The full effect of my almost 3-month vacation is finally kicking in: I am a veritable reading machine. I’m also watching a ton of movies and television, and having Zimbabwean adventures a plenty. Thus, this is a long post. Like, really long. And, despite the fact that I am currently living in a southern African country, I am still faithfully participating in “What I’m Into”, hosted by the lovely Leigh Kramer. Because, as I’m sure Leigh would agree, reading is a ‘must-do’ item on my ‘to do’ list, regardless of which time zone I’m living in.
Books I’m Reading
- Found – Micha Boyett: In spite of my fairly narrow experience of church, re: denominations (I’ve attended Alliance, Mennonite Brethren, non-denominational with Baptist roots and Brethren in Christ), I am loving Micha Boyett’s focus on Benedictine practices. In some ways, this book reminds me of The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris, primarily because they both ask the question: what does faith mean in the context of regular life? Really exited to get further into this book.
- Gardens of the Moon – Steven Erikson: Still slowly working my way through this one, although with a lot more momentum than when I first started. I think this is my problem with high fantasy: I really just want to read too fast to catch everything important. Thankfully, after making it through about half of the book, I am confidently interested and things make much more sense. With less than 100 pages to go, I think I have enough momentum to read the second book.
- The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater: Big crisis here. Somehow, I missed uploading a few (crucial middle) discs of the audio book to my iPod before I left for Zimbabwe. Thus, this book will remain on my “currently reading” list until I’m back in Canada (or until I can find an e-book version of it via the library). Alack and alas.
Books I’ve Read
- An Abundance of Katherines – John Green: Although I didn’t love this book as much as I loved Looking for Alaska or The Fault in our Stars, it was still a really solid book (thus confirming that I like John Green, not just two of his books). John Green does such an excellent job of a) being a nerd, and b) being inside the heads of teenagers everywhere. Well done, John; well done.
- Daughter of Smoke & Bone – Laini Taylor: I unabashedly love young adult literature, which is probably because it is the genre that convinced me to read again after finishing my BA in English. There is nothing like required reading to deaden your love of reading! The language in this book is beautiful, and the details were just weird enough to make things interesting. Once I started reading this book, I really had trouble putting it down.
- Days of Blood & Starlight – Laini Taylor: Not quite as good as the first book in the series, but still a fun read. As I’ve found to be true of many young adult book series, the attempt to make the story more complex detracts from what I loved so much about the first installment. Nonetheless, I will definitely read the third book when it is released in a few months, because: escapism.
- Friday Night Lights – H.G. Bissinger: I don’t think I’ve read any other books about (or even distantly related to) sports, but I imagine this book would rate near the top of the list even if I had. Definitely a book about football, but more so about how football holds a community together (or tears a community apart). A truly fascinating read, even if you could care less about football. The amount of detail that Bissinger gleaned from his year in small town Texas is quite impressive.
- Matched – Ally Condie: Another young adult dystopian novel, as per usual for my recreational reading taste. It was good, although I have certainly read better YA dystopia. Nonetheless, I requested the second book in the series from the library because: why not? I’m on an extended vacation in Zimbabwe and I have plenty of time to read whatever I want.
- Otherhood – Melanie Notkin: I had high hopes for this book, especially in light of the research I did over the summer for my lifespan development class. As it turns out, this book is directed at an extremely specific audience: women over the age of 35/40 who are single and want to be mothers. As a married woman without children, I had hoped that this book would deal more with issues of identity rather than spend infinite pages transcribing cocktail conversations of angry 35+ women. Overall, quite a disappointment. You can read my full review here.
- Pastrix – Nadia Bolz-Weber: I have really come to love spiritual autobiographies in the past two years, and this book was no exception. Bolz-Weber is definitely on my list of people I wish I was BFFs with. Her book is irreverent (the first word of the whole book is “shit”), humorous, heartbreaking and insightful. This woman loves Jesus and is a real, messy human, and I love her for it. Plus I am always intrigued to read about other denominations of the church (in this case, Lutheran) that I don’t know much about.
Films I’ve Watched
- Cloud Atlas - I cheated by watching this movie before I read the book, but I am fairly certain that the book is infinitely better than the movie (if only for clarity). It was interesting, extremely long, and ultimately an okay film in my opinion. A handful of actors playing a number of different characters is, however, quite fascinating.
