Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Reading Receipt

Welcome to 2018's first monthly reading receipt!  I'm pretty happy with my total of 4 books this month.  Here they are without further ado.

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This fictional account of a couple and their five children is absorbing.  The parents and the children grapple with some serious issues and become involved in keeping a secret for one family member.  It would be easy to say, "This is a book about (insert issue here)", but it's ultimately a book about the excruciating pressure of getting it all wrong as a parent.

Iced by Robert Grindy
Full disclosure, I actually know the author of this one.  His son was in my class for second and third grade, so that's part of the reason I read it.  I'm glad I picked it up.  I've been very disappointed with some local authors in the past, but there was no letdown here.  A community college professor, Henry Streator, is cynical when a slacker student tells him about his idea for a book in which a local billionaire is murdered in a somewhat bizarre fashion.  When the student turns up dead, Streator gets to thinking that maybe he could make a go at the student's idea himself.  He finds himself caring about something for the first time in a very long time as he launches into writing his first novel.  Things become a bit more complicated when the local billionaire actually winds up dead in exactly the same way the now deceased student described.  I really enjoyed how the amateur detective got almost everything wrong but still came across as someone I was rooting for.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
85 year old Lillian sets out on a walk in her New York City neighborhood on New Year's Eve 1984.  We are treated to the story of her life during this walk.  I did not know that this was loosely based on a real person as I was reading it.

Artemis by Andy Weir
Sometimes I like science fiction, and sometimes I do not.  I can say that so far, I always like Andy Weir.  His new novel is set on the moon with a female protagonist.  I really enjoyed this one.

That's it for January!

Monday, January 1, 2018

18 Books in 2018

Some years are better than others.

This is the first year since starting my book group 14 Books in 2014, that I haven't made the goal.  I'd surpassed my goal in 2014, '15, and '16 with no problem.  I came close this year, and I surely had time. 

Here's what I think happened. There were a couple of books I was really looking forward to reading this year.  One was Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton.  The other was the new Cormoran Strike mystery by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling.  Galbraith's book did not come out this year and they have yet to announce a publication date.  I am one of those people who are made truly happy when a new book comes out from an author whose writing I love.

I did read Y is for Yesterday as soon as it came out, and man, did I love it.  It was actually the last book I read in 2017.  In case you haven't heard, the great Sue Grafton passed away just before the new year, so there will be no more books by her, including the last letter, which was to be entitled Z is for Zero.  This makes me sad in a way only a true book series lover can understand.  I started reading Grafton's alphabet series when I was 24 at a very different time of my life.  At 47, she was still with me.  In a way, I feel like I've known Kinsey Millhone for 23 years.  Maybe that's because, in a way I have.

After I read Y, I just couldn't get motivated to read something I wasn't looking forward to as much.  I kept hoping that Galbraith's next book, rumored to be called Lethal White, would be released, as I knew I would jump at the opportunity to read it.  But it didn't, and nothing else was calling to me as Y is for Yesterday did.  I was lazy.  I was unmotivated. I was busy. I was greedy for that feeling of anticipation. I just couldn't work up the gumption to get going again.  I had several books laying around, accusing me of sloth but for some reason, that just made me resist more.  Reading Sue Grafton is such a pleasure that it made everything else seem like work.

It's a new year, though, and I feel I must press on.  Surely Galbraith/Rowling will release that book this year.  And I just looked and saw that Melanie Benjamin has a new release coming out this month.  So today, though I'm not one much for resolutions, I will begin anew.  So without further ado, here's a look back at 2017's books.

1. Chronicles Volume One by Bob Dylan
2. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
3. The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
4. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
5. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
6. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
7. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
8. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier
9. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuval
10. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
11. Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica
12. Final Girls by Riley Sager
13. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
14. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
15. Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

15 total for the year... only one nonfiction, 14 fiction (Loving Frank is historical fiction, based on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. I counted it as fiction since it is the imagined narrative of his lover.)  I was scary weak on nonfiction this year.

6 Recurring Authors: Maggie Shipstead, Stephen King, Paula Hawkins, Daphne Du Maurier, Mary Kubica, Sue Grafton

9 Never Read Before Read Authors: Bob Dylan (only if you count actual books), Susan Rivers, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Ruth Ware, Sylvain Neuval, Riley Sager, Angie Thomas, Nancy Horan

Books with Movie or Television Tie-Ins: 11/22/63 (This is a series on Hulu. I didn't make it past the second episode.  Sorry, James Franco.), My Cousin Rachel (I totally wanted to see this movie, but it only had a very short run at a local theater, which I missed.  Note to self: Check Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu for this!)

Time for the awards.  These are always fun as I make up whatever category I want each year. 

And the awards go to...

"Best Discovery for Suspense Writer" Award goes to...Susan Rivers and Ruth Ware
Check out The Second Mrs. Hockaday.   It's a good one.  It seems that I, along with everyone else, also discovered Ruth Ware this summer.

