Books Read in May 2015

Obsessive tidying and other home projects cut into reading time this month.  Also, most of the Librarian Book Group books weren’t appealing to me, so there was a lot of wandering off mid-story and those books aren’t recorded here.  Here is a roundup of my favorites:

Middle readers:  The Imaginary
Young Adult: The Sky is Everywhere
Nonfiction: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Picture Books
My Pen
Christopher Meyer
Meyer tells us all the different places he can “go” by drawing with his pen.

Middle Readers
The Imaginary
A.F. Harold
Read for Librarian Book Group
The story of a girl and her imaginary friend from the imaginary friend’s point of view. this was a great combination of text and illustrations, with one illustration scaring the bejeezus out of me. I found this British book to be scarier than similar US texts, which is something to keep in mind.

The Trees Kneel at Christmas
Maude Hart Lovelace
Lovelace spent time with “Syrian” immigrants in the 1950s and from their stories wrote this tale of a little girl living in Brooklyn.  Both the text and the illustrations tread in and out of “treacle” and at some points the illustrations appear pages before the texts. However, it is a nice story of faith and might make a good read-aloud tradition in some families.

Young Adult
Under a Painted Sky
Stacy Lee
Read for Librarian Book Group
Our cast of assembled characters is happily diverse,  and this book is set in my favorite time period for historical fiction: Oregon Trail/Frontier America.  Aside from the above two reasons, there were many more likable things about this book: friendship between two girls; action and plot that whips the story along; calling out of how to exist in a white society when you are not yourself white; the difficulties of pretending you are a boy when you are sixteen and a girl.  At times, I found Andy’s dialogue to not be consistent, and overall the story felt long, but ultimately, its strengths outweighed its weaknesses.

Betsy’s Wedding
Maude Hart Lovelace
This is my least favorite in the Betsy series, mostly because Betsy gets married.  Joe becomes a cardboard “husband” character, one who is cheerfully determined.  Mention is made of his “blue moods” but they flit by in passing, and are never really explored.  Betsy too settles into the wifely role of her time.  It’s weird, after seven books of her bucking convention (I will be a famous writer!/I will travel the world!) to see her happily settle down and learn to cook and clean and budget.  At one point she’s offered a job doing publicity work and turns it down. There’s even a Betsy/Tacy conversation about needing to get Tib married off before it’s too late.

It’s also interesting to compare to the eighth of L.M. Montgomery’s books in the Anne of Green Gables series.  It’s set in roughly the same time period, but whereas Betsy and Joe in Betsy’s Wedding only mention the war raging in Europe from time to time, World War I is the central focus of Rilla of Ingleside and it’s a much better, deeper book.

Overall, as a conclusion to the Betsy-Tacy series, this book is a disappointment.

Emily of Deep Valley
Maude Hart Lovelace
I was in the mood to tear though this so-called “Deep Valley Novel” and I finished it quite speedily, unlike the others in the Betsy-Tacy series, which I mostly read one chapter per day.  Emily is two years younger than the Betsy-Tacy gang, and comes from different circumstances, being an orphan living with her grandfather at the edge of the slough.  The book begins with her graduation and her longing to attend college with her crowd.  Unfortunately, she  must stay to care for her grandfather.

It’s fairly obvious early on where this story is going, but anyone who has had periods of isolation or forced solitude will relate to Emily’s plight, which makes this an enjoyable story, even if the trajectory is rather obvious.

The Sky is Everywhere
Jandy Nelson
“If you are looking for a swooney romance, this is your book.”  So said a high school librarian, and if anyone should know a good swooney romance, it would be a high school librarian.

She wasn’t wrong.  Aside from a fabulous love triangle, our hero Lennon (people just call her Lenny) is dealing with the sudden death of her older sister.  The book is populated with fabulous characters and settings, with everything turned up just one notch brighter.  At the same time, it explores grief and ways people deal with loss in a way that seemed very realistic.

This was a book I consumed, stopping only to text my friend that she needed to put down whatever she was reading and pick this up instead.

Adult Nonfiction
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Marie Kondo
Kondo shows you how to change your life by sorting by category, not area and only keeping pieces that “spark joy.”  It makes many persuasive arguments for changing your life in this manner.  Read with caution.  You may find yourself clearing your schedule on a four-day weekend so you can tidy.

Not that kind of girl
Lena Dunham
Hilarious and heartfelt, this is an enjoyable collection of essays.  The book also has the prettiest end papers I’ve ever seen.

Body of Truth
Harriet Brown
Examines the many fallacies around weight, dieting, health and exercise.  A very good book, and one that made me mad because I’ve been duped just like everyone else.  For people who have a sneaking suspicion that something is rotten in the way we go about looking at weight and health, this is highly recommended.

Tap Dance Recital? Check.

