Tuesday, December 06, 2016

I finished The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead!...and a rant.

Book one--done! (See list below.) I checked out the book again last Friday and finally had a chance to finish. I really loved it. So creative and so much commentary on how things haven't changed much in the US in some respects. The book does have brutal depictions of violence, as it should, but it was amazing and beautiful. *Highly Recommended*

I am debating about reading Grunt. I would love to read it, but the copy from my library has a heavy cigarette smoke smell, and I don't know if I can take it. I tried to read some from it last night, but it was just not happening. So, that one may go off of the list until I buy my own copy one day. I am also trying to decide if I want to delay reading Fates and Furies. I am loving Stephen King's short stories, so I know I will finish that one. In any case, I will keep you posted. Any book I have to toss from the list will be replaced with another book. :)

Now for my rant:
I recently (as in today) listened to a couple of "book recommendation" podcasts. People wrote in with queries for books to give as gifts (usually in a particular subject area) or for books that match the reader's taste in a particular genre. In other words, someone writes in and says, "I recently read X and loved it. Can you recommend more books like X?" This is the question booksellers get all of the time, and special librarians called Reader Advisory librarians also serve those who ask this question.

Anyway, while listening to the suggestions on this podcast, it became clear to me that the hosts were recommending books that fit their tastes rather than what the person actually asked for. First rule of Reader Advisory: You serve the needs of the patron--not your own needs or agenda. It isn't that the books suggested are bad books. All of them are great. It is just that the books suggested didn't even come close to the heart of the question being asked. Ugh. This is such a pet peeve. I guess that recommending books is a talent, but it is a delicate matter. In any case, that is all. I just had to vent. :)

Friday, December 02, 2016

December Reading Plans!

Hi, everyone! December is here, which means I will have a lot of free time to read!! HOORAY! So, as usual, I am planning ahead, choosing books I really want to read this month and realizing that I probably will change my mind. But that is okay, because at least I still have that bit of freedom left in this country. ;)

My December reading actually begins over the Thanksgiving holidays each year, because I get a few days off and have a chance to read! I checked out Whitehead's The Underground Railroad from the library on a seven-day loan.

I began reading it on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but I didn't get to finish it before the seven days because I had to take my mom to the hospital on Thanksgiving day (asthma attack...she's doing okay now) and then I had my hands full getting her through that and a nasty case of bronchitis, which I was also recovering from. So, I only made it about 150-pages into the novel. I plan to check it out again when I get off for the holidays, so that perhaps I can actually finish it! So far, I am fascinated by the book. I can see why it has won so many awards. It is both devastating and so engaging.

My first two reads officially in December are Groff's Fates and Furies and King's The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.

I've already started reading both of them, and so far I am really enjoying both. I have seen mixed reviews of Groff's work and had some worries about reading it as my first novel by her, but so far, I really like it.

I have read about four of the short stories in King's The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. I find most of them really engaging, but of course they always leave me feeling slightly off kilter--which, hey, mission accomplished, right? So far, my favorite story has been the first one, "Mile 81," because I love how King so accurately can capture a young person's voice. I also really connected with "Batman and Robin Have an Altercation," about a horrible moment that takes place during a weekly outing between a man and his father, who has Alzheimer's Disease. The only one I didn't like so far was "Premium Harmony," because *somewhat of a spoiler alert* I hate a story where the dog dies.  In any case, so far it has been a good read. (And I really love that cover!!)

The other books I am planning on reading are:

I have copies of everything except Grunt, but my local library has a copy. So, happy holiday reading, everyone! I hope you read some wonderful books!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

This Election: My Thoughts and Going Forward

Well, here we are. November 9, 2016. And we have a new president. A "man" who has openly admitted to sexual assault, who has repeatedly proved himself to be a racist, who has absolutely no intent of uniting this country, and--well--you all know the rest of it.

To my international friends, I am sorry. This is embarrassing and shameful. We are in dangerous times, and though America has often failed in the international sphere, this election outcome is especially dangerous.

To my fellow Americans--that slight majority of us who voted for Clinton even though our electoral college system rules the roost--don't give up. Don't let anger and sadness keep you in a state of inaction. Give yourself a little time, but then get right back up and continue the fight.

