With the pandemic as it is (as I’m sure you know), it has meant a LOT of staying home and not traveling so the Superhero and I were getting some itchy feet and decided to visit the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico the other weekend.
Now I’m not the biggest fan of camping in the world but one way I’ve learned that I do like is to take our tiny camper and the truck and drive off to the wilds somewhere. It was a five-hour drive one way (so quite a hike) but for distances around here in West Texas, that’s not too bad…
And you know what? It was really fun. I was so surprised. (Past experiences have not been that way, but they were long ago with different equipment and levels of attitude, as well. 🙂 )
For this trip, the Superhero had gone above and beyond in terms of being well organized and producing meals out in the open and I wanted for nothing that we didn’t have. (Very impressive to me.) It was so quiet out on the grasslands. Since it is open prairie, there are no trees and the view was never-ending.
The sunsets were amazing (see pic above) and you could hear the wildlife around you: mostly birds during the day and then a pack of coyotes at night. (Surprisingly, our dog (who came with us) didn’t really react to this, not even a bark or a growl. Perhaps she knew that there were more of them than of her?)
So – not a lot of reading but we did listen to an audio book on the drive there and back – lots of time to do that! – and then I read more the next day. The camping experience was worth it though and I’m looking forward to the next time (may be later this summer).
Haven’t done a “swabbing-the-decks” post lately and thought that now would be a good time to fix that. I’ve been reading but for some reason, have lost some impetus to blog about them. It’s not that they have been bad reads but I think I’m at that point of the university semester when I’m plumb tuckered out with regard to words in general. (I teach a writing-intensive class which I love to do. But so. Many. Words.)
So what is it that I’ve been doing with myself? Well…
I’ve been reading and here are some brief reviews:
Sharks in the Time of Saviors – Kawai Strong Washburn (2020) F
Loved this very fast fictional narrative about a Hawaiian family and the saga of their lives in the mid 1990s, especially the life of young Nainoa Flores who falls over a cruise ship when he is just seven years old. A group of sharks approach him in the water. Everyone expects the worst but instead, the young boy is brought back to the boat in the mouth of one of the sharks all in one piece, and his family view this as a favor from the ancient Hawaiian gods.
You’ll have to read on to find out how this impacts Nainoa’s childhood and the rest of the family but suffice to say, this was a super-great read and I’m only sorry that I didn’t do a proper blog post on this. (It was also one of former President Obama’s favorite reads for 2020, so if it’s good enough for him, it’s going to be great for me. (And it was.))
I’ve also been rather interested in learning more about birdwatching so I’ve been paying more attention to trees and sounds when I go outside now. To help increase my (rather paltry) bird knowledge, I pulled out the really lovely DK Eyewitness book on the topic and found it fascinating. So far, I’m still practicing seeing the birds – a lot have good camouflage or I have bad eyes! – but I can hear their songs so trying to use those as a clue to identification as well.
There was an Agatha Christie in the list as well, this one Evil Under the Sun, which was just a fun and non-demanding read. I’m very glad that she was a prolific writer since she’s given me lots of titles to read. And have another title on the TBR pile from the library. <rubs hands with glee>
Another read (when I was yearning for a read from another culture/country) ended up being Suburban Sahibs: Three Immigrant Families and Their Passage from India to America by S. Mitra Kalita (2005). This is NF focused on three Indian families who all chose to live in Middlesex County in New Jersey, an area which has the largest Indian population in the world outside India (apparently).
Author Kalita traces each of these long-term residents’ journeys as they land in America and start their lives in suburbia and it’s actually quite fascinating (especially for me, since I was an immigrant as well but with a different trajectory. [Am I still an immigrant even though I’ve been here decades now? When do you stop being an immigrant? Do you stop being an immigrant?))
So this was a fast and interesting read and I enjoyed it. Plus – another off the TBR. Go me. 😉
Other stuff: I’ve just started a new jigsaw puzzle. (Fun.) We’ve been watching Netflix and I’ve even been exploring some new recipes. (Who is this person who is doing this? I’m not really a chef but I’ve suddenly become more interested in food and would like to find some different recipes to try…I think it’s linked with reruns of The Great British Baking Show that I’ve been forcing the Super Hero to watch in the evenings…)
So – nothing too exciting but it’s been nice. I hope that you can say the same.
Library Loot included:
- Rules of Civility – Amor Towles (F/drama). Loved his latest, A Gentleman in Moscow, so picked up this earlier novel.
- The Poisoner’s Handbook – Deborah Blum (NF/history). Victorian time and poisons? yes please.
- Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From Madness – Suzy Favor Hamilton (NF/sport/health). I’m a former serious runner so thought this looked interesting.
- Mind of Winter – Laura Kasischke (F/drama). Supposed to be a good psychological thriller, I think.
I still have some other reads from my last Library Loot but couldn’t resist a quick trip to the library to look at other titles.
I promise that I’ll write more in the near future. The semester is starting to get busy since lots of things are due for grading, but as soon as I get some breathing space, I’ll be back. How is life in your worlds? I do hope it’s going smoothly for you all.
Library Loot for April 22 2021:
- South Sea Tales – Jack London (F/short stories). Just saw that this is short stories. Bleugh. I am not an aficionado of short stories. What was I thinking?
