#MonthofFaves: Favorite Books of the Year

December 2, 2016

Good morning! It’s day two of #MonthOfFaves and have I mentioned how much I love this month-long focus on all of the good?!

monthoffaves

Today Andi and the #MonthOfFaves crew are asking what our favorite go-to books are – and I’m tweaking it slightly so I can talk about my favorite books I’ve read this year. Mwa ha ha, the power!!! Ahem.

Okay, so I talked about my Top Ten back in May, which you can read here, or I’ll recap for you below.

  1. The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson. Because Nelson can draw grief like no one else. And the families she creates remind me an awful lot of mine.
  2. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman. Because this is magical storytelling of the highest order. Like Ya-Ya type magic. I’m sad that these characters don’t really exist type of magic.
  3. The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard. Because Shepard absolutely nails the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto. It’s a testament to Shepard’s mastery of character development that he has two books on my list.
  4. The Royal We, by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan. Because sometimes you need a silly doorstop-sized romance that makes you cancel plans to find out what happens to the fictionalized William and Kate couple.
  5. Girl at War, by Sara Novic. Because the cover art is effing gorgeous. And because war orphans from Croatia and identity crises are my jam.
  6. H Is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald. Because no one has written about grief and obsession and lyrical madness quite like this.
  7. We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson. Because I shouldn’t have liked a book about aliens abducting a teenage boy and asking him whether to push a button and save the human race or let it die. I refused to like it. But then I loved and devoured it.
  8. Project X, by Jim Shepard. Because only Shepard could make me understand and sympathize with why two brutally bullied middle school boys would want to shoot up their school.
  9. You, by Caroline Kepnes. Because it said it was the next Gone Girl and actually pulled it off.
  10. Becoming Nicole, by Amy Ellis Nutt. Because everyone should understand the ins and outs of transgenderism, and because everyone should have an ally, like Jonas, and people willing to change their minds for you, like Wayne.

So now I just need to think of my Top Ten since then and I’ll end up with a nice Top 20. I can do that.

  1. The Boy Who Drew Monsters, by Keith Donahue. This was a creepy, creepy scary story that I could read at night…but just barely. It was delicious, though, and played just enough on imagination to make me read with shoulders somewhere up near the top of my ears. It’s enough to make you miss winter in New England! Ish.
  2. A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro. This was such a well-designed whodunnit that could have been a cheap play (the main characters are descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, they despise each other, and need to solve a crime at their college), but ended up being so lovely that I was sad I’d have to wait at least a year for the next installment. It read like a modern Agatha Christie. Seriously, you guys!
  3. The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, by Laura Tillman. This is one of the few non-fiction on my list, because not only should people be writing about community and social justice, but we need to be reading it and discussing it. The book could have sailed off into the land of commercializing a horrible crime against three voiceless victims, but Tillman took care to criticize call to action more than just the community. Authorities and those in power, the whole damn system in other words, were even more to blame than anyone else. (Except, perhaps, the murderers themselves?)
  4. The Widow, by Fiona Barton. This book was just plain, old-fashion fun. I spent the entire book trying to figure out did-he-really? And who-did-it? Zipping through the pages as fast as I could. Books that are well constructed and well written both are few and far between. Characters, plot, pacing, writing – it wasn’t dazzling, but it was fun.
  5. A Tyranny of Petticoats, by Jessica Spotswood. I loved that the stories were short enough to pop off three or four in a (short) sitting, and short enough to hold Gracie’s attention. I loved the variety, the audacity – everything, really. If you’re looking for a book for a YA book club, strongly consider this one. There’s something for every girl looking for a hero in the mirror. No matter who she sees there.
  6. Hamilton: A Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Yes, Hamilton is everywhere. Still not sick of it. And this was masterful because there are so many secrets and behind-the-scenes and between-the-lines that I was sucked in. I felt like I was there, listening to Miranda as he gossiped over a pint.
  7. In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware. After I finished, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of Ware! I read the other book she had out and wasn’t as impressed, but Dark, Dark Wood was still a fun whodunnit (though I wish the fight wasn’t over a guy). Also, will not be staying in any cabins in the wood with all the books I read this year. Sheesh!
  8. Eleven Hours, by Pamela Erens. Oooooh, the writing! Erens can take eleven hours of time and with such evocative prose, make us wish the microscope dialed in even tighter. Even something as mundane as a laboring woman’s trip down a hallway became a chance for philosophic musing of the highest order. It was a glorious tribute to how brave we can be, and how we don’t need anyone other than ourselves, no matter the challenge or celebration. We are our own champions! And Pamela Erens states that case with much more grace and poignancy than I could ever manage.
  9. Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston. Oh, mama – what a book! It makes cheerleaders look like athletes who have souls (points), and tackles a terribly tough subject (rape) with aplomb and sensitivity. I’m reading it to my girls – yes, even with the tricky subjects at their very young ages – so they will know to speak up. No matter what. And that even if things don’t go right, the right people (family, true friends, and MAMA, especially) will be there. You can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you write the rest of the story. [Side note: How sad that I need to worry about my 7th grader and parties and what she will be offered?]
  10. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, by Karen Abbott. The other non-fiction on my Best Of list, because it totally read like a thriller (a theme this year). And it also featured kick-ass women (another theme). Everyone should know how many women contributed to the successes of this country, and we should shout those stories louder than we have been. Abbott’s book is a good start. Now I wanna go be a spy.

