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Last week I considered doing another year of NaBloPoMo-whatsit but decided that what with the way the weeks and months – let alone days – are careening past me, daily blogging seems well nigh impossible.  So, there you have it.

Today I’m holed up in my room, where I crank the heat up and not feel wasteful because I’m only heating one room.  The thermostat and I have a complex and tumultuous relationship.  On one hand, the electricity bill and my sense of wasting resources and my firm belief in keeping warm through striped socks, sweaters, and endless cups of tea and coffee, my faith in making do with less.  On the other hand, my cold toes and my lack of desire to live through the winter like Miranda in Life as We Knew It, huddled in a single room in all the clothes I own, under the comforter.  As a compromise, I’m huddling myself in a single room, with a perfectly reasonable two layers and the heat turned on.  I emerge to make coffee and unearth back issues of The New Yorker (what?  I had to read an article for class and finding my print copy gave me a break from staring at the computer screen).  The rest of the apartment is bone-chillingly cold.  Well, in comparison.

I like the idea of hibernating in cold weather.   Acknowledging that actual seasons are passing by outside.  Appreciating the various joys of summer and winter in turn.  (Which is much easier to do when the sun is shining, no question.)  I think we’re pretty spoiled in our degree of comfort.  Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy those comforts as much as the next person, but sometimes we need a little kick.  Like winter coming.

Let’s do an October book-roundup.

  1. Coraline, Neil Gaiman
  2. The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer
  3. Understood Betsy, Dorothy Canfield
  4. Book of a Thousand Days, Shannon Hale
  5. A Certain Slant of Light, Laura Whitcomb (audio)
  6. Fat Kid Rules the World, KL Going (audio)
  7. Laika, Nick Abadzis
  8. Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
  9. Day of the Scarab, Catherine Fisher
  10. The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World, E.L. Konigsburg
  11. How It Happened in Peach Hill, Marthe Jocelyn
  12. The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri (audio)
  • A total of 12 books
  • 3 audio
  • Only one adult title finished – The Namesake, which I recommend – the book itself and the audio version.
  • I finished up Catherine Fisher’s Oracle series which I recommend to fans of juv fantasy/mythology.
  • For fans of fairy tale retellings, Book of a Thousand Days is a first-rate contribution.
  • For fans of wholesome old-fashioned-ness, you can’t go wrong with Understood Betsy.  How did I miss this one as a kid?
  • The one that hit me hardest was Laika.  You can’t read this and still be prejudiced against graphic novels.  One of those books like Octavian Nothing  (I can’t believe it took me this long to think of the comparison) that isn’t easy – it covers complex issues and it decently gut-wrenching – contains tip-top writing and storytelling, and really really stays with you.  Although ON didn’t have me in tears like Laika.

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 just peeked out the window to see what I should wear on a walk…and realized it’s snowing.

!

Of course, by the time I made it outside it had stopped.

But then it started hailing.

And switched back to snow.

And everything melted.

And it’s 30-something degrees out, which is COLD for Portland. Necessitating four layers in the warehouse at work – so many layers that I couldn’t even feel my back belt, which is astounding because the back belt is the 21st century corset.

Proof:

All together now:

All together now:

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
 
 
They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here–
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock–
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
 
 
The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries–kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below–the clover over-head!–
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!
 
Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ‘s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it–but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me–
I’d want to ‘commodate ’em–all the whole-indurin’ flock–
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock! 

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!

Who needs to make breakfast when you can just nibble on the extra pie crust dough?

Like Bronwen,  I do a little bit of a freak-out over pie crust.  Actually, that’s not true.  I just don’t make them.  I can’t remember the last time I did.  I’m not good at that whole “creating a circle and then transferring it to pie pan and tucking in ends nicely” thing.  It’s not that it’s hard, it’s just that it never looks terribly pretty.  Anyway, it’s just the base in this pie, there’s no top, so I don’t feel too insecure about how it looks.

Also, I love rolling pins.  Maybe I’ll ask for my own for Christmas.  I did a barter with my mother to obtain hers.  Actually, what happened is this.  She demanded that I bring over my chairs (to seat the 16+ people attending).  She wanted them on Tuesday.  Why, I do not claim to know.  I compromised by bringing two over last night.  Then I stole her rolling pin.

What do three siblings (aged 25, 21 and 18) do when they haven’t seen each other in two months?  Retreat to the 21 year old’s room, light every candle in the room (10?  15?) and chuckle gleefully about ritual sacrifices.  Then they make hot cocoa and discuss the flavor of the milk (raw – slightly gamey these days).

My pie crust is currently cooling by the window.  Why is the window open in November, you might ask?  A preventative measure against the super-sensitive smoke detector going off AGAIN.  Because I am too lazy to investigate the oven when it is cool to find out what keeps smoking.

I am assembling my ingredients on the counter, TV cooking show style.  Perhaps I will soon start narrating my culinary endeavors, like the person who wrote the New Yorker article on cooking shows.  Except I don’t watch cooking shows.  I listen to NPR.   “Now, we whisk together our dry ingredients.  We’re slowly going to pour in the milk, and then gently heat it on the stove.  Whoops, there goes the smoke alarm again!  No need to panic, folks, we’ll just wave a towel in front of it for a minute.  Would someone mind opening the window?  Yes, you over there in the front row, thanks.  Okay, crack an egg and let it slide in…”

I’m excited about Thanksgiving.   Last year, apparently, I wasn’t.  Which is funny, because it turned out all right.

