Monthly Archives: January 2014

Round the World in 80 Books Challenge

Posted on January 31st, 2014

On Goodreads, I found the book club of my dreams:

Around the World in 80 Books’s bookshelf
Around the World in 80 Books 5021 members Reading takes you places. Where in the world will your next book take you? If you love world literature and exploring the world through books, you have come to the right place! It all started as a challenge on TNBBC in 2009, and now we have our own group! Anyone can join and participate in the challenges at any time. Challenge participation is not a requirement of joining. Anyone who loves reading books from around the world is welcome here. The main purpose of this group is to travel the world through books, experiencing new authors and cultures along the way.


View this group on Goodreads»

So now I have a new reading challenge. Actually, there are lots of challenges to choose from on Round the World in 80 Books. It’s such a big group, it’s a bit confusing at first, but I think I picked a challenge that will work for me. It’s one of the more free and easy ones, called Circumnavigator. Mine involves reading my way around the globe from country to country and I’m trying to pick books with actual journeys in them and work my way from point A to point B through the books. I think it may get tough but I’ve figured out the first few moves in my itinerary.

A-map-for-Robur-the-Conqueror1. Robur the Conqueror by Jules Verne – from Philadelphia, USA to the Chatham Islands, New Zealand, after circumnavigating the world approximately one and a half times in an airship ~ finished 2 January 2014
 2. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I’m half wondering how long it’s going to take me to get stuck and how much cheating and back-tracking I’ll have to do…

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Posted on January 30th, 2014
Stormdancer by Jay KristoffStormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Series: The Lotus Wars #1
Published by Tor UK in 2012
Pages: 451
Location: Magic World
Mode of travel: Airship, Magical Animal
Buy from Amazon USA
Buy from Amazon UK
Goodreads
four-stars
Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she's determined to do something about it.

Verdict: Wow, that was … fun, actually!

Here’s the thing. On the one hand, I am a bit tired of books, films, tv, everything, where the plot is basically one damn thing after another, glands on overdrive, intellect in the bottom drawer and go for the jugular. On the other hand, I’m not going to criticize a book for doing what it manifestly set out to do.

What makes one ‘one-damn-thing-after-another’ book better than another is if the damn things are original, varied, well depicted and take place against an interesting backdrop. Stormdancer has that.

But first, the journey: I sometimes feel that I’m not talking as much about the travel aspect of books as I really want to in this blog. There is a journey in Stormdancer, a long unpleasant one (for the characters) in a stinking steampunk airship. Although it’s not really central to the book it exists for two important reasons:1) to depict the ruin of Shima’s countryside and 2) because there needs to be a significant distance between the two main environments of the book: the reeking metropolis and imperial court of Kigen and the wild mountains of Iishii. It ends View Spoiler » I really liked that part, especially as it’s the only time View Spoiler ».

The interesting backdrop: is an ecological and economic disaster of a totalitarian, imperialistic state called Shima whose ancestral culture slightly resembles that of Japan. To about the same extent as Middle-earth resembles Britain. Middle-earth has kings, Shima has a shogun. On Shima, they use Kanji, on Middle-earth they use runes. People on Shima have black hair and people on Middle-earth are often blond. A few legendary beings typical of Japan and Britain appear in the respective books. That’s about as deep as it gets though.

Shima’s Kigen City seems to resemble Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam more than most other places I’ve been. It’s forests might contain nominally Japanese essences but they remind me more of New Zealand’s primeval jungle (what’s left of it). I have heard that the version of Japanese they speak in Shima is rather different to modern Japanese. Actually, if Shima really has any common ground with Japan, it’s in the rather globalized world of anime. So maybe it’s not that original after all. But still cool. It even has some cool music to go with it.

The original, varied and well-depicted damn things consist of violent conflict at various levels and of various types, between individuals and groups, across class, race and species boundaries. Almost any kind of violent conflict you can imagine. A revolution is brewing – The Lotus War of the series title. It’s an inevitable fact that all books, or at least their characters, have an ideology, and this one has some interesting ideas about political violence:

‘Sacrifices must be made,’ said Kaori. ‘The people of Shima are addicted to chi. The system will not die willingly, it must be killed. Those enslaved will adapt or perish, like any addict denied his fix. But better to die on your feet than live on your knees.’
‘… you want to start a civil war?’ … Daichi shook his head….  ‘I want chaos. Formlessness.’
No more fear. No more regrets. Not for vague ideology or someone else’s notion of what was ‘right’. For the ones she loved. For her family. … All right then. Let’s start a war.

