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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

ร€ 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. ๐Ÿ™ 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:ย 

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. Vaughnย (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:ย 

  • 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ No quilting has happened recently though.ย 

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????ย 

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

NaBloPoMo 29:

Even for me, I have gotten an impressive amount of nothing done for the past few days. That 900-item to-do list I jotted down on Tuesday night didn’t even get looked at once. I did pay bills today (which wasn’t on the list, ha) and got all freaked out and worried about money since they’re muttering that our likely strike that will likely happen sometime after February 10 will likely go on for a month. I just don’t see how my life can handle that and still have enough money to get through the summer (which is of course unpaid time off, just like Wednesday was an unpaid day off).
Inside the harbor
I didn’t even do my usual Sunday lunch food cooking! I’m going to eat out of the freezer this week. ๐Ÿ˜‰

NaBloPoMo 27: took a real camera out with me today and took the long way home

Must be kinda warm in there.
Waitin'
Definitely a future crime scene
Lots of closed signs round about these days
Saw “Brooklyn” this afternoon. Still pondering it. Not so much a story as in a plot but more a story of a moment of a time and a place. All the old people around me were muttering things about the “immigrant experience” as the credits rolled past. I saw “Spotlight” a few days ago. That was wonderful although very upsetting. A bit in the same vein as “Truth”. Movies based on real events that lay out in excruciating detail how crap our world is and how crappily humans treat each other are always going to be pretty upsetting though, aren’t they. And “Spectre” which I sadly did not think much of. Could’ve been my mood going in but it was a real downer.

NaBloPoMo 8: tunage

Enjoy this lovely Beatles-esque ditty by a band called Quilt. Hello.
Or how about this lovely sepia-toned video of Adele’s new single. I probably like the visuals more than the song–her hair blowing in the wind, OMG yes–but, hey.
You may know I am a huge fan of covers. I have this ongoing theory about why covers are always awesome whereas movie remakes often suck: a good song is a good song. It’s harder to ruin a good song even with bad singing than it is to ruin a good story with bad acting, bad directing, etc. Do ya see what I’m sayin’? No? Here’s this James Blake cover of Sounds of Silence for you. Not wildly different than the original. Loooooove the rustling sound underneath. Rain? Leaves? Dunno, but it’s lovely.
I bought it a little while ago but I finally spent some serious time listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. It’s just gorgeous. SO many different styles, so many awesome lyrics, beats, melodies. It’s magical.
And this, this song, Low’s “What Part of Me”, I have been OBSESSED with this song since the first time I heard it, sometime this summer. Here they sound awesome playing it and here is a more visually pleasing video (yet slightly less awesome sounding). I canNOT stop with this one. The lyrics! The beat! The yearning! Oh my.
In other news, 1) tonight I’m going to see David Mitchell read and apparently he and Lana Wachowski (formerly a Wachowski brother, I think?) are doing a Q&A afterward and 2) I get to introduce my students to the mystery of Roanoke on Wednesday. Busy finding spooky videos to show them. Heh.
Sorry I have no photo for you today. Smooches.

NaBloPoMo 7:

