Excerpt from Picture us in the Light

I think about how Sandra was mean sometimes, and funny, the things we used to laugh at together, and then I let myself think about all the horrible things you think about that will never go away. I think about her parents and how they have to wake up each day and do crap like–get honked at in traffic, or get guilted for not flossing better at the dentist, and how pointless and enraging it must all feel.

I’ve grown up knowing how when you leave the world–however it happens, however it went with my sister–you take a part of it with you, like when water dries up in a creek for the summer and it’s silent and lonely and parched. This is something I know now I didn’t then, though: that almost all of us have wanted to leave it before. Maybe you always do when your days feel like one endless night closing in on you and you lose the light, grope around in darkness before it starts to feel easier to just let it swallow you altogether.

But I also know you can try to rope off that idea that somehow you’d be better off gone and set your compass to some shore beyond it. I know it can be done.

____

Art doesn’t change the ending. It doesn’t let you lose yourself that way–the opposite, really; it calls you from the darkness, into the glaring, unforgiving light. But at least–this is why it will always feel like a calling to me–it lets you not be so alone.

–Kelly Loy Gilbert

Three sentence movie reviews: Other People

This poster is heaped with praise, but I found that Jesse Plemons’s character was not very accessible emotionally and that lack of connection sank the film.  It gets marks for illustrating how parents’ homophobia can affect their gay children. But otherwise, I could have skipped it.

Cost: Netflix monthly charge
Where watched: at home

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2016/other_people.html

Three sentence movie reviews: 13 Reasons Why Season 2

Hannah Baker’s tapes have been disseminated beyond the original 13 people, and we rejoin our tattooed teenagers as the Baker’s lawsuit against the school is going to trial. However, Polaroids start showing up indicating that Hannah wasn’t the only one and Dylan Minnette, as Clay Jensen takes the lead in getting to the bottom of things. Good acting by all made for a discussable season that spent a lot of time focusing on the aftermath of rape, among other things.*

Cost: Netflix monthly fee ($7.99)
Where watched: at home

*I think the series went too far with one character’s plot arc on that front, but we shall see if they redeem themselves in Season 3. And I did appreciate the emphasis that recovery is a long process, not something that is done with after the television season is over.

Some extra sentences: I loved this season from a story-telling standpoint. In the first season Hannah was in full control of the story. In this season other people told their story of Hannah which introduced shades of grey to everything we learned about Hannah in the first season. It made her a more sympathetic character, and more complex, too.

poster from: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/13_reasons_why/s02/

Books read in May 2018

Words I rarely say: What a great Middle Grade month of reading!  Also, there was some good catch up reading for a new author I’ve discovered: Jenn Bennett.  And who doesn’t want to steep themselves in Vietnam stuff? When you read the two books listed below, you will be happy to familiarize yourself with that debacle.

Picture: Hello Lighthouse
Middle Grade: All of them!  Great middle grade month.
Young Adult: Leah on the Offbeat (esp. if you have read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda)
Young Nonfiction: Go for a Vietnam two-fer! Read them both.

Aquarium
Cynthia Alonso
Read for librarian book group
A girl brings a fish inside the house and proceeds to fill various recepticles with water for the fish to live.

I loved the illustrations and use of the color, but that black hose running through the various dishes and bowls, what was that?  Was she using a soaker hose?  How would the water get into the bowls?  Also, as someone who has inadvertently killed a fish by not treating the tap water first, I can say with authority that the fish would be dead.

Basically, this is a good book for kids who lean more toward magical realism than practical storytelling.

Hello Hello
Brendon Wenzel
Read for librarian book group
We say hello to a variety of animals, with fun illustrations and color.  That’s great.  And then there is the last page that talks about the endangered status of all the animals we’ve just met.  Bit of a downer.

I Got It!
David Wiesner
Read for librarian book group
I didn’t get this book. I don’t understand the transition to bird. I thought the faces were weird looking, so I wasn’t much of a fan of the art.  This was a swing and a miss, though I do enjoy being able to use that term about a baseball book.  Slight win.

The Funeral
Matt James
Read for librarian book group
What’s fun about a funeral?  When you are five and you get to spend the day hanging out with your favorite cousin and running around outside, everything is fun about your great-uncle’s funeral.

The illustrations capture the feeling of freedom.

