31.12.19

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

The second half of the year hasn't been bad for reading.  I caught up (and then passed) my annual goal over the summer, giving me some breathing room for the rest of the year.  Between work and vacations, three-day weekends and Winter Break, I've managed to stay on target.  Here's to a great next year of reading.

Biography/Memoir

Children's
  • A ¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market, Raul Gonzalez III
  • The Full House and the Empty House, LK James
  • Vroom!, Barbara McClintock
  • Sea Bear, Lindsay Moore
  • Bear Came Along, Richard T. Morris
  • Hey, Water!, Antoinette Portis
  • My Papi Has a Motorcycle, Isabel Quintero
  • Who Wet My Pants?, Bob Shea
  • You Are Home, Evan Turk
  • A Stone Sat Still, Brendan Wenzel
  • Elvis Is King!, Jonah Winter

Children's/Young Adult Fiction

Children's/Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Fiction/Literature
Horror

Humor

Mystery/Thriller

Non-Fiction
Speculative Fiction

A Year Since

This time last year, my mother was still alive... barely.  In another hour, she wouldn't be alive any longer.

Since then, my father has taken baby steps into a life without her.  Since then, my sister and I have adjusted to talking about "Dad" rather than "Mom and Dad".  Since then, we've all had time to think about how much we miss her and how we connect without her around.

I'll just put this here, as a brief reminder of what a year is.  Trite?  Sure.  But still meaningful.


28.10.19

Notable Quotes

Yu's voice dips even lower.  "Because it seemed an obvious solution.  It made both the emperor and the people think something was being done.  And we have all, at some point, confused doing something—anything—with actually solving the problem."

The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

19.10.19

Strange Conversations

Last night, because I would be working a little late, the decision was made for Thing One not to wait for his dinner.  When I'm on my way home I usually call and say I'm leaving work - last night, because it was chilly, I asked for a cup of tea (it takes about 20 minutes for me to get home so it's easy to time these things).  When I walked in, it was clear that the previous day's pizza was being reheated for dinner.

Me (sniffing):  Did you put garlic on your pizza?

Thing One: Yes, why?

Me: I can smell it.

Thing One: Lemongrass and cinnamon

Me: On your pizza???

Thing One (laughing hysterically): No! In your tea (continues laughing)

7.10.19

Notable Quotes

"Hmmm." Eleanor sipped her tea. "And perhaps that's why I don't care for social media.  I've found that in the heat of a conversation, people sometimes say things that they may mean but would never utter if given another moment to think.  Social media takes that away... hesitation, I suppose you might call it.  That moment of contemplation.  When I write a letter — any letter, for business or personal, I think about what I want to say. Then I reread the letter to make sure that my meaning is clear.  If I'm upset about something, I'll sit on the letter for a day to make sure I want my feeling on the matter known, and how I want to come across.  Civil society requires civility.  It requires individuals to consider the repercussions of their words as well as their actions.  Today I fear people—not just teenagers, who did not exhibit self-control even in my day—rarely consider the repercussions of anything they do or say."

Poisonous by Alison Brennan

30.9.19

Plus ca change...

It's been something of a difficult year for my father: first my mother, then his best friend died.  This was a man who not only gave my father a professional home but also became a good friend to my family.  Early on, we would all go for walks or drives to the best pizza in the area.  Much later, he checked in on my grandmother when she was in the nursing home and my parents were out of the country.  Of course I had to go to his memorial last weekend, held at his (and his father's, and his brother's, his son's and my) alma mater... and where he and my father taught together for decades.

Like most Small Liberal Arts Colleges, mine has been engaged in building and expanding the campus.  With the exception of the original 1800s quad, I'm not sure I'd have found my way around thanks to all the changes.  Shortly before I started, the school went co-ed.  At that time, the fraternities ruled the school's social life - and the addition of young women didn't change things.  Except at one, an independent, that allowed women to join.  Many of my friends did, as did I.  We had less money than the nationals, but we threw the best parties, where the emphasis was on dancing and enjoying rather than drinking (flipped, obvs, at the other houses).  Years later, the school bought all the fraternity houses and converted them into dorms.  Our house was situated at the entrance to one side of campus, and rather than become a dorm it became the new Student Center.

Last weekend, we parked and were walking to the bookstore, passing buildings that hadn't existed 30+ years ago.  The House I'd known and loved seemed to be a shell, with only the facade retained.  We went in to the bookstore, and at the entrance I turned right, to where the House had been.  And this is what I saw:


Some things haven't changed that much.  Ok, the couches are in better shape, the floor far less scuffed but if I closed my eyes I could hear Thing Three talking, or Thing Two DJ-ing, or any of the others playing Trivial Pursuit or planning the next party or figuring out the theatre production schedule (most of us were theatre people).  Dinner would be served just down the hall.  

