Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dec. 31: The Last Day

I didn't even get used to writing "2014" on my checks yet, and here it is the last day of this year. Wow.

We had a nice, low-key Christmas, with more emphasis on the good food and company than on Presents Per Se, and it was very warm but also finally cleared and got sunny--what a relief after a month of nearly unrelieved gloom. It's now cold--6 last night, 12 now, with no snow in the forecast, but perhaps some skating. We had a similarly good but mellow time at Mom's/Auburn; John and Beth had to leave early, but we had a nice visit overall, with J/B at the start and then T/E and Ann at the end. I especially liked seeing Alex, who has settled and grown a great deal. We played a lot of backgammon, and he told Ellyn that I'm his favorite aunt. :)

I am partway through Unbroken and I'm not loving it--he's an interesting character, for sure, but Hillenbrand's writing doesn't capture me and I am not looking forward to the upcoming half of the book that's all torture and suffering. Nate has also gotten me into "Sherlock," so we've watched three epis in the last two days, which is great for my knitting but not so great for my reading! I'm nearly up to the armpits on Nate's front, and I finished Susan's hat version #2 last night, so I'll sew in the ends and block it today, hoping to mail it (and get some money from her!) on Friday.

Nice long walk with Julie K yesterday, and I plan to swim around 10 today. Andy and I both put in two hours on school yesterday, and I hope to do that today and tomorrow as well.

In the meantime. . . . books!

The Handsome Man's Deluxe Café (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #15)The Handsome Man's Deluxe Café by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fun, fast, fluffy. Interesting to see the characters of Charlie and Mma Ramotswe's assistant develop. Again, a pleasure!

Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot, #10)Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great edition: it just asks to be picked up and read at night, before bed--I gave into its lures, and took it home from school (no idea why we have a class set there, but we do!). I think I've seen the movie version, but I don't think I've ever read the actual novel. Despite my predilection for mysteries, I never did the whole Agatha C. oeuvre, perhaps because my various libraries never had her whole collection. . . but anyway, I had the feeling that this was a classic twist story, so I pretty much knew the solution from the start, but it was interesting to see the plot unfold.

All in all, this was a pleasure to read: entertaining, detailed, bad guy as dead man, just enough complexity to keep me interested without demanding too much--a perfect novel for the busy days before Christmas!

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dec. 20: REALLY?

How the heck did most of November and most of December get by me with no posting? Probably part of it has been my resolution to read more and knit more and waste less time on the "interwebs," but it's also been pretty busy. I plan to head upstairs to put away laundry, change the bed, write and print a Christmas letter for our card, and then come back down to update the blog. We'll see if that all happens. .  . but in the meantime, here's my latest audiobook victory/pleasure: I listened to all of Bleak House. The review is below; I have to admit that I also thought that the resolution of the Lady Deadlock plot was disappointing: I felt like one of my students, gaping, saying, "Is THAT all there is? What the heck?!" However. It's a ONE THOUSAND PAGE PLUS paperback, and if that is the only objection, then I think it's pretty darn good.

Bleak House Bleak House by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've wanted to read Bleak House for a long time, but the fact that it's about a legal case put me off. I should've trusted Dickens's story telling talents: what a remarkable story! What memorable characters! Once again, Dickens's support for every day people and their struggles as well as his social conscience add energy and vision to an incredible tapestry of characters and plot. Sean Barrett and Teresa Gallagher are perfect narrators. I was enthralled for the 35 hours--and that's saying something!

The only quibbles are my usual issue with the saintly female persona that Dickens sometimes creates (Dora in David Copperfield, for example): Esther gets perilously close to that by the end, but her long-suffering is balanced out by the profusion of wonderful other women, including independent businesswoman Caddy Jellaby and "poor Miss Flyte". (Guessing at the spelling, of course, since I've only heard and not read it!)

Also, I had to re-download this to get it to play on my ipod, as it didn't automatically come in three sections, which was an unexpected hitch resolved by Audible's support.

Anyway: I can see, again, why Dickens was a Victorian literary rock star. Wow.

View all my reviews

This is really an "ETA" section: It's Monday, Dec. 22: we have school today and tomorrow to make up for our unexpected three day break due to power outages in early November. While it will make sense in June, it pretty much sucks right now, but people--kids and teachers alike--have been putting a good front on it. I left school right at 2:30 today, and the house is empty and quiet, the dark is gathering, the tree and little lights are on, and I'm relaxing with a cup of tea before I go up to tidy the guest room for Mom and then go to yoga at 5:30. Pretty close to heaven!

I have been knitting a lot lately: first a hat for Susan for cash that turned out to be too snug, so I am redoing it with bigger needles and more "poof" for after C'mas (when I will still need cash!); I also am reworking N's sweater in Sheplova mushroom Peace Fleece using the Yankee Knitter roll neck pullover pattern. I think it's been knitted three times (this is the third) so I hope it fits/appeals. I have the back done, and am trying to get some of the front done so he'll feel like it's really a likely present. On Saturday I saw a woman wearing an oatmeal version of the JCrew sweater I have in greeny brown (and adore), and N said that she said a friend knitted it for her, so he's on a mission to ask her about it when she comes into the Moo again. *I* think it's the J. Crew sweater, but if it's a pattern, my life just got easier. Quince and Co, here we come!

Wow. It is peaceful and lovely in the house right now! Nate should be home from work momentarily, and Andy, too, and I'm not sure where Lyle is (he fired up his blast furnace in the back yard today for the first time! He got home last night. . . . priorities. . . .), but right now it's Miranda, Swipe, Zeus, me, and the trees, with steadily gathering darkness outside. I think this has been the darkest stretch of time I can remember, weatherwise, but since I've been leaving after 4 so often, even sunny days (of which there have been few) have felt dark. Still, peace is a nice replacement for sunshine if one has to choose.

I still have various stocking stuffers to buy, and Christmas danish to make, but I am not really fussing: I feel like last year, esp. when we went to Freeport, I was trying to make too many people happy, so I am done with that. I want to be clear about what I want/need, enjoy what I get, and be okay about the whole experience. Over vacation, I'd like to
--read Unbroken and maybe the Sue Monk Kidd book with birds in the title.
--finish at least one skirt/sewing project.
--see at least two movies on the big screen.
--do at least one outdoor winter activity. Tubing? Skating?
--get my toes done OR do my toenails. Long time, no polish!