With plans like that, I expect nothing more of #2 of The Lotus War, Kinslayer, than that it should be a full-blown bloodbath. I expect I’ll get round to reading it in due course.

ArashitoraSome funny stuff: This is one of those books very obviously written by a guy masquerading in the form of a young woman’s viewpoint. I admit the phrase ‘I want a woman who can touch her ears with her ankles, cook a decent meal, and keep her opinions to herself, but they don’t exist either’ is now permanently engraved in my memory. Also the part where two young lads are spying on Yukiko as she strips off in the bathroom and the author tenuously rescues the passage from gratuitous voyeurism by having them discover something of (non sexual) significance to the plot as they’re doing it. It’s all too obvious that Jay Kristoff doesn’t have a clue what turns women on to men and he depicts View Spoiler ». I had a good laugh about it but perhaps he was wise to stick to making Yukiko’s primary relationship a platonic one with a non-human life form. Yukiko is a Boy’s Own Fantasy Kickass Heroine, not a Girl Power one. That isn’t necessarily a criticism but it is a point worthy of awareness.

I am just not that masochistic: ‘sensory fiction’ from MIT!

Posted on January 29th, 2014
‘The Dragon pounced on my beloved Ranesh and ripped out his heart. I knew I would be next. I was paralyzed with the pain of loss and fear for myself. My heart stopped beating. ‘

And so did yours, dear reader!

Well, maybe not quite. But apparently, MIT have devised a book that does this:

‘The book, explain the researchers, senses the page a reader is on, and changes ambient lighting and vibrations to “match the mood”. A series of straps form a vest which contains a “heartbeat and shiver simulator”, a body compression system, temperature controls and sound.“Changes in the protagonist’s emotional or physical state trigger discrete feedback in the wearable [vest], whether by changing the heartbeat rate, creating constriction through air pressure bags, or causing localised temperature fluctuations,” say the academics.’

And what did they think the words were doing already??? Sheesh, those MIT guys…

Seriously, I just finished Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff and although I will no doubt be giving it rave reviews tomorrow, when I flicked the last page on my e-reader, I also drew in my first proper breath for 20 minutes, looked around me to make sure the world was still there, and wondered why I had just put myself through all that mayhem and torment.

So, no ‘sensory fiction’ devices for me, thanks! I can almost imagine them being dangerous in sensitive hands. But whatever floats your boat!!!

If you want to know more, I heard it from The Guardian.

Travelogue: reading in the Far East

Posted on January 29th, 2014
Book sculpture in Hanoi  Book sculpture in Chengdu

YA Reader when she was a bit younger and less adult, reading over some other kids’ shoulders in Hanoi, Vietnam and picking out her next book in Chengdu, China.

And now for the reality….

We didn’t even attempt to read Vietnamese books in Vietnam, but when we got to China we thought we might be in with a chance. At that time, YA Reader and I had been practicing hard and could read a couple of hundred Chinese characters apiece.

So off we went to the Chengdu Bookworm which is a very, very nice place in which everything is very, very expensive. Nevertheless, we bought two very, very simple comic books of bilingual folk-tales which we could very nearly read in Chinese… with some help from the English version.

By the time we got to Chongqing, we were suffering from serious bookshop withdrawal symptoms, so we went into the largest all-Chinese bookshop we could find, right in the city center. All we bought there was a Chinese-English dictionary but I noticed one very interesting thing. All our books, at least all our kids books, from Astrid Lindgren to J.K.Rowling, from the Hobbit to… well, almost anything you can imagine – they’re all there, translated into Chinese. Whereas we have – how many books translated from Chinese? And of what kind? (My answer: often of a politically charged kind!)

I’ve noticed in other contexts that the English-speaking world is deprived of ample translations of works from other cultures, whereas other cultures are, perhaps, over-swamped with English works.

Conversations of an Armchair Traveler and an Itinerant Bookworm #3: Goodreads… what is it good for?

Posted on January 28th, 2014

cat-and-dog-in-digital-libraryLast week Armchair Traveler and Itinerant Bookworm agreed that virtual books are best, but there’s also a sense of satisfaction that comes from gloating over a well-stocked bookshelf. Goodreads, LibraryThing and a few other competitors seem to offer a solution. Virtual bookshelves! All gloating and no dusting!! No pages disintegrating or separating from their bindings!!! Traveler and Bookworm agreed to test that reality, under the nym of Anne Fenwick.

