spiralsheep's GeoKIT and BingoDOG pets, 2021 (part the third)

Dette er en fortsættelse af tråden spiralsheep's GeoKIT and BingoDOG pets, 2021 (part 2).

Snak2021 Category Challenge

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spiralsheep's GeoKIT and BingoDOG pets, 2021 (part the third)

Redigeret: apr 20, 3:34am

My third thread of 2021.

Currently tracking:
- my third BingoDOG card;
- my third GeoKIT circumnavigation;
- my monthly SFFKIT which is still proving useful in emptying my To Read shelf of older books;
- my quarterly Reading Globally challenges;
- my attempt to read a book, preferably fiction, by a contemporary author from every country;
- my attempt to return my To Read shelf to 99 books or fewer.

Yes, I'm still having fun with this challenge and these groups. :D

The only change is that I cba with touchstones for any book I haven't rated at least 4*. I rate books according to their genre, so a book that excels within its field isn't necessarily classic literature but it is an outstanding book of its type (imo, obv). :-)

Redigeret: jun 7, 2:39pm

Number of books on To Read shelves on 1 January 2021: 158
Number of books on To Read shelves on 1 June 2021: 158

Number of book donated to my favourite local charity shop by 1 June 2021: 80


Redigeret: jun 10, 10:49am

2021 Category Challenge BingoDOG

I completed my first BingoDog card with 25 books, out of 31 read, on 11 Feb 2021.
I completed my second BingoDog card with 25 x 2 books, out of 60 read, on 17 April 2021.
I completed my third BingoDog card with 25 x 3 books, out of 82 read, on 17 May 2021.
Onwards! :D

Fewer than 200 pages
- Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid, 4
- Family Album: three novellas, by Claribel Alegria, 3.5
- Wherever it is Summer, by Tamara Bach, 2.5
- Mission to Kala, by Mongo Beti, 5

Time word in title or time is the subject
- Mr Tiger, Betsy, and the Blue Moon, by Sally Gardner, 3.5
- Little Night / Nochecita, by Yuyi Morales, 4
- The Dream Years, by Lisa Goldstein, 4
- A Woman of Five Seasons, by Leila Al-Atrash, 3.5

Set in or author from the Southern Hemisphere
- The Girl Who Stole an Elephant, by Nizrana Farouk, 3
- The Women in Black, by Madeleine St John, 4
- Potiki, by Patricia Grace, 4

Book with or about magic
- The Lord Sorcier, by Olivia Atwater, 3
- The Serpent's Egg, by Caroline Stevermer, 2.5
- City of Bones, by Martha Wells, 3.5
- Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest, by A. Lee Martinez, 3.5

Arts and recreation
- You're All Just Jealous of my Jetpack, by Tom Gauld, 5
- Baking with Kafka, by Tom Gauld, 4
- Mouton, by Zeina Abirached, 3.5
- Dotter of her Father's Eyes, by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot, 4.5

Classical element in title (earth, water, fire, air, aether, wood, metal)
- The Girl Who Fell to Earth, by Sophia Al-Maria, 4
- The Underwater Museum: submerged sculptures, by Jason deCaires Taylor, 5
- Aetheric Mechanics, by Warren Ellis and Gianluca Pagliarani, 3.5
- Fireweed, by Jill Paton Walsh, 4

Name of a building in the title
- The Castle of Inside Out, by David Henry Wilson, 5
- At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, by John Gimlette, 2.5
- Keepers of the House, by Lisa St Aubin de Terán, 3

By or about a marginalised group
- The Story of Tracy Beaker, by Jacqueline Wilson, 3
- Ways of Dying, by Zakes Mda, 5
- Code Name: Butterfly, by Ahlam Bsharat, 3.5
- Sensible Footwear: a girl's guide, by Kate Charlesworth, 4

Senior citizen as the protagonist
- The Ladies are Upstairs, by Merle Collins, 4.5
- Travels with my Aunt, by Graham Greene, 4
- The Authenticity Project, by Clare Pooley, 3.5

Suggested by a person from another generation
- The Name of this Book is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch, 4
- Incomparable World, by SI Martin, novel, 5
- Momo, by Michael Ende, 5

About nature or the environment (includes the sea)
- Time Song: journeys in search of a submerged land, by Julia Blackburn, 4
- The Book of Pebbles, by Christopher Stocks (author) and Angie Lewin (illustrator), 5
- Nature Writing for the Common Good, essays by twelve authors, 3
- An African in Greenland, by Tete-Michel Kpomassie, 4

Made me laugh
- Talk Stories, by Jamaica Kincaid, 3.5
- Fanfare for Tin Trumpets, by Margery Sharp, 3.5
- Destination Cambodia, by Walter Mason, 3
- Return Match, by Elizabeth Cadell, 4

Shared with 20 or fewer LT members
- Mischief Diary, by Nada Faris, 1 member (me), 3
- A Lady's Ride Across Spanish Honduras, by Maria Soltera, 4 members, 3.5
- Arctic Hero : the incredible life of Matthew Henson, by Catherine Johnson, 19 members, 5
- The Actual, by Inua Ellams, 5

About history or alternate history
- The Border : a journey around Russia, by Erika Fatland, 3.5
- Sunken cities: Egypt's lost worlds, edited by Franck Goddio, 4
- Jazz, Perfume & the Incident, by Seno Gumira Ajidarma, 4.5
- Samarkand, by Amin Maalouf, 3.5

Title that describes you
- Department of Mind-Blowing Theories, by Tom Gauld, 5
- The Black Sheep and other fables, by Augusto Monterroso, 4.5
- Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands, by Sonia Nimr, 4

Book you heartily recommend
- The Desert and the Drum, by Mbarek Ould Beyrouk, 5
- A Portable Paradise, by Roger Robinson, 5
- State of Emergency : a novel, by Jeremy Tiang, 4.5

Author you haven’t read before
- Tropical Fish : Tales from Entebbe, by Doreen Baingana, 4
- Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, 1964, novel, 0.5
- Liberty Lyrics, by L. S. Bevington, 2

Impulse read!
- A Tempest, by Aime Cesaire, 3.5
- How to Avoid a Tragedy, by David Henry Wilson, unrated
- The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, volume 2, edited by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Wirrow, 3
- Bingo Love, by Tee Franklin and Jenn St-Onge, 3.5

One-word title
- Battlepug: War on Christmas, by Mike Norton, 5
- Angel (revised 2011 edition), by Merle Collins, 4.5
- Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal, 4.5
- Flake, by Matthew Dooley, 3

With a character you think you'd like as a friend
- To be Taught, if Fortunate, by Becky Chambers, 4
- Clean Slate: new and selected poems, by Daisy Zamora, 4
- The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, 5
- Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, by Mary M. Talbot, Kate Charlesworth, and Bryan Talbot, 4.5

Dark or light in title
- The White Darkness, by David Grann, 4
- The Dark Child, by Camara Laye, 3.5
- The Dark Matter of Mona Starr, by Laura Lee Gulledge, 4

Set somewhere you’d like to visit
- Travels with Herodotus, by Ryszard Kapuscinski, 4
- Tiare in Bloom, by Celestine Vaite, 4
- Empress of Mars, by Kage Baker, 4
- Foreign Affairs, by Alison Lurie, 4

By two or more authors
- Spell on Wheels Volume 2: Just to Get to You, by Kate Leth and Megan Levens, 3.5
- Penguin Modern Poets 15 : Alan Bold, Edward Brathwaite, Edwin Morgan, 3
- The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot, 4

With a love story included
- Half a Soul, by Olivia Atwater, 1
- The Labyrinth Gate, by Alis Rasmussen (Kate Elliott), 3.5
- The Mysteries of Love & Eloquence, by Edward Phillips, unrated

Read a CAT or KIT
- Mooncop, by Tom Gauld, for SFFKIT, 4
- The Corsair, by Abdulaziz Al-Mahmoud, 2.5
- Two Serious Ladies, by Jane Bowles, 3

Redigeret: jun 10, 10:50am

SFFKit from my To Read shelf

January: sff book you meant to read in 2020
- Mooncop, by Tom Gauld, graphic novel, 4
- To be Taught if Fortunate, by Becky Chambers, 4
- Department of Mind-Blowing Theories by Tom Gauld, 5

February: sentient things
- Mr Tiger, Betsy, and the Blue Moon, by Sally Gardner, 3.5
- Compulsory (Murderbot 0.5 short story), by Martha Wells, 5
- The Black Sheep and other fables, by Augusto Monterroso, 4.5
- Family Album: three novellas, Village of God and the Devil, by Claribel Alegria, 3.5

March: Indiana Jones (archaeology and adventure)
- The Labyrinth Gate, by Alis Rasmussen (Kate Elliott), 3.5
- City of Bones, by Martha Wells, 3.5

April: series
- The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, 5
- Empress of Mars, by Kage Baker, 4

May: time travel
- The Dream Years, by Lisa Goldstein, 4
- Aetheric Mechanics, by Warren Ellis and Gianluca Pagliarani, 3.5
- Momo, by Michael Ende, 5

June: it's about the journey
- Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest, by A. Lee Martinez, 3.5

• July: historical fantasy
• August: female authors
• September: near future / alternate reality
• October: creature feature
• November: short stories
• December: gothic fantasy

Redigeret: jun 10, 4:38pm

Number of countries unread on 1 January 2021: 56
Number of countries unread on 1 February 2021: 49
Number of countries unread on 1 March 2021: 44
Number of countries unread on 1 May 2021: 37
Number of countries unread on 1 June 2021: 30

Countries read 2021: Algeria, Antarctica, Antigua, Aotearoa, Australia, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Bahrain, Belarus, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Congo, Denmark, Doggerland, East Timor, Egypt, El Salvador, England, Estonia, Ethiopia, fantasylands, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece (ancient), Greenland, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, "island full of noises", Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mallorca, Mars, Martinique, Mauritania, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Persia, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, {secret places}, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, spaaaaaace, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tahiti, Thailand, Timor Leste, Togo, Tonga, Turkey, Uganda, UK, Ukraine, US, Uzbekistan, Venezuela

2021 Category Challenge GeoKIT

I completed my first tour of GeoKIT's seven categories on 8 Feb 2021.
I completed my second tour of GeoKIT's seven categories on 29 March 2021.
I completed my third tour of GeoKIT's seven categories on 24 May 2021.
Onwards! :D

- The Story of Tracy Beaker, by Jacqueline Wilson, 3
- Travels with Herodotus, by Ryszard Kapuscinski, 4
- How to Avoid a Tragedy, by David Henry Wilson, unrated
- Time Song: journeys in search of a submerged land, by Julia Blackburn, 4
- Family Album: three novellas, by Claribel Alegria, 3.5
- A Portable Paradise, by Roger Robinson, 5
- Incomparable World, by SI Martin, novel, 5
- The Book of Pebbles, by Christopher Stocks (author) and Angie Lewin (illustrator), 5
- Travels with my Aunt, by Graham Greene, 4
- Fanfare for Tin Trumpets, by Margery Sharp, 3.5
- Nature Writing for the Common Good, essays by twelve authors, 3
- The Mysteries of Love & Eloquence, by Edward Phillips, unrated
- Wherever it is Summer, by Tamara Bach, 2.5
- The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot, 4
- Liberty Lyrics, by L. S. Bevington, 2
- The Dream Years, by Lisa Goldstein, 4
- Mouton, by Zeina Abirached, 3.5
- The Authenticity Project, by Clare Pooley, 3.5
- Return Match, by Elizabeth Cadell, 4
- The Actual, by Inua Ellams, 5
- Dotter of her Father's Eyes, by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot, 4.5
- Fireweed, by Jill Paton Walsh, 4
- Flake, by Matthew Dooley, 3
- Sensible Footwear: a girl's guide, by Kate Charlesworth, 4
- Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, by Mary M. Talbot, Kate Charlesworth, and Bryan Talbot, 4.5

- The Desert and the Drum, by Mbarek Ould Beyrouk, 5
- Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe, by Doreen Baingana, 4
- Ways of Dying, by Zakes Mda, 5
- Sunken cities: Egypt's lost worlds, edited by Franck Goddio, 4
- The Dark Child, by Camara Laye, 3.5
- Mission to Kala, by Mongo Beti, 5

- The Border : a journey around Russia, by Erika Fatland, 3.5
- Mischief Diary, by Nada Faris, 3
- The Girl Who Fell to Earth, by Sophia Al-Maria, 4
- The Girl Who Stole an Elephant, by Nizrana Farouk, 3
- The Corsair, by Abdulaziz Al-Mahmoud, 2.5
- Code Name: Butterfly, by Ahlam Bsharat, 3.5
- State of Emergency : a novel, by Jeremy Tiang, 4.5
- Destination Cambodia, by Walter Mason, 3
- Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands, by Sonia Nimr, 4
- Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal, 4.5
- Jazz, Perfume & the Incident, by Seno Gumira Ajidarma, 4.5
- A Woman of Five Seasons, by Leila Al-Atrash, 3.5
- Samarkand, by Amin Maalouf, 3.5

- Tiare in Bloom, by Celestine Vaite, 4
- The Women in Black, by Madeleine St John, 4
- Potiki, by Patricia Grace, 4

- The White Darkness, by David Grann, 4
- Arctic Hero : the incredible life of Matthew Henson, by Catherine Johnson, 5
- An African in Greenland, by Tete-Michel Kpomassie, 4

Central and South America:
- Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid, 4
- The Ladies are Upstairs, by Merle Collins, 4.5
- A Lady's Ride Across Spanish Honduras, by Maria Soltera, 3.5
- The Black Sheep and other fables, by Augusto Monterroso, 4.5
- Clean Slate: new and selected poems, by Daisy Zamora, 4
- The Underwater Museum: submerged sculptures, by Jason deCaires Taylor, 5
- Angel (revised 2011 edition), by Merle Collins, 4.5
- At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, by John Gimlette, 2.5
- Keepers of the House, by Lisa St Aubin de Terán, 3

North America:
- Talk Stories, by Jamaica Kincaid, 3.5
- Spell on Wheels Volume 2: Just to Get to You, by Kate Leth and Megan Levens, 3.5
- Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, 1964, novel, 0.5
- Little Night / Nochecita, by Yuyi Morales, 4
- The Dark Matter of Mona Starr, by Laura Lee Gulledge, 4
- Two Serious Ladies, by Jane Bowles, 3
- Bingo Love, by Tee Franklin and Jenn St-Onge, 3.5
- Foreign Affairs, by Alison Lurie, 4
- Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest, by A. Lee Martinez, 3.5

Redigeret: maj 26, 5:09pm

Reading Globally

• April-June: Childhood around the world: books for and about children
Possibilities: Neverending Story, Little Boys Come from the Stars
- Little Night / Nochecita, by Yuyi Morales, Mexico/US, 4
- The African Child, by Camara Laye, 3.5
- Code Name: Butterfly, by Ahlam Bsharat, 3.5
- Wherever it is Summer, by Tamara Bach, 2.5
- Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands, by Sonia Nimr, 4
- Mouton, by Zeina Abirached, 3.5
- Momo, by Michael Ende, 5
- Mission to Kala, by Mongo Beti, 5

• July-September: The Lusophone World: Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, East Timor, Goa, and Macau.
Possibilities: The First Wife : a tale of polygamy by Paulina Chiziane, The Book of Chameleons, Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago recced by Kidzdoc, Abdulai Sila and Fernando Pessoa. But Trifonia Melibea Obono writes in Spanish.

