Books read in December 2017

It was a low-read month.  We bought a TV at the end of November and some amount of hours have been wiled away catching up on Netflix stuff I’ve missed.  I also purposely didn’t read a bunch of picture books when they came in at the end of the month because I wanted my book reviews for 2017 to be done in 2017. There also weren’t a lot of books I was eager to keep reading this month.  When faced with the prospect of slogging through another few pages or seeing how the 13 Reasons Why adaptation was, well, the TV was the winner.

First Rule of Punk.  I didn’t fully latch in, but it did all the things a good middle grade book should.
Far From the Tree. The book that made me aware I wasn’t loving the other books I had read, as this pulled me right in.
We Are Okay. Also not one to joyfully plunge into, but I’m recommending it because the story is interesting and the writing is divine.

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again
Dan Santant
I know you’ve been kept up nights wondering about Humpty Dumpty’s life after falling off the wall. Now you can sleep again.  And enjoy these delightful illustrations, too.

(Since the rhyme ends with Humpty not being put back together again, this is an alternative version where he is fixed.)

The First Rule of Punk
Celia C. Perez
Read for Librarian Book Group
Malu moves from Florida to Chicago with her mom, leaving  behind her dad and all that is familiar.  In her new city, she applies lessons learned from her punk-rock heritage to make friends, and deal with unkind people.

This book is chock full of early adolescent quandaries including being annoyed with your mom, making new friends, forging an artistic path, and dealing with the label of “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside.)

The War I Finally Won
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I did not first read The War That Saved my Life (though I’ve only heard good things about it) and thus, a lot of the reading of this book was me being told what happened in the first installment. This, however, is not the fault of the author.

I can see that, had I read the previous story, I would have a deep understanding of the amount of trauma Ada endured. This book tells the worthy tale of her new life.

They Both Die at the End
Adam Silvera
Read for Mock Printz
In this alternative present book, people who are going to die get a call telling them so.  This is handy, as they can get their affairs in order in whatever way is best for them. It’s also tragic. Mateo and Rufus get the call and meet each other through an app.  They spend their last day together.

I suspect the title put a healthy amount of distance between myself and the characters.  And then, the day left to live was a very. long. day.  By the end, I was more than ready for them to die, which is too bad, because a character has a big personal milestone at the end that by the time it happened, I did not care about.  Also, I feel like there wasn’t enough leading up to that milestone, making it seem as if it came out of left field.

Far From the Tree
Robin Benway
This book alerted me to the fact that the reason I haven’t been reading as much this month is not because of the new Netflix subscription (okay, maybe that’s 20%) but because the books I’ve been reading this month have not been very interesting to me. Within the first few pages I was reminded that stories are fun and that I enjoy reading. And the first two pages of this book have the kind of opening that makes me want to just keep reading and reading.

I enjoyed the plot device of siblings surrendered to the state reuniting. But mostly, it was a pleasure to read: the characters were engaging, the action dribbled out in an attention-holding way, the backstories engaging.

We are Okay
Nina LaCour
Marin–named after the county–is finishing up her senior year of high school in San Francisco.  She hangs out with her friend Mabel, and lives with her grandfather, who has taken care of her since her mother died when she was three.

Marin also is spending Christmas break living alone in the dorms.  She’s run off to college with her phone, her wallet and a photo of her mother. She hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the summer.

The past and the present are woven together in a beautifully written novel Marin and the people she loves.

A Dog in the Cave
Kay Frydenborg
Read for Family Book Group
Solid nonfiction examining the way humans and dogs have co-evolved. While the writing was good, the book’s layout was maddening, inserting pages of focused information right in the middle of sentences.

Three sentence movie reviews: City Lights

This is a classic movie in a way that means I watched it, struggled to stay awake and spent a lot of time contemplating that weird period of film where movies could have sound, but chose to keep going in the silent film direction.*  Charlie Chaplin did his good Charlie Chaplin things, which probably felt fun and fresh at the time, but which does not feel fun and fresh to me because I have seen clips and imitations of Mr. Chaplin all of my life. Overall, a not-torturous movie to have watched, and another classic under my belt.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home

*One plus: the score right there, with the film, so one doesn’t run into the random classical music added to The General, which I experienced earlier this month.

Here are the scratch-offs for this film and two others I’ve already seen:

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

Three sentence movie reviews: Call Me by Your Name

A good portion of the film is slow, but in that way that one doesn’t mind, due to summer in Italy being spectacular.  Timothee Chalamet’s performance is incredible, one to look back on as the years pass. I appreciated his depiction of the uncertainty and bravado of adolescent love.

Cost: free due to gift card.
Where watched: Regal Fox Tower with S. North

poster from:

Thrift Food Plan report December 2017

I’m feeling rather conflicted about this month’s data.  I’ve got December down for five weeks, per the rules (December 30 and 31 fall in the fifth weekend, thus five weeks). However, when it came time to go shopping that weekend, I’d already spent my allotted $220 dollars, so I did an accounting trick and made it as if the purchase happened on 1/1/18.

