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fauxklore
18 January 2019 @ 03:04 pm
Despite my Red Sox fandom, I have not lived in New England since 1980. However, when I visit Boston, I do feel like I belong there.

Not a Good Weekend to Look at Social Media: A lot of my friends from the puzzle community are at MIT for the Mystery Hunt. A lot of my traveling friends are in Singapore for SinDo (a big annual frequent flyer party). I am home. And I don’t get Monday off. And I need my vacation time for a trip in February. But it is still annoying to think of all the fun that friends are having while I will spend a lot of the weekend communing with housework and whining about the weather.

Weather: Supposedly we got another inch and a half of snow last night. While it was snowing when I walked home from the Metro station, it was mostly wet stuff that wasn’t sticking. And I didn’t see any real signs of it this morning on the sidewalk or street. I did, however, remember that I keep intending to collect a bunch of freshly falling snow in a pie tin so I can make sugar in the snow. (This is a New England thing – you boil maple syrup and pour it over a pan of fresh-packed snow and it turns into incredibly good caramel.) There didn’t seem to be enough snow last night for that and I had forgotten last weekend when it would have been feasible. This coming weekend’s forecast doesn’t look very likely either. But I should still make sure to buy pickles and sharp cheddar cheese (which are the perfect go-withs) when I go shopping.

Speaking of New England Things: Durgin Park, a very old Boston restaurant, closed last weekend. The food was never exciting and the waiters were surly to the point of hostility. But it was a classic. In honor of its memory, I am planning to make Indian pudding. And Grape Nut pudding, which I would have done last weekend if I had found a big pan to use as a bain marie. (Again, for those unfamiliar, both of these are essentially egg custards with corn meal and molasses in the first case and Grape Nut cereal for the latter.)

I also have some Granny Smith apples in the house. Which are the right and proper thing to use for apple crisp or apple brown betty and I admit I don’t really know what the difference between the two is.
I should probably cook something that isn’t dessert. I also have things other than cooking to do this weekend.

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fauxklore
17 January 2019 @ 03:39 pm
I've been working on a project which has a deadline at the end of March. For various reasons I won't go into publicly, the very first thing the people heading the project did was request an extension to the end of June.

We heard today that we may not get that extension.

We've been having three not horribly productive meetings a week. At today's meeting we heard (not quite verbatim but close) "If we don't get the extension, we'll have to have more meetings."

Because, yeah, right, that's going to help.

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fauxklore
16 January 2019 @ 03:41 pm
Celebrity Death Watch: Houari Manar was a singer of rai, a type of Algerian traditional music. Verna Bloom was an actress, best known for playing Mrs. Wormer in Animal House. J. D. Gibbs raced stock cars. Sir Michael Atiyah was a British mathematician whose work included algebraic geometry, topology, and a lot of things that I have no clue about (index theory? K-theory? Gauge theory? To quote Tom Lehrer, "bozhe moi! This I know from nothing.") "Whitey" Shafer wrote country songs, including "All My Ex’s [sic] Live in Texas" for George Strait. Mel Stottlemyre pitched for the New York Yankees.

Lester Wunderman invented direct marketing. At least, he named the term. He was specifically responsible for those annoying subscription cards that fall out of magazines,the zip code system, and 1-800 toll free numbers. On a better note, he created the first customer rewards program (for American Express) which led to the wonders of airline and hotel miles and points. His development of the Columbia Record Club was probably a more mixed blessing. On an unrelated note, he collected Dogon (a Malian ethnic group) artifacts and was one of the co-founders of the International Center of Photography.

I am pretty sure you don’t need me to tell you about Carol Channing. She had a successful career in musical theatre, primarily as a comedienne with a, um, distinctive voice. Her best-known role was, of course, as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! She also played Lorelie Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blndes and Muzzy in the movie of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

I Should Probably Explain: I have been asked about this a few times. I make no attempt to be comprehensive regarding dead celebrities. I just skim a few sources and note names I recognize or achievements that seem interesting. It’s helpful for finding subjects for the annual obituary poems contest in the Style Invitational. Which is what I spent Monday night working on.

