Sunday, December 10, 2017

What I Read This Week: December 10, 2017

The Husband and I hosted our annual holiday party last night. We only serve apps and zerts, so I had a blast making spinach balls, crab balls, oreo truffles... really anything that can be eaten in round form with a toothpick. Plus a cheese plate. There will always be room for a cheese plate on our table. (Dibs on the goat cheese.)

I love hosting this event because it's so much fun to see everyone around the holidays. It's been harder and harder to get everyone together at one time (even our party had fewer guests than normal), but I know that I will at least get to see a majority of my friends, in one place, at the same time. It's my kind of holiday cheer.

The reading list is short this week because I was too busy prepping for the party and getting holiday cards out the door. Snail mail for everyone!

  • Books
    • I finished reading Happily Ever After by Kiera Cass. It's a collection of stories that serves as a companion piece to her Selection series. Some of the stories gave new insights to the original books. 
    • I am now reading The Heir by Kiera Cass... because I am addicted to this world and I am going to read all the books before 2018 gosh darnit.

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Friday Find: Aroma

Do you need a stocking stuffer for the bibliophile in your life... or yourself for that matter? Head on over to Etsy, they always have great little gifts to help during the holiday season. I very much enjoy this candle. It mixes two things I love: coffee and books.

You can find this in the PinkCloudCandles shop.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Links and Stuff: December 7, 2017


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Why I Love... Taking a Break

It's the end of the year. The stack of books on my nightstand is large. I have a lot of projects to wrap up in the office. The Husband and I are hosting Christmas for our families again. My brain just cannot think of anything new to add to this feature.

I've got a bunch of new ideas for other features floating around in my head. In an effort to get a handle on all of these loose ends, I'll be taking a break from this feature post. Hopefully, I'll get my plans together and have some fun, new things ready to go in the new year.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

What I Read This Week: December 3, 2017

How in the heck is it December already? Oh well. The Husband and I decorated our apartment and I love how it shines. Nothing makes me happy like holiday sparkle.

You know what else makes me happy? Feeling incredibly accomplished in my reading. It was a sort of crazy week at work, those first days back from a holiday always are, but I still managed to get a lot of reading done. (*ignores massive backlog in Feedly*)

  • Magazines
    • Washingtonian, October 2017 - I've managed to catch up to most of my magazine backlog... except for the issues of Washingtonian. Hopefully I'll get there before the end of the year. This issue had a nice look at the Shenandoah area. I love leaf peeping there but perhaps I'll try a few more of the sights they highlight. There was also an article on the downfall of Gifford's ice cream. Apparently, it's hugely nostalgic for a lot of people but the story behind it something more dramatic. Finally, I liked the article on Ed Gillespie, I just wish I had read it before the VA election. Still good, but spoiler alert!
    • HGTV Magazine, December 2017 - I thought this would be a straight up catalog issues for gift ideas and holiday decor. I
      was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed two articles. The first was on how to care for live Christmas trees and the second offered ideas about what to hang above a sofa. Useful tips!
    • Food Network, December 2017 - This was the catalog issue! There were tons of gift ideas for foodies, but I mainly enjoyed the list of cookies. I do so love seeing new options for cooking baking and making.
    • National Geographic, December 2017 - The cover story about the quest for the real Jesus brought me back to a class I took in college. The main news in the story was not novel to me, but it was cool to see how archaeology can back up biblical stories. My favorite article in this issue was another
      dispatch from the walk out of Africa. This one focused on the silk road. It was very interesting to read how what we tend to think the silk road is (a single path full of camels, silk, and spices) is more a network of roads through desserts and mountains. Also, there might be jinn. Finally, the article on jaguars was okay, but the pictures were delightful.
  • Books
    • I finished up The Hate U Give early in the week. It might be the best book I've read all year. I was with the characters and their story from the start and you better believe I'll be seeing the movie when it comes out. This book is the perfect example for why we need diverse books. Read it!
    • I started reading Happily Ever After by Kiera Cass. It's a series of short stories set in the world of her Selection series. This anthology includes art and that makes me giddy. I got the two other books related to this world and I am so happy I get to finish out the year with these books.

Friday, December 01, 2017

The Friday Find: Seasonal Shine

The Husband and I put up Christmas in our apartment last Sunday. Our home is now full of holiday sparkle and I love it. If you want to add a bit of literary shine to your tree, the Library of Congress has this lovely ornament.

You can buy this bauble online here.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Variations on a Theme: Cozy

It's the season of coziness! I, myself, turn in to a hermit in the winter. I love to snuggle under a blanket with a good book and hot beverage. Winter is a great time of the year to get a lot of reading done. Who wants to go outside when it's cold? This month's variations on a theme is dedicated to the cozy mystery.

Death by Eggnog
Alex Erickson

Krissy Hancock is staying in her adopted hometown of Pine Hills, Ohio, for Christmas this year—and she even has a whole week off from her combination bookstore-café. But a killer is about to dampen her spirits. Unfortunately, Krissy’s been roped into filling in for a sick elf in the local holiday musical extravaganza. With a demanding director, backstage gossip, and two men in fierce competition for the starring role, it isn’t all sweetness and Christmas lights. Then a murder puts a stop to the production, and Krissy is faced with a pageant of suspects. Could her ex-boyfriend, a fellow elf, really be the culprit as the police are claiming? Or will the actor playing Santa be trading his red suit for an orange jumpsuit? When her behind-the-scenes investigation starts getting dangerous, the only thing Krissy really wants is to make it to Christmas dinner alive. But first she’ll have to finish wrapping up this case.