That's it. Doable? Seems like it!

So. In closing, before I go organize my project room into The Guest Room, I want to share a lovely poem in honor of the solstice. Great memories of Christmas Revels and Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising books:

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9: Back to a Regular November!

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed listening to this audio book, and I can't imagine how it is as a print book, because various people come in and read parts of it (Amy's parents are wonderful!) and she bursts out laughing or uses funny accents in other parts. It's thought-provoking and interesting, but a little weird for me because though I know of Amy's work with Parks and Rec and a little of it with SNL, I don't know it well, and I mostly picked up this book because of her website "Amy Poehler's Smart Girls" on Facebook. It is funny in places, serious in others, and interesting overall, bringing me into a life I neither knew much about nor wanted to live.

So, I highly enjoyed it, but I'm not really sure what its overall effect was. I WILL say that I didn't like having the last chapter read aloud to an audience, because the laugh track/audience was wayyyyyy too intrusive and annoying: a few people laughed at everything: she cleared her throat (gales of laughter). . etc. But, overall, interesting.

View all my reviews

Well, it's been a funny week after three days off. The weather has bounced all over the place, but we got a nice day yesterday: cold, clear, and sunny, so Andy, Zeus and I set off for a New Place: Fort Point State Park in Stockton Springs, an easy half hour's drive away. We spent the morning working out (good run for me, good swim for A; couch surfing and barking at squirrels for Zeus) and putting the yard to bed: A mowed up all the leaves and I planted about 60 bulbs (of course I had no idea I had that many, but they got shoved into the ground, sprinkled with bone meal, and covered up. Good enough, dude!). After showers and wraps from 86 This, we headed out, and had a lovely time once we found the poorly marked fort and a whole side of Stockton Springs that we had no idea even existed before. There's an old wrecked fort (Fort Pownall), a lighthouse, a major league dock and a nice beach where one could drag up a kayak easily (swimming is discouraged due to strong cross currents). . . . It's a real sleeper as a spot to visit, and we had a really nice time!

Upon our return we made an amazing lasagna with homemade noodles and sauce (one's in the freezer for later. . .yay!). Now I am planning/scheming how to make an easy fun skirt with stashed material in place of this $88 numbah from Boden. . . and swimming and church and. . . . of course! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November 5: Three Snow Days In a Row: A New Record!

Well, the rain last Saturday turned into high wind and thick, heavy, wet snow all day Sunday and into Monday night. The pic below is midday Sunday--we ended up with about 8", total, but it was truly heart attack snow, accompanied by a super-strong wind. We lost the top of the old oak out front--luckily only onto our hedges, but many people weren't so lucky. While we lost power for only about 5 hours, I've heard some people may be out till this Saturday. Yikes.

To my surprise, we didn't have school on Monday due to power outages. No one in the area did--there were something like 45,000 households without. Tuesday, I got up, went for  my run, and ran into Julie K, who told me that MDIHS *still* didn't have power, so we had no school--so I had a second day, and then today, ditto--tho the power was back on by 10 am, so we will go back to school on Thursday. Yay!

No idea how we'll make up those days: rumors are swirling, but no real facts yet. This has been an interesting stretch, and I have to say I've made the most of it. Each night I thought we'd have school the next day, so I prepped and corrected as needed, which means that I really don't have a lot of work to do now! Nice. During my snow days I
*ate b'fast out with Andrea and Ian on Mon., and with Ian on Tuesday;
*knitted and drank tea with Dawn today while she tried to get her tires changed (to no avail);
*made Joe Froggers and iced them!
*knitted a pattern repeat and a half on Emma's stocking while watching "Death Comes to Pemberley";
*voted (to almost no avail, but some. . . );
*switched out my clothes so the bedroom is neater and I can find what I want;
*organized the spice cupboard (YAY ME!);
*removed all the screens and stored them down cellar;
*composted all the jack-o-lanterns and cleaned off the porch;
*almost finished my pj pants (may finish those up tonight; we'll see);
*wrote a college rec (the last one for this year);
*worked out just like a regular week, which made my days really nice;
*walked Z a lot;
organized a consolidation loan so we can pay off our credit cards all at once and save on interest!

PRETTY DARN GOOD. I'm proud of myself, and I had a great time. I do wish I was in more of a napping place, but ah well. Now: a grueling 2 day work week, and next week is Veterans' Day. I am truly quite refreshed, though certainly bemused. Cheers!

ETA: I finished my pj pants! Yay!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November 1: Yay!

November is one of my favorite months: again and again, it seems to usher in a calmer, more settled time marked by a deep gratitude for our warm, cozy house, people we love, and a way to get out of the often-raw weather. At the same time, the leaves are dropping or gone, and the light is amazing. This year seems to be no exception: Tuva left for her new host family today, Andy and I did a lot of cleaning and organizing after a dishwasher leak of major proportions on Thursday night, and we are bracing for a potential snow storm of 6 - 12"! I managed to fit in a good workout with Kiley, a lot of laundry and tidying, a few more steps on my pj pants, the top of the second stocking for Emma, and a LOVELY loaf of sourdough, baked in the terracotta:

We just looked outside and there are big, fat, wet snowflakes mixed into the rain. . . YIKES!

What a nice start to this month. Yay! 

Julie sent me books from "her" booksale, and I got a LOT of red tea through Amazon: I ordered twice what I thought I ordered, but that's okay with me!

Off to listen to the rain in our empty-nesting house!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Oct. 26: Pumpkin Party Weekend!

A Perfect ProposalA Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How does she do it? Katie Fforde has little character development, no suspense, little originality, and not much else, but I just keep reading her! AH well. It has been a busy few weeks!

View all my reviews

Our temporary AFS girl, Tuva, is just about in the center, wearing my old Maine sweatshirt. 
A fun time, as usual! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oct. 19: Off He Goes. . . .

We had a great weekend! Sticky buns, knitting project planning, "Spamalot" at the Grand last night (hysterical!), a long run (puff), and a lot of cat time for him! We'll head to Bates to see his play and his concert on the weekend of November 14, and then he'll come home for a week the next weekend! So nice to have a college be so handy.