• Also August: VMC month
Possibilities: She knew she was right (VMC), The Colour of Forgetting (Virago), The World My Wilderness (VMC) and What Not: a Prophetic Comedy, The Lark (VMC author), also Muriel Spark and Margery Sharp too.

• October-December: Translation Prize Winners
Possibilities: I have a lot of prize winning books in translation but not many as far as I know that have won prizes specifically for the translation I own, except Disoriental.

Redigeret: maj 11, 6:12am

Note: how to link touchstones directly without searching etc.

All in square brackets, obviously:

worknumber::any words here e.g. 778289::title

Angel, by Merle Collins
Angel, by Merle Collins

Angel, Merle Collins
Angel, Merle Collins

Angel, (Merle Collins)
Angel, (Merle Collins)

Redigeret: apr 20, 3:45am

61/2021. I read The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers, which is a science fiction novel in her Wayfarers series although as with all Chambers' books it reads perfectly as a standalone. Another well-written story focussing primarily on a small group of disparate characters and the complexities of their relationships. The simple classic plot of confining several strangers together in a stressful situation and seeing how they cope also works updated into this futuristic setting.

Quote: "They were stuck in a hab dome filled with cakes and blooming hedges, not crash-landed on an asteroid or venting oxygen into space."

I intended to extract another quote but I was so engrossed in reading that I forgot to write it down. :-)

BingoDOG: Book with a character you think you'd like to have as a friend
SFFKIT: April: Series (Wayfarers)

apr 20, 3:49am

Happy new thread! Wow, and two Bingo cards already filled! And I'm glad to hear that Becky Chambers' new book is good.

apr 20, 3:58am

>9 MissWatson: Thank you! My reading will slow down now the weather's better and I'll spend more time outside. I usually aim for 104 books but might manage 156 this year. So I reckon I can fill three to four BingoDOG cards and GeoKIT circumnavigations.

Can we clone Becky Chambers? Or create a Becky Chambers AI to write us more books? >;-)

apr 20, 4:02am

>10 spiralsheep: That would be something to behold.

apr 20, 4:09am

>11 MissWatson: We would find out if the author Becky Chambers has the same attitudes towards AIs and cloning as her most forward-thinking characters. >;-)

apr 20, 4:12am

Happy new thread.
2 Bingo cards is hugely impressive!

apr 20, 4:15am

>13 Helenliz: Thank you!

I've been lucky this year's bingo squares just happen to fit with my current To Read pile. Of course, it helps that my brain seems to function as a book-tracking spreadsheet, lol.

apr 20, 8:55am

Happy new thread!

apr 20, 9:30am

>15 thornton37814: Thank you! :-)

apr 20, 2:55pm

Happy New Thread and have fun with your challenges! The Reading Globally Challenges sound intriguing, but quite hard to do (some of them)!

I'm only missing South America for my first GeoKIT tour.

apr 20, 3:08pm

Happy new thread! I'm beginning to worry that your tbr is getting a little sparse.

apr 20, 3:19pm

>17 MissBrangwen: Thank you!

I find the Reading Globally members are a good source of recs for areas unfamiliar to me.

As someone who reads neither Spanish nor Portuguese, and doesn't like magical realism in literary novels, I lack enthusiasm for much classic Central and South American literature. Fortunately I enjoy magical realism in folktales and fantasy style novels, like quirky travel writing, will cheerfully read the memoirs and journalism of revolutionaries, and adore most types of poetry (if its good), so I can dig and find work that's less well known in the anglophone world. But I understand your difficulties. I suppose you could try looking at English books from the Caribbean if you feel that counts? That would be an easy option for me if I wasn't aiming for each country individually.

apr 20, 3:21pm

>18 RidgewayGirl: Quiet, temptress! :D

I'm down to about 141 To Reads and now have very few long term Wants on my various wishlists. By the end of this year I intend to see fossils and rocks on my mantelpiece instead of an overflow of books.

apr 21, 5:01am

62/2021. I read Nature Writing for the Common Good, by Tim Jackson (Foreword), Kate Oakley (Afterword), Ian Christie (Afterword), Mahima Sukhdev (Author), Joanna Gerrard (Author), Claire Mascall (Author), Liz Child (Author), Caroline Bateson (Author), Sophie Lawson (Author), Jacqueline Hitt (Author), Frances Voelcker (Author), Orlaith Delargy (Author), 2020, which is a collection of non-fiction nature essays by previously unpublished writers.

This is such a varied set of essays that any given reader will probably find one to love and at least one which leaves them indifferent. I especially enjoyed Sophie Lawson on the external and internal space that interactions with the natural world can give us for healing; and Liz Child on revivifying a council estate for the tenants and their wild visitors.


Sophie Lawson on where we retreat to when "home" isn't a place of safety: "I close the rickety wooden gate on the maelstrom labelled home and wander away, down the road to the place where the poplars meet. I have an appointment with an old friend. She stands alone in a clearing, daisies and clover dancing at her feet. For hours I lie there, taking in all she has to teach: sensing her stillness, listening to her silence. Every year she sheds all that is rotten to make way for the green fire that bursts forth from her fingertips. A magic-show reminder that everything is ephemeral: it won’t last. She is teaching me to tap into my own rivers of sap, oozing with peace. Here, supported by her steady roots, I can let my 11-year-old imagination run wild, and I am free."

BingoDOG: Book about nature or the environment
GeoKIT: Europe (mostly UK, with one from India)

Recommended by Jackie_K. Ta! :-)

apr 22, 4:48am

Anyone read Arabic handwriting? I'm assuming the last line is the date, and the penultimate line is the author's name: أحلام بشارات

63/2021. I read Code Name: Butterfly by Ahlam Bsharat, 2009 (English translation 2016 by Nancy N Roberts), which is a painfully honest YA story told by a young teenage Palestinian girl living in the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories near Nablus. She has many questions about life which she daren't ask for cultural or political reasons so she locks them away inside herself and begins to wonder if adult humans emerge from their cocoon of childhood questions much as butterflies emerge after their own transformations.

While this book is perhaps more serious than many YA novels it's not especially solemn and the teen protagonist manages to have enough of a sense of humour to perceive the absurdities of growing up under military occupation by a foreign power.

On the family cat: "'I didn't get too upset when Wadee died,' she declared. 'After all, he's a martyr, since Abu Mansur ran him over on the way to work for the occupiers.' She tried to act as if she were fully convinced of every word she was saying and wasn't heartbroken. So she looked hilarious and miserable at the same time, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry."

Children in Jordan: "'They don't have to carry their birth certificates with them everywhere they go to prove they're too young to have to show an ID. In Palestine, children have to prove they're children.'"


BingoDOG: By or about a marginalised group (Palestinians, and children in any territory occupied by a hostile power even if that's their own government tbh)

GeoKIT: Asia (Palestine, the West Bank near Nablus)

apr 22, 2:06pm

>21 spiralsheep: You're welcome!

apr 22, 3:39pm

>21 spiralsheep: Beautiful quote! It makes me want to read the essay!

>22 spiralsheep: Another BB for me!

apr 22, 4:23pm

>24 MissBrangwen: The whole booklet is downloadable for free here:


The essay I quoted doesn't go where a reader might expect from the beginning, but it did hold my interest.

> Code Name : Butterfly managed to have a realistic teen protagonist who is interested in being a girl but she lives in a relatively extreme setting. I have much sympathy for and empathy with most Palestinian people but there are, of course, moments when my perceptions as a mature English woman clash with the perceptions of the protagonist of the book so it was occasionally challenging and made me think again about why I hold some of my attitudes. But for anyone prepared to accept a few cross-cultural challenges it's also comparatively easy and entertaining YA read.

Redigeret: apr 23, 6:18am

64/2021. I read Empress of Mars, by Kage Baker, which is a prequel science fiction novel in her Company series (and should be compulsory reading for anyone considering becoming indentured to Elon Musk's company, with a one-way ticket to Mars). It reads well as a standalone, unlike most Company stories. This tale is a pastiche of old west gold rush narratives about Irish immigrants, saloon owners with a heart of gold, navvies and prospectors, conmen and gamblers, except the expected evil American cattle barons have been replaced with capitalist English landlords, all successfully transposed to a futuristic Mars that doesn't quite achieve escape velocity from earlier science fiction about pioneering colonials... because why would it want to? Barsoom Day is even an official Martian holiday in this milieu. Characterisation of the stock types isn't especially strong but plot and subplots romp along fast enough to be interesting, and I laughed aloud a few times here and there. 4*

BingoDOG: Set somewhere you’d like to visit (not necessarily this Mars and definitely not Elon Musk's Mars but I'd like to visit another planet in our solar system and Mars is the only realistic contender in my lifetime)

SFFKIT: April: Series (Company)

apr 23, 5:19pm

Happy third thread!

apr 24, 1:37am

>6 spiralsheep: Another Portuguese book - The Crime of Father Amaro. I've started it once, but didn't get far because I was reading a shocking translation. I think it was MissWatson who pointed that out. The new translation is on my list for this year.

apr 24, 9:08am

>27 rabbitprincess: Thank you! It never occurred to me when I joined Category Challenge that everyone would take time to be so friendly.

>28 pamelad: I've added it to my list, thank you! And I've added a note about the different translations.

apr 24, 9:48am

65/2021. I read State of Emergency : a novel, by Jeremy Tiang, which is mostly set in Singapore and Malaysia before, during, and after independence. It focusses on the Singaporean and Malayan Chinese communities' political relationships with the state, especially the suppressed history of repression against anyone left of centre, told through the actions of one woman and the reactions rippling outwards through her extended family. It's surprisingly honest, and I note that the author lives in the US not Singapore. Before I read this I'd only encountered Tiang as a translator, and a good one, but he's a skilled storyteller too.

The putative protagonist is Siew Li a Chinese Singaporean woman who becomes involved in leftist politics, is detained without trial, and subsequently flees Singapore to make a new life and a second family in Malaysia and Thailand. The supporting characters are her two husbands, her children, her niece, and one old school friend. As you might expect under the circumstances, sometimes Siew Li is more revealed by her absence than her presence. It's hard to read about history repeating itself in the worst ways but Tiang captures the complexities by examining events with an unflinching eye as he weaves his fiction through reality.

Tiang is clear about the overt and covert political violence of authoritarian British colonialism on British subjects in South-East Asia, including events such as the Batang Kali massacre, and the overt and covert political violence of authoritarian Singaporean government on Singaporean citizens. But his characters also compare their experiences of this repression with the effects of foreign and domestic terrorism, and Japanese military occupation, which made it easier for British colonialism to be spun as comparatively "benevolent", especially by the local English-educated Singaporean politicians and administrators who took and held power after Independence. Tiang is as honest about internal divisions, especially those of class and culture and race.

And anyone who doesn't believe a clean tidy state such as Singapore could have such a messy dirty history can google for repeat detainee Linda Chen, and the world's longest political detainee Chia Thye Poh (never arrested or charged or convicted, but detained and disappeared for decades despite being a legitimately elected Member of Parliament).

An extremely impressive first novel. 4.5*


Political prisoner of the British Empire, detained without trial (for two years): "She was detained indefinitely - no indication at all if she'd ever be released. It wasn't fair, a girl of fifteen with everything still to come." (While she's imprisoned her boyfriend, in his late teens, willingly does his National Service conscripted for two years into the British military. Ironically the same military avoided conscripting Black and Asian men in the UK because racism.)

Decolonisation the profitable way: "The Tourist Board waited with impatience for the British to withdraw so their military base, already surrounded by every imaginable security feature, could be turned into a fine new airport."

State of Emergency: "No one could afford a proper war, it was far too soon after the last one. The small skirmishes and localised terror kept everyone on their toes."

Good title for a novel: "the possibility of justice".

BingoDOG: Book I heartily recommend

GeoKIT: Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and references to Indonesia)

apr 25, 5:16am

66/2021. I read The Mysteries of Love & Eloquence, by Edward Phillips, 1685, which is basically a 17th century pick-up manual written by an ex-Puritan, lol. This is one of the most hypocritical piles of fresh bullshit I've ever read, even by 17th century standards, but a point in its favour is that although it is no doubt full of minor vices it lacks any major viciousness. It's both intentionally and unintentionally funny and I couldn't stop laughing while I was reading it. Phillips was a student of his uncle John Milton, and later a tutor to the son of John Evelyn, so he had impeccable literary connections and is better known for his more serious literary history and criticism. I'm not reading that though, obvs. >;-)

The full title is: "The Mysteries of Love & Eloquence, or, The arts of wooing and complementing as they are manag'd in the Spring Garden, Hide Park, the New Exchange, and other eminent places : a work in which is drawn to the life the deportments of the most accomplisht persons, the mode of their courtly entertainments, treatments of their ladies at balls, their accustom'd sports, drolls and fancies, the witchcrafts of their perswasive language in their approaches, or other more secret dispatches".

Unrated because it's both awesome and awful simultaneously.


(I've actually left out the worst bit because I don't think most of you would forgive me if I made you read it, lol.)

How to repel a 17th century pick-up artist: "Miscreant, thou shalt lie alone with thy bed unwarmed a score of frosty Winters." (Y'all know I'll be using this in real life.)

I don't think the author actually intended feminine beauty as foreshadowing Hell but here we are: "his face was scorcht with his Ladies eyes, as if he bin a three years voiage at the Indies, I am per­swaded his very Soul was tanned, for beauty hath the same influence with the sun, it blacks within, as his brighter beams do burn without."

Why phonetics don't work in English: "to breath a few horse sighs" (to breathe a few hoarse sighs)

Ladies are tougher than heroes apparently: "La­dies, so monstrous and fatal to the most eminent Heroes of the world in all Ages, have the cruel­ties of your implacable Sex proved"

At the pub: "lustily quaft the Blood of the Grape"

Throwing your pee at me won't make me love you: "casting of his Urine, or any other Charms on his Mistress"

The Master of the Ball giving instructions: "fetch the perfumes and fume every corner"

A 17th century game of Truth or Dare at a ball (I'm not making this up, honestly): "A Lady was commanded to put her busk in a Gentlemans codpiss. Another Lady was commanded to pull it out, which occa­sioned some sport, for she laying hold upon somthing else, after two or three pulls gave over, excusing her disobedience, by pretending that the busk was tackt to the Gentlemans belly. Another Lady was commanded to lead a Gentleman three times about the Room by the nose with her teeth, which be­ing done, he was commanded to wipe off the wet with the lappet of her Smock. Another Lady is commanded to tell, how often she open'd her back-gates to let forth the captivated wind of her belly since she came into the Room. Another Lady is commanded to tell, if she have not a wart, like that in her face, upon such or such secret part of her body. Another Lady was commanded to tell, whether she had her maidenhead or no. Another was commanded to tell, who she loved best in that Room. Another was commanded to tell, how many times her Husband had enjoy'd her."

