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JennW in SoCal

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JennW in SoCal last won the day on January 4 2013

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About JennW in SoCal

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    Hive Mind Queen Bee
  • Birthday August 5

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    Female

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  • Biography
    violinist, former homeschool mom who graduated 2
  • Interests
    bird watching, gardening
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    MOM!

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  1. Wasn't there a song about a Gnome-mobile in a 60s Disney movie? Sorry -- I'm free associating again. (But thansk to google, I see it was an actual movie, and yes I'm old enough that I likely saw it in the theater!!) Search for the song on YouTube at your own risk. It has a vicious ear-worm kind of hook to it. Thanks to @Kareni, I've been binge reading one of the titles listed in the articles she linked about hope-punk, and other non-dark fantasy novels. Curse of Challion, by the prolific author Lois McMaster Bujold, is a fun page turner, rather fluffy, and taking some unexpected plot turns. It has been exactly what I needed this week! Anyone else planning on binge-watching Good Omens this weekend on Amazon Prime?!
  2. I finished Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips, and really liked it. It is set in Kamchatka, and while it is set up as a mystery, it is really a series of 12 interconnected short stories about different yet connected women. Beautiful writing, evocative setting, and relatable characters. This is the debut novel by one of my niece's best friends since childhood. Still working on, and thoroughly enjoying, An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and An Epic, part memoir, part analysis of the Odyssey. If you haven't heard of it, the book is about the semester that the author's octogenarian dad sat in on the freshman seminar he taught on the Odyssey. They later took a cruise on the Eastern Mediterranean to see all the places from the epic. And I have my usual fun audiobooks going, too, the 4th Rivers of London, and a couple of Discworld titles, too. @Kareni It's been a while since I've stopped by the Tor.com site, so I've missed a few of those "5 books that" lists. But what I loved, and appreciate you linking, is the list of optimistic fantasies to chase away the grimdark! There are lots of suggestions in the comments section, too. I need to jot down a few of those titles.
  3. What is it about May that so many of us are busy and not finding time to read?! I've got quite the stack of books in progress, but nothing near finished: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips is one I have to promote even though I've only just finished the first chapter. It is a debut novel that is getting all sorts of rave reviews. But the coolest thing about it, the reason why I'm so excited to plug it, is that the author has been my niece's BFF since elementary school! Here is the review from NPR An Odyssey: A father, a son and and epic, is a memoir by Daniel Mendelsohn about his father deciding to sit in on his freshman seminar course on the Odyssey. It is a memoir, it is a fabulous academic introduction and/or refresher on the Odyssey, and it is a little hard to settle into as his writing is as circuitous as Odysseus' voyage home to Ithaca. I'm listening to it, but have pulled my copy of the Odyssey off the shelf to reread sections. Lovely War by Julie Barry was a book I purchased on a whim -- I had a gift certificate to use. It caught my eye because it is a historical romance told by Aphrodite and Ares while they are trapped by Hephaestus under his net. It is of all things set in WWII and about WWI. There is romance, of course, and jazz music, and most striking of all is that this smart, well written book is marketed as YA. I'd think it would be a great book for any of you with teen aged students. For fun I've been revisiting the Rivers of London series but this time via audiobook. The narrator is fantastic, and best of all these books are just a delightful and funny the second time around. I'm currently on the 4th, Broken Homes. And I'm still slowly making my way through Michelle Obama's memoir, Becoming. It isn't that I don't like it, or that it is boring, it is just an audiobook I can dip in and out of as my mood strikes.
