Posted in in the craft room, in the reading room, on the screen, these days

these days…

When I perused today’s to-do list earlier this morning, I found that I’d put “blog post” on there for today. I think I’d hoped to be ready to write an RIP post, but while I’ve watched several things I haven’t yet finished another RIP book. So as I was throwing together the ingredients for a second loaf of bread for tonight’s supper, I was debating with myself whether I should just skip blogging for today. Trouble was I was so busy arguing with myself that I forgot to pay attention to how many cups of flour I was putting in the bread machine pan. *sigh* If I had to say, I’m guessing there’s about a 50/50 chance this loaf will come out edible. Seems that after possibly bungling up tonight’s grilled cheese due to my scatterbrainedness and lack of simple decision-making skills, I really ought to just blog and have something to show for it.

So, what’s been going on in my mundane little life…

*Reading.

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I’m still working on The Secret History. Since I’ve been reading it for a couple weeks now, it might seem that I’m not terribly enthralled by it, but I assure you that’s not the case. It’s just that 1.) I’ve been reading other books for homeschooling, 2.) it’s a slow, meandering sort of read, 3.) it’s a fairly long book, and 4.) I’m just a pathetically slow reader.

In the meantime, I finished a reread of one non-fiction comic and read two novels. Economix: How Our Economy Works (And Doesn’t Work) in Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin and Dan E. Burr is chock-full of so much excellent information that I just knew that I wanted to use it as our introductory book for our economics class. It was every bit as good the second time around, and I wholeheartedly recommend it, whether you’re interested in economics or not.

Next up was The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. We’re using a sci-fi course from The Great Courses for our English requirement this year, and thus far (only a few lectures in), I’m pleased with it. The lectures are more broad than deep, but that works quite well for us, as I tend to love for us to go off exploring on our own. While the number of works the lecturer talks about are still skewed towards white male authors, I worried it would be far worse than it is. In the last lecture I listened to, he spoke of works by Connie Willis, Octavia Butler, Nicola Griffith, and Jane Yolen. And it was obvious that he spoke of works he truly enjoyed, and wasn’t just doing so to avoid criticism. I loved the way he also matter-of-factly included a children’s book in the lecture. Hmmm…seems like I’ve gone on a bit about this course, but I can’t tell you how relieved I’ve been as sci-fi seems to include so many sexist fans in its ranks. Let’s just hope the rest of the lecture series doesn’t let me down. And back to The Devil’s Arithmetic, well I’ll suffice it to say that I thought this middle grade novel about the Holocaust was excellent.

But the book that I most loved was Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Passionately loved. As in it’s moved to my list of all-time favorite books. To me it shines as an example of how fiction can make us feel and understand things in a way non-fiction often can’t. And this is not a criticism of non-fiction, of course. I adore non-fiction. But the way Octavia Butler made the reality of slavery so very palpable was just extraordinary. This is simply one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.

*Making.

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I’ve worked a bit here and there on a number of projects the past couple of weeks, but the one I’ve focused most on is a sweater for Annie. And I’m happy to say that I’m close enough to finished that I feel confident in saying that it will make it under the Christmas tree this very year. 😉  I just have to finish the second sleeve (and if there’s enough yarn left, I may add a few rows on the body).

*Watching.

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Actually watched quite a lot lately. It goes along with Christmas gift making, after all. 😊 And I suppose they all qualify as RIP-appropriate. After reading Natalie’s review of Don’t Bother to Knock, I knew I just had to watch it. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I seldom watch older movies, not because I don’t like them, but more because I just don’t know which to watch. So I was happy to have read Natalie’s review, and instead of saying anything more, I’ll just suggest you read her post.

Finished up Quantico, which I watched because Max told me I might like it. And I sort of did, but I didn’t love it. I sincerely doubt I’ll watch season 2. There were things I enjoyed a lot, such as the diverse female cast (though diversity among the male cast was more lacking) and the exploration of how people deal with feelings of personal guilt (though I would have loved for this to have been explored deeper). But there were also things that I didn’t enjoy so much, but I don’t want to be spoiler-y so I’ll just leave it at that.

Rich and I watched the first season of Between, and started the second season…but then we both sort of simultaneously voiced our opinions that life is far to short to watch TV shows we’re not enjoying. It’s sort of Lord of the Flies meets Under the Dome, with not-so-great acting (though I honestly know nothing about acting, so take my comment for what it’s worth) and plot points that are so unbelievable that they’re downright laughable. On the surface, it sounded like a show I would have loved…but well, you can’t win them all, can you?

And lastly (I think anyway), I watched Marcella. I really loved this show. I found Marcella a completely fascinating character. Her complexity in some ways reminded me of Annalise Keating from How to Get Away with Murder. Not that Marcella and Annalise have a ton in common, but more just the fact that we’re getting to see these characters as full-fledged human beings who don’t always fit that constricted little box that women are nearly always banished to if they want to found “likable.”

