Books and Books! Best of 2013

I read some books last year! Some of them were really good, and some were just ok. And for those of you who need the details on my favorites, I’m happy to tell you all about them.

Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight – Alexandra Fuller

dogsA friend recommended this memoir last year and it might be the
best book recommendation I’ve ever received. The author tells the story of her childhood growing up in Rhodesia, and that alone would have been an interesting enough tale what with the political unrest and exotic locale. Add to that her family dynamics, and it made for a book I couldn’t put down. Loved it so much I read two other books by Fuller, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and Falling: The Story of a Marriage, in quick succession.

 

 

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune – Bill Dedman

mansionsLiving in Santa Barbara I always wondered about the huge estate by the bird sanctuary near East Beach. This book tells the fascinating story of the owner of that estate, Huguette Clark, and how she came to be a fantastically wealthy recluse. Read it, but be advised that you may get sick to your stomach if you are nauseated by people who have more money than they know what to do with.

 

 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

handmaidThis book has been on my to-read list for years and I finally got to it. So great, and so creepy, it almost seems plausible. And isn’t that what makes great dystpian fiction? Reading this spurred me to read the MaddAddam trilogy as well. It was great, but couldn’t match the Handmaid’s Tale. The Year of the Flood was the best of the three.

MaddAddam Trilogy: #1 Oryx and Crake, #2 The Year of the Flood, #3 MaddAddam

 

 

The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

ageAnother dystopian fiction novel, this one is set in San Diego during the “slowing”, when the earth begins to slow its rotation due to climate change. The story explores how people cope, and how society and culture changes, to adapt to longer days and longer nights. Super unsettling, and even more than The Handmaid’s Tale, seems like it could actually happen.

 

 

 

Flight Behavior – Barbara Kingsolver

flightAnother great one from Barbara Kingsolver, who so rarely lets me down (I’m looking at you Lacuna). She so perfectly captures small towns and the people that populate them, and I just can’t help but root for Dellarobia, despite her shortcomings. And I definitely keep rooting for the butterflies.

 

 

 

 

I should note that I read a ton of Young Adult fiction this year, and there are a few standouts:

Wonder – R. J. Palacio

wonderThe Kid read this with her fifth grade class and told me I HAD to read it. If my 10 year old, who isn’t much of a reader, tells me she loves a book I know it must be something great. And it is. Pick it up and read it, you can probably finish it in two days, and its two days well spent.

 

 

 

 

Divergent Series – Veronica Roth

divergentThese books were quite enjoyable. Almost as good as The Hunger Games series, but not quite. The concept is a world where society is divided into factions based on personality or virtue, and the factions together form a functioning society. Of course it doesn’t work smoothly, or it wouldn’t be dystopian fiction… I can’t say I loved the ending, but the series as a whole is worth reading.

Divergent Series: #1 Divergent, #2 Insurgent, #3 Allegiant

 

 

The rest of the books I read in 2013 are listed here, and if you want to check out my reads from previous years, click away.

25 Books in 2013

Favorites of 2012

20 Books in 2012

Favorites of 2011

More Favorites of 2011

40 Books in 2011

Me and Books: A Reunion Part 1

Me and Books: A Reunion Part 2 (kids books)

 

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Good Music, Good Friends, and a Good Cause

Looking for something to do tomorrow night?

Saturday September 21st, 2013, is the Imagesecond annual Amy Cole Memorial Scholarship Fundraiser House Concert! Featuring music from El Monte Slim, Dustin Illingworth (Tide Pools), and Marie Haddad with Kelly Duley, it’s going to be a night of great music. There will also be a silent auction with all kinds of goods available from local artists, businesses, and restaurants; and a dessert auction so you go home with a yummy treat after a night of fun. You can get more information about the event, including ticketing information by clicking here, to go to the event Facebook page.

The fundraiser will benefit the Amy Cole Memorial Scholarship fund for Young Audiences of San Diego. Young Audiences is a fantastic organization that provides visual art and performance classes and workshops to elementary schools in San Diego. If you can’t make it to the fundraiser, please consider donating directly to Young Audiences here, at their website.

