“In 36 fascinating lectures, award-winning Professor Albala puts this extraordinary subject on the table, taking you on an enthralling journey into the human relationship to food. With this innovative course, you’ll travel the world discovering fascinating food lore and culture of all regions and eras – as an eye-opening lesson in history as well as a unique window on what we eat today.”
He went off script a lot into historical deep dives that were unrelate to food. A lot of it sounded like conjecture. I am not sure how much of this is really based on historical fact. The amount of time he actually spends on talking about food is comparatively small. And instead of listening to old recipes, I would have liked to get more details on the culinary impacts of various historical events and vice versa. That did happen, but not enough.
By the time we hit the European Dark Ages, I started thinking about ending this Great Course. By the time I reached Luis XIV, I was sure that I could not listen through another 8 hours of this. Too superficial, vague and flippant.
Maybe it‘s also a problem of the format. This is not a planned and edited book, but a recording of a lecture series. I think this would probably work better as a podcast. The last Great Courses book I listened to (different topic) I also abandoned about halfway through.
My post from Saturday was a meme, #6degrees. Go have a look, it can be fun and, as in my case, lead to looking at books I usually wouldn‘t consider. Because I got comments, commented back and in turn looked at my commenters‘ #6degrees posts. It‘s the polite and fun thing to do, even if the mentioned books might not be in a favoured genre. Long story short, I came across Joanne Harris again. I read her Five Quarters of the Orange in 2003 (wow, 20 years ago!) and liked it very much. But I never got another of her books.
I lived in Cairo at the time and ordering books online was a hassle back then. Half of the time the parcels would get lost or half of the contents would be missing or the trip to the post office where I had to pick it up was really far out of my way. There was a pretty good bookstore in town, where I usually got my books that I didn‘t swap with friends and colleagues, but for some reason the thought of ordering books from the store never crossed my mind. Ok, I went off on a tangent again, back to Ms. Harris and 2003!
Framboise is running a creperie in a small village in rural France. She spent her childhood years during WWII in this village, but nobody knows that. She now lives under another name, to protect a dark secret in her past. One day her nephew and his wife appear at her doorstep, to ask for the use of her name and recipes. When she refuses – to protect her true identity – she quickly realises that they will stop at nothing to get those recipes. But she is not easily defeated. And while she struggles against her nephew, she tells us her story….. Very good book, recommended! Great storytelling. This, by the way, is the author of “Chocolat“.
I keep looking at that review and thinking about getting something else by her. However, I have that pesky goal of not wanting to buy new books, unless I read them straight away or they are part of an ongoing series, etc. Plenty of books on my shelves. Well, I looked. There is Chocolat (Chocolat, #1), obviously. It‘s been ages since I saw the movie. Probably 20 years as well. Anyway, the description didn‘t tempt me, although I don‘t really remember much from the movie.
In the small French village of Lansquenet, nothing much has changed in a hundred years. Then an exotic stranger, Vianne Rocher, blows in on the changing wind with her young daughter, and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church. Soon the villagers cannot keep away, for Vianne can divine their most hidden desires.
But it’s the beginning of Lent, the season of abstinence, and Father Reynaud denounces her as a serious moral danger to his flock. Perhaps even a witch.
If Vianne’s chocolaterie is to survive, it will take kindness, courage and a little bit of magic…
Chocolat book blurb
Another of her books looks strangely familiar, but I think I might be mixing it up with something more current with a similar name: A Pocketful of Crows. Or someone mentioned it to me recently? Fantasy, fairy telling, mythology, folklore — those tags are more my thing.
Following the seasons, A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl.
Only love could draw her into the world of named, tamed things. And it seems only revenge will be powerful enough to let her escape.
Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.
Pocketful of Crows book blurb
Sounds like something that should be read and appreciated on paper. Not sure at what age range this is aimed at.
And then I came across the truly bizarre: Doctor Who: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller. She wrote a Dr. Who story. Strange, right? Well, maybe she is a fan and had fun with this. It‘s only 50 pages… And although it‘s my favourite genre, I am not a fan. I know, blasphemy. But I never got into the TV show, never mind which Doctor it was. It always felt vaguely too silly. Sorry, don‘t kill me… 😀
PS: No, I didn‘t get any of the mentioned books, I managed not to add to my TBR pile…
Welcome to #6degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I mostly use this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. Or to give myself a reminder of the books on my TBR pile or want-to-read-shelf.
So, as usual, this month starts the chain link with a book I haven‘t read or ever heard about — we begin with Trust by Hernan Diaz. Pretty cover. Is that a snowglobe with a skyscraper inside?
Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the brilliant daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth. But the secrets around their affluence and grandeur incites gossip. Rumors about Benjamin’s financial maneuvers and Helen’s reclusiveness start to spread–all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. At what cost have they acquired their immense fortune?
Trust engages the reader in a quest for the truth while confronting the reality-warping gravitational pull of money and how power often manipulates facts.
Part of the book blurb
Historical fiction, but not necessarily set in an era that I enjoy reading about. I have another book on my shelves though that is titled Trust…
Rowan Gant used to be just an average guy who just happened to be a Witch. However, when the spirits of murder victims found out he could hear them, they started coming to him for help. His life just hasn’t been the same since…
Part of a 10-book series, of which I read 8. Not typical UF, Rowan Gant is a witch in a very contemporary setting. He hears dead people, but there is less magic going on as for example with Harry Dresden. Unusual and I liked it. Maybe one of these days I will get the last two books of this series. Not all witches are enjoyable though. This one didn‘t really do it for me:
Marked for death, Rachel is a dead witch walking unless she can appease her former employers and pay off her contract by exposing the city’s most prominent citizen as a drug lord.
Bottom line, this book was boring and the main character was not interesting. Potential for great world building, but it was not happening. The narrative was flat, not funny and sloooooow and I had the sneaking suspicion that Rachel is really stupid, not just clumsy. It was a major struggle to finish this book and I never picked up another book of this series.
A dead witch walking leads me quite naturally to many other dead walking… a classic by now!
At first I was a bit confused, because Rick didn‘t look like Rick. And then I wanted to smack myself, because the comic came before the TV series. I really like the black-white-and-grey pencil work. Minimalistic, but great in telling the story. Very good artwork. I still haven‘t finished the whole series. Last year I completed volume 21, The Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War Part 2. Still a few volumes to go. I do like Robert Kirkman though, he tells great stories. Another comic on my shelf that he wrote is this…
Mark Grayson is just like most everyone else his age. He’s a senior at a normal American highschool. He has a crappy part time job after school and on weekends. He likes girls quite a bit… but doesn’t quite understand them. He enjoys hanging out with his friends, and sleeping late on Saturdays… at least until the good cartoons come on. The only difference between Mark and everyone else is that his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, and as of late, he seems to be inheriting his father’s powers. Which sounds okay at first, but how do you follow in your father’s footsteps when you know you will never live up to his standards
Superhero comic with a teenager. Not really my thing. This came as part of a comic bundle, aka a mixed bag. Not sure yet, if this will work for me, but you never know. The subtitle of this comic is „family matters“ — family and those previously mentioned dead lead me down memory lane…
After enduring torture and the loss of loved ones during the brief but deadly Faery War, Sookie Stackhouse is hurt and she’s angry. Just about the only bright spot in her life is the love she thinks she feels for vampire Eric Northman
Remember Sookie Stackhouse? Truly a Blast from the Past! The last one hundred pages or so of this particular one were pretty good. Turns and twists and suspense. The two hundred-odd pages before that were meh. Not good, not bad, they flowed along pleasantly. Not much of a plot, really. Sookie was getting a bit tired by book #10. And I backed myself into a bit of a corner with that last link. Let‘s see…. Faery war… the Fae!?
When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae….
Mac is extremely annoying. Obsessed with pink, nail varnish and silly clothes. Petulant and childish. I would have tossed her and her stupid book over a cliff, if I hadn’t received assurances, that she grows up in consecutive books. The afterword by the author also put my worries to rest (a little).
What I didn’t like either: being told at the end of a chapter (or anywhere, really), what horrible thing might happen to her soon / how irrevocably her life will change or what she will commit, do, not do… It’s a lazy plot device to raise suspense and it made me roll my eyes by the third time the author did it.
I was really uncomfortable with that first scene at the museum and don’t understand, how anybody can find that guy sexy after what he did. There is no coming back from that.
What I did like:
Barrons, although he stays a bit one-dimensional. I hope that’ll change in the coming books.
The writing in general. Good characters (annoying, pink, stupid…), good setting, flows along nicely. I liked the idea of a dark zone. I’ve never been to Dublin, so I don’t have an opion on how well it was described. The world building was not bad, although I could have done with more.
Summarizing the experience: massively annoying female main character. Barrons has potential, but remained a bit flat. Good story, bit flat as well. Kept me hooked, I will definitely read the next one, in the hopes that plot, characters and world-building pick up a notch in the next books. Would recommend it.
PS: I gave up on this series after the first chapter of the third book. The MC was just too silly.
Stephen Fry‘s second offering in his Greek Mythology series. We are looking at all of the Greek heroes, some more well-known than others. Lots of names and someone begetting someone else, etc. But as Stephen points out himself early on, don‘t get hung up on trying to memorize them all. I certainly didn‘t. Those that kept getting repeated eventually stuck.