It’s at home this year.  Well, my parents’ house, which still = home on occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.  My mom even asked if I wanted to sleep over.  Um, no thanks?  I live ten minutes away.

Anyway, there will somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 people.  I’m bringing over my chairs and last year’s black bottom coconut pie.  Cousin Jon is bringing his award-winning rolls, Di her broccoli casserole.  The young men have been charged with store bought pies.  I tell myself, as I do most years, that this year I will learn how to do the turkey.  Chances are I will ditch at the first sign of giblets, and come back to help with the potatoes.

It’s even crossed my mind to put on the Christmas tape (now in CD format, but forever in our minds “The Christmas Tape.”

Part of all this is the fact that I’m back in school.  School puts me back in that frame of mind, where every holiday is looked forward to and fondly remembered.  Where it means a break from typing mind-numbing papers and html by hand.

What am I Thankful For this year? (Apart from, you know, the big ones like Family and Friends and Health and the Earth Continuing to Spin)

  • That little button that creates a link for me, instead of me typing out the code and realized later that I forgot to add a crucial ” or >
  • Ugly Mug coffee
  • The library.  Where I must right now or I shall be late.

According to wordpress, all I did yesterday was comment on Kate’s “chicken. on a goat.” post.  So goes BloPo.

In fact, what I actually did yesterday was go to church, make a hasty stop for a bagel and coffee, and rush to the library.  I got pity from the coffeeshop girl when she discovered that the bagel would, in fact, be my first nourishment of the day (it was noon).  I got cream in my coffee.  Wee!

Once home, I ate leftover fish, gently warmed in the oven on a bed of vegetable bouillon infused rice, with the hint of a glass of white wine.  Yes, I realize I left a vegetable out of that meal.  In fact, out of my day.  Also fruit.  Unless you count the fruity notes in the wine, which I don’t, just as vegetable bouillon is not a vegetable.  Want to write my paper for me while I prepare a delicious vegetable?

I thought not.

Okay.  If you’re taking a writing class, you expect your instructor to be able to produce a well-written handout, or essay question, or what have you.  If you’re taking a computer class, you expect help on technological problems.  If you’re taking a nutrition class, you expect good snacks in class (what?  is that just me?)  If you’re taking a class on information, you expect your teacher to be good at giving you information.  Like, say, information about what she expects from the assignment.

HAHAHA.  Think again.  Apparently the idea behind an information behavior class is to test your interpretation skills.  To test how you and vague information behave together.  Can you tackle that information?  Can you wrestle it to the floor and beat a word count out of it?  Can you twist its arm and demand more specific guidelines? Can you pull its hair and make it answer your questions?

Because the teacher sure as hell isn’t handing you information on a silver platter, oh no.  This is Trial by Fire.

(Don’t answer that question.)

I just signed up for a mock Printz.

Here’s the list:

*The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (oh yeah)

Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini

Stay with Me

*An Abundance of Katherines

Rash

Sold

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

The Rules of Survival

American Born Chinese

*The Book Thief

Stars next to the ones I’ve already read. So see, it won’t really take that much time to read the rest. I already had half of them on my to-read list, so I might as well finish them up by January, eh?

Plus, this will tie in perfectly with my YA materials class that begins, oh, the week before. Right?? And by some miracle I can actually attend without rearranging my schedule. Meant to be.

I do love mock awards. I mean, obviously the real thing would be fun, too, but this is a lot less pressure.

Brothers

This morning I read Lugalbanda: The Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War. Which is a nice retelling, or at least I assume it is, because, drat, I never got around to learning how to read cuneiform. Anyway, I like the whole oral tradition put down on paper & illustrated dealio. I like stories where you can imagine them being retold and retold and embellished or pared down. The detail of this or that added or taken away. The ending twisted to a new interpretation. The wise child who asks not for power or riches but to be able to run without ever tiring.

I thought the cover art was a bit blah and it sat on my shelf for weeks until I picked it up this morning and man, the illustrations have an awesome feel. The cover doesn’t do it justice (although I am very intrigued by these wool pant/skirt things all the characters wear – apparently well researched but I wonder if any depictions of these garments survive or if she had to imagine what they wore?)

My favorite picture is of Lugalbanda’s brothers (he’s got seven – a cosmic number, as my mother would say) gathered around him when he’s sick – they’re all touching him and petting him and bringing him things. Anyhow, it’s got adventure and and giant bull-eating birds and gods and an unexplained riddle and woolly garments…pretty much everything you expect from an epic tale, right?

Breakfast, English

I just made my third cup.

Blustery

Wind gusts of up to 80 mph. I don’t think that was in Portland, probably the coast or gorge, but still. I heard it on NPR. Kate would be going crazy with the wind, good thing she moved to California.

Beets

Are baking. Yum.

Broom

Why is it so difficult to get around to sweeping the floor? But what a sense of accomplishment!

Bouillon

It’s so handy. I currently stock chicken, beef & vegetable. I bought vegetable (organic, I picked the kind with the least amount of suspicious ingredients) because, well, it’s that time of year.

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.

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