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Monday, 17 December


The Annunciation, lvaro Pires de vora (aka Alvaro di Piero),... The Lion of Chaeronea

The Annunciation, lvaro Pires de vora (aka Alvaro di Piero), ca. 1430-34


Book Review: The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth This Is My Truth Now

The Mother-in-LawThe Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I read one of Sally Hepworths earlier novels last year and immediately connected with her writing style and storytelling approach. I marked the rest of her books as TBR, then saw The Mother-in-Law available via NetGalley. I was lucky enough to be approved for an ARC earlier this week and began reading it right away. What an emotional and angst-ridden tale about the relationship between several family members who can feel all too real and all too fake at the exact same time. I truly enjoyed this book and give it 4.5 stars. Lets get into some specifics

Lucy lost her mother when she was young. Although her father was wonderful, she never felt that connection with an older female who could guide her through becoming a mother, caring for a family, or securing your own position in the world as a strong, intelligent woman. When she meets Ollie, and he wants to introduce her to his family, Lucy is nervous but hopeful it fills a hole thats been growing for far too long. Unfortunately, when Lucy meets his mother, Diana, it becomes quite clear that wont happen.

Diana had a difficult childhood and was essentially almost forced to give Ollie up as a baby. When she was kicked out, Diana learned how to build something from nothing and to care for her family when she didnt even have a place to live. She used that savvy experience to become a major player in an organization that helps young women trying to escape from difficult circumstances in their own country and move to America for a better life. Diana also developed a thick skin and an attitude that no one should be given a handout without working for it in return.

Although the story alternates chapters from Lucys and Dianas viewpoints throughout the decade they know one another, there are other characters who help show what each woman is truly made of. Dianas husband, Tom, is the complete opposite of her; hes a lovable, genuine, and thoughtful husband and father who gets sick. Ollies sister and her husband are desperate for a baby and go to the extremes to make it happen with or without their familys support and money. Ollies best friend becomes his business partner and wreaks havoc on a complex family relationship. Then theres the 3 young children Ollie and Lucy have during that first decade. Throw in Dianas untimely death, mysterious circumstances that make it look like a s...

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Sunday, 16 December



Ancient Egyptian funerary stele (painted wood) of a man named... The Lion of Chaeronea

Ancient Egyptian funerary stele (painted wood) of a man named Aafenmut, showing the deceased making offerings to the falcon-headed solar deity Ra-Horakhty.  Artist unknown; ca. 924-889 BCE (reign of Osorkon I, 22nd Dynasty, Third Intermediate Period).  From Aafenmuts tomb at Thebes; now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 


The People of Byt The Dabbler



Italian Pastoral Landscape with the Temple of Vespasian, Johann... The Lion of Chaeronea

Italian Pastoral Landscape with the Temple of Vespasian, Johann Heinrich Roos, 1668

Saturday, 15 December


Book Review: Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost This Is My Truth Now

'Twas the Knife Before Christmas (A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery, #2)Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Its Christmastime both in my current reality and in Mistletoe, Maine but a whole year has passed since the debut book in the A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery series by Jacqueline Frost. This second book, Twas the Knife Before Christmas, picks up with Hollys eventual settlement back home, a new friendship with reporter Ray, adventures with best friend Caroline, and romance with sorta boyfriend Evan (the sheriff!). Lifes good until Derek, a guy who was too handsy with Caroline, ends up knifed in a candy display. Did Caroline kill him in revenge? Her high-powered father? A stalker crush who seems to want to protect her? Or some colleague of Dereks who thought he was a threat? Holly is determined to protect her bestie but she starts getting threatening notes again just like last time. Are the crimes connected?

I won this book through a cozy giveaway, but I went back and ordered the first one on my own so I could be ready and current on the series. Im thrilled to have stumbled upon it and would definitely recommend the series as a definite holiday read. Holly is a great protagonist who only has a few pushy moments while trying to solve the murder; theyre necessary and make her even more relatable. The town is visibly pictured as a result of Frosts wonderful descriptions and writing style. The little fun factors (Theodore the goat, Cindy Lou Who the cat, Cookie the rich neighbor the list goes on) make it even more enjoyable.

