July Summary and August Preview

I survived July! The heatwave left me tired and a bit stupid and I didn’t finish many of the books I intended to, but oh well. I do not do well in the heat. My face tries to melt off, I have no energy, I can’t sleep, and my Snow White-worthy skin sunburns in ten minutes flat. Seriously. I sunburned in Ireland. And in Scotland. And through tinted windows on the way to Minnesota. Give me autumn and its sweater weather or winter’s snows any day. This week and next promise to be much cooler, though. I have turned off my jankety window air conditioner, so I can actually sleep and hear things again!

Things like the new album from Offa Rex, a collaboration between The Decemberists and Olivia Cheney. Voices I love singing English folk songs? Yes, please!

 

Onto the books! Goodreads says I read twelve books in July. I don’t feel that’s entirely accurate, as three of them were Penny Dreadful comic issues, and so were very short. I finished three of them within half an hour.

  1. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
  2. Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón
  3. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  4. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
  5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  6. The Awaking: Penny Dreadful #1 by Chris King
  7. Penny Dreadful: The Awakening #2.2 by Chris King
  8. Penny Dreadful: The Awakening #2.3
  9. Penny Dreadful Vol. 1 by Andrew Hinderaker
  10. My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
  11. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
  12. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

I decided to start doing the Bookstagram thing, so I made an Instagram account for the blog. You can find me there at traveling.gladly

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What’s on for August? I’m going to Iceland!! I leave next Tuesday evening, and will land at Keflavik International Airport on Wednesday morning. I have several excursions planned to places like Vik, the Snæfellsnes peninsula, and Gullfoss. There are several bookshops in Reykjavik I want to visit, too. I’ve made it a habit of buying a book that’s particular to the place I’m in- Sherlock Holmes books in London, Irish epics in Galway, etc.- and my plan so far is to pick up copies of The Elder Edda and The Prose Edda while I’m there. And photographs. Lots of photographs. I’ll be taking two cameras (three, counting my phone’s camera), and a couple hundred gigabytes’ worth of memory cards. I’m getting more excited by the day!

In light of my upcoming travels, combined with the fact that I won’t be taking trains or buses in Iceland (and thus will have less time to read while I’m gone), plus the inevitable jet lag that follows international travel (Iceland is five hours ahead of my home time zone), I’ve only set aside four books from my collection to read:

  1. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
  2. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  3. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  4. Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

I will undoubtedly read other books, too. That’s always how it goes. But I think it’s more likely that I’ll finish this set, as opposed to July’s selections, which were maybe a little more dense than the hot days of summer would allow for. August’s selections are relatively short and sound wonderfully interesting.

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Sunday Sum-Up

It’s almost Independence Day here in the US and when night falls, the firecrackers start going off all across the city. It doesn’t bother me as much this year as the pyromaniacs who used to live across the street have moved away, but my cat and my friends’ pets are definitely not fans of the holiday. It will be completely nuts on the third and the fourth, and the city has issued an air quality warning in advance. We’re rather fond of our neighborhood fireworks displays, and the city has a large show, too. It makes for a very loud, very colorful, and very smoky Independence Day.

I didn’t get much reading done this week, as I had a super busy week filled with fun and going out. On Sunday, two of my book club friends and I went out to see Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor presented by the Flatwater Shakespeare company. It was the perfect night for an outdoor play with temperatures in the 70s, clear skies, and plenty of shade thanks to the big old trees in the park. There was even free ice cream, created just for this production by a local ice cream shop! Monday night was the second to last night of my pottery class, and I finally figured out how to pull the walls of my cylinders, as well as sorting out a problem with my centering skills. I also found out that we can buy studio time and materials if we want to continue working on the pottery wheels. Woohoo!

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My tea bowl did not explode in the kiln!

When class was over, the lot of us went over to Chinese restaurant for dinner. It’s authentic enough that the daily specials and half the menu were written in Chinese. While I couldn’t read half of what was going on, the food was fantastic! I hadn’t been to that particular restaurant before, but I will be going back in the future.

For their tenth wedding anniversary, two of my friends decided that they didn’t want to buy things for each other. Instead, a bunch of us went to a local escape room. Five of the seven of us had never done one before, but we managed to get out in 29 minutes, 26 seconds- the fourth best time out of the 1,481 teams that have attempted that room. Go us! It’s a bit of an expensive bit of fun, but it’s definitely something we want to do again.

Thankfully, I didn’t have anything planned for Thursday night, as I wasn’t feeling well due to a headache and aching feet. I made a quick trip to the library and called it a night.