Also, I am more likely to mention scientists than actors and, all else being equal, try to list more women than men. That’s one of my little ways of fighting back against some of the things I dislike about mainstream American culture.


Political Humor: There was plenty of mockery of Trump serving fast food to the Clemson athletes. My favorite comment was that he should have served Taco Bell and gotten Mexico to pay for it.

Two Quick Genealogy Notes: I volunteered to do a presentation to the genealogy club at work re: my trip last summer. Oh, dear, what have I gotten myself into? I am actually cool with presenting, but dread having to pronounce Lithuanian place names in public.

Also, I had a minor breakthrough the other day. Namely, I found out when and where my grandfather’s youngest sister died. That led me to find an obituary which told me: a) another place where she had lived previously and b) that she had a son I hadn’t known about. It also suggests that the daughter who I had known about predeceased her (since only that son is listed as a survivor).


Friendzies: I could have sworn I posted this yesterday, specifically on LJ. But it seems to have disappeared. It is easier to edit on DW and I have things set to copy over, so there is no harm in putting it here.

The simpler friendzy is the one being hosted on solteronita’s LJ. It is worth a look to see if you want to add more journals to your reading or find more readers for your own.

The more complex one is this, which is more or less book-oriented:


A Bookworm Friending Meme!


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fauxklore
14 January 2019 @ 11:50 am
Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 1: My car had a warning light on, which was in the shape of an exclamation point.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 2: One of my colleagues needed to renew his badge at work. I pointed out to him that he needed to take the elevator to the 8th floor in order to get to the 3rd floor.

Weather Whine: We got 10 inches of snow from sometime on Saturday through late last night. The schools are all closed. The government (the parts of it that were open, that is) is shut down. My company is open. Can I be forgiven for assuming our senior management wants to kill us?

They are predicting snow next weekend, too. Please, no.

Taking Up Serpents: I went out yesterday, despite the snow, to see the premiere of an opera called Taking Up Serpents at the Kennedy Center. This was written by Kamala Sankarem, with a libretto by Jerre Dye. The story involves a young woman, Kayla, who is summoned back to her dying father’s bedside. There is a lot of reminiscence about her relationship with her father, who turned from a rough drunk to a snake-handling preacher. Now, he’s dying of a snake bite, which liberates both Kayla and her mother, both of whom turn out not to be quite so "weak as water, weak as Eve," as Daddy had claimed.

The story is interesting and some of the music was. There was a frenetic scene of shoppers at Save Mart in the beginning, which provided a bit of comic relief. There were echoes of shape note singing (although that works better for me in the more traditional form, with people standing in a square, facing outwards). There was also some intriguing instrumentation, notably in the use of whirly tubes. However, Kayla has more music than anyone else and while I realize that Alexandria Shiner is a powerful soprano, I find those high frequencies annoyingly screechy after a while. I also found the ending unconvincing.

So, overall, this fell into the category of interesting failures. But you might like it better than I did if you have a higher tolerance for sopranos than I do.

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fauxklore
11 January 2019 @ 02:30 pm
I am really tired because I was out late on Wednesday night. I went to The Grapevine, a storytelling show in Darkest Maryland. (Except it really isn't. It's technically on the D.C. line of the border in Takoma Park. But it involves going to an extreme end of the Red Line, so it is rather like falling off the edge of the earth.) The featured tellers were Noa Baum and Donald Davis. Normally, there is also an open mike, but they skipped it, possibly because it was very very crowded.

Anyway, Noa had a new story about dolls, mixed with a story about Vasilisa the Wise and Baba Yaga. Some of the transitions between the two didn't quite work for me, but it was an interesting piece. One thing, though - and I know this is not Noa's fault - but Baba Yaga's hut does not have doors or windows. That (along with the chicken feet) is one of its key features. She goes in and out via the chimney.