The "I Don't Want to Read This Because It's Supposed to Be Controversial, But That's Exactly Why You Should Read It" Award goes to...The Hate U Give
I had seen a lot of buzz about this on the internet.  It's controversial because it involves the Black Lives Matter movement.  Sometimes a book that is touted as being provocative can turn me off.  No matter how you feel about this issue, this should be something you read.  Three pages into reading this at Barnes and Noble told me I had to read it.  Thomas is such a young talent as well.

"Most Out of my Element but Surprisingly Enjoyable"...Sleeping Giants
Sci Fi isn't really my jam, but this synopsis from Book of the Month drew me in and made me select it.  Glad I did, as I had a couple of other disappointments from Book of the Month this year.  Which brings us to...

The "Rotten Tomatoes" Award... It's a tie.  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Final Girls were both bombs from Book of the Month for me.  You do get a five book choice with Book of the Month, so it's as much my fault as theirs, but I really didn't enjoy either of these.  So-so writing and contrived endings abound...   (I did get several from Book of the Month that were winners this year: The Woman in Cabin 10, Sleeping Giants, and Into the Water.)

Some repeat awards...

Best Author Find...Ruth Ware
I would definitely check out anything new by this author.  I have her newest laying around and need to get to it.

The "Stayed With Me the Longest in an Unsettling but Fascinating Way" Award goes to...Loving Frank.
I did not know the horrific way this story would end.  Knowing that it was true just made it more unsettling.  BTW, this is the first year that Margaret Atwood did not win this award.  But that's probably only because I didn't read anything by her this year.

The "Made Me Cry" Award...Every Last Lie
Don't judge.  It really isn't a tearjerker, and I only teared up a little bit at the beginning.  It was something about the premise of the wife with a newborn baby boy and toddler girl being widowed in the beginning that was a little too much for me.  What I like about Kubica's brand of suspense is there is not a psycho, mastermind genius behind everything.  Every day people are at the core.

And last, but never least - The "Page Turner" Award goes to...Sue Grafton.  But of course.
The irony here is that as much as I wanted to devour this book, I forced myself to savor it because I knew it the next would be a long time coming.  Now it is not to be.  Glad I took my time with it now.

If you are interested, check out the FB page for my book group 18 Books in 2018.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading I need to get to.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What's Up, Wednesday?

Just a little of this and that going on this week.  Here's what.

Dinner and music - a night out for us to eat dinner and see our favorite band, joined by our neighbors.

A cosplay event at Barnes and Noble for the girl and her friend - she inherited my Fan Girl tendencies.  She's in the middle with the black wig.

Some special flowers at the Farmer's Market - these were my grandmother's favorites.  Her birthday was in July and I used to send them to her every year.  These have been blooming on my table all week.

A little classroom work - You might as well put the whole crew to work when you can.  It's coming together. Some Before, During, and After pics for your perusal.




Still some work to be done, but we'll get there!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

July Reading Receipt

Much productivity in the "Getting The Books Read" department this month.  Here's what I read in July:

(Also related: I am loving my new letter board and letter kit.)

#1 Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
This was a BOTM selection awhile back, but I passed on it for something else even though I thought the synopsis was intriguing.  Parts of a giant robot are found all over the world.  Who buried them there 6000 years ago and why? It was later on Super Sale for Kindle, so I grabbed it then.  I'm not a blanket sci-fi lover, but if there's a good story with likable characters I enjoy it regardless of genre.   This is told in transcripts of interviews and reports.  Strangely, my favorite character was the interviewer who wasn't really a part of the action for most of the story.  I'm pretty sure this is the first in a series.  I'll be reading the next one, so that should tell you something right there.

#2 In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
After finishing The Woman in Cabin 10 ( a BOTM selection I did go for), I realized that I'd had another of her books around for months.  I liked this one even better than Cabin 10.  I'll also be adding Ware's newest book onto my BOTM selection this month.

#3 Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica
I went on the waiting list for this at the library before it was even published, so I got it pretty quick when it did finally come out this month.  I've liked all of Kubica's books, but this one is my favorite so far.  I appreciate that she can evoke tension without any fantastical plot twists.  You're on the edge of your seat without feeling like she's trying to pull a fast one on you.  When you find out all the answers in Kubica thriller, the explanations are very human.  I appreciate that more than anything.

#4 Final Girls by Riley Sager
BOTM last month and to wit, I felt like this author (Riley Sager is the pen name of a previously published unnamed author) did pull a fast one on me - a cheap, fast one to be exact. This story had me for a bit, then completely lost me with what I felt was a contrived twist. When it's just for shock value, I feel like I've been conned.

