Mar 08

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Contemporary Fiction, Plague 7

Greetings Bookworms!

I’m in a weird head space right now, y’all. I’ve had “Copacabana” playing in my head all day and decided that “Oubliette Gazette” would be a great newsletter name for people trapped in secret sunken trap door prisons. Until, that is, I was reminded that people in oubliettes don’t really get the luxury of newsletters, so it’s just a wasted rhyme. I lay the blame in part on the fact that I wasn’t able to read before bed last night. My Kindle’s battery was kaput and the cord isn’t long enough to stretch from the wall to my bed. And YES, I know I could have read a PAPER book instead, but then I’d need a book light (which also necessitates batteries) and I’d be reading an extra book which would throw off my whole mojo. I normally have one eyeball book and one audio book going at any given time, so throwing an additional title in there would just be chaos. Let’s just talk about one of my recent reads, shall we?

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker was a near perfect read for me. I was expecting to enjoy this book, because I really liked her first novel, The Age of Miracles (review), but this book was another level. The Dreamers is set in a remote California town. A girl at the local college falls asleep and is unable to be woken by her roommate, the paramedics, or the doctors at the hospital. When other students begin falling into this strange sleep, it sets off a panic in the town. Plague books are VERY much in my wheelhouse, so it’s no surprise that the plot of this book appealed to me. Remember in the 90s when that movie Outbreak came out with the monkey and the yellow suits and Renee Russo being smarter than everyone else? This book had a similar feel, but the writing was so lovely and melodic that while I felt all the dread, it also had a dreamy quality. Which, hello, GENIUS, because the book is literally about a sleep plague.

Here are some things this book did particularly well:

Illustrate dorm life: I think Karen Thompson Walker must have lived in a dorm very much like the ones I lived in, because the vibe was pitch perfect. The descriptions of the communal bathrooms alone- my word- I had the most vivid recollections of the University Hall 4B bathrooms circa 2001. Granted, this book wasn’t set in 2001, but there have got to be dorms somewhere that haven’t upgraded to those swanky suites. That somewhere is apparently the fictional Santa Lora College. And probably lots of other places. I don’t know. I’m, like, medium old. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was a sophomore in college and when I did it only worked outside the dorm because reception was bad . If I wanted to talk indoors I had to use a landline and a calling card. GET OFF MY LAWN.

Illustrate new parenthood: One of the families living in Santa Lora during this plague are the parents of a newborn baby. Walker mentioned in the forward of the book that she’d written the novel during the time her two children were born and I felt every smidgen of that reality. Being a new-ish parent myself, the intensity of those sleepless nights and constant self doubt hit home. There’s a scene where the family tries to leave town only to be met by a quarantine border that just about broke me. The second guessing and the terror of what would become of the baby? I was paranoid as heck about Sammers getting exposed to whooping cough or the flu during the period when he was too young to be vaccinated. A friggin mystery plague with a new baby? INTENSE.

Realistic depiction of disease spread and containment. As much as I dig a zombie apocalypse story, I think it’s pretty unrealistic that the contagion would be able to spread universally unchecked, you know? Especially since the majority of zombie stories involve slow, shuffling zombies. Quarantines would certainly be put in place, and those slowpokes would be rounded up quickly. Plus, it’s a contagion spread primarily by biting, so I have a hard time believing in the plausibility of such rapid spread. It’s probably one of the reasons I can stomach zombie novels and other monster fare whereas I have a hard time with horror stories about, like, evil humans. But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that I found the description of the way this disease spread very believable. Walker wisely chose to liken the spread pattern to that of the measels, which, frankly, has made me extra grateful for SCIENCE because measels is WAY more contagious than I ever realized. YAY VACCINES! Anyway. Quarantines were put into place early. Even when there were gaps in the quarantine (because there’s always going to be someone who sneaks out) exposure was contained. Like, seriously, good job, fictional government. I’m proud of you. There was plenty of chaos WITHIN the cordoned-off town to keep the drama going- no need to devastate the entire planet (which is good, because Walker did THAT in The Age of Miracles and it gave me actual nightmares.) The threat is still kind of there, though, because viruses are tricky bastards. No IMMINENT DOOM, at least.

Have I convinced you to read this book yet? I’m running out of exclamation points! GO FORTH AND READ!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Feb 25

Stuff! Things!