As for Donald, he told two stories - Mrs. Rosemary's Kindergarten and a story about haircuts. I've heard both of them multiple times before, but it doesn't matter because he is just such a great teller. Overall, the show was a real treat and worth the exhaustion.

I compounded the exhaustion last night because I was absorbed in reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and stayed up to finish it. It's an excellent novel and brought back memories of traveling in Ghana.

Friday Five: I don't usually do these, but since my grandfather was a jeweler, this one appealed to me.



  1. Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry? Describe. I have a necklace that my great-grandmother supposedly bought in China. It's black enamel over what I think is brass, with complex designs of the metal showing through the enamel.

  2. Is there a piece of jewelry that you wear daily? Describe. I wear at least one ring all the time, except for when I travel in somewhere dicey. It's usually a square-cut sapphire ring, but I have identical emerald and ruby rings (and some others I sometimes wear depending on what I have on).

    I used to wear an onyx ring on my index finger all the time, but I've been having some joint issues that made the finger swell, so I haven't been wearing it much.

  3. What is the most costly piece of jewelry you own? I have a star sapphire and diamond ring I inherited. I never wear it because it is fragile and doesn't really go with anything, but it was custom-made for my mother so I feel obliged to keep it.

    Of things I actually bought for myself, I have a Marty Magic gold ring in the shape of a bat. I also have a couple of pairs of Lunch at the Ritz earrings, that are big and dangly and fabulous for special occasions.

  4. What piece of jewelry would you secretly (or not so secretly) love to own, but do not? Why don't you? Maybe more from Lunch at the Ritz, possibly one of their necklaces. I don't wear necklaces much, however, because I tend to play with them and break them.

  5. Is there a piece of jewelry you once owned but no longer own? What happened to it? I had another sapphire ring which disappeared in the course of one or another move ages ago. I keep hoping it will turn up, but after 30+ years it seems unlikely.



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fauxklore
09 January 2019 @ 02:42 pm
Don’t Analyze This Dream: I was on a game show of some sort. The question I got had to do with identifying the show Who Do You Think You Are? But the host wanted me to answer it in German.

Humanitarian Crisis at the Border: There actually is a humanitarian crisis at the border. It’s caused by Trump’s ridiculous policy of ignoring international law re: refugees and asylum seekers and his family separation policies.

As for a security crisis, I think that expecting TSA, Border Patrol, the Coast Guard, etc. to work without pay is a more significant security crisis than the handful of potential criminals who enter via our southern border.

2020 Presidential Candidates: I miss the days when candidates started emerging somewhere around January of election years, not a full year earlier. But, as a general rule of thumb, I’d really prefer to see candidates who have some executive experience – i.e. as governors or as mayors of major cities. Ideally, a combination of executive experience and experience in either the House or Senate would provide the right mix of skills. Gender, race, etc. are entirely irrelevant. There are white men I’d be happy to support. There are people of color I'd be happy to support. There are women of various ethnicities I'd support. I do have some feelings re: age of candidates, but there’s more flexibility there.

Tax Rates: I am not a big fan of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez for reasons I don’t want to go into right now. But I agree with her re: marginal tax rates. We had marginal tax rates well over 70% for the highest brackets for a lot of years and we were far more prosperous.

The Congressional Committee System: What I was waiting for AOC (and other new Congresscritters) to learn and react to is the system of Congressional dues for committee assignments. In the Senate, assignments primary follow seniority. But, in the House, committee assignments – and, particularly, chairmanships – are paid for. The “dues” go to one’s party’s campaign committee and are in the hundreds of thousands dollars for significant committees. Ultimately, of course, the money comes from lobbying organizations.

I consider myself fairly savvy politically and I only learned about this maybe a month ago. But it’s been reasonably widely reported in reliable sources since at least the middle of 2017.

