I turned 30 earlier this year and, whether I feel much different or not, it is a milestone that’s made me introspective. Turning 30 means being a real adult, at least in my mind, even though it hasn’t actually heralded any life changes. It would be a lie to say that sometimes I didn’t wish I was still 20 and living with my friends at college. I could never overstate how much I loved school and learning – and how much I miss it. What strikes me most about this particular age is how much I have grown up and changed over the last decade, how much I am not that girl any more. I might not actually feel like an adult most of the time, but occasionally it strikes me that I really am.
I have an example. This week was my company’s whole team meeting, where nearly 170 people get into one room (it’s a cinema, so it’s big enough for everyone) and various senior people in the company tell everyone about company performance, updates, and some of the cool stuff we’re doing. This time round, I was one of those senior people. I had to stand up in front of that many people and tell them what had happened in the world of SEO in the last six months. If you had known me when I was 21, or 24, or probably even 27, I’d never have managed it. Oh, I’d have done it – I have spoken before in front of groups, but never particularly well, and I really hate it. This time, though? This time I knew what I was saying. I was still terrified, but for the first time in my life I had knowledge and confidence to go up there and speak well. I wasn’t sure I was going to, but I did (or at least, that’s what everyone says). And I am so pleased with myself, even though to others this may not seem like a big deal, because I know how far I’ve come to be able to do that. I have been so shy and quiet for so many years of my life, and still am most of the time, that what I am now capable of truly astounds me. I’m the girl who never spoke up in class. I’m the girl who lurks and decides not to say anything, for fear of criticism. I’m the girl who doesn’t know how to start a conversation, who hates parties and networking and socialising unless I know someone to anchor me. I’m a wallflower. I often wonder how I ever found myself in a job, in a *career*, where most of what I do relies on talking to and influencing people. Being good at SEO and being good at managing, influencing and representing a team of SEOs are very different things. While I still definitely have a long way to go at my job, and I am plagued with doubt and uncertainty and frustrations most of the time, I feel like I’m on the way to being better. All I can do is try to be better. Yes, someone else may have done a better job than I’ve been able to. Someone else might have done it differently. But maybe I wasn’t a bad choice for this role. Maybe I can do this. Will my doubts go away? No, of course not. Will I look at other people and think they would have been the best choice? Yes, I still will. But I need to hold on to this feeling when I am overwhelmed, when I’m sure everything is all wrong.
And will I still be nervous getting up in front of all those people in six months’ time, assuming I again get the opportunity? Of course. I might be different on the outside, but inside I’m still so very shy.
So, now that I’ve popped out from the woodwork, what else have I been up to in the last few months?:
- Gaming. I tend to go through hobby phases, and I’m in a gaming phase at the moment. I’ve been playing a lot of a game called Stardew Valley, where you are a farmer attempting to revive your grandfather’s farm, alongside making friends with villagers, mining, fishing, and a few other tasks. It’ll sound familiar if you’ve ever played any of the Harvest Moon series of games, but it’s grounded more firmly in the real world (as much as a game like this can be). It’s so much fun, I’d highly recommend it. Before that, I played The Witcher and I’m partway through The Witcher 2, in an attempt to get to The Witcher 3.
- Just yesterday I crocheted for the first time in months to make this little turtle (hobby phases, like I said):
- We spent Easter weekend in a gypsy wagon in Cumbria. The weather didn’t work in our favor at all, but we had a lovely log fire, some castles nearby, and I took a lot of pictures of daffodils:
- And, of course, I’ve still been reading. That’s one thing I never stop doing. I’ve still been enjoying the freedom to re-read that comes with not blogging; I just read The Raven Cycle over again by Maggie Stiefvater and loved all of it so much, now that it’s finished. My other favorite I’ve read so far is Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which was everything I’ve ever wanted in a book. And the surprise of the year for me so far has been Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith / J.K. Rowling – I am not sure why I chose to pick it up, but I did, and I’ve been barely restraining myself from inhaling the next two ever since. I think it’s the way Rowling draws characters. I’m not normally a mystery person, but I loved that one.
That’s it from me for today – happy May, everyone!
