Completely Immersed

golden_compass

I am completely immersed in this book: The Golden Compass, the first book of Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials series. I read it long ago, (in 1996 to be exact) and remember liking it, but not loving it, and I didn’t continue with the series when the other books were published. What was I thinking? Where was I at that time in my life? Reading it this time, I can’t put the book down! And I can’t wait to read the other books that follow! It just goes to show that “timing” is a very important part of one’s reading.

The Housekeeper and the Professor

Housekeeper

In The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa, a gifted mathematics professor suffered brain damage in an accident that left him with only 80 minutes of working short-term memory. He had been cared for over the years since the accident by housekeepers who ran his household and watched over him. They came and were replaced frequently.

The new housekeeper, however, is different from the others who had looked after the professor before her. A very caring and intuitive person, she (and her young son) become close to him, and their kindness and caring ways bring out the best in all of them. They become a kind of family, sharing a love of mathematics and of baseball, and taking care of each other. But each day, when the housekeeper returns, the professor doesn’t remember the events and interactions of the day before.

It’s a fascinating kind of story. It didn’t have big action or lots of drama, but it stays with you long after you finish the book. I loved the relationships, the math that was explained by this gifted teacher, and the baseball. I read it for Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge 8, and it was a lovely choice. I look forward to reading more of Yoko Ogawa’s work.

yoko_ogawa

Once Upon a Time VIII: The Joy of the Genre

onceuponatime

Carl V’s Once Upon a Time reading challenges always end too soon! I enjoyed reading a number of books this time around, but didn’t post about each of them. For me, this time, my participation in this challenge was simply all about the joy of the genre. So here are the books I read, or re-read, and thoroughly enjoyed for Once Upon a Time VIII.  Thank you, Carl, for hosting this special annual celebration of the magical!

And some wise words from one of my favorites, Roald Dahl, as a fond farewell to this year’s Once Upon a Time…

magic

 

Summer Reading

red_mug

Now that I’m retired, summer reading has taken on a whole new meaning for me. For one thing, my summer is longer with much more time for sitting on the porch and reading. Yay! I don’t have to spent most of June finishing teaching units, grading papers, and writing report cards. I don’t have to take classes in July to update my teaching certificate. And I don’t have to spend days and weeks in August preparing my classroom and going to district teacher meetings. Although I miss my kiddos, I am happy now that I can just enjoy reading on my front porch! And doesn’t that sounds heavenly?!

Hobbit-coverSo I decided to start my “Summer Reading” on June 1st this year with a re-read (this is the 6th time) of an absolute favorite of mine: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

It was early in 1968, having just returned from a year abroad as an exchange student, when I read a reprint of an article by W.H. Auden from The New York Times. It was a review of a series of books by an English author, J.R.R. Tolkien. They sounded so good, I quickly went out and bought all 4 books: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Those delightful hours spent reading those books set the standard for my summer reading. Total immersion into a different world… Traveling there and back again without having to leave my comfortable summer reading spot… Complete enjoyment of beautiful writing and wonderful creativity…  I would love to recapture some of those delightful reading moments from long ago!

So… I am reading and enjoying, once again, The Hobbit.

By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green…

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Hobbit house at the Oregon Garden, Silverton, Oregon…

Japanese Literature Challenge

Woman Waiting For The Moon to Rise

The lovely Meredith, at Dolce Bellezza, has announced her Japanese Literature Challenge, her 8th time hosting this lovely challenge. I have enjoyed all the books I’ve read for her past challenges and so I am going to enjoy participating in this one once again this summer. My goal is to read at least one book, knowing that my biggest challenge is to actually finish these Challenges I take on. But I will choose from some very interesting books that I already have, or have been interested in reading some day, and, so perhaps I will be able to finish more than one! Here’s my collection of possibilities:

  1. The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa
  2. Country Teacher, by Katai Tayama
  3. Tales from the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Kawashima Watkins
  4. The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories, edited by Theodore W. Goossen

And here are my reviews of books I’ve finished for her previous challenges:

  1. The Big Wave, by Pearl S. Buck
  2. Thousand Cranes, by Yasunari Kawabata
  3. The Bells of Nagasaki, by Takashi Nagai
  4. After the Quake, by Haruki Murakami
  5. Twenty-Four Eyes, by Sakae Tsuboi
  6. Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Akinari Ueda
  7. Knit Kimono, by Vicki Square
  8. The Revenge of the Forty-Seven Samuari, by Erik Christian Haugaard
  9. Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata
  10. Summer of the Big Bachi, by Naomi Hirahara
  11. Kusamakura, by Natsume Soseki

 

THANKS, Meredith, for organizing another enjoyable challenge and sharing your love of Japanese literature with us!

I’m Dancing!

