Oh holy hole-y.

February 9, 2016

Sometimes, the universe is very, very good to me. See, last week, there was this hole. It wasn’t just a hole, it was a HOLE. A giant, car-sucking hole – I mean, a three-lane wide, destroying the entire westward-bound street kind of hole. It was massive, it was huge, and it showed up suddenly one morning as we were all driving to work.

It was Tuesday morning. And it was pitch black outside, as it usually is when I’m driving into work. I was pretty close to work, just coming to the rise of the hill before the highway interchange and then the few blocks to my building. I could see flashing blue lights on the opposite side of traffic, up closer to work. I thought someone had been pulled over. Being the looky-loo that I am, I kept an eye out when I got that far, but didn’t see anything. Hunh, I thought. Maybe they were finished and on their way before I got here. And then I saw all the construction vehicles. And, wait – were they redirecting traffic. Ohhhhhh holy motherfather! All of the traffic on the other side was trickling into one lane, and then being sent down sidestreets to navigate (somehow – there aren’t many options) around it. That is going to be a NIGHTMARE. Our metropolitan NBC station headquarters is here, American Airlines corporate headquarters is here, several hundred other businesses all use that main road to go westbound or to hook up with the highway and go north or south. Leaving work? It’s going to be impossible.

Luckily for me, I had a work-around. My side of the street has a secret back entrance – well, if you work for it. And you can use the secret back entrance to get to some side streets that eventually put you out at a red light that’s about a block past where O Holy Hole-y (and its residual traffic) was. But I wasn’t the only one using that light, and I still had a 15 minute delay. Better than the 45 minutes to an hour that sitting in the backup would cost me. So I left a little early from work so I wouldn’t be late picking up the childrens and I wondered how long that hole would be there.

Was it a sinkhole? An emergency construction project? I couldn’t find any information on it online. I wasn’t motivated enough to call DPW, so I just started at it in fascination when I went by, cruising eastbound, and said a prayer that it wouldn’t be months. Or years. Because nope.

Monday morning – yesterday – I sailed into work and then right before I left for lunch, it hit me: I hadn’t seen O Holy Hole-y or accompanying flashy lights, traffic cones, or construction tape on my way in. I asked my co-worker if O Holy Hole-y was….gone? At first she wasn’t sure, but then she remembered that she had driven westbound to go to lunch and had forgotten about O Holy Hole-y and that she shouldn’t have been able to. So it must be gone! Hallelujah! We decided they must have finished repairs over the weekend when traffic is just about non-existent. Honestly, we don’t even care when or why or how. Just so long as it’s gone and traffic is free again!

So there you go. The Universe was good to me. Sometimes in life, it’s all the little things that count.

Yes, he’s Super hungover (and a tad bit excited).

February 8, 2016

Jeff might never get over this game. Even Fenway just watched as the crazyman ran laps around the room, funnily (and unknowingly) mimicking what the girls and I were doing last year at this time as our team won the big game.

The Denver Broncos are Superbowl Champions. Peyton won his second ring in what probably will be his very last game.

It was emotional – not gonna lie. Tears were shed as he stepped off the field from his last series. The girls were a bit baffled, but I explained the great Brady/Manning rivalry and they got it, a bit. Soon it will be Brady’s turn and I will be a wreck.

But that’s later. Last night, we partied and we partied HARD!

There were barbecued wings, grilled ribs, and a baked ham for sammiches. We had chips, dips, Fritos, Doritos, popcorn, and Cornuts. There was a fruit platter with cream cheese marshmallow dip. The girls busted out ice cream at one point. It was a daylong feast from which we might not recover.

We introduced the boys to our family football pool. The squares are divided by fives until every gets a bunch of squares and they’re all assigned. Then we randomly pick the numbers for the top and the side, and then the teams. Jeff won the first quarter, Gracie won 2nd and 3rd (although there was so back and forth), and then Bee-girl (who hates football and had been jamming with her headphones on, making iTunes playlists on my laptop) won the final score. It was a blast!

