31 December 2011

(Berlin 2009)
A Very Happy New Year to all, Ein Guten Rutsch und ein Gutes Neues Jahr

What I am reading: December 2011

I started reading the first 2 last month (in the case of the McAdams for the second time), but didn't finish reading them before December started. I read Joan Hess' Claire Malloy #4 in June, and the 7,8, 15 and 16th in October, but am re-reading them as I wrap them up to send back to Mom.

I fell a bit behind in book reading as, although I had no German class this month, there was quite a bit going on with the kids, the holidays, and running around. Did a bit of magazine reading catch up.
  1. Bon Courage: rediscovering the Art of Living (in the Heart of France) (2010) by Ken McAdams: Interesting story of a man who, with his second wife, made a new life in France. Decently written for a first attempt by a non-writer (originally pilot). From my area of the states, so always more interesting:-).
  2. Dear Miss Demeanor (1987) by Joan Hess:I think this is (yes, it is)actually the 3rd in the Claire Malloy, book seller sleuth, mystery series and although short, it reads well. A classic cyanide mystery and a display of the romance with Peter Rosen, police detective. Incredible to think that the romance will take another 20 years to resolve! Claire is dragged in as a substitute teacher to Farber High, when the journalism teacher is accused of embezzlement (perhaps certification for substitutes isn't required in some states?). I really liked the characterization and the story line, although I figured out the answer far before Claire did.
  3. A Diet to Die For (1989) by Joan Hess: The 5th Claire Malloy. Still struggling along with her book business (but never as scared as I was when I struggled with my own business- I wonder if she has a huge insurance policy from her late husband that allows her to pay for health insurance for herself and daughter Caron? And to never worry about rent or food or keeping a business together?) but able to take the time to detect. "Hires" an assistant to help out her neighbor (but whose wages are paid for by the neighbor) and the assistant, a future heiress, first has mood swings, then has a mysterious heart attack. Is it related to a mysterious and fatal heart attack suffered by a young student athlete at Farber College. Enjoyable.
  4. Death by the Light of the Moon (1992) by Joan Hess: Next up, the 7th Claire Malloy. A re-read. Claire forces Carl to Loisiana to meet her grand-mother on her deceased father's side: the Southern side of the family she doesn't know. Dripping with Spanish moss, but interesting. Too bad the family connections don't show in any of the following books.
  5. Poisoned Pins (1993) by Joan Hess: And the 8th. Reading these through again, in order, makes me realize a few things. First, I have read more of these than I had thought. And second, it's annoying having so much external time pass by and yet so little time within the series. Here, Claire reminisces on being a "co-ed" in the early 70's, yet in the 90's, she is not yet 40. Which is fair. But as I keep reading the series into 2010, Claire remains just 40 and her daughter Caron still hasn't made the span from 14 to 18. This involves the sorority next door to Claire's apartment: the 4 girls staying over the summer all seem to have issues, but the one who is killed in what seems to be a hit-and-run seems to have hidden (and murky) depths. Still no real development of her relationship with Peter Rosen.
  6. Closely Akin to Murder (1996) by Joan Hess: Claire Malloy #11.I can see that my numbering has been thrown off because some books in the series are not out from St. Martin's, but from Minotaur. Eg, this isn't listed on the inside flap of my other books. I really did not like the plot of this story- a cousin Claire thought was dead returns and asks for help in finding a blackmailer.Depressing story and depressing ending.
  7. A Holly, Jolly Murder (1997) by Joan Hess: At last a Claire Malloy (#12) that I have not read before. But it was not as good as Mummy, Dearest. With several characters being Wiccan and pagan, I found the tone dismissive and patronizing. It's a religion and I don't see the need to be intolerant of it. Also, although I understand that this is a mystery series and therefore, there needs to be a murder, reading all these Hess' so close together is making me think that if I knew Claire Malloy, I would move far away from her: talk about Red Shirts! It's lucky she dates the head of the CID, because any police officer should consider someone involved with so many murders to be a very suspicious person. Farberville must have a homicide rate higher than that of Washington, DC. I see there is a cross-over from her Maggody series, but I am unfamiliar with it, so I didn't get a kick from it.
  8. A Conventional Corpse (2000) by Joan Hess: (Claire Malloy #13)A mystery convention is being held at Farber College and Claire is only supposed to be the bookseller when she is roped in to replace the organizer and general gofer. The mystery writers all share an editor, who appears without warning. A fan dies "accidently" and then the editor as well. The ending was incredibly outre for this type of mystery. I did like the look at the world of a tiny convention, though. SPOILER: A grande dame of the cozy world confesses to the murder, but although it is never stated, it seems clear that she has tidied up the actual murder and that murderer will go free. It also seems that all the characters other than, perhaps Claire and it seems certainly Peter Rosen, are aware of this.
  9. Mummy Dearest (2008) by Joan Hess: The latest at #17. Good heavens. 27 years in reality, 3-4 in book time, and Claire and Peter are finally hitched. This is dedicated to Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels and there is a hat tip to Lady Emerson on page 35 and then throughout the novel, which I found tremendously amusing. In fact, having read all these Hess' in close proximity, it's clear that this entire novel was infused with Mertz' Elizabeth Peters style and I enjoyed it very much. Luxor, Cairo, digs, stolen antiquities and a honeymoon: what's not to like?
  10. Fate's Edge (2011) by Ilona Andrews: I waited for this to be published, I ordered it in from the UK, it was delayed and I could bear it no longer so I got it on Kindle and then I got an e-mail saying it was being shipped. Color me annoyed. But not with the book. I'm so enjoying both her series, though this one is just a bit more- should I say it? edgy.
  11. Death at the Spring Plant Sale (2003) by Ann Ripley: Louisa Eldridge is in the third year of her job as a full time host of a PBS plant show. Her latest show was to be covering the Bethesda Garden Club's famous annual plant show— she has a long time friend who is a member of the club. However, the president of the club, wife of a parallel world Fed Chairman, it seems, is murdered. Or was it a failed assassination attempt? I enjoyed this greatly.
  12. Mind over Murder (2011)by Allison Kingsley: A Raven's Nest Bookstore Mystery. I generally like mysteries that have as protagonists bookstore owners or operators or writers. This one was a bit of a mixed bag though: Small Maine island bookstore, tight knit family, prodigal daughter with psychic abilities... It looks as if this was her debut, so perhaps the writing will become tighter and the plot a little denser. This felt a bit like a popcorn romance- all fluff but no substance. I enjoyed the fluff, but I need my books to have a bit more. A neighboring and nasty store owner is discovered dead in the book store (why was she there?) and an employee is suspected. Cousin of the owner, psychic-in-denial Clara, needs to get to the bottom of the problem. Particularly as her brakes stop working and it seems as if the murderer may be after her as well. There's the set up for a future romance with the owner of the hardware store as well.

24 December 2011

Thoughts on the holiday spirit.

