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… 

Books Read in 2016

date refers to date finished; i.e., just b/c I finished two books in a given day doesn’t mean I read two entire books that day!

  • Because You’re Mine, by Lisa Kleypas (7/11)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (7/10)
  • Uprooted, by Naomi Novik (7/7)
  • Untold, by Sarah Rees Brennan (7/7)
  • The Hare, by Cesar Aira (7/5)
  • Until Friday Night, by Abbi Gilnes (7/5)
  • Stiletto, by Daniel O’Malley (7/2)
  • Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda (6/30) (nonfiction)
  • Fire Touched, by Patricia Briggs (6/29)
  • The Trees, Vol. 1: In Shadow, by Warren Ellis (6/26) (graphic novel)
  • The Last One, by Alexandra Oliva (6/25)
  • Snow Like Ashes, by Sara Raasch (6/22)
  • The Girl from Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig (6/17)
  • Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan (6/14)
  • Article 5, by Kristen Simmons (6/11)
  • If I Was Your Girl, by Meredith Russo (6/10)
  • Sex Object, by Jessica Valenti (6/10) (nonfiction)
  • The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater (6/8) (reread)
  • Mr Fox, by Helen Oyeyemi (6/7)
  • I Kill Giants, by Joe Kelly (6/6) (graphic novel)
  • The Sellout, by Paul Beatty (5/31)
  • The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater (5/30)
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater (5/29) (reread)
  • The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater (5/28) (reread)
  • The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater (5/28) (reread)
  • Blaze, by Rachael Herron (5/27)
  • Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore( (5/21) (reread)
  • Fire, by Kristin Cashore (5/21) (reread)
  • Graceling, by Kristin Cashore (5/21) (reread)
  • Bolt, by Dick Francis (5/11) (reread)
  • Break In, by Dick Francis (5/9) (reread)
  • Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays, by Eula Biss (5/7) (nonfiction)
  • The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy (5/5)
  • Booked, by Kwame Alexander (4/22)
  • Gym Candy, by Carl Deuker (4/21)
  • The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson (4/19) (nonfiction)
  • Son, by Lois Lowry (4/17)
  • The Story of My Teeth, by Valeria Liuselli (4/17)
  • Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs, by Sally Mann (4/17) (nonfiction)
  • Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie (4/16)
  • The Crimson Skew, by S.E. Grove (4/12)
  • The Golden Specific, by S.E. Grove (4/12)
  • Giant Days, Vol 1, by John Allison (4/5) (graphic novel)
  • This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki (4/4) (graphic novel)
  • The Wicked + The Divine, Vol 1: The Faust Act, by Kieron Gillen (4/2) (graphic novel)
  • The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die, by April Henry (3/30)
  • Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie (3/27)
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin (3/22)
  • Mara, by Brian Wood (3/19) (graphic novel)
  • The Radiant Road, by Katherine Catmull (3/16)
  • On Immunity, An Inoculation, by Eula Biss (3/5) (nonfiction)
  • An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir (3/4)
  • Messenger, by Lois Lowry (3/2)
  • Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry (2/29)
  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry (2/28) (reread)
  • The Darling Songbirds, by Rachael Herron (2/27) (romance)
  • The Door, by Magda Szabo (2/27)
  • The Raising, by Laura Kasischke (2/13)
  • Black Wolves, by Kate Elliott (1/23)
  • Loitering: New and Collected Essays, by Charles D’Ambrosio (1/19) (nonfiction) (essays)
  • It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single, by Sara Eckel (1/10) (nonfiction)
  • Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown (1/5) (nonfiction) (advice)
  • The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown (1/2) (nonfiction) (advice)

Books Read in 2015.

date refers to date finished; i.e., just b/c I finished two books in a given day doesn’t mean I read two entire books that day!

