Saturday, May 21, 2016

Friday, May 13: Rainy Peaceful Night!

Whoops! Never posted this . . .  no real reason to except that it's fun to look back on it.

From Friday, May 13: To-do list for a quietish weekend:

--talk to BFF Sat. am while drinking strong coffee
--dig up some pulmonaria and oregano to give to friends; plant chives from friend
--mail great pic of me and friends to friend
--sew a bit?
--go to see "Duck Hunter Shoots Angel" at Penobscot Theater with beloved; find place for dinner beforehand!
--do progress reports
--swim and run
--prep for meeting on Monday!

Saturday, May 21: Spring! Books! Lists! Exchange possibility. . .

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I. Loved. This. Book. Backman's tone is dry and reserved, but his heart is clearly in the right place! Having visited AFS family in Norway, I could visualize the "neighborhood association," which added appeal. This is, in many ways, a small, simple book, but it presents a lot of important ideas about people, community, love, grief, and decency. "A Man Called Ove" is the book I've been recommending to everyone I meet lately. My book hangover is severe, but it's worth it.

*Highly* recommended. Buy a copy (in hardback, even!) to give to someone worthy of it after you finish.

The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the first of the two "Books by Swedes from the MDIHS Library Which Don't Involve Perversion Or Murder". Not sure I got the modifiers in the right places, but: both Bivald and Backman are Swedish "every day" writers, and their books leapt off the shelves and into my bookbag.

Unfortunately, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a mess. It's too long, too ornately plotted, too naive, and too dull to succeed, much as its cover, its intent, and its author are appealing. The story of a reclusive young book seller who ends up in a dead-end town in Iowa (?) and whose vision of creating a bookstore ends up rejuvenating the town tackles topics of (wait for them. . . .) bisexuality, homophobia, religious and racial bigotry, economic renewal, risk-taking, alcoholism/addiction, depression. . . . and I think I missed out on a few. While it's possible that one novel could handle all those (Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone springs to mind as a possible contender), TRoBWR reads like the young, inexperienced bookseller actually wrote the text: it's clunky; characters are poorly and awkwardly developed; the letters that supposedly tie the plot together are 1. boring and 2. unconvincing as letters in the first place, and, most damningly, there's a lot about sex in the book but the author is terrible at describing attraction, lust, and/or conversations about them OR encounters involving them.

That said, the idea is charming, and the story of rebirth and redemption is appealing. As I read, I kept imagining an ambitious 14 year old girl, encouraged by voracious reading, filling page after page in a college-ruled notebook: I cheered her on, but I did a lot of skimming and I also wondered who thought her youthful efforts warranted a full-on, published novel?

An understandable attempt in need of a firm editor.

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Well: it's a lovely Saturday morning, and although I have plenty of reading responses to The House on Mango Street waiting in my bookbag, I don't have anything SUPER pressing to do. I started this entry outside in the sunshine, accompanied by the old Zeus who enjoys a lot of sunshine on his old bones, but the bugs are here and the sun was actually too hot!

A few ideas, points, and comments.

1. I found this young woman's work and writing to be compassionate and insightful.

2. I found this event to be terrifying, and I plan to make some donations to organizations that support a woman's right to control her body and make her own decisions in response. Staggering. The fact that the anti-choice female governor vetoed the bill is a surreal wrinkle in this whole bizarre situation.

3. On the lighter but still related side, I found this video to be entertaining, though I do think it could've followed up with some pictures of what the men's feet looked like after the day of high heels.

4. I also did some blog reading outside of my usual collection, and I discovered that I have marked preferences for tone and content. I don't mind a chatty style or tone, but I'm not looking for the airy, run-on babbling of a tween mind. Too many exclamation points, run-on sentences, and/or emoticons, and you've lost me. (Not that you probably mind.) In addition, I don't want a blog to be a thinly disguised advertisement: one of my favorite baking blogs went that way for a while, and I am happy to see that the weekly "These are the latest things I think you should buy" posts are gone. Or maybe my grump adblock software deletes them? Anyway: don't market to me, and don't pretend that if you're a professional lifestyler, you understand or have anything helpful to offer the average human mom/woman/wage slave in the world today. Reading about what a professional instagrammer has to say about "squeezing in a workout before a meeting" as directed to a full time mother or average woman in the the world today is staggeringly false.

