April 2014
S M T W T F S
« Mar    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Currently: 20.04.14, or, Happy Easter!

tssbadge1Time // Sunday evening, 18:45

Place // My desk

Eating // Nothing just now – earlier, some rosemary and olive bread from the market. Bread is my weakness. There may also have been a salted caramel brownie.

Drinking // A glass of water

Reading // Just like last time I did one of these posts, I’m actually between books – the space in which I fit blogging, these days. Earlier today I finished The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. If anything, it was a bit too literary for me, and I never really felt pulled back to it when I wasn’t reading. In contrast, a couple of days ago I finished A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and did absolutely love it – so still plenty of amazing reading going on. I’m not sure what to read next. I have Longbourn by Jo Baker up next on the immediate TBR pile, but I’m not sure it’s the one for my mood just now. I think I might make a Read-a-thon pile instead and see what catches my eye as I’m pulling books from the shelves.

Watching // I finished watching the second season of Call the Midwife the day before yesterday and immediately longed for the third! Unfortunately, all stores which might sell the DVDs are closed for Easter Sunday, so I have to wait a little bit longer to get my hands on it. We also went to see The Amazing Spiderman 2 in cinemas yesterday, which was okay. Not much else to say about it to be honest, I probably wouldn’t watch it again but it wasn’t a bad film.

Cooking // Amazingly, I’ve been doing a ton of cooking over the last week and a bit. It’s completely thanks to two things – Keith and I have been doing the Insanity workout for the last two weeks, which has been inspiring us to eat better, and the fact that we bought one of the Hairy Dieters’ cookbooks. The Hairy Bikers are a couple of British cooks who have made loads of TV shows and generally go off on their motorbikes to exotic locations and cook delicious-looking food. We became interested in their recipes after a friend cooked us an amazing beef curry and recently these two decided to go on a health kick and publish a couple of cookbooks, as well as make a TV show. These are perfect for doing with Insanity – they’re calorie counted to about the right amount of calories and actually are pretty healthy, easy to cook, and taste really nice. I find that cookbooks often contain elaborate recipes that don’t fit in too well with normal life and this cookbook so far has really been the exception. The recipes have a few more fresh ingredients than I might normally buy, but all the food is stuff we’ll actually eat pretty happily and has turned out well. So far, we’ve had a chicken pot pie, chicken bake, and fajitas, and made a couple of different cooked breakfasts.

Learning // Not actually learning much at present, which sounds pretty bad. I’ve been pouring effort into work and then doing the Insanity workout almost every day for the last two weeks. My brain is a little bit fried. I’m hoping, as usual, that things let up before too long.

Gaming // Nothing here either! As above. I haven’t been prioritising any of the games I want to play. Perhaps another time.

Loving/Hating // Still loving the coming of spring. It feels like new flowers spring up every week, which is just what I need on weekends. It’s also been surprisingly sunny, though not really warm enough for my tastes yet. Struggling with work at present – I wouldn’t necessarily say I hate it, but I’m not anticipating the return on Tuesday. Trying not to think about it until I’m there, and hoping that this week is the end and I can go back to feeling things aren’t too bad.

Anticipating // We’re going to see my parents and taking a long weekend trip to London in May – it’s going to be a busy month but in the best ways. And, next weekend, the Read-a-thon! I’m excited to participate and hope I do the event a bit more justice this time.

Credit goes to Kim for the Currently format!

The Belated March Wrap-Up

tssbadge1Good bye, first quarter of 2014! I have been so happy to see most of the back of this winter; the daffodils out have been making me really happy over recent weeks and just this last weekend we started spotting a greater variety of flowers and buds on the trees. It’s my allergy season, but this year I genuinely don’t care. I’ll sniffle happily outside if we’re heading towards summer.

As with a lot of months these days, March seemed to slip through my grasp. Suddenly it’s April, and we’re already nearly halfway through the month. How did that even happen?