Hello there, blogging friends! I’ve had a couple of life changes since last we spoke, namely these two:
I have also been making things, like this baby blanket:
Went to see my parents and visited Thomas Edison’s workshop, home, and grave:
Visited Boston for the first time in several years and was honored to take part in my best friend from university’s wedding:
Went to Bletchley Park and saw where lots of exciting codebreaking happened – plus visited reconstructions of the oldest computers:
And visited places closer to home, like Rievaulx Abbey below, with friends:
I’ve also finally started volunteering at two museums here in York on Saturdays, getting a little back into history.
There are, of course, a lot of other less positive events going on, but all things considered, the last few months have been okay, and I feel I’ve made good use of summer 2015.
I’ve been doing lots of re-reading, and reading more chunksters. I’m in the middle of re-reading the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews; I love these books and rediscovering that has been a joy. I hadn’t read the latest two because I did want this re-read first; it’s paid off, just like my Robin Hobb re-read earlier in the year, which I also finished during my hiatus. I spent a month reading a book about Alan Turing after visiting Bletchley Park; I’m now way behind on my reading goals, but it was fascinating. I’ve also read some books that I was really excited for, like A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson and The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I am sorry I didn’t write about them, because they both haunted me in different ways, but there’s still time.
It will be my challenge this autumn to rediscover my blog, and either keep it up or let it go. In the meantime, though, I hope you all enjoy the end of your own summers.
We’re in the slow, cold part of the winter now. Christmas and my birthday have both passed, so now I’m ready for spring, although I wouldn’t mind a bit of snow accumulation first (on a weekend, so I don’t have anywhere to go or anything to do but look at how pretty snow is). Unfortunately, months to go before spring and sunshine yet, but on the bright side, I can spend these months reading. I’ve started 2015 with three books I loved and one book I didn’t. My thoughts below.
The Farseer Trilogy, Robin Hobb
I’m lumping these all together because I can’t split them particularly well in my head. This trilogy is the beginning of the story of FitzChivalry Farseer, the bastard son of Prince-in-Waiting Chivalry Farseer of the Six Duchies and fated to be the Catalyst that changes the course of his country’s history. These books are set in a fantasy medieval world and mostly consist of Fitz growing to manhood in a very uncertain, dangerous situation, after his father’s abdication and death and his country’s coasts threatened by war with soulless raiders. He is trained as an assassin for his king, a dangerous and controversial role amongst people who would be all too happy to see him dead.
I loved reading these books again. I read them first in high school and honestly am not quite sure when, as I mentioned last week. I am so pleased that I loved them again, even though I remembered virtually nothing about them. I got so attached to Fitz all over again, even though Robin Hobb is very, very hard on him – harder than I’d thought she would be, as part of the ending of the trilogy was different than I thought I’d remembered. That was a strange experience, but I think I might have actually mixed this up in my head with the Tawny Man trilogy that picks up Fitz’s story a few years later. I knew that the author wasn’t done with Fitz quite yet, so I wasn’t disappointed with the ending, which isn’t exactly a satisfying wrap-up in some ways. I’m instead pleased that there’s more to come.
I loved Fitz himself, but I also so loved the women surrounding him; Kettricken, Molly, and Patience, each of whom represents something completely different to him. Kettricken I think is my favorite in this trilogy (how did I manage to forget Kettricken?), with her inner strength and natural generosity but all too human failings of jealousy and gullibility. Hobb’s characterization has always set her books apart for me and I love how well she shows us so many types of people. I read reviews of these books after I’d finished – not something I normally do much, but I was curious – and I was surprised to see people complaining that the books were slow. I never got bored and I loved every page, just like I did when I was younger. The world that Hobb creates is so fascinating to me. I like different, unusual settings, but in all honesty I just love the traditional pseudo-medieval world she’s portraying, with the edge of mysterious magic that’s now very lost to history.
I was so pleased I chose to start 2015 off with this re-read and I know I’m going to be reading the rest of Hobb’s books set in this world this year for sure now. If there was any doubt, I’ve already started Ship of Magic, the first of the Liveship Traders series, which I actually recall as my favorite of all of her trilogies. I am so excited to reread these (Althea!), but I’m also looking forward to getting back to Fitz. I know I have plenty of books waiting for me, but these are all I want to read at the moment. Best of all, there are some at the end I haven’t read yet, not least my beautiful, signed edition of Fool’s Assassin.
