I have six working days left for this year, three this week and three next, but I hope that the days next week will play out the same way as any other year so far and be pleasantly uneventful. I’m not planning on working full days if it can be helped.

Once I have some time off, I hope to complete more of the festive tasks, but to be honest, I have not been feeling very festive this year. I haven’t even had the motivation to put up my tree.

Anyway, I am enjoying books again and I don’t need decorations for that.

Soul Music

Soul Music
by Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #
Publication Date: December 18, 1994
Pages: 387
Rating: ★★★
Genre: Fantasy

When her dear old Granddad -- the Grim Reaperhimself -- goes missing, Susan takes over the family business. The progeny of Death's adopted daughter and his apprentice, she shows real talent for the trade. That is until a little string in her heart goes "twang."

With a head full of dreams and a pocketful of lint,Imp the Bard lands in Ankh-Morpork, yearning to become a rock star. Determined to devote his life to music, the unlucky fellow soon finds that all his dreams are coming true. Well almost.

In this finger-snapping, toe-tapping tale of youth,Death, and rocks that roll, Terry Pratchett once again demonstrates the wit and genius that have propelled him to the highest echelons of parody next to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen.

Once I finished Men at Arms, I was not ready to leave Discworld just yet, so I read Soul Music. I liked it well enough, but I didn’t love it. In the same way that I found Moving Pictures boring, I didn’t enjoy the music part of this book. However, the scenes between DEATH and Susan made up for it.

One thing, I had the new audiobook version of this book, the one narrated by Sian Clifford, Peter Serafinowicz, Bill Nighy, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the Nigel Planer / Stephen Briggs narrations. I don’t know why, but I thought the pacing was off in the narration, and although Serafinowicz does a good DEATH, I prefer the interpretation by Planer / Briggs.

Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Pages: 321
Rating: ★★
Genre: Science Fiction

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

Klara and the Sun ended up in very much the way that I expected – depressing as anything. I’m glad I read it, but I would not want to recommend it. For what it was, I may have disliked it just as much as the also predictable Never Let Me Go. At least, it is off my TBR now.

Wintering: the Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult times

Wintering: the Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult times
by Katherine May
Publication Date: February 6, 2020
Pages: 255
Rating: ★
Genre: Biography/Memoir, Essay, Non Fiction

"Every bit as beautiful and healing as the season itself. . . . This is truly a beautiful book." --Elizabeth Gilbert

An intimate, revelatory book exploring the ways we can care for and repair ourselves when life knocks us down.

Sometimes you slip through the cracks: unforeseen circumstances like an abrupt illness, the death of a loved one, a break up, or a job loss can derail a life. These periods of dislocation can be lonely and unexpected. For May, her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. Wintering explores how she not only endured this painful time, but embraced the singular opportunities it offered.

A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May's story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Illumination emerges from many sources: solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters and sailing arctic seas.

Ultimately Wintering invites us to change how we relate to our own fallow times. May models an active acceptance of sadness and finds nourishment in deep retreat, joy in the hushed beauty of winter, and encouragement in understanding life as cyclical, not linear. A secular mystic, May forms a guiding philosophy for transforming the hardships that arise before the ushering in of a new season.

Wintering was another loss. After setting it aside, I decided to DNF it. There is no way this book is for me. I was unlikely to get anything out of it and the style of writing / voice just really grated on me.

The Snow-Woman

The Snow-Woman
by Stella Gibbons
Publication Date: December 18, 1969
Pages: 228

I suppose I was lonelier than I knew.

It's the 1960s, and Maude Barrington, now in her seventies, has kept life firmly at bay since the deaths of her three brothers in World War I. But when an unexpected visitor convinces Maude to visit old friends in France (and an old nemesis, who persistently calls her "the snow-woman"), she is brought face to face with the long-suppressed emotions, sorrows, and misunderstandings of the past. Upon her return to London, she finds her frozen life invaded by a young mother and her son (born on great aunt Dorothea's sofa, no less) who have been more or less adopted by her long-time maid Millie. And Maude finds the snow of years of bitterness beginning to melt away.

In The Snow-Woman, first published in 1969 and out of print for decades, Stella Gibbons has created one of her most complex and poignant, yet still very funny, tales-of aging, coming to terms, and rediscovering life. This new edition features an introduction by twentieth-century women's historian Elizabeth Crawford.

The latest book I have started is The Snow-Woman by Stella Gibbons. I only picked it up because the cover and title seemed to fit our current winter weather. I’m really enjoying it so far. It focuses on a cantankerous woman in her seventies who is dragged out of her routine and faced with some people she long since severed ties with, … or so she hoped. It’s an odd book, but this is one where I could not predict what is going to happen, and I like this.

And just illustrate, here are a few snaps of the winter weather we have been having…