Books Read in August 2023

Middle Grade

Squished: A Graphic Novel
Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter
Read for Librarian Book Group

There are still families with many children and I’m always happy to see them depicted in print. This graphic novel showed off sibling dynamics and individuality.

World Made of Glass
Ami Polonsky
Read for Librarian Book Group

I’ve been calling for more novels that discuss AIDS in the 80s and Polonsky has provided. Iris’s dad has AIDS and it’s not a thing she has shared with her friends (for good reason.)

Young Adult

A Scatter of Light
Malinda Lo

A summer spent with her grandmother before college changes Aria’s life. I really enjoyed Aria’s poor but inevitable choices rendered in sparkling prose.

Alisha Emrich

This was a nice little romance set among cosplaying teenagers.

Luck of the Titanic
Stacy Lee

It took two attempts to finish this book, mostly because I wasn’t up with a sinking that is much too familiar. But most of the book is Valora and her brother rebuilding their relationship plus the conditions for people of Chinese descent and how they were treated on the Titanic and in their lives. The sinking is a small part of the story. I found the ending rather brave. This book is filled with the historical fiction details that Stacy Lee is known for.

Grownup Fiction

Crying in H Mart
Michelle Zauner

A solid memoir with a lot of talk about Korean food. It’s a mom-has-cancer book, though, so be aware.

Legends and Lattes
Travis Baldree

It’s “Let’s put on a play!” but with an Orc. And the “play” is starting a coffee shop in a town where no one has heard of coffee. Given that coffee is an acquired taste for nearly everyone, I didn’t buy that everyone loved it on first sip, but this was an entertaining book.

Grownup Fiction

The Glass Hotel
Emily St. John Mandel

It took a long while for me to figure out where this story was going, but I didn’t mind as the writing and the characters were enough.

(August vacation Little Free Library contribution No. 1)

Bryan Washington

A good own-voices perspective with a two person narrative that didn’t bounce back and forth chapter by chapter. (Win!) The writing was spare, enough that there were no quotation marks.

(August vacation Little Free Library contribution No. 2)

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

I’m likely to enjoy a summer-at-the-lake book and this one had a mystery baked in. It got rather dramatic in an unsatisfying way at the end, but overall it was a good vacation read.

(August vacation Little Free Library contribution No. 3)

The Making of Another Motion Picture Masterpiece
Tom Hanks and illustrator Robert Sikoryak

This goes deep into the lives of the people who come together to make movies. While not the most succinct read (one of the people is the kid who grows up to write the underground comic the movie is based on) it was probably the kindest book I’ve read this year. The narrator is someone who loves people and finds their lives worth talking about.

I have a feeling this is a fantasy movie set though. Or the platonic ideal.

Grownup Nonfiction

Alright, Alright, Alright
Melissa Maerz

I loved this book! For fans of Dazed and Confused (all of whom could guess the topic from the book title) this book weaves together interviews from seemingly all the people involved in the making of Dazed and Confused, plus some people who worked with Richard Linklater before and after the movie, including people who went to high school with him.

It’s packed with a ton of interesting facts (Jason Lee was also there for filming; he was dating Marissa Ribisi at the time and went as her chaperone. Ben Affleck was tired of being cast as a bully. Filming was like summer camp for the actors and was hell for Linklater.) I especially appreciated the chapter that focused on the women in the film both how they interacted with each other and how the film shifted focus from them as filming went on. This is essential reading for Linklater fans, people interested in how movies get made, and people who still have crushes on many actors of early 90s cinema.

Personal story: In college my roommates were trying to decide which VHS tape to watch. “Let’s watch alright, alright, alright,” said one. We all knew immediately what she was talking about. And I’ve thought of that as the title every since.

Taking Stock: A Hospice Doctor’s Advice on Financial Independence, Building Wealth, and Living a Regret-Free Life
Jordan Grumet

FIRE-esque financial book from the viewpoint of a hospice doctor. Grumet suggests three different paths to follow in a way that FIRE advocates usually don’t.