It's the end of 2011 and a week or so ago I received an e-mail in my role as an officer of multinational group. I have anonymized the letter, because I don't think anyone needs the identity of the writer or the group to look at the concepts and thoughts behind the writing.

(As a pertinent piece of information, the group is not just multinational and multi-ethnic, the German membership has a hard 20% cap to retain the "multi kulti" aspect—otherwise, in groups of this nature, the standard progression is that foreigners move away, Germans do not, and clubs become increasingly German.-At the moment, we have a several year waiting list of Germans.)
Dear Ladies

After due consideration and having read the following email, I decided to share my thoughts on this matter.

I am a member of X for approximately 18 years and have seen a lot of changes, mostly positive. However, every year when I receive the X newsletters, I find it disturbing, when I read the "Festive Season Dinner" or "December Festive Season Event" instead of "Christmas Dinner/Event". My question is - What are we celebrating? 'Why has the word Christmas been dismissed over the years? I am told it is politically correct to do so. Who are we insulting? Who are we trying to placate? Who feels threatened? I have served on X for a number of years and during my terms as X, my colleagues and I reverted to using the word Christmas, which we felt was correct and proper. I have the greatest respect for other holidays e.g. Hanukkha, Ramadan, Diwali and so on, and wish my friends all the best for the specific holiday and not the general in-term Happy Festive Season as I join them in celebrating. .Likewise, as a Christian, I would like the same respect. I would also like to remind everyone, that although we come from all parts of the world, we are based in Germany.

I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a healthy, successful and exciting 2012.

This was my response:

Hi X-
You sent this to me, not to "separate collective e-mail". So let me answer. I'm not Christian. I don't celebrate Christmas. Neither do many members of X. Therefore we have a holiday party.

If you would like to have a club that is open to only Christians or which has a religious basis and underpinning, you are welcome to found one. I don't see any pertinence to the article you included, by the way [a ridiculous "war against Christmas article"]. I also don't have a (pagan) tree in my home and find it strange that Christians have stolen the trappings of the Druidic rituals and slapped a Christian term on it.

Happy holidays,


I thought about this before writing my response, before ending it and before starting to write it up in this blog post. The German spouse was more incensed than I, and suggested that I should have stated that in an effort to be more inclusive in future I should have mentioned that we will be using sharia law to adjudicate organizational disputes and signed off with a cheery Merry Kwanzaa.

I could ask, who does this person think she is? But I know who she thinks she is. She thinks she has the right to make me, and others who do not belong to her narrow culture, strangers in our land. To make us invisible and to be offended when we refuse to walk behind her, to step to the side, to be at the back of the bus, and most importantly: to be quiet. The sheer hypocrisy of stating that she allow each person to celebrate their occasion and wants the "right" to celebrate her own (by which she means to force the acknowledgement, supremacy and celebration of her religious beliefs and holidays on others) and then ending her mail by wishing me- a Jew- a merry Christmas, just demonstrates her falseness.

All animals are equal. But some are more equal than others.

23 December 2011

Before we leave


And I had to make this 4 times (T2 gave out on the 4th round, so I could have some).

So doubling the recipe is now a given and I'm guessing that as my 5 and 8 year olds continue to grow a quadrupling will also become standard.

19 December 2011

Fun house mirror.

This morning while I was helping T2 with her boots, she told me that one foot was tighter than the other.

Since it has gotten cold and she has had to wear boots and not sneakers, she has moaned every day that they were too tight: I thought that she was just pulling my leg again. In the past, I could make her happy by pulling on the tongue or adjusting her socks (because the boots are not tight).

I took them off and played with them and put them back on: she still lives in a magical world where I can make her boots change size by doing so. But she complained again that one foot was too tight.

So I took them off to check.

Yes, one boot was 28/29 and the other was 30/31! I had bought both pairs at Tchibo last year, when the girls actually had different size feet (T2 is now only 1/2 size behind T1 and I'm guessing will surpass her next year).

I pulled out another pair of T1's old boots (T2 has 3 to choose among) and took her to kita, hoping that I had not donated the other half of each pair to charity (or friends) already.

Took about 15 minutes of digging and I came up with the other 2 boots— that's a relief!

17 December 2011

Sony Centre and Potsdamer Platz Weihnachtsmarkt

On Saturday night we booked our babysitter for the last time this year. The plan had been to wander the Gendarmenmarkt, which I think the most charming and classic of Berlin's Weihnachtmarkts.

But it was raining.

So instead we went to see Mission Impossible: The Ghost Protocol at Sony Centre. (We enjoyed it although I was annoyed the sub-plot pertaining to Ethan's wife: it made absolutely no sense.) Then dinner at Vapiano, a quick and rainy look at the Potsdamer Platz Weihnachtsmarkt and home again.

(I like the architecture of Sony Centre very much: a great use of what was a bombed out and empty space and I am not much of a one for Weihnachtsmarkts unless it's snowing and they look cute: I don't eat many traditional, pig-based German foods, I don't enjoy crowds, and my alcohol tastes run more to the red wine and less to the anise/cardamom scented Glühwein. So I didn't really feel deprived.)
(photo courtesy of website)

15 December 2011

She's so chic.

It's amazing to realize how big T2 is now.

She chose this outfit by herself, dressed by herself, and can wear T1's boots from last year.

Where did my baby go?

09 December 2011

Priceline and rental cars.

I want to make a digression to talk about one of my favorite companies: Priceline.

I only wish that I could Priceline my trips from Europe to the US (they don't allow it with trips originating in Europe:-( ) because the amount of money that I have saved on vehicle rentals is absolutely amazing. We rented a car for one day from Miami airport at 35% of the cheapest rate we could find (for a minivan, which turned out to be a fully loaded Town & Country), but got the car from a top three company.

We decided to rent the car for one day only because the prices from an airport location are substantially higher (on a daily basis, not a one-time) than those of a vehicle rented from a non-airport location due to an airport surcharge. In the past we had taken a shuttle to an off-site location, but in this case we were both time-constrained and expecting to be exhausted.

We then booked the much longer package, at a 60+% savings off the daily rate, 44% of the weekly, that evening. It turned out that (on the day we booked, although not on the day we had booked the first rental!) we were able to get a very good rate at a different airport, which must have had an oversupply of minivans (they must have been renting briskly at MCO aka Disney).

We were able to drop our Miami van off at FLL without any penalty, pick up our new one (also a T&C, though this one was not leather) in less than 30 minutes and continue on our way to meet the parents. This was foreshadowing that we were actually supposed to drop this van off at FLL (we expected to take an airport shuttle to Miami, but when we saw the price for 4 of us, said "No way!") and wound up taking it to Miami (which has a handy gas station less than a mile from the rental drop off area, and also has a wonderful monorail directly to the terminal— just sayin'!) instead.

Priceline saved us an incredible amount of money (particularly as more than 30% of the cost of the rental was the taxes and fees, all of which are based on the base contract cost). It took some time, some logging in and out, some basic calling to get expected amounts, and some bravado, but it was well worth the time spent.

