Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Books I've Read

This year/since I arrived here I have read a handful of books. Which I wanted to keep track of along with a bit of what I thought of 'em. This is one of those things I want a record of for myself as much--if not more than-- I believe you will be interested/fascinated by what I'm posting, but nonetheless enjoy:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Such an amazingly beautiful, if significantly sad book. I've loved all of the John Green books that I've read so far (as in I own multiple copies of more than one of them so I can lend them to everyone I meet who hasn't read them yet.)   He manages to pull off a girl's perspective of the narrator impressively well for never having been a sixteen-year-old girl himself. I didn't mind that the characters are a little overly-witty-and-wise for their age, mostly because I enjoyed their wit and wisdom I think. Plus there are very few books that flow easily between using mathematical concepts and poetry. It's awesome.

 "Some infinities are bigger than other infinities."
This is one of very few books to have made me cry (repeatedly). Yet I fully plan on rereading it as soon as I get home to my sloppily signed paper copy. Added bonus here's John Green reading the first chapter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_vFvbfn9Fs

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight By Jennifer
When John Green suggests books written by Nerdfighters I almost always go and get them on my Kindle then very mush enjoy them. This is one of those books and I did indeed every much enjoy it. I feel like this would be a perfect book for a long flight, because it was a fun fast read and largely because it centers on a couple who meet at the airport and get to know each other on the plane ride. Along the way to falling in love, they have some witty conversations and make clever observations and all. The narrator's point of view was slightly odd - maybe because I had just finished a string of books written first-person, but I kept getting a bit distracted when I realized it wasn't from her point of view. It wasn't that bad or anything, just lots of little wait-she?-aren't-I-already-in-her-brain?-oh-yeah-nope-not-in-this-book-moments.  In a lot of ways it felt almost like reading a movie, in that it was a very contained story - all taking place over the course of one of those can't-remember-the-last-time-you-slept-long travel days which overseas flights result in.  Although it's not classic lit or anything I would recommend it, especially to pass time in an airport.

The Paris Wife By Paula McLain
I was looking for something to read on my Kindle at the same time as I was planning my Paris trip so the title jumped out at me. Then I saw it was about Hemingway and his first wife, very exciting, because I'm trying to get my hand on A Movable Feast -- Hemingway's memoir about Paris (and still not having much luck on that front so far). I downloaded and started it the week before I headed to Paris at the beginning of the month.
It's one of those books where you start off knowing what's going to happen, as happy and in love as they both seem in the beginning, you know that Hemingway is not a guy famous for his long happy stable marriage. But it was well written and engrossing even if you know what's coming. McLain captures the artist-infested-wonderfulness of 1920s Paris, and Hemingway before he wrote anything of note, and the flappers who were "Decorative and unfathomable and all made of silver". I read it quickly and I really liked it, plus it made my trip to Paris even more exciting.

There's No Place Like Here  By Ceiclia Ahern
I've read Ceiclia Ahern's P.S. I Love You and Love, Rosie before and enjoyed both. Although she makes me feel like an under-achiever since she is not that much older than me and has published lots and lots of books including one that's been made into movie with very wonderful Scotish-pretending-to-be-Irish-men (not that we've watched P.S. I Love You multiple times since arriving here or anything, no that would be ridiculous, we wouldn't do that.)  I used the Amazon-Prime-Kindle-book-lending-deal-thingy to borrow There's No Place Like Here. It was fun to read a book set in Ireland right after arriving here. The geography of the cities and the late night trips to Super Macs were things I was becoming familiar with myself.  While the other books I read by her were firmly rooted in reality (and coincidentally also in letter writing) this one only takes place in hard-and-firm-reality half the time. The land of Here where everything from lost socks and earrings to people who were never found end up was quite interesting.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins 
Continuing the theme of books written by Nerd Fighters, Stephanie Perkins released Anna and the French Kiss last year around Christmas and John Green recommended it (it was actually the first book I got on my Kindle).  Then this Christmas when I went to get a copy for a friend I saw she had published another book, so I got that too. I started it on the plane and I very much enjoyed it. Although I would say that I liked Anna a little bit more than Lola, but that most likely had a great deal to do with the fact Anna is set Paris and Lola in San Francisco, because Paris has a much more enchanting and romantic character and I've had the chance to visit the landmarks Anna explores. The boy-next-door is quite charming and little things like his hair puff and happy dance were cute nods to the Vlogbrothers. (DFTBA ^_^) His knack for creating gadgets sparks her to point out that "Just because something isn't practical doesn't mean it's not worth creating. Sometimes beauty and real-life magic are enough." Lola's quirks made her a little too charactery to be a really great character, but nonetheless I still very much liked the book. (I also really really like the fact that nonetheless is one word.)

Having read lots of great fun fast reads lately, my inner lit major decided I needed to balance that out with a Russian novel. So I've started Anna Karenina on my Kindle (it's much easier to carry around huge books when they are not in fact huge) So far I have read 3% and can keep about the same percentage of their names straight, but I'm also honestly enjoying it as well. It's got one of those famous opening lines: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." And my favorite books tend to have great first lines as well, what with "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." and "They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days." (or perhaps it's just the I like Daphne Du Maurier and she's got killer first lines)
I'll post about Anna Karenina whenever I manage to conquer it, along with whatever else I end up reading in the mean time. Books suggestions are always welcome (even ones that aren't from John Green). 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Unreachable Castle and Sunny Days

You really can't see it, but there's a castle
on the other side of the very pretty,
 but wet and sloshy field  
 Last weekend was very sunny, unexpected and extremely exciting breaking news over here. Honestly. Here is an spinet of a conversation in my kitchen to highlight what I mean:
Irish-roomie-who-got-up-early-and-played-field-hockey: "It's really nice out, sunny and warm and all"
Other-Irish-roomie-who-slept-way-in: "No! Honest?! Is that so?!?" 
And since Irish sentences go slightly up at the end anyway, when they are surprised and asking a question it goes quite quite high.

We haven't had many big plans lately so I've been hanging out enjoying Galway. Last Saturday I went to an event Amnesty Int. did for Syria.  The volunteers were really cool and it was fun to meet them. We even met someone on Shop Street who was raised in Germany, but originally from Syria with family still in Homs. The day ended on a great note of late night super macs and a best-buddy-talk sitting on the stone wall of the shopping centre (like you do).

Then last Sunday, Star and her roommates and I took full advantage of the rare sunshine and walked all over exploring the area around Galway. 
Our goal was to make it to this castle that is just chilling there being all amazing and beautiful and Irish, however the only path we could figure to get there involved not only trespassing (generally best avoided) but also walking through very-wet-marshy-style-fields (always best avoided) so we avoided that and continued to look for another way round. We couldn't find a way that didn't involved hopping fences that didn't look like they wanted to be hopped though. (And we resisted the urge to hop them anyway.)

Chilling on the roof of the ruins, with their normally neglected sunglasses  
Instead we found little ruins of a house that very much wanted to be climbed, therefore we climbed it. It was grand and we didn't even get yelled at by any of the locals who saw us. 

We then walked down the path in between the university and the river. The trees with the water and the sunshine were super duper charming.

There was a ruin of an older house called a "Folly" from the 1700s, it also looked like it very much wanted to be climbed, but then it was mean and kicked me in the shin, so I gave up. Although Star scurried right up to the top. The Folly was right across the river from the some-how-impossible-to-reach-castle, which was good for photos as well as inspiration to figure out how to actually get over there at some point.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Paris for a Day

Last week I took a quick little WONDERFUL trip to Paris. The main reason was to see Rei, since Paris is about half-a-world-closer than Hiroshima.  And how much of an excuse does one really need to go to a city as great as Paris?

I played the oh-so-fun game of find the best plane tickets, and ended up with flights out of Dublin into Paris on Aer Lingus. It was not much more expensive and was much more convenient than Ryan Air.
CityLink's bus route map
My flight out of Dublin was at 18:10 (I switched my phone to military time so I would stop confusing myself, cause 18 does not in fact mean 8pm - very important). I took the CityLink bus literally across the country from Galway to Dublin-- such a cute tiny little country they have here. Only took about 3 hours from coast to coast and there was some very-Irish-looking-country-side to see.

