Sunday Salon: Weekending in Devon

The Sunday SalonDespite losing an hour, we packed in a lot of fun this weekend. Yesterday we took the steam train and ferry from Paignton to Dartmouth with some friends. The weather was perfect, with blue skies and some real warmth from the sun for one of the first times this year. We ate local crab sandwiches, took a cruise around the estuary and (after some searching) found a place for cream tea with delicious scones and terrible wait staff.

We weren’t in Devon for a literary break, but it so happens that one of the stops on the steam train line is Greenway Halt, which exists solely for visitors to Greenway, the estate of one Agatha Christie. I haven’t read her books since I was a teenager but back then I was a big fan. I couldn’t resist picking up one of her titles in the railway shop. Maybe I’ll rekindle my fandom and next time we’re in Devon I can drag Tim round another author’s home!

Braveheart

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February 2017 reading round-up

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Does every month fly by when you get older? I can’t remember the last time it didn’t feel that way. Time passes too fast. Then again, it’s been another reasonably busy month. I’ve kept up the running, on track to run my first 10k in British Science Week as part of Run the Solar System. Once I have the virtual race under my belt, I’ll be all set for the real thing in early May.

On the cultural front, I went to see Othello at the Tobacco Factory Theatre, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And I went to Bletchley Park, which has left me itching to learn more about life there in World War II, if I can only choose between the hundreds of books written about it over the past 20 years or so since it became public knowledge.

Speaking of science and engineering history that had been relatively hidden, tonight I watched the film Hidden Figures about black women who worked as computers at NASA in the 1960s. It’s a remarkable film, a stark reminder of how recently widespread discrimination not only existed but was the norm, and what a fight it was for talented women such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson to do their work every day. I now really want to read the book behind the film, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, though I understand it’s rather different, taking a wider look at the historical context and less of a personal story of those three women.

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Sunday Salon: Catching up

The Sunday SalonThis is the blog post I intended to write last Sunday night, but I was exhausted from having such a full weekend so I curled up on the sofa with a book and fell asleep. It’s not a bad way to end the week!

And what exactly did I fill last weekend with? Well, I’m going to start with Friday morning because that way I get to mention something I’m super proud of: I ran 8 km before going to work last Friday. That is the furthest I have run yet, and marks the first time I felt actually confident that I will be able to run 10 km by early May, when the Bristol race that I’ve entered comes around. (I tried to repeat the achievement this week and managed 7.5 km, which is not to be sniffed at, but slightly disappointing when I now know I can beat it!)

Last Friday night, we went with my Mum and brother to the theatre to watch the Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory production of Othello. I really enjoyed it and thought the acting excellent. The local press have been a bit sniffy, and I do agree that some of the modern touches were a misstep. But I thought the central relationships – between Othello and Desdemona, between Othello and Iago, and between Othello and Cassio – were really well portrayed.

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January 2017 reading round-up

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This month had some pretty big ups and downs. I had a lovely birthday. I successfully managed to run three times every week. We had a fantastic weekend in London, looking at art and watching the stage show Lazarus.

I have also despaired at the news even more than usual. On Monday evening I joined thousands on College Green in Bristol protesting against the US “Muslim ban”. These really do feel like dark scary times but I have to hope that continuing to raise my voice against injustice helps.

To distract myself from world affairs, I’ve managed to read a decent amount and I’ve also watched a lot of films. I thought La La Land was a lot of fun in the first half, then kinda bittersweet. Not the best film ever but very good nonetheless. Plus Tim and I have ploughed our way through almost four whole seasons of Dexter. (Speaking of which: has anyone read the book it’s based on, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay? Would I like it?)

Here’s to February, hints of early spring and escaping into books! In the US February is Black History Month but in the UK it’s LGBT History Month (we do black history in October) so I’ll be choosing some reading based on that. What are your February reading plans?