Herakles (Hercules), Jason and Theseus are covered quite extensively and I knew their stories at least in broad strokes. I was foggier on the details of Perseus. But I had never heard of Bellerophon or Atalanta. Orpheus and Oedipus were nice refreshers. The ending dragged. I blame Theseus, he must have been quite a tosser.
Stephen‘s sometimes amusing narration made me think of Monty Python at times. Pity that they never picked up on the Greek heroes. Parts of this could have qualified.
This is quite long, so I listened to Stephen with longish breaks in between heroes. And yes, I recommend the audio, as half of the fun is listening to Fry‘s narration.
I will definitely proceed to the next book. I want to see what he makes of Troy! Should be entertaining.
The story of Troy speaks to all of us – the kidnapping of Helen, a queen celebrated for her beauty, sees the Greeks launch a thousand ships against the city of Troy, to which they will lay siege for 10 whole and very bloody years.
Further reading for the only female hero in this book: I came across a retelling that looks interesting, Atalanta by Jennifer Saint.
From the beloved, bestselling author of Elektra and Ariadne, a reimagining of the myth of Atalanta, a fierce huntress raised by bears and the only woman in the world’s most famous band of heroes, the Argonauts
Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid’s stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice.
When Theseus, the Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne’s decision ensure her happy ending?
The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.
The Lego adventures continued. I am still assembling my tree house — I am doing my best to make it last. The next box is already sitting in my living room though…
My long wellness weekend in Austria was really nice. Work is aggravating. And my parents had Covid and didn‘t need to be hospitalized, which I count as a major win, although they were definitely not well.
Reading was slow, I just cracked 2000 pages in May. February was the only month where I read less so far this year, but I spent 2 and a half weeks then looking after my mum after her operation. This month it definitely was Anne Rice who slowed me down… I wonder how long it took her to write that thing? Although it also took me absolutely forever to make it though the audio of Eyes of the Void. I practically sprinted through the audio of Mythos in comparison, considering…
Specfic Movies & TV watched: – Picard, S2, Ep 10 ★★★★☆ Done! Hm. Not sure if I liked the ending. Maybe I need to rewatch the whole thing in one sitting. – Outer Range, S1, Eps 1-8 ★★★★☆ Odd season finale, I kept waiting for the next episode. Might have to rewatch that. – Prehistoric Planet, S1, Eps 1-5 ★★★★★ apple tv+, presented by David Attenborough. More, please! – Obi-Wan Kenobi, S1, Eps 1+2 ★★★★☆ Good start. – Wonder Woman 1984 ★★★☆☆ Ok, but forgettable. – Hawkeye, S1, Eps 1-6 ★★★★★ Great fun.
And the first month of the year is over already! Here is what read, listened to and watched…
– Activation Degradation ★★★★☆, audio, SF, not Murderbot, just ignore that. Different take on robots/cyborgs/AI. – Cursed ★★★★½, Alex Verus #2, ebook, UF, wizards in London battle it out, good fun. – Black Powder War ★★★☆☆, Temeraire #3, ebook, Fantasy, the way back from China to Europe over land, with stopovers in Istanbul and Prussia, set in 1806. – Fruiting Bodies ★★★★★, short story, SF Horror, a little creepy. – Life on Earth ★★★★☆, audio, TBR pile, David Attenborough narrates his book, natural history. – The Sweet Rowan ★★★★¼, ebook, TBR, sweet Regency romance, set in Scotland, with a wee bit of magic. – Saga #55 ★★★★☆, eComic, SF, finally back after three years of waiting. – The Marrow Thieves ★★★☆☆, ebook, TBR, dystopian YA set in Canada. People have lost the power to dream, except for indigenous people, who are hunted for a cure. – Tietjen auf Tour: Warum Camping mich glücklich macht, paper, DNF after 84 pages reading and skimming to 150 pages / 55%. Travel anecdotes, nice enough, but very repetitive.
Specfic Movies & TV watched: – The Expanse, S6, Ep. 3-6 ★★★★☆ Season finished. They went off script quite a bit. Not sure yet how much I liked this. – Foundation, S1, Ep. 4-10 ★★★★★ Season finished. Excellent! – Venom ★★★¾☆ Entertaining and a little too silly. – Kingdom, S1, Ep. 1-3 ★★★☆☆ Korean zombie series in a historical setting. Unintentionally funny at times. Different. The people in this have the survival instincts of gnats.
