Books read in December 2016

I was finishing up Mock Printz reading this month.  I will attend two Mock Printz discussion groups in January.  (For those of you not in the know, the Printz Award is the YA equivalent of the Newberry Medal).

Picture Books:  Juana & Lucas
Middle Grade: Frazzled (and not because it’s the only one)
YA: The Sun is Also a Star
Young Nonfiction: Animals by the Numbers

Ape & Armidillo Take Over the World
James Strum
Read for Librarian Book Group
I think if I were a kid today, I’d totally be into these TOON books.

The Princess and the Warrior
Duncan Tonatiuh
Read for Librarian Book Group
More of Tonatiuh’s really fun illustrations (love those ears that look like 3s) and the story of how two mountains came to be.

Maybe Something Beautiful
Read for Librarian Book Group
A girl makes something a little beautiful and suddenly everyone is pitching in to brighten the neighborhood.

A Child of Books
Read for Librarian Book Group
I enjoyed how the text morphed into many things.

Juana & Lucas
Juana Medina
Read for Librarian Book Group
Juana loves her dog Lucas.  But she doesn’t want to learn English. Very fun early chapter book.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we in the United States started learning another language when Juana does?

Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom
Booki Vivat
Read for Librarian Book Group
Abbie Wu is starting middle school and it’s a problem.  All sorts of things about middle school are hard, from picking an elective to navigating the school lunch room.  It’s also a problem that no one else sees what a big problem it is.  The level of drama resonated strongly, I loved the illustrations and am incredibly jealous of author Booki Vivat’s neat handwriting.

The Sun is Also a Star
Nicola Yoon
Read for Mock Printz
O! Such a wonderful swoony love story! I practically sells itself:  Girl meets boy , boy says they are going to fall in love, cue a day wandering through New York City.  The twist?  It’s her last day in America. Her family is being deported back to Jamaica.  He’s on his way to interview for college to please his Korean parents.  We see glimpses of the lives of the people they encounter as their story winds its way to its conclusion.  Yoon is a crazy romantic, and it shows, in the best ways.

The Reader
Traci Chee
Read for Mock Printz
After happily gobbling down Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star, I ran smack into this book, which took me 12 days to get through. Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy, but I am a big fan of stories that move along.  This one takes its time to get going.  And when it gets going, it’s more of an amble.  There’s also a very detailed map at the beginning which seems to have little relevance to the narrative.  It was page 125 before I successfully located a place name mentioned in the story on the map.

I think it was a mistake to use multiple perspectives to tell the tale, and a mistake to wait so long before switching narrators.  Though the way the different stories came together at the end was interesting, at that point I didn’t care.

In addition, books eligible for the Printz Award must stand on their own, which I don’t think this one (Book One of the Sea of Ink and Gold Series) qualifies.

The publisher seems to have great hopes for this novel. It’s got the series announcement on the front cover, the annoying edges that make it hard to turn the page, and many effects–drops of ink, faded text–scattered throughout the book. Plus that mostly useless detailed map.  I’m interested to see who the fans of this are, and what about this story appeals to them.

The Head of the Saint
Socorro Acioli
Read for Mock Printz
Fantastically weird story of a young man who, in fulfilling the last wish of his mother, travels to his father’s hometown and takes refuge in the head of a statue of Saint Anthony  That there’s a statue-sized head available for shelter is strange, but even weirder is that, when inside the head, the young man can hear women’s prayers to Saint Anthony.  All sorts of things happen after that.

Our Chemical Hearts
Krystal Sutherland
Read for Librarian Book Group
What happens when the right girl appears at the wrong time?  Henry Page is a high school senior who has never been in love.  Nothing about the drama of teen romance has seemed appealing to him until Grace Town walks into his classroom.   Grace is amazing, but also clearly going through something.  Their attraction is palpable, but complicated.

For the vast majority of people, their first love isn’t someone they will spend much of their life with. I appreciated the story’s exploration of when that amazing first love finally happens, and when it doesn’t go quite as the first-love narrative proscribes.