Okay, well, I thought I might talk about what was going on in my kitchen lately (not all that much exciting really) and in the organizing realm, but I feel like I’ve blathered on for long enough. More than long enough to check this off today’s to-do list.

(Edited: The bread? Completely inedible.)

Posted in an appreciative life, in the reading room, on the screen

the last few days in the RIP trenches…

ripeleven300I started what I thought was going to be book 2 for RIP, read 47 pages, and decided life was too short. So a DNF. Thing is, said book, The Murder Room, is pretty damn interesting. At least as far as I got. It’s a non-fiction book about the Vidocq Society, an elite group of detectives and forensics specialists who do pro bono work on solving cold cases. But for as interesting as I found it, there were a number of things that irked me. Lots of subtle sexism, a homophobic remark, and a smattering of other things that just rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe in a different mood, I could have overlooked some of it and just enjoyed the interesting stories, but it just wasn’t happening now. And I’m going to give the book away, so it won’t be happening any other day either. 😉  After all, I’ve no shortage of other books to read.

So then I started the second book that I’m predicting will be my second book, The Secret History, because yes, I’m one of the few people who have yet to read it. But I’m in good company, because Chris is also one of those few people, and we have decided to read it together. I’m thus far finding it slow going though, so I may end up sneaking in a comic or a short novel while still reading this…in which case this won’t end up being book 2 for RIP either. 😜

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Peril the First: still just 1/4.

I have made progress on another perilous quest, however. Go me! Yes, Rich and I devoured Stranger Things over the last couple of nights. I know we’re a little late jumping on this train, but this is a case of better late than never. Because yes, we both loved it! (A couple things annoyed me in the last episode, but we won’t go there because it would be spoiler-y. And they didn’t keep me from loving the show anyway.) But what did I like?

*The overwhelming nostalgic feeling of being transported right back to my high school days. My hometown was way, way, way smaller than the small town in the show, but still the feeling was just so totally nailed.

*Eleven. She owned my heart. ❤️

*Dustin and Mike and Lucas, and their whole dynamic.

*An okay level of creepiness for me. I actually would have loved to be scared a bit, but still it worked for me. And I don’t much like gore (though I did in my much younger days), and this hit the mark by not going overboard there.

*The not so subtle allusion to Firestarter, a book I positively loved way back when (and really need to reread).

*The way I got to have really interesting conversations with Eva about it.

You know, I probably could go on for quite a while with this list, but I’ll stop there and just say how very happy I am that RIP nudged me into finally watching it. RIP is oh-so-awesome that way, isn’t it?

ripnineperilscreen-600x268Peril of the Screen: 1/1

Also read my first short story (thanks to the RIP review site!), but think I’ll save that for another post.

Posted in in the reading room

in an RIP state of mind…

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Finished my first RIP read last night. It sort of feels like cheating to say that, as I’d started it before the official begin date and only had the last 80-some pages to go. But it was such a wonderful, and wonderfully RIP-ish, book that I just have to say a few words about it.

The Between by Tananarive Due.

I loved this book. Even more than I thought I might. But why did I love this book? And what makes it a RIP-worthy book?

*The first lines immediately had me intrigued:

Hilton was seven when his grandmother died, and it was a bad time. But it was worse when she died again.

*Due’s writing. She writes in the way that I love best, though I’m not quite sure how to describe. Her writing is down-to-earth and in few words paints a perfect picture in my mind. There’s a beauty to it that never feels like she’s trying too hard.

*The adept mix of genres. The book takes place 30 years after the events of those first lines. Hilton is married and father to two awesome kids. Dede, his wife, is the first black judge in Dade County. Soon after her election, she begins receiving gut-wrenchingly horrid racist letters threatening her family. (Here we have the mystery/detective story.) Hilton begins having extreme nightmares, though he can never remember the specifics, after these threatening letters begin arriving. There are supernatural elements at play, and while Hilton begins to suspect this, those around him simply think he’s losing his grip on reality. (Here we have the supernatural horror story.) But what I think best of all, is the way Due slowly leads us down this path, building suspense, leaving us wondering what is real and what is surreal. (Here we have the psychological thriller.) These three elements are woven exquisitely, seamlessly together…and it made for a perfectly unsettling read.

*There were tears. And what can I say, I always give points to a book that can make me cry. Okay, it’s not all that hard to make me cry, but still…

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The only thing I’d previously read by Tananarive Due was a short story titled “The Lake” (which is also very RIP-appropriate). I pretty much fell in love with her storytelling with that one short story. I think The Between pretty much cemented that love. There’s a strong possibility that I’ll be reading the first of her African Immortals series, My Soul to Keep, for RIP XI as well.

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Peril the First: 1/4

Posted in in the reading room

it’s the most wonderful time of year (the reading year, that is)…

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Art by the oh-so-freakin’ talented Abigail Larson.