Turning left, though, it was a whole new world.  As they say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

9.9.19

Notable Quotes

"I'd like a large regular coffee with space for extra cream, please," said Wil."One Hefty with extra space," replied the teenager, "Would that be a latte?""No, a large regular coffee.  And I don't want a 'Hefty'""But you just said —""I said large. I'm not going to fall victim to Mug O' Joe's corporate vernacular. I just want a large coffee."The teenage blinked, confused.  This was beginning to go in the exact same direction it always went whenever Wil stood up for himself: namely, south."Hefty means big.  So does Bulky.  And so does Outsized.  We've had this conversation before.""No we haven't.  This is my first day.""Well, I've had it with all thirty-five of your predecessors.  I'm not using your terminology because it doesn't make sense." Wil pointed at the overly indulgent chalk-drawn menu just to make it clear he and the teenager were discussing the same issue.  "Just because someone in marketing happens to own a thesaurus, and just because your shareholders insist your drink sizes appear bigger than they are, and just because you are between liberal arts colleges and wish to bring your artists talents to bear on today's menu, it doesn't mean I have to join in.  I would like a large regular coffee with space for extra cream.  Please.""One Heft—""Don't say it.""One large coffee. Regular.  What flavor?" The teenage was beginning to get the hang of this argument.  He wasn't going to go down without a fight.

Curioddity by Paul Jenkins 

2.9.19

The Almost Gone

I read a book recently that talked about the Almost Gone.  Who are they?  They're people who have died yet are not forgotten in living memories.  Not those famous people we all hear about has having Made A Difference or Discovered Something so are part of our cultural memory, but those people we actually knew - family, friends, teachers, enemies, etc..  As long as they live in our memory, they're not completely gone.

Last weekend would have been my parents' 60th Anniversary.  It didn't feel right to let my father be on his own, so I decided to go home.  He balked, saying it was a lot of driving and obviously there were other things for me to do, given the start of the school year.  Tough.  I was coming. 

That first night, after dinner, we talked.  He's gotten through the first eight months, but it's been difficult.  Luckily he's had projects to complete, and many friends to spend time with (he says he's inherited a number of girlfriends, close friends of my mother who go for dinners, lunches and walks with him).  But he's lonely.  He's still at the house we moved into 50 years ago and while we've given away most of Mom's clothing everything else there is a reminder of her.

By the end of the second day, he admitted that having me around and going to museums and dinners and all that was distracting, and he was grateful.  We both frequently mentioned her, as in "Mom and I loved this drive" or "Mom would never have let me wear that outfit".  We partially planned the internment of her ashes and unveiling of her tombstone.  I wrote about half of the thank you notes to people who had written to us and/or donated in her memory.  In three weeks I'll be back because his best friend and colleague (died in early March) will be memorialized and my father will be speaking.  It's going to be difficult for him to give that speech, and I won't let him give it alone. 

I'm reminded of a speech given by a teacher at my high school, remembering the teacher who had inspired me many years ago.  Jack was so memorable that decades later his students remembered him (I was friends with an older woman and one day I said something about my alma mater; she said she knew and loved a teacher there - imagine my shock and pleasure that it was Jack, in year one or two of his teaching career, at another school!), and he couldn't walk across campus without constantly being stopped to say hello and talk with students and colleagues.  Yet a few years after Jack's retirement, on a visit back to campus, no one knew who he was, excepting those colleagues still teaching there. The speaker challenged the current students to think about their brief four years on campus and what impression they could make on the lives of their teachers and the other students: what legacy would they leave behind?

Both my mother and his friend are part of the Almost Gone.  They live on in the memories of friends and family, and in my father's friends' case, in the students whose lives he touched.  Their legacies are secure, for a while at least.   What will people think when I'm Almost Gone?  What will they think about you?

26.8.19

End of Summer

No more lazy days "sleeping in" until at least 5:15 (thanks to The Herd), napping and reading.  As you read this, I'll have started working again, officially.  Unofficially, of course, I've been working all summer.  So what have I been up to?  How has the Massive Summer To Do List™ fared? Let's see...

✔ DVR 0
Clean up efiles in Dropbox and on GDrive
✔ Catch up on blogging
✔ Catch up on book reviews
✔ Get ahead on my 2019 Reading Goal
Inventory books and add to my personal catalog 
✔ Finish the Summer 2019  MPOW Work List
Create donations of clothing and other unnecessary items
✔ Read unread blog posts (I use Feedbin and had nearly 3000 posts to catch up on in June!)