Hello Lighthouse
Sophie Blackall
Read for librarian book group
As someone who love small details about odd things, and someone who loves a good cutout illustration, this book was a big win.  The book itself is tall and slim like a lighthouse, and by reading it you can learn all about the job of the lighthouse keeper in days of yore. The illustrations are beautiful and I liked the repeated echo of Hello hello hello.

Ghost Boys
Jewell Parker Rhodes
Read for librarian book group
Jerome is twelve and he becomes a ghost boy when he is shot by the police while playing with a toy gun near his home.  As a ghost boy, he meets up with Emmett Till,  hangs around his family’s apartment, and meets some new people.  Chapters in the present are interspersed with chapters from the past and as time moves forward, we see how Jerome’s last day shaped up.

This is a short book–I read half of it on my lunch break and half of it on the commute home–and well worth the read.

Rebound
Kwame Alexander
Read for librarian book group
Alexander continues making poetry cool, this time with a book set in 1988. I include this fact at the outset because I missed that point and was incredibly confused while reading.

We join Chuck Bell for a life-changing summer.  His father has recently died, his mother isn’t sure what to do with him and so she sends him to live with his grandparents in DC for the summer.

Aside from the confusion about the year, this was a good read.

Be Prepared
Vera Brosgol
Read for librarian book group
Vera is glad to finally be doing what all her friends are doing: going away to camp. But this isn’t the same type of sleep-away camp her friends go to; Vera’s camp is Russian summer camp.  But Vera’s Russian, so she should fit right in. Right?

Not so much. Just as her life is awkward and not quite right away from camp, so is camp a not-quite-right experience. However, for the reader, Vera’s struggles are hilarious and heartfelt.  Anyone who has been to sleep-away camp will appreciate this.  Anyone who hasn’t but hasn’t really fit in with their friends will also enjoy this tale.


Children of Blood & Bone
Tomi Adeyemi
Read for librarian book group
Hoo boy, I do not like fantasy that does not take place in the present and could happen to me.  So this was a slog.  For those who do like fantasy it’s got good world building and the characters are great, as is the problem they must all face.  I thought there was a plot wrinkle that made the story unnecessarily long.

Alex Approximately
Jenn Bennett
Bailey has an online friendship through a website devoted to classic films with a boy her age named Alex who lives in the same town as her father.  When she moves to that town, she does so without letting Alex know.  She’s got some clues about who Alex is, and she intends to find him and vet him in real life.  Meanwhile, there’s this guy at her new job, Porter, who is both infuriating and intriguing.  Watching Bailey’s relationships develop and change is fabulous and this book is a totally five star book from this perspective.

But.

*****This is your spoiler territory, here. Alert!*******

I realize I know the characters are in book world and they do not know they are in book world, but it was exceedingly obvious to me that the new workmate Porter is actually Alex.  I spent about half of the book thinking, “Isn’t he the guy?” and then I was for sure he was the guy.  This meant as Bailey and Porter’s awesome relationship grew I became increasingly annoyed at Bailey.  A scan of my brain during reading would reveal the repeated silent yelling, “Porter is Alex! Why don’t you see it? Why?????”

I found this so frustrating that I re-read the book.  And it was just as ridiculous as I thought.   One of Bailey’s main clues is that Alex works for his family’s business.  So on page 85, when Porter says that he works for his family’s surf shop, why (oh why?) doesn’t Bailey then engage Porter in a conversation about classic movies.  You know, just to check?

She never does.  Not when she meets up with Porter at the DVD store, not when he mentions that he used to watch old movies with his grandmother, not when he remarks that he’s not sure how she knows the movie Deliverance. Porter figures it out.  Her dad figures it out.  Baily does not, until 98% of the book has passed.

This fact nearly completely spoils the book and it’s a shame because this is one nice little romance otherwise.

Also, the cover has nothing at all to do with the book. (Which I realize the author has little control over.)

Leah on the Offbeat
Becky Albertalli
Those ready to take a step away from the luxury upper-middle-class lifestyle of Simon and his intact happy family can come hang out with Leah. We met Leah in Simon’s book, but this is Leah’s story of the last part of her senior year. She’s not got a lot of money–it’s just her and her mom in their apartment.  She plays drums in an all-girl band, though they always have to practice at school because she doesn’t own a drum set. She likes someone, someone likes her and those two people aren’t the same people.  There’s drumming and a road trip and confused feelings all around.

As usual, Albertalli excels in hitting all the complexities of high school.

