Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012: A Year In Books

Before I became a Mom I used to read on average about 50 books a year. This year I only managed a measly 34, however if the statistics that I read on facebook are correct that’s still 28 more than the average American read this year. I am so above average. 

Here are those 34 in the order that I read them.  Normal people would probably have just updated Goodreads, but I am so above normal, enjoy:

A Monk Swimming

A Monk Swimming, Malachy McCourt ***

Much less maudlin than his brother Frank (for the most part) this book is an autobiography of Malachy’s life and 90% just good fun.

 The Night Circus

Night Circus, Erin Morganstern ***

First selection of our new book club, I enjoyed this book but was somewhat disappointed by the lack of genuine feeling between the main characters

The Glass Castle

 Glass Castle, Jeannette Wells ****

I love Jeannette Wells’ books; she has a seemingly effortless style of writing that makes her very hard to put down.

Scribbling The Cat

Scribbling the Cat, Alexandra Fuller ****

Haunting & disturbing. A few years ago I read Don’t lets go to the Dogs Tonight and I had forgotten how much I loved it until I picked this up. Fuller is a wonderful story teller.

When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man

 When I stop talking you’ll know I’m Dead Jerry Weintraub ** 1/2

I liked this book; it is a great look into Hollywood and the rise of a successful industry powerhouse. I think I would have appreciated it more if I was 30 years older.

 Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy #1)

The Fall of Giants Ken Follett ****

A compelling read that explains World War I in a way I never understood in school or was able to stay interested in, in other nonfiction works. It’s a 1,000 pages that go by in the blink of an eye.

 Sarah's Key

Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay ***

The saddest book I’ve read in a long time. It’s a story that gives a great look into France during WWII and the atrocity that went on inside Paris. I would highly suggest this book, but only if you are prepared to cry.

Suite Francaise

Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky ***

Another book club selection, I am not sure this is a book I would have picked up on my own, but I am glad I got the chance to read it. Although unfinished it gives a wonderful insight into the minds of the French people and the soldiers during WWII. If you read this I highly recommend reading the afterwards and learning about Irene’s story as well.

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection

This time Together, Carol Burnette **

This book was a little disappointing – while it contained some great stories and antidotes from Carol’s life on screen it ended with huge sadness I was completely unprepared for.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)

 Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins ***

The Hunger Games trilogy is just good fun, and while written for teenagers it is deep and poignant enough to hold the attention of adults. Anyone seeking pure entertainment should check these 3 books out.

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)

Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins ***

 Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins ***

 Here We Go Again

 Here We go Again, Betty White **

Betty White has a remarkably long and vivid memory; this book details ALL of the particulars of her long and illustrious career. However, I was expecting something funnier and more satirical and this book was simply not that.

lets pretend this never happened

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, Jenny Lawson*** ½

Very few people make me laugh like Jenny Lawson. I try to never miss her blog The Bloggess. This book would have been perfect except for the middle part full of heartache and loss.

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

Killing Lincoln, Bill O’Reilly***

Despite the author, this was an amazing book. Centered on the events and conspiracy leading up to Lincoln’s death it’s written in a very thrilling format. Anyone wanting to learn more about the end of the civil war, and the assassination of Lincoln should check this out.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

 Hotel on the Corner of bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford***

A sweet novel about a young boy growing up in Seattle during WWII and his struggles with Japanese internment camps. A love story that transcends racism. I liked it, I didn’t love it.

 Taft

 Taft, Anne Patchette ***1/2

Anne Patchette has a wonderful rhythm to her writing. This book sucks you in and keeps you hungry for more. It’s a quiet story of love and hope and racial tension in the south but it’s also a whole lot more than that.

 The Devil's Company (Benjamin Weaver, #3)

The Devil’s Company, David Liss***

Davis Liss can be somewhat wordy and… pedantic but this is the 3rd book of his I read and I think if you can get through all of the details his stories are incredibly complex, interesting and very true to the period that he writes in.

 Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller*** ½

Another great book by Alexandra, this makes 3 I’ve read of hers, she’s going on the list of authors that I stalk for all new books that are due to come out.

Sh*t My Dad Says

 Sh*t My Dad Says, Justin Helpern****

Absolutely hysterical. I laughed out loud several times and enjoyed every word in this book. I even made my husband read it and he hasn’t read anything since Lucy was born.

The Kingdom on the Waves (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, #2)

Kingdom of the Waves MT. Anderson **

Ugh. I waited so long to read this after having picked up The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing several years ago. Maybe I had waited too long, I simply could not get into it. In my opinion the best thing M.T. Anderson has done has been Feed which is mind blowing and something everyone should read.