Anyone But YouAnyone But You by Jennifer Crusie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dragged a bit in the middle (lots of lust but not much actual tension) but overall, a fluffy, fun read. One thing I really like about Crusie is that she has faith in guys--her heroes are always likable, decent men who have their flaws but also internal lives. I was sorry Max didn't have a bigger role in this one, but Alex was great!

Boy21Boy21 by Matthew Quick
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Meh. Another skimmable ya novel. . . . I was especially distressed by the flatness of the characterization, both of his family and of the town. Really disappointed at the resolution (I'll leave it there, hoping to avoid spoilers). It feels like this was an early Quick effort, and my! his writing has developed, judging by The Good Luck of Right Now's depth and compassion compared to Boy21.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Oct. 18: Nate's Weekend Home: Some books, some editing, some knitting!

The Family ManThe Family Man by Elinor Lipman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another enjoyable Lipman offering! This one is almost pure pleasure because I never felt that "my people" were in danger of any kind of emotional pain, so even Lipman's trademark annoying/selfish/mean characters didn't worry me much. The book really didn't have a climax or much tension, so many readers might find it dull, but for a stressful work week, it was ideal.

I do feel that we're due a new Lipman soon! Hope she agrees with me!

The Beginning of EverythingThe Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Davonne recommended this one with great praise, but I found it (after about the first third) only skim-worthy. The main character isn't believable as a prior teen golden boy, brought down by an accident, and the whole depiction of the high school world he moves in is wooden and unconvincing. I skimmed to the end and was disappointed by the coincidence that resolves the conflict. . . . so: two stars it is.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oct. 13: Columbus Day Monday

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miss Peregrine is extremely well-written, but it doesn't quite live up to its opening promise: it starts as a truly unsettling fantasy/allegory, but then slowly* turns into yet another y.a. fantasy in which the first volume is just a lead-in to the next, which I'm not intrigued enough to read. Throughout, Riggs's writing is sharp, original, and detailed, but overall, I'm a bit disappointed. Once again, perhaps if I were actually a young adult, I'd find the book as excellent as its writing.

*possibly, the fact that it took me a solid month to read the novel is to blame for its seemingly draggy plot.

View all my reviews

Well, one of my goals for this weekend was to finish both The View from Penthouse B and Miss Peregrine: DONE! I also got the first twin stocking done to the toe (which I hope to complete tonight, celebrating two days of school-but-no-classes: parent confs. and testing), made streusel topped apple cake and coconut pumpkin bisque, AND emptied the cat box. AND made Nate's bed, as he is due to come home for his long weekend on Wed., and we had never made it since he left! We did have a lovely weekend with Nate at Bates's Parents' Weekend, staying at Mom's. The most moving part, besides seeing our younger boy thriving in his very own element, was seeing my father be raved over by a lot of people: one woman told her daughters, both of whom go to Bates, "This is him! This is Professor Leamon, my favorite professor!" It was just great. Nate said to me later, "I didn't know Grandpa Jim was so famous." And, as a long-time teacher myself, I know how incredibly affirming it is to be told one has made a difference. So nice.

My next two audiobooks are Margaret Allingham's first two Campion novels: Black Dudley Murders and Mystery Mile. I have read both, I think, but a long time ago, and I only remember that Allingham can do some very creepy stuff. . . . I'd like to read Elinor Lipman's newest novel, and then I think I will see if I can get Amy Poehler's new one as well. So. Onwards! Stocking toes call. . . but first, there's an apple cake that is just cool enough to slice, I think!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Oct. 11: Parents' Weekend at Bates

Taking a quick nap break chez Mama's. . . . I finally finished The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman. Next up, I hope, is Miss Peregrine, but we have been pretty busy! Great to see Nate and especially to see him with Grandpa Jim and Gram, both Bates grads. . . . What a legacy photo!

The View from Penthouse BThe View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a reread; The View is another pleasant outing from Lipman, with engaging characters, one incredibly annoying character (she's as good at doing those as Austen is), and entertaining personal ad responses shared as well. Nothing spectacular, but a good novel.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oct. 4: A Rainy Saturday (At Last!)

Overture to DeathOverture to Death by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Classic "cozy", and another strong narration job by Nadia May. Always a pleasure, even when I figure out the answers early and we don't get any Troy! Finished it today, a rainy, windy afternoon, as I worked on the twins' Christmas stockings. Nice!

View all my reviews

Making Bread, Breaking Bread.

Tomorrow, in the United Church of Christ calendar at least, is worldwide Communion Sunday. For several years now, my local church has also used the day to celebrate our local harvest and locally grown food, using blueberry juice and locally-made bread for Communion. Today, as I was making the bread, I started to think about the various directions and connections that this act of bread making pointed to.

The recipe I use is usually either "Grandma Leamon's oatmeal bread," or "anadama bread," both out of the notebook of recipes my mom made for each member of our family years ago. Grandma Leamon was my paternal grandmother, long-time Congo-pastor's wife, amazing cook, and beloved grandmother. The story of "anadama bread" is one my brother used to beg my mom to tell and retell. Both breads were staples in my family-of-origin, and we all learned to bake both as we grew up.

The step that the anadama bread has that the other doesn't is the proofing of the dough; with the double batch the sponge threatens to spill out onto the counter, and I divide it into a second bowl just in time. As I stir the fizzing mass down, I think about the yeast, about the growth it inspires, and about the incredible science and chemistry of this process. There's something else happening here, too: a fuzzy reflection about how the yeast makes the bread rise and expand, how tomorrow the congregation will come together to be nourished and then head off into our other lives, fed and lifted (we hope) by the experience of Communion. I am never sure what I think about Communion--both as a Congregationalist Protestant and as a pragmatist--but I sure know what I think about feeding people, and I know that it's one of the most elemental forms of care one can provide. Jesus got that, too, and the idea of celebrating Communion, of celebrating the act of eating, even or especially with something as simple as homemade bread, with a community of people who choose to come together: yup. That works for me.