Arlington Park, Rachel Cusk
One of my generally ongoing goals is to read my older books. I have a lot of books from 2008 and 2009 in particular when I went a little crazy about charity shops and bought a lot of books I’d heard of or had recommended for very low prices. I don’t really frequent charity shops for books any more; I tend to instead donate my books to them and donate money to causes I care about, while spending my money in physical bookshops to do my little bit to keep them going. But in any case, Arlington Park is one of these books and I thought it would be a quick and easy one to tick off the list before I let myself read more Robin Hobb.
Unfortunately, I can’t really say I enjoyed it. The book takes place over a single day set in the upper middle class suburb of Arlington Park, told by a rotating group of women who are extremely dissatisfied with their lives. The women are generally well-off housewives with young children, who feel out of control. One, Juliet, feels that her life and potential has been sucked out of her by her husband and children; another keeps a meticulously tidy house to ward off death and views her children as obstacles; a third, Christine, has spent most of her life escaping her lower-class childhood and seems to insist she’s “solving the world’s problems” in the midst of shopping and casual disregard for her children.
This book I felt had edges of something powerful, as there is certainly a case for discontent in the boundaries of a woman’s life when it’s ruled by other people, but it bothered me. It goes too far and it’s too easy to look at these women and think, first world problems. Things happen to them, rather than any of them taking control, and the women who did try to seize the agency in their lives were still universally unhappy. This is namely Maisie who chose to leave London and is now busily unhappily unmoored in Arlington Park. Everyone and everything is at a distance to these women. I think the author was trying to get across that material and surface wealth – having a good looking, working husband and children, a nice big house, lots of free time – doesn’t equal happiness, but I just wanted them to take control of their lives. Christine I felt was the one who epitomised the whole sentiment of the book; she is the one who says she’s solving the world’s problems, but all she’s doing is complaining about her own, feeling afraid of people “below” her because she doesn’t want to be one of those people, and virtually ignoring her children in the meantime. All of these women complain, but I wanted them to do what I would do (or at least what I feel I would do); get a babysitter and go to work, or volunteer, or do something different to stop the endless round of complaining about children and husbands. Maybe I missed the point. Have you read this? Did I?
Anyway, not particularly recommended. This is one that will be going back to a charity shop (albeit five years later).
How have you started off your reading year?
While I spent a huge portion of October not blogging, I for once allowed myself to indulge in a massive series re-read. The series I chose was the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire (very appropriate for October, I think you’ll agree), one of my favorites. The Winter Long is the eighth book in the series and I, of course, bought it on release, but didn’t want to read it without re-reading the series. After seven previous books, the first of which I read a good few years ago, I was losing track of who people were, what they meant to Toby, and where the wider plot was going. I knew that the seventh book hadn’t had the same impact on me as it should have simply because I forgot what happened. I had read that this eighth book was a game changer and I didn’t want to miss out any emotional impact.
I intended to re-read the series gradually, spacing in between them with other books, but what happened in actual fact was that I raced through the entire series. I genuinely had forgotten a lot of what happened. I only read one book while I was in the midst of my re-read and it was only because I went on holiday to Italy and couldn’t bring all those paperbacks in my luggage.
As with many of us, I loved re-reading as a child and teenager, even as a younger adult. There was a time in my life when I’d read every adult book I owned at least twice and I think my record for an adult book was eight times. This ended when I got old enough to buy books for myself, but I still re-read sporadically then. Unfortunately, once I hit book blogging there wasn’t time any more. My logic went like this: There are so many books in the world. I own a solid chunk of them. I don’t have time to spend reading over again books I’ve already read. But that misses an essential fact; I loved re-reading these books. I enjoyed immersing myself back in Toby’s world so very much. It was fascinating to remind myself of the habits she acquired over the course of the series (coffee addiction – almost absent in the first book, rears up in the middle, vanishes) and the characters she befriends, admires, loves. And with so many books in the series, I could really feel how much things had changed for her, how she’d gone from a lonely woman who had lost everyone who meant something to her to a strong, confident one with friends and family.
I knew I loved these books, but I think re-reading them cemented that for me. I was worried a little bit that they wouldn’t hold up. Seanan McGuire is an auto-buy for me and I’ve read a lot of her books, so I was actually worried that Toby would sound just like all the other characters McGuire has written. She doesn’t and neither do the other characters in this book. In addition, McGuire has obviously grown as a writer since she started writing these books and the last book was jaw-dropping. I picked exactly the right time to do my massive re-read as I genuinely don’t think I’d have gotten the connections as much without it. Yes, McGuire fills in the backstory, but filling in the backstory has never been the same for me as having it in my own memory. I’d rather flip through a paragraph of who Simon Torquill is remembering the emotional impact his actions had on Toby than forget who he is and need that paragraph. This book truly is a game changer, just like the back cover says. Toby is hit by revelation after revelation that change the way she views many parts of her life and which will have a significant impact on future events in her life. I was so glad I could make those connections.