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You Say Soda, I Say Coke

Hey, remember a while back when everybody was doing those regional accent video blogs? Well, a friend of mine just sent me link to a bunch of maps put together by a North Carolina University PhD student that are based on a linguistic study that looked at this very thing. Pretty cool if you’re into that kind of thing, and I know many of us are. You can look at all of the maps from the study, and look at the results by city, by clicking here. I’ll be nerding out on this for the forseeable future.

Despite what the maps say is the norm for a regional term or pronunciation, its not that simple. I grew up in Southern California, but use many terms and pronunciations that are distinctivly south-midwestern thanks to my mom’s family who came from Missouri. For example, soda/pop was always “coke” (note the small c) no matter what kind you were drinking:

Waitress: Can I get you something to drink?

Me: Sure I’ll have a coke, what kind do you have?

Waitress: Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sprite, Dr. Pepper…

Me: I’ll have a Dr. Pepper

See what I did there? Dr. Pepper is a coke, with a small “c”. Not “big C” Coke, like the brand. When I looked at my hometown on the map, it does reflect a higher percentage of people who use the word “coke” than in other Southern California cities, so it makes sense.

Also, we grew up saying “grinder” instead of sub, but I don’t even see that reflected on the map. I know we aren’t crazy, because there’s even a shop that my mom loved called D’Elia’s Grinders that she thought was worth going out of the way for if you wanted a sandwich. It was pretty good, as I remember.

And I know that California is a little blended on the caramel/carml question according to the map, but I can’t think of anyone who says “carml” instead of “caramel”, unless they are talking specifically about Carmel the city, in which case they say car-MEL; or one of the many roads and neighborhoods here in San Diego with Carmel in the name, in which case they say CAR-mel. If you’ve ever driven the highway 56 corridor through San Diego you know there are a lot of Carmel streets. I think they were short on name inspiration in that corridor, but thats another blog.

A couple of other comments:

Mayonnaise is always pronounced “man-aze”. And its gross.

It doesn’t matter how you pronounce “pajamas” because they are called “peejays” or “jammies”.

Dinner is an early supper.

“Roof” and “root” are not pronounced the same as “room” and “broom”, despite the presence of double ohs.

“Expecially” isn’t a word. It should always be pronounced “especially”. I can’t believe they even asked this question in the study…

Ok, so now go take a look at all the fun maps!

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25 Books in 2013

New year, new GoodReads Reading Challenge! Its already May, so I’ve been reading  and for months now and have made some headway toward my 25 book goal. I’ve got no real theme this year, I just want to make sure I fit a decent amount of reading time in between gardening, parenting, and training for a hike up Mt. Whitney.

This year I seem to be inundated with recommendations from friends (thank you!) so I fully intend to blow past my 25 book goal, and to hopefully read a variety of books outside my normal non-fiction, historical fiction and dystopian fiction comfort zone. As I do every year, I will update this blog post with the books I finish and give them a one to five star rating here and on my Pinterest.  I also hope to incorporate a more lengthy review or two, but that remains to be seen.

1. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood (5 stars)

2. The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker (4 stars)

3. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood (3 stars)

4. The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood (4 stars)

5. The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick (4 stars)

6. Gathering Blue - Lois Lowry (3 stars)

7. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight - Alexandra Fuller (5 stars)

8. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness - Alexandra Fuller (4 stars)

9. To Be Frank Diego - Dominic Carillo (4 stars)

10. Hallucinations – Oliver Sacks (4 stars)

11. Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver (5 stars)

12. The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” – Alan Light (3 stars)

13. Messenger - Lois Lowry (3 stars)

14. Pigs in Heaven – Barbra Kingsolver (3 stars)

15. Divergent – Veronica Roth (4 stars)

16. Insurgent – Veronica Roth (4 stars)

17. MaddAddam – Margaret Atwood (2 stars)

18. City of Bones – Cassandra Clare (3 stars)

19. City of Ashes – Cassandra Clare (3 stars)

20. City of Glass – Cassandra Clare (3 stars)

21. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Womans Prison – Piper Kerman (3 stars)

22. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune – Bill Dedman (5 stars)

23. Falling: The Story of a Marriage – Alexandra Fuller (3 stars)

24. Allegient – Veronica Roth (4 stars)

25. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card (3 stars)

26. Dead Ever After – Charlene Harris (3 stars)

27. Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple (4 stars)

28. Wonder – R. J. Palacio (4 stars)

29. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (4 stars)

