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Jun. 19th, 2017


Approaching the summer solstice

Went to a good friend's wedding Saturday. Well, actually I got to the reception part- me and my penchant for getting lost. Oy. I think it was the hottest day of the year so far, but the area was well shaded, and there was a large tent, plus lots of cold bottled water, so it was all good. The bride looked lovely, and I...feel old ha ha!

Thankfully the mini heat wave is over. Much cooler today. Felt so much better!

Spent the afternoon and evening with my parents yesterday for Father's Day. We chatted, had pizza for dinner and watched two movies. The second movie was a rewatch for me- Fantastic Beasts. Loved it the second time around and wow did I pick up some things I missed the first time! Lots of little details that if you blink, you miss them.

The first movie was Sing. Now, I recall seeing the trailers and being underwhelmed, but then I kept hearing how wonderful this movie was. So, when dad said they had checked it out and hadn't seen it yet, I was anticipating a fun movie. Yeah. Wow. I really cannot figure out why so many people raved over this. The kindest thing I can say is it's a cheap knockoff of Zootopia with a bunch of mostly-pop numbers thrown it. There were a few elements I liked- I liked Rosita (although I also felt sorry for her; she makes this contraption to take care of her duties, and no one notices her absence until it breaks down. Wow. That's ...kinda sad). I liked Mike; the actor (Seth McFarlane) who voiced him does a commendable Frank Sinatra-style crooning. I did find it ironic that John C. Reilly, who has one of the best voices in Hollywood, was cast in a non-singing role. I liked the Sinatra numbers, and I did like the Gloria Swanson-esque Nana and her rendition of The Beatles' Once There Was a Way (the first time, at least. After that it was just weird). I did like the concept of the light-up squid. But this turkey of a movie was stuffed with too many so-so songs and way too many predictable moments. Really boring. And I don't know why Gunter has been promoted so much, I found him obnoxious. Dad and I agreed that we probably should have just continued to watch Die Another Day, which just started on tv when we plugged in Sing. If I had been watching this by myself, I probably wouldn't have finished it.

The Book Mouse's Book Report
27. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill. What a treat of a novel! I finished it in about a week, drinking in the story as greedily as the young protagonist drank in the moon as a baby. I knew I'd enjoy it when I recalled that Barnhill had also written The Witch's Boy, which I also liked. This novel is even better. The world created in this novel is so well fleshed-out and so magical, and the characters are wonderfully done. Even the two villains have their sympathetic moments (and considering the horrendous actions that the two villains are culpable of, that's quite a feat). In the story, Xan, an elderly witch, has taken to rescuing babies abandoned near a village where she lives. One year, however, she accidentally feeds one child moonlight, which enmagicks the infant girl. Xan decides to raise the young child herself, with the help of an ancient swamp monster and a tiny dragon. The girl's powers become enormous, and, in an effort to protect the little girl, Luna, the witch casts a spell- which winds up having unintended consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from that village starts questioning the policy of sacrificing an infant to the witch in the wood, and eventually declares that he will kill the witch. The converging paths lead to a multitude of discoveries for many characters. I loved the character of Xan, especially. She's powerful but has her own weaknesses- but those weaknesses stem from her love of her friends and especially for Luna, and from her good, kind heart. It's hard to miss the lesson about blindly following orders and the consequences of not questioning - and reaching out. However, the reader isn't beat over the head with this. All in all, a great read for preteens and up.

28. Inch By Inch, the Garden Song, by David Mallett, pictures by Ora Eitan. My mom found this book for me. I have always been fond of this song since I learned it in grade school, and this picture book, with it's simple and colorful illustrations, is quite charming. The illustrations fit in with the lyrics of this song, popularized by John Denver. The illustrations feel lighthearted and whimsical, almost abstract in their simplicity. For those who do not know this song, the music score is included in the back page. I can see a parent singing this song as he or she turned the pages.

