My almost 3-year-old’s approach to literature is 1) make us read a book until the pages are falling off and we’re eyeball-stabbing sick of it and only then 2) move on.

These are his most recent fads:

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Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne

A hit from the start, it’s a story about a girl from somewhere in Africa that decides to surprise a friend in a neighboring village with a basket of 7 fruits. It’s sweet and funny and we love the drawings – so vibrant and full of color (you can almost hear the insects buzzing).

We also have the new in the series – Handa’s Hen – but David hasn’t graced it with the gift of his attention.

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Hora de dormir – À procura do meu pijama by Yoyo Studios

This would translate into Time to sleep – Looking for my pajamas and it’s his current favorite. Not because of the story or the art… he just likes to push and pull the little gimmicky pieces.

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wildWhere the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

A classic and well deserved. I suspect he likes to read it in the days where he’s been wild himself. That first image of Max standing on a pile of books, but look especially familiar. But the thing that really grabs David’s attention, is that Max’s name written on the side of the boat is hidden from view when he returns.

With English books I do automatic translation, but am always uncertain how to translate “Wild Things” – “Bichos Selvagens”? “Coisas Selvagens”? Portuguese-speaking readers: any thoughts?

 

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Un, deux, trois… la grenouille c’est moi ! by  Carlo Alberto Michelini

One, two, three… I’m the frog! This is probably my favorite of the bunch (or the one I don’t almost know by heart?). There’s a certain trippy feel to the book, from the slightly surrealistic poems to the animal’s eyes.

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O Alfabeto dos Bichos by José Jorge Letria

For months we read nothing but The Alphabet of Creatures. Every. Single. Night. One letter at a time, no exception and most definitely no skipping! (I’m honestly a little baffled by the preference -not a bit fan of either the text or the illustrations, but there’s no accounting for taste :P). It caught him at his ABC phase, where it seemed he wasn’t able to say (or sing) anything else except the alphabet. Thanks Tania, for the gift – it’s one of his favorite toys ever!

An honorable mention to Where Is the Green Sheep?, that despite being a favorite is always left behind on our visits to Lisbon…

Any other recommendations? What do your toddles like to read?

Finally got my hands on Lumberjanes because I’m nothing if not a slave to your recommendations.

I get the love: the art is fresh, the girl-power theme is amazing, it’s laugh-out-loud funny at times. It’s all that so it deserved a bit more… depth. It felt really short mostly because its 24 pages are action-oriented and don’t leave much room for character development or exploration of their world.

In stories about a group of people I immediately find a favorite. In Lumberjanes I had some difficulty making that call – there’s just not much that distinguishes them (apart from Ripley being The Crazy One). In the end I went with Jo because she had books and pictures of stars and planets in her bunk:

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To be fair, it’s only the first in the series and there’s a hint of background stories to come, like Molly’s fear of her family being informed about their adventures. But I can’t help but compare it to another very short, very popular, first-in-the-series, action-packed, kick-ass girl gang comic that takes the time to tells us (and make us care) about individual characters: Rat Queens.

The world-building in Lumberjanes also left me a bit confused: Magic? Fairy tales? Greek mythology? All? Two weeks after reading it I’m left with a vague sense of The Goonies meets Chamber of Secrets with a bit of Percy Jackson.

All this to say that I really had fun and will definitely pick up the next one in the series. I just wish it went a bit deeper with the story and its people, even if it’s “just” a first volume.

I’m ready for the rotten tomatoes to fly now… *ducks*

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I’ll skip the stats this year for lack of time, but still wanted to record for posterity a general impression of 2015 and make 2016 reading goals.

2015 was a good one, professionally probably the happiest I’ve ever had, but also did great travelling and really enjoyed family life (it helps we’re back to almost normal sleeping patterns…).

