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I’ve been off work for an hour and a half, and I wish I were still at the library. Not because I love my job that much (eight hours a day is enough for me) but because of the air conditioning – the delicious, delicious air conditioning. It’s apparently 99 degrees, although I heard it was 105 earlier. Either one is too hot. It’s probably 90 inside my apartment (okay, somewhere in the 80s). I’m about to abandon ship and spend the night at my parents’ – the couch is conveniently located next to the A/C.
I finished my first Georgette Heyer – These Old Shades – and I’m a convert. I wish I had quotations, but I left the book at work. I pretty much concur with Leila’s review – the improbable plot twists were hilarious, the characters delightful, the language a joy to read, the nature/nurture stuff hard to swallow, and the age difference a little weird, but I suppose no different than your typical Jane Austen Marianne/Brandon storyline. I’m happy there are more, and I’m happy that my library hasn’t discarded our lovingly worn copies yet.
I had Monday off work and went to the coast for the day with my mom and brother.
My sunburn is just now starting to fade and peel and not cause people to exclaim over it. It turns out that when you sit at the reference desk at the library, patrons like to tell you that you got some sun. And tell you how much it must hurt. And make sure that you’re “putting something on it.” Really? Oh, the joys of public service. At any rate, the beach was fantastic.
We started out in Seaside, where it was sunny and overcast and foggy all at once. Then we drove south to Hug Point (my favorite spot), which is a bit more classic Oregon Coast, but where I left my camera in the car. We stopped for dinner in Cannon Beach, at a place that I’ve been to twice before and never had a satisfactory experience – why can’t I remember that from one year to the next? But not bad enough to be truly disappointing. But what is a pub at the beach without fish and chips, I ask you?
In other news, I’ve been in my new job for a week and a half. I’ve already placed one order of children’s fiction, and my next list is even bigger. My to-read list is also enormous and it pains me to think of ordering all these books that I’ll never have time to read. I’m also spending more time working with other people, and less time alone, which is a pleasant change since I like the people I work with. And there are always entertaining questions/problems, like the patron who put his library card into the floppy drive at an internet station, and then asked why it hadn’t let him onto the computer. Hmm. Maybe because you were supposed to type in your card number?
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
While I could enumerate the ways in which this book is technically excellent – the language, the character development, the setting, etc. etc., I would rather just gush. Despite having little in common with Calpurnia, I found her extremely satisfying as a character. You share in her triumphs, you feel her pains, you feel the Texas heat and the deliciousness of unmarred snow. You love Granddaddy as much as she does, you want to go for a swim in the river (even though you’re afraid of the microorganisms after seeing them under the microscope), and your knitted socks turn out lumpy. There’s a pleasant old-fashionedness to the story, for those of us who like those things, but Calpurnia’s got the oomph to make this book appealing to kids with more modern sensibilities and a love of the natural world. I didn’t want it to end – in fact, I couldn’t started right over again from the beginning. If this book doesn’t win some sort of award this year, I just might cry. It’s a keeper.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This story succeeds in bringing to life the court of the Byzantine emperor in the 11th century – a setting that I don’t think I’ve encountered before, particularly in a children’s book. You get the sense that Barrett knows her history well, and she’s chosen a character and period that seem rich and fascinating. Instead of playing Anna as a sympathetic every-girl, Barrett shows her as someone truly born to the purple, taught to rule from an early and keenly aware of what is her due. While this was refreshing and rang of historical accuracy, I never quite connected to the story in any way – I would’ve liked something a bit more in-depth, maybe. Still, I would recommend it to anyone interested in the period, or anyone looking for historical fiction taking place outside of western Europe.
I forgot to note, in my Goodreads review, that the book has a pleasantly in-depth author’s note in terms of what she fictionalized and what is true. Also, I think the cover is pretty fab and has held up well in the 10 years since it was published. I couldn’t help but wish, though, as the book highlighted differences between succession and rule in the East versus the West, that it had also played up some of the religious differences. Apart from a few mentions of hymns (in that wonderfully familiar style), the religious characters and the convent where Anna is sent could have just as easily been (disappointingly) Western. Bah.
Last night was my first shift at the adult reference desk, and it was pretty much a breeze since I was being “trained” by one of the reference librarians, and we talked about cookbooks and baking and outdated horrors and crazy patrons and library school in between occasional bouts of “oh, did you know about this resource?” Can I just say again that I LOVE being “trained” someplace where I already know the collection, the layout, and the staff? Starting at a whole new library would be so much more intimidating. Not that it won’t be more intimidating when I’m alone at the desk, but you know what I mean.
Right now I’m reading the absolutely delicious The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly – a perfect summer reading book. Temperatures in the high 80s feel cool when you read about Texas heat circa 1899 – as Calpurnia puts it in the opening sentence, “By 1899, we had learned to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat.” The language of the whole book is deliciously rich, the characters entertainingly real, and Calpurnia’s adventures in naturalism are compelling even to me – someone who’s never particularly cared about learning about science or the natural world. But for kids with an interest in those things, and a fairly strong vocabulary, this would be a dream.
And the book doesn’t take itself too seriously, either, with incidents like Calpurnia describing her rash (which results after some meddling in her oldest brother’s romantic life) as “the hives of hypocrisy.” These delights more than overcome any doubts about the maturity of Calpurnia’s tone. Oh, and it makes me want to go for a nice swim in a cold river, microscopic creatures or no.
Today was my first day as a librarian (a children’s librarian, specifically, is what we decided my cards would say, since I’ll spend most of my time in children’s and only have the occasional stint at the adult reference desk). We joked around about how I may or may not show up to work tomorrow, having been overwhelmed by my first day. In all seriousness, I thought it might be pretty tiring – but I’m tired in a good, happy way.
