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Showing posts from 2016

I write posts in my head

I write a lot of things in my head and never manage to actually get them down somewhere more permanent. Sometimes I wonder if other people live like this, with a constant stream of narration in their own heads. I don't usually talk to myself directly and I feel weird doing that, but I like to comment on my day, analyze things, and describe them to other people. I've always liked to process things out loud, and since getting divorced this has been a lot harder since I don't have anyone around to do this with. Hence, trying to get back into blogging and journaling. I just need to sit down more often to write out the things I'm thinking. 

We had a good Christmas this year. I hadn't been feeling much of the Christmas spirit since our schedule was compressed and the kids and I were at work and school through the 22nd. During the earlier part of the month I was also still recovering from my surgery, and so we didn't do very many festive things like we usually do. I ev…

Reading Roundup: November 2016

I spent half the month recuperating from surgery, which explains the massive number of books I read. A few of these books were one-day reads. I don't plan to repeat this number in December. 

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

It took me a while to realize that the focus of this book was really the protagonist and not the central mystery. In fact, the mystery itself had a rather anticlimactic resolution that I mostly figured out. The pace of the book was slower than I expected, but in the end I liked it and if the author writes another book about the same characters, I would read it.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

I've never surfed, or had any desire to surf, despite growing up in southern California surrounded by surf culture. However, a number of positive reviews convinced me to give this book a try, and now I think it's one of the best I've read this year. It is a long, dense book, and there were times when I didn't quite understand all the termi…

Post-Op

I had my gallbladder surgery just about ten days ago, on the seventeenth. The surgery itself went smoothly as far as I can tell (since I don't remember any of it). It was done at the outpatient center attached to the local hospital. I didn't have to show up until eleven, so I had some time in the morning to get the kids off to school and clean my house before leaving. A friend dropped me off, I checked in, and they got me all prepped for surgery (I'd love to have one of those systems that pipes hot air into my pajamas for my bed at home, it would be awesome). There was about an hour delay so I got to watch an episode of Law & Order while I waited--that's my go-to show for lounging around hotel rooms and hospitals. Then they wheeled me into the operating room and an hour later I woke up back in the bed. For the next few hours I drifted in and out of consciousness. I was surprised by how hard it was to wake up, since the only other time I've had general anesthesi…

Reading Roundup: October 2016

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

One difficulty in writing historical fiction is making the characters at least somewhat relatable to modern readers, while still realistic enough for their setting. One thing authors often do is to make the protagonist some kind of outcast or rebel, which creates conflict and makes them more interesting to current audience. However, this can create a character whose behavior doesn't really fit with the time period. If a book is well-written I can just go along with it and enjoy the story, but sometimes it bugs me. Now that I type all that out, I'm not sure that was really the problem with this book. The main character was pretty immature and didn't really change much before the end of the story. I did feel like the historical details of the setting were well-done, however.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Jahren is a compelling writer and I loved the scientific vignettes about trees scat…

Master Master

I am now totally done with school--and it feels weird. This semester I had to complete the last requirement, which was creating an electronic portfolio. The portfolio had to include fourteen sections based on the program's learning outcomes; for each section I had to write a short essay describing my understanding of the topic and provide examples of my learning from assignments I'd completed. It was both harder and easier than I had anticipated. Once I did a few sections it really became easier to write the rest of them, but the writing and revising took a long time to do. I'm so happy to be done, and yet it's taking a while to sink in. I think that's because I don't really change my routine much--it's not like I was actually going to class or anything. However, over the last two weeks I've really felt a burden lifting off my shoulders. I no longer have to fit homework in during my free time or worry about completing assignments. It's amazing to re…

Reading Roundup: September 2016

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Although the beginning of this book was a bit slow, once the various parts of the story started coming together and the narrative picked up a bit, I really enjoyed it. It was a great conclusion to the trilogy and, as always, I was very impressed with Sanderson's skill in worldbuilding.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This book was not what I expected it to be--I thought it would be a quick thriller that I wouldn't remember after a few weeks. Instead, it surprised me with how well-written it was, and with its focus on characters rather than on just getting through the plot. There was a central mystery, but by the time it was resolved, it didn't feel as important as getting to know all the various characters had been. 

Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley

This was the first book I've read by Tessa Hadley, and it will probably be the only one. There were many moments where here writing was beautiful, and there was strong characterization as well. …

Reading Roundup: August 2016

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

I really liked Simonson's first book, although it had a contemporary setting rather than a historical one like this book. Like her last book, this one's great strengths are its characters and its setting. There are, however, a lot of characters in the book and some of them are more effectively realized than others. I also thought the book had a lot of hot-button issues crammed into it (war crimes, refugees, suffrage, homosexuality, class conflicts, etc) in a way that felt a little strained at times. However, despite those shortcomings, I had a great time reading it, and I still think about the characters and their little village more than a month after ending the book. I've seen at least one review recommending this book for fans of Downton Abbey, and I think that's a great comparison.