I read a lot in March. I also went a little bit overboard with the book buying (probably my most egregious sin was buying six books in Forbidden Planet while a little bit tipsy. I guess if my worst crime while tipsy is going into a store full of books and buying too many, I probably don’t have much to worry about), which probably spurred me to read more than I ordinarily would have. I also appear to have gone on a mini fantasy binge in the middle towards the end of the month.

So, to books:

Fiction

  • The Arrow of Sherwood, Lauren Johnson
  • Empress, Shan Sa
  • A Dance with Dragons: Part 1, George R.R. Martin
  • One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • Secrets of the Demon, Diana Rowland
  • The Chalice, Nancy Bilyeau
  • Night Broken, Patricia Briggs
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black
  • A Tangle of Magicks, Stephanie Burgis
  • The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Promise of Blood, Brian McClellan
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
  • Panic, Lauren Oliver
  • A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

Non-Fiction

So yeah, that whole writing about every book I read again thing? It really isn’t happening. I’m a bit disappointed in myself, but at the same time, I have a lot to write about if I can dig some motivation up from somewhere.

Fortunately, I am still accomplishing those reading goals I set out in the beginning of the year. One book by an author of colour, which was Empress, and One Night in Winter is set in Russia. I also acquired Empress in 2008, so it satisfies my other condition of reading books bought pre-2013. I need to get better at that, though; all the rest of the books came from 2013 and 2014. I actually could get better at all of the goals, but I had a rough second half of the month, so I’ll let myself off a little.

Over the rest of April, I would hope that I’ll be able to get a few more posts going; I’ve got a lot of great books to review and I would like to re-start some mini reviews. I’ve also, believe it or not, had several post ideas going in my head, but whether or not they will make it to the blog is another question altogether. That said, it’s a four day weekend coming up, and I am really hoping to draft up some posts and schedule them out. We’ll see!

How did your March go?

TSS: Currently, 30.03.14

tssbadge1Time // Late Sunday afternoon, 17:15

Place // Same desk as always

Eating // We’ll be having a beef rogan josh for dinner – an experiment from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals

Drinking // Just water at the moment

Reading // I’m not reading anything right now. I finished Panic by Lauren Oliver this afternoon and Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan yesterday. I’m pondering what to nominate for the Hugos and still not firm on what to choose. I’m going to have to pick something eventually, there’s just one day left. No idea what I’m going to read next. Kingmaker by Toby Clements is next up on the TBR pile, but I’m not sure I’m in the mood for the Wars of the Roses. I might keep my head in fantasy while I ride out the next couple of stressful weeks.

Watching // Still watching a crazy number of shows and mostly just seem interested in making it worse for myself! We seem to be sticking with Red Dwarf right now and Breaking Bad when there’s more time in the evenings. I started watching Call the Midwife for when my husband is too busy with his final university course to watch with me. He’s never a huge fan of historical dramas, but that doesn’t mean I have to miss out.

Cooking // I’ve been cooking a little bit. As mentioned above, I’m attempting a Jamie Oliver 15 minute meal later on tonight, and am trying to get back into it. Some, at least.

Learning // Back to the crocheting. I finished this interesting-looking frog just yesterday:

crochet frog

He’s not perfect, primarily because I ran out of the light green yarn before I could make his eyes, but it’s been a while since I actually finished a crochet project, so I’m just happy to have one done.

Gaming // I’m not sure I’ve even touched a game since the last time I played Halo 3 weeks ago. Oh, I tell a lie – I have played a little bit of Final Fantasy XIII, just to try and finish that game once and for all. With 2 sequels it can’t be that dreadful.

Loving/Hating // Loving the daffodils, the occasional nice days, the sunshine. I’ve been doing the 100 Happy Days challenge for the last week and making more of an effort to find things that make me happy. It’s working, a little, although at the same time I worry that it means I’m giving off this false message of perfect happiness to the social media world. Definitely not true. It’s reminding myself that happiness is a choice; that I can focus on the lovely things that make life wonderful and ignore everything that is getting me stressed and depressed. Ignore maybe isn’t the right word, but I have a bad habit of remaining worried and stressed about things that I either can’t help or can’t do anything about at a given time.

