TalkMissWatson climbs the Ziggurat of Babel (aka Mount TBR) - the second ascent

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2019 Category Challenge

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MissWatson climbs the Ziggurat of Babel (aka Mount TBR) - the second ascent

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Edited: Dec 1, 2019, 7:01am

Welcome! Willkommen! Bienvenue! Bienvenido! Привет!

I'm Birgit and this is my sixth category challenge. This year's CATs should be very helpful in the everlasting quest to whittle down Mount TBR, so I will concentrate on these. I also hope to reactivate my neglected foreign languages. Last year's attempt to restrain my book-buying habit failed miserably, so I will just keep track of the pages read and the books that will go on to a new home.

The ticker. The goal is to read 2019 pages per month.

January page count: 4482
February page count: 3327
March page count: 3959
April page count: 2495
May page count: 3432
June page count: 3273
July page count: 3677
August page count: 2784
September page count: 2594
October page count: 2301
November page count: 2021

Edited: Dec 23, 2019, 2:35am

The language challenge

Last year I finished a surprising (to me) number of books in French, and the more I read, the easier it got. I'm hoping to repeat this with Spanish and Russian, but in the spirit of being realistic I'm staggering the numbers to keep it achievable. The goal here is 75.
Aliens is one of my top ten movies. (Picture snagged from imdb)

Russian 5
Spanish 10
French 15
German 20
English 25

1. Paper and iron by Niall Ferguson
2. Maggie : a girl of the streets by Stephen Crane
3. European and Islamic Trade in the Early Ottoman State : The Merchants of Genoa and Turkey by Kate Fleet
4. The Kellys and the O'Kellys by Anthony Trollope
5. These were the Sioux by Mari Sandoz
6. Empire of grass by Tad Williams
7. Mastering the market by Judith A. Miller
8. Grain markets in Europe, 1500–1900 by Karl Gunnar Persson
9. The new Magdalen by Wilkie Collins
10. Bread, Politics and Political Economy in the Reign of Louis XV by Steven L. Kaplan
11. The lost plot by Genevieve Cogman
12. Fools and mortals by Bernard Cornwell
13. The long remembered thunder, A bad day for vermin, Doorstep by Keith Laumer
14. The three clerks by Anthony Trollope
15. We of the Never-Never by Jeannie Gunn
16. Wolfbane by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth
17. The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser
18. The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
19. The silver branch by Rosemary Sutcliff
20. The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy by Douglas Adams
21. Treasure Island by RL Stevenson
22. I am half-sick of shadows by Alan Bradley
23. Waverley by Walter Scott
24. Small is beautiful : economics as if people mattered 25 years later by E. F. Schumacher
25. The prospering by Elizabeth George Speare
26. The best Christmas pageant ever by Barbara Robinson
27. Blood feud by Rosemary Sutcliff
28. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

1. Das Känguru-Manifest by Marc-Uwe Kling
2. Märchen und Sagen by Ludwig Bechstein
3. Ritterburgen by Joachim Zeune
4. Der Geldkomplex by Franziska Gräfin zu Reventlow
5. Die roten Tücher von Cholet by Michel Ragon
6. Italienreise – Liebe inbegriffen by Barbara Noack
7. Mord und Brand by Gerhard Loibelsberger
8. Als ich ein kleiner Junge war by Erich Kästner
9. Die Känguru-Apokryphen by Marc-Uwe Kling
10. Die englischen Könige im Mittelalter
11. Geschichte Dänemarks by Carsten Jahnke
12. Alan Turing by Rolf Hochhuth
13. Wirtschaftsgeschichte des Mittelalters by Hans-Jörg Gilomen
14. Mel will nach Hause by Kathrin Sander
15. Eiswinter by Brigitte Beil
16. Durch Wüste und Harem by Karl May
17. Die Entdeckung der Currywurst by Uwe Timm
18. Die Form des Wassers by Andrea Camilleri
19. Die Muskeltiere : Hamster Bertram lebt gefährlich by Ute Krause
20. Die Muskeltiere : Pomme de Terre und die vierzig Räuber by Ute Krause
21. Der zweite Reiter by Alex Beer
22. Die rote Frau by Alex Beer
23. Der dunkle Bote by Alex Beer
24. Die Tasse des Königs by Josephine Siebe
25. Nacht über Föhr by Volker Streiter
26. Guglhupfgeschwader by Rita Falk
27. Das Geheimnis des Strandvogts by Volker Streiter
28. Immerwahr by Sabine Friedrich
29. Die Ladenhüterin by Sayaka Murata
30. Der geheime Bericht über den Dichter Goethe by Rafik Schami
31. Eidergrab by Volker Streiter
32. Halali by Ingrid Noll
33. Die Leiden des jungen Werther by JW von Goethe
34. Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. by Ulrich Plenzdorf
35. Die Gleichung des Lebens by Norman Ohler
36. Der Sommer des Kometen by Petra Oelker
37. Das Heilige Römische Reich deutscher Nation by Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger
38. Herr Mozart feiert Weihnachten by Eva Baronsky

1. Son Excellence Eugène Rougon by Émile Zola
2. Le bal de Sceaux by Honoré de Balzac
3. Les soirées de Médan by Émile Zola
4. Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas
5. Le port des brumes by Georges Simenon
6. La bourse by Honoré de Balzac
7. La vendetta by Honoré de Balzac
8. Madame Firmiani by Honoré de Balzac
9. Une double famille by Honoré de Balzac
10. La curée by Émile Zola
11. La paix du ménage by Honoré de Balzac
12. La fausse maitresse by Honoré de Balzac
13. Étude de femme by Honoré de Balzac
14. Albert Savarus by Honoré de Balzac
15. Le petit Nicolas by Sempé and Goscinny
16. Le pendu de Saint-Pholien by Georges Simenon

1. Réquiem por un campesino español by Ramón J. Sender
2. Cuatro días de enero by Jordi Sierra i Fabra
3. El príncipe de la niebla by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
4. Las luces de Septiembre by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
5. El reino de este mundo by Alejo Carpentier

Edited: Oct 29, 2019, 4:00pm

The CATs

Starring my sister's cat, Porthos. He loves to sit on the sofa and survey his kingdom, but has fallen asleep.

I hope to read at least one book for each, but won't stress myself if it doesn't happen. Overlap with the language challenge is allowed if the book has more than 600 pages (otherwise it would be too easy).

Edited: Dec 21, 2019, 1:25pm

Calendar CAT

1. The empire of ashes by Anthony Ryan

1. Mensch und Maschine by Thomas Ramge
2. Der Vater eines Mörders by Alfred Andersch
3. Marie Antoinette by Stefan Zweig

1. Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas

1. Das Parfum by Patrick Süskind

1. Le joli mois de mai by Émilie de Turckheim

1. Bretonische Flut by Jean-Luc Bannalec

1. L'épervier by Patrice Pellerin
2. Die Form des Wassers by Andrea Camilleri

1. Der zweite Reiter by Alex Beer
2. Die rote Frau by Alex Beer
3. Der dunkle Bote by Alex Beer

1. La curée by Émile Zola
2. The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser

1. Halali by Ingrid Noll
2. Die Leiden des jungen Werther by JW von Goethe
3. Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. by Ulrich Plenzdorf

1. I am half-sick of shadows by Alan Bradley

1. The best Christmas pageant ever by Barbara Robinson
2. Blood feud by Rosemary Sutcliff
3. El reino de este mundo by Alejo Carpentier
4. Herr Mozart feiert Weihnachten by Eva Baronsky

Edited: Dec 18, 2019, 4:05am


January: Your name in print
Ein Hund für viele Katzen by Michael Foreman
Die Eisprinzessin schläft by Camilla Läckberg
Ich freue mich, dass ich geboren bin by Birgit Vanderbeke

February: We need a break
Der kleine Vampir verreist by Angelika Sommer-Bodenburg

March: Brexit Madness
Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas

April: Easter greetings from the Rooster
Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

May: I could have danced all night
Todeswalzer by Gerhard Loibelsberger
Lizzis letzter Tango by Anja Marschall

June: Pick a card, any card
Das hündische Herz by Michail Bulgakow

July: All about birds
L'épervier by Patrice Pellerin

August: Back to school
Cuatro días de enero by Jordi Sierra i Fabra

September: Equinox
Nacht über Föhr by Volker Streiter

October: Parody, tribute, knock-off...
Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. by Ulrich Plenzdorf

November: Childhood memories
The prospering by Elizabeth George Speare

December: season's reading
The best Christmas pageant ever by Barbara Robinson
Blood feud by Rosemary Sutcliff

Edited: Dec 13, 2019, 3:39am


January: series in translation
Die Eisprinzessin schläft by Camilla Läckberg
Die siebte Leiche by Vlastimil Vondruška

February: children's series
Der kleine Vampir verreist by Angelika Sommer-Bodenburg
Goth Girl and the fete worse than death by Chris Riddell

March: favourite authors
Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas

April: a series you've meant to get back to
Un Noël de Maigret by Georges Simenon
Bretonische Brandung by Jean-Luc Bannalec

May: newest book in a favourite series
Bretonischer Stolz by Jean-Luc Bannalec
Record of a spaceborn few by Becky Chambers
Empire of grass by Tad Williams

June: a series that is definitely complete
Le fantôme de la rue Royale by Jean-François Parot

July: genre fantasy
The lost plot by Genevieve Cogman

August: set in a country you do not live
Der zweite Reiter by Alex Beer
Cuatro días de enero by Jordi Sierra i Fabra
Die rote Frau by Alex Beer
Der dunkle Bote by Alex Beer

September: culinary cozy or set by the sea
Nacht über Föhr by Volker Streiter
Guglhupfgeschwader by Rita Falk
Das Geheimnis des Strandvogts by Volker Streiter

October: Historical
The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
Eidergrab by Volker Streiter
The silver branch by Rosemary Sutcliff

November: female protagonist
Der Sommer des Kometen by Petra Oelker
I am half-sick of shadows by Alan Bradley

December: new to you
El príncipe de la niebla by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Las luces de Septiembre by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Edited: Dec 21, 2019, 1:25pm


(hosting November)

January: First in, last out
Der letzte Rebell by Lee Hoffman
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

February: a borrowed book
Sire by Jean Raspail

March: acquired on/for a special occasion or trip
Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas

April: originally bought for a challenge or group read
Der Tod so kalt by Luca D'Andrea

May: Book you keep looking at but never manage to open
Die Brücke am Kwai by Pierre Boulle

June: Book bullet
The king's hounds by Martin Jensen

July: an author with more than one book on your TBR
Durch Wüste und Harem by Karl May
Novellen 2 by Theodor Storm
Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell
Le port des brumes by Georges Simenon

August: bought to read immediately and yet still on the shelf
Der zweite Reiter by Alex Beer

September: classics I feel I should read
La curée by Émile Zola

October: visually appealing cover
Le petit Nicolas by Sempé and Goscinny
Die Gleichung des Lebens by Norman Ohler

November: given to you as a gift
Waverley by Walter Scott

December: bought because it was cheap
El príncipe de la niebla by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Herr Mozart feiert Weihnachten by Eva Baronsky

Edited: Dec 13, 2019, 3:40am

The KITs

This is optional. Time may not always be sufficient.