  4. Good Monday morning to everyone! I'm coming out of a surreal weekend, bookended by large violent spectacle, namely the Avengers Endgame movie and last night's Game of Thrones epic battle. But the real horror happened just 2 blocks from my church, the shooting at the Chabad synagogue on Saturday. My church, active in the area interfaith community, was the location of the candlelight vigil held the night of the shooting. I have friends who live around that synagogue, I have friends who teach at the high school where the shooter graduated and where the dad taught. My facebook has been full of friends sharing their grief over who they know. It is just surreal to have this happen within my community and yet my life continues to chug along. So books! I went to my favorite independent bookstore to celebrate Independent Bookstore day and bought a few fun titles, one of which is a slim volume "what to read with what you read". It has recipes or food recommended by authors to go with their book along with book recommendations of their own. For instance Pachinko author MIn Jin Lee has specific Korean take out recommendations, while Lisa Halliday has a recipe that isn't part of the recommended menu of what to eat while reading her book. And there are blank pages for your own notes and book club party planning. Since I last updated here I managed to finish a few books: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsy was really good sci fi. I thought it might wind up a thriller/horror book given that half the book is about giant sentient arachnids, but it was a much smarter book than that. Great characters, unexpected turns in the plot. Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves, part of the Vera Stanhope series. I love the Vera books, and this was no exception. Vera herself is a great character, but Ann Cleeves often fills her books with all sorts of interesting characters and she lets us in on the inner workings of their very imperfect, human minds. Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch. This is a reread, but this time on audio. I found it just as delightful as the first time, but even better thanks to the narrator. I'm not sure if these books reheat as well as poetry and chili, but I anticipate revisiting them from time to time the way I do the Master and Commander books and all the Discworld books. Am currently reading the non-fiction Map Thief by Michael Blanding. It is a great mix of the history of maps and map making and the inner world of map collectors. And the guy who got caught with *a box knife* at Yale's Beinecke Library -- one of the great rare book collections in the world. Code of the Woosters has been the perfect light listen to balance out the surreal weekend.
  5. About Scarlet Pimpernel....I had one ds read it when he was a teen (high school perhaps?) and he HATED it! Your mileage may vary, but just FYI... I never posted a reading recap this week, and at this point I ought to wait to do so tomorrow. In the meantime, I just had to pop in to share that I started listening to Code of the Woosters last night. I was in need of something different, and oh my, had forgotten just how delightfully silly and funny Wodehouse can be. I was thinking of AggieAmy the whole time.
  6. I stopped by last week but never long enough to write an update. The Library Book by Susan Orleans is simply fabulous and I highly recommend it to all of you. It sounds like a dry non-fiction -- a history of the Los Angeles Public Library with stops along the way to consider the massive 1986 fire that almost destroyed the main branch, and to consider the job of the modern librarian. But in truth it is a page turner with beautiful writing, fascinating anecdotes, and a heartfelt passion about the subject. Best of all, the hardback edition feels good in your hands, with its cloth hardcover and the rough cut edges, even a photograph of a library due date card pocket on the last end page. Thin Air by Richard K Morgan was entertaining, but I wholeheartedly do NOT recommend it for this group!! Oh my, no! It is a testosterone laden, expletive riddled, cyberpunk-noir thriller mash up set on Mars. It was handed to me by a friend who had just finished it because it was the sci-fi/fantasy book of the month from our favorite indie bookstore. She and I were cracking up over it. I don't think the author intended it to be serious, but was just having too much fun writing over the top weaponry, tech, violent fights and well, graphic scenes of s*x. I was thinking I need to find some Georgette Heyer to rebalance my soul! I'm in the middle of another sci-fi epic, this one much smarter and original. It is Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I almost gave up on it, but our own Penguin reassured me that it remains a smart and original story, that it doesn't regress into standard horror despite the giant sentient arachnids that feature in the book. I kid you not. Giant sentient arachnids!!! Really, I need to reread Heyer or something else gentle! I also thoroughly enjoyed the 7th River of London book, Lies Sleeping. And @Kareni, I know exactly what you mean about the grating grammar of "me and Leslie". Peter Grant at one point talks about how he KNOWS it is incorrect but he does it anyway just to annoy Nightingale. I didn't notice that construct popping up in the 7th book, or if it did it wasn't as often.
  7. Today I rushed through the last few chapters of Love of Country: A Journey Through the Hebrides as it is due back at the library tomorrow. What an exceptional book! Part travelogue, part political and cultural history always tied in with modern politics and realities. Great writing, too. I wish good photographs weren't so expensive to print -- the black and white photos in this volume are barely helpful. But thanks to google I've been virtually traveling the islands and filling in all the huge gaps in my knowledge of Scottish history. The author made a point of visiting the mills and the individual weavers on Lewis who make Harris Tweed. I had no idea it is still created by hand and created on just a handful of islands in the outer Hebrides. She visits a retired dentist who took up weaving with his uncle's old loom, housed in a shed, which is powered only by his pedaling! "As he wove and his feet pedaled, one hand checked the shuttle while the other smoothed and felt the cloth for imperfections." The final paragraph in this chapter My other reading this week was a repeat, but this time an audio version of a print book. I adore the Rivers of London series -- part police procedural, part urban fantasy, all written with a very funny yet understated satirical snark. I listened to the first one, which has the American title Midnight Riot. I loved the narrator so much I figured I should just get the most recent title, Lies Sleeping, in audio, too.
