Books Read in March 2023

Chapter Books

Just a Girl
Lia Levi
Read for Librarian Book Group

The story of a Jewish girl during World War II in Italy. Just a Girl was originally written for adults and has now been adapted (will illustrations, always a plus) for a young audience. One of the author’s adaptions for a younger audience was to interrupt the narrative and talk to the readers in a way I found off-putting.

Middle Grade

Ellen Outside the Lines
A.J. Sass
Read for Librarian Book Group

Ellen is wired in a way that means she likes to know all the things ahead of time. Her trip to Spain with her classmates is a challenge. I really appreciated how this book showed a friendship transition that didn’t involve mean girl stuff.

Honey and Me
Meira Drazin
Read for Librarian Book Group

The story of sixth grade girls in an Orthodox school, this suffers from very low stakes. It does manage to be a novel that spans a year and is well plotted, so that was a plus.

Young Adult

Burn Down, Rise Up
Vincent Tirado
Read for Librarian Book Group

An excellent premise involving an internet challenge and the legacy of not-great-things that went down in the Bronx.

When the Angels Left the Old Country
Courtney Sacha Lamb
Read for Librarian Book Group

A long and satisfying novel that takes readers from the old country to the new one where factory workers are trying to obtain better working conditions. But don’t go into it thinking there will be some intense labor strike scenes. It’s mostly series of long conversations between an angel and demon. And that makes it sound boring. But it’s not, it’s a very interesting book, and I’m glad it won multiple youth media awards.

Man o’ War
Cory McCarthy
Read for Librarian Book Group

Swimming! So much good water stuff. Plus a dying midwestern aquarium and a theme of escape. This was my favorite find from the awards pile.

The Silence That Binds Us
Joanna Ho
Read for Librarian Book Group

May’s adjustment to life after her older brother commits suicide. Complicating factors include racist assumptions by key members of the town, growing feelings for her best friend’s brother, and her own racial blindness.

Kings of B’more
R. Eric Thomas
Read for Librarian Book Group

Harrison’s best friend Linus is moving away and, after being inspired by the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Harrison plans a big day on the town for a sendoff. This was full of fun male friendship with a sprinkling of dodging parental interference.

Grownup Fiction

Funny You Should Ask
Elissa Sussman

A then and now celebrity interview. Back then, things may have gotten intimate. Sussman is an engaging writer and it’s fun to see different life stages.

Now That You Mention It
Kristan Higgins

I grabbed this out of a Little Free Library because I was looking for books I could read and leave while on vacation. It wasn’t a good match. The drama was turned up too high for my taste and this book was centered in anti-fat bias. Plus a gastroenterologist who used the term “girl parts” and wasn’t sure where another character’s inner organs were because the person was “so fat” at 195 pounds. Also there was some really standout marginalizing of a mother living with bipolar disorder. Not for me, thanks.

Goodnight Nobody
Jennifer Weiner

This was a great vacation paring that I picked up from a thrift store. I enjoyed the stay-at-home mom who was once a reporter poking around a local murder of a stay-at-home mom. I also loved the ending, and I hear from the author’s note that a lot of people aren’t fans.

Big Summer
Jennifer Weiner

Before March 2023, I’d only read one (maybe two) other Weiner books, so I was surprised that like Goodnight Nobody, this also had to do with a not-police-or-detective character poking around a murder. Does Weiner write mysteries with normal women as gumshoes? I’ll have to explore.

In this, Weiner takes on social media influencers when Daphne agrees to be in her ex-friend’s summer wedding on Cape Cod.

Grownup Nonfiction

Find your Unicorn Space
Eve Rodinsky

For those of us who read Rodinsky’s Fair Play and thought, “A Unicorn Space? I have no idea what that would be.” Here is a book to help us figure out what their space to be creative is. (Mine is not typing up short book reviews of every book I read.)

Sentinel Damascus Collins 2004–2023

I like most all cats, but there are two I’ve met who were the best cats in the world. One was my friend’s dad’s cat that I met in high school. The other was Sentinel.

Sentinel was probably four years old when he came to live with us. We adopted him from the Oregon Humane Society where he was known as Admiral Jones. He had recently had his front leg amputated. He was found in a trailer park in Damascus (the source of his middle name) and his leg had been dislocated for too long; it needed to be removed. He’d been in foster care long enough for the fur to grow back and was pretty steady.

From the beginning, he was a cat who wanted to hang out. Matt picked him out—I had my eye on a big fella called King Ralph—and Matt suggested Sentinel as his name, and it fit him perfectly.