I've also managed to binge on a few tv series and watch a number of movies.  If you're looking for ideas for your next binge, the Lazy Summer Watch List is:

TV Series Movies
The Case Goodbye Christopher Robin
The Crown Happy Death Day
DCI BancroftHome Again
Executive StressLoving Vincent
HiddenMurder on the Orient Express
Keeping Faith My Friend Dahmer
Line of DutyThe Snowman
Loch Ness The Square
MotherfathersonWelcome to Happiness
Murder in Suburbia The Wilde Wedding
Murderland Woodshock
Queens of Murder
Succession
Thorne
Trivia

Oh, and I've read 120 books.

Not bad for a summer of lazy, right?

19.8.19

Notable Quotes

"Does it?" Vikram stretched his toes, revealing a row of claws as black as obsidian. "Once a story leaves the hands of its author, it belongs to the reader.  And the reader may see any number of things, conflicting things, contradictory things.  The author goes silent.  If what he intended mattered so very much, there would be no need for inquisitions and schisms and wars.  But the author of the world is silent.  We are left with no intentions by our own.
The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson 

29.7.19

Notable Quotes

"They weren't bad books," Phin countered patiently.  "They were books that you didn't enjoy.  It's not the same thing at all.  The only bad books are books that are so badly written that no one will publish them.  Any book that has been published is going to be a 'good book' for someone."
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell 

16.7.19

Musical Update

Apparently I posted this music meme in September 2009, (update in 2011) so it feels appropriate to do another update now.  So, what musical groups have I seen? Anything new is marked with a *

Original List
David Bowie
Jethro Tull
Charles Aznavour
Bonnie Raitt (3 times)
Spyro Gyra
Rolling Stones
Eric Clapton
Lou Reed
Clannad
kd lang (3 times)
Li'l Ed & the Imperials / Koko Taylor
Charlie Musselwhite
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Bjork / Sigur Rus
Steely Dan
"Guns & Roses"
Blondie
Kiss / Aerosmith
Cat Power
Marianne Faithfull
2011 List
Eric Clapton (again)
Jeff Beck
Charlotte Gainsburg
AIR
Jessie Baylin
kd lang (again)
Sybarite5
Cima Trio
Blondie (again)
Bruce Daigroponte (left off original list)
David Johansen
Larry Coryell
Rachid Taha

2011-2019
Charlotte Gainsbourg (again)
Coeur du Pirate (3 times)
Alison Moyet
Bryan Ferry
Julia Haltigan
Camille O'Sullivan (3 times)
Duran Duran
Leonard Cohen
Jethro Tull Opera
Rolling Stones
Cyndi Lauper/Boy George
Bruno Mars
Jay Geils Jazz & Blues Review
Tom Petty
Sybarite 5 (3 times)
Steve Winwood
Blondie
Ray Davies

Nothing on the horizon, but who knows what the fall will bring.


9.7.19

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

As part of my goals to catch up, here's the reading from the first half of 2019.  I'm behind by about 17 books as of today, but one of my Massive Summer To Do List™ items is to maybe even get ahead by the time work starts again.

Autobiography/Memoir


Children's/Young Adult Fiction
Children's/Young Adult Non-Fiction
Children's/Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Fiction/Literature
Humor
Mystery/Thriller
Non-Fiction
Speculative Fiction

8.7.19

Notable Quotes

Perhaps I'm just getting old, but I want to swap toxic politics and the anxieties induced by social media for reliability and kindness.  I want to feel more cosy.

5.7.19

2018 Year End Reading Round-Up

305 books read - GOAL MET (goal was 300, so met and surpassed, albeit barely)!  Reviews are over at the reading blog, but there are many that didn't get reviewed because they were either picture books I "read" for MPOW's Mock Caldecott, while others fell into the "you can't talk about this" category for the Book Award Committee. 

So... here's the 2018 reading analysis (2017 numbers in parens):
number of books read in 2018: 305 (378)
best month: December/59 (August/63)
worst month:  January/15 (January/18)
average read per month:  24.4 (31.5)
adult fiction as percentage of total:  14 (59)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total:  18 (17)

Advance Readers Copies: 163 (112)
e-books: 0 (3)
books read that were published in 2018: 323 (325)
books that will be published in the 2019: 4 (20)
five star reviews (aka "Must Read"):  21 (9)
one star reviews (aka "DNF"): 11 (8)

Mt. Bookpile was 330 in December 2017 and got to 255 by December 2018 (it's way above that right now, sadly).

Goal for 2019?  300 books, and as of today I'm 19 books behind. Sigh.