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fauxklore
08 January 2019 @ 08:56 am
This came with the subject line: advert in Charles de Gaulle Airport

Hello,

I am directed by the board of Metropolitan Models Management to inform you that we are interested in your profile picture on FaceBook for the new Samsung billboard advert in Charles de Gaulle Airport ,international airport in France. Send a copy of your picture via email to [redacted] for more details about the new Samsung billboard advert and the payment you will receive.


Contract Period:12 MONTHS

Total Payment:600,999.00


Metropolitan Models Management Plc .© 1995-2018



My translation: we want to steal your facebook profile. And that payment is likely to be in Monopoly money. Or Zimbabwe dollars (which are worth about as much).

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fauxklore
07 January 2019 @ 02:47 pm
Celebrity Death Watch 2018: Peter Masterson wrote The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Norman Gimbel was a lyricist, best known for "The Girl From Ipanema" and "Killing Me Softly With His Song." Raven Wilkinson was the first African-American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company (the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo). Donald Moffat was a character actor who won a couple of Tony awards. Paddy Ashdown headed the British Liberal Democrats. Liza Redfield was the first woman to be the full-time conductor of a Broadway pit orchestra (for The Music Man). Wendy Beckett, better known as Sister Wendy, was a nun who became famous as an art historian and critic. Herb Ellis was an actor who co-created Dragnet. Roy Glauber was a Nobel-prize winning physicist. Sono Osato was the first American and the first person of Japanese ancestry to perform with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Lawrence Roberts led the team that created the ARPANET, which made him the founding father of the internet. Nancy Roman was an astronomer who planned the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Seydou Dadian Kouyate wrote the lyrics to the national anthem of Mali. Amos Oz was an Israeli novelist. Dame June Whitfield was an English actress, best known for appearing in Absolutely Fabulous and for playing Miss Marple on a radio series. Brian Garfield wrote Westerns and mysteries. Dean Ford wrote that one-hit-wonder "Reflections of My Life" for his group, Marmalade.

Jane Langton wrote children’s books and mystery novels. Her Homer Kelly mysteries were literate and witty, with a strong sense of place (largely New England) and charming line drawings. I particularly recommend Natural Enemy (as long as you aren’t an arachnophobe) and The Escher Twist

Larry Eisenberg was a biomedical engineer and science fiction writer. But his bigger claim to fame was in the form of letters to the New York Times, in which his news commentary was in the form of limericks.

Celebrity Death Watch – 2019: Pegi Morton Young was a singer-songwriter and the first wife of Neil Young. Larry Weinberg was a real estate developer and owner of the Portland Trail Blazers. Gene Okerlund was a wrestling announcer. Bob Einstein was an actor known for Curb Your Enthusiasm and for portraying Super Dave Osborne. Daryl Dragon was the Captain in the Captain & Tenille. Jerry Buchek played baseball for the Cardinals and the Mets. Herb Kelleher co-founded Southwest Airlines. Sylvia Chase was a news anchor and journalist. Harold Brown was the Secretary of Defense from 1977-1981 (under Jimmy Carter). Eric Haydock was the bassist for The Hollies. Moshe Arens was the Israeli Minister of Defense for a few terms, as well as being an aeronautical engineer.

Celebrity Death Watch: The lists for this year are officially published so I can reveal my selections for who I think will die in 2019. (The numbers are how many points I’ll get if that person dies.)

20. Kathleen Blanco
19. Leah Bracknell
18. Tim Conway
17. Kirk Douglas
16. Herman Wouk
15. Olivia de Haviland
14. Stirling Moss
13. Jean Erdman
12. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings
11. Al Jaffee
10. Beverly Cleary
9. Jean Kennedy Smith
8. Johnny Clegg
7. Lawrence Ferlinghetti
6. Ken Nordine
5. Jerry Herman
4. Jimmy Carter
3. Russell Baker
2. Robert Mugabe
1. John Paul Stevens

Don’t Analyze This Dream – Part 1: A man was wearing a bright blue sequined suit and standing in the doorway of a metro train. The person sitting next to me commented on the conservatism of my clothing (maroon sweater, grey skirt) and pointed to a woman wearing a red sequined dress and white fur wrap.

