Final Rooster Update!

The Tournament goes live tomorrow with the Pre-Tournament Play-In Match which unfortunately is two books I LOVED and one book I liked and damn it, at least two books I liked are therefore getting knock out on the first day!!! The unfortunate luck of the brackets.

SO: I read 11 of the 18 books (15 in brackets + 3 play-in). I read the wrong book by one author, didn’t finish one book due to both boredom and its library due date (#12), and am in the middle of my 13th. So although I didn’t make my goal of reading ALL of them, I feel pretty thrilled with how close I came! 🙂

Here’s what I finished since my last post:

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner — it was a super easy, quick read. But I didn’t really like it. I think I just don’t jibe with this author since I didn’t like the last book of hers I tried to read either.

Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi — This was a long complicated read full of lots of philosophical ideas about heritage and literature and how we carry our world within us. And so much of it was really interesting and so much of it was whacked out weird. I finished it, but it did become a slog as the book went on. Neat ideas but I didn’t love it.

So Lucky by Nicolas Griffith — you may remember I am a huge (HUGE) fan of Griffith’s viking historical novel “Hild.” This is an entirely different thing: a contemporary novel with a bit of a mystery. I didn’t outright love it, and there was a sort of side- or sub-plot to the mystery that ultimately proves wrong and felt very distracting. But there was a lot to like here and a lot of things I’ve definitely never read in a novel before. Also so nicely coincidental to have just read this and learn of Selma Blair’s diagnosis. I do feel this book gives a strong picture of being inside a body being attacked by MS. Definitely worth reading.

I did not finish:

The Overstory by Richard Powers — a novel about people and, in some ways, a specific type of tree. Each chapter introduced a new character and some sort of family or disaster relationship to a tree. Presumably at some point the characters will interact? But some of the chapters were long and quite uneventful / not that interesting, and it’s due back at the library tomorrow, and I’m just not that bothered by not finishing it. It’s been NOT compelling enough that I didn’t even have it with me on my commutes this weekend, so… that says it all.

And I am currently reading:

There There by Tommy Orange — which is not at all what I expected and pretty good so far. Although it annoys the FRAK out of me that the GoodReads search engine is incapable of finding this book by searching for its title!!! (I thought maybe it was just a mobile / phone problem but I just tried on the desktop and nope!)

I’ve still got the three other books I didn’t get to on hold at the library so I’ll read them when they come in–although my stupid library branch by me is closing FOR A YEAR and it’s going to be SO NOT ON MY WAY ANYWHERE to go to these other branches to pick up and return books and I am Officially. Annoyed. OK, bye for now.

Music I Bought in 2018…

So my $$$ spent on music has greatly decreased both due to lack of time (either to listen OR to even have heard about new tunes) AND lack of $$. But here is a quick review of the albums I bought in 2018 and whether they were worth it or not!

January: no tunes purchased.

February: no tunes purchased.

March:

  • Black Panther (soundtrack) – I adore Kendrick Lamar. His last two albums (ESPECIALLY “Damn”) have just rocked my socks off. But I bought this, forgot to listen, started, forgot, started, forgot. I’m not sure I ever even listened to this all-the-way through. March tends to be a NUTS month at school though so I probably just kept not finding any time to listen. Bygones.

April:

  • Tinashe “Joyride” – OK. didn’t love it.
  • Kylie Minogue “Golden” – LOVE love love love. One of my favorites of the year.
  • Cardi B “Invasion of Privacy” – It’s OK. Most of the songs sound exactly the same to me! /ducks/

May: No tunes purchased.

June: No tunes purchased.

July:

  • Maluma “FAME” – Yes, I started buying Spanish-language rap and R&B a few years ago due to my primarily Hispanic students and some of their recommendations. No, I don’t speak it even close to well enough–I either look up translations of the lyrics OR I just enjoy it for the sounds and don’t worry about its most likely inappropriate lyrics (it is AMAZING what students will recommend to you sometimes without considering their audience). This is, to my very-inexperienced-with-it ears, definitely in the “reggaeton” tradition, like Nikki Jam, another student-inspired purchase of mine.
  • Meg Myers “Take Me to the Disco” – Love love love love. Definitely one of my favorite purchases of the year.

August: No tunes purchased.

September:

  • Troye Sivan “Bloom” – It’s OK. But I had too much built-up anticipation because I looooove his first album so much. This falls short for me.
  • ARM & TEPR “Psaumes” – this is an older release that I just got turned on to. I have in the past bought a lot of French rap/R&B but I’ve fallen off recently. It’s OK–I think a certain song or two convinced me to buy it but then I didn’t love the album as a whole.
  • Also bought two singles from Odessa “I will be there” (love) and “Hummed low” (OK), and “Black Beatles” from Mayrie, which I like.

October:

  • Cat Power “Wanderer” – I like it. It’s very mellow. The Rihanna cover is what grabbed me. But I’ve been more into previous albums of hers.
  • Matt Nathanson “Sings His Sad Heart” – SO good! Best album of his, in my view. He’s awesome in concert, has such SUCH good stage banter, and his albums before this have never lived up to his live performances for me–they’ve always been a little cheesy. A little white frat boy “college-ing it out” (a term I use a lot and frankly think it’s self explanatory so maybe you understand it and maybe you don’t). Anyway, I love this album.

November: No tunes purchased.

December: I spend the most $$ on tunes in December every year, where I start rabidly buying things I see on best of lists!

  • Boygenius EP – It’s SO good, I can’t stop listening to it.
  • Kacey Musgraves “Golden Hour” – I like it but it’s a little light. There’s one song I just can’t stand to listen to. There’s two I love. But I don’t really think it earned the hype for me.
  • Janelle Monae “Dirty Computer” – this is basically a Prince album to me. So I like it. But it doesn’t necessarily make me feel like seeking out all her stuff.
  • Mitski “Be the Cowboy” – definitely like a few songs from it. Haven’t listened to it enough yet though. My bad.
  • Rosalia “El Mal Querer” – I love this. So operatic and drama mama. Her videos are all Queen of Wands sass, vim and vigor. LOVE. Even though I don’t understand the lyrics. 😉
  • NoName “Room 25” – bought based on best of lists. Hasn’t really pulled me in. But need to give it a few more tries.
  • Lucy Dacus “Historian” – it’s good but I like the Boygenius (which she’s part of) a LOT more.
  • and I bought a single of Brandi Carlile’s song “Mother” which is stunning. She’s an artist I really only buy singles by though, her full albums never grab me.

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.)