So there you have it. My Best Of list. And if you’re really gonna make me, I’ll tell you my three top book of the year.

My absolute favorite is by far and away My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry. If I’m not a grandmother some day so I can go all Narnia on them, I’ll be pissed.

The runner up would have to be You, by Caroline Kepnes. The idea that this situation could play out is so twisted and downright SCARY, partly because it’s somewhat believable. And it was BRILLIANT. This year’s Gone Girl for me.

And our third place winner (out of 200+ books, so really – not too shabby) is Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere. Just knocked me flat with its intricate and beautiful ways to handle loss and grief and absence. It picked me raw and helped me heal, both.

What were your faves? I can’t wait to read and see!

#Month of Faves: “Here we go Advent(ur)ing…

December 1, 2016

…among the leaves so green!” So green because we live in Tejas where winter never ever arrives. Although I will admit that some leaves have finally turned Fall colors. If Fall colors includes brown, dead, more brown, and slight orange (but mostly dead).

They’ve turned colors because it’s December and December means so many things, including time for #MonthOfFaves over at Andi’s place! (And Tanya and Kimberly at Girl XOXO, and Tamara over at Traveling with T.) These ladies are seriously some of my favorite people in the entire world. Andi, especially, has become such a dear friend this year. She makes me laugh AND want to be a better person all at once, and when you find people like that, you add them to your village.

monthoffaves

We’re supposed to be focusing on some of our favorite things throughout the year, but today I’m choosing to focus on my favorite way to end the year – our Advent(ure) Calendar. The girls do their true Advent Calendar at church with Grandma. At home, well, things get slightly more crazy. (Although, to be honest, giving my kids fire and letting them run around lighting candles sounds pretty crazy to me!)

Every year it’s a scramble to fill up the calendar what do we want to do? This year it seems to lean heavily towards crafting – pinecone owls, string art, make n’ bake ornaments, etc. Last year we were more game-centric – Holiday Name 5 game, Christmas Story Cubes… And there are always favorites – baking cookies for teachers, going on a holiday light tour, the Christmas candy taste test (wow, was that one a hit!). The fun there is that they have no idea when we get to do those…and it kills them!

Want to see what we get to do every night? I promise it’s going to make for a lot of fun stories for you all!

Dec 1 – Make paper chains to count down to Christmas!
Dec 2 – Make new Christmas mix tapes (kids-free weekend)
Dec 3 – Make something for someone who is reading so shoosh, Katie (kids-free weekend)
Dec 4 – Make Merry & Bright shadowboxes filled with ornaments (kids-free weekend)
Dec 5 – Make string art with some of the wooden plank kits I bought. Gracie also has her holiday choir concert
Dec 6 – Work on another something-something for a certain someone (kids-free night)
Dec 7 – Gracie has her holiday band concert. If there’s time, the girls can do tissue paper Christmas trees
Dec 8 – Make the make-n-bake ornaments and attend Bee’s holiday concert.
Dec 9 – Construct our Christmas scene in a jar-o
Dec 10 – Help the girls make their foam Christmas scenes and invite the Redheads to join us!
Dec 11 – Christmas photo shoot with Stepmom! At the CHRISTMAS TREE FARM!!
Dec 12 – Carefully construct Perler Christmas scenes
Dec 13 – Mail Christmas cards (kids-free night)
Dec 14 – Get pajamafied, make some snacks, and go on a Christmas Light Tour!
Dec 15 – Have a holiday taste test with various Christmas candy and treats that are out
Dec 16 – Pick up Auntie Kim and carol all the way home!
Dec 17 – Decorate felt Christmas trees and maybe have a contest. MAYBE.
Dec 18 – Make snowflakes, string them about the kitchen, and do a snowdance
Dec 19 – Make birdseed ornaments (Gracie is home for Christmas break; Bee has school)
Dec 20 – Go reindeer hunting, hopefully in the snow
Dec 21 – Make Santa mustaches and make candy snowflakes
Dec 22 – Fill glass ball ornaments with bookish quotes
Dec 23 – Finish wrapping gifts and bake goodies for the neighbors
Dec 24 – Make pinecone owl ornaments (kids-free weekend)
Dec 25 – Girls come home at noon, and it’s Christmas Eve at our house, sooo Gingerbread Man competition!
Dec 26 – Christmas at Casa de Katie!

