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text 2016-08-10 23:30
Well, if these are all the secrets I'm being made to share here ...


I was tagged by Murder by Death – thank you very much! – for this Q&A brought to BL by Grey Warden.


How long have you been a blogger?


A blogger only since I moved to BookLikes in the fall of 2013 in the throes of the Goodreads censorship debacle.  I started reviewing on Amazon in 2000 or 2001 and moved to GR in 2008.  Would never have thought I'd take to blogging this much, but there it is, I do! :)  Which has a lot to do with the great community and great interaction on BookLikes, too, though.  Even on Amazon, I always said I wanted my reviews to be starting points for a discussion (and I moved away from there when the climate went positively poisonous).  The same was true on Goodreads, though admittedly the most fun I had there was in creating Listopia lists (some of them, of the decidedly goofy variety) and with the interaction in the lists' comments section.  (Again, this was before things got a bit uptight with regard to "list rules" and similar stuff.)  BookLikes is by far the most congenial, open-minded and just overall nicest book community I've belonged to.


After Leafmarks lamentably took a dive earlier this year I also created a Wordpress blog, which I'd never have done without the great experience I've made on BookLikes in the first place.  My experience on Wordpress has so far been positive as well, but I haven't been there long enough yet to say anything more, I'm afraid.



At what point do you think you'll stop?


Err – when it stops being fun, I guess?



What's the best thing?


Feedback / discussing great books, meeting so many wonderful people who love books as much as I do (plus who also share, between them, a fair amount of my other interests), and the terrifying and completely out of control explosion of my TBR pile.


Add to that, on BookLikes, the near-total absence of whiny and just generally badly behaving authors and other trolls, and the community's joint response whenever such folks are actually stupid enough to show their faces here.


Also, I totally love the design powers we've been given with regard to our own blogs.  (Even if it typically takes me eons to successfully implement even the tiniest feature.)



What's the worst thing?  What do you do to make it ok?


On BookLikes, nothing bad as far as the community goes; period.  In terms of site features, the longstanding and annoying disfunctionality of the reblog feature and the pitifully poor librarian features (also more recently, the site's general hickups and lacking staff response). About all of which I tend to bitch and moan on occasion in the hope that someone somewhere will finally listen (so far however, alas, to no avail).


Pretty much everywhere else, the fact that interactions ultimately have a way of turning poisonous before you've even realized what's going wrong; regardless whether you've run into a BBA or some other troll, or because the community just isn't as tight-knit to begin with, or for whatever other reason.  My response to that typically is to walk away: certainly from a discussion that stops actually being one, but ultimately also from the site in question.  I neither have the time nor the inclination to expose myself to that kind of aggravation; though if it's aggro from a BBA or someone (else) gaming the system, I'll engage long enough to make it clear to everyone else what is going on, and I may very well also flag the discussion in question for site admin review.


On Goodreads and Amazon, what I also find totally unacceptable is the fact that reviews are being censored (and not even subtly, either).  If I can't actually say what I think in a review, what's the point of reviewing to begin with?  Definitely only one response to that sort of thing – walking away.



How long does it take you to create/find pictures to use?


Finding them is hardly ever the issue – either I already have saved them somewhere, or Google and someone else's hopefully public, free-use collection obliges at short notice.  I tend to obsess over design issues, though – where exactly to place images, how large to make them, etc.  As a result, finalizing a post may easily take me twice the amount of time (compared to just typing it up) if I use a lot of images.  Also, I find that I use images on non-review posts a lot more than on reviews (on those, only if I decide that illustration greatly enhances the review).  For most non-review posts, though ... just bring 'em on! :)



Who is your book crush?


I am polygamous (well, when it comes to book crushes – and anyway, isn't that the point of reading widely?).  Remember Sundance? "I'm not picky. As long as she's smart, pretty, and sweet, and gentle, and tender, and refined, and lovely, and carefree ..."  Pretty much that – just read "he" instead of "she"; unless obviously we're also defining "crush" as a heroine I can identify with, look up to, or otherwise consider a role model.  In that case it's women, too.


Brains are important; I can't stand characters who are TSTL.  As is honesty,  standing by who you are and what you live by, and a certain amount of openmindedness and generosity.  But basically, as I, err, Sundance said, I'm not picky ...



What author would you like to have on your blog?


To interview myself?  William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Hillary Mantel, C.J. Sansom, and Salman Rushdie.