The highlights:

  • Watching David grow – how fascinating to see him become a little boy!
  • Visited 3 new countries: Lichtenstein, Morocco and Senegal (other travelling highlights: Edinburgh and Paris with BBFs, south of Portugal and Genova with family)
  • The Dave Matthews Band concert in Lisbon this fall was one of the best of my life
  • My quiz team was top-3 in the yearly Quiz League
  • Working on the inception of the Sustainable Development Goals

(see 2014, 2013 and 2012)

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It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a good reading year really makes a good year in general. To get me back into blogging and pre-David reading performance I joined lots of challenges and other community activities and managed to complete every one of them. This includes:

  • The Armchair Audies – always one of my favorite book blogging events
  • Jay’s Deal Me In Challenge – one short-story per week the whole year. Also a good challenge, although I didn’t blog much about it. Two quick thoughts: 1) German classic short-stories are great and want to read more of them and 2) modern short-stories are obsessed with infidelity!
  • The Re-Read Challenge – very worth while, led me to some of the year’s best
  • Graphic Novel Challenge – 2015 was my comics/GN year. Read an average of 2 a month.
  • Books in Translation Challenge – 12 books (one a month, yay!), written in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, French, Spanish, German and Italian.
  • Book Riot Read Harder Challenge – It was an interesting one to join, although I ended up with the feeling it didn’t really challenge me much, as most of the books that ticked the boxes were already in my TBR. I’ll take that as a good sign!
  • Sherlockian Month
  • German Literature Month
  • A More Diverse Universe
  • Finding Ada

And looking back at my 2015 plans:

  1. Continue to re-read, 100 Years of Solitude and Emma a priority: re-read both and 3 others
  2. Read more sci-fi: read 15 sci-fi books, 9 more than in 2014. Highlights: The Martian, Saga, Station Eleven
  3. Read more in Portuguese, Spanish and French: read 2 in Portuguese (+1 than 2014), 4 in French (=) and 2 in Spanish (+2).
  4. Read the only two Brontë sisters’ books I’ve never read: fail in both
  5. Finish several series: fail in all but Narnia
  6. Participate in more blogging events: success – see above!

Plans for 2016

  1. Continue to re-read, at least at the same rate as 2015. Consider His Dark Materials, Atonement, Harry Potter, Lord of the RingsA Short History of a Small Place, some by Guy Gavriel Kay.
  2. Continue to read in different languages and in translation, also at least at 2015 rates
  3. New try: read the only two Brontë sisters’ books I’ve never read (Shirley and The Professor)
  4. New try: finish several series (The Tea Rose, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The House of Niccolo, The Dark is Rising)
  5. Less challenges, but more read-alongs/bookclub books, recommendations welcome!

Happy 2016 everyone!

 

Happy New year everyone! I have a good feeling about 2016 🙂

Things have been a bit quiet around here, but work then laziness happened. Still, I read a lot: 104 books, which puts me back to pre-Baby levels (comics and travelling for work helped).

I gave 8 books 5-out-of-5 stars, one less than last year. The resolution to re-read more payed up (3 of the list) and I’m also happy about their variety: historical, classics, children’s, crime, 2 not written in English, 6 by women, 4 audiobooks.

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Rosa, minha irmã Rosa by Alice Vieira
A favorite from my childhood that brought me to tears. It’s about a 10-year-old girl adjusting to a new-born sister. Unfortunately, there’s only translations from Portuguese to Spanish and Hungarian.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The plan was to re-read it ahead of Go Set a Watchman, but that one is still on the TBR. I just didn’t have the courage to ruin Atticus…

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
Still a beautiful book and once again, 15 years after, I’m awed by Márquez’s genius.

Saga Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
What’s there to say about the series that hasn’t been said before? All the hype was well deserved.

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Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
One of those book where the brilliancy of the author just shines through. A gentle story with hidden depths.

Desolation Island by Patrick o’Brian (Aubrey & Maturin #5)
Aubrey and Maturin travel to Australia with a hold full of convicts. Shenanigans ensue. Five books into the series, the quality remains.

Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith
The surprise of the year and the most underrated book I’ve read in a long time. Also, the best audiobook of the 36 I listened to last year, closely followed by:

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
I was expecting to like it, but not love it. It pushed all the right buttons and proved once again that just because it’s genre, it can have just as much characterization as the best literary fiction. It was the book that got me more emotionally involved with the characters, and that’s saying something when Maturin and Finch are on the list.

Honorable mentions:

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John mandel
  • We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Busman’s Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #11) by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman

Book 2 of the Aya series (thoughts on the first one here) about four families in Yopougon, a neighborhood of Abidjan, Ivory’s Coast’s capital. It’s set in the 70s, when the country’s was going through an economic boom and it continues to be refreshing to see a side of modern Africa that’s not filled with war and AIDS. If you know of any other comics like these let me know.