So we survived another year. Jeff was nursing a bit of a hangover this morning, and Gracie – who was Jeff’s favorite partner-in-trouble during the game – had a mysterious rug burn and bruise on her side and rib area this morning. Gee, maybe it was from rough-housing, or jumping with the football onto the couch at full speed, or flipping backwards onto the couch, or throwing the football around in the house, or any number of things I pretended not to see. Who knows. I just know I had so much fun watching my gang enjoy the game and each other. I can’t wait for next year! Boooo offseason! And hooray for football!

Five for Friday.

February 5, 2016

Is it Friday? Really? I keep waiting for some thugs to jump out from behind nearby bushes, giggle at me, and yell “GOTCHA!” Because I am in desperate need of a Friday, it just feels like I’ve only blinked since we had our last one. That’s what happens when you’re under water, I suppose.

So what do we have going on today?

1. Friendship characters. When Kim was here during Christmas, Bee kept sneaking whacked out cartoons on the television in the living room. I think it was the night that Gracie was trying to wrestle her phone away from me and it became it all out run-around-the-house-giggling type of melee. In any case, there were My Little Ponies who were unicorns or something and Bee turned to Auntie Kim and derisively informed her that those were not My Little Ponies. They were Friend. Ship. Characters. So there. Which is why, I’m led to believe, we received a colored-in post-card from Auntie Kim addressed to Bee featuring two very large unicorns Friend. Ship. Characters. on the front. I maybe died with laughter.

2. Bee didn’t quite laugh as hard. She maybe narrowed her eyes and made plotty-plans as she drummed her fingertips together. I’m not allowed to say anything else. But I was given a postcard to put in the mail today. To Auntie Kim. Um… beware?

3. I got in a spot of trouble last night. The boyfriend, he likes to tease the kiddos and be more of the fun uncle than the parent. I am constantly having the remind them not to start messing around before bed, and he knows Gracie’s biggest struggle right now is actually going to bed when I tell her, instead of dragging out one more hug for us, the dog, and 33 inanimate objects along the way. Which is why when I had to yell/ask Jeff and Gracie last night what the rule was about wrestling before bed, after I had told Gracie to go get ready, I was pretty annoyed. Jeff was even more annoyed because I had treated him like a child. I argued that he was acting like one and that I shouldn’t have to enforce the no-wrestling-at-bedtime rule three times in one week. Jeff argued that he shouldn’t be yelled at like a kid, no matter how often he forgets.

4. I just finished Season 2 of Dexter. Holy Moses am I glad that crazy Brit is gone. And Rita is getting almost as snotty and annoying as Lila. Just me?

5. Everyone keeps asking me who I’m rooting for this weekend. Or if I’m going to boycott the game. No boycotts here; we’ll have the same giant party we always have for the Superbowl. And no, I’m not rooting for Carolina. If Peyton wastes this one last chance to get a ring after ruining our chances? I’ll be pissed. Seriously.

So there are my five things. Is it 5 o’clock yet? Now? What about now? Are you sure…?

Mini-reviews: Now with at least one great book!

February 4, 2016

This week was kind of a reading slump for me – not that I didn’t (or couldn’t) read much. I kept up my usual feverish pace with six books. (Related: I am really digging this no more napping at lunch thing.) Nah, my slump was more of a Oh. Hunh. Really? That’s what this book is about? variety. I just didn’t find many books that made me race towards my me-time. One book. One book out of six. But that one book…just wait.

 

What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, by Zoe Heller. (Henry Book48Holt & Co., 2003, 258 pages) I got this book for Christmas in 2014. I believe Santa had picked it up at a used book store, gifted it with enthusiasm, but then the book sat there on the shelf forever. An uncommon occurrence in my house where I go through books so quickly I have trouble keeping myself in stock. The first few pages just sounded flat. I’m pretty sure I know what my problem was (is?): the book feels emotionally flat after reading the sordid and truly scandalous Tampa by Alicia Nutting. Heller’s approach was different – a story told from the pitiful and lonely companion of the teacher – but as far as student/teacher affairs go, this just didn’t feel like it examined much of the crisis at hand. For all the outrage Tampa elicited after its publication, this felt more like a wet dish towel. From the plot progression to the complexities and revelations of the characters to the very language, I felt it for a book about a scandal, it was driving the speed limit the entire time. 2 of 5 stars.

