Sunday, May 31, 2020

Bad Hair Day Found in a Book

Here's something to bring a smile. Bill found this card in a book he got at a charity shop.

Monday, May 25, 2020


We just got word that there have been ZERO COVID-19 deaths reported today in Ireland! Well done to everyone who has done what was needed! Hopefully, this will continue going forward.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


Years ago, I had a vintage pin loom. I had fun learning how to use it and then experimenting until it broke. One or two of the pins came off and there was no way to get them back on securely enough to use the loom properly. So that was that. Through the years I'd sometimes think about the loom and wish I still had it. A few weeks ago, this came up in conversation because Bill read a blog post about someone using hers.

This morning I'd just sat down with my porridge when the postman knocked on the door. Bill jumped up and went downstairs. When he came back, he was carrying a box. He'd gotten me a pin loom! Not only that, he bought a handmade one from a small business. They make the looms and sell them through a few different small fibre art businesses. He got this loom from one of them I love it that he supported a maker and two small businesses.
It's 4 inches square. They have other sizes, but this is the size I would have picked for myself, so I'm thrilled about that, too. It came with instructions for warping and basic weaving, a scarf pattern, and a weaving needle.

I will have so much fun playing with this and trying various ideas, which started bouncing around in my mind as soon as I saw it. I don't know what I will try first, but probably something with a smooth, untextured yarn so I can easily see what I am doing. This will be perfect for scraps. I can't wait to get started. But first, laundry. I'll be good and get my chores done before I play!

This is such a happy surprise. What a great gift from a great guy--not that I'm biased or anything  😁

Monday, May 18, 2020

On the Right Foot

I've always got various stitching projects on the go--I like to have something to work on while I listen to audiobooks and podcasts and I like to listen to stuff while I work on stuff. Listening and making go together. Socks have been among the projects I've been working on since we went into lockdown and the other day, I finished the third pair I've made recently.

I like to use double-pointed needles and make them one at a time. I've tried two at a time on two circulars and didn't care for it. Magic loop looks extremely annoying. So I stick with what makes me happy. When I used to teach in a yarn shop, I used to show students how I do things, how stitches are formed, and how they look. Then I told them that as they get more comfortable, they will inevitably find different ways to do things that are more comfortable for them and they should go with that. The important thing is to be pleased with the results, not how we get there. It made me so sad to hear stories about how these women, all of whom were older than me, had been driven away from stitching because the older women who taught them would be pretty tyrannical about everything. They got yelled at and told that there is one way to do things and that way was whatever way grandma, auntie, or mom said. They were told to rip out their work and do it over and over and over until it was acceptable to the seasoned stitcher. How horrible! No wonder they left stitching alone as soon as they could. I think I would, too, if I had that sort of experience. I am completely self-taught and I have come to be really grateful for that. I was free to do what worked for me and just love the process and that's what I tried to impart to my students. When I saw their joy and pride in the things they made, I was thrilled.

We've entered phase 1 of the re-opening process today. Not much has changed overall and nothing has changed for us. A few more sorts of shops are open (garden centres and hardware stores) and golf courses can open, but these are not places we go to anyway. We're still supposed to stay within 5 km of home, except for what is on the list of essential journeys. Now we wait to see how things unfold. If things don't get worse, we will enter phase 2 in three weeks.

I hope you're safe and well.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Fifty Degrees Below Zero

After I wrote my 'I hate spring and summer' poem the other day, I was thinking of another I wrote about 16 years go when we lived in North Pole, Alaska. It's at the opposite end of the seasonal spectrum and was written before I experienced any sort of environmental allergies--those didn't begin until we left Alaska and went back to the Lower 48. Autumn and winter were still my favourite seasons, but I did not dislike summer as much as I do now. Summers were short and even the 24 hours of daylight didn't bother me. Still, I loved the winter days when we had about 3 hours of weak daylight and I loved the crisp, cold air. Winter lasted from late September or early October until April-ish when break-up started. Everyone prepared for winter and was used to very cold temperatures. Schoolchildren would go outside for recess unless it was colder than -20(F). We knew to expect some seriously cold weather (-40F) for a stretch in January. One year, our cold snap dipped down to -50 or so for a time. When it broke, it went quickly and in a matter of hours, it was -10 and then 0. Bill and I were outside at midnight shovelling snow in T-shirts. By the tail end of every winter, 0 felt quite warm. My decade in Alaska my be one reason why I have so little tolerance for heat now. I start to get grumpy when it's in the 50s and 60 is too hot for me. I sometimes miss the cold, but when I feel nostalgia for those days, I remember that living in that kind of cold requires a lot of thought, care, nd preparation, and that it can wear one down after a while.This is especially true when one is living without running water as we were and has to haul it. Turns out that 5-and 7-gallon jugs of water are heavy to carry and very, very cold in winter! We had a septic tank, so unlike many others there did not have to dash to an out house, which I was very grateful for! Of course, with the climate emergency, those cold days may soon be gone forever. Anyway, here's the poem I wrote one day when even I was tired of the cold! I'd forgotten what that felt like. 😉