  • Dear Mr. You, by Mary Louise Parker (12/29) (epistolary essays)
  • Descender, Vol 1, by Jeff Lemire (12/27) (graphic novel)
  • Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, by Carrie Brownstein (12/26) (memoir)
  • Pretty Deadly, Vol 1, by Kelly Sue DeConnick (12/26)
  • Lumberjanes, Vol 1, by Noelle Stevenson (12/25) (graphic novel)
  • Dryland, by Sara Jaffe (12/25)
  • Yellowcake, by Margo Lanagan (12/4) (short stories)
  • Wytches, Vol 1, by Scott Snyder (11/30) (graphic novel)
  • Saga, Vol 5, by Brian K. Vaughn (11/29) (graphic novel)
  • Saga, Vol 4, by Brian K. Vaughn (11/29) (graphic novel)
  • Saga, Vol 3, by Brian K. Vaughn (11/29) (graphic novel)
  • Saga, Vol 2, by Brian K. Vaughn (11/29) (graphic novel)
  • Saga, Vol 1, by Brian K. Vaughn (11/29) (graphic novel) (reread)
  • The Promise, by Robert Crais (11/26)
  • Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari (11/26) (nonfiction)
  • The Promise, by Robert Crais (11/26)
  • Ms. Marvel Vol 1: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson (11/25) (graphic novel)
  • Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo (11/24)
  • Back Lash, by Devon Monk (11/17)
  • The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara (11/17)
  • The Sins of the Fathers, by Lawrence Block (11/9)
  • Slade House, by David Mitchell (11/6)
  • The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove (11/4)
  • Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll (11/2) (graphic short stories)
  • Deadly Blessings, by Julie Hyzy (10/29)
  • The Invasion of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen (10/28)
  • The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley (10/22)
  • Bad Blood, by Aline Templeton (10/20)
  • Evil for Evil, by Aline Templeton (10/18)
  • Cradle to Grave, by Aline Templeton (10/16)
  • Dead in the Water, by Aline Templeton (10/14)
  • Lamb to the Slaughter, by Aline Templeton (10/12)
  • Lying Dead, by Aline Templeton (10/11)
  • The Darkness and the Deep, by Aline Templeton (10/9)
  • Cold in the Earth, by Aline Templeton (10/7)
  • Christopher’s Cloud: An Epic Adventure, Peter Pommer (10/5)
  • The Odyssey, by Homer (Fagles translation) (10/2) (poetry) (reread)
  • Make Me, by Lee Child (9/26)
  • Tinkers, by Paul Harding (9/21)
  • After the Apocalypse, by Maureen McHugh (9/18) (short stories)
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (9/16)
  • Speak, by Louisa Hall (9/9)
  • The Warrior Laird, by Margo Maguire (9/4)
  • Harbor Island, by Carla Neggers (8/29)
  • Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel (8/29)
  • Mind of Winter, by Laura Kasischke (8/24)
  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra (8/22)
  • The Tin Collectors, by Stephen J. Cannell (8/18)
  • Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel (8/12)
  • Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, by Karen Abbott (8/10) (nonfiction!)
  • World Gone By, by Dennis Lehane (8/3)
  • Just Like Heaven, by Julia Quinn (7/23)
  • Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon (7/21)
  • Live by Night, by Dennis Lehane (7/4)
  • The Dragonet Prophecy, by Tui Sutherland (7/3)
  • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (7/2)
  • Just the Sexiest Man Alive, by Julie James (6/29)
  • Suddenly One Summer, by Julie James (6/28)
  • Practice Makes Perfect, by Julie James (6/28)
  • It Happened One Wedding, by Julie James (6/28)
  • Love Irresistibly, by Julie James (6/26)
  • About That Night, by Julie James (6/25)
  • A Lot Like Love, by Julie James (6/24)
  • Bet Me, by Jennifer Crusie (6/21)
  • Something About You, by Julie James (6/21)
  • World of Trouble, by Ben H. Winters (6/17)
  • Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson (6/13)
  • Countdown City, by Ben H. Winters (6/9)
  • Splinters of Light, by Rachael Herron (6/4)
  • The Last Policeman, by Ben H. Winters (6/4)
  • Foxglove Summer, by Ben Aaronovitch (5/31)
  • Hausfrau, by Jill Alexander Essbaum (5/23)
  • Blue Stars, by Emily Gray Tedrowe (5/2)
  • This Present Moment, by Gary Snyder (4/25) (poetry)
  • H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald (4/25) (memoir)
  • Dead Heat, by Patricia Briggs (4/21)
  • Glow, by Ned Beauman (4/19)
  • All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld (4/18)
  • Hell bent, by Devon Monk (4/18)
  • Stone Cold, by Devon Monk (4/18)
  • Kiss Me Hello, by Grace Burrowes (4/12)
  • The First Kiss, by Grace Burrowes (4/11)
  • A Single Kiss, by Grace Burrowes (4/11)
  • The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane (4/10)
  • Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding & Losing Myself in Books, by Maureen Corrigan (4/9) (essays)
  • Shadowscale (Seraphina #2), by Rachel Hartman (4/7)
  • Pioneer Girl, by Bich Minh Nguyen (4/6) (nonfiction)
  • A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, by Will Chancellor (4/5)
  • Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson (3/21)
  • Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed (3/20) (essays)
  • The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander (3/17)
  • Sugar, by Jewell Parker Rhodes (3/12)
  • Wool (Omnibus), by Hugh Howey (3/12)
  • The Manhattan Projects, Vol 1, by Jonathan Hickman (3/6) (graphic novel)
  • Rat Queens Vol 1, by Kurtis Wiebe (3/6) (graphic novel)
  • Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, by Patricia Lockwood (3/6) (poetry)
  • Wittgenstein Jr, by Lars Iyer (3/5)
  • Silence Once Begun, by Jesse Ball (2/21)
  • Boxer, Beetle, by Ned Beauman (2/14)
  • The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters (2/14)
  • Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill (2/1)
  • The Blazing World, by Siri Hustvedt (1/25)
  • Horns, by Joe Hill (1/3)
  • The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson (1/3)

