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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A Quick Trip to Colorado and New Acquisitions

I took a quick trip out to Colorado to visit a friend, and I didn’t want to come back. It’s so beautiful out there! Cute little bookshops, shopping zones just for pedestrians, tasty coffee, a store completely devoted to old maps, and fantastic breweries. Not to mention the mountains, endless hiking trails, and gorgeous weather. I wished I could have stayed longer than just a few days.

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I bought a book while I was there (surprise, surprise). The title caught my eye first. I’m a long time Star Trek fan and so is the friend I was visiting, so the shows and movies had come up in conversation. So when you see a book titled, The Hunt for Vulcan, you’re going to pick it up and investigate. And if you’re me, the synopsis makes you want to read it, and so of course you have to buy it.

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Once I got home, I was finally able to pick up Hell Bay, Will Thomas’s newest Barker & Llewelyn novel. I had pre-ordered it from the indie bookstore downtown, and while it arrived before I left for Colorado, I couldn’t get it until I came home, since the release date was the 25th- when I was gone.

I started reading it on Friday, and so far it is fantastic! I haven’t been able to pinpoint the guilty party yet, though I have my suspicions.

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Home

What is it about coming home after a vacation that prompts all sorts of other things to happen to draw you out of the house and keep you busy when all you want to do is sit down on the couch for a little while? If it’s not friends coming into town for the last weekend before school starts, it’s all the little errands like grocery shopping that conspire to keep me going while still recovering from jet lag and a pesky cold.

I seem to have recovered from both of those, though, and after days of constant go-go-go, I’ve finally been able to stop and take a breath.

Thanks to long plane trips and a four-hour layover, I had a chance to finish a few books while I was gone. I finished another just after I got back, since I was closer to the end than I thought I was.

  • Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel by John Guy- This was an odd book. It started out a bit slowly, going through minute details about Becket’s early life, then sort of dashed through the latter part of his life. Overall, though, it provided a window into English history at the time.
  • The Lost Tudor Princess: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas by Alison Weir- I like Alison Weir’s biographies for the most part, but this one tended to wander away from Margaret’s story and go into the lives of the people around her. I get that people like Elizabeth I had a huge influence on her life, but there were chapters that made it seem as though the book was about someone else.
  • The Moor’s Account– by Laila Lalami- This story is told from the point of view of an Islamic man who is taken to the New World by Spanish explorers. The expedition is plagued by human frailties, intolerance, and natural disasters as the group tries to make their way through strange lands and survive among the native peoples that many of them don’t even try to understand. This was a wonderful story and beautifully written. I wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t been searching out books by authors from around the world.

I also finished up Neil Gaiman’s collection of essays and nonfiction. I only had two essays left to read before I left for Ireland, so I feel like I should have just read it the night before I left. Oh well.

The View from the Cheap Seats is wonderful! It’s filled with Gaiman’s articles going back to the early 1990s and includes the essay, ‘Make Good Art’. There were some parts I skimmed over- I haven’t read a lot of comic books, so the section about various comic book writers went right over my head- but I got pulled right into most of the essays whether I’d heard of the authors he was talking about or not. It’s not in chronological order at all, and yet you can start to construct the development of Gaiman’s voice from his early days as a journalist up until now.


In other news, school has started around here, and the weather service is forecasting a break in the heat. Autumn is on its way at last! It’s my favorite time of year, when the air is cool and crisp, and the leaves are turning. Pumpkin and apple-flavored everything is everywhere, and I can finally start wearing my beloved scarves and boots again.

I prefer the scents of fall, too:

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Two more things!

DSC03597I went to a few bookshops while I was in Galway, my favorite being Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, where I bought a copy of The Táin (The Cattle Raid of Cooley, to be specific), which is one of Ireland’s great epic poems. I read it in college, and the only copy I could find in the university library was a translation by Miles Standish from the 1890s or so. I was expecting some stifled Victorian tome that took all of the potentially objectionable parts out, but was surprised by how exciting and sometimes earthy the story ended up being. I’ve been searching for another copy of Standish’s translation ever since. While I haven’t found one, this translation by Ciaran Carson promises to be as good as Standish’s.

 

I try to buy one new piece of jewelry when I’m abroad. Nothing fancy, just something that I like that helps me remember where I’ve been. I bought this necklace on Inis Mór:

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Ireland, day 6

My plan last night was to catch a bus out to the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin- something I had been looking forward to since I started planning this whole trip. 

Around 4:00 this morning, though, I woke up feeling horrendous. Achy muscles, sore throat, headache, coughing. It was dreadful, and I didn’t  get back to sleep for a few more hours. When I woke up again, I felt just as horrible, so my lovely plans went right out the window. After running a couple of errands (finding lunch, mailing postcards), I went back to the B&B and spent most  of the day in bed. I’m feeling slightly better now, but it was a lousy way to spend my last full day in Galway.

Ireland, Day 3

It’s  a bit late but I was dead tired last night, and pretty much went straight to bed.

I can now  say that I have been on a boat on the ocean! Granted, it was  a ferry, and nothing grand, but still. I was on a boat on the ocean.

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Anyway. If you ever find yourself on Inis Mór, and someone asks if you want a horse and buggy tour of the island, do it! It didn’t cost much more than hiring a bicycle, and our driver, a lifelong resident, told us all sorts of things bout the place- like the 300 year old thatched house he grew up in, the movies made there or how 18-foot waves washed away the road one winter. We made it to Dún Aonghasa after a short ride full of fun facts and political jokes, and we didn’t  have to navigate bicycles through wagons, cars, and up and down steep hills. 

It’s a long, rocky walk up to Dún Aonghasa and the cliffs it overlooks. It’s quite windy, too which is part of the reason I was loathe to go right to the edge. I’m  not  a very big person, and wind gusts are a problem. They’re especially problematic when you’re on the edge of an 87 meter cliff that drops straight down into the ocean. Dún Aonghasa itself is nearly 3,000 years old, and while it would be easy to defend, it would be hard to maintain during a siege since there afe no water sources and there isn’t enough soil to grow any kinds of crops. Archaeologists think it had a religious purpose.

While there were quite a few tourists while I was up there, it was still amazing to be on such an ancient site and be able to walk right up to the edge of a cliff like that. 

On the way back down to the harbor, we stopped to see seals from afar and herd more stories about the island. The residents (all 800 of them) speak Irish amongst themselves and English to the 1400 or so tourists who show up on an average summer day. Padric (our driver) said the best time to come is in May, when the best wildflowers are blooming. Hardly  anyone comes in the winter, so if you like peace and quiet and don’t mind the wind, you’ll be set. 

The ocean continues to fascinate me.