The only other sound's the sweep / Of easy winds and downy flake



WRC update: finished The History of Love (superb) and read The Sweet Far Thing (flawed, but absorbing). Hopefully I'll post a review of the former; not sure about the latter, as it's so well-known already. Added The Queen of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner, Anthem, by Ayn Rand, and In Beautiful Disguises, by Rajeev Balasubramanyam.

P.S. The photos are better big, especially the first one; you can see the snow falling if you click to enlarge.

So this is deep winter

Air too sharp to breath, snow too bright to look at, a sky of bluest blue, and a thick quiet everywhere underneath it. Shadows seem perpetually long. Night is like another consciousness.

No Romance language is going to best me...

My first semester as a student of the French language is sealed. I've shelled out the $150 for the textbook -- and that was even saving money! If I'd gotten it new, it would have been $200! Obscene! -- and there's really no course with which to replace French 103 in my schedule should I wish to drop it. I'm excited to learn French, but this class is going to be, to quote the guy whose desk neighbors mine, a wild ride.

It's French 101 and 102 combined in one semester (hence, accelerated elementary French) which in theory means that you don't need previous experience to take it. In practice, however, the prof doesn't seem to remember this. I'm quite fine with the actual material -- what we learn from the textbook and all that -- and the pace we're going at. I like studying languages; they make sense to me; I've had experience learning two other foreign languages, and language learning is a general, transferrable sort of skill.

But the professor, apparently assuming much greater knowledge of the language than can be gained in two classes, speaks French about 90% of the time in class. Example:

French professor: Jabber jabber jabber jabber *encouraging nod*
Me: Um....*perplexed if furrow my brow at you hard enough will I understand what you just said? stare*


So that's presenting some challenges. But at least, thank God, there are two other students in the class who've never had French. And I'm going to do well in this class. I am! This is the sort of challenge that actually makes me want even more to triumph. (I'm really not that sort of student usually.) I'm ready for you, French 103! If you think you can take me down, you are wrong!

I found my bag o' books!

When I was unpacking this weekend, I realized all of a sudden that I didn't have my dance bag, which I'd filled with books, mostly Christmas gifts from my parents. Today I finally got it back -- Public Safety had it, because, thank goodness, I'd left it in the campus shuttle that I took from the airport. If I'd left it at the airport or on the plane, who knows if I ever would have gotten it back?

To celebrate, a poem from one of these new-used Christmas books (I filled my arms with poetry at a used bookstore), from the sometimes so-called Emily Dickinson of Sweden, Edith Södergran:

The Foreign Lands

My soul so loves the foreign lands
as if it had no homeland.
In foreign lands stand the enormous stones
on which my thoughts repose.
It was a stranger who wrote the mysterious words
on the hard tablet called my soul.
Days and nights I lie and think
of things that never were:
my thirsty soul was once allowed to drink.

As they say, better late than never

So what if we're already a month into winter? Winter Reading Challenge, here I come!

The list:

Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George
Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen
The Narnian, by Alan Jacobs
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King
The Sweet Far Thing, by Libba Bray**
A Tale of Time City, by Diana Wynne Jones
Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller
Spindle’s End, by Robin McKinley
The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, by Olaudah Equiano
Surprised by Joy, by C.S. Lewis**
Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand*
Enna Burning, by Shannon Hale*
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

It's a little ambitious, but hey, I have no lit. class this semester, and therefore no assigned reading demanding time and attention that belong to leisure reading. Plus this half-semester I have only three courses.

*Rereads
**This is me being sly -- these are books I have already begun.

