Books Read October 2018

It was a month of doing a lot of things that aren’t reading. Two things have contributed to this. My continued sleep restriction, which leaves me staying up later than usual to reset my sleep schedule. This means that when I sit down to read, I almost always want to fall asleep. This means I’m reading less. Also, I’m doing this whole thing with starting side jobs? That’s cutting into the reading time too.

Picture book: We are Grateful
Middle grade: The Parker Inheritance
Young adult: Damsel
Young nonfiction: Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom
Read for Librarian Book Group


This book had a ton of things wrong with it.

The layout. There is an intermittent poem (?) that appears on certain left-hand pages. It always ended with a comma and I was always confused by that comma. Halfway through I poked around to see if it’s appearance would ever end with a period. The answer was no. What was that interlude? I should not be asking that question.

The text is awkward and didn’t flow well. There was context that was missing that confused me. I was not aware that Sojourner Truth was a slave in New York state before slavery was made illegal there and thus I had some dissonance reconciling “slavery” and “New York.” The information could have been introduced more smoothly.

Also, the illustrations were not my style.

Raul Colon
Read for Librarian Book Group

I enjoyed the setup: a boy skateboards over a bridge (that I’m too lazy to look up to see which New York City bridge it was) to go to the Guggenheim. Once there, he has adventures with paintings. Because the people in the paintings come to life and hang out with him. You know, like they do. There were some amusing situations with the boy and the characters in the paintings.

The illustrations were nice, in that blurry way. I didn’t love the boy’s face. It looked fairly plastic and was distracting to me. But overall, I enjoyed the message about art.

The Party
Sergio Ruzzier
Read for Librarian Book Group

This book is three short stories that are laid out like a graphic novel for the beginning reader set. Both Fox and Chick cut fine figures, though in the latter case, Chick is fun in annoying ways. I thought the size of the text benefited the book, and while the illustrations were not my style, they were clear, which is always a good thing.

We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
Read for Librarian Book Group

The biggest win as far as I’m concerned is that the Cherokee words that are used are DEFINED ON THE VERY SAME PAGE! I’m not sure why it’s taken this long to get to this point in picture book layouts.

No need to wonder if there was a glossary in the back. No need to decide if I’m going to exert the effort to turn to the glossary. Instead, there was the word’s definition, right there on the same page. Picture books have so much space I think this should be a regular practice.

Aside from that innovation, this was a nice intro to Cherokee culture and had great use of color.

Yuyi Morales
Read for Librarian Book Group

Yuyi Morales’s illustrations are always so wonderful and this book is worth reading just to see them.

That said, I’m not quite sure who this book is for. The vocabulary was sometimes pretty advanced (suspicious, improbably.) Also, the Spanish went undefined, which is a choice an author can make. It’s hard for me, though when I can’t pick up the word from context and it increased my distance from the words.

The Parker Inheritance
Read for Family Book Group

It’s always interesting when a book I greatly enjoyed is not enjoyed by other people. So was it for the members of the Family Book Group, who were lukewarm on this story, that I think is one of the best of the year.

There was a call for a better puzzle, one that unfolded throughout the story a la the Westing Game, rather than four clues that carry you through the book.

I realized, on further reflection, that this book is a little of a bait and switch. There’s a puzzle/mystery to keep the contemporary plot going, but a lot of the book is a historical fiction story.  If you love historical fiction (and I do!) then this is a delightful development. If not (I suspect many of the members of this reading group do not) then it’s not the greatest thing.

The Summer I Turned Pretty
Jenny Han

A middling effort. This book lacks a strong sense of place. Its setting is a beach community, sure, and there are enough place references that I know it’s an East Coast beach community, but which one?  The beach in Florida is different from Virginia, which is different than New Jersey and all the places in between.

The stakes never felt very high. She’s been in love with the son of family friends she’d lived with every summer. Aside from the fact that she’d “turned pretty” and was getting interest from other boys, not much seemed different. This book also has an ending designed to entice you to start immediately on the second book. Which is to say it had no ending.

I did feel the characters were fully formed in a way the setting and the plot weren’t. And I love stories of girls who live among guys. That was clearly explored.

Will I read the second book? Time will tell.

Elana K. Arnold
Read for Librarian Book Group

Elana K. Arnold’s What Girls are Made Of was an uncomfortable read for me. I hurried through it. Then I gave it four stars and have thought of it often. In that book Arnold was a master at shining a light on that dark underbelly of being a woman: the girl who desires only to be the object of interest to a boy.

Plus, she writes very honestly (and fairly graphically for a YA book) about sex.

Damsel is a fairy tale. It begins with Prince Emory on his quest to slay a dragon.  After the dragon is slain and the damsel is rescued, we switch to the damsel Ama’s perspective for the remainder of the story.  Again, I was uncomfortable, and again I read quickly. Arnold doesn’t shy away from all the humiliations felt by women as they are subjugated.

