Blog Posts

Amsterdam travel diary: Wednesday

When I went to Edinburgh, we took a Sandeman’s walking tour of the city. These tours are given by freelance guides who hire Sandeman’s to promote them; they are “pay what you want” tours, where one pays the guide at the end within their means and according to their satisfaction with the tour.

Amsterdam travel diary: Tuesday

I don’t like travelling. I’m not like Frodo Baggins; I’m perfectly happy to stay in the Shire. It’s nice there. I don’t relish the interruptions to routine that travelling brings, the fiddly bits required in packing, the problem of hygiene on the road. So I travel sparingly. Instead I live vicariously through others: through the stories of friends and the writing of well-travelled people.

Amsterdam travel diary: Monday

We have two weeks off for Easter. Earlier this week, I went to Amsterdam for a few days with three other teacher friends. I’ve written some blog posts about our time there. We left Monday evening, and originally I wasn’t going to blog about that part of the trip, because it’s mostly travel. But Monday was a special day all by itself, and I need to record it. Last year, around this time, I had shingles. In my eye.

Missing winter

I’m wearing shorts right now. Shorts. In March. OK, I wore shorts in March back in Canada—but towards the end of March, when the snow was actually melting. Today it’s so nice that I can go outside and sit in shorts and a T-shirt without so much as a jacket.

First completed pair of socks!

For over a year now, I have been knitting a pair of socks. I chose a sock, cuff-first, as my first foray into circular knitting. The circular knitting itself was not difficult to master. Socks themselves, though, have all sorts of … components that require careful attention to detail. This one had a pattern for the cuff, then another four-row pattern for the leg/top of the foot, and different patterns entirely for the heel flap and gusset.

My winter travel adventure

Oddly enough, transatlantic travel has started to become somewhat ordinary for me. The first time it was new and exotic and somewhat terrifying. The second time it was a relief (to be going home, particularly because I hate travelling). The third time, with a different airline, was another adventure.

Currently Reading

Book Reviews

Collected Stories cover image

This is a hefty and imposing volume, heavy yet also compact in dimensions and in print. Thirty-one stories make up the Collected Stories of W. Somerset Maugham, as selected for this immaculate Everyman’s Library edition that I scored for free from my school library. After a particularly work-heavy weekend I needed something I could sink into, something that could envelop me with lush descriptions of far-off lands and times gone by. This short story anthology seemed like it would do the trick: I…

Under the Greenwood Tree: or The Mellstock Quire: A Rural Painting of the Dutch School cover image

Another somewhat well-preserved Penguin Classics paperback of Hardy, this time acquired not in a used bookstore abroad but taken abroad after receiving it as a gift from someone who went to a used bookstore. The very slimness that signals its brevity also makes it quite attractive as a travel book. Since it’s Hardy, I knew I would be in for a treat, for prose that is both readable and poetic, for characters who are truly interesting specimens of rural England. Under the Greenwood Tree also has the…

The Ice House cover image

For most of the past week, I ploughed through a W. Somerset Maugham collection with that signature pleasure one has in reading one short story after another. Maugham’s stories can wear thin after a while, however, owing to their formulaic structure. So I took a break for something completely different: The Ice House is a crime novel, but Minette Walters plays with a lot of crime conventions. It’s not entirely clear if a crime has been committed or who the victim is, let alone who the murderer might…

The Pirate's Wish (The Assassin's Curse #2) cover image

The Pirate’s Wish picks up literally where The Assassin’s Curse leaves off: Naji and Ananna are stranded on the Isles of Sky with a wizard who doesn’t seem all that interested in helping them. That changes when a manticore the wizard has been keeping prisoner escapes, kills him, and makes a deal with Ananna to help her in return for passage to the manticore’s home, the Island of the Sun.

The manticore is an early and exciting change in The Pirate’s Wish. I can’t recall the last time I saw a…

Green (Green Universe #1) cover image

Part of my disillusionment with Green isn’t Jay Lake’s fault so much as the cover copy. The dustjacket claims this is a novel about a girl raised to be consort to an immortal Duke—which it is. But that’s only about the first third of the novel. If the dustjacket is to be believed, the entire book is about this plot to overthrow the Duke. Actually, Green accomplishes that with ridiculous ease. From there, the story has two more acts: Green’s journey to discover a place she can call home, and Green’s…

The Great and Secret Show cover image

The Great and Secret Show reminds me of the only Tim Powers novel I’ve read, Last Call . And that, for anyone wanting a one-sentence review (contingent upon understanding the nature of my opinion of Last Call), is that.

In many ways, coming across a book that doesn’t interest one even though it’s a good book makes writing a review far more difficult than coming across a bad book. But if one truly reads widely—and it’s something I take pride in doing—then it will happen. So what then?

I could try…