---They also have great rates on hotels , but between points and discounts, and because I also like to know exactly where I am staying, I stick to my free (points) rooms or look over at hotels.com (or hotels.de which strangely sometimes has even better prices on hotels in Orlando than hotels.com.).

(edit: I received no compensation for sounding like an ad, but if you have a good experience one day, I'll be glad someone else save money too.)

08 December 2011

Florida! part 1

Vacation! We did so much that it will be hard to put it into a few posts.
  • From Berlin to Miami, then a one day car rental (through Priceline) and a few hours drive north to where my family was staying (close to my brother and where my niece would be Bat Mitzvahed).
  • Then a few hours south the next morning to visit a friend who I miss a lot. He's in prison and I am deeply sad that I don't live in the US and can't be a real support to him from out of the country. It took a lot of phone calls before I left to set up seeing him and the authorities were very kind to help me out and set up permission at relatively short notice.
  • Up again for the rehearsal dinner before my niece's Bat Mitzvah. Got to chat with some folks I haven't seen since my brother's wedding and was happy to have the family down time.
  • Bat Mitzvah and then the reception and then dinner/party. My niece did a wonderful job and I was completely impressed by her ability and maturity. I was terribly sorry to have missed my older niece's bat mitzvah and it was because we regretted that so deeply that we filed (six months ago!) for permission to take T1 out of school (not a thing lightly taken or easily allowed in Germany) so that we could be there for this. Beside the great work and care and study that V showed, it was really clear how well she and S are growing up and I was greatly moved by the depth of their affection for each other and their dad and by their dignity and maturity. It was a privilege to be able to share this moment and the other times we were able to spend with them while in Florida. I really hope to be able to spend some more time with them in the next year.
  • Met up with V and S the next day to hang at the beach and chat and then drove down to meet my parents in the evening.
  • Monday: Went down to visit B again. This time my parents and our friend L. watched the kids, which was a great relief as the visiting area at the prison was not kid/family friendly. We were not allowed to bring any games or books or toys or crayons or paper and pencil in for them to play with. I can understand that there are rules against contraband, but I spoke to the administration about whether it would be able to donate kids' books, toys or games for the visiting center (as shipments to inmates are allowed through Amazon and other on-line retailers) and was told: no. The multiple Bibles they had available were the only material they would allow. In a world where the goal is theoretically rehabilitation and that goal has been proven to be bettered when inmates retain family ties, when it takes so long to get to a prison (built in the backwoods) and so long to get through security to both enter and leave the prison (45 minutes to enter, 20+ to leave), how can making visiting untenable for families, children, mothers with small children (this was a man's prison, minimum security- what's it like at tougher prisons?) make any sense? I told the girls: no matter what, if you should ever be in a position where you might need to be imprisoned, take that term in Europe. Where the scale might be a bit to the light side, but the goal is not punitive, but what is best for society.
  • And back to dinner at an interesting buffet with parents, friend and children: a super salad bar, with soups and pasta and desserts available as well. I spent my time at the salad bar, as I miss that so much here in Germany. Great prices for seniors and children.
  • Tuesday was running about and doing chores, having a ring re-sized (arthritis took my wedding and engagement rings up a size and the price to enlarge them here- as well as the necessity of sending them away- made me instead just not wear them). A local store did the smything while I waited for one ring and I left the other- price was 1/3 what it was here. We also had our nails done (the kids started while I waited). The girls had their standard sparkling nail polish on fingers and toes and I tried out the new "gel" manicure: I wanted cobalt blue but the German recommended a sparkling white (to go with T1's sparkling pink and T2's sparkling purple). I was a bit hesitant, but it looked great in the Florida sunshine and in the sparkling pool water. Now that I'm back in grey, cold, drizzly Germany it looks a bit inappropriate. However, it's been 17 days and I still have a full manicure, without a crack or a chip. Since I usually chip them within 5 minutes, this is absolutely amazing. I'm not certain how I will be able to remove the lacquer, but I will look to see if I can find a place here in Berlin that does this (and use a more Berlin style dark and non-sparkly color). Though with my procrastinating ways, that could take a few more weeks.
  • That evening we had an amazing dinner at a restaurant called Seasons 52. Charming seasonal menu, with no entree having a calorie count above 450. I certainly tasted noshort-cuts in the delicious meals: I had seared Ahi tuna and the German filet mignon (which we split between us). The children had mini-pizzas and my parents had trout and a chicken dish, all of which were wonderful.

Wednesday we left for Disney and that will be a new post.

06 December 2011

Catching Up

View from the Spree this summer
One of these days I will finish up and publish the posts about our vacation, but right now I'm just catching my breath in a lazy day at home (doing some tidying and decluttering, but not laundry).

It's been a week and the German has been working like mad with T1 helping her to catch up on the work that she has missed (I don't think that we can take time off in the school year again- it's too hard catching up). So far, I have helped her with two classes and a test, he has helped with another two and she had a test yesterday and I hope that she can be prepared for a catch-up math test this week. Whew.

Orthodontist yesterday and swimming class today. Tomorrow I hope a swimming exam that will get her the Silver medal she should have had last year. Thursday nachhilfe and Friday art and then a deep breath and perhaps some fun on the weekend, rather than studying. Last week we were all in a stupor of exhaustion and I think we have finally caught up on our sleep.

The washing machine broke on Sunday and although the German has been working on it (taking things apart and replacing them), we need professional help. So I'll be hanging about tomorrow, missing a planned holiday lunch, waiting for the repairman (and it will be a man- this is Germany) to show up. I ran two loads yesterday, with the German draining the water out through a pipe, wringing the towels (ouch- not good for arthritic hands) and using the dryer as well as hanging the more delicate items. We can't last very long without a washer: right now the pile fills a basket and I should be changing the sheets tomorrow.

Back to my coffee and Castle, while I sort through more paperwork. Next commercial break I will run the bio, glass and paper down to the cellar. The clothes for donation are in the car (there's a collection point by my girls' school) and the plastic bags for the kita are also waiting for drop off.