SKS: Protest Postcard

Sara writes that she and Shawn visited the Humboldt County Fair for the first time since 2019, and had a good time, though it was a hard shift from the Minnesota State Fair. I can attest to that being true, as I’ve been to both the HCF and the MSF.

I note that the copyright on this postcard is from 2017. I wonder what the genesis of this card was…. 😉

Summer Songs, 2023

I drove around town a lot this summer, and that meant a lot of time with commercial radio, which remains a hellscape of too many of the same songs (some of which are more than 30 years old—I’m looking at your Red Hot Chili Peppers “Under the Bridge”) played too often.

Still, there were highlights, and here they are:

Taylor Swift “Anti-Hero.”

My favorite lyric:
Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby
And I’m a monster on the hill
Too big to hang out, slowly lurching toward your favorite city
Pierced through the heart, but never killed

Olivia Rodrigo “Vampire”

And now I know that I was listening to the clean version of that song!

Aside from the raw anger, something Rodrigo does so well, I like the backup singers who follow the line “How do you lie without flinching?”

Noah Kahn “Dial Drunk”

There are two versions of this song, the first is Noah Kahn solo, the second with Post Malone

I’ve really enjoyed Stick Season both with and without guest artists. It brings back all the New England feelings, most of which aren’t great, but contains those feelings in a good way.

Independent of listening to it, I was about the song, especially this part:
I don’t like that when they threw me in the car
I gave your name as my emergency phone call
Honey, it rang and rang, even the cops thought you were wrong for hangin’ up

I remarked to Matt that it probably doesn’t matter if the cops thought he was wrong because they probably were just saying that. Matt commented that its super common for police to agree with people if it means they will get in the police car.

I don’t love Post Malone’s verse, but I do like the harmony that comes with his appearance.

Rema and Selena Gomez “Calm Down”

This was also the summer I watched Only Murders in the Building, so it was a big Selena Gomez summer because this song played Every. Single. Time. I was in the car.

The underlying rhythm is the thing that works in this song for me. I suspect if I knew the lyrics better I might not be so hot on the message.

The Fanta callout is fun, though.

Happy Days by NWCTC

Matt and I went to see the NWCTC perform Happy Days in the Lloyd Center Mall. It took place in the former Victoria’s Secret as it did last year, when I saw The Fever.

It’s not quite as easy to see the layout of VS because of the curtains, but you can see the iconic black and white stripes on the walls.

While I deeply loved last year’s production, I found Samuel Beckett’s play to be tedious. I’m not so much into absurdist plays. Neither was the guy next to me who looked at his Apple watch more than four times.

The program says about the play, “It is considered a ‘summit role’ for female actors, presenting a unique opportunity of intense theatricality.”

Diane Kondrat (Winnie) and Chris Porter (Willie) were very good in their roles.


Our vacation continued in Portland (because it’s important to vacation in your own town) with a visit to Hopscotch, an immersive art experience.

I loved this mural, and would love to have the artist paint a mural on the side of our house. Someday, maybe.

This installation was made of plastic garbage bags, and the lights changed colors making things seem otherworldly.

Here’s a close-up with slightly different colors.

This was my favorite installation. Because a ball pit is a very fun thing, especially when not in a Chuck E Cheese and with fun lighting.

Matt really liked this room, but I did not. You put on a headset that showed you, but from a different perspective. Then you got to walk around and shoot a basket and other fun things while dealing with that perspective.

This installation was a maze of neon.

From there, we went to Clarklewis and had a delicious dinner and many, many people wished us a happy anniversary (and also engaged us in conversation about our wedding.)

Wrapping up Sisters and Headed Home

In Sisters, the air quality was terrible. Smoke from two forest fires was funneled right into the town. Because of that, we didn’t do any walking back and forth to the downtown area as I did on my last visit. But our very large room was a perfect place to hole up.

On Monday night we saw Blue Beetle at the Sisters Movie House and concluded that while Blue Beetle didn’t want to hurt anyone, he didn’t mind if his family did.