#5 The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I will say this deals with the very controversial subject of a racially motivated shooting by the police.  Did it make me uncomfortable? Yes.  Did I agree with everything in it? No.  Did I agree with some of it?  Yes.  Did it I think about it when I wasn't reading it and after I was finished with it?  Oh, hell yes.  And isn't that what great writing is supposed to do?  Subject matter aside for a second, this author brought characters to life who jumped off the page for me in a story that grabs you by the lapels and doesn't let go.  And the dialogue was the best I've read in some time.  She's very talented and has a long promising career ahead of her.  Read it.

One last thing - this month we went on vacation in Wisconsin and made a stop at Boswell Book Company.  They slipped this bookmark in with my purchase. I love it very much.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What's Up, Wednesday?

I skipped a week because there's just a lot of summer stuff going on around here like movies,

 the new season of Game of Thrones,

and lots of Cubs baseball.  There have been a few brief moments when we've led the NL Central in the last couple of weeks.  I'll totally take those.

What else?  Things are getting a little out of hand in the "Back to School" chair.  The girl and I also gave my classroom clipboards a much-needed facelift.



Also, I won a Carly online in a FB Lula Roe group.  I've never bought one before, but of course I've seen countless teachers wearing them.  I didn't get to pick it out, but if I had it probably would have been this purple flowered number.

After getting home from vacation two weeks ago, neither of us felt like cooking.   That meant a lot of last minute pizza, mac and cheese, and Ramen noodles last week.  This week I've been getting back into squirrel mode in preparation of all those crazy back to school nights that are coming up.  A huge batch of spaghetti sauce was made and the extra was frozen into four meals this week along with a couple of lasagnas and meat loaves.  One thing I discovered a few years ago is that it's really not that much more work to make extra when you're cooking and freeze it for later.

My husband really appreciates that lady he calls "Summer Wife" and what she has done for us on those tired, busy, hangry school nights. My husband does at least half of the cooking around here, but he loves Summer Wife because she cooks all these meals for us that just have to be thawed out and served with bread or something equally simple.  I love her too.  She'll be around for a little over two weeks more and then School Year Wife steps in and takes over.  He loves her too, but she's not as much fun.  She does have her moments though.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What's Up, Wednesday?

It's vaaaaaaaacation time this week.  We got home yesterday and my husband is off for the rest of the week!  We are going to spend the rest of the week doing all the decadent and time wasting things, like seeing Wonder Woman, War for the Planet of the Apes, and binge watching the last season of Game of Thrones before the premiere this Sunday.  I'm pretty sure the Universe wants me to be happy this week.

We started our vacation on Sunday by getting up early and heading to Wrigley Field for the Cubs game.

They lost spectacularly, but hey, it was still Wrigley Field.  Somebody posted something on social media the other day that went something like, "Hang in there, Cub Fans," and I told my husband, "Hang in there?  I waited 47 years to see them win the World Series. They are the reigning World Champions. That's something that a lot of Cub Fans didn't get to see in their lifetime, my grandfather among them.  Don't you worry about me.  I'm good for at least another 47." 

From Chicago, we drove to Racine, Wisconsin.  If you've ever been to Racine (or most places in Wisconsin), then you know about Kringle.  If you haven't been there, then you are missing out because my Scandinavian ancestors knew their pastries...pastries and boat building.  We chose Racine for North Beach and its proximity to Milwaukee.  And, of course, the Kringle.

We drove into Milwaukee one night.  Here's the thing I told my husband I remembered about Milwaukee: You can find lots of places to park and walk around.  It really doesn't feel like a "big" city.  I'm pleased to report that 23 years later, that's still what it feels like. We ate at Sobelman's Pub and Grill, hit Boswell Book Company (amazing place I could frequent every day if I still lived there), walked the Riverwalk, ate some rolled ice cream (Have you seen this new thing?), posed with the Fonz, and visited my old apartment building.

This last activity brought on a huge wave of the feels that, quite honestly, smacked me upside the head when I wasn't expecting it.  I moved to Milwaukee when I was 24 to train for a teaching job and get my Master's degree.  Seeing that tiny efficiency apartment building (and the neighborhood around it, which is quite happening now, by the way) really brought back that moment in time for me.  Compared to other years, it wasn't a particularly happy time in my life, but it was something I was determined to do.  I really had to figure out what I wanted that year in some ways.  And I find myself thinking now that you can actually be happy without knowing you are happy if you have a purpose and a challenge to rise to.  Suffice to say, I'm really proud now of that 24 year old kid.  She didn't back down when life sucker punched her.

Moving on.

We also had to get cheese because, Wisconsin. 

And we visited the Jelly Belly Center in Pleasant Prairie on the way home.  I am always amazed by the work and planning and details it takes to make one thing, like the Jelly Belly.  From the thousands of tiny molds they pour those things into to the airbrushing of the logo onto each bean, all the hard work that goes into one tiny bean is pretty astonishing to me.  I start thinking, "All this work...why didn't they just give up?"  But persistence and tenacity are both qualities I respect.  After all, I'm pretty sure that's how that kid made it through that year in Milwaukee.  The almond Kringle also helped.