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Sunday Salon: #Diverseathon

The Sunday SalonDuring Trump’s first nine days in office I have been constantly thinking about civil rights, women’s rights…human rights, basically, and how they are being threatened and outright denied. As well as doing practical things to help – donating to refugee charities and subscribing to newspapers that I feel are doing vitally necessary journalism – I also wanted to base my reading around these subjects. And then I heard there was already a BookTube project to do just that.

#Diverseathon runs from 22 January to the end of today and is co-hosted by Simon Savidge, Monica Watson, Christina Marie and Joce. The primary aim is to encourage everyone to read more diversely, but there are some more specific goals. There was a group read of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, which I didn’t join, but I’ve thought the book sounded fascinating since I first heard about it on the Slate Represent podcast.

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Sunday Salon: Long weekend of culture

The Sunday SalonTim and I have just got back from four days in London. We saw lots of art, mostly photography, hence the new purchases below. I highly recommend the Malick Sidibé exhibition at Somerset House. And I have loved Philippe Halsman’s work ever since being prompted to seek him out after reading a novelisation of his life, called The Jump Artist, five years ago.

But the eagle-eyed will spot that not all the below books are photography-related. We also bought the script of Lazarus, the musical written by David Bowie and Enda Walsh in 2015. The main reason for our trip to London was that my Christmas present to Tim was tickets to the production of Lazarus in London. It’s the Broadway transfer, so we got to see its original star Michael C Hall, AKA TV’s Dexter. That was pretty exciting.

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2016 – a year in stats

Happy New Year’s Eve! To quote Tim’s newest T-shirt, 2016 sucked. I’m not sure how, but I have to hope that 2017 will be better.

That said, this year wasn’t all bad. There has been great music, great theatre, great art and of course great books. I read 80 books this year (less than last year) or 20,571 pages (more than last year). I read 12 classics towards the Classics Club, including finally getting round to reading books I’ve had on the TBR for many years.

I read 21 books in translation, from many different languages (my spreadsheet shows 10 languages but in addition, Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales was translated from all over the world), which is more than double what I managed last year. 24 books were by authors from a country other than the US or UK, which again is up on last year.

I read 32 books by men, 40 by women and 8 by authors of both genders, which I’m happy with. I read 4 poetry books, 4 short story collections, 9 non-fiction books and 20 comics, leaving an overwhelming 43 fiction books. I think I should read more non-fiction next year.

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Reading round-up December 2016

Happy holidays! I’ve had a week off work and I have read half a book. Crazy! In fairness it’s a big book – 684 pages in the edition I have. And I finally finished it this morning, just in time for a New Year fresh start. If I feel like reading today, I’ll dig out a short story or three, but I think we’re running out of time to do stuff before going out for New Year anyway.

I have sadly failed to complete my reading bingo card. Even cheating a little bit by including short stories for two of the remaining categories, I didn’t manage to tick everything off. But I think in general I did pretty well and it did encourage me to read a few things I otherwise wouldn’t have – including my epic reread of Sophie’s Choice.

Tomorrow I’ll weed out the TBR a little as my kind and generous family gave me 10 new books for Christmas and I’m expecting/hoping for a couple more for my birthday next week. Lovely lovely bookses.

But for now I’ll quickly list my December reads and then get to my annual stats in another post.

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Happy Christmas Eve Eve

I have long felt a special affinity for 23 December. In my childhood we called it Christmas Eve Eve, which delighted me. For several years (or maybe only three, but enough for it to feel like a tradition) this was the day when we would go to the woods in search of holly, mistletoe and other foliage to decorate our house with (along with all the usual paper and foil stuff).

I’m not sure why this was a big deal to me. I mean, I loved romping through the woods, but we lived in the Forest of Dean so that wasn’t exactly unusual. It’s been a long time now, but my memory of those Christmas Eve Eve forages is overwhelmingly of being with my Dad, so perhaps that’s what it was – he worked long hours so time with him was (and still is) precious.

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