Anticipating // The end of the current round of stress at work. I had a moment two weeks ago when I thought things weren’t too bad and the universe seems to have decided to punish me for it. I want to go back to thinking things are not too bad. I’m hoping that time will come in a couple of weeks, but we’ll see.

Credit goes to Kim for the Currently format!

TSS // Currently 09.03.14

tssbadge1Time // Sunday evening, 19:08

Place // The usual desk

Eating // Not much right now; I had a veggie pie earlier and will be having pulled pork for dinner.

Drinking // Copious amounts of tea to keep myself alert enough to get some work done

Reading // I’m currently in the middle of two books, the first half of A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin and One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore. The first is my commuting book on my Kindle. I’ve recently been tackling longer reads on the commute because I know I’ll make consistent progress while sitting on the train, although it took me a really long time to get into ADwD given how much I remember loving the previous books in the series. As for the latter, I’m about 150 pages in and completely hooked. I really want to know what’s going to happen to these arrested children in Stalinist Russia, and I hope it isn’t the worst.

Watching // We are watching too many shows right now thanks to our recent sign up to Netflix and its wealth of treasures. We discovered Sherlock quite recently and I have very happily jumped on the Benedict Cumberbatch bandwagon. We have just the last episode of season 3 left so please no spoilers. We also just recently started continuing with Breaking Bad and will then move on to House of Cards. When we don’t have much time, we’re re-watching Red Dwarf. 

Cooking // I’ve still not been getting on as well as I should have been with cooking this year. Maybe now that it’s lightening up in the evenings my motivation will come back. I’m still pinning recipes away so the desire to make delicious food hasn’t diminished, at least.

Learning // Not much to be honest. I’m considering investing in my first DSLR and getting better at photography. I did a bit of crafting towards the start of the year and re-taught myself how to knit, but I haven’t kept it up.

Gaming // In my new quest to get used to first-person shooters, I am playing the first Halo game on my Xbox. I can’t say I’m in love with it, but I must admit it’s helpful after a stressed day at work.

Loving/Hating // I love how warm it was today and the fact that daffodils are popping up! I can’t wait for summer; my husband says I’m wishing my life away, but I am so tired of being cold.

daffodils 2014

Mostly hating that it’s not really spring despite one lovely day. It’ll be cold again tomorrow.

Anticipating // Summer; visiting my parents in May; planning this year’s holiday (still not decided).

Credit goes to Kim for the Currently format!

TSS: Good-bye February, Hello March

tssbadge1February did not hold much excitement over here – in fact, I felt like I was away from home a lot, given that we kicked off the month with a weekend visit to family and the month consisted of not one but two trips for work. Small ones, but time away from home nonetheless. I’m taking this weekend as an opportunity to relax, at least a bit, and recharge, although there is some work that I need to catch up on (isn’t there always?).

In reading terms, February started off slow, as I read two non-fiction books simultaneously. Things warmed up pretty soon, though, and in the middle of the month I rocketed through The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, reading two in a day and the third one in a day shortly afterwards. I can already tell you those were the standout books of the month.

As for the rest:

Fiction

  • Spilt Milk, Amanda Hodgkinson
  • The King’s Damsel, Kate Emerson
  • Cinder, Marissa Meyer
  • Scarlet, Marissa Meyer
  • Book of a Thousand Days, Shannon Hale
  • The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Queen Jezebel, Jean Plaidy
  • Blood Kin, M.J. Scott
  • Gabriel’s Ghost, Linnea Sinclair
  • Cress, Marissa Meyer

Non-Fiction

  • Montaillou, Emmanuel La Roy Ladurie
  • Germania, Simon Winder

I managed to continue holding to my reading goals, although just barely; Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland is both by an author of color and set partly in India. Both of my non-fiction choices were set outside of the UK and US, and so was Queen Jezebel, which was set in France. I know Europe isn’t actually very far outside of my comfort zone, but it’s an improvement. I didn’t succeed in writing review this month, though. In fact, I hardly blogged at all.