Also, Hodder (I think) recently had several of their authors interview each other – I'd love to be, or have been able host something like that ... say between Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and P.D. James; or Jane Austen and Elizabeth Barrett Browning; or George Eliot and George Sand; or Christine de Pizan and Moderata Fonte; or William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Ben Jonson, and Christopher Marlowe; or Hillary Mantel, C.J. Sansom, Michael Jecks, Iain Pears, Ellis Peters, and our own Samantha Wilcoxson; or Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, and Henning Mankell; or ... or ... :D



What do you wear when you write your blog posts?


Ummm ... whatever I'm wearing that particular day?  On weekends, most likely jeans or comfy slacks and either a T-shirt and a sweatshirt; on work days, something suitable for the office – approximately 3 days out of 5, some combination involving a no-iron cotton, silk or wool top and black dress pants.




How long does it take you to prepare?


I tend to make it up as I go along, so no structural drafting / preparation at all.  That said, if I decide I'm going to review a book (which I don't always do), it's often because there is something particular that has occurred to me while I was reading the book and that I want to comment on.  Only very rarely do I read a book specifically with the pre-existing idea of reviewing it in mind; though if I do, again, I'll most likely already have thought about what I want to say at least in general terms before I even sit down to write my review.



How do you feel about the book blogger community/culture?


See answers to the first questions above! :)



What do you think one should do to get a successful blog?


Define "successful"?


Be courteous, honest, and appreciative of / responsive to the people who read your blog.  Keep things varied and diverse.  Say at least a little bit about the reasons why you like / dislike a given book, or care about a given topic, etc.  And most of all, in a community like BookLikes: Participate!!


And in that spirit: If you haven't done this Q&A yet and you've made it all the way to the end of this post, consider yourself tagged! :)



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text 2016-07-04 21:28
Question of the Month

In this post, Olga Godim says:


"Periodically, BL explodes with questionnaires. It could be 50 questions or 5 or 12, and everyone pitches in, because we all want to talk about ourselves, express our struggles and thoughts and quirks. We want to share ourselves with our friends.


One of my online friends, Michael D’Agostino @ A Life Examined, came up with a blog hop Question of the Month. Once a month, he makes up a question, sends it to all the participants, and we answer on the first Monday of the month. This month, his question was:


What was the first book (or book series) you really fell in love with?"




My answer (as already set out in the maxi version Bookish Q&A that made the rounds a while ago):


To an equally great extent:


- The various collections of Greek mythology that we owned (they taught me to value courage and intelligence -- my favorite hero was Odysseus; my favorite deity, you've guessed it, Athena -- and they gave me a first inkling of just how far the history of mankind actually goes back);


- The books by German adventure novelist Karl May (they taught me to respect all people equally, regardless of their national and ethnic origin, as well as to value friendship and, again, courage, and they fed into my curiosity about countries and cultures other than my own),


- Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books (they taught me that girls can go absolutely everywhere they want to), and


- Otfried Preußler's Die kleine Hexe / The Little Witch (it taught me that in the face of a setback, perseverance and cleverness equally pays off; if you stick to your guns and use your head you will still prevail in the end -- even if you are seemingly outnumbered and outranked).



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text 2016-07-04 21:05
Liebster Award



I've been tagged for this by Kendall Roberts of curious•pondering on Wordpress – thank you so much! 


Since it's very much in line with the things folks on BookLikes seem to find irresistible, too (witness the most recent incarnation, "50 questions") – and since it's specifically designed to spread the word on (and communicate with) new blogs, something the BookLikes community also deeply cares about, I figured I'd cross-post my responses on both sites.


FWIW, in case anyone is wondering, there's no actual "award" ceremony: as with other memes of this type, the "award" is being tagged at all.  Also, while the name sounds German and there is a literal translation for it that you may see being bandied about on the web in connection with this thing, it really only makes sense if you make it a whole phrase (in which "liebster" is an adjective, not a noun): "Mein liebster Blog" – "my favorite blog."  I don't think whoever first envisioned this actually ever thought of nominating random strangers' blogs as their "darling" or "beloved" (which would be the literal translation of "Liebster" when used as a noun).


Anyway, since this sort of thing seems to spread like wildfire regardless how many people are tagged (or not), I'm just going to invite everyone who sees this and wants to join the fun to consider themselves tagged.


