Monday, January 6, 2020

Choosing

Today's Daily Dharma email from Tricycle:

Every day when we wake up, we have a choice. Will we choose fear or will we choose compassion and love?

—Interview with Ocean Vuong by Raisa Tolchinsky, “What Scares Writer and Zen Buddhist Ocean Vuong”

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Jump

It's that time of year again, when many people are choosing their personal word for the new year. Today, as I was reading about someone's choice, the word 'jump' popped into my head. I know why that's the word that came up--it's not a new thing for me. It comes from a few lines in a talk I listened to, probably over 25 years ago now. I have reminded myself of it so many times over the years.

Five frogs are sitting on a log. One decides to jump. How many frogs are left? The answer, of course, is five, because deciding to jump is not jumping.

I'm really, really good at deciding to jump. In spite of the occasional fallow period, I usually have a head filled with ideas. And I often do jump. But sometimes, with certain things, my anxiety and overthinking keep me stuck on that log, paralysed. Oddly enough, when it comes to big life choices, I am usually saying, 'Let's see what happens.' Then off I go. I get stuck on smaller things, that, if I tried and failed, would have few repercussions, if any, and not very serious ones at that. I might be disappointed or maybe a little embarrassed, but so what? It's not like I haven't experienced those things before. So maybe, in 2020 I need to try to jump off that log once in a while and see what happens. It might be painful and it might be great, but either way, each jump will provide some opportunities to learn and grow. Whether you choose a word for the year or not, I wish you the same opportunities 😀

Friday, January 3, 2020

Yum!

Our first Friday night (and Saturday lunch) pizza of 2020--whole grain crust, garlic, oregano, tomato puree (paste), mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced onion, chopped bell pepper, sliced jalapenos, and sliced vegetarian rosemary and red onion sausages (Linda McCartney brand). It's yummy! 😋

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The End of the End

We went to pick up a few groceries this afternoon. Single use plastic bags aren't really a thing here--there is a 22 cent tax per bag, so people are good about bringing their own, bringing the trolley out to their car and directly loading the loose items into the boot, or taking one of the boxes that are available at the end of the till. We wheel the trolley out to the picnic table and pack our backpacks. Today as we were doing this, a man rushed up to us and said, 'You're on foot?' We said we were and he told us he would be happy to bring us where we needed to go. I thanked him and said we were good and we were just going down the road. He asked if we were sure a couple of times. Bill said yes, we do this all the time. This is not the first time someone has seen us and offered us a ride--such nice, friendly people.

Here are the last few books I read in 2019.
 The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)
Martin Nanther is a biographer working on a project about his great-grandfather, who was a doctor to Queen Victoria. Henry Nanther specialised in haemophilia and was obsessed with the blood. As Martin uncovers more, he becomes increasingly disturbed by what he is discovering about the lengths to which his ancestor went to learn more. The story moves between what Martin is learning about his ancestors, haemophilia, and the ideas of a previous time and the present (1999-2000). The underlying theme of both parts of the story is genetic inheritance.

The Great Poets: Emily Dickinson (audiobook read by Teresa Gallagher)
This was pleasant to listen to, as the reader was excellent.

 Resistance by Val McDermid
I found this in the e-audiobook section of the library website, but I don’t know if it was ever an actual book. This was a radio drama. It was good, even though the dialogue seemed a bit clunky in spots. I’m not familiar with the author’s work other than this so I don’t know how this compares. The story itself seemed quite plausible. Here’s how it was described on the library website:

It’s the Summer Solstice weekend, and 150,000 people have descended on a farm in the North East of England for an open-air music festival. Reporting on the event is journalist Zoe Meadows, who files her copy from a food van run by her friends Sam and Lisa.

