Category Archives: life
Fridays are more fun with puns.
Germinal – Emile Zola (1897)
In the fiery rays of the sun on this youthful morning the country seemed full of that sound. Men were springing forth, a black avenging army, germinating slowly in the furrows, growing towards the harvests of the next century, and their germination would soon overturn the earth.
I’ve finally finished up a never-ending read of Zola’s Germinal and in honor of this experience, I thought I’d show the review-related haiku that I made up:
Crikey. This was a dark book – and “dark” in several different ways as well. It follows the lives and times of a village whose livelihood revolves around a company mine, and in so doing, Zola integrates his (many many MANY) thoughts on politics and socialism and the rights of workers.
It’s well written, that’s for sure, but from my own readerly perspective, the man really needs an editor to cut some text for him in the long run. (I am certain that he could have said the same thing but in fewer words.)
So, although I can’t say that I actually enjoyed this read, I am glad that I’ve read some more Zola now. (I enjoyed his other read, The Ladies Paradise here.)
More of a [raw] broccoli book than anything but glad I read it. Probably won’t read it again. 😉
General Catching Up…
February is almost done but it seemed to move very fast for me in some ways and rather slow in others. I teach at a university and we had some really bad weather last week (including about four inches of snow and ice). Since our area is not that experienced with snow, the entire week of classes and work was cancelled due to the weather, which was pretty weird. It was fine but it did make my week seem a bit off.
And how did I spend that precious time? Not really sure. I know that there were some naps and a couple of library trips and some reading from the TBR. The Superhero had to go to work (since he’s a first responder person) which meant a lot of alone time for me (which was fine). I watched some more of the really addictive The Great British Baking Show (I love Noel Fielding), and made some bread-and-butter pudding (since the weather was so cold and it seems a very cozy pudding to me). That was yummy and easy to make.
This week, I’m back in the office and prepping lectures and answering emails. The weather is now back up to the 60s as a high and the only traces of all the snow we had last week are a few patches in the shadows. Not to be surprised though, as West Texas is known for its weird weather patterns. I call the early Spring months the “ski jacket and shorts” months because you will probably need both of them by the end of the day. 😉
I’m still teaching online which is becoming more second nature to me and probably to the students as well. My preference is to teach F2F but with things as they are in the world around us, online it is so I’m striving to provide an equal educational experience via the online world. I have a feeling that it’s a learning experience for everyone who does it and I’ve definitely learned some tricks of the trade.
(Naturally, there has been a jigsaw puzzle in progress. Perfect weather for such an indoor sport!)
Book-wise, I had a B&N gift card burning a hole in my pocket (left over from Christmas) so I went there and spent a lovely hour or so strolling around their stock shelves. Ended up buying two NF paperbacks: America’s Best Travel Writing 2020 (edited by Robert McFarlane) and Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman. Very looking forward to reading these at some point in the near future…
Right now, I’m reading a book called “By the Sea” by Abdulrazak Gurnah, a fiction and rather a broccoli book if I’m honest. (“Broccoli books” are those that perhaps don’t taste that great but are really good for you… 🙂 )
ETA: “By the Sea” ended up being a DNF. Way too obtuse and wordy for me right now.
ETA2: The Travel Writing volume ended up being a surprising DNF as well. McFarlane and I just don’t see eye-to-eye on what constitutes good writing apparently. ;-}
Fridays are more fun with puns.
Now the calendar has turned the month to February, thought it might be time for a little catch-up. The university has been in action for a few weeks now and the routines are setting into place rather nicely. I say it every year but it makes it no less true: I am so lucky (and appreciative) to hold a faculty position. It never gets old!
Life has been pretty smooth lately. I am teaching 100 percent online this semester which is new for me, but it’s working out. I do still come into the office (since my position is split between faculty responsibilities and some editorial ones) but since I really like coming to work, that works out fine. (I know – I am fortunate to have this set-up.)
The West Texas weather is edging into Spring with some regularly occurring warmer daytime temps. We still have the biting cold at night for the most part – that’s why I call our Spring “Ski-jacket-and-shorts” weather since you’ll need both of them by the end of the day!) It’s snowed in March before but it’s been 80 so it keeps you on your toes. It also means having a flexible wardrobe and dressing in layers if you want to keep up with the thermometer. 🙂
I’m now out of my reading slump (thank goodness). It’s interesting to watch how personal interests wax and wane over the weeks. After a serious bout of doing jigsaw puzzles, I haven’t done one since the new year, but now the itch is back and I’m planning on starting a new puzzle this weekend. <rubs hands with glee>
It has been similar with books. I was still reading per se, but it wasn’t books. I was reading absolutely anything else but just had a stubborn disinterest for them but I’m happy to note that this is no longer the case. (See ref above re: waxing and waning.)