Don’t Analyze This Dream – Part 2: A stack of my books were on the night stand at a friend’s house. I reached for what I thought was a poetry book at the bottom of the stack,intending to read a poem or two before going to bed, but it turned out to be a copy of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror.

Tone Rangers / Impitched: I was pretty exhausted on Friday night, but I still forced myself out of the house and went to Jammin’ Java (conveniently near my house) to see one of my favorite local a capella groups, The Tone Rangers. They had a guest group with them called Impitched, who I thought were fine musically, but whose choreography was weak. The Tone Rangers were as good as ever, with some of my favorite songs, e.g. their arrangements of "Southern Cross" (which is one of my favorite songs of all time), "Helen," and, of course, their most famous piece, "Wild Thing" (which starts out as Gregorian chant). They also continue to be very funny, in general. My favorite joke of the night was about how, with the success of The Crown on Netflix and Victoria on PBS, Amazon Prime is coming out with a confusing series about cops in New Jersey. It’ll be called The Crown Victoria. Overall, it was a great show and I felt energized within the first 10 minutes of it.

TCC Luncheon: Saturday was a Travelers’ Century Club luncheon. There was a huge turnout, which has the downside of making it harder to mingle. There was lots of great conversation. What other group of people is there where having been to 108 countries and territories puts you on the low side? And it is fun to both give and receive travel advice.

Housework: It is remarkable how long housework takes and how much energy it saps.

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fauxklore
03 January 2019 @ 12:17 pm
2018 was fairly stressful, largely due to a work situation that appears to be resolving itself. And, of course, the state of the world didn't help.

Books: I read 40 books, which is probably the fewest since I learned how to read. Also, surprisingly, only 6 were non-fiction. This is a little misleading in that I don’t count guidebooks, which end up being most of what I read when I’m traveling. My logic for not counting them is that I rarely read them cover to cover.

Favorites were Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon, and Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde.

The book I hated the most was Murder By Sacrilege by D. R. Meredith.

I really need to do a used bookstore run. I’m not even sure how many books I have ready to go out.

Volksmarch: I did three events – in New Orleans, Atlantic City, and Charleston, West Virginia. The latter was a State Capital walk. I should get back into focusing on special programs, but first I need to resolve some issues with my right foot.

Travel: I started the year out in Singapore. My last trip of the year was to the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas and St. John) which is only semi-international, involving a dependency of the U.S., not a separate country. My major trip of the year was my family roots trip to Latvia, Lithuania, and Belarus (plus a part of a day in Zurich), which was incredible.

Domestic trips included business trips to Colorado Springs and to Layton, Utah. Personal travel was to New Orleans, Stamford (Connecticut, for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament), Atlantic City,New York (4 times, including a Brooklyn Cyclones game), Portland (Oregon), Rhode Island (mostly for a PawSox game), Memphis (Redbirds game), Milwaukee (Wisconsin for the National Puzzlers’ League con), Frederick (Maryland, for Loserfest. It counts because I did stay overnight), Richmond (Virginia – and, again, staying overnight makes it count), and Charleston (West Virginia). It seems unlikely, but it appears that I had an entire year without going to California.

Puzzles: This was pretty much a middle of the pack year. I ended up in the 62nd percentile at the ACPT, the 39th percentile at the Indie 500, and 55.7th percentile at Lollapuzzoola. Annoyingly, I didn’t solve cleanly at any of them.

I also had a good time (as always) at the NPL con. That included bringing along a hand-out puzzle, which I think went over reasonably well. I am planning for a walk-around puzzle for the 2019 con, since it’s in Boulder, Colorado, a city I have spent a lot of time in.

Ghoul Poul: I didn’t do particularly well in my second year. I finished 14th out of 20 participants, with 70 points. The people I scored with were Prince Henrik, Barbara Bush, John McCain, and George HW Bush.

