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? 🙂

Rooster Update #1

You may remember a few weeks ago I told you about my goal to read all the books that will be appearing on the brackets in The Morning News 2019 Tournament of Books.

So far I’ve read:

The Parking Lot Attendance, by Nafkote Tamirat. A young Ethiopian girl and her father move to the mysterious island of B— from Boston, the narratives flips back and forth in time to tell how they got there, why, etc. I thought this was certainly well written and interesting. But I would only rate it probably a 3 out of 5 stars. It’s weird, it leaves a lot of things uncertain, and I wasn’t really sure what the ultimate point was.

Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje. Two kids are mysteriously abandoned by their parents in their London home at the end of World War II. This started really slow for me, at first I wasn’t even sure who the narrator was. But as it went on, it really sucked me in. It’s a very languid novel, it moves slow, glacially, like pouring out a jar of molasses, but as the layers build it gets more, and more, and more satisfying. I really loved it in the end.

Now I’m reading:

A Terrible Country, by Keith Gessen, about a pseudo-academic who moves home to Russia to help care for his grandmother. It’s got some funny moments and some interesting ones, but so far almost nothing has really happened. It’s basically a disgruntled guy just going about his disgruntled life. At first I thought that was all setup…now I’m wondering if my expectations of a plot are too much for this book. We’ll see! 🙂

Books you should go read, now.

Hello, 2019. Let’s talk about 2018 some more. I have done a terrible job of keeping this blog up to date–in fact, this year I completely failed to keep up any of my lists (books, movies, concerts). Fortunately with books, it’s not a complete disaster as I do keep my Goodreads pretty much 100% up to date at all times. So, if you want to see my ever evolving list as it evolves, follow me there.

In 2018, I read 110 books, which is fairly normal for me. I generally read around 100 and am bitterly disappointed if I read less. This school year has started off strong, as I’ve instituted a goal where in the morning on the way there I read my current YA or middle grades book and in the afternoon on the way home I read my current adult book. It’s really kept things going, and it’s easier to notice when I clearly don’t like a book because I keep not reading on that leg of the journey! 😉

Just roughly looking over the list, I read 33 books by minority authors, 36 books that were clearly sci fi/fantasy, 4 teaching books, 6 nonfiction (not counting the teaching books, which would make it 10 which is…kinda high actually! ha!), and about 18 of my 110 were graphic novels.

Here are my top 10 reads from 2018: (not in any particular order, just numbered for the sake of numbering)

  1. Cravings 2: Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen (cookbook). I absolutely love this cookbook, I love the way she writes, her enthusiasm and bubbly personality come right off the page. I’ve made 8 things out of it so far and they’ve all been fabulous!
  2. If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Already, by Cordell Strug. Yup, my dad’s book is in my top 10. Apparently I read a draft of this many years ago, but I didn’t remember that much of it. If you like Confederacy of Dunces, or Straight Man, I’d suggest you check this out. It’s a comedy of errors and quite enjoyable.
  3. Electric Arches, by Eve Ewing (poetry). A Chicago poet who also published this year a non-fiction text on southside Chicago schools, these poems tell the story of her childhood and her growing up and her growing understanding. If I was raising black girls, I would make them read this. But as a whitey white, there were so many moments in here that also resonated deeply with my childhood. Here’s how I started my GoodReads review: This book is so good I kept right on reading it at a bus stop in 20 degrees without mittens while the chill wind snapped the pages back against my numb fingers. 
  4. The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth book 2), by N.K. Jemisin. The middle book of a trilogy–all of which are amazing and all of which won the Hugo in their year of publication!!–this was the one I loved best of the three. So, so, so good. Best sci fi/fantasy series out there right now. Read it!!!
  5. Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer book 2), by Laini Taylor. Another series (a duology, thankfully) I feel like I was waiting for this book forever and when it finally arrived, I just swallowed it up. The magic and the imagery in this series is just unmatchable–so evocative, and sensual, and scary, and intense.
  6. Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik. This book has a slow start, it’s got multiple first-person perspectives, it jumps wildly from mind to mind, country to country. And it’s so damn powerful and good. Who has power, who matters, why, who do we love, why, what makes a person worth something, what doesn’t. Deep ideas, deep down in this fairytale word. I was breathless at the end.
  7. Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate. Not at all the next book I expected from the author of The One and Only Ivan, this is high fantasy at a middle grade readability level. Fascinating world building, great character development. I can’t wait to see where this series goes!
  8. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill. Like Spinning Silver, this dips deep down into fairytale foundations to tell a story so true and real, it’ll break your heart. It had been in my classroom library for a while before Gabriel and Natalie told me READ IT! and wow was I missing out!
  9. Monstress Volume 2, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda (graphic novel). Second book of what has been three so far but will be going on for quite a while, I expect. Another sci fi/fantasy world full of different factions fighting for control–I actually had to reread the first book a couple of times to keep track of who was on which side of things. The art in these books is amazing, the mysteries are intriguing, the monster is bewildering and terrifying. They’re super, super cool.
  10. The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black. I read this at lightning speed, it’s SO GOOD. Gave it to a student, and honestly we have been counting down the days until book 2 comes out (this month!!). It’s SO right on with the stings and tangles of growing up, of finding yourself, of being left out, of being let in. Oh, it’s just…bitter and beautiful and so very good.

