Friday, February 21, 2014

Feb. 21: Annnnnd the last one!

Getting to HappyGetting to Happy by Terry McMillan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fairly predictable, but a pleasant read.

*Reread Feb. 2014.

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Friday: Pelle goes back home today after a nice visit; he, Cam., Nate and I went out to the Riverside for breakfast, which was great fun and delicious and, finally, not too long! I'll take him up to B'gor around 2; until then I'll plan with Elana and do some correcting, possibly write a letter to Julie, and also clean my room. What ho! Onwards!

BUT: ONE MORE! Finished after we got back from dropping Pelle. It's now raining hard, thundering, and lightning. Go figure.

  Backseat SaintsBackseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whew! I read this one so fast that I missed some of it--also had a wicked sinus headache for a bit of the time, which tends to slow down comprehension. However, this is certainly a "wow" after several doses of "only okay." I love the way Jackson writes, and her depiction of the patterns and mindset of a woman in an abusive relationship is so far from trite or shallow that it's amazing. I have no idea (thank God) what that experience is like, but her writing and story ring true and powerful.

She can be funny, too, with lines like the VW " sounded like a some fireworks were getting it on with a big bag of asthma in the engine box."

Highly recommended. Readable, well-written, absorbing, and intense.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Feb. 20: Thursday

Today was a warm and melty day at long, long, long last: we have had 80" of snow (plus about 4 more from last night), which is THREE FEET more than average. And it's been cold. So. Lovely to see the sun and go for a squishy, splashy run.

AND Mom came up with Aunt Joan for a lightning quick visit. . . so, so, so lovely to see my favorite aunt. Only sorry it was as short as it had to be. Reminder to self: get your heinie down to PA more often. Point taken.

And I am going to record a lot of books I've listened to and/or read, as I enjoy my fragrant cup of Lapsang Souchon, purchased in Portland this past weekend. Luscious.

Jeeves and the Wedding BellsJeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not quite Wodehouse, but a pleasure nonetheless--such a pleasure that I hope Faulks offers us more Bertie and Jeeves adventures in the future! Did notice the occasional reference to WWI, which didn't work well, so I hope he doesn't try to add a social conscience to the oeuvre!

  How to Be BeyonceHow to Be Beyonce by Madison Moore
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Got this free from audible as a valentine's present and it was TERRIBLE. I didn't expect great lit. but this was a muddled, insultingly inane bunch of nothing. YUCK. Less than not recommended.

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #13)The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another charming, warm entry into the ranks of the two McCall-Smith series I actually enjoy: No. 1 Ladies' and the Sunday Philosophy Club. As the title reveals (somewhat misleadingly, actually), this is a Mma Ramotswe book. As far as I could tell (I was reading while on two planes and in an airport, so perhaps not as attentively as I might have), there IS no Limpopo Academy, but there are plenty of other plots, ideas, themes, and conversations to follow. I'd recommend this new entry for any former fans: while McCall Smith doesn't really develop any new territory, he revisits old familiar ground with humor and detail.

Not to spoil, but: the apprentices have actual names now! Mma Potokwane suffers a setback! We hear a LOT about 97%, and we meet a legend.

Warmly recommended for existing fans; probably not the best introduction for neophytes.
Reread February 14, 2014. 

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, #14)The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, I'm already a fan, and this is a good but not great entry in the series. However: this work reveals lovely new side of Charlie the Apprentice, and that boosts it considerably. Warm and readable.

Now, the one-liners from the booksale: 

BeachcombersBeachcombers by Nancy Thayer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I think I read quite a bit of Nancy Thayer "back in the day," but either her style has slipped or my standards have risen, and I found this one flat, predictable, awkwardly written, and, ultimately, skimmable. Pretty cover, but doesn't live up to its cover's promise.

