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broodings from the burrow

October 6, 2019

top ten reads of 2018
posted by soe 1:35 am

I found this in my drafts tonight. I didn’t published it back in January when it made sense because I needed to write summaries of why I liked each book, which didn’t happen — obviously. So tonight I’ll just give a sentence or two to highlight each book and move on.

  1. A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles: This was a masterpiece of historical fiction set in the years following the Bolshevik revolution, in which the hero, a count, is spared the death sentence because of a book he’d published years earlier lauding the workers’ struggle. Instead, he’s given a life sentence of house arrest in his favorite hotel, but in its garret. People come to visit him, he befriends patrons and employees of the hotel, and time passes. And I kept forgetting that it was fiction and not a well-told story of a real person.
  2. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, David Grann: In this nonfiction history, we learn what happened when a Native American nation is driven out of Kansas, forced to settle in Oklahoma, and then oil is discovered beneath their sovereign land. It was horrifying to learn that even in the 20th century, Native Americans weren’t considered reasonable adults and were, by default, assigned white “guardians.” When members of an Osage family start dying off in 1921, a federal investigation is launched, but its scope isn’t sufficiently broad, the author decides. The final third of the book, in which the author inserts himself into the narrative, is the weakest, but it was still an informative, infuriating story into a shameful moment of our history.
  3. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman: A 20-something woman whom one might describe as being on the spectrum fixates on a local pop singer and starts a campaign of self-improvement in an effort to connect with him. But as she starts to step outside the well-constructed world she has built for herself, we discover that Eleanor is not fine and has not been for some time — but that she might be on the road to being so.
  4. Harbor Me, Jacqueline Woodson: A middle school teacher takes six of her most vulnerable students (each dealing with major issues, such as an incarcerated or illegal parent or growing into a Black teenage boy or familial financial struggles) and puts them in a room together every week with the assignment to talk to each other. While it takes them time to trust one another, eventually they come to consider each other friends.
  5. Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, Ashley Herring Blake: This middle-grade novel utterly disrupts the life of the titular heroine when a tornado destroys her family’s home. In the aftermath, her journal goes missing, she starts to realize she might have a crush on a female classmate, and her family — including her teenaged sister and her infant brothers — must move into temporary lodgings and she must deal with tumult in both her physical life and her emotional one.
  6. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin: Lin writes the most lyrical Chinese folktales and then beautifully illustrates them. In this tale, Minli leaves her parents to go on a quest for answers from the Old Man in the Moon on how her family can change its fortune.
  7. Obsidio, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: In the final novel of The Illuminae Files trilogy, our favorite teen space opera stars return to take on The Man at the scene of the original crime — Kerenza, where BeiTech forces attacked unarmed settlers seven months earlier, forcing Kady and Ezra (among others) to flee for their lives. The two of them, plus Hanna, Nik, and Ella (and, of course, the mostly reformed murderous AI, AIDAN), must find a way to stay alive long enough to get word back to authorities about the corporate genocide that has occurred. Joining them for this final battle are Asha and Rhys and a little girl named Katya. Non-stop action in this highly anticipated — and satisfying — finale.
  8. Moxie, Jennifer Mathieu: In a year of #MeToo, this y.a. novel set in a Texas high school gives us the hope that the next generation will have learned from our mistakes. In a town where football is the most important thing, a young woman, the daughter of former riot grrl, decides she’s had enough of the favoritism and sexism she sees in her school hallways every day and starts to take steps to rise up and make changes.
  9. Unsheltered, Barbara Kingsolver: This novel, which focuses on a multi-generational family down on its luck, considers what it means to be American in the 21st century, where our future lies, and what our past can tell us. The story is broken into two alternating POVs — one is a male teacher in the early years of the town, who chafes under Victorian niceties, and the other is a contemporary writer, whose entire family no longer seems to find the American dream a possibility. She and her husband have both been downsized and now face underemployment and a crumbling family home; her father-in-law is in failing health, but there’s no money to care for him; her daughter-in-law commits suicide and her son struggles to care for their infant son; and their daughter, who dropped out of college several years earlier, returns home from living abroad in Cuba, with ideas about how to live a responsible life. Kingsolver always writes about how families at the edges cope, but this story felt particularly devastating and particularly disheartening, perhaps because I was reading it at the same time I was downsized from my job of 15 years. But it has stayed with me and resurfaces from time to time, particularly when I consider issues of sustainability and my meager contributions to making the world a better place for future generations.
  10. If God Invented Baseball, E. Ethelbert Miller: This series of poems from a D.C. journalist considers the humanity of America’s pastime, how the game of baseball (and he himself) has changed over a lifetime, and how imperfection is more interesting than perfection in both sport and life.

Honorable mentions:

  • The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik
  • The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert
  • See You in the Cosmos, by Jack Cheng
  • The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, by Pablo Cartaya
  • Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith
  • Puddin’, by Julie Murphy
  • A Properly Unhaunted Place, by William Alexander
  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo
  • Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
  • The Wild Book, by Juan Villoro
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October 1, 2019

top ten numerical titles
posted by soe 1:27 am

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from That Artsy Reader Girl invites us to consider numerical books, or, rather, book titles that contain numbers.

