Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wed., Dec. 30: Thinking about Resolutions

I intended to post earlier in the week. . . but there was this thing called Christmas, and then . . . .

Oh well. I realized that as of last week at this time, we were still in school, so there is time. Our family gathering at Mom's is the last weekend of A's and my vacation, which is pretty unusual. Luckily, I don't have much/any correcting or even much actual prep to do for school, so I can cruise into the weekend away with my stress levels low.

For Resolutions this year, I think I have four:

1. hike/walk/get outside  someplace new once/month;
2. write an actual old-style communication to someone once/month;
3. keep working on my writing for publication;
4. finish one of my current sewing projects.

1 and 2 are the ones I'm most committed to; 3 and 4 are more like reminders to myself.

I also liked my one word resolution last year: "Enjoy!" was useful in combatting the side of me that borrows trouble and worries unnecessarily about things that are really designed to be fun (like our trip to Scandinavia, for example). Perhaps my one word resolution this year should be "Onwards!" keeping in mind A's and my two-to-five year plan and my newly commenced Proficiency-Based Education coursework. Who *knows* where our plans will be next year at this time?

So my remaining vacation goals are
--running the Resolution 5k in Bar Harbor on Friday morning at 9!
--having a good social time with my family this weekend, despite all the potential for crazy-making;
--getting a resume draft done;
--finishing my draft-recertification work;
--typing up one essay I've already written and possibly drafting a second one.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday, Dec. 29: Another Day of Ahhhhh. . . .

Though this one contained a fairly substantial snow storm! It's been snowing all day, with temps around 17, and we've gotten about 8". It's 8 pm and still coming down strong--super nice to have a day with no travel plans and a chance to just enjoy the storm. N. and I ran at the Y on the treadmills, practically solo, and I wrote thank you notes and found yarn to complement my fuchsia baby cardi that turned out to need more than the 2 skeins of yarn I bought for it in Belfast. . . . and cleaned the kitchen and such the like. I also finally ordered New Year's cards with the pic that Mom took of us all after the Christmas Eve service. I think it's important to keep reaching out as personally as possible in these days of split-second connections, and I think cards are one way to do that. So here we are. . . I cropped out the lamp for the card, so it's a bit less unevenly lit, but in general, it's a fair show of all four (five, including Zeus) of us, so we're going with it.

I also finished listening to Venetia, by Georgette Heyer, which I'll blog at both Audible and Goodreads. It's a childhood favorite of Ann's and mine, but one that I hardly remember, which means I haven't read it  since my last teenage bout of the flu. It was a lot of fun--a good reader, a lovely, strong female lead, a few irritating supporting characters, an interesting conflict and, of course, a dashing rake. I'd like to know more about Heyer as a person, since her protagonists are always so interesting--though I am certainly mired in the Ngaio Marsh biography I started long ago on the same premise! Anyway, Venetia was a fun "listen" in the busy days of December, and a nice way to come down from the high suspense of Career of Evil.


The Lure of the Moonflower (Pink Carnation #12)The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wish I could give this 2.5 stars: The Lure of the Moonflower, the final entry in the Pink Carnation series, is less ridiculously vapid and mind-numbingly over-written than the recent books. . . which is a sort of a recommendation, I suppose! Especially at the beginning, when Jack is the main focus, Willig's writing is controlled and zippy; after about 1/3 of the story, however, the plot and characterization begins to topple under its own weight, becoming too full of backstory and internal struggle to interest me much. I skimmed.

It really seems that Willig is a skilled writer whose work suffered from its own popularity and the drive to produce more books with little regard for their quality. However, since I recently tried to reread The Pink Carnation itself and ended up giving up in annoyance and donating the book to the Library booksale, perhaps my tastes have changed.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday, Dec. 27: Snow at Last!

Nasty, grizzly, raw, sleety/snowy day. . . . but we had a gathering for a bunch of Nate's friends, and that was fun--and also inspired us to clean the house. Once everyone left (always a nice time after a party!), I finished reading Out of Nowhere, which I started over Thanksgiving and then got distracted from. It's an excellent book. *Excellent.* Go read it, before vacation ends!

 Out of NowhereOut of Nowhere by Maria Padian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Maria Padian's Out of Nowhere is a terrific novel--it's written in a realistic voice, deals with timely issues in an honest way, and moves rapidly. While I wish she hadn't changed the name of the town from "Lewiston" to "Enniston," it was fun to match up the stories: the mayor became female; the good Italian restaurant, DaVinci's, became Michelangelo's; Bates turned into Mumford. I remember the rally that I took Lyle to, described at the end, as well! However, the other aspects of the novel are what makes it truly impressive: the novel isn't glib, doesn't offer a Hollywood-esque soft focus finish, and the questions of religion, reason, and fairness stay clear and powerful. I'm thinking it might be an excellent book for Maine high school students to read!

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday, December 20: EEK! Time flies!