  Out of Eden (The McGraws, #1)Out of Eden by Beth Ciotta
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

So: does a romance *have* to be poorly written, trite, and predictable? Out of Eden does not convince me otherwise, with lines like "he ridded her of the lacy thong" (no, I don't know the proper tense of that verb, either, so I would avoid it!), and "A moment blipped in her mind. Her. Jack." (NO idea how to do that right: herself? She? So, again, my editor should tell me to avoid it if I'm not sharp enough to decide to do that myself). On top of the hokey "Got to change my life" story line (Jennifer Crusie did it so, so, so much better in Faking It), there's a stereotypical Mafia plot line that's achingly awkward.

Much as I adore my Library and its booksales, I think I have to raise my standards. And, Goodreads, one star should not be "did not like it" but should be "it was terrible."

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Now, on to correct three more media critiques and then possibly deal with the laundry explosion (which is really a "drawers full of too much stuff" explosion issue) in my bedroom. Ah, such a life.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Feb. 19: Post Storm #2, Wed.

Lovely 8" of fluffy stuff, and a good day yesterday. I did good school work for about 3 hours or so, had a good hard swim, made cookies and biscuits, and finished the to-be-gifted socks for Jane with the #$!!! yarn that kept fraying due to a bad twist (see above!). The four of us also went to see "Dealin' with Idiots" at the Grand "film fest," which was bad but interesting--at least I think that's our verdict. Maybe just bad.

Today: sunshine on the snow. Discovered and read an O Magazine about decluttering that also featured some books I'd like to read: Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Kathleen Hale's No One Else Can Have You (teen fiction that is NOT about vampires!), Bread & Butter by Michelle Wildgen, and, possibly, Lorrie Moore's Bark, partly because her first collection reminds me so intensely of grad school at Brown with Julie!

Also: a run or a yin yoga session online; food shopping; six more media critiques (or maybe ten, just to get this party started); starting a new sock; some reading; maybe clearing out a sweater drawer; picking up in advance of Aunt Joan's visit, since she does love me but she is a clutter noticer! And I think I'll ponder a dinner party for March sometime, since it is such a nasty month, and I do like to reach out, connect, and feed people. Hmmmmm. Onwards.

Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17: Home Again

So. Back after a nice time in Portland with Julie, but I think either cabin fever or PMS is settling in and I feel a bit grumpy. . . . ah well.

Solutions? A walk in the cold sun with Zeus, a game of cribbage with Andrew, soon some "Modern Family" and work on the remaining to-be-gifted sock, and possibly some reading. Also, a list!

Things to do this vacation:
send off the Norwegian "Christmas" package
send off our Happy New Year's cards/letters 
correct common ass'ts from my ninth graders (six done last Thursday, I'm proud to admit)
correct AP essays on Night and Dawn
see some real movies?
do some real cooking?
book our tix and hotel for our trip to Florence over April break (Easter week!)
do some fun stuff
tackle/decide on what to do with Nate's lingering Old Friend Pullover

More to come!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Feb. 14: Happy Valentine's Day, Snow Day, and, therefore, VACATION!

An odd stutter-step to start vacation, but we're here! Heavy snow (early release yesterday), then heavy rain, and now, it looks like more snow. Weird. Not sure how we'll "celebrate," but tomorrow I'm off to Julie and Portland, which we are both looking forward to! So. Knitting? Reading? Quilting? Cooking? Something!

Still Life with Bread CrumbsStill Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I like Anna Quindlen and this book was a good palate-cleanser after a bunch of sad, troubling reading, but I wish it had been stronger overall. Upon reflection, I decided that she was trying too hard to make a nice story into a Novel About Something. Characterization is a bit thin, the dog is poorly developed, the troubled sister plot doesn't work well, and there were some details that were just wrong: could she survive in a little house with only a woodstove and no heat for the winter? Could she hide the way she did after the big storm without anyone coming to check on her/run into her? Not a really good sense of how small towns (or cold houses in bad winters) really work. . . . The reader was somewhat wooden and awkward, so the book came across as trying too hard overall. However, by the end, the story caught me and I loved the happy ending.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Feb. 7: Cabin Fever Time, I do believe!