With an assist from my lists at Goodreads, here are ten I’ve enjoyed:

  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia: Historical middle-grade fiction dealing with the Black Panthers in Oakland in 1968.
  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff: A short epistolary memoir set in the years right after World War II chronicling the friendship of an American author and a British bookseller. If you liked The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and haven’t yet read this, give it a shot. (Also, a charming movie.)
  • The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Shenkein: This book made me so mad! After a horrific dockside accident while loading ammunition (due to neglect and prejudice) that killed 300 soldiers during World War II, nearly 250 Black Naval sailors went on strike for safer working conditions. Instead of improvements, 50 men found themselves accused of treason.
  • Crazy ’08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History by Cait Murphy: This history will give you ammunition for every person who wants to discount modern sports because of doping. Plus, it’s a really enjoyable look at the early days of major league baseball.
  • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander: A kidlit classic detailing the exploits of Taran, the Assistant Pigkeeper; Hen Wen, the pig who can predict the future; the kick-ass Eilonwy; and their ragtag bunch of fantasy meme characters. Sound familiar? The Black Cauldron is based on this book and others in the series.
  • The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser: Five Harlem siblings and their parents face eviction when their landlord suddenly decides not to renew their lease. The kids unite to find a way to stay in their home.
  • The 13 Clocks by James Thurber: “There are only a few reasons why everybody has always wanted to read this kind of story: if you have always wanted to love a Princess; if you always wanted to be a Prince; if you always wanted the wicked Duke to be punished; or if you always wanted to live happily ever after.”
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: With one of the best opening lines of all literature and one of the best plot twists at the end, this classic history of the French Revolution was the first Dickens I truly loved. If you only read it in high school and hated it as assigned reading, I’d urge you to consider a re-read.
  • Just One Day by Gayle Foreman: In this y.a. travel novel, a young woman meets a boy while on a pre-college European tour, ditches her tour group to spend the evening with him, and then finds herself abandoned. Her quest to fill in the gaps in the story will take a year.
  • Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott: While Little Women may have edged out this story of a shy girl adopted by her bachelor uncle and ensconced at “The Aunt-Hill” to be raised amidst her titular male cousins, this was still a formative read growing up. Sadly, its sequel, Rose in Bloom, veers too far into moralism to live up to this charming tale, which has a similar sensibility to Pollyanna and some of L.M. Montgomery’s novels.

Honorable mentions (because this turned out to be a way harder topic than I expected) go to 13 Little Blue Envelopes; One of Our Thursdays Is Missing; 101 Two-Letter Words; The Two Towers; Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed History; Five, Six, Seven, Nate!; The Thirteenth Tale; The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy; and Two Boys Kissing.

How about you? Any numerical titles you’d recommend?

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September 26, 2019

final september unraveling
posted by soe 1:05 am

No pictures of knitting or books today. I was going to spend the time after volleyball knitting on my shawl (which has remained two rows and the bind-off away from completion for weeks now!), but instead I napped. I did cast on for a new pair of socks with the Halloween yarn I bought this weekend. And I’m attending a local candidate’s forum tomorrow evening, so I’ll be knitting on something while I’m there.

The reading front has been similarly barren. I’ve got The Library Book going in the evenings, Murder in the Locked Library if I leave my desk for lunch, and I just resumed listening to The Bookshop on the Shore tonight.

Visit As Kat Knits to see what others are reading and crafting.

Category: books,knitting. There is/are 3 Comments.

September 24, 2019

fall tbr list
posted by soe 1:34 am

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from That Artsy Reader Girl asks what we plan on reading for the autumnal season:

  1. Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
  2. Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
  3. Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea
  4. The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas:
  5. Sherry Thomas’ The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan
  6. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  7. Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer
  8. Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova
  9. Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars
  10. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

How about you? What are you hoping to read now that it’s fall?

Category: books. There is/are 3 Comments.

September 22, 2019

saturday shopping
posted by soe 1:45 am


I did a little shopping today.

The yarn was a splurge when I decided that since the bank has closed earlier than I’d expected it to (and I couldn’t get a roll of quarters to do laundry), I could stop by the yarn shop across the street. They’d recently gotten in a nice assortment of self-striping Havirland Pax Sock. The colorway is The Final Girls (all the Halloween-themed colors seemed to be named after horror films).

The books and cd are all second-hand via the used book sale from my local branch’s Friends of the Library. As a bonus, some of the books were free because I joined the Friends. Most of them I wouldn’t necessarily have bought if they’d been new, but I’ve been on the holds list for The Wedding Date and would have borrowed Christmas Bells toward the holiday. And if I don’t like them, I can donate them back to the library and some other schmuck can buy them next time.

Happy Saturday to me!

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September 17, 2019

top ten favorite snacks to eat while reading
posted by soe 12:59 am

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from That Artsy Reader Girl invites us to consider the snacks we like to consume while reading.

Mine include:

  1. Peanut butter or plain M&Ms
  2. Oreos
  3. Ritz with peanut butter or cream cheese (the latter I spread with a knife, while the former tends to be just dipped in the jar)
  4. Granola (eaten out of the bag)
  5. Blueberries
  6. Apples
  7. Tortilla chips
  8. Chocolate chips
  9. Triscuits
  10. Honey Bunches of Oats (usually eaten out of the box)

How about you? Do you tend to munch on anything particular while reading?

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