Some StoryGraph statistics:
(yes, the last and first page counts are different, I updates something in between screen shooting the stats… 😝)
The Chronicle of Heloise & Grimple by Sean Gibson — A bard walks in on a dark elf dealing cards to a beholder, a mind flayer, a demon, a grouchy-looking wizard, and what is either a vampire or a really pale guy with an unfortunate widow’s peak….
Cross of St. George (Richard Bolitho, #24) by Alexander Kent, Douglas Reeman — February 1813: As American privateers pick off British and Canadian ships in the wake of the War of 1812, Admiral Sir Richard Bolitho returns to Halifax to defend Crown property. In the cold waters off Nova Scotia, he fights fruitless skirmishes with men of the frontier, all the while longing for peace.
Brunelleschi’s Dome: The Story of the Great Cathedral in Florence by Ross King — Even in an age of soaring skyscrapers and cavernous sports stadiums, the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence still retains a rare power to astonish. Yet the elegance of the building belies the tremendous labour, technical ingenuity and bitter personal strife involved in its creation.
Umlac’s Legacy (Entangled Galaxy Book 2) by Jim Meeks-Johnson — When Lt. Jade Mahelona defeated the cyborg Umlac, she inherited his interstellar kingdom—and made herself a target. Her new subjects are two-ton blobs who know that if they hunt her down and kill her, they get to take her place. She takes refuge with the reclusive Elliquine who adopt her into their herd and use her as their liaison to other species.
Well, I have some very suspicious offerings on this list. Maybe I shouldn‘t be surprised that some of them have been stuck on my TBR pile of owned books for a long time.
Yes, yes, I do not want to buy new books, instead I want to reduce my TBR pile of owned books. What can I say, I am weak on occasion… I rarely get to visit well-stocked bookshops, so when I do, the temptation is just too great. I am lucky I got out of there with only three new books!
The quiz champion reveals his easy way to more general knowledge. When was the Prague Defenestration? How many bits are in a byte? What is the name of the capital of Bolivia? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a job, aptitude test, job interview or conversation at a party – with good general knowledge you can score points everywhere. Sebastian Klussmann, popular hunter from the successful German quiz show “Gefragt – Gejagt” reveals how you can increase your knowledge without much effort. For example, when you go on a walk through the city and find out to whom a street name goes back to. Or explores geography through football. Or combine topics with emotions by letting grandmother show you your favorite flowers in the garden. An entertaining book that helps you to simply educate yourself – up to quiz maturity.
Translation of the German book blurb
Why did I get this book? I like the quiz show and I like him. My mum does so as well and I got this partly to share it with her.
A climate alliance – our last chance? Climate change – a catastrophe of unforeseen proportions is upon us. But then the superpowers China, Russia and the USA are taking a radical path: They are forming a climate alliance to save the earth. Their demands dramatically interfere with people’s lives, and not everyone wants to accept that. The opponentsare willing to do whatever it takes. The situation comes to a head – and suddenly the fate of us all lies in the hands of an anxious cook and an inconspicuous secret agent.
Translation of the German book blurb
Why did I get this book? Because my mum keeps mentioning it and also its sequel. So another one to read and share with her. I actually think the blurb sounds a bit silly. China, Russia and the USA form an alliance. And pigs fly. Anyway….
Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscuracelebrates over 600 of the strangest and most curious places in the world. […]
Atlas Obscura revels in the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden, and the mysterious. Every page expands our sense of how strange and marvelous the world really is. And with its compelling descriptions, hundreds of photographs, surprising charts, maps for every region of the world, it is a book you can open anywhere.
Part of the book blurb
Why did I get this book? Because it is pretty! And it shows lots of weirdly interesting places. A great coffee-table book and conversation starter. And yes, I will share it with my mum. Trivia is fun! Geography is cool!
Regency romance with a touch of magic. Governess trope! False identity! Scotland! Rugged Scotsmen! Damsel in distress! Treacherous antagonist! Drama!
A young woman runs away from her English home, to find something she has lost, and goes to Scotland under a false name, pretending to be a governess. The master of the house is immensely interesting, as he is wont to be in a sweet romance of this type. The situation gets complicated, with that lie of her assumed identity hovering in the background. And what is happening to that magic?
The writing was a little rough in the first chapter. And the tiny amount of magic felt like a gimmick at first, propelling the story from pure historical romance to something a little different.
The plot didn‘t hold any big surprises for most of the book. However, when the requisite amount of drama occurred, it was well done and the expected reveals were very entertaining. Good amount of action and the above mentioned damsel in distress was not a wimp.
The characters were likable and lively. The switching points of view added a nice layer to the story telling. The characters from her other two books, Her Caprice and The Telling Touch, are related to this book and should probably be read first. The books are standalone though, it didn’t feel as if I was missing anything.
Bottomline, this was a lot of fun! I might read more by the author at some point.