Archive for the ‘Book Talk’ Category


There are books that you can read once and be done with – glad to see their covers winking at you from your Goodreads “read” shelf, but with no desire to revisit them.  There are books that you’ll come back to – once or twice, perhaps, or again and again – because they still have something to give you.  And then there are books that are so intrinsically a part of you, books that you have lived in, that you will return to their pages for the rest of your life and even when you’re not in the midst of a re-read, you are carrying their subtle influence with you.  Often, that’s a childhood book – one that was a formative influence on you when you were growing up.

Emily of New Moon is that book for me.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, my first encounter with one of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s heroines was with the delightful, effervescent Anne Shirley.  I would curl up in my grandmother’s armchair, open her blue and white hardcover edition, and dive into the world of Avonlea, not to return for hours.  I’d thrill to Anne’s first sight of the Lake of Shining Waters – dash with pounding heart and pounding feet through the Haunted Wood – rage at Gilbert Blythe (“Carrots! Carrots!”) – mourn the temporary loss of Diana’s friendship after the disastrous episode of the currant wine.  The day I discovered that there were seven more books set in Anne’s world (plus the Chronicles of Avonlea short stories, but they didn’t feature Anne so they were second-tier choices) was one of the happiest days of my life.  Anne has been a good friend to me since I was very young – but eventually, knowing her story inside and out, I wanted something new and a little different.

Enter Emily.

I read Emily of New Moon, and its two sequels, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest, anywhere and everywhere.  I still have – somewhere – my original paperback copies, tattered from dozens of reads.  Although I know that I must have read – did read – Emily in my own room, on my parents’ couch, at my grandmother’s kitchen table, and on the school bus, I recall reading Emily most intensely and contentedly while perched on a bolder on the bank of the Sacandaga Lake, where my parents have a camp.  Emily was best read there, with a fall breeze coming off the lake, ruffling the pages until dying twilight puts a stop to reading time.


Emily Is Not Anne

While Anne and Emily have some similarities, Emily is a very different heroine.  (For a thorough Anne-to-Emily comparison, check out this post by Naomi, to whom I’m very grateful for hosting the #ReadingEmily readalong.)  One of the very few things that bothers me about the Anne books is how charmed Anne seems to be – once she arrives in Avonlea, that is – at getting people to fall in love with her.  From Gilbert Blythe to half a town full of jealous ill-wishers who fall under Anne’s spell within the first half of Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne never seems to have much difficulty in winning people over and turning enemies into friends.  Even Josie Pye, as obnoxious as she may be, winds up a part of Anne’s “set” – albeit, on the periphery.  Even as a child, I think that Anne’s ease in winning friends and admirers struck me as unrealistic and rubbed me the wrong way, rather.

Emily, although her name is Starr, does not live under the same lucky constellation that Anne enjoys.  Growing up poor but happy, raised by the loving hand of her father for the first ten years of her life, Emily thrives on very little human interaction.  She has Father – and the cats Mike and Saucy Sal – and her imaginary friends the Wind Woman and Emily-in-the-Glass – and she’s perfectly content with that lot.  (The housekeeper, Ellen, is not a sympathetic soul.  If this was an Anne book, Ellen would start out gruff but would be doling out milk and tea cakes by Chapter 4.  That’s only a slight exaggeration.)  When Douglas Starr dies of consumption, Emily has her first encounter with the cruel outside world, in the personages of the Murrays – her late mother’s much-older half-brothers and sisters.  The Murrays belittle and criticize Emily at her father’s funeral, and ultimately force her to draw lots to determine who will take her home with them, as no one wants her.  Emily, heartsick at being unwanted, is relieved to draw the name “Elizabeth Murray,” because that means she will be living at New Moon Farm with kind Aunt Laura and friendly Cousin Jimmy – oh, and stern, unlovable Aunt Elizabeth.  But Aunt Laura!  And Cousin Jimmy!

Emily doesn’t have an easier time making friends outside the world of New Moon than she did with her harsh relations.  Within the first half of the book, she is cruelly ridiculed by her teacher for writing poetry in class and feels the sting of betrayal by a false friend.  While Anne has her moments at school, she never has to contend with a Miss Brownwell or a Rhoda Stuart.  Some part of me liked – still likes – the fact that Emily was secure enough in her own self that she did not need to be loved by everyone, which I always felt Anne did.