For white people who voted for Clinton: You did the right thing. But we have been naive in thinking that there has been any kind of significant change in attitude in this country since the civil rights movement. I truly thought things were getting better, but they haven't. That is horrible, depressing, and sad, but it only makes me what to fight harder.

To people of color, to those of different religions or sexual orientations, to the disabled, to all gender identities, to anyone who didn't vote for Trump: Stand tall. Continue to fight for what you believe in. We must be allies. If we turn on each other now, everything is for nothing. I see lots of Sanders supporters expressing a lot of anger. That is fine and justifiable, but this can't last long. We have work to do for the greater good. People of color and those of different religions, identities, and cultural backgrounds: Continue to raise the alarm when something is wrong. Continue to boldly make people see truth and continue to show the best of yourselves.

And to those who did vote for Trump: You are still my fellow Americans, but I cannot be in favor of this president. I will respect the office of the presidency, but he will never stand for what I stand for. That being said, let the best of your beliefs rule your reactions to what he does. Do not support hate. Do not support injustice. Remember your history lessons, and keep your party in check.

To those crediting Jesus/God with Trump's victory: Trump is NOT what Jesus would advocate. His hateful rhetoric is not godly. His is not the message of Christ or any other religious figure. We are told to love one another, and I still love those Americans who voted differently than I did. I am not especially religious, but I hold dear to my heart the core message of the Jesus of the Gospels, because I think it is a good message. I also respect and hold dear messages from other world religions--Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Paganism--you name it. There are some beautiful and wonderful things in all of them. I identify with Christianity because it is what I grew up around, but I think all religions seek the same thing, and I make it my job to search for my own truth and not be ignorant of what unites us as humans. (Also, if you did this to stop abortion, you failed. You only have to look at history to see that.)

Now, more than ever, all of us have to be watchdogs. We are the new checks and balances. I am not anti-Republican, but I am concerned any time one party holds complete power. This party, though deeply divided itself, dominates both houses of Congress and the presidency. It will choose our next supreme court justices. This is not a system of checks and balances. This is not the experiment our founding fathers had in mind.

That being said: ACT. DO. SERVE. HELP. Do everything you can to right wrongs--and there will be plenty of them in the coming years. This isn't to say there wouldn't have been wrongs with Clinton. She has her own set of problems. But this is a whole new ballgame.

In closing:

Be the change you want to see in the world (and, FYI, this isn't a quote from Gandhi--his is much better--but it is often attributed to him). Keep living life as you know it should be lived. No matter who you voted for, hold them to high standards. I wouldn't have supported Clinton 100% of the time. I would have called her out if she did something I was against. I will give Trump a chance, but I will definitely be watching him like a hawk. I will be extra watchful, and I will support those who are most in need. I will live by example and do what needs to be done. I will continue to love my neighbors--many of whom voted for Trump. I won't turn my back on anyone, but I won't back down in the face of wrong. I will join forces for those who stand for right and do right, but I will not join forces with those who seek to destroy those unlike themselves or promote injustice.

Monday, November 07, 2016


Alright, everyone. I haven't said much about politics on this blog, but I will say what is probably obvious: I am emphatically against Donald Trump. This election has brought out the worst in Americans, but whatever side you fall on, the beautiful thing is that we can vote. So, tomorrow, make sure you vote.

And to the women: VOTE PROUDLY. Never forget what our female ancestors went through so that we could vote.

(Trixie Friganza, suffragist/actress/writer. Library of Congress)

Stand tall. Vote proudly. Never forget your rights. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Books, Art, Theatre, and Washington, DC!

I've been quite busy since the last time I posted anything! I have been teaching an OLLI class with my boss (we are teaching an intro to genealogy course), working a lot, reading, and traveling!

Since I last posted, I have read a couple of romances by Jill Shalvis (both excellent) and am still making progress with City on Fire. I've just been so busy that I haven't had time to read as much of that one as I would like. Also, I just went on a trip to Washington, DC, and for my plane reading, I decided on Dan Brown's Inferno. It was the perfect book for traveling. Chapters are short but exciting, and details are fairly easy to remember in spite of constant interruptions in airports or on planes.

While in DC, I went to meetings and to several theatre productions, including Sense and Sensibility at the Folger and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at the Kennedy Center. I also got to spend time at art museums, including the National Gallery, which was amazing. It was good for the soul!