I try hard not to be overly nostalgic. I do not want to be one of those people who cannot accept change. And yet I can’t quite get there. When it comes to blogging, my longing for those early years in the book blogging world remains strong. And while we can’t really go back, there are certain things that make it feel as if we can. Carl’s RIP reading challenge is one of those things. And you know I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the only one whose eyes filled with tears of gratitude this morning when I saw that Carl had announced RIP XI.

I always have the grandest plans of indulging to my heart’s content in the world of scary, creepy, mysterious books and movies, but life always gets in the way. (Back-to-school is always such a ridiculously busy time of year as we try yet again to get back in a groove that works for homeschooling and as we adjust to everyone’s new schedules; both the boys’ birthdays fall during RIP; I’m kicking things into high gear for Christmas gift making.) While I do finish at least 4 RIP-appropriate reads, I never quite seem to make the time to immerse myself quite as deeply as I’d like. I’ll hope to do better this year, while knowing it’s not likely. I can live with that.

As always, Carl, still and forever in my heart also known as the Challenge Host Extraordinaire, has provided us with a wonderful range of ways to participate. (But only 2 “rules”–to have fun and to share the fun. How awesome are those rules?!!) I personally am aiming to fulfill Peril the First (read 4 appropriately perilous books), Peril of the Short Story (read at least one appropriately perilous short story), Peril on the Screen (watch appropriately perilous stories on the big or small screen), and possibly Peril in Play (play appropriately perilous games, table or electronic).

I told myself that I was not going to make a pool of books this year, as I generally tear our bookcases apart and make massive piles of books, only to have to put them all away come November with but a small portion of them read. But you know what, I’m not sure I can help myself–it’s part of the fun! So expect a “pool post” tomorrow after I’ve finished wreaking havoc on my bedroom and library. 😉

As always, deep and sincere thanks to Carl. This is not a small amount of work he does. And while I know it’s a labor of love, it’s a labor nonetheless. And I always feel so grateful to be a recipient of his generosity of time. Thank you, Carl!!!

Posted in in the reading room, list-mania, these days

these days…

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*Panicking a bit over how fast the new school year is approaching, and how ill-prepared I am for the start of a new homeschool year. And btw, how the hell can he be in 11th grade?!!

 

*Reading, or I should say rereading, The Gunslinger. It’s been so long (30+ years) since I first read it. I read the first three in The Dark Tower series as they came out, but then gave up. Not because I didn’t like the books themselves, but because I hated the long wait between each. I have to admit though, that I’m having a hard time getting into The Gunslinger this time around. Not quite sure if it’s the book itself or just a matter of having so much else on my mind these days. Going to try to stick with it a bit longer though, and hopefully get through a couple more of them before the film comes out in February. There are aren’t many people I’d brave an actual movie theater to see, but Idris Elba is definitely one of the few. (Edited: I decided to just bag it. I’m too old to spend my time on books that aren’t doing it for me.)

Also rereading Economix by Michael Goodwin. Because this is the year we tackle economics as a course for Gray’s homeschooling, and this book is just so very excellent that I decided to use it as our introduction to the subject. But as I am trying to make a few handouts and assignments to go along with it, and because it is just so damn chock-full to the gills with important information, it’s taking me longer to get through this reread than I would have imagined.

Reading The City of Mirrors (the final book in Justin Cronin’s trilogy) aloud with Rich. But it’s very slow going. There are still two people ahead of us on the holds list for the audio book at the library, but maybe when we get it, we’ll be able to make better progress. To be honest, I’m not sure if I like where it feels like this book is headed. But it’s way too soon to judge, I suppose.

 

*Despising fibro, and IBS, and endometriosis. But bad stretches are eventually replaced by good stretches…so hooray for that!

 

*Missing friends. Both near and far. Note to self: Have Eva over very soon.

 

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*Worrying about Max starting high school. I know I shouldn’t be. But I am.  A lot.

 

*Rejoicing for my dear mother-in-law. As this is public, and not my story to share, I can’t really explain. But suffice it to say that I am just so deeply, profoundly happy for the turn of events that has happened in my extended family over the last few weeks.

 

*Stressing over jury duty. Go to a completely unfamiliar place, be with lots of people you don’t know, have to talk and possibly even vocally disagree with other people…yeah, it’s a dream-come-true for someone with severe social anxiety. /sarcasm  Now if only I could end the nausea and shaking with a simple /.

 

*Baking a chocolate zucchini cake later this morning. And canning another batch of rhubarb jam. Thank you garden!

 

*Planning what to make as gifts for Christmas. But not making much progress on said plans. It’s already feeling like a burden instead of a joy…and that makes me sadder than I can say. Must make this the year I cut down on the overwhelming preparations! (And yes, I say that every year.)

 

*Needing to focus more on the good. Because really my life is full of so much good.