Since its purpose also is, however, to highlight recently-created blogs (or, I suppose, blogs that are new to us, which in my case comprises just about the entire Wordpress community), and the rules expressly call for specific blogs to be tagged, too, I'm going to tag:


On BookLikes:


On Wordpress:


... and as a bonus entry, a blog I just discovered on both BookLikes and Wordpress: Mybookfile (= BookLikes) / My Book File (= Wordpress)!



The Rules:

1. Thank the blog that nominated you and link back to them.
2. Nominate up to 11 other bloggers for the award.
3. Answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
4. Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Give your nominees 11 questions to answer themselves.




My Answers to the 11 Questions Asked of Me:

What is your favorite season?

I've more or less answered this one before, at least after a fashion, though obviously only on BookLikes (so here goes for the Wordpress crowd):


Spring, summer and early fall, at least where I am living now.  Winters tend to be gray, wet and murky hereabouts.  I love snow, so if I were living in the mountains, I might just go for "year round," or "any day that it doesn't rain all the time."  But I don't particularly mind heat (and I'm not living in the tropics to begin with) ... and I absolutely love what spring and early summer does to nature, including our own back yard.



What is your favorite security item? *If this is too personal, do not feel pressured to answer.*

No "item":

Her name is Holly.  She's the most loving and affectionate creature in the world, and whenever I'm down or depressed there is nothing better than feeling her soft, warm body and silky fur cuddling up next to me with the sweetest and most eager of purrs.  I love her to pieces.



What is your third favorite website?

Hmm. Until a mere three days ago, I'd have said I have two favorite websites; BookLikes and Leafmarks. Since Leafmarks's sad demise, however, it comes down to just one – the BookLikes community that I've come to care about more than about anything and anyone else online.


Everything else is just utilities. I do tend to get my news from a bunch of major newspapers' sites (both English and German), I use Facebook to stay in touch with a number of friends who neither live close by nor are members of BookLikes, and there's a really good translation website named Leo that I use a lot – though first and foremost for my job – but that's pretty much what it comes down to.


Wordpress is looking promising, but at the moment I'm still building up the basics of my blog and I haven't connected with too many people yet (which is why this "Liebster award" is probably coming exactly at the right time, so thanks again, Kendall). Will have to wait and see, I guess.



What is your favorite movie?

Another one I've answered before on BookLikes:


"Here's looking at you, kid ..."

 Casablanca, hands down.



What is the best smelling plant/flower to you?

At a pinch, I'd probably say citrus fragrances and similar scents (especially verbena); though I love most natural fragrances – flowers (lavender, roses and apple blossoms come to mind in particular), Mediterranean herbs, spices (the more exotic, the better), pine woods, wet grass, sandalwood, you name it.



If you could have one wish, what would you use it on?

Well, this is going to sound boring beyond belief, but I'm a little past the mid-point of my life now and I've had the good fortune of being able to fulfill some of my really great wishes already, so I mostly would wish I'm going to be able to go on leading a meaningful life instead of just going through the motions.


Of course if someone were to somehow transform me into a literary genius of Shakespearean dimensions, that would be very nice indeed ...



Would you rather be able to produce music or literature?

See last paragraph above, I suppose. I love music and my life wouldn't be the same without it, but the use of language (which is what literature is ultimately all about) is a big part of my day job, too, so I suppose literature would be somewhat more within my reach, and it would also be, I think, ultimately what I'd most like to try my own hand at.

(Sure. One day ...)


Who is your favorite actor/ actress?

Actor(s): Humphrey Bogart; closely followed, however, by Robert Redford, Kevin Spacey, Colin Firth, Jeremy Brett, David Suchet, and half the alumni of the RSC (in no particular order and to name just a few, John Gielgud, Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Alan Rickman (RIP earlier this year), Patrick Stewart, Ralph Fiennes ... plus a whole bunch of others).


Actress(es): Emma Thompson, Susan Sarandon, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and the great leading ladies of Hollywood's golden years – Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, and Marlene Dietrich.



What is your favorite beverage?

Tea – pretty much any and all kinds –, Diet Coke, and single malt Whisky (preferably Glenlivet, Laphroaig, or Bowmore; though the latter only if 18 years and upwards.  And yes, I know I'm a snob when it comes to whisky).

Left: 17yo cask strength limited edition Glenlivet (this: http://www.whiskyshopdufftown.com/shop/the-glenlivet-17-years-old-cask-strength-edition/) Right: 10yo Tobermory:



What author do you most wish to meet?

