LaRose: quiet and surprising all at once

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

3 words: somber, interwoven, lyrical

This is one of those books where you hear the premise and you go, “Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?”

Here’s the premise: a man accidentally kills his neighbor’s young son while deer hunting, so he gives his own child to the neighbor to balance things out.

The hunter is Ojibwe, and this is an old tradition that he’s honoring, in order to repay his debt. A very old tradition, carried out in the current day.

I gotta say: I had to suspend my disbelief that anyone would do this. But then I thought: everyone else is not me.

And while the giving of the child is at the heart of the book, the story expands to encompass the lives of both families — with a focus on the two marriages and the teenage girls in each family — and the priest on the reservation, and a retired teacher, and a ne’er-do-well who’s stealing medication from the older folks.

There’s all kinds of drama coursing through this book, but even so, the book is quiet.

Maybe this came through extra much because I listened to the audiobook, which is read in lovely fashion by the author. She keeps the story sedate, even as people make choices that are fairly eye-popping.

 

Give this book a whirl if you like… stories of complicated family situations, reading about contemporary Native American life, mild doses of magical realism, and exploring the effects of long-held traditions

 

I know it happens to us all…  What’s the most recent book that made you suspend your disbelief?

Currently… all that learning

As this winter promises to draw to a close one fine day, here’s what’s going on around here…

Reading | When packing for a weekend trip, I realized all of the books I’m reading as actual books (rather than audiobooks) are self-improvement nonfiction (or Alexander Hamilton by Chernow, a book that is my year-long companion). So… that was weird. I hopped up and grabbed a novel from my TBR pile, and I’m gonna give it a go. (The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick… will you be the book I seek?)

But really… my heart belongs to the self-improvement books:

  • Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life by David Allen
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
  • Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey Mackay
  • AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running out of Money or Breaking a Hip by Jean Chatzky and Michael F. Roizen

 

Listening: Audiobooks| I just finished listening to LaRose by Louise Erdrich, which she beautifully narrates herself. And Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Ditto on the splendid author narration.

 

Listening: Podcasts | I’m newly hooked on the EntreLeadership podcast, because guess what? Self-improvement all over the place!

 

Watching | I’m fully hooked on The Crown, thanks to a well-placed recommendation by the Dear Man’s Dear Sister, who knows me well.

 

Learning | Oh, WordPress, you evil wonder! Our love/hate relationship rages on… The good news is I’m learning lots of things the hard way, which makes the lessons more memorable. (Remember that night I decided to repost some old blog posts and delete the previous versions because their formatting was messed up? And how I consequently lost all of the comments associated with those posts? That was the best!)

On the up side… I just finished my second Gale Courses class, Intermediate WordPress Websites, which has helped immeasurably. CSS… I’m coming for you! (Actually: CSS… occasionally I’ll inch close enough to do something tentative, while closing my eyes and crossing my fingers. But, hey: it’s something.)

 

Loving | My house is all clean and neat because Book Bloggers Reunion here at the Unruly Cottage. We’re laying bets on how long it lasts. The most optimistic view: 2 weeks. (I’m pretty sure that’s dead on. I’m already scattering books all over the place.)

 

Anticipating | We got tickets to see Hamilton! I was so excited I kept flapping.

The Bachelor GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And I keep thinking: in spite of all the trouble in the world… how lucky we are to be alive right now.

 

Celebrating | Our 60th pizza place! We hit Coalfire, currently ranked #1 by Chicago Magazine. And yes… it was life-changing. You’re looking at a Honey & Salami and a Spinach pizza (with pistachio pesto whipped ricotta). We’re standing firmly in the “specialty pizza” zone here.

 

So guys… what’s worth celebrating in your life these days?

Charming. And I liked it anyway.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

3 words: charming, quirky, heartwarming

Yes, I said “heartwarming” without retching. I know. That’s not supposed to happen. Cuz man I can’t abide heartwarming.

Then this book came along.

And I loved every heartwarming minute of it.

Apparently, this is the recipe for getting me to read and actually like this type of thing:

Start with one lively 104-year-old woman. Add one 11-year-old boy on the autism spectrum. Add his devastated mother. Add his absentee father, who wishes to do penance.

Then add a Boy Scout project that matches up the centenarian with the boy, who proceeds to interview her about her life.

And since he’s obsessed with the Guinness Book of Records, he decides she should try to set one. Or several. Here’s an excerpt from one of their conversations…

“‘Oldest sky diver is taken. Plus oldest pilot. Plus oldest showgirl.’ He frowned.” (p. 63)

That totally cracked me up. The woman is 104 years old!

The charming thing about the book is that the author perfectly captures the speech patterns of a woman of 100+ and a boy with autism. They sound exactly like they would really sound.