50 Degrees Below Zero

The brownish haze hangs heavy
like a veil in the sky,
a blanket of car exhaust and wood smoke
at fifty degrees below zero.

I take a deep breath
and feel shards of air
scraping my skin
and tumbling into my lungs.

Too cold outside even for the frost
which creeps into the house,
spreading around doorknobs
and growing up windows.

The cold seems to stretch to forever
as I begin to wonder
if it will ever be warm enough
for me to see clearly again.

January 19, 2004

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Song of the Season

The first lines of this poem popped into my head yesterday and hung around in there until I worked out the rest of it.

Song of the Season

Spring-summer and I,
we just don’t get along
as the nights get short
and the days get long.

The sun comes out 
and I overheat
while wishing the rain
would come down in sheets.

The flowers, they bloom
and then clog my head
while my lungs start 
to feel like they’re filled up with lead.

The grass starts to grow
and my throat starts to burn,
then my plummeting mood
becomes cause for concern.

I miss seeing bare branches 
against a grey sky,
my depression returns
and sometimes I cry.

When solstice arrives 
and folks welcome the light
the great joy for me’s in
the lengthening night.

So spring-summer and I
are surely not friends
and I get less depressed
as we get near the end.

When the days grow short 
and the nights grow long
I’m back in the seasons
to which I belong.

Give me the dark,
the rain, and the cold--
Autumn and winter
don’t ever get old.

You know what they say--
that all things must pass,
but to me spring and summer
are pains in the ass!

13-14 May 2020

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Sunlight and Shadow

sunlight on the water and piles of seaweed at low tide
sunlight on these gorgeous wee flowers in the wildflower garden

brilliant colour in the wildflower garden
two trees,two greens
standing at the end of the pier--very low tide
May this day bring many moments of peace and contentment in spite of all the uncertainty and suffering being experienced by so many.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Blue and Yellow and Green

dungloe lake

pond by the trail


dungloe river
May you find many tranquil moments of joy throughout this day.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Salad Base: Slaw with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I don't care for traditional coleslaw with the mayonnaise dressing. I use mayo occasionally, but when I do, I use as little as possible, because I'm not in love with it and too much turns my stomach. So when I make slaw, it's with vinaigrette. I make balsamic vinaigrette most of the time, but sometimes I use lemon or lime juice instead of the balsamic vinegar. The lime vinaigrette is particularly good in a corn and bean salad. I am not a white vinegar fan, either, so I only use that as a last resort, but it could be made that way.

The slaw itself is basic. It can be eaten as is, but I almost always use it as a base and add other things to it. It keeps well in the fridge, so it's convenient and it doesn't take long to add stuff to it and have a yummy meal or side dish.

I like to use sweetheart cabbage (it has a conical shape) when I can get it, but regular green or purple cabbage is good too. To make the slaw, I simply chop the cabbage and put it in a bowl. I take my peeler and peel a carrot or two, depending on size and then chop the ribbons before adding them to the bowl. I dice a red or yellow bell pepper and add that. Today I used dried herbs--oregano, basil, and parsley, but I've used fresh in the past as well. A sprinkling of granulated garlic is nice.

To make the vinaigrette, I put some balsamic vinegar in a small bowl or jar. The amount depends on how much slaw I've made. Then I add double the amount of olive oil, more or less. So if I used 1 tablespoon of vinegar (or lemon or lime juice), I would use 2 tablespoons of olive oil. If I used 2 tablespoons of vinegar, I'd use 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Then I add a dollop of Dijon mustard and whisk it up.

I pour the dressing over the veggies and herbs, mix everything until the veggies are coated with the dressing, dump it in a container and put it in the fridge. It will keep for days in there and when I want salad, I start with that. A good bit of the chopping is already done. The dressing is already on there. so it save me making it every time I want a salad and then washing up the oily bowl and utensils.

I most often use it as a salad, but it's also good as a topping on a burger, chicken fillet, piece of fish in a pitta bread, wrap, or taco.

