Books Read in November 2017

It was a big YA month this month. As YA is my favorite, it was a good month.

Picture Books: Questions Asked
Young Adult: Moxie (though this was quite a strong month)
Young Nonfiction: Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
Adult Fiction: Station Eleven
Questions Asked
Read for Librarian Book Group
On the one hand, a book made up of questions asked. On the other hand, alert readers will notice the other half of the story played out through the illustrations.

I enjoy seeing the differences in publication for children across different cultures.  This is a prime example of a quality story that  would NOT be first published in the US.

Piecing Me Together
Renee Watson
Read for Family Book Group
Some great discussion came from reading this book.  The kids especially enjoyed the Portland connections.

Turtles All the Way Down
John Green
This is a book about a girl with OCD.  In my opinion, that is the point of this story existing.  I have a feeling “book about a girl with OCD” was deemed not big enough to sell, so there’s talk of a plot of missing billionaire and a tuatara. And there’s a romance. And all of those things are in this book, but mostly, it’s a story about a girl with OCD.

As a book about a girl with OCD, this book delivers. It’s very clear how this mental illness affects every aspect of Aza’s life, and that along makes for a gripping story.  The missing billionare is a side dish, as is the tuatara.  Come for Aza’s story and you will be satisfied.

Turtles All the Way Down
John Green
Having no other books to read (there was a lull in my holds, and I forgot to pick out some other books to read) I re-read this right after finishing it.  This time my reading was more leisurely, and I really enjoyed the descriptive writing.

There’s a thing about John Green books that I can’t mention here, because it’s a spoiler.  But I really appreciate that aspect of his storytelling.

Long Way Down
Jason Reynolds
Read for Mock Printz
A fatal shooting, an elevator ride, a story told in poems.

Landscape with Invisible Hand
M.T. Anderson
Read for Mock Printz
What happens when the aliens arrive and colonize the earth?   For most humans, it’s not so great. There aren’t jobs anymore, because the technology the aliens bring can run everything. Despite this, the view persists that if you just have the right can-do attitude you can be successful.  Adam’s mother is forever optimistic that the next job application is going to work out, despite evidence to the contrary.

Adam is an artist, and when a family moves into their basement, he and the girl start to liking each other, eventually licensing their romance for alien viewers.

A slim volume, this is slightly heavy handed in its worry about technology-taking jobs and what will become of the people.  However, I did appreciate the overall message, one that I don’t often see in YA literature.

Jennifer Mathieu
Read for Librarian Book Group
This would make a great movie, if movies about teenage girls were of interest to the people who make the movies.

Vivian spends a lot of time at her small Texas high school ignoring the antics of the jocks, who are given to doing things like saying “make me a sandwich” during class discussion whenever a girl is trying to make a point.  Though Vivian is the kind of girl to ignore rather than to confront, one day something snaps. Inspired by her mother’s Riot Grrrl past, she makes a ‘zine name Moxie and anonymously leaves it in the girls bathrooms.

The publication of Moxie doesn’t light the school on fire, not at first, but it lays the groundwork for several transformations.

This book manages to juggle so many changing relationships: family, romance, old friends, new friends, sexist school administrations.  Mathieu steers the narrative with a deft hand that practically begs to be translated to the big screen.

(Random note: Book 1 of 2 this month where the romantic lead is named Seth.)

You Bring the Distant Near
Mitali Perkins
I’m a fan of generational sagas, so I was into this multi-generational story of Indian immigrants to the US.

What Girls Are Made Of
Elana K. Arnold
Read for Mock Printz/Librarian Book Group
I hurried through this because the book did a great job of creating a teenage girl who desires only to be the girlfriend of Seth.  I suspect there are still a lot of girls out there who fit this description, alas.  The book is graphic in all it’s descriptions, painting a bleak portrait of the particular adolescent’s life.  It reminded me of the movie Palo Alto in that regard.

(Random note: book 2 of 2 this month where the romantic lead was named Seth)

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Erika Sanchez
Read for Mock Printz/Librarian Book Group
This book has a great cover and a very good title.  People were curious when I was reading it at work.  I thought it captured the disconnect when a parent and a teenager have different values, and the ensuing frustration.

It was, however, a book that meandered.  When it’s been a week, and I’m still reading the same book, then there’s a problem with the narrative.  Two-thirds of the way through, the writing style changed to reporting on Julia’s feelings, which increased my distance.  This book was rich in detail, but ultimately frustrating from a story-telling perspective.