As for books, I finished up Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw- A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. I have immensely enjoyed his food and travel shows, No Reservations and Parts Unknown. They’ve taught me more about food and cooking than any Food Network show ever has, and have inspired me to try new foods and new cuisines. And helpfully so, as Lincoln is home to many people from many, many different countries, making it easy to find restaurants serving food from all over the world. His shows have also opened my eyes to the daily lives of people in countries I’ve never really thought about before.

Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass was the only book I started and finished this week. I wasn’t thrilled with it, and will have a more detailed review later on.

 

My current reads are Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by the Icelandic author Sjón. It is the story of a gay teenage boy in Reykjavik in 1918. As the fallout from World War I and the deadly Spanish Influenza reach Iceland’s shores, a volcano erupts and darkens the skies with ash. Through all of this the boy, Máni, seeks out both films and men who will pay him for sex until the real world finally intrudes upon the dreamy world Máni has built for himself. I’ve read two of Sjón’s novellas- The Blue Fox and The Whispering Muse. Both are shimmering tales that bring more than a hint of magic into the world. Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was is just as beautifully written (I’m about a third of the way through), but it is far darker and far more realistic than the others.

The other book I’ll be working on this week is Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic, a novel about two sisters, Gillian and Sally, who are the heiresses of a magical heritage though neither of them wants that heritage for themselves. They go their separate ways as they try to escape their fate, but the magic in their blood will not be denied. I’m about a third of the way through this book as well, and it’s already fantastic. Whenever I sit down to read it, I lose myself in the story within a few sentences. With an extra day off thanks to the holiday this week, I think I’ll be finishing this one in short order.

March Sum-Up

It’s felt a little like London here for the past week- cloudy skies and a light, off and on again rain. I don’t mind it. This winter was very dry so the rain is good for us; the trees are blossoming, and the birds are singing outside my window. Well, most of the birds are singing. There’s a grackle out there that sounds like it has the worst case of laryngitis ever, but I suppose all the birds can’t have pretty songs.

It doesn’t feel like I did as much reading as I did in January and February, but looking back at the “books finished” list in my bullet journal, I did finish ten books. Two of them were graphic novels, so that might account for the feeling of “I read less”, since, while I took in a complicated story in both cases, there is technically less to read because the art takes the place of most of the exposition.

I dealt with all five of the books on March’s To Read list, and by ‘dealt with’, I mean that I read three of them and started the other two, but wasn’t interested enough in them to finish. I’m in the middle of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day. 

2015-05-19-1432043345-8359547-danishThere were a couple of books I started in March and finished last night: Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s second Locke & Key novel, Head Games, and Helen Russell’s memoir about moving from London to Denmark, The Year of Living Danishly. It’s both a recollection of the difficulties of moving to a new country where you don’t understand cultural protocols, and an investigation into the reasons why Denmark is consistently rated as one of the happiest countries in the world. I had to laugh a few times for reasons Russell probably didn’t intend- her descriptions of the weather, which to my Upper Midwestern mind weren’t as extreme as Russell. But then, I can honestly say that I’ve been through a storm where the tornado that touched down in the middle of town wasn’t the problem. The weather’s pretty wonky around here. The rest of the book is enjoyable, though, and prompted me to think about how life in the US might be improved if we took a more Danish view of things.

Books I read in March:

  1. All the Single Ladies– Rebecca Traister
  2. How Not to be Wrong– Jordan Ellenberg
  3. Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening– Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda
  4. Year of No Clutter– Eve O. Schaub
  5. Books for Living– Will Schwalbe
  6. Locke and Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft– Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez
  7. The Revenge of Analog– David Sax
  8. The Hunt for Vulcan– Thomas Levenson
  9. The Two Towers– J.R.R. Tolkien
  10. At Work– Annie Leibowitz

04_01_2017 a6500 05I’ve been delving a little more into my photography obsession this month. I bought a new camera, the Sony a6500, which I love so far, and finally went in for a long overdue software upgrade and bought a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which I spent all last evening downloading and installing, and so I’ve barely begun to use it. I bought a big, beautiful photography book that I’ll talk about in another post, and have been working on a couple of photo related projects. Fun stuff!

Also, I booked my annual trip abroad! This August I’m heading to Reykjavik, Iceland. I haven’t looked into what to do while I’m there, but I have a few dozen articles and whatnot Pinned on my travel board on Pinterest, so I’ll find something. I can’t wait!

April! My To Read list for this month is full of fiction. I hadn’t realized until I typed out March’s list just now, how many non-fiction books I read last month.

  1. Stories of Your Life– Ted Chiang
  2. The Club Dumas- Arturo Perez-Reverte
  3. The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye– A.S. Byatt
  4. The Blue Sky– Galsan Tschinag
  5. The Return of the King– J.R.R. Tolkien