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Last night I stayed up until I’d finished Case Histories.  It did not disappoint.  One of those books where you are figuring out little clues along the way, but as with Behind the Scenes at the Museum, it still hits you at the end – the unveiling, as it were, of the secret.  I just read an interview with Kate Atkinson where said that it wasn’t until she got to the end of Behind the Scenes that she figured out what it was that Ruby had lost.  “I knew she had lost something, and I knew it was something incredibly important, and she didn’t know what it was.”  So, if you haven’t already, get on the Kate Atkinson bandwagon.

Naturally, the first thing I did after closing the book was open up my laptop and put One Good Turn on hold.  I was disappointed to see that twenty-something people were ahead of me in line, but I figured that’s the price I pay for waiting until I’d finished Case Histories.  When, duh, I knew I’d want to read the sequel.

This morning I checked my holds to see how many free spots I had, and transfer over more of my “to read” list.  Miraculously, overnight, I moved up to #5.  I know how the library works, and that is pretty much impossible.  It’s not like the county just added 20 more copies – there are 22 people in line after me.  22 people do not put a Kate Atkinson book on hold in less than 10 hours.

Clearly, I am favored by the library gods.

  • I created a website.  With eleven whole pages, handcoded, and a table, also handcoded.  I feel irrationally proud of this.  I know, I know, you’re dying to see it – but it’s password protected (at least, I think it is).
  • Tackled the art of book reviewing for aforementioned website.
  • In the process, remembered how much I LOVE Octavian Nothing (inordinantly).
  • Participated in a perhaps groundbreaking game of rock-paper-scissors in an online chat session with my group members.  At stake?  Who had to write the introduction and conclusion to our group paper.  Rock beat scissors.  We then decided the conclusion should be: “In conclusion, none of us wanted to write this paper, which led to a game of Rock Paper Scissors to assign responsibility.”
  • Yet again did not manage to go to my parents’ and dig out my Christmas ornaments, leaving the (free!) tree in a startlingly near-nude condition.
  • Wanted to swallow whole Case Histories (I love that cover), but resisted.

I am like the lemming, or rather like the stereotypical rather than actual lemming.

Because school and work isn’t enough for me (in other words, because I am crazy), I find myself drawn to the Winter Classics Challenge. I’m thinking of plucking all of these from my ‘own but have never read‘ collection (because one challenge is not enough)

The Shortlist*:

  1. The Woman in White
  2. Madame Bovary
  3. Can You Forgive Her?
  4. A Passage to India
  5. Crime and Punishment (hahaha! Just kidding! I’m not that crazy. Plus I need a better translation than the one I own before I try to tackle this again).

5. (For real) The BFG (this counts as a classic, right?)

*Subject to change before January.

Edit: I’m switching A Passage to India with Brideshead Revisited.  I think.  I mean, I AM reading Brideshead Revisited, but I might ditch another title instead of the Forster.

After the technological horrors of the assignment due Tuesday (you don’t even want to know, trust me, your eyes will glaze over – even my sibling computer geek wasn’t interested) I decided to go dark for a while.  I “turned in” the assignment, turned off my computer near midnight, and didn’t turn it on again until this morning.  I didn’t care if there was an asteroid headed for Earth or there was a snowstorm on its way or the group project had self-imploded (I wouldn’t be surprised).  I Did Not Care.  I was spending a day without turning on my computer (sadly, I still had to do the computer thing at work).

Now I’m back!  With energy!  And coffee in my system!  And books read!  And real food prepared and eaten, instead of mouthfuls of curry (take out from across the street) while hunched over my laptop!  And, um, can I take a nap please?

Most of my reading lately has been for this mock Printz thing.  Usually I read for pure pleasure – if I like a book, great, I recommend it.  If not, eh.  I don’t necessarily put into words what I did or didn’t like.  Okay, that’s not true.  I do.  But I don’t try to make coherent arguments.  I just go with my gut.  I don’t say things like, “while I found the book hard to put down, I wouldn’t call it truly distinguished because I never quite believed in the main character.”