How to compliment a woman's forehead: "a stately prospect, and show'd like a fair Castle com­manding some goodly Countrey."

How to compliment a woman's voice: "should the holy Church-men use it, it would tie up the nightly, without the addition of more ex­orcism."

How to compliment a woman out shopping, apparently: "Madam, Your nimble eye wherewith you do espie the faults of garb and habit, emboldens me to crave your judg­ment concerning the cut of my Breeches, the choise of my Fancies, and the fling of my Legs."

When she doesn't want to marry him: "I decline this theame of your wiving Letter".

BingoDOG: Book with a love story in it (I would feel remiss not using this book for this category, although it's history, and also made me laugh, and is by an author I've never read before and will never read again, lol)

GeoKIT: Europe (very specifically London)

apr 25, 5:19am

Regarding tiny islands one can walk to (from the thread of Helenliz): There's one quite close to where we live, called Neuwerk. But I haven't been yet, can you believe it? If it's not too crowded this summer and if it's allowed, I hope we will finally go (and walk) there!
I thought you might like to check it out online if you like places like that!

wikipedia article on Neuwerk

apr 25, 5:22am

>31 spiralsheep: "How to repel a 17th century pick-up artist: "Miscreant, thou shalt lie alone with thy bed unwarmed a score of frosty Winters." (Y'all know I'll be using this in real life.)"

OMG, I should have known that one a few years earlier!!!
Still laughing!!!

Redigeret: apr 25, 6:23am

>32 MissBrangwen: Ooo, yes please to Neuwerk! A walkable island with a lighthouse and salt marsh cows. Yes to all these! Haha, my only list longer than my To Reads is my list of islands I'd like to visit.

YES: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Tower_Neuwerk

>33 MissBrangwen: I must have read it two dozen times now and I'm still laughing! I love that it sounds like a curse: "Miscreant, thou shalt lie alone with thy bed unwarmed a score of frosty Winters."

apr 25, 7:06am

>30 spiralsheep: Great review. I will have a look for this one. As I mentioned on my thread, I really liked the session he did for bookclub on Strange Beasts of China(with the author). Sounds like a completely different book though - impressive range.

Redigeret: apr 25, 8:59am

>35 charl08: State of Emergency : a novel is a quiet, calm, well-structured and readably-written novel covering events that are difficult to relate quietly and calmly. The only reason I rated it 4.5* instead of the full 5 is that the plot wrapped messy history up a smidgeon to neatly - very Singaporean though to find a tidy narrative thread through an untidy past. The characters were engaging too, despite all their flaws. Recommended, obv.

I'm tempted to hunt out his collection of short stories but they sound too grim for me at the moment. I might google to see if there're one or two published online (as there so often are in magazines etc).

apr 25, 8:41am

>31 spiralsheep: that sounds impresively quotable, but I think I'll pass.

apr 25, 8:56am

>37 Helenliz: As long as you understand you're missing out on "the witchcrafts of their perswasive language", lol.

To be fair, the guy who recommended it to me in our group chat did warn me that it would be "one of the best worst things you've ever read".

apr 25, 4:23pm

>31 spiralsheep: I can imagine young ladies getting together and laughing at these compliments. "Has he mentioned your fair castle yet?"

apr 25, 5:09pm

>39 pamelad: I've always imagined the stitch and bitch as one of the few historical constants. But, alas for the wittier maidens, the civil war had probably killed off enough men that they couldn't afford to be too picky about terrible chat-up lines in 1658.

I have never had more understanding of and empathy with 18th century women who imposed the demands of "polite society" on English men than while I was reading The Mysteries of Love & Eloquence.

Redigeret: apr 26, 5:55am

67/2021. I read Destination Cambodia, by Walter Mason, which is a travel book written by an Australian who clearly, despite his protestations, is very fond of Cambodia and its people. This is a true travel book about the author and his journeys and encounters, and he attempts to be honest about the personal lenses through which he sees the country and its people (which is, frankly a relief after all the posturing and pretence from wannabe Great Explorers or Great Writers in the travel genre). Mason doesn't try to be a journalist or a historian and he assumes anyone interested enough in Cambodia to read his book already knows the basics about the existence of Angkor Wat, which historians are still arguing about anyway, and the horrors of Khmer Rouge rule. He doesn't waste space on ahistorical guesses or exploitative and voyeuristic disaster porn. He's more interested in explicable everyday mysteries such as why ordinary Cambodians have so many sim cards for their phone/s, which he knows enough about to commentate on. The prose is readable and Mason strings his incidental anecdotes together smoothly. Solid personal travelogue writing. 3*

For my collection of tripe quotes: "My mother, a great consumer of cookbooks, is famous for scouring each new book for the most distinctly horrible recipe and then whipping it up for the family: 'Tripe fried in beer with pineapple and pumpkin - why, that sounds like the perfect dinner.'"

BingoDOG: A book that made you laugh (probably at all the wrong things, lol)
GeoKIT: Asia (Cambodia)

apr 26, 11:11am

On today's plus side, I managed to donate eight paper books and an audiobook to my favourite charity shop.

On the negative side of the ledger, my twelve year old tin opener broke this morning. One might say its spring has sprung.

apr 27, 4:32am

My slightly random culinary opinions culled from threads elsewhere:

1. If meat needs an acid fruit tenderiser then kiwi fruit are better than pineapple in every possible way.

2. If anyone is tempted to try tripe then I'd strongly suggest Italian recipes over the English. Of course, I ate bara lawr for breakfast so you might not want my advice. >;-)

68/2021. I read Wherever it is Summer by Tamara Bach, which is a young adult novel about two teenage girls in Germany and What They Did On Their Holidays. I can't judge the original German story or writing because it has been let down by the English translation.

The two languages are close enough that near verbatim translation works fine for most conversation and basic description but as soon as a character has deeper thoughts, especially if expressing those thoughts involves more complex grammar and style, then the result ranges from clunky to indecipherable. There's a note at the end which sounds like the translator keen to tell us something: "She (Tamara Bach) speaks super English and was a huge help to the translator." Hmm.

I feel mean quoting one of less good bits but I want to give an example of the effect I described above and I'm doing the author the favour of assuming it read better than this in the original German:

"HOW IT STARTED maybe can't be said at all after the event, but when - that I do know, because I wondered, because it was just before the holidays."

So, although the nostalgia was fun and the characters of the two non-conforming teens were good company for a few hours, I wanted to like and enjoy this as a novel more than I did.


Warning for repeated discussion of suicide (this is not a spoiler as it happened before the book begins).

BingoDOG: Fewer than 200 pages
GeoKIT: Europe (Germany)

apr 27, 12:47pm

>43 spiralsheep: I'm not tempted to try tripe. Sounds like that one might have lost something in the translation.

apr 27, 1:33pm

>44 thornton37814: When I was growing up in rural poverty and my mum resorted to making brawn (which you might know as headcheese) only dogs ate tripe, lol. The Italians can make almost anything taste delicious though.

I looked on Goodreads and the same book mostly reviewed from the German original was only rated 3.33*. But it was short and gave me some good feelings so reading it was no loss. :-)

apr 27, 2:53pm

>43 spiralsheep: "HOW IT STARTED maybe can't be said at all after the event, but when - that I do know, because I wondered, because it was just before the holidays."

I'm quite sure that this is a more readable sentence in German and quite in keeping with what is en vogue in YA novels right now (at least I think so). Especially the repetition of "weil... weil..." (because... because...). It sounds a bit like poetry slam.

I'm not sure if you speak/understand German, spiralsheep? If so, please forgive my explanation ;-)

Redigeret: apr 30, 6:49am

>46 MissBrangwen: I'm always happy to listen to native speakers!

I used to speak and read German but I didn't practice and my brain aged, lol, but I have many happy memories of conversations in which half the speakers were thinking in English but speaking in German while the other half were thinking in German but speaking in English. :D

And, yes, the style seems intended to be more like thought than speech (do we think in words at all?), with broken idiomatic sentences ("who is going to ask if you have or haven't got a driving licence? Not! A! Soul!") and much repetition ("and then there's all this thanks-thanks-thanks"), and in one chapter the two girls are sharing the same point of view and their thoughts are mixed together, and I believe this would have worked better in the English translation with a little more effort because our teens do express themselves in similar ways and the above two examples work for me.

Thorold mentioned in another thread that the beginning is, of course, available with amazon's Look Inside feature.

apr 27, 6:15pm

>41 spiralsheep: I'm keeping an eye out for tripe quotes. My grandmother used to cook tripe. It looked disgusting.

apr 27, 6:28pm

>48 pamelad: If your grandmother's tripe didn't also smell disgusting then she was a culinary genius! :D

Don't find too many tripe quotes or the rarity value will decrease, and the market will plummet, and then how will the poor tripe quote miners afford flat caps for their seventeen children?! ;-)

apr 28, 2:32am

Ick, tripe. No thanks.

>42 spiralsheep: Impressive stuff (the books, not the tin opener RIP). I have a rapidly growing pile, am hoping that I can release some into the wild soon. Sadly the pandemic has done for our local secondhand charity bookshop.

apr 28, 4:21am

>50 charl08: Oh, what a glorious thing to be
A healthy, grown-up, busy-busy bee
Making hay while time is ripe
Building up the honey-comb just like tripe
I'd like to be a busy-busy bee
Being just as busy as a bee can be
Flying all around the wild hedgerows
Stinging all the cows upon the parson's nose
Bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz, honey bee, honey bee
Bzz if you like but don't sting me

I'm sad to hear you're losing local shops. I hope your area recovers later.

If I take a carrier bag of books to a charity shop every time I go into town then at my current reading rate I'll be rid of the pile... eventually....

apr 28, 12:29pm

I weeded my flowerbeds for the first time since I put them to rest late last autumn. I managed to annoy several colonies of ants (don't care!) and at least one woodlouse nursery (adorable arthropods!). Did you know that some woodlice have seven pairs of lungs, some two, and some none at all? I also infuriated a robin who clearly thought I was too slow moving away from the freshly exposed birb buffet and watched me angrily from a nearby bush while audibly flapping its wings at me in an impatient shoo-ing motion, lol. Luckily for the insects I haven't wholly recovered my bendiness so they had time to take cover before I moved on. I got everything done before it rained though.

Note for my fellow Brits: cheesy bugs, because I know you were wondering. :D

Redigeret: apr 29, 11:27am

I see Mateusz Fafinski's short article about medieval library users has been reprinted in Time magazine. The original is still available free, with fewer flashing adverts, from History Today and might interest readers here, especially the quote below about lay women borrowing books from a monastic library:


"Quite a few of the users were women, too: voracious readers as it turns out. Their names show that they were mostly interested in religious literature and could certainly read, if not write. Sigihel, for example, borrowed a book on how to lead a more devout life. Psalters were particularly popular: they were borrowed by ‘lady Liutgard’ and ‘another Liutgard’ as well as ‘wife of Reinbold’ and the ‘widow of Gerold’. These women’s interest in religious books is important for several reasons: it means they could read them on their own, that they could shape their personal devotion and that they had a standing allowing them to be entrusted with books. This is information we would not otherwise have."


"Those lay people who had the chance to learn to read and write in the early Middle Ages were often instructed in monastic schools. But literacy was by no means as widespread as it is today and remained a privilege. In the final pages of another manuscript, we find a rare glimpse into the world of female education. In a collection of school texts used for instruction in a monastery of secular canonesses in Essen in the ninth century is a letter from a schoolgirl to her teacher:

Mistress Felhin, allow me to stay up this night with mistress Adalu and I swear with both my hands that I will not stop reading or singing on behalf of our Lord throughout the night. Farewell and do as I ask you.

Just below the letter, in a different script, presumably that of mistress Felhin herself, we find that the schoolgirl was successful. Valete in domino, ‘Go with the Lord’, writes the headmistress. The canonesses in Essen had a substantial library at their disposal."

apr 30, 2:15am

>51 spiralsheep: You reminded me of this one:

Oh to be
a Honey Bee!
It has two compound eyes,
you see,
And just for fun,
some simple ones,
that number not just two,
but three.
It sees in colour,
does our Bee,
Uniquely for Arthropodae.
Oh to be
a Honey Bee,
And see the world
in bright 5-D.

apr 30, 4:01am

>54 VivienneR: That's great fun! Oh to be a Honey Bee indeed! :-)

apr 30, 10:34am

69/2021. I read Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands, by Sonia Nimr, which is a novel aimed at young adult readers that was originally written in Arabic then translated into English. It was billed to me as a fantasy but it's more a travel themed (historical) adventure novel.

The title is presumably a nod to Ibn Battuta's travelogue A Masterpiece to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling, and other works in the Rihla genre, although the protagonist of this story appears to be nominally Christian.

The book begins with a framing story about some rediscovered documents, which tell a story, in which people read books and tell stories... oh, and the narrator is a self-confessed liar... all by page 43, but none of this is difficult to read or keep track of because the stories are all interesting and held my attention.

The loudest theme of this book is dislocation, whether external dis-location by choice through travel or by being forced to move on (e.g. towards enslavement or away from an insoluble problem) or internal dislocation caused by loss and grief.

The quieter theme is subtle feminism, not only woman rescues herself, but also woman is befriended by woman, and woman is rescued by woman, and woman rescues man, and woman has foolish first love (crush actually as nothing comes of it, thank goodness!) but then has second love with man who respects her, woman marries man who respects her and their daughter, woman raises daughter as a whole person (valued as an individual, and educated as a member of her class unrestricted by gender), and woman had a good relationship with her own mother and father, and woman rescues other people using the doctoring skills taught to her by her mother, and woman also sometimes has to deal with the ill-will of fellow women. And woman can pretend to be a man in the eyes of her society and do everything a man could do (not every man, of course, but any one man). And all this is woman-centred but not man-excluding.

But I don't want to pick the themes apart any further and lose the subtlety woven into the storytelling. This isn't my preferred type of novel but it is a well constructed and dramatic traveller's tale within the historical adventure genre. 4*

BingoDOG: Book title that describes you (Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands are my raison d'être)

GeoKIT: Asia (Palestine, also North Africa and India)

Redigeret: maj 1, 2:29am

April summary

Giveaways: 30 books donated to my favourite local charity shop. If I keep this up then I might be rid of giveaway books in under six months, lol.

To reads: 155 (down from 158 on 1st Jan). I confess I've been buying books that under normal circumstances I'd borrow from the library and, of course, I read nothing at all for a week at the beginning of April, boo.

Countries unread: 37 (56 on 1st Jan).

GeoKIT, 3rd round: 5 out of 7 categories, each covered by a different book.

BingoDOG, 3rd card: 12 out of 25 squares, each covered by a different book.