Favorite of the Month

cinderscarletcress

Book of a Thousand Days should probably be in here too. I just devoured these books; they were the perfect reading experience for a month when I truly felt down in the dumps and stressed for a number of reasons. Really loved them and would highly recommend them.

Ahead for March

Primarily I’m hoping everything calms down a little. I’m also hoping to plan that holiday I mentioned. I need something to look forward to until the current malaise subsides! The increased light in the mornings and evenings is getting me there, bit by bit.

I’m also hoping to read:

  • Empress by Shan Sa (actually for real this month – it’s next on the pile!)
  • One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin
  • The Iron Kingdom, Christopher Clark

What’s on your schedule for March?

TSS: What I’ve Been Up To

tssbadge11. Discovering why everyone I know is obsessed with Sherlock. I have managed, amazingly, to find a show that my husband and I both like, mostly because I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. This is a brilliant show – alternately funny and clever and suspenseful. We’ve got one episode left of series 2 and then it’s on to series 3. We’ve also been watching the old Star Trek movies for the first time, for me, and it’s kind of nice, as though I’m catching up on some of the history of science fiction.

2. Exercising (half-heartedly). We have been going out to eat more often last month and this month, mainly because we can without worrying for the first time in our married lives. I’m sure it will get old – in the meantime I’m working to try and get rid of calories by moving around more than usual, and enjoying the good fortune while it lasts.

3. Dreaming of this year’s holidays. I’m considering what seems like tons of options, although I’m trying to do it at a fairly low cost. I initially wanted Russia for our five year anniversary, coming up this autumn, but I also want to go properly and we’re trying to save money, so that’s probably out this year. I’ve been thinking of returning to Andalusia and going to Cordoba and Seville, or going to Sicily, or going to Greece, or Germany … there are too many choices even just within Europe and, while I want to get to them all, I also want to do so much of the world justice.

4. Trying to find some sort of motivation to get into something outside of my job – my life has gone much too far down the path of work, sleep, eat, occasionally read a book, repeat. I feel as though I never have any time, but the time I do have I tend to spend wondering what to do and deciding on which of my too many hobbies to actually invest time in. This is an ongoing problem, as I’ve alternately tried writing, crocheting and knitting, and gaming, with nothing really holding my interest. Winter blues, I hope – I’ve been seriously looking forward to spring and the prospect of weekends out and camping and historical sites.

5. Gaming, a little, as above. I’ve long had problems playing first person games, mainly due to what I think is some form of motion sickness, especially when I’m playing up close on my PC. But there are so many amazing games and I don’t like that I’m restricted based on that, so I’ve decided to work on acclimatizing myself by playing them in short bursts. Currently working on Bioshock in half hour segments, and playing Castlevania on my PC whenever I feel like gaming otherwise.

6. Reading plenty but, sadly, not blogging. I’ve been having plenty of blogging ideas and don’t really want to stop, but the barrier for actually posting them seems to rise the longer I spent not posting. I’ve read plenty of interesting things, and sometimes even fall back into the old habit of thinking what I’ll write as I’m reading, but then I don’t actually write whatever it is. Work in progress, just like number 4.

How’s February treating you?

TSS: Belated monthly wrap-up: January 2014

tssbadge1I do realize that we’re a third into February, but I wanted a chance to sum up January anyway. I’ve learned that when I’m away from home on the weekend, blogging doesn’t really happen, so here we are on the following weekend looking back.