M.C. Beaton

Gentle by name, gentle by nature. Everyone in the sleepy Scottish town of Lochdubh adores elderly Mrs. Gentle - everyone but Hamish Macbeth, that is. Hamish thinks the gentle lady is quite sly and vicious, and the citizens of Lochdubh think he is overly cranky. Perhaps it's time for him to get married, they say.But who has time for marriage when there's a murder to be solved? When Mrs. Gentle dies under mysterious circumstances, the town is shocked and outraged. Chief Detective Inspector Blair suspects members of her family, but Hamish Macbeth thinks there's more to the story, and begins investigating the truth behind this lady's gentle exterior.

Emily Brightwell

Christopher Gilhaney isn’t a popular man, and he proves why once again when he insults every guest at Abigail Chase’s Guy Fawkes Night dinner party. When Gilhaney is shot dead under the cover of the night’s fireworks, his murder is deemed a robbery gone wrong. But when the case hasn’t been solved six weeks later, Inspector Witherspoon is called upon to find the killer—and quickly! With Christmas almost here, Inspector Witherspoon and everyone in his household is upset at the possibility of having to cancel their holiday plans—all to solve a case that seems impossible. Only Luty Belle, Ruth, and Mrs. Goodge refuse to give up and let the crime become a cold case. In fact, the American heiress, the charming next-door neighbor, and the formidable cook use all of their persuasive powers to get the others on board, because these three wise women know justice doesn’t take time off for Christmas.

Jessica Elliott

As friends, the boisterous and brash American Beryl couldn’t be less alike than the prim and proper British Edwina. But as sleuths in an England recovering from the Great War, they’re the perfect match . 1920: Flying in the face of convention, legendary American adventuress Beryl Helliwell never fails to surprise and shock. The last thing her adoring public would expect is that she craves some peace and quiet. The humdrum hamlet of Walmsley Parva in the English countryside seems just the ticket. And, honestly, until America comes to its senses and repeals Prohibition, Beryl has no intention of returning stateside and subjecting herself to bathtub gin. For over three decades, Edwina Davenport has lived comfortably in Walmsley Parva, but the post–World War I bust has left her in dire financial straits and forced her to advertise for a lodger. When her long-lost school chum Beryl arrives on her doorstep—actually crashes into it in her red motorcar—Edwina welcomes her old friend as her new roommate. But her idyllic hometown has a hidden sinister side, and when the two friends are drawn in, they decide to set up shop as private inquiry agents, helping Edwina to make ends meet and satisfying Beryl’s thirst for adventure. Now this odd couple will need to put their heads together to catch a killer—before this sleepy English village becomes their final resting place.

Lorna Barrett

The streets of Stoneham, New Hampsire are lined with bookstores...and paved with murder. When she moved to Stoneham, city slicker Tricia Miles met nothing but friendly faces. And when she opened her mystery bookstore, she met friendly competition. But when she finds Doris Gleason dead in her own cookbook store, killed by a carving knife, the atmosphere seems more cutthroat than cordial. Someone wanted to get their hands on the rare cookbook that Doris had recently purchased-and the locals think that someone is Tricia. To clear her name, Tricia will have to take a page out of one of her own mysteries-and hunt down someone who isn't killing by the book.

Joanne Fluke

This summer has been warmer than usual in Lake Eden, Minnesota, and Hannah Swensen is trying to beat the heat both in and out of her bakery kitchen. But she's about to find out the hard way that nothing cools off a hot summer day like a cold-blooded murder... Features over Ten Cookie and Dessert Recipes from The Cookie Jar, including Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes and Chocolate Covered Peanut Cookies!

More Cozy Mystery Titles
The Cat Who Saw Stars - Lillian Jackson Braun
Christmas Caramel Murder - Joanne Fluke
Death Comes to the Fair - Catherine Lloyd
Death of a Kitchen Diva - Lee Hollis
Death of a Maid - M.C. Beaton
Death of a Valentine - M.C. Beaton
Glazed Murder - Jessica Beck
Homicide in Hardcover - Kate Carlisle
On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service - Rhys Bowen
Murder at Brightwell - Ashley Weaver
Sprinkle with Murder - Jenn McKinlay

Links and Stuff: November 30, 2017


Sunday, November 26, 2017

What I Read This Week: November 26, 2017

The list is short this week because The Husband and I were in Texas all week for the Thanksgiving holiday.

  • Books
    • I finished reading Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante. It's the third book in her Neapolitan novel series and I was reading as fast as possible so I could leave it behind for my mother-in-law. I succeeded! I managed to finish the book the night before we left.
    • Thanks to our 3-hour plane ride home, I have already finished over half of my new book, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book is phenomenal so far. I've already cried twice and I can tell that this book is going to linger.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Friday Find: Ho Ho Ho

Thanksgiving is over so I am now allowed to share the Christmas themed finds. The Husband and I have a (somewhat) themed Christmas tree. Aside from ornaments we've collected on our travels, we try to keep everything else in the red, white, silver color theme with a slight emphasis on Santas and snowmen. I may have to grab this bibliophile Santa for our tree.