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Brain Dump 4

Howdy Bookworms,
On the off chance my husband reads my blog, he’s probably going to be annoyed by the title. One day when Sam was very small, I was upstairs nursing. I heard clattering and muttering from downstairs and asked what was going on. My eloquent husband responded with an agitated “Stuff fell!” And I was all “Uh, what stuff?” And he let out an exasperated “THINGS!” In his defense, this was during the phase of tiny babyhood where the grown ups get very little sleep. Still, whenever I feel like poking fun at Jim, I shout “STUFF! THIIIIIIIIIIIIIINGS!” I’m a joy to be married to, I tell you what. Whew. Since I’ve been out of touch for a bit, I thought I’d fill you in on some stuff. THINGS, even.

FIRST: Some mornings when I drop Sammers off at daycare he can be a little cranky. One morning, one of the toddlers in his class walked up to him and handed him a stuffed dog. Apparently, the little doggy is Sammy’s favorite toy, and this sweet little boy thought it would cheer him up. Is your heart bursting yet? Because this story isn’t over. This “bring Sammy the doggy” thing has become a TREND. Even if Sam isn’t crying, frequently at either dropoff or pickup, someone will come up and bring Sam the doggy. At least four different toddlers under the age of 2 have tried to comfort my son by bringing him his favorite toy. I praise them lavishly for the behavior, obviously. Many, many “thank you”s and high fives have been given.

The doggy filter makes even the crankiest Sammers smile. Clearly, we’re VERY into doggies these days.

SECOND: I didn’t want to pollute the purity of that first point, so I’m making this a secondary note. My husband thinks the “bring Sammy the doggy” trend is evidence that Sam has become some sort of toddler daycare dictator. No faith in humanity, that one.

THIRD: I finished reading The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke and I thought it was great. It had a unique take on magic and time travel, which is very much in my wheelhouse. As you might expect, time travel wove into historical fiction, which got kind of painful at times. Not because the writing was bad, but because Nazis. Also, I don’t think I ever really understood how oppressive the government in East Berlin was under Soviet rule. Let’s just say it wouldn’t be my choice of time periods to accidentally stumble into. (The correct answer to “which fictional scenario in which you accidentally fall through time would you choose” is always “Jamie Fraser.”)

FOURTH: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss came highly recommended to me by my bookish work friend and it was quite delightful. All those 19th Century mad scientist novels get a new lease on life through the eyes of their daughters (both literal and figurative.) Plus Sherlock Holmes? It’s a series, too, so sign me up for Book 2 of the Athena Club. I’m all in.

FIFTH: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal was awesome. It took some of the best elements from different genres and combined them into one delicious package. There was a lot of heart and humor, a bit of steam and romance, and mystery/thriller elements. I’m often smitten with stories of immigrant communities. Even though this book was set in London, the Punjabi community had a distinct small town feel. That’s not to say small towns aren’t problematic (this community definitely had ISSUES), but I simply adored this group of women.

SIXTH: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen was just meh. Not cringeworthy or anything, just not super compelling. Granted, this is a young adult book so I am certainly NOT the intended audience. I’m sure there are teenagers out there for whom this novel would be important and helpful, but to my old lady self was kind of bored. Also, it was weirdly dated. You forget how much our lives have been influenced by smart phones until you read a novel released in 2008 where people just keep calling each other on their cell phones. I think it’s clear how not into this book I was given that I was so distracted by the technology.

I think that’s enough STUFF and THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINGS for one post. What have y’all been reading? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Feb 05

Reading Books, Lifting Flaps

Bookish Baby, Children's Books 0

Hiya Bookworms!

This is probably the least surprising thing about me, but I LOVE reading stories to little kids. One of the things I looked most forward to when I imagined having a child was the bedtime stories. Reading in our house is not confined to bedtime by any means, but since my husband and I both work full time and the kiddo goes to bed early, there’s not a lot of time on weekdays to read outside of the bedtime routine. (I am NOT complaining about the early bedtime, I LOVE the early bedtime, please do not smite me, Universe!) Sammy has liked to participate in the story time process by turning pages for quite a while now, but he’s starting to get REALLY excited about lift-the-flap books (and any book with an interactive element.) Here are some of our current favorites.

ONE: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell- This was a gift from the sweet, wonderful, Stacey at Unruly Reader. My BEA commuter squad met up for a little reunion when I was, like, medium pregnant with Sammers. Stacey had picked up a couple of books for me that her nieces and nephews had loved, and this was one of them. It’s so cute! Imagine writing the zoo to ask for a pet and being sent a series of animals that aren’t what might traditionally be considered house pets. Until, the end, that is, when SPOILER ALERT, the narrator receives a “DOGGY! DOGGY! DOGGY!” as Samuel so succinctly puts it.