There are so many things that can be added to the slaw base. Sometimes I add other leafy things, like rocket (arugula), spinach,  cress, baby chard, or lettuce. Hard-boiled egg, cheese, drained canned or cooked dried beans, tuna, leftover chicken or wild salmon, smoked mackerel or other fish, turkey or chicken sausage, leftover veggies, snipped scallion or chives, tomatoes, are all good. I don't eat pork or beef, but if I did and had leftovers, those would be good, too. Whatever salad stuff you like can be added to this base, which is one reason why I like it. It's versatile, quick to make, and convenient, but most important of all is that it's healthy and yummy. There are times I crave this slaw. I'll be having some with my supper tonight and then I'll have my lunch sorted for a few days.
I hope your week has started off well.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Classics, Haiku, and a Poetry Collection

It's a bright sunny Sunday today right in the middle of a bank holiday weekend. Yet again, it's so quiet outside. Under normal circumstances (remember when that was a thing?), the neighbourhood would be bustling with people out and about--the sun, which does not agree at all with me, is worshipped by most, and one sunbeam can be the cause of great joy and a need to go outside and eat ice cream. While I am always happy to eat ice cream, being out in the sun isn't something I enjoy, so I was happy enough to spend the afternoon inside, reading and listening to the rest of an audiobook I started last night while tatting and drinking tea. The audiobook was a classic short story collection. I've been consuming more classics lately, including some in April. I also read some poetry--one collection was a hilarious collection of haiku-ish poems.

Olive by Dinah Craik
Some of the book tubers I listen to are really into classics. I’ve learned about several authors I’d never heard of before, including Dinah Craik. When one of them talks about a classic book or author that seems worth trying, I click over to Project Gutenberg. Most of the time, I find what I am looking for there, download the books and drag them to my e-reader. I have added a whole bunch of new classics to the device recently and once I read Olive and loved it, I went back and downloaded more by this author. Olive can be found here.

This book, first published in 1850, begins with the birth of Olive and ends when she is in her mid-late 20s. Olive is born with a shoulder issue that makes her look different to other girls/women. Thus, she is not subject to the same expectations that other girls and women are—it is assumed by everyone, Olive included, that she will never get married or have children. This frees her to create a life that is not as constrained as would otherwise be the case. While there are parts of the book that I could have done without, overall I thought it was a really interesting treatment of class, the role of women, what it means to not fit in, and religion. Most importantly, it was just a good story. I liked Olive and was cheering for her throughout the book. There was a cast of quirky characters, which I always enjoy. There was a lot of village life, which I also love. I’m glad I learned about this book and gave it a try. I’m looking forward to reading more new-to-me classics in the near future!

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (podcast: Phoebe Reads a Mystery)
I read about this podcast in an email, found it, subscribed, and began at the beginning. Phoebe, she who reads mysteries, has other podcasts that I had not heard of, and decided to add another. She was reading this book and thought that others might enjoy hearing a chapter a day, thus a podcast was born. Each episode is one chapter, so they vary in length.

This is Christie’s first published book and is also the debut of Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings. Hastings needs some quiet time after the horrors he has seen fighting in WWI. He bumps into an old friend, John Cavendish, who invites him to stay at the family home (called Styles) in the country. Hastings used to spend time there so knows it would be just the thing for him and he gladly accepts the invitation. One day, he bumps into an old acquaintance, Hercule Poirot, who is a Belgian refugee, who is, along with some others, sponsored by John’s stepmother. When the stepmother is poisoned, Hastings asks John if he can call in Poirot to help solve the case.

Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (podcast: Phoebe Reads a Mystery)
By the time I discovered this podcast, Phoebe was just finishing The Mysterious Affair at Styles. When she was done with that book, she began with this one. Again, each episode is one chapter. I listened to the Christie, then started on this one until I was caught up, then listened to the last few chapters as they were posted. This is a fun podcast and I’m glad I found out that it exists. She's currently reading The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.

Painfully British Haikus by Dale Shaw
I should say right off that this book does not contain many haiku that are ‘pure’ examples of the form. They fit the syllable count of 5-7-5, but that’s as far as it goes. They could be seen as haiku-ish. I’m not a purist, so that’s fine with me. I like haiku a lot for a few reasons. What I like most of all is the ability to create a feeling or communicate an idea using very few words. Having spent years in academia and doing just the opposite—using many words to communicate not a whole lot—I enjoy this. I have dabbled in haiku-ish writing myself and will continue to do so.