When some of Sam’s customers get sick, it looks like food poisoning, and it’s exacerbated by the mud, rain and inadequate sanitary facilities. It’s assumed to be a 24-hour thing, until people get home and discover strange skin lesions, which ulcerate and turn septic. More people start getting ill – and dying.
What looked like a minor bug is clearly much more serious: a mystery illness that’s spreading fast and seems resistant to all antibiotics. Zoe teams up with Sam to track the outbreak to its source; meanwhile, can a cure be found before the disease becomes a pandemic?

 The Lake House by Kate Morton
This was a really good book, even though one particular aspect of the ending seemed a bit too cute. It kept me turning the pages and was a good way to end my reading year. I picked the book up in a charity shop and it’s on the pile to be re-donated.  

I've got two on the go at the moment--a novel and a non-fiction book, both of which are going to be passed along when I'm done with them. I've got the first Jeeves book (in audio format) downloaded as well, but haven't started it yet. I'm not sure whether I'll like that or not, but I will soon find out!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Middle of the End

Happy 2020! I started off the new year by starting a new book--one that I know I am not going to keep. Looks like I will enjoy it enough to read it before I donate it, instead of deciding I don't like it and setting it aside. Here is the middle part of last month's list of books that I liked well enough to continue reading to the end.

Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mystery in the Making by John Curran
We happened to be in the book room of the local charity shop when the volunteer placed this book on the shelf, right next to where Bill was standing. He immediately called my attention to it and I snapped it up—it probably spent about 30 seconds on the shelf. The author was at a conference and met Christie’s grandson, Mathew Pritchard. They became friends and Curran spent time at the family home. During one visit, he discovered Agatha Christie’s notebooks and became a bit obsessed with them. This book is the result. In it, he talks about her process, her work, and includes two short stories—one is a different version of a previously published story and one is a new Poirot. I was thrilled to be in the right place at the right time so I could bring this book home with me. It’s a keeper.

Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde by Alexis de Veaux
This is exactly what the subtitle says it is. It was an interesting read for people who are interested in poetry, feminism, activism, and civil rights.

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
This is the second book in the author’s Dr Ruth Galloway series. The main character is an archaeologist who gets drawn into investigations when bones are found. The e-audiobook section of
the library website has the first four in the series. I’d listened to the first one a few months ago and I liked it well enough to reserve the second one. The day before it was to be available, I found this book in a charity shop, so bought that and cancelled the reserve. I found book 6 in a different charity shop several weeks ago.

In this book, the bones of a child are found during the construction of what are to be luxury apartments on the site of a former children’s home. Before it was a children’s home, it was the home of a well-off family where some terrible events occurred. Dr Galloway and the police are called in and find themselves in some difficulty trying to figure out what the bones mean and who they used to be. At the same time, there is an archaeological dig going on nearby. What is the connection of the lead archaeologist to the family who used to own the property? What does the placement of the child’s bones mean?

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths
This is Book 6 in the Ruth Galloway series.



Here's to an excellent reading year!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Beginning of the End

Just a few hours of 2019 left as I type. I took down the seasonal decorations this morning and things look a bit bare, as they always do. I put up my little autumn creations on the autumnal equinox, add the few Halloween-ish things I have for the month of October, and then put up the Christmas/winter stuff the day after Thanksgiving (even though that's not a thing here). For three months there are things hanging round that help me celebrate my best part of the year. When I take them down, it makes me a little bit sad. But I guess that's part of the whole seasonal thing--I enjoy 'my' season all the more because I know it's fleeting.

Happily, no matter the season, there are always books to immerse myself in--what would I do without them?!

Here are the first few books on my last monthly list of the year and decade:
December by Elizabeth H. Winthrop
I re-donated this to a charity shop as soon as I finished reading it, because I figured it was a good time for them to sell it. I loved this book. I could feel for Isabelle and her attempts to control things and her fears about what her actions might unleash.

The book moves back and forth between narrators--sometimes we hear from Isabelle, sometimes her mother, and as I recall, sometimes her father. The ending was a little abrupt, but it did fit in with the storyline.

