Thursday, 28 March 2019

Quick Lit April 2019

 Linking up as usual with Modern Mrs Darcy for QuickLit. My teen says Facebook memes are always five years old, and Facebook is for middle-aged women anyway, but I think this is appropriate for my reading life, even if I did need to look up what tfw means (that feeling when).

Sue Monk Kidd - The Secret Life of Bees
Finally, I picked up this TBR second-hand. I think it made for a more interesting experience that I had previously read two of Kidd's non-fiction books that dealt with influences on and the process of writing this, her first fictional work (Travels with Pomegranates and Dance of the Dissident Daughter). Lily rescues her family's black maid, Rosaleen, from jail, and they go on the run with the vague purpose of finding out the truth about Lily's long-dead mother. They find refuge with three beekeeping sisters whose house is presided over by the figure of a black Madonna. A novel about what it means to be a woman in body, soul and spirit. Good, but not outstanding for me.

L.M. Montgomery - Anne of Avonlea
My comment on reading Anne of Green Gables was that I enjoyed it, but maybe I needed to read it as a girl to truly fall in love with it. I tried the sequel as an audiobook to see if it would feel different, and my verdict is about the same. But now I'm committed, and I can get several others free on audio via my library app (my Mississippi account is still working even though I am in Europe - shh, don't tell anyone), so I'm going to continue. I have to hear Anne say yes to Gilbert!

Sue Monk Kidd - When the Heart Waits
With perhaps a little synchronicity, this turned up as a Kindle deal just after I read The Secret Life of Bees. To say it is a how-to book on spiritual waiting sounds a little oxymoronic; in the end, I think I would call it a book about the experience of waiting when you are in the dark night of the soul, or a crisis of belief (not necessarily of faith). I have the same feelings on reading all Kidd's non-fiction books: there are times when I almost shout out loud, "Yes, that's it exactly!", and times when I think, Why am I bothering to plough through this section? Although her myriad of examples reflect her thoughts and study, there are just too many to make the chapters coherent. I think my reading was also influenced by knowing that she eventually moves beyond the more conventional Christianity she highlights in this book to a feminist spirituality (Dance of the Dissident Daughter).

H.Y. Hanna - Tea with Milk and Murder (Oxford Tearoom Mystery Book 2)
Sometimes, you just want to relax and read a book over the weekend, and this fit the bill. A woman drops dead at an art gallery event in front of tearoom owner, Gemma, and her best friend's new boyfriend is a prime suspect. Gemma decides to investigate, helped as usual by the nosy ladies from her village and her cat, Muesli. Easy reading, but a well-constructed mystery and interesting ongoing plots to hold the series together.

Brother Lawrence - The Practice of the Presence of God (translated by Marshall Davis)
If you are looking to get more spiritual classics under your belt, maybe to round out Lent, this little book (about 80 pages) is a good choice, especially in this modern translation. A collection of conversations, letters and sayings from the seventeenth century monk whose simple recipe for spiritual growth drew many visitors to the kitchen of his monastery. A reminder that mindfulness is an ancient practice, dressed up for the 21st century.

Diane Scott Lewis - Beyond the Fall
Two weekend novels in a row! Diane is a member of my online critique group. Her historical novels may be "coffee time" reading, but they are also well-written, with a very vivid sense of time and place. Tamara, dumped by her husband, decides to go on the UK holiday they had planned together. While researching her relatives in a Cornwall graveyard, she finds herself thrown back in time to the year of the grain riots (1789). In her own time, Tamara runs a non-profit helping abused women, but now she experiences first hand what it really means to be powerless. As she struggles to survive and to return to her own time, she must also fight her growing love for farmer and agitator Colum. There's a sequel in the works, by the way, which is why there are a couple of loose threads at the end of the novel.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Slovenian Quick Takes March 2019

I haven't posted on Slovenia for a while, but it's not because we haven't been travelling - just not in this part of the world. Our teen went on a school trip to Madrid, and I braved taking our three year-old to the UK by myself for a couple of weeks - but that's not the stuff this blog is made of. So, for the curious or bored, here's one of my occasional cultural catch-ups.

1. I'm still ploughing on with my weekly private Slovenian lessons. I'm much better at reading and writing Slovene, but when someone talks to me or I have to open my mouth, my brain shuts down in terror. Some days I am amazed at how far I've come; others, I still feel stupid. But I am officially half way through my textbook!