We are going to have SO MUCH FUN! I can’t wait to see what you all are up to and what was your favorite thing from this year! (Or, if you cheat like me, what is your favorite thing going on RIGHT NOW. Ha!)

Good god, what’s with this week? (Wednesday edition)

November 30, 2016

Jeff came over to get some of his stuff last night. It was terrible and difficult – moreso because he was kind and patient and full of apologies.

And my village? They are amazing.

GracefullyGracie, my darling daughter, has been providing comedic back-up. She and Bee-girl made me laugh all last week. They have a very limited knowledge of what’s going on (that boils down to Jeff and I fightfought all the time, and now he’s moving out, and I’m glad/sad about it), but it doesn’t matter. They make me laugh anyway. We spent a long week creating in-jokes (Me: “Your face!” Gracie: “Oh yeah? Well YOUR FOOT!”) and when Gracie heard Jeff was coming over last night (the girls were at their dad’s for the night)(yes, that was on purpose), Gracie texted me our face/foot joke about a hundred times. And I loved her more every time I got it.

Kim texted me a video of my cousin Hillary, and Hill’s girlfriend Em, opening a care package Kim had sent. Hill&Em were so Kate&Kim about it all that my sides split with laughter.

After Jeff had left, I broke out in stress hives, even though he had sat down and had a drink or two with me in an effort to end things on better terms. I posted to Facebook (because: wine) and Rhi texted me within seconds. She has a knack for chasing away the gloomies, even if she does sometimes underestimate my resolve. (Oven mitts? I don’t need no oven mitts!)

My cousin Shayne texted me to commiserate, and after many plans, I stopped just short of tipsily buying tickets to Ohio. I think there are fun plans afoot for 2017!

My Twitter hive has been sending uplifting messages and pictures of hedgehogs, and basically being my rock, my jumping off point for this next adventure in single mommying.

Corrie, of course, texted me to see who she needed to come shoot. Or, alternatively, if she needed to bring me more booze so we could drunkenly craft our troubles away. Since I had already tucked myself into bed (at 9 o’clock!), I assured her I was just going to sleep because I was absolutely knackered.

Yes, sleep, glorious sleep! I slept from 9 until 6:20 this morning. Well, except for this one vivid dream I had at about 11 p.m. that involved candy bars and Milky Way guts being all over everything. When I “woke up” (seriously questioning how “awake” I was because hoo boy), I needed candy more than I have ever needed anything in my life. So I threw back the covered and scrambled into the kitchen, where I wolfed down a cinnamon crumb cake snack pack the girls had in the pantry for lunches, two pieces of fudge, and the tallest glass of milk you’ve ever seen in your life. As one does. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve raided the kitchen in the middle of the night, and that’s including pregnancies and college. No more skipping dinners for me! Then I brushed my teeth again and climbed back into bed and went right back to sleep. Weirdo.

There are still more things that Jeff has to gather up and move. It will still be gut-wrenchingly hard. I’ll still cry, even though I want him to go. But – BUT! – it means the world to me knowing how much you all care.

My village is filled with good people.

And that is why I will be okay.

Heartbreak, one more time.

November 29, 2016

When I was in seventh grade, I lived exactly one mile away from the junior high school I attended. Several of my friends I grew up with lived off of the same major road, about a mile further down, and because we all lived too close to the school for busing, but because the road was considered too busy and too dangerous to walk, the school district decided to issue us city bus passes. Every morning without fail, my mom  would stop what she was doing at 6:45 a.m. and walk with me down the block to the city bus stop where three other kids (who attended the vocational high school) waited. She’d chat with me, see me on the bus, and then walk back home and get the other kids ready for school. It didn’t occur to me to mind that my mom still walked me to the bus stop. At least not until my friends (who got on the bus before me) asked me why. I saw my mom as company. They saw her as an embarrassment.

That Christmas, when break was over and school was about the begin, I asked my mom if I could walk myself to the bus stop. She almost didn’t falter as she said it was okay with her. She hid the mountain of hurt and sent me out. I was ready; why shouldn’t she be?

My mom is a bigger person than I am, and a much better mom.