This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy
I first came across this book in e-audiobook format when scrolling through the library website one day. I borrowed it, but didn’t get to it. Then it dawned on me (duh!) that I could probably find the book in a charity shop. I found it in a couple of shops. It’s a short story collection in which all of the stories take place at Christmastime and each has a bit of an edge. It was a pleasant read.

A Woman in the Polar Night: The Classic Memoir of a Year in the Arctic Wilderness by Christianne Ritter, translated by Jane Degras
I came across this title when I was scrolling through the e-book section of the library website devoted to books new to the system and I immediately put myself in the queue. I had access to it earlier than expected, downloaded it and happily read it. This is the blurb from the library site:
'In 1934, the painter Christiane Ritter leaves her comfortable life in Austria and travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, to spend a year there with her husband. She thinks it will be a relaxing trip, a chance to "read thick books in the remote quiet and, not least, sleep to my heart's content", but when Christiane arrives she is shocked to realize that they are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, battling the elements every day, just to survive.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies... But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic's harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

Born in 1897, Christiane Ritter was an Austrian artist and author. She wrote A Woman in the Polar Night on her return to Austria from Spitsbergen in 1934. It has since become a classic of travel writing, never going out of print in German and being translated into seven other languages. Christiane Ritter died in Vienna in 2000 at the age of 103.'

 I loved this book. It’s pretty amazing to consider how they lived in such a place at that time, without all the technology that exists today. It would have been a huge change for her, living that way, especially because she had servants in the home she left in Austria. I was once again grateful to have been able to live in the arctic and sub-arctic before it warms up and melts. I was thinking with sadness about how different this part of the world is now as human-caused climate change speeds up. At one point, she mentions ‘the world war’ and I was reminded that when she wrote this, there had still been just the one, although later in the book, we know they have concerns about what will be coming.

As we begin a new year and decade, I wish you very happy and healthy 2020 and beyond.
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Bookish Plans for 2020

As we zoom towards a new year, I've been thinking about my book plans for 2020. As always, there will be a bunch of library requests and many books that I have not even heard of yet. But there are some plans I can make now regarding books I want to make it a point to read or listen to, in some cases.

I have acquired several short story collections that are several hundred pages apiece. The biggest one is the book of 100 Best Crime Stories Written by Women as selected by Sophie Hannah. That one weighs in at over 1000 pages. Others are not quite as hefty, but still take up a bunch of space. I think I am going to love or at least really like these books, but the possibility exists that I won't, so I want to make it a point to actually read them and find out. There is no point having these books take up space, of which I have very little, if I don't like them. If I read them and decide I don't want to keep them or if I begin and find I don't wish to continue, I can donate them and free up space.

Another thing I want to do is to get to some classics--Dickens, Trollope, Gaskell, and many others. When a friend gave me an e-reader, I immediately went to Project Gutenberg and downloaded many such books. I've been carrying them around since--they take up no physical space, so are easy enough to carry around. I always told myself that I should prioritise print books, which either need to be returned to the library or have been picked up at the charity shop with no plans to keep once read. I want to fit in some classics this year around the other books. I recently listened to a booktube video about audiobooks and the vlogger was listing audiobook versions that she liked. Many of the audiobooks she talked about were classics and I thought to myself, 'Why have you never checked the library website for e-audiobook versions of some of these books? Duh!' I immediately did a search and found a bunch, so I've reserved a couple of those and will plan to keep requesting them. I can listen to those while I'm stitching.

In addition to those plans, I want to read further into the Mrs Bradley mystery series. There are over 60 of those and I request a few at a time from the library. Also, there have been a couple other series recommended to me that I want to start or continue. I have not read Louise Penney's Inspector Gamache books, but I will request the first one and see whether I like it. Also, the Amanda Peabody series was suggested as one I would enjoy. I did request the first one of that and liked it, so plan to continue on in the new year.

That seems like enough plans to be getting on with for now. I know that I have to leave room for the unexpected. I'm always ready for happy bookish surprises!