Dead: William Shakespeare – the greatest literary genius that ever walked the earth.
Living: Salman Rushdie – one of, if not the most important contemporary literary voices, particularly (though for reasons I wouldn't wish on my very worst own enemy) on the great scouges of the post-Cold War world: fundamentalism (religious and otherwise), racism, and the encroachment of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.




Do you keep an offline written journal?

No. I tried a couple of times, but the habit never stuck – I neither have the patience nor the time for it.




11 Random Facts About Me

For this, I'm going to draw on the "50 Questions" list that is currently making the rounds on BookLikes.


1. I've never made a habit of counting my steps, but when walking on brick or flagstone paths, tiled sidewalks and the like, as a kid I used to make up rules about where I had to / could only step – e.g., never on the same stone / slab / tile with both feet, etc.

The Yellow Brick Road:


2.  My everyday breakfast consists of black tea, freshly-pressed orange juice, and a roll straight from the baker's with butter and jam.  I love hotel breakfast buffets, however, and when traveling will always indulge in those; with everything from cereals (preferably granola) and fresh fruit to scrambled eggs / omelet / eggs over easy, bacon, croissants, you name it.  Bonus points if the buffet includes local food items.  When in Great Britain, nothing but a full English breakfast will do (solely minus grilled tomato, which I can't stand).  Similarly in Mexico, huevos rancheros, quesadilla, and at least one variety of a tortilla wrap (enchiladas, burritos, etc.) are a must.


3.  Stubbornness is one of my greatest failings (or strengths, as the case may be?).  I can also be lazy to the point of utter procrastination – which however tends to conflict with the fact that as a rule I am also fairly ambitious and, if something truly matters to me, an OCD level perfectionist.


4. In Chinese astrology, I'm a dragon.



5. The last time I had a photo taken for a portrait by a photographer was four years ago, for our office's website.  More recently, an artist friend of a colleague / friend of mine created a micro-portrait picture on the basis of a photo of me – though you have to stand very close to the picture to recognize it's (a) a photo (b) of me, which is sort of the point of the whole thing.


6. The first music performance I can remember attending was Engelbert Humperdinck's children's opera Hänsel and Gretel, together with my mom and my grandparents, when I was about 5 years old.

Hänsel und Gretel (Oper Bonn)(Hänsel & Gretel and the gingerbread house: image from a recent production of Bonn Opera)


The first concert I attended without parental supervision, just with my then-best friend, was either Chris de Burgh or Hot Chocolate (anybody remember them?) – anyway, same venue for both, and in pretty quick succession one after the other, as I recall. I must have been about 14 or 15 at the time.



7.  If in terms of biorhythm we are either owls or nightingales, I am definitely an owl.  Can't go to bed, much less sleep, before 11pm, but the only way I'm able to function at all early in the morning is on autopilot.  Change even the slightest bit of my morning routine, and I'll be walking around like a zombie, utterly and completely lost.


8.  The issue of tucked-in sheets doesn't arise as a matter of routine, as we don't use them in Germany and I never used them when living in the U.S., either, but in hotel beds, the first thing I do is pull out the sheets.  I need to be able to wrap my feet in whatever I'm using as a cover, and anything tucked in makes me feel claustrophobic.

(A Highlands welcome – The Torridon Hotel, Torridon, Scotland)


9.  If listening to CDs while I'm driving, I sing along all the time.  Same if / when there's a song on the radio that I truly like.  Lately, that hasn't been the case very often, though, as my heretofore favorite station has taken a musical turn towards the bland an meaningless recently, thus putting me in the position of either having to find a new radio station or live with their current musical selections in order to continue getting their (still rather good) talk radio contributions and editorial contents.


10.  I've never used a gun, nor would I ever want to.


11.  I have tremendous respect for the fact that the greater the height you're at, the worse you're likely going to get injured if you fall (if you survive in the first place, that is).  That doesn't stop me from climbing up every bell and observation tower I come across for the view from the top, but I'll never be found too close to the edge.




Questions for Others

For my questions for others, finally, I'm going to draw chiefly (though not exclusively) on the Proust Questionnaire:


1.   What do you most appreciate in your friends?

2.   What fault do you find easiest to tolerate in others?

3.   What is your favorite occupation?

4.   What is your idea of happiness, and what is your idea of misery?

5.   If not where you are actually living right now, where would you like to live?

6.   What is your favorite color?

7.   Who is your hero / heroine in fiction, and why?

8.   Who is youro hero / heroine in real life, and why?

9.   What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?

10. If you had a time machine allowing you to travel to up to 3 different eras (past and future), what era(s) would you like to travel to?