Curious about what I’ve already read? Click away…

2012 Reading List

2011 Reading List

Me and Books: A Reunion (Part 1)

Me and Books: A Reunion (Part 2)

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Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

This morning I woke up early as the dawn poured springtime sun through the east facing window of my bedroom. I gazed with my blurry morning vision out the french door to the back yard and smiled to myself, so happy that I got the addition done so The Boyfriend and I could move into the back bedroom, which used to be the music room before we expanded it and added a small second bathroom. And I love the green paint that I chose for the walls. And since The Kid got to move into my previous room, she’s got a little more space to spread out her tween life and have sleepovers with her friends. I thought about how glad I am that we added that family room behind our tiny dining area.  It’s just enough extra space. We haven’t used the fireplace yet, but it will get its fair share of use next winter. And the custom shelves for all of our records, cds, and books were a solid investment too. Its our own little library! It’s amazing how going from 975 square feet to 1,200 square feet can make such a difference.

I dozed in bed thinking about how all of our hard work on fixing up the house has finally paid off, and heard Clover’s little morning doggy whining coming from the living room. Time to take her out and get the day started.  I heard kids and parents going by on their bikes, ringing their bike bells and calling good bye to one another as they headed to work and school, and I realized it must be getting late. So I rubbed my eyes, rolled out of bed and started down the hall.

And then my dreams were crushed. Reality dawned on me with the like the sun through that window. No remodel, no second bathroom. No family room with a little library. No money to start on any of those things. Not even any kids and parents riding their bikes to school.

The dog was whining to be let out though, you can always count on that.

Thankfully, the day is sunny and beautiful, so some dreams do come true.

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Operator Please Connect Me… to 1986

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine posted this as his status update:

imunna luv you ferever an ever ferever an ever ayymennn

You recognize that? If you were a kid in the 80’s and your mama liked country music you do. So just like that, I read a status update and suddenly I’m nine years old again sitting on the avocado green carpet in the living room, maybe playing Lite Brite or reading, and my mom is cleaning and dusting and cooking and wandering around the house singing along with Randy Travis’ Always and Forever on the record player.

So of course, I had to go straight to iTunes and download Always and Forever and Storms of Life; albums which, along with The Judds Why Not Me, some album by Ricky Scaggs, and the soundtrack to Sound of Music, were on heavy rotation on the record player in our house circa 1988. And of course, I had to play Randy for The Kid in the car and see what she thought of him.

She’s obsessed now. Some quotes worth sharing:

“How does he sing ‘I Told You So’ so amazing? That’s a man.”

“When country singers say the H-E-double-hockey sticks word it’s ok because thats just country. They say those things”

And the song that inspired this blog title:

How about you? What songs time warp you back to childhood in an instant?

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Where News Matters?

Tonight on the way to swim practice we were, as ever, listening to our local NPR station. After the reporter did the station ID “you’re listening to KPBS, where news matters”; The Kid says, “it’s so funny that they say ‘where news matters’ when sometimes it just doesn’t matter.”

So wise, that nine year old.

It’s even funnier when said nine year old makes a comment like that and her point is immediately proven by back to back ridiculous stories like this and this; and she says “see? This is not real news”.

I’ve created a monster.

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Good Friday

With all the arguments about equality, hate, marriage, womens rights, rape culture, guns, mental illness and such that has been pervading our lives lately; I’m happy that this weekend will be all about getting out of dodge, spending time with my kid and my friends, and enjoying nature, dark skies, and beautiful spring mornings. It is Easter weekend after all, and whether you’re a Christian or not, whether you laugh at the idea of zombie Jesus or wake up for sunrise services bright and early Easter Sunday to celebrate; the fact is that today, Good Friday, is the day that a couple of thousand years ago a man accepted death, accepted being murdered, because he wasn’t afraid to love humanity and to do his best to help others. Not just the straight ones, or the rich ones, or the married ones, or the white ones. In fact, I sort of doubt he even knew any white ones. 

Anyway, I’m sure if I made this post about what I believe about religion, and gender, and guns, and all of these hot button issues of late, I could surely anger someone from every side of the argument. But today is not that day. Today is the day that we should all remember be as selfless as that man who died for his belief in helping others. Lucky for us, we won’t be strung up on a cross for doing it.  Love thy neighbor. Yep, even that one.