The murder is clever. The list of suspects is believable. The investigation is paced well not too slow, not too fast. The way the criminal is captured is kinda cool. And the resolution to all the stories is a great end to the book. I am thrilled about the character of Libby. She seems like she could really be an asset in the town but also shake it up a little. Only 23 but quite smart and worldly already. Im very excited about this new series but sad Ill have to wait a full year to read the next one. Im also curious if the series will skip a year again or pick up sometime mid-year. Kudos to the author and publisher for providing a copy thru the giveaway contest. 4.25 stars!

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Concrete Semantics with Isabelle/HOL (Nipkow) New Online Books

Concrete Semantics with Isabelle/HOL (2018), by Tobias Nipkow and Gerwin Klein (PDF with commentary at

The Female Quixote, or, The Adventures of Arabella (Lennox) New Online Books

The Female Quixote, or, The Adventures of Arabella (text from an 1810 edition and illustrations from a 1799 edition), by Charlotte Lennox, ed. by Mrs. Barbauld, illust. by Richard Corbould and Thomas Kirk (illustrated HTML with commentary at

Isabelle/HOL (Nipkow) New Online Books

Isabelle/HOL: A Proof Assistant for Higher-Order Logic (2018), by Tobias Nipkow, Lawrence C. Paulson, and Markus Wenzel (PDF in Germany)

Suffolk in 1327 (Great Britain. Exchequer) New Online Books

Suffolk in 1327: Being a Subsidy Return (Suffolk Green Books #9, v. 11; Woodbridge: G. Booth, 1906), by Great Britain Exchequer, ed. by S. H. A. H. (Sydenham Henry Augustus Hervey) (stable link)

The History of Yaballaha III, Nestorian Patriarch, and of His Vicar, Bar Sauma, Mongol Ambassador to the Frankish Courts at the End of the Thirteenth Century, (Montgomery) New Online Books

The History of Yaballaha III, Nestorian Patriarch, and of His Vicar, Bar Sauma, Mongol Ambassador to the Frankish Courts at the End of the Thirteenth Century, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1927), ed. by James A. Montgomery (page images at HathiTrust)

Analecta Pteridographica seu Descriptio et Illustratio Filicum aut Novarum, aut Minus Cognitarum (Kunze) New Online Books

Analecta Pteridographica seu Descriptio et Illustratio Filicum aut Novarum, aut Minus Cognitarum (in Latin; Leipzig: L. Voss, 1837), by Gustav Kunze (page images at HathiTrust)


Vikings Heading for Land, Frank Dicksee, 1873 The Lion of Chaeronea

Vikings Heading for Land, Frank Dicksee, 1873


Steamed Open (A Maine Clambake Mystery #7) Any Good Book

Author:  Barbara Ross
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496717948
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99; $6.99 Amazon
December 18, 2018

It's summertime in Busman's Harbor, Maine, and the clamming is easy - or it was until a mysterious new neighbor blocks access to the beach, cutting off the Snowden Family Clambake's supply.  Julia Snowden is just one of many townspeople angered by Bartholomew Frick's decision.  But which one of them was angry enough to kill?  

Beachcombers, lighthouse buffs, and clammers are outraged after Frick puts up a gate in front of his newly inherited mansion.  When Julia urges him to reconsider, she's the last to see him alive - except the person who stabs him in the neck with a clam rake.  As she pores through a long list of suspects, Julia meets disgruntled employees, rival heirs, and a pair of tourists determined to visit every lighthouse in America.  They all have secrets, and Julia will have to work fast to expose the guilty party - or see this season's clam harvest dry up for good.

Julia Snowden runs her family's clambake business, and the end of summer is near.  But one morning everything is delayed for the funeral of a local, Heloise 'Lou' Herrickson, a woman who was generous and loved by all who knew her.  But the funeral takes a turn when Lou's heir, Bartholomew Frick, shows up late and doesn't speak to anyone, then leaves just as quickly when the service is over.

But what really causes problems is when Frick closes off the beach and road access in front of Herrickson House, angering the townspeople.  The beach has been used daily by clammers who make their living, beachcombers, including one who lives in a nearby cottage, and the occasional tourist who stay in a small home next to the lighthouse. 