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

I read most of this book while finishing the fourth book of Harry Potter with the kids, and I noticed …

Reading Roundup: July 2016

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I've heard about this book for several years, but the way it was described didn't really catch my attention. I had focused too much on the 'time travel' aspect and worried that it would feel contrived or gimmicky. Instead, the book pulled me in and I had a hard time letting go (I think I still have a book hangover a month later). The repetitious aspects of the story actually worked to deepen my connection with the characters--I was invested in their choices more and more, each time we reviewed them. One review that I read called this book something like a 'love letter' to early twentieth-century England, and it really is in many ways. It's not always a 'pleasant' book and doesn't shy away from grim details, but it is 'lovely' in the sense that it creates a world and characters that are deeply loved and love each other. It's one of my new favorite books and the one I'm going to be recommending to ev…

Reading Roundup: June 2016

Sistering by Jennifer Quist

The humor in this book is fairly dark, but if you're ready for it, you'll have a great time reading it. The characters are all memorable, and each of the five sisters had a unique voice; the switching viewpoints felt natural instead of gimicky, like it does in too many other books I've read. The plot also kept me guessing (and cringing a little), and the ending was perfect. This is another unique and wonderful book by Quist and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

I loved Duhigg's book on habits and learned a lot of great things from it, so I was looking forward to this book. It had some useful information, but some parts of it felt a little too simplistic and redundant. A month after reading it, I don't remember much of it. 

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

It's been a number of years since I re-read this book and I had…

Reading Roundup: May 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston

This book is not particularly groundbreaking in its plot, but I really liked the characters and the fact that it realistically portrayed how difficult the healing process can be. I also appreciate books that demonstrate the importance of strong support networks in the lives of teens--sometimes teen books make it seem like kids just exist in isolation, but good books like this recognize the complex relationships they have with family, friends, and their communities. This would be a great book for older teens.

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

I kept waiting for the characters in this book to mature or grow in some way, and they really never did. I also think likeability is overrated, but some sort of sympathy for the characters needs to be created by the author, and I never quite felt that from this book. Even as I got to the end, I still didn't care much for the main character and did not feel very invested in the ending. 

In Other Words by Jh…

Reading Roundup: April 2016

Eleanor and the Iron King by Julie Daines

This book surprised me because I expected it to be more cheesy than it was. It's a bit of a mishmash of a romance and supernatural thriller, but the medieval setting makes that work somehow. The main character got on my nerves sometimes because she really took a long time to stop being dumb and start trusting the right people, but the supporting characters were all great and I also loved the setting.

The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia by David Stuart MacLean

This was our book club choice for this month and I think that most of us would give it about three stars out of five. Some parts of it were very interesting and engaging, especially the first half of the book and the interludes about the science of malaria and anti-malarial medication. The second half of the book began to feel repetitive and loses momentum--in a memoir it can be hard to fully shape the story and give it the right amount of tension, and this book fell a l…

Death doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints

I've been a bit obsessed with Hamilton for the past month and I think I have most of the lyrics memorized. Don't be surprised if you see more posts with lyrics for titles--maybe someday I'll even write about my feelings and why I love the show so much.

Mr. Fob's mom died three weeks ago. When people ask if it was expected or not, I'm never quite sure what to say. Everyone thought she'd be around much longer, since her mother just died five years ago and was in her nineties, and her grandmother lived to be a hundred. With that kind of longevity in the family, seventy-three feels kind of young. But, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last summer and the fact that she made it nearly a year after diagnosis is quite remarkable, especially without undergoing any treatment. She had also been fairly stable until about a month or so before she died, and then the decline was swift. I feel a little bad because I haven't been very involved during the last year--I…

Reading Roundup: March 2016

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

This book was a bit of a mess and I probably should not have finished reading it; the ending seemed to promise some kind of shocking twist, and yet I re-read it a few times before realizing that the author's idea of a 'surprise' and mine were quite different. Also, the first half seems to be making fun of a particular lifestyle that I know nothing about, and the author didn't do much to convince me as a reader that I should. If you are going to poke fun at something, you can't assume that your audience will always care about it in the same way you do. Also, all the characters in the book were annoying stereotypes and the plot had some major holes. Sometimes I can forgive that if the book is still fun, but this one certainly wasn't.

A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although this shouldn't be a surprise since I already shared Deresiewicz's opinion that Austen is a brilliant n…

Reading Roundup: February 2016

In the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib

A month after reading this book I can hardly remember anything about it. The author did a fine job describing the difficulty of being a Muslim immigrant family in the United States, as well as conveying the shattering aftermath of a tragedy that affects that entire family. However, the book didn't do as good a job with the characterization or with creating a well-paced plot with enough tension to sustain it.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This is a long, dense book that took about a month to read in little chunks interspersed with other chunks. There is so much interesting information in this book that it's hard to absorb and hard to read in larger quantities. I've been sharing bits of my insights from it with many of my friends over the last few months, and I think I need to buy my own copy so I can go back and find the parts I really liked it so I can reread them.

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward

This book started slowly,…