TWO: Never Touch a Monster by Rosie Greening, Illustrated by Stuart Lynch: We’ve got a wide variety of books with texture in our library, but this one is delightfully unique. Instead of having little patches of fabric for texture, these monsters have this funky silicon nubby stuff. It’s a sensory delight for me as a grown woman, so it’s no surprise Sam loves it too. It’s also got some really fun rhyming and general silliness so it’s great fun to read out loud. We’re very lucky in that Sammy’s Grandma (a retired elementary school teacher) is exceptionally passionate about children’s literacy and gives him books at every giftable occasion, some questionably giftable occasions, and frequently just because. This was, unsurprisingly, one of her finds. (Sammy’s Nana is also an avid reader, but as a semi-retired dental hygienist, she’s more likely to make sure her grandson is in possession of high tech toothbrushes than books, which works out well. He has his own Sonicare AND an impressive library. This child wants for nothing.)

THREE: Little Red Penguin Shapes, Colors, Words, Numbers by Angela Muss: I actually purchased this set of board books myself which is kind of surprising. We have received so many books as gifts that our shelves are full to bursting without much help from me. Sammy’s daycare did a sale through Usborne books. Knowing the school was going to get a percentage of the overall purchases in free product was what finally made me take the plunge, as I’ve been invited to many digital Usborne “parties” and never made a purchase. These are sturdy little board books with lots of colorful illustrations and plenty of flaps to lift. Obviously, my primary motivation in ordering this particular set was the penguin protagonist, but I’m very pleased with the quality. I do have to admit that when I purchase board books, I usually get them from discount retailers. As a result, the price on these felt a bit high to me for something that’s going to end up battered and soaked in drool, however I don’t think the prices are terrible when compared to list price on similar books. (PSA: If you haven’t gone on a book binge through Book Outlet, you’re missing out.)

FOUR: Hi-Five Animals! by Ross Burach: Rather than having flaps or textures, this book is interactive in that you literally hi-five it. As you turn the pages, different animals hold up various appendages asking for you to give them a love tap. It’s a really fun book to read with a toddler (I’m guessing this would be a big hit with the preschool set as well.) Who doesn’t like to give hi-fives? Plus, hi-fives are a nice alternative greeting for kids aren’t comfortable giving hugs to everyone who asks. I’ve accepted many a hi-five from bashful tots. There have actually been a couple of times when I go to pick Sam up at daycare and a random kid will run up to me. I’d be happy to give them a squeeze, but if I don’t know their parents, I think it’s kind of weird to go in for the hug, so I offer them a hi-five instead. I can’t take responsibility for the one time I sat on the ground to read Sam the book that he handed me and another kid crawled into my lap, though. I doubt that little girl’s mom would have minded because she’s one of the few daycare parents with whom I’ve shared friendly banter. I’d totally be Mom Friends with her. You know. If I knew how to make Mom Friends. (I have plenty of friends who are also parents, but I’ve never made a parent friend directly through my child. That’s what I mean by “Mom Friends.” I feel the need to clarify that, for fear of receiving sassypants texts from my actual IRL friends, Book Club being the most likely culprits. They’re the sassiest.)

FIVE: That’s Not My Penguin by Fiona Watt: This was a gift from one of Sam’s baby showers, and, coincidentally, another Usborne book. It shows a different penguin on each page highlighting a textured feature that proves they are not “MY” penguin. Fuzzy tummies, shiny beaks, fluffy penguin chicks- it’s really cute. We also have one of the siblings to this book which replaces the penguin with a reindeer. I think there are at least a couple of other animals available too, but OBVIOUSLY this is my favorite. We have more than a few penguin related titles. I’m not mad about it.

SIDE NOTE: Remember how I posted about a month ago that I was concerned about Sam’s lack of walking? HE CAN WALK NOW! The doctor was right, being the only non-walker in the toddler room put a bee in his bonnet and now he toddles around like a drunken sailor. It’s ridiculously cute. It’ll probably be less cute when he’s running away from me in public, but I have one of those backpacks with a tether and I’m not afraid to use it, SAMUEL. I’ll take the side eye from other parents for having a kid on a leash over my kid running into traffic any day of the week, y’all.

Trying to get a decent photo of him walking is a challenge because he’s still kind of wobbly and they all come out blurry. But here’s a triumphant smile. Actually, it’s just a smile because I was singing the “Hop Little Bunny” song and bouncing a stuffed rabbit, but you get the idea. He’s proud of himself. We’re proud of him. Smiles for days.

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I may receive a small commission.*

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Jan 31

It’s Been 84 Years…

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts 1

Hey There Bookworms,

This week has felt 84 years long. I’ve seen things, y’all. I’ve aged. Let’s talk.