 The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars Peter Heller *** ½

Adding to my love of post-apocalyptic literature, dog stars is a vivid and haunting story of one mans survival in post-apocalyptic America. Heller’s writing is beautiful and a joy to read. I am looking forward to reading more from him.

 Everything is Illuminated

Everything is Illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer ***

This is the first audio book I bought to listen to on my commute to work. I didn’t have a clue what the story was about when selecting the book and perhaps if I had known I would have selected something else, and not because I didn’t enjoy it or didn’t think it was well written but because I feel like I have read enough stories about war this year. I found myself upset when I got to work and often times in tears when I got home. It’s hard sometimes to drive and cry.

How Did You Get This Number

How did you get this number Sloane Crosley ***

I’m not sure that I enjoyed this book as much as her first one I was told there’d be cake but it was a nice light departure from the last two books I read. It’s irreverent and easy to put down and pick up whenever. I think with time and practice Crosley will become an even better humorist.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand 

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand Helen Simonson ***

A cute sleeper novel. It took a long time to get into this book but in the end it redeemed itself. I liked it, I didn’t love it.

Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert ****

I was prepared to really hate this book – as I normally do with huge bestsellers – but it surprised me with its depth and complexity. I listened to this in the car and by the end of the 11th disc I felt intimately close with the author.

The Bookseller of Kabul

The Bookseller of Kabul Åsne Seierstad **

I had high hopes for this book and it both delivered and disappointed. It definitely gave an intimate and real world perspective of Afghanistan and its people, but I also listened to this as an audio book and it seemed like the woman reading it (not the author) hated the people and situations she was reading about that I instantly disliked her and it put a negative slant on the book. My opinion would definitely be to read this old school.

Lit: A Memoir

Lit Mary Karr ****

Mary Karr is an amazing writer; she can create the most amazing metaphors. Her writing is like poetry (not surprising since she started as a poet.) This is the 3rd book of hers and the memoirs of her adult years. I am looking forward to her next publication.

Saving Fish from Drowning

Saving fish from drowning Amy Tan***

I didn’t love or hate this book. It was in interesting story but for some reason the characters never fully resonated with me. I want so much to like Amy Tan’s books, but for some reason they always seem to fall just a little short if my expectations.

The Memory of Running

The memory of running Ron McLarty***1/2

An enjoyable, bittersweet novel with a truly unusual protagonist. I spent the entire book rooting for him even though he never truly rooted for himself. I am definitely putting more Ron McLarty on my reading list for next year.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Is everyone hanging out without me? Mindy Kaling ***1/2

The perfect travel book. I bought this at the airport and it got me ¾ of the way across the country. Funny & irreverent & quick, everything you need to keep you entertained and laughing on an airplane.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession

The man who loved books to much Allison Hoover Bartlett***1/2

I never knew there was such a big problem with rare book thieves – it was a great look into a world I have always been curios about. Any great book lover would enjoy this story.

The Wind Through the Keyhole (The Dark Tower, #4.5)

The wind through the keyhole Stephen King ****

For anyone who read King’s dark tower series this is a must read. Not actually part of the story this is a supplemental tale that falls somewhere between book 4 and book 5. It is a story within a story within a story. I loved it.

Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid

Why We Suck Dennis Leary ***1/2

A perfect audio book to listen to while sitting in traffic, it will make you hate yourself and all that you stand for – but who doesn’t a little bit already?

 

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lazy after Christmas re-post

Today I made it to the big league by finally being allowed to write for one of my favorite websites,  you can check it out here: http://www.thewvsr.com(especially if you hate Monkeys as much as I do!)  I encourage you to go back often, Jeff always has something entertaining…

Because many of you clicking through here today are first time readers I’m using this as an excuse to re-post one of my favorites from a couple years ago. for those of you who are regular readers, please enjoy an oldie but goodie:

Digression
originally posted April 2011

Barney Stinson has a theory about releasing anger called the pyramid of screaming, for those of you who watch how I met your Mother you know exactly what I’m talking about, for those of you living under a large heavy rock, here is an excerpt from his blog explain the pyramid of screaming:

THE CHAIN CIRCLE PYRAMID OF SCREAMING

(4/14/08)

HEY STUPID BLOG READERS!!! WHY DON’T YOU READ MY BLOG MORE?!?! Sorry. My boss screamed at me over a few missing schematics and I had to release some steam. Why didn’t I yell at my boss and not at you? Because that would be dumb, idiot.

You see, we all learn as children that screaming leads to results, and it’s no different in the workplace. America was built on the backs of men and women who were yelled at to work harder, and the tradition has been screamed from generation to generation. But you can’t just scream at anybody… that would be counter-productive. That’s why it’s imperative you understand where you stand on the Pyramid of ScreamingTM.

What exactly is the Pyramid of ScreamingTM?

