Then and Now #17 (27/12/21 - 2/1/22)

 For the past few weeks I didn't have the time to write this round-up post but the change into the new year felt like the perfect time to hop back onto this train! What better time to cast an eye back and look forward! I hope everyone had a lovely New Year's Eve and that the first few days have been kind.

The Sunday Post is a blog news meme hosted @ Caffeinated Reviewer. See rules here: Sunday Post MemeMailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.  It is hosted weekly over at Mailbox Monday and every Friday they do a round-up of some of their favourite, shared reads!

Last Week (and a bit further back)

Super quick recap of the last week or two! I managed to go visit my mother in Germany just after Christmas for a few days, which was lovely. It's nice to get some family time in, especially with my granddad as well who isn't getting any younger. I also needed to get out of the house, so a train journey along the Rhine was ideal. We drove past the Lorelei, which is one of my favourite spots in Germany. COVID of course remained a concern, but people were pretty on top of it along the journey and in my mom's town so that alleviated some of it. I mostly stayed at home with her and rested.

The move into the new year is always an odd one for me. On the one hand technically nothing changes, and yet it feels like such a crucial time to reconsider things, start new habits and leave old ones behind. It feels like something has to happen on New Year's Eve, which always makes for a mildly stressful time in my opinion. But I did start the year determined, as I spent the 1st and the 2nd of January in the library getting started on assignments and my thesis. Go me! I also have my first therapy session tomorrow, so that is both exciting and a little nerve-wracking. Not quite ready to lay everything bare, but thankfully we're mostly going to be focusing on active ways to interrupt my anxiety-spiraling. 

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Recommendations

I always hit this section and don't know what I'd want to recommend. Especially now, when I've been looking back at an entire year how do I pick one thing to highlight or recommend?! But I guess I'm going to stick with the two albums I've been listening to the past week, one of which I've already featured before. Here is the energy I want to go into the new year with:

Halsey, 'I am not a woman, I'm a god', If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power

Lana del Rey, 'Beautiful', Blue Bannister

The 'sad white girl' vibe is strong with me sometimes, but what can I say, I do love to be mildly melodramatic in between getting things done.

Mailbox Monday

Extreme North: A Cultural History by Bernd Brunner (2/15/2022; W.W. Norton)

An entertaining and informative voyage through cultural fantasies of the North, from sea monsters and a mountain-sized magnet to racist mythmaking.

People have perennially projected their fantasies onto the North as a frozen no-man’s-land full of marauding Vikings or as the unspoiled landscape of a purer, more elemental form of life. Bernd Brunner recovers the encounters of adventurers with its dramatic vistas, fierce weather, exotic treasures, and indigenous peoples—and with the literary sagas that seemed to offer an alternate (“whiter” and “superior”) cultural origin story to those of decadent Greece/Rome and the moralistic “Semitic” Bible. The Left has idealized Scandinavian social democracy. The Right borrows from a long history of crackpot theories of Northern origins. Nordic phenotypes characterized eugenics, which in turn influenced America’s limits on immigration.

The North, Brunner argues, was as much invented as discovered. A valuable contribution to intellectual history, full of vivid documentation, Extreme North is an enlightening journey through a place that is real, but also, in fascinating and very disturbing ways, imaginary.

While Old English texts were my first love, Old Norse literature followed very quickly. So the way in which "the North" has been politicized is quite close to my heart and also, to a large extent, has consequences for my professional life. I can't wait to see what Brunner has to say about the North, I've only heard positive things so far.

Atlas of Forgotten Places: Journey to Abandoned Destinations from around the World by Travis Elborough (7/12/2021; Quarto Publishing - White Lion)

Explore the places that time forgot. Abandoned, mysterious, sleeping monuments around the world have been relegated to the margins of history, pushed off the map and out of sight.

From ancient ruins and crumbling castles to more recent relics – an art deco New York subway station, a Soviet ghost town in the Arctic Circle, a flooded Thai mall teeming with aquatic life – Travis Elborough takes you on a journey into these strange, overlooked and disappearing worlds and immortalises their fates.