Last night, Bee asked if she could take her lunch to school the next day. Fine; that was okay with me. She would just need to make her sandwich, and gather some snacks. Gracie quickly asked if that meant she could, too, and I agreed. So as Bee pulled out her brown paper bag, I pulled out a Sharpie, to keep the girls from mixing up their lunches.

But what I heard was, “Mooooommmm! Nooooo!” from Bee-girl.

See, when she used to take her lunch every day, I would draw cartoons on her bag. She used to love it. That and the sweet note I’d write on her napkin. Now, however, I was apparently a great, big embarrassment to her. And rather than accept it with any sort of graciousness, I let all of my sadness show on my face and simply wrote her name. Hey, at least I choked back the tears.

Bee told me, fine I could draw on her bag – after her sister whispered that she should just let me do it. But I told Bee that I knew she was only agreeing because Gracie had told her to. Yes, it lacked all of my mom’s tact and diplomacy. I wasn’t letting my kid grow-up when she was ready. But you know what? I’ve been through a lot this week and I was just. wiped. out.

Tomorrow maybe my heart will more healed and I will be more ready to face more people who need me less. Today I needed those I love to need me back.

I am imperfect. And, boy, don’t I know it.

Remembering I was thankful.

November 28, 2016

I’m back! I was gone for what seems like ages, and I have so much to tell you about!

  • Jeff left. Yes, it is a huge change in my life and I’m trying to find the right words to tell you what happened while still being respectful, and also still being cognizant of the fact that the story is still unfolding. For now, let me say that our relationship became extremely unhealthy, very quickly. We decided he would move out at the end of the year, except he decided to leave suddenly on Tuesday night, just before Thanksgiving. It’s been a long, crazy, weird week for me.
  • We had Thanksgiving! And hoo-boy was our day one for the ages. In fact, I think I only survived because I narrated the chapter of my memoir (as it will undoubtedly go down) in one of my best friend’s voice, and kept imagining myself as Anne Shirley. Because it was mouse-in-the-pudding, sold-the-wrong-jersey-cow kind of day. After successfully making four pies, fudge, and buying half the groceria on Wednesday, I started Thursday by opening the fridge door and the lemon pie fell out onto the floor.

img_2741

  • So I re-baked the pie. It was the one both girls had asked for, and Gracie’s favorite food of all time. Re-baking was my only option, and it justified always over-buying and having extras. Extra filling and extra ingredients for making pie crust. (Because homemade. Every time.) So that happened, and I pulled it off, and then I put the turkey in the oven. Gracie and I were getting out Christmas decorations and then we heard the explosion. Yes: explosion. It actually happened as we were talking to my family back home, and “I have to go, Mom says the kitchen is on fire,” isn’t exactly a good way to finish a phone call. Someone who was trying to make a pot of tea turned on the wrong burner, and the pumpkin pie that was resting on the stove in a glass dish exploded. All over the kitchen. I ran in just in time to see the pie on fire. And the other pie catch. So I put out the fire(s) by carrying everything out to the middle of the patio (the door is right next to the stove and a huge slab of concrete seemed my safest option). There was glass all. over. my kitchen. The other pies were ruined because: covered in glass shards. So Gracie and I picked up the glass, vacuumed and swiffered twice, and still found glass. My feet are so embedded, I sparkle like a vampire. My hands were shredded. But! I re-baked the pies for a second time.
  • We hung out all week, put up the tree, my partner-in-crime came over every single day. Oh! We made ornaments! I’ll have to post about those. That was a good day.
  • The girls were AMAZING. Bee dragged her mattress into Gracie’s room (after asking if it was okay), and basically camped out in there all week. They have never, ever done that. I don’t know what made them like each other all of a sudden, but I’m liking it! Okay, okay, it might have something to do with the fact that they discovered that they could Minecraft in the same game. There were whole chunks of days when I didn’t hear anything from them. It was creepy.
  • Then there were other chunks of time when all the girls did was hang out with me, like miniature grown-ups, and converse and crack jokes and help around the house or watch TV with me. It was great! Gracie has discovered The Office (which, yes, maybe she’s a bit young for, but whatevs. I know she’s fine.) and we had a blast watching episode after episode. We watched Christmas movies as we decorated the living room, and we laughed until our cheeks and sides hurt and so many stupid things. Talk about thankful.
  • Oh! And we decided on a theme for our Christmas pictures – Be Who You Are! It happened because I am half gung-ho for everything in a screw-you, mid-break-up kind of way, and half ugh-I-don’t-wanna-put-any-effort-into-anything. So I thought about going fancy, like we usually do. And I thought about doing just flannels and jeans. Gracie would never take off her flannel if I allowed it. So that would work. And it’s a pretty flannel – mostly white with blue. I asked Bee, but she wasn’t having that idea. She would wear fancy dress all the time if I allowed that. And she found her favorite fancy dress while we were out and demanded I buy it (which I did, just in cases. And because it was crazy cheap.). And then I was inspired. Bee’s dress is the same deep blue that runs through Gracie’s flannel. So I bought a similar one from the wall of flannels at the red big box store. And came up with this:

img_2804b

  • And that was pretty much my week and now I’ll have nothing to talk about this week. Heh. But that’s okay because I will be so tired from the single parenting and returning to work and school after a week of frivolity and staying up til midnight and 2 a.m. will leave me no desire to do anything other than hold my head up. Which, frankly, is what I might need to be focusing on.
  • So, yes, I am thankful. Thankful for my girls, who surprised me in so many delightful ways this week. For my best friend, who made sure I was in one piece, and kept me busy, and also hydrated. And for myself, because I did a damn good job, considering. Oh, and also because I asked for help when I needed it. Good job, me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope that whatever happened for you, this past week, that your head is held high today.

Five for Friday.

November 18, 2016

Morning all! It’s Friday – and this week has seemed like it’s been a few years long. But! When you spent so much energy looking for the happy, it starts to peek around corners and spring up in places you maybe would have overlooked if you weren’t trying so hard.

With that – I give you my five things.

1 I turned on the radio on the drive home Wednesday night and as I was flipping through the stations, I gasped. Christmas music! There was Christmas music! Our oldies channel has flipped for the holidays, playing all Christmas music, all the time. It was 85° outside, and I’m still battling depressing in a fairly heavy way, but I can feel my Christmas spirit starting to engage. I can’t quite bring myself to pull out my Christmas CDs yet, but there’s hope were there wasn’t any. I had been wondering how I was going to motivate myself to get some Christmas shopping done next week, but now I have allll the plans!

2 Perhaps inspired by the little bit of hope I found amongst the silver bells and frolicking reindeer, I started a Harry Potter movie marathon last night. We’ve watched the movies a few times recently because the Xman has fallen madly in love with them, but it always seems to be the same few pieces of the same few movies. It’s time for me to watch all of the movies in order. Coincidentally, it’s something I usually do every year as I wrap presents. I told you there was hope for my Christmas spirit. As an added bonus, Harry Potter and his world remind me that there’s hope in combating idiocy and evil – and reminding myself that whatever Trump does to this country can be undone if we work hard enough is something I need to hear. I think I’m ready to start climbing out of my fit of despair.

3 It hasn’t been all hope and rainbows, though. For one, we’ve all been sick. Gracie-girl has had a cough for the past two months. I’ve been blowing it off because it’s small and minor and doesn’t seem to be bothering her. It’s not asthmatic. It’s not bad enough to need a cough drop. I gave her some Mucinex last week, thinking if she could get ahead of it, maybe it would go away. Then she asked for some cough syrup at night because it was starting to bother her at night. So it’s time to bring her into the doctor’s office next week while we’re home on break. Poor pitiful penguin.

4 Not that coughing fits even touch the worst of the junk going around. Fenway is pretty close to getting shot and skinned and becoming a living room rug. For whatever reason, she’s refusing to go outside to potty unless one of the girls goes outside and stands on the patio. When she does go outside, she’s been eating grass. Or maybe it’s not grass, but I’m thinking so because that’s usually the culprit when Fen starts hurling in the middle of the house. It started last Sunday night, when everyone was sick, and so I assumed she just had a touch of what we all had. (Granted, we weren’t leaving dog food stains in the middle of the living room carpet, so…) I shampooed the rug in 23983 places, and kept my fingers crossed. She was fine the next day. Until Tuesday night, when she horked what looked like a giant dirt pile on the throw rug in front of the back door. Okay, whatever – she tried to make it outside. Yesterday I arrived home to find four piles of nasty that I couldn’t even tell from what end it had been ejected – and it was filled with crazy. Apparently Fenway has been eating things (which I knew from a few chewed up Legos), but now she’s eating-eating them, not just chewing. There was one of Bee’s socks, some Legos, a few Barbie outfits, paper, cardboard, and who knows what all else. I don’t know why Fen’s being all weird, but I’m d-o-n-e.

5 I might need an adult to supervise me at Michael’s this weekend. I’m planning out my Advent(ure) Calendar and Kim sent me the cutest owl ornaments for me to schedule for when she’s here.

winterowls

So I need to get some things to make owls, and then stuff for paper chains, oh! and those tiny glass ball ornaments in a display case thing – yeah, there will be an entire post about Advent(ure) Calendar plans! Because Christmas spirit might be showing up.