FIRST: I live in Central Illinois, and, as you may have heard, the entirety of the Midwestern US has been afflicted with the Polar Vortex. It sounds ominous because it IS. We’ve had wind chills of -50 Farenheit which made it colder here than a lot of places you would expect to be extremely cold. Like Alaska. And Mars. It was colder than Antarctica too, but my penguin friends are annoyed by that comparison because it’s SUMMER in the Southern Hemisphere. They’re also annoyed that people are using this extreme cold as an opportunity to argue that climate change isn’t actually a thing. It is. Science says so. K thanks bye.

SECOND: Really, I have a lot more to say about how much this cold has sucked and caused innumerable problems and petty annoyances for me personally, but rehashing all of it is just going to make me cranky. So, a book! I read The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson (with my ears) since we last spoke. It was alright. I mean, I didn’t go into it with high expectations, I just wanted something that would take my mind off the cold. It was successful in that respect. Twin swap hijinks and silliness abounded. It was The Parent Trap meets Miss Congeniality plus Harry Potter and Jane Austen references. I’m very intentionally looking past the fact that the narrator, at points, got swoony over Wuthering Heights (review). I will never understand how anyone sees Heathcliff as romantic in any capacity whatsoever. This book being about a beauty pageant has served to remind me of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. Unfortunately, I read that during my Zero Dark Thirty blog phase and never talked about it, but it was PHENOMENAL. Drop Dead Gorgeous meets Lord of the Flies (review) plus feminism. So good. But wow. My movie references are SUPER dated. Hi, I’m Katie. I haven’t seen a movie in 20 years, apparently.

THIRD: I’m still not finished with The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke because part of the FUN TIMES I’ve been dealing with this week has been an outbreak of hives. It’s a thing that happens to me sometimes, I usually don’t ever find out what triggers it, and it isn’t serious. It is super annoying though. I’ve read that hives can often be a stress reaction as much as a reaction to an allergen, so who even knows? All it really means is that I’ve been taking a lot of Benadryl, and Benadryl makes me drowsy. I do most of my eyeball reading right before bed. Hence, I’ve been falling asleep early despite this being a very compelling read. I’ll be sure to let you know my final verdict next week when I’m warmer, less itchy, and more pleasant.

FOURTH: I almost forgot! Between my last post and this one I finished listening to Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren. It was lovely, if somewhat gut wrenching. The first few Christina Lauren books I read were firmly in Rom Com territory but they’ve got serious chops when it comes to writing more emotional fare. (I’m looking at YOU, Autoboyography…) I mentioned this before, but Christina Lauren is actually a writing team comprised of one part Christina and one part Lauren (two actual human women.) They are both heretofore invited to all my imaginary slumber parties because I very badly want to be friends with people who write such excellent books.

FIFTH: I’ve had Rent stuck in my head for the past week. I watched part of the (not so) live production on FOX. In the end, the Benadryl won shortly into the second act. I will say that I think Jordan Fisher is a treasure.

Viva la vie boheme!

 

*I’m a sellout and I gladly accept commissions I receive through affiliate links on this blog. The characters in Rent would NOT hang out with me.*

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Jan 24

A Reading Recap

Brain Dump 8

Hey Bookworms!

I meant to write this up last week, but my week was derailed by a sweet little boy with a stomach bug. I mean, they tell you that when you put your kids in daycare they’re going to get sick a lot, but I don’t think that really sinks in until your vacation time is dwindling and among your prayers of “please make my baby feel better” you sneak in some “please let me make it through an entire week of work.” I’m lucky enough to have stockpiled time off, but ding dang. One cold rolls into a stomach bug which rolls into another cold and you get to the point where you don’t know where one ailment ends and the other begins. The nurse line at our pediatrician’s office probably has Sam’s file flagged with a post-it note reading “Patient’s mother may be hypochondriac and WILL NOT STOP GOOGLING. Proceed with caution.” BUT I DIGRESS. Hugely. I’m always digressing. The point of this post was to update you on my reading and whatnot. Shall we?

First: I finished Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield and I’m THRILLED to report that it was an excellent book. I was worried, of course, because though The Thirteenth Tale (review) was awesome, her followup, Bellman & Black (review) was… Not. Once Upon a River was wonderful and mysterious and a little bit ghostly which makes it perfect winter reading. I think I mentioned I was given this book by my office Secret Santa. We have a few readers around our office, but the guy who pulled my name (Hey Kyle!) reads and enjoys audio books as much as I do. A stroke of luck on my end, for sure. Otherwise I’d probably have ended up with another wind-up pooping penguin. I very much enjoy novelty penguins and don’t mind grossness, BUT I already have two pooping penguins, so.

The one on the left poops jelly beans. The one on the right poops little sweet-tart type candies.

