Personal: Things on My Mind

What have you been doing/watching/reading/visiting/making this fall? Please share! I’m always looking for new things to try.

Here is a glimpse into some of what I’ve been up to lately.

  1. Recently watched: Call My Agent (French, set in Paris), The Great British Baking Show (who can resist Paul Hollywood?), Sex and The City (started from the pilot episode, makes me want to to to New York), Kid90 (Soleil Moon Frye’s documentary), Mixte (French), Maid (based on the autobiography), this short video by Sadeck Waff for the Paris 2024 Olympics (watch more of his work – it’s mesmerizing!) – and I’d recommend all of them!
  2. Recently read: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop by Felicia Rose Chavez, The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi – I’d recommend all of these books!
  3. Recently played: The John Derion Painter’s Palette puzzle, Globe & Mail Saturday crossword (one of my favourite things to do over the weekend)
  4. Recently visited: The Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain (I’m already eager to return. My nearly-back-to-normal sprained ankle, back, and skin felt so good.
  5. Recently purchased: an incredible antique Italian armoire (absolutely stunning – my office design dream is slowly coming true)
  6. Recently made: NYT plum torte (so good that I made it twice in two weeks!), slow roasted chicken and garlic (a hit for a crowd), Ina Garten’s roasted shrimp and orzo (eaten warm rather than room temp)
A completed Globe & Mail crossword is so satisfying!

Things on My Mind

Here’s a bit of a review of what’s been on my mind lately, including music, movie, and book recommendations.

1. THE Book. For so many months – and a couple of years, too – my friend/colleague/co-author/mentor and I have called it The Book. Now, The Book has been published, and I am so thrilled. So so so thrilled! Mastering Academic Writing has been one of my most fun and rewarding writing projects thus far, and to have had fun, shared laughs, brainstormed over so many meals with a good friend made the experience that much more positive and memorable. Copies of our book arrived from our publisher, Sage, over the holiday break, and it made for quite a happy mail day!

The book is intended for upper year undergraduate students, graduate students, and professors who are looking for a great writing resource and guide. Now, it’s not a boring academic textbook (if you ask me!); we took an informal, approachable tone as we offered instruction, examples, and notes about academic writing. It’s affordable, too! If you’d like to know more, let me know. The book is available at Sage and Amazon.

Don’t be surprised if you see it pop up again on White Cabana.

2. Music. For the last month or so, I’ve been listening to French radio (89.9 FM – CBC – Ici musique – in Waterloo) and French tunes on Spotify. It’s not only been a needed change from my usual pop/rap/top40 tunes, but also I can brush up on my French listening and comprehension skills (in preparation for my February vacance à Paris!). On Spotify, I’ve had Lisa LeBlanc (Dump the guy ASAP is a hit) and Mackjoffat (Music Face is my current fave, but it’s in English) on repeat.

3. Blogosphere. Remember the good ol’ days of blogging? When people read blogs daily? When bloggers wrote daily? Before Instagram took over everyone’s phones? Before bloggers applied rose-coloured tints over every darn photo? Yeah, me too. I had brunch with Melissa over the break, and we chatted about how things have changed and the approaches we observe from afar from influencers, vloggers, bloggers, and more.

I have barely changed my approach to blogging even though I know the blogging world around me has changed. I blog every day unless I’m on a break. I read blogs daily, too. I like to read about people’s real lives, their Pinterest and DIY fails and successes, and what they do in the spare time. I continuously learn from others, and I’m inspired by a lot of what I see on my daily blog visits. Who’s with me on this?

4. Movies and Netflix. Oh my goodness. I have watched so much Netflix. Too much, in my opinion, but such is life. I guess I’m in post-book, post-MBA relaxation mode. I don’t love being a couch potato, but I didn’t argue with myself about it over the holidays.

So what did I watch? Just about every cheesy Christmas movie set in Belgravia, Genovia, anyotherovia. I don’t recommend any of them unless you’re embracing a cheesy couch potato lifestyle.

I also watched Birdbox. I was scared at first, then I wasn’t. It was okay. I didn’t love it, but it is worth watching on Netflix. And I also watched Theory of Everything. I really enjoyed it.

And in the theatre, I opted to watch The Favorite. It was interesting. Funny but quirky but not too quirky. Great acting, costumes, and set design. Plus, if you’re a fan of Emma Stone, you’re going to enjoy her performance. The movie had the audience laughing. I recommend it.

I also went to see Mary Queen of Scots, and it was excellent. I learned a lot, really enjoyed the acting, and, of course, the costumes were amazing.

5. Books. I’m still listening to Haruki Murakami audiobooks. I love that they’re all set in Japan. I started a collection of his short stories. This is the first time I’ve read (or listened to) a collection of short stories. I like that they’re quick, but I don’t like that there’s no time to develop plot and characters. I also can barely remember any story that I’ve listened to. There was one set in a hotel, there was one about a teenage romance…see, the details escape me! There are too many stories to remember! But do I still enjoy his writing? Yes.

Books: What I’ve Read / What I’m Reading

And by reading…I mean listening! I’m still on my audiobook kick. The format is working out well considering all the walking I do and the driving I’ve done lately. Who else listens to audiobooks? What are you listening to now?

I just finished listening to The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman. It was a long one! I couldn’t get into it at the beginning, but after a few files (chapters), I got into it and really enjoyed the whole thing. I liked the development of the characters, and I liked learning about history along the way, too (set in Warsaw during World War II). Post-read, I did a bit of a Google search, and I learned that the book was made into a movie in 2017. I completely missed that. I’m adding it to my movie list now (it’s on Netflix).

I’ve switched gears, and it’s all-Japan all-the-time now. I looked up some famous Japanese authors, and it seems like one of the must-read authors is Haruki Murakami, so I started Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. It’s a New York Times bestseller, and it hooked me in from the very beginning. I have a few of Murakami’s other books on hold from the library. I love this view of Murakami’s desk; it seems we share common interests in pencils and Switzerland.

What are you reading? What do you recommend?

The Friday Five: Books I’ve Read

Well, I shouldn’t quite say I’ve “read” these books. I’ve actually listened to most of them in the form of audiobook. With all the driving I’ve done lately, the audiobooks have been a wonderful way to pass the time. I’m pretty much hooked, and now I listen while I walk, too.

1. The Story of a New Name (Book 2) by Elena Ferrante

I read Book 1 of this series many months ago, but I could not find the time to pick up Book 2. When I set out on one of my road trips, I started listening to it, and I could barely stop. It was wonderful. The book is engaging, interesting, and well-developed. It’s easy to connect with the characters. I’m definitely eager to get started on Book 3.

2. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi

I remember when I heard of this book via Joanna Goddard (Cup of Jo) a couple of years ago. I had wanted to read it since then, but I never did. It was one of the first audiobooks I downloaded. It’s a great read. True. Sad. Beautiful.

3. Wallflower at the Orgy by Nora Ephron

I’ve always liked reading Nora Ephron’s books. They’re a combination of funny, interesting, light, and serious. This book of short stories entertained.

4. Hungry for Love by Maya Sacher

This fits in the chick-lit category of books. It was easy to be engaged with the story line of a woman who has fallen in love with a man while her husband is in a coma. It’s a good summer beach read.

5. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I opted for this chick-lit book because it came up in one of my library searches, and I was drawn to the cover. It’s an easy read about a couple going through a troubling time. The story isn’t highly original – individuals working too hard, trying to make their relationship work – but I liked how the dialogue evolved in the chapters, and it was overall a good read. I’d say it’s another easy summer read.

p.s. Did you know that June is audiobook month? A little something I learned at the Waterloo Public Library (where I’ve been getting my audiobooks).

Books: Vacation Reads

My blog posts have been scattered this week because it’s back-to-school season, and, well, that means a pretty lively time of year for me! I’m taking a pause from the Friday Five to share with you my recent reading list. This post has been in draft form for a couple of weeks now, so it feels great to finally be able to press publish!

During the academic year, I barely have a chance to read books for pleasure. I know I could/should make time, but the fact is that I don’t. Between my academic day job and my MBA student life, I read a lot as it is, and when I want to relax, I don’t generally reach for a book.

Vacation, though, is a completely different story!

When I’m in Florida lounging around the pool and beach for days and days, I love losing myself in books. I love going to the local library (yes, I have a library card in Florida, too!) and browsing the “what’s new” shelves. And on my recent trip, I managed to read quite a few books. Here’s a brief recap of what I’ve read…in the order that I read them. Do let me know if you’ve read any of them, too, please!

1. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins wrote The Girl on the Train which was a real page-turner. Into the Water was the same. I couldn’t put it down. It was an easy read, and it went by quickly.

2. The White City by Karolina Ramqvist

Truth be told – I picked up this book because of its white cover and its title. When I read the blurb on the inside flap, I learned that the book is a bestseller in Sweden and the winner of the Per Olav Enquist Literary Prize. This is Karolina Ramqvist’s first English novel. Again, it was a quick read, and I read it within one short sitting (lying by the pool!). I felt like it was a lengthier short story than a fully developed novel. The story moved along quickly.

3. Touch by Courtney Maum

I picked up this book after reading the cover jacket’s summary. It got me hooked with ideas of trend forecasting, tech, and relationships. It was another easy read that I got through quickly. I liked following the story of a trend forecaster who contemplates tech vs. touch in an ever changing high-tech world.

4. Swimming Lessons by Clare Fuller

This book was another one that kept my attention throughout. I wanted to know how the characters developed and interacted, and how the story evolved. The story flips between past and present, which I liked.

5. The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Graeme Simsion was the author of the Rosie Project – a book that I quite liked, so I happily grabbed this book off the library shelf. I don’t know if it was because I was tired or uninterested, but it took me a bit to get into this story. Maybe it also was because the other books had some element of mystery to them, and this one was a love story. Once I got through the first 50 pages or so, it was easy going. It wasn’t a page-turner like some of the other books, but it maintained my curiosity about the evolution of the romance.

6. Awkward Age by Francesca Segal

I thought this book was okay. It seemed liked it could be easily made into a made-for-TV movie. It’s about family relationships, tricky family dynamics, and teenager drama.

7. Celine by Peter Heller

This was an amusing read. Part-detective story, part-family drama. Not a must-read in my opinion, but it entertained me.

8. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

I’ve read every book by Sophie Kinsella (as well as all the books she’s written under her real name – Madeleine Wickham). I continue to be drawn to them even though I didn’t really like the last couple of stories. The characters are sort of all the same and the story lines are fairly predictable. That said, I read this recent release, and enjoyed this light read. Sophie Kinsella books area always good for beach-side reading!

9. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

It was fun to discover that this book was written by a Torontonian. It’s a who-dunnit, what-happened kind of book so I was happy to flip each page to learn more about the mystery and drama involved in one family’s life. I could see this being turned into a movie, too.

10. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

So many of the books that I read over my vacation were mysteries of some sort. These books really make me want to keep reading to see how my own predictions come true (or don’t). At the start, there were several characters to get to know, but once I kept track of the action, I enjoyed learning about the characters’ personalities, their interactions, their friendships, and, of course, to see how the drama unfolded.

11. How to Be a Grown-Up

This book was written by the authors of the Nanny Diaries. The tone, pace, writing, and setting is very similar between the two books. The story line, however, is different. In How to Be a Grown-Up, the main character is a 40-something mom learning how to navigate a work environment run by millennials. She succeeds, of course, which makes for a happy ending. Predictable, but entertaining.

12. Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

Of the books in the list up until this point, Lola was by far my favourite. I picked it up because Lola is the name of my friend’s dog (Hi K! Hi Lola!). Yes, it’s true. This book is certainly not about a dog – although there is a dog named Valentine in the book. The story follows Lola – the leader of a drug cartel – and the drama, chaos, mystery, and tension surrounding the drug world. The character development and story line were different from anything else I read, which caught and kept my attention throughout.

13. I Found You by Lisa Jewell

After Lola, I wanted to read a mystery rather than a romance novel, so I opted for I Found You. The story was progressing in the way that I thought it was, but as I read each chapter, more of the story unfolded, and there were surprises along the way. I really enjoyed this one.

14. The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

I ended my vacation reading with The Gypsy Moth Summer and I was pleasantly surprised. I loved this book, in fact. Like other books in this list, I enjoyed the development and interaction of the characters.

And that’s it, I think. What have you been reading? Any recommendations?

Have a great weekend, everyone!