 

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Posted in in the garden, in the kitchen, in the reading room

three weeks already gone by…

I’m not sure if it’s a consequence of making this list/ keeping track of my progress, but oh my how fast this summer seems to be flying by…

Okay, what have I completed this past week?

6. Read at least 20 books. (#20booksofsummer)

20booksfinalI finished 7 books this week! For a total thus far of 8. Yeah, not nearly as impressive as it sounds considering that the total includes 4 comics/manga and a short poetry collection that I started before this week. It was, however, a very gratifying weeks between the covers!

IMG_8671The first book I read this week was Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova. This was an impulse grab at the library a few weeks back. I’d never heard of the book before, but I’d read both her Nightschool and her Dramacon series and enjoyed them quite a lot. It was a good impulse, because I really loved this comic! This one is aimed at a middle grade audience, so I know it won’t appeal to everyone…but what can I say, I have a soft spot in my heart for middle grade lit. Anyway, it is sweet, but not in a syrup-y way. What it has that adds up to wonderful: extremely lovable but flawed characters, art, science, diverse characters, learning to deal with and grow from one’s own mistakes, and an emphasis on friendship.

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Next, I read A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. And I have a question–why has no one ever told me to read this play before?!! Well, in case no one has ever told you to read it and you’ve never discovered it on your own, let me suggest you go read it. It was so. damn. good. Written and set in 1950s Chicago, it is really a story about dreams. And a story about racism. And a story about feeling trapped by circumstances. Reading this some 50 years after it was written, it’s hard not to notice how things have changed since then, both in terms of race and gender. And yet it is ever so depressing to acknowledge how very many things haven’t really changed at all.

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And then there were three more volumes (19, 20, and 21) of Skip•Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura. I will forever and always blame/thank Memory for bringing my attention to Skip•Beat with her unwavering enthusiasm. I really did mean to space these three volumes out a bit more, but…just. couldn’t. do. it. One after the other, they went down. There was a bit of an unexpected (and dare I say, somewhat far-fetched) addition to the storyline started in volume 18 (or maybe 17?). I admit that I rolled my eyes a little bit, but then found myself so sucked in again that I didn’t even care. Uhm, and in fact, even rather liked how it played out. Kyoko continues to charm and delight me. Yay for more Moko! Another admission: there were a few happy tears for Maria. What can I say, this series just makes me happy. 🙂

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I also finished my reread of Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons. While not my favorite of her collections that I’ve read, there were several poems that really got to me. It’s her relationship with the natural world that first drew me to her poetry years ago, but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate the way she speaks of our relationships with one another as humans as well.

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And late last night, I finished up Dead Time, the first in Eleanor Taylor Bland’s Marti MacAlister series. I’m 99.5% sure that it was Eva that brought Eleanor Taylor Bland to my attention, so thank you, my dear! What can I say, I loved this book! (So much so that upon finishing I immediately went and put a hold on the second book.) I liked Marti MacAlister right from the start, and only continued to like her more and more as the book went on. A black woman cop, a single mom for the past year and a half since her husband was killed, a somewhat recent transplant from Chicago to the smaller city of Lincoln Prairie. Vik, her partner is a somewhat gruff man, who tries hard to deny that his city has changed from the city of his boyhood. He also holds some pretty sexist notions when it comes to the role of lady cops, but Marti doesn’t take his crap. I used to read tons of suspense/psychological thrillers and still enjoy them occasionally, and I also occasionally enjoy a nice cozy mystery. Dead Time falls sort of in that sweet spot somewhere in between. I sort of suck at finishing series (okay, there’s no “sort of” about it), not because I don’t enjoy series but just because of the whole there’s-too-many-damn-books-I-want-to-read-before-I-die thing. Still…if I enjoy each of the books as much as I did this one, there’s a chance I might actually finish the series. I hope I didn’t just jinx myself. 😉

(I feel like I should apologize for my cheesy book photos, but I’m not gonna. It’s my blog so I can do what I want, right? After I took that picture last week of Small Gods with our garden turtle, I challenged myself to keep it up–to try to take a picture of each book I read for #20booksofsummer with something that reminded me of the book. I have already failed though, as I just couldn’t come up with an idea for the Skip•Beat! books. But I’m going to keep trying anyway.)

9. Write and send off the last of Gray’s 10th grade progress reports.

Got to scratch this one off last evening, and I cannot express how freakin’ good it feels to put another year of homeschooling behind us!

10. Send LOI for next year’s homeschooling.

An easy one, but I’ll take it.

16.  Continue harvesting the rhubarb: freeze more/bake more tarts/try making rhubarb jam.

Yep, crossing off another piece of this one. I froze three more pints during this past week. Harvested and chopped some for tarts yesterday, but didn’t have sour cream. So they will wait until this week.