Second: I finished Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman. I didn’t learn quite as much about mushing as I expected to, but I’ve got Blair’s twitter feed for that. I did learn a ton about Blair’s personal journey and how a girl from California ended up a passionate dog sledder, though. If you like memoirs and hearing about weirdos who actually LIKE being cold and don’t mind sleeping in snow caves or living on a glacier, definitely check it out. It’s anchored by segments set in small-town Norway, which, oddly, reminded me rather a lot of Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman (review). Yes, I know Sweden and Norway are not the same country. Don’t @ me. I once mentally connected two books because they both talked about yogurt.

Third: Our book club pick this month was Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. I read it on my phone, which is the first time I’ve used the Scribd service for eyeball reading. Given the choice I prefer to read on my Kindle, but I use a Kindle Paperwhite (several versions older than what is currently available but still awesome) which can’t handle apps (new versions can’t either, but the e-ink is so much easier on the eyeballs than a tablet screen.) Plus, the phone was super handy while I was snuggling on the couch with my sick baby. He’d sleep on me, I’d read. If he hadn’t been periodically violently ill, it would have been a perfectly lovely way to spend an afternoon. Anyway, the book was short and sweet. A little heavier than I expected, but that was silly on my part. I mean, who reads a book set in London during the Blitz and DOESN’T expect some tragedy, you know? My book club (which I’ve lovingly dubbed “My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors” because it’s true) also went to an escape room. We did NOT escape, though the guide told us we came extremely close. I’m a thousand times better at trivia than I am at escape room puzzles, y’all. It was fun, but I was way out of my element.

Fourth: I read Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. It was alright, but I’m glad I got it from the library. Honestly, I felt like I’ve read the same book multiple times. Both the dual narrative and the SHOCKING FAMILY REVELATIONS felt very tropey to me. The part I found most interesting was the divide between people exiled during the Castro regime and those who stayed in Cuba. I might have appreciated the novel more had it focused entirely on that aspect, rather than getting all tangled up in love-at-first-sight scenarios. Insta-love almost always leaves me feeling snarky.

Fifth: My current audio book is Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, which I’m loving, because I’m nothing if not predictable. I may write a whole post dedicated to Christina Lauren because I’ve only discovered their (Christina Lauren is actually two women writing as a team) work and have been binge reading their stand alone back list. My current eyeball read is The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke which I’m also loving, though it’s early pages. I’ll keep you posted on the love-fest. For now, I’ll leave you with this photo of Sammers being completely adorable.

We received a membership to our local children’s museum as a Christmas gift. The water table was a BIG hit with Sammy!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site I will receive a small commission. I know there’s some kind of full disclosure legalese I’m supposed to put here, but I don’t feel like looking up the verbiage.*

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Jan 16

Are Grover from Sesame Street and Kirk from Gilmore Girls THE SAME CHARACTER?

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts 7

Hey Y’all,

This post is not about books but it’s been rattling around in my brain for a while now. If you follow any of my social media, you’ll know that the tiny perfect human I created is a big Sesame Street fan. It makes me really happy that he likes the show because it provides me with such a hefty dose of nostalgia PLUS it’s full of all kinds of academic/educational/emotional goodness. I could write an entire post fangirling over it. Actually, I STARTED writing an entire post fangirling over it, but I didn’t finish it because that’s how I roll sometimes. Anyway. The fact that I’ve been watching so much of it recently has really cemented this idea in my head:

GROVER AND KIRK FROM GILMORE GIRLS ARE THE SAME CHARACTER. This might be bordering on conspiracy theory, but hear me out.

EXHIBIT A: Almost every time you see either Grover or Kirk, they’re performing a different job. “Oh hey Grover, I didn’t know you worked in the laundromat.” “Oh hey Kirk, I see you’re selling custom mailboxes today.” It’s the defining running gag of both characters. Sometimes these jobs even overlap, like how both Kirk and Grover have both totally been dog walkers and waiters.

Left: Grover as Dog Walker. Right: Kirk as Dog Walker. COINCIDENCE?!

EXHIBIT B: They’re both lovably inept and kind of clueless. When Grover’s alter ego (known these days as Super Grover 2.0) arrives on the scene, he’s accompanied by the tagline “He shows up.” Because even if he’s not great at saving the day, he’s going to try. All of Grover’s terrible solutions usually result in the people he’s helping figuring things out for themselves. There’s a lot to admire there. And then there’s Kirk. He’s always willing to pitch in but usually screws something up. Remember the time he hid all the Easter eggs in the town square but didn’t keep a map of where they were hidden? Then all of Stars Hollow started to stink and Kirk was being all panicky and Kirk-like trying to track down the eggs? WHY DIDN’T YOU USE PLASTIC EGGS, KIRK??? Lovably inept. Kind of clueless. Not great at saving the day, but tries anyway. Is anyone else seeing this pattern?