Ama is a compelling character. As I was reading, I wanted her to–I’m not sure what. Escape? Win? 

It’s not a fun book, but it’s one of the best books I’ve read all year. Two things keep it from being the ne plus ultra of YA novels: I figured something out very early on (and I’m not someone who figures things out very often) and the book ended much too quickly.

Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees
Dan Brown
Read for Librarian Book Group

Great content and the bibliography at the end points to a lot of good source material that was consulted. Dan Brown also chose to focus his story on “children,” “men,” “women,” etc. rather than “Sunnis,” “Muslims” etc.

The refugees’ plight is plainly illustrated and he makes sure to provide context for how big or how far away things are. The book also calls out those doing nothing while the people suffer—like the United States of America.

Unlike the two other Dan Brown books I’ve read, I found the illustration style did not work well here. Was it looser than usual? The effect seemed to me to make the people he was attempting to humanize more anonymous and distant from us.

Tara Westover

I mean no disrespect to Tara Westover, but I’ve read this book before. Most recently, it was the Glass Castle. The fiction version of this story is Barbara Kingsolver’s the Poisonwood Bible. The story of a young woman having her life shaped by an eccentric or insane father is–tragically–common. It’s also a story I don’t have very much head space for right now, while I’m trying to work through society’s reaction to the current leader of the country and his views about woman (among many other things.)

What you’re in for with this version of the story: a homeschooled Mormon family, although in this case, you’d best put some quotes around the word homeschool to properly place the amount of teaching the children received. You also get a lot of descriptions of family members in physical danger and also pain.  There’s also physical and mental abuse. Plus the pain of your family turning away when you call out your abuser. There’s even a brutal killing of a family pet.

The writing is good, and if you haven’t already been steeped in this story, this is a good entry into the cannon. My takeaways? The uber-patriarchal nature of mainstream Mormonism combined with bipolar disorder/schizophrenia in the family patriarch do not bode well for the people in the family. And also, homeschooling in Idaho should have a hell of a lot more oversight.

It took me a while to notice how awesome the cover of this book is.  It’s very subtle. Kudos to the designer.

SKS Postcards Studio 300 Round I

Postcards arrived today! They are labeled 2/5, 3/5, 4/5 which is good news in that I can read the middle of the message all at once. Much better than if 1/5, 3/5 and 5/5 arrived.

On this postcard (2/5) Sara realizes that she has missed my birthday entirely. She is very sorry. Her explanation makes sense to me, and I’m okay with her missing the day. She’s kind of busy.

On this postcard, good birthday wishes continue and she’s distracted enough to not comment on the bird on the front, which would have normally been a point of discussion.

And on this card—which I’m just now realized I photographed upside down, sorry Nanci Yermakoff—she continues to narrate her upset about the lack of birthday remembrance.  No worries, Sara, I knew birthday wishes would be coming soon.

I look forward to seeing what future mail deliveries bring and thanks for the birthday wishes!

3SMReviews: The Hate U Give

3SMReviews: The Hate U Give

George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give is full of love: between family members, between people, between friends. It’s also grounded by incredible performances by Amandla Stenberg as Starr Carter and Russell Hornsby as Maverick, Starr’s father. Based on the book I picked as last year’s zeitgeist read, this is a worthy adaptation and worth watching for the performances, for the loss, and for the love.*

Cost: $5.55 (though actually $11.90 because I watched it twice, though actually actually free due to a gift card.)
Where watched: Regal City Center Stadium 12, by myself, and then with Matt. Because when a movie is this good, you come back with someone else.

*It’s also funny in parts.

The 60/30 Rule Report 10/28

I guess I didn’t take a picture for the 10/28 report. Pretend you can’t see into the future

Another eight hours this week! I’m back on track for my hours per week goal.

I did all eight hours Monday–Thursday after I got home from work. By Thursday, it was rather grueling. 

Part of this 60/30 exercise is to do a trial of how it will be to come home from work and get right to work again. I learned that I need to have my dinner plated ahead of time. This week I often would not be hungry when I came home and I would get right to work. But then, around seven o’clock, the hunger appeared, but I didn’t want to stop what I was doing to get a plate of food, so I would eat bits of things. My goal next week is to plate my food for dinner when I am putting together my lunch.

I got a lot done, though. 3SMR is coming along nicely. It now has a lists page, and there are category descriptions for each category. (I think this helps with SEO?) I also picked posters to illustrate each of my genre categories and am excited that every single one of the movies on that page is directed by a woman. Katherine Bigelow has three separate posters. Women need to direct more action and suspense movies.

I also got some help on fivrr this week. That’s a gig economy website where people offer to do things for not very much money. I have contracted with a woman to make a spreadsheet of all the movies I’ve watched since 2008. This will help me with my tracking and recommending.