Here are a few photos I took with my phone while I was visiting:

A wooden sphere made by artist from Afghanistan. Part of the Afghanistan art exhibit,
"Turquoise Mountain" at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

The Yogini at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

The Washington Monument from a distance.

Blurry photo of  people dressed as Jane Austen characters at the Folger Library gathering
before the play of 'Sense and Sensibility.'

"The shirt" Colin Firth wore in 'Pride and Prejudice' when he came out of the water. (Folger Library/Theatre)

Blurry photo of Jane Austen's hair. (Folger Library/Theatre)

Giant blue chicken at the National Gallery (Washington Post article ).

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Book shopping and new reads

I said that I wasn't going to buy any other new books after reading The Couple Next Door, but of course I broke that promise to myself! I bought a few new books, including Zadie Smith's NW, Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road, a new edition of Shakespeare's Hamlet, and Garth Risk Hallberg's City on Fire. So many good books! I am super excited about each of them.

I've started reading City on Fire, and so far I LOVE it. It is a really long book, so it will probably be a while before I report my final thoughts on it! But this is exactly the kind of storytelling I love. The writer is amazing. Though some people have complained about the length (over 1000 pages of smallish print), I think that everything is perfectly written so far. I love it when a writer can create a world that feels so complete, and though I never visited NYC in the 1970s, I feel like I am there in this novel. The characters are fascinating, and I just don't want to put the book down when I'm reading it. Unfortunately, because things have been so busy at work, I've only been able to read before bed at night. In other words, this is going to take me a while to finish!

I'm also rereading Hamlet  on my smaller breaks. I'm not really sure why I felt the need to purchase a new copy of the play, but I did. I go with my gut on these things. You never know what it might lead to in the end in terms of creativity or thought.

Other than that, nothing much is going on. I've just been super busy at work! So, I will keep you posted about City on Fire! Happy reading!

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena


Has anyone read this title yet? I'm probably speaking out into the void here, but I'm just interested in getting some thoughts on this book. I've read some reviews (no spoilers), and I heard this praised to the moon and back on the All the Books podcast. I bought it for my birthday, and I'm just having some trouble adjusting to the narrative voice and point of view. The story so far is fine (I'm a little over 100 pages into it), but sometimes I just wish it was told in a different way. Anyway, if you have thoughts, leave a comment!

I finished the book, and though it was a quick read, I just couldn't get past the style of the novel. It is just a personal thing. Someone told me (after I described the book to her) that this book sounds like the same type of storytelling as can be found in Girl on the Train. I can't speak to that, because I've never read that book. It isn't that the story isn't any good; the problem for me is that I just never felt like I really got into the head of any character. For me, that is crucial to the reading experience. Still, if you like thrillers, you could go online and read some reviews to see if this might be something you are interested in reading.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I'm 40!!

Yes! I am 40-years-old now! It has been such a great month of celebration. Yesterday, on my birthday, I took Madison for a walk, and I told her that it was my first walk of my 40th year! It was a great time, because I thought about all of the wonderful things in my life. I also had a chance to reflect on my 30s, and I though about all of the crazy things that have happened!

In my 30s, I finished and wrote a dissertation and graduated with a PhD, taught a few hundred students, found a full-time job, finished a manuscript, made some great friends, took care of my dad, lost two grandmothers, experienced the joyful event of my best friend's little girl being born, went to my first professional writer's conference, became secretary of my local writer's group, made some crazy terrible mistakes (as we all do!), found out some really interesting things about myself, had the courage to ask for help when I needed it desperately, became even closer to my mom (if that was possible!), watched my family grow together, and so much more. In some ways, my 30s was a really hard decade. In others, it was the most enriching decade.

So, here is to my 40s! Yay!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Massive Update (Thank you for getting me to do it, Chris!)

And, yes, that photo is totally filtered. I was exhausted when I took it. I admit to vanity.  :)

Yes, I have been away from the blog for so long! It has been quite a year. I think my last post was in April, but I haven't actually written an update since last January. Wow. I have been a terrible blogger! But Chris, a reader of this blog, sent a kind message to me, and it inspired me to post again!

