Books read in April 2019

The thing about getting behind on your blog posts? It sometimes feels like it’s been a lifetime since you’ve read this book. If you had asked me today (June 28) when I read To Night Owl, From Dogfish, I would have said, “last year sometime, maybe?”

But apparently, I read it in April. It was great! So was Serious Moonlight, Love to Everyone, Kiss Number 8, and Let ‘er Buck!

Middle Grade

To Night Owl, From Dogfish
Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
Read for Librarian Book Group

Being a fan of epistolary fiction, I was all over these two girls’ back and forth emails as they first plotted against their fathers’ plan to send them to camp together so they could get to know each other.

Aside from Avery and Bett, who shine through their correspondence, we meet and get to know a lot of other people in their orbits. This book includes the fun of correspondence and the fun of summer camp. It may be my favorite book so far in 2019.

The Backstagers
James Tynion & Rian Sygh
Read for Family Book Group

The final selection of the Family Book Group year (and my tenure as the person leading the group) was this little graphic novel comic book about the people who work backstage during plays.

As established in previous reviews, graphic novels aren’t my medium and this very comic-book style of graphic novel is especially not my medium, so there was that barrier. Despite the barrier, I really enjoyed the characters and the magical backstage. In doing preparatory work for our Family Book Group meeting, I read interviews with the creators that had me liking the book even more. While I won’t be reading volumes 2 and 3, I’m really glad this series exists.

It was well received by both the kids and the adults in the Family Book Group.

Young Adult

Kevin Panetta, Savanna Ganucheau
Read for Librarian Book Group

A graphic novel with good illustrations and a color scheme that screams pleasant beach environment. I also enjoyed seeing the variety of delicious baked goods that were featured as a part of the story.

What I didn’t love was the main character Ari, who was kind of a jerk, although appropriate enough for his age and stage in life.

Serious Moonlight
Jenn Bennett

What is it about Jenn Bennett that makes me want to start reading her books from the beginning right after I finish the last page? She’s got great characters, for one. And her conundrums are spot on, and never manufactured drama.

In this book, Birdie is an overly sheltered (home schooled by her religious grandmother from the age of 10 when her mother abruptly died) girl from Bainbridge Island who is starting her first job as a night clerk at at Seattle hotel. She’s a mystery enthusiast, hoping her new job will bring some sort of a case her way.

There is a mystery for her to solve, but there’s also Daniel, the guy she met at the Moonlight Diner.

Bennett excels at the tentativeness of first love, and also witty repartee and amusing situations. There was even a gasp or two by me as the story unfolded.

Slight quibbles: I found it hard to believe that someone who grew up for 18 years in Seattle and the Seattle metro area would not have been well-acquainted with sushi, especially with that freewheeling Aunt Mona in her life. And even if she wasn’t familiar with sushi, the fact that Birdie didn’t know that Japanese culture is a shoes-off culture struck me as very weird. Plus, with all that June Gloom, would those apricots would have ripened as early as they did?

We Set the Dark on Fire
Tehlor Kay Mejia
Read for Librarian Book Group

When I set down a book mid-read for a different book, it’s not a great sign. When I read that new book twice in a row, it’s a very bad sign.

Nothing really worked for me with this book. The pacing was off. It took until mid-book for things to really get going and I was 10 pages out from the ending wondering how in the heck things were going to wrap up.

I never really believed the world. You can put a rambling myth at the beginning of a story, but that doesn’t mean I will believe it.

Things developed in ways that were not at all surprising and I could tell the parts in the book where I was supposed to feel tense, but my feelings never moved past boredom.

Love to Everyone
Hilary McKay
Read for Librarian Book Group

This book has the best first page I’ve read in a very long time. It’s the kind of first page so good at drawing me in that I was moved to post it on Instagram. It’s the kind of dreamy writing that immediately reminded me of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, a favorite book from my childhood.

From that first page, it’s a book chock full of details of the pre-World War I time period and characters so vivid I wouldn’t be surprised if they stopped by for tea.

It does not have the standard sort of plot that I’ve grown used to, rather it follows Clarry from her early childhood to her early adulthood. That left me feeling the book dragged through the middle. However, the other very good things propped me up and the book overall left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

P.S. I have just discovered that the British title of this book is The Skylarks’ War. Man, those Brits get all the good stuff. That’s a much better title!

Kiss Number 8
Coleen A.F. Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw
Read for Librarian Book Group

This book does a great job capturing the adolescent rage I think we all felt during our adolescence. And I felt the frustration right along with Amanda because the lack of clarity provided by her parents was maddening.

That lack of clarity adds a nice layer of mystery. There are also friendship expectations and identity stuff. Also, it’s set in 2004, so there might be some nostalgia details baked in for readers of a certain age.

In short, great story, great drawings, really great book.

Young nonfition

Jose Luis Carballido
Read for Librarian Book Group

I was unclear about a few details (What year was this? Was the gaucho on the first page also the landowner?) and that was distracting. However, it’s a pretty cool dinosaur book. I liked the combination of illustrations and photos from the dig.

Let ‘er Buck
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson & Gordon C. James
Read for Librarian Book Group

I loved this picture book of history of George Fletcher who did not win the 1911 Pendelton Roundup even though he probably would have, had he not been a black man.