So there you go, guys. Five things that were rattling around in my head. If you have some things rattling around – especially holiday crafts! – hit me up. I am going to get crazy festive and hope the cheer rubs off sooner rather than later.

#NonFicNov: Week 3.

November 17, 2016

After my massive rally last week in breaking my reading slump, I slowed the pace down a bit this week. Depression and anxiety can be a bit of a roller coaster ride. Also, my taste in books ran a little…um…shall we say macabre? Still seemed better than real life. But before I get into just how sprinkled my life is with inspiration sayings and true crime books, let’s take a moment to give thanks for our sponsors.

nonficnov2016

#NonFicNov – which I plan for and look forward to year-round – is made possible by our wonderful reading community. This year Doing Dewey is hosting, along with Sarah at Sarah’s Bookshelves, Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, and Julz at Julz Reads. They have some lovely giveaways and book reviews going on, so go say hello! I’d also like to give a special shout-out to Kim over at Sophisticated Dorkiness. Kim is Non-fic November, for those who don’t know, and she’s still recovering from a huge, no-good, very bad Something right now. If you could all go love on Kim a little and send her the happiest thoughts, it would mean a lot to me. We’ve all been laid flat by grief at one point or another and I wish I didn’t know, but I do. I know I’ll be keeping Kim tucked into the back of my reading brain this month, raining some love down on her.

(Maybe I should try a little more indulgent self-care this week, because this past week self-care looked like basking in the glow of things even more horrible than our current affairs – true crime and lots of it!)

book210Crash Detectives: Investigating the World’s Most Mysterious Air Disasters, by Christine Negroni (2016, Penguin, 288 pages, paperback). I am a terrible flier. I work in aviation and it’s a bit like watching how sausage gets made – you lose your appetite for it just a little bit. I know all of the things that can go wrong, and in every sense imaginable. (I also see how rarely that happens, but why aren’t those the facts that run through my mind when I’m taking off on an adventure?) Negroni does a fantastic job of walking the layperson through the ins and outs of aviation without losing the narrative to tedium. While she focuses on how, exactly, we could fail to find Malaysian Airlines flight 370, she also looks at other missing aircraft and crashes. It was very compelling reading, both for the looky-loos and aviation nuts. The fact that the book was written by a kickass female investigative reporter in a male-dominated field? Bonus points. 4 of 5 stars.

book211Conviction: The Untold Story of Putting Jodi Arias Behind Bars, by Juan Martinez and Lisa Pulitzer (2016, William Morrow, 384 pages, library ebook). I needed a book so engrossing I could forget about the real world, and hoo boy did Conviction deliver! I didn’t follow the Jodi Arias trial much while it was unfolding. I remember it happening, but I wasn’t particularly shook. When I saw the double episode of Snapped! that featured the crime, I was reeled in. So of course I checked out this new true crime account written by the prosecutor and one of the better known collaborators, Lisa Pulitzer. I raced through every page with my mouth agape, marveling over Arias’s misplaced confidence in herself. She truly thought she could get away with her appalling crime. Tales like this one are why men and women are scared of the proverbial crazy boyfriend/girlfriend. Truly, truly insane. And wickedly fun reading. (Although “fun” doesn’t quite feel right, ya know?) 5 of 5 stars. Because for a few days, I forgot we even had an election.

book212The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium, by Michele Elam (2011, Stanford University Press, 308 pages, paperback). I was a bit amazed that Elam dared to play so boldly on W.E.B. DuBois’s title The Souls of Black Folk – I mean, that’s about as anthemic as you can go. And yeah, it’s clever, but those are shoes to fill! It put me off reading the anthology of essays for nearly a year. But you guys – Elam’s got game. Her writing was evocative as the artwork she chose for the cover, and tied to pop culture and history throughout in ways we are both constantly aware of and completely ignorant of at the same time. Racism just won this dang election, and I needed to completely immerse myself in writing about how far we’ve come and what we can do to keep moving conversations and awareness in the right direction. 4 of 5 stars.

book213The Killer Book of Serial Killers, by Thomas and Michael Philbin (2009, Sourcebooks, 345 pages, library ebook). I told you my reading selection was a bit shocking this week. This true crime book wasn’t a deep analysis or portrayal of any one crime, but more of small glimpses into a wide array of crimes and the people who committed them. It was fluff designed to carry me away from the drama in real life, and it worked. Though I think I might have burned through my ability to wade through any more for quite awhile. 2 1/2 of 5 stars.

We’ll see what this next week brings. I’m looking for something a bit more inspirational after a week spent pillaging and burning. I have a book about the founding mothers of the country (screw you, patriarchy), and we’ll see what else catches my eye. Just so long as it’s bright and shiny!

Let’s see if this helps.

