Monday, December 31, 2012

Mailbox New Year's Eve


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring event (details here).

Suko's Notebook is hosting in December, including this last MM of 2012.  Please visit her lovely and thoughtful blog.

Santa brought several books to our house last week. The funniest was in Hubby's stocking:



I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano (who must have ghost written it for our two tabbies).

The rest were books for me that I wanted or my husband knew I would like:



Stalking Nabokov by Brian Boyd, who wrote a two-volume biography of Nabakov.  These are essays he's written since then.



Political Woman: The Big Little Life of Jeane Kirkpatrick by Peter Collier. This looks fascinating. And I once met Kirkpatrick in the AEI lunchroom so we have that close, personal connection.  (Insert sarcastic emoticon here.)



STET, Damnit!: The Misanthrope's Corner 1991 to 2002 and Deja Reviews: Florence King All Over Again: Selections from National Review and The American Spectator by Florence King. I always enjoyed her columns.




Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason by Christina Shelton. This caught my eye when I was reading Witness earlier this year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Happy 2013 reading!




Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review: The Honourable Schoolboy




John le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was a long, slow slog through a lexicon of Cold War spy jargon. The sequel, The Honourable Schoolboy, is ten times more enjoyable. For one thing, the plot to atmosphere ratio is weighted to the plot side. Instead of being almost all atmosphere, there is an exciting espionage story involving drug runners, Hong Kong tycoons, glamorous ex-patriots, and the political legerdemain of wrapping up the Vietnam War.

It starts with a long but vivid section describing how the entire British international intelligence network had to be dismantled in the aftermath of routing out the mole in Tinker, Tailor. Then it really picks up and gets delightfully complicated when George Smiley sends a semi-retired operative to Hong Kong to find one Chinese informant buried in the rubble of the earlier undercover operations.

What atmosphere there is is pitch perfect. Le Carré frames the story as one of British Secret Service lore, expressed by the omniscient narrator with an ideal balance of admiration and world-weary cynicism.

OTHER REVIEWS

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy here on Rose City Reader

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on chaotic compendiums

The Honourable Schoolboy on chaotic compendiums

Smiley's People on chaotic compendiums

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold on chaotic compendiums

If you would like your review of this or any other John le Carré book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

NOTES

The Honourable Schoolboy won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and counts as one of my Black choices for the 2012 Battle of the Prizes, British Version, challenge.  It also counts as one of the books for the Mt. TBR and Off the Shelf Challenges, since it has been on my TBR shelf since 1983.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Beginnings: See's Famous Old Time Candies


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, please tweet a link to your post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I also recently signed up for Google+ and have a button over there in the right-hand column to join my circles or whatever it is. I don't really understand yet how that one works.

MR. LINKY: Please leave a link to your post below. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING



When Charles A. See founded his candy company in 1921, he didn't need to invent a grandmotherly figure to represent See's Candies, as many companies did at the time.

--See's Famous Old Time Candies: A Sweet Story by Margaret Moos Pick. See's Candies are a big Christmas tradition with me. The dark chocolate peppermint patties are my favorite, but I love all of them. And don't even get me started on the peanut brittle!

So this is the perfect book for me this holiday weekend. 



Monday, December 24, 2012

1 Day to Christmas!




Teaser Tuesday Early: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Because Christmas is tomorrow, I am putting my Teaser Tuesday post up today.




For half an hour I sat with straining ears.  The suddenly another sound became audible -- a very gentle, soothing sound, like that of a small jet of steam escaping constantly from a kettle.

-- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, from the story, The Speckled Band.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. 



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Weekend Christmas Cooking & Recipe Request


There is just enough time today to make my favorite Christmas cookie -- Candied Ginger Cardamom Bars. This is the one I love to eat Christmas morning with a gallon of Irish Breakfast tea. It is like a dense, sticky, gingery, spicy shortbread.  Jingle my bells!

REQUEST: Also, I am looking for a recipe for a crumb-topped coffee cake that uses berries in it. I have some frozen blackberries left over from summer and have it fixed in my head to use them in a coffee cake for Christmas morning. Any ideas? Please pass them on. 

I got this cookie recipe from a friend who had copied it out of the December 2002 issue of Bon Appétit, from the Entertaining Made Easy column.  It pops up online with a google search (doesn't everything?) but not from the Bon Appétit website.

CANDIED GINGER CARDAMOM BARS

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup (3 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 ½ large egg, beaten to blend
1+ cups finely chopped crystallized ginger (about 7 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9 x 12-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Blend flour, sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt in processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, process until coarse meal forms. Add 2 tablespoons beaten egg; blend until moist crumbs form. Add ginger. Using on/off turns, process until moist clumps form.