A week or two later and mostly, it’s been a blast. The gloating is going great! Nothing delights AT and IB more than a well stocked electronic bookshelf with an array of book covers all across the screen. They’re even thinking of copying it and making it into wallpaper!

Nice things have happened too. They found the book club of their dreams (more on that some other day), they got YA Reader to sign up as well – so now they have a friend and she gets to track her reading. They have a shelf for each of their reading challenges and a tracker for one of them… It was great when they went to the library and just pulled out the handy list of books-to-read on the iPad instead of trying to remember them. It’s fun to just click the green ‘Want to Read‘ button, instead of making a-note-which-will-get-lost.

So is everything perfect in the land of virtual L-space?

The truth is, Armchair Traveler and Itinerant Bookworm aren’t sure. Already, there is an obvious tension between the private and public functions of a site like Goodreads – especially Goodreads, perhaps. AT and IB joined up for purely selfish reasons: to gloat over their books, ideally in like-minded company.

Amazon, on the other hand clearly own Goodreads for equally selfish reasons – so that we can all sell books to each other. There’s a balance to be found here. Traveler and Bookworm are all for sharing their book enthusiasm but they don’t want to feel like unpaid advertising executives. That feeling, if it became too well developed, would cause them to leave and do other things.

But it’s not just Amazon’s priorities which can make Goodreads a bit… strange. It’s the mere fact of having something as private as a book collection take on an unavoidably public dimension. In the private world, nothing could be more natural than having a bookshelf mentally labeled ‘books-that-suck-!‘. If we are in the habit of writing notes in our books fly-leaves to say what we think of them, those notes might well say things like ‘What was (insert author name) on??!!! S/he needs to be taken out and (insert horrible fate)‘ or ‘I have no clue what I think of this book‘. In Goodreads, these little notes make their way into the world like a débutante turning up to a ball in a leather thong and carpet slippers. They take on an anti-social aspect because Goodreads is, inevitably, a branch of social media.

The task of writing reviews which are sensible, helpful and coherent is one AT and IB are willing to face – or else they won’t write them at all. They’re aware some people have concerns about censorship, but they don’t yet know what kinds of things are being censored. They do do a certain amount of shuffling, editing and mind-changing which could be frustrating to any other user who happens to notice. They tried to do a little more research into bookshelf naming, and came across a suggestion that bookshelves named after authors are disallowed! Say what?! They can hardly credit it, but think it would be a deal-breaker. Sorting one’s books by author is such an obvious and logical thing to do.

In the meantime, there are a few things in their Goodreads life which are taking up space they require for other purposes. Just because Itinerant Bookworm read Twilight while visiting Olympic National Park, doesn’t mean they both want to participate in games and discussions about it for the rest of their lives. Yet there it is, at the top of their update feed. Better language filters would be nice because although travelers are in favor of multilingualism many of the world’s languages are still just squiggly lines to them. Still there they are, in reviews of English-language books, probably because the reviewers imagined themselves to be writing only for themselves, in their private virtual libraries.

Verdict: Goodreads is pretty good but minor concerns abound.

The Green Ray, #23 of Jules Verne’s Extraordinary Journeys

Posted on January 27th, 2014

#5 of 54 in the Jules Verne Reading Challenge

The Green Ray, #23 of Jules Verne’s Extraordinary JourneysThe Green Ray by Jules Verne
Series: The Extraordinary Journeys #23
Published by Hetzel in 1882
Pages: 128
Location: Scotland
Mode of travel: Boat
Read it on Gutenberg
Goodreads
two-stars
Rarely, and only under the right conditions, a flash of green light can be seen over the setting sun. It is said to bring special powers of discernment to its lucky observers. Helena Campbell is determined to be one of them, especially since the quest might distract her uncles from marrying her off to the pedant, Aristobulus Ursiclos. The search for a suitable observation point takes her to the western coast of Scotland, then out into the Hebrides.

Verdict: boring.

I’m forced to say that if The Green Ray is mostly harmless, it’s also terribly boring. It’s a shame, and I think it’s largely caused by Verne giving himself a female protagonist at a time when the possibilities for female protagonists were limited.