As the start to 2014, January wasn’t great. Another family member landed in the hospital for serious reasons and most of the goals I had for the year got derailed already – primarily the ones involving doing things that weren’t reading. I’ve had a lot on at work and in general I have not been getting on as well as I’d hoped. The weather in this part of the world certainly hasn’t helped. While my family and friends at home in the US have been buried in snowfall after snowfall, it’s merely been grey and rainy in the UK, almost every day its seems. As a result it doesn’t feel much like winter – a season that’s going to go away eventually – but instead an endless trudge of cold, wet, and dark.

Fortunately at this point, the above-mentioned family member is out of the hospital (by far the most significant), there are signs of the sun rising earlier and earlier, and I’ve buried my sorrows by acquiring a slightly ridiculous number of new books, so there’s hope yet.

I read:

Fiction

Non-Fiction

  • Edward III and the Triumph of England, Richard Barber
  • The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Richard P. Feynman
  • Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman

That’s 12 books, which is pretty high for me. The eagle-eyed amongst you will also note that most of my long-awaited reads actually got read. The only exception was Empress, which will probably be read this month, as it’s in the middle of the immediate reads pile.

I also hit all of my reading goals for at least the first month. We Need New Names is set in Zimbabwe and by an author of color (these don’t have to coincide but they happened to this month), I acquired Demon Angel and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay pre-2013, and I read 3 non-fiction books.

Favorites of the month

life after lifewe need new namesedward iiithe amazing adventures of kavalier and clay

I couldn’t choose between the three fiction books, so have all of them. I loved all four of these books.

All those other goals

As I mentioned above, I haven’t been doing terrifically well with my other goals. Exercise and cooking have both been sporadic, but I’m taking the fact that I’m doing them sometimes as a small victory.

How was your January?

TSS: The Annual Christmas TBR Explosion

tssbadge1Because my birthday and Christmas are so close together, I’ve always had a glorious few weeks where my to be read pile explodes and I find myself possessing books I’ve craved all year long. Most people I know well enough to exchange gifts with understand that pretty much all I want is books, so I’m lucky enough to receive books as gifts; this year I also … um … bought myself several as a birthday present. Kind of a celebration on lifting the TBR ban.

On top of this wonderful yearly addition to the physical TBR pile, Amazon also tend to put Kindle ebooks on sale around the New Year. This naturally means that I jump on the opportunity to possess wishlisted books at the ridiculously small price of 99p or £1.99; since Christmas I’ve acquired over 20 ebooks.

First, though, the physical books:

IMG_0815

I’m particularly excited about Dangerous Women, although I think it will take me a while to read as it’s much too big to take with me on the train. But I’m actually looking forward to all these books, including the out-of-print Dreamsnake, one of the few remaining Hugo and Nebula award winners written by a woman that I haven’t read yet (the other one is Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold which I have somewhere).  The Raven Boys comes as a recommendation from Ana and Jodie. I think I also read about Biting the Sun on a blog but can’t actually remember where.

Then, there were the ebooks. I can’t take a picture of these, but I can list them:

  • The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing
  • The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
  • The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • First Grave on the Right, Charley Davidson
  • Cinder, Marissa Meyer
  • Heart of Steel, Meljean Brook
  • The Countess Conspiracy, Courtney Milan
  • Across the Universe, Beth Revis
  • The Valley of Amazement, Amy Tan
  • One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
  • Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
  • We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo
  • Harvest, Jim Crace
  • Life after Life, Kate Atkinson
  • The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
  • Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914, Max Hastings
  • Instructions for a Heatwave, Maggie O’Farrell
  • Goddess with a Blade, Lauren Dane

I’ve actually read three of these already - We Need New Names (fulfilling one of my monthly goals) and Life after Life, both of which I loved. The third was A Countess Conspiracy and above I’ve linked to my mini review post in which I discuss it.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the pace of book acquisition has slowed down since then – otherwise I think I’d never catch up! Which of these do you think I should read next?

