Saturday, September 17, 2016

Artist's Dates: Centering and Recharging

My artitsts' play group is kicking off our new year next week. We're going to be using Julia Cameron's newest book, It's never too late to begin again, to guide our year. One of the tools to feed our creativity is a weekly artist date, a time we set aside each week to individually do explore something. I've brainstormed a list of some things I'd like to do below, but I'd also love to hear what your ideas are.

1. Coffee, cake and Islam at Baitul Ata in Norcross
2. Visit the Istanbul Center in Alpharetta
3. Check out the Alif Institute
4. Visit the Hindu temple in Lilburn
5. Chant at Kashi in Atlanta
6. Attend a Friday meal at Al-Farooq Masjid in Atlanta
7. Take fiddle lessons at the Frank Hamilton school of folk music
8. Dance - check out waltz play or CCD
9. Visit the National Center for Human and Civil Rights in Atlanta
10. Visit the Millennium Gate Museum in Atlanta
11. Ride my bicycle
12. Visit the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory (list of free admission dates here)
13. Visit the Atlanta History Museum

Thursday, August 25, 2016

What's Up?

Not posting much this week - my energy is going to an application for promotion at work (I hate online applications that won't let me save a partial application!) and other life stuff. Like a sing at a local hospice last weekend, my Artist Play group gearing up for fall, and getting ready to facilitate a small group at my place of worship. Oh yes, and reading. I've currently got 3 books started.

The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead

The Race Beat
by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff

All the birds in the sky
by Charlie Jane Anders 

And two book-related events I'd like to go to this fall:

AJC Decatur Book Festival Labor Day Weekedn
(I consider this annual event my birthday present!)

Nisi Shaw (Everfair) at Charis Books September 23

What are you up to?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

James Tiptree, Jr.: The double life of Alice B. Sheldon

Julie Phillips biography of James Tiptree, Jr./Alice B. Sheldon is one of the best biographies I've read. (For those who don't know, Tiptree was an award winning author of science fiction in the 1960s & 70s. In 1976 her cover was blown, and people discovered she was Alice B. Sheldon, a woman in her fifties who had worked in military intelligence, the CIA, and as an experimental psychologist.)

Phillips manages, on the one hand, to describe the external facts of Sheldon's life as well as providing a compassionate portrait of Sheldon's inner life and struggles.

And for me, it's the juxtaposition of her exterior life, that which others see, with her interior life, what she thinks, dreams, and hopes that makes this woman fascinating. On the outside, it looks like a pretty good life. But like many of us, Alice is often more focused on the things she wishes were better, or different, particularly her role as a woman and a writer. And I can identify with many of them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wondrous Words Wednesday: July's Words

Here are some words I came across in my reading within the past month. Check out this post to find more from other bloggers.

My favorite (I had no clue what this meant until I looked it up.)

synecdoche (si-nek-duh-ke), noun

a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (or the whole for the part); or the special is used to represent the general , or the general for the special.

Example: ten sail for ten ships, or a Croesus for a rich man

It [the veil] serves as a synecdoche for extremism and the oppression of women in the name of religion, even though most Muslim women do not wear it and many of those who do consider it to be protected by constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

from "Visible through the veil: the regulation of Islam in American law" by Kathleen M. Moore in Sociology of Rreligion 2007, 68:3, 237-251.

The following are from My Friend Muriel by Jane Duncan

gallimaufry (noun) 

a confused jumble or medley of things.
I decided to spend seven days with Muriel for a whole conglomeration or gallimaufry of reasons and motives. from My friend Muriel by Jane Duncan

propitious (adjective)

giving or indicating a good chance of success; favorable: the timing for such a meeting seemed propitious. 

You could stop as often as you liked, and on a propitious day the Strip of Herbage could take you a whole afternoon to see it properly.

erroneous (adjective) 

wrong; incorrect

policies (plural of policy) noun

This is a usage I'm not familiar with, but from (Scotland, now chiefly in the plural)
The grounds of a large country house[from 18th c.]

They roamed about the Poyntdale policies and Home Farm.

Many of the following are musically related, and all come from the dystopian novel The Chimes by Anna Small. 

amabile (adverb)

music in a tender loving style

At Matins the Carillon sounds Onestory piano - quiet, amabile. Onestory is antiphony: question and answer, call and response.

antiphony (noun)

alternate or repsonsive singing (see quote above)

solfege (solfège)
A method of sight singing that uses the syllables do (originally ut), remifasol (or so), la, and si (or ti) to represent the seven principal pitches of the scale, most commonly the major scale

In The Chimes, solfege seems to be sign language to help people sing.

It is the melody simple first. We follow in solfege. Hands in concert as the sky is carved by it: Soh, Fah, Me . . . .

Lucien makes the solfege, spells it out by hand so that we see it and hear it inside at the same time.

subito: immediately, suddenly

I walk toward it like it's calling my name. And then subito I am running.

tacet:  silent 

I nod. But I am tacet.
There is tacet in the storehouse for awhile.
A look with a tacet agreement in it.