November 16, 2016

goodday

Maybe if I stopped feeding her, she’d stop growing.

November 14, 2016

Gracie-guts has just one – one – pair of pants that fit her. (Well, other than her school uniform clothes). I tried swinging by Target with my picky shopper on Saturday, and we did find a few things, but jeans were $30 and not exactly on sale. I refuse to pay more than $20 for a kid who may not fit in them come the spring. And, really, I don’t even know what size she’ll fit into – SheWithHips can no longer fit into one true size. The days of shopping off the rack have long past.

So, Sunday we loaded up the car and drove out to the outlet mall. Jeff took the littler kids to the arcade and Gracie and I tried to squeeze in as much shopping as we could.

mollyshopping

As you can see, we did pretty well. Gracie might be the pickiest shopper I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, but her favorite store was 60% off and shirts were buy 1, get 2 free. So we did all right. We only hit up a few stores – Aeropostle, Old Navy, the chocolate store we accidentally fell into – and then Gracie asked to step into Justice. Now, last year we got away with some of the largest sizes at Children’s Place, and Justice, and Crazy 8. This year Baby Girl is wearing women’s sizes, so not so much. I think she remembered that Justice is good at carrying larger sizes so their nauseating kid-chic styles can be worn by more than just those who are tiny. She spent quite a bit of time scouring the extras and the jewelry, and I picked up a purse and a bunch of jewelry for Bee on super-clearance, but there was definitely an “a-ha” moment for her where she realized she had outgrown the clothing line. (Uh, except for a long brown and cream duster sweater that we picked up for $10.)

What else did we get? A brush (that she didn’t really need so she’s paying me back from her allowance), 4 pair of gloves, a hat and glove set, 4 pair of boot socks (don’t look at those too closely, Kim), 6 pair of no-show socks, 5 pair of jeans, 2 flannels, 3 long sleeve shirts, 1 short sleeve shirt, sweatpants, 3 pairs of leggings ($4 each!), a short sleeve tennis shirt, a long sleeve tennis shirt, a workout jacket for tennis, a duster sweater, a hoodie, 2 pair of tennis pants, fleece pajama pants, a dress, and a pair of church pants. Plus the jewelry and purse for Bee, and a winter coat for Gracie. All for $400. I win! It’s a fortune to pay up front, but considering that Gracie had no clothes…

She gets to keep two pair of pants and two of the long sleeve shirts, and the long sleeve tennis shirt – everything else is for Christmas. Because that’s how you roll when you have a picky shopper you can’t surprise with a new wardrobe under the tree.

#NonficNov: Week 2.

November 11, 2016

“Katie,” I can hear ya sayin’, “- it’s not time for book reviews. It’s time for your Five Things.” But you guys, I don’t think I can handle even five things today. Not with any sort of good cheer or absence of teeth gnashing. Or, even abject horror. So I’ll just plan to stay hidden in my books a little bit longer. Say…four years or so.

With that being said, it’s #NonficNov Week 2! [Look: I summoned an exclamation mark and everything. I’m rallying.] Not only did I join a few of my friends for the challenge, but I seem to have broken my reading slump, too. I slammed my way through six books this week. How you like them apples?!

nonficnov2016

But before we get to the which, let’s talk about the what and the who, shall we? In November, with more purposeful selection, I balance out my reading for the entire year. And it’s all because of the movement hosted by our wonderful reading community. This year Doing Dewey is hosting, along with Sarah at Sarah’s Bookshelves, Rachel at Hibernator’s Library, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, and Julz at Julz Reads. They have some lovely giveaways and book reviews going on, so go say hello! I’d also like to give a special shout-out to Kim over at Sophisticated Dorkiness. Kim is Non-fic November, for those who don’t know, and she’s still recovering from a huge, no-good, very bad Something right now. If you could all go love on Kim a little and send her the happiest thoughts, it would mean a lot to me. We’ve all been laid flat by grief at one point or another and I wish I didn’t know, but I do. I know I’ll be keeping Kim tucked into the back of my reading brain this month, raining some love down on her.