56. At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig by John Gimlette, 2003, travel, 2.5*
57. Little Night/Nochecita, by Yuyi Morales, 2007, illustrated children's book, 4*
58. Sunken Cities: Egypt's lost worlds, edited by Franck Goddio, 2016, non-fiction archaeology, 4*
59. The Dark Child, by Camara Laye, 1954, autobiography, 3.5*
60. Fanfare for Tin Trumpets, by Margery Sharp, 1932, novel, 3.5*
61. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, 2021, novel, 5*
62. Nature Writing for the Common Good, by twelve authors, 2020, non-fiction nature, 3*
63. Code Name: Butterfly, by Ahlam Bsharat, 2016, YA novel, 3.5*
64. Empress of Mars, by Kage Baker, 2009, novel, 4*
65. State of Emergency, by Jeremy Tiang, 2017, novel, 4.5*
66. The Mysteries of Love & Eloquence, or, The arts of wooing and complementing as they are manag'd in the Spring Garden, Hide Park, the New Exchange, and other eminent places : a work in which is drawn to the life the deportments of the most accomplisht persons, the mode of their courtly entertainments, treatments of their ladies at balls, their accustom'd sports, drolls and fancies, the witchcrafts of their perswasive language in their approaches, or other more secret dispatches, by Edward Phillips, 1658, non-fiction, unrated*
67. Destination Cambodia, by Walter Mason, 2013, non-fiction travel, 3*
68. Wherever it is Summer, by Tamara Bach, 2016, YA novel, 2.5*
69. Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands, by Sonia Nimr, 2013, YA novel, 4*

maj 1, 2:42pm

>53 spiralsheep: Fascinating!

>57 spiralsheep: That's still a great reading month despite your "break" in the beginning!

I have a huge bag for the charity shop, too (clothes and books) and still no idea when I can take it there.

Redigeret: maj 1, 5:17pm

>58 MissBrangwen: I'm on a mission to spread accurate historical sources. :-)

I don't truly care how much I read, but I do feel a deep need to reduce my To Reads. Taking books I'd already read out of the house helped though. I hate having too many things in my space (it feels like psychic constipation, lol).

I wonder how long it will be before we can all go back to being bored by having to do ordinary actions?

I hope your home area is safer for everyone soon.

maj 1, 8:25pm

Hurray for being able to drop books off at the charity shop! I suspect the library book sales here will be VERY well stocked once they're allowed to run again.

maj 2, 4:26am

>60 rabbitprincess: I'm glad the libraries will benefit from a book donation spree but I fear for the To Read piles of my friends when the sales open! :D

Redigeret: maj 2, 4:45am

Louise Michel, giving a rousing anarchist feminist speech as a senior, from a contemporary newspaper:

70/2021. I read The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot, which is a biographical sketch in comics form ("graphic novel") of French feminist anarchist utopian Louise Michel, concentrating on the Paris Commune of 1870-71 and her imprisonment on New Caledonia from 1873-80. It begins with quotes by Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett, a dedication to Iain (M) Banks, and an extended cameo appearance by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. What more could any intellectual utopian want even in the best of all possible worlds?! And, of course, being by the Talbots it has Bryan's stunning art backing up Mary's punchy script, with the addition of two pages of source texts and fourteen pages of Mary's annotations (the story works perfectly without these so I read them afterwards). Although the addition of four pages about Franz Reichelt seemed a bizarre choice of framing story as Louise Michel had been dead for seven years when Reichelt achieved lasting fame for his spectacularly foolish death. 4*

Oscar Wilde: "A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at".

Samuel Beckett: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

BingoDOG: Book by two or more authors
GeoKIT: Europe (France, but also the Pacific island of New Caledonia)

Louise Michel's funeral, 1905, from The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot:

Redigeret: maj 3, 2:37am

71/2021. I read Liberty Lyrics by L. S. Bevington (Louisa Sarah B.) which is an 1895 poetry pamphlet with stirring anarchist feminist messages rendered in painfully bad verse transparently inspired by the morass of equally bad evangelical Christian verse published in the same period (see also other friends of William Morris for bad verse that combines socialism and Christianity as god intended). There is one justly better known and rather endearing poem about bees which I quote below. The remainder are mostly truly bad, despite what are clearly the author's best efforts, and yet if I extracted individual lines and made motivational posters then I bet nobody would notice the whiff of rotten verse, lol. 2*


Advertisement: "Liberty: A Journal of Anarchist Communism. Edited By James Tochatti.
The Contributors Include Louise Michel, A. Hamon, W. Morris, P. Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, Elisee Reclus, G.B. Shaw, L.S. Bevington, J. Glen, Touzeau Parris, and All the Best Writers and Thinkers in the Socialist Movement."

The Secret of the Bees (by Louisa Sarah Bevington, 1895)

How have you managed it? bright busy bee!
You are all of you useful, yet each of you free.

What man only talks of, the busy bee does;
Shares food, and keeps order, with no waste of buzz.

No cell that’s too narrow, no squandering of wax,
No damage to pay, and no rent, and no tax.

No drones kept in honey to look on and prate,
No property tyrants, no big‐wigs of State.

Free access to flowers, free use of all wings;
And when bee‐life is threatened, then free use of stings.

No fighting for glory, no fighting for pelf;
Each thrust at the risk of each soldier himself.

Comes over much plenty one summer, you’ll see
A lull and a leisure for each busy bee.

No over‐work, under‐work, glut of the spoil;
No hunger for any, no purposeless toil.

Economy, Liberty, Order, and Wealth!—
Say, busy bee, how you reached Social Health?


Say rather, why not? It is easier so;
We have all the world open to come and to go.

We haven’t got masters, we haven’t got money,
We’ve nothing to hinder the gathering of honey.

The sun and the air and the sweet summer flowers
Attract to spontaneous use of our powers.

Our work is all natural—nothing but play,
For wings and proboscis can go their own way.

We find it convenient to live in one nest,
None hindering other from doing her best.

We haven’t a Press, so we haven’t got lies,
And it’s worth no one’s while to throw dust in our eyes.

We haven’t among us a single pretence,
And we got our good habits through sheer Common‐Sense.

BingoDOG: Author I haven’t read before
GeoKIT: Europe (England)

Redigeret: maj 4, 2:26am

72/2021. I read The Dark Matter of Mona Starr, by Laura Lee Gulledge, which is a semi-autobiographical exploration of depression and anxiety in comics form, aimed at young adults. I love Gulledge's art, and the stories in her three books so far have all been well-meaning. This one also includes tips on self-care. 4*

BingoDOG: Dark or light in title
GeoKIT: North America (US)

Redigeret: maj 4, 5:11pm

I was curious to see if I completed the 1900-50 meme last year, and apparently I did. Also one 1890s, several 1950s, and several 1960s. My recs have touchstones, but Stella Benson's novel This is the End is recced with reservations (it is what it is).

1) author from your own country
Ada Leverson
Dorothy Richardson
Stella Benson (x2)
Rose Macaulay (x2)
D. E. Stevenson
Dorothy L. Sayers
Susan Alice Kerby

2) author from a country other than your own
Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain
Katherine Mansfield
Marc Chagall
Mae West (x2)
Yee Chiang

3) a classic in its genre
SF: 1905 Sultana's Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain
Modernism: 1915 Pointed Roofs by Dorothy Richardson
Women's fiction: 1921 Dangerous Ages by Rose Macaulay
Pulp / crime: 1932 She Done Him Wrong by Mae West
Travel: 1937 The Silent Traveller in Lakeland by Yee Chiang
Murder mystery: 1937 Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers

4) not a novel
Short story: 1905 Sultana's Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain
Non-fiction biography: 1923 My Life by Marc Chagall
Non-fiction travel: 1937 The Silent Traveller in Lakeland by Yee Chiang

5) about, set during or references WWI or WWII
Tragically: 1917 This is the End by Stella Benson
Comically: 1919 Living Alone by Stella Benson
Realistically: 1923 My Life by Marc Chagall (more Russian revolution than First World War though)
Fantastically: 1945 Miss Carter and the Ifrit by Susan Alice Kerby

1905 Sultana's Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain
1907 The Twelfth Hour by Ada Leverson

1911 In a German Pension by Katherine Mansfield
1915 Pointed Roofs by Dorothy Richardson
1917 This is the End by Stella Benson
1919 Living Alone by Stella Benson

1921 Dangerous Ages by Rose Macaulay
1923 My Life by Marc Chagall
1926 Crewe Train by Rose Macaulay

1930 The Constant Sinner by Mae West
1932 She Done him Wrong by Mae West
1934 Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson
1937 The Silent Traveller in Lakeland by Yee Chiang
1937 Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers

1945 Miss Carter and the Ifrit by Susan Alice Kerby

maj 4, 10:03am

>65 spiralsheep: Interesting list--thanks for sharing! I recommend Miss Buncle's Book as well! Just curious: I've never read Stella Benson. What is it that her book is?

maj 4, 11:46am

>66 NinieB: Benson's style is whimsical, but not twee because she uses light-heartedness to tackle subjects that are otherwise difficult to introduce into polite conversation. She does stray into occasional sharper satirical comedy or allow tragedy to show through but those are highlights and lowlights.

I think everyone interested in the literature of that time should read at least one Stella Benson book, either This is the End because it's probably her most widely appealing work or I Pose for literary history. Of course, they're all free online now so if you try one or two and dnf then you've lost nothing more than a fraction of your reading time. :-)

maj 4, 4:21pm

Pleased to see another Rose Macaulay fan. I've not come across Stella Benson but just downloaded This is the End and Living Alone for free, so will give her a go.

Redigeret: maj 4, 4:54pm

>68 pamelad: I love Rose Macaulay's work. I honestly can't understand why Dangerous Ages in particular doesn't receive the praise I think it deserves. I can only assume that most readers would need to be at least 40+ to truly understand it. Do you have a favourite Macaulay work?

I'd suggest not reading Living Alone first as it might put you off Stella Benson for life. When I say whimsical I mean dogfighting witches, fairy land girls, and talking animals giving social commentary. Mind you, if she'd taken herself a bit more seriously and been a man she'd probably be hailed as a genius of surrealism. I Pose or even Tobit Transplanted, which I haven't read, might be more to your taste.

ETA: I suppose I can't help comparing Living Alone with the later Lolly Willowes and most similar novels would suffer in comparison. I wonder if Sylvia Townsend Warner read Stella Benson?

Redigeret: maj 4, 5:45pm

>69 spiralsheep: My top 3 Rose Macaulay books are The Towers of Trebizond, Crewe Train and Told by an Idiot. I quite liked Dangerous Ages, but the over-privileged middle-class characters annoyed me.

I've invested 99 cents in I Pose. I've read a couple of books by Sylvia Townsend Warner, but not Lolly Willowes because the LT tags put me off. It sounds teeth-achingly twee, but I am prepared to be proved wrong. ETA Found it on Overdrive, so will give it a go. I don't mind surrealism: loved The Hearing Trumpet and am enjoying The Exploits of Engelbrecht.

Redigeret: maj 5, 8:24am

>70 pamelad: I need to re-read Towers of Trebizond. Rose Macaulay is definitely on both my 2021 and 2022 lists.

Lolly Willowes, which I love, is definitely not twee in the traditional sense. I don't think Sylvia Townsend Warner was capable of twee, not even in Kingdoms of Elfin (which, like most literary fairytales, I found unforgivably dull compared to the folktales I was brought up on). Stella Benson's Living Alone and This is the End are much closer to twee, and possibly sink that low on occasions, although I think whimsical is a better description. Lolly Willowes is more a subtle satire in the form of a comedy of manners between a middle aged woman and the devil (or A devil at least).

(ETA: Aren't many romance novels actually comedies of manners between women and devils? /advocate)

The Hearing Trumpet is overt juxtaposition of imagery supposedly direct from the artist's unconscious, i.e. surrealism. Benson's fantasy is more from the subconscious and dreamlike, i.e. surrealism (but also symbolism), expressed from a subconscious that had been filled with saccharine Victoriana rather than dadaist art. Benson's first novel I Pose is more down to earth allegory and her last Tobit Transplanted is supposedly almost a straightforward novel (I haven't read it).

Some people suspend their disbelief to read fantastical novels. I suspend mine to read satire, from the subtle via the surreal to the strident, I'm inclined to like it all: Benson, Macaulay, Margery Sharp, and Warner when she was in the mood to be satirical.

maj 5, 11:08am

73/2021. I read The Dream Years, by Lisa Goldstein, which is a fantasy (or sf) novel about surrealism, art, revolution, and time travel, set in Paris in 1924 and 1968 and The Future (allegedly 2012 but bear in mind this was published in 1985). Yes, please! 4*


!+?=: "Up ahead André Breton and Louis Aragon were arguing animatedly: a short decisive exclamation mark and a cool tall question mark."

Lol: "the flea market, the unconscious mind of Paris" (the charity bookshop, the subconscious mind of the British middle classes)

A happy ending: "Hélène cried out suddenly. She ran to the burning ring and jumped through effortlessly. They saw her land on the other side and turn and wave. Then the ring closed."

BingoDOG: Time word in title (Years) and time (time travel) is a subject
GeoKIT: Europe (France)
SFFKIT: May: Time travel

maj 5, 11:46am

>71 spiralsheep: I suspend disbelief to read mysteries, especially Golden Age, except I'm merciless on historical mysteries.

maj 5, 11:54am

>73 NinieB: I'm unforgiving on "historical" novels generally but throw in magic or a dragon and I'll instantly suspend my disbelief at whole societies that I know wouldn't work socially at all, lol. On the plus side, while I've read a lot of bad historical fantasy, I usually manage to exclusively read good historical novels. Having standards is only a problem if they're inappropriate for any given set of circumstances. :-)

Redigeret: maj 5, 6:05pm

>71 spiralsheep: I had a search for the difference between surrealism and fantasy and found this: If realism is the rules of reality, and surrealism is inverting or subverting rules of reality, then fantasy fiction is subverting certain rules of reality and replacing them with a new set of rules created by the fantasy writer. The article this comes from in writingcooperative.com won't open this morning, unfortunately.

Seems reasonable to me. I read little science fiction and fantasy because I think, "It's an admirable effort, to create this fantasy world with its rules, but perhaps the effort would have better been spent on character development." Thinking of The City & The City, The Left Hand of Darkness. Political dystopias are in a different category though, and I'm glad I read War with the Newts, 1984, Brave New World, We, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

I ordered Andre Breton's Nadja a couple of weeks ago, but it's coming from OS, so will take a while.

maj 5, 6:31pm

>75 pamelad: Benson's work variously fits reasonable definitions of realism, magical realism, symbolism, surrealism, and fantasy, amongst others. She was genre bending deliberately and gleefully in her fiction, for which she was praised by several highly regarded writers and reviewers of her time. She wasn't writing artistic manifestos (as far as I'm aware anyway).

This is an "if...then" logical fallacy: "If realism is the rules of reality, and surrealism is inverting or subverting rules of reality, then fantasy fiction is subverting certain rules of reality and replacing them with a new set of rules created by the fantasy writer." Although being a logical fallacy doesn't mean people can't choose to believe in it. However, that definition of surrealism wouldn't have satisfied André Breton, lol.

Anyway, my reviews are on the work pages if anyone wants to read them, and I'm happy to answer questions here but although I try to communicate with people I don't know very well in terms they'll understand I'm also not writing manifestos about literary criticism (or anything else). >:-)

Redigeret: maj 5, 10:30pm

>76 spiralsheep: No worries. The topic is closed.