I don’t think I’ll re-read all eight of these books when the ninth comes out, but I am so pleased I’ve reminded myself of how much joy there is in re-reading. This won’t be the last time I read these books.
And this re-read, although it was a few months ago, has sparked another one, which I’m in the midst of at the moment; all of Robin Hobb’s Farseer (and related) books. When I went to hear Robin Hobb give a talk and sign books in honor of Fool’s Assassin a few months ago, I was dismayed by how little I remembered the books. Not small things – big things, like who characters actually were besides Fitz. I shouldn’t have been particularly surprised since I read them in high school (I think – I can’t even remember how I discovered Robin Hobb, let alone when I read Assassin’s Apprentice for the first time, since she was already a favorite when I started recording books I read) and there have been a lot of books between then and now. Rediscovering books I think I’ll love just as much now as I did then seemed like a great way to start 2015 to me, and so here we are.
How do you feel about re-reading your favorite books?
I had so much fun actually getting through the books on my summer reading list that I thought I’d make it a bit of a seasonal ambition and put one together for autumn, too. I read all but one of those books and I’m reading the final one now, The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan. The focus it added to my reading was really nice – I didn’t have to pick through the shelves to decide what I wanted to read next because I’d already done the job for myself. I would like to call that a bookish success, and so I thought I’d try and get some of the same success going for autumn, too.
Plus, this one was easy. This season we have #diversiverse, which starts today, and RIP IX, which started on the first of September. I have been gleefully thinking of books I’d like to read for both of these for weeks. Add a few books that I know I also would like to read soon, and we end up with this:
I got ambitious as I was putting this together, as you can see – the summer pile was a little bit smaller. I have however already read Lagoon so we’re on our way.
- Iron Kin by M.J. Scott – this is the third in an urban fantasy alternate world series I haven’t written anything about yet, but which I do like. It has vampires and similar types of monsters so I’m going to count it for RIP.
- Written in Red by Anne Bishop – this was actually an impulse purchase but again sounds like a new urban fantasy series (no, I clearly don’t read enough of these) and I thought it would be a good fit for autumn. Even the title reminds me of leaves and the cover has the heroine wearing a hoodie in a wintery environment.
- Timebomb by Scott K. Andrews – this is actually a review copy that turned up unsolicited but looks really intriguing. More dystopia, but I think I’ve avoided that for long enough to return to the genre a little bit refreshed.
- The Silvered by Tanya Huff – Werewolves! And I love Tanya Huff. I have read the latest book in her Gale series so it’s time to move on to the next book I have by her, which is this one.
- Midnight Alley by Rachel Caine – to be perfectly honest, I haven’t particularly enjoyed the first two in this series, The Morganville Vampires, but I bought all 4 of them years ago at a discount shop. I should probably just send them all to a charity shop but they’re short, fast reads and for some reason I keep thinking I should like Rachel Caine’s books. So I stuck it in the pile.
- Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang – Jung Chang is the woman who wrote Wild Swans, which I read out of the library a few years ago, so picking this up recently felt natural. I haven’t read any Chinese history for a while now so I’m keen to get back into it. Also, #diversiverse.
- The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – I forgot I had this in the UK with me until I was pulling various options out of my bookshelves. Right on the stack – this has been waiting far too long.
- Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – I read The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri earlier this year and, sadly, didn’t write about it, so remember very little other than how much I liked it. I thought it was time to read her first collection of short stories. I’m never sure how I’ll get on with short stories, but they are worth a try.
- Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – I feel like everyone is talking about these books but me! I finally bought the first one last month and I do want to get to this one soon.
- A Kiss from Maddalena by Christopher Castellani – this is another book I’ve had for a long, long time but sounds very appealing. I’m going to Italy next month, so I thought it would be a great idea to actually get some themed reading in before that happens.
- The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – this is purely in the pile because I can’t wait to read it.
- Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor – believe it or not, after I took this picture I immediately took this book out and read it yesterday, as I’ve mentioned above. I just needed an excuse and it was very easy to give myself one!