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #16)The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this one as Mma Ramotswe tried to take a holiday--but still stayed busy, examining her conscience and the world around her. These books are like a mini-vacation in themselves: slow, sweet, and mellow.

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Finally, some chilly, Decemberish weather, and even some snow! Nate is home, the tree is up (just lights, but that's my favorite stage, I think), and Julie's package is ready to be mailed (thanks to Nate) tomorrow. Busy times, but only 2.5 days this week. Might just make it.

Hope to have a time to write longer soon: about my two classes and their huge enjoyment of Much Ado About Nothing, about Michael at the pageant, about the blessings of family rediscovering itself. I'm hoping to have a completely pajamas day sometime soon!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dec. 13: A Warm, Sunny December Sunday

The Novel Habits of Happiness (Isabel Dalhousie, #10)The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of two McCall Smith series I enjoy; even so, there are better and worse entries. Novel Habits falls right in the middle: its mystery isn't really solved at all, and Isabel decides on her response to the mystery itself by a series of logical decisions that she then seems to reverse, but there's plenty of the usual lovely Jamie, delicious food, beautiful Edinborough/Scotland, and leisurely enjoyment. A fillip of collegial intrigue and a question of family size adds more interest to the plot. If you already like the Dalhousie series, this one will fit right in, but it's not a dazzling introduction.

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

December 6: Happy Advent!

It's a lovely afternoon, full of lambent light, and 50 degrees on our front porch. I ran the Santa Run 5k today, and though I felt really draggy and had an above-30 min. time (boo! Perhaps two days off and an egg sandwich for b'fast were not good calls), it was lovely weather, great company, a terrific cause, and could not be more conveniently located: right across the street. I also pre-registered so I got a gorgeous green long-sleeved tshirt. So my 10th 5k is in the bag. Booyah.

Andy and I both did some yard work/cleaning up (I took the screens down, put up the little trees for the windows, and swept the cellar stairs) and then I have been doing detail work on the lap top. Soon I plan to work on my learning map for Shakespeare and also take a shower. I had dreamt of a nap, but I have taken a while to get to my work, so I doubt that will happen. 

We went to see Nate's choir concert at Bates on Friday night and had a lovely time, meeting him and his roommate at a Thai place with time for a nice dinner, then meeting Mom and co at the Olin Arts Center to enjoy the "Opera Choruses" concert. What a pleasure! We had breakfast with Mom and Anita the next morning, and a really nice visit with them over it, and then Andy and I headed up the coast, talking "imagine if" and plans for our futures. Very exciting. 

I hope to have some pictures of the race, the knitting I finished recently, and the yarn I'm going to start making this cardigan out of, but right now, I have only a book review for JK Rowling/R. Galbraith's Career of Evil, and maybe a few more. ETA: Pic shared by Pamela, so there it is! 

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3)Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am not a huge fan of suspense, especially when it's coupled with psychological darkness and/or violence. Anyone who's read Career of Evil is currently snickering, because it's hard to get darker or more violent than Galbraith's latest story! A few times I nearly quit and traded over to the "real book," so I could skip particularly gory sections, but I soldiered on and, ultimately, found Career as engrossing and suspenseful as the other two Cormoran Strike novels in the series. I *do* question whether we needed as much detail about the bad guy's sexual habits, and if I could interview Rowling, I'd ask her about the violence against women that pervades this book. . . . but it is well written, the characters continue to develop in interesting ways, and, nearly against my will, I found it fascinating. That said, I can't imagine what Strike's next outing will involve!

Note: listened to the audiobook and the reader, Robert Glenister, is AMAZING.

Dumplin'Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dumplin' is a pleasure--original, fun, touching. It could be more developed, because not all of the fascinating characters get the attention they deserve, but I am on board for more of Murphy's novels!

Signs Point to YesSigns Point to Yes by Sandy Hall
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Started this one with great interest, but abandoned it halfway through. The characters are poorly developed, and the plot development is halting and uneven, with a strange lack of detail: the protagonist finally spends some one-on-one time with her crush and Hall provides no details of their conversation or even the protag's thoughts. I was very disappointed!

Three Famous Short Novels: Spotted Horses, Old Man, The BearThree Famous Short Novels: Spotted Horses, Old Man, The Bear by William Faulkner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

MDIHS Readers&Writers read "The Bear," the last of the stories in this collection, as our first group read for 2015. I found the first 1/3 of the book––the bear hunt part––to be stunningly, staggeringly gorgeous. His sentence structure and his vocabulary were mind-boggling. The next 2/3s were more challenging: if I'd been his editor, we'd have had some battles over his unremittingly complex prose and the inscrutability of his language. The goal of that level of challenge was harder to see in those sections. However, all in all, I am delighted that we read this, and I am dazzled and fascinated by Faulkner's writing.

That said, I will probably not be digging into the other two stories in a hurry, unless the Readers&Writers decide we should!

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(It feels a bit insulting to the English language to have Faulkner and Signs Point to Yes on the same page. I think Murphy and he would have a grand ol' time together, however!)