29. Freedom Over Me, by Ashley Bryan. Wow, what a powerful book. The author used old sales records and plantation documents to create this story. One in particular, from an estate sale in 1828, serves as the backbone of this story- actually, a series of connected stories. From a few words, Bryan creates a picture of what these long-ago slaves might have thought, dreamed of and hoped for. Each person gets two pages- the first, which outlines the facts about their lives, includes a simple portrait placed over clippings of news articles, slave sales and other cold, unfeeling print. The next page, which goes over the person's dreams and aspirations, jump with color and texture. This picture book is beautifully done; I think a younger child can appreciate the stories, and an older child the sadness. Yes, the book made me feel rather sad. What Bryan offers about these 11 people who worked as slaves is mostly conjecture. All we really know are their names, ages and how much they were deemed to be worth by an appraiser. They were listed in the same columns as the cattle, the horse and other property. We will never truly know who these people really are, because back then they were regarded as property. Still, Bryan's work is a nice, touching tribute, giving humanity to those who had no voice in their futures.

Currently reading: Mary McGrory, the First Queen of Journalism, by John Norris, and Scythe, by Neal Shusterman.

Jun. 11th, 2017


Light at the end of the allergy tunnel

Yes! Finally, Thursday this past week, my allergies started to wind down. Still have an occasional cough but the difference is night and day. First weekend in a while where I didn't feel like just sleeping (last weekend was especially bad), and got a few things done. Not as much as I perhaps should have, but baby steps. This year was just a killer, allergy-wise.

Went to another paint event; this time we had fun with a black canvas. I've been watching Bob Ross videos a. for pointers, and b. to help my brain unwind at night, and I know the late master painter was a fan of them. They are really cool- the colors just pop! Very happy with my result today. Going to another one tomorrow. Yes, I'm addicted, ha ha! This one, however, ties in really nicely to one I did a... was it a week ago? Two weeks ago? I've lost track. It's a Grecian-style sea scene. So with those two paintings, plus a third I plan to tweak to make it look more Grecian, I'll have a nice three-piece themed set for over my mantle. Score!

Typical Ohio weather- earlier last week, it was mid-60s. Today and the next several days will see high 80s/low 90s. Then by the end of the month we get another break from the heat when temps go back in the low 70s.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

25. Some Assembly Required, by Arin Andrews. This fulfills the challenge for reading a YA or middle grade book by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. This is a moving autobiography by a young man who describes growing up feeling alienated by his own body, even from an early age, and his journey into transitioning from female to male. I would recommend this for high school age, either for those who may be experiencing the same conflicts, or those whose friends or family is transgender. I know it answered many of my questions; I only know a handful of people who are transgender (at least that I know of), and only two of them tolerably well. This is not something I, as someone who is comfortable being female, can relate to, but I'm glad I picked up this book because I think I can understand my friends' struggles at least a little better. There's laughter, there's sadness, there's many coming-of-age situations that anyone - transgender or cisgender (until this book I had no idea what that meant) - can relate to. I'm sure this is a book that will be challenged a good deal in libraries, particularly school libraries, for the main topic and for the frank talk about the surgeries and other sex-related issues. This is an important book, however, so I hope the challenges are met with a firm resistance.

26. Infamous Scribblers, by Eric Burns. I've long held that with the Internet giving everyone the equivalent of a cheap printing press, we have not seen a decay in news coverage and journalism. Rather, the internet hit the reset button, and everything old is new again. This book solidifies this view. Despair of the talking heads, pundits, half-truths and outright likes now? We have nothing on our Founding Fathers. Not saying we don't need to improve but the amount of vitriol that blazed from the first Colonial-era newspapers made my jaw drop at times. There was no such thing as fair, balanced reporting- indeed, the first newspaper editors wore their opinions and leanings like a badge of honor. Several, including Samuel Adams and James Callender, were not above making up their own truths for what they saw as the greater good. After the Revolutionary War, most (if not all) papers were either firm Federalist supporters or staunch Republican. This is a longer book but the pages flew by. It is both educational and entertaining. You will never see the Founding Fathers the same way. Burns portrays them here, their many warts and all. History buffs should definitely find a copy.