The empire of ashes by Anthony Ryan
Artemis by Andy Weir
Death Masks by Jim Butcher
The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Der kleine Vampir verreist by Angelika Sommer-Bodenburg
Goth Girl and the fete worse than death by Chris Riddell
Der goldene Handschuh by Heinz Strunk
Der Tod so kalt by Luca D'Andrea
El príncipe de la niebla by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Las luces de Septiembre by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Edited: Oct 29, 2019, 4:03pm


Thanks to the makers of this lovely card, christina_reads, LittleTaiko and LShelby!

1: The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser
2: 1793 by Niklas Natt och Dag
3: Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell
4: Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch by Michael Ende
5: Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving
6: Die Gleichung des Lebens by Norman Ohler
7: Die Känguru-Offenbarung by Marc-Uwe Kling
8: Tod am Zollhaus by Petra Oelker
9: Das Calderon Imperium by Léa Cohen
10: Serafinas Geheimnis – 3x schwarzer Kater by Sabine Ludwig
11: Pole Popppenspäler by Theodor Storm
12: Son Excellence Eugène Rougon by Émile Zola
13: The empire of ashes by Anthony Ryan
14: Archipel by Inger-Maria Mahlke
15: Eiswinter by Brigitte Beil
16: Le petit Nicolas by Sempé and Goscinny
17: Grete Minde by Theodor Fontane
18: Das Waldhäuschen und seine Bewohner by Ludwig Bechstein
19: L'épervier by Patrice Pellerin
20: Der geheime Bericht über den Dichter Goethe, der eine Prüfung auf einer arabischen Insel bestand by RafikSchami
21: City of thieves by David Benioff
22: Das Halsband der Königin by Antal Szerb
23: Kochbuch für die kleine alte Frau by Sybil Gräfin Schönfeldt
24: The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
25: A tale of two cities by Charles Dickens

Edited: Dec 6, 2019, 3:14am

Goodreads Around the year Challenge
1. A book that was nominated for or won an award in a genre you enjoy Der zweite Reiter by Alex Beer
2. A book with one of the 5 W's in the title (Who, What, Where, When, Why)
3. A book where the author’s name contains A, T, and Y The three clerks by Anthony Trollope
4. A book with a criminal character (i.e. assassin, pirate, thief, robber, scoundrel etc) Das Parfum by Patrick Süskind
5. A book by Shakespeare or inspired by Shakespeare Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell
6. A book with a dual timeline Halali by Ingrid Noll
7. 2 books related to the same topic, genre, or theme: Book #1 Nacht über Föhr by Volker Streiter
8. 2 books related to the same topic, genre, or theme: Book #2 Das Geheimnis des Strandvogts by Volker Streiter
9. A book from one of the top 5 money making genres (romance/erotica, crime/mystery, religious/inspirational, science fiction/fantasy or horror) Record of a spaceborn few by Becky Chambers
10. A book featuring an historical figure Arthur & George by Julian Barnes
11. A book related to one of the 12 Zodiac Chinese Animals (title, cover, subject)
12. A book about reading, books or an author/writer The lost plot by Genevieve Cogman
13. A book that is included on a New York Public Library Staff Picks list
14. A book with a title, subtitle or cover relating to an astronomical term The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy by Douglas Adams
15. A book by an author from a Mediterranean country or set in a Mediterranean country Die Form des Wassers by Andrea Camilleri
16. A book told from multiple perspectives Empire of grass by Tad Williams
17. A speculative fiction (i.e. fantasy, scifi, horror, dystopia) El príncipe de la niebla by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
18. A book related to one of the elements on the periodic table of elements The silver branch by Rosemary Sutcliff
19. A book by an author who has more than one book on your TBR Le fantôme de la rue Royale by Jean-François Parot
20. A book featuring indigenous people of a country
21. A book from one of the polarizing or close call votes
22. A book with a number in the title or on the cover Cuatro días de enero by Jordi Sierra i Fabra
23. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #1 Something Old Waverley by Walter Scott
24. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #2 Something New
25. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #3 Something Borrowed
26. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #4 Something Blue
27. A book off of the 1001 books to read before you die list Die Entdeckung der Currywurst by Uwe Timm
28. A book related to something cold (i.e. theme, title, author, cover, etc.) So kalt der Tod by Luca D'Andrea
29. A book published before 1950 Le port des brumes by Georges Simenon
30. A book featuring an elderly character Kochbuch für die kleine alte Frau by Sybil Gräfin Schönfeldt
31. A children’s classic you’ve never read Treasure Island by RL Stevenson
32. A book with more than 500 pages Durch Wüste und Harem by Karl May
33. A book you have owned for at least a year, but have not read yet The king's hounds by Martin Jensen
34. A book with a person's name in the title Alan Turing
35. A psychological thriller
36. A book featured on an NPR Best Books of the Year list
37. A book set in a school or university Le petit Nicolas by Sempé and Goscinny
38. A book not written in traditional novel format (poetry, essay, epistolary, graphic novel, etc) L'épervier by Patrice Pellerin
39. A book with a strong sense of place or where the author brings the location/setting to life Archipel by Inger-Maria Mahlke
40. A book you stumbled upon Le joli mois de mai by Émilie de Turckheim
41. A book from the 2018 GR Choice Awards
42. A book with a monster or "monstrous" character Das hündische Herz by Michail Bulgakow
43. A book related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) (fiction or nonfiction) Immerwahr by Sabine Friedrich
44. A book related in some way to a tv show/series or movie you enjoyed (same topic, same era, book appeared in the show/movie, etc.) Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving
45. A multi-generational saga
46. A book with a (mostly) black cover
47. A book related to food (i.e. title, cover, plot, etc.) Die Muskeltiere : Pomme de Terre und die vierzig Räuber
48. A book that was a finalist or winner for the National Book Award for any year
49. A book written by a Far East Asian author or set in a Far East Asian country Die Ladenhüterin by Sayaka Murata
50. A book that includes a journey (physical, health, or spiritual) The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
51. A book published in 2019 Der dunkle Bote by Alex Beer
52. A book with a weird or intriguing title We of the Never-Never by Jeannie Gunn

Because I am, obviously, utterly insane. Overlap with the languages/CATs/KITs is allowed. Must come from my own shelves.

Mount TBR erosion

I realised rather late that anything that doesn't count for the CATs, KITs or Bingo can go into the language pile, so there's no need for an overflow category. Instead I'll track my TBR in the vain hope that it will go down, especially since the CATs this year are focused on books I already own. The January bargain bins have thrown me off track already...

The TBR, as of
January 8, 2019: 1,314. Ouch.
January 31: 1,342. It's Hugendubel's fault. They put up these boxes with "3 for 10€" signs. How could I walk by without even looking?
February 28: 1,355. Okay, now that Thingaversary is out of the way, no more book-buying. Or at least only at a 2for1 rate...
March 31: 1,375. I need to get a grip on myself.
April 30: 1,386. Sigh.
May 31: 1,403. No comment.
June 30: 1,404. Holding steady…
July 31: 1,411. Passable.
August 31: 1,445. Do I need professional help?
September 30: 1,468. Obviously I do. But there are vices worse than this.
October 31: 1,481. This is insane.
November 30: 1,499.

Edited: Jul 1, 2019, 5:31am

Come in! Hereinspaziert! Entrez! Entrad! Bходите!

Welcome! Just a second while I get the coffee ... and because of the local heatwave we're having iced coffee. Enjoy!

Touchstones will be fixed later.

Jul 1, 2019, 11:11am

Happy new thread! Keep plugging away on the TBR...I started in 2011 with over 1000 and I'm down to less than 600 now.

Jul 1, 2019, 11:19am

Happy new thread!

>12 Tess_W: That's very inspiring! After several years of adding to Mt TBR, this year is (so far) the first with a net reduction (of 4, but I'm at least going in the right direction).

Jul 1, 2019, 11:54am

Happy new thread and congratulations on reducing your TBR.

Jul 1, 2019, 12:13pm

Happy new thread! I like your tracking of the TBR month-by-month :) I'm doing the 2-for-1 TBR challenge and once I read six more ROOTs I will finally have paid off my book debt from 2017...

Jul 2, 2019, 3:40am

>12 Tess_W: Thanks, Tess, that is an inspiring achievement!
>13 Jackie_K:, >14 DeltaQueen50:, >15 rabbitprincess: Thanks, ladies! Right now I'll be happy if I can keep the TBR at the same level. One in, one out.

Jul 2, 2019, 6:49pm

Happy new thread! I try not to focus on how many books are TBR, I just know the collection will last longer than me. :)

Jul 3, 2019, 3:20am

>17 VivienneR: Hello! I'll keep on trying to read off my pile, but I know full well how easily I succumb to the seduction of the bookstore.