#ReadingEmily As An Adult

I’ve re-read the Emily books several times since becoming “all grown up.”  But I haven’t picked them up in a few years.  The most recent re-read was not a complete re-read, but it was a special one – my much-loved childhood paperback in hand, perched on a hospital stool, quietly reading my favorite scenes to my preemie daughter (who is named after our dear Miss Starr – oh, and her great-grandmother, but mostly Miss Starr) in her isolette.  But that was more than four years ago now, and I was undeniably distracted and shuffling through the book for the scenes I wanted my tiny three-pound daughter to hear.  More Wind Woman, less Father dying, please.

So this month, thanks again to Naomi, was the first I’ve sat down with Emily and Ilse and Teddy and Perry and the cats and Aunts Elizabeth and Laura and Cousin Jimmy and Great-Aunt Nancy and that old witch Caroline Priest, in more than four years.  As I knew I would be, I was immediately plunged back into the world of New Moon, Blair Water and Priest Pond.  Most of the reading experience was very similar to my childhood reading of the Emily books – immersive, intense, and altogether delightful.  But there were definitely nuances that I picked up on as an adult that completely escaped me as a child (much like when I re-read Anne’s House of Dreams and sobbed through the “wee white lady” chapter that I’d breezed through as a child).

  • Dean Priest, get a hold of yourself.  I was thoroughly, thoroughly creeped out by Dean “Jarback” Priest and his references to waiting for Emily.  I think I threw up a little when Emily offered to kiss him goodbye as she was departing Great-Aunt Nancy’s house, and Dean said he wanted their first kiss to be different.  Groooooooooooooss.  Dean, you are THIRTY-FIVE YEARS OLD.  Emily is TWELVE, and she is YOUR BEST FRIEND’S CHILD.  Find a woman your own age and don’t be weird.  Do better.
  • I might be getting crotchety.  Is it a rite of passage into adulthood to start seeing the perspective of the villains in your childhood favorites?  The summer I first planted a garden, I began to sympathize with Mr. MacGregor and to be a bit reluctant to agree with my daughter when she would declare that Mr. MacGregor was “naughty.”  I mean, those rabbits were eating up his garden!  What’s he supposed to do?  Do they even know how much time and effort a garden is?  I felt the same about Lofty John in what I think of as “the affair of the poisoned apple that wasn’t actually poisoned.”  Long story short: Emily befriends an older man who happens to be the sworn enemy of the New Moon Murrays, but it’s all good!  She and her friends raid his apple orchard constantly and he lets them.  But one day she spots an apple laying around while she’s loitering in his house while he isn’t home, and swipes it.  Lofty John comes home, realizes Emily’s eaten the apple, and – to teach her a lesson – tells her the apple was laced with rat poison.  Emily flies home, white as a sheet, convinced she is going to die, and spends the next few hours writing letters to all her earthly acquaintances, telling them she’s off.  Eventually it comes out that Lofty John was just having a little fun with the traumatized Emily, and while telling a kid they’ve just eaten poison isn’t my idea of fun, I sort of sympathize with him wanting to teach her a bit of a lesson.  I mean, he’d have certainly let her take the apple – he’d been quite liberal with access to his orchard – but Emily didn’t even ask.  (Of course, his reaction to getting told off by Aunt Elizabeth after the episode was petty – but it led to Emily’s meeting Father Cassidy, who I wish was a much bigger character, so it’s all good.)
  • Someone, please, take Mrs. Kent to Charlottetown and get her drunk and find her a man.  While we’re on the subject of creepy adults, Mrs. Kent is frankly terrifying.  Jealous of anyone and anything that her son Teddy likes, she kills his pets, steals his art supplies, and only allows Emily and Ilse on the premises because Ilse’s father, Dr. Burnley, says that playing with them is good for Teddy’s health.  Mrs. Kent’s obsession with her son, and jealousy of anyone and anything that takes him from her even for a second, is profoundly unhealthy.  I can’t believe that I never noticed that as a child – I simply blew past Mrs. Kent with a “Teddy’s mom is a drag but the Tansy Patch is such a charming name for a house!”
  • Those first few chapters.  Last but certainly not least – I always cried throughout the first few chapters, as Emily adjusts to, witnesses, and mourns her father’s death.  But as an adult – they’re far more powerful than I ever realized.  For the first time, I placed myself in Douglas Starr’s shoes (who was probably about my age when he died, based on his college friendship with the 35-year-old Dean Priest).  Reading Emily as a child, I was terribly sad for her but didn’t give her father much thought in his own right.  Reading Emily as an adult, I can imagine what he must have felt, knowing that he would have to leave his beloved daughter to fend for herself in the world, that his moments with her were dwindling and that he would not see her grow up and achieve her dreams and fall in love.  (I’m getting weepy again.)  Much like when Anne loses her first baby in Anne’s House of Dreams, I was knocked flat by a tragedy that I was well aware was coming, but that I had no idea would be as moving as it ended up being.

