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SheriC

Portable Magic

Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.

Currently reading

The Light in the Ruins
Chris Bohjalian
Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes
Progress: 289/311 pages

The Nine Lives of Christmas - 100%

The Nine Lives of Christmas - Sheila Roberts

Ugh. Full review later. 

The Nine Lives of Christmas - 83%

The Nine Lives of Christmas - Sheila Roberts

I'm just having a hard time viewing the protagonist as a love interest, when he only thinks of women as either "good timing bimbos" or "nice girls that you take to the altar". He even only thinks of our heroine in sexual vs. marriage terms. 

 

The Nine Lives of Christmas - 50%

The Nine Lives of Christmas - Sheila Roberts

A naturally beautiful girl who thinks she's plain? Hmm, that seems familiar. Where have I read that before?

The Nine Lives of Christmas - 17%

The Nine Lives of Christmas - Sheila Roberts

Pretty eyeroll worthy so far. Every single character - even the cat - is a commitment-averse because of some kind of loss/pain in the past. And for a guy who is happily free, he sure spends a lot of time obsessing over the commitment possibilities of every woman. 

16 Festive Tasks: PM's Tracking Post #4

 

Marker Key:

Total Points: 14

 

Square 1: November 1st:

 

All Saints Day / Día de los Muertos

 

Calan Gaeaf

 

Square 2: November 5th:

 

Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night/Fireworks Night)

 

Bon Om Touk (Cambodian Water Festival)

 

Square 3: November 11th:

 

St. Martin’s Day (11th)

 

Veterans’ Day / Armistice Day (11th)

 

Square 4: November 22nd and 23rd:

 

Penance Day (22nd)

 

Thanksgiving (23rd) 

 

Square 5: December 3rd and following 3 Sundays:

 

Advent

 

Square 6: December 5th-6th and 8th:

 

Sinterklaas / Krampusnacht (5th) / St. Nicholas Day (6th) 

 

Bodhi Day (8th)

 

Square 7: December 10th & 13th:

 

International Human Rights Day (10th)

 

St. Lucia’s Day (13th) 

 

Square 8: December 12th - 24th:

 

Hanukkah (begins 12th, ends 20th)

 

Las Posadas (begins 16th, ends 24th) 

 

Square 9: December 21st:

 

Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night

 

Mōdraniht

 

Yuletide

 

Square 10: December 21st:

 

World Peace Day

  • In Progress (Sq10 or Sq14): Book: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb (Hardcover)

 

Pancha Ganapati begins (ends 25th)

 

Square 11: December 21st-22nd:

 

Soyal (21st)

 

Dōngzhì Festival (22nd) (China)

 

Square 12: December 23rd

 

Festivus

 

Saturnalia ends (begins 17th)

 

Square 13: December 25th

 

Christmas

 

Hogswatch

 

Square 14: December 25th

 

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

 

Quaid-e-Azam’s Day

  • In Progress (Sq10 or Sq14): Book: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb (Hardcover)

 

Square 15: December 25th-26th:

 

Newtonmas (25th)

 

St. Stephen's Day/Boxing Day (26th)

 

Square 16: December 26th-31st:

 

Kwanzaa (begins 26th, ends 31st)

 

New Year’s Eve / Hogmanay / St. Sylvester’s Day / Watch Night

 

Winter Solstice ★★★★☆

Winter Solstice (Audio) - Rosamunde Pilcher, Carole Shelley

I was a little impatient with this slow-moving story at first, but in the end was glad that I stayed with it. It’s a warm, comfortable story of people who are adrift at the end of a relationship, who find one another and begin anew. It’s not a Romance, but it is a story of love in its many forms. It was a little like a book form of those sweet, staid BBC and PBS shows that seem to mostly feature nice people sitting and talking, or walking and talking, with just enough offscreen drama to keep it interesting. I can see why so many people enjoy this story as an annual holiday comfort read.

 

Audiobook, via Audible. Lynn Redgrave provides an okay performance – it’s possible that this book needed someone a little more lively to spark it up.

 

I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, and I will be using it as the Holiday Book Joker for Square 9 December 21st: Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, also known as Yaldā Night in Iran. The same day is the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere, giving them the longest day of the year.  This book takes place during the weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday, but the key turning point takes place on the evening of the winter solstice.

 

I Am Malala - 5/327pg

I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

We went to school six mornings a week, and as I was a fifteen-year-old in Year 9, my classes were spent chanting chemical equations or studying Urdu grammar, writing stories in English with morals like "haste makes waste" or drawing diagrams of blood circulation - most of my classmates wanted to be doctors. It's hard to imagine that anyone would see that as a threat.

 

 

Sq10 World Peace Day / Sq14 Quaid-e-Azam

I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

I'm getting started with I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, which can fit both Square 10: World Peace Day (Malala Yousafzai was a co-recipient for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014) and Square 14 Quaid-e-Azam (she is Pakistani and much of the book is about and takes place in Pakistan) for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season. I haven't decided yet which square I'll use it for, since I don't have any alternatives for either yet. I don't have any books about any other Nobel Peace Prize winners, and my library has some unappealing options, mostly children's books. 

 

 

Square 10: December 21st: World Peace Day is the day the United Nations General Assembly has declared as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. Book themes for World Peace Day: Read a book by or about a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or about a protagonist (fictional or nonfictional) who has a reputation as a peacemaker.

 

Square 10: December 25th: Quaid-e-Azam(‘Great Leader’) Day is the Pakistan holiday celebrating their founder’s -Muhammad Ali Jinnah - birthday. 

Book themes for Quaid-e-Azam:  Pakistan became an independent nation when the British Raj ended on August 14, 1947. Read a book set in Pakistan or in any other country that attained sovereign statehood between August 14, 1947 and today (regardless in what part of the world).

Up Front ★★★★★

Up Front - Bill Mauldin, Stephen E. Ambrose

This is a fascinating collection of Bill Mauldin’s cartoons, drawn while serving as an infantryman, then later as part of the press corps for the US Army in Europe during WWII. The cartoons are accompanied by the personal stories and recollections behind their inspiration and creation. These cartoons wouldn’t have made much sense to me, otherwise, having never served in the military or had family who served during WWII. He tells his stories with humor and empathy, but does not pull punches in describing the infantryman’s experience on the front lines of the war – fear and hunger and exhaustion and foxholes and trench foot and screaming meemie bombs and butterfly bombs and potato mashers. But he also speaks of courage and camaraderie and duty and brotherhood, the sort of commitment that keeps the men together and fighting their common enemy. And in this book, the common enemy is the German soldier, and Mauldin is explicit in describing the GI’s point of view.

 

Some shells scream, some whiz, some whistle, and others whir. Most flat-trajectory shells sound like rapidly ripped canvas. Howitzer shells seem to have a two-toned whisper.

Let’s get the hell off this subject.

 

 

 

It would take a pretty tough guy not to feel his heart go out to the shivering, little six-year-old squeaker who stands barefoot in the mud, holding a big tin bucket so the dogface can empty his mess kit into it… But there is a big difference between the ragged, miserable infantryman who waits with his mess kit, and the ragged, miserable civilian who waits with his bucket. The doggie knows where his next meal is coming from. That makes him a very rich man in this land where hunger is so fierce it makes animals out of respectable old ladies who should be wearing cameos and having tea parties instead of fighting one another savagely for a soldier’s scraps.

 

 

 

They go on patrol when patrols are called for, and they don’t shirk hazards, because they don’t want to let their buddies down. The army couldn’t get along without them, either. Although it needs men to do the daring deeds, it also needs me who have the quiet courage to stick in their foxholes and fight and kill even though they hate killing and are scared to death while doing it.

 

 

They are very different now. Don’t let anybody tell you they aren’t. They need a lot of people speaking for them and telling about them – not speaking for fancy bonuses and extra privileges. You can’t pay in money for what they have done. They need people telling about them so that they will be taken back into their civilian lives and given a chance to be themselves again.

 

 

  

Hardcover edition, loaned to me by my father. I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 3 November 11th. Book themes for Veterans Day/Armistice Day: Read a book involving veterans of any war, books about WWI or WWII (fiction or non-fiction).  –OR– Read a book with poppies on the cover.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian ★★★☆☆

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie, Ellen Forney

I had heard so much about this book that I’ve really been looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t connect with it. I understand that it’s semi-autobiographical, so it must be an accurate portrayal of a 14-year-old boy’s thoughts and concerns. And teenage boys are a little bit gross. So maybe that’s why I was a bit put off by it – the MC’s relationships with and reactions to the female characters are definitely off-putting, no matter how realistic, and the humor, while perhaps accurate to the 14-year-old protagonist, is also juvenile. But the story itself is both funny and sad, that of a boy living on the “rez” and dealing with the fallout of asking to transfer to a town school where he will be the only non-white student. The book doesn’t pull punches in portraying alcoholism, violence, bullying, tribalism, and racism. It’s a lot to pack into a relatively short book. But the ending contains a redeeming message of hope, too, which helps to rescue a story that threatens to sink under the weight of these heavy themes.