As I mix the cornmeal, the molasses, the flour, the yeast, the smells and colors fit perfectly with the October woods and leaves outside. I knead the dough (a double batch) and feel grateful for my strong arms, my hands that know how to move the dough, the silky flour that I work into the messy dough until it turns smooth and firm itself. As I think of the bread I'm creating, I think of how much people love it--this leftover bread doesn't go out to the birds on anyone's feeder! I've started making extra so I can give our minister, who loves anadama, a loaf, and so we can be sure there is some left over for coffee hour, even. Again, that joy, that pleasure in the taste and texture of real food, made by a real person with real ingredients and deliberate care: the whole process seems to gain a level of grace. That grace is not due to me, for sure, though I did change my sweatshirt to limit the pet hair that might float into the dough as I kneaded, and I pulled my own hair back and washed my hands carefully and often. No, I'm no saintly sanctified baker angel, but as a creator of this miracle of yeasty, sweet smelling bread, and as the thinker of this long and rambling meditation on making and breaking bread, I am a small part of this incredible cycle of longing, memory, feeding, and hunger that ends in Communion, and continues onward in Communion. See you Sunday.

First draft. Unedited, but I wanted to get it down. 10/3/14. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sept. 28: LOVELY weekend.

I'd say it was "too warm," but thanks to our trees and a lovely breeze, it does feel like a lovely fall Sunday. The leaves have started turning, due either to about 5 cold days scattered over the past two weeks, or the mini-drought we're in, but it's awfully pretty regardless.

A few quick points:

1. I am eating a locally grown Mac. Contrary to my belief, they don't have to taste like applesauce wrapped in plastic. These are crisp and sharp. Yum.

2. Just finished listening to Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings. It is fantastic, and the reader was terrific, too.

3. Attended an interesting, helpful, useful, and fun "Yoga for Backs" workshop in Bar Harbor on Saturday with Heather. When the universe knocks, you answer. We did, and it was great. Lunch after in the sunny, warm, nearly empty town didn't hurt, either!

**Church stories:

Nick mentioned that we are all under construction, sparking a vivid flashback to the button that Gaboo, my beloved maternal grandmother, used to have on her purse: "P.B.P. G. I. N. F. W. M. Y.". I remember asking her what it meant (I think I was maybe in 2nd grade?) and she said, "It stands for, 'Please be patient; God is not finished with me yet.'" She had it for a long time, though I remember wondering what on earth God could find to work on with Gaboo, whom we all adored.

Also: today I was wearing a hot pink tee shirt with my black and pink print skirt. I was previewing my reading in the pew when MJ came sweeping in. She stopped at my pew, gave me a huge grin, and announced, "Pink is not my color!" Luckily, I had the foresight to reply, "Then it's a good thing you're not wearing this shirt!" She is a ticket. We both chuckled and headed off.

The InterestingsThe Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Meg Wolitzer's tight, insightful writing and Jen Tulloch's amazing narration combined to make this one of my favorite "listens" since. . . maybe Chabon's Telegraph Avenue. Wolitzer avoids the cliches of so many novels about friends who grow up, covering instead the realistic but less familiar ground of class, money, creativity and desire. I didn't even mind the switching view points!

HIGHLY recommended (just ask all my friends and family!), especially as an audiobook.

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sept. 20: Whoops, Missed a Week!

This lovely empty-nesting stuff is great--except that I miss the kids and all their news. However, having the sense that Andy and I can decide to do what we pretty much want to is awesome. This weekend, so far (Sat. night), I have

gone for a hike with Andy and Zeus at the Ellsworth forest on Branch Lake on our lovely fallish Friday afternoon, right after school. Pictures below. We were the only people there, and we had an amazing 2.5 mile walk. Wow.

Then I did some basic housecleaning, and worked on Megan's stocking.

Today, I
slept till 8!
Worked out with Kiley--it was a great workout!
did and hung out two loads of laundry.
made Fruited Sourdough bread, which was better than I feared.
repotted my two big and two tiny amaryllis bulbs.
did errands with Andy (Ells. Feed and Seed, gassed up the car, bank)
ate lunch at 86 This!
got books at the Libe
corrected processing questions over Of Mice and Men for nearly three hours!
finished the heart band on Megan's stocking
took Z for a walk
watched an odd little British film, "The Trip"
watched "About a Boy," the spin off sitcom.
am getting ready for bed!

So getting to putz along and do all that is pretty great. Tomorrow will feature swimming, church, a trip to Andy's co-worker's house for a Sumner gathering, and. . more school work. Also, I hope, contact with my boys!


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sept. 6: Before the Thunderstorms Arrive!

Had a good first nearly-full week of school, capped by a quiet Friday night where I fell asleep on the couch at 8 pm! Today offers lots of possibilities but no hard realities except a workout with Kiley at 9:30. . . perfect time to catch up on some books.

The Long Way Home (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #10)The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There are some authors that are just better to listen to than to read, I find. Louise Penny may be one of those! This, her latest, struck me as heavy-handed and pretentious: the repetitive descriptions of Ruth the foul-mouthed poet and her foul-mouthed duck, the ornate psychological descriptions of people's appearance, the annoying use of sentence fragments. . . all grated on me as I struggled through the first third of the novel. No one is a plain ol' normal human being in this work: they are haunted or prescient or torn or insightful or an "asshole saint". . . . oh please.

I skimmed the middle, read the end, and called it "okay."

I really like some of her earlier Gamache novels (probably also the ones that I listened to as audiobooks), but this latest one seems to be foundering under the weight of the plotlines Penny has created over the length of the series.

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Recommended by the same flyer that suggested Yes, Chef as a good summer reading book, so I scooped up Seraphina as an envelope-pushing choice. It was well-written and interesting, but its typically young-adult-novel emphasis on the protagonist's struggles to be accepted in society, her own identity, and her role as savior of the kingdom are, by now, trite, even when they come attired in scales and claws. Some fiercely original ideas in this book, but overall, I think I'm not its target audience. Probably an excellent choice for teenaged fantasy lovers!

View all my reviews

Monday, September 1, 2014

September 1, Labor Day: Summer's Official End

What a lovely weekend we've had--a four day one for my first time on a new calendar. I had a killer workout with Kiley on Friday morning, then A and I packed up in a very leisurely way and arrived at the camps in Bowdoinham, complete with Zeus, around 4. That whole time was pleasant and low key, and our Saturday at Bates with Nate was great too. It's an impressive, thoughtful, caring community, and N seems (now a week and a day into it) to find it a great fit too.