You can find this holiday cheer on Bas Bleu.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Links and Stuff: November 23, 2017


Happy Thanksgiving! 
I wish you a day full of warmth, gratitude, and cozy reading time.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Book 26: The Fever

TITLE: The Fever
AUTHOR: Megan Abbott
STARTED: October 21, 2017
FINISHED: October 22, 107
PAGES: 303
GENRE: Young Adult

FIRST SENTENCE: The first time, you can't believe how much it hurts.

SUMMARY: [From BN] In this impossible-to-put-down "panic attack of a novel," a small-town high school becomes the breeding ground for a mysterious illness. Deenie Nash is a diligent student with a close-knit family; her brother Eli is a hockey star and her father is a popular teacher. But when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class, the Nashes' seeming stability dissolves into chaos. As rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through school, and hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families, and the town's fragile sense of security.

THOUGHTS: I don't know what I was expecting with this book, but it wasn't this. I very much enjoyed Abbott's book You Will Know Me, and I think I was expecting something of the same. The basics are there (good characters, well-paced writing, interesting plot) but this title just didn't hit the spot for me. It was a good story in the moment, but nothing about the book has stuck with me. If anything, I remember it as being a touch formulaic for a young adult mystery. There is nothing bad about this book, it just turned out to be a meh kind of read for me in retrospect.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What I Read This Week: November 19, 2017

All I wanted to do this week was sleep. Well, sleep and continue to figure out what random things I can cut out of my daily life. I deleted yet more blogs from my reader, unsubscribed from several email newsletters, and started thinking about what to weed from my stuff during my annual holiday apartment purge. I've been on this kick to simplify things so that I can focus on the new things that matter in my life. So, lots of purging... but lots of yawning as well. I was in bed before 10:30pm most nights. I blame the time change.

In other news, The Husband and I flew to his folks place in Texas yesterday for the Thanksgiving holiday. We're going zip-lining today. Wheeeeeeee!

  • Work
    • College and Research Libraries News, October 2017 - Meh. There was really nothing in this issue that caught my eye.
    • College and Research Libraries News, November 2017 - Now this is more like it! This was a great issue. I particularly liked the two stories that focused on fake news. I also though the piece on how to have better signage was quite relevant to my needs. Our library is constantly looking for a way to make our signage more useful. We may have to try a few of these ideas.
    • American Libraries, November/December 2017 - In a timely piece, there was a brief article about how to protect library staff from sexual harassment by patrons. Another piece discussed the impact of hurricanes Harvey and Irma had on libraries. People always come first, but people also need to community place to turn to when things are bad. Libraries struggle to get back up and running to offer services to patrons who desperately need access to facilities that help them apply to federal recovery programs, call their insurance companies, etc.... and there's always mold. I loved that the article listed a few ways you can help (hint... don't send books). Finally, the cover story on the badass librarians of Jeopardy was just awesome. There is a reason you always want a librarian on your bar trivia team.
  • Magazines
    • Cooking Light, November 2017 - Thanksgiving issues of food magazines are my favorite. Thanksgiving issues that also happen to be anniversary issues are even better! This was a fantastic read. I loved the section that showcased the most highly rated recipes in the magazines history. I also loved the healthy eating tips. But, most of all, I loved the section devoted to Thanksgiving sides. Turkey is good, but I adore the sides. I've been known to make leftover plates composed of nothing but sides. (I can't wait for Thursday...)
    • Cooking Light, December 2017 - I was hoping for more cookie recipes (I'm looking to change things up a bit) but this was, nontheless, a good issue. I greatly enjoyed the gift guide that mixed homemade recipes with other, commercial purchases. This issue also included a list of giftable cookbooks. Finally, I loved the feature store on recipes with roots. Each recipe came with a family history and fun facts. It was great to see what each meal item meant to the author. 
    • National Geographic, November 2017 - The cover story about happiness was nice, but I preferred reading the feature story on why vaccines matter. There might be a (stupid) debate in this country about the value of vaccines, but other, more needy nations around the world understand their importance. This article showcases just why medical science is important, needs to be followed, and worth sharing around the world. Finally, I also really liked the story that followed an expedition as they mapped the Okavango delta.
  • Books
    • While we are in Texas for Thanksgiving, I am going to try my hardest to finish reading Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. I've already given my mother-in-law the first two books in the series, but I want to finish book three before we leave. I don't know if I'll succeed, but the plane ride here helped me put a dent in the book.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Book 25: The Geometry of Pasta

TITLE: The Geometry of Pasta
AUTHOR: Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy
STARTED: October 21, 2017
FINISHED: October 21, 2017
PAGES: 288
GENRE: Cookbook

FIRST SENTENCE: This book was not my idea, although I would be so very proud if it were.