I have a lot of picture of him supervising whatever project was going on. Sentinel was always social, both with people and cats. When people came to visit, it wasn’t long before Sentinel appeared and made the rounds. He was interested in hanging out with any neighbor cats, especially upstairs kitty, who would come by to check up on him.

Sentinel liked attention. Though he wasn’t a lap sitter (probably because of his missing leg) he would jump on the couch and sit next to you, and he was a great fan of lying on my chest when I read or napped. He really liked to groom humans–I suspect he was weaned too early.

Matt liked how Sentinel advocated for his needs and remained determined to fulfill those needs. If Sentinel wanted something from Matt when he was sitting on the couch, he would sit on the back of the couch close enough so he could flick his tail in Matt’s face, which was funny enough to overcome the annoyance factor.

Sentinel had a very quiet meow most of the time. More of a mouth opening sound than a meow. His loud meow would appear when he was in distress, usually because he wanted attention, or felt that it was time to eat. But even then it was a one-and-done meow and didn’t come very often.

Sentinel had a very good sense of how much time had passed. If it was time for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) it was time for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch). He would stand by and headbutt my leg if I was sitting. Sometimes he even nipped my leg. If it was time for breakfast and I was still in bed, he would sometimes put his one front leg under my neck, claw the bed to gain purchase, and then burrow his nose under my neck and push my head in an attempt to turn me on my side and get me out of bed. It’s a good thing he was so charming because his persistence around food was really annoying. (Though silent.)

Matt picked out Sentinel because he thought that with only one front leg, he wouldn’t jump up on tables or counters. That was a miscalculation. He was a good jumper and, though he knew he wasn’t supposed to, he would jump on the counters to see what there was for him to scavenge. He also would sit on the arm of the couch and make a giant leap from the couch to the table under the windows. That one always made me nervous, especially when he was in his mid-teens. But he never missed.

One weekend afternoon, I was taking a nap in my bedroom to rest up from a baking failure. I had attempted chocolate chip cookies, but something had gone wrong, and there was nothing left to do but throw the cookies in the compost bin I kept on the counter. While attempting to rest, I heard a quiet ka-thunk from the kitchen. I ignored the noise a few times, then hauled myself out of bed to investigate. I found Sentinel on the kitchen counter using his nose to lift up the compost bin’s lid, biting a cookie and dragging it out, leaving the lid to ka-thump shut. He then ate the cookie part and spit out the chocolate chips. I laughed because it was so very wrong and also hilarious.

Names I called Sentinel: Big kitty, handsome fella, snaggle tooth, Elvis.

Antares came to live with us because Sentinel seemed to want a live-in friend. Sentinel accepted him into the household and showed him how to be a good indoor cat. I have a lot of pictures of the two of them sleeping, Sentinel’s red-black fur contrasting with Antares’s black-black fur.

As the resident at the Orange Door with the third-longest tenure, he really made his mark. It will be hard to not have Sentinel with us after fifteen years.

For five pages of blog posts tagged Sentinel, click here.

For 72 more posts tagged Sentinel, click here.

One of the posts in that last link reminded me to mention how much he loved feet. He was all about feet smells. So weird.

Zentangle 21 March 2023

Here we have Bales (upper left), Poke Root (top middle), a tiny bit of my favorite Shattuck (top right); Finery (middle right), the quite dramatic Onamato (lower right) and Florz (lower left) a Zentangle that is one of the first taught in the Zentangle book from the creators, but takes a while to show up in my Zentangle Book, (One Zentangle a Day by Beckah Krahula)

Year of Stitch Sampler No. 1, 2023

And it’s a late finish for the first sampler of the year.

This was a nice way to show off stitches.

The stitches are:

Pink: sheaf; Orange: mountmellick, and a blanket stitch to even things out; Yellow: love chain; Green: feather; Blue: herringbone. The clouds are basket weave (the tiny cloud) and cross bar filling trellis (the other two). All of the outlining is couching.

I really loved that basket weave cloud. I was less enamored of the crossbar filling trellis, and you can see that eventually I did not care about my lines being straight.

I also experimented with a shimmery white thread to outline the colors of the rainbow and on the clouds. It will be the first and last time I use such a thing. I didn’t like the synthetic feeling of the thread and it was a massive pain to work with. I used normal DMC floss to pin it in place.

Here’s the back. You can see the wiry bits of the shimmery thread and where they got tangled.

I think I did a great job with colors on this one! This is also the last of Matt’s old sheets to be used for embroidery.