I would like to get to all of these books before the end of December. I think I can – and then I can make a winter reading list!
What are you going to be reading over the next few months?
It’s the last day of August and, to me, this means that summer is over. For the most part we had a really nice summer this year, lots of sunshine and warm days, although most of August has been pretty dreary in true English style. The fall has its charms, though, so I’m not too disappointed to see the summer go. We have several exciting plans for the rest of the year, including a trip to Florence and Pisa, completely paying off all debt except for student loans, and my husband finally finishing his university course after six years. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, in a couple of months I hope to feel a lot freer and happier and ready to embrace more of the possibilities my life contains. I hesitate even saying that, because I know I should be embracing the moment rather than always waiting, and my life has been excellent at throwing bad things at me as soon as I think everything is okay, but never mind. It’s true.
As seems to be my regular refrain these days, I’ve spent a lot of this month not blogging. I’ve done plenty of other stuff, in particular a lot of crocheting while watching various things on Netflix. I finished watching Call the Midwife and we watched the first season of Orphan Black and now I’ve started watching Mr. Selfridge. Mostly I have made piles of granny squares, not sure exactly what to do with them, but when I figure that out I will share.
I read a surprising 15 books this month, with a lot towards the end of the month. I realized that I wasn’t going to hit my goal of 150 books if I kept reading at my current pace around the middle of the month, so essentially, I started devoting more time to reading. I don’t necessarily like reading just to hit a random number I picked out of the air, but I can prioritise my free time and I have plenty of books I can’t wait to read, so it wasn’t a difficult choice. I also had a work trip to London, which meant both a visit to Forbidden Planet and an evening spent mostly on my own reading. This always helps.
- Song of the Vikings, Nancy Marie Brown
- Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Mary Roach
- Paris at the End of the World, John Baxter
- The Sandman, vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
And I can’t really choose a favorite. It’s easier to choose books I didn’t like because I did like the majority of them, honestly. Maybe The Martian was my favorite.
Coming Up in September
Mostly this month on the blog I’m excited for A More Diverse Universe. I will definitely be reading several books by authors of color and possibly putting together some recommendations as well. This is something I feel strongly about so I hope I will be able to pull myself out of my blogging slump in enough time to actually write as much as I’d like to.
I’d also like to participate in RIP IX but I’m not sure what I’m going to read yet. If I can get my head together, I will do a post about it.
If you can’t tell, though, I’m really struggling to blog these days; I’m actually even still reading books I’ve been sent for review but then completely failing to write about them. I’m not sure where my desire to write has gone, or rather, I still have a desire to write, but I seem to stare at a blank screen for a long time before any words come out. I just don’t have the energy any more to come home and blog after work, and even weekends seem mainly devoted to doing things I enjoy more than blogging. Maybe the time has come for me to give it up, but I honestly don’t actually want to. I like blogging and writing and I love books and I still don’t have anyone regularly in my real life to share any of those things with. So for now, I intend to continue with a half-hearted presence until I decide what I actually want to do.
What’s ahead for your September?
Time // Sunday afternoon, 14:25
Place // At home in an apparently severe rainstorm – flood warnings in full effect
Eating // Roast chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner later on, yum
Drinking // Tea
Reading // I’m getting slowly into graphic novels. Here’s my nice and tiny TBR which consists of just three volumes:
That’s the second volume of The Sandman and first each of Fables and Saga. This week I read the first Sandman, Preludes and Nocturnes, and was sufficiently excited by it to immediately buy the second one.
I have held off on the graphic novel front for a long time. The main reason is because they’re expensive and I wasn’t sure such a lengthy investment would pay off in the end. I’d rather get them from the library if possible. But my main central library is now closed until the autumn and doesn’t have any of the series that blogger friends like (see, the above ones I chose). Secondly, I finally finished reading Bone, which was a series I did get out of the library until we capitulated recently and bought the whole thing. After reading that, and remembering some of the amazing graphic novels I’d read a few years ago like Maus and Persepolis, I decided to give the longer series a try.
In regular book format, I’ve just finished A Darkling Sea by James Cambias and Skin Game by Jim Butcher. I’m almost guaranteed not to review the latter, so I will just say that I still really love the Dresden Files and I was so pleased with the outcome of this one. I want to review A Darkling Sea.