27. Eat at Sticky Lips.

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This is where Rich picked to go for Father’s Day, so another one crossed off the list.

28. Eat at Beale Street Cafe.

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Rich and I went on a working date Friday morning, and then out to lunch.

33. Go to Central Library.

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That working date I just mentioned, it was at Central Library. I went to look at some books I’m considering using for homeschool next year, and it was a fairly successful trip. But even better, I just love hanging out there.

39. Bring in flowers from outside every week.

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This week it was simple daisies. But wildflowers are always my favorites.

46. Drink ice tea. Every day.

Yep, still going strong. Can’t imagine a summer day without it.

52. Read at least one essay, one short story, one poem, and one fairy tale each week. Read as many outside as possible.

And I’m still keeping up with this one too. I really enjoyed this week’s essay (still working my way through Barbara Kingsolver’s High Tide in Tuscon collection). It was titled “In Case You Ever Want to Go Home Again,” and while every essay I’ve ever read of hers is of a personal nature, for some reason this one seemed even more so. Maybe it was because it was a glimpse at a part of her life I’ve never seen before. It was really about writing. Writing fiction in particular. But she talked about her school years and lack of friends, about her hometown and leaving it, and finally about coming home. I cannot put my finger on what exactly it was about this essay, but I enjoyed it immensely. And I love this line with a passion:

In the final accounting, a hundred different truths are likely to reside at any given address.

I’m also still working my way through Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck. This week I read the story “Ghosts.” It takes place years after the Biafran War, and in many ways the story is about its aftermath. I wouldn’t call the story depressing, so much as melancholy. In that “if only…” sort of way. But even using the word melancholy seems wrong. It’s a story about surviving, and making choices, and living with those choices. And it’s a story of coming to terms with the “what is.” This story in particular has very much made me want to read her Half of a Yellow Sun.

This week’s fairy tale was “Hansel and Gretel.” Despite another wicked stepmother, “Hansel and Gretel” is a tale I tend to love, both in its original and its retellings. (Side note: My favorite retelling ever of this tale is Catherynne Valente’s “A Delicate Architecture.”) The art this time was by Monique Felix, and I thought it was gorgeous.

And as mentioned earlier, I finished up Twelve Moons, so again lots of poems this week. One of my favorites from this week is “Beaver Moon–The Suicide of a Friend.” There was a truth in this poem that just pierced my heart. It’s ending brings tears, every single time I read it:

That night, you turn in your bed

to watch the moon rise, and once more

see what a small coin it is

against the darkness, and how everything else

is a mystery, and you know

nothing at all except

the moonlight is beautiful–

white rivers running together

along the bare boughs of the trees–

and somewhere, for someone, life

is becoming moment by moment

unbearable.

 

 

 

Posted in in the garden, in the reading room, list-mania

another week of summer gone…

Again, I don’t feel like I kicked major butt on my “summer to-do list,” but there is still that fact that I haven’t yet fully reached that summer state-of-mind because we’re still hustling to finish up the current school year. Still a week plus maybe a little to go…and then freedom! Or at least a lot more freedom than is available in making choices with my time while the school year is in session. 🙂

6. Read at least 20 books. (#20booksofsummer).

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Running a bit behind, it would seem,  in that I just finished my first book. And obviously I can’t cross this off the list, as I’m only 1/20 of the way there. But again, I’m not really worried yet. My first book of the summer–oh my, huge tally in the win column! I pretty much knew it would be. Ana never steers me wrong. Never. And it is Terry Pratchett for goodness sake. But still, that “knowing” that I’m going to love a book can sometimes lead to overblown expectations, and then I end up feeling a wee bit of disappointment even when I do really love the book. Not sure if anyone else ever feels that way or not. Anyway, I need not have feared in the slightest. Because Small Gods, yeah, just yeah. *swoon*

 

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I feel like there are perhaps a hundred different reasons I could give for loving Small Gods, ranging from Pratchett’s incomparable satiric wit to his incredible ability to portray what it is to be human, but I’m just going to record a bit that struck me so hard that I had to pause and set the book down. (I apologize if anyone is reading this, especially if they have not read the book, because I know this particular passage lacks its power without knowing and understanding the characters involved in this conversation.)

“Why do you even bother with him? He’s had thousands of people killed!”

“Yes, but perhaps he thought you wanted it.”

“I never said I wanted that.”

“You didn’t care,” said Brutha.

“But I–”

“Shut up!”

Om’s mouth opened in astonishment.

“You could have helped people,” said Brutha. “But all you did was stamp around and roar and try to make people afraid. Like…like a man hitting a donkey with a stick. But people like Vorbis made the stick so good, that’s all the donkey ends up believing in.”

“That could use some work, as a parable,” said Om sourly.

“This is real life I’m talking about!”

“It’s not my fault if people misuse the–”

“It is! It has to be! If you muck up people’s minds just because you want them to believe in you, what they do is all your fault!”