EXHIBIT C: They’re both unintentionally wise. During the episode where Kirk attempts to sell Lorelai a Condoleezza Rice inspired mailbox for the newly renovated Dragonfly Inn, he utters the line that has become my personal motto: “Whimsy goes with everything.” Grover, in his literary masterpiece The Monster at the End of This Book (oh hey, I worked a book in here!!!) learns that the monster at the end of the book that he so fears (spoiler alert) is, in fact, “Me. Lovable furry old Grover.” THIS IS VERY PROFOUND AND IMPORTANT AND INSIGHTFUL.

Am I the first person to come to this conclusion? Probably not. I mean, sure, I did an extremely lazy google search trying to see if Amy Sherman-Palladino acknowledged that Grover was the inspiration for Kirk’s character and I didn’t find anything, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been discussed. There’s probably a whole giant subreddit on the subject, but Reddit has always impressed me as a corner of the internet decidedly unfriendly toward the type of person whose personal motto is “Whimsy goes with everything” so I steer clear. I just needed to get this off my chest, okay? And for whatever reason, people in my real life don’t seem too keen to listen to me wax poetic about Sesame Street and Gilmore Girls.

Thank you for indulging me.

 

 

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Jan 11

Flotsam and Jetsam

Brain Dump 6

Howdy Bookworms!

I’m feeling a little bit of blogging mojo these days, so I’m just going to roll with it. Let’s recap the week, shall we? Also, if you didn’t immediately picture Ursula’s minions from The Little Mermaid when you read the title of this post, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. Kidding. We can still be friends. But brush up on your Disney, folks!

FIRST- Did y’all see that I wrote an honest to goodness review earlier this week about the Man-Eating Hippo books? If you missed it, you should definitely check it out.

SECOND- I finished The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. As I mentioned in my last Brain Dump, it was a bit much for me in terms of the raw cruelty (which, duh Katie, it’s in the title). I actually ended up liking it toward the end more than I expected to due in no small part to some of my fave characters from The Darkest Part of the Forest showing up. I’m not sure I liked it quite enough to continue with the series as it’s released, but it’s also not out of the question. I’m ambivalent. I’m not, however, ambivalent about Holly Black’s work in general, so I might dive a little deeper into her back list instead. The world is wide and books are many. We’ll see where the wind takes me.

THIRD: I started an finished Artemis, Andy Weir’s first novel since the wildly successful The Martian (which I reviewed ages ago when I was still doing a virtual book club.) Artemis is set in a city on the moon and features a female protagonist up to dubious good… Plus a lot of welding and chemistry shenanigans. It was alright. I enjoyed it well enough, but where The Martian had that whole survivalist thing going, this was a little more “unlikely heroes pulling off capers, but in space!” I’ve certainly read worse sophomore novels (I’m still not over Bellman and Black…) so I’m hopeful that Weir can recapture some of The Martian‘s magic in future work.

FOURTH: Speaking of Bellman & Black, I started Diane Setterfield’s latest release, Once Upon a River (my work Secret Santa got me a beautiful hardcover copy- I’m shifting back and forth between that and an audio version.) So far I’m enjoying it a lot. The vibe is a lot more The Thirteenth Tale (another ancient book club pick) than Bellman & Black which is a VERY good thing.

FIFTH: I started reading Blair Braverman’s book, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North. If you’re on Twitter and you’re not following Blair, you’re missing out on the best feed since SUE the T-Rex. So much delightful dog sledding. I know you THINK you’re not interested in dog sledding, but that’s only because you haven’t met Blair yet. Her unique voice and excellent stories about her pups have this decidedly indoorsy gal reading a memoir about extremely cold, extremely outdoorsy things. With no penguins, even! (Penguins are strictly Southern Hemisphere. Despite what adorable Christmas decorations would have you believe, they do NOT hang out with Polar Bears, ever. And not just because Polar Bears would totally eat them. Because geography.)

Whew. That’s all for this week, I think. We’ve got snow coming this weekend. I’m hoping to have some extraordinarily adorable photos of a snowy Sammers to show you soon. As always, if you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Keep learning, Elmo loves you. (I’ve been watching A LOT of Sesame Street. Just. Let me have this.)

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Jan 08

Come for the Man-Eating Hippos, Stay for the Diverse Character Representation

Audio Books 9

Hiya Bookworms!

