Happy News!

Hello! It has been a while, hasn’t it? Hopefully this post will explain some of the reasons for my disappearance.

So, last week I was in Vienna for a conference..

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Elephant at the Natural History Museum!

In front of Schönbrunn

In front of Schönbrunn

However, as might be apparent from the pictures (though some still insist they cannot see a thing – which makes me wonder how on earth they explain some of the changes in my appearance), this is not the happy news I want to share with you. Rather, it is the following:

I am currently 23 weeks pregnant and we are expecting a baby boy.

On top of this, we also bought a house about an hour away from where we currently live. (Yes, an actual house with more than one bedroom and a garden!) We will receive the key at the beginning of June, so we have been busy packing (or rather, preparing for it) next to being “busy” being pregnant.

We couldn’t be happier with these changes.

Of course it has been rather a change in how much time I was able to make for blogging (or reading). I know I have been silent about my pregnancy for rather long. Even though part of us wanted to shout it from the rooftops, we have also enjoyed keeping it somewhat private and then it was difficult to find the right time to tell. But hey, now you know :-)

Perhaps this means I can finally get into the flow of posting once a week or so, since these past months I have felt that whatever I wrote would not be what I actually wanted to write about.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

My edition (in poor lighting, alas) of A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin
Puffin Books, 1971 (First published 1968)

Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

I read my first Ursula Le Guin, everyone!

Not having written many posts about books lately, I am a little lost for words, really..

A Wizard of Earthsea is the story of Ged, a boy who we are told will be a great wizard in later years, but of which very little is told about his earlier ones. In A Wizard of Earthsea we follow his training during his first years, as Ged aims to become a wizard. This is training in skills, but also in character. As Ged is tempted by pride, he unleashes an evil that he subsequently has to chase through the archipelago of Earthsea, in order to set his mistake right.

The thing is, I was happy to remember that Ana told me that while this is the beginning of the series, it might not really portray what is so great about it. That later on, more would be done with gender assumptions etcetera that would make it more enjoyable.

I did enjoy reading A Wizard of Earthsea. The prose was wonderful, felt a little lyrical – and yet remained very readable. It drew me in, and the world building that came along with it felt utterly natural.

What remains is the question of immediacy. While I felt for Ged, I missed a certain compunction to really care, that rush that makes you want to turn page after page.. Instead, it were the words and the prose that kept me reading through the first half, while it was only during the second half that I was pulled in by the story (even though, I admit, the sorcery school in the first half was intriguing, as these settings, I think, will always be to me).

The ending was satisfactory, and I liked the exploration of fear and finding the true nature of yourself as empowerment.

I fear there is little more to say, but I am happy I have a few more books left in this series, and a whole lot more of Le Guin. I am very much looking forward to reading more about Ged, and hopefully finding some challenge to the idea that “these are just women” in subsequent novels – which seemed to be voiced by characters a few times during the first half of the book.

Other, much more articulate, opinions can be found here.

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This weekend.. I managed to read!

I finally finished a book this weekend..

Moominvalley in November

Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson

I thought it was my first book of February, but apparently I had finished reading Indigo’s Star at the beginning of this month. So perhaps my reading slump is not as bad as I imagined it? It has nothing to do with the books I am reading, btw, but everything to do with lots of other things taking over my life at the moment.

However, I am hoping that this will actually foreshadow a return to reading and blogging :-)

More soon..

The TBR Project 2014

Last year, I took a somewhat different approach in my mission to reduce the TBR pile. Even though I did end up reading a book for every letter of the alphabet on my TBR pile, the idea became too restrictive as time strolled on. Plus, let’s face it.. 2013 might be the year I added the most books ever to my shelves, what with visiting England often and going crazy at the charity shops.

This year, I am taking the more old-fashioned approach. I am setting out to read 50 books from my own shelves. This may not seem a lot, but given that I expect not to have that much time for reading this year, plus knowing I have a ton of review copies to catch up with come February, I think 50 books is actually quite a high number. Lucky for me, I can strike 3 books off the list so far. (3 books read and it is already past the halfway mark of January – when did my reading become so incredibly slow?)

You can find my project-in-progress page here.

Are you planning to tackle your TBR pile in any particular way this year?

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

The Secret of Platform 13 was my first read of 2014 and the first book for #LARmonth

The Secret of Platform 13 – Eva Ibbotson
Macmillan Children’s Books, 1994

Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

By the beginning of January, I needed a good comfort read. And if anyone can provide comfort reads, it is Eva Ibbotson. Happily diving into the Ibbotson novel I received as a holiday present those first days of the year, I cannot say I was disappointed.

In The Secret of Platform 13 said platform at King’s Cross Station provides a portal between our world and an island for 9 days every 9 years. When the son of the king and the queen of the island disappears in the world and is unable to return to the island, the queen is devastated. A rescue party is organised nine years later to bring back the prince, among which are a wizard, an ogre, a fey, and the young hag Odge. Can they bring back the prince before the portal closes for another 9 years?

When the rescue party arrives in London, they find that the boy they are told is the prince, Raymond Trottle, is not what they expected. He is a spoilt boy who is given everything he desires by the rich lady who calls herself his mother. Meanwhile, Ben, who helps in the Trottle’s household, does all in his power to help the rescuers, and even if he wishes he could join the rescuers in going to the island he stand by his dying grandmother who he does not want to leave alone.

Admittedly, the story in The Secret of Platform 13 has its predictable qualities. There is a clear set up where the reader finds himself rooting for Ben, while Raymond is portrayed as horrible from the beginning. I find myself agreeing with Ana’s observation that she would have liked it better if the ending had been a little different. Moreover,after reading more of Eva Ibbotson’s book, particularly One Dog and His Boy, I wonder if selfish rich people are a bit of a trope in Ibbotson’s work? She has a definite view of who is “good” and “bad”, and while some privileged people (for example the king and the queen in this story) are portrayed as lovely people, it is clear that Ibbotson did not have much sympathy for rich people who become spoilt and selfish. On the one hand, who can blame her? On the other, it would be nice to see a little more shades of grey built into the narrative at times. Ana’s suggestions for an ending where inheritance is less prominent than upbringing would work wonderfully in that case, I think.

These criticisms aside, I did very much enjoy The Secret of Platform 13. It is always a joy to read Ibbotson’s work. At least part of the reason being that she integrates fantasy with our contemporary world seamlessly. There is no needless explaining; instead the world building simply is, which is something I really appreciate. Another thing I love about Ibbotson is her portrayal of children: with agency, with good intentions, and yet their slight faults.

All in all, The Secret of Platform 13 was a lovely start of the year and of this year’s Long-Awaited Reads Month.

Other Opinions: Things Mean a Lot, Yours?

* These are affiliate links. If you buy a product through either of them, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.