Currently reading: Still slowly working my way through The Hamilton Papers. Also have several books waiting for me at the library.

May. 29th, 2017


Slowly recovering

Thank heavens for three-day weekends- especially when I can take an additional day off to give myself some time to really recharge.

Still plagued by allergies but not nearly as badly. Did a lot of napping this weekend, and that seemed to help considerably. Which makes me wonder if it was all allergies. Still kind of drained. But I got some things done, finished one box for my aunt, hope to finish another, a half-started one, tonight.

My Vietnamese brother came over and put in a new faucet for my kitchen sink- how sweet! No more fighting to get it to shut off, no more leaks there. He had a time of it, there was considerable rust. But everything works out well now. Now... for the bathroom. I ordered a new faucet for there as well. I don't use it that much but if I can stop the constant drip it would probably save me money.

Some more good news- one more payment- this coming month- and I am DONE with my student loan!! Yaaaaaay!!!

Weather has been unusually cool. This past week was mostly 60s. This weekend warmed up a bit, still pleasant over all. Some scattered storms but not nearly as bad as predicted.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

22. Boxers, by Gene Luen Yang. This fulfills the Book Riot challenge for a book about a person of color who goes on a spiritual journey. This graphic novel relates the Boxer Rebellion as a legend, told through the eyes of Little Bao, the youngest brother who winds up leading a rebellion against the foreign invaders who seek to carve up and colonize China. He and his soldiers channel the legendary gods and figures in their culture as they fight. The art is beautifully drawn, and the story nicely developed. Little Bao especially is well done; he grows through the story, and makes his share of mistakes. I admit I don't know a lot about the Boxer Rebellion so I was rather startled by the ending. I did a bit of follow-up reading on this rebellion, but it was interesting getting a Chinese take on the event.

23. Ms. Marvel, by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona. This fulfills the Book Riot challenge category for reading a superhero comic with a female lead. I really liked this one! Kamala Khan is the daughter of parents who immigrated from Pakistan. Their household is a conservative, traditional one, but Kamala, a teenager, is questioning her future. She loves the adventures she sees in comics but is shocked one evening to find herself turn into a superhero. Kamala finds it tough to adjust to her new powers and reality, and struggles to weigh her parents wishes and concerns for her with her wishing to go out and help people and, ultimately, find her own identity. This is Marvel's first Muslim superhero, and the religion and culture make up an important part of Kamala. Still, her struggles at growing up, of wanting to know how she fits in, is something every preteen and teen will relate to. What I like is that her parents are real people. Her mother is overprotective but she's not a caricature. She has good reason. And I just love the father, who often has to play peacemaker between the rebellious Kamala and her traditional mother. The illustrations are beautifully done, rich and vivid.

24. Changing Planes, by Ursula Le Guin, illustrated by Eric Beddows. This fulfills the Book Riot challenge category for reading a collection of short stories by a female author. This...was strange. I'm still on the fence as to whether I liked this collection or not. The idea certainly is an interesting one- Le Guin writes a series of related short stories about various other worlds, or planes, which can only be accessed through a certain level of stress and aggravation, most notably the type one experiences at an airport. The first chapter covers how this was discovered, and the following chapters go into the various worlds. The stories read more like allegories- you have a world where people are constantly fighting, you have a world where the rich are the spectators and the commoners are more like celebrities. You have another world where growing wings is a curse. The best stories are the ones where the author (much of this is written in the first person) is interviewing one of the residents on any one of the worlds. There are some stories which merely relate the history and describe the inhabitants, which, if nothing else, are descriptive and imaginative, but also made me think "OK, this is interesting...I guess... but why should I care??" I admit skimming some chapters towards the end because my interest really started to lag. Le Guin especially seems to be fond of birdlike people- there are at least three stories/worlds where people have avian attributes. The illustrations are interesting, not sure they add much, except parents who might be checking out the book may want to be aware that some images are not exactly suitable for younger children.

Currently reading: Infamous Scribblers, by Eric Burns.

May. 21st, 2017


Allergy season has arrived

Whee. Was so hoping to get through an uneventful spring. But Thursday and Friday, my allergies attacked with a vengeance. Today was a bit better, thanks to an allergy pill. Still, really beginning to dread spring. Was in such a fog Friday, and today I just napped all day.
Edit on Sunday: Now I'm beginning to wonder if this is not allergies but the beginnings of a cold >.<. Joy. Right before the holiday weekend, when I actually had some fun things planned.

On a lighter note, I saw Guardians of the Galaxy on Tuesday with my li'l sis. Wow, that was a fun movie! Kudos to the cast and crew. I mean, how can you go from absurdly and side-splitting comical one moment, then bring on the tears the next- and it all flows together?? The second movie was even better than the first- although now I want to watch the first for the hints about the second, especially with Quill and his father. And Baby Groot *melts* Only thing cuter on screen is Baby Moana. Only complaint is now we've probably got at least a year's wait for the third installment. Boo!

The Book Mouse's Book Report

20. The Death and Life of American Journalism, by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols. This is a must-read for journalists and anyone wanting to save the field and restore it to its Fourth Estate watchdog status. The authors take a thorough look as to what is wrong with newspapers (really, all for-profit generalized mass media but the focus is on the newspaper), where things went wrong and, most importantly, how to bring them back. As to what is wrong, several of the problems McChesney and Nichols point to are issues I've brought up for years. A big problem is that the for-profit, commercial model is falling apart and cannot (and should not) be resurrected. The authors have a greater body of history and research than I do, and show that this model, started about 150 years ago, has been problematic from the start, although only now are the wheels starting to come off. McChesney and Nichols lay out why commercially-run media was a problematic situation, and why technology will not salvage it. But the sections I liked best were the solutions. This is the first book I've read on the subject that actually presents real-world and workable solutions, as opposed to pipe dreams. Essentially the solution is to go back to what our Founders had wanted and spoke for (the authors cite many examples): a heavily subsidized news media. The concept of the L3C corporate status- a fairly new status right now only recognized in a few states- seems especially tailor-made for media. It would allow media to remain for-profit under stringent guidelines. The L3C is for a low-profit entity with a social benefit. The company could could qualify for subsidies and could even apply for grants while still making a profit, as long as its social message is clear. I hope this avenue is explored and takes root. The consequences of remaining at the status quo would be dire, as the authors also illustrate. There are many citations, graphs and charts to back up what the authors say. Now, the big issue of course is will anyone listen. The cynic in me is doubtful. I hope I am proven wrong. McChesney and Nichols provide the tools and ideas- now they just have to be acted upon.

21. A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry. This one fills the Book Riot challenge for reading a classic by a person of color. This one almost felt like a cheat; I've seen this twice, plus I've also not only seen Clybourne Park, a 2010 spinoff of Raisin, I was in charge of props for a second, local production. Still, there's always value in reading a script for a show you've seen, and the forward was worth the read in and of itself. I came to appreciate the humanity of the piece, which stands the test of time because it is such a human story. The play focuses on the Younger family: three generations living in a run-down apartment in Chicago. Their lives change when the matriarch receives a $10,000 check, which brings out the best and worst in all of them. The audience learns of their dreams, hopes and fears, set in a backdrop of discrimination, which shows when Lena decides to take some of the money to purchase a home in a white neighborhood. All in all, it's a great play that deserves the classic title. A pity Hansberry died so young. She was quite prolific in her 34 years; I can't help wonder how much more she could have done if she had longer. Still, grateful to what she was able to do. A Raisin in the Sun is a gem.

May. 11th, 2017


Prom season and graduations...

... are already upon us. Wow. The years, they are flying.

After a warm-up, things got rather cool again for May; it's been mostly 60s, even high 50s, and rain. Tons and tons of rain. There were days I wish I had one of those Aquacars :P Still looks like we will be on a temperature roller coaster. Tomorrow's forecast calls for 59, then 88 for Wednesday, then a slow descent back into the low 70s for the end of the month. One possible nice thing though, and I've probably said this before- May tends to be a good indicator for the tone (and temperatures) of summer. So our cool, wet May means we won't be broiling alive in July and August, if history holds true. Still, it probably means that winter will return to all its normal, icy, snowy "glory." Blech.

Slowly but surely getting through the house cleaning. Yuck. Hate cleaning, and hate even more what will probably have to happen next. Sigh.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

19. Journalism Next, by Mark Briggs. Overall I was impressed with this book, although in all honesty any journalist who isn't doing (or at least tried) two-thirds of these things is way behind the curve. There are a lot of good, sound suggestions for journalists for incorporating the various aspects of online applications such as video, podcast, blogging and social media. There's a lot packed in 300-some pages, but it is well-organized and never feels overwhelming. There are many websites, programs and apps Briggs recommends, ranging from free to more expensive but top-drawer. What impressed me is that while the book was published five years ago, the content still feels fresh and relevant. There were a couple times where I was thinking "eh, that doesn't apply now," but only a couple, and they were minor points. That's impressive for a book on technology, especially in a field that seems to change every month (some would say every week, and I won't argue against that).
Only two complaints. The first is fairly minor- Briggs recommends that before doing a podcast or video, the journalist should warm his or her voice up, which YES, is wonderful advice. But then he goes on to say that the should warm up with a familiar song, such as the Star Spangled Banner. I cringed at this. No, don't use The Star Spangled Banner to warm up- you will hurt yourself. Take it from someone who has eight-plus years of classical vocal training. It's best to either sing on vowel sounds or, better yet, buzz up and down a few sets of scales that are easily in your vocal range.
The bigger issue is the overall tone that following these suggestions will help save the journalism industry. No, no they will not. This book is an excellent guide for journalists wishing to make the most of the online resources out there, yes. And don't get me wrong- shrinking newsholes, covering "fluff" for hitcounts, reporting mistakes and credibility issues are a big problem. But anyone who looks to this guide as a means of salvaging the industry will be disappointed. The biggest problem with the industry has little to do with the editors and reporters covering the news. It's that the profit model is deteriorating. Indeed, it is this implosion that is at least partially responsible for the troubles with news coverage.
This very issue is covered in the book I am reading now. No, didn't plan it that way, just serendipitous timing.

Currently reading: The Death and Life of American Journalism, by Robert W. McChesney

Apr. 29th, 2017


Almost May already (???)

I say this every year, but wow is time flying by.

The weather continues to be decent. It's cooler and overcast today but tomorrow might see temps in the low to mid 80s. Wow!

Put in a sizable dent in cleaning over my extended four-day weekend (took a couple vacation days.) Was a bit of a bum this morning and afternoon but then again it was a busy week. Really needed some time to unwind. Not bad- just busy. Plan to continue the momentum after I finish this. Also need to get started on some various painting projects. Will probably do those tomorrow; if it gets as warm as some weather stations predict, it's going to be hot and humid- a good day to chill with a paintbrush, my canvases and my boxes, in other words.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

17. Glow Kids, by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras. I finished this one for the book on technology category for the Read Harder challenge. This one has actually been on my want-to-read list for a while. I've seen it referenced a couple times in articles concerning education and problematic technology use for children. So I knew what type of message I would be reading. Also, I've seen with my own eyes the effect of people, especially younger people, being glued to their screens. I myself have tried to cut back at least one weekends. It's tough- guess where I am now, ha ha! Still, I was unprepared for the scope and depth of the issues presented here. Now, Kardaras makes clear from the start he is NOT anti-technology, and even indicates where it can be useful. What this book champions against is too much tech and the wrong tech too soon. And his own anecdotes on what he has seen in children and young adults (he's an addiction counselor) who struggle with gaming and technology addictions are unnerving. He not only cites his own observations, but quotes from numerous studies that outline the dangers of too much technology use. Kardaras goes into the history of "glowing screens" starting with television, the Etan Patz kidnapping and how that (plus other societal views) changed how children were brought up, how and why children get addicted and, perhaps best yet, solutions to the situation. There's a lot of ground covered in less than 300 pages. The writing style and organization make it easy to read and understand. Once in a while I wondered if the sarcasm and condemnation came off a bit harshly. For example, he criticized parents who carried their children's backpacks. OK, my thought was how old were the kids and how heavy were those backpacks. Every year before the start of school there are articles from orthopedic surgeons who caution against young children carrying too heavy a bag because it can cause back and neck problems. I once weighed my high school bag once after walking home from school, in ninth grade. It had all my books in it, and it weighed 25 pounds. That was without the folders and binders, which would have added another couple pounds. That was really heavier than I should have been carrying around school, much less carting over two miles from school to home (mind you, I also had back surgery two years before, plus other mild to moderate orthopedic issues.) I can easily imagine a pint-sized gradeschooler's bag weighing 15-20 pounds-far above what they should be carrying. But that's another topic for another day, and I'm really beginning to digress here. This is a small point in an otherwise well-written and researched book. I do hope parents and educators read it and take the messages to heart. There are reasons the American Academy of Pediatrics have set guidelines for technology use for children and teens (http://www.educationviews.org/danger-children-handheld-devices/).

18. Fishing Tips and Takes, by C. William King. I read this for work; I'm not using for the book challenge but those in my neck of the woods who need a book for the book set 100 miles from your location could consider this one, especially if they are into fishing, fly fishing and local lore. King's book was fun to read; he relates his various fishing adventures in someone fictitious fashion, and his stories are amusing. I laughed out loud at his story regarding one of his trips when he saw a colony of bats. I liked it, too, because it brought back memories of me fishing with my dad when I was younger. Never went fly fishing. Admittedly, if you don't like the great outdoors and can't stand fishing, you might not enjoy this book. As well as his personal anecdotes, King sprinkles his short stories with many fishing tips and fly fishing pointers. But for those who do, this is a quick and fun read. King has a warm, personable tone to his writing. It put me in mind of listening to stories on a sprawling back porch on a summer evening.

Currently reading: Journalism Next, by Mark Briggs.

Apr. 15th, 2017


Weather observations

Forgot to add this.

Looks like *knocks on wood* winter is gone. Temperatures are going to remain in the 60s and 70s through the end of April. I actually felt warm air in my face today- not mild and temperate, warm. Felt like summer. Trees have been flowering and either putting out tiny green leaves or have the first blushes of leaf buds. I expect by next weekend most of the trees will be green.

Had a good birthday

The snow aside, I had a nice birthday. Did more of the celebrating the following day rather than the actual day, which I spent finishing laundry and cleaning. Whee.

Met my lil sis for lunch, then spent the afternoon at my parents' house. Dad continues to do well, he was up and moving, albeit very slowly. We watched Kubo and the Two Strings, and Kelly lent me Moana, which I wound up watching later that evening from home.

Kubo and the Two Strings- this was a strange little movie, but I liked it. Kelly is probably right when she calls it a mashup of Japanese lore given a Hollywood spin. Some of the dialogue got a bit cheezy but the story was good and, wow, the stop animation was incredible. The details and color were amazing, a visual treat. I adored all the origami effects. In the story, Kubo and his mother have been hiding from his grandfather. When he is found, Kubo must find his father's armor to save himself from his grandfather and aunts. I figured out the twist with the monkey and beetle, two of his guardians, long before the reveal. Still, there were other surprises and as I said, I really liked this one. I wonder if there will be more?

Moana- FINALLY got to see this one and it did not disappoint. I might have my new favorite Disney movie. Kind of sad- this one seems popular enough but nowhere near as popular as Frozen was. Don't get me wrong, I loved Frozen. But this was superior in every way. Where do I start? The music and animation were just fantastic. Listening to the music now. The story was great, a true coming of age story where both main characters grow and learn. The characters were amazing, especially the two main characters. Gotta love Moana- baby Moana is just too cute for words, and the older teen is wonderfully done. She is spunky and headstrong but has a good heart. She makes many mistakes but learns from them, and her compassion moves her forward as much as her courage. And Maui- how can you not like Maui? He's not a nice guy, especially at first. The demigod is egotistical and a bit selfish. But he has a human side as well, and develops as much as his younger traveling companion. They learn from each other, and their developing camaraderie makes up the bulk of the story.