I found the level of parental chill annoying enough to be distracting.  Henry Page and his two best friends all have incredibly laid-back parents, unlike real life, when friend groups inevitably include some people whose parents are sticklers about curfew, drinking and girl/boyfriends staying the night.  There were also a ton of pop-culture references, which are a particularly annoying peccadillo, as I know in five years this book will be dated and in 10 years, from another time entirely.  Which is too bad, because I think it’s a kind of book that I don’t run across often.

Beware That Girl
Teresa Toten
Read for Librarian Book Group
Things I liked:  psychological thriller for the teen set, by which I mean the gross stuff is present, but lightly touched on. Interesting characters and a plot that clips along.  Katie O’Brian had just the right amount of scrappy and manipulation.

Things that didn’t work well for me:  I wasn’t convinced by the end, especially given what had happened a few chapters before.  There was no need to render the housekeeper’s speech in dialect, it was very distracting and came off as marginalizing.  I think I read the word dry-swallow (in reference to pills) more times in this book than I have in all other print sources this year.  This is the second book in two months I’ve read with main characters perspective told in first and third person.  This technique is, thus far, jarring, and feels like an attempt to avoid making the voices distinct.  It also feels very trendy.

Biggest Flirts
Jennifer Echols
There’s a particular phase in ones life where two people in mutual like can’t keep their hands off of each other.  This often happens in adolescence and results in headlocks, much wrestling and the like.  Echols nicely captures that phase of like/like in this book.  I enjoyed her spot-on depictions of back-to-school band. The standing.  The sweat.  The boredom.  I also enjoyed Tia, with her purposeful noncommittal nature.     Thanks to friend Sara for recommending this book.

ps.  Book cover gripe:  Tia is half Puerto Rican.  Was it too much to ask to get a cover model who looks like she might be something beside Celtic?

Animals by the Numbers
Steven Jenkins
Read for Librarian Book Group
Many infographics of animal facts.  They are quite fond of the pie chart, which isn’t the best way to present information, (humans have trouble dissecting degrees of pie in pie charts) but there are also bar charts and many fun facts.  The tongue one was my favorite.

Three sentence movie reviews: The Messenger

I’m checking out a few Ben Foster performances and so watched this movie.  He’s good, Harrelson is good, and this movie ripped me apart.  We still haven’t gotten our seminal war movie from the Iraq/Afghanistan war, but this is a top “home-front” contender.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home

Three sentence movie reviews: The Finest Hours

More Ben Foster, plus Chris Pine and Casey Affleck* in this historical drama “based on a true story.”  This is the kind of movie that people love to hate on, but I thought Chris Pine’s performance was quite good** and except for a bit of exposition-via-swelling-music, I found this movie to be a good movie in all aspects.  It’s also a good all-generations family film.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home

*It’s interesting to reflect on my feelings about Casey Affleck’s acting abilities before I read of his sexual harassment allegations (Manchester by the Sea and all prior films) and after (this film.) Before I thought he was completely underrated as an actor. Now I find myself wondering if Mr. C. Affleck has two acting modes:  quiet sad fellow and Masshole.
**He seems to not only be incredibly good looking, but also interested in taking on different kinds of roles as an actor.

Top Movies December 2016

(14 total movies watched)

Midnight Special
Sci-fi without all the answers

La La Land
I was happy to go on the ride

Manchester by the Sea

The Edge of Seventeen
Hits the nail on the head

Certain Women
More Lily Gladstone, please!

Crazy Stupid Love
All good (minus the fumbled ending)

Hell or High Water
A different kind of bank robber story

After the Wedding
Danish Drama

The Messenger
The fallout of war

The Finest Hours

Best Photos of 2016

Every December, I search back through my photos and pick ten to print and display for the coming year.  The printed photos live on the photo collage next to my bed.

This year, I trouble finding 10 photos I really liked.  I guess taking good photos is another of the casualties of the changeover to the 40-hour week.  But here are the 10 I found to be good enough.