Thank you, again, Naomi, for hosting #ReadingEmily.  What a wonderful excuse to revisit my childhood favorite!

Have you read the Emily books?  Do you identify more with Emily, or with Anne?

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This Monday came around way too fast.  I’m exhausted and I could really use another day – not to get anything done, but just to chill.  Alas, not only is a chill day not in the cards for me, but I have a super-busy week ahead at work.  Possibly the busiest since I started this job?  It certainly feels that way.  But once I get through it, I’ve got a three-day weekend to enjoy – although I’ll probably do at least a little work on the holiday Monday next week.  Well, that can all wait until then, because I still have five days to get through first.  We didn’t actually get much done this weekend.  We did the basics, but didn’t actually move the needle on any of our house projects.  Saturday morning found us back in the salon chair with a different kid – Peanut, this time, who was getting her first haircut after a small adventure with safety scissors at school.  (She needed a trim anyway.)  Then Nana and Grandad stopped by for a last bit of playtime before heading back to the frozen north (I don’t envy them their snow!).  We spent the rest of the weekend – Saturday afternoon, and all day Sunday – just hanging around the house, “doing nothing in particular, and thinking nothing in particular,” as A.A. Milne would say.  Nugget and I did venture out for a walk to the library on Sunday afternoon, but other than that, we were incredibly lazy.  I read and napped during naptimes, we grazed for meals, and we spent the times that the kids were awake just hanging out and playing together.  It felt good, but I did feel a bit guilty about not being productive during naps.

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Reading.  So, I didn’t get much reading in this week – not that I’m complaining, because it was for good reason that I set books aside.  My mom was here all week and we were spending the time I would normally spend reading, on chatting and watching TV instead, and it was delightful.  I did still read during my commutes, but not in the evenings.  So – a light reading week, but that was really refreshing.  I finished We Love You, Charlie Freeman mid-week.  It was fine, but didn’t knock my socks off.  Next I read You Can’t Touch My Hair, by stand-up comedienne Phoebe Robinson, which was great.  Funny and irreverent, but also really thought-provoking and at times uncomfortable.  I’ve been intentionally seeking out books that describe or portray life experiences which are different from mine – I want to understand perspectives outside of my own, and reading is the only way to bring that about – and You Can’t Touch My Hair was a really outstanding one.  Finally, since I had a teetering stack of eleven library books to get through, I did the only logical thing and decided to re-read Emily of New Moon – my childhood favorite book – for the #ReadingEmily readalong challenge.  Because otherwise, the library stack would have been too easy!

Watching.  While my mom was in town, we spent every evening watching The Crown again on Netflix.  Mom doesn’t have Netflix, and she had seen the first two episodes of The Crown on her last visit and was instantly hooked (as I knew she would be), so we made it our mission to get through the entire season.  Once again I found myself blown away by the acting, the cinematography, the sets – everything.  After Mom headed home, we went back to our current normal routine of one short episode of Rock the Park and then books each night.  Last night, Jack and Colton were in Acadia National Park in one of the best episodes yet – making me really regret not making it to Acadia when were in Maine briefly for my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding.