The Book Mouse's Book Report

15. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter. This was for the category of a book that has been banned or challenged. It was ranked by Time magazine as one of the top 10 challenged books in 2015. I can- and can't- understand why. Dr. Suess and Mo Willems this is not. Most children's books have a sweet, sunny and upbeat feel. This is somber reading for a young child, and I would recommend an adult read this with children in grade 2 or younger, depending on the maturity level of the child. The book is based on a true story. Nasreen's parents both disappear, and the little girl falls silent, worrying her grandmother. Grandmother sneaks Nasreen to a secret school for girls, defying the Taliban. There, slowly Nasreen finds her voice and her hope.

16. Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia (Author), Margaret Stohl (Author), and Cassandra Jean (Visual Art). I read this for the fantasy category in the Read Harder challenge. Actually, I think I read the novel already because by Chapter 4 I began to remember how the ending went. Weird I didn't record it but ah well, it was worth the reread in the manga version. This is a good story, and the illustrations are wonderful. My one complaint is sometimes the order of the dialogue is hard to follow. Other than that, I enjoyed it. In the story, Ethan, who has grown up in a small town, has his world changed with the appearance of Lena, the niece of the town eccentric (I love how the dog is named Boo). Ethan finds himself finding out about a world of magic and history he never knew existed as he helps Lena, who is approaching her 16th birthday. On her birthday, she will be bound to either the black magic or white. This is a good read for preteens and older.

Currently reading: Glow Kids, by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras and Journalism Next, by Mark Briggs.

Apr. 7th, 2017


Winter to spring...

Of course it snowed today. Saw about 3-4 inches on my trash bins when I left for work. Tomorrow is my birthday, so I guess Mother Nature decided to send a little gift. She got me the same gift last year as well :P How nice.

Mother Nature. We need to have a little *chat*.

Ah well, most of the snow is gone and it's not too bad out now, temperature-wise. It was actually colder last night, although that was probably because the wind was so intense. Brrrr! Went swimming last night; meant to go tonight as well but got caught up in a book, which I finished. More later.

As I said, tomorrow is my birthday. I made 37 new experiences, with the last being last Sunday. Mom and I went to a charming winery in the Medina area for Theresa's bridal shower. It's a cute little place, and not too far off. Tried another kind of wine (so perhaps 38?) and enjoyed a good time with a laid-back group of good friends. I think the funniest moment- there was a game where we all selected an envelope, each which has a cut out picture of a man. All but one had a celebrity; the one had a picture of the groomsman to be, Joel. Everyone, including Joel, was given an envelope. Soooo... guess who got the picture of the groom? Yeah- that was the hardest I'd laughed all week.

I am so fortunate to have such a good family and so many good friends. That makes what I may have to do -- what I will probably have to do -- so much harder.

As I said, don't plan to count experiences this year. Too much in flux and too overwhelmed. If things don't change this year could actually be WORSE than last year.

On a brighter note, dad came through his surgery OK. Better than OK, even. He called me the next day, and he sounded great. He even went home a day early. Kelly and I plan to visit Sunday afternoon, keep him company.

Tomorrow and Monday- lots of cleaning and lots and lots of phone calls. Sigh.

The Book Mouse's Book Report:
14 A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. This meets the reading a travel memoir category in the Book Riot Challenge. Wow. This was tough to read emotionally, but it is incredibly well-written. Amanda, as a young adult, squirreled away money from working in restaurants and bars to raise funds to travel. Half of this story covers her growing up in a rather dysfunctional household to taking the plunge and start traveling to the places she had seen in travel magazines and National Geographic, her escapes when things became difficult. She saved up money and would travel for months, going to Europe, South America, Australia and finally Africa. Later, she would become a freelance photographer and writer. The second half of the book goes into her capture by Somali jihadists, along with her once-boyfriend Nigel. Amanda and Nigel were held prisoner for about a year and a half. What she and Nigel had to go through sent shivers down my spine. The descriptions of her being starved, of her torture and her rapes are not gratuitous but what is there chills the blood. Their eventual release and their reactions made me tear up. I can't imagine going through what they did. The story and background were well-told. However, as well as an engaging and insightful memoir, I do hope it also is studied by would-be world travelers as to what *not* to do when thinking of embarking on a journey to another country.

