Month in Review: October 2021

The weather has definitely turned autumnal now, and the leaves are brown and crunchy under our feet. I do miss our Halloween celebrations – in Switzerland it’s a half-hearted sort of import. There are candy and some costumes in the shops, and I saw some dressed-up kids wandering around on Saturday night (which is all wrong — trick or treating has to be ON Halloween!), but they save their real enthusiasm for Fastnacht (Carnival) in the early spring. I still have never been to one of these celebrations, which were cancelled last year – maybe this year I’ll get to experience this regional tradition.

Literature

In October I was happy to join in The 1976 Club with not just one but TWO books by Ursula K. Le Guin: Orsinian Tales and Very Far Away from Anywhere Else. It was an interesting combo, and as always so fascinating to see what everybody else chose to read and review for this “club year.” (I also ended up rereading Power of Three, as well as A String in the Harp, but I did not review these on the blog.)

Very exciting news was the first-ever Folio Society edition of a novel by Georgette Heyer, Venetia. This was a great satisfaction to me, as the best of her books really do deserve to be dressed up with some lovely book design.

Overall, I read a lot of books this month, including the two you recommended most in my last Make Me Read It post. (Reviews coming soon!) This was due to the fact that I had two weeks off work and did not do much other than reading and hiking — see “Life” below for more about that.

Carleton (alias Blackstock) College in the autumn

I decided to start sharing some posts from my former blog, The Emerald City Book Review. In honor of approaching Halloween, I linked to my post about Blackstock College from the novel Tam Lin — a fictional counterpart to my real-life alma mater, Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

And on Halloween itself, I was honored to provide the kick-off post for Witch Week 2021. The theme was “Treason and Plot,” and I decided to review one of my favorite series about political plotting in an imaginary land, the Queen’s Thief books by Megan Whalen Turner. I was surprised to find out how many avid readers had not yet encountered this stellar series, and glad that I inspired at least a few of them to take it up.

Other books I read this month:

Illustration from Venetia © 2021 by Sally Dunn

Language

This month, I made a push and finished the online course Nico’s Weg, which I’ve been doing off and on for the last two years. This is a free interactive online course from the Deutsche Welle media service in Germany, which includes videos, transcripts, grammar exercises, level tests for levels A1 to B1, and even a little bit of speaking practice. I found it quite excellent and really wish there were an equivalent offered in English that I could recommend to my students.

Have you used any online language learning resources that you can recommend? I’m planning to do a series of posts about this.

Life

As mentioned above, we had a couple of weeks off work and school for autumn vacation this month, a custom I find very civilized. It’s “shoulder season,” so travel is cheaper and less crowded, but the weather is still good if you head south, and not too hot. I also like having a break in the middle of the fall — our American season from September to December was always so crowded with events and hectic activity, that by the Christmas break I would just collapse in exhaustion.

This year, we used the time to travel to Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland. It’s a single canton that can only be reached by going over or through the Alps, and that linguistically and culturally is very much linked to Italy, though now inhabited by lots of German-speaking Swiss. I’ll post more about our adventures in the near future, but here’s one photo as a preview of coming attractions.

How was your October? What have you been reading, doing, or thinking?

Lovely Lago Maggiore

Linked at The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and the Monthly Wrap-up Round-up at Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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27 thoughts on “Month in Review: October 2021

  1. Here, Halloween is an imported thing as well, but it‘s at least on Halloween, trick-or-treat and all. Though, as the carnival season officially starts on 11/11 (at 11:11 AM), AND St. Martin‘s Day has a long tradition of being celebrated with lantern processions and bonfires here, there‘s still more of a focus on both of the long-standing local traditions, too.

    I hope you‘ll get to see the Swiss take on carnival early next year!

    1. That’s right, Martinmas is the lantern festival … just a little bit later. I didn’t know it was the start of the carnival season as well. Which then lasts several months? Well why not, if it livens up the long winter.

      If there’s a local Fastnacht parade this year, I’ll have to try to go!

      1. Nov. 11 is the start date of Carnival in the Rhine Valley; not sure about other parts of Europe. It‘s known as „the 5th season“ here and ends on Ash Wednesday, like Carnival does everywhere (it‘s a pre-Lent thing, after all). That doesn‘t mean there are nonstop parties throughout the winter, though. There‘s a huge, city-wide one in every major Rhine Valley city and town on November 11 (beginning at 11:11 AM); then the Carnival societies spend most of winter preparing for the big parades and other events on Carnival Sunday and Rose Monday (or in some places, Mardi Gras, AKA Shrove Tuesday) … putting together their floats and dance presentations, etc. For most of the rest of us, winter is the same as everywhere else in Europe, with Advent and Christmas very much controlling public and private life, especially in December. There may be the odd Carnival-related event, e.g. in January, once the clubs and associations get ready to premier the new programs they‘ve been working on all winter, but the „general“ Carnival weekend 6 weeks before Easter is very much what it‘s really all about. Still, you can‘t live in the Rhine Valley and NOT be aware that „the 5th season“ begins on November 11! 🙂 The party on that day is as big as anything you‘re likely to see here on the main weekend in (typically) February; and here at least, it‘s easily as important an occasion as St. Martin‘s Day.