30 November 2011

What I am Reading: November 2011

My sleeping pattern is still off as I get over the jet-lag and try to get the house in order We came back with the usual pile of clothing swag (18 pairs of socks for $8.99! and so on) and I am working through re-packing the summer clothes, getting rid of the fall clothes (because it's definitely winter time) and the rain clothes and boots, and moving clothing downward: hand-me-down (thanks to my nieces), Big Sister to Little Sister move-downs, give to friends, give to charity, recycle. It's still pretty chaotic, but I also unpacked six bags, three carry-ons, a stroller (makes Disney so much easier! just to lug stuff around, and then if the evening goes late), two car-seats and two children's backpacks. I'm still working at it all, but it's been proceeding and I'm hoping to get back to a post or two this month.
  1. Infernal Affairs (1996) by Jane Heller: A re-read before it goes back to mom. This reminds me a bit of several books that I must have read in the 90s- divorced woman selling her soul to the devil for a spiffy new body and success. Barbara is a broker in South Florida's Banyon Beach and when this book was written, brokers (or as they are known in Germany, maklers) really did seem to have made deals with the devil (the succeeding years of crashes may have been the devil losing a few rounds). Frothy, light and fun: I enjoyed it.
  2. The Best Years of Flying: a memoir of Howard Hughes & TWA (2011)by Dee Merian: This is a review copy (ARC) that I got in 2011, although the publication date from Headline Books is 2010. This was an interesting book to me, as my aunt was an early flight attendant and I recently scanned some of her collection of photos and was amazed by Europe in the mid-60s (Trevi Fountain empty- cousin dipping her feet in it!). I am also enjoying the new series Pan Am, which although as sexist and racist as the period actually was, is interesting to me. This book is just a bit earlier (late 50's) and the writer is discussing a bit of her time as a flight attendant. It needed more editing: simple issues like noticing that Tony Bennett is not Toni, and so on. It is also a bit facile. But I enjoyed it, because I am always amused reading about that time period and about NY in that period (which she is stationed in when she flies internationally). I could have enjoyed it much more, if the author had been more reflective or more interested in bothe the time and the countries she was discussing, though.
  3. Water Song (A retelling of "The Frog Prince") (2006) by Suzanne Weyn: I brought this with me from the US, with several other modern re-tellings of fairy-tales, and I am finally getting around to reading it so that I can add it to my discard/donate/sell pile: I don't want to keep it. Yes, a "modern" re-telling of the cited tale, set during WWI. A slightly interesting look at the historical period, with heroine Emma Pennington trapped behind the lines in Belgium. An American, New Orleans native who has volunteered for the British is gassed and, with his skin peeling and his eyes bulging, looks froggish. But there is really no fantasy at all in this story. A bit of the occult, as Jack dreams of his mother, a magic woman. But although I enjoyed the bit of history, it didn't grab me enough to make me want to keep it.
  4. Murder by the Glass (2006) by Michele Scott: It's not a good sign when I prefer the recipes to the mystery. Set in the Napa Valley, with protagonist Nikki Sands working at Malveaux Estate. I love wine, I love Napa, but this just didn't interest me.
  5. The Riesling Retribution (2009) by Ellen Crosby: Whereas this was an interesting mystery. Because plot and characterization matter.
  6. A Dead Man out of Mind (1994) by Kate Charles: I didn't much like the last David Middleton-Brown book I read, but this one was better, with more interesting characterization, less emphasis on a prior problematic relationship, and the ecclesiastical detail was a bit more interesting to me. The relationship between David and Lucy Kingsley (an artist) is developing and more interesting.
  7. Stamped Out (2008) by Terri Thayer: First in the "A Stamping Sisters Mystery" series. April Butchert, rubber stamp and restoration expert, returns to her home town to work with her father and resolves open mysteries from her departure years before. Recovering from a failed marriage and sabotaged career her work is interrupted when a body is found. A good start.
  8. Moving is Murder (2006) by Sara Rosett: A first "Mom Zone" mystery. Protagonist Ellie is a military wife and mom, moving to a new posting with her airman husband. Moving and organizational tips are scattered throughout, in keeping with the theme and the reality that military families move constantly. A neighbor who was against development is found dead and all the suspects are her husband, Mitch's, co-workers. Well written and enjoyable.
  9. The Christmas Garden Affair (2002)by Ann Ripley: It's been a while since I have read a mystery featuring PBS garden host and detective Louise Eldridge, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy her and Ms. Ripley's writing. Interesting story, warm characters, and intriguing mystery with good research. Louise's show is being upstaged by a bumptious and risque British upstart, when Bunny (of "Bunny in the Garden") is poisoned at a conference featuring the First Lady. Secret Service involvement, a smattering of Stasi spy, and plenty of interesting suspects made this a great read.

29 November 2011

Seasonal Turn over

I made a start at doing the seasonal turn-over before I left, but of course I needed to leave it undone: it was still transitional weather and I needed to pack for 30c, while leaving 18C expecting to come back to 5C.
So as I was unpacking the suitcases, I was also packing away the summer clothes, the fall clothes, the rain clothes and the clothes in the closets and drawers that were Summer/Fall/Spring seasonal, as well as the new and old hand-me-downs that are for sizes the girls won't wear for at least another year (so that I can re-check the sizes at the next seasonal turn-over).
Not quite done (although these boxes are now in the cellar) and not showing the tranches of removed items. But a good start.

28 November 2011

Some swag and Black Friday

I'm still overcoming the jet-lag and won't be interpolating the missing vacation pics and posts for a while, but this is what I came back to (and I am absolutely luxuriating in not having German class and not planning on an intensive full-time course for at least a semester).
The left pictures are a portion of the swag brought back from the US: soft underwear and clothing for the children which fits, is 100% cotton, doesn't cause them issues with tactile sensation, and costs incredibly little: 9 pairs of socks cost less than two pair here.

I really appreciate the ease of shopping (I'll have posts up in "Decluttering" to show what was passed down, recycled and donated soon), but heavens, I also really appreciated Black Friday.
Although some people have mentioned that day as one where one should not consume, I think of it as the day when I can get each of my children two pairs of shoes and have it cost approximately 30% of what it would cost to buy a single pair of shoes in Germany. I finally got myself a pair of (great)Uggs knock-offs (for $32), and Sketchers for all (including the German- very nice looking walking shoes).

One of the first stores we hit after arriving in Miami was Costco- our favorite store. Among the normal purchases, such as brown sugar, craisins, dried blueberries and hot sauce, we buy clothes there. And this time we wanted a GPS (needed a US one) and some other odds-and-ends. After we completed our purchase, the greeter gave us the Black Friday flyer on our way out: for some "Missing Man" feeling we discovered that most of what we had purchased would be going on sale: we were able to go back the next week, re-buy our items and then return them and reap the 35% discount on the items in that one week period. I was even able to use Costco coupons from 2006 and exchange a camera that I had waiting (which had undergone a deeper price cut in the 60 days it waited at my brother's house) to allow an additional $50 discount. Almost made it seem as if I was saving money by purchasing items:-). The German bought a suit for 60% off, or 20% of what the same suit costs here. We also bought jeans to replace the ones with holes (I really hate shopping in Germany) for 10% of the cost of the same ones here. And so on. In all, we bought absolutely nothing that we had not planned to buy, with an average savings of 70% on what the items cost here.

I love Black Friday and if I ever move to the US again, I hope to buy all my furniture on that week, even if I have to live on crates until that point.

09 November 2011


I think T1 is absolutely amazing.

I think it's time to go and see some Magritte in situ.

04 November 2011

Seasonal Change-over

A slightly terrifying look at the corner of the office.

The empty boxes on the left are from the unpacked winter clothes (as is the large green one on the right. The other boxes are summer clothes (and a box of size 8s still too large for T1, who at 8.5 can still wear size 6): they are still up here rather than in the Kellar because I need to pack our suitcases for Florida this weekend.