Like Book 1, it’s not an action-packed story. I’m actually approaching it as a really smart and funny twist on a soap-opera: Adjoua’s new life as a young single mother, Bintou’s fashionable new love-interest from Paris (or is he?), the mystery around the girl with the wig, dramatic cliffhanger ending. Book 3 is called “The Secrets Come Out” and like another episode of an addictive soap-opera I’m really really want to know them!

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If I had one less positive point to make is that, although Aya is the name on the cover, she was rather passive, basically just a shoulder for her friends to cry and lean on. She has the potential to be such an interesting character – a steady young women who wants to be a doctor – that I’d like to know her a bit more.

This book also included a “Ivorian Bonus”, including a recipe for Chicken Kedjenou, a guide on how to wrap a baby on your back and a great short “essay” on how a popular Ivorian proverb is put into practice everyday.

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Other thoughts: Page 247, largehearted boy, My Favourite Books (yours?)

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image (2)Read for the A More Diverse Universe Challenge
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October is Sherlockian Month at Book Bloggers International and to celebrate it I listened to Benedict Cumberbatch read Sherlock Holmes: the Rediscovered Railway Mysteries and Other Stories by John Taylor using Canon Doyle’s style.

Come over and join the fun!

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geek_cover_1Happy Ada Lovelace Day everyone! A time to celebrate women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

When editors Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders had the idea for this anthology of essays about women in science, technology and geekdom in general the response was beyond their expectations. They were contacted by women from different fields, social backgrounds, sexual orientation and ethnic background. The strength of “She’s Such a Geek!” lies in this variety and the fact that the challenges and barriers these women had to face were, in the end, very similar.

One common thread was the identity of a girl and woman geek in a male-dominated world. My passion is words and languages and I work in communications, so I can only imagine what it’d be like to love physics instead and at a crucial time in my upbringing have a physics professor openly tell a class that women can never be as good as men. This happened to one of the essayists and also to one of my best friends, who today is a successful marine biologist.

To overcome something like this requires a lot of resilience, self-confidence and supportive family and peers, so it’s no wonder that so many women give up along the way. I was surprised by how many women benefited from taking women studies classes in college, even when their majors were it astronomy or theoretical physics, and not so surprised how having female role-models help them overcome their self-doubt.block1Credits: Hark, a vagrant

Another common topic, also connected to identity, is sexuality. Many of the essays talk about maneuvering the fine line between being attractive and being take seriously, which apparently are inversely proportional:

During my first year of graduate school, three female classmates who frequented the clubs of Boston hit a serious snag in their search for boyfriends. Time after time, guys approached them – only to walk away the minute the women mentioned their occupation. So my friends started lying. They claimed to be flight attendants, yoga instructors, or kindergarten teachers. And the dating pool magically widened.

Some of the essays about mathematics and genetics were a bit over my head, but I still enjoyed them for the writers’ pure passion for their fields – it was fascinating to read about the joy of solving an equation or the eureka moment when maths just clicks. Still, my favorite essays were written by the gamers. They’re also incredibly varied, from the players to the programmers, from the hacker of adult sites to the leader of an all-female war game squad, from tips on how to conquer a virtual empire to the ethics of topless-girl-on-bikes games. So. Much. Fun.

The essays were written by women who mostly grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s, so I’d be curious to read a similar book written by younger generations. Would the same barriers come up?

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There’s not much I can say about this book that hasn’t been said 1.000 times before, so just some quick thoughts for posterity:

I went into One Hundred Years of Solitude with some fear, because it has happened that my re-reads turn teen favorites into just-oks. This one however, was still as amazing, as captivating and as fierce as I remembered. It’s that type of book that’s experimental and “intellectual” and yet emotionally engaging. Like a Michelin-star meal that really make you feel full.

The plot is simply summed up as the story of a family in a remote village in an unnamed South American country, but then each character is a world in itself, and the language… oh the language!

Márquez’s style is very much in the oral tradition, as if he just captured what he’d heard from someone old, wise and incredibly funny. That’s why the magic realism feels so real, why every relationship and emotion are described with such power and why the way he moves from one character to the other flows so well. The book may have the most depressing title ever and it does deal a lot with loneliness, but in fact it’s a really bright, energetic, colorful story, that feels always in motion. Hard to explain, you have to read it!

One of the biggest complains I’ve read about One Hundred Years is that the characters’ names are all the same (e.g. father José Arcadio Buendía, son Aureliano, grandson José Arcadio) and it confuses everything. Well, that might be true (as of the 4th generation I had to draw a family tree), but for me it’s a demonstration of Márquez sense of humor.