SUMMARY: [From BN] Wheels and tubes, twists and folds and grooves—pasta comes in hundreds of shapes, each with its own unique history, beauty, and place on the dinner table. For centuries these shapes have evolved alongside Italy’s cornucopia of local ingredients; if you know how the flavours relate to the forms, you hold the secret formula to good taste. The Geometry of Pasta pairs over 100 authentic recipes from acclaimed chef Jacob Kenedy with award-winning designer Caz Hildebrand’s stunning black-and-white designs to reveal the science, culture, and philosophy behind spectacular pasta dishes from throughout Italian history. A triumphant fusion of food and design, The Geometry of Pasta invites us to unlock the hidden properties of Italy’s most mathematically perfect deliciousness.

THOUGHTS: This is not a real cookbook to me. It is, however, a great look at the history, production, and uses of all the various pasta shapes. I absolutely adored the black and white geometric style of this book. That choice made it very easy to see how pasta shapes work with the recommended sauces. (It also made me wish all of these pasta shapes were available to me. There are so many I've never tried!)

As for the recipes themselves, many did look tasty but they seemed repetitive and meat heavy. This cookbook is definitely not for your average home cook. It is, however, a great addition to the kitchen of anyone who lives for pasta.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

The Friday Find: &

I love delicate jewlery. I'm not tall so anything large just looks like a costume piece on me. When I saw this ampersand necklace cross my path, I immediately added it to my wish list.

If you love delicate pieces, you can find this beauty in the AlinMay Etsy shop.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Links and Stuff: November 16, 2017

Source (Hat Tip to Lady B)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book 24: The Night World

TITLE: The Night World
AUTHOR: Mordicai Gerstein
STARTED: October 21, 2017
FINISHED: October 21, 2017
GENRE: Juvenile


SUMMARY: [From BN] Everyone in the house is sleeping, but outside, the night world is wide-awake. It's a wonderful night to explore! Perfect for bedtime, this book from Caldecott Medalist Mordicai Gerstein celebrates the secrets of the night world and the joys of the sunrise.

THOUGHTS: This kid's book was short and sweet. I loved the illustration style and how the colors moved from black and white to the full, vibrant palette of life. I think this would be a great "wake up" book if you have a kid who likes mornings.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book 23: The Story of a New Name

TITLE: The Story of a New Name
AUTHOR: Elena Ferrante
STARTED: October 8, 2017
FINISHED: October 21, 2017
PAGES: 471
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: In the spring of 1966, Lila, in a state of great agitation entrusted to me a metal box that contained eight notebooks.

SUMMARY: [From BN] In The Story of a New Name, Lila has recently married and made her enterée into the family business; Elena, meanwhile, continues her studies and her exploration of the world beyond the neighborhood that she so often finds stifling. Love, jealousy, family, freedom, commitment, and above all friendship: these are signs under which both women live out this phase in their stories. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila, and the pressure to excel is at times too much for Elena. Yet the two young women share a complex and evolving bond that is central to their emotional lives and is a source of strength in the face of life's challenges. In these Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante, the acclaimed author of The Days of Abandonment, gives readers a poignant and universal story about friendship and belonging. Ferrante is one of the world’s great storytellers. With the Neapolitan quartet she has given her readers an abundant, generous, and masterfully plotted page-turner that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight readers for many generations to come.

THOUGHTS: I am so glad I got to read the second half of this book in one big readathon session. Just like the first book, the second in the series is rich in character and detail. What sets this book apart is how Elena and Lila start to grow individually and apart from one another while still, somehow, maintaining that close friendship that develops between friends. These characters are real people. You know them and you root for them. You yell when they do stupid things. You are with them in their sorrow and in their joys. This book (and the series) revolves fully around what it means to have close and meaningful relationships.

Ferrante's writing is just as rich as ever and the narrative flows. There are some points that feel overly dramatic, but the focus on character and personality and are not drama for the sake of drama. In this book, I did start to become frustrated with Lila's dominance in Elena's life, but I think that's the point. Elena is consumed by Lila. She's trying to understand her and, in some ways, emulate her while also distancing herself from a relationship that she seems to know is toxic. As a reader, I emphasized with Elena and I was fully along for her journey.

I can't wait to see where the lives of these characters head.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Sunday, November 12, 2017

What I Read This Week: November 12, 2017

Fall is finally here! The foliage in DC hit peak this week, I broke out my warmer coats (and gloves), and I got to enjoy the sound of my boots crunching through the leaves on the ground. I heart fall.

In other news, I was a magazine reading machine while watching football last Sunday. I managed to get through half of my backlog. That's a very good thing because my bin was over full and December issues will begin arriving soon.

