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Today I found time – out of my busy schedule, haha – but really, it IS busy these days – for a quick little trip to Powell’s.   The parking garage was full, which was probably for the best as that place is scary enough when you’re driving a miniature Toyota, let alone the days when I would drive my boat of a ’68 Dodge up the garage’s terrifying slopes.

I went through the place shockingly quickly, considering I was shopping for a book smörgåsbord for my brother, a board book or two for my godson, and finally spending my own gift card that I’ve been clutching in my hot little hand since August (thanks, Jane!)  I would guess that I spent longer figuring out the parking meter than I did picking up the first four books.  My final haul included:

  • Mo Willems’ The Pigeon Loves Things That Go! and Tana Hoban’s Black on White for the baby
  • Kate Atkinson’s Emotionally Weird for me, used of course – the only one I haven’t read yet and it will be saved for a rainy day (which could mean, really, any day).
  • Maile Meloy’s Liars and Saints per BabelBabe’s recommendation – plus it was on sale for $6
  • Eva Ibbotson’s YA reissue of A Song for Summer – also on sale for $6, and her YA is reliably light and fun without being too light and fun.
  • 3 mystery items for my brother, who may or may not be reading this.  But he did always like to snoop through our parents’ closet to see what he was getting for Christmas (now he just snoops to see what Mom has ordered online) so I will say this: until today, I never knew that Powell’s had an aisle called “Science Fiction and Fantasy – Film, Television and Media Tie Ins.”  I suppose that’s the city of books for you.

I had lunch today with pregnant-out-to-HERE Maren and she gave me a Christmas present – two glass ornaments that glow delightfully against the tree lights – and now I’m ready to go. I want to give out all the presents under the tree – and get presents, too – and be all happy. Kitri and I exchanged gifts (deelightful silver earrings for me) because we just couldn’t resist the power of the Christmas spirit, and I want to bake molasses cookies and sing carols and drink cocoa. I’m scaring myself, frankly. I think it’s all because today is my library day and I know I’ll actually get off work on time, unlike at the other job where I’ve been staying an extra hour every night. Let me tell you, getting home and eating dinner at 11 pm is no fun. AND they tried to tell me I was coming in on my ‘day off’ and the Jessmonster had to come out and say NO because ‘day off’ = ‘work at the library’ and nobody tells me to ditch the library. You could ask politely, and I could check with the library, and chances are I could change my schedule, but TELLING me? No way. But no Monster today, it’s all lightness and giggles and Christmas cookies around here, yes sir.

So this year’s mock Printz is rapidly approaching on winged feet, although not quite so rapidly as Christmas – a week seems alternately FOREVER (when I am at work at it’s 10:30pm) and NO TIME AT ALL (when I think about when to finish Christmas shopping and the fact that the fast is almost over). Anyway, mock Printz. Good stuff. If you haven’t been paying attention, the Printz is the award for “excellence in young adult literature.”  Which, I am all about – the YA lit and the excellence.  I went to a mock Printz last year and it was delightful, and two out of our three top titles ended up as honor books.  So, decent track record.

Let’s look over this year’s list, shall we?

  •  Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian: I loved this one and would be quite content to see it win even more awards.
  • Anderson, Laurie Halse. Twisted: Solid and fast-paced and interesting, but not amazing.

  • Asher, Jay. Thirteen Reasons Why: I’m still waiting for this puppy to come in on hold.

  • Barakat, Ibtisam. Tasting the Sky: This one is sitting on my shelf.

  • Cameron, Peter. Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You: Like Twisted, although a completely different type of story, it never quite crossed into ‘loved it’ territory.

  • Dowd, Siobhan. A Swift Pure Cry: This one was a downer.  And not in the good, tear-jerker, sympathy for the character way, but in the I only finished it because I felt like I should kind of way.  I’m curious to hear what the others think.

  • Hemphill, Stephanie. Your Own Sylvia: Waiting on my shelf.

  • Resau, Laura. Red Glass: Just came in on hold – will pick it up tomorrow.

