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Haven’t done much blogging or reading but for a good cause. My organization is organizing a big event in Addis and I was there recently for prep work. It was a busy time, but still managed to do some tourist stuff. Will return in a couple of weeks and plan to explore the Ethiopian jazz scene, which I’m told is one of the best in the world.

Have you been? Any recommendations?

Coffee

The obligatory coffee ceremony

mountain

Saw many women carrying huge piles of wood down Entoto Mountain and asked to give it a try. Didn’t manage a single step. Actually, it took all my strength to just stand. My respect to these ladies. At least I gave them something to laugh about.

yummy

Ate A LOT of injera bread. This picture was taken at the Lucy restaurant, named after the celebrity Australopithecus in the nearby museum (highly recommended).

shopping

Some shopping may have been done…

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Reading Dorothy Dunnett at the Kaldis Cafe.

Moments from a work-related field visit:

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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!

 

Remember when a while ago I mention that life was happening on this side of the line, leading me to a blogging and book-slump? I meant that literally. Here’s the proof!

Now that I’m done with the first trimester I’m returning to life and doing Things again. Things that don’t imply eating, sleeping and watching past episodes of Project Runway and Doctor Who, that is.

Meanwhile I also did a bit of travelling. Had a conference in Orlando and then took a few days off to go on a road-trip around Florida. So now that I’m back in already-chilly Brussels, hopefully blogging will return to regular programming.

Happy Fall/Spring (depending of where in the world you are)!

The perfect parking spot for my rented car.
Fort Myers entered history as the location of my first Gulf of Mexico swim.

One of the descendants of Hemingway’s cats at the Hemingway House, Key West.

Reading A Farewell to Arms where it was written.

One of best beaches I’ve ever visited – South Beach, Miami (reading Moab is My Washpot by Stephen Fry).

Simulation of Apollo 11’s launch, Kennedy Space Center.

Trekking on the Etna volcano, Sicily

Things have been quiet here chez The Sleepless Reader, but I’ve been travelling a lot for both work and pleasure (it’s a tough life!). Three weeks, five countries and a variation in temperatures between 13 and 42C.

Normal service will resume next week, hope you’re still out there!

I was in lovely Verona last week for work, but still had the time to visit some of the city’s literary locations.

Juliet’s Balcony:

Piazza Dante

Shakespeare’s statue on Verona’s Wall, put there the Juliet’s Club, the association who answers all letters to Juliet. The inscription quotes Romeo and Juliet:

“There is no world without Verona walls,
But purgatory, torture, hell itself.
Hence-banished is banish’d from the world,
And world’s exile is death.”

My friend and London hostess Madalena, yours truly, ClaireSakura,
Yvann, Nugget & Lyndsey and Iris.

Just returned from a literary weekend in London. The utter-amazingness of it I’m sure would not be easily understood outside the book blogging community.

On Saturday met a group of fellow Dorothy Dunnett enthusiasts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Game of Kings. As with other such gatherings around the world, we made a toast at exactly 1PM with an exquisite smokey whiskey.

On Sunday had a yummy brunch with a group of fellow book bloggers, who I’ve got to know online over the past 1 1/2 years. After eggs Benedict we chatted our way to the National Portrait Gallery to see Jane Austen’s famous portrait by Cassandra, the Brontë sisters, a young Dickens, a handsome Tennyson, a slightly-creepy Thackeray and other literary portraits.

Just before heading off to the train back to Brussels (sniff) I needed to spend my left-over pounds, so we had no choice but to head-off to the nearest Waterstones for an early 5 o’clock tea and to buy The Downtown Abbey Companion. Had no idea it even existed, but as soon as I saw it, I knew it had to be mine!

O how I love London, where billboards advertise the latest books and not just detergent and car insurance *sigh*

Usually my birthday gift from André is a road-trip to a place of my choice. This almost always involves literary locations, mostly connected to Austen. We did Winchester, Steventon and Chawton one year, Bath in another and this year I dragged him to Lyme Regis to see the famous steps.

PS: Dear American readers, I know you’re going through a heat-wave so feel free to send some our way. Several countries in Easter and Northern Europe are having a terrible summer. Today in lovely Brussels: 14C/57F.

I jumped, but alas, just like Louisa Musgrove, there was no Captain Wentworth to catch me.

Inside The Booklovers B&B in Lyme Regis. We had a lovely time there. It stands in the same place as the Hiscott’s Boarding House, where Austen stayed when she visited in 1804. Afterwards the Three Cups Hotel replaced it and welcomed Tennyson, Longfellow, Belloc, G.K. Chesterton and Tolkien before it burned down in 1844.

Family photos on the piano at Greenway, Agatha Christie’s beautiful holiday home.

Plaque at Exeter’s Cathedral: “To the memory of Sarah Price Clarke (…). Her mind possessed an energy which does not often mark the female character.” Priceless!

Lovely St. Ives.

… and finally, the ruins of Tintagel Castle, the mythical birthplace of the mythical Arthur Pendragon.

Uff – It’s good to be back home! I’ve spent some days in New York for work and the day after I got back I had to fly to Munich for a big trade fair. In NY I had time to walk around and do some book shopping, visit the Public Library (thanks for the tip Wallace!), but unfortunately I only got a few glimpses of Munich through the window of several taxis.

I’d also like to announce that during this trip I’ve discovery another benefit of being a bookworm! I’m not an easy air traveller and turbulence always makes me anxious. Usually I get distracted with music, movies and games, but this particular plane had no individual screens and my iPod quickly ran out of battery after an hour of playing Patience. So what did I decide to do at a time of turbulence? I opened my computer and tried to list by memory my entire TBR list, all 172 books. You’ll be happy to know that I managed 152 and it did relax me. I remember at one point trying to write “White Oleander” and not really managing for all the shaking. :S

So here’s my New York loot. I tried to get books set in the city as much as possible.

Washington Square by Henry James. I ate an ice-cream there on the first day of my trip, so when I spotted it at the 5th Av’s Barnes & Noble, I knew it had to be mine.
The plot of Washington Square has the simplicity of old-fashioned melodrama: a plain-looking, good-hearted young woman, the only child of a rich widower, is pursued by a charming but unscrupulous man who seeks the wealth she will presumably inherit. On this premise, Henry James constructed one of his most memorable novels, a story in which love is answered with betrayal and loyalty leads inexorably to despair.” (GR)

The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt. The first time I was in NY I stayed at the Hotel New Yorker, so I also couldn’t resist this one when it looked at me from the shelves of The Strand.
From the moment Louisa first catches sight of the strange man who occupies a forbidden room on the thirty-third floor, she is determined to befriend him.Unbeknownst to Louisa, he is Nikola Tesla—inventor of AC electricity and wireless communication—and he is living out his last days at the Hotel New Yorker.” (GR)

Away by Amy Bloom. I bought Away for a bit of the gritty Lower East Side.
Panoramic in scope, Away is the epic and intimate story of young Lillian Leyb, a dangerous innocent, an accidental heroine. When her family is destroyed in a Russian pogrom, Lillian comes to America alone, determined to make her way in a new land. When word comes that her daughter, Sophie, might still be alive, Lillian embarks on an odyssey that takes her from the world of the Yiddish theater on New York’s Lower East Side, to Seattle’s Jazz District, and up to Alaska, along the fabled Telegraph Trail toward Siberia.” (GR)

Cordelia Underwood: Or, The Marvelous Beginning of the Moosepath League by Van Reid. Why hadn’t I heard of this one before? It sounds right up my alley.
In the summer of 1896 in Portland, Maine, several people are embarking on adventures of a most audacious and entertaining nature. Cordelia Underwood finds, in the newly discovered sea chest of her late uncle, the deed to a large parcel of land. Cordelia and her family soon suspect that a mystery surrounds her land, that something on it might hold the key to a secret two centuries old.” (GR)