Listening.  I finished up the “Money Management Skills” course I was listening to from The Great Courses, via Audible.  As I said last week, it was a good listen – some parts were more useful than others, but overall it was definitely worthwhile – but I was supremely sick of it by the end.  After finishing that, I was in the mood for something a bit more bite-sized, so I went back to the podcatcher and listened to a few episodes of The Book Riot Podcast that had accumulated while I was getting my learn on.  Not sure if I’ll continue cleaning up the podcatcher or go back to Middlemarch, but my Audible library is starting to get crowded.

Making.  Nothing at all, unless you count dinners, and a fridge full of hard-boiled eggs and sliced vegetables.  I’m starting to get sick of the Whole 30.  Nine more days…

Blogging.  I’ve got a fun post coming to you on Wednesday – all about the childhood classics I somehow missed out on as a child – and I’ll have some #ReadingEmily reflections on Friday.  Check back!

Loving.  The #riotgrams challenge on Instagram.  I’ve been participating (although I’ve gotten behind a few times) and it’s such fun to see others’ posts each day.  Yesterday the prompt was “outside,” and I posted a shot of my donations pile perched on top of the stroller as Nugget and I rolled up to the library.  Which reminds me – something else I’m loving is living in a walkable neighborhood again!  We don’t know if we’re going to stay in our current neighborhood forever – we’re renting right now and we have a multi-year lease, so no plans to move as of yet but it’s on the distant horizon – but for now, I sure am enjoying being able to strap one or both kiddos into the stroller and head out for a walk to bring home library books and dinner salads.

Asking.  What are you reading/watching/making/loving this week?

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Last year, in 2016, I was on a quest to seek out and read as many diverse books – works by people of color, religious minorities, and LGBTQ+ authors – as I could find.  It was a tall order, since publishing has a way to go to catch up to many readers’ demands for more diverse material and voices, and I had my work cut out for me to find as many works as I could to reach my goal of 33% representation by “underrepresented” groups on my reading list.  Comics helped, and so did regular listening to The Book Riot Podcast and All the Books!, two podcasts produced by Book Riot, which makes a point of regularly discussing diversity in publishing and reading.  (I got a lot of recommendations from them last year, so I hope they keep them coming in 2017.)

Part of my effort included an attempt to read all books by African-American writers in February, which is Black History Month here in the United States.  I didn’t quite make that goal last year, because one of the books I read – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – was actually written by a white author, even though it was a sensitive and thoughtful discussion of an offense against the body of an African-American woman (the harvesting of cells from cancer patient Henrietta Lacks, without her knowledge or permission) and the results through history.  (Go read it, if you haven’t already.  It was an incredible and important book.)  The rest of my books last February were works by African-American authors, and I ended the month knowing that while I had (still have) much to learn about the African-American experience, I had plenty of new thoughts and ideas thanks to their words.

This February, I’m not going to be able to do all works by African-American authors for Black History Month – much as I’d like to.  The reality of library deadlines (story of my life!) won’t allow it.  But I do plan to actively seek out and read African-American works, particularly classics, this month – and continuing the rest of the year – even if it’s not 100% of my February reading.  The books on my list, to get to this month or soon, include:

  • Native Son, by Richard Wright
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou (a re-read)
  • Mom & Me & Mom, by Maya Angelou
  • Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead
  • The Living is Easy, by Dorothy West
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Houston
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  • Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

And more!  That’s just a start, but it does represent some of the books that I’m most looking forward to tracking down and reading this year.  I’m thinking of reading the entire stack of Maya Angelou’s memoirs, re-reading some of her poetry, re-reading some poetry by Langston Hughes…  And of course, if you have any suggestions for me, please let me know.  I’m always on the lookout for more good reads.


Of course, I’m always willing to reciprocate with recommendations of my own!  I spent the last year trying hard to seek out and read books by people of color and other underrepresented voices.  Most of the books I read were big and hyped – I felt as though I was barely scratching the surface of books about the African-American experience – so perhaps none of these recommendations are news at all.  But they were all excellent, so if you are looking for good Black History Month reads and haven’t checked out one or more of the following, do take a look.  (Books are in no particular order.)

the-fire-this-timewe-should-all-be-feministshomegoingmarch 2

  • The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward – wide range of essays discussing contemporary African-American experience.
  • We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – short but stunning essay on intersectional feminism.
  • Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi – multi-generational, multi-continent family saga.
  • March, Books 1, 2 & 3, by Representative John Lewis – graphic memoir by Civil Rights Movement icon.