Redigeret: maj 6, 5:18am

(I had a long comment here about definitions and surrealism, which has gone. The following is a shorter and less satisfactory version of the first paragraph. I cba the rest.)

>77 pamelad: The topic doesn't have to be closed. I just don't want anyone thinking I'm claiming the authority of definition. Especially in this case because according to most surrealists, including André Breton, surrealism requires at least an element of artistic automatism, which tends to defy concepts of authority and lexicographical definition.


>75 pamelad: (The second part was about how surrealism isn't identical to conscious iconoclasm of "the rules of reality" by consciously "inverting or subverting rules of reality" because surrealism requires some unconscious/subconscious automatism. I also questioned the idea of "realism" defined as "the rules of reality" because dream-states are also real. So imagine that but in a playful and well constructed form, lol.)

maj 6, 4:52am

>75 pamelad: As for reading genre fiction, we all know that within any genre (literary fiction, fantasy, science fiction, dystopian fiction, murder mysteries, romances, etc) an author can choose to write a novel the prioritises character, or plot, or an idea, and readers have to find the books and authors that appeal to them.

I personally prefer character based fiction, but also enjoy some idea based fiction, while plot based fiction tends to leave me uninterested. But my reading preferences don't reflect what sells: plot-driven popular genre novels in romances and mysteries by the millions. :-)

maj 6, 5:20am

Bumped now I've finished trying to repair the thread. :-/

Redigeret: maj 6, 2:35pm

"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"

74/2021. I read Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal, which is a novel retelling Pride and Prejudice but set in contemporary Pakistan. Most attempted Pride and Prejudice retellings are pale imitations because they substitute Jane Austen's comedy of manners about life in society, that happens to have a central romance plot (or three), for a "romance" novel which is about one romantic relationship. Unmarriageable however is faithful to Austen's range as a comedy of manners about life in society, that happens to have a central romance plot (or three). It thoroughly retells the complex of characters, plots, and subplots, from the original but wholly translated to contemporary Pakistan. I especially enjoyed how true the characters are to Austen's portrayals, with the minor exception of Annie dey Bagh (Anne de Bourgh) who I'm glad to say was allowed a few lines of her own in this new work.

Unmarriageable also adds English and Pakistani and Indian literary intertextuality beyond the framework of Pride and Prejudice. My favourite is a fleeting moment when the protagonist Alys accidentally meets Darsee while he's escorting tourists named Thomas Fowle, Harris Bigg-Wither, and Soniah (no last name) who is Harris Bigg-Wither's girlfriend. Although a reader wouldn't need to be interested in this meta layer to enjoy the main family saga.

By the end of the first short chapter Kamal had reused the famous opening line from Pride and Prejudice, rewritten it in the context of Pakistani society, and subverted that rewriting, made an actually amusing Miss Havisham reference, made a truly funny Romeo and Juliet reference, introduced her protagonist and milieu, and made me laugh several times (although more of the book's humour is amusing social satire than laugh aloud comedy).


Quotes (too many choices!)

Lol: "She gazed at the bulletin boards plastering the walls and boasting photos where Naheed beamed with Dilipabad's VIPs. They were thumbtacked in place to allow easy removal if a VIP fell from financial grace or got involved in a particularly egregious scandal."

Cemetery: "A row of ashoka trees, vibrant and healthy, created a man-planted border, their roots feeding from blood and bones on both sides, and Alys slipped through the trunks and into, it seemed, another cemetery. Dirt paths wound through overgrown vegetation and eroded marble headstones with British names in faded lettering. She walked on, scared now that she was so deep inside the graveyard. Moonlight spread down her back like ice. All was quiet except for crickets and her footsteps, crunching twigs. She saw a form leaning against a wall, an unnatural fiery glow emanating from where a mouth should be.
Alys screamed. The form screamed.
A girl stepped out of the shadows, a lit cigarette dangling from bony fingers, a scrawny braid curling down one shoulder to her waist. She was wearing red sandals and a purple-and-green shalwar kurta topped with a red cardigan with white plastic buttons."

The only major fault was the fake history in the notes at the back: "Lord Macaulay's Address to the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835" is a well-known fake that's been around since at least 2002 (sometimes supposedly about India and sometimes supposedly about Africa). Parliament was closed and Macaulay was in India where what he actually said was this: https://perma.cc/F3G9-TXB8 (which you don't need to read). To quote Abraham Lincoln, "Don’t believe everything you read on the internet."

BingoDOG: One word title
GeoKIT: Asia (Pakistan)

maj 7, 2:56am

>81 spiralsheep: Great review.

maj 7, 10:51am

>82 MissWatson: Thank you!

Redigeret: maj 7, 3:25pm

I obtained a copy of this French book thanks to the thoughtfulness of Dilara86.

Mouton by Zeina Abirached, is a short illustrated children's book about a curly haired child achieving a more positive self-image. I like Abirached's art style but have minor reservations about the storyline. 3.5*

I had escapologist medusan snakes for hair when I was a child so my mother would've been overjoyed if she'd only had to deal with curls!

P.S. Sheep are fabaaalously béééautiful!

BingoDOG: Arts and recreation (art / illustration)
GeoKIT: Europe (France)

Redigeret: maj 9, 5:00am

75/2021. I read Jazz, Perfume & the Incident by Seno Gumira Ajidarma, which is a novel about jazz, perfume, and an incident of violent government repression in occupied territory, except the parts about the incident are actually factual reports of the November 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, aka the Dili Massacre, when the Indonesian military murdered 250 or so human rights protestors at a funeral in East Timor / Timor Leste. The author Seno Gumira Ajidarma was a journalist subject to government censorship of news media who lost his job in January 1992 as a result of publishing articles about the Santa Cruz massacre, but he wasn't detained. He published further material under the guise of literary fiction in 1996. The incident had previously become internationally notorious due to coverage by foreign journalists Max Stahl, Amy Goodman, and Allan Nairn, who managed to outwit the Indonesian and Australian authorities to get the news out, but their work was censored within Indonesia and could only be smuggled in covertly. The most conservative estimate of East Timorese deaths directly attributable to the Indonesian occupation is upwards of 100,000 people but many scholarly researchers consider this an underestimate and some have alleged that over 40% of the population died.

The plot of the novel is that the protagonist, who remembers women by their choice of perfume, is reading reports of the Santa Cruz massacre and listening to jazz, which just happens to be associated with both musical freedom and civil rights.

The report chapters are verbatim eyewitness reports of the Santa Cruz massacre and subsequent "disappearances" collected by Indonesian magazine Jakarta Jakarta (where the author worked before being sacked for doing journalism in public) within the framing story of the protagonist reading them. Simple but effective. Apparently censors don't read literary fiction, or they think nobody else reads it, so printing these stories in this form evaded censure.

The jazz chapters are a long meditation on the use of art to communicate meaning, through music or through words: "jazz frees me to imagine, to wander as far as my thoughts can take me. If the music empowers just one listener to do something, isn't that already more than enough?" (...) "I want to know how history can be recorded in a voice. How blood and tears can be heard forever in sounds that occupy so limited a time."

The perfume chapters are more complex. Are the perfumes really attached to privileged women or are these the perfumed women from advertisements by brands which won't buy space in a magazine that's perceived as too political, a magazine that might be censored or banned from the shelves? Which stories should our protagonist pay attention to: the self-possessed ones already on every billboard, the stories that pay the bills; or the dispossessed ones desperate to be heard, the stories that could get him sacked or detained or tortured or dead? "'I have a story,' she says. // 'What is it?' // But my pager goes off. // 'Someone called. Said don't print the piece on the people who got shot.' // 'Sorry, where were we?'"

Then about two thirds of the way through, while the protagonist is still in 1993, the author is in 1996 and decides he might as well push ALL the way, so there's suddenly a chapter on journalism, and then a chapter about lesbians, and then one about gay men, but the author is smart and subtle about this. So his character talks about learning journalistic skills and gives a list of mostly innocuous potential questions ending with 'What's your opinion of the "July 27 Incident?"?' Which is acceptable because in 1993 there hadn't been a July 27 Incident. The July 27 Incident occurred in 1996 just before the novel was published. So the question remains unanswered because it's supposed to make the reader think, and this device works extremely well. And then further down the same page the protagonist (and presumably also the author) mock's himself: '"What's your opinion about the current political situation in Indonesia?" // "Journalists today are cheeky with their questions! But they don't have the nerve to print the answers!"' Then there's a rant rejecting ideology so green-red eco-left ideas can be introduced into the text, and the chapter concludes with quotes from another journalist's interview with a surprisingly philosophical snail.

The chapter on lesbians deliberately normalises a variety of lesbian and bisexual relationships between women from a variety of social backgrounds: 'I already mentioned that I'm aware of this sort of thing but to see it firsthand, in one's face, is different.' The following chapter mentions rape (no description or graphic detail) as a form of torture and political/social repression so there is an immediate contrast between the sexual choices of women free to choose and coercive sexual control by society. The next chapter on gay men emphasises unthreatening sexuality, with a story of gentle lovers told in an interview and contrasted against the interviewer's prejudices, then the interviewer dreams of male sex-workers (lol, no comment).

In the next chapter the journalist protagonist's office is raided by "intelligence agents" who confiscate information: '"We're looking for the evidence." // "We're good people here, sir" // "It's exactly because you're good people that you can be subversive." // Crap. I can't say "Well, in that case we're evil," can I?'

Before I read this I thought it was going to be worthy and of historical interest and with an interesting structure, which it is, but it's also full of mischief and joie de vivre. I loved it! 4.5*

maj 9, 4:19am

>85 spiralsheep: Fascinating review. I had heard the book discussed (in the context of evading the censors). I am also surprised it reads so well, given the multiple objectives of the author. Impressive stuff.

maj 9, 5:09am

>86 charl08: It's very much a novel of ideas. The protagonist is the only full character, and we see the world from the inside of his head, but fortunately it's interesting in there. The plot is that the protagonist reads and listens and thinks, and risks serious trouble for reading and especially for thinking. Which is exactly the type of summary that would put me off a novel, hence the long review because if I can enjoy Jazz, Perfume and the Incident then so can many more people than the premise suggests. I don't know how close the translation was to the original (close, I'd guess) but it reads flawlessly with not a word or phrase out of place (admittedly it's a short novel with many verbatim quotes but flawless is still praiseworthy). I was surprised, impressed, and entertained.

maj 9, 8:54am

77/2021. I read Two Serious Ladies, by Jane Bowles, 1943, which is a batshit novel about terrible people and their alternately batshit and terrible lives. Bowles appears to be trying to render the banal as interesting and the interesting as banal, which didn't work for me. But this doesn't mean I didn't enjoy reading the book. So 3.5 for fun and 2.5 for style = 3*

I read the Virago Modern Classic reprint from 1979 which belonged to a local university before being accessioned to the county library system, and the old date stamp page which is still in the front reveals only 8 loans in 15 years. Sad lonely book.

BingoDOG: Read a CAT or KIT (GeoKIT)
GeoKIT: North America and Central America (US and USians in Panama)

maj 9, 6:06pm

>30 spiralsheep: I added State of Emergency to my wishlist. It sounds fascinating, and I've been wanting to read more books set in Singapore, as my brother lives there.

Redigeret: maj 10, 3:50am

>89 mathgirl40: I hope Jeremy Tiang manages to get more of his stories published. I'll be looking out for them.

I remember a couple of years ago when I asked my female Singaporean friends to recommend me local fiction and they told me they mostly read social media, and occasionally Singlish chicklit or re-reads of the Austen and Bronte novels they read at school, and that's their only leisure reading. Of course they think I'm weird for reading about imaginary people's lives when I could be reading about real people on social media, and they're probably right, lol.

Redigeret: maj 11, 4:14am

I think I might have read this novel before. I read a lot of The Women's Press books back in the 1980s and 1990s.

78/2021. I read Potiki, by Patricia Grace, which is a novel set in a Maori community in Aotearoa (New Zealand) about family, cultural and economic survival, and how all are linked to environmental caretaking.

A traditional Maori whānau community, the Tamihanas, and their way of life, already under pressure from generations of settler-colonialism, are threatened by ruthless developers who want their land. Their allies, other Maori, local people resisting change, and environmentalists, prove ineffectual against big business with government and the police on their side, but the Tamihanas have a deep-rooted connection to their homeland and their extended family which gives them strength. The story also effortlessly includes disabled family members as half the main point of view characters.

Quote: "She made her way along by the water's edge singing, sometimes talking as she went. Every now and again she would bend and pick something up. If it was something that either lived or could live - a crab, a shellfish or a weed - she threw it into the sea. If it was something that did not live and could not - paper, plastic or tin - she put it into her bucket to take home."

BingoDOG: Book set in and author from the southern hemisphere (Aotearoa, New Zealand)
GeoKIT: Oceania (Aotearoa, New Zealand)

maj 11, 5:18am

Note: how to link touchstones directly without searching etc.

All in square brackets, obviously:

worknumber::any words here e.g. 778289::title

Angel, by Merle Collins
Angel, by Merle Collins

Angel, Merle Collins
Angel, Merle Collins

Angel, (Merle Collins)
Angel, (Merle Collins)

maj 11, 2:48pm

>91 spiralsheep: A BB for me! I haven't really read anything set in New Zealand so far.

>92 spiralsheep: Very useful!

maj 11, 10:51am

Double posting because the bug is still there (and I forgot about it).

Redigeret: maj 11, 12:55pm

>92 spiralsheep: I should warn you that there is some Maori vocabulary and no glossary in the book, but all the words are easy to find in Maori dictionaries online.


Worth the effort though (or just relax and guess from context). :-)

>94 MissBrangwen: It's the coolest bug ever and I'm almost envious! :D

maj 12, 12:08pm

I took 20 more books to the charity shop today, which makes 50 so far this year. \o/

79/2021. I read Keepers of the House, by Lisa St Aubin de Terán, which is supposedly a semi-autobiographical novel, although the present date in the book is around 15 years too early for the author's time in Venezuela. The framing story is about a young English woman who marries into a landowning Venezuelan family and moves to her incapable husband's run-down sugar plantation in the Andes where she receives tenebrous tales of his family history from an elderly servant. The novel reads like a collection of short Hispanic-gothic literary fairytales about the rural gentry. These stories tell of lonely death, massacre, in-breeding, madness, disease, and famine (imagine if Aunt Ada Doom from Cold Comfort Farm came from Latin American rural gentry and had written a family history). Not my sort of thing, and nearly a dnf, but that's not the book's fault. 3*


One of many wtf moments: "She had watched ducks drown, many times, in their own element. They had lifted their necks as though to give thanks for the rain, and, opening their throats in adoration, the rainwater choked them."

BingoDOG: Building word in title (House)
GeoKIT: Central and South America (Venezuela)

maj 12, 12:16pm

>96 spiralsheep: "One of many wtf moments: "She had watched ducks drown, many times, in their own element. They had lifted their necks as though to give thanks for the rain, and, opening their throats in adoration, the rainwater choked them."
That is so terrible! What an image.

maj 12, 12:33pm

>97 MissBrangwen: My apologies if I should've put that quote under a spoiler cut with more of a warning.