We also did another Exit escape room game, getting out of the labyrinth in just under an hour and a half.

On Tuesday, we stayed inside and played another escape room game, this one called the Deserted Lighthouse. It included four puzzles that you had to assemble in order to solve it, plus other things. I didn’t love it. Putting puzzles together while a timer is ticking isn’t my favorite thing. And we didn’t do very well, I think maybe getting 2 stars out of ten.

From there we drove to downtown Sisters to find food and stopped in at the Open Door to see if they happened to have a table. They had us wait a few minutes because someone was a no-show for their reservation and they wanted to see if they would appear. They did not, and we had a delicious dinner. Thanks, Open Door.

On Wednesday, after eating breakfast and lounging around, we took our timer photo and headed home.

On the way there, we stopped at On Any Sundae, and had a frozen treat. I tried the frozen “lasagna,” which was many layers of delicious fun. Matt got an overstuffed waffle cone. Both were quite good.

Leaving Summer Lake, Riddle Routes Bend

On the previous day, we left the Walker Trail Trailhead and headed to Lakeview for some lunch. We heard a squeal. It was intermittent, so at first we ignored it. Eventually we pulled over and had a look. But we know little about cars, so that wasn’t helpful. On we continued to Lakeview where we ate at a Chinese restaurant and headed back to our lodgings. Unfortunately, as we drove through town the squealing was super loud, so much so that people’s heads were turning. We pulled over and again looked at where we thought the source was, our front tire.

A man in a truck pulled over, immediately diagnosed the problem as a rock stuck in the wheel. He first crawled under the car to see if he could work the rock out that way. That didn’t work, so he asked us to pull the car up onto the curb and did another check. No rock. From there, he got a jack out of his truck and asked for our tire iron. That’s the level of car knowledge I have, so we could supply that. He took off the tire, but no dice. Back to the truck he went for more tools and he disassembled the breaks. It was at this point I did feel a prickle of worry that he might not be able to put things back together, but it was late afternoon on Sunday in a small town, so he was probably our best bet.

It turned out the rock was buried as deep as it could be in the workings of the tire. Our good Samaritan found it, reassembled everything, and was on his way. We compensated him for his time because when someone helps two city folk with no car knowledge in a small town, that is a very lucky thing.

We took the rock with us, and here Matt is modeling it for the camera.

So tiny, yet so loud! The rock then joined the other rocks in the driveway of our cabin.

On this day, it had rained all night and into the morning which wasn’t great for stargazing, but made for a cozy night playing board games in the cabin.

From there, we took the very long way to Bend taking Highway 395 past Lake Albert over to Highway 20. On Highway 20, driving became normal again, with much traffic. We stopped at Hampton Station for lunch and found it was overwhelmed with customers and almost out of food. Our sandwich choices were limited, but they were good.

In Bend, we did a Riddle Route and had fun exploring the city that way. I grabbed this picture of a very stripy couple walking while we were on our route.

The air quality in downtown Bend was hazy, but not terrible. But once we got to the north part of the city it was very smoky and then increasingly smoky on our drive to Sisters, where we checked into 5 Pine Lodge and shut ourselves in for the night.

Exploring Lake County

We took a drive to see if we could find the place where hang gliders launched. The dirt roads challenged our Honda Civic, and we ended up pulling over and Matt exploring the last bit by foot. We then looped back to a scenic lookout for a picture.

We then did a short hike on the Walker Trail, going nowhere near the 30 mile length of the trail, but appreciating the scenery.

I liked these dollops of bright red-orange against the greens and browns on the trail.

From there, we went to Lakeview for lunch. On the way, an intermittent screeching began. More on that tomorrow. In the meantime, here is another pretty view of our cabin. While the cabin is darling, we discovered that the screens weren’t tightly fit into the windows and it got a little buggy inside once the sun went down. I’ve set my sights on the Sunrise or Sunset cabins for our next visit.