Then they will go downstairs and this corner will empty out a bit (although I am afraid that pile of books in the window will take another month or two to be sorted out into read and keep, read and discard/donate/sell, and put in bookcase to read later). Life would be easier if we had an attic or a cellar connected to our dwelling.


Berlin may not be much for Weckmänner, but it's starting to get into the spirit of Halloween. (These were very yummy, made with Quark.)

02 November 2011

Halloween and Zombies

The last two years have seen the emergence of the zombie trope replacing the vampire one. I have loads of YA and paranormals on my shelves, waiting to be read, with zombie leads, zombie heroes, dystopian zombified worlds and even zombie romantic leads (I know it's hard to imagine).

Coming home from a Halloween party on Saturday, we bumped into the best zombie costumes (we assume, since they did not go for our brains) that we have seen.

Well done!

(I asked permission to take this photo, of course.)

31 October 2011

What I am reading: October 2011

  1. Silver Shark
  2. Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews: This is an interesting concept: e-book shorts/novellas. Set in the world of the Kinsmen, psionic clans in a world mostly populated by (non-Kinsmen) drones. I liked them a lot— a very (updated) 50s style. I have always been a sucker for espers and psionics. Strong characters, interesting world building, related stories.
  3. Cast in Ruins by Michelle Sagara: I really like this series by Sagara.
  4. Mandarin Plaid (1996)by S.J.Rozan: The third of what are now 11 books featuring Chinese-American PI Lydia Chin and her partner Bill Smith. Borrowed from my mom, I think I actually first read this 15 years ago. Now, I'm just enjoying the nostalgia and looking at how the world has changed: The opening scene mentions a restaurant that I used to eat at, downstairs from one of the offices I worked in; Lydia feeds a payphone (in Chinatown) with quarters- lord, how long has it been since I have seen a payphone? In NY, I assume they were all long ago broken down for their copper wiring!; there's some discussion of how a woman doesn't want her WASP son to marry a beautiful ABC (American Born Chinese) woman, who is successful and highly educated— I am not certain if I ever actually came into contact with that feeling from the "white" side of a couple, although the other side (also shown here) I have seen: that marrying outside one's ethnic community is strongly frowned upon. But in the Northeast US, Asian has been a favored minority for a very long time; the sexism: that really brought it all back. I had been working on Wall Street in the 80's and for myself in the 90's — sexism wasn't necessarily in your face at this point, but I felt it and saw it, in a way that I am seeing again now. Really enjoyed the book, it makes me want to start re-reading the series (and SJ Rozen is giving an e-short away on Amazon in this world- check it out.)
  5. Temple of the Winds (1997) by Terry Goodkind: It's such an investment, reading a series like this— each book in the 750-850 page range. The start of the second trilogy, as Richard and Kahlan discover the danger of the Empire and its ruler Jagang, now the walls between realms have been destroyed. I enjoy each book, but sometimes I just need to put them down and read something smaller(lighter, easier to carry, with an end in sight!). (DTB)
  6. Snuff (2011)by Terry Pratchett: What can one say? It's Pratchett. A great book in the CityWatch cycle. I really don't want to give anything away, but Goblins are the theme in the same way that one might say another species was in Unseen Academicals.
  7. The Thai Amulet(2003) by Lyn Hamilton: I read this series intermittently, when I grab one from my mom (last read was The Chinese Alchemist). Ahh, darn it. I checked to see which order these were in and she has died. Cancer in 2009. I am sorry to see that The Chinese Alchemist (2007) was the last of her 11 novels featuring Lara McClintock, antique store owner, whose trips allowed Hamilton's love of foreign climes and cultures to be shown. The Internet age allows much knowledge but also much lingering disinformation to be found: her blog still exists, but it appears that no one has cared for it in many, many years: there are ads for "medical products" displayed and not notation at all that she is no longer productively and currently writing. I look forward to reading the few that I haven't read. In a bittersweet way.(Here is an interview with Ms. Hamilton just before The Thai Amulet — the 7th in the series—was published.)
  8. Winter and Night (2002) by SJ Rozan: After I read Mandarin Plaid, I knew that I had another Rozan floating around so I pulled it out to re-read (and to return to Mom). Rozan's series alternates in viewpoint between Lydia Chin and her partner Bill Smith and this is from Smith's viewpoint. We learn more about his background and family, their estrangement, and how his character was formed through parental abuse. There are echoes of Columbine (April 1999) as Smith discovers that a death which has involved his nephew bears a terrible resemblance to a death involving the high school group of his brother-in-law.

30 October 2011

The end of the season

With apologies for not being very communicative recently (getting over some respiratory problems), I wanted to mark the end of my favorite (and sadly, very short) period in Germany: the Federweisser period.

As I've said, the only German gastronomic products that I would miss if I left are quark (and I now know how to make it at home) and Federweisser (which is irreplaceable). But what I love is not the Federweisser (pressed from white wine grapes), but the Federroter, the equivalent but pressed from red wine grapes.

It is the nectar of the gods.

The season (here) is only three weeks and I know of only one place to find it. I haunt that place and when the wine arrives (they do also have the white, which is far better than what I have bought bottled), I start buying it.
What you see here is the last of our supply. The containers are at different levels of fermentation (I must have rotated improperly) and the German is drinking the one on the left (far more alcohol) while I am drinking that on the right (almost grape juice, but with a fruity and smooth kick).

(And no- the refrigerator is not normally that tidy- as I have been sick and we were away last weekend, it was abnormally empty. So we took the opportunity to clean it.)

29 October 2011


We spent last weekend in Köln, at the Expat Meet Up. It's discussed at much greater length here, (and probably other blogs as well, when everyone recovers enough to post). I'm not going to talk about it here and I was coming down with something so I didn't see a tremendous amount.

But what we did enjoy on the way out was this baked treat. Since Frau Dietz mentioned it, I thought I would as well. We don't have them in Berlin (not part of the culture) and T2 wanted one when she saw them at the bakery as we loaded up before leaving. She wound up eating a pretzelzopf instead and I ate this, so I can say that it tasted quite nice: an egg yolk glazed white flour yeast recipe, not very sweet. The pipe is inedible, the eyes are raisins, and that's a glazed cherry you see.