Random note: the book design had no author bio, not on the cover or in the last pages of the book itself.  I like to have an author bio.  It’s the second thing I read, after the first paragraph of the story. Further note: no author bio on Goodreads, either.  Even further note:  I see that Sanchez’s earlier book is a poetry collection.  That makes the narrative ramble of this book even more disappointing.

Schomburg: The Man who Built a Library
Read for Librarian Book Group
Mind blown.  Whitewashing of famous dead people?  It happens.  I recommend this book just for that aspect. You can also stick around for the story of a guy who made sure to preserve writing that might otherwise have been lost.

Sadly, the font used in this book is almost unreadable.

A Boy, A Mouse, A Spider
Read for Librarian Book Group
A good distillation of E.B. White’s life.

Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands
S. Goldman Rubin
Read for Librarian Book Group
Though I knew Maya Lin was an undergraduate at Yale when she designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I’d never seen a picture of her, and, my goodness, she looks young in those photos.

I appreciated this book for the overview of Lin’s life.  I live near one of the Confluence sites, so was familiar with that project, and the Wall, but this book filled me in on her other works and early life.  I would love to see the Wave Field, either in Michigan or New York someday.

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mendel
When most of the world’s population is decimated by a virulent flu, the survivors carry on. The book begins at the flu’s outset, at a production of King Lear in Toronto where the famous actor playing Lear dies on stage during the performance.  It then traces the experience of characters introduced during that scene.

The book jumps back and forth in time, filling in gaps about the dead actor and the people he knew.  Most of the book focuses on Year 20, when things have calmed down a little and life is slightly less nasty, brutish and short. We see how life has changed by following the Traveling Symphony–a theater troupe who performs Shakespeare and gives concerts.

People’s connections, known and unknown, tie the story together. While this new life is far from the modern comforts of today, relationships endure.

Thrift Food Plan report November 2017

Alas, I did not make my goal this month.  I thought perhaps I might, when I saw that I had only spend $198.26 on groceries.  Plus, Matt went away for Thanksgiving, which meant not much cooking for a week.

But no, when I crunched the numbers, I came out at $42.06 per week. That is $4.36 per week more than the Thrift Food Plan.  It is, however, $4.74 less per week than the Low-Cost Food Plan.

I’m guessing I’m not going to hit my goal in December, either, as my monthly WinCo shopping trip ended up with me spending 80% of my food budget.

Thanksgiving turned out not to be a problem.  I was in charge of the rolls, and the ingredients flour, yeast, milk, and salt are all fairly economical.  Butter is not, but it’s cheap in comparison to say, turkey.  If I were making a thanksgiving for myself, the turkey would be the main expense.

I’m guessing I’m not going to make my Thrift Food goal unless I plan each meal ahead of time.  Right now, I’m relying on my monthly WinCo trip to stock a pantry and then filling in things around the edges with additional trips to New Seasons and Fred Meyer.  I might play around with more complete meal planning in 2018 and see if it makes a difference.

November 2017 Song of the Month

“Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance

An example of me hearing a song while driving and trying to remember as much of it as possible, because I had left my phone at home, so could not Shazaam, or google once I parked the car.  Luckily for me, when I googled something like, “song that starts off with one singer and a few notes and then the band comes in and then something about carry on?” That mismash took me to a Yahoo Questions page a lo, here was the song I was talking about!

It turns out I’m 11 years late to this song. But better late than never, eh?  Also, it seems that this song is “emo,” at least according to the YouTube comments. Wikipedia tells me that MTV recognized it as the “Greatest Video of the Century” in 2017. It’s quite striking and obnoxious. Plus, it has marching band stuff in it!

“Anywhere” Passenger. Such a sunny song!  It came on the radio when I was driving through a cold rainstorm in the dark. At 5:30pm.  It was the perfect antidote.

Three sentence movie reviews: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

This movie does a couple of thing very well. For one, it’s very gripping, what with all the things going on.* Also, every time I thought I had a good bead on them, each of the character would take a small turn, making for the most well-rounded characters I’ve seen in film this year.**

Cost: $9.00 (I know!  I was invited, though, and I don’t mind throwing $$ to this particular theater.)
Where watched: at the Hollywood Theater with Kelly.

