Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Nov. 27?: Really? Late Thanksgiving!

One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reread this one as a filler just before T'giving break, 2013. More plot than her latest ones (she's up to 20, I think) and less ridiculous farce. Fun to revisit.

Mrs Tim Of The Regiment (Bloomsbury Group)Mrs Tim Of The Regiment by D.E. Stevenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Darn! Again, Goodreads doesn't mesh with I listened to Christine Rendel's reading of this fluffy little novel and enjoyed it. The cover is the same as this one, but there's no audio choice. ANyway: I picked this novel as a mental break from anything challenging or intense, and I certainly got that. Lacking any real plot beyond "Mrs. Tim's" daily rhythm and routine, I had no idea when the book would end, or why--it's a bit like an Angela Thirkell novel, but less plot-driven and not as funny/satirical. Stevenson seems like a mid-ground Austen: her inclusion of the batty guest's drivel nearly inspired me to pull over and fast-forward, while Austen's Miss Bates has enough redeeming material in her monologues that I can stick with them.

One interesting aspect, however, was Stevenson's ability to show Tony's obvious devotion to Mrs. Tim while Mrs. Tim clearly had no clue. Also, the book's presentation of the whole idea of what "life in the regiment" was like between the wars was interesting.

Mild and pleasant.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this book on my unlikely trip to see Lyle swim over Veterans' Day weekend with Julie, and I very much enjoyed it. Although it took me a few pages to get used to her writing voice, Joyce manages to construct a book that is both realistic and intensely hopeful about humankind, and that is no easy feat. There is a lurking secret plot device that is a tad annoying (though it's pretty obvious what it is) and then a big revelation of both the secret AND Queenie's kindness that is poorly developed, but the book is really about people, action, faith, connection (to the outside, to ourselves and to each other) and the rhythms of life, so those little plot issues didn't derail my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Unexpectedly powerful, this novel would be a great present and a terrific book group selection!

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Well, I just updated my Goodreads while sitting in the rocking chair in the den, rain pounding on the various windows and the wind howling around. Lyle and Tucker are driving home in Tucker's unreliable truck today, so we'll see how that goes. At least it's supposed to be in daylight. . . !

I am perched on the verge of springing into action: I need to swim and then head to the grocery store for gluten free options for Lyle and ingredients for the pies Nate and I are making for Mom's fest (this crust, tho not filling, will be my offering, while N is making his standard [and delicious] pecan pie). I also need to prep the candles for the Advent candle making activity at church on Sunday, as I inadvertently signed up for the Santa Race on the same day (i.e., didn't realize it was a Sunday till I'd signed up. . . Darn!) so they'll be on their own at church for that. We'll head to Mom's on Thursday morning in two cars, most probably, due to our extreme size, and plan to stay one night and head out around lunch time on Friday.

It's been an interesting stretch of time at school. Family has been warm, wonderful, celebratory, and fun. Nate in "The Sound of Music" was a treat. . . Camilla made wreaths with Andy yesterday. . . Life is good. We are blessed in many, many ways.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Nov?: Things I would Like Framed and Mounted on my Various Walls

Keep Calm and READ A BOOK Poster

Nov. 16: A Weekend Home (Sort of)

Juliet, NakedJuliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have an uneven relationship with Nick Hornby's writing, finding some of it terrific and some dull or so negative that I abandon it midstream. Juliet, Naked, is one of the terrific ones: I read it on the plane and during a recent weekend away, and it was so funny in parts that I alarmed my fellow travelers by laughing aloud. The depiction of the middle-aged "music nerd" and the effect of the internet on such groups of obsessives is trenchant and insightful: when I read it I thought, "You know, he's absolutely right!" even as I laughed and winced (As a knitter, I dabble in an internet-enabled obsessives group myself). The depiction of the depressed seaside town is lightened by the switches to the American setting, and the supporting characters, especially Jackson, Tucker's son, are interesting. My one quibble is that the end of the book seems rushed: the cast of characters assembled in London is dismissed too quickly, leaving both the reader and the plot feeling a little unfinished. Still, overall, I'd recommend Juliet, Naked, especially to people mature enough to laugh at themselves and to remember what life and hobbies were like before the internet began to shape our experience and our obsessions.

