1. School starts next week. I am not ready.
Okay, I am a little ready, but I am mostly not ready. I am especially not ready to live that 7 a.m. class life again.
2. My friend Jasmine’s book came out. You may have heard of it:
She did a launch party in LA at The Ripped Bodice, so I got the chance to hang out with her and a bunch of other super cool authors and non-author people, including one of my online friends who I kept trying to meet but our schedules just couldn’t get it together. But! On that day, it worked out! So, that was fun. (It was more than fun.)
One of the super cool people I met is an actual real life audiobook narrator. A person who narrates audiobooks! For a living! As someone who loves audiobooks but thinks of them as being narrated by people *waves hand* out there somewhere, it was very cool to meet an actual human being who does it in real life.
Surprisingly, though, I had not actually listened to any of the books she’s narrated, and she has narrated a crapton.
(She told me that the most important rules of narrating are to (a) make sure you eat oatmeal so your stomach doesn’t growl, (b) have a Granny Smith apple handy to help keep your mouth dry, and (c) make sure your clothes don’t make noise.)
3. I also, at Jasmine’s suggestion, finally made it to the beach! I went to Santa Monica, and it was perfect. (I loooooove the beach. But, wow, people are not kidding about the Pacific Ocean being cold.) However, that’s not the closest beach to me, so I need to find one even closer and then it will be even more perfect.
4. Oh, so my friend and I had a work date at Ikea (which is a surprisingly good place to get work done!) and then went desk shopping. As we were, she discovered that the desk I liked was one she already owned and wanted to get rid of, so now I have a desk! And it is perfect! It is so much easier to get work done at a desk than sprawled out on my couch for some reason.
I also bought a hot pink chair to go with it, as one does. Now I just need to find counter-height bar stools. And to fix one of the ones I do have.
5. I went to the dentist and have three cavities (of course) and they are on different sides of my mouth (also of course). I have a missing tooth, so the dentist talked to me about getting an implant (which I have considered before and a previous dentist talked to me about), but he also suggested I get an orthodontist consult because my bite is a little off and blah blah, etc. Anyway, the orthodontist said if I chose to get braces it would strictly be for aesthetic purposes, and the whole deal is that if I want to get my bite corrected and fix the crowding in my mouth, it has to be done before I get the implant. So now I have some things to consider.
Fun fact: when I was a teenager, I wanted braces because everybody who had them had gorgeous teeth. Then, as I got older, I realized it was a good thing I didn’t need them. And now here we are with me considering getting braces and also thinking it’s not that big a deal to not get them because it’s all aesthetics. Maturity, man. It’s a thing.
6. And now, as previously reported, I am back on the East Coast for my aunt’s funeral. The service was yesterday, and it was lovely. We printed this poem by Frances and Kathleen Coelho in her program (stolen from the sample bulletin the funeral home gave us):
God saw you getting tired
And a cure was not to be
So he put His arms around you
And whispered “Come to me.”
With tearful eyes we watched you
As you slowly slipped away
And though we loved you dearly
We couldn’t make you stay.
Your golden heart stopped beating
Your tired hands put to rest
God broke our hearts to prove to us
He only takes the best
If you Google the first line of the poem, a bunch of different versions come up, and we decided this one was best for my aunt.
7. Since I am going to force my students to read books again, this time I decided to eschew the banned books list and just give them a list of (fairly current) books I want them to read. (I learned from my students’ reflections that a bunch of them just picked books they had already read in high school–even when they hated the books.)
If you’re interested, you can see the books that made the cut here. It took a lot to get the list down to 65, let me tell you.
8. I also read some books since the last time I posted:
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I listened to the audio version of this, narrated by Toni Morrison. She’s an awesome narrator because she has a very melodious voice that’s suited to reading. Plus, it’s her own work, so she can infuse the dialogue with what emotion she intended even when there’s no dialogue tag or action associated with the dialogue. However, she is not a voice actor so it’s hard to differentiate between some of the characters when there’s a dialogue exchange with no tags. It was really only an issue for me once (during Sula and Eva’s confrontation), and I think I figured out who was who, but I’m still not entirely clear on it. But all in all, the narration is two thumbs up.
The story itself is beautifully written. I somehow thought that because it’s a story of two best friends, there wouldn’t be any awfulness. And while there aren’t any lynchings, it does start with the story of what happens to Shadrach at war. I also somehow thought that would be the worst of it, but no, then there’s a drowning and someone set on fire and it’s all just so SAD. So, Toni Morrison doesn’t do levity, the end.
I will also say that though I knew how Sula and Nel’s relationship was going to be tested, just like with Fences and A Raisin in the Sun, I still wasn’t ready for that moment and how much it hit me.
So, yes, beautifully written with a lot of fully-realized and amazing characters. But also a depth of sadness that I wasn’t quite prepared for. (Again, I don’t know why not. The book starts with a man coming back from war with PTSD.)
Read Harder 2018, Task 13: An Oprah book club selection
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I needed a break from all of the emotionally heavy books I was reading, and this fit the bill. To be fair, the book does cover some heavy topics, including homelessness and abandonment, but there is plenty of levity in the book that left me feeling hopeful and not in despair.
I listened to the audio and Tara Sands does a lovely job with Sammy. I appreciate her voice from Hudson because it sounds exactly the way I would imagine a 12-year-old imitating a grandfather type.
I think what I appreciate most about this book is though there’s a mean girl character, this is not one of those mean girl narratives, and it doesn’t fall into the trap of tweens coveting popularity above all else. In fact, at one point, Sammy says how happy she is to have two close friends instead of a lot of friends, and I think this may be the first time I’ve actually seen that explicitly addressed in a middle grade novel.
Sammy is great. I love books about smart girls, and I especially love books about smart girls who go to grown ups for help when they’re in over their heads.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The best part of this book is during the big reveal when Poirot says they need to start from the beginning and the one dude is like, “Why are you like this? Why won’t you tell us who did it?” and Poirot says, “Because this is my way.” I laughed out loud.
This is a reread, and the radio dramatization was a fun way to revisit the story. I love a full-cast audio production. The only problem with this one is that there are a lot of characters to keep straight, and they aren’t always identified, which means that often I wasn’t clear who was speaking or what their relationship was to the murder victim. There were also times that it wasn’t clear exactly where the action was taking place, especially in the beginning.
I chose to reread this because I remembered how the murder was solved and that there was a country house involved, but that was it. Christie plants the clue right from the beginning and I felt very clever that I picked up on it (even though I already kind of knew the end). So that’s a good way to make yourself feel smart, basically.
The story is definitely five stars; narration/performance is probably about a 3.5 just for the clarity issues.
9. Currently, I’m still on my Sammy Keyes kick–mostly because I couldn’t find anything else kind of fun to listen to.
The library still didn’t have book two available, so I am listening to Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf by Wendelin Van Draanen. I haven’t really had a chance to listen to it since I got to North Carolina
I am also reading Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile for book club.
The beginning was interesting, but it has lost steam. I’m at about 80% and trying to push through since I want to see where it will go. Right now though it’s all sugar cane farming and no emphasis on the relationships I actually want to see explored.
I head home tomorrow, so plan to finish the book then. Then again, I could do work on the plane like I did on my way here. Who knows?
Have a great week, everyone!