The other thing I did on fivrr was to have an informal logo design contest. I picked four logo designers (pretty much at random) and sent all four the same information about what I wanted. They all sent me back logos, between one and five logos per designer. For this, I paid $38.00. Total.  There’s one logo I really like so I’m going to contract with that designer to give me the logo in several sizes and also a favicon (that’s the square thing in the browser tab, next to the name of the site.)

Finally, I uploaded all my three sentence movie reviews posts from this blog to the new website. I was worried about that process but it turned out to be super easy. Now comes the very long slog of tagging all the posts into the new format. It takes me an hour to do about 20. I have 53 total pages. It will be a slow and steady wins the race project.

While the site is live right this second, I haven’t advertised the fact. My plan is to do a little site design and re-tag 20 posts each work session. Once I get to 100 posts re-tagged, I will officially “launch” my site.


I’m 44 today. It’s my fourth double number birthday and the second-to-last one that I can use my two hands to illustrate. (Age 66 will require an extra digit on both hands.)

Some age calculator at some time predicted I’d live to 89 years old. If that’s true, I’m halfway through my double number journey. But I could go at any time, This might be my last one, or I could have passed the halfway point at 33, or 22.

While some people might be put off by spending the day they entered this realm contemplating their exit, I feel a thrill of glee. The date and time of my death is probably the biggest surprise left in my life. There will be a lot of smaller surprises along the way, of course. And as long as my hands can keep working and my brain can keep working, I’m up for sticking around and seeing what develops.

Here’s to double number birthdays!

(Of note: this photo was really hard to take. I ended up setting the camera on the ledge that divides the kitchen from the living room and using the self-timer. Even so, it took six tries. Plus, I had to acknowledge that my hands don’t look like I’m 20 anymore. But why should they be any different than the rest of me?)

*An homage to Taylor Kitsch’s Tim Riggins in Friday Night Lights. “Fours” was how he referred to Luke Cafferty, who wore number 44. The inherent laziness of translating three syllables into one and then stretching out that one syllable to last as long as it would have taken to say all three syllables was one of the things that made Tim Riggins such a delightful character. 

This cannot stand! Packaging out of control.

I ordered three boxes of tiny binder clips, along with other items. The binder clips lagged behind and rather than hold the entire order to come in one reasonably sized box, I got this large box, a catalog, and a bunch of plastic filler material. 

This is a tremendous waste. I’d like companies to be charged for over packaging in this manner. I’d like to be able to check a box indicating that my items don’t need to be in pristine shape. They just need to get to me.

The 60/30 Rule Report 10/21

Whew!  8 hours this week. And that was with feeling under the weather on Monday and not hitting my 2-hour goal.

This week was my transformation week.  I went from feeling uncomfortable with the Jupiter theme to having something click. Tech support helped me make a page where all the posts went. And I finished most of the home page and set up the framework for all of the pages. It’s looking like a draft website now.

Also, I enlisted the help of my writer’s group and they wrote some tag lines for both sites. I put together a google survey and put it on Facebook. We shall see if anyone fills it out or not.

I’ve got a few cleanup things to do, but I think next week will be the week I import all my existing three sentence movie review posts. I’m very nervous about this. Importing posts has gone well in the past, but who knows if it will still go well when I do it this time.

And once things are imported successfully, there comes the long task of coding all the posts to the new framework. And will I have to download all the posters again? Time will tell.

How many three sentence movie reviews do I have, anyway? I just sorted my posts by category and it seems as though I have 1,080 posts tagged as three sentence movie reviews.  Yikes.

7 Bucks a Wack is no more

There was a little too much glow in the window when I took these pictures, but I think it’s important to note this transition.

Darlene Robinett’s 7 Bucks a Wack barber shop was a fixture in downtown Kenton. From her obituary, I learned that she bought the barber shop in 1996, with an inheritance from her mother. She enjoyed coming to work every day.

7 Bucks a Wack is no more, but I’m glad Darlene made the Kenton neighborhood so unique.

3SMR: Children of Men

3SMR: Children of Men

Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men is a good action movie, of the regular-people type.* For me though, it suffered from me having read the book which goes deeper into the relationships than the movie does.** The movie achieves a tense vibe throughout, but I found I didn’t care about the people because I knew too little about them.***

Cost: Free from the Multnomah County Library
Where watched: at home in preparation for Filmspotting’s 2019 March Madness: Best of the 2000s

*Any of the Bourne films? I couldn’t do all that stuff. I could do the action stuff in this film.
**I read the book over 20 years ago, which is a sign of a book with staying power.
***This also suffers from the White Guys in Suits problem (although in this case it was a Radical Insurgents in Black problem) in that I couldn’t tell some men apart and a key plot point flew by me.