I’m currently reading Song of the Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown. It’s so cool how much of our stories still contain references to Viking legends and sagas. Fascinating.
Watching // I finished Veronica Mars! I haven’t really known what to do with myself since. I loved it; I am simultaneously glad I didn’t get into it until the movie wrapped everything up and disappointed that I couldn’t have been part of the huge fannish excitement surrounding its release.
Next I plan to finish Call the Midwife and then we’re going to start a completely new series. I hope it will be Orphan Black which has just appeared on Netflix. A couple of friends and I have almost finished watching the latest series of Game of Thrones.
Cooking // Have I made anything exciting in the last few weeks? I don’t think I have. We’re still on low maintenance mode here. I’m hoping the stress will die down in September, but we’ll see.
Learning // Not started Italian yet. I have continued crocheting, though. I made this little cutie recently:
At least, I think he’s cute!
Gaming // Still no gaming, although after reading the first Sandman I’m thinking about trying Arkham Asylum.
Loving/Hating // Loving my city, as usual, where you can walk along to a vegetarian cafe and a gaming shop and encounter this in the masonry of York Minster:
Mostly hating how stressful my life feels right now.
Anticipating // Seeing Robin Hobb tomorrow at my Waterstones! I feel like I need to reread all the Farseer books before I get to Fool’s Assassin because it’s been so many years, but it’s not every day you get to meet one of your favorite authors.
Credit goes to Kim for the Currently format!
Somewhat unsurprisingly, my list for today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is dominated by romance authors and authors who write long-standing series. I love a good series.
- 25 by Nora Roberts – I really enjoy some of Nora’s books, to be perfectly honest, and she is SO prolific that it’s hard to escape owning massive numbers of her books!
- 24 by Catherine Coulter – I haven’t read any of Coulter’s books in years but I was a big fan of them when I was younger, especially because she wrote medieval romances.
- 24 by Julia Quinn – I still love Julia Quinn. Her books are so light and funny, they’re absolutely perfect for a day that’s been a bit of a downer (or honestly a couple of hours any time).
- 22 by Stephen King – I’ve been reading books by Stephen King for years. What’s more shameful is how many of these I now haven’t read – I think I’ve purchased but not read at least his last 3 releases.
- 21 by Bernard Cornwell – And I haven’t even read the Sharpe series, although I do own two of them!
- 21 by Stephanie Laurens – Another remnant of my romance-buying youth; I recently picked up three of her more recent ones but haven’t read any of them yet.
- 17 by Jim Butcher – All the Dresden Files plus some Codex Alera!
- 15 by Robin Hobb – I adore Robin Hobb’s books (obviously). This is going to be 16 soon and I get to meet her at the beginning of August!
- 15 by Seanan McGuire – This includes the books she’s written under Mira Grant – a total auto-buy author for me and I’m really looking forward to this hitting 16 when the next October Daye book comes out.
- 14 by Eloisa James – Another of my favorite romance authors, Eloisa James consistently writes smart, funny, powerful books. Auto-buy.
Which authors dominate your library?
Time // Sunday evening, 16:12
Place // My desk – haven’t actually written a post on the laptop in ages.
Eating // Leftover pasta and homemade sauce for dinner a bit later on
Drinking // A glass of water
Reading // Today I finished Hild by Nicola Griffith, which I should be reviewing this week. It’s coming out this week and is definitely a read for the historical fiction lovers amongst us. One of the blurbs compared it to Game of Thrones, too, which I can totally see in some of the scheming and politics within the book. Great stuff.
Yesterday I finished The Devil’s Playground by James Traub, which was a relatively brief history of Times Square over the course of the twentieth century. I’m always interested in the history of places I’ve been and I knew Times Square had changed a ton even in my parents’ lifetimes, from a relatively seedy and unsafe part of New York City to the insanely crowded tourist and big brand hub that it is today. The book did a good job of exploring that change, although I got a bit bogged down by the large amount of it that had to do with corporations. The author did interview and get in touch with people on the street, but it’s kind of depressing how much everything is controlled by humongous companies now.
Finally, today I’m going to start A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie and I’m reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in ebook form. To say that I’m looking forward to both of them would be an understatement.
Watching // I’m nearly finished with season 3 of Veronica Mars and I’ve already pre-emptively bought the movie for when I finish. We spent quite a bit of time over the last few weeks watching the World Cup and it’s been nice to return to watching a show with a plot again. I’m also kind of glad I haven’t raced through this season as much as I have the first two. It’s not as addictive and it means I can stay in the world a little bit longer. Still very slowly watching Game of Thrones with a couple of friends.