And their friendship becomes a real thing.

Then the boy dies, and I know… if you’re like me, you can’t handle the dying children books. But in this case, it happens quickly, and he’s still present throughout the rest of the book. So it’s sad, but man did he ever make a difference in people’s lives. Lots of people’s lives.

So: heartwarming.

Also: read this book anyway.

 

Give this book a whirl if you like… the Guinness Book of Records, intergenerational friendships, reinventing one’s life, stories of one person’s small actions having a big impact on others

 

What heartwarming books would you suggest to a reader with low tolerance for such things?

Book bloggers — we keep meeting!*

Book bloggers, y’all are my people. And I’m super lucky to live near some remarkable, creative, quick-witted, and funny bloggers, and sometimes we get together IRL. It’s pretty terrific.

Last weekend, I invited Julie and Katie and Marisa to Casa Unruly for our second reunion.

I simply adore these ladies.

We talked for hours and hours and hours, and we feasted on good things, and the time flew by.

The menu… Sweet peppers and hummus (thanks, Marisa!), followed by the frittata that didn’t want to cook, accompanied by Julz’s amazing fruit salad (balsamic vinegar is the secret ingredient), and then raspberry cake, which Katie brought from The Nice Bakery.

super fancy bakery cake

And Marisa brought tulips, and that made the table look lovely.

 

The talking… The big news is that our Katie’s expecting!**

I know!!!! Totally exciting news!!! She’s gonna be the best mom.

 

And then, of course, we discussed Blizzards and genealogy and DNA. And Julie described her typewriter ribbon quest — the woman seriously is taking the typewriter to a whole new level, and I’m in awe. And Katie served as our personal gardening guru.

 

The books… we all read different things, but there’s some interesting overlap. We talked about The Underground Railroad and Homegoing and Commonwealth.

And Marisa raved about Lincoln in the Bardo on audio (all those narrators!) And she talked about The Mothers by Brit Bennett and I tried to decide where to rank it on my TBR. Still deliberating on that one…  (If you’ve got an opinion, let me know!)

 

 

*Hamilton Easter egg!

3:26

 

**this one’s for you, my favorite rapping blogger!

1:04

JFK time travel extravaganza

Photo credit: Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston11/22/63 by Stephen Kin

11/22/63 by Stephen King

3 words: wide-ranging, wry, absorbing

 

Stephen King, where have you been all my life?

Actually, I know the answer to that one.

Dude’s been on the bestseller list most of the years I’ve been a reader. But I associate him with horror, and I can’t handle the horror.  

But ever since reading On Writing, my eyes have been opened.

Then my friend chose 11/22/63 for book club, so we could test whether King actually practices what he preaches.

I’m thinking he certainly does.

This book knocked my socks off.

It’s more than 800 pages long (which translates into 25 CDs of audiobook, which translates into a full month of listening at my usual pace), and I would’ve been perfectly content if it had been longer.

…cuz this book has it all goin’ on.

Rip-roaring plot: CHECK!

Likeable, relatable, memorable characters: CHECK!

Engaging narrative voice: CHECK!

A well-researched historical setting: CHECK!

Creative use of language: CHECK!

This book… it has all the things.

Here’s the quick rundown of this wonder:

Jake Epping is a high school English teacher whose buddy at a local diner shows him a wormhole into the past. His friend’s goal was to travel back in time to avert the JFK assassination, so the world could be a better place, and his dying wish is for Jake to carry out the mission. So… Jake dives back in time to 1958 and starts living a new existence in the past.

And King paints a vivid picture of that era — the good and the bad. There’s food that tastes terrific (and there are segregated restrooms) and there are kind and neighborly folk (and there are lots of people smoking).

In spite of the bad parts, Jake begins to feel at home in the late 1950s and early 1960s. And he falls in love. (That wasn’t exactly supposed to happen.)

So as he gathers intel about whether Oswald acted alone, Jake’s living a double life. And that always creates interesting dilemmas.

I’m a JFK geek (each of those four words links to a different JFK post… and that ain’t all of ’em) going way back, and I’ve read an embarrassing number of pages about his life and death. And I’m here to tell you… King got stuff right.

Dude not only researches the living daylights out of a topic, but then he’s careful about the way he sprinkles in the knowledge… like perfect seasoning.

This book… it far exceeded all my expectations.

I just wish I could read it again for the first time. Cuz: wow.

Give this book a whirl if you like… time travel; long, unfolding stories; reading about the JFK assassination; first person narrative; a mix of historical fiction, fantasy, adventure, suspense, and romance

So, kind readers… what book most knocked your socks off?