When Julia goes to talk to Frick she comes across the housekeeper who has quit rather than work for him, and her attempts at getting him to open the beach again are fruitless.  But she learns later that day that Frick has been found dead, murdered, and she might have been one of the last people to se...


Attic janiform red-figure aryballos in the shape of womens... The Lion of Chaeronea

Attic janiform red-figure aryballos in the shape of womens heads, bearing the inscription Epilykos kalos ( Epilykos is handsome/beautiful).  Tentatively attributed to the painter Skythes; ca. 510-500 BCE.  Now in the Louvre.  Photo credit:   Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons.


Staff Picks: Sports, Sontag, and Scheherazade The Paris Review

SLASH. Image courtesy of Emily Allan and Leah Hennessey.

Emily Allan and Leah Hennesseys play SLASH is so enjoyable its like having dessert for two hours with no intermission. One advertisement describes it as an attempt to transcend the banality of identity and the terror of consciousness, but I prefer the Instagram promo with an image of Camille Paglia in mens clothing wielding a switchblade in front of a urinal. Thats much closer to the plays prankish genius. Every dynamic (or adversarial) duo from popular culture whom youve probably been obsessed with at some point appears for a romping ten minutes or so, from Spock and Captain Kirk to Lennon and McCartney to Morrissey and Johnny Marr. The hints of homosexuality in these pairings are the source of a great deal of the comedy: its the most fun meditation on the collaboration eroticism since Wayne Koestenbaums Double Talk. The best bit is probably the one thats getting the most hype, a reenactment of some shade from the early nineties thrown around by Paglia and Susan Sontag, but take my advicewait for the real thing and dont watch the clip of it online from last year. In person, Allan (Paglia) and Hennessey (Sontag) sound so much like their respective muses that if you close your eyes, youll have an opinion on The Volcano Lover again. SLASH runs through Thursday, January 31, at MX Gallery in Chinatown. Ben Shields 

Spotify just informed me that my most listened to song of 2018above even Femmebot by Charli XCXis a floaty, almost half-hour-long drone called Being Here, by a seventy-five-year-old New Age artist named Laraaji. If youre writing or studying in a city like New York, playing this song in your earbuds is like activating a force field. A lot of ambient music makes me feel like Ive woken up in a simulated reality. For me, a defamiliarizing anxiety feels redundant in 2018. But Laraaji...


Book Review: Queens by Patrick Hodges This Is My Truth Now

Queens (Wielders of Arantha, #2)Queens by Patrick Hodges

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you read the blurb about Queens by Patrick Hodges, it tells you the book is a cosmic game of chess which is a perfect one-liner about the second book in this fantasy / sci-fi series, Wielders of Arantha, published by Creativia. Although this isnt my typical genre, I took a chance on the first book and enjoyed it so much, I took on the second this month. I didnt want to forget anything about the characters, plot, or imaginary world Hodges has created, so it was necessary!

The series focuses on 5 or 6 different groups of people some 700 years in the future on a planet, Elystra, that is most definitely not Earth. Earth, as we know it, really doesnt exist anymore due to an alien species, the Jegg. Each of the groups has their own culture, and theyre battling one another to secure their own safety and to stay true to their god, Arantha, who goes by a few different names. The key storyline that connects everyone besides the quest for freedom or protection is how a tribe of women keep any female children born to them but return male children to the father who helped created them. The women go on a sojourn from time to time to ensure the future of their race, but this time, theres a lot more at stake.

After I finished the first book, I new I was a fan of Hodges writing style and storytelling abilities. Although its definitely a fantasy novel ripe with primary characters ranging in age from 13 to 50, there are major components leaning toward the mysterious, romance, and young adult realms. At the same time, although there are a few somewhat intimate scenes (minor in my opinion), the love is seen through character interactions, voice, and dialog. Women bond to protect their race and a few trustworthy newcomers. Men bond because they know they need to stick together to fight a common enemy. Children rely on strangers to play parental roles when their own have been killed in battle. Friendship crosses species lines. Theres a lot at play in this novel, and in the series as a whole, which make it intense, captivating, and tragic. It has everything I expect in the normal genres I read which makes it a complete surprise and welcome addition to my reading list.

