mcpolish book list: year 10

18 Jan

Despite the fact that I did very little blogging last year, I did, in fact, do some reading. Because reading is a constant for me. Without books, I would be a terribly lost soul.

Plus there was the whole had-a-baby, taped-to-the-couch-while-nursing-particularly-in-the-first-month-and-there’s-not-much-else-to-do-but-read thing.

So I had a particularly good run there toward the end of RY2016 (Reading Year 2016. Much like a fiscal year, but without having to deal with money. Which makes it WAY better.) thanks to the baby. Though as a whole, it wasn’t my best reading year, in terms of sheer number of books. In fact, if that was the barometer to go by, it may in fact have been my worst. And that’s more than a little wonderful, because it means there are that many books out there that I still can read!

If you’re looking for something to read, take a look at the list below. If you read something over the past year that you absolutely loved, please do tell, because I never mind an ever-expanding To Read list.

Year Ten of Books

Books completed between November 10, 2015 and November 9, 2016

 

  1. The Royal We–Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan* (I’m not a Royal Watcher, and I could give a crap about Prince William and his wife in real life. That said–and I say that because this book reads like a fictionalized version of their love affair–this was such a fun read, if an unsatisfying ending. It wasn’t a BAD ending–though literally the last page was a little too shmoopy and over-written IMHO–more like an “oh…really? Ugh. Blargh. Letdown.” Because it’s a fairytale, and even though the point of the book it to show how much of a fairytale this life ISN’T, there’s still a part of me that hoped for the fairytale ending. Anyway, all that aside, I love Cocks and Morgan’s writing style–it’s fun, it’s witty, it’s totally engaging, and this was one of those books that I’d read on the way to work and almost miss my stop because I didn’t want to put it down.)
  2. Beach Town–Mary Kay Andrews* (A fun read, which is to be expected from Andrews. This time it’s set in Florida, for a change of pace from her usual Georgia, but it’s still filled with the charm and great descriptions Andrews does so well. A little too much over-explaining in places, but I can forgive that for an easy read. A good beach read–no pun intended–and I think Eb may be my favorite hero of Andrews’ yet.)  
  3. Life After Life–Kate Atkinson* (While I absolutely adore Atkinson’s Jackson Brody series, I am kind of back and forth on this book. I still recommend it, as noted, but it took awhile to get into, and fully understand the premise. [Atkinson truly amazes me in her ability to weave characters and storylines and time and space and…<POW>…Gah. I think my brain just exploded thinking about the complexity of actually writing this novel.] And once I did catch on to the structure Atkinson was following, it made it a bit easier, and I could relax enough to get into the book. And it’s lovely, with Atkinson’s lovely writing. But there was still something that…huh. I don’t know. I guess I didn’t find it *quite* as engaging as I did her Brody novels. All that said, it’s still a good read, and maybe I’m being unfair, comparing LAL to JB novels. They’re apples and oranges, really. And I will add that I did like this enough that I’m excited to read the related A God In Ruins.)  
  4. The Improbability of Love–Hannah Rothschild* (Oh, what a lovely book. I’m not sure how to classify this–women’s fiction, perhaps? But I was thoroughly engaged with the cast of characters, their ups and downs, as well as sinking into a bit up the upper class art world. Rothschild has a flowing writing style and draws out a very good story that involves love, money, intrigue, and Nazis. [Also, what the what? Two books in a row that have an aspect/focus on WWII. Odd. But not in a bad way.] This has been one of the books I’ve enjoyed reading most, and I actually put other books aside to focus on it [a rarity for me], and NOT just because it was a book club read. Do pick it up, will you?)  
  5. The Hen of the Baskervilles–Donna Andrews* (It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Meg Langslow mystery, and I think the break did me good. This was a fun read. And I’ll leave it at that, per my rule about Andrews’ books. 🙂 ) 
  6. The Good, The Bad, and The Emus–Donna Andrews* 
  7. Great Kitchens of the Midwest–J. Ryan Stradal* (Okay, admittedly, I do love books that have a food theme to them. And books that seem to have disparate storylines that somehow tie together. And this book has both. And I loved it. I wasn’t so sure about it in the first chapter–all the talk of Lutefisk, blech–but it picks up and then I couldn’t put it down. I loved the writing style, it flowed so beautifully, and kept moving, and while the storylines were complicated, and the characters had a lot of shit not go their way, I was purely satisfied with how it all turned out in the end.)  
  8. Nobody’s Baby But Mine–Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Not really a fan of this one, because I think the premise it’s built on–a genius woman wants to have a baby and tricks who she thinks is a “dumb” football player into getting her pregnant–is both horrible and swept under the rug WAAAAAAYYY too easily. Almost like it’s making light of the situation, because Love! It’s all overcome by Love! And Heady Sexual Wants! And….yeah. It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s like, hey, here’s this really underhanded thing a woman did, something that yes, other women have done,  BUT JUST BECAUSE SHE HAD GOOD INTENTIONS DOESN’T MAKE IT OKAY. There are so many other routes Philips could have gone with this one, and I don’t like the route she chose. It didn’t work for me. Meh.)  
  9. Beautiful Ruins–Jess Walter* (This book started out strong, and then started going in a direction that I was not expecting–you know those times when you think the book is going to be about one thing, but it ends up being about another thing entirely? Yeah, that’s this book. So about a third of the way through I was kind of like, oh….well, okay. And it took me a minute to get back on board with the book, though once I did I enjoyed it muchly. It’s very…thinky. Quite a bit of philosophizing, but not necessarily in a bad way. Walter creates characters that you care about enough to forgive him for being a little heavy-handed with the life’s philosophies, and for jumping between multiple styles of writing. It all links together quite nicely, and could have easily been a disjointed mess, but it’s not. I don’t get the whole bit about it being a social satire that critiques Hollywood culture as many have described it, but whatever. Still enjoyable.)  
  10. The Best Man–Kristan Higgins* (The first in the Blue Heron series, and oh dear. It seems I’ve fallen in love with another series. Get excited, people, I’ll be reading this straight through. I heard Higgins speak at a conference a couple of years ago, and she was just terrific. Now, having read one of her books, I think she is even more terrific, as is her writing. It’s fun, it’s lovely, and she makes the setting in this book just as much of a character as the people. Speaking of which, I love the characters she’s drawn in this book, and that’s a lot of what makes me want to read the others in this series, just to see them and hang out with them again. ← I swear I live in reality and not in the pages of a book.)  
  11. The Perfect Match–Kristan Higgins* (The second book in the Blue Heron series, and just as delightful as the first. I like the twist of the story line so it really separates Honor’s story from Faith’s, but still with all the charm that makes you want to live in Manningsport.) 
  12. Waiting on You–Kristan Higgins* (Again, do we need to talk about my love of finding a good series and then reading the shit out of it? No. No, we do not. Higgins jumps out of the Holland family and into the O’Rourke family–which in some regards may just as well be the Holland family, and I mean that in a good way–and damn if Higgins didn’t change up the story line. What I like about the conflicts in her stories is that they’re all different, but all very relatable, which is not always easy to do. I zipped through this one just like I did the first two, and I regret nothing.) 
  13. In Your Dreams–Kristan Higgins (Huh. Well, it was bound to happen. This was not my favorite of the Blue Heron novels so far. [And I think I only have one more to go.] The romance seemed thin and not terribly believable so much as it was convenient, between Jack and Emmaline, and there was just a LOT going on with the characters mentally. Disparate things that never seemed to gel–Jack’s actual heroics, Jack’s savior complex, Emmaline’s weight, Emmaline’s  feeling like her parents love her adopted sister more, Jack’s inability to stand up to his ex-wife. Nothing ever seemed to really click into the believable realm for me. Nonetheless, I still zipped through this one, because Higgins’ writing is funny and engaging and I just love reading anything she writes.) 
  14. The Assistants–Camille Perri (I remember jotting down this recommendation from The Skimm, and being very excited about it. And the plot of the novel is good, and intriguing, but it all comes off as a little….thin. The romance between Tina and the lawyer in her company seems forced, like her editor asked her to include a romance just to spice things up, but it ended up falling flat, and none of the characters seem all that well developed. A few chapters in I started wondering how Perri would sustain this plot for an entire novel, and she does it–by adding new complications and new characters. Which, yes, that’s what should be done, but nothing ever gets terribly developed so it all comes off like a blah fairytale with a happily-ever-after-ending for the modern age. Is it because I’m not a Millennial? Is it because I’ve never [THANK GOD] suffered from crippling student loan debt? Maybe. Maybe not. A fast read nonetheless, just don’t expect too much out of it.)   
  15. The Princess Diaries, Volume XI: Royal Wedding–Meg Cabot* (I’m not sure if this is the last book in this series or not, but if it is I have to say it’s a nice wrap up. I like seeing Mia grown up, and all the shenanigans and issues–though some were more well played out than others–and I feel like many loose ends were tied up. I would be thrilled if this is NOT the last book in the series, and we got to see her ruling over Genovia and raising twins [sorry, spoiler there] as a princess.)  
  16. Anything for You–Kristan Higgins* (The latest book in the Blue Heron series–and possibly the last–I feel like this one goes back to everything I loved about the first couple of books in the series. More believable characters, not as many story threads that get lost in the shuffle. It feels more focused than the last one, and was just a joy to read.) 
  17. I’m Glad About You–Theresa Rebeck* (The first thing I will say is that I found the ending, the very last chapter, unsatisfying. It was beautiful, but I desperately wanted an epilogue to see how these characters’ lives turned out, that’s just the type of person I am. I totally get why it ends when it does, and I respect that. But still. I wanted more. I felt like the characters were really on a roll, and I wanted to see where that path took them. The second thing I will say is that much of this reads like a play. To be expected, as the author is a playwright, if I read the bio flap correctly. And that it reads like a bad thing–not at all! It was quite a nice change, and I could completely picture the characters acting this out on stage, the dialogue, etc. An absolutely wonderful read overall, though the Catholicism stuff was a bit heavy-handed in spots. Yet it worked on the whole, so I’m cool with it.)  
  18. Crowned and Dangerous–Rhys Bowen* (The latest book in the Royal Spyness series, and it’s just as charming as ever. And set in Ireland! The romance of Georgie and Darcy continues, and I continue to be smitten with these lovebirds. The only qualm I have is that the “mystery” plot is wrapped up awfully quick at the end–I would have liked to see it drawn out a little bit more, with a bit more intrigue. But overall, I just love these books.)  
  19. Family Baggage–Monica McInerney* (I love Monica McInerney, and this may be my favorite of her books yet. She is tremendous at weaving storylines that are compelling yet realistic, but with just enough that is a step beyond ordinary to keep you engaged. Plus after reading her books I always want to visit Australia. Even though half the time her books are sent in England. Whatever.)  
  20. The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life–Kerry Reichs (Cute, but too much, I don’t know, self-actualization? Self-discovery? Of the main character throughout the book. The first half of the book, where she’s in a million weddings, combined with the second half of the book, where she moves on from her high school love and meets the main romantic partner, could have been combined, and cut like a third of the book out. Plus, yes, I get it, the protagonist has changed her view that marriage is not the end-all-be-all she once thought it was. Please stop beating us over the head with it, and explaining it every fifth page. Jesus. Have some faith in your reader.)  
  21. Shopaholic to the Stars–Sophie Kinsella* (I haven’t read anything from this series in a while, and though it was nothing groundbreaking, and the protagonist is still as ditzy and self-absorbed as ever, it was still a fun read.) 
  22. Shopaholic to the Rescue–Sophie Kinsella* (Part 2 of Shopaholic to the Stars, and I recommend it only so you can find out how some of the story lines wrap up. And again, still a fun read.) 
  23. Just Like Heaven–Julia Quinn* (Oh, it’s feels like it’s been forever since I’ve read a Julia Quinn novel, and I’m reminded how much I enjoy them. I liked this one–and it was an easy starting point being the first book in a new quartet of books, seeing as how I can never remember which of the books in the Bridgerton series I’ve read–and it’s a cute story. I will say that the conflict wasn’t very conflict-y, and did read as if a bit phoned in. But that didn’t bother me terribly much, to tell the truth.) 
  24. Hello From the Gillespies–Monica McInerney* (I think this is my favorite Monica McInerney novel. I also think I say that every time I read something new of hers. But it’s such a good story, and it really made me want to visit the Australian outback. And shear sheep. And just visit Australia in general.) 
  25. Odd One Out–Monica McInerney* (This isn’t a full book, but since it’s a novella I’m counting it anyway. I think I finished it in about two hours. Unlike what I said above, this is not my favorite of McInerney’s stories, though I liked it all the same. But it just didn’t have the oomph that her other books had. The conflicts weren’t really anything major, but that was okay. It was kind of nice to read a book that is just…happy. With only a few minor qualms for the main character, that were resolved fairly quickly. Sometimes you need that in a story.)

*Recommended

 

photo friday: room for improvement, i guess.

13 Jan
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The dog doesn’t seem to mind the mess, even if I do.

This is my side of our bedroom. I thought the light was really lovely the other day, and tried to capture it with my camera. It kind of worked. Mostly it just captured my mess, so, well, here you go. You get a photo of the bedroom in its often normal state—baby things and clothes scattered everywhere, books in mild disarray on the windowsill. And of course, the dog.

Yes, the bed is made, and yes, that’s part of the room’s normal state. A made bed is sometimes the only thing that manages to get done in a day. (And more often than not done by my Swede.)

I don’t know who these people are who have tidy, magazine-perfect homes. I’m sure they exist, though possibly only on the Internet, or at least some version of them exists, much like fiction characters kind of exist in real life due to the resemblance they bear to the author’s Uncle Frank or hairstylist or second grade teacher.

Anyway, I’m not one of those people, and I’m not even a version of one of those people. In my head I want to be one of those people, but in reality it doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t. And I’m not going to follow up that declaration with some bullshit about embracing and learning to Love the mess! Embrace the mess! You are the mess! And you are okay!

Yeah, I know I’m okay. My mess and I are just fine, thanks. We don’t like each other, and we glower at each other regularly, and that’s just how our relationship is. Like much in life, it is not perfect.

Maybe someday I will get my shit together, or at least put away, but today is not that day.

 

 

 

did you know judy blume has a new book out?, and other things i learned on new year’s day, or: things i’ve been meaning to tell you: january 2017

11 Jan

One: Judy Blume has a new book out. Did you know this? It’s called In the Unlikely Event. Well, it’s not super new, as the copyright says 2015, but it’s new and news to me. I found it while on our annual New Year’s Day trip to Powells, and Interwebers, there is a solid chance I may actually read this book. Which would mean a two-year streak of actually reading one of the books I bought as part of our NYD tradition, instead of just smiling at them a whole lot when I walk by our bookcase. Also, Judy Blume is 78 years old, and I’m just not sure what to do with that information because for the life of me I thought she was ageless.

Two: While on maternity leave I did an enormous amount of binge watching, because what else are you supposed to do when you are essentially stapled to the couch nursing a child? I really think Netflix needs to invest in technology that will let you skip the opening credits of certain shows, because they just are so goddamn annoying. Like the opening theme and credits to Friends, for example. But it shouldn’t be a blanket skipping, mind you, you should be able to pick and choose the theme songs you want to eliminate. While I don’t ever need to hear “I’ll be there for yooooouuuu!” ever again in my entire ding-dong life, I do not mind hearing the swelling of the West Wing opener, nor the ominous joviality of The Americans theme music, or the diabolical sexiness of the theme from House of Cards. Yes, I realize this is why a fast forward button was created, but sometimes you can’t get the timing right, and you end up fast forwarding too much, and then you miss a scene, and then you have to rewind and you end up hearing part of the annoying theme song anyway, and my life is hard and woe to me and my streaming device.

Three: Why do I not have a cheese emoji on my phone? There is one for crème brulee, but not one for cheese. And I text about cheese way more than I do crème brulee. Someone please explain this oversight to me.

Four: Despite his young age, Swede and I like to read to the newest member of our household (also known as Baby McSwedolish), because really, it’s never too early to instill a love of reading, and plus I made one of my New Year’s Goals is to read the paper more, which is much more entertaining when you can read the articles aloud and use funny voices when quoting police chiefs and aldermen. Sometimes we actually read him children’s books, which is nice too, though I’m pretty sure some of these children’s book authors were motherf-ing hiiiigh when they wrote these books. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just surprised, I guess. If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of the board book Jamberry. You’ll understand completely.

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Sometimes I revise the story as I’m reading, because my version is better. What does Baby McSwedolish know? He doesn’t even have teeth yet.

photo friday: lean in

6 Jan

The holidays are a hectic time for everyone, but I’m pretty sure it was hardest on the dog. Poor Juniper–so many people coming and going and she was shuttled around from house to house as we made merry and bright. She was all sorts of tuckered out after our first stop at Swede’s parents’ house on Christmas Day, hence her using Baby McSwedolish’s car seat to prop up her block head. We weren’t sure how she was going to make it through the rest of the afternoon, especially since stop #2 included playtime with her lab-mix cousin, Olive. And she can’t not play, amirite? 20161225_115001

zooooommmggg, Maaaaahhhmmm…I’m so tired I couldn’t play another inch, I just need to…wait, I’m okay. I’m okay! Zoooooooom!

She soldiered on. Never underestimate the play power of a pitbull.

I’m guessing the turkey and other bits of foodstuffs people gave her probably helped.

 

2017: wtf?

4 Jan

Ask five random people, and at least seven of them will tell you that 2016 fucking sucked.

And it did. There seemed to be an amped up number of shitstorms, celebrity deaths (of celebrities that we really, really liked) and political ire and just all-around awfulness from the beginning to the end of 2016. And those are just the things that we experienced collectively, in public. That’s not even diving into the shit year that a lot of people experienced in their personal lives.

It was not all bad—for me, at least. I had a beautiful, healthy baby, which pretty much eclipsed everything else. What’s more, eight close friends and family members also had beautiful, healthy babies. Eight! That’s nine total! Throughout all the bullshit, nine new lives came into this world, nine new little souls are here and bringing unconditional joy and love. When they sleep through the night, anyway.

2016 was such a roller coaster of a year, it’s hard to not let it bleed over into 2017. It’s hard to look at the 12 months stretched before you, completely blank and ready to be colored in, when you’re still wiping the paint off your hands from the previous year.

2017, WTF are we going to do with you?

We’re going to live, goddammit. We’re going to do what Danny Kaye said, and throw all the paint we can at it. Some of that paint may be from last year; so be it. It will mix with the new paint and create new colors, hopefully some original ones we’ve never seen before.

We’ll hopefully not forget the flagrant disregard for normalcy that 2016 showed us, and we’ll hopefully use that to rebuild 2017 into a monstrously extraordinary year.

Pick up a brush. Or a crayon. A marker. Colored pencil. Your choice.

It’s time.

photo friday: somewhere in texas

2 Dec

DSC_0256.JPGYou’d think taking a 20+-hour road trip with an infant would make you want to run screaming deep into this vista, but aside from a couple of minor meltdowns, That Baby did just fine. It was Mommy who couldn’t stop asking, “Are we there yet?” in the 2700 hours it took to drive across Kansas.

what we have not

15 Jun

Recently, our internet was out for Four. Whole. Days.

It wasn’t pleasant.

I mean, sure, it wasn’t like we were on the Oregon Trail, and had run out of food by day two, and then everyone died of diphtheria or drowned in the river by hour 37, but then again, maybe we were, and maybe we did. I can’t really know, because we couldn’t actually play Oregon Trail because the internet was out.

It should be noted that there are benefits to being cutoff from the internet at home. So much you can get done! For instance:

  1. Clean the shit out of your house.
  2. Finally put together the album of pictures from your wedding that happened eight months ago.
  3. Call friends and catch up on their lives.
  4. Cook and bake your way through your File Pit.
  5. Take your dog on ridiculously long walks that will finally, finally tire her out so she doesn’t do zoomies around your one-bedroom condo at 11:30 at night.
  6. Catch up on the back issues of Time, The Economist, Real Simple, and HGTV magazine that are piled around your house.

Here is what I actually did:

  1. Looked at Pinterest on my phone.

And actually, I probably could have played Oregon Trail on my phone, but I didn’t, because I didn’t think of it until just now.

Granted, Swede did some of the things mentioned above, because he is a much better person than I. But me? No, I pretty much became one with the couch and lamented the lack of technology in our home, and called RCN on the regular to see when they would be restoring service. (Guess what? The original tech forgot to put in the order for a line tech to come and fix our stuff, so yay! Even longer delay.)

And then, in a quiet, unassuming change, our service was restored. I’m not sure how, or why, but we woke up a few mornings later and waa-la! Interwebs! No call from RCN saying they’d fixed it (in fact, the line tech didn’t come out until like, three days after that to fiddle with something in the box and called us to assure that All Was Right With Our Internet) (and then ended up getting stuck in our parking lot) (it’s a common occurrence). It was just there.

And our regularly scheduled chaos of life resumed, as if nothing had happened, no break had ever occurred.

And now, wouldn’t you know it, I’m missing those quiet days on my couch like they were my One True Love.