Week 4 of #riotgrams

The February #riotgrams challenge has wrapped up, and I gotta say: it stretched me outside my comfort zone. And that’s always a good thing.

 

Here’s the unruly Week 4…

Make a Bookface

 

Funny Books

 

Rainbow Book Stack

 

Favorite Quote

 

Most Badass Heroine

 

Doorstoppers

 

Bookish Confession: my cookbooks are sorely neglected

 

If you played along at home, which category of #riotgrams was your favorite?

Little evening of American hygge

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

3 words: cozy, happy, intimate

Biologically speaking, I’m ⅛ Danish. But when we talk about hygge*, I’m pretty sure I’m 100%.

Hygge: it’s the domestic trend of 2017, and I’m totally into it.

Hygge: it’s a word to represent the Danish concept of coziness

I was born for coziness.

(Probably most of us were, but I’m thinking I’ve got some serious natural gifts in this department. I’ll challenge anyone to the building of the world’s coziest little blanket-and-pillow nest.)

Denmark frequently ranks near the top of the list of happiest countries, and this book’s author (CEO of the Happiness Research Institute) says hygge is an important part of the picture.

And this charming little book is a handbook to creating your own experiences of hygge.

The book itself is pretty darn hyggeligt (cozy), cuz it’s small and includes pleasant drawings in soft blue tones that represent the key elements of hygge. We’re talking: candlelight, comfort, togetherness, a cozy nook, a fireplace, books, ceramics, blankets and cushions, vintage touches, and pleasures like warm beverages, chocolate, and cake.

Dear heaven, people. I want that life.

So the Dear Man and I set out to build it.

On a recent February evening, we did all the cozy things… we did some meandering tourist-style grocery shopping at a completely fascinating international market where we bought Danish cheese and butter because: hygge: it is Danish.

We also bought lots of other delightful things (including chocolate), because hygge demanded it.

Then we cooked Bookbinder Soup (I know!!!) and dined by candlelight and it was cozy as all heck.

And there was even the requisite book-as-coziness-object because, while the soup simmered, Book Nerd here kept reading aloud to highlight all the ways we were having the most hyggeligt evening ever in all the world.

(Did I mention I was wearing my fuzzy new slippers? I was.)

 

Give this book a whirl if you like… nesting, learning about other cultures, slowing it down a little to savor the coziness of winter, and books about the quiet pleasures of domestic life.

 

So, my friends… What are your hygge superpowers?

 

*pronounced: hoo-gah

Week 3 of #riotgrams

#riotgrams rages on! We’re in Week 3, my friends.

It’s my first Instagram challenge, and it’s causing me to scurry around my house, rounding up books for photo ops. And then re-shelving them like the good little librarian I am.

 

Here’s the haul for Week 3…

 

Books & Treats: Book club snacks!

Bookmark: circa 1980. One of my favorites ever. Maybe my most favorite ever. It’s a READING HAMSTER!!

 

Freebie! Thanks to Bybee of Blue-Hearted Bookworm for the excellent book mail.

 

Something Pretty: covers I really like

 

Great Dedication: from “Rise: How a House Built a Family by Cara Brookins

 

Favorite Cover: because man I love this book

Cool Spines: cuz photos of the subject at the top of the spine. I LOVE THAT.

 

It’s Presidents Day. Let’s read.

OK, guys… it’s Presidents Day.

(photo credit: Pete Souza)

And since this day is about honoring them as a group, today I’m offering up a few books that look at multiple presidents all in one book.

And because I’m a sucker for the 20th century presidents, that’s a focus of these books.

 

If you like journalistic memoirs written in a humorous voice, try this one…

Thank You, Mr. President: A White House Notebook by A. Merriman Smith

 

 

If you like looking at photos and reading their behind-the-scenes stories, try this one…

The President’s Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office by John Bredar

 

If you like seeing that our presidents are sometimes just like us, try this one…

Presidential Doodles: Two Centuries of Scribbles, Scratches, Squiggles and Scrawls from the Oval Office from the creators of Cabinet Magazine
What are your favorite books about U.S. presidents?

Week 2 of #riotgrams

OK, good people… Week 2 of #riotgrams on Instagram!

Here’s what we’ve got goin’ on for February 7-14.

What I learned:

  • I own only one graphic novel, and it’s Maus, which I continue to marvel at.
  • I own only two books with pink covers, and they’re both children’s books.
  • I own only one kissing book.
  • I’m wishing there were a category like “Tragedy” or “War” or “History,” cuz I could rock those categories.
  • (Is there something wrong with me?)

 

Black History

 

Author Who Shares My Name

 

Comics

 

Favorite Children’s Book

 

Outside

 

Pink Covers

 

Kissing Book