- The Descendants – This is a film that Graeme and I intended to watch a long time ago, and never got around to watching. I had no idea what it was about, and had no expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised by how great this film is. Poignant and painful for sure, but also quite humorous. Plus, it gave me more hope for Shailene Woodley playing Tris Prior in Divergent.
- Pitch Perfect - I watch a lot of random movies on television because a) there is television at my house, and b) these 3-ish months in Zimbabwe are an extended vacation for me. Subsequently, I watched Pitch Perfect. More than once. Definitely not a good film by any stretch of the meaning, but it was a great musical pick-me-up.
- Pompeii - Considering most of the movies showing at our local theatre have been absolute garbage, we decided seeing Pompeii was an alright decision in spite of its negative reviews (especially because we saw it on cheap night for $2). I had low expectations, and they were all met. As another friend helpfully summarized, Jon Snow Versus the Volcano. I won’t spoil the ending.
- Reign of Fire – You read that correctly. I watched (well, more realistically, “watched”; I was reading or writing at the same time) this utterly ridiculous film about dragons. Although I have to admit, at least dragons are a relatively unique reason for the end of the world. In other news, Gerard Butler and Christian Bale are in this movie. Them, and a lot of fire and helpless children.
- The Way, Way Back – Not quite as funny as I had hoped, but still a good film. Having worked in a high school, I can say that this is a very accurate portrayal of what mid-teen boys are like. AKA: awkward.
- The Wolf of Wall Street - WOW debauchery. Leonardo DiCaprio played this role fabulously, and I’m always happy to see the bad guys get what’s coming to them, but goodness. No wonder this film was banned in Zimbabwean theatres. There is rampant nudity, frequent drug use (and drug glorification), and nearly constant profanity. Certainly not a film for the faint of heart when it comes to that sort of content. A film that I am fairly hesitant to recommend, just because the content is so extreme.
Stuff I’ve Done
- Attended a reception at the Canadian ambassador’s house which was coincidentally on my birthday (because: this is how we do). And, because I’m a huge dork, we took a photo with the ambassador prior to leaving the reception, which pictured at the top of this post. Strangely enough, we met someone at the reception who knows a close friend from BC that now lives in Australia. ‘Tis a small world indeed.
- Turned 28! Unlike my husband (who is ever-fearful of his mortality), I thoroughly enjoy getting older. Perhaps I’ll feel differently when my 30th birthday rolls around, but for now, I am more than happy to be a woman in my late 20s.
- Watched the Olympic gold medal match for men’s hockey (Canada versus Sweden) at another event hosted by the Canadian ambassador. My husband claims convincing the ambassador to host a party as his only diplomatic success, which I think is the perfect Canadian success to have. Also, family managed to get a package to us just before the game so we had matching Olympic t-shirts to wear (sports are the only instance in which dressing like your spouse is acceptable).
- Visited Antelope Park and played with baby lions, aka: made all of my dreams come true. I won’t say much else because you can see my full post about the park here. But it was amazing.
Television I’ve Watched
- House of Cards, Season 2: The first season of House of Cards is one of my favourite seasons of television ever produced (a bold statement, considering just how much television my husband and I watch). Season 2, however, was a bit of a disappointment. There were too many new characters introduced to keep track of, and too many elements of the plot that were totally unbelievable. I am still fascinated by Frank and Claire Underwood, as they are both terrifying and powerful. If Season 1 was a 5 out of 5, I’d likely rate this season a 3.75. Shallowly, Claire Underwood is my fashion icon.
- Top Gear: First of all, let me be clear: this is not just a show about cars. In fact, cars are sometimes a bit of an afterthought in this show. Really, it is three mostly older and mostly grumpy men, traipsing around the planet, being old and grumpy and destroying various forms of transportation. Also, celebrity guests! Most of whom I don’t know, but that is beside the point. Watching this show is a bit of a side effect of living with my husband and another male housemate, and having actual television. But I’ve grown to love it.
- Who Wants to be a Millionaire: Another side effect of having regular television, and of there being relatively little to do in the evenings here in Harare. Interesting though, because this is the UK version of the show, which means there are often random $200 questions that none of us are able to answer (what with being Canadians and all). Nonetheless, fun to watch over dinner.
* Full disclosure: There are Amazon Associate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. Also, I received advance reader’s copies of both Otherhood and Found, but my thoughts and opinions are my own.