Sleeping in on Saturday mornings is pretty blissful even when sleeping in means waking up at 7:30. Such is the ridiculousness of an early morning weekly schedule, I couldn’t sleep any longer even though I tried! Now I’m indulging myself in some Oregon Chai and catching up on some of my weekly TV shows, especially the ones I don’t care too much about so I can play candy crush while I watch them, HA!
How about a review of what I’m watching on TV this fall, albeit I haven’t had cable in four, maybe five? years now, no wait SIX, so I am watching everything a day later on Hulu or CBS All Access or whatever siteโ€ฆ or I am watching everything sometime during the week, maybe in a big chunk on Friday night heh.
Sunday:
Brooklyn Nine-Nine : this show is SO on this year. One of my absolute favorites. And I don’t care much for Andy Samberg in other formats but I love him here.
Quantico : I like it. Nice eye candy among the real male/female leads. Silly, sure, butโ€ฆ
The Good Wife : Still solid but I’m finding myself less interested this season.
I need to maybe pay for Showtime so I can get back to Homeland which I do really love. But I can’t decide if I should do it via Hulu or via Showtime on my Roku. Not sure why I can’t make the decision but hello I don’t seem to be able to commit.
Monday:
The Mindy Project : SO good. This show has been solidly laugh out loud funny every episode this season.
Castle : Still mediocre. But watchable. [Candy crush time!]
Jane the Virgin : This show is very uneven for me. Intentionally soap-y but still unbearably stupid at times. Yet I keep watching. [Often while grading.]
Life in Pieces : A great companion piece to Mindy, lots of funny stuff about parenting. But suddenly no new episodes showing up. Did it already get cancelled?
Supergirl : I watched ep 1 and liked it but haven’t made it through ep 2 yet. Calista Flockhart was a nice surprise!
I do want to start watching Fargo but I need to watch season 1 first. I just listened to Kirsten Dunst on Nerdist and season 2 sounds SO fab.
Tuesday:
NCIS : can’t stop, won’t stop.
NCIS New Orleans : pretty bad but, again, a good backdrop for candy crush and grading, oh the never-ending grading.
Chicago Fire : LOVE IT although this season has been pretty heavy so far, not many light moments.
The Grinder : Pretty funny. Rob Lowe’s character is not really as much Chris Trager (sp?) as it seemed at first, perhaps even less self aware HA!
The Flash : silly, fun.
Wednesday:
Nashville : I watch it ONLY for the music, not even kidding. The story lines have gotten BEYOND REPETITIVE. How many times can Will regret being gay? SERIOUSLY. How many times can Scarlet or Deacon completely fall apart. How many times can Maddy be annoying. I mean, good grief. But I still love the arrangements.
Empire : I am about to stop watching this despite the music. Less seasons in and it’s already got all the same problems as Nashville, soapy stupid story lines, I just can’t even stand some of them.
Black-ish : HILARIOUS. Love it. Diane may be my favorite television character OF ALL TIME. She’s so on the money. And Junior’s so unconsciously dopey.
Rosewood : Kinda dumb, but watchable as background. Heh.
Arrow : Better than it was last season. I love Felicity and I’m obsessed with Thea’s hair. Everyone on this show is damn good-lookin’. Still wish this was more like The Flash which it really suffers in comparison with.
Thursday:
Haven : SO dark this season. Mmmmmm, Nathan.
Sleepy Hollow : I really like this show. I love their partnership. I think it’s really well filmed with the right mood / tone. Even though it’s silly, it seems better produced than many other silly shows (particularly when watched in contrast say with Bones that it recently did crossover eps with. The Sleepy Hollow one seemed SO much smarter than the Bones one).
Vampire Diaries : Kinda boring without Elena frankly and this season has gotten so dark and sad. But, AGAIN, background (ha, how boring this post must be for you to read!).
The Player : Kinda stupid.
Things I watch occasionally on my iPad in bed as I fall asleep:
Trevor Noah on the Daily Show
Things I tried but could not even watch:
Stephen Colbert : (I know) and
Blood & Oil : seriously unwatchable.
Things I gave up:
Reign
Yup, I have no spare time at all but SOMEHOW I still watch a lot of TV. Sometimes I do have to rewatch episodes because I watched one while grading and then when I try to watch the next one I can’t figure out what’s going on HA. But you know I don’t feel bad about spending time on TV when it doesn’t mean I’m losing reading time now that I have my transit reading time back (last year, I drove to work with someone which eliminated all my reading time). I’ve been burning through books and SO HAPPY ABOUT IT. Heh.
Coming, going

NaBloPoMo 3: oh boy oh boy

Never take a class while you are also full-time teaching (or full-time anything probably!). For a while I had a great system going on, Friday afternoon into evening finish lesson plans for the next week, Saturday morning do all my reading and writing for my Wednesday night class, then move on to grading, blah blah blah etc.
Oh except for how I’m trying to catch up on grades so I COMPLETELY FORGOT that I have this class I have to do homework for and now uh oh my class is tomorrow night and I have 50 pages of reading to do (and a response to write afterward). Oh and I have to interview someone in the BIL program at my school for the paper I have due next week and actually I was supposed to interview her this morning AND I FORGOT because OMG I cannot keep anything together in my personal life right now!
I never know the date, I just know “tomorrow is X day on this set of lesson plans, do I have everything I need? Yup, OK” and move on. So I missed a concert I had tickets to (couldn’t have spared the time to go anyway), I just paid three bills late (OMG WHUT) not because I didn’t have the money but because I just put them in a pile and then FORGOT THEY EXISTED, and now I’ve just gotten my apartment tidied up and I must go do all my own homework before *hopefully* getting more of my students’ work graded although let’s be serious, that’s extremely unlikely to happen tonight.
Where is the personal assistant to keep my own life on track? All I can keep track of is my school stuff (and given that I’m so far behind on grading, how much track am I keeping of that anyway!), everything else is just falling to the wayside. (Does this happen every year? Maybe. But I do think changing to a new grade level has knocked some of my fourth-year teacher stability off its rack.)
#laterpost

NaBloPoMo 2: Some recommendations

I watched a very fun movie while I cooked, washed dishes, and graded last night: Life Partners (streaming on Netflix). It wasn’t an amazingly great movie or an award-winner or a blow your mind movie–but it was a sweet lovely movie about friendships and how to nurture and maintain them and how to repair them when they blow up. It reminded me mood-wise a lot of Imagine Me & You, a dearly loved flick in this house.
I started a great book today: “The Glass Sentence” by S.E. Grove, which so far is pretty spectacular. It all takes place in a different version of our world, a version where there was some sort of disruption that ripped time out of balance and now different parts of the world are in different times. For example, the time the heroine lives in 1891 and has 20-hour days/clocks. Another area is stuck in 1700. There are all kinds of super cool images and ideas in here (the mental maps are SO COOL!). It’s very much about map making and adventure while at the same time it’s about rejecting the “other” and jingoism and immigration and all kinds of issues I’ve been trying to talk with my kiddos (aka students) this year.
I had a rootbeer float tonight with a hastily gulped down Chicken Betty (sandwich) at the world’s tiniest M. Burger when I tried to go to my acupuncture appointment but it turned out my acupuncturist had left early with a family emergency. Sigh. So I’m no less stressed than I was earlier but my float was delicious.
So there you, go: a movie, a book, and go get yourself a root beer float and I feel I’ve added a lot of possibilities to your life this evening. What more could you want? ๐Ÿ™‚ #heh
Also, here, this picture:
Lovely evening in Chitown.
Good night!