Here’s the photo that became the Christmas Card.  I love the Fairlift and I love the bright colors in this photo.

Also from the fair, this goat was nicely framed and had a sweet expression.

Another contender from the fair.  (What would I have done if we didn’t attend the fair?).  This monster truck is completely off the ground!

The vacationing couple, or perhaps important photographer and muse.  I mostly printed this for the memory of the endless photo-ing, but I also like how her outfit stands out against the gray Washington coastline.

Another photo from vacation.  This is Lake Crescent and its very blue water.

On the way to a weekend retreat in Centralia.  There’s actually an Instagram version of this photo that is better.  But this was the one I took with my camera.

The colors and the fog made this one a winner.  it’s also a good reminder that my regular walk across the bridge can be magical.

Usually the top spot in my photo collage frame is a concert or performance of some sort.  This was a panel discussion at Wordstock, so not necessarily a performance.  But it was very entertaining, and the selfie from different angles made me laugh.  It’s also a nice showcase of the Old Church.

Early morning contrails and an alley.  This photo didn’t come out quite the way I wanted it to. It’s standing in for the picture in my mind, which is even better.

Another “performance” photo.  This one was snapped a fraction of a second too late.  During Love’s Labour’s Lost this was musical montage backed with “Theme from a Summer Place.”  This couple made me laugh.

Day of Projects

Today was a day to get things done.  And I did!

I hung the first of two bike hangers on the back porch.  This gets my bike out of our laundry/pantry area.  We have plans to also hang Matt’s bike from above.  But the ladder in combination with my height was not tall enough to do that project, so that will have to wait until Matt is home.

This picture shows off what part of the paint job didn’t get done.  This summer, when they repainted our house, they did not paint the surrounds around the doors, or the doors.  I’ve got it on the project list, but I don’t know if it will ever get done because I hate painting.  Also because anything with doors means leaving the doors open until the paint dries. Which is more complicated with the cats.

The new bike changes the view from my desk. 

Now I just have to put the pantry in order.

I took this octopus hanger out of the closet and put it closer to the washer.  I will hang my washcloths from it.

Our kitchen light wasn’t working.  We were down to one working light in the fixture.  Time for a new kitchen light.

This is not the best picture, but here is the new fixture I installed.  I love that it has LED lights, so we don’t have to change them.  We also gained a light with the new fixture.  (Four instead of three.)

In the fashion of all projects, there was a trip to the hardware store.  I enjoyed coming across this truck, with an improvised–yet decorated–tailgate.

The same truck also had this improvised locking system.
It was a good day of projects.

Date: Portland City Walk. But in Vancouver.

For our date, Matt and I did one of the walks in the delightful book Portland City Walks by Laura O. Foster.  We did the walk that is not a Portland walk at all, but a Vancouver walk.  It was a beautiful–if cold and windy–day.

On the way there.  Traffic.

Crossing into Washington.

This building at Historic Fort Vancouver was decorated for the holidays.  It is available for rent for weddings and parties.

Gorgeous house, Fort Vancouver.

That’s Marshall of the Marshall Plan. He spent time at Fort Vancouver.

View of the I-5 bridge.

Matt, standing in downtown Vancouver’s Sculpture Garden.  I had no idea downtown Vancouver had a sculpture garden.

Pretty church, all dressed up for the holiday.

I liked the brickwork patterns used to block off the former windows.

A mural of old time-y downtown Vancouver.

Palm tree!  Sparkly stucco house!  Red trim!  Very exciting!
After this picture, it became dark very rapidly.  It was a good walk.

Walking from the #4 to lunch

I had a lunch date and took the #4, then walked through the Mississippi neighborhood to get to my destination.  Here are two things I saw.

There was a period in American home ownership, when reusing pipes as boarders/fences/rails was a thing.  Here is a nice example.  My grandfather also reused pipes for handrails.

I love the sliding nature of this fence. It’s not tipping over.  Rather, the slats were the slightest bit off, and then kept getting worse and worse.  There’s a story behind the creation of this fence.