Cooking // I’ve been falling down at cooking again lately, especially this last month. I’ve gotten a couple of vegetarian cookbooks and the second Hairy Biker diet cookbook, so I clearly want to get back into it, but haven’t had the energy.
Learning // We’ve decided that we’re going to Italy for our holiday this year, so I’m probably going to start learning a little bit of Italian, just to help us cope. I’ve not really started yet, though. I did get back into driving and spent the last week driving to work on the motorway for the first time, so I am tempted to count that as learning.
Gaming // I’ve played a little bit of Crusader Kings II recently but it has been a while since I got properly into a game. I have been reading less because of driving to work instead of taking the train, so now I consistently feel like free time has to be reading time.
Loving/Hating // Loving the fact that it’s been warm! We’ve had some amazing weather recently. Hating that it mostly happens on weekdays when I’m at work, but I will take what I can get.
Anticipating // Keith finishing his university course after something like 7 years doing it part-time alongside his full-time job. I can gleefully say only two months to go, although he will worry more about finishing everything in two months. After that, actually doing things together again!
Credit goes to Kim for the Currently format!
June will be over tomorrow and that means six months of 2014 will be gone. I’m sure I only wrote this goals post a short while ago, but now we’re here checking up on progress.
I’m not sure how I’d rate the first half of 2014. Nothing much has stood out to me, to be perfectly honest. We haven’t left the country except to visit my parents and that was pretty much the only time I’ve had off from work, too. Nothing to complain about, nothing to shout about. Just ticking along, working to clear off the rest of our debt, and buying copious amounts of books with what’s left over. This might be why the year feels like it’s gone by so quickly already; I know breaking up time with unusual events is a great way to make it feel like it’s taken longer, but there hasn’t been much of that this year so far.
I have kept to the spirit of most of my goals, I think, and I’m relatively pleased with where I am. I think we’ve spent most of the year so far being reasonably healthy. Both Keith and I have been exercising regularly (until I got shin splints which seem to never go away, but that’s a different story). We have a 10k to run in August which I hope I’ll be able to do. I’ve been cooking more without meat. I’ve not really taken enough pictures or signed up for a class yet, but we have six months to go, and it’s now looking like that class will be for swimming lessons (what with the shin splints and the not being able to swim at 28 years old).
On the reading front, according to Goodreads I’m just behind my goals, about 2 books behind with 71 books read so far this year (assuming I finish a couple in the next two days, which might not happen). I don’t think this is *too* bad and I can easily make it up if I try, so I’m not going to worry about it too much. What does disappoint me a little is that I haven’t stuck well in particular to the non-fiction goal. I am doing better reading more international fiction and authors of colour, with June the single exception where I managed the former but not the latter. All other months I have actually been right on target, if not exceeding it, about which I’m pretty pleased. I’ll try and make up for June’s lack in July.
Here’s what I’ve read this month (I’ll add if I finish anything tomorrow):
- Three Weeks with Lady X, Eloisa James
- Mogworld, Yahtzee Croshaw
- Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
- The Borgia Chronicles, Mary Hollingsworth
- Year of the Demon, Steve Bein
- Deadly Sting, Jennifer Estep
- Fortune’s Pawn, Rachel Bach
- The Emperor’s Blades, Brian Staveley
- The Dead Girls’ Dance, Rachel Caine
- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
I’m much happier with the quality of my reading this month than last month and some of these books were real gems. Fortune’s Pawn and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves were definitely the highlights in different ways. I hope to write about both; I’ve actually already drafted up a post about the second one.
In July, I’m hoping to get to more of my summer reading list. Hild by Nicola Griffith will definitely be read and written about, as I might actually start it today, and Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire might as well. I’m also going to finish Bone by Jeff Smith, which I’ve purposely been dragging out mainly because it’s amazing and I could race through it much too quickly if I tried, and I suspect I am going to start getting into more graphic novels in the very near future.
I honestly haven’t made many plans for the next six months; at the moment I feel like most of my life plans are put on held a little bit while my husband finishes the university degree he’s working towards (while also working full time, which makes for a distinct lack of free couple time). We’ll see what the world brings after that.
How is 2014 treating you?