  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates – if you haven’t heard of this, you’re living under a rock!
  • The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead – magical realism slave narrative, worth the hype.
  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – the experience of an African immigrant in contemporary America.
  • Stella by Starlight, by Sharon M. Draper – beautifully written historical YA.

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  • Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson – stunning memoir in verse.
  • Kindred, by Octavia Butler – time travel slave narrative by icon of sci-fi.
  • The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin – richly symbolic fantasy.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot – science, ethics and race.

Happy [Black History Month] Reading!

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Happy Monday, y’all!  How were your weekends?  Who watched the Superbowl?  I mostly just read.  We had a fun weekend, though.  My mom is in town visiting for a week and the kids are over the moon.  Speaking of the moon, you can probably hear the excited screams even from up there.  Nana = rock star.  She arrived on Friday afternoon and so we’ve had an entire weekend of Nana fun, plus squeezing in our regularly planned activities.  On Saturday I took Peanut to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s – it. was. intense.  I came home with a sore throat from screaming things like “HOW WAS YOUR NEW YEAR’S?” and “LET’S HAVE COFFEE NEXT WEEK” at the other moms.  Peanut had a good time; she was apprehensive at first, as is her way, but she got into it by the end of the party and asked me if we could come back tomorrow.  (NO.)  On Sunday I had the First Down 5K on my calendar and my mom was up for an impromptu race (it was her second 5K!) so we had a good time taking walk breaks running.  I have a lot of work to do before I’ll be ready for the Parkway Classic this spring, though.  The rest of Sunday was spent hanging out, stapling my eyelids open so I could work while the kids napped, and reading my book (We Love You, Charlie Freeman) during the Superbowl.  And now we’re back to reality.  Well, it was fun while it lasted.

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Reading.  After finishing The Making of a Marchioness last Monday night, I treated myself to one more comfort read – Pomfret Towers, which I enjoyed mightily – before turning back to my library stack.  Fortunately, I had plenty of good choices for Black History Month.  I started with one of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies – Mom & Me & Mom.  I’ve only read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and had no idea she was such a prolific memoirist.  Can’t wait to read more.  Mom was hauntingly lovely.  Then I switched over to a relatively new release, We Love You, Charlie Freeman, which I’d been saving for Black History Month.  Due to my hectic weekend, I’m not far into it yet, but I am liking the beginning very much.

Watching.  Something other than Rock the Park this week!  Well, first of all, there was the Superbowl.  I never really watch – just enjoy the anthems and halftime entertainment, and some of the more big-budget commercials.  Other than that – since my mom is in town, we’re re-watching The Crown so she can see it.  It’s very much her style of show (she’s a big Downton fan, too) but she doesn’t have Netflix at home.  And I’ve also seen a video about baby orangutans, and another about baby elephants playing in a nature preserve, more times than I can count this week.  Certain short people are really into the zoo these days.

Listening.  I have a little over an hour to go in the money management course I’ve been listening to on Audible.  Some parts of it are more helpful to me than other parts.  (For example, the part about whether it’s really a smart investment to obtain higher education?  After college and law school, I’m afraid that ship has sailed.)  But the retirement planning lecture, the lecture on mortgages, and the lectures on investment basics have all been really informative.  Still, I’m getting a bit sick of investment talk and ready to get back to Middlemarch and/or my podcatcher.

Making.  Nothing at all.  Well, I’ve made lots of work memos this week, and one very fiddly Excel spreadsheet.

Blogging.  Bookish week coming up for you!  On Wednesday I have my reading round-up for January (a bit late, but I had to squeeze those lists in last week) and on Friday, some recommendations for Black History Month reading.  Check back!