Original maps and stunning colour photography accompany Travis Elborough’s moving historic and geographic accounts of each site. The featured locations are a stark reminder of what was, and the accounts in this investigative book help to bring their stories back to life, telling us what happened, when and why, and to whom.

The book features 40 sites, including: Santa Claus, Arizona, USA: A festive tourist resort turned ghost town deep in the desert where once you could meet Santa Claus any day of the year;Crystal Palace Subway, London, UK: One of the city’s best-kept secrets is an underground, cathedral-like relic from where many Victorian commuters bustled through;Montserrat, West Indies: The small Caribbean island with a population of 5,000 that was evacuated when its volcano erupted in 1995. The volcano is still active and nearly half the island remains a designated exclusion zone;Balaklava Submarine Base, Crimea: The former top-secret Soviet submarine base that was kept off all official maps and known as Object 825 GTS;Volterra Psychiatric Hospital, Tuscany, Italy: Once dubbed ‘the place of no return’, this long-closed lunatic asylum once housed 6,000 patients who were never allowed to leave

While I've been very lucky to be able to travel and see my family, travel definitely isn't what it once was. And although I'm not majorly mad at that, I'm very grateful for books like these that let me see new and weird places nonetheless.

Queen Bee by Nina Manning (1/26/2022; Boldwood Books)

In the quiet village of Helesbury, Miranda Wallace prides herself on being the most popular member of her small social circle; the perfect friend, the best mum – the queen bee.

Until one day, Verity arrives. Cool and indifferent, Verity is everything Miranda isn’t, but she threatens to shatter Miranda’s picture-perfect life.

Suddenly plagued with insecurities, Miranda is certain Verity is hiding something. And Miranda knows all about secrets and the damage they can cause, because she’s hiding some of her own.

So when Verity threatens to reveal the truth about Miranda and destroy the perfect life she’s built, Miranda knows she has to act to protect the people she loves – even if the results are deadly.

I read Manning's The Bridesmaid last year and did very much enjoy it, despite having a few gripes. I'm very excited to see what's next with Queen Bee. I love me some small town-drama!

Life Ceremony: Stories by Sayaka Murata (7/5/2-22; Grove Atlantic)

With Life Ceremony, the incomparable Sayaka Murata is back with her first collection of short stories ever to be translated into English. In Japan, Murata is particularly admired for her short stories, which are sometimes sweet, sometimes shocking, and always imbued with an otherworldly imagination and uncanniness.

In these twelve stories, Murata mixes an unusual cocktail of humor and horror to portray both the loners and outcasts as well as turning the norms and traditions of society on their head to better question them. Whether the stories take place in modern-day Japan, the future, or an alternate reality is left to the reader’s interpretation, as the characters often seem strange in their normality in a frighteningly abnormal world. In “A First-Rate Material,” Nana and Naoki are happily engaged, but Naoki can’t stand the conventional use of deceased people’s bodies for clothing, accessories, and furniture, and a disagreement around this threatens to derail their perfect wedding day. “Lovers on the Breeze” is told from the perspective of a curtain in a child’s bedroom that jealously watches the young girl Naoko as she has her first kiss with a boy from her class and does its best to stop her. “Eating the City” explores the strange norms around food and foraging, while “Hatchling” closes the collection with an extraordinary depiction of the fractured personality of someone who tries too hard to fit in.

In these strange and wonderful stories of family and friendship, sex and intimacy, belonging and individuality, Murata asks above all what it means to be a human in our world and offers answers that surprise and linger.

I love strange and wonderful stories and the descriptions in the blurbs absolutely grabbed me. A narrator that is a curtain?! Tell me more!

So that's it from me! How was your last week of 2021? And what's new in 2022?

Comments

  1. So glad you had a nice post-Christmas visit with your mother. I've only been to Germany once and would love to go back.

