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broodings from the burrow

June 18, 2018


music for monday: paul simon’s homeward bound tour
posted by soe 3:09 am

Rudi and I headed north for a long weekend to catch Paul Simon on his final tour, Homeward Bound, up in Boston. He played many of our favorites and songs that spanned nearly his entire career, from his Simon & Garfunkel days to his most recent album.

For the first few songs, Paul’s voice was a little wavery and I wondered if that was to emphasize that it was time to hang up his touring hat. I was a little sad for that because my favorite, “American Tune,” was the lead-off song.

I’ve seen Paul a bunch of times over the years, and, all signs to the contrary, he’s not usually my favorite performer. He tends to be a little tight and a little terse and would prefer to let his music do the talking for him. But this time, either because he’s actually enjoying himself or because he’s relieved his touring days are nearly behind him, he seemed looser and to truly be enjoying himself. He told stories, he mused about some random thoughts he was having while performing, he danced…

His band includes a sextet, yMusic, who were phenomenal. The songs they were featured on don’t seem to have been uploaded from Boston, but this is from the Vancouver, B.C., from earlier in the tour:

I was able to capture a shot of the photo that Paul said inspired “René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War,” which he called a surrealist song for a surrealist painter:

Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War and Paul Simon and Band in Boston

And this is from the Hollywood Bowl:

He also played some of his more popular songs, such as “Homeward Bound”:

“You Can Call Me Al”:

“Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”:

And “The Boxer”:

It was a great show and one that I am so glad we traveled to see. If you’ve been thinking about catching Paul on his final tour, I’d say it’s definitely worth the splurge.

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June 14, 2018


mid-june unraveling
posted by soe 1:28 am

Mid-June Unraveling

I’m nearly done with my azalea stripey socks and needed something to tide me over to the start of the Tour de France knit along, so I decided to pull out the Posey socks and get back to work on them. The grey skein will be the heels.

I’m two-thirds of the way through listening to A Conspiracy in Belgravia, the second of the gender-flipped Lady Sherlock novels by Sherry Thomas, and enjoying it quite a bit. The reader fits well, so I’d heartily endorse listening to it. In fact, I might go back and listen to the first one, I’m enjoying this one so much.

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly won the Newbery Medal this year. It’s about four sixth-graders at the start of summer break, and 80 pages in, that’s still all I can tell you. It’s easy reading and not unenjoyable, but it’s taking a meandering route to the story and I’m feeling impatient to be into it already. I have a pile of books out from the library, so there are options for what will come next, but Children of Blood and Bone is a likely contender.

Head over to As Kat Knits if you’re looking for more of what folks are reading and crafting.

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June 12, 2018


books that awaken the travel bug in me
posted by soe 1:03 am

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday invites us to consider our favorite books that inspire a love of travel:

  1. Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence: Our trip to France took us to Provence — Aix and Avignon — in large part because of this book and how much it made me laugh.
  2. L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: One of these days I’m going to Prince Edward Island and it will be largely because of this series (and the charm of raidergirl3, of course).
  3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Similarly, I long to see the moors of Yorkshire simply because of this book.
  4. Heidi Heilig’s The Girl from Everywhere: It didn’t kindle an interest in seeing Hawaii (that would be Buffy Saint Marie’s appearances on Sesame Street when I was a kid), but it underscored it.
  5. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares: I can’t remember everywhere they went, but the Greek islands stand out (and then was reinforced by the film adaptation).
  6. Gayle Forman’s Just One Day: That whole bop around Europe thing is so appealing.
  7. Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes: Ditto.
  8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: It might be the romance, but boarding school in Paris has never sounded so good.
  9. The Magician by Michael Scott: In the second book of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, they end up in Paris in the catacombs, which sounds really cool, particularly if you don’t encounter monsters in them.
  10. Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Hiking does not especially appeal to me, but Bryson mixes history, humor, and hubris so well in his works — but particularly this one about the Appalachian Trail — that it nearly makes want reconsider. (But not quite.)

There are others of course (Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and the Great Plain states, for instance), but these were the first ten I thought of. How about you? Have you read books that particularly made you want to travel?