Jul 3, 2019, 3:26am


Wirtschaftsgeschichte des Mittelalters is another slim volume in the Beck Wissen series, 128 pages of concise economic history for the Middle Ages. Very useful as a primer for exams or as an entry point into the topic, as he covers all the bases and sectors and even mentions where historians and economists have changed their minds over the last decades. I took quite a few notes for topics I would like to explore in more detail.

Edited: Jul 4, 2019, 4:14am

It's going to be a busy summer doing other things, cutting in on my reading time. So I have decided to change the rules for the second half of the year. Overlaps between Bingo, CATs and languages are allowed from now on.

Jul 8, 2019, 4:58am

CalendarCAT / RandomCAT / Bingo: graphic novel / GR: prompt 38

First book to profit from the looser rules is L'épervier, a French graphic novel about a French captain/corsair accused of murder and a treasure hunt in Guyana. It's set in the 18th century a generation before the French Revolution in Brittany, so it counts for the CalendarCAT, the captain's nom-de-guerre means "sparrowhawk", so it counts for the RandomCAT and it fills the graphic novel slot for the Bingo and the GR challenge. Finding books that fill several parameters is more fun, I find.
The drawings are very realistic, and I am learning nautical terms in French which are familiar from Hornblower & Co.

Edited: Jul 10, 2019, 3:02am


I spent the weekend at my sister's, attended my aunt's 8oth birthday and found time to finish a short children's book about a small orange cat who climbed into a remover's van out of curiosity. When the doors opened again he was in a strange place and the book tells of his adventures as he tries to return to his family. He manages to do so, and as it turns out, they live on Sylt, one of the North Frisian islands and thus close to where I'm spending my vacation in September.
Lovely short story and very pretty illustrations: Mel will nach Hause

edited for touchstone

Edited: Jul 10, 2019, 3:25am

Bingo: weather word / languages

I spontaneously borrowed Eiswinter from my sister because it is set in Plön, half an hour's train ride from Kiel. It is set in 1692 and based on a true story, one of those amazing tales you can find trawling the archives. It tells the story of Christian Gottlieb, an African in the service of one of the Dukes of Holstein who married the daughter of an alderman in Plön. The "ice winter" of the title refers to a very cold November, as Gesche expects her fifth child. It is her second marriage, and she feels increasingly estranged from her family. As she roams the house and the fields restlessly she remembers her life with Christian and his death. She is convinced he was murdered (there had been suspicious accidents) and as a friend brings her proof of this, she slides further into melancholy. She died soon after the birth of the child and got to be buried in the same grave as Christian.
This was well researched and well written, even if the kind of self-reflection that Gesche undertakes here strikes me as anachronistic. But I wondered that the Thirty Years War is barely mentioned, as if it had had no impact on Plön. Another reason to check up on local history.


Edited: Jul 13, 2019, 3:51pm

languages / TBRCAT / GR: prompt 32

Durch Wüste und Harem was a trip down memory lane: when I was a kid I devoured these tales about adventures in foreign places, especially those set in the American West. Usually skimming over the detailed descriptions of the countries the narrator visits and the philosophical musings, I just concentrated on the fighting. A few years ago, my sister gave me some bibliophile editions of the most popular titles, with contemporary illustrations and printed on high quality paper.
And so I finally turned to the first book in the Oriental cycle, where we meet Kara Ben Nemsi and his Arab companion and travel from Southern Tunisia to Iraq. I was surprised to find that this is actually the text as written in 1881, with the old spelling and quite a few outdated words that had to be changed later for a juvenile readership (such as recognosziren). And I had forgotten how much religion there is in these books: this is from a time when Europeans still thought they had a mission to christianise and civilise the rest of the world. But there are many familiar names, especially when he is in what is now Iraq, and the feuds and bloodlettings haven't stopped yet.
This is 516 pages thick and thus also serves for the GR prompt.


Jul 14, 2019, 9:31am

>24 MissWatson: Sounds like a wonderful collection! I think as a teen I may have read one about an Apache chief and and a German immigrant....might be the same, I can't remember. Will have my eyes open to pick up copies when I can find them at a decent price.

Jul 14, 2019, 2:36pm

>25 Tess_W: Could that have been Winnetou? And yes, they are beautiful books, especially the silky white paper.

Edited: Jul 15, 2019, 3:38am

languages / GR: prompt 27

I spent a few delightful hours at the charity bookshop and the fleamarket today and brought home quite a few books, wonderfully cheap. And I finished one of them already, as it is very short. I picked it up because it figures on the Deutsche Welle list of 100 German books to read: Die Entdeckung der Currywurst. This was much better than I thought it would be, I am usually wary of books praised by German critics. Lena Brücker is a very likeable and believable character.
I confess that I have never eaten curried sausage in my life, but after this I am tempted to give it a try.

ETA: As it turns out, I mixed up my lists, it figures on the 1001 books to read before you die and thus gives me a book for the GR prompt. I do not really care for this list, there are too many authors who have way too many books on this list, and the non-English-writing authors seem to be chosen rather haphazardly.

Jul 14, 2019, 2:58pm

>27 MissWatson: i wouldn’t bother with currywurst. It might have been a spectacularly good idea in 1950, but it hasn’t aged well.

Jul 14, 2019, 3:19pm

>28 haydninvienna: I have always been put off by the ketchup...

Jul 14, 2019, 5:21pm

>29 MissWatson: me too. I tried it once and that was enough.

Jul 15, 2019, 10:43am


After four chapters and 214 pages, I am throwing in the towel: Bread, Politics and Political Economy in the Reign of Louis XV goes back to the stacks. Not nearly enough about the nuts and bolts of growing grain, milling, baking and buying bread, far too much politics. At least, I tried.

Jul 19, 2019, 3:32am

languages / SeriesCAT / GR: prompt 12

I have finished The lost plot, fourth in the Invisible Library series. Ostensibly it is set in an alternative USA during prohibition time, but apart from needing illegal alcohol to start a fire, little is made of the setting. This instalment is all about intergalactic polictics, as Irene tries to save the Library from losing its neutrality while two dragons fight for a court position. The search for a book is a mere McGuffin here. I admit I had fun with Irene's gung-ho adventures, but the romantic subplot is less to my taste.
This fills the last of the CATs. But before I look for something to fill the remaining Bingo squares, I will read something by Andrea Camilleri, who sadly died this week.

Edited: Jul 20, 2019, 3:41pm

languages / CalendarCAT / GR: prompt 15

Picking up a book because its author has just died is probably not very polite, but if not now, when? Die Form des Wassers is the first of the Commissario Montalbano series and I am very glad that I have been pushed to finally read this. Definitely a series to continue.
I was surprised by the profanity of the dialogue, but soon realised that this is deliberate, as it characterises the relationship between the speakers. I am not sure if the publisher served him well, the other Montalbano book I have was translated by someone else, so it will be interesting to see if there are differences.
And since you can't get much more Mediterranean than Sicily, I have filled another slot in the GR challenge.


Jul 21, 2019, 11:04am

TBRCAT / Bingo: alliterative title

I finished the second book of Theodor Storm's collected works, which contains one of his most famous novellas: Pole Poppenspäler. I couldn't find anything else on the TBR which would fit the alliterative title square. And now I need something fun, because Storm is very much about sadness, melancholy, and storm-grey clouds.

Edited: Jul 25, 2019, 6:48am

languages / TBRCAT / Bingo: about siblings / GR: prompt 5

Fools and Mortals fills quite a few slots. This is unusual territory for Cornwell: Richard Shakespeare (brother of William) tells of his life as a junior player of women's parts in his brother's company. He is restless, growing too old for these parts, and wants more. The players are hired to perform a new play at the wedding of the Lord Chamberlain, but the master copy is stolen and Richard offers to steal it back.
This is the only occasion where a bit of action and fighting is required, the rest is a wonderful and loving portrait of theatre and life in 1595 London. People who are familiar with Elizabethan theatre may find his detailed explanations cumbersome and repetitive, those who know Shakespeare's plays will find the detailed description of the plot unnecessary, but for those with little previous knowledge it is educational as well as a nicely told story of a young man who finds his place in the world.

ETA: Sensitive souls should be warned that there is bear-baiting and general cruelty to animals. The Puritans are also on the hunt for Catholics and very fond of torture.


Jul 25, 2019, 6:09am

>35 MissWatson: Sounds delightful! On my wish list it goes.

Jul 25, 2019, 6:45am

>36 Tess_W: I hope you enjoy it, Tess. Cornwell puts in a fair amount of swearing, and there's bear-baiting: he does not gloss over the less appealing side of the times.

Edited: Jul 26, 2019, 2:28pm


Temperatures here went from 20°C to 35°C in a single day, and the only cool place was the balcony after sundown. Praise be to the e-reader that allows us to read in the dark! I found a few short stories by Keith Laumer I downloaded from Project Gutenberg before they blocked German IP addresses. I was surprised to find two of them extremely short at a mere six pages, but they were enjoyable with surprising twists at the end.
The long remembered thunder starts like a good ole western. A bad day for vermin and Doorstep were the short ones.

edited for touchstone

Jul 26, 2019, 7:35pm

>38 MissWatson: Maybe you will experience what happened here. We had unseasonably hot weather, 108 F heat factor, which we might have in August but not normally in July, and then 2 days later unseasonable cool weather with a low of 60 F one night which set a new low record!

Jul 26, 2019, 7:53pm

>38 MissWatson: I have been reading about Project Gutenberg blocking German IP addresses. It seems like a mess to me. I do find it curious that since Project Gutenberg is an American company and can offer those books (primarily the Mann's) in the U.S. that offering them in Germany is illegal. I guess perhaps different copyright laws?

Jul 27, 2019, 7:59am

>39 clue: I sincerely hope not! The good thing about living at the seaside is wind, we're having a stiff breeze today and it feels much better already.

>40 Tess_W: The bone of contention was that they also offered a German-language book of Thomas Mann which is still under copyright (protection ends 70 years after the author's death). His publishers sued and won.