Once I got to the Dublin Airport I went through their very-speedy-and-not-overly-serious-security. At my gate I got to watch the breaking news on the TV about a Mr. Goodwin who had just been stripped of his knighthood - scandalous!

It's a short flight, we got up in the air and had a great view of all the lights in Dublin at night, then the dark of the Irish Sea, then the night lights of London, then dark of the English Channel then pretty soon you could see the glow of the City of Lights. I stayed at The Oops Hostel again. When Jamie and I were in Paris after our semester in Rome we stayed at a couple different places, some of which were significantly sketchy, but Oops was really nice. The rooms are really nice, plus they have free internet and breakfast!
Rei and Masami 

Wednesday morning I took the green-ish-blue-ish-Metro-Line-6 and met up with Rei and her husband. It was really super-dupery-duper-wonderful to see Rei and to met her husband again. We got lunch at the Deux  Magots which is for 1920s Paris, what the Eagle and Child was for the Inklings -- Hemingway, Sartre, Picasso, and pretty much all of their crazy and talented friends were regular costumers. We enjoyed some amazing food and chatted about our regulars from work and such. Rei got to switch between English with me, Japanese to translate for her hubby, and French with the bow-tie-clad-fancy-French-waiters.

We then headed off to find Notre Dome, stopping into St. Germain's on the way. Walking along the Seine was incredibly cold with nearly-non-stop-freezing-wind, it was beautiful though and feeling your fingers and toes is overrated. Galway has generally been sweat-shirt-cold during the day, so the real winter cold of Paris where it snowed the night before was quite chilly. We looked though some shops and enjoyed Paris and catching up-- along with some Crepes ^_^

My dear Aubry got me a super awesome travel book, one of the sections entertained me with its fitting title:
This book already knows my adventures so well
Before I left I jotted down my confirmation numbers and metro routes and all, I wrote a little list of 
4 out of 8 ain't bad right? Just means it's a real adventure
things to do while in Paris. As I wrote said list I thought, "Well there's no reason I would deviate form this itinerary." Haha my brain is so cute sometimes.

It's all good though, cause the important things went really smoothly and the rest is the adventure of traveling. I had a book to finish and one to start on my Kindle, but then my darling Kinny decided to freeze up on me-- so that postponed a couple of the things I'd jotted down, not a big deal at all. I did: stay at Oops, eat crepes, make my wish, and see Rei so I got half of my list :)

The other things on my list were to go to the top of Notre Dome. However the entrance for the tower had this sign saying it was temporarily closed "Due to the climate". Then I walked over the bridge and found the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, however it was also temporarily closed that week because the owner had just passed away at age 98 after having run his bookstore since 1948.
Awesome bookstore which hosted just as many famous authors as Deux
Magots as well as passing writers who worked and stayed as well.
"Be not inhospitable to strangers
Lest they be angels in disguise"

Although I still haven't gone up the towers yet, we ended up getting to Notre Dome right before Mass began, which was really neat to see -- can't beat the smell of incense while you explore a cathedral. Unplanned details can be the best part of adventures.
After I parted ways with Rei and headed back to my hostel, I decided it was too early to go to sleep, but too late to wander the city by myself. So I went one of the multiple "Cinemas" on the Blvd Goblins near Oops. Though it was funny to watch an American movie with French subtitles, the theater was really nice and the tickets were cheaper than back home, which was nice.

In the morning I managed to get my train ticket to Charles De Gaulle airport despite the fact I don't speak French beyond "Merci", "Paris", and "oui" and the fact that French people say "CharlesDeGaulleAeroport" really really fast and not at all like we would pronounce it. I was pretty proud of my smile-and-apologize-and-speak-english-while-they-speak-french-communication skills. The rest of the traveling went well and was topped off with Irish pot pie and Japanese cookies on the bus ride back across country home to Galway.