Between the quest to locate all the stones, learning the history of how wielding (ability to cast lightning from your hands okay, its more than that, but you have to read to understand it all)...


Letter to a Stranger The Paris Review

Fans of the surrealist painter Remedios Varo likely wont be surprised that her writing is as wide reaching and imaginative as her work on canvas. She crafted uncanny fables and strange recipes intended to conjure dreams, but perhaps her most significant achievements on the page are her letters. Varo had a habit of writing to strangers, a practice immortalized in her friend Leonora Carringtons novel The Hearing Trumpet, in which the character Carmella Velasquez writes letters all over the world to people she has never met and signs them with all sorts of romantic names, never her own These wonderful letters fly off, in a celestial way, by airmail, in Carmellas delicate handwriting. No one ever replies. Below, read Varos letter to a man whose address she picked at random from the phone book. 

Albert Edelfelt, Dam som skriver brev (Lady Writing a Letter), 1887.

Dear Stranger,

I havent a clue if youre a single man or the head of a household, if youre a shy introvert or a happy extrovert, but whatever the case, perhaps youre bored and want to dive fearlessly into a group of strangers in hopes of hearing something that will interest or amuse you. Whats more, the fact that you feel curiosity and even some discomfort is already an incentive, and so Im proposing that you come and spend New Years Eve at house No. on Street. 

Ive picked your name almost at random from the phone book, I say almost because I looked for the page where those of your profession are to be found, I believe (perhaps mistakenly) that among them theres a greater chance of finding someone with a generous spirit and sense of humor. I should make clear that Im not the owner of the house and that she is completely unaware of this gesture, which shed probably call harebrained. Im merely invited to go there, as are a handful of other people, so in order to attend you should call xxx-xxxx ahead of time and ask for Seora Elena, firmly declare that youve met before, that youre a friend of Edwards, and that, feeling lonely and blue, youd like to go to her house to ring in the New Year. Ill be among the guests and youll have to guess which one of them is me. I believe this could be amusing. If youre a young man under thirty, its probably better not to do anything. Youd probably get...


Saints Lawrence, Christopher, Sebastian, and a Bishop Saint,... The Lion of Chaeronea

Saints Lawrence, Christopher, Sebastian, and a Bishop Saint, Mariotto di Nardo (fl. 1388-1424)


Cooking with Nescio The Paris Review

In Valerie Stiverss Eat Your Words series, she cooks up recipes drawn from the works of various writers.

Nescio is Latin for I dont know and was the pen name of a respectable Holland-Bombay Trading Company director and father of four publishing in Amsterdam between 1909 and 1942. The writer, whose real name was J.H.F. Grnloh (18821961), worked in an office by day and by night sparingly penned not-so-respectable short stories about artistic passion, upper-middle-class sexual longing, and the luminous vistas of his water-soaked city. His minuscule output (two books over forty years) is classic literature in the Netherlands but nearly unknown here. Amsterdam Stories was translated into English for the first time in 2012 and published by NYRB Classics.

The book is a series of interlocking stories about a gang of pals who want to be painters and how they fare over time. Some quickly give up the artistic dreams of their youth for the grind of making money. Others struggle longer against the inevitably conventional middle age. The one who succeeds in the art world is portrayed as a successful businessperson of a different stripe. Japi, a character introduced in the story The Freeloader, is the true artist of the bunch but also antisocial, a sponger, and a jerk. The protagonists mostly wind up with boring office jobs and staid marriages, drowning in the daily details of their lives, as we all do. Of packing lunch for children (the way I begin my morning five days a week), Nescio says, You try slicing bread and making sandwiches for four kids just once, if youre not used to it, the way the unfortunate writer of these pages has done on occasion, itll drive you insane. Yes, it will. Yet even faded souls have stirrings, some vague idea toward art and nature, love and greatness. Much of Nescios charm for the modern reader is in how recognizable the issues he examines are, how little has changed.

Appropriately for a book about the daily grind, people in Amsterdam Stories are frequently seen eating that most office appropriate of meals: the sandwich, sometimes mentioned to be ham but usually unspecified. Sandwiches appear enough in the stories that I wanted to know what they were like in Nescios Netherlands and w...

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