Okay, this is all a lie.  I DO say things like that.  I’m realizing the truth about myself as we speak.

What I’m TRYING to say is that I never really encounter opposition to my ideas.  But remembering the mock Newbery last year, where I was appalled to find that many people (and, indeed, the actual Newbery committee) loved the book that most grated on my nerves,  I’m trying to prepare arguments in my head.  Basically, I’m trying to support my hypothesis that Octavian Nothing Rules (we’ll call that the ONR (pronounced ‘honor’) model of YA lit).  As I read each book, I think, “well, yes, it had its moments but really, ONR.”

The Rules of Survival: incredibly painful, in a well written way.  As in, I felt the world and all its pain closing in on me.  I was there with Matthew and I couldn’t see a way out.  Jarring.  Complex characters.  But – sometimes I felt like Matthew almost had too much perspective.  Granted, he’s telling the story several years later.  And he’s obviously tried to distance himself from it.  But it felt like she (Nancy Werlin) wanted the benefits of first person and of third person simultaneously.

Stay With Me: hard to put down.  But not quite in a “this is so amazing” way – more in a “dear Lord, why has yet another storyline been introduced?” kind of way.  It was one of those stories that I would’ve loved as a teen.  Sort of a romantic haze over the whole thing.  Not quite enough real world.  All the names are too much to be true – too carefully chosen, like I would’ve done writing a story at age 15.  The whole older man thing – what was the point of that?  I liked the sister relationships.  But, oh, how convenient that her parents go to Poland for the year.  And every has a Career that they Love.  And the whole hotel thing, like the older man thing – doesn’t really lead to anything.  The plot could’ve been the basis for a much more substantial novel.  Covering spans of years and showing Leila growing up, etc.  A multi-generational saga or something.  Oh!  I got it!  It’s a bit like a Rosamunde Pilcher story – very engrossing but too good to be true.  Not coincidentally, I loved Pilcher in high school.  I guess I still do, in a sense – but not in a “this is a Great Book – read it” sort of way.

Which is what I want from a Printz book – like How I Live Now or Looking for Alaska.

I can’t stop reading.

On Friday night I started Dairy Queen.  On Saturday morning, I parked myself on the red couch with coffee, toast, applesauce, and the book.  And I didn’t get up until they were ALL finished.

Then I started reading It’s Kind of a Funny Story.  Which, it is.  Also very engrossing.  Also makes me feel a little crazy.  So, naturally, I read it pretty much incessantly from 6:30pm until it was gone.

Today I managed to do other, non-reading things.  Like go to church, have brunch with 80% of my family, do some school work, and put some time into that other compulsion, the Christmas Puzzle.  See, my dear roommate has a tradition.  Of trying, and failing, to complete this terrible, horrible puzzle, where all the colors are muted and all the edges are soft and it is EXACTLY the size of the dining room table.  So this year we are going to FINISH IT.  Hours will pass by with both of us hunched over the puzzle.  But we Can’t Stop.

Next up, a few more titles for the mock Printz.  Rules of Survival and Stay with Me are on my shelf but they both look…depressing.  With subject headings like “abuse” and “suicide” – wow, I can’t wait to jump in!  I’m also working on Miniatures by Norah Labiner – which I like, but it’s so dense.  Almost no dialogue, few paragraph breaks…it sucks me in but I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere.  Also, who on earth recommended this to me?  It’s bugging me that I can’t remember.  But again, it deals with suicide.  My other book of the moment is Remains of the Day.  Again with the upliftingness!

C is For Crying and Couches

I spent most of the day on the couch.  First this morning doing tech geeky assignments like learning html and mastering the art of listening to your own recorded voice without stuffing your ears full of cotton wool (what on earth is cotton wool anyway?  I always see that expression in books and wonder…a blend of cotton and wool?  Why not just one or the other if you’re only stuffing your ears?)  Then tonight after work, reading Saving Francesca.  Which is pretty much perfect for what it is.  The emotions are believeably complex, the plot is uncluttered, the characters grow & change & say shitty things to each other.  Okay, I confess, it had me in tears at the end.  In a happy way.  Which sounds so, so…not the person I like to pretend I am.  But, I am.  That person.  Who cries over novels aimed at teenagers.