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    1. Germany is stunning and I was so happy to be able to go despite our lockdown! Thanks for dropping by :)

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  2. Glad you had a nice post-holiday visit with your mom as well! I know last year our holiday had to be delayed as well. As long as I get the family time, I'm happy!

    Nice new reads too! These are new to me ones but I hope you enjoy them all!


    Here's my StS

    Have a GREAT day!

    Old Follower :)

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    1. It was a lovely little break! And yes, family time is so important and you really miss it once it becomes more difficult! Can't wait to see your new reads! Thanks for dropping by :)

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  3. The train journey sounds lovely! I LOVE trains, but haven't taken one in a while. Perhaps I will this year.

    I love the look of Queen Bee. Enjoy your week, your new year, and your books.

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    1. I do love train journeys as well, they're my favourite way of traveling and I definitely plan to do it a lot more in the future! Thanks for dropping by :)

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  4. I'm glad you got a chance to visit your mom! I'd love to see Germany someday because that's where my great grandpa was born. Happy New Year!

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    1. It's a beautiful country, I hope you get a chance to visit soon! Thanks for dropping by :)

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  5. Happy New Year!!

    Glad you were able to get home to visit! and a train ride along the Rhine sounds divine.

    Love the Halsey song!

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    1. Divine is the perfect word for it! And Halsey's new album has been a favourite for weeks now, utterly obsessed xD Thanks for dropping by :)

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  6. I haven't been blogging much either (although I did go on an end of the year spree last week) and hope I can jump back in now that the new year is here. I am so glad you were able to spend time in Germany with family this holiday season. Sounds like you have been very productive already this new year. Yay for getting a head start! I've been rather lazy, I admit. I hope the therapy goes well and you get out of it what you need. Enjoy your new books and have a great week, Juli! Happy New Year.

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    1. Hoping to get back into the rhythm as well, fingers crossed for both of us! Family time was the perfect way to end the year. The head start came to fruition this week with my deadlines all met, which means I'll be extremely lazy this weekend xD Thanks for dropping by :)

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  7. How nice that you were able to spend time with your family. It all sounds wonderful.

    Have a great week! Happy New Year!

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    1. I did really appreciate the chance to spend time with them, it was very up in the air for a few days! Thanks for dropping by :)

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  8. We visited friends in Germany a few words back and really enjoyed it. I'm glad you got to visit your mom! Enjoy the books. Happy New Year! https://cindysbookcorner.blogspot.com/2022/01/stacking-shelves-4sunday-post-1.html

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    1. It's such a stunning country, glad you were able to visit as well! Thanks for dropping by :)

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  9. Happy new year! I'm glad you were able to visit with your family. It's been so crazy with the pandemic. I'm glad that the people you came across were being safe and taking precautions. I hope 2022 is an amazing year for you.

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    1. It really has been, and us all being spread across different countries has been a real minus the past few years xD I hope you have a beautiful 2022 as well! Thanks for dropping by :)

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  10. Super blog. Happy new year ��

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    1. Thank you! Thanks for dropping by and have a lovely 2022 yourself :)

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  11. Your visit to Germany sounds nice. I am so glad you got a chance to visit family. I agree with what you say about the new year. It is just the passing of time, yet, it seems like we have to come up with some way to mark it through our thoughts and actions. Good luck with your first therapy session. My daughter, who also suffers from anxiety, found it helpful. I hope you will, too.

    Extreme North and Atlas of Forgotten Places both sound amazing. I would also like to read Life Ceremony.

    Thanks for visiting my blog today. Wishing you a fabulous 2022.

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    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels that odd pressure at New Years! The first session went really well, I'm glad it worked for your daughter as well! I'm excited to get into these new books this year. Thanks for dropping by :)

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  12. Sounds like a lovely visit with your family. Your books sound interesting, especially the Atlas of Forgotten Places.
    Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

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    1. It really was, and I can't wait to get into the Atlas, a way to travel from the comfort of home! Thanks for dropping by :)

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