  • Schmidt, Gary. The Wednesday Wars: If this doesn’t win something (and I think of it more as Newbery material than Printz, although both awards cover the age-range) I will be pulling out my best Caliban curses – toads, beetles, bats!

  • Sharenow, Rob. My Mother the Cheerleader: Waiting on my shelf.

Alexie and Schmidt were the only two I’d read before I got the list, and so far none of the others have knocked them off their pedestal.  I guess I’d better get cracking on the rest.  What’s funny about these mock awards is that some titles seem like such sure winners to you, and then you realize that other people didn’t get the same thing out of them.  And some people end up loving the very titles that irritated you beyond belief (Criss Cross, anyone?)   For instance, I’m sure that someone will love A Swift Pure Cry.  I can see why someone would.  But for me, it just didn’t work.  Maybe what I’m learning from these mock awards is how to guess how other people will respond to certain titles, and which ones I’ll have to fight for.

“Sometimes, living in a religious order creates excess…instead of…success.”

Said by my dad, last night at his birthday dinner. I can’t remember if this was before or after my mom laughed so hard she cried. We ate meatloaf, baked potatoes and salad, and there was much discussion about quantities of salt, to eat or not to eat the skins of a baked potato (apparently my grandmother would always eat the skins at home, but not in restaurants because there was no way of knowing how well they’d been cleaned), and whether or not my brother has ever liked meatloaf. For dessert there was the devil’s food cake from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion (I wish it had a shorter name because I’m constantly bringing it up in conversation) with an improvised coffee-vanilla buttercream frosting. Then we all watched 300, which was its own kind of excess.
This birthday dinner was preceded by an early-birthday brunch for Annie, and featured its own kind of excess in the form of mimosas, french toast, sausage, eggs, and many pots of coffee (the coffee pot holds about 3 cups, so it’s not that hard for 4 people to go through an innumerable quantity of pots). Out of all the brunch items, the mimosas were the only item on the fast. Which cracks me up. We should’ve been “good” and just sat around drinking mimosas and eating dry toast and getting sloshed. In the spirit of Advent.

Thinking back, the weekend really shaped itself well around the theme of excess. Hmm. Saturday I went Christmas shopping with my brother, and although our purchases don’t really fall into the excess category, the crowds and parking lots were their own horrific form of excess. We were, ultimately, pretty successful, though.

Now I’m being a good girl and eating my tomato soup (low-sodium, but with added sea-salt – low sodium was the only kind left on the shelf when I went shopping) (with leftover “artisan” stuffing mix used as tasty croutons) before I break into the leftover birthday cake.

In book news, and this is truly bizarre, I’m not in the mood to read any of the eight juv/YA books I have checked out (although I’m still listening to – and loving – The Wednesday Wars in the car). I read Doomsday Book by Connie Willis last week, in a few giant gulps, and now I’m in the mood for something similarly long and engrossing, not too light and not too heavy. Something epic, perhaps. Or a saga of some sort. I’m sure I could come up with some ideas that fit that criteria, but I really ought to be reading all these mock Printz books. Still, please recommend me some saga/epic/long and engrossing titles. And I’ll get to work on those YA titles in the meantime.

Goodbye, Autumn ’07 quarter.  Helloooo, Christmas break.   As of, um, 10 minutes ago when I turned in my last paper.

I keep thinking I’ll get sick of listening to my new Josh Ritter CD, but it’s been quite a while and I still haven’t.  It’s led to a lot of silly dances around the house, and songs stuck in my head, and music playing loudly.  If I were bothering to run lately, I would be running to several of these songs.   So, go listen.

I’m way behind on blabbing about and reviewing the books I’m reading, but since I’ve actually been focused on school the past couple weeks, I’ve been reading surprisingly little.  I finished up Mal Peet’s Tamar, probably in one of those late-night spurts of reading where you’ve hit the Point of No Return and the suspense will kill you if you wait till the next day to finish up.  History, suspense, intrigue, betrayal, secrets, wonderfully flawed characters.  It’s young adult, technically, but enough of the characters are adults that I think it could easily go either way, if the idea of a YA label bothers you.  Excellent stuff.