Tomorrow I must move around.

Somehow I’m always surprised by my state of collapse after a Saturday at work (8:30 am – 6:30 pm).  My energy stays up as I rush through the last hour of things to do at work, my book on tape (The Franchise Affair, Josephine Tey) keeps me alert in the car…but as soon as I walk through the front door and set down my things, I shut down.

All I want are comfort objects.  A bowl of leftover stew.  Buttered toast.  Hot cider.  A book.  An hour or two with Maggie Smith and Judi Dench (Ladies in Lavender – and what the hell was lavender about them??)  If I really exert myself, a batch of brownies and a finished knitting project.

Today I finished Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (and discovered that the same author wrote two children’s books that I very much enjoyed).  Kitri has taken to picking it up whenever it’s been laying around the house and reading excerpts aloud.  I read most of it in a gulp.  I might steal Lazy Cow’s idea and do encyclopedia themed entries myself.

I also read Skellig by David Almond, which I everything I wanted “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” to be when I first heard that title.  My kind of magical realism, in other words.  Which, great – now I have to go out and read everything else he’s written.  Thanks a lot.  (Although the paperback cover leaves a great deal to be desired.)
And because I’m compulsive like that, I told myself, “self, you just finished two whole books.  You’re now allowed to make two more holds active.”  Which is not to say that I don’t have 5 and a half other books at home right now.

I just finished the book that came before A True and Faithful Narrative and oh my, our vocabularies have dwindled since the 1670s, haven’t they? Just the everyday words. Oh, we are going downhill in a handbasket (to mix my metaphors). It’s a quick 140 pages, give At the Sign of the Star a try – it contains all the beauties of good historical fiction.

Now I feel like curling up with the Best Book I Haven’t Read Yet. I don’t know what it’s called, but I long for it like a desert land, trackless and waterless. (I also long for another cream cheese brownie and a good game of Scrabble.) Not to say that I don’t have twenty five items on hold at the library. Or a bookshelf full of things to be read. I just want the Perfect Book. Sign of the Star was the perfect appetizer. Now I’m ready for the main course. The table has been set, the fatted calf has been killed. Invite me over for dinner.

This is what happens when you get off your second job of the day at 9:40pm.  You narrate your situation in the voice of Mr. Sedaris, noting your choice of dinner – leftover beans and rice with a pumpkin ale – and your peculiarities of habit.  You think about how those NaNo people have it easy because they can take a day off and catch up later, but us BloPo folks, we’ve got it tough.  We are here, day after day after day (for all three of them so far) and even if we don’t have anything to say, we keep going.

Okay, dinner awaits.  And ale.  And chocolate ice cream.  And The Remains of the Day, because Netflix hath sent it to my roommate and I forgot to pick out some movies at work today.*

Reading: Fly By Night.

Listening: Me Talk Pretty One Day.

*I love that I can combine career and movie browsing.  Reason #3,418 to work in a library.

An extra hour. Or the idea of an extra hour. A rearranged hour. I spent mine reading a month-old New Yorker, because I was already up and dressed when I remembered. I was halfway through an article on Helen Mirren when it was really time to go church. How did you spend your hour?

5:30. Almost completely dark. Just a little blue left in the sky. It feels late. I don’t usually see the sunset – I’m shut up in a windowless room from 6:15-9:30 most nights – so it surprises me on the weekends. The whole gradually-getting-darker thing.

I can’t stop listening to Broken For You. I seem to put in a new tape every few minutes. I listened to it while I took a bath. While I made dinner. Curled up on the couch half-asleep over a cup of tea. Brunch. I’m also reading The Secret River, which is excellent, but in a way where I don’t identify with any of the characters particularly, and I sense an impending bleakness at all times. It never lifts, even in the lovely moments. I suppose that’s the point. I’m curious how it will all resolve.

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