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June 11, 2018


into the stacks 2018: february
posted by soe 1:15 am

Here are the four books I read back in February:

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor works in an office where she does her job diligently, if unimaginatively, says the wrong things (which are exactly what she’s thinking), doesn’t go out at night or on the weekend, and doesn’t have friends. Until one night when she wins tickets to a concert at the office and, fearing someone will ask her how it was, she goes and sees the man of her dreams. She understands, then, that it was destiny that brought her there and that she must apply herself to meeting the man (the singer of the local warm-up band) and to explaining they are meant for one another. (Her mother has long declared that Eleanor must wait until she finds a man of refinement worthy of their attention, and she’s eager to connive her way into this relationship through their weekly torturous phone calls.) This unlikely event kicks off a journey of self-improvement and self-discovery for Eleanor, opening her up to the possibilities that come from awkward interactions with the kindly new IT guy, Raymond, whom she’s walking next to on the way to the bus when they see a man pass out in the street.

The story, told partially through email, texts, and other ephemera, is set at a deliberate pace, but is ultimately full of heart. The first part of the book irritated me with its slowness, but I came to appreciate it as time went on and as I gained more insight into Eleanor’s character. After all, plot and character growth in our own lives is also uneven, with setbacks countering progress and days of wheel-spinning interspersed among steps toward full self-realization. Highly recommended.

Pages: 327. Library copy.


Wonder Woman: Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo

In this young adult take on the story of how Diana, princess of the Amazons, becomes Wonder Woman, hero of the Western world, Diana sees a boat explode off the coast of Themyscira and sees a young woman struggling to survive. She rescues her to find she is a teenager, like herself, but she is far from home (New York) and there is a penalty among Diana’s people for bringing humans into her world. Before Diana can decide how to proceed, her fellow Amazons start falling ill and Diana learns from the island’s Muse that the girl, Alia Keralis, is responsible, being a descendent of Helen of Troy and, thus, destined to bring war, turmoil, and death in her wake. The Muse suggests that Diana should let the girl die to right the situation among the Amazons, but Diana decides there must be another way. There is, but it won’t be easy and it will involve a surprise trip to New York City and some new friends along the way.

I thought this was a well-told, multi-layered story with developed characters and a fast plot, particularly in the latter half. When I got to the end, I was glad I owned it because I felt I’d missed a lot of the background, particularly with regards to Greek mythology and that a re-read would earn me additional information. This is the first of the D.C. Icons series, each of which is written by a different author and which reveal the teen versions of D.C. Comics’ most beloved superheroes.

Pages: 364. Personal copy.


Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz

Editor Susan Ryeland has her weekend planned: she’s got her favorite reading snacks and drinks, a weekend away from her boyfriend, and the latest manuscript of her most famous author, mystery novelist Alan Conway. But this is no relating of a delightful weekend, because Susan warns us at the outset that reading this manuscript brought her nothing but woe and changed her life forever. And with that, we are deposited into the story, what is meant to be the final book in the series about a detective, Atticus Pünd, who bears a close resemblance to Hercules Poirot. In that story, the aging detective is brought to a small English village to solve the death of a young woman’s soon-to-be mother-in-law. Characters are introduced, the plot is twisted, other deaths occur. And, because we all understand how English mysteries work, we wait for the famous detective to explain to the otherwise competent police inspector the who’s and why’s. Except … that doesn’t happen.

It turns out that the final few chapters of the manuscript are missing. Susan goes into the office on Monday expecting to find there’s been a copying mix-up, but soon learns that’s not the case. Oh, and to make it worse, Alan Conway has killed himself over the weekend.

Susan is nothing if not meticulous, though, and will act as her own sort of detective to track down the end of her writer’s final work. The pages must be somewhere, after all… But where?

I liked this book, which I listened to (and which had different readers for Conway’s novel and Susan’s story), well enough, but it was clear that Horowitz thought himself cleverer than I did. The book kept referencing the tv show Midsomer Murder, which Horowitz wrote scripts for, which seemed particularly gauche. I’d guessed the ending of Susan’s story, but not the reasoning and found the book’s motives were less compelling than the ones I’d expected. (Lest you think I’m tooting my own horn, my mother and I compared notes and we’d both expected the same plot. Plot twists are certainly in keeping with mysteries, but you’re supposed to feel that the author has given superlative hints all along that after the twist is revealed make you think how clever they are to have done so, not to think, “Really?! That’s what you’re going with?!”

That said, the story was certainly compelling and lots of people really liked it. I just would have liked my version better.

Pages: 502. Library (audiobook via Overdrive).