Book49The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard. (Knopf, 2015, 260 pages) This book was already in my To Be Read pile, and then it went and led a shallow shortlist for this year’s Tournament of Books. I was lucky enough to find an ecopy available at one of my libraries and immediately dove in. This might be another of my favorite books of the year. It tells the story of Aron, an unlucky and poor Jewish boy who comes of age during the beginning of World War II. His family life is unhappy and unfortunate and so what Aron becomes is a street kid, stealing and smuggling with his misfit band of “friends”. The second half of the book finds Aron living in an orphanage with the Doktor Janusz Korczak, a historical figure who was famous for parenting advice and humanitarian efforts in the Warsaw ghettos. The good doctor refused to ever abandon his children in the orphanage, despite rescue attempts and even offers from the Germans for safe passage, and died with his wards in a concentration camp. So, yeah – the book’s going to wreck you. Completely. But you won’t be able to stop reading. Shepard’s choice to show the horrors through Aron’s eyes distances and, in some cases, adds a necessary twisted humor in places. This read for me was as humbling and gorgeously haunting as watching Schindler’s List for the first time. It’s a must read before this, too, makes its way into theaters and becomes a standard of the World War II canon. 5 of 5 stars.

Book50Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf. (Knopf, 2015, 176 pages) Another book I picked up (or borrowed via library e-loan, rather) for the Tournament of Books. It reminded me rather a lot of The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, where the journey negotiated was more the bottomless loneliness one feels later in life, after your family has died or moved away. A woman, one day, approaches a neighbor she knows a fairish bit, but not well, and asks him to spend their nights sleeping next to her at her house. Because of the loneliness, seeing as they’ve both been widowed for what feels like ages. All sorts of talking and life revelations and growth occurs. It was a sweet book, if entirely predictable. It just didn’t rattle my cage or roll my socks up and down. And coming off of The Book of Aron, I needed something with a lot more power than that. 2 of 5 stars.

Book51The New World, by Chris Adrian. (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2015, 224 pages) Amazon has the e-book for only $4.99, but I borrowed the ebook from my library for even less than that. It’s worth the $5, though. I liked it, rather unexpectedly, even though I picked it up just for the Tournament of Books. (Seeing a theme here?) It’s the story of a husband who dies suddenly, without telling his wife he contracted a cryogenics lab to preserve his soul (uh, by stealing his corpses head) and keep him alive until such technology can bring him back to life. So we watch his wife’s grief unfold at the same time we’re watching a very surreal and philosophical…awakening?…of her husband’s consciousness waaaaay in the future. The book was different in a very interesting way that made me sit up and pay attention to what was happening on the pages. If his wife’s lawsuit against the reanimation company is successful, the husband’s consciousness will wink out. Or if he decides to process, he has to forget all about his past lives, and his wife’s narrative will be dropped. So what price or worth do we put on life? What does consciousness or being awake mean? What do we want it to mean? All very interesting, when you’re not having panic attacks. (The Charlotte’s Web references helped.) 3 of 5 stars.

Book52Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel, by Zachary Thomas Dodson. (Doubleday, 2015, 448 pages) No. Nope. No. Did not like. It’s a Western set in the futuristic Wild West. In Texas. Could we string together more things I do not like? Oh, and the story isn’t a traditional narrative – which, okay, sometimes I do like. But the pictures and memorabilia and all the interruptions felt like that – interruptions. I couldn’t get into the quirkiness or find the upsides that everyone else seemed to love. The characters were outlaws I couldn’t root for set in a landscape I abhor. I’m sure it’s a book for many other people, but it wasn’t for me. At all. 1 of 5 stars.

Book53The Invaders, by Karolina Waclawiak. (Regan Arts, 2015, 240 pages) Another e-book I snagged for the Tournament of Books. It was…perfectly mediocre. It had a Silent Wife or Talented Mr. Ripley feel to it. Burdened, bored country club wife on the decline during a turbulent summer, stuck in her prestigious community as her facade crumbles. Uh…with edges, though. Just can’t tell you what those are. I liked Waclawiak’s voice, I felt compelled to read at times. Just not often enough. And the fact that I couldn’t care less about the characters did not help. 2 of 5 stars.

So there you have it. My disappointing week, saved by The Book of Aron. I have high hopes for next week, though. I’m reading I Am Princess X and The Royal We and I can’t put either down!

My Stitch-Fix Valentine’s box.

February 3, 2016

My fourth Stitch-Fix arrived yesterday, an entire day ahead of schedule. Huzzah! I had asked for a fancy red or plum shirt that I could wear out for Valentine’s Day, and I let my stylist know that I was good on jeans now that I had my shinny jeans and that delicious pair from my last box. So let’s see what she pulled together:

A maroon sweater with three-quarter sleeves that has a semi-sheer/crochet-covered back. Okay, I’m not a big fan of crochet on clothes, but it’s not the worst? Hmm. The color is great, though.

HeartShirt1

Hearts. I hate hearts. I love the neckline of the shirt, which, I know you can’t see well. It’s high with a band neckline that wraps around the neck. I’m sure there’s a word for such a thing; I just don’t know it. But even though that looks good on me, I probs won’t be keeping it because 80s HEARTS.

Dress1

I loved this dress as soon as I saw it. The floral pattern is romantic, the fabric is swishy enough to flatter my waistline, and the cleavage is high enough that I could wear it out or to work. Score!

And then we had two accessory items: a gorgeous silver necklace with an adjustable length, and maroon flats covered in sparkles. They would both look nice with my dress!

Okay – the first moment of truth. I needed to try them on to see how everything worked. A lot of times I won’t like a piece and then it will look super-flattering on. Or, more often, I love a piece until I try it on and it doesn’t quite work for my body shape. So…

I loved the way this shirt fit. It felt fantastic! The problem is that I’m still not crazy about the crochet on the back. And if I don’t love an item, it probably isn’t worth keeping at StitchFix’s prices. Well…unless it’s the only item that doesn’t work, and then it’s actually free. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

HeartShirt2

 

The heart shirt looks fantastic on me! But…still hearts. Why couldn’t they be penguins or elephants or anything else, really? Also, the shirt needs to have a belt to cinch my waist or it doesn’t look right and this belt is the same one I wear with my black-and-white polka dots. The sleeves are different and the size/shape of the polka dots, but otherwise – same look. Not so sure I’m keeping this.

Dress2

Love the way the dress felt and looked. The back is more of a V-shape, but not so low that I have to worry about what bra I wear. This is a great option for romantic dinners, dressy days at work, or even something a little more formal. Love the versatility!

And then you have the accessories. The shoes were size 6 1/2, and I might have tried on the 7s if I was in the store. They pinched just a bit across the top of my left foot, right at the widest point of my very wide feet. The shoes feel like the kind that will stretch, but do I want to count on that? The necklace is definitely a keeper – it goes with everything and I don’t own anything like it. Plus, I love the adjustable length! I can wear it with any kind of neckline.

So….argh! I don’t know what to do with this box! I need to play around with the pricing options on the Web site and make sure I’m not shooting myself in my wallet. But! I think…maybe…I’m leaning towards keeping the dress and the necklace. I might have kept the shoes, but at that point I might as well keep the entire box, and returning three things will save me $60. That’s totally what I should do. Right?

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Challenge Update

February 2, 2016

ReadMyOwnDamnBooksbutton

I wasn’t going to join Andi’s #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge. Why? Well because I’m not one to have entire bookshelves and ebook collections stacking up on me. Before Christmas? I had five books on my shelf that I hadn’t gotten to during the year. Five books.

And then Christmas happened. Christmas happened and I was drowning in new books (in a completely delightful way) and I realized how many, many books I had to read.

Add to that the fact that it was the new year! 2015 challenges had finished! The longlist for the Tournament of Books was out! New challenges for the new year had begun! Anticipatory book lists for the year ahead were being published left and right, “Best of” lists for the past year were being thrown at me, and all I wanted to do was buy! new! books!

And that jerk shelf with all my Christmas books sat right there staring at me. Asking me if I was going to spend money on books. More books. Really? When I had about 30 sitting right there?