11. From a burning building, you have the option to rescue either a [cat / dog / supply your own favorite animal] or a priceless work of art, but not both.  Which of the two do you rescue, and why?




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text 2016-05-22 23:01
Ten Bookish Questions (BL Meme)

OK, so, there is a meme going that looks intriguing. I've enjoyed reading the responses from others and want to give this a shot, too.

I believe the credit for starting this goes to Bookloving Writer.


1. What book is on your nightstand now?

On my nightstand - none, although that is where I keep the kindle. I do have a couple of books that I am currently reading and that have inevitably ended up under a pillow. Those are Consumption and Escape to Life. (The other books on my currently reading shelf are in the living room.)

2. What was the last truly great book that you read?

Truly great......The Blind Assassin. It showed me what a novel can and should be. It set a new standard in comparison with which, I am afraid, a lot of books will suffer.


3. If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

There are a few. I've not given up hope on meeting J.K. Rowling, Ruth Ozeki, Kazuo Ishiguro or Ali Smith, yet. But of course there are also a few that are out of reach like Graham Greene, Ella Maillart, or Annemarie Schwarzenbach. I have no idea what I'd specifically ask them, but I would really like to find out how Greene moved from a generic thriller style to a less formulaic prose. And whether Maillart and Schwarzenbach ever reconciled with a notion of "home". 


4. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?


I'd hate to be as predictable as that people would be surprised to find any particular book on my shelves. So, you tell me....!


5. How do you organize your personal library?


Erm, I don't. If there's space and the book fits, that's where it goes. I try to keep books by the same author together, but again, if they differ in size, then I will split them up to optimise shelf space.


6. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?


So, so, many. I guess, I've most neglected the classical poets. Am I embarrassed by this? Not in the least. I'll discover them in my own time.


7. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn't? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?


I DNF'd two books in the last week: John Irving's In One Person and David Francis' Stray Dog Winter. Both were just badly written and lacking a good story.


As for overrated books - I've been disappointed by a few. I tend to stay away from books that have received a lot of hype and praise just exactly because hype often leads to disappointment.

Two of the greatest disappointments for me were The Book Thief, which I thought was just plain awful, and Ken Follett's Fall of Giants, which also was nothing short of a cringe fest.


8. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?


I go through phases but am interested in all sorts of books - from fiction to non-fiction, and all sorts genres - literary classics, plays, history, mystery, politics, music, biographies, sports, adventure, travel, to the plain silly and funny, to dystopia.


I have very little patience for romance, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, chick-lit, and it will take some spectacular writing to get me to read anything gory or scary. Actually, blood and gore is a turn-off. So is fluff.


9. If you could require the prime minister to read one book, what would it be?


Ugh. As books are supposedly increasing a person's ability to feel empathy, then any book would do. I will spare you a rant about "Dave" and leave it at that.

10. What do you plan to read next?


Ooooh, I don't know, yet. I have received a copy of Run, Don't Walk this week, which is about the physical therapy treatments that veterans went through after losing limbs in combat. It sounds like an intriguing read.


But I also want to read On the Proper Use of Stars, which is a book about the Franklin Expedition. I have been looking forward to the book for a while.

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text 2016-05-22 19:25
Ten Bookish Questions (meme)
The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics - C.S. Lewis
Gone, Baby, Gone - Dennis Lehane
The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works - William Shakespeare,Gary Taylor,Stanley Wells
The Complete Vampire Chronicles (Vampire Chronicles, #1-#4) - Anne Rice
The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin
The Complete Novels of Jane Austen - Jane Austen
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives - Alan Bullock
Joseph Anton: A Memoir - Salman Rushdie

Once more, thanks to Bookloving Writer for finding and starting this.


1. What book is on your nightstand now?

C.S. Lewis: Signature Classics (Mere Christianity / The Screwtape Letters / The Great Divorce / The Problem of Pain / Miracles / A Grief Observed / The Abolition of Man) -- the book that I currently dip in in between my other reads.