Us

Things change. That’s for sure. The husband and I are are coming up soon on the one-year anniversary of our retirement, and retirement is the biggest change we’ve made in many a year, with plenty of adjustments to make and challenges to face, but it has been very positive for us, I’m happy to say.

If I admit to being retirement age, then I must admit, also, to some of the changes that are inevitable as I move into that age/stage. In my case, it’s hearing loss and getting hearing aids. As any teacher knows, and any hearing specialist will confirm, spending 27 years in a classroom can be hard on the ears. My classroom for most of those 27 years was particularly bad because it had metal walls. So lots of voices, and ventilation systems noise, and bells ringing loudly, have finally taken their toll. (I should probably add into the mix those very loud concerts I used to enjoy — including Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin!) The sum total is that I now need hearing aids.

But I’m really jazzed about them because all of a sudden I can hear nuances again! I can hear my daughter’s quiet voice without having her repeat everything she says to me! My husband no longer mumbles. And, I decided that since I need hearing aids, I deserve some special stuff to go along with them. So along with the hearing aids, I ordered a bluetooth “streamer” so that I can listen to audiobooks (or music) through my hearing aids. Sweet! I’m going to enjoy many, many audiobooks with such a nice system!

So, yes, big changes in my life, but that’s okay. I’ll be enjoying my audiobooks more than ever, and I will keep foremost in my mind something very wise that Alan Watts said about change:

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

The Cornish Coast Murder

Bude

The Cornish Coast Murder, by John Bude, was a very enjoyable read.

In the coastal town of Boscawen, in Cornwall, the vicar and the town doctor have a pleasant Monday evening ritual. They meet at the vicar’s house, have dinner followed by the lighting of cigar and pipe and the opening of the weekly crate of 6 books ordered from the lending library in the neighboring town — 6 mysteries, of course. They each take three to read, and then will switch and read the other three before the week is up. They are two old bachelors and armchair detectives honing their powers of observation and insight through the works of their favorite mystery writers.

When a murder happens in their own town, and a young woman and her boyfriend are implicated, they are able to put their deductive reasoning to good use helping Inspector Bigswell solve the mystery. The vicar, especially, has a talent for problem-solving, using his intuition and a wonderful way of processing all the information he comes across:

My idea was to sit in this arm-chair for a couple of hours with a cigar–a policy of splendid inaction.

The vicar’s “splendid inaction” way of processing all the clues, coupled with the Inspector’s facts-only approach made a great combination for solving the mystery, and was fun for the reader.

I liked the way this book was written and the way you get to know each of the characters. And I liked all the characters (except for the murdered despicable uncle), and even felt sympathy for the murderer. It wasn’t a story of evil, but of very human failings and suffering. In the end, the vicar sums up his part in the mystery and the whole idea of murder:

By a lucky series of circumstances he has been guided to the solution of the mystery–but he felt no elation, no triumph, no satisfaction. Murder was all right in books and plays, but in real life it was a sorrowful, suffering business.

I look forward to reading more of Mr. Bude’s very enjoyable mysteries.

Distractions and May Reading

nasturtium

Nasturtium in the morning light…

My blog has certainly been quiet for a month, mostly because I’m spending more time in the garden and doing outdoor things, and not spending as much time on my computer. That sounds downright healthy! When I do get on my computer, I’m spending more time on my other, more personal, blogs — Reader in the Grove and my new gardening online journal, Garden in the Grove. I’d love to have you visit me there, if you’re curious.

But just so you know that despite the lovely distractions I AM still reading…here are my May reads so far:


And I’m finishing up a few others, hopefully before the end of the month:

Enjoying Reading Stevensons

I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading three books by a new-to-me author, D.E. Stevenson. I discovered her work through book blogging friends, and she’s quickly becoming a favorite. I read and wrote about Miss Buncle’s Book, then enjoyed Miss Buncle Married, and am almost finished with The Two Mrs. Abbotts. What a pleasure they all have been! (And a new book blogging friend just told me that there’s a 4th book in the series being published in June!)

In reading about D.E. Stevenson, I discovered that her father was a cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson, another author I really enjoy. What wonderful writing genes run in that family! During the winter months, I downloaded the audiobook of the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but hadn’t gotten around to listening to it yet. Realizing the Stevenson connection to all my recent reading, I decided to give it a listen.

Illustration by Charles Raymond Macauley

Illustration by Charles Raymond Macauley

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a fascinating exploration of the duality of human nature. It is such a classic and so much a part of our cultural heritage, that I felt I knew all about it even though I had never read it. I did not. The storyline in one thing and makes for great horror films, but Stevenson’s writing is beautiful and the ideas so well presented, it deserves to be read. That’s the joy of reading something written by Robert Louis Stevenson — beautiful, intelligent writing and a compelling story!

So this month has really been my “Read Stevenson” month, although I didn’t plan it that way. I recommend them both: D.E. Stevenson and R.L. Stevenson!