This book was right up my street—haiku-ish poems that brought me right to the scene and made me laugh out loud many times. The author is a comedian and it showed—he captured the absurdity of everyday situations in a few words. This is a really fun book.

The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku by William J. Higginson with Penny Harter
Bill bought this book a few years ago. He says it’s out of print, so when he found a copy at a good price, he snapped it up. He bought it with the intention f reading it, and I said I’d be interested in it too, but I don’t think he has read it yet and it took me a few years to get to it. No matter. This is one I’ll be keeping and probably referring to again. It was first published in 1985, so parts of it are dated—the author talks about haiku poets having pamphlets printed so they can share their work, for example. Even that stuff was interesting to me, though, because it was a sort of window into a past culture.  There was also a short section on teaching haiku, both to children and adults, which I skipped. Despite these two issues, I found this book to be fascinating and extremely informative. The author provides the reader with a history of haiku in Japan, including how it came to be a form, how it evolved within Japan, how poets took their own paths within the form and more. He then expands this to the rest of the world and explains how poets in many different countries made it their own. He breaks down the parts of haiku, what makes a poem a haiku, and how various poets approached the form. There is a section devoted to other forms related to haiku and one that contains his thoughts on the uses of haiku. In the back of the book there is a reference section and a glossary.

As I was reading, I was reminded that I am not a purist (in this and almost everything else). I tend to use ‘-ish’ a lot. So while I enjoy reading haiku, when I write it, I don’t worry very much about ticking all the boxes—I call it haiku-ish. This particularly came to mind near the end of the book when I was reading about the subtle differences (which seemed non-existent to me, to be honest) between the examples of haiku and senryu that he provided.

One thing I liked about the book was his argument about how sticking too closely to the original form can lead to bad haiku. The 5-7-5 structure works in Japanese, which is a different kind of language than English (or the other languages he gives translated examples of) and has a different writing system, which makes a huge difference in how to write haiku. Even Japanese poets have disregarded this structure, as have many who write in other languages.  Yet it’s the first thing we learn about haiku as children.

And now that I have written quite a long piece about a very short form, I will close by saying that I am very glad that Bill found this book!

Selected Poems by Gabriel Rosenstock translated from Irish by Paddy Bushe
A collection of poems that have Aztec society, Irish culture, and Zen Buddhism as inspiration—sometimes all in one poem!

I hope it's a pleasant day in your part of the world. Happy reading!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

History, Mystery, Myth and Everything Not Remembered

We learned last night that our current restrictions will last until 18 May, but that starting Tuesday, people will be able to venture up to 5 kilometres from their homes for exercise. If things continue to improve, we will be at the starting point of the 5-step road map to ease out of the restrictions, which was unveiled last night. We've been told that if the situation worsens, these dates will be pushed back. If things go better than expected, some things could be moved forward. The re-opening of public libraries would be in phase 2, which is tentatively planned for 8 June. I am looking forward to visiting the library once again. Thankfully, I have plenty to read even with the library closed. Here are a few more books that I read in April.
Endurance: Heroic Journeys in Ireland by Dermot Somers
I found this book in a charity shop shortly after we moved. When I got it home, I didn’t bother trying to fit it in on one of the shelves, but left it in a small pile of newly acquired books and figured I’d read it sooner rather than later. I wasn’t sure whether I would want to keep it, but knew that if I wanted to, I could find a place for it. If not, I wouldn’t have to. It turned out to be the latter. It was interesting enough for me to continue reading, but not so great that I want to keep it. I doubt I would ever want to refer to it again and if I was interested in any particular journey written about in the book, I could look it up elsewhere. The author writes about various journeys undertaken by people, mostly in groups of various sizes, although there are a couple of individuals making journeys as well. The people he writes about are both historical and mythological.
I’m not quite sure what it was that made me feel  a lack of engagement with this book. I think some of it had to do with the author’s writing style, which I didn’t seem to connect with. At times, it seemed like he was trying to be funny or sarcastic and it just fell flat for me. Also, the layout of the book was annoying at times. Somers would be describing a particular journey and mention some aspect of it. Then there would be a box on the page which went into a bit more detail about that particular topic. These boxes interrupted the narrative. They did sometimes provide interesting information, but I always find that sort of thing annoying. I’d rather see these things at the end of a chapter or incorporated into the narrative, not scattered through the rest of the text. As it was formatted this way, though, I either skipped them altogether or read to the end of a section or chapter and then went back to read the ones that interested me.

Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember: The Stroke That Changed My Life by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee (audiobook read by Emily Woo Zeller)
When I started listening to this audiobook, I quickly knew that the reader’s overly dramatic style was going to annoy me. I wondered whether to go on, but decided to give it a little more time. The reader was indeed frequently annoying and took away from my experience of the book, but the book was worth it. Had the library been open, I probably would have looked for the physical book and returned the e-audiobook. I think I would have liked reading this one more than listening. But when I told Bill about the book, he looked it up and found that it’s not in the system, so it’s just as well that I listened to it. It’s a great book and worth the annoyance brought by the reader.

In the last hours of 2006, the author had a bad headache. Her husband suggested they go out for a drive. She agreed, thinking the cold air would do her good. Before long, she was literally seeing the world sideways, with the sky to her left. It was not for another two or three days that she went to the emergency room and learned she’d had a stroke. She was 33 years old. At first, she could not remember things that had happened more than 15 minutes previously. She had a notebook and her doctors told her to write everything down so that could serve as her short term memory. She did. This memoir begins with the stroke and takes the reader through her recovery, but also addresses the ways in which the author had to come to terms with other traumas in her life and how they had affected her life before the stroke. She came to see how she had shoved down her own needs and often behaved in ways that were not really hers, but were behaviours others wanted from her. She came to see the stroke as an opportunity to use her 'new brain' to think differently about herself and the world around herThe book was published 10 years after her stroke, so much had changed by the time she began writing and she had some distance from which to view the events she recounts in the book.

The Complete Steel by Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Robin Bailey)
One recent evening, I was reading my daily Lit Hub/Crime Reads email when I saw a link to a piece on the author, Catherine Aird. I had not read any of her books, but her name was familiar to me from the e-book/e-audiobook section of the library website, where I had scrolled by her work numerous times. Curious, I read the essay and clicked right over to the website to see what they had. This description of her in the write-up made me think she might be an author for me:
'Her Chronicles of Calleshire, twenty-four books published between 1966 and 2019 (yes! At the age of 89!) is a series of wry, pungent novels combining the police procedural with the intricate puzzle mysteries of the Golden Age. As such, they are traditional in every sense of the word, but filled with adroit plotting, playful wit, and literate charm—and unafraid to address such modern topics as money laundering, drug dealers, identity theft, sexual harassment, and DNA technology.'

There is one e-book on the site, which I reserved. The rest are audiobooks. This one was available, so I checked it out, downloaded it, and began listening. What the description above did not say, in spite of the 'playful with' comment, which I don't think describes it, is that she is really funny—at least in this book. And it’s a sort of dry humour that I really like. I laughed quite a bit as I listened to this book. The reader, always an iffy thing, was perfect for that dry humour. One thing I’m curious about is whether it will be as funny reading one of her books as it was to listen. It could be that not all the books are as funny, but it seems like they would be, given that much of it consisted of thoughts by the main detective. Usually when I read series, I try to do it in order, but I won’t be doing that with these. The library is still closed, so I can’t find out whether they have any of her print books and if so, how many, so I can’t request them in order. I will just take the ones I can get in audiobook and listen to them in whatever order I can borrow them. I'm not even sure whether reading them in order would make a difference. Eventually I might try to get the books in print that are not available as audiobooks. Meanwhile, the e-book came in early, so I downloaded that and I’ll see how that is. 

This book is set in a stately home, where the earl and countess have had to start allowing the public in for paid tours so they can get some money. One Sunday, some of the visitors are part of a coach tour from a council estate, including a mother and her 13-year-old twins, Maureen and Michael. As they proceed through the rooms, Michael goes missing. When they eventually get to the dungeon, they find him, messing around with the weapons and suits of armour. Then he plays around with the face plate on one and the day takes a turn for the worse. How did that body get inside the suit of armour, who is it, who put it there, and why?

I am delighted to have discovered another new-to-me mystery writer that I enjoy. Before the shutdown, I was starting on Louise Penny's series featuring Inspector Gamache and had read the first two. The third is waiting for me at the library. One fine day, I will be able to settle in with that book and a cup of tea. In the meantime, I'll be happy about all the books I have available to me, even in lock down, and I'll keep on reading! 😃 Stay safe!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Histories and Mysteries

Hard to believe it's May already! It's been a strange year from the start for us, since we spent January moving, February settling in and doing what we needed to do as a result of the move, March saw our daughter visit and things began closing the day after she left, with lockdown commencing by the end of the month and continuing until now. I did hear the Minister for Health yesterday saying that our actions have saved the lives of 3500 people. I have no idea how they come up with that number, but even if that number is one, we can be reminded of why we are doing this self-isolating. I heard someone refer to it as 'compassionate containment' the other day. What a beautiful way to put it. So for all of you engaging in compassionate containment and saving lives, thank you.

