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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!

 

brontessmCredit: Hark! A Vagrant

I have a dysfunctional relationship with the Brontës. I often find myself rolling my eyes at all the DRAMA! in their stories, which I usually go out of my way to avoid in other books. I rebel against Charlotte’s negative portrayal of my beloved Brussels and her snide remarks about Jane Austen. I cringe at Emily’s glorification of an abusive hero. I go a bit easier on Anne because I have a soft spot for her – she has her sanctimonious moments, but I’m anxiously waiting for the day when the world realizes she’s the true ground-breaking feminist in the family.

The truth is: I can’t get enough of them and can’t think of a more interesting family (maybe the Mitfords come close?). It’s almost like I’m also a Brontë sister, always bickering but loving them all the same, vigorously defending them from outside attacks.

I’m also a proud member of the Brontë Society, and its Brussels Bronte Group  branch (post about our weekend in London). I’ve read many books about the family and since Charlotte’s birthday is coming up, I’ve decided to start celebrating earlier with a list of my favorites. Have you read any of them?

51Hre4BoOvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Brontës by Juliet Barker
(Previous reviews: Part I; Part II)

This is on my top-3 favorite biographies of all time. It’s huge, but it reads like a 300-page Sarah Addison Allen novel. It starts with Patrick Brontë’s youth and arrival in England and goes right through to the family’s growing popularity after everyone’s been long dead.

Juliet Barker’s approach is that a reliable biography of each Brontë cannot be done in isolation, since their lives were too connected and they constantly inspired each other’s work. She’s also in the business of myth-busting.

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41QR7VCP9HL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Brontë Myth by Lucasta Miller

Like Start Trek, each new generation creates a new zeitgeist version of the Brontës. Miller examines the way these perceptions change over time by taking a comprehensive a look at all body of work produced about the family.

The impact of Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë was especially interesting to read, as well as the ripple effect of the cinema adaptations of their works and lives.

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The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell

This was the book that started the Brontë myth and crystallized it for many years. Gaskell was a friend of Charlotte Brontë and, for better or worst, it shows. Even if you know little about Charlotte, it’s obvious this is a very romanticized and sanitized version of her life. Gaskell was very keen to keep up Charlotte’s domestic-goddess image – fascinating stuff to read from a 21st century perspective.

I’ve had really geeky conversations with other Brontë aficionados on the best order to read the first three books on this list. The Brontës was the last to be written and it’s a great intro to the family. It talks about how both The Myth and The Life fit the narrative. The Myth describes in detail how The Life impacts how we perceive the Brontës even today. It’s really interesting to read The Life after The Brontës and The Myth, but it would probably be a very different experience if read first.

107973The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë by Daphne du Maurier

Oh Branwell, golden child, the unfulfilled promise, the most tragic element of a tragic family. This is Branwell’s biography and a great example of du Maurier’s non-fiction skills. From what I’ve gathered, she saw this book as an opportunity to prove herself beyond her “popular literature”.

Confession: I didn’t know this book even existed until I won it in a raffle at the last Brussels Brontë Society Xmas Lunch.

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The Brontës Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson

A novel for a bit of change. The Brontës Went to Woolworths is about three sisters that share an imaginary world that threatens to become more real than reality. And it actually does, because after a table-turning session, the Brontë sisters come knocking on their door.

It’s such a witty and fun book and unlike The Eyre Affair (don’t get me started on that one, a pet hate of mine), the Brontës act as I’d expect them to. It’s one of those forgotten diamonds that deserve more limelight. How come it’s not a Persephone?

Any other recommendations?

Last weekend we rented a Swiss Chalet up in the mountains and had an amazing time. Like us, none of our friends skies (gasp! goes everyone in Switzerland), so we just hanged out with the kids, ate, drank, read, played board games, walked in the snow, sledged and generally relaxed.

I could’ve gotten used to the 1% life…

16346648695_5bd5cceb3a_kThe view

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15724971494_cd6debf909_zA new experience for David: running in the snow

15727463093_a3531ca0be_zPerfection: cheese fondue lunch

15726744983_915a242c4e_zHusband in the hot-tub (yes, there was a hot-tub!)

16161427557_7206f6b069_zReading Patrick O’Brien during kid’s nap

16159837708_b114e5d76d_zThe boys, marvelling

16346619912_6ef5a45884_zGeneral fun was had

16346645752_16af116198_kThe swap shelf, no Nora Roberts in sight, all very high-brow at the Swiss Chalet

This was an eventful year, in a very good way, but I wouldn’t mind a bit of stability in 2015 though (careful with what you ask for? :S).