This is a recipe and a story about Weckmänner. And here is an interesting Wikipedia article that, although translated from German into Esperanto, is not in English:-), while here is an interesting discussion of German religious holidays with information pertaining to St. Martin. On the way home we stopped off for lunch with my in-laws and my father-in-law told me much of what the article below said, as well as some more anthropological bits and the amusing info that those pipes (formerly a Bishop's crozier, and other things) were, not so long ago, functional and that they were changed to non-functional pipes because so many German children actually used them to start smoking (things:-)).
11. November: St. Martin
Der historische Martin wurde 316 AD als Sohn eines römischen Tribuns in Ungarn geboren, wuchs in Italien auf, wo er m Alter von 15 Jahren in die römische Armee eintrat. Als berittener Soldat kam er nach Frankreich, wo er zum Christentum fand. Er ist als Bischof Martin von Tours in die Geschichte eingegangen, zu dem er 371 AD geweiht wurde. Sein Todestag ist der 11.11.397 AD. Nach seinem Tod wurde er Schutzpatron der Bettler, der Soldaten, der Schneider, der Reisenden und der Hirten sowie der Reiter. Und natürlich auch der Kinder, die ihm zu Ehren am 11. November abendliche Umzüge mit bunten selbstgebastelten Laternen und Fackeln veranstalten. Auch große Feuer sind Usus. Ursprung dieses Brauches ist Lukas 11/33: "Niemand zündet ein Licht an und setzt es in einen Winkel, auch nicht unter einen Scheffel, sondern auf den Leuchter, damit, wer hineingeht, das Licht sehe." Typisch für diesen Tag sind Weckenmännlein, ein Gebäck in Form eines Menschen, mit einer Tonpfeife im Arm. Die Tonpfeife ist ursprünglich Martins Bischofsstab gewesen.

21 October 2011

Alte Nationalgalerie

Schinkel: Gate in the Rocks (Berlin 1818)
This museum, although included in my Jahreskart, has never been high on my list of "must sees". When I read the description of the collection, it just didn't grip me.

I had friends in last month, though, and they were interested in visiting this, so I went along. The archtecture of the museum is interesting enough, but the name, to those used to the National Gallery in either London or Washington, DC, is misleading: rather than being a wonderful collection of portraits, the Alte Nationalgalerie is an eclectic collection with the majority formed from the personal collection of J.H. Wagener, who donated 262 paintings with the proviso that they be retained as a single collection and housed in the Nationalgalerie. The collection is primarily Romantic and Classicist and for me, a little goes a long way. More interesting is the extensive collection of 19th century statuary, as I have a fondness for Canova.

This museum does not touch the Neue Nationalgalerie (an amazing museum), and I think that what my friends were looking for in terms of collection would have been better served by the Gemäldegalerie, which I will visit in their honor next month.

The most interesting take-away from this museum is how the Romantic period looks so incredibly modern: very many of the paintings could be used as covers for contemporary fantasy, paranormal, or "literature" novels.

20 October 2011


In my not-yet-written post on Oktoberfest 2011, I'll talk about what we enjoyed and the intersection with what the girls enjoyed. But one non-intersection they did enjoy was Lebkuchenherzen. For myself, I find them inedible and I can't understand how the translation can be "Gingerbread Hearts" when the recipe has either no or very little ginger in it, but the girls not only liked looking at them but actually ate the small ones we had at the fair and later, the larger ones that we brought home.

I thought the one that said Kleine süße Mäuschen would be the most apposite, but T2 wanted the blue and green one.

14 October 2011

Alegria in Berlin

We were able, through points, to get a package to Alegria in Berlin for all 4 of us. With the recent experience of having the children in the Schottenhamel tent at Oktoberfest (they lasted about 5 minutes before beginning to demand that we leave as it was "too loud"- we barely managed to eat our meals) we used a bit of forethought and ordered in ear protectors for the both of them. Of course, they chose pink.

Although I have seen several Cirque du Soleil productions, this was the first of the smaller, stadium shows that I have seen. I read the description before bidding on the package and the show was described as light and frolicsome, which was a good description: none of it was inappropriate for the kids (we saw Verekai in Berlin— in a Tent— some years ago and it would have been far too frightening)and they enjoyed all of it.

Strangely enough, both the girls liked the Clowns best (I guess it makes sense, although I have never been much for clowns). For myself, I found what must be the "aerial trapeze" act (although what I saw was not what is described) the most fascination: It was like a huge pendulum clock, building and growing and going higher and deeper with each trapeze artist. Very impressive. I also found the set itself extremely well-done- the "floor" was like a geodesic/fractal area, sloping upwards toward the back (and obviously adjustable to the stadium) and its coloring and intensity of lighting were controlled. The opening sequence was just charming and really made one feel as if observing an actual Faeryland (and the costumes and act made the fantasy even more believable). The whole experience was really well-done and I recommend the stadium experience: it is not lesser than the Grande Chapeau or Permanent Exhibition, only different.

As has been true with our other packages, I was very impressed as well by the VIP food and drink laid on (although wasted on us, as the girls eat two morsels and we don't drink while driving). In particular, the roast beef/prime rib that we had (in the Premium Lounge at the O2) was the best that we have had in Germany, matched only by the steak that we had at the Hotel Pulitzer in Amsterdam.

In addition to the show (and good seats), and the lounge access, the value added of this package was the chance to chat after the show with the director and the one of the performers. This gentleman is a performer in the Powertrack act and a former world class athlete from Iceland. As the kids were falling asleep in our arms, I couldn't take any notes, but the questions were strangely intelligent (unlike some of those asked at my "back stage" Q&A for Corteo). He discussed how one becomes an athlete and performer for Cirque (they can inquire or many are being scouted while still performing in their athletic careers), the route he has taken (with the ability to change shows through request and audition) and what opportunities the artist has going forward (he is currently team leading and choreographing and there are also non-athletic opportunities as one ages). The director talked about life on the road, how the stadium shows differ from big tent or permanent exhibits, the costs and transportation issues, and issues of the group as a whole traveling gestalt: eg, shipping costumes by post with each costume valued at €10,000s and up!

12 October 2011

The NPR Top 100 SF/F List- or how geeky am I?

I started this post a very long time ago, after seeing someone else discussing the list. I'd seen the list posted on numerous SF blogs and newsfeeds, but thought it would be too much work. So instead I just took a long time to annotate it. When I count the books I know that I have read (even though I can't remember them in my senescence), it's a few more than I had originally thought: 100-29=71 read.

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien--- What can I say? I think I have read this more than 20 times. In storage, I must have at least 5 separate copies, bought when I couldn't access one for a period of time. (I'm still looking for a copy of the Barbara Remington triptyche cover poster-seen above- in good condition: anyone who knows where I can buy one would make me very happy...).

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams--- Didn't everyone read this at least once- perhaps in college? I played the Infocom game as well.

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card--- Read and enjoyed this when it came out and before I knew Card's personal views (which ruined his writing for me). It was a really cutting edge book at the time.

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert--- I'm counting this, although I certainly haven't read all the books put out under this rubric. The first was a classic, the second good, the third a waste and everything after that worth avoiding.

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin: have the first, have the series waiting to be seen. Haven't read it yet

6. 1984, by George Orwell: I love this book. One of those first dystopian novels I read which formed my humorless character.

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury: I reviewed my re-read here.

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov: I used to quote from this, as a smart-alec child. My cousin thought the Galactic Encyclopedia was a spin-off of the Britannica for a while.

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley: See #6.

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman: nope.

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman: Loved it. Read Thackery (highly recommend The Rose and the Ring) because of this. Read Lang and the Ruritanian novels because of this. Wrote away for the missing Buttercup chapter and have the movie on my DVR right now (and watched it last week and think I'll introduce the kids to it this month.)

