So, for my China Challenge, if you're doing the Silk Road Trek level, you have to do 3 out of 10 China-related tasks. I've done 2!
One involves making a Chinese recipe that you've never made before. Done and Done. I highly recommend the Green Tea Steamed Shrimp Dumplings from Ying Chang Compestine's new book, A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts: A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales.
Another one is to listen to some lessons on Chinese Pod and learn some Mandarin. I actually spent my birthday money this year to buy a subscription to this site because I haven't kept my Mandarin up at all and that makes me sad. When I signed up, they had a sale, so I was upgraded to the guided level, which means I have a teacher who tells me which lessons to study and the calls me once a week from Shanghai! This level is so great because that means I HAVE to study.
It's funny though, because one thing I've realized is that I remember weird idiomatic things, but not how to say the days of the week. It's interesting what sticks and what doesn't...
And look! I actually read a book for my Guardian Challenge!
The Golden Compass Philip Pullman
Can you believe I hadn't read this yet?! There's a reason I put it on my gaps list.
For those you don't know (which I certainly didn't. All I knew was that there was a talking polar bear, a girl named Lyra, an evil monkey, and everyone had these animal spirit things)
Lyra has been raised by the scholars of Jordan College, part of Oxford University. She pretty much has her run of the place and the town. Her uncle comes to visit and Lyra saves him from being poisoned. Kids start disappearing up and down the countryside and Lyra goes to live with the beautiful Mrs. Coulter. Lyra then discovers Mrs. Coulter is behind the disappearing kids AND she's the one holding Lyra's uncle prisoner. So, with a band of gyptians, she goes to Lapland to save the day.
Pretty good adventure story. Plus, there's lot of stuff about Dust and the role of the daemon (the animal spirit thing that everyone has.) I know Pullman wrote this as an atheist Narnia and I don't mind that one bit. But... when he starts trying to criticize the Church (because it's obviously based on the Catholic Church) that's where the story got weak and I got annoyed. Just like I get annoyed when authors impart LARGE MORAL LESSONS into their works, it annoyed me. Luckily, there wasn't *too* much of it. And usually, the Church bits read a bit like a Dan Brown conspiracy, which I happen to really enjoy. But, at the same time, if you really wanted to criticize the Church, reading a bit like a Dan Brown conspiracy while great for my reading tastes doesn't say much about your criticism.
I'm torn on whether or not to read the next two books. Someone I really respect told me not to and where I really liked this, I wasn't compelled to run over and get the next ones right away, probably because the bit at the back of the book where it tells you to read the next two says that it takes place in a different universe. That makes total sense in relation to the book, but lessens my desire to read further, for some reason I can't fully put my finger on. THAT'S JUST ME. I AM WEIRD.
But, I am really, really glad I read this. And while the Guardian list has "His Dark Materials" on its list, I'm thinking that I don't have to read this whole series, just this.
Book Provided by... my library
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