What were your favorites this year? Leave me a comment or send me an email, because if I haven’t read it yet, I probably want to! 🙂

p.s. I saw The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas on a lot of 2018 lists–just thought I’d point out that I do love that book, but I read it in 2017.

ETA: (edited to add) WOW, I am so forgetful that I didn’t realize that a lot of what I said here, I already said in my very most previous post on Dec 14th. DOH. I recommend most of the same books and tell you the same story about the bus. Welcome to past-middle-aged me, you can probably expect a lot of that kind of repetition. HA.

À la Super Eggplant, currently, I am…

…posting to my blog for the first time in over a year, WHUT. There’s a few technical things I’ve been vaguely waiting to fix behind the scenes, and then there’s LIFE and all that, and… yeah. HI. ‘Sup?

Watching: OK, I was rewatching all of the original Charmed, but I got to around when SOMEONE becomes a SOMETHING (no spoilers)…and I just sorta stopped. I did miss those goofy witches. I watched the first couple episodes of the new Charmed (which is really what sent me back) but it really annoys me that they got such a cool cast of girls and then put this doofy white dude in charge of them a la Giles from Buffy and so yeah I haven’t watched it after the first three. In current TV, I still adore Blackish and Chicago Fire. New TV wise, I am liking A Million Little Lies, even though it 100% has party-of-five syndrome (too many issues in one small group of people), and New Amsterdam, which makes me break down almost every week. But it’s good. Best hospital show in absolutely years. I started watching The Patriot (TV show not the dumb old movie) on Amazon–but I can only watch it when I stay late at work on that laptop b/c neither my personal laptop nor my home desktop are updated enough to currently watch shows on Prime, yes I’m pathetic, and now that I’ve made a personal vow to leave with the kids every night, well, I haven’t been able to watch anymore of it. But it’s SUPER cool and SO quirky. Oh, but the best, best, BEST thing I’ve seen in absolute years is Killing Eve, which I completely inhaled a weekend or so ago and cannot stop thinking about ever since. So good! So so so sadly I have not been to a movie in at least a few months… I’m having a hard time even remembering what I saw last! OMG THAT’s SO HORRIFYING. 🙁 I’ll come back and talk movies in another post if it comes to me.

Reading: I’ve instituted a new system where I read a YA or middle grades book in the morning, on the way to work, and an adult book on the way home. It’s been working great until I get stuck in a book I don’t want to read and then the system sorta breaks down and I listen to tunes instead, HA. Anyway, since I haven’t posted here all year, I haven’t made a book list (I KNOW, DID YOU JUST DIE OF SHOCK!), but I do have goodreads COMPLETELY updated (it’s got an app, it’s easier…) so you can check there. Some recent reads I would recommend are: 

Adult:

  • Friday Black, by Nan Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, a short story collection, the first and last stories of which are just mindblowingly good.
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik, a slow (slow) burn but it really pays off in the end, a modern fantasy fairytale.
  • Graphic novel series Saga by Brian K. Vaughn (I’m caught up to Volume 9) and Monstress by Marjori M. Liu (there are three volumes out, GO START!), I love them both so much.
  • Muse of Nightmares, by Laini Taylor, the sequel to Strange the Dreamer, both of which are amazeballoons.