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. This was the only book in the loot that I actively looked for. I first saw it on GoodReads’ list of best books set in New York. Really looking forward to it.
New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake—orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl who is dying of consumption. Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man who, because of a love which at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead.” (Wikipedia)

Forever by Pete Hamill. I’ve heard of Pete Hamill before, always associated to NY, so it seemed like an good choice. This city is a good place for a bit of magic realism.
Epic tale of an extraordinary man who arrives in New York in 1740 and remains … forever. Through the eyes of Cormac O’Connor – granted immortality as long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan – we watch New York grow from a tiny settlement on the tip of an untamed wilderness to the thriving metropolis of today.” (GR)

Have you read any of these?

 

The plan was to go to Japan. We’d been dreaming about it for months, all the reservations were made… and then disaster struck.

So with the blessing of British Airways we re-routed to Thailand and a bit of Malaysia-truly-Asia. I’ll leave tomorrow for two weeks of hard travelling and bits of dolce far niente.

I’ve chosen four books to take with me, which is a bit ambitious considering how much I usually read while travelling, but I’m counting on the days we’ll spend belly-up at the beach.

Until soon! A.

  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. A “bio-punk” science fiction novel set in 23rd century Thailand. It was the winner of the Nebula Award in 2009 and Hugo Award in 2010, both for best novel.

From Amazon: In a future Thailand, calories are the greatest commodity. Anderson is a calorie-man whose true objective is to discover new food sources that his company can exploit. His secretary, Hock Seng, is a refugee from China seeking to ensure his future. Jaidee is an officer of the Environmental Ministry known for upholding regulations rather than accepting bribes. His partner, Kanya, is torn between respect for Jaidee and hatred for the agency that destroyed her childhood home. Emiko is a windup, an engineered and despised creation, discarded by her master and now subject to brutality by her patron. The actions of these characters set in motion events that could destroy the country.

    • The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka. A family sage set in Malaysia during WWII.

    From Goodreads:  At the age of 14, Lakshmi is married off to Ayah, a man more than twice her age. Led to believe Ayah is rich, Lakshmi is surprised to learn he is actually a clerk wholly lacking any sort of ambition. Lakshmi makes the best of her situation, bearing six children, including a set of twins, in five years. But Lakshmi is dogged by a prophecy that predicts heartbreak from her oldest son and the loss of one of her other children. She is a ferociously protective mother, and when the Japanese invade Malaysia during World War II, she hides her three daughters away. At the end of the occupation, part of the prophecy comes true, permanently splintering Lakshmi’s family.

    • One Day by David Nicholls. I want to know what the fuss is about and read it before the movie comes out.

    From Goodreads: Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows? Twenty years, two people, ONE DAY.

    From Goodreads: Making a wintry voyage from Ireland to New York in 1847, the Star of the Sea is a ship filled with passengers whose range from humble folk fleeing the ravages of the Irish Potato Famine to bankrupt aristocrats trying to outrun the secrets of their past. Beneath these class differences lies a web of connections marked by betrayal and hatred that spans generations and is about to turn murderous.


      Arrived Sunday night from a mini-vacation in Istanbul, which was confirmed as one of my favorite European (and Asian) cities (if not really the favorite).

      Of course there was some book shopping involved, this time at the Robinson Crusoe bookshop in Beyoglu’s main street. It’s reputedly “Istanbul’s best foreign book shop” and it has a great vibe, with its tall shelves in dark wood. I especially appreciated their section on Turkey and came out with three souvenirs, all ideal for my Istanbul/Constantinople/Byzantium theme of the One, Two, Theme Challenge:

      (View from our hotel)

      • The Flea Palace by Elif Shafak
      • The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk
      • Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City by Hillary Sumner-Boyd and John Freely

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