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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Goodreads Monday- My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select and then showcase a book from our To Be Read list. I got the idea from Danielle over at Books, Vertigo and Tea, and it is hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. Feel free to share what’s on your TBR!


15849464My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain
by Patricio Pron
224 pages
Published 2011

From Goodreads: A young writer, living abroad, returns home to his native Argentina to say good-bye to his dying father. In his parents’ house, he finds a cache of documents-articles, maps, photographs-and unwittingly begins to unearth his father’s obsession with the disappearance of a local man. Suddenly he comes face-to-face with the ghosts of Argentina’s dark political past and with the long-hidden memories of his family’s underground resistance against an oppressive military regime. As the fragments of the narrator’s investigation fall into place-revealing not only a part of his father’s life he had tried to forget but also the legacy of an entire generation- My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain tells a completely original story of family and remembrance. It is an audacious accomplishment by an internationally acclaimed voice poised to garner equal acclaim in America.


I came across this book while searching for authors from South America as part of my ongoing project to read more books by international authors. I’m developing an interest in Argentina and its history and hope to go there one day, so it will be helpful to read books about it, whether they’re dark or happy.

Goodreads Monday- The Glass Universe

Goodreads Monday is a weekly feature where you randomly pick a book from your Goodreads To Be Read list and show it off. This week’s selection is The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel

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The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars
by Dava Sobel
320 pages
Published December 6, 2016

From Goodreads: #1 New York Times bestselling author Dava Sobel returns with the captivating, little-known true story of a group of women whose remarkable contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations made via telescope by their male counterparts each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but by the 1880s the female corps included graduates of the new women’s colleges—Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates. The “glass universe” of half a million plates that Harvard amassed in this period—thanks in part to the early financial support of another woman, Mrs. Anna Draper, whose late husband pioneered the technique of stellar photography—enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what stars were made of, divided the stars into meaningful categories for further research, and found a way to measure distances across space by starlight.

Their ranks included Williamina Fleming, a Scottish woman originally hired as a maid who went on to identify ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars, Annie Jump Cannon, who designed a stellar classification system that was adopted by astronomers the world over and is still in use, and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin, who in 1956 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard—and Harvard’s first female department chair.

Elegantly written and enriched by excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, The Glass Universe is the hidden history of a group of remarkable women who, through their hard work and groundbreaking discoveries, disproved the commonly held belief that the gentler sex had little to contribute to human knowledge.


 

I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of other of Dava Sobel’s books, namely Longitude and The Planets, so I’m pretty sure I’ll like this one, too. I’ve been interested in astronomy since I was a little kid, and read everything that my little hometown’s library had on the subject. I’d heard of a few of these women even before they were included in Jason Porath’s Rejected Princesses, and it will be interesting to learn more about them. I should make a night of it, reading The Glass Universe followed by a viewing of Hidden Figures. 

Sunday Sum-Up

Does anyone need some rain? Because we have more than enough around here, and you’re welcome to it. Today is the first sunny day we’ve had for a while, and it will apparently be the last for a while. Le sigh. While the urban living blogs I read are reminding people to get their air conditioners and fans tuned up for the summer, I’m pulling my space heater back out. So it goes.

It occurred to me today that I really haven’t done that much reading this month. I’ve only written down my third completed book for the month when I usually have eight or nine by this point, and I doubt I’ll be able to finish (or even start) the last couple of books on May’s TBR selection. I’m not too disappointed about that, though, as I think I’ve found my gold standard when it comes to historical fiction writers. But more on that in a bit.

This week, I gave up on Sharon Kay Penman’s Falls the Shadow, finished up Conn Iggulden’s The Gates of Rome, and both started and finished Conn Iggulden’s The Wars of the Roses: Stormbird. I also began Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos, and downloaded Roseanne Montillo’s The Lady and Her Monsters via the public library.

So I guess I have been doing a lot of reading this week. Just not a lot of finishing.