That's us showing off the handy benches and the lovely day we had! News from Lyle at Skidmore is also positive--senior year. Hard to believe. 

After leaving him at 4 and picking Zeus up from Mom and Anita's yard, we headed back to camp for another nice stretch, with a fierce game of cribbage, a good dinner, a fire, a better night's sleep, and a mellow morning. We then stopped by Craig and Heather's to see our nieces, who are champion sleepers but have definitely grown in a month, with Emma at 6 lbs, 3 oz, and Megan at 5 lbs. 11 oz. We held them for a bit and then headed home to our quiet, calm, orderly, newly-cleaned (thank you, Heidi and Michelle!) house. 

And now it's nearly 6 pm on Labor Day, and we've enjoyed a "do what we wanna" day, featuring a lovely b'fast at the Riverside, Andy's spectacular cleaning of the garden/junk shed, me making sourdough (hope my luck holds) and Joy The Baker's carrot soup, a run for me and a swim across and back the river with Zeus, a nice trip to Reny's for pants that actually FIT Andy (success) and oh yes will ya look at that? a cute bright yellow summer sweater for me (Coldwater Creek, baby) and then our week's grocery shopping, ringing in at $96. Empty nesters indeed! Since then I've done bread stuff, paid some bills, written five letters, emptied the cat box and the garbage, cleaned and repositioned Grandma Leamon's tea table up by the new loveseat. . . . all the little things that we do during the summer. Or don't do during the summer but get done in a while of busy on the last day! 

So. Some pictures might follow, and then after dinner I will actually settle to do some school work. Onwards into September, the fall, and this new normal!

And at the camps, I read a bit. . . . 

The Good Luck of Right NowThe Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Good Luck reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time: it's another amazing narrative voice and character that brings us a whole new perspective and world-view. I loved, loved, loved this--the end was a bit over-happy, but only my critical mind noticed: my heart loved it.

Highly recommended for readers ya and up.

The Man Who DisappearedThe Man Who Disappeared by Clare Morrall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Morrall did a nice job with the plot; I kept imagining what I might've felt in the various people's places. There were a few spots where I thought, "If he'd just explain, it might all smooth out," but overall it seemed realistic and interesting. The only glitches were an odd section towards the end where the recording seemed to be jumping back and forth--not a narrative device, but a cut-and-paste where one didn't belong, and then a weird use of dance metaphor that was supposed to tie up the ending. Otherwise, an interesting story. Good work all around, except that I hope Audible checks on the technical side of the recording on this one!

View all my reviews

Camp views: 

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29: Time Whips By Again!

Well, hello, world! I have been paying attention to the movement of the days, enjoying the lovely weather and appreciating my world, my blessings, and my life, but my! Time does fly. It's the Friday before Labor Day (we now have it off with our new schedule), a lovely blue and gold day, and we're leaving for the camps once we get a few things accomplished. Tomorrow we will see Nathaniel Stephenson, Bates freshman, upon his return from his four day hiking trip in the White Mts, for the actual kickoff of Orientation. Today. . . today is a lovely day to drink some coffee on the deck and have an outdoor workout with Kiley!

So here are some books I've read lately:

Snow in AugustSnow in August by Pete Hamill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Julie raved about this one; I gave it a try, but it is too generally sad for me to enjoy or find really good. I think it's easy to point out how horrible life might be for a kid in this boy's position (racism, loneliness, poverty, bullying. . . ) so I kept waiting for the redemption, the original insight. It did come, and the individual characters of the priest, the rabbi, and his mom were great, but overall, I felt Hamill's conclusion (what was THAT about?) needed more resolution and oomph. However, as I'm thinking about it, it's growing on me.

Okay. Bumped up the rating to 3 stars, and I'd add another half one if I could, with the comment that it's a book that's full of potential, contains some wonderful writing, and takes some good risks, but doesn't fully succeed.

Yes, Chef: A MemoirYes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one just knocked my socks off and left me with an enduring "book hangover" that makes it hard to find anything else worth reading (for a while. I'm getting over it now). I'm not really sure why, except that 1. Samuelsson's life story is varied and fascinating; 2. his perspective on his life and all his missteps and successes is insightful and honest, and 3. the insights the book gives into how people cope with the intensity of a professional, topnotch kitchen (and how one topnotch kitchen can be a healthy place to work and another a terrible place) are illuminating.

"I'm always battling myself--the part of me that says I can and the part of me that says I can't. My greatest gift has been that the part of me that says "I can" is always, always just a little bit louder." (285)

He has a lovely paragraph that sums up his work in Ethiopia and his attitude toward the world's view of Africa as a whole. It's long, but the concluding bit is, "So although I feel them coming, the pitying tears of a Westerner, i do not let them out. Instead I reach for my younger sister Ashou, who is five, but looks as if she is three. I pull her closer to me and I let her sit on my lap. I let the flies that cover her face also cover my face. And I do not swat them away." 248

Born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, Samuelsson tells his life story (well, part of it--he's not very old yet, even!) with honesty and energy. His reflections on growing up OTHER in Sweden and on being black in high level kitchens are nuanced and informative, reminding me of the insights offered by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her novel Americanah. The food descriptions are mouth-watering, his love and respect for his parents is heart-warming, and his honest summation of his own arrogant or thoughtless mistakes in his personal life is refreshing. I loved this book, and I have been recommending it to everyone I can buttonhole! I saw it mentioned in a "Summer Reading" Guide by Random House, designed to get schools to assign certain books, and I have some students who'd love this. Go out and read it! It's interesting, insightful, and good!

All Fall DownAll Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I power-read this in one (very late) reading session, so I have an overall impression: it's powerful! It's scary! It reads like a memoir!

I have to go back and read it more slowly to get some of the nuances and make a final decision because my overview is that 1. Dave is way TOO thoughtless/heartless; 2. Ellie is incredibly annoying. Her sensitivity seems to be at least partially 100% indulgent parenting. And really: if you name your daughter after that character Eloise, are you asking for that kind of karma????; 3. I'm a little concerned that Weiner is becoming a Jodie Picoult type writer, focusing on a new Headline Issue with each novel. I hope she realizes that she's very good at just doing regular women dealing with regular life stuff, and she doesn't have to do Betrayed Political Wife or Surrogate Mom in Crisis or whatever.