 

Hardcover version. I read this book for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 11: December 21st-22nd. Soyal (December 21st) is the winter solstice ceremony of the Zuni and the Hopi (Hopitu Shinumu), The Peaceful Ones, also known as the Hopi Indians. It is held on the shortest day of the year to ceremonially bring the sun back from its long winter slumber. Book themes for Soyal: Read a book set in the American Southwest / the Four Corners States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), –OR– a book that has a Native American protagonist. This book fits the square, as the main character is Native American.

 

Square 9 December 21st: Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night

The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 December 21st

 

 

InstructionsWinter Solstice is the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, also known as Yaldā Night in Iran. The same day is the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere, giving them the longest day of the year. Tasks for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Grab one of your thickest books off the shelf.  Ask a question and then turn to page 40 and read the 9th line of text on that page.  Post your results. 

 

Because I have a lot emotionally invested in the answer to the question I’m asking, and because most of my thickest books are written by that jolly old elf Stephen King, I decided to hedge my bets by choosing three books to ask, figuring I could triangulate the outcome from the answers.

Under the Dome - Stephen King  The Dark Tower - Stephen King  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  - J.K. Rowling  

 

My question: “Are the Texas Rangers going to be contenders next year, or will it be another season of frustration and heartbreak for North Texas baseball fans?”

 

Answer #1 – Under the Dome by Stephen King:

He saw a man’s sneaker – it was too big to be a woman’s – with the man’s foot still in it.

 

Hmm, a foot entirely ripped from its owner’s body seems like it portends another season plagued by injuries.

 

Answer #2 – The Dark Tower by Stephen King:

 

“We can phone him from Bridgton. But in a story, Roland, a minor character like John Cullum would never come in off the bench to save the day. It wouldn’t be considered realistic.”

 

Oh dear, it sounds like the bench players shouldn’t be expected to save the season if the starters are injured. Although, in this book, John Cullum really does save the day, so… hmmm…. Well, let’s try some Harry Potter – that’s bound to be a little more humorously optimistic, right?

 

Answer #3 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling:

 

“Open it!” Harry urged her. “Get it over with! It’ll happen anyway –“

“No –“ Aunt Petunia’s hand was trembling. She looked wildly around the kitchen as though looking for an escape route, but too late – the envelope burst into flames.

 

[Crawls back into bed and pulls the covers over head, sobbing]

Winter Solstice - 11%

Winter Solstice (Audio) - Rosamunde Pilcher, Carole Shelley

Hmmmm. 40 minutes in and it's mostly old people sitting around and talking about their past lives and all their assorted relatives and friends. I hope the story picks up soon. 

 

Fuzzy Nation ★★★★☆

Fuzzy Nation [Unabridged] - Wil Wheaton, John Scalzi

 

I’ve never read the original story, and I am disappointed because I was under the impression that the two books were packaged together, based on the foreword and the reviews placed highest on the Audible website, but apparently they’ve now split the two books and must be purchased separately.

 

Still, I enjoyed the Scalzi reboot very much on its own, without reference to the 1963 version. This is what those goofy ewoks should have been. Figuring out what’s going on with the main character, Jack Holloway, and his motivations kept me engaged with the plot, which is a little heavier on the legal intrigue than I usually care for, and I sincerely appreciate that Scalzi includes a strong, smart, independent female character who, 

in spite of having had a past romantic relationship with the MC, does not serve as a love-interest or in any way feature as a sexual object for him or the reader.

(show spoiler)

 

Audiobook, via Audible. Wil Wheaton provides a fantastic performance for the readings. Although he doesn’t attempt a lot of unique “voices” for the different characters, he reads with spirit, humor, and excellent pacing, and I’m never in any doubt as to which character is speaking.  

 

I read this book for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 12: December 23rd: Book themes for Saturnalia:  The god Saturn has a planet named after him; read any work of science fiction that takes place in space.  –OR– Read a book celebrating free speech. –OR–  A book revolving around a very large party, or ball, or festival, –OR– a book with a mask or masks on the cover.  –OR– a story where roles are reversed. I do have a ruling from the game overlords that an extraterrestrial setting counts as “in space”.