The Pyramid of ScreamingTM is a societal rubric that dismisses the parlor tricks of the Chain of Screaming, Scream Ladder, South Beach Screaming, and other methodologies and focuses on the golden rule of scream etiquette: You can only scream beneath you.

To illustrate how it works, here’s the scream pyramid for a professional football team:

http://www.cbs.com/primetime/how_i_met_your_mother/community/barney_blog/index.php

I bring this up because I’m not a huge fan of screaming but I am a proponent of this whole circle chain pyramid idea… I believe that it’s healthy to pass on the annoyance you get from one party onto another party – that way you don’t let all that angst get pent up inside of you…

Let me illustrate with my own example:

When I was in my early twenties (just a couple years ago) and lived in California I belonged to 24 hour fitness, perhaps the most annoying gym on the planet. I had the cheapest membership they offered and could only get into the gym on something like Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (perfect for me – built in excuse not to work out). But, the people that worked there were most exceptionally annoying. Every time I checked in I was bombarded with requests to upgrade my membership, or to buy their shirts, or to sign up for their towel service or some way give them more money.

And it wasn’t just the front desk – trainers would walk around and interrupt me on the Stairmaster and give me great advise about how more effective my work outs could be if I signed up for personal training sessions… Personal training sessions at $99 an hour (clearly these people didn’t understand I was bringing in $9.00 an hour and riding my bike to work because I couldn’t afford to put gas in my car).  I was constantly annoyed the entire time I was in that place and since I didn’t want to be full of angst all up inside me I would call them… I would call and have conversations like this:

Me: “What time are you open?

Them” This is 24 hour fitness”

Me: “So… you’ll be open when I get out of work?”

Them: “24 hours ma’am”

Me: “But I don’t think I’ll be able to leave until late tonight – like probably around 6:15, and then I might want to eat dinner, do you think I should eat dinner before I work out because I might be pretty hungry by then”

Them: “I don’t really know”

Me: “So, if I decide to eat dinner I probably won’t get there until 7:30, will you be open then?”

Them: “Yes”

Me: “Is Doug working today?

Them: “He’s out on the floor in a personal training session”

Me: “I really need to talk to him”

Them: “Are you just going to ask him how late me are open?

Me: “No”

(repeat above conversation)

I would do this over and over again – calling back to get different receptionist. My theory is they annoy me, I should return the favor – and I didn’t feel like I should pass this annoyance onto my friends and since I was making $9.00/hour there was clearly no one ‘under’ me which I could do this through work.

Which brings me to yesterday.

Yesterday I had an exceptionally bad day at work and left the office with angst building up like a pressure cooker inside of me. On my way home I thought & thought of people who deserve to be annoyed in return and immediately I decided upon the local 7-11 that I often go to while at the office.

You see this 7-11 is staffed by people bordering on hostile. I have had several altercations with them – once resulting in them chasing me through their parking lot… that’s a whole different post. But let me assure you they deserve to be in my pyramid.

So – I called and asked them to look and see how many hot dogs they had on their grill. It turns out they only had one lonely one leftover from lunch – so I politely asked if them would please put 3 dozen more on to cook because my son’s peewee hockey team just finished their last game and I was going to surprise them all with 7-11 hot dogs (their favorite!). I would be there in 20 minutes. I assured them I was for real and that I would see them soon…

See? Don’t you feel better? I do.

An impassioned plea for humanity at large

Try and remember what it was like to be a child. Try and remember when you where short enough to be amazed by grass and trees and caterpillars.  Try and remember a time when you believed that the world was good and there was a huge black line between right and wrong – not just a wavering gray spot.

Try and remember that life is short and that we (most likely) only have one chance to be here on this one known planet that turns carbon dioxide into oxygen and  that pours life giving water from the sky. This planet that produces the ingredients for cream filled donuts and full bodied cabernets.

We were given a chance at life: to enjoy ourselves, to feel good, to love one another, to be hedonist or philanthropists or grouchy old men who shake their fists at young whipersnapers. We were given the opportunity to be whatever we want to be be.

We all belong to one huge team of humans – there is no one else like us anywhere, we can create life and make our stay in this world amazing. We have the power to collectively draw together and make music, create art, explore the universe. We also have the ability to destroy ourselves, to turn against one another and serve as an example of a truly advanced life form that cannot contain the evil and destruction that also resides in all of us.

There are two paths, we must at some point turn back and look for the other way, because I am so afraid that we have gotten lost and taken a wrong turn. There cannot be good without evil, there cannot be light without dark – it is all about how we chose to live our lives, the actions and dreams and goals we set forth.