Now that we know who to thank for these feast, what was I nibbling on this week?

book204The Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl, by Donald Sturrock (2010, Simon & Schuster, 655 pages, used paperback). I have been working on this book forever! Seriously – months! And that for me is practically years. I found it in great condition at my favorite used bookstore and grabbed it for a dollar or two, not knowing how widely acclaimed it is or how dang readable. It really was a wonderful read. The fact that it took me so long to finish had nothing to do with how compelling Dahl’s life was (I am even more fascinated than when I started, moreso than even when I had just finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), or the quality of the writing (Sturrock seemed to get Dahl in a way most biographers wouldn’t have been able to, in my opinion) – it’s just that the book was long and when I read at night, I’ve been falling asleep in approximately two pages, every single time. So it takes a girl awhile to make her way through 655 of them. If you like biographies or you’re looking for a peek into home life of a Royal Air Force pilot or want to chew on how such a gifted children’s author could at times be a world-class jerk, I highly recommend. 4 of 5 stars.

book2051 Dead in Attic: Post-Katrina Stories, by Chris Rose (2005, Simon & Schuster, 158 pages, ebook). I bought this on a whim – okay, not really. More as a reward, I suppose. I’ve been coveting this collection of essays for awhile, and it didn’t disappoint. Each was just a few pages long, just enough to capture a few thoughts or a the heart of some cultural flashpoint in the days, weeks, and months after Katrina leveled New Orleans. For those who engage in community politics, and are interested in social justice, this is just the ticket. I wish some of the essays had been fleshed out more – ultimately, it’s what kept me from recommending everyone go buy the book outright – but there was enough there to keep me reading. If you see it in a used bookstore, grab it. If you can borrow a copy, do it sooner rather than later. I just wouldn’t spend my finite book dollars on a brand-new copy. 3 1/2 of 5 stars.

book206Liar, Temptress, Solider, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, by Karen Abbott (2014, Harper, 513 pages, paperback). I got this book for Christmas last year, and have been working my way up to it. At one point, we had talked about doing a read-along, particularly with #NonFicNov in mind. All the awards it won? Were for a dang reason! Liar was one of those rare non-fiction books that read like a spy thriller, bouncing back and forth in omniscient third-person narrator that I love so much, tantalizing the reader with hints and allegations as facts build up to stories of these four amazing women. It made me proud to be a woman, and small in the million things I complain about and take for granted. You have got to read this if you’re at all interested in war stories, espionage, feminism, or being a person. 4 of 5 stars.

book207Blindsided: Surviving a Grizzly Attack and Still Loving the Great Bear, by Jim Cole (2010, St. Martin’s Press, 304 pages, ebook). I splurged. I needed some escapism this week, and everyone who knows me knows that animal attacks – as silly as it is – are my version of celebrity gossip. You know it shouldn’t entertain you and you shouldn’t rot your brain reading it, but sometimes you can’t help it. This book served just that purpose. It wasn’t greatly written, but the gore levels were sufficient that I was distracted from the real-life circus around me. (I told you I was a terrible person.) If you like reading about animal attacks, it’s good enough to borrow. Most notable is how after two bear attacks Cole can still be as dedicated to preserving the great bear and its habitat as he is. He isn’t just all talk. 2 of 5 stars.

book208The Elephants in My Backyard, by Rajiv Surendra (2016, Regan Arts, 288 pages, ebook). I can read memoirs centered around just about any adventure or anyone’s life – it’s a supertalent of mine. This story was particularly interesting not because I’ve seen Mean Girls, in which Surendra starred, but because it was about his quest to get in touch with his Indian and Tamil routes in order to better his chances at starring in the film adaptation of Life of Pi. The movie doesn’t quite work out – and neither did the memoir, considering I’d been hoping it would serve as a poor man’s version of Eat, Pray, Love – but the tale itself was interesting. It could have been fleshed out a bit more…or maybe what I wanted was to lose even a little the sense that Surendra was conscious the entire time that he was crafting a tale, writing, writing, scripting, writing… It wore on me after awhile. But at least he had many adventures with which to pull from. 3 of 5 stars.

book209The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, by Elyn Saks (2007, Hachette, 340 pages, ebook). I’d been saving this ebook deal of the day for #NonFicNov and flew through it. Memoirs about mental health struggles are smack dab in the middle of my wheelhouse. I liked that Saks portrayed her constant struggle; it wasn’t just a one-hurdle memoir and now the beast is slain and shall never rise again sort of deal – because that’s not how mental health ever plays out in real life. It’s something you constantly question and face down and battle. I was a little less thrilled with the no-medicine message in the beginning, even if Saks was careful to explain it was foisted upon her and she was glad to have corrected those beliefs since then. That’s dangerous – especially given its responsibility as a mental health memoir. 3 of 5 stars.

There you go. I’m continuing my romp through terrible-for-me-but-terribly-entertaining reads with a book about the Jodi Arias murder, and I’m also slowly making my way through Crash Detectives, about how aviation experts determine how a crash happened based on the data available afterwards. Fun happy reads that have nothing to do with why I’m not sleeping at night. Heh. Next I’ll have to scourge my brain with the illustrated Little House biography and wholesome cookbooks or something. Because good lord, Katie.

Still. There are weeks you get through however you can, and these is one of those if ever there was one.