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Well, it's Saturday morning, grey but not very cold, and I am in my "where'd the time go?" mode. It's been a tough week with various family stresses and Nate's hell week leading up to last night's wonderful performance of "The Sound of Music".

Today I finally made (with some alterations due to laziness and/or lack of ingredients) these wonderful pumpkin scones, which are not very flaky but are certainly light and very delicious. Soon I will . . . well, probably. . . get myself out for a run, and then shower and go have lunch with my beloved friend Lori at a newly reopened lunch place downtown. Yay! I am hoping that I might also tuck a nap into my afternoon, but I'm not at all sure, things being as they generally are. I do have AP correcting to do, but with one week left before our week off from teaching (two professional days; kids are gone for the whole week), there is a sense of roominess which is not always the case!

To my delight, I have finished stealth hat #1 and am about 1/5 through stealth hat #2, and I also spent a happy hour and a half at school on Thursday working on the stealth sewing project--got all the fabric ironed and one pair of pants pinned and partially cut out. I'll have to up my speed if I'm going to get this done without much stress, but once "they" are all cut out, I think I can production-line things pretty fast. I still need to get pocket fabric, though. Hmmmm.

So.  Onwards.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nov. 3, Sunday/Time Change Day

Feeling ridiculously upbeat and happy. Not sure why, though it's a cold, clear November day, I did pick up the house so it feels less "heckish," (as my mama used to say), we have an early release day tomorrow as it's the end of the quarter (and I think my correcting is under control!), and on Friday I head to CT/NY to see Julie and Lyle! And, this:

The BookstoreThe Bookstore by Deborah Meyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At last, at last: a book I had low/no expectations for that delighted and surprised me! I really liked The Bookstore. It looks like a feel good/chick lit/pick it up at Target fluff number, but it's thoughtful, well written, funny, and full of interesting, original portraits of people, some horrifying and some decent and humane. I started noting cringe-inducing lines, but I ended up noting lovely references to other works of literature, unusual turns of phrase, insightful statements. Meyler's voice is intelligent, funny, and sharp: describing a chic gallery opening where she met her fiance, Esme says, "The women were in shiny gold cocktail dresses with leopard-skin accessories, not a tummy between them, and in very high, pointy heels. I--well, I can't remember what I had on. It might have been knitted." (27) Even though I am an ardent knitter, I know *exactly* what she means. Also, "it is a curious thing, to feel so glad that someone else is in the world, to feel that it is almost a privilege to love them." (16). There are many passing reframings of famous lines that delighted me, because I think that's how most of us quote--not perfectly, but imitating the pattern, the key images. I was reading so fast by then that I didn't dogear pages, but just go read the book for yourself.

You might skip the inane interview at the end, however. Meyler is entertaining, but the questions are pretty flat.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Nov.1: A Windy Friday!

John Saturnall's FeastJohn Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well. Just finished listening to the audiobook version, although Goodreads says one doesn't exist, and I am torn, again. The book had a lot of interesting details and ideas in it, but, ultimately, it didn't hold together. The story of the First Feast and the first ancestor, the idea of the Feast of the title--call me stupid, but I just didn't see how Norfolk tied that idea up thoroughly. Why would Marpet flee the face of the first ancestor? I felt almost like my story skipped big sections--but it didn't. The stories of John's mysterious father was dropped, even John's wonderful adventures as a cook didn't pan out. And the love plot was the hardest to swallow for me: why were J and L so drawn to each other? Pierce and John's battle for possession of Lucy and then her whole portrayal were stereotypical. I got the recommendation from a favorite book blog, Cornflowerbooks, but I was a bit disappointed in the book. LIked it, didn't LOVE it--could've been better.

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