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



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.


Goodreads Monday- The Queen of the Night

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select a book from our Goodreads To Be Read list and tell the world about it. It’s hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners, so remember to link back to her page so that we can see what everyone wants to read.

17912498The Queen of the Night
by Alexander Chee
561 pages
Published February 2016

From Goodreads: Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all.  As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue.

Featuring a cast of characters drawn from history, The Queen of the Night follows Lilliet as she moves ever closer to the truth behind the mysterious opera and the role that could secure her reputation — or destroy her with the secrets it reveals.  

I saw this book a while back on the New Releases shelf in one bookstore or another, and it looks fascinating. At 561 pages, it’s tough to find a time of year where I’ll be able to take on longer novels like this one. Perhaps this fall, before the holiday season sucks away all my free time.

Goodreads Monday- Karen Memory

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select a book from our Goodreads To Be Read list and show it off. It’s hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners, so don’t forget to link back to her page so we can see what everyone’s planning to read.

22238181Karen Memory
by Elizabeth Bear
346 pages
Published February 2015

From Goodreads: “You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I’m one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

I’m not sure where I first saw this book, but it looks interesting. I’ve had a longstanding love of fiction set in the Victorian era, and a slightly newer fascination with Steampunk. It looks like this book scratches both of those particular itches, so it should be a run read!

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- My Name is Red

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select a book from our Good Reads To Be Read list and show it off. I got the idea from Danielle over at Books, Vertigo and Tea, who tags back to the host, Lauren’s Page Turners 

2517My Name is Red
by Orhan Pamuk
417 pages
Published 2002

From Goodreads: At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers.

The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed. The ruling elite therefore mustn’t know the full scope or nature of the project, and panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears. The only clue to the mystery–or crime? –lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle, My Name is Red is a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex and power.

I first saw this book on one of Chip Kidd’s TED Talks about book cover design. He designed the cover to tell a story of mystery, romance, and danger- essentially, the story of the book as told by the art on the cover, which wraps around the full book (so you’re missing out on a lot of that story when you can only see the front cover). If you’re a fan of cover art, that dimensionality is something that eBooks lack.

The story is intriguing, too. It’s a period piece set in the 1500s (one of my favorite time periods) and involves art, as well as political and religious intrigues. What’s not to be intrigued about?

I’m looking forward to reading this one, and if I love it, I will definitely adding this beautiful book to my collection.

June Summary and July Preview

Is there anything more fun to do on a Friday night than spending forty-five minutes trying to figure out what has gone terribly wrong with your camera or editing software before figuring out that you merely changed a camera setting, and that’s why things are wonky?

So that was my Friday night. Part of it, anyway. Some of it was fun, like photographing clouds and going to the cafe for a pizza-stuffed pretzel and a latte. Also, a bookstore. Who doesn’t love a good trip to the bookstore?

Anyway. I read eleven books in June! Not too shabby, considering that I read only five or six in May. They are as follows:

  1. The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
  2. Bloodline (Wars of the Roses #3) by Conn Iggulden
  3. Brief Gaudy Hour by Margaret Campbell Barnes
  4. Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
  5. The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel
  6. The Star-Touched Queen by Rakshi Shosani
  7. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  8. The Soul of the Camera by David duChemin
  9. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  10. Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
  11. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My Favorite Book of the Month:


Katherine Arden’s beautiful debut novel brings medieval Russia to life- along with its fairytales- with the story of Vasilisa, a young woman who must defy her family and her culture in order to save her people from the onslaught of the winter demon. There was never a moment where I wasn’t fully drawn into Vasya’s world, and though many of the spirits were unknown to me before I read the book, they felt like familiar faces by the end. I was even moved to pity the human antagonists instead of merely hating them, and that is a rare occurrence. I was happy to discover that Arden has a follow-up book in the works, due out next winter.

My Least Liked Book of the Month:


I went into the reading of this book with a feeling of ‘meh’, and after many eyerolls and a lot of skimming, I finished it with a feeling of ‘meh’. All too often, the prose let me down with its clumsiness or poor word usage, often kicking me right out of the story while I tried to figure out what, exactly, Maas meant by a particular phrasing. Calaena was not interesting, nor what I ever worried for her safety. Of course she was going to win the competition. And of course Darion and Chaol were going to fall for her. There was never any doubt about that, and that killed any tension that might have been building. What would have made this book more interesting? If it had been about Princess Nehemia instead.

An update on an earlier post, Must See TV- Kinda Sorta: I finished the first seasons of Victoria and The Shannara Chronicles!


Victoria ended on just the right note- with the birth of Victoria’s first child and the royal couple as happy and as powerful as they could be. Their rivals have been cast down, the people adore them (mostly), and even disputes within the extended family have settled down. Things couldn’t be better for Victoria and Albert. Not so for the rest of the characters, who have spurned possible love interests, left the palace to seek better lives, or have otherwise made bad decisions that have made them unhappy. The season ended beautifully, and if you went back to watch the first episode all over again, the changes the first few years of her reign have wrought on Victoria would be obvious, but they developed naturally across the season, with nothing that felt forced or rushed. I can’t wait for the next season!


The Shannara Chronicles is another story altogether. I was honestly surprised to find that it had been renewed for a second season given how lackluster the first season was, with too many repetitious plot elements, lousy scripts, and changes in relationships that felt completely unnatural. While other shows such as Game of Thrones effortlessly handle a vast cast across multiple plotlines, Shannara struggled to do the same. I think it would have benefited from a smaller cast in its first season. The showrunners could also have gotten rid of the internal plots of a few episodes and spread the main story arc across them instead. The overall story would have been better had they not been almost constantly introducing one-off places and characters that were never intended to last more than an episode. The next season starts in September, and while I think the events of the (lackluster) finale point to a tighter, more interesting show the next time around, if things don’t improve soon, I won’t continue watching.

What’s next for July? Another five books that I will intend to read, but may or may not get to, depending on what pops up between now and the end of the month.

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. IstanbulMemories and the City by Orhan Pamuk
  3. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
  4. Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić
  5. Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt

I’ve been intending to read Pride and Prejudice and Istanbul: Memories and the City for the last couple of months. Will I actually get around to reading them? Who knows?

I’m actually about a quarter of the way through Practical Magic at the moment, thanks to a quick download from the public library. I am enjoying it so far! Dictionary of the Khazars and Little Black Book of Stories have been sitting on the shelf, looking sad for quite some time. They are, I think, getting lonely up there, so I am going to make a concerted attempt to read them, too.

I realized the other day that I have a little over a month left before I leave for Iceland! Woohoo! The excitement is building! But first I have to get through July, which is usually a long, hot month.

Goodreads Monday: Practical Magic

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where you randomly choose a book from your To Be Read list and share it with everyone.

This week’s selection:

22896Practical Magic
by Alice Hoffman
286 pages
First Published in 1995

From Goodreads: “[A] delicious fantasy of witchcraft and love in a world where gardens smell of lemon verbena and happy endings are possible.”—Cosmopolitan

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic…

I watched the movie based on this book for the first time last winter, on the recommendation of one of my best friends. Practical Magic is one of her favorite movies, and I quite liked it, too. I was happy to find that the movie was based on a book, and I’m looking forward to reading the book. It might be something to read during one of my upcoming flights.