 

ALSO: This book would have fit a couple of other hard-to-capture squares:

  • Square 4 Thanksgiving Day (Books with a theme of coming together to help a community or family in need)
    Because a small group of people – Holloway, Isabel, Sullivan, and eventually that other guy that hates Holloway – go to considerable risk and against their own personal interests to see that the Fuzzies are recognized as sapient beings, protected from genocide, and are given control of their own planet
    (show spoiler)
    .
  • Square 7 International Human Rights Day (any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused)
    Because the Fuzzies are a previously unrecognized race of sapient beings whose rights to their own planetary resources are being trampled by the company that is mining there
    (show spoiler)

 

Previous Updates:

11/10/17 4%

11/10/17 61%

 

16 Festive Tasks: PM's Tracking Post #3

 

Marker Key:

 

Total Points: 9

 

Square 1: November 1st:

 

All Saints Day / Día de los Muertos

 

Calan Gaeaf

 

Square 2: November 5th:

 

Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night/Fireworks Night)

 

Bon Om Touk (Cambodian Water Festival)

 

Square 3: November 11th:

 

St. Martin’s Day (11th)

 

Veterans’ Day / Armistice Day (11th)

 

Square 4: November 22nd and 23rd:

 

Penance Day (22nd)

 

Thanksgiving (23rd) 

 

Square 5: December 3rd and following 3 Sundays:

 

Advent

 

Square 6: December 5th-6th and 8th:

 

Sinterklaas / Krampusnacht (5th) / St. Nicholas Day (6th) 

 

Bodhi Day (8th)

 

Square 7: December 10th & 13th:

 

International Human Rights Day (10th)

 

St. Lucia’s Day (13th) 

 

Square 8: December 12th - 24th:

 

Hanukkah (begins 12th, ends 20th)

 

Las Posadas (begins 16th, ends 24th) 

 

Square 9: December 21st:

 

Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night

 

Mōdraniht

 

Yuletide

 

Square 10: December 21st:

 

World Peace Day

 

Pancha Ganapati begins (ends 25th)

 

Square 11: December 21st-22nd:

 

 

Soyal (21st)

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (hardcover)

 

Dōngzhì Festival (22nd) (China)

 

Square 12: December 23rd

 

Festivus

 

Saturnalia ends (begins 17th)

  • In Progress: Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (audio)

 

Square 13: December 25th

 

Christmas

 

Hogswatch

 

Square 14: December 25th

 

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

 

Quaid-e-Azam’s Day

 

Square 15: December 25th-26th:

 

Newtonmas (25th)

 

St. Stephen's Day/Boxing Day (26th)

 

Square 16: December 26th-31st:

 

Kwanzaa (begins 26th, ends 31st)

 

New Year’s Eve / Hogmanay / St. Sylvester’s Day / Watch Night

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere ★★★☆☆

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere - Z.Z. Packer

I was enchanted with this book of short stories at first, but gradually lost enthusiasm as I progressed through the short stories. I love the author’s ability to draw characters through their actions and interactions with each other and their environment. I love her ability to create a sense of place and how her characters fit in that setting. I love the little thought-provoking moments in each story. But there was an unrelenting sameness to the stories. She likes Shirley Jackson-ish main characters: young people who live too much in their own heads, socially-awkward, alternating between remaining passively and resentfully where they are and impulsively jumping into situations that they then don’t know how to extricate themselves from. She also doesn’t seem to know how to wrap a story up. Most of them just end abruptly, like the author just ran out of things to say. Of the eight short stories, the best were “Brownies” and “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”

 

Paperback copy, which I will donate to the library as I don’t keep paperbacks that I rated fewer than 4 stars. Although this book has been on my physical TBR for two years, I don’t remember what prompted me to buy it. It was probably something I read when I was looking for TBR recs when I started the Book Riot challenge for We Need Diverse Books.

 

I read it for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 16 December 26th-31st: Book themes for Kwanzaa: Read a book written by an author of African descent or a book set in Africa, or whose cover is primarily red, green or black. The author, ZZ Packer, is African-American.

 

Previous Updates:

11/9/17 82/265pg

11/10/17 210/265pg

16 Festive Tasks: Sq 11 Dec 21st-22nd: Soyal

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie, Ellen Forney

 

Soyal (December 21st) is the winter solstice ceremony of the Zuni and the Hopi (Hopitu Shinumu), The Peaceful Ones, also known as the Hopi Indians. It is held on the shortest day of the year to ceremonially bring the sun back from its long winter slumber. 

Book themes for Soyal: Read a book set in the American Southwest / the Four Corners States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), –OR– a book that has a Native American protagonist.