Saturday, February 6, 2016

For the Record: January 2016 (plus New Orleans!)

Welcome to 2016! It sure seems like the year is off to a rough start, both with celebrity deaths, political shenanigans, and what not. I'm still holding out hope that 2015 just couldn't fit it all in and it's about to turn around.

On the personal side of life, January was a slog. My husband was gone most of the month, here and there for work and other things. My high school kiddos had semester finals, and my 11yo daughter's horse trainer announced she was moving out of state. Overshadowing all of that was the fog that comes when one big (huge) project is finishing (our remodel) and no new goals or projects have surfaced. So that's my February goal: find a new mission!

I did get to join my husband on one of his trips. He had a trade convention to attend in New Orleans, which is somewhere we've long wanted to visit. The food was good, the music was great, and the crowd was crazy. We saw a couple of Mardi Gras parades without much hassle, as we were staying in the French Quarter, and toured the Garden District before leaving. I was surprised how run-down the city was and  have been wondering if that is characteristic to the city historically, or if it is due to a slow recovery from Katrina? Anyone know? I was reminded of Ignatius from Confederacy of Dunces the whole trip. I might need to reread that book this year.

On the bookish front, January was a pretty good month. I've been writing more and blogging more, which feels great. I've been getting the urge to reorganize my bookshelves (already!) but have put my efforts towards cleaning up my LibraryThing records instead.

I love being able to see all my books, and have gone full-library-nerd and labeled my books if they were prize-winners or ones I need to read. Having them all on display means I don't keep many books cued up on my nightstand, and also that I don't have huge book-buying urges like I did when they were all packed away and I was too busy to read. There are so many great options on my shelves!

7 Books Read in January [7 books year-to-date]

1 NonFiction:
  - The Old West, Stephen Hyslop (4) My husband got me this lovely book for Christmas. It has tons of beautiful illustrations, and a good proportion of Indian history to white history. I loved all the little mini-biographies and read straight through the book, although it would be nearly as enjoyable to flip through and read bit by bit.

2 Junior Fiction:
  - Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Jean Lee Latham (3.5) I was not expecting to like this biographical novel about one of America's most important navigators - oceans aren't my favorite thing - but I was pleasantly surprised.  I'm sure it was better because I read it aloud to my daughter (she enjoyed it) but overall it was both educating and entertaining.
  - Moccasin Trail, Eloise Jarvis McGraw (4) This is my second time reading this book and I just love it. I love how you get a picture of 19th century American life from the perspectives of the Indians, the trappers, as well as the settlers. Such an interesting contrast. Even better, there is a good look at why it is important to explore why we react as we do, and notice how our actions affect others.

1 Classic:
  - Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert (3.5) I picked this up on a whim - it was just so pretty sitting on my shelf. It was an interesting contrast/comparison to The Awakening by Kate Chopin, but in the end, as with The Awakening, I quickly tired of the shallow flightiness of the main character. Flaubert's writing, on the other hand, was enjoyable.

3 Fiction:
  - Smilla's Sense of Snow, Peter Hoeg (3) My book club pick was a novel in translation from the Danish, first published in 1992. There were some lovely poetic parts, though it ended up being too "action movie" for my tastes. We had some good discussion about whether the author succeeded in writing from a female point of view, and we all appreciated the look at Greenland, the native Greenlander's life, and the strained relationship between Greenland and Denmark.
  - The Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes (4) This was the third book by Moyes that I've read (the other two were for book club: Me Before You and One Plus One) and I enjoyed this the most of the three. I bought it on a whim at the same time I purchased the first one, because the WWI topic was interesting. I thought the romance in this book was a little more natural, and the book overall felt less emotionally manipulative than her others. I liked the history aspect, and appreciated that her character introductions were a little less chaotic.
  - News of the World, Paulette Jiles (4.5) I actually blogged about this book! (Yay me!) This was certainly my favorite read of the month, and is one that has stuck with me since reading it. It's a small book, but super substantial as far as characters, setting, history, and language. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the old west.


Current Reads:
  - A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn. I've been on a US history kick. That's what we are studying in homeschool, and my son is in a AP US History class, so we have all kinds of great discussions. My dad is also a a US history buff so we have some great conversations. This one is definitely interesting, as it is written from the unpopular point of view: the poor and downtrodden, the underdog. It is, obviously, biased. But it's a perfect contrast to traditional history tellings and really helps to round out the perspective a bit.
  - Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I haven't read this since elementary school, but thought it might be a fun read now. As a girl, I only remember being frustrated that Laura wasn't in this, as she was who I was in love with. Reading it now, without that expectation, is a much better experience. It sure seems a lovely life!
  - We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler. I actually haven't read more than the first sentence, but this is what I'll be reading as soon as I find a free moment.


New Books This Month:
Here's what I saved from my local independent bookstore's closing sale, as well as another couple I found at Barnes and Noble when I went there to try to cheer myself up about Apostrophe Books. I don't think it helped, but I'm looking forward to the new adventures anyhow.



  1. Ooh, New Orleans! It’s probably my favorite place in the US to visit. I hope you ate lots of good food while you were there, too.

    Of those, I’ve only read the Jojo Moyes, which I liked but didn’t love. I’m sorry that your local bookshop closed, but you picked up some good reads.

    1. New Orleans is so different from any other part of the US I've visited, (not that I've traveled the states widely!) and it was pretty captivating. I'm glad I decided to tag along on the trip.

  2. What a great trip that sounds like. I've never been there, but I'd like to go someday. The books on your bookshelf look awesome. Do the stickers come off? I'm afraid to put anything on my books. I take it you don't like dust covers. :)

    Thank you for recommending The Edge of Sadness. It is really good. I never would have found this in a million years. Why would it go out of print from Little Brown and Company and be picked up by a Catholic press? Mercy. I'm only 1/3rd of the way through, but it's descriptions are beautiful. I'm marking passages with sticky notes as I go.

    1. The stickers actually come off a little too easily so a lot of them are kind of peeling on the sides, which is annoying. But it makes browsing my books more fun!

      I'm so glad you are enjoying The Edge of Sadness! I'll need to reread it at some point and make a point to mark the parts that stood out to me.

  3. Moccasin Trail sounds good. Have you read Louise Erdrich? Brilliant stories of Native American life.

    1. I've only read her Birchbark House, which is junior fiction, but I loved that. I've gone round and round trying to decide which of hers to begin with. If you have any suggestions, please share!


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