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan: Nope. Keep thinking I will, especially now that Sanderson has written the ending. But was this more important than The Belgariad? I guess I will need to read it to find out.

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell: see #6 and #9.

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson: Can I count this if I don't remember it? OK, I will.

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore: Loved it, have it, read more Moore because of it. Saw the movie and rebought the graphic novel, too.

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov: Classic. One of the many I read as I read my way through all the books in my public library that had atoms on their spines. Of course, everything by Asimov came early.

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein: Still re-read it (and everything by Heinlein) regularly, although The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is his best.

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss: not yet, although they have great reviews.

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut: Like the Gibson, I know that I read it, but I can't remember the plot. I think I'll count it because I have owned and read everything by Vonnegut and after 35+ years, my memory has a right to be giving out...

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley: Read, re-read, read about the literary scene at the time as well. Not to mention all the movies, from Karloff to "realistic".

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick: Liked the movie far better than the book. Loved the movie enough to see a WR Grace ad about the debt. Loved the concepts enough to read more by Dick but be unhappy with his writing.

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood: Thought it was well-done but was offended by her BS attempt to pretend she was not writing SF. Who is she to think herself better than HG Wells? (Although I understand that she has now "come out" about her SF writing.)

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King- nope.

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke: So long ago, I can barely remember even a bit of the movie. I did read all of Clarke published before 1982, though.

25. The Stand, by Stephen King:Oh, why did all the metaphysical stuff have to intrude into an absolutely fabulous end-of-the-world/epidemic story. Still read it multiple times and really like the 6 hour mini-series.

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury- Of course. Beautiful writing.

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut- as above.

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess: This book gave me nightmares, interesting as the language was and although it tempted me to read more on the study of words. I actually couldn't watch the movie: it was too— I guess, I felt it too closely.

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein: I still like it,and I am still a Heinlein fangirl. I even liked the movie, ridiculous as it was.

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams: Read it when I was 12, and not since. But I remember loving it, though when I glanced at it recently I found it a bit pedantic and stiff.

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey: read it (and all of McCaffrey's work through about 20 years ago) and loved it.

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein: already mentioned my deep love for this book. I love this book.

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller: read it when I read my way through the Hugos in my teens. Barely remember a word.

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells: Read and re-read. Truly a classic.

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne: Of course. Classic.

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys: Read and even enjoyed, in a "required for school" sort of way.

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells: Read many times, seen in many movies, fell in love with the musical and listen to it quite a bit. Saw it in London for its anniversary tour last year and can quote along with the words when singing/speaking it.

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny: Read it (although there are many other Zelaznys I prefer) and actually have an omnibus on my side table of all 10 Amber novels (I think I only read the first 5 or so when they came out). Like the Dune novels, I stopped reading when I didn't find them as interesting: there are a lot of books out there to read!

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings: Here it is. Loved these books and forgot how much I loved them. I'll be buying both series for pick up next time I am in the US (and yet I know, somewhere in my storage unit, in those 167 boxes of books, these books exist).

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley: Read it when I was still madly loving Darkover, didn't love this.

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson: on my TBR list, with several other books by him.

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven: Classic, read with almost all other Niven novels and short stories (and he wrote some absolutely amazing short stories). He is still writing, but there was a period his work was just incredible.

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien: I won't count it, because I know that I never read it straight through. I was young and excited when it came out and then disappointed. I dipped in and out of it.

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White: Read so many times (and bought multiple times), in both its short and long versions. I make the kids watch the Disney version of the first section as well.

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke: from my classic period I remember the shocker ending, but nothing else.

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan: It's been 30+ years! But not only did I read it, I know that I reread it when I was at Cornell and I saw the Jodie Foster movie too. No memory of it at all.

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman: bought the book and read it after seeing the movie, which was wonderful. So was the book and its charming illustrations.

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks: read reviews and some blog posts, but not the book.

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle: In credible book. Wrenchingly sad in certain ways. Adore it. Also love the movie and make my kids watch it with me (though they thought the "wave" part was scarey). The sequel was terribly sad as well and I prefer not to think of it. When I read it, "Shmendrick" was still an inside joke.

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman: Yes.

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett: see 60 below. Although this is a charming book and better than 60.

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson: Yes, I read them all. But Donaldson's errors in discussing leprosy made me so angry that I actually threw the books at the wall a few times then gave them back to my then-boyfriend and told him all the ways that the book should have been re-written. In our defense, there weren't a lot of high fantasy sagas in existence at that point, so we were desperate for things to read.

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold: All of them, as they continue? Why are some cited as a series and some as books? In any case, I read all of Bujold, all of the time. I love her Miles books, but her Chalion books are even better in some ways (fantasy, not SF, but really quite gritty).

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett: Absolutely not the Pratchett I would have chosen. But I adore all Pratchett and, now that my Nortons and Francis' were destroyed by flood, his are the books I have in HC by unbelievably the most. In fact, I think I have all of Pratchett in HC, his videos and cartoons, almost all re-purchased or found in English and German so that the German can read them and I have Snuff on pre-order. I also go to Pratchett cons for fun.

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle: Yep. On the gripping hand...

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind: I ordered the whole series in last year after watching the TV series and loving in. Have only read the first this month and like it very much. I'll probably wend my way through the next ten books over the coming year and enjoy them (although not enough to give up all other books in between!).

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke: Hated this book. Thought it was a total waste of a decent concept and only finished it because I have a strange masochistic bent when reading.

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson: Re-read this two years ago. Matheson was a great writer. But I also loved The Omega Man with Charlton Heston: what a great period movie! The Will Smith re-make was incredibly violent- too much so for my taste.

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist: Have a few, started reading one, put it down, now it's in storage and my TBR pile is a year high. Not interesting enough to me at the time.

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks: What can I say? I actually wrote a book report discussing its similarities to Tolkien. Was this the first contemporary high fantasy series after LoTR was published in the US? I certainly thought so (I was in grade school!).

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard: I haven't read all of these, but I read enough Howard that I think it should count. And the comics (which were why I found the books in the first place) and of course, Arnold. It's about to be re-made, I think? But the AS Conan movies were classics and I still love them.

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb: Have read other books by Robin Hobb, under both her names, but not this series.

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger: Have the book and the movie (on DVR). Not yet.

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson: Have the book, haven't read it yet.

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne: Read, re-read, read it on Kindle last year. Seen the movie multiple times and saw the re-make last month.

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi: Great Heinlein-style book. The first I read by Scalzi before I read all the rest of his books and then started to read his blog regularly. I like his characters and I like his plots and I like his worlds: highly recommended SF.

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke: Read and not remembered, with much of Clarke.

