Rooster Update #5

As of this morning, I have officially read EIGHT of the TOB’s sixteen books–halfway there! Actually I thought I read nine books, but I guess I was too overeager on my aforementioned bus trip all the way across town, and while at that new-to-me library I checked out the wrong book by one author! Oops!

I loved The Golden State, by Lydia Kiesling–the story of a melancholy, lonely woman who just removes herself from her normal life and takes off for the hinterlands, so to speak. It was a short but frenetically paced book, and there were many moments where I thought it was going to go incredibly bad… (which was sometimes the case, but sometimes not). There was a well-drawn out sense of foreboding.

I also really liked America Is Not the Heart, by Elaine Castillo, in many ways a completely opposite style of novel. While both books told stories about family, this book was long (400 pages), slowly paced, with the secrets and twists and turns that connected these people revealed across many chapters. A story of immigrants, and revolutionaries, of different kinds of belief, of the power of food to bring people together. There was romance and deep friendship. The author threw in two chapters written in second person POV, so rare in narrative fiction, and although the book stuck with single perspectives for long periods of time, I really felt like I was let deep inside so many of the characters. In this book, no one’s lonely unless they want to be.

This morning I started The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner. We’ll see… I put down one of her books unfinished a few years ago so she might not be my thing.

I’ve got two more books checked out, four pending (on hold), and one sent to me by a friend. And as I may have mentioned, there’s one book I’m definitely not even going to pretend to read. Also I might let go the book where I checked out (and then spent valuable reading time on!) the wrong one. I mean, I got a good look at that author’s style so if I don’t get around to reading that one, I’ll feel OK judging based on style, ha. So can I finish five more books before March? We’ll see.

Duff at the Movies 2018

So….I forgot to ever make this list. Trying to recreate it from memories, texting people I know I went to the movies with, we’ll see what I can come up with… I know I saw very, very few movies last year. 

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2/9) — very powerful whilst watching. But one of those movies you can find a lot of holes and things in afterward. Great performances though.
  • A Wrinkle in Time (3/25) — didn’t really like. 🙁 Thought it was v. weak compared to the book.
  • Sorry to Bother You — good, traumatizing, shock and awe in the best way.
  • Blindspotting — good, upsetting, the truth of white privilege.
  • Puzzle — I really enjoyed this. A quirky somewhat insular story, it was fascinating thinking about the different way people’s minds work. Also: I want his apartment!! (8/8)
  • BlacKKKlansman — OMG SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD. Best film of 2018, no doubt. (8/10)
  • Crazy Rich Asians — fun enough. silly.
  • Colette (10/7) — really amazing performance by Keira Knightley, I want ALL the clothes in this film.

That might be it, but I’ll update this if any of my feelers pay off.

ETA: Puzzle! I forgot Puzzle, but I randomly saw it while scrolling back through my Instagram feed. That is definitely a movie worth seeing!

ETA: Found my stub from Three Billboards this weekend! I wonder if there are other stubs hanging out somewhere that I’ll find again later in the year, ha.

Rooster Update #4

How seriously am I taking my personal challenge to read all the Rooster books before the tournament starts? Well, I took two buses an hour one way to a library branch that’s nowhere near either my home or either of my jobs in order to pick up three of the books! It was supposed to be four but apparently someone checked out the fourth right before I got there GAAHH!!! Yes, I could have put them on hold to have them circulated closer to me… but here’s the thing: I already have five of the most widely known titles on my library hold list (I’m 77th of 85th, or 89th of 101, etc. on each) and if I drop one of them off the hold list just to bring books that are available to my closer library branch, then I would fall even further down the hold list on those high in demand ones!

Anyway, not only did I spend two hours commuting to pick up my three next Rooster reads, I’m pretty much doing Rooster reading only–I’ve entirely dropped off my mornings: YA / evenings: adult reading plan I told you about until these are all read! (Except for on a rare day when I’ve finished what I have and haven’t picked up the next one yet…)

In the meantime, I’ve finished two more Rooster reads:

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman — wow, what a bittersweet melancholy book. Spending your whole life trying to get your dad to notice you is not going to lend itself to joy and bliss, but there was a lot of humor in this book and the self disparagement was aces! 🙂 As I have found with certain other books about painters (Siri Hustvedt’s “What I Loved” springs to mind), the art really came alive off these pages.

Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan — a novel detailing the events of a slave’s life is obviously going to have its harsh, hard to read parts. This book is just all about what defines your identity, what makes a family, how important are one’s own dreams, how far should one go… It was desperately sad in places, extremely sweet in others. And lots of fun for those of you who like lots of science in their fiction. 🙂

I liked both of these a lot. I’ve started my next Rooster read though and I’m not sure it’s really up my alley… We’ll see, I’m only about 100 pages in.

À la Super Eggplant, currently, I am…

Watching: All I’ve watched in the past week or so are the latest episodes of Blackish and New Amsterdam, and some NUMB3RS episodes from beloved season 1. Oh, and Yoga with Adrienne, as I’m doing her annual January challenge. I’ve only missed 3 days!

Reading: I finished another Rooster book and a YA sci fi novel (scroll back to previous posts or click on the “reading” category to see some comments) and tomorrow I get to start a new book, woo hoo. I believe it will be “The Italian Teacher” by Tom Rachmann which was the next thing on the Rooster list that I could grab at my library branch this weekend.

Listening to: hmmmm, I really haven’t done that much listening over the past couple of weeks. But I am obsessed with Rosalia and her videos. A mix of hip-hop sensibility and operatic emotion–so intriguing!

Eating: I made an old-favorite chicken tikka masala in the slow cooker (added in okra that had been cooked with onions and some spices) and a caufilower-sausage casserole in the oven (a new recipe), and sour cream chili bake from Cinnamon’s cookbook, so basically anything hot and heavy with tomatoes. 😉

Drinking: So! Much! Water! Yup, I still hate it.

Knitting: Haven’t done any in at least a week. Boo, hiss.

Quilting: Still nothing.

Sewing: Keep meaning to cut out a few things. Keep not doing it. At least with the Monday holiday, I’ll actually have a two-day weekend. Big plans, people, big plans!!

Focusing on: Not spending any money (I’m seriously tracking my no-spend days!), coming home from work RIGHT AWAY, and doing actual random adult things when I get home. No schoolwork on unpaid hours in 2019! Of course that’ll never happen–even our weekly lesson planning is on unpaid hours since we do it after school–but I’m trying to come out a bit better on my life-work balance this year as us old ladies just can’t hang with the insane work weeks.

What’s up with you? 🙂

“The Fates Divide” by Veronica Roth

Book #2 after Carve the Mark (just a duology. As my friend Anne said recently “Up with duologies!!”).

I read the first book of this series in 2017, absolutely loved it…and then forgot to ever look for the sequel! Thanks to a nudge from Carrie commenting on my review as she read the first one and then moved onto the second like “Wham, bam, thank you ma’am” (ha), it jumped back onto my radar and my CPL hold list.

I did have to look up a summary online to remind myself what was happening in this series and who was who (so maybe it didn’t stick with me, although I had greatly enjoyed it!), but once I did that, I was all in and it was quite a quick read.

The magic, so to speak, from the current in these books is really cool, I love that everyone has their own thing. The political machinations are there, but not so overwhelming that they take over the story of young people coming into their own, dealing with their ever-changing identities and deciding who and what mean family to them. So many YA books do have that as an underlying theme but I find many of my students just glide right past without really noticing–is that something we only think about as adults?

Anyway, I loved having the Oracle throw the twist into the midst. I had kindof thought something along those lines was going to turn out to be true (my goodreads review of the first one was careful to be spoiler-free but…). I love Cyra and Akos, I like Cisi and OH OH OH how rough was that bit in the second half of the book! This was a really satisfying ending.

Rooster update #3

Speak No Evil, by Uzodinma Iweala was my fourth finish for the TOB brackets. Wow. It was stunning. There’s a big break in the narrative about three-quarters of the way through, the POV changes, and then the ending goes to a completely different place than I expected. I thought it was really, really beautifully written. The characters all seemed absolutely real. Highly recommended.

I read an earlier book of his a decade ago and liked it, but not nearly as much as this. I love seeing people grow as authors! This is worlds away, and very powerful.

Rooster update #2

Finished my third book for the TOB brackets: A Terrible Country, by Keith Gessen.

For about the first third of this book, I just could not figure out why this book made the short list. A disgruntled guy living out a disgruntled life temporarily in a disgruntled country. It just sort of ambled around. But, when his life finally got more interesting, the plot got more interesting as well (shocker! not), and the last third of the book really flew for me. I don’t know if quite that much setup was necessary. Ultimately I’d say I felt more positively about it than just “liked”–i.e., on GoodReads I gave it 4 stars versus 3. There were some really charming bits about it–even some of its repetitiveness became charming ultimately.