Favorites books of 2007

So I'm finally back at school, and in this brief quiet before classes start I looked through my records of books I've read, and out of the ones I read for the first time this year, my absolute favorites were:

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery -- The kind of story that I finish reluctantly and would want to live in: humorous, warm, and satisfying.
Honeymoon in Purdah, by Alison Wearing* -- One of my favorite books of any year. A beautifully told account of the months the writer spent traveling in Iran, posing with a male friend as a couple on their honeymoon. So poetic and so funny, with a cast of unforgettable characters, and always fascinating. I couldn't put it down. "A delightfully insane jaunt through contemporary Iran."
The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner* -- Cool pseudo-ancient Greek setting, with a seriously well-crafted plot, including an absolutely delicious twist
Blood Red Horse, by K.M. Grant * -- A thoroughly engrossing, perfectly plotted YA novel set in England and the Holy Lands in the time of the Third Crusade
Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale -- Hm...I'm struggling as to what to say, heh.
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman* -- A collection of brilliant essays on all the various aspects of book-loving. Tremendously funny and insightful.
Pyongyang, by Guy Delisle -- A graphic non-novel about the author's time working (he's a French cartoonist) in the North Korean capital. Hilarious and fascinating.

But there were a bunch of others which were also quite good, and I couldn't let those go without mention:
A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
A Maze Me, by Naomi Shihab Nye
American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
Culture Shock! Israel, by Dick Winter
A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue, by Wendy Shalit
The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson *
Acceleration, by Graham McNamee *
Avielle of Rhia, by Dia Calhoun
Drowned Wednesday, by Garth Nix
Sir Thursday, by Garth Nix
Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld
Pretties,by Scott Westerfeld
Specials, by Scott Westerfeld
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith *
The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith
I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, by Ally Carter

*denotes mature/mature-ish content

P.S. I added some blogs to my list over there --> ^

Snarl


Shin splints. I've been practicing my hardshoe dances the last couple of days trying to get them into decent shape so I can take a class at my old school here in the city. That old sharp ache on the side of my shins is back with a fury. I guess I sort of deserve it for cramming like that. But still! As the Green Parrot would say: oh, expletive!
(By the way, if the picture puzzles you, know that those are bags of frozen vegetables. My family's preferred ice pack.)

Christmas break reading, part one

Greetings, y'all! I had a loverly New Year's Eve (more on that later, perhaps), and I hope you did too! I've enjoyed gathering titles from your "Best of 2007" lists and I'd like to compile my own, but that'll have to wait until I'm back at college, where I left the pertinent records. As for now, I thought I'd update you on what I've read thus far in all this glorious free time!



Just Ask, Meant To Be, and Falling Up, by Melody Carlson

These three are part of the third quartet in the author’s Diary of a Teenage Girl series, this time narrated by Kim, a high school junior and an adopted only child in the small-town suburban community somewhere where the other books were set. Written in diary format, they deal with her relationships with her family, friends, and boyfriend, and the ordinary events of high school, but also with her coming into faith and some other heavier "life issues" such as terminal illness and teen pregnancy. They can be a bit awkward at portraying the thoughts and words of a teenager, and feel a little heavy on the issues/drama at times. (Not as bad as Libba Bray, though – have you ever listed all the teenage issues she packs into her books? [spoilers for A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels; highlight to read] My suitemate and I did for the first two: there’s drug addiction, self-mutilation cutting, alcohol, date rape, eating disorders, and child molestation, to name only the plainest. ) Nonetheless, they're enjoyable. Quick and absorbing Christian fiction.

A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue, by Wendy Shalit

This one’s a really outstanding book about what sexual modesty means to women and men alike, about its decline in western culture, and about the societal and personal repercussions thereof. Before I started it, I didn’t think I’d find it too interesting, but it’s truly a fascinating (and at times angering) read. And surprisingly, it’s not written from a religious perspective. Speaking of which, I know if you come from a conservative religious background like I do you’ve probably been hearing about the importance of modest dress for years. This book, however, presents a much deeper and more analytical perspective than I’d ever heard or even considered, of a much larger issue. So, highly recommended for older teens and above. Don't be deterred by it's non-fictional nature!

And yes, I did feel kind of embarassed carrying it around, not unlike when we read A Streetcar Named Desire in English and our school copies (bookcovers not required) featured Marlon Brando's shirtless torso.

The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith
The fourth in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, about a (woman, obviously) private investigator in Botswana. A humorous and insightful read, fairly light on the mystery, and a lovely portrait of a slower, sweeter way of life.



The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
Despereaux is a truly charming book. It’s quick, whimsically witty, and seriously cute. If you like keeping up with the best of children’s lit., this is a must-read!


My sympathies to those of you who are back in school already. Be strong!

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