An evening with David Mitchell and Lana Wachowski

A lovely evening. Mitchell read from the first passage of Slade House (which I read a week or so ago, I’ll try to tell you about it soon!) and then he and Wachowski had a lovely conversation about art and immortality and writing between genres (as it were).

There were quite a number of moments I wish I could have recorded, but here are the two I wrote down.

On writing between genres, or being told your book should/shouldn’t have something because you’re not in X genre:
“If a book needs a dragon, it should have a dragon.”

On reading reviews: he said he certainly never reads the bad ones, because they’re so demoralizing and haunt you for months, but then he said he doesn’t read the good ones either:
“…even the good ones are wasps at the picnic of a calm mind.”

WOW what an image.

I’ve been a huge fan of his books for a long time now (the other book I took with me to have signed was Black Swan Green, which is one of my all-time favorite books) and it was wonderful to hear Nathan (the first character in Slade House) read in his voice. He doesn’t have a straight-up English accent, there’s a bit of a lisping quality around his Rs that I wondered if originates from his time in Japan/Asia…

I can’t wait to see what he writes next.

Fiction: Dennis Lehane’s Coughlin Trilogy

The books, in order: The Given Day, Live by Night, and World Gone By.

All fantastic.

TGD = Very plot-driven historical fiction. You are caught up in Danny’s life, in Luther’s life, in the snippets of Babe Ruth (such an interesting way to use him in this book!).

LBN = Connected to the first book b/c Joe is Danny’s little brother, and his father does play a role in both books, but in many ways just books that are sequentially related versus books that are a series. Although technically this would still be considered historical fiction (there are actual historical gangsters mentioned or who play bit parts), to me this is where the series really becomes driven by character rather than plot. Joe is SUCH an interesting character to have written. This book really caught me up in its romance–and I don’t mean the relationships between Joe and women, although there is that, but the romantic nostalgia we feel for places and things. Joe’s feelings about his dad’s watch, the way he interacts with the cities he lives in. The way he thinks about things. I wrote about this book previously it turns out. Heh.

WGB = I was surprised to find that this book was also about Joe (I thought it would be about Tomas, maybe?). I loved that years have gone by, and he’s become a different person with different sorts of schemes and plans while still having his gangster’s heart of gold. Sure, that’s a bit cliche, right, the gangster who is for civil rights, and treating people equally. The gangster who only wants to kill when he really has to, etc. But he’s such an intriguing loyal intelligent dude, you go along for the ride. He’s got a code, Wire fans, he lives by his code.

I thought they were all fantastic. I’ve read other Lehane books in the past (a few of the Kenzie/Gennaro books) and enjoyed movies made from his books as well (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River) but this trilogy is really a tour de force. Each one was BARELY putdown able, I read late into the night, loving every minute of it.

Romance: Just Like Heaven (Smythe-Smith Quartet, #1), by Julia Quinn

So sweet! And so refreshing to read a regency (or thereabouts) romance where the two intendeds do not meet via a) rape, b) intended rape or c) almost rape. NO RAPE AT ALL. Nice.

(Unlike, say, the Jo Beverly books which I read a ton of all in a row last Christmas. When you read too many of those “rape or almost rape brought these two together” books too close together, you just start to feel icky.)

Fiction: Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon

The reviews of this book on goodreads are widely divisive, moreso than most books from what I’ve seen anyway.

I didn’t fall head over heels but I didn’t (ever, really) feel the need to put it down, or move on, and that’s a pretty good sign that it’s at minimum well written and able to engage me as a reader.

Racing may be glamorous and sexy and the provence of the rich and the nouveau riche (heh) but it’s also a place that washed up, unhappy people (and horses) wind up spending years just stuck in. My best friend in high school’s dad once came in 3rd in the Kentucky Derby (as a jockey). He also spent years and years racing at tiny tracks, drinking away his sorrows, fighting with anyone who would fight him, and bemoaning his lack of ever getting up there again. So many horses, jockeys, owners, and trainers have just one bright shining moment. The ones that stay in the sun for years–THOSE are the real outliers in racing.

Some of this was icky and confrontational. (The sex bits were pretty uncomfortable.) Some of it was intriguing. Some of it was lyrical.

She’s an author that’s not going to do what you expect. Every time a new character entered the room, the story became about something else entirely.