So I did it. I joined Andi’s challenge. Because of the brilliant “You do you” twist, I was able to couch it just the way I needed to: I would read my own damn books…and any others that were free. I do a fair amount of reading on my phone or ereader while I’m out and about and I don’t gift those sorts of books to myself very often. Which means I don’t have stacks of them waiting. Which means I had to get them somehow without breaking my challenge (and going broke all at once). So by allowing myself to read free books, that mean I could still pick up books – digital or otherwise – from the library without breaking the “rules.” Perfect, right?

So how did I do? Let’s look:

  1. Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon – Christmas gift
  2. The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson – Gift card
  3. Lumberjanes #1, by Noelle Stevenson – Christmas gift
  4. Find Me, by Laura Van den Berg – Gift card
  5. Hamilton, by Ron Chernow – Re-read, previously owned
  6. Humans of New York: Stories, by Brandon Stanton – Christmas gift
  7. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman – Library
  8. This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp – Gift card
  9. The Kindness of Enemies, by Leila Abouelela – Library
  10. Tiny Pretty Things, by Sona Charaipotra – Library
  11. The Best American Travel Writing: 2005, edited by Jamaica Kincaid – Christmas Gift
  12. Yes, Chef, by Marcus Samuelsson – Library
  13. One Day, by David Nicholls – Previously owned (one of the five I didn’t read last year)
  14. Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving – Previously owned (one of the five I didn’t read last year)
  15. Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup – Library
  16. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Library
  17. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews – Christmas gift
  18. Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy – Gift card
  19. What Was She Thinking?, by Zoe Heller – Previously owned (one of the five I didn’t read last year)
  20. The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard – Library
  21. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf – Library

It must be perfect, that lovely little system of mine. Because I’m proud to say that after accepting the challenge during the first week in January, I haven’t bought a single book. If my reasons for taking up the challenge were to curb spending, I would say it’s an unfettered success.

But I still have a shelf and a half filled with unread books. Let’s keep playing in February, shall we?

Curtains: Take two.

February 1, 2016

Is it just me, or are curtains a giant pain the ass? There is very little nothing glamorous about curtains. Okay, yes, I can hear you – sometimes they do make or break a room. They can be statement pieces. Or, if you live in my kind of chaos, they end up being something the demondog chews up for a snack and then you have to spend actual time – time you could be spending on so many other things!! figuring out what to get to replace the curtains, and then spit out waytoomuch money paying for the curtains.

Like I said – curtains are a giant pain in the ass.

Which is why I spent most of the winter without any in the kitchen.

While I enjoyed the bright, natural sunlight that flowed into the back of the house, and the clean lines of the box window frames, dealing with the giant sun in your eyes during breakfast and dinner time was not any fun. And so my sister took to the Internets to find me new curtains. Because wasn’t any way I was getting to it any time soon!

Of all the possibilities she found, this one was our winner:

Curtains2

The Zigami Rod Pocket Back in grey, from Bed, Bath & Beyond. They were a tiny pit pricey at $35/panel, but I really liked the chevrons. And I liked that the material wasn’t sheer, but wasn’t too stiff either. I did not like that I had to order them online and couldn’t see what I was getting until I had it, but the store swore I could bring them back. So I ordered them.

They didn’t work.

The pattern seemed like it should work, but it ended up being way too busy in my little kitchen corner, when you added in all the cookbooks and knickknacks on the shelves, and then the painting on the wall, and my gallery art wall across from the window. It was a bit much. And so I was still curtainless. (The store was awesome about taking back the curtains, though, even though one of the packages was opened. And slightly rumpled in my attempts to refold.)

Take two. We had to look for curtains for the front room. The really pretty sheer ones we had in there were mostly torn in half (thanks, dogs), and Jeff’s friend (who owns a carpet cleaning business) is coming to do our rugs this weekend and I wasn’t letting anyone see the state of those miserable curtains. So: curtain shopping. And while we were out, I happened to see some that I thought would work in the kitchen. For only $16/panel.

Curatins

Not what I would have picked out when facing all of the options, but I think they look pretty good up on the wall. I still need to iron out the wrinkles and fix the end of the curtain rod, but I’m pretty happy with the general flow. And I am wicked excited about not having the sunshine in my eyes every night, thank you.