My titles have been trending towards the “read-like-hot-knife-through-butter” category in that they haven’t been particularly demanding of my brain cells. That’s not to say that they haven’t been fun and interesting: just not giving me an intellectual workout. I think it was linked with the return to school. I was also not very well but that’s improved. (I can’t concentrate if I’m feeling a bit sick.)
Had a really good experience with Stephen King’s Misery and I’m interested in tracking down another King read so long as it’s a thriller and not horror. (Thanks to Mark, I have some titles to track down now. Thanks!)
Wanting another fairly smooth read, I picked up The Seven Dials Mystery, a random Agatha Christie murder-mystery. Goodness me. Christie can write well. It was a good palate-cleanser and I enjoyed it. It hit the spot.
Then I went looking for a POC author (since I’m working on diversifying my authors/titles this year) and came up The Book of Unknown Americans by Christine Hernandez. This was an enjoyable story and I loved its structure. Each character is given his/her own chapter from his/her own POV and the narrative just cycles through this handful of POVs so that you can see what different people are thinking and reacting at different times. It worked really well and I thoroughly enjoyed this read as well. No idea where I found the title – it might have been on the New Reads shelf at the library…
Since that title, I wanted to focus on a classic and preferably a classic that was sitting on my TBR pile, so I pulled down Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck (1946), a quiet but riveting plot featuring Madam Wu and revolving around a momentous 40th birthday. Madame Wu decides to upend her life and allow her husband to take a concubine which leads to a life of freedom for the protagonist. It’s a very domestic novel about a marriage in China and it’s been interesting so far.
Although I have been somewhat absent from the blog (sorry), I have been busy doing other things. I’ve also been reading (albeit somewhat slower than normal) and I thought I would just do some short reviews about those titles:
Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood (2003)
An excellent read from Atwood, part one in the (sci-fi-ish) MaddAdam trilogy, and now I’m psyched to track down the next installment. I went to the library but someone else has the same idea and had checked out the one copy so, frustratingly, I have to wait. Waah. But at least I have about five quillion other titles from which to choose my next read whilst I cool my heels.
Then I whipped through a quick and fluffy read of Katherine Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. It was ok but rather a forgettable read. My friend loved it, though, so perhaps take my experience with a grain of salt. It might have been me…. 😉
Now, I’m immersed in some excellent NF: America’s Best Travel Writing 2019 (Alexandra Fuller, ed.) and so since we can’t travel right now, this is the next best thing (since we can travel via the written word). A longer review to follow…
And then – guess what? It snowed seven inches last night and so we’ve been snuggled up inside when we haven’t been outside goofing around with Nova Dog (who ADORES snow).
Plus – a jigsaw puzzle. Wow. I just love these things. 🙂
My year of reading…
Similar to others in the book blogosphere, I rather enjoy being quite nerdy and reviewing how my reading patterns went over the past year, although I had thought I had read more than this. However, no worries. It’s not a race so all is fine. Just interesting.
So, to the numbers:
TOTAL books read in 2019 – 48. (Average: 4 books/mo.) This is waaaay down from a typical reading year, but then this wasn’t a typical year! I’m ok with that.
Biggest monthly totals in the summer months (when school is out). Smallest total was in January.
This was composed of a focus on NF. (Actual numbers were 23 F and 52 NF. Of the NF, the majority were bio/autobio, similar to last year’s total.)
Authors: 25 M and 23 F. I’m happy with this split…
Authors of color (AOC)/Topics related to POC: 21 (44%. That’s pretty good, I think.)
Where were these books from? I’m pleased with this one: 69 percent were from my own TBR. (Progress of sorts.)
Number of pages: 13,961.
Year range of publication date: 1843 (A Christmas Carol/Dickens) to 2020 (various). 1996 average.
Shortest book length: 98 pp (When the Green Woods Laugh/H. E. Bates). Longest: 581 pp (Invisible Man/Ellison). 298 pp. average.
Overall, this was a fun reading year and I really enjoyed my focus on increasing the number of BIPOC authors in the list (42 percent of the reads were by BIPOC authors). Definitely going to continue with that campaign.
Another focus: reading more from my TBR. (Insert hollow laugh right here.) 😉
Additionally, I had two really good solid reads of the AP Style Book (for professional development), so it was a good mix of work/play. I had an enjoyable year.
Goals for 2020? None really (apart from the yearly read of the AP Style Book :-] ). Just more of the same, so long as it’s fun.
It’s been a busy few months for me and that has meant that my lovely blog has had to take a bit of a back seat to Life. I didn’t mean to leave you hanging, but needs must (as people say).
The biggest thing since September was a surprise diagnosis of me with stage 3a stomach cancer. This rather threw our lives into a spin for a while, requiring surgery in Dallas, four rounds of chemo and a lot of vomit. 😦
I’m on the flip side of this diagnosis now, though, and am grateful for that. The surgery means that I don’t actually have a stomach any more (true), but modern medicine has made a replacement and now I’m learning how to eat with this new equipment. Every meal is an adventure, let me tell you.
And what about the reading, I hear you ask? Ahh. I actually didn’t read books whilst I was dealing with that medical stuff. I just didn’t have the headspace to do that, so there was lots of magazine and website reading instead – just not any books. (I never thought that would happen, but since it did, that’s ok.)
Now things have calmed down, medically speaking, I find myself back to picking up books and enjoying them immensely. I’ll have the details to come in more posts, but suffice to say, I’m back on the blog again.
Snowflakes and Sequential Art…
It’s been unusually snowy for the last few days here in West Texas, and since it is rather infrequent for our area, that means that workplaces tend to veer on the side of caution which, for me, meant a SNOW DAY for the entire university. I don’t know about you, but for us here, an entire snow day is almost unheard of and thus there was much rejoicing across the city when this news was announced very early that morning.
(And here I must beg understanding from those of you who have been piled under huge snow drifts for most of 2015. We probably only got about 4”-6” and some drifting but when you don’t get much, it’s Snow-pocalypse.)
And so these unexpected free hours have been spent wallowing in books (naturellement) and in graphic novels in particular. The library had had a graphic novel display last time that I had visited and there were quite a few titles that I hadn’t seen before and which looked interesting. And thus, the link between snowflakes and sequential art (another name for graphic novels, which, to be honest, seems like another name for grown-up comics – “grown-up” not in a naughty way but in a not-kid-like way.)
First up on the pile was a small book called “Midnight Sun” by Ben Towle (2007), a GN story that was based on a true historical event in 1928 when an Italian airship crashed in the Arctic on the way back from a trip to the North Pole (an event that I’d never heard of). The group of survivors was composed of men from European countries and theirs was a rather harrowing journey of survival (as were others around that time and before). I am not sure how much of the story was true (apart from the actual crash), but the story seemed pretty non-fiction without any magical realism elements in it and seeing as it featured snow in a starring role seemed an a propos title to start the read. Overall, this was ok but nothing too amazing.
Next was an English GN called “The Tale of One Bad Rat” by Bryan Talbot (1995), an author/artist who has done work with Neil Gaiman, another author out there. This title was more reality-based (but still fiction) that dealt with a young English woman who runs away from her home to escape ongoing childhood sexual abuse. So – not an easy read, but handled well. The protagonist has a pet rat that she rescued from her school lab and so they’re both on the run from horrible lives. Although this story ends in the way you’d expect it to, it was still a great read (despite the horrible issue) and was very well done. I thought Talbot nailed the slightly gritty side of England really well, and that was refreshing to see. So – this was a good one.
Third up was a GN titled “Country of Wolves” by Neil Christopher/Ramon Perez (2013) and this may have been good, but I didn’t get that far as it was far too scary for me. :-} It did come with a CD of the short animation film of the book, but again – too scary for this feeble creature.
And then I pulled out my old Raymond Briggs (UK author) but I’ll save those for another day.
And, to finish up, I really did read some comics as I happen to have a 1988 Dandy Annual (featuring old chestnuts like Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat) and which was actually groaningly humorous in places. We all three kids would get Saturday morning printed comic books of Beano, Dandy, and Beezer and there would be much sharing to make them last longer. (More of the explosions and accident humor of 1950s Tom and Jerry cartoons than the gentle comics of nowadays, and yet we survived to live the day…) 🙂
This was a fun way to spend the day, and thanks to the Weather Gods for providing us with a nice snowy day.