Edited: Aug 1, 2019, 7:17am

languages / GR: prompt 47

It's been a good weekend with two concerts, and we all got sunburn after spending Sunday outside almost the whole day, sunscreen notwithstanding. My sister also brought two books for me to read, the latest instalments in a series about a group of four rodents living together in the basement of a delicatessen. Food looms large in these children's books, plus adventures with cocktail picks serving as swords for our mousketeers.
Die Muskeltiere : Hamster Bertram lebt gefährlich sees our hamster suffering from home sickness and he returns to his former owner, only to be trapped in his golden cage. Luckily his friends come to the rescue. And in Die Muskeltiere : Pomme de Terre und die vierzig Räuber they help a family of mice defend themselves against a gang of rats. Enjoyable fun even for adults.

ETA: touchstones

Aug 1, 2019, 7:16am

languages / TBRCAT / GR: prompt 29

And a few minutes before midnight I finished Le port des brumes, another early Maigret, first published in 1932, and set in Ouistreham in Normandy. There's lots of stormy weather and a loving description of a small port and its working life. So much has changed: here we still have working sailing ships...

Aug 1, 2019, 7:20am

July roundup: I managed to read more than I thought I would. The economic history book apart, there were no real duds. My favourites are Fools and mortals and the two "Mousketeer" books.
Under my new rules, the goal for German language books has been reached, I really need to find something in Spanish.

Aug 5, 2019, 3:38am

languages / CalendarCAT / SeriesCAT / TBRCAT / GR: prompt 1

Der zweite Reiter fit quite a few categories: the main character is named August Emmerich, hence the CalendarCAT, it is set in Vienna (Austria), so it works for the series CAT and I bought it with intention to read it immediately, and yet it was still on the TBR a year later. It also won the Leo Perutz award for mysteries and helps me fill another prompt of the GR challenge. What a satisfying feeling! Although the main reason I read it now is that my sister is going to lend me the audiobook version, narrated by an Austrian actor who she says is extremely good. We'll see.

The title refers to the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse, War. It is set in Vienna in 1919, Austria is reduced to a shadow of its former self, starvation and misery rule, and profiteers make hay. The main character is a minor police officer, August Emmerich. A war invalid himself which he tries to hide because he dreams of joining the homicide division. When he stumbles across a body during an observation of a smuggling ring he sees a chance to get himself noticed. Things become very dark soon...
This is a very well researched novel about a country in transformation and it paints a vivid picture of the chaos and misery of the times. The author also provides some explanations at the end of the book, and I was fascinated to learn that one of the important places of the book, a drinking hole with prostitution as a sideline, today houses the Café Hawelka, which I actually visited. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

Aug 5, 2019, 8:11am

And it has been translated into English as The Second Rider, I see. Sounds fascinating—I'm taking a book bullet!

Aug 5, 2019, 9:03am

>46 NinieB: I hope you enjoy it!

Aug 6, 2019, 12:18am

>45 MissWatson: a BB for me, also!

Aug 6, 2019, 4:34am

>48 Tess_W: Hi Tess! I learned quite a few things I didn't know from it, such as heroin being available as an over-the-counter cough remedy, as tablets. Somehow the history books in school failed to mention that.

Aug 6, 2019, 6:05am

languages / GR: prompt 3

And I have also finished The three clerks, 996 pages in the original 3-volume edition. Trollope is always fun to read, but he created much more interesting female characters in his later books. Gertrude and Katie here are more like the ideals Victorian males hoped to marry, not real people.

Aug 7, 2019, 9:12am


Adding a very short one, a story by Honoré de Balzac from his Scènes de la vie privée: La bourse. Young, successful painter falls in love with an impoverished aristocrat, slight misunderstanding blows over. A bit insubstantial, but pleasant enough.

Aug 12, 2019, 3:27am


And the next one is La vendetta, where a Corsican shows up at Napoleon's court demanding safe harbour after having killed his enemy's family in a vendetta. Years later...
An almost gothic tale peopled by incredibly beautiful young females.

Aug 13, 2019, 3:57am

languages / RandomCAT / SeriesCAT / GR: prompt 22

Finally another book in Spanish! Cuatro días de enero is a historical mystery, set in the last four days before Franco's troops enter the city. Many have left for the border, and Miquel Mascarell is the only policeman remaining in his station. Reluctantly he accepts a last case, looking for the missing daughter of a former prostitute, and his investigation takes him all over the city, on foot, reflecting on the past struggles and the probable future.
This was a hard read, because of the topic, and we know how it ends. I suppose people who are familiar with the city can better imagine the distances he covers on foot, while near starvation. A series I will continue, but it needs spacing. The times are depressing.

Aug 13, 2019, 5:34am


Madame Firmiani runs to a mere 19 pages and is an uneven mix of morality tale and fairy tale. It begins promisingly, with a study in gossip by different kinds of idlers, but then it turns into a very conventional romance bordering on kitsch. His insistence on purity is hard to stomach.

Edited: Aug 16, 2019, 4:11am

languages / CaldendarCAT / SeriesCAT

My sister sent me the audiobook versions of Alex Beer's mysteries about August Emmerich, and I immediately listened to Die rote Frau. This is indeed one of those cases where a congenial narrator enhances the enjoyment of the book. Cornelius Obonya is Austrian and invests the characters with different accents that reflect their social status as well as their regional origin.

The plot is more political this time, involving a group of conspirators determined on "cleansing" the nation by killing philanthropists who dedicate their efforts to help the weak, sick, mentally ill etc. August Emmerich and his assistant Ferdinand Winter have been assigned to the coveted homicide division, where they are unwanted and mobbed by colleagues. Emmerich is sent to help a film actress get rid of a curse allegedly cast on the film she is shooting, but what was meant as punishment enables him to get involved in a murder investigation and solve a complicated case.
Vienna and its desolate situation play a large part in this, again, and the vivid descriptions conjure up memories. There's also an intriguing overlap with Loibelsberger's Nechyba series: The film company that Rita Heydrich works for is Sascha Film, a real company, whose founder appears in several of the Nechyba books.

My only quibble with the book is that she is overfond of some phrases, which become more apparent in the abridged audio version, and that there are far too many modern expressions mixed into the genuinely contemporary Viennese. Nonetheless, I will also listen to the first in the series, Der zweite Reiter, just to savour the Austrian-flavoured dialogue.

Aug 26, 2019, 11:55am

I'll take a BB for The Second Rider and also hoping that the series by Jordi Sierra i Fabra is eventually available in English.

Aug 27, 2019, 4:06am

>56 LisaMorr: I hope it meets your expectation!

Aug 27, 2019, 4:16am

languages / CalendarCAT / SeriesCAT / GR: prompt 51

Der dunkle Bote is fresh off the press, so to speak, the third instalment in the series about August Emmerich. It is November 1920, six months on from the last case, and he investigates a gruesome murder. At the same time he is chasing after his family: he had a relationship with a war widow whose husband unexpectedly returns from the POW camp in Russia, moves in again with his wife and starts mistreating her. Koch also plots a revolution on his own and steals arms from the arsenal. Things come to a head one dark night...
Again, the narration is first rate and the plot is complicated, as there are several storylines to keep track of. The political situation is also heating up.

Aug 28, 2019, 5:56am

languages / GR: prompt 52

I have been reading on the balcony at night (because of the heat) with the help of my e-reader, and I have finished We of the Never-Never, downloaded some time ago from Gutenberg. I think this is considered a classic in Australia, but enjoyment was marred by what looks like bad formatting. Commas were all over the place, and sometimes the scene shifted so abruptly that I wondered if text was missing completely. I also had trouble keeping the different stockmen apart, and then of course the casual racism jumps out at modern readers. I think I'll try this again some time with another copy.

Aug 28, 2019, 6:00am


My lunchtime reading is still the first volume of Balzac's Comédie Humaine. The first novellas in this series are quite short, Une double famille runs to a mere 64 pages. I have to say, the sentimentality of this borders on kitsch. I also think that vital information was missing to make the reader understand Grandville's attitude in the last episode. What exactly happened between him and Caroline?

Sep 1, 2019, 5:34pm

August roundup: I did not read quite as much as I hoped, and I did not manage to finish La curée and Tom Jones in time. Ah well, it's summer, and it was often too hot for reading. Best of the month were the mysteries set in Vienna, especially as narrated by Cornelius Obonya.

Sep 1, 2019, 5:43pm


Oh boy, did I lose self-control in the bookstore! Hugendubel have set up those nefarious remainder boxes again, where I always find something, and today was the monthly fleamarket, where I picked up (among other books, sad to say) a very old children's book: Die Tasse des Königs (no touchstone yet) which I read immediately.
Josephine Siebe was one of my favourite authors as a kid, and this was pure nostalgia. It is set during the reign of Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, and a visit of the king sets the action in motion. Prussia is not the author's normal habitat, and it shows towards the end, when her little town looks increasingly Swabian. She shows remarkable insight into children's behaviour.
The other book finished today was a novella from my ereader, downloaded from Gutenberg some time ago: Wolfbane, a joint effort from Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth which I found below par. The technobabble was not convincing, and attitudes toward women are deplorable.

Edited: Sep 3, 2019, 6:12am

languages / CalendarCAT / TBRCAT

It has been a bit of a slog, but I have finished La curée. This is mostly about the real estate trading, quite often speculative, caused by Haussmann's grandscale rebulding of Paris, and the fortunes built out of thin air must have been amazing. And then there is the young wife of Saccard, whose dowry lays the foundation and who spends money like water. Zola spends pages and pages describing her sumptuous apartment and clothes, the balls and the entertainments, all financed by credit. One intriguing detail: Renée's dressmaker is called Worms, a thinly disguised Charles Worth. Is this a play on his name? Did Zola know English?