Press dough evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Brush remaining beaten egg over dough. Using small sharp knife, score top of dough with diagonal lines spaced 1 inch apart. Repeat in opposite direction, forming lattice pattern.

Bake until pastry is golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely in pan. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Cut pastry square into 3 long rectangles. Cut each rectangle crosswise into 8 rectangular bars, making 24 bars total.

NOTE: I realize that I bought some kind of chewy ginger from Trader Joes that isn't "crystallized" or candied.  So I am just going to add a little sugar to the recipe and hope it turns out.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!



WEEKEND COOKING





3 Days to Christmas!




Friday, December 21, 2012

4 Days to Christmas!





Book Beginnings: Cutting for Stone


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, please tweet a link to your post using the has tag #BookBeginnings. My Twitter handle is @GilionDumas. I also recently signed up for Google+ and have a button over there in the right-hand column to join my circles or whatever it is. I don't really understand yet how that one works.

MR. LINKY: Please leave a link to your post below. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING



After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother's womb, my brother, Shiva,  and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954.

-- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. This was my book club book recently, but I didn't read it because I knew I was going to miss that meeting. I heard later that everyone loved it. I just started it, but it seems like it is going to be quite an interesting story.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: The Book and the Brotherhood




Iris Murdoch’s 1987 novel, The Book and the Brotherhood, is subtitled “A Story about Love and Friendship and Marxism,” which pretty much sums up the themes of her 23rd novel but only hints at the scope and complexity of the story.

The book begins when a group of longtime friends meet at an Oxford ball only to have their sentimental reunion jarred by the reappearance of their charismatic former leader, David Crimond. Years earlier, as young, liberal university students, the group had agreed to fund Crimond's writing of a book on their political philosophy. The book never materialized and the brotherhood never came to much. Now Crimond is back and bent on rekindling his affair with one of the women.

The story swirls around this original group of friends, pulling in siblings and other relatives, lovers, and hangers on. Lots of things happen with these people, from ice skating parties to suicide pacts, in between which they ponder and discuss the moral vacuum of Marxism, the possibility of religion without a personal God, the Platonic ideal, abortion, real estate, marriage, and parrots.

Murdoch is at the top of her game with this novel. She is droll in the telling, but forgiving with her characters, never sarcastic, and comfortable with moral ambiguity as she tells their stories without drawing conclusions or passing judgment. There is no pat ending and the various storylines demand further contemplation long after the cover closes.

OTHER REVIEWS

The Book and the Brotherhood on Hannah Stoneham's Book Blog
The Book and the Brotherhood on Musings
The Sea, the Sea on Rose City Reader

If you would like your review of this or any other iris Murdoch book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it. 

NOTES

The Book and the Brotherhood was 602 pages long, so counts as one of my 551 - 750 page books for the Chunkster Challenge. It also counts for the Mt. TBR and Off the Shelf challenges.

6 Days to Christmas!




Monday, December 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: About Face


Brunetti and Cataldo, as often happened in the city, had never been introduced to one another, although Brunetti knew the general outline of his history. The family had come from Friuli, Brunetti thought, some time early in the last century, had prospered during the Fascist era, and had become even richer during the great boom of the sixties.

-- About Face by Donna Leon. Published in 2010, this is the 18th mystery in Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti series, set in Venice. I was reading them in order, but they really didn't seem to need to go in order, so I skipped ahead when I found this audio version at my library. 

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. 



8 Days to Christmas!




Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mailbox Monday


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring event (details here).

Suko's Notebook is hosting in December.  Please visit her lovely and thoughtful blog. 

I've had a couple of empty mailboxes lately, so I was pleased to swing by Booktique when I was in Lake Oswego last week. I picked up a short stack of fun paperbacks:



Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy



A Sight for Sore Eyes by Ruth Rendell



Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers



3 Comedies : The Circle, Our Betters, The Constant Wife by W. Somerset Maugham



The Venetian Affair by Helen Macinnes



9 Days to Christmas!




Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review: Fortune's Deadly Descent

 


Audrey Braun’s first thriller, A Small Fortune, was an unputdownable race through the jungles of Mexico to the the high-finance world of Swiss industrialists. In the rollicking sequel, Fortune's Deadly Descent, heroine Celia Hagen is back on the run, this time trying to find her kidnapped son while keeping one step ahead of the bad guys, the cops, and her possibly unfaithful husband who she is in no mood to talk to.