Genealogy: I did the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project, which got me writing about a few family stories, but didn’t really drive much research. I did, however, get in touch with a few unknown cousins (two from the FAINSTEIN family, one from the KHAIKEL / MEDINTS family) and made some progress on the GOLDWASSER family (my maternal grandfather’s mother’s side).

Baseball: I only made it to one Major League game this year – Red Sox at Nats on the Fourth of July. But it was a good year since: 1)I got to three minor league games (Memphis, Pawtucket, and Coney Island) and 2)my BoSox won the World Series.

Culture: If I counted correctly, I went to 16 musicals, 2 operas and 14 plays. My favorite musicals were Dave at Arena Stage and Me and My Girl at Encores in New York. My favorite plays were Heisenberg and 4380 Nights at Signature Theatre and Becoming Di. Ruth and Treyf at Theatre J. I also went to one ballet, one Cirque du Soleil shows, and 6 concerts. The most significant of the latter was seeing Jonathan Richman at the 9:30 Club. I had wanted to see him live for ages, so I was really glad to have the opportunity.

I went to One Day University 5 times. And I saw 16 movies, of which my favorites included What We Do in the Shadows, The Shape of Water. and Bathtubs Over Broadway

There was also a bunch of storytelling in there, some with me on stage and more with me in the audience.

Goals: I had six goals for 2018. So how did I score? I got about halfway through 2 afghans, so that gives me 33% on the goal to finish three. I did nothing about organizing photos, though I did find out about scanning resources at the library. I read 40 books, including 1 poetry book, so I I get 77% and 33% for that goal. I think I entered the Style Invitational twice, so will give myself 33% there. I did 3 Volksmarch events, so get 50% there. And I think I got through roughly 65% of catching up on household paperwork. I figure that gives me somewhere around a 40% on the year, which is not terrible, but not wonderful, either.

So what about goals for 2019?


  • Finish shredding and filing household paperwork.

  • Organize my genealogy files, both physical and electronic.

  • Organize my yarn stash. Ideally this would include using up at least 25% of the yarn. While I am at it, I also need to organize knitting needles and crochet hooks and the like.

  • Organize photos. Yes, really.

  • Read at least 52 books.

  • Enter the Style Invitational at least 4 times.

  • Do a 20 minute or longer workout at least 3 times a week.

  • Bring lunch to work at least twice a week.

  • Eat fruit every day.



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fauxklore
02 January 2019 @ 01:47 pm
Let’s finish off the quarterly list making, before I get to my annual grand wrap-up. Here are the books I read over the last three months of 2018. There would have been one more, but I fell asleep early on New Year’s Eve, with 30 or so pages left.



  1. Harry Golden, Enjoy, Enjoy! I’ve read several of the collections of Golden’s pieces for The Carolina Israelite and mostly liked them. However, this book felt rather repetitive. I smiled at pieces about Jewish food and similar nostalgia, but I cringed at his broader attempts to speak on behalf of the Jewish community on topics like race and women’s rights. Okay, this was published in 1960, so it isn’t surprising that he was behind the times. That doesn’t mean I have to suffer through reading it. Disappointing.

  2. Alice McDermott, Someone. This was a book club selection and tells the story of an Irish-American woman in Brooklyn. I prefer novels with stronger plotlines so I found this pretty dull. There are things that happen, like another woman in the neighborhood discovering her new husband is actually a disguised woman, but nothing extraordinary happens to Marie, the main character. Overall, I thought this was a tedious read/

  3. Daniel M. Pinkwater, Young Adults. If you’re familiar with Pinkwater’s writing, you know he does silliness very well. The adventures of the Wild Dada Ducks, as they create chaos in high school and into college, are absurd and entertaining. It is, however, a bit mean-spirited at times, so I’m not sure I’d recommend it to readers of the target age group.