  8. I was just reviewing the series via a fan page (Follypedia, I think) so I wouldn't be too lost in Lies Sleeping. They are all on my shelves, but I'm too impatient to reread them all before starting Lies Sleeping. And, nope, don't think I had heard about Murderbot before people starting writing reviews here. But my brain is enough of a foggy muddle that it is entirely possible I recommended it then forgot the series entirely🤣. In any case, I just bought the kindle edition of the first one and will probably get to it in the next week.
  9. What about Mr. Popper's Penguins? Or the Freddy the Pig books? Or some of the Lynn Reid Banks books such as I, Houdini (an escape artist hamster)? I may have to pull some Lord Peter stories off the shelf and settle in for some lovely rereading. I haven't been brave enough to try any of the "new" ones... @mumto2 I just finished listening to the first of the Rivers of London series. I've read the series in print up through Hanging Tree, but thanks to ds the first book is in our Audible library. I liked the narrator so much I just downloaded Lies Sleeping to listen to. Have you read any of the graphic novels or novellas? And, lol, I just looked up the Murderbot series on Goodreads and I've clearly had my head in the sand. EVERYONE has read at least the first one in the series.
  10. Haven't been reading too much in the last week and a half as I've been under the weather. Instead I've started binge watching Last Tango to Halifax! I do have a book question for @mumto2. Are any of the Clare Fergusson mysteries set during the warmer summer months? I just started the 4th book in the series and once again it is cold and our favorite Reverend is still driving her unsensible car. The last book it was late spring with snow still on the ground, now it is November with a hard frost. I had to bundle up in a sweater and blanket as I was reading because it was making me feel even more cold and achy!!
  11. I've read almost every Louise Penny book over the years. For the most part I have enjoyed them, loved the community of 3 Pines, and find myself craving brie and baguettes with every book (they eat well in Three Pines)! You do have to suspend belief, as the setting and our hero are all just a little too perfect. But, I'm trying to figure out how to say this without giving anything away. The more recent books featured a long arc of a trope I just can't stand. Let me see if I can white this out... the hero being the lone wolf fighting to save a corrupt, conspiracy filled department. . My reading was quite varied this week. I finally finished A Secret Map of Ireland. I could have rushed through it but preferred reading a couple of essays at a time so the stories wouldn't just jumble together. Love of Country, a Journey through the Hebrides is really excellent. I'm a little slow going through this one, too, but I find myself needing to stop and google locations and paintings and poems. I especially love how the author Madeleine Bunting weaves in the history and literature and art connected with each Hebridean island she visits. And I love how she addresses the way the English appropriated the culture of the Scottish Highlands and adopted it as their own. The book was written around the time of the Scottish Independence referendum, and this very English author is wrestling with where she stands on the issue, never quite resolving it for herself. Which leads me to ask @Violet Crown Have you read the James Macpherson epic poems, specifically the Fingal or Works of Ossian? The chapter on Staffa is utterly fascinating. The name of Frederique Petrides, a female violinist and music conductor, was brought to my attention a few weeks ago. I'd never heard of her before so requested the one book I could find on her, Evening the Score. It is a short book with a brief bio, but the bulk of the book are facsimile copies of her 1930s publications of a newsletter Women in Music which the author has annotated. She was a passionate advocate for advancing the careers and opportunities of women musicians and conductors, and her newsletter covered not just the activities of all the women's orchestras and symphonies across the US, but also included tidbits of the stupid sexism of the time. For instance, the BBC orchestra banned female cellists even though they had other female musicians in the group. A prominent woman composer of the time wondered if "perhaps the attitude of the cello player is considered an unseemly one for women?" After a break of a couple weeks I started listening again to Michelle Obama's Becoming. It is once again very engaging, and I especially appreciate the vignettes of the campaign trail from the perspective of a mother of young children. Frantically shopping for cute hats in February for the girls for the presidential campaign kick off, insisting that the girls didn't need to sit through his campaign speeches. The tidbits that every mom would relate to. And thanks to last week's thread when Mumto2 mentioned this series, I started Out of the Deep I Cry. It is the third in the series that features a woman Episcopalian priest in a small town in the Adirondacks. It had been a couple of years since I read the first two, and was happy to see my library has more of the series on the shelves. (And I thought I had read more than 2 of these, but apparently not!)
