Stuff and Nonsense: December 2010


Gothic Reading Challenge: The Canterville Ghost

Even though the Gothic Reading Challenge doesn't officially begin until 1 January, I've already started. Oh, I didn't mean to. No, indeed. I was just on Amazon, looking for something short and free to read on my phone, when Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost just leapt off the screen.

The Canterville Ghost is comedy in Gothic trappings -- sensible, modern, forward-thinking Americans buy a haunted English country house. Discovering a mysterious bloodstain, they set to cleaning it with Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent! Confronted by a chain-clanking fiend, they offer him Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator! Oh, you almost have to feel sorry for the foul spectre -- he's only trying to carry out a job he's had for hundreds of years and here are these wretched, modern Americans, not taking things the least bit seriously! It's humiliating and, obviously, he must have his revenge:

The owl beat against the window panes, the raven croaked from the old yew-tree, and the wind wandered moaning round the house like a lost soul; but the Otis family slept unconscious of their doom, and high above the rain and storm he could hear the steady snoring of the Minister for the United States. He stepped stealthily out of the wainscoting, with an evil smile on his cruel, wrinkled mouth, and the moon hid her face in a cloud as he stole past the great oriel window, where his own arms and those of his murdered wife were blazoned in azure and gold. On and on he glided, like an evil shadow, the very darkness seeming to loathe him as he passed. Once he thought he heard something call, and stopped; but it was only the baying of a dog from the Red Farm, and he went on, muttering strange sixteenth-century curses, and ever and anon brandishing the rusty dagger in the midnight air.

Woooo ...

One of my local libraries has The Canterville Ghost in audio and I'm hoping to get my hands on it before Christmas, as I'm sure it would be a lot of fun to listen to!


Feel A Little Bit Like Christmas

This year, my usual warm, fuzzy Christmastide feelings are struggling and I've yet to attain the snuggle-y, comfortable sort of domestic bliss I crave this time of year. Indeed, I'm feeling a bit restless, stabbity, and ... well ... a little bit "humbug." As such feelings cannot be tolerated, I have been engaging in intense bouts of literary therapy. Basically, I have been re-reading all the Christmas chapters from the Little House books. I started with Little House in the Big Woods and am now as far as By The Shores of Silver Lake and I think my "therapy" is working ... I do feel a bit more Christmas-y.

I am also pretty darn hungry.

We're celebrating Christmas Day at my parents's, so there will be no chance for me to recreate the Christmas feast from Farmer Boy this year, but I'm pretty sure I know what I'm serving for New Year's:
First, there was oyster soup. In all her life Laura had never tasted anything so good as that savory, fragrant, sea-tasting hot milk, with golden dots of melted cream and black specks of pepper on its top, and the little dark canned oysters at its bottom. She sipped slowly, slowly from her spoon to keep that taste going over her tongue for as long as she could.

And with this soup, there were little round oyster crackers. The little oyster crackers were like doll-crackers, and they tasted better because they were so light and small.

When the last of the soup was gone, and the last crackers divided and crunched, there were hot biscuits with honey, and dried-raspberry sauce. And then a big dishpan full of tender salty popcorn, that had been keeping hot on the back of the stove.
(excerpted from By the Shores of Silver Lake)
Oyster soup (or stew) is mentioned in four different Little House books -- On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, and Little Town on the Prairie!


Nordic Challenge 2011

Zee from Notes from the North is hosting a Nordic author reading challenge and I've signed up! I blame this on Wallander, I really do. We've been borrowing episodes of the BBC series from Netflix and it has made for interesting watching -- interesting enough that I've been itching to try the novels that inspired them! Now I have the perfect excuse (as if I really needed one).

Dates: January 1, 2011- December 31, 2011

There will be 5 levels. The levels are:

  • Huginn and Muninn: Read 2 books
  • Freya: Read 3-5 books
  • Tor: Read 6-10 books
  • Odin: Read 11-20 books
  • Valhalla: Read 20+ books
There is no need to make a list before hand. Any book by any author born in a Nordic country (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and/or Sweden) or a book set in a Nordic country. They can be from any genre (I will be reading a mixture of classics, children’s books, YA and mystery).
While Zee says there's no need to start a list, I already know I'll be reading several of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels/stories.  I'm also interested in reading Camilla Läckberg's The Ice Princess, but I'd otherwise like to stay away from thrillers. I might try a contemporary young adult novel like Nothing by Janne Teller ...