        1. Interesting! Because I actually live in a French-speaking part, I don’t think that tradition is so strong here. Maybe in the area closer to the Rhine it’s similar to what you’re describing.

  2. What a great review of October. I also took part in the 1976 club and read The Mind Did Not Fall from the Sky by Hoimar von Ditfurth.

    As to Halloween in Switzerland, it’s probably like in Germany. Some kids have taken over the American tradition but we don’t really celebrate it. If children come to our door, we give them something but we have not that many visitors. And children go around for St. Martin’s with their lanterns and for New Year and get something then. Halloween has not really taken over here.

  3. How lovely to have a break! I’ve had a couple of weeks with little work in so have done a lot of reading, although also recovering from a fall when running so not quite as happy as usual. I’ve been doing Spanish with Duolingo, as we’ve realised we’re going to have to find somewhere to go in Spain in the winter due to my husband’s SAD. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Duolingo, I’m backing it up with lots of notes and writing out verbs from a dictionary, reading simple news sites and magazines, etc. And it doesn’t explain the grammar like I’d like. My cousin has had success learning Polish through Memrise, but his husband is Polish and his sister and brother in law live near them, so he gets plenty of live practice.

    1. I have used Duolingo and Memrise and they are fine for what they do. I just hate learning vocabulary! The “game” aspect still does not make it fun for me. Nothing really beats live practice, does it?

  4. That sounds like a much needed trip! I am working on my master’s thesis about Constance Savery (first section is due at midnight tonight so I am busy proofreading and checking my citations).

    I assume you loved The War That Saved My Life? The second book was good too but full of grief whereas the first was so uplifting, despite the abusive mother. Never have I rooted so hard for bombs to fall!

    1. All the best for your thesis! That sounds very exciting.

      I enjoyed the War duo although I wasn’t quite so enthused about them as some … but Ada was a great character to root for.

  5. I wish there was a more subdued Halloween here, it’s too much. I’ve been tempted to pick up Susan Orlean’s ‘The Library Book’ a couple of times and will do it at some point. How lovely to have a bit of vacation away!

  6. Nice list, with so many I have never heard of.
    When I see this gorgeous picture, it automatically reminds me of a song that was so popular back then in France: Le lac Majeur, par Mort Shuman (1972)

  7. My sister doesn’t agree, but I love Rosetta Stone for language learning. I feel like you figure out what people are saying from pictures and context just like children do when they are first learning a language.

    I greatly enjoyed The Library Book and True Grit went right onto my Favorites-of-All-Time list. It’s great that you had a couple of weeks free to do some reading. Beautiful photo.

  8. Fun to read about your month, Lory. I read the first 3 of the Queen’s Thief series out loud to my boys, based on your recommendation 15 years ago and we all loved them. I had no idea that M.W. Turner had added 3 more to the series– great to know! I have read very little fiction in recent years– time to reconsider that trend.

    1. Yes, because the series was produced over such a long period of time it would be easy to get distracted and not realize more books had come out. I do hope you’ll read the last three – and you might end up rereading the earlier ones, as I did when the final book came out.

  9. I’ve been looking into online language resources and haven’t found anything that really works for me yet. The M.W. Turner series sounds wonderful and what beautiful photos! It sounds like a wonderful time for vacation. I hope you have a great week!

  10. Whew, what a jam-packed month, Lory, where do you get the energy from?! But it nevertheless sounds wonderful, what with all that reading, an outing and education matters. And thanks for kicking off Witch Week for us with a series I’ve now got my eye on! Meanwhile The Little Princess is looking reproach fully at me…

    1. A number of the books were short, more like novellas, so that helped! 🙂 (Also, note that I did not reread all the Queen’s Thief books this month – I did do it last year when the final volume came out.) However, I know what you mean, I was surprised myself that this was only one month’s worth. Maybe I got into a time warp somehow.

  11. Your photo is stunning! Having time off in the fall to travel and see the sights is something we can’t wait to do instead of having to take vacations based on the kids’ school year schedule. Things are so much less crowded and especially now with COVID, this is how I prefer my trips anyway. I hope your November is going well!

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