This book not only has an excellent voice for its subject matter, but also has incredible illustrations, all of which I would be glad to have on the walls of my imaginary high desert cabin.

There’s also great back matter that is frank about how hard it was to verify information, plus a selected bibliography.

Borrowing Bunnies: A Surprising True Tale of Fostering Rabbits
Cynthia Lord, John Bald and Hazel Mitchell
Read for Librarian Book Group

I’m not a person who is interested in rabbits as pets, but boy did I like this book, which combines photographs and illustrations to teach us both about the specific bunnies that Cynthia Lord was fostering and also about pet rabbit information in general.

There’s a good afterward discussing things to think about before you adopt a bunny.

Song of the Month April 2019: Blood Red Coupe Deville

Oh my goodness, do I love this song. It was one of those where I heard it in the car and did my best to remember enough of the lines to google it. It helped that “blood red coupe deville” happened to be the title.

This song hits all those blues/soul/rock notes that were imprinted on me from an early age. And it’s got some great lyrics to sing along to:

And I wonder what they’ll say about me after my final drive
Rollin’ in my Blood Red Coupe Deville
They say that I lived too fast, that I died too free
That I got lost in alcohol but found in the reverie

Apparently Hadden Sayers is a native Texan and is “as comfortable on a massive festival stage with a Stratocaster in his hands as he is strumming an acoustic guitar in your living room.”

He’s touring this summer and you can find the dates and locations on his website.

Thanks to whatever the blues show is called on KINK on Sunday night. I would have missed this song, otherwise.

We watched a movie today. So did half the country.

The Baghdad Theater was a great place to watch this movie. A big theater with lots of audience reaction, makes an eagerly anticipated movie that much sweeter.

What did I think? I’ve got a review here.

Plus, this movie got me to thinking about just how many superhero movies the two of us had watched in the course of our relationship. And then I wrote a blog post which can be found here.

Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom is filming at our house.

I don’t really mind spiders setting up shop in our house. (Though I don’t love the little black speckles that appear where they do set up shop.) I often wonder what they find to eat when inside. There are a few bugs, but not really that many.

This spider completely lucked out. And this caterpillar did not.

There was a long, grisly process of sucking the juices. You can see that juices were spilled. As the spider ate, it’s body got rounder and rounder.

It was very gross and also fascinating. Reporting from the future, I can tell you that soon after this large meal, an egg sac appeared. As of June, it’s still there. I keep meaning to put it outside before the baby spiders emerge. We shall see if I do.

Just a little housework

Today while waiting for the train, I watched this gentleman use a blanket to sweep the detritus from the trees onto the sidewalk. It wasn’t the most efficient way to clear the sidewalk, but it was pretty inventive for someone who didn’t have a broom, and it also looked like a good meditative practice.

You can see the difference. To the left of the couple, the sidewalk is covered with the green stuff from the tree.

Thanks, sir, for making the downtown Portland sidewalks look nicer.

Another exciting thing about registering an LLC

I am not even kidding when I say the promo pen people always light up my day. We used to get them every so often in the mail at the Emerson School. I had one version for years that said “The Erson School” on it. Because nothing makes you want to buy a promo pen than a misspelling. Even my fancy new workplace is not immune to the promo pen offer.

And now Keen Eye LLC has joined their ranks. I will treasure this pen until—well, until I lose it. And I will never, ever order any promo pen, ever.

The temporary things that become part of your life.

This sign has been affixed to a locker near the one I use in the Campus Rec Center for months. I have spent many mornings staring at it as I transition from my swimming gear to my work gear.

I can see that it was hastily written by a Campus Rec employee, probably a female. I can see that this person had no idea the note would be posted for so long because little care was made in writing.

The sign gets the job done. There is an alert to the problem, there is a directive, and there is an apology. It’s scrawled on a PSU notepad and hung (again hastily, with tape.)

And then, there’s that signature. What is going on with that signature? It’s written in a different pen, and in a different handwriting. It was clearly there before the note was put up because the tape covers the S and part of the M in “Smith.”

Who is Smith? My current theories are that two employees were joking around as they made the sign, hence the “Love” or that the Love, Smith was written before the note itself was.

Someday, that locker will be fixed and the note will be gone. It will take me a few weeks to notice its absence. And then I will move on with my life, never knowing the story behind the note.

This is what the short-lived podcast Mystery Show was good for.

I just had a slight birdwalk and discovered that Starlee Kine (who made Mystery Show) now has a Patreon page where for $5.00 per month you will get access to a podcast she will create. Interesting.

Kissing in the D A R K, D A R K, D A R K darkdarkdark

So many things have been done to support me having a better sleep experience. Today’s thing: a room darkening shade.

Here we have the blurry before picture. The curtains didn’t really do much to block the light and this is especially a problem in June and July because the sun starts to come up before 4:30 am.

Here is the blurry “after” picture. It’s still quite light outside, but that room-darkening shad is blocking that light!

Here’s hoping it will help improve the sleep patterns.

An unusual thank you

I wasn’t really sure what was going on with this window display near my work.

But then I got closer and discovered it was made from…

…many, many envelopes that hold parking tickets. And then the message was clear. The cat was a reference to Parking Kitty which lets people pay for parking from their phone.

I don’t drive to work, so I don’t have to pay for parking, but ever since Parking Kitty has appeared, the days of my coworkers running up and down the stairs to feed the meter have ended.