  4. Alexander McCall Smith, A Time of Love and Tartan. Another volume in the always delightful 44 Scotland Street series is always something to look forward to reading. There is the usual mixture of warmth and mild absurdity. The main thing for me here is that I genuinely like most of the characters and look forward to spending time with them.

  5. Alexander Kent, Richard Bolitho – Midshipman. Kent actually wrote the earlier adventures of Richard Bolitho out of chronological sequence (i.e. this is the first book in Bolitho’s Royal Navy career, but wasn’t published until 1975, while the series started in 1968 with book 7). Even a 16-year-old Bolitho is immensely likeable, as he tries to get his superiors to do the right thing – and gets in trouble for doing so. I’m glad I have more of this series to read.

  6. Giovanni Guareschi, Comrade Don Camillo. And now I have read all of the Don Camillo books! Guareschi’s village priest continues to charm me as he battles the forces of Communism, largely in the form of his rival, Peppone, the mayor of their village. This volume has Don Camillo going to the USSR, disguised as a member of a Communist delegation. He finds opportunities to meddle in various affairs, solving problems and bringing comfort to almost everyone he meets. This isn’t laugh out loud humor, but Guareschi’s work always brings me a smile.

  7. Jeff Linday, Dexter in the Dark. I normally advocate reading a series in order, but I happened to pick up a couple of the Dexter novels for trade at a used book store, so I take what I can. This is pretty weird stuff, largely because it feels horrible to find myself rooting for an admitted serial killer. Still, he only kills people who really deserve it. And the writing is breezy and fast-paced, so I did enjoy reading it.

  8. Beth Harbison, Secrets of a Shoe Addict. This is pretty stereotypical chick lit as three women get into expensive trouble while chaperoning a school band trip to Las Vegas, and start a phone sex business to pay off the debts. There are amusing relationship issues – including what may be the worst first date ever (involving a ventriloquist and his dummy) – but everything turns out well in the end. Well, maybe not so much for the dummy. It was an amusing escapist read – which is sometimes just what I need.

  9. Dan Chaon, Await Your Reply. Wow! This was another book club pick, and it proved to be one of the best novels I’ve read all year. The book alternates among three stories, each involving people who are running away or towards something amid lots of questions about identity. It isn’t until very near the end that we learn how the three stories are related. There are some pretty gruesome aspects to parts of the book, but, if you can handle the opening (involving a severed hand), it doesn’t really get any worse. Highly recommended.

  10. Neil Gaiman, Coraline. I had seen the 3-D movie years ago, but hadn’t read the book before. Coraline’s adventures, exploring her house, lead her to a horrifying other world, in which the Other Mother tries to win her over, but to what end? I’ve read a lot of Gaiman’s work and find it consistently entertaining, but decidedly dark.

  11. Eric Kimmel, Bar Mitzvah. I’m not sure what the intended audience for this book is. It probably works best for non-Jews who have been invited to a bar mitzvah and want some background on what to expect. I found it dull – and not especially accurate – with the exception of the personal anecdotes that are mixed in with the explanatory material.

  12. Morris West, Harlequin. International finance, cybercrime (circa 1974), and Middle East terrorism – I certainly can’t complain there wasn’t enough happening! There’s nothing profound, at least from the perspective of our era, in which the computer manipulation of international finances isn’t such a novelty. But it was a good enough escapist read.

  13. Jasper Fforde, Shades of Grey. Fforde is one of the most original novelists working nowadays. I’ve read a lot of his Thursday Next series, so was intrigued to find this first book in a new series in a Little Free Library near work. The concept is a society in which, after the Something Which Happened, people are categorized by their color perception. There are rigid rules, with complex loopholes, and all sorts of delightful details about this dystopian world of Chromatica. There are rumors that there will be sequels (or, possibly, a prequel next year) and I would even buy that brand new and in hardback.




By the way, for this year, I joined a facebook group for National Just Read More Novels Month, the object of which is to read lots of new novels (i.e. not re-reads, vice newly published) in January. I've started with the next Bolitho novel (chronologically, not by publication date).

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