29 November 2010

The Ring of Solomon

Bartimaeus: The Ring of SolomonAfter reading the Bartimaeus trilogy earlier this year and liking it, I was happy to get a chance to read this new prequel sort of book.  I enjoyed it as much as the other books and think it easily lives up to them.  Definitely worth reading if you're a Bartimaeus fan.

22 November 2010

Not That Clueless

So we've been working on visas for five months.  We've had to change countries at least three times and worked with all sorts of people, none of whom we've ever actually met, who have tried to help us.  We've run into every problem you can think of, but today's email telling us that we really don't want to live in our chosen small village in Kazakhstan because apparently no one has toilets or running water and we'll all die of strange diseases bugged me more than just about anything.  Reminds me again why we don't generally email embassy families to find out what it's really like living overseas.  Peace corps and missionary friends are a lot better (missionaries from churches besides mine; the missionaries from our church also thought our chosen part of Kazakhstan was "scary."  Glad they don't get to live there.). 

Give us a little credit.  We may have only lived in Central Asia once, but we're not throwing darts at a map to pick the places we want to live.  We also have taken the time to learn as much as we can about our chosen towns before we start on the visas (it's amazing how you can find people living in the most obscure places in the world through the internet).  And please, if you wouldn't choose to live somewhere, don't exaggerate to convince us we shouldn't either.  We actually want to live there.  Of course, most people think that makes us crazy in the first place.  Don't you?

In other news, we got some unexpected snow today.  It's been two years since we've seen any and we've had a great day.  Still snowing.

20 November 2010

Ereaders Galore

One thing that has surprised me a little, or at least keeps forcing itself into my brain, about having a digital library is that you need lots of different ereaders.  I knew that, of course, but it seems that we always could use one more because none of them do everything we need them to.

It would ease things up a bit if Amazon made it easier to put library books on the Kindle, because, outside schoolwork for the boys and my husband, that's how we use our ereaders.  Our library has an amazing collection of ebooks and the boys and I always have something checked out, and we've even discovered a few online places that let you check scholarly ebooks out for a couple of weeks. But we have lots of our own books scanned and the Kindle DX is the best place to read those, so there's always something good to read, with a little negotiation.

If I were starting again at zero with ereaders and looking to switch to ebooks, I'd probably end up with about the same collection of readers that we have though.  I'm hoping that in a few years larger screen readers like the Kindle DX will be more affordable because they're so flexible (as long as you can put library books on them).  9.6" Sony Reader that costs $130 sounds good to me. I wonder how long that will take.

Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account Of The Death Penalty In The United StatesIt's hard to say exactly what I thought about this book, because it was so uneven.  It's excellent in many ways, dealing with capital punishment in a new way, but it's also incredibly slow to read and difficult to slog through, and not just because it's not a cheery topic.  It took me forever to get through it, and several other women in my online book group felt the same way.  I was also already opposed to the death penalty before reading this book, so I wasn't exactly the target audience, unless I need to get inspired to do more about opposing it.

But like I said, there are excellent parts, where Sister Prejean writes about two of the death row inmates she works with before their executions.  Those were the most effective parts of the book, not all the statistics and moralizing and quotes from famous people.  In the end, I think it's certainly worth reading.

11 November 2010

Central Asia

Lonely Planet Central Asia (Multi Country Guide)This is the newest edition of LP's Central Asia guide.  Since you can buy individual chapters as pdfs, we just got the countries we hope we'll need in the next few years (maybe we'll get lucky and need to buy Turkmenistan and Afghanistan).  As always, LP is practical and reliable, even in Central Asia, but it's just the bare bones.  With 6 countries in a few hundred pages, you can't expect too much, but there are good individual country guides for most of the countries in this book published elsewhere.

Tajikistan and the High Pamirs

Tajikistan & The High Pamirs: A Companion and Guide (Odyssey Illustrated Guides)This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only guidebook dedicated solely to Tajikistan.  It's written by a couple of Westerners who lived in Tajikistan for years and obviously love it.  It's packed with all sorts of interesting information, much more than you'd ever find in any sort of Lonely Planet (certainly more than the Central Asia one, since it has 6 countries in a book that's much smaller than this one), but it's also not quite as practical as LP.  You probably need both.

Half this book is about the Pamirs, and especially about the Russians and other Europeans who explored them.  That's not my favorite part of Central Asian history, but there's plenty in here besides that to make the reading worthwhile.  We're hoping to be in Tajikistan in about a year, and I already have a list of places I want to see.

A new edition is set to be published in a few months; wait till then if you can to buy it.

Comfort Me with Apples

Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table (Random House Reader's Circle)I read Tender at the Bone and Garlic and Sapphires about two years ago, but never got around to reading Comfort Me with Apples, the second book of what's sort of a three-part memoir.  I enjoyed it, nowhere near as much as I liked the other two though, but this one is especially memorable for the story of Reichl's attempt to adopt near the end.  It's worth reading just for that part since it's described so well, even though it's painful.

Cold

Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen PlacesThis was a wandering and interesting book.  I liked it, but it ran out of steam and I skimmed to the end.  It jumped around constantly and was rather repetitive, but there was a lot that was different and worth reading.  This would be the perfect book when you have a million things to do and can only pick something up for a few minutes at a time because you don't have to keep track of anything that already happened (in fact, it's best if you don't).  Too bad that wasn't what I needed right now.