First finish of 2020 for me! This book was pretty fantastic. The majority of the book is about two people obsessed with making beer—one because she loves (LOVES) it from her very first taste of it and the other because she loves chemistry and she’s got to prove herself to be interesting—and the person they’re both related to that a lot of the plot revolves around. I will say that it was a good thing it was written with alternating perspectives though, because if it had all been from Edith’s POV (as the first chapter was), I probably wouldn’t have finished it. There was just a *wee* bit too much “hey this about Minnesotans, are Minnesotans so charming” setup in that first section for me… but perhaps that’s the curse of actually having lived a large part of your life AS a Minnesotan. HA. I loved Helen, I loved Diana (and her evolution). And man, I would still probably love to work in a brewery. Maybe that’s my next career. My beers, I will warn you, will be high on sweetness and low on hops. Cheers, y’all.
Watching: I just finished a rewatch/watch of One Tree Hill (I had only seen some of the first few seasons) and now I’m rewatching Firefly, which as you may know will hardly take any time at all. 🙁 I can’t figure out what I’ll watch next!
Reading: I’m about a third of the way through “Theft” by Peter Carey, which is definitely fun so far. I read quite a bit of Peter Carey back (BACK) in the day.
Listening to: Completely bingeing on Maggie Rogers “Heard It in a Past Life”, but also really obsessed with J.S. Ondara‘s “Tales of America.” It’s so good!
Writing: Sexy daydream poems on the bus, in the duplex form created by Jericho Brown (whose poems I’m obsessed with!).
Eating: Suddenly finding myself in sammy mode, I’ve been making nice big fat ones with ham, turkey, provolone, pickle slabs, roasted red peppers, giardinera, tomato, spinach and a little mayo. Oh yum they’re so good.
Drinking: So much lemonade I think it might be giving me acid reflux. Ha!
Knitting: Ah, nope. 🙁
Quilting: Also nope.
Sewing: Just made another tunic! And two more cut out. Let’s keep that momentum going…
Focusing on: Not spending any unnecessary money. Not bringing work home. Not staying at work beyond the hours I get paid for.
What’s up with you? 🙂
Go read this: “The Angel of History” by Rabih Alameddine. (Here’s a review if you want a synopsis.) My dad introduced me to this author last year (with his novel “An Unnecessary Woman”) and then I just happened across this new(er) novel in the library on Saturday. It was So!GOOD! And so literate and compelling.
- caisson = a large watertight chamber; a chest or wagon
- chelonian = basically turtle-esque
- jellabiya = traditional Egyptian garment
- dithyrambic = a frenzied impassioned hymn and dance; an irregular poetic expression; a wildly enthusiastic speech or piece of writing
- rachitic = rickety; like having a inflammed spine
- recrudescent = revival of material; recurrence of symptoms; renewal
- inanition = exhaustion; lack of mental or spiritual vigor
- cephalore = a saint who is generally depicted carrying their own head
Cephalore was my favorite. 🙂 Inanition I do feel like I should have already known, heh.
I was also really proud of myself for picking up on random literary/musical references:
- “I couldn’t write, I couldn’t write, stop all the clocks, poetry has gone and left me…” (W.H. Auden reference, a poem I JUST taught my students!).
- “Hope might be the thing with feathers but in the Middle East we hunt those birds for sport. (Dickinson)
- “I sound like a Miles Davis trumpet, like a Bach partita, no, wait, a Bendel bonnet, a Shakespeare sonnet, whereas you’re a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop, but baby, if you’re the bottom, I’m the top.” (Cole Porter)
- “Do you understand me now, Satan said, when things go wrong I seem to be bad, I”m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” (Nina Simone, et al.)
(I’m sure there were more I didn’t notice!!)
Hey, here’s a post I drafted March 31 and never finished… Enjoy! HA!
Watching: In February, I watched (some re-, some fresh) all of Revenge. I figured out that I had only seen about 2.5 seasons originally. It got a little ridiculous (as those kind of shows do, especially once they start killing off characters) but I’ve been an Emily Van Camp fan since Everwood so I still enjoyed it. Now I’m rewatching White Collar. I mean you’ve got to find something to watch when all the current season shows go on what seems like the world’s most extended holiday break. I’m still loving Brooklyn 99 but, about to share an unpopular opinion warning, I hate (HATE! HATE!) the Doug Judy episodes so every time I see one, I have to take a few weeks break from that show! Chicago Fire has been pretty intense the past few weeks.
Reading: Since I last updated you (and the tournament began), I read another Rooster book “My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite. It was a lot of fun… but it still really surprised me that it wound up winning the whole thing. It was definitely unique, but the characters were all a little flat–no one ever looked at things from more than one side, and the lack of true astonishment over the happenings within was a bit amazing. I guess for Korede this has been going on long enough since before the book started, that any feelings she may have had like that are already gone. I also read a really good middle-grade novel about the war in Iraq (“Sunrise Over Fallujah” by Walter Dean Myers), a good horror book for bookclub that I then forgot to go to (“Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson), a silly but sweet middle grades graphic novel (“Ghostopolis” by Doug TenNapel) and a stand-alone Laurie King novel “Lockdown” passed on by my mom. It had a LOT of interlocking threads but I thought it was really good and not as sick or nasty as some of her stand-alone books are (you may know her from her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series). I’m currently reading book 3 of Sabaa Tahir’s “Ember in the Ashes” series “A Reaper at the Gates”. It’s been out for a while so I’m not totally sure what’s taken me so long to get to it. I am not loving it as much as I loved books 1 and 2, though. I’m not sure if it’s due to distance in time, or Elias and Laia’s changed roles or what. It feels a tiny bit flat.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.