Starry Eyes.
Jenn Bennett
Bennett once again wins with her romance and also, unfortunately, creates a female character who is a little slow to pick up on things.  Zorie hasn’t spoken with her best friend (and almost boyfriend) Lennon since he ditched her at Homecoming.  She’s moved on to different friends, including a spoiled entitled girl who wants Zorie to come “glamping” with her.

Zorie over plans everything and glamping is out of her comfort zone, but the dreamy guy she’s been mooning over is going, so she plans as best she can and sets off on an adventure.

While Zorie is quicker on the uptake than Bailey, the main character in Bennett’s Alex Approximately, it does take a very long time for her to figure stuff out.  In the meantime, there’s great hiking and wilderness stuff and Bennett’s skills at crafting a delightful romance are on clear display.


Most Dangerous
Steven Sheinkin
Read for Family Book Group
I procrastinated re-reading this for Family Book Group, but once I got started, I (once again) could not put it down.  Sheinkin is so good with telling the story of history.  It was also highly rated by the book group members, with an overall rating of 8.732, making it our second-highest rated book.

Boots on the Ground
Elizabeth Partridge
Read for librarian book group
This would make a great companion book for Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous. While Sheinkin dives into the details behind why we were in the war, Partridge uses a series of first-person interviews to explain the Vietnam experience.  The interview subjects are diverse and from them we take away a better understanding of what it must have been like to experience the war, either as a soldier, a nurse, a Vietnamese refugee and others.

The interviews are interspersed with background information about the policies and people who kept the war going, and attempted to end it.  Information is relayed in an age-appropriate way and there are good photographs to supplement the story. This is an excellent example of quality nonfiction.

SKS postcard: Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda


A place where we have both visited together!  Also, apparently Shawn picked this card. I’m not sure if he picked it out at the store, or picked it as the one for Sara to write to me, but either way, good pick.

Sara reports that summer is hard this year due to lack of people.  So she is taking herself to a coffee shop to do some work.  Tangential people are better than nothing.

Backyard progress: adding the landscape cloth and edging

Memorial Day!  What a great day to get up early and put down the landscape cloth and edging!  And that’s what I did. (This picture also nicely shows off the asparagus.)

I love how tidy it looks! It’s so tidy looking that I’m a little sad it will be covered soon. And of course, it won’t stay that tidy forever, so it’s probably good I’m putting other stuff down.

I’m also a fan of the edging. That is the edging I wanted for the side yard project, but Lowes didn’t have enough last fall and wasn’t going to be getting more in until spring.

Dead Relatives Tour 2018

It’s time for another tour of some of the family grave sites.

The Anastases were my grandfather’s grandparents. “What do we know about these people?” I asked this year. Both of them had been dead nearly a decade by the time my oldest aunt was born and I was curious what had filtered down through the ages.

“I know that he just coughed once in the middle of the night, and then died,” my mother said.  “I’m not sure why I remember that.” Good to know.  Other things: they lived in Southeast Portland and their neighbors behind them were a very large family.  That would be my grandmother’s family, the Whitmores, with 15 children.  I asked to see if anyone knew what their jobs were, or such things, but no one did.

That is what’s come down through the ages. If I had more time, it would be fun to research them a little and see if anything comes up.

I don’t know Gene Wesley Hinds, but I do like the pinecone decorations someone used to decorate his grave.

This year’s entry into the Dead Relatives Tour grave decoration.

Then we ate at the delicious Verde Cochia.

Three sentence movie reviews: The Best Years of Our Lives

 

A rather lengthy film* about how coming back from war is tough. Harold Russell is quite good (especially for a non-actor) as Homer Parrish, the veteran who has returned from war without his hands. Given the focus on the amazing accomplishments of the “Greatest Generation” this is a nice reminder of some of their tough times.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home.

*Three hours, and I felt each and every one of the 180 minutes.

Of note.  This was my fourth time requesting this from the library.  Normally, I check movies out and renew them as they come due; eventually I watch them. Not this one. Three times the due date came up, and three times I was unable to renew due to holds. The library has six copies.  Who is so interested in this movie (that is not very good)? My theory? There were six other people who also were obligated to watch this for some reason and had no deadline. The seven of us kept checking out, returning, and reserving the same six copies of the movie and we never, ever watched it.  I’m glad to have exited that cycle.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/1946/best_years_of_our_lives_ver2.html

Though the movie was boring, I find this to be a good scratch off.

This is also a solid one.

Let’s face it, this artist doesn’t excel in the art of depicting faces.

Do you want to scratch your movie poster itch? Get the scratch off poster here.