Thursday, March 5, 2015

For the Record: February 2015

I thought I was going to be able to squeeze one more book into February, but it didn't happen.  Still, it was a pretty rewarding reading month for me. Since I've been so busy with house design, I feel like more time is passing than really is—I keep thinking it's almost June.  SoCal weather is absolutely no help in this regard.  While the rest of the Continental US is suffering through another terrible winter, we're still sunny mid-70s. It could be any month of the year, honestly. That's definitely one of the factors urging me to read messed up conception of time.

Since I'm getting anxious to move back into our house, I thought I'd give you guys a little peak at what we've been working on for the last two years.

One of the [way too many] bathrooms - not complete yet
but I love how the tile and stone work together.

We have a lot of walnut in the house (floors, closets etc.)
This is a half flight of stairs leading to kitchen.

My laundry room is going to be so gorgeous! Alder cabinets and a mahogany
counter. Can't wait to see them after the wood is sealed.

This is a little private courtyard off the master suite where a lot of our
exterior materials converge: cedar, teak, andesite.

7 Books (1,858 pages) Read in February: 
[17 books (5,084 pages) year-to-date]

2 Nonfiction:
  - Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen (3.5) I liked the topics (American History and how it is taught in public schools) but the tone was somewhat alarmist which isn't my jam. Most of the stuff I already knew, whether through my own reading or by virtue of homeschooling, (not via traditional textbooks,) so what was most interesting to me was his brief comments on how little continuing education most history teachers do. That, to me, seems to be a large part of the problem. It's always easier to learn a subject if your teacher is enthusiastic about the topic.
  - The Light and the Glory (for Young Readers), Peter Marshall & David Manuel (2.5) I was disappointed to find much less usable text in this book as compared with its sequel. Most frustrating was the coverage on Columbus, who was presented as very rose-colored two-dimensional character. Almost as irritating was the general lack of organization in the writing.  Maybe I was just in a bad mood when I read it!

2 Junior/Teen Fiction:
  - Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson (4.5) Woodson did a beautiful job writing about her childhood, really giving a full picture of her family members and the locations they lived. Recommended! [counts towards the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: YA Novel]
  - When Mystical Creatures Attack, Kathleen Founds (3.5/4) This was fantastic to flip through, and I loved the first half or so, but as the story went on it got more and more depressing.  I kept hoping that there would be a sparkle of hope that would bubble up and infiltrate the various emotional problems and mental illnesses, but no such luck. [counts towards the Book Riot Read harder Challenge: Something Recommended to you]

2 Adult Fiction:
  - Still Alice, Lisa Genova (4) Read for my book club...actually listened to, since I did this one on audio.  It was read by the author, and I had a bit of a hard time deciding if it was just read poorly or if it was also written poorly.  I ended up forgiving the writing quality because I appreciate the author's goal of using the novel as a way to illuminate the intricacies of a disease.  This was about early onset Alzheimer's, and provided good discussion for our group. [counts towards the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Audiobook]
  - We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson (5) I thought this story was just about perfect. Well written, atmospheric, creepy, so wonderful.

1 Classic:
  - Cakes and Ale, W. Somerset Maugham (4) Almost more of a fictionalized essay than a proper novel...though there was indeed an interesting story to be had.  The main characters are authors, who are giving their thoughts about publishing and literature, so that's always fun.  And a commentary on society as well, done in a humorous manner. [counts towards the Book Riot Reader Harder Challenge: by an author of a different gender than yours]


1 Current Reads:
I'm kind of in between books today. I have a couple of books I'm reading aloud to my 10yo, but those will be on hold next week because I'll be out of town. I got sucked into the audio version of The Girl on the Train and didn't pick up any books in print in the meantime.

  - The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, Rachel Joyce. From LibraryThing's Early Reviewers. I loved Harold Fry and am hoping to love Miss Queenie also.

On My Nightstand:
I read all my new books from last month except The Magnificent Ambersons and Wolf Winter, so I'll be taking those on my trip next week...maybe I'll also take my new book club pick: The Light Between Oceans.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Inbox: New Books in Jan/Feb

I decided to keep track of the books I purchase this year, just because I'm curious. I'm not trying to change any habits, except for trying to buy as many of my books from my local independent book shop as possible. The store is pretty small, so it isn't the easiest place for an impulse purchase, (they just don't have the inventory,) but if I know I want a book I'll order it from them.

Typically, I like to own my books...though I have no problem getting rid of them either.  A book does have to merit space shelf—usually that means I'd reread it, loan it, or it's collectable for some reason. With the exception of the history books I bought from Sonlight, all books in Jan./Feb. were purchased from my local shop, except for my Powell's Indiespensable shipment of course. I didn't think I'd bought so many until seeing them all spread out in this post!


I ordered some school books from Sonlight Curriculum. We'd been working through early modern history in our homeschool but I got too frustrated with the program we were using (History Odyssey) and decided to bail mid-year. I'm excited to be moving onto American History a bit early. The new edition of Landmark looks wonderful, as does the DK history. I pre-read the two others and found the first (The Light & the Glory) too intent on pursuing the Providential view to maintain logical and cohesive organization in the stories. From Sea to Shining Sea, on the other hand, was written in a way that makes it easy to use the stories and have open discussion about the people and facts.


On the more Classic side, (of some sort...all were written more than 50 years ago,) I have some books I'm excited about.  The Belknap Press annotated editions of the classics are incredible, and I can't wait to learn new things while rereading Northanger Abbey. The Shirley Jackson was wonderful...more on that in my monthly roundup. I have to wait another month or so to read The Edge of Sadness, as this is a book with a purpose—my husband told me that the first book I read in our newly remodeled home should be a book from the time it was originally built, so I chose the 1962 Pulitzer prize winner. The intro was completely fascinating and I can't wait to dive in...just a couple more months. The Magnificent Ambersons caught my eye off the Pulitzer list too.  Since I loved Main Street so much, it seemed logical to give this one a shot also.


Some current fiction also found its way into my house these last couple months. I stalled out in Ruby right before it was announced as an Oprah book; I loved the writing and was interested in the story, but was having a hard time with the spiritual component. When Mystical Creatures Attack! was a fun one, but a bit of a downer in the end. I haven't yet picked up Fourth of July Creek or the newest Indiespensable: Wolf Winter.


On the more NonFiction side, Woodson's memoir sort of thing was well deserving of all those medals on its cover. The First Time We Saw Him was in one of Book Riot's posts or round-ups or something, and I was hoping that it would truly put the gospels in a different light, but nothing so intriguing so far.  In Flour Water Salt Yeast, however, there is much to be captivated by, and I can't wait to get my new bread-making tools and experiment with the science of bread. Mmm.

I've been itching to order some more books, but have put it off so far.  I'm wanting the new Nick Hornby, and am running out of patience with Pioneer Girl (Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiography) being so hard to get. I also want to read The Almost Nearly Perfect People - nonfiction about Nordic cultures. First, though, I have to get through a couple more of the ones listed above...that's motivation!