The Sunday Salon

tssbadge1Getting back into blogging is really, really difficult. I’ve found myself staring at an empty blog post far more often than I’d like and I can’t decide which books to actually review. For example, I wrote the last two sentences of this post yesterday. I then decided to attempt to write a review of the book I just finished, Huntress. I wrote a summary of that, found writing what I thought of the book really difficult (even though I loved it and thought I’d have plenty to say) and then gave up for the evening.

In short, this whole blogging thing is not flowing the way that it used to.

The Christmas season is more or less in full swing here. My work Christmas party was Friday night and I’ve got my department Christmas party this Thursday, plus some drinks with friends in between. I’ve been enjoying the increased levels of socialising, surprisingly, as long as I do get some downtime to recharge batteries. I’ve definitely got that coming up, as I’m off work from a half day on the 24th until the 6th of January. I’ve been pondering what to do with all that time; I don’t think I’ve been at home so long without any concrete plans since I started working and I’m looking forward to it. Options include playing through one of my favorite games again, getting a start on Long-Awaited Reads month, or reorganizing my bookshelves, which have been neglected and look a bit woeful (not even close to alphabetized).

In current reading news, I just finished the above-mentioned Huntress, which was meant to be for A More Diverse Universe until I decided not to bog in November. It was fantastic, of course, and I do intend to write about it. I hope. I’m working my way, slowly, through Noble Endeavours, a somewhat scattered account of many different relationships between Britons and Germans leading up to World War I and beyond. I also decided that the first book I’ll read once the holidays begin is River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay; my reading recently has mostly been limited to what I can carry on the train or what’s on my Kindle and I’m going to enjoy sinking into that and a few other longer reads when I get the chance.

How are your holidays shaping up? Do you have any reading planned? I’d love to hear about it.

TSS: Thoughts on Not Blogging

tssbadge1Giving up blogging has been an educational experience. I’ve been writing in this blog regularly for at least six years, and the last more-than-three-weeks is the longest period I’ve ever gone without writing a post. I fully intend to return to blogging because, oddly enough, I find that I miss it. I’m also craving writing something – anything – that isn’t my fledgling novel at the moment, so I thought I’d share a few observations.

The first one is that, to my actual surprise, I have been drawn immediately to longer books now that I don’t have to review anything. Lifting the pressure of writing reviews has also lifted the pressure to read things I can get through quickly. I almost instantly continued my re-read of A Song of Ice and Fire and I’ve gotten through A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows. I’ve been wanting to finish my re-read of these since the TV show started, especially because I haven’t actually read A Dance with Dragons, and while I’d actually read the first two a couple of months ago and started A Storm of Swords in October, this re-read in close succession has been delightful and reminded me of why I loved these books to start with. Namely, amazing characters, world-building, surprises that I’d forgotten – a world that actually feels as though it lives and breathes every time I go back to it.

I also started reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King, who is another of my favorite authors that fell by the wayside when I became more attracted to shorter books. It’s taken me ages to read this, mostly because my husband and I went to Spain for a week, but I love that I don’t feel pressure to get through it quickly. I can just enjoy reading it as it comes. I didn’t realize how much of my impatience on getting through books was because of blogging; I actually thought it was just because I’m an impatient person in general (a character flaw).

I’ve also learned a ton about what I need to do to actually write a successful novel because this attempt has felt like flailing around in mud and slowly sinking, but I think that’s a subject for another post.

Lastly, it was really nice not to have to think at all about blogging while we were on holiday. Of course, when I decided I didn’t have to, I immediately thought about how I’d write up the trip for my blog. It’s almost as though removing the pressure and the need to write a post every so often has given me back the desire to actually write posts (and that’s where this one comes in). Having a week off from work helped, too.

Malaga Alcazaba

Malaga Alcazaba

In any case, I think I’m ready for my return to this little corner of the internet in a week’s time, or at least I feel as though I am now. Let’s hope the week of work and frantic novel-writing ahead doesn’t change that, and I’ll see you all here next Sunday.

Have you taken a break from blogging? What did you find?