  • Magazines
    • HGTV, November 2017 - As always, this magazine is just full of pretty design pictures that I will soon see on Pinterest. I did like the article that showed you multiple ways to design your holiday tablescape.
    • Food Network, November 2017 - My love of holiday food issues continues. Even if I don't pull any recipes (and in this case I didn't), I love to see all the variations you can put on the typical holiday favorites. There are many ways you can make stuffing and that makes me very happy. The pie feature in this issue was also super tasty looking.
    • Real Simple, October 2017 - The organization and cleaning tips this magazine gives are beginning to be a bit stale.
      Thankfully, the other articles they tend to include keep the magazine readable. I loved the best of the best product testing in this issue. I'm particularly intrigued by a shampoo/conditioner that might be good for my fine hair. I also liked the article that covered all the ways you can recycle things (including things like appliances). Finally, the article that talked about which healthy habits are real and which are just hype put my mind at ease (I'm looking at you vitamin supplements).
    • Real Simple, November 2017 - There were more tablescape ideas in this issue. I do enjoy looking at all those pretty pictures. I liked the article that discussed how to work
      through all those typical holiday stress points (traveling, cooking chaos, dealing with relatives, etc.). There was also a touching column about how a woman handled her mother's end of life dementia. Finally, the article about how to tell if your fit reminds me that I really need to get back in the habit of regular workouts that are more than just walking. 
    • The Atlantic, November 2017 - The main stories in this issue were all about creativity and innovation. As much as I loved reading about the Mona Lisa and Google's moonshot factory, I think another story in this issue was far more important. In the back pages of this issue is an article by Caitlin Flanagan called "A Death on Campus." It investigates how a pledge,
      Tim Piazza, was injured and, ultimately, killed by hazing activities and gross negligence. The article looks at the misbehavior and Greek life and how colleges seem to be loath to take permanent action towards dismantling the worse parts of the Greek system. The final paragraphs of story walk us through the last hour of Tim's life. I was nearly sick reading about the callousness and pain he must have endured. Anyone who is in Greek life or is considering entering as a pledge should read this article. 
  • Books
    • Did I finish the last book in The Selection Series? Indeedy I did. I'll save my full review of The One (and the whole
      series) for my regular review but, on the whole, the books aren't great but they are incredibly addictive.
    • I started reading the third book in Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novel series, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. I'm very interested to see what happens to Elena and Lila now that they've fully entered adulthood. Surprisingly, I've managed to avoid every spoiler out there for this series. 
  • Other
    • The BBC posted an article that looked at the uncertain future of handwriting. As someone who bullet journals, takes notes by hand, and sends out handwritten snail mail, it makes me sad to see that handwriting is dying and that many schools are no longer teaching it. If the Husband and I ever have kids, I will be teaching them handwriting. It's a necessary life skill.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Friday Find: Platter

Are you a reader? Do you like turkey? Or cheeses? Or food? Why not grab this book platter for your Thanksgiving table? It's simple enough to be subtle but bookish enough to bring a smile to every bibliophile's face.

You can grab this form Bas Bleu.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Why I Love... When a Book Lingers

This weekend, I finished the third book in the Selection series. It's a Young Adult series that is a mash-up of The Bachelor and the Hunger Games series. I absolutely devoured these books. There was more than one night where I stayed up WAY later than normally so that I could keep reading. Early work hours be damned... I was reading more of those books.

Since I finished the last book, I've been wanting to dive back into the world author Kiera Cass created. Something about this series just sated a reading need I had. The series was decently written, well plotted, entertaining, but, above all, incredibly addictive.

These books have stuck with me and I love it when the afterglow of a good read lingers. Lingering books make me happy. It doesn't matter if the book lingers because it was entertaining or addictive or thought-provoking... if the book lingers it means that the title fulfilled some part of my reading need. It meant that I found the perfect book to suit my mood.

Lingering books also give me a chance to explore why a specific title has struck me so strongly. I find that I ask myself questions like do I want to learn more about a topic, do I need to read more by this author, and/or do I just need to keep reading in this genre? When books linger, it means I've discovered something about myself that I need to take the time to explore.

Lucky for me, the Selection series has books beyond the three main titles. There is a compendium of novellas and two spin-offs. As soon as we're back from Thanksgiving and I finish my current book, I will be grabbing these titles from the library. I want to dive back into the world Cass created and I can't wait to read what else is in store.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Book 22: My Brilliant Friend

TITLE: My Brilliant Friend
AUTHOR: Elena Ferrante
STARTED: September 24, 2017
FINISHED: October 7, 2017
PAGES: 331
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: This morning Rino telephoned.

SUMMARY: [From BN] Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its protagonists, the fiery and unforgettable Lila, and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflictual friendship. Book one in the series follows Lila and Elena from their first fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists. Ferrante is one of the world’s great storytellers. With My Brilliant Friend she has given her readers an abundant, generous, and masterfully plotted page-turner that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight readers for many generations to come.

THOUGHTS: I gave these books to my mom for Christmas last year. She knows me, so she gave the whole set back to me when she was done. (I will also be passing these along to my mother-in-law as I finish them.)

So, I deliberately waited to start reading this book until The Husband and I were on vacation in Italy. Since the series takes place in Naples, I wanted to be encompassed in the setting. That was a brilliant idea, if I do say so. The location and scenes in these books absolutely came alive for me (particularly when we were travelling by train and staying in Sorrento). Ferrante's writing is vivid enough to bring the setting to mind with just enough imagery to feel cinematic without crossing over in to flowery territory. The neighborhood of the story has sights and sounds and smells, and it's all so very easy to picture.

As for the characters who inhabit the setting... while it can be hard to keep them all straight, each has their own personality. These characters feel real and I had no trouble recognizing feelings and actions. There were a lot of names to keep in mind but, for the most part, a community starts to develop in your head and the story becomes easier and easier to follow as the narrative progresses. Not all the characters are likeable, but that is on purpose.