Some highlights:

  • Got married
  • David’s a toddler now – what a year!
  • Got a dream job at the UN and the family moved to Geneva
  • Added two new countries to my list: Canada and Kenya

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I’ve read 65 books, which is an increase from the 54 of Baby Year. I’m very proud of myself for this, and for taking on some pretty long ones too (The Count of Monte Cristo, Winter’s Tale, Doctor Zhivago). Also happy to have returned to blogging. I was almost a year out, but I’m happy I waited until it was really calling me back.

Here are the usual geeky statistics (2013 figures between brackets):

Format

As in earlier years paper continues to rule. Being away from blogging made me focus much more on the TBR shelves.

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Fiction vs. Non-fiction

I’m disappointed in these figures. For years I’ve been increasing my share of non-fiction and found some of my favorite books this way. Have no explanation for this and can only try to bring back more balance in 2015.

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A closer look at Fiction

Basically: no blogging = no challenges = no poetry or plays. Glad about the increase in graphic novels though. By joining Jay’s Deal Me In Challenge I hope to see the short-story figure continue to increase.

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I’m also happy about this division of genre, even with a decrease in YA and children’s (yes, I know they’re not exactly a genre, but you know what I mean!). In 2015 I’d like to push the sci-fi number even a bit higher, then I’ll have a nice balance between sci-fi, crime, historical, fantasy and classics.

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A closer look at Non-fiction

I didn’t read enough Non-fiction for the graph to show much…

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Languages

For shame Alex! How many years will it take to balance this, even if only a bit? Any book challenge out there about reading in the original?

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Translated vs. original

A bit better than last year, but nowhere near good enough. It sounds fine to read “in the original”, but not when it’s almost all in English.

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I’ve already started with bookish activities in Geneva. Joined a bookclub (discussing Virginia Woolf’s Orlando this week) and this Saturday we went to the Book Festival of Early Childhood and Families. They had activities planned for different age groups and even almost-15-month-old Davidhad the chance to join in.

It was also an opportunity to know more about Geneva’s libraries and the upcoming events they’re organizing. At the moment I’m having an information overload because there’s just too much I want to do, including an informal chat between librarians and readers about books for the summer, a “Read with your baby” atelier, a “Create a photonovel” workshop and several concerts.

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David exploring the books in the Yurt Library.

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André and David listing to stories and songs in the baby tent.

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Something that might interest my librarian readers. At the Festival, organizers were distributing this really interesting publication called “La Ville, mon doudou et moi“. It’s a set of children’s books recommendations about living in the city, including about what are streets, neighborhoods, public gardens, markets and transports,  the homeless (in photo) and infrastructures like libraries and hospitals. Super interesting and useful. Available for download here (in French).

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The blog has been terribly neglected for the last months, but I have good excuses, promise!

Big changes are afoot Chez Sleepless Reader. I got a job offer from the United Nations so, since the world won’t just save itself, we’ve moved. After 9 years in Brussels we’re now further south in Geneva, Switzerland. We finally found an apartment (lovely, close to the Lake), paperwork is almost all done, so I can finally settle down and start obsessing about books and series again.

I’ve been looking forward to a change for a while, but I still have occasional panic attacks: “I loved Brussels, I loved my life there, so many friends left behind… WHAT HAVE I DONE?!” It’ll be ok once the brain makes the click and starts thinking of Geneva as “home”, instead of Brussels or Lisbon. My husband will be a stay-at-home-dad for a while, so that’ll also be a new experience.

We got married before coming south. After a 2-year engagement and not much wedding organizing done, we finally had the excuse courage to do it how we really wanted: informal and cozy.

On a sunny morning we walked to the Portuguese consulate with just our moms and brothers, signed papers, took the subway to a nice restaurant, came back to the apartment, took a nap and then had about 40 friends over for a catered yummy dinner. It was perfect!

fictfact_logo_200_200I really didn’t need to be in yet another online platform, but couldn’t resist the idea of having my series organised. With FictFact I can track my progress and it warns me of new publications in all the series I follow.

I also like the quick overview of the books I have coming up in my profile page and to be able to nose around the series my friends are following (search sleeplessreader and feel free to add me).

Going through my stats is fun but it triggers the familiar “so many books, so little time” anxiety. I am currently following 61 series, but these include books on the TBR, so of those I haven’t even started 30. I’ve completed 50% or more of only 12 series and shamefully I’m only up to date on two (how is that possible?): the Wolf Hall Trilogy and Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing.

This is a list of the top 10 series I’m keener to start. Many have been on the shelf looking at me with big Puss in Boots eyes for a while. I’m thinking that the Long Awaited Reads might be a good opportunity to finally start a couple of them.