There are much more extreme gothic and even horror images in the book, which I confess surprised me, but the duck drowning is completely gratuitous and has nothing to do with the scene, except that it's raining! Too wtf for me.

I was intending to read Momo next but I'll read a feel-good novel first, lol: The Switch, or The Authenticity Project, or The Lido, or The Story of Arthur Truluv (although Arthur Truluv might be too sweet for me even in my current mood).

maj 12, 12:37pm

>98 spiralsheep: Don't worry!
I was just surprised because I don't think I've ever read anything like that, except maybe Gottfried Benn poems (which are different in style, but the only thing comparably gruesome that I can think of right now).

Redigeret: maj 12, 12:44pm

>96 spiralsheep: I loved The Hacienda, the author's memoir about the time at her husband's plantation. I'll have to read this one for her fictional take on the same part of her life. I do recommend The Hacienda, but it's not a gentle story.

Redigeret: maj 12, 4:49pm

>99 MissBrangwen: I'll just add that I spent most of my time as a child on a farm with both commercial and fancy fowl, and while it is possible for injured or trapped waterfowl to drown I never saw it happen and they don't commit suicide by drowning in rainwater!

>100 RidgewayGirl: I suspect I'm too nitpicking to enjoy her memoir. I mean, I actually looked up dates of historical droughts in the Rio Momboy valley, although that did lead to this lovely 1982 photo:


To anyone considering reading Keepers of the House: I don't use words such as gothic or horror lightly, and if repetitive human body horror seasoned with occasional descriptions of animal death aren't your reading preference then don't say I didn't warn you. Seriously: lonely death (including suicide), massacre, in-breeding, madness, disease, and famine. Also stillbirth in the comparatively realistic present day prologue.

maj 13, 7:24pm

Dropping in the recommend a book that just popped into my head: The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. Here is a review from the New York Times.

Redigeret: maj 14, 8:28am

>102 pamelad: I'm aware of The Street of Crocodiles but if I read it then I'd also have to read Tree of Codes, which would add two books to my To Read shelf! ;-)

maj 15, 8:39am

One of the BingoDOG categories is the five western elements, and I've decided I want to read all five as a mini challenge. I've read books with titles including the words "Earth" and "Underwater", and I have books with "Air" and "Aetherical" (and "Spirit" too).

I don't have a book with "fire" somewhere in the title so I'm asking for recommendations.

I searched on the word "fire" and found that many of the most popular results are genre novels that are part of a series and so no use to me for this challenge (although I have previously read the perfectly titled The Element of Fire).

Please enthuse to me about your favourite book with "fire" in the title.

maj 15, 8:42am

>104 spiralsheep: The author now considers it 'juvenalia', but I read Jill Paton Walsh's Fireweed at school, loved it then, and still enjoyed it when I reread it a couple of years ago.

Redigeret: maj 15, 8:54am

>104 spiralsheep: I read Kingfishers Catch Fire for this square. I really liked it and you should be able to find my review in my thread.

While I haven't read it, Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire is very highly rated.

Forgot to mention The Bonfire of the Vanities, New York wealth '80s style.

maj 15, 10:23am

I had a bet with myself about which books would be recced first and you two have made me lose my bet! :D

>105 Jackie_K: That looks interesting and easily available. Thank you. And Fireweed wouldn't have been anywhere near the top results in a search for "fire".

>106 NinieB: I think I might have read Kingfishers Catch Fire a loooong time ago. And Bonfire of the Vanities is another title that wouldn't have been anywhere near the top results in a search for "fire". Thank you!

maj 15, 10:41am

>107 spiralsheep: Did you know that in your catalog you can search with an asterisk before and get results like bonfire, or after to get results like fireweed, or both? title:(*fire*) This search will get you all the titles with fire anywhere in the title.

maj 15, 10:44am

>104 spiralsheep: Great idea! I like this idea of a mini challenge!

>108 NinieB: That's a very useful tip, thanks!

maj 15, 10:47am

>108 NinieB: I did know about boolean searching using asterisks, yes, but thank you for the reminder. In this case the LT search engine still prioritises "fire" over *fire* in the results. Luckily recs from humans tend to be more targeted. :-)

maj 15, 2:21pm

>107 spiralsheep: Now I'm wondering which were the books you thought would be recommended first!

Redigeret: maj 15, 2:41pm

>111 Jackie_K: Although I only comment when I have something useful or positive to say, I do read people's talk threads and I've seen several recent recommendations from readers for Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie and also Things You Save in a Fire but, of course, the first replies depend on who is online at any given time. Home Fire was recced in the second comment on my Book Recommendations Request group post:


I should have guessed a couple of other books that have been recced to me too but they're older so don't get mentioned as regularly in talk.

Redigeret: maj 16, 7:24am

When I was looking for a book with "aether" in the title I was tempted to read the 1756 tome "The Subtil Medium Prov'd or That Wonderful Power of Nature so long ago conjectur'd by the Most Ancient and Remarkable Philosophers which they call'd sometimes Aether but oftener Elementary Fire, Verify'd" authored by Richard Lovett, a Lay Clerk at Worcester Cathedral, until I realised it's promoting the use of electric shocks for medicinal purposes and no, ta. What's the polite term for mad scientist? Eccentric doesn't quite cover the territory. Full moon enthusiast? Or is that the diplomatic term for a werewolf? "Misunderstood genius" with air quotes? Compulsive electrical experimenter? Parascientific quack, in this case, I suppose.

And talking of "misunderstood parascience" matters....

81/2021. I read Aetheric Mechanics, by Warren Ellis and Gianluca Pagliarani, which is a metafictional, late Victoriana, science fiction / detective comic. The early mentions of Ruritania and Grand Fenwick (roar!), and "intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic", etc, clued me in to what the story would be about although not the precise detail of the plot twist ending. However, I'm aware of the existence of Sexton Blake, and Doctor Who, and other fictional metatemporal detectives, in addition to Sherlock Holmes, so it wasn't as much of a surprise as many readers seem to have experienced. 3.5*

I'm biased in favour of Warren Ellis though as the only time I've met him he was very complimentary about my writing. >;-)

BingoDOG: Element in the title (Aether)

Redigeret: maj 17, 7:16am

I completed my third BingoDog card with 25 x 3 books, out of 82 read, on 17 May 2021. Onwards! :D

80/2021. I read The Authenticity Project, by Clare Pooley, which is a "feelgood" novel about friendship. Very white, despite or perhaps because of the inclusion of non-point-of-view British Chinese characters as comic relief (or to tell us how terrible China is), very middle class, unrealistic escapism but I'm guessing that's what the author intended. The plot and characters work well within those limitations. 3.5*

Brompton Cemetery: "The cemetery was one of Monica's favourite places - a timeless oasis of calm in the city. She loved the gravestones - a last show of one-upmanship. I'll see your marble slab with its fancy biblical quotation and raise you a life-sized Jesus on the cross."

BingoDOG: Senior protagonist (point of view characters Julian who is 84 but claims 79, and Lizzie 65, and Mary 75)

GeoKIT: Europe (England and an island near Koh Samui in Thailand)

maj 17, 9:43am

>114 spiralsheep: "I completed my third BingoDog card with 25 x 3 books, out of 82 read, on 17 May 2021. Onwards! :D"

Congrats!!! That's so great!

maj 17, 11:11am

>115 MissBrangwen: Thank you!

And I managed to go for a walk too (just so nobody worries that I never do anything except read, lol). Some plant that produces an abundance of wind-borne seeds let them all go today. The air was thick with levitating baby plants for hours, like upwardly mobile snow.

Redigeret: maj 18, 10:46am

Bob Haberfield's cover for Momo by Michael Ende.

82/2021. I read Momo, by Michael Ende, which is a 1973 children's fantasy novel by the author of Neverending Story. I read the 1984 English translation by J. Maxwell Brownjohn. I'm not sure how children today would react to this fable as their social conditions have changed somewhat since 1973. However I can say that this is a perfect story for GenXers and I suspect middle age is as good a time to read it as childhood. My Penguin edition has a gorgeous and appropriately surrealist influenced cover by Bob Haberfield. 5*

No quote, but I might have had a small moment of feminist rage at the idea that doing all the housework, including shopping, takes 7hrs a week!

BingoDOG: Suggested by a person from another generation (when I mentioned I was intending to read Neverending Story I was told I should read Momo too)

SFFKIT: May: Time Travel

maj 20, 6:04am

83/2021. I read Return Match, by Elizabeth Cadell, which is a 1979 contemporary romance novel set in England. The protagonist is a woman in her fifties and the ensemble cast are her extended family, friends, and social circles. As in all Cadell's novels, the inevitable romance plot is one of several subplots and the ensemble cast of supporting characters are as interesting as the will-they-won't-they couples. People don't always find their mate first time and life is complicated, although the tone is generally upbeat with a tendency towards well-observed comedy of manners. Several scenes made me laugh aloud but the idea that amused me most was two old friends needing a safe-word to use when one of them enthused about grandchildren for too long, lol, "Amber!".

Elizabeth Cadell, born 1903, is one of the many reasons why "of their time" excuses for racism don't wash with me because she wrote many middlebrow novels for middle class readers from the 1940s to the 1980s but managed to be consistently anti-racist, i.e. not merely "of her time" or avoidant but actively anti-racist, within the constraints of her undemanding but deservedly popular library-fodder novels (Margery Sharp, born 1905, is a similar example). If a hard-working middlebrow populist could manage basic human decency then I see no reason to make excuses for her peers who didn't try. It probably goes without saying that Cadell is a better than average class commentator too. It's not that nobody in Cadell world is ever racist, it's that racism is shown up as being unnecessary, unpleasant, and unproductive because it hinders useful human relationships. Cadell is a gentle but consistent pragmatist. Frankly I just enjoy the fact I can relax while reading her books without constantly being on guard against a potential incoming gut-punch.

E.g. the character in Return Match who appears to be partly of East Asian descent has two defining characteristics: (1) he is the musical director of his own brass band, and (2) he's massive. In the last novel I read with a prominent British Chinese character, that was published in 2020 by a no doubt well-meaning author, her defining characteristics were: (1) comedy dragon lady, (2) does tai chi, and (3) cooks Chinese food and owns a Chinese restaurant. Spot the difference.


BingoDOG: A book that made you laugh (I've read a dozen Cadell's and even the 2.5* novels made me a happier person at least temporarily)

GeoKIT: Europe (England)

maj 20, 7:59am

>118 spiralsheep: I have The Corner Shop waiting on my (groaning) shelves. Should I try to read it sooner?

maj 20, 8:30am

>119 NinieB: I haven't read The Corner Shop yet. I can only say that there are obvious reasons why Elizabeth Cadell was such a popular author for 40 years even though most of her books probably deserve fairly average 3* or 3.5* ratings. I've read a couple of 2.5* but only because she chose to write a wider variety of romances rather than the same book/theme/plot over and over again, and her more supernatural or mystery oriented stories work less well as plots imo, although they still have the fun to read characters. I suspect the only Cadell I'll rate above 4* is her semi-autobiographical A Lion in the Way. AFAIK all her other novels are reliable, generally upbeat, romance-based, middlebrow so read her when that's what you want. I personally enjoy the company of her characters and the way she disguises her more profound thoughts as common sense opinion (which is a skill I wish I had!). Cadell is the author who accompanies me on holiday for when I need brain candy that won't give me literary diabetes.

maj 20, 9:10am

>120 spiralsheep: Thanks! I am a sucker for a mystery, which is what The Corner Shop is supposed to be. Good characters can go a long way for me in how much I like a mystery, so I will try to push this further up the TBR!

maj 20, 9:31am

>121 NinieB: And now I just want to drop the translated Arabic feminist psychological novel I'm reading and pick up another Cadell! Deft gentle comedies of manners without overly sharp stabs of social satire are so rare. I love pointed satire but it's not relaxing to read.

maj 20, 3:29pm

>120 spiralsheep: ...brain candy that won't give me literary diabetes - what a wonderful description! I think it's why I avoid a lot of contemporary (and historical for that matter) romance, too sickly-sweet for me!

maj 20, 3:36pm

>123 Jackie_K: I truly have no interest in romance plots but I'll read Elizabeth Cadell or Georgette Heyer because they're good novels.

maj 21, 6:57am

I love going for a walk and having a view of 65km (40 miles) but it does mean I can see the ominous rainstorm threatening for long enough to have to pretend to make sensible decisions, which is tiresome. >;-)

84/2021. I read A Woman of Five Seasons, by Leila Al-Atrash, which is a 2002 translation of a 1990 novel about a wealthy Palestinian couple and their marriage, while living and working in a fictional Gulf state Barqais (Qatar/UAE) then Europe.

This is a difficult book to describe. It appears to be intended to be a psychological portrayal of a relatively traditional marriage from a feminist perspective, but the focus was on the husband and the story is largely told from his perspective as a point of view character. The sections inside the wife's head mostly consist of her telling herself she's more than a wife or potential lover, although that's what we see her thinking about. She doesn't think about her social life except as an appendage to her husband, or her business, or even her children. I don't believe this was intentionally ironic. Their three children don't feature (outsourced to "Asian" maids), although a few adult relatives make their marks here and there.

The husband's business, which is the is main concern of the book outside his marriage, is international arms smuggling and again I believe readers are supposed to be critical of this as exploitative, more due to dodgy business practices and corrupt political governance than any objection to the arms trade, but again with unintended irony it's portrayed as an easy way to make millions. This actually reminded me most of those 1980s blockbusters about jet-setting millionaire businessmen, but with an unusual emphasis on the protagonist's marriage because after financial success he's secondarily motivated by matrimonial success (and thirdly the social pros and cons of his illicit wealth for his fellow Palestinians and poorer Gulf Arabs because the powers that be help organise his arms deals in exchange for a cut and he donates some of his profits to good cause charities).

An odd but interesting novel. 3.5*

BingoDOG: Time word in title (Seasons)

GeoKIT: Asia ("Barqais" a fictional gulf state - think Qatar/UAE - by a Palestinian author who lived in Jordan but worked internationally)

Redigeret: maj 22, 2:31pm

Just stopping by to share two of the better titles and their bibliographic illustrations that I've seen this week.

Yet another wonderful 17th century title, from 1622:

"A Plaine Explanation of the VVhole Revelation of Saint John. Very neceffary and comfortable in thefe dayes of trouble and affliction in the church. Penned by a faithfull Preacher, now with God, for more priuate vfe, and now publifhed for the further benefit of the people of G o d."

Although I can't say that I found the illustrated title page especially "comfortable", lol, but it is a theological spectacular:


And the next image is an apology for anyone I've just traumatised with "nice and accurate" history. From the children's picture book Barbara Throws a Wobbler by Nadia Shireen, this is adorable:


I can't upload these to LT without losing the glorious details, hence the links. Enjoy!

maj 22, 3:39pm

>126 spiralsheep: Those pictures from the children's book are wonderful!

maj 22, 4:57pm

>127 Jackie_K: Aren't the moods fabulous beasts? And they give tiny tots words to express their feelings too.

maj 22, 6:22pm

Congratulations on completing the third Bingo card and the translated Arabic feminist psychological novel.

maj 22, 6:56pm

>129 pamelad: Thank you.

I know that, given my review, this might sound unlikely but at no point did I feel inclined to dnf A Woman of Five Seasons. It was under 200pgs and I was genuinely fascinated to find out where the author was going (although whether we arrived at her intended goals or not is open to question).

I have a burning urge to read more Palestinian fiction that isn't about the usual themes of either violent conflict or misogyny. Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands and now the oddity of A Woman of Five Seasons have piqued my curiosity. I'd also like an Algerian novel that isn't about those same two subjects. I'm sure they exist but they don't seem to end up translated into English.

maj 24, 10:36am

This read completes my third circumnavigation of the GeoKIT globe, yay! Let's hope that book of Sami poetry I want will turn up for sale somewhere so I can make a fourth circumnavigation....

I listened to some very atmospheric Norwegian jazz while I read this, including The Mistral Noir by Daniel Herskedal (free and legal on youtube).

85/2021. I read An African in Greenland, by Tete-Michel Kpomassie, translated by James Kirkup, which is an autobiographical travel book by a Togolese author set in Togo amongst Mina-speaking Wayti people, across Africa and Europe, but mostly in Greenland amongst the Inuit where the author spent about fifteen months. 4*

GeoKIT: Polar (Togo, Europe, Greenland)

BingoDOG: a book about nature (and our human habitats/environments, starting with equatorial snakes and ending at the mercy of Arctic weather).

maj 24, 12:40pm

>131 spiralsheep: I still think about the snake incident that begins Kpomassie's story all the time.

Redigeret: maj 24, 4:59pm

>132 RidgewayGirl: It was certainly a memorable beginning to the book! Amazing he managed to keep it equally interesting for the remaining 85% of the story but he did, especially when he seemed to be going out of his way not to sensationalise or tell tall tales (although I have to wonder about the presence of the local Lutheran pastor at the New Year wife-swap).

maj 25, 11:27am

Sometimes, when I'm pursuing books for Category Challenge I'm led along delightful tangents. Would you believe me if I told you there was a medieval village named Nether Itchington?

86/2021. I read Bingo Love by Tee Franklin and Jenn St-Onge, which is a LGBT romance comic ("graphic novel") about two USian women of colour from their first meeting at school in 1963 to their last gasp in 2038. Romance isn't the genre for me, and this one is both dramatic and idealised, but the story works as intended: script 3 + art 4 = 3.5*

BingoDOG: Impulse read! (Out of the donations box I was taking to a charity shop).
GeoKIT: North America (US)

87/2021. Re-read of another book before donation.

maj 25, 3:00pm

>134 spiralsheep: Nether Itchington
When I lived in the UK, I used to go past a sign for Nether Haugh, near Upper Haugh.

maj 25, 3:36pm

>135 Dilara86: Those are splendid names, and I say that as someone who used to regularly travel on a country bus through Pratts Bottom.

My family used to play a car game which involved turning the place names we passed into anthropomorphic characters. My parents were clearly brave people, lol.

Redigeret: maj 27, 10:38am

88/2021. I read Mission to Kala, by Mongo Beti, which is a 1957 Cameroonian comic novel about a young failed college student sent on a mission from his home village to find someone else's runaway wife. Our educated westernised city-dwelling protagonist quickly finds himself out of his depth when faced with the wiles of his country village cousins and their traditional ways of getting things done. As you can probably imagine from that description the primary form of humour is satire and no character is spared. The author side-eyes tradition and those who cling to the worst of it, he mocks colonialism and those who co-operate with it, he is quizzical about his contemporaries and their impotent hopes for the future, he even manages to tease his (presumed) French/westernised readers with subtle digs such as the implication that postcolonial Africa will turn to the USSR because the peasant farmers have more empathy with their Russian counterparts and their drive for modernisation than cities paved with illusory capitalist gold in the Western alliance. The protagonist claims this is a sentimental novel rather than picaresque one but the author does tend to want it both ways which results in twice as much fun for the reader. The story is well written and smoothly translated into English by Peter Green but, as in most bildungsroman novels revolving around a young male protagonist and his inner journey, characterisation is mostly through interaction with the (anti-)hero protagonist and the road trip plot is merely a vehicle, albeit in this case a satisfyingly structured vehicle. The protagonist's attitudes towards women are coloured here and there with feminist ideas about fairer division of labour, but the sexual attitudes might upset some 21st century readers although the protagonist's immature behaviour is self-acknowledged and doesn't go unexamined. If I had to describe this by comparison I suppose it would be Catcher in the Rye goes to Cameroon. I'm wavering on my rating but I can't recall any major flaws so let's say 5*.


I especially enjoyed the chapter headings: "Chapter Three : In the course of which the reader will become convinced that the final climax of this story is at last in sight - a conviction which is, most unfortunately, mistaken."

BingoDOG: Fewer than 200 pages
GeoKIT: Africa (Cameroon)

maj 27, 12:46pm

The wind-twisted trees on the hills are suddenly in flower and sending out scent: rowan, hawthorn, crabapple.

I rescued an exhausted bumble bee by giving it sugary fluid then moving it to a fresh flower which still had nectar. I love bees.

maj 29, 5:16pm

89/2021. I read Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie, which is a 1984 novel about two lonely USian academic scholars in London. After I began I realised I've read this before, at least a quarter of a century ago though so I didn't remember anything about it. Clue: it's about sex (but avoids Bad Sex in Fiction Award writing and won a Pulitzer Prize instead). 54 year old college professor Vinnie is a fascinating character and I enjoyed reading her point of view on a variety of subjects, but 29 year old Fred's point of view revolved around his sexual relationship with his soon-to-be-ex wife and then stalking his new ex-girlfriend and I found him tiresome. The writing style reminded me of Carol Shields from the same time period. It's technically a good book but I'm not as interested in fictional sex as the author presumably must be. Nonetheless 4*


On being 54: "English literature, to which in early childhood she had given her deepest trust, and which for half a century has suggested what she might do, think, feel, desire, and become, has suddenly fallen silent. Now, at last, all those books have no instructions for her, no demands - because she is just too old.

In the world of classic British fiction, the one Vinnie knows best, almost the entire population is under fifty, or even under forty - as was true of the real world when the novel was invented. The few older people - especially women - who are allowed into a story are usually cast as relatives; and Vinnie is no one’s mother, daughter, or sister. People over fifty who aren’t relatives are pushed into minor parts, character parts, and are usually portrayed as comic, pathetic, or disagreeable. Occasionally one will appear in the role of tutor or guide to some young protagonist, but more often than not their advice and example are bad; their histories a warning rather than a model.

In most novels it is taken for granted that people over fifty are as set in their ways as elderly apple trees, and as permanently shaped and scarred by the years they have weathered. The literary convention is that nothing major can happen to them except through subtraction. They may be struck by lightning or pruned by the hand of man; they may grow weak or hollow; their sparse fruit may become misshapen, spotted, or sourly crabbed. They may endure these changes nobly or meanly. But they cannot, even under the best of conditions, put out new growth or burst into lush and unexpected bloom."

BingoDOG: Set somewhere you’d like to visit (London, where I used to live and revisit as often as possible because "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.")

GeoKIT: Europe (England)

maj 29, 5:47pm

>138 spiralsheep: I'm not as interested in fictional sex as the author presumably must be I sympathise. Having read many historical romances I've come across some laughable examples and was tempted to implement a swollen shaft rating, but thought it might be too tacky.

maj 29, 6:26pm

>140 pamelad: Why do authors insist on using anatomical terms that normal people wouldn't? It's a good thing the Bad Sex in Fiction Award is for literary novels because if they included other genre books then the award ceremony would never end!

Is there an app for ebook readers to search and replace specific words? You could replace all examples of "swollen shaft" with "limp asparagus" or something.

Fortunately Lurie's characters think about sex more than they have sex, but there's still only so much philosophising I can take. Writing about music sex is like dancing about architecture.

maj 29, 9:54pm

>141 spiralsheep: Why do authors insist on using anatomical terms that normal people wouldn't?

Because "penis" is a deeply unsexy word and using it eight times in a single paragraph only ensures that no one is happy.

maj 30, 12:16am

>138 spiralsheep: "I rescued an exhausted bumble bee by giving it sugary fluid then moving it to a fresh flower which still had nectar."

I think you must be related to my family.

maj 30, 1:27am

>142 RidgewayGirl: "Because "penis" is a deeply unsexy word and using it eight times in a single paragraph only ensures that no one is happy."

I'm not convinced that "swollen shaft" is sexier. And surely using any one term repeatedly in any paragraph about anything makes it sound odd?

I suspect there's an unhealthy relationship with ideas of respectability that makes high and low brow authors and their intended audiences prefer plain language while middle brow struggle with ridiculous terms like "member" (see also: the upper and lower classes swear freely but the lower middle classes have traditionally repressed swearing as vulgar). Repression is a middle class value, at least in western Europe.

maj 30, 1:32am

>143 VivienneR: I'm happy to count all bee rescuers as my family-of-choice! :-)

I know several people who carry those "bee saviour cards" with peel-off pouches of sugar water. Brits still live up/down to our traditional image as eccentric animal welfare obsessives, lol.

maj 30, 8:20am

Do you ever get random illustrations stuck in your head, like the visual equivalent of earworms?

Anyway, I've been weeding the garden....

maj 30, 9:30am

>136 spiralsheep: My family used to play a car game which involved turning the place names we passed into anthropomorphic characters.
That's genius! We must start doing this too!

>137 spiralsheep: It's gone into my wishlist. I really liked The Poor Christ of Bomba - such a shame the book's ironic tone wasn't obvious to some of the LT reviewers.

>138 spiralsheep:
I rescued an exhausted bumble bee by giving it sugary fluid then moving it to a fresh flower which still had nectar

I didn't know one could do this... I could have rescued one this morning :-(

maj 30, 10:08am

>147 Dilara86: It's more relaxing to play cooperative car games, even if they inevitably lead to nitpicking and squabbling, than relentlessly competitive games.

My local university library has King Lazarus : a novel on the stacks so that's next on my Mongo Beti list, although the stacks haven't officially reopened yet. I'll be keeping my eyes open for other Beti novels. The Poor Christ of Bomba does sound very worthwhile reading.

Bumblebees are tough creatures. Sometimes just moving a tired bee out of direct sun is enough to help them. Fresh flowers with nectar are best but sugar-water works too and is faster for the bee. The bee saviour cards work well in urban areas with no immediately accessible flowers.

maj 30, 11:31am

My dad (who was a long-distance lorry driver so basically knew every major route in the whole of the UK, or so it seemed) kept us occupied for hours on long journeys by getting us to look for signs for towns which he knew were coming up soon. Not necessarily the next town, but one two or three towns further down the road. Once we'd got that then he'd go on to another town. My sister and I were so preoccupied with looking out for the signs that we forgot to argue :)

maj 30, 2:37pm

>149 Jackie_K: Your dad was clearly an expert in child psychology, or at least the psychology of his children. :-)

maj 30, 3:10pm

>149 Jackie_K: we used to try and construct the alphabet by using vehicle registration, working backwards by their age indicator. One one very long journey we did actually make it back to a suffix A plate.

As we got older we'd try to make words from the plates, using the 3 letters in order.

maj 30, 3:27pm

>151 Helenliz: Very orderly! Of course, when I was a kid you couldn't have completed a whole alphabet because plates didn't reach the end until I was a teen (give or take a year - I'm not checking).

Redigeret: jun 1, 4:00am

Saw my first, lone, swift (Apus apus) of 2021 in the last week of May, returned to us from Africa where they spend their winters. But haven't seen a swallow yet, with or without coconuts.

I've had my daily constitutional in the early morning mist, and done my good deed for the day by offering to walk with some lost tourists until they were back on their intended path.

May summary

Giveaways: 50 books donated to my favourite local charity shop (80 in 2021).

To reads: 158 (158 on 1 Jan).

Countries unread: 30 (56 on 1 Jan).

GeoKIT, 3rd round: I completed my third GeoKit world tour with 7 x 3 books out of 85 read, on 24 May 2021.

GeoKIT, 4th round: 5 out of 7 categories. I need another Polar, and Oceania (Tonga or Fiji maybe?).

BingoDOG, 3rd card: I completed my third BingoDog card with 25 x 3 books, out of 82 read, on 17 May 2021.

BingoDOG, 4th card: 6 out of 25 squares, each covered by a different book.

70. The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot, 2016, comic, 4*
71. Liberty Lyrics, by L. S. Bevington, 1895, poetry, 2*
72. The Dark Matter of Mona Starr, by Laura Lee Gulledge, 2020, comic, 4*
73. The Dream Years, by Lisa Goldstein, 1985, science fiction novel, 4*
74. Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal, 2019, novel, 4.5*
75. Jazz, Perfume & the Incident, by Seno Gumira Ajidarma, 1996, novel / journalism, 4.5*
76. Mouton, by Zeina Abirached, 2012, illustrated children's book, 3.5*
77. Two Serious Ladies, by Jane Bowles, 1943, novel, 3*
78. Potiki, by Patricia Grace, 1986, novel, 4*
79. Keepers of the House, by Lisa St Aubin de Terán, 1982, novel, 3*
80. The Authenticity Project, by Clare Pooley, 2020, novel, 3.5*
81. Aetheric Mechanics, by Warren Ellis and Gianluca Pagliarani, 2008, comic, 3.5*
82. Momo, by Michael Ende, 1973, children's novel, 5*
83. Return Match, by Elizabeth Cadell, 1979, novel, 4*
84. A Woman of Five Seasons, by Leila Al-Atrash, 1990, novel, 3.5*
85. An African in Greenland, by Tete-Michel Kpomassie, 1981, autobiography travel, 4*
86. Bingo Love, by Tee Franklin and Jenn St-Onge, 2018, comic, 3.5*
87. (re-read of another book before donation)
88. Mission to Kala, by Mongo Beti, 1957, novel, 5*
89. Foreign Affairs, by Alison Lurie, 1984, novel, 4*

Will probably also finish 90. this afternoon. :-)

maj 31, 6:21pm

Woo hoo, an excellent reading month! And a very good deed indeed to guide the lost tourists back onto their path.

Redigeret: jun 1, 7:17am

>154 rabbitprincess: We mostly get lovely tourists here so it's rarely a chore to stop and help them. :-)

91/2021. I read Dotter of her Father's Eyes by Mary M. Talbot (author) and Bryan Talbot (illustrator), which is an autobiography and biography in comics form ("graphic") revolving around Mary's relationship with her father, a scholar focussed on author James Joyce, interwoven with a biography of Lucia Joyce and her relationship with her father. It sounds complicated but the differing art separates the three time periods covered, cleverly using full colour for Mary's adult life, sepia with coloured highlights for her childhood, and black & white for Lucia's history. The point of these comparisons, if there is one beyond auto/biography, is that a restrictive father had far more power over his daughter when society was more restrictive of women, and that even an ambitious father's plans can be frustrated by his support for a restrictive society or religion. So Lucia's creativity and professional outlets were thwarted and she ended her life in an insane asylum, while Mary's father's ambition for her to take a degree at a Cambridge college is subtly implied to have been thwarted by his religion's refusal to accept contraception but Mary was lucky enough to have further educational and professional opportunities later in her life. There are, however, also more lighthearted moments as people's real lives are mixed blessings not simplistic moral lessons. 4.5*

Winner of the 2012 Costa Book Award for Biography. A formidable achievement for a comic!