Elena and Lila are the heart of this story. I did not quite "get" their friendship, but I want to see how their lives together (and part) progress. Their relationship is the heart of this novel (and the whole series). It doesn't matter if your rooting for or against either of the characters, it's impossible not to want to see what happens in their lives.

My Brilliant Friend is a rich and vibrant story about two friends navigating life. I might not always "like" the book or where it is going, but I'm deeply invested in the narrative. Good thing there are three more books in the series.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

YouTube Tuesday: A Library Is...

Sunday, November 05, 2017

What I Read This Week: November 5, 2017

Yesterday, I hosted a fun little shindig with the ladies. We watched Wonder Woman, colored and crafted, nibbled on food, and enjoyed adult beverages. We may all be in our 30s, but there is nothing like an afternoon devoted to past-times that keep you young.
  • Books
    • I stayed up far too late again (for two nights this week!) to finish reading the second book in the Selection series, The Elite. I'm so engrossed by this YA series that I immediately started the third book right after I finished The Elite... at 1am... on a work night. Who needs sleep when you have an addictive story to read?
  • Other

Friday, November 03, 2017

The Friday Find: Seasons Readings

I love sending out holiday cards every year. If you plan to send out greetings, it's never to early to scoop out which cards to send. I greatly enjoy this bookish themed box set.

These are available in the Library of Congress shop.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Book 21: Feral

TITLE: Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life
AUTHOR: George Monbiot
STARTED: August 7, 2017
FINISHED: September 21, 2017
PAGES: 319
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Arrange these threats in ascending order of deadliness: wolves, vending machines, cows, domestic dogs and toothpicks.

SUMMARY: [From BN] To be an environmentalist early in the twenty-first century is always to be defending, arguing, acknowledging the hurdles we face in our efforts to protect wild places and fight climate change. But let’s be honest: hedging has never inspired anyone. So what if we stopped hedging? What if we grounded our efforts to solve environmental problems in hope instead, and let nature make our case for us? That’s what George Monbiot does in Feral, a lyrical, unabashedly romantic vision of how, by inviting nature back into our lives, we can simultaneously cure our “ecological boredom” and begin repairing centuries of environmental damage. Monbiot takes readers on an enchanting journey around the world to explore ecosystems that have been “rewilded”: freed from human intervention and allowed—in some cases for the first time in millennia—to resume their natural ecological processes. We share his awe, and wonder, as he kayaks among dolphins and seabirds off the coast of Wales and wanders the forests of Eastern Europe, where lynx and wolf packs are reclaiming their ancient hunting grounds. Through his eyes, we see environmental success—and begin to envision a future world where humans and nature are no longer separate and antagonistic, but are together part of a single, healing world. Monbiot’s commitment is fierce, his passion infectious, his writing compelling. Readers willing to leave the confines of civilization and join him on his bewitching journey will emerge changed—and ready to change our world for the better.

THOUGHTS: Some time ago, I saw George Monbiot's TED talk on rewilding. I found it utterly fascinating and immediately added his book to my TBR list. When I came across Feral in a local independent bookstore, I immediately scooped it up to come home with me.

This book is far more narrative than I expected it to be. Monbiot's arguments for rewilding are somewhat hidden in his hikes along the heather, canoe trips, and conversations with locals. I don't think this is a bad thing, it was just not what I was expecting. I thought this would be a much more cut and dried sciencey book. Instead, it's a conversation about how man intereacts with nature. Monbiot's thesis comes from his experiences. He wants man to experience the land, not take from it. It's a beautiful book and one that has stuck with me. It's impossible not to look at the natural world differently after you've seen the decay Monbiot points out. I can only hope that his views are more widely shared and gain traction in local communities and governments.

A few week's back, my MIL shared Monbiot's talk on Facebook. I asked if she wanted me to bring the book when we come for Thanksgiving and she jumped at the chance. I am so happy that this book is going to be read my someone else. I think it's an important topic that pushes brilliant ideas to make this world better.

RATING: 9/10 [Excellent!]

Links and Stuff: November 2, 2017

This is one final link that I think needs to be pulled out because it is special. In a piece on Medium, Oleg Kagan looks at the emotional labor of librarians

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What I Read This Week: October 29, 2017

This was quite the up and down week for me. I contracted a head cold that kept me foggy for a few days, The Husband was out of town on a business trip, and a police helicopter decided to do low laps over my apartment until 2am one night... but then the end of the week ended up relaxing because I was able to binge Mad Men and catch up on my internet reading. The Ladies and I also met for high tea yesterday and that is always a grand time.
  • Magazines
    • National Geographic, October 2017 - The cover story in this issue was fantastic. It talked about not just what Jane Goodall has done for science but what Jane Goodall means for science. It was a fantastic profile of her career and life. I also enjoyed the article discussing how Dubai is trying to go green. If a city in the desert can do it, everyone can. Finally, the story on trophy hunting was rather enlightening. I don't (and won't hunt) but I thought this was a fair look into the business of safari hunting.
  • Books
    • I finished reading The Selection in a marathon of reading late Wednesday (and into Thursday) night. I knew I would enjoy the book, but I did not expect that it would be so entertaining that I would forgo sleep to finish it. I've already requested the next two books in the series from the library and I am bouncing with anticipation. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.
  • Other
    • The Washington Post issued a story that looked at how people who survive disasters often look to live with less stuff. I am a fan of minimalism and I purge twice a year, so I understand this desire to not be weighed down by things.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Friday Find: Marbling

This week, I put together an exhibit for work dedicated to The Art of the Book. As I was setting it up, I was amazed (again) by all the gorgeous marbled end papers that exist. This sent me to Etsy to seek out marbled paper.