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

So... apparently I haven't posted one of these since September of last year.  As I've said, I'm a little behind.  Sigh.  Here's what I read for the rest of 2018:

Children's/Young Adult Fiction

Children's/Young Adult Speculative Fiction


Fiction/Literature

  • Perennials; Mandy Berman
  • Long Black Veil; Jennifer Finney Boylan
  • The Last Mrs. Parrish; Liv Constantine
  • The Misfortune of Marion Palm; Emily Culliton
  • Dead Letters; Caite Dolan-Leach
  • The Lake of Dead Languages; Carol Goodman
  • She Rides Shotgun; Jordan Harper
  • Secrets of Southern Girls; Haley Harrigan
  • Relativity; Antonia Hayes
  • The Sisters Chase; Sarah Healy
  • Seven Days of Us; Francesca Hornak
  • Be Frank With Me; Julia Claiborne Johnson
  • The Nanny Diaries; Emma McLaughlin
  • Pretend We Are Lovely; Noley Reid
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo; Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Follow Me Down; Sherri Smith
  • Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore; Matthew J. Sullivan
  • My Absolute Darling; Gabriel Tallent
  • Demi-Gods; Eliza Robertson
  • Young Jane Young; Gabrielle Zevin
  • The Girls at 17 Swann Street; Yara Zgheib

Mystery/Thriller


Non-Fiction

  • The Man from the Train; Bill James
  • City of Light, City of Poison; Holly Tucker

Picture Books

  • Nothing Stopped Sophie; Cheryl Bardoe
  • Hello Lighthouse; Sophie Blackall
  • The Stuff of Stars; Marion Dane Bauer
  • A Stone for Sascha; Aaron Becker
  • Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse; Marcy Campbell
  • Imagine! Raoul Colan
  • Islandborn; Junot Diaz
  • Ocean Meets Sky; Terry Fan
  • This Is the Nest That Robin Built; Denise Fleming
  • A House That Once Was; Julie Fogliano
  • Pie is for Sharing; Stephanie Parlsey Ledyard
  • Drawn Together; Minh Le
  • Julian Is a Mermaid; Jessica Love
  • If I Had a Horse; Gianna Marino
  • Night Out; Daniel Miyares
  • Dreamers; Yuyi Morales
  • Love; Matt de la Pena
  • Pignic; Matt Phelan
  • All the Animals Where I Live; Philip C. Stead
  • They Say Blue; Jillian Tamaki
  • Hello Hello; Brendan Wenzel
  • The Day You Begin; Jacqueline Woodson

Speculative Fiction

  • The Clairvoyants; Karen Brown
  • The Motion of Puppets; Keith Donohue
  • Curioddity; Paul Jenkins
  • The Shadow Land; Elizabeth Kostova
  • Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance; Ruth Emmie Lang
  • The Bedlam Stacks; Natasha Pulley
  • The Goblins of Bellwater; Molly Ringle
  • Seance Infernale; Jonathan Skariton
  • The Dreamers; Karen Thompson Walker
  • The Light Between Worlds; Laura E. Weymouth
  • Crosstalk; Connie Willis

14.1.19

When is an owl not an owl?

Answer: when it's a hedgehog

No, that's not some strange version of a Japanese koan.  Rather, it's a tribute to my mother's love of owls.  Over the years, she collected many owls: figurines, stuffed (not taxidermied!), printed on dishtowels and t-shirts, jewelry, statues, etc..  Here are just two "clusters" of them:


It might actually be more accurate to say she hoarded owls.  She knew the origin and composition of each of them, sometimes organizing the collection by type of owl, where it came from, or which year it got added.  Of course, it made gift buying very, very easy.  On a trip?  Buy an owl.  Mother's Day? Find something with an owl.  Etc..

Sometime in the 90s, my parents visited Prague (they visited a number of times, I just forget the exact date).  When I then went to visit them, Mom - as usual - showed off her most recent owl acquisitions.  The Czech Republic, if you don't already know, is noted for crystal and she was excited to show me a crystal owl she'd obtained.  I took one look and laughed.  Here's why:  


No, you're not missing anything.  It's not an owl.  It's a hedgehog.  Yes, my owl-obsessed mother saw "owl" when everyone else saw "hedgehog".  To me, it epitomizes her collection and her love of that collection.  So when she asked what from the house I wanted written into the will, this was the "owl" I wanted.  That puzzled her, because by then she'd accepted that it was, in fact, not an owl and exiled it to another, non-owl-filled shelf.  

Last week I was showing one of my cousins some of the collection and the hedgehog, and mentioned that this was going to be mine one day.  My father overheard and immediately said, "take it" "Now?" "Go ahead - if you want it."

So here I sit, in my bedroom, looking at this hedgehog and thinking about all the other owls she collected.  I think Mom would approve.