This book. What can I say…it is brilliant, funny, deeply thoughtful, and incredibly insightful.

(And being a book from my Happiness Project, it also counts toward my 100x100by100, at #96. Read 100 books from my Happiness Project. It is one of the rare two-for-the-price-of-one-books from my happiness project, put on my list both by Ana and by Rich. 🙂 Yep, how cool is that.)

#15. Finish getting the garden in: build cucumber trellis and build pumpkin and/or melon mounds.

Woohoo! Something actually crossed right off the list! And damn, does it feel good to have the garden in…

#36. Finish watching the first 7 seasons of Columbo with Rich.

Not a cross off, but we did finish up season 2. Go us!

39. Bring in fresh flowers from outside every week.

IMG_8655Two for two now. This week it was the very first peony of the season. Peonies used to be one of those take-it-or-leave-it flowers for me. Until I found out how very much Chris loves them. Since then, my appreciation for peonies has skyrocketed, and I can’t see a peony without thinking of him. And well, that makes every peony on the planet a very special treasure. 🙂

46. Drink iced tea. Every day.

This one is just too easy. 🙂

47. Make at least one scrapbook layout/Project Life layout/memory-keeping project a week.

And this one was not. 😉 I have already blown this one. And I can’t even say I’m that sorry. I considered forcing myself to whip out a layout last evening, but I just wasn’t in the mood. And the point of my summer list, aside from getting some things done that truly need to get done, was to have fun, to enjoy summer to its fullest. And hey, 52/53 is better than 98%, and that’s still a pretty good grade if I reach it, right?

52. Read at least one essay, one short story, one poem, and one fairy tale each week. Read as many outside as possible.

Still working my way through a reread of Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons, and read several more poems this week. Two of them, “Two Horses” and “Harvest Moon–The Mockingbird Sings in the Night” completely captured my heart and demanded reading after reading after reading. One melancholy, one celebratory, both insanely wonderful.

This week’s essay, titled “Making Peace,” and again from Barbara Kingsolver’s High Tide in Tucson, was more of a hit than last week’s. It was largely about humankind’s ideas about the ownership of land. So much of what she said struck home, and these are definitely issues I have pondered before. I  struggle with my feelings of entitlement over my garden’s produce and get frustrated as all get out at the wildlife, who of course see it as fair game. 😉

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie continues to assure her place in my list of favorite short story authors. I’m guessing she’ll do the same when it comes to novels when I finally get around to reading any of them. This week’s story, “A Private Experience” from The Thing Around Your Neck, was a story of a fleeting connection between two women from different worlds who in escaping from a violent riot are thrown together for a day and night. It’s beautiful, though not particularly happy (both women lose someone in the horrible violence). Yet it is the kind of story that continually fills me with hope, a story in which two people find connection.

And this week’s fairy tale, oh my goodness, what a delight! A tame version of “Cinderella,” no cutting off of toes and whatnot. But what made it so special was the art by Roberto Innocenti. While the story itself was not updated, the art completely made me believe it was taking place in the 1920s. I wouldn’t have believe this could have worked had you told me so beforehand, but it did. Perfectly, charmingly. I had fully intended on getting rid of this book when I finished reading it, but I’m seriously having second thoughts. 🙂 (This counts towards my 100x100by100, #5. Read 100 fairy tales.)

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Posted in in the garden, in the kitchen, in the reading room

keeping myself accountable on that summer list…

In my last post, I made a list of things I wanted to do this summer. I’m pretending that summer runs from June 1st through September 6th. (School starts on Sept. 7th, so that’s where that weird date came from.) Of course this school year has a couple weeks yet to go, so I’m “cheating” with this beginning date. Anyway, that works out to 14 weeks to get all this work and all this playing done. And unless I get bored with it (which let’s face it, is likely–I’m not really known for my stick-to-it-ness when it comes to blogging), I’m going to update my progress weekly.

15. Finish getting the garden in: build cucumber trellis and build pumpkin and/or melon mounds.

***Okay not a complete cross-off, but a partial one. We did get the cucumber trellis built and the cucumbers planted.

16. Continue harvesting the rhubarb: freeze more/bake more tarts/try making rhubarb jam.

***Another partial cross-off. I tried my hand at making rhubarb jam yesterday. I found an extremely easy recipe, and the cooler weather cooperated nicely (for nothing makes an already sweltering, un-air-conditioned kitchen quite so miserable as an afternoon of water bath canning), and thus I ended up with 6 half-pints plus of oh-so-delicious jam. I’d never had rhubarb jam before so I really didn’t know what to expect. It comes out with a consistency like apple butter, and it retains its wonderful sour tartness.

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17. Build trellis for blackberries.