Mary: "Claims about men being unable to express emotions irritate me no end. My father did anger very well."

BingoDOG: Arts and recreation (comic art and biography of a dancer, with several literary side characters)
GeoKIT: Europe (England and France mostly)

jun 1, 7:53am

>155 spiralsheep: I've read this (for once my LT records and my memory agree) but I remember almost nothing about it. Time for a reread I think: as you say, impressive work re the biography award.

I love >146 spiralsheep: will be thinking of it the next time I go on a weeding kick.

jun 1, 8:16am

>156 charl08: Despite us both agreeing Dotter of her Father's Eyes is worth 4.5*, I'm not sure it's deep enough to give much more on a second reading. But I still have a stack of unread comics so I'm possibly less tempted to re-read.

That illustration even has the robin / blackbird / uncanny biting beastie that follows us around the garden while we behead the golden crowned weeds! :D

Redigeret: jun 2, 12:14pm

Y'know the phrase "What the actual fuck?" Warning for a lot of that sort of thing.

90/2021. I read The Actual, by Inua Ellams, which is his fifth poetry collection (and his umpteenth publication). How did I love this? Let me count the ways. Except I don't have time so here's my execution of a summary.

I love the cover, which gives precisely 46 fucks... gold-plated fucks in fact.

I love the decorative illustrated 2Pac endpapers in recto and verso.

I love the poems, yes, all of them, except page 64 because Fuck / Dust!

I especially loved:

Fuck / Sympathy "Because Christ was the first Black man lynched / who went viral /"

Fuck / Border Guards "Heavy-booted and uniformed / the armed who man the borders / of narrative and myth /"

Fuck / Perseus "and Poseidon stayed silent / his crime forgotten when Perseus won / And story by story / myth by myth / urban legend by urban legend / locker room talk by locker room talk / men make other men "

Fuck / Diminutives "/ our tails are dark blue flames / our hooves are coal half-crushed to diamonds / The racecourse is obstacled with glass ceilings / slow squad cars and niggling doubt / Our task is to reach the end with our selves / our names intact /"

Fuck / Logophobia "/ Things we don't have words for in our language don't exist / I have an autistic niece /"

Fuck / Camels (but don't fuck with amusing tall tales about camels, that aren't quotable)

Fuck / The Joker "/ enough to sidestep the foolish machismo /"

And absolutely Fuck / Batman for spreading covid-19!

I do have one minor historical nitpick from Fuck/Empire 4/ about Benin: "There were boys play-fighting in the soft grass / girls with half-braided hair snoozing beside their mothers / There were infants trying to catch flies idling by in the heavy heat / fathers working the wide fields /" Because which gender, in that part of Africa as in most of the pre-mechanised world, did and still does most of the food growing, the food harvesting, the food marketing, and the food preparation? Although there are rare times when there are more men in the fields and more women at home because there's always one exception to any rule (like this is the one exception to the Inua Ellams is always spot on rule, lol).


BingoDOG: Book you share with 20 or fewer members on LT (this is a travesty - buy this book immediately!)

GeoKIT: Europe (England, Ireland, Nigeria, Benin, the empire)

jun 3, 4:06am

Ironically, I'd just pulled the last of the fireweed out of my garden when I began reading Fireweed, by Jill Paton Walsh.

From Willow Song by Anne Stevenson

I went down to the railway
But the railway wasn’t there.
A long scar lay across the waste
Bound up with vetch and maiden hair,
And birdsfoot trefoil everywhere.
But the clover and the sweet hay,
The cranesbill and the yarrow,
Were as nothing to the rose bay,
the rose bay, the rose bay,
As nothing to the rose bay willow.

92/2021. I read Fireweed, by Jill Paton Walsh, which is a 1969 YA novel about two teenagers alone in London in 1940 during the Blitz. Having grown up with two parents and two grandparents who were bombed during the Second World War, including my mum's school being flattened by a doodlebug (no fatalities amazingly), I've never felt much need to read fiction on the subject. So this wouldn't be my usual choice but I wanted an easy to obtain book with "fire" somewhere in the title for my elemental mini-challenge and, more importantly, it was recommended to me by both cindydavid4 and Jackie_K who have similar reading tastes to mine. It's mostly well written and historically factual.

My one criticism is that I strongly disapprove of Paton Walsh implying at the end that her 16 year old protagonist could've successfully lied about his age and joined the British Army because no. Boys tried and they were found out and sent home, but she leaves that bit out because she wants to imply her protagonist was a child soldier which no. Also I'm presuming she knew the Army Cadet Force were a separate organisation and in 1940 they were supporting the Home Guard, so Paton Walsh could've more accurately had her protagonist attempt to join the Home Guard or the Army Cadet Force but she wanted drama more than truth. It's only an implication though which allows the author deniability so 4*

GeoKIT: Europe (England)

BingoDOG: Element in title ("Fire", I've read earth, water, fire, and aether this year so only Unlocking the Air left unless I should add in the East Asian elements of wood and metal? I've got The Greenwood Shady but I'd need suggestions for a "-metal-" title to read.)

jun 4, 5:09am

Helped two more sets of tourists on my walk yesterday, and because I was walking more slowly I got very close to an unbothered baby robin.

93/2021. I read Flake, by Matthew Dooley, which is one of those "graphic novels" beloved by people who don't usually read comics: all the text is easy reading, all the pages are divided into multiple easy to follow rectangular panels, all the panels are filled in similar ways with familiar faces and places, and there's absolutely nothing in the presentation or content requiring any effort from a very average reader. This from a country that in real actual history produced the Glasgow Ice Cream Wars because truth is stranger than fiction, especially if your chosen fiction is par for the course, middle of the road, safe comforting reading for tired grey centrist dads. But I'm feeling generous as this is the artist's first published long form so: 3*

BingoDOG: One-word title (Flake)
GeoKIT: Europe (England)

Redigeret: jun 4, 11:37am

Weekend bonus for book club fans.

Loaned by Mrs Supple to her round robin book club of 15 women during 1776-77, these details are inscribed in Letters from Italy, describing the manners, customs, antiquities, paintings, &c. of that country, by Lady Anna Riggs Miller.

jun 4, 6:04pm

>160 spiralsheep: Where are your tourists coming from?

jun 5, 5:18am

>162 pamelad: Our tourists are mostly from England at the moment, provided one understands England as having residents who originated from all over the world. Lots of families this week as it's school holidays. Usually more older couples or student age youngsters.

During lockdown we get people who drive in from up to an hour or so away (sometimes illegally, sometimes legally). Otherwise we're mostly seeing English tourists during the pandemic. Our usual Welsh visitors are sensibly staying closer to home and our only non-UK visitors seem to be students studying in England.

Redigeret: jun 5, 7:33am

I might write my name in my books if my handwriting looked more like this....

"Anna Dilbo / Anno 1668 Den 24 octobre / in London"

Inscribed in Historie of the Holy Warre, 1651, with a Dutch style date.

jun 5, 4:42pm

>163 spiralsheep: Relieved to read that your tourists are local. Like the UK, Australia has residents from all over the world, so our local tourists, not that we have any at the moment in Melbourne, are also a heterogeneous group.

jun 5, 11:48pm

>118 spiralsheep: Really appreciate the discussion of Cadell. I feel like I learned many things and I have a new author to try out when I'm next up for calming!

>159 spiralsheep: "I'd need suggestions for a "-metal-" title to read."
I can offer up Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee, a weakly sci-fi coming of age. I don't remember thinking it was phenomenal and everyone should read it, but I don't remember disliking it at all either. So I guess what I can do is point you to it and suggest you read some reviews to see if it piques your interest at all. :)

jun 7, 9:32am

>166 pammab: Tanith Lee was a great author, but I think I've read Silver Metal Lover back in the dim and distant past as a f/sf loving teenager.

I had the same problem when I asked for recs for "-fire-" titles: the people who've got to know me gave the best recs but I'd already read most of them, lol.

Maybe I should read something unexpected such as What Does This Button Do? An Autobiography, * May Contain Flying Metal, by Bruce Dickinson. I bet it's in my local library. :D

jun 7, 10:08am

94/2021. I read Samarkand, by Amin Maalouf, first published in 1989, in the 1992 English translation by Russell Harris. The first half is inspired by the life of Omar Khayyam and the second half appears to be trying to explain 20th century Iranian politics to the French (and USians). This turned out to be my third accidental re-read of a 1980s novel within the last month but unlike the other two this didn't have enough depth to be worth re-reading, even though I read it so long ago that I didn't realise it was a re-read until the second half (also incidentally the second novel within a month with Henri Rochefort as a minor character). Samarkand is a novel revolving around historical events, rather than characters or ideas, and I personally would prefer to read about historical events in non-fiction. Nonetheless, this is a reasonably well-written and structured novel which manages at least one moment of fiction stranger than truth. 3.5*

My secondhand copy of Samarkand has some splendidly insane marginalia comparing Cromwell (doesn't specify Thomas or Oliver), "? Robespierre", North Korea, (Osama) bin Laden, and (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad. Frustratingly, the most interesting note is also the least legible: " C.f Lab?? Zooq + of course ConSect? li??? too "

BingoDOG: Book about history (11th century Muslim world, and 20th century Persia / Iran)
GeoKIT: Asia (Uzbekistan, Persia, Iran)

In real true actual history (tm) the precious copy of the ruba`i that drowned with the Titanic in 1912 was an English translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with bejewelled cover by London bookbinders Sangorski & Sutcliffe (still open) commissioned by booksellers Sotheran's (still open). Francis Sangorski also drowned shortly after his book but not in the Atlantic. His retired partner George Sutcliffe made a second identical copy of the "Great Omar" with his nephew Stanley Bray, then head of the bindery, shortly before the Second World War but the bank vault it was stored in was destroyed by bombing. A third copy was made by Stanley Bray after he retired from the firm and is now in the British Library (still open, lol).

jun 7, 5:48pm

>168 spiralsheep:

That's a beautiful book cover with a very interesting history.

Once upon a time I used to read a lot of Cadell and I still have one of her books. Maybe I should give her another try?

jun 8, 5:12am

>169 hailelib: I'm not usually a fan of gold-leafed and bejewelled items but I have to say I think the cover of the Great Omar both beautiful and surprisingly aesthetically pleasing, although it's more brightly coloured and bedazzling than the photo manages to capture.

I think we've previously established that you and I have similar tastes in admiring character-based fiction (Memory and Paladin of Souls, for example), and Cadell's novels are always character-based and usually have at least one middle-aged woman in a prominent role too. I find even her less good efforts are at least amusing and entertaining, even if her more complex plots don't always work as well as her more straightforward romances.

Redigeret: jun 8, 9:26am

Someone reminded me it's LGBT pride month (or LGBTQQIA+ or whatever) so I dug this 2019 book out of my To Read pile.

95/2021. I read Sensible Footwear: a girl's guide, by Kate Charlesworth, which is an autobiography of Kate Charlesworth and her perspective on British lesbian history from 1950 to 2019 in comics form, with some gay / bi / trans history and biographies included. The history is very focussed on white lesbians and middle class lesbians and their respectability politics (with Jackie Kay as a token non-white / Black British / Scottish lesbian). The art employs various styles and some of them appeal to me more than others but they're all chosen for reasons, whether it's collage for the history, or girls' own for Kate at school, or the nods to Alice in Sunderland, or etc etc. 4*

BingoDOG: By or about a marginalised group (lesbians, feminists, women)

GeoKIT: Europe (mostly England, also Scotland and US)

On a personal note, it's weird to find out someone you knew thirty years ago is still alive by recognising her from a rough sketch in a comic only labelled with her first name, lol. Feminist social circles were very small in those days!

jun 10, 10:54am

96/2021. I read Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest, by A. Lee Martinez, which is a comedy fantasy novel about two teens on a road trip across Enchanted America. There are a lot of familiar jokes and one liners in this but Martinez delivers them well. 3.5*


"My name is Waechter. Neil Waechter. National Questing Bureau." He held up a badge. He didn't flash it, but allowed them a good long look at it.

"What's that?" asked Helen.

"Your tax dollars at work. We're a small agency. Not very well known. We were the ones to throw Hitler's cursed ring into the fires of Mt. Heidelstein. We were the people who harvested and planted the last seed of the dying yax imix che tree to finally end the dust bowl. We found the magic arrow that ended General Sherman's rampage before he could gather enough sacrifices to... well, perhaps I've said too much." He smiled.

BingoDOG: Book with or about magic (fantasy novel with magic)
GeoKIT: North America (US, sort of....)
SFFKIT: June: It's About the Journey

Redigeret: I går, 7:51am

Who knows the date when English women who fulfilled the same qualifying criteria as male voters were formally deprived of the legal right to vote? Clue: some abbesses and some female suo jure aristocrats had the same voting rights as their peers.

97/2021. I read Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, by Mary M. Talbot, Kate Charlesworth, and Bryan Talbot, which is history presented as historical fiction in comics form. The history is extremely accurate as expected from Mary M. Talbot, who has managed to adopt an even-handed position on the internal struggles of the Women's Social and Political Union while focussing mostly on activities surrounding women based at the main headquarters. There are also twenty pages of notes on historical sources at the end, although reading these is a bonus and not necessary to understand the story.

The novel revolves around a fictional working class Manchester girl who becomes involved with members of the WSPU in 1898, and then the WSPU itself after a move to London. The story continues until 1916 but there is a brief framing story taking us as far as 1969. The plot doesn't sacrifice either the protagonist's personal story or the surrounding history and both are fleshed out. The youth of the fictional heroine suggests this might have been partly aimed at a YA audience.

There is a relatively large supporting cast and, due partly to the restrictive fashions of the day in hairstyles and hats, the minor players weren't always well differentiated in the art (although I had a similar problem with the other Kate Charlesworth book I read recently, possibly because she has previously specialised more in cartoons than graphic novels). The visuals are otherwise good, and there are a few nice background touches. I especially appreciated our fictional heroine's prison ID being G45, which I presume is a nod to the imprisoned women being maltreated by G4S to this day.

Another comic worth reading from Mary M. Talbot and team. 4.5*

BingoDOG: Book with a character you think you'd like to have as a friend (probably at least Sally, Arthur, Fred Pethick-Lawrence, Hannah Mitchell, Teresa Billington-Greig, and Esther Knowles)

GeoKIT: Europe (England, Edinburgh, and pre-Independence Dublin)

Popular histories on women's suffrage often fail to mention that English women were only deprived of the legal right to vote in 1832.