I also whipped through Laurie Halse Anderson’s Twisted, one of the titles off the mock Printz list.  Fast-paced, intense, and interesting, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Part-Time Indian or The Wednesday Wars in my heart.  Basically, any title on the mock list would have to wow me more than those two to have a chance of my vote.  Right now I’m towards the beginning of A Swift Pure Cry, and it’s promising.  Now that I’m FREE I can devote myself to reading (and that massive to-do list I concocted last week.  Plus my brother has requested more books for Christmas (you’d think he was trying to bribe me into doing something by telling me to pick out books for him – if it weren’t for cost I could create a library that would take over his dorm room, my head is simply swarming with ideas) so I’ve got to narrow down my options).

Off to update my Goodreads

Yesterday I finished all the little piddling assignments for one class – the class with the earlier deadline – and now I’m on to the wide open frontier of The Essay.  Good Lord it’s been donkeys years since I’ve written a real essay.  Most of the stuff for grad school has been ‘evaluate this reference source’ or ‘analyze the information behavior of this user group’ – which to a former English major is not a real essay.  There is no need to formulate a thesis or really tease out the nuances of your topic.  It’s straightforward.  You can tell when you’ve covered all the main points.  You just need a little decent organization, check your spelling, and you’re set.  The Essay, though, she is another beast.  A beast that forces my creaking brain back into those English major grooves.

And I promise I’ll shut up about school soon.  This paper is due Friday, the rest is due Sunday, and then the sweet freedom of Christmas break.  I keep adding more items to that great to-do list in the sky – there is a knitting project that will require a consultation with the greater knitting brains at my neighborhood yarn store, and then it will actually need to be finished.  There is another crafty project that I would love to complete.  I did manage to cross off ‘nostalgic tree decoration’ from the list – it was just too bare.  I counted eleven Santa ornaments in my collection, and that’s not even counting any ornaments left at my parents’.   You remember the elf, don’t you?

Yeah, him.

He’s back, and he’s keeping an eye on the neighborhood with a view out the window.  Actually, he never really left, having spent time in various odd places around the house since last Christmas, as seen above.  A nomadic elf, he is.

I’m sure I’ve posted all these photos before, but it’s Christmas nostalgia, okay?  Give me a break.  We also have your classic Christmas 1983 (I was two):

After Christmas break starts I’ll catch up on all the books I’ve been reading and try to recover my usual lightness and mirth…can you tell I’m procrastinating on this paper?

I’ve got quite a to-do list lined up for the moment when I turn in my last assignment of the quarter – ie, starting next Monday morning.  Or Sunday if I’m on top of things and get the last assignment in earlier than the midnight deadline.

  • There are 8 books to read for the mock Printz in January (I’ll put them up on Goodreads soon) – or 9 if I reread The Wednesday Wars, which I just might because I like to have things fresh in my mind.  The 10th title is, of course, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  I can’t believe I’ll be forced to cast a mock vote and leave out either title…hence the wanting to have them fresh in my mind.  Notice how I consider all this as though my mock vote actually matters.
  • There’s the Christmas shopping.  I’m looking forward to it, mostly because I can’t do it yet or the homework will never get done.  So the anticipation is making it desirable.
  • There’s an ornament swap that I have to come up with something for.
  • There’s a money making scheme that’s overdue that keeps getting bumped because of school.  I’m actually looking forward to that.
  • There’s getting the vacuum fixed/replaced.  NOT looking forward.
  • There’s decorating the tree.  Good ol’ Doug, who has taken up residence but is sadly naked.  I love free Christmas trees.
  • Christmas cards – I have the urge to send them to everyone I know.  I guess I’m a grown-up now.
  • I still haven’t finished putting my collection on Library Thing.

But really, the to-do list of the moment is the one that involves me catching up from being a slacker most of the quarter.  Two big assignments, way too many small ones.  Six days and counting.

December 2007

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