Don't you just want to pop this into a frame and hang it on your wall?

You can find this in the MulberryPaperAndMore Etsy shop.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Variations on a Theme: Beverages

I love books about food. I could probably survive on a reading diet of nothing but books about pasta and bread and cheese. But that's not a balanced diet. One also needs liquids to survive. That is why this month's Variations on a Theme is devoted to beverages.

Here is a listing of books about the things we drink. Slainte!

Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water
Peter H. Gleick

Bottled and Sold shows how water went from being a free natural resource to one of the most successful commercial products of the last one hundred years—and why we are poorer for it. It’s a big story and water is big business. Every second of every day in the United States, a thousand people buy a plastic bottle of water, and every second of every day a thousand more throw one of those bottles away. That adds up to more than thirty billion bottles a year and tens of billions of dollars of sales. Are there legitimate reasons to buy all those bottles? With a scientist’s eye and a natural storyteller’s wit, Gleick investigates whether industry claims about the relative safety, convenience, and taste of bottled versus tap hold water. And he exposes the true reasons we’ve turned to the bottle, from fearmongering by business interests and our own vanity to the breakdown of public systems and global inequities. "Designer" H2O may be laughable, but the debate over commodifying water is deadly serious. It comes down to society’s choices about human rights, the role of government and free markets, the importance of being "green," and fundamental values. Gleick gets to the heart of the bottled water craze, exploring what it means for us to bottle and sell our most basic necessity.
The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World
Stephen Mansfield

It began in Ireland in the mid 1700s. The water in Ireland, indeed throughout Europe, was famously undrinkable, and the gin and whiskey that took its place devastated civil society. It was a disease ridden, starvation-plagued, alcoholic age, and Christians like Arthur Guinness—as well as monks and even evangelical churches—brewed beer that provided a healthier alternative to the poisonous waters and liquors of the times. This is where the Guinness tale began. Now, 250 years and over 150 countries later, Guinness is a global brand, one of the most consumed beverages in the world. The tale that unfolds during those two and a half centuries has power to thrill audiences today: the generational drama, business adventure, industrial and social reforms, deep-felt faith, and the noble beer itself.

Tom Standage

Throughout human history, certain drinks have done much more than just quench thirst. As Tom Standage relates with authority and charm, six of them have had a surprisingly pervasive influence on the course of history, becoming the defining drink during a pivotal historical period. A History of the World in 6 Glasses tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the 21st century through the lens of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Beer was first made in the Fertile Crescent and by 3000 B.C.E. was so important to Mesopotamia and Egypt that it was used to pay wages. In ancient Greece wine became the main export of her vast seaborne trade, helping spread Greek culture abroad. Spirits such as brandy and rum fueled the Age of Exploration, fortifying seamen on long voyages and oiling the pernicious slave trade. Although coffee originated in the Arab world, it stoked revolutionary thought in Europe during the Age of Reason, when coffeehouses became centers of intellectual exchange. And hundreds of years after the Chinese began drinking tea, it became especially popular in Britain, with far-reaching effects on British foreign policy. Finally, though carbonated drinks were invented in 18th-century Europe they became a 20th-century phenomenon, and Coca-Cola in particular is the leading symbol of globalization. For Tom Standage, each drink is a kind of technology, a catalyst for advancing culture by which he demonstrates the intricate interplay of different civilizations. You may never look at your favorite drink the same way again.

George M. Taber

The only reporter present at the mythic Paris Tasting of 1976—a blind tasting where a panel of esteemed French judges chose upstart California wines over France’s best—for the first time introduces the eccentric American winemakers and records the tremendous aftershocks of this historic event that changed forever the world of wine. The Paris Tasting of 1976 will forever be remembered as the landmark event that transformed the wine industry. At this legendary contest—a blind tasting—a panel of top French wine experts shocked the industry by choosing unknown California wines over France’s best. George M. Taber, the only reporter present, recounts this seminal contest and its far-reaching effects, focusing on three gifted unknowns behind the winning wines: a college lecturer, a real estate lawyer, and a Yugoslavian immigrant. With unique access to the main players and a contagious passion for his subject, Taber renders this historic event and its tremendous aftershocks—repositioning the industry and sparking a golden age for viticulture across the globe. With an eclectic cast of characters and magnificent settings, Judgment of Paris is an illuminating tale and a story of the entrepreneurial spirit of the new world conquering the old.