What’s up for this week? Finishing what I’ve started. Also, figuring out which is the next book in Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses series. Seriously, Publishers, is it that hard to state which order the books go in somewhere in or on the books themselves? I mean, it’s nice that the author’s other works are listed, but there doesn’t seem to be a particular order to their listing. Thank goodness for bookseriesinorder.com, or I wouldn’t know what order anything was in.

Goodreads Monday- Sorcerer to the Crown

Golden Gate Bridge
I do not bow to peer pressure when it comes to bridges.

Goodreads Monday is a thing that I’ve seen one or two other people do (including Danielle over at Books, Vertigo & Tea), so I’m going to do it, too, because of peer pressure or something.

To participate in Goodreads Monday, you select a book from your Goodreads To Be Read list and show it off.

 

 


 

My randomly selected book:

23943137Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho
Fantasy, 371 pages

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

 

I think I saw this on the shelf at Barnes and Noble and, intrigued by the title and cover design, read the synopsis. I have no idea when I will get to this one, but it looks intriguing.

What’s on your TBR list?

 

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

New Acquisition and a Short Review

I haven’t been up to too much these days. I’ve started and stopped a couple of books that I didn’t care for and I’m working my way through The Two Towers. I’ve just gotten back to Frodo and Sam’s journey after traveling through Rohan to Helm’s Deep and Orthanc once again.

I did buy a new book, though. I got a gift card for my birthday, so I decided to get one I’ve been wanting since I saw the film Arrival.

 

DSC08924Ted Chiang’s short story collection contains the work that Arrival was based on, and because I loved that movie so much I wanted to read the story it came from. It’s going to be one of my five books on my April To Read list.

March’s To Read list isn’t faring so well. I started and quickly stopped reading Arthur’s Britain by Leslie Alcock, as it’s far drier and more academic than I want to delve into. I also stopped reading The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. It’s less of a book about books and learning and more about how to learn and the histories of the various disciplines such as history and literary criticism. It’s a very helpful book if your education was a bit lacking, but my hometown’s public school system was wonderful, so The Well-Educated Mind wasn’t so helpful for me.

I attempted another Philippa Gregory book. That was a mistake. I thought I’d give her another try, since it’s been a few years since I threw The Other Boleyn Girl at the wall. I mean, she’s a popular writer. Her books can’t all be as terrible as that one, right?

Hmm…

I tried The Taming of the Queen. It’s about Henry VII’s last wife, Kateryn Parr, who was in love with another when she received the king’s offer of marriage, which she couldn’t pass up. Literally.

Now, the book’s synopsis talks about how well educated Kateryn Parr was, but that wasn’t evident in the text. Gregory turns Kateryn into a somewhat ditzy country woman from the north of England who is out of touch with courtly manners and gossip and has to be told the consequences of her actions by her sister, Nan, whose sole function is to explain everything to Kateryn and the reader. It makes for wearisome explanations between sections of purple prose and a couple of ill-advised sex scenes. Again, literally ill-advised. Henry VIII makes the offer of marriage to Kateryn, who promptly goes off to have sex with the man she really loves,  Thomas Seymour. For a soon-t0-be queen to do this was tantamount to treason at the time, and a woman as intelligent as Kateryn would have known this. Two of Henry’s queens were executed for having affairs or merely being rumored to have affairs, so it baffles me that Kateryn would have gone off and slept with Thomas Seymour, regardless of how much she loved him.

Gregory’s anti-Tudor bias is evident, as well, in the way that she describes nine-year old Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I), and she constantly refers to poor Katherine Howard as ‘that little slut’ or ‘the whore’. I would think that a writer who calls herself a ‘feminist historian’ would be less prone to slut-shaming a seventeen year old girl (as Katherine Howard was when she became queen) and more likely to chick her own bias when it comes to writing about historical figures.

So that ended up being longer than I anticipated. At least I didn’t throw this book across the room. A good thing, since it was on my e-reader.

Suffice it to say that I won’t be reading any more of Philippa Gregory’s books. I am 0/2 on them. Luckily, there are plenty of other writers of historical fiction who don’t suck, so I’ll be able to find plenty of novels set in the medieval and Renaissance eras.