My last dance recital was in 1990 and we performed two numbers.  One was “You’re the One that I Want” from Grease.  The other was to a contemporary piece, though I can’t recall which one.  Our performance took place at Boise High School’s Auditorium, which was a marvelous, creaking place with backstage filled with dozens of girls in costumes, shrieking, giggling, being all sorts of excited.  I did my best to ignore the dance teacher’s son, who was my age, but went to a different school and had started dance one year before me, so was in a different class.  He had a harem of girls around him at all times, so I didn’t think I stood a chance, but it was kind of thrilling to have him around. IMG_3388This one was much more low-key.  We did have outfits, black pants, colored shirts, jean jackets.  This time our recital was at a community center gymnasium.  We waited in the audience, and moved to the hallway when it came close to our time to perform.  Most of the audience chatted throughout the performances, which drove me crazy, but I tried to roll with it.  We were one of two adult groups to perform and our tap dance performance to Tracy Chapman’s “You’re the One” was well received.  When I came home, Matt had roses for me.

Three sentence movie review: Mikey and Nicky

mikey-and-nicky-movie-poster-1976-1010724664The first in my Elaine May marathon* proved to be a worthy candidate for discussion and also lived up to its “a gangster film like no other” tagline.  Intense and engrossing, it grabbed me from the beginning and eventually lost me near the end when one of the characters grew too unbearable to care about.  It also has one of the most harrowing sex scenes** I’ve seen on film in a very long time.

Cost:  free from library.  It seems to be a rather obscure movie, so I’m thankful the Multnomah County Library System could hook me up.
Where watched: at home.

*Filmspotting has been saying for more than a year that they would be doing an Elane May marathon.  I’ve decided to stop waiting for them and do one of my own.  I have very clear childhood memories of both A New Leaf and Ishtar and am looking forward to revisiting them as an adult.
**Especially considering the fact that absolutely nothing was visible.  In fact, a long paper could be written about the role of women in this movie that was written and directed by a woman.

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Postards (3) from Dinkytown

This is a postcard from the Art-A-Whirl Sara and Shawn went to.  This artist (Terri Myers Wentzka) has a lot of egg/nature themes and adds found lists to her art.  Very nice! IMG_3382 Also arrieved in the mail today, postcards #2 & #3 in our Dinkytown series.  Now I can piece together the whole story.

Sara walks through this neighborhood every day on her way to the U.  Apparently, in 1970, students protested the coporatization of Dinkytown and they occupied buildings for over 40 days before they were were removed forcefully.  A now-defunct fast food chain–the Red Barn Coproration, eventually backed out of their development plans.  You can see the destruction of the original building in postacard #1, by looking at the last postcard in this post. IMG_3383

Sara knows this history because she and Shawn attended a local documentary inter-splices the 92 year-old documentarian’s footage from the 70s with interviews and images from the protests.  She reports that it was clear that locals from the 70s were also in the auditorium. Of the buildings, only Al’s Diner remains.  IMG_3384What an excellent local history lesson!  Thanks Sara!

Three sentence movie review: While We’re Young


With Driver/Sayfried/Watts/Stiller this had a very good cast who did very good things with this story.  It also was quite funny in places, and nicely captured couples in two different stages in life.  I was all in, loving this film right up until the last five minutes when I suddenly did a 180 and hated this movie; if someone else has seen it and would like to discuss the ending, do let me know.

Cost: $7.00
Where watched: Kiggins Theater

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(Why so much white?  Why?)

A visit to the Kiggins Theater

I decided to make a visit to the Kiggins Theater in Vancouver.  It’s not far from the Regal Vancouver City Center, which is our closest first-run movie theater.  (Technically, the Regal Lloyd Center 10 is the closest, but the Vancouver theater involves exactly two stoplights, while the Lloyd Center involves many more stoplights.  As long as the traffic across the bridge isn’t backed up, the Vancouver theater is much closer).  I see the Kiggins Theater when I’m finding my way from the Regal parking garage back to the Interstate Bridge.  And I heard about how this theater encouraged a law to be passed in Washington so people could drink beer and wine in single-screen theaters, a la what I experience all the time in McMenamin’s movie theaters in Oregon. Now it was time to see the theater itself. IMG_3340

Gorgeous entrance with neon lights and shiny tiles. IMG_3341

Also incredible counter where you pay for your ticket as well as candy, popcorn and soda.  I made the new-fashioned error of specifying which movie I wanted to see, even though it’s a single screen theater and they can only show one movie at at time.   IMG_3351IMG_3352

Up the stairs is a lounge where you can purchase beer and wine. IMG_3342

The Art Deco styling is fabulous.IMG_3344

And there are fun tables to hang out while waiting for your movie to begin.IMG_3345

I asked the woman behind the bar if she wanted to be in the bar picture, and she opted not to. And then she opened the window and let me take a close-up picture of the sign.  Which was all kinds of awesome!  IMG_3346 IMG_3347

Look at that great building detail!IMG_3348

Also upstairs, they have autographed photos of six James Bonds IMG_3343

IMG_3349 IMG_3350 IMG_3353

Projector and film canisters, opening night poster and Art Deco detailing.

Being a single screen theater, they have chairs to lounge in while you wait for the previous show to finish and the new one to begin.IMG_3355

Inside the theater the details abound. IMG_3358
I enjoy being able to sit far away from the screen.  Especially if there is a good sound system.  Which there was. IMG_3361
IMG_3363 IMG_3364IMG_3360

 More great details.    IMG_3357

I look forward to visiting the Kiggins Theater again!