However: it's immensely readable--hence the bags under my eyes this morning!

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August 16: A Catch-up, Catch-All Celebration!

Well, it's Saturday, Julie left on Thursday, Friday vanished like a dream into a slow starting morning, a few visits with people in the front yard, three hours of work in my classroom (at long last!), errands en route home, a great work-out session with Kiley, then quinoa salad (which I am rocking these days, I must say) with Andy and Nate while we watched the wonderful "Muppets Most Wanted." Yay!

While Julie was up, we packed a lot of action into the five days we had, as has become our habit. We. . . .

picked out materials for three pairs of contrasting jammie pants: Caroline gets green and bright green; I get yellow floral and an aqua small print; Julie gets crazy patchwork and small pink flowers. I hope to cut them all out (most space-intensive part of the project) and then sew on them as time allows. I'm hoping that my new study set up will make it possible to sew for 1/2 hour or 15 minutes as that time becomes free. . . We'll see. We got the flannel at Marden's, and enjoyed the wonderful fabric ladies there.

At the other end of the chic scale, we also spent a day in Belfast and visited the ineffable Fiddlehead Artisan Supply, where I got some fabric for Mom's runner, better fabric to try to make Lyle's dream shirt, and we basically dreamed great dreams. What a lovely store: Julie, veteran of many fabric stores, said it was the nicest one she's been in. I resisted the urge to buy this book so I could make a dress from it that was almost exactly the one in the G'hopper window that stopped me in my tracks last week. . . . It's on my Christmas list, though!

While in Belfast, we went to the nice shoe store and I got a Deerfield Leathers handbag for 20% off--it's heavy leather, smells great, was made in New Hampshire, and . . . well, I just succumbed to the whole event. Lovely. I want to leather treat it and then start the switching over process from my backpacky muppet-haired Bean's bag to this one!

We also went to Bar Harbor, saw Lori, climbed Beech Mountain, went to the Beech Hill Farmstand, and checked out Spruce and Gussy and Salt--I loved S&G, but Salt was pretty pricey, upscale, and minimalist, so didn't really work for me.

A few things on MY "I've always wanted to" list included visiting the Gee's Bend Quilters exhibit at the Penobscot Marine Museum, climbing Great Pond Mountain (Nate and Andy came with us, which was great) and swimming afterwards, finally setting foot in the Courthouse Gallery in our very own Ellsworth, and then of course the mixed experience of Bar Harbor in mid-season madness.

Her last full day, Wednesday, was a chilly, rainy one, and we had already decided to see "The Hundred Foot Journey," (here's a link to the trailer, if you haven't seen it yet; backed by Spielberg and Oprah, it's had a lot of press!) regardless of the weather, so that worked perfectly. It's a fun movie, but not as strong as "Chef"--still, go see it. Much to like!

We ate at the Thai Sana place in Ellsworth that night, and before we knew it, J was off in her car with Scooter the turtle. . . . and I was thinking of how much she needed to move to Portland at least.

What a lovely time. How spoiled we are to have had two kid free weeks! It was great to get out and see some cultural sites, do some hiking, and also do some small-business-boosting shopping. Yay, friend visits and vacationing!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12: Vacation with Julie!

The Late ScholarThe Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Not a fan. Thrones, Dominations worked; Presumption of Death was carried by the plot; Attenbury Emeralds began to lose any strong Sayers voice, and The Late Scholar is a train wreck that reads like it was rushed to publication without an effective edit. For example, on p. 345 someone says, "We must make emends." I looked it up, and the definition is "Emend means to improve by editing (especially a text)", so I thought, "Okay, this is a scholarly mystery so Paton Walsh was probably using it in a slightly show-offy way to make us think it was a typo but it's really an obscure word that's totally appropriate." HOWEVER: the gentleman in question is NOT discussing editing or improving a written work at all--he really means, "We must make amends." Sloppy work. The whole authorial voice is gone: Peter isn't witty; Harriet isn't controlled and intelligent; the narration isn't understated and insightful. I might need to read a genuine Sayers to get the taste of this one out of my mouth, so to speak. A clear lesson that more is not better. Don't read beyond Presumption of Death.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 8, 2014

August 5: Lovely, lovely days. . .

Maybe it's because of our late start on vacation, but I feel like I am just now starting to settle into the right vacation groove. Lyle is in CT, Andy is working steadily on various lawn jobs, and Nate is working and looking towards Bates (Aug. 24, babeeeeee!), which leaves me with a nice . . . what do I call a routine that is not a routine but which I am learning to love? summer, I guess. The weather has been lovely, and I have been enjoying the quiet and shady coolness that we get here during the summer afternoons. I've been working on two pairs of pj pants for certain twins whose b'day is coming up, so I've been busy since Saturday, but I do love the ability to organize my days the way I want to organize them!

Then again, the fact that it is August has forced me to look at some things I. Want. To. Get. Done, so today I woke up at 6:15, ran (yay, me! So proud and pleased that I can run pretty much first thing these days!), showered, then got my long-delayed blood test from last year done, came home, and it was 8 am! I have been working steadily with Casey, though not always face-to-face, but we have both been reliable about doing our assigned work, so that's great.

Andy and I have decided that Lyle will take A's Corolla to school with him, mostly because, when we thought about it, it was the solution that left the fewest number of loose ends/questions/stressful details to tie up, so we went with it! Andy will drive the Camry (we owe about $500 on it and then it's all ours!) until he decides it's time for a change OR it dies, so we'll have one less car sitting in the driveway most of the winter, which is great. It's funny how just having that small decision made makes me feel good. My brain doesn't need to keep turning the question over and over, wondering if we can rent, or Sam could drive, or. . . . Yay!

And on Sunday Andy and I drove down to get the truck from Mom's and tied in a visit to see our new nieces at Maine Medical, where they'll be for about a week, probably. They are tiny, but they do look like babies, not fetuses, which is a clear indication that they are much healthier than many of the poor babies in the NICU. What an amazing event in our family. . . wow. Just plain wonderful. I need to decide on a stocking pattern and then get started--maybe while we drive N down to Bates!