I mentioned in last week’s Brain Dump that I’d picked up River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey because the premise was so bonkers to me. A quick recap for you:

In the 1800s there was a very REAL proposal within the US government to import hippos into the Louisiana bayou and farm them as a source of meat. As all current Louisianans know, there are plenty of animals you need to watch out for in the bayou, but hippos are not among them. Sarah Gailey’s novella series is a revisionist “BUT WHAT IF HIPPOS” take on the situation. And you know what you get in this scenario? Hippos escaping their livestock farms and forming colonies of brutal feral hippopotami, plus rugged hippo cowboy types slinging knives and being shady.

At first I wasn’t sure that the tone of the book was really working for me because I wanted more hippo silliness than Wild West, but it grew on me. It grew on me to the point that when I finished the first novella, I clicked on the second installment of the story, Taste of Marrow, without hesitation. I’ve got a lot of thoughts here, fam.

While listening (audiobooks are my jam) to this, I found myself tweeting things like “dang these hippos just keep eating people.” To which my scientifically minded friend Michelle was like “that’d be a deal breaker for me, hippos are herbivores.” During River of Teeth, the actual eating was kind of implied, but I wagered that it could have been more murdering with jaws and leaving carcass to rot. Perhaps I’d misinterpreted. The further into Taste of Marrow I got, though, it became pretty clear that these feral hippos were in it for dinner. Sure, the killing part was cool, but then they’d fight over carcasses and stuff, which makes it obvious to me they were noshing on human flesh. So. If you can’t get past literal man-eating hippos, this might not be for you.

If you CAN get past mental leap of feral hippos eating humans (and heaven knows what else, honestly) the series has a lot to offer. The ragtag crew of hippo cowboys are each fascinating characters in their own rites, but the one that really wiggled into my brain matter was Hero Shackleby. The crew responsible for these hippo capers (sorry, Houndstooth, OPERATIONS) is entirely comprised of thieves, con artists, assassins, and general malcontents. Hero, master of poisons and explosives, is portrayed as gender non-binary. All the characters use “they” for Hero’s pronoun like it’s NBD, and since we’re not given much (if any) backstory for most of the characters (at least so far), the reader has no indication of whether Hero was assumed male or female at birth.

I LOVE THIS. I’ve read a lot of books, some of which have contained non-binary or transgender characters. But those books have almost always been ABOUT being trans or non-binary. I’ve never read a book where it’s just a thing that’s there and not particularly critical to who the character is as a human. It’s refreshing AF. Come for the man-eating hippos, stay for the diverse character representation.

Only the first two novellas were available on Scribd (my main audiobook source these days), so I’m not sure if there are more out there just yet. I’ll be on the lookout, though. In the meantime, please know that any purchases made through links on this site might net me a small commission. Last quarter I brought home a whole 66 cents, so.

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Jan 03

New Year, New Brain Dump

Brain Dump 13

Heyyyyyyyy Bookworms!

I’ve started and not finished oodles of blog posts. Seriously, you should see my drafts folder. Part of it is that I’ve gone so long without blogging regularly that I’m overwhelmed with the amount of books I’ve read and not discussed. Part of it is that 80% of my brain is consumed by thoughts like “why isn’t my kid walking yet?” or “OMGGGGG he just said Elmo! It sounds like ‘Neno’ but clearly that’s what he meant” or “Do you think his ear tubes fell out and this is actually an ear infection and not just a cold? I should call the nurse line.” Newsflash: I’m obsessed with Sammers. As if that’s a surprise to anyone. But these nebulous floating motherhood concerns seem to be occupying a lot of the same brain space that my quippy book thoughts used to take up, which has made blogging a challenge. I’ve never before given updates of what I’m reading while in progress, but in the interest of getting back into the swing of things, I’m just going to give you a big old brain dump and see where we land.

FIRST: I’m currently listening to River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey. Scribd got back into the unlimited audiobook game (they were in it, then out of it, and are now back) and I am HERE for it. It kept getting recommended to me, so I read the abstract and I was sucked in by the concept. There was a FOR REAL NOT IMAGINARY attempt by the US government in the 1800s to import friggin HIPPOPOTAMUSES into the Louisiana Bayou. As a meat supply. I might remind you that hippos are notorious bastards that kill more humans annually than any other animal (I just googled to confirm that little factoid, and it seems to be based on lore rather than hard fact because its difficult to quantify murderous wildlife. Still, Africans agree that messing with a hippo is a terrible idea, so.) They are cantankerous, no matter how cute Fiona is. Obviously I needed to read this fictionalized account of such a bananapants concept. So far though, the book’s tone hasn’t quite worked for me. I think I was hoping for a little more absurdism, but it’s gone full wild west. Hippo Cowboys are still compelling, but my mental soundtrack was more tubas than harmonicas ’round the fire. I’ll keep you posted as things progress.