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin: I am starting to worry about my brain as I realize how many books have left not a trace! Read and not remembered, 35 years later! But as I read the Wikipedia entry, I see that I owned and read the first pb copy, and the more philosophical aspects were definitely above my head!

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury: I remember the beauty of the writing, I even remember the cover of the PB. But not the story.

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire: I really thought I would like this, but I just didn't.

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson: I have read a review of this series but it sounds so all-consuming, there is no way I am going to start.

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde- didn't like the one Fforde I read, although friends keep saying I will.

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks- read one book by his non-SF alter-ego, hit a line I found alienating and won't read anything else by him.

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart: read everything ever written by Mary Stewart, adore her with a passion, and miss having her books on my shelves.

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher: one of these days. It's intimidating that there are already so many books written and I have only read one. It's not cheap getting English language older books here in Germany.

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe: Read these (although the only Wolfe I remember is a short story about Sand Kings). Wolfe was the man who taught me not to start reading a series until I could be assured it would come out relatively quickly (I didn't learn as I wait 18 years and counting for the next Chtorr novel).

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldon: Loved her books, still reading them, waiting after her cliff-hanger ending for the next. Went to her reading (and bagpipe accompaniment) here in Berlin. Great stuff, time-travel and ley line fantasy with Scotland and early American history.

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock: Read a few, never got into it.

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury: Read all of Bradbury and this is a story (the title story of the collection which is this book) which I actually remember extremely well.

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley: Really loved this not-to-the-current-vogue vampire story with a sun-loving baker. I'd love a sequel (And I think it deserves one) but McKinley famously bashes anyone asking. Still a great read and a precursor to Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews success in the same tone and field.

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge: Have read all of Vinge. Don't remember it.

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov: Incredibly good classic Asimov. Just amazing stuff that anyone who says they read SF cannot pass by.

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson: They were given to me and I read them. Ok. I'm not certain why I didn't like them more because what I remember should have been great (I like a certain type of hard SF). Perhaps it was a bad month in which I read them.

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle: Read it when I read all of Niven. Good stuff.

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis: I think that I have read just about every fiction and non-fiction book dealing with infectious diseases. Certainly did not miss this classic, which I read when it was printed.

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville: Just read his City and the City and greatly enjoyed it, so I'll need to dig this up to read it.

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony: Read the first 10+. Would happily re-read them again if theyw ere on a shelf by me, but got increasingly light and pun-dependent as the series went on. Not in Anthony's top works, it's too bad if this is what he is remembered for.

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis: I was quite young when I journeyed from Narnia through Hell (and the Screwtape Letters) and to that Hideous Planet. I was probably a bit above my head, but I enjoyed it and re-read them several times.

30 September 2011

What I am reading: September 2011

This will be a lighter month, as I am falling desperately behind in reading my Economist, my German classes have started, I had a concert, two Elternabends, friends visit (yeah!) and Rosh Hashona.--- Then a fast visit to Munich for Oktoberfest made longer by a broken and replaced train change.
  1. Murder Your Darlings (January 2011) by J.J. Murphy: The first in the new series "The Algonquin Round Table Mysteries". I have been looking on my DVD shelves for another series to start, now that I have finished Bones and I realized that, after purchasing the first season of Mad Men,and reading reviews of the second and third seasons, that I don't want to watch it: I don't think I want to be steeped in that era. Perhaps it's too close? But I do find the Prohibition period in NY exciting. Not so much from the explosion of crime point of view, but from the flowering of thought that took place in NY (and of course, in Berlin as well). So I found this book very interesting. It whetted my appetite to learn and see more of the era (and of course I did a bit of on-line research on the Vicious Circle of the Algonquin Round table, which I knew the standard liberal arts educated information about, and I had visited the Algonquin decades ago). A Manhattan murder (which feels as homey as my backyard) and some pithy quotes, both actual and in the style, made me very happy. I will look up the next and I will re-read some public domain Benchley, Wollcott and Parker that I have floating about.
  2. Killer Cuts (2009) by Elaine Viets: This is the ninth in Viets' "A Dead-End Job Mystery". I have read this series, on and off, for years and I think that it has been getting better with this being the best so far. I had an issue with the original premise, that the protagonist (Helen), a successful accountant would give her job up and flee to a series of under the table jobs in an effort to avoid paying alimony to her philandering ex-husband. I just thought the entire concept was silly. Years later though, I have grown to enjoy the character and her cast of friends and acquaintances as she moves through multiple workplaces. This book had a shock ending that made it transitional and I will look forward to grabbing the next two when I am in the US. (DTM)
  3. Blood Challenge (Jan 2011) by Eileen Wilks: I thought I had waited a long time to order this (because I am annoyed that buying the physical book is still cheaper than the Kindle version) but I see that it was only 9 months before I broke and ordered it in from the UK and that, just when I was already for more at the end of the book, that the next one won't be out until November and that once again the e-version will be as expensive as the physical one! I'll try to pack this (the 7th of her "Lupi Novels") away and see if I can once again punish the author (and her publishing house) by not buying a book that I want to read immediately (I still haven't bought the latest Charlaine Harris for exactly this reason). So I clearly like the world that Wilks has created and I like the characters that she has created within it: Lily Yu, tough FBI agent and granddaughter to dragons, Rule Turner, Rho of a Pack, and all the characters and friends and family that surround them as a 3,000+ year old war between deity equivalents (not worshiped so much as served)starts to heat up. (DT)
  4. The City and the City (2009) by China Miéville : I liked this very much, even though it was more surrealistic, perhaps, than sf /fantasy. A strange mix of political fantasy (as 1984) and parallel sideways history (as Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union). Was it fantasy? Was it SF? Was it political dystopic allegory? Whichever it was, it was a good read. (DT)
  5. The Dragon who Loved Me (2011) by GA Aiken: Aiken (who is Shelley Laurenston) writes very funny shifter romances. This pseudonym is the one she used for the world of dragons(with extremely long hair) and the active gods who wander about fighting through different races and peoples. But (unlike Moon's books), these are still light-hearted (and always comedic) romances. (Mobi)
  6. Hidden Steel (2008) by Dorrana Durgin: I really enjoy Durgin's Jess books, and have a few others as well but this is a straight-out romance that I downloaded from I don't know where (perhaps her web site?). Amnesiac heroine awakens in handcuffs, being questioned as to her activities. A nicely written, well-paced genre-sized spy story with a strong female lead. I enjoyed it. (Mobi)
  7. Spider Bones (2010)by Kathy Reichs: I picked this up at the booth while I was waiting to hear Reichs read at the Internationales Literaturefestival Berlin. The 13th Temperance Brennan book (I read the 8th last year), it felt a bit more like an interim book, perhaps because I was familiar with the background already. A fine read.
  8. Wizard's First Rule
  9. Stone of Tears (1995)
  10. Blood of the Fold (1996) by Terry Goodkind: This series has been sitting on my shelf for almost a year but the NPR list made me feel that I should finally get to them. I have finished the first three and I have enjoyed them and am looking forward to the next trilogy.