Books read in March 2018

Most of this month involved catching up with various winners of the Youth Media Awards.

Picture Books: No recommendation
Middle Grade: The Epic Fail was fine.
Young Adult: You’re Welcome, Universe
Young Nonfiction: Twelve Days in May
Grownup Nonfiction: Getting Things Done
Smart Smut: Crosstown Crush
Silent Days, Silent Dreams
Allen Say
Read for Librarian Book Group
Five stars for introducing me to the art of James Castle, someone I’d never heard of, despite being raised in Idaho.  However, those five stars run away quickly,  starting with an early page that seems to identify Allen Say as being the nephew of James Castle. (He is not.) It just got more confusing from that point. Were the illustrations in the book made by James Castle, or were they made by Allen Say in the style of James Castle? Is this a true story (nonfiction, biography) or a made-up story based on a real person’s life?

Some of the illustrations were stunning, but when the family of the subject sues an author to keep them from publishing their book, and one of the sources cited in the bibliography states that he thinks Allen Say didn’t actually read his book, and other people are saying outright that Allen Say made up his own facts, I think this book can be marked as a swing and a miss.  I’m not sure why it won the Schneider Family Book Award.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
Pablo Cartaya
Read for Librarian Book Group
Great slice-of-life story of one Miami family restaurant.
You’re Welcome, Universe
Whitney Gardner
Read for Librarian Book Group
This book brought me into both the Deaf culture world and the graffiti world. Julia is a salty main character, who makes some decisions that make it harder to like her, but which are reasonable from her character’s point of view. I like books about friendship and while I was reading this, I realized I also like books about making art. That we got to see the art that Julia was creating added to the fun.

Little and Lion
Brandy Colbert
Read for Librarian Book Group
I loved the sibling relationship (forged from a step-sibling pairing) of Little and Lion.  It also did a great job highlighting the super bummer life can be when living with someone with mental illness.  There was some good bisexual stuff in there too.  Nicely done, Brandy Colbert, weaving all that together.  Plus, I loved the house Little and Lion lived in.

However, I never really fully locked into this book and had to force myself to keep reading.

This is How it Happened
Paula Stokes
As I enjoy reading books that have to do with “famous” people, this was a fun foray. Genevieve Grace is the girlfriend of a famous YouTube star, who is just releasing his first album. She wakes up from a coma to find she has been in a car accident; her boyfriend is dead, and the other driver–a man with a former DUI convention–is fine.

Genevieve can’t remember the accident, and while she pieces her memories together she flees her St. Louis home to live with her father in Utah for the summer. While essentially hiding her identity, she watches the internet rage against the unfairness of her boyfriend’s death.  As slowly remembers the accident and the public’s grief turns to rage and violent action, Genevieve must make some decisions that will affect the rest of her life.

Stokes is very good at ending chapters with cliffhangers strong enough to keep me turning pages.

Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961
Larry Dane Brimner
Read for Librarian Book Group
A narrow focus on the Freedom Ride of 1961 suits this book just fine. The layout is gorgeous, inviting the reader to keep turning the pages. There is enough text to tell the story, but not too much as to be off-putting. This should be in every home library.

Overall, a perfect book, but I was very disappointed in one aspect of the biography section.  While each of the participants received their own biography, the married couple was lumped together.  And within their entry, there was a lengthly paragraph about the husband’s background and what brought him to the movement.  The wife in the couple was briefly summed up as “his wife” and we were not provided with any equivalent background information or motivation.  She’s a person too! Her experiences also matter!

March Book One
Lewis, Ayden, Powell
Read for Family Book Group
This graphic novel was well-received by the participating members and helped fuel good discussion about racism and segregation.

Getting Things Done
David Allen
I have too many interests and not enough time and how in the world do I juggle all of that?  I read this book about ten years ago, but had forgotten nearly everything so it was time for a re-read.  I have read and implemented Allen’s suggestions and my life feels much more under my control. My favorite thing is that when I have that stressful thought of “I must remember X” I can now write it down on a note, (analog or electronic) and forget it, knowing that I will process it in a timely manner.

Crosstown Crush
Cara McKenna
A threesome!  In Pittsburgh!  Things get complicated.  As usual, really great character development by McKenna.