Edited: Sep 7, 2019, 10:36am

languages / CalendarCAT / Bingo: author uses middle name or initial

The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser has been sitting on my shelf for thirty-five years, as proved by a cutting from the International Herald Tribune I found inside, dated 20 August 1984, and which was a very enthusiastic review.
This was fun indeed, politically very incorrect, and some of the gags no longer work, but for everyone who loves old-fashioned adventure yarns this is a treat. I was also surprised to learn from my oldest English dictionary that "bilbo" was once a common name for Spanish rapiers, so it has also been educational. There's also a very handy list of recommended books, and I was intrigued to find the name Jeffery Farnol here, whom Fraser credits with having co-invented Regency romances (as a contemporary of Georgette Heyer). I can see more books entering my overflowing home...

ETA: I just realised that this also fits for "Talk like a pirate day"!

Sep 7, 2019, 10:52am

So, the suitcase is packed and I'm off to the North Sea for a two week vacation without internet. I just hope we get some sunny days, right now it's feeling very much like autumn. See you in a fortnight!

Sep 7, 2019, 11:37am

>65 MissWatson: Hoping you great fun on vacation!

Sep 7, 2019, 7:43pm

>65 MissWatson: Have a great vacation! :D

Sep 11, 2019, 9:54am

>64 MissWatson: Off to look up Jeffery Farnol now! Hope you have fun on your vacation!

Sep 12, 2019, 1:03am

>60 MissWatson:....kitsch...had to look it up! I love LT!

Sep 12, 2019, 3:37am

>55 MissWatson: Took a BB for The Second Rider. I'm going to Vienna at Christmas--maybe Frick will have the English version.

Hope your holiday is/was wonderful.

Sep 16, 2019, 12:35am

Have fun on your vacation. I've just returned from being without a computer for 10 days and I was surprised at the amount of reading I was able to do!

Sep 24, 2019, 10:46am

>66 Tess_W: Thanks, Tess! We had lots of sun, I even got a tan.
>69 Tess_W: Liking kitschy stuff was very much frowned on in my younger days, now it's cult. Ah, the times and fashions...
>67 rabbitprincess: Thanks, rp!
>68 christina_reads: I'm very curious about him, to be honest, as GM Fraser is one of my favourite authors.
>70 haydninvienna: The second and third books live up well to the first, I hope you enjoy it when you find it.
>71 DeltaQueen50: Thanks, Judy. I got in more reading than usual, the water was cold so we only went swimming once or twice a day, instead of three or four.

Edited: Sep 24, 2019, 4:19pm

So, I am glad to be back and can report that I read a few books on my vacation.

SeriesCAT / RandomCAT / languages
Nacht über Föhr is a historical mystery featuring a travel writer (who published a book about the North Frisian islands in 1846) which was very instructive and enjoyable.
And we listened to the audio version of Guglhupfgeschwader, the latest instalment in the Franz Eberhofer series where Bavarian food plays an important role.
I also bought a slim volume about establishing Föhr as a sea resort first published in 1819 and read it instantly, it was republished as a facsimile to celebrate the bicentenary. I haven't quite finished The innocence of Father Brown on my ereader, and I am currently finishing a book bought during my vacation: Das Geheimnis des Strandvogts which also features the travel writer mentioned in the first book.

Now I am off to visit the threads, after happily chasing treasure chests for an hour.

ETA: I realised belatedly that Nacht über Föhr also fiuts the RandomCAT, which is great.

Edited: Sep 24, 2019, 9:57pm

>73 MissWatson: This (the Föhr book) sounds so interesting. Wish I could read German . . . ! I had to look up where the island is. I think that the first story in Seven Gothic Tales, which I have been reading, might be set in the same area.

Sep 25, 2019, 6:36am

>75 MissWatson: Oooh, you've hit me with a book bullet! Isak Dinesen's story is set on Norderney, one of the East Frisian islands and close to the Netherlands, whereas Föhr lies to the north, close to Denmark (and part of the kingdom until the 19th century). We visit the island every two years and I always find a book about the local history. I should widen my horizons and look to the South-East, too!

Sep 25, 2019, 7:30am

>75 MissWatson: Glad to help! ;-) I need to learn more about this area, so I'll be on the lookout for titles in English.

Sep 26, 2019, 6:44am

>76 NinieB: The first that springs to mind is The riddle of the sands which is set among the East Frisian islands. And the most famous German author from North Frisia is Theodor Storm.

Edited: Sep 27, 2019, 5:16am

languages / CalendarCAT / SeriesCAT /GR: prompt 7+8

Das Geheimnis des Strandvogts also features travel writer Johann Georg Kohl, this time travelling on Amrum, Föhr's sister island. I was surprised to learn that it had only 600 inhabitants in 1845, before tourism set in. This was written before Nacht über Föhr, so he makes no mention of having been there first in this book, they seem almost unrelated. But it is another well-conceived mystery and provides lots of information about Amrum. It is set in September, so I'm counting it also for the CalendarCAT.

ETA: Checking my GR challenge, I have decided that these two are a good fit for prompts 7+8, as they feature the same main character and take place in the same area.

Sep 26, 2019, 8:13am

Glad you had a great time, Birgit and I took a BB on Father Brown. Had the Fohr book been available in English, I would have taken that BB, too. I love reading about places of which I have never heard.

Sep 26, 2019, 10:33am

>79 Tess_W: Hi Tess! I have to say that I found the stories I've read so far rather odd, as in lacking a proper resolution.

Sep 26, 2019, 10:58am

>>>>hmmm !

Sep 26, 2019, 10:27pm

>81 Tess_W: I'll pipe up again . . . the Father Brown stories do require a little patience, but I was sorry when The innocence of Father Brown ended.

>77 MissWatson: The Rider on the White Horse does look interesting . . .

Sep 27, 2019, 5:00am

>82 NinieB: The rider on the white horse was a classical school text in my time and it gives a good taste of Storm's slightly melancholic style.

And my problem with Father Brown may stem from the fact that I read these stories in bed before going to sleep, so my attention may have been less than required. I'm not quite giving up on these yet!

Sep 27, 2019, 5:07am

languages / GR prompt 43

Immerwahr is a novel about Clara Immerwahr, the first woman in Germany to gain a PhD in chemistry.
I found this very unsatisfactory. I'm not in the habit of analysing writing techniques, so I may have come across stream-of-consciousness books before. But here it jumped out at me from page 1 and it was obtrusive. The whole book is set on the evening of 2 May 1915, as she stands at the window of her house and reflects on her life, especially her marriage with Fritz Haber, before she kills herself because she cannot reconcile herself to his professional activities (he invented poison gas for trench warfare). There are passages that seem to be taken from her writing, but as they are not identified, this is speculation. I think a non-fiction biography would have been a better choice.

Sep 27, 2019, 6:51am


Another short one from Balzac: La paix du ménage where a shy countess visits a ball and retrieves a diamond ring which her husband gave away to his mistress who passed it on to another young man. Considering that it is the countess' marriage and household whose peace are under discussion, we spend an enormous amount of time listening to the conversations of two young men admiring the women attending the ball.

Sep 28, 2019, 1:26am

>83 MissWatson: I have never read a Father Brown.........

Sep 28, 2019, 1:28pm

>86 Tess_W: My catalog tells me that I read these in 2015, and I have no memory of the cases. This is slightly disturbing. And then, there are so many movie and TV versions of them, often transposing the character into another timeframe, that you cannot really enjoy them without preconceived notions.

Sep 28, 2019, 1:35pm

languages / GR: prompt 49

Die Ladenhüterin has been on my wishlist since the first reviews last year, and when I saw the newly published paperback I snapped it up. It was everything I hoped for: the story of a woman who tries to conform to Japanese social norms and finally decides to do what she wants, even if in her case it means slaving in a convenience store. But she enjoys her work and she describes it in loving detail. And I'm passing it on to the next avid reader waiting for it.

Sep 28, 2019, 1:58pm

>88 MissWatson: That is on my TBR...perhaps I need to move it up! As far as Father Brown I think I ought to at least read one!

Edited: Sep 30, 2019, 8:15am

languages / Bingo: title has more than six words

In Der geheime Bericht über den Dichter Goethe, der eine Prüfung auf einer arabischen Insel bestand, the works of Goethe are presented to a commission of scholars on an island in the Red Sea to decide if he is worthy to be included in the curriculum. The book achieves its goal of making you want to read Goethe's work. It is also a reminder of British imperialism and Western greed for the resources of other regions.


Oct 1, 2019, 4:24am

Time for a September roundup. Because of the vacation, I didn't read as much as I hoped to, and I'm still slogging through Tom Jones. Don't know yet if I'll finish it this year. Best of the month was definitely Die Ladenhüterin, but the historical mysteries of Volker Streiter deserve honourable mention as they were much better than I thought they would be.

So, onward to October. It is definitely autumn now, we've had a first storm serious enough to disrupt trains. I'm going to spend two weekends away from home, which will eat into reading time, but visiting friends and family is also fun.

Oct 1, 2019, 4:32am

languages / SeriesCAT / Bingo: LT rating higher than 4.0 / GR: prompt 50

It has been a dark and stormy night and it was past midnight when I finished The eagle of the Ninth, so I'm counting it for the October SeriesCAT. This is a wonderful story for young adults which I like to re-visit from time to time, it contains a physical journey beyond Hadrian's wall and a mental journey as young Marcus comes to terms with the end of his career with the legions, and it has an LT rating of 4.1. Which means I have only two squares left to fill.

Oct 2, 2019, 3:09am

I am feeling a little grumpy these days: the national celebration of Unification Day is held in Kiel this year, and since Tuesday last week preparations have been going into overdrive. This includes closing off streets to traffic (including public transport) around the parliament and government buildings, and as our library is practically next door, we are affected. It means an additional fifteen minute walk to the nearest bus stop, which is no fun in driving rain. (I bought some books to console myself, though, so there's a bright side to all this nuisance.) There are trucks everywhere, masses of portable generators, tents going up, floodlights and huge screens and what not. The noise will be unbearable. Can you tell that I am not a party person?

I am so glad to leave town today, spending the weekend at my sister's. No internet activities until Monday. Have a nice time!

Oct 7, 2019, 10:30am


Another short story of married life by Balzac: La fausse maitresse. Two exiled Polish aristocrats fall in love with the same woman, one of them marries her, the other looks after them until found out. Lots of detail about Paris social life.

And life in Kiel is back to normal, thankfully.

Edited: Nov 1, 2019, 12:19pm

languages / SeriesCAT

Eidergrab arrived in the mail when I was at my sister's and I borrowed it off her for immediate reading. It continues the story of Dina Martensen from Das Geheimnis des Strandvogts: worried parents requests her to travel to the mainland and look for their daughter who is missing from her work as a milkmaid. Like the other books in this loosely connected series, it is very well researched. This one is set on the peninsula of Eiderstedt, which is mostly marsh reclaimed from the sea. The farms are large, and the farmers rich and fat from raising cattle for export to England or for milk and butter. There is a lot of social history involved, the gap between landowners and farmworkers is huge, and Dina finds herself at odds with the locals.
We also briefly meet the poet Theodor Storm, as she travels from Amrum to Eiderstedt, just married and a few months away from getting into trouble with the Danish authorities, so I think I'll pick up Der Nordseespuk soon where he is one of the main characters. Oh yes, and I need to to make time for a visit to the open air museum nearby and have a closer look at the type of farmhouse typical for Eiderstedt, the haubarg.

Oct 8, 2019, 9:30am


Another very short one from Balzac's Scenes of Private Life: Étude de femme.

Oct 10, 2019, 4:48am

languages / CalendarCAT / GR: prompt 6

Halali was published when the author was 82. Her main character is also 82, as she sits in her apartment and enjoys visits from her granddaughter and tells her a story from her days as a young secretary in the interior ministry of the recently established Federal Republic. She and her friend Karin enjoy their freedom as young working women, parties, holidays and a nascent consumer society. This is Bonn, the Cold War has started and the girls stumble across a spy...
There's little actual espionage going on, but there are some accidental deaths, illegal money pocketed and some hair-raising escapades in the forest. All in all, a fascinating glimpse at what it was like to be young and female in the early fifties.

The title is a hunting term, a signal sounded at the death of an animal, and it is a subtle play on the villain's name, Jäger, which means hunter. I really enjoyed this, and I will definitely look out for other books by the author.

Oct 10, 2019, 2:31pm

Off to another long weekend without internet. See you next week.

Oct 10, 2019, 4:48pm

Glad to hear you had a good time with your sister and that you have another long weekend to look forward to! Enjoy :)

Oct 15, 2019, 5:58am

>99 rabbitprincess: Thanks rp, marvellous weather, cream tea in an ancient farmhouse and a sunday morning concert, what more can you want?

Oct 17, 2019, 8:16am


Albert Savarus is the final story in Scènes de la vie privée tome 1 by Balzac and the most satisfying. He packs a lot into these 102 pages: a young girl's first fierce love, the political life of a small, arch-conservative town, and a story of star-crossed lovers...The girl is the most interesting character, brought up by a sanctimonious mother, taught only needlework, her only education consists of pious texts, and yet when she falls in love and becomes obsessed with the stranger next door, she develops amazing amounts of cunning and subterfuge. I was also surprised to find that in many editions of the work she has been renamed as Rosalie, in my edition she is Philomène.
I wasn't much taken with the first efforts in the book, but this persuades me that his other works may well be worth the time invested. Annotated versions would be useful, I spent a lot of time looking up the politics of 1830s France.

Oct 18, 2019, 5:37am

languages / CalendarCAT

Frankfurt Book Fair is held in October, and the publishing sensation of 1774, Die Leiden des jungen Werther, was also published in time for the Fair (although it was held in Leipzig then, and in September) so I'm counting it for the CalendarCAT. One of those classics one should have read, and I am glad we didn't do this in school, I would have hated it then. Now I can just shake my head and roll my eyes at this narcissist. Werther is no longer a teenager, but the behaviour is much the same.

Oct 20, 2019, 11:26am

languages / SeriesCAT / GR: prompt 18

The silver branch by Rosemary Sutcliff held up quite well to my fond memories of reading this as a teenager. Some of the history is dated, of course, and I don't think the Romans knew chess.

Oct 22, 2019, 4:26am

languages / CalendarCAT / RandomCAT

The first book that sprang to mind when I read the prompt for the October RandomCAT was Die neuen Leiden des jungen W., as the title is so obviously modelled on its original source (which I had to read first, in order to make sense of the tribute). As it turns out, Plenzdorf was born on 26 October, so it also works for the CalendarCAT.
This is a very short novella, re-worked from the play, and it was brand-new when I was at school. I think many teachers used this as an introduction to Goethe's version, but I was spared both, and after reading this I am not overly ambitious to try the play. I learned some interesting colloquial words from the GDR of the time, though.

Edited: Oct 23, 2019, 4:14am

languages / TBRCAT / Bingo: short stories / GR: prompt 37

A chance encounter on my bookmooching site turned me to Le petit Nicolas and I devoured it (again) in a single evening. Utterly charming, and I realised that among the many editions featuring different covers I prefer my own which are typically Sempé: deceptively spare, lots of white space and just a touch of colour. Ah yes, and I have ordered Le petit Nicolas a des ennuis and Le petit Nicolas et les copains because the covers have the same style...

ETA: this means I have filled my minimum of 15 French books. The German category is overflowing, partly due to those finds from the remainders bins. I need to get a move on with the others.

Oct 24, 2019, 4:37am

languages / SFF KIT / GR: prompt 14

I squeezed in a re-read of The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy because it was short and I was in the mood for some fun. My copy dates from 1979 which means it has a significant birthday this year. It also tells me that the novel is based on a radio play first broadcast in 1978, which I didn't know or forgot, but I vividly remember the TV version. Oh dear, so much water under the bridge...but it is still very, very funny.

Oct 24, 2019, 4:42am

>106 MissWatson: I re-read Hitchhiker this year too - still loved it!

Oct 24, 2019, 7:28am

Oct 24, 2019, 5:24pm

>106 MissWatson:
>107 JayneCM:

I've not read Hitchiker, yet. But you if liked that, then I think you would enjoy this podcast from Stitcher called Wolf 359. It's about a crew aboard a space station, and one of them is rather inept. Makes me laugh! Each episode is between 4-15 minutes long. You can d/l Stitcher from the Play Store.

Oct 24, 2019, 8:06pm

>106 MissWatson: When I re-read the book, I realized that some of my obsessive Hitchhiker's quoting is based on the miniseries, rather than the book (there are slight differences in wording).

Oct 25, 2019, 4:06am

>109 Tess_W: Thanks for the recommendation, Tess. I'll keep it in mind, but I haven't taken the plunge for a smartphone yet...

>110 rabbitprincess: Interesting! I suppose an author doesn't often get the chance to fine-tune his work for several kinds of media. From radio to book to TV...quite a journey.

Oct 25, 2019, 7:10am

>109 Tess_W: Thanks! I'll have to check it out.

Oct 25, 2019, 7:54am

>111 MissWatson: I listen on my tablet but I know you could also d/l on a desktop.

Oct 25, 2019, 2:45pm

Hello again! I had to catch up all the way back until May - and quite a few BBs have hit on spot. I think I finally have to admit that the Brittany series by Jean-Luc Bannalec just needs to be on my wishlist. Also, The King's Hounds, Geschichte Dänemarks and Das Geheimnis des Strandvogts sound right up my alley...

I'm happy to hear that you started Petra Oelker's historical series, and I'm curious to see what you think of the next books. But - can it be true that you have never eaten Currywurst? I love Currywurst! :)

Oct 26, 2019, 12:27pm

>113 Tess_W: Oh thanks, I didn't know that!

>114 Chrischi_HH: Oh, you've given me quite a few BBs in your time, glad to return the favour. And yes, I haven't eaten currywurst yet. I'm not overly fond of Bratwurst either, to be honest, there's little meat in my diet, although I'm not vegetarian. I'm keeping a few of Petra Oelker's book ready for next month's series CAT. Rosina's a great character! And I just bought Wilde reise durch die Nacht, I think you mentioned that some time ago.

Oct 29, 2019, 4:10pm

language / TBR CAT / Bingo: related to health or medicine

Die Gleichung des Lebens caught my eye because of the gorgeous cover and the subject seemed interesting: mathematician Leonhard Euler is sent to the Oderbruch to calculate the costs and the engineering of draining the moors around the Oder river. The course of the river is also to be changed, to create land suitable for farming. It is a massive project, an entire habitat is about to be destroyed. Euler almost dies from the malaria rampant in these swamps, and finds out that someone knows how this sickness is transmitted to people and uses it to kill ...

Oct 31, 2019, 5:23pm

languages / GR: prompt 31

The final book for October is Treasure Island, which I hadn't read before (or if so, in an abridged German children's version that bears little resemblance to this). Deservedly a classic.

So, here it is November already. How did this happen? I have enjoyed our brand new public holiday, Reformation Day, and celebrated it with a thorough house-cleaning. All those weekends away were starting to tell. Now I can look forward to three days of leisure, that is reading. Heaven.

Nov 1, 2019, 12:22pm

October roundup: I was away from home a lot and didn't spend as much time reading as I wanted. But looking back, I find that most of the books were above average, so it has been a good month.

Edited: Nov 5, 2019, 3:56am

languages / SeriesCAT

Der Sommer des Kometen is the second book in a historical mystery series featuring Rosina, an actress and ballerina in a travelling theatre troupe. She returns with the players to Hamburg and gets involved in a couple of suspicious deaths. We learn a lot about sugar refining and trading in Hamburg and the Barbary pirates. Hamburg had set up a special fund to pay ransom for sailors caught by the pirates and sold as slaves.
I also notice that this is the third book in a row set in the 18th century.