Also, surely Úrsula Buendía should belong to all the lists of “Best heroines of all time”.

I’ve read it in Portuguese but I’m aiming to pick up the original next time. I wonder how it reads in English and can see how part of the language’s richness is lost. I was debating with myself whether the “solitude” in the English title shouldn’t be “loneliness” instead. “Solitude” is almost a voluntary isolation, and the Spanish “soledad” doesn’t read like that.

Have you read this one? Any thoughts?

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Other thoughts: A Striped Armchair, Jules’ Book Review, Confessions of a Bibliophile, Man of La Book, Other Sashas, of blog, Shelf Love, Fifty Book Project, The Labyrinth Library, Avid Readers’ Musings, bookhimdanno, Passion for the Page, My Library in the Making, Rivers I have Known, Old English Rose Reads, The Reading Life (thoughts?)

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image (2)Read for the A More Diverse Universe Challenge

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.Re-Read Challenge.. and the Re-Read Challenge

coroners-lunch1If you’re looking for your next mysteries series, you might want to give this one a trial. It’s more Alexander McCall Smith than Jo Nesbø, but I’m reluctant to call it cozy. Just as the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, it’s main attraction is the different setting, this time Laos at the beginning of the communist rule, in 1976. I knew very little about this time and place and the book got me to cruise Wikipedia, which is a good sign in itself.

The “detective” is a 72 year-old doctor who’s reluctantly nominated as the county’s only coroner. He’s a “communist for convenience” and old enough not to care much about using his biting humor to point out the often comic surrealism of the system. He’s awesome!

The other characters and the plot are also interesting, but it’s definitely the setting that steals the show. Imagine the challenge of crime-solving in a bureaucratic dictatorship with very little resources.

There’s an element of the supernatural that I’m carefully apprehensive about, as I usually like my mysteries very much based on hard-core evidence and logic. I’d be able to accept it better if it didn’t actually contribute to solving the crime. It didn’t disturb me too much, I suspect because I was just focusing on the great setting-relate details, but I wonder what’ll happen in the next books once the novelty wears off.

I’m surprised this was first published in 2004 because it has everything to make it an instant favorite and I hadn’t hear about it until very recently.

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Other thoughts: Boston Bibliophile, Letters from a Hill Farm, Crime Scraps, Books and Quilts, Olduvai Reads, Book Lust, Crime Scraps Review (yours?)

read-harder-almost-finisher-2015Thank you Kim for letting me borrow your “Almost done” button!

You’ve probably heard about this challenge about the bookweb. I was really excited when it was first announced for the sheer variety of the categories.

I thought it would be a tough one to achieve, but I’m surprised by how easy it’s been. I forget about the Challenge for a couple of months and when I come back to it several categories are done. So far I think I’ve only had to force myself to pick up a romance novel, although it was already in the TBR.

I’ve 4 books to go, and although I’m not worried about the book published before 1850 (reading Austen’s Emma in December to celebrate it’s 200th anniversary), or the collection of poetry (carrying Fernando Pessoa’s Mensagem around in my bag for ages) or even the under-25 (have The Tiger Wife in the TBR), choosing a self-improvement book is a hard one: nothing on the TBR, wish-list or even the to-investigate list.

If I’m going to read a self-improvement book for the first time, let’s make it a good one, so I’d love to hear your recommendations!

To be done:

  • A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
  • A collection of poetry
  • A book published before 1850
  • A self-improvement book

Done:

  • A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65: Providence Rag
  • A collection of short stories: Everything That Rises Must Converge
  • A book published by an indie press: The Summer Book
  • A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ: The Hours
  • A book by a person whose gender is different from your own: Chew Vol. 1
  • A book that takes place in Asia: Malice
  • A book by an author from Africa: Aya
  • A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture: The Master Butchers Singing Club
  • A microhistory:  Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
  • A YA novel: Fangirl
  • A sci-fi novel: The Martian
  • A romance novel: The Errant Earl
  • A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade: A Visit from the Good Squad
  • A book that is a retelling of a classic story: The Owl Service
  • An audiobook: The Dead will Tell
  • A book that someone else has recommended to you: Cutting for Stone
  • A book that was originally published in another language: The Snowman (Norwegian)
  • A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind: Saga Vol. 1
  • A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure: First Frost
  • A book published this year: Girl on the Train

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