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… 

À la Super Eggplant, currently, I am…

Watching: Grey’s Anatomy. I always need a show I’ve either seen before OR don’t really care too much about paying attention to, to watch while I’m doing school stuff (planning, grading, etc.). So I restarted Grey’s from the beginning. Turns out I had stopped watching mid-season 3. I’m in season 11 now and finding something to cry about almost every episode. HA.

Reading: Like a maniac. I’ve been very focused on devoting my 45-min each way bus rides to books so I’ve been flying through a lot of YA/middle grades stuff lately (I was roadtesting books to use with my class). And now I’m deep into “The Half-Drowned King” by Linnea Hartsuyker and loving it.

Listening to: The new National “Sleep Well Beast.” Oh my oh my do I love this album. The music is, as per the National’s usual, dark and deep and sometimes turgid. The lyrics are fraught with tension and anxiety and longing. It’s beautiful.
I’ve been talking about you to myself
‘Cause there’s nobody else
And I want what I want
And I want everything
I want everything

You are in this too
Can’t you find a way?

Eating: Finishing off the summer with Elote from around the corner every other note (OMG it’s good). Lots of ham, egg and cheese sandwiches on a toasted onion roll (because these rolls are basically challah or egg bread and my grocery store never seems to have egg bread anymore, sigh). Either that or pumpkin-spice Cheerios (they aren’t great, the pumpkin definitely tastes artificial, but they’ll do.)

Drinking: Obsessed with the Molokai Coconut Bai. I gave up soda, kindof, in the hopes of dropping some weight. Nope, not an ounce. Oh well, this stuff is still pretty delicious. And since dropping soda made no difference at all, I am letting myself get a frozen Coke one morning a week.

Knitting, quilting, sewing: Woops. Haven’t done a single stitch since school started. Maybe the Columbus Day weekend will let me get back into it? (Remember, I work Saturdays at the Salon, so my weekends are only one day.)

Focusing on: My PT exercises for my messed up foot and half-broken back. Foot is getting a LOT better…but I still look like a cripple for the first few minutes/steps I walk after I get up (from any sitting/lying down). Back is a mess, but working really hard on “neutral spine” is definitely helping those deep background muscles to engage so…maybe I’ll see some progress soon. Haven’t been in the pool because maintaining my teal hair is a higher priority right now HA.

Aziz Ansari rules the world.

For a long time, Tom was my least favorite character on Parks & Recreation, it took me a few seasons to really come around on him. I don’t know what finally did it: “treat yo self” ? Or perhaps when he finally shoves Jean-Ralphio to the side? Regardless, I eventually became a fan and started to love his stand-up too (although the repetition thing drives me nuts. When he just says the same short phrase over and over? It happens a LOT in that show with the R. Kelly bit).

So when everyone started yapping about “Master of None” and I needed a new show, it was the obvious choice. This show is SUPER charming, the story lines are adorable. The way we watch Dev develop, however slowly, in all areas of his life is pretty fantastic. On the other hand, as with Rob Delaney’s “Catastrophe,” there are definitely times when the acting is too visible…because too many people on the show aren’t great actors. In other words–you shouldn’t notice that a character is “acting mad,” you should think they are ACTUALLY mad. When the acting an emotion becomes too visible, that’s a fail. I actually thought that less times with Masters of None than with Catastrophe but there were still certain scenes or certain side players on the show that I thought fell flat too many times to be straight up “this is a great show.” I liked it a lot, I loved certain interactions, but I did occasionally get popped out of the scene by the acting.

Then over the past few days, when I apparently became a START A MILLION NEW THINGS because you have all of three random days off person, I decided to listen to his book “Modern Romance.” Wow, this book is shockingly well researched for something written by a layperson. It’s really fascinating.

My problem was…I can’t focus on audiobooks!!! I KNOW. It’s seriously as if my brain FORGETS that I am listening to it WHILE I am listening to it and I accidentally start tuning it out. Then 10 minutes later, I hear someone else’s voice in my head and go oh YEAH I’m listening to that book and this seems to be about something completely different than 10 minutes ago when I was actively listening. I guess I missed something!

Despite my intermittent lapses in listening, which I did not bother trying to rewind, so to speak, or fix, this book has a lot of really interesting anecdotes and fun moments. It was also great to listen to it after watching Masters of None and notice how many things from his romance research wound up making it onto that show. You always read stories about writers or directors doing crazy stuff to prepare: horseback riding for three hours a day for six months, reading 97 books on whale hunting, etc…It’s almost like this book wound up being unintended preparation. I love the intersection between fiction and nonfiction in our lives/work and watching bits from this book get explored in the fictional show was pretty cool, or cool to think about afterward as I read it.

The ultimate takeaway from both is WOW Aziz is SO sincere. The last chapter of the book is all about how despite all the technology and despite all the changes and despite all our baggage, if you go do fun things you love, that’s your best chance to meet a person who will also do fun things you love (and love them and you). Check out this post from his tumblr about his dad appearing on the show. That sincerity is all over the book and it just makes him completely adorkable. Which is, refreshingly, so different than Tom, or at least beginning of Parks & Rec Tom.

If you already liked Aziz, this is just the sugar on top. The same way my paparazzi friend Evan’s stories (both good and bad) about celebrity behavior at fan events can really change my overall opinion on said celebrities, seeing the intersection between Aziz’s standup, his nonfiction writing and his fictional writing/acting really exposes (or illuminates, for a kinder way to put it) Aziz as someone I never would have guessed based on Tom. Now that’s great acting.

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.

Middle-Grade Fantasy: The Dragonet Prophecy, by Tui Sutherland

A super sweet story about five little dragonets, stolen away before their eggs hatched, to play their part in a prophecy. It’s really a story about friends, family, belonging, finding your identity, and figuring out what’s important to you. And it was SO very sweet. I can think of a LOT of fifth graders who would really love this book (and presumably the rest of the story as well).

Historical Fiction: Live by Night, by Dennis Lehane

So yeah, I haven’t written about the books I’ve been reading in ages and ages although I have kept pretty much up to date with commenting on them on GoodReads. I guess I need an app for my blog, ha.

I thought this book was just beautiful. While it is one part of the story of the Coughlin family, and partly a story about gangsters (cough, outlaws, sorry, Joe) and corruption and American history, it’s also got this incredibly romantic streak running through it. The things that carry Joe through his life: not just the women he loves, but the places he loves, the objects he loves (that watch, for example).

I read the first book in this series (Any Given Day) in a furious rush over spring break while visiting my dad’s library and similarly when I picked this book up, I really couldn’t put it down either. I remember liking Lehane’s Kenzie/Gennaro series back in the day when I read those (pre-2004) but not like THIS.