SECOND: I have The Cruel Prince by Holly Black checked out from the library. I only ever take out e-books from the library because returning titles on time has been a problem for me in the past. Plus, I just find that reading on my Kindle is more convenient for bed time, when I do the vast majority of my eyeball reading. The rule of all one’s library holds coming in at the same time is just as true for digital books as physical ones, though, and I’m only about 60% done with this title, despite it expiring tomorrow. Luckily, though, it seems that Scribd has an audio version available so I should be able to pick up where I left off without having to wait in the library hold line again. Thus far I’m not enjoying this one quite as much as The Darkest Part of the Forest (which I liked so much I made my book club read it.) I know Faerie is cruel, but some of this stuff has been next level. Social media bullying is one thing, but forced drugging on faerie fruit and attempts to enchant mortals to kill themselves is… A LOT. Yes, my sensibilities are delicate these days. I have entirely too many feelings at all times. Motherhood has sanded down any veneer I may have had. I’m basically a pile of emotional nerve endings. Lots of them are joyous nerve endings, but I sometimes cry at TV commercials now.

THIRD: My love, my joy, my Samuel. He is now 16 months old. He is not yet walking. Yes, this is late for a tiny human to not be walking. I have been quite concerned. His pediatrician has checked him out, though, and doesn’t think there’s any problem developmentally. Basically, Sam is content with his current mode of transportation (crawling at lightening speed.) Now that he is transitioning to a new room at daycare (which has been a process- my boy likes change less than I do) the doctor thinks he will likely be peer pressured into walking. So. That’s fun. Honestly though, in the few days he’s been in the room (with breaks for holidays and whatnot) he does seem to have made quite a bit of progress and is more interested in being on his feet in general. What he lacks in gross motor skills, he makes up for in language. The vocabulary on this kid boggles my mind. He’ll repeat all kinds of stuff. Some of my favorite of his vocab words/phrases include: taco, ho-ho-ho, peak-a-boo, doctor, car, Elmo, and, YES, BOOK!!! I post zillions of pics on my Instagram if you’re interested in seeing endless Sam Spam. I can only assume everyone is as enchanted with him as I am.

FOURTH: I started a bullet journal. As I lack artistic talent, it is ugly as sin and I will therefore not post any photos of the hot mess. It is, however, proving somewhat helpful thus far. I made a big old chart to help me send the appropriate thank you notes to the appropriate people after Christmas which was pretty great. We’ll see how it goes. I’m going to try to incorporate some extremely simple meal planning. Cooking is such a chore for me, I’m never going to be one of those people who loves to experiment in the kitchen. Still though, one cannot live on frozen pizza alone. And with Sam, I’m suddenly more conscious of the fact that I probably don’t eat enough vegetables (I make sure he has a vegetable with every meal, but I take better care of him than I do myself in literally all ways.) If I’m not more careful, I’ll get scurvy. New Year’s Resolution #1: DO NOT GET SCURVY. EAT SOME DANG BROCCOLI.

That seems like a good place to end things. Don’t get scurvy, y’all. Talk to you soon. Hopefully.

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I may receive a small commission.*

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Oct 31

One Halloween. Two Halloweens! Ah, ah, ah!

Holidays, Personal 1

Greetings Bookworms,

You may recall that last year I (very predictably) dressed my tiny 2 month old baby up as a penguin. This year I had every intention of dressing Sammy up as a dinosaur. I had a costume and everything. But then I saw this and I couldn’t not buy it. Especially given that my kiddo is such a big Sesame Street fan.

One piece of candy…

Two pieces of candy!

Ah, ah, ah!

Our neighborhood has a tradition of doing a little parade the Saturday before Halloween. It’s not really a parade, per se, it’s more just the neighbor kids taking a stroll and stopping to get candy from participating neighbors. We get TONS of trick-or-treaters on actual Halloween, most of whom come in cars from other places. I LOVE that our neighborhood is such a popular spot (it feels like a Disney movie the night of), but it means that it can be tough to pick out your neighbor kiddos in the crowd, especially if they’re wearing masks and stuff. The little parade allows me to see the kids I actually know in their costumes in broad daylight which is so much fun. Plus, Sammy is really too young for trick-or-treating (and had to ride in the wagon because walking is not a skill he’s quite mastered yet) so it’s a great opportunity to give him a little taste of Halloween fun. He managed to fish a KitKat out of his pumpkin bucket and gnaw through the wrapper before I knew what was happening, so CLEARLY he had a great time.

Happy Halloween, y’all!

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