Now all I have to do is keep all puppies far, far away. Seriously, Fenway – don’t even look at the curtains because I’m done with curtain shopping for the foreseeable future.

Five for Friday.

January 29, 2016

I am so in need of a Friday, you don’t even know! So much in a hurry to get this day going so I can get to the good part of Friday. But first:

1. I have read two really good books this week. I finished the phenomenal Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy that is indeed worth all the hype. And now I’m near the end of Jim Sheppard’s The Book of Aron, a World War II story about a down-on-his-luck Jewish boy growing up in the streets of Poland during the occupation. It’s amazingly written, and reminds me of Angela’s Ashes meets All the Light We Cannot See. I don’t know why more people weren’t talking about it last year – it’s definitely going to run deep into this year’s Tournament of Books.

2. I might have already talked about this (my god, memory – where have you gone?), but I am having so much fun with my TV life right now. I don’t know which is better: watching Lost with Gracie and watching her head pop off every time a plot twist is revealed (and you know how often they did that), or watching Dexter with Jeff after the girls are in bed. We’re in the middle of Season 3 of Lost – Jack and Sawyer and Kate are still with The Others – so things are about to get really weird and I might lose Gracie when that happens. She likes a good, semi-rational plot. Oh, and the Jack-and-Kate storyline. As for Dexter, the dialogue might not be all West Wing-y, but I am having a blast! We’re in Season 3, with the crazy British chick, and I’ve heard after this season is when it really takes off. Which is hard to imagine, because I am really loving it so far. Just sometimes I get a bit anxious about people getting caught doing things. Because you know – I get way too invested in fictional television, Katie! ahem.

3. Jeff has been given dominion over the garage because the poor guy just needed something to be in charge of and it was something I was willing to let go of. He’s put up a bunch of shelving units, and everything’s neatly stacked on them (more or less)(not that you can find anything because there’s no rhyme or reason). The bikes are off to one side, he’s moved some other things around to places I don’t think make the most sense but – hey, it’s his space. So this week he moved the trash and recycling off to the side of the house. Most of our neighbors do this, even though technically you aren’t supposed to leave them in view of the street. No one really enforces that rule. The problem is that now I can’t send the girls out to the big recycling bin in the garage with a wine bottle bigger box for the recycling bin. Because they’d have to put on their shoes and walk around to the side of the house. You could almost see the comprehension dawning on Jeff’s face the third time I sent him outside last night.

4. This week has been so ridiculous at ThePlaceThatShallNotBeNamed that I bought my co-worker and I Magic8 ball to help us with tough decisions. “Should I kill my other co-worker for not telling us about xyz?” “My sources say no.” Aw, shucks.

5. I finally finished my friend’s baby blanket this week (huzzah!) and have picked up one back up for another friend who is due in April. While rooting around for that baby blanket, I found a stocking kit that matches the ones I did for the girls. So if all my fertile (and pretty! love you!) friends could stop dropping sweet, sweet cuddlicious babies for just a few months, I can do a stocking for the Xman. He asked if I would make him one like the girls’ and now I can! Pre-planning (and over-shopping) for the win!

So there you have it folks. I have a day chock-a-block full of errands (pedicure, book stores, library visits…) tomorrow and we need to hurry and get me to it!

Book reviews: One great, one good, two iffy, and two pieces of kindling.

January 28, 2016

It hasn’t been my best two reading weeks. I had been doing pretty well and then BAM! I hit a wall. Unsurprising, when you think that I’ve been focusing on getting through a few of the five books I had leftover from two Christmases ago. Yep. There were some books that I did want to read, but kept creeping lower and lower on my priority list. No wonder.

So! Here we go.

The books to use as kindling:
Book44One Day, by David Nicholls and Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving. I wasn’t sure about David Nicholls, but one of my reading friends kept recommending the book. And I don’t do time travel – I don’t. Not even for books that include a different sort of hook: that you imagine the life the couple doesn’t lead, the one that looks back at the same day year after year to see what each person has gone on to do. What families do they have, what adventures, what lives do they lead. I honestly couldn’t care because the writing was so cliche. I didn’t want to know either of the characters.

As for the Irving, I’m honestly starting to doubt whether I should keep reading him. Owen Meany and Cider House Rules are two of my all-time favorites. Garp was okay. But the rest of them? Blech. He is incredibly hit or miss with me and I don’t want to give up on him, but… well, let’s just say I’m not rushing to read Avenue of Mysteries, even if it is part of the Tournament of Books this year. Both books: 1 of 5 stars.

The books that were kinda iffy:
The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews. I read Nguyen’s Sympathizer for the Tournament of Books and really connected with the voice right away. I’m not heavy into Eastern Asian lit, so it takes a lot to pull me in, and I think that is where I went wrong: I didn’t care as much about the plot as I could have. But Ngugen’s voice – you can tell right away that this guy knows what he’s doing. He’s a master at his craft. He’s aces at telling stories – I just didn’t particularly care to hear this one. One of those times when you can say “It’s not you; it’s me” and actually mean it.  Book45

It was worse with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I’ve seen my complaint in a lot of the reviews, though in reverse – this YA phenom was billed as everything John Green’s Fault in our Stars was not. Except that I liked TFioS. M&E&tDG, on the other hand, felt whiny. Yeah, maybe that’s “more accurate” of teens, but which ones? Who says books have to be completely accurate? I use them as escapism, and all I ask is that you entertain me with your voice, the characters, and the plot, all at the same time. (A tall order, yes I know.) I didn’t find Protag Greg to be all that funny, and I use my lit to get away from awkward situations. So, yeah, you can see how many ways this book was all wrong for me. I liked that it gives readers a place to go if they need to feel like it’s okay to just not be moved by something…but god, does anyone need permission for that any more? Both books: 2 of 5 stars.

The book that was good:
Book46Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup. Yes, I’m very late to this bandwagon. I know. I picked up Twelve Years as an e-loan from the library to fulfill my “Read a book that was turned into a movie” challenge for Read Harder 2016. It’s been ages since I’ve read all of the great slave narratives and it felt a bit like coming home to slip back into one. The frame stories, the fact dropping so we could verify, the call and response, the tropes of quadroons and hair – everything was here. It was a well-crafted memoir and fits well among those of Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, and the rest of the canon. 4 of 5 stars.

The book that was great:
Book47Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy.
Oh my god, you guys! You have to read. MUST. Willowdean Dickson is a wonder. The story is of an “unlikely” heroine, a fat girl, one who can’t quite decide whether she’s confidant with her self (or her body) or not. There are the requisite adventures: fights with a best friend, who has drifted; trouble with boys; the death of a family member; bonding issues with Mom; and bullies – and those you might not expect: like a band of misfits, drag queens, oh and Willowdean (known, rather reluctantly as Dumplin’, you might have guessed) enters the teen beauty pageant her mom won once and can’t let go of. I struggled at times with whether the story was doing enough, with whether it was fighting of cliches well enough, with whether I’d be happy if things were all resolved instead of leaving some open-ended, the way I wanted. And I say again: oh my god, you guys! You have to read. MUST. 5 of 5 stars.

Quote of the day.

January 27, 2016

Saturday we were bumming around – Jeff had pulled his back for the second time in three weeks and I had a small kidney stone. So we were relaxing on the couch, fighting over the heating pad, and mostly watching movies. Gracie was hanging out with us, for the most part, while the two littles were in the front room playing.

I was amused that we had, by chance, finished The Martian, Matt Damon’s latest movie, and then immediately started Good Will Hunting, the movie that really put Damon on the map.

Oh – and it’s important to know that it tickles me all the way down to my toes that Gracie, with her brand new Radar for Boys, thinks Damon’s as hott as I do.

Me, marveling over the age difference of Matt Damons: Gracie, do you know who this is?
<I point towards Matt Damon janitoring the halls of MIT>
Gracie:
Uh…
Me: You don’t know?
Gracie, stalling: ….Um ….Oh! Is he that guy from that movie there, Titanic?
Me: …No, Gracie, that is not Leonardo DiCaprio from Titanic.

But that was pretty funny.


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