If you are out there and reading this and feel the need to buy a gun or harm an innocent person, if you ever contemplated the idea of getting even with civilization as a whole or just one person in particular who wronged you by making a name for yourself as a serial killer, please stop and go talk to someone. It is not our decision who gets to live or die, this judgement is bigger than any of us, bigger than all of us. Get to the root of your anger and understand that there are other ways to send a message.

I pray for us all.

And then there was this…

For those of you who don’t follow me on twitter* or stop by the house from time to time you might not be aware that last Thursday I flew out west for some fish tacos, breakfast time bloody marys and yes and some much-needed face time with my west coast friends. It’s been three years since I have either not had a child in me or hanging off of me in some fashion and with the blessing of my wonderful husband I decided to make this vacation happen – unencumbered and completely irresponsible. Go me.

I am still on vacation and when I return I will post amazing photos of our weekend stay in Catalina and of the many cocktails that have made most of this trip a hazy feel good mirage that I will some day look back on with confusion and dim understanding.

In the meantime I need to share one very very important that with you, something I nearly stumbled upon during my educational forray through the botanical gardens of Catalina.

The elusive penis cactus:

It's only for looking...
It’s only for looking…

I guess it’s natures answer to safe sex.

Anyway, believe it or not this wasnt the best part of the island, I just thought it was the most newsworthy – right now.

*I’m not really on twitter.

Honeydew

When my husband and I bought our house many years ago it came with a big hole in the front of it. This hole served as a home to several families of neighborhood birds and also made it affordable to us and our shoestring budget. After moving in we hired some very nice contractors to evict the birds and fix the hole, mostly because the birds where not friends with the squirrels that were currently residing in our attic and also the hole created unwanted air conditioning in our master bedroom.

The hole was fixed right away and we spent the first summer in that house scraping and repainting the front facade but the damage done to the interior walls and the 85 year old plaster was pretty bad. We learned, like any good homeowners to simply stop looking at it. I parked a big chair in front of that wall and spent the next six years piling giant loads of laundry on top of it.

Last year the adjacent wall that lines the chimney also began to bubble and get soft, again a very nice masonry contractor came and fixed the problem but that wall continued to sit there and mock us with its damage. Eyes averted we continued to pretend that everything was okay.

Finally, with not so distant dreams of selling the house and buying something  more spacious and less water damaged we finally concluded the time had come  for action.

To that end, this past week my husband took off of work, moved our bed into our cramped back office/library/guest bedroom and endeavored to fix the problem.

My husband is awesome and has a number of excellent traits, working fast on a small deadline is just not one of them. He is… meticulous and precise in everything he does. When we first got together he once saw me making a salad by ripping apart lettuce all haphazardly with my hands  our relationship nearly ended there.  He brings order and organization to my otherwise chaotic and deranged life.

Needless to say I was dubious about how this whole project would go on a tight seven day deadline. I decided to document the experience – please excuse my blurry cell phone pictures (I believe I own the last phone manufactured without a flash) :

This is what our walls looked like pre-project:

Last Sunday - notice all of the variations in this blurry photo are sift spots on the wall that when touched crackle like tissue paper
Last Sunday – notice all of the variations in this blurry photo are soft spots on the wall that when touched crackle like tissue paper
Notice how here the plaster is completely disengaging itself from the pesky wall...
Notice how here the plaster is completely disengaging itself from the pesky wall…

When I came home from work on Monday night, this is what I walked in to:

Look - we live on a set of an episode of the Wire...
Look – we live on a set of an episode of the Wire…

When I arrived home on Tuesday, this is what I saw:

This may appear to the untrained eye that the only thing that happened on Tuesday was that the ladder was moved... but I was ASSURED much work went on that I could not see...
This may appear to the untrained eye that the only thing that happened on Tuesday was that the ladder was moved… but I was ASSURED much work went on that I could not see…

On Wednesday dry wall started going up:

Progress!
Progress!
sweet sweet progress
sweet sweet progress

On Thursday my sweet husband turned 39 and I found him in the shower drinking a beer when I got home (he got thirsty while showering – he wasn’t just huddled in the tub drinking alone) mostly he was celebrating getting this done:

Whao! What is that? A wall....
Whao! What is that? A wall….

We went out Thursday night to celebrate his birthday.

A quick side note to all of this: for his birthday I bought my wonderful husband a pair of slippers and a humidor. (Apparently I married my grandfather.)

On Friday I came home to find him painting the banister of our staircase, evidently the bedroom project was far enough advanced to move on to something else. I’m sorry but I didn’t get a picture of the banister.

Yesterday in preparation for his parents arrival (and my departure) later this week, we moved our bed and belongings back into our bedroom:

Look - how pretty!
Look – how pretty!

So now, I am referring to our bedroom as “Heroin Chic”… Maybe I’ll leave the really big chair that normally lives in that corner for the next owner. Two loads of laundry and you probably won’t even notice the wall.