Loving.  Running a 5K (my first in awhile!) with my mom.  We were both untrained and slow, but it was fun.  We enjoyed the scenery (Washington Monument!) and griping about the wind and the distance, and seeing the kids waving us on gave us a good kick at the finish line.  I need to run more – I always miss it when I take a long break, and it’s so hard to pick it back up again.  Much better to just be in the habit!

Asking.  What are you reading/watching/loving this week?

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WOW.  I can’t believe that tomorrow is the last day of January.  How is 2017 already 1/12 over?  How can that be?  And yet it feels like we’ve lived several lifetimes in the last week alone.  But – I try hard to keep this a politics-free space, as challenging as that is becoming, so no more about You Know Who.  For now.  How were your weekends?  Mine was… okay.  Saturday started off dicey, when Nugget woke up at 4:45 with absolutely no intention of going back to sleep.  I tried bringing him into bed with us, despite having a 0% success rating on that tactic in the past – hope springs eternal.  We ended up dozing together in his rocking chair for about 90 minutes until sunrise.  Not a great start for Productivity Day, but I did my best.  We ran some errands in the morning – a haircut for Nugget, then the grocery store – and then I came home with the beginnings of a sore throat.  I worked (paying work, not house chores) while the kids napped, squeezed in a bit of a nap of my own, and then rallied for a family walk after they woke up, even though by then I felt horrible.  Swallowing was excruciating and I had a pounding headache on top of it.  I pushed through to their bedtimes and crashed on the couch at 8:00 – Saturday night and I know how to party.  I still felt kind of crummy on Sunday, but we saddled up and headed off to meet my friend Carly and her family at the zoo.  I figured my throat would hurt the same no matter where I was, so why ruin everyone else’s good time?  I started feeling a little better as the morning went on, and we got to see most of the coolest exhibits – the cheetahs were closed and we ran out of time to see my favorites, the lions, but we got in quality time with the sea lions, the bald eagle, the elephants, the pandas, the great apes (baby orangutan for the win!) the reptiles (Peanut’s on a snake kick, don’t ask me) and more.

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Reading.  I have gone full-steam into comfort reads this week.  They were the only thing I could bring myself to pick up.  Finished Notwithstanding: Stories of an English Village by the author of Corelli’s Mandolin on Wednesday (okay, but not great) and then – I couldn’t wait any longer – picked up my GORGEOUS Folio Society edition of The Little White Horse, a children’s classic I’d never read before.  (The picture above is of the edition I have.  It’s even more stunning in person.)  I devoured it and seriously considered flipping right back to the beginning and starting again, but chose instead to pick up another classic that was calling to me – The Making of a Marchioness, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  FHB wrote one of my childhood favorites – The Secret Garden – but I’d never read any of her adult fiction.  How can that be?  Loving it so far.  The comfort reads are exactly what the doctor ordered – expect to see more of them, although I’ll have to turn back to my library stack soon.

Watching.  Not much of anything this week.  A few episodes of Rock the Park here and there, and some National Geographic animal videos with the kiddos after the zoo yesterday.  But I’ve been more inclined to my comfort reads.  Oh, and I can’t get enough of two videos I saw on Facebook – the Dutch “welcome” to Trump (I was weeping, it was so funny – “We built a whole ocean; nobody builds better oceans than we do”) and the Thug Notes discussion of Pride and Prejudice (hilarious and smart).

Listening.  Most of the week was devoted to Middlemarch on Audible.  (I’m down to a little over 16 hours of listening time left. Considering the book is over 35 hours, that means I’m past halfway – holla!)  Over the weekend I took a little break from Eliot and listened to part of The Great Courses: Money Management Skills, which I picked up for $2.95 after Anne Bogel featured it in her Great Kindle Deals email.  I’m about an hour in and finding it very interesting and informative.

Making.  A completed 2016 family yearbook – just finished yesterday!  Ordered and everything, thanks to a 50% off deal on Shutterfly.  The books are a big investment of time and money but, I think, totally worth it.  I love flipping through books from previous years, remembering all of our family adventures.

Blogging.  This week, I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to answer the question of what’s saving my life lately on Wednesday, and sharing my winter list (only halfway through the winter!) on Friday.  Should be a fun week around these parts.

