Books, Poetry

a passing glimpse

a passing glimpse, by robert frost

I often see flowers from a passing car
That are gone before I can tell what they are.

I want to get out of the train and go back
To see what they were beside the track.

I name all the flowers I am sure they weren't;
Not fireweed loving where woods have burnt- 

Not bluebells gracing a tunnel mouth- 
Not lupine living on sand and drouth.

Was something brushed across my mind
That no one on earth will ever find?

Heaven gives it glimpses only to those
Not in position to look too close. 

I’ve been quite taken by this poem. It’s beautiful. It catches something – some undefinable, wistful emotion.

Recently, I’ve started to read more poetry. (Though I am still convinced that the best bit of poetry I’ve ever heard of can be found in The Grand Sophy – you know the one – ‘To Sophia, Holding A Lamp’)

Also ‘I’ve started to read more poetry’ seems to imply that I’m reading a lot of poetry. Here. Let me translate it:

want to read more poetry and one evening I was engaged in this very activity. 

And by that I mean I read ten poems. 

I am now a poetry devotee and am obviously an expert.

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Books

basically, i’m doomed

It feels like there’s never enough hours in the day to read everything I want to. I know. It’s a trial and a burden. I don’t know how I bear it.

Also, this isn’t technically a ‘TBR’ list. This is a ‘I’m trying to read all these books at once WITH VERY GREAT SUCCESS’ list.

Unholy Spirits by Gary North

This was recommended to me and so far I have read the dedication and the part of the introduction. I have a free afternoon coming up on Saturday. I intend to devour this book then.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

Honest to goodness, though I adore the Princess Bride, Cary Elwes name drops so. many. times. He’ll say someone’s name and then give you their wikipedia entry. Also: a history of Haddon Hill. Or Hall. I can’t remember. I had to put my kindle down and stare blankly out into the ether after that one.

I thought I left that all behind when I stopped reading G. A. Henty.

Superfreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Sephen J. Dubner

It’s fascinating. It’s wonderful. I’m learning about Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance. Also: it’s taking me forever to finish because I keep forgetting that I’m reading this book.

What Love Is This? by Dave Hunt

I started reading this book, oh, years ago. I’ve restarted it. I read a chapter each morning. I think I’ve been in the middle of it for eons. EONS!!! It’s got to the stage where I’m ticking off chapters, just to feel like I’m making progress.

It’s a good book – I’m enjoying it, it’s making me think (… no jokes, please and thank you) and does raise big questions but at this moment … I’m convinced that it’s like the NeverEnding Story. As in: it never ends.

this may *look* like a grin but it’s probably actually a grimace

The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over the World by Tom Feiling

I am half-way. I have been half-way through this books for a long time. A longggg time. That is all I wish to say about it. At one point, I picked it up and thought: huh, this is really concentrating on cocaine … I wonder if it’ll discuss other drugs?

It is literally entitled ‘How Cocaine Took Over the World’.

A Wind From The Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree

This is probably me being a coward. I read the first chapter, which was ace. HOWEVER, I then started the next one and realised that I was probably going to be emotionally scarred by the book.

I grow too attached to the characters, you see. It always happens. I don’t like it when a) bad things happen to them or b) they make bad decisions.

And guess what? No matter how many times you glare and cringe at the characters … they don’t respond. They don’t change their minds or get out of harm’s way. Ugh. I know. Who’d have thought?!!

happy reading!

Story Time, Travel / Living Abroad

travel despatches: a tale of ice and snow

This was going to be called ‘despatches from a broad’ which would have been a HILARIOUS word-play but I have contained myself.

ice

Moldova has snow. I am acquainted with the idea of it – Canada dunked me in the deep end and taught my British nerves to deal with lots and lots … and lots of snow. But Moldova has ice and the pavements are covered in it.

This is the formula:

  • It snows
  • Pedestrians compact the snow
  • The temperature rises
  • The snow becomes slush
  • Night falls
  • Temperatures plummet
  • Slush turns to ice

I haven’t seen a single Moldovan slip. Not. A. Single. One. I am rather certain that they have superpowers. Extreme balance. Exceptional grip on their shoes. Underhanded understanding with gravity. That, or they’re waiting for me to clear off and get out of sight and then they all slip over magnificently.

A fellow teacher and I made a bet – the first one to slip buys the other a coffee. Now, I was in no way hoping that she would slip over first. But gravity exists and if she were to prove it … well, no harm no foul.

We were crossing the road. I was slightly ahead of my fellow bet-ee (?). She was explaining the terms of our little wager to a mutual friend when her explanation suddenly halted with a sort of sliding plop.

I turned around and there she was, sprawled along the centre of the road. The brilliant red of her coat looking very picturesque against the dark ice. Fortunately, it wasn’t a bad fall. Unfortunately, I was not going to remain unscathed …

pride comes before a fall

I was hoping to avoid slipping. I had visions of lasting through the entire winter with nary a spill. ‘I lasted an ENTIRE winter with VERY icy pavements,’ I would say with great modesty. ‘I didn’t slip ONCE.’