ETA: I was a in a bit of a hurry on Sunday and forgot to mention that we meet a real life person in this book: Johann Friedrich Struensee, here still a humble doctor in Altona, later notorious for his affair with Danish queen Karoline Mathilde. The mystery is not the important thing here, it is much more about the family of merchant Claes Herrmanns, as he learns that his son has fallen in love with the daughter of the woman he himself loved in his youth, but her parents disapproved. And I was even more pleased to find his aunt Augusta taking the waters in Bad Pyrmont which belongs to the small princedom of Waldeck-Pyrmont. The main seat and palace is Bad Arolsen, where we attend a festival for Baroque music every year. It is such fun to find familiar names and places in a book!

Nov 5, 2019, 4:07am

I was prowling the shelves looking for something else from the 18th century and came across Richard Woodman's Nathaniel Drinkwater series, who starts his career as a midshipman in 1780. I had read another book in the series last year and found it disappointing, so I picked up the first, An eye of the fleet, for a re-read. Sad to say, this too was a disappointment. Mostly because of the sloppy writing or typesetting, it is hard to tell. Commas are all over the place, so you have to read sentences twice to see what belongs where, and often there were prepositions missing. I couldn't get into the story again, it moved in a stop-and-go fashion, and I have decided to part with the whole lot. Having read Patrick O'Brian, this was not good enough.

So I have decided to go for something completely different and I am thoroughly enjoying I am half-sick of shadows.

Nov 8, 2019, 10:09am

languages / CalendarCAT / SeriesCAT

And I have finished it. Flavia is so much fun! I am wondering if this is meant to be an hommage to Agatha Christie's The mirror crack'd? Both take their title from Tennyson's the Lady of Shalott, and both feature a film crew invading a country mansion.

Nov 8, 2019, 11:30am

>121 MissWatson: Ooh, I hadn't thought of that possibility of a homage! Well spotted.

Nov 9, 2019, 11:13am

>122 rabbitprincess: It's one of the few Christies I've read more than once, which is why I remembered the bit about Tennyson.

Nov 9, 2019, 12:26pm

>123 MissWatson: It's a good one! Possibly my second-favourite Marple (my first favourite is A Murder is Announced).

Edited: Nov 24, 2019, 4:04am

TBR CAT / GR prompt 23

It has taken me much longer than expected, but I have finished Waverley. I bought this a few years ago because it is one of these "must have read" books and I liked the cover of the OUP edition. And a few months later my sister offered me a box full of Scott novels in the Border edition of 1898. It had been donated to her public library but she had no use for it. Did I say no? Of course not. It's a lovely edition and in good condition, and I'm keeping this. If I re-read, I won't need to flip to the back constantly for the translation of the Latin quotes, etc.
I really enjoyed this, it was actually funny in places. I was surprised to see how often Don Quixote is alluded to. I'm hoping to make time soon for the next: Guy Mannering.


Nov 24, 2019, 12:44pm

>125 MissWatson: Who would say no? Great grab! I'm not a die-hard Scott fan but I have both Waverly & Guy Mannering as ebooks waiting to be read

Nov 25, 2019, 6:21am

>126 Tess_W: I was lukewarm about Ivanhoe, but I really liked this. He knows the country and the people, and it shows.

Nov 26, 2019, 8:51am


My lunch-break book is finished: Small is beautiful : Economics as if people mattered 25 years later. It has recently been republished in Germany and the review in the FAZ was favourable. First published in 1973, and republished 25 years later with comments from people inspired by the first one, this is a truly thought-provoking book. He trained as an economist and pretty much questions everything about the discipline, saying that the concept of growth and seeking profit boils down simply to greed, and greed is in opposition to everything religion or philosophy teach us about what humans should do with their lives.

Nov 27, 2019, 4:17am

>128 MissWatson: I did not know this had been republished! I have the original edition from when I studied environmental economics. In this day, we should definitely be listening to economists like Schumacher, as the idea that the economy must always be growing is ludicrous.

Nov 27, 2019, 4:25am

>129 JayneCM: Yes, in 1999, and it has many comments from people inspired by the work. Some of his ideas are dated (about women working, for instance) but so much of it is still relevant today.

Nov 27, 2019, 4:33am

>130 MissWatson: It would be interesting to read those comments. I will have to look for a copy.

Nov 27, 2019, 4:35am

>128 MissWatson:
>129 JayneCM:

haven't read it, but I will put it on my wish list. Having only dabbled in economics as it pertains to history, my only question would be, doesn't the economy have to grow relative to the population?

Nov 27, 2019, 6:09am

>132 Tess_W: I have simplified the argument a little. Schumacher's main concern here is that the pursuit of growth means the growth of an arbitrary parameter such as GDP which is an abstraction and has little to do with real people's lives. At the time of writing, homo oeconomicus was still the symbol for a rudimentary model of high abstraction where everyone acted rationally which is one of the main criticisms of economics. He also says that the pursuit of this sort of growth (and there are many other ways of defining and measuring it) leads to a mindset where it is rational to do without labor, thus robbing the majority of people of any chance of meaningful work.

Nov 27, 2019, 7:11am

>133 MissWatson: Couldn't have said it better!

The measurement used for growth is very limited and there are many economic theorists who are seeking to improve on the methods used to measure the economy. It is important to note that economic growth, when it was first coined, was never intended to signify wellbeing. It was simply a measure of flows and as we know any growth in the economy is not distributed equally (most new wealth generated will go to the wealthiest 1%). Doughnut economics is of particular interest to me as it turns the old thinking on its head. As quoted in the book Doughnut Economics, "Instead of economies that need to grow, whether or not they make us thrive, we need economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow."

There is also much talk of us returning to more reliance on the non-monetary economy, which has become far less prevalent in our increasingly separatist societies. David Holmgren, one of the founders of permaculture, has much to say on this topic.

Nov 27, 2019, 8:12am

>134 JayneCM: Yes, that chimes very well with Schumacher's arguments about people needing more than a pay packet to buy lots of stuff. Making a note of Doughnut Economics for future reading...

Nov 27, 2019, 9:01am

>133 MissWatson:
>134 JayneCM:
>135 MissWatson:

Yes, that all makes very much sense. I will have to add a couple of these books to my wish list because as I've said before, all I know about economics is related to history such as depressions, GDP and GNP, trade balances, and imperialism for economics sake. When you speak of a non-monetary economy are you speaking of things such as bartering or are you speaking of activities that one does not get monetary compensation for such as charity work, care-giving, etc.?

Nov 27, 2019, 9:05am

>136 Tess_W: Basically yes, I would say. I would also include such mutual help arrangements which are still common in smaller towns and villages here, where people take turns helping their neighbours build their houses.

Nov 27, 2019, 10:12am

>137 MissWatson: gotcha, we call them barn raisings! My husband often barters work; he repairs appliances and sometimes he'll fix an appliance in exchange for a cord of wood, or if it's for a plumber, he won't charge him and he'll tell him "the next time I need a plumber, I'll give you a call," meaning there won't be a charge. When my children were young I watched my friend's 2 children for 3 hours on Mondays and she watched my 2 on Fridays so that way we could each run errands like the market, bank, getting our hair cut, Dr.'s appts without taking the littles with us; or sometimes I just took a nap or cleaned the house! I trade with a teacher at school: once a month I bake her 2 loaves of bread and once a month she gives me 2 dozen eggs--it works!

Nov 28, 2019, 6:15am

>137 MissWatson: >138 Tess_W: Yes, all of those sorts of things. Basically, money was only invented as it was easier than direct trading as populations grew. As we have come to rely on money, our communities have been weakened as we do not 'need' to interact as much. Whereas, as Tess says above, if we barter either goods or services, we are also building relationships which can only make our communities stronger, friendlier and more resilient. That is exactly what we need to be doing!
The volunteer 'economy' is a hugely undervalued resource in most Western societies. There are many institutions that could not provide services, either at all or their ability to do so would be greatly undermined, if they did not have volunteers.

Edited: Nov 28, 2019, 12:52pm

>139 JayneCM: Jane, I agree, especially about the many institutions that could provide services for FREE. Until the Obama administration churches provided such things as counseling (by certified counselors), work training, literacy programs, and medical clinics. They were subsidized in part (in the case of our church only about 40%) by the govt. However, now religious institutions are not permitted to get govt. funds, so we had to cut our programs back by 40%. But we still run 30+ in our health clinic staffed by MD's and RN's each Monday night (they donate their time, $ is spent on generic meds such as anti-biotics, etc., we have a food pantry, we have counseling, although that isn't used much because there is a fee of $20, but usually a sponsor can be found to pay this fee, and we also prepare high school drop outs to take the GED test,which is the equivalent of a high school diploma. We did and we can do better than most govt agencies; we are more thrifty and frugal with our dollars. We "donate" more than $100,000 of services to our community each year. The government just makes it really difficult for ANY non-government agency to do these things. For example, we had to stop giving our free meals, hot or bagged, because our kitchen was not all stainless steel. The fact is, everything was except the sinks. Our kitchen is so small that the 3 stainless steel sinks that need to be installed would cause the kitchen to have to be totally redesigned and there is no room for that. We cooked and served 100 hot meals per day and then gave them a bagged lunch to take home for the next day. Now we can't do any of that. The day we closed, there were people showing up and when they found we were closed they stood there and cried. It was heartbreaking.

Edited: Nov 29, 2019, 4:35am

languages / RandomCAT

Like most of us, I was a voracious reader as a child, and I loved books about America. One that stuck vividly in my mind was Die Chronik von Stockbridge which got lost when my parents moved house. A few years ago I found a copy of the American original and was delighted to find it was exactly as I remembered it. And now I have re-read it and still enjoyed it very much. Another book set in the 18th century, I notice. I am also a little surprised to find it is not mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on Stockbridge, as it offers a very good history of the early years of the town.

One thing that struck me this time is how much Elizabeth's world is apparently restricted to housework. She lives on a farm and there's milk to be curdled and cheesemaking, but no mention of cows, manure or milking. They spin and weave, but no mention of sheep and shearing. And so on.


Nov 29, 2019, 4:36am

>140 Tess_W: That is sad indeed.