Loving.  I’ve been loving watching my social media feed explode with examples of people banding together to stand up and #RESIST the forces of hatred and bigotry.  Of course, I wish more than anything else that it wasn’t necessary – and I’ve been beyond ashamed of the government this past week; every act more disgusting and outrageous than the last – but I’m proud of everyone who has been protesting and speaking out.  These people work for US and we’re the boss, and I hope folks remember that at the polls.  I’m still looking for the best way to get involved myself – so far it’s taken the form mostly of donations to causes I believe in, and additional pro bono work – but I’d like to get more involved on the ground, so I’m working on that.

Asking.  What are you reading/watching/making/loving this week?

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Yay, book superlatives!  This is one of my favorite posts of the year to write.  Giving high school yearbook awards to the books I read over the course of the previous year just tickles me right in the funny bone.  Y’all know what this is about, so no more preface – let’s get down to it.

when i was a child

Brainiest.  This year’s valedictorian was… Marilynne Robinson, again!  One of the first books I read in 2016 was also one of the smartest.  I didn’t understand a word of When I Was a Child I Read Books, but I’m hoping my brain got bigger for reading it.

the natural world of winnie the pooh

Best Looking.  Kathryn Aalto wins this category for The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh, which I devoured this summer.  Gorgeous pictures of the flora and fauna of Ashdown Forest, interspersed with E.H. Shepard’s illustrations from Winnie-the-Pooh – no one else could compete.


Best Friends.  Kamala and Bruno have the sweetest, most adorable, most supportive and nerdiest friendship in Jersey City.  (Of course Bruno has to go and complicate it.  Maybe next year they’ll move to the “Cutest Couple” category, but for now these BFFs get “Best Friends” honors.)


Class Clown.  The award goes to Mindy Kaling!  (Again?  Has she won before?  I can’t keep track.)  Why Not Me? got some mixed reviews, but for my part, I found it hilarious – especially Mindy’s reinvention of herself as a wannabe-party girl Latin teacher at a posh NYC prep school.  Who else but Mindy would construct an elaborate fantasy world in which her colleagues hate her?


Biggest Jock.  It was a decidedly un-athletic class this year, so the pickings were slim.  Biggest Jock has to go, for lack of anyone more muscley, to Robert Langdon, whose daily swimming habit saves his life when he gets dropped from a papal helicopter into the river in Rome during one of the climactic scenes of Angels and Demons.  Swimming.  It saves symbologists.


Teacher’s Pet.  Elena gets the title, for her determination to succeed in school just so she can have one area of life where she is more brilliant than her brilliant friend Lila.


Biggest Nerd.  Kamala again, because how can I not give “Biggest Nerd” to the teen superhero who geeks out at meeting Wolverine, star of her most up-voted fanfic?


Most Creative.  One of my favorite books of the year, To the Bright Edge of the World takes the award for “Most Creative.”  I wouldn’t want to meet that raven man in a dark alley.


Most Opinionated.  I read a lot of fantastic books on important issues this year, so this was a tough category to decide – but it has to go to Jesmyn Ward for her roundup of essays on the African-American experience.  Not an easy read, but easily one of the most important books of the early 21st century.

the regional office is under attack

Most Likely to End Up in Hollywood.  The Regional Office is Under Attack! was written as if it was just begging to be made into an action film.  It was nowhere near my favorite book of the year, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it ended up on the big screen.


Biggest Rebel.  The ten dollar founding father without a father gets the title this year – how could he not?  2016 continued my obsession with all things Hamilton, including Hamilton: the Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s libretto of the Broadway musical that is changing the face (literally) of theatre.


Biggest Loner.  She never actually got to be alone, between the prison and the insane asylum, but Grace Marks was definitely That Weird Kid.

saga vol 1

Cutest Couple.  In a stunning upset, Marko and Alana win this one!  They’re not exactly the popular kids (every bounty hunter in the galaxy is out to kill them) but every so often there’s a surprise in yearbook voting.

badass librarians

Most Likely to Succeed.  When the stakes are high enough, failure is not an option.  So say The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, and you should listen to them.

Way too much fun!  Who were the valedictorians, prom queens and quarterbacks of your reading list last year?