2. What was the last truly great book that you read?

Dennis Lehane: Gone, Baby, Gone.  No. 4 of the Kenzie & Gennaro series, and boy had he reached his full stride by that point.  No book in the series is bad (in fact, even the very first one, A Drink Before the War, is amazingly good for a first novel and deserved every award that it won), but Gone, Baby, Gone absolutely knocked me off my socks. 


3. If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

Dead: William Shakespeare (obviously, if you know anything about me at all) – the greatest literary genius that ever walked the earth. I think I'd just want to hang out with him and shoot the breeze, though.  I have a feeling he'd be part annoyed, part supremely amused with all the cult surrounding him and his works these days, and the last thing I'd want to do would be to feed into that.  Once we'd hung out together for a while, I suspect the conversation would shift towards literature and the theatre quite naturally anyway, and I'd be happy to then take it wherever would seem most natural.

Living: Salman Rushdie – one of, if not the most important contemporary literary voices, particularly (though for reasons I wouldn't wish on my very worst own enemy) on the great scouges of the post-Cold War world: fundamentalism (religious and otherwise), racism, and the encroachment of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.




4. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

Cry to Heaven - Anne RiceHmm.  Again, depending how well you know me, possibly the first volumes of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles.  I'm absolutely disgusted with the way she's been behaving towards anyone who doesn't bow down before her in abject admiration in recent years, but I did actually like her early Lestat novels and also, in particular, Cry to Heaven.  I just think she's a clear case of success having completely screwed up a writer's mind.  In terms of her books, the Vampire Chronicles jumped the shark for me once and for all with Memnoch, the Devil.  I haven't touched any of her books since then, and I sure as hell won't anymore now that she's turned full-fledged bully.


5. How do you organize your personal library?

By genre and country of origin / language, and within those categories, essentially alphabetically; also including, however, a few subcategory shelves for authors or series that I particularly treasure.




6. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrased never to have read?

With a TBR consisting of almost 3,000 books, are you kidding me?  There are plenty of books I'd still love to read -- and plenty, too, that I've always wanted to get around to but just haven't yet.  And no, I'm not embarrassed about a single one of them, either ...



7. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didnt? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Disappointing and overrated: Philippa Gregory: The Other Boleyn Girl.  It was the first book by Gregory that I read, and given my interest in everything Tudor, and in Anne Boleyn in particular, it should have been a dead-on match.  Instead, I've found it badly researched, clichéd, sensationalist, and just plain sickening.  I've steered clear of Gregory's writing ever since.


DNF: My last major DNFs were (not as individual books, but as series), A Song of Ice and Fire (annoingly wordy, derivative world-building, clichéd, loads of characters too stupid to live, and just generally seriously underwhelming), Fifty Shades of Grey (awful writing and sick beyond belief) and Twilight (equally awfully written and, again, there's something truly sick to telling teenage / YA readers that it's not merely OK but even desirable to have to fear the guy you love).




8. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

I'm drawn to the literary classics (novels, plays, poetry, you name it), historical fiction and nonfiction (including biographies and memoirs), any- and everything international, mysteries and crime fiction, adventure stories (again, both fiction and nonfiction), art, archeology, nature, cooking, music, and politics.


I read very little horror, absolutely no slasher stories and, at the other end of the spectrum, also virtually no chick-lit and romance novels (or indeed anything arguably qualifying as cute and fluffy).


9. If you could require the president to read one particular book, what would it be?

The book that'll probably be found lying next to me when I die will be William Shakespeare's Hamlet, though as a matter of principle, I'm an advocate of people's reading as widely and variedly as possible -- hominem unius libri timeo and all that.



However, what with the turn world politics have been taking in the recent couple of months, I have a growing feeling that our precious world is in danger of going to hell in a handbasket really fast, so right about now, the books that I'd like to shove in just about all our dear leaders' respective faces are George Orwell's 1984, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a hefty dose of books about Stalin, Hitler, and the "Third Reich" (both fiction and nonfiction) -- as well as a copy of the Qu'ran.


10. What do you plan to read next?

Hmmm.  I just whipped through the first couple of books in Dennis Lehane's Kenzie & Gennaro series in (for me) practically no time at all, but I think I'll leave the last one for later, take a small break from Lehane's writing (great though it is), go for a  change of pace and start Salman Rushdie's Joseph Anton.  Kind of also feels also like the right book to start on the day when Germany's Austrian neighbors look all poised to elect yet another right-wing, nationalist and populist head of state ... however hard I personally may be praying that this isn't actually going to happen.






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