I spent a lot of time deciding if I should do this or not.  Much more than was probably necessary.  In the end, I justified it thusly: nearly all groceries bought will be used to make food eaten in January.  I was shopping for two weeks, not one, so how to account for that? And finally, I wanted to “win.”

I didn’t, though I came close.  It’s a hollow victory through, because I know I skimmed off the Christmas budget this month.  For example, I hosted Christmas Eve Eve (celebrated on 12/13 this year) and made two kinds of soup, plus bread and dessert.  There was a lot of leftover soup.  It fed me breakfast for most of the rest of December. It’s not reflected in my groceries budget because years ago I made the decision to wrap holiday cooking into the Christmas budget.
One of the problems with December’s shopping, and the reason I essentially spent five weeks worth of groceries in four weeks, is cheese.  I’m a great lover of cheese and good cheese at WinCo is incredibly affordable. Thus, at the beginning of December I bought Parmesan. And feta. And goat cheese. And blue cheese. And mizithra.  As of December 31, I still have half the goat cheese and feta left and I haven’t even cracked open the blue and mizithra. I also impulse bought lunch meat (ham AND turkey) and had to work to get that eaten up before it went bad.

Not a good use of my grocery dollars.

I’m going to continue the Thrift Food Challenge into next year.  I’ve decided to cease this pantry-type shopping at WinCo, as it leads to cheese and other excesses.  Instead, I’m going to shop twice a month a WinCo having planned already what I will cook for the next two (or three) weeks.  I’ve been meal planning all along, but never with the intention of buying the majority of meal fixins at WinCo.

We shall see if that makes a difference.

2017 Photos of the Year

This mobile bartender, the most rock-and-roll guy at the concert.

One of our many crippling snows.

Container ship in fog over from the Steel Bridge

Blue sky and the White Dove of the Desert

Tourists at White Dove of the Desert

Pride 2017. Portland.

Portland Actors Ensemble

Total eclipse 2017. (No filter)

Seaside sunset

Minnesota State Fair

Paul at the Minnesota State Fair

SkyGlider, Minnesota State Fair

Spoonbridge and Cherry, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Three sentence movie reviews: Intolerance

Do you know what D.W. Griffith is in favor of, aside from white supremacy? Fun!*  If you’ve got three hours, this is an exercise in marveling at immense sets and hordes of extras, and if you have a scratch-off movie poster, you will have the reward of seeing what that grasping hand changes into.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home

*In the modern story, it is clearly very bad that social reformers outlaw dancing at cafes, drinking at saloons, and also prostitution.** Griffith was getting a half-side-eye with his overwrought portrayal of women social reformers, until I got the title card that said something to the effect of “women who have ceased to become attractive to their husbands turn to interfering in other people’s lives.”  From that point on, I was full side-eye.  I get that some parts of the social movements run by women in the early twentieth century went too far.  Prohibition is a good example.  But the temperance movement was partially fueled by the fact that alcoholic men could easily wreck havoc on their families and there was no recourse for the women or children involved.  The reforms of the early twentieth century improved a lot of lives, and were run by women with no political power.  That’s impressive.

**And that part bugged me, too.  We’re supposed to be sad that women can’t prostitute themselves anymore?  Given the long, lingering shots of men drooling over the prostitutes as they were escorted from the brothel, this was a terrible, terrible turn.

Here’s our scratch off  for this movie and the two others I’ve already seen.  That Snow White one is one of my favorites. poster from:

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

Three Sentence Movie Reviews: Mudbound

Great performances all around, though I especially enjoyed the pairing of Garrett Hudland & Jason Mitchell, especially in contrast to the relationship between Jason Clarke and Rob Morgan.* It was apparent from the midway point things weren’t going in a good direction, and from that point, the movie dragged.  Still, it’s an unpleasant story that hasn’t been told enough, and I appreciate Dee Rees for the film, and also for pushing the ending to the point she did.**

Cost: streamed via Netflix
Where watched: at home

*Carey Mulligan brought it, as she always does, and Mary J. Blige was excellent too.
**I see I’ve got some Dee Rees to catch up on.

poster from:

Song of the Month: Vance Joy “Lay It On Me”

After hearing Vance Joy’s “Riptide” approximately 5000 more times than I needed to, I’m a bit hesitant to make this the song of the month.  But I can’t resist the rising notes of the chorus and the great leap of a few notes on the word “out.”  Plus, this song really cries out to be redone with a heavier horn section.  I see a good pep band arrangement somewhere on its horizon.

It’s catchy as all get out, though.  I’m probably going to get tired of it more quickly because of that.  Matt was even singing it the other day, not really knowing the words, just putting nonsense syllables to the notes chorus.

If you aren’t tired of it already, the below is a good acoustic version, including Australian DJs graciously letting Mr. Joy have a sip of tea before he begins.

Three sentence movie reviews: La La Land

Continuing the December 2017 trend of repeat viewing to loop in the boyfriend comes this film, watched by him because he adores Emma Stone, and by me to see if all the grumbling about the hype made a difference in my liking this movie.  My second viewing I found myself with similar feelings re: singing voices* but overall still enjoyed the film, and really hooked into the musical score (it might be underrated!) this time.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home, with Matt

* I wish they would have dubbed them

poster from: