Tag Archives: books

mcpolish book list: year 11

15 Nov

Well, Interweb friends, we’ve come to the end of RY2017, and reviewing the list of books I’ve read this year, I can say it’s been a good reading year.

Well, let’s face it. Any year that I read is a good reading year.

Don’t be alarmed that partway through this list my ambition to give you a quick, three-point review fell by the wayside. Life, it turns out, is very tiring, and sometimes you just need to let some things go in order for your head to not explode. And sometimes, that thing is explaining what you liked about a book, rather than just tacking on a recommended asterisk. And sometimes sometimes, that thing is also ensuring that your coat is buttoned properly, and you haven’t skipped a button thus throwing off the alignment of your coat and bewildering you for hours as to why your coat suddenly doesn’t fit.

Look at me! Growing! Learning! Being an adult and shit!

Anyway, here you go, reader friends. Perhaps you’ll pick up one of these paperbacks/hardbacks/ebooks, and if you do, won’t you share what you think? And if you have any recommendations from your own reading lists, you know who to send them to.*

*Me. You should send your recommendations to me. 

Books completed between November 10, 2016 and November 9, 2017

So as not to get too wordy, I’m taking the same approach as I do with my movie lists, and giving you three sentences or less about each of these books.**  You’re welcome.

**And then, as you’ll see, eventually three sentences just got to be too much. So we’re back to the * denoting those books I recommend, no explanation of why or how. I’M A MYSTERY LIKE THAT. AND LAZY.

  • My One and Only*–Kristan Higgins (1. Turns out I like Kristan Higgins’ standalones as much as I like her series! 2. I like the Cape Cod setting, and now want a cottage there. 3. I’m not so sure I like Harper and Nick together, I feel like he still has some growing to do.)
  • If You Only Knew*–Kristan Higgins (1. Not quite as romance-y as her other books, and I liked that about it. 2. Definitely a good, fast read. 3. I wanted to slap some sense into the married sister, but in the end I really liked her.)
  • Foreign Affairs–Alison Lurie (1. This book won a Pulitzer in 1984 for fiction. 2. I don’t really know why. 3. It was a nice book, but I didn’t find it enthralling by any means.)
  • Four Friends–Robyn Carr (1. I think this may have been a departure from Carr’s romance novels into more of women’s fiction. 2. I didn’t like it as much as I liked Virgin River. 3. For some reason this reminded me of the show Designing Women, and I have no idea why.)
  • Someday, Someday, Maybe*–Lauren Graham (1. Did you know Lauren Graham wrote a book? 2. I couldn’t help but read the main character’s voice in Lorelei Gilmore’s voice. 3. I want there to be a sequel to this book so we can see how her acting career turns out.)
  • Radio Girls*–Sarah-Jane Stratford (1. This is a time period [the 1920s/1930s] that I’ve really enjoyed reading about lately. 2. I totally looked up to see what about this story was fact, and what was fiction. 3. Lesbians! and Gays! in high society in the 20s and 30s!)
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend*–Katarina Bivald (1. I didn’t want this book to end. 2. I didn’t want this book to end. 3. I didn’t want this book to end.)
  • Unfinished Business–Nora Roberts (1. It’s amazing when you read a romance novel that is well written vs. one that is horribly written, and Nora Roberts is that difference (in that she writes romance well, particularly given how prolific she is). 2. I love reading romance novels from Back in the Day, as it’s always a bit jarring to realize we’re talking about a pre-smartphone, pre-Interwebs era. 3. The main characters are just soooooo overwrought and dramatic.)
  • Eligible*–Curtis Sittenfeld (1.This is the first book by Sittenfeld that I’ve actually enjoyed. 2. I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice, but do I really need to, as this seems to be the exact same thing just with emails and planes rather than carriages and letters? 3. Why Liz Bennet doesn’t just throw her sisters and her mother off a cliff I don’t know.)
  • The Inn at Rose Harbor–Debbie Macomber (1. Was this the first book Macomber ever wrote? Because it reads like it. 2. Surprisingly, I got to the end of this and realized it’s the first book in a series and yet had no desire to read the subsequent books. 3. The writing lacks style.)
  • The Interestings–Meg Wolitzer* (1. Gad, I just love Meg Wolitzer’s writing style. Dense and beautiful and engaging. 2. Jules’ character never really grows up, does she? She kind of stays an annoying, emotionally stunted teenager well into her 50s. 3. Ash is annoying. And so is her brother.)
  • Staying at Daisy’s–Jill Mansell* (1. I wasn’t expecting much, since I picked this up as part of a 99 cents box set from Book Bub, and was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed it. 2. This makes me want to move to the English countryside. 3. Egads there are a lot of plotlines going on in this story.)
  • Millie’s Fling–Jill Mansell* (1. Ah, Cornwall. How I wish to visit thee. 2. I particularly like how Orla Hart’s storyline ends. 3. Again with the other romances/narratives taking more of a prominent role than the one that’s top-billed.)
  • An Offer You Can’t Refuse–Jill Mansell* (1. Strange–or not–that the Lola/Dougie narrative seems to take a backseat to every other plot in this book. 2. This seems to be a regular thing of Mansell’s books. 3. It’s a light, fun read so I don’t much care about which narrative does what, to be honest.)
  • The Unexpected Consequences of Love–Jill Mansell* (1. Sophie’s story, while billed as the main story, really comes across as secondary to the rest of the characters. 2. Wow, they really gloss over some major trauma, and yet, I’m perfectly okay with that. 3. I want to go live in this seaside village, it sounds so quaint and uncomplicated[ish].)
  • Lola’s Secret–Monica McInerney (1. This may be the first MM book that I really did not so much care for. 2. It’s been a loooong time since I read The Alphabet Sisters, and thus, I couldn’t keep Carrie and Bett straight, and honestly, didn’t really try. 3. I’m bothered by the fact that the storyline of the young girl whose parents always fought didn’t have an outcome that was as happy as possible for the situation, given that’s how the other storylines of hotel guests turned out.)
  • Fast Girl: Running from Madness–Suzy Favor Hamilton*
  • Today Will Be Different–Maria Semple*
  • The Woman Who Stole My Life–Marian Keyes* (This read almost like two separate stories to me. Odd.)
  • Vintage–Susan Gloss
  • The Expats–Chris Pavone(RECOMMENDED I GUESS BUT OH MY GOD THE THING THE HUSBAND DOES WHERE HE TICKLES THE WIFE’S PALM WITH HIS FINGER TO INDICATE HE WANTS SEX TOTALLY MAKES ME WANT TO PUNCH SOMEONE IN THE FACE AND THROW THIS BOOK ACROSS THE ROOM AND THEN INTO A SHREDDER BECAUSE WHEN SOMEONE DOES THAT THE SENSATION IS SO FUCKING GROSS LIKE WHEN SOMEONE TICKLES YOUR ELBOW. PLUS TICKLES IS A HORRIBLE WORD IN GENERAL. TICKLER IS ALSO A FUCKING UNFORGIVABLE WORD.)
  • Lizzie Pepper: Movie Star–Hilary Liftin*
  • The House at Pooh Corner–AA Milne* (I read this to Baby McSwedolish, but we read the whole thing so that counts, right? I’m counting it.)
  • The Hypnotist’s Love Story–Liane Moriarty*
  • Until There Was You–Kristan Higgins*
  • Dream A Little Dream–Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (I think I actually read this book last year, but I don’t see it on the list, so I’m just adding it here. See? This is what I get when I don’t record these books as I complete them.)
  • Maine–J. Courtney Sullivan* (1. Sad. Everyone in this book is just a bit of a sad sack. Good characters, but all of them, tinged with sadness that makes me sad for them that they can’t be happy. 2. None of these women strike me as particularly strong, and I found that frustrating. 3 Despite the first two points, I did enjoy the book, and it’s got great writing style.)
  • The Cinderella Deal–Jennifer Crusie*
  • The Cornish Guest House–Emma Burstall
  • Summer of Love–Katie Fforde
  • Trade Me–Courtney Milan
  • Big Little Lies–Liane Moriarty*
  • Hillbilly Elegy–JD Vance*
  • Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay–Jill Mansell*
  • In Farleigh Field–Rhys Bowen* (Slightly darker than her usual books. Is this the beginning of a new series? If I have a vote it is YES PLEASE.)
  • Cruising Attitude–Heather Poole*  
  • On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service–Rhys Bowen* (Latest in the Royal Spyness series. I know I thought these were kind of silly when I first started reading them, but now I love them and I can’t get enough of these books! I get so sad when they end because I have to wait for like, a whole year for the next one. Sigh.)
  • Some Girls: My Life in a Harem–Jillian Lauren*
  • The Fifth Letter–Nicola Moriarty* (Yes, she is the younger sister of Liane Moriarty)
  • Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery–Jenny Colgan*
  • The Travelers–Chris Pavone* (I liked this one way better then Ex Pats)
  • The Cafe By the Sea–Jenny Colgan*
  • Lucky Us–Amy Bloom*
  • The Royal Treatment–Melanie Summers

 

*Recommended

 

 

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things i’ve been meaning to tell you: june 2017

7 Jun

One: I’ve come to the conclusion that 87% of children’s books are F’d. Up. I’ve already mentioned the fact that Jamberry? Motherf-ers had to be hiiiiigh when they wrote that shit. And now, I have to say I take umbrage with the book Frederick.

Do you know the story? A little family of field mice, getting ready for winter, and while most of them are running around collecting wheat and corn there’s little Frederick, collecting words and colors.

Words and colors.

Words and colors aren’t going to feed you and keep you warm in the winter, dammit!

Please don’t misunderstand me. Whether you can tell or not, I’m a writer. Words are incredibly important to me. Colors, too. But you know what? I’m pretty sure that I could gather some words and colors at the same time I was gathering some of the harvest for our winter hibernation. It’s called multi-tasking, Frederick.

Two: The other day my gym was celebrating its 12th anniversary. There were balloons! And free giveaway things! And food! And booze! And all I have to say about that is if my gym gave away food and booze regularly I would go there a hell of a lot more often.

Three: There has been a significant lack of learning in my life. Sure, sure, I know what you’re thinking: Every DAY is a new learning experience. And it’s true! It is! And that’s great!

But I still want to learn things.

So I signed up for a cake decorating class.

All About Buttercream!

If that’s not a class description that will lure you in, then I’m not sure you and I should speak anymore. That would be like turning your nose up at a class called, “Let’s Eat All The Melted Cheese.” If you can’t get behind that then you and I will have to relegate ourselves to curt nods in passing when we see each other.

I said good day.

Anyway, I’ve picked up quite a lot in this short, four-week class. I can make rosettes! And roses! And primroses! And daffodils! I can make all the flowers! And swag-things that go around the edges of a cake! And shell-borders!

20170527_124904

Making buttercream roses? Surprisingly easier than I anticipated. I’m going to flower the hell out of all the cupcakes near and far.

But you know what I haven’t yet learned?

How to straight up frost a g-d cake.

And so I continue with the learning.

Four: I went for a massage last week and it was wonderful. But there’s always that strange moment when the massage therapist leaves the room, you get undressed and get on the massage table, and then the therapist knocks to come back in. At that point—when she or he knocks—what am I supposed to say? “I’m ready”? Or perhaps, “Come in”? I feel the same way when I’m at the doctor’s office, sitting in my paper gown, waiting for the physician to enter.

Neither of those phrases seems right to me. “I’m ready” sounds oddly bizarre, when you think about the after part of that statement. “I’m ready…for you to start digging your elbows into my back!” Or, “I’m ready…for you to palpate my stomach to make sure there are no foreign objects lingering about.”

“Come in!” doesn’t seem right either. It’s not my home, for God’s sake. It’s a massage studio. Or a women’s clinic. I’m not about to serve my massage therapist tea, or offer my midwife cookies.

Maybe I should go with, “Door’s open!”
What say you, Interwebs?

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

 

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.

things i’ve been meaning to tell you: february 2016

10 Feb

1) I loathe paying late charges. I really, really do. I see it as an absolute failure at something so simple, and the sign of a completely disorganized life. I’m guessing that no one really enjoys paying late charges, so I take comfort that I’m not the only one out there (though it’s possible that people don’t find them quite as abhorrent as I do, which is fine, to each her own).

There is one exception to this: library overdue charges. It’s rare I can remember to return my books on time or renew them within the proper window. Why? I don’t know. Possible it’s due to (no pun intended) the fact that I go to the library multiple times in one month and check out oodles of books so they all have different due dates, and it’s not like I’m reading said checked-out books in any logical order. Anyway, the point is I have no qualms about paying library fines for overdue books. In fact, I actually feel quite good about it. I consider it my duty as an active reader living in the City of Chicago. I know part of my tax dollars goes toward funding the library, but whatever the amount actually is I’m going to argue it’s not enough. And while I could just donate directly to the Chicago Library Foundation—and I probably should, no really, I must add that to my To Do list, now that I think about it—CPL will have much better luck garnering monies from me through my lack of attention forgetfulness flagrant disregard for missing due dates.

2) HGTV always seems to be showing marathons of Flip or Flop whenever I’m at the gym, which on a scale of 1 to 10 of my HGTV preferred shows rates a Meh. I like the idea on the whole, and if I didn’t like seeing the transformation from crappy to happy, well, that would pretty much go against everything I love about HGTV. I like Tarek and Christina El Moussa, and I root for them each episode, that they’ll make a profit and won’t get totally screwed over with their latest purchase. And I truly appreciate Christina’s commitment to false eyelashes—to wear them on the daily is no joke, you guys.

But for all that is holy and decent, can someone please give these two some acting or some such type of lessons? Because their monologues to the camera are killin’ me, Smalls.

An example for you–about 8:14 seconds in when Christina starts telling–not describing, telling–the camera everything their plan.)

It’s fine when they’re being filmed going into the house. Their reactions are as genuine as possible for something that’s probably filmed three different times from four different angles. But it’s those moments when one or the other is talking directly to the camera and telling us what’s happening that irk the hell out of me. They are scripted within an inch of their lives, and the lack of emotion just, gah. It really distracts from the excitement they’ve just created in showing us the major transformation of the property.

3) I’m making a concerted effort to watch more movies, both at home and in the theatre. Swede and I love going to see movies, we just…don’t…very often. But! That’s changing–since Christmas we’ve seen The Big Short (holy God, a wonderful movie that makes you lose your faith in humanity) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (FOMO) (kidding) (about the FOMO, not seeing the movie. We did actually see it, and it was quite good) in the theaters. And much like I keep track of books I read, I’m keeping track of movies (and documentaries) that I watch. (PS—Thank you, PBS station on Netflix, for your American Experience series helping in my efforts.) What have you seen lately that I should add to my list? (Don’t worry about me having already seen the flick—I’m notorious for having never seen many a hit movie, including, but not limited to: Die Hard [though I’ve seen Die Hard 2, for some reason], The Godfather, Anything Nominated in 2015 for Best Picture, and It’s A Wonderful Life [though I have absolutely no desire to see that one.]) (Surprisingly, I have seen a hefty portion of movies nominated for 2103 Oscars. How that happened I have no idea, but well done, me.) And if they are available on Netflix or Amazon Prime, all the better.

 

 

 

 

mcpolish book list: year 9

18 Nov

I talk a lot about books on this here blog because I am a book nerd (like you haven’t already figured that out). I have been for as long as I’ve known me, and I don’t expect to change anytime soon.

And I make no apologies about that.

In my ideal world I would have a bazillion hours to do nothing but read books and hang out with Swede and the dog. (And the cats, but only if they stop requesting Lillian Jackson Braun at every damn turn.)

Alas, there’s all this BS called work and showering because apparently banks expect you to pony up when your mortgage payments come due (jerks), and the human race appreciates not having their olfactory senses ravaged and offended by body stank (okay, that’s fair).

So it is in between working and showering that books get fit into my life, even though I’d really like it to be the other way around, that I fit into a book’s life. In the past 12 months I’ve managed to fit 32 books into my life, some great, some only okay. The bad ones, or the ones I just didn’t care for, well, those were returned to the library because I’m a grown-ass woman and I’m just not going to suffer through a book just because I feel I should, or because some authority figure is telling me I have to. I’m not in high school anymore.* (I’m looking at you, just about every book in junior year AP English.)

Which brings up a couple of questions before we get to the McPolish Book List: Year 9. One, what was the first book you put down because you Just. Didn’t. Like it.? Mine was The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Just didn’t care for it. Couldn’t give a shit about any of the characters. So I was like, “Fuck it. McPolish, you are a grown-ass woman. No one is testing you on this book. YOU STOP READING IT AND THEN STOP TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE THIRD PERSON. OR MAYBE IT’S SECOND PERSON? WHATEVER. READ SOMETHING ELSE.”

True breakthrough moment for me, I tell you.

Two, what did you read this year that you loved, hated, or were lukewarm about? Let’s hear it in the comments, Interwebers.

Here’s what I read for the 2014-2015 reading year, along with some personal opinions, and they are just that—opinions. Some probably barely qualify as an opinion, and really are moonlighting as opinions when in actuality they’re half-formed thoughts and run-on sentences. Do with that what you will.

Read on, readers.

*Though my stress dreams would tell you otherwise. Hello, nightmare of having to take a calculus final when I’ve never taken the subject in my life, on the same day when I have to take a French final, only to discover I hadn’t been attending class all semester, all of it ignoring the fact that in reality I’ve already graduated from both high school and college.

Books completed between November 10, 2014 and November 9, 2015

  1. Lady Be Good—Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (It just seems fitting that this year of books starts off with a well-written romance. I know I’m all about the romance, but I do so love Phillips’ style of writing, character development, and the wacky situations her characters seem to fall into. It’s all just a simply charming, delightful package to read, even if I did know the outcome of this book, seeing as how I’ve read later books that refer to these characters. [Another thing I love about Phillips’ books, that the characters are constantly overlapping. I just adore it.])
  2. Waistcoats & Weaponry—Gail Carriger* (The third book in Carriger’s Finishing School series, and it was just a treat to read. I zipped right through it, and was glad to see that there will be a fourth book out in the spring. Hooray! After the surprising but not surprising ending of this book, I’m anxious to see what happens next. And I furthermore love that we are seeing some of the characters from the Parasol Protectorate in earlier times. Fabulous.)
  3. First Lady—Susan Elizabeth Philips* (Loved this one. Again, it’s one where I’ve read later books about these same characters, so I knew how it was going to end—and let’s face it, it’s a romance, so we all know there’s going to be a happy ending—not like that—but it was fun to read how they got there. I think this may be one of my favorites of Phillips’.)
  4. Case Histories—Kate Atkinson* (Well now. This was recommended to me by Swede’s sister, and how glad am I that she did? It’s a terrific mystery, albeit a little expected in the outcomes, but Atkinson did a great job of weaving the different story lines together. I love when stories intersect as they do in her story. I’m excited to read more of this Jackson Brodie character, and see what other adventures and characters he encounters.)
  5. Neither Here Nor There—Bill Bryson* (If you’re looking for a fast read, this isn’t it. Bill Bryson is a slow boat to China sort of writing, and writes about his travels to boot. There are many reasons to love this book, but I think what I loved most about it was it was a snapshot of travel at a time when there were no cell phones, no Interwebs, and when some of the countries he visits used to exist (but don’t now). You know, the 90s. Good times.)
  6. Some Like It Hawk—Donna Andrews* (See previous list for the reason as to why there is no description of this.)
  7. The Sisters Brothers—Patrick DeWitt (This was a book club read, a western, and certainly not my usual genre, for sure. I enjoyed it, once I got a few chapters in. The writing style was direct yet somewhat lyrical, almost Shakespearean in its beat, I thought. I’m glad I read it, but I’m honestly not sure if I’d recommend it.)
  8. One Good Turn—Kate Atkinson* (Oh, Kate Atkinson, how I love thee. I love your twists and turns and connections and Russian dominatrixes. [Dominatrices?] [The latter does not get spell-checked, so let’s go with that.] The second book in the Jackson Brodie series, and it’s entirely possible it’s even more intriguing than the first. And now is the part in the book list where you shouldn’t be surprised if the next eleventy million books on this list are Kate Atkinson novels, as I have frequently expressed my love to read an author straight through when I come upon one I love. I regret nothing.)
  9. All the Light We Cannot See—Anthony Doerr (So this is kind of a weird thing, wherein I tell you that I liked this book, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It was a book club read, and that was pretty much the consensus, that we liked it? Kind of? Mostly? Except it’s not a book that I’m going to push on my friends. And honestly, Doerr needed a damn editor, because it was a sloooooow beginning, and I would say the first third of the novel could have been dramatically condensed. That said—again, weird—it was a good story, if overwritten at times, and once it got going it moved pretty quickly and was pretty engaging. But no, still not going to recommend it, unless you’re super into lit fic and WWII and have the patience for it. [Which I am, sort of, and I do, mostly, but whatever.]) (Edited to add: And then later I learned that it won the Pulitzer, after I’d read it. Go figure.)
  10. Coco Pinchard’s Big Fat Tipsy Wedding—Richard Bryndza (This book was not terribly good, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Some of the characters were funny, but written as all emails got stale really fast. It took me a chapter or two to realize that this was the second in a series of books, and unlike other series I’ve read, I have no desire to go back and read the first or any other book.)
  11. Reinventing Mona—Jennifer Coburn (I really enjoyed this book, a super-fast read, but it had a lot of problems. I think Coburn could have used some better editing, as there were some major jumps/plot holes that sort of left you all, “Ehhhmmm….Eh?” I think she could have done with leaving some plot lines out altogether, as they were entirely too short so as not to be worth including [I’m thinking of the lesbian best friend thing, which didn’t seem believable to me, and the Captain being in love with her grandma, for examples]. But! That said, Coburn has a great writing style, and there was more than one part that made me giggle or flat out laugh out loud, and I love when a book makes me do that. So long as you don’t care too heavily about plot, I’d so give this book a go.)
  12. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces—Isabel Quintero* (Oh my, how I really enjoyed this book. I love the journal style of writing, I love the character of Gabi, I love her friends, and the way she thinks and navigates high-school life as a self-described fat, nerdy Mexican girl. It’s the perfect mix of superficial high school life and hopes and dreams and all-too-real shit you wish no teenager to have to go through. But Gabi does, and it’s messy and it’s beautiful and it’s hopeful and I want to see where she is 10 years later because I guarantee you she will be just as brilliant and neurotic in her own head, because let’s face it, aren’t we all?)
  13. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You—Courtney Maum (Eh. There’s only so much I can take with a novel about infidelity and then trying to win your wife back. Pretty much the entire book was one big navel-gaze, with a strong undercurrent of trying to be more literary fiction than I actually thought it to be. I finished it just to see if they end up back together or not [spoiler alert: they do], and it was all very anti-climactic, much like, you know, real life. Except with a lot, a LOT more navel gazing. Which just gets old after awhile. And whiney. You can’t have that much navel gazing without the main character coming off sounding like a whiney, self-oriented ass. Also, apropos of nothing, I downloaded this book because for some reason I thought it was a comedy. It’s not.)
  14. We Were Liars— Lockhart* (Oh my. Oh my goodness. This book is captivating, it’s engaging, it flies by, and it makes me wonder why can’t someone write ADULT literary fiction like this? No, seriously, of all the adult lit fic I’ve read lately, it all just tries so damn hard to be “intelligent” rather than telling a story, and thus, loses whatever beauty that story could have had. But this book? This book, at first, you might be all, “You’re crazy, it’s TOTALLY overwritten,” and I would kind of agree with you, until you get deeper into the story, and into the character, and you realize it’s not overwritten, it’s a teenage girl trying to make sense of missing memories. Beautiful and heartbreaking and beautiful, this book.)
  15. Out of Sight, Out of Time—Ally Carter* (Damn, you, Ally Carter. Damn you! This Gallagher Girls series just keeps getting better with each books, the intrigue factor climbing and climbing. And this is the second to last book! GAH. WOE TO ME. Such a fun YA series, and Carter has done a great job growing the characters and complicating the plot. It’s all terribly engaging in a “Maybe I should call in sick to work so I can finish this book” way. And that’s the best kind of way.)
  16. House of Memories—Monica McInerney* (This may be my favorite of McInerney’s books, and not just because there is a bit that takes place in Washington, DC. Intriguing characters, absolute heartbreak, and an engaging read. I tore through this one.)
  17. When Will There Be Good News?—Kate Atkinson* (The next in the Jackson Brodie series, and these books just keep getting better and better. Seriously, I love how Atkinson fits all these seemingly disparate lives together, and it works. There are some loose ends and a minor “eh?” here and there, but in general, yes. I love it all. Yes.)
  18. Murder Offstage: A Posie Parker Mystery—B. Hathaway (I’m still going back and forth whether or not I want to read the next in the series. I enjoyed the book, a cozy mystery and a very fast read, so I think I will, but probably once I’ve whittled down the other books on my reading list.)
  19. Prudence: The Custard Protocol, Book One—Gail Carriger* (Oh, this is an enjoyable new series, about the daughter of the main character of the Parasol Protectorate series. Adventures in India, in a dirigible that looks like a ladybug? Yes, please.)
  20. Save the Date—Mary Kay Andrews (This was a slow start for me, which is surprising for Andrews’ books. I almost actually gave up on it, because I didn’t know how she was going to sustain some of the relationships when they get together so soon. And side note, someone fell down a bit on their copy editing job—I found a bunch of typos and misplaced punctuation marks. If I’m noticing that rather than paying attention to the book, well, that’s kind of an issue. Anyway, I loved the description of the flowers, as well as the rest of Savannah and the surrounding environments. Andrews has a gift for that, for sure, and it draws me in every time. The upshot is, a decent book, though not my favorite of hers by far.)
  21. Dear Committee Members—Julie Schumacher* (I added this to my list on the recommendation of my friend Ashley, and I’m quite glad I did. It’s a fun, fast read that gives a snarky look into a mid-weight college in the Midwest, and the politics that swirl about. I love the ego of the Jay, the main character, he’s just so insecure and pompous. I zipped through this in about a weekend, I think the letter format lends itself to that.)
  22. The Girl on the Train—Paula Hawkins* (Not nearly as fucked up at Gone Girl—and let’s keep in mind that I’m a newbie to reading thrillers—but a very engaging read. There were some parts that seemed a little slow, and I couldn’t help but think, “Jeezy creezy, can we move it along, here?” at a few points. But the ending is a deluge of answers, and not a little creepy when you think about it in real-life perspective. Probably should not have stayed up to the wee hours to finish it—commence freaky dreams!—but at the same time, Worth It.)
  23. Firefly Lane—Kristin Hannah (I feel a little bad about what I’m about to say, because at the end of the book the author has more than one note to readers about how this book was such a personal journey for her. And this is not said at all to belittle her journey. It’s just that I thought this book was incredibly thin, and incredibly superficial. [Quite the accomplishment considering it clocked in around 400 pages.] The characters had no depth, the plot was too predictable, and it just….it just read like the author thought her readers were kind of dumb with absolutely no knowledge of previous decades of life. Since the book starts in the 70s and ends in the early millennium, all the fads and trends that should paint the decade are ones that are just so, so stereotypical. It’s as if the author didn’t live through those decades herself [even though she says she did] and was just pulling stuff from Wikipedia. It was just so…trite. So, meh. Not recommending this one, and probably will not read this author again.)
  24. United We Spy—Ally Carter* (Oh, what a wonderful, daring, dashing end to this series! I’m sad that it’s over, but I was happy with how it all ended and played out. Such a fun read, I think this series—which I liked to begin with—got even better with each book. Do read it if you like YA, and fun, spy stuff.)
  25. The Sweet Spot—Stephanie Evanovich (Ehhhmmm….huh. There were parts of this book that I liked, but parts that just confused the hell out of me. I get that she’s trying to work a plot that lends itself to unconventionality, but the emotions of the main characters just got so jumbled sometimes and I was like, “Wait, are they really mad? Or is this just foreplay to sexy time? Or is THIS their sexy time?” I don’t know, it just sort of left me befuddled, and pulled me out of the story too much to really enjoy it. And honestly, when the scandal/major conflict portion happens [more than halfway through the book, which I found odd-ish, but not terrible] I almost put the book down for good, because I just kind of felt like, “Bleh, I don’t really care about either of these jokers because I can’t figure out what the fuck their actual feelings are, and what’s part of the sexy time anger, and what’s not.” You know what I mean? Well, perhaps not. But whatever, those are my thoughts, and I really don’t recommend this book based on my own confusion.)
  26. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves—Karen Joy Fowler* (I remember reading Fowler’s Jane Austen Book Club, but I don’t remember enjoying it nearly as much as I did this one. Quirky and off-center is the best way to describe the main character, and the story itself just sucks you in and is both hilarious and heartbreaking simultaneously. Fair warning: If you are at all sensitive to things related to scientific studies conducted on animals, this may not be the book for you. They’re not constant, and only a few passages are descriptive [somewhat], but I did still have a hard time reading parts of this book, as it made me very uncomfortable, yet kind of in a good way. If that makes sense. [It probably doesn’t.] But even so, I highly recommend this book—the writing is beautiful, the story is a great twist on a family drama, and just…yeah. Just read it. I loved it, and couldn’t put it down.)
  27. Falling Together—Marisa de los Santos* (de los Santos has a lovely writing style, if a little over-the-top at times. I enjoyed this book as a whole, despite the fact that I don’t really find the whole premise believable, would I guess be the best way to put it. Three friends are all attached at the hip during college and then a couple years after one of the friends breaks up the trio and says she has to move on with her life, and they shouldn’t contact one another again. But then two re-meet at a reunion and go in search of the third. And I get that the story is of these two peeps’ growth and falling in love and rediscovering each other—and that is all quite lovely—but the third-friend story line is weak, I think, and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the story. But still. A good read, and beautiful writing, and I’ve heard good things about de los Santos’ other books, so this is an author I want to definitely read more of.)
  28. The Theory of Opposites—Allison Winn Scotch* (Another book I got from Book Bub for a dollar, or maybe two? Either way, I liked the characters, and I liked the premise of a girl who’s dad is famous for living and promoting a theory of life, and she sets out to prove the opposite. It’s a fun read, though I’m not sure I entirely saw how her way of thinking was different than her dad’s, or bought her dad’s way of thinking to begin with. But whatever, I liked the character, so I kind of let that detail [albeit a bit of a major one] go.)
  29. Queen of Hearts—Rhys Bowen* (Catching up on the Royal Spyness series. Oh, for why haven’t Georgie and Darcy gotten together yet? GAH. Also, an appearance by Charlie Chaplin in this one! I wonder how long this series will go on?)
  30. Delicious!—Ruth Reichl* (Oh, Ruth Reichl, you just have such delicious—no pun intended—writing, I could just eat it with a spoon. It’s a fictional story marbled with a healthy dose of food talk, which makes my day. Incredibly enjoyable read.)
  31. Malice at the Palace—Rhys Bowen* (You know, this may be my favorite in the Royal Spyness series yet. Not only do we have an intriguing read with a good and clever investigation, but there’s a hint of change at the end that readers of the series have been waiting for for quite some time. Plus, I like that this one, as Bowen notes at the end, was based on some historical truths. Quite fun, I have to say!)
  32. The Vacationers—Emma Straub* (You know those books, when you read them, you think, Gad, that was just so beautifully written? Yet not over-written, and still readable and engaging? Beautiful but not so laden with flowery prose that you’re like, “that’s so lovely….wait, what is actually happening?” That’s this book. It’s beautifully written AND tells a great story, which I find rare in a lot of books these days. It’s weird, right? You would think that the two would be go hand-in-hand, but no, not really, not in IMHO. Anyway, this book does just that, and it’s funny, it’s engaging, it’s sad, it’s just….a good story. That is beautifully written, and I really, really enjoyed the characters and peeking into their lives.)

*Recommended

2015 mcpolish fall reading list

7 Oct

Listen, you guys, reading is serious business, and I am a serious person.

Seriously.*

And this is proven by the feat I accomplished this past summer, wherein I finished reading not one, but TWO books on the Summer 2015 McPolish Reading List: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, and Firefly Lane, by Kristin Hannah. While I won’t spoil my thoughts on the books—I’ll save that for my debrief of what I’ve read this year next month–I will now pause for your applause on such an amazing accomplishment.

Oh you guys! You flatter me!

You guys, for real. Now you’re just embarrassing me…….

……I have to move on now, you guys. Your hands are getting chapped and we’ve got other books to discuss.

So, since I experienced such phenomenal success (by my standards) with my summer reading list, and because autumn is my spirit animal (actually that has nothing to do with anything except to divine truth about myself upon yourself) (I don’t even really know what I said right there) (the takeaway here is that I love fall), I want to keep the book list momentum going, and with any luck I will go all Dolph Lundgren-as-Drago-esque on my fall reading list and be all, “I must break you.”

Except instead of Rocky Balboa,** I will break books. And by break I mean read the shit out of.

So! Here’s what I will (maybe) read this fall:

Words, words, words

Words, words, words

The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay—Michael Chabon

The Golden Compass—Phillip Pullman (Yes, I realize it was on the summer list. Stop judging me. I am determined to read this one.)

Malcom X—Manning Marabel

Nobody’s Baby But Mine—Susan Elizabeth Phillips

A little bit of this genre, a little bit of that genre, all mixed together for what I hope will be another great reading season.

What’s on your fall list this year? Anything I should add to mine?

*Not really.

**I just realized that this is a horrible analogy, as Dolph Lundgren’s Drago gets his ass handed to him by Sylvester Stalone’s Rocky. I would like to not have my ass handed to me by books.