In the lockdown, my usual reading habits continue as always. In this first post about the books I read in April, I will focus on histories and mysteries.
A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders
When I came across this title in the ‘new releases’ collection in the e-book section of the library website, I had to borrow it. I was curious. Alphabetical order is just something we take for granted now and don’t even really notice, so finding an entire book on the history of the idea was unexpected. This was a fascinating book. We may simply accept this way of organising things as obvious, but it was not always so and before humans could get to the point where it was an accepted  thing, a lot of other things had to happen first.

First of all, there has to be writing. In the case of alphabetical order, there has to be writing with an alphabet, rather than some other form of writing like syllabaries or ideographs. Once you have an alphabet, you have to have something to write on and that material has to be portable and cheap enough to allow for widespread use. Certain kinds of societies are required as well—nomadic people, for example, are not going to carry around a bunch of written material. In order to make writing a bunch of stuff down and keeping it useful, you need a society with institutions—religion, business, government, libraries.

In addition to the writing itself, once paper and printing lead to more written material being available, tools and furniture with which to organise all of these books and documents is required, so that evolves with the organisational systems.

I would not have thought to look for a book such as this, but I’m glad I came across it!

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China by Jung Chang (audiobook read by Joanna David
I cam across this book in the list of new books in the e-audiobook section of the library website. Here is the description:
They were the most famous sisters in China. As the country battled through a hundred years of wars, revolutions and seismic transformations, the three Soong sisters from Shanghai were at the centre of power, and each of them left an indelible mark on history.

Red Sister, Ching-ling, married the ‘Father of China’, Sun Yat-sen, and rose to be Mao’s vice-chair.

Little Sister, May-ling, became Madame Chiang Kai-shek, first lady of pre-Communist Nationalist China and a major political figure in her own right.

Big Sister, Ei-ling, became Chiang’s unofficial main adviser – and made herself one of China’s richest women.

All three sisters enjoyed tremendous privilege and glory, but also endured constant mortal danger. They showed great courage and experienced passionate love, as well as despair and heartbreak. They remained close emotionally, even when they embraced opposing political camps and Ching-ling dedicated herself to destroying her two sisters’ worlds.

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is a gripping story of love, war, intrigue, bravery, glamour and betrayal in which Jung Chang reveals the lives of three extraordinary women who helped shape twentieth-century China.

I borrowed it because I've read a couple of the author's previous books, including on about Empress Dowager Cixi, who was also a part of this history. This book was just as excellent as the other two I've read by her. It was fascinating. She is an author that I will keep an eye out for in future.

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson
Like the one other Atkinson book I've read, this one was a little strange, with lots of characters and plot twists. One subplot was introduced around page 300, if I remember correctly, and it came out of left field. Still, I enjoyed it.

Great Crime Stories by various authors
I picked up this book 5 years ago in a charity shop and figured it was time I actually read it. It was originally published in 1936 and has also been published under the title Great Detective Stories. Both names are a bit inaccurate as there is a mix here of detective fiction and supernatural/ghost stories. No stories have been added since the original publication date, so they’re all classics, some by well-known authors and some by those who are not as well known. It’s a great book. While I pass on most of the books I pick up in charity shops, sometimes I find books I want to keep. This is a keeper.

The Taiga Syndrome by Cristina Rivera Garza translated from Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana
I came cross this magical-realist fable/novella in the e-book section of the library website and borrowed it. I’m not sure why exactly—maybe it was the detective story aspect of it. I think I probably also did not get a sense from the description that it was a work of magical realism, which I don’t care for—this was no exception. It was short enough for me to keep going to see if there would be some wrapping up of the story, but had it been much longer, I suspect I would not have continued. The author is apparently considered one of the best contemporary Mexican writers, so it’s not her writing, just my own personal taste. I don’t think I’ll be reading anything else by her, but if you like magical realism, fairy tales, and stuff like that, this might be something you’d enjoy.

The narrator is a detective—never named—who is hired by a guy to find his second wife. She has left him and run off to the forest with some guy. The detective goes off to the forest to track them down, hiring a translator who travels with her. They meet weird people who recount stories of strange happenings. There’s a wolf throughout, of course. Fairy tales are referred to often throughout.

I hope there are some good books on your reading pile, too. 😃