Even after our lovely, restful, snowy, powdery, no-school snow day on Wednesday, this has been a challenging week at school, with people (absoLUTEly including me in that list) getting a bit testy and short. So tonight it's Friday, which is great; Andrew and I are having a budget conference at 6 and then, in a faintly ironic move that Nathaniel pointed out to us, going out for a "date dinner" at Cleonice JUST US; the kids are probably watching "Hairspray" and having take out; my thoughts are much about next weekend when it will be the verge of vacation and my visit with Julie.

Good things from this week:

1. one sock done and about 1/2 of the second one's leg completed;

2. lovely long Facebook video chat with Lyle, who wants us to come visit him in Florence;

3. (sigh) squaring up (which is good) of a messed-up credit card bill (which was bad and entirely my fault so I didn't even call to try to wangle my way out of the late fee [ouch]). . . a good reminder of my resolution to deal with issues head on;

4. more sunshine each day. Yay.

So. Off I go to feed the dog and then talk money with my beloved. xxoo

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February 5: Snow Day!

This picture comes from a vacation snow storm, but it captures our feeling today!

This storm was due to start at 5 am, then delayed till 7, so the fact was far from guaranteed.  I went to the Y and was through my swim before the call was even made. As a result, I came home and climbed back into bed for a half hour's nap. . . Nate, home safely from the work trip to the Dominican, has a heavy cold, so he's tucked up with various movies by the stove, and I plan reading, napping, and knitting, with a nice breakfast/brunch? out at some point.

Small flakes, but they're coming down steadily and seriously. I am reveling in this day!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Feb. 1: Catching Up!

CONFUSIONCONFUSION by Elizabeth Jane Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is definitely a reread, inspired by Cornflower Blog's comment that a fifth and final Cazalet is being released (perhaps in the wake of Howard's recent death? Is it an unfinished piece, finished by another, or was this accidental?). The series is absorbing, though it can be frustrating in the minutiae of the characters--who IS Jessica, exactly?--and, frankly, by Howard's continuous creation of dark clouds for anything resembling a silver lining. Halfway through this piece I thought, "Why can't any of her characters have any happiness?" There's also a somewhat creepy motif of much older men with much (as in 20 years younger) women, a combo which Howard seems, Austen-like, to find completely suitable, and which she then bumps into high profile.

However, for people with a fascination for WWII British life, this whole series (and I'm going to cut and paste this review for Casting Off, Cazalet #4) will satisfy. It does what it does well--and since I've reread it probably three times, it's interesting, despite its flaws. Casting OffCasting Off by Elizabeth Jane Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**This one, post-war, is a little less dour, though people still seem to suffer consistently. Some things have looked up, however.

Old FilthOld Filth by Jane Gardam
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Graeme Malcolm, the reader, for getting me through this novel, which allowed me to appreciate its entire scope and mastery. I have been reading several English WWII novels/pieces of nonfiction lately--not sure why--so my sense of change, societal and personal loss, and general doom and gloom has been high, and several times I wondered why I was listening to this meticulous tale of a man at the end of his life. . . but, ultimately, the book served to 1. wow me with Gardam's writing skill, and 2. remind me of the value and wonder of every individual's experience, encouraging me to simply pay attention to other people and their lives.

One of the reasons I stuck with Old Filth in the darker parts at the start was that Jeanne Ray, author of Calling Invisible Women and, more notably, mother of Ann Patchett, listed it as one of her favorite books just as I was about to start listening to it, and that serendipitous mention (along with Cornflowerbooks Blog's rave opinions about Gardam in general) kept me going. And I'm glad I kept going. The novel is rewarding, beautifully written, and full of images and experiences that make it rich and wonderful. Not an easy read by any means (and probably not one to take on during a dark time of your life, in fact), but well worth the investment.

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