Nov 30, 2019, 2:48am

>140 Tess_W: I know what you mean - it is the same in Australia. The service I used to volunteer for cooking and providing meals for whoever needed them twice a week had to close as we could not afford to standardise the kitchen to all the regulations. Some of the regulations are just ridiculous, particualarly for a small volunteer organisation. It certainly feels as though the government is making it much harder than necessary and they have no flexibility.

Nov 30, 2019, 6:28am

>141 MissWatson: Sorry to have "hijacked" your thread, Birgit! Elizabeth George Speare was one of my favorite authors as a child and I have used her books in my classroom (many years ago when I taught 13 year olds). My fav is The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I've not read The Prospering, but it is now on my wishlist! Thank you for bringing back to my memory something that I had totally forgot!

Nov 30, 2019, 6:44am

>144 Tess_W: Yes, sorry! We have gone off on a bit of a tangent!
I have quite a few of Elizabeth George Speare's books as I have always loved historical fiction, but I also have not read The Prospering.

Nov 30, 2019, 2:13pm

>144 Tess_W: >145 JayneCM: You're welcome, it's been interesting!

Dec 1, 2019, 8:07am

November roundup:
I have finished a book for each CAT, and I have reached the planned number of books in the three major languages.

But my reading slowed down abruptly two weeks ago when I started seeing black motes and flashes in my right eye. The ophthalmologist reassured me that it's not retina detachment, and I'm very much relieved. Now I can (and want) to concentrate on my Spanish and Russian reading, where I need to find very short books to finish the challenge. And what do I do? I spend the last day of November visiting some of the many Christmas markets in town. But it was such a gorgeous day that it would have been a sin to spend it inside. Who knows how many sunny days there will be in December?

And I have spent Sunday morning setting up my 2020 thread. With all the planning going on for next year, my reading for this year is left on the backburner again.

Dec 1, 2019, 7:50pm

>147 MissWatson: Oh no, I hope your sight is ok now.
I, too, have been too tempted with 2020 planning. Need to focus and finish up 2019 first!

Dec 2, 2019, 12:21pm

>148 JayneCM: Thanks, I'm fine now that I know it's nothing serious. My worst fear was that I would need an operation, because the idea of someone poking around in there with lasers and whatnot is too horrible to think about.

Dec 2, 2019, 5:42pm

>149 MissWatson: Thank goodness! Yes, that would be an awful thought.

Dec 3, 2019, 1:52am

>149 MissWatson: I so know what you mean there. For years my donor card said they could have anything except my eyes. I was laser safety officer for a while at work and went to an annual meeting to keep up to date. One year there was a video of laser eye surgery, as it was farily new. An eyeball, in close up, being projected onto the lecture theatre wall was rather more than I could somach. I did feel rather ick.

Heres hoping for some more nice winter days, I can cope with clear and bright, I don't deal well with grey and dreary.

Dec 3, 2019, 4:21am

>151 Helenliz: I had Monday off and enjoyed a very bright and sunny day, today I'm back at work and we're having fog. It feels so gloomy when you need to keep the lights on all day.

Dec 3, 2019, 4:27am


Procrastinating again. I finished a short history of the Holy Roman Empire by Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger, Das Heilige Römische Reich deutscher Nation, where she has 128 pages to present her topic. She does this very well and lucidly, and based on this I think I will try her biography of Maria Theresia one day, for which she won an award. More than 1000 pages, so quite an undertaking.

And I have finally chosen a Spanish book for my next read: El príncipe de la niebla. It's described as YA, so it should be a quick read.

Edited: Dec 6, 2019, 3:28am

languages / SeriesCAT / TBR CAT / ScaredyKIT / GR: prompt 17

El príncipe de la niebla. Not as quick a read as I expected, but at least it covers a lot of bases. In the preface to this edition the author says it is the first in a series of loosely connected books, I got it from a book-swapping site, and it's a catch-up for the May theme of the ScaredyKIT.

So, the book? Only meh, I'm afraid. Ruiz Zafón wrote in his preface that it is the first he ever got published, and it shows. There is far too much over-explanation, for instance. There's a family of five, and even the intended YA audience must have grasped by page 20 who is who. The story supposedly takes place in 1943 somewhere in England (Devon, Somerset?) but the author fails to give a proper sense of place. This never feels like England, merely like a disused film set from a horror film. Max, the main character, thinks in metres and kilometres, there's no mention of pound and pence, and even some of the names are wrong for the time (Irina? Andrea?) Either the author didn't know his way around (then he should have stuck to his home territory) or he didn't trust his audience to know or to be able to handle foreign stuff (which is insulting their intelligence).

Which means the book will leave the house. I do intend to read Las luces de Septiembre, though, just to see if his craft improved.


Dec 8, 2019, 8:44am

languages / CalendarCAT / RandomCAT

I went to Hamburg for some Christmas shopping and found The best Christmas pageant ever in one of the big bookstores. I've owned this in German for years and I am very happy to finally lay my hands on the original. Finished it on the train ride home, and loved every bit of it.

Dec 13, 2019, 3:46am

languages / SeriesCAT / ScaredyKIT

And I have finished Las luces de Septiembre. This time we're in Normandy in 1936, a widow moves in from Paris with her two kids to take up a job as housekeeper in a huge mansion, where the owner once ran a toy factory. Strange shadows move in the woods...
The writing style has improved, but not much, and the story suffers from the same defects as the first one: too much repetititon and over-explanation. Telling, not showing, and I quickly started to skim the endless descriptions of the sinister landscape. There's also no real sense of being in Normandy or even France, and the topography is plain wrong.
Off to a new home it goes.

Dec 15, 2019, 6:10am

>155 MissWatson: One of my favs.

Dec 16, 2019, 3:22am

>157 Tess_W: It's simply wonderful.

Dec 18, 2019, 4:10am

languages / CalendarCAT / RandomCAT

Rosemary Sutcliff was born on December 14th, and so I picked up Blood feud, which also works for the RandomCAT. This is set in unusual territory for her, among Vikings travelling to Constantinople, fighting for the Byzantine Emperor, and the narrator stays on with the newly formed Varangian Guard.

Dec 18, 2019, 4:13am

Time is running out on my challenge. With so many small things to do before the holidays I don't have the patience for challenging books, so I don't think I'll manage anything in Russian this year. Ah well, there's always next January's RandomCAT to catch up on this.

Edited: Dec 21, 2019, 1:33pm

languages / CalendarCAT

At least I managed one more book in Spanish, which takes me to the halfway point of this challenge. El reino de este mundo was not an easy read: it is set on Haiti and follows the life of a slave from youth to his death. He witnesses the slave rebellion, the fight for independence, the establishment of a king and then a republic, but all very indirect. This is a rural life, and the vocabulary is unusual. I need to re-read this at a later time.

ETA: Carpentier was born on 26 December, so it's another book for the CalendarCAT.

Dec 21, 2019, 1:32pm

languages / CalendarCAT / TBR CAT

Herr Mozart feiert Weihnachten is a nice Christmas story featuring Wolfgang Amadeus who has returned to life in our present and tries to make sense of modern life. Playing for money to buy a meal he meets Karoline who thinks he is Father Christmas and takes him home on Christmas Eve...

I have no idea how Mozart turned up in our Vienna, I guess I need to find the first book. It wasn't in the remainders bin where I found this.

Dec 22, 2019, 10:41am


I couldn't quite bring myself to tackle something in Russian (again), so I picked something very old from the TBR: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh. This changed tack after the first third of the book quite unexpectedly, from ex-pat Brits hanging on the fringe of the movie industry we suddenly turn to funeral homes. And what a black ending...can I say that this is just a little bit weird?

Dec 22, 2019, 12:11pm

>163 MissWatson: I haven't read that one, but in the past I have found Waugh to be "weird"!

Dec 22, 2019, 12:40pm

>163 MissWatson: I want to re-read that one! One of the appeals of the edition I read was that the cover (a Penguin edition) was illustrated by Quentin Blake.

Dec 22, 2019, 2:19pm

>163 MissWatson: I've also found Evelyn Waugh's works can be rather weird (in an interesting way) as well. They start out seeming like very correct British comedy of manners and then somewhere along the way, there is a strange twist.

Dec 22, 2019, 3:07pm

>163 MissWatson: Weird, yes, but so entertaining. The Loved One was one of my favourites by Waugh.

Edited: Dec 23, 2019, 12:10am

>128 MissWatson: Belated, but, oh, I want Small is Beautiful now. Interest fully piqued! I agree completely, but we need a reimagining of what steady state economics would actually look like -- but it sounds like perhaps there is no "re"imagining about it. Would be very curious to read, especially with the idea that this is perhaps a bit dated in its thinking (those books can be the best books).

Dec 23, 2019, 2:30am

>164 Tess_W: He certainly has a dark sense of humour!
>165 rabbitprincess: Yay, I've got that edition! 1965, with a price still in shilling and pence.
>166 DeltaQueen50: I agree, it was interesting to watch the turn tale.
>167 VivienneR: I've got still a few ahead of me.
>168 pammab: His attitude towards women is definitely dated, but the scary thing is that we seem to be sliding backwards in so many ways.

Dec 23, 2019, 2:33am


A final, slim volume before the Christmas break: Le pendu de Saint-Pholien. It's an early Maigret, spare prose, solid investigation, he always delivers.

Dec 23, 2019, 2:38am

And that's the end of this year's reading, quite a few books finished, but the challenge didn't work out as planned. There's always a book more appealing than the one on my list...

I am off to my sister's for the holidays and will be offline until January. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with lots of shiny new books under the tree. See you in 2020!

Dec 23, 2019, 8:54am

Have a great time with your sister! Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Dec 23, 2019, 12:45pm

Happy holidays, Birgit!

Dec 23, 2019, 2:26pm

Have a wonderful Christmas with your sister. Fortunately, all the books that were missed this year will happily wait until 2020.

Dec 24, 2019, 9:16am

May you holidays be blessed!