Alissa Hamilton

Close to three quarters of U.S. households buy orange juice. Its popularity crosses class, cultural, racial, and regional divides. Why do so many of us drink orange juice? How did it turn from a luxury into a staple in just a few years? More important, how is it that we don’t know the real reasons behind OJ’s popularity or understand the processes by which the juice is produced? In this enlightening book, Alissa Hamilton explores the hidden history of orange juice. She looks at the early forces that propelled orange juice to prominence, including a surplus of oranges that plagued Florida during most of the twentieth century and the army’s need to provide vitamin C to troops overseas during World War II. She tells the stories of the FDA’s decision in the early 1960s to standardize orange juice, and the juice equivalent of the cola wars that followed between Coca-Cola (which owns Minute Maid) and Pepsi (which owns Tropicana). Of particular interest to OJ drinkers will be the revelation that most orange juice comes from Brazil, not Florida, and that even “not from concentrate” orange juice is heated, stripped of flavor, stored for up to a year, and then reflavored before it is packaged and sold. The book concludes with a thought-provoking discussion of why consumers have the right to know how their food is produced.

Jason Wilson

While some may wonder, “Does the world really need another flavored vodka?” no one answers this question quite so memorably as spirits writer and raconteur Jason Wilson does in Boozehound. (By the way, the short answer is no.) A unique blend of travelogue, spirits history, and recipe collection, Boozehound explores the origins of what we drink and the often surprising reasons behind our choices.  In lieu of odorless, colorless, tasteless spirits, Wilson champions Old World liquors with hard-to-define flavors—a bitter and complex Italian amari, or the ancient, aromatic herbs of Chartreuse, as well as distinctive New World offerings like lively Peruvian pisco. With an eye for adventure, Wilson seeks out visceral experiences at the source of production—visiting fields of spiky agave in Jalisco, entering the heavily and reverently-guarded Jägermeister herb room in Wolfenbüttel, and journeying to the French Alps to determine if mustachioed men in berets really handpick blossoms to make elderflower liqueur. In addition, Boozehound offers more than fifty drink recipes, from three riffs on the Manhattan to cocktail-geek favorites like the Aviation and the Last Word. These recipes are presented alongside a host of opinionated essays that cherish the rare, uncover the obscure, dethrone the overrated, and unravel the mysteries of taste, trends, and terroir. Through his far-flung, intrepid traveling and tasting, Wilson shows us that perhaps nothing else as entwined with the history of human culture is quite as much fun as booze.

Other Beverage Books
The Billionaire's Vinegar - Benjamin Wallace
Bitter Brew - William Knoedelseder
Bitters - Brad Thomas Parsons
Bottlemania - Elizabeth Royte
Bourbon - Dane Huckelbridge
Champagne - Don Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup
Cork Dork - Bianca Bosker
Punch - David Wondrich
Unquenchable - Robert Jerome Glennon

Links and Stuff: October 26, 2017

Source (Hat Tip to Lady B)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Why I Love... [ ]

It's been two weeks since I posted a Why I Love entry. That means today is my next scheduled post in this category. But, you know what, nothing comes to mind. 

It could be the head cold I'm fighting. It could have been the alerts on my phone going off from 2:30am to 3:30am for a lockdown on the campus I work at. (Everyone is fine. It was just a precaution.) It could be that I'm not in the mood to be grateful. It could be that I've found all the obvious things I love. Whatever the case may be, my brain is just not able to focus on one thing I love right now that is related to reading, books, or libraries.

My brain wants to be empty. And that's okay. Sometimes it takes a breather to remember what we love and need most. 

It's like when you hit a reading slump and nothing seems to suite your mood. Every book just seems lacking somehow or not right for the moment. And that is okay.

Having space gives perspective. Having space gives time for your emotions and your needs to clarify themselves.

When you are ready to get back to things, I find that that having space offers a chance of renewal and new energy.

So, there's no Why I Love post today.

There's just this space.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What I Read This Week: October 22, 2017

Welcome to a post-readathon edition of What I Read This Week. I had a pretty crazy week at work (particularly at the end of the week), so yesterday's readathon was just the thing I needed to recuperate. Getting to cozy up on the couch with a book while nibbling snacks is just my idea of awesome. The Husband was a star too because he took care of the grocery shopping, chores around the apartment, and flipping the channel back-and-forth between sporting events for us. I heart him.

  • Magazines
    • The Atlantic, October 2017 - This was a hard issue to read because it was so in your face and unapologetic about what Trump means about our country. I am specifically referring to Ta-Nehisi Coates article on "The First White President." That should be required reading for everyone. It's hard to confront as a white woman, but it speaks truths we can't ignore. The other two stories about how Trump is, frankly, ruining things in this country just makes me sad. In addition to those pieces, the story of why people cheat was not as eye-opening as I thought it would be. I guess I sort of knew all along that women cheat because they so often carry the emotional burden of others that they seek outlets just for themselves.
  • Books
    • Everything on the list below I finished reading yesterday during the readathon. I feel so accomplished.
      • The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
      • The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein
      • The Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy
      • The Fever by Megan Abbott
This readathon was heavy on bigger books but I still managed to finish 4 titles which totaled 991 pages. I donate 5 cents for every page I read to First Book so I'll be sending in my$49.55 soon. Actually, make that $50. Every cent helps!