Go ahead and nudge me in the direction of your favorites 😉

series 1

  • Morland Dynasty by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
    The Founding
  • Jackson Brodie by Kate Atkinson
    Case Histories
  • Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson
    Quicksilver
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, Ben
    Rivers of London/Midnight Riot
  • New Crobuzon by China Miéville
    Perdido Street Station
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
    Dune
  • Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
    The Sparrow
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine by Sharon Kay Penman
    When Christ and His Saints Slept
  • Welsh Princes by  Sharon Kay Penman
    Here Be Dragons
  • Moosepath League by Van Reid
    Cordelia Underwood

series 2

I’m back to work after 7 months and my day routine has some resemblance to what it was, so I’m finally feeling grounded enough to re-start blogging (and commenting as well).

During my hiatus I’ve actually read much more than I expected (26 books – uuUUUuuu), but I’m going for a clean slate and talk only talk about books I’ll read from now on. No pressure that way.

Still, for posterity, here are some random thoughts about the past reading period:

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  • Hurrah, I’ve discovery Shel Silverstein!
  • What Mothers Do: especially when it looks like nothing took a chuck of weight off my shoulders when I read it two months into my maternity leave. It should be required reading, but there’s a conundrum: at the time when it would be a real life-saver (a few weeks after birth) most mothers don’t have the brain power to pick up a book and if they’d read it before the baby was born or long afterwards it would lose part of the impact. The solution might be to condense it into a 5-minute video.
  • Confession: The Lightning Thief was the first book I’ve read after seeing the movie and though it was better than the movie (e.g. I’d vote for The Painted Veil’s movie over the book anytime).
  • I’ve already had proof that being a new mom will change how books affect me. The first was with Dan Simmons’ Hyperion. I don’t want to spoil it, but just to say that “The River Lethe’s Taste is Bitter” part of the book haunted me for weeks. Another example was while listening to The Moral Landscape. At some point Sam Harris reads a quote from a psychopath describing how he tortured his stepson. I think something that horrible would always affect me, but not with the violence it did, physically. Still, it was such an interesting book, and one I’ll need to re-read soon.
  • The Enchanted April was a disappointment (not bad, just meh) after the amazing Elizabeth and Her German Garden, but I’m determined to persevere with von Arnim. Christopher and Columbus is up next.
  • How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between) by Mei-Ling Hopgood is my favorite parenting book so far. I’m fascinated by parenting across cultures.

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  • Maria Dulce Cardoso’s O Retono, was the best Portuguese book I’ve read in a long, long time. I need to recommend it to everyone there. Reminded me of Jorge Amado at its best.
  • I’m afraid I’m not as enthusiastic about Code Name Verity as some (most?) book bloggers. A bit predictable, very contrived.
  • To Lie with Lions (The House of Niccolo, #6) by Dorothy Dunnett is the highlight the year so far. Please stop me when you’re tired of hearing me pray at her altar praise her.
  • Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom was also fantastic. Such a page-turner.
  • Oh The Master and Margarita, I tried, swear I did. Oh The Historian, I also tried… although not very hard. Sorry it didn’t work out between us.
  • The Pleasant Surprise Award is a tie between Where’d You Go, Bernadette and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (should have saved it for Halloween!).

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Credits: Cathy Thorne

Hi there *waves*, just wanted to let you know that all is well on this side of the line. The baby in still inside and we’ve entered the last month. This last trimester is taking longer than that other two put together.

About three weeks ago I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, fortunately a mild case and so far it just means I need to be monitored closely and often. Still doing my normal life and working, but it sort of unbalanced my routine and blogging was one of the victims. Then last week I had The Flu To End All Flues and that didn’t help either.

SPOILERS FOR SEASON 3 OF DOWNTON ABBEY

When I told friends about the pre-eclampsia some of them mention Lady Sybil’s untimely death (thanks you guys!). That also led to a bit of an embarrassing exchanged with my doctor:

Me: Do you watch Downton Abbey? There’s a character there that dies of eclampsia. Lots of friends mentioned it, it comes up high on Google when you type the condition.

Doctor: You’ve just spoiled it for me. I’m still at the Christmas Special…

Me: Ups?

/SPOILERS

I’m still reading, and audiobooks in particular have been a blessing when my brain was too scattered to concentrate on the pages.

Recent books included The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (I don’t get all the fuss), How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough (interesting, but not what I expected), Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (gimmi more John Green!) and Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman (so many thoughts on this one).

Hopefully I’ll still be able to do a few more posts before putting The Sleepless Reader on an official hiatus while I try my hands at this maternity thing everyone keeps talking about. For now I had to press “read” on all posts in my Google Reader – let me know if I missed something important!

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Currently reading

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