February turned out to be a lot busier than anticipated, primarily due to a teaching position I was offered at the university that was very, very last-minute. But yay, I managed to squeeze in four books during my (sometimes sleepy) bedtime reading!
4. Alexander Pushkin – The Queen of Spades and Other Stories (trans. Rosemary Edmonds; Penguin) (8 Feb)
5. Joanna Briscoe – You (17 Feb)
6. Jennifer E. Smith – The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (22 Feb)
7. Vladimir Nabokov – Despair (28 Feb)
One of my favourite ways to spend a free(-ish) afternoon is to amble into the kitchen, switch on the radio, and play with my mixing bowls. A few weeks ago, when my afternoon/evening plans fell through and I didn’t want to clock any ‘over-time’, I decided to flip through my trusty copy of Nick Malgieri’s How to Bake in search of something to use up some soon-to-be out-of-date eggs—and lo, on page 280, I found his ‘Easy Pound Cake’. Named after its historic 1-1-1-1 ratio of butter, eggs, flour, and sugar (in pounds—hence the name), this cake is fairly common, but one I hadn’t made before. So I pulled over my apron, rolled up my sleeves, and got down to some serious hand-mixing.
The gorgeous darling.
January wasn’t anywhere near as booktastic as I would’ve liked, but the three I’d finished were all very enjoyable. I had decided to start working on the Classics Reading challenge first, and now I’m finding it hard to put down those lovely old books!
1. E. Nesbit – The Story of the Treasure Seekers (3 Jan)
2. Elizabeth Gaskell – Mary Barton (16 Jan)
3. Aeschylus – Prometheus Bound, The Suppliants, Seven Against Thebes, The Persians (trans. Philip Vellacott) (31 Jan)
As always, I’ve included cover images of the version I’d picked up. Some of them were a little difficult to find, so please pardon the poor image quality!
Two weeks ago, I had the honour of attending my first Irish wedding reception, which was a flamboyant affair with lots of good craic. The reception was held in Carlingford in County Louth, Ireland, which is about a two-hour drive from Belfast. I carpooled with two friends, and we decided to make a weekend out of it—it turned out we had excellent timing, because the weather was magnificent, the sun was out, and everything was green and beautiful and picturesque. And I thought, well, why not make a blog post out of some of the photos I’d taken.
A few facts about Carlingford:
- Carlingford is an Irish coastal town with an urban population of about 1,000 people;
- The town is about 11km south of the border with Northern Ireland, and 90km north of Dublin;
- Carlingford has a castle! King John’s Castle is named after King John, who reigned from 1199–1216, was younger brother of Richard the Lionheart, and has his own Shakespearean history play (surely the highest honour attainable by a British monarch or Roman figure). Unfortunately, work on restoring parts of the castle (it’s pretty darn old!) has been “under construction” for many, many years, and the inner castle remains inaccessible;
- There are remains of a Dominican Friary, which was established in the 14th Century; and
- You can grab a pint of Guinness at Taaffe’s Castle, which is basically a pub in a castle. It’s really all about the Guinness and the castles.
One of the wee Medieval streets in Carlingford. We had a lovely time meandering through these and going into the homely little shops.
The view of Carlingford’s town centre from a road along the coast.
Back in December, a friend asked me about where I am in Irelandisland, and for some recommendations of things to do in my area. Since first moving to Belfast in September 2012, I’ve not snapped many photos of the city in a super touristy capacity, so when my friend made her request, I spent a day or two carrying around a camera and playing tourist.