  12. I love, love Terry Pratchett!! It is hard to know where to begin, though as all the characters come and go in the different books, but there are some tidy collections of titles that deal with the same characters. I suggest looking through this list. The Tiffany Aching books are really popular, but I can't quite comment as I haven't read them all. One of my favorite characters is Death WHO TALKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS and has a white horse named Binky. His first book, Mort, isn't my favorite of his. I love Thief of Time and Reaper Man when Death has to go work as a human. Oh and Hogfather which is the Discworld version of Santa Claus. I re-read Hogfather every Christmas now, lol! I also love the Sam Vimes, or City Watch books. They are part mystery. Guards Guards is one of the books I have recommended to people who want an introduction to Discworld. My hands down favorite, and the other one I give to people as an introduction is Going Postal where a con-man is conned into running the postal service. Have your kids read the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathon Stroud? There is a magic and an utterly sarcastic wise ass of a genie named Bartimaeus. It was the absolute favorite of my youngest when he was 13, and I enjoyed them too. I listened to them while crocheting the blanket he took to college! Do your kids like John Scalzi's books? Red Shirts or Old Man's War? Or Fuzzy Nation that has a planet with talking cats? And...this isn't fantasy or sci-fi, but the world building is just as brilliant as the best of that genre. The Master and Commander series is utterly brilliant -- yes it is the Royal Navy fighting the French and scurvy during the Napoleonic Wars. Great action, well rounded characters that grow and change throughout the series. My youngest also loved non-fiction during his young teen years, especially anything written by Bill Bryson. And he loved and still loves the All Creatures Great and Small series.
  13. I really enjoyed the first few books in the series, and can't remember where I left off, or how many books there actually are. I may just have to start over again! One of the things I appreciated about the series is how church going Christians -- and the clergy -- are just regular people. They aren't fanatics, the church isn't corrupt -- it's just a normal way of life. It is SOOOO rare in modern fiction.
  14. @Kareni Thank you especially for the link to Katherine Addison's "Five Favorite Moments" in writing The Goblin Emperor. I loved seeing all the kindred souls posting in the comment section saying it is their favorite book and go-to comfort read. And I'm ridiculously excited she is writing another novel set in that universe! Earlier this afternoon I finished Milkman by Anna Burns. I absolutely loved it. Was gobsmacked by it. Loved the writing, the main character and the evocation of a place and of situations so familiar yet so utterly alien. If you are considering it, I highly recommend you listen to the audiobook as apparently the printed version is a challenge. You are inside the main character's head, an 18yo girl who prefers to read while walking, and prefers 19th century novels. She is escaping the 20th century, specifically the 1970 Troubles in Belfast. The setting is never explicitly named, nor are the characters. It is a stream of consciousness narration of a few months in her life, with long rabbit trails into background and explanation that stop the action in the plot. It all makes perfect sense when listening to it as it feels as if you are listening to what is going on inside the 18yo's head. But apparently in print it means never ending paragraphs which, judging by some reviews, is exhausting. The NYT's called it a slog! Other reviewers who loved it nevertheless mention how difficult a read it is.  I'm also really enjoying the non-fiction Love of Country, the chronicles of a journalist's trips to the different islands of the Hebrides. The author, Madeleine Bunting, was a columnist for The Guardian for a number of years. It is the perfect travel book, at least for me, in that she describes landscapes and modes of transport, but intertwines the history and throws in lots of literary references, quoting Samuel Johnson and James Boswell who travelled the Hebrides together. She writes about George Orwell who decamped to the island of Jura after WWII, and wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four there. And she writes about the fun stuff -- going on a boat excursion to ride the whirlpool in the Gulf of Corryvrekan.
  15. Good grief it is Tuesday, I haven't posted my update and have lots of catching up to do! @mumto2 I really enjoyed The Sunday Philosophy Club! It was the yin to balance out the decidedly yang of Ian Rankin's Edinburgh mysteries. And, I looked it up. Did you know The Really Terrible Orchestra is a real thing? Alexander McCall Smith was one of the founders, and he plays bassoon in the group. I wasn't sure whether to believe his author bio, so looked it up, lol! I agree that the ending was...odd. But the characters and the conversations are worth revisiting. I'm listening to Milkman, the 2018 Man Booker prize winner. I can't quite imagine reading it, as it is a very stream of consciousness book without names. But it works in audio with the Irish narrator. I'm totally riveted by it. It is the story of an 18yo woman in Belfast (though the place is never named) during The Troubles, and it immerses you in the world of living on one side of the line. The cruelties, the ways in which you have to cope. Will check back in later after I catch up with this week's discussion.
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