Honesty is crucial: that idea of prettying up our lives to impress others and pass on the FOMO experience is so. . . . yesterday? so "me before I turned old enough to realize some key truths"? so "reality TV"? Take one look at Mason Dixon Knitting and their wonderful posts featuring sock puppets encouraging people to start or finish a pair of socks and you'll see the power of the InterNET, as Ove (see review above) would call it, in its unvarnished truth. Fun.

Enough, though, as I am sounding like Ove himself. Without Sonja.

5. My life this May has been full of reminders of fortune and joy: family challenges and good news out of bad; some projects at school that are promising to be joyful, impressive, fun, and creative; lovely weather and burgeoning gardens full of flowers; good food and exercise and people.


**ETA: I have been sort of involved in a book exchange on Facebook that involved me sending out one book to someone I sort of know and . . . . receiving no books. That's fine, actually, because I have tons of  books in stacks all over my somewhat bookshelf-free house. BUT: I just was thinking: if some people read this blog because of the book reviews, would some of those readers like a book? So: here's an offer: if you'd like me to send you a book, leave your mailing address in a comment, and I'll send books to the first five people to do so. You can give it away, pass it on, keep it forever--and maybe there won't be any comments so I can keep all my books (umm. . . .), but I'd like to try that. (I considered doing that with a skein of yarn per comments, but that would be truly difficult, I think!). So: comment away, if that seems fun.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Saturday, May 14: Spring Has Sprung!

Gardening and not too many blackflies on this stunning mid-May Saturday! Rain last night and rain due tomorrow, so I got some good weeding, transplanting, and new plants in (or out, as needed). Bike Safety Rodeo at the school next store provided a wonderful backdrop of squeals, cheers, and little kids zooming around like fish in an aquarium. Very nice. Soon A and I are off to dinner and a play--imagine!

In the meantime, some books!

NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading Neil Gaiman makes me think of a darker, modernized Terry Pratchett--he may kill off the people you love, and he does go into a bit of detail about torture, but overall, you can trust him to tell a rip-roaring story and to reward your faith in human nature. Neverwhere (at least the "Author's Preferred Text" version which I read) is an interesting, dark, original tale--much to think about and pay attention to. While there's a lot of Sir Terry in it, I also felt some Patrick Rothfuss overtones, too. In any case: a good read!

Small as an ElephantSmall as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Many of my incoming 9th graders have read (and liked) this book, and I gave it to my nephews this winter, intending to read it myself, too. Eventually I ended up getting the audio so I could listen to it during my commute, and I liked it. The reader might've been what kept it from being 4 stars, as he was way overstated, and I do like an understated reader. Jacobson traces the boy's trip precisely: I could tell exactly where he was on the island and the towns. It was an odd feeling to be driving by the LL Bean outlet as the book was describing the night he spent sleeping there! I can't decide how I felt about the boy's (I forget his name) mom, who was clearly suffering from unmedicated bipolar disorder: the topic came up subtly, and in a pretty realistic way, I felt, but I also thought the story let the mom off the hook quite a bit. However: the adventure was interesting, the writing solid, and I can see how any middle reader, especially one living in our area, would really enjoy the local adventure of the book. Would make a fun pairing with "The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler"!

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Monday, May 2: Lovely rainy Monday night


The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten FrontierThe Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier by Colin Woodard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lobster Coast is a dense but fascinating study of coastal Maine and its history--cultural, economic, political, and environmental. It took a long time to read it, but it kept me interested, horrified, and attentive to the last page. Its clear eyed view of Maine and its realities present a welcome counterpoint to Maine Magazine and its expensively styled view of "the real Maine" composed of the wealthy self-employed. Every Maine citizen should read it, as should anyone considering moving here. I'd love to read an update, as it was published in 2003.

**Better yet, my father's work as an expert in colonial Maine history is heavily cited in the chapters on Maine and the Revolution. Go, Dad!**

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