But first, a few little facts about this wee city:
- Belfast is the capital and the largest city of Northern Ireland, and has a population of 580,000 in the metropolitan area (thank you, Wikipedia);
- The name “Belfast” comes from the Irish “Béal Feirste”, which means “sandy ford at river mouth”, and the city is a major port;
- Although Northern Ireland is physically located on the island of Ireland, it is politically (though I use that term warily) part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and uses the UK international dialling code as well as the Pound Sterling;
- That being said, the rest of the UK sometimes forgets about Northern Ireland, and many services/shops/etc in Great Britain (consisting of England, Scotland, and Wales) don’t have branches or even deliver to Northern Ireland;
- Northern Ireland became such in 1921, when the island of Ireland was partitioned between Northern and Southern Ireland;
- The “South”/Republic of Ireland is a different country, with a different currency (the Euro), and different official languages (Irish and English). And although locals sometimes refer to Ireland as “the South”, there are parts of Ireland that extend to the north of the Ireland, such as County Donegal (it can all get a little confusing);
- When things get confusing, drink Guinness;
- The Titanic was built in Belfast, and shipped off to Southampton (in England) where it set sail;
- Game of Thrones is filmed in Belfast and around Northern Ireland (which may have influenced my decision to move here); and
- You can become an extra on Game of Thrones through an extras company, but in order to sign up for the company, you have to have a Northern Irish National Insurance Number (basically an Australian Tax File Number or an American Social Security Number), and in order to do that, you can’t be elsewhere in the UK, but must be living and working in Northern Ireland (see above parenthetical note).
And now, here are a few photos of this wee city:
Just a little street, with lovely terraced houses.
A lovely little river underneath a lovely little bridge. Unfortunately, the grey sky is all too common a sight.
I had so much fun with my two reading challenges from 2014, I’ve decided to sign up for four more in 2015, and also host (and participate in) my own reading challenge.
Yup, you’ve read that right—I’ll be taking on five reading challenges in 2015. Thankfully, I’ve been frequenting my local library lately, which means I won’t be amassing too many books here that may need to be donated once/if I leave this part of the world. And if I get super duper desperate, I can always include an academic monographs or fifty. (Actually, no, I won’t. My only self-imposed pre-requisite for these books is that they are to be “funfunfun” and unrelated to my PhD research.)
The five challenges I’ve decided to take on are:
- Authors A to Z Reading Challenge
- Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge
- Monthly Key Word Challenge
- Monthly Motif Challenge
- Back to the Classics Challenge
Here’s my list for the 2015 Authors A to Z Reading Challenge, which I’ll update throughout the year.
A massive thanks to those who have signed up for the 2015 Authors A to Z Reading Challenge—I hope you’re all as excited as I am to dig into those delicious books!
A few of you have commented on the difficulty of finding Q, X, and Z authors, and I thought I’d compile a list of suggestions. Q and Z were surprisingly easy to find (as evidenced by a browse through my local library and Oxfam bookshop), but X has been quite a tricky one indeed.
Q: Anthony Quinn; Karen Quinn; Julia Quinn; Amanda Quick; Erica Quest; Matthew Quick, Ellery Queen (thanks, Karen!). Also check out Wiki.
X: XU Xi; XUE Xinran; Malcom X (thanks, Lisa!).
Z: Carlos Ruiz Zafón; Paul Zindel; Markus Zusak; Cecily von Ziegesar; Helen Zahavi, Emile Zola; Gabrielle Zevin (thanks, Karen!). Also check out Wiki.
If you know of any other authors, please let me know in a comment and I’ll add it to the list. Hope this helps!
This is certainly been quite a busy book year for me, during which I read a total of 57 “funfunfun” books. Pair this with the kazillion things I have to read for work (a PhD in Shakespeare), and it’s no wonder my eyesight has gone out the window!
My booktastic Christmas tree this year.
I’m also really pleased to have completed both the reading challenges I decided to take up back in March. I’m really glad I decided to take on the challenges, because they motivated me to read some fantastic books I wouldn’t have otherwise come across (though I’ve also had to trawl through some pretty awful stuff). So here are all the non-work books I read in 2014:
December was a pretty interesting month (as I’m sure it was for you as well), but I managed to read all the books I’d needed to finish both my 2014 reading challenges. I’ll be putting together a wrap-up posts of sorts in the next few days, but for now, here are the books I read this past month:
53. Robert M. Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (6 Dec)
54. Arnošt Lustig – Lovely Green Eyes (14 Dec)
55. Marcus Pfister – The Rainbow Fish (15 Dec)
56. Barbara Kyle – The Queen’s Captive (25 Dec)
57. Emily Gillmor Murphy – You & I (26 Dec)