And then there's the following word, but I'm going to have to do a post about this book, so I'll just give you the dictionary definition without discussing the role this element plays in the story.

palladium (pə-lā′dē-əm)
noun, plural palladia; chemical symbol is Pd

 A soft, ductile, lustrous gray-white, tarnish-resistant, metallic element occurring naturally with platinum, especially in gold, nickel, and copper ores. Because it can absorb large amounts of hydrogen, it is used as a purification filter for hydrogen and a catalyst in hydrogenation. It is alloyed for use in electric contacts, jewelry, nonmagnetic watch parts, and surgical instruments.

In The Chimes, the main character, Simon, and his associates scavenge the River for palladium, which they sell to the Order for use in building the Carillon.

From Hostile takeover by Susan Schwartz

 queep (noun):

The sound a bird may make, similar to peep, chirp, cheep.
The sound a machine may make, similar to beep.
US military slang: non-flying duties, typically paperwork, that are undesirable to pilots

Collimate: (verb)

to make (rays of light or particles) accurately parallel
"a collimated electron beam"
The word "collimate" comes from the Latin verb collimare, which originated in a misreading of collineare, "to direct in a straight line".
Collimation" refers to all the optical elements in an instrument being on their designed optical axis. It also refers to the process of adjusting an optical instrument so that all its elements are on that designed axis (in line and parallel).

That's it for me!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Golden Scales: a mystery series set in Egypt

Set in the late 1990s, Golden Scales is the first in a projected 10-book series about Makana, a exiled police inspector from Sudan, covering the 1990s up to the Egyptian revolution.

On the surface this is a mystery, with the main character, Makana, hired by a powerful businessman, Hanifi, to locate a missing soccer player, Adil. But life is rarely simple, and personal & political ramifications proliferate as Makana searches for Adil in Cairo. The story is laced with uncomfortable parallels of loss between Hanifi's & Makana's family, as well as between the British woman Liz & Makana.

Makana's integrity after the '90s coup in Sudan endangered his family. Now, living in exile in Egypt, he again attempts to balance integrity & survival where the practice of one attribute endangers the implementation of the other. I liked this novel. It can be read as a straight-up mystery, but following Makana, his friends (and his enemies) also gives a glimpse of some of the societal concerns shaping life in Egypt and Sudan.

The fifth book in the series, City of Jackals, was published in June 2016. For more information about the author, see his two websites: Parker Bilal (his pen name for mysteries) or Jamal Mahjob (his literary fiction) or his Wikipedia entry or this interesting article from 2013. Thanks to Suzanne on Library Thing for introducing me to this series!

Title: Golden Scales
Copyright: 2012
Genre: mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Author: Parker Bilal (pseudonym for Jamal Mahjob)

Also listed in Akilah's Diversity on the Shelf and Naz' Read Diverse Books challenges.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

New Releases on the Horizon

Here are some books to be published later this year (or possibly into 2017) that I'm interested in. And they fit in well with this week's top ten Tuesday theme as well. Check out the "Speculative Fiction in Translation" post at if you're interested in more translated science/speculative fiction titles.

Everfair Cover

 Everfair by Nisi Shaw is a steampunk alternate history of the Congo. Thanks to Jordan at Forever Lost in Literature for highlighting this on her blog this week.

Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation Cover

Invisible Planets is a collection of science fiction stories by Chinese authors translated by Ken Liu. Due out in November 2016.

Iraq + 100 Cover

 Iraq + 100 is a collection of speculative fiction stories by Iraqi authors, imaging what Iraq will be like in 2103, edited by Hassan Blasim.

Memoirs of a Polar Bear Cover

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, tranlsated by Susan Bernofsky, is about a family of writers and performers in East Germany.

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi & winner of the 2014 prize for Arabic fiction. Jonathan Wright is translating it into English. (Arabic cover shown.) Hadi al-Attag roams the city of Baghdad, collecting the parts of people who have been dismembered in explosions & sewing them into one body. When a displaced soul enters the body, it comes to life and sets about taking revenge on those who killed its parts.

Spanish Women of Wonder is a collection of stories written in Spanish and translated into English by Sue Burke. This was a kickstarter project, and I'm sure these authors will be new to me. (No cover available.)


And finally, though this isn't a translation, it's one I'm really excited about: Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea novels are being published in an omnibus edition with illustrations by Charles Vess!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wondrous Words Wednesday


I love learning new words when I'm reading. Check out bermudaonion's blog if you'd like to learn some in addition to the ones I've picked up this month.

Two from James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, by Julie Phillips.

Rodomontade is a noun referring to boastful or inflated talk or behavior. According to Wikipedia, the term is a reference to Rodomonte, a character in the Italian Renaissance epic poems Orlando innamorato and its sequel Orlando furioso.

Negentropy is negative entropy, or reverse entropy. It means things becoming more in order: more organized, structured, functional. (simple Wikipedia)

Panegyric is a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something.

" . . . he filled my tooth, while intoning a panegyric to all my teeth . . ." from My Friend Muriel by Jane Duncan.

Polysemy: poly- "many" + sema "sign" is the capacity of a sign/symbol to have multiple meanings.