So many things have happened since I last wrote. My grandmother passed away in February. She fell and broke her hip in November 2015, and she just never recovered. We did get to celebrate her 94th birthday in January, and luckily she had a really good day where she was aware of everything and knew us.

After that, my cousin found out that she had an early stage of melanoma (thank goodness she caught it in time), and that combined with the two times my dad was in the hospital during all of this really sent me into a bad place. It was just a lot of emotional stuff to deal with, and I didn't cope well at all. My anxiety levels went through the roof! But things are getting much better now, and I feel like I'm making my way back to normal.

During all of this, I also had a lot more responsibility coming at me at work, so I am really staying busy there. We have a really big issue coming up, so there is a lot of extra work. Plus, I am going to be teaching an OLLI class with my editor starting in early September.

As far as writing goes: Well, I haven't done much. (I am still meeting my goal of going to one literary event/meeting per month. I am traveling to DC in a couple of months to visit my friend, Kelly, and I know we are going to go to a few plays and bookish things!) I did complete the edits for my chapter on Augusta Evans Wilson, so that is good. It shouldn't be long before that book of essays is published.

I have been reading so much, though! Ahhh, the books! I posted a few on March 29, 2016, and I also have been listening to some great audiobooks.  As shown, I finished Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart and The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. I have also listened to The River of Doubt (by Candace Millard...a nonfiction book about Theodore Roosevelt's trip through the Amazon and along the River of Doubt), The Wicked Boy (by Kate Summerscale...about a late-nineteenth-century child murderer), The Accidental Feminist (by M. G. Lord...about Elizabeth Taylor's feminist movie roles), A Religion of One's Own (by Thomas Moore...about exactly what the title says), The Joy of Less (by Francine Jay), The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher (by Kate Summerscale...about a mid-nineteenth-century murder of a child...I promise I am not a dark person! LOL!), The Swerve (by Stephen Greenblatt...about many things but basically bringing all of western thought together as the result of a poem being saved from extinction), and The Fellowship (by Carolll and Philip Zaleski...about the friendship between the Inklings...this could have been in 2015, but I can't remember). All have been interesting, but my favorites are the Charlotte Bronte book and The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.

As far as physical books go...In 2016 I  have read the following:

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey
Cain  by Jose Saramago
The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean
The Earl's Mistress by Liz Carlyle
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracy, Treason and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant by Robert Hutchinson
Hex by Mackenzie McGuire
Kernel of Truth by Kristi Abbott
Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle
Connecting Rooms by Jane Ann Krentz
Longing for Darkness by China Galland
If Books Could Kill by Kate Carlisle
The Four Agreements  by Miguel Ruiz
Magnate by Joanna Shupe
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Full Heat by Carla Swafford
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling (OF COURSE!!!)
The Quick  by Lauren Owen
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Napoleon's Privates  by Tony Perrottet
Anna and the French Kiss  by Stephanie Perkins (YA)

Most of these were funny or light reads, because that is just what I needed at the time! My favorites have been: Longing for Darkness, After Alice, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and The Quick.

As you can imagine, I was super excited about the new Harry Potter release!! Just for your viewing pleasure, here I am with my copy after I finished reading it:

LOL! I was so happy! 

I am currently reading two books: Armadale by Wilkie Collins and The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell. I also just bought City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, and I am really looking forward to starting that one.

The only other major thing that I have been doing lately is that I have spent the last couple of weeks celebrating my 40th birthday early! I had a party with my family a couple of weeks ago, and that was amazing! I was so happy! I had a special martini glass, ribbons, beads, a cake--the whole nine yards! Here I am celebrating at my aunt's house:

Then, last weekend, my sweet five-year-old niece (well, she calls me Aunt Susie because her mom and I are best friends!) wanted to throw an early birthday party for me, which I thought was the sweetest gesture ever made! So, she jumped out to surprise me when I got there and put a tiara on me, we had pizza and cake, we watched the new Annie movie, and then we had a dance party! It was a great way to bring in my new year of life! Here is a photo of the three of us:

Anyway, I officially turn 40 next Monday. So many of my friends have bemoaned reaching this age, but my point of view is that at least we are still alive. So many people don't have that luxury! So here is to a great year!

...and I promise to blog more! :)