The_Green_Ray' - Helena at croquetHelena Campbell: In many ways, Helena Campbell strangely resembles Professor Liedenbrock of Journey to the Center of the Earth. Like him, she has a domineering personality and when some text inspires her to leave home on a voyage of discovery, her nearest and dearest say ‘How far?’ Like Liedenbrock, she is tenacious, willing to risk her own life and those of other people in the pursuit of her interest. Like Liedenbrock, she fails at the end, thwarted by the rise of molten… well, in his case it was lava, in her case it’s passionate love for – I hardly consider this a spoiler – the man she intends to marry, who is not Aristobolus Ursiclos!

The_Green_Ray-Oliver to the rescueThe thing is that while the professor’s journey is monumental, that of the young lady from Scotland can only be a miniature, a little tourist outing to the Hebrides where the main object of suspense is the British weather. Same personality, different social conditions. It’s the social conditions, especially as they relate to gender, that make Helena Campbell come across as spoilt, bossy, obsessive and irresponsible whereas Liedenbrock… well, he has his faults, but look at his achievements! It’s the social conditions that inspired Verne to have his heroine lean on her suitor for everything from expedition planning to getting her life saved in a daring rescue, and have her triumph at the end consist of getting married.

Green Ray Fingal's CaveFingal and Ossian: Needless to say, the Hebrides are beautiful and the descriptions are so accurate, you could find your way around Iona and Staffa on the basis of them. And I suppose Jules’ Voyage Extraordinaires achieved their purpose since I learned some things about Scotland that I never knew.

The characters talk a great deal about James MacPherson’s Poems of Ossian, once so popular the whole of the western world was reading them. It’s the overwhelming attraction of its mythological associations with Fingal’s Cave on Staffa that causes Helena Campbell to risk her life. In Ossian, MacPherson claimed to have collected and arranged elements of old Scottish folklore. His detractors maintained he made the whole thing up except for the bits he stole from Ireland. These days he’s almost forgotten, but in the 19th century, he looked set to be the Homer of the North.

Green Ray Ossian receiving french heroesI had a glance at Ossian and was puzzled to understand what the Victorians and their foreign contemporaries saw in it, but it certainly inspired them to make some of their most fantastical art. This one is by Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson and shows Ossian, for reasons best known to the patron, Napoleon, greeting some French heroes in Valhalla!

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Posted on January 26th, 2014

#1 of my series on slave narratives

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon NorthupTwelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Published by Derby & Miller in 1853
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 363
Location: Louisiana, USA
Read it here
Goodreads
At the age of 30, Solomon Northup, a free black man from New York state is kidnapped and sold into slavery. He is transported to a remote part of Louisiana where he spends most of the next twelve years on a cotton plantation. Soon after regaining his freedom he published this memoir of his experiences with the internal slave trade of the southern states and slave life on the plantations.

Verdict: a good book and a very interesting one.

Twelve Years a Slave is as memoir that’s as well-written and readable as many of the best 19th century novels. It even has the shape of a novel, with a hero for whom things just get worse and worse until the denouement. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down.

northup-returns-homeI think one of the advantages of the book over the film is that it manages to avoid voyeurism by presenting violence and the abusive treatment of slaves through the viewpoint of a first-person narrator who is frequently sarcastic, quite analytic and in the worse cases, falls back on a kind of bitter philosophy. Sometimes the beauty of literature over more graphic art forms is that it doesn’t show, it tells. We’re presented with what a person who actually lived through these experiences is thinking and feeling, rather than being left with only our own reactions which we form as distant spectators.

One of the great pleasures of the book is cheering from the sidelines as Solomon Northup’s takes his revenge by sharing with a wide audience of his contemporaries his critical assessment of the character and appearance of several people he encountered, along with their names, addresses and occupations – rather like a 21st century ‘outing’ on the internet. For example:

 “EDWIN EPPS, of whom much will be said during the remainder of this history, is a large, portly, heavy-bodied man with light hair, high cheek bones, and a Roman nose of extraordinary dimensions. He has blue eyes, a fair complexion, and is, as I should say, full six feet high. He has the sharp, inquisitive expression of a jockey. His manners are repulsive and coarse, and his language gives speedy and unequivocal evidence that he has never enjoyed the advantages of an education. He has the faculty of saying most provoking things, in that respect even excelling old Peter Tanner. At the time I came into his possession, Edwin Epps was fond of the bottle, his “sprees” sometimes extending over the space of two whole weeks.”