"The Polysemy of Veiling"  (a section title) in What is veiling? by Sahara Amer

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books set outside the USA

OK, so I went a little overboard on this one. I'm looking forward to what others post for this meme, since I'm always looking for international reads. If you want to see what other bloggers posted, check out this link.

The first three on my list came to mind easily, I had to look up the rest on my Library Thing account to jog my memory. Except for as noted, the author is from the country the book is set in.


Golden Scales by Parker Bilal
Genre: mystery (first in a series)
Setting: Egypt; author is of British & Sudanese descent

Genre: historical fiction
Setting: East Pakistan/Bangladesh during & after war for independence

The hired man by Aminatta Forna 
Genre: historical fiction
Setting: Eastern Europe; author is Scottish & Sierra Leone ish?

Dust by Yvonne A. Owuor
Genre: historical fiction
Setting: Kenya

The garden of evening mists by Tan Twan  Eng
Genre: historical fiction
Setting: Malaysia

Anything by Amitav Ghosh, an  Indian writer,
especially Hungry Tide, Sea of Poppies & River of Smoke
Genre: historical fiction 
Setting: India, China

A Persian Requiem by Simin Daneshvar, translated by Roxane Zand
Genre: historical fiction
Setting: Iran

God's of tango (Argentina) &
The invisible mountain (Uruguay)
by Carolina de Robertis
Genre: historical fiction 
Author is of Uruguayan descent.

The three body problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (first in a trilogy)
Genre: science fiction
(set during the cultural revolution, this novel won the Hugo for best novel in 2015.)
Setting: China

Non fiction

Genre: narrative nonfiction
Setting: India; follows several families in a slum near the Mumbai airport.

The author is an investigative reporter who writes on poverty in the US. 
Born & raised in the US, Boo is a Pulitzer winner & this book reads easily.

Story of the Qu'ran: it's place in Muslim life by Ingrid Mattson
Genre: non fiction
I found this a fascinating description of the history of the Qu'ran & it's interpretation from an academic believer's perspective. I include it since the Qu'ran originated in what we now know as Saudi Arabia, and the academic study of this scripture was pioneered and continues to be taught more outside the US than in.

If the oceans were ink: an unlikely friendship and a journey to the heart of the Koran by Caria Power
Genre: memoir
Setting: England & India
The author is a US citizen; her parents were Quaker & Jewish. She met Sheikhh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, an Indian imam living in England while they were both at Oxford University. This book chronicles her study of the Koran over one year with Nadwi, as well as her description of his training & activities as an imam.

The butterfly mosque by Willow Wilson
Genre: memoir
Setting: Egypt
The author is a US citizen. The book describes meeting her husband and converting to Islam while living in Egypt.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite 2016 Releases

I looked at this meme, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, and thought, I haven't read many new releases this year! And then I looked at my list of reads and discovered I read more new books than I thought.

My favorite new releases so far:

Visitor: A Foreigner Novel Cover
I enjoy the Foreigner series by C. J. Cherryh, (though I'm not thrilled with the covers) and I particularly liked this one because I've been waiting a long time for the shoe that drops towards the end of this book. Some people have been disappointed in Visitor because there isn't as much action as there is in many of the novels, but I enjoyed getting to know the kyo in Visitor, and getting better acquainted with the tensions between humans - ship personnel, station/rescued personnel, & Mospherians - in Tracker, also released this year. I like character development, and if the writing is good and the characters are interesting, a book doesn't have to have an action-packed plot to keep my interest.

The Life of Elves Cover
Speaking of  books with more character than plot, this was one that grew on me. The Life of Elves by Muriel Barberry was a slow build, and I particularly enjoyed the French characters and descriptions of the village. This was one I had to read a bit at a time, and I didn't care so much about the characters in the Italian city. I haven't read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, so I don't know how it compares.

The Raven King (the Raven Cycle, Book 4) Cover
The fourth and final book of the Raven Boys cycle, The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, was very good. I loved the characters in these books - Blue, Adam, Gansey, Noah. The plot was a bit thin by this time, but Stiefvater writes complex, believable characters.

Others I've read:

And what's on my horizon?

Homegoing Cover Homegoing by  Yaa Gyasi (historical fiction, out this month)

The Underground Railroad Cover Underground Railroad by Colin Whitehead (alternate history, due September 2016)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Among Others

Among Others Cover Finished Among Others this weekend, and loved it. Not sure why it took me so long to get to this. I think I had some fear that it would be "book dropping" and no plot, or would be "just" another coming of age story. But I am happy to say that I fell into this one with a sense of wonder, and that wonder was still intact at the end of the book.

It is a love letter to science fiction and fantasy for us book nuts, and I'm not sure the book dropping furthers the plot, and it is a coming of age story. But in my opinion the writing is better than average.

Curiousity about  what happened to Morganna kept teasing me further in, and I liked the understated use of magic, which can be read as real or something Morwena creates. Finally, she sticks the ending - both resolving the relationship between Morganna and Morwena, and allowing Morwena to stand up to her mother.