I got the benefits talk from HR first thing, then an overview of what I’ll be responsible for in the children’s department, and just how different my schedule will be each week, covering various days off and lunch breaks, and having my own days off, etc. Believe me, I’m just glad I don’t have to organize the schedule. We decided I’ll do a toddler storytime, probably on Wednesday mornings, starting in October – mark your calenders! It looks like I’ll take over the monthly bookgroup for 10 & ups, too.
And – tada! – I’ll be ordering fabulous, delicious chapter books. Regular fiction, fantasy/scifi, mystery and young teen. I dove right into review reading while I sat at the desk. Finally, all this reading (and blog reading) will come in handy. I have a budget, I have a standing order, I am the decider. It is awesome – and a little frightening.
Then I got off work – at 6 pm! And went to the grocery store! And came home to eat a celebratory librarian dinner of a nice salad and bread and cheese and wine – a very Laurel-ish dinner, to anyone who knows my college roommate. She would approve.
I also count reading Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life as part of the meal. It’s really the ideal book for reading during a meal, because she makes you hungry and it’s good to have food in front of you already. Over a meal, it just sharpens the appetite instead of torturing you. I had the book on hold for ages, and in the meantime I kind of forgot what the book was supposed to be about. If I ever knew, I forgot that she was a blogger, and I also had this vague idea that the book was about homemade things in general, like sewing and canning and handicrafts, rather than just food. But I’m quite pleased with what it is, and I also like her comments on blogging. She talks about trying to create a blog that strikes a balance between the personal and the informative. “I write about my life some, too, since it intersects with food roughly three times a day. I don’t think many of us are terribly interested in recipes that have no stories or real-life context” (p. 195). Which sums up my feelings about blogs exactly (substituting food for books much of the time) – I don’t want to read something 100% personal, but I don’t want book reviews or food detached from the person who wrote/created them. At any rate, I recommend the book so far – the pacing is good, without having that meandery feeling that some memoir-ish books get (I’m thinking of On Rue Tatin, also about food and life). And it makes me want to try the recipes.
Oh, and I’ve got ice cream for dessert, and Sense and Sensibility on DVD. It’s been a good day.
That’s the sound of a summer morning spent at picking blueberries – although of course, dropping them into a Pyrex dish or recycled yogurt container doesn’t produce quite the same noise, and fortunately there were no bears to interrupt us or distract the small children. Unfortunately, I was too busy stuffing my face and filling my containers to get out the camera. Rest assured that the kidlets were a laugh and a half – making up silly animal names, discussing the methods of the Blueberry Monster (which they hastened to assure me was entirely imaginary), and whether we would run into any bears. The youngest child stowed some berries in her pocket, and took frequent snack breaks while walking to the park afterwards. It was, all in all, exactly what a summer morning ought to be.
I feel like I’ve seen a few conversations online lately about favorite summer books, or books that evoke summer. Blueberries for Sal is definitely in my top five, especially since blueberry picking is usually a major feature in my summers. Another one is Tasha Tudor’s fantastic Becky’s Birthday – I haven’t seen a copy of it in years, but it was a favorite as a child. I loved all things old-fashioned, plus I have a summer birthday, like Becky. The peach ice cream! The picnic! I wish it were still in print – I might have to make a trip to the downtown library to take a peek at their copy, which doesn’t circulate.
The cool weather is a welcome break from the sun and heat – cool enough that a cup of tea in the afternoon sounds nice and pants don’t feel suffocating.
I finished up The Last Olympian – a bit disappointing but still entertaining (too many battle scenes) – and The Explosionist, which was completely absorbing. The spiritualist elements worked nicely with the plot, without taking over, and all of the science provided a nice balance. I was fascinated by Sophie’s gradual realizations about the society she lives in – and of course we get to gradually understand them, as well. The scene in the library, for instance – I didn’t see that coming, and despite it being pretty chilling, I also had to laugh at the power given to the head librarian, being grouped in with government ministers and so on (sorry for being vague – don’t want to give anything away). Anyway, if a blend of alternate history, science, mystery and spiritualism appeals to you, I strongly recommend this.
Now I’m reading The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, which I think Val recommended – yup. Only a few chapters in, but good so far – English country house, suspense, old woman reminiscing about secrets in the past – that sort of thing.
I’m in an audiobook slump, though – all I want to listen to in the car is music, which is most unlike me. Sometimes you just need to let your mind wander in the car, but it’s been way too long since I finished an audiobook, and it means I’m reading fewer books each month. Oh well, I guess.
Time to have that cup of tea before work – only one more week at the boring job!
It’s really hard to go to my other job now that I’ve put in my notice – especially since the weather has turned hot and I get to start out the work-day in a hot warehouse. But I only have to clock in eight more times – eight more times! The countdown is on. It’s been a decent job to have (part-time with benefits) but I’m ready to do something that feels meaningful. Like give out summer reading prizes.
Speaking of summer reading, I’ve been sort of hot and cold with my reading – gobbling down a few books quickly, then taking ages with one, then back to gobbling. Right now I’m a few chapters into Jenny Davidson’s The Explosionist, and I’m really enjoying the combination of historical fiction, alternate history, and mystery. Throw in some spiritualists, a heroine who loves chemistry, and a fabulously detailed Edinburgh setting – I’m hooked. Plus, the book is pleasantly fat without feeling either slow or padded.
I was amused to stop by my parents’ house to do laundry and find a copy of Lament on the counter – apparently my mom read my Goodreads review and got it out of the library, and after she was through, my sister picked it up. My sister just finished reading New Moon and said picking up Lament felt like she was still in the same world, only it had gotten funnier and the character more spunky. Awesome.