Can anyone tell me why there so many Nordic crime novels?  Or is it just that a preponderance of Nordic crime novels make it to the American market instead of, say, poetry or science fiction?


GLBT Challenge 2011

I've signed on to participate in the GLBT Challenge in 2011. The idea behind the challenge is simply to read more books by LGBTQ authors or about LGBTQ issues and, obviously, I think that is a very good idea. (But then, you know, I'm a bit biased).

Under the challenge's rules I can read as many (or few) books as I'd like and I think I'll start with two and go on from there. I expect to read far more than a mere two LGBTQ books in 2011, but these two happen to be books I've been wanting to read for some time now:

Big Bang Symphony by Lucy Jane Bledsoe
As a college sophomore, I read and re-read Bledsoe's Working Parts so often that I pretty much have it memorized. It remains one of my favorite coming of age stories and I will nevernevernever loan my copy to anyone.

Stay by Nicola Griffith
Aud Torvingen returns! *swoon* I loved the first Aud Torvingen book, The Blue Place, and did mean to carry on with Stay ... but the world is full of books and I am so very easily distracted. Anyway, every darn time I see a Stieg Larsson novel go by on interlibrary loan, I am reminded that I still don't know what happened to Aud and I should borrow a copy of Stay. So I have. Finally.



A few weeks ago, I bought an Android OS smartphone. Besides playing too much Angry Birds on it, I have been reading free books using Kindle for Android. Yes, because I don't get enough "free" books from my library.

While prefer physical books to digital ones, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm on my phone takes up a lot less room in my handbag than a paperback does and I always remember to stuff my phone in my bag, but I don't always remember to do so with a book.  This means there have been too many occasions lately where I went somewhere hideously dull and, having optimistically misjudged the amount of time I will spend there, neglected to bring a book.  But now I have books on my phone and otherwise mind-numbingly boring hours are guaranteed to fly by!  Seriously. All the hours I've pissed away in the ER these last few weeks?  They would have been utterly unbearable without Understood Betsy.

Currently downloaded to my phone:
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Professor by Charlotte Bronte
  • A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • Her Father's Daughter by Gene Stratton-Porter
  • The Bent Twig by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Hillsboro People by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I own a beautiful hardcover edition of A Girl of the Limberlost, but it's too cumbersome to read on my lunch break. Also, I'd worry about smudging the pages with my sandwich-y hands. My smartphone wipes clean, you know!

I also installed the Overdrive Android Audiobook app so I could download digital audiobooks from my library's catalog, but I am less than thrilled with that library service as the selection is very small, the lending period is too darn short, and I can only have three items "checked out" at a time (and can't "return" anything early). When it comes to library audiobooks, I think I'll stick with CD books or Playaways as there are more to select from, they circulate for three weeks, and can be returned at anytime before their due date.


Gothic Reading Challenge 2011

Susan B. Evans is hosting the Gothic Reading Challenge and I, fool that I am, have signed up to read five books in the coming year.

Dates: January 1, 2011 – December 31, 2011
There is nothing better than a great Gothic read – crumbling old castles, mysterious legends, shadowy characters, supernatural beings and unexplainable events, make for some of the most haunting and captivating reading imaginable.

There are four levels of participation to choose from:

A Little Madness – Read just 1 novel with Gothic elements.
The Darkness Within – Read 5 novels with Gothic elements.
A Maniacal Frenzy – Read 10 novels with Gothic elements.
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know – Read 20 novels with Gothic elements.
I am attempting the Darkness Within level and will be reading:
  • Library of America's Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories
  • Mrs. Gaskell's Tales of Mystery and Horror
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I will be posting reviews as I finish the books -- probably, one every other month.