YA/Middle Grades: 

  • Kendare Blake‘s sister queen series “Three Dark Crowns“, ALL of those books were fabulous.
  • Endling: The Last, by Katherine Applegate, the beginning of a new high fantasy series by the author of Ivan!!
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, a good kid book alternative to Spinning Silver mentioned above.
  • And anything by Jason Reynolds or Kwame Alexander, two of the hottest young authors out there. And by hot I mean happening and in the news, as I have now had to clarify to numerous groups of silly students!

Listening to: I have bought sadly so very little music this year. It’s actually really stressing me out. The three albums I have listened to the most this year are Kylie Minogue “Golden”, Meg Myers “Take Me to the Disco”, and Matt Nathanson “Sings His Sad Heart” (wow, what a step up in quality!!), and I’ve been dipping into Cat Power “Wanderer” in the past few weeks. I do have a list of four albums I think I want from various top-10 lists out there (the latest from Kasey Musgraves, Janelle Monae, Mitski and Lucy Dacus) and I want the boygenius EP (the boygenius that Lucy Dacus is a part of, not any of the various boygenius things that come up when I search iTunes) but not sure it’s out yet? I also want to check out No Name, a female rapper.

Eating: Cooking all my breakfasts and lunches every week, as I generally do during the school year, and particularly obsessed with Chrissy Teigens’ Cravings 2: Hungry for More book. Everything I make out of it has been delicious.

Drinking: Coke, coke and more Coke. Oh, Coke, why can’t I quit you?

Knitting, quilting, sewing: I’ve done a TON of sewing throughout 2018 (9 dresses maybe? tunic/dress types) and I’ve still got quite a bit of fabric and new patterns to try. I made two new ones from the Lou Box Dress pattern just last month–a knit dress version that is perfection (OK, maybe a little wide in the neck but perfection, srsly), and a woven tunic version that is basically a wearable muslin. I haven’t got the fit right in the woven for a dress yet. I’m knitting a brioche scarf, and I have a sweater I have sort of gotten back to that I believe I started in January (oops). I want to make that my Christmas break project… we’ll see. 🙂 No quilting has happened recently though. 

Focusing on: Separating home life and work life. Trying to leave with the kids or as close to it as possible. Not bringing any grading or work home AT ALL. I get it done at school, or I don’t get it done. I’m not going to get into an argument with people about the insanely overworked, underpaid status of teachers these days but let’s just say I’m done letting myself be a victim of a sick system that gets millions of hours of free work from its primarily female workforce. It’s sexist bullshit frankly and were the majority of teachers men there would have been a government-sanctioned revolt a million years ago. But then again, would we even still have public education these days, if it wasn’t primarily women doing all the work???? 

So, that’s me. How about you? Leave me a note and let me know what you’re reading!

Rooster 2019 Preparation

As some of you know, I have been pretty obsessively following The Morning News’ Tournament of Books for many years now. I usually read at least some of the books on both the long and short list–some more years than others, of course–but regardless I read the reviews every day, enter the winners on my bracket and just generally adore spending March hearing about books that, for the most part, I haven’t heard about anywhere else!

I’ve learned about so many new, cool authors through this Tournament (maybe I’ll come back later and point out a few specifics) and it’s one of my favorite annual events.

They’ve released the 2019 short list what seems like shockingly early this year and tonight I made the snap decision that I will try to read as many as possible before March!  I printed out the list, starred the two that were also on the New York Times’ best of 2018 list as I think those may be two I want to buy, figured out which book is available and can be picked up at the library on my way to work tomorrow (yes, I still work Saturdays at the Salon if you’re wondering), put three more of the books on hold at the Library, AND also, most importantly, did decide which book I will for sure NOT be reading, which I will tell you is “Census” by Jesse Ball. I know he’s just all the rage in some circles (especially in Chicago as he lives and works here), but I read one book of his on my own (in a previous TOB I believe) and part of another book when my bookclub read it and no no no no thank you I am very much done putting my time into his books. 

But other than that, I’m over the moon excited. I mean, it’s been a rough year, yes for all, but this school year? I can’t even. It’s bad enough that I’ve been googling “next career for ex teacher” and things like that. Yup. Anyway, here’s something a spinster can really get excited about–trying to read 15 of the 16 books on a list before March 1. Ready, set…