Three sentence movie reviews: Home Again

I wanted to see this not only because it was written and directed by a woman, but also because it’s so rare to see May-December relationships with the woman the December* part of the equation. I happen to enjoy watching movies about wealthy people with no money woes and the cast was quite engaging.** This is one of those gentle movies, which I will struggle to remember five years from now, but greatly enjoyed watching.***

Cost: $1.25 from Letterboxd (this was the movie I added on for “just 50 cents more!)
Where watched: at home

*Though in this case, I’d say it’s more of a May-October relationship.
**Lake Bell! Candice Bergen!  And the delightful trio of Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky and Pico Alexander.
***And when I do eventually figure out which movie it was, I would probably enjoy watching it all over again.

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Three sentence movie reviews: Last Flag Flying

Of late, Mr. Linklater’s movies have me wondering just how much longer than 120 minutes the film is; this was no exception. The performances were solid, but the story dragged on past my point of interest. There were memorable scenes, but they did not weave together into a cohesive whole.

Cost: $1.25 from Letterboxd
Where watched: at home

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Three sentence movie reviews: Being Charlie

Having enjoyed Nick Robinson so much in every single movie I’ve seen him in* I decided to catch up with some other performances.** And he was, well, okay in this.  It was one of those moments where the movie isn’t super strong and left me feeling like Nick Robinson has his Nick Robinson thing and there might not be much more than that.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home

*Kings of Summer, Everything Everything, Love Simon
**People seem to know him from Jurassic World, but I did not see that particular picture show.

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Song of the month: March 2018

“In My Mind”
Amanda Palmer

I heard this song while watching the McMenamins Theater slide show before A Wrinkle In Time began. The line, “In a future five years from now/I’m one hundred and twenty pounds” caught my ear and I snorted in amusement. I’m often guilty of living a perfect life, but in the future. I didn’t have my phone with me, so when Matt returned from a phone call, I asked him to text me “Amanda Palmer 120 pounds” so I would remember to look her up. He wanted to know why I was having him text Neil Gaiman’s wife’s name. And that’s how I learned that Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman are married and have a child.

“The Way It Seems To Go”
Rachael Yamagata

Continuing on the theme of finding songs through movies, this was the end credits song in the film Lucky Them. A film which I am realizing I did not review on this blog. Now I must go back and do that.

Anyway, I like Rachael Yamagata’s stuff and this was a nice addition.

The other thing both songs have in common is that I wrote this post at work and didn’t actually re-listen to the songs. Time will tell if I like them or not.


Here is a song I will happily listen to when I encounter it. It’s very early-adulthood swirling sadness for me, but I like how plaintive it sounds.

And the song that is not going on the song of the month playlist because it is a super earworm:

“Sober Up”

If this song didn’t include so many ways to get stuck in my head, I would like it better.

Three sentence movie reviews: The Bad and the Beautiful

This is one of those movies where there is a very clear episodic setup and then the movie marches through that setup. In this case, it works well, giving all major players their turn in the spotlight. I particularly enjoyed Lana Turner’s story and found her shrieking breakdown to be mesmerizing, though not super realistic.

Cost: $2.99 through Google Play, part of Filmspotting’s Minnelli marathon.
Where watched: at home

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Finally, the reveal. Pictures of our side yard path

It’s taken all winter, but I finally have pictures of our side yard project.

One of the reasons the reveal has taken so long is because I think our side yard path looks very homemade. I’m glad we did it, and to have the project done. Eventually, I will stop noticing the many flaws but I don’t think it looks fabulous.

Things started off well. Five pavers fit just right, taking up the entire path. My eyeballing of spacing was okay.

After those six rows, the house jutted out the tiniest bit and suddenly there was a problem. Four pavers were too few, but five pavers wouldn’t fit. I knew from reading the various how-to books, that I was supposed to cut the pavers down to size. But that was beyond my capabilities, so I tried making big spaces between the pavers. And I tried to make them even, but it didn’t exactly work.

By the time I got to the gate, I remembered that I should be using guides to place the stones in just the right spot. I didn’t go back and fix what had gone wrong (forever marching forward is one of my best and worst features) but made some plans for what would happen just past the gate.

On the other side of the gate, I started using spacers to better arrange the pavers. My spacers were two of the stakes we used to mark the edges of the project. I also started filling in the extra space with the bricks we used for the edging, but placed sideways. This allowed for some play when things didn’t fit just right.

And I learned that properly leveling things is very important, as is establishing some straight guidelines.

This was very much a beginners project and we made a lot of mistakes, but all this winter I walked on that very solid path without getting my feet muddy, and this summer I will not be striding through weeds. So ultimately, this is a win.

Next up: a redo of the backyard. And I’ll finally sweep that extra sand off of the path.