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Monday, November 9, 2015

Life Update: I'm Still Alive, Just Busy

Just your typical "I'm Still Alive, Just Busy" life update blog post. My last post was on September 1st and there have been many things that have happened in my life since, including a potential MAJOR life change coming soon... I think I'll try to keep it brief though.

After the horror that was my $6,000 mistake, I began my new job as a university prof trying to get students interested in palaeontology! It is loads of work, but it honestly hasn't felt too overwhelming because I've been genuinely enjoying preparing and giving lectures. Teaching can be frustrating if the students are unwilling to be taught, but very rewarding with enthusiastic participants!

My (empty) view of my lecture room from the podium

I've also been diligently working on my thesis and am hoping to defend at the beginning of December. In mid-October, I presented the research that comprises the third chapter of my thesis at a palaeontology conference in Dallas. I think my presentation went pretty well! It's pretty crazy how far I've come with public speaking to large audiences... from utterly terrified to nearly comfortable!

Conference room where I gave my talk
X marks the spot: my hotel was only a brief walk from the site where JFK was assassinated, noted by an "X" on the road

In between my work, I've had some inkling of a social life: going out to dinner with friends, attending a Paint Nite meeting with Ambur (which was fun!), and even having my dad come visit so that he could attend one of my lectures (which was nice!).

Paint Nite with Ambur: fun times! Just don't look at our "birds" too closely...

As for reading, well that's unfortunately fallen by the wayside quite a bit. I have been trying to keep up with my reading goal for the year by listening to more audiobooks whilst doing other tasks, but the reading of physical books has been lacking for some time. I keep telling myself that I just need to push for a few weeks longer, get my thesis and teaching work done, then hopefully I'll have much more free time to read to my heart's content!

During my morning commute, I've been catching up on everyone's blog posts with my feed reader, but I admit it's not quite the same as getting to really interact with you guys. I hope I can get back to a regular blogging schedule soon. After all, I need to fangirl over the new Fantastic Beasts set pics and my thoughts on the new Cormoran Strike novel (which was excellent, btw!).

Anyways, that's me. I'd love to know what you guys have been up to lately!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August Recap: The Biggest Mistake

As I mentioned in my last recap, I didn't think I was going to have a lot of time to blog in August. Well, it turned out even worse than I expected because I ended up having no time at ALL to blog this month. And unfortunately, I'm only going be busier in the month of September (more on that later).

A major factor keeping me down this month was due to a most unfortunate incident and what may be THE biggest and most expensive mistake of my life... I spilled coffee all over my laptop in which all my thesis files are stored (and which I haven't backed up in some time)! F.M.L.
My set-up for drying out my laptop
So yeah. My laptop is currently in the hands of a skilled repairman and I have been without it for over three weeks now. What I consider even more important than my laptop is all of my thesis files, however, and after being scared sh*tless that I had potentially lost all the progress I had made on my thesis these past few months, I am happy to report that the repair guy was recently able to retrieve all the files stored on my laptop's hard-drive.

Unfortunately, this good news comes too late for me and I will no longer be able to defend my thesis and complete my master's degree in the next month as I had hoped. As a result, I will now have to pay another full semester's tuition, in addition to having to buy another laptop, thus making this incident possibly the biggest and most expensive mistake of my life... Life sucks sometimes.

So if you'll excuse me, I'd like to take this moment to preach at all of you: BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER. DO IT NOW. I literally thought about doing it just the day prior to the incident and then I got distracted. Don't let this happen! Think about the consequences of my own stupidity and do it NOW and do it regularly. Because you just never know...

Anyways, I did have some brief periods of fun this month between all this stress. Starting on the 1st of August, it was my birthday! My mum made the last minute decision to fly out east to visit me so I wouldn't be alone on my birthday and we ended up making the best of the long weekend. For my birthday we went to see a production of Kinky Boots in the theatre district and it should go without saying that it was a hella entertaining show:
Kinky Boots!

Also in August, my friend Ambur of Burning Impossibly Bright moved to Toronto to pursue her publishing dreams and I was thrilled to get to hang out with her a few times this month:
Freezie excitement
Happiness! Ambur is so lovely and so easy to talk to. I loved showing her around downtown Toronto and shopping for "grownup" clothes for my new job, and I look forward to more fun times with her in Toronto!

I did have some time to read in August (honestly I needed to read to escape from the stress so I made time for it), but I can't think of one book that stood out as the BEST of the month for me. So here are a few books that I equally enjoyed from August, all solid 4 Star reads, and that I will hopefully be able to review sometime... eventually:

So yes, as I said I don't expect to be super active on the blog for September as I will be trying to make up the time lost not working on my thesis due to my computer issues. And then there's my new job...

I haven't shared much about it because it's still so surreal to me that I've been given this opportunity: this fall I will be a course instructor at the university, lecturing 3 hours a week to 150 students. I'm obviously hugely under-qualified for this job (they wanted someone with a PhD and a teaching degree and instead they're getting some schlub who hasn't even finished her master's degree), so I was clearly the only one who applied for the job. It's going to be a lot of work for very little pay (the university doesn't have to pay grad students very much - see my post about the grad student strike from earlier on this year), but I am prepared to put my everything into this position. So in addition to completing my thesis and working on a conference talk, I have been preparing lectures, exams, and assignments for the semester. I am both extremely excited and extremely terrified by the responsibility I have been given for this job! But it will likely result in less blog posting for the remainder of the year. I will be doing my best to catch up with all my blog friends in the months to come though! Miss you guys, lots and lots!!

Previously, my July Recap: The Long Overdue Harry Potter Reread

Thursday, July 30, 2015

July Recap: The Long Overdue Harry Potter Reread

July was a very quiet month for me, mainly owing to the fact that the bf was away doing field work on the other side of the country, leaving me to spend most of my time on my own. It was thus a bit of a lonely month for me, but it was thankfully made a bit more endurable by my reread of the Harry Potter Series:

This was the first time I've reread the series in its entirety since before I started blogging! In other words, I was WAY overdue for this reread. July seemed like the ideal month to delve back into the series as it is Harry and Jo's birthday month and it coincides with the Harry Potter Month event. I would really love to make this series reread an annual event itself in my reading schedule because I was basically LIVING for HP for significant portions of this month. Of course my love for Harry has never wavered in the time since I last reread the series, but it felt more amazing than I could possibly say to be able to reacquaint myself with this world I adore so much and would die to see for myself, these characters whom I love to the moon and back, and those words that had such an positive impact on my reading habits when I first read them and continue to do so to this very day.

Yes, this reread of the HP series somehow solidified my love for all things Harry Potter even more... and also really brought into sharper focus for me how lacklustre the movie adaptations are in comparison. Of course I've always been of the opinion that the books are superior, but rereading them back to back in conjunction with watching the movies really showed all the many, many failings of the movies in comparison to the books. I won't go into detail on this topic here as that could be a post on its own, but I will just say that in the end I think I could still objectively view the movies in a somewhat positive light... but ultimately they will never even be in the same realm of the boundless love I feel for the books.

In other news, I have been extremely fortunate to have been appointed a job for the fall semester that will involve much more responsibility and many more hours work than any other teaching job I've had at the university thus far. As a result, I'm thinking I will not be around in the blogosphere as much for the month of August as I prepare for this, the highest ranking position I've had in my lifetime (oh, and there's also that 200-page-long thesis that I've been writing and hoping to finish soon...). I'll have to see how it goes!

Blog Posts in July

Drowning In Series
Waiting On Wednesday: HarperCollins Fall 2015 Catalog
Waiting On Wednesday: Hachette Fall 2015 Catalog
Review: Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer - 3.5 Stars
Review: Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan - 3.5 Stars
Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - 4 Stars
Series Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead - 3 Stars
My Life in June: Mad Max, Jurassic World, and Serial Podcast

Best Book Read in July

First off, let's just pretend I didn't reread the Harry Potter Series this month. The following was my favourite read of the month OUTSIDE of HP:

This Song Will Save Your Life really resonated with me so deeply that it was both uncomfortable and supremely meaningful. I just really connected with the main character, her life struggles, and her earnest perspective. There were times that the story became so depressing that it was hard to read... but the uplifting ending made the experience totally worth it. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Published: January 1, 2012
Pages: 336
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 Stars

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

In short: Eleanor & Park is unlike any YA Contemporary Romance out there and it is that, combined with Rainbow Rowell's talent at crafting genuine characters who experience earnest love, which makes it so special.
Eleanor & Park is not the kind of book I think of when I think of YA Contemporary Romance. And that's absolutely a good thing. Neither Eleanor nor Park are described as being model- or movie-star-good-looking as are most star-crossed lovers of YA fiction. There's nothing remotely exceptional about them, actually. And their relationship isn't punctured with the over-dramatic cliched conflicts or the nonsensical hurdles that pepper the contemporary romance genre. Eleanor & Park is an unabashedly real, uncliched tale of love between two average people and it is that which makes it so remarkable.

Admittedly, I wasn't immediately swept up in their relationship. There was a bit of a disconnect for me between the moment when Eleanor and Park were impassive towards each other on the bus and the moment when they were sweetly holding hands with each other on the bus. But thankfully Rainbow Rowell soon convinced me that theirs was a love so earnest that it was worth cherishing. Rainbow is also a master crafter of genuine characters and thus it was not long until both Eleanor and Park seemed as real to me as actual people, both endowed with plenty of teenage angst, but both sincere and very dear to me.

Eleanor & Park is unlike any YA Contemporary Romance out there and it is this uniqueness in the genre, combined with Rainbow Rowell's talent at crafting genuine characters who experience earnest love, that makes it such a stand-out and special read. Eleanor & Park is only the second book by Rainbow Rowell I have read and, though I didn't love it as much as Fangirl, my special experience with it has solidified my love for all things Rainbow. I can't wait to follow up this experience with her adult books!

Other Reviews:
Alison Can Read
Books in the Spotlight
A Girl, Books and Other Things

Author Links:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: Hachette Fall 2015 Catalog

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine in which upcoming, eagerly anticipated releases are highlighted on the blog.

This week, I've chosen to feature a few picks from the Hachette Fall 2015 Catalog:

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith
Date: October 20, 2015
Add to Goodreads

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.
Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.
Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.

New Cormoran Strike coming our way from Queen Jo!! I'm SO excited for Career of Evil because the first two mysteries in the Cormoran Strike Series were fantastic. Plus, I'm really curious where Cormoran and Robin's story will go next!

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Date: October 20, 2015
Add to Goodreads

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball.
Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

An alternate universe in which the Axis won World War II instead of the Allies? Colour me intrigued. Wolf By Wolf has been getting some great buzz and has been compared to Code Name Verity and Inglourious Basterds (two of my faves) so I'm definitely looking forward to this one!

Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger
Date: November 3, 2015
Add to Goodreads

When a dastardly Pickleman plot comes to fruition, only Sophronia can save her friends, her school, and all of London...but at what cost? Our proper young heroine puts her training and skills to the test in this highly anticipated conclusion of the rousing, intriguing, and always polished New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

That's a very short synopsis for Manners & Mutiny - maybe the publisher doesn't want to reveal too much about the finale to the beloved Finishing School Series? Whatever the reason, I'm looking forward to getting back to Sophronia and the gang for one last round of espionage!

How about you? Are you waiting on any of these Hachette Fall 2015 reads? Are there any upcoming books from the Hachette Fall 2015 Catalog that I didn't include here that you feel I should add to my list?