same shelves in my entire life.

I like my bed, too (we brought it with us from Germany), and no matter how much I enjoy traveling and how comfortable other beds were, there's definitely a moment of sighing happily, "It's so good to be home," when I get back to my own bed. And as it's 10 minutes until tomorrow, that's where I'm headed now.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Books finished in February 2017

After carefully keeping track of the books I read in January, I thought I'd keep that up in February, but didn't write them straight down here and am even less sure that I got them all. I rather hope not, because I don't like to think that I truly only finished six books in the whole month! Again, unusually, all of those listed are ones I read for the first time.

Shadows of the Workhouse, Jennifer Worth  A friend from church saw my post of the books I had read in January and offered to lend me this, a sequel to Call the Midwife, which I of course gratefully accepted. This was likewise very good, although sometimes difficult (emotionally) reading.

Come Rain or Come Shine, Jan Karon  I have the first half dozen or so of Jan Karon's Mitford Series, but have been able to borrow all the others one by one as my friend Sue acquires them. I enjoyed this very much, especially following on the heels of a somewhat depressing book set in post-war London. There were a couple of incidents that were a bit difficult to believe, but I can't think of how to mention them without giving away something rather startling, so I won't!

A Vicarage Family, Noel Streatfeild After enjoying Tea by the Nursery Fire, a fictionalized (but categorized as non-fiction) account of Noel Streatfield's father's nanny, I very much looked forward to this book, the first of the three that are essentially autobiographical. The only thing that annoyed me a bit was that a few characters were completely changed. Yes, I realize that both books are fictionalized, and I know that it can be difficult to remember some details one has made up, but the essential characters of Noel's paternal grandparents are completely the opposite of who they are in the first book, so I wonder which is closer to the truth or if they're both completely fictional. In both cases, they play fairly major roles, so it seems odd! Also, a detail about the nanny's life is completely opposite in the two books, again, a fairly major point in my opinion.

Beyond the Vicarage, Noel Streatfeild This is the third of Noel Streatfeild's autobiographical books, and seemed rather disjointed. It was much more a set of rambling memoirs of an older lady than the first one. (I can't compare to the second one, as Sue, from whom I borrowed both, doesn't have the second one, and when I looked it up on amazon and couldn't find it for less than £28, I decided I wasn't buying it myself, either!) It felt very odd to have some things fictional (for example, the main character is called Victoria Strangeway), but then for the actual titles of the books that Noel Streatfeild wrote to be listed and talked about one by one. Sentences like "Victoria had not read that book since it was published until she re-read it 40 years later while writing this book" when referring to a book, by its correct title, written by Noel, of course, seemed totally out of place. I like memoirs and can ramble just fine on my own, but I suspect that this was published at all mainly on the strength of it being a sequel and being by a well-known author.

The Girl from Venice, Martin Cruz Smith Jörn bought this book at the airport in London and read it in a relatively short time (especially for one who virtually never reads fiction) and talked me into reading it. It took me forever to get through it and I still don't know if I "liked" it. In general, historical fiction is my favorite genre, and specifically, I particularly appreciate World War II historical fiction. But the drama between brothers and not trusting the author to keep certain people alive (he did, after all, except one that he killed off turned out to be alive and then he killed him off anyway...) and the suspense were all things that were not on my list of enjoyable reading. Also, it's set at the beginning of 1945 and I always, very unreasonably, have a hard time not getting annoyed with the characters for not realizing that the war is nearly over anyway...

Past Mischief, Victoria Clayton I read this book in two days, the day I finished it including getting up at 5:00 a.m. and reading until 9:30 (with a short break for a shower, and eating breakfast while reading), having about 10 pages left. I took it with me to church and read another two or three pages before the service started, much to my husband's disapproval (LOL), but actually waited until I got home to finish it completely. It was a very satisfying book, for the most part, with some very surprising twists and finishing with the right number of ends tied up neatly, but not too perfectly to be believable.

I'm of course still reading to the children every day (as I have been doing for 19 1/2 years, and did plenty before that with borrowed children ;-) ), but will only mention that we did read two more Narnia books:

The Horse and His Boy and The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis Again, these were supposedly being read to Helen and Elisabeth, but my husband wouldn't let us read them without him. We managed to finish just before he left for Israel, then had to wait a week to start The Last Battle.