2. Did you know that tarot cards weren't made for divination? They were originally designed for a centuries-old card game, and Slovenia is one of the countries where it is still played (it's called tarok). We had a fun evening with a group of colleagues  trying it out - the rules are hideously complicated and full of exceptions. Strangely, just like the Slovene language.

3. We are at last cautiously optimistic that we can look for a new place to live, so we (okay, Ted, I'm too superstitious about it) are starting to see what's available. The market is small because Slovenes tend to stay put. Houses are also often for sale lock, stock and barrel (i.e. with all the furnishings). As Ted commented, some of the houses on offer look like the owner died and all they did was move the body.

4. I'm ready to move out of an eighth floor apartment, but I will miss our spectacular view. This past week, I could gaze out of the kitchen windows at the snow-capped mountains in the distance, framed by a topaz blue sky, while the spring sunshine glinted down on the sea, dotted with little white triangles of the sail boats in a youth regatta. No wonder we've never bothered to hang pictures.

5. We took a little break from official business for a few months, but it was time to get our drivers licenses changed before the one-year deadline (after which we would have to take about a gazillion hours of lessons). The steps involved are:
i. Queuing up at the administrative office (Upravna Enota) to get the forms.
ii. Taking a medical exam and getting the form to prove we are fit to drive.
iii. Getting official proof that our US licences are valid.
iv. Going back to the administrative office with forms from i, ii and iii and coming up with copious reasons to prove not just that we live here, but we have a life here, like our child is in kindergarten and we give up precious hours of our life to stand in line at the administrative office.
v. Waiting a month for the forms to be processed and to see if we have to go back for a further interview before we get official permission to take lessons.
vi. Actually getting to take lessons.
vii. Going back to the administrative office to register to take the driving test.
viii. Taking the test.
viii. Going back to the administrative office to get our licence and to 'give up' our American licences, which are sent to the Embassy to be 'destroyed'.
ix. Driving to the Embassy in Ljubljana to pick up our 'destroyed' licences.

We are currently at step v. Lord, have mercy.

6. Since Brexit is looming, I am doing... actually, I am doing nothing. I think I may be dead before we actually exit.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Quick Lit March 2019

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit again. I envy the people who go on holiday and rack up a book a day - my reading is almost non-existent when we are travelling because I lose my usual slots of alone/ free time. But I did pick up loads of books for my son in the UK thanks to his auntie, plus a few for me (see a couple of literary photos of the trip below). Some were ones I had passed on to my nephew several years ago  - I was very glad to get some favourites back!

That might not look like many books - but my luggage limit was two cabin bags :)

Susan Wittig Albert - A Wilder Rose
I loved the Little House on the Prairie books, but I was never invested in Laura the author, so I am not bothered by the now generally-accepted idea that Laura's daughter, the professional author Rose Wilder Lane, extensively edited her mother's novels. This is the story of the mother-daughter relationship during the depression years, when the collaboration developed - to make a terrible pun, it was definitely not a bed of roses. It was very interesting to learn so much about Rose and the era, but the book read more like a fictionalised biography than a novel.

Elizabeth Gaskill - The Life of Charlotte Brontë
Another minor classic, to go with last month's Siddartha. It's notable for being the first serious biography of a female novelist by a fellow female novelist, and for helping start the Brontë legend. Don't expect a modern biography. The first part goes off on lots of tangents as Gaskill gathers the material that influenced all the Brontës' writing; I could not really get into it until about half way through when she settled into a more focused narrative, but then I really enjoyed it. But I'll be honest: this is probably more for hardcore Brontë fans or people with backgrounds in literature.

Literary-related photo: Tintern Abbey on my recent trip to the UK. Go - it's beautiful!

William Goldman - The Princess Bride
I was a little dubious about reading a novel with lots of authorial interjections, but I loved it. This swift-moving fairy tale of derring-do was a good antidote to the slower, serious biography of Charlotte Brontë. It's best described by the author: "Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes, Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles." I saw the movie (also scripted by Goldman) thirty years ago, so I can't remember enough to make a comparison. Like its premise, I agree it would be a wonderful read-aloud for a not too sensitive  - see list above - child of ten or so (without the authorial interjections).

Another vaguely literary-related photo to finish: my son eating a Bath bun on a day trip to Jane Austen territory. May spring bring you good reading!