The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, by Sun-mi Hwang (Translated by Chi-Young Kim)

After seeing a chicken in the yard with chicks, Sprout the laying hen loses interest in her primary function — and in life in general. If she cannot raise a chick from one of her eggs, what point is there to going on? She tries to escape (assuming freedom from her coop is all that’s missing from her path to motherhood), is rescued from a weasel by a lame mallard duck and her own will to live, and ultimately takes on the role of foster mother to a duck whose own mother was killed by the weasel. The book raises questions of individuality vs. group expectations, personal freedom, motherhood, sacrifice, and, ultimately, following your dream.

I’ve seen this South Korean fable (which I picked up to read during the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang) compared to Charlotte’s Web in a variety of places, and the D.C. Library has catalogued it as a children’s book. However, I’d argue the better comparison is to Animal Farm, since both are short novellas with adult themes. A child could read The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, but then I read Animal Farm when I was in elementary school. I understood the basic themes, but probably missed some of the nuance and I assume the same would be true here.

Apparently there’s an anime version of the book. I found the book rather grim, but some people like that, preferring their reading to follow the contours of real life. I’m just not one of them.

Pages: 134. Library.


Total Pages: 1327

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June 7, 2018


early june unraveling
posted by soe 1:29 am

Early June Unraveling

Because I was having a mopey weekend, I did not finish knitting my sock. However, as you can see, I’m past the heel turn, so it’s all fast knitting from here. I’m going to an author talk tomorrow, so hope to be able to bang out several inches then. Then it’ll just be a question of whether I start something new before the Tour de France knit along or work on something unfinished. We have a trip during that time, so there will definitely need to be some portable projects.

On the reading front, I’m nearly done with The Hazel Wood (so close I can practically taste the ending — as it will include some perilous acts, I probably won’t want to taste it, though). It is excellent, and I recommend it to all who love YA fantasy novels. Murder at Brightwell was the mystery I took with me to New York; light paperbacks travel well. Plus, rain was predicted and I thought my book might get wet, so better it be something I owned, rather than a library book. In the ears, I’ve had the second Lady Sherlock novel by Sherry Thomas, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, going and I am enjoying it immensely so far.

Finally, I need to return to Little Fires Everywhere, which is overdue and which has a very long wait list resenting my cavalier approach to deadlines. I plan to give it back to the library this weekend.

If you’d like to see what other people are reading and knitting, head over to As Kat Knits for Unraveled Wednesday.

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June 5, 2018


ten books i should maybe go back to
posted by soe 1:04 am

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday asks us to consider ten books that we may have given up on too soon. I have a whole category of book in Goodreads called On Hiatus (currently hovering around 90 books) and while sometimes that category includes books that have needed to go back to the library before I could finish them, more often than not those books are never going to be cycled back to without prompting. Here are some I’ve reconsidered:

  1. Walden & Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau: Karen and I were going to slog through this book together, but I kept abandoning it on her.
  2. Donna Tartt’s The Secret History: Jenn sent me a copy of this, but like many literary darlings, it’s darker than I like and seemed to take itself awfully seriously.
  3. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman: Because I do science for a living (and because it’s not a passion of mine), reading about it in my spare time feels like work. It’s a funny book, though, and I will return to it someday when I’m no longer doing science.
  4. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: I will often abandon books when they reach a turning point where the choice characters seem likely to make seems ominous. (It does not always follow that the decision is ominous, it turns out, according to some other books I’ve returned to after a time out.)
  5. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: This was just a wrong book at the wrong time. I suspect I will actually like this one, based on what I’d read, and do plan to get back to it.
  6. Mindy Kalig’s Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me?: I tried to listen to this after finishing Tina Fey’s and Amy Pohler’s books and should have given myself more time before starting another comedian’s memoir. She’s a funny woman and I’d like to give it another listen at some point.
  7. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart: I think this must have dropped into this category because I had to return the book to the library and the holds list was long. I enjoyed the part I read, and I should probably pick it back up and give it another shot, since they’re going to make a tv series (or movie maybe?) based on it.
  8. Jason Reynolds’ When I Was the Greatest: This was another turning point put-down. However, since I’ve liked every other Jason Reynolds book I’ve read, I should at least give it another try (not the least because it features a character learning to knit to deal with stress).
  9. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: Ultimately, I’m hoping this is a format problem and that switching to the paper book, rather than trying to listen to it, may fix it.
  10. Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South: I was listening to a podcast reading of this and then I just pretty much ceased listening to podcasts. I do still listen to audiobooks, though, so I should just request this one from the library.

How about you? Do you give up on books, even when they become a slog? Do you second guess that decision at all? And if yes, what books have you reconsidered giving another shot to?

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