Twelve Years a Slave as historical documentation: Northup’s memoir works incredibly well as a ‘history lesson’ on slavery in the American South for a simple reason. It was written for an audience in the northern states to whom plantation slavery was essentially foreign. It doesn’t take its readers knowledge for granted and sets out instead to educate and inform them, a mission that comes out particularly obviously in the chapters which explain the practical details of how cotton and sugar are farmed.

northup-OakAlleyA surviving plantation house in Louisiana, from a visit we made in 1999(?). The house and most immediate grounds are all that’s now left of this plantation.

Hopefully, it isn’t necessary to emphasize that as a historical document, Twelve Years a Slave existed to make a case for abolition and tends to structure and arrange Northup’s experiences around the abolition movement’s main arguments. That’s also why it provides so much information – how cotton is grown, what southerners say about the northern abolition movements, what slaves think about slavery and freedom, the consequences of the imperfect overlap between race and slavery, etc – so that the future abolitionists the book hoped to convert will have all the talking points at their fingertips. Northup was entering a contemporary debate on social justice of epic and often very heated proportions. Knowledge of the parameters of that debate is the one thing he does take for granted, in a way that 21st century readers probably can’t always do justice to.

northup_Years_a_Slave_film_poster12 Years, the film version – hyped to the hilt: I decided to give the film a miss so I can’t say much about it, but I was quite surprised, on re-reading its plot on Wikipedia to discover so many changes with respect to the original story as told by Northup, changes which would tend to invalidate the film as a historical document. There could be some misunderstanding on the part of the Wikipedia article’s writer, and fictionalization is in any case fair game for a movie writer. What’s worrying, is that in all the hype for the film, it’s obvious that many people don’t quite realize this process has taken place. I personally hope everyone reads the book as well as, or instead of, seeing the film.

Twelve Utopian Journeys

Posted on January 25th, 2014

Utopian and dystopian fiction are often treated together these days but in this list I was looking for utopias in the stricter sense, as manifestos for an ideal society usually represented through the eyes of a traveler from our own world.

I tried to cover a range of social and political principles from several centuries, and now I seem to have a post full of potentially dangerous ideas, capable of causing no end of trouble in the world if given free rein! The definition of a dystopia may well be ‘a utopia in practice’. Perhaps that’s why we seem to have lost our taste for utopias and taken to dystopias ‘en masse‘ though I’m not sure where that leaves us as regards participating in government. At any rate, I have to respect these authors for attempting something as complicated as social speculative fiction.

NB: I’m indebted to the Utopian Literature site by Luke Mastin for a few of these examples and in particular for a long list of others to compare them against.