***Yay! Crossed off the list! Of course, we’ve only been meaning to do this for the past three summers, so perhaps I really shouldn’t be patting myself on the back here. 😉

Hmm…with both the blackberry and the cucumber trellis, it looks like I’m taking credit for accomplishing things I really had nothing to do with. But I swear this isn’t true–I did help. Honest. 🙂

39. Bring in flowers from outside every week.

***Can’t actually cross it off as I have to keep this up for the whole summer, but I can say that I have not yet blown it!

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46. Drink iced tea. Every day.

***Another of those that can’t actually be crossed off until the end of summer. But again, I have not yet blown it. Honestly, I cannot imagine blowing this one.

47. Make at least one scrapbook layout/Project Life layout/memory-keeping project a week.

***Hmmm…I hadn’t realized I’d done so many of these every week/every day sort of things. This one scares me a bit. It’s going to be a challenge for me. But I would be so happy if I did get to cross this one off come end of summer. Week 1 of 14 was a success at least. I finally finished up my Week-in-the-Life album. I’ll just post the title page, as I doubt anyone wants to see all pages. (I did post pictures of Day 1 when I finished it.) Should anyone be acutely observant, they would notice that my dates do not add up to a full week, but instead only six days. This would be because this project just totally burned me out, and I gave myself permission to stop a day short. (This also counts towards Category #81: Make 100 mini book projects of my 100x100by100 project.)

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52. Read at least one essay, one short story, one poem, and one fairy tale each week. Read as many outside as possible.

***Sheesh–another of these ones. But again, I came through on week one.

For my short story I read “The Lake” by Tananarive Due from her collection Ghost Stummer: Stories. I didn’t even realize she had a short story collection until Bina mentioned reading it. I immediately put a hold on it at the library, but didn’t give it the time it deserved. I squeezed in the first story before having to return it, and after reading it, I wasn’t even sorry about having to return it–because I MUST BUY THIS BOOK. Seriously, that first story totally sold me! So creepy, in an almost but not quite completely subtle way. Felt sort of southern gothic. And ever so perfect for summer. (This story also works for my 100x100by100: Category #2–Read 100 short stories by authors of color.)

I decided to reread Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons, and read several of the poems this week. So many of her poems speak to me, which is why she shall always be a favorite of mine. But the one I’m choosing to count for my 100x100by100 (Category #6–Read 100 poems that speak to me) is titled “Entering the Kingdom.” I wish I had the vocabulary, the knowledge, the talent to talk about poetry and capture in words the way any particular poem speaks to me, but I just don’t enjoy the struggle of trying to find those words, so again, I’m just going to quote a portion of the poem.

The dream of my life

Is to lie down by a slow river

And stare at the light in the trees–

To learn something by being nothing

A little while but the rich

Lens of attention.

My fairy tale for the week was “Beauty and the Beast” from The Illustrated Treasury of Fairy Tales. Each of the tales chosen for this collection is illustrated by a different artist, and that’s what led me to choose this particular collection to start with this summer. Flipping through the book, I can already say that I adore some of the art, and well, some not so much. But I enjoyed the art by Etienne Delessert every bit as much as I enjoyed reading the story, and well, that was quite a bit. (Counts toward my 100x100by100, Category 5: Read 100 fairy tales.)

And last, and in this case yes, least, was an essay. I read “Creation Stories” by Barbara Kingsolver from her collection High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never. I’ve yet to read any of Kingsolver’s fiction–though I’ve done a fairly good job of collecting it 😉 –but in general I tend to enjoy her essays very much. But this one was a miss for me. I sort of hate judging personal essays because well, they’re personal. But something about this essay just felt slightly forced, and a bit disjointed. I’m not the slightest bit worried though; I’m confident that I’ll enjoy, or relate to, or be moved by, or all of the above, many of the essays yet to come in this collection.

So 1/14 of summer gone (already it’s going too fast!) but only 1 out of 53 things crossed off my list. It’s not as depressing as it sounds though, as I’ve worked/played myself through parts of a lot more (some which weren’t even mentioned here). And there’s also the fact that we’re still finishing up the school year, and the end of any quarter (and especially the last one) is always hectic. So I definitely am not downhearted about my progress, or lack thereof, yet. Lots more glorious summer to come!

Posted in in the reading room

more on summer reading…

20booksfinalAll those books that I said I wish I could read this summer in yesterday’s post… Well, thanks to Cathy and her 20 Books of Summer Challenge which runs from today through Sept. 5th, I’ve found a way to make myself a little more accountable for actually getting some of that reading done. I struggled last night, because I really wanted to sign up for this but at the same time knew I could never make myself stick to a strict list of 20 books. (With homeschooling I have way too much prescribed reading as it is.) But I was inspired by Amanda’s approach of making herself a pool of books to choose from. She went with 30, which seems reasonable. I may make my pool larger, which probably isn’t reasonable. 😉