*It would make a nice study in upping the dramatic tension.
**For a very funny film, I did also walk out of the theater with a very dark feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I think Martin McDonagh excels at tapping into something icky about the human condition.


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The first time the Orange Door purchased a TV

This has been our TV for some years now.  We inherited it from my mother when she got a flat screen.  It’s 36″ and has served us well.  It’s our second TV.  The first one, Matt borrowed from a friend.  She declined to have it back.

We didn’t set out to get a new TV. The current one works just fine.  But our DVD player was on the fritz, and Matt bought a new one and it wasn’t compatible with the TV, so we ended up with a TV and a soundbar.

Here is our new TV. It’s 55 inches.  We bought it online, and I learned that while it’s good to do the research online, it’s also probably good to go and look at the TV before buying. Because if I had seen this TV live and in person?  No way, Jose.  Too big.
It was so big we had to take it out of the box in the store parking lot to fit it in the car.   Aside from it’s large size, it’s a very nice TV. It does the wi-fi thing (the previous TV did not) so now we have Netflix on a big screen. And access to other things too.

Random song list

I found a list on my computer and its origin and purpose has been lost with the passing of time. I think it was a list of songs from Pandora that I liked. Let’s have a listen, shall we? Then I will add them to my Song of Month Playlist on YouTube.

“It’s Time” Imagine Dragons. I’m not going to add this to the playlist, because it gets played on the radio a lot. Still. But I always enjoy listening to it, despite the number of times I encounter it. (Also: “miles of clotted hell” is one of my favorite things about this song)

“You’ve got me” Colbet Callie. This is a nicely pleasant song.

Every Morning Sugar Ray. I would describe Sugar Ray’s guitar sound as “bright.” This is why I tend to like the Sugar Ray songs I encounter. And holy cow, is this video all about the 90s. Even all the 70s stuff in there is totally 90s.

“The Underdog” Spoon. This song reminds me of Neil Diamond in all the best ways. The horns! The various percussion things! The tonal quality of the lead singer’s voice! The way it seems to be a very serious song, but with such a cha-cha-cha kind of musical arrangement!

“Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in my Hand”–Primitive Radio Gods. Speaking of the 90s… I’ve always loved the “I’ve been downhearted baby” sample in this song. Since I spent large portions of the 90s depressed/sad, this hits those zones, but in a good way. Also, someone good at singing pointed out that this is a fun song to harmonize to because there are lots of entry points.

For fun, here’s the song the sample came from. B.B. King “How Blue Can You Get”

“Cough Syrup”–Young the Giant. Oh yes! It’s that song. I had no idea it was called this. And! Synchronized swimmers!

“Last Night”–The Strokes. Such good basic rock. Standard guitar, driving rhythm. Singer’s voice.

“Age of Consent”–New Order. Yeesh. This is just a solidly good song.

That brings us to the end of the list.

Changing of the photos

Each year when I order my Christmas cards (and, increasingly, Christmas presents) via Shutterfly, I also have some photos printed. When they arrive, there is a changing of the guard.

I first print a “fun” set of things that happened the previous year.  This goes in my photo mobile. It’s tricky to get an even number of portrait and landscape photos, but I persist until I find a good combination.

I also have a photo collage frame in my bedroom, where I feature 10 “good” photos I took the previous year.  You’ll see these photos again in a “best photos” post at the end of the year.

It’s tradition to have at least one concert photo per year featured in the photo collage.  This year, I’m proud to say the guy selling water is my concert photo.  I also apparently ordered 13 photos, not 10, so the three on the right didn’t make the cut.

Three sentence movie reviews: What a Girl Wants

This movie purports to be a remake of the play the Reluctant Debutante, rather than a remake of the 1958 movie, and I can see why.  Very little remains of the 1958 plot.  This was clearly developed as a vehicle for Amanda Bynes and she does her Amanda Bynes best, as does Colin Firth,* but nothing is going to save this mediocre movie.**

Cost: $2.99 (I could have watched it for free on some site called bmovies, but I feel less okay about finding free versions of movies from this century.
Where watched: on my computer.***

*Apparently, there was a time in Hollywood when Amanda Bynes got top credit and Colin Firth wasn’t even mentioned on the poster.
**I do always appreciate a sighting of Anna Chancellor, whom I first encountered in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
***This will probably be the last movie watched on my desktop computer.  I bought us a brand new TV the next morning on Black Friday.

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