 AUIsola_di_Utopia_MoroUtopia by Thomas More – The original Utopia of 1516 describes the visit of Raphael Hythloday, a lost crew members of Amerigo Vespucci’s, to the island of Utopia, where he discovers a mode of government radically different from that of contemporary Europe. (Gutenberg, Wikisource)
U-blazing-worldThe Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish (1666) – A young woman is ship-wrecked on the Blazing World where she is made empress and uses her power to build an ideal society. Hardly a feminist utopia like Herland, The Blazing World is one woman’s fantasy of political power and what she might do to it. I’m especially drawn to it because it’s one of the earliest of all science-fiction books. (Read it at A Celebration of Women Writers)
U-history-of-the-severambiansThe History of the Severambians by Denis Veiras (or Vairasse) (1675) – Severambians was written in an age of utopias, a great majority of which recognized the social problems caused by private property, absolute aristocratic power and religious strife. I’m honestly not sure if Severambians is the most serious and thorough-going of these but it sounded the most fun. Despite its age, I couldn’t find a free translation on the internet. (Amazon USA, Amazon UK)
U-coming-raceThe Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1870) -  A traveler stumbles upon a superhuman race but living alongside them are a group of primitive savages who may prove more powerful. This science-fiction story takes up the 19th century idea of social improvement by evolution and poses the question of whether refinement works as a survival strategy. The Coming Race has obvious similarities to H.G.Wells famous dystopia of 1895, The Time Machine. (Gutenberg)
U-looking-backwardLooking Backward by Edward Bellamy (1888) – A wealthy Bostonian travels in time to the year 2000 where he discovers himself in a utopian socialist state. Many utopias and dystopias written during this period and in the 20th century dealt with various degrees of left-wing politics. I chose Looking Backward simply because it seems to be one of the most appreciated for its writing and story. (Gutenberg, Wikisource)
 U-herlandHerland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915) – Perhaps the best known of several feminist utopias in which women form ideal male-free societies. In this respect it differs from other utopias, before and since, which argued for a change in gender roles but not for single sex societies. Herland was written at the height of women’s struggle for the vote in the United States.   (Gutenberg, Wikisource)
U-walden-twoWalden Two by B.F.Skinner (1948) – A group of guests visit a collectivist community in which the sciences of human and social psychology are used to regulate life according to scientific principles. It’s this particular appeal to behaviorist science that seemed to make this utopia stand out from other more or less ‘left-wing’ examples. (Amazon USA, Amazon UK)
U-island Island by Aldous Huxley (1962) – Journalist and secret agent Farnaby shipwrecks in a peace-loving Buddhist utopia where science is only used for good and corporate greed is unknown. Apart from the social structure presented, Island raises the question of whether a peace-loving society can withstand attempted takeovers and exploitation from outside. (Amazon USA, Amazon UK)
U-probability-broachThe Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith (1980) – A detective from Denver, Colorado finds himself transported into a libertarian utopia where everyone is armed and private business are in charge of all services. An interesting comparison to the socialist utopias of an earlier age.  (Amazon USA, Amazon UK)
U-ecotopiaEcotopia by Ernest Callenbach (1975) – A journalist visits the three westernmost states of the US twenty years after they have seceded in an attempt to create a new ecologically sustainable society. Like Kirinyaga (below) Ecotopia deals with one of our most topical concern. (Amazon USA, Amazon UK)
U-kirinyagaKirinyaga: a Fable of Utopia by Mike Resnick (1998) – Kikuyu tribesmen settle a small planet in an attempt to return to their root without technological or cultural interference. The premise of this utopia seems to be an exploration of the possible advantages of traditional societies over increasingly globalized ‘western’ culture. Like Island, it raises the question of whether such  society is sustainable without extreme isolation. (Amazon USA, Amazon UK)
U-pays-des-volontesLe Pays des 36 000 Volontés by André Maurois (1928) – I really want to make a point of not including too many untranslated books on this site but I couldn’t resist this one. It takes up an idea with very deep roots in European culture, of a Land of Cockaigne, a place where everyone can have exactly what they want. Obviously, the question of whether that is really as utopic as it sounds arises quite quickly. ‘The World Where Wishes Come True‘ was written for children, and is great fun. I’m shocked to find it’s never been translated, especially given the success of Maurois’ Fattypuffs and Thinifers. If anyone would like a translator for this book, here I am! (Amazon USA, Amazon UK)

Any other suggestions for Utopian travel?

Armchair Traveler’s Confessions

Posted on January 25th, 2014

Armchair Traveler: Sometimes, I get this weird kind of reader’s block. I have a book and I really want to start it. I’m really looking forward to immersing myself in its world, like it’s something precious. Then I think, ‘Well, I can’t start now, because I’m expecting this interruption, or so-and-so’s coming round, or I need to sleep because I’m working tomorrow.’ Or else I think, ‘Well, I really want to be in that world, except it’s going to be scary, or painful, or exhausting, so maybe I won’t go just yet.’ I just wait on the brink, sometimes for weeks, months, years…

Itinerant Bookworm: You’re weird. I never think stuff like that before I head off into the world. Coming back, now… that’s a different story.

Grazing at Nose Graze

Posted on January 24th, 2014

I think Ashley @ Nose Graze must be the book bloggers book blogger! At any rate, after what seems like months of trying to make a blog that worked in a half sensible way, I just bought her Book Blogger Plugin and here I am, with just some minor tweaking to do! By the time I’ve finished reading her Book Blogging Discussions and Tips, I might even know what I’m doing.

In the meantime, I decided to use her services as a book reviewer. Since I like her blog and many of her reading choices, I decided to let her talk me into reading something I haven’t read before. I used her sortable index feature in the Review menu to find all the books she gave 5 stars to (how cool is that option?) Then I skimmed through the synopsis of each one to see if it fit my preferred travel theme. If it did, I read her review in more detail.

And the winner is…

StormdancerThere were several potential choices but I seem to have been drawn towards making a little trip to Asia with a side-order of big cats because both my first choice and my runner up had those features. I’m sure I’ll end up reading at least some of Colleen Houck’s Tiger Saga Series eventually, but the one I plumped for now is Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer, #1 in the Lotus Wars Series. It’s set in a dystopian alternate Japan and features a girl and a thunder tiger!