Ha. Haha. Hahaha.

One evening, we were warned that the ice would be exceeding treacherous the next morning. As we gingerly walked back from school – warily looking at the ground as if it was going to snatch at our feet and maliciously laugh all the while – we pointed out patches of the pavements to each other.

‘That bit,’ we’d say, ‘is going to be VERY icy.’

‘This stretch of the road,’ we’d agree, ‘is going to be INSANELY icy.’

‘Tomorrow,’ I said, eyeing a piece of paving in front of me, ‘this is going to be really ic-‘

Up went my feet. Down went my bottom. It was a moment of exquisite irony. My fingers were a little grazed, my behind was slightly bruised but all I could do was emit a stunned laugh.

since then …

We’ve had freezing rain. It’s become slush now but everywhere had a layer of ice. Walking to school reminded me of skiing really fast. (Which, for some people, must be great. But for me? I was never very confident in the stopping part of skiing. Consequently, skiing wasn’t my favourite thing. I was moderately terrified.) My heart was in my throat. My steps were tiny. My prayers were many.

ice. lots and lots of ice.

But so far, God is good and I have survived. I’ve slipped since but that was to do with a glorious and honourable puppy rescuing mission. (This feat of derring-do might become another despatch from a broad … )

(I’M SORRY BUT IT MAKES ME LAUGH.)
Books, Recountings

recountings: batman does community service

I’m a big Batman fan – have been from the moment I peeked over my brother’s shoulder and saw Batman: The Animated Series for the first time. So a book about Batman? This should have been right up my alley. (My Crime Alley I’M SORRY, BRUCE!)

I should give you a head’s up, shouldn’t I? This post is going to go into FULL geek out mode and there’s going to be spoilers for the book. If comics and superheroes and disgruntled readers aren’t your cup of tea – perhaps you should skip this post. If they are: hello and welcome …

Batman: Nightwalker

by Marie Lu

THE PROBLEMATIC AND IMPROBABLE PREMISE

  • You are eighteen years old.
  • You’ve just come into your trust fund.
  • You are a billionaire.
  • You crash your car in order to catch a criminal, accidentally disrupting a police chase
  • You are sentenced to community service in an insane asylum that houses the criminally insane. For example serial killers and rapists and your friendly neighbourhood murderous nut-jobs
I KNEW Gotham’s justice system was broken
  • while there, you become drawn to Madeleine, a girl your age with a ‘canopy of eyelashes’ who has hair which ‘spills over her shoulders like a river of midnight’
  • who, coincidently, IS ACCUSED OF MURDERING THREE PEOPLE IN COLD BLOOD
*record screech* Yes. I know. I have many thoughts about this too.

THE LOVE INTEREST – BRUCE, OL’CHUM, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Listen. Batman has made some questionable decisions in the love department. (*cough* Talia Al Ghul *cough cough*) Remember that episode in B:TAS where he married that literal plant lady?* At least he had an excuse for it – Poison Ivy had pollen’d him.**

Maybe the author was trying to continue this trend. But Catwoman exists (and that book in the DC Icons series doesn’t, okay?) and I have some objections to Madeleine …

a) she is described farrrr too much: entire paragraphs are dedicated to her, her hair, her eyelashes, her eyes, her face, her personality etc etc.

… her hair spilling behind her like a dark ocean.

page 117

b) remember that scene from Sherlock – the one where he’s deduces ‘your sister has a drinking problem and you’ve got PTSD and enjoy crumpets with raspberry jam for breakfast’? Madeleine does this. But about Bruce’s emotions. Through prison glass. Based on a handful of interactions.

This leads me to conclude that Bruce must have a VERY expressive face. Which is probably why he covers it with a cowl. OHMYWORD THIS IS WHY HE BECOMES BATMAN!!

‘FO SURE

c) She tells a disguised Bruce that she knows who he is because of his gait. (Does he walk like a sideways crab? Is he from the Ministry of Silly Walks?)

I HAVE QUESTIONS!

d) She’s written as so goshdarn cool and aloof. (Bruce is impressed with her because she doesn’t look at her interrogators. She stares straight ahead. I should do the same. Maybe I’ll blink once in a while. It’ll blow his mind.)

There’s more, but it’s all far too much. Far. Too. Much. Is she a Mary-Sue? Hmmm. She isn’t quite a cardboard cut out complete with glorious hair – it’s simply that I strongly object to her. And her hair. She quotes Sherlock Holmes to a future Batman. IS NOTHING SACRED?!!

BRIEF PAUSE FOR A FOOD ANALOGY

It’s like some cookies I once made. I thought to myself – you know what I like? Cookies. You know what makes them really good? Sugar and chocolate. *lightbulb moment* If I pour A TON OF SUGAR AND CHOCOLATE INTO THE MIX IT WILL MAKE THEM THE BEST COOKIES EVER.

They looked terrible, and tasted worse.