And enjoy this tune, Good Friday, by one of my favorite musicians, Elvis Perkins.

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The Queen of Carrot Flowers

When the Kid was about 5, she discovered the album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. She had different favorite songs on the album over time, with all time favorites being Two-Headed Boy and The King of Carrot Flowers part 1. Since Neutral Milk Hotel dissolved as a band long before Emma was born, there wasn’t much hope of taking her to see them, as awesome as that would have been. However, when Jeff Mangum started touring solo in 2011, we figured that was a must, and we took a weekend trip to Oakland in April of 2012 to see him play at the Fox Theatre. Of course, by that time, the Kid was 8, and while she still listened to In the Aeroplane on occasion, she had also moved on to other musical obsessions. Thankfully, she was still pretty excited about the trip, and the show, and she had a great time seeing taking her red fox named Jumper to see the King of Carrot Flowers (as she reffered to him) play live. Of course it goes without saying that the Boyfriend and I also had great time, and the show was fantastic, as evidenced by this video, not taken by me.

Fast forward to 2013 and we find out that the King of Carrot Flowers will be playing at Spreckles Theater in San Diego, much closer to home. We procured some great seats, and come the night of the show the Kid, and Jumper, were excited to go.

kid and jumper

Before the music started, we admired the beautiful inside of the theater, and the Kid took some pictures with my phone. We marveled at the number of shows that the statues and the people on the painted ceiling have seen since the theater opened in 1912.

Photos by the Kid

Photos by the Kid

We also marveled at Jeff’s beard, which prompted the Kid to remark as he walked on stage “wow, he grows hair fast!” Here is a video, from a recent show in Boston so you can witness the current beard and music in all its glory:

A great night of great music was made even more fun by enjoying it with so many other friends also in attendence, and especially by stealthily glancing out of the corner of my eye from time to time to see the Kid singing along, and at times, seeing both her and Jumper gazing at the stage mezmerized (and possibly very tired). On the walk to the car after we left the show, the Kid was just jubilantly happy and was tossing out some pretty great commentary. Note that she has moved from referring to him as the King of Carrot Flowers to “Jeff.” Now that she’s seen him play twice, I guess they’re on a first name basis. Here are a few of her quotes, for your enjoyment:

I love Jeff”s music. And his voice. Its like gypsies making music.

His voice is like the sirens. The ships on the ocean follow his voice. But its not like the scary pointy teeth sirens in that Sinbad movie, its the beautiful sirens.

I changed my mind. I like Jeff’s beard. He looks pretty cute, huh? (Looks like Bieber has been replaced. Whew.)

Jeff’s hat. Its like the ocean to my turf. (I don’t even know what this means, but she said it in all seriousness, and I managed not to outwardly giggle).

For more about Jeff Mangum, his music, and his shows go here.

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Growing Pains

Since the Boyfriend is a total night owl and stays up until ungodly hours every night; bedtime in our house is girl time; when the Kid and I hang out together and read books, or play Minecraft and Words With Friends. If we’re really tired, we just snuggle and play Five Favorite Things. Five Favorite Things is when we take turns naming our five favorite fill-in-the-blank items; vegetables, colors, songs, things you learned in school, etc. The other night this was the conversation that transpired at bedtime:

Me: Ok, I’m too tired to read, wanna play five favorite things?

Kid: Yes, but don’t snuggle me.

Me: Jeez! Ok, I’ll just be over here.

Kid: Mom, you know sometimes when your parents hug you and you’re just kind of over it?

Me: (thoughtful silence)

Kid: I mean, I love you, but… i guess… (sniffles) I’m just (sniffles) growing up (sobs). I don’t want to grow up! (Continues sobbing) I want to stay being a kid.

I won’t bore you with the rest of our conversation, where I assure her that she’s growing up into an awesome, smart, amazing girl, and its ok if she doesn’t want to hug me sometimes. And I tell her that sometimes I’ll hug her anyway just to embarass her. And she giggles and asks me to massage her hands like Grandma Cobbie used to do.  And I am simultaneously heartbroken and proud that my only kid is growing up.

She may grow up, but I hope she never outgrows her sense of style.

She may grow up, but I hope she never outgrows her sense of style.

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