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  • Small Gods by Terry Pratchett (This one is pretty much a definite. I actually read the first 25 or 30 pages of this a few weeks ago, then got buried in school reading and set it aside. So I will be starting this one over to enjoy in its entirety.)
  • “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power (This one is pretty much a definite too, as it’s our final read for this year’s genocide/human rights course. It might be cheating to include this book since I’ve already started it, but I still have just over 400 pages to go in it so I’m counting it whether it’s technically cheating or not. Yeah, I’m such a rebel–ha!)
  • One Crazy Summer, P.S. be eleven, and Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (Because Ana *never* steers me wrong. Added bonus, Bina recommended them too.)
  • Hannibal Rising (and if I enjoy it, the rest of the Hannibal Lecter books) by Thomas Harris (Mostly I’d just like to read these so I can get them off my shelves, but am looking forward to giving them a go.)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket (The first six would be rereads.)
  • Duma Key or Insomnia or Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Because Stephen King and summer just go together.)
  • Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai and/or When Nights Were Cold by Susanna Jones (Because Eva brought them over the other day thinking I might enjoy them, and I’ve reason to doubt her, so I ought to get them read so I can return them.)
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons or Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell or Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster or Saplings by Noel Streatfeild (Because I’ve sort of been craving a classic lately. I know, I know–who is this talking, and what the hell did you do with Debi?!!)
  • Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators are Revolutionizing How America Eats by Katherine Gustafson or Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World by Paul Hawken (Because hope and the goodness of humanity are always welcome in as much abundance as possible.)
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (Because I happen to have it out from the library right now. Not to mention that it’s just high time I read it.)
  • Beloved or Love or A Mercy or Song of Solomon or Sula by Toni Morrison (Because seriously Debra Anne, speaking of high time! How the hell do you justify never having read Toni Morrison?!! Yeah, no excuse.)
  • Seedtime: On the History, Husbandry, Politics, and Promise of Seeds by Scott Chaskey (Because summer and gardening and food…)
  • Skip•Beat! Volume 19 (and onward) by Yoshiki Nakamura (These just make me happy.)
  • Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova (Another I happen to have out from the library right now.)
  • Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (Because it’s going to be awesome.)
  • Watchmen or From Hell or V for Vendetta by Alan Moore et al. (Filling major gaps in my comics reading.)
  • Cricket Never Does: A Collection of Haiku and Tanka by Myra Cohn Livingston (For something a bit different.)
  • Cat & Mouse by James Patterson (For a time when I just want something fast and compelling and mindless.)
  • Life on Earth by David Attenborough or The Top 10 Myths about Evolution by Cameron M. Smith and Charles Sullivan or The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert or In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America by Laurie Edwards (Just a few more non-fiction titles I’ve been wanting read.)
  • The as yet unknown books that I will be reading for next year’s school prep.

Okay that’s 20 bullet points, but among them are numerous options so here’s hoping I can actually follow through…

Posted in in the reading room

what I wish I could read this summer…

This post could also be titled “procrastinating” or “my usual m.o.” or “how I keep myself sane by wasting time.” Because this is the sort of thing I tend to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the things I need to get done. And in this instance, by “this is the sort of thing” I mean making a list of all the series I wish I could read, reread, or reread the beginning and then finish this summer. Why exactly I’m thinking in terms of series, I cannot exactly say, but it seems to be the case that whenever I start daydreaming about summer reading this year it seems to be in terms of series. (And yes, I’m using the term “series” very loosely.)

*Series I’d like to read for the first time this summer:

  • The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Gaither Sisters series by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • The Feed series by Mira Grant
  • Howl’s Castle series by Diana Wynne Jones
  • African Immortals series by Tananarive Due
  • The Tiffany Aching series from Discworld by Terry Pratchett
  • Patternist series by Octavia E. Butler
  • The Hannibal Lecter series by Thomas Harris
  • The Marti McAlister Mysteries by Eleanor Taylor Bland

*Series I’d like to reread this summer:

  • The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness

*Series I’d like to reread the books I’ve already read and then finish reading the series:

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  • Fables by Bill Willingham, et.al.
  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (yep, using “series” very loosely)
  • The Books of Bayern series by Shannon Hale

*Series I’d like to finish but don’t necessarily need to reread the ones I’ve already read:

  • The Parasitology series by Mira Grant
  • The Casson Family series by Hilary McKay
  • The Harriet Vane books by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Jay Porter series by Attica Locke

*Series that aren’t finished (to my knowledge) that I’d like to get caught up on:

  • Skip•Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura
  • Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Pretty damn sure I couldn’t read all that in all the summers I have left in my life. But the way I look at it, the point of book lists is to fantasize and dream big. 🙂  Do me a favor and don’t tell me about any series that really need to be added to my list there, okay? Hey, or better yet, DO TELL ME. Especially if you have suggestions for series by diverse authors, as I notice my balance is seriously skewed. 😦  Okay well, I guess I really should stop procrastinating now, huh…