Madeleine is the cookie. Sugar and chocolate are the coolness factors. A blue whale’s worth of weight has been poured in. It doesn’t work. You can have too much of a good thing. In fact, you can have so much of it that it needs to be binned and you need to find a new recipe.

In fact, you need to actually use one.

I didn’t, and yes, I do have regrets.

BRUCE WAYNE – BATMAN IN TRAINING

I didn’t mind the Bruce Wayne in the book too much. I could see slight influences of the Animated Series creeping in. But these were drowned out by two undeniable truths:

  1. He falls in love with Madeleine.
  2. He is too well-adjusted

Listen, Batman – for better or worse – is always unless DC actually let him BE HAPPY FOR ONCE ultimately going to be that boy sitting beside the bodies of his dead parents. Lost. Alone. Hurting.

There wasn’t much of that in the book. It tries. But it felt a little clunky. As if it didn’t quite fit. Which is odd for a book about Batman. Most of the angst is about … something else. Or rather, someone else. Bruce has nightmares ‘haunted by shadows or dark halls or a girl with long black hair‘ and he does bond with Madeleine over having dead parents.

so really it’s almost canon

But I wasn’t sold on the idea that this Bruce Wayne was going to don a cowl and fight crime dressed as a bat, full of harnessed rage and never – ever – seeking therapy.

THE REST

  • I liked Bruce’s gym. It was VR and seemed really quite awesome.
  • The technology in the story was rather spiffing.
  • Alfred was in the story. Harvey Dent was given more character development.
  • Hanging out in Gotham was quite nice
  • The writing was good. (Even for the hair. It was very picturesque. I just didn’t understand why it was featured so prominently. Was it magical – like Rapunzul’s?)

Her long black hair hung straight and shining over her shoulders, glinting blue underneath the slivers of light slicing the floors and walls.

PAGE 180

TO SUM UP …

I guess we all have an idea of how our fictional heroes should be portrayed in our heads. What I might think is authentically Batman, others might think is terrible and wrong. And vice versa. And that’s okay.

I don’t usually venture too far into the world of YA genre, so perhaps my views are already slightly skewed. Perhaps Madeleine is the way all YA heroines are written. Either way … this book wasn’t for me. I enjoyed a few parts of it, and was terribly frustrated with the rest.

goodreads // amazon

… you know what I have enjoyed though? Batman GIFS. There’s a veritable multitude!

Happy Reading!

*Batman: The Animated Series, Season 4, Episode 22 ‘Chemistry’

** YES, THIS IS A TERM I’VE JUST MADE UP. NO, I HAVE NO REGRETS.

Books, Life

books. packing. travel. decisions

Next week, I return to Eastern Europe for five months. I want to pack as simply as possible. And by that I mean ‘pack as many books as I can possibly jam into my bags’.

Here’s a handy little guide for you so that you too can fill your bags with as many books as possible …

i’ve done this before #noragrats
*** DISCLAMIER ***
I know, I know – just take a kindle, you can take hundreds of books that way. Sure. Do that. I have done and will do … but I also take physical books with me.  BECAUSE I HAVE TO OKAY???

HOW MUCH SPACE DO I HAVE?

  • a carry on case
  • a laptop bag

CRITERIA:

THE BOOK MUST NOT BE A STOOPID CHOICE

Weight and space are limited in your bag, so you need to take books that will be useful, that you can reread or that will take absolute yonks to consume.

For this reason, I’m taking two books on teaching and grammar and a book with creative writing exercises.

THE BOOK MUST NOT BE TOO HEAVY

… or it can be. (Rules are made to be broken, or so the saying goes.) I’m taking a 500+ page hardback about Calvinism with me. I’ve been wanting to read it for years and now is the time.

But – if you can – try and avoid hardbacks. If the book is thick – having it in paperback could be the way to go. I’m doing this too – taking The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore with me (600+ pages. Also I’ve just sniffed them and is there anything better than the smell of books?)

i just REALLY love books, okay?

THE BOOK MUST NOT BE PRICELESS

though i’ve just learned that i’m missing one so OOPS

Travelling with your books is dangerous – for the books, at least. Though you try your very best to keep them in a pristine condition … it’s quite impossible sometimes.

So choose a book you’re not happy to be battered, but you’ll at least be okay with it turning up a little worse for wear.

I’m bringing a paperback set of the Pit Dragon Chronicles by Jane Yolen. I paid a dollar a piece for them so if they get a little worn, I shan’t be too concerned.

THE BOOK MUST BE A HEYER

Because OBVIOUSLY.

I nearly considered leaving her behind as I have many on my kindle HOWEVER … this moment of profound foolishness has since passed and I’m taking Frederica with me. (Cotillion may slip in or replace it, I’m not sure.)


I may not actually finish all these books – I will be teaching, after all, and life will be moderately busy. But having my books about me is the same as being surrounded by friends. And I adore my friends.

Also, I’ll be taking my Bible, a book I borrowed from someone, and a few notebooks.

… I don’t have a problem. I just have priorities. And who needs clothes anyway?