Julie arrives for our SECOND child-free visit this summer, which should be great. She's had a tough go recently, with the loss of a neighbor to cancer and a sick Tuffy, so it'll be nice to have her up for a while of heavy vacationing. AND: funny to think that a year ago on Saturday, Nate and I went down to get Camilla from UNE. Wow.

So I could take several more weeks of lovely weather and total control of my time and decisions, but its fleeting quality is partly what makes summer so wonderful. Tonight A and I are going to see "Chef" at Reel Pizza with my Hebron classmate, Jeanne K. . . . more fun! Yay!

August 8: Waiting for Julie!

Julie is en route, expected late, and I've just put together a nice day of bits and pieces, but with a sense of accomplishment. It started as a lovely, cool, sunny, dry day, but *right after* I hung out my two loads of laundry, another batch of thunderstorms with heavy rain rolled in, and since then it's been wet and dark. Zeus is under the table where my feet are or staring out the door. Poor baby.

AND Nate had a fender bender while delivering today: he called and it was nothing dangerous, but I'm sure he's shaken up. Ah, life and its experiences.

Let's see. Today I have:
1. done two loads of laundry.
2. made iced tea.
3. prepped L's room for Julie.
4. weeded and dead-headed all three gardens that I'm in charge of, including the little lily garden by the rock out front. It felt great to do the whole pants-in-socks-and-boots-with-bug-spray prep and head out, removing spent centaurea and rose campion, pulling out ferns, dead-heading daisies, day lilies, and bee balm, and generally tidying things up. I think the big garden by the boat shed needs a major overhaul and mulch (maybe next spring in all our empty-nester spare time?), and we have some other plans as well. Andy and I spent some nice time wandering around the back yard making plans in between the downpours that Ellsworth suddenly specializes in.
5. Then I came in and took a much-needed shower (it is really really pouring now. WOW. White rain).
6. I also ordered the boys three pairs of great "flat cord" pants ($59.95 each) from the Gap as there was a 40% card member offer, AND with my points from the card I spent $79 for the three. YES!
7. Andy and I also finally organized the EZ pass situation and got me a new "tag" and entered my license plate on his/our account. YES! Small steps, but great ones to get done.
8. had a nice catch-up chat with Ginny about all our various doings. Nice to talk to her!

Now I am lusting after a Boden cashmere cardi, and the big problem is which color I should get it in, and whether I should give in. . . . Lucky for that to be my "big problem."

I think I will head upstairs to read (or should I say "read"?) for a bit in the study, and then I'll look for more small but eminently satisfying things to do.

Happy August. It is good.

Monday, August 4, 2014

August 5: New Books and a New Month!

Well, Goodreads is down right now so I will write here and then hope to post backwards. We'll see.

Finally finished the book Lyle gave me with the words, "You have to read this. It's good and so sad." Indeed Amanda Vaill's Everybody Was So Young is both of those things: good, in terms of being thoughtful and detailed, and sad in that it sketches a time that has been lost, and also the story of a couple who suffered great losses but kept going through their long lives, trying to be good for something. It's the biography of Gerald and Sara Murphy, two Americans born into wealth who became inspirations, friends, supporters, and members of the artistic and literary expatriate community around Paris in the 20s and 30s. The most moving aspect of the book for me, especially in light of Hemingway's 4? 5? wives and the Fitzgeralds' destructive relationship was their love for each other: they supported and cared for each other throughout their lives, anxieties and doubts and tragedies notwithstanding.

Fascinating also to consider what we've lost in turning away from letter writing: how will our biographers recreate our records? The voices from the letters are strong and clear--it's a rare text or email that will meet that level of reflection!

Vaill digs deep and pulls together a variety of sources and information, and her writing is generally effective. There's an occasional sentence like the following: "Such politicization had begun to drive a wedge between some of the Murphys' circle: Dottie Parker, in particular, had stopped speaking to Bob Benchley over "some labor issue," although she claimed it was because "I told her not to make those ingenue eyes at me as she was no longer [an] ingenue," Benchley reported to the Murphys." (283): while the gist of the sentence is clear, the whole "she said/he said" relationship is so convoluted that it would surely have been better to have rewritten the whole thing. However, Vaill's sense of respect for the principals is clear, and makes the book not a People-magazine expose, but a thoughtful evaluation of bonds and relationships, personalities and roles.

A few more dates might've been helpful, but overall, Everybody Was So Young is an excellent book. Students of American literature, take heed!

The Legacy of Elizabeth PringleThe Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I bought this audiobook from Audible on the rec. of Karen of Cornflower Books, whose taste I generally appreciate. In the long run, however, I found it uneven: in the beginning, it's too sad, with two parallel stories of women who are dealing with the inevitable losses of old age; then it becomes too predictable, with WWi and WWII stories that we've all heard before and miraculously "I knew he was The One" relationships; it winds up with a big helping of "spooky-wooky" "I could feel her spirit near me" intimations and that revelation of the hidden secret that we had no idea had existed from the very beginning of the tale. So. I guess I'd say that there are some interesting/lovely aspects of the story, and the narration is beautifully done. However, my "okay" rating remains. Overall, it became an annoying book.

Thief of Time (Discworld, #26)Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nate really likes this one; As usually, I loved the narration and the creativity behind it, but (probably because I listened to it in fits and starts as we shared ipods) it lacked the zest and overall continuity of the best of Pratchett's writing. He does have a strong sense of what makes humans both lovable and annoying/dangerous, and he presents the Auditors as completely lacking those characteristics but slowly developing them. Who knew chocolate could save the world?

View all my reviews

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28: Books and (Maybe) a Few Pictures!

Thereby Hangs a Tail (A Chet and Bernie Mystery, #2)Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quinn's idea could go terribly wrong, and it IS hoky: the dog narrates this whodunnit series. However, Quinn's narration as Chet is clever and, for those dog-lovers out there, spot-on: smells sidetrack Chet; he frequently succumbs to naps and misses parts of a story; he has several embarrassing stories involving other dogs, javelinas, and/or irresistible food, etc. I listened to this during a long, slow drive to CT and back and found it really fun: not great literature, but certainly entertaining. The reader got Chet's voice and delivery nicely, and the plot is interesting enough to keep things moving. Recommended for people who know dogs but don't want an overly cutesy involvement with them.

