Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Books read in July 2021 (part two of two)

(Part one here.)

6. People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks (2008)

Skillfully told, often dark, gripping. We begin with a fictional book conservator in the mid-1990s who is examining the (real) centuries-old Sarajevo Haggadah, and with different sections of the novel we dip into different episodes of the imagined history of the volume's creation and survival, against the odds - medieval Spain, Renaissance Italy, 19th-century Vienna, World War II-era Bosnia. Some of that history is horrifying, some is quite beautiful and will linger in my memory.

7. Lifetime Guarantee: A Journey Through Loss and Survival, by Alice Bloch (1981)

I read (and loved) this writer's semi-autobiographical novel, The Law of Return, last summer. This book is a memoir of a period of her life in which her younger sister was ill with leukemia, and two other family members died. Not a book I would normally read, but I'm even keeping this one! Her lyrical, intelligent, and self-aware writing carries the day again.

8. How to Disappear Completely: On Modern Anorexia, by Kelsey Osgood (2013)

Now here's a curious one. It's one part a memoir of the author's own experience of an eating disorder, and it's one part cultural piece ON the eating disorder memoir genre and how we - whether well, "well," or decidedly unwell; whether writers or readers - variously interact with it. Most particularly, where do those who read about eating disorders and think, I want that fit in? I flew through this in about a day; it really fed my intellect and challenged how I relate to my own past and to the histories of other women's disorders. It contains one of the more perfect conclusions I've encountered - I don't think I will forget the poignant last five or so pages for a long time. I am truly grateful for this book and it moved me.

As advisory, I will also note that it left me in a state of some emotional disorientation for a week or so, although I'm going to attribute part of that to a streak of darker reading (see above) in addition to some personal stressors and, you know, pandemic. It avoids the overt triggers, i.e. doesn't contain any weights, calorie counts, diet descriptions, but I would say tread with care and read with some emotional buffer. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

9. Gingerbread, by Helen Oyeyemi (2019)

Quirky and interstitial. It seems like a contemporary adult novel based in our world, but then it really doesn't. The plot didn't 100% satisfy me but I certainly enjoyed her ideas and writing. This reminded me of Jaclyn Moriarty and Theodora Goss, if they were mishmashed together.

10. Jenny Mei Is Sad, by Tracy Subisak (2021)

(I just got this picture book out because I'm interested in emotional intelligence as a children's topic, but I don't have enough of an opinion to really say something.)

11. The Naturalized Citizen, by Carol J. Pierman (1981)

This book of poems seems to have been nearly forgotten by time! Few traces of it online, although I have now added it to Goodreads. It has an interesting, sometimes sparse tone. I enjoyed some of these. I didn't feel like I entirely "got" that many. Here is one poem from this volume.

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What about you - anything wonderful you've been reading lately?

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Books read in July 2021 (part one of two)

1. The Wild Christmas Reindeer, by Jan Brett (1990)

I absolutely LOVED this picture book in elementary school, and reading it now as an adult, it utterly held up. What fantastic, enthralling, intricate illustrations!

2. The Weight of the Sky, by Lisa Ann Sandell (2006)

A verse novel about an American teenager volunteering on a kibbutz for a summer. After reading the first 50 or so pages, I was wondering if the focus was going to be a sub-par romance. Thankfully it didn't turn out as expected. I enjoyed the cross-cultural adventure aspect of it. I read that it's based on the author's own experience volunteering on a kibbutz as a young person, and it left me wondering - to what extent is that experience actually available in this millennium, when this book takes place? I'm curious to know, as I always hear that the kibbutzim of today are a shadow of their former glory.

3. The Tail of Emily Windsnap, by Liz Kessler (2003)

A middle-grade novel about a girl who discovers she turns into a mermaid when submerged in water. I read this as research for future niece birthday gifts. It was cute. I wished there was a bit more inventiveness to the descriptions of the mer-world, e.g. why would merpeople need chairs and beds and desks? How do their pens work? Etc. 

4. Lady Knight, by Tamora Pierce (2002)

Again and again, this series provides the type of fantasy book I enjoy re-reading. (This is the final book in her Protector of the Small quartet.) Such well-crafted and enjoyable reads; such great characters - including a truly great heroine. I think I love the earlier books (the school stories) of this series a little more, but I couldn't not love the whole of it.

5. Aria of the Sea, by Dia Calhoun (2000)

Another old favorite, this time from middle school. To my great fortune, combines several elements I love in one sweet little YA book: ballet, fantasy, an island kingdom with a sea-based religion. It leans toward the middle-grade end of YA. I do enjoy the world-building, how it feels both like an 18th- or 19th-century European reality and like something from another world. There is an interestingly executed focus on how passion, vocation, and obligation interact in the choices and experiences of its young female character.

(Part two here.)

Friday, August 13, 2021

Friday chatter

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Happy Friday! My work week is Sunday-Thursday, so it's actually my Saturday. After a lazy morning in bed, I'm in the middle of making cinnamon rolls. I'm using the Buddhist Chef's recipe for the third time, except this time I'm going to try fresh apple pieces in place of the raisins. We shall see how that works. 

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The handy thing about these is you can stick them in the fridge overnight for the second rise and bake them fresh in the morning, but I think they're going to be an afternoon snack with tea and then it'll be the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow. Will this dough recover from my curious bad cat stepping on it (through the damp tea towel) while it was rising? I think so. But how rude, how rude.

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The other thing I'm doing is watching one of my sisters' and my favorite childhood movies that I just found streaming online. It's an utterly '90s-tastic made-for-TV movie called Robin of Locksley which features Devon Sawa (you know, the Canadian boy heartthrob of said decade) along with some other boys with curtain haircuts. He plays a modern-day teenage Robin Hood who hacks wealthy corporations' bank accounts via the WORLD WIDE WEB ("What's that?" asks one character) in order to, duh, give the money to charity. 

I've probably seen it fifteen times, but not at all recently. I love it. Here it is if you need some cheesy-but-good '90s silliness: https://tubitv.com/movies/413028/robin-of-locksley

So that's what I'm doing today. What about you?

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Sunday, August 8, 2021

2020 - black-and-white fragments

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I've gotten some film developed lately - so I will have more to share soon. What's happened since the last time I blogged here? My partner and I moved, we adopted a cat, we got vaccinated, she finished up grad school. Lately with the rise of the delta variant, I tend to fixate rather glumly on what hasn't changed. My life remains quiet. My loved ones remain safe. And what about you? Give me the mini catch-up on you, if you feel like it.