The action starts when Celia’s young son Benny disappears after their train breaks down in the South of France. Interpol suspects Celia, but could Benny have been stolen by Gypsies? Or is her evil ex-husband, imprisoned though he may be, behind it all?

Fortune’s Deadly Descent is just as exciting as A Small Fortune, right to the finale. Braun has an eye for detail and makes the most out of the French village setting. She also balances the action with the honest emotions of a distraught mother.

Read both of Celia’s adventures. And look forward to the third book in the trilogy!

OTHER REVIEWS

Mysterious Reviews
The Washington Post

NOTES

Braun is the pen name of novelist Deborah Reed, author of Carry Yourself Back to Me, a Best Book of 2011 Amazon Editors' Pick..

My Rose City Reader review of A Small Fortune
My Rose City Reader review of Carry Yourself Back to Me
My Rose City Reader interview of Audry Braun
The Deborah Reed/Audry Braun website
 

10 Days to Christmas!




Friday, December 14, 2012

11 Days to Christmas!





Book Beginnings: The Children of Men


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

TWITTER: If you are on Twitter, please tweet a link to your post using the has tag #BookBeginnings. My Twitter handle is @GilionDumas.

MR. LINKY: Please leave a link to your post below. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING



Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five years, two months and twelve days.

-- The Children of Men by P. D. James.

I put off reading this because I thought it would be too sci-fi for me. It isn't. It is alternate history or dystopian, but not really sci-fi. It is terrific! It is about England in 2021, 25 years after the entire human race became infertile and the last babies in the world were born.



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2013 Challenge: Three TBR Challenges

COMPLETED!

I am signing up for three TBR challenges for 2013 that I am going to tackle with a personal twist.  I hope to chew through a batch of my TBR list by participating in the Mt. TBR, Off the Shelf, and TBR Pile Challenges.

 

I signed up for the Mt. TBR Challenge at the Mt. Vancouver level to read at least 36 books and the Off the Shelf Challenge at the Make a Dint level to read at least 30 books.  The TBR Pile Challenge involves a commitment to a specific 12 books (noted below), with two alternates.

The personal twist is that I plan to read the books from a particular shelf.  According to my LibraryThing tags, there are 1,421 books on my TBR shelves. Even though I read good number of books every year, I never seem to make visual progress through my TBR books.

So I have latched onto the idea that I want to read all the books on at least one shelf. I want to see a gap grow on the shelf as I finish book after book. I have a wall of TBR fiction books so I picked one shelf from it at random and plan on reading all the books from that shelf in 2013, with the one limitation that I am only going to read one book by each author on that shelf. From the shelf I picked, that means reading 21 books in 2013.


I also picked one of my non-fiction TBR shelves at random with the goal of reading 10 books off that shelf in 2013.

There are other books from my TBR shelves that I plan to read in 2013, either for other challenges or on whim, which will count for the other books in these TBR challenges.


It is going to be an interesting experiment because the reasons a books makes it to my TBR shelves are far broader than the reasons I would typically chose a book to read.  I am going to end up reading several books that would probably sit on my shelves for many more years given the natural course of things. 

BOOKS

I read a total of 53 books from my TBR shelves in 2013 -- 41 fiction and 12 non-fiction.  These are all books that have been on my TBR shelves since at least last year, some since the 1980s.

For the TBR Pile Challenge, I finished all the books I pre-selected.  My books are here, with links to reviews:
In addition, I read one of the two alternates and skipped the other:

In addition, I read another six books from my randomly selected shelf:
I rounded out the Mt. TBR and Off the Shelf Challenges with other fiction books from my TBR shelves:

And several non-fiction books from my TBR shelves:



NOTE

Updated on December 26, 2013.  I will finish The Dean's December by Saul Bellow before the end of the year, bringing my total TBR Challenge reading to 54.  

13 Days to Christmas!




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

14 Days to Christmas!




Teaser Tuesday: A Personal Odyssey




Most of the people I had seen were black, everywhere I went. In reading the Sunday comics, I was not bothered by the fact that the characters were almost always white, but I could not understand why some of these characters had yellow hair.
-- A Personal Odyssey by Thomas Sowell. I like this passage because it is sums up a kid's perceptions of the world.

It also makes me laugh because I have "yellow" hair and have always thought that expression funny ever since I read Yeats's "For Anne Gregory" that concludes:

. . . only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair

I've read Sowell's columns and am impressed by him as a commentator, but I've never read his books.I decided to start with his memoirs to learn a little more of his backstory before reading his substantive books.



Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. 



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...