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Well, here we go again – another new week.  How was everyone’s weekend?  Decently productive over here.  It was the second weekend of our “one day for family fun, one day for chores” scheme, and we ended up flipping the days because Saturday’s weather (even though grey and misting) was better than Sunday’s.  I’d been seriously considering going to the Women’s March on Washington – I was thinking I might push Peanut in the stroller – but decided against attending, mainly because I was a little anxious about the event.  To quote a work friend who also opted out, “It only takes one crazy with a gun.”  I also have another state Bar application in progress and I didn’t want to jeopardize that with any police entanglements.  So I reminded myself that I was there on Election Day and I did my part in pulling the lever for Hillary.  Of course, with 20-20 hindsight – knowing that the protests were peaceful, no violence and no police clashes – I wish I’d gone.  But instead, I took on a new pro bono case, made a statement of support for the National Park Service after they were banned from Twitter by the Trump Administration (I just threw up a little) (and so it begins) and lived to fight another day.  We spent Saturday at Great Falls, hiking the North River Trail into Riverbend Park, talking about how much we love our National Parks and how horrified we are about the news that they’ve been banned from Twitter.  (And I waved the Adirondack flag over the Falls, just for good measure – we love state parks, too!)  Sunday was devoted to grocery shopping, food prep, and completing our unpacking in the dining room – a productive day.


Reading.  Decently productive reading week, too – helped out by the fact that I left my phone in Nugget’s room overnight on Saturday, and so could not be distracted from my book (The Fate of the Tearling).  But that’s jumping ahead.  I finished March: Book 3 last Monday (astonishing and necessary), then read Becoming Nicole in less than 24 hours – I couldn’t put it down.  Finally, after avoiding it for two weeks, I then picked up The Fate of the Tearling.  I know that the Queen of the Tearling trilogy has tons of fans, and I don’t dislike it, per se, but I just don’t see what the fuss is about.  The third book, like the first two, was fine – although the ending was a massive WTF for me.  (Sorry if that’s a spoiler – it’s not meant as such.)  Now I’m just a few stories into Notwithstanding, a book of linked short stories from the author of Corelli’s Mandolin – so far, I’m enjoying it.  Next up, I think I’m finally going to tackle the new Jonathan Safran Foer – wish me luck.

Watching.  I might have to go back to my old format if I can’t mix it up more, but I can’t help it – I get on jags.  Steve and I are still working our way through Season 2 of Rock the Park.  We have decided that we are going to Denali to pet sled dog puppies, because CUTE!  I think we may have to stop watching, though.  Sunday night’s two episodes were so epic and amazing that there’s probably nowhere to go but down.  First, Jack and Colton hiked in Mt. Rainier National Park with then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.  And then, they CLIMBED. THE. GRAND TETON.  THE GRAND TETON.  Yup, we’re not watching anymore – that was the limit.  Just kidding.  We’re totally addicted.

Listening.  Still going strong with Middlemarch on Audible, even though my podcatcher is starting to fill up again.  Since I know you’re all wondering – Mr. Casaubon is every bit as infuriating on audio as he is in print!  He is. The actual. Worst.  Amirite?

Making.  A fully unpacked and cleaned out dining room (this is exciting stuff, guys) and an empty upstairs hallway – again!  Not to mention a fridge full of sliced veggies and hard-boiled eggs, because I am starting a modified Whole 30 today (wish me luck).  I wish I had something more fun to report to you.  Oh – here’s something fun.  I’m nearly done with my 2016 family yearbook!  Layout, backgrounds and embellishments are done.  I just have to finish the captions and proofread it, and then I’ll be ready to press the “order” button the next time there’s a 50% off sale (those books aren’t cheap).

Blogging.  Coming up this week, I have good stuff!  Book superlatives on Wednesday, and a recap of Saturday’s hike at Riverbend Park (the first in my rekindled Twelve Months Hiking Project series – hurray!) on Friday.  Check back!

Loving.  Even though I didn’t go myself, I loved all the pictures in my social media feed from the women’s marches around the country and the world.  We are a pretty amazing community of women (and men!) and I just hope that this energy continues.  If you were marching on Saturday, I also love you.

Asking.  What are you reading/watching/loving this week?


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