Never Too Late (Barsetshire #25)Never Too Late by Angela Thirkell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cleaning out the shelves, I spotted my vintage copy of this Thirkell and succumbed to its lures (and then also read A Double Affair, the next one in the series). . . . Thirkell is SUCH an acquired taste, but she is truly wonderful when she's at her best. I wish there were movies: the life with butlers and maids is presented as so normal, the mention of leasing out the wing of the big house for a school is so common, and the concern about how to keep the family property intact so frequent that it's hard to realize that these are REALLY RICH PEOPLE! The people in the village who are so gently but snobbishly described as different or as trying hard but not quite making it--they are US! I'd love to see the "actual" landscape that she was describing. It is surely alien to this American, but I do love to visit it.

Plot-wise, not her freshest, as there is a lot of repetition about Edith and her difficulties and George and his. Still, worth a visit.

A Double AffairA Double Affair by Angela Thirkell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As I mentioned in my Never Too Late review, I read this after NTL, and I think I'd over-dosed on the less-energetic Thirkell genre by then: this one felt overwritten and repetitive as a whole, although it does have some nice parts and is, after all, escapist Anglophilic Thirkell, regardless! It "forwards the story" but it's not her best.

GoldGold by Chris Cleave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wary after the intense experience of reading LIttle Bee, I flirted around the edges of Gold, but ultimately I committed to reading it, and I'm glad I did. Cleave is a skilled and intriguing author, and this novel about the competing demands of family and top level athletic competition is powerful and good. The sport (short track bike racing?) is esoteric, but once I got into the book, it became a backdrop for the deeper questions and issues. Cleaves's characters are unique and sympathetic (I especially liked Tom, the coach, and Jack and Kate's relationship) and the story as a whole is suspenseful and interesting. Recommended.

A few of his riffs on modern culture (usually delivered from Tom's perspective) are really brilliant: he has one about young men who have to post everything on line and who make fun of everything, including themselves, while taking themselves incredibly seriously. Snap.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17: Reading a lot at Julie's!

Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum, #20)Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's understandable that after cranking these (and many other offerings!) out at an amazing pace, the quality of JE's writing should flag at times, but this effort was solidly in the "okay" range. Grandma and Lola were pretty funny but not over-the-top ridiculous, and the plot had some coherence, though I wonder how long the Joe/Ranger conflict can continue without making Stephanie clearly unethical and flat-out unfaithful--she's right on the edge now. All in all, an entertaining beach read.

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a MarriageDelancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like Molly Wizenberg's Orangette blog, and I was delighted to see this book in the Ridgefield Library. I might buy it, because I like a lot of the recipes--both for weird experiments (gin with ground pepper and garlic?) and for plain ol' "that sounds great!" meals (penne alla vodka). The story of the ins and outs of starting the restaurant was engrossing, too, and the progress of her relationship with and understanding of her husband caught my attention as well, though Julie did not find the book interesting at all. One aspect I noted with respect was that she discussed various people who entered their lives through the restaurant process, and it was really hard to tell if they would be friends, foes, betrayers, or loyal supporters: her tone was always level and respectful, an approach that I find difficult in my own life and in much public discourse today.

Recommended (though Julie disagrees!) as an interesting resource and a good story, though I am surprised that it's a NYT bestseller. Doesn't seem jazzy enough. Maybe a lot of people want to open restaurants and find this book, as I do, a good replacement!

Food Rules: An Eater's ManualFood Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay: amazing is over-the-top for this little book (booklet, maybe?), but I really liked its zippy format, its straightforward advice, and its clear diction. It was another 25 cent investment at our neighbor's yard sale, and I've shared it with Michael (it is his "I've read one book!" book already) and we both thought it was enlightening and funny.

Anyone who's hoping? trying? to "eat better" should read this book--preferably a copy picked up for 25 cents at a yard sale!

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13: Before I Leave for Julie's!

I woke up at 5 so am burning some time as I drink my coffee and get ready to start getting ready. . . . Some catch up posts!

Blacklist (V.I. Warshawski, #11)Blacklist by Sara Paretsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Got this at the book sale, and since I once was an avid fan of Paretsky, I tried it for old time's sake. Paretsky is a good writer--before I knew it I was really reading, not just skimming: good descriptions, a terrific balance between action and setting, etc. However, I found this one pretty predictable and about 100 pages too long for me as a result. The plot surrounding HUAC hearing and 9/11 profiling seemed trite, though it might not have seemed so in 2005, when the book came out. ANyway: VI is still tough as ever!

Bet MeBet Me by Jennifer Crusie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of Crusie's stronger outings, with a lot of fun events, a terrific supporting cast, great food descriptions (though, really, enough with the chicken marsala already! There are other great dishes out there!), and not too much detailed sex (because some of her earlier ones are a little too much like a Playboy (or girl) entry). I've read this before, and I'll probably read it again. . . a perfect summer pleasure!

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July 10: Reading, reading, reading!

The Ashford AffairThe Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well written, but *very* predictable story, combined with one of those flashback/flashforward, trite plots. Characters are shallow, and the story basically feels like White Nights, a movie/book story about lust and crimes of passion in Kenya. . . . Shows little to none of Willig's usual sense of humor.

That SummerThat Summer by Lauren Willig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now in THIS one, Willig has stepped up her game away from the Flower spy stories and far exceeded The Ashford Affair's dreary predictability. Yes, this novel jumps time periods AND has echoes of another work (Possession by AS Byatt), but That Summer is well-written and pretty darn hard to put down. The idea of inheriting a house full of stuff--treasures OR junk--is before and after fodder and pretty compelling; the story in the past becomes quite involving as well. I ended up really enjoying this one, but the challenge for Willig will be to write a novel that never changes time period and never uses the word "slaphappy," which she used, annoyingly, at least four times in this one. Otherwise, highly recommended!

Chestnut StreetChestnut Street by Maeve Binchy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wellllllllllllllll. It was, truly, "okay": a patchwork collection of stories loosely connected by their setting (?), but lacking any sense of coherence or connection otherwise. The usual Binchy characters showed up and meandered around. I skimmed quite a bit. End of story.

View all my reviews