Mar. 29th, 2017



What else can I say after another big bombshell dropped at work today? Not looking forward to tomorrow. I sincerely hope not but I wonder if more will be dropped. Shit shit shit.

It had been such a good week, too. Another acrylic therapy day Monday, tried a new restaurant, yeah.

Dad's surgery also is coming up. It's supposed to be routine and fairly minor, but... you never know.

Well, as I mentioned, I did try a new restaurant I was eyeing. It was OK- basically a generic Chipotles. Still, the food was decent, not as spicy, and my meal included chips. Might go back. So that's 36 new experiences. Not sure I'll make it to 42. Considering the dumpster fire that was last year and how things are shaping up to be at least as bad this year, it's the least of my worries. I will, of course, continue to look for new experiences and learn new things but I think I'm going to take this next year off from actually counting them. Methinks I'm going to be really busy trying to just stay afloat and ahead. Sigh.

I finished two more books, both for the Read Harder challenge.

12. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel. This meets the challenge for reading a novel set in central or South America. Really mixed views on this one. The positives are many. The writing is gorgeous, I love the style. Each chapter incorporates a recipe that is germane to the rest of the chapter. It reads like a folk tale or local legend, and you can see the colors and smell the cooking. The central character is Tita, who turns out to be the aunt of the person telling the story. Tita was born the youngest daughter to a controlling mother (and controlling is an understatement). She finds pleasure in cooking, but her talents in the kitchen go well beyond the tactile ingredients put in each dish. Her mother thwarts her desire to marry her sweetheart, and in between dishes and life events, the story follows the not-always-so-secret romance of Tita and Pedro. And here is where I have issues. Pedro shows himself to be a rash fool by accepting the mother's offer to marry Tita's older sister. Tita not only still pines for him, but even jeopardizes the new relationship that blossoms between her and a local doctor, who saves her life and treats her like a queen. I feel sorry for Tita, it's hard not to. Her domineering mother really screwed up her life. But, after finding a wonderful, generous man, Tita still carries on with the married Pedro. I guess this can be seen as something that probably happens in real life but all the same, I wanted to shake some sense into Tita. She is definitely human. Still, I do like how she finds her independence and her voice, and not just through her dishes.

13. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. This fits into the category of reading a book that was published between 1900 and 1950. Really glad I could squeeze this in because it's been on my to-read list ever since I read the sequel, Sweet Thursday. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. Some of my favorite books of all time include The Pearl, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck has a gritty, spare realism, and his themes remain topical even decades later. What I loved about Cannery Row (and Sweet Thursday), though, is the gentle humor. There were times and scenarios where I was laughing out loud. Much of the story is character-driven; the reader is introduced to the canning district in Monterey, California, and its motley collection of residents. There isn't much of a plot, and the story elements don't kick in until a good third of the way through the book. But the characters are so charming and so eclectic, it's still a fascinating (and fun) read. The biggest story is the efforts of Mack, a n'er do well with a good heart and (usually) good intentions and his other assorted friends attempting to do something nice for the gentle and altruistic Doc. The reader knows disaster is coming, but what happens and the events leading to the ill-fated event are still hilarious. The book is not a comic one - there are some more serious moments (including a couple that made me wince, particularly the implied fate of Frankie). But all in all, this was an enjoyable and quick read. Steinbeck turns these characters - most of them types who would be portrayed in a negative way in other stories- and shows their warmth and humanity, and I couldn't help liking them.

Currently reading: A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout.

Edit- aaaand just found out a dear, sweet friend of many years passed away about an hour ago. FML.

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