It was another one of those “academics on a downturn” books so if you were a fan of Richard Russo’s Straight Man, this might be something you’d enjoy.

(If you’re wondering what I’m talking about with Rooster and TOB, go read this post.)

Big Screen: Mary Poppins Returns

If you like musicals, you will probably enjoy this. The songs were pretty, the sets / costumes / designery was lovely. Lin Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt did a fine job, the kids were good actors, it was easy to watch. It was all just fine.

STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT A SEMI-SPOILER AS I COMPLAIN.

SERIOUSLY. STOP.

OK, you were warned.

BUT, to me, this was basically a remake. Sure, sure, it’s Michael and Jane grown up, instead of as kids. It’s Jack the lamplighter instead of Bert the chimney sweep. Oh, OK. But ALL the big production numbers are basically following the same plot beats, and… they’re the same. One big production number that involves the park and carousel. One big production number that involves going to someone’s house that’s discombobulated. One big production number with the working men. One big scene at the bank… etc. It just really, really, REALLY follows basically the same plot line, the same beats, the same amount of space between things. Why not just call it a remake if that’s what it is?

So yes, I enjoyed it, to an extent. But it certainly wasn’t a better version of Mary Poppins, and it’s hard to say it was a different movie per se.

À la Super Eggplant, currently, I am…

Watching: Right around Christmas, I saw someone post a list of all The Office (US) Christmas episodes and needed to watch them. But watching one of them made me want to watch the next (in that season) episode so eventually I just went back to the beginning and started an entire rewatch. But I got to mid-season 6 and all of a sudden there are a million things I’m not loving in this season. So I think I may be done with that. I did borrow the first two seasons of Game of Thrones from my dad so I’m going to start that tomorrow probably. (I watched some of the first season when it first happened. I had (ages ago) read the first four books.)

Reading: I’m reading A Terrible Country, by Keith Gessen (as I told you about in Rooster update #1) and tonight I started All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders for bookclub. It’s pretty charming so far! I’ve missed the last two meetings of the club, which sucks because it is one of the few things that consistently brought me joy in 2018, so I have GOT to get back there!!

Listening to: all the new albums I bought myself for Christmas! Loving the latest albums from Janelle Monae (it’s basically a Prince album), Kasey Musgraves (I didn’t like it for the first two listens, but then it stuck its little cheery claws in me), and boygenius which is just an EP so you can listen to it a million times in a row over and over and still only use up like an hour of your time! 🙂 I am also listening to a lot of podcasts since apparently me being home a lot = me doing the dishes a lot. I am still loving West Wing Weekly the most, with Armchair Expert probably a close second (although I like it a lot better when Dax isn’t super friends with the guest, those episodes aren’t as good). I tried Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend this week, but I don’t love it.

Eating: I am currently obsessed with this roasted carrot salad from the Chrissy Teigen Cravings 2: Hungry for More cookbook I can’t stop talking about. I used baby spinach instead of baby lettuce and left out the lime zest (but included the juice–because I never have limes although my fridge is never without RealLime, and RealLemon for that matter). It’s got avocado and sunflowers seeds and it’s just really, really good.

Drinking: my weight in hot drinks. Oregon Chai, hot chocolate, apple cider… I feel like I’m putting the teapot on every seven seconds trying to keep myself warmly hydrated over here. I am going to be one dehydrated mess when school starts again next week and I can’t drink anything because I have numerous hours between bathroom breaks.

Knitting: I started a Winston sweater, Jane Richmond’s latest, in on-50%-off-sale Wool-Ease thick and quick. I’m hoping that will be a zip zip quickity finish and then I can get back to the sweater I’ve been knitting, or rather thinking about knitting and mostly ignoring, for most of 2018.

Quilting: Nothing as of right now.

Sewing: I am planning to make another sweatshirt-y version of the Lou Box Dress 1 this weekend out of this awesome bubblegum fleece that Silvia bought me for my birthday last year. I need to make at least three or four more winter-specific dresses (I have plenty of fabric in the closet that should work for this!) as wearing the sleeve-less dresses I made for this summer with a cardigan over them isn’t really winter-level warmth!

Focusing on: Letting myself soak up this rest time (only three days left and I work on Saturday so really only two!). I have slept 11-12 hours multiple times over this break. I can tell I really needed it!

What’s up with you? 🙂