- The Pale Horse – Agatha Christie (F/mystery). Can’t go wrong with a Christie.
- The Secret River – Kate Grenville (F) Wanted to read some Aussie lit.
- The Lion in the Living Room – Abigail Tucker (NF/bio). We have kitties in our life: what can I say?
- A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towlers (F). (Just finished this. Post to come.)
- Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly – Anthony Bourdain (NF/autobio). I’m into cooking right and although this is a reread, I remember it as pretty good.
- Cooking Light: Dinner ASAP (NF/recipes) – I know: me with a cookbook but I’m searching for new recipes. 🙂
So – any ideas of what I’ve picked up? Any recommendations?
Loot from my local library included the following:
- Belfast Diary – John Conroy (NF about 1980s Northern Ireland during the Troubles).
- Sharks in the Time of Saviors – Kawai Strong Washburn (F). One of former Pres. Obama’s favorite books of 2020, apparently. If it’s good enough for him… 😉
- A Caribbean Mystery – Agatha Christie (F/murder mystery). Love me some Christie.
- The Secret River – Kate Grenville (F/Australian). I’ve heard good things…
- Dolores Claiborne – Stephen King (F). I would like to read more King so seeing if I can handle his less-scary titles first.
- Emma – Jane Austen (F). In the mood for a good classic.
- The Water Museum – Luis Alberta Urrea (F/short stories). I don’t always get on that well with short stories but I’ll give them a go with Urrea’s work since he’s really good.)
The reads for March 2021 included:
- India Calling – Anand Giridharadas (NF)
- The Sytteford Mystery – Agatha Christie (F)
- The Commitments – Roddy Doyle (F) – Reading Ireland Month
- The Snapper – Roddy Doyle (F) – Reading Ireland Month
- The Van – Roddy Doyle (F) – Reading Ireland Month
- Germinal – Emile Zola (F)
- Heroes and Monsters of Greek Myths – Evslin, Evslin and Hoopes (F)
- Queenie – Candace Carty-Williams (F)
- The Feast of Lupercal – Brian Moore (F) – Reading Ireland Month
- Mythology DK Eyewitness book – Neil Philip (F)
- The Long March – Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (NF) – Reading Ireland Month
- The War Bride’s Scrapbook – Carolyn Preston (F)
- The Time Machine – H.G. Wells (F)
- Londoners – Craig Taylor (NF)
- The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde (play)
- Humans – Brandon Stanton (NF/photo/soc sci)
So to the (rather obsessive!) numbers:
- Total number of books read in February 2021: 16.
- Total number of pages read: 3,266 pages (av. 266).
- Fiction/Non-Fiction: 10 fiction / 5 non-fiction. 1 play.
- Diversity: 3 BIPOC. 5 books by women.
- Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 8 library books, 7 owned books (whee!) and 2 e-books.
So I had a productive reading month which was really fun. Plus, I also pulled out some cross-stitch and finally finished up a project that I’ve working on for quite a while. Just need to get it framed and then it’s done. 🙂
I’ve been reading quite a lot lately. It’s so interesting to see that I have a tendency to fluctuate in my reading levels. Looking back at trends over the past several years, I see that my reading levels falter in January and February and then pick up the pace once it gets into the Spring months. Is it to do with the amount of sun? Is it something to do with the moon? 😉
I’m not sure but I’m glad I’m back into one of my most important hobbies. So – what have I actually been reading? Let me do a quick round-up for you.
Londoners – Craig Taylor (2011). A nonfiction collection of conversations, really, that Taylor has gathered from a wide range of people who live in, love, hate, or perhaps left London. This was one of those perfect reads at the perfect time for me and I loved it. It was fit in with my temporary Monkey Mind and I could really hear what his interviewees said. This was such a fascinating read and I highly recommend it if you’re searching for a good book to pick up and put down. Loved it.
The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde (1895). The play itself. I have been wanting to go to a live play or other cultural event, but the pandemic has put the kibosh on that option right now so I picked up this Wilde read. I haven’t seen or read this one and it was full of Wilde’s sly witticisms and sense of humor. Good.
Then, still with a bit of a Monkey Mind (and thus lower levels of concentration), I was at the library (shocker!) and saw the most recent edition of the photo collection by Brandon Stanton called Humans. (He did the photo books called “Humans of New York” and has a really good blog, which I reviewed here and this was just as stellar). Stanton takes extremely good photos and allows his interviewees to really talk. Just fascinating if you like that kind of thing. (This is one of the projects that I wish I had done.)
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson (2014). Looking for a solid good read and wanting to pull a title from my homegrown TBR (as opposed to the library), this was quite a chunky read (and yet I wasn’t scared off by it) – 536 pages. (Normally, I would run screaming from such a high page count but it was ok.) This was such a good read but it definitely plays with time and structure so you need to concentrate. The protagonist, Ursula, reincarnates over and over throughout this story but what is truth? Anyway, a very clever novel and easy to read at the same time. I’m